The Early Edition: December 9, 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

Stand up to Russian aggression against Ukraine, a bipartisan group of 27 senators wrote to President-elect Donald Trump yesterday, the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reporting.

The UN envoy to Syria said he plans to meet “people around the team” of President-elect Donald Trump to discuss the conflict in the country, telling the UN Security Council that meetings would take place in New York and Washington, Reuters reports.

The Senate passed a defense policy bill that looks ahead to the Trump administration, setting the stage for a major boost in military spending, Connor O’Brien and Austin Wright report at POLITICO.

Trump’s over-the-top retaliatory rhetoric may be a tactic to demonstrate to his foreign and domestic enemies that the US is not predictable, suggests Michael Grunwald – generously, he says – at POLITICO. After all, Grunwald reflects, Trump comes from the real estate world, where “bluster and theatrical threats” are a negotiation strategy.

SYRIA

The Assad regime has stopped combat operations in Aleppo in order to evacuate civilians, Russian officials said yesterday, yet residents in the remaining rebel-held areas said that fighting had continued following a day of intense bombing. [New York Times’ Anna Barnard]

Government attacks continued overnight into this morning, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, Reuters’ witnesses and rebels corroborating this account.

Russia’s announcement that Syria is suspending combat operations in Aleppo might mean that the time is right to restart peace deal negotiations, the UN envoy to Syria said yesterday, Michael Astor reporting at the AP.

A US decision to lift some restrictions on arms deliveries to rebels fighting in Syria risked those arms ending up in the hands of “terrorists,” the Kremlin said today. [Reuters]

Hundreds of civilians exited eastern Aleppo on foot today, the AP reports.

Reports that hundreds of civilian men have gone missing after crossing from rebel-held parts of Aleppo to government-controlled areas of the city have been received by the UN human rights office, the AP reports.

The Syrian White Helmets urged international organizations to protect them in rebel-held parts of Aleppo, where they say they face torture and execution when the Syrian army reaches the districts they operate in, Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

Rebel leaders in Syria are clinging to the hope that President-elect Donald trump’s longstanding hostility to Iran will offset his desire to build relations with Russia, writes Yaroslav Trofimov at the Wall Street Journal.

Chechen troops would happily fight the “scum” in Syria if the Kremlin instructed them to, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said yesterday, Vladimir Isachenkov reporting at the AP.

A group of Berlin-based activists are planning to walk to Aleppo, the #CivilMarchForAleppo born out of frustration over the carnage being inflicted on the besieged city’s resident with apparent total impunity and indifference from the international community. The over 2,000-mile journey to reach Aleppo could take up to six months on foot, Alex Rowell reports at The Daily Beast.

IRAQ

At least 50,000 Islamic State militants have been killed since the US-led coalition began fighting in Iraq and Syria two years back, according to a senior US military official. [BBC]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 12 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Dec. 7. Separately, partner forces conducted 11 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

LIBYA

The Islamic State still has several hundred fighters who have scattered across Libya following the group’s defeat in Sirte and who pose a threat to the country, the region, and possibly Europe, US officials and the Pentagon’s Africa Command have warned. Eric Schmitt reports at the New York Times.

The fact that US-back Libyan forces expelled the Islamic State from Sirte this week is worth celebrating, even if the Islamist threat to Libya is far from contained, suggests the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

AFGHANISTAN

Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Afghanistan unannounced today for his last planned trip to the country, Mujib Mashal reports at the New York Times.

The US will “remain committed” to Afghanistan, Carter said today, responding to questions about what President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy will mean to the country, currently facing a renewed Taliban insurgency. Idrees Ali reports at Reuters.

GUANTANAMO BAY

The Obama administration’s plan to send Guantánamo Bay captive Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu to Israel for trial is on hold while the FBI refuses to furnish the Israelis with information from its interrogations, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Top-secret British surveillance operations targeted the director of the World Trade Organization as well as multinational corporations and heads of state across Africa, according to a series of reports by French newspaper Le Monde, The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher reports.

Georgia’s Secretary of State accused someone at the Department of Homeland Security of illegally attempting to hack its computer network on Nov. 15, 2016, including the voter registration database, the Hill’s Joe Uchill reports.

US courts will likely be more important than ever as a bulwark against unlawful spying when Donald Trump is handed the keys to the NSA’s vast spying apparatus as President next month, Ashley Gorski writes at The Daily Beast.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A French Islamic State operative suspected of being connected to the Tunisian cell behind the June 15 attack on a beach in Sousse was targeted by a US drone strike in late November, Paul Cruickshank reports at CNN.

A letter demanding answers following allegations in a news report that the Pentagon attempted to conceal a study showing $125 billion in waste was sent to Defense Secretary Ash Carter yesterday by a bipartisan group of 31 House lawmakers, Kristina Wong reports at the Hill.

An Israeli bill that would legalize 4,000 settler homes in occupied West Bank has been strongly criticized by the UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who said it would clearly violate international law. [AFP]

A 42-hour gun fight in India-controlled Kashmir ended today after two suspected rebels were killed, triggering huge anti-India protests in the region, Aijaz Hussain reports at the AP.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will begin a tour of the Middle East amid a row among politicians over his comment that Saudi Arabia is engaging in “proxy wars” in the region, the BBC reports.

Russia is not going to invade Sweden, the Russian ambassador to Sweden said in an interview about Crimea on Swedish television Wednesday evening, though Victor Tatarinstev’s comments may not have been as reassuring as he’d hoped, writes Adam Taylor at the Washington Post.

Making the new peace agreement a tangible reality in Colombia will be a bumpy ride, suggests the New York Times’ Marta Ruiz, discussing the stages that will take place now. 

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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