News Roundup and Notes: August 13, 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 

The US has conducted its first strikes from manned warplanes on ISIS targets in Syria launched from a Turkish base, marking the start of a new phase in the campaign. [AFP]

A truck bomb targeting a market in Baghdad today has killed at least 58 people, officials say. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. [BBC; AP] 

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad yesterday in Damascus for talks on ways of ending the Syrian civil war. The visit came as attacks around the capital left at least 36 people dead. [AP]  The Iranian government has proposed an immediate ceasefire, the formation of a national unity government, protections for Syrian minorities and internationally supervised elections, reports Ben Hubbard. [New York Times]

The Assad regime has been accused of using napalm on a town near Damascus by the Syrian opposition; the allegations come a week after the UN Security Council passed a resolution setting up an investigation into the use of chemical weapons in the conflict. [The Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen]

US-led coalition airstrikes allegedly killed eight civilians on Tuesday night in Syria’s Idlib province, near Aleppo, according to a Syrian monitor group. The Pentagon confirmed to The Daily Beast that a target “near Aleppo” was hit on August 11, reports Michael Weiss.

Turkey does not plan to send ground troops into Syria to fight the Islamic State, however the option remains on the table, Foreign Minister Mevult Cavusoglu said today. [Reuters]

The partitioning of Iraq “might be the only solution” given the increasing difficulty posed by reconciliation between Shi’ites and Sunnis, the US Army’s outgoing chief of staff said yesterday. Army General Ray Odierno added that US boots on the ground in Iraq might be necessary if no progress is seen in the coming months. [AFP; Reuters]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out nine airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria on August 11. Separately, forces conducted a further 10 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

The Islamic State claims the Quran’s support for its system of sexual slavery and relies upon it as a method of recruitment. Rukmini Callimachi discusses the systematic rape of Yazidi women and the radical theology ISIS use to justify it. [New York Times]

It is unclear how the US and Turkey will create their proposed “safe zone” along the Turkish border in northern Syria, reports Erin Cunningham. [Washington Post]

Australian authorities are investigating claims about an ISIS “hit list” published by the group containing information about Australian officials, calling for attacks on them. [BBC]

The Obama administration has failed in its attempts to enlist social media companies in the fight against ISIS propaganda, with tech companies “wary of appearing too cozy with the government” following revelations of NSA surveillance, reports Nancy Scola. [Politico]

“Why Turkey is fighting the Kurds who are fighting ISIS;” a visual representation of Turkey’s developing role in the region, from Sarah Almukhtar and Tim Wallace at the New York Times.

IRAN

The Obama administration is resisting lawmakers’ plans to renew the Iran Sanctions Act, due to expire in late 2016. Those in favor of renewing the legislation argue that extending it will show Tehran that the US is serious about its willingness to “snap back” sanctions for Iranian non-compliance. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi] 

A recent visit to Moscow by the head of Iran’s Quds paramilitary force was in violation of a UN travel ban, the State Department has said. The ban is imposed due to worries about Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon]

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan officials will visit Pakistan today to discuss the restarting of peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, said Pakistan’s national security adviser, in the wake of a string of Taliban attacks on Kabul. [Reuters]

“Four steps to Afghan reconciliation.” Stephen J. Hadley and Andrew Wilder present a strategy for Afghanistan, calling on the government to take advantage of recent developments and to urge “the Taliban to leave the insurgency and reconcile.” [Washington Post]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Egypt’s ISIS affiliate claims to have beheaded a Croatian hostage who was kidnapped on the outskirts of Cairo last month; if confirmed, it would be the first time the group had detained and killed a foreigner during two years of activity, reports Kareem Fahim. [New York Times]

Boko Haram’s leader has been wounded and replaced, the president of Chad announced on state radio yesterday. Abubakar Shekau is said to have ceded control to another militant known as Mahamoud Daoud. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

The NSA has used its bulk domestic phone records program to look for groups other than al-Qaeda and its allies, including Iranian government operatives and “associated terrorist organizations,” according to a document obtained by the New York Times, reports Charlie Savage.

CIA Director John Brennan never sent a draft apology letter to Sens Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss in which he admitted the CIA’s penetration of the computer network used in the review of the agency’s enhanced interrogation program. Jason Leopold provides further details at VICE News. The draft letters are among over 300 pages of documents VICE News obtained through a FOIA request filed against the CIA.

Hillary Clinton’s private email server was handed over to the FBI late yesterday from a private data center in New Jersey, according to a lawyer familiar with the situation. [Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger and Karen Tumulty]  Clinton’s presidential campaign has hit back at new concerns that classified emails were received on her personal email account while in office, describing the assertions as “misinformation” and “nonsense.” [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has removed the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic following recurrent reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN forces in the country. [UN News Centre; Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

The Washington Post editorial board accuses the US of being “complacent and lazy” in its response to recent cyberattacks.

Updated requirements for new US Army handguns may challenge the prohibition in international law of “expanding” or hollow point ammunition in war. Deane-Peter Baker proides further details at Real Clear Defense.

President Obama “never sought to close Guantánamo in any meaningful sense but rather wanted to relocate it to a less symbolically upsetting location,” writes Glenn Greenwald, arguing that the “camp’s defining evil” of indefinite detention has in fact been strengthened. [The Intercept]

Swedish prosecutors are dropping three cases against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange due to the statute of limitations but will continue their investigation into an allegation of rape in 2010. [Reuters]

North Korea appears to be developing its uranium capacity, a move which may be aimed at expanding the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile, according to an American nuclear expert. [Reuters] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security