Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Monday, September 11, 2017, 1:57 PM

The U.N. Security Council will vote Monday on a watered-down sanctions resolution against North Korea that would block its imports of natural gas and cap its imports of petroleum, the Washington Post reported. The U.S.’s initial demand for a ban on all oil imports to North Korea was pared down in an agreement with China on Sunday night that resulted in the final resolution. NATO’s Secretary General said on Sunday that North Korea’s nuclear program requires a global response but refused to say whether an attack on Guam would trigger the alliance’s collective defense provision, the BBC reported. As a military alliance, NATO is not directly involved in the diplomacy related to North Korea but has strongly condemned Pyongyang’s tests.

Saudi Arabia said it suspended dialogue with Qatar following a U.S.-organized phone call between Qatar’s leader and the Saudi crown prince, the Wall Street Journal reported. President Trump spoke with both sides prior to the call in an attempt to resolve the stalemate between Qatar and its neighbors. Following the call, a Qatari news outlet claimed that the Saudi prince had requested the conversation. In response, Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of distorting the facts and declared that it had suspended talks. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE cut off relations with Qatar in June because of Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism.

The U.N.’s top human rights official accused Myanmar of carrying out ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims, the New York Times reported. The U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights said that Myanmar’s security crackdown in Rakhine State was in clear violation of international law. More than 300,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past three weeks. International leaders, including the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Malala Yousafzai, have called on Myanmar’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to condemn the military’s actions. Myanmar’s military allegedly placed landmines at crossing points used by refugees and carried out widespread rape and extrajudicial killings against the Rohingya population.

Residents of Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma have resorted to looting as government services remain unavailable, according to the Times. In St. Martin, residents reported looting not only of food but also valuable electronics and appliances. The French and Dutch governments, which oversee many of the affected islands, dispatched additional troops to restore order and security this weekend. Tens of thousands of residents lack potable water and food because of the storm. On Tuesday, Britain and France sent naval ships with helicopters and reconstruction materials to the region.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to interview up to a dozen White House aides in the coming weeks as the Russia investigation intensifies, Politico reported. Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Communications Director Hope Hicks, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and Chief Counsel Don McGahn will all likely face inquiries from Mueller and his team. Investigators are said to be interested in a session on Air Force One in which White House aides wrote a misleading statement about the meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised compromising information about Hillary Clinton.

U.S.-backed forces in Syria announced an offensive against the Islamic State’s stronghold in Deir al-Zour as the Syrian Army also advanced against towards the city, the Post reported. Deir al-Zour is the Islamic State’s most important remaining refuge following its defeats in Mosul and Raqqa. The Syrian Army and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are separated by only 10 miles and the Euphrates river, according to Reuters. On Friday, the U.S. stopped its aerial surveillance of a convoy of Islamic State fighters traveling towards Deir al-Zour, after the Syrian advance left the convoy behind Syrian lines, the Post reported. The U.S. accepted a Russian request that the U.S. warplanes circling the convoy withdraw in order to deconflict the U.S. and Russian air forces.

The Senate Appropriations Committee rejected the Trump Administration's proposed cuts to foreign aid and diplomacy in its spending bill for the State Department, Foreign Policy reported. The Senate allocated $11 billion more for the State Department in its 2018 appropriations bill than the administration requested, restoring funds for humanitarian assistance and U.S. funding for the U.N. climate change agency, among other programs. Republican and Democratic senators voted unanimously to pass amendments constraining Secretary Rex Tillerson’s ongoing reorganization effort.

Russia will begin war games this week that Western observers say are a rehearsal for a conflict with NATO, the Post reported. Moscow has claimed that the joint exercises with Belarus will practice a strictly defensive scenario and be limited in scope. Western government officials say the exercises are far larger in scope and are intended to intimidate NATO member states in the Baltic and Eastern Europe. Russia will also hold parallel maneuvers with its troops in Kaliningrad, an enclave surrounded by NATO members. 

 

ICYMI: This weekend, on Lawfare

Vanessa Sauter posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Barbara Slavin’s interview with Benjamin Wittes at the International Student House about the investigations into the president.

Joshua Geltzer argued that the judge hearing Joe Arpaio's request to clear his conviction should appoint an amicus in order to hear arguments opposed to his pardon

Eric Rosand defended U.S. Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts and highlighted how the U.S. can learn from Australian and Canadian programs in the Foreign Policy Essay.

Harry Litman and Mark Greenberg analyzed the memos defending President Trump that his legal team submitted to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

 

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