Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Emily Dai
Monday, December 20, 2021, 2:59 PM

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

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The Environmental Protection Agency imposed tougher restrictions on pollution from automobile tailpipers on Monday in an effort to cut down on a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions, marking the most significant climate action taken to date by the Biden administration, according to the New York Times. This new, more stringent rule is expected to prevent the release of 3.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide through 2050. The Biden administration is expected to rely heavily on executive action and regulation to impose future climate legislation. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, accounting for 29 percent of total emissions.

According to White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci, a spike of coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant is coming to the United States, and that unvaccinated individuals “[a]re really at a high risk of serious involvement, including hospitalization,” reports CNBC. Fauci and Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky said that they believe the omicron variant will become the dominant coronavirus variant in the United States in a few weeks. Currently, the delta variant accounted for over 97 percent of all coronavirus cases assessed in the week ending Dec. 11, while omicron accounted for an estimated 2.9 percent of all cases.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday that the Biden administration is not optimistic about a revived nuclear deal with Iran following the last round of talks in Vienna, as restoring mutual compliance with the agreement “has proven more difficult over the course of this year than we would have liked to see,” reports Bloomberg. Iran has increased its nuclear enrichment activities, bringing the country closer to acquiring weapons-grade uranium. Officials in the United States and Europe said on Tuesday that Iran was running out of time to draft tentative proposals for negotiation. The Iranian nuclear talks are currently a top priority for the Biden administration and will be at the forefront of diplomatic efforts during the first quarter of next year.

Wang Benbin, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Friday that China will take all necessary measures to protect its institutions and enterprises after the U.S. Senate passed a law prohibiting imports from the Xinjiang region unless companies can prove that the goods were created with forced labor, says AP News. The bill is the most recent attempt to address China’s alleged systemic and widespread subjugation of ethnic and religious minorities, particularly of the Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang,

On Monday, Russia said the U.S. response to a list of security demands it made last week must be immediate and warned of a possible Russian military action without political action,  according to Reuters. The security demands include a guarantee from NATO to end all military activities in Eastern Europe and Ukraine. The United States has said that some of Russia’s proposals are plainly unacceptable, but officials will respond with more definitive proposals sometime this week.

A new forensic analysis of the cellphone of a United Nations-backed investigator who was examining suspected war crimes in Yemen revealed that the device was targeted by spyware developed by Israel’s NSO Group, says the Guardian. Kamel Jendoubi, a Tunisian who served as the chairman of the now-defunct Group of Eminent Experts in Yemen, was targeted just weeks before the group published a report claiming that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen had committed “serious violations of international humanitarian law.” 

The Hill shared a Gallup poll that showed that after improving in October, public optimism about the coronavirus pandemic has once again decreased. A little less than a third of Americans currently believe the pandemic is improving, and personal anxiety of catching coronavirus remains the same. Self-reported social distancing behavior has generally been consistent since October, with 46 percent of individuals surveyed reporting to avoid large crowds, 40 percent avoid traveling, 29 percent avoid all public spaces and 21 percent avoiding local gatherings.

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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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