News Roundup and Notes: November 13, 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.

COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE

The Obama administration made its “most formal acknowledgment” of the torture of terrorism suspects post-9/11 before the UN Committee Against Torture yesterday, but emphasized the steps taken to prevent the future use of such interrogation techniques. [New York Times’ Charlie Savage]

Notably, the U.S. accepted that the ban on cruelty applies outside U.S. territory, a significant shift away from the Bush-era interpretation of the Convention Against Torture. Just Security has more details including excerpts from the U.S. delegation’s statement.

The Committee also raised questions about the Justice Department inquiry into the CIA’s post-9/11 program, including why former CIA detainees were not interviewed as part of the investigation.  [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman]

The administration will appear before the UN Committee Against Torture for a second time later today.  A live video stream for today’s session (3.00-6.00pm local time) is available here.

IRAQ and SYRIA

U.S. forces continued to target the Islamic State this week, carrying out 16 airstrikes in Syria and a further seven in Iraq between Monday and Wednesday, all of which were conducted with the assistance of partner nation military forces. [Central Command]

U.S. Central Command will host a coalition planning conference for over 30 nations, intended to “strengthen relationships and further develop and refine military campaign plans to degrade and defeat ISIL.”

Republican senators have expressed support for authorizing military force against the Islamic State, but Sen. Lindsey Graham warned that congressional authorization should not “tie the military in knots” [The Hill’s Martin Matishak and Kristina Wong]

The Free Syrian Army has rejected a UN “freeze plan” and ceasefire proposal aimed at ending fighting in Aleppo, with a spokesperson stating that the proposal only serves the Assad regime. [Al Jazeera]

A Syrian Kurdish paramilitary group wishes to retain control of a stretch of northern Syria where it has succeeded in pushing back Islamist militants, adding to the complications faced by the U.S. in relations with Kurdish fighters. [Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher]

Moderate Syrian opposition rebels in the south of the country have been described by Western officials as the most well-organized of the mainstream opposition, and offer the last hope for a revolution polluted by jihadists, reports Tom Perry. [Reuters]

Members of the Syrian Alawite minority are becoming critical of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and the group, which forms the core of Assad’s security forces, is increasingly avoiding compulsory military service. [Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor]

Iraqi Kurds have expanded their request to the U.S. for sophisticated arms and protective equipment to assist in the battle against the Islamic State. However, appeals have so far been rebuffed by Washington due to concern over defying the Iraqi central government. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is replacing 36 commanders and installing a further 18 in a shake-up intended to promote professionalism and “combat corruption.” [New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick]

Iraqi Shi’ite militia reprisals against Sunni Muslims are widespread and groups are effectively granted impunity to commit massacres, having “flooded the security vacuum” after pushing the Islamic State back from parts of northern and central Iraq, report Fazel Hawramy and Luke Harding. [The Guardian]

American law enforcement is studying ISIS’s recruitment model in the West, by focusing on the case of the three teenage Colorado girls who wanted to join the extremist group. [CNN’s Evan Perez]

Nine men are being held by German authorities on suspicion of supporting terrorism; two of those arrested are accused of assisting at least five people travel from Germany to Syria to join jihadist groups. [New York Times’ Alison Smale]

Jon Henley discusses the “Aarhus model” of deradicalization adopted in Denmark to tackle the return of jihadists from Syria; a model based on inclusion and reintegrating fighters into the community. [The Guardian]

U.K. terrorism suspect Abu Rumaysah has fled London and is now thought to be living under the Islamic State. [BBC]

Syria’s neighboring countries are significantly cutting down on the number of refugees allowed in from Syria, two humanitarian agencies have warned. [Reuters]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Russia is sending fresh troops and military equipment into eastern Ukraine across a border that is now “completely porous,” NATO’s top military commander General Philip Breedlove confirmed yesterday. The claims were denied as “unfounded” by Moscow. [The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill]

Kiev is redeploying troops to the east over fears of a new rebel offensive aided by Russian reinforcement, as the two-month old shaky ceasefire now appears “all but dead,” report Pavel Polityuk and Anton Zverev.  [Reuters]

The UN Security Council held its 26th emergency session on Ukraine, called by the United States. Ambassador Samantha Power told the Council that Russia “talks of peace, but it keeps fueling war,” accusations that the Russian ambassador dismissed as “propaganda.” [AP]

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev indicated that the lifting of Western sanctions could lead to “calm, productive talks,” according to Interfax News Agency. [Reuters]

Gordon G. Chang explores China’s role in “financing Putin’s aggression” in Ukraine. [The Daily Beast]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Palestinians say that Israeli settlers are responsible for an arson attack on a mosque in the West Bank yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick]

An Israeli police officer has been arrested over the killing of two Palestinian teenagers during a protest in the West Bank in May. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner and Said Ghazali]

The recent upsurge in Israeli-Palestinian violence poses a threat to the Israeli Prime Minister’s hold on power, undermining Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise of stability without ending the occupation. [Al Jazeera America’s Noam Sheizaf]

Jack Khoury argues that Palestinians are in “no hurry to end security coordination with Israel,” despite such suggestions from the Palestinian leadership. [Haaretz]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Iran and the P5+1 are unlikely to reach a nuclear accord by the deadline of Nov. 24, and may instead settle for another interim agreement that builds on limited sanctions relief agreed last year, according to Western and Iranian officials. [Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau and Parisa Hafezi]

The Pentagon has refuted claims from Iran that it has replicated and tested its own version of an American spy drone captured in 2011. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

China and the U.S. made little progress on cybersecurity issues when the two countries met at this week’s APEC summit in Beijing. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

Intelligence operatives providing information to the U.S. for drone strikes in Pakistan face a significant threat from an elite al-Qaeda group of trusted jihadists mandated with tracking down and eliminating them. [The Daily Beast’s Umar Farooq and Syed Fakhar Kakakhel]

Four men have been convicted of being members or supporters of al-Qaeda by a German court today, receiving sentences of up to nine years. [Reuters’ Matthias Inverardi]

Car bombs in the Libyan capital of Tripoli targeted the Egyptian and Emirati embassies today, causing some damage to the buildings. [AP]  In other news, an Italian citizen abducted in Libya in July has been released, according to the Italian Foreign Ministry. [Reuters]

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi signed new legislation allowing for the extradition of foreign nationals sentenced or charged in Egypt, a law thought to pave the way for the release of three Al Jazeera journalists being held in the country. In a separate development, gunmen attacked an Egyptian navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea, five people are injured and eight more are missing at sea. [BBC]

American sailors were assaulted by members of a Turkish nationalist youth group in Istanbul on Wednesday, an attack described as “appalling” by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. [New York Times’ Ceylan Yeginsu]

The second part of the Fox News interview with ex-Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, who alleges to have killed Osama bin Laden, was aired yesterday.

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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