News Roundup and Notes: December 4, 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

U.S.-led airstrikes continue against Islamic State targets. From Dec. 1-3 U.S. military forces conducted 14 airstrikes in Syria. Separately, U.S. and partner nations carried out 11 airstrikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

The “net effect” of Iranian airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq is “positive,” Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, while emphasizing that the “fundamental” U.S. policy against coordinating with Iran has not changed.

Ian Black analyzes the impact that “tacit cooperation” between the U.S. and Iran in efforts to defeat the Islamic State will have on relations, noting that “distrust remains” and interests are likely to diverge. [The Guardian]  Tim Arango and Thomas Erdbrink provide a useful backdrop in U.S.-Iranian relations in the region and the current “unusual confluence of interests” in Iraq and Syria. [New York Times]

Secretary of State John Kerry has cited a “significant” impact of coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State, though indicated that it will likely take years to defeat the group. [The Guardian’s Ian Black]  However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the U.S.-led airstrikes against the group in Syria have had little impact, during an interview with a French magazine, adding that it is “incorrect” to suggest the airstrikes are assisting his regime. [LA Times’ Patrick J. McDonnell]  And Dominic Evans and Oliver Holmes report that ISIS has ceded little of the territory claimed as part of its self-declared caliphate, despite ongoing coalition airstrikes and battles with various local factions and the Iraqi and Syrian militaries. [Reuters]

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he will request that NATO provide a mission aimed at improving the country’s defense capacity. The request was made during a meeting with NATO’s Secretary General at the sidelines of a coalition gathering in Brussels yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

A new group of 150 Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters has entered Kobani from Turkey to replace the first group of Kurdish forces assisting in the fight against the Islamic State in the Syrian border town. [Reuters]

Senator Rand Paul will introduce a measure formally declaring war against the Islamic State, giving a limited authorization for the use of force against the group that excludes ground troops. [The Hill’s David McCabe]

Some Democratic lawmakers have submitted bipartisan amendments to the 2015 defense authorization bill, stripping the authorization for the program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

The Islamic State has established training camps in eastern Libya, according to the head of the U.S. Africa command, Gen. David Rodriguez, who added that it was unclear how closely aligned the trainees were to the Islamic State. [BBC]

The Australian government has made travelling to the Syrian province of al-Raqqa a criminal offence; the government used “sweeping new counter-terrorism powers” to declare illegal travel to the Islamic State’s “heartland” in Syria, reports David Wroe. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Two men were arrested by police in London on suspicion of terrorism related activities pertaining to Syria. [BBC]

An Iraqi woman detained by Lebanon identified herself as the wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a senior Lebanese official has said after conflicting reports from the U.S. and Iraq disputing the claim. [Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas]

SENATE TORTURE REPORT

The report on the CIA will be released on Monday, Jason Leopold reported yesterday. Josh Rogin and Eli Lake report that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report will not identify by name the CIA officials involved or the countries that cooperated with the CIA rendition program. However, the report will retain specific information on foreign states such as their participation in black sites without using those countries’ real names. [Bloomberg View]

YEMEN

The al-Qaeda affiliated group in Yemen has threatened to kill a U.S. journalist being held hostage unless demands are met by the end of the week, according to a video posted online yesterday. [New York Times’ Steve Kenny]

Saudi Arabia is suspending most of its financial aid to Yemen, signaling its dissatisfaction with growing Houthi political influence in the country, according to Yemeni and Western sources. [Reuters’ Yara Bayoumy and Mohammed Ghobari]

Maria Abi-Habib highlights the flawed U.S. strategy in Yemen, and suggests that the “Pentagon’s strategy to counter Islamic State in Syria faces similar problems to those confronted in Yemen.” [Wall Street Journal]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israeli lawmakers have begun the process of winding down Parliament, ahead of elections scheduled for late March. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]  The Obama administration is considering taking stronger action against the construction of Jewish settlements, and is examining the impact this may have on Netanyahu’s chances at the polls. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]

Alon Ben-Meir writes “goodbye to Israel’s lousy government,” and accuses Prime Minister Netanyahu of being a “hypocrite” who  has used national security as a cover for “continuing the occupation and harsh policies toward the Palestinians.” [The Daily Beast]

Two Israelis were stabbed in an attack close to a West Bank settlement yesterday; the Palestinian teenager responsible for the attack was shot by an off-duty security guard and has been taken into custody. [Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson and Nir Hasson]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A Pentagon official has expressed concern that videos of the force feeding of Guantanamo Bay prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab of Syria could be used for propaganda purposes to stoke anti-American sentiment, placing U.S. citizens at risk in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

NATO has been urged to rebuild communications with Russia by Western governments, amid heightened fears that tensions over Ukraine could lead to a larger confrontation. [Wall Street Journal’s Anton Troianovski]

Iran will refrain from the development of advanced centrifuges under an extended nuclear accord with the P5 +1, according to U.S. experts with knowledge of the issue. [Reuters’ Fredrik Dahl]

The House Benghazi Committee will hold a further hearing next week, at which two senior State Department officials will testify on the department’s security protocols overseas. [Politico’s Lauren French]  Meanwhile, the recently released House Intelligence Committee report on Benghazi is attracting the criticism of a number of Republicans, who view the conclusions as not being critical enough of the administration. [Fox News’ Adam Housley]

The Pakistani Taliban is coming under pressure from U.S. drone strikes targeting the groupa situation that could disrupt the insurgents’ ability to strike inside Pakistan. [Reuters’ Jibran Ahmad]

Talks on Afghanistan’s prospects following the withdrawal of foreign troops this month are ongoing in London currently, attended by delegates from over 50 states. [BBC]

The U.S. has called for the release of an American citizen who has been held on espionage charges in Cuba since 2009. [New York Times’ Randal C. Archibold]

The ICC has declined a request for further adjournment of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s case. [ICC] The rejection of the prosecution’s request is likely to deal “a deadly blow” to the proceedings that have ignited significant backlash against the court from African leadership. [Wall Street Journal’s Gabriele Steinhauser]

The U.S. warned South Sudan that UN sanctions would be imposed against those threatening the country’s stability following a year of conflict. [AP]

Six militants were killed by Indian military forces after they crossed from Pakistan during a protracted gun battle in the Kashmir region. [New York Times’ Hari Kumar]

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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