News Roundup and Notes: August 31, 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

Turkish fighter jets conducted their first airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria over the weekend as part of the US-led coalition. [Al Jazeera America] As Turkey joints the air campaign, the US may face a difficult choice in whether to continue supporting Syrian Kurds’ involvement in the fight on the ground. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]

A 17-year-old in Virginia was sentenced to 11 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to material support for terrorism charges. In June, he had admitted to running a pro-Islamic State Twitter account and driving a friend to the airport in an attempt to help the friend join ISIS. [New York Magazine’s Jamie Fuller]

Islamic State militants have severely damaged the 2000-year old Bel Temple in Palmyra, Syria, which is considered one of the greatest sites of the ancient world. [Associated Press’ Sarah el Deeb]

The Islamic State has recently published a list of the names of more than 2,000 people the group claims to have killed in Mosul since the group took control of the city. [Daily Beast’s Khales Joumah]

Individuals fleeing violence in Syria have started to travel to Europe via the Arctic Circle, crossing into Norway via the far northern reaches of Russia. [Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley]

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is set to reopen the heavily fortified Green Zone to civilians to the first time in 12 years as part of an anti-corruption initiative. The roughly four square mile area that has long contained many government buildings was taken over by American forces following the 2003 invasion and has long been off limits to many civilians who did not work there. [BBC]

AFGHANISTAN

US special operations forces in Afghanistan are seeking a balance between “doing too much and too little” as the US winds down combat operations in the country, according to a profile by Michael M. Phillips. This often means taking a back seat to their Afghan counterparts during operations against insurgents. [Wall Street Journal]

The British Museum has turned down a unique digital collection of Taliban documents citing fears that holding the documents may violate the UK’s anti-terror laws. [Guardian’s Emma Graham-Harrison and Kevin Rawlinson]

IRAN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he not opposed to Iran using nuclear energy for civilian purposes, saying that his opposition is only to a military nuclear program. [Jerusalem Post]

The debate over the Iran nuclear deal is heating up in Congress. Senate Republicans are gearing up to respond to a potential filibuster when the deal comes to the floor for a vote next month. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]At the same time, Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim from Politico have a roundup of key Democrats whose support for the deal may be key in preventing the President from needing to veto a resolution condemning the deal.

Iran’s President Rouhani said it was unlikely that there will be a quick resolution to the house arrest of two political reformers who have been critical of the 2009 election processes in the country. [Agence France-Presse]

SURVEILLANCE and PRIVACY

The DC Circuit reversed an injunction against the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata without ruling on the legality of the program on Friday. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein] Just Security’s Co-Editor-in-Chief Steve Vladeck has more on the opinion here.

The NSA’s bulk collection program has been extended until November 29, when the USA Freedom Act’s changes to Section 215 go into effect. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

The co-founder of one of the world’s top security companies told lieutenants they should sabotage a rival antivirus software maker’s products in recently released emails from 2009. [Reuters’ Shannon Stapleton]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Three journalists convicted in Egypt of “spreading false news” have been sentenced to three years in prison. [BBC] Al Jazeera has condemned the verdict. Meanwhile, Egypt has summoned the British ambassador in Cairo to protest statements he made in the wake of the trial. [Associated Press’ Brian Rohan]

The US’s first special envoy for hostage affairs has been named: James O’Brien, who helped negotiate the Dayton Accords, which brokered peace in the Balkans in the 1990s. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter awarded $75 million on Friday to a consortium of high-tech firms and researchers, including Apple, Boeing, Harvard, and 159 other organizations, to develop electronic systems that can be worn by soldiers or molded onto the exterior of planes. [Reuters’ Jonathan Ernst]

Boko Haram killed 56 villagers during a meeting with the parents of the 219 schoolgirls abducted last year. The girls have been kidnapped for more than 500 days. [Associated Press’ Haruna Umar and Bashir Adigun]

The UN Security Council has threatened to impose an arms embargo and other sanctions on South Sudan if the warring factions do not implement a peace deal that went into force over the weekend. [BBC]

President Obama’s “idealism and wishful thinking” has often hampered his counterterrorism policies, argues Jessica Stern in an in-depth opinion piece on the administration’s counterterror programs. [Foreign Affairs]

Russia faces an uphill battle to modernize its military and is struggling to find and maintain enough recruits for the military to operate efficiently. [Foreign Affairs‘ Elisabeth Braw] 

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About the Author(s)

Megan Graham

Former Assistant Managing Editor and Security, Privacy, and Technology Fellow at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@meganmcgraham).

John Reed

Managing Editor of Just Security (2014-18). Follow him on Twitter (@ReedJustSec).