Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 2:21 PM

Following revelations that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier had not been deployed toward North Korea last week, as the Trump administration claimed, the Wall Street Journal reports that the confusion over the aircraft carrier’s whereabouts has generated both “ridicule” and “wariness” in the region. The South Korean presidential candidate from former president Park Geun-hye’s party, Hong Joon-pyo, stated that if the deployment of the aircraft carrier “was a lie, then during Trump’s term, South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says.”​ It remains unclear whether South Korea, Japan, and other U.S. allies where informed of the carrier’s actual whereabouts as it sailed toward the Indian Ocean rather than the West Pacific. The New York Times has more.

Two Russian bombers flew near the coast of Alaska last night within the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone, forcing the U.S. to scramble several jets to intercept the Russian plane, which then flew back to eastern Russia. The incident is the first time that Russia has sent planes so close to the United States since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the Times writes. Meanwhile, the BBC tells us that the Kremlin also unveiled a new permanent military base in the Arctic.

CNN reports that the FBI cited the dossier alleging connections between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence in its application for a FISA warrant to monitor the communications of former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page. The Bureau’s use of information contained in the dossier, which was assembled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, lends further credence to the report’s legitimacy. According to Steele, Page allegedly met with Russian officials to discuss possibly lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia.

In the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza further corroborates reporting that the intelligence reports flagged by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes as possible evidence of misconduct on the part of Obama administration officials in unmasking the names of Trump campaign staff show nothing of the sort. According to a U.S. official, Nunes’s efforts may have stemmed from a White House push to “find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.”

The Washington Post examines the discord between Trump’s relatively warm views of Russia and the sterner approach of most other members of his administration, who have recently levied sharp critiques of the Kremlin’s role in the Syrian conflict. The varied rhetoric has caused confusion regarding the Trump administration’s policy toward President Vladimir Putin.

Turkish authorities arrested dozens of opposition politicians early on Wednesday, signaling a crackdown in response to doubts over the legitimacy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s victory in a referendum that narrowly handed him expansive new powers. Meanwhile, the White House is defending President Trump’s controversial congratulatory call to Erdogan over an electoral process riddled with irregularities, saying that the two men primarily discussed shared interests in Syria rather than Erdogan’s victory. The Post has more.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed in a letter to Congress that Iran remains compliant with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, but indicated the administration’s intent to begin an interagency review of whether the lifting of sanctions against Iran was in the U.S. national interest, Reuters writes. The Trump administration has been strongly critical of the deal with Iran, though the agreement has remained in place.

The AP tells us that evacuations have resumed from besieged regions of Syria following the deadly bombing of a bus carrying evacuees over the weekend. Pursuant to an agreement between the Syrian government and rebel forces, buses are carrying civilians away from Shiite villages besieged by rebel fighters and into Aleppo, while elsewhere in Syria, buses are ferrying rebel fighters from government-held areas into rebel-held territory.

The Journal reports on an effort by the Saudi-led coalition known as “Muslim NATO” to create a military force to provide counterterrorism assistance to member nations and fight against militant jihadist groups in Libya, Yemen, and West Africa. Pakistan will provide roughly 5,000 troops to guard Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen, a move that will likely increase tensions with neighboring Iran.

Four suspected al Qaeda members were killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on Tuesday night, Reuters writes. The strike was confirmed my officials of the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi, which controls Marib province, in which the strikes took place.

The United States has stayed quiet on the question of how much damage the “Mother of All Bombs” inflicted on ISIS fighters in eastern Afghanistan, the Times reports. It remains unclear how many militants were killed and what other effects the bomb might have had after it was deployed against a network of caves held by the Islamic State in Nangarhar Province. Reports also conflict as to whether U.S. and Afghan forces have been on-site in the wake of the bombing.


ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

J. Dana Stuster updated the Middle East Ticker.

Mike Flowers alerted readers to the new Enigma Sanctions Tracker, which visualizes and contextualizes changes to U.S. Sanctions programs.

Bobby Chesney noted the quiet end of a combat-equipped deployment of U.S. forces in Uganda.

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