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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
European powers are pressing the U.S. and Denmark over reports that they worked together to spy on top European politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A Danish broadcaster has said Denmark’s Defence Intelligence Service (FE) collaborated with the U.S. National Security Agency to gather information from 2012 to 2014, allegedly accessing text messages and phone conversations of prominent individuals by tapping into Danish internet cables. Denmark’s Defence Minister, Trine Bramsen, who was not in charge of the ministry during the alleged spying, did not confirm or deny the report but has said that “systemic eavesdropping of close allies is unacceptable.” The BBC News reports.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that wiretapping is “not acceptable between allies” and asked the U.S. for clarity, following the emergence of the claims of spying. Rick Noack and Ellen Nakashima report for the Washington Post.
A North Korean commentator has described President Biden’s administration’s lifting of restrictions on South Korea’s missile development program as an example of a “hostile policy” toward North Korea. The remarks were made by Kim Myong Chol, an international affairs critic who was a close associate of Kim Jong-il, following Biden agreeing to end the United States’ 42-year-long restrictions on South Korea’s nuclear weapons, at a summit on May 21 between Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Celine Castronouvo reports for The Hill.
Russia has warned the U.S. that it will be sending “uncomfortable” signals ahead of a meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva in June. The comments were made by Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, who also said Russia would be prepared to respond to Biden’s queries about human rights in Russia. Moscow has also announced that it would be increasing its military presence at its western border as a response to the increased military training activity to the west of Russia by the United States and NATO. Reuters reports.
The Biden administration has listed Cuba as among those “not cooperating fully with United States antiterrorism efforts,” renewing a determination first made in 2020 and signaling that it has little desire to reverse Trump’s policies toward Cuba. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
ISRAEL / PALESTINE
Opposition politicians in Israel are trying to form a coalition deal to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The move to oust Netanyahu was strengthened on Sunday when Naftali Bennett, an ultranationalist leader of a small hard-right party with just seven seats in Parliament but who holds the balance of power, decided to join forces with an anti-Netanyahu bloc of parties. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
The opposition politicians are pressing forward to seal the necessary political pact, ahead of a Wednesday night deadline for the opposition leader to announce whether he has formed a majority coalition. Reuters reports.
Israeli’s opposition leader Yair Lapid has said that there are “still plenty of obstacles in the way” of forming the proposed new collation by parties opposed to Netanyahu. Michael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Netanyahu’s last-ditch legal challenge to the bid of the rival political groups to head a new Israeli government has been rejected by President Reuven Rivlin. Dan Williams reports for Reuters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) met Netanyahu during a meeting in Jerusalem Monday to discuss the current violence between Israel and Hamas. Bothtraded praise at the meeting, with Netanyahu telling Graham that “no one has done more for Israel than you.” In return Graham commended Netanyahu and Israel for working to keep the United States safe. Sarah Polus reports for The Hill.
Hamas’s top leader in Gaza is calling for negotiations for a prisoner swap with Israel, while Egyptian mediators seek to solidify a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Following a meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, Yehiyeh Sinwar told reporters that “‘there is a real chance to make progress’ in indirect negotiations that could involve the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, and the return of two Israeli citizens and the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas since the previous war in 2014,” Fares Akram reports for AP.
More than 50 former foreign ministers, prime ministers and senior international officials, have signed an open letter condemning political interference in efforts by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged war crimes in Palestine. The letter condemns the “increasing attacks on the ICC, its staff and cooperating civil society groups” and identifies the Trump administration’s move to sanction court officials, which have since been reversed by the Biden administration, and is also seen as a rebuke to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has criticized an ICC investigation opened in March. The letter describes “the unwarranted public criticism of the court regarding its investigation of alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including unfounded accusations of antisemitism” as “deeply worrying.” Peter Beaumont reports for the Guardian.
President Biden has issued a proclamation to remember the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, calling for an end to systemic racism and pledging to further racial justice. “I call upon the people of the United States to commemorate the tremendous loss of life and security that occurred over those 2 days in 1921, to celebrate the bravery and resilience of those who survived and sought to rebuild their lives again, and commit together to eradicate systemic racism and help to rebuild communities and lives that have been destroyed by it,” Biden said. Ben Leonard reports for Politico.
On the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, survivors and descendants gathered in solemn remembrance at Standpipe Hill, where Black World War I veterans fought to hold off a White mob descending on the all-Black neighborhood of Greenwood. DeNeen L. Brown reports for the Washington Post.
Biden is aiming to significantly expand and rebuild the legal immigration system, including reversing the efforts to dismantle it by former President Trump. According to a 46-page draft blueprint obtained by The New York Times, there should be “shorter, simpler forms and applicants will have to jump through fewer security hoops. Foreigners will have better opportunities to join their families and more chances to secure work visas,” Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report for the New York Times.
President Biden is considering a return to an immigration policy that allows the government to more quickly deport families that have illegally crossed the Mexico border into the United States. A review of the so-called expedited removal process by the Department of Homeland Security is due this week and “some advisers are recommending the tool as a way to deter prospective undocumented border crossers,” Stef W. Kight reports for Axios.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
House Democrats are actively considering mounting a congressional probe into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol after Senate Republicans derailed the creation of an independent commission to probe the attack. The creation of a select committee was described as Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “next move” by a senior House Democrat on Friday. Manu Raju reports for CNN.
The blocking of the independent commission on the Jan. 6 attack by Republicans in Congress has “all but closed off the possibility of a full and impartial accounting” of the attack, writes Luke Broadwater who provides analysis for the New York Times.
Four new defendants have been added to the federal criminal conspiracy case against Oath Keepers, the largest case against any of the far-right extremist groups that participated in the Jan. 6 attack. The defendants allegedly prepared for and took part in the Jan. 6 attack according to a new indictment made public in DC District Court. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
An attorney for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has said in court for the first time that the agency used tear gas last year on protestors in Lafayette Square to clear the way for former President Trump’s bible photo op in front of St. John’s Church. The MPD had previously denied involvement in what happened in the park in June, 2020. Nathan Baca reports for WUSA9.
Lawyers for the Justice Department have urged a federal judge to dismiss lawsuits for last June’s violent clearing of demonstrators from Lafayette Square by U.S. military and police. The lawsuits are against Trump, former attorney general William Barr and other officials, however lawyers argued that “Trump and other U.S. officials are immune from civil lawsuits over police actions taken to protect a president and to secure his movements, government lawyers said of the actions,” Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
IRAN / IRAQ
Iran-backed militias in Iraq have turned to drone attacks to evade detection systems around military bases and diplomatic facilities. Recent attacks include one in May on the Ain al-Asad airbase and an attack in April at a CIA hanger. U.S. military officials in Iraq are growing increasingly alarmed by the attacks and “an official with the U.S.-led coalition described the evolving drone threat as the military mission’s biggest concern in Iraq,” Louisa Loveluck and John Hudson report for the Washington Post.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not been able to access important data for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program since late February, when Tehran started restricting international inspections of facilities. In a confidential report circulated Monday and seen by the Associated Press, the IAEA said that it has “not had access to the data from its online enrichment monitors and electronic seals, or had access to the measurement recordings registered by its installed measurement devices” since 23 February. AP reports.
Iran’s nuclear fuel production has plummeted following the explosion at nation’s main nuclear facility in April. Tehran has blamed the explosion at its Natanz nuclear facility which took out the power supply and destroyed potentially hundreds of machines that enrich uranium, on Israel. The drop in production was detailed in the IAEA’s confidential report circulated Monday and gives an insight into the impact of the incident. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Myanmar is on the verge of civil way according to a spokesperson for the country’s parallel government, the National Unity Government, which was set up by pro-democracy politicians. Communities are increasingly taking up arms to protect themselves from a relentless campaign of military violence and since February’s coup dozens of new, grassroots people’s defense forces have emerged. “The people of Myanmar have been left with no other choice. They just have no other option left,” said Dr Sasa. An unnamed reporter and Rebecca Ratcliffe report for the Guardian.
Myanmar’s military have carried out air strikes against anti-junta militias in the country’s east Kayah state, witnesses and rebel forces have said. The attacks have forced residents to flee and join thousands of others displaced by recent fighting in the region. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The U.K. is accelerating the relocation of Afghan staff, largely interpreters, and their families to U.K.. The staff who worked with the U.K.’s armed forces are at increasing risk ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan and the U.K. Ministry of Defense has acknowledged that they had an obligation to protect local employees from Taliban threats. Isabella Kwai reporting for the New York Times.
The nephew of a U.S. based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, has been captured by Turkish agents in Kenya. The Turkish government blames Gulen for the failed coup attempt in 2016 and his nephew, Selahaddin Gulen, faces charges of membership in a terrorist organization. The arrest is “the latest in a series of forced repatriation of people affiliated with Gulen’s movement,” AP reports.
Russia has detained a former director of Open Russia, an opposition group linked to exiled former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Open Russia, which the Kremlin declared as “undesirable” in 2017, said last week that it had decided to end its operations in Russia to protect its members from the risk of being jailed. Reuters reports.
Gunmen in Nigeria have kidnapped more than 100 children from a school, in the latest of a rising tide of school abductions for ransom payments. Niger state’s governor, Abubakar Bello, said that the epidemic of abductions had become “a war situation that we have to confront without any delay.” Joe Parkinson and Gbenga Akingbule report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Albanian parliament is expected to hold a session next week on the impeachment of its president for allegedly violating the constitution. The session follows a report by an investigative committee which concluded that President Ilir Meta violated the constitution before the country’s April 25 general election and should be removed from office a year earlier than his term ends. Llazar Semini reports for AP.
At least eight people have been killed in two separate attacks on security forces in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan, according to the Pakistani military. At least 15 people were also wounded in the attacks which come before Prime Minister Imran Khan is due to visit the region. Asad Hashim reports for Al Jazeera.
Several thousand Rohingya refugees have staged protests against living conditions on an island of Bangladesh where they were moved to from vast camps on the mainland. Most of the refugees have fled a brutal military offensive in neighboring Myanmar in 2017. The protest “involved up to 4,000 people, police said and coincided with an inspection visit by officials from the U.N. refugee agency,” Al Jazeera report.
At least 55 people were killed in two attacks on villages in eastern Congo, the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs has said. Houses were burned and civilians were abducted when the village of Tchabi and a camp for displaced people near Boga, another village, both close to the border of Uganda, were raided overnight. The attacks are potentially the worse night of violence the area has seen for four years, and the army and a local civil rights group have blamed the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist armed group. Reuters reports.
Gunmen have killed a Ugandan government minister’s daughter in a failed assassination bid. The gunmen sprayed bullets at a car carrying General Katumba Wamala, the minister of works and transport, wounding the former army commander and killing his daughter and driver. Reuters report.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.26 million and now killed close to 594,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 170.70 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.550 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The World Health Organization Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has urged U.N. member states to support an international pandemic preparedness treaty. Tedros “insisted that a pandemic treaty would improve early warning on potential global health threats, promote stockpiling and production of pandemic supplies, allow for equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments and provide an emergency workforce to handle emergencies,” UN News Centre reports.
Peru has more than doubled its Covid-19 death toll following a review, making it the country with the world’s highest death rate per capital. The increased figure is in line with the so-called excess deaths figure and Prime Minister Violeta Bermudez said the number was increased on the advice of Peruvian and international experts. “We think it is our duty to make public this updated information,” Bermudez said. BBC News reports.
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.