News Roundup and Notes: November 25, 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.

DEFENSE SECRETARY’S RESIGNATION

Chuck Hagel will be stepping down as Secretary of Defense “under pressure.” President Obama announced the resignation yesterday. Helene Cooper reports that Hagel resigned following weeks of tension with Obama’s inner circle over a range of issues, including a dispute with national security adviser Susan Rice over policy in Syria. [New York Times] Senior defense officials told NBC News that Hagel was forced to resign after the White House lost confidence in the Pentagon leader, with one official stating: “He wasn’t up to the job,” reports Jim Miklaszewski.

Hagel’s resistance to Obama’s plans for closing Guantanamo also added to the friction between the leaders, according to sources familiar with the situation. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]

Former senator Joe Lieberman has been proposed as a replacement for the Pentagon job. [Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz] The Hill’s Martin Matishak names five other possible candidates for the position. 

Hagel’s departure “may represent the final triumph of a White House-centric approach to national security,” writes Mark Landler, who notes the lack of a broader shake-up within the administration. [New York Times] 

Hagel was chosen to help the president wind down the Middle East wars, but arrived instead at a time when Obama needed to reconsider the conflicts, which according to Gerald F. Seib explains “why the fit was never quite right.” [Wall Street Journal] The New Yorker’s John Cassidy raises questions about Obama’s judgment, particularly his decision to hire Hagel in the first place and his failure to foresee the current challenges facing the Pentagon.

The core of the administration’s military problem, according to the New York Times editorial board, lies not with Chuck Hagel’s performance, but with “the president and a national security policy that has too often been incoherent and shifting at a time of mounting international challenges.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board is similarly critical of Obama and his national security team, noting that Hagel has had to take the fall for the White House’s failures. And the Washington Post editorial board writes that like his predecessors, Hagel was “caught between an insular White House team and military commanders who chafed at what they see as both micromanagement and the absence of a workable strategy.”

What was Hagel’s biggest mistake? Top national security thinkers weigh in on the question at Politico Magazine.

IRAN

The P5+1 and Iran have agreed a seven-month extension after failing to meet yesterday’s deadline on securing a comprehensive nuclear deal. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said there was a target to reach a substantive “headline agreement” within the next three months. Secretary of State John Kerry offered a cautious assessment of the extension, noting that talks are “going to stay tough.” [Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau and Fredrik Dahl] The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman provide more details.

Israel welcomed the news. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the extension offers an opportunity to “continue the economic pressures” against Iran. [Washington Post’s William Booth]

The missed deadline sets up a “political battle” between the White House and Congress, where lawmakers are calling for tighter sanctions on Iran. [Los Angeles Times’ Paul Richter] The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall notes that the extension raises the risk of “cataclysmic failure” as opponents of the deal, including those in Washington and Tehran, will likely step up efforts to derail the talks.

John Kerry is under increasing pressure to “either deliver an agreement or give up,” reports Michael Crowley. [Politico] And David E. Sanger et al report on how Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif were “constrained by hard-line politics at home” in the build-up to yesterday’s deadline. [New York Times]

IRAQ and SYRIA

The Islamic State has received between $35 million and $45 million in ransom payments this year, according to a UN expert speaking to a meeting of the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee yesterday. [AP]

Tensions between Turkey and the U.S. somewhat dissipated this weekend during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden. However, the talks made little progress toward comprehensive military cooperation between the NATO allies. [Reuters’ Nick Tattersall and Dasha Afanasieva]

Saudi Arabia arrested 77 people suspected of involvement in a reported terrorist attack that killed seven people earlier this month; an Interior Ministry spokesman said the attack was ordered by the Islamic State. [Reuters]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The New York Times editorial board discusses Israel’s “narrow[ing]” democracy, writing that the Jewish nation-state bill, approved by the Israeli cabinet, “erode[s] Israel’s standing among democratic nations.”

Israel continues its punitive system of razing homes, demolishing the home of the family of a man responsible for ramming his car into a train station in Jerusalem last month; the AP analyzes the efficacy of this system.

Two Jewish students were stabbed last evening during a fight with four Palestinians in Jerusalem; three Palestinians were later arrested in connection with the incident. [Haaretz]

There is growing momentum to recognize Palestinian statehood, owing to the international community’s “collective failure” for not advancing a political solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday. [AP]

U.K. COUNTERTERROR BILL

Counter-terrorism and Security Bill to be introduced to the British Parliament on Wednesday. Unveiling the new bill yesterday, Home Secretary Theresa May said the terror threat facing the U.K. is “perhaps greater than it has ever been,” emphasizing the need for a “comprehensive and coherent” counter-terrorism strategy. [BBC]

Nine principal elements are to form the bill, including: the barring of returning terrorists; a ban on extremist speakers at universities; the monitoring of air passengers; the prevention of foreign travel; and the reform of the preexisting terrorism prevention and investigation measures. [The Guardian’s Alan Travis]

The Guardian editorial board cautions Theresa May against promising what she cannot deliver, calling on lawmakers to apply “cool and forensic scepticism” when considering the new bill as none of the suggested proposals are “an open and shut affair.”

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A Missouri grand jury declined to indict Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, for the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in August. Protests erupted across the U.S. in response to the decision, and Ferguson witnessed a night of looting, arson, and violence. [Washington Post]

A final congressional probe into the 2012 Benghazi attack will be carried out by the House Benghazi Select Committee, following last week’s release of the House Intelligence Committee report, which rejected long-running conspiracy theories of the incident. [Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe]

Russia has taken a “step toward the de-facto annexation” of Abkhazia, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said yesterday, after Moscow signed a military deal with Georgia’s breakaway territory over control in the Black Sea region. [Al Jazeera]

The only remaining civilian airport in the Libyan capital of Tripoli was hit by bombs from a fighter plane yesterday; the strikes were ordered by commanders linked to the eastern city of Tobruk reportedly because the airport had fallen to the control of extremists. [New York Times’ Suliman Ali Zway and David D. Kirkpatrick]

Yemeni forces secured the release of seven Yemeni hostages and one foreign hostage during a special operation in which seven al-Qaeda militants were killed, according to the country’s top security agency. [Reuters]

Afghan villagers from the district of Yahya Khel in Paktika Province have criticized the central government, following Sunday’s deadly suicide bombing on a volleyball tournament. [New York Times’ Joseph Goldstein]  Meanwhile, two bomb blasts took place in Kabul early today, wounding seven Afghan soldiers and leading to the arrest of a suspect. [Reuters’ Mirwais Harooni]

Nigeria’s Boko Haram militant group launched its third major attack this week in Borno State yesterday; close to 100 people are thought to have been killed in the series of attacks. [Al Jazeera America]

Ugandan rebels have killed up to 100 people in attacks across eastern Democratic Republic of Congo from Thursday through Sunday last week. [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Bariyo]

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