News Roundup and Notes: August 4, 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

US armed aircraft were flown over Syria from Turkish bases for the first time, the Pentagon announced yesterday, though no actual airstrikes have yet been conducted, spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]

The Nusra Front has kidnapped at least five more US-trained opposition fighters during raids overnight in northwestern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. At least eight US-backed rebels were captured last week. [AFP]

Britain’s Royal Air Force Tornado squadron will continue in service for another year, UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has said; the squadron is spearheading the UK’s role in the air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq. [The Guardian; BBC]

Syria is “approaching de facto partition” as overstretched regime forces retreat and attempt to consolidate control in its strongholds to the west of the country, leaving large swathes under the control of rebel and Islamist fighters, “paving the way for partition,” writes Kareem Shaheen. [The Guardian]

A PKK mine in southeast Turkey killed two Turkish soldiers and one other today, according to security sources. The attack comes in the midst of an escalation in violence between the Kurdish group and Turkey, which has included Turkish strikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq. [Reuters]

Kurdish fighters will be prevented from moving into the proposed “safe zone” in northern Syria, an understanding reached between the US and Turkey intended to allay Ankara’s concerns. [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum]

Syrian government air raids and a subsequent warplane crash resulted in a final death toll of at least 27 people yesterday; the plane crashed into a busy marketplace in the town of Ariha according to activist group, the Local Coordination Committees. [AP]

The US has imposed new sanctions targeting entities responsible for the provision of energy products relied upon by the Assad regime, and considered to play a role in fueling the conflict in the country. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

Syrian Kurds would consider partnering with the government of Bashar al-Assad if it agrees to a democratic future for the country, a Kurdish official told Al Jazeera.

Between 459 and 591 civilians were killed in 52 “credible incidents” during US coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State, according to a new report from non-profit group, Airwars. The Pentagon’s official admission is of two civilian deaths to date. The air campaign has also killed over 15,000 Islamic State militants. [The Intercept’s Cora Currier; AP]

An estimated 254 Shi’ite foreign fighters, including at least 113 Iranian nationals, have died engaged in combat on behalf of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, according to a report from the Washington Institute. [The Daily Beast’s Nancy A. Youssef]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces carried out eight airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria on August 2. Separately, coalition forces conducted a further 21 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

The Islamic State is nothing more than “a mirage and illusion in HD format on the screens of your gadgets,” according to a group of militants from Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front. [RFERL’s Joanna Paraszczuk]

Iraq is digitalizing the contents of the Baghdad National Library, conscious of the threat posed by the Islamic State to Iraq’s “history and culture,” reports the AP.  

IRAN

Gulf Arab states expressed their “cautious” support for the Iran nuclear deal, following a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Qatar, attended by Secretary of State John Kerry. The statement constitutes a “potentially important” diplomatic victory for the White House as it seeks to garner support for the deal. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon; Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee]

The White House is confident that there is enough House support to sustain a presidential veto of a resolution of disapproval, press secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian]

President Obama will meet with Jewish leaders to discuss the Iran deal today. [Jewish Insider]

President Obama’s expectation that Congress should pass the nuclear accord without releasing the contents of side deals between the IAEA and Iran is “unacceptable,” according to lawmakers Tom Cotton and Mike Pompeo, adding that a “game of nuclear telephone and hearsay is simply not good enough,” in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal.

Polls of the American public’s view of the Iran deal have shown differences which “go beyond the usual explanations of margin of error or differences in sampling,” writes Nahal Toosi, exploring the figures which have been “touted” to the benefit of both sides. [Politico]

Iran has rejected claims that the son of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was the best man at the wedding of Secretary of State John Kerry’s daughter, on government-controlled Fars News Agency; the denial follows allegations from former Rep Allen West. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

“Unfortunately, the mechanism to address violations is as flawed as the deal’s underlying logic,” argues John R. Bolton, suggesting that the nuclear accord sets a “dangerous precedent.” [New York Times]

The nuclear deal will fund “Iranian imperialism,” opines Michael Gerson at the Washington Post.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

The UAE has sent ground troops into Yemen to aid in the fight against Houthi rebels, according to Yemeni and US officials yesterday; the move may escalate the regional tensions between Iran and the Persian Gulf states, report Saeed al-Batati and Kareem Fahim. [New York Times]

Opposition to anti-torture reforms is growing within the American Psychological Association, as it struggles with a recent report’s suggestion of its past support of CIA and military interrogations, reports Spencer Ackerman. [The Guardian]

Kuwait has secured the release of all but one of its citizens detained by the US at Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. The government has spent $2 million a year to advocate on the 12 men’s behalf. [Al-Monitor’s Julian Pecquet]

A suspect in the 2012 Benghazi attack is demanding to be returned to Libya, asserting that his arrest last year by the US military in Libya was in violation of international law and the Constitution. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]

A rightwing Jewish extremist has been arrested by Israel’s Shin Bet security service, the first arrest since an arson attack killed a Palestinian infant. It is as yet unclear whether the arrest was in connection to Friday’s incident. [The Guardian’s Mairav Zonszein]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on the motion to proceed to the Cybersecurity Information Act (CISA), paving the way for a first vote on Wednesday. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

A senior Taliban official announced his resignation today, a sign of a mounting leadership struggle in the Afghan insurgency following the revelation of the death of the group’s leader. [Reuters’ Jibran Ahmad]  And the likely outcome of Mullah Omar’s death is a “splintering of the [Taliban] movement” with some factions joining with the Islamic State, according to the Washington Post editorial board.

The State Department has “watered down” its annual report on human trafficking, despite conclusions from human rights experts that conditions in a number of states had in fact deteriorated, report Jason Szep and Matt Spetalnick. [Reuters] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security