Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Alex Potcovaru
Monday, July 17, 2017, 5:00 PM

U.S. intelligence officials say the United Arab Emirates was behind a hacking operation that falsely attributed inflammatory statements to the Emir of Qatar and subsequently created a diplomatic rift between Qatar and the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, The Washington Post reports. The UAE’s ambassador to the U.S. released a statement calling the Post story “false” and arguing the country played no role in the alleged cyberattack. Both the U.S. and Kuwait have attempted to help bring a resolution to the dispute that began in May, but the parties have yet to reach a resolution.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel opposes the cease fire deal in southern Syria struck between the U.S. and Russia on the sidelines of the G20 meeting last week, Haaretz reports. After meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Netanyahu argued that the agreement would further Iranian presence in Syria. Iran is allegedly planning to expand its military influence in the region, which Israel opposes. The statement takes public a disagreement over terms and objectives that previously had been communicated via private diplomatic channels.

Jay Sekulow, one of President Trump’s personal lawyers, argued that the the Secret Service would not have allowed a Russian lawyer and a former Soviet intelligence operative to meet with Donald Trump, Jr. if the participants inside if anything “nefarious” had happened, the Post reports. In response, a Secret Service spokesperson said that Trump Jr. was not under the agency’s protection at that time. On Sunday morning, Trump criticized coverage of the meeting via and argued most politicians would have taken it.

In Iraq and Syria, more civilian deaths in the fight against the Islamic State are occurring under Trump than Obama, according to reporting by Airwars and The Daily Beast. Airwars pegs the number at about 2,200 civilian deaths since Trump’s inauguration. The number during the entire Obama administration was about 2,300. The Coalition’s official numbers, though lower, show a similar trend. Debate exists over whether the more brutal, final stages of the fight are to blame, or rather a loosening of civilian protections built into targeting decisions.

U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan have increased to a level unseen since 2012, the Post reports. This year, the military has dropped or expended 1,600 munitions, compared to 298 in 2015 and 545 in 2016. Officials say that most of the strikes have targeted the Taliban, but some of the resources have also been directed against ISIS. Abu Sayed, the leader of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, was killed in an airstrike, U.S. Forces in Afghanistan confirmed in a statement on Friday. He was at the militant group’s headquarters in Kunar Province during the July 11 attack.

Multiple states in the Middle East and North Africa have turned to buying sophisticated military equipment, including drones, from China after the U.S. denied them the technology, The Wall Street Journal reports. Experts say that the Chinese arms sales present multiple problems, including that they undermine U.S. control over the spread of military technology, as well as a commercial loss to the Chinese who offer the systems at a fraction of the price of the American models.

Indonesia renamed a section of the South China Sea in an effort to cement its claim to an exclusive economic zone that overlaps with a Chinese claim, the Post reports. It is the latest development in a multinational dispute among at least seven participants whose broad maritime claims have exacerbated regional tensions. The Chinese government challenged the logic of the Indonesian decision, but Indonesia said that the name, the North Natuna Sea, was already in use by the oil and gas industry and that officially changing the name would reduce confusion.

ICYMI: This weekend, on Lawfare

Paul Rosenzweig noted China’s recent legal moves to crack down on parliamentary supporters of Hong Kong independence.

Quinta Jurecic posted this week’s Lawfare Podcast, an interview with Mieke Eoyang and Evelyn Farkas on Russian accountability for election interference

Ariane Tabatabai and Annie Tracy Samuel examined the Iran nuclear deal through the lens of the Iran-Iraq War in this week’s Foreign Policy Essay,

John Bellinger noted several new cyber initiatives from UC Irvine’s new Cybersecurity Policy & Research Institute.

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