News Roundup and Notes: October 13, 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 

The US military has airdropped small arms ammunition and other supplies to Syrian Arab groups in the north of the country close to the Turkish frontier, some officials saying the move is part of a restyled American strategy announced last week. [Reuters’ John Davison and Phil Stewart; Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz; CNN’s Barbara Starr]

The US has also been providing antitank missiles to insurgent groups since Russia began its air campaign in support of the Assad regime, prompting concerns that the Syrian conflict “is edging closer to an all-out proxy war” between the US and Russia, report Anne Barnard and Karam Shoumali for the New York Times.  And the official newspaper of the Chinese ruling Communist Party has accused both America and Russia of replaying out their Cold War rivalry through the Syrian conflict, the People’s Daily urging for peace talks. [Reuters] 

Syrian rebels have shelled Moscow’s embassy in Damascus during a rally of pro-government supporters who had gathered to express thanks to Russia for its intervention. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties. [AP]  Moscow has called the incident an act of terrorism. [Reuters]

A number of Syria’s fractious rebel groups have formed coalitions in light of Moscow’s air campaign targeting opposition fighters. Raja Abdulrahim provides the details. [Wall Street Journal]

Syria’s al-Qaeda branch, the Nusra Front has called on jihadists in the Caucasus to attack Russia. [AFP]

A military offensive aimed at driving ISIS from its de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa is expected to start within weeks, the head of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told the al-Hayat newspaper. The operation will be backed by the US-led coalition. [Reuters] 

Kurdish fighters have been accused of razing Arab and Turkmen villages in northern Syria after reclaiming them from the Islamic State; Amnesty International has suggested the actions amount to war crimes. [Al Jazeera]

EU foreign ministers called on Russia to bring to an immediate end its attacks on Syrian opposition rebel groups yesterday, accusing Moscow of undermining a political solution to the conflict and drawing out the war even further. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

The unity of Iraq’s Kurds appears to be facing collapse, with a political standoff between the “dominant” Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the “rival” Movement for Change (Gorran), explains Loveday Morris at the Washington Post.

Russia has announced the detention of a terrorist cell operating in central Moscow; some of those detained had trained with ISIS in Syria, the Federal Security Service claimed. [New York Times’ Ivan Nechepurenko]

The US ought to have two goals in Syria, suggest Gordon Adams and Stephen M. Walt, to bring about order in the parts of the country that ISIS do not control, and to build a “coalition of forces that can contain the Islamic State and eventually replace it.” [New York Times]

“A Russian entry into Iraq would only strengthen Iraq’s most sectarian Shi’ite politicians and militias,” opines Nussaibah Younis, adding that the US can prevent Moscow’s intent to expand its influence into Iraq through “both political and military intervention.” [New York Times]

“When hawks talk about taking action in Syria, they tend to focus on their desired outcomes: checking Russian and Iranian power, ousting Assad, defeating the Islamic State and ending the slow-motion humanitarian disaster,” writes David W. Drezner, posing the question: “how [will] the foreign policy output of greater military intervention in Syria […] achieve those desired outcomes?” [Washington Post] 

ANKARA BOMB ATTACK 

Turkish officials claim to have “concrete evidence” connecting the Islamic State to the bomb attack that killed 128 people at a peace rally near the city’s main train station on Saturday. [The Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen]  Authorities added that they are close to identifying the two suspected suicide bombers. [Wall Street Journal’s Emre Peker]

The Ankara bomb attack “traces back at least somewhat to government missteps in feeding Syria violence,” suggests Murtaza Hussain, adding that “spillover from the Syrian conflict is at the heart of Turkey’s increasingly fraught security situation.” [The Intercept]

IRAN 

The Iranian parliament passed legislation approving the nuclear accord agreed in July between Tehran and six world powers, a government win over conservative opponents of the deal. The state news agency, IRNA reported that the bill was passed with 161 votes for, 59 against and 13 abstentions. [Reuters’ Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Sam Wilkin]  The council of senior clerics who will now review the deal before final approval could send it back to parliament to reconsider. [AP]

It is probable that Iran violated the nuclear accord by testing a new long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile over the weekend, a senior administration official said. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been convicted following an espionage trial, Iranian media reported yesterday. No specifics on which charges were involved or whether a sentence had been imposed were provided, report Carol Morello and William Branigan. [Washington Post]

A “potentially more dangerous” effort by Moscow is taking place in Iran, Russia possibly delivering S-3000 surface-to-air missile systems to Tehran before the year’s end. [Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Z. Katz] 

AFGHANISTAN 

The Afghan branch of the Islamic State is gaining ground in the fight against the Taliban there. Mujib Mashal provides the details at the New York Times. 

Taliban insurgents have attempted to seize the provincial capital of Ghazni, south of Kabul, an attack that was repelled by government forces but sparked concerns about a revitalised Taliban pushing to expand its hold in the country. [AFP]

Two military flights crashed on Monday according to Afghan officials, the latest in a string of plane crashes that come as a high number of the country’s roads have been shut off by Taliban offensives, reports Mujib Mashal. [New York Times] 

A suicide attack targeted a NATO-led force in Kabul on Sunday, wounding at least seven civilians, reports Sayed Salahuddin. [Washington Post] 

Hopes of a full withdrawal from Afghanistan before the end of Obama’s presidency are dwindling. Greg Jaffe provides the full details at the Washington Post. 

ISRAEL and PALESTINE 

A wave of violence continues in occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel, with attacks by Palestinians in Jerusalem today killing at least three Israelis and wounding others. [Al Jazeera]

Check out Haaretz for live updates of the ongoing situation.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Dutch Safety Board has published its report on the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine last year. The report confirms that it was downed by a Russian-made Buk missile. The report does not apportion blame. [BBC]

Nigeria has turned to western nations to assist President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to recover billions of dollars he claims his compatriots embezzled and lodged abroad. [Wall Street Journal’s Drew Hinshaw]

Two sons of the deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak are to be released from prison on the order of an Egyptian court, as the nation’s courts “continue to undo punishments handed down to allies” of the former president. [Wall Street Journal’s Dahlia Kholaif and Tamer El-Ghobashy] 

Senator John McCain would call a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee if the accused deserter Sgt Bowe Bergdahl does not receive jail time. [Boston Herald’s Laurel J. Sweet]

British police will bring to an end the 24-hour surveillance outside Ecuador’s embassy in London, where Julian Assange has taken refuge since 2012. Authorities have cited the strain on resources. [BBC]

  

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security