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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.
Two explosive-laden drones were shot down today by Iraq’s air defenses as they approached the Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts U.S. forces, west of Baghdad, an official of the U.S.-led international military coalition in Iraq has said. Reuters reports.
A similar attack was also foiled yesterday, when two armed drones were shot down by Iraqi air defenses as they approached a base hosting U.S. forces near Baghdad’s international airport. The incident was not claimed by any group. Agence France-Presse reports.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels have seized an Emirati-flagged ship in the Red Sea. The Houthi military spokesperson said that the United Arab Emirates “military cargo ship” had entered Yemeni waters “without any licence and engaged in hostilities targeting the security and stability of the Yemeni people.” The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels called for the vessel to be freed and threatened the “use of force” to secure its release. The coalition said the vessel was seized late on Sunday while carrying medical equipment from a decommissioned field hospital in the island of Socotra to the Saudi port of Jizan. Simeon Kerr reports for the Financial Times.
Hackers targeted the Jerusalem Post, a major Israeli newspaper, yesterday. The hackers replaced the newspaper’s homepage with an image depicting a missile coming down from a fist bearing a ring associated with Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed by a U.S. drone strike in Iraq two years ago yesterday. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the hacking. AP reports.
The hack of the Israeli newspaper, attacks against U.S. bases in Iraq, and seizure of the Emirati ship coincided with the second anniversary of the killing of Soleimani, which was marked by a massive memorial in Tehran. The attacks occurred after Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted: “Martyr Soleimani is more dangerous for his enemies than General Soleimani.” Jared Malsin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for former President Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to face trial for the assassination of Soleimani. Raisi, in a speech yesterday, called Trump an “aggressor,” “murderer,” and the “main culprit,” claiming that: “if Trump and Pompeo are not tried in a fair court for the criminal act of assassinating General Soleimani, Muslims will take our martyr’s revenge.” Reuters reports.
Just Security has published a piece by Brian Finucane on how it is ‘Time for the Biden Administration to Disavow the Dangerous Soleimani Legal Opinions’.
A Canadian court has awarded C$107m ($84m), plus interest, to the families of six people who died when Tehran accidentally targeted a civilian plane in the aftermath of the Soleimani strike in Jan. 2020. The Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, which Iran has said it mistook for a U.S. missile, was hit by two missiles after taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, including 55 Canadians and 35 permanent residents of Canada. Iran’s air defences had been on high alert because Iran had just fired ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani five days earlier. The lawyer of the victims’ relatives who won the civil lawsuit said his team would look to collect the money from Iran, which did not defend itself in court, by seizing Iranian assets in Canada and abroad, including from oil tankers. BBC News reports.
CHINA, HONG KONG
Tesla has opened a new showroom in China’s Xinjiang region, despite allegations that Chinese authorities have committed significant human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities there. Uyghur rights groups criticized the opening of the showroom and the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged its immediate closure, and the cessation of what it alleged “amounts to economic support for genocide.” Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian.
A pro-democracy Hong Kong activist has been jailed for 15 months for organizing a vigil to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Chow Hang Tung had already been sentenced to 12 months in prison for inciting and taking part in a similar vigil in 2020. The latest conviction and sentence, relating to Chow encouraging people to light candles to mark the event, will run concurrently with her earlier sentence. BBC News reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S., Russia, China, the U.K., and France have agreed that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” in a rare joint pledge. The signatories to the pledge, known as the P5 or N5, are the five nuclear weapons states recognized by the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and are also the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Julian Borger reports for the Guardian.
The five nations said that they consider the “avoidance of war between Nuclear-Weapon States and the reduction of strategic risks as our foremost responsibilities.” The statement also affirmed the belief “that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented,” and “that nuclear weapons — for as long as they continue to exist — should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.” Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
Former President Trump has endorsed right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, formally pledging his “complete support” to the leader. Orban and his party have been accused of consolidating power in Hungary by weakening the country’s independent and democratic institutions, including by curbing press freedoms. In his endorsement yesterday, Trump hailed Orban as a “strong leader” who has “done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs, trade, and should be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming election.” Shane Goldmacher reports for the New York Times.
A Russian businessman who appeared in a U.S. court yesterday on securities fraud charges could be an intelligence “gold mine” for U.S. efforts to gather more information on Russian interference in the 2016 election and other intelligence operations, former U.S. officials have said. U.S. prosecutors have accused Vladislav Klyushin and four other Russian men of an elaborate insider trading scheme that involved hacking into companies that firms used to file Securities and Exchange Commission reports. Klyushin’s “Moscow-based cybersecurity firm’s work with the Russian government and Klyushin’s alleged relationship with an ex-Russian GRU military intelligence officer [one of his co-defendants in the trial], will likely be of keen interest to U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials,” Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said that he attempted to convince Trump to pardon Julian Assange in January, 2021 before Trump left office, but never received a reply. Lopez Obrador has also reiterated an offer of asylum in Mexico to the WikiLeaks founder. Reuters reporting.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt over the weekend by gunmen during an event in the northern city of Gonaïves, Henry’s office has said. “Bandits and terrorists,” the office’s statement said, had tried to shoot the prime minister, and police called the attack the work of “armed groups.” Haitian media said the shooting killed one person and injured two more. Reuters reports.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has scheduled a special meeting of allied ambassadors and top Russian officials for next week as both sides seek to prevent a direct military conflict with Ukraine. The meeting of the NATO-Russia Council will take place in Brussels on Jan. 12, after U.S. and Russian officials hold security talks on Jan. 10 in Geneva. Gabriela Baczynska reports for Reuters.
At least 23 people have been killed amid clashes between rival guerrilla groups in Colombia’s northern Arauca area, according to Colombia’s Attorney General’s office. “Colombia’s ombudsman Carlos Camargo said that fighting first erupted between the National Liberation Army — the largest leftist guerrilla group in the country known by its Spanish acronym ELN — and dissident factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the early hours of January 2,” Stefano Pozzebon reports for CNN.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has condemned the continued violence targeting protesters in Sudan, following the October military coup. Guterres took note of the recent resignation of Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and “called upon the Sudanese security forces to exercise the utmost restraint and fulfil their obligations in relation to the rights to freedom of assembly and expression,” UN News Centre reports.
A former North Korean defector who made a risky and rare border crossing to return to North Korea last week had struggled in South Korea, officials and media reports have said. The reports have sparked fresh debate in South Korea over how such defectors are treated and whether they receive adequate support in South Korea. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Attorney General Merrick Garland will give a speech tomorrow on the Justice Department’s efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Garland will not speak about specific people or charges but will stress the department’s “unwavering commitment to defend Americans and American democracy from violence and threats of violence,” a Justice Department official said. Matt Zapotosky reports for the Washington Post.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has “firsthand” knowledge of Trump’s behavior during the attack from multiple sources, according to a person familiar with the investigation. “There’s a collection of people with relevant information,” the source said, adding that the committee also has texts and other documents that shed light on what Trump was doing. Jamie Gangel reports for CNN.
Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are struggling with the extent of online communications promoting violence since the Jan. 6 attack, officials have said. Sadie Gurman and Alexa Corse report for the Wall Street Journal.
Congressional investigators are probing the role that right-wing paramilitary group called 1st Amendment Praetorian (or 1AP) played in efforts to keep former President Trump in power. 1AP worked closely with pro-Trump forces in the months after the 2020 election to undermine public confidence in the election. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
Domestic extremist groups have re-emerged in recent months, altering their strategy to focus more on local politics. Many fair-right domestic extremist movements have also adapted their infrastructure and messaging, often recruiting and spreading their messages through culture-war debates including vaccines, race and education, according to a forthcoming report by the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council. Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins report for NBC News.
The fight against extremism in military ranks has only just begun, a year after a few dozen military veterans took part in the Jan. 6 attack, according to Defense Department officials, lawmakers, and experts on extremist movements. The Pentagon has tightened regulations to combat extremism in the ranks, but “military leaders say they are still struggling to determine how many troops are engaging in extremist behavior and refine what activities should be barred. They have yet to develop recommended training for commanders and senior enlisted leaders to spot white supremacists, as well as anti-government or other radical elements hiding in their units. And proposed reforms to the military justice system to make extremism a crime are the focus of a new review mandated by Congress,” Bryan Bender reports for POLITICO.
OTHER U.S. DEVELOPMENTS
Two of the biggest U.S. telecommunications firms have agreed to a government request to delay a rollout of 5G services this week in response to concerns about aviation safety. Plane makers have warned that C-Band spectrum 5G wireless signals may interfere with sensitive aircraft electronics and could disrupt flights. The chief executives of AT&T and Verizon previously pushed back against requests to delay the rollout, after putting plans on hold since late last year. BBC News reports.
The New York attorney general’s office is seeking to interview Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump under oath as part of its civil fraud investigation into the former president and his company, according to a court agreement filed yesterday. The court agreement did not specify how Ivanka Trump or Donald Trump Jr. were involved in property valuations which are the subject of the investigation. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Both Invanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. moved late yesterday to quash the subpoenas from the New York attorney general’s office. Lawyers asked a judge to quash subpoenas for the Trumps’ testimony, arguing that “New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking to ‘circumvent the entire grand jury process.’ Allowing the testimony, they argued, would set a ‘dangerous precedent,’” Kara Scannell and Sonia Moghe report for CNN.
The Minneapolis area is preparing for another trial relating to the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, as three former Minneapolis police officers face federal charges later this month that they violated Floyd’s civil rights during his arrest. Joe Barrett reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A federal judge of the Northern District of Texas has granted a preliminary injunction blocking the Department of Defense from taking “any adverse action” against 35 Navy sailors who have refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The service members had filed a suit against President Biden’s administration arguing that their “sincerely held religious beliefs forbid each of them from receiving the Covid-19 vaccine for a variety of reasons based upon their Christian faith.” Livia Albeck-Ripka reports for the New York Times.
Meta Platforms has said that it has removed a Facebook post by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) which violated the company’s Covid-19 misinformation policies. Jennifer Calfas reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The coronavirus has infected over 56.19 million people and has now killed over 827,700 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 292.59 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.45 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.