Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Monday, October 9, 2017, 1:25 PM

Turkey and the United States announced they were reciprocally suspending most visitor visas for travelers going between their countries, the Washington Post reported on Sunday. The U.S. embassy in Ankara suspended all non-immigrant visa services after the Turkish government arrested a worker at the American consulate in Istanbul last week. In Washington, the Turkish embassy did the same in retaliation. The dispute hurt Turkish stocks and currency, and on Monday the Turkish foreign minister asked the U.S. to lift the suspension, according to Reuters.

Google said it had discovered evidence that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its platforms to influence the 2016 election, the Post reported on Monday. Russian operatives attempted to spread disinformation over ads on Google services such as Gmail, YouTube, and search. These ads were not linked to the Internet Research Agency, the organization that Facebook identified as responsible for Russian-linked ads on its site. The Daily Beast profiled two men who spread disinformation about Hillary Clinton and were linked back to the Kremlin. The Post’s David Filipov wrote about Russian activists and journalists trying to shed light on online Russian government “troll farms.”

Islamic State group fighters surrendered by the the hundreds after defeats in northern Iraq, the New York Times reported. After the fall of Hawija, more than 1,000 militants turned themselves in to Kurdish pesh merga forces. They fled north to avoid capture by Shiite militias fighting alongside the Iraqi army, who have a reputation for killing prisoners. The fall of Hawija removes the last buffer between Kurdish forces and the Iraqi military, as tensions increase following last month’s independence referendum in Kurdistan, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The number of civilian casualties in Syria rose sharply in recent weeks as pro-government forces launched hundreds of strikes against targets in protected zones, the Post reported on Saturday. A Syrian-focused NGO said that September was the deadliest month in the Syrian civil war this year so far, dashing hopes that a series of ceasefire agreements concluded over the summer would lessen the violence. Driving Islamic State fighters out of Raqqa has devastated the city and left thousands without essential services, according to Reuters. U.S.-backed Kurdish forces that have taken control of the former Islamic State group capital lack the funds and capacity to rebuild the city.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the top U.S. commander in the country formally launched a new plan to modernize the Afghan military, the Post reported on Saturday. The U.S. will provide a vast array of aircraft and training advisors to expand the Afghan air force, including 159 Black Hawk helicopters, as part of a strategy to make the Afghan security forces self-sufficient within five years. Secretary of Defense James Mattis disclosed during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon has revised rules of engagement for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Times reported. Mattis outlined several changes that loosened restrictions on when U.S. forces can target Taliban soldiers. Separately, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it will “drastically” cut operations in Afghanistan following attacks that left seven of its staff dead earlier this year, according to Reuters.

Thousands marched in favor of continued unity with Spain in Barcelona on Sunday, opposing efforts by Catalan politicians to declare independence from Madrid, the Post reported. Many marchers said they did not vote in the recent independence referendum because it was declared unconstitutional.

Over 20 countries have cut their diplomatic or business ties to North Korea following a State Department campaign to isolate Pyongyang from any international connections, the Journal reported on Sunday. U.S. officials successfully pressured Italy, Mexico, Peru, Spain, and Kuwait to expel North Korea’s ambassadors and pushed other countries to terminate business relationships that brought cash to the financially-starved regime.

The Pentagon took over a project to reduce the costs of the F-35 combat jet after rejecting a proposal from Lockheed Martin, the Journal reported. The Department of Defense ended a $170 million agreement with contractors to improve the affordability of the F-35 program, which is estimated to be approximately $1.1 trillion.

The EU is planning on cutting back contacts with Myanmar’s military to respond to the Rohingya Muslim humanitarian crisis, Reuters reported. EU foreign ministers have a draft statement that condemns the military’s role in offensives that have displaced 500,000 people in Myanmar.

Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch and Elias Groll detailed how China is pursuing leadership roles in international organizations to further its goals of silencing human rights critics and consolidating control over the internet.

The Times’s Saeed al-Batati and Eric Schmitt wrote on Sunday about a turning point for the U.S.-backed Yemeni government in its war against Al Qaeda-linked militants.


ICYMI: This weekend, on Lawfare

Vanessa Sauter shared the Lawfare Podcast, featuring audio from a Lawfare event where Susan Hennessey spoke with former White House counsels Bob Bauer and A.B. Culvahouse about lawyering for the presidency.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Ariane Tabatabai argued that Iran’s interests and activities in Afghanistan present both threats and opportunities for the U.S.

Shibley Telhami questioned the moral weight of the label “terrorist” in the context of the Las Vegas shooting.


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