Today's Headlines and Commentary

Garrett Hinck
Friday, November 17, 2017, 11:30 AM

Russia blocked the extension of the U.N. investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Washington Post reported. Russia’s representative to the Security Council vetoed a resolution that the U.S. introduced to prolong the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), the U.N.

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Russia blocked the extension of the U.N. investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Washington Post reported. Russia’s representative to the Security Council vetoed a resolution that the U.S. introduced to prolong the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), the U.N. probe created to find the responsible parties for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Russia had criticized the JIM’s latest report for blaming the Syrian government for the April sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun. The investigation’s term expired on Thursday.

China reiterated its position that the U.S. and South Korea should stop conducting joint military exercises in exchange for a freeze in North Korean nuclear testing, the Post reported. The White House said President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to disagree about the proposed approach. Earlier this week, Trump said Xi had told him the freeze-for-freeze proposal would not work. In response, China insisted it still supported the proposal. Separately, North Korea’s envoy to the U.N. said it would not begin negotiations about its nuclear program unless the U.S. and South Korea end their military exercises, according to Reuters. He also said he expected the U.S. to impose more sanctions in the coming months.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump campaign to obtain Russia-related documents from several top officials, the Wall Street Journal reported. Despite the Trump campaign’s insistence that it is cooperating with the special counsel inquiry, in mid-October Mueller’s team issued an order requesting documents from at least a dozen senior campaign aides for documents and emails containing Russia-related keywords. Separately, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Jared Kushner received emails in September 2016 about Wikileaks and about a Russian “overture,” Politico reported. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein requested the emails in a letter they sent to Kushner’s attorney on Thursday.

George Papadopoulos bragged to Greek journalists last year about a phone call with Donald Trump relating to his role in the Trump campaign, Politico reported. The claims would contradict assertions from senior Trump campaign leaders, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Papadopoulos was not an important part of the campaign. Papadopoulos also told journalists in Greece that he was authorized to represent the campaign to foreign leaders.

Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s former ambassador to the United States, said he could not name all the Trump campaign officials he has met or spoken with, CNBC reported. In an interview with a Russian news channel, Kislyak said naming all Trump officials he had interactions with would take over twenty minutes. Kisylak’s undisclosed meeting with Jeff Sessions prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation last March.

A suicide bombing in Kabul killed twelve people in a blast near a meeting for one of the country’s leading political parties, the Post reported. The Islamic State issued an unsubstantiated claim of responsibility for the bombing while the Taliban denied involvement.

Saad Hariri, the recently-resigned former Lebanese prime minister, accepted an invitation to make an official visit to France, the Post reported. After meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Riyadh, Hariri said he would visit Paris “soon.” Lebanon’s president has accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage. On Wednesday, Hariri said he would return to Lebanon within two days, a deadline that has now expired. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, emphasized that the French invitation was not an offer of political exile.

The Pentagon is developing plans for a ballistic missile that would violate the terms of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the Journal reported. U.S. officials said the proposed design is not intended for production but rather to showcase to Russia how the U.S. would respond if Russia continues to violate the INF Treaty. Top Defense Department officials have said that the Russian-deployed cruise missile is in breach of the treaty’s terms. For its part, Russia says U.S. missile defense systems in Europe are in violation of the agreement.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the leading opposition party, consolidating power for Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to the Journal. The Prime Minister’s government had sued the Cambodian National Rescue Party after accusing its leader of treason in connection with an alleged plot for a U.S.-backed coup. The Supreme Court’s action makes Cambodia a one-party state; the high court’s judges are widely viewed as allies of the prime minister, says the Journal. A European Union spokesperson said the move made Cambodia’s upcoming election process illegitimate.

A Human Rights Watch report said Myanmar’s military systematically raped Rohingya Muslim women and girls, the New York Times reported. The report, based on interviews with 52 Rohingya women and girls, said uniformed military personnel raped hundreds of people before and during attacks on Rohingya villages. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently called on Myanmar to investigate reports of atrocities committed by its security forces. A Times report from last month details, with graphic images and witness accounts, the atrocities that the military has perpetrated against the Rohingya. The U.N. has called the atrocities ethnic cleansing.

The Senate passed the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018, according to Reuters. The $700 billion defense spending bill will now go to the White House for the president’s signature or veto. Trump is expected to sign the bill.

Russia’s justice ministry warned U.S. media outlets they might have to register as foreign agents under the terms of a bill that will soon go to the upper house of Russia’s parliament, the BBC reported. The ministry warned outlets associated with Voice of America and Radio Free Europe that they could face restrictions on their operations if they fail to register under and abide by new regulations. The proposed law is in retaliation for the U.S. Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Russia-backed RT and Sputnik.

The State Department said the U.S. would consider removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, according to the Times. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said Sudan’s removal from the list was conditional on it making further progress in cooperation with the U.S. against terrorism and on human rights issues.

The New York Times Magazine’s Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal wrote about the uncounted civilian toll of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Karen Young argued that the Saudi anti-corruption purge has overshadowed the slow progress in Saudi Arabia’s economic reform agenda.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast, covering among other issues, an en banc FISC decision and the NDAA.

Daniel Byman, Sarah Tate Chambers, Zann Isacson and Chris Mirasole set the stage for their upcoming series on regulating terrorist content on the Internet.

Benjamin Wittes shared the “DMs on the DL” edition of Rational Security.

Jimmy Chalk updated Water Wars, covering Trump’s Asia trip.

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Garrett Hinck is a PhD student in political science at Columbia University, studying international relations and the political economy of security. He was previously a research assistant with the Technology and International Affairs and Nuclear Policy programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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