News Roundup and Notes: October 14, 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 

Iraq’s military along with allied militia have launched a ground offensive to reclaim Baiji from the Islamic State, Reuters reports. 

ISIS has confirmed the death of its second-in-command, Abu Mutaz Qurashi, in an airstrike in Iraq earlier this year. The White House said on August 21 that he was killed by an American attack. [Reuters] 

The US and Russia plan to hold a third round of deconfliction talks aimed at avoiding accidental conflict between their respective air forces in Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz and Thomas Grove]  The new talks come in the wake of a near miss between combat aircraft from the two nations on Saturday; the planes were in visual contact, 10 to 20 miles apart. [BBC]

Syrian government forces will soon launch a ground attack backed by Russian airstrikes against rebel groups in the Aleppo area, Reuters has learned.

Intelligence shared between Syria, Iran, Russia and Iraq has been used to attack ISIS, an Iraqi official confirmed. [Al Jazeera] 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the US of failing to cooperate with the Russian campaign in Syria, claiming that his government had asked for coordinates of groups it should not target but the US had failed to respond. [New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar] 

Syria’s rebel groups have been left confused by the delivery of US military aid to established anti-ISIS groups in Syria. Michael Pizzi provides the details. [Al Jazeera America] 

Two Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders were killed in Syria during fighting with Islamic State militants, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported. [Reuters]  Phillip Smyth writes that Tehran’s “agents are being offed at a rapid rate” fighting in the Syria conflict, profiling some of the top military leadership who have been killed. [The Daily Beast] 

The Islamic State has shifted the focus of its propaganda, attempting to demonstrate that “it is energetically building the utopian state its puritanical ideology promises.” Margaret Coker and Alexis Flynn provide the details at the Wall Street Journal.

Hillary Clinton defended her vote in favor of the Iraq War in 2003, during the first Democratic presidential debate last night. [The Hill’s Ben Kamisar]

Military intervention in another state is one of the “most serious” decisions a parliament can make, “but equally nobody should be in any doubt that inaction is also a decision that will have consequences in Syria,” opines British MP Hilary Benn. [The Guardian]  And Patrick Wintour comments on Benn’s article, which presents a more “flexible” approach by the Labour party to Syria military intervention. [The Guardian]

It is unlikely that President Putin’s intervention in Syria will actually serve Russian interests, suggests Kimberley Martin, providing an explanation for why, despite this, Putin has gone ahead. [Ballots & Bullets]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE 

Israeli authorities have been granted permission to seal off “parts of Jerusalem” in an attempt to stop the recent wave of fatal attacks. The Israeli cabinet also ordered that soldiers be deployed to help police in some urban areas. [BBC]

Roadblocks in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem have begun to be set up by Israel today. [Reuters]

Further steps have been authorized by the security cabinet, including revoking permanent residency status of suspected terrorists. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid] 

Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Israel in an effort to diffuse tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, he announced yesterday. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid and Reuters]

The American media has been criticized for failing to present Israeli-Palestinian violence in its context, “predictably, partisans on both sides are targeting media coverage for different reasons,” reports Ehab Zahriyeh. [Al Jazeera America]

The current wave of Palestinian violence “consists of spontaneous outbursts by individual young people unaffiliated with any formal political movement,” reports Jodi Rudoren. [New York Times]

IRAN 

There are “strong indications” than Iran violated UN Security Council Resolutions by testing a new ballistic missile, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday, adding that violations by Tehran are “unfortunately” not new. [AP]  Earnest added that the move would not impede efforts to implement the nuclear accord with Iran, reports Carol E. Lee. [Wall Street Journal]

America will raise its concerns over the missile test announced by Iran at the UN, the State Department said yesterday. [Reuters]

Secretary of State John Kerry called on Iran to release three Americans currently detained, including Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian. Kerry also defended the decision not to make their release a condition for the Iran deal, speaking before a news conference in Boston yesterday. [Washington Post’s Carol Morello]

AFGHANISTAN 

President Obama appears increasingly willing to consider stalling the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and keep a sufficiently large force in the country to hunt for al-Qaeda and ISIS militants, senior officials said. [New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg]

The New York Times editorial board ask whether the Pentagon is being honest about the situation in Afghanistan, citing “alarming” new data from the UN on a resurgent Taliban. 

The Taliban has completely pulled out of Kunduz, the insurgent group announced yesterday, drawing to a close their first takeover of an Afghan city during the last 14 years of conflict. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland]

“Inside the MSF hospital in Kunduz.” Andrew Quilty provides images and an account of the “horrific aftermath” of the US strike in northern Afghanistan. [Foreign Policy] 

The Islamic State’s emergence in Afghanistan has “ushered in a new age of brutality” in a country which has become used to violence after three decades of war, reports Sudarsan Raghavan. [Washington Post]

UKRAINE and RUSSIA 

Efforts were made to cover up the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, according to the Dutch Safety Board report into the incident over Ukraine last year. These efforts included a botched autopsy on the body of the plane’s captain. [The Guardian’s Luke Harding]

Moscow has consistently “thrown smoke” over evidence that Russian-backed rebels downed MH 17. Alec Luhn provides further details at Foreign Policy.

“Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: what we know,” from the New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen are the targets of a lawsuit brought by survivors of the CIA torture program for their role in its design. [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman]  The complaint brought by ACLU on the survivors’ behalf is available here.

The prosecutor at the ICC will investigate possible war crimes arising out of the Russia-Georgia conflict in 2008. [BBC]

Pakistan’s leadership was aware that Osama bin Laden was in their country at the time of his death in 2011, a former Pakistani defense minister appeared to confirm during an appearance on Indian TV yesterday. [Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor] 

The heads of Ankara’s police force have been fired over accusations of security lapses connected with Saturday’s bomb attack in the city, along with the intelligence and public security chiefs, the Turkish interior ministry announced as the president paid respects to those killed. [AFP]  And Tim Arango provides a Q&A on Turkey and the aftermath of the attack. [New York Times]

China rejected suggestions that it has militarized the South China Sea and said that there are some nations which need to stop hyping the issue. [Reuters]

Hillary Clinton “got off easy” on her use of a private email server while in office as secretary of state during the first Democratic presidential debate. [Politico’s Rachael Bade and Josh Gerstein]  During the debate, chief rival Bernie Sanders even commented that the “American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” [Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau]

The Democratic presidential debate failed to cover ground on a number of national security issues, suggests Dov Zakheim at Foreign Policy.

As part of a search for potential alternatives to hold prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, a team of Pentagon officials began scouting sites in Colorado yesterday, reports Carol Rosenberg. [Miami Herald]

Frustration with all parties to the Yemeni conflict is widespread in Saada, the Houthi stronghold where the rebel movement began, reports Kareem Fahim. [New York Times]

Senator Ron Wyden has praised President Obama on his decision not to pursue legislation requiring that tech companies provide law enforcement access to encrypted data. [The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]

The head of UN Women has criticized the low level of women’s inclusion at peace negotiating tables, 15 years after a UN resolution called for their inclusion at every level of peacemaking and peace building. [AP] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security