The Early Edition: October 5, 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 tanks crossed the frontline in the besieged city of Aleppo for the first time in four years, Al Jazeera reports.

Dozens were killed or injured in airstrikes on an Islamic State-held village with a mainly Kurdish population close to Syria’s border with Turkey today, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It is reportedly not clear whether the Turkish military or the US-led coalition conducted the strikes. [Reuters]

Two Syrian opposition fighters and a Turkish soldier were killed in fighting with the Islamic State in northern Syria, reports Suzan Fraser at the AP. At least 18 Islamic State militants were also killed.

US military strikes on the Assad regime will be up for discussion again at the White House today, reports Josh Rogin at the Washington Post, as national security officials discuss options for a way forward in Syria.

Russia has “turned a blind eye” to the Syrian government’s use of chlorine gas and barrel bombs, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, reports Rod Nordland at the New York Times.  Kerry also accused Russia of favoring war over diplomacy, Michael Birnbaum at the Washington Post suggesting that the condemnation left little hope that US-Russia talks over Syria will resume.

Kerry also held out the possibility of working with Moscow again over a Syrian ceasefire deal in his speech yesterday, according to Felicia Schwartz at the Wall Street Journal. While he faulted Russia, his comments also underscored its influence in bringing about any resolution to the conflict: “Russia knows exactly what it needs to do to get that cessation implemented in a fair and reasonable way,” Kerry said.

With no other military or political solution currently on offer, the conflict in Syria will return to a “disastrous stalemate,” warns Samer Abboud at Al Jazeera.

The US must act to end the carnage in Syria, says the Washington Post editorial board, accusing the Obama administration of “going through the motions” of considering new options in Syria and insisting that continuing to refuse to take military options will compound the “disastrous” situation in Syria.

Russia dispatched an S-300 air defense missile system to Syria, the Russian military said yesterday raising questions in the Pentagon about its purpose, the AP’s Vladimir Isachenkov reports.  The system was sent to Russia’s naval base in Syria’s port of Tartus, a Russian defense ministry spokesperson saying its purpose was to guarantee the security of the base from the air. [BBC]

The defense system could “impose significant restrictions on US military action in Syria, since it can target cruise and ballistic missiles as well as aircraft,” but the bigger problem may be Russia’s increasing military clout in the Middle East, according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

Russia is taking advantage of the US election cycle to strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power, expand the territory it controls in Syria, and limit the options for the next US president over the Syrian civil war, Michael R. Gordon and Neil McFarquhar report at the New York Times, citing US officials and Russian analysts.

“Surrender and you can eat again.” This is the message from Russia to the people of Aleppo according to one US analyst, referring to the “calculated approach” it has taken of “exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation in Aleppo as a weapon of war.” [Washington Post’s David Ignatius]

Why is the battle for Aleppo, a “key prize in the civil war,” so important? Alice Fordham explains at NPR.

The fall of Aleppo will not mean an end to the Syrian war, Samia Nakhoul writes at Reuters.

Is the Islamic State finished? Helena Merriman at the BBC looks at the territory it has lost in Syria and the morale within the group, concluding that it will lose its caliphate, but will mutate and survive.

The attack on an aid convoy in Syria last month was an air strike, analysis of satellite imagery by the UN has confirmed. [Reuters]

Satellite images showing the destruction of Aleppo since the collapse of the US-Russia ceasefire have been released by the UN today, the AP reports.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 16 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Oct. 4. Separately, partner forces conducted 10 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

IRAQ

Iraq and Turkey summoned each other’s ambassadors today to protest allegedly “provocative” comments by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and statements by the Iraqi parliament, an episode illustrating rising tensions between the neighboring countries, Sinan Salaheddin and Suzan Fraser report at the AP.

Iraq’s prime minister warned Turkey it risked triggering a regional war by retaining troops in his territory today, Maher Chmaytelli and Tuvan Gumrukcu report at Reuters. Turkey voted last week to extend its military operation in Iraq to combat “terrorist organizations.”

The battle for remaining Islamic State stronghold Mosul will be a “make-or-break” moment for Iraq that could split the country along ethnic and sectarian lines, a former regional governor who is due to take part in the campaign said. [Reuters]

RUSSIA

Russia’s military activity in the Arctic is increasingly sophisticated, according to the Norwegian military, catching up with NATO in terms of new sensors, submarines and capabilities, Paul Sonne writes at the Wall Street Journal.

“Russian foreign policy is all about the battle for America’s respect,” according to a Russian political commentator. Steve Rosenberg at the BBC explores the changing attitude of Russia toward the US in the sixteen years that President Putin has been in power.

The US cannot keep “turning the other cheek” over Putin’s behavior in Syria and Ukraine and his cyberattacks on the US political system, Thomas L. Friedman argues at the New York Times.

AFGHANISTAN

Most Taliban insurgents were removed from the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz yesterday, officials continuing to search for militants hiding in residential areas, report the Washington Post’s Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin.  In a potentially conflicting report, the AP’s Rahim Faiez and Amir Shah state that Afghan forces continued to battle the Taliban in Kunduz for a third day running today while US helicopters provided air support.

A US service member was killed in Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan yesterday while on a mission against Islamic State militants, the Pentagon said. Helene Cooper reports at the New York Times.

The recent peace deal between notorious warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Afghan government could be a model for reconciliation with the Taliban, Secretary of State John Kerry said today. [AP]

IRAN

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned Saudi naval vessels taking part in military exercises in the Gulf today not to get close to Iranian waters, Reuters reports.

YEMEN

A rocket attack on the besieged Yemeni city of Taiz has killed at least 10 civilians, including children, medical officials said. [AP’s Ahmed Al-Haj]

Civilians in Yemen need urgent protection and more humanitarian aid, the UN’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said. [AP]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A delegation from the International Criminal Court will visit Israel and Palestine for five days this month in order to undertake outreach and education activities but not to engage in evidence collection, the Court confirmed today. [Reuters]

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in a street in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, according to the Israeli military, with no casualties. [AP]

COLOMBIA

Colombian officials met with their FARC counterparts in Cuba’s capital Havana yesterday to check the rebel’s willingness to reopen negotiations, while President Juan Manuel Santos invited his main political opponent Álvaro Uribe for a rare face-to-face meeting. Joshua Goodman reports at the AP.

FARC commanders who have committed atrocities should go to jail, two leaders in Álvaro Uribe’s conservative Democratic Center Party said, Sara Schaefer Muñoz and Kejal Vyas report at the Wall Street Journal.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Yahoo began secretly scanning the incoming emails of its customers in April last year in compliance with an order from the US intelligence community, a former Yahoo employee has revealed. Andrea Peterson reports at the Washington Post.

Is WikiLeaks, now 10 years old, still relevant? According to Al Jazeera, the once-celebrated “champion of transparency” has lost friends as founder Julian Assange has become increasingly “controversial.” 

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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