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Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, has been relieved due to a “loss of confidence,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Four ships in his fleet have been involved in major incidents this year, including the fatal collisions of the USS Fitzgerald on June 17 and of the USS John McCain on August 21. The former incident claimed seven sailors’ lives, and at least some of the ten missing sailors from the latter are reported dead. Rear Admiral Phil Sawyer, now the Pacific Fleet’s deputy commander, will take Aucoin’s place on September 7.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is increasing the National Security Council’s representation in Jared Kushner’s diplomatic projects in the Middle East, according to Politico. Until recently, Kushner relied on former Trump Organization attorney Jason Greenblatt as his main partner on his efforts there, including notably, negotiating a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. But in the past month, McMaster promoted NSC official Victoria Coates to senior director for international negotiations to assist Greenblatt. The move brings more traditional foreign policy process to an effort that has faced setbacks in recent months, including last month’s crisis at the Temple Mount.
Defense Secretary James Mattis asked the leader of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan to delay an upcoming independence referendum. The New York Times says that the request is part of an effort by U.S. officials to maintain political stability in Iraq during the continuing fight against the Islamic State. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also asked for a postponement in a call with President Masoud Barzani earlier in the month. Barzani’s son said Tuesday night that the referendum, scheduled for September 25, will proceed as planned.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration cut aid to Egypt due to the country’s human rights record and relationship with North Korea. The Times reports that Egypt, one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, had $96 million in aid denied and $195 million in military support delayed. During an April visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, President Trump praised the Egyptian leader’s performance, causing Tuesday’s announcement to surprise some analysts. But the State Department confirmed Wednesday that human rights, North Korea, and a recent legal restriction on nongovernmental organizations all motivated the change in aid policy.
YouTube removed thousands of videos of atrocities in Syria while trying to remove extremist propaganda, according to the Times. Human rights activists say that the move could obstruct future war crimes prosecutions by eliminating documentation of the incidents. The videos were removed after YouTube implemented new technology that uses machine learning to identify and remove content automatically if the content violates the streaming service’s guidelines. After reaching out to YouTube some authors have had their content reposted.
North Korea released a photo suggesting that it was working to obtain more powerful missiles, according to the Times. The photos, which North Korea’s state news media released Wednesday, accompanied reporting that Kim Jong-un had ordered more rocket engines and warheads. They also suggest that the North may be trying to obtain an “underwater strategic ballistic missile” believed to be more powerful than the submarine-launched ballistic missile that the regime tested last August. Additionally, though the U.S. and South Korea doubt that the North currently has the technology for a missile tip that can safely re-enter the United States, both believe that the Kim regime is making faster progress than previously thought.
ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare
Daniel Byman assessed why continued stalemate is likely notwithstanding President Trump's plans to order the deployment of more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
J. Dana Stuster posted the Middle East Ticker, covering the Barcelona attack, fractures in Yemen’s rebel coalition, and Netanyahu’s response to anti-Semitism.
The Lawfare Editors announced next month’s Hoover Book Soiree, featuring Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro to discuss their new book The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World.
Sarah Grant and Jack Goldsmith analyzed the laws that govern how the Secretary of Defense can respond to an order he believes to be unwise.
Ashley Deeks flagged an online symposium at AJIL Unbound on sovereignty, cyber operations, and the Tallinn 2.0 manual.
Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted this week’s episode of the National Security Law Podcast.
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