The Early Edition: November 22, 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

Donald Trump will work with the Department of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “develop a comprehensive plan to protect America’s vital infrastructure from cyber-attacks and all other form of attacks,” he said in a YouTube video posted yesterday in which he described his early governing priorities. [The Hill’s Jonathan Easley]

Trump’s chosen national security team signals that he intends to return to the uncompromising methods of the post-9/11 era, when the US used torture and indefinite detention without trial against suspected al-Qaeda supporters, Geoff Dyer and David J. Lynch write at the Financial Times.

The inconsistency on national security issues shaping up for the Trump administration is underscored by Trump’s chosen national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s shifting stance on issues like Turkey and tortureJulian Hattem observes at the Hill.

Islam is “like a cancer,” according to Flynn, Mattathias Schwartz at The Intercept taking a look at the record of the man chosen by Donald Trump to be the “White House’s second chief of staff.”

He’s “just the president,” former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said of Trump yesterday, explaining that he does not fear a renewed push to arrest him or calls to put dissidents to death. [AFP]

Trump is proposing to withdraw from NATO and other international arrangements without much of a plan beyond retreating into “Fortress America,” William S. Cohen and Gary Hart write at the New York Times.

While Donald Trump’s wish to collaborate with Russia in Syria could be effective in eradicating the Islamic State, the carnage being visited on the Syrian people by Russia and its ally Assad makes it politically problematic, the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said, advising the President-elect to pay attention to what happens in Syria between now and January. Alissa J. Rubin reports at the New York Times.

SYRIA

Assad regime forces moved further into rebel-held Aleppo yesterday, defying international concern for the fate of the city and its residents, Al Jazeera reports.

At least 141 civilians have been killed in a week of renewed bombardment on the rebel-held eastern parts of Aleppo, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today. [Reuters]

The Islamic State used chemical weapons at least 52 times in Syria and Iraq since it came to power in 2014, according to new analysis by the UK-based intelligence collection analysis service IHS Conflict Monitor. [New York Times’ Eric Schmitt]

The US accused 13 Syrian commanders and prison officials of responsibility for attacks on cities and residential areas, as well as torture, yesterday, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

“Shame on us all” for failing to act in Syria, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council yesterday.

The axis of Assad – Russia, Iran and the Syrian government – more or less has a free hand to destroy Aleppo given that the rest of the world lacks the will to help or protect the rebels, observes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

IRAQ

Iraqi troops moved to retake another neighborhood in eastern Mosul today, the Islamic State continuing to put up stiff resistance, the AP’s Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports.

A US airstrike destroyed a bridge spanning the Tigris river in Mosul, restricting the Islamic State’s movements between eastern and western parts of the city, a US official said today. [Reuters]

Iraqi Shi’ite militias in Iraq are aiming for Tal Afar, some 44 miles from Mosul and on the main road to the Syrian city of Raqqa, Brian Rohan at the AP reporting that the battle for the city is certain to boost Shi’ite power and may even be more significant for the future of Iraq than the main battle for Mosul.

Weapons intended for Western-backed rebels in Syria are ending up in the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq. The BBC explains how they are getting there.

A group of Islamic State fighters who took part in an attack on the Iraqi city of Kirkuk in October agreed to speak to CNN’s Phil Black and Salma Abdelaziz from inside a Kurdish-run prison in northern Iraq.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 13 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Nov. 20. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

RUSSIA

Russia will target NATO sites if it feels threatened, President Putin said, David Filipov at the Washington Post suggesting it’s not the warning itself, but the timing – just as President-elect Donald Trump is pulling together a team and calling for closer ties with the Kremlin – that’s important.

Ukrainian Security Service operatives abducted two Russian servicemen, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, describing the incident as a “rude provocation.” Ivan Nechepurenko reports at the New York Times.

AFGHANISTAN

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing inside a mosque in Kabul yesterday, which has left at least 30 people dead, Ehsanullah Amiri and Jessica Donati report at the Wall Street Journal.

This is the third major attack against Shi’ites the Islamic State has claimed in Kabul over the past three months, sparking outrage that Afghanistan’s government and its US allies are not doing enough to protect vulnerable groups, the New York Times’ Mujib Mashal and Fahim Abed report.

LIBYA

Libyan forces pushed toward the last piece of territory held by the Islamic State in its former stronghold of Sirte today backed by US air strikes, Reuters reports.

The wife of al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar was arrested by Libyan authorities, the AP reports.

THE PHILIPPINES

Philippine and US military officials agreed to scale back joint exercises and reduce US troop deployments today, Reuters reports.

Military ties between the US and the Philippines remain robust, the chiefs of the Philippine armed forces and the US Pacific Command said, Teresa Cerojano at the AP reporting.

China’s foreign ministry refused to say whether it would support an executive order by the Philippines declaring a portion of the disputed Scarborough Shoal off-limits to fishermen, Reuters reports.

TURKEY

An arrest warrant for the head of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party was issued by Turkish authorities in relation to the bomb attack on a military bus in Ankara in February, Reuters reports.

The Turkish government fired another 15,000 civil servants and shut down 375 organizations today as the post July 15 coup crackdown continues, the New York Times’ Rod Nordland and Safak Timur report.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Two top Obama administration officials are being questioned by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) over reports that they recommended that NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers – reportedly being considered by Trump to replace James Clapper as the Director of National Intelligence – be removed from his post, the Hill’s Joe Uchill reports.

New Rules giving law enforcement leeway to request a warrant to search a computer using hacking techniques when the computer hides its location were approved by the Supreme Court and will take effect in December without congressional action, the Department of Justice insisting that the changes are necessary to keep pace with changing technology, the Hill’s Joe Uchill reports.

A coalition of 26 organizations, including Google, signed a letter asking lawmakers to delay the measure yesterday until further review has taken place, the Hill’s Ali Breland reports.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A Palestinian was shot and killed as he charged toward an Israeli security guard at a West Bank crossing, according to Israeli police. [AP]

Splinter Taliban group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for a bombing targeting Pakistan’s paramilitary force in the northwestern city of Peshawar today, which killed three officers, Riaz Khan reports at the AP.

FARC leaders arrived in Colombia’s capital Bogota to sign a revised peace accord with the government yesterday, 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