News Roundup and Notes: November 5, 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.

MIDTERM ELECTIONS

Republicans seized control of the Senate and are set to strengthen their hold on the House, in a “dramatic midterm rout” for President Obama and the Democrats. [Politico’s Alexander Burns]  Just Security’s Steve Vladeck explores the national security politics in the 114th Congress and Patrick Eddington’s post suggests why a Republican Senate takeover will not doom surveillance reform.

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY, AND TECHNOLOGY

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the constitutionality of the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records program on Tuesday, as part of the legal suit brought by Larry Klayman. The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima and Victoria St. Martin provide details.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron “very much shares the view” expressed by new GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan  in an op-ed for the Financial Times, covered in yesterday’s Roundup, concerning the use of the internet by extremists and the role of U.S. technology firms. However, some experts in the field have described Hannigan’s comments as “ill-judged.” [The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill and Alex Hern]  Jane Wakefield offers a breakdown of the relevant issues in this debate. [BBC]  And The Guardian editorial board argues that Hannigan’s arguments are “entirely beside the point to the real debate required” and that “he makes no allowance for Anglo-American snooping agencies’ own role in provoking this Silicon Valley response.”

IRAQ and SYRIA

The U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State is not in disarray, according to Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby. Kirby said that current events are not a “major setback” to the goal of training a moderate Syrian opposition, making reference to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front’s recent gains against Free Syrian Army fighters in Idlib province. Kirby added that no decision had yet been made on conducting airstrikes directly against the Nusra Front. [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman]

Militants from the Islamic State are making gains in northern Iraq, battling Kurdish volunteer troops in the town of al-Kuqayr, roughly 60km southwest of Irbil. [Al Jazeera]  The Kurdistan regional government is facing a shortage of weapons and growing economic woes, as the “crucial front-line partner” in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State struggles to hold its own in the fight against the group. [Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher]

Turkey has accused Syrian forces of committing massacres in and around Aleppo, adding that Turkey would face a renewed major refugee crisis should the city fall into Assad’s hands. [Reuters]

New Zealand said it has sent a three-person team of military officials to the Middle East in order to assess how it could assist in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State. [New Zealand Herald’s Audrey Young]

The Yazidi community in Iraq’s northern Sinjar province has called on assistance in retrieving the thousands of women and girls who have been taken by the Islamic State, and are now reportedly being sold by the group as sex slaves. [NPR’s Michele Kelemen]

Kurdish children from Kobani were tortured and abused after being detained by the Islamic State, according to Human Rights Watch.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Clashes erupted between Palestinian protestors and Israeli police at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, amid escalating tensions following last week’s shooting of a right-wing Jewish activist and the killing of the Palestinian suspected of the crime. [Haaretz’s Nir Hasson]

Israeli troops displayed “callous indifference” during the latest military operation in Gaza, with some attacks on civilians amounting to war crimes, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

The plight of Palestinian refugees needs to be urgently tackled, the head of the UN relief agency tasked with their situation emphasized yesterday. [UN News Centre]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered additional troops to southern and eastern cities in the event of a new rebel offensive. [Kyiv Post’s Ian Bateson]

Rebel leaders have accused Poroshenko of violating the September peace deal by indicating he wished to scrap the law granting special status to regions in the east. [Reuters]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A special Pentagon task force sought assistance from Iran for business ventures in Afghanistan, securing a special exemption from the strict U.S. sanctions regime against Iran. The engagement efforts did not ultimately work out, but represent the “lengths to which the American military was willing to go to promote business investment in Afghanistan,” write Joel Schectman and Dion Nissenbaum. [Wall Street Journal]

A military detainee from Afghanistan made a first appearance in a federal court in Virginia yesterday. The appearance of the Russian member of the Taliban marks the first time a military detainee from Afghanistan has been transferred to stand trial in the U.S., an attempt by the Obama administration to try more terror suspects in civilian courts. [Al Jazeera America]

The Supreme Court is considering whether the federal legislation protecting whistle-blowers covers the air marshal who was fired for disclosing a terrorist threat to MSNBC in 2003. [New York Times’ Adam Liptak]

Saudi Arabian security forces took aggressive action yesterday following an outbreak of anti-Shi’ite violence. Fifteen people were arrested from six cities and two others were killed in connection to what the government called a “terrorist ambush” against mosque worshipers on Monday. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

The Taliban splinter group responsible for a suicide bombing on the Pakistan-India border this week has said that the attack was aimed as much at India as at Pakistan. [Reuters’ Jibran Ahmad]

The Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab is declining in power without its charismatic leader, leading to many former fighters from the group defecting and seeking rehabilitation, write Isma’il Kushkush and Jeffrey Gettleman. [New York Times]

Libyan army cadets will be returned home from a U.K. training base in the coming days, following reports of sexual assaults by five soldiers. Several hundred Libyan troops have been based in the U.K. as part of a scheme to train troops to restore security to the country. [The Guardian’s Diane Taylor and Robert Booth]

A draft resolution proposing a sanctions regime for war-torn South Sudan will be circulated by the U.S. delegation to the UN, members of the delegation told the Security Council yesterday. [Reuters]

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook. To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org. Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
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