Early Edition: February 17, 2021

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

U.S. CAPITOL ATTACK

The Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, is suing former president Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys for illegally conspiring to intimidate and block Congress’ certification of the 2020 election. Thompson “alleged in federal court in Washington that Trump’s and Giuliani’s false claims that the election was stolen fomented a raid that violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 law enacted after the Civil War to bar violent interference in Congress’s constitutional duties,” Spencer Hsu reports for the Washington Post.  

As she leads an effort to create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is conferring with former members of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, who warn her the process won’t be easy. They say, “Congress’ only chance at a successful sequel is to keep hot-blooded partisanship out of it,” Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO

Leo Brent Bozell IV, the son of a prominent conservative, was charged with three federal offenses tied to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed on Tuesday. He was captured on video inside the Senate chamber that day. “Bozell is the son of L. Brent Bozell III, a major conservative political figure who founded a number of organizations aimed at countering ‘liberal media bias,’ including the Media Research Center and NewsBusters,” Ryan J. Reilly and Paul Blumenthal report for the Huffington Post

Trump lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, pitting himself against any Republican senators who stick with him. “If Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” Trump said in a statement released by the Save America PAC. McConnell voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial but harshly criticized Trump for being “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the Capitol attack, Mike DeBonis reports for the Washington Post

MIDDLE EAST

President Joe Biden plans to “recalibrate” the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, emphasizing outreach to King Salman rather than his powerful son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), who was the Trump’s administration’s preferred counterpart. Jordan Fabian, Jennifer Jacobs, and David Wainer report for Bloomberg

Whether and how to engage MBS “is among the thorniest diplomatic dilemmas facing Biden and his aides, one that exemplifies how hard it will be to keep their promises to promote both human rights and America’s national interest on the world stage,” reports Nahal Toosi for POLITICO

Biden has a difficult decision ahead of him about how to proceed in Afghanistan. “The Pentagon, uncertain what the new commander in chief will do, is preparing variations on a plan to stay, a plan to leave and a plan to withdraw very, very slowly — a reflection of the debate now swirling in the White House. The current deadline is May 1, in keeping with a much-violated peace agreement that calls for the complete withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 American forces,” report Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger for the New York Times

U.S. and Iraqi officials are investigating Monday’s deadly rocket attack on a U.S. military base in Iraqi Kurdistan, trying to understand how militants managed to strike one of the country’s most heavily guarded facilities. “The U.S.-led military coalition in the region said approximately 14 rockets were fired toward the city of Erbil on Monday, with three hitting the key air base used by the U.S. military in its campaign against Islamic State. A civilian U.S. contractor who was a Filipino national was killed and nine others were injured,” Jared Malsin and Ghassan Adnan report for the Wall Street Journal

NATO defense ministers are expected to agree to increase the number of troops in Iraq during a video conference on Thursday. The training mission could expand from its current maximum of roughly 500 troops to around 4,000 or 5,000, Robin Emmott reports for Reuters

Defying the Biden administration, Egyptian security forces targeted the relatives of Mohamed Soltan, a human rights defender who lives in Northern Virginia, raiding their homes and arresting and imprisoning two of his cousins on Sunday. Sudarsan Raghavan reports for the Washington Post

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced it has approved plans for a $197 million missile sale to Egypt, Rebecca Falconer reports for Axios

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said it would soon question the United Arab Emirates about the detention of Princess Latifa, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler. She has accused her father of holding her hostage since she tried to flee the city in 2018. In secretly recorded videos shared with the BBC, she says she isn’t sure she’ll survive the situation. BBC reports

CORONAVIRUS

The global number of new coronavirus cases has declined by 16 percent over the past week, according to the World Health Organization, Erin Cunningham and Derek Hawkins report for the Washington Post

U.S. intelligence agencies are not ready to rule out the possibility that COVID-19 was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, faulting China for its lack of transparency around the origins of the virus. WHO investigators said they have found no signs that a lab accident caused the outbreak and most scientists say such a scenario is unlikely, Ken Dilanian, Carol E. Lee and Keir Simmons report for NBC News

Israel has permitted Palestinian officials to send the first shipment of 1,000 coronavirus vaccines to the blockaded Gaza Strip. A previously planned transfer of the doses was blocked on Monday at an Israeli checkpoint, Oliver Holmes and Hazem Balousha report for the Guardian

A House bill that’s moving to the floor for debate would  provide $1.75 billion for genomic sequencing of the virus, which would allow scientists to more quickly identify potentially deadlier and more transmissible variants of COVID-19, Ricardo Alosno-Zaldivar reports for the AP

MYANMAR

Protesters are using “broken down” cars to block major intersections in Yangon, as tens of thousands of people gather downtown to voice their opposition to the coup. BBC News reports

At a Tuesday press conference, the first it’s held since overthrowing the government on Feb. 1, the Myanmar military promised there would be an election, while defending its seizure of power. The police also filed a new charge against former leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a closed-door trial. Reuters reports

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

France’s National Assembly approved a new law on Tuesday aimed at fighting Islamist extremism after a wave of violent attacks have killed more than 250 people since 2015. “The text would significantly expand the government’s powers to close religious organisations and places of worship if they are found to air ‘theories or ideas’ that ‘provoke hate or violence.’” France 24 reports

After two racist incidents in the Navy in recent weeks, Cecil Haney, one of the first Black four-star admirals in Navy history, says he cannot understand why it has taken so many years for the military to confront these issues. He has issued a call to action to alumni from the Naval Academy to fight racism and bigotry, Dan Lamothe reports for the Washington Post

After the United States killed Qassem Soleimani,  a top Iranian general, last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped and held 277 people — dozens of them American citizens or legal permanent residents — at the border during “heightened security measures.” “More than a year after the incident — now the subject of widespread scorn from advocates for the immigrant community — a CBP internal affairs report obtained by POLITICO offers the first detailed account of the chaos that ensued …,” Lauren Gardner reports for POLITICO

A joint Iran-Russia navy drill in the northern part of the Indian Ocean is expected to see participation from India and China as well, Maziar Motamedi reports for Al Jazeera

Two suspected militia leaders, accused of leading widespread attacks on Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR), rejected all charges against them at the start of their trial on Tuesday at the International Criminal Court, Stephanie van den Berg reports for Reuters

A hacker claims to have stolen files belonging to Jones Day and posted many of them on the dark web, but the law firm denies that its network has been breached. The company said, “a file-sharing company that it has used was recently compromised and had information taken,” Tawnell D. Hobbs and Sara Randazzo report for the Wall Street Journal 

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About the Author(s)

Kate Brannen

Editorial Director of Just Security; Follow her on Twitter (@K8brannen).