News Roundup and Notes: October 21, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Islamic State militants launched a series of attacks on Kurdish troops in northern Iraq yesterday in what has been described as a renewed push for territory. The group also launched offensives against Mosul Dam and the Sinjar mountain range. [CNN’s Brian Walker]  The Yazidi people on Mount Sinjar have reportedly pleaded for U.S.-led airstrikes to assist their plight. [Washington Post’s Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim]  Shi’ites were targeted elsewhere in Iraq, with a number of fatal attacks in Baghdad, including a suicide attack that killed 15 people. [New York Times’ Kirk Semple]

Fresh fighting has erupted in Kobani, with Islamic State fighters having launched an offensive “on all fronts,” according to activists. [BBC]

Britain will authorize surveillance aircrafts and drones over Syria “very shortly” in an effort to obtain intelligence on the Islamic State. [Reuters]

U.S. airstrikes continue. Military forces carried out six strikes near Kobani over Sunday and Monday, and a further six strikes in Iraq, including in the southeast of Fallujah and south of the Bayji Oil Refinery. [Central Command]

The Turkish decision to allow Iraqi Kurds to pass through its border into Kobani marks a significant departure from Ankara policy, previously focused on preventing a Kurdish insurgency within its own borders. [Al Jazeera America’s Michael Pizzi]  In an opinion piece in The Guardian, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called for a collective response to the situation in Iraq and Syria, arguing that “Turkey cannot continue to act as if it were the United Nations.”

The supply of weapons and ammunition to Syrian Kurds is “not a shift of policy” by the U.S., but “a crisis moment” and a “momentary effort” to tackle an emergency, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday.  Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham welcomed the decision to resupply Kurdish forces in Kobani, but said that “this tactical adjustment should not be confused for an effective strategy, which is still lacking.”

The U.S. decision to drop weapons to the Kurdish fighters is a “classic case of strange bedfellows,” writes McClatchy DC’s Roy Gutman, who notes that “the outcome could end up empowering a group whose goals the United States does not share, to the distress of NATO ally Turkey and U.S.-backed moderate Syrian rebels.”

Despite “damning evidence” against the Assad regime for the alleged use of chlorine weapons attacks, any attempt to refer Syria to the UN Security Council will likely be hindered by “Security Council politics,” according to U.S. official Simon Limage. [Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid]

The EU has increased sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria, targeting 16 people and two entities [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

The massacre of hundreds of members of a Syrian tribe after they attempted to revolt against the group earlier this year has received no international attention, fueling resentment, writes Washington Post’s Liz Sly.

The Islamic State is widely considered to be the best-funded terrorist organization in recent history. Naina Bajekal explores how to bankrupt the group’s “vast financial web.” [TIME]

The FBI is using social media to find potential terrorist recruits, utilizing a practice known as “catfishing.” [NBC News’ Robert Windream and Mike Brunker]

The Washington Post maps the reported massacres committed by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Rep. Michele Bachmann has been given a security detail in response to threats made against her by ISIS, according to law enforcement officials. [Politico’s Anna Palmer and Rachael Bade]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The Ukrainian army used cluster munitions in the city of Donetsk earlier this month, in attacks that could amount to war crimes, according to a Human Rights Watch investigation.

Both sides in the conflict have carried out “summary killings and atrocities,” but “not on the scale reported by Russian media and authorities,” according to an Amnesty International report.

Talks between Ukraine and Russia over the gas dispute will resume today, with officials hopeful for a breakthrough. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israel and the UN Human Rights Committee clashed over the interpretation of the ICCPR yesterday, namely the application of the Covenant in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Committee’s review of Israel’s compliance with the Covenant did not focus on the Israeli military operation in Gaza this summer, reports Jerusalem Post.

Further Jewish settlers moved into the predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan early yesterday, just weeks after the U.S. admonished Israel for an earlier influx of settlers into the area. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A Saudi detainee at Guantánamo, Muhammed Zahrani, has been approved for release by the Periodic Review Board, although the indefinite detention status of detainee Mohammed al-Shimrani has been upheld by the panel. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

“President Obama should not consider any legal loophole that might permit an American official to engage in torture or cruelty, no matter where it takes place,” argues the New York Times editorial board, in a discussion of a Times report that indicated the White House is considering reverting to a Bush-era interpretation of the Convention against Torture.

Iranian negotiators are pushing what they say is a new concession proposal in talks on the country’s nuclear program, suggesting they will accept a gradual easing of sanctions. However, Western officials say that Iran has offered no viable compromises, highlighting the challenges in reaching an agreement ahead of the Nov. 24 deadline. [Reuters’ Parisa Hafezi and Louis Charbonneau]

A roadside bomb attack on a bus in Kabul, Afghanistan, has killed at least four Afghan soldiers today; the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter. [Al Jazeera]

A suicide attack targeting a house used by Shi’ite Houthi rebels south of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, killed at least ten people and injured 15 yesterday, according to security officials. [AP]

South Sudan’s president and his rival rebel chief accepted collective responsibility for the deaths of thousands of people during the ten-month civil war, at a meeting aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the country. [Al Jazeera]

Yesterday marked three years since the death of Muammar Gaddafi. Adam Taylor asks whether Libya would have been better off if he was still alive. [Washington Post]

The biggest hunt since the Cold War era for a foreign submarine in Sweden has revived tensions among countries around the Baltic Sea, although no country has been blamed for the alleged intrusion and Moscow has denied all involvement. [AP’s Karl Ritter and Matti Huuhtanen]

North Korea warned of unspecified “countermeasures” if any charges were to be brought against leader Kim Jong-un for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger]

Two members of the Canadian Armed Forces were injured yesterday in a hit-and-run car crash, an incident that has prompted concern that the attack’s motive may have been terrorism related. The individual responsible for the attack was fatally shot by police and had been known to authorities as “radicalized.” [CBC News]

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security