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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife have returned home after being detained by Sudan’s military leadership. According to Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Hamdok had been detained at al-Burhan’s home. Hamdok’s office said that other government officials were still in detention. Samy Magdy reports for AP.
Al-Burhan has claimed that the military seized power because “the dangers we witnessed last week could have led the country into civil war.” According to al-Burhan, the military was “afraid” that Hamdok was “in danger,” which led to them taking Hamdok to al-Burhan’s home. Al Jazeera reports.
Al-Burhan has said that he had dissolved civilian rule, arrested political leaders and called a state of emergency as political groups had been inciting civilians against the security forces. BBC News reports.
The E.U. said late yesterday that the new regime in Sudan faced “serious consequences,” including the withdrawal of financial support. The U.S. has already suspended $700m in aid while the International Monetary Fund has said that it is following events closely. Peter Beaumont reports for the Guardian.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with Hamdok following the Prime Minister’s detainment, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said yesterday. “The Secretary welcomed the Prime Minister’s release from custody and reiterated his call on Sudanese military forces to release all civilian leaders in detention and to ensure their safety,” Price said in a statement. Blinken also raised “deep concern about the ongoing military takeover and repeated the imperative for military forces to use restraint and avoid violence in responding to demonstrators,” Price added. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
Sudan’s security forces have detained three prominent pro-democracy figures and critics of the apparent military coup, according to their relatives and other activists. The arrests occurred overnight and came as protests continued in Khartoum and elsewhere, with security forces keeping up their heavy-handed response, chasing demonstrators in several neighborhoods late yesterday, according to activists. Samy Magdy reports for AP.
Pro-democracy protesters in Sudan have vowed to continue resistance to military takeover through nationwide civil disobedience. Much of the capital Khartoum and other major cities remained closed down yesterday, with protesters erecting roadblocks and most stores, banks, government offices and schools closed. The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum said yesterday afternoon it had no reports of renewed violence, although footage of clashes between security forces and protesters was being shared on social media in the evening, after internet access was partially restored. The high stakes standoff between military leaders and pro-democracy protesters has left the “country with no clear path out of a debilitating economic and political crisis,” Nicholas Bariyo and Gabriele Steinhauser report for the Wall Street Journal.
Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has begun her defense in Myanmar’s capital. The prosecution has been presenting its case for several months on charges including “‘inciting public unrest,’ illegally importing walkie-talkies, and breaching coronavirus regulations.” The hearings have been closed-door, and no journalists, diplomats, or members of the public have been allowed inside. The U.N. and foreign governments have called the trial “politically motivated.” Sui-Lee Wee and Richard C. Paddock report for the New York Times.
President Biden has announced that the U.S. will provide $102 million to support Southeast Asia nations’ recovery from Covid-19, address climate change, promote economic growth and develop human capital. Biden met virtually with leaders of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) member states and the ASEAN secretary general for the annual U.S.-ASEAN Summit yesterday morning. Biden called ASEAN “essential … to the regional architecture of the Indo-Pacific” and a “lynchpin” to security in “our shared region.” Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.
ASEAN has been urged to “take a decisive step” to resolve the ongoing crisis in Myanmar by recognising the shadow government — the National Unity Government (NUG) — in Myanmar and demanding the military generals who seized power in February immediately halt armed violence before agreeing to any talks. “In a news conference on Wednesday, Southeast Asian parliamentarians and Myanmar opposition representatives said the 10-member group should ‘stop siding’ with the coup leaders, and instead engage with the NUG, which they said was the ‘legitimate’ representative of the majority of the electorate,” Al Jazeera reports.
In a virtual summit with leaders of the ASEAN member states Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has stressed his country’s strong opposition to challenges to a free and open maritime order, underscoring regional concerns about China’s growing military clout. At his meeting with ASEAN, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also defended the AUKUS security pact between U.S., U.K. and Australia, seeking to reassure ASEAN that AUKUS did not mean a pursuit of nuclear arms and was not a security threat. Morrison also proposed a strengthening of relations to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership, which would make it the first country to agree such a deal with ASEAN. Ain Bandial reports for Reuters.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has revoked the authorization for China Telecom’s U.S. subsidiary to operate in the U.S. According to the FCC, the company is “subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government and is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests without sufficient legal procedures subject to independent judicial oversight.” The FCC also cited “significant national security and law enforcement risks.” David Shepardson reports for Reuters.
According to the FCC, the Chinese government’s control of China Telecom’s U.S. subsidiary gave it the opportunity “to access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute U.S. communications,” which in turn could allow it “to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the U.S.” “China Telecom, which has provided telecoms services in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, called the decision ‘disappointing.’ ‘We plan to pursue all available options while continuing to serve our customers,’” a statement by China Telecom said. BBC News reports.
The U.S. believes that Iran was likely behind a drone attack last week on a military base in southern Syria that houses U.S. forces. “Officials said Monday [that] the U.S. believes that Iran resourced and encouraged the attack, but that the drones were not launched from Iran. They were Iranian drones, and Iran appears to have facilitated their use, officials said… Officials said they believe the attacks involved as many as five drones laden with explosive charges, and that they hit both the U.S. side of al-Tanf garrison and the side where Syrian opposition forces stay,” Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns report for AP.
The U.N. Security Council and the U.S. have both imposed sanctions on a Libyan official over the alleged abuse and torture of migrants in a detention center. “The Security Council and the U.S. said in separate statements late Tuesday that Osama al-Kuni is the de facto head of a detention center in the North African nation’s west. Migrants there are said to have been subjected to torture, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking,” Samy Magdy reports for AP.
Two U.S. senators have urged Biden to waive sanctions against India over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, saying sanctions against India would endanger growing cooperation. India signed a $5.5bn deal with Russia in 2018 for five surface-to-air missile systems for defense against long-time adversary Pakistan and China. The U.S. passed a law in 2017 under which any country engaged with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors could face sanctions. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey for buying the same equipment last year. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mark Warner (D-VA) wrote to Biden yesterday calling for a waiver of sanctions on the grounds of national security and broader cooperation. “Cornyn and Warner, who are co-chairs of a Senate India Caucus, said they shared the administration’s concerns about Russia but they warned of damage to cooperation with India if sanctions were to be imposed,” Al Jazeera reports.
The U.S. support’s Taiwan’s inclusion in the U.N. system, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, a move that is likely to anger China. In a statement Blinken called “Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the U.N. system” a “pragmatic” issue and not a political one. “The fact that Taiwan participated robustly in certain UN specialized agencies for the vast majority of the past 50 years is evidence of the value the international community places in Taiwan’s contributions,” Blinken said, praising the island as a democratic success story and representing values that “align” with the U.N. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
President Biden’s administration “strongly opposes” plans by the Israeli government to expand settlements in the West Bank, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said yesterday. Price said that the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the plans to advance thousands of settlements, in particular “deep in the West Bank” in addition to the Israeli’s government’s approval on Sunday of 1,300 construction tenders to take place in Israeli settlements. “The expansion of settlements…is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm and it damages the prospects for a two state solution,” Price said. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
An Israeli committee, the Defense Ministry’s higher planning council, is expected today to approve 2,800 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, a day after the Biden administration issued its strongest condemnation yet of Israeli settlement construction. Ilan Ben Zion reports for AP.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has requested that former top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli voluntarily speak with the select committee. In December 2020, former President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani called Cuccinelli to ask whether DHS could seize voting machines to investigate alleged voter fraud. Cuccinelli told CNN that he informed Giuliani that DHS had no authority to take such action. Cuccinelli also said that “no one at any level pushed us to do anything outside of our existing mission sets.” Zachary Cohen and Geneva Sands report for CNN.
At least five former Trump staffers have spoken with either Jan. 6 select committee members or members’ staff. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said that he believes that “a number of them are horrified and scandalized” by the Jan. 6 attack, and that the committee will “continue to encourage everybody who has relevant information to come and talk.” Kaitlan Collins reports for CNN.
The Jan. 6 select committee is expected to subpoena legal scholar John Eastman, who wrote memos about how former Vice President Pence could deny Biden the 2020 election. Eastman confirmed that he had been contacted by the committee, but provided no further comment. Jacqueline Alemany reports for the Washington Post.
The Jan. 6 select committee is postponing its request for about 50 pages of Trump White House records, even though the National Archives has concluded the documents were relevant to the committee’s investigation. The committee decided to “defer” the request for the records after talks with President Biden’s White House. A White House official said this was “a routine part of the accommodation process between Congress and the Executive Branch in these types of matters” and that it “reflects a productive engagement between the Select Committee and the Executive Branch.” “Lawmakers and aides say they want to avoid a complicated and possibly protracted negotiation over documents related to the Capitol attack that might be legitimately shielded by executive privilege, attorney-client privilege or other reasons,” Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
An individual charged in the assault of DC Police Officer Michael Fanone during the Jan. 6 attack will be released from jail and put under house arrest at his parents’ home, a federal judge ruled yesterday. “Thomas Sibick of New York has been in jail since he was arrested in March. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Sibick earned his pretrial release by apologizing for his actions, distancing himself from the other Capitol rioters in jail, and pledging to avoid social media and political news. He pleaded not guilty to 10 federal crimes. Prosecutors say Sibick attacked Fanone and robbed him of his police badge and radio, leading to Fanone’s hospitalization,” Marshall Cohen reports for CNN.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Democratic lawmakers are seeking answers on the Defense Department’s plans to better track military equipment. Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin (MD), Stephen Lynch (MA) and Robin Kelly (IL) have sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense and to the Army, Navy and Air Force to ask what actions they are taking to account for military equipment and ensure that it is not stolen. “The letter comes after an investigation from The Associated Press published in June found there were at least 1,900 military firearms stolen from 2010 to 2019…Although officials have told Congress they would develop a plan and acknowledged the missing equipment, the representatives believe the departments have not followed through,” Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has announced that Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman will be appointed CISA’s Senior Election Security Lead. Wyman, a Republican, had challenged former President Trump’s unsupported claims of election fraud in Washington. CISA Director Jen Easterly said that she was “personally thrilled,” and that Wyman’s “deep knowledge of state and county government will strengthen our partnerships with state and local officials.” Jordan Williams and Maggie Miller report for The Hill.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was targeted by a suspicious substance which was subsequently deemed not to be hazardous, U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) said yesterday. “Today our office received a package with a suspicious substance and a threat reading ‘The Patriarchy will rise again. Merry f***ing Christmas…Everyone on our team is okay. We reported the package to Capitol Police and they determined it to be safe,” Omar wrote on Twitter. USCP directed staff and other personnel to avoid the area around Omar’s offices, but reopened the area shortly thereafter, noting test results were “negative for anything hazardous.” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
A former close aide of Hilary Clinton has described how she was sexually assaulted by a U.S. senator in her new memoir. In her memoir due to be published next week Huma Abedin describes how an unnamed senator sexually assaulted her on a coach following a dinner in Washington attended by “a few senators and their aides” but not Clinton. The incident occurred in the mid-2000s when Abedin was working as an aide for Clinton. Martin Pengelly reports for the Guardian.
A top Pentagon official has testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Islamic State in Afghanistan could be ready to attack the West within six months. Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, said also that al-Qaeda “would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability.” Kahl noted that the Taliban is motivated to go after the Islamic State, but called the Taliban’s ability to counter the threat “to be determined.” Nancy A. Yousef reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Taliban are eager to have dialogue with the rest of the world and the international community should help Afghanistan with its development, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said. Wang made the comments in an address delivered by video link to a conference in Iran. “The Taliban are eager to have dialogue with the world … China will host the third Neighbours of Afghanistan meeting at the appropriate time,” Wang said in comments broadcast live by Iranian state TV. Reuters reports.
A week ahead of the U.N. COP26 summit, President Biden’s advisers are divided on how to approach U.S.-China relations. John Kerry, Biden’s envoy for climate, has advocated to improve the U.S.-China relationship and has pushed for direct diplomacy between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. “White House aides, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, are more skeptical that the United States alone can coax China into reducing emissions.” John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima report for the Washington Post.
National plans to cut carbon fall far short of what is needed to avert dangerous climate change, according to a report from the U.N. Environment Program. The Emissions Gap Report, published yesterday, has said that country pledges will fail to keep the global temperature under 1.5C this century and that the analysis suggests that the world is on course to warm around 2.7C with hugely destructive impacts. Though, if long term net-zero goals are met, temperatures can be significantly reined in, the report notes. Just a few days before the COP26 climate summit, the scientific report on climate change is “another thundering wake-up call,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has said. Matt McGrath reports for BBC News.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has announced a proposal to include in the Democrats’ reconciliation bill more than $500 billion in funding over the next ten years. Klain said, “we’re talking about an investment in climate change larger than the entire Department of Energy.” Rachel Frazin reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
An attack in Iraq has killed 11 people and wounded 13 people, local security sources have said. The attack on a village in eastern Iraq has been blamed on the Islamic State group. One security source said that civilians were among those killed by small arms fire in the village, which is home to many members of the security service. Agence France-Presse reports.
Iran was hit yesterday by a cyber attack that disrupted fuel sales at gas stations. The attack crippled the system that allows consumers to buy subsidized fuel using government-subsidized cards. Kareem Fahim reports for the Washington Post.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has said that a cyberattack was designed to get “people angry by creating disorder and disruption.” Long lines have continued at gas stations a day after the incident began. “Raisi’s remarks stopped short of assigning blame for the attack, which rendered useless the government-issued electronic cards that many Iranians use to buy subsidized fuel at the pump. However, his remarks suggested that he and others in the theocracy believe anti-Iranian forces carried out the assault,” Jon Gambrell and Nasser Karimi report for AP.
Gang leaders have demanded that Prime Minister Ariel Henry resign as Haiti continues to face a fuel shortage due to gangs blocking the entrance to ports that hold fuel stores. Gang coalition leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier said, “if Ariel Henry resigns at 8:00 a.m., at 8:05 a.m. we will unblock the road and all the trucks will be able to go through.” Brian Ellsworth and Gessika Thomas report for Reuters.
The U.K. Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is under pressure to disclose whether the U.K.’s most sensitive national security secrets could be at risk after the disclosure that U.K. spy agencies have signed a cloud contract with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Under the contract, which was signed last year and aims to boost the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence for espionage, AWS will host classified material. “Conor McGinn, the Shadow Security Minister, wrote to his counterpart in government, Damian Hinds, on Tuesday demanding a parliamentary statement from Patel to explain the possible security implications and the contingencies in place if Amazon’s systems fail… The letter poses a series of questions for the government, including why Amazon was awarded the contract; whether the decision was discussed by the national security council; what the implications are of outsourcing data to a ‘non-British’ company; whether any assessment has been made as to the impact on the U.K.’s cyber resilience; what risks this brings; and what contingencies are in place should Amazon’s systems fail,” Rajeev Syal reports for the Guardian.
Unidentified gunmen have attacked a police patrol overnight in northwest Pakistan, killing four before fleeing the scene, a police official has said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and a search operation for the culprits is underway. AP reports.
Moldova’s Foreign Minister, Nicu Popescu, has described how Russia is threatening gas supply in Europe’s poorest state. Moldova’s gas supply has previously come completely from Russia’s state owned Gazprom. However, the supply contract expired at the end of September and Moldova has refused to pay the higher price proposed by Gazprom. Negotiations between Gazprom and Moldova are continuing, with Gazprom demanding Moldova repay a $709 million debt, which Moldova disputes, and Moldova having declared a 30-day state of emergency in the absence of a new deal. On Monday, however, Moldova “made history” by purchasing gas from a source other than Gazprom, Popescu said. The gas shipment from Poland’s PGNiG was one million cubic metres, though Moldova will need much larger volumes if Gazprom does turn off the gas pipe. Steve Rosenberg reports for BBC News.
The daughter of the former top Saudi intelligence official Saad Aljabri has said that representatives of the Saudi government attempted to lure her to the same consulate where the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul, as part of a series of threats against her and her family. Hissah Al-Muzaini told CNN that the Saudi kingdom encouraged her to go to the “consulate in Istanbul.” Al-Muzaini’s family has previously made this allegation in a civil suit filed earlier this year. Emmet Lyons and Claire Calzonetti report for CNN.
The coronavirus has infected over 45.61 million people and has now killed close to 738,900 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 244.57 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.96 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A Brazilian Senate committee in Brazil has voted in favor of recommending that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro face charges for how he has handled Covid-19. Seven out of eleven members voted to back a report that calls for the charges, including crimes against humanity. “The report’s recommendations must now be assessed by Brazil’s prosecutor-general, a Bolsonaro appointee who is expected to protect the president,” BBC News reports.
Former President Trump has shared his endorsement for Bolsonaro amid backlash over Bolsonaro’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. “He is a great President and will never let the people of his great country down!” Trump said in a statement yesterday. Olafimihan Oshin 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.