Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Friday, September 15, 2017, 1:38 PM

North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan on Friday in its longest ever test flight, the New York Times reported. The missile launched from an airport north of Pyongyang and flew a distance of 2,300 miles east, crossing over northern Japan and then splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. That distance is slightly farther than the range needed to reach Guam, an American territory that Pyongyang has repeatedly threatened. The launch came three days after a U.N. Security Council resolution raised sanctions against North Korea in response to its nuclear and missile testing. American and Japanese defense officials said they did not shoot down the missile because they determined it was aimed into the sea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned the launch and said that China and Russia should take action to impose costs on North Korea.

A homemade bomb exploded on a London subway car in an incident that authorities are describing as a terrorist attack, the Washington Post reported on Friday. An improvised explosive device sent fire and smoke through a subway car at Parsons Green station, injuring at least 29 commuters. Police called the explosion a “terrorist incident.” Images from social media appeared to show a white bucket with a bag on fire, but little damage to the subway car. Prime Minister Theresa May convened a special meeting of senior Cabinet officials on Friday to coordinate the crisis response. The Guardian has live updates.

U.S. backed militias will not attempt to enter the embattled city of Deir al-Zour, where Syrian government forces are fighting the Islamic State, according to Reuters. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of U.S. backed Arab and Kurdish fighters, will not advance closer towards the Syrian Army lines across the Euphrates River. A U.S. military spokesperson for the coalition said that it wanted to avoid a “congested” battlefield and prevent conflict between the Syrian Army and SDF. Separately, an American citizen fighting for the Islamic State was detained by the Department of Defense as an enemy combatant, the Daily Beast reported. The SDF turned over the American, who surrendered earlier this week, to U.S. forces. The Department of Defense confirmed that it was holding the fighter, and referred questions about his detention and potential prosecution to the Department of Justice, which did not comment. In northern Syria, Russia, Turkey, and Iran agreed to post observers around a de-escalation zone in the Idlib province largely controlled by rebels linked to former Al Qaeda offshoot the Al Nusra front, Reuters reported. The announcement of the Idlib zone was the latest step in the implementation of a plan that Turkey, Russia and Iran signed in May to create de-escalation zones supporting a broader ceasefire agreement.

President Trump reduced U.S. sanctions on Iran as promised in the Iran nuclear deal, but also levied new targeted sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism, the Wall Street Journal reported. The administration reluctantly honored a provision of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in which the United States agreed to waive its sanctions against Iran and renew that waiver every 120 days. However, the Treasury Department also imposed new measures that target 11 companies and individuals for their links to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard. President Trump will decide in October whether to re-certify to Congress that Iran compliant with the nuclear deal. U.S. allies and parties to the Iran deal have urged the United States to remain committed to the agreement.

Russia and Belarus began military exercises that will practice measures to counter Western-backed political change in Russia’s satellite states, the Post reported on Thursday. In the war game, Russian and Belarusian forces will confronted imagined states that seek to overthrow the regime in Belarus through political protests and sabotage. Russia attempted to reassure Western nations by saying that the exercises are defensive in nature. Western observers have noted that although the official Russia figure for the size of the exercise is 12,700 troops, up to 100,000 could be involved. Government officials in the Baltic states said the exercises were a rehearsal for sealing off their countries and prevent NATO reinforcement in event of a conflict between Russia and NATO.

A coordinated bombing and shooting in Nasiriyah, Iraq killed more than 80 people in an attack against Shiite pilgrims, the Post reported on Thursday. Gunmen fired on patrons at a restaurant while a car bomb exploded at a nearby police checkpoint along the road to Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. Pilgrims often stop at the restaurant for lunch. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. This type of violence is rare in the south of Iraq, where mostly Shiite populations have been shielded from the violence in the Sunni areas of the country.

Kaspersky Lab’s co-founder will testify before Congress to defend his company against allegations of ties with Russian intelligence, Reuters reported on Thursday. Eugene Kaspersky accepted an invitation from the House Space, Science, and Technology Committee to address accusations that his company has links to the Russian government and that its anti-virus products may be compromised by Russian intelligence. The Trump administration told U.S. government agencies on Wednesday to stop using Kaspersky Lab products in their networks. Eugene Kaspersky said he was willing to do whatever it takes to address the concerns but added that he required an expedited visa to appear in time to testify.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Bob Bauer argued that impeachment may be more acceptable today than in the past because of the context of our rapidly evolving political system.

Jack Goldsmith analyzed the process of creating a legal justification supporting military strikes against North Korea.

Benjamin Wittes posted this week’s Rational Security, the “Boris and Natasha Buy a Facebook Ad” Edition

Wittes described his lawsuit against the FBI for release of communications to FBI employees about the firing of Director James Comey.

David Hoffman and Riccardo Masucci urged the Trump administration to fill the three empty slots on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

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