The Early Edition: October 10, 2018

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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.

NIKKI HALEY RESIGNATION

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced yesterday that she would resign at the end of the year, marking the departure of one of the few high-profile women in the Trump administration. “It was a blessing to go into the U.N. with body armor every day and defend America,” Haley told reporters while seated next to President Trump in the Oval Office, adding “I’ll never truly step aside from fighting for our country … but I will tell you that I think it’s time,” Maggie Haberman, Mark Landler and Edward Wong report at the New York Times.

“I’m a believer in term limits, I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job,” Haley commented, adding “sometimes it’s good to rotate in other people who can put that same energy and power into it.” Trump said he hoped Haley would return to serve in his administration, telling her “you can have your pick,” Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer report at Foreign Policy.

 Haley also announced that she does not plan to run for president against Trump in 2020, downplaying the “intense buzz” surrounding her political future. Nahal Toosi, Eliana Johnson and Rebecca Morin report at POLITICO.

 Haley’s resignation seems to have caught senior White House staff by surprise, with Haley reportedly facing no pressure to resign. Haley was initially a vocal Trump critic, but soon turned loyalist – promoting Trump’s policies and “adopting his combative style,” the Economist reports.

Haley plans to serve until the end of year – giving Trump time to consider new candidates. The president said yesterday while en route to Iowa that he is considering five candidates, with those having previously expressed interest in the role including U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and previous national security adviser Dina Powell, Michael C. Bender reports at the Wall Street Journal.

“I’ve heard a lot of names … I’ve heard Ivanka [Trump] … How good would Ivanka be?” Trump said yesterday on the South Lawn of the White House regarding Haley’s replacement, adding “I think Ivanka would be incredible, but it doesn’t mean I’d pick her … because I’d be accused of nepotism even though I’m not sure there’s anybody more competent in the world.” Ivanka Trump announced in a message on Twitter last night that she would not be Haley’s replacement. “It is an honor to serve in the White House alongside so many great colleagues and I know that the President will nominate a formidable replacement for Ambassador Haley … that replacement will not be me,” The Daily Beast reports.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres yesterday expressed his “deep appreciation for the excellent cooperation and support” from Haley, according to spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. “They had a very productive and strong working relationship,” Dujarric told reporters, Reuters reports.

“Thank you Amb. Haley for standing for the truth and exposing hypocrisy at the UN,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented in a message on Twitter yesterday, adding “just as the people of Israel are grateful for the rock solid support @POTUS Trump has provided Israel in the Oval Office, we are grateful for the rock solid support you’ve provided Israel at the UN,” Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.

A series of Republican Senators weighed in to praise Haley and express their sadness at her departure. Alexander Bolton reports at the Hill.

An explainer on the candidates who could replace Haley is provided by Nicole Gaouetee at CNN.

A roundup of comments on Haley’s departure from overseas leaders and officials is provided by Edith M. Lederer at the AP.

 NIKKI HALEY RESIGNATION: OPINION AND ANALYSIS

Unlike most Trump administration departures, Haley managed to “control the terms and shape the story of her resignation,” offering a further example of how as Ambassador to the U.N. as she “ tightly controlled the narrative about events in which she is involved,” Eliana Johnson reports at POLITICO.

Haley may still pose a threat to Trump despite her avowal not to run in 2020, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker explain at the Washington Post.

“Nikki Haley will be missed” the New York Times editorial board comments, outlining the key features of Haley’s tenure as Ambassador to the U.N. and arguing that she has “navigated the political shoals of the Trump administration better than many of her colleagues.”

Haley bought herself “leeway” to disagree with Trump on certain issues by way of “her unapologetic public defenses of U.S. policy changes that were disliked by U.N. elites,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board comments, arguing that “Trump would be wise to name a replacement who is similarly forthright and shrewd.”

 “On both foreign affairs and matters of conscience … Haley was a tie that bound the principled conservative movement with an American president who campaigned in large part against that movement’s policy preferences,” Noah Rothman comments at NBC, arguing further that “her departure helps to sever that bond.”

Haley’s resignation corresponds with the ascendency of U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, “who is likely to push for an ideological fellow traveler who will join him in his career-long crusade to obliterate international law or anything that constrains U.S. sovereignty,” Greg Jaffe, John Hudson and Missy Ryan comment at the Washington Post.

“Haley stands as another example of how Trump’s natural state is to diminish women … unless they fold like a wet rag in his presence,” Margaret Carlson comments at The Daily Beast.  

A breakdown of the firings and resignations in the Trump administration so far is provided by Denise Lu and Karen Yourish at the New York Times.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI DISSAPEARANCE

Top Turkish security officials have concluded that the Saudi dissident and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest echelons of the Saudi royal court, a senior official announced yesterday. The official alleged that there had been a rapid, intricate plan operation that saw Khashoggi assassinated and his body dismembered within two hours of his arrival at the consulate by a team of Saudi agents; the allegations have been denied by Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who insist that Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after he arrived, David D. Kirkpatrick and Carlotta Gall report at the New York Times.

The assassination squad arrived from the Saudi capital of Riyadh early last Tuesday and checked in at two inter­national hotels in Istanbul before driving to the consulate in the  Levent neighborhood, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation. An account of what we know of the plot is provided by Loveday Morris, Souad Mekhennet and Kareem Fahim at the Washington Post.

C.C.T.V. footage was removed from the Saudi consulate and Turkish staff members were abruptly told to take a holiday on the day of the disappearance, Turkish authorities have claimed. Martin Chulov reports at the Guardian.

 Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah said today that it had identified a 15-member intelligence team involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance, publishing the names and years of birth of 15 Saudis it said arrived at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on Oct. 2, Reuters reports.

 U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed “grave concern” over Khashoggi’s disappearance, but President Trump struck a more detached tone – claiming Monday that I don’t like hearing about it, and hopefully that will sort itself out.” Trump told reporters yesterday he had no special insight into the situation, commenting “I know nothing. I know what everybody else knows” and adding that he had not yet been in contact with the Saudis, but “I will … at some point,” Jason Schwartz reports at POLITICO.

Sen. Rand Paul  (R-Ky.) yesterday vowed to force a vote on U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi’s disappearance. “If they’re responsible or even if there’s any indication that they’re implicated in killing this journalist that was critical of them, we’ve got to stop sending them arms,” Paul told Kentucky radio station W.H.A.S., Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.

 “At this time, I implore President Trump and first lady Melania Trump to help shed light on Jamal’s disappearance,” Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz writes at the Washington Post.

Khashoggi’s disappearance shows the “influence of President Trump, who has encouraged the crown prince to believe — wrongly, we trust — that even his most lawless ventures will have the support of the U.S.” the Washington Post editorial board comments.

 “Everything that everyone has said about Jamal Khashoggi to date remains speculation,” Steven A. Cook comments at Foreign Policy, although one takeaway amongst the confusion is that “journalists … academics … dissidents … and oppositionists should fear for their lives.”

 “The Hitlers and Stalins are all around us … waiting to reveal themselves if given half a chance,” Robert Kagan comments at the Washington Post, contextualising the Khashoggi disappearance as marking “the departure of the U.S. as a restraining force against evil actors in the world.”

The SUPREME COURT

 Justice Brett Kavanaugh took his seat on the Supreme Court yesterday, having secured confirmation to the U.S.’ highest court following a bitter partisan political struggle. Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin report at the Wall Street Journal.

Kavanaugh took an active role alongside his eight new colleagues, asking several questions during two hours of “lively” oral arguments involving a federal sentencing law for repeat offenders, Reuters reports.

Hillary Clinton labeled Kavanaugh’s ceremonial swearing-in at the White House on Monday a “political rally” that “undermined the image and integrity” of the Supreme Court. Matthew Choi reports at POLITICO.

The KOREAN PENINSULA

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said today that Russia, China and North Korea had agreed on the need for five-way talks including the U.S. and South Korea to end tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Deputy Foreign Ministers from Russia, North Korea and China had met in Moscow yesterday and expressed support for talks in the suggested format as a way to normalize relations, the ministry said in a statement, Reuters reports.

President Trump said yesterday that his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be held after U.S. congressional elections on Nov. 6. Speaking to reporters as he flew to Iowa for a political rally, Trump said: “It’ll be after the midterms … I just can’t leave now,” Reuters reports.

Trump added that he would like a future summit with Kim to be held at the president’s Florida Mar-a-Lago estate or on North Korean territory. Matthew Choi reports at POLITICO.

SYRIA

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has granted a general amnesty for men who have deserted the army or have avoided military service.decree published by state media yesterday stated that the amnesty applies to men “inside and outside the country” and covers all punishments for desertion, Al Jazeera reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 70 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6 [Central Command]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

 The Pentagon has been slow to protect major weapon systems from cyber attacks and “routinely” found critical vulnerabilities that hackers could potentially exploit in those systems, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (G.A.O.) report said yesterday. The Congress watchdog said in its 50-page report that the Pentagon found “mission-critical cyber vulnerabilities in systems” under development, Reuters reports. 

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About the Author(s)

Robbie Stern

Assistant News Editor at Just Security and Legal Researcher at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK - Follow him on Twitter (@robbieguystern).