Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Monday, April 23, 2018, 4:05 PM

President Donald Trump will tell North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the U.S. will not make significant concessions such as lifting economic sanctions before Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear program, the Wall Street Journal reported. U.S. officials said a key point of disagreement between the U.S. and North Korea is the timeline for sanctions relief and denuclearization. The Trump administration hopes for major concessions to go into effect immediately while Kim has urged a phased approach that would take years to implement. In a gesture of goodwill ahead of Friday’s summit between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In and Kim, South Korea turned off propaganda broadcasts across the demilitarized zone, according to the AP.

Serzh Sargsyan, the prime minister of Armenia, resigned on Monday morning following mass protests against his government, the Washington Post reported. Demonstrations in Armenia broke out two weeks ago to oppose Sargsyan’s moves to consolidate power and lengthen his rule.

President Emmanuel Macron of France arrives in Washington on Monday for the Trump administration’s first state visit. Macron’s meeting with Trump will focus on the Iran nuclear deal and trade, Reuters reported. On the nuclear deal, Macron will attempt to convince Trump to try to make adjustments rather than withdraw from the agreement. While in Washington, Macron will also address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said Iran would resume its nuclear program if the U.S. withdraws from the nuclear deal, according to the Post. Although Iran claims that it has never aimed at producing a nuclear weapon, restarting the nuclear program would allow it to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium. Zarif also raised the possibility of a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Iran to exchange dual Iranian-American citizens being held in Iran for Iranians convicted of sanctions violations in the U.S.

Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons visited the Syrian city of Douma, the site of a suspected poison gas attack two weeks previously that killed at least 43 people, the Post reported. The OPCW visited one of the sites where U.S. airstrikes hit Syrian military facilities linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program. Western governments condemned Syria and Russia for delaying the OPCW’s visit to Douma, where Russian military police control the local area.

A Belgian court convicted Salah Abdeslam, the lone surviving attacker who participated in the 2015 Paris attacks, and Sofien Ayari for shooting at police during a chase in Brussels, the New York Times reported. The court sentenced both men to 20-year prison terms. The trial did not include charges related to the Paris attacks—a separate proceeding about the attack will likely begin in several years.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Hawaii v. Trump, the case challenging the president’s travel ban on Wednesday, the Post reported. The justices will consider the merits of the third iteration of the travel ban, which restricted barred most visas from seven countries, of which six are Muslim-majority nations. In December, the court issued a stay on the Hawaii federal district court’s nationwide injunction on the president’s third travel ban, allowing the restrictions to go into effect. At Wednesday’s hearing, the justices will hear arguments about the merits of the travel ban for the first time after more than a year of contentious litigation.

The United States is constructing a drone base in Agadez, Niger to carry out strikes against extremists across North and West Africa, according to the Times. The base, not far from the site where militants killed four U.S. troops during a special forces mission last October, is yet another step that increases the U.S. military presence in region. It will also serve as a training hub for U.S. forces to build the capacity of the Nigerien military.

In its first official statement in 10 months, the Islamic State called for attacks against neighboring countries, the Times reported. The move signaled a potential shift in focus away from targeting the U.S. and Europe as the Islamic State recovers from losing the vast majority of its territory in Iraq and Syria over the past year.

The Treasury Department extended the deadline for American companies to comply with sanctions on Rusal, Russia’s biggest aluminum producer, Reuters reported. Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, said sanctions relief on Rusal would be possible if Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin, relinquished his control of the company. The Treasury Department will also not impose secondary sanctions on entities that do business with Rusal once the sanctions go into effect. The moves lower the costs of non-compliance in response to volatility in aluminum markets because of the sanctions.

A suicide bombing in Kabul killed 57 people waiting for voter ID cards and injured 119 others, the Post reported. The Islamic State said that it carried out the attack to target voters in a neighborhood dominated by ethnic Hazara Afghans who are Shiites. The attacks come as the Afghan government conducts a voter registration drive in advance of fall elections for the National Assembly and local councils. Afghanistan will also have a presidential election next year. 

ICYMI: Last Weekend on Lawfare

Matthew Kahn shared the Lawfare Podcast, featuring a discussion between Susan Hennessey, Bobby Chesney and Scott Anderson on the proposed authorization for the use of military force from Sens. Corker and Kaine. 

Ingrid Wuerth analyzed the issue of foreign sovereign immunity in the Democratic National Committee’s lawsuit against Russian intelligence services over the 2016 hacks.

Hilary Matfess argued that the instability in Ethiopia will persist after the pronouncement of a new prime minister because of creeping authoritarianism and ethnic tensions.

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