The Early Edition: November 14, 2016

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

DONALD TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY

Nobody, probably including Donald Trump himself, knows what he will do in foreign affairs, suggests Jackson Diehl at the Washington Post.

Five key things the Pentagon can expect from Donald Trump, according to the Hill’s Kristina Wong and Rebecca Kheel, including rising spending, increased targeting of the Islamic State, and possibly closer ties with Russia.

President Obama’s approach of imposing limits on his use of national security powers but not closing the door on them for future presidents will allow Donald Trump to follow through on campaign promises such as bringing back waterboarding and worse and escalating airstrikes aimed at terrorists, suggests Charlie Savage at the New York Times.

Trump will control an unaccountable drone program, Guantánamo Bay, an FBI that includes a network of 15,000 paid informants and a ubiquitous NSA governed by arcane rules, and  he will do so with expansive and unchecked powers that Alex Emmons at The Intercept blames on an Obama administration caught off guard by Hillary Clinton’s election defeat.

The question of nuclear deterrence and the alliances supported by the US nuclear arsenal requires more sober consideration now that Donald Trump has been elected, writes the Washington Post editorial board, reflecting on some of Trump’s “reckless ideas” offered during his campaign and how he appears to be stepping away from them now.

Recommendations for Donald Trump on addressing Middle East conflicts have been provided by four Arab scholars at Al Jazeera.

SYRIA

Text messages from the Assad regime warned residents and rebels in Aleppo to leave the city within 24 hours or face a “strategic attack using highly sophisticated weapons,” Al Jazeera reports.

The Obama administration has offered no military lifeline even to those rebel groups it backs in Aleppo as the hour of the threatened attack by the Syrian government and its ally Russia approaches, Anne Barnard writes at the New York Times, an inaction which leads some rebels and civilians in Aleppo to anticipate that Donald Trump’s presidency – and his suggestion that he will end all support to rebels and even possibly treat the Syrian president and Russia as allies – will make little practical difference to them.

Russian President Putin and President Obama may discuss developments around Syria when they met in Peru later this week, Russian state media reported. [Reuters]

Turkish warplanes hit 15 Islamic State targets in the al-Ban region of northern Syria yesterday, a move that could foreshadow a push on the militants’ de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa, the Turkish military said. [Al Jazeera]

Turkey temporarily closed a border gate with Syria near its southeastern province of Kilis today after clashes broke out on the other side of the border, Reuters reports.

The pro-government campaign against opposition areas in northern Syria killed 23 people including at least 11 children yesterday, while rebels shelled a government-held district of Aleppo, Sarah El Deeb reports at the AP.

IRAQ

Iraqi troops secured densely populated areas of Mosul Sunday as the Islamic State resistance began to buckle, according to commanders. Yaroslav Trofimov and Ali A. Nabhan report at the Wall Street Journal.

The town of Nimrud, site of an ancient Assyrian city captured by the Islamic State two years ago, has been retaken by Iraqi forces, Sally Desmond reports at the Guardian.

A suicide bomb attack in the Shi-ite city of Karbala killed six, security forces managing to prevent a further five would-be attackers from detonating their devices, Sinan Salaheddin reports at the AP.

The Mosul offensive is forcing Iraqi citizens to flee into Syria, according to reports received by the UN’s human rights wing, UN News Centre reports.

The US military does not know how many Islamic State fighters have been taken prisoner by Iraq’s security forces in the fight to take Mosul, and have only been allowed to interview “a handful” of those detained so far, Nancy A. Youssef writes at The Daily Beast.

RUSSIA

Moscow officials conferred with Donald Trump’s campaign team during the presidential elections, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. David Filipov and Andrew Roth report at the Washington Post.

Russia is ready to work fast to repair relations with Washington now that Donald Trump has been elected US president, Ryabkov said today. [Reuters]

Urging NATO to withdraw forces from the Russian border was Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s suggestion for a way for Trump to rebuild US-Russia relations, the Hill’s Mallory Shelbourne reports.

Few experts believe that Russia wants war with the West, but many are concerned that President Putin’s aggressive behavior as he tries to revive Russian greatness could lead to armed conflict, the New York Times editorial board writes, observing that the next US president needs to be willing to resist Mr. Putin.

Russia gained two new allies in its efforts to reassert influence in parts of Eastern Europe when pro-Russia candidates won the presidential elections in the former Soviet republic of Moldova and Bulgaria, Charles Duxbury observes at the Wall Street Journal.

AFGHANISTAN

A suicide bomber who attacked the largest US military base in Afghanistan on Saturday, killing four, was a former Taliban member working there, the BBC reports.

The US military base was shut off entirely Sunday, and the US Embassy was shut off for the first time since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Pamela Constable reports at the Washington Post.

A suicide car bomber attacked Germany’s consulate in northern Afghanistan, killing six and wounding over 120, the German foreign minister said Friday. Rahim Faiez reports at the AP.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A bill that will retroactively legalize Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank was approved by Israeli government ministers yesterday, the Financial Times’ John Reed reports.

Obama or Trump have the opportunity to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace cause by backing legislation to cease US funding of Palestinian “terrorists,” according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

EUROPE

“Going it alone is not an option,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned US President-elect Donald Trump in UK newspaper the Observer yesterday.

Contribute more toward NATO or there will be “a consequence,” key Donald Trump campaign ally Carl Paladino warned NATO countries, Peter Walker reports at the Guardian.

EU leaders expect at “very strong partnership” with the US following an informal meeting to discuss Donald Trump’s election victory, which ministers from Britain, France and Hungary did not attend, the BBC reports.

The ministers tried to assess the election of Trump, which has caused uncertainty for the US’s closest allies over issues including Iran and Russia, Michael Birnbaum reports at the Washington Post.

Ossama Atar has been identified as the infamous “Abu Ahmad,” long-suspected coordinator of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels last year, by French and Belgian intelligence sources, Michael Weiss writes at The Daily Beast.

If the Islamic State’s caliphate collapses it could trigger an increase in militants returning home and increase the threat of a terrorist attack in the Netherlands, the Dutch counterterrorism coordinator warned today. Mike Corder reports at the AP.

Europe’s extremism problems shows no sign of going away a year after the Islamic State attack in Paris that left 130 dead, Rick Noack and Jennifer Amur write at the Washington Post, asking how Europe got to this point.

The European Union’s complex decision-making procedures are impeding counterterrorism efforts in Europe, Matthew Dalton suggests at the Wall Street Journal.

EU foreign ministers are trying to reach a common stance on Turkey’s post-July 15 coup attempt crackdown on political opponents and the media, the AP reports.

CHINA

The US won’t abandon its Asian allies to China’s “overreach,” Trump’s senior adviser on national security said. The AP’s Hrvoje Hranjski reports on this and other recent developments in the South China Sea.

Cooperation is the only choice between the world’s two largest economies, Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President-elect Donald Trump, Trump later saying the two had established a “clear sense of mutual respect,” Reuters’ Michael Martina and Steve Holland report.

COLOMBIA

The Colombian government and the FARC signed a revised peace deal Saturday in Havana, Andrea Rodriguez reports at the AP.

The new accord will be presented to Congress for a vote and then be implemented, a process that would lead to the disarmament of around 6,000 FARC fighters, Juan Forero reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Politically, the move is a gamble by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, bypassing voters who rejected an earlier accord, Juan Forero writes at the Wall Street Journal.

GUANTANAMO BAY

The next hearing in the trial of alleged al-Qaeda commander Abd al Hadi al Iraqi is set for Nov. 15-16 at the US Navy Base at Guantánamo Bay. Carol Rosenberg provides the details of the trial so far, the defendant, and the victims at the Miami Herald.

The Obama administration is negotiating with Malaysia over the repatriation and continued detention of Guantánamo Bay detainee “Zubair,” Charlie Savage reports at the New York Times.

What will President Trump do with Guantánamo Bay? Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald considers whether Trump will have the authority to add to the detention center’s population, as was his campaign message.

Secrecy, mistrust and the “shadow of interrogation” limited doctors’ ability to treat mental illness among detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Sheri Fink writes at the New York Times.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was questioned by Swedish prosecutors at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London today, Reuters reports.

It’s reasonable to conclude that there will be an increase in abuse of power in law enforcement and the intelligence community with Trump’s presidency, suggests The Intercept’s Micah Lee, who provides suggestions for surveillance self-defense for activists.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The US’s decades-long alliance with Saudi Arabia, underpinned by billions of dollars in weapons sales, has “left American fingerprints” on the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, Ben Hubbard writes at the New York Times.

Jihadists from Afghanistan to Algeria plan to use Donald Trump’s presidential victory as a propaganda tool to bring new fighters over to their front lines, Ahmad Sultan and Omar Fahmy report at Reuters.

The threat of cross-border attacks by Islamic State-allied Sinai rebels spilling over from their battles with the Egyptian army is increasing, Israel authorities say. Ruth Eglash reports at the Washington Post.

Pakistan says Indian troops fired on its soldiers in Kashmir today, killing seven and prompting return fire, the AP’s Asif Shahzad reports.

Three large cashes of weapons were found bear the border with Libya by Tunisian forces, stoking concerns over the threat of Islamist militants crossing over from Libya, where the Islamic State’s hold on the city of Sirte is loosening, Reuters reports.

If Islamic State militants come to the Philippines President Duterte will forego human rights obligations to keep his citizens safe, he said today. [Reuters]

The New York Police Department is placing detectives in big city police departments across the globe to help combat the growing threat of terror groups like the Islamic State, NBC News’ Jonathan Dienst, Rich McHugh, Nancy Ing and Michele Neubert report. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE