News Roundup and Notes: December 3, 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

Iran has launched airstrikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants, according to the Pentagon. Spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby stated that the U.S. had not coordinated with Tehran in the strikes. A senior Iranian official disputed the U.S.’s claims earlier today. [Haaretz]

U.S.-led airstrikes have inflicted “significant damage” to the Islamic State’s capabilities, Secretary of State John Kerry said today. [BBC]

Some Syrian rebels to be trained by the U.S. will be familiar fighters who are well known to the U.S. and will not require as rigorous a vetting process as new recruits. [Reuters’s Phil Stewart]

The death toll from Syria’s civil war is over 200,000, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who added that more than 130,000 of those killed were combatants. [AFP]

The Guardian editorial board offers its view on the Syria humanitarian crisis, arguing that even if we cannot tackle the cause, at least “we should deal with symptoms.”

The woman detained in Lebanon is not the wife of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as suggested, but the relative of a bomber convicted in southern Iraq, according to the Iraqi Interior Ministry. [Reuters]

OBAMA’S PICK FOR DEFENSE SECRETARY

President Obama is set to nominate Ashton Carter, former deputy defense secretary, for the Pentagon’s top job, according to senior administration officials. A formal nomination is expected in the coming days. [New York Times’ Helene Cooper and Mark Lander; Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and Carol E. Lee]

Carter “hasn’t always been in sync” with the President, reports Austin Wright, who outlines aspects of Carter’s record that could cause problems during his confirmation hearing and inside the administration. [Politico]  Molly O’Toole writes that Carter’s confirmation hearing is likely to be used to criticize the White House’s micromanagement of the defense agenda as well as a “a referendum on Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State.” [Defense One]

“Can a wonk run a war?” Michael Crowley explores the question for Politico Magazine, noting that Carter is the “opposite” of his predecessor, Chuck Hagel.  And Greg Jaffe writes that Carter is likely to inherit the “preexisting tensions” with the White House. [Washington Post]

The Pentagon’s plans for reforming how the nuclear Air Force operates will not be affected by Chuck Hagel’s departure, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has told the AP.

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Ukraine’s parliament has approved the country’s new government, formed after weeks of political disputes following the October election. [AP’s Peter Leonard]  Vice President Biden welcomed the announcement, which he said “sets the stage for the difficult but necessary process of implementing reforms.”  Kyiv Post has more details on the new cabinet of ministers, which includes a U.S.-born finance minister.

An interim NATO Spearhead Force—part of the alliance’s response to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe—will be operational early next year, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced yesterday. [NATO News]

Robert Beckhusen explores how the arsenal used by Ukrainian troops “matches up against” the weapons used by the separatist rebels. [Reuters]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israel to hold next election on March 17. The announcement comes less than two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to fire two senior ministers. [Haaretz’s Jonathan Lis]  Isabel Kershner offers further details on the development, which follows “days of intense political bickering.” [New York Times]

The French Parliament voted in favor of recognizing Palestinian statehood yesterday, following similar moves in Britain and Spain and indicative of a growing impatience in Europe with the stagnant Middle East peace process. [France 24]

Hezbollah is still focused on Israel; Matthew Levitt writes that the organization “stands fully prepared to fight Israel despite the group’s deep involvement in an entirely different battle in Syria.” [Politico Magazine]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The text of the proposed 2015 defense authorization bill was released last evening by the House and Senate Armed Services committees. The Hill’s Kristina Wong outlines some of the key provisions in the bill.

Guantanamo force-feeding tapes. The Justice Department has requested further time in the release of the videotapes, ordered in the course of the legal challenge brought on behalf of Syrian detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab. [AP]

Anti-terrorism algorithms may capture innocent internet users. James Bell explores the margin of error when online surveillance is overseen by machines. [The Guardian]

The investigation into former CIA director David Petraeus should be brought to a close, Sen. John McCain said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]

Iranian hackers have carried out coordinated cyberattacks in 16 countries against more than 50 targets, including important government entities, according to a report from security firm Cylance. [New York Times’ Nicole Perlroth]

Senate Republicans are calling for new Iran sanctions before the end of the year, as set out in a statement from the Senate Republican Policy Committee. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]

Ahead of the CIA torture report release, Dan Froomkin outlines the 12 things to bear in mind when reading the report. [The Intercept]

U.S. military personnel are being told to hide their identities on social media; the instructions form part of a series of guidance documents circulated by the FBI apparently prompted by concern over Islamic State threats. [The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher]

A car bomb detonated in the Yemeni capital today, reportedly targeting the residence of the Iranian ambassador and killing at least three people. [Al Jazeera]

A suicide bomber in Somalia has rammed his vehicle into a UN convoy close to Mogadishu airport, killing three people. [AP]

An Egyptian court has sentenced 185 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death in a mass trial over an attack on a police station last year that left 12 policemen dead. [Reuters]  Lin Noueihed analyzes the re-emergence of the “old order” in Egypt, signaled by the Mubarak court decision earlier this week. [Reuters]

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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