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.
The MUSLIM BAN
Donald Trump’s travel ban contravenes international law and could lead to people denied entry to the US being sent home to face torture, UN human rights experts said today. Stephanie Nebehay reports at Reuters.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly denied reports that he had not been consulted on the travel ban yesterday, Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.
As at 4pm yesterday the State Department dissent cable asserting that Trump’s travel ban does not make the US safer had attracted about 1,000 signatures from American embassies worldwide, the New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman reports.
The dissent cable was formally lodged with the State Department yesterday, Felicia Schwartz reports at the Wall Street Journal.
GOP Senators are pressing Trump administration officials about the travel ban in a series of closed-door meetings, Vice-President Mike Pence facing questioning yesterday lunchtime, Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.
The executive order is not a travel ban or a Muslim ban, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted yesterday. The Hill’s Jordain Fabian reports.
Rob Vitiello is the new Border Patrol Chief according to an announcements from US Customs and Border Protection, Mark Hensch reports at the Hill.
Virginia became the fourth state after Massachusetts, New York and Washington to file a lawsuit challenging Trump’s travel ban Tuesday, Attorney General Mark R. Herring calling the order “unlawful, unconstitutional and un-American” in a statement. The Hill‘s Mark Hensch reports.
Iraqi translators and interpreters who worked with the US military will be considered for waivers on the travel ban, a top Department of Homeland Security official said yesterday. Ted Hesson reports at POLITICO.
Senate Republicans could have forced a rewriting of President Trump’s travel ban this week – they chose not to, writes Dana Milbank at the Washington Post.
The firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates should be of concern for anyone who values the Justice Department’s reputation for independence, writes Brian Fallon at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
It’s possible we will never understand the exact combination of malevolence and incompetence that led to the travel ban, but we do know that it has seriously harmed America’s standing in the world and that, in time, the foreign policy bureaucracy will push back on these types of actions and act as a constraint on the White House, writes Daniel W. Drezner at the Washington Post.
Nothing redeems Trump’s travel ban, which, apart from damaging America’s identity as a “nation of immigrants,” is probably unconstitutional, may violate the Establishment Clause, does major injustice to individuals and US foreign policy and sends the message that a cowardly US is willing to discard its interests and principles in its illusory quest for perfect security, writes William A. Galston at the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER EXECUTIVE ACTIONS and CABINET CONFIRMATIONS
Colorado federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Trump yesterday, Robert Barnes reports at the Washington Post.
A draft executive order setting out a plan to filter out immigrants who may need public assistance and to deport those already living in the US who depend on welfare is circulating among the Trump administration, Abigail Hauslohner and Janell Ross report at the Washington Post.
Trump decided not to sign an executive order launching a government—wide cybersecurity overhaul yesterday, after officials told reporters earlier in the day that he planned to order Cabinet officials to boost their agencies’ cyber defences and to commission a review to assess hacking risks, Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.
Stephen Bannon is the intellectual center of the new Trump administration, Trump’s “America First” policies and his anti-refugee travel ban the first signs that the revolution Bannon has been advocating for nearly a decade is being instigated, writes David Ignatius at the Washington Post.
The White House walked back its assertion that the military will never target US citizens in overseas operations yesterday when facing questions about the policy in response to the counterterrorism raid in Yemen that left at least one child and a US soldier dead, among others, the Hill’s Jordan Fabian reports.
An early lesson for President Trump’s national security team about the dangers of overseas ground operations was provided by the Navy SEAL mission in Yemen Saturday that descended into a massive firefight, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Missy Ryan write at the Washington Post.
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
A further 3,000 housing units in the occupied West Bank were approved by Israel last night, Ian Fisher reports at the New York Times.
The eviction of several hundred Jewish settlers from an illegal outpost built on Palestinian land was also begun by Israeli security forces yesterday, Peter Beaumont reports at the Guardian.
An apology for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tweet endorsing Donald Trump’s border wall plan was issued to Mexico by Israel’s president, the AP reports.
An invitation to the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow has been accepted in principle by both leaders, Lavrov said today. [Reuters]
Iran has stopped issuing visas to Americans in response to President Trump’s travel ban, Asa Fitch, Aresu Eqbali and Tamer el-Ghobashy report at the Wall Street Journal.
Iran warned President Trump not to escalate tensions over the testing of Iranian missiles – tests the Trump administration called “absolutely unacceptable” – Tuesday, Somini Sengupta and Rick Gladstone report at the New York Times.
Iran had tested a new missile, but it does not breach the nuclear deal with world powers or a UN Security Council resolution endorsing it, Iran’s defense minister said today, after initially refusing to confirm whether the test had taken place. Bozorgmehr Sharafedin reports at Reuters.
The UN Security Council should take action in response to the test, which should “alarm” the world, the US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said yesterday. [AP]
How it enforces the nuclear deal will be an early test for the Trump administration, and the recent missile test makes that question more urgent, suggests the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
UN-sponsored talks between the Assad regime and opposition groups have been postponed from Feb. 8 to Feb. 20 to wait for the ceasefire to solidify, Philip Issa and Edith M. Lederer report at the AP.
Results of an investigation that will largely exonerate senior military officials at Central Command in respect to allegations that they manipulated intelligence reports to put the battle against the Islamic State in a better light are expected to be released by the Defense Department today, Shane Harris and Gordon Lubold report at the Wall Street Journal.
Syrian safe zones are “easier said than done.” Daniel R. Depetris considers the feasibility of President Trump’s professed desire to establish safe zones in Syria at the Hill.
Rep. Tusli Gabbard (D-Hawaii.) will “personally reimburse” the cost of her trip to Syria month, her office said, Mark Hensch reporting at the Hill.
A British soldier fighting in Syria shot himself dead to avoid being taken prisoner by the Islamic State, Kurdish fighters told the BBC.
A bar on Americans entering Iraq in retaliation for the “insult” of President Trump’s travel ban could hurt Iraqi national interests and will not be enforced, Iraq’s prime minister said yesterday. Loveday Morris reports at the Washington Post.
A checklist filled out by Islamic State drone operatives in Iraq after ever mission offers a rare glimpse at how the militant group has pulled together a rapidly advancing armed drone program that increasingly poses a threat to the allied troops fighting them, Eric Schmitt writes at the New York Times.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 30. Separately, partner forces conducted 12 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
US airstrikes hit Taliban positions in Helmand Province yesterday, Afghan officials said. Mujib Mashal and Taimoor Shah report at the New York Times.
The Afghan government controls barely half the country, its security forces numbers are down and drug production is on the rise, are the bleak conclusions in the most recent report of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction John Sopko released today, Kathy Gannon reports at the AP.
RUSSIA and UKRAINE
The UN warned of “dangerous deterioration” in eastern Ukraine and called on both sides to stop fighting, the BBC reports.
The upsurge in violence between army and Russian separatist forces in southeastern Ukraine the day after Russian President Putin spoke to President Trump by phone looks a lot like a test of whether Trump will yield to pressure from Moscow, according to the Washington Post editorial board.
The State Department called for an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine yesterday in response to the outburst of fighting that Andrew Roth at the Washington Post frames as an early test of President Trump’s ability to manage negotiations with the Kremlin over the situation.
The fighting potentially complicates American efforts to improve relations with Russia, observes Andrew E. Kramer at the New York Times.
A Tunisian man was arrested in Frankfurt today on suspicion of being an Islamic State recruiter and building a network of supporters to carry out an attack in Germany, Geir Moulson reports at the AP.
Senior Turkish and Israeli officials will seek ways of further improving ties and discuss regional developments when they meet for the first time in nearly seven years today in Ankara, the AP reports.
The release of an international war crimes judge arrested in Turkey as part of the post-July 2015 coup crackdown was ordered by a UN court on the basis that the arrest violated diplomatic immunity and the principle of judicial independence, Margaret Coker reports at the Wall Street Journal.
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
The Czech Foreign Ministry was hacked by a “statelike actor” in a similar way to the breach of the D.N.C., the foreign minister announced yesterday. Hana de Goeij reports at the New York Times.
The mystery surrounding two Russian cybersecurity officials now facing treason charges for cooperating with the CIA is examined by Shaun Walker at the Guardian.
Were the Russian officials arrested responsible for the hacking of the US presidential election? The arrests of Moscow’s top intelligence official FSB Col. Sergei Mikhailov raises questions about who knew what and when about the election hacking, writes Anna Nemtsova at The Daily Beast.
Canadian police are weighing whether terrorism charges are warranted against Alexandre Bissonnette accused of multiple counts of murder following a deadly shooting at a Quebec city mosque, Paul Vieira and Elena Cherney report at the Wall Street Journal.
A strategy calling for a collective withdrawal from the International Criminal Court was adopted by African leaders yesterday, Elias Meseret reports at the AP.
Communist rebels in the Philippines will end their unilateral ceasefire next week because the government has not freed all political prisoners and has encroached on their territory, though they continue to support peace negotiations, they said today, Teresa Cerojano reporting at the AP.