News Roundup and Notes: October 28, 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 is looking at escalating its fight against the Islamic State, weighing the deployment of a small number of Special Operations Forces to Syria and Apache attack helicopters to Iraq. [Reuters; Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold and Carol E. Lee]  Defense Secretary Ash Carter also said that there would be more air strikes against “high-value targets” as intelligence improves. [BBC]

Carter faced tough questioning before a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he discussed the Obama administration’s changing strategy against ISIS. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong] 

Tehran has been invited to join a multinational conference in Vienna this week, seeking a political resolution to the civil conflict in Syria. The invitation to talks with Russia, the US and EU states signals a reversal in American policy against Iran’s involvement in Syrian conflict resolution. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger; The Guardian’s Dan Roberts]  The invitation to Iran will “dismay” Saudi Arabia, its Gulf allies and Israel, countries that already fear “but also exaggerate” Tehran’s growing influence in the region, writes Ian Black. [The Guardian]  Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will attend the talks on Friday, a local news agency reported today, [Reuters]

Ankara has confirmed that it carried out strikes against US-backed Kurdish YPG forces in Syria, potentially sparking a new fight with the Obama administration which has been increasing its support for the Kurds in light of their success against ISIS. [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum and Ayla Albayrak]

A number of US service members have been wounded in action fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, but the Pentagon refuses to release detailed about who they are or how they got injured, Nancy A. Youssef reports. [The Daily Beast]

Freed ISIS captives have given detailed accounts of their experiences of “draconian rules and regimented torture” by the militant groups; 69 Arab prisoners of the Islamic State were rescued last week in a joint US-Kurdish operation in northern Iraq. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon] 

The parents of Russia’s first soldier to have died in Syria have demanded a second autopsy, saying they doubt the military’s suggestion that he committed suicide. [Reuters]

AFGHANISTAN 

The Taliban has overrun a district in Afghanistan’s northern Takhar province, an area affected by this week’s deadly earthquake, highlighting the security issues impeding humanitarian efforts in the wake of the earthquake. [Reuters]

For many in eastern and northern Afghan provinces, the earthquake “was just a new layer to their misery,” with residents “already caught up in a grueling conflict as the Taliban wages offensives” against government and allied forces. [New York Times’ Mujib Mashal]

Afghanistan has removed 150 “dangerous” prisoners from a facility in Helmand province to Kabul, following two major jailbreaks by Taliban insurgents in the region in recent weeks. [Reuters’ Krista Mahr and Mirwais Harooni]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE 

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to accept envoys from the so-called Middle East peace quartet – the US, the EU, Russia and the UN – to begin discussions on concrete steps to deescalate the situation on the ground. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

New Zealand has written a draft UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to halt settlements and urging Palestinians to desist from taking steps against Israel at the ICC. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid] 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is full of “dueling narratives,” which can “obscure concrete debates over dividing territory or determining the fate of the contested Old City compound,” observes Jodi Rudoren. [New York Times]

The leader of Israel’s influential Islamic Movement has been convicted of inciting terror, having given a sermon that led to violent demonstrations at a holy site in Jerusalem two years ago. [Washington Post’s William Booth and Ruth Eglash]

YEMEN

A Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital has been destroyed in Yemen following a Saudi-led coalition air attack on the facility. MSF said that it had provided the coalition with its coordinates, sparking new concerns over the precautions taken by Riyadh and its allies to avoid civilians. [New York Times’ Kareem Fahim]

Saudi Arabia has admitted a “mistake” was made in striking the hospital but faults MSF, saying that the organization provided incorrect coordinates, leading to the strikes. [VICE News’ Samuel Oakford]

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on a halt to hostilities by all parties to the Yemen conflict following the bombing of the MSF hospital. [UN News Centre]

The Saudi-led coalition has airdropped weapons to its allies battling Houthi rebels in the southwestern city of Taiz. [Reuters]

SOUTH CHINA SEA 

The Obama administration was attempting to quietly reassure its allies by sending a guided missile destroyer within waters China considers to be its own, report Helene Cooper and Jane Perlez. [New York Times]

The move has sparked concerns that the “confrontation will catch fire, escalate and spread.” [The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall] 

The Wall Street Journal editorial board opines that President Obama “made the right call” by sending the USS Lassen into the self-proclaimed Chinese territory in the South China Sea.   

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY 

The Senate has passed a major cyber bill, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) aimed at stemming the increase of cyberattacks against both government and private institutions. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett and Katie Bo Williams]

The IRS confirmed its use of StingRay devices or “IMSI-catchers” yesterday, the head of the agency saying that its use of the phone-tracking technology is limited to specific criminal cases. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

The recent Safe Harbor decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union is “forcing multinational companies to scramble for alternatives mechanisms to authorize” data transfers from the EU to the US, writes Alan Charles Raul. [Wall Street Journal]

Europe is moving towards greater surveillance, observes Nils Muiznieks, commenting that in response to terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen and the threat of ISIS, “several countries are amending their counterterrorism legislation to grant more intrusive powers to security services.” [New York Times] 

LIBYA

Military officers from Tripoli’s self-declared government were killed after their military helicopter was shot down by another armed faction yesterday. [Reuters]

A Libyan man has been sentenced to six years in a British jail for terrorism charges relating to a failed plot to send ammunition to Libyan militias. [AP]

ISIS militants are threatening Libya’s fragile oil industry, conducting attacks on the country’s oil terminals. [Reuters]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A federal judge has upheld her decision ordering the release of footage showing the forcefeeding of former Guantánamo Bay detainee, Mohammed Abu Wa’el Dhiab. [Miami Herald’s Michael Doyle]  And the Defense Department’s top two officials described as “outrageous” an Army judge’s decision to ban female guards from touching the 9/11 alleged plotters. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Northrop Grumman Corp has been awarded a $21.4 billion contract to build the next-generation long-range strike bomber, the Pentagon announced yesterday. The contract constitutes the “biggest, most important US weapons contract in a decade,” writes David Axe. [The Daily Beast]

A highly critical report on Iran’s human rights situation has been presented by the UN special rapporteur on human rights to that country, describing a “dire” situation with record executions, a flawed judicial system and repression of various groups. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

The US and Cuba have clashed at the United Nations over the American economic embargo on Havana, the UN General Assembly voting for the 24th year that the US should bring it to an end. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

  

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security