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The Early Edition: January 10, 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

Trump asked the Pentagon’s second-highest ranking official Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work to join his administration, according to retired Gen. James Mattis, Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin tweeted yesterday.

Trump’s decision to name his son-in-law as his top adviser must be reviewed over concerns of nepotism and conflict of interest, Democrats have urged. [BBC]

The decision accelerates the US’ decline to a Banana Republic, observes Jon Schwarz at The Intercept.

Trump’s strategic worldview of developing friendly ties with Russia in order to improve the American strategic position to challenge China is threatened by the intelligence community’s report on Russian interference in the presidential election, writes Gerald F. Seib at the Wall Street Journal.

The extent to which secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson’s negotiating style, honed over years at the helm of one of the world’s largest oil companies, prepares him for his new role will be examined by the Senate when it considers his nomination Wednesday, write Justin Scheck, James Marson and Bradley Olson, making their own assessment at the Wall Street Journal.

There is a chance that Tillerson’s confirmation could be derailed over concerns over Trump’s policies toward Russia, anticipate Courtney Weaver, Barney Jopson and David J. Lynch at the Financial Times.

Does “making America great again” involve living up to its commitments to other countries, particularly Ukraine? Robert McConnell suggests that Senators should put this question to Rex Tillerson at his confirmation hearing tomorrow at the Wall Street Journal.

Retired Gen. James Mattis is receiving positive reviews from Republicans and Democrats alike as he does the rounds in advance of his confirmation hearing Thursday, though the need for a waiver to exempt him from current law requiring a general to be out of the military for at least seven years before serving as Pentagon chief currently stands in his way, Kristina Wong and Rebecca Kheel write at the Hill.

Does retired Gen. James Mattis deserve an exception to the rule that the Pentagon must be run by a civilian? Mattathias Schwartz considers this question at The Intercept.

Relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would have a “disastrous impact on the peace process,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wrote in a letter to Donald Trump, according to reports by Palestinian media. [Al Jazeera]

Mexico is “entering a new era in relations with the United States” with the inauguration of Donald Trump, Mexico’s new foreign minister Luis Videgaray said yesterday, promising to pursue dialogue with Trump but warning that Trump’s policies could affect the “destiny of future generations” of Mexicans. Joshua Partlow reports at the Washington Post.

Sweden’s foreign minister hopes that Trump will support a strong UN and Secretary-General António Guterres’ focus on preventing potential conflicts from turning into full-blown wars, she told the AP’s Edith M. Lederer yesterday.

A bipartisan approach to foreign policy is still achievable and is vital for US home security and global stability, argue Madeleine K. Albright, Stephen Hadley and Nancy Lindborg at POLITICO MAGAZINE.

A “cascade if lies” leading back to the false claim that Arab-Americans in New Jersey openly celebrated the 9/11 attacks is revealed by Trump’s more recent denial of actress Meryl Streep’s condemnation of him for mocking a reporter’s physical disability, making it worth examining, writes Robert Mackey at The Intercept.

Trump’s “twitter rants” offer a glimpse at his psyche, and it’s “not pretty:” the President-elect is enveloped by a “shell of self-regard” that may seem armor-like at first but turns out to be “delicate and brittle,” writes Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post.

RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE in the US ELECTION

Republican and Democratic Senators will introduce legislation today imposing a wide range of sanctions on Russia for its cyberattacks on the US election and its actions in Syria and Ukraine, Patricia Zengerle reports at Reuters.

The creation of an independent commission to investigate Russia’s attempts to hack the 2016 presidential election similar to the September 11 panel was called for by Democrats in Congress yesterday, Reuters reports.

“Baseless allegations substantiated with nothing” and done on a “amateurish, emotional level.” Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov provided his assessment of the US intelligence community’s report into allegations of Russian hacking of the election to reporters yesterday, Shaun Walker reports at the Guardian.

Donald Trump will take another look at the retaliatory measures the US took against Russia in response to its interference in the election, Trump’s top aide Kellyanne Conway suggested yesterday, Rebecca Savransky reporting at the Hill.

An independent investigation that continues after Donald Trump becomes president must follow the charge made by the intelligence community in its report last week, David Ignatius argues at the Washington Post.

The idea that the spies are more powerful than the president sounds worldly, but it is wrong: if there is a fight between the White House and the intelligence community, Donald Trump is in the more powerful position, writes Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times.

Inaccurate statements about Russian politics and a strange emphasis on the role of Russia’s state-controlled media network RT are two of the many shortcomings of the report highlighted by Kevin Rothrock at the Moscow Times.

SYRIA

The US has begun regular aerial intelligence surveillance to support Turkey’s offensive against the Islamic State in northwestern Syria, and increased US support for Turkey’s military operation in and around the town of al-Bab is forthcoming, Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan report at the Washington Post.

US Special Operations troops conducted a ground raid aimed at capturing an Islamic State militant in eastern Syria Sunday, officials confirmed yesterday, Liz Sly and Missy Ryan reporting at the Washington Post.

The raid resulted in the death of an Islamic State official, but did not result in the capture of any militants, a US official confirmed yesterday. Ben Kelsing and Raja Abdulrahim report at the Washington Post.

The skies above Syria are “an international incident waiting to happen,” Russian and US jets crowding into the same airspace while fighting parallel wars, write Michael M. Phillips and Gordon Lubold at the Wall Street Journal.

 

IRAQ

The Islamic State’s tactic of using civilians as cover is slowing Iraqi special forces’ advance into Mosul, though they have succeeded in entering two more southeastern districts of the city, a military spokesperson said today. [Reuters]

The Iraqi military’s announcement that it reached the Tigris River in Mosul marks a significant moment in the 12-week campaign to oust the Islamic State from its large major stronghold in the country, writes Michael Knights at the BBC.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 23 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 8. Separately, partner forces conducted 11 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

IRAN

Warning shots were fired at Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz by a US Navy ship after they refused to turn away despite multiple warnings, a US official confirmed yesterday, Ben Kesling and Asa Fitch reporting at the Wall Street Journal.

A large shipment of natural uranium will be shipped by Russia to Iran to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, a move approved by the outgoing US administration and other governments seeking to ensure Tehran remains committed to the nuclear deal, George Jahn reports at the AP.

A five-year military spending plan aimed at increasing funding to at least five percent of Iran’s budget from 2 percent was approved by Iranian lawmakers, critics saying that the move is inconsistent with a UN resolution requiring Iran to refrain from developing its nuclear capability, the Hill’s Kristina Wong reports.

EUROPE

Initial plans for a tougher stance toward suspected extremists who don’t have asylum will be developed by Germany’s interior and justice ministers following the Dec. 19 truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market, the AP reports.

A government appeal against a ruling that the isolation of mass-murder and right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik was a violation of his human rights is being heard by a Norwegian court today, Matti Huuhtanen reports at the AP. Breivik killed 77 people in a rampage in 2011.

The head of the consular department at Russia’s Greek embassy was found dead in his flat in Athens – police are investigating, the BBC reports.

GUANTANAMO BAY

The US military imposed a blackout on alleged al-Qaeda commander Abd al Hadi al Iraqi and his lawyers as they sought a recess during pre-trial hearings on account of Hadi’s bloodied hands and wrists as a result of being forced into the war court strapped to a restraint chair, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

The first Guantánamo Bay prisoner to be convicted by a military court David Hicks appeared in an Australian court today accused of assaulting his partner, the AP reports.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The US citizen arrested for shooting a US consular official in Guadalajara in Mexico last week has been sent out of Mexico, the federal Attorney General’s Office said last night, Christopher Sherman and Michael Balsamo reporting at the AP.

The US dropped an average of three bombs an hour in 2016, on Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, according to a report from the Council of Foreign Relations. F. Brinley Bruton reports at NBC News.

An early dispute between the FBI and the State Department over the classification of an email concerning the aftermath of the 2012 Benghazi attacks is detailed in newly-released records of the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information while serving as secretary of state, Josh Gerstein writes at POLITICO.

Five prominent Russians including two men wanted in the UK for the murder of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko were blacklisted by the Obama administration, the BBC reports.

Over a dozen bomb threats were reported at Jewish centers in the US and Britain yesterday, while new reports continue to come in, Avi Selk reports at the Washington Post.

A Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during a raid on a West Bank refugee camp, Al Jazeera reports.

China is tightening border controls in its northwestern Xinjiang region in response to growing terrorism threats, the AP reports, citing the regional governor.

Turkey’s parliament voted to continue with debate on a constitutional reform package that would increase President Erdoğan’s executive powers today, Reuters reports.

Pakistan tested its first submarine-launched nuclear-capable missile, Pakistan’s military said yesterday, NBC News’ Wajahat S. Khan reporting.

Bitcoin and online payment services such as PayPal are being used to fund terrorist activities in Indonesia, among the alleged donors a Syrian-based Indonesian called Bahrun Naim, an official with Indonesia’s financial-transactions agency said yesterday. Resty Woro Yuniar reports at the Wall Street Journal.

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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.