Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Jane Chong
Monday, March 17, 2014, 8:12 AM
Yesterday 83% of eligible voters in Crimea cast their ballots in what most of the Western world denounced as an illegal referendum, and 95% voted in favor of joining Russia.

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Yesterday 83% of eligible voters in Crimea cast their ballots in what most of the Western world denounced as an illegal referendum, and 95% voted in favor of joining Russia. See the Time coverage.
On Saturday Russia vetoed a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution declaring the secession referendum invalid and China abstained, "expos[ing] a rare ray of diplomatic daylight between Russia and its closest Security Council ally," notes Foreign Policy. The White House has now turned its efforts to preventing Russia from annexing Crimea, reports the Washington Post.
On Friday Leah Brilmayer explained the unlawfulness of Sunday's vote in the Guardian. On Saturday the New York Times ran a story on the anti-American forces in Russia that welcome the rupture in U.S.-Russia ties. David Sanger writes in the Times that Vladimir Putin's move to invade Crimea is just the latest sign that "America’s adversaries are testing the limits of America’s post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan moment."
The reaction in Russia is split between pro-Putin and pro-peace factions, and two large rallies were held in Moscow on Saturday, reports the BBC. Also on the eve of secession, Russian forces seized a gas plant near Crimea's northeast border; meanwhile Secretary of State John Kerry met with President Obama's top advisers to discuss sanctions strategy, the degree and timing of which may depend on Moscow's response in the wake of the referendum. Here's the Times. DDoS attacks on several NATO websites is being linked to the crisis in Crimea, reports Reuters.
Mounting evidence suggests Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was hijacked or sabotaged, says Reuters. The case of the missing plane has turned into a criminal investigation, the Washington Post reports, with police searching the homes of the pilots on Saturday and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announcing that the plane's disappearance was "deliberate." Some 25 countries are participating in the search, and Malaysia is requesting assistance in the form of satellite data and analysis, ground-search capabilities and maritime and air assets, reports the BBC. Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer of Foreign Policy speculates on where the flight may have gone.
This weekend British forces completed their withdrawal from all but two of its bases in Helmand province, in what the Guardian is calling a "hugely symbolic moment in the British involvement in Afghanistan." On Saturday, in his last address to parliament, President Hamid Karzai stated that his military already protects 93 percent of the country and doesn't need U.S. soldiers to stay behind at the year's end; here's the Washington Post story.
On Sunday the U.S. embassy to Iraq reported that the U.S. had delivered 100 Hellfire missiles, as well as assault rifles and ammunition, to Iraq.  The idea is to help the country fight al-Qaeda offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Here's the Associated Press by way of ABC.
Hezbollah-backed Syrian government troops seized the strategically significant town of Yabroud on Sunday, giving President Bashar al-Assad control of the land route connecting Damascus with Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast. Al Jazeera America has details.
According to a South Korean news agency, North Korea fired 10 short-range missiles into the sea on Sunday; such short-range missile launches are not banned under UN sanctions, but the U.S. State Department is closely monitoring the situation. Here's Reuters.
This morning the Pentagon announced that a team of U.S. Navy Seals had taken control of an oil tanker named Morning Glory, seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans and initially identified in the press as a North Korean-flagged vessel. The Post reports.
Josh Gerstein of Politico argues that at the heart of the battle over the House's investigation of Fast and Furious and the fight between the CIA and the Senate over alleged digital spying are "aggressive executive branch claims for secrecy."
In statement filed with the court on Sunday Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said that Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, had no role in al Qaeda military operations. Here's the CNN story on KSM's "rambling defense" of Abu Ghaith; here's the Dawn coverage. Benjamin Weiser of the NY Times writes:
In his statement filed on Sunday, Mr. Mohammed made harsh, sweeping pronouncements about the United States’ role in Afghanistan, and discussed Al Qaeda’s relationship with Afghanistan. He also praised the Taliban and their leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar.
But he focused on Mr. Abu Ghaith, whom prosecutors have portrayed as a spokesman for Bin Laden after Sept. 11. The government has said, for example, that Mr. Abu Ghaith’s speeches showed that he knew of the so-called shoe-bomb plot, which included the failed attempt by Richard C. Reid to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in December 2001. Mr. Mohammed said he had never spoken with Mr. Abu Ghaith about the “shoe bomb operation,” and did not recall ever seeing him with Mr. Reid.
The AP notes that the FAA is lagging in creating promised regulations for commercial drone use, creating concern that the U.S. will be among the last to benefit from technology already being enthusiastically deployed around the world. But regulation or no regulation, drones are already in flight stateside---for a demonstration, check out "Drones Over America," aired yesterday on "60 Minutes."
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Jane Chong is former deputy managing editor of Lawfare. She served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and is a graduate of Yale Law School and Duke University.

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