News Roundup and Notes: January 22, 2015

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.

SENATE TORTURE REPORT

The White House has been asked to return all copies of the Senate torture report by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s new chair, Richard Burr. The aim of the recall is reportedly to prevent the document from being subject to release under a FOIA request. [Vice News’ Jason Leopold]

Sen. Burr has also asked the Senate’s official referee to decide if the Committee acted improperly in circulating the full report to the White House during the declassification process. [Politico’s Burgess Everett]

YEMEN

Yemen’s president has reached an agreement with Houthi Shi’ite rebels, ending his de facto house arrest and agreeing to withdraw from certain key areas in Sana’a. In exchange, the Houthis have been promised greater influence in running the country’s affairs. [Wall Street Journal’s Maria Abi-Habib and Hakim Almasmari]

The Yemeni crisis in recent days raises the likelihood of another Arab state in which the U.S. faces increased dangers but “has no strong partners amid a landscape of sectarian violence,” reports Robert F. Worth. [New York Times]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched a coordinated offensive against Islamic State positions in and around the city of Mosul yesterday, in preparation for a major offensive to be launched later this year aimed at liberating the city from the group’s control. [Asharq Al-Awsat]

Japan has not succeeded in making contact with the Islamic State, as the group’s Friday deadline to pay a $200 million ransom for two Japanese hostages approaches. [CNN’s Jethro Mullen and Will Ripley]

London is playing host to 21 foreign ministers today to discuss how to coordinate efforts to tackle the Islamic State. [BBC]

An increasing number of Afghan and Pakistan militant commanders are looking toward the Islamic State, owing to recent splits within the Taliban and a growing frustration at the lack of leadership. Intelligence sources do not believe there are any operational links yet between the Islamic State and South Asia. [Reuters’ Jibran Ahmad and Mohammad Stanekzai]  A group of former Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province have allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, but the fighting among former comrades is more an example of internal splits than an Islamic State expansion. [New York Times’ Taimoor Shah and Joseph Goldstein]

The U.K.’s Chilcot inquiry into the 2003 Iraqi invasion may not be published until 2016. The inquiry’s chairman outlined his reasoning in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. [The Telegraph’s Christopher Hope and Steven Swinford]  Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has come out to say that the delay in the release has nothing to do with him. [Bloomberg’s Alex Morales and Guy Johnson]

IRAN

The U.S. and Iran will meet for talks in Zurich later this week to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program in an effort to move forward the slow-paced negotiations, reports Laurence Norman. [Wall Street Journal]

Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, has defied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and told U.S. officials and lawmakers that the passage of further sanctions targeting Iran would ruin the hopes for a nuclear accord. [Bloomberg View’s Josh Rogin and Eli Lake]  Two former U.S. national security advisers, Brent Scowroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, echoed this sentiment at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Another extension on Iran nuclear talks is possible, a senior State Department official told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]

Sens. Rand Paul and Barbara Boxer are working on a more “moderate” alternative Iran sanctions bill. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The U.S. will deploy troops to Ukraine to train four companies in the Ukrainian National Guard this spring. The U.S. has also begun to deliver armored pickup trucks and vans to the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. [Defense News’ Paul McLeary]

Peace talks on the Ukraine crisis took place between the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France yesterday, during which agreement was reached on the dividing line from where withdrawal of heavy weapons needs to occur. [AP]  Meanwhile, Moscow’s peace plan was dismissed by U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power:

Ukraine accused Russia of deploying 9,000 troops to support rebels in the east, while Moscow sought to dispute the allegations at the World Economic Forum in Davos. [Reuters’ Dmitry Zhdannikov and Noah Barkin]

Fighting intensifies in eastern Ukraine. At least nine people were killed by a shelling attack on a civilian bus in Donetsk this morning. Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the main terminal of Donetsk airport, but officials said soldiers remain in control of other parts of the airport. [BBC] Amid escalating violence, the UN political chief told the Security Council that the ceasefire “exists in name only.” [UN News Center]

There is “a pervasive disconnect in Western thinking about [Vladimir Putin’s] regime,” writes the Washington Post editorial board, calling for a more coherent strategy from the U.S. and Europe.

EUROPE’S TERROR THREAT

European governments are urging U.S. tech firms to remove extremist postings from websites and to assist in identifying terrorist communications. [Homeland Security News Wire]

French Prime Minister Manuel Vells announced new counterterrorism measures following the deadly Paris attacks earlier this month. The measures will include strengthening the intelligence services and taking steps to prevent youth radicalization. [France 24]

Around 100 protestors gathered to oppose the Charlie Hebdo magazine in the Afghan capital, Kabul, today. [AP]

Austria’s first trial of a suspected returned Islamic State fighter began today. The 30-year old Chechen is accused of fighting in Syria with jihadists in 2013 and supplying them with money. [Reuters]

Belgium has partially identified two men suspected to be Islamic militants who died last week during a police raid, releasing the first names and nationalities of the men. [New York Times’ James Kantner and Andrew Higgins]

GUANTANAMO

The commander of the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Navy base has been relieved of his position and reassigned to headquarters. The announcement follows a suspicious death on the base, which is being investigated by Naval Criminal Investigative Services. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Rich Lowry makes the case for why Guantanamo is not the national disgrace the president claims and why “it is bullheaded foolishness to want to close it at all costs.” [Politico Magazine]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The CIA leak trial entered its final stages yesterday. Josh Gerstein provides an overview of the arguments in the case against former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, accused of leaking classified information about an Iran operation to a journalist. [Politico]  And Matt Zapotosky comments on the “Catch-22” nature of leak cases: to succeed, prosecutors are forced to disclose information “the government never wanted out in the open.” [Washington Post]

Outreach programs in Muslim communities “blur lines between outreach and intelligence [gathering],” reports Cora Currier, discussing the details of previous community outreach efforts in Minnesota. [The Intercept]

M.L. Nestel profiles Saddiq Al-Abbadi, one of two Yemeni nationals accused of being al-Qaeda operatives and currently facing terrorism charges in a U.S. court. [The Daily Beast]

Effectively tackling the movement of foreign fighters requires a more collaborative approach to “establishing and sustaining the dominant narrative, and re-examining combined joint inter-agency [information] coordination,” write Clint Arizmendi and John Little, who discuss how to counter the Australian jihadi threat at Blogs of War.

France is taking an increasingly activist role in the Muslim world; Yaroslav Trofimov discusses France’s growing interventionism and the visible outcome—alongside the U.S., France now “looms atop” the jihadists’ target list. [Wall Street Journal] 

The U.S. delegation to Cuba arrived in Havana yesterday, with the two sides to formally begin discussions today on reopening embassies in the capitals. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Nick Miroff]

The UN commission that found both sides in the Central African Republic conflict responsible for crimes against humanity is urging the UN to establish an international court to bring prosecutions against perpetrators. [AP]

UN-sponsored peace talks on Libya were suspended after the rival government set up in Tripoli accused the country’s internationally-backed government of sparking fresh violence. [Al Jazeera]

A German man kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria last July has been released. [AP]

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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