News Roundup and Notes: September 16, 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

Intelligence analysts have presented investigators with documents they claim demonstrate that senior military officers manipulated the conclusions of reports on the war against ISIS, according to government officials, report Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo. [New York Times]

The White House is weighing whether to engage in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the crisis in Syria, as President Obama has refused to engage with the leader for over a year due to Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine. [New York Times’ Peter Baker and Andrew E. Kramer]  And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Russia next week for talks with President Putin on a growing Russian military presence in Syria, an Israeli official said. [The Daily Star]

Russia will continue its military support of the Assad regime against “terrorist aggression,” President Putin said yesterday at a security summit in Tajikistan. [Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge]

Secretary of State John Kerry has called on Moscow to clarify the intentions of Russia’s military build-up in Syria, saying that the country “risks exacerbating and extending the conflict,” in a statement. [BBC]

The Pentagon has no plan for how to handle the presence of Russian aircraft operating in Syrian airspace, despite defense officials expressing concern about how to deconflict US air operations with Russia’s. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad will only step down from power “if the people demand it,” saying that he will not give in to pressure from the international community. [Reuters]

France will begin airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State targets in the coming weeks, the country’s defense minister said today. [AP]  France’s willingness to engage in strikes “reflects new intelligence reports” which indicate that ISIS is planning to use European recruits to execute attacks on home soil, especially in France, according to officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Dalton]

A three-member panel has been named to head up the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) tasked by the United Nations with identifying those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. [UN News Centre]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces carried out three airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Sept 14. Separately, coalition forces conducted a further 15 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

The refugee situation facing Europe should be treated as a “security crisis,” not just a humanitarian crisis as it is being considered by Germany and its “less-welcoming European partners,” opines Clemens Wergin. [New York Times]

The Department of Homeland Security is designing its strategy for taking in a minimum of 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, within current budget constraints, Secretary Jeh Johnson said yesterday to Reuters.

One-in-five Syrians recently surveyed thought the Islamic State to be a positive influence on the country, and 82% of the 1,365 Syrians interviewed believed the Islamist group was created by the US and allies, reports Sudarsan Raghavan. [Washington Post]

IRAN

Senate Democrats once again blocked a resolution rejecting the Iran nuclear accord; a second vote had been called by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell despite cries from Democrats that it was a waste of time, reports David M. Herszenhorn. [New York Times]

McConnell has scheduled what is considered to be a tough vote for Democrats on Thursday, seeking political consequences for those who have expressed support for the deal. Thursday’s proposals would require Iran to recognize Israel as a nation and to release Americans held in Iranian detention. [Politico’s Burgess Everett]

House Republicans are calling on McConnell to invoke the “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules to require only a simple majority to push through a resolution against the Iran deal. [The Hill’s Cristina Marcos]

A team of IAEA investigators have arrived in Tehran to discuss the country’s past nuclear work. The nuclear watchdog has until Oct 15 to complete its probe; IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano is expected to report his findings to the agency’s board by Dec 15, reports Laurence Norman. [Wall Street Journal]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has warned Israel that clashes around the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem in recent days could weaken relations between the two countries; violence took place again on Tuesday between Palestinians and Israeli police. [New York Times’ Diaa Hadid]

Vice President Joe Biden spoke to King Abdullah during a phone call yesterday in which he called on all parties to “exercise restraint” and to “refrain from provocative actions.”

The latest violence risks igniting new Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process warned the Security Council yesterday. [UN News Centre]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Egypt has rejected criticism over an airstrike that hit a group of Mexican tourists, killing a dozen people, the Egyptian foreign minister defending the professionalism and sacrifice of the country’s security forces. Mexico has demanded answers to the “unjustified aggression.” [New York Times’ Jared Malsin]

Nigeria’s military has freed at least a dozen women and children kidnapped by the military group, Boko Haram; the rescue took place as the army cleared out camps held by the group in the country’s restive Borno state, a spokesman for the military said. [AP’s Bashir Adigun]

A Taliban leadership struggle has been resolved, the group said of the disagreement which had challenged its unity. The announcement renews hopes that peace talks with the central Afghan government can resume. [Wall Street Journal’s Margherita Stancati and Saeed Shah]

A UN civilian staff member is accused of sexual exploitation in the Central African Republic, the 17th person accused of sexual abuse since the peacekeeping mission arrived last year, the UN said yesterday. [AP]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board calls for the release of files captured by Navy SEALS during the operation to take out Osama Bin Laden, asking why the public has not been allowed to see the papers which document al-Qaeda’s plans as well as the group’s cooperation with Iran.

“Ever greater constraints” on the use of force by the UK military may “embolden” the country’s enemies, head of the British armed forces, Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton told the Chatham House think tank in a speech. [BBC]

“This is the first time in my life I’ve had to bury one human being twice.” Nasser M. Kutabish describes the death of a family member in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, killed “almost certainly” by the Saudi-led coalition. [New York Times]

More than a dozen states on the UK’s list of “countries of concern” will attend the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition (DESI) in London, one of the world’s largest arms fairs, which began yesterday. [Defense One’s Aamna Mohdin]

Libyan “forever prisoner” Omar Mohammed Khalif has been cleared for release from Guantánamo Bay detention facility by a federal parole board. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Australia will resist a renewed push for nuclear disarmament because of the country’s reliance on the deterrent capability of its ally, America. [The Guardian’s Ben Doherty]

The UN has called on Sri Lanka to establish a special court to investigate “horrific” abuses committed during the country’s 26-year civil war, reports Nick Cumming-Bruce. [New York Times]

A new report shows how Moscow has tried to cover up the deaths of Russian soldiers during the Ukraine conflict; Catherine A. Fitzpatrick provides the details at The Daily Beast.

The CIA is preparing to release about 2,500 President’s Daily Briefs delivered to President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson during an eight-year period in the 1960s; the move represents a sharp turnaround to consistent agency claims that the release would endanger national security. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security