Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Monday, March 5, 2018, 2:03 PM

Kim Jong Un hosted a delegation from South Korea for dinner in Pyongyang on Monday, the Washington Post reports. The dinner follows a thaw in tensions on the Korean peninsula in the wake of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and shows hope for continued engagement between the two countries. Kim and the delegation discussed preparations for an inter-Korean summit, which would be the first to occur since Kim succeeded his father as leader of North Korea in 2011. The reporting notes that Kim’s decision to engage with South Korea represents a marked change in the leader’s behavior, one possibly caused by the pressure exerted by American-led sanctions and President Trump’s unpredictability.

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, provided an extensive defense of the Iran nuclear deal on Monday, warning President Trump that the collapse of the deal would be a “great loss,” Reuters reports. Amano’s defense of the deal marks his most exhaustive to date; he cited long lists of figures documenting the number of facilities inspected, images captured, and pieces of equipment sealed. The director added that the agency has access to every facility necessary for a thorough review of Iran’s nuclear program. In pursuit of an improved nuclear deal, the Trump administration has told its European allies that the new deal should ensure “strong IAEA inspections.” Reuters notes that this signaling suggests that from the U.S. perspective, the current inspection regime is insufficient. Iran stated on Monday that it could quickly produce highly enriched uranium if the deal collapsed. 

Anastasia Vashukevich, a Belarusian escort with close personal ties to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, said Monday that she possesses 16 hours of audio that prove Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the New York Times reports. Vashukevich offered the U.S. an ultimatum: She will surrender the recordings if the government grants her asylum. She faces criminal charges and the prospect of deportation back to Belarus after authorities apprehended her working without a visa at a sex-training seminar in Thailand. Deripaska, the oligarch to whom she claims close ties, has close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The Times notes that Vashukevich’s assertion that she possesses crucials audio files would seem unreliable and unfounded but for “a 25-minute video investigation posted last month on YouTube by the Russian opposition figure Aleksei A. Navalny, which relies heavily on videos and photographs from Ms. Vashukevich.”

In an exhaustive piece for the upcoming issue of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer dissects how Christopher Steele, the ex-spy now infamous for writing an eponymous dossier on President Trump, tried to warn the world of the president’s ties to Russia. The report alleges that an unpublished memo that Steele wrote cited a senior Russian official as saying that Moscow influenced Trump not to choose Mitt Romney as secretary of state.

The State Department has spent none of the $120 million allocated to it since late 2016 to defend against foreign interference in U.S. elections, the Times reports. The department has not hired Russian speakers to join the Global Engagement Center, an operation tasked with countering Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign. Furthermore, the department’s hiring freeze has prevented it from acquiring the computer experts it needs to track and push back against Russian efforts to sow discord among Americans. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has publicly expressed doubt the U.S. can do anything to contain or mitigate the Russian threat.

The American embassy in Ankara, Turkey, closed Monday in response to a reported security threat, Politico says. Turkish law enforcement detained several Iraqi nationals  suspect of membership in the Islamic State, on charges of planning an attack on the embassy. Despite high tensions in Turkey’s relationship with Washington, Ankara stressed that the embassy’s closure was not a political move but rather the appropriate response to an imminent threat to the safety of American citizens and those working in the embassy. It remains unclear when the embassy will reopen. It will provide only emergency services in the meantime.

The administration is considering new military action against the Assad regime in response to the regime’s continued use of chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians, the Post reports. After extensive bombing in Eastern Ghouta last Sunday, civilians and medical workers described symptoms caused by exposure to chlorine gas. Early last week, President Trump met with Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster to discuss possible responses. One official stated that the president did not embrace military action and that the advisers present decided to continue tracking the situation. For the first time since the start of Russia’s sparsely implemented humanitarian pause, U.N. convoys delivering aid to civilians in Eastern Ghouta entered the city on Monday amid continued government onslaught, the Post adds. The convoy carried food for 27,500 people and enough supplies to treat 300 children for severe malnutrition. More than 400,000 residents are trapped inside Eastern Ghouta. Little food or medical supplies remain.

The Trump administration ordered Qualcomm to postpone its shareholder meeting this week in an effort to give the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) more time to review Broadcom’s looming takeover of the American technology company, the Wall Street Journal reports. Broadcom, based in Singapore, has offered Qualcomm $117 billion to take control of the company. Qualcomm has thus far refused the offer, leading Broadcom to attempt a forced takeover by replacing six of Qualcomm’s 11 board members with its own nominees. CFIUS reviews foreign acquisitions of American assets with an eye to their national security implications. The committee typically reviews takeovers and mergers after they occur, but several committee members have argued that the “boardroom battle itself” in Qualcomm v. Broadcom threatens U.S. national security. After reviewing a case, CFIUS can recommend to the president that he block any deal that constitutes a threat to national security. The Journal notes that Broadcom’s takeover would amount to “the world’s biggest technology-industry takeover ever.”

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Matthew Kahn posted the Lawfare Podcast, a conversation between Alina Polyakova and Zhanna Nesmtova on Boris Nemstov’s life.

Carol Saivetz examined Russo-Turkish rapprochement, arguing that it remains a stretch to call the countries “friends.”

Shannon Togawa Mercer analyzed the new German coalition government.

Prior to the start of Monday’s Cyber Command legal conference, Michael Adams and Megan Reiss shared pieces of scholarship that could enhance and add nuance to conference discussions on important elements of international law.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.