News Roundup and Notes: October 2, 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

Russia conducted a new wave of airstrikes overnight in northwestern and western Syria, a Syrian source said. Despite claims to the contrary, many of the strikes took place in areas where the Islamic State has little or no presence. [Reuters]

The camp of a Syrian opposition group trained by the CIA in northern Idlib province was reportedly one of the targets hit by Russian airstrikes. Moscow has admitted to targeting groups other than ISIS in Syria. [The Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen et al] The US has admitted that there is little it can do to stop Russia targeting rebels the CIA has trained. [The Daily Beast’s Nancy A. Youssef et al]

The majority of Russia’s attacks on Hama and Idlib hit civilian targets, according to activists on the ground. Moscow denies this. [Al Jazeera]

Russia has estimated that its aerial campaign in Syria will last three to four months and strikes will intensify, according to the head of the lower house of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee. [Reuters]

Members of the US-led coalition against ISIS urged Russia to halt air strikes in a joint statement released today, saying that Moscow’s involvement would “only fuel more extremism.” [BBC]

Defense officials from the US and Russia held a one-hour video conference yesterday, during which there was little agreement on the nature of Russian targets in Syria. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

Hundreds of Iranian service members have joined a major offensive in support of the Assad regime in Syria, Lebanese sources reported yesterday. [Reuters’ Laila Bassam and Andrew Osborn]

The Economist argues that both “Kunduz and Russia’s bombing are symptoms of the same phenomenon: the vacuum created by Barack Obama’s attempt to stand back from the wars of the Muslim world.”

What is Putin hoping to achieve in Syria? Some of “America’s best-informed Kremlinologists” consider the various angles to the situation, at Politico Magazine.

“[H]istory suggests that it will be hard for Russia to bring about a purely military resolution,” write Anne Bernard and Neil MacFarquhar, adding that in order for Moscow to restore Assad to full control in Syria, “Russia will have to accomplish what no other outside power has dared attempt.” [New York Times] 

“ISIS is not invincible.” Max Boot and Michael Pregent suggest how President Obama could “salvage his hapless ISIS strategy,” at the Wall Street Journal.

AFGHANISTAN 

A US cargo plane crashed while taking off from an airfield in eastern Afghanistan early today local time, leaving at least 11 people dead including six US service members. [AP] The Pentagon said the incident is under investigation. [New York Times]

The Taliban has today claimed that it shot down the C-130 military transport plane, though this could not be confirmed. The insurgent group are known for making exaggerated battlefield claims. [AFP]

Taliban insurgents were holding out in Kunduz against Afghan security forces today, after the country’s military recaptured most of the city from the group yesterday. [Reuters]

The Taliban is expanding its offensive to other northern provinces following the loss of Kunduz from Afghan and NATO troops; Al Jazeera reports that the insurgents had captured at least one district in each of three provinces.

“Afghanistan is on a regressive path,” opines Ershad Ahmadi, proposing a number of steps which the national unity government could take to “correct the course.” [New York Times] 

ISRAEL and PALESTINE 

An Israeli couple were shot dead by Palestinians in the West Bank yesterday while driving with their four children, Israeli sources say. [Wall Street Journal’s Rory Jones and Nancy Shekter-Porat] Their deaths are “the latest incident in a relatively long period of escalation” for which there appears to be no quick solution, suggests Amos Harel. [Haaretz] 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s UN address attacked the nuclear accord with Iran, saying that Israel would never allow Iran “to break in, to sneak in, or to walk into the nuclear weapons club.” [Reuters] 

The New York Times editorial board says of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s UN address that “bombshell or not, it is not a speech to be lightly dismissed.” 

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Russian, Ukrainian, French and German leaders will meet in Paris to discuss how to bring about peace to eastern Ukraine today, a “long-awaited summit” now overshadowed my Moscow’s military intervention in Syria. [AP] 

Comments by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that the House Benghazi Committee was an effort to negatively impact Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers may constitute a “watershed” moment for the committee according to Clinton’s campaign team. [The Hill’s Amie Parnes] And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has threatened to halt Democratic participation in the committee in the wake of McCarthy’s comments. [The Hill’s Mike Lillis]

The leader of a recent coup in Burkina Faso has been taken into custody by the country’s security forces, sources report. [BBC]

The UN General Assembly began a two-day debate yesterday to reflect upon peace and security efforts and to take stock of current challenges facing the international community, as part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the UN. [UN News Centre]

OPM has begun sending out notification letters to the 21.5 million individuals whose information was stolen during the security breach. The letter will indicate whether a person was one of the 5.6 million who had their fingerprint data compromised. [The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]

Lawmakers from both sides “appear to share an extreme reluctance” to openly criticize human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia, suggests Lee Fang at The Intercept.

Spam messages received on Hillary Clinton’s private email server were mostly deleted at her direction, making it “virtually impossible” for anyone but the FBI to establish how many virus-bearing messages were received on it. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein and Joseph Marks] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security