The Early Edition: December 8, 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. John Kelly is President-elect Donald Trump’s planned nomination as secretary of homeland security, with an official announcement expected next week, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman report at the New York Times. Kelly took a tough stance on border security as head of US Southern Command, but is the preferred option according to immigration advocates compared with other potential choice Kris Koback, the Kansas secretary of state known for hard-line views on immigration.

Kelly clashed with reporters over what information could be released about suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay – which he opposes closing – while serving as head of US Southern Command, Franco Ordoñez reports at the Miami Herald.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been chosen to serve as US ambassador to China by President-elect Donald Trump, the transitional office confirmed yesterday. Brakkton Booker reports at NPR.

The White House and top congressional Democrats will not block a government funding bill that includes language intended to accelerate the confirmation process for retired Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Defense secretary, the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports.

Trump’s candidates for secretary of state vary dramatically in their attitudes to foreign policy, making Trump’s own impossible to work out, Katie Glueck observes at POLITICO.

Carter Page, an ex-foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, is visiting Moscow to meet businesspeople and politicians, the Kremlin stating that it had no plans to meet with him, according to Russian state media. [AP’s Natliya Vasilyeva]

China responded to assertions by Lt Gen. Michael T. Flynn – Trump’s choice for national security adviser – that China was allied with “radical Islamists,” spokesperson Lu Kang saying that preserving China-US relations relied on those responsible basing their opinions on fact, Edward Wong reports at the New York Times. Flynn made the accusation in a book released in July.

“It is difficult to see how Washington, Beijing and Taipei get to a good place on the Taiwan question … given the leaderships in each capital.” Edward Wong at the New York Times interviews Paul Haenle, the director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing and a former White House adviser, who shares his thoughts on the US-China relationship in the context of Donald Trump, Taiwan and North Korea’s nuclear program.

Egypt urged the US to forge closer ties with Russia in dealing with terrorism in the Middle East as Donald Trump prepares to take up the presidency next month, Jay Solomon reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump Towers Istanbul. Donald Trump’s business in Turkey presents one of the biggest potential conflicts of interest that could upend US national security, Tim Mak writes at The Daily Beast.

SYRIA

Ignoring a rebel-held proposal for a ceasefire in Aleppo yesterday, the Assad regime continued its advance in the besieged city, capturing new neighborhoods and confining around 200,000 civilians to a rapidly shrinking opposition enclave, Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa report at the AP.

Intense bombing by the Assad regime of parts of Aleppo that remain under rebel control was reported by Syrian opposition activists today, the AP reports.

A victory for his army in Aleppo would be a “huge step” toward ending Syria’s five-year conflict, President Bashar al-Assad said. [BBC]

The US and Russia are close to reaching a ceasefire deal for Aleppo, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said today, though he warned against “high expectations.” [Al Jazeera]

Nearly 150 people were evacuated overnight from a hospital in Aleppo’s Old City, the first major evacuation from eastern Aleppo, the International Committee of the Red Cross said today. [Reuters]

There are no technical obstacles to airdropping humanitarian aid to Aleppo using a GPS-guided parachute system, but the plan has been stalled by reluctance among military commanders and an absence of political will, Emma Beals and Julian Borger write at the Guardian.

Now that virtually the whole of Aleppo has fallen to government control, what next? While analysis is “challenging,” there are certain trajectories that indicate what the future may hold, Samer Abboud writes at Al Jazeera.

IRAQ

The US deliberately conducted an airstrike on a hospital in Mosul after its Iraqi allies came under fire by Islamic State fighters inside the hospital complex, it said yesterday, Spencer Ackerman reporting at the Guardian.

A government inquiry into air strikes on a western border town which killed around 60 people was called for by Iraq’s parliament speaker today, Reuters reports.

The UN is struggling to find land to shelter those displaced by the fighting in Mosul, an exodus of up to 700,000 people anticipated, a UN official said yesterday. Michael Astor reports at the AP.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 13 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Dec. 6. Separately, partner forces conducted five strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

TURKEY

Turkey’s post-coup purge of alleged plotters has “degraded” NATO’s command operations by removing experienced senior officers, the alliance’s top general said, Arthur Beesley reporting at the Financial Times.

Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman foreign policy, which puts the Ottoman Empire at the center if its collective imagination, seems to be having a particularly pronounced effect on its Middle East policy, writes Behlul Ozkan at the New York Times.

GUANTANAMO BAY

Safeguard a copy of the Senate Torture Report on the CIA’s clandestine prison program before President-elect Donald Trump Takes office, defense attorneys urged the judge overseeing the 9/11 pretrial hearings at Guantánamo Bay. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government has the right under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to use American digital communications it obtains accidentally incidentally through its overseas surveillance programs, as long as the intended target is a foreigner, on Monday, Jenna McLaughlin writing at The Intercept that the upshot of this is that Americans have fewer privacy rights when emailing people overseas.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s decision to release a statement detailing his answers to Swedish prosecutors was a “violation” of her client in the media, the lawyer acting for the woman who alleges Assange raped her said, David Crouch and Esther Addley reporting at the Guardian.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

It was in the interest of the US to remain committed to the nuclear treaty, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said today. [Reuters’ Elaine Lies]

The Philippines is highly unlikely to assist the US in its freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea to avoid antagonizing China, Jim Gomez reports at the AP, citing the Philippine defense secretary today.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused Saudi Arabia of engaging in “proxy wars” in the Middle East in video footage published by the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour and Rowena Mason.

Johnson’s remarks about ally Saudi Arabia are “not the government’s view,” the UK government said, the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot reporting.

The Pentagon must confront openly the burden of “bloat and wasteful overload” in order to justify the money that it really needs to fund its vital missions around the globe, especially in the face of severe budget pressures, writes the Washington post editorial board.

Montenegro’s bid to become the 29th member of NATO is unresolved in the Senate, which will end its legislative session today, experts on European security urging senators to ensure the US formally blesses the NATO expansion before President Obama leave office on Jan. 20, to mitigate the risk that President-elect Trump will oppose it. [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman]

A journalist in Crimea has been charged with extremism for allegedly undermining Russia’s territorial integrity, his lawyer said. [AP]

The search for a Marine Corps pilot who ejected from an F/A-18 jet in Japan was expanded to a wider area after daybreak this morning, the US military said. [AP]

Prosecutors at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague have called for a life sentence for Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladić for genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, arguing that any lesser penalty would be “an insult to the victims,” Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

The attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan that led America into World War II shaped the modern world, Jonah Engel Bromwich explaining how at the New York Times. 

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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