The Soufan Group Morning Brief



The Trump administration is preparing to impose new sanctions on dozens of Iranian entities for their alleged involvement in supporting terrorism and missile development. The sanctions could come as early as today and would be added under a standing executive order covering terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The White House says the new sanctions would not violate the 2015 nuclear deal, but Iran has repeatedly said any fresh sanctions would. A number of Iran specialists in Washington, DC, say the Trump administration is only at the start of ratcheting up pressure on Tehran. (Reuters, WSJ, NPR)

Central Paris was on high alert after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a machete near the Louvre museum this morning. The man, who was carrying bags, reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” as he clashed with soldiers. Paris police said that there was no indication the bags contained explosives, but prosecutors have opened a terrorism investigation. The identity and nationality of the attacker remains unknown for now, authorities said. Terrorists have killed more than 230 people in France over the past two years. (NYT, WSJ, Reuters)

The last cluster of refugees trickled into the United States in the final hours before the U.S. resettlement program is suspended for four months. After President Trump issued the ban last week, the Department of Homeland Security determined that nearly 900 refugees who were on their way to the U.S. could continue their journey and enter by February 2. Reportedly, none of the final arrivals came from the seven Muslim-majority countries specified in the order. (WSJ)

Washington Post: Trump’s Immigration Order Will Be Tough to Overturn
Wall Street Journal: Refugee Dispute Strains Australian Alliance
Guardian: More Public Support for Travel Ban Than Opponents

New CIA deputy has “black site” ties: President Trump tapped Gina Haspel, a veteran who ran one of the agency’s so-called “black site” prisons, to be the CIA’s second in command. The Trump administration has signaled that it may reestablish CIA prisons overseas. (WaPo)

Mattis warns North Korea: On a visit to Seoul, Defense Secretary Mattis warned North Korea it would face an “effective and overwhelming” response from the United States if it used nuclear weapons. Mattis now heads to Japan, where he is expected to offer leaders in Tokyo security reassurances. (Guardian)

Minnesota non-profit declines grant: A prominent non-profit serving Somali-American youth refused a $500,000 grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security in light of President Trump's refugee and travel restrictions. (MPR)

The Trump administration defended the planning and execution of a U.S. Special Operations raid in Yemen on Sunday. One American commando died during the mission, while several civilians were also likely killed. The U.S. team recovered valuable information that could help thwart future terrorist attacks, the White House said. But security analysts say that almost everything about the mission that could go wrong did, including the likelihood that al-Qaeda fighters were tipped off. (NYT)

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has said there was sufficient intelligence to carry the raid out out and that it had been planned for months, but a former Obama administration official, Colin Kahl, disputed that, saying that the Defense Department had only worked up a general proposal asking for the authorities to do raids in Yemen. (WaPo)

CNN: SEAL Raid Raises Questions
NBC News: What Went Wrong in the Navy SEAL Raid in Yemen
Wall Street Journal: U.S. Accounts of Plan Prompt Debate

Trump dismissed Obama plan to seize Raqqa: Trump’s national security team deemed an Obama administration plan to take the capital of the Islamic State’s caliphate as wholly insufficient and promptly discarded it. “We found huge gaps in it,” said a senior Trump administration official. (WaPo)

Visa ban allows Iraqi interpreters: The Trump administration amended its visa ban to allow emigration by the families of Iraqi interpreters who served the United States government and military forces deployed in their country. Some had been refused entry at U.S. airports while others were removed from planes scheduled to fly to the United States. (NYT)

The White House appealed to the Israeli government not to expand the construction of Jewish settlements beyond their current borders in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such expansion, it said, “may not be helpful in achieving” the goal of peace. The surprising statement came after the Israeli prime minister, who is expected to visit with Trump later this month, pledged to build the first new settlement in the West Bank in years. (NYT, WaPo)

Trump tweaks Russia sanctions: The Trump administration modified sanctions against Russia’s spy agency, the FSB, in what was intended to be a needed technical fix, but the move sparked outrage from many Kremlin critics in Washington. Sanctions experts said the move was designed to close a loophole that was an unintended consequence of the Obama administration’s initial sanctions package. (WSJ)


The Obligation of Advocates of Strong National Security: “Those who advocate strong national security measures have a special duty to distinguish between tools that are necessary to the security of the country and policies that seem to be ideologically-driven impositions on the lives of the innocent. To the extent we advocate policies that may burden others’ lives—and we both have a certain comfort level with legitimate surveillance, detention, interrogation, and targeted killings—we have a special duty to speak up about policies that impose such burdens too broadly and without meaningful security benefit,” write Michael Hayden and Benjamin Wittes on the Lawfare blog.

What’s Wrong With Flynn’s Iran Bluster: “Mr. Flynn, then, is not wrong about Iran’s provocative actions and the need for a vigorous response. The problem is with his performance: By issuing a warning so imprecise — in such a dramatic, public fashion — he has set himself and the United States up for either an embarrassing retreat or a risky confrontation. While Trump administration officials have claimed to have a ‘large range’ of options to choose from in responding more effectively to Iran, the reality is that they do not,” writes Philip Gordon in the New York Times.

Putin’s Bad Ukraine Deal: “We were therefore glad to see Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, on Thursday say that ‘the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.’ The Administration can follow up by cooperating with Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill who want to stiffen sanctions. Lifting sanctions without a change in Moscow’s behavior is what Mr. Trump’s predecessor would do,” write editors of the Wall Street Journal.

Trump’s Enemies Within: “Unique among modern presidents, Trump arrived in office without government experience and without, so far as the public record is known, any deep reflection about how to use the levers of the executive branch to achieve his objectives. What’s unclear so far is whether his willingness to offend and defy the sensibilities of the executive branch servants assigned to carry out his policies simply reflects his own temperament or is part of a deliberate strategy,” write John Harris and Daniel Lippman in Politico. “While Trump’s particular circumstances are extraordinary, the larger dynamic—like an unruly Rottweiler, the permanent bureaucracy will either be at your heel or at your throat—is one all presidents must reckon with.”

Pew Research Center: What It Takes to Be One of Us


The Intercept: Ali Soufan on Torture and the Muslim Ban
Revisiting Guantanamo Bay
Where We've Come, Where We're Headed
February 14, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Rebranding Countering Violent Extremism 

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