News Roundup and Notes: April 28, 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

A series of bomb attacks in commercial areas of Baghdad killed at least 20 civilians yesterday, according to officials. No group has yet claimed responsibility. [AP]

Iraqi troops are making a push to retake Anbar province from the Islamic State, an offensive which “will be a hard slog for a much-diminished Iraqi army,” particularly given Baghdad’s reluctance to involve Sunni tribesmen and local concerns that Shi’ite militias will support government forces. [AP’s Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Paul Schemm]

Israeli forces were on heightened alert yesterday along the Israeli-Syrian border following a thwarted militant attack on Sunday; spillover from the Syrian conflict has on occasion affected the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. [Washington Post’s Ruth Eglash]

“The list of the Islamic State’s inventory reads like a roll call of arms-exporting nations.” C.J. Chivers explores the origins of the militant group’s arsenal, the implications of which are becoming “familiar and uncomfortable.” [New York Times]

The Syrian government has introduced more relaxed passport rules allowing Syrian refugees and citizens trapped without documents in neighboring countries to apply for passport renewals abroad—even if they left the country illegally or are “draft dodgers.” [Al Jazeera America’s Michael Pizzi]

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition military forces carried out five airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria between 8am April 26 and 8am April 27. Separately, military forces conducted a further 26 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Senators opposed to an Iran nuclear deal are set to introduce “several poison-pill amendments” to the compromise bill which would allow congressional review of any final accord, reports Burgess Everett at Politico. The Senate debate on the Iran bill this week will offer the 2016 presidential race contenders a chance to showcase their capacity to lead on a major foreign policy issue, report Paul Kane and Mike DeBonis. [Washington Post]

Congress is unlikely to overturn a veto from the president if lawmakers pass a resolution against a nuclear accord this summer, according to House Speaker John Boehner, who acknowledged at an off-the-record event that his party would not have the required votes. [Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake]

A final deal with Tehran is “closer than ever,” Secretary of State John Kerry said at the 2015 conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty yesterday. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the five nuclear weapon states to refrain from extending or modernizing their nuclear arsenal during the conference. Kerry and Zarif subsequently met on the sidelines of the conference for a “productive” discussion. [Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau and Arshad Mohammed]

GUANTANAMO BAY

The House Armed Services Committee chairman has proposed a 2015 defense policy bill which aims to limit the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees, in a move described as “Bowe Bergdahl swap blow back,” by Carol Rosenberg. [Miami Herald]

Uruguay has urged ex-Guantanamo detainees resettled in the country to accept the terms of the housing agreement they have so far rejected, saying they will not receive any income if they do not sign up. [AP’s Leonardo Haberkorn and Peter Prengaman]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A UN inquiry reports on last summer’s Gaza conflict. The report, focused on incidents involving UN sites, concludes that Israeli forces killed at least 44 Palestinians during seven attacks on UN schools being used as shelters. The report also finds that weaponry was being stored by Palestinian militants at three empty UN schools, and that fighters “probably” fired at Israeli troops from two of the schools, which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called “unacceptable.” [Al Jazeera; UN News Centre]

JAPAN SECURITY AGREEMENT 

The U.S. and Japan have announced a new security agreement, overhauling the current arrangement between the two states and setting the scene for a more robust role for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in a range of military operations. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes]

Adam Taylor highlights some of the past events “hang[ing] heavy” over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Washington this week. [Washington Post]  Meanwhile, Japanese police are investigating a projectile launch close to a U.S. Army base near Tokyo. [AP]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The annexation of Crimea had “elements of historical justice,” according to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a new documentary, who added that he had no regrets over his decision. [Reuters]

Summary and rough justice has become prevalent in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, with rebel fighters targeting both civilians and other fighters amid the chaos and lack of alternative authority. [AP’s Mstyslav Chernov]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A state of emergency and a curfew has been announced for Maryland, after violent riots broke out across Baltimore following the funeral of a black man, Freddie Gray, who died after suffering serious injury in policy custody. [Reuters’ Ian Simpson]

President Obama is set to make a renewed push to have control of the drones program transferred from the CIA to the military, part of an internal review ordered in response to the accidental killings of two Western hostages in Pakistan. [CNN’s Jim Acosta]

Loretta Lynch was sworn in as the 83rd U.S. attorney general yesterday, the first African-American woman to fill the post. [AP]

Hundreds of people have been found dead in Damasak, northern Nigeria, the apparent victims of militant group Boko Haram, following reports of fresh attacks by the insurgents. [AFP]  And Niger’s military has taken control of the island of Karamga in Lake Chad, following an assault by Boko Haram on its positions there. [AP]

The New York Times editorial board comments on the Pentagon’s new cybersecurity strategy, suggesting that while the document is a step forward, “since this is a global issue, still needed are international understandings about what constitutes cyberaggression and how governments should respond.”

A coalition of media organizations has filed a lawsuit demanding the release of information pertaining to the sentencing of David Petraeus, including letters reportedly filed by more than 30 people, including high-level government and military officials, in support of the former CIA director. [The Intercept’s Cora Currier]

The Pentagon and Republicans have clashed over an East Coast missile shield to defend the U.S. against a possible attack from North Korea or Iran, the Department of Defense saying it does not need the shield nor can it afford the system. [Politico’s Jen Judson and Jeremy Herb]

Britain’s “military reach has diminished,” and its alliance with the U.S. is clearly no longer as central to either nation as it once was, reports Steven Erlanger, noting that the issue has come to the fore as Britain heads toward a general election next month. [New York Times]

UN member states are pushing for a more transparent process in the search for the next secretary general, with Liechtenstein saying that whoever fills the position must not be “chosen in a back room.” [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

“The commandos are the go-to force when the Afghan army can’t finish a fight against the Taliban.” NPR’s Tom Bowman profiles the men responsible for Afghanistan’s security now the U.S. combat role has come to an end.

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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