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
Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster was appointed as national security adviser Monday, Peter Baker and Michael R. Gordon at the New York Times reporting that he is a widely respected strategist known for challenging conventional thinking and for helping turn around the Iraq war at its lowest point.
“Warrior-scholar” McMaster has a much more aggressive position on Russia and has gone out of his way to stress that the war on terrorism must not turn into a war against Islam, Austin Wright and Jeremy Herb write at POLITICO.
President Trump’s public suggestion Saturday that a terrorist attack had taken place in Sweden the night before demonstrates his approach to foreign policy, as well as the influence that television has on his thinking: after watching a six-minute segment on the “crisis of violence” in Sweden on Fox News, the President threw a line about a terrorist attack into a speech, without white papers, intelligence reports or anything, prompting a dispute with a longtime friend of the US, write Peter Baker and Sewell Chan at the New York Times.
Former CIA intelligence analyst and National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price resigned because he could “not in good faith serve this administration as an intelligence professional,” he explains at the Washington Post.
If the White House is running its foreign policy “so smoothly” as Trump claimed over the weekend, Daniel W. Drezner at the Washington Post can only conclude that the President thinks “smoothly” means “free from adult supervision.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis’ departure from Trump on Russia and other key issues sets up potential discord but is also helping to push the White House toward more conventional policy stances, suggest Gordon Lubold and Julian E. Barnes at the Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s proposal to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization threatens to disrupt the internal politics of US partners in the Arab world, writes Declan Walsh at the New York Times.
The proceedings at this year’s Munich Security Conference show what happens when the United States is “all over the place,” writes Roger Cohen at the New York Times.
There will be no walking back on UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s invitation to President Trump to visit her country, those closest to ministers said, despite the outpouring of scorn for “racist and sexist” Donald Trump during a three-hour parliamentary debate yesterday prompted by a petition signed by over 1.8 million people, Anushka Asthana reports at the Guardian.
The TRUMP CABINET’S RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSSIA
President Trump’s personal lawyer disputes reports that the he was given a peace plan for Ukraine by a Trump associate and a member of Ukraine’s parliament which he then passed on to ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn but says he did met with the two men in New York last month, NBC News’ Ken Dilanian reports.
The denial follows a report by the New York Times’ Megan Twohey and Scott Shane last week, who write that the plan – which would result in US sanctions being lifted on Moscow – remains in play even while Flynn has gone.
The Kremlin denied knowledge of any such plan yesterday, the New York Times’ Sewell Chan reports.
Vice President Pence “fully supported” the removal of ex-national security adviser Mike Flynn and was “disappointed” to learn that “the facts that have been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate,” he said yesterday, Michael Birnbaum and Ashley Parker report at the Washington Post.
A dossier on President Trump’s psychological makeup is being prepared for his Russian counterpart, a senior Kremlin adviser told NBC News’ Bill Neely.
Why is Trump a Russophile? Answering this question is not simple but it will explain the rest of the Trump-Russia story, writes David Leonhardt at the New York Times.
The MUSLIM BAN
The same seven Muslim-majority countries will reportedly be included in the Trump administration’s revised travel ban, which exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the US, the AP reports.
The Trump administration is considering dropping the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees in the revised order, but would keep in place the temporary ban on the admission of all refugees, critics fearing that the temporary ban will effectively become an indefinite ban because some if not all of the countries targeted, and any programs for Syrian refugees, might be unable to meet the vetting standards that Trump sets to lift them. Nahal Toosi writes at POLITICO.
CIA-coordinated military aid for rebels in northwestern Syria has been stopped since they came under major Islamist attack last month, according to rebel sources. Tom Perry, Suleiman Al-Khalidi and John Walcott report at Reuters.
Four Russian military advisers were killed in Syria last week when their vehicle was blown up by a remote-controlled bomb, Russian news agency Interfax reported yesterday. Ivan Nechepurenko reports at the New York Times.
President Assad is “the most reassuring solution” to the Syrian war as far is France is concerned, far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said yesterday on the first day of her visit to Lebanon, Andrea Rosa and Elaine Ganley report at the AP.
Iraqi forces were consolidating their gains south of Mosul today ahead of moving on into the Islamic State-held western side of the city, Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports at the AP, citing a military spokesperson.
Ongoing bomb attacks by the Islamic State in government-controlled Mosul raise questions about the extent to which the city as a whole can be brought under control even if the latest offensive manages to push out the militants on the western side of the Tigris River, Florian Neuhof reports at The Daily Beast.
“We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said yesterday as he traveled to Baghdad for his first state visit, where he will have to work to repair breaches of trust with Iraq’s leaders caused by President Trump, Helene Cooper reports at the New York Times.
President Trump fully supports crucial European institutions, despite his baffling comments and occasional insults, Vice President Mike Pence reassured the EU yesterday during a visit to Brussels. Gardiner Harris and James Kanter report at the New York Times.
Pence also spoke with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, afterwards repeating the Trump administration’s strong support for the alliance but warning that the US President wants to see “real progress” by the year’s end on boosting defense spending. Ken Thomas and Lorne Cook report at the AP.
While Trump’s administration tries to reassure European that the President doesn’t mean what he says, Trump himself is pushing an administration that will destroy a Europe that is already having to cope with far-right populists with the potential to gain real power in upcoming elections, Christopher Dickey writes at The Daily Beast.
China opposes other countries’ actions under the pretext of freedom of navigation that undermine its sovereignty in the South China Sea, it said after a US aircraft carrier strike group began patrols in the contested region. [Reuters]
China’s installation of weapons systems in the South China Sea is viewed as “very unsettling” by Southeast Asian countries who have urged dialogue to prevent the escalation of “recent developments,” the Philippines said today, Manuel Mogato reporting at Reuters.
AFGHANISTAN and PAKISTAN
A spate of terrorist bombings across Pakistan has prompted an escalating border conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan, threatening to undermine the nations’ cooperation on terrorism and peace talks with the Taliban, Pamela Constable writes at the Washington Post.
An attack outside a courthouse in northwestern Pakistan today killed six people, a Taliban splinter group claiming responsibility, Riaz Khan reports at the AP.
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was sentenced to 18 months’ prison today for shooting an unarmed Palestinian man has he lay wounded in occupied West Bank last march, the BBC reports.
The Killing of Kim Jong-nam was a “terrorist act” masterminded by the North Korean regime, acting president of South Korea Kwang Kyo-ahn said yesterday, Choe Sang-Hun and Richard C. Paddock report at the New York Times.
China’s suspension of coal imports from North Korea gives Beijing more leverage to press for renewed US diplomatic efforts to put a stop to Pyongyang’s nuclear program, suggests Chun Han Wong at the Wall Street Journal.
The new Trump administration is more sensitive and understanding about the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen accused by Turkey of orchestrating a failed coup last July, Turkey’s prime minister said today. [Reuters]
Dozens of former Turkish soldiers went on trial yesterday accused of trying to kill President Erdoğan during the coup attempt last July, the latest of a series of trials in the alleged plot. Patrick Kingsley reports at the New York Times.