The Early Edition: June 16, 2020

Curated summary of up-to-the-minute national security developments at home and abroad.

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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.

ANTI-RACISM PROTESTS

President Trump plans to take modest executive action today on police reform amid increased pressure in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American, at the hands of police. Trump’s order, the product of partnership with law enforcement groups and families of suspects killed by police, would establish a national certification system for law enforcement agencies and a database to better track excessive uses of force, according to senior administration officials. Yet even as the president described his measures as “pretty comprehensive,” they are expected to fall far short of the kind of extensive reforms that activists from Black Lives Matter and other social justice groups have demanded — such as significantly cutting down funding for police departments and directing the money to social programs. David Nakamura reports for the Washington Post.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would like to vote on a forthcoming police reform bill before senators depart for the July 4 break, three Republican senators told The Hill. McConnell’s timeline is a complete turnaround from the predictions Republican leaders gave earlier yesterday afternoon, when they toldreporters before a meeting with McConnell that it was unlikely they would be able to pass a bill before the two-week recess. Jordain Carney reports for the Hill.

The Army general responsible for U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula has outlawed the display of the Confederate battle flag, joining a handful of other U.S. military organizations in making the move. In a memo yesterday, U.S. Forces Korea (U.S.F.K.) commander Gen. Robert Abrams wrote the flag “does not represent the values of U.S. Forces” in Korea. “While I acknowledge some might view it as a symbol of regional pride, many others in our force see it as a painful reminder of hate, bigotry, treason, and devaluation of humanity,” Abrams wrote. “Regardless of perspective, one thing is clear: it has the power to inflame feelings of racial division,” he continued. “We cannot have that division among us.” Rebecca Kheel reports for the Hill.

Almost two dozen former officials including cabinet members of Republican and Democratic administrations have spoken out about the ongoing protests, use of the military, racial justice, and policing in a statement posted on Just Security’s website.

The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold tomorrow an “Urgent Debate” on systemic racism and police violence in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. The proposal, advanced by a group of African countries led by Burkina Faso, was approved yesterday by the U.N.’s top human rights body. Austin Horn reports for NPR.

“The Urgent Debate is more than opportunity for discussion — it’s an opportunity for meaningful action,” E. Tendayi Achiume, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, comments in a piece for Just Security, writing that, among other outcomes from the debate, the Human Rights Council should establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate systemic racism in law enforcement in the United States.

Live updates on the protests available at CNN.

CORONAVIRUS

There are now over 2.11 million coronavirus infections in the United States and more than 116,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Worldwide, over 8 million people have contracted the virus, with more than 437,000 deaths. Henrik Pettersson, Byron Manley and Sergio Hernandez report for CNN.

The Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) confirmed yesterday that it is revoking the emergency authorization of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for Covid-19, the latter drug once touted by President Trump. The F.D.A.’s chief scientist Denise M. Hinton said in a letter: “It is no longer reasonable to believe [hydroxychloroquine] may be effective in treating Covid-19,” and added that it is not reasonable to believe that the “known and potential benefits of these products outweigh their known and potential risks.” Thomas M. Burton and Jared S. Hopkins report for the Wall Street Journal.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian.

U.S. DEVELOPMENTS

President Trump yesterday warned his former national security adviser John Bolton, who is set to release his White House memoir, that he could face “criminal problems” as the book contains classified information. Trump told reporters at the White House that: “I will consider every conversation with me as president highly classified … So that would mean that, if he wrote a book and if the book gets out, he’s broken the law, and I would think that he would have criminal problems. I hope so,” and further added that it would be up to Attorney General William Barr to issue any charges, but hinted that “they will soon be in court.” AP reporting.

The Senate Armed Services Committee (S.A.S.C.) has approved an amendment, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), that will make available $10 million to “carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test if necessary.” The amendment was accepted by 14-13 votes at a closed-door mark-up of the National Defense Authorization (N.D.A.A.) last week; the full details of this year’s N.D.A.A. “should be [available] soon,” a committee spokesperson confirmed. Rebecca Kheel reports for the Hill.

YEMEN AND The KINGDOM

An airstrike from the Saudi-led coalition hit a vehicle transporting civilians in northern Yemen yesterday, killing 13 people, including four children, according to the Houthi rebels. Yemeni tribal leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Saudi jets had targeted a vehicle in the Shada area of Saada province, a rebel stronghold, killing everyone inside. AP reporting.

A Saudi-led military coalition has been removed from a United Nations blacklist, several years after it was first named and shamed for killing and wounding children in Yemen. In his annual report to the U.N. Security Council, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the coalition would “be delisted for the violation of killing and maiming, following a sustained significant decrease in killing and maiming due to air strikes” and the implementation of steps aimed at protecting children. But he added that the coalition would be subjected to one year of observation and “any failure” to further decrease child casualties would result in it being listed again next year. Gutterres said the Houthis and Yemen government forces both remain on the annual children and armed conflict blacklist. Reutersreporting.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office today, which borders with South Korea and was set up to improve communications with the South, the southern region’s unification ministry confirmed. The move follows heightened tensions and threats of military action by the North due to defector groups in the South sending propaganda leaflets into the North. Justin McCurry reports for the Guardian.

President Trump confirmed yesterday his plans to pull roughly half of U.S. troops out of “delinquent” Germany.  Trump confirmed numbers would be cut to 25,000 and told reporters that, “[Germany have] been delinquent for years, and they owe N.A.T.O. billions of dollars.” He further added that trade with the country is unsatisfactory, as “they treat us very badly on trade,” but offered no further details. Al Jazeera reporting.

The United Nation (U.N.)’s atomic watchdog – the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) – has said Iran must allow inspectors “prompt access” to two sites believed to have stored or used undeclared nuclear materials. The I.A.E.A.’s Director-General Mariano Grossi told the agency’s board in Austria yesterday that: “Iran has denied us access to two locations and … for almost a year, it has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify our questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities,” further stressing that, “we need this cooperation.” Al Jazeera reporting.

Nearly 50 U.N. experts have today condemned in a joint statement Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank and denounced the U.S.’s support, arguing that the occupation would violate international law. “The annexation of occupied territory is a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions, and contrary to the fundamental rule affirmed many times by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly that the acquisition of territory by war or force is inadmissible,” the statement said. Reuters reporting.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) has unveiled today the new Commentaries to the Third Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War. The I.C.R.C. launch event is online today at 2PM local time Geneva. A recording will be available after the event on the I.C.R.C. website. 

About the Author(s)

Nat O'Connell

Associate News Editor at Just Security and Legal Fellow at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK - Follow her on Twitter (@oconnellnat).

Siven Watt

Associate News Editor at Just Security and Legal Fellow at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter (@SivenWatt)