News Roundup and Notes: May 5, 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

Two civilians were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike against the Islamic State, concluded an internal military investigation—the first time the Pentagon has acknowledged the killing of civilians since the start of the campaign last summer. [The Daily Beast’s Nancy A. Youssef]

new report from Amnesty International condemns human rights atrocities committed in the Syrian city of Aleppo by government forces and armed opposition groupsciting “systematic and widespread” atrocities some of which constitute crimes against humanity.

Syrian government forces killed two attackers in Damascus during an “unusually intense” battle with insurgents in the city center yesterday; the Nusra Front claimed responsibility for the attack. [New York Times’ Anne Bernard]

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition military forces carried out 22 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq between 8am May 3 and 8am May 4. [Central Command]

YEMEN

Senegal will send 2,100 troops to Saudi Arabia to join the international coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen, the country’s foreign minister announced yesterday. [ReutersIshaan Tharoor explores the reasons for Senegal’s decision, which include the prospect of closer political and economic links with Saudi Arabia. [Washington Post]

Saudi Arabia said it is weighing a temporary halt in strikes against Houthi fighters to allow for delivery of humanitarian aid, even as coalition strikes struck several airports across the country yesterday. [AP’s Ahmed Al-Haj]  Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Riyadh this week to push for a “humanitarian pause” in fighting. [Al Jazeera]

IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not shut down debate on the Iran bill yesterday, seeking instead an “improbable deal” for votes on amendments, reports Burgess Everett. [Politico]

A comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran must not destabilize the region nor threaten Tehran’s neighboring countries, France and Saudi Arabia said ahead of a summit in Riyadh today. [Reuters’ John Irish]

American oil industry executives are visiting Iran this week to discuss investment opportunities ahead of the potential loosening of sanctions, according to Iran state media. [The Hill’s Timothy Cama]

U.S. Navy warships are accompanying British-flagged vessels, in addition to U.S.-flagged ships, through the Strait of Hormuz, following Tehran’s detention of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel last week. [Reuters]

GUANTANAMO BAY

Congress and the White House are at loggerheads over Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The Obama administration “just might” follow through with its threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, being used by the GOP to prevent attempts to close the prison, reports Molly O’Toole. [Defense One]

The Canadian government is seeking an emergency stay on bail granted to former Guantanamo detainee and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr. [Al Jazeera America]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Texas attack on Sunday outside an arena where a “Draw Muhammad” contest was being held, via the terror group’s al-Bayan radio station. [France 24]

President Obama will nominate Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Dunford was a former top commander in Afghanistan and currently serves as commandant of the Marine Corps. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe]

Informal Afghan-Taliban talks have led to agreement on a number of issues—including the opening of a political office by the Taliban in Doha—raising hopes for the stalled peace process. [New York Times’ Margherita Stancati]

NSA surveillance reform is bringing together ideologically divided lawmakers, who are seeking stronger reforms ahead of the Section 215 sunset at the end of the month. [Politico’s Lauren French and Kate Tummarello]

Former CIA deputy director Michael J. Morell’s forthcoming book states that the GOP has politicized the Benghazi attacks to the extent that it has distorted the agency’s breakdown of the events. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger]  Morell defends the post-9/11 interrogation program, saying that such techniques saved American lives, and also mounts a defense of the CIA’s drone program, offering a detailed account of a 2013 AQAP plot against U.S. interests in Yemen. [AP’s Ken Dilanian]

Hillary Clinton will testify on the 2012 Benghazi attacks as well as her use of private email during her time as secretary of state, before the House Select Committee on Benghazi later this month. [CNN’s Deirdre Walsh]

A new report has found “alarming rates” of sexual assault in the military, said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, indicating that the issue may be much worse than the Pentagon has suggested. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Al-Qaeda’s South Asia arm has named Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an enemy in a newly released video, allegedly voiced over by the head of the group in the Indian subcontinent, Asim Umar. [Bloomberg News’ Kartikay Mehrotra and Santosh Kumar]

“Indiscriminate fire” by Israeli troops in last summer’s Gaza war led to the deaths of Palestinian civilians, according to testimonials from combat soldiers collected by an Israeli group, Breaking The Silence. [NPR’s Emily Harris]

The Economist highlights the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament, adding that this may lead to an “ill-tempered” non-proliferation treaty review; the conference of the 191 signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty began at the UN headquarters in New York last week.

A Filipino bomb-making expert sought by the U.S. has been killed during a gun battle with rebels, the Philippine military said yesterday.  [New York Times’ Floyd Whaley]

Secretary of State John Kerry pledged additional funding to assist Somali refugees and urged Kenyans to be patient with their country’s military presence in neighboring Somalia following al-Shabaab attacks inside Kenya, during a visit to Nairobi. [Wall Street Journal’s Heidi Vogt]

Kerry described South Sudan as being at “grave risk,” and said that the U.S. had allocated $5 million for the creation of an independent judicial mechanism which could hold perpetrators of atrocities to account, during a press conference in Kenya. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

The 2016 defense policy bill will be “revolutionary” for military retirement, according to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, endorsing a 401(k)-style scheme. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

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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