News Roundup and Notes: September 30, 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 urged members of the coalition against the Islamic State to stay firm in the campaign, as Russian military buildup in Syria looks to bolster the regime of Bashar al-Assad, speaking at a summit of the anti-ISIS coalition. [Al Jazeera]  President Obama’s approach to tackling the Islamic State was largely seen as “futile” by world leaders, who had “little enthusiasm” for the political changes he called for, report Gardiner Harris and Eric Schmitt. [New York Times]

France called on Moscow to match its words with deeds in the fight against ISIS in Syria, as Russian President Putin called for a new anti-Islamic State coalition. [Reuters’ John Irish and Denis Dyomkin]

Leader Arab states ruled out cooperating with a Russian military alliance in Syria, saying that it is impossible for them to support any coalition which does not seek the removal of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon et al]  Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister spoke out saying there “is no future for Assad in Syria.” [The Guardian’s Julian Borger]

Secretary of State John Kerry seems “willing to go anywhere, anytime, and meet with anyone in pursuit of a resolution,” reports Peter Baker, commenting on Kerry’s ongoing efforts to find a solution to the Syrian conflict. [New York Times]

The Pentagon will open “lines of communication” with Moscow to deconflict the two nations’ air campaigns in Syria. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

The upper chamber of Russia’s parliament today voted unanimously to allow Russian troops to be sent to Syria, the Kremlin playing down the decision by emphasizing it would only use air force not ground troops. [AP]

The New York Times editorial board comments that President Obama and President Putin have “profound differences” in how they believe the Syria crisis should be handled.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board suggests that the “Putin-Tehran goal in Syria is part of a strategy to build an arc of influence that extends from Western Afghanistan though the Eastern Meditteranean.”

“Behind closed doors” Obama and Putin are not in as stark disagreement on Syria as it appears, and the “two presidents are today in more alignment than they have been in years” on how to tackle the crisis, argues Michael Hirsh. [Politico] 

The US should not pass the responsibility for the Syrian crisis onto Russia, opines David Ignatius, calling that avenue of action a “significant mistake.” [Washington Post]

“Syria crisis: where do the major countries stand,” from Ian Black at the Guardian.

Besieged residents of three Syrian communities are preparing to evacuate, following truces between the Syrian government and rebels they are fighting against. [Wall Street Journal’s Raja Abdulrahim and Dana Ballout]

Sixteen Turkish construction workers kidnapped in Baghdad earlier this month have been released, according to the Turkish prime minister and Iraqi officials. A previously unknown militant group was responsible. [AP]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces conducted five airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Sept. 28. Separately, military forces carried out a further 12 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan lawmakers demanded President Ashraf Ghani resign today over his “shameful” handling of the situation in Kunduz. [Reuters]

The Afghan military has failed to retake Kunduz from Taliban insurgents who captured the city on Monday. The Taliban are widening their offensive, including a push to take the airport early this morning. [The Guardian’s Sune Engel Rasmussen]

The UN human rights chief has called for the protection of civilians in the wake of the Taliban’s recapture of Kunduz, urging all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. [UN News Centre] 

The Wall Street Journal editorial board opines that the retaking of Kunduz is a “military setback that should alarm Washington more than it is,” concluding that President Obama should reconsider the retreat from Afghanistan “if he wants to avoid another American humiliation before he leaves office.”

YEMEN

The Saudi-led coalition has seized weapons bound for Houthi rebels in Yemen from an Iranian boat in the Arabian Sea. [Reuters]

Saudi Arabia and its allies face mounting international pressure to stop the aerial campaign in Yemen in the wake of an airstrike on a wedding party which killed scores of civilians on Monday, reports Kareem Fahim. [New York Times]  And Fahim answers questions about the conflict in Yemen and its civilian toll, at the New York Times.

Yemen’s President Mansour Hadi accused Iran of supporting what he called a “military and political coup d’état” by Shi’ite Houthi rebels, suggesting Tehran wants to see the destruction of Yemen, during his address to the UN General Assembly. [Wall Street Journal]  The country’s exiled leader decried the conflict’s civilian toll, and commended the response of allies like Saudi Arabia. [UN News Centre]

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Clashes in recent days in Bangui that left at least 37 people dead raise concerns of a return to the sectarian violence that has gripped the country over the last two years; Nick Cumming-Bruce provides the details. [New York Times]

US Special Operations forces are turning to “some unsavoury” partners in the hunt for the African warlord Joseph Kony, including Muslim rebels in the Central African Republic who toppled the central government two years ago and sparked the sectarian violence still rife in the country. [Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock and Thomas Gibbons-Neff]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Saudi Arabia has been dismissed as a defendant in lawsuits brought by victims’ families of the 9/11 attacks. The federal judge found that the allegations were insufficient to provide the court with a “basis to assert jurisdiction over defendants.” [Al Jazeera]

President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro met at the UN yesterday, their second meeting in six months. [New York Times’ Gardiner Harris]

Edward Snowden is on Twitter, @snowden. The NSA whistleblower will be controlling the account himself. [The Intercept’s Dan Froomkin]  And NPR considers the impact Snowden’s Twitter presence might have on the presidential race, quoting Just Security’s own Steve Vladeck, who noted that while “Snowden started this conversation [on domestic surveillance.] I don’t think he’s the best conduit for this conversation.”

The UK and Saudi Arabia carried out secret vote-trading deals to ensure that both nations were elected onto the UN human rights council, leaked diplomatic cables reveal. [The Guardian’s Owen Bowcott]

A defense policy bill maintains the restrictions currently imposed on transferring prisoners from Guantánamo Bay detention facility, and calls on the Obama administration to send Congress a plan for how it intends to house prisoners now and in the future. [AP’s Deb Riechmann]

The Senate Judiciary Committee leaders are pushing the government to extend its commitment to obtaining a warrant before using controversial “StringRay” spying devices. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

The International Criminal Court opened the trial of former Congolese vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba and four of his associates yesterday. They are charged with tampering with witnesses, coercing them into testifying in Bemba’s favor during his war crimes trial. [New York Times’ Marlise Simons]

“Al Faqi is just a little fish. But in Mali it is the little fish who are caught.” Fatouma Harber argues that the International Criminal Court has the “wrong man” on trial over the invasion of Timbuktu, while “those who instigated terror” against the population have gone free, at the Guardian.

The Burkina Faso military quelled the last of a failed coup against the country’s government yesterday, storming the headquarters of the elite unit responsible for the coup. [New York Times’ Hervé Taoko]

President Obama’s “multilateralist vision ran into the harsh reality of world events” this week at the UN General assembly, writes Juliet Eilperin, adding that at each UN stop, “the president’s words and gestures reflected his determination to change the old calculus.” [Washington Post]

“US leaders aren’t convinced that council reform is in the national interest.” David Bosco discusses America’s “lethargy” in reforming the UN Security Council, concluding that the US “has an awfully good deal on the Security Council,” at Foreign Policy. 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security