News Roundup and Notes: October 9, 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

ISIS has killed Iranian military commander Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani on the outskirts of Aleppo, the Iranian military has said. [Al Jazeera]

The militants have seized a number of villages on the outskirts of Aleppo from rival insurgencies, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who added that it was the biggest advance on the city by ISIS since August. [Reuters]

NATO used tough language to discuss Moscow’s involvement in the Syrian crisis, saying it would exacerbate the violence there. Speaking at NATO meetings in Brussels, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter suggested that intervention will have consequences for Russia itself. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold; Guardian’s Julian Borger et al]

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with the Russian foreign minister yesterday, repeating US concerns about Russian targets in Syria and discussed the need for a tactical dialogue toward the goal of deconfliction between the two countries. [Reuters]

Moscow has rejected claims that cruise missiles fired from a warship in the Caspian sea aimed at Syrian targets fell short and landed in Iran. Anonymous US sources on Thursday claimed that 26 missiles landed in rural Iran. [The Guardian]  Russia’s use of Kalibr ship-launched cruise missiles demonstrates an important new military capability. [New York Times’ Patrick J. Lyons]  The missile attack was in many ways an announcement to the world that “the once-dilapidated Russian navy is back in action,” writes David Axe. [The Daily Beast]

Russia risks “stir[ing] the wrath of Islamic radicals” through its bombing campaign in Syria, according to US intelligence officials who warn that the country may face terrorist attacks on home soil. [Politico’s Michael Crowley]

The Assad regime is trying to force the West’s hand in Syria, pushing it into a situation where it has to choose between the Islamic State and the Syrian government, reports Sam Dagher. [Wall Street Journal]

France carried out new strikes overnight targeting an Islamic State training camp in Syria, and further airstrikes are expected to follow, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today. [Reuters]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces conducted two airstrikes targeting Islamic State positions in Syria on Oct. 7. Separately, military forces carried out a further 18 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

Russian intervention in Syria threatens three key US goals: “stabilizing Syria, containing ISIL, and constructing a durable balance of power in the Middle East,” writes Thomas Graham, proposing a five-part strategy for a “US policy of resistance and cooperation.” [Politico]

“How America can counter Putin’s moves in Syria,” explained by former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former defense secretary Robert M. Gates. [Washington Post]

“[F]oreign policy rarely favors the bold, even if the headline writers do.” Jeremy Shapiro argues that in the end, Russian involvement will “worsen the violence, inflame terrorism and risk dragging the Russians into a quagmire.” [New York Times]

Three reasons explaining “Russia’s foray into Syria,” from Steven Erlanger at the New York Times.

“Who backs whom in the Syrian conflict,” from the Guardian.

AFGHANISTAN

The death toll from the US airstrike on a Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz is likely to rise, with 33 people still missing five days after the attack including 24 staff members. [AFP]

Could the MSF bombing be prosecuted as a war crime? Tom McCarthy considers the law and the practicability of that avenue of accountability, at the Guardian.

US and NATO leaders expressed a willingness to consider extending the mission in Afghanistan past next year, including the need to rethink the number of American troops that should remain in the country. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold]

“Pakistan has mastered the art of pretending to help the United States while actually supporting its most deadly foes,” opines Fareed Zakaria, suggesting that Afghanistan’s consistently fragile state is as a result of this situation. [Washington Post]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE 

Three Palestinians and two Israelis have been wounded in the most recent violence across Israel. Haaretz has live updates of the situation.

Fresh restrictions on Palestinian entry into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound have been imposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today in light of heightened violence. [Al Jazeera]

National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s “combative mind-set” damaged US relations with Israel’s prime minister, according to former Obama Middle East adviser Dennis B. Ross in his new book. [New York Times’ Peter Baker] 

LIBYA 

Libya’s UN envoy has announced a national unity government for the country following months of challenging talks between the country’s two rival governments. [AP]  MPs from both parliaments have voiced doubts over the announcement, expressing concern that it was premature. [BBC] 

The Islamic State in Libya has been described as a “hybrid operation”, led partly by foreign fighters who have gained experience on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Missy Ryan and Hassan Morajea discuss the expansion of the extremist group into the already chaotic country, at the Washington Post. 

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

The Obama administration has decided to hold off and will not call for legislation requiring tech companies to decode messages for law enforcement. Instead, the White House will continue to encourage companies to create ways for government to access customers’ encrypted data, essentially maintaining the status quo. [Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima and Andrea Peterson]

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an audit of the interactions between the UN and the Global Sustainability Foundation and the Sun Kian Ip Group by the Office of Internal Oversight Services. The request comes in the wake of bribery allegations against a former president of the General Assembly by US prosecutors. [UN News Centre]  The announcement is a turnaround from the earlier position of the international body; the organization said it did not have the mandate to conduct such an investigation yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi]

The UN Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution today authorizing European militaries to “inspect” and “seize” vessels suspected of being used for human trafficking. The authorization will only apply to the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

A federal court has refused State Department efforts to combine dozens of pending lawsuits related to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s private email server. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

The immediate end of bulk surveillance can be likened to the sudden release of criminals from prison, according to Justice Department attorney Julia Berman, reports Jenna McLaughlin. [The Intercept]

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has dropped out of the race for House Speaker, citing the controversy surrounding his comments about the political motivations of the select committee on Benghazi. [Foreign Policy’s David Francis and Lara Jakes]

Yemen does not need statements of “deep concern” from the Obama administration, but rather needs the US to adopt a “radically different course,” withdrawing support from the Saudi-led coalition, demanding the free flow of commercial goods into ports and garnering support at the UN Security Council for an immediate, complete ceasefire to end the conflict, writes Paul O’Brien. [Foreign Policy]

Guantánamo Bay detention facility is facing shortages in basic supplies, and has increasingly been accepting contributions from attorneys for the prisoners, reports Carol Rosenberg, posing the question whether someone is “pinching pennies” at the camp. [Miami Herald] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security