News Roundup and Notes: December 3, 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.

SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTING

A mass shooting at a social services center in San Bernardino, California yesterday left at least 14 people dead and injured at least 17 others. Two heavily armed suspects were killed following a manhunt that ended in a shootout with police, authorities said. The motive has yet to be determined, though terrorism has not been ruled out. [New York Times’ Adam Nagourney et al; Reuters]

Live updates available from the New York Times and the Guardian.

President Obama said that there is “no parallel” to the gun violence experienced by the US, expressing frustration at the still-stalled efforts to legislate on new gun controls in a CBS News interview.

Presidential candidates responded on Twitter to the incident. [Wall Street Journal’s Natalie Andrews]

The shooting is the 335th mass shooting this year. [Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham]

IRAQ and SYRIA

The British parliament voted to extend airstrikes against the Islamic State into Syria last night, the government securing a 174-vote majority. Royal Air Force Tornado jets have since carried out their first strikes on targets in Syria, the Ministry of Defense confirmed. The airstrikes targeted the Omar oil fields in the east of the country. [BBC; Reuters]  Eight more warplanes have been deployed by Britain to its base in Cyprus, defense minister Michael Fallon said today. [Reuters]  Patrick Wintour provides a detailed overview of the tense debate that preceded the vote. [The Guardian]

The Economist comments on the differences between the British intervention in Iraq and Syria, observing that “Britain’s imminent engagement in Syria does not come at the behest of that country’s sovereign government and will not primarily act in support of its armed forces.”

The Guardian editorial board criticizes Prime Minister David Cameron’s “heroic assumptions” about the “numbers, moderation and unity” of local Syrian and Kurdish forces and his “wishful thinking” on the potential for an outcome of the Vienna peace talks that will produce a post-Assad transition.

France and Germany announced fresh plans to cut off the cash flow reaching the Islamic State, including immediate efforts to counter money laundering, plans which were initially to take effect in 2017. [New York Times’ Alison Smale]

The Russian and Turkish foreign ministers will meet today on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Cooperation meeting; it will be the first meeting between senior officials from the two countries since the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey. [AP]

Moscow says it has proof that Ankara has involvement in the Islamic State’s oil trade, Russia’s defense ministry claiming that President Tayyip Erdogan and his family have directly benefited from smuggling. [Reuters’ Maria Tsvetkova and Lidia Kelly]

Iraqi Sunnis are preparing to extend their involvement in the battle to retake the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State. Matt Bradley and Ben Kesling provide the details at the Wall Street Journal.

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces conducted two airstrikes against ISIS targets on Dec. 1. Separately, coalition forces carried out a further 15 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

ISIS has released a video purporting to show the beheading of a man accused of being a Russian spy. [CNN’s Greg Botelho]

Yazidis have carried out attacks on locals in the reclaimed town of Sinjar, in what is claimed to be revenge for betrayals during ISIS control. Cathy Otten provides the details at The Daily Beast.

The Texas Health and Human Service Commission is suing the State Department, the International Rescue Committee and others in an attempt to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in that state. [Reuters]

The State Department may scale back its campaign against ISIS propaganda, following the results of a review by outside experts which cast new doubt on the effectiveness of efforts. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller]

Russian President Vladimir’s “crafty Syrian chess move” has not been as successful as he had hoped, writes Thomas L. Friedman, commenting on Russia’s “misadventures” and considering the “impossible” solution to the Syrian conflict. [New York Times]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

The White House yesterday insisted that moving Guantánamo Bay detainees to the US could save money and maintain security standards, following claims from the Wall Street Journal that the cost of moving prisoners would cost $400 million. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

The Obama administration is planning to release a sufficient number of detainees over the next year to make closing the facility “politically and logistically easier,” reports Charlie Savage at the New York Times.

The Obama administration’s plan to close the prison and move detainees to the US is “utterly illegal,” argue David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, concluding that Congress should sue the president and “ask the courts to bring Mr Obama back within the lawful bounds of his office.” [Wall Street Journal]

IRAN

Iran actively engaged in nuclear weapons design until 2003 and maintained some weapons studies until 2009 before ceasing all activity, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in its report. The Iranian government has rejected the conclusions and declared the UN watchdog’s investigation closed. [The Guardian’s Julian Borger]

The White House expects to begin lifting sanctions on Tehran as soon as January following the publication of the nuclear watchdog’s report which found no credible evidence of recent atomic-weapons activity. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman and Jay Solomon]

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban has rejected claims by the Afghan central government that the group’s leader was wounded during a firefight between members of the insurgent group. [Wall Street Journal’s Jessica Donati and Ehsanullah Amiri]

At least six innocent civilians have lost their lives during a series of home raids this past month carried out by CIA-trained Afghan counterterrorism forces, according to Afghan officials, restarting the debate over forces “seen as being largely unaccountable and accused of human rights abuses.” [New York Times’ David Jolly]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Militants from AQAP have seized two towns in southern Yemen, including the provincial capital. [New York Times’ Shuaib Almosawa and Kareem Fahim]

The family of Glen Doherty, one of the four Americans killed in the 2012 Benghazi attack, is yet to receive any federal funds despite the CIA’s decision to pay Doherty’s death benefits last December. Nicholas Fandos provides the details. [New York Times]

The Secret Service has become an “agency in crisis,” according to a report released publicly today from a bipartisan congressional investigation into the state of the agency. [Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig]

Cameroon’s military has killed at least 100 Boko Haram militants and freed 900 people held hostage by the group, the army said yesterday. [Reuters]

Former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger has died from cancer, at age 70. Berger served under President Clinton. [Politico’s Nick Gass]

“Sadly, unlike France or America, Nigeria will never know the names of most of the terrorists’ victims.” Tolu Ogunlesi discusses the “nameless” victims of Boko Haram. [New York Times]

Thai authorities have arrested suspects wanted in connection to a bomb attack on a Bangkok shrine in August that killed 20 people. [Reuters]

North Korea is constructing a new tunnel at its nuclear test site, according to new satellite images. [Washington Post’s Anna Fifield] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security