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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.
The Trump administration yesterday intensified its battle against Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei with a pair of actions threatening to both cut Huawei off from American suppliers and ban it from doing business in the U.S. President Trump yesterday announced that he signed an executive order enabling the U.S. to ban telecommunications network equipment; later in the day, the Commerce Department announced it was adding Huawei and its affiliates to its “Entity List,” citing national security concerns, Kate O’Keeffe, John D. McKinnon in Washington and Dan Strumpf report at the Wall Street Journal.
The executive order prohibits the purchase or use of any communications technology produced by entities controlled by “a foreign adversary” and likely to create an “undue risk of sabotage” of U.S. communications systems or “catastrophic effects” to U.S. infrastructure. The order did not name specific countries or companies but comes after months of U.S. pressure on Huawei and reflects government concerns that equipment from Chinese suppliers could pose an espionage threat to U.S. internet and telecommunications infrastructure, Lily Kuo and Sabrina Siddiqui report at the Guardian
The Commerce Department has 150 days under the order to produce rules that can identify “particular countries or persons” as foreign adversaries – rules that are almost certain to name China, Huawei, or both, Eric Geller reports at POLITICO.
The separate move by the Commerce Department – adding Huawei to the “Entity List” – will prevent the company from buying American parts and technologies without seeking U.S. government approval. “This will prevent American technology from being used by foreign owned entities in ways that potentially undermine U.S. national security or foreign policy interests,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated, Cecilia Kang and David E. Sanger report at the New York Times.
“This administration will do what it takes to keep America safe and prosperous and to protect America from foreign adversaries,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders commented on the developments, AFP reports
The executive order was greeted with bipartisan endorsement on Capitol Hill as strong action against China amid American fears of technological vulnerability. “This is a needed step, and reflects the reality that Huawei and [Chinese telecommunications company] Z.T.E. represent a threat to the security of U.S. and allied communications networks,” said top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner (Vir.) in a statement, adding that “under current Chinese security laws, these and other companies based in China are required to provide assistance to the Chinese state.” Richard Gonzales reports at NPR.
“Restricting Huawei from doing business in the U.S. will not make the U.S. more secure or stronger,” the company hit back in a statement, adding: “instead, this will only serve to limit the U.S. to inferior yet more expensive alternatives, leaving the U.S. lagging behind in 5G deployment.” Huawei also claimed that “unreasonable restrictions will infringe upon Huawei’s rights and raise other serious legal issues,” Reuters reports.
Senior executives for Huawei said yesterday they would “welcome” the U.S. banning use of technology deemed a national security risk. “Making America safer from a national security perspective, we welcome it,” Huawei Technologies U.S.A. Chief Technology Officer Andy Purdy told reporters, Maggie Miller repots at the Hill.
China’s foreign ministry announced today that the country will take necessary measures to safeguard the rights and interests of its businesses, Reuters reports.
Huawei poses such a grave security risk to the U.K. that the country’s government must reconsider its decision to allow it a limited role in building 5G networks, former head of Britain’s M.I.6. foreign intelligence service Richard Dearlove commented today. Reuters reports.
French President Emmanuel Macron today said it was not the aim of France to block Huawei. “Our perspective is not to block Huawei or any company, it is to preserve our national security and European sovereignty … but I think launching now a technological war or a trade war… is not appropriate,” Macron said at the Paris ‘VivaTech’ event, Reuters reports.
“Europe in particular is split over whether to ban the company” James Griffiths explains in an analysis at CNN, commenting that “while many countries around the world share Washington’s suspicion – even hostility – towards Beijing, they are unwilling to take the economic hit that openly standing apart from China would entail.”
CYBERSECURITY, TECHNOLOGY AND PRIVACY: OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The owner of Israeli cyber firm N.S.O. Group said it will do whatever necessary to ensure its spyware does not undermine human rights, after N.G.O. Amnesty International sought to revoke the firm’s export license after N.S.O. was linked to a WhatsApp breach. Reuters reports.
The White House yesterday announced it has declined to sign on to a global call to fight online extremism, citing worries over freedom of speech. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday met in Paris to garner support for the “Christchurch call:” a push to coordinate efforts to eliminate online terrorist content following the March attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, Emily Birnbaum reports at the Hill.
Iran is showing “maximum restraint” and “the escalation by the U.S. is unacceptable,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed today. “We exercise maximum restraint … in spite of the fact that the United States withdrew from J.C.P.O.A. last May,” Zarif added, saying Tehran remains “committed” to the deal and continuing assessments indicate Iran is in compliance with the multilateral agreement. AFP reports.
Spy images of Iranian missiles in the Gulf caused the U.S. panic on Iran. The intelligence reportedly revealed “fully assembled missiles,” raising concerns that militants with Iranian ties were preparing to attack U.S. naval vessels in the region; upon receiving the imagery, the Trump administration sent its national security adviser John Bolton to the region to announce the arrival of warships, Barbie Latza Nadeau reports at The Daily Beast.
“The photographs presented a different kind of threat than previously seen from Iran,” three American officials claimed. However, the White House is fiercely debating just how alarmed the Trump administration should be over the new intelligence, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt, Nicholas Fandos and Edward Wong report at the New York Times.
Democrats accuse Trump administration of taking “reckless” steps that could lead to war with Iran. Senators from both sides of the aisle called on the Trump administration to be more open with lawmakers about its Iran strategy and to explain why it had evacuated U.S. diplomatic missions in Iraq, Dan De Luce reports at NBC.
Congressional leaders will get more information about the threats today during a confidential briefing with Trump offices, according to two Democratic sources. Heather Caygle, Burgess Everett and Nahal Toosi report at Politico.
President Trump – frustrated by his advisers – reportedly does not believe the time is right to attack to Iran. Trump apparently prefers a “diplomatic approach” to resolving tensions and wishes to speak directly with Iran’s leaders, John Hudson, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan report at the Washington Post.
Trump is “sure” that Iran will negotiate soon. The president sent a message on Twitter stating: “different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision — it is a very simple process … all sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon,” Katie Galioto reports at POLITICO.
Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thanih held talks with his Iranian counterpart – Mohammad Javad Zarif – to help ease Iran-U.S. tensions in the Gulf. The purpose of the visit was to “open new avenues to resolve the growing crisis between Iran and the United States and ease the volatile situation,” Al Jazeera reports.
Iran is ready for all scenarios “from confrontation to diplomacy,” a senior Iranian official has stated, adding that any conflict in the region will have “unimaginable consequences.” Reuters reports.
Iran has successfully tested a firewall to prevent cyberattacks on industrial facilities. The test comes after Iran blamed Israel for a cyberattack on its communications infrastructure last November, the AP reports.
“Trump officials should testify on Iran this week,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has stated. Just yesterday, Schumer had urged the administration to hold open- and closed-door briefings without specifying the end-of-the-week deadline or who should testify, Jordain Carney reports at the Hill
It is possible to prevent the march to war with Iran, Wendy R. Sherman comments at the New York Times, explaining how Congress, Europe and business leaders can “stand in John Bolton’s way.”
“Trump is trying to protect U.S. interests …. not start a war,” the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board comments.
“Is [Trump’s national security adviser] John Bolton the most dangerous man in the world?” Ben Armbruster comments at the Guardian, arguing that Bolton is “largely to blame” for the U.S. tensions with Iran.
The “real” attack on Iran may be sanctions intended to destabilize the country and undermine its leadership, Erin Banco and Asawin Suebsaeng argue at The Daily Beast.
U.S. “non-essential” diplomatic staff are told to leave Iraq as U.S.-Iran tensions soar, while Germany and the Netherlands have suspended their military training programs, Chloe Cornish, Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Andrew England and Demetri Sevastopulo report at the Financial Times.
The U.S. move is a “prudent” step amid the “imminent threat” from Iran, Senior State Department officials have stated. Jennifer Hansler and Devan Cole report at CNN.
Iraqi officials have warned armed groups tied to Iran to refrain from taking any action that could provoke American retaliation. “The Iraqi government is responsible for protecting American interests in Iraq,” senior member of Iraq’s National Security Council Sayed al-Jayashi stated, adding: “we will become the enemy of anyone who does something against American interests.” Alissa J. Rubin reports at the New York Times.
Turkish and Iraqi leaders discussed a “possible deal” to increase military and security cooperation between the neighboring countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi yesterday, the AP reports.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told senior Iraqi officials to keep Iran-backed militias in check, warning that the U.S. would respond with force if not. “[The Americans] said if the U.S. were attacked on Iraqi soil, it would take action to defend itself without coordinating with Baghdad,” a senior Iraqi military source claims. Reuters reports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq between April 21 and May 4 [Central Command]
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Shi’ite Houthi rebels have finished withdrawing forces out of three Red Sea ports in the country, the U.N. has announced. The four-day pullout is vital to maintaining the U.N.-brokered cease-fire struck in December between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government in Yemen backed by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., Sune Engel Rasmussen reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The strategic city of Hodeidah alongside Salif and Ras Issa have been handed over to the “coast guard.” The U.N. stated that work was still needed to remove trenches, barriers and mines – and to implement the rest of the deal, the BBC reports.
Despite the withdrawal – both sides reported renewed clashes yesterday – a day after Houthis claimed responsibility for a drone attack that Saudi Arabia said had hit two of its oil pumping stations. Houthi-run media claimed that government forces hit various parts of Hodeidah, including the airport, with heavy and medium weapons, Reuters reports.
The coalition this morning carried out airstrikes on the capital Sanaa, leaving at least six dead, including four children, in the city’s residential center, according to officials. Ahmed Al-Haj reports at the AP.
TRUMP-RUSSIA AND CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATIONS
The White House has rejected a broad request from the House Judiciary Committee for documents, suggesting the panel is attempting a “do-over” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian electoral interference. Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) hit back at the administration yesterday, describing its response as “ridiculous” after White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a 12-page letter telling the panel to narrow the scope of its investigation, Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels report at the Hill.
Attorney General William Barr made a joke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) yesterday regarding an impending vote to find him in contempt of Congress. Barr reportedly approached Pelosi at a National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day event outside the Capitol, shook her hand and said, “Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?”; Pelosi apparently joked back that the House sergeant-at-arms was present at the ceremony should an arrest be necessary, according to onlookers, Dareh Gregorian reports at NBC.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt last week for refusing to comply with a subpoena to provide Congress with an unredacted version of Mueller’s report. Democrats are furious with Barr for his handling of the report, believing that Barr inappropriately declared the president had not committed obstruction of justice, despite evidence laid out by the special counsel, Nicholas Fandos writes at the New York Times.
Senate Republicans are heralding the end of the Russia investigations. “We’re near the end,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a brief interview after the president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. finally agreed to an interview with Burr’s panel; “the first iteration of the report is out for declassification right now … I can’t tell you how long that takes … I’m hopeful we’ll push that out in a couple weeks,” Burr added, Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett report at POLITICO.
Both Nadler and Pelosi claim that the impasse between Congress and the White House over the Mueller Report is a “constitutional crisis.” “They’re right, but not completely,” Ronald Goldfarb comments in an analysis of the claim at The Daily Beast.
Three criticisms of Mueller have emerged from myriad factions in recent weeks: some have slammed Mueller’s decision not to articulate any final conclusions about whether the president violated federal obstruction-of-justice statutes; others have accused Mueller of acting inappropriately for laying out detailed evidence in Volume II instead of making a call about Trump’s criminal culpability; and some have “argued that Mueller made a more fundamental legal mistake about the application of the obstruction-of-justice statutes to the President in the first instance.” Taking each criticism in turn, Founding Editor Marty Lederman explains why all three criticisms are mistaken, in a legal analysis at Just Security.
The U.S. Department of Transportation yesterday ordered the suspension of all commercial passenger and cargo flights between the U.S. and Venezuela, citing reports of unrest and violence around airports in the South American country. In a letter to the Transportation Department requesting the halt, the Department of Homeland Security claimed that “conditions in Venezuela threaten the safety and security of passengers, aircraft, and crew travelling to or from that country,” Reuters reports.
Yesterday also saw Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress return to its chamber a day after security forces prevented legislators from entering the National Assembly building for a debate. Opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó and other legislators gave speeches denouncing President Nicolás Maduro’s government, which has accused them of conspiring with the U.S. to plot a coup, Christopher Torchia reports at the AP.
The KOREAN PENINSULA
President Trump will travel to South Korea to meet with President Moon Jae-in, as part of a trip to Asia in late June for the G.20 summit, the White House announced yesterday. “President Trump and President Moon will continue their close coordination on efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, adding that “the two leaders will also discuss ways to strengthen the United States–Republic of Korea alliance and the friendship between our two peoples,” Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.
The meeting will be the second between the two leaders since the collapse of Trump’s Hanoi summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in February, after the two failed to reach a deal on denuclearization. Moon, who has backed engagement with Pyongyang, brokered the talks process between Trump and Kim, Al Jazeera reports.
A group of House Armed Services Committee Democrats yesterday released a bill that would limit the amount of military construction funds the Pentagon is allowed to transfer between accounts after the Defense Department shifted billions of dollars for President Trump’s proposed border wall. The bill, led by Chair Adam Smith (Wash.) and Reps. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) and John Garamendi (Calif.), would cap national emergency military construction authority at $250 million per emergency, according to a committee statement, Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
Air Force Under-Secretary Matt Donovan will take over as the branch’s acting secretary beginning June 1, the Pentagon announced yesterday. Donovan will stand in for Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, set to step down on May 31, Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) yesterday released a plan to prepare the military for climate change, including requiring the Pentagon to achieve net-zero carbon emissions on noncombat bases by 2030. “In short, climate change is real, it is worsening by the day, and it is undermining our military readiness … and instead of meeting this threat head-on, Washington is ignoring it – and making it worse,” Warren wrote in an Op-Ed on Medium.
Two Canadians have been formally arrested by China on state secrets charges, in a move likely to further increase tension between Ottawa and Beijing. Michael Martina reports at Reuters.
Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar has been accused of “possible war crimes.” Both Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (L.N.A.) and forces loyal to the country’s U.N.-recognized government have engaged in “shameful” attacks on civilian neighborhoods that could amount to war crimes in the battle for capital Tripoli, according to N.G.O. Amnesty International. Zachary Cohen and Joshua Berlinger report at CNN.
Sudanese protestors have criticized the ruling military council for suspending negotiations with their representatives over a peaceful transfer of power to civilians, Bassam Hatoum and Noha Elhennawy report at the AP.
U.S. House members have criticized Turkey over its ties with Russia. Senior Democrats and Republicans in the House yesterday called on Turkey to abandon its planned acquisition of a Russian S-400 missile defense system, Reuters reports.
President Trump today will unveil a plan to overhaul parts of the U.S.’ immigration system that would impose new security measures at the border and “significantly” increase the educational and skills requirements for people allowed to migrate to the country. Michael D. Shear reports at the New York Times.