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 could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean in response to Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said yesterday, after Trump’s speech singled out the country as a global threat that could be “totally” destroyed by the U.S. if forced to defend itself or its allies. Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.
“We cannot deny the possibility it may fly over our country,” Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said today after North Korea threatened to test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean. Justin McCurry and Julian Borger report at the Guardian.
A “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said of Trump today in a statement carried by the state K.C.N.A. news agency, directly responding to Trump’s U.N. speech and promising to institute the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the U.S. – the specific action that would be taken was not explained by Kim or foreign minister Ri. Choe Sang-Hun reports at New York Times.
“I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech,” Kim also said in the statement, adding that Trump would “face results beyond his expectation” and that he would “tame” the president “with fire.” David Nakamura and Anne Gearan report at the Washington Post.
Kim’s statement was the first time a North Korean leader has made a direct address to an international audience, according to experts, and the statement was made hours after the North Korean delegation arrived in New York for the General Assembly, the BBC reports.
The full text of Kim’s statement is provided by the New York Times.
Trump signed an executive order giving the Treasury Department the power to expand sanctions against North Korea yesterday, including the possibility of leveling sanctions against individuals and companies associated with the regime, to freeze the U.S. assets of foreign banks working with the country and to ban those banks for accessing U.S. financial markets, Trump stating that “foreign banks will face a clear choice: doing business with the United States or facilitate trade with the lawless regime in North Korea.” Ian Talley and Louise Radnofsky report at the Wall Street Journal.
The executive order came amid reports that China had instructed its banks not to do new business with North Korea and to wind down old loans, in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Peter Baker and Somini Sengupta report at the New York Times.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed yesterday that he notified China’s central bank about the forthcoming sanctions, adding that the Treasury would consider designating entities on a “rolling basis.” Ali Vitali reports at NBC News.
The five key points about the U.S. sanctions against North Korea are provided by Jonathan Easley and Rebecca Kheel at the Hill.
“We urge the D.P.R.K. not to go further along a dangerous direction,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, using the acronym for the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also calling on “all parties to play a constructive role in easing tensions.” Reuters reports.
The ambassadors of E.U. member states reached an initial agreement on imposing more sanctions on North Korea, E.U. officials and diplomats said yesterday; if accepted by E.U. foreign ministers, the measures would go further than the latest U.N. Security Council sanctions. Robin Emmott reports at Reuters.
The response to the North Korea threat requires creativity, strategists should begin by assuming that economic sanctions would not work and be prepared to think outside the box. David Ignatius suggests looking at military options, intelligence strategies, defensive measures and other actions at the Washington Post.
A profile of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho is provided Anna Fifield at the Washington Post.
The Trump administration has been grappling with its approach to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officials having mapped out several scenarios, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other officials have continued to urge Trump to certify Iran’s compliance to Congress by the Oct. 15 deadline – although Trump said Wednesday that he had already made a decision on the deal, which he did not reveal. Felicia Schwartz reports at the Wall Street Journal.
“Are you prepared to return to us 10 tons of enriched uranium?” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif asked yesterday, stating that Iran would only discuss changing the nuclear deal if every concession Iran has made were reconsidered, adding that the Trump administration sought to extract further concessions from Iran without making any itself. David E. Sanger and Rick Gladstone report at the New York Times.
Top diplomats from Germany, Russia, China and Italy defended the Iran nuclear deal yesterday at the U.N. General Assembly, warning that reneging on the agreement would undermine future disarmament efforts and regional and global security. John Daniszweski and Matthew Lee report at the AP.
The use of unilateral sanctions against Iran “is illegitimate and undermines the collective nature of international efforts,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in his speech to the U.N. yesterday. Reuters reports.
Iran unveiled its latest ballistic missile during a military parade in Tehran today, defying Trump who has tried to restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program, the AP reports.
The frequent breakdown of uranium enrichment devices have inadvertently helped to keep Iran within the limits of the nuclear deal, a report by the Institute for Science and International Security said today, adding that stricter monitoring of the deal by the Trump administration was also helping to ensure compliance. Jonathan Landay reports at Reuters.
Trump should withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear deal, forty-five former intelligence, national security and defense officials urged in a letter to the president yesterday, calling on the president to de-certify Iran’s compliance by the Oct. 15 congressional deadline. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
Facebook agreed yesterday to hand over information to congressional investigators about Russian activity on its platform during the 2016 presidential election, with the Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg stating that he cares “deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity.” Scott Shane and Mike Isaac report at the New York Times.
Facebook’s decision came after pressure from lawmakers and the public and amid the growing evidence that Russian accounts posed as U.S. activists to spread pro-Trump propaganda. Craig Timberg, Carol D. Leonnig and Elizabeth Dwoskin report at the Washington Post.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to F.B.I. Director Chris Wray asking if the F.B.I. had given “defensive briefings” or similar warnings to Trump officials about “potential connections between campaign officials and the Russian government” on Wednesday. Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.
Democratic senators praised Facebook’s decision to release the information, but argued that further steps should be taken to understand the extent of Russian interference in the election. Nancy Scola, Josh Dawsey and Ali Watkins report at POLITICO.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) have called on their colleagues to sponsor legislation enhancing transparency of online political advertisements, including requiring digital platforms to keep the records of groups or individuals who make ads of more than $10,000. Dylan Byers reports at CNN.
A breakdown of contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian-linked individuals is provided by Philip Bump at the Washington Post.
Any attempts by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) to open fire would be “immediately suppressed with all military means,” a spokesperson for the Russian military, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said yesterday, raising the possibility of direct interaction between the U.S.-backed forces and Russia and Iran-backed Syrian government forces. David Filipov and Liz Sly report at the Washington Post.
U.S. and Russian military generals met face-to-face this week to discuss a Russian airstrike on the S.D.F. on Saturday, the U.S. spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition Col. Ryan Dillon said yesterday, adding that the discussions emphasized the need for communication to prevent “accidental targeting or other possible frictions” that would distract from the fight against the Islamic State group. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.
Turkey will deploy troops to Syria’s northern Idlib region as part of the “de-escalation” zones agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, the Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday. Parisa Hafezi reporting at Reuters.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 15 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 20. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
The Iraqi military’s offensive to recapture the town of Hawija launched yesterday comes amid increased tensions as the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government prepares to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25, Ben Kesling and Ghassan Adnan report at the Wall Street Journal.
Nations in the Middle East and across the world have been united in their opposition to the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, fearing the consequences of an independence vote for Iraq and the region. David Zucchino reports at the New York Times.
The U.N. Security Council yesterday voted unanimously to establish an investigative team to help Iraq collect evidence against Islamic State extremists and build potential war crimes cases, the UN News Centre reports.
Trump should overturn an Obama-era policy that restricts aid to Iraq’s religious minorities, Nina Shea writes at the Wall Street Journal.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
The Trump administration is preparing to relax the limits on drone strikes and commando raids imposed by the Obama administration, according to officials familiar with the matter, the measures focusing on two rules: the targets of kill missions and the level of vetting required for proposed drone attacks and raids. Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt report at the New York Times.
The Trump administration’s potential drone strike policy demonstrates which elements of Obama’s approach have been institutionalized and affirmed, but also raises concerns about the threshold required to authorize strikes, among other issues. Luke Hartig provides an analysis at Just Security.
French President Emmanuel Macron has taken on the burden of convincing Trump to change his mind on an array of different topics, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change agreement. Roger Cohen explains at the New York Times.
U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the international community to stop the spread of nuclear weapons at a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council yesterday. Edith M. Lederer and Jennifer Peltz report at the AP.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov praised Trump’s unequivocal statement on the “primacy of sovereignty” at the General Assembly yesterday. The UN News Centre reports.
The U.N. General Assembly has been a parade of hypocrisy with leaders praising their own actions but “doing so little to tackle humanitarian crises they themselves have helped create,” Nicholas Kristof writes at the New York Times.
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
“No, I do not,” the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said yesterday in response to a question about her interest in being Secretary of State, making the comment amid speculation about the future of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Nahal Toosi explains at POLITICO.
Nikki Haley has been a prominent figure at the U.N. General Assembly this week, highlighting her growing influence and ambition, particularly in comparison to the increasingly marginalized Tillerson. Anne Gearan and David Nakamura write at the Washington Post.
The more than $70bn that the U.S. has invested in the Afghan security forces has been undermined by persistent problems and poor planning, according to a report released yesterday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Nancy A. Youssef reports at the Wall Street Journal.
President Trump and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani agreed that U.S. companies could develop the country’s rare earth mineral reserves during a meeting yesterday. Reuters reports.
The former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani castigated Trump’s Afghanistan strategy in an interview with Ruchi Kumar at Foreign Policy.
Afghans are encouraged by Trump’s strategy and are cautiously optimistic about his conditions-based approach that also provides for more training and support for Afghan security forces. Parwiz Kawa and Shafi Sharifi write at the Wall Street Journal.
Polish and N.A.T.O. troops began military exercises in Poland yesterday, following the large-scale military exercises recently held by Russia and Belarus which caused concern among N.A.T.O. allies. The AP reports.
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa believes the Arab boycott of Israel should end, two prominent U.S. Rabbis revealed yesterday, reflecting the slowly warming relationship between Arab nations and Israel due to shared concerns in the Middle East. Jon Gambrell reports at the AP.