News Roundup and Notes: September 29, 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 Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin “presented starkly different views” on the Syrian crisis and how to bring about stability in the Middle East during their respective addresses before the UN General Assembly yesterday. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and Gardiner Harris]  President Obama’s full remarks can be read here.

President Obama reiterated the core demand that Bashar al-Assad step down from power in Syria, while President Putin defended his government’s support of the Assad regime. The clear differences between the two spell out “the likelihood of a marked shift in the race for influence,” report Carol E. Lee and Farnaz Fassihi. [Wall Street Journal]

During a 90-minute meeting between Obama and Putin yesterday, the leaders agreed that their militaries should coordinate to avoid coming into conflict in Syria. Following the meeting, Putin said that there “is [an] opportunity to work on joint problems together.” [Reuters]

Russia is considering launching airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, the leader commenting after his meeting with President Obama. [BBC]

French President François Hollande strongly voiced opposition to the inclusion of Assad in any solution to the Syrian conflict, adding that his country would “shoulder its responsibilities” in international efforts to end the war, during his address. [France 24; New York Times’ Russell Goldman]  French public opinion has been polled to show wide support for the use of French ground troops to battle ISIS in Syria, reports John Vinocur. [Wall Street Journal]

Obama’s strategy is becoming clear, “[w]e’ll leave Syria and Iraq to the Russians and the Iranians,” opines David Rothkopf, highlighting that there is “no political will in the United States to get more involved,” at Foreign Policy.

The Washington Post editorial board argues that both President Obama and President Putin are wrong on the Syria situation, concluding that while Obama’s vision was “morally preferable” and “more realistic” than Putin’s, he nonetheless fails to back it up with any strategy.

Four UK citizens are to be subjected to UN sanctions, for their roles fighting or recruiting for Islamic State militants in Syria. The four will face a travel ban and a freeze of their assets. [BBC]

“Inside the ISIS blueprint for winning.” William McCants at The Daily Beast provides the details.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Intercommunal clashes in Bangui, Central African Republic, have left around 30 people dead and over 100 injured over three days. The country’s interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, left the UN General Assembly early yesterday, returning to deal with the security situation. [Reuters]

Protesters reportedly “tangle[d]” with UN peacekeepers in the city yesterday; it is unclear whether anyone was killed during the demonstrations which took place to protest the peacekeepers’ presence in the country. [Wall Street Journal’s Emmanuel Tumanjong]

The clashes were sparked by the murder of a Muslim man, leading to reprisals by Muslims on a Christian community, and attacks by armed gangs on the civilian population. [The Guardian]

Over 500 inmates escaped from the city’s prison yesterday, officials said, including at least 60 high-level convicts. [AP]

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council called for an immediate end to the violence, reiterating the importance of the political process in the country. [UN News Centre]

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY

President Obama rallied global support from over 50 nations at the UN, announcing that the US would bolster its contributions to UN peacekeeping forces internationally along with increased support amounting to around 40,000 new soldiers and police officers from member states. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta; Wall Street Journal’s Joe Lauria]

Speaking on the summit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the “demand for peacekeeping has never been greater.” [UN News Centre]

“UN peacekeeping, by its very nature, is always in crisis.” James Traub considers whether the latest round of contributions to the UN’s blue helmets is enough to “tamp the flames of war,” at Foreign Policy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin decried “a world in which egotism reigns supreme,” during his speech before the UN General Assembly yesterday, calling on western states to recognize the hand they have played in international crises, adopting the tone of a “wise elder,” suggests Shaun Walker. [The Guardian]

“The greatest political show on earth.” Julian Borger looks at the upcoming week at the international forum in New York, concluding that the “drama will be greater than ever this year,” as the General Assembly celebrates its 70th birthday. [The Guardian]

AFGHANISTAN 

Taliban insurgents have seized the Afghan city of Kunduz; the city is a strategically important transport hub and the capture signifies the largest Taliban victory since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted them from power. [BBC]

The Afghan military has launched a counteroffensive to reclaim the city. [Al Jazeera]

US and NATO forces carried out an airstrike on Kunduz today, “in order to eliminate a threat to the force,” according to US Army Col Brian Tribus, spokesman for the US and NATO missions in the country. [AP]

IRAN 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani gave his address to the UN General Assembly yesterday. The speech was largely optimistic, expressing hope that the nuclear agreement is “not the final objective” but the “basis for further achievements to come,” reports Rick Gladstone. [New York Times]

Rouhani’s “conciliatory” tone conflicts with recent statements from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has refused to engage in talks with the US outside of the nuclear deal, writes John Hudson. [Foreign Policy] 

Negotiating parties to the Iran nuclear agreement met yesterday to discuss the implementation of the deal; EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expressed hope that the process could be completed by early 2016. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman] 

The IAEA should be open about side deals with Tehran over the inspection of its nuclear sites, Sen Tom Cotton and Rep Mike Pompeo wrote in a letter to head of the nuclear watchdog, Yukiya Amano. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes targeted a wedding party in Wahija, Yemen yesterday, killing over 130 people. The incident, which is one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in Yemen’s civil war, was condemned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. [Reuters]

A federal appeals court will reconsider the conspiracy case against Ali Hamza al Bahlul; the decision set aside the only remaining conviction against the Guantánamo Bay detainee, ruling that it was legally flawed on the basis that conspiracy is not a war crime. [AP] 

Plotters behind a recent coup in Burkina Faso have refused to give up their weapons, threatening a political deal negotiated by West African leaders last week. [New York Times’ Hervé Taoko]

A senior Saudi prince is calling for a change to the country’s leadership, an unprecedented move sparked by mounting challenges facing the kingdom including war, plummeting oil prices and international censure over its management of Mecca. [The Guardian’s Hugh Miles]

The House Select Committee on Benghazi is taking testimony yesterday and today from two ex-defense and intelligence officials over the 2012 Libya attack, reports Rachael Bade. [Politico]

NATO has “not yet fully communicated to the Kremlin that it should back off,” opine Radek Sikorski and Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, arguing that the Warsaw summit is an opportunity for the bloc to increase its efforts and send a clear message to Moscow. [Wall Street Journal]

An Italian national was shot dead in Dhaka, Bangladesh yesterday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. If verified, the attack is the first by the militant group in the south Asian nation. [The Guardian’s Jason Burke] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security