The Early Edition: November 17, 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

NATO has postponed its summit intended to take place a few weeks after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President over fears he will not attend, anticipating a date next summer now, Spiegel reports.

President-elect Donald Trump is not serious about abandoning NATO because no president “would dare” to change such a binding and important treaty, a top NATO general said yesterday, Rob Gillies reporting at the AP.

Ukrainians, including some politicians, fear “losing support in the face of Russian aggression” now that Trump has been elected, who said he would look at lifting US sanctions on Russia if elected, and asserted that the people of Crimea “would rather be with Russia than where they were” during his campaign, Andrew Roth reports at the Washington Post.

Donald Trump’s presidential victory further distances the United States from the Gulf Cooperation Council over Syria, according to an analysis by Al-Monitor.

Donald Trump is about to inherit President Obama’s trust-based and unchecked drone program, Ryan Devereaux at The Intercept warning that this means the President-elect will have a host of executive power precedents at his disposal to enact his counterterrorism vision including plans to “bomb the shit out of” the Islamic State and kill the family members of suspected terrorists.

Escalating crises in North Korea, Eastern Europe and the Middle East will face Trump when he becomes president, meaning he could face a nuclear decision soon, writes Bruce Blair at POLITICO.

What will Donald Trump do about North Korea? The BBC asks, noting that North Korea’s media seems “lost for words” following Trump’s election last week.

THE ICC

Russia will formally withdraw its signature from the founding statute of the International Criminal Court after the court published a report classifying Russia’s annexation of Crimea as an occupation, Russia said. Shaun Walker and Owen Bowcott report at the Guardian.

The move carries “largely symbolic weight” since Russia signed the statute in 2000 but never ratified it – the US likewise signing it without ratification and pulling out under President George W. Bush – Thomas Grove writes at the Wall Street Journal.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to withdraw from the ICC today, a move the Washington Post’s Emily Rauhala suggests was intended to both flatter Russia and express disdain for those who criticize Duterte’s “drug war,” which has killed thousands.

SYRIA

Syrian government airstrikes on eastern Aleppo continued for a second day yesterday, killing at least 54 people and destroying the only remaining pediatric hospital, Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa report at the AP.

The Assad regime and its allies’ attacks on medical facilities in Syria “are war crimes,” France’s UN ambassador said. [AP]

At least 30 members of the Fatah al-Sham Front, including some of its leaders, were killed in a Russian airstrikes in northern Syria this week, the Russian military said today. Vladimir Isachenkov and Philip Issa report at the AP.

Turkey intends to fully secure its border with Syria by the first half of next year, Defense Minister Fikri Isik said today. Tulay Karadeniz reports at Reuters.

US armored personnel carriers carrying anti-aircraft guns are being used by Hezbollah in Syria, online images show, raising questions as to the vehicles’ origin and whether they had been stolen from the US-supplied Lebanese military, Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports at the Washington Post.

IRAQ

Poor weather conditions but a temporary halt to Iraqi special forces’ advance into Mosul today, while the Islamic State continued to attack, including with suicide car bombs, Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports at the AP.

The Islamic State likely executed over 300 Iraqi former police three weeks ago and buried them in a mass grave close to the town of Hammam al-Alil south of Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. [Reuters]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Nov. 15. Separately, partner forces conducted 12 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

YEMEN

The Houthi rebels have agreed to a ceasefire in Yemen beginning today, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, but Al Jazeera reports that Yemen’s government is not interested in this truce, explaining why this is, and how the deal could be implemented on the ground.

Heavy fighting between the Houthis and forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took place in northwest Yemen yesterday and Tuesday, leaving 51 dead, military officials said. [Al Jazeera]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The fact that a bill that would retroactively legalize settlements build on private Palestinian land in the West Bank was given preliminary approval by Israeli lawmakers represents an alarming gain for pro-settlement Israelis, writes the New York Times editorial board.

India’s public money is channeled through military deals to Israeli arms companies that use it to fund the oppression of the Palestinian people, a group of Indian activists has claimed as India welcomes Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for a week-long state visit, Al Jazeera reports. India and Israel announced they were expanding defense sector cooperation on Tuesday.

IRAN

Iran must stop overstepping the limits on its stock of sensitive material set by the landmark nuclear deal with major world powers, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said today. [Reuters]

The Senate will vote to extend sanctions on Iran before the end of the year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said yesterday, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.

Videos depicting apparently coerced confessions from prisoners accused of the mass hanging in August of Sunni prisoners believed to have conducted attacks in the country’s restive western Kurdish region have been shown of Iranian state television in the months since, attracting the condemnation of human rights groups, Rick Gladstone reports at the New York Times.

EUROPE

President Obama is stressing a message of solidarity on his final visit to key NATO ally Germany, where he arrived last night from Greece, the AP reports.

Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for continued cooperation between the US and the EU on issues including anti-terror measures in a joint op-ed published in German magazine Wirtschaftswoche published just before Obama’s arrival in Germany, Philip Oltermann reports at the Guardian.

Europe must focus on its own problems following Donald Trump’s presidential victory, according to a poll of 44 leading policymakers and influencers conducted by POLITICO, Cynthia Kroet reports.

COLOMBIA

Two FARC guerrillas were killed in fighting with Colombian security forces, the army confirmed in a statement, just four days after a new peace deal was signed. [AP]

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos would be right to move forward with the new peace deal by seeking its ratification by Colombia’s Congress, writes the Washington post editorial board.

TURKEY

Several members of the Turkish military stationed at NATO’s air command in Ramstein have sought asylum in Germany, German media is reporting. [AP]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his supporters welcomed the election of Donald Trump as President of the US as a blow to the American establishment, Mustafa Akyol writes at the New York Times.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The US “contacted the Russian government directly regarding malicious cyberactivity” eight days before the presidential election, the White House confirmed yesterday. David E. Sanger reports at the New York Times.

Sweden should guarantee that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not be extradited to the US if he faces trial in Sweden, Ecuador said yesterday. [Reuters]

WikiLeaks is not going away, however much founder Julian Assange is “abused,” and Democrats – along with everyone who believes that governments should be made accountable – should be happy about that, WikiLeaks editor Sarah Harrison writes at the New York Times.

Titanpointe is the NSA’s spy hub in New York, and it’s hidden in plain sight, Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke write at The Intercept.

Researchers at Google’s Jigsaw think-tank are two months into a pilot project aiming to push web users searching for jihadist information toward content designed to counter the tools of terrorist recruitment, Ronan Farrow, Rich McHugh and Tracy Connor report at NBC News.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The killing of three US soldiers at a Jordanian air base this month is being investigated as a potential terrorist attack, the New York Times’ Peter Baker, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt report.

The judge in the 9/11 trial at Guantánamo Bay war court is asking whether defendant Mustafa al Hawsawi will be fit for pretrial hearing on Dec. 5-9 after reconstructive surgery for rectal damage suffered while undergoing examinations with “excessive force” while in CIA custody between 2003 and 2006, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

The leader of a group of nine men who plotted to travel to Syria to fight for the Islamic State has been jailed for 35 years, the Justice Department confirmed yesterday, two of his co-conspirators receiving 30 year sentences, the BBC reports.

Azerbaijan has convicted seven of its citizens of joining the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, the AP reports. 

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About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

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