News Roundup and Notes: December 17, 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

The UN Security Council is set to adopt a resolution aimed at increasing sanctions against those who conduct business with terrorist organizations, primarily ISIS. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he would not agree with outside forces deciding on the governance of Syria. [Reuters]

The US has delivered munitions to Syrian Arab rebels ahead of what is expected to be a challenging battle with ISIS as the rebels push toward the town of al-Shadadi, which is used as a logistics hub by the militant group. [Reuters’ Phil Stewart]

Pakistani officials expressed surprise yesterday, saying they had not been consulted by anyone in Saudi Arabia ahead of the announcement of Pakistan’s membership of a new, 34-country “Islamic military alliance” for the fight against terrorism. [New York Times’ Robert Mackey]  Adam Taylor writes that the Saudi alliance “makes no sense,” highlighting some “perplexing aspects.” [Washington Post]

Iraqi security forces are using Chinese-built drones, a “major step forward” in China’s efforts to become a leading military equipment exporter, report Patrick Boehler and Gerry Doyle. [New York Times]

A Syrian journalist who reported on ISIS abuses in Raqqa has been murdered; Ahmad Mohamed al-Mousa is the third member of the media collective known as Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently to be killed. [The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade]

The family of American journalist James Foley protested the use of an image of his execution in a tweet by the French far right leader Marine Le Pen; Le Pen has since taken down the image but has left up other images of ISIS violence. [AP]

At least 26 members of a Qatari safari were abducted by Iraqi militants in the south of the country, officials from both countries said. [New York Times’ Omar Al-Jawoshy and Rick Gladstone]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces carried out six strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Dec. 15. Separately, coalition forces conducted a further 11 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

“Those in the West who assume there is a coherent anti-ISIS alliance are deluded,” argues Mowaffaq Safadi, writing that “it has become clear to me that for many young men being a fighter has become more of a job than a calling – a career path they feel they have to follow for lack of alternatives.” [The Guardian]

The West’s best allies against the Islamic State are Iraq’s Kurdish forces, writes Kemal Kirkuki, commander of the peshmerga forces on the northwestern Kirkuk frontline. [New York Times]

YEMEN

The UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland are facing difficulties; a dispute has arisen over government demands for the release of officials held by Houthi rebels, sources report. Houthis say they are willing to release the officials once a permanent ceasefire has been agreed to. [Reuters]

The New York Times editorial board comments that the “warring sides cannot defeat each other on the battlefield,” concluding that there is “no credible alternative to a political solution that would allow the Houthis to share power with the Hadi government.”

SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTING

No evidence has arisen to support suggestions that the couple responsible for the Dec. 2 attack were members of a terrorist cell, FBI Director James Comey said, adding that ISIS has “revolutionized” terrorism by trying to inspire such small-scale attacks. [Reuters]

Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were discussing their commitment to jihad in private messages to one another as early as 2013, even before they met. [Wall Street Journal’s Nicole Hong and Devlin Barrett]

The majority of Americans doubt the country’s ability to prevent “lone wolf” terrorist attacks, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. [Washington Post’s Scott Clement]

AFGHANISTAN

At least four special operations teams have been deployed by the US and the UK to Helmand province, part of efforts to support “struggling” Afghan government forces as they try to fight off Taliban insurgents in the region. Jessica Donati and Habib Khan Totakhil provide the details at the Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times hosts the full Naval Criminal Investigative Service report on detainee abuse in Kalach, Afghanistan. Christopher Drew and Nicholas Kulish at the New York Times provide a guide to the report.

GOP PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

“The explicit assumption of the candidates was that Americans ought to be terrified about our safety,” writes Michael Grunwald, criticizing the debate for failing to consider other important subjects. [Politico]

“Ignorance is no excuse.” Max Boot comments on Donald Trump’s failure to correctly answer a question on the “three legs of the triad” during the recent GOP presidential debate. [Commentary Magazine]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Belgian authorities were delayed in carrying out raids in the wake of the Paris attacks in the search for key suspect, Salah Abdeslam, due to a law barring raids from being conducted at night, officials said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Valentina Pop]

The White House appears set to release the largest number of Guantánamo Bay detainees in one month since 2007, an effort which could leave the prison population reduced to as low as 90 by mid- to late January. Charlie Savage reports. [New York Times]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter used his personal email to conduct a portion of his official business during his first months at the Pentagon, but has since stopped, according to the White House and the Pentagon. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt]

The American government has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of money to Hezbollah, with officials working more closely with EU counterparts to undermine the organization’s international financial network. [Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett]

Germany has created a new special forces unit designed to deal effectively with the threat posed by attacks similar to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks and the earlier Charlie Hebdo attacks in which multiple attackers target different places and then flee. [Deutsche Welle]

A critical British government report on the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK is expected to face legal challenge by the group who argue that the inquiry was “unduly influenced by foreign powers hostile to the rise of democracy in the Middle East.” [The Guardian’s Randeep Ramesh]

Congress has put forward a plan to use bank settlements to provide compensation to victims of terrorism where judgments have been made against state sponsors, including Iran and Sudan. Aruna Viswanatha reports. [Wall Street Journal]

The Department of State has called on the Nigerian government to conduct an investigation into reports of a high number of deaths during clashes between the security forces and a Shi’ite Muslim minority. [New York Times’ Sewell Chan] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security