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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Palestinians launched dozens of rockets from Gaza, and Israel unleashed new airstrikes against them early Tuesday, killing nine children and 15 others, in an escalation triggered by violent clashes in Jerusalem. “The Israeli airstrikes came after Hamas fired seven rockets at Jerusalem — the first time the city had been targeted since 2014 — and 200 more at southern Israel,” Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin report for the Washington Post.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has ordered 5,000 Israeli soldiers to “deepen home front defense” near the border with Gaza, and further Israeli airstrikes on a residential building in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood kill two, reports Al Jazeera.
The U.N. Security Council weighs releasing a statement after holding emergency consultations on the escalating violence. The statement would urge Israel to cease evictions and call for “restraint” and respect for “the historic status quo at the holy sites.” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the U.S. wants to ensure that anything from the Security Council “be that statements or anything else – don’t escalate tensions. That’s our overriding priority.” AP reporting.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that 90 percent of the rockets fired by Hamas were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system; 15 Hamas and Islamist Jihad operatives were killed by IDF,which struck around 130 “military targets,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. Andrew Carey, Hadas Gold, Kareem Khadder and Abeer Salman report for CNN.
The U.S., E.U. and U.K. call for end to violence in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. BBC News reporting.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, and senior UN officials express their concern over escalating clashes. UN News Centre reporting.
The U.S. Navy fired 30 warning shots after a group of 13 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) ships which conducted “unsafe and unprofessional maneuvers” close to American vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, the largest such encounter in more than a year, said the Pentagon’s top spokesperson, John Kirby. Six U.S. Navy vessels were escorting guided missile submarine USS Georgia as a group of 13 IRGCN “fast attack boats” approached the vessels “at high speed,” coming within 150 yards. The U.S. took “all the appropriate and established procedures involving hip blasts, bridge to bridge radio transmission and other ways of communicating” before U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maui fired approximately 30 warning shots, Kirby said. Following the second round of warning shots, the IRGCN fast boats “broke contact.” Barbara Starr, Ellie Kaufman and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.
Presidential candidates began signing up on Tuesday for Iran’s June 18 presidential vote. “President Hassan Rouhani can’t run again due to term limits, yet with the poll just a month away no immediate favorite has emerged among the many rumored candidates. There also appears to be little interest in the vote by a public crushed by sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic,” AP reporting.
Indirect talks in Vienna between the U.S. and Iran are progressing slowly as the timeline dwindles for any hoped return to compliance of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The June presidential elections pose a particular challenge for the future of any talks; “Once a new Iranian leadership is in place, things could become much more difficult,” a diplomat working on the Vienna talks said in an interview. Stephanie Liechtenstein reports for POLITICO EU.
Despite the U.S. withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan, it maintains authority to continue detaining a former Afghan militia member at Guantánamo Bay because of his past association with members of al-Qaeda, a Justice Department lawyer said in federal court yesterday during a habeas corpus case brought by Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan citizen who has been held by the U.S. military since 2007. Carol Rosenberg reports the New York Times.
The U.S. is scrapping any military vehicles and equipment it does not intend to take back to America or sell to Afghan forces, with scraps left inside Baba Mir’s scrapyard and Americans dismantling their portion of nearby Bagram Air Base. “They do so as a security measure, to ensure equipment doesn’t fall into militant hands. But to Mir and the dozens of other scrap sellers around Bagram, it’s an infuriating waste,” AP reporting.
U.S. weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin is withdrawing its maintenance teams for Iraq’s F-16 fighter jets due to security reasons, including repeated rocket attacks on the Balad air base, 40 miles north of Baghdad, with the fleet soon expected to be grounded. Lockheed Martin’s teams will be redeployed, although the numbers to be withdrawn are unclear. What appears clearer is that Iraq’s ability to fight Islamic State militants will face new challenges. Jane Arraf and Falih Hassan report for the New York Times.
“There is clear and convincing evidence that the crimes against the Yazidi people clearly constituted genocide,” said Karim Khan QC, Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), while briefing the U.N. Security Council. UN News Centre reporting.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The State Department has approved a potential $1.7 billion defense sale to Canada, including four Lockheed Martin-manufactured AEGIS Combat Systems, three shipsets of the MK 41 Vertical Launch System, as well as support equipment, spares and technical support, the Pentagon said yesterday. “The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Monday …. Despite approval by the State Department, the notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded,” Reuters reports.
A French court yesterday dismissed a landmark case brought by a Vietnamese woman against international makers, including U.S. multinational Dow, of Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War. Rick Noack reports for the Washington Post.
El Salvador and Guatemala have ousted multiple senior judges known for their independence and anti-corruption stance, rebuffing the Biden administration’s new Central American policy focusing on combating corruption. Mary Beth Sheridan and Anna-Catherine Brigida report for the Washington Post.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov proposes discussing arms control and security issues at a potential meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Biden. Reuters reporting.
Richard Norland, U.S. ambassador to Libya, has been named as the U.S. special envoy for the country, the State Department said, ahead of planned elections in the North African country this year. Norland will take on the role of envoy in addition to his role as ambassador. Missy Ryan reports for the Washington Post.
Former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has been chosen by President Biden as ambassador to Japan. Demetri Sevastopulo reports for the Financial Times.
U.S. officials suspect that Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU, is behind the directed-energy attacks on the U.S. personnel across the world, according to three current and former officials with fired knowledge of the discussion. Officials say there is currently no consensus among the intelligence community and no formal determination has been made; however, 18 federal intelligence agencies are currently investigating the matter, which apparently focuses on the GRU’s potential involvement. CIA Director William Burns is now receiving daily briefings on the investigation. Lara Seligman and Andrew Desiderio report for POLITICO.
The Pentagon weighs ending its $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract award to Microsoft Corp amid lawsuits by Amazon Inc and growing scrutiny by lawmakers. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Brett Goldstein, the head of the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service, is stepping down next month. “He will shift to a position as a consultant on cybersecurity and emerging technology to the Defense Department. Deputy Director Katie Olson will become the unit’s acting chief,” reports Martin Matishak for POLITICO.
PIPELINE RANSOMWARE ATTACK
The FBI says that DarkSide, the relatively new criminal group originating from Russia, is to blame for the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, with the bureau issuing an emergency alert to electric utilities, gas supplies and other pipeline operators. President Biden said he would “disrupt and prosecute” the gang responsible for attacking the pipeline supply to the East Coast, which was taken offline Friday. David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth report for the New York Times.
“Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society,” DarkSide said in a statement. Reuters reporting.
Russia’s embassy in the U.S. today rejected accusations that Moscow had any responsibility for the attack. Reuters reporting.
“We are monitoring supply shortages in parts of the Southeast and are evaluating every action the Administration can take to mitigate the impact as much as possible,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement yesterday. Reuters reporting.
The pipeline will most likely reopen at the end of the week, officials said. Will Englund, Ellen Nakashima and Taylor Telford report for the Washington Post.
Colonial Pipeline’s website is currently down. Reuters reporting
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton testified to the House Administration Committee on the Jan. 6 Capitol riots on Monday. Bolton told House lawmakers that the agency must make a major cultural shift and must begin to think of itself as a “protective agency” if it is to prevent future attacks on Congress. Karoun Demirjian reports for The Washington Post.
Bolton told the committee that the department needed to boost countersurveillance and would benefit from a standalone countersurveillance unit to detect threats against the legislative branch. Claudia Grisales reports for NPR
The U.S. Capitol Police observed roughly 200 Proud Boys moving towards the Senate on Jan. 6 hours before the building was breached but officials however sent the department’s intelligence elsewhere, committee chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said during Bolton’s evidence yesterday. Whitney Wild for CNN and Ben Leonard for Politico report.
Adam Kinzinger says House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R) ignored warnings of violence ahead of the Capitol riots. “A few days before Jan 6, our GOP members had a conference call. I told Kevin that his words and our party’s actions would lead to violence on January 6th. Kevin dismissively responded with ‘ok Adam, operator next question.’ And we got violence,” Kinzinger tweeted. Colby Iktowitz reports for The Washington Post.
China is forcing Muslim women in the Xinjiang region to have fewer children. Interviews with women and men from Xinjiang, as well as official statistics, government notices and reports in the state-run media, depict a coercive effort by the Chinese Communist Party to control the community’s reproductive rights, including pressurizing women to use IUDs or get sterilized, and steep fines and detention if women refuse contraceptive procedures. Amy Qin reports for the New York Times.
China’s foreign ministry has said that the planned virtual United Nations event on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang is an insult to China and the U.N.. China has urged U.N. member states not to attend the virtual event, which is due to be held on Wednesday and is planned by the U.S., Germany and the U.K., and says that the organizers use human rights issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs. Reuters reports.
Three journalists and two activists who fled from Myanmar are to go on trial in Thailand on charges of illegally entering the country. If they are found guilty, they are likely to be deported back to Myanmar, where they say their lives would be in danger. Jonathan Head reports for BBC News.
The three journalists are from the broadcaster Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), which has been banned by the junta in Myanmar. In a statement the broadcaster has said that “their life will be in serious danger if they were to return” and has also appealed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for help and for the international community to ask the Thai government not to deport them. Matthew Tostevin and Ed Davies reporting for Reuters.
It appears that the journalists may have continued to report from a makeshift video production studio in Thailand,based on photos published by local Thai media. AP reporting.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Qatar’s ruling emir visited Saudi Arabia on Monday for the first time since a declaration was signed in January to ease the rift between the neighboring states. The meeting highlights improving relations between the states following a decision earlier this year by Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, to end its more than three-year-long embargo on Qatar. AP reporting.
An Israeli helicopter strike on Syria has wounded one person in a home at the edge of Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, reports Syrian state TV. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group, said the targeted man works for Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant Hezbollah group. AP reporting.
A Colombian armed rebel group has captured eight Venezuelan soldiers, according to a communique from the 10thfront of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombian (FARC) rebels published by a Venezuelan NGO. It is alleged that the soldiers have been with the FARC’s 10th Front since April 23, 2021, after fighting broke out along the countries’ shared border zone. Reuters reporting.
Poland’s Supreme Court has been evacuated due to a bomb threat. The Court has said on Twitter that the evacuation was “As a result of information obtained by e-mail that an explosive had been placed in the Supreme Court building.” The Court is due to issue highly anticipated guidance on Swiss franc mortgages today. Reuters reporting.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 32.74 million and now killed over 582,100 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 158.99 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.3 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12 to 15. “Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from Covid-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic,” said Janet Woodcock, the acting FDA commissioner. The Guardian reports.
“Expert advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are scheduled to meet Wednesday to recommend how the vaccine be used in that age group”, Carolyn Y. Johnson reports for Washington Post.
The vaccine can start to be administered soon after, possibly as soon as this Thursday, Michael Erman reports for Reuters.
The Treasury Department allows access to $350 billion in Covid-19 aid for state, local, tribal and territorial governments — “but 30 states with faster-recovering employment are likely to see their funds split into two payments a year apart,” reports Reuters.
Novavax will not seek authorization of its vaccine until July at the earliest. Carolyn Y. Johnson reports for the Washington Post.
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.