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
Current tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia will not hamper Iran’s engagement in Syria peace talks to be held in Geneva, according to the UN special envoy to the war-torn country, Staffan de Mistura. [UN News Centre] Mr de Mistura continues his regional consultations ahead of the UN-facilitated talks scheduled to begin on Jan. 25. [UN News Centre]
American military officials have lauded Iraqi forces for their accomplishments against ISIS in the western city of Ramadi, saying that service members displayed a degree of determination unseen in months, reports Gordon Lubold. [Wall Street Journal]
A UN aid convoy is scheduled to travel to Madaya, a Syrian town currently under government siege where a number of people are reported to have started to death. A delivery of emergency food supplies had been due to be sent yesterday but was delayed. [BBC]
Mosul Dam may be at the point of collapse due to insufficient maintenance, threatening communities downstream with floodwaters. Iraqi and Kurdish forces reclaimed the dam from ISIS 16 months ago; President Obama emphasized the need to make emergency repairs during a phone call with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon]
Lebanese Hezbollah commanders fighting in Syria say they have been receiving heavy weapons directly from Russia, adding that there is coordination between the Assad regime, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. Jesse Rosenfeld for The Daily Beast reports.
ISIS ran a “sophisticated immigration operation” from a Syrian border down into Turkey until the group’s defeat there to the Kurds this summer, according to documents obtained by the Guardian, report Shiv Malik et al.
Turkey has made plans to offer work permits to Syrian refugees, intended to ease the pressure on them to migrate, Turkey’s minister for European Affairs said today. [Reuters]
The last Kuwaiti detainee at Guantánamo has been released, collected by a Kuwaiti jet early Friday. Fayez al Kandari was held since 2002 and was once suspected of being Osama bin Laden’s adviser, though no formal charges were ever levied against him. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]
The majority of the prison’s detainees are currently compliant “bad boys,” according to retiring Marine Gen. John Kelly, who ends his career at Southern Command this week. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]
Just six of the first 20 Guantánamo detainees remain captive at the prison; Carol Rosenberg discusses their stories at the Miami Herald.
“Al Jazeera’s Sami al-Hajj reflects on how the years he spent as a prisoner in the US detention camp changed his life.”
“Today, some in Riyadh not only continue to impede normalization but are determined to drag the entire region into confrontation.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discusses “Saudi Arabia’s reckless extremism” at the New York Times.
The US is pushing forward with the implementation of the Iran nuclear accord, and appears ready to lift sanctions as early as this month; Secretary of State John Kerry said the final step of the process could be “just days away.” [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the bloc has no timeframe for lifting sanctions against Tehran but that it could come soon. [Reuters]
The American military has released video footage purporting to show the Iranian Revolutionary Guard firing “provocative” shots close to other states’ warships. [The Hill’s Sarah Ferris]
NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR TEST
The US might send more strategic weapons to the Korean peninsula, following discussions today with its ally South Korea. On Sunday a US B-52 bomber flew over South Korea, a response to the North’s claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb for the first time. [Reuters]
A naturalized US citizen claimed that he had been detained by North Korea on spying charges, and called on the South Korean or American government to come to his rescue. [Reuters]
“How ‘crazy’ are the North Koreans?” Joel S. Wit discusses the emerging nuclear state, concluding that “unless Americans take them seriously and formulate a long-term strategy for stopping this threat, rather than adopting ad hoc tactical responses, when North Korea conducts its fifth nuclear test a few years from now, the United States will find itself … rounding up the usual suspects.” [New York Times]
A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital was hit by a missile strike in the northern city of Saada, killing at least four people and wounding 10 others. Condemning what it described as a “worrying pattern” of such attacks, MSF said the raid was the third of its kind in four months in Yemen. The group could not specify whether the missile came from the ground or from a Saudi-led coalition warplane. [Al Jazeera; AFP]
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for global cooperation against terrorism, while accusing Western nations of exacerbating international crises, in an interview with German newspaper, Bild. [Reuters]
Britain should prepare for the use of commercially available drones in terrorist attacks, says the Oxford Research Group’s Remote Control Project. A new report expresses concern that “drones will be used as simple, affordable and effective airborne improvised explosive devices.” [The Guardian’s Matthew Weaver]
The Netherlands has called for greater intelligence sharing, including lists of suspected foreign fighters and their banking details, at the Global Counter Terrorism Forum and the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL meeting in The Hague. The call comes in the wake of the Paris attacks. [Reuters]
Turkish military forces killed 32 Kurdish militants over the weekend, part of an escalating conflict in the south-east region of the country. [Reuters]
Afghan peace talks have resumed in Pakistan aimed at prompting negotiations for a final peace settlement between the Taliban and the central government. [Al Jazeera]
Israeli authorities are investigating a fire at the Jerusalem offices of an Israeli monitoring group concerned with the treatment of Palestinians. [New York Times] A spokesperson for the group said that initial reports suggest arson. [Reuters]
Egypt swore in its first parliament in almost four years yesterday, with many prominent lawmakers stating their priority as amending the constitution to give President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi greater power. [Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy]
“One by one, South Sudan tries to name its war victims.” Nick Turse at The Intercept discusses the efforts of the Remembering the Ones We Lost project.