Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commenary

By Rishabh Bhandari
Friday, June 24, 2016, 3:26 PM

Britain rocked the Continent last night after voters decided last night that it was time for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. The move, which dominated European and Western coverage of British politics since the campaign launched in February, came as a shock to political establishments throughout the West. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, a vigorous opponent of ‘Brexit,’ said he planned to step down by October. Britain is the first nation to leave the 28-nation European Union, which has been strained by a series of crises from the global recession of 2008 to Russia’s resurgence and the huge influx of migrants fleeing the Syrian Civil War. The New York Times reports that ‘Brexit’ has already shocked global markets and triggered a significant diminution of the pound’s value.

The BBC offers a comprehensive primer breaking down the arguments of both the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ sides of the campaign. Lawfare supplements this resource by filling you in on how Britain can build the necessary relationships and institutions to replace those that the EU provided.

World leaders beyond the EU have already begun weighing in on today’s news and adjusting their own relationships with the UK. President Barack Obama said the United States will respect the decision of Britain’s voters to leave the EU, and that the “special relationship” between the two countries will persist. Obama traveled to London in April to urge voters to reject Brexit. During that trip, Obama also issued a thinly-veiled economic threat that a U.S.-UK trade deal would not occur overnight because “the UK is going to be at the back of the queue.” The Guardian reports that leaders in both Tehran and Moscow, two major adversaries of Britain and the United States, have expressed barely concealed glee at the news. Sergey Sobyanin, Moscow’s mayor, said, “Without the UK in the EU there won’t be anyone to so zealously defend the sanctions against us.” One senior official in Iran predicted that Scotland and Ireland would soon be liberated from “the tyrannical rule of the monarchy, the so-called Great Britain.” Russia’s President Vladimir Putin suggested Britain’s decision to leave is a sign of voters’ dissatisfaction with the EU bureaucracy and concerns surrounding security and migration.

But Putin also said on Friday that he did not expect that Brexit would influence the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU. He added that while he was ready to resolve the issue with his European counterparts, the primary responsibility for ongoing tensions between Russia and the EU should lie with Ukraine’s leaders for not complying with the requirements articulated in the Minsk peace deal.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the United Kingdom will remain a “strong and committed NATO ally” despite its departure from the EU. At a time of rising global instability—one of the reasons for Britain’s exit from the EU in the first place—Stoltenberg said “the alliance was more important than ever as a platform for cooperation...between Europe and North America.” Stoltenberg’s comments come two days after he told the Guardian that a fragmented Europe would only stoke uncertainty and instability.

Analysts said Britain’s departure from the EU may spark a domino effect across Europe, enhance Euroscepticism, and embolden other far right groups to make similar calls for a referendum. Far-right groups in Italy, the Netherlands, and France have all already congratulated Britain on its decision and publicly demanded the right to make the same choice. The BBC has more.

Reuters reveals that fragmentation may continue at the national level for Britain after Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned a second Scottish independence is “highly likely.” Scotland voted decisively to stay in the EU by 62 to 38 percent, putting it at odds with the UK as a whole, which voted 52-48 in favor of Brexit. Sturgeon said that it was “democratically unacceptable” for Scotland to be taken out of the EU against its will.

Several FBI officials said the Bureau has found no evidence so far to support previously alleged claims that Omar Mateen, the shooter behind the Orlando massacre, had gay lovers or communicated on gay dating apps. In the days following the slaughter, several patrons of the Pulse nightclub where the attack took place claimed to have either seen Mateen at the club or to have been contacted by him through gay dating apps. But investigators have rejected these claims as unreliable or faulty. Many had made the claim Mateen targeted Pulse not because of his support for the Islamic State but because he was ashamed of his sexuality. The LA Times has more.

The U.S. Senate voted down a bill on Wednesday that would have expanded the FBI’s surveillance powers after the mass shooting in Orlando. The bill, which Senator John McCain (R-AZ) proposed and Republicans largely backed, would have broadened the type of telephone and internet records the FBI could request from tech companies such as Verizon and Yahoo. Opponents from Silicon Valley and privacy advocates such as Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said the bill would threaten civil liberties without sufficiently improving national security.

Another attempt at gun control also faltered in Congress on Thursday as a proposed ban on firearm sales to people being monitored for links to terrorism barely avoided being killed in the Senate. In a procedural vote, the Senate narrowly rejected an attempt to scrap the plan by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to prevent people on two U.S. government watch lists from obtaining guns. But the legislative proposal doesn’t look likely to pass the chamber and Republican leaders said Congress would move onto other matters until at least the July 4 weekend. But some senators had seen resistance to gun control softening as the issue has partially become a national security concern. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a leading hawk, said, “Eventually this problem will get addressed again one of two ways: We find a breakthrough, which I will seek, or there will be another terrorist attack which will bring us right back to this issue. I hope we can do it without another terrorist attack.”

After the Pentagon announced on Wednesday night that Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al Rahabi, 37, a citizen of Yemen, was sent to Montenegro after 14 years at the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Republicans on the Hill slammed President Obama for putting his political agenda above national security. Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a public statement, “In the president’s mad dash to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay, dangerous jihadists are being released to foreign countries that are ill-equipped to handle them. And all the while, the administration refuses to tell the American people the truth about what’s really happening.” Al Rahabi was alleged to be a member of al Qaeda and a former bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. He also allegedly received specialized close combat training for a role as a suicide operative in an aborted component of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Newly empowered by President Obama’s recent decision to expand the U.S. military’s latitude in the region, U.S. warplanes have recently launched airstrikes against Taliban targets. Defense officials told the Military Times that the strikes would help the Afghan government push back against the Taliban insurgency. A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said it was still too early to assess the first rounds of airstrikes’ efficacy.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House is helping facilitate deals between U.S. companies and Iran in hopes of cementing the landmark nuclear agreement reached last year. This effort, which echoes the Obama administration’s strategy for solidifying ties with Cuba, got a boost this week when Boeing reached a $17.6 billion deal with Tehran to sell commercial jets to the country’s national air carrier. U.S. officials said the stronger economic ties between the two countries would reduce the likelihood that a subsequent administration would repeal the nuclear accord with Iran.

Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) penned an op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday that warned the U.S. would be involved in another extended war in Iraq unless U.S. policymakers articulate a political plan to ensure the country’s long-term stability. Moulton—who served four tours in Iraq as a Marine—said it was important for U.S. leaders to provide assistance and political mentorship to reformers in the Iraqi government.

Kurdish and Arab fighters entered the key Islamic State stronghold of Manbij in northern Syria on Thursday according to Al Jazeera. U.S. air power is supporting the Syrian Democratic Force, but progress will still likely be slow as they face booby-traps planted by Islamic State fighters. As the fighting moves into the streets, human rights groups are concerned that thousands of civilians trapped in Manbij will be caught in the middle of the conflict. A defeat in Manbij would constitute a body blow for the Islamic State; the city is a strategic conduit for new Islamic State fighters traveling through the Turkish border into Syria. The Islamic State is also facing a major assault on its capital of Raqqa at the hands of the Syrian government and Russian auxiliary support. But as The Economist reports, the Islamic State remains a resilient threat despite suffering a series of setbacks in recent months.

Reuters reveals that China maintains its objection to India joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a group of nations that seeks to prevent nuclear weapon proliferation by controlling global access to sensitive technology. Beijing claims that New Delhi should not be allowed into the club because India has yet to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The standoff comes after the United States spearheaded the lobbying campaign for India to join.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as the Middle East Quarter, a mediation group made up by the United States, the EU, Russia, and the United nations, prepares to publish a report that harshly criticizes Israel’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu will also speak with Kerry about a series of other issues including how to conclude drawn-out negotiations with Washington over a new 10-year defense agreement.

Robert Levine writes in Bloomberg that as the gap between regulation and technological change only grows, courts have increasingly played an important role in defining law at the cyber frontier. From labor relations to net neutrality and copyright disputes, Silicon Valley companies are learning both how to lobby in Washington but win cases in court as well.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Zoe Bedell filled us in on the legal and regulatory implications of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Oona Hathaway and Jack Goldsmith covered the release of a report by the Defense Department’s Inspector General that sought to evaluate the pre-publication review process for sensitive information.

Ammar Abdulhamid urged scholars and pundits to take a nuanced view when evaluating whether tensions exist between modernity and Islam.

Sultan Barakat offered three proposals for how policymakers in Iran and Saudi Arabia could warm relations between the two regional powers.

Kenneth Anderson reviewed the Oxford Handbook of the use of Force in International Law, an anthology of 57 articles and chapters that spans 1279 pages and covers a vast terrain of controversies in international law of the use of force.

Paul Rosenzweig shared a link to a semi-serious geopolitical analysis by The Economist 1843 of the popular TV show “Game of Thrones.

Benjamin Wittes posted the latest podcast from Rational Security, which features a guest appearance by Jonathan Rauch to discuss his Atlantic cover story on how “American Politics Went Insane” and what this means for U.S. national security.

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