News Roundup and Notes: September 25, 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

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet. The leaders will meet next week in New York, amid escalating tensions over Moscow’s involvement in Syria, and US hopes that a diplomatic solution to the conflict might be reached. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee]  White House press secretary Josh Earnest went to great length to emphasize that President Putin had pushed for the meeting, not the other way around, highlighting the delicacies of the situation, write Peter Baker and Michael R. Gordon. [New York Times]

The White House and the Kremlin are in disagreement over the priority for the talks between the leaders, with the White House emphasizing eastern Ukraine and the Kremlin the situation in Syria. [Reuters’ Roberta Rampton and Denis Dyomkin]  Tom McCarthy and Alec Luhn further discuss the miscommunications between the US and Russia ahead of the meeting, at the Guardian.

Iran has reportedly rejected White House openness to talks between President Hassan Rouhani and President Obama, despite Tehran playing a key role in any Syria resolution, report Carol E. Lee et al. [Wall Street Journal]

The US will refuse to discuss a Russian draft statement that Moscow had hoped the UN Security Council would approve, an effort to bolster its position on the Syrian conflict ahead of the General Assembly next week. [Al Jazeera]

The Economist asks “why is Russia doing this just now?” exploring the various explanations and multiple “parts to the answer.”

Yazda International and Free Yazidi Foundation are calling on the ICC to investigate allegations of genocide committed by ISIS against the Yazidi community in Iraq. Members of the group, backed by the Kurdish regional government, met with ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, presenting their new report on the subject. [VICE News’ Rachel Browne]

ISIS’s social media presence has diminished since the death of a top recruiter in a recent drone strike, US intelligence officials say. [NBC News’ Richard Esposito]

YEMEN

Saudi Arabia is pushing against efforts in the UN Human Rights Council for an international inquiry into the conduct of parties to the Yemeni conflict. A Dutch resolution to the council calls for the high commissioner for human rights to send a mission to Yemen. [New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce]  Amnesty International added its voice today, calling for an investigation into violations of international humanitarian law on all sides to the war. [Reuters]

The Yemeni branch of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for an attack Thursday on a Houthi controlled, Shi’ite mosque in Sana’a that killed 26 people. [Wall Street Journal’s Mohammed Al-Kibsi and Asa Fitch] 

“Six months into this war the situation is not quite a stalemate but both sides do appear increasingly entrenched.” Frank Gardner analyzes “one of the most under-reported” conflicts of recent times, for the BBC. 

SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY and PRIVACY 

Privacy activists announced the launch of a campaign to push for a global treaty against mass government surveillance, at an event in New York yesterday. Appearing through video link, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden discussed the draft treaty bearing his name. [The Intercept’s Murtaza Hussain; VICE News’ Samuel Oakford]

NSA Director Adm Michael Rogers emphasized the need for bulk collection during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, saying that ending the practice would “significantly reduce […] operational capabilities.” [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

“We don’t actually know what was actually exfiltrated.” James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, conceded that the US government still does not know what was stolen in the OPM hack, during an appearance at Georgetown University. [Foreign Policy’s Elias Groll]

“Industrial control systems” that support data centers pose a hacking risk as they can open a back door to breaches, writes Robert McMillan. [Wall Street Journal]

UKRAINE and RUSSIA

UN agencies have been ordered out of parts of eastern Ukraine by Luhansk based Russian-backed separatists. [BBC]  The UN’s top humanitarian official has expressed alarm at the reports, calling for all parties as well as those “with influence over [them]” to ensure the resumption of humanitarian efforts in the region. [UN News Centre]

Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak at the UN General Assembly on Monday, the leader’s first appearance there for a decade. His appearance is said to be an effort to show he will not be isolated from the international community, reports Andrew Roth. [Washington Post]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israel’s security cabinet approved a series of measures yesterday aimed at cracking down on violent protests by Palestinians in Jerusalem, including greater power for security forces to open fire. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner; Wall Street Journal’s Joel Greenberg]

The Shin Bet security services will not be required to record footage of its interrogations, contrary to the recommendations of a 2013 committee. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]

AFGHANISTAN 

Officials are reviewing new drawdown options for Afghanistan, skeptical of White House plans to scale back military presence in the country. The recommendations include keeping thousands of American troops stationed there past 2016, according to officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold]

“The very strange case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.” Wade Goodwyn discusses the facts surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance from his base in 2009, at NPR.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

An email relating to Libya is being examined by the FBI “as it tries to determine whether aides to Mrs Clinton mishandled delicate national security information when they communicated with their boss,” report Eric Lipton and Michael S. Schmidt, discussing the ongoing controversy relating to the former secretary of state’s private email server. [New York Times]

China’s President Xi Jinping arrived in Washington DC yesterday afternoon for his first official state visit. The leaders will have a series of meetings and a joint press conference today, culminating in an official state dinner tonight. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

A parole board has cleared another Guantánamo “forever prisoner” for release; Saudi national Mohammed Shimrani was once suspected of being a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. The decision means that 53 of the 114 detainees at the US Naval base in Cuba are cleared for release. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

President Obama is expected to cross paths with Cuban President Raúl Castro at the UN General Assembly next week in New York, the White House said yesterday. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security