News Roundup and Notes: September 9, 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

Russian presence in Syria. Russian military experts are present in Syria, the country’s Foreign Ministry announced today, the first official confirmation of its role in the conflict there after weeks of rumors. [Reuters]  The US has begun steps to block a Russian military buildup in the country, asking Greece and Bulgaria to close their airspace to Russian transport planes. Bulgaria has accepted the request. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt]  Russia has accused the US of “international boorishness” for the action. [Reuters]  The Washington Post editorial board calls for concerted US action to stem the Russian progression in Syria, adding that President Putin is “acknowledging a truth” President Obama has refused to accept, “any political agenda for Syria’s future is meaningless” without power on the ground.

UK drone strikes. The British government would not “hesitate” to conduct further drone strikes against targets if there is a threat of a “likely” armed attack, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said yesterday. [New York Times’ Stephen Castle]  Nicholas Watt reports on the UK military “kill list,” writing that Royal Air Force aerial drones have been patrolling in Syria for months, seeking out targets on a list drawn up by the UK National Security Council. [The Guardian]

Response to the strikes. Spencer Ackerman comments on Obama’s “terror legacy,” writing that announcements by the UK and Pakistan of drone strikes against their own citizens “follow a template sketched by Obama over the past seven years,” at the Guardian.  UK human rights organization, Rights Watch announced that it is taking legal action against the government to force it to publish the legal advice it received justifying the strikes. [The Telegraph’s Kate McCann and Christopher Hope]  And Rafael Behr writes on the challenge posed to liberal minds, concluding that while one may wish for a better way to deal with homegrown jihadists, it may not exist. [The Guardian]

There is growing consensus between the US and European allies that in order to stop the Islamic State, its “nerve centers” in Syria must be targeted, report Dion Nissenbaum and Julian E. Barnes. [Wall Street Journal]

Australia will extend its involvement in the air campaign against ISIS to Syria, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced, adding that Australian jihadists “may well feel the force” of the country’s arms. [Sydney Morning Herald’s David Wroe]  And France is looking into the possibility of strikes against ISIS in Syria, President François Hollande announcing the start of reconnaissance flights in the country. [France 24]

Turkish ground troops entered Iraq yesterday, as part of an operation to capture Kurdish rebels who had crossed the border from Turkey over the weekend following an attack which killed 16 soldiers, a government official said. [New York Times’ Ceylan Yeginsu]

ISIS has advanced on the strategic border town of Marea, Syria; the town is near to an important supply route for Syrian rebels close to the Turkish frontier. [Wall Street Journal’s Raja Abdulrahim and Dion Nissenbaum]

US-led airstrikes. The US and coalition military forces carried out five airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 7. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 16 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

Conflict in the Middle East fuels the migrant crisis currently gripping Europe; Jeremy Bowen explains how it is “impossible to avoid the consequences.” [BBC]

A severe sandstorm hit parts of the Middle East yesterday, disrupting fighting and airstrikes in Syria. [Reuters]

The Islamic State’s actions are “un-Islamic” according to a religious ruling ratified by over 1,000 Muslim clerics in India. [AP]

IRAN

President Obama has secured the support of 42 senators, crossing a key threshold which means he could avoid having to invoke his veto to push the accord through Congress. [Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Hughes and Carol E. Lee]  Democratic Sens Richard Blumenthal, Gary Peters, Ron Wyden and Maria Cantwell announced their support for the deal as lawmakers returned from the August recess. [Reuters’ Patricia Zengerle]

Tehran will not negotiate with the US on any other issue following the conclusion of the nuclear accord, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced on his website today. [Reuters’ Bozorgmehr Sharafedin]

Nuclear deal opponents are not letting up in their campaign against the deal, former Vice President Dick Cheney giving a speech yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]

Hillary Clinton paved the way to achieving the diplomatic shift with Tehran in her final months as secretary of state, according to current and former US officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Laure Meckler]

The House vote on the Iran deal is expected to be held on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this Friday; the timing of the vote is reported to be partially coincidental and may be a way for the GOP to underscore the potential terror implications of the agreement. [The Hill’s Cristina Marcos]

Presidential candidate Donald Trump would renegotiate with Iran on President Obama’s nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic, he wrote in an op-ed at USA Today.

Now that Obama has secured the latest threshold of votes, writes Alan M. Dershowitz, Congress must insist that Iran complies fully with the provisions of the agreement. [Wall Street Journal]

An important reason to oppose the Iran nuclear accord is Syria, argues Lina Sergie Attar, opining that any deal which “supports the regime that fuels the Assad regime’s military is simply a deal that rewards genocide, destruction, and mass displacement of innocent people.” [The Daily Beast]

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CONTROVERSY

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton apologized for her use of a private email server while in office, admitting it was a “mistake,” during an interview with David Muir of ABC News yesterday. Clinton added that she is trying to be as transparent as possible in the wake of the controversy. [New York Times’ Maggie Haberman]

The statement marks the clearest indicator that Clinton has concluded she needs to adjust her approach to the situation amid claims of her lack of honesty and trustworthiness, marked by a slide in the polls, reports Laura Meckler. [Wall Street Journal]

Clinton took a “long time getting there,” writes Benjamin Soloway, pointing out that as recently as Monday, she refused to apologize because “what I did was allowed,” in a piece at Foreign Policy.

UKRAINE and RUSSIA

Close to 8,000 people have been killed during the conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to a UN report released yesterday blaming the ongoing role of Russian troops and weaponry for preventing the path to peace. [New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce]

Ukraine has accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, a step which could pave the way for a war crimes investigation into the ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists. [AP]

CYBERSECURITY

A recent cyberattack on the unclassified network for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff was persistent and adapted following a failed attack a week before the successful breach, the head of the NSA said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta]

The US is preparing to bring criminal charges against Chinese cyberspies in response to suspected attacks on American networks, US officials told The Daily Beast, reports Shane Harris.

In response to threatened sanctions by the US, China is pushing back in an “unorthodox” manner, holding a tech conference to highlight its power over the American technology industry, report Paul Mozur and Jane Perlez. [New York Times]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Egypt has announced a “major military operation” targeting the ISIS affiliate – Sinai Province – in the Sinai peninsula; 56 militants are said to have been killed in the first two days of the mission. [AFP]

Infighting between Taliban members has sparked concern over the potential rise of the Islamic State in the country, due to fresh recruits from defectors. [The Times’ Hugh Tomlinson and Wajahat S Khan]

The US has opened a diplomatic mission for Somalia, based out of the American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, as part of wider efforts to normalize relations with the nation. [AP]

Two powerful rival militias in Libya are upholding a strategic truce in a joint effort to push back advances by the Islamic State group in the country, according to commanders and political representatives. [Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy]

Accused 9/11 plotter, Khalid Sheik Mohammed is asking the trial judge to help send a letter to President Obama, written while held at Guantánamo Bay detention facility; his attorneys have refused to discuss the effort which recently appeared in a notation on the war docket, reports Carol Rosenberg. [Miami Herald]

A Marine Corps women-in-combat experiment achieved mixed results, with reports of breakdown in unit cohesion and perceived unequal treatment by peers. [Marine Times’ Hope Hodge Seck]

A weapons-free zone in Bambari, Central African Republic has been established by the UN, it was announced by the peacekeeping chief yesterday following a visit to the country. [UN News Centre] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security