November 17, 2017

President Trump may want to be friends with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but it seems Pyongyang may not feel the same. A North Korean official told Reuters on Friday that negotiations over its nuclear weapons program were out of the question unless the U.S. and South Korea stopped conducting joint military exercises. The exercises on the Korean peninsula are an annual occurrence, but they have long been a point of contention for North Korea.

Trump has previously threatened to "totally destroy North Korea." During his trip to Asia last week, however, he implored the Hermit Kingdom to "make a deal," expressing a desire to open discussions with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program. While Trump may hope that muscular shows of military force and his "madman" theory of diplomacy will bring Kim to the negotiating table, Han Tae Song, North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, was clear that his country sees the U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula as a threat to its existence: "As long as there is continuous hostile policy against my country by the U.S. and as long as there are continued war games at our doorstep, then there will not be negotiations," he told Reuters.

Although it has been two months since Pyongyang's last nuclear test, North Korea recently called Trump "a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people" — after the president kinda-not-really-but-sorta-definitely called Kim "short and fat." Kelly O'Meara Morales

November 13, 2017
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Local officials in Raqqa apparently negotiated and agreed to the escape of thousands of ISIS fighters in exchange for an end to fighting in the former ISIS capital, the BBC reported Monday. The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of American-backed Kurdish and Syrian fighters, apparently hired local truck drivers to smuggle ISIS fighters out of Raqqa and told the drivers that they would be transporting families that had been displaced by fighting in Syria.

"We didn't want anyone to leave," Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Western coalition against ISIS, told the BBC. "It comes down to Syrians — they are the ones fighting and dying, they get to make the decisions regarding operations." One of the truck drivers tasked with transporting the expelled ISIS fighters said the militants "booby-trapped our trucks. If something were to go wrong in the deal, they would bomb the entire convoy. Even their children and women had suicide belts on."

During the drive out of Raqqa, some drivers were beaten and threatened by the jihadists, who reportedly told them, "Let us know when you rebuild Raqqa — we will come back." Drivers who spoke to the BBC said that they have not yet been paid by the SDF.

Former ISIS intelligence chief Abu Musab Huthaifa told the BBC that thousands of ISIS fighters escaped Raqqa and had spread beyond Syria. A French ISIS fighter now in Idlib, a Syria city near the Turkish border, told the BBC, "There are some French brothers from our group who left for France to carry out attacks in what would be called a 'day of reckoning.'"

Read the full account of ISIS's escape from Raqqa at the BBC. Kelly O'Meara Morales

August 9, 2016
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Donald Trump loves to negotiate — even, it seems, when it comes to the terms of presidential debates.

In an interview with Time published Tuesday, the Republican nominee confessed that he wants to debate "very badly" and "will absolutely do three debates" with Hillary Clinton — but he needs to make sure the "conditions" are fair before he agrees to anything.

"I'll have to see who the moderators are. Yeah, I would say that certain moderators would be unacceptable, absolutely," Trump said, per Time's report. "I did very well in the debates on the primaries. According to the polls, I won all of them. So I look forward to the debates. But, yeah, I want to have fair moderators … I will demand fair moderators."

Although the terms for general election debates are decided far in advance by a bipartisan committee, Trump seems convinced he can succeed where past candidates have failed in convincing the commission to accept his terms and change a long-established event. "I renegotiated the debates in the primaries, remember? They were making a fortune on them and they had us in for three and a half hours and I said that's ridiculous," Trump said. "I'm sure they'll be open to any suggestions I have, because I think they'll be very fair suggestions. But I haven't [seen the conditions] yet."

Clinton has agreed to participate in all three debates. The first one is scheduled for Sept. 26. Becca Stanek