The Early Edition: December 1, 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

President-elect Donald Trump heaped praise on Pakistan in a phonecall to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday, Trump appearing unworried by the fact that relations between the US and Pakistan have been fraught for years, reports Jon Boone at the Guardian.

Lavishing praise on the Pakistanis is also a “major turnaround” for the President-elect, who has previously denounced Pakistan on Twitter, while speaking highly of rival India, observes Max Bearak at the Washington Post. What is said to be a transcript of the conversation between Trump and Sharif was released by Pakistan’s Press Information Bureau.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) hopes that Trump will request a supplemental to the defense budget as soon as he takes office, approving of Trump’s focus on rebuilding the military, the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports.

Russian President Putin said he wanted to get on with the incoming US administration and was looking to make friends, not enemies, in an unusually conciliatory annual state of the nation address today, Reuters’ Katya Golubkova and Denis Pinchuk report.

President-elect Donald Trump’s difficulty in choosing a secretary of state underscores fears about his ability to manage the international challenges he will face in office, suggests the New York Times editorial board.

Trump could end up with generals filling the five most powerful national security offices in the country – an unprecedented concentration of military influence, observes Carol Giacomo at the New York Times, explaining why this fact deserves more public debate than it’s getting.

If Trump thinks he can use his iconoclastic business practices as a model for negotiations with foreign governments, he will be in for a rude awakening, particularly with Cuba, writes William M. Leogrande at the New York Times.

Could the Trump administration succeed on Israeli-Palestinian peacekmaking where others have failed? Dennis Ross at the Washington Post provides some advice to the President-elect, who recently said he “has reason to believe I can do it.”

SYRIA

Rebels fighting in Aleppo have agreed to form a military alliance to better defend parts of the city from the ferocious assault by Assad regime forces and their allies, Reuters reports.

Syrian rebel leaders are in secret talks with Moscow on ending the fighting in Aleppo, opposition figures have disclosed, Erika Solomon and Geoff Dyer at the Financial Times observing that this development shows how the US could become sidelined in some of the Middle East’s most crucial conflicts.

Turkey and Russia agreed on the need for a halt to fighting and the provision of aid in Aleppo but deep divisions remain between them over the conflict there, they said today, Tulay Karadeniz reporting at Reuters.

Turkish President Erdoğan explained his comments about his forces being in Syria to topple Assad in a phonecall to Russian President Putin, Russian media reported today, citing Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov, who did not go into detail about what the explanation was. [Reuters]

Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin once again rejected calls to end the offensive on eastern Aleppo at the UN Security Council meeting yesterday, Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

The laws of war have been systematically disregarded in Aleppo, UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council yesterday. Michael Astor reports at the AP.

Syrian forces killed at least 40 civilians fleeing the fighting in eastern Aleppo yesterday, according to local opposition forces and activists. Noam Raydan and Nour Alakraa report at the Wall Street Journal.

Hundreds of young men have been rounded up by the Assad regime as it advances into rebel-held parts of Aleppo, prompting concerns about the safety of those being held, reports Louisa Loveluck at the Washington Post. Similar detentions have followed the fall of other rebel strongholds in the five year Syria conflict, but none on this scale.

Russia sent a team of sappers to clear eastern Aleppo of landmines, the Russian military said. [AP]

Syrian President Assad’s collusion with the Islamic State goes back a decade, Roy Gutman writes at The Daily Beast in the first of a three-part series documenting the Syrian dictator’s contributions to the rise of the terrorist group.

IRAQ

Iraq’s Shi’ite militias fighting alongside Iraqi government forces to rid the city of Mosul of the Islamic State will have to be brought under greater governmental control even if they defeat the insurgents, Stephen Kalin writes at Reuters.

With every mile the Iraqi army retakes from the Islamic State, it seems another mass grave is uncovered, in what has become a “despairingly regular” ritual, Tim Arango writes at the New York Times.

A call for an investigation into former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s role in the build-up to the 2003 Iraq war was rejected by British parliamentarians yesterday, the BBC reports.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out five airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Nov. 29. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Ukrainian missile tests near Crimea were a “dangerous precedent,” Russia’s foreign ministry said today. Ukraine’s military said earlier on that the drills would avoid airspace over Crimea, Reuters reports.

Russia’s construction of a road a rail bridge to Crimea is on schedule, President Putin said today. [Reuters]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The creation of a temporary unity government with Hamas was proposed by the president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank during a three-hour long address at a conference of his Fatah party, Rami Nazzal and Peter Baker report at the New York Times.

Lawsuits against three current or former Israeli Supreme Court judges have been filed in Chile for supporting the construction of the West Bank separation barrier and the seizure of goods from Palestinians, Patricia Luna reports at the AP.

NORTH KOREA

The UN unanimously imposed a cap of North Korea’s coal exports yesterday in an effort to tighten sanctions that have so far largely failed to put a stop to North Korea’s nuclear testing program, the New York Times’ Somini Sengupta and Jane Perlez report.

The sanctions are not intended to harm “normal” trade with North Korea, China’s Foreign Ministry said today. [Reuters]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Changes to Rule 41 of the Criminal Procedure making it easier for law enforcement to hack computers came into force at midnight last night, Joe Uchill reports at the Hill.

A provision to increase scrutiny of Russia’s efforts to exert covert influence around the world was included in an annual intelligence policy authorization bill passed by the House yesterday, the Hill’s Cristina Marcos.

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee called on President Obama to declassify more information about Russia’s alleged interference with the US election in a brief letter sent Tuesday, POLITICO’s Martin Matishak reports.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A peace accord with the FARC rebels was approved by Colombia’s Congress last night, the New York Times’ Nicholas Cagey reports.

The dismal outcome of a series of review conferences aimed at improving the Biological an Toxin Weapons Convention reflects a growing trend in arms control: treaties negotiated post-Cold War are under stress, writes the Washington Post editorial board.

An amendment to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism (JASTA) is being proposed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would mean lawsuits can only be brought against foreign governments that “knowingly” support terrorism, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.

The Ohio State University knife attacker may have been “inspired” by the Islamic State and the late al-Qaeda-linked cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, but it was too soon to determine if the attack was terrorism, the FBI said yesterday. [The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann]

Another Arab Spring is awakening, the UN’s latest Arab Development Report warns, showing that few lessons have been learned five years on from the revolts that toppled four Arab leaders. [The Economist] 

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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