Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Anna Salvatore
Monday, September 14, 2020, 2:50 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion.

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Oracle has won the bidding war for U.S. operations of TikTok, reports TechCrunch. The Chinese-owned social media app has been under scrutiny by the Trump administration for imperiling users’ information security. If the app hadn’t been sold this week, then President Trump could have banned it in the United States on either September 15 or 20. 

U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad is leaving his post, writes The New York Times. His departure comes during a heightening of tensions between the U.S. and China, with disputes over the South China Sea, the sovereignty of Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the imprisonment of Uighur Muslims. Branstad has given no reasons for his exit, although the Times notes that it is relatively common for political appointees to only serve one term. 

Thousands of Mexican farmers are protesting the terms of a 1944 water treaty with the U.S., according to The Washington Post. The decades-old agreement obliges Mexico and the United States to send each other billions of gallons of water for irrigating farms along the border. After the U.S. demanded that Mexico pay a debt of 100 billion gallons by late October, Mexican farmers in Chihuahua -- where rainfall is at 30% of usual levels -- have seized a major dam and set it on fire. Mexican President Manuel López Obrador may ask President Trump for clemency so that farmers can plant their tomatoes, onions and cotton. 

China is denying private lawyers to Hong Kongers who were captured while fleeing to Taiwan, reports the Post. The pro-democracy activists were intercepted three weeks ago by Chinese authorities off the coast of Guangdong, and now they are forbidden from talking to their families or lawyers of their choice. Because China views them as “elements attempting to separate [Hong Kong] from China,” the young activists may face life in prison. 

Iran may be plotting to avenge the U.S. killing of General Qassem Soleimani by assassinating U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks, reports Politico. American intelligence agencies have notified Marks about increasingly specific threats to her safety over the past few weeks. 

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a nationwide lockdown after a recent spate of novel coronavirus cases, writes The Washington Post. “We are preparing in advance, closing down, so we can get out ahead of the virus,” said Netanyahu, who will be shuttering schools, businesses, malls and hotels and limiting people’s movements. Israel reported more than 4,000 cases in one day last week, a trend that worries doctors at a time when hospitals are already near capacity. 

12,000 refugees from the ruined Moria camp in Greece are living in squalid conditions on Lesbos, writes The New York Times. A week after a fire destroyed their tents in Moria, leaving behind a wasteland of charred metal frames and rotting potato peels, some refugees are sleeping on the side of a coastal road without shelter or aid. Groups of migrants protested on Friday to be allowed to leave Lesbos instead of acceding to the government’s plan to move them into a temporary tent city.

French and Swedish labs have confirmed that Alexei Navalny was poisoned by a Novichok chemical agent, reports Deutsche Welle. The Russian opposition politician has been recovering in a Berlin hospital after falling ill on an airplane over Siberia, and it’s widely suspected that the Russian government is behind the murder attempt. DW notes that supporters of Navalny won local Siberian elections on Sunday. 

Putin has pledged $1.5 billion to the Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, according to BBC News. The two leaders, who have a long and complicated relationship, met in Sochi yesterday while protests continued in Belarus over Lukashenko’s widely disputed August election win. Putin added that he will send Russian soldiers to Belarus if the protests escalate.   

Yoshihide Suga swept an election today to win control of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, reports The New York Times. Suga served as a chief of staff to departing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for many years, and analysts are almost certain that Suga will become prime minister after a vote in Parliament. The Times notes that Suga will likely keep many of Abe’s policies in place, including efforts spearheaded by Abe to amend the pacifist framing of Japan's constitution and to return Japanese citizens who are trapped in North Korea. 

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

As part of Lawfare’s Foreign Policy Essay series, Sara Plana explained why seven common military and diplomatic tactics would fail if wielded against state-sponsored proxy groups. 

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Anna Salvatore is a rising freshman at Princeton University. She previously served as the editor in chief of High School SCOTUS, a legal blog written by teenagers. She is now a fall intern at Lawfare.

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