The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2016
MICHAEL FLYNN REPORTEDLY CONSIDERED FOR NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR

President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn to be his national security advisor. Flynn, who was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, was one of Trump’s fiercest and most loyal supporters on the campaign trail, and has moved in the past two years from being one of the most respected military officers of his generation to one of its most openly partisan. NBC News, The Hill, National Review
 
But like other members of Trump’s inner circle who are now being considered for top administration posts, Flynn has been dogged in recent days by questions about his lobbying activities. Flynn runs a consulting firm that lobbies for a number of foreign clients, including a company tied to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Flynn has also raised national security eyebrows by appearing on Russian state-funded television and accompanying Trump to classified briefings. Politico
Related:
CNN: Inside the Mind of Trump’s National Security Guru
 
President-elect Trump’s transition team has not reached out to the Obama administration’s senior national security leaders but could do so by Friday, according to reports. The lack of contact thus far has bucked traditional protocol and raised concerns in the Defense Department, State Department, and National Security Council, all of which are typically collaborating with an incoming administration for an orderly transition within days. Washington Post
 
Behind the jockeying for positions and transition turmoil lies the more fundamental question of how Trump will address complex foreign policy challenges. “He has never articulated any detailed foreign policy vision beyond the vague slogan ‘America First,’” writes David Sanger in the New York Times.
Related:
Politico: Hoekstra, Potential CIA Pick, Has Long Foreign, Domestic Lobbying Regime
Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Son-in-Law, Jared Kushner, Could Get Key White House Role
Wall Street Journal: Trump Transition Team Releases List of 29 Calls with World Leaders
Fox Business: A National Security To-Do List for Trump
IN ISIS CASE, JUDGE SENTENCES 3 MEN TO DECADES IN PRISON
On the third day of back-to-back sentencing hearings in the country’s largest ISIS conspiracy case to date, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis handed three young Twin Cities men decades-long prison sentences for their roles in a plot to leave the U.S. to fight for ISIS. Guled Omar, 22, who prosecutors said was at one point the leader of a group of nine men and drew other young men into the conspiracy, received the harshest penalty of 35 years. His friends, Abdirahman Daud and Mohamed Farah, both 22, will serve 30 years in prison. A jury convicted all three in June of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit murder outside the U.S.
 
Over the three days and sentencings of nine men, six of whom pleaded guilty rather than go to trial, Davis made it clear in the packed courtroom that he was struggling to strike a balance between protecting the public and giving those who turned their back on extremism a second chance. In the case of Abdullahi Yusuf, who testified against his co-conspirators and got the lightest sentence -- release to a halfway house after serving 21 months in prison -- Davis noted that the prison system has no programs to rehabilitate radicals.
 
Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law, said Davis’ nuanced approach to the sentences broke with the traditional throw-the-book-at-them framework of terrorism cases. “There’s never been an attempt to see the gradations,” she said. “What we’re really seeing is terrorism cases finally beginning follow the pattern we see in other cases. The cooperator gets the best sentencing deal; those who go to trial are going to get the most punitive deals.”
Minnesota Public Radio, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, NBC
 
ALLEGED CHELSEA BOMBER INDICTED ON FEDERAL CHARGES
Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the 28-year-old Afghan-born U.S. citizen who was arrested in connection with bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey earlier this year, was indicted on eight federal criminal charges on Wednesday. Rahimi was arrested after a shootout with police in September in Linden, N.J. that left him severely wounded. The federal charges come a month after he was formally charged in New Jersey with trying to murder police officers. NPR, NBC News
 

RUSSIAN AND SYRIAN JETS POUND REBEL-HELD SYRIAN CITIES
Russian and Syrian government warplanes carried out a second straight day of intense bombardment on rebel-held cities on Wednesday, spurring a fresh sense of alarm from battle-weary residents. New York Times
Related:
Washington Post: Assad: Trump May Be a ‘Natural Ally’
 
ISIS DRIVEN FROM NIMRUD, AS IRAQIS RE-CAPTURE KEY AIR BASE NEAR MOSUL
Iraqi paramilitary forces have recaptured a strategic airbase outside the northern city of Tal Afar, and have driven ISIS militants from the ancient town of Nimrud, where the destruction of millennia-old archeological sites and treasures has been far worse than feared. CNN, Washington Post
Related:
Washington Post: ISIS Calls for Holy War Find an Echo in Pro-Trump Movement
 
India-Pakistan: Pakistan’s military is conducting a major exercise of ground and air power near the border with India, amid heightened tensions between the rival nations. Voice of America
 
Jordan: U.S. officials said Wednesday that they were investigating the killing of three U.S. soldiers at a Jordanian air base this month as a possible terrorist attack. New York Times
 

France: As French voters prepare to go to the polls for a primary this weekend, the race to become the next French president has become dominated by a discussion of what it means to be French, and whether being Muslim is compatible with that identity. Wall Street Journal  
 

RUSSIA REMOVES SIGNATURE FROM ICC STATUTE
Russia said Wednesday that it is formally withdrawing its signature from the founding statute of the International Criminal Court, a day after the court published a report calling the Russian annexation of Crimea an occupation. Guardian
TOP OP-EDS
Trump resets the Russia reset (again). “Imagine how Vladimir Putin must be feeling,” says Eli Lake in Bloomberg View. “His government hacks the e-mails of leading Democrats, and his friends at WikiLeaks make sure to drip them out in the final weeks of the presidential campaign. In a shocker, the party the Russians didn't hack wins. Less than a week after the victory, the incoming president tells him he wants to explore greater cooperation against the Islamic State.”
 
National security legal advice in the new administration: “As the incoming Trump team grapples with the first days of its transition,” writes Harold Hongju Koh in JustSecurity.org, “it should not forget that the most urgent question regarding foreign affairs and national security law may not be personnel or policy, but process: How best to gather collective legal advice on foreign relations, national security, and related international law issues for presentation to the President and his senior policy advisers?”
 
What a Trump America can learn from Berlusconi’s Italy: “Dear American friends, beware,” writes Beppe Severgnini in the New York Times. “When in office — three times, for a total of nine years, from 1994 to 2011 — Mr. Berlusconi couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give up some of his more worrying traits from the campaign trail.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Nuclear Policy under the Trump Administration




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