News Roundup and Notes: June 30, 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.

TUNISIA ATTACK

Tunisian security officials have detained several people suspected of involvement in Friday’s attack that killed 39 people. The government was said to be investigating whether the attacker, who was shot dead, had been trained by jihadists in neighboring Libya. [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Winning and Tamer El-Ghobashy]

President Barack Obama discussed the attack with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron during a phone call yesterday; the leaders discussed the importance of working with countries like Tunisia in order to counter the threat of Islamist extremism. [Prime Minister’s Office]

The U.K.’s Scotland Yard has created an SAS-style unit of armed police officers to tackle the threat of a terrorist gun attack on British soil, such as the massacre in Tunisia, training alongside the army’s special forces. [The Guardian’s Vikram Dodd]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Syria’s foreign minister yesterday in a surprise meeting during which the Russian leader pledged his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. [AP]  And Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov will meet with Secretary of State John Kerry today in Vienna to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria and the recent increase in extremist attacks. [New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar]

U.S. efforts to locate Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are narrowing to focus on Raqqa, the Syrian city and self-declared capital of the caliphate, reports Barbara Starr. The “leading theory” amongst U.S. intelligence officials is that Baghdadi is hiding among the city’s civilian population. [CNN]

Iraq’s prime minister has “retired” the military’s chief of staff, a spokesman for Haider al-Abadi has said. [Al Jazeera]

Turkey is increasingly anxious over U.S. support of Syrian Kurds and is considering steps to contain their ambitions, including the creation of a buffer zone in Syria. Ankara sees the Syrian Kurds as a threat to national security due to their connections with Kurdish nationalists in Turkey, report Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt. [New York Times]

The Islamic State has beheaded two women in Syria, the first report of the group decapitating female civilians, according to the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]

Yesterday marked one year since the Islamic State declared its caliphate in Syria and Iraq; Cassandra Vinograd and Ammar Cheikh Omar survey the group’s achievements and losses throughout the year. [NBC News]

IRAN

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif arrived back in Vienna this morning to rejoin nuclear talks; Zarif insisted that his brief trip to Tehran had not been in order to secure a mandate for reaching a nuclear accord. The foreign minister was accompanied to the negotiations by Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic agency, and Hossein Fereidoun, special adviser to President Hassan Rouhani. [BBC; New York Times‘ Michael R. Gordon]

The U.S. has warned Iran that the preliminary agreement reached by the parties two months ago must stay the basis for a final nuclear accord. [New York Times Michael R. Gordon and David E. Sanger ]

The White House has denied reports that President Obama sent a private letter to Iran’s leadership ahead of the deadline for negotiations with Tehran. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian]

Parties to the nuclear talks, particularly Iran, may be experiencing “eleventh-hour jitters” as the implications of reaching a nuclear accord become clear, a senior U.S. negotiator has suggested. [Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen]

The Economist explores the pressure facing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the nuclear accord, suggesting that it is “hard to see how a failure could be absorbed” by the president.

“Are Iran’s Sunni neighbors about to race for The Bomb?” Kevin Connolly discusses the dangers of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, with Gulf states “keen[ly]” aware of the approaching deadline in talks with Iran. [BBC]

“A deal with Iran would be a boon for Hezbollah,” and would constitute a “nuclear nightmare” for Lebanon, argues Ahmad el-Assaad, the chairman of the Lebanese Option Party. [Wall Street Journal]

AFGHANISTAN

A suicide bomber targeted a NATO convoy in Kabul today, killing seven. [BBC]

U.S. troops raided the village of a local commander in Afghanistan’s Parwan province, sparking a local protest. The raid is demonstrative of wider American involvement in Afghanistan beyond the publicly stated advisory and targeted counterterrorism role, reports Mujib Mashal. [New York Times]  Technically, such unilateral operations are legal under a U.S.-Afghan security agreement, but only in outstanding circumstances. [Reuters]

Afghan militants have established links with ISIS in Syria, according to a senior U.S. military official. [BBC’s David Lyon]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Hamas maintains control in Gaza a year after its most recent war with Israel – despite “mounting frustration” among Palestinians with their leadership – due to a lack of available alternatives. [AP]

Republicans are pressuring the Obama administration to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority, following Palestine’s attempts to bring a case against Israel at the ICC. [The Hill’s Rebecca Shabad]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The NSA wiretapped two French economy ministers and spied on over 100 French companies, according to WikiLeaks documents. [France 24]

French authorities will pursue terrorism charges against the man who beheaded his manager at a gas plant in Lyon last Friday; the suspect argues that he committed the attack for personal reasons. [Reuters’ Brian Love]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is facing criticism over emails with longtime adviser Sidney Blumenthal; Clinton claimed last month that memos about Libya from Blumenthal had been “unsolicited,” a claim apparently debunked by newly released email records. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt]  Meanwhile, the State Department refused to comment on whether Secretary of State John Kerry would be open to testifying before the Benghazi committee. [Reuters’ Susan Cornwell and Lesley Wroughton]

Egypt’s top prosecutor was killed by a car bomb in Cairo. The attack follows threats against the judiciary by an Egyptian based ISIS affiliate, however government officials have pointed fingers at the Muslim Brotherhood. As of yet, no one has claimed responsibility. [Wall Street Journal’s Dahlia Kholaif]

A suicide bomb targeting two Houthi rebel leaders in Sana’a overnight killed at least 28 people. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. [AFP]

Pakistani security forces killed at least three militants and arrested two others, following a raid in eastern Pakistan. [New York Times’ Waqar Gillani]

President Obama has been hindered in his efforts to carve out a successful foreign policy legacy due to the influence of the Islamic State, China and Russia, explain Carol E. Lee and Jay Solomon. [Wall Street Journal]

“[T]he debate over women in combat has put the onus on women to prove they can handle the infantry.” Helen Benedict argues that, as today’s wars make clear, the “military’s problem, instead, is with some of its men.” [Politico Magazine]

Some of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 have been “brainwashed” into fighting for the militants, the BBC has learned. 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security

Sarika Arya

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