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The Early Edition: January 9, 2017

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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

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen when she passed through their state on her way to diplomatic stops in Central America, Cruz confirming that China’s consulate requested that the Houston delegation “uphold the One China policy” and not meet her in a “curious letter,” Alan Yuhas reports at the Guardian.

End the One China policy and China will “take revenge,” Chinese newspaper the Global Times warned President-elect Donald Trump hours after Cruz’ visit. Brenda Goh and J.R. Wu report at Reuters.

“Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing … only “stupid” people, or fools, would think that it is bad!” Incoming president of the United States Donald Trump tweeted his plans for a close working relationship with Russia and asserted that Russia will have more respect for America when he is president on Saturday, POLITICO’s Rebecca Morin reports.

GOP congressional leaders sought to emphasize that Trump’s professed goal of improving US relations with Moscow is in line with previous presidents’ approach yesterday, while expressing doubts over whether he would succeed in doing so, David Nakamura reports at the Washington Post.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson held “positive but frank” talks on US foreign policy toward Syria, Russia and China with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his strategist Steve Bannon in New York, with Johnson due to meet key congressional leaders in Washington D.C. today, the BBC reports.

Sens. John McCaine and Lindsey Graham still have questions about Trump’s pick for secretary of state Rex Tillerson, they said yesterday, though McCain seems to have warmed up to Tillerson in the past week, observes Kevin Robillard at POLITICO.

The Sens.’ concerns over Tillerson’s ties to Russia and links to President Putin came as a senior US ethics official warned that the confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet this week – the wealth and complex business interests of whom have raised concerns about conflicts of interest – come before the nominees have been properly vetted by the Office of Government Ethics, writes Courtney Weaver at the Financial Times.

The Trump Cabinet confirmation schedule is provided by Daniella Cruz at CNN.

Tump’s pick for secretary of defense retired Gen. James Mattis is worth as much as $10 million, a large portion of it earned through his work with defense giant General Dynamics and other companies in the past few years, according to financial disclosure filed at the Office of Government Ethics. Jeremy Herb and Connor O’Brien report at POLITICO.

Incoming Pentagon chief Mattis fell out with the Obama administration back in 2011 over his recommendation to strike inside Iran in retaliation for its bombing of US troops in Iraq, but now he will serve a president who has moved to embrace America’s longtime adversaries and who values unpredictability over deliberation and raw power over diplomacy, write Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous at the Washington Post.

Questions are being raised about how well Mattis will get on with Mike Flynn, the three-star general set to be national security adviser, an issue that is sure to be raised by Democrats at Mattis’ confirmation hearing this week, writes Kristina Wong at the Hill.

Trump’s pick for spy chief former Sen. Dan Coats took a hard line on issues such as NSA surveillance, Edward Snowden, torture and Guantánamo Bay, exaplains Jenna McLaughlin at The Intercept.

The Obama administration has gifted incoming president Trump with vastly increased powers and the ability to rule almost exclusively through executive orders and actions, writes Nick Gillespie at The Daily Beast.

The Tump transition team is planning its own pivot to Asia behind the scenes, and what is emerging is an approach that both hearkens back to previous Republican administrations and seeks to actualize President Obama’s vision of increasing US presence in the region, writes Josh Rogin at the Washington Post.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discovered it’s easy to bait Donald Trump last week when he prompted an immediate twitter response from the President-elect for claiming that his regime means to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, and he won’t be the last tyrant to do so, writes Jackson Diehl at the Washington Post.

How Trump manages the competing alliances and interests in Syria will directly affect the Kurd’s destiny, and he ought to stand with these steadfast US partners, Stuart Rollo writes at the Wall Street Journal.

RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE in the US ELECTION

US allegations that Russia tried to interfere with its presidential election are reminiscent of a witch hunt, the Kremlin said today, its first response to the release of the US intelligence community’s report on the alleged Russian operation. Maria Tsvetkova and Christian Lowe report at Reuters.

The US “should not limit” itself to a “purely military” response to Russia’s cyberattacks, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said yesterday, Mallory Shelbourne reporting at the Hill.

Five key findings in the intelligence community’s declassified report on its probe into Russian interference in the US election, published Friday, have been identified by Katie Bo Williams and Harper Neidig at the Hill.

The apparent removal of “virtually anything new and conclusive” from the declassified version of the report leaves the public without the technical evidence it was hoping for, Sam Biddle writes at the Intercept.

Donald Trump “s not denying that entities in Russia were behind this particular hacking campaign,” incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said yesterday, Kevin Robillard reporting at POLITICO.

Trump has made false claims about the intel report on Russian hacking, conclude Louis Jacobson and Lina Qiu at The Daily Beast.

Donald Trump’s team attempted to shift public focus on the intelligence community’s report from its finding that Moscow ordered a campaign aimed at helping Trump win the election to an assertion that Russia failed to actually disrupt American democracy and influence the election results in appearances on Sunday morning news shows, the Hill’s Rebecca Savransky reports.

Trump’s rhetoric over the intelligence community’s findings of Russian hacking of the US election will cause a “wave of resignations” at the CIA and will undermine Trump’s ability to work with foreign intelligence services, former CIA acting director Michael Morell writes at the New York Times.

Fears that Trump will bypass intel analyst and use his personal team to conduct its own analysis of raw data have been sparked by Trump’s skepticism of the report – the dangers of doing which were illustrated by the George W. Bush administration’s incorrect assessment that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction – writes Katie Bo Williams at the Hill.

“The comedy hit of the year.” The head of Russia’s state-sponsored news channel RT dismissed the US intelligence assessment that concluded that Russia interfered with its 2016 presidential election, Thomas Grove reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The only winner here is Putin, observes the Wall Street Journal editorial board, with the Democrats blaming their defeat on Russian cyberattacks and President-elect Trump playing into his hands by refusing to acknowledge that Moscow is “no friend of America” less than two weeks before the transition.

President Obama was smart to order the expulsion of 35 Russian officials from the US, history showing us that kicking out foreign intelligence officials can yield valuable results, argues Calder Walton at POLITICO MAGAZINE.

SYRIA

President Assad is prepared to “negotiate everything” at talks due to begin this month in Kazakhstan brokered by Russia and Turkey, the Syrian president said in remarks published today. Philip Issa reports at the AP.

His army will recapture the whole of Syria including the rebel-held area near Damascus where a vital water supply was recently bombed out of service, Assad told reporters. [Reuters]

A truck bomb that drove through a busy marketplace in the border town of Azaz Saturday killed at least 48 people, Louisa Loveluck at the Washington Post reporting that there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Russia has done nothing in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said yesterday. The Hill’s Mallory Shelbourne reports.

IRAQ

Iraqi special forces fighting the Islamic State in Mosul have reached the Tigris river, senior Iraqi military commander Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah said in a statement last night. [AP]

A wave of bombings believed to be primarily targeting Shi’ite Muslims killed over two dozen people in an around Baghdad yesterday, Colin Dwyer reports at NPR.

Focus on potentially more dangerous developments in Iraq has been – understandably -distracted by the horrific situation in Syria’s Aleppo, writes Nick Butler at the Financial Times.

AFGHANISTAN

The US will send 300 Marines to Afghanistan’s Helmand province to train, advise and assist local forces fighting the Taliban, officials confirmed. NBC News’ Ahmed Mengli reports.

The US Air Force dramatically increased the number of airstrikes it carried out in Afghanistan last year, according to data released by the military, Jessica Donati reporting at the Wall Street Journal.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israeli police have arrested nine people including relatives of the Palestinian truck driver who rammed his vehicle into a crowd of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem yesterday, killing four people, the AP reports.

Comments made to “take down” the UK deputy foreign secretary over his criticism of Israel’s settlement policy by Israeli embassy official Shai Masot were condemned by members of the UK Parliament, the opposition party Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry calling for a probe into the potential extent of political “interference” in the UK, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit reports.

Masot also set up a number of political organizations in the UK, at least one of which was designed to influence Labour party policy while appearing to obscure its links to Israel, Ewen MacAskill and Ian Cobain report at the Guardian.

EUROPE

US tanks and other fighting vehicles began unloading in the northern German port of Bremerhaven Friday, to be transported to Eastern Europe to bolster NATO’s deterrence against potential Russian aggression, the AP’s David Rising reports.

Sweden faces several security threats including cyberattacks with a military buildup in the Baltic Sea region, particularly “in light of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea,” Sweden’s prime minister warned. [AP]

The EU experienced as sharp increase in “more and more dangerous” cyberattacks on bloc servers in the past year, Arthur Beelsey reports at the Financial Times.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea can test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at any time and from any location chosen by leader Kim Jong UN and the US is to blame for its arms development, a foreign ministry spokesperson is quoted as saying Sunday by North Korean media. [Al Jazeera]

It is safe to assume that the US’s response that it will shoot down anything that threatens its territory has always been US policy, but the recent exchange of threats between the US and North Korea suggest that the two nations are “feeling each other out” ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president on Jan. 20, writes Eric Talmadge at the AP.

US CONSULAR OFFICER SHOT IN MEXICO

The person alleged to have shot and injured a US diplomat in the western Mexican city of Guadalajara on Friday was captured and detained by Mexican prosecutors is a US citizen who will be extradited back to America to face further legal action, the AP reports.

Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement thanking Mexico for its “swift and decisive arrest” of the suspect yesterday, the Hill’s Mallory Shelbourne reports.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

At least eight people were killed in a truck bomb attack on a police checkpoint in the northern Sinai city of al-Arish in Egypt today, the Egyptian Interior Ministry said. [Reuters]

China’s deployment of its aircraft carrier’s battle group in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea has made its neighbors nervous about Beijing flexing its military muscles, Hrvoje Hranjski reporting on this and other recent developments in the region at the AP.

Nine armored vehicles seized in Hong Kong last November as they were being shipped from Taiwan back to Singapore following military exercises cannot be legally detained or confiscated, Singapore’s defense minister said today, but Singapore “welcomes” Hong Kong’s promise to handle the matter in accordance with its laws, Reuters’ Marius Zaharia and Fathin Ungku report.

A debate on draft constitutional amendments that would hand Turkish President Erdoğan sweeping executive powers is beginning in Turkey’s parliament today, Suzan Fraser reports at the AP.

Indonesia’s military chief is “out of control” after unilaterally suspending defense cooperation with Australia, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said in a meeting last week, Tom Allard and Kanupriya Kapoor reporting at Reuters.

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About the Author

is the Assistant News Editor at Just Security. She is also Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE.