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.
PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY
Executive orders including a temporary ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries are expected to be signed by President Trump today, Julia Edwards Ainsley reports at Reuters.
Trump will also order the building of a Mexican border wall today, signing an executive order directing federal funds toward its construction, and is considering a number of other orders in the coming days including whether to resume the once-secret “black site” detention program, keep Guantánamo Bay detention facility open, and designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman report at the New York Times.
Defense Secretary James Mattis will visit South Korea and Japan next month to reaffirm the US’s commitment to its Asian allies, though regional experts fear that this effort could be undermined by President Trump’s “America first” rhetoric, Byran Harris writes at the Financial Times.
Israel approved a new wave of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank yesterday emboldened to ignore international pressure by President Trump’s stance, the New York Times’ Isabel Kershner reports.
“Forget the two-state solution.” While in the past such announcements from Israel would lead to immediate condemnation and concern from the US, the White House and the State Department both demurred when asked for comment yesterday, but Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post warns that giving Israel carte blanche puts it on a collision course with the rest of the world.
Trump’s embrace of Israel means that leaders of the Jewish state will have to decide what it is they want from America, and on that issue, there is sharp division, writes David Ignatius at the Washington Post.
Before Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner can fulfil his appointed task of brokering a Middle East peace deal, he needs someone to broker a peace deal between the Palestinians themselves, writes Jonathan Schanzer at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
Sen. John McCain will fight Trump on reinstating torture, he told The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak.
What will Trump do about Afghanistan? Justin Rowlatt at the BBC examines Trump’s contradictory views on what he calls “one of the most pressing issues” for the new president.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sees the Trump presidency as “a good opportunity for him to open a kind of compromise with the new American administration,” according to the most senior North Korean diplomat to defect in recent years, Thae Yong Ho. CNN’s Paula Hancocks reports.
Trump’s only option for stopping North Korea’s nuclear program is “reinvigorated diplomacy, followed by significantly ratcheting up the pressure if it fails,” but will the President take this chance to succeed where many have failed, contemplate Joel Wit and Richard Sokolsky at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
Trade, rather than national security, dominates Trump’s worldview, according to John Robb who runs the Global Guerrillas blog, Simon Denyer at the Washington Post pointing out that, if true, it’s bad news for China and countries like Mexico, Germany and Japan.
THE TRUMP NOMINEES
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was confirmed as the next US ambassador to the UN yesterday, Anne Gearan reports at the Washington Post.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) is the first Democrat to support the nomination of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.
Trump’s pick to head the White House budget office Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) is an “impediment” to supporting the US military, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said yesterday, Sylvan Lane reporting at the Hill.
“Good luck” keeping James Comey on as FBI Director, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board, predicting that the Trump administration will come to regret the decision to retain the man it says should be “embraced with extreme political caution.”
Russia, Turkey and Iran concluded the Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan Tuesday with an agreement to enforce the ceasefire, but neither the Syrian government nor the rebels signed the agreement, and Russia, Turkey and Iran deferred the issue of what the mechanism to monitor the ceasefire would actually look like, report Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad at the New York Times.
Rebels on the ground in Syria continued fighting on two fronts, which could undermine the deal, Suleiman Al-Khalidi, John Irish and Olzhas Auyezov report at Reuters.
The agreement drew Iran into a growing alliance with Turkey and Russia and will test Russia’s capability as the lead power broker in efforts to secure long-term peace in Syria, write Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous at the Washington Post.
The one definite and tangible outcome of the talks is that Syrian rebels have found a place at the negotiating table, writes Sarah El Deeb at the AP. What’s more, rebels were urged to attend the next round of talks in Geneva next month, and Russia reportedly said it would respond to their demands in a week’s time.
The Astana talks are unlikely to bring peace but will probably reinforce realignment, pushing the US out of the picture “from the Levant to Libya,” David Gardner predicts at the Financial Times.
The talks demonstrated that Russia is serious about ending the Syrian war and is prepared to do more than ever to achieve that goal, observes Martin Chulov at the Guardian.
The Iraqi military took control of eastern Mosul from the Islamic State, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, Tamer El-Ghobashy reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
Iraq executed 31 people for their alleged role in the mass killings of hundreds of Iraqi cadets by the Islamic State in 2014, Amnesty International said yesterday. [AP]
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 12 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 18. Separately, partner forces conducted seven strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
The Senate Intelligence Committee is going ahead with its probe into Russian interference in the US election, Sens. Richard Burr. (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced yesterday. The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals refused to consider a watershed decision limiting the ability of law enforcement to request data stored on foreign servers yesterday in a 4-4 split, Joe Uchill reports at the Hill.
The judge overseeing the 9/11 trial at Guantánamo Bay wants to begin jury selection in March 2018, a date defense attorneys say is too soon, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
The 9/11 judge ruled against compelling a Muslim rite burial for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, saying that the request was “unripe” and questioning the war court’s authority to determine the place or manner of someone’s burial, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on the Dayah hotel in Somali capital Mogadishu today that killed at least 10 people, CNN’s Omar Nor reports.
Philippine President Duterte blamed the CIA for a botched raid on the leader of an armed group that left 44 dead, Al Jazeera reports.
Kuwait’s foreign minister is seeking to improve relations between Iran and Gulf Arab countries, Iranian state television reported today. [AP]
French President François Hollande met with FARC leaders at a rural camp in west Colombia, the BBC reports.
Belgian authorities detained seven people for questioning following house searches relating to an anti-terror investigation into possible returning Syria fighters in Brussels today, Reuters reports.
Demands from UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon for more answers over the failed Trident missile launch last June were made by UK opposition party Labour, Rowena Mason reports at the Guardian.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would be prepared to attack the US with nuclear missiles, Thaeo Yong-ho, one of the highest-ranking officials to defect from the North Korean regime, told the BBC in a wide-ranging interview.
Why did Barack Obama commute the sentence of Oscar Lopez, one of “the most violent extremists of his time?” Asks Zach Dorfman at POLITICO MAGAZINE.