News Roundup and Notes: July 22, 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

President Obama compared critics of the Iran deal to those who “were so quick” to go to war in Iraq, adding that the US should choose diplomacy over armed conflict, during an address to members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. [New York Times’ Michael D. Shear]

Tensions were “evident” between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter yesterday; Netanyahu “bluntly” voicing his objections to the nuclear accord during a closed-door meeting in Jerusalem, reports Adam Entous. [Wall Street Journal]

No extension of sanctions relating to Iran’s nuclear program will be accepted beyond 10 years, the country’s senior nuclear negotiator said today, referring to the UN Security Council resolution passed on Monday. [Reuters]

Iranian lawmakers are effectively withholding their judgment until Congress has made its decision on whether to approve the nuclear deal, by waiting 80 days before voting on the accord, analysts say. [New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

Sanctions are to be lifted over eight years from a network of Iranian scientists, military officers and corporations that are suspected of involvement in a covert nuclear weapons program, by the US and the EU, reports Jay Solomon. [Wall Street Journal]

Secretary of State John Kerry said that he “walked away three times” from nuclear negotiations, and described criticisms to the effect that he was too eager to reach a deal as “dumb,” during an interview with NPR. [The Guardian’s Paul Lewis]  In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Kerry said the US will “push back” against Iran’s role in the Middle East, and will reassure Gulf Arab allies of American partnership in that effort.

The “bold campaign pledges” of Republican presidential candidates to dismantle the nuclear accord will likely be difficult to keep, according to foreign policy experts, particularly if there is a good record of compliance by Iran for the next 18 months or so, reports Sabrina Siddiqui. [The Guardian]

“Mr Obama doesn’t have the authority to let the United Nations dictate to America’s elected Representatives,” opines the Wall Street Journal editorial board, saying that Congress “shouldn’t fall” for assertions that a vote of disapproval will “pit America against the rest of the world.”

“How … can Iran come to resemble other ambitious-but-responsible emerging powers?” asks James Traub, considering whether it is “reasonable to think that the nuclear deal might help tip Iran toward moderation.” [Foreign Policy]

Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian has now spent a full year inside an Iranian prison; Joby Warrick provides an overview of the information available on his situation. [Washington Post]

IRAQ and SYRIA

A double suicide bombing attack in Fallujah, Iraq today has killed at least 22 Iraqi soldiers and militia fighters; the Islamic State is said to be responsible for the incident. [Al Jazeera]

A key figure in the Khorasan group was killed by a US airstrike in Syria on July 8, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed yesterday. Muhsin al-Fadhli was a leader of the al-Qaeda offshoot, often attributed with plotting attacks on the US and Europe. Al-Fadhli had been falsely reported as having been killed last year. [AP; The Long War Journal’s Thomas Joscelyn]

Iraqi forces and Sunni militia groups launched an offensive in Anbar province yesterday, aimed at dislodging Islamic State fighters and securing a supply route into the region. [Reuters]

An American MQ-1 drone crashed in Iraq on July 16 when “technical complications” caused a loss of communication with the aircraft, the Pentagon confirmed yesterday. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Two Turkish police officers were found shot dead in a Syrian border town yesterday; it is unclear whether the incident is related to a suicide bombing in the region which killed 32 people on Monday. [Reuters]  Turkish authorities have identified a suspect in the bombing, which has been blamed on the Islamic State, the country’s prime minister said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Emre Peker]

The Syrian army is making progress against opposition forces in the city of Zabadani; an operation was launched on July 3 to recapture the city, with assistance from Hezbollah fighters. [Al-Monitor’s Mustafa al-Haj]  The UN envoy for Syria voiced concern about civilians in Zabadani, saying Syrian forces were “causing unprecedented levels of destruction” and many deaths among the civilian population. [Reuters]

Three Spanish journalists have gone missing in Aleppo; the Syrian city is controlled by government forces and opposition rebels, while the Islamic State is outside the city and controls parts of the surrounding countryside. [AP]

A young Briton who appeared in an ISIS recruitment video last year is thought to have been killed in a US-coalition airstrike in Syria two weeks ago. [The Guardian’s Ben Quinn]

The Iraqi town of Haditha has “remained an outpost of resistance” against the Islamic State; Loveday Morris profiles the town which has become “largely cut off” from the outside world. [Washington Post]

“Use Saddam’s men to fight Obama’s ISIS War.” Shane Harris discusses a new push from an ex-Senator, a former CIA officer, and an Iraqi mogul and their lobby of Congress for the creation of a private army, tasked with taking on terrorists inside Iraq. [The Daily Beast]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The Obama administration will not publicly blame China for the OPM hack as such an accusation could force revelations of American espionage and cybersecurity details. [Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashmia]  Other government agencies, especially those whose employees were affected, will be expected to cover the costs of the breach, even though OPM has yet to officially inform those whose files were compromised. [Washington Post’s Eric Yoder]

Facebook will be required to comply with search warrants on user data that can only be challenged by individual defendants following the collection of evidence, ruled a New York court. Internet companies fear this might set a worrisome precedent. [Reuters’ Daniel Wiessner]

The NSA may have been able to do more to prevent 9/11 and could be lying about its technological capacity to monitor the plotters behind the attacks, reports Foreign Policy’s James Bamford.

UKRAINE and RUSSIA

A weapons pull-back has been agreed to between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists, to apply in eastern Ukraine. The resolution was a product of a “contact group” consisting of Ukrainians, Russians and separatists, under the oversight of the OSCE. [Reuters’ Andrei Makhovsky]

Instability prevails in Donetsk, a separatist stronghold in Ukraine, despite a shaky ceasefire in place since February. [Reuters’ Maria Tsvetkova]

YEMEN

Clashes continued in Yemen, where a World Food Programme ship stocked with aid was able to dock in Aden in a “major breakthrough” for the humanitarian response. [UN News Centre]

Peace is far off despite the seizure of Aden by the Saudi-led coalition, given the deep historical rivalry between the parties to the conflict, writes the Economist.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Efforts to close Guantánamo are failing, despite the Obama administration’s long-term goal of closing the detention center; Charlie Savage takes an in-depth look at the administration’s “fitful effort” to shut down the facility. [New York Times]  Officials are trying to reconcile two competing visions of the future of Guantánamo, in the run up to this week’s pending vote on the final National Defense Authorization Act. [Politico’s Austin Wright and Jeremy Herb]

A suicide attack in northern Afghanistan killed at least 10 civilians and wounded others today. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack which was reportedly intended to target Afghan security forces. [Al Jazeera]  And Afghan security forces are faltering in their ability to protect civilians as casualty figures mount significantly compared to last year. The New York Times’ Joseph Goldstein provides analysis.

Two men were charged with terrorism-related offences in a London court, following an ongoing investigation into Islamic extremism by British police. [BBC]  One of the men is said to have plotted to attack an American serviceman stationed in the UK, prompting the  cancellation of an Independence Day celebration. [Wall Street Journal’s Alexis Flynn and Nadim Roberts]

American authorities are probing video footage of an armed home-made drone, provoking debate about the lack of oversight of civilian drones. [Al Jazeera]

The Economist considers the proposals in UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s counter-extremism strategy, noting that the premier’s speech contained a “far broader definition” of extremism than previously used.  George Monbiot thinks that due to Cameron’s inflated notion of extremism, he has “lost sight of what really threatens us,” in an op-ed at the Guardian.

Recent American diplomatic gestures compromise human rights and global security, argues chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, Garry Kasparov, at The Daily Beast.

An Islamist militant commander affiliated with ISIS declared jihad against the Egyptian President and is wanted on terrorist charges for conducting attacks against Egyptian security forces. [Reuters]

Boko Haram will be defeated within 18 months, according to the new Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, in an interview with the AP.

Congress may lift a ban on guns for military personnel at bases as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, following the Tennessee shootings. [The Hill’s Cristina Marcos]

There is speculation that North Korea is preparing to fire a long-range rocket in defiance of UN Security Council bans, following its construction of a launch tower at a missile base and the upcoming anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party. [Reuters’ Jack Kim] 

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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).