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The Early Edition: September 8, 2017

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.

NORTH KOREA

South Korea is preparing for the possibility of another North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.) launch on Saturday, which is expected to mark the founding of North Korea’s ruling party. Kim Tong-Hyung reports at the AP.

“Nothing is inevitable,” President Trump said yesterday in response to a question about a military confrontation with North Korea, noting that he would prefer a diplomatic solution to the crisis but that military force is “something that certainly could happen.” Eli Stokols and Felicia Schwartz report at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump also highlighted yesterday how efforts over the past 25 years to rein in North Korea have failed, casting doubt on the possibility of successful negotiations with Pyongyang and making the comments as the U.S. seeks to institute further and broad-ranging U.N. sanctions against the regime, according to a draft resolution circulated to U.N. Security Council members Wednesday. Anne Gearan and Emily Rauhala report at the Washington Post.

“It’s counterproductive to inflate this military hysteria,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at an economic forum in Vladivostok yesterday, speaking alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battugla. Joshua Berlinger and Frederik Pleitgen report at CNN.

Mexico expelled its North Korean ambassador following North Korea’s “recent nuclear activity,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday, Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The Philippines has suspended trade relations with North Korea and will “fully comply” with U.N. Security Council resolutions, the country’s foreign minister Alan Peter Cayetano said today, Reuters reporting.

Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed hope that French President Emmanuel Macron could play a “constructive role” in restarting dialogue with North Korea during a phone call between the two leaders today, according to Chinese state media. Reuters reports.

President Moon has to juggle expectations of his supporters and the threat from North Korea, and is taking a harder line toward Pyongyang despite his presidential campaign promises to pursue dialogue. Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports at Washington Post.

The war scenarios for a confrontation with North Korea would lead to large-scale death and destruction. Former U.S. Army Officer Chetan Peddada provides an analysis of the possibilities at Foreign Policy.

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 to learn about Hillary Clinton’s “fitness” to be president, Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in a closed-door session, explaining that he would use the information from the meeting to “consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration” and defending the comments he made in an email chain promising damaging information on Clinton. Byron Tau and Rebecca Ballhaus report at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump Jr. did not discuss with the president the misleading statement drafted this July on Air Force One about the June 2016 meeting, Trump Jr. said during questioning, reiterating that the meeting was not an attempt to collude with Russia to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign. Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman report at the New York Times.

“The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out not to be about what had been represented,” Trump Jr. said in prepared remarks, the president’s son tweeting a statement after the session that he hoped the interview “fully satisfied their inquiry,” which would be unlikely as the president’s son was not able to provide important details, according to people who attended the hearing. Tom Hamburger and Karoun Demirjian report at the Washington Post.

“I can say very confidently that I have not detected any whiff of interference” by the White House into the Russia investigation, F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray said yesterday in Washington, Sarah N. Lynch reporting at Reuters.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is seeking to interview White House staff over the statement drafted aboard Air Force One, according to three sources familiar with the situation. Pamela Brown, Gloria Borger and Jeremy Diamond report at CNN.

Questions should be asked of former F.B.I. Director James Comey’s role in the salacious “Trump dossier” commissioned by the opposition research firm Fusion G.P.S. and compiled by the former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele, Kimberley A. Strassel writes at the Wall Street Journal.

The senate investigations into connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin must be meticulous and should not be rushed, Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes write at Foreign Policy.

SYRIA

A Russian airstrike killed four Islamic State group leaders and 40 militants near the city of Deir al-Zour, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement today, declining to specify when the strike took place. The AP reports.

A convoy transporting Islamic State militants from the Lebanon-Syria border to eastern Syria is still stranded in the Syrian desert, the spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition in Syria Col. Ryan Dillon stating yesterday that coalition warplanes continue to monitor the convoy and would target any Islamic State units trying to reach it. Rod Nordland reports at the New York Times.

The Israeli airstrike on a military site in Syria yesterday sends a message to Iran and the Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah militia group, Israeli parliamentarian Eyal Reuven, a former general in the military, said yesterday, although Israel maintains a policy of neither confirming nor denying airstrikes in Syria. Raja Abdulrahim and Nancy Shekter-Porat report at the Wall Street Journal.

The danger of a war between Israel and Iran is growing, the recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria demonstrate Israel’s concerns over Iran’s expansionism in Syria and the region with the help of proxies and Hezbollah – a conflict that could draw in the U.S. if the Trump administration fails to consider a post-Islamic State strategy for Syria. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.

The Islamic State’s “caliphate” may be nearing extinction, but this does not mean that the militants have been defeated, the territorial losses will prompt a change back to insurgent tactics. Tim Lister writes at CNN.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out eight airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 6. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

GULF-ARAB DISPUTE

Trump would be “willing to be a mediator” in the dispute between Qatar and four Arab nations which began on June 5, the president said yesterday at a joint press conference with Kuwait’s emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, also praising the Kuwaiti emir for his efforts to mediate the dispute and emphasizing that the joint efforts to combat terrorism would be “most successful with a united G.C.C. [Gulf Cooperation Council].” Al Jazeera reports.

“What is important is that we have stopped any military action,” Sheikh Sabah said yesterday, also noting that not all of the 13 demands issued to Qatar by Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain are “acceptable.” James Oliphant reports at Reuters.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY AND TECHNOLOGY

Legislative action may be needed to require social media companies to disclose information about digital political ads, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA.) said yesterday, following Facebook’s findings Wednesday that a Russian firm likely purchased polarizing ads. Dutin Volz and David Ingram report at Reuters.

Twitter is expected to brief congressional investigators soon about Russian use of its advertising platform, Sen. Warner also said yesterday. Dustin Volz and Jonathan Landay report at Reuters.

Google has seen no evidence of a Russia propaganda campaign on its platforms, the search engine said in a statement, Reuters reporting.

Up to 28% of Americans could have seen Russian-funded propaganda posts on Facebook, according to an expert’s analysis of Facebook’s findings. Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman explain how the polarizing messages swept the social media platform during the 2016 presidential election at The Daily Beast.

ISRAEL

Peace between Israel and Palestine is possible, Trump said yesterday at a joint press conference with Kuwait’s emir at the White House, but suggesting that a deal would be difficult. Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.

Israel is conducting its largest military exercises in almost 20 years, sending a signal to the Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah militia group, Rhys Dubin explains at Foreign Policy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s advances a “no-state solution” and has no respect for the conception of Israel as a state of laws, Roger Cohen writes at the New York Times.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been pursuing “personal diplomacy” with China and Russia, eschewing the expectation of being very public in his objectives and approach. David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.

The Foreign Ministers of China and Pakistan hit back at Trump for his newly released Afghanistan strategy, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointing out that “some countries” do not appreciate Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism. Gerry Shih reports at the AP.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Extended family members are exempted from President Trump’s travel ban as well as refugees with contractual commitments from resettlement organizations, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday, which will take effect in five days. Ariane de Vogue reports at CNN.

The joint Russia-Belarus “Zapad” military exercises due to start next week may be “a smokescreen to create new Russian army assault groups to invade Ukrainian territory,” Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said yesterday, adding that there is “more and more proof of its preparations for an offensive war on a continental scale.” The BBC reports.

The U.N. Mission in Libya is preparing to send up to 250 peacekeepers to guard its base in the capital of Tripoli and begin returning its operations to the country, the head of the mission said today. Reuters reporting.

Yemen stands out as a conflict with no end in sight and that has had a huge impact on civilians due to opportunistic internal politics and the competing interests of foreign powers. Ishaan Tharoor explains at the Washington Post.

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About the Author

is an assistant news editor at Just Security and Legal Researcher at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK.