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The Early Edition: September 12, 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

The U.N. Security Council unanimously voted in favor of new sanctions against North Korea yesterday, but the measures fell significantly short of those proposed by the U.S. in its draft resolution circulated last week and the increased economic pressure would be unlikely to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Farnaz Fassihi reports at the Wall Street Journal.

“Today, we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea,” the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said yesterday, praising the new sanctions adopted the Security Council, also stating that the U.S. does not seek war with North Korea and “if it agrees to stop its nuclear program, it can reclaim its future.” Carol Morello, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Emily Rauhala report at the Washington Post.

“Today’s resolution would not have happened without the strong relationship that has developed between President Trump and Chinese President Xi,” Haley also said yesterday, Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

The watered-down sanctions package reflected the need to compromise with Russia and China who objected to the U.S.’ initial proposals for an oil embargo and other sanctions measures, Somini Sengupta reports at the New York Times.

The resolution sets a cap on oil exports, bans all textile exports, asks member states to inspect and monitor North Korean ships, and prohibits any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

North Korea should “take seriously the expectations and will of the international community” to end its nuclear weapons program, China’s ambassador to the U.N. Liu Jieyi said today. Reuters reporting.

South Korea and Japan praised the new sanctions today, with South Korea’s presidential Blue House stating that North Korea’s diplomatic isolation would only end if it were to abandon its nuclear program and resume dialogue, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stating that an unprecedented level of pressure is needed to make North Korea change its policies. Michelle Nichols and Jack Kim report at Reuters.

North Korea has increased trade with Russia as China has taken a harder line against Pyongyang, thereby casting doubt on the ability of economic measures to halt the nuclear weapons program. Joby Warrick explains at the Washington Post.

North Korea’s shipping networks and vessels, many of which are registered in Hong Kong, keep the economy afloat, Don Weinland and Yuan Yang explain at the Financial Times.

SYRIA

“We have won in the war (in Syria) … and what remains are scattered battles,”  the leader of Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah militia group Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah declared, according to a report by a pro-Hezbollah newspaper today, demonstrating the growing confidence of the parties supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Reuters reports.

Syrian government forces have liberated about 85 percent of the country and Islamic State fighters still control an area around 27,000 square km (10,425 square miles), the Russian military said today. Nataliya Vasilyeva reports at the AP.

Jordan and Russia aim to end fighting in southwestern Syria “in the fastest possible time,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said yesterday at a joint conference with Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov, with diplomats telling Reuters that the proposed “de-escalation zone” includes the final positions of fighting forces. Suleiman Al-Khalidi reports at Reuters.

Saudi Arabia expressed support for de-escalation zones in Syria, Lavrov told reporters yesterday, adding that Saudi Arabia would cooperate in their creation and “implementing other initiatives” being developed as part of the Astana peace process, referring to the talks being held in the Kazakh capital. Fares Akram reports at the AP.

Israel’s “Good Neighbors” program supporting Syrians offers humanitarian relief, but also seeks to establish a friendly zone at the Syria-Israel border as a buffer against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia. Loveday Morris explains at the Washington Post.

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

Some of Trump’s lawyers advised the president this summer that Jared Kushner should step down as a senior White House adviser due to his dealings with Russian officials and businesspeople, arguing that Kushner’s position would create legal complications for the president in relation to the Russia investigation. Carol D. Leonnig reports at the Washington Post.

The connections between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin could ultimately lead to the undoing of both of their presidencies, creating domestic difficulties for the respective leaders and causing foreign policy tensions. Gideon Rachman argues at the Financial Times.

IRAN

Trump is considering a proposal put forward by top administration officials that would allow for more pressure on Iran’s forces and its proxies in the Middle East, recommending that the U.S. take a broader and more aggressive approach to Tehran for its ballistic missiles program and “malign activities,” according to six former and current U.S. officials. Jonathan Landay, Arshad Mohammed and Steve Holland report at Reuters.

“The verification regime in Iran is the most robust regime … currently existing,” the head of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) Yukiya Amano told reporters yesterday, defending the inspections framework and emphasizing that Iran is complying with the requirements of the 2015 nuclear accord. Al Jazeera reports.

“Iran is the new North Korea” and Netanyahu must put pressure on Trump to change the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Israel’s minister for intelligence and strategic affairs Yisrael Katz said yesterday, the AP reports.

IRAQ

Iraq’s parliament voted today to reject the Iraqi Kurdish referendum scheduled for Sept. 25, Reuters reports.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag yesterday called on Iraqi Kurdistan regional President Masoud Barzani to cancel the independence referendum, adding that the referendum would be of “no benefit to the people of the region.” The AP reports.

More than 1,300 foreign family members of suspected Islamic State militants are being held by Iraqi authorities at a camp south of Mosul, according to officials and aid workers, with Iraqi officials stating that they will likely be repatriated to their own countries. The BBC reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 26 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 10. Separately, partner forces conducted five strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

RUSSIA

The U.S. military have taken part in annual exercises in Ukraine that started yesterday and will end Sept. 23 – ahead of Russia-Belarus joint “Zapad” military exercises set to begin this week, Ryan Browne reports at CNN.

Turkey has signed a deal for Russian anti-aircraft missiles estimated to be worth around £2.5bn, Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan said today, signaling Turkey’s discontent with N.A.T.O., the U.S. and Germany. The BBC reports.

Russian operatives created events on Facebook to organize political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rally in Idaho. Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman reveal at The Daily Beast.

ANNUAL DEFENSE POLICY BILL

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) threatened yesterday to delay a bipartisan defense policy bill until his amendment repealing the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (A.U.M.F.) has been put to a vote, Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) filed an amendment to the bill yesterday that could lead to a round of military base closures, a move that has been supported by top Pentagon officials. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Attorney General Jeff Session and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats urged Republicans and Democrats yesterday to permanently renew a wide-ranging surveillance law authorized by section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Services Act. Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

A U.S. citizen will stand trial in Brooklyn today on charges of conspiring to support al-Qaeda and helping to prepare a 2009 car bomb on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. Brendan Pierson reports at Reuters.

The U.S. would “continue to stand with Egypt as it confronts the threat from terrorism,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said yesterday in response to the Islamic State group attack on a policy convoy in the Sinai Peninsula which killed 18 officers. The AP reports.

The international community should take measures against the “blockading countries,” Qatari Foreign Minister Skheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said at a U.N. Human Rights Council session yesterday, accusing Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt of violating human rights as a consequence of their decision to isolate Qatar on June 5. Al Jazeera reports.

The U.S. will send an advanced surveillance drone to support the Philippine military in their fight against Islamic State militants in the southern city of Marawi, Jake Maxwell Watts reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Saudi Arabia foiled an Islamic State group plot to attack its Defense Ministry offices and dismantled an alleged spy ring, the kingdom said in two separate announcements today carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The AP reports.

Lasting peace in Afghanistan can only be achieved through a negotiated political solution and there is no military solution to the conflict, Pakistan and Iran said yesterday. The AP reports.

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that killed 39 civilians between June 9 and August 4 amounted to war crimes, the rights group Human Rights Watch said today, also calling on the U.N. Security Council to launch an investigation into the human rights violations at its September session. Reuters reports.

President Trump’s meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the White House today “sets a new low,” bolstering Najib’s position, emboldening his repression and ignoring his criminal activity. The Washington Post editorial board writes.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling on Trump’s travel ban last week went beyond the intention of the Supreme Court’s order and the Supreme Court seems to agree with the Justice Department that the ruling renders their decision a “dead letter.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.

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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.