News Roundup and Notes: January 8, 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

Turkish security forces have pushed back an ISIS attack targeting a military base in northern Iraq where Turkish forces are training local militia. [Reuters]

Special-forces have conducted raids on an ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq, ahead of a planned offensive to reclaim Mosul from the militant group, an Iraqi official said. [Reuters]

The Assad regime has agreed to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid into the rebel-controlled Syrian town of Madaya, residents of which are suffering hunger and starvation due to a government siege. [New York Times’ Anne Bernard]  MSF representatives say that 23 people have died as a result of starvation since Dec. 1. [Washington Post’s Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous]  The UN has called for unimpeded access for humanitarian aid to the besieged area. [UN News Centre]

An ISIS militant publicly executed his mother in Raqqa because she had called on him to leave the group, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]

Secretary of State John Kerry has accused the Senate of hurting the fight against ISIS by failing to confirm a host of diplomatic nominees. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]

Two Iraqi refugees were arrested on terrorism-related charges yesterday in Texas and California; both suspects are of Palestinian origin and are accused of links to jihadi organizations in Syria and Iraq, including ISIS. [New York Times’ Manny Fernandez and Liam Stack]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition military forces carried out 14 strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 6. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 22 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

The Guardian presents an interactive guide to US-led airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

IRAN-SAUDI ARABIA DISPUTE

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has denied Iran’s accusation that coalition airstrikes hit its embassy in Sana’a on Wednesday night. A coalition statement described the accusation as “false and void.” [Al Jazeera]

Saudi Arabia’s decision to execute Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr was probably taken for domestic reasons, rather than as a deliberate effort to provoke regional rival Iran, reports Angus McDowall. [Reuters]

The Shi’ite communities of the Arab world are caught in the middle of the Iranian-Saudi conflict, writes Yaroslav Trofimov, reporting that many Shi’ites in fact see little difference between the two states. [Wall Street Journal]

The Economist interviewed Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, the full transcript is available here. The prince, who is the country’s defense minister, defended his country’s military operations in Yemen and said he did not predict that Riyadh’s dispute with Tehran could escalate into a war.

NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR TEST

Pressure on China is mounting in the wake of North Korea’s claim to have conducted a nuclear test, Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday saying that he made clear to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that Beijing’s approach to Pyongyang was failing. [Reuters]

Kerry rejected suggestions that the Obama administration had focused too heavily on Iran, leaving North Korea “unattended to.” [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

Speaker Paul Ryan has said that the House will vote on fresh sanctions targeting North Korea in the wake of the country’s claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb for the first time. [Politico]

American and allied officials questioned North Korea’s claim of “thermonuclear success,” report Jay Solomon et al, with analysis indicating that what Pyongyang tested was not a hydrogen bomb. [Wall Street Journal]

North Korea’s nuclear test has sparked a “Washington blame game,” reports Nahal Toosi, commenting that while much “finger pointing” has taken place, there has been little sign of an actual solution to the problem. [Politico]

South Korea has resumed anti-North propaganda broadcasts across the border, a move which comes as the international community grapples with how best to penalize Pyongyang. [Al Jazeera]

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has called on South Korea to “exercise restraint” in its response to the nuclear test, following Seoul’s announcement that it had resumed the broadcasts. [The Guardian’s Justin McCurry]

The Economist writes that Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test is “a sobering reminder of the progress that three generations of Kims have made” in expanding their nuclear capability, concluding that China must “change its tune towards its outrageous ally.”

“Many serious dangers comes with being a nuclear power, and the North Koreans seem to recognize few of them,” observe Victor Cha and Robert L. Gallucci, arguing that the country must realise that selling its nuclear technology could result in the US taking steps that would “bring an end” to nearly 70 years of Communist rule. [New York Times]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Obama administration’s national security leadership is traveling to Silicon Valley to seek technology firms’ assistance in working out how to tackle terrorists’ use of the Internet as a recruitment and radicalization tool. [Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima]  The summit comes amid escalated pressure on tech firms to do more to combat online propaganda. [Reuters]

French authorities shot dead a man who tried to storm a Paris police station armed with a knife and wearing a fake suicide vest. The incident is being treated as an act of terrorism. The identity of the man remains unverified. [France 24; Wall Street Journal’s Inti Landauro and Noemie Bisserbe]

Belgian authorities discovered explosives thought to have been used in the Paris attacks in a Brussels apartment which was rented under a false name and where a fingerprint of key suspect, Salah Abdeslam was found. [Reuters]

An independent civilian will be appointed to monitor the NYPD’s counterterrorism activities, court documents revealed yesterday, part of efforts to settle a set of lawsuits over surveillance of Muslims in the years following 9/11. [New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo and Al Baker]

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood clashed with security forces outside a Cairo hotel yesterday, signaling political tensions ahead of the of 5th anniversary of the country’s revolution. [New York Times’ Declan Walsh]

Military doctors have criticized the Pentagon for failing to institutionalize many of the medical advances made on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq, calling on Defense Secretary Ash Carter to make certain techniques, drugs and devices mandatory for all military medical staff. [Wall Street Journal’s Michael M. Phillips]

A senior UN relief official condemned the demolition by Israeli authorities of the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the West Bank. [UN News Centre]

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has deplored Yemen’s decision to declare the head of the country office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights persona non grata. Yemen had reportedly accused the official of lacking impartiality. [Al Jazeera; UN News Centre] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security