Today's Headlines and Commentary

Quinta Jurecic, Jordan Brunner
Tuesday, January 17, 2017, 4:03 PM

In an interview with The Times of London and the German newspaper Bild a week before his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump

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In an interview with The Times of London and the German newspaper Bild a week before his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump called NATO “obsolete,” criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming policy toward migrants and refugees as “catastrophic,” and voiced support for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, which he dismissed as “basically a vehicle for Germany.” Trump also suggested lifting sanctions imposed against Russia following the country’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, saying that he would be interested in “making some good deals” with the Kremlin. Trump’s comments came only a few days after his interview with The Wall Street Journal last week, in which he floated the possibility of moving away from the United States’ longstanding “One China” policy and granting diplomatic recognition to Taiwan.

The President-elect’s comments are not likely to calm the nerves of world leaders before he takes office. From China to Germany, governments are nervous and angry over Trump’s “penchant for unpredictable disruption,” as The New York Times puts it. Reuters reports that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said his country viewed Trump’s dim view of NATO with “anxiety” and noted that the President-elect’s statements on the alliance contradicted those of his nominee for Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. Meanwhile, Germany’s Transatlantic Coordinator expressed confidence that the United States would remain a key member of NATO.

In light of Trump’s apparent contempt for the United States’s military alliances, the Times takes a look at what the U.S. gets out of defending its allies around the world.

And in a sign of the changing times, The Wall Street Journal writes that Chinese President Xi Jinping emerged as a champion of economic globalization at the World Economic Forum in Davos, implicitly criticizing Trump’s skepticism of trade and protectionist tendencies. In a speech that would have been impossible to imagine even a year ago, Xi portrayed China as a leader in a new global order, suggesting his own steady leadership as a contrast to Trump’s erratic behavior.

In an interview with the Journal, CIA Director John Brennan pushed back against Trump’s accusation that Brennan had leaked the explosive but unsubstantiated dossier alleging contact between the Russian government and the President-elect’s campaign. Brennan also rejected Trump’s characterization of the intelligence community as behaving like officials in Nazi Germany, calling the President-elect’s statements “repugnant.”

The Times tells us that British Prime Minister Theresa May announced her goals for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, declaring that Britain will seek to implement independent immigration controls and will depart from the bloc’s single market, which allows free movement of goods and services. May’s speech described what is known as a “hard Brexit,” as opposed to a “soft Brexit” in which Britain would retain closer economic connections with the European Union. She aims to have Brexit negotiations completed by March of 2019 and approved by a vote of Parliament.

The Times reports that Turkish authorities have arrested the man believed to have carried out the attack against an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day, an Uzbek man of Kyrgyz nationality named Abdulgadir Masharipov, an alleged ISIS militant of Uzbek nationality. Four others have been arrested in connection with the attack, including three women. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, took to Twitter to congratulate the interior ministry and the police on Masharipov’s capture.

The BBC confirms that Syrian rebels will attend the peace talks organized by Russia and Turkey in Kazakhstan next week. The delegation will be led by Mohammad Alloush, a leader of the rebel group Jaysh al-Islam. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that he would like the Trump administration to participate in the peace talks, suggesting that talks would be more productive under Trump than they have been under President Obama, the Journal writes. An earlier cease-fire deal negotiated by Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry collapsed due to renewed hostilities from both sides, and no new negotiations have taken place since accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The peace talks next week come amid renewed shelling of civilians by Syrian government forces near the Wadi Barada valley, according to Al Jazeera.

Iraqi forces are making headway in Mosul according to Reuters, which reports that ISIS has been pushed out of three-quarters of the city’s east thanks to improved tactics and coordination on the part of coalition forces. The offensive against the Islamic State’s stronghold in Iraq has now entered its third month.

The AP reports that a Nigerian military jet on a mission against Boko Haram has accidently bombed a refugee camp, killing more than 100 people. Al Jazeera has more, quoting a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) statement as saying that the strike killed at least 50 people and wounded 120. MSF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are working to treat the wounded. The Nigerian military has promised an investigation to ascertain what exactly happened.

The Washington Post reports that the FBI has arrested Noor Salman, the wife of the Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, on Monday on charges of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization. Law enforcement had kept Salman under scrutiny since the shooting, but has only now decided to arrest her. Salman has denied any involvement or knowledge of her husband’s plan. Salman will appear in federal district court in Oakland before being transferred to Florida for trial.

The Post also informs us that ten Guantanamo detainees have been released by the Obama Administration to Oman on a temporary basis for “humanitarian reasons,” as part of a “last minute effort” to resettle 19 detainees. However, around 40 detainees will remain in the detention facility, which President-elect Trump has promised to use going forward.

ICYMI: This (Long) Weekend, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Jack Goldsmith’s interview of Jameel Jaffer on his new book The Drone Memos.

Paul Rosenzweig noted that Congress may have finally stepped up to the plate in its oversight role regarding the Department of Homeland Security.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Jacob Zenn proposed a spectrum of “violent non-state actors” as a way to conceptualize the growing category of non-state actors in global affairs.

Paul flagged a relevant case study by the National Defense University on Soviet disinformation campaigns.

Jack Goldsmith posed the question of just how similar traditional news sources are to Wikileaks in releasing compromising documents.

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Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Jordan A. Brunner is a graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, and was a national security intern at the Brookings Institution. Prior to law school, he was a Research Fellow with the New America Foundation/ASU Center for the Future of War, where he researched cybersecurity, cyber war, and cyber conflict alongside Shane Harris, author of @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex. He graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Political Science.

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