News Roundup and Notes: December 18, 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 P5 are struggling to agree on a draft UN Security Council resolution supporting international efforts to end the civil war in Syria, ahead of ministerial talks today in New York. [Reuters] And Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said today that there is still no agreement on which Syrian groups should comprise the “opposition” at today’s talks. [Al Jazeera] 

ISIS launched a three-pronged attack on Wednesday night north and east of Mosul, northern Iraq. The operation was the most significant by the group in over five months. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon] Kurdish peshmerga backed by US-led coalition air support beat the militants back, leaving more than 200 Islamic State fighters dead, US officials said. [Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold]

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at blocking terrorists,’ particularly the Islamic State’s, financial revenue and preventing the use of the international banking system. [UN News Centre; New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

President Obama sought to defend his response to terrorism attacks against criticism from the GOP, during a private session at the White House. [New York Times’ Peter Baker and Gardiner Harris]

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to find a political solution to the Syria conflict, during his traditional end of year conference. [New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer]

British, Chinese and Indian diplomats were invited by Moscow to watch the opening of the black box of the Russian fighter jet downed in Turkey last month. [AP]

A Syrian refugee, suspected of links to the Islamic State was arrested yesterday by German authorities, heightening concerns that Islamist terrorists may have entered the country with some one million refugees who came to Germany this year, report Andrea Thomas and Mohammad Nour Alakraa. [Wall Street Journal]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out seven strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria on Dec. 16. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 11 airstrikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command] 

The Washington Post editorial board accuses the US of “capitulating” to Russia on the question of regime change in Syria.

In order to achieve a “realistic peace plan” for Syria, international efforts must focus on securing an immediate ceasefire in hostilities, suggest Philip Gordon et al. [Washington Post] 

“Will the Saudis let us beat ISIS,” asks Alexander Decina at The Daily Beast.

SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTING 

The neighbor of the San Bernardino attackers has been arrested; Enrique Marquez has been charged with crimes including conspiracy to support terrorists. Marquez purchased the guns used in the shooting as well as smokeless powder used by Syed Rizwan Farook to make pipe bombs. [New York Times’ Adam Nagourney et al] 

Marquez and Farook had made earlier plans to attack a California freeway and to bomb a community college in 2011 and 2012. Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said that the charges Marquez faces relate to these earlier plots, not the San Bernardino shooting. [Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett and Dan Frosch]

AFGHANISTAN

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is visiting Afghanistan to evaluate the delicate security situation there, amid mounting reports of escalated violence and a growing presence of ISIS-linked fighters in the east of the country. [AP]

The Afghan Air Force is suffering from “chronic” desertions by airmen sent to the US for training, an added “woe” for the force which is already “stretched thin,” reports Mujib Mashal. [New York Times] 

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY 

President Obama is not shifting his stance on encryption, despite heightened concerns over the threat of terrorism, reports David Perera. [Politico] 

“The secret surveillance catalogue;” a catalogue of government tools used to spy on cellphones, explain Jeremy Scahill and Margot Williams. [The Intercept]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Rival factions in Libya have signed a UN-brokered deal to secure the formation of a unity government at a ceremony in Morocco. [Al Jazeera] The UN has welcomed the agreement. [UN News Centre]

Parties to peace talks on the Yemen conflict have reached agreement to allow for a complete and immediate resumption of humanitarian aid to the city of Taiz. [UN News Centre]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has taken responsibility for what he described as a “mistake” in using his personal email account to send business emails. [Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold]

The head of the US Southern Command may back down on new limits to journalists’ access to Guantánamo Bay detention facility after the White House expressed objections to the policy. [McClatchy DC’s James Rosen]

An independent panel has concluded that UN officials passed allegations of child sexual abuse by peacekeepers from “desk to desk, inbox to inbox” and failed to uphold the international body’s objective to protect society’s most vulnerable civilians, in a new report. Somini Sengupta and Rick Gladstone provide the details. [New York Times]

Senate Democrats are pushing the Obama administration to take action against Tehran for recent ballistic missile tests, found to be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

Israel and Turkey have come to an understanding on the framework for a reconciliation agreement that would bring to an end the ongoing crisis in relations between the two nations. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]

Hate crimes targeting Muslims in America have tripled since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, with dozens occurring in just one month, new data suggests. [New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau]

“We so-called moderate Muslims are urged to take control of the narrative and wrest it away from the radicals,” observes Mohammed Hanif, commenting on the challenges faced by Muslims expected to “explain to the world what real Islam is like.” [New York Times]

Rwanda faces a choice in its upcoming referendum, of “whether it will create a political space in which contentious issues can be resolved peacefully, or continue the cycle of autocracy, repression and conflict in which it has been trapped since independence in 1962,” writes P.A. at the New York Times. 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security