Britany Riley  //  6/25/17  //  Topic Update


President Trump announced a new policy toward Cuba Friday that leaves in place many Obama-era changes but prohibits any commercial dealings with the Cuban military, and somewhat limits the freedom of U.S. citizens to travel to the island (NYTWaPo, ).

  • The relevant White House memo can be found here.
  • Nick Miroff writes that the change in policy will hurt Cuba’s emerging private sector (WaPo).
  • Sen. Leahy writes for The Hill that rolling back interaction with Cuba leaves a vacuum for Russia to fill.
  • Felicia Schwartz notes that President Trump’s emphasis on the importance of human rights in Cuba is distinctively different from messaging to other countries (WSJ).
  • While Cuban Foreign Relations Minister Bruno Rodriguez said that President Trump’s speech was a “grotesque spectacle straight from the Cold War,” he noted that Cuba will continue to engage in relations with the U.S.
  • Cuba also refused the president’s demand to return American fugitives. 
  • Some commentators argue that President Trump’s new policy is not a major change from President Obama’s, as the most important part of President Obama’s agreement with Cuba was the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. However, others view the dampening of tourism as significant, and interpret what’s happened so far to mean there will be little high-level U.S.-Cuba negotiation during the Trump Administration (The Guardian).

President Trump should clarify his strategy in Syria, argues Ilan Goldenberg at Slate.

  • This comes amid three US strikes in the past two weeks that have brought down pro-Assad aircraft, although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that the U.S. focus in Syria is ISIS (WSJ).
  • This action arguably represents the escalation of a conflict with Bashar al-Assad and Russia, not ISIS (Just SecurityVox).
  • Russia has responded by closing a communication channel with the U.S.-led coalition meant to avoid air conflicts and threatening to treat coalition planes as targets if they fly west of the Euphrates river. 
  • Just last month, Defense Secretary James Mattis described the U.S. strategy in Syria as focused on ISIS.

The U.S. has escalated against Iran, Russia, Syria, and “pro-regime” forces this year, argues Hannah Ryan at Just Security.

  • In addition to escalation in Syria, the U.S. is involved in a public feud with Qatar, and resumed arms sales to Saudi Arabia, notes J. Dana Stuster on Lawfare.

Here is a list of national security-related hearings this week, including a Senate hearing tomorrow on the AUMF.  

  • For commentary on the use of the AUMF as the legal basis for dispersed military operations sixteen years after 9/11, look no further.

The U.S. can succeed in Afghanistan only if it makes a sustainable commitment to send more troops, argue David Petraeus and Michael O’Hanlon.

 Otto Warmbier’s imprisonment in North Korea and recent death underscore the need for a consistent and strong human rights policyargues Jennifer Rubin (WaPo).


Updates | The Week of January 22, 2018

1/28/18  //  Daily Update

President Trump threatened to take aid away from Palestine if Palestinian leadership remained unwilling to negotiate with Israel. Vice President Mike Pence announced that the new embassy in Jerusalem would open in 2019.

Updates | The Week of January 15, 2018

1/14/18  //  Daily Update

President Trump refuses to certify that the Iranian nuclear disarmament deal is in America’s best interests, but is expected to allow the accord to continue. The Trump administration announces it will suspend most security assistance to Pakistan.

Zachary Piaker

Columbia Law School

Updates | The Week of December 18, 2017

12/24/17  //  Daily Update

President Trump said in a speech on national security that Russia and China “seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth,” but did not directly address Russian interference in the 2016 election. A majority of nations in the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution rebuking America's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the US embassy to the city.