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 US has begun military talks with Russia, the Obama administration reaching out to Moscow on Friday to consider a deconfliction strategy to avoid accidental escalation between the two in Syria. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon] The Wall Street Journal editorial board opines that in seeking out diplomatic common ground with Moscow, President Obama is being “taken to school” by Russian President Putin.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin today in Moscow to discuss the increased Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war. [Wall Street Journal’s Joel Greenberg]
Opposition rebels say Russian intervention will lead to an escalation in the conflict and may result in the rebels’ Gulf Arab supporters increasing military aid. [Reuters]
A temporary ceasefire has started between pro-Syrian government and opposition forces in four towns, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A similar truce last month in the same four towns did not hold. [Al Jazeera]
Intelligence analysts suggested that the killing of certain ISIS leaders would not assist in damaging the group and that airstrikes may not be working; Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef detail the intelligence which was manipulated by senior officials. [The Daily Beast]
The US will increase its refugee intake to 100,000 annually by 2017, Secretary of State John Kerry said following talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier yesterday. The number currently stands at roughly 70,000 annually; the increase is to include at least 10,000 Syrians. [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz and Anton Troianovski]
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged the US to accept up to 65,000 Syrian refugees, starting immediately to implement vetting processes for those taken in. [The Hill’s Bradford Richardson] Commenting on Clinton’s statement, Republican candidate Rand Paul suggested that the former secretary of state bears some of the responsibility for the refugee crisis due to her policy of supplying arms to Syrian rebels, on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
The US should provide Jordan with American military drones, argues Duncan D. Hunter, saying that why the Obama administration has refused is a “puzzle.” [Wall Street Journal]
Defectors from ISIS are facing reprisals and imprisonment for speaking out about their feelings toward the militant group, according to a new report from the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London. [New York Times’ Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura]
The four questions the UK needs to answer before bombing the Islamic State or Assad, from Paul Mason at the Guardian.
The head of the IAEA has visited Iran’s Parchin military site; Yukiya Amano arrived in the country yesterday and also met with President Hassan Rouhani as he began his visit. [BBC]
Iranian nuclear inspectors have taken samples from Parchin without inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog being present, a spokesman from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said today. [Reuters]
Tehran and Washington “have taken the first steps” toward easing enmity between themselves, President Rouhani said in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” in which he described the nuclear accord as the “right path.” Rouhani also commented on the chant “Death to America,” saying that the slogan is not against American people but US policies “against the national interests of Iranian people.”
Presidential candidate John Kasich pushed for Senate Republicans to invoke the “nuclear option” to stop Democrats’ attempts to filibuster the GOP bill to reject the Iran deal, in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” [The Hill’s Timothy Cama]
The Obama administration is in talks with the Vatican about how Pope Francis could assist in freeing three Americans detained in Iran. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced a new publication, the Line of Hezbollah, a platform giving Khamenei’s supporters direct access to his revolutionary message, reports the Guardian.
Houthi rebels have released six foreigners held captive since earlier this year, including three Americans, two Saudis and a UK national. Oman was responsible for negotiating their release; their identities have not been revealed. [AP] The rebels continue to hold a third US citizen, an American Muslim convert, for unknown reasons. [Washington Post’s Adam Goldman]
The Saudi-led coalition escalated its air campaign against Houthi rebels, eight strikes targeting a school in Sana’a yesterday. Ground troops are said to be preparing for an expected offensive toward the city. [Wall Street Journal’s Mohammed Al-Kibsi and Asa Fitch]
The Yemen conflict is “imploding” the “precious link” that Guantánamo Bay detainees maintain with family members in the country; some sixty percent of remaining prisoners are Yemeni. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not announce the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority or the cancellation of the Oslo accords during an upcoming speech at the UN General Assembly, allaying concerns. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]
Israel has developed an “unhealthy overreliance” on its relationship with the US and “needs new friends,” opines Shmuel Rosner. [New York Times]
Former President George W. Bush tried to retroactively authorize elements of the NSA’s post-9/11 surveillance and data collection program, according to newly declassified portions of a government investigation. Charlie Savage provides the story. [New York Times]
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg will visit Ukraine today, his first visit to the country during which he will attempt to express the bloc’s support of Kiev while trying not to rile Moscow, reports Robin Emmott. [Reuters]
The US military maintained a policy of non-intervention in Afghanistan over the sexual abuse of boys by allied Afghan security forces, Joseph Goldstein reports. [New York Times]
“When is assassination not assassination.” Nick Turse discusses the Obama’s administration’s use of the phrase “targeted killing” in its place, encouraging the news media to avoid the language and justifications relied upon by government, at the Intercept.
The New York Times editorial board proposes “how to close Guantánamo,” arguing that “it is long past time for this nonsense to end” and for an acceleration in momentum to bring it to an end.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was “disillusioned and self-deluded” when he deserted his base in Afghanistan, a preliminary hearing heard late last week, reports Dan Lamothe. [Washington Post]
Leaders of the coup in Burkina Faso have released the country’s interim president who they had detained along with the prime minister and ministers. [France 24] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the release, calling for the immediate release of all those remaining in detention. [UN News Centre]
A conflict is simmering in Washington over the opening of all combat units to women, with the Marine Corps pitted against its own service secretary, report Kristina Wong and Rebecca Kheel offering further details. [The Hill]