News Roundup and Notes: April 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.

YEMEN

Saudi Arabia announced the end of Operation Decisive Storm yesterday. Announcing the end of the 26-day-long campaign of airstrikes against Shi’ite Houthi rebels, a statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA said the operation’s goals had been achieved, including removing the threat posed to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries. [Reuters’ Noah Browning]  Iran has welcomed the ceasefire, but called for “urgent humanitarian assistance” after the end of the Saudi-led air campaign. [BBC]

Rival forces in Yemen continued fighting today despite the announced end to the Saudi-led bombing, highlighting the likely challenges to be faced in finding a political solution to the crisis. [Reuters’ Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashef]  An airstrike has targeted tanks in the southern port city of Aden today, just hours after Riyadh’s announcement. [The Guardian’s Ian Black]

The ceasefire announcement came following pressure from the Obama administration on the coalition to end the airstrikes; the campaign has come under harsh criticism for causing civilian casualties and for appearing to lack a broader military strategy. [New York Times’ Kareem Fahim]

Operation Decisive Storm will be replaced with a new phase called Renewal of Hope, which it is claimed will focus on diplomatic and political solutions, rebuilding the country while preventing the Houthis’ operational movement. [The Guardian]

Yemeni President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi expressed gratitude to the Saudi-led coalition today for “supporting legitimacy” in Yemen, promising to “triumph” and return to the country once it has been rid of Houthi rebels. [Al Arabiya]

President Obama said that it would be a “problem” if an arms exchange occurred between Iran and Yemeni Houthi rebels, during an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian]

The New York Times offers an interactive guide to the crisis in Yemen, including the crucial divisions and parties to the conflict. The BBC speaks to four expert witnesses on what the Yemen conflict is really about.

Pakistan’s refusal to enter the Saudi-led coalition “was especially worrisome because it came on the heels of the American-backed preliminary nuclear deal with Iran,” writes Pervez Hoodbhoy, describing Pakistan as Saudi’s “indispensable nuclear partner” and commenting on Saudi concerns over Pakistan’s “surprising assertion of independence.” [New York Times]

A survey of Saudi’s elites on the Yemen war reveals divided opinion, reports Bader al-Rashed for Al Monitor.

During the Yemeni civil war in the 1960s, Israel provided assistance to Shi’ite tribes from which the country’s Houthi rebels hail, explains Oren Kessler, highlighting the accusations leveled against Israel by the rebel group of supporting the Saudi-led campaign. [Politico Magazine]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been seriously wounded in an airstrike in western Iraq. An Iraqi source with links to the group said Baghdadi sustained serious injuries during a U.S.-led coalition attack in March. [The Guardian’s Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen]

Lawmakers from both parties called on President Obama to establish and enforce humanitarian safe zones in Syria yesterday, amid concerns over the “staggering human displacement” and suffering of millions of people. [Reuters]

Lawmakers are still “not close to consensus” on an AUMF against the Islamic State, according to Sen. Ben Cardin. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

Palestinian factions have created a united force to prevent the Islamic State from taking over their refugee camps in Jordan, after seeing what has happened to Yarmouk in Damascus. [Time’s Rebecca Collard and Ain al-Hilweh]

The Islamic State has 225,000 Syrians under siege in the western neighborhoods of Deir ez Zor, according to the latest monthly report from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. [AP]

The use of informants and undercover agents in the arrest of those suspected of ISIS links in America has come under fire over concerns that the authorities are luring people into committing crimes. [Wall Street Journal’s Nicole Hung]

“There is a remarkable parallel between the rise of the so-called Islamic State, and the evolution of the IRA in Northern Ireland,” says Peter Taylor, explaining the comparison in a piece for the BBC.

SURVEILLANCE

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a bill to extend surveillance authority under Section 215 of the Patriot Act through 2020, even as a bipartisan group of lawmakers is working on a bill to limit the government’s surveillance powers. [Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima]  Republicans are split on the issue of surveillance reform, ahead of the impending deadline when key provisions of the Patriot Act will expire, report Alex Byers and Kate Tummarello. [Politico]

Jeb Bush’s praise of Obama’s “enhancement of NSA” surveillance highlights how the two parties agree on the majority of the most important policies, despite the media’s portrayal of disagreements as the norm, writes Glenn Greenwald. [The Intercept]

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban has said it will launch its spring offensive on Friday, the group’s yearly campaign against the Afghan government. [AP]

American officials now believe that Taliban militants, not ISIS, were responsible for the recent Jalalabad attack. A spokesperson for the Islamic State in Afghanistan has also denied responsibility for the assault that killed at least 35 people. [The Daily Beast’s Nancy A. Youssef]  The Jalalabad attack is magnifying questions over the extent of the Islamic State’s foothold in the country, with officials unable to agree on the answers, according to The Economist.

The Taliban appears to be trying to match the brutality of ISIS, as a series of kidnappings and beheadings of members of the Hazara ethnic group has spread panic through this historically persecuted community. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland and Jawad Sukhanyar]

IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS

The timing of sanctions relief is likely to dominate as nuclear talks between the P5+1 and Iran resume in Vienna today. [Reuters]

A classified replica of Tehran’s nuclear facilities, along with other U.S. atomic labs, has allowed scientists to offer estimates of Iran’s nuclear abilities and has helped inform American negotiators in the course of the nuclear negotiations. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger and William J. Broad]

The Senate could begin debate on an Iran bill allowing congressional review of an emerging accord with Tehran as early as today. [Reuters’ Patricia Zengerle]

A Marine veteran detained in Iran has asked congressional leaders to demand his release, along with two other U.S. prisoners, as part of any agreement with Tehran. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

NATO is set to hold a major cybersecurity drill in Estonia this week, part of the alliance’s efforts to upgrade its capability to counter cyberattacks. [AP’s Jari Tanner]

Turkey is moving to reduce its military dependence on the West, a shift which is concerning its allies in NATO; Ankara recently rejected NATO bids for a missile defense system in favor of a Chinese-built system. [Wall Street Journal’s Emre Peker]

The White House has expressed support for two cybersecurity bills in the House expected to be voted on this week, but indicated some reservations about the extent of liability protections for companies when sharing hacking data with the government. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

A Mauritanian court has sentenced a suspected al-Qaeda leader to 20 years in prison for terrorism related activities. [AP’s Ahmed Mohamed]

In the wake of 9/11, the media “worried about putting the resources in places to cover the next terrorist attack, while paying scant attention to lives ruined by the erosion of civil liberties,” writes Raymond Bonner, suggesting journalists ought to have been “more aggressive” in reporting on U.S. secret prisons and torture. [Politico Magazine]

New Zealand is working on a UN resolution to restart Israel-Palestine peace talks, but will wait to see how the current French-led peace effort works out. [AP’s Edith M. Lederer]

Western sanctions targeting Russia have caused “meaningful” harm to its economy, Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev acknowledged, but added that it was a cost worth paying for Moscow’s position on Crimea. [New York Times’ Andrew Roth]

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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