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The Early Edition: February 7, 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.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

“Dishonest” journalists “have their reasons” for failing to cover Islamic State attacks in Europe and playing down the threat posed by the terrorist group, President Trump told American military personnel yesterday, the White House later backing up his claims with a list of 78 attacks from Sept. 2014 to Dec. 2016 – including the major attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and Orlando – most of which it said had “not received the media attention they deserved.” Julie Hirschfeld-Davis reports at the New York Times.

The full list is provided by John Wagner and Philip Rucker at the Washington Post.

President Trump seems to be laying the groundwork to preemptively shift the blame for terrorist attacks on US soil from himself to the judiciary and the media, observes Philip Rucker at the Washington Post.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will meet with the Trump administration in Washington this week to discuss the US position on the Israel-Palestine peace process, Julian E. Barnes and Felicia Schwarz report at the Wall Street Journal.

The UK government does not agree with the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow that President Trump should not be allowed to address parliament when he makes a state visit because of the UK parliament’s opposition to “racism and sexism,” communities secretary Sajid Javid said today, Peter Walker, Anushka Asthana and Jessica Elgot reporting at the Guardian.

Bercow’s “extraordinary” intervention last night means it is unlikely that Donald Trump will be given the honor of addressing both houses of the UK Parliament when he makes his state visit to the UK, writes Karla Adam at the Washington Post.

Differences over Iran and other issues between Russia and the US should not impede efforts to improve relations between the two countries, the Kremlin said yesterday, James Marson reporting at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump should respect the US and its constitution, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told Trump from the Senate floor, calling him out for his apparent comparison between the US and Russia in an interview with Fox News over the weekend, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.

Lifting sanctions on Russia would not be “smart” and he is not aware of any plans to do so, newly-appointed deputy assistant to the president for strategic planning Kevin Harrington said yesterday, Julian Borger reporting at the Guardian.

The crippling of the Russian opposition, the increased propagandizing of the population and the  a reduction in the ability of the US to stop internal and foreign Russian atrocities would be the results of Trump’s efforts to improve relations with Russia in order to create conditions for a US-Russian alliance against the Islamic State, writes David Satter at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump has shown little support for America’s traditional role as a champion of universal values, instead kowtowing to Russian President Putin while attacking allies and laying the groundwork for an aggressive campaign that could result in conflict with Iran, writes the New York Times editorial board.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English told President Trump he disagreed with his travel ban in a phone call yesterday but the conversation remained friendly, English reported afterwards. The AP’s Nick Perry reports.

White House national security adviser will recommend that President Trump supports Montenegro’s membership of NATO even though Russia strongly opposes it, Andrew Hanna reports at POLITICO.

A bipartisan resolution “reaffirming the strong commitment to the United States-Australia alliance relationship” was introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) yesterday after the reportedly antagonistic phone call between Australia’s prime minister and President Trump last week, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.

It will seriously damage US credibility and capacity if the Trump administration follows through on threats to withdraw UN funding, marginalize other international organizations and withdraw the US from certain multilateral treaties, Matthew Bolton argues at the Hill.

The MUSLIM BAN

An hourlong oral argument is scheduled for today by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco after the Justice Department urged it yesterday to reinstate President Trump’s travel ban, the subsequent ruling almost certain to be followed by an appeal to the Supreme Court, Adam Liptak reports at the New York Times.

Over a dozen federal court orders restricting or staying the Muslim ban have been issued and over 150 former federal prosecutors have expressed their disapproval of Trump’s executive overreach, including former Assistant United States Attorney Ellyn Marcus Lindsay and 53 other former A.U.S.A.s who together signed a letter referring to the order as a “thinly veiled” attempt to exclude Muslims based on their religion, writes The Intercept’s Leighton Akio Woodhouse.

OTHER EXECUTIVE ACTIONS and CABINET CONFIRMATIONS

President Trump will meet potential pick for no.2 official at the State Department Elliot Abrams today. The appointment of Abrams, a former N.S.C. and State Department official under the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, would bring a reassuring measure of expertise at the high levels in Trump’s administration, Michael Crowley suggests at POLITICO.

IRAN

Trump has shown the “real face” of American corruption, Iran’s supreme leader told a meeting of military leaders in Tehran, dismissing Trump’s warning to Iran to stop its missile tests. [Reuters]

President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are approaching common ground on a tougher US policy towards Iran ahead of the leaders’ first face-to-face meeting at the White House, Jeffrey Heller and Matt Spetalnick write at Reuters.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May refused to bow to pressure from the Israeli prime minister to take another look at the viability of the Iran nuclear deal and imposed fresh sanctions on Iran, Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

YEMEN

The main target in the first US counter-terrorism offensive in Yemen under President Trump was missed, military and intelligence officials told NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden, William M. Arkin and Tracy Connor. The Jan. 29 raid was aimed at taking out Qassim al-Rimi, an al-Qaeda recruiter and one of the most sought-after terrorists in the world.

A judicial review aiming to stop UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia because they could be used to illegally kill civilians in Yemen is due to begin in Britain today, Alice Ross reports at the Guardian.

SYRIA

As many as 13,000 mostly civilian opposition supporters have been executed in weekly mass hangings at Saydnaya prison between Sept. 2011 and Dec. 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International, the BBC reports.

The Islamic State-held city of al-Bab was almost completely encircled by Assad regime and rebel forces squeezing it from different directions yesterday, Rick Gladstone and Maher Samaan report at the New York Times.

The Islamic State is on the defensive in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan but is adapting by moving to covert communications and recruitment and widening its areas of attack away from conflict areas, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report circulated to the Security Council yesterday, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

President Assad sees President Trump’s prioritizing of the fight against the Islamic State as promising, Syrian state media reported today. [Reuters]

IRAQ

Found documents on 14 “problem” fighters from the Islamic State’s Tariq Bin Ziyad battalion in Iraq who refuse to fight for various reasons hint at signs of rebellion among the group’s foreign fighters, Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim report at the Washington Post.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 16 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Feb. 5. Separately, partner forces conducted nine strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A law that would retroactively legalize Jewish settlements on Palestinian-owned land was passed by Israel’s parliament late yesterday, Ian Fisher reports at the New York Times.

At least three people have been wounded in a number of Israeli attacks on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian health officials, Al Jazeera reports.

CHINA

China lodged a formal protest with the US over its decision to impose new sanctions on Iran, which affect some Chinese companies and individuals, Chinese state media saying the sanctions were a “ticking time bomb” that cast a shadow over the chances for a peaceful settlement of the Iran nuclear issue. Simon Denyer reports at the Washington Post.

A possible armed skirmish may result if the US fails to find a more effective way to engage with China, a report by the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations and the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California warms. David Barboza reports at the New York Times.

AFGHANISTAN

A suicide bomber killed at least 12 people outside the Supreme Court building in Kabil, Afghanistan, today, according to an Afghan official. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. [AP]

A Taliban roadside bombing killed the top government official of a district in the western Farah province of Afghanistan, the AP reports.

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The restoration of the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was called for Russian President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a phone call between the two leaders, the Kremlin said in a statement today. [Reuters]

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has subsided but both sides retain heavy weapons near the front line, according to the monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, though deputy head Alexander Hug said monitors had registered over 1,300 ceasefire violations in the past 24 hours. [AP]

The recent upsurge in fighting in eastern Ukraine has led to concern that President Putin is hoping to extract concessions from President Trump, writes Roman Olearchyk at the Financial Times.

Kiev has become less inclined to compromise over eastern Ukraine as it becomes more uncertain about US policy toward the conflict, writes Isaac Webb at Foreign Policy.

EUROPE

Two alleged Islamic State recruiters were detained in Barcelona, Spain’s Interior Ministry said today. [AP]

The suspect in the attack on soldiers outside the Louvre museum in Paris Friday has started to talk to investigators after initially refusing to do so, Reuters reports.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Adm. Michael Rogers who holds the dual-leadership role at Cyber Command and the N.S.A. will brief Senators on the Armed Services Committee on cyber threats in a closed hearing this morning, the Hill’s Morgan Chalfant reports.

A bill aimed at modernizing the Email Privacy Act passed the House last night, the Hill’s Joe Uchill reports.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Some at Guantánamo Bay detention center have begun anticipating how they will handle “Guantánamo prison 2.0” if and when President Trump follows up on his campaign promise to increase the population of the facility, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

Permission for the US military to build barracks and fuel depots in designated local camps has been given by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said today. [AP]

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About the Author

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE