The Early Edition: October 3, 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

Syrian government forces and their allies advanced toward Aleppo Sunday, telling rebels to leave their positions and offering safe passage out of the city, Lisa Barrington reports at Reuters.

Pro-government forces captured the strategic al-Shuqeef hill north of Aleppo Saturday, reports the AP.

The bombing of eastern Aleppo put the city’s largest hospital out of action Saturday, Louisa Loveluck reports at the Washington Post.

The collapse of rebel-held areas of eastern Aleppo could mean a stronger position not just for Syrian President Assad but for radical terror groups, the last remaining opposition forces still standing, suggests Nancy A. Youssef at The Daily Beast.

Washington is not ready to carry through with its threats to halt diplomacy with Russia amid intensified airstrikes, Erika Solomon and Max Seddon conclude at the Financial Times. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke twice on the phone to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov over the weekend, Lavrov criticizing Washington for failing to push the opposition groups it backs to separate themselves from the former Jabhat al-Nusra.

US lawmakers pressed for a military option to end the Syrian civil war over the weekend. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) told the Hill’s Kristina Wong that other options that would “change the dynamic and force Russia to recognize that it’s important for them to reengage in a resolution in Syria” are needed.

An ongoing battle with Islamic State militants and Turkey-backed forces in northern Syria killed 15 militants over the weekend, Turkish military officials said. [AP]

Turkish fighter planes hit 63 Islamic State targets in northern Syria yesterday as part of the ongoing Eurphrates Shield campaign, reports Sarp Ozer at AA, citing a military source.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkey and the US-led coalition are closing in on Islamic State-held village Dabiq, the site of an apocalyptic prophecy central to the militants’ ideology, and have taken villages around Dabiq in the last few days. [Reuters]

A hospital in northeastern Syria was destroyed in a suspected bunker-buster strike Sunday. The attack with powerful bunker buster munitions is being considered deliberate since the hospital was located in a cave, just outside Hama, north of Homes, CNN’s Sheena McKenzie, Schams Elwazer, Eyad Kourdi, Holly Yan and Susanna Cullinane report.

There is no sign of the “quagmire” President Obama predicted would result when Russia’s intervention in Syria got under way a year ago, Liz Sly observes at the Washington Post.

Syria has become a “bear pit,” an already brutal civil war compounded by the self-interest of international actors involved,  and is a “sign of the way the world is heading,” suggests Mark Mardell at the BBC

COLOMBIA

The peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels was defeated in a referendum Sunday, the New York Times’ Julia Symmes Cobb and Nicholas Casey report.

The “startling outcome” plunges Colombia into uncertainty, observes Kejal Vyas and Juan Forero at the Wall Street Journal. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos vowed to “continue to look for peace.”

Santos ordered negotiators to travel to Cuba to consult FARC on the road ahead, the AP reports.

INDIA

Indian police arrested six member of an Islamic State-inspired group suspected of plotting attacks on key officials and public places during the Hindu festival of Diwali, India’s counter-terrorism agency said today. [Reuters]

Militants fired grenades and guns at an Indian army camp in the Indian part of Kashmir last night, leaving one Indian paramilitary soldier dead, police said. [AP’s Alijaz Hussain]

What’s next for India-Pakistan relations after the Sept. 29 “surgical strikes” by India in Kashmir, the scale and public acknowledgement of which “broke new ground?” asks Dhruva Jaishankar at the Washington Post.

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban launched an attack from four sides inside the northern Afghan city of Kunduz before dawn this morning, Reuters reports, describing ongoing fighting.

Afghan forces have repelled the attack, according to an earlier report by the BBC, citing a spokesperson for the provincial government.

An Afghan airstrike in the Kanshk area of Bala Balok district killed five elite commandos and a policeman, a military spokesperson said. Habib Khan Totakhil reports at the Wall Street Journal.

It sometimes feels that there is nothing to show for the US bombing campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan fifteen years after it began on Oct. 7 2001, observes Carlotta Gall at the New York Times.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Ten organizations have launched a legal challenge over mass surveillance programs revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden at the European Court of Human Rights, alleging “blanket and indiscriminate” surveillance operations by British spy agencies in collaboration with their US counterparts in a complaint released last week. The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher reports.

The almost 250 pages of FBI interview notes regarding Hillary Clinton’s email server released Friday “open a uniquely candid window” onto how decisions around the server unfolded and “may be as close to the actual truth as we may ever get,” Garrett M. Graff writes at POLITICO.

Supporters of legislation that would set out how and when companies have to notify customers of a data breach are receiving “needed impetus” from the hack of 500 million Yahoo accounts, Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has canceled an unspecified announcement he was due to make tomorrow from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London over security concerns, Rebecca Savransky reports at the Hill.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Long-held myths about some of the “forever prisoners” at Guantánamo Bay detention center are being debunked by an ongoing review by the US intelligence community, the retreat emerging from a series of unclassified prisoner profiles released by the Pentagon in recent years, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

Russian President Putin signed a decree suspending an agreement with the US on disposing of weapons-grade plutonium today, Reuters reports.

The Pentagon paid a UK PR firm known for representing unsavory characters half a billion dollars to run a top secret propaganda program in Iraq, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals.

Iran has built a new drone that copies a US drone it says it downed in 2011, CNN reports.

A Ukrainian journalist has been arrested on suspicion of spying in Russia, according to Russia’s intelligence agency FSB. [AP]

The brother of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of masterminding the July 15 failed coup, has been arrested by Turkish police and accused of membership of an armed terror group, AFP reports.

The US needs to negotiate with North Korea, writes Jane Harman and James Person at the Washington Post, pointing out the “insanity” of applying sanctions and urging China to use its leverage to halt North Korea’s nuclear program over and over again without success. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

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