Links for 10-3-2017

  • The U.S. ordered 15 Cuban diplomatic personnel to go home in retaliation for the “sonic weapon” attacks against American diplomats in Havana. The Cuban diplomats have a week to leave.

  • The U.S. Office of Special Counsel determined that U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley violated the Hatch Act when she re-tweeted Donald Trump’s endorsement of a South Carolina candidate from her personal Twitter account.

  • Yahoo said all three billion of its user accounts were compromised in a 2013 hacking. Previously Yahoo said “only” one billion accounts were compromised.

  • A Russian telecommunications company activated a new internet link to North Korea, which was previously limited to a single link supplied by China Unicom. The new link is handling about 60% of North Korea’s internet traffic, and it gives North Korea another avenue for committing cyber attacks.

  • American authorities alerted Egypt to a North Korean ship entering the Suez Canal that the U.S. believed was smuggling weapons. Egyptian authorities intercepted the ship and discovered 30,000 rocket propelled grenades. Then they learned the RPGs had been purchased by the Egyptian military:

    A U.N. investigation uncovered a complex arrangement in which Egyptian business executives ordered millions of dollars worth of North Korean rockets for the country’s military while also taking pains to keep the transaction hidden, according to U.S. officials and Western diplomats familiar with the findings. The incident, many details of which were never publicly revealed, prompted the latest in a series of intense, if private, U.S. complaints over Egyptian efforts to obtain banned military hardware from Pyongyang, the officials said.

  • The Iraqi parliament voted to strip its members from Kurdistan of their membership in the body. They furthermore want to strip them of their legal immunity so they can be prosecuted. Kurdistan plans to hold elections for its own president and parliament on November 1. Michael Rubin writes that Iraqi Kuristan’s leaders read the U.S. government completely wrong on their vote for independence. John Hannah writes that with Iraq, Iran, and Turkey taking steps to actively oppose an independent Kurdistan, the U.S. needs to engage to head off a disaster:

    There is now a real risk that U.S. warnings about the referendum’s most dangerous consequences could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is almost certainly the case that the ferocity of Washington’s public opposition in the days leading up to the vote unintentionally gave the KRG’s neighbors license to bully, threaten, and punish the Kurds. Largely missing from U.S. policy was any corresponding campaign of equal seriousness to deter those neighbors from responding with retaliatory actions that would only escalate the potential harm to U.S. interests and regional stability.

    Later:

    The urgent task confronting Washington is to short-circuit the dangerous escalatory dynamic now at work before it gets further out of hand. A high-level diplomatic initiative backed by the world’s major powers could give the parties the excuse they need to pause, back away from the brink, and begin exploring options on how to move past the immediate crisis triggered by the referendum. Substantive solutions may not be immediately available, but the process itself, imbued with sufficient outside support from Washington and other great-power capitals, could buy valuable time and space to calm the waters, begin the search for workable compromises, and at very least keep the very worst from happening.

  • Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani passed away at age 83. Talabani was Iraq’s (largely ceremonial) president from 2005 to 2014, but he helped prevent factionalism from bringing down the Iraqi government. Talibani formed the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a political party which usually enjoyed good relations with Iran, unlike his rival Massoud Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP).