Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Thursday, July 15, 2021, 3:52 PM

President Biden and congressional Democrats are working on a $3.5 trillion budget proposal to expand social, environmental and educational programs, reports the New York Times. Though the legislation is still being discussed, top Democrats have committed to using it to fund Medicare expansions and programs such as universal prekindergarten and two years of free community college. Democratic leaders will try to pass the budget blueprint alongside a bipartisan infrastructure plan that is still in the works. As part of the plan to finance the bill, Democrats seek to raise taxes on overseas corporate activities, capital gains and large inheritances. 

The Biden administration is forming a task force to combat ransomware attacks, writes Politico. The task force, which spans multiple agencies, is charged with promoting digital resilience in the federal government and within critical infrastructure companies. As part of the campaign against ransomware, the State Department will also be offering rewards, totalling $10 million, for help identifying cyber attackers and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency will launch a website with guidance from various agencies. Additionally, the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network will hold a conference on ransomware in August. 

At least 47 people have died in floods that swept across Germany and Belgium, reports the Washington Post. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes and hundreds of thousands left without electricity. The disaster has prompted immediate calls to speed up act​​ion against climate change. In the worst-hit regions of Germany, the rainfall in the last day doubled the long-term average for the entire month of July. 

Iran will not resume nuclear deal negotiations until its new government headed by President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in August, according to the Washington Post. Former President Trump removed the United States from the 2015 deal in 2018, but President Biden campaigned on a promise to return the U.S. to the talks. The U.S. and its European allies are now awaiting Iran’s word to begin a seventh round of negotiations in Vienna. Some U.S. officials have expressed impatience with the delay on negotiations and concern about Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program beyond the bounds of the agreement. Iran says these expansions can be reversed once the U.S. ends the Trump-era sanctions on its economy.

The European Union has sued Hungary and some regions of Poland over the two countries’ anti-LGBTQ laws, reports Deutsche Welle. Hungary’s parliament recently passed vaguely-worded legislation banning LGBTQ-related information for minors, and more than 100 regions in Poland have declared themselves "LGBTQ-ideology-free zones.” Both actions prompted immediate condemnation from the EU. The two member nations have two months to respond to the suits.

The Pentagon announced that some of the former Colombian servicemen arrested for the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse were trained by the U.S. military, according to the Washington Post. Lt. Col. Ken Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Pentagon review was ongoing and did not specify how many members received U.S. training or what the training entailed. This announcement comes after two U.S. citizens were arrested in connection with the plot. Haitian authorities have arrested at least 20 people related to Moïse’s death.

Lebanon Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri resigned after he failed to form a government over the eight months since he was appointed, according to Al Jazeera. Hariri previously resigned from the role in 2019 after an economic crisis and nation-wide protests but was reappointed, vowing to form a government focused on reform. Despite international pressure, he has since been in deadlock with President Michel Aoun and announced his resignation after meeting with Aoun today. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday, reports the Associated Press. Merkel will not be seeking another term in Germany’s September elections, likely making this her last visit to the United States as Chancellor. The Nord Stream 2 project, relations with China and suspending patent protections for vaccines are sticking points in the U.S.-Germany relationship that may be discussed. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Jack Goldsmith explains his frustration with unspecified threats from the U.S. to Russia over increasingly common ransomware attacks on American infrastructure.

Patrick Hulme discussed the consequences of recent congressional efforts to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force.

Katherine Harvey and Bruce Riedel explained the importance of the emerging alliance between Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk in which Rhodium's Dan Rosen and CSIS's Jude Blanchette discuss President Xi Jinping’s economic and political rule.

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security which includes analysis of protests in Cuba, the assassination of Moïse in Haiti and more.

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