News Roundup and Notes: July 21, 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 unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the nuclear accord concluded between Iran and the Council’s five permanent members as well as Germany. [UN News Centre]  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the adoption of SCR 2231 (2015) in a statement following the vote.  President Obama praised the endorsement, commenting that it shows the “broad international consensus around the issue.”  The resolution has no bearing on sanctions imposed separately by the US and the EU. The EU also approved the deal yesterday, starting the process to lift its own sanctions. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards criticized the Security Council resolution yesterday, suggesting it crossed certain “red lines” concerning Iran’s defenses; the comments appear to “open a new point of contention within Iran’s political hierarchy,” reports Thomas Erdbrink. [New York Times]

The Iranian parliament will review the nuclear agreement; under Iran’s constitution the country’s parliament can reject any deal, even one which has been negotiated by the foreign ministry. [AP]  Parliament will wait at least 80 days before voting on the deal, and lawmakers today decided to organize a panel study on the agreement. [New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, the first in a string of high-ranking meetings planned by the US with the aim of bringing its skeptical allies in the region on side with the Iran deal. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]  Barak Ravid asks whether Netanyahu will choose a low profile or push an aggressive campaign lobbying Congress against the Iran deal, at Haaretz.

Secretary of State John Kerry said recent comments by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were “very disturbing,” during an interview with Al Arabiya; Khamenei vowed on Saturday to defy US policies in the region and continue to support its regional allies despite the nuclear accord. [Reuters]  In an interview with NPR, Kerry insisted that were Congress to reject the deal, the US “will have lost all credibility.”

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is visiting Iran on a trip intended to forge business links and trade relations in the wake of the nuclear accord. [DW]

The success of the nuclear agreement will depend on time and Iranian behavior, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Central Command]

Working with Iran requires understanding the “differences between an Islamic theocracy and a democracy,” writes L. Gordon Crovitz, suggesting that one difference is a “gap in attention spans,” at the Wall Street Journal.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Turkey suicide bombing attack. A suicide attack in the border town of Suruc left at least 30 people dead yesterday. The Islamic State is suspected of responsibility for the attack, one of the most serious incidents of violent spillover from the Syrian conflict into Turkey. [The Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen and Constanze Letsch; Reuters]  Security along the country’s border with Syria will be heightened in the wake of the attack, the country’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said. [BBCThe Economist suggests that there is a clear link between the bombing and the struggle over Kobani, as well as appearing to have been aimed at Turkey’s Kurdish political forces.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has taken steps to ensure that ISIS could adapt were any of the organization’s senior leadership to be killed; Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard outline the measures taken, including the delegation of authority to deputies and regional commanders. [New York Times]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces conducted nine airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 20. Separately, military forces carried out a further 14 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

ISIS is transforming itself into a functioning state, one which uses terror as its tool but which has “outdone” the corrupt governments of Iraq and Syria by having officials who are apparently resistant to bribery, writes Tim Arango. [New York Times]

The Islamic State has now banned WiFi access in Raqqa, the group’s de facto Syrian capital, according to the activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently. [The Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss]

The Syria conflict has resulted in the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, with an estimated 12.2 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance inside Syria. [European Commission]

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban mounted an offensive to claim an outpost which was destroyed by an incident of friendly fire yesterday during which a US airstrike accidentally killed at least seven Afghan soldiers in Logar province. [New York Times’ Mujib Mashal]

The rise of ISIS in Afghanistan is being relied upon by President Ashraf Ghani as the latest reason for keeping US troops in Afghanistan, reports Dan De Luce. [Foreign Policy]  Ghani suggested that Afghanistan partner with the US in hosting a regional counterterrorism effort, according to Army Gen. John F. Campbell. [Central Command]

The US paid $14.7 million for a warehouse facility in Afghanistan, which was not completed in time to fulfil its intended use and will now be transferred to the Afghan government, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. [NPR’s Bill Chappell]

UKRAINE and RUSSIA

Russia is seeking greater UN involvement in the investigation into the downing of MH17, after rejecting a proposal for a UN-backed tribunal and circulating its own resolution in the Security Council. [Reuters’ Michelle Nichols] A tribunal is “necessary and timely,” and the UN Security Council should take action, writes Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop. [Minister for Foreign Affairs]

Economic instability will be a driver for “inevitable” Russian regime change, argues former Russian foreign minister, Andrei V. Kozyrev, in an op-ed for the New York Times.

The U.S. should provide lethal aid to Ukraine, and take other urgent action in order to ensure democracy prevails, writes former U.S. Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, in Politico.

US-CUBA RELATIONS

Challenges in US-Cuba relations remain, as their respective embassies reopen, including travel restrictions, ongoing trade embargo and Guantanamo Bay. [New York Times’ Azam Ahmed and Julie Hirschfeld Davis]

America’s lease arrangement on Guantanamo Bay will remain unchanged, stated Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference with his Cuban counterpart. [Reuters]  For his part, Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, has demanded “the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo” be returned. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Cuban domestic policies will face inevitable debate and reformation, as normalization of US-Cuba relations continue, the New York Times’ editorial board opines.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

ISIS’s Yemen branch claimed responsibility for wounding eight people in a car explosion in Sana’a, outside a mosque frequented by Houthi rebels. [Al Jazeera]  The Islamic State is growing in areas controlled by Houthi rebels in Yemen, by using a strategy of “sectarian divide-and-conquer” which has worked so well for the group in Iraq and Syria, report Peter Salisbury and Ahlam Mohsen. [VICE News]

The EU is working to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, following the success with Iran, by examining the future role of the Middle East Quartet and regional players like the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

The Tennessee shooting suspect traveled to Qatar for unknown reasons, but investigators have yet to establish a link with militant groups like ISIS. [Reuters’ Mark Hosenball]  And Congress should be wary of arming domestic service members in the wake of the Tennessee shootings, as they are “not expert marksmen,” warned former senior military officers. [McClatchy DC’s James Rosen]

The EU is considering training Tunisian security forces, and will send advisers and security experts to aid the interior ministry, following the recent terrorist attack. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and Laurence Norman]

Nigerian counterterrorism efforts, good governance and strong leadership must be prioritized, writes President Muahammadu Buhari in the Washington Post, in light of his first official meeting with President Obama.

Anti-extremist groups, universities and Internet groups can do more to combat radicalization, said British Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech unveiling a five-year plan to counter Islamist extremism. [Washington Post’s Karla Adam] Some British Muslims were skeptical of the Prime Minister’s stated intentions to further integrate the often alienated community into British society. [CNN]  The Economist provides critique of the Prime Minister’s proposals. The Guardian editorial board commends Cameron’s decision to tackle the ISIS narrative, while criticizing elements of his speech.

The FBI conducts counterterrorism stings to arrest suspected terrorists; The Intercept’s Trevor Aaronson profiles controversial cases and provides in-depth analysis.    

Private sector defense contractors are utilizing a “revolving door” program to recruit Department of Defense officials, called the National Association for Corporate Directors, raising ethical concerns. [Project on Government Oversight]

President Obama has scored major foreign policy victories, especially in Iran and Cuba, testing assumptions about America’s role in international affairs. [Politico’s Michael Crowley]

The citizenship of an Oregon-based imam may be revoked, after US authorities discovered his connections to radical Islamic groups. [AP’s Jonathan J. Cooper]

Increasing risks to national security, Department of Homeland Security officials continued to access their personal emails, despite a ban on the practice, which had been in a place for over a year. [Bloomberg View’s Josh Rogin]

North Korea is uninterested in Iranian-like negotiations with the US, describing its situation as incomparable. [Reuters’ James Pearson and Seung Yun Oh] 

Filed under:
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).