Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Hannah Kris
Friday, August 17, 2018, 4:00 PM

The Trump administration is preparing to impose sanctions on countries that buy oil from Iran after Nov. 4, including China, reports the Wall Street Journal. In response to Chinese non-compliance, Hook said that the U.S. may impose secondary sanctions on China. China claims that the import of Iranian oil is lawful, and Beijing refuses to reduce imports, with some analysts claiming that China may double down and increase trade with Iran in order to undermine U.S. efforts to isolate Iran.

Officials at U.S. Air Force Central Command in Qatar have revealed that American pilots in the Middle East are being targeted with laser pointers, according to the Journal. Officials reported that 350 laser attacks have occurred over the past seven months, a marked increase from the 400 attacks in 2017. This upswing in attacks comes after a multiyear decline in incidents. The attacks, which employ small, handheld lasers, are not restricted to the Middle East, with several incidents reported in Djibouti and the South China Sea.

Zaki Shingali, a senior leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, was killed in a Turkish airstrike yesterday, reports the New York Times. Shingali was in the northern Iraqi city of Kojo leaving a service commemorating the fourth anniversary of a massacre by the Islamic State in the area. The citizens of Kojo, who are mostly of the Yazidi ethnic minority, expressed regret over the killings. Shingali had been part of a group from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party who had arrived in northern Iraq to create a security corridor that allowed civilians to flee the area during the Islamic State massacre.

A Turkish court has refused to release pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest, according to Reuters. Brunson, who is currently standing trial in Turkey for terrorism charges, has been in the center of a dispute between Ankara and Washington that has caused a 40 percent drop in the lira. After the news that Brunson would not be released, the lira dropped from 6.04 to 6.21 against the U.S dollar.

The jury in the Manafort trial closed their first day of deliberation by asking a series of questions, reports the Washington Post. Four questions were asked by the jury at the end of day Thursday, including one asking for the definition of a “shelf company” and one that asked for a definition of “reasonable doubt.” Judge T.S. Ellis responded to the “reasonable doubt” question by stating that a reasonable doubt is one “based on reason,” but he also stipulated that it is not needed to “prove guilt beyond all possible doubt.” The questions prompted optimism in the defense team, with defense attorney Kevin Downing saying that the jury’s questions were “a good sign.” Manafort is currently facing eighteen counts of tax and bank fraud and may spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

The Yemeni government and the Houthi movement have been invited to U.N. peace talks in Geneva on Sept. 6, according to Reuters. The Houthi movement and Yemeni government have been in conflict for three years, and the Houthis now occupies most of northern Yemen. The conflict has been devastating to Yemen, with 10,000 people dying and millions more at risk of starvation.

A Pentagon report released last Thursday warned that China is “likely training for strikes” against the U.S., reports Reuters. The report more generally highlighted growing tensions with China, who has tried to rapidly increase its global influence, both economically and militarily, in recent years. Areas of concern for the U.S. included the expansion of bombing operations by the People’s Liberation Army and increasing defense spending by China. The report comes after the Pentagon put countering China and Russia as the center of national defense in January and after China’s invitation to a multinational naval exercise was canceled by the Pentagon in May.

Indonesian police have killed more than 30 petty criminals in preparation for the Asian Games, according to the Guardian. The Asian Games, the world’s largest sporting event outside of the Olympics, is being hosted in Indonesia this year from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2. Indonesia has made extensive preparations to ready the capital, Jakarta, for the influx of tourists, including by providing 100,000 police and soldiers for security. The killings are officially said to be the result of people resisting their arrest or for being a public threat. Amnesty International has denounced the killings, calling them “unnecessary and excessive.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Arun M. Sukumar compared China’s efforts to increase Pakistan’s dependence on Chinese currency to the U.S. actions post-World War II.

Robert Chesney discussed the Wall Street Journal’s article on Trump’s alterations of the interagency process for vetting offensive cyber operations.

Chibli Mallat considered the ramifications of a federalist Middle East

Robert Litt criticized Trump’s revocation of John Brennan’s security clearance.

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