Early Edition: February 5, 2021

A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours.

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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.

US RELATIONS

President Biden has halted the planned withdrawal of US troops from Germany which was ordered by the Trump administration last year; a review will be led by Defense Secretary Austin in “close coordination” with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Austin will ensure “our military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities,” Biden said. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu yesterday accused the US of managing a 2016 coup attempt which Turkey alleges was carried out by Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher and businessman, adding that “Europe was enthusiastic about it.” The State Department denied the allegations: “The United States had no involvement in the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey and promptly condemned it. Recent assertions to the contrary made by senior Turkish officials are wholly false,” adding, “unfounded and irresponsible claims of US responsibility for events in Turkey are inconsistent with Turkey’s status as a NATO Ally and strategic partner of the United States.” Al Jazeera reporting.

Biden announced his pick of Timothy Lenderking as special envoy to Yemen. Warren P. Strobel reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Biden gave a wide-ranging speech on US foreign policy at the Department of State (full text). Announcements made in that speech are interspersed below. On Thursday night, Just Security published reactions to the president’s speech by top former diplomats and experts in human rights and international security.

US CAPITOL ATTACK

It is costing around $480 million to keep thousands of National Guard members deployed at the Capitol until mid-March. Anthony Capaccio reports for Bloomberg.

Several House lawmakers are considering establishing a commission to review the Capitol attack as well as new domestic terrorism legislation. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.

The “QAnon shaman” charged for his involvement in the Capitol riot was yesterday moved to a jail in Virginia to accommodate his request for an organic diet, which lawyers argued was based on medical reasons as well as his religious beliefs in shamanism. Josh Grstein reports for POLITICO.

A breakdown of all those arrested thus far for their involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack is provided by Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Grace Ashford, Denise Lu, Eleanor Lutz, Alex Leeds Matthews and Karen Yourish for the New York Times.

TRUMP

Former President Trump will not testify in his impeachment trial in the Senate next week, nor will he submit a written statement, his lawyers said earlier today after House impeachment managers requested Trump’s appearance. Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.

50 percent of Americans said in a poll that Trump should be convicted in his Senate impeachment trial, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University. Daniel Payne reports for POLITICO.

The intelligence community (IC) will review any requests for intelligence briefings from Trump, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN yesterday. Phil Mattingly and Maegan Vazquez report for CNN.

OTHER US DEVELOPMENTS

The House voted yesterday evening to remove Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments, after she spouted countless conspiracy theories and aimed violent rhetoric at politicians and law enforcement agents. The vote tally was 230-199; 11 Republicans voted in favor of her removal. Greene will not however be removed from the House, only from sitting on any committee panels. Mike DeBonis report for the Washington Post.

The 11 Republicans who voted to remove Greene are detailed by Paul LeBlanc for CNN.

President Biden is launching an “urgent review” of US cybersecurity. Maggie Millere reports for The Hill.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is increasingly releasing asylum-seeking families into the US following Mexico’s recent refusal to allow many families into the Central American nation, U.S. officials said. Alicia A. Caldwell and Jose de Cordoba report for the Wall Street Journal.

Border Patrol agents arrested 11 Iranians in Arizona after they were found illegally entering the US via the Mexican border, statement from the CBP said. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the DC District Court will retire from full-time duty April 3, notifying President Biden by letter yesterday. Spencer S. Hsu and  Ann E. Marimow report for the Washington Post.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 26.67 million and now killed over 455,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 104.94 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.28 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) yesterday sought authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for the emergency use of its Covid-19 vaccine. J&J said in a statement that if the vaccine is approved it would supply 100 million doses by mid-2021. “It has shown to be 66% effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 four weeks after the shot is administered. Johnson & Johnson said the vaccine was 72% effective in the United States, compared to 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa,” reports Dustin Jones for NPR.

“Effective immediately, all individuals on military installations … and all individuals performing official duties on behalf of the Department from any location other than the individual’s home, including outdoor shared spaces, will wear masks in accordance with the most current CDC guidelines,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in memo. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

The Atlantic has published its latest weekly report in its COVID Tracking Project

A tracker for the number of people in the US who have received one dose of the vaccine is provided by the Washington Post.

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

US 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.

US-SAUDI ARABIA RELATIONS

Biden announced an end to his support for offensive operations in the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen. AP reporting.

Despite Biden stating that the kingdom would “pay the price” for human rights violations and that he would “make them in fact the pariah that they are,” AP writes that the kingdom will remain a “pariah with benefits,” adding, “his administration is making clear it won’t abandon U.S. military assistance for the kingdom and plans to help Saudi Arabia strengthen its own defenses.”

US-CHINA RELATIONS

US warship USS John S. McCain sailed near the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea today in assertion of “navigational rights and freedoms,” the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said, the first such operation since Biden took office. Reuters reporting.

“The U.S. move is a repeat of its old trick of ‘mixed manipulation’ of the situation across the Taiwan Strait, deliberately creating tensions and disrupting regional peace and stability. We are resolutely opposed to this,” the Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said in response to the US naval move. Reuters reporting.

US-RUSSIA RELATIONS

Biden asserts that the US will no longer be “rolling over” when it comes to Russia, pledging a new, tougher approach by the administration. “I made it clear to President Putin in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber attacks, poisoning citizens are over,” Biden said, adding, “We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people, and we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners.” Alexandra Alper and Steve Holland report for Reuters.

During a call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Secretary of State Blinken called for the release of Americans detained in Russian as well as discussing the nuclear arms control, China, Russian interference in the 2020 election and the poisoning and imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Reuters reporting.

Navalny was also returned to court today to face trial for slander charges. Al Jazeera reporting.

ANNE SACOOLAS

Anne Sacoolas, the woman who fled the UK with her family in Aug. 2019 after killing British teenager Harry Dunn while driving on the wrong side of the road in England, was working for US intelligence at the time of the incident,her lawyer told a Virginia court Wednesday. Sacoolas had previously been said to have been in the UK with her husband, a U.S. diplomat, but her lawyer told the court that her work was “especially a factor” for her fleeing the UK, citing “security issues” and concerns of a “fair trial.” Patrick Wintour reports for The Guardian.

Sacoolas’s lawyer, John McGavin told the court that he was unable to “completely candidly” explain the family’s departure: “I know the answer, but I cannot disclose it,” he said, according to Press Association. Karla Adam reports for the Washington Post.

MYANMAR COUP

National security advisor Jake Sullivan said yesterday that the administration is considering an executive order and also targeted sanctions on individuals and military-controlled entities. Reuters reporting.

“The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized and release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications and refrain from violence,” Biden said yesterday. Reuters reporting.

Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin and Republican Sen. Todd Young were expected to introduced a resolution yesterday calling for Myanmar’s military to halt its coup, Cardin told Reuters.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

The UAE is using Sudanese fighter in its fight against the internationally recognized Libyan government, a report by the Panel of Experts on the Sudan reveals. Amy Mackinnon reports for the Foreign Policy.

“Guyana abruptly terminated an agreement with Taiwan to open an office in the South American country on Thursday after China urged them to “correct their mistake,”” reports Reuters and CNN.

The situation in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region has become “extremely alarming,” the United Nations said in a new report. AP reporting.

“A Belgian court sentenced an Iranian diplomat to 20 years in prison for plotting a bomb attack against a gathering of Iranian dissidents outside Paris in 2018, in a case that has strained Tehran’s ties with Europe,” reports Sune Engel Rasmussen for the Wall Street Journal. 

About the Author(s)

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)