News Roundup and Notes: August 28, 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

An Islamic State suicide bomber killed two Iraqi army generals yesterday as they headed up forces against militant positions in the country’s restive Anbar province, outside of Ramadi, military officials said. [AP; New York Times’ Tim Arango]

The UN is moving forward with its plans to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria; Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council yesterday that he will set up a three person team to conduct the probe. [AFP]

The YPG has launched an offensive against ISIS into territory in northern Syria, testing the US and Turkey’s plan to establish a “safe zone” in the area which excludes Kurdish forces. [NOW]

Mosul’s top Iraqi army officer stayed on vacation last summer, despite repeated warnings that ISIS was intending to seize control of the northern city. An Iraqi parliamentary report also found that the officer’s units had under a third of the soldiers they were supposed to have on the day of battle, reports Loveday Morris. [Washington Post]

The UN’s humanitarian chief has called on the Security Council to do everything in its power to encourage a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria, describing the suffering of civilians there as “needless and immense.” [UN News Centre]

Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi ordered the military to make it easier for civilians to get into Baghdad’s Green Zone, a heavily defended district of the city, home to many official buildings. [Reuters]

The targeting of ISIS hacker Junaid Hussain “shows the extent to which digital warfare has upset the balance of power on the modern battlefield,” write Margaret Coker et al, discussing the important role the Briton played in the group’s cyber force. [Wall Street Journal]

Realistic predictions about the duration of the fight against the Islamic State are not well received by the White House or Congress; Dan De Luce explores whether America is “ready for an endless war” against the militant group. [Foreign Policy]

America might find that the price of using Turkish bases to launch strikes against ISIS in Syria “may well be too high in the long run,” opines Eric S. Edelman, adding that the US must use its leverage to pressure Turkish leaders if the country “is to avoid being sucked into the vortex created by a failed Syria policy and [President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s] dogged quest for absolute power.” [New York Times]

IRAN

Tehran appears to have built an extension onto its contentious Parchin military facility since May, a new report from the IAEA says. Any changes to the nuclear site since the UN watchdog last visited in 2005 may jeopardize the agency’s ability to verify Western intelligence alleging Iran carried out weapon tests there over a decade ago, reports Shadia Nasralla. [Reuters]

GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are teaming up to hold an upcoming rally at the Capitol to pressure lawmakers to oppose the nuclear accord. [Politico’s Seung Min Kim]

A “vitriolic divide” among American Jews has emerged over the Iran deal, with some commentators suggesting long-term damage to Jewish organizations, and potentially to US-Israeli relations, report Jonathan Weisman and Alexander Burns. [New York Times]

The fight in Congress over the Iran deal is “all but over” according to Eli Lake and Josh Rogin, who report that opponents are now focused on ensuring there is a vote on the agreement at all. [Bloomberg View]

Whether President Obama succeeds on the Iran deal “by filibuster or sustained veto” could make all the difference to the administration, with a Democratic filibuster constituting a “clear victory” for the president. [Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere and Burgess Everett]

The majority of Americans would oppose the Obama administration moving forward with the Iran nuclear deal without Congressional approval, a new poll, released by Secure America Now, has found.

If the accord goes through, Iran’s oil exports will resume, putting Tehran in a better position than the US where producers are still banned from doing so, considers Will Marshall. [The Daily Beast]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board discusses the 1996 Khobar Tower bombings, concluding that “Iran and its proxies have never hesitated to shed American blood.”

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

NATO opened a new joint training base in Georgia yesterday, aimed at reassuring the country of its allies’ support; it is unclear how far that promise goes however given some nations’ reluctance to bring Georgia into the organization, reports Julian E. Barnes. [Wall Street Journal]

The Taliban’s capture of Musa Qala district in Helmand province constitutes a significant propaganda victory for the insurgent group, even though control brings limited military advantage, reports Emma Graham-Harrison. [The Guardian]

The Obama administration is looking into building a new facility in the US to replace the prison at Guantánamo Bay; the Pentagon has only formally acknowledged that it is looking into US military prisons in Kansas and South Carolina. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

“The Lessons of Anwar al-Awlaki.” In an extended piece, Scott Shane describes the growing influence of the jihadi cleric, killed by a US drone strike in 2011, and asks whether there was another, better, way stop him? [New York Times]

GCHQ “revealed intriguing details about what it did and why” by forcing journalists at the Guardian to completely destroy the information on computers where secret documents provided by Edward Snowden were held, suggests Jenna McLaughlin. [The Intercept]

Democrats are ever-more frustrated with Hillary Clinton’s response to questions about her use of a private email server while in office as secretary of state, as concerns mount over voter doubts about her trustworthiness and honesty. [New York Times’ Patrick Healy et al]  And David Ignatius writes that “experts in national-security law say there may be less” to Clinton’s use of a personal server than it appears, at the Washington Post.

Thousands are seeking refuge at the compound of the UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic following clashes between rival militias in that country. [UN News Centre]

Rebels and the army in South Sudan have traded accusations about attacks for the second time this week, barely a day after the country’s president signed a peace agreement with the insurgents. [Reuters]

Russia is being forced to scale back its plans for military modernization in the midst of a falling ruble and a weakened economy, writes Thomas Grove. [Wall Street Journal]

A mosque in southern Spain has come under scrutiny following last week’s foiled attack on a French train by a Moroccan man who had worshiped there, reports Raphael Minder. [New York Times] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security