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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Mali’s transitional president Bah N’Daw and prime minister Moctar Ouane have resigned, following a military coup that detained them. Their resignation and detention has “paved the way for Assimi Goita, the vice president and a colonel in the military, to take control of the country,” Tax Axelrod reports for The Hill.
Mali’s ousted interim president and prime minister have been freed by the military following their resignation, according to an aide to the vice president. Reuters reporting.
The U.N. Security Council earlier called for the immediate release of Mali’s civilian leaders and described their resignations as “forced.” The Security Council, in a statement approved by all 15 council members after closed consultations, “strongly condemned” the arrest of the transitional president, prime minister and other officials by the military and called for the restoration of the civilian-led transition in Mali. AP reports.
The U.N. statement further “called on all Malian stakeholders to prioritize building trust, engaging in dialogue and to be willing to compromise to achieve these objectives. They affirmed that imposing a change of transitional leadership by force, including through forced resignations, is unacceptable.” UN News Centre reports.
The U.S. State Department has strongly condemned the detention of Mali’s transitional president and prime minster. “We are working closely with the local transition monitoring committee and other international actors to seek the immediate and unconditional release of those detained and resumption of the civilian-led transition,” a State Department spokesperson said. Tax Axelrod reports for The Hill.
As Secretary of State Antony Blinken returns to Washington after his visit to the Middle East, the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas remains intact however the work to rebuild the Gaza has just begun, Blinken said. “We see the cease-fire not as an end, but as a beginning — something to build on,” Mr. Blinken told journalists in Amman. As well as meeting the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken met with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, and said that he would reach out to other nations in the region “to ensure we all contribute to recovery, stability, and the reduction of tensions.” Lara Jakes reports for the New York Times.
Palestinian group Hamas has promised not to touch international aid to rebuild the Gaza strip. Yahya Sinwar, the head of the group’s political wing in Gaza, promised the “transparent and impartial” distribution of aid and affirmed Hamas’s “commitment not to take a single cent intended for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts.” Adding that “we have never taken a cent in the past.” Al Jazeera reports.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has said that Israel’s strikes on Gaza may constitute war crimes and that Hamas violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets into Israel. Bachelet said her office had verified the deaths of 270 Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including 68 children, during the violence. Hamas rockets had killed 10 Israelis and residents. Stephanie Nebehay reports for Reuters.
President Biden is under increasing pressure to act on antisemitism. Biden has condemned the rise in violent attacks targeting the U.S. Jewish community, but Democrats and outside groups are calling for him to take more steps to stop antisemitism, including nominating a United States ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat antisemitism. “We need a united, bipartisan, national-level commitment to confront and address the threat of antisemitism head-on. Antisemitism is wrong, and it deserves to be unequivocally condemned by all,” Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Kathy Manning (D-NC) wrote to Biden on Tuesday. Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.
The sole U.S. aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific is being moved to help with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. According to defense officials, the Pentagon is expected to move the USS Ronald Reagan this summer to Afghanistan and it will operate from there for up to four months. “The U.S. Seventh Fleet, based in Japan, has dozens of other ships and aircraft, but the redeployment of its only available aircraft carrier represents a significant diversion away from Asia, which President Biden has called a priority for the military,” Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Taliban has warned Afghanistan’s neighboring countries against hosting U.S. military bases, as the U.S. looks for new locations to set up operations after its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. “Foreign forces are the root cause of insecurity and war in the region and the greatest tragedy is that everyone has witnessed in the last twenty years, especially our afflicted people who have suffered and continue to suffer more than anyone else. We urge neighboring countries not to allow and grant anyone such a concession,” the group said in a statement. Tax Axelrod reports for The Hill.
Biden plans to announce a number of new U.S. ambassadors. The expected appointments include R. Nicholas Burns, a veteran Foreign Service officer and a former ambassador to N.A.T.O., as the U.S. ambassador to China, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles as the U.S. ambassador to India, Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, as the U.S. ambassador to Japan, and Ken Salazar, a former senator from Colorado and the interior secretary in the Obama administration, as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Annie Karni reports for the New York Times.
Biden will also appoint the former senior State Department official Tom Nides to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Nides is currently the managing director and vice chairman of Morgan Stanley but was previously the deputy secretary of state for management and resources under Hillary Clinton from 2011 to 2013. Mike Balsamo and Aamer Madhani report for AP.
Iraqi security forces have arrested a senior militia commander in connection with rocket attacks on a base that houses U.S. troops. “Qasim Muslih was arrested at dawn under the country’s anti-terrorism law, the Iraqi military said. He is being questioned by a joint investigative committee about criminal charges against him, according to a brief military statement,” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Tensions have risen in Baghdad following the arrest of the militia commander. Muslih is the head of the Popular Mobilization Forces in Anbar province, a state-sanctioned group comprised of an array of militias formed to defeat the Islamic State group in 2014. “Shortly after the arrest, forces affiliated with the PMF…were deployed surrounding Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s headquarters…Tensions reached fever pitch when Iraqi security forces and the elite Counter-Terrorism Service were deployed to protect the government and diplomatic missions, sparking fears of violence,” Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Samya Kullab report for AP.
A renewed Iran nuclear deal is “feasible,” according to negotiators involved in the final stages of discussions in Vienna on bringing the U.S. and Iran back into compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal, which curbed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief. “I think an agreement is feasible in this round if there is enough political will,” one diplomat told POLITICO, Stephanie Liechtenstein reports.
Syrian’s voted Wednesday in an election in which President Basha al-Assad is guaranteed to win a fourth seven-year term, showing the limits of U.S. policy on Syria. Assad cast his vote in the destroyed Damascus suburb of Douma, the site of a 2018 chemical attack that the United Nations attributed to the Syrian government and that killed at least 40 people. The election “delivers a rebuke to a decade of Syria diplomacy by the United States and its allies aimed at securing a transition to democracy,” Liz Sly, Nader Durgham and Suzan Haidamous report for the Washington Post.
A former Bolivian minister and four others have been charged by the Department of Justice (DOJ) with bribery and money laundering, according to a statement from the DOJ. The DOJ alleges that three U.S. citizens, Luis Berkman, Bryan Berkman, and Philip Lichtenfeld, paid $602,000 in bribes to Bolivian government officials, for the benefit of Former Minister of Government of Bolivia Arturo Carlos Murillo Prijic and former Bolivian government official Sergio Rodrigo Mendez Mendizabal, along with one other Bolivian official, so that Berkman’s Florida-based company could win a $5.6 million contract from the Bolivian Ministry of Defense for tear gas and other non-lethal equipment. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai has said that the U.S. still faces “very large challenges” in its trade and economic relationship with China. Tai had her first virtual call with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, during which she “discussed the guiding principles of the Biden-Harris administration’s worker-centered trade policy and her ongoing review of the U.S.-China trade relationship, while also raising issues of concern,” the USTR said. David Lawder and Andrea Shalal report for Reuters.
Former President Trump allegedly tried to stop a congressional probe in the Spygate case involving the New England Patriots by offering a bribe to the then-Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), according to the late senator’s son. Trump, nearly a decade before he became president, allegedly acted on behalf of Patriots owner Robert Kraft met with Specter to offer him “a lot of money in Palm Beach” if he dropped his investigation into the team. Trump spokesperson Jason Miller denied the allegations in an email to the Washington Post. Timothy Bella reports for the Washington Post.
Manhattan prosecutors pursuing a criminal case against Trump, his company and its executives, have told at least one witness to prepare for grand jury testimony. “The development suggests that the Manhattan district attorney’s office is poised to transition from collecting evidence to presenting what is likely a complex case to a grand jury, one that could result in the jury considering criminal charges,” Erica Orden, Sonia Moghe and Kara Scannell report for CNN.
What we know about the grand jury in the Trump probe, John Kruzel provides analysis for The Hill.
A federal judge has warned that Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him could still inspire some of the former president’s supporters to take up arms. The comments were made in the judge’s opinion to keep defendant Cleveland Meredith Jr. in jail because he could endanger the public if released. “The steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away; six months later, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention in the near-daily fulminations of the former President,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the DC District Court wrote. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is making a last- ditch attempt to broker a bipartisan compromise on the independent Jan. 6 commission. Collins has made two key tweaks to the bill that she’s hoping can win some more Republican votes and avoid a Republican filibuster that could occur as soon as Thursday. Burgess Everett reports for POLITICO.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has warned Republicans that they would be blamed for hiding the truth if they block a bill to set up the Jan. 6 commission. The overwhelming majority of Republican senators are expected to filibuster the measure, as the vote is expected to reach the Senate floor today. “I think the perception is on the part of the public that the January 6 Commission just trying to get to the truth of what happened, and that Republicans would be seen as not wanting to let the truth come out,” Romney told CNN. Manu Raju and Ted Barrett report.
Lawyers for the Oath Keepers have urged a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the group, former President Trump, lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and another far-right organization of inciting the Jan. 6 attack. Lawyers described the actions as a form of peaceful protest protected by the First Amendments. Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A judge has refused to give public access to records of a search warrant issued in connection with an investigation into Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). “Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington turned down a request from the Los Angeles Times to see what information prosecutors presented to a federal magistrate to get a search warrant last May for Burr’s phone,” Josh Gerstein reports for POLITICO.
The Department of Homeland Security has issued a new security directive for pipeline owners and operators, following the Colonial Pipeline attack. “Owners and operators of critical pipelines will be required to report confirmed and potential cybersecurity incidents to the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and designate a cybersecurity coordinator, to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, DHS said,” Reuters reports.
Colonial Pipeline failed to undergo a requested federal security review of one of its facilities last year, and was in the process of scheduling a separate audit of its computer networks when it was the subject of a cyberattack on May 7. However, “it is unclear if an assessment by the Transportation Security Administration…would have uncovered digital weak points exploited in a hack that U.S. officials attributed to a criminal group known as DarkSide,” David Uberti reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The former Pentagon official who revealed reports of UFOs has accused the Pentagon of “coordinated disinformation” to discredit him. Lue Elizondo, a counterintelligence specialist, “filed a complaint with the agency’s inspector general claiming a coordinated campaign to discredit him for speaking out — including accusing a top official of threatening to tell people he was ‘crazy,’” Bryan Bender reports for POLITICO.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has defended the administration’s retention of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows officials to immediately turn away adult migrants and asylum-seekers to avoid the spread of Covid-19. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
A Californian transit employee has killed nine co-workers before taking his own life. The shooting took place at a light-rail yard for commuter trains of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and prompted the governor of San Jose California to ask, “what the hell is going on in the United States of America? What the hell is wrong with us and when are we going to come to grips with this?” Reuters reports.
Police are seeking a motive for the shooting rampage, Peter DaSilva and Dan Whitcomb report for Reuters.
Following the shooting in San Jose, California, Biden has urged Congress to pass stricter gun control measures. “Once again, I urge Congress to take immediate action and heed the call of the American people, including the vast majority of gun owners, to help end this epidemic of gun violence in America. Every life that is taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. We can, and we must, do more,” Biden said in a statement. Dartunorro Clark reports for NBC News.
President Biden has urged a ceasefire and the end to “large-scale” abuses in the Ethiopian region of Tigray. In a statement, “Biden said he was ‘deeply concerned’ by escalating violence in Tigray and ‘the hardening of regional and ethnic divisions’ in several parts of the country,” Al Jazeera reports.
In the statement Biden called for “immediate, unimpeded humanitarian access to the region in order to prevent widespread famine,” requesting that “all parties, in particular the Ethiopian and Eritrean force” allow access. Reuters report.
Rebels have killed 22 officials in the Tigray region’s interim administration, Ethiopia’s government has said. An additional 20 interim officials had been “kidnapped” by forces loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front and a further four have been “wounded and hospitalized,” according to a statement on Twitter. AP reports.
Hundreds of young men have been rounded up by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers from camps for displaced people in Shire, a town in Tigray, according to eyewitnesses speaking to CNN. The accounts come days after the United States announced financial sanctions and visa restrictions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials. Nima Elbagir, Barbara Arvanitidis, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Katie Polglase report for CNN.
The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has hit back at the Western condemnation of the journalist Roman Protasevic’s arrest. Lukashenko told the Belarusian parliament that “common sense had been abandoned and ‘many red lines’ crossed as Western countries imposed sanctions on Belarus,” BBC News reports.
In his address to the Belarusian Parliament, Lukashenko maintained that the plane diversion protected passengers from a possible bomb and that he “acted lawfully and was protecting the people according to all international rules.” Tax Axelrod reports for The Hill.
Lithuania has said that the proposed E.U. sanctions on Belarus should target those sectors that most benefit the leadership of the country, in particular the “oil product sector,” although discussions in Lisbon are only just beginning on what financial sanctions the E.U. will impose. Reuters reporting.
Pressure is growing for an impartial safety probe into the forced landing of the Ryanair jet in Minsk, including a review of the plane’s black box. Europe’s aviation regulator has said that “Belarus’s actions had also cast doubt on its ability to provide safe air navigation, and some international officials are pushing for an investigation close to the type seen when a plane crashes or something goes technically wrong,” Jamie Freed and Tim Hepher report for Reuters.
Belarusian national flag carrier Belavia has been forced to cancel flights to eight countries from May 27 to Oct. 30 due to European flight bans, including flights to Kaliningrad, Russia’s Baltic enclave. The cancellation follows the European Union urging its airlines to avoid Belarus and its airspace, “we regret that our passengers have to face this situation for reasons beyond the airline’s control and we promise to do all we can to resolve it,” Belavia said in a statement. Reuters reporting.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Russia and Iran are the biggest sources of fake Facebook accounts and pages used to mislead users, Facebook has said in a report. A third of the 150 networks that the company shut down between 2017 and 2020 for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” came from Iran or Russia, while the United States was the most popular target for the removed networks, with Ukraine being the second most targeted country. Chris Mills Rodrigo reports for The Hill.
Chinese-Australian citizen Yang Hengjun is expected to go on trial in China on Thursday. Yang is charged with espionage and accused of acting as a spy for the Australian government. Ali MC reports for Al Jazeera.
China has denied the Australian ambassador in Beijing access to Yang’s hearing. The Australian government had been told by China that an Australian representative would not be allowed to attend the trial because it is a national security case. Ambassador Graham Fletcher walked to the court complex gate in Beijing and returned after he was denied entry, telling journalists that it was “deeply regrettable and concerning and unsatisfactory,” that diplomats were prevented from observing the trial. AP reports.
French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in Rwanda “to ‘write a new page’ in the relationship between the two countries that was poisoned by France’s role in the 1994 Tutsi genocide,” Kim Willsher and Angelique Chrisafis report for the Guardian.
Azeri forces have captured six Armenian soldiers at the Azerbaijan-Armenia border as the border tensions between the two countries increase. “The Azeri defense ministry accused the Armenian soldiers of trying to cross into Azeri territory. Armenia’s defense ministry said its soldiers had been carrying out engineering work in the border area of its eastern Gegharkunik region, which neighbors Azerbaijan,” Reuters reports.
Fossil fuel giants Total and Chevron have announced that they will suspend dividend payments to the junta in Myanmar from a large gas project. However, advocacy groups have called on the companies to further cut ties with Myanmar’s military, saying that “90% of the money the junta makes from the Yadana gasfield joint venture with Total and Chevron – as well as the gas itself – continues to flow,” Ben Butler and Ben Doherty report for the Guardian.
Ukraine is claiming that it should have been invited to the upcoming NATO submit in June given that it continues to face aggression from Russia. “We don’t understand at all how a closed-format NATO summit could be held against the background of the aggressive actions by the Russian Federation targeting Ukraine, in the Black Sea region, as well against the Allies,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said. Tax Axelrod reports for The Hill.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir is hosting peace talks between Sudan’s transitional government and the main rebel group, Sudan Popular Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, in the latest effort to end a decades-long conflict in the country. Kiir urged both sides to “embrace the spirit of dialogue and let their attention shift to peace instead of thinking of war.” Al Jazeera reports.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma accepted more than 700 bribes over the course of a decade before he was president, prosecutors alleged on the first day of Zuma’s corruption trial. Prosecutors allege that he received bribes from various sources, including cash payments from French arms company Thales, during 1995 to 2005 – the years where Zuma progressed from provincial politician to deputy president of the ruling African National Congress party, and then deputy president of the country. Mogomotsi Magome and Gerald Imray report for AP.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.19 million and now killed close to 592,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 168.40 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.498 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
Biden has asked the U.S. intelligence agencies to “redouble their efforts” to determine the origin of Covid-19. The message comes as the theory that the virus may have accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China gains traction and is “an abrupt departure from the previous White House position of relying on the World Health Organization to uncover how the contagion started,” Annie Linskey, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Shane Harris and David Willman Report for the Washington Post.
The Chinese embassy in the U.S. has said that politicizing the origins of Covid-19 would hamper further investigations and undermine global efforts to curb the pandemic. The statement came after Biden ordered a review of intelligence about where the virus originally emerged. Reuters reporting.
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.