Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Wednesday, September 20, 2017, 3:00 PM

World leaders have expressed a range of reactions to President Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, the AP reported. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the address as a bold and courageous message. A spokesperson for South Korea’s president expressed support for Trump’s stance on “the important issue of maintaining peace and security” but did not comment directly on  Trump’s threat to “destroy North Korea.” French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Trump in his address to the General Assembly, saying “today, more than ever, we need multilateralism,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Macron rejected Trump’s aggressive stance on North Korea and called on the U.S. not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump also castigated in his remarks. On the sidelines of the General Assembly, NATO’s Secretary General expressed his support of the Trump’s increases to U.S. military commitments in both Europe and Afghanistan, the AP reported

At the General Assembly, foreign leaders also promoted their own agendas. Qatar’s emir called for dialogue to resolve the dispute with its neighbors in the Gulf, Reuters reported. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that unless the U.S. can alter the provisions of the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. will not be able to keep the agreement, also from Reuters. Tillerson cited the ‘sunset’ clauses, which allow some of the deal’s restrictions to expire in 2025, as one of the main problems with the accord. At a side event at the U.N., Britain, France, and Italy will pressure social media companies to more aggressively remove “terrorist content,” Reuters reported. British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet with representatives of Google, Facebook, and Twitter to urge them to increase the pace of their removals and implement automated systems to detect and take down extremist content.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the circumstances surrounding President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. The interview took place in early summer. Since Rosenstein did not recuse himself from overseeing the investigation following the interview, a former federal prosecutor told the Journal that Rosenstein is not a key witness for the probe.

President Trump’s former personal lawyer and business associate Michael Cohen agreed to testify at a public hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in October, the Washington Post reported. Cohen had previously agreed to a private interview with Senate investigators scheduled for September 19. The committee cancelled the meeting after Cohen released a public statement denying links with the Russian government, violating a request to not issue comments before the meeting. Separately, the RNC legal defense fund has paid over $400,000 of the Trump family’s legal fees related to the Russia investigation, according to Politico.

British police arrested three suspects in addition to the two men already detained in connection with the terrorist attack on a subway car at Parsons Green, the New York Times reported. Scotland Yard said that agents arrested two men in Newport, Wales on Wednesday and that police took custody of another man on Tuesday. Police are investigating the Islamic State’s claim that a “detachment” of its fighters carried out the attack on Friday.

A U.S. Navy admiral said that Iran is smuggling increasingly powerful weapons to Houthi rebel groups in Yemen in violation of international sanctions, the Times reported. Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, the top Navy official in the Middle East, said on Monday that Iran is sending anti-ship and ballistic missiles, sea mines, and explosive boats to help Houthi rebel groups to fire missiles into Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has provided weapons and support to the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government in the civil war. Donegan said that Iran is smuggling arms to Yemen by dhow -- a type of traditional sailing vessel -- and is supplying training and assistance to the rebel groups.

Iraqi armed forces launched a new offensive against the Islamic State in Anbar province, the Post reported on Tuesday. Army units, police, and tribal fighters attacked the Islamic State’s positions in the town of Ana in an assault against one of the militant group’s last strongholds. The offensive aims to move along the Euphrates River through the vast desert province and end at the Syrian border, where the Islamic State is currently battling the Syrian Army and U.S.-backed Kurdish militias near Deir al-Zour. In western Syria, militant groups linked to Al Qaeda attacked government-held villages in Hama province, the Post also reported. The battle in Hama threatens the de-escalation zone initiative that Iran, Russia, and Turkey have backed to lessen violence around nearby Idlib province. Radical militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a former Al Qaeda affiliate, rejected that initiative last summer and launched its offensive to prevent the establishment of a de-escalation zone around Idlib, where extremist groups hold sway.

Turkey threatened to impose sanctions against Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the upcoming independence referendum, Reuters reported on Tuesday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s government would put forth a formal response to the KRG’s referendum on Friday, three days before the proposed vote. Despite decades of support for the KRG, Turkey strongly opposes the referendum because it fears it will embolden the Kurdish PKK, a group the Turkish government is currently fighting in the western part of the country. On Monday, the Turkish army launched military exercises along its border with the KRG-controlled territory in northern Iraq that will last until next Tuesday, the day after the referendum.

Israel shot down a Hezbollah drone over the Syrian border on Tuesday, according to the Guardian. Intelligence suggested that Iran supplied Hezbollah with the drone to support its military operations in Syria.

Russia and China began joint military exercises in the North Pacific on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported. Chinese and Russian naval vessels are conducting drills in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk, as the two countries increase their military cooperation efforts in northeast Asia. The exercises will include tests of their attack submarine fleets.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Stewart Baker posted the Cyberlaw Podcast, featuring an interview with Jeanette Manfra, DHS’s Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications

Robert Loeb argued that the presumption of regularity does not prevent judges from reviewing the motives behind President Trump’s travel ban.

Matthew Kahn posted the application for the 2018 Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition.

Bob Bauer analyzed the news about conflicts within President Trump’s legal team and their implications for the Russia investigation.

J. Dana Stuster posted the Middle East Ticker, covering the upcoming Kurdish independence referendum, Saudi Arabia’s mix of economic reforms and political crackdowns, and quiet outreach from the Gulf states to Israel.

Elsa Kania examined the potential for AI to disrupt strategic stability among leading powers.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted the National Security Law Podcast, covering the wiretap of Paul Manafort and the American citizen enemy combatant detained in Syria. 

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