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Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday dismissed Suella Braverman—who was serving as home secretary overseeing national security, law enforcement, and immigration—in an unexpected cabinet shuffle, replacing her with the current foreign secretary, James Cleverly. Sunak then tapped former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to replace Cleverly as Britain’s top diplomat. To accept this position, Cameron—who is not currently serving in Parliament—was named a life peer, allowing him to serve in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords.
- The Department of Defense on Monday released the identities of the five soldiers killed in a helicopter accident during a training mission on Friday over the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The five servicemen were members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but Pentagon officials noted there are “no indications of hostile activity.”
- The nine justices of the Supreme Court released a code of conduct on Monday in light of renewed scrutiny over ethics questions. The 14-page document lays out what might be grounds for disqualification from hearing a case—including personal bias or prejudice as it relates to the disputed facts of the case, involvement with the case at a previous stage, or a financial stake in the outcome of the case. “For the most part these rules and principles are not new,” the justices wrote, adding that “the absence of a code, however, has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the justices of this court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules.” The code does not include an enforcement mechanism for the standards it sets.
- Republicans on the House Oversight Committee issued subpoenas on Monday to several current and former White House aides as part of their investigation into President Joe Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. Former White House counsel Dana Remus is among the five aides called to testify as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Biden. Oversight Chairman James Comer claims his committee has evidence Biden aides began searching the president’s Penn Biden Center offices—where the first documents were found—two years before aides said they first found the papers. Biden was interviewed last month as part of special counsel Robert Hur’s ongoing investigation into his handling of classified documents.
- The House of Representatives voted Monday night to table a resolution brought by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia to immediately impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. In a 209 to 201 vote, eight Republicans joined all present Democrats to refer the matter to the Homeland Security Committee, which has already launched an impeachment inquiry over Mayorkas’ handling of the southern border.
- Secret Service agents protecting President Joe Biden’s granddaughter, Naomi Biden, opened fire Sunday night on three individuals trying to break into an unmarked Secret Service SUV in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. “During this encounter, a federal agent discharged a service weapon and it is believed no one was struck,” Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement released after the incident. “The offenders immediately fled the scene in a red vehicle and a regional lookout was issued to supporting units.” The incident comes as car thefts are up 98 percent over the last year in D.C.—there’s not yet any indication the perpetrators knew the car belonged to the Secret Service.
- Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia announced Monday she is running for governor of the state, opting not to run for reelection for her tightly contested House seat in 2024. Spanberger—who formerly worked for the CIA—is the first candidate of either party in the gubernatorial race, which will be held in 2025. The current governor—Glenn Youngkin, a Republican—cannot run for a second consecutive term.
The Escalating Proxy Conflict with Iran
On October 25, American troops stationed at the Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq were targeted in a drone attack launched by Iranian-backed militia groups. One drone, laden with explosives, lodged in a barracks but did not detonate. Had it exploded, American military personnel likely would have died. “They are aiming to kill,” a U.S. defense official told the Wall Street Journal, “We have just been lucky.”
The attack was just one of dozens perpetrated against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria by Iranian proxy groups over the last month, presumably in response to American involvement in Israel’s war against Hamas. At least 56 service members have thus far been injured in the attacks, according to Pentagon officials, with 25 sustaining traumatic brain injuries. Approximately 900 U.S. troops remain in Syria and 2,500 remain in Iraq, working with local forces to prevent any resurgence of the Islamic State in the region. The strikes on U.S. troops show no signs of abating, and some analysts believe a more forceful American response is needed to break the current pattern of attacks—but the risk of escalating conflict looms large over the region.
After two precision strikes targeting facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its proxies in response to repeated attacks on American and coalition positions—one in late October, one in early November—the United States on Sunday carried out a third bombardment that reportedly killed a handful of proxy fighters. That apparently wasn’t enough to deter those groups, however, with Iranian proxies launching four additional strikes between Sunday evening and Monday morning, bringing the total number of attacks on U.S. forces since mid-October to 52. The Pentagon didn’t report any U.S. casualties or major damage from the latest attacks.