The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2017
U.S. COMMANDOS CARRY OUT GROUND RAID AGAINST ISIS IN SYRIA

On Sunday, U.S. Delta Force commandos carried out a ground operation in eastern Syria that killed at least two ISIS militants, according to reports. Officials said the raid targeted an ISIS leader in Dair Alzour, about 80 miles southeast of the extremist group’s de facto Syrian headquarters in Raqqah. No prisoners were taken, and military officials, speaking anonymously, did not identify who was killed, or say which ISIS leader was targeted in the raid.

A Defense Department spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, confirmed on Monday that the operation had occurred. But he dismissed a report by the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that about 25 fighters had been killed. Captain Davis said that figure overstated the casualties by “orders of magnitude,” but he declined to say how many militants had been killed. New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal
Related:
Washington Post: U.S. Increases Support for Turkish Military Operations in Syria
SENATE PANELS TO CONSIDER KELLY FOR TOP NATIONAL SECURITY ROLE, SESSIONS FOR AG
Senate confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees begin today. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee will consider retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security -- a hearing that is expected to focus on how Gen. Kelly would approach one of Trump’s signature platforms --securing the U.S.-Mexico border. Wall Street Journal

The confirmation hearing for Sen. Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General is also expected to begin today and continue into tomorrow, in a forum that is expected to focus largely on Sessions’ race record. In an unprecedented move, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker is set to testify against Sessions Wednesday. It is the first time a sitting senator has testified against another for a Cabinet position. CNN
Related:
Politico: What Sessions Thinks About Immigration, Police, and Terrorism

RETIRED GENERALS TELL TRUMP NOT TO BRING BACK TORTURE
More than 170 retired military officers -- including 33 four-star generals and admirals -- have sent a joint letter to President-elect Donald Trump urging him not to follow through on his campaign vows to bring back waterboarding “and a hell of a lot worse.” The Jan. 6 letter, which cites the officers’ “six thousand years of combined experience,” is signed by some of the most prominent military leaders of recent years, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Gen. John Allen, and the Special Operations commander who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Adm. William McRaven. New York Times
Related:
Christian Science Monitor: If Trump Wants Waterboarding, This Could Be Why

COMEY, CLAPPER SET TO TESTIFY BEFORE CONGRESS
FBI Director James Comey will offer his first public comments since the election on the scope of alleged Russian hacking campaign as he, DNI Director James Clapper, and other intelligence officials testify Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee today on the unclassified report released last week. Wall Street Journal, Associated Press

BOMB THREATS RATTLE JEWISH CENTERS IN EASTERN U.S.
Bomb threats on Monday at as many as 16 Jewish centers across the eastern U.S., including daycares, ultimately proved without basis, but the evacuations rattled nerves and led many to wonder how the anonymous threats were related. New York Times

U.S. intelligence report on conflict risk: The risk of conflicts between and within nations will increase over the next five years to levels not seen since the Cold War, a study by the U.S. National Intelligence Council said this week. Reuters

Guantanamo war court: In proceedings at Guantanamo on Monday, prison guards forced detainee Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, an alleged al Qaeda commander, into court strapped into a restraint chair Monday, and the U.S. military imposed a video blackout on the Iraqi captive, who complained of painful, bloodied hands and wrists. Miami Herald

Pentagon No. 2: Fox News has reported that Trump has asked the Pentagon’s No. 2, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, to continue serving under incoming Defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis. The Hill


NAVY DESTROYER OPENS FIRE ON IRANIAN PATROL BOATS
A Navy destroyer opened fire Sunday in the Strait of Hormuz after four Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps patrol boats acted in a way that a U.S. defense official described as “harassing.” Washington Post

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TRIES TO SECURE IRAN DEAL
U.S., European, and Iranian officials are meeting Tuesday in Vienna, in a last-ditch effort by the Obama administration to bolster the Iranian nuclear agreement before President-elect Trump takes office. Wall Street Journal

Close calls in skies over Syria: U.S. military pilots say the skies above Syria are an international incident waiting to happen, as U.S. and Russian jets increasingly crowd into the same airspace fighting parallel wars -- with American pilots bombing ISIS worried about colliding with Russian pilots bombing rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Wall Street Journal

Indonesia and terror financing: Indonesia’s financial-transactions agency says that Islamic militants based in the Middle East use PayPal and Bitcoin to fund terrorist activities in Indonesia. Wall Street Journal
TOP OP-EDS
Trump has the keys to the most invasive surveillance state in history: “Americans have been warned for decades about the potential consequences of the U.S. surveillance state — the largest, most powerful, and most intrusive in the world — falling into a would-be tyrant’s hands,” writes James Bamford in Foreign Policy. “With Donald Trump’s inauguration looming, I have to wonder: Was anyone paying attention?”

What Iraq reveals about Rex Tillerson: “Exxon's activities in Iraq over the past decade provide a rich series of case studies that illuminate how Tillerson has negotiated with foreign leaders and pursued business interests aggressively – sometimes with little apparent regard for the political consequences,” write Ben Lando and Ben Van Heuvelen in Iraq Oil Report.

The released report on Russian meddling isn’t enough: “The intelligence community’s allegation that Russia intervened covertly in the 2016 election describes a significant assault on our democracy,” writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. “The country needs to know more: The charge needs to be followed up with an independent investigation that continues after Donald Trump becomes president on Jan. 20.”

Kim Jong Un won’t be the last tyrant to play Trump: “Rather than dispatch delegations or lobby advisers, foreign governments, having taken the new man’s narcissistic measure, are doing their best to engage [Trump] personally, through tweets and other public statements,” writes Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post. “Unfortunately, the main lesson may be that this U.S. president can easily be played. He can be steered into adopting a U.S. adversary’s ideas as his own; he can be appeased by public flattery. Perhaps most disturbing, he can be goaded into statements and, perhaps, actions that play into the hands of enemies or undermine U.S. interests.”

How we got here: “The fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 abruptly ended one historical era and inaugurated another,” writes Andrew Bacevich in TomDispatch.com. “So, too, did the outcome of last year’s U.S. presidential election. What are we to make of the interval between those two watershed moments? Answering that question is essential to understanding how Donald Trump became president and where his ascendency leaves us.”
EDITOR'S PICK
 
SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Russian Disinformation Operations in the West




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