– Obama tells the nation terrorist threat to US is ‘evolving’ but beatable
– Assad says Britain’s Syria strikes “illegal”
– Fabius: Assad’s departure not necessary before political transition
– Syria accuses US-led coalition of killing regime troops
– Aid reaches Syrian rebel-held area of Homs
– Nusra fighters surrender to regime in south Syria
– Turkey slams Russian Bosphorus provocation
– Iraq says Turkish troops near Mosul violating international law

Obama tells the nation terrorist threat to US is ‘evolving’ but beatable
President Barack Obama’s speech to reassure the nation on Sunday night included no new strategy to contain or defeat the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). He reassured Americans that the United States is equipped to meet the dangerous and ” evolving ” threat of terrorism. Obama used a rare Oval Office address to make the case that his administration was ahead of the problem and to explain once again a series of incremental moves his administration has made over the past month: the Pentagon’s decision to send special operations forces to Iraq and Syria, the long-awaited move to launch air strikes on oil tankers that provide ISIS with much of its revenue, and Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt at diplomacy through the Vienna process to halt the civil war in Syria. [ NYT, 12/7/2015]

Assad says Britain’s Syria strikes “illegal”
Britain’s bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria is “illegal” and will only cause “terrorism” to spread, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview. Assad has said the only air strikes that have worked against ISIS are those carried out by Russia, which is cooperating with Syrian government forces. “It will be harmful and illegal and it will support terrorism as happened after the coalition started its operation a year or so (ago),” he said. “You cannot defeat [ISIS] through air strikes alone. You cannot defeat them without cooperation with forces on the ground. You cannot defeat them if you do not have buy-in from the general public and the government,” he said. He also said next week’s meeting of the Syrian opposition and rebel groups in Saudi Arabia “will not change anything on the ground.” The groups will gather in Saudi Arabia Tuesday to unify their stance ahead of potential talks with the regime. [ AP, AFP, 12/6/2015]

Fabius: Assad’s departure not necessary before political transition
The departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is no longer necessary before any political transition in Syria, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. The comments mark a softening of Paris’ position regarding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as attention turns to the fight against ISIS. “The fight against Daesh is crucial, but it will only be totally effective if all the Syrian and regional forces are united,” Fabius told a French newspaper, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS. “A united Syria implies a political transition. That does not mean that Bashar Assad must leave even before the transition, but there must be assurances for the future.” Until now, France other Western powers fighting ISIS, including Washington, have insisted that Assad step down as part of any political solution to the Syrian conflict. [AFP, 12/5/2015]

Syria accuses US-led coalition of killing regime troops
Syria expressed outrage Monday after a suspected US-led coalition strike for the first time killed regime troops. However, the coalition denied that its warplanes hit an army base. In a letter to the United Nations Security Council and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Syria’s foreign ministry condemned what it called a “flagrant aggression” that killed at least three soldiers and wounded 13 late on Sunday. A spokesman for the US-led coalition said its only strikes in the area on Sunday were some 35 miles southeast of the Syrian army base. “We’ve seen those Syrian reports but we did not conduct any strikes in that part of Deir Ezzor yesterday. So we see no evidence ,” said spokesman for the coalition Colonel Steve Warren. [AP, AFP , 12/7/2015]

Aid reaches Syrian rebel-held area of Homs
Humanitarian aid has reached a besieged rebel-held area in the central Syrian city of Homs, part of a local ceasefire deal that is to include the withdrawal of opposition fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. In a delivery presided over by the United Nations, food and medical supplies entered the Waer district of the city on Thursday in a sign that the deal, which marks the second local ceasefire agreement to be reached in Syria in recent months, is beginning to be implemented. Syrian government officials said on Tuesday they had agreed that opposition fighters could withdraw from the last insurgent-held area of Homs with their weapons as part of the agreement. [ Reuters, 12/6/2015]

Nusra fighters surrender to regime in south Syria
Over 100 fighters in the Nusra Front have handed themselves over to Syrian regime forces in the southern province of Deraa, according to both activist and pro-regime media. SOHR reported Monday morning that “over 100 members of an Islamism faction handed themselves over to regime forces in the Deraa countryside,” without specifying the location or affiliation of the surrendering fighters. “It remains unknown whether the handover was carried out through a prior agreement with regime forces or not,” the monitoring group added. SOHR’s report came a day after the pro-rebel Syria Mubasher outlet said that 180 Nusra militants had turned themselves over. [NOW, 12/7/2015]

Turkey slams Russian Bosphorus provocation
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has called on Russia to end “provocative acts” after Turkish media captured images of a Russian soldier on Sunday apparently pointing a missile launcher as his warship navigated through the Bosporus on its way to the Mediterranean. On Monday, Cavusoglu said Turkey would “give the necessary response” should it perceive a ‘threatening situation.” The incident came amid escalating Russian-Turkish tensions following Turkey’s downing of a Russian plane on November 24. Cavusoglu renewed a call for the two sides to overcome tensions through diplomatic means and for Russia to halt punitive sanctions on Turkey, adding, “We are asking Russia to act as a more mature state.” [AP, Guardian , 12/7/2015]

Iraq says Turkish troops near Mosul violating international law
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has warned Turkey that the deadline for the withdrawal of additional Turkish forces from Iraq’s north expires on Tuesday. He said on Monday that unless Turkish troops pullout, Iraq intends to raise the matter before the UN Security Council. Syria slammed Turkey on Sunday for Turkish troop deployment in Iraq, accusing Ankara of playing a “destructive role” against both countries. Turkey says its troops have been stationed at a small base outside of ISIS-controlled Mosul since last year as part of a training mission coordinated with Baghdad and that it has a duty to protect its soldiers around the city. The arrival of additional Turkish forces on Friday sparked uproar in Baghdad amid exaggerated media reports. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has repeatedly called for the forces to be withdrawn. A number of other senior Iraqi politicians called the move a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. On Sunday, Turkey announced additional deployments to Iraq would be halted until the Iraqi government’s “sensitivities are overcome.” As of Monday, Turkey had not withdrawn troops from Iraq and was in discussion with Iraq’s defense ministry. [AP, 12/7/2015]