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
Syria’s army has extended a major offensive to reclaim territory in the west of the country today, supported by Russian air strikes and cruise missiles. [Reuters’ Sylvia Westall and Tom Perry]
The US has ruled out strategic cooperation with Russia in the Middle East and has drawn attention to the buildup of Russian ground troops along with heavy weaponry in Syria. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes at al] The refusal was paired with a semantic change, Defense Secretary Ash Carter using the phrase “basic technical discussions” in place of the term “deconfliction” used earlier to describe US-Russian relations in Syria, reports Helene Cooper. [New York Times]
Over 90% of Russian airstrikes so far in Syria have not targeted the Islamic State group or al-Qaeda linked jihadists, the State Department said yesterday. [AFP]
NATO will consider the “troubling escalation of Russian military activities” in Syria, the bloc’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of talks in Brussels. [BBC] Stoltenberg also said that NATO is prepared to send troops to defend Turkey following violations of its airspace by Russian aircraft. [Reuters]
NATO ought to put more pressure on Russia to use its influence to stop the Assad regime targeting civilians, UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Winning]
Russian intervention in Syria may force Obama’s hand on the war there, pushing him to either act or yield. Karen DeYoung provides the details at the Washington Post.
Russia’s involvement in Syria demonstrates the success of the US policy there, according to the US special envoy to Syria, comments which “shocked” the Syrian-American advocates he was speaking to on Monday. [The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak and Nancy A. Youssef]
Lawmakers have begun looking into possible intelligence lapses over Russia’s intervention in Syria amid concerns that US spy agencies were slow to comprehend the extent of Moscow’s military offensive there, congressional sources say. [Reuters’ Mark Hosenball et al]
Iraqi security forces have retaken a number of areas to the north and west of Ramadi from the Islamic State, as the operation to reclaim the Anbar provincial capital gained in intensity. [Al Jazeera]
A network of Muslim religious leaders has launched an online magazine to counter the “poisonous” propaganda pushed by the Islamic State. [The Guardian’s Alexandra Topping]
Yazidi Iraqis feel abandoned by Washington and the international community, one of two Yazidi members of the Iraqi parliament, Vian Dakhil explained in an interview with Politico. [Politico’s Eliza Collins]
Video footage purporting to show Russian cruise missile strikes on Syria is available here.
President Putin is playing the same strategy as in Ukraine, keeping the West guessing about his intentions in Syria, report James Marson and Nathan Hodge. [Wall Street Journal]
The Economist considers the difficult situation facing Syrian opposition groups, worsened by Russian intervention.
President Obama apologized to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International President Dr. Joanne Liu during a phone call yesterday, expressing his condolences for the MSF staff and patients who died following a US military airstrike on the hospital. The President also spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, commending the bravery of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and expressing his condolences for the Afghan civilians killed in the strike. Read out of statements available here.
The apology marked a reversal in the White House position; a day earlier press secretary Josh Earnest said the US wouldn’t formally apologize until investigations were further along. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee and Felicia Schwartz]
Direct presidential apologies for US actions overseas are rare, report Michael D. Shear and Somini Sengupta, adding that in a “terse statement” following the phone call, the head of MSF acknowledged the president’s apology had been “received.” [New York Times]
“A religious-like belief in American exceptionalism and tribal superiority is potent indeed, and easily overrides evidence.” Glenn Greenwald considers why the US is reluctant to permit an independent investigation into the strikes. [The Intercept]
“A short history of US bombing of civilian facilities,” from Jon Schwarz at The Intercept.
Frustrations and concerns over Kunduz province existed long before the Taliban offensive on the city in recent weeks; Alissa J. Rubin provides the details. [New York Times]
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been forced to cancel a scheduled visit to Germany amid ongoing violence between Palestinians and Israelis. [The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont]
A Jewish man has been stabbed in Jerusalem, the fourth stabbing incident in 24 hours. [Haaretz’s Nir Hasson] Rock throwing, highway ambushes and clashes with IDF soldiers continued for a sixth day yesterday in Jerusalem and the West Bank. [Washington Post’s William Booth]
Israeli ministers and Knesset members have been barred from visiting the Temple Mount by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the ban applying to Jewish and Arab representatives alike. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]
“Violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories,” the Guardian briefing from Peter Beaumont.
A Saudi-coalition airstrike hit a wedding party at a house south of Sana’a yesterday, killing at least 23 people. [New York Times’ Shuaib Almosawa and Kareem Fahim] The wedding party was hosted by a tribal leader known to support Shi’ite Houthi rebels. [BBC]
The UN special envoy to Yemen welcomed statements from the Houthi rebel group reaffirming their commitment to a UN Security Council resolution aimed at bringing to an end the country’s month’s long conflict. [UN News Centre]
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has prohibited further direct negotiations with the United States, suggesting America would use such talks to undermine the Islamic Republic. [Wall Street Journal’s Aresu Eqbali and Asa Fitch]
Two female suicide bombers hit a mosque in northeast Nigeria yesterday, killing 15 people including themselves. Separately, Boko Haram attacked a military camp in Yobe state but was pushed back by troops who killed at least 100 militants. [AP]
The UN does not have the mandate or power to investigate allegations of bribery against a former president of the General Assembly, sparking criticism that the global body is not doing enough to root-out corruption. [Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi and Christopher M. Matthews]
Senator John McCain blamed the Obama administration for Guantánamo Bay restrictions contained in the annual defense bill, accusing the White House of failing to provide a plan for closing the facility. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney] Deb Riechmann goes through some of the provisions contained in the $612 billion defense policy bill, at the AP.
British forces will be stationed in Baltic states to bolster NATO’s eastern frontiers and deter Russian aggression, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said. [The Guardian’s Frances Perraudin]
North Korea has the nuclear capabilities to launch an attack on the US homeland, according to a high-level US military official, who added that the US is prepared to defend against any such attack. [Reuters]