Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck
Monday, May 24, 2021, 3:54 PM

On Sunday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a plane carrying a prominent opposition journalist—and approximately 170 other passengers—flying in Belarusian airspace to land in the capital, Minsk, writes the New York Times. Belarusian air traffic controllers notified the pilots of the plane—which was flying from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania—that there was a “potential security threat on board” and ordered the plane to land in Minsk. After the plane landed, the opposition journalist, Roman Protasevich, was arrested by Belarusian authorities. Protasevich has been living in exile in Lithuania for a few years. He has been accused of inciting hatred and mass disorder in Belarus and would face more than 12 years in prison if convicted. Lukashenko’s press service said the president personally ordered the plane to land at the Minsk airport due to a bomb threat. Belarusian law enforcement authorities said no bomb was found on the plane. 

Following the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East on Monday to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah, reports Reuters. President Biden said in a White House statement announcing the visit, “Blinken will meet with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. He will continue our administration’s efforts to rebuild ties to, and support for, the Palestinian people and leaders after years of neglect.”

The Biden administration will grant temporary protected status to tens of thousands of Haitian migrants residing in the U.S. without legal status, according to the Washington Post. The administration cited worsening conditions—such as security concerns, human rights abuses and social unrest—in Haiti when it announced the move. This decision will exempt Haitian migrants from deportation for 18 months, after which the Biden administration will have the opportunity to renew or rescind the designation. 

An unarmed Black man, Ronald Greene, who died in the custody of Louisiana state officers two years ago, tried to roll over but was ordered to remain on his stomach, according to footage newly obtained by the Associated Press. Body camera video also shows officers repeatedly jolting Greene with stun guns, putting the man in a chokehold, punching him in the head and dragging Greene by ankle shackles. Experts in the use of force say the most alarming parts of the arrest occurred after the physical altercation, when the officers left Greene lying facedown on the ground with his hands and feet restrained for over nine minutes.  A recently released autopsy report cited the manner in which Greene was restrained as a factor in his death. Investigations into Greene’s death are ongoing. 

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog—agreed on Monday to a one-month extension to a deal that allows the IAEA to collect and review images from surveillance cameras inside Iran’s nuclear facilities, reports DW. In December, the Iranian parliament passed legislation to suspend certain aspects of the U.N. surveillance of its nuclear sites if European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal did not provide Iran relief from sanctions. The IAEA and Tehran reached a three-month deal in February—which gave the IAEA limited access to monitor the facilities. Iran had threatened to delete monitoring data if it did not reach an agreement with the U.S., but the deal on Monday will prevent that information from being lost.

India said Monday that it has now experienced over 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus, with approximately 50,000 deaths occurring in the past two weeks, writes France24. Many experts believe the true number of fatalities in the country is significantly higher than 300,000—as the virus spreads into rural areas where more than half of the population lives and where reliable healthcare facilities and record-keeping are lacking.

Myanmar’s detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared at a court hearing on Monday for the first time since a military coup overthrew Suu Kyi’s government on Feb. 1, reports France24. The deposed leader is among more than 4,000 people who have been detained since the beginning of February. Myanmar’s junta-appointed election commission will reportedly disband Suu Kyi’s political party on the basis of alleged vote fraud in a November election. Since the army gained power, Myanmar residents have staged large demonstrations against the junta—which has responded with violent force and killed more than 800 people, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. 

The Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS)—a security unit assigned to protect Commerce Department personnel and facilities—secretly searched employees’ offices at night, inspected their emails for signs of foreign influence and rummaged through Americans’ social media to find critical statements about the census, writes the Washington Post. In one example, the ITMS examined servers for certain Chinese words, which resulted in the monitoring of Asian American employees over harmless communication. John Costello, former deputy assistant secretary of intelligence and security at the Commerce Department during the Trump administration, said the ITMS “rests on questionable legal authority and has suffered from poor management and lack of sufficient legal and managerial oversight for much of its existence.”

Several Republicans who attempted to undermine or overturn President Biden’s victory in the November election are running for secretary of state in battleground states, reports Politico. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Inga Kristina Trauthig and Marcel Dirsus discussed who might succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and argued that the change in leadership will likely not cause a major shift in German foreign policy.  

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