Early Edition: March 24, 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

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

An E.U.-China deal that was expected to give European countries better access to Chinese markets has been reversed following tit-for-tat sanctions, including Chinese sanctions on five members of the European Parliament and its subcommittee on human right. The parliament, which is responsible for approving the investment agreement, yesterday cancelled an expected meeting to discuss the deal in protest. “There has to be a solution of these sanctions before we come back to ordinary business on this,” said Bernd Lange, the German Social Democrat and chair of the parliament’s trade committee. Philip Blenkinsop reports for Reuters.

A top Saudi official twice threatened in January 2020 to have Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur, “taken care of” following her inquiry into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the outgoing special rapporteur told the Guardian, adding that the threat had been taken as a “death threat.” Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports for The Guardian.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has confirmed for the first time that Eritrea troops entered the country’s northern Tigray region during the conflict that broke out late last year, suggesting they may have been involved in abuses against civilians. “The admission on Tuesday comes after months of denials from Ethiopia and Eritrea, even as credible accusations from rights groups and residents mounted that Eritrean soldiers have carried out massacres in Tigray following the start of the Ethiopian government’s offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), then the region’s governing party … In a wide-ranging speech to parliament, Abiy said on Tuesday Eritrean troops had crossed the border and entered the region because they were concerned they would be attacked by the longtime foe – the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for decades until Abiy came to power in 2018, had presided over a brutal 1998-2000 war with Eritrea … Abiy said Eritreans had promised to leave when Ethiopia’s military was able to control the border,” reports Al Jazeera.

Explainer on the implications for Sri Lanka of the Human Rights Council’s resolution mandating U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to collect and preserve information and evidence of crimes related to the country’s civil war is provided by Alasdair Pal for Reuters.

U.S. RELATIONS

North Korea carried out five multiple short-range missiles over the weekend after rebuking the U.S. for going ahead with joint military exercises with South Korea, U.S. officials said, adding that the move had been perceived as falling “on the low end of the spectrum” of provocative action. “One US official told CNN that North Korea had launched short-range projectiles, possibly artillery or cruise missiles, not ballistic missiles — a key distinction that underscores the Biden administration’s view that it does not qualify as a serious breach and will not prevent the US from pursuing diplomacy with Pyongyang,” reports Zachary Cohen, Oren Liebermann, Barbara Starr and Kevin Liptak for CNN.

Top Chinese and Russian officials met in a show of unity against the E.U. and U.S., reaffirming countries’ close tie. At their initial meeting Monday, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov accused the U.S. of interfering in the countries’ affairs and also urged the U.S. to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. AP reporting.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to tell NATO allies today that although China is a threat to the West, the U.S. will not force its allies to pick sides between Washington and Beijing. Reuters reporting.

During a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Blinken urged the country “not to retain the Russian S-400 air defense system,” the State Department reported. Reuters reporting.

U.S. DEVELOPMENTS

The Justice Department has referred Michael Sherwin, the former acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia who until recently led the investigation into the Capitol attack, to its Office of Professional Responsibility after he gave an interview to CBS where he said the department was considering sedition charges. “John Crabb, the head of the department’s DC office’s criminal division, said Michael Sherwin will be investigated over his remarks. He said Sherwin — the Acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia who oversaw prosecutions against riot participants — didn’t have clearance to give that interview or to discuss charges that haven’t actually been brought,” Jacob Shamsian reports for Business Insider.

Social media giant Facebook’s bullying and harassment policy explicitly permits its users to target “public figures,” including “calls for [their] death,” despite such usually being banned on the site, according to leaked internal moderator guidelines. Public figures are considered permissible targets for some types of abuse “because we want to allow discussion, which often includes critical commentary of people who are featured in the news,” Facebook explained to its moderators. Alex Hern reports for The Guardian.

The U.S. and Mexico yesterday discussed immigration and regional issues in a series of meetings in Mexico, including “humanitarian actions to spur, in the short term, an inclusive economic development in northern Central America,” according to a statement released by the Mexican government. A U.S. delegation, who met with Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, included: former U.S. ambassador Roberta Jacobson, the White House’s lead adviser on the border; Juan González, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere; and Ricardo Zúñiga, the newly named Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle. AP reporting.

González will then travel to Guatemala with Zuniga to meet with top Guatemalan government officials and members of civil society and nongovernment organizations “to address root causes of migration.” Santiago Pérez and Michelle Hackman report for the Wall Street Journal.

Explainer on the Biden administration’s immigration plans and what it means for citizenship and green cards is provided by Shelby Brown for CNET.

Explainer on the mass shooting at King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado, which left 10 dead is provided by the New York Times.

Live updates on the Boulder shooting by the New York Times.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 29.92 million and now killed over 543,800 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 124.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.73 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)’s Data and Safety Monitoring Board has raised concerns about “outdated information” included in AstraZeneca’s U.S. vaccine trials, the NIAID said in a statement last night, adding that such data could provide an “incomplete view of the efficacy data.” “Later Tuesday, AstraZeneca released a statement saying that its interim analysis was based on data with a “cut off” of Feb. 17 and that it had “reviewed the preliminary assessment of the primary analysis and the results were consistent with the interim analysis.” The company said it expected to release results of its primary analysis within 48 hours … It’s unclear what, if any, impact the NIAID’s announcement could have on a possible future rollout of an AstraZeneca vaccine in the U.S.,” reports Jaclyn Diaz for NPR.

AstraZeneca is expected to now publish full results from its U.S. trials following the NIAID’s announcement. Kate Kelland and Julie Steenhuysen report for Reuters.

The E.U. is set to limit its export of coronavirus vaccines by revising its export authorization scheme, where it is “expected to take into account the level of vaccination coverage in a country and its record in facilitating exports to the bloc when deciding on whether to prohibit individual vaccine shipments to the UK and elsewhere,” reports Daniel Boffey and Jessica Elgot for The Guardian, adding, “The revision of the export authorization scheme, widening the criteria that will guide Brussels’ decisions on export requests, is due to be announced on Wednesday. EU leaders will then on Thursday discuss going further in controlling vaccine distribution when they meet by videoconference.”

A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

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.

ISRAEL

Israelis yesterday voted in the country’s fourth parliamentary election in two years – a highly contentious referendum that could see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lose power. Al Jazeera reporting.

Exit polls indicated that Netanyahu was ahead in the vote, although still far short of a clear parliamentary majority needed for a new government and to end the long-running political deadlock. “Unofficial figures from three major television channels released late on Tuesday evening showed the Likud party with around 31-33 seats in the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset. That was far more than the opposition head, Yair Lapid, predicted to take about 16-18 seats … However, post-voting polls have proved unreliable in the past. Critically, to form a 61-seat majority coalition, Netanyahu will need to convince other parties to join him. Political negotiations could fail, possibly resulting in an unwanted fifth election this summer,” report Oliver Holmes and Quique Kierszenbaum for The Guardian. 

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)