News Roundup and Notes: August 25, 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 Islamic State’s destruction of the ancient temple of Baal Shamin constitutes a war crime, UNESCO’s Director-General said, describing the incident as an “immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity.” [The Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen]  “The ravaging of irreplaceable antiquities in Syria and Iraq has become something of a grim wartime routine,” writes Anne Bernard, discussing ISIS’s accelerated campaign against archaeological sites. [New York Times]

“Comprehensive” joint operations between the US and Turkey will soon begin against the Islamic State, including the provision of air cover for moderate Syrian rebels. [TIME’s Helen Regan]

At least 30 people have been killed for sodomy by the Islamic State, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission told the UN Security Council at a meeting in New York. [AP]

A new hotline has been launched in Iraq to respond to the humanitarian needs of those displaced by fighting in the country, particularly those scattered in hard-to-reach areas, UN humanitarian agencies announced yesterday.

Morocco and Spain arrested 14 people today, suspected of recruiting militants to travel to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State, the Spanish Interior Ministry said. [Reuters]

The New York Times editorial board opines that despite the “formidable” obstacles in the way of a political transition in Syria, the “serious interest” which has recently been expressed by relevant parties in finding a diplomatic solution must be seized upon, and “Russia and Iran bear a special responsibility” in moving it forward.

The Economist comments on “the persistence of history.” The Islamic State’s revival of slavery has provoked international censure, yet the practice “finds disquieting echoes” across the Arab world, about which religious and political leaders “have been more circumspect.”

IRAN

The IAEA has called on its member states to provide more funding for it to carry out its responsibilities under the Iran nuclear accord; the nuclear watchdog’s chief said that current funds would run out next month. [Reuters]

A senior French national security official contradicts Secretary of State John Kerry on the outcome of a Congressional rejection of the nuclear accord, concluding that a no vote would not result in “the worst of all worlds” and might in fact be helpful, reports Josh Rogin. [Bloomberg View]  And John Vinocur explores whether France may be having “partial buyer’s remorse” over the accord, at the Wall Street Journal.

Israel has accused Iran of sponsoring rocket attacks into its territory from Syria last week; Israeli diplomats have filed a formal complaint with the US and other negotiating parties to the nuclear accord which charges Iran with “an indiscriminate and premeditated terrorist attack against Israeli territory without any provocation.” [Politico’s Michael Crowley]

Dick Cheney will deliver an address on the Iran deal next month at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, during which he will share his concerns about the agreement’s “consequences for the security and interests of the United States and its allies in the Middle East,” reports Brianna Ehley. [Politico]

President Obama described Iran deal opponents as “the crazies” yesterday, discussing a conversation he had with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, reports Edward-Isaac Dovere. [Politico]

Despite a growing number of endorsements, undecided Democrats are “still full of quirks and wild cards.” [New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman]

The nuclear deal may assist the US with better targeting should it decide to attack Iran; Michael Crowley discusses the “ultimate argument” in favor of the accord. [Politico]

Swing-state voters oppose the Iran deal by margins of more than 2-to-1, according to a new Quinnipiac University Poll.

“What you can’t really do, not with a straight face, is ever call it Reaganesque.” John Hannah, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, argues against comparisons between President Obama and President Reagan’s approaches to diplomacy, in an op-ed at the Washington Post.

Lawmakers who vote in favor of the Iran nuclear accord may suffer at the polls next November, because the American people “reward elected officials who do the right thing,” said opponent of the deal, Rep Mike Pompeo. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The Palestinian Authority would have to post $10 million to appeal a significant damages award for its role in terrorist attacks in Israel which killed and wounded Americans, the latest ruling in a lawsuit which has drawn the attention of the Obama administration. [New York Times’ Benjamin Weiser; AP]

The “sense of Gaza as a gulag on the Mediterranean only increases political frustration.” Mohammed Omer makes the case for the need for economic development for Palestinians in Gaza, at the New York Times.

The New York Times hosts a visual walk in “war’s path,” documenting the destruction caused by last summer’s Gaza war.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Koreas reached an agreement early today to end a military standoff that resulted in the exchange of artillery fire and sparked concerns over escalating tensions. Under the agreement, North Korea expressed “regrets” for landmine explosions which wounded two soldiers from the South, and South Korea agreed to turn off its propaganda loudspeakers stationed on the border. [Reuters’ Ju-min Park and Tony Munroe]  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement and expressed hope for the resumption of talks on the nuclear issue. [UN News Centre]

A 74 lb. Guantánamo Bay hunger striker is not sufficiently unwell as to warrant hospitalization or continuous tube feedings, and the impact on the Yemeni prisoner’s health while in US military custody is his responsibility, argued Justice Department lawyers in a filing unsealed yesterday, asking the judge to refuse a habeas corpus claim. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

A female teenage suicide bomber in the Nigerian city of Damaturu killed five people and wounded a further 30 early today, police said. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility but Boko Haram has carried out similar attacks in recent weeks. [Reuters]

A Saudi soldier was killed by artillery fire from Yemen; a border post in Saudi Arabia’s southern Jazan region came under fire from Yemeni territory yesterday. [AFP]

The US Army has reopened a criminal inquiry into a string of at least 17 murders of Afghan civilians in 2012 and 2013, which Afghan officials blame on an Army Special Forces team, a senior Western official said yesterday from Kabul. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland]

An inquest into the Sydney siege is on-going; an American expert has told the inquest that the Lindt Café siege gunman Man Haron Monis was a “radicalized terrorist” irrespective of his lack of contact with ISIS and his mental health problems. [Sydney Morning Herald’s Louise Hall]  Michael Safi at the Guardian has live updates of the hearings.

A US Marine accused of killing a transgender woman in the Philippines testified yesterday, admitting that he choked her until she was no longer moving, but not expressly saying he killed her, according to a prosecutor. [New York Times’ Floyd Whaley]

On the 24th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, leaders of Germany and France made a show of support for the country, calling for an end to the conflict there. [New York Times’ Alison Smale]

Turkey’s war against the PKK underscores the “continued divide between the West and Turkey” over how to tackle the conflicts in the Middle East; Tim Arango reports on the fighting which is once again gripping Kurdish lands. [New York Times]

Having a military email address found in the Ashley Madison leak is not sufficient to warrant investigation, service officials told The Daily Beast, reports Shane Harris.

A Minnesota judge has ordered a US citizen who pleaded guilty to supporting ISIS to go through counselling, not to jail, in the first attempt to de-radicalize an Islamic extremist, reports Katie Zavadski. [The Daily Beast] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security