News Roundup and Notes: September 18, 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

The White House is considering abandoning its effort to create a viable, sizeable Syrian force to fight ISIS, searching for alternatives after revelations of the failures in the US strategy in Syria. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee and Dion Nissenbaum]

Despite a lot of “finger pointing” toward the Obama administration over the Syria crisis, there is “no consensus among critics” about what solutions might be viable, writes Peter Baker, outlining a number of proposed answers. [New York Times]

The New York Times editorial board comments on the war against the Islamic State, opining that many elements about the international coalition’s strategy remain “disturbingly elusive,” and calling on Congress to exercise its power to authorize the war, pulling back the “free rein” currently given to President Obama to escalate the campaign.

“Air power is the most agile of political lobbyists.” Simon Jenkins argues against the UK bombing of Syria, writing that because “a drone attack is so distant and so invulnerable, it regards itself as self-validating,” concluding that if Prime Minister David Cameron insists on Syrian intervention, then ground troops are the only way forward, at the Guardian.

Former US officials have called on the Obama administration to take in 100,000 Syrian refugees, a tenfold increase in the number committed to by the US last week, in a letter sent to President Obama and congressional leaders. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon]

Terrorist organizations will take advantage of the refugee situation and fighters from the Islamic State will likely try and gain access to the US in this way, wrote a group of senators in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

The US should commit to taking in the 50,000 people who served as interpreters for American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, writes Dane Bowker, arguing that they “deserve our help much more” than the Syrian refugees President Obama has decided to admit. [Washington Post]

IRAN

A third attempt to pass legislation rejecting the Iran deal failed yesterday, when Senate Democrats blocked the bill; the vote ensures that Congress will not pass a resolution of disapproval that would prevent President Obama from waiving many sanctions. [Reuters’ Patricia Zengerle]

President Obama will issue US nuclear-sanctions related waivers on Oct 18, which won’t go into effect until “Implementation Day,” when the IAEA certifies Iran’s compliance with obligations under the agreement. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

Former US ambassador to Poland, Stephen Mull has been tapped by Secretary of State John Kerry as the lead in US efforts to implement the Iran nuclear accord; Mull will be charged with ensuring that Iran and other parties comply with the terms of the agreement. [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz]

Nuclear security experts have urged the IAEA to release confidential details of how Parchin nuclear site will be inspected under the accord, suggesting that the nuclear watchdog’s failure to disclose was damaging to its credibility. [Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau and John Irish]

Iran released five senior members of al-Qaeda earlier this year as part of a prisoner swap in March with AQAP in Yemen, the group holding Iranian diplomat, Nour Ahmad Nikbakht, who was kidnapped in Sana’a in 2013. [New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi and Eric Schmitt]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

The US has sent home a long-cleared Moroccan prisoner from Guantánamo Bay, the Pentagon said yesterday. Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri was returned to Morocco after almost 14 years at the detention facility at the US Naval base in Cuba. [AP]

The last remaining Kuwaiti prisoner has been cleared for release to a mental health facility in his home country, a national security parole board has decided. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israel has heightened security measures around the Old City of Jerusalem today, following calls for a “day of rage” from Palestinian leaders in protest of Israel’s response to tensions around the al-Aqsa mosque compound. [Reuters]

An Iron Dome battery was deployed in Ashdod yesterday in response to an assessment carried out by the IDF. [Haaretz]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Pakistani Taliban fighters attacked an air base near Peshawar this morning, resulting in a firefight with security forces that killed at least 16 people, the Pakistani army has said. [Al Jazeera]  The attackers stormed a mosque inside the compound, opening fire on worshippers during prayers. [AP]

Egypt has banned news coverage relating to last weekend’s attack by security forces on a group of tourists and guides that killed 12 people. [New York Times’ Jared Malsin]

Hillary Clinton’s personal attorney, David Kendall rejected the first State Department effort to erase newly classified emails from a thumb drive turned over to the agency, citing promises made to the House Benghazi committee to preserve copies of Clinton’s work related emails, newly released correspondence reveals. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the coup d’état in Burkina Faso and called for the immediate release of the country’s transitional leaders. [UN News Centre]  The coup was allegedly led by allies of the country’s longtime leader, who was removed from power in October. [New York Times’ Hervé Taoko]

Army Sgt Bowe Bergdahl was suffering from a severe mental defect or disease when he left his base in Afghanistan, according to one of his attorneys, citing the conclusions of a board of psychiatrists during a preliminary hearing at which an Army officer will consider whether to court martial Bergdahl. [Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe]

Senior UN officials expressed outrage at allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between 2002 and 2011 by parties to the Sri Lankan conflict. The response follows the release of a UN human rights office report on the conflict in which the creation of a special court was recommended. [UN News Centre; OHCHR]  The New York Times editorial board agrees with the human rights council proposal, saying that it is the “only way to ensure that those who committed war crimes are held accountable and victims get justice.”

China is “extremely concerned” about a suggestion from a US commander that American ships and aircraft could patrol close to artificial islands built in the South China Sea, challenging China’s claims to the area. [Reuters]

Unrest provoked by Boko Haram has resulted in the displacement of 1.4 million children over the past five months, according to a new report from UNICEF. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]  And a small team of US Special Operations Forces are assisting Niger to quietly build a wall against Boko Haram incursions, reports Warren Strobel. [Reuters]

President Obama hosted three Americans who foiled a terrorist attack during a train journey en route to Paris last month; the president commended them for their “selfless actions and extraordinary bravery.” [New York Times’ Helene Cooper] 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security