Friday News Roundup — November 22, 2019

Greetings and happy Friday from Washington, D.C., where impeachment hearings have continued throughout the week. While the testimony of the civil servants, Foreign Service officers, and others has been compelling — and sobering — there has been little movement on the political needle. At a time when our politics — and the media by which we learn about politics — remain as polarized as ever, it is worth heeding the testimony of Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill, who reminds us that Russia “deploy[s] millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each other, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.” As Russia and other foreign powers perfect their playbook for sowing disinformation and discord amongst the American people, it’s worth remembering the motives of those at home and abroad who seek to tear us apart.

In this week’s roundup, Dan looks at how the current geopolitical environment requires alliances and partnerships, and the challenge that we’ll have in rebuilding them. Chris covers two cases that raise further concerns about the death penalty in the United States. Our CSPC Military Fellow, Ethan, looks at President Trump’s intervention into the military judicial system and the message he sent to men and women in uniform with his controversial pardons. Joshua concludes the analysis with a look at the latest intelligence assessment on Iran’s capabilities. As always, we wrap with news that you may have missed — including a contribution from our intern, Yoshi Heima from Pepperdine University.

Next week, we’ll be taking a break to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with our families. We hope that you and yours have a relaxing holiday, eat way too much, avoid backyard football injuries, and that the dinnertime conversation focuses on what brings us together than divides us.

America First, or America Alone?

Dan Mahaffee

Screenshot Credit: The Independent

That we are in an era of great power rivalry is undisputed. Despite the past two decades focused on the wars and instability of the Middle East and South Asia, China, Russia, and other authoritarians have carefully studied and examined the strengths and weaknesses of the west and sought to exploit them. Russia, as we all know, has sought to identify the fault lines of body politics on both sides of the Atlantic and honed disinformation designed to sow rancor and promote isolationists and populists. China, after decades of development and growth, is no longer content with Deng Xiaoping’s 24-character strategy to “Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.”

The challenge is clear. Despite the fall of the Warsaw Pact, the collapse of European Communism, and the turmoil of the post-Cold War transition, Moscow never thought that it had ceded its role the global stage — even though we did. As we have described in this roundup, the Russian strategy of keeping its neighbors on edge and destabilizing the west has paid dividends.

Beijing knew that its power was growing — even as we assumed economic openness and engagement would lead to a political transition. As its economic power has grown, it has translated that into military and technological strength. Through its Belt & Road initiative, it has created the avenue by which it can not only turn largesse into political and economic influence, but also to export its model of techno-authoritarianism. If you want to understand what the Chinese Communist Party is willing to do to maintain power, read the first-hand account of Simon Cheng, a Hong Konger working for the British Consulate, who, upon entering mainland China, was arrested, tortured, and forced to confess his “crimes” while also reciting Communist propaganda slogans and singing the Chinese national anthem to prove his loyalty. If you need evidence on a macro scale, I recommend that you read the reporting on the leaked papers describing Beijing’s approach to cracking down on the Muslim ethnic minorities of Xinjiang.

During the Cold War, it was far easier to separate the world into different blocs. Today, in a globalized world, economic interdependence changes that calculus. The shared global challenges that we face require coordinated approaches. We cannot afford to decouple and isolate ourselves, nor can we try to beat the authoritarians at their own game. That, however, does not mean that open societies cannot continue to emphasize the importance of our shared values and the global institutions that we have built.

The west is facing a fundamental assault on its shared values, but it finds itself feckless and divided. Even if American leadership was imperfect, it was the fulcrum for western unity. Now it is absent, but this absence is self-imposed.

As noted in the “news you may have missed” below, talks between the United States and South Korea recently broke down, as Seoul balked at the $5 billion request that U.S. officials demanded for a continued military presence in the region. This comes at the same time that U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper met with his East Asian counterparts, where his call for greater defense unity in the face of a rising China met a cool reception. In this roundup, we also talked about French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent remarks on NATO’s “brain death,” and Thursday’s news that the Trump administration is now investigating whether it can levy tariffs on the European Union will hardly mend the growing transatlantic divide.

If this trend is to be arrested, we cannot assume that what comes next merely requires a return to normal. The past three years have been a missed opportunity to rebuild, reform, restrengthen, and reorient the institutions of the past century to face the challenges of this century. Our leaders must also communicate the importance of U.S. global engagement at a time of war-weariness and societal uncertainty. A glimmer of hope is that millennials and younger generations have tended far further in favor of globalization and engagement than previous generations.

We have to understand a new paradigm where authoritarian regimes and open societies will vie, not for territory, but for influence, commerce, and the innovative edge. History tells us that democracies fare best when they stand united. As open societies seek to shape the 21st century, the United States need not bear all of the costs and burdens, but it cannot shirk its leading role.

Staying the Hand of Death

Chris Condon

Capital punishment has been a frequent topic throughout America’s justice system this year. In the past week, two cases made headlines for their notable arguments against certain aspects of the death penalty. Last Friday, Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution of inmate Rodney Reed due to the possible presence of evidence calling into question his conviction for murder 23 years ago. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan halted four executions scheduled to be carried out by the federal government, ruling that the new protocols established by the Department of Justice violate federal law. While the Supreme Court has been hesitant to stay executions in appeals that have recently come before them, these cases present unique challenges that complicate judicial considerations.

Mr. Reed’s victory in court came just days before his scheduled execution. After spending over 20 years on death row, the inmate’s conviction for the murder of a teenager came under scrutiny by Texas’ highest criminal court. In 1996, Rodney Reed allegedly murdered a 19 year old girl named Stacey Stiles, leaving her in a ditch by the side of the road. After the discovery by forensic investigators of Reed’s sperm on the body of Ms. Stiles, the case was largely treated as an open-and-shut rape and murder case. Reed was sentenced to death for the crime, although he consistently maintained his innocence. He explained that the keystone of the prosecution’s case, his sperm, was present due to a consensual affair he had been carrying on with Ms. Stiles prior to her death. The two kept this relationship a secret due to the fear of racial prejudice in a conservative southern community.

Recently, considerable evidence has been brought forth supporting Mr. Reed’s case. In fact, the testimony of three individuals points to Stiles’ fiancée, Jimmy Fennell, as the culprit in her murder. Convicted of kidnapping in 2008, Fennell was released from prison in 2018; the woman who he kidnapped alleges that he also raped her while she was held captive. Perhaps the most damning testimony that has recently come to light is that of an inmate who served time with Mr. Fennell, who alleges that Fennell admitted to killing Stiles because she was having an affair with a black man. Since Rodney Reed is black, this would confirm his reason for biological evidence pointing to his relationship with Ms. Stiles and his assertion of innocence. After a groundswell of support from a bipartisan coalition of state officials as well as celebrities like Kim Kardashian-West and Rihanna, state courts saw fit to reevaluate the matter ahead of Reed’s execution.

Judge Chutkan’s aforementioned ruling has even broader implications on federal capital punishment policy. This summer, Attorney General William Barr announced that the federal government would resume executions after a 16-year hiatus. The Obama administration announced in 2011 that it was unable to carry out scheduled executions due to a dearth of the chemicals necessary to do so. Attorney General Barr’s Justice Department sought to circumvent this requirement by creating a standard method of federal lethal injection that differs from the traditional deadly cocktail of three toxic chemicals. Instead, he announced that federal executions would use only one chemical that is available to the government: pentobarbital.

This week, the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia ruled that this decision violates the Federal Death Penalty Act, which regulates how the federal government carries out executions. Essentially, the ruling centers on a requirement in the law that the federal government may only execute offenders “in the manner prescribed by the state of conviction.” Those set to be executed argue that using different drugs than those prescribed by the states wherein they were convicted violates this provision, which Judge Chutkan ultimately agreed with. The government interprets this clause more broadly, asserting that the manner prescribed by these states in lethal injection in general, not lethal injection using a specific cocktail of drugs. Requiring such strict conditions for the government to put people to death, they argue, would be “absurd.” Whether the Justice Department will appeal this decision remains yet to be seen, but it will be interesting to see whether the courts uphold Chutkan’s ruling or they exercise a Chevron-style deference.

In the wake of cases such as Bucklew v. Precythe and Madison v. Alabama earlier this year, it may seem like the Supreme Court is unlikely to interfere with capital punishment for the most part. In light of the above cases, however, all Americans should reevaluate the usefulness of the death penalty in the scheme of justice. Each case reveals a serious concern with capital punishment at its core. Although it may just seem like squabbling between the judicial and executive branches, Judge Chutkan’s ruling is worth contemplation. If government cannot even be trusted to find an appropriate way to carry out capital punishment, why should it be trusted to execute its own citizens? Likewise, if it wasn’t for an outpouring of concerned citizens, Mr. Reed may have been executed despite possible innocence. It is not impossible to draw the conclusion that cases with less public focus may turn out differently, and that many innocent people have been murdered by the state even just over the past decade.

Further, it is not necessarily up to courts to extinguish the death penalty. The people’s representatives are entrusted with the responsibility to establish crimes and punishments, and therefore it is within the purview of the people to curb capital punishment. As with gerrymandering, it may even be preferable for the people to demand change rather than judges making individual determinations, as this would undoubtedly prove to be a more permanent solution. In any case, it will be interesting to see how these two cases affect the death penalty moving forward.

The Danger of Perception

Ethan Brown

On 19 November, President Trump pardoned U.S. Army Major Matthew Golsteyn and 1Lt. Clint Lorance, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher. This decision brought into public focus both the choice to issue these pardons and the process by which President Trump arrived at this action. It is notable in that while the President does have the authority to issue executive pardons, intervening in such high-profile cases is unique and atypical. What follows is not an analysis of the crimes themselves, but rather an effort to contextualize the process and the decision, and what it means.

It must be made abundantly clear to those who read this article that war, and specifically the execution of combat operations in a place like Afghanistan, is an incomprehensibly dynamic and challenging endeavor. A plethora of studies have been written and published highlighting the tactical and strategic challenges of conducting counterinsurgent campaigns — unclear adversaries living amongst civilian populations, populations that ultimately constitute the strategic terrain.

After 19 years embroiled in this conflict with a highly compartmentalized and fragmented aggressor force, known to be sponsored and supported by states and actors abroad, there remains no clear method or strategy for achieving a de facto victory. Extremism is not a readily identifiable, uniformed entity by which the Rules of Engagement and tactical directives of strategic leaders can swiftly and clearly apply the technological lethality of the American Military complex.

But for the past two decades, the very best and brightest of our nation’s military and intelligence services have made every effort to ethically and responsibly counter the threat to its members, its non-military personnel, and civilians alike in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere abroad.

The most unfortunate reality is that, in war, people die.

In the United States Military, people do make mistakes, even with the best of intentions, and sometimes there are actions that exceed mistakes and constitute criminal actions.

In combat, regardless of the amount and intensity of training, rehearsal, and reiteration of the rules, the fog of war is a very real thing. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines do their utmost to control every aspect of the chaos, but no amount training, preparation and anticipation of the outcome will cover every contingency.

We are not killing machines

In October, in response to the U.S. Army re-investigating Major Golsteyn, the President tweeted the following:

The United States Military, and in particular the Special Operations Community, does not (nor has it ever) create, or train its personnel, to be “killing machines.” It trains its members to be competent, proficient, and above all adherent to the rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict in the pursuit of national security objectives.

There is a certain perception, perhaps a stigma, that is affiliated with the likes of Special Operations members, much of which has been aggrandized by social and commercial depictions. Like many other examples, stereotypes exist for a reason. Yes, it is absolutely commonplace to hear Five Finger Death Punch blasting from the team room, where weapons, sensitive serialized equipment items, camouflage kits, and uniforms are interspersed with energy drinks, tobacco spitters, and the furious hustling of bodies and some profanity in preparation to conduct a patrol, raid, or other sensitive mission that supports the interests of the United States — as directed by leaders in positions achieved through recognition of leadership characteristics and careful cultivation of the principles of the legal use of force.

This perception, fomented in the entertainment industry and popular culture, paints a picture of a band of semi-lawless brigands, ready to be let off leash in a display of firepower and brutality. What is not depicted in the epic gunfights and thrilling sprint from cover to cover in those 30-minute TV episodes, is the risk-assessment decision matrices that run in a loop in the mind of each and every U.S. service member. Starting from the development of the CONOP (“Concept of the Operation”) to the execution of the mission and through the after-action report, beginning anew with each target generated by the titanic enterprise of the combat system.

Special operators, in the air, on-the-ground, and in the water, comport themselves in some of the most extreme environments of the human existence. And they do so under stressors unfathomable to the average individual. Austere living conditions, lack of sleep, dehydration, and a limited supply of food are the regular hallmarks of a mission, but it is precisely those conditions for which the men and women of the Special Operations community constantly prepare for. And that preparation has always been rooted in the Law of Armed Conflict, which prioritizes such principles as distinction, proper escalation of force, proportionality and risk versus reward, in addition to the increasingly restrictive and specific rules of engagement applied to a particular battlespace.

National Security Implications

The United States has a short but storied history in warfare, siding with the oppressed, liberating the civilian populace from under the heel of tyranny, and espousing the principles of democracy and liberty for the global community. One of the bastions of the legitimacy of the U.S. military is that it conducts its operations under the guidance of civilian oversight, so that the actions of the enterprise are done with the knowledge that the democratically-elected leaders of our country are the ones who decide when and where our forces are employed.

But when the members of the Armed Services are identified as “killing machines,” it undermines the legitimacy of the whole endeavor. It reduces the men and women of service as mindless, automatons incapable of discretion or reason. It paints the camouflage uniform patterns with a grey, savage and soulless veneer, devoid of the ability to promote trust throughout the rest of the world.

The stigma for American Military prowess remains a powerful adversary, and in no way does this article ignore some very real and abhorrent actions in our military history which have lent viability to that stigma. But no system or organization is perfect, and the members of the United States military continue to do their jobs in the best and safest way they can while following the orders of those appointed over them.

Legality and Unlawful Command Influence (UCI)

In addition, there must be some objective analysis on the role of the executive branch directly involving itself in the military judicial process. This applies to the broader topic of any administrations’ involvement in this independent judiciary body, thus a non-attribution analysis is to be made based on process, and not incident. The cases of the aforementioned individuals, in a similar vein to the sentencing and subsequent pardon of former Army Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning, raise the question of ethicality and the relationship between civilian and military bodies.

The preamble to the Manual for Courts Martial, the document which dictates the practices of a separate judiciary process as it applies to U.S. service members, states that the Courts Martial process is “to assist in maintaining good order and discipline in the armed forces, to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the military establishment, and thereby to strengthen the national security of the United States”. Agnostic of judgement for Maj. Golsteyn, Chief Gallagher or Lt. Lorance’s actions, there was a procedural review by a military court, initiated by appropriate commanders as is process, to determine whether or not a violation of the Law of Armed Conflict or the Uniform Code of Military Justice occurred.

The “tweet heard round the courtroom” intimates what a military judicial court in 2013 has ruled for previous public statements by the executive as a UCI: or an Unlawful Command Influence. A vague and gray area exists in such that the executive is not within the military jurisdiction under Article II of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), but this does nothing to reduce the necessity of eliminating such external influence on the due process of executing military justice as determined by the convening commander.

When an executive takes on a role that directly conflicts or undermines the military judicial process, the ideal that military service members are held to higher standards of conduct becomes moot, and at face value are relegated to political tools, rather than the instrument of national defense bestowed by the American public in good faith. The counterpoint of questioning the fairness of a trial in a servicemembers case is refuted by an existing military court of appeals [subject to the U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals to boot], further implying no need for external interference or influence on a service-related legal proceeding by an external entity.

“I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier”

The Creed of the 75th Ranger Regiment, written by 1st Battalion Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Neal R. Gentry in 1974, echoes in cadence as one of the most renown and solemn pledges of professional soldiering in U.S. Military history. It highlights the characteristics of what it means to be a professional of arms, and no movie ra-ra speech or rousing call to arms depicted in a story compares to this statement of service.

Every component of the Special Operations Force (SOF) community is familiar with The Creed, and while other recitations or mantras exist throughout the broader SOF collective, The Ranger Creed succinctly defines what it means to be entrusted with the faith of the American Public to operate under the difficult conditions of combat. The reader is encouraged to explore the Ranger Creed in order to take a glimpse into the minds of such operators by reading the creed in its entirety.

Such canon is what distinguishes the men and women of the United States military from killing machines. It is the belief and ideal that they are held to a higher standard, and entrusted with the guidance and vision of leaders to carry out a task or mission in the crucible of combat.

The Nazi regime had the Schutzstaffel (SS) death squads, Joseph Stalin had his NKVD Secret Police, and history is riddled with other authoritarian dictators whose power largely resided in the threat of their personally taskable killing machines.

The men and women of the United States Military are not and should not be labeled in a manner that compares them to the tools of tyrants.

The views are of the author, and do not reflect the views, position, or policy of the U.S. Air Force or Department of Defense.

Iran’s Conventional & Unconventional Capabilities

Joshua Huminski

At a time when Iran is experiencing considerable domestic unrest, two reports provided new, but not entirely surprising, insights into the activities and aims of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In an unprecedented leak covered jointly by the Intercept and the New York Times, a massive trove of Iranian intelligence cables detailed the penetration of Iraq’s internal affairs Tehran managed to achieve.

Later that same week, the Defense Intelligence Agency published its updated “Iran Military Power” assessment, highlighting three core capabilities Tehran is using to defend the regime and advance its interests.

Tehran’s Intelligence Capabilities in Iraq

The 700 pages of documents were composed of cables written in 2014 and 2015 by officers serving in Iraq from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). The MOIS, roughly analogous to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is often overruled and overshadowed by the independent intelligence organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the elite Quds Force.

Anonymously sent to the Intercept and translated from Persian to English, the leaker said they wanted to “let the world know what Iran is doing in my country Iraq”.

The MOIS’ main tasks, according to the Times’ analysis “are to keep Iraq from falling apart; from breeding Sunni militants on the Iranian border; from descending into sectarian warfare that might make Shia Muslims the targets of violence; and from spinning off an independent Kurdistan that would threaten regional stability and Iranian territorial integrity.” While Iran did work to counter the threat from ISIS, it was a secondary objective to maintaining Iraq as a client state and ensuring pro-Iran politicians and parties remained in power.

At nearly every turn, Iran appears to be the beneficiary of U.S. policy in and towards Iraq. From the outset of the invasion, toppling Saddam Hussein provided a windfall for Tehran, removing its long-time adversary and critical regional geopolitical threat. Even with the withdrawal, as noted by the Times, the Iranians were a beneficiary in then-unconsidered ways.

As the U.S. removed its forces, critical intelligence assets on-the-ground were cut loose. Without jobs and fearing for their lives, these assets turned to Tehran who were eager to disclose CIA activities in Iraq. Tactics, techniques, and procedures, and even sensitive tools provided to the Iraqi government were undoubtedly on offer to Tehran during and in the wake of the withdrawal — an intelligence bonanza for Iran.

One source, reportedly close to Lieutenant General Hatem al-Maksusi, then commander of military intelligence in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, said “All of the Iraqi Army’s intelligence — consider it yours.” General al-Maksusi denied serving for or working with Iran in a subsequent interview.

Politically, Iran worked, successfully, to ensure candidates favorable to Tehran remained in power. Major General Qassim Suleimani, the head of the aforementioned Quds Force visited Iraq in October of this year to help persuade an ally of Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi to help him stay in power. Suleimani’s influence is seen when in 2014 the general persuaded the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation to allow Iranian arms shipments to Syria to fly through Iraqi airspace — this at a time when the Obama administration was working to persuade Baghdad to stop the overflights.

Tehran’s Military Power

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report on Iran’s military power provides great insight into what Tehran is doing and what it seeks to do through conventional and unconventional arms. At a macro level, according to DIA Iran’s military relies on three core capabilities: its ballistic missiles, its naval forces, and its unconventional capabilities such as partners and proxies.

In the absence of a modern air force, Iran’s ballistic missile program represents the bulk of its strategic deterrent. It has the largest inventory in the Middle East, with missiles than can reach as far as 2,000 kilometers. DIA expects Iran’s reliance on these weapons to increase and Tehran to use its space program as vehicle to increase its capabilities.

Iran’s naval capabilities are part of its anti-access, area denial program for the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. It emphasizes asymmetric capabilities to deny larger navies, such as the United States, the freedom of movement and dominance in the event of a conflict breaking out in its surrounding waters. Swarm tactics, small boats, mines, and cruise missiles all offer Iran a means of taking on larger, more powerful adversaries without investing in comparable capabilities and platforms.

Finally, Iran’s proxies and partner forces offer Iran an additional layer of strategic deterrent and response capability. Its support of the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Assad regime in Syria, Shiite groups in Bahrain and elsewhere in the Gulf provide it a cost-effective means of increasing regional tension and tying down adversaries’ attention and resources. At the same time the Qods Force of the IRGC and its direct and indirect activities provide it a strategic reach that it otherwise would not enjoy.

Unsurprisingly, Iran continues to reinvest in its air defense network both through domestic development and international purchases. Similarly, it is investing in and using cyber capabilities as a “safe, low-cost method” to collect intelligence and retaliate against its adversaries.

DIA notes that Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons, but it remains concerned about the program, particularly in light of the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

What is interesting is that the DIA notes Iran conducted “limited out-of-area naval operations as far as China, South Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea.” Additionally, Iran is looking to increase its support of UN international peacekeeping operations. Why? Tehran views this as a means to build legitimacy and potentially to “develop expeditionary-like capabilities through operations other than war”.

Iran & the Region

Taken together, the DIA report and the leak illustrates the extent of Iran’s capabilities in the Middle East. While on a one-to-one comparison, Iran is incapable of challenging the United States. But that simply is not the point. Rather, Tehran is capable of asymmetrically countering America’s interest and influence.

Its intelligence apparatuses have unquestioned dominance of Iraq and will certainly for the foreseeable future. Its conventional capabilities serve as effective counters to American strength — swarm tactics, small boats, naval mines, cruise missiles etc… raise the costs of operating in the Gulf for the United States. Equally, with its air defense networks, it seeks to dissuade Washington and Jerusalem from launching a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear program.

This is, of course, not surprising, but it is a timely reminder of what Iran can do in the region and what the United States will seek to counter. At the moment (and arguably for some time now), America’s inward focus and policy decisions are emboldening and enabling Iran’s strategy. The withdrawal of forces from Syria, only to have them remain to secure oil fields; the exit from JCPOA (a flawed if working agreement); and the general lack of interest or engagement at a senior level in the region is allowing Iran a relative free hand to act. Indeed, Iran shot down a Global Hawk drone and launched (if not formally attributed) series of strikes against Saudi oil facilities, all with little recourse or response.

For its part, the only regional counter (with or without the United States), is Saudi Arabia. Yet, Riyadh’s woeful performance in preventing or responding to the drone/cruise missile strike leaves a lot to be desired. It is clear from that incident and the near annihilation of a convoy of Saudi-backed Yemen forces, that while money can buy the best equipment, it is no substitute for a highly trained, professional, and alert cadre of military personnel.

A conventional force-on-force engagement with Iran is unlikely in the near term. To be sure, there will be individual actions such as the drone strike and the shoot down of the Global Hawk, and likely cyber operations. But a true kinetic engagement would be prohibitive to both sides and the outcome would be unclear as would be the political objective. Despite this being a state-on-state conflict, the war between Iran and the United States will almost certainly be carried out in the shadows by intelligence activities, covert operations, and proxy battles, and right now it would appear that Iran’s leading on the scoreboard.

News You May Have Missed

Russia Mandates Russian-made Software in Devices

This week, the lower house of Russia’s parliament passed a law mandating the presence of Russian-made software on all devices sold in Russia. While the law would not restrict the presence of other software, proponents argue that consumers should have the choice between western software and “domestic counterparts.” Those who oppose the law worry that the regime of Vladimir Putin may utilize Russian software to surveil the citizenry. It has also been argued that international companies may pull out of the Russian market if preloading Russian software onto their devices proves to be too difficult.

Crucial Venetian Flood Guards Underwater

The famous city of Venice has recently been subject to flooding, which has made global news over the past several weeks. After the city’s legislative body recently rejected measures to combat climate change, their chamber ironically began to flood. It has recently come to light, however, that this historic flooding could have been mitigated. Over the past several years, a project costing several billion dollars was undertaken to build submersible flood gates in the channels surrounding Venice to prevent catastrophic damage to the city. When Mayor Alessandro Ferro desperately attempted to engage the flood prevention apparatus, he could find no one authorized to operate the system. With the flood gate project incomplete and ineffective due to bureaucratic mishandling, it is unclear how it will be able to help Venice in the future.

North Korea No Longer Interested in “Useless” Meetings with President Trump, says Senior Minister

Yoshi Heima

North Korea has said they are no longer interested in meetings with US anymore, a day after the President Trump tweeted a message to the country’s leader saying “See you soon!” According to Kim Kye Gwan, the North Korean Foreign Ministry advisor, the United States wants to advance talks, but Pyongyang considers it as a delaying tactic. “We will no longer give the US president something to boast about for nothing in return, and we must receive from the US what is corresponding to the results that President Trump is already boasting as his achievements,” Kim said.

U.S. Negotiators Walk Out of South Korea Defense Talks

Talks between the U.S. and South Korea broke down this week over the issue of shared defense costs. Since the Korean War, American troops have been stationed across the southern portion of the peninsula to ward off attacks from North Korea, which spends a comparatively large sum on national security compared to their southern neighbors. The Trump administration has lamented this imbalance, with the president himself often stating that our allies must pay a higher sum for the benefit of shared defense. In the most recent round of negotiations with South Korea, the administration requested $5 billion for the coming year, a steep increase from years past. While the U.S. government insists that this is a fair share of the costs, South Korea argues that it is an exorbitant and unnecessary sum. In response, American negotiators walked away from the table to “give the Korean side time to reconsider.”

Cases of Pneumonic Plague Reported in China

Yoshi Heima

Two people in Beijing have been diagnosed with the pneumonic plague, “the most virulent form of plague,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO website explains that this form of plague is highly contagious and “can trigger severe epidemics through person-to-person contact via droplets in the air.” Historically, plague wiped out millions of people in the mid-1300s. Even though modern cases have become rare in the modern world, it is a big misconception to assume that the plague has been wiped out.



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