Thursday, June 14, 2018

U.S. Seeks 'Major Disarmament' of North Korea During Trump's Term

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the U.S. hopes to achieve “major disarmament” of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal during President Donald Trump’s first term in office and would resume joint military exercises with South Korea if the talks stall. “We’re hopeful that we can achieve that in the two and a half years,” he said.

Pompeo, who arrived in Seoul to confer with senior South Korean and Japanese officials, bristled at criticism that the summit declaration signed by Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was vague and had failed to secure an explicit commitment from Pyongyang to intrusive verification.

The promise by North Korea to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, Pompeo said, was tantamount to a commitment by Pyongyang to accept that the elimination of its nuclear weapons and forces must be irreversible and verifiable, although those words do not appear in the joint statement. “Let me assure you that ‘complete’ encompasses verifiable in the minds of everyone concerned,” he said. Meanwhile, Trump on Wednesday said that North Korea is “no longer a nuclear threat” to the U.S. CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal

On Thursday, Pompeo said tough sanctions will remain on North Korea until its complete denuclearization, apparently contradicting the North’s view that the process would be phased and reciprocal. North Korean state media reported on Wednesday that Kim and Trump had recognized the principle of “step-by-step and simultaneous action” to achieve denuclearization. Reuters
New York Times: Trump-Kim Summit Creates New Anxieties for Asian Allies
Reuters: Ex-Spy or Genteel Diplomat? North Korea’s Choices For Nuclear Talks With Pompeo
Washington Post: North Korea’s Dispersed And Hidden Weapons Complex Highlights The Challenge of Denuclearization


Will Congress block Trump’s deal with a dangerous company? “Senators of both parties have just agreed to add language to the annual defense spending bill that would reverse [Trump's]decision to save the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE,” Norman L. Eisen, Eliot A. Cohen and Fred Wertheimer write in the New York Times. “But the Senate must hold its ground: Not only does ZTE pose a unique threat to American security, but Trump’s kid-glove treatment of the company raises questions about possible links between it and Trump family businesses.”

For safety and security in Niger, solutions must flow upstream: “We’re learning more about how American troops died in Niger, but we should be asking a more fundamental question: How can we address what’s causing the ills of Niger and the Sahel directly so more U.S. troops don’t die there?” Alisha Graves, Serge Michailof, and Malcolm Potts write in The Hill.

Why Iran will choose to negotiate with Trump: “Iran is for the moment unprepared to enter direct negotiations with the United States,” Zalmay Khalilzad writes in the Washington Post. “But with more economic pressure and increased costs, Tehran may change its approach and become willing to start a dialogue that can lead to talks based on the interests of the two countries, ultimately leading, perhaps, to normal relations.”

A new framework for assessing the risk from U.S. arms sales: “The Saudi air campaign in Yemen, enabled by American weapons and American support, makes it clear that selling weapons is an inherently dangerous business,” Trevor Thrall and Caroline Dorminey write in War on the Rocks. “A more prudent approach that denies sales to the riskiest clients would help the United States minimize its unintended consequences. Limiting arms sales, especially to countries engaged in conflict, would also give the United States greater diplomatic flexibility.”

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Federal authorities are alleging that a Wisconsin woman hacked social media accounts in an effort to conduct recruitment on behalf of ISIS. Waheba Issa Dais, 45, is charged with providing “material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” She appeared before a federal magistrate on Wednesday and is scheduled to return to court Friday to determine bail.

According to an FBI affidavit, Dais posted fake names and photos on social media to promote ISIS and provide information on launching terror attacks. One posting discusses how to introduce ricin, a deadly poison, into water reservoirs in the United States. Dais “helped facilitate planning for attacks in the United States on behalf of ISIS and overseas by providing instructions on how to make explosives, biological weapons and suicide vests,” the affidavit says.

Dais, a native of Jerusalem, was allowed to come to the U.S. in 1992 without a passport because of her marriage to a U.S. citizen. The couple divorced in 2003, according to court records. She is now a lawful permanent resident. Associated Press, USA Today

A former top staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. James Wolfe, who appeared before a magistrate judge at the federal courthouse blocks from the Senate office building where he used to work, was indicted last week on three counts of lying to FBI agents working on a leak investigation.

Two of the three charges against Wolfe relate to allegations that he told reporters nonpublic information that he had learned as a result of his role as a staff member of the Intelligence Committee. None of the false statement charges, however, accuses Wolfe of unlawfully disclosing information. His attorneys said that Wolfe never leaked anything classified and said that people in the government—including President Trump—have made prejudicial statements about their client implying that he had done so. New York Times, Wall Street Journal

The military judge in the 9/11 trial is scheduling 16 weeks of on-again, off-again pretrial hearings at Guantanamo in 2019, a timetable that makes clear the trial will not actually begin before 2020. Since accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four alleged accomplices were arraigned in the death-penalty case in May 2012, the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, has been holding pretrial proceedings over issues including what classified evidence defense lawyers can see and which portions they can discuss with the accused terrorists as they prepare for the trial. Last summer, Chief Prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins proposed deadlines for defense filings that would start the trial in 2019, a timetable the judge never accepted.

Pohl circulated the proposed 2019 hearing dates on Tuesday. He had set aside 13 weeks for pretrial hearings this year but so far reduced the 2018 schedule to 10 weeks as he and lawyers continue to work on pretrial legal pleadings. The next hearings are scheduled for July 23 to August 3. Pohl has ordered testimony from the top lawyer at the Defense Department and a fired war-court overseer on whether the firing amounted to unlawful influence on the case. Miami Herald

Justice Dept watchdog to release report on FBI decisions on Clinton probe: The U.S. Justice Department’s internal watchdog will release a long-awaited report on Thursday on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe that she said contributed to her 2016 presidential election loss to Republican Donald Trump. The inquiry has focused on whether former FBI Director James Comey’s public statements about the bureau’s probe of Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state were based on “improper considerations.” Reuters

Mueller reveals new evidence of Manafort's unregistered lobbying efforts: Special counsel Robert Mueller has revealed new evidence that former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort led unregistered U.S. lobbying efforts while working for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. In a court filing Tuesday night as part of Manafort’s ongoing criminal case, Mueller made public a draft of a 2013 memo to Yanukovych in which Manafort touted his pro-Ukraine lobbying group’s U.S. engagement efforts. The memo was seized in a search of Manafort's home in Virginia, the filing said. CNBC

Michael Cohen splits with his legal team: President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has split with his legal team, a source familiar with the change said Wednesday. The split could signal a shift in legal strategy and comes amid mounting pressure on Cohen as criminal charges could become likely. Cohen is under intensifying scrutiny from federal prosecutors in Manhattan who are examining his business practices, as well as Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is continuing to investigate episodes involving Cohen. CNN

House panel approves Pentagon spending bill: The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday advanced its $674.6 billion Pentagon spending bill for fiscal year 2019. The committee voted 48-4 to approve the bill, which would provide $606.5 billion in base discretionary funding and $68.1 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account. The Hill

Apple to close iPhone security hole that police use to crack devices: Apple has long positioned the iPhone as a secure device that only its owner can open. That has led to battles with law enforcement officials, including a showdown with the FBI in 2016 after the San Bernardino shooting. In that case, the paid a third party to get into the shooter’s phone, circumventing the need for Apple’s help. Since then, law enforcement agencies have increasingly employed that strategy to get into locked iPhones. Now Apple is closing the technological loophole that let authorities hack into iPhones, angering police and other officials. New York Times


Fierce fighting has been reported after pro-government forces in Yemen, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, launched an offensive on the rebel-held city of Hudaydah, a key port for aid supplies. The United Arab Emirates confirmed of its four soldiers had been killed and 22 Houthi rebels reportedly also died.

The offensive, which analysts say could be the biggest battle so far in the Yemeni civil war, has raised fears of mass casualties among the city’s 400,000 population. Meanwhile, about 8 million people are at risk of starvation in the war-torn country, and Hudaydah is where most aid arrives for people in Yemen’s rebel-held areas. The UN Security Council is to hold urgent talks on Yemen on Thursday. BBC News
The Atlantic: The Next Disaster in Yemen
NPR: Fighting in Yemen Port City Threatens Aid Shipments
New York Times: Opinion: The Disaster Awaiting Yemen After Al Hudaydah Falls
New York Times: How Yemen Became a Humanitarian Nightmare: Untangling a Complex War

The global chemical weapons watchdog said Wednesday that the nerve agent sarin and toxic chemical chlorine were “very likely” used as weapons in two attacks in central Syria in late March 2017. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said that its Fact-Finding Mission probing alleged attacks in Syria found that “sarin was very likely used as a chemical weapon in the south of Latamneh” in Hama province on March 24 and that chlorine was very likely used a day later at Latamneh Hospital. The OPCW said its findings were based on witness testimony and analysis of samples. Days after the Latamneh attacks, sarin was used in a deadly attack at nearby Khan Sheikhoun, killing scores of people. Associated Press, BBC News


Cyber attack on Mexico campaign site triggers election nerves: The website of a Mexican political opposition party was hit by a cyber attack during Tuesday’s final television debate between presidential candidates ahead of the July 1 vote, after the site had published documents critical of the leading candidate. The National Action Party (PAN) said that its website, targeting front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, likely suffered a distributed denial of service cyber attack with the bulk of traffic to the site nominally coming from Russia and China. Lopez Obrador’s Morena party said it had nothing to do with the outage. The Chinese and Russian embassies in Mexico did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Reuters

Number of terrorism-related arrests in UK reaches record level: The number of terrorism-related arrests in Britain hit a record high after a series of attacks were launched around the country last year, according to official figures. In the year ending 31 March, 441 people were held on suspicion of terrorism-related activity, the highest number of arrests in a year since data collection started in 2001, and an increase of 17 percent from the previous year. The Guardian


For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief.
Editor-in-Chief, Karen J. Greenberg, Center on National Security, Fordham Law School

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