News Roundup and Notes: August 26, 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

Kurdish peshmerga forces launched a fresh offensive against the Islamic State group in Iraq’s northern Kirkuk province today; the front line between the two sides has hardly moved in recent months. [Reuters]

Washington and Ankara have finalized details for the full inclusion of Turkey in the coalition against the Islamic State, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said yesterday. Airstrikes by Turkey are not expected to begin immediately. [Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold and Dion Nissenbaum]

A Pentagon inquiry is looking into allegations that intelligence assessments about the US-led coalition against ISIS have been skewed by officials to suggest a more optimistic account of progress against the group, according to officials. [New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo]

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad is confident in the continued support of Russia for his regime, stating that Moscow has been “sincere and transparent” in its relationship, in an interview with Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV network. Assad also described the presence of Hezbollah fighters in Syria as “legitimate.” [AFP]

ISIS has released propaganda photos appearing to show the destruction of Baal Shamin temple in Palmyra, sparking outrage from historians and archaeologists, reports Kareem Shaheen. [The Guardian]

A powerful opposition force in Syria is posing a challenge to the US; the group, Ahrar al-Sham, or the Free Men of Syria, has vowed to combat ISIS and urged engagement with the West, but has its roots in militant Islam. [New York Times’ Ben Hubbard]

Parties to the Syrian conflict are “using water to achieve military and political gains,” according to a new report from UNICEF in which the organization says it has recorded 18 deliberate cuts to the public water supply in Aleppo this year. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

“Palestinian refugees from Syria … are the shadow refugees” of the four-year civil war; Nina Strochlic explains that they are refused entry by all of Syria’s neighbors other than Turkey, and that the political motives behind the policies remain opaque. [The Daily Beast]

YEMEN

Houthi-allied army units fired a ballistic missile toward southern Saudi Arabia today, Houthi-run Al Maseera TV reported on twitter. Fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed rebels has intensified recently. [Reuters]

AQAP has denied reports that it was holding hostage a British citizen who was freed by UAE forces earlier this week. [Reuters]  And Nancy A. Youssef explains how the conflict in Yemen is strengthening al-Qaeda’s affiliate there, posing a serious threat to US national security. [The Daily Beast]

The Red Cross is temporarily suspending operations in the port city of Aden after gunmen stormed the humanitarian organization’s offices, demanding money, vehicles and other equipment. [New York Times’ Kareem Fahim]

IRAN

Pro-democracy activists from Iran have spoken out in support of the nuclear accord, urging Congress to support it, in a number of videos. [The Guardian’s Saeed Kamali Dehghan]

Sen Tom Cotton accused Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of being “scared” of the debate around the Iran nuclear accord, suggesting he was denying the American people a voice on the matter. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Rep Nancy Pelosi is pursuing a forceful campaign to get Democrats behind the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear agreement. [The Hill’s Mike Lillis]

Tehran has no intention of trading Jason Rezaian, the detained Washington Post reporter, for any US-imprisoned Iranian citizens, an Iranian official said. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

“[T]he tendency to reject diplomatic deals is rooted on the right of the American political spectrum;” Nicole Hemmer and Tom Switzer explore why the GOP rejects the Iran nuclear accord, “and all diplomacy.” [New York Times]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

Only 3 of the 116 remaining detainees at the facility in Cuba were captured by US forces, the rest were rounded up by Pakistani and Afghan “spies, warlords and security services,” a Guardian review of military documents has revealed, reports Spencer Ackerman.

The Obama administration has not settled on a date to bring its closure plan for Guantánamo Bay to Congress, the Pentagon spokesperson said yesterday. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

The governors of Kansas and South Carolina will sue the Obama administration if Guantánamo Bay detainees are brought to military facilities in either state, they wrote in a letter yesterday. [AP’s Meg Kinnard]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Two NATO service members were killed inside a military base in Afghanistan’s Helmand province today after two men wearing Afghan military uniforms opened fire, the international force said. [AP’s Rahim Faiez]  And the Taliban seized a district headquarters in Musa Qala, Helmand today despite US airstrikes repelling them. [Reuters]

The suspected gunmen in the France train attack had “terrorist intent,” a Paris prosecutor said, noting that Ayoub el Khazzani had listened to jihadist recordings on YouTube just before the attack. [France 24]

Sen Chuck Grassley has called on Secretary of State John Kerry to provide the details of how Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, was given the security clearance to handle her emails. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]  And Josh Gerstin provides a “guide to Hillary Clinton’s most sensitive emails,” at Politico.

The Defense Department’s Law of War manual allows for the detention of journalists, permitting their treatment as “unprivileged belligerents” if they are thought to be sympathizing or cooperating with the enemy, reports Al Jazeera America.

A group of former officials from Russia and western states has proposed talks aimed at creating a new set of rules between Moscow and NATO, governing encounters at sea and in the air to prevent an incident between military forces. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes]

Oshkosh Defense will build the ground vehicle intended to eventually replace the Humvee, after winning a major contract. [Washington Post’s Christian Davenport]

The UN Security Council is prepared to “act immediately” if South Sudan’s president fails to sign a peace agreement with rebels this week. [Al Jazeera]  And a new UN report has found that the government spent $20 million last summer on weapons from China, while rebels obtained ammunition from Sudan. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

Cybersecurity is the “persistent glitch” in the US-China relationship; Kristie Lu Stout provides further details. [CNN]

Serbia and Kosovo have agreed on a cooperation deal in several key areas, according to the EU, a “landmark” agreement considered to be a major step toward normalizing relations between the two. [AFP]

North Dakota has legalized the use of armed drones by law enforcement following a push by a pro-police lobbyist. [The Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe]

Former Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt will be tried again for genocide for the persecution of the Maya Ixil Indians during his rule, a court has ruled. [New York Times’ Elisabeth Malkin] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security