News Roundup and Notes: June 18, 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 U.S. strategy of training ground troops to defeat ISIS in Iraq is faltering due to the lack of Iraqi recruits, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday. [Foreign Policy’s David Francis] Both Carter and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, indicated support for a broader role for the U.S. in Iraq, allowing American troops to help Iraqi forces by directing airstrikes. [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum]

The House voted against a bipartisan measure requiring lawmakers to debate an AUMF against the Islamic State, continuing the stalemate over war authorization one year after the first U.S. troops were ordered to Iraq. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Iraqi and Iranian leaders discussed their cooperation in the war against ISIS in Tehran yesterday, with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledging support for Baghdad, while condemning the U.S. role in the country. [Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley]

Syrian medical workers recounted their experience of chlorine bomb attacks launched from regime helicopters this year, during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. [Al Jazeera] The account undermined the progress reported by the OPCW, which announced yesterday the completion of the disposal of effluent from neutralized Syrian chemical weapons. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

The Turkish border town of Akcakale is concerned about Islamic State intrusion, specifically that militants crossed the border along with refugees when they were driven out of Syria’s Tal Abyad earlier this week. [Wall Street Journal’s Ayla Albayrak]

Hezbollah attacked ISIS positions near a Lebanese border town in the country’s northeast. Hezbollah has intensified its shelling attacks on Islamic State targets after a deadly battle between the two groups last week. [The Daily Star]

The New York Times maps attacks around the world carried out, directed or inspired by the Islamic State.

Australian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for an Australian doctor who appears to have joined the Islamic State and is featured in a recruitment video for the group. [Sydney Morning Herald’s David Wroe]

A Marine sergeant has been found guilty of murder by a military jury in a retrial of an Iraq war crimes case concerning the killing of a retired Iraqi police officer in 2006. [AP]

YEMEN

The CIA did not intentionally strike al-Qaeda’s Number 2, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who was killed in a strike in Yemen last week, according to American officials. Instead, the leader was killed in a “signature strike,” an approved CIA strategy to target militant activity even if the identities of the targets are unknown. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller]

The newly appointed AQAP leader has been key in reviving the terror network’s Yemen branch; Qassim Al-Rimi was appointed following Wuhayshi’s death. [NBC News’ Alastair Jamieson]

U.S. drone strikes have led to in-fighting within al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, concerning who in the group is spying on behalf of America, according to intelligence officials. [Daily Beast’s Shane Harris and Katie Zavadski] 

ISIS affiliates in Yemen claimed responsibility for a string of attacks in Sana’a, targeting mosques with Shiite Muslim worshipers, killing at least 30 yesterday. [New York Times’ Shuaib Almosawa and Saeed Al-Batati]

Younnes Suleimani highlights already emerging potential pitfalls at the Geneva talks sponsored by the UN in an effort to mediate peace between Yemen’s rival sides. [Asharq Al-Awsat]

IRAN

Sen. Bob Corker has called on the administration to ignore the nearing June 30 deadline for the Iranian nuclear talks, in order to secure a stronger deal with Tehran. [Washington Post’s Carol Morello]

The administration is considering the appointment of a “czar” to ensure that the different parts of any final nuclear deal are implemented, in an effort to increase the likelihood that the emerging agreement is enforced. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The European Union plans to extend sanctions against Russia past the current July 31 end date, in response to the ongoing Ukrainian conflict. [BBC]

Moscow’s foreign policy is a means to distract attention from domestic problems, a Russian critic of President Putin, and former oil tycoon, has alleged. [Reuters’ Lesley Wroughton]

NATO is carrying out its biggest defense reinforcement since the Cold War, its chief announced, as the alliance began its largest ever military exercises in the Baltic Sea in a show of strength to Russia.[Al Jazeera]  The Washington Post editorial board comments on Moscow’s latest plans for military expansion. And The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill discusses the amassing of weapons by both the West and Russia, and its implications.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The State Department pushed back against criticism from Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S., who accused President Obama of intentionally sidelining Israel. Spokesperson John Kirby referred to Oren’s op-ed piece as “a politician who’s promoting a book.” [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid] U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro called Oren’s account “imaginary,” stating it “does not reflect the truth.” [Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon]

The disorder in the Middle East is welcomed in Israel by many political and military leaders. Ben Judah provides a historical context. [Politico]

AFGHANISTAN

The Afghan Taliban is allegedly working more closely with Iran to counter ISIS’s growing power. The Daily Beast’s Sami Yousafzai interviews ex-Taliban members familiar with the situation.

The Afghan Ministry of Education may have fabricated the number of students enrolled in school, with USAID footing the bill. [Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz]

OPM HACK

Congressional staffers received confirmation this week that they were likely affected by the hack targeting the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

The administration expressed its continued support for the OPM chief, following a highly critical House Oversight Committee hearing on Tuesday. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian and Cory Bennett]

The OPM data breach was worse than the Edward Snowden controversy, argues Ryan Evans in a Washington Post op-ed.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

U.S. officials will brief families of American hostages on a review of the current response policy, conducted by the National Counterterrorism Center, and the likely reforms. [ABC News’ James Gordon Meek]

The U.S. is facing criticism for failing to prioritize action against Sudanese President al-Bashir. The New York Times’ Somini Sengupta reports.

The Air Force is boosting training for drone pilots and addressing gaps in the program, given the increased demand for combat drones, reports Missy Ryan. [Washington Post]

Individuals detained for immigration violations post-9/11 can sue senior U.S. officials for racial profiling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

The NDAA cleared the last procedural hurdle in the Senate; the bill has been criticized by Democrats for its provisions on increasing the Pentagon’s war budget. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

Homemade bombs discovered in a deserted Boko Haram camp in Nigeria exploded yesterday, killing 63 people. [AP] According to U.S. officials and counterterror experts, the group is “winning” and making strategic gains in the region. [NBC News]

Al-Shabaab militants launched two attacks in Somalia, one at a political conference where troops were able to intercept the fighters. [Reuters]

The global refugee crisis is at an “all-time high,” resulting in the exodus of almost 60 million people from conflict-torn countries, according to the UNHCR.

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).

Sarika Arya

Former Summer Fellow at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@sarika_arya).