News Roundup and Notes: July 20, 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.

IRAN

The UN Security Council is expected to pass a resolution approving the nuclear deal concluded between Tehran and the P5+1 this morning. A vote in favor of the resolution would mark a formal UN endorsement of the agreement. [France 24]  Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly pushed to have the vote take place after Congress had reviewed the deal during closed-door talks, but faced opposition from Russia and European allies. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and David E. Sanger]

The nuclear deal does nothing to “prevent the military option” against Iran, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on route to Israel yesterday. [BBC]  Carter’s visit to Israel is the first stop in the Obama administration’s “aggressive campaign” to allay the fears of the US’s Middle Eastern allies over the deal, report Carol E. Lee and Gordon Lubold. [Wall Street Journal]

Critics of the deal have turned their focus to Iran’s conventional arms and Tehran’s abilities to supply allies in the wake of the deal, report Gordon Lubold and Felicia Schwartz. [Wall Street Journal]

Iran deal dominates on Sunday shows. Secretary of State John Kerry focused on the threat posed by a congressional failure to pass the agreement, noting that without Congress’s approval, “we have no sanctions,” on CNN’s “State of the Union.” In praise of the deal, Sen Dianne Feinstein described the accord as “our one opportunity” on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” and UK Prime Minister David Cameron lauded the agreement as a “success” because the “threat of a nuclear-armed Iran” is now “off the table,” speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Conversely, Gov Scott Walker said he would immediately reverse the deal were he to become president as it is a “bad deal for the world,” speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.” And Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the final agreement as the “dream deal” for Tehran, on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Check out the highlights on the Hill’s “Sunday show wrap-up.”

Regaining access to SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is the “real prize” for Iran in concluding the nuclear deal, write Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz, suggesting that it will further facilitate Tehran’s funding of international terrorism. [Foreign Policy]

The Iran deal “will contribute to Israel’s security,” argues Chuck Freilich, accusing Netanyahu of “obfuscate[ing] the fact” that the deal is not the end of the story by “portraying the issue in absolute terms.” [New York Times]  And Brent E. Sasley suggests how Israel can “deal with it,” considering the necessity of concluding the agreement with Iran. [Foreign Affairs]

“American negotiators were keenly aware of the pitfalls;” Robin Wright looks at the nuclear deal and inside the “revolution’s midlife crisis” for the New Yorker.

“Larger questions” such as human rights, good governance and sectarian conflict remain to be dealt with in Iran, and will stay “central obstacles to development and peace in the Middle East,” writes the New York Times editorial board.

IRAQ and SYRIA

An explosion in Turkey close to the Syrian border has killed at least 10 people today; the target of the blast was a town around six miles from the Syrian town of Kobani. [ITV News]

A massive bomb attack in eastern Iraq on Saturday left at least 130 people dead; the attack marks the Islamic State’s worst single bombing targeting civilians in the country, report Mustafa Salim and Loveday Morris. [Washington Post]  The Obama administration described the event as “abhorrent.”

Syria has increased its use of chemical weapons against Kurdish forces and civilians in Syria and Iraq, according to an investigation by two UK-based groups, Conflict Armament Research (CAR) and Sahan Research. [CNN’s Samira Said and Tim Lister]

British pilots have conducted airstrikes over Syria while embedded with coalition forces, despite UK lawmakers voting against military action in Syria in 2013, it has emerged. [BBC]  The country’s Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed a desire to see Britain take on a greater role in the coalition, saying the UK should “step up and do more.” [New York Times’ Danny Hakim]

Syria’s Druze community has stepped back from President Bashar al-Assad, a symbol of the “mounting difficulties” facing the regime as the conflict goes on, reports Hugh Naylor. [Washington Post]

Saudi Arabia arrested more than 400 suspects in a counterterrorism sweep, underscoring the kingdom’s “growing concern” over the threat posed by ISIS. [AP]

ISIS is editing the most brutal scenes out of its propaganda videos, in response to internal misgivings about the images. There is reportedly increasing internal debate about whether international criticism should be considered when creating the videos. [Jersualem Post]

Children in ISIS camps have received training in executions, with lessons in the beheading of dolls using swords, reports the AP.

AFGHANISTAN

At least eight Afghan troops died and five were wounded when they were hit by a US airstrike in broad daylight in the unstable province of Logar. [BBC]  The attack has been blamed on “bad coordination.” [AP]

There is reason to be tentatively optimistic about peace in Afghanistan, given recent reconciliation efforts between the government and the Taliban, argues the Economist.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai still wields significant political influence, writes the Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan.

CHATTANOOGA SHOOTINGS

 National Guardsmen in several states will be armed, pursuant to governors’ orders after the attack on military facilities in Tennessee. [AP’s Gary Fineout]

The shootings were of the type officials most worry about and fit the mould of an ISIS Internet directive, said the House Homeland Security Chariman. [The Hill’s Kyle Balluck]

The Kuwait-born man who executed the attacks was reportedly not affiliated with any terrorist group and struggled with substance abuse. [AP’s Jay Reeves and Michael Biesecker]

The shootings have reinvigorated concern from Muslim leaders about radicalization, with many prompted to emphasize Islam’s condemnation of terrorism. [Reuters’ Sharon Bernstein]

UKRAINE and RUSSIA

Russian involvement in Ukraine is no longer being concealed, and is overtly present in the once quiet Russian countryside on the Ukrainian border. [New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer]

Joint Effort military exercises began in Moldova, reinforcing cooperation between Moldova, the US, Romania, Poland and Georgia amidst turbulence in Ukraine. [AP]

Four Ukrainian civilians and one soldier died in clashes between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces in Donetsk where there is a faltering ceasefire. [Reuters]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

 Explosions targeted Hamas and Islamic Jihad vehicles in Gaza; the group’s released a joint statement condemning the attacks, which are suspected to be the work of ISIS. [New York Times’ Majd Al Waheidi]

At least six Palestinians have been arrested by Israel and the Palestinian Authority for suspected involvement in a West Bank shooting that killed one Israeli and injured three others. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]

Congress should not approve the Iranian deal, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that the deal permanently jeopardizes Israel’s security. [Reuters]

Will President Obama try once more to find a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict? asks William Booth, looking at the likelihood in the wake of the nuclear deal with Iran. [Washington Post]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

An explosion in Turkey killed at least 10 people today when it targeted a town close to the border with Syria, six miles from Kobani. [BBC]

At least 43 people died in Yemen following fighting in Aden where the exiled Yemeni government recently claimed to have “liberated” the city from Houthi rebels. [New York Times’ Saeed Al-Batati]  And Houthi rebels lost their remaining district in central Aden to local fighters aided by a Saudi-led coalition. [Reuters’ Mohammed Mukhashaf]

Four Italian construction workers were kidnapped in Libya, where foreigners have often been held for ransom by militant groups. [AP]  And a jihadist group in Libya executed the local ISIS commander, an incident indicative of the fact that ISIS does not have complete control in the country, report Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef. [The Daily Beast]

At least 59 militants allied to the Islamic State were killed in the Sinai, according to Egyptian army officials. Four fighters were captured and seven soldiers also died. [Wall Street Journal’s Dahlia Kholaif] ISIS fighters had targeted an Egyptian vessel and checkpoints in Sinai over the last few days. [Al Jazeera]

At least 64 people died in suicide bombs in northeastern Nigeria on Friday. [AP’s Adamu Adamu and Michelle Faul]

The newly inaugurated Nigerian president will visit the White House today, in his first presidential meeting, and should “rebuild” Nigeria’s relationship with America, writes Tolu Ogunlesi in an op-ed for the New York Times.

Boko Haram is targeting pro-democracy Muslims, continuously attacking mosques, says Philip Obaji Jr. for The Daily Beast.

President Obama will make his first official visit to Kenya this week, where the Westgate mall was recently reopened two years after a deadly terrorist attack. [Wall Street Journal’s Heidi Vogt]

Across Africa, Islamic extremism is becoming increasingly prevalent, and “the continent’s new ideology of protest,” argues the Economist.

American surveillance flights over the South China Sea are routine, according to a senior US Navy Admiral, who described communications with China at sea as “positive and structured,” despite disputed Chinese reclamation efforts in the region. [Reuters’ James Pearson]

Prime Minister Cameron will reveal a five-year counter-extremism strategy today, intended to combat the “struggle of our generation,” including by integrating isolated communities. [The Guardian’s Frances Perraudin]

Hezbollah’s military wing is continuing to plot attacks in Europe, putting pressure on the European Union to respond to the threats, writes Matthew Levitt for The Daily Beast.

Russian hackers are targeting the Pentagon with especially advanced and elusive technology, writes Shane Harris for The Daily Beast.

Tunisian officials will meet with the UK Foreign Office in London today to lobby for the removal of a travel warning which risks making “Tunisia a remote country.” [The Guardian’s Kevin Rawlinson] 

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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).