Today's Headlines and Commentary

Garrett Hinck
Monday, December 4, 2017, 12:51 PM

Clashes in Yemen’s capital between rival rebel factions left hundreds dead, including former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the New York Times reported. Houthi rebels said a bomb at his residence killed Saleh, the country’s former ruler who joined with Iranian-backed rebel groups after his ouster in 2011.

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Clashes in Yemen’s capital between rival rebel factions left hundreds dead, including former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the New York Times reported. Houthi rebels said a bomb at his residence killed Saleh, the country’s former ruler who joined with Iranian-backed rebel groups after his ouster in 2011. Online videos appeared to show Saleh’s body outside his home. Violence between factions of the rebel movement threatened to undermine chances for a peace agreement with Yemen’s Saudi-backed government. On Saturday, Saleh extended an offer to the Saudi-led coalition to resolve Yemen’s conflict. Separately, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) denied that a Houthi missile had hit a nuclear power plant being built in Abu Dhabi, according to the Times. The Saudi-led coalition—which includes the UAE—has accused Iran of supplying cruise missiles to the Houthi rebels that it is supporting in Yemen.

An Israel-Palestine peace plan that Saudi crown prince Mohamed bin Salman has presented to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has sparked outrage across the Middle East, according to the Times. Bin Salman pushed a plan that heavily favors Israel, giving a proposed state of Palestine only limited sovereignty and allowing most Israeli settlements in the West Bank to remain. Both the Saudi government and the White House denied responsibility for the plan. Separately, Arab states warned the U.S. against recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Washington Post reported. The foreign ministers from Egypt and Jordan told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that such a move could trigger political protests across the Middle East and disrupt stability. The Trump administration is considering not issuing waiver that would allow the U.S. to keep its embassy in Tel Aviv. The Arab League will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

John Dowd, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer for matters related to the Russia investigation, said the president knew last January that Michael Flynn had given the same misleading account to FBI investigators about his interactions with the Russian ambassador that he gave to Vice President Mike Pence, the Post reported. Dowd said White House Counsel Don McGahn relayed information to Trump from then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn had given FBI agents “the same story he gave the vice president,” about his contacts with Russian officials. Two weeks later, Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to be lenient with Flynn, according to memos that Comey kept of the conversation. Yates testified before the Senate in May that she had not disclosed any details of the FBI investigation to McGahn.

An operative connected to the National Rifle Association (NRA) offered to arrange a back-channel meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the presidential campaign, the Times reported. The conservative operative reached out to Rick Dearborn, a Trump campaign adviser, for advice in how to connect the two leaders. Other conservative operatives also proffered similar requests, all related to the NRA’s annual convention and the 2016 election campaign.

Israel threatened to attack Syria if Damascus allows Iran to set up military bases in the country, the Wall Street Journal reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syria against permitting an Iranian military presence shortly before what Syrian officials described as an Israeli missile struck a Syrian military base that supports Iranian activity. Israel has remained mostly uninvolved civil war but has launched about 100 strikes against transports of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah.

The U.S. and South Korea began large-scale joint air force exercises that will carry out simulated strikes on North Korean nuclear and missile sites, the Times reported. Coming one week after North Korea tested a missile capable of reaching all of the continental United States, the drills will include advanced fighter jets and stealth bombers in the over 230 aircraft participating. Pyongyang warned the exercises made nuclear war in the Korean peninsula much more likely.

The U.S. left United Nations talks about a global agreement on migrants and refugees, the Times reported. The Trump administration announced it would quit the U.N. Global Compact on Migration, saying the proposed agreement would have undermined U.S. sovereignty. The Obama administration endorsed a commitment to protecting the rights of migrants and refugees last year. Migrant-rights advocates condemned the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw.

Defense Secretary James Mattis called for Pakistan to increase its efforts to fight militants, Reuters reported. Speaking during a one-day visit to Islamabad, Mattis expressed American frustrations that Pakistan has not done more against a resurgent Taliban. Pakistan’s prime minister affirmed his commitment to achieving peace in Afghanistan during a joint press conference with Mattis.

Maltese authorities arrested ten suspects in connection with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist who exposed corruption in Malta’s government, the Times reported. Galizia’s killing in October shocked human rights observers who said that Malta should be condemned for failing to respect the rule of law. A European Parliament delegation said Malta had a “culture of impunity” after visiting the island country.

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David Bosco outlined a strategy for the U.S. to navigate the legal and political complexities of the International Criminal Court case that is investigating U.S. activity in Afghanistan.

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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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