News Roundup and Notes: September 23, 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

Turkish jets targeted Kurdish positions in northern Iraq late yesterday, hitting a facility being used as an “education and logistics” hub by PKK militants. [Reuters]

A senior ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Turkmani was killed by a coalition airstrike two weeks ago in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said yesterday. [New York Times’ Helene Cooper]

Retired Marine Gen John R Allen will resign later this fall as the Obama administration’s envoy to the international coalition against the Islamic State, US officials say. [Defense One’s Kevin Baron]

Former CIA director David Petraeus called for a stronger US military effort in Syria, during testimony before a Senate committee yesterday, accusing the Obama administration of failing to build sufficient military leverage against Assad to bring about a political solution to the conflict. [New York Times]

Russia appears to have developed two additional bases at Syrian military facilities close to the Mediterranean coast, the latest expansion of its military presence in that country. [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum and Carol E. Lee]

Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia’s increased military support of the Assad regime risks confrontation with coalition forces battling the Islamic State in Syria. [Reuters]

The commander of one of the US-trained Syrian rebels groups may have defected to al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, reports Michael Weiss. Officials at the Pentagon, Central Command and the State Department all said they were unaware of defections among Division 30. [The Daily Beast]

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has praised the progress made by the panel charged with establishing a mechanism to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. [UN News Centre]

Russia’s involvement in Syria is about “power projection,” and establishing its own long-term role in the Middle East, not about assisting Assad to the win the war, suggest Jeffrey Mankoff and Andrew Bowen, at Foreign Policy.

“In Syria, where there often seem to be only bad options, helping the Syrian Kurds fight the Islamic State should be a no-brainer.” David Ignatius discusses White House “dithering,” at the Washington Post.

“With more people fleeing conflict and disaster than at any time since World War II, renewed leadership is required.” Head of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, suggests how the US can welcome refugees, in an op-ed at the New York Times.

YEMEN

Yemen’s exiled President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi has returned to his war-stricken country, according to a statement from his government; the leader was forced to leave six months ago. [New York Times’ Shuaib Almosawa and Kareem Fahim]

President Hadi arrived in the port city of Aden, and said that his return to Sana’a “will be soon after liberating all of Yemen’s cities and provinces from the coup militia,” the Saudi Press Agency reported. [Wall Street Journal’s Mohammed Al-Kibsi and Asa Fitch]

“What made Awlaki such a compelling figure for so many extremists? He was charismatic and glib, but the key was his fluent English.” Max Boot discusses AQAP and the prominence it gained from the late Anwar al-Awlaki. [Wall Street Journal]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

A Saudi detainee and longtime hunger striker has been released by the military. Never charged with a crime, Abdul Rahman Shalabi was brought to Camp X-Ray the day it opened as a suspected bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Detainee Abd al Hadi has fired his two Pentagon-appointed lawyers, bringing to a halt the one war-court case that had appeared to be progressing toward trial. Hadi is accused of commanding al-Qaeda’s troops in Afghanistan that carried out war crimes following the US invasion in 2001. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

US-CHINA RELATIONS

China has committed to engaging in “high-level joint dialogue” with the US on tackling cybercrime. Chinese President Xi Jingping called for a “new model of major country relationship” between the two states, during a keynote address in Seattle yesterday on the first day of a week-long US visit. [Al Jazeera; New York Times’ Jane Perlez]

President Obama will meet with the Chinese leader at the White House on Friday, on a visit which is hoped to ease tensions between the two nations. [The Hill’s Vicki Needham]

The Obama administration is urging US companies to speak out about the challenges of operating in China, paving the way for potentially uncomfortable meetings for China’s president as he visits the United States. [Wall Street Journal’s Gillian Wong and William Mauldin]

China is putting pressure on American tech companies to comply with strong encryption and surveillance policies if they want to break into the market there, reports Jenna McLaughlin at The Intercept.

“Xi Jingping’s US Visit.” Jane Perlez will be following the Chinese president’s first state visit to the United States, at the New York Times.

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CONTROVERSY

The FBI has recovered emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server that she said had been deleted, according to two government officials. The FBI is investigating how classified information was dealt with in connection to the account. [Bloomberg News’ Del Quentin Wilber; New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt]

Previously undisclosed State Department emails pertaining to Benghazi were disclosed in a federal court filing in a FOIA lawsuit brought by Citizens United. Most of the documents appear to have been withheld from the House Benghazi Committee investigating the 2012 attack, report Josh Gerstein and Rachael Bade. [Politico]

A federal judge has complained about the slow progress of the Obama administration in handing over documents from top aides to Clinton, saying that “there has to be some reallocation of resources” in such an “atypical” case. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned of a “new Intifada,” as violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians continue in occupied East Jerusalem. [Al Jazeera]

A Palestinian woman was shot and killed by Israeli security forces at a checkpoint in Hebron in the West Bank yesterday, the latest incident amid heightened tensions in the region ahead of Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha. [New York Times’ Diaa Hadid]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Wall Street Journal editorial board criticizes the IAEA for its acceptance of Tehran’s self-inspection of Parchin nuclear site, saying that the “authenticity” and “integrity” of samples are not “decisive issues,” but rather whether “they provide a complete picture of Iran’s previous nuclear work.”

“The Pentagon’s indulgent, even complicit attitude toward pedophiles among the Afghan militias that it funded and trained is indefensible,” according to the New York Times editorial board, adding that the legal obligations on the US to investigate and prosecute violations of the laws of war under its jurisdiction are clear.

Calls for assistance from the Libyan people are gaining in volume, as frustrations with the limited progress in achieving a diplomatic solution to the political crisis become more pronounced. Carlotta Gall provides the details. [New York Times]

The UN Security Council “risks irrelevance” if it does not reform and adapt to the changing world, former secretary general Kofi Annan said in an interview with the Guardian, adding that the situation in Syria is a “rather tragic and unique one,” reports Harriet Grant.

Leaders of several West African nations called for the reinstatement of Burkina Faso’s interim president, who was overthrown in a coup last week; leaders will travel to the country today in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. [New York Times’ Hervé Taoko]

An Islamist group in Bangladesh has released a hitlist of secular activists, writers and bloggers around the world, including nine UK bloggers and two in the US. [The Guardian’s Jason Burke]

The UN is intensifying its investigation into alleged human rights abuses in North Korea, opening an office in Seoul tasked with “prodding” the North into closing a network of prisons that are claimed to be holding thousands of political prisoners. [Wall Street Journal’s Alastair Gale] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security