News Roundup and Notes: December 29, 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

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed that the Islamic State will be “terminated” in his country over the next year, after government forces raised their flag in Ramadi’s provincial government center. [BBC; the Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen] Defense Secretary Ash Carter congratulated the Iraqi leader on the victory and Secretary of State John Kerry said that the gains “attest to the growing confidence and capability of Iraqi forces.”

The media weigh in. The New York Times editorial board describes Iraqi forces’ success in Ramadi as a “substantial achievement” which “gives reason to hope that the barbaric terrorist group can eventually be defeated.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes that the retaking of Ramadi “is good news by itself but even better if it signals an overdue revival of the moderate Sunni forces in Iraq.” And the Washington Post editorial board notes that it is the third significant defeat suffered by ISIS since mid-October, an “encouraging advance” in the war against the militant group.   

Hundreds of injured militants and their families were evacuated from besieged parts of Syria yesterday; the complex deal carried out under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN involved busing and flying fighters to neighboring countries, an attempt to deescalate the conflict ahead of peace talks, report Anne Bernard and Hwaida Saad. [New York Times]

Iraqi security forces will need the assistance of Kurdish fighters to reclaim Mosul, according to Iraq’s Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari. [Reuters]

The State Department has defended a claim made by John Kirby, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Public Affairs that “bringing peace” to Syria is one of the department’s 2015 accomplishments. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney] 

A detailed fatwa has been issued by Islamic State theologians, ruling on when the “owners” of enslaved women can have sex with them. The ruling has legal force and seems to go further than earlier comments by the group on the subject. [Reuters]

The Islamic State has established a department of “war spoils,” it was revealed in a cache of documents seized by the US during a May raid that killed top ISIS financial official, Abu Sayyaf, reports Reuters. 

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out 16 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Dec. 27. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 21 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

The New York Times editorial board suggests Congress is fearful, discussing its failure to authorize the war against ISIS, arguing that “by abdicating one of their most important responsibilities under the Constitution … lawmakers are unwisely emboldening the executive branch to overstep its powers.”

IRAN 

Tehran shipped 25,000lb of low-enriched uranium to Russia yesterday, an important step in the implementation of the nuclear accord reached between Iran and six world powers in July. [The Guardian’s David Smith] The shipment constitutes almost all of the low-enriched uranium stockpiled by Iran. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger and Andrew E. Kramer]

The New York Times editorial board comments on “new tensions” arising in relation to the nuclear accord, including over new visa restrictions approved by Congress earlier this month.

CYBERSECURITY, SURVEILLANCE and TECHNOLOGY

 The Department of Homeland Security is moving to reject the use of driver’s licences from some states for air travel. It is soon to be decided whether TSA would begin to enforce a 10-year old law requiring states to comply with a set of federal standards when issuing driver’s licences. Some states reject these requirements on privacy grounds. [Ars Technica’s Joe Mullin; New York Times’ Jad Mouawad]

Some legal scholars are questioning the constitutional principle that freedom of speech may not be curbed unless it poses “a clear and present danger,” in light of the threat posed by the Islamic State’s successful recruitment over the Internet. [New York Times’ Erik Eckholm]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY 

The Pentagon is hindering the Obama administration’s efforts to close the prison camp; Charles Levinson and David Rohde write about reports of the Defense Department withholding records relating to detainee transfers. [Reuters]

The 9/11 trial judge has retroactively sealed what was described by one prosecutor as the “misogynistic rantings” of one of the accused plotters. Carol Rosenberg reports. [Miami Herald]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

A suicide attack targeting government offices in Mardan, Pakistan has killed at least 12 people, according to officials. [BBC]

A female suicide bomber killed at least 20 people after hitting a mosque in northern Nigeria. The suspected Boko Haram attack was the second in recent days. [Wall Street Journal’s Gbenga Akingbule] 

America’s “old enemy” in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda appears to be re-emerging with training camps appearing across the country, a development which forces US agencies to evaluate whether the new camps could become breeding grounds for attacks on American soil. [New York Times’ Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger] 

Belgian authorities have made two arrests over a suspected terror plot planned for New Year’s Eve in Brussels, the federal prosecutor’s office said today. [AP; BBC]

Kuwait will deploy troops to neighboring Saudi Arabia to assist in repelling attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the local al-Qabas daily newspaper reported. [Reuters] And the World Health Organization has delivered over 100 tonnes of medical aid and supplies to Yemen’s war-torn city of Taiz. [UN News Centre] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security