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.
LAS VEGAS SHOOTING
A gunman has killed at least 50 people and injured more than 200 after opening fire on concertgoers late last night, authorities have said, the police identifying the gunman as Stephen Paddock. Derek Hawkins, Travis M. Andrews, Brian Murphy and Mark Berman report at the Washington Post.
The suspected shooter has been killed and the police are seeking the companion of the suspect. Bryony Jones and Judith Vonberg provide live updates of the incident at CNN.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump tweeted yesterday, mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and making the comments after Tillerson told reporters on Saturday after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing that the U.S. has lines of communications with Pyongyang. Felicia Schwartz reports at the Wall Street Journal.
“Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” the president added cryptically in a follow-up tweet, suggesting that military options to deal with the North Korea threat remain high on Trump’s agenda – while some speculated that the mixed messages were part of a good-cop, bad-cop strategy, the president’s comments have undermined his Secretary of State’s diplomatic efforts during his visit to Beijing. Peter Baker and David E. Sanger report at the New York Times.
A bipartisan group of senators are considering enacting their own sanctions against North Korea and bypassing the president, despite administration officials insisting that they have already instituted hard-hitting sanctions against the regime, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) also questioning last week “whether additional congressional activities are helpful when we’re on the brink of something could become a catastrophe.” Sylvan Lane reports at the Hill.
The U.S. will deploy “strategic assets” to the Korean peninsula to support South Korea in the face of the North Korean threat, Washington announced this week, after Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to bolster the South’s military capabilities at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly last month. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.
The two women accused of colluding with the Pyongyang regime to kill Kim Jong-un’s half-brother on Feb. 13 pleaded not guilty to murder charges today at their trial in Malaysia. Yantoultra Ngui reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Egypt ordered more than 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades from North Korea, a U.N. investigation into a vessel that sailing toward the Suez Canal last August has revealed, exposing a complex arrangement for arms trade between Egypt and the Pyongyang regime that included “false flag” shipping and concealment of illegal cargo, also offering an insight into how North Korea carries out illicit activity. Joby Warrick explains at the Washington Post.
Italy has ordered its North Korean ambassador to leave the country, Italy’s foreign minister said in an interview published yesterday, Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.
Facebook will hand over more than 3,000 Russian-linked ads to Congress today, the social media company said yesterday, making the move after the company has come under pressure from Congress to disclose further information about Russian use of its platform during the 2016 presidential election. Mike Isaac and Scott Shane report at the New York Times.
Facebook’s disclosure will share the ads and information about who they targeted. The company’s C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg also announced earlier that it would implement a new transparency policy requiring every group that runs political ads on its platform to publicly post copies of all the ads they have bought, although Facebook only considers an ad to be political if it mentions a specific candidate. Elizabeth Dwoskin and Adam Entous report at the Washington Post.
The activity of social media accounts through which Russia-linked ads were purchased should also be considered, a spokesperson for Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said, welcoming Facebook for its decision to disclose information to congressional investigators but stating that more information can be provided. Ali Breland reports at the Hill.
Lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election have begun to show an interest in the way social media companies run their operations, including the use of algorithms – their interest that may be met by resistance from some tech industry giants. Nancy Scola and Josh Meyer report at POLITICO.
Islamic State fighters captured a town in Homs province from Syrian government forces, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday, Reuters reports.
More than 3,300 people were killed in the Syrian war in September, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, with most of the casualties caused by Russian, Syrian government or U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. The BBC reports.
Jordan has sought guarantees from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers over reopening the border with Syria, pushing for the reopening of a vital trade crossing, the gradual return of Syrian refugees, and assurances that Iranian-backed forces would keep away from Jordan’s border. Alice Su and Karin Laub report at the AP.
Iran has been recruiting Afghan child soldiers to fight in Syria, Human Rights Watch said yesterday, the organization’s report demonstrating the pressure exerted on vulnerable Afghan Shi’ites by the Iranian authorities. Nada Homsi reports at the New York Times.
The obstacles faced by prosecutors trying to hold members of the Syrian government forces to account are revealed by Heba Habib and Louise Loveluck at the Washington Post.
A U.S. service member was killed yesterday and another wounded in an explosion, the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement today. The AP reports.
A feature on the treatment of captured suspected Islamic State fighters by Iraqi Kurdish officials is provided by Rod Nordland at the New York Times.
IRAQI KURDISTAN REFERENDUM
A suspension of flights to the Iraqi Kurdistan region was imposed Friday in response to the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum held on Monday, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office stating that the ban was aimed at regaining federal government authority rather than blockading the region. Isabel Coles and Ghassan Adnan report at the Wall Street Journal.
“The United States does not recognize the … unilateral referendum,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday, adding that the U.S. continues to support a “united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq.” Mustafa Salim, Karen DeYoung and Tamer El-Ghboashy report at the Washington Post.
Iran and Iraq will hold joint drills at Iran’s border with the Iraqi Kurdish region, officials announced on Saturday, taking the action in response to the independence vote last week. Al Jazeera reports.
Last week’s referendum would lead to “internal wars” and “partition,” the leader of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah militia group, Hassan Nasrallah, said at the weekend, also accusing U.S. and Israel of plotting to carve up the region. Al Jazeera reports.
The Iraqi Kurdistan referendum may have hindered efforts for independence rather than improve prospects of secession, David Zucchino explains at the New York Times.
An airstrike by friendly forces struck an Afghan unit in Helmand province yesterday, killing at least 10, a spokesperson for the governor of Helmand stating that they are investigating whether it was the U.S. or Afghan air force who had carried out the strike. Taimoor Shah and Mujib Mashal report at the New York Times.
A group of State Department officials have urged the Trump administration to maintain the Taliban’s political office in Qatar in a memo, after reports that plans for its closure are being considered, the memo stating that the office helps to support efforts for peace. Dion Nissenbaum reports at the Wall Street Journal.
An explosion outside a Shi’ite mosque in the Afghan capital on Friday killed at least six people, the Taliban denied responsibility and the Islamic State group did not respond to the attack. Habib Khan Totakhil and Craig Nelson report at the Wall Street Journal.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in the Sanaa province, the Hourthi-controlled S.A.B.A. news agency reported yesterday, Reuters reports.
The U.N. Human Rights Council reached a compromise on Friday to send a group of “eminent” experts to examine “all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights” in Yemen after a resolution calling for a more robust investigation was withdrawn. The BBC reports.
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
Trump’s recent comments contradicting his Secretary of State have prompted speculation that Rex Tillerson will leave his post soon, especially as many have recognized the low morale in the State Department and others have concluded that Tillerson exerts little influence over the Trump administration. Karen DeYoung explains at the Washington Post.
It may not matter whether Tillerson resigns or not as Trump would be unlikely to properly consult any secretary of state on foreign policy issues, the issues plaguing the world would pose a difficult set of challenges for even the most formidable diplomat, and the lack of resources at the State Department would hinder a secretary of state’s ability to fulfil expectations. Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolosky write at POLITICO.
The president’s antics at the weekend reflect Trump’s chaotic style and his response to the humanitarian crisis on the hurricane-battered island of Puerto Rico have raise even more questions than before about his competency and fitness for leadership. Kevin Liptak observes at CNN.
The U.S. Supreme Court will begin its new term today and the conservative-majority court must grapple with a range of contentious issues, Robert Barnes explains at the Washington Post.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived in the Gaza Strip to meet with Hamas as part of reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the Abbas-led Fatah party, marking a significant step towards Palestinian unity. Nidal al-Mughrabi reports at Reuters.
A suspected terrorist who stabbed a police officer and drove a van into four pedestrians on Saturday in Edmonton, Canada, has been identified by officials as a Somali refugee known to the police. Vipal Monga and Paul Vieira report at the Wall Street Journal.
French authorities are investigating whether the suspected attacker who killed two women in Marseille yesterday had accomplices or direct links to the Islamic State group, the Islamic State-linked Aamaq news agency having claimed that the assailant acted following a call to target countries in the U.S.-led coalition fighting militants in Syria and Iraq. The AP reports.
More than 750 people have been injured in clashes following Catalonia’s attempted independence referendum yesterday, with Spanish police officers using heavy-handed tactics to disrupt voting. Raphael Minder and Ellen Barry report at the New York Times.
The recent Russia-Belarus “Zapad” military exercises demonstrated the Russian military’s capabilities and were much larger than what Moscow had said it would conduct, analysts stating that the drills revealed significant progress in the Russian forces’ use of technology and integrated information. Eric Schmitt reports at the New York Times.