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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.
A rocket hit an Iraqi military base hosting U.S. forces near Baghdad’s international airport today, Iraqi security and military sources have said. The sources said that nobody was hurt in the incident. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack. Reuters reports.
The U.S. military is suspected to have conducted strikes in Syria after indirect fire posed “an imminent threat” to troops near Green Village, a base in the east of Syria near the Iraqi border. “Indirect fire attacks pose a serious threat to innocent civilians because of their lack of discrimination,” an Operation Inherent Resolve (the U.S.-led coalition to counter ISIS in Syria and Iraq) official said in a statement. “While the U.S. is not officially confirming it conducted the strikes, a defense official with direct knowledge noted that only U.S. forces in that area have weapons capable of carrying out these kinds of strikes,” Barbara Starr and Oren Liebermann report for CNN.
U.S. authorities have arrested a Colombian national suspected of taking part in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse last year. In a statement the Justice Department said that Mario Antonio Palacios was arrested during a layover in Panama after he was deported from Jamaica, where he had fled to, but that he had agreed to travel to the United States. A criminal complaint filed in November and unsealed yesterday said that Palacios gave “voluntary statements” to U.S. law enforcement officials during an October interview in Jamaica. Amanda Coletta and Erin Cunningham report for the Washington Post.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said she will reaffirm the importance of dialogue with Russia to prevent conflict over Ukraine when she meets Secretary of State Antony Blinken today in Washington. “With regard to Russia, the common message from Europeans and the U.S. government is clear: Russian actions come with a clear price tag, and the only way out of the crisis is through dialogue,” Baerbock said in a statement. Reuters reports.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan has declared a two-week state of emergency in parts of Kazakhstan after protests concerning rising fuel prices turned violent. The protests began in the west of the country over the weekend and have spread quickly, with reports of police using stun grenades and teargas after crowds refused to disperse. BBC News reports.
Kazakhstan’s government has resigned amid the unrest. In a decree issued today Tokayev said he had accepted the government’s resignation and that he had appointed the nation’s deputy prime minister, Alikhan Smailov, as the new prime minister on an interim basis. Shaun Walker reports for the Guardian.
Protests have continued today in Kazakhstan despite the government’s resignation, with protesters storming public buildings in Kazakhstan’s biggest city. Olzhas Auyezov reports for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korea has fired a suspected ballistic missile into the sea, Japan and South Korea have said. “South Korean and U.S. intelligence are closely analyzing for further detail,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the ballistic missile had flown about 500 km (310 miles), though “according to one expert,…there [is] no way to confirm the full striking range of the missile,” BBC News reports.
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has diverted a fuel vessel heading for the Yemeni port of Hodeidah to a Saudi port instead, a TV channel run by the Yemen rebel Houthi movement has said. The reports were not immediately confirmed by the Saudi-led coalition. Reuters reports.
Australia and Japan are to sign a defense and security cooperation treaty at a virtual summit tomorrow. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the Reciprocal Access Agreement will for the first time set out a framework for the two countries’ defense forces to cooperate with each other. Australia and Japan also plan to discuss opportunities to strengthen government and business partnerships on clean energy, critical technologies and materials, Morrison added. Reuters reports.
The Reciprocal Access Agreement will allow Japanese and Australian troops to freely enter each other’s countries for exercises without having to negotiate terms each time. The agreement makes Australia the second country to have a formal defense pact with Japan covering entry of soldiers into Japan, after the U.S., as tensions with China in the region continue. Rhiannon Hoyle and Alastair Gale report for the Wall Street Journal.
French prosecutors have opened a terrorism investigation after an explosion hit a car participating in the Dakar rally in Saudi Arabia last week, wounding its French driver. “A preliminary investigation has been opened into multiple attempted killings in connection with a terrorist group,” national anti-terror prosecutors said in a statement yesterday. Organizers of the rally previously said that the incident was not related to racing while Saudi authorities indicated there was no suspicion of criminal activity. Agence France-Presse reports.
A harsh winter in Afghanistan is aggravating the ongoing humanitarian crisis and already severe conditions faced by millions across the country, the U.N. has said. UN News Centre reports.
A human rights group has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to explain what steps it has taken to ensure that official apparel for next month’s Beijing Winter Games were made without forced labor. The Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region has said that the IOC had failed to offer credible evidence that Olympic-branded apparel was not made with forced labor from China’s cotton-farming Xinjiang region. Stu Woo reports for the Wall Street Journal.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – ANNIVERSARY
President Biden will mark the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol tomorrow by honoring law enforcement and outlining the unfinished work the U.S. needs to do to strengthen its democracy, the White House has said. Biden “is going to speak to the truth of what happened,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. Guardian staff and agencies report.
Former President Trump has cancelled his own anniversary event of the Jan. 6 attack. Trump reportedly planned to defend those involved in the Jan. 6 attack at the event, which he was going to hold at his golf club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Several Republicans expressed concerns about Trump’s event overshadowing the somber day. In a statement yesterday evening, Trump said he was canceling the event due to “the total bias and dishonesty” of the media and the House select committee investigating his role in the Jan. 6 attack. Kevin Breuninger reports for CNBC.
Attorney General Merrick Garland is to deliver remarks on the Jan. 6 attack at 2:30pm ET today. The conference can be watched on C-SPAN.
Law enforcement and federal authorities in the Washington D.C. area are increasing security in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack tomorrow. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said that the department is operating at a “heightened level of vigilance,” while insisting that he is not aware of any credible threats specifically related to the anniversary. U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Tom Manger said yesterday that USCP would be capable of fending off another mob-like attack. Geneva Sands and Whitney Wild report for CNN.
Tom Manger is expected to tell Congress today that while more work needs to be done, USCP has made “significant improvements” to protect the building in the year since the Jan. 6 attack. “January 6 exposed critical deficiencies with operational planning, intelligence, staffing, and equipment…I recognize those issues have to be addressed, and that is what we are doing,” Manger plans to tell members of the Senate Rules Committee, according to his prepared statement. Dartunorro Clark reports for NBC News.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has said that it is interested in speaking to Fox News personality Sean Hannity about the Jan. 6 attack and its causes. Chair Rep. Bennie Thomspon (D-MS) and Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) wrote a joint letter to Hannity concerning the committee’s request for his voluntary cooperation “on a specific and narrow range of factual questions.” Alana Wise reports for NPR.
The letter to Hannity also noted that the Jan. 6 select committee had received “dozens” of Hannity’s text messages sent to and from former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the lead up to Jan. 6. The texts indicate that Hannity had “advance knowledge regarding President Trump’s and his legal team’s planning for January 6th,” according to the letter. In texts to Meadows, Hannity pushed back on the plan to urge Congress to challenge the certification of the election on Jan. 6 and urged Trump to prepare for his departure from office. On Dec. 31, 2020, Hannity wrote: “I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told,” in relation to Trump’s efforts, and on the night before the attack, Hannity wrote that he was “very worried about the next 48 hours.” Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer, Paula Reid, Angelica Grimaldi and Alex Rogers report for CNN.
Further reporting on Hannity’s texts in the lead up to Jan. 6 last year is provided by The Daily Beast and POLTICO.
Thompson wants to hear directly from former Vice President Mike Pence. Thompson told CNN that he wants Pence to voluntarily speak with the Jan. 6 select committee about what Pence witnessed on Jan. 6 and the conversations he was privy to in the days leading up to it. The panel has not officially asked Pence to speak with them, but Thompson did not rule out the panel doing so in the future. Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer report for CNN.
Trump has been hit with two new federal lawsuits from law enforcement officers who were at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The lawsuits allege that Trump directed the assault that left the complainants injured and emotionally traumatized. The lawsuits join six other civil suits that have been filed against Trump, the rioters, or others for their alleged role in encouraging the Jan. 6 attack. Tierney Sneed reports for CNN.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) has signaled that the Republican party is not necessarily opposed to reforming an existing federal law to reduce the potential for election subversion. Thune has told Axios that there is “some interest” among Senate Republicans in reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to clarify the role the vice president and Congress play in certifying presidential elections. Currently the bill does not specify if the role of the vice president is merely ceremonial or if the vice president has the power to refuse to certify certain electors. Sophia Cai reports for Axios.
Congress is considering new laws to prevent future attempts to subvert elections and democracy. The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is considering “enhanced penalties” for presidential dereliction of duty, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the committee, said lawmakers are examining potential clarifications and changes to the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which Schiff described as “poorly written” with “ambiguous” provisions. Sahil Kapur reports for NBC News.
Hackers breached the computer networks of Broward Health, a southeast Florida health care system, in October and may have accessed sensitive personal and financial information on over 1.3 million people, the company announced this week. Social Security numbers, patient medical history, and bank account information are among the data that have been exposed in the breach, according to a notice Broward Health filed with the Office of the Maine Attorney General. Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.
Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) has sued President Biden and other members of the Biden administration over the requirement that members of the national guard receive Covid-19 vaccines. The lawsuit contends that the vaccine mandate for National Guard members infringes “on Governor Abbott’s authority as Commander in Chief and on Texas’s sovereignty.” Tierney Sneed reports for CNN.
Residents in Xi’an China, who have been under a Covid-19 lockdown for over a week, are voicing desperation online about the challenges in getting food and medical care. “No one is allowed to enter or leave Xi’an and most of the city’s 13 million residents can leave their homes only for Covid-19 testing. Few vehicles are allowed in the streets except for those transporting essential workers and supplies, and many supermarkets and hospitals are closed,” Liyan Qi reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A fourth shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine generated a fivefold boost in antibodies a week after the jab, according to preliminary results of an Israeli study. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in a statement, said the preliminary results indicated “a very high likelihood that the fourth dose will protect vaccinated people to a great degree against infection to some degree and against severe symptoms.” Steve Hendrix reports for the Washington Post.
The coronavirus has infected over 57.06 million people and has now killed over 830,200 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 295.33 million confirmed coronavirus cases and close to 5.46 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.