The Early Edition: December 2, 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

Retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis has been picked to be secretary of defense by President-elect Donald Trump, Dan Lamothe reports at the Washington Post.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was the first lawmaker to oppose waiving the prohibition on former military officers leading the Pentagon within seven years of retirement, a congressional waiver necessary to allow Mattis to take up the post. [The Hill’s Harper Neidig]

Congress will approve legislation that delays the relocation of a NATO intelligence center possibly providing Trump with the leverage to compel the alliance to expand its counterterrorism work, the President-elect having said he wants NATO to focus more on fighting terrorism, Julian E. Barnes reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump’s unfiltered exchanges with foreign leaders have prompted the White House to urge Donald Trump to seek the State Department’s expertise in dealing with foreign leaders, Mark Landler reports at the New York Times.

“You thought Trump’s conversation with the president of Pakistan was unbelievable?” Readouts of Trump’s conversations with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, the Queen of England Elizabeth II and President Hery Rajaonarimampianina of Madagascar have been provided by Daniel W. Drezner at the Washington Post by way of illustration.

China is watching US politics “very closely” following the election of Donald Trump as President, Chinese President Xi Jinping told former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger today. [Reuters]

Plans for high-tech weapons systems aimed at offsetting Russian and Chinese military improvements are on hold until they are approved by the new Trump administration – but will Trump approve them? David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.

Will Trump relocate the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as he promised? Ponders William Booth at the Washington Post, after President Obama signed – as he does every six months, and as has every president since the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was passed – a waiver ordering the Embassy to remain in Tel Aviv, considered necessary to protect the national security interests of the US.

Trump will have to deal with North Korea in his first term in office, which will involve either a messy confrontation with an unpredictable and incendiary regime, or a rogue nation developing the power to destroy large areas of Los Angeles with nuclear weapons, or both, observes Michael Gerson at the Washington Post.

Trump will also have to contend with the Iran nuclear deal, but the nuclear deal is just the “top of the iceberg” when it comes to Iran, explains Gen. Michael Hayden writing at the Hill.

The era of Western dominance led by a preeminent America is over, leaving the field to rising authoritarians Russia, China and Iran, and Donald Trump will continue the pullback, writes Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post.

No one can stop President Trump from using nuclear weapons, is the bleak message from Alex Wellerstein writing at the Washington Post, explaining that the entire system is set up so that the president, and only the president, can decide when to press the button.

SYRIA

A deal under negotiation between rebel leaders and Russian officials includes a ceasefire and an opening of corridors for delivering humanitarian aid in return for the departure from the city of extremists among the rebel groups, Julian Borger at the Guardian reporting that negotiations have been taking place in Turkey for the past week.

Turkey’s foreign minister called for an immediate ceasefire in Syria today, Reuters reports.

The number of civilians killed in US-led coalition airstrikes since the start of the 2014 campaign has been raised to 173 according to a statement from Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve.

The deaths include two dozen resulting from a July airstrike outside the city of Manbij, which represents the worst incidence of civilian casualties in the entire US war against the Islamic State, Spencer Ackerman reports at the Guardian.

How President Assad staged Al-Qaeda bombings. Roy Gutman provides the second in his three-part series looking at how the Syrian dictator contributed to the rise of the Islamic State at The Daily Beast.

IRAQ

Over 600 car bombs have been launched by the Islamic State on advancing Iraqi forces since the Mosul offensive began six weeks ago, a senior military official told Missy Ryan and Mustafa Salim at the Washington Post.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out two airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Nov. 30. Separately, partner forces conducted three strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan’s security crisis is creating opportunities for al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, according to Afghan and American officials, Mujib Mashal and Eric Schmitt reporting at the New York Times.

Taliban militants killed 23 civilians in Kandahar Province in the last 48 hours, according to an Afghan police official. [AP]

Recent attacks by the Islamic State in Afghanistan may bring local Sunnis and Shias closer together, making the Islamists Afghanistan’s “accidental broker,” writes Sune Engel Rasmussen at the New York Times.

EUROPE

The Islamic State his targeting refugees in Europe in a recruitment drive aimed at further polarizing the EU population, according to a report by Europol, the law enforcement agency of the EU. [The Guardian’s Jamie Grierson]

The Netherlands has joined Austria in balking at EU membership talks with Turkey in light of the ongoing post-coup attempt crackdown, James Kanter reports at the New York Times.

What will the freezing of Turkey’s EU membership talks mean? Valentina Pop explains at the Wall Street Journal.

RUSSIA

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of attempting to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign this summer by deliberately implicating him in a corruption investigation, POLITICO’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports.

Recent episodes in Eastern Europe indicate that Russian interference in Western democracies is becoming bolder, writes the Washington Post editorial board, citing Moscow’s alleged plotting of a violent coup in Montenegro, and Russian troops training alongside a neo-Nazi militia in Hungary.

IRAN

The Senate voted to extend sanctions authority against Iran for 10 years, saying it would help to ensure that the US could quickly reimpose sanctions if Iran violated its obligations under the nuclear deal, the New York Times’ David E. Sanger and Thomas Kaplan report.

The Senate’s vote to increase the Iran Sanction Act violates the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran said today. [Reuters]

NORTH KOREA

New UN sanctions aimed at stalling its nuclear weapons program are an “abuse of power” and will be met with tough countermeasures, North Korea said, Vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol calling a meeting of foreign diplomats in Pyongyang this morning to set out his country’s opposition to the sanctions. [AP]

The latest UN sanctions are valuable in that they provide the incoming Trump administration with a fresh illustration of the “dodges, omissions and loopholes” that have made a decade of previous similar sanctions ineffective, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The Investigatory Powers Act: the UK’s most invasive surveillance legislation to date. Expansive new surveillance powers combined with lax attitudes threaten civil liberties and create new vulnerabilities, Shafik Mandhai writes at Al Jazeera.

The Act will cement a decade of illegal surveillance into law when it comes into force at the beginning of next year, including state powers to authorize the interception of bulk communications and to collect and store vast amounts of data and content, Jim Killock explains at Al Jazeera.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Israel’s first ambassador to Turkey since 2010 arrived in Ankara yesterday, as the two countries continue with their rapprochement after a row over a Gaza flotilla raid six years ago. [Al Jazeera]

The Obama administration declared its support for requiring women to register for a military draft yesterday, Courtney Kube and Daniella Silva report at NBC News.

“Now comes the hard part.” The New York Times editorial board considers the challenges involved in turning a peace deal into reality following the signing off of the agreement between Colombia’s government and the FARC rebels.

Congress has a role to play in defense policy, and it should use it, Daniel R. Depetris writes at the Hill. 

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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