The Early Edition: November 2, 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.

NEW YORK TERROR ATTACK

Federal prosecutors have filed charges against 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov who is suspected of carrying out Tuesday’s attack in New York. The charges accuse the driver, who killed eight people and injured 12, of aiding the Islamic State group and working with “others known and unknown.” Melanie Grayce West, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Rebecca Davis O’Brien report at the Wall Street Journal.

The F.B.I. are no longer seeking information about a second individual in connection with the attack, the Assistant F.B.I. Director Bill Sweeney announced yesterday, adding that “we have found him. I’ll leave it at that.” Josh Delk reports at the Hill.

The charges against Saipov were filed in civilian court and not the military system, following comments by the president that the U.S. criminal justice system was a “laughingstock” and that he would consider trying Saipov at the military court in Guantánamo Bay. Benjamin Mueller, William K. Rashbaum, Al Baker and Adam Goldman report at the New York Times.

Saipov said he was proud of what he had done, he requested that the Islamic State flag be displayed in his hospital room and told the F.B.I. that he was inspired after watching a video of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Mark Brennan report at the Washington Post.

Trump used the terrorist attack to promote hardline policies, saying yesterday that he would take action to remove the “diversity lottery” program for foreigners seeking U.S. visas and step up “extreme vetting” of immigrants, also taking aim at Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) for helping to create the “lottery” program and stating that the U.S. needs a system of “punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now.” David Nakamura and Ed O’Keefe report at the Washington Post.

Saipov “killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENTALTY!” Trump tweeted last night, his comments potentially causing problems when the criminal case comes to be heard as defense lawyers could argue that their client cannot get a fair trial. Cristiano Lima reports at POLITICO.

The New York attack has shone the spotlight on Uzbekistan and Central Asia’s problems with terrorism, the region consists of five predominantly Muslim Soviet republics that have struggled with poverty and have served as recruitment ground for the Islamic State group. Sajjan Gohel explains at CNN.

Sending Saipov to Guantánamo would be unprecedented, likely drawing the ire of the F.B.I. and career national security professionals, and raising complex legal questions as the suspect is a lawful permanent U.S. resident. Charlie Savage explains at the New York Times.

“It’s hard to imagine a worse idea” than sending Saipov to Guantánamo Bay, the co-editor of Just Security Stephen I. Vladeck writes at the Washington Post, setting out the legal obstacles, arguing that the U.S. criminal justice system is well-equipped to handle such cases, and highlighting that Guantánamo proceedings have been dysfunctional.

The Islamic State group tends to keep quiet when a recruit is apprehended and there may be a number of reasons that they do not claim responsibility in such scenarios, Rukmini Callimachi explains at the New York Times.

Most of the Uzbek and Tajik Islamic State group recruits have been radicalized in Russia, demonstrating the power of the terrorist group’s Russian-language propaganda, Amie Ferris-Rotma writes at Foreign Policy.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

Federal prosecutors and agents have gathered evidence to charge more than six members of the Russian government who were involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s (D.N.C.) computer system during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to sources familiar with the matter. Aruna Viswanatha and Del Quentin Wilbur report at the Wall Street Journal.

“I’m not under investigation as you know,” Trump said yesterday in a phone call about the investigations between the Trump campaign and Russia, saying that he was not “angry at anybody” and that the indictment of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort “has nothing to do with us.” Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker report at the New York Times.

“No I don’t believe he does,” the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded yesterday when asked whether the president recalled the suggestion by his former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in March 2016 that he arrange a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reuters reporting.

Manafort and former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates pose a significant flight risk according to federal prosecutors, due to their “substantial ties abroad” and Manafort currently holds three U.S. passports. The two men were charged earlier this week as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Reuters reports.

A sampling of political ads purchased by Russian operatives on Facebook and Twitter around the 2016 U.S. election were disclosed by lawmakers yesterday during the second day of congressional hearings with representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google; the disclosures revealing the extent of Russia’s online campaign to spread disinformation and sow discord. Cecilia King, Nicholas Fandos and Mike Isaac report at the New York Times.

Examples of Russian-bought ads on Facebook and Instagram are provided at POLITICO.

An analysis of Russian-bought Facebook ads and how they made an impact is provided by Leslie Shapiro at the Washington Post.

The former national security adviser Michael Flynn followed five Russia-backed Twitter accounts and promoted their messages, Ben Collins and Kevin Poulsen report at The Daily Beast.

The opposition research firm Fusion GPS paid former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele $168,000 to compile the dossier alleging links between Russia and the Trump campaign, the firm said in a statement yesterday. Mark Hosenball reports at Reuters.

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton defended the decision to pay for part of the Steele dossier in an interview yesterday, also expressing frustration that voters were not made aware before election day that the Trump campaign was under investigation by the F.B.I.. Henry C. Jackson reports at POLITICO.

NORTH KOREA

“Armed conflict must be avoided under any circumstance,” the South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a speech yesterday ahead of Trump’s 12-day visit to Asia, vowing to maintain South Korea’s “overwhelming military superiority” but emphasizing that military action on the Peninsula could not be taken without “prior consent” of Seoul. Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday called for more pressure to be exerted on North Korea to bring about negotiations, Abe also reiterating his support for Trump’s policy that all options are on the table to deal with the nuclear threat. Mari Yamaguchi reports at the AP.

North Korea is developing an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.), according to an anonymous U.S. official, and the missile could potentially strike the U.S. mainland. Barbara Starr reports at CNN.

A bipartisan bill providing for sanctions on North Korea was agreed yesterday and the Senate Banking Committee would act on the bill next week, Patricia Zengerle reports at Reuters.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) yesterday called on Trump to release an assessment of the potential casualties and costs that would come as a consequence of a war with North Korea. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

Trump will seek to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping to do more to rein in North Korea when Trump visits Beijing next week, according to senior administration officials. Steve Holland and John Walcott report at Reuters.

China hopes to work with North Korea “to make a positive contribution to … defending regional peace and stability,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a message replying to North Korea’s congratulatory message on China’s Communist Party Congress. Soyoung Kim and Ken Blanchard report at Reuters.

The recent normalization of relations between China and South Korea could change the dynamics of Trump’s Asia trip and how his administration intends to deal with North Korea and its allies in the region. Jane Perlez, Mark Landler and Choe Sang-Hun explain at the New York Times.

“We can educated [the] North Korean population to stand up by disseminating outside information,” a high-ranking official who defected from North Korea told U.S. lawmakers yesterday, also urging officials to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to convince him to abandon his nuclear program. The BBC reports.

A U.N. resolution drafted by the European Union and Japan would condemn the “gross violations of human rights” in North Korea, the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee is expected to vote on the draft this month. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

IRAN

Russia opposes “any unilateral change” to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday during a meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, making the comments following Trump’s decision in October to de- certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement and adding that Russia opposes “linking Iran’s nuclear program with other issues including defensive issues.” Nasser Karimi reports at the AP.

The U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will travel to Washington next week to convince senators not to abandon the nuclear deal or impose sanctions against Iran, saying that the 80 million Iranians “deserve and need to feel the benefits of both the deal and engagement,” but adding that the world should not be “blind” to the “disruptive behavior of Iran.” Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

SYRIA

“We count on the cooperation of Iran and other partners” to end the war in Syria, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday following discussions with Iranian leaders, saying that the latest round of Syria talks currently being held in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana were “advancing well.” Aresu Eqbali and Asa Fitch report at the Wall Street Journal.

The official Syrian opposition said that it would not attend Russia-brokered Syrian peace talks planned for this month, Turkey has also expressed opposition to an invitation extended to the Syrian Kurds and rejected negotiations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime outside the U.N.’s Geneva process or without U.N. sponsorship. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

Russia’s veto of the investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria shows a “callous disregard for the suffering and loss of life,” the White House said in a statement yesterday, referring to Russia’s vote eight days ago at the U.N. Security Council which prevented the renewal of the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s (J.I.M.) mandate. Brendan O’Brien reports at Reuters.

A suspected Israeli airstrike hit a target in Syria’s Homs province yesterday, and the Syrian army responded by firing surface-to-air missile at the aircraft. Israel has declined to comment on the reports, but the Intelligence Minister reiterated that “smuggling arms to Hezbollah is a red line in our eyes.” Ori Lewis reports at Reuters.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out eight airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on October 31. Separately, partner forces conducted five strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

IRAQ

Negotiations between Iraq’s central government and the semiautonomous Kurdistan region over border controls have failed, according to Iraqi officials. Tensions between Baghdad and Iraq Kurdistan have been high since September’s controversial independence referendum. The AP reports.

Iraqi federal forces threatened yesterday to resume military operations against Kurdish-held territory following the dispute over border controls, Reuters reporting.

NIGER

Niger would be open to allowing U.S. for investigation, reconnaissance and combat, Niger’s Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said yesterday, adding that there would be an inquest into the ambush of U.S. and Nigerian forces on Oct. 4. Vipal Monga and Joe Parkinson report at the Wall Street Journal.

Niger asked the U.S. “some weeks ago” to arm drones and “use them as needed,” Niger’s Defense Minister Kalla Mountari said yesterday. Tim Cocks and Absoulave Massalatchi reporting at Reuters.

BIN LADEN RAID DOCUMENTS

A series of documents collected from the raid of Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout were released by the C.I.A. yesterday, the documents revealing that Bin Laden was involved in al-Qaeda operations while in hiding. Nancy A. Youssef reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The documents reveal information about Bin Laden’s son, Hamza, and according to analysts from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (F.D.D.) reveal a relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran. The BBC reports.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

The head of the war court defense team Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker was yesterday sentenced to 21 days confinement by the military judge presiding over the trial of the suspected U.S.S. Cole bombing at Guantánamo Bay, due to Baker’s refusal to follow his orders. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.

The judge also declared Baker’s decision to release three civilian lawyers from the defense team “null and void,” Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

The context behind Baker’s confinement is provided by Spencer Ackerman at The Daily Beast.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

Asian nations are bracing themselves for Trump’s visit to Asia which begins later this week, Foster Klug describes the mood at the AP.

An associate of Vice President Mike Pence has been nominated to be director general of the foreign service, causing concern that diplomacy would be further politicized by the Trump administration. Robbie Gramer explains at Foreign Policy.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The U.S. yesterday defended its decision to vote against the U.N. resolution calling for a repeal of the embargo imposed on Cuba, Rick Gladstone reports at the New York Times.

The House passed legislation allowing the State Department to revoke the passports of individuals suspected to be foreign terrorists, Cristina Marcos reports at the Hill.

The two fatal U.S. Navy collisions during the summer were “avoidable,” according to a report released by the U.S. Navy. Barbara Starr, Jamie Crawford and Brad Lendon report at the CNN.

An airstrike in Yemen killed at least 25 civilians and wounded at least nine, according to health officials, a statement carried by Saudi Arabia’s officials news agency said that the Arab coalition would investigate the attack. Shuaib Almosawa and Nour Youssef report at the New York Times. 

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About the Author(s)

Pouneh Ahari

Assistant News Editor at Just Security and Legal Researcher at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK