News Roundup and Notes: January 4, 2016

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 US-led coalition conducted 25 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq yesterday, according to a coalition statement released today. [Reuters]

A new ISIS propaganda video appears to show the execution of five hostages by a man speaking English with a British accent. In the footage the murdered hostages are accused of being UK spies. [The Guardian’s Aisha Gani and Ewen MacAskill] British security services are investigating the video which has no yet been authenticated. [BBC]

Iraqi officials face considerable challenges in rebuilding the city of Ramadi, following its recent recapture from the Islamic State. [Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley and Ghassan Adnan]

An American-trained commander from Tajikistan has joined the Islamic State, reports Nathan Hodge. [Wall Street Journal]

The focus of political debate in the West has shifted to finding a strategy for tackling the Islamic State, reports Yaroslav Trofimov. [Wall Street Journal]

“The roots of ISIS are more complex.” Andrew Hosken discusses the forerunner to the militant group, Tawhid Wal Jihad, founded in 1999 by Abu Musab al Zarqawi. [Wall Street Journal]

IRANIAN-SAUDI TIES

Saudi Arabia has cut diplomatic ties with Iran. The decision comes in the aftermath of the Saudis’ execution of a Shi’ite cleric, a move which provoked harsh criticism from Iranian leaders. [New York Times’ Ben Hubbard]

The Saudi embassy in Tehran and a consulate had suffered attacks in the wake of the execution. [AP]

Tehran has accused the Saudis of “thriv[ing] on prolonging tensions” with Iran. [Reuters]

White House officials are deeply concerned that escalating tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia could have a detrimental impact on the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board explores Iran and Russia’s collective interest in toppling the House of Saud, arguing that they “may be calculating whether President Obama would do anything to stop them.”

AFGHANISTAN 

A suicide bomber detonated near to a police checkpoint close to Kabul airport today, killing himself but causing no other casualties. [Reuters]

Afghan security forces engaged in clashes with gunmen today who were holed up in a building beside the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in the north of the country. [AP]

Afghanistan will reemerge has a major foreign policy issue for 2016, according to former CIA acting director, Michael Morell, citing major geopolitical gains secured by the Taliban this past year. [The Hill’s Bradford Richardson]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

A group of recently cleared detainees is expected to be transferred out of the prison in the coming week, a senior US official has confirmed. [CNN’s Kevin Bohn]

Psychologists can no longer treat prisoners in many situations at Guantánamo Bay; the sharp curtailment by the US military comes in response to strict new professional ethics rules of the American Psychological Association. [New York Times’ James Risen] 

The New York Times editorial board discusses the Pentagon’s “insubordination” on Guantánamo Bay, writing that both Congress and the Defense Department have “stood in the way” of Obama’s goal of closing the detention facility.

 OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

France this week pays tribute to the victims of last year’s terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a Jewish supermarket. [Reuters]

The Yemeni government has imposed a curfew on the port city of Aden following an emergency meeting of the city’s security committee yesterday. [Reuters] 

A deadly gun attack on a pub in Tel Aviv on Friday which left two young men dead and seven wounded is being compared by some to the Paris attacks. Ruth Eglash reports. [Washington Post]

Libya begins 2016 with a “ray of hope” on the country’s horizon, said the UN special envoy to the country, citing the signature of the Libyan Political Agreement and the chance to find peace in unity. [UN News Centre]

A major cybersecurity bill signed into law before the end of the new year contains a clause requiring the State Department to design and publish an international cyberspace policy within 90 days, reports Cory Bennett. [The Hill]

Footage of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has appeared in an al-Shabaab recruitment video about racial injustice. [Al Jazeera America]

Indian armed forces searched for suspected militants at an air force base close to the border with Pakistan following two days of gun fighting which left at least seven Indian personnel dead. [Wall Street Journal’s Niharika Mandhana and Aditi Malhotra] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security