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News Roundup and Notes: October 29, 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

A multination conference to be held in Vienna on Friday is the best opportunity for finding a political resolution to the Syrian civil conflict, Secretary of State John Kerry said before traveling to Austria for the meetings. [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz]  Kerry stressed that the US and Russia share “common ground,” both states hoping for a “united, secular Syria.” [BBC]

Despite these comments, the future of the Assad regime will not be on the table for now, consensus stipulating that Moscow and Washington’s disagreement over political transition should not prevent the process from beginning. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

Saudi Arabia will participate in the talks, marking a further shift, with Riyadh previously saying that Iran should not participate in any negotiations about Syria’s future. [Wall Street Journal’s Ahmed Al Omran and Asa Fitch]  The Saudi foreign minister said that the meetings will test whether Moscow and Tehran are “serious” about reaching a political solution to the crisis. [Al Jazeera]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang today agreed that the Syrian crisis must be resolved politically. [Reuters]

Moscow risks falling into a situation like it found itself in Afghanistan if it does not assist in pushing for political transition in Syria, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned. [The Guardian’s Julian Borger]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged that American troops are “in combat” in Iraq yesterday, but reiterated that the “overall mission” of US forces there is still to “enable, by equipping, training, advising and assisting.” [DoD News]

The Obama administration is “fumbling” for credibility with its involvement in the Syria conflict, as Iran and Russia step up their “decisive influence” in both Iraq and Syria. [The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall]

The Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war will be published next June or July, Sir John Chilcot has announced, seven years after the inquiry was established. [The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt]  An “unofficial Chilcot Inquiry,” from Peter Oborne at the BBC.

Warplanes thought to be Russian attacked Syria’s southern Deraa province for the first time last night, according to a rebel group and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out 14 strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq on Oct. 27. [Central Command]

The New York Times editorial board observes that by “incrementally increasing its combat role in a vast, complicated battleground, the United States is being sucked into a new Middle East war.”

“So Russia has rained down destruction, but to what end?” Mark Urban provides an analysis of Moscow’s Syria intervention one month in. [BBC]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A Palestinian has been shot dead by an Israeli officer after the man stabbed an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank today. [Reuters’ Ori Lewis]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has appealed for UN intervention to diffuse the recent tension between Israelis and Palestinians, calling for the establishment of “a special regime of international protection” for Palestinians. [New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce]

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are approaching “catastrophe,” according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein, describing the latest wave of violence as “dangerous in the extreme.” [Al Jazeera]

An Arab Israeli parliamentarian has visited Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, despite a ban by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. [Wall Street Journal’s Rory Jones]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Four administration lawyers made it almost inevitable that Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden rather than capturing him. Charlie Savage explains how in the weeks before the raid, the “lawyers worked in intense secrecy,” stretching “sparse precedents.” [New York Times]

The Taliban has offered an informal ceasefire with the central Afghan government in areas affected by this week’s earthquake, saying it did not want to interfere with humanitarian assistance. [Wall Street Journal’s Margherita Stancati and Habib Khan Totakhil]

The Director General of Britain’s MI5 has called for a mature debate on the interception of communications data, using a speech to emphasize that the UK faces the greatest terror threat of his career, one week before the anticipated publication of a bill proposing wide ranging surveillance powers. [BBC; The Guardian’s Ben Quinn]

A BBC journalist has had his laptop seized by British authorities using special powers under the Terrorism Act; Secunder Kermani has reported extensively on UK-born jihadis. [The Guardian’s Ben Quinn]

NATO is exploring an increase in the number of troops it has stationed in member states that share a frontier with Russia and placing those forces under formal alliance command. Germany has expressed reservations about one plan which would see a battalion of roughly 800 to 1,000 troops in Poland and each of the Baltic states. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes]

Alleged 9/11 plotter Walid bin Attash announced he is firing his Pentagon-appointed death-penalty lawyer of four years, insisting he be provided with a new one. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Corruption in the Middle East and North Africa has been worsened by western nations, primarily the US, the UK, Germany and Russia, by selling states huge quantities of military arsenal with little oversight, according to a new report from Transparency International. [The Intercept’s Yasmine Ryan]  The report adds that Arab states are at a high risk of corruption and pose an ongoing threat to international peace and security. [The Guardian’s Ian Black]

A range of atrocities, including gang rape and forced cannibalism, have been committed during South Sudan’s ongoing civil war, according to a newly published report from the African Union. [New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman]  The ongoing conflict “has been shaped and reshaped by generations-old grudges between and even among different groups,” writes Sam Jones. [The Guardian]

Roughly 300 people, mainly women and children, have been rescued by the Nigerian military after being kidnapped and detained by militant group Boko Haram. [New York Times’ Dionne Searcey]

A US military surveillance blimp escaped from its tethers yesterday and crashed in Pennsylvania, tearing down power lines and cutting electricity supply to tens of thousands of residents. [Washington Post’s Andrea Peterson et al]  “What blimps are best at is … making people feel like they’re being watched,” Dan Froomkin and Lee Fang discuss the mixed success of military blimps. [The Intercept]

Hillary Clinton’s performance at the Benghazi hearing last week shows her to be a “major delegator,” suggests Michael Hirsh at Politico Magazine.

“Terrorism is on the march” despite international efforts to stem its proliferation, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said at a counter violent extremism event in Madrid. [UN News Centre]

“While rape is tragically common in war zones, it’s not an inevitable part of war,” opine Elisabeth Jean Wood and Dara Kay Cohen, proposing how the international community can go about reducing its occurrence in conflict. [New York Times]

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About the Author

was the Assistant News Editor at Just Security.