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.


The FBI is treating the San Berdardino shooting as a possible terror attack, however the agency is not close to concluding that it was, according to two law enforcement officials. The two suspects had stockpiled thousands of rounds of ammunition and had homemade pipe bombs at their home. [New York Times’ Jennifer Medina et al]  The guns used in the attack were legally obtained. [New York Times’ Mike McIntire]

President Obama said that it is “possible” that there was a terrorism motive in the attack but that it’s “also possible this was workplace related,” in a statement following the incident.

In the wake of the shooting, GOP presidential candidates “immediately mounted an unapologetic defense of the right to bear arms,” reports Daniel Strauss. [Politico]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board considers the motive in the shooting, observing that the weapons used were “the tools of the modern jihadist,” and writing that we “know that sudden Islamist radicalization is possible even without direct contact with a jihadist network like Islamic State.”


The German parliament has voted in favor of joining the US-led coalition against ISIS in Syria, approving a plan for a non-combat role which will involve reconnaissance. [BBC]

The multi-party battle in Aleppo province is entering a critical phase, with rebel groups and foreign forces attempting to “strike a decisive blow,” report Sam Dagher and Mohammad Nour Alakraa. [Wall Street Journal]

Tensions between Turkey and Russia continued to escalate yesterday, with the leaders of both countries throwing insults at the other. [New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar]  Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described Russian allegations that Turkey is purchasing oil from ISIS as “Soviet-style propaganda.” [Reuters]

The US has been killing a mid-to-high level ISIS figure every couple of days, on average, according to a senior administration official. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

President Obama suggested that the US special operations force being sent to Iraq will “squeeze” ISIS, and said that his decision to send the troops is not an indication that the US is heading toward an Iraq War- style conflict. [Reuters]

Secretary of State John Kerry said that if a political transition could be achieved in Syria, removing Assad from power, then a coalition of US, Russian and Syrian forces could defeat the Islamic State “in a matter of literally months.” [New York Times’ David E. Sanger and Somini Sengupta]  Kerry also said that Cyprus could form a model for the Middle East, during a visit to the nation yesterday. [Washington Post’s Carol Morello]

Political transition in Syria is still a long way off, despite the Vienna-diplomatic process, according to analysts. Julian Borger provides the details. [The Guardian]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces carried out 14 strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria on Dec. 2. Separately, coalition forces conducted a further 18 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

A former US official who presided over the initial stages of the American occupation of Iraq is pushing for the Obama administration to redeploy 10,000 US troops to that country in order to fight the Islamic State. Ishaan Tharoor reports. [Washington Post]

The Islamic State’s loss of territory in Iraq and Syria is impacting on the group’s money flow from traditional sources, reports Hugh Naylor. [Washington Post]

The vast majority of university graduates recruited into Islamist terrorism studied scientific subjects, according to an as yet unpublished study. [The Guardian’s Paul Vallely]

“The successful waging of war requires concentration, ruthlessness, prioritization and a willingness to abandon old shibboleths and seek new allies,” argues Anatol Lieven. [New York Times]


Iran’s rulers are still unwilling to provide answers over evidence of past nuclear experimentation, writes David E. Sanger, and as the nuclear accord moves toward implementation it is likely those answers will remain a “mystery.” [New York Times]

Sens Bob Corker and Ben Cardin have pledged a “rigorous” oversight of the Iran nuclear accord before the agreement is formally implemented. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]


Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam was at Budapest railway station in early September and left with men who had been traveling with a wave of refugees attempting to enter Europe, according to Hungarian officials. [AP]

All combat positions will be opened to women, without exception, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz and Gordon Lubold]  GOP skeptics have delivered a “subtle warning” about the decision: that it could lead to all young women in America being required to register for the draft. [Politico’s Austin Wright]

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen had been provided with the coordinates of a Médecins Sans Frontières clinic bombed on Wednesday in Taiz, the medicial charity said in a statement. [New York Times’ Kareem Fahim]

The CIA is running a “shadow war” in eastern Afghanistan, overseeing a highly secretive paramilitary unit called the Khost Protection Force. Sudarsan Raghavan provided the details. [Washington Post]

The German government has publicly reproached its foreign intelligence service over a memo that accused Saudi Arabia of playing an increasingly destabilizing role in the Middle East. [New York Times’ Alison Smale]

Russian state security has warned Thai authorities that 10 Syrians thought to be linked to ISIS could attack targets associated with Russia and other enemy forces in Thailand. [AP]

The Australian parliament has legislated to allow the government to revoke the citizenship of dual-Australian citizens if they are suspected of engaging in terrorism. [New York Times’ Michelle Innis]

The House Benghazi committee will interview former CIA Director David Petraeus in a closed door hearing next month. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

A new security bill passed through the Malaysian parliament has been criticized due to its widespread powers which could be abused by officials. [New York Times’ Austin Ramzy]

Burundi is facing the imminent breakout of civil war and requires the establishment of a peace process between the government and the opposition, the US special envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes region has said. [Al Jazeera]

A firebomb attack on a Cairo club has left at least 16 people dead. The interior ministry said the attack had a criminal background. [Al Jazeera]