Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Emily Dai
Monday, December 13, 2021, 1:06 PM

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The United States on Friday imposed broad human rights-related sanctions on dozens of people and entities linked to China, Myanmar, North Korea and Bangladesh, reports Reuters. The United States also sanctioned SenseTime Group, a Chinese artificial intelligence company, adding it to an investment blacklist. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement that the government’s actions “[s]end a message that democracies around the world will act against those who abuse the power of the state to inflict suffering and repression.”

The G7 group warned Russia on Sunday of massive consequences and severe costs if President Vladamir Putin pursues further military aggression against Ukraine, says Politico. In a joint statement, the G7 countries condemned the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border and called on Russia “[t]o de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels, and abide by its international commitments on transparency of military activities.” Although the statement did not specify what consequences the countries are ready to impose, Western leaders have talked about economic sanctions on Russia and greater defensive support of Ukraine rather than direct military response.

For the first time in history, Israel’s prime minister and the United Arab Emirates’ de facto leader met Monday amid fears that the Iran nuclear talks will collapse and concerns about the United States’ shrinking role in the Middle East, writes the Wall Street Journal. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan spent more than four hours discussing their shared regional rival, Iran, and growing business ties between the two countries. The UAE government believes a relationship with Israel, which has increasingly advocated for the right to strike Iranian nuclear targets, as a way to strengthen their security credentials potentially with advanced Israeli weaponry.

The United States is on the verge of surpassing 800,000 deaths from the coronavirus, 75 percent of which have been people who were 65 years or older, reports the New York Times. One in 100 older Americans have died from the virus. Although older people are much more likely to be vaccinated, they make up about three-quarters of those who have died from the coronavirus.

Retired U.S. Army colonel Phil Waldron told the Washington Post that he was working with Trump’s private lawyers and was part of a team that briefed lawmakers on a PowerPoint presentation with proposals to challenge the 2020 election. Proposals included declaring a national security emergency and seizing paper ballots and for then-Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6 to reject electors from “states where fraud occurred.” On Jan. 5, a copy of the presentation was delivered to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. He has since turned over the presentation to the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported Monday that U.S. forces carried out a “large airborne operation” near Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria, kidnapping a number of civilians, says Reuters. The province of Deir al-Zor serves as a strategic supply route for Iranian-backed militias, who regularly send troops into Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad against insurgents seeking to destabilize his family’s authority.

The State Department and the Department of Defense are conducting investigations into the U.S. departure from Afghanistan and aim to provide recommendations going forward, writes the Hill. The assessment will cover the period between January 2020 through August 2021. Daniel Smith, who briefly served as interim Secretary of State in January, will lead the probe.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that at least one person in the U.K. has died from the omicron variant of the coronavirus on Monday, according to BBC. Johnson said that the new variety was causing hospitalizations and encouraged people to receive their booster shot. The U.K. Health Security Agency also announced that 10 people with the omicron variant, ages ranging from 18 to 85 years old, have been admitted to hospitals.

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Emily Dai is a junior at New York University studying Politics and Economics. She is an intern at Lawfare.

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