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Showing posts from June, 2019

With One Small Step, Trump Makes History in North Korea

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On June 30, Donald J. Trump became the first US president to set foot in North Korea. Trump made history when stepped across a low concrete marker accompanied by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and walked a few steps into the North. The two leaders agreed to have their negotiators resume an effort to reach what has so far been an elusive nuclear deal.

US President Donald J. Trump, accompanied by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, stepped into North Korea at the border village of Panmunjom on June 30. Trump is the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Trump, Xi Pause US-China Trade War

US President Donald J. Trump agreed on June 29 to lift some restrictions on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and delay imposing new tariffs on Chinese goods. These concessions were announced following a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, at which the two leaders agreed to restart trade negotiations between their countries.

Trump Sanctions Iran’s Supreme Leader

US President Donald J. Trump on June 24 signed an executive order that he said would place “hard-hitting” sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader.

“The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. He’s respected within his country.  His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Trump said before signing the order in the White House. “These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions,” he added.

Open Source Information as a Tool in Exposing Authoritarian Regimes

In April, Norwegian security agents informed Iyad el-Baghdadi that he was the target of a threat emanating from Saudi Arabia. El-Baghdadi believes the threat came from the government of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the crown prince’s righthand man Saud al-Qahtani.

El-Baghdadi, a prominent Arab activist, is a critic of the Saudi government, much like his late friend, Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. He took the threat seriously.

Open Source Investigators Set Their Sights on Saudi Airstrikes in Yemen

Bellingcat and the Global Legal Action Network are using open source information to investigate airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on civilian targets and critical infrastructure in Yemen.


The goal of this project is to investigate “a hundred airstrikes as part of legal cases to prevent arms exports to Saudi Arabia,” said Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, an open source investigation website. In remarks at the Atlantic Council’s 360 O/S disinformation conference in London on June 21, Higgins used videos—most relying on satellite imagery—to explain the work his team of researchers has been doing to verify the credibility of information obtained from conflict zones around the world.

‘Door is Wide Open’ for Negotiations with North Korea, US Envoy Says

US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on June 19 that “the door is wide open” for negotiations with North Korea, while admitting that US-North Korean diplomacy has been in a “holding pattern” since the summit between US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February.

Wanted: A Code of Ethics for Open Source Researchers

As more and more actors start to work with open source information there is an urgent need for a code of ethics to guide decision-making on what tools are used and when, speakers told an audience at the Atlantic Council’s 360/OS conference in London on June 20.

The Importance of Working Together in the Fight Against Disinformation

A report released last week by the European Commission and the European Union’s diplomatic service said “evidence collected revealed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russian sources aiming to suppress turnout and influence voter preferences” during the European parliamentary elections in May. The European analysis said it was too soon to conclude whether these online campaigns had influenced the outcome of the elections.

Can Xi’s Visit to North Korea Facilitate US-China Trade Talks?

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to North Korea this week will underscore Beijing’s clout in Pyongyang and, by doing so, Xi may be looking to re-energize a US effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and gain leverage in stalled US-China trade negotiations.

“President Xi recognizes that closer relations with North Korea’s leader will give China additional leverage in its ongoing [trade] dispute with the United States,” said Jamie Metzl, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

Trump Expected to Announce US Troop Increase in Poland

US troop presence in Poland is likely to be at the top of the agenda when US President Donald J. Trump and his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, meet at the White House on June 12.

Pointing to Russian military activity in its neighborhood, the Duda administration has made the case for a permanent US troop presence in Poland at a base Polish officials have suggested they would christen “Fort Trump.” The Polish government has even offered to pay $2 billion to support this base.