The Early Edition: November 28, 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

Trump is willing to reconsider outgoing President Obama’s diplomatic ties with Cuba, according to the President-elect’s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, Rebecca Morin at POLITICO reporting.

Fidel Castro’s death is putting pressure on Trump to follow through on campaign promises to reverse the recent openings to Cuba made by President Obama, Felicia Schwartz and Carol E. Lee write at the Wall Street Journal.

Both Trump and Obama’s statements following news of the death of Fidel Castro Saturday indicated that the US will remain friendly to Cuba, Rebecca Morin concludes at POLITICO.

Raúl Castro’s efforts to secure the legacy of his late brother’s Cuban Revolution seem to be on a collision course with the incoming Trump administration, observes Nick Miroff at the Washington Post, Raúl’s “quieter, more austere” leadership style as compared with Fidel Castro’s leaving one-party socialist Cuba entering the Trump era without the powered-up politics and nationalist fervor that previously sustained it.

Will there be a Korean war under Trump’s presidency? Al Jazeera suggests that a move away from the US’s cautious policy toward North Korea by Trump may trigger a conflict in the Korean peninsula.

Officials and experts stand ready to block any attempt by Trump to appease Russian President Putin, reports POLITICO’s Michael Crowley, while talks of an early state visit by Russian President Putin remain speculative.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden may be compelled to leave Russia now that Trump has been elected President and Snowden’s value to President Putin as “a real or symbolic slap to America’s haughty face” will have run its profitable course and he may even represent an impediment to the new relationship Moscow is seeking with Trump, Andrew Mitrovica writes at Al Jazeera.

SOMALIA

The US has expanded the legal scope of the war against the al-Qaeda to include al-Shabaab in Somalia, deeming al-Shabaab to be part of the Congress-authorized armed conflict against the perpetrators of 9/11, senior officials said, a decision that is anticipated to be publicly disclosed in a letter to Congress next month. This latest stretching of the 2001 war authorization to cover Islamist groups far from Afghanistan – including al-Shabaab, which did not even exist at the time – is part of the Obama administration’s pattern of relaxing self-imposed rules relating to airstrikes on militants as it tries to help partners across several conflicts, the New York Times’ Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti report.

Hundreds of Somali government soldiers are hoping to return to civilian life in towns now under al-Shabaab control following the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, Al Jazeera’s Hamza Mohamed reports.

A suspected al-Shabaab car bomb attack left at least 11 dead at a police checkpoint in the Somali capital Mogadishu Saturday, Al Jazeera reports.

SYRIA

Syrian government forces and their allies captured another major neighborhood in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, Sakhour, and several smaller areas today, the AP reporting that, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, over 100 rebels have laid down their arms and exited eastern suburbs of Aleppo in the past few days.

The rebels’ territory in Aleppo has been split in half by the gains by Assad’s forces, the BBC reports.

Rebel territory has been reduced by a third, Assad’s forces seizing full control of the northeast of the city, Louisa Loveluck reports at the Washington Post.

At least one neighborhood was seized by Assad regime forces yesterday, as hundreds of civilians were forced to flee their homes, Raja Abdulrahim and Nour Alakraa report at the Wall Street Journal.

Between 6,000 and 10,000 people fled to Aleppo’s Kurdish-held Sheikh Maqsoud district from areas of the city into which Assad regime forces had advanced in recent days, the joint head of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party said. [Reuters]

How much longer can eastern Aleppo hold out? Dylan Collins and Zouhir Al Shimale at Al Jazeera highlight the lack of hospitals, the declining weather and food supplies, and the ongoing bombardment faced by those inside Aleppo.

The first US combat death in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria happened near Ayn Issa in northern Syria last Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed. [The Hill’s Tristan Lejeune]

Four Islamic State militants were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian Golan Heights yesterday after Israel’s soldiers came under cross-border fire, its military said. Rory Jones reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Egypt denied reports from Arab media that it has a military presence in Syria, the AP reports.

Behind the scenes, Secretary of State John Kerry is engaged in a “furious if implausible” diplomatic effort to reach a deal with Russia over Syria, a mission the State Department is not advertising following the collapse of the last ceasefire agreement he struck, Josh Rogin writes at the Washington Post.

The flotilla of Russian warships currently in the Mediterranean highlights the limits of Moscow’s conventional military, the 25-year-old flagship aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov lacking the powerful catapult system of US carriers, forcing Russian planes to carry lighter payloads and less fuel, according to NATO officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge and Julian E. Barnes]

IRAQ

Around a quarter of Mosul’s eastern side has been recaptured from the Islamic State forty days into the offensive by US-backed government units, but the west of the city could prove far more dangerous, one of Iraq’s top commanders told Reuters’ Michael George, Isabel Coles and John Davison.

Nearly 1,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed in Mosul so far, a top Iraqi commander said. [Reuters’ Patrick Markey and Ulf Laessing]

Militia units, including Iranian-backed groups accused of human rights abuses, were made an official part of Iraq’s security forces after the Iraqi parliament passed a law Saturday, Mustafa Salim and Missy Ryan report at the Washington Post.

Sunni lawmakers promised to challenge the newly-passed law in court Sunday, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ghassan Adnan report at the Wall Street Journal.

Have patience in the battle to remove the Islamic State from Mosul, the UK’s most senior commander in Iraq and Syria Maj-Gen Rupert Jones told politicians and diplomats, despite the calls of US President-elect Donald Trump for intensified bombing of the militants, Ewen MacAskill reports at the Guardian.

AFGHANISTAN

Two Islamic State suicide bombers were arrested by the Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), in Kabul city, Khaama Press reports.

Emails turned over by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons confirm it sent a delegation to Afghanistan to assess the CIA’s notorious detention site code-named Cobalt in November 2002, concluding that the CIA “did not mistreat the detainees,” writes The Intercept’s Alex Emmons.

THE PHILIPPINES

A bomb discovered in a trash bin close to the US Embassy in Manilla was detonated by police today who said that militants sympathetic to the Islamic State could have been responsible, NBC News reports.

Ongoing fighting between government troops and a rebel group in the southern Philippines that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State has left at least 11 rebels dead so far, Al Jazeera reports.

TURKEY

Allegations of torture of suspects in custody in Turkey following the July 15 failed military coup are emerging, the BBC reports.

Turkey’s state of emergency imposed following the coup attempt will last as long as necessary, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told Reuters today.

Turkish officers serving in NATO structures in Europe are left in “limbo,” no longer NATO employees but stateless people with no legal status, after being accused by the Turkish government of involvement in the coup attempt and fired, NPR’s Teri Schultz reports.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

A formal policy permitting outside computer experts to test the Defense Department for vulnerabilities may seem a “befuddling” response to recent large-scale hacks, but may well turn into an unconventional recruitment program for an organization that always benefits from the perspectives of outsiders and carefully calibrated destruction, writes the New York Times editorial board.

The Obama administration has found no evidence of hackers interfering with the US election, it said late last Friday, even as recount proceedings began in Wisconsin. Eric Geller reports at POLITICO.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The French airforce’s killing of senior al-Qaeda operative Mokhtar Belmokhtar in southern Libya this month marked a new level of cooperation between France and the US on targeting militants, US officials said. Gordon Lubold and Matthew Dalton report at the Wall Street Journal.

US military activities in the South China Sea undermine China’s sovereignty, according to a report by China’s government-backed National Institute for South China Sea Studies. The AP’s Hrvoje Hranski reports on this and other recent developments in the region.

Better training is needed for UN peacekeepers, incoming UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said today in the wake of a series of sexual abuse allegations. [AP] 

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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