News Roundup and Notes: November 6, 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

American strikes hit the compounds of Syrian rebel groups including the Nusra Front early today, according to activists. The strikes also targeted the Ahrar al-Sham group, which rejects the Syrian National Coalition, but works alongside some Western-backed rebels on the ground. The latest strikes against extremist rebel groups are likely to strain ties with the moderate opposition in Syria, who view the widening of the air campaign as indirectly assisting the Assad regime. [AP]

U.S. forces carried out four strikes against ISIS targets in Syria Monday through Wednesday, and a further ten strikes in Iraq with the assistance of partner nations. [Central Command]

Kurdish Peshmerga forces are recapturing ISIS-held territory in northern Iraq, according to a senior Kurdish security official, who said that the “morale of the Peshmerga forces is high.” [Asharq Al-Awsat’s Dalshad Abdullah]

President Obama will seek new authorization from Congress for the campaign against the Islamic State. Speaking at the post-election conference yesterday, Obama said the “idea is to right-size and update whatever authorization Congress provides to suit the current fight rather than previous fights,” acknowledging that the U.S. is now facing a “different type of enemy.” [New York Times’ Mark Landler and David E. Sanger]

A small number of British troops will be sent to Iraq as part of a “very limited mission.” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon clarified that the troops would not play a combat role, but would help the Iraqi government in a strategic and advisory capacity. [The Guardian’s Rowena Mason and Fazel Hawramy]

The September 22 strike targeting the Khorasan Group is believed to have killed French bomb maker David Drugeon, a 24-year-old convert to Islam and a member of the group, according to Fox News. The Pentagon has not confirmed that Drugeon was killed in the strike.

ISIS appears to be losing momentum, according to analysts, who cite the hostile political and sectarian demographics, marginal improvements by Iraqi ground troops, damage to the organization’s financial base in Syria, and American-led air operations. [New York Times’ Ben Hubbard]

The U.S.’s multi-year strategy against the Islamic State “has some big upfront risks,” such as leaving the Yazidis and other vulnerable populations exposed to the group’s brutality, according to the Washington Post editorial board.

Iraq’s shrinking economy is raising concern about the country’s ability to effectively tackle the threat of the Islamic State. [Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley]

The destruction of the remaining chemical weapons production sites in Syria will begin later this month, while the OPCW continues to verify the government’s declarations on the extent of its weapons stockpile and production capabilities. [Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols]

Jodi Rudoren describes the situation along the Israeli border with Syria at the Golan Heights, where there have been 15 deliberate attacks from across the “once-quiet” frontier since March. [New York Times]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Palestine and Jordon urged the Security Council to demand that Israel ceases provocations and incitement against Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem immediately, citing a potential threat to the already fragile peace in the region. [AP]  The 20 year old Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty is facing one of its “most daunting tests” in light of the tensions in Jerusalem, writes Haaretz’s Zvi Bar’el.

Israel’s foreign minister criticized right-wing politicians for exploiting tensions in Jerusalem, saying that visiting the Temple Mount was “idiocy” driven by “cheap headline seeking.” [Haaretz and Reuters]

The International Criminal Court will not investigate the 2010 Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla. According to court papers seen by Reuters, there is “a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction have been committed in the context of interception and takeover of the Mavi Marmara by IDF soldiers,” but prosecutors decided the case fell beyond their remit. Just Security’s Beth Van Schaack offers a legal and factual background to the ICC’s preliminary examination.

A suspected “vehicular terror attack” in the West Bank has injured three soldiers, hours after a similar incident killed one person and wounded 13 in Jerusalem. [Haaretz’s Gili Cohen and Yaniv Kubovich]

A rethink of the two-state solution is necessary as the “old models of peace between Israel and Palestinians are no longer relevant,” argues Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennet in an op-ed for the New York Times.

IRAN

President Obama said that it is “an open question” whether the P5+1 and Iran will reach a nuclear accord before the Nov. 24 deadline, citing the “unprecedented sanctions” on Iran as the reason the country has been willing to take negotiations seriously.

Secretary of State John Kerry warned that it would be more difficult to reach an agreement if no deal was made by the deadline, adding that Iran is entitled to develop a peaceful nuclear program “but not a track to a bomb.” [Washington Post’s Carol Morello]

New sanctions against Iran in the run up to the nuclear talks deadline would be “premature and dangerously counterproductive,” argue Elizabeth Rosenberg and Zachary K. Goldman in response to calls from many members of Congress to apply further sanctions. [New York Times]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

An artillery shell attack in Donetsk hit a school playing field, killing two teenagers, as both sides in the Ukraine conflict traded blame for undermining the September peace deal. [BBC]

Kiev will freeze subsidy payments to parts of eastern Ukraine under rebel control, Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk said yesterday, in a move that is likely to further threaten the shaky conditions in the east. [New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer]

Russia will not participate in the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit initiated by President Obama. The Russian ambassador to the U.S. said Moscow is “not committed to non-proliferation” and “do not see added value coming out of these meetings.” [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

EGYPT

A bomb blast aboard a train travelling north of Cairo today has killed four people and wounded nine; two further explosions were reported late yesterday and today though no deaths were cited. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks though Islamist militants are suspected. [AP]

Egypt has appointed a new national security advisor with a record of hostility toward the U.S.; Faiza Abul Naga spearheaded criminal charges two years ago suggesting non-profit organizations were acting as agents of a U.S. conspiracy against Egypt. [New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A Kuwaiti man held at Guantánamo Bay since 2002 was returned home yesterday. Fawsi al Odah, a former so-called “forever prisoner,” was captured in Pakistan on suspicion of being a member of al-Qaeda in the aftermath of 9/11. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, visiting troops and meeting with the country’s new leadership. [AP]  When the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan ends its combat mission at the end of this year, the Afghan National Security Forces will “bear the responsibility for fighting an increasingly organized and ambitious Taliban.” Krista Mahr explores the likely impact of the departure on the medical care and supply chains for wounded soldiers. [Reuters]

Sen. John McCain is the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, following the Republican victory in the midterm elections. Eli Lake writes that the “hawkish wing of the GOP is planning an ambitious battle plan to revamp American foreign policy” including arming the Ukrainian military, reviewing the ISIS strategy, and considering the increasingly warming relations with Iran. [The Daily Beast]

Eyad Abu Shakra considers the U.S. Middle East policy following the midterms in an opinion piece for Asharq Al-Awsat.

The identity of the Navy SEAL responsible for killing Osama bin Laden has been revealed; Rob O’Neill will give a full interview on Fox News later this month, waiving his anonymity. [The Daily Mail’s Martin Gould]

Three mortar rounds reportedly struck the runway at a military airport in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a; the attacks came a day after reports that a senior al-Qaeda official and a local leader of an affiliated group were killed in a U.S. drone strike in central Yemen. [Al Jazeera]  Washington has denied interfering in the escalating civil conflict in the country, following accusations that the U.S. ambassador to Yemen has demanded former president Ali Abdullah Saleh leave the country. [New York Times’ Kareem Fahim]

Lebanon’s Parliament has voted to extend the terms of its own ministers by more than two and a half years, citing the country’s tenuous security situation, and provoking protest from citizens, foreign diplomats and human rights organizations. [New York Times’ Hwaida Saad and Ben Hubbard]

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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