News Roundup and Notes: August 18, 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

Syrian government warplanes again bombed Douma, the opposition-held suburb of Damascus, following airstrikes on Sunday which left over 100 people dead. [The Guardian’s Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen]

The UN’s top humanitarian official said he was horrified by the “total disrespect” for civilian life in Syria, citing Sunday’s strikes in Douma. [UN News Centre]  Stephen O’Brien made a three-day trip to Syria, designed to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and also to renew pressure on member states to close funding gaps for humanitarian aid. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]  The official Syrian Arab News Agency edited out O’Brien’s criticism of the Assad regime strikes in Douma. [New York Times’ Robert Mackey]

The UN Security Council adopted a statement urging parties to the Syrian conflict to discuss a “political transition,” a statement described as modest by Somini Sengupta at the New York Times, highlighting the council’s failure to adopt a stance on the civil war for four years.

The Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has contacted Iraq over reports of the use of chemical munitions in the conflict there, the group said in a statement yesterday. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

The US needs to speed up its scheme for training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels, according to a member of the New Syria Force, in an interview with CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh.

An earlier report on the fall of Mosul has “no value,” Iraq’s former prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki said in a statement today; the report called for Maliki and other officials to face criminal charges for negligence. [Reuters]

ISIS has called on the Turkish people to overthrow “Satan” President Recep Erdogan in its first video responding to the formation of a US-Turkish coalition against the militant group. [The Independent‘s Adam Withnall]

“Religion Meets Rebellion: How ISIS Lured 3 London Girls.” Katrin Bennhold explores the “troubling phenomenon” of a “jihadi, girl-power subculture” which has led young women to travel to join the Islamic State. [New York Times]

“Jeb Bush’s brazen attempts to rewrite history … cannot go unchallenged.” Former secretary of state Madeleline K. Albright calls Governor Bush out for “clearly seeking to absolve his brother’s administration of responsibility” for Iraq’s problems today, at Politico Magazine.

IRAN

Iran has no intention of dominating the Middle East, the country’s Vice-President Masumeh Ebtekar said in an interview with the BBC, stating Iran’s desire to cooperate with regional nations to counter extremism.

White House lobbying efforts on the nuclear accord are centered on Democrats, with President Obama personally reaching out to lawmakers encouraging those who support the deal to be vocal and trying to sway those who are undecided. [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis]

Faith-based groups are expanding their lobbying of lawmakers on the Iran deal, many increasingly concerned about the well-funded efforts of the agreement’s opponents. Nahal Toosi provides details of the coordinated campaign which has included a letter from 340 rabbis urging Congress to vote for the agreement. [Politico]

The Iran deal “industrializes the program of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” writes Sen Bob Corker in an op-ed at the Washington Post, calling on Congress to vote down the agreement.

“In the real world, this is the best achievable deal for America and the ally, Israel, it would never forsake.” Roger Cohen discusses “Iran and the American Jews” at the New York Times.

In the Arabian Sea it is “spy versus spy” between the US and Iran, reports Helene Cooper, writing that despite the accord, the two parties constantly watch each other. [New York Times]

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL SCANDAL

More than 300 emails on Hillary Clinton’s private server are potentially classified, new figures emerging in a court filing. Josh Gerstein describes Clinton’s email problem as a “drip,drip,drip” that just won’t stop, providing further details at Politico.

Thousands of emails between a top Clinton aide and members of the media have been uncovered by the State Department, emails which were previously said not to exist. [The Hill’s Mario Trujillo]

FBI Director James Comey has been “thrust into the spotlight” by the ongoing investigation into Clinton’s private email server; the FBI is looking into the security of her email setup, including whether classified information was mishandled. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The UN said it expects member nations to respect its privacy, following revelations in newly disclosed documents, that AT&T Inc helped the NSA to spy on the international body’s communications. [Reuters]  The body has said it will contact AT&T about the report, which said the telecom giant allowed the NSA to wiretap all Internet communications at UN headquarters. [AP’s Edith M. Lederer]

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen targeted Houthi positions in the port of Hodeida today, hitting cranes and warehouses at the primary hub for aid supplies entering the country’s north. [Reuters]  Amnesty International has accused the coalition strikes of leaving a “bloody train of civilian death” in the country which may amount to war crimes. [BBC]

ISIS has “brutally quelled” a rebellion in the city of Sirte, Libya after citizens attempted to overthrow the group’s control, residents said. [Al Jazeera]

Five Afghan police officers were killed in an attack in Helmand province late Sunday, officials said. The attack, during which the officers were poisoned and then shot to death, was said to be the third of its kind in less than two weeks. [New York Times’ Taimoor Shah and Mujib Mashal]

An Afghan detainee at Guantánamo Bay will appear before a national security parole board today seeking repatriation; Mohammed Kamin has since 2010 been classed as one of the facility’s “forever prisoners.” [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

A new audio recording has been released claiming to contain the voice of Boko Haram’s purported leader Abubakar Shekau, days after Chad’s president announced his death. [Wall Street Journal’s Drew Hinshaw]

Russia and Ukraine traded barbs yesterday over an increase in violence in eastern Ukraine in recent days, with both parties blaming the other. [Wall Street Journal’s Thomas Grove]

Two female soldiers are expected to graduate from Army Ranger School on Friday, the first women to ever complete one of the military’s courses for the development of elite fighters and leaders. They are still not allowed to try out for the elite 75th Ranger Regiment which remains closed off to women. [Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe]

A Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli security officers at a West Bank checkpoint after they claim he attempted to stab the border officials, reports Diaa Hadid. [New York Times]

NATO’s eastern member states will hold a summit in November, seeking greater security guarantees from regional allies, an aide to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has said. [Wall Street Journal’s Martin M. Sobczyk]

The US needs to “push back” against economic espionage which allows competitors “to leapfrog ahead of those whom actually created the value in the first place,” argue Frank J. Cilluffo and Sharon L. Cardash. [Wall Street Journal]

A bomb attack outside a shrine in Bangkok, Thailand which killed at least 20 people yesterday, including eight foreigners, was the “worst-ever attack” on the country, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said. [BBC]

Bangladeshi authorities arrested three suspected Islamist militants today, including a British citizen, accused of masterminding the murders of two secular bloggers earlier this year. [Reuters] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security