News Roundup and Notes: December 15, 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.

IRAQ and SYRIA

President Obama commented on the military campaign against ISIS yesterday. Obama called on Middle East allies to contribute more to the fight against the militant group. Describing the achievements of the coalition so far, the president asserted that: “ISIL leaders cannot hide. And our next message to them is simple. You are next.” [The Guardian’s David Smith]

Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping to achieve “real progress” in reducing the differences with Russian President Vladimir Putin over how to end the Syrian conflict, during a visit to Moscow today. [Reuters]  Meanwhile, US and EU officials are concerned that Russia’s military tactics in Syria differ so drastically from those of the US and allies that it could be impossible to work together, report Julian E. Barnes et al. [Wall Street Journal]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter today visited a military base close to the Turkish frontier with Syria, the first stop of a Middle Eastern tour aimed at assessing the progress of the US campaign against the Islamic State. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]

Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a 34 state coalition to coordinate against “terrorist organizations;” the coalition is primarily made up of Muslim nations, such as Egypt and Turkey. Iran and Syria were excluded from the alliance. [Al Jazeera]  Germany has welcomed the establishment of the alliance. [Reuters]

Russian airstrikes in Syria are preventing access for humanitarian aid in the north of the country and have targeted bakeries and hospitals and are killing a mounting number of civilians, aid agencies say. [Washington Post’s Liz Sly]

Russian President Vladimir Putin “dropped a bombshell” last week when he suggested that Moscow is providing support for the Free Syrian Army, a statement later “gently corrected” by his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. The Free Syrian Army’s primary aim is to overthrow Moscow’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. [Washington Post’s Andrew Roth]

A small deployment of Turkish troops has been withdrawn from a training base in northern Iraq, but Ankara refused to pull out all of its troops despite mounting pressure from Baghdad and Moscow. [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum and Ghassan Adnan]

A Maryland resident received nearly $9,000 from ISIS operatives abroad and plotted to use the money to launch an attack on US soil, part of a pledge of loyalty to the group, prosecutors said yesterday. [New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out three airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Dec. 13. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 13 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

Two Swedish citizens have been sentenced to life in prison on terrorism charges relating to the killing of two people in Syria. [Al Jazeera]

“Why Washington ignored torture by Iraqi militias.” Ned Parker provides the details at Reuters.

AFGHANISTAN

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face a court-martial on charges of desertion and endangering troops, charges linked to his decision to leave his outpost in 2009 which resulted in a large-scale manhunt in eastern Afghanistan and his detention in Taliban captivity for almost five years. [New York Times’ Richard A. Oppel Jr.; Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Army General Robert Abrams failed to follow the recommendation of a preliminary hearing in ordering the court martial, which according to Bergdahl’s lawyer, suggested that he face a proceeding with a maximum sentence of one year. Bergdahl faces a potential life sentence at court-martial if found guilty. [Reuters]

YEMEN

A seven-day ceasefire has begun between the warring parties to the Yemen conflict, designed to coincide with UN-brokered peace negotiations in Switzerland, the Saudi-led coalition said. [France 24]

ISIS is gaining strength in Yemen; the military group now challenges AQAP, the country’s branch of al-Qaeda. Shuaib Almosawa et al provide the details. [New York Times]

SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTING

San Bernardino attacker Tafsheen Malik sent at least two private messages on social media to friends in 2012 and 2014, pledging her support for Islamic jihad and expressing her desire to join the fight someday, according to two FBI agents. [LA Times’ Richard A. Serrano]

The Department of Homeland Security is developing a plan to increase scrutiny of social-media posts as part of its visa application process before certain people are permitted to gain entry to the country. The heightened focus on social media comes in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting. [Wall Street Journal‘s Damian Paletta and Siobhan Hughes]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

French authorities have arrested two people in connected to the Charlie Hebdo attacks this past January in Paris. They are being questioned over weapons discovered in an arsenal belonging to kosher supermarket attacker, Amédy Coulibaly. [France 24]

The IAEA is expected to close its 12-year investigation into whether Tehran had a secret nuclear weapons program today, an important step in normalizing the country’s global status following the conclusion of a historic nuclear accord with six world powers. [Reuters’ Francois Murphy and Shadia Nasralla]

A Palestinian man rammed his car into a group of Israelis at a bus stop in Jerusalem yesterday, injuring about a dozen people, according to police. [New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren]

Italy has delayed the EU’s decision on whether to renew sanctions against Russia, insisting that more discussion was necessary. The delay drew criticism from EU ministers who favor a strong and united stance against Moscow. [New York Times’ James Kanter]

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is closing down, the special court holding its final session yesterday. Laura Heaton describes the tribunal’s “21 years, 93 cases and $2 billion.” [New York Times]

President Obama’s nomination for the next general counsel of the Army was narrowly approved by Congress yesterday. Her nomination had been the subject of controversy due to her role as one of two investigators who led the Senate Intelligence Committee’s review of the CIA’s torture program. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

South Sudan’s conflict has been ongoing for two years; the war, which began in December 2013, rages on despite a ceasefire deal. More than one million people have been displaced and four million face hunger. [Al Jazeera] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security