Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
A U.S. warplane shot down an Iranian-made armed drone after it approached U.S.-led coalition soldiers in southern Syria yesterday, the third occasion in two weeks on which the U.S. has brought down a pro-Assad regime aircraft seen as a threat to coalition and rebel fighters, Dion Nissenbaum, Ben Kesling and Maria Abi-Habib report at the Wall Street Journal.
The downing of the drone merely “helps those terrorists whom the United States fights,” the Russian deputy foreign minister said yesterday, though behind the heated remarks there were signs that the U.S. and Russian militaries were working together to manage the situation, writes Michael R. Gordon at the New York Times.
Russia has requested a “detailed explanation” of why the U.S. shot down a Syrian warplane Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last night, the AP reporting.
Australia will soon resume airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria following the suspension of operations in response to the shooting down of a Syrian warplane by the U.S. earlier this week, Australia’s defense chief confirmed today, the AP reporting.
Iran has set up a drone base close to a U.S. military base near Palmyra in Syria which could be the source of the drone that was shot down by the U.S. yesterday, U.S. defense officials told NBC News’ Courtney Kube.
America will have to do more to counter Iran’s actions in Syria before it an “demolish” the Islamic State there, including Iran’s use of proxy militias to challenge U.S. efforts to train local forces in southeastern Syria, writes Dennis Ross at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
The race to capture territory vacated by the Islamic State in eastern Syria is raising the risk of confrontation between the U.S., Iran and Russia, a risk that is already materialising, Rebecca Collard, Erika Solomon, Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Katrina Manson examining the signs at the Financial Times.
The ongoing surge of U.S. military operations and arms sales across the Middle East by President Trump is happening without an engaged public discussion about the risks or about diplomacy or other tools needed to protect the U.S., the downing of a Syrian warplane on Sunday and last month’s strike against a pro-Assad regime militia just the latest episodes in an escalation that lacks well-defined goals and strategy understood by the American public, write former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and Brian Katulis at the Washington Post.
The KOREAN PENINSULA
China has failed to convince North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs, President Trump declared via Twitter yesterday – an “extraordinarily cavalier” statement given his formerly ardent efforts to obtain the cooperation of Beijing in dealing with Pyongyang, observe Mark Landler and Gardiner Harris at the New York Times.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is willing to collaborate with the U.S. in putting maximum pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program, but believes it is also important to send a message to Pyongyang that “if it decides to denuclearize and to come to the negotiating table, then we are willing to assist them,” he told the Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth ahead of his first visit to the White House next week.
Discussions on taking on a potential role as broker for negotiations with North Korea are being discussed by the European Union with South Korea and China, E.U. officials said, Jeremy Page and Laurence Norman reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
Activity at an underground site in North Korea used to test nuclear weapons has been detected by U.S. satellites, U.S. officials concerned that North Korea could initiate a test during a visit by Chinese officials to Washington today, CNN’s Barbara Starr, Elise Labott and Zachary Cohen report.
The U.S. is weighing up a ban on travel to North Korea following the death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier shortly after his return to America from North Korea where he had been imprisoned for the past 17 months, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly having been considering the move since late April when American teacher Tony Kim was detained in Pyongtang, the AP’s Josh Lederman reports.
Japan will test its missile interceptor capability tomorrow in the wake of several recent missile tests by North Korea, according to Japanese media, Ellen Mitchell reporting at the Hill.
Is war with North Korea the next step? President Trump has begun the U.S.’ final campaign to disarm North Korea, but will it involve going after Chinese banks, or war with Kim Jong-un? Gordon G. Chang writes at The Daily Beast.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was present while C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo briefed President Trump on sensitive intelligence nearly every day for three weeks in January despite senior officials across the government being convinced that he had become vulnerable to Russian blackmail, Matt Apuzzo, Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman writes at the New York Times.
“To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots” in last year’s presidential election, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson intends to say in his prepared statement before the House Intelligence Committee today, the Hill’s Joe Uchill reports.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. will be grilled on what can be done to thwart potential threats to future elections by the Senate Intelligence Committee today as part of its investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, the Hill’s Morgan Chalfant reports.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and House Intelligence Committee members had a “productive meeting” yesterday to “deconflict” their respective Russia investigations, committee ranking member Rep Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said in a statement following the meeting. Rebecca Savransky reports at the Hill.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has not spoken to President Trump about whether or not he accepts that Russia tried to interfere with last year’s presidential election as has been concluded by the U.S. intelligence community, he told reporters yesterday, Madeline Conway reporting at POLITICO.
President Trump’s unpredictable actions are to blame for slowing down the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion, the vice chairman of the committee Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said yesterday, referring to the firing of former F.B.I. director James Comey and the spreading of rumors that Trump might fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has retained the services of a Washington lawyer – Charles J. Cooper – who was sitting behind him as Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its Trump-Russia investigation last week, Sari Horwitz reports at the Washington Post.
“We are mystified that the Gulf states have not released to the public nor to Qatar the details about the claims they are making toward Qatar.” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert released a “blistering critique” of Saudi Arabia and its allies enforcing a two-week embargo against Qatar yesterday in a statement that seems to put Secretary of State Rex Tillerson further at odds with President Trump over who is to blame for the dispute, writes Gardiner Harris at the New York Times.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman’s decision to elevate his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman to become crown prince in place of his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef today comes at a time when the Kindom is heading a bloc of Arab nations that has launched a campaign to isolate Qatar and almost certainly means the continuation of a more assertive Saudi foreign policy and a strong alliance with the U.A.E. in pursuing those policies, write Sudarsan Raghavan and Kareem Fahim at the Washington Post.
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
White House adviser Jared Kushner will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank today as he embarks on a renewed U.S. effort to revive Middle East peace negotiations, Luke Baker reports at Reuters.
Doomed to fail? Josef Federman at the AP takes a look at what lies ahead for White House adviser Jared Kushner, in Israel in the ambitious hope of laying the ground work for a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians today.
The Iraqi army has completely encircled the Islamic State in Mosul’s Old City, it said yesterday, Al Jazeera reports.
Small, readymade drones are being used by Iraqi forces to target Islamic State fighters in the crowded streets of Mosul’s Old City where the militants are making a last stand, Ben Kesling reports at the Wall Street Journal.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out eight airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on June 19. Separately, partner forces conducted seven strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
A plane escorting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was buzzed by a N.A.T.O. fighter jet as it flew over the Baltic Sea, which was seen off by a Russian military jet, Russian media reported today. Reuters reports.
An American reconnaissance plane was buzzed by a Russian jet over the Baltic Sea Monday, U.S. defense officials said, an encounter that comes amid rising tensions between Russia, the U.S. and the Assad regime in Syria, Gordon Lubold and Julian E. Barnes report at the Wall Street Journal.
Sanctions on over three dozen additional Russian individuals and organizations that took part in the country’s incursion in Ukraine were announced by the Treasury Department yesterday, the same day that the president hosted his Ukrainian counterpart at the White House to discuss a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Alan Rappeport and Neil MacFarquhar report at the New York Times.
The new sanctions against Russia “don’t help to improve the climate” and reflect “the Russo-phobic obsession of our American colleagues,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday, the AP reporting.
A bill to increase sanctions against Russia and take greater control over Russia policy from the White House hit a snag in the House of Representatives yesterday after passing in the Senate last week, Natalie Andrews reports at the Wall Street Journal.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko used his brief meeting with President Trump yesterday to push for more U.S. pressure on Russia in response to its support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, Alan Cullison reports at the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. retreat from the world creates great risks, including on the issue of international conflicts, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said yesterday at a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York, warning that if America leaves a space it will be “occupied by others.” Somini Sengupta reports at the New York Times.
Senate Armed Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) threatened to withhold his nomination from a vote during President Trump’s pick for Pentagon No. 2 Patrick M. Shanahan’s confirmation hearing yesterday, during which Shanahan faced questioning from other lawmakers on how he will overcome his lack of experience in the Defense Department and manage day-to-day operations at the Pentagon while recusing himself from all decisions with a tie to Boeing, where he is a vice president, Dan Lamothe reports at the Washington Post.
Documents leaked by Army soldier Cheslea Manning in 2010 had no strategic impact on the U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a newly-released Pentagon analysis, Ed Pilkington reporting at the Guardian.
Islamic State-linked rebels withdrew from the southern Philippine village of Malagakit around 50 miles south of Marawi, where government forces have been battling insurgents for over a month, today after storming the village at dawn and engaging government forces, the AP reports.
A man suspected of setting off an explosion in Brussels Central Station was shot dead last night, with no other casualties reported in what is being treated as a terrorist attack. Valentina Pop, Julian E. Barnes and Natalia Dozdiak report at the Wall Street Journal.
F.A.R.C. rebels began the final handover of individual weapons as part of Colombia’s peace agreement yesterday, the AP reports.
Agreement on a U.N. resolution welcoming the deployment of a 5,000-strong force made up of soldiers from five countries in Africa’s Sahel region to fight the growing threat posed by extremists was reached between the U.S. and France, they said yesterday, Edith M. Lederer reporting at the AP.