News Roundup and Notes: September 15, 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

Moscow has called for dialogue with Washington on solving the Syria crisis, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov today describing talks between President Obama and President Putin as indispensable. [Reuters]

Russia proposed the removal of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad as part of a peace deal during back-channel discussions more than three years ago, an offer rejected by western nations, according to a senior negotiator involved in talks at the time. [The Guardian’s Julian Borger and Bastien Inzaurralde]

Russia in Syria. Moscow has sent tanks and artillery to Syria, part of a reported military buildup in support of the Assad regime, US officials say. Tanks and personnel have been deployed to the Syrian airbase near Latakia, a source said. [The Guardian’s Alec Luhn; Reuters’ Phil Stewart]

Pentagon officials expressed concern that Russia intends to turn the Latakia airfield into a major hub for deliveries of military aid, and potentially have it serve as a launching base for airstrikes in support of the Assad regime. [New York Times’ Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon]

In response to reports, the Syrian Ambassador to Moscow denied accusations of a Russian military buildup in the country. [Reuters]

French airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria are “necessary,” according to President François Hollande. France announced its first reconnaissance flights over the country last week in preparation for possible strikes against ISIS there. [France 24]

Two car bomb attacks on a predominantly Kurdish city in northeastern Syria killed 26 people yesterday, according to state-owned news media and activists. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks. One attack targeted a graduation ceremony for Kurdish cadets and the other hit the base of a pro-government militia, the group said. [AP]

Life is unbearable for Syrian civilians who have not fled the conflict, report Maher Samaan and Anne Bernard. [New York Times]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out seven airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria on September 12. Separately, coalition military forces conducted a further 18 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

“Death in Syria.” The New York Times hosts a powerful infographic, representing those killed during the four-year civil conflict in dots.

IRAN

The head of the IAEA will visit Iran soon for further talks on the inspection of the country’s nuclear facilities, Iranian state TV reports. A 12 member-team of inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog will also visit. [AP]

The delisting of a powerful conglomerate in Iran, Setad will serve to benefit the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who closely controls the organization. Yeganeh Torbati and Babak Dehghanpisheh provide further details at Reuters.

Alex Shirazi profiles an Iranian expat family that is behind an increasingly influential Iran lobby in Washington, at The Daily Beast.

The Iran nuclear accord has taken center stage in the 2016 presidential debate; Gerald F. Seib provides the details. [Wall Street Journal]

Iran wants China to assist in resolving the crises in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said today. [Reuters]

“The case for deterrence.” Michael Mandelbaum explains how to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon, at Foreign Affairs.

YEMEN

The Saudi-led coalition has further escalated attacks on Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the central province of Marib, as its forces push closer to Sana’a. [Wall Street Journal’s Asa Fitch and Mohammad Al-Kibsi]

The UN human rights chief has called for the establishment of an independent investigation into violations by Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition during fighting in Yemen. [New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce]

The Guardian editorial board opines that the “heart of the current chaos and misery is the larger reality that Saudi Arabia and Iran have both made Yemen a testing ground for their regional strategic rivalry, against a backdrop in which the United States, the major supplier of arms to the Saudis, is simultaneously attempting a significant thaw in relations with Iran.”

The US drone strike which killed Anwar al-Awlaki “did not silence him,” says journalist Scott Shane, author of a new book on the deceased US-born Imam, in an interview with NPR.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Planes and helicopters were used to bomb Mexican tourists and their guides by Egyptian security forces after they were mistaken for terrorists in an attack that killed 12, survivors told Mexican officials. The bombing took place while the group were having a picnic, witnesses said. [Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy et al; New York Times’ Merna Thomas and David D. Kirkpatrick]

The US appears “confounded” by the cyber threat posed to it by China, reports David E. Sanger, providing further details. [New York Times]

North Korea military capacity. North Korea has restarted its nuclear weapon fuel plants, it announced, adding that it was prepared to use nuclear weapons “any time” against he US. [Washington Post’s Anna Fifield] The BBC explores just how advanced the North’s nuclear program is. And the country stated yesterday that it has plans to put a new satellite into orbit using a rocket which is widely considered to be an international ballistic missile in the making, writes Choe Sang-Hun. [New York Times]

Clashes between Palestinian and Israeli security forces took place for the third day at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque Tuesday, AFP reports.

A State Department review found a months-long gap in the email correspondence of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton; the four month period in which it appeared Clinton sent no emails while in office has since been filled, the government claims. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

Nigeria’s government is offering rehabilitation programs to ex-Boko Haram militants at prison complexes as well as providing assistance to women left traumatized by the group, write Drew Hinshaw and Patrick McGroarty. [Wall Street Journal]

A “very powerful” cyberattack targeted the Kremlin website on Sunday, Moscow said yesterday, linking the incident to regional elections. [Reuters] And Russia has taken “alarming” strides to strengthen its air forces since its invasion of Georgia in 2008, a US Air Force general said yesterday, adding that the American military advantage from the air is “shrinking.” [Reuters’ Andrea Shalal]

China is building a “third airstrip” in the South China Sea, according to new satellite images analyzed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies based in Washington. [CNN’s Katie Hunt]

Five World Food Programme vehicles were torched after their capture by gunmen in northern Afghanistan, the latest incident highlighting the risk posed to humanitarian workers in the country, reports Sune Engel Rasmussen. [The Guardian]

Seven people have been sentenced to death in Kuwait for their involvement in the suicide bombing of a Shi’ite mosque which left at least 27 people dead. [BBC]

The US is pushing to bring officers of the Salvadoran Army involved in a 1989 massacre to justice, despite having supported the military regime during much of the civil war that took place from 1979 to 1992. [New York Times’ Jonathan M. Katz]

The Navy will limit its use of certain technologies, including sonar, which inadvertently harm marine mammals off Hawaii and California during training, a settlement with environment groups agreed yesterday. [AP’s Jennifer Sinco Kelleher] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security