News Roundup and Notes: January 28, 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

Syria’s key opposition groups laid out their conditions for joining the UN-brokered peace talks this Friday in Geneva, including the requirement that the Assad regime end sieges and stop aerial bombardment of rebel held areas. The rebels also require that the negotiations lead to a transitional government that sidelines President Assad. [Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher]

“Terrorists in a new mask” must be barred from attending the Syria peace talks, Iran said today, commenting on rival Saudi Arabia’s attempts to include groups considered as terrorists by Tehran. [Reuters]

President Obama’s credibility is slipping with Syria’s opposition, many of whom doubt the United States’ commitment to removing Bashar al-Assad from power. [Politico‘s Nahal Toosi]

Syrian activists have begun an online campaign urging the country’s opposition to boycott peace negotiations scheduled to begin tomorrow in Geneva. [Al Jazeera]

The Obama administration is “taking the gloves off” at last in the fight against ISIS, reports Kimberley Dozier, the White House now “embracing” strikes against riskier targets, such as the group’s cash depots. [The Daily Beast]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition military forces carried out four strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 26. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 10 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

Frustration was voiced by two top UN relief officials yesterday over the organization’s ability to deliver aid to suffering Syrians, commenting that the number of besieged areas has gone up from 15 to 18 in recent weeks. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

The UN has allowed the Assad regime to impact its ability to deliver humanitarian aid, comments Roy Gutman, observing that there is “no suggestion … that UN officials will review their standing policy of negotiating in secret for approval to deliver food and medicine.” [Foreign Policy]

AFGHANISTAN

Lt. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. will be nominated by the president to head up US military operations in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced yesterday. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt]

The Taliban have cut a major electricity supply in Baghlan province in the north of the country, resulting in a power shortage from Uzbekistan to Kabul. [New York Times’ David Jolly]

Chinese officials are calling on Afghanistan to reengage in peace talks with the Taliban following the collapse of previous discussions, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. [New York Times’ Edward Wong]

The UN’s Mine Action Programme in Afghanistan has strongly condemned the murder of four de-miners by unknown militants. [UN News Centre]

YEMEN

Saudi Arabia says its military intervention is based on a UN Security Council resolution which authorizes the reinstatement of the internationally recognized government in Sana’a. The kingdom further defends its right to defend its national security. [The Guardian’s Ian Black]

A panel of UN experts has recommended that the Security Council investigate alleged human rights abuses in Yemen through an international commission of inquiry. [Al Jazeera]

A number of Al Jazeera journalists kidnapped in Yemen 10 days ago have been released by their captors. [Al Jazeera]

The UK is “arming and aiding a fundamentalist dictatorship that’s bombing and killing civilians,” writes Owen Jones commenting on the Saudi air campaign in Yemen, asking the question why does nobody know about it? [The Guardian]

NORTH KOREA

The US and China have agreed to go ahead with a UN resolution condemning North Korea’s recent nuclear test, following a five-hour meeting in Beijing on Wednesday between Secretary of State John Kerry and China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi. [Washington Post’s Carol Morello and Simon Denyer]  The agreement comes as an “unnamed Japanese government official” discloses that North Korea may be readying itself to launch another long-range missile within the week. [Reuters’ Ju-Min Park and Jack Kim]

North Korea is attempting to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States warned Kerry, adopting a “tough tone” during the meeting, in which the US and China disagreed as to the seriousness of the implications of North Korea’s nuclear tests. [New York Times’ Jane Perlez and David E Sanger]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Lawmakers are rushing to reach an agreement on the Judicial Redress Act, seen by many as a necessary component to the new Safe Harbor agreement. Observers believe a Senate Judiciary Committee vote has been scheduled for this morning. [The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]

A man accused of passing the personal data of US service members to the Islamic State made his first court appearance on Wednesday. Ardit Ferizi, from Kosovo, allegedly stole the data and passed it to a British member of the militant Islamist group, who in turn posted the names and contact details of the military and government personnel on Twitter. [Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky]

“This is not economic renormalization.” Daniel Henninger argues that the West’s response to Tehran in the wake of the nuclear deal constitutes “abject humiliation” in the face of an “ascendant Iran.” [Wall Street Journal]

The Navy director of intelligence operations’s access to classified materials has been blocked for over two years, reports Craig Whitlock. His access was suspended in November 2013 when he became involved in a huge corruption investigation involving Navy personnel and a foreign defense contractor. [Washington Post]

A ex-Guantánamo Bay detainee has been in custody in Morocco since he was turned over to that country in September 2015. He has not been charged, and several hearings to determine any charge have been postponed by Moroccan judges. [AP]

A “new destination of choice for extremists.” The post-Gaddafi “chaos,” combined with its significant oil reserves, makes Libya a major draw for groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. [Wall Street Journal’s Alan Cullison]  The threat is such that the Pentagon is considering military intervention for the first time in over four years. [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman]  Glenn Greenwald is critical of this reaction, which he argues is an attempt by the US to “seize on the effects of its own bombing campaign in Libya to justify an entirely new bombing campaign in that same country.” [The Intercept]

The ICC has begun its first trial of an ex-head of state. Former president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, is facing charges of crimes against humanity in a trial that could last three or four years. [AFP]

Sudan’s border with South Sudan has been unexpectedly opened for the first time since the aftermath of the civil war in 2011. [Reuters]

At least 12 have been killed in Chibok, Nigeria, following a bomb attack in a market place. Responsibility for the attack, carried out by two women, has not been claimed, though it bares similarities to attacks carried out by Boko Haram. [Reuters]

“Undemocratic, unfair and illegitimate.” Lithuanian foreign affairs minister, Linas Linkevicius considers what the upcoming elections will look like in Donbass if Moscow fails to withdraw its military presence in eastern Ukraine and live up to its obligations under the Minsk agreements. [Wall Street Journal] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security