News Roundup and Notes: August 5, 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 announced that a “comprehensive battle” against militants from the Islamic State by the US-led coalition would begin soon from Turkish air bases. Syria responded that any action absent of coordination with Damascus would constitute a violation of its sovereignty. [Reuters’ Humeyra Pamuk and Sylvia Westall]  Ankara and Washington still have “very different views of the mission,” despite an increase in cooperation between the two in the fight against the Islamic State, reports Thomas Seibert. [The Daily Beast]

Qatar’s foreign ministry has backed Turkey’s right to defend its borders, releasing a statement clarifying an earlier statement from the Arab League on Turkey’s strikes in Iraq. [Al Jazeera]

Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for a second time in three days today in Malaysia to “discuss a range of issues of mutual concerns;” Russia has been attempting to bring about rapprochement between Syria and regional nations to ally against the Islamic State. [Reuters]

A split has arisen among the Obama administration’s top intelligence, counterterrorism and law enforcement officials over whether the Islamic State or al-Qaeda poses the greater threat to US soil, reflecting a “rising concern that the Islamic State poses a more immediate danger” due to its social media presence. [New York Times’ Eric Schmitt]

The tone of “ruthless survivor,” Bashar al-Assad has changed over recent months, becoming more realistic, writes Jim Muir, analyzing the options ahead for the leader of the Syrian regime. [BBC]

UK Prime Minister David Cameron will demand that Sir John Chilcot announce a publication date by which the report that he is responsible for concerning the British invasion of Iraq will be ready; the publication has been repeatedly delayed. [The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour]

Turkish airstrikes targeted PKK positions in southeastern Turkey yesterday, according to state-run Andolu Agency. Hostilities between the parties have escalated in recent weeks, including Turkish strikes on positions in northern Iraq. [AP]

IRAN

President Obama will make an address at American University today, “channel[ing] John F. Kennedy,” a move reminiscent of a 1963 address putting forward a proposal for new dialogue with the Soviet Union, in a speech making the case for the Iran nuclear accord, writes Michael Crawley. [Politico]  The speech marks the beginning of a campaign of “private entreaties and public advocacy” by the president over the coming weeks to garner support for the deal in Congress. [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis]  The president is expected to argue that Congress would be making a “historic mistake” if it votes down the deal. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian]

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will visit Rome, the Italian foreign ministry said today, in what will be Rouhani’s first visit to an EU capital as diplomatic and economic ties begin to be mended in the wake of the deal. [Reuters]

President Obama warned of the likelihood that rockets would fall on Tel Aviv if the nuclear accord with Iran was prevented and military action took place, during comments with US Jewish leaders. [Reuters]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Jewish Americans that the Iran nuclear accord will “pave Iran’s path to the bomb,” in direct remarks to over 100,000 people online. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

Details of a private meeting between Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and directors of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) discussing the nuclear deal have been released. IranWire discusses the “controversial” statements made during the meeting.

Rep Steve Israel has announced his opposition to the nuclear agreement; Israel is the highest-ranking Jewish Democrat in the House. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]  The White House gained support from three key senators, while losing three votes in the House yesterday. [The Hill]

YEMEN

Forces loyal to exiled President Hadi have captured Yemen’s largest military base from Houthi rebel fighters, following clashes which left dozens dead. [Al Jazeera]

Video footage shows the deployment of foreign tanks and armored vehicles arriving into the port city of Aden. The arrival of the brigade, from the UAE, signifies an escalation in the campaign to defeat Houthi rebels. [Foreign Policy]

AQAP has called for more attacks on US soil, releasing statements in praise of recent lone wolf attacks and calling for an increase in strikes. [CNN’s Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd]

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen met with officials in Cairo as part of continuing efforts to secure a political solution to the conflict. Over 1,900 civilians have been killed in fighting since March and over 100,000 have fled Yemen. [UN News Centre]

AFGHANISTAN

An increasing number of civilians are being killed by the war in Afghanistan as it enters its 14th year, according to new figures from the UN. The first half of 2015 saw a 13% increase in child casualties and a 23% increase in female casualties compared with the same time last year. [The Guardian’s Sune Engel Rasmussen]

The Haqqani network has “long been crucial to the Taliban’s survival,” and the influence of Sirjuddin Haqqani as the group’s new Deputy “may well prove crucial to the Taliban’s fortunes,” suggests Leah Farrall. [Hurst Publishers]

“Mullah Omar’s belatedly recognized demise suggests several lessons” for the US; Rosa Brooks highlights just how little the intelligence community know about the goings-on in the jihadi world at Foreign Policy.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A Jewish extremist, arrested yesterday under newly approved rules, has been placed under administrative detention for six months. Meir Ettinger is said to have a history of involvement with radical Israeli settlers, and is banned from entering Jerusalem or the occupied West Bank. [BBC; New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner]

 UN Secretary General called for more aid to support Palestinian refugees, urging donors to fill the $100 million gap in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency yesterday. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The FBI has started investigating the security of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s private email account. Initial steps have included contacting a Denver-based tech firm which assisted in the management of the system, and questioning Clinton’s lawyer about the security of a thumb drive in his possession. [Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig]

Japan’s prime minister asked Vice President Joe Biden for an investigation into allegations of possible spying on senior Japanese government and corporate officials following the release of a WikiLeaks cable containing a list of spying targets, Japan’s government spokesperson said today. [Reuters]

Video footage purporting to show the abuse of Saadi Gaddafi in custody has been condemned by lawyers and human rights groups; the video was released a week after Saadi’s older brother, Saif al-Islam was sentenced to death by Tripoli authorities. [The Guardian’s Chris Stephen]

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the White House, to discuss a wide range of issues with President Obama, including the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and South Sudan. [UN News Centre; White House]

Senators are struggling to reach consensus on restricted floor debate and quickly move through the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act before the August recess, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations, reports Cory Bennett. [The Hill]

Gunfire and mortar shells were traded across the disputed India-Pakistan Himalayan border yesterday, leaving two Pakistanis and an Indian dead, according to officials. [AP]

Kosovo’s parliament has voted for the creation of a war crimes court – amending the Constitution – which is expected to try ethnic Albanians accused of war crimes during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. [New York Times’ Dan Bilefsky]

The perceived bureaucracy of the National Security Council has “come to symbolize an overbearing and paranoid White House,” writes Karen DeYoung, exploring the foreign policy strategy adopted by the Obama administration. [Washington Post]

Pakistan’s secret military courts have been found legal by the country’s Supreme Court, which also found the courts’ passing of death sentences on civilians to be permissible, a decision said to further solidify the military’s grip on power by critics. [Reuters]

“GCHQ and Me: Unmasking British Eavesdroppers.” Duncan Campbell discusses a 30 year career uncovering American and British eavesdropping, work given further proof by the Edward Snowden leaks. [The Intercept] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security