News Roundup and Notes: October 12, 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.

ANKARA BOMB ATTACK 

Two suspected suicide bombers attacked a peace rally protesting the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK in the Turkish capital on Saturday. The death toll has reached 128, the deadliest terrorist attack in Turkey’s history. [Reuters’ Orhan Coskun and Ece Toksabay]

The Islamic State is the prime suspect in the investigation into the attack, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said today. [Reuters’ Daren Butler]

Thousands gathered to pay respects to those killed in the bombings yesterday, many denouncing Turkish authorities for perceived inaction since previous incidents and mishandling of Saturday’s attack. The incident has exposed “deep-seated anger” at the government, ahead of November elections. [The Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen; New York Times’ Tim Arango and Ceylan Yeginsu]

There will be no delay in the November elections despite the alarm caused by the attack, government officials have said. [Reuters]

Turkey conducted heavy airstrikes against PKK militants in the south east of the country and in northern Iraq yesterday. [BBC]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board comments on the attack, noting that the “Syrian vortex is increasingly drawing Turkey into its spin,” adding that it is likely more trouble lies ahead.

IRAQ and SYRIA 

An Iraqi airstrike hit a meeting of ISIS members on Sunday as well as a convoy carrying the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Iraqi officials claimed. Eight senior figures are said to have been killed though Baghdadi is not thought to be among them. [Reuters’ Ahmed Rasheed]

Russian airstrikes targeted rebels unaffiliated with ISIS yesterday, helping the Syrian army along with Lebanese Hezbollah militia allies on the ground to reclaim territory in Idlib province. [Reuters]

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said his country’s goal in Syria is to stabilize the government of Bashar al-Assad, in an appearance on state TV yesterday. [CNN’s Melissa Gray]

French airstrikes targeting ISIS in Syria may have hit French jihadists fighting there, according to Prime Minister Manuel Valls today. [Reuters’ Elizabeth Pineau]

President Obama appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Obama committed to staying the course in Syria, but refused to “reinsert” the US into a military campaign inside of Syria, adding that it is for the main players to the conflict to realize that a political transition is necessary. On Russia’s intervention in Syria, the president said that he had “pretty good intelligence” suggesting Moscow planned to get involved militarily, adding that Russia’s campaign is “not an indication of strength.”

The Obama administration is concerned about entering a proxy war with Russia, a cause of US hesitance in becoming more involved in the Syrian conflict, report Carol E. Lee et al. [Wall Street Journal]

The White House has scrapped its program for training moderate Syrian rebels, a “candid admission that Washington had abjectly failed in its push to find capable allies” in the war-torn country. [Foreign Policy’s Paul McLeary]

The House Intelligence Committee is “looking at possible problems in the timely provision of information to Congress,” concerning the Russian military buildup in Syria. Shane Harris provides the details at the Daily Beast.

A Syrian rebel group, the Homs Liberation Movement, is planning suicide attacks against the Russians, in response to Russian airstrikes which have targeted the group. [The Daily Beast’s Austin Bodetti and David Axe]

Shi’ite Iraqis are praising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria, many heartened by Russian relations with Iran and the Syrian government, reports Michael R. Gordon. [New York Times] 

UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will meet with Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday, reports the RIA news agency. [Reuters] 

In order to save Iraq, the US “must help Kurdistan to organize, train and equip a non-political Kurdish army,” suggest Aliza Marcus and Andrew Apostolou at the New York Times.

America’s “special role” in the Middle East appears to be “melting away,” suggests Yaroslav Trofimov, adding that “the void created by US withdrawal is being filled by the very powers that American policy has long sought to contain,” at the Wall Street Journal. 

The New York Times editorial board opines that efforts to “squeeze” the Islamic State financially have so far been insufficient, arguing that now the Obama administration’s program to train opposition fighters has failed, “there is even more reason to double down on efforts to choke off the group’s ability to raise funds and buy supplies.”

AFGHANISTAN 

A NATO military helicopter crashed in a non-hostile incident yesterday while landing at the headquarters of the NATO Resolute Support mission that is training Afghan security forces. Five people were killed in the crash, including two members of the British Royal Air Force. [AP; The Guardian’s Kevin Rawlinson]

The Taliban’s reach in Afghanistan is at its widest since 2001, according to UN data. The UN Assistance Mission in the country has evacuated four of the 13 provincial offices over the past two weeks due to security concerns. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland and Joseph Goldstein]

“By evening, a hospital. By morning, a war zone.” Tim Craig et al provide an account of the events running up to the US bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz on Oct. 3. [Washington Post]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE 

A Palestinian man has been killed after he attacked an Israeli police officer with a knife early today near a gate into Jerusalem’s Old City. At least 25 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed in recent violence. [AP] 

An Israeli airstrike on Gaza killed a pregnant woman and her young child early on Sunday. The strike was said to be targeting two alleged Hamas weapons sites. Later in the day a 13-year old Palestinian boy was shot dead in the West Bank. [The Guardian’s Kate Shuttleworth]

An Arab Israeli carried out a stabbing attack in northern Israel yesterday, wounding four people. [Reuters’ Jeffrey Heller and Ori Lewis]

Check out Haaretz for live updates of the escalating violence throughout Israel and the West Bank.

“There can be no negotiations without a clear Israeli commitment to fully withdraw from the Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967,” writes Marwan Barghouti stating that “we have tried to be patient, but the international community has failed us.” [The Guardian]

“Make East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine,” suggests Amira Hass along with 20 other steps that could reverse the situation facing Israel and the Palestinians. [Haaretz]

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CONTROVERSY 

President Obama described former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as a “mistake,” during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes.” The president added that her actions did not pose a threat to US national security. 

Clinton’s private email server has become the focus of the House select committee on the 2012 Benghazi attack. Eric Lipton et al provide the details at the New York Times.

Chairman of the committee, Trey Gowdy has hit out at a former staff member who has accused the panel of conducting a partisan investigation aimed at tarnishing the reputation of Hillary Clinton. [Reuters]

The Republicans must stop the “charade” that is the Benghazi committee and apologize to the families of those killed in the attack, opines Dean Obeidallah. [The Daily Beast]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

Iran tested a new precision-guided ballistic missile yesterday, a move which may have violated the terms of the nuclear accord concluded with six powers in July. [New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

The Pentagon is looking into a $3 million expansion of the war court compound at Camp Justice, Guantánamo Bay, reports Carol Rosenberg. [Miami Herald]

It has been recommended that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl serves no time for his actions in deserting his base in Afghanistan in 2009, according to the officer in charge of his Article 32 hearing. [Army Times]

The European court of justice’s “safe harbor” ruling facilitates the start of a conversation about the proper control of personal data, suggests John Naughton. [The Guardian]  And Evgeny Morozov writes that the decision has angered many American companies and trade officials, adding that one “can’t blame Americans for complaining about European hypocrisy,” at the Financial Times.

Relations between Moscow and Russian cyber gangs may be growing, a worrying development for the US, reports Cory Bennett. [The Hill]  And a “frantic and destabilizing digital arms race” has been kicked off by a series of recent computer attacks carried out by the US and others. [Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta et al]

“Those who know the Obama White House’s inner workings wonder why this president, who came into office with next to no experience of foreign policy, has made so little effort to hire strategic expertise.” Niall Ferguson explains the “real Obama doctrine,” at the Wall Street Journal.

Allegations of Saudi war crimes in Yemen are “tragically biased” and any accusation that the coalition has deliberately targeted civilians is a “false claim spread by those who support the rebels’ attempts to wreak havoc in Yemen,” according to a statement from the Saudi Embassy in London released last week. 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security