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
Russian airstrikes killed 42 people earlier this week in the Islamic State-controlled city of Raqqa, including 27 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]
Syrian opposition rebels reclaimed a village and the surrounding territory in the west of the country today, consolidating gains from the day before against pro-government forces backed by Russian air power. [Reuters]
Syrian government forces have regained an important supply route to Aleppo, nearly two weeks after ISIS claimed part of the Khanaser road, effectively blocking access to the city by those loyal to the regime. [Wall Street Journal’s Raja Abdulrahim]
Mustard gas was used during fighting in a Syrian town between ISIS and another rebel group, according to a report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). [Reuters]
It is “morally indefensible” for the UK not to bomb ISIS in Syria and to rely on its allies to tackle the militant group, Britain’s Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has said. [BBC]
Kurdish rebels will renew their military offensive against Turkish forces, a day after re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to eradicate the militants. Turkey has conducted airstrikes against PKK forces in northern Iraq. [Wall Street Journal’s Emre Peker]
US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces carried out three airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria on Nov. 4. Separately, coalition military forces conducted a further 20 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
The Assad regime has reportedly profited from its “insidious black market” in abductions, an Amnesty International report released yesterday claims. [Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor]
President Obama’s consistent incrementalism in Syria will leave “his successor with a terrible dilemma,” opines Fareed Zakaria for the Washington Post.
Refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict have suffered “one hurdle after another;” the New York Times provides a visual representation of the challenges.
Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi “was an answer to America’s problems, not Iraq’s, and if he had never existed, his backers would probably have conjured up a replacement to serve the same function,” opines Gideon Rose. [New York Times]
President Obama said “there is a possibility” that the Russian Metrojet plane crash over Sinai Province was caused by a bomb, during a radio interview with Seattle-based KIRO Radio. [Washington Post’s Andrew Roth and Griff Witte]
British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that it was “increasingly likely” that the plane was brought down by a terrorist bomb, during a joint press conference with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi who was on a previously scheduled visit to the UK. During a phone call, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Cameron to make assessments based on the official investigation. [Reuters]
Flights sent from the UK to “rescue” passengers stranded at Sharm el-Sheikh have been halted by the Egyptian authorities, officials refusing to let planes land at the airport. [BBC]
The TSA is looking at heightening security at foreign airports, as consensus grows over the likely role of terrorism in the downing of the Russian plane over Egypt’s Sinai. [NBC News’ M Alex Johnson]
Live updates of the situation from the Guardian.
If the flight was downed by a bomb, it was probably done by somebody on the ground exploiting a lapse in airport security, rather than a passenger with an explosive device on board, according to Sinai security expert Zack Gold. [The Guardian’s Emma Graham-Harrison and Ruth Michaelson]
The Economist considers the broad implications if the Russian plane was in fact downed by an ISIS bomb, concluding that “more authoritarianism is on the cards in both Russia and Egypt.”
An ISIS propaganda video claiming responsibility for the possible attack shows Islamic State fighters handing out candy in celebration of the plane crash. [Washington Post’s Adam Taylor]
“[I]t is critical that, until the final crash analysis emerges, we keep our speculation rational and our assumptions grounded in real, physical evidence,” cautions Charlie Winter at the Guardian.
Médecins Sans Frontières has published a report on the Oct. 3 US air strikes targeting its hospital in Kunduz.
“All the information that we’ve provided so far shows that a mistake is quite hard to understand and believe at this stage,” MSF General Director Christopher Stokes said to reporters while presenting the medical aid group’s internal report. Stokes added that the organization is still awaiting an explanation from the American military. [Reuters]
Just days before the deadly strike, MSF had informed the US military that the hospital was not under Taliban threat and was not being used as a base for the insurgents, the report says. [Washington Post’s Sayed Salahuddin et al]
The roof of the hospital was covered by a large red and white flag reading “Médecins Sans Frontières,” and the building was one of the most brightly lit in the city on the night of the attack, according to Stokes. [New York Times’ Joseph Goldstein]
The report alleges that military planes fired at hospital staff as they fled the burning building. [The Intercept’s Murtaza Hussain]
Five Bahrainis were convicted on conspiracy charges, accused of planning with Iran to carry out terrorist attacks inside Bahrain. [Reuters]
The Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that “when it comes to the Islamic Republic, international goodwill is invariably met with contempt and cruelty,” commenting on the recent arrests of foreigners in Iran.
Iran’s hardliners are pushing back strongly against the US in the wake of the nuclear accord, and recent high-profile arrests “seem to be designed to thwart Mr Rouhani, whose powers over Iran’s judiciary and the IRGC are limited,” writes Yaroslav Trofimov. [Wall Street Journal]
President Obama has conceded that achieving a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians during his presidency will not be possible, according to senior administration officials. [Washington Post’s Steven Mufson]
“In addition to being a terrorist recruiting tool, Guantánamo is a huge drain on taxpayer dollars.” Senator Dianne Feinstein makes the case for why Congress should support the Obama administration and close the detention facility. [New York Times]
Libya’s Islamist faction has accused the UN special envoy to Libya of bias, following revelations that Bernardino León accepted a job offer from the UAE, which backs the Islamist’s main political rival. [The Guardian’s Chris Johnston; Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi] León has defended himself against the claims and called on the rival factions to halt attempts to obstruct the power-sharing agreement. [Reuters]
Defense Secretary Ash Carter flew into an American aircraft carrier in contested waters of the South China Sea yesterday, a “subtle jab at China,” reports the AP.
Turkey has arrested 20 individuals suspected of ISIS links in the southwestern Antalya today, ahead of a G20 summit to be hosted there next week, according to media reports. [Reuters]
“Seven major takeaways from the UK’s proposed surveillance rules,” from Ryan Gallagher at The Intercept.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack near Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital that left one police officer dead and another wounded on Wednesday. [New York Times’ Nida Najar and Julfikar Ali Manik]