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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Israel’s opposition parties have reached an agreement to form a new government that would end Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure. “Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, announced an eight-faction coalition had been formed. Under a rotation arrangement, the head of the right-wing Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, would serve as prime minister first before handing over to Mr Lapid,” BBC News reports.
Lapid told Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin that he could form a government Wednesday evening, less than an hour before a midnight deadline. The announcement comes after days of frantic negotiations, with Lapid describing the unusual and mixed coalition of eight opposition parties as a “government of change.” Oliver Holmes reports for the Guardian.
The next step is a vote on the arrangement by Israel’s full parliament, likely within a week to 12 days. “The parliamentary vote will be scheduled by Speaker Yariv Levin, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party. Levin is expected to delay the process until the last moment to give his faction more time to exploit tensions within the fledgling coalition and derail the deal,” Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin report for the Washington Post.
Netanyahu has continued to fight back against the opposition parties’ agreement, saying on Twitter that “all legislators elected by votes from the right must oppose this dangerous left-wing government.” It is expected that Netanyahu will try to pick off ‘low-hanging fruit,’ seizing upon Yamina members who are unhappy about joining forces with Arab and leftist lawmakers. Maayan Lubell and Jeffrey Heller report for Reuters.
Arab Islamists have helped secure the necessary parliamentary majority for the opposition parties’ agreement against Netanyahu. The United Arab List, led by Mansour Abbas, “would be the first party drawn from the country’s 21% Arab minority – Palestinian by heritage, Israeli by citizenship – to join an Israeli government,” Rami Ayyub reports for Reuters.
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is calling on the Pentagon to provide military aid to Israel and support the replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, following the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas last month. The 55 lawmakers, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) wrote in a letter that the U.S. should “continue urgently engaging with Israel” on the administration’s “ironclad commitment to Israel’s safety and security, including replenishing Israel’s stock of interceptors for the Iron Dome missile defense system and other important matters.” Celine Castronuovo reports for The Hill.
Biden has congratulated the election of the new Israeli president amid the potential ouster of Netanyahu. Israel’s parliament elected center-left politician Isaac Herzog to the number two post on Wednesday. Herzog is expected to assume the role in July. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
President Biden will discuss the recent cyberattack on meat producer JBS and the increased threat of cyberattacks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting later this month in Geneva, according to White House officials. During a press briefing press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden “certainly thinks that President Putin and the Russian government certainly has a role to play” and the Biden administration is “not taking any options of the table.” Maegan Vasquez and Allie Molloy report for CNN.
The FBI has identified a Russia-linked group, REvil and Sodinokibi, as behind the cyberattack on one of the world’s largest meat producing groups, JBS USA. “We continue to focus our efforts on imposing risk and consequences and holding the responsible cyber actors accountable,” the FBI said in a statement. Mychael Schnell report for The Hill.
JBS has resumed most production after the weekend cyberattacks. However, “experts say the vulnerabilities exposed by this attack and others are far from resolved,” NBC News reports.
A ransomware attack has disrupted ferry services in Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts. The region’s ferry operator announced that it has “been the target of a ransomware attack that is affecting operations” and said passengers might experience service delays. Authorities, including the Coast Guard, Massachusetts State Police Cyber Security Unit and the FBI are investigating the attack. Jordan Valinsky reports for CNN.
A hacking group believed to have links to the Chinese government breached computer systems for New York City’s transit system Metropolitan Transportation Authority (M.T.A) in April, according to an M.T.A. document that outlined the breach. Transit officials say that the hack did not pose a risk to riders and the hackers did not gain access to systems that control train cars. Christina Goldbaum and William K. Rashbaum report for the New York Times.
An emboldened Taliban poses a severe and expanding threat to the Afghan government according to a U.N. Security Council report. With the last remaining U.S. troops due to leave Afghanistan, the report states that the Taliban remains close to Al Qaeda and believes it can return to power by force if necessary, painting a “bleak picture of the security outlook” for the country. Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister and Nic Robertson report for CNN.
The U.S. military has admitted unintentionally killing 23 civilians in foreign war zones in 2020. The figure, included civilian fatalities in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria, is significantly less than those compiled by non-governmental agencies, but the Pentagon report does also acknowledge more civilian deaths from previous years. Al Jazeera reports.
U.S. troops accidentally stormed an olive oil factory in Bulgaria during a training exercise last month, and have apologized. The U.S. soldiers had been training to clear bunkers across an airfield in Bulgaria and cleared a building next to the airfield that “they believed was part of the training area, but that was occupied by Bulgarian civilians operating a private business,” according to a statement from the U.S. Army Europe and Africa, which apologized to the business and its employees. Chandelis Duster and Barbara Starr report for CNN.
A two-decades old defence pact between the Philippines and the U.S. has been revised and its new terms submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for his consideration. The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) provides for the rotation of U.S. troops in and out of the Philippines for war games and exercises. Duterte “unilaterally cancelled the VFA last year in an angry rebuke after an ally was denied a U.S. visa, but twice suspended its termination to create what Philippine officials say is a window for better terms to be agreed,” Karen Lema reports for Reuters.
The U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp is aiming to produce and deliver about 169 F-35 fighter jets in 2022, according to statements made at a conference on Wednesday. “The company said it expects the production rate for the jets to eventually plateau at about 175 aircraft per year after 2022, based on the demand by the United States government and partner countries,” Reuters reports.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday, discussing regional security and in particular efforts to end the war in Yemen. Austin also emphasized the U.S. commitment to helping Saudi Arabia improve its defenses, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. Reuters reports.
President Biden plans to amend a Trump-era U.S. ban on investments in companies linked to China’s military this week, after the policy was challenged in court and is unclear as to its reach on subsidiary firms. The financial sanctions and selection of targeted companies were tied to a congressionally mandated Defense Department report. “Under Biden’s amended order, the Treasury Department will create a list of companies that could face financial penalties for their connection to China’s defense and surveillance technology sectors,” Jenny Leonard, Jennifer Jacobs, and Saleha Mohsin report for Bloomberg.
China and the U.S. have resumed normal trade and economic discussions and “both sides will start to pragmatically solve some concrete issues for producers and consumers, China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday,” Reuters reports.
The U.S. is sanctioning several former and current Bulgarian officials and entities owned by them for supporting what the State Department called in its statement “significant corruption.” The sanctions will prevent the individuals and companies from accessing the U.S. financial system and freezing any assets they have in the U.S. Americans will also be prohibited from business dealings with them. Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.
An American national imprisoned in Russia has called on Biden to “aggressively discuss and resolve” the “hostage diplomacy situation” when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin this month. Paul Whelan told CNN the issue of U.S. citizens being detained in Russia for political purposes has to be resolved “as quickly as possible.” “This is not an issue of Russia against me; it’s an issue of Russia against the United States,” Whelan said. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
A large group of House Democratic party members are pressing Sen. Jim Risch (ID), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to lift his hold on $75 million in aid to Palestinians. The group, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD) wrote that “Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe” and “as the ceasefire takes hold, the United States can help relieve the suffering of countless innocent civilians.” The Biden administration has already voiced support for delivering aid to assist Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.
A Nevada Republican consultant sought help from the Proud Boys to build a crowd at a pro-Trump rally following the 2020 election. The rally at the Clark County Election Department in North Las Vegas, appeared to be an organic response to former President Trump’s rhetoric, “but private messages from Facebook and interviews show the extent of the efforts, in at least one battleground state, to demonstrate the appearance of grass-roots energy to spread Trump’s falsehoods about the election,” Michael Scherer reports for the Washington Post.
The Trump administration secretly obtained phone records of four New York Times reporters spanning a period of nearly four months in 2017. The phone records were seized as part of a leak investigation, and the disclosure by the Biden Justice Department follows similar disclosures last month to CNN and the Washington Post. Charlie Savage and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.
Former President Trump has shut down his blog, titled “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” just after a month of opening it. “Trump had become frustrated after hearing from friends that the site was getting little traffic and making him look small and irrelevant, according to a person familiar with his thinking,” Annie Karni reports for the New York Times.
Federal prosecutors are looking into whether Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) obstructed justice during a phone call he had with a witness in the investigation against him for various sex-crimes. The witness is a woman who entered Gaetz’s orbit through his previous partner Joel Greenberg. It is not known exactly what was said during the phone call, however the discussion is central to whether prosecutors can charge Gaetz with obstructing justice. Marc Caputo reports for POLITICO.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
Prosecutors have secured their second guilty plea for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Paul Hodgkins, who stormed the Capitol and stood on the Senate floor during the Jan. 6 attack, was originally facing five charges, but under a deal negotiated with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of obstructing an official proceeding. Ryan Lucas reports for NPR.
More than three dozen members and associates across both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers have been charged with crimes relating to the Jan. 6 attack, roiling the far-right groups. Some extremism experts expect the groups to fracture, with the Proud Boys’ chairman having called for a pause in the rallies. However, others believe “President Joe Biden’s victory and the Jan. 6 investigation, the largest federal prosecution in history, might animate the militia movement — fuelled by an anti-government anger,” Michael Kunzelman and Alanna Durkin Richer report for AP.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) is trying to avoid a lawsuit from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) that seeks to hold him accountable for the Jan. 6 attack, so much so that Swalwell’s attorneys hired a private investigator to find Brooks to serve him with the lawsuit. Federal Judge Amit Mehta, after learning of the difficulties Swalwell was facing, gave Swalwell’s legal team another 60 days to serve Brooks with their formal notification. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
A U.N. independent human rights expert has said that Mali’s new military authorities must “scrupulously respect human rights” and release all civilian leaders detained following the military coup last week. Alioune Tine said that contrary to news reports, the ousted President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were not freed by the military on May 27, but instead moved to house arrest. UN News Centre reports.
Spanish officials say Morocco increasingly sees migrants as currency for financial and political gains after it let up to 12,000 into Cueta, a Spanish enclave in North Africa, over two days last month. Normally Morocco tightly controls the fenced border around Ceuta but over two days its military was freely letting migrants in, laying bare the “unique pressure point Morocco has over Spain on migration,” Nicholas Casey and José Bautista report for the New York Times.
The leader of the Western Sahara independence movement, Brahim Ghali, landed in Algeria yesterday after spending more than a month in a hospital in Spain being treated for Covid-19. The Polisario Front’s chief stay in Spain tiggered a diplomatic row between Spain and Morocco, who consider Ghali to be a terrorist. According to Algerian state television, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune visiting Ghali in a military hospital in Algeria but details of their discussion have not been made public. Al Jazeera reports.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has urged authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to investigate Monday’s overnight attacks by insurgents in the east and bring the perpetrators to account. The attacks, which killed at least 55 people and injured many others, were carried out by suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces armed group. UN News Centre reports.
Sudan is reviewing an agreement to host a Russian naval base on its Red Sea coast, according to the country’s military chief. The previous agreement was reached under former President Omar al-Bashir who was overthrown two years ago. Sudan’s armed forces Chief of Staff General Mohamed Othman al-Hussein said in a broadcasted interview that “talks to review the deal to serve Sudan’s interests” had been held with a visiting Russian delegation last week. Al Jazeera reports.
The Nigerian state government has confirmed that gunmen abducted 136 students from Islamic school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger on Sunday. The number of students is lower than the estimate of 200 previously provided by the Nigerian federal government. Reuters reports.
Nigerian police are still hunting for the kidnapped children but have ruled out securing their freedom by paying a ransom. Reuters reports.
Iran is investigating the fire that sank one of its largest navy ships in the Gulf of Oman on Wednesday. The ship had been deployed to international waters to participate in a training exercise when it caught fire near the port of Jask. The cause of the fire is still unclear, and the commander of the Iranian navy and several senior officers were in the region to investigate the incident, according to the state news agency. Sune Engel Rasmussen reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Indirect talks between Iran and the U.S. for both countries to fully return to the 2015 nuclear deal are expected to resume on June 10, according to diplomats. The negotiations began in Vienna in April and the remaining parties to the deal, not including the United States which quit under former President Trump, are expected to wrap up the current rounds of talks next week. Reuters reports.
A top E.U. official has predicted that an agreement to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran could be reached in the next round of negotiations. Enrique Mora, chief coordinator of the talks, told reporters that “the most difficult decisions lie ahead” but that significant progress is being made while world powers talk in Vienna. “I am sure that the next round will be the one in which we will finally get a deal,” Mora said. Tal Axelrod report for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
China has said its aircrafts abided by international law in response to accusations from Malaysia in relation to 16 Chinese military aircraft which flew over disputed waters in the South China Sea. Malaysia’s foreign ministry described the manoeuvre as a “serious threat to national sovereignty,” however a statement from the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur played down the incident, saying Chinese military aircraft enjoyed “the freedom of overflight in the relevant airspace.” “China and Malaysia are friendly neighbours, and China is willing to continue bilateral friendly consultations with Malaysia to jointly maintain regional peace and stability,” the spokesperson added. BBC reports.
NATO chiefs have called for sanctions to be implemented on Belarus after the flight carrying journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner was diverted to Minsk. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that some members were considering taking further action after the E.U. and U.S. imposed measures against Belarus. “It has to be clear that when a regime like the regime in Minsk behaves in the way they did, violating basic international norms and rules, we will impose costs on them,” Stoltenberg told reporters during a visit to London for talks with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Al Jazeera reports.
The Nicaraguan government has arrested opposition presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro and placed her under house arrest. Chamorro was accused of abusive management and money laundering, according to a communique issued by judicial authorities, and the move is the latest “in a string of moves that have curtailed any challenge to President Daniel Ortega in the November election,” Ismael López Ocampo and Mary Beth Sheridan report for the Washington Post.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has said that it is facing an “unprecedented financial crisis” and will be forced to close after July unless it finds urgent funding. The STL was established in 2009 to investigate and try suspects over the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. Najia Houssari reports for Arab News.
The STL has cancelled a new trial against the man convicted of the 2005 assassination of Hariri, due to concerns that the court will run out of money and be forced to shut down before the trial can finish. The STL convicted Salim Jamil Ayyash, a former member of the Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, in absentia for the bombing that killed Hariri. However, a second case against Ayyash, which was meant to begin on June 16, for another assassination and other attacks on other Lebanese politicians in 2004-2005 has been cancelled. Reuters reports.
Russian news agency VTimes has closed down after being designated as a “foreign agent” by the Russian authorities last month. The designation, which is part of a crackdown on media critical of the Kremlin, scared aware VTimes’ partners, ruined its business and made it harder to report news. Reuters reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.30 million and now killed close to 595,830 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 171.68 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.691 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the U.S. will be announcing its process for distributing 80 million coronavirus vaccine doses globally in the coming weeks. The statements were made during a joint press conference Tuesday with Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado. “Among other things, we will focus on equity, on the equitable distribution of vaccines; we’ll focus on science; we’ll work in coordination with COVAX; and we will distribute vaccines without political requirements of those receiving them,” Blinken said. Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.
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.