News Roundup and Notes: November 24, 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

The U.S. will supply arms to Iraqi Sunni tribesmen, including AK-47s, grenades and mortar rounds, in an effort to assist the battle against the Islamic State in Anbar province, according to a Pentagon document for Congress. [Reuters’ Phil Stewart]

A fierce battle is waging in Anbar province between the Islamic State and Iraqi forces, close to the main government complex in the city of Ramadi. [CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh and Ralph Ellis]  Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq are preparing an offensive into Sinjar province, where hundreds of minority Yazidis remain besieged by the Islamic State. [Reuters’ Isabel Coles]  And the Iraqi military says it recaptured two towns, north of Baghdad, from the Islamic State yesterday. [Reuters’ Saif Hameed]

Vice President Joe Biden visited Turkey on Friday, the “latest in a parade of U.S. officials trying to push Turkey to step up its role” in the international coalition against the Islamic State. [AP’s Deb Riechmann]

An operational planning conference of the coalition against the Islamic State was held from Nov. 12-21 and was attended by 33 states who “worked together to synchronize and refine coalition campaign plans designed to degrade and defeat ISIL.” [Central Command]

The U.S.-led campaign in Syria is encouraging anti-Assad fighters to ally with or defect to the Islamic State, according to interviews conducted with Syrian fighters. [The Guardian’s Mona Mahmood]

U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria have so far killed 910 people, including 52 civilians, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]

Sen. Rand Paul will introduce a measure declaring war against ISIS in the Senate next month (full text), allowing for boots on the ground in limited numbers [The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi]

Two key Democrats would give the administration permission to deploy specialized “spotters” or Special Forces to fight alongside Iraqi or Kurdish troops in operations against the Islamic State. [Politico’s Michael Crowley]

Control of Syrian oil reserves is further fueling the conflict between the Islamic State and the Kurds, reports Sam Dagher. [Wall Street Journal]

Canada is working toward authorizing airstrikes inside Syria, and is reportedly close to clearing away “the legal hurdles” that currently stand in the way of expanding its mission. [CBC News’ Evan Solomon]

Shi’ite and Sunni clerics from around 80 countries met in Iran yesterday to discuss a strategy to tackle extremism, including the Islamic State. [AP]

Melissa Eddy explores the challenges faced by European nations in dealing with foreign-born jihadists, in both how to prevent fighters from leaving and how to deal with those who return. [New York Times]

David D. Kirkpatrick explores the “entrenched corruption of the Iraqi security forces” and the threat this poses to U.S.-led efforts to drive out extremists from the Islamic State. [New York Times]

Dennis Ross writes that there are “no good options on Syria” as every option also presents dilemmas. [Washington Post]

AFGHANISTAN

The White House has authorized American forces to take action against the Taliban in Afghanistan if militants pose a direct threat to military forces or if they maintain connections to al-Qaeda, according to U.S. officials. The authorization is not an expansion of the U.S. mission in the country, a senior administration official said, and the U.S. will no longer target Taliban members solely on the basis of their membership of the group. [New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt]  Philip Ewing explains that Obama has “quietly laid the groundwork for continuing battle against the Taliban” despite not explicitly authorizing “combat.” [Politico]

The Afghan Parliament has approved the security agreements with the U.S. and NATO allowing foreign troops to remain in the country past the end of this year. [Asharq Al-Awsat]

A suicide attack targeting a volleyball tournament in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province killed at least 50 people and wounded 60 on Sunday. [AP]  No claim of responsibility has yet been made for the attack, which comes a day after the U.S. announced plans for military action against the Taliban in Afghanistan following the end of this year. [Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge and Habib Khan Totakhil]

Two NATO service members have been killed in an attack in eastern Afghanistan this morning after a bomb attached to a bicycle detonated close to a foreign military convoy. [AP]

Nighttime raids in Afghanistan are set to resume after President Ashraf Ghani quietly lifted the ban that had been imposed by his predecessor; in some cases, the raids will include members of American Special Operations units in an advisory capacity. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland and Taimorr Shah]

The Taliban control much of Kapisa province, one hour from Kabul, where “it is the government that operates in the shadows.” [New York Times’ Azam Ahmed]

IRAN

The deadline for nuclear negotiations is only hours away, as diplomats from the P5+1 attempt to reach agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. An extension on talks is increasingly likely, but no official announcement has yet been made. [BBC]  The parties are expected to resume discussions next month, in the event of a missed deadline, according to diplomatic sources. [Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau and Fredrik Dahl]  Both Washington and Tehran “have invested too much to walk away from the table,” report Elias Groll and John Hudson. [Foreign Policy]

Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the possibility of extending the deadline with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif last night, American officials have acknowledged. However, any extension is likely to face stiff opposition from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who warned previously of additional sanctions against Iran if no deal was reached by the deadline. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and David E. Sanger]

“Significant” gaps remain between the parties, acknowledged President Obama in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against any agreement that would allow Iran to retain nuclear capacity, calling it a “historic mistake.”

Both Iran and Israel “will be much more dangerous” if the nuclear talks fail to produce agreement, warns Christopher Dickey. [The Daily Beast]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The Israeli cabinet approved the “Jewish nation-state” bill on Sunday, a “controversial” bill that is likely to worsen relations with Arab Israelis. [Haaretz’s Jonathan Lis]

The EU and U.S. are considering options for renewing the Middle East peace process, amid escalating violence in Jerusalem. [Al-Monitor’s Uri Savir]

Rising hostility between Jordan and Israel, over religious tensions in Jerusalem, could undercut U.S.-led efforts to tackle Islamist extremists in the region. [Washington Post’s William Booth and Taylor Luck]

Three Israeli youths attacked a young Palestinian in Jerusalem this morning, the latest sectarian attack in the city. [AP]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The annexation of Crimea was a “strategic decision,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with state news agency, Tass. Putin said that Western sanctions against Russian officials and businesses amounted to a “gross violation of human rights.” The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Wall Street Journal’s Alexander Kolyandr provide more details.

Russia is losing about $40 billion per year on account of Western sanctions, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said today. [Reuters]

Heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine over the weekend killed seven Ukrainian servicemen, according to Kiev’s military. [Reuters]

Vice President Biden urged democratic and economic reform in Ukraine, while emphasizing America’s commitment to the country, in a speech in Kiev on Friday.

Finland is feeling the pressure amid Russian provocations, with Moscow frequently navigating into Finnish airspace among other “aggressive” behavior, writes Griff Witte. [Washington Post]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Former “forever prisoner” Muhammed Zahrani has been released from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia; the detainee population at the prison now stands at 142. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

The U.K. will take steps to cut funding to terrorist groups such as the Islamic State by changing the law to stop the inadvertent reimbursement of ransom payments by insurance firms, Home Secretary Theresa May will announce today. [The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt and Alan Travis]

Somalia’s al-Shabaab killed 28 bus passengers near the town of Mandera, Kenya, on Saturday. Kenyan authorities claimed to have killed over 100 al-Shabaab fighters in a retaliatory attack, a claim which has been refuted by the terrorist group. [Al Jazeera]

The GOP-led report on the 2012 Benghazi attack was released on Friday, leading Rep. Adam Schiff to suggest that it is being purposely buried in the news cycle to evade exposure by being released on the Friday before Thanksgiving. [The Hill’s Rebecca Shabad]

The Sudanese government has asked the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur to leave, following tensions over allegations of mass rape by government-allied troops. [AP]  Meanwhile, talks between the government and two rebel groups from Darfur began in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Sunday. [New York Times’ Isma’il Kushkush]

Boko Haram militants reportedly killed 48 people close to the Nigerian border with Chad last week. [BBC]

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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