News Roundup and Notes: August 11, 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

ISIS has launched an offensive against Syrian opposition rebels close to the Turkish border, north of Aleppo. Dozens are reported to have been killed on both sides during fighting close to the proposed US-Turkey “safe zone.” [Reuters]

The Nusra Front has announced its withdrawal from its frontline positions against ISIS north of Aleppo, expressing its disagreement with US-Turkey plans to clear a “safe zone” along the Turkish border. A US defense official expressed doubt at the statement, suggesting that no movements on the ground back up the al-Qaeda affiliate’s claim. [New York Times’ Ben Hubbard; Foreign Policy’s Elias Groll]

Two bomb attacks in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province killed at least 58 people yesterday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack; a similar attack by the group in the region left 115 people dead last month. [Reuters]

A cousin of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad has been arrested by Syrian authorities accused of killing a military officer during an apparent road-rage incident last Thursday in the coastal province of Latakia. [AFP]

The Islamic State is pushing into southern Syria, an area where traditionally the group has had the least success due to “vigilant” anti-ISIS forces, report Hassan Hassan and Michael Weiss, writing that success in the south would mean “creeping right up to the doorsteps of conventional political and military powers.” [The Daily Beast]

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush will outline an aggressive strategy to combat the Islamic State today, in a speech during which he will blame some of the unrest in Iraq on Hillary Clinton, reports Steve Holland. [Reuters]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces carried out eight airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on August 9. Separately, coalition forces conducted a further 21 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

The Obama administration has a “new proxy force” to fight the Islamic State, suggests Nancy A. Youssef, reporting that despite the White House’s public reliance on a $500 million rebel army in Syria, the Pentagon is instead looking to the Syrian Kurdish militia group, the YPG. [The Daily Beast]

The prospects for the funding of food aid for Syrian refugees are “bleak,” according to the head of the World Food Program, Ertharin Cousin during an AP interview.

“Procrastination has been Obama’s worst characteristic in this crisis.” Natalie Nougayrède criticizes the administration’s approach to the Syrian conflict and the humanitarian crisis it has caused, opining that “[i]n the case of Syria, a whole body of international norms meant to counter state-sponsored massacres of civilians has been put aside,” at the Guardian.

IRAN

President Obama has stood by his comments comparing Republican naysayers to Iran’s hard-liners, saying that they’re “making common cause” rather than being “equivalent,” during an interview with Jake Horowitz, editor-in-chief of Mic.

The Obama administration ought to reengage Tehran in negotiations and get a “better” nuclear deal, according to Sen Chuck Schumer, who announced his opposition to the Iran deal last Thursday. White House advisor David Plouffe accused Schumer of being “naïve” following his comments. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]  The Wall Street Journal editorial board opines that Schumer’s defection “showcase(s) [the deal’s] flagging political support.”

“Iran’s reaction shows that it may be drawing a line at Parchin.” President of the Institute for Science and International Security, David Albright, addresses Tehran’s response to the publication of satellite imagery on the organization’s website which showed “renewed, concerning activity at the Parchin military site.” [Washington Post]

President Obama will host the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington next spring, a gathering of world leaders aimed at stemming nuclear proliferation, the White House said yesterday. It will be the first such meeting since the Iran and the P5+1 reached an accord on Iran’s nuclear program. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee]

AFGHANISTAN

President Ashraf Ghani placed the blame on Pakistan for failing to crack down on the Taliban acting within its territory, after responsibility for a car bomb close to Kabul airport which killed at least five people yesterday was claimed by the group. Discussing recently improved relations, Ghani said: “We hoped for peace, but war is declared against us from Pakistani territory.” [Reuters; New York Times’ Mujib Mashal]

The US “must seize the moment” and do what it can to push the peace process forward in Afghanistan, argue James Dobbins and Carter Malkasian at Foreign Affairs.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

All work-related emails on the personal email account used by Hillary Clinton while in office as secretary of state were provided to the State Department, Clinton said in a statement filed under oath in federal court yesterday. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt]

The CIA “maintain[s] cooperative liaison relationships” with global intelligence and security services “some of whose constituent entities have engaged in human rights abuses,” Director John Brennan wrote in a letter to three Democrats sent last week.

The Pentagon will present its plan on the closure of Guantánamo Bay detention facility “sometime” after the August recess from Congress. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]  White House plans to close the facility have been “bogged down” by internal disagreement over which prisoners should be brought to the US for trial or indefinite detention, US officials said. Adam Goldman and Missy Ryan provide more details. [Washington Post]

The Joint Chiefs of Staff’s unclassified email system has been restored, more than two weeks after it was targeted by suspected Russian hackers, defense officials said. [NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski]

Guidelines in the Defense Department’s law of war manual dealing with the treatment of journalists in armed conflicts should be “repealed immediately” as they would “make their work more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship,” argues the New York Times editorial board.

Yemen is “crumbling” beneath a worsening humanitarian crisis after months of internal conflict, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today. [Reuters] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security