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.
The U.S. will send “strategic” assets to South Korea on a more regular basis to bolster its defensive capabilities and deter North Korea, South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-Young said today, declining to define what the assets would include, but likely involve B-52 bombers, stealth warplanes, nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.
South Korea expects more North Korean provocative action around Oct. 10 and 18, Chung also said today, but did not give any details. Christine Kim reports at Reuters.
China has fully implemented U.N. sanctions against North Korea, China’s Ministry of Commerce said today, a spokesperson stating that the U.N. sanctions gave a buffer period for implementation. Reuters reports.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will seek a public mandate for tougher action on North Korea in the upcoming Japanese election, Abe said today after dissolving parliament’s lower house. The AP reports.
“We don’t know what happened to him and that’s the bottom line,” the coroner who examined U.S. student Otto Warmbier’s body said yesterday, stating that there was no clear evidence of torture, contradicting comments by Warmbier’s parents that he was “systematically tortured” by North Korea. The BBC reports.
North Korea insisted that claims it tortured Warmbier are groundless, North Korea’s foreign ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying to the state K.C.N.A. news agency today. Reuters reports.
Malaysia banned its citizens from travelling to North Korea today, the foreign ministry announced, stating that the action was in response to the increased tensions on the Korean peninsula and Pyongyang’s aggressive behavior. Yantoultra Ngui reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are preparing subpoenas for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the ranking member of committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said yesterday, adding that she had reached a deal with committee’s chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on several key areas of interest including the subpoena. Manu Raju reports at CNN.
Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg dismissed Trump’s comments that the social media platform being “anti-Trump,” after Trump tweeted that it was biased and may have “colluded” with the New York Times and the Washington Post, the president made the claim as Facebook prepares to hand over 3,000 political ads to congressional investigators looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The BBC reports.
Zuckerberg regretted dismissing concerns about Facebook’s role in the 2016 election in a Facebook post yesterday, stating that it was wrong to say that questions about its role were “crazy.” Sam Levin reports at the Guardian.
Twitter may have been used by Russian operatives more extensively than Facebook, researchers from the Alliance for Securing Democracy – a bipartisan initiative analyzing Russian influence in U.S. political discourse – found, the findings coming ahead of Twitter’s briefing to Congress today about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election campaign. Daisuke Wakabayashi and Scott Shane report at the New York Times.
Facebook pointed to the recent German election to demonstrate that it is more prepared to combat misinformation on its platform, Facebook’s vice president of public policy in Europe Richard Allan stating that the social media companies’ actions “did not eliminate misinformation entirely in this election – but they did make it harder to spread,” making the comments amid the investigations into Russian influence on the 2016 U.S. election. Mike Isaac and Melissa Eddy report at the New York Times.
Russian operatives set up a Facebook group impersonating American Muslims and their allies to reach target audiences and post inflammatory memes, according to sources familiar with the group. Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman reveal at The Daily Beast.
Russian social media account have been sowing division in relation to the spat between Trump and the NFL, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said yesterday, saying that “troll farms” were trying to “push divisiveness.” Mallory Shelbourne reports at the Hill.
Technology firms will be invited to testify at a House Intelligence Committee open hearing, the Committee said yesterday, meanwhile the Senate Intelligence Committee today invited tech firms for a scheduled Nov. 1 hearing on the matter, Ali Breland reports at the Hill.
The TRAVEL BAN
Refugee admissions to the U.S. for the next year will be capped at 45,000, Trump administration officials informed Congress yesterday, with officials stating that the new level allows for an effective vetting process. Laura Koran reports at CNN.
It was “simply unacceptable” that the Trump administration’s decision about refugee admissions was not effectively communicated to Congress, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement yesterday, saying that the administration’s actions were “incredibly frustrating,” Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.
The cap has drawn sharp criticism from humanitarian and refugee aid groups, dismissing the Trump administration’s contention that the limit is needed for security reasons. Robbie Gramer reports at Foreign Policy.
Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita called on the U.S. to remove its travel ban on Chadian nationals yesterday, stating that the ban could undermine the security commitments of the G5 Sahel region members – consisting of Chad, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso – who work together to combat terrorism. Reuters reports.
The U.S. responded with airstrikes to an attack by insurgents on Kabul’s international airport yesterday, inadvertently causing civilian casualties according to a statement by the U.S.-led N.A.T.O. mission in Afghanistan. The insurgent attack – which the Taliban and the Islamic State have separately claimed responsibility – took place a few hours before Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived at the airport. Sayed Salahuddin reports at the Washington Post.
Mattis criticized Russia and Iran for providing assistance to the Taliban yesterday during a visit to Afghanistan, adding that their support was contrary to their own nation’s interests. Gordon Lubold and Craig Nelson report at the Wall Street Journal.
Taliban fighters killed 12 members of Afghanistan’s security forces in the southern Kandahar province yesterday, the AP reports.
“It is in the interest of Europe, of N.A.T.O. allies to help stabilize Afghanistan,” N.A.T.O. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday during a visit to Kabul with Mattis. James Mackenzie reports at Reuters.
IRAQI KURDISTAN REFERENDUM
Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence in Monday’s referendum, the electoral commission stating that 92% supported secession from Iraq, the BBC reports.
The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (K.R.G.) hopes that the decisive vote would give a mandate to negotiate secession with the central government, although Abadi has repeatedly stated that there would be no talks and that the outcome would not be recognized, separately countries in the region, such as Turkey and Iran, have threatened strong action against Iraqi Kurdistan. Isabel Coles and Ali A. Nabhan report at the Wall Street Journal.
“The referendum must be annulled and dialogue initiated in the framework of the constitution,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said yesterday, stating that the vote could not be the basis for talks of secession. Al Jazeera reports.
The Iraqi government authorized Abadi to send troops to disputed regions held by Kurdish forces yesterday, including the oil-rich Kirkuk province, Abadi saying in a speech to Parliament that “[there] will be no fighting between the sons of one country, but we will impose the law, you will see.” Tamer El-Ghobashy and Kareem Fahim report at the Washington Post.
Turkey confirmed its support of “all decisions” taken or sought by the Iraqi government following the referendum, Turkey stating that it would only deal with Baghdad on crude oil exports, Abadi’s office said in a statement today. Reuters reports.
Most regional airlines have stated that they would comply with Abadi’s order to halt flights to the K.R.G. capital of Erbil, scheduled to begin Friday evening. Susannah George reports at the AP.
The pursuit of secession may detrimentally impact K.R.G.’s economy, analysts have warned, the political cost of independence possibly leading to isolation by other countries in the region. Erika Solomon reports at the Financial Times.
The U.N. Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced the next round of Syria talks to begin at the end of October or early November, warning the parties to the negotiations against “illusions of victory or dreams of shortcuts” at a Security Council meeting yesterday. The UN News Centre reports.
Mistura’s announcement comes as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have reversed significant military losses with the help of Iranian-backed militia and Russian air campaigns. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Pro-Assad forces have almost completely surrounded Islamic State militants in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday. Sarah El Deeb reports at the AP.
Russian and Syrian air campaigns have killed at least 150 civilians in over a week of intense bombing in the rebel-held Idlib province, opposition rescue workers said yesterday, Reuters reports.
A New York-based human rights group condemned airstrikes on three hospitals in Idlib on Sept. 19, believing the strikes to have been carried out by Russian or Syrian forces. The AP reports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 37 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 26. Separately, partner forces conducted 11 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Defense lawyers filed a petition on Sept. 21 asking a federal judge to intervene in the medical care of a captive at Guantánamo Bay, writing in a letter that the U.S. has demonstrated “deliberate indifference and disregard” to Abd al Hadi al Iraqi’s health and safety and that he is at risk of paralysis. Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
The trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected mastermind behind the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, is set to offer an insight into how the civilian justice system handles suspected terrorists and their legal rights, also providing a test to Attorney General Jeff Sessions who has argued that the Justice Department should not be handling such cases and that terror suspects should be sent to Guantánamo Bay. Sadie Gurman reports at the AP.
Russia warned that it would retaliate if the U.S. restricts military flights over its territory in accordance with the Open Skies Treaty, Russian news agencies quoted the Deputy Foreign Minister as saying yesterday. Reuters reports.
Russia destroyed its last declared chemical weapons yesterday in an event overseen by President Vladimir Putin, Putin also using the opportunity to castigate the U.S. for failing to eliminate its own chemical arsenal. Andrew Higgins reports at the New York Times.
The construction of eight prototype barriers for the border with Mexico began yesterday, the U.S. government announced, Peter Bowes reports at the BBC.
Gen. Joseph Dunford’s nomination as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was advanced by the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, the nomination will now head to the full Senate for a vote. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
Israel thwarted a plan to mount an Islamic State-inspired attack on a disputed holy site in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet security service said today. Reuters reports.
National Security Agency (N.S.A.) contractor Reality Winner smuggled a classified document out of a high intelligence facility in her pantyhose, Winner said according to a transcript filed by federal prosecutors to court yesterday, the transcript also providing further details about Winner’s reasons for allegedly leaking the N.S.A. report. Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will not seek to be chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the senator said yesterday, paving the way for Sen. Jim Risch’s (R-Idaho) chairmanship. Seung Min Kim and Elana Schor report at POLITICO.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif mocked Trump for his tweet about Iran firing a ballistic missile at the weekend, saying in an interview yesterday that “it worries me that people play with facts and produce alternative facts.” The AP reports.
Former Islamist militants now play an important role in Libya’s future. Sudarsan Raghavan provides a profile of the key figures, including Abdulhakim Belhaj, at the Washington Post.