News Roundup and Notes: July 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.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Turkey intensified PKK strikes yesterday, hitting six targets in northern Iraq in the largest single strike yet. The majority of Turkish firepower has focused on the PKK rather than ISIS since they joined the US-led coalition offensive last week. [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum and Yeliz Candemir]

Kurdish rebels reportedly attacked a tea house in southeastern Turkey late yesterday, killing a police officer and a civilian, according to Turkey’s state-run news agency. Tensions are high amid Turkish strikes on PKK positions in Iraq. [AP; Hurriyet Daily News]

The Nusra Front abducted the leader of a US-backed rebel group in northern Syria, according to opposition fighters and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. If accurate, the incident constitutes a setback in US efforts to arm and train rebel forces, reports Reuters.

“The price of continuing the Syrian war is simply too high.” UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon gave comments following a Security Council meeting alongside Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.  De Mistura outlined his plan for engaging a range of Syrians in “preparatory, separate discussions” on how to restart peace talks. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

The swift success in capturing Idlib will be difficult to replicate in Aleppo, suggests Mona Alami, commenting on the divisions amongst rebel groups and the firm hold maintained by Assad forces. [Al Monitor]

IRAN

President Obama outlined the benefits of the nuclear deal to an audience of House Representatives, a meeting billed as a “working reception” at the White House. The president said that Iran’s “odious” government was better without an atomic weapon, putting forward a case which House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi described as “strong and forceful.” [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

The nuclear agreement with Iran puts no limitations on US military standing in the Middle East, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, adding that “no target” was “out of reach” in Iran. [Politico’s Austin Wright]

There was disagreement between the White House and outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey over the lifting of sanctions on weapons and missile trade to Iran as part of the accord, Dempsey admitted during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. [Foreign Policy’s Paul McCleary]

Regarding Iran, Israel’s options are “conventional war now or nuclear war later,” writes Norman Podhoretz in the Wall Street Journal.

AFGHANISTAN

Two drone strikes were conducted on the Pakistani border, reportedly killing 20 ISIS affiliated militants, according to Afghan officials. [AP]

Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar died in 2013, the Afghan government confirmed.  No evidence was provided confirming his passing, which reportedly occurred in a Pakistani hospital. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland and Joseph Goldstein]

The Taliban have distanced themselves from renewed negotiations with the Afghan government, following revelations concerning the death of their leader. [BBC]

The Taliban have lost a “leader and their unity,” according to The Economist, who investigate Mullah Omar’s influence and the impact his death will have in light of current Afghan-Taliban negotiations.

Mullah Omar was relatively moderate, compared to the current threat posed by ISIS and its affiliates, argue Dan de Luce and Sean D. Naylor in Foreign Policy. On the whole, the Taliban leader was extremely elusive. [CNN’s Tim Lister; The Guardian’s Emma Graham-Harrison and Sune Engel Rasmussen]

YEMEN

A suspected US drone strike targeted militants with AQAP, allegedly killing four. [Reuters’ Mohammed Mukhashef]

Saudi-backed fighters have claimed the upper hand in Yemen, following four months of consistent setbacks, reports Hugh Naylor, adding that if the militiamen can “consolidate control beyond Aden” then Houthi rebels may be forced to the negotiating table. [Washington Post]

Yemen’s exiled President Saleh has moved to unify the “fractured” fighting forces battling Houthi rebels in Yemen, ordering that Shi’ite militias join with the national army, reports the AP.

Houthi rebel forces have indiscriminately fired into populated areas in the port city of Aden on a repeated basis and in violation of the laws of war, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Proxies and paranoia.” The Economist explores the complicated relations at play between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Yemen “only the latest of many theatres in which [they] have sparred” over the past three decades.

UKRAINE and RUSSIA

Russia vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution, which would have established an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute the downing of Malaysian passenger jet MH17. [Reuters’ Michelle Nichols]

Russia used Twitter to hack American government and defense industry computers, according to report by experts who have briefed law enforcement on the findings. [Reuters]  Russian hackers are known for their sophistication. [Foreign Policy’s Reid Standish]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A Senate committee approved a cybersecurity bill yesterday, intended to give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) greater power over the defense of government networks from hackers. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify before the Benghazi committee on October 22, it has been confirmed. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]  Her spokesman, Philippe Reins, relinquished 20 boxes of work-related emails from a personal account to the State Department. [Politico’s Rachael Bade]  A federal judge expressed his irritation at the State Department’s delay in handing over documents. [Politico’s Rachael Bade]

Israel committed war crimes on “Black Friday” during the Gaza War of 2015 following the capture of Israeli Lieutenant Hader Goldin, alleges a new Amnesty International report. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]

Prominent Islamic militant Malik Ishak was buried in Pakistan, following his death in a shootout yesterday, say Pakistani officials. [AP]

Kuwait has discovered an ISIS network, detaining some of its members. [Reuters’ Ahmed Hagagy]

China has accused the US of “militarizing” the South China Sea through the staging of patrols and joint military exercises there. [Reuters]  And the EU should be more critical of China’s incursions into the South China Sea, according to US officials.  [Reuters’ David Brunnstrom]

India hanged Yakub Memon, convicted of raising funds for the 1993 Mumbai bombings after requests to delay the execution were rejected by the Supreme Court. [AP]

Blocking US-based Islamic State sympathizers from social media may provoke the commission of lone-wolf attacks, according to a new report put together for the DHS. Jenna McLaughlin analyzes the report, obtained by The Intercept, suggesting that the conclusions should be taken “with a grain of salt.”

The US should not forget its role in South Sudan and President Obama’s trip to the region was an important reminder, argues the New York Times’ Editorial Board.

The death sentence against Saif al-Islam Qaddafi is unlikely to be realized any time soon, as the defendant is being held by a rebel group that does not recognize the Libyan court. The Economist investigates. 

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).