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
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. The U.S. led a total of 55 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq over the weekend. The U.S. military conducted 27 airstrikes in Syria. One airstrike, close to Aleppo, struck a target associated with the Khorasan Group. Separately, the U.S. and partner nations conducted 28 airstrikes in Iraq. [Central Command]
Turkey continues to pressure the U.S. on no-fly zone. Turkey has put forward a range of proposals for the implementation of a no-fly zone along the Turkey-Syria border. However, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the two countries “continue to have differences.” [New York Times’ Helene Cooper]
The U.S. military has been warned against possible Islamic State attacks within the United States, officials have told ABC News. Personnel were addressed in a joint intelligence bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
The Iraqi government has reached agreement with the Kurdish regional government on an oil and budget deal, following months of dispute, a development that is likely to boost the efforts of Kurdish peshmerga forces battling the Islamic State. [AP’s Vivian Salama]
Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi has fired at least 24 senior officials in response to revelations of an estimated 50,000 “ghost soldiers” on the military payroll. [Al Jazeera]
Lebanon detained a wife and child of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi nine days ago as they crossed from Syria, according to security officials. [Reuters]
Islamic State followers have released a video claiming responsibility for an attack on a Danish national in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last week. [Reuters]
Zvi Bar’el explains how the Islamic State’s strategy differs from al-Qaeda in that the objective is not the West but “uniting the various Islamic groups under its leadership,” and notes that this plan “isn’t working out so well in Syria.” [Haaretz]
RUSSIA and UKRAINE
A new ceasefire for rebel-held Donetsk has been concluded, the Ukrainian military said yesterday, following negotiations involving Ukrainian and Russian officials. [RFE/RL]
Russia is shelving the South Stream gas pipeline project, a strategic venture that Moscow was relying on to “cement its influence in south-eastern Europe.” Citing EU opposition, President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would consider setting up a gas hub to southern Europe via Turkey instead. [Financial Times’ Daniel Dombey and Jack Farchy]
NATO is “struggl[ing]” to put together the rapid-reaction force to counter Russia, with the mission highlighting the “limitations of Europe’s military capabilities,” reports Stephen Fidler. [Wall Street Journal]
Taliban insurgents killed six soldiers in the northwestern Afghan province of Badghis early today, according to an Afghan army officer. [AP]
Several international aid agencies based in Kabul are temporarily pulling staff out of the country and placing others on high security alert in the wake of a recent wave of Taliban attacks in the capital, many aimed at foreign and diplomatic targets. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland]
ADMINISTRATION’S RESPONSE TO FERGUSON
The White House defended the transfer of military gear to local law enforcement, but pledged new standards on the types of equipment requested by local police departments and better training in its use. [New York Times’ Mark Landler] Tim Mak writes that President Obama’s reform on the issue is “weak gruel,” which follows heavy lobbying by the association that represents more than 1,500 SWAT teams across the United States. [The Daily Beast]
Devin Dwyer outlines President Obama’s plan aimed at mending police-community relations in the aftermath of the fallout from the Ferguson shooting, announced yesterday. [ABC News] The Washington Post editorial board finds cause for both “encouragement and disappointment” in the administration’s response, and notes the “welcome dose of information” on the militarization of police.
The Justice Department will soon announce guidelines limiting racial profiling by federal law enforcement, Attorney General Eric Holder said yesterday. [Time’s Zeke J Miller]
Tahir Square in Cairo has been closed for the second time to prevent protests against an Egyptian court’s decision to drop charges against former president Hosni Mubarak over the killing of protestors during the 2011 revolution. [Al Jazeera]
The Egyptian public prosecutor is appealing the Mubarak court decision, citing “legal flaws that tinged the judgment.” Such an appeal was expected and is an integral part of the legal process in the country, reports Reuters.
The New York Times editorial board writes how the verdict “turns back the clock,” highlighting that after the country’s brief attempt at democracy, the military and its supporters have put in place “an even more authoritarian system than the Mubarak regime.”
A provision enabling the closure of Guantanamo will not be included in the annual defense authorization bill, despite a White House bid to relax restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of the detention center. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and Michael R. Crittenden]
The release of the CIA torture report’s executive summary is now “days” away, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said last evening. [The Daily Beast’ Tim Mak]
An alleged al-Qaeda plot targeting five European passenger airplanes in a “spectacular” attack before Christmas was reported yesterday by British publication, Express. The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris notes the silence on the latest plot from American officials, who are “quick to draw attention to seemingly minor threats.” A senior U.S. official has told The Daily Beast that the news report did not appear credible.
“Shrinking pool” of contenders for Pentagon’s top job. Julie Pace reports that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, a leading contender to replace Chuck Hagel, has taken himself out of consideration, according to sources. [AP] Incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain has told the White House that former senator Joseph Lieberman should be considered for the position. [Washington Post’s Al Kamen]
A federal magistrate judge has rejected the government’s request for an indefinite gag order preventing Microsoft from disclosing a warrant for access to a Hotmail user’s email. [The Recorder’s Ross Todd]
The French parliament will vote today to call on the government to recognize Palestinian statehood, a symbolic move in line with “growing European impatience” over the stalled peace process. [Reuters’ John Irish]
Pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC is calling for a drastic increase in Iran sanctions in response to the seven-month extension on nuclear talks. [AP] Meanwhile, Iran says that documents on suspected nuclear bomb research were forged and full of mistakes, and claims to have provided evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency to this effect. [Reuters’ Fredrik Dahl]
An attack by al-Shabaab gunmen in Mandera, northern Kenya, killed at least 36 people early today. Those killed were mainly Christians; the attackers separated the Muslims from non-Muslims before shooting. [BBC]
A double bombing in northeastern Nigeria in two state capitals by suspected Islamic extremists killed at least seven people yesterday. Roughly 30 extremists were also reportedly killed in clashes with Nigerian forces. [AP] Adam Nossiter explores the “ease” with which Boko Haram conducts its attacks in Nigeria’s provinces, and the “death and mayhem” that results. [New York Times]
The FBI has warned U.S. businesses against “destructive” malware attacks by hackers, following a serious cyberattack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment last week. [Reuters]
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