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The Early Edition: January 4, 2017

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

Legislation to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv – a plan backed by Donald Trump – was introduced by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Dean Heller and Marco Rubio, David Smith reports at the Guardian.

Republican Sens. Ben Sasse (Neb.) and David Perdue (Ga.) are joining the Senate Armed Services Committee, replacing former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports. Sasse has been an outspoken critic of President-elect Donald Trump and his new position could enable him to act as a foil to Trump’s national security plans alongside committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kheel suggests.

Trump’s pick for secretary of state Rex Tillerson will receive a $180 million payout to cut all financial ties to ExxonMobil if his new role is confirmed, Ed Crooks reports at the Financial Times.

“Revolutionary states” and “Islamic extremist organizations” are two of some of the biggest challenges that will face Donald Trump once he is sworn in as president on Jan. 20, according to 20 “top thinkers” consulted by POLITICO MAGAZINE.

Stopping North Korea from developing an intercontinental ballistic missile is “far easier said than done,” and Trump has not set out how he will achieve what successive US administrations have failed to do, David Brunnstrom and Arshad Mohammed write at Reuters.

Donald Trump may be the first US president since America became a world power who simply does not believe that “the world must be made safe for democracy,” his “unstinting” attacks on journalists, critics and political opponents clearly demonstrating his “contempt for democratic norms,” while his interest in democratic rights abroad is “even more negligible,” writes James Traub at Foreign Policy.

RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE in the US ELECTION

An intelligence briefing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election that President-elect Donald Trump was due to receive has been delayed, Trump tweeted yesterday, adding that the delay was “Very strange!” [BBC]

The report was always scheduled for Friday, not today, a senior US intelligence official with direct knowledge of the situation told NBC News’ Hasani Gittens and Ken Dilanian.

“Wait and see” the forthcoming intelligence report before casting doubt on the intelligence community’s findings, CIA Director John Brennan urged people yesterday. The Hill’s Rebecca Savransky reports.

A select committee to investigate the Russian influence on the presidential election probably won’t happen without the support of the leadership, Sen. John McCain said yesterday, the Hill’s Max Greenwood reporting.

“Red January.” This month will be filled with investigations, hearings and a new push for sanctions against Russia in the Senate, predicts Tim Mak at The Daily Beast.

The CIA keeps President Putin’s secrets, Holman W. Jenkins Jr. writes at the Wall Street Journal, and it is unwilling to press hard on the Putin regime out of fear of blowback or else Putin’s replacement by “the devil they don’t know.”

SYRIA

Repeated violations of the ceasefire by Assad regime forces are putting the peace talks scheduled for later this month at risk, Turkey warned today. [AP]

Iran must put pressure on Shi’ite-backed militias and the Syrian government to stop violating the ceasfire, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said today. [Reuters]

Guarantors of the ceasefire Turkey and Russia will establish checkpoints in Syria to monitor the truce and any violations as per the terms of the ceasefire, the Hürriyet Daily News reports.

Syrian government forces pushed their offensives around Damascus yesterday despite the truce, Louisa Loveluck and Heba Habib report at the Washington Post.

US-led coalition jets helped Turkish-backed forces with a “visible show of force” in a military operation against the Islamic State in the town of al-Bab last week, a Pentagon spokesperson told AFP yesterday.

The lack of US-led coalition air support for Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation in al-Bab makes the mission of Incirlik Air Base – in the Turkish province of Adana – questionable, Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Işik said today. [Hürriyet Daily News]

Airstrikes on Jabhat Fateh al-Sham – formerly the Nusra Front – in northern Syria killed at least 25 of its members, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying that it was unclear who carried out the attacks. [BBC]

IRAQ

Iraqi forces retook two more districts of eastern Mosul today, security sources told Isabel Coles at Reuters.

Over 13,000 people have fled Mosul since Dec. 29 when the second phase of the military offensive to retake the city from the Islamic State commenced, according to a UN spokesperson. [UN News Centre]

Iraq and Turkey in particular are in danger of losing their war with the Islamic State, writes the Washington Post editorial board. The jihadists retain their power to inflict harm on the countries around them while attempts to oust them from its two biggest remaining cities – Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – stall or move slowly.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 14 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 2. Separately, partner forces conducted 10 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter by an Israeli military court today for shooting dead a Palestinian man as he lay wounded in Hebron in occupied West Bank last March, the BBC reports.

The “exceptionally low” prosecution rate by the Israeli military in cases of violence committed by soldiers against Palestinians was criticized in a report by Israeli advocacy group Yesh Din published yesterday, the AP reports.

What’s in store at France’s second Paris Middle East peace conference due to be held on Jan. 15? Rina Bassist explains at Israel Pulse.

TURKEY

The gunman behind the Istanbul nightclub massacre on New Years’ eve has been identified and is still at large, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said today, without providing details. The AP’s Dusan Stojanovic reports.

Turkey’s parliament voted to extend the state of emergency by another three months late last night, the AP reports. The state of emergency was originally imposed last July following the failed coup attempt.

The commission set up by Turkey’s Parliament to investigate the failed July 15 coup has finished its work and will report shortly, commission head Reşat Petek saying that the commission had confirmed that “the coup was averted directly by the people and it was proved that Turkey is a country sensitive to democracy for the sake of the life of the people. [Hürriyet Daily News]

GERMANY

Investigators searched two locations in Berlin linked to the man suspected of carrying out the deadly truck attack on a Christmas market in Germany’s capital last month, Federal prosecutors said yesterday. [AP]

A Syrian teenager accused of surveying possible Islamic State targets in Berlin went on trial in Germany today, Reuters reports.

MYANMAR

Myanmar faces a growing threat from Islamic State supporters recruited from Southeast Asian networks to support persecuted Muslim Rohingyas, according to Malaysia’s chief counterterrorism official. Rozanna Latiff reports at Reuters.

A commission set up by Myanmar’s government says it has found no evidence so far of genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, the BBC reports. The commission is due to make its final conclusions at the end of the month.

GUANTANAMO BAY

“There should be no further releases from Gitmo.” President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a warning to President Obama yesterday that the detention facility contains “extremely dangerous people” who “should not be allowed back onto the battlefield,” the Hill’s Jordan Fabian reports.

Human rights organization Amnesty International is making a final attempt to get President Obama to close Guantánamo Bay detention center before the end of his presidency, the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The State Department released a batch of 371 of the 15,000 Hillary Clinton emails discovered by the FBI during its investigation into her use of a private server while serving as secretary of state, the Hill’s Katie Bo Williams reports.

Some of the Russian hackers blamed for infiltrating the DNC are weaponsizing fake news, inserting malware into phoney articles, and have been for some time, according to reports and warnings issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal agencies over the past three years and seen by The Daily Beast’s Jana Winter.

President Obama’s recent attempt to conflate the hacking of the DNC with potential cyberattacks on critical infrastructure is his latest effort to mislead the American people in order to advance a political narrative that has been the hallmark of his foreign policy, according to Jeffrey A. Eisenach at the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The US does not believe that North Korea is capable of “tipping” its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, state department spokesperson John Kirby said yesterday, Reuters reporting.

Africa has seen the biggest increase in deployment of US troops over the past decade compared with any region across the globe, according to newly released numbers, Nick Turse reporting at The Intercept.

Chinese warships led by the country’s only aircraft carrier are testing weapons in exercises in the South China Sea this week, China’s foreign ministry said today. [Reuters]

Russian ships currently in the Philippines would be conducting joint exercises with Philippine forces to combat piracy and terrorism in the contested South China Sea, according to a report from Russia’s state-run Sputnik News – whereas RT said the Russians are “expected to discuss and share tactics” with an eye to future joint exercises, a claim corroborated by a Philippine Navy spokesperson’s statement that there would be no joint exercises in the next five days though future exercises are under discussion. Brad Lendon collates these reports at CNN.

New doubts about the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels are being sown by increasing attacks on left-wing activists, indigenous leaders, human rights activists and members of the Marcha Patriótica party in the Colombian countryside, writes Nick Miroff at the Washington Post.

Indonesia suspended military cooperation indefinitely with Australia over an apparent insult of Indonesian state ideology, it confirmed today, without giving the exact reason, Niniek Karmini reports at the AP.  The military acted alone in suspending cooperation, without consulting the president, but the issue has been exaggerated, a spokesperson for Indonesian President Joko Widodo confirmed, Fergus Jensen and Jonathan Barrett reporting at Reuters.

The UN Security Council must “make the best of the momentum” that already exists to produce more results that improve global peace and security this year, the council president for January Sweden’s UN ambassador Olof Skoog told the other council members yesterday, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

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About the Author

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE