News Roundup and Notes: December 21, 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.

SYRIA

The UN Security Council unanimously agreed a resolution endorsing an international roadmap for a peace process in Syria. The resolution involves the UN developing a ceasefire monitoring plan and backing a timeline for talks between the Bashar al-Assad’s government and opposition groups, as well as eventual elections. [The Guardian’s Kevin Rawlinson]

“There are plenty of reasons for skepticism, and a few for hope” after the resolution, write David Sanger and Somini Sengupta. [New York Times] Members of the main Syrian opposition group are among those who are skeptical. [Agence France-Presse’s Marisol Rifai and Dave Clark]

Iran has decided to unify its stance with Russia’s in the push as part of the deal. Both countries have recently signaled that they might not oppose Assad’s removal as part of the peace process. [Reuters’ Parisa Hafezi and Louis Charbonneau]

Promises of money, power, and prestige lured Syrian rebel leader Hassan Aboud to defect to the Islamic State in 2014. His grisly tale is hardly unique. C.J. Chivers provides and in-depth look at the ISIS’s recruitment process. [New York Times]

Russia is ready to scale up its military intervention in Syria according to statements by Vladimir Putin. He made the statements less than a day after Russia signed off on the UN’s plan to end the war. [The Guardian’s Emma Graham-Harrison]

Roughly one-third of rebel groups in Syria share the Islamic State’s ideology, which amounts to nearly 100,000 fighters, according to a new research study. [BBC]

IRAQ

A US military plane mistakenly carried out an air strike that killed 10 members of the Iraqi security forces near the city of Fallujah last week. [Reuters’ Yeganeh Torbati] Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said it was “a mistake that involved both sides.” [Washington Post’s Mustafa Salim and Missy Ryan]

Not all foreign fighters are joining the Islamic State. A small number of Western fighters have left their homes to join up with forces opposing ISIS in the Middle East. Buzzfeed’s Patrick Smith, tells the story of one British grandfather who joined a militia defending Christians on the plains of Nineveh.

CYBERSECURITY

Congress passed a version of the controversial cybersecurity legislation known as CISA by including in a “must pass” budget bill on Friday, writes the Associated Press’ Erica Werner. As The Intercept’s Jenna McLaughlin points out, the bill has raised significant privacy and surveillance concerns among advocates.

 Cyberattackers opened a pathway into the networks running the US power grid, a security researcher recently found. The attackers, likely Iranian, were able to access “mission critical” information in a type of incident that is more common than the general public thinks. [Associated Press’ Garance Burke and Jonathan Fahey]

Iranian hackers infiltrated the control system of a small dam 20 miles from New York City in 2013, raising concerns that reached the White House. The breach happened around the same time as Iranian government attacks against US banking websites. [Wall Street Journal’s Danny Yadron]

YEMEN

UN-brokered peace talks ended on Sunday with no signs of a resolution to the nine-month war between Houthi rebels and the government of Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. [New York Times’ Kareem Fahim and Saeed al-Batati]

At least 68 people have been killed in fresh clashes in Yemen between government troops and Houthi rebels near the Saudi border. [BBC]

AFGHANISTAN

A suicide bomber on a motorbike attacked a joint US-Afghan patrol near Bagram air base, killing five soldiers and wounding six others. [Reuters]

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter predicted there will be more tough fighting ahead in Afghanistan as the US seeks to help local forces beat back a surge in Taliban attacks and contain an emerging threat from militants linked to the Islamic State. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan and Pamela Constable]

TERRORISM INVESTIGATIONS

Belgian authorities have arrested five people after two days of raids related to the Paris attacks last month. [Associated Press]

Swiss authorities are investigating a board member of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland on terror-related charges. The German citizen is suspected of using videos made in Syria for propaganda purposes. [BBC]

A pizza parlor owner in Rochester, New York pleaded guilty on Thursday to trying to recruit people to join Islamic extremists in Syria last year. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is demanding the Navy reconsider its decision not to punish Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the commander in charge of the Navy’s SEAL teams and other elite units, for his illegal retaliation against staff members he mistakenly suspected were whistleblowers. Wyden said he will block the nomination of Janine Davidson to serve as the next Undersecretary for the Navy until the service reconsiders its stance. [Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock]

The US Embassy in Pakistan has received information about a possible terrorist attack in Islamabad in late December. The Embassy has warned Americans to avoid busy public places during the Christmas and New Year holidays. [Associated Press’ Zarar Khan]

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has said US officials “sloppily approved” the visa application of Tashfeen Malik. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said the materials did not conclusively show that Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook had met in person, one of the requirements for obtaining a fiancée visa. [Washington Post’s Sarah Halzack]

Israeli forces killed three Palestinians and injured at least 78 others in clashes over the weekend. [Al Jazeera America]

At least four people were killed and nine injured in Mogadishu in an attack on a government official. The attack was followed by a car bombing in the Somali capital. [Agence France-Presse]

Scores of protesters in Ethiopia have been killed during clashes with police and military forces since November. The protests are over potential land seizures to build roads and infrastructure. So far, the government has branded those killed and protesting as “terrorists.” [Buzzfeed’s Alicia Melville-Smith]

An American B-52 bomber on a routine mission unintentionally flew within two nautical miles of the Spratley Islands in the South China Sea, an area where China and its neighbors have competing territorial claims. China filed a formal diplomatic complaint with the US Embassy in Beijing over the matter. [Wall Street Journal’s Jeremy Page and Gordon Lubold] 

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About the Author(s)

Megan Graham

Former Assistant Managing Editor and Security, Privacy, and Technology Fellow at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@meganmcgraham).

John Reed

Managing Editor of Just Security (2014-18). Follow him on Twitter (@ReedJustSec).