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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.
G20 and COP26
President Biden used the Group of 20 (G20) summit to reverse key policy approaches of former President Trump and to reaffirm his administration’s commitment to the U.S’s return to global leadership. “The United States of America is the most critical part of this entire agenda,” Biden said at a news conference. Biden also sought to lock in his policy changes through formal agreements and high profile deals in an attempt to prevent future reversals even with a change in American leadership. Annie Linskey, Chico Harlan, and Seung Min Kim reporting for the Washington Post.
Biden was disappointed that more action was not accomplished to limit climate change by the G20, which includes some of the biggest emitters, specifically blaming China and Russia. Biden said that the two countries “basically didn’t show up in terms of any commitments to deal with climate change.” This leaves the heavy work to be done at the U.N Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) climate summit in Scotland, which had its opening address on Sunday. Gavin Jones, Crispian Balmer, and Jeff Mason report for Reuters.
The G20 nations are failing poor and vulnerable countries by not agreeing to a climate plan that would ensure their people’s survival, leaders representing more than a billion of the people most at risk from the climate crisis have said. The leaders, at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, told reporters that they are “extremely concerned” and that the prospect of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels was slipping away. Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, “blamed the influence of powerful private-sector interests for the G20’s failure to come up with better plans, and said developed countries would also suffer the consequences of climate breakdown,” Fiona Harvey reports for the Guardian.
The G20 summit made little progress on climate change, though the leaders did make “vague promise to ‘boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products’ to developing countries, and they locked-in a global corporate minimum tax rate of 15 percent that — if implemented as planned in 2023 — could force significant change to the tax practices of the world’s largest companies,” Ryan Heath reports on the outcomes of the G20 meeting and the summit communique for POLITICO.
The U.N. COP26 climate summit in Glasgow has commenced, with calls from diplomats and politicians for more action and ambition for curbing greenhouse emissions and adapting to the impacts of a warming planet, UN News Centre reports.
Biden will be seeking to convince the world that the U.S. can lead in tackling climate change at the COP26 summit; however there are “few concrete options for rallying international support for the tough measures scientists say are needed,” Timothy Puko and Andrew Restuccia report for the Wall Street Journal.
Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, is to tell the COP26 not to compromise on the 1.5C global heating target. “That level of global heating is the most ambitious target on the table at Glasgow. It will require a global mobilisation of resources at a scale not seen outside wartime and at least a halving of fossil fuel emissions and tree burning by the end of this decade. Many oil exporting nations are reluctant to move this quickly, but Nasheed says small island states cannot accept anything less because they are already losing land and people to rising seas. ‘I think 1.5C must be asked for again and restated and never left. Anything above 1.5C and the Maldives will not be there. We cannot sign a suicide pact,” he told the Guardian,’” Jonathan Watts reports for the Guardian.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager and celebrated climate activist, drew attention as she arrived at the COP26 climate summit in Scotland. Thunberg had not been officially invited to speak at the summit. In a BBC interview, she remarked that “[m]any people might be scared that if they invite too many ‘radical’ young people, then that might make them look bad.” Karla Adam reports for the Washington Post.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan “has cancelled plans to attend the COP26 climate conference after Britain failed to meet Ankara’s demands on security arrangements, two Turkish officials told Reuters,” Reuters reports.
Live reporting on the COP26 summit is provided by the BBC, the Washington Post and The New York Times.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s security detail allegedly used violence against Brazilian reporters covering his trip to Rome for the G20 meeting, local media reported. “Newspaper O Globo reported allegations that broadcast journalist Leonardo Monteiro of TV Globo was punched in the stomach and pushed by Bolsonaro’s security after asking the president why he didn’t attend any G20 events on Sunday. A video taken by UOL journalist Jamil Chade shows chaotic scenes with security staff jostling the press and Bolsonaro supporters chanting abuse at reporters. It was not clear if the security officers were Brazilian or Italian. O Globo reported that Italians had been given the job of providing security to Bolsonaro,” Reuters reports.
President Biden has told Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan that his request for F-16 fighter jets must go through a U.S. process, while raising the issue of human rights and concerns about Turkey’s possession of a Russian missile system. “President Biden reaffirmed our defense partnership and Turkey’s importance as a NATO Ally, but noted U.S. concerns over Turkey’s possession of the Russian S-400 missile system,” said the White House in a statement released after the meeting. Jeff Mason reporting for Reuters.
U.S. and E.U. officials are concerned about the renewed movements and buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine’s border. The increase of Russian troops in the area comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin embraces a harder line on Ukraine. Paul Sonne, Robyn Dixon and David L. Stern report for the Washington Post.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised a warning about Taiwan to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday. During a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Blinken emphasized to his Chinese counterpart areas in which the U.S. and China can work together, such as North Korea, Afghanistan and the climate crisis, as well as raising “concerns about a range of PRC [People’s Republic of China] actions that that undermine the international rules-based order and that run counter to our values and interests and those of our allies and partners, including actions related to human rights, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, the East and South China Seas, and Taiwan,” the State Department said. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
The U.S. and South Korea have quietly started joint aerial drills, amid tensions over North Korea’s recent missile tests and calls for a restart of denuclearization talks. The drills once mobilized tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of cutting-edge warplanes; however the program has been scaled back since 2017 to facilitate talks with North Korea. The allies began the drills, which will last five days, without announcing or naming them. A South Korean news agency reported “that some 100 aircraft were dispatched from each side, including South Korea’s F-15Ks and KF-16s and U.S. F-16s, but that no equipment or soldiers from the U.S. mainland would join the exercises,” Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
Blinken has said that the U.S. would ensure Taiwan had the ability to defend itself if attacked, while not providing a definitive answer to whether the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked. “There is no change in our policy,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to “a long standing commitment pursuant to the Taiwan Relations Act to make sure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.” CNN reports.
Biden has acknowledged that his administration’s handling of a submarine deal with Australia was “clumsy,” as he sought to repair relations with France following the AUKUS security pact between the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Biden met French President Emmanuel Macron for a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of the G20 meeting. “It was not done with a lot of grace. I was under the impression certain things had happened that hadn’t happened.” “I want to be clear: France is an extremely valued partner,” Biden continued. Biden later said that he was “under the impression that France had been informed long before” the AUKUS pact was announced, when in fact Paris had not been. “We clarified together what we had to clarify,” Macron told reporters. “And now what’s important is precisely to be sure that such a situation will not be possible for our future,” Macron said, insisting on the need for “stronger coordination” and “stronger cooperation.” Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
The Biden administration has targeted Iran’s drone program with further sanctions. The administration on Friday sanctioned a top Iranian military official for his role in the July attack on an Israeli-managed commercial shipping vessel in the Gulf of Oman and blacklisted a network of individuals and companies behind Iran’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program. “Iran’s proliferation of UAVs across the region threatens international peace and stability…Iran and its proxy militants have used UAVs to attack U.S. forces, our partners, and international shipping. [The] Treasury will continue to hold Iran accountable for its irresponsible and violent acts,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
At least eight people have been killed by a car bomb in Yemen’s southern city of Aden on Saturday, officials said. The explosion happened close to a security checkpoint outside Aden’s international airport in the neighborhood of Khormaksar. No group claimed responsibility for the attack and security authorities in Aden said investigations were ongoing. Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed called the explosion a “terrorist attack.” Ahmed Al-Haj reports for AP.
At least 10 civilians, including children, were killed and 25 wounded when two ballistic missiles from Yemen’s Houthi rebels struck a religious school and a mosque in the central province of Marib yesterday, according to officials. The attack also damaged nearby houses, the officials said. There was no immediate comment from the Iranian-backed Houthis. Ahmed Al-Haj reports for AP.
The U.S. Air Force has flown a B-1B strategic bomber over the Middle East above essential maritime chokepoints. Fighter jets from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia flew alongside the bomber. “The B-1B Lancer bomber flew Saturday over the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil traded passes. It also flew over the Red Sea, its narrow Bab el-Mandeb Strait and Egypt’s Suez Canal. The Strait of Hormuz has been the scene of attacks on shipping blamed on Iran in recent years, while the Red Sea has seen similar assaults amid an ongoing shadow war between Tehran and Israel,” Jon Gambrell reports for AP.
“The bomber task force mission – the fifth in U.S. Central Command’s area of operation this year – was intended to deliver a clear message of reassurance,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command said according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.
Iran’s civil defense chief, Gholamreza Jalali, has said that the U.S. and Israel are the likely culprits behind a cyberattack on Iranian gas stations. Jalali however noted that a technical investigation was yet to be completed. “We are still unable to say forensically, but analytically I believe it was carried out by the Zionist Regime, the Americans and their agents,” Jalali told state TV in an interview. Reuters reports.
Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi has said that “resignation is out of the question” after his previous remarks about the Yemen war sparked diplomatic tensions with Saudi Arabia. Al Jazeera reports.
Sudanese anti-coup protesters continue their campaign against the military takeover even after a deadly crackdown by security forces on Saturday. The Guardian reports.
At least three people were killed, and 38 were injured, on Saturday amid protests against the military coup in Sudan. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors stated that three people died by gunfire after they were shot by security forces during the protest. The Sudanese police have claimed that they did not fire any shots at the protesters, and have said on state TV that one police officer sustained gunshot wounds. In Khartoum, security forces used tear gas and gunfire to try to disperse a huge crowd after protesters had been setting up a stage and discussing the possibility of a sit-in, a witness told Reuters. Khalid Abdelaziz reports for Reuters.
A U.N. official has discussed mediation with ousted Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok as a possible “way forward,” a day after hundreds of thousands of anti-coup protesters were on the street. Volker Perthes, U.N. Special Representative for Sudan, posted on Twitter that he “will continue these efforts with other Sudanese stakeholders.” Khalid Abdelaziz reports for Reuters.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres yesterday called on Sudan’s generals to reverse their coup and to return to “legitimate constitutional arrangements.” Following the protests over the weekend against the military, Guterres tweeted “we witnessed in #Sudan on Saturday the courage of so many people who peacefully protested military rule. The military should take heed. Time to go back to the legitimate constitutional arrangements. Reports of violence are alarming & perpetrators must be brought to justice.” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
The U.N. special envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, had a meeting with Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, a coup leader, late Friday to discuss the activist-planned “million-person” marches which were scheduled for Saturday. Dagalo commands the feared Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary unit that controls the streets of Khartoum and played a major role in the coup. Perthes said dialogue between the top generals and civilian leaders “remains the only path toward a peaceful solution to the current crisis.” Samy Magdy reports for AP.
Several allies of deposed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir have been released from prison in recent days, leading to criticism from opponents of military rule. Ibrahim Ghandour, head of Sudan’s disbanded former ruling National Congress Party and a former foreign minister under al-Bashir, was released on Sunday night, along with two former intelligence officials under Bashir. Two other Islamist Bashir allies, including businessman Abdelbasit Hamza, had also been released on Saturday, judiciary sources said. Sudan’s public prosecutor was also dismissed Sunday night. However, Ghandour was re-arrested today, according to a source from his family. Reuters reports.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko has said that he has faced recent pressure from the State Department to redact some of their reports while noting the Pentagon classified much of its work detailing the failings of U.S.’s own military forces. Sopko, who is charged with reviewing the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, in comments published on SIGAR’s website, referenced numerous attempts to “impede” his work, adding that “U.S. agencies have not made honest reporting easy for SIGAR.” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Some former members of the U.S.-trained Afghan Security Forces are now joining the Islamic State after being left behind by the U.S. withdrawal and hunted down by Taliban forces. The Islamic State, which now serves as the only other armed group in the country, offers its new members protection from the Taliban and significant amounts of money and these former Afghan security officials — who hold expertise in intelligence gathering and military techniques — have the potential to strengthen the Islamic State. Yaroslav Trofimov reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, made his first public appearance in months on Saturday, quashing rumors of his death. Akhundzada made an appearance at a school in Kandahar, a senior Taliban leader said, the first confirmed recent outing of the leader who has been in his role since 2016. Reuters reports.
Three people have been shot dead at a wedding ceremony in Afghanistan after a fight erupted over whether music could be played, residents have said. Ten others were injured in Friday’s attack that followed an altercation between the assailants and residents of Sarkharod town. Residents said that they recognized the gunmen as local Taliban members. “Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid denied that the attackers were members of the group in a statement Saturday. But he confirmed that three armed men had killed three people and injured 10 after demanding that a wedding party stop playing music in Nangarhar,” Mushtaq Yusufzai and Saphora Smith report for NBC News.
The Taliban have said that the U.S.’s failure to recognize their government in Afghanistan could lead to problems “for the world.” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters on Saturday that the Afghan people have a right to have their government recognized by the United States. Mujahid told reporters that the reason the Taliban and the U.S. went to war previously was because the two did not have formal diplomatic ties. “Those issues which caused the war, they could have been solved through negotiation,” Mujahid said. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
“The Attack: Before, During, and After,” from the Washington Post provides new reporting on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and shows how law enforcement agencies failed to respond to growing warnings of violence; former President Trump’s election lies and inaction during the insurrection allowed his radicalized supporters to attack the Capitol; and a deep disinformation campaign has continued to erode the foundations of American democracy. The reporting sheds new details on the events leading up to and during the insurrection and highlights the lasting impact on America’s government and elections. Report by the Washington Post.
Further information about Trump’s efforts to keep secret the support from his White House for overturning the 2020 election have been revealed in court filings from the National Archives that describe in general terms more than 700 pages of handwritten notes, draft documents and daily logs Trump’s top advisers kept related to Jan. 6. The court filings are in response to a lawsuit from Trump in which he is attempting to block congressional investigators from accessing hundreds of pages of records they requested from the National Archives, which inherited Trump’s presidential papers. “The records Trump wants to keep secret include handwritten memos from his chief of staff about Jan. 6, call logs of the then-President and former Vice President Mike Pence and White House visitor records,” Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
Members of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack are working on potential legislation to tighten the process of certifying a presidential election in an effort to eliminate contentious avenues that spurred the attack, sources have said. A proposed bill could offer more specific instructions for when Congress can overturn a state’s slate of electors, and more clearly define the role the vice president plays in counting the votes, after former President Trump and his allies pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to try to block President Biden’s win. The legislation would also “give the committee a focus on developing a law as part of the investigation, undercutting a legal argument that…Trump has made that the committee has no true legislative purpose for seeking his White House documents,” Jeremy Herb and Pamela Brown report for CNN.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has urged his supporters to use any weapons they have to stop an advance by Tigrayan rebel forces. Ahmed, on his appeal on Facebook, said it was the duty of citizens to, “block, destroy and bury” the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). BBC News reports.
Ahmed’s appeal came after the TPLF said that it had made further territorial gains in the Amhara region, taking them closer to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. A TPLF spokesperson said that they had captured Kombolcha city and that their only aim was to break a siege of Tigray. The TPLF have also claimed that they have seized the nearby town of Dessie in the Amhara region. The Ethiopian government has denied the claim. “A spokesperson of the rebel Oromo Liberation Army also said they had taken Kemise city — about 50km (33 miles) from Kombolcha and 325km from Addis Ababa — and were fighting with government forces,” BBC News reports.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the U.S. is alarmed by reports that Tigrayan rebel forces have taken over two key Ethiopian towns of Dessie and Kombolcha. “Continued fighting prolongs the dire humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia,” Blinken said in a statement on Twitter, urging all parties to stop military operations. BBC News reports.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister in a statement on Sunday said federal troops are fighting on four fronts against the Tigray forces and “we should know that our enemy’s main strength is our weakness and unpreparedness.” Amid calls on social media for attacks against ethnic Tigrayans, Ahmed said “we should closely follow those who work for the enemy and live amongst us.” A new wave of arrests and detentions of ethnic Tigrayans was also seen in the capital today. Cara Anna reports for AP.
Ethiopia’s government has accused Tigrayan rebel forces of killing 100 youths in Kombolcha, one of two towns the TPLF said it captured over the weekend. There was no immediate response from the TPLF. It has not been possible to verify accounts of the fighting around the town since communications to the area are down and journalists are barred. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Seven senior military officers who form part of an eight-member jury, who heard graphic descriptions last week of the brutal treatment of an al Quaeda member while in the CIA’s custody, have written a letter calling the CIA’s carrying out of torture following the Sept. 11 attacks “a stain on the moral fiber of America.” The officers issued a sentence of 26 years, about the lowest term possible according to the instructions of the court, against Majid Khan, a suburban Baltimore high school graduate turned al Qaeda courier. At the behest of Khan’s lawyer, the officers then took the prerogative available in military justice of writing a letter urging clemency to a senior official who will review the case. Carol Rosenberg reports for The New York Times.
Former President Trump has found a way around social media bans and election finance laws as he rebuilds his political operation before a potential 2024 presidential campaign. Trump is skirting barriers by using his primary political action committee, Save America, to pump out more than $100,000 worth of Facebook ads a week. “Rather than shrink from the scene to focus on the blueprints of a presidential library or philanthropy, he is attempting to build one of the largest operations in American politics by continuing many of the tactics that dominated his two presidential campaigns.” Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report for the Washington Post.
One woman died and 36 migrants were detained after they tried to swim around a portion of the U.S.-Mexico border fence that extends into the Pacific Ocean. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has reported an increase in the number of migrants taking to the sea to try to reach the California coast — often aboard overcrowded small boats. Paulina Villegas reports for the Washington Post.
Former Hilary Clinton aide Huma Abedin has said she did not think an unnamed senator sexually assaulted her when he kissed her at his apartment, some time in the mid-2000s. Abedin described the incident with the senator in her new book “Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds,” which is to be published tomorrow. Speaking to CBS in her first interview to promote her new book, Abedin said that “I was in an uncomfortable situation with a senator and I didn’t know how to deal with it and I buried the whole experience.” Martin Pengelly reports for the Guardian.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A 24-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in the Japanese capital Tokyo after a knife attack on a train left at least 17 people injured Sunday evening. Witnesses have said that the suspect was wearing a costume that appeared to depict the character of the Joker from the Batman franchise. Junko Ogura reports for CNN.
Philippines forces have killed a key rebel commander, Jorge Madlos (who used the nom de guerre Ka Oris) who was for many decades a leading figure and spokesman for the communist fighters in the southern Philippines’s mountainous hinterlands. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzan described the rebel’s death as a major blow to the already-battered New People’s Army guerrilla group. Jim Gomez reports for AP.
Police in Brazil have killed 25 suspects as part of what authorities have called an unprecedented offensive against heavily armed bank robbers whose heists have brought several major cities to a standstill. The individuals were killed yesterday morning in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais, where police claimed they had been poised to unleash an attack. The federal highway police, which took part in the mission, said the group had “a veritable military arsenal” including assault rifles, 50-caliber machine guns, explosives and bulletproof vests. Tom Phillips reports for the Guardian.
Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), held on to its majority but lost seats in Sunday’s elections for the lower house of parliament. The LDP’s majority will help Prime Minister Fumio Kishida secure support for his legislative agenda; however, the loss of seats also underscored voters’ frustrations with the government that built up during the Covid-19 pandemic. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma report from the Washington Post.
The trial of eight pro-democracy activists, including Apple Daily newspaper founder Jimmy Lai, who were charged over their roles in an unauthorized Tiananmen Square vigil last year has begun. The individuals face charges of organizing, participating and inciting others to take part in the unauthorized candlelight vigil. Lee Cheuk-yan, the former chairman of the now defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, is among those who have been charged. “On Monday five of the group, including Lee, pleaded guilty, according to the South China Morning Post. Lai, activist Gwyneth Ho, and former alliance vice-chair, Chow Hang-tun, pleaded not guilty,” Zen Soo reports for AP.
The U.K. and France have remained at loggerheads in a post-Brexit row over permits for fishing boards. “On Sunday, the leaders met to discuss tensions and the U.K. government said it was ‘up to France’ to step back from threats over port access. But Macron said the ball was ‘in Britain’s court’ and he hoped there would be a positive response on Monday. Macron added it was not a bilateral issue for the nations but an E.U. issue. The row comes ahead of Tuesday, which is the deadline for more permits to be granted for French fishing boats to operate in British waters. Otherwise U.K. fishing boats could be barred from some ports, French officials have warned,” BBC News reports.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison lied to him about the scrapped submarine deal between the two countries, following the AUKUS pact between the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Macron and Morrison met at the G20 summit in Rome for the first time since the row erupted in September. When asked by an Australian journalist at the sidelines of the G20 summit whether he thinks Morrison was untruthful, Macron replied: “I don’t think, I know.” “I have a lot of respect for your country. I have a lot of respect and a lot of friendship for your people. I just say when we have respect, you have to be true and you have to behave in line and consistently with this value,” Macron said. BBC News reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 45.97 million people and has now killed over to 745,800 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 246.81 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.00 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, becoming the highest-ranking White House official to publicly disclose they contracted the virus. “While I have not had close contact in person with the President or senior members of the White House staff since Wednesday — and tested negative for four days after that last contact — I am disclosing today’s positive test out of an abundance of transparency,” Psaki said in a statement. Brett Samuels 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.