The Early Edition: December 6, 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

China reacted harshly to President-elect Donald Trump’s attacks on its economic and security positions yesterday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson indicating that Beijing had made its unhappiness directly known to members of Trump’s team, Damian Paletta, Carol E. Lee and Jeremy Page report at the Wall Street Journal.

China called on the US not to allow Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen to transit there when she visits Guatemala next month, Ben Blanchard and Bill Barreto report at Reuters.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s phone call with Donald Trump should not be interpreted as a significant shift in US policy, she said today, stressing that both nations see the value of maintaining regional stability. Lavanya Ramanathan and Simon Denyer report at the Washington Post.

The prospect of a change in US policy should be prompting closer attention, argues Tom Ackerman at Al Jazeera.

Trump’s unprecedented phone call to Taiwan’s president and subsequent tweets criticizing China raise the possibility of major friction between the world’s two largest economies, Christopher Bodeen an AP setting out six areas that could develop into flashpoints.

People in Taiwan are bracing for Chinese retaliation following President Tsai Ing-wen’s phone call with Trump, fearing that Taiwan and not the US will be the focus of Beijing’s anger, Andrew Browne writes at the Wall Street Journal.

The Iraq war was probably a “mistake,” according to Trump’s nomination for secretary of defense Gen. James Mattis – but if he was among those who disagreed with President George W. Bush at the time, he did a good job of hiding it, writes Mattathias Schwartz at The Intercept.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) became the second lawmaker to state that he would not back a waiver for Mattis to serve in the position of secretary of Defense within seven years of his retiring from military service, the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports.

The problem with Trump’s appointment of a team of generals to his national security and foreign policy Cabinet is that it emanates from and exacerbates the public’s enormous deference to the military on issues of war strategy and its support for a broader role for the military than the traditional civil-military balance allows for, writes Daniel W. Drezner at the Washington Post.

State Department officials are increasingly concerned that Donald Trump’s children will assume the role of freelance ambassadors, further blurring the line between their own business affairs and America’s foreign affairs, and the warning signs are already there, writes Nahal Toosi at POLITICO.

For Trump, a successful foreign policy in the Middle East will rest on a successful Iran policy, and there are some important lessons he can learn from his predecessors, suggests Ray Takeyh at POLITICO.

The Ukrainian government has more reason than most to fear the Trump administration, Shaun Walker writes at the Guardian, recalling that the President-elect has made a number of positive comments about Russian President Putin and even suggested he might consider recognizing Crimea as part of Russia.

While Trump may not be another Hitler, America could become another Wiemar Germany, suggests Richard Cohen writing at the Washington Post.

SYRIA

Syrian government forces were on the verge of taking control of the large residential district of Shaar in eastern Aleppo today, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying that if the district is taken rebel forces will be reduced to a “war of attrition” with the Assad regime. [AFP]

Civilians’ situation in eastern Aleppo is growing increasingly desperate as the signs mount that rebels fighting there face potential collapse in the face of the Assad regime’s latest onslaught, Raja Abdulrahim reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Russia and China vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution demanding a seven day truce in Aleppo yesterday, Louisa Loveluck reports at the Washington Post.

Russia rejects any ceasefire for Aleppo unless it includes the departure of all rebels from the city, it said in a statement released today. [AP]

The Syrian government also rejects any ceasefire negotiated by any party unless all the rebels fighting in eastern Aleppo leave, Syrian state media reported. [Reuters]

Russia reproached the world community for a lacklustre response to the shelling of a Russian military field hospital in Aleppo, in a statement by Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov today. [Reuters]

The civil war in Syria is over, and now it’s time to stop the fighting, and though the outcome is clear – the Assad regime has prevailed, though tactics of “unspeakable brutality” – how the war ends matters greatly, writes Peter W. Galbraith at the New York Times.

Will the recapture of Aleppo by the Syrian government, and the defeat of the Islamic State in Raqqa and in Mosul in Iraq, actually bring peace any closer? Jonathan Marcus explains at the BBC.

IRAQ

The Iraqi army has advanced to within a mile of the Tigris River running through the center of Mosul after units launched a fresh assault in the southeastern part of the city today, according to operations commander Lieutenant-General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah, Reuters reports.

The Islamic State has brought its forward defenses from the west toward the east in response, US Brigadier Gen. Scott Efflandt told Reuters’ Patrick Markey.

The Obama administration is attempting to maintain the alliance between Iraq’s military and Kurdish fighters under threat from a budget battle in Iraq’s Parliament and uncertainty about the policies of incoming President Donald Trump, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Michael M. Phillips report at the Wall Street Journal.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 11 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Dec. 4. Separately, partner forces conducted 10 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

IRAN

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will not allow President-elect Donald Trump to rip up the Iran nuclear deal, threatening unspecified repercussions if he does so, he said today, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin reporting at Reuters.

The head of the UN watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit Iran before the end of the year, Iran’s top nuclear official said, adding that Iran “welcomed” the visit. [AP]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A bill that would legalize dozens of Israeli settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank was given initial approval by the Israeli parliament, the AP reports.

For the first time, Israel has denied entry to a foreign activist involved in efforts against occupation, blocking Isabel Phiri of Malawi because of her affiliation with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, the AP reports.

TURKEY

Turkey’s military chief held talks with his US counterpart at Incirlik airbase during a previously unannounced visit, according to a statement released by Turkey’s military today. [AP]

The forced eviction of tens of thousands of people in a mainly Kurdish district of southeast Turkey in security operations has been condemned by Amnesty International, Dominique Soguel reports at the AP.

A statement emailed to foreign journalists over the weekend by Turkey pointed to US and European hypocrisy in criticizing it for the arrest and detention of journalists, Ishaan Tharoor reports at the Washington Post.

GUANTANAMO BAY

A request to halt the latest round of 9/11 war crimes proceedings at Guantánamo Bay while one of the five defendants recovers from surgery was turned down by the judge in the case yesterday, the AP reports.

Guantánamo Bay detainee Mustafa al Hawsawi accused in the 9/11 plot case was treated for haemorrhoids as an outpatient, not for a torn or prolapsed rectum as stated by his attorney, a doctor testified yesterday. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

THE I.C.C. TRIAL OF DOMINIC ONGWEN

The trial of ex-Lord’s Resistance Army commander and former child soldier Dominic Ongwen has begun at the International Criminal Court, one of the most important trials in the court’s history, reports Jason Burke at the Guardian. The Lord’s Resistance Army is blamed for the deaths of around 100,000 people and the abduction of 60,000 children in northern Uganda and neighboring countries, the charges against him focusing on a series of attacks on refugee camps between 2004 and 2005.

Ongwen pleaded not guilty to 70 charges including murder, rape, forced marriages and using child soldiers this morning, Mike Corder reports at the AP.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have joined forces in an effort to curb explicit terrorist imagery online, building technology that would identify extremist content using a digital fingerprint known as a “hash,” which would then be compiled into a shared global database, Madhumita Murgia and Duncan Robinson report at the Financial Times.

The State Department released 80 of the 15,000 Hillary Clinton emails discovered by the FBI during its investigation into her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state yesterday, the Hill’s Katie Bo Williams reports.

South Korea’s military cyber command appears to have been breached by North Korea, South Korea’s military said. [BBC]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not apologize for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II when he visits later this month, a Japanese government spokesperson said today, Ken Moritsugu reporting at the AP.

A militia group loyal to Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord retook control of the city of Sirte from the Islamic State yesterday, Alessio Romenzi reports at Al Jazeera.

An internal study exposing $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations has been buried by the Pentagon amid fears that Congress would use the findings as an excuse to dramatically cut the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward.

The Senate reversed the passage of a bill intended to curb international terrorism funding yesterday, the Hill’s Sylvan Lane reports.

The EU and NATO are proceeding with deepening cooperation as President-elect Trump insists European countries must start pulling their own military weight, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters today. [AP]

A Saudi court sentenced 15 people to death for spying on behalf of Iran today, a move that could further stoke tensions between the two rival powers, suggests Reuters.

Chile’s government can file an extradition request to the US for two former police agents who served under Gen. Pinochet’s dictatorship wanted for a 1976 car bombing in Washington that killed a former Chilean ambassador and a US citizen, Chile’s Supreme Court ruled esterday. [AP’s Patricia Luna]

China has sent 120 troops of an eventual 700-strong UN peacekeeping force to South Sudan, 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