Today's Headlines and Commentary

Rishabh Bhandari
Monday, April 10, 2017, 2:00 PM

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for two bombings against Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday. The Wall Street Journal reports that the attacks killed at least 47 people, just weeks before Pope Francis is slated to arrive in Egypt for the first time.

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The Islamic State claimed responsibility for two bombings against Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday. The Wall Street Journal reports that the attacks killed at least 47 people, just weeks before Pope Francis is slated to arrive in Egypt for the first time. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi announced he would ask parliament for a three-month state of emergency, a measure that prior Egyptian leaders have used to stamp out dissent and identify political opponents. President Donald Trump condemned the bombings in Cairo and reaffirmed America’s partnership with Egypt following his warm meeting with President Sisi last week.

What is U.S. policy in Syria? CNN informs us that Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson articulated contrasting visions of U.S. policy in Syria this Sunday, with Haley insisting regime change is inevitable and necessary in Syria while Tillerson maintained that the U.S. focus is the region should remain directed against the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Reuters discloses that Tillerson also warned that the United States would hold individuals who have violated crimes against humanity accountable. Tillerson’s comments came as he was meeting with his counterparts from the other G-7 countries in Italy to discuss the crisis in Syria and U.S.-Russian relations. He is slated to travel to Moscow later this week for a highly anticipated meeting.

Russia has suspended an agreement allowing military cooperation with the United States in Syria following the airstrikes, the New York Times reports. The agreement provided for deconfliction in the region in order to prevent accidental escalation of conflict between the United States and Russia.

The Times adds that Tillerson harshly criticized Russia as “incompetent” for allowing Syria to keep and use its chemical weapons. Tillerson also accused Moscow of attempting to interfere in European elections in the same way that it meddled in America’s 2016 elections, marking a sharp contrast with President Donald Trump, who has remained reluctant to criticize Russia in such stark terms.

The Times considers Assad’s use of chemical weapons last week in context of President Obama’s legacy. The sarin attack calls into question the utility of the international agreement brokered in 2013 under which the regime supposedly surrendered its chemical weapons, along with the Obama administration’s hesitance to become more closely involved in the Syrian civil war. Many former Obama administration officials publicly praised President Trump for the strikes, a signal of their frustration with the previous White House’s inaction.

The Guardian tells us that a leading Chinese newspaper has interpreted the Trump administration’s decision to strike Syria as a warning shot for North Korea as well. The Chinese Global Times noted, however, that any attack against Pyongyang for its nascent and illicit nuclear program would spark a devastating conflagration throughout the broader region. And the Financial Times chimes in as well, remarks that Trump’s actions in Syria will force China to take more seriously his threats to take unilateral action against North Korea if Beijing does not offer help. The North Korean government had condemned U.S. strikes on Syria as an “unforgivable act of aggression” that underscores Pyongyang’s need for its own nuclear program.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that the United States has moved the USS Carl Vinson, a U.S. aircraft carrier, towards the Korean Peninsula at a time when U.S. and South Korean analysts are worried about new missile tests by North Korea. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster revealed that the president has charged him with presenting every plausible option for deterring the nuclear and missile threat North Korea poses to the United States and its regional partners.

The Associated Press also reports that a military judge on Friday dismissed two relatively minor charges against five prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center who are accused of orchestrating the September 11 terrorist attacks. The dismissals were made on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired on two non-capital charges: attacking civilian objects and destruction of property.

The Wall Street Journal reveals that a U.S. special forces soldier was killed during an operation against the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan troops have been collaborating in large-scale operations in the country’s eastern provinces, where both the Islamic State and the Taliban maintain strong footholds.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic uploaded the third annual Triple Entente live-taped podcast, featuring the usual Rational Security gang and both Stewart Baker and Michael Vatis of Steptoe Cyberlaw podcast.

John Bellinger flagged the President’s War Powers report to Congress on Thursday evening’s missile attacks on Syria.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Ronald Krebs argued that our focus on Trump’s foreign policy is overstated: foreign policy has increasingly become driven by structural changes in American politics that go beyond the capacities of the modern president.

Kenneth Anderson contemplated whether advances in AI and automation may pose challenges for continued globalization.

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Rishabh Bhandari graduated from Yale College with degrees in History and Global Affairs. His senior thesis focused on the decision making of the Nixon administration in response to the 1971 Bengali Genocide. He is pursuing a doctorate in international relations at Oxford University.

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