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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
U.S. and Russian officials are holding talks today on the future arms control agenda. The officials have met today for strategic stability talks in Geneva, with the respective delegations being led by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Stephanie Nebehay reports for Reuters.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in India yesterday to discuss strengthening Indo-Pacific engagement, seen as a counter to China, as well as New Delhi’s recent human rights record and other issues. Blinken’s visit includes meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior officials today. Sheikh Saaliq reports for AP.
President Biden has said that he has been briefed on Russian efforts to spread misinformation related to the 2022 midterm elections. During a speech at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Biden referenced information he said was contained in his President’s Daily Brief about “what Russia is doing already about the 2022 elections and misinformation,” describing it as “a pure violation of our sovereignty.” Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
The U.S. government has suspended cooperation with Guatemala’s Attorney General Office in response to the firing of the office’s top anti-corruption prosecutor. U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter told reporters that the department has “lost confidence” in Guatemala’s willingness to “cooperate with the U.S. government and fight corruption in good faith.” Sonia PÉrez D. and Matthew Lee report for AP.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has declared that Tehran will not accept Washington’s “stubborn” demands in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal and said that the U.S. had failed to guarantee that it would never abandon the pact again. State TV quoted Khamenei as describing the U.S. as acting “completely cowardly and maliciously.” “They once violated the nuclear deal at no cost by exiting it. Now they explicitly say that they cannot give guarantees that it would not happen again,” he added. Parisa Hafezi reports for Reuters.
Senior U.S. diplomats are holding talks in the Gulf region in a renewed push for a ceasefire in Yemen. The “U.S. special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday following a visit by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to Oman, amid stalled efforts for a breakthrough in ending more than six years of war,” Reuters reports.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has decried the actions of Myanmar’s military rulers and urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) to keep demanding an end to the violence. During a lecture in Singapore Austin applauded the ASEAN for its efforts to solve the crisis and called on the Myanmar military to adhere to the five-point plan agreed with ASEAN which calls for an immediate end to violence. “The Myanmar military’s refusal to respect the inalienable rights of the Burmese people and to defend their basic well-being is flatly unacceptable,” Austin said during the lecture. Annabelle Liang reports for AP.
Analysis of why Biden is ending the U.S. combat mission in Iraq and how, along with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, it represents “the start of a larger transformation in America’s posture in the broader Middle East,” is provided by the Economist.
Blinken met with a representative of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, today in New Delhi, in a move that is likely to provoke anger from China. Blinken met briefly with Ngodup Dongchung, who serves as a representative of Central Tibetan Administration, also known as the Tibetan government in exile, a State Department spokesperson said. Simon Lewis reports for Reuters.
Blinken began his visit to India by speaking to a group of civil society leaders, where he said that the relationship between the U.S. and India is “one of the most important in the world.” Blinken during his trip to India is “expected to discuss supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, the security situation in Afghanistan as well as India’s human rights record,” Al Jazeera reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Four police officers testified yesterday to the Jan. 6 select committee about the physical and verbal assaults they faced responding to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. In the highly emotional hearing, the four officers — Pfc. Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department — each gave opening statements and answered questions from committee members. Brian Naylor reports for NPR.
The police officers described the harrowing and violent confrontation with rioters during their testimonies. Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell said that he and fellow officers were beaten repeatedly and that he thought he would die. “We fought hand to hand, inch by inch,” he testified. Alexa Corse reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The police officers’ testimonies provided a gripping first-person narrative in excruciating detail of the violence, racism and hostility suffered from the angry rioters, acting in the name of former President Trump. “All of them — all of them were telling us, ‘Trump sent us,’” Gonell said, while one police officer said he was beaten unconscious and stunned repeatedly with a taser as he pleaded with his assailants, “I have kids,” and another relayed how he was called a racist slur over and over again by intruders wearing “Make America Great Again” garb. Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos report for the New York Times.
The police officers’ testimony delivered an emotional portrait of the attack’s lasting toll more than six months’ later. “‘January 6th still isn’t over for me,’ Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn told lawmakers, describing how protesters dressed in Trump campaign paraphernalia called him the n-word — and did the same to several of his Black colleagues. ‘Is this America?’ he said,” Karoun Demirjian, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany report for the Washington Post.
Dunn’s testimony to the select committee highlighted the barrage of racial attacks he and his Black colleagues experienced during the Jan. 6 attack. “It was just so overwhelming,” Dunn said. “And it’s so disheartening and disappointing that we live in a country with people like that, that attack you because of the color of your skin, just to hurt you. Those words are weapons.” Allan Smith reports for NBC News.
Five key takeaways from the first hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee, including that the select committee looks to be heading after Trump, are provided by Jeremy Herb reporting for CNN.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has rejected a request from Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) to protect him from a civil lawsuit brought by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) against Brooks and Trump concerning the Jan. 6 attack. Brooks had asked the DOJ to tell a federal court that he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a Trump rally before the attack. If he were acting in his official capacity, he would be dropped as a defendant and replaced by the U.S. government. However, the DOJ has refused to take that step, because it could not “conclude that Brooks was acting within the scope of his office or employment as a Member of Congress at the time of the incident out of which the claims in this case arose.” Marshall Cohen and Tierney Snee report for CNN.
The DOJ’s refusal to defend Brooks could also mean that the DOJ is unlikely to defend Trump in the same civil case. “The record indicates that Brooks’s appearance at the Jan. 6 rally was campaign activity, and it is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections,” the Justice Department wrote in a court filing, which could also suggest that the DOJ may decline to provide legal protection to Trump as well. Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) issued a defiant challenge to her own party yesterday as the Jan. 6 select committee began its inquiry, saying that the riot would remain a “cancer on our constitutional republic” if Congress failed to hold accountable those who were responsible. In her opening remarks Cheney focused on Trump’s role in the attack urging lawmakers to find out “what happened every minute of that day in the White House.” “Every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during and after the attack,” should be investigated Cheney said. Catie Edmonsdon reports for the New York Times.
The DOJ has notified former officials that they can testify to the various committees investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and the Trump administration’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election outcome. According to a letter sent from the DOJ, witnesses can give “unrestricted testimony” to the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. The officials learned in May that they could provide information about how the department planned for and responded to the vote certification on Jan. 6, according to the letter, which also leaves unclear whether the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has made a request for such testimony. Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
Just Security has published a piece by Andy Wright on Unpacking the DOJ Letters: No “Executive Privilege” for Trump-Era Witnesses on 2020 Election Machinations.
Republicans have started to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the violence during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. “The American people deserve to know the truth that Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility as speaker of the House for the tragedy that occurred on Jan. 6,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) said. The claims however do not add up and amount to “an audacious attempt to rewrite the history” of the attack, Nicholas Fandos provides analysis for the New York Times.
A former Air Force intelligence analyst Daniel Hale has been sentenced to 45 months in prison for sharing top-secret information on U.S. drone operations abroad with a journalist. The information leaked included information about U.S. drone operations aimed at locating and killing terror suspects. Hale “expressed no remorse about his disclosures but deep regret about having played a part in lethal U.S.-run drone operations in Afghanistan,” Josh Gerstein reports for POLITICO.
Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), the top members of the Appropriations Committee, reached a roughly $2 billion deal yesterday to provide new funding to the Capitol Police. The deal follows warning bells that the Capitol Police are heading toward a funding cliff sparked by the Jan. 6 attack. It is expected that the deal, in addition to the emergency funding for the Capitol Police, will also reimburse the National Guard for $521 million, provide funding for security improvements around the Capitol and include an unrelated issue of visas for Afghans who aided the U.S. military effort. Jordain Carney reports for The Hill.
A Swastika has been found carved into an elevator in the State Department, leading to an investigation into the incident. In response to the incident Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent an email to the entire department condemning the hateful carving and describing it as a reminder that anti-Semitism is still alive. Hans Nichols and Jonathan Swan report for Axios.
President Biden yesterday warned that if the U.S. ended up in a “real shooting war” with a “major power” it could be the result of a significant cyberattack on the country, highlighting the growing threats posed by Russia and China. The comments were made by Biden during a speech while vising the Office of the Director of National Intelligence where Biden also referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as “deadly earnest about becoming the most powerful military force in the world, as well as the largest and most prominent economy in the world by the mid-40s, the 2040s.” Nandita Bose reports for Reuters.
Officials from Biden’s administration pledged to confront cybersecurity challenges head on as they faced a grilling from lawmakers yesterday on how the Biden administration is responding to the recent string of cyberattacks. At the start of her panel’s hearing on pipeline cybersecurity Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) reiterated how the U.S. “is seeing 4,000 ransomware attacks every single day, and since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the FBI has reported that cyberattacks have increased over 300 percent.” “Transportation Security Administration (TSA) head David Pekoske and other representatives from the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Transportation testified as part of two Senate hearings organized to look into cyber concerns, particularly recent ransomware attacks,” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
The U.S. military this week has increased the airstrikes to help Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban, the Pentagon confirmed yesterday. “A number of strikes have occurred over the last several days from both manned and unmanned strike platforms,” a Pentagon spokesperson told The Hill. No additional details were given. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
President Biden’s administration has asked Congress for $1 billion to help bring Afghans who helped U.S. forces to the U.S., and there is bipartisan support to provide the money, according to people familiar with the matter. “The money would be included in an emergency measure chiefly intended to provide heightened security on Capitol Hill and to reimburse the U.S. Capitol Police and the National Guard for expenses related to the Jan. 6 riot,” Erik Wasson and Daniel Flatley report for Bloomberg.
The U.S. Central Command has provided an update on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, stating that it is estimated that it has “completed more than 95% of the entire withdrawal process.” The statement from U.S. Central Command also confirms that “the U.S. has officially handed over seven facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.”
Former U.K. military commanders have called on the U.K. government to allow more Afghans who worked for British forces to resettle in the U.K. In a letter to the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the group said they were “gravely concerned” about hundreds of interpreters who have had their applications to the U.K.’s relocation scheme for Afghans rejected. Jonathan Beale reports for BBC News.
Four Afghan journalists have been arrested by Afghanistan’s intelligence service after they returned to the city of Kandahar following a reporting trip to a border area recently taken by the Taliban, an Afghan press freedom group has said. The trip was to interview Taliban commanders, however a spokesperson for the Afghan Interior Ministry has said that the four are accused of spreading propaganda for the Taliban. Rahim Faiez reports for AP.
NSO GROUP – PEGASUS
Hungary’s opposition has called for ministerial resignations from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s far-right government over allegations it selected journalists, media owners and opposition political figures as potential targets for invasive Pegasus spyware sold by Israeli cyber firm NSO Group. “At the very least, the minister of justice has to resign,” said Gergely Karácsony, the mayor of Budapest and the most likely challenger to Orbán for the prime minister’s post at elections next spring. Shaun Walker reports for the Guardian.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will share with France today the initial findings of the Israeli government’s assessment of NSO Group exports, following revelations that French President Emmanuel Macron’s phone was on a list of targets that were possibly under surveillance by Morocco which used the Pegasus software. Gantz’s office also said that he would discuss the governance crisis in Lebanon and Iran’s nuclear diplomacy during talks with his French counterpart Florence Parly. Al Jazeera reports.
CHINA AND HONG KONG
Satellite imagery appears to show that China is building a new network of silos for launching nuclear missiles, a new report from researchers at the Federation of American Scientists has said. The scientists said they found what they characterized as continuing efforts to build a missile-silo field in China’s northwestern frontier region of Xinjiang, after reviewing commercial satellite imagery. Researchers have estimated that the missile-silo field may eventually feature about 110 silos and that construction of the field appears to have started in March. Chun Han Wong reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Pentagon and Republican congressman yesterday expressed further concerns about China’s build up of nuclear forces, following the new report on potential further nuclear missile silos in China. “This is the second time in two months the public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it,” the U.S. Strategic Command said in tweet. Republicans also expressed concern, including Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH), ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, who said that China’s nuclear build-up was “unprecedented” and made clear it was “deploying nuclear weapons to threaten the United States and our allies.” Reuters reports.
Moroccan authorities have arrested a Uyghur activist, Yidiresi Aishan, in exile because of a Chinese terrorism warrant distributed by Interpol, according to information from Moroccan police and a rights group that tracks people detained by China. Morocco’s national security directorate said yesterday that a Chinese citizen was arrested after landing at Mohammed V international airport in Casablanca on July 20, following a red notice issued by Interpol. However, activists fear that Aishan “will be extradited to China and say the arrest is politically driven as part of a broader Chinese campaign to hunt down perceived dissidents outside its borders,” AP reports.
The U.S. is “deeply concerned” about reported attacks against Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and is calling for the intimidation and attacks to stop, State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter said yesterday. “We are deeply concerned about credible reports of attacks by military forces affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Tigrayan militias against Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region,” Porter told reporters. Doyinsola Oladipo reports for Reuters.
The U.N. has said that the agency will “run out of food” in Ethiopia’s conflict hit Tigray region on Friday, while hundreds of thousands of people there face the world’s worst famine crisis in a decade. Some 170 trucks with food and other supplies are “stuck” in the neighboring Afar region and have not been allowed into Tigray, the head of the United Nations World Food Program David Beasley tweeted, noting that 100 such trucks are needed per day in Tigray where “people are starving.” AP reports.
Influential voices in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are viewing the events in Tunisia, where the country’s president abruptly dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament Sunday night, as marking the death knell for political Islam in democracy. Newspapers, television commentators and social media influencers have celebrated the events as the triumph of the popular will over the Ennahda party, which the three countries, as well as Tunisian opponents of Ennahda, have for years sought to link to the transnational Muslim Brotherhood and have accused of abetting terrorism. Claire Parker reports for the Washington Post.
With large gatherings banned and a pandemic curfew extended, Tunisians can only wait to see what Tunisian President Kais Saied might do next, and whether it hill help or hinder Tunisia’s economic, political and health troubles. Vivian Yee reports for the New York Times.
Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi has phoned his counterparts in the E.U, as well as Turkey and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to reassure them after the president suspended parliament and dismissed the government, the foreign ministry has said. The reassurance also came as the Ennahda party in Tunisia pushed for legislative and presidential elections to occur and accused Saied of having “worked with undemocratic forces to overturn the constitutional rights of elected officials and replace them with members of his own chosen cabal.” Al Jazeera reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Israel appears to have committed war crimes in the 11-day Gaza conflict in May, Human Rights Watch has said. “An investigation by the campaign group into what it says were three Israeli strikes that killed 62 civilians found no evidence of military targets nearby. The Israeli military says it only struck military targets in Gaza. The report also says the 4,300 rockets militants fired at Israel constituted indiscriminate attacks on civilians,” BBC News reports.
North Korea and South Korea are in talks to reopen a joint liaison office that Pyongyang demolished last year and hold a summit as part of efforts to restore relations, three South Korean government sources with knowledge of the matter have said. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
North Korea and South Korea have exchanged messages in communication channels dormant for more than a year and agreed to improve ties. “Liaison officials from the Koreas had several phone conversations Tuesday including one on a military hotline and agreed to resume speaking regularly, Seoul officials said,” Hyung-Jin Kim reports for AP.
Police in Nicaragua have arrested yesterday another opposition leader, academic José Antonio Peraza who is the leader of the opposition alliance White and Blue National Unity. “Peraza, a political science professor, was the 22nd opposition leader arrested, in addition to seven potential presidential candidates detained in a crackdown that started two months ago. Almost all were detained under broad accusations of treason,” AP reports.
An Ecuadorian court has ruled in favor of revoking the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to a judgment published by the Judicial Branch of Ecuador. “The court’s decision nullified Assange’s status as a naturalized citizen of Ecuador, which was granted to him in December 2017 by then-President Lenín Moreno,” Maria Fleet and Ana María Cañizares report for CNN.
Armenia has said that three Armenian soldiers have been killed in an exchange of gunfire with Azerbaijan, with both sides no having accepted a Russian ceasefire proposal according to reports from the Interfax news agency. Azerbaijan’s defense ministry accused Armenian forces of “provocations” and said its army would continue to retaliate, Russia’s TASS news agency reported. However, Interfax later reported that Azerbaijan had accepted a Russian proposal to enforce a ceasefire in the area. It then reported that Armenia’s defense ministry had also accepted the ceasefire. Reuters report.
The coronavirus has infected over 34.60 million and has now killed over 611,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 195.30 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.17 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
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.