News Roundup and Notes: December 7, 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 ATTACK 

The FBI is investigating as terrorism the attack last Wednesday on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. The attack which killed 14 people was conducted by married couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Ms Malik pledged her allegiance to ISIS on Facebook the day of the attack, though there is no evidence that the group directed the attack. [New York Times]

The changing nature of the terror threat is posing a challenge to US authorities, with a system built to protect against large-scale attacks now grappling with isolated incidents that are more difficult to detect, report Philip Shishkin and Patrick O’Connor. [Wall Street Journal]

Attorney General Loretta Lynch was reluctant to pin the attack on the Islamic State, saying that the investigation is a “marathon, not a sprint” and that it was too soon to draw such conclusions. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]

President Obama addressed the nation in a speech from the Oval Office on Sunday evening. The president described the evolving terrorist threat posed by those who had “gone down the dark path of radicalization,” but was resolute in his defense of his administration’s strategy for tackling the Islamic State: “Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving into fear,” he said. [The Guardian’s Dan Roberts; New York Times’ Gardiner Harris and Michael D. Shear]

The full transcript of his speech is available here. Byron Tau explores five “major themes” in the president’s speech, at the Wall Street Journal.

Republican presidential candidates were quick to criticize Obama’s speech; Patrick Healy provides an overview at the New York Times.

Hillary Clinton said she expects President Obama to announce an “intensification” in the American campaign against ISIS, saying that additional steps need to be taken. [Politico’s Jeremy Herb]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board suggests that “President Obama’s failure to respond forcefully enough” to the threat of Islamic extremism, “or even seemingly to understand the threat, has allowed this evil inspiration to spread.”

The New York Times editorial board commends the president’s comments against the “wholesale vilification of Muslims,” and highlights his “strong and timely challenge” to Congress to approve legal authorization for the war against ISIS. 

President Obama’s address failed to “quell concerns” over his counter-ISIS strategy, writes Edward-Isaac Dovere. [Politico]

Obama’s address marked a shift in the language used which reveals an “analysis in transition,” particularly on the subject of radicalization, reports Jason Burke. [The Guardian]

New questions are arising over whether the White House has been too restrained in actively combating home-grown Islamic extremism, reports Josh Gerstein. [Politico]

IRAQ and SYRIA 

A Syrian government army camp in Deir al-Zour province was hit by an air strike, killing three people. The government has blamed the US-led coalition for what it called an act of “flagrant aggression.” A coalition spokesperson has denied any airstrikes were conducted in the area. [BBC]

A series of airstrikes targeting the Islamic State’s de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa has left at least 32 ISIS fighters dead and another 40 injured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. There are conflicting accounts about who was responsible for the strikes. [The Guardian’s Kevin Rawlinson]

Iraq gave Turkey 48 hours yesterday to withdraw a deployment of Turkish military near the ISIS stronghold of Mosul without the consent of the Baghdad government, warning that it would enlist the UN to force their removal. [Wall Street Journal’s Karen Leigh and Dion Nissenbaum]

NATO will not send ground troops to Syria to fight the Islamic State, General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has said, emphasizing the need to strengthen local forces on the ground. [Reuters]

ISIS has been setting booby traps in Ramadi in an attempt to thwart the Iraqi offensive, military officials said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Karen Leigh and Ghassan Adnan] 

Kurdish intelligence suggests that the Islamic State can be defeated but that greater military support from the US and its allies will be necessary. Sohraib Ahmari reports for the Wall Street Journal.

President Obama’s speech to the nation yesterday drew attention to the fact that Congress is yet to authorize the war against the Islamic State, reports Trevor Timm, describing the fight against ISIS as “illegal and unconstitutional.” [The Guardian]

Leaked Islamic State documents show that the militant group has designed a blueprint for its state, complete with regional government and a civil service. [The Guardian’s Shiv Malik]

AFGHANISTAN

Moscow will carefully consider a request by Afghanistan for arms supply, according to RIA news agency. [Reuters]

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has condemned the recent killing of nine civilians during a shelling attack on the village of Shahi Khil in Wardak, allegedly by Afghan government forces. [UN News Centre]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY 

Social media providers are coming under increasing pressure to moderate terrorist content on their websites. Deepa Seetharaman et al report. [Wall Street Journal]

“There’s the war on terrorism, and then there’s the war on how to fight the war on terrorism.” Danny Yadron looks at whether encryption “really” helps the Islamic State. [Wall Street Journal]

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz has been criticized for his vote in favor of curtailing the NSA metadata program by a number of other GOP hopefuls. Jennifer Rubin reports. [Washington Post]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

The five alleged 9/11 plotters will be tried together, the Guantánamo war court releasing an order canceling a previous decision to hold Ramzi bin al Shibh’s trial separately. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Formerly public testimony has disappeared from transcripts of the war court at Guantánamo Bay. Carol Rosenberg provides the details. [Miami Herald]

YEMEN 

A car bomb attack in the Yemeni port city of Aden killed the provincial governor yesterday. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. [New York Times’ Saeed al-Batati and Kareem Fahim] 

Parties to the country’s conflict are expected to announce a humanitarian ceasefire within days, ahead of UN-brokered peace talks aimed at bringing to an end the country’s civil war. [Reuters]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

British authorities are treating a stabbing attack on the London underground yesterday as a terrorist incident and have stepped up security on the city’s transportation. Witnesses reported hearing the assailant shout “this is for Syria” during the attack. [The Guardian’s Vikram Dodd]

Secretary of State John Kerry has come under fire for saying that Israel faces implosion if a two-state solution is not achieved with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responding that: “Israel will not be a binational state.” [The Hill’s Bradford Richardson]

The British government’s counter-extremism schemes are “exclusively targeting young Muslims,” according to a group of Muslim religious leaders, saying that “divisive” schemes like Prevent are “spying on our young people.” [The Guardian’s Randeep Ramesh]

Iranian authorities have arrested 53 people on suspicion of running websites linked to the Islamic State, Tasmin news agency reports. [Reuters]

The New York Times editorial board commends the decision to include women in combat roles as a “powerfully symbolic and sound policy move,” writing that it will make the military “stronger and will narrow America’s gender equality gap.” 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security