News Roundup and Notes: November 9, 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.

EGYPT

There is mounting consensus within the US intelligence community that a bomb was responsible for downing the Russian Metrojet plane that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai last month, killing everyone on board. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt]  House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said that “all indicators” point to a bomb, on “Fox News Sunday.”

The investigating team into the crash are “90 percent sure” that a noise heard on the flight’s data recorder was an explosion caused by a bomb, a member of the team told Reuters on Sunday.

Staff at Sharm el Sheikh airport have undergone intense questioning by Egyptian authorities aimed at determining whether insiders were responsible for the crash. [Wall Street Journal’s Margaret Coker et al]

Russia on Friday announced it was halting all flights into Egypt amid growing concern over the terrorist link to the plane crash. [Washington Post’s Andrew Roth and Griff White]

The crash may “strengthen” President Putin’s resolve to become further embedded in the Middle East if it transpires that an ISIS bomb was responsible, reports Neil MacFarquhar. [New York Times]

The plane crash could “add to the perception that ISIS is winning,” says Former Deputy CIA Direct Michael Morell. [The Hill’s Peter Sullivan]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board opines that the “greatest folly of the Administration’s Mideast policy has been to imagine that an arms-length approach to the region’s troubles would keep its problems away from us,” arguing that the incident in Sinai shows the terror threat is coming “closer to home.”

IRAQ and SYRIA

Russian soldiers have been geolocated in Syrian locations including Hama, Aleppo and Homs, according to Russian bloggers, indicating that Moscow’s operation goes beyond its air campaign. [Reuters’ Maria Tsvetkova]

Iran plans to attend the next round of Syria peace negotiations, according to a top adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this weekend, a week after the country threatened to withdraw. [Reuters]

The US is set to increase its airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria in the coming weeks, following a period in which the air campaign slowed, according to a senior military official. [Wall Street Journal’s Robert Wall]

“If we find additional groups that are willing to fight ISIL, and are capable and motivated, we’ll do more,” said Defense Secretary Ash Carter during an appearance on ABC News, adding that more American troops “absolutely” could be sent to Syria.

The Pentagon will receive funding to pay compensation to the families of Iraqi civilians killed by US airstrikes, though the military is yet to publicly acknowledge the accidental killing or wounding of any civilians since it began targeting ISIS, reports Kate Brannen at The Daily Beast.

President Obama’s strategy of sending Special Operations Forces into Syria will not work in the long term, says Sen Kirsten Gillibrand. [The Hill’s Peter Sullivan]

Mustard gas has been conclusively identified by inspectors as the toxic agent used during an insurgent attack in northern Syria during the summer, according to a statement released Friday by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. [Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor]

“The danger is that the all-purpose diplomatic resort to ‘process’ will lead the United States to ignore realities and even make them worse,” writes Robert B. Zoellick, suggesting that while Syria peace talks are “well-intentioned,” it is unlikely that they will accomplish anything. [Wall Street Journal]

“The unthinkable is becoming conceivable in a combustible Turkey,” writes Roger Cohen, commenting on the seep of the Syrian conflict across the border. [New York Times]

AFGHANISTAN

NATO is exploring ways to strengthen its training and assistance mission in Afghanistan, amid concerns that local forces lack the ability to tackle an escalating insurgency inside the country, according to officials in Brussels and Kabul. [Reuters’ Krista Mahr and Sabine Siebold]

Fighting between rival Taliban factions has escalated in southeastern Afghanistan, with at least 47 insurgents killed on both sides during the past three days of fighting, a local official said today. [AP]

Many American journalists “immediately, repeatedly and authoritatively” declared the US attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz to have been an “accident” or a “mistake,” despite not having any substantive evidence to support the suggestion, writes Glenn Greenwald, criticizing the response of the US media. [The Intercept]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

President Obama will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, the first face-to-face between the leaders since the conclusion of the Iran nuclear accord in July. [Reuters’ Jeffrey Heller]

“The tortured relationship between Barack and Bibi … has been a story of crossed signals, misunderstandings, slights perceived and real,” comment Peter Baker and Jodi Rudoren. [New York Times]

LIBYA

The UN Security Council has called on all Libyan stakeholders to sign and endorse the recent UN-brokered political deal, concerned over the ongoing political, security and institutional crises there. [UN News Centre]

The UK Supreme Court will this week hear the government’s appeal in the controversial rendition case concerning Libyan dissident Abdul Hakim Belhaj who alleges MI6 helped arrange his rendition in 2004. [BBC]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

Centennial Correctional Facility in Colorado will likely be named as one site to send detainees considered unsuitable for release by the Pentagon’s strategy for closing Guantánamo Bay, to be released in the coming week. [AP’s Lolita C. Baldor and Kathleen Hennessy]

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul predicts that the Obama administration will use executive action to shut down the detention facility at Guantánamo. [The Hill’s Peter Sullivan]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A new chronology detailing how the State Department, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and other parties reacted to the attacks on the US facilities in Benghazi in 2012 has been released by the agency, in response to a FOIA request by Veterans for a Strong America, reports Josh Gerstein. [Politico]

Moscow and Tehran have signed an agreement for the supply of S-300 missiles to Iran, the RIA news agency reported today. [Reuters]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani publicly acknowledged a link between the country’s hard-line media and the recent wave of arrests, reports Thomas Erdbrink. [New York Times]

The US plans to establish a greater military presence in Europe, military leaders proposing the deployment of more forces there on a rotating basis. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold]

Britain is undergoing a foreign policy crisis that leaves it “sidelined in Syria, ineffective in Ukraine, unwilling in Europe, and inimical towards refugees,” according to a new report from influential former diplomats, intelligence officers and foreign policy academics. [The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour and Andrew Sparrow]

Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy is confident that it has secured victory in the country’s first openly contested election in 25 years. [BBC] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security