The Soufan Group Morning Brief



President Trump has selected Army Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond McMaster to serve as his next national security adviser, filling the vacancy left last week by the resignation of Michael Flynn. McMaster, a decorated veteran of both the Persian Gulf war and the second Iraq war, is a highly respected military tactician and strategic thinker whose career stalled at times for his questioning of authority. He is reportedly the first active-duty U.S. military officer to take the job since Colin Powell and John Poindexter held it under President Reagan.


Trump’s selection of McMaster has garnered high praise from leading Republicans and Democrats alike. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a frequent Trump critic, praised McMaster as an “outstanding” choice. Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Obama, praised McMaster as “terrific,” and said he “will not be afraid to question his boss.”


Analysts say that, like Defense Secretary Mattis, McMaster has been a harsh critic of instances when the U.S. military has taken action at the behest of civilian leaders without properly developed strategies, clear goals, and detailed exit plans. He made a name for himself as a young officer with a critique of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their performance during the Vietnam War, and later criticized how the George W. Bush administration planned for the war in Iraq. (WSJ, NYT, Reuters, CNN)


Foreign Policy: From ‘Dereliction of Duty’ to the White House

Wall Street Journal: A Military Strategist for Trump

Washington Post: McMaster Will Be a Good Teammate



The New York Times reports that associates of President Trump, including Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, and a Ukrainian lawmaker, Andrii V. Artemenko, have pushed a controversial peace plan for Russia and Ukraine. The proposal would require the withdrawal of Russian forces from eastern Ukraine. Then Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum whether Crimea, seized by Russia in 2014, would be leased to Moscow for a term of 50 or 100 years. The plan has reportedly raised hackles in Kiev because it could recognize Crimea as part of Russia, and also because of the relative obscurity of Artemenko. (NYT, Atlantic)


Immigration Order: President Trump may sign as early as this week a revised executive order on immigration that he says will “protect our people” and pass muster with courts that halted an earlier version. The new order is not expected to impact green card holders. (CNN)


Terrorism Theorist: Sebastian Gorka, a conservative pundit who propounds a controversial theory of terrorism he calls the “global jihadist movement,” has become the Trump administration’s most visible and passionate defender of the immigration ban. (WSJ, WaPo)


Terrorism Threat: Richard Clarke, who served on the National Security Council in the George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations, said the United States is more vulnerable to an attack now than it was before President Trump took office. He cited the relative inexperience of members of Trump’s NSC. (Atlantic)


Muslim Brotherhood: Some Mideast experts say that designating the preeminent Islamic movement a terrorist organization has the potential to disrupt internal politics in the region more than any other initiative considered by the Trump administration. The move would also prove devastating for Muslim individuals and organization in the United States, analysts say. (NYT, Bloomberg)


Mattis’s Influence: The secretary of defense has the unique capacity to nudge the White House toward more conventional positions on a number foreign policy issues like Russia and the use of torture, analysts say. Mattis was in Iraq on Monday working to improve bilateral relations as a major offensive begins to oust ISIS from its last stronghold in the country. (WSJ, NYT)


ISIS Supporters: In two separate cases, Joshua Van Haften, of Wisconsin, and Haris Qamar, of Virginia, were sentenced in federal court for attempting to provide material support for ISIS.  Haften received ten years, while Qamar will serve 102 months.

Guantanamo: The New York Times explains the debate over the Periodic Review Board at the military prison. The board determines whether prisoners should be held in open-ended detention or moved to a list of those recommended for transfer. (NYT)


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said security forces launched a ground offensive early Sunday to retake the western side of Mosul from ISIS. The assault breaks a weeks-long stall in the battle for Iraq’s second-largest city and the jihadist group’s last major stronghold in the country. (WSJ)


Pakistan: Suicide bombers attacked a court complex in northeastern Pakistan, killing five people and wounding 20. A spokesman for Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack. (Reuters)

Sinai: Egypt is reportedly moving closer to Hamas in Gaza, after years of tense relations. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is offering the Palestinian group concessions on trade and free movement in return for help to secure the border against ISIS fighters. (Reuters)

Korea: A proposed U.S.-built missile defense system to help protect South Korea from its northern neighbor is upsetting relations between Seoul and Beijing. Many South Koreans believe China is retaliating against their government, targeting pop stars, companies, and individuals. (WSJ)


Caribbean: Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago are scrambling to shut off a pipeline that has sent a stream of young Muslims to Syria, where they have taken up arms for ISIS. Meanwhile, U.S. officials worry about having a hotbed for extremists so close. (NYT)

France: Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate for president, canceled a meeting with a top Muslim cleric in Lebanon after refusing to wear a headscarf for the encounter. Many Lebanese fled to France during the country’s civil war (1975-1990) and became citizens. (Reuters)


Trump and the Siege of Washington: “It is hard to predict how long it would take to resolve the battle between Mr. Trump and the so-called deep state. It is also hard to say how long a Republican Congress could stand the heat. As I say, multiply the past four weeks by three, or six, or nine. The neutral ground will vanish. At some point this will boil down to a choice between Mr. Trump and the U.S. constitution,” writes Edward Luce in the Financial Times.


Why the World Needs a Trump Doctrine: “We would advise the president to give an address that offers a bold statement of his vision, including his determination to provide America’s leadership in the effort to shape a more stable world. This speech should not be a detailed blueprint for American foreign policy, but rather serve as a much-needed reminder that the president of the United States is on watch, is actively engaged and has a sense of historical direction,” write Zbigniew Brzezinski and Paul Wasserman in the New York Times.


I Quit the CIA Because of Trump: “What intelligence professionals want most is to know that the fruits of their labor — sometimes at the risk of life or limb — are accorded due deference in the policymaking process. Until that happens, President Trump and his team are doing another disservice to these dedicated men and women and the nation they proudly, if quietly, serve,” writes Edward Price in the Washington Post.

Labeling the IRGC a Terrorist Group Is a Bad Idea: “The IRGC is a government institution, a conscript force and an integral part of the Iranian Armed Forces. Declaring it a terrorist organization is the equivalent of designating the military of another nation a terrorist organization, writes Seyed Hossein Mousavian in the Huffington Post. “Consequently, such a designation would be tantamount to an unofficial declaration of war and at the bare minimum, immensely inflame regional tensions.”


Charlie Rose: A Conversation With H.R. McMaster (2014)
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief.

Center on National Security
Fordham University School of Law
150 W. 62nd St. 7th Floor
New York, NY 10023 US
Copyright © 2016 Center on National Security, All rights reserved.