The Early Edition: October 30, 2018

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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.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI KILLING

Saudi Arabian Chief Prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb today held a second round of talks with Turkish officials in Istanbul and visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was killed after he entered the building Oct 2. Mojeb, who arrived in Turkey Sunday night and who last week acknowledged that the killing was “premeditated,” yesterday met Turkish Chief Prosecutor Irfan Fidan for a second time at the court house before heading for the consulate, according to Turkish broadcaster N.T.V., Reuters reports.

Turkey yesterday called on Saudi Arabia to reveal the “whole truth” regarding Khashoggi’s murder, with the whereabouts of the journalist’s body allegedly dominating Mojeb’s visit. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference yesterday that there is “an advantage in our prosecutors sharing information and working together,” adding that the cooperation must continue, but it must not be drawn out or turned into a diversion … the investigation must be completed as soon as possible, so that the whole truth is revealed,” AFP reports.

Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz yesterday argued that Saudi authorities must not be permitted to cover up the journalist’s murder, calling on western countries to fight for justice. Speaking at a memorial event in London, Cengiz said through a translator: “I believe that the Saudi regime knows where his body is … they should answer my demand,” Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

Cengiz claimed that she is “disappointed in the actions of the leadership in many countries, particularly in the U.S.” President Trump was singled out for particular criticism – Cengiz claimed that he “should help reveal the truth and ensure justice be served … he should not pave the way for a cover-up of my fiancee’s murder … let’s not let money taint our conscience and compromise our values,” Al Jazeera reports.

“The administration is weighing different options and we’ll make an announcement about what the decision of that action is,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a media briefing yesterday in response to a question about what actions the administration might take against the kingdom following Khashoggi’s killing. Reuters reports.

The Saudi arms deal negotiated by President Trump is likely to create only hundreds of U.S. jobs, according to defense firms, rather than the half-million that the president has repeatedly cited as justification for his stance toward the Saudi regime following Khashoggi’s murder. An internal document from defense firm Lockheed Martin reportedly forecasts 10,000 new jobs in Saudi Arabia flowing from the deal – but fewer than 1,000 positions in the U.S, The Daily Beast reports.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI KILLING: OPINION AND ANALYSIS

“A rigorous, professional and impartial investigation [into Khashoggi’s death] is needed,” C.E.O. of global investigations firm Nardello & Co.Dan Nardello comments at the Washington Post, identifying the essential steps necessary to produce a legitimate report on the journalist’s murder.

“Can the U.S. continue to cooperate with [Saudi] Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?” former U.S. national security adviser Susan E. Rice writes at the New York Times, commenting that “the young prince’s almost certain culpability in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing underscores his extreme recklessness and immorality … while exposing him as a dangerous and unreliable partner for the U.S.”

Bin Salman’s “meteoric rise to power bears striking similarities to… former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein,” Ryan Costello and Sina Toosi comment at Foreign Policy, arguing that if allowed to ascend to the throne without facing any consequences from the U.S., the Crown Prince will “likely terrorize the region for decades, just as Saddam did.”

The question of whether the Saudi justice systems can offer a “fair and transparent process” in the investigation and prosecution of Khashoggi’s murder is considered by Yarno Ritzen at Al Jazeera.

PITTSBURGH SYNAGOGUE ATTACK

The individual accused of killing 11 congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday – Robert Bowers (46) – yesterday appeared in court, where Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell gave an overview of the 29 criminal charges he now faces. The Department of Justice (D.O.J.) has indicated that the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania – Scott Brady – has initiated the approval process for seeking the death penalty against Bowers, although the ultimate decision on that issue rests with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Campbell Robertson reports at the New York Times.

The attack has drawn attention to the role played by right-wing social-media platforms, with Gab.com – where Bowers had posted incendiary anti-semitic messages – losing the support of its backers just hours after the attack. Keach Hagey, Georgia Wells and Dan Frosch provide an analysis at the Wall Street Journal.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yesterday stated that the D.O.J. has launched a website consolidating information for reporting hate crimes, in the wake of Saturday’s deadly attack. Rosenstein made the announcement during a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., stating that the website is a “one-stop portal” with information for law enforcement, prosecutors and the general public to learn about available resources to report hate crimes, Matthew Choi reports at POLITICO.

It is right to label Saturday’s attack an act of “terrorism” and furthermore, doing do “could spur the U.S. to put more resources into fighting anti-Semites, white nationalists, and violent domestic extremists,” Daniel Byman argues at Foreign Policy.

CHINA

The Trump administration has imposed stringent restrictions on U.S. companies working with Chinese semiconductor firm Fujian Jinhua, in a move marking rising tensions over China’s development of sensitive technologies. The U.S. commerce department cited “national security” when it announced the move yesterday, James Politi, Emily Feng and Kathrin Hille report at the Financial Times.

The U.S. Navy will continue patrolling the disputed South China Sea, top Navy official Adm. John Richardson said yesterday, after a Chinese destroyer drew near to an U.S. Navy ship during a “freedom of navigation” sail-by near a Chinese-occupied reef. Richardson said in a news conference that such patrols underscore the U.S. position against “illegitimate maritime claims,” adding that “we will continue to progress this program of freedom of navigation operations,” the AP reports.

Scientists from Beijing’s military are greatly enlarging research collaboration with scholars from the U.S. and other “technologically advanced” countries, on occasion concealing their affiliation from their hosts, according to a new research report and interviews with academics. According to research by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the People’s Liberation Army has sponsored more than 2,500 military scientists and engineers to study abroad over the past ten years – in a move aimed at constructing a network of research collaboration to boost Beijing’s military technology, Kate O’Keeffe and Melissa Korn report at the Wall Street Journal.

An explainer on China’s wire tapping strategies and how Beijing might deploy intelligence against the U.S., is provided by the editors of Foreign Policy.

SYRIA

The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State militant group (I.S.) in Syria has claimed that it is helping local partners regroup, after a major setback over the weekend. Coalition spokesperson Col. Sean Ryan said yesterday that the Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) are sending new fighters to the front, while the coalition is helping “expedite” their resupply capabilities, adding that the militants recognize that the current situation represents “their last stand,” the AP reports.

Iraqi Shi’ite militias have reinforced their side of the frontier in response to the weekend’s attacks, and Iraq’s military has stated that it is ready to take on any militants who try and cross the border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported around 70 S.D.F. fighters were killed in the weekend’s assault, in which I.S. fighters took advantage of a sandstorm, Reuters reports.

Turkey today rejected Syrian government accusations that it is not meeting its obligations under the agreement creating a demilitarized zone in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, claiming the deal is being implemented as planned. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said in comments reported late yesterday that “the terrorists still exist with their heavy arms in this region and this is an indicator of Turkey’s unwillingness to fulfil its obligations;” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed at a news conference today “there are currently no issues in implementing the memorandum… everything is going as planned,” Reuters reports.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov commented today that Russia believes Turkey is doing its best to fulfill its obligations under the agreement for Idlib, even if “unfortunately, not everything is going as it was planned.” Peskov added that Moscow would inform Syrian officials about the outcome of a summit on Syria in Istanbul between Germany, France, Turkey and Russia, Reuters reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 70 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between Oct. 14 and Oct. 20. [Central Command]

ISRAEL-PALESTINE

The Palestinian Central Council (P.C.C.) has authorized the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) to suspend recognition of Israel and cease security coordination with Tel Aviv until Israel recognizes the Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, according to official Palestinian Wafa news agency. Al Jazeera reports.

The Israel Defense Force (I.D.F.) shot dead a Palestinian man and wounded 25 yesterday during protests along the Gaza Strip’s beachfront border with Israel, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Reuters reports.

EXPLOSIVES SENT TO DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL LEADERS

A “suspicious” package addressed to C.N.N. was intercepted yesterday, three days after the F.B.I. arrested Florida resident Cesar Sayoc for allegedly sending more than a dozen explosive devices to Democratic critics of President Trump. C.N.N. President Jeff Zucker said in a statement yesterday that since last Wednesday, all mail to the organization’s domestic bureaus is being screened at off-site facilities, adding that due to this measure the package would not have reached C.N.N.’s Atlanta headquarters in any event, Rebecca Morin reports at POLITICO.

The nexus between the mail bombing campaign and the Pittsburgh Synagogue attack is explored by Noah Berlatsky at NBC.

IMMIGRATION

The Pentagon is deploying 5,200 active-duty troops to reinforce security along the U.S.-Mexico border, officials announced yesterday, in a move aiming to prevent a caravan of Central American migrants from crossing the frontier. AFP reports.

An account of the caravan’s continuing progress – in spite of White House opposition – is provided by Ingrid Arnesen at The Daily Beast.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

North Korea must take steps towards verified denuclearization before achieving the “shared goal” of an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War, U.S. Envoy to the North Stephen Biegun stated yesterday during meetings with counterparts in Seoul. Biegun added that he was “absolutely certain” the U.S. and the South can work collaboratively to achieve their objective of North Korean denuclearization, Reuters reports.

Leading members of the Taliban previously detained by the U.S. Guantanamo Bay have joined the militant group’s political office in Qatar, according to sources inside the Taliban. The men were released from Guantanamo in 2014 by the U.S. in exchange for detained U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, and the new information regarding their posting marks a “potentially important” development in the peace talks for Afghanistan held between Washington and the insurgents, Saeed Shah, Sami Yousafzai and Craig Nelson report at the Wall Street Journal.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has urged Europe to consider the impact of Washington’s intended withdrawal from the 1987 the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, warning it will entail “serious consequences” for the continent. Shoigu made the comments to his Greek counterpart yesterday, following President Trump’s announcement on Oct. 20 that he plans to withdraw the U.S. from the accord, the AP reports. 

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About the Author(s)

Robbie Stern

Assistant News Editor at Just Security and Legal Researcher at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK - Follow him on Twitter (@robbieguystern).