The Early Edition: November 30, 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

Russia has been in contact with President-elect Donald Trump over Syria, a senior Russian diplomat said today, an indication of the extent to which Trump’s transition team is pursuing his campaign promise to work closely with President Putin to manage the Syrian crisis. David Filipov and James McAuley report at the Washington Post.

It would be an act of “folly” for Donald Trump to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, CIA Director John Brennan told the BBC in an interview broadcast today.

President-elect Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May “agreed on the importance” of NATO as they spoke on the phone for the second time Monday, Rowena Mason reports at the Guardian.

Trump’s first big foreign policy test may come early next year, when NATO begins stationing battalions in the Baltic region, suggests NPR’s Lucian Kim. Currently, the US is committed to heading the NATO battalion in Poland, while the UK is to lead the battalion in Estonia. Trump is expected to confirm that commitment.

Trump’s questioning of the relevance of NATO could not have come at a worse time, when European leaders who question the value of transnational military institutions themselves are lifted by the Great Recession and the flood of Middle Eastern refugees, William A. Galston writes at the Wall Street Journal.

How is the new administration taking shape? The Financial Times provides a guide to the transition team and the future cabinet members.

Trump’s pick for national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn believes that China and North Korea are allied with militant Islamists bent on imposing their ideology worldwide, observes the New York Times’ Edward Wong of the man who once Tweeted that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”

That Trump is considering Mitt Romney as a contender for secretary of state is “extraordinary,” given his ability to carry a grudge, but if he does select him it will send a powerful message to the world that “he’s not hostage to the darkest parts of his character,” writes Frank Bruni at the New York Times, making the case for Romney.

SYRIA

At least 21 civilians were killed in a barrage on a housing area for displaced residents in rebel-held Aleppo today, as Assad regime forces press on into the besieged city. Philip Issa reports at the AP.

The UN Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting today to address the dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in Aleppo. Up to 20,000 people have fled the city in different directions in the past 72 hours, according to an estimate by the Red Cross. [Al Jazeera]

Assad and his allies intend to take all of Aleppo before Donald Trump takes office next year, a senior official in the pro-Damascus military alliance told Reuters’ Laila Bassam and Ellen Francis.

US airstrikes that killed dozens of Syrian government troops in September were the result of “unintentional” human error, the Pentagon said yesterday. Michael S. Schmidt reporting at the New York Times.

Israeli jets fired two missiles at the outskirts of Damascus from Lebanese airspace early today, no casualties resulting, official Syrian news agency SANA reported. The Israeli military declined to comment. [AP]  Arab media said an arms convoy heading for Hezbollah was the target, Haaretz’ Jack Khoury reports.

The fall of Aleppo to President Assad may end the majority Sunni struggle to topple his regime but will not result in either peace or stability, David Gardner writes at the Financial Times.

IRAQ

The Islamic State inside Mosul is abducting people and moving them to unknown locations, the UN warned, saying it continues to receive reports of “serious breaches” of international human rights and humanitarian law by the militants in and around the besieged city. [UN News Centre]

A vote on whether to hold former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to account for his role in the 2003 Iraq war will be held in the UK Parliament today, following criticism of his actions in the Chilcot report, Rowena Mason reports at the Guardian.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 12 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Nov. 28. Separately, partner forces conducted nine strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

YEMEN

Weapons seized by Australian, French and US warships in February and March this year indicate that Iran is arming Houthi rebels in Yemen, UK-based Conflict Armament Research said in a report today. [DW]

The announcement by Houthi rebels that they have formed a new government in Sana’a is an obstacle to the Yemen peace process, the UN special envoy for Yemen said yesterday. [AP]

RUSSIA

Russia considers Ukraine’s plans to hold missile firing exercises near Crimea a large-scale provocation, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. [Interfax]

Some 300 US Marines are due to be based in Norway, NATO’s northernmost border with Russia, from January, as part of a package of measures intended to reassure Norway, reports CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh, Ghazi Balkiz and Scott McWhinnie. Troops from both nations are currently conducting exercises above the Arctic Circle, Norwegian police investigating over 10 sightings of unidentified drones seen observing the maneuvers.

EUROPE

Plans to “turbo boost” spending on cybersecurity, war ships and drone technology will be unveiled by the EU as part of a multibillion-euro European Defense Fund, Arthur Beesly reports at the Financial Times.

Information on international investigations into terrorist groups was accidentally published online by one of its former agents, Europol said today, adding that none of its operations had been compromised. [Reuters]

An employee of Germany’s domestic intelligence service is suspected of attempting to pass along sensitive material to the Islamic State group, the agency – BfV – telling the AP that he had only been working there for a short while and that he had been “inconspicuous” during the application process, training and at work.

Six people suspected of involvement in a machete attack on two police officers in August that was claimed by the Islamic State group have been detained by Belgian police, Reuters reports.

A suspected Islamic State “lone actor” was arrested by Spanish police, Spain’s Interior Ministry saying he is believed to have been studying on the internet to carry out attacks on civilians on behalf of the Islamist group. [AP]

THE DEATH OF FIDEL CASTRO

President Obama has sent White House aide Benjamin J. Rhodes to the funeral of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro rather than a formal delegation, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explaining that the relationship between the US and Cuba remained “quite complicated.” [New York Times’ Gardiner Harris]

Fidel Castro was at the heart of Middle Eastern politics, Ishaan Tharoor explaining how at the Washington Post.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

A letter urging President Obama to negotiate a plea agreement with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden was written by staffers on the US Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operation with Respect to Intelligence Activities – known as the Church Committee after its chairman Sen. Frank Church. The Intercept’s Jenna McLaughlin reports.

Russia could attempt to target Germany’s general election next year, the head of the country’s foreign intelligence service has warned. [The Guardian’s Kate Connolly]

Fears appear to have been sparked by a hack that left some 900,000 internet connections paralyzed in Germany, politicians stopping short of blaming Russia directly for it. [DW]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Jabran Qahtani has become the 21st Guantánamo Bay prisoner to be cleared for release by the Periodic Review Board, while Hani Saleh Rashid Abdullah’s release was rejected, making him the 29th “forever prisoner,” Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

The Islamic State called the man responsible for an attack at Ohio State University on Monday its “soldier” via its news wire yesterday, Mitch Smith, Rukmini Callimachi and Richard Pérez-Peña report at the New York Times.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is making a last-ditch but determined effort to get President Obama to declassify a Senate report on the use of CIA interrogation techniques under President George W. Bush, Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.

The finalized annual defense policy bill contains a number of controversial provisions and comes out at $3.2 billion more than President Obama requested, the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports.

The international community must make it clear that it remains committed to a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, as the prospects of reaching such an agreement are “threatening to slip out of reach,” outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday. Dave Bryan reports at the AP.

China’s Defense Ministry is seriously concerned about South Korea and Japan’s military intelligence pact to share sensitive information on the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear activities, it said today. [Reuters]

India has deployed over one million troops in India-held Kashmir, despite Pakistan’s concerns, a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson said today, calling the deployment a hurdle in the implementation of the UN resolution. [DAWN]

“Credible information” that South Sudan’s government is targeting civilians in Central Equatoria state and preparing for “large scale” attacks within days and weeks has been obtained by a top US diplomat, 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