News Roundup and Notes: November 26, 2014

Today’s News Roundup will be our last for the remainder of this week, as we are off Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. From the entire Just Security Team, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. The News Roundup will be back in your inbox on Monday morning. Here’s today’s news.

IRAQ and SYRIA

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and partner nations carried out 15 airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq from Nov. 21-24. Separately, U.S. and partner nations conducted a further seven airstrikes in Syria on Islamic State targets near Kobani and Raqqa. [Central Command]

Syrian government airstrikes on Raqqa killed at least 60 people yesterday in an “unusually intense” attack. [AP]

The U.S. has not yet begun recruiting and training moderate Syrian rebels, highlighting the fact that the Obama administration’s “strategy and its execution are deeply flawed.” [The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak]

Renewed efforts by Russia to encourage Syrian peace talks are unlikely to gain any ground as Moscow continues to reject calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, reports Gabriela Baczynska and Sylvia Westall. [Reuters]

Two Minnesota men have been charged with conspiring to assist the Islamic State, as part of an on-going investigation into the recruitment of Somali-American fighters. [Star Tribune’s Paul McEnroe]

The Islamic State’s effort to create a caliphate is highlighted by the group’s attempt to run Mosul’s health-care system; Erin Cunningham discusses the “reign of fear” imposed. [Washington Post]

IRAN

The West has failed to bring Iran “to its knees,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said a day after the deadline for nuclear talks was extended by seven months. [New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

Western officials cited progress with Iran on the key questions in nuclear talks, noting narrowing gaps on contentious issues after the deadline was extended. Laurence Norman et al survey the issues moving forward. [Wall Street Journal]

The extension on nuclear negotiations has “emboldened critics” in Washington and Tehran, threatening the success of future talks. [Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau and Jonathan Allen]

The failure to reach a comprehensive accord has “raised alarms” with the U.S. citizens held hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran from 1979-1981, dampening their hopes of finally receiving compensation from Iran. [New York Times’ Mark Landler]

David Ignatius describes nuclear talks with Iran as an “impasse,” in which “neither side wants a breakup” while still being far apart on some key details. [Washington Post]

DEFENSE SECRETARY’S RESIGNATION

Michele Flournoy, a leading contender to replace Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, has ruled herself out of consideration for the position. [Foreign Policy’s John Hudson and Yochi Dreazen]  Austin Wright and Michael Hirsh explain why Flournoy and others are dropping out of the race, citing the White House’s “tight grip on the national security apparatus” and a shrinking defense budget among other reasons. [Politico]

Discussion around Hagel’s forced resignation continues. Mark Perry explores whether Hagel was the wrong candidate for the job, “or on the wrong team” at Politico Magazine. Lawrence Korb writes that in his hunt for “scapegoats” over the Islamic State crisis, the president “bagged the wrong guy in Hagel.” [Reuters] And Missy Ryan outlines some of the challenges facing Hagel’s successor, particularly in containing the situation in Iraq and Syria. [Washington Post]

Hagel’s resignation capped “a year of frustration” with the White House, as he struggled with what he viewed as indecisiveness and micromanagement by the White House National Security Council, a view shared by his two immediate predecessors. [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous et al]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Ukraine has accused Moscow of sending fresh supplies to separatists in the country’s east, stating that five columns of heavy equipment were observed crossing the border. [Reuters]

France has suspended indefinitely the delivery of the first warship requested by Russia, citing the “current situation” in eastern Ukraine. [France 24]

The Pentagon remains focused on providing nonlethal assistance to Ukraine, despite calls for lethal arms, press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby confirmed yesterday. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]

European companies are feeling the impact of economic sanctions on Russia, reports Robin Emmott [Reuters]

The Washington Post editorial board calls for further action against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has not yet been deterred by Western sanctions.

LIBYA

Airstrikes hit the Libyan capital, Tripoli’s only functioning airport for a second time yesterday, just after the Islamist-supported prime minister declared a state of war. [AP]  Turkey has condemned the strikes, placing it at odds with the internationally-recognized Libyan authorities. [Reuters]

The oil minister for Libya’s rival government wishes to attend the OPEC summit in Vienna this week, threatening to refuse to comply with production decisions if denied access. [Reuters’ Ulf Laessing]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

U.S. forces led the raid in Yemen to rescue eight hostages early yesterday. The operation was organized quickly and appeared to be “at least partly an attempt to bolster the stature” of Yemen’s president, writes Eric Schmitt. [New York Times]

The U.S. plans to maintain more troops in Afghanistan than originally planned. The number of soldiers will be increased in 2015 to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of NATO troops from other nations, according to sources with special knowledge of the situation. [Reuters’ Jessica Donati]

The Justice Department is attempting to tackle phone encryption by relying on a 225-year-old law as part of a credit-card fraud case before a federal magistrate in Manhattan. [Wall Street Journal’s Danny Yadron]

A suspected U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed four alleged militants today in the North Waziristan tribal region close to the Afghan border, according to Pakistani intelligence officials. [AP]

Concerns have been raised over the U.K.’s new counterterrorism bill, to be released today, by the U.K.’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC. [BBC]

Senate Republican leaders are under pressure to join the House Benghazi investigation, following calls from three prominent GOP senators. Incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, has yet to decide whether the Senate will play a role. [The Hill’s Alexander Bolton]

An attack in northeastern Nigeria by two teenage female suicide bombers killed more than 40 people, when they detonated their explosives separately in a double bombing on a busy marketplace yesterday. [AP]

Egypt has reopened the Rafah border crossing into Gaza to allow thousands of stranded Palestinians to cross back into Gaza, but the frontier will remain closed to Palestinians wishing to enter Egypt. [Reuters]

The UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan yesterday; the resolution authorized the UN mission through May next year. [New York Times]

Glenn Greenwald interviews New York Times journalist James Risen on his book “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War,” the war on terror, and freedom of the press. [The Intercept]

The terrorist threat faced by India is at a heightened level due to domestic, regional and global factors, according to officials and analysts. [The Guardian’s Jason Burke]

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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