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.
CHELSEA MANNING PARDONED
All but four months of former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning’s 35-year prison sentence for a 2010 leak was commuted by President Obama yesterday, the New York Times’ Charlie Savage reports. Manning has been jailed for the past seven years in a men’s military prison for leaking information that revealed US military and diplomatic activities worldwide and brought global prominence to recipient WikiLeaks.
Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence emphasizes the relevance of mercy to national security and to criminal justice, writes Alexa O’Brien at The Daily Beast.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s previous promise that he would agree to return to the US if Manning was released was not mentioned in a WikiLeaks statement issued following the announcement of the commutation, observe Danica Kirka and Raphael Satter at the AP.
DONALD TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY
The memo alleging that Russia has sought for years to influence President-elect Donald Trump is “fake” and efforts to compile the Trump dossier are further signs of the political decay of the West, Russian President Putin said yesterday, Neil MacFarquhar reporting at the New York Times.
There is no possibility of renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal even if Trump wants to, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday. Thomas Erdbrink reports at the New York Times.
Trump’s nominee for UN ambassador will question whether US funding for the body is justified during her confirmation hearing today, CNN’s Nicole Gaouette anticipates.
Aspects of NATO are “obsolete,” top NATO general French air force Gen. Denis Mercier said yesterday, echoing Trump’s previous comments, Michael Birnbaum reports at the Washington Post.
The US should bar Taiwan from attending President-elect Donal Trump’s inauguration on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry said today, Ben Blanchard and J. R. Wu reporting at Reuters.
Trump should listen to his pick for defense secretary James Mattis when it comes to NATO, writes William A. Galston at the Wall Street Journal.
Both Mattis and secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson suggested that they would not seek to dismantle alliances that have supported the West, and US global leadership, since World War II during their Congressional testimony last week, observes the Washington Post editorial board.
Hopes that Trump’s “outrageous” campaign statements were merely politically driven have been dashed by his recent comments about “two pillars of postwar security and prosperity,” NATO and the European Union, writes the New York Times editorial board.
“We have to end it.” Missy Ryan at the Washington Post examines Trump’s policy on the Islamic State.
The Trump administration wants to restructure the State Department so that it focuses more on counterterrorism, taking time and resources away from other areas such as promoting democracy abroad, POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi and Josh Dawsey report.
America’s most “notorious mercenary” Erik Prince has been covertly advising the Trump administration on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on the candidates for the defense and state departments, Jeremy Scahill reveals at The Intercept, citing an unnamed former senior US official.
Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security Gen. John Kelly failed to disclose further ties to defense contractors on his ethics form, Lee Fang reports at The Intercept.
A lean National Security Council staff is best, was outgoing national security adviser Susan Rice’s “candid and best advice” to her successor retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn in a notice posted Tuesday on the White House website. Karen DeYoung reports at the Washington Post.
Russia is the biggest threat to the international liberal order and Washington must work with Europe to stand up to it, Vice President Joe Biden said today in his last major speech before leaving office. Noah Barkin reports at Reuters.
The persistence of violence extremism and North Korea are among outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry’s concerns for the future, he said in an interview in Paris on Sunday, brushing off suggestions that President Obama’s legacy will be upended by the incoming Trump administration. Carol Morello writes at the Washington Post.
Don’t get your hopes up about Russia, was Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s parting advice to Donald Trump, Bryan Bender reports at POLITICO.
Some advice for think tanks and national security professionals worried about life under Trump is provided by Daniel W. Drezner at the Washington Post.
President Obama’s foreign policy messenger explains what worries him about Trump in an interview with POLITICO MAGAZINE’s Michael Crowley.
Iran opposes US participation in the Syrian peace talks due to begin in Kazakhstan next week, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said yesterday. Liz Sly reports at the Washington Post.
The Islamic State cut in half the last Assad regime enclave in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir Ezzour following a fierce offensive, Noam Raydan and Nour Alakraa report at the Wall Street Journal.
Arm Syrian Kurdish fighters or leave the decision up to Trump. A stark choice on Syria faces President Obama in his last days in office, write Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt at the New York Times.
The ways in which the Syrian conflict has steadily overtaken Turkey’s domestic and foreign affairs were starkly illustrated by a series of recent attacks in Turkey, writes Erin Cunningham at the Washington Post.
Iraqi special forces have driven the Islamic State from eastern Mosul, their commanding officer said today, Isabel Coles reporting at Reuters.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 12 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 16. Separately, partner forces conducted five strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Arrest warrants for 243 members of Turkey’s military were issued in relation to the ongoing post-July 2015 coup attempt crackdown, Reuters reports.
The Turkish parliament will resume its deliberation on a contentious package of constitutional amendments that would give President Erdoğan’s office executive powers today, the AP reports.
Alleged Istanbul nightclub attacker Abdulgadir Masharipov acted with direct orders from the Islamic State and had to change target at the last minute, he reportedly told police. Reuters’ Humeyra Pamuk reports.
Did the Istanbul night club attacker have help from a state “intelligence organization” as Turkey’s government hinted? Roy Gutman discusses this question at The Daily Beast.
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
The Palestinian Authority has agreed to form a unity government with rivals Hamas after a three-day negotiation in Moscow, Al Jazeera reports.
The “bizarre burst” of diplomatic activity concerning Israel-Palestine in the last few days of President Obama’s tenure is “tantamount to an admission that, on this subject, things only get said too late and when they no longer mean anything,” writes Roger Cohen at the New York Times.
Guantánamo Bay detention facility will still be open when President Obama leaves office, the White House conceded yesterday, Josh Lederman and Ben Fox reporting at the AP.
The ten ex-Guantánamo Bay detainees released to Oman Monday were identified by the Pentagon, Rebecca Kheel providing the names and details of the men at the Hill.
Victims of mistaken identity who were cleared for release years ago are among the ten ex-detainees sent to Oman, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
James Cartwright, convicted of lying to the FBI about conversations with reporters about Stuxnet – US-backed malware that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear program – was pardoned by President Obama, reports Charlie Savage via Twitter.
Russia extended the residence permit for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden for “a couple of years,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed last night. [AP]
Leading Senate GOP proponents of a select committee to investigate Russian hacking of the US election Lindsey Graham will not be heading the new subcommittee dedicated to cyber issues, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. John McCain confirmed yesterday. Martin Matishak, Elana Schor and Austin Wright report at POLITICO.
Will CIA Director John Brennan’s “modernization” of the agency survive the Trump administration? David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.
“We’ve got nuclear weapons and you’d really prefer us as a friend.” Following UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit speech yesterday, we finally know what the UK’s negotiating strategy for leaving the EU is, writes Robert Shrimsley at the Financial Times.
The wife of Orlando nightclub attacker Omar Mateen Noor Zahi Salman was charged under antiterrorism laws with “aiding and abetting the attempted provision and provision of material support to a foreign terrorist organization,” a charge that potentially carries a life sentence, Erin Marie Daly, Richard Pérez-Peña and Adam Goldman report at the New York Times.
A Nigerian jet mistakenly bombed a camp for displaced people, killing dozens, while searching for Boko Haram members yesterday, the New York Times’ Dionne Searcey reports.
Taiwan began a two-day military drill simulating an attack by the Chinese army yesterday amid growing fears about the impact that future Donald Trump policies may have on regional stability, the Guardian’s Nicola Smith and Tom Phillips report.
President Obama’s foreign policy record looks worse after four more years in the White House, with the Iraq withdrawal paving the way for the Islamic State, Russian President Vladimir Putin continually outmaeauvering him, and globally the Pax Americana at its “wobbliest” since the Cold War, Ross Douthat writes at the New York Times.