News Roundup and Notes: January 15, 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

Turkey has conducted airstrikes targeting Islamic State positions in Syria and Iraq, reprisals for an ISIS suicide bombing in Istanbul this week that killed 10 German tourists, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said yesterday. [New York Times’ Ceylan Yeginsu]

Iraq deployed a military division and a police strike force to Basra, an oil city in the south of the country, to disarm residents as feuding between rival Shi’ite tribes intensified, according to local officials. [Reuters]

ISIS fighters pushed through a gap in the Iraqi military frontline yesterday, succeeding in capturing a northern village, according to local sources. [AFP and Reuters]

Syrian Kurds have benefited from Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian conflict, reports Yaroslav Trofimov, writing that recent Russian operations have “given them leeway to disregard American objections” and move into new territory in controversial locations. [Wall Street Journal]

The dire scenes witnessed by humanitarian workers in besieged areas of Syria are “utterly unconscionable,” says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who warned that using starvation as a weapon during conflict constitutes a war crime. [UN News Centre]  Syrian activists accused the UN of “complicity” in government imposed blockades, in an open letter addressed to Stephen O’Brien, the undersecretary for humanitarian affairs. [Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out three airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 13. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 17 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

Amaq News Agency has become a “must-read every time a bomb goes off,” reports Rukmini Callimachi, observing that the “veneer of separation between the terrorist group and what has now become its unacknowledged wire service is quickly disintegrating.” [New York Times]

The New York Times editorial board comments on the financial situation of the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish Regional Government in the north of the country, opining that decreasing oil prices pose a new threat to the country’s efforts to tackle the Islamic State.

“Living under the sword of ISIS in Syria,” from Marwan Hisham at the New York Times.

JAKARTA ATTACKS

Indonesian authorities have arrested three men on suspicion of involvement in yesterday’s bomb and gun attacks in downtown Jakarta which left at least 7 people dead. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. [The Guardian’s Oliver Holmes]

Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo today visited the site of yesterday’s deadly terror attack in Jakarta. [AP]

The attacks have raised concerns about the spread of the Islamic State into Southeast Asia. While hundreds of Indonesians have traveled to Syria to join the militant group, it is not until recently that they “appear to have sought targets closer to home,” report Jode Cochrane and Thomas Fuller. [New York Times]

Behind the attacks is thought to be Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian national who traveled to Syria to join ISIS last year and was reportedly closely involved in coordinating the attack from the Islamic State de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa. [Reuters]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board comments on the attacks, concluding that “coming on the heels of the suicide bombing Tuesday in Istanbul, which also targeted tourists, the attack is an indication that Islamic State has moderate Muslim states in its sights.”

AFGHANISTAN

The State Department has listed the Afghan affiliate of ISIS as a foreign terrorist organization; the splinter group is primarily composed of former Afghan and Pakistani Taliban members. [New York Times’ Douglas Schorzman]

An investigation into allegations against Navy SEALs and Afghan police militiamen has been reopened by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; the allegations involve the severe beating of detainees at an isolated outpost in Afghanistan in 2012. [New York Times’ Christopher Drew]

“We should unleash our airpower in support of our Afghan partners in the same way that we support our Iraqi and Syrian partners against extremists,” write former director of the CIA, David Petraeus and Brookings Institute senior fellow, Michael O’Hanlon in an op-ed at the Washington Post.

Afghanistan will receive Russian arms, part of Moscow’s efforts to prevent the spread of extremist factions across the country’s northern borders into former Soviet Central Asian states. [Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum]

IRAN

A navigational error resulted in two American patrol boats entering Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf earlier this week, according to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt and Helene Cooper]

GOP presidential candidates came down hard on Iran for its detention of 10 American sailors during the Republican debate, despite the Defense Department stating that the US boats had strayed into Iranian waters. [Politico’s Michael Crowley]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israel is “quietly courting” Sunni Arab nations, Israeli officials hoping to foster closer relations with the Gulf monarchies, connecting over their shared animosity for Iran. [Wall Street Journal’s Rory Jones]

Russian President Vladimir Putin is as close to a friend as Israel has ever had in Moscow, writes Josh Cohen, discussing the two nations’ “complicated” relationship. [Reuters]

Israel has “closed its doors” to official Swedish visits, a response to comments made by the country’s foreign minister about allegations of extrajudicial killing committed by Israeli forces against Palestinians. [Washington Post’s Adam Taylor]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Pentagon has released 10 Yemeni prisoners from Guantánamo Bay detention facility, sending them to Oman. It is the largest single release of captives from the prison during the Obama administration. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]  This latest release leaves fewer than 100 prisoners at the camp. [The Intercept’s Cora Currier and Margot Williams]

France has taken steps to ensure better cooperation between its domestic and overseas intelligence services, pushing against bureaucratic red tape that has limited its ability to prevent terror attacks. [Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Dalton]

Dozens of Kenyan peacekeepers have been killed following an alleged al-Shabaab attack on an African Union base in southwestern Somalia today. [AP]

Nigeria has launched a fresh investigation into the 2014 kidnapping of 219 schoolgirls by militant group Boko Haram, the presidency announced yesterday. [Reuters]

Twitter is facing a civil suit from the widow of a US citizen killed in Jordan, accusing the social media firm of giving a voice to ISIS. The husband of Tamara Fields was killed in a Nov. 9 attack on a police training center in Amman. [Reuters]

Nuclear facilities in up to 20 countries may be easy targets for cyberattacks, according to a study by the Nuclear Threat Initiative. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger]

Terrorism remains a major threat to West African peace and security, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa, speaking before the Security Council. [UN News Centre]

An Iraqi-born man has been indicted on federal terrorism charges by a federal grand jury in Sacramento yesterday, accused of lying about traveling to join ISIS in Syria. [Reuters] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security