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 Nusra Front has released 16 Lebanese servicemen and policemen detained since August 2014 as part of a Qatari-brokered deal that also secured the release of an ex-wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. [Reuters]
Germany has ruled out cooperating with the Assad regime or his troops in the military campaign against the Islamic State, the country’s defense minister speaking before a cabinet meeting said today. [Reuters]
Iraqi security forces will make a final push to retake Ramadi from the Islamic State in the coming days, reports Michael R. Gordon, but still face significant challenges ahead in Mosul, which ISIS has controlled since June 2014. [New York Times]
Turkey has returned to Russia the body of the Russian Air Force pilot killed after his warplane was shot down by Turkish forces on Nov. 24. [New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar] Turkey’s premier, Ahmet Davutoglu has called for the opening of communication channels between Moscow and Ankara to prevent such incidents from happening again. [Reuters]
Two bomb attacks struck Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 15 people and wounding 38 others. The explosions hit groups of Shi’ite Muslims taking part in an annual religious pilgrimage. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. [Al Jazeera]
UK Prime Minister David Cameron will hold a vote in the House of Commons tomorrow on whether to extend British airstrikes against ISIS into Syria. The issue has divided the opposition Labour party, but leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed yesterday to give his MPs a free vote on the issue. [The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour] And Keir Starmer writes that while airstrikes in Syria are lawful, Cameron’s strategy for defeating the militant group there is flawed. [The Guardian]
The Assad regime is still using chemical weapons against the Syrian people, allegations arising during the opening session of the annual meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons in The Hague. [Foreign Policy’s Paul McLeary]
US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out three airstrikes against Islamic State targets on Nov. 29 in Syria. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 12 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
“[T]he historic moral and strategic underpinnings for self-restraint fall short as a justification for the administration’s inaction against the Islamic State,” opines Benjamin Runkle, discussing the White House’s “excessive fear of collateral damage” at Foreign Policy.
The White House has announced changes to the visa waiver program in the wake of the Paris attacks, the program coming under scrutiny as a potential security gap. [NPR’s Shirley Henry and Domenico Montanaro] GOP lawmakers announced yesterday that they would push for tighter requirements in legislation. [New York Times’ Gardiner Harris and Michael S. Schmidt]
The Paris attackers prepared their assault through a process of trial and error, write Rukmini Callimachi et al, discussing evidence about how the attacks succeeded and the role that intelligence lapses played. [New York Times]
It is unclear “what kind of war” France is willing to wage against the Islamic State, “against whom and where,” reports Celestine Bohlen. [New York Times]
The State Department has released a new batch of Hillary Clinton’s emails, amounting to roughly 8,000 pages. The State Department and a watchdog for the intelligence community clashed ahead of the release, disagreeing over whether one of the emails was classified. Josh Gerstein and Nick Gass report. [Politico] And “the 15 must-read Clinton emails,” from Nick Gass at Politico.
The American Embassy in Kabul has warned of an imminent threat to the Afghan capital, citing credible reports of an attack within the next few days. [Reuters]
GOP lawmakers will push to include national security measures in a spending bill which Congress needs to pass next month, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Kristina Peterson]
Israel’s decision to ban the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement poses the risk of giving a “green light to young extreme Islamists that the moderate way isn’t working,” says Sami Abu Shhadeh, a Palestinian community activist. [New York Times’ Diaa Hadid]
China and the US will begin cyber security talks this week in Washington, following the conclusion of an anti-hacking agreement brokered during President Xi Jinping’s official state visit in September. [Reuters]
American-supplied equipment on the front lines in Ukraine is “falling apart,” reports Thomas Gibbons-Neff, writing that some of the gear is aged and in poor condition. [Washington Post]
The Bush administration understood “that demonizing Muslims and depicting Islam as ‘the enemy’ not only fueled Al Qaeda’s narrative” but also hurt Republican electoral prospects, writes Mehdi Hasan, observing that “Islamophobia is a vote winner with the modern GOP.” [New York Times] Glenn Greenwald discusses Hasan’s piece, suggesting that it “gives Bush too much credit,” at The Intercept.
A submarine ballistic missile test by North Korea was unsuccessful, according to a South Korean lawmaker. [New York Times’ Choe Sang-Hun]
A US Marine has been convicted of the killing of a transgender Filipino woman last year, and has been sentenced to 6-12 years in prison. [AP]
The Senate has confirmed a new head for the US Agency for International Development, amid a mounting humanitarian crisis in Syria. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]
Myanmar’s military released 53 child soldiers from service yesterday; the country has released nearly 700 child recruits since 2012 but it is unclear how many remain in service. [Al Jazeera America]