The Early Edition: September 27, 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.

SYRIA

The Assad regime and Russia intensively bombarded the Syrian city of Aleppo for the fourth day in a row yesterday, while Moscow and the Syrian Government appeared to harden their position that the US and its partners caused the US-Russia-brokered ceasefire to disintegrate last week, the New York Times’ Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta report.

The Syrian army and its allies engaged in clashes with “insurgents” in rebel-held Ramousah, the southern gateway into Aleppo, today, Reuters reports.  The attack was one of four on rebel-held parts of Aleppo by government soldiers today, their biggest ground assault since the offensive to retake the city was launched last week, according to a senior Syrian rebel. [Reuters]

It is difficult to envisage military cooperation with Russia in Syria because Moscow has repeatedly failed to fulfill its commitments to the ceasefire deal, the White House said yesterday. [AP]

The ceasefire deal “is not dead yet,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said in an interview broadcast yesterday, Noam Raydan reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The Obama administration will “hotly condemn the assault on Aleppo, but do absolutely nothing to stop it,” suggests the Washington Post editorial board.

If recent claims that Russia is using bunker-buster bombs in Aleppo are true it would mark a new, more destructive phase in the Russian assault on rebel forces there, and would mean that a diplomatic route to peace in Aleppo is closed, Patrick Wintour suggests at the Guardian.

The US special envoy to Syria was told the Syrian government intended to hit the Aleppo facilities of the White Helmets volunteer rescue group  two days before the aerial attacks, Michael Weiss reports at The Daily Beast.

The “war of words” between Russia and the West over Syria is the worst since the Cold War, Cassandra Vinograd observes at NBC News.

Syrian President Assad uses “denial as a war strategy,” writes Sharif Nashashibi at Al Jazeera, making engaging in diplomacy with him “pointless.”

Syrian Kurds in the Manbij region are withdrawing to the east of the Euphrates River, a Turkish government spokesperson said yesterday. [Hürriyet Daily News]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Sep. 25. Separately, partner forces conducted 17 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command

IRAQ

Three suicide bomber attacks in a mainly-Shiite Muslim district of Baghdad killed at least 17 people today, police and medical sources have said. [Reuters]

NATO plans to deploy surveillance aircraft to support its ongoing fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria within weeks, NATO’s deputy secretary-general Alexander Vershbow said yesterday. [Hürriyet Daily News]

Arm the Sunni Arabs so that they can help to liberate Iraq’s Mosul from the Islamic State, suggests Jamal al-Dhari, president of the Iraq National Project, at the New York Times. The Sunni Arabs have been sidelined by the Iraqi government since 2003, al-Dhari writes, calling this a “mistake” that Washington should “work urgently to correct.”

SAUDI ARABIA and JASTA

The Senate will vote tomorrow to override President Obama’s veto of JASTA, the legislation that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said yesterday. [POLITICO’s Seung Min Kim]

Saudi Arabia is enlisting major US companies to make an economic case against the bill, Isaak Arnsdorf and Seung Min Kim report at POLITICO.

TURKEY

US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Ankara today for a series of meetings with Turkish officials to discuss bilateral and strategic issues including cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State, the Hürriyet Daily News reports.

Turkey’s post-July 15 coup crackdown has extended into the heartland of the Kurdish minority, writes Emre Peker at the Wall Street Journal, President Erdoğan saying the recent suspension of 11,285 teachers and the removal of 24 elected mayors for allegedly supporting Kurdish separatists are part of the biggest operation yet against the PKK.

Turkish authorities have issued warrants for 121 people as part of the ongoing investigation into the July 15 failed coup, including directors of a charity linked to Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, reports the AP.

INDIA and PAKISTAN

Pakistan continues to believe cross-border terrorist attacks will allow it to obtain territory it covets in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s foreign minister claimed before the UN General Assembly yesterday. [AP’s Michael Astor]  Pakistan has branded the speech a “litany of falsehoods,” reports Al Arabiya.

India’s armed forces are closely monitoring the situation on India’s border with Pakistan and is ready to respond to “any situation,” India’s Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations told journalists after an operations and security review meeting today, reports DAWN.

NORTH KOREA

The US filed criminal charges against four Chinese nationals and a trading company based in China for violating US sanctions against North Korean companies that help Pyongyang develop nuclear weapons, the Justice Department confirmed yesterday.

There is skepticism inside US intelligence agencies that North Korea truly intends to plant a flag on the moon, its explanation for the testing of a rocket engine last week. David E. Sanger and William J. Broad consider the possible “darker aim” of the test at the New York Times.

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL INVESTIGATION

Almost three times as many of Hillary Clinton’s unreleased emails could be made public as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Vice News journalist Jason Leopold, the Hill’s Katie Bo Williams reports.

The House will vote this week on a resolution to hold former State Department IT technician Bryan Pagliano in contempt of Congress, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters yesterday. [The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]

EU DEFENSE INITIATIVE

EU plans to combine European forces into a single army or set up an EU military headquarters were opposed by Britain at a meeting of EU defense ministers today, with UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon saying it was up to NATO, not the EU, to defend Europe against a more hostile Russia. [Reuters]  Fallon stopped short of threatening a veto, however. [AP]

The Franco-German plan to bolster EU defense is “not only strategically empty and internally contradictory, but an invitation for another shove against the West by a Russia that sees it deep in a rut of passivity,” reflects John Vinocur at the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Pentagon is committed to correcting decades of shortchanging its nuclear forces and has earmarked $108 billion for sustaining and improving nuclear forces over the next five years, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at a nuclear missile and bomber base in North Dakota yesterday, Al Arabiya reports.

Two Afghan soldiers with suspected links to the Taliban killed up to 12 of their comrades while they slept in an outpost near the northern city of Kunduz, officials said today. Sadar Razmal reports at Reuters.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño signed a historic peace accord yesterday in a ceremony held in the city of Cartagena attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Cuban President Raúl Castro and other heads of state, Nick Miroff reports at the Washington Post.

A Californian man convicted of attempting to join the Islamic State in Syria was sentenced to 30 years prison yesterday, the AP reports.

A visit by the Philippine special envoy to China tasked with rebuilding ties between the two countries has been canceled, his aides said today. [Reuters’ Manuel Mogato]  Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he intended to open trade alliances and offer land leases to China and Russia, on the “other side of the ideological barrier” from his ties with the US, it was reported yesterday by Theresa Cerojano at the AP.

Islamist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was convicted sentenced to nine years in jail for destroying historical sites in Timbuktu during Mali’s 2012 conflict today, reports Anthony Deutsch at Reuters.

Violent extremism has been exported by other nations into Kosovo, its foreign minister said yesterday. Kosovo has seen a greater percentage of its citizens fight for the Islamic State group than any other European nation, reports the AP’s Alina Heineke.

Joint naval exercises between Russia and China in the South China Sea last week show the two nations are increasing cooperation on a common strategic purpose, to push the US out, according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board. 

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About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE