News Roundup and Notes: August 21, 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.

IRAN

The head of the IAEA said that critics “misrepresent” the manner in which the nuclear watchdog will undertake the “important verification work” on Iran’s nuclear sites, rejecting suggestions that the watchdog had agreed to give Tehran control of inspecting Parchin military facility. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

The UK will reopen its embassy in Tehran, four years after it was closed following a demonstration against British sanctions that led to the building being stormed by protesters. The move marks a thaw in relations in the wake of the Iran nuclear accord concluded in July. [BBC]

President Obama has said the US would unilaterally maintain economic pressure and use military options if necessary to deter Iranian aggression, during and beyond the nuclear agreement, in an August 19 letter to Congress, obtained by the New York Times, reports Jonathan Weisman.

Sen Claire McCaskill has endorsed the deal, the latest in a “string of red-state and centrist Democrats” to do so. [Politico’s Burgess Everett and Jeremy Herb]

The majority of Americans want Congress to reject the Iran nuclear deal, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released yesterday.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Israel Defense Forces conducted artillery and air strikes in Syria yesterday evening after rockets were fired at the Galilee and Golan Heights from Syrian territory. Israel has blamed the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility. [AP; Haaretz’s Gili Cohen et al]  And Israel says it killed at least five Palestinian militants in a strike on the Golan Heights today. [Reuters]

Douma has declared itself a UN disaster area “according to international, humanitarian and UN standards.” The opposition-controlled suburb of Damascus was hit by government raids on its market and other civilian areas on Sunday, killing over 100 people and wounding 500 more, in one of the deadliest air bombardments of the civil war so far. [The Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen]

A second group of US-trained Syrian rebels could be deployed “within weeks,” according to diplomatic sources. [Reuters’ Humeyra Pamuk]

“Rape has long been employed as a weapon of war” but what makes ISIS’s use of sexual violence unique is that the “extremists are making no attempt to hide or deny their crime.” The New York Times discusses the group’s institutionalized sexual slavery and its “cloak of piety.”

Australia is considering a request from the US to join airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, an “unprecedented departure” from Australian foreign policy. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government was yet to decide, however it is thought that America doesn’t make official requests of that nature without knowing they will succeed, reports the AP.

Comments from US officials regarding the viability of Iraq as a state only “embolden” the Islamic State; Lukman Faily argues for why it is important that Congress and the Obama administration continue to push for the “unity and territorial integrity” of Iraq. [Foreign Policy]

Jeremy Corbyn, the frontrunner in the contention for the Labour party leadership in the UK, will issue a public apology over the Iraq war on behalf of the party if he becomes leader next month, Corbyn told the Guardian. In a vow that suggests UK interventionism would become rarer, Corbyn said: “Let us make it clear that Labour will never make the same mistakes again, will never flout the United Nations and international law,” reports Ewan MacAskill.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A federal judge has ordered the State Department to coordinate with the FBI about former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s email server during a hearing yesterday. US District Judge Emmet Sullivan asserted that Clinton violated government policy through her use of a private server, reports Josh Gerstein. [Politico]  And a Reuters examination of the emails so-far deemed “Classified” reveals details which appear to undermine the State Department’s stance on the nature of the classification, reports Jonathan Allen.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter canvased support for the idea of a “Guantánamo North” during a press conference yesterday, commenting that as long as the facility in Cuba remains open “it will remain a rallying cry for jihadi propaganda.” [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]  And South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley said the state would “do whatever it takes” to prevent the Obama administration from moving Guantánamo Bay prisoners to the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston. [Al Jazeera America’s Ned Resnikoff]

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a Cairo state security building early yesterday which wounded 29 people, reports Tamer El-Ghobashy. [Wall Street Journal]  Egypt’s capital is being “redefined” by an escalation in bombings targeting the city, despite having been a “bastion of stability” for decades, reports David D. Kirkpatrick. [New York Times]

Tensions between the Koreas have escalated; North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered troops to prepare for war, state media reports. The two countries traded fire across their shared border yesterday. [BBC; Reuters]  The AP has the latest developments.

Pakistan’s military carried out airstrikes in the Shawal and Gharlamai areas of North Waziristan yesterday which it claimed killed 43 militants. An announcement that ground troops were moving into Shawal followed the strikes. [New York Times’ Salman Masood]

Nine of the 13 cases of sexual abuse reported in the past year against UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic involved children as young as 11; as of yet there have been no convictions. The Deputy Head of the UN mission in the country spoke at a video press conference yesterday. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone; UN News Centre]

A militant group demanded ransom payments for the return of the bodies of aid workers Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto who were accidentally killed in a US drone strike earlier this year in Pakistan, officials say. [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous and Giada Zampano]

“The Iranian-Saudi proxy wars come to Mali.” Paul Raymond and Jack Watling explore the growing efforts of Sunnis and Shi’ites to win “African hearts and minds.” [Foreign Policy]

“The only way for Israel now to remain both Jewish and democratic is to separate from the Palestinians via a two-state solution,” opines Hilik Bar, suggesting that the internal threat facing Israel is as severe as that posed by a nuclear Iran. [New York Times]

A German intelligence officer has been charged with treason, accused of acting as a double agent for the US and Russia, the federal prosecutor’s office said yesterday. [AP]

China has increased its land reclamation in the South China Sea in recent months, according to a new Pentagon report. [Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold]

Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were “thinking of future generations of women.” The first two women to graduate from the Army’s elite Ranger School speak with NPR.

The military services are looking into the leak of thousands of military email addresses registered with Ashley Madison, the recently hacked adultery site; Defense Secretary Ash Carter emphasized the importance of good conduct at a Pentagon briefing yesterday.

The Guardian editorial board considers newly declassified content from the MI5 archives, opining that what they show provides “real lessons for today,” including the need to be suspicious of the security state’s demands for expansive powers; the importance of questioning the argument that “those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear;” and the impact a conflict’s context has on polarizing opinion. 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security