News Roundup and Notes: July 31, 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

Airstrikes in Syria targeted the Nusra Front today, believed to have been conducted by US-led coalition warplanes in response to an attack by the al-Qaeda affiliated group on Western-backed rebels, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]

The abduction of moderate Syrian opposition leaders by the Nusra Front highlights the challenges faced by the Obama administration in recruiting and training local insurgent groups to fight ISIS, reports Karam Shoumali et al. [New York Times] 

“[W]hen we are threatened, we will act unreservedly, with any means at our disposal, until the enemy is defeated,” says Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, making the case for the Turkish role in the conflict in Iraq and Syria, in an op-ed at the Washington Post.

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military partners conducted nine airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria on July 29. Separately, forces carried out a further 22 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

There is a new “sense of urgency” among many parties to the Syrian conflict to see the war brought to a close, according to UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, speaking with NPR’s Melissa Block.

Kurdish rebels reportedly attacked a Turkish police station in the south of the country, killing two, amidst increasing violence between the two groups. Turkey has been engaged in an aerial campaign against PKK fighters in northern Iraq. [AP]

AFGHANISTAN 

The Taliban has named the successor to deceased leader Mullah Mohammad Omar following revelations from the Kabul government regarding his death in 2013. The group appointed the effective no. 2, Mullah Akhtar Mansour to fill the role. [Wall Street Journal’s Saeed Shah and Margherita Stancati]

The Taliban reacted to the disclosure by pulling out of peace talks with the Afghan government scheduled for this Friday. [AP]

Why would the Afghan government choose now to reveal Omar’s death, on the eve of peace talks which it wants to succeed? Michael Kugelman looks into the situation. [Foreign Policy]

The foggy details around Omar’s death may illustrate the “competing and often hidden agendas in the counterterrorism partnership” between the US and Pakistan. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller]

The revelation of Omar’s death “deprives the Taliban of their most powerful talisman,” writes Michael Semple, suggesting that the impact on Afghan politics will be far reaching. [Politico] 

IRAN

President Obama reached out to liberals yesterday, speaking on the phone with affiliates of activist groups. The president emphasized the role which their voice has to play in supporting the nuclear accord, saying “I can’t carry it by myself.” [The Hill’s Julian Hattem and Jordan Fabian] 

President Obama’s failure to hand over details of agreements between the IAEA and Iran is “not acceptable,” according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

Four Democrats expressed their support for the nuclear deal yesterday, including Rep Dan Kildee, who represents US hostage Amir Hekmati held in Iran. [AP]

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a firm supporter of the deal, expressed confidence that the Democrats could sustain a veto of a GOP disapproval measure, describing the agreement as a “diplomatic masterpiece.” [The Hill’s Mike Lillis]

Americans are becoming skeptical of the Iran nuclear deal as they learn more details, says Prime Minister Netanyahu. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]

The Obama administration is preventing the public from access to 17 unclassified documents dealing with the Iran nuclear agreement, reports Tim Mak, raising the question of transparency in government. [The Daily Beast] 

“Diplomacy is rarely about optimal outcomes.” Nicholas Kristof argues for why the Iran deal naysayers are wrong. [New York Times]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A Palestinian baby died during an arson attack by Jewish extremists in the West Bank, described by the IDF as “Jewish terror,” and sparking an escalation in tensions in the region. [Haaretz’s Jack Khoury, et al]  During the attack, graffiti was sprayed on the walls of the Palestinian family home. [BBC]

The Israeli government legalized the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike; the practice is prevalent among Palestinian detainees as a mode of political statement. [New York Times’ Diaa Hadid] 

UKRAINE and RUSSIA 

More people and institutions will be hit by sanctions after the Obama administration includes 26 more targets on the list, to counter Russian support for Ukrainian rebels. [New York Times’ Michael D. Shear]

A Ukrainian war hero has been accused of killing two Russian journalists, in a high-profile trial that is likely to escalate tensions between Russia and Ukraine. [Washington Post’s Andrew Roth]

BOKO HARAM

A suicide bomber launched a fatal attack in northeast Nigeria, killing at least 10 people. [AP’s Haruna Umar]

Chad killed 117 Boko Haram insurgents, in a two-week campaign targeting islands on Lake Chad. [Reuters’ Madjiasra Nako]

The Nigerian President appointed Major General Iliya Abbah to lead the Multinational Joint Task Force fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. [Wall Street Journal’s Gbenga Akingbule]

 OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Hundreds of private-sector contractors are at the center of the US military drone program, taken on to alleviate the work load of the overstretched military, report Abigail Fielding-Smith et al. [The Guardian]

The US can continue to hold suspected Taliban fighters in Guantanamo, despite the declared end to the conflict in Afganistan, a federal judge ruled in a case that might have long-term implications. [New York Times’ Charlie Savage]

Low-risk Guantanamo inmates should be set free, even if the plan to close Guantanamo falters, argues the New York Times’ Editorial Board.

Islamic extremist group, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, is expanding its influence amongst Pakistan’s poor in Karachi. [Wall Street Journal’s Saeed Shah and Syed Shoaib Hasan]

A ceasefire in Yemen scheduled for this week has failed, following continued bombing and ground fighting. [Wall Street Journal’s Mohammed Al-Kibsi and Asa Fitch]  And the deliberate targeting of civilians and healthworkers in Yemen is compromising humanitarian efforts in the conflict-torn country, according to the head of Medicins San Frontieres. [The Guardian’s Sam Jones]

Psychologists will be effectively banned from participating in national security interrogations, according to a new ethics policy recommendation from the American Psychologist Association. [New York Times’ James Risen]

Secretary of State John Kerry must speak out on the failure of democracy in Egypt, argues the Washington Post’s Editorial Board.

American-Cuban relations are still abnormal, especially given the on-going trade embargo, despite the opening of embassies. [Washington Post’s Nick Mirof]

Saudi Arabia should be dismissed from 9/11 lawsuits as it was uninvolved in the attacks, according to an argument heard by a Manhattan federal judge. [AP]

An NSA map depicts targets of Chinese government cyber attacks, revealing assaults across industries throughout the country. [NBC’s Robert Windrem]

Saudi Arabia and Egypt signed the “Cairo Declaration,” intended to strengthen economic and military relations between the two countries, including a joint Arab military force. [Al Jazeera]

Four Indian nationals have been detained in Libya, in a city known to be under the control of ISIS. [Reuters’ Krista Mahr et al]

Ethnic Albanian former guerrillas might be tried for war crimes, after the Kosovo government, under Western pressure, requested parliament to reconsider the establishment of an ad hoc court. [Reuters’ Fatos Bytyci]

The US spied on Japanese officials and corporations, as far back as eight years ago, according to Wikileaks. [BBC] 

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).