Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Anna Salvatore
Monday, September 28, 2020, 4:14 PM

A newly uncovered trove of the president’s tax returns reveals that he has personally guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, putting him in a potentially vulnerable position to lenders. President Trump also paid no federal income tax in 10 of the last 15 years, reports The New York Times. 

The U.S. may remove Sudan from a list of states that sponsor terrorism if the African nation recognizes Israel, according to the Times. Negotiations between the U.S. and Sudan come after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognized Israel in September, developments which the Trump administration touted as key foreign policy victories. Now talks with Sudan are stalling because the country is pushing for a sizable aid package and the the U.S. has asked for compensation for the bombings of American embassies in Africa in 1998 and the Cole destroyer in 2000. The Times notes that Saudi Arabia -- the Trump Administration’s main target -- is unlikely to recognize Israel this year due to potential pushback from Saudi conservatives. 

Five years after an al-Qaeda fighter allegedly murdered Jewish patrons at a Parisian supermarket, survivors and family of the victims testified about the attack in French court, writes the Times. More than a dozen people are on trial for helping the shooter, who was shot by police during the attack. Earlier this month the trial focused on accomplices in the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. 

Conflict is flaring between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, reports Deutsche Welle. Yesterday marked the most violent fighting in the enclave since 2016, with at least 31 soldiers and five civilians dead. Both countries have declared martial law as they mobilize for what might devolve into an all-out war. Armenia and Azerbaijan have long sparred over the fate of the mountainous territory, and  Armenia shares ethnic ties with many Nagorno-Karabakh residents despite the territory’s landlocked location within Azerbaijan. Armenia now claims that Turkey has sent foreign fighters from Syria to bolster the Azeri army. 

The Washington Post profiled how Odessa, Ukraine has become a hot spot in Europe’s second wave of coronavirus infections. The country’s total of more than 196,600 cases is largely  due to poor social-distancing. “The attitude of the people is that there simply are not precautions. People are buying and selling, all without masks,” said one Odessa doctor. 

The U.S. government has warned Iraq that it will gradually shut down the Baghdad embassy unless Shiite attacks against U.S. interests in the region cease, according to the Wall Street Journal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in recent calls to the Iraqi president that Iranian-backed militiamen must stop penetrating the Green Zone, a place where the U.S. embassy is located and where American conveys are frequently targeted by rockets. The Journal called recent developments “a fresh crisis in relations between the two allies.” 

A federal judge temporarily blocked the impending U.S. ban on TikTok last night, writes BBC News. Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction that allowed the Chinese-owned social media app to remain on U.S. app stores while negotiations continue about Oracle, an American tech company, purchasing shares of the app to assuage President Trump’s national security concerns. 

Xinjiang is not the only province where China is cracking down on Muslim culture, reports the South China Morning Post. A small community of Muslims in Hainan, an island province south of Hong Kong, are experiencing increased surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party. The government has banned Utsul Muslims from wearing hijabs at school, and soon restrictions on Arabic architecture and script will target Utsul neighborhoods. Analysts see the repressive efforts as a way for the Chinese government to Sinicize areas that aren’t ethnically Han Chinese. 

Sri Lanka has proposed a new constitutional amendment that will concentrate power with the president while reducing the powers of the Sri Lankan prime minister and Parliament, writes The Diplomat. The amendment would also shift the appointments of top judges, human rights officials and police chiefs from a constitutional council to the president. The majority party has the votes needed to drive through the amendment, although The Diplomat notes that politicians and citizens still have a week to file court cases against the provisions that they seek to challenge. Analysts warn that the amendment is a harbinger of authoritarianism in Sri Lanka. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Michael Eisenstadt argued that the U.S.’s assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani has not driven the two countries toward all-out war. 

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