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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
President Biden yesterday expressed support for the Cuban people amid rare protests over a lack of freedoms, a worsening economy, hunger and the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden called on Cuban President Miguel Diàz-Canel’s regime to “hear their people and serve their needs.” “We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” Biden said in a statement. Betsy Klein reports for CNN.
The Cuban government stepped up its crackdown against demonstrators and activists yesterday, including “cutting off most communications with the outside world, deploying security forces across the country and arresting more than 100 people, many of whose whereabouts remain unknown, activists said,” José de Córdoba and Santiago Pérez report for the Wall Street Journal.
Cuba’s President has blamed the historic protests on “economic asphyxiation” by the U.S. Diàz-Canel has attacked what he calls Washington’s hypocrisy for expressing concern about Cuba when it was fueling the crisis in Cuba with its trade embargo. “Is it not very hypocritical and cynical that you block me… and you want to present yourself as the big savior?” he said. Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta reports for Reuters.
Cuba’s President has accused Cuban Americans of using social media to spur on the rare protests, as police patrols are increased on the country’s streets. “We’ve seen how the campaign against Cuba was growing on social media in the past few weeks,’’ Díaz-Canel said Monday in a nationally televised appearance in which his entire Cabinet was present. “That’s the way it’s done: try to create inconformity, dissatisfaction by manipulating emotions and feelings.” Andrea Rodriguez reports for AP.
Dozens of people have been arrested in Cuba after thousands joined the protests against Cuba’s communist government, media and opposition sources have said. Cuba’s President called those protesting “mercenaries” and figures compiled by legal help center Cubalex suggest around 100 people were arrested on Sunday. “Images on social media showed what appeared to be security forces detaining, beating and pepper-spraying some of the protesters,” BBC News reports.
The protests in Cuba have escalated U.S.-Cuba tensions, with U.S. officials expressing their support for the protesters. Rebecca Beitsch, Laura Kelly and Rafael Bernal report for The Hill.
Biden has signaled a tougher tone towards Cuba than he has previously pledged, with a statement praising Cubans’ “clarion call for freedom.” “By siding so starkly with the dissidents, Biden seized on what some Democrats see as an unexpected opening for their party to chart a course correction on Cuba and rebrand its strategy after years of being seen by some voters — particularly in Florida — as too accommodating of the authoritarian regime and perhaps too soft on communism in general,” Sean Sullivan, Karen DeYoung and Felicia Sonmez report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. is still reviewing a request from Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph for U.S. troops to go to Haiti to help secure its airport and other infrastructure after the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said yesterday. “Psaki said Haiti’s political leadership remains unclear and that it was vital for the country’s leaders to come together to chart a united path forward. ‘It’s still under review,’ she said of Haiti’s request to send troops. Asked if it had been ruled out, Psaki said, No,’” Andre Paultre and Jeff Mason report for Reuters.
President Biden was briefed yesterday morning by the interagency U.S. delegation to Haiti after they returned from Port-au-Prince, Psaki confirmed. The U.S. delegation, which included representatives from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of State, and National Security Council, traveled to Haiti Sunday at the Haitian government’s request. Psaki said that the group is now working “to get a better understanding of the request for assistance.” Betsy Klein reports for CNN.
The U.S. delegation to Haiti met with all three politicians who have claimed stakes to lead Haiti’s government, Psaki stated. Reuters reporting.
The DOJ has announced that it is investigating “whether there were any violations of U.S. criminal law in connection with [the assassination].” The announcement comes in a DOJ statement confirming that: “at the request of the Haitian government, the Department of Justice, along with its U.S. government partners, is assisting the Haitian National Police in the investigation of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. An initial assessment has been conducted in Haiti by senior U.S. officials. The department will continue to support the Haitian government in its review of the facts and circumstances surrounding this heinous attack.”
Haiti is on the brink of anarchy amid increasing hunger and gang violence, as the power vacuum in the country continues. Kejal Vyas reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Several of the men involved in the assassination of Haiti’s President previously worked as U.S. law enforcement informants, according to sources briefed on the matter. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has confirmed that at least one of the men previously worked as an informant for the DEA and had reached out to his contacts at the DEA following the assassination. “Other suspects also had U.S. ties, including working as informants for the FBI, the people briefed on the matter said. The FBI said in response to CNN’s reporting that it doesn’t comment on informants, except to say that it uses ‘lawful sources to collect intelligence’ as part of its investigations,” Evan Perez reports for CNN.
President Biden’s administration is having to confront a new and complicated foreign crisis in Haiti, with the political turmoil continuing and Haiti already contending with the “Covid-19 pandemic, the Atlantic hurricane season and a plague of gang violence, all of which have been made worse by the country’s dysfunctional political system. ‘It is a tinderbox really ready to explode,’ said Jenna Ben-Yehuda, president and CEO of the Truman National Security Project,” Morgan Chalfant and Laura Kelly report for The Hill.
Haiti advocates are rejecting the U.S.’s push for elections after the assassination of Moïse. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on Haitian leaders “to bring the country together around a more inclusive, peaceful and secure vision and pave the road toward free and fair elections this year.” However, top civil society activists in Haiti and other experts have pushed back on the call for elections, amid the deep political instability in the country. Al Jazeera reports.
Defense lawyers are moving to block the force-feeding of a prisoner in Guantánamo Bay. The individual is one of the five men accused of conspiring in the Sept. 11 attacks and is refusing to eat after being placed in isolation. He has been told that as a result he could be force-fed, his lawyers have said in a legal filing that asked the military court to intervene. His lawyers “described the threat of force-feeding as the first of its kind in the long-running death-penalty case, and psychologically traumatizing for their client,” Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
The Trump Organization’s chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has been removed from top roles in at least 28 Trump Organization subsidiaries. “A person familiar with the matter told NBC News that the Trump Organization took a ‘prudent corporate governance approach’ for the time being to avoid any potential issues in Florida but added that Weisselberg’s overall role with the Trump Organization remains unchanged,” Dareh Gregorian and Hallie Jackson report for NBC News.
The top charge in the prosecution of Weisselberg, a single count of second-degree grand larceny, also carries the most uncertainty according to legal scholars and white-collar defense attorneys. The indictment of grand larceny relates to around $95,000 in federal tax refunds that prosecutors say Weisselberg illegally obtained in annual sums over a period from 2010 to 2018. Although concerning a much smaller amount of money than the other tax related indictments, grand larceny in the second degree is the highest level felony Weisselberg faces and carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. There is also uncertainty as to whether prosecutors will be able to prove it as well as whether the charges are within the limitation period for the offence. Jacob Gershman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A federal judge in Michigan has pressed Trump-allied lawyers bringing 2020 election fraud claims. U.S. District Court Judge Linda V. Parker called one allegation in the filing, a statement from a witness who swore he saw individuals placing clear plastic bags into a mail truck which could be ballots, as “really fantastical,” and asked detailed and skeptical questions of several pro-Trump lawyers she is considering imposing sanctions against for filing the suit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results. Rosalind S. Helderman reports for the Washington Post.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
A rioter in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has pleaded guilty yesterday to a misdemeanor related to the attack. The rioter, Michael Curzio, had previously joined a white supremacist gang while in prison for attempted murder. Curzio was sentenced to six months in jail but will be released tomorrow because he has been in jail since mid-January and will receive credit for time already served. Marshall Cohen reports for CNN
Former President Trump was wrong to suggest on Sunday that the U.S. Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol was the “head of security” for a “high-ranking” Democratic member of Congress, a senior law enforcement official has said. The officer, who has not yet returned to duty, was not a member of a security detail provided to a specific member of congress, the official said. Tom Winter reports for NBC News.
Government lawyers have said that investigating and prosecuting cases relating to the Jan. 6 attack is requiring a huge effort. Prosecutors said that it is “not only the largest such effort in American history but also presents a huge logistical challenge in sharing evidence with attorneys for the hundreds of defendants who face criminal charges,” Pete Williams reports for NBC News.
Iran has said that it is holding talks on prisoner exchanges with the U.S., aimed at securing the release of Iranians held in U.S. jails and other countries over violations of U.S. sanctions. “Because of its humanitarian aims, Iran is ready to exchange all American political prisoners in exchange for the release of all Iranian prisoners who have been detained around the world at the behest of America,” an Iranian government spokesperson told a news conference. Reuters reporting.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will be moving ahead with a panel vote to repeal the 1991 and 2002 resolutions authorizing military force against Iraq. However, although both President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) support the repeal, there remains significant opposition within the Senate, including from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). John Bresnahan, Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman, Max Cohen and Christian Hall report for Punchbowl News AM.
The U.S. has announced visa restrictions on 100 members of Nicaragua’s political and judicial elite who are believed to have aided the regime of Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega. The restrictions are part of a wide-ranging measure meant to crack down on government corruption and human rights abuses. “These visa revocations demonstrate that the United States will promote accountability not only for regime leaders but also for officials who enable the regime’s assaults on democracy and human rights,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) have called on President Biden to clarify the specific threats that led to airstrikes conducted against targets in Iraq and Syria last month. The two representatives from opposite sides of the political spectrum penned a letter to Biden together saying the airstrikes “raise major constitutional concerns.” Rafael Bernal reports for The Hill.
The Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby yesterday said that the Taliban believe that they can win the war in Afghanistan. At a press briefing yesterday, Kirby commented that “it is clear from what they are doing that they have governance designs, certainly, of a national scale.” “It is clear from what they are doing that they believe there is a military solution to the end of this conflict,” he added. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
A video has emerged of Taliban fighters executing 22 members of an Afghan Special Forces unit as they tried to surrender. The killings took place on June 16 in the town of Dawlat Abad in Faryab province, close to Afghanistan’s border with Turkmenistan. Anna Coren, Sandi Sidhu and Tim Lister report for CNN.
Afghanistan is “stunned by scale and speed of security forces’ collapse,” Emma Graham-Harrison provides analysis for the Guardian.
Afghanistan is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned today, as more Afghans are likely to flee their homes due to escalating violence and as the Taliban gain control of more territory. “A failure to reach a peace agreement in Afghanistan and stem the current violence will lead to further displacement within the country, as well as to neighboring countries and beyond,” the spokesperson for the UNHCR told a Geneva news briefing. The UNHRC has said that “an estimated 270,000 Afghans had been newly displaced inside the country since January, bringing the total population forced from their homes to more than 3.5 million,” Reuters report.
For U.S. diplomats in Kabul it is still business as usual, despite the recent Taliban gains in Afghanistan. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul last week started processing immigration visas for Afghan interpreters and others who could be targeted by the Taliban for working with the U.S., and officials are planning to interview as many as 200 applicants a day. Lara Jakes reports for the New York Times.
The U.N. rights council has approved today a resolution expressing deep concerns about abuses in the Tigray region and calling for a swift withdrawal of Eritrean troops which it said are “exacerbating the conflict.” The resolution was brought to the U.N. by the E.U. delegation, which was passed in a vote with 20 countries in favor, 14 against and 13 abstentions. Emma Farge reports for Reuters.
The U.S. has condemned “any retaliatory attacks” against civilians in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. State department spokesperson Ned Price said that the U.S. is “gravely concerned” over rising tensions in Tigray and that the U.S. continues to call for a negotiated ceasefire. Secretary of State Blinken also told reporters that the U.S. review into whether to call events in Tigray crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide was ongoing. Daphne Psaledakis and Doyinsola Oladipo report for Reuters.
Forces from Ethiopia’s Tigray region said yesterday that they are pushing south and have recaptured a town from government forces. The announcement, which could not be independently verified by Reuters as communications in the region are down, underscores the Tigray forces’ determination to continue fighting until the region’s pre-war borders are restored. Dawit Endeshaw and Maggie Fick report for Reuters.
CHINA AND HONG KONG
President Biden is expected to warn U.S. companies this week of the increasing risks of operating in Hong Kong as China asserts greater control over the financial hub. These risks include the Chinese government’s ability to gain access to data that foreign companies store in Hong Kong and a new law that allows Beijing to impose sanctions against anyone that enables foreign penalties to be implemented against Chinese groups and officials. Biden is also expected to “impose more sanctions this week in response to Beijing’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and the genocide the U.S. has accused Beijing of committing against Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang,” Demetri Sevastopulo and Primrose Riordan report for the Financial Times.
China has said that it opposes U.S. interference in its internal affairs relating to Hong Kong. The statements were made in response to the Financial Times report that Washington will warn U.S. companies of the risks of operating in Hong Kong. Yew Lun Tian report for Reuters.
Japan has warned that growing military tensions around Taiwan and growing economic and technological rivalry between the U.S. and China, could threaten peach and stability in East Asia. The warnings were made in Japan’s annual defense paper, approved by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government today, and marks the first time that the defense report has taken up the issue of stability around Taiwan. Al Jazeera reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Protests, violence and looting have continued in South Africa in response to the arrest of Jacob Zuma, as the country’s government deploys the army to quell the unrest. Criminals have ransacked shops, arsonists have burnt trucks along a major motorway, and rioters have blocked roads used by healthcare staff, with vaccination sites, businesses and offices being forced to close. “At least six people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested,” the Economist reports.
Myanmar’s disposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to face four new corruption charges, according to her lawyers. One of Suu Kyi’s lawyers told reporters that there would be a first hearing on the new charges on July 22 in the High Court in Mandalay. She said two of the charges are solely against Suu Kyi, and the other two include additional people, but no other details were given her team. AP reports.
Freddy Guevara, a key Venezuela opposition figure, has been arrested by Venezuelan agents on charges of terrorism and treason. “The left-wing government accuses him of having ties to ‘extremist groups’ and foreign governments. Guevara is a close ally of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who said that he was threatened by armed men as he went to help Guevara,” BBC News reports.
Germany had opened a new space command today, following the lead of other Western countries. The opening of the space command comes “amid growing concerns over Russian and Chinese military advances in outer space and a surge in satellite launches,” Sabine Siebold reports for Reuters.
The E.U. has said yesterday that it hopes to develop the legal framework for sanctions targeting Lebanese leaders, on the first anniversary of the deadly explosion in Beirut. Helen Sullivan reports for the Guardian.
Former National Security Agency Deputy Director Chris Inglis was formally sworn in as the first White House national cyber director yesterday. The Senate unanimously approved Inglis’s nomination nearly a month ago. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
The Senate yesterday unanimously approved Jen Easterly to lead the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division. Easterly was nominated by President Biden in April to be the second director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and her “confirmation comes at a crucial time for the administration as it works to respond to a flood of recent ransomware and cybersecurity incidents,” Geneva Sands reports for CNN.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.85 million and has now killed close to 607,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 187.20 million confirmed coronavirus cases and close to 4.04 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it is “extremely disappointing” to see countries that have vaccinated most of their population with two doses looking to obtain booster vaccines. There is a “hugely uneven and inequitable” global gap in vaccine supply, Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus said. “We’re in the midst of a growing two-track pandemic where the haves and have-nots within and between countries are increasingly divergent,” he added. UN News Centre 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.