News Roundup and Notes: September 1, 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

ISIS fighters battled Syrian rebel forces in a neighborhood of Damascus yesterday, the jihadists pushing ever closer to the center of the capital, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. [AFP]

Three staff members of VICE News have been charged in Turkey of being members of ISIS; the three were arrested on Thursday in Diyarbakir while filming clashes between security forces and the PKK. [Al Jazeera]  VICE News has condemned the men’s detention, describing the charges leveled against them as “baseless” and “alarmingly false.”

So-called moderate members of al-Qaeda should be used by the US to help in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, retired Army General and former CIA Director David Petraeus has said. [The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef]

The UN confirmed the destruction of the Temple of Bel in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria late yesterday, with satellite imagery showing the majority of the structure had been destroyed. [The Guardian’s Ben Quinn]  And Adam Taylor discusses the risk posed to nine out of ten of Iraq and Syria’s world heritage sites, at the Washington Post.

The Islamic State announced a new gold currency for use in its claimed territory in Iraq and Syria, in a new propaganda video. [Reuters]

President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq led to the rise of ISIS, former Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday, suggesting that the country was in “good shape” at the end of President George W. Bush’s time in office. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

A park in Damascus has been named after North Korea’s founding father Kim Il-sung, by the country’s embattled government. [Al Jazeera]

The war against ISIS is forcing the US to choose between allies; Nahal Toosi provides a detailed explanation of the challenges posed by Turkey’s stance on the Kurds, at Politico.

The New York Times editorial board discusses Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s war against the Kurds, calling on the US to “use its influence in the region to stop the fighting and deprive Mr Erdogan of an excuse to continue a military operation that makes the difficult struggle against the Islamic State even harder.”

The UK presents its strategy to combat the Islamic State, available here.

IRAN

A flurry of endorsements from House Democrats for President Obama’s nuclear accord yesterday lends “fresh momentum” to the deal, reports Alexander Burns. Reps Nydia M. Velazquez, Gregory W. Meeks, Yvette Clarke, and Patrick Murphy all expressed their support in quick succession. [New York Times]  And Sen Jeff Merkley on Sunday announced that he backs the deal, the 31st Democratic senator to do so, reports Nick Gass. [Politico]

A group of 75 former lawmakers called on Congress to support the Iran accord, describing it as the “most viable means” to block Tehran from attaining a nuclear weapon, reports Jordain Carney. [The Hill]

Iranian civil society activists and intellectuals have called on the American people to support the nuclear accord, in an open letter.

The August congressional recess has failed to foster the level of opposition to the Iran deal hoped for by its critics, report Burgess Everett and Josh Breshnahan. [Politico]

Sen Tom Cotton met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Israel yesterday; in a statement, Cotton said the meeting “only reaffirms” his opposition to the deal. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

Americans’ views on the Iran deal fall strongly along partisan lines, a new poll has found. [Washington Post’s Scott Clement and Carol Morello]

The US states “have the power to limit” the threats posed by the Iran deal, write Sen James Inhofe and Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, calling on states to enforce sanctions against the Islamic Republic through “every executive and legislative action available,” in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal.

Iranian authorities have arrested a reformist politician, hours after he held a news conference thanking the country’s president for a more open political environment, reports Thomas Erdbrink. [New York Times]

“Inside US Commandos’ shadow war against Iran.” Sean D. Naylor explores the history of the military’s special operations forces efforts against terrorists, and the apparent support of those jihadist groups by Tehran. [The Daily Beast]

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CONTROVERSY

A significant cache of emails was released by the State Department in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by VICE News reporter Jason Leopold; the latest release contains more than 7,000 pages of emails, the largest batch to date. [VICE News]  Peter Baker and Michael S. Schmidt analyze the “insights” arising out of the release, at the New York Times.

A number of the emails released contain redactions of information later deemed classified; about 150 of the emails were partially or entirely censored. [AP’s Lisa Lerer and Matthew Lee]

Clinton’s “army of yes men” is on display in the new batch of emails, suggests Gideon Resnick, who provides further details at The Daily Beast.

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban has admitted to concealing the “depressing news” of the death of former leader Mullah Omar for over two years, a biography of the group’s new leader reveals. [The Guardian’s Jon Boone]

Afghanistan’s electoral reform commission has presented a list of proposals, though some reactions to the proposals, which mark a key step to holding overdue parliamentary elections, were skeptical. [New York Times’ Mujib Mashal]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinian men in a West Bank refugee camp overnight; the clashes arose after a raid aimed at arresting suspected Palestinian militants turned violent. [New York Times’ Diaa Hadid and Rami Nazzal]  An IDF officer was wounded during the incident. [Haaretz’s Gili Cohen et al]

A Ukrainian National Guard officer was killed following a grenade blast amidst clashes with nationalist protestors outside parliament yesterday. [AP]  The incident, carried out by a far-right ultra nationalist, could cause Ukraine’s conflict to continue indefinitely, suggests James Miller. [The Daily Beast]

Pakistan denied that the Haqqani network is using that country as a base, in response to statements from US National Security Adviser Susan Rice this weekend during a visit to Islamabad. [Wall Street Journal’s Saeed Shah and Qasim Nauman]

Boko Haram shot dead nearly 80 people in attacks on three villages in the country’s restive Borno state in recent days, locals said. [Al Jazeera America]  And Nigeria says it has uncovered a Boko Haram spy cell at the country’s international airport in Abuja, reportedly aimed at choosing targets for attack. [Reuters]

Al-Shabaab forces have killed “scores” of African Union troops in an attack south of Mogadishu, a spokesperson for the militant group told Al Jazeera.

The US deployed Predator drones to Latvia this weekend, part of the “European Reassurance Initiative.” The two drones and 70 personnel will stay in the region until September 15. [CNN’s Tal Kopan and Jim Sciutto]

The Obama administration is preparing a “menu of sanctions” against publically owned Chinese businesses and private companies which US officials believe to have benefited from American cybertheft, report Damian Paletta and Bob Davis. [Wall Street Journal]  The US is also considering sanctioning Russia, though such a move could further strain relations, report Arshad Mohammed et al. [Reuters] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security