Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 12:06 PM

North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in a test that demonstrated the Kim regime’s longest potential range capability yet. The Hwasong-15 missile could reach all of the continental United States, the New York Times reported. The missile’s 53-minute flight took the projectile 2,800 miles into space before landing in the Sea of Japan 600 miles east of its launch site. Experts said the test flight showed a potential range of 8,000 miles. President Donald Trump, the leaders of Japan and South Korea, and the U.N. secretary-general condemned the launch, the Washington Post reported. The United Nations Security Council will meet on Wednesday to discuss Pyongyang’s latest provocation.

The Syrian government agreed to a Russian plan for a ceasefire in a rebel-held region near Damascus, the BBC reported. Syrian forces had besieged rebels in the Eastern Ghouta area, and in recent weeks Russian airstrikes and Syrian artillery fire have killed dozens of civilians. The ceasefire came as Syrian government and opposition negotiators met for U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva.

The FBI is investigating the murders of a Syrian-American journalist and her mother in Turkey, ABC News reported. Halla Barakat and her mother Orouba both reported on abuses by the Syrian regime. Their killer strangled and stabbed them to death in their apartment in Istanbul in September. Turkish prosecutors have arrested a man who says he killed them because of a dispute about money, but the prosecutors suspect the man acted on orders from the Assad regime to assassinate the women.

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, promoted a private scheme to build nuclear reactors across the Middle East while he was in office, the Wall Street Journal reported. Flynn consulted for the companies proposing the plan during the presidential transition. After coming into office, he directed a National Security Council staffer to prepare a memo about the plan for Trump to approve. The staffer continued to promote the plan after Flynn resigned in February until his own ouster in July.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Michael Flynn may now cover Flynn’s tenure as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), BuzzFeed News reported. The DIA cited “ongoing law enforcement investigative activities” to justify refusing a reporter’s three-year old request for information about Flynn’s two-year tenure as director from 2012 to 2014. The Obama administration forced Flynn to retire early.

A jury in Washington, D.C. convicted Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the alleged mastermind of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, on terrorism charges, the Post reported. The jury in federal district court acquitted Khatallah on murder charges for the deaths of four U.S. diplomats at Benghazi. U.S. commandos captured Khatallah in 2014 in Libya and brought him to the U.S. to face criminal prosecution. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

Shooting broke out in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, between rival factions of the Houthi movement, Reuters reported. Forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh fought allies of another key Houthi leader, threatening to fracture the Houthi rebel movement. A Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s internationally-recognized government is fighting the Houthis for control of the country.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended his redesign of the State Department, the Post reported. “There is not hollowing out,” Tillerson said in remarks at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. Dozens of senior diplomats have resigned or been fired since the beginning of the administration. Tillerson’s redesign plan has sparked widespread opposition in the department. Tillerson said reports of a depleted department are not accurate and that his redesign would improve the working environment for the nation’s diplomatic corps. The official overseeing the redesign quit on Tuesday after three months on the job, Bloomberg reported.

A Belgian court blocked the deportation of an imam at the country’s largest mosque, according to the Post. Belgian immigration and asylum officials said Abdelhadi Sewif threatened national security. The court found that officials had provided no evidence that Sewif posed a specific security risk. Belgium’s investigation into the 2016 terror attacks on the Brussels airport has put pressure on Sewif’s mosque for its connections to foreign backers.

A Bosnian-Croat military commander died after taking poison at the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. Slobodan Praljak drank from a glass that he said contained poison as a U.N. judge upholding his 20-year prison sentence for war crimes related to plan to carry out ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Clare Duncan detailed Yemen’s recent history in a primer on its civil war.

Nicholas Weaver emphasized the seriousness of the danger from autonomous weapons systems such as “slaughterbots.”

J. Dana Stuster updated the Middle East Ticker, covering the Sinai attack, U.S.-Turkey tensions and the fallout from the Saudi power play.

Yishai Schwartz summarized the Nov. 13 military commission hearing in U.S. v. al-Nashiri.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast, featuring discussion of Carpenter v. U.S. and the hearing in ACLU v. Mattis.

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