The Early Edition: November 18, 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

Sen. Jeff Sessions has been named as the nominee for attorney general for the Trump administration, according to a person close to the transition, the New York Times‘ Eric Lichtblau, Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker report.

Rep. Mike Pompeo has accepted the post of CIA director, the Washington Post reports.

Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn has been offered the post of White House national security adviser by Donald Trump. Well-known as a “skilled, if combative” intelligence officer throughout his 33-year career, Flynn has long been a harsh critic of President Obama’s approach to national security, is a proponent of “hardline” views on Islam and has made “laudatory statements” about Russia, POLITICO’s Bryan Bender reports.

Flynn urged US support for Turkey’s President Erdoğan and pushed for the extradition of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen in an opinion piece for the Hill published on election day, Mattathias Shwartz writes at The Intercept.

Japanese President Shinzo Abe discussed  the nations’ security alliance with President-elect Donald Trump Thursday, Trump’s first face-to-face talks with a foreign leader since the election, Felicia Schwartz, Farnaz Fassihi and Mitsuru Obe report at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump’s emissaries finally contacted the State Department yesterday evening, Mark Landler and Michael D. Shear write at the New York Times, explaining that none of the 32 congratulatory phone calls from foreign leaders to Trump since his presidential victory adhered to established diplomatic practice, whereby the State Department choreographs the sequence of calls and provides policy guidance and translation services.

President Obama warned Trump against taking a purely “realpolitik approach” to relations with Russia, speaking in Berlin yesterday, Philip Oltermann reports at the Guardian.

“Make America great again!” Donald Trump is the latest recruit to a “dangerous nationalism,” warns the Economist, different from that of Ronald Reagan – from whom Trump borrowed his campaign slogan – in that Trump’s version is “angry” and inward-looking, demanding respect from “a freeloading world that takes leaders in Washington for fools.”

Protecting US national security interests must start with addressing a resurgent Russia, according to Sen. Ben Cardin writing at the Washington Post, who asks President-elect Donald Trump to take seriously the assessments from the intelligence community and security professionals of Russia’s actions.

Russian President Putin knows more about Donald Trump’s national security plans than US officials do, Nancy A. Youssef writes at The Daily Beast.

SYRIA

The Assad regime and its ally Russia stepped up its bombardment of rebel-held parts of Aleppo this morning, the fourth straight day of bombing, AFP reports.

More than 20 people were killed in airstrikes in eastern Aleppo yesterday, Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa report at the AP.

UN investigators looking into a deadly attack on a UN convoy hear Aleppo in September have been in the area collecting evidence, reports Reuters. If they are able to identify who carried out the attack, they will bring the issue to the UN Security Council, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said today.

A one-year extension of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) tasked with determining who is behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria was voted for unanimously by the UN Security Council, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP. Investigators from JIM have already determined that the Syrian government was behind at least three attacks involving chlorine gas and the Islamic State was behind at least one, involving mustard gas.

Western-backed Syrian rebels meeting US officials to discuss the outlook for arms shipments they have been given to fight Assad were told that the program will continue until the end of the year, but anything after that will depend on the next President, Donald Trump, and may therefore stop altogether since Trump has signaled opposition to US support for the rebels. Tom Perry and Suleiman Al-Khalidi report at Reuters.

Abdallah al-Muhaysini expressed shock at the Treasury Department’s designation of him as a terrorist and part of al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Fath al-Sham’s “inner leadership circle,” appearing via Skype for an interview with the New York Times last week, Rukmini Callimachi, reporting, suggesting this was probably part of the group’s attempts to re-brand itself and buy itself some flexibility.

IRAQ

Iraqi soldiers advanced into eastern districts of Mosul today, facing fierce resistance from the Islamic State, Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports at the AP. One Iraqi soldier was reportedly killed in the fighting.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out seven airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Nov. 16. Separately, partner forces conducted 11 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

YEMEN

Yemen’s foreign minister reaffirmed his government’s decision to reject a ceasefire offer by US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday, repeating the assertion that the agreement was just “a declaration which means nothing,” Al Jazeera reports.

EUROPE

Russian President Putin may test NATO in the weeks before Donald Trump accedes to the presidency, Lithuania has warned, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius saying he was “very afraid” for the Baltics as well as for Syria’s Aleppo, the BBC reports.

President Obama and European leaders met in Berlin to discuss a number of security and economic challenges facing the trans-Atlantic partners now that Donald Trump has been elected president of the US, the AP reports.

The risk of the fight against the Islamic state in the Middle East spreading to neighboring countries was discussed, as well as Russia’s “increasingly assertive stance in eastern Europe and around the world,” according to a UK government spokesperson. Philip Oltermann reports at the Guardian.

There are reasons to be “very afraid” in Europe as a consequence of Donald Trump’s presidential victory, suggests Rachel Shabi at Al Jazeera, which has encouraged the region’s far-right, ethno-nationalist, anti-immigration parties.

THE PHILIPPINES

Fighting between government troops and Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf left at least 14 dead today, the Philippine military said. [AP]

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is raising questions about “who has power, how it is wielded and what self-determination would look like for smaller nations” in turning away from America, writes Chandran Nair at the Financial Times, concluding that the Pax Americana is outdated.

TURKEY

More Turkish officers posted to NATO have sought asylum since Turkey’s failed coup on July 15, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, though he gave no names, numbers or reasons behind the requests. [BBC]

Pakistan has expelled over 100 Turkish shoolteachers and their families apparently in response to Turkish President Ergoğan’s demands that school linked to cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed for the July 15 failed coup, be closed,   reports at the Washington Post.

SOUTH SUDAN

The US is ready to back an arms embargo on South Sudan, it said yesterday, a change in position welcomed by rights groups, Somini Sengupta reports at the New York Times.

The proposal was immediately rejected by Russia as premature and irresponsible, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

NIGERIA

Suicide bombers targeted a checkpoint and a busy bus station in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri today, killing six, police said. Haruna Umar reports at the AP.

Maiduguri is at the heart of a seven-year insurgency by Islamist militant group Boko Haram. [Reuters]

The US is concerned by the deaths of members of the Shi’ite Islamic Movement of Nigeria at the hands of police earlier this week and what it said was the seemingly disproportionate response of the police, Reuters reports.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Private information still escapes from Apple products under some circumstances, including via its online syncing service iCloud, despite the lengths the company has gone to in recent years to secure customer data by implementing better encryption and refusing to undermine that encryption at the behest of state agencies, Kim Zetter writes at The Intercept.

The Review the Rule Act that would block the government from acquiring new hacking powers until after a congressional review of the Justice Department’s proposed changes to Rule 41 – a criminal procedure rule that allows surveillance of multiple computers in multiple jurisdiction on a single warrant – was introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) yesterday, the Hill’s Ali Breland reports.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

New York bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahimi pleaded not guilty to eight offenses including use of a weapon of mass destruction, the BBC reports.

Career Naval officer Rear Adm Edward Cashman will assume command of Guantánamo Bay early next year, replacing Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, the Department of Defense announced. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Simultaneous attacks by the Islamic State on a soccer match at a World Cup qualifier in Albania and another target in Kosovo were prevented by Kosovo police yesterday, they said. [AP]

China and the US staged joint drills today in an attempt to improve coordination over responses to humanitarian disasters and increase confidence in their militaries, which remain deeply mistrustful of one another, Peng Peng reports at the AP.

The US voted against a UN resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism yesterday, along with two other nations, citing freedom of speech issues and the worry that Russia was using the resolution to politically attack its neighbors, Michael Astor reports at the AP.

Two former child soldiers are threatening legal action against British private security company Aegis Defence Services for psychological harm they allegedly suffered when they were later recruited as adults to word as mercenaries in Iraq, Alice Ross reports at the Guardian.

The changes anticipated by Israel’s pro-settlement far-right, emboldened by Donald Trump’s election as president, would do enormous damage to the interests of Israel and the United States, writes the Washington Post editorial board.

The Islamic State has “peaked” in Afghanistan, but they are not yet finished there, Sune Engle Rasmussen at the Guardian explains how a small yet resilient stronghold remains in eastern Afghanistan.

The African exodus from the International Criminal Court must be stopped or the worst crimes will go unpunished, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who was one of the main architects of the ICC, said. [The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour] 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

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