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
Russia is flying military equipment and personnel to Syria via an air corridor over Iraq and Iran, in defiance of US attempts to prevent shipments to the country’s Assad regime. [New York Times’ Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon]
The US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Syrian opposition leaders have been in talks on side-lining Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad since at least June, Bloomberg reported today. Russia is said to have expressed a willingness to allow Assad be eased out of power.
Refugee situation. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said that refugees taken in by the US must be properly vetted first as “[w]e don’t know who they are,” on ABC News’ “This Week,” saying he would “take ISIS at its word” that it would use the crisis to infiltrate the west. Presidential candidate Ben Carson echoed this sentiment, saying background checks should be carried out on all Syrian migrants and refugees, in an interview on NPR. And UK Prime Minister David Cameron is paying a visit to a Lebanese refugee camp following the country’s pledge to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. [BBC]
Syrians are finding it increasingly difficult to flee the country, forced to traverse tightened Turkish security measures along its border with Syria, reports Raja Abdulrahim. [Wall Street Journal]
The interests of the US and Iran “clash and converge,” report Tim Arango and David D. Kirkpatrick, discussing the increasingly complex relationship between the two in relation to their involvement in conflicts abroad, including the battle against ISIS in Iraq. [New York Times]
The US has made “remarkable progress” against the Islamic State in the last year, according to Gen John Allen speaking on ABC News’ “This Week.”
The mood in the Syrian capital, Damascus is of “fatalism and fear,” reports Ian Black, describing daily life in the war-torn city. [The Guardian]
“Diplomacy, partition, intervention.” Martin Chulov explores potential scenarios for conflict ridden Syria, at the Guardian.
Hopes for a diplomatic conclusion to the Syrian conflict have been stemmed by a recent hardening of positions on both sides, writes The Economist.
“[I]t’s time to admit that our response to the so-called Islamic State has been an abject failure,” argues Bruce Hoffman, explaining that the militant group is winning the war, and describing the steps necessary to stem its expansion, at Politico Magazine.
“We must not let Mr Putin dictate the terms of cooperation.” Andrew Foxall argues that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin must not be trusted with respect to the situation in Syria, at the New York Times.
UKRAINE and RUSSIA
A two-week-old ceasefire between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists has seen some measure of success, leading the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine to urge all parties to build on that progress, reports Alison Smale. [New York Times]
Some self-proclaimed volunteer fighters from Russia in the Ukrainian conflict have returned home, with many former rebel leaders resuming “comfortable, increasingly public lives in Moscow.” [Washington Post’s Andrew Roth]
Moscow is shifting fronts both in Ukraine and Syria, writes Jackson Diehl, commenting that it is not yet clear what President Putin’s intentions are in either country. [Washington Post]
Taliban leader Mullah Omar died from natural causes in Afghanistan, his son said in a statement, urging unity among members of the insurgent group. The audio recording released last night has been authenticated by Taliban sources. [Reuters]
The Afghan Taliban stormed a prison on the outskirts of the central city of Ghazni today, killing police and releasing over 400 inmates, officials said. [Reuters’ Mustafa Andalib] The Taliban has confirmed its responsibility for the incident. [BBC]
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Palestinians and Israeli police clashed in Jerusalem’s Old City at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound yesterday ahead of the Jewish new year; tensions ran high over the past week as two Muslim civilian groups were banned from the compound by defense minister Moshe Yaalon. [The Guardian’s Kate Shuttleworth]
The UN’s Middle East envoy has called for respect of holy sites in Jerusalem following the incident on Sunday. [UN News Centre]
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene an emergency meeting tomorrow evening to discuss “the war on stone throwing and fire bombs in Jerusalem and its vicinity,” according to a statement released this morning by his office. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]
The Pentagon and the White House are trading barbs over the delay in plans to close Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, with frustrations aired over slow progress in releasing cleared detainees and finding a new facility to move those remaining, reports Lolita C. Baldor. [AP]
Hunger striker Tariq Ba Odah is dangerously ill, according to his lawyers, challenging a military doctor’s claim that the prisoner is stable enough to remain at the facility. [Miami Herald]
Egyptian security forces mistakenly killed 12 tourists and guides, including at least two Mexicans and 10 others after they “accidentally” attacked vehicles in the country’s western desert while “chasing terrorist elements,” officials said. [New York Times’ Liam Stack] Mexico’s president condemned the attack and called on Egypt to initiate an investigation. [Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham] The Guardian has a rolling report here.
Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has urged lone wolf attacks amongst young Muslim men in the US and other western nations and called for greater unity among militants. [Reuters]
The majority of civilian deaths in Yemen’s conflict are caused by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, often dropping American munitions; Kareem Fahim discusses the campaign which has drawn wide criticism for “collectively punishing” people living in parts of the country under Houthi control. [New York Times]
A bomb explosion at a bus terminal in Pakistan’s city of Multan today killed at least 10 people and wounded 40 others, officials said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. [BBC]
There is no indication that Hillary Clinton’s private server was “wiped,” according to the company responsible for managing it, meaning that tens of thousands of emails deleted by the former secretary of state could be recovered. [Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman]
Consensus has been reached on the key aspects of a political agreement aimed at resolving the ongoing crisis in Libya, the UN envoy for that country announced. [UN News Centre]
The majority of the American public disapproves of President Obama’s handling of US-Iran relations, according to a new CNN/ORC poll released yesterday.
The Obama-era mantra that “things could be worse” has had a paralyzing effect which must be stopped, opines Garry Kasparov, pointing to the global crises marked out by US inaction caused by Obama’s “timidity and procrastination.” [Wall Street Journal]
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl needs to be held “accountable” for his alleged desertion of his base in Afghanistan in 2009, according to former Navy SEAL Jimmy Hatch, who said Bergdahl “needs to know how much was risked” trying to save him from the Taliban, in an interview on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” on Friday.
The Army plans to expand its aerial exploitation battalion forces, providing the military with a greater number of manned intelligence missions around the world. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]
Over half of Japan’s population opposes government plans to enact a law that would allow troops to fight overseas for the first time since WWII, a newspaper poll said today. [Reuters]
“The only time the US Government pretends to care in the slightest about human rights abuses is when they’re carried out by ‘countries that don’t cooperate’,” writes Glenn Greenwald, adding that support for oppressive regimes is a “staple” of American foreign policy. [The Intercept]