News Roundup and Notes: December 22, 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 

ISIS has shelled a school district in the Syrian government-held area in Deir al-Zor city, killing at least nine students and wounding 20 people. [Reuters]

Russian airstrikes in Syria killed dozens in the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib on Sunday, including civilians. The strikes came two days after Moscow voted in favor of a UN Security Council resolution supporting a peace process for Syria. [Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor] And the Washington Post editorial board accuses Moscow of a “blatant violation” of the resolution through its strikes.

Iraqi security forces began an offensive to reclaim Ramadi from the Islamic State today, the spokesperson of the counterterrorism unit told Reuters.

The Pentagon is considering ramping up the “pace and scope” of cyberattacks against ISIS, report Brian Bennett et al at the LA Times.

The Iraqi central government has for several years refused to pay the Kurdish Regional Government its negotiated share of the country’s annual oil income, causing a dire economic situation for the Kurds which may be damaging the fight against the Islamic State, suggests Juleanna Glover. [Wall Street Journal]

Syria’s foreign minister will this week visit China, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, part of renewed efforts by Beijing to engage in the country’s peace process. [Reuters] 

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition forces carried out three airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 12 strikes in Iraq. [Central Command]

The Islamic State’s “caliphate” shrank in size by 14% during 2015, according to a think tank. [Al Jazeera] Sergio Peçanha and Derek Watkins provide an infographic showing where the group gained and lost territory this year. [New York Times]

ISIS has created a “new type of jihadist,” write Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet, “part terrorist, part gangster.” [Washington Post]

“Syria’s global impact.” The Wall Street Journal presents a graphic showing the militant group’s global spread.

“Once more, here’s Germany in proximity to war, but seeking to sidestep its harshest confrontations and play a specially tailored, not-quite-combatant’s role,” observes John Vincour, discussing the German role in the Syria intervention. [Wall Street Journal]

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban suicide bomb attack on a military convoy yesterday left six American service members dead, US officials said. Among the dead was Detective Joseph Lemm, a police detective serving with the Air National Guard. [New York Times’ Mujib Mashal and Matthew Rosenberg]

The White House press secretary expressed “deepest condolences” to the families of the victims and condemned the “cowardly attack.”

The deadly attack demonstrates that the war in Afghanistan is “far from over,” report Missy Ryan and Pamela Constable at the Washington Post.

Afghan security forces are struggling to retain control of the police headquarters in Sangin, Helmand province, amid a Taliban siege, officials say. [BBC]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has been called on to investigate the US airstrike on the MSF hospital of Kunduz, Afghanistan as a potential war crime, by Human Rights Watch.

A new ISIS radio station in eastern Afghanistan is seeking recruits as the militants try and cement their presence in the country. [Reuters]

YEMEN

UN-brokered peace talks hosted in Switzerland have been adjourned by the special envoy for a month to facilitate bi-lateral in-country and regional consultations to secure a ceasefire. [UN News Centre]

Wounded soldiers from the Yemeni conflict face “abandonment” in Riyadh, as they “seek the attention” of Yemen’s ousted government, “hosted in five-star exile.” [Washington Post’s Brian Murphy]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

Apple has criticized UK proposals that would give more power to security and intelligence officials to monitor communications, submitting an eight-page submission to the British Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee. [Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta] 

Recent terrorist attacks may have caused the “pendulum” to “swing back toward more surveillance,” writes Walter Pincus at the Washington Post.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah said it would retaliate against the killing of a prominent militant by an Israeli air strike in Syria. [Reuters’ Mariam Karouny] 

Iran has warned the US that a new visa restriction that applies to Europeans who have visited “high-risk” countries may be in violation of the nuclear accord concluded in July. [New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

A Mauritanian Guantánamo Bay detainee whose censored memoirs have been published internationally has lost a bid to have a federal court intervene in the conditions of his confinement. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

French authorities have released a passenger who was detained in relation to a bomb hoax on an Air France plane on Saturday. [Wall Street Journal’s Inti Landauro]

Indonesian police say they have prevented a terrorist plot to kill government officials and police officers. [AP]

“The soft power of militant jihad,” from Thomas Hegghammer at the New York Times. 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security