News Roundup and Notes: October 31, 2014

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Here’s today’s news.

IRAQ and SYRIA

The first group of around 10 Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Kobani are preparing for the arrival of the larger convoy equipped with heavy weaponry, but intensified firing by ISIS fighters in the area appears to have caused delays. [Reuters’ Humeyra Pamuk and Omer Berberoglu]  The Economist explores the “huge symbolic significance” that Kobani has acquired, noting that “if it holds out, the psychological damage to IS will be real.”

The Syrian regime criticized the Turkish government for violating its sovereignty by allowing Iraqi Kurds to cross the Turkish border into Syrian territory. [Washington Post’s Liz Sly]

Foreign fighters from more than 80 countries are joining the conflicts in Iraq and Syria on “an unprecedented scale,” according to a UN Security Council report. [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman]  The flow of foreign jihadists into Syria has not been affected by the American-led air operations, according to U.S. intelligence officials. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller]

The bodies of more than 200 Sunni tribal fighters were discovered in Iraq’s Anbar province yesterday. The increasing death toll is likely to frustrate the government’s efforts to convince further tribal leaders to join the fight against the Islamic State. [Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley and Safa Majeed]  Meanwhile, an important Anbar tribal chief told Asharq Al-Awsat that Baghdad is not doing enough to assist the province against ISIS.

The Obama administration is internally conflicted over the U.S. strategy for Syria, with many senior national security aides disagreeing on the approach to be taken. [Politico’s Philip Ewing]

The administration’s plans for Syria have “little or nothing to do with what is unfolding all too rapidly on the ground” and time is running out for the U.S. to build up a credible rebel force, suggests Jamie Dettmer. [The Daily Beast]

Turkey’s influence in the Middle East is beginning to ebb due to ambitious policies and miscalculation of the resilience of the Middle East’s political order, reports Yaroslav Trofimov. [Wall Street Journal]

The new UN envoy to Syria is pursuing an “action plan” for widespread peace, including freezing conflict in certain regions to allow for humanitarian aid and local political processes. [AP]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The Temple Mount is expected to reopen as normal today following its complete closure yesterday in response to the shooting of right-wing activist Yehuda Glick on Wednesday. Widespread protests are expected to take place throughout the West Bank following prayers today as the Fatah calls for a “day of rage.” [Haaretz’s Nir Hasson and Jack Khoury]

Secretary of State John Kerry said that it is “absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint” amid “escalating tensions across Jerusalem,” in a statement yesterday following the shooting of U.S. citizen Yehuda Glick. [Department of State]

Relations between Jordan and Israel are increasingly fraught as the situation surrounding the Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary, worsens between Israelis and Palestinians. [New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren and Rana F. Sweis]

“European recognition” of Palestine’s statehood marks the end of an “era of impunity” for Israel, a “moral step” which will save the two-state solution, argues Saeb Erekat. [Haaretz]

The anonymous slur directed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “disgraceful” and “damaging,” according to Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the administration “condemn[s] anybody who uses language such as was used in this article.” [Reuters]  The Wall Street Journal editorial board criticizes the Obama administration for the recent “snubs and sneers” directed at Israel, arguing that this “public show of condescension makes no sense for an Administration facing multiple Mideast crises and struggling to keep the friends it has.”

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Ukraine and Russia reached an agreement on their natural gas dispute last night, which some officials hope will contribute to a broader thaw in relations between the two countries. [Wall Street Journal’s Vanessa Mock and Laurence Norman]

Russia appears to be testing the West in a revival of “a Cold War tradition,” write David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, who explore the implications of the increased number of Russian military aircrafts over Europe this week and the recent alleged Russian cyber attack on White House networks. [New York Times]

There are growing fears over cyber warfare between the U.S. and Russia, CNN’s Matthew Chance reports.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A former Navy SEAL is under criminal investigation for potentially disclosing classified material in his bestselling book and during a number of paid speeches about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. [New York Times’ Christopher Draw and Nicholas Kulish]

President Obama should refrain from a “misguided and dangerous interpretation” of the UN Convention Against Torture, which should apply overseas to all persons under effective control of U.S. authorities, argue a number of U.S. lawmakers in a letter to the President.

The controversy over the use of female guards to escort prisoners at Guantánamo Bay will be heard by the military commission as part of a legal motion submitted on behalf of an Iraqi detainee. Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg provides more details.

The Intercept reports on secret manuals detailing the easily available implant software to “defeat encryption,” manufactured by an Italian company that is making a noticeable push into the U.S., while also selling the software to small governments around the world.

The Egyptian government still enjoys “wide latitude from the public to pursue a muscular anti-insurgency campaign,” as demonstrated by the minimal popular backlash as the military demolished hundreds of properties along the Gaza border to create a buffer zone yesterday. [New York Times’ Kareem Fahim]

The jihad advocated by leading ideologues “has spiralled out of control in the hands of their protégés;” these proponents of jihad now treated mostly as “has-beens” by the Islamic State, writes The Economist  

Two South African peacekeepers were shot and wounded in the Darfur region of Sudan when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their patrol on Wednesday. [Al Jazeera] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the escalation of hostilities in South Sudan, calling for an immediate end to the renewed outbreak of violence in the country’s north. [UN News Centre]

The “P5+1 should be patient” despite the November 24 deadline for Iran nuclear talks as the “further the 1979 revolution recedes, the more normal Iran will tend to become,” suggests The Economist.

Alan Cowell asks whether the symbols and “emblems of conventional warfare … are being supplanted” due to the “relentless spread of conflicts of faith and identity.” [New York Times]

The Washington Post editorial board supports the suggestion that North Korea should be referred to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council, following this week’s report from the special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea.

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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