Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Monday, April 17, 2017, 1:41 PM

The looming showdown over North Korea is a “Cuban missile crisis in slow motion,” the New York Times reports. A ballistic missile launched by North Korea on Sunday morning following a military parade exploded shortly after being fired, a failure which the Times reports may have been affected by U.S. hacking. But Pyongyang did not conduct a nuclear test, as many had been expecting. Visiting South Korea on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence declared that, “the era of strategic patience is over,” saying, "President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change.” And in a remark today, President Trump warned the North Korean regime had to “behave,” Politico writes.

Meanwhile, in a press briefing during which China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman asked all parties involved to maintain calm in the region, Beijing also emphasized its continued opposition to the deployment of the THAAD missile system in South Korea, Reuters reports. And former South Korean president Park Geun-hye was formally indicted on corruption charges following her impeachment early this March.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gained expansive new powers after declaring victory in an unexpectedly close referendum vote, the Times tells us. Support for the proposal to grant increased power to the president narrowly edged out opposition in a vote tally that came out to 51.3 in favor and 48.7 against. Onlookers and those who opposed Erdogan’s proposal fear that the referendum will cement Turkey’s turn toward authoritarianism and away from liberal democracy in recent years. The Washington Post reports that Turkey’s main opposition party is demanding the vote to be annulled due to irregularities during the voting and ballot-counting. Election monitors did not report any instances of fraud but were concerned by a last-minute government decision to allow the counting of ballots lacking an official seal. Reuters has more.

126 Syrian civilians, including 60 children, were killed in a bombing attack on buses carrying evacuees away from two Shiite villages besieged by rebel fighters, Reuters writes. The bombs hit as the buses were waiting to cross from rebel territory into a government-controlled area pursuant to a deal reached between the rebels and the regime. No group has yet claimed responsibility.

The AP reports that Syrian government forces are advancing on the rebel-held town of Tibet al-Imam in Hama province, in what appears to be an effort to consolidate government control of the area north of the city of Hama. Russian airstrikes are supporting the offensive.

Diplomats from Russia, the United States, and the United Nations may meet in Geneva as soon as next week to discuss the Syrian civil war, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. The Kremlin is awaiting confirmation from Washington that the meeting will go forward, Reuters tells us.

Fighting between ISIS militants and local tribes injured three people in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula after local residents attempted to smuggle cigarettes into an ISIS-controlled area, the AP reports. The clashes point to rising tensions in the region over the Islamic State’s imposition of a strict vision of Islamic law.

The battle for Mosul has now entered its seventh month as Iraqi forces continue fighting for control of the Old City. Troops are nearing the al-Nuri Mosque where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014, the capture of which would mark a major symbolic victory. Several hundred thousand civilians remain inside Mosul. Reuters has more.

Over a thousand Palestinians in Israeli prisons are participating in a major hunger strike led by Marwan Barghouti, a detainee widely considered to be a potential replacement for the Palestinian Authority’s embattled President Mahmoud Abbas. Barghouti set out the prisoners’ demands in an editorial in the Times on Sunday.

National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster met with Afghan leaders this weekend only days after the United States dropped its largest non-nuclear weapon against a network of ISIS caves in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, the Times writes. In an interview with Afghanistan’s ToloNews, McMaster reiterated that, “The Taliban must be defeated” and emphasized U.S. commitments to support the Afghan government and security forces. He also sharply criticized the Pakistani government’s “selective” approach to cracking down on the Taliban’s presence within Pakistan, saying, “The best way to pursue their interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through the use of diplomacy, and not through the use of proxies that engage in violence.”

Surveillance reports flagged by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes as potentially demonstrating misconduct by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice do not show any evidence of foul play on the part of Rice or other Obama administration officials, NBC reports. The “unmasking” of names of U.S. persons contained within the reports, which Nunes alleged may have taken place improperly, was “completely normal,” according to one official.


ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic posted the mother of all Lawfare Podcasts, on a new book on “cyber insecurity.”

Kenneth Anderson gave us some suggestions on how to declare war.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Erik Gartzke considered Trump’s airstrike in Syria as a potentially welcome defense of international norms against chemical weapons.

Julian Ku and Chris Mirasola reminded us that China has promised to defend North Korea from armed attack.

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