News Roundup and Notes: July 27, 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

Turkish airstrikes. Turkey conducted airstrikes on Kurdish insurgent camps in northern Iraq for the second night yesterday, according to security sources; a move which has effectively ended the ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK and which has heightened already fraught tensions. [Reuters; New York Times’ Ceylan Yeginsu]  NATO will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss security concerns at Turkey’s request. [Al Jazeera]

Turkey has stated that it will not send ground troops into Syria, despite launching an air campaign against Islamic State targets in the country last week. The country’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, stated that Turkish airstrikes on two fronts could however, “change the game.” [BBC]

The US and Turkey have outlined plans for a de facto “safe zone” along Turkey’s border with Syria, part of a deal which is likely to increase the scope and speed of the US-led coalition air war against ISIS, report Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly. [Washington Post]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad conceded that the country’s military faced resource shortages and had given up certain areas to insurgents so that it could focus on holding other areas; the comment is considered unusual as his statements often appear “at odds with reality,” report Maher Samaan and Anne Bernard. [New York Times]  Matt Schiavenza comments on how Turkey’s decision to join the war against the Islamic State will greatly benefit the Assad regime. [The Atlantic]

Iraqi security forces have retaken Anbar University from the control of ISIS, following clashes which left about two dozen militants dead. [AP]  And the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria captured a town in the north of the country from Islamic State fighters today, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]

The last of a group of young Britons who travelled to join ISIS has died, it has been claimed; Assad Uzzaman travelled with four others in October 2013 to fight in Syria. [The Guardian]

The scope of the threat posed by the Islamic State is still undetermined, making it “very, very dangerous,” according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. [The Hill’s Kyle Balluck]

“Self-government at local levels is taking root in Syria,” a “complex” and “hopeful” answer to what should come next in the war-torn country, suggests Frederic C. Hof. [Washington Post]

IRAN

It is unlikely that Iran will concede that it pursued covert nuclear capabilities, and Tehran will not be pressed to fully explain its past endeavors, according to an Obama administration assessment reported to Capitol Hill last week. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon]

A “fierce counterattack” has been launched by the Obama administration, seeking to debunk Republican arguments that “side deals” between the IAEA and Iran justify rejecting the nuclear agreement. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian and Kristina Wong]

Iran’s foreign minister is visiting regional powers, calling for a united front from Middle Eastern states in the face of the terrorist threat, during a news conference in Kuwait. It is the first trip the minister has made since the nuclear accord was concluded. [Reuters’ Ahmed Hagagy]

Iran’s state media spent two years creating a situation in which a nuclear accord reached with the P5 +1 could be presented as a victory for the Islamic Republic. [The Guardian’s Hossein Bastani]

The Iran deal will “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven,” according to presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a comment he has since defended following criticism from the National Jewish Democratic Council. [The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly]

“The key point of the problem of conjecture is that the payoffs are asymmetrical,” writes Niall Ferguson, critiquing the deal and suggesting that Obama’s conjecture is that the agreement will “somehow break” trends in Iranian behavior. [Wall Street Journal]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Glenn Gerstell has been appointed as the new general counsel for the NSA; Gerstell is a prominent DC attorney and has worked as an Obama campaign bundler, reports Shane Harris. [The Daily Beast]

Internet companies do not want terrorist activity on their sites but also do not want to be given responsibility for policing content; language included by the Senate Intelligence Committee in an annual intelligence-funding reauthorization bill last month would require companies to disclose suspicious content. [Wall Street Journal’s Cat Zakrzewski]

The FBI is aggressively lobbying for expanded surveillance powers, while other intelligence officials have become suddenly more cautious. [The Daily Beast’s Noah Shachtman]

Journalists who worked with Edward Snowden are still under investigation by British police in relation to whether they participated in criminal activity while reporting on secret surveillance operations documented in the Snowden leak. [The Intercept’s Ryan  Gallagher]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Al-Shabaab attacked a hotel in the Somali capital, killing at least 13 people and wounding more than 40, just as President Obama concluded his visit to Kenya where he had discussed the threat posed by the militant group. [BBC]  “[P]rogress against al-Shabaab has slowed in recent years,” comments Ty McCormick, considering whether African Union troops can mount a final offensive against the group, despite having their “worst year” in Somalia since 2011. [Foreign Policy]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify before the Benghazi Committee on October 22; the announcement was made on Friday, when it was also revealed that classified information had been discovered in her private email account. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman]

Clashes across Yemen were reported today, despite a ceasefire announcement by the Saudi-led coalition aimed at reinstating the country’s exiled president. [Reuters’ Mohammed Mukhashef et al.]

A plan for the closure of Guantánamo Bay detention facility would result in up to 64 of the 116 detainees being brought to the US for federal prosecution or further military detention. Detailing the plan on Saturday, Obama’s advisor for homeland security and counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco said:

“We are going to whittle down this group to what I refer to as the irreducible minimum, who would have to be brought here to a secure location, held under the laws of war, continue under military detention, and that’s the only way we’re going to be able to close Guantánamo”

More than 100 policemen surrendered to the Taliban near the Pakistani border, after militants seized a police base stocked with food, weapons and ammunition, in northeast Afghanistan. [Reuters]

Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli police at Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem yesterday; the youths had reportedly barricaded themselves inside of the mosque. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]  And a Palestinian man died while fleeing arrest by Israeli security forces at a refugee camp near Ramallah, the third such death in under a week. [The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont]

UK Prime Minister Cameron will discuss Islamic extremism during his visit to southeast Asia, which begins today and will take him to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.  [Reuters’ Andrew Osborn]

The Obama administration may impose further sanctions on South Sudan’s rival leaders, if the sides do not agree on a peace deal by the deadline set for mid-August, according to administration officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee]

A young female suicide bomber killed at least 16 people in Nigeria, and wounded 50, in an attack thought to be orchestrated by Boko Haram. [BBC]

The “Office of the Secretary of Defense must take charge of every major defense acquisitions program,” writes Lawrence Korb, asking whether anyone can fix the defense budget. [Foreign Policy] 

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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).