News Roundup and Notes: February 24, 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.

IRAQ and SYRIA

The administration has “the ingredients of the strategy” to defeat the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said after his meeting in Kuwait yesterday. Carter acknowledged the serious challenges facing the U.S.-led efforts, including the plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt]

Jordan’s army is preparing for a greater role in the fight against the Islamic State, following the killing of the Jordanian pilot by the group, reports Robert Siegel. [NPR]

New Zealand will deploy up to 143 non-combat troops to Iraq as part of a joint training mission with Australia to assist in the battle against the Islamic State. [New Zealand Herald]

Turkey’s weekend mission into Syria is being described by critics as further evidence of Ankara’s willingness to coordinate with ISIS militants so as to avoid taking a major role in the fight against the jihadists, writes Jamie Dettmer. [The Daily Beast]

U.S. and coalition military forces conducted 18 airstrikes targeting ISIS in Syria, and a separate seven airstrikes against the militant group in Iraq on February 22. [Central Command]

At least 90 Assyrian Christians have been kidnapped by Islamic State militants in the northeast of Syria, says the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The kidnapping appears to be a direct response to recent gains made by Kurds in Syria’s northeast, reports Al Jazeera.  Heavy clashes were reported in the region yesterday as Kurds and ISIS fighters fought for control of villages in the Hassakeh province. [AP]

France has seized the passports of six people suspected of attempting to travel to Syria to engage in terrorism related activities. The seizure took place under new counterterrorism powers approved by the French parliament in November. [France 24]  Gerald F. Seib writes that the French experience of Islamic extremism–most recently the Charlie Hebdo attacks–helps explain the ideology’s causes which are all three: religious, cultural, and economic. [Wall Street Journal]

A top official at the Justice Department expressed a willingness to indict those who assist the Islamic State in its use and production of social media; Shane Harris provides more details and questions where the government would draw the line between free speech and support for a terrorist group. [The Daily Beast]

House lawmakers are demanding that Speaker John Boehner allows amendments to President Obama’s AUMF against Islamic militants when the chamber considers the request. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]

Rep Tulsi Gabbard said she was “mind-boggled” by the Pentagon’s briefing last week on the upcoming military operation to retake Mosul from ISIS, noting details that were omitted from the plan. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

The U.S. Navy must be prepared for the possibility that the Islamic State will soon gain a foothold in the Mediterranean, writes Seth Cropsey, suggesting that shifting naval forces east in the Mediterranean makes “parallel good sense.” [Wall Street Journal]

Iraqi parliament speaker al Jabouri may be Iraq’s “great Sunni hope,” suggests Douglas Ollivant, who notes that the current Iraqi leadership is from a new generation, adopting more moderate tones than their predecessors. [The Daily Beast]

UKRAINE and RUSSIA

Pro-Russian rebels claimed to have begun withdrawing heavy weaponry from the frontline earlier today, but the Ukrainian military said shelling from rebel forces continued. [Reuters]

The latest ceasefire has “very significantly” reduced military exchanges between the two sides in Ukraine, but violations are still taking place, the chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said yesterday. [AP]

Russian President Vladimir Putin said war with Ukraine is “unlikely” and continued to deny that Russian troops were fighting in Ukraine, during a Russian television interview. [BBC]

Russia’s Gazprom warned of “serious” risks to gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine, citing Kiev’s failure to make the required pre-payment. [Reuters]

If Moscow’s violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty continue, the U.S. will respond with a “range of options” which were detailed by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. [Politico’s Philip Ewing]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization were found liable by a Manhattan jury for knowingly supporting six terrorist attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004. The damages, which are automatically tripled under the Anti-Terrorism Act, are set at $655.5 million. [New York Times’ Benjamin Weiser]

IDF troops killed a Palestinian man during an overnight raid in a West Bank refugee camp. [Haaretz’s Gili Cohen and Jack Khoury]

There was a 40 percent rise in the number of Jewish settlements under construction in the West Bank last year, according to an anti-settlements watchdog report. [Al Jazeera]

IRAN

The Israeli prime minister’s claim about Iran’s nuclear capabilities in 2012 was contradicted by his intelligence service, Mossad. A few weeks after Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration to world leaders during his 2012 UN address, a top-secret Mossad report concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.” [Al Jazeera’s Will Jordan and Rahul Radhakrishnan; The Guardian’s Seumas Milne et al]

Bilateral talks between Iran and the U.S. ended yesterday with a discussion of the proposed plan to slowly ease limits on Tehran, although strict restrictions would apply on Iran’s nuclear production for at least 10 years. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and David E. Sanger]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY, and TECHNOLOGY

Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras gave a reddit “Ask Me Anything” session yesterday. Speaking on the recent revelation that U.S. and U.K. spies had hacked into the internal network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards globally, Snowden said the two governments had “screwed all of us” and that the Gemalto hack is “more significant” than recent reports of NSA firmware exploitation. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

The Snowden leaks have had a “material impact” on the ability of the NSA to detect and prevent terrorist plots, NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers said during a cybersecurity summit. [CNN’s Aaron Cooper]

The CIA is planning a significant expansion of its cyber-espionage capabilities, part of a broad restructuring program, according to current and former U.S. officials. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A U.S. Marine, Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, who disappeared from an Iraqi military base in 2004 was found guilty of desertion yesterday, following a trial at Camp Lejeune, N.C. [Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe]

A military judge at Guantanamo has called on the top Pentagon official responsible for the war court to testify on why the department has ordered judges to relocate to the naval base in Cuba until they complete their death penalty cases. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Qatar’s links to Islamist groups are complicating the U.S.-Qatar relationship; the country’s ties in the region are both helpful and a source of concern to the United States. Jay Solomon and Nour Malas offer more details. [Wall Street Journal]

Britain’s MI6 asked South Africa for assistance in recruiting a North Korean informant, according to leaked intelligence information obtained by Al Jazeera.

Ousted Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has withdrawn his resignation and initiated meetings with senior security advisers and provincial governors in his hometown of Aden. [Al Jazeera]

What is the human cost to remote-controlled combat? An extract from Chris Woods’ new book “Sudden Justice” takes an in-depth look at drone warfare and the reality of the new remote frontline. [The Guardian]

“Stitching together a regional push against Boko Haram is a hard task, but it is crucial for ending the conflict.” Siddhartha Mitter discusses the changing pattern of Boko Haram, the increasing threat it poses to the region, and the importance of a successful general election in Nigeria to defeating the group. [The Daily Beast]

Al-Shabaab has found itself on the “periphery of the global jihadi movement” and its “desire to be seen as relevant” may have driven it to produce the recent video calling for attacks on western shopping malls, suggests Tom Maguire. [The Guardian]

Gunmen in Afghanistan stopped two buses on route to Kabul and kidnapped around 30 people of the Shi’ite Hazara minority earlier today. [Reuters’ Sarwar Amani]

The grand iman of Al-Azhar in Cairo–Sunni Islam’s most esteemed center for learning–has made sweeping calls for educational reform in the Muslim world to combat the proliferation of extremist violence. [Wall Street Journal’s Ahmed Al Omran and Tamer El-Ghobashy]

The White House expressed support for Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s comment that transgender people should not be excluded from military service on the basis of their sexual identity. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]

The U.S. and South Korea are set to begin eight weeks of military drills from March 2, according to military officials speaking today. The annual exercise regularly sparks heightened rhetoric and threats from North Korea. [Reuters]

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook. To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org. Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
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