The Soufan Group Morning Brief


*The Soufan Group Morning Brief, April 18, 2017*
TUESDAY, APRIL 18, 2017
PENTAGON STARTS NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW

On Monday, the Pentagon officially began a review of the U.S. nuclear posture that was ordered by President Trump in January. The review, which typically occurs every eight years, will establish U.S. nuclear policy, strategy and force posture regarding the use of nuclear weapons under the Trump administration. Though ordered at the beginning of the year, the review comes at a time of high anxiety over increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula. The last time the military conducted a nuclear posture review was in 2010. The Hill, CNN
Related:
Defense News: Here’s What to Look for in the Nuclear Review
INTEL LEAKS COMPLICATE EFFORTS TO RENEW SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM
NPR reports that Republican anger about intelligence leaks is tainting a top priority for national security hardliners: the reauthorization of an expiring warrantless surveillance program known as Section 702. Lawmakers are demanding at least an estimate of how many Americans are swept up in surveillance before the statute is extended. NPR

LAWYER: EVEN AL QAEDA OPERATIVES DISTURBED BY ISIS VIOLENCE
In an interview with West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, Bernard Kleinman tells Paul Cruickshank about his time representing clients such as Ramzi Yousef, one of the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Wadih el-Hage, who helped with the 1998 East Africa bombings. According to Kleinman, the al Qaeda operatives he has spoken with believe that ISIS has been corrupting Islam. CTC Sentinel
Related:
Reuters: Iraqi VP: Islamic State Seeking Alliance with al Qaeda

Gorsuch at SCOTUS: Newly seated Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the Supreme Court bench for the first time Monday, asking nearly two dozen questions at his first oral arguments. Washington Post


FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR PAKISTANI TALIBAN SURRENDERS
The Pakistani military said Monday that a high-profile militant leader had surrendered. The militant, Sajjid Mohmand, is more widely known by his nom de guerre, Ehsanullah Ehsan, and was the main spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban until 2013, when he joined hard-line splinter Taliban group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (also spelled Jamaat-e-Ahrar). The Pakistani military said Mohmand was in their custody but offered no details about his surrender. New York Times, Al Jazeera

AT MOAB SITE IN AFGHANISTAN, BATTLE GRINDS ON
Near the blast site of the “Mother of All Bombs,” U.S. and Afghan forces on Monday were trying to dislodge ISIS fighters from a mountain stronghold where the militant group recently established a new front. Journalists who reached the blast site yesterday said Apache helicopters and fighter jets buzzed constantly overhead, and blasts echoed across the valley. Wall Street Journal
Related:
The Hill: Karzai: Trump Committed ‘Atrocity’ with Massive Bomb Strike

NORTH KOREA’S MISSILE MESSAGE
In the New York Times, Max Fisher examines the missiles showcased at North Korea’s military parade this past weekend and writes that they show the country is seeking a program sophisticated enough to fire a guaranteed nuclear retaliation in any war, including one day against the United States. Experts used to laugh at North Korea’s plans, he writes. “They’re not laughing anymore.” New York Times

Syria meeting: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Monday that diplomats from Russia, the United States and the United Nations plan to discuss the Syrian crisis in Geneva next week. Reuters

Counterterrorism cooperation in Africa: The Trump administration has pledged to boost U.S. military spending by 10 percent — but also promises deep cuts in foreign aid. It's not yet clear what that might mean for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa, worrying some local security officials. NPR

Drones in Libya: USA Today reports that a handful of drones controlled from the United States and a small force of offshore Marine aircraft played a decisive role in defeating ISIS fighters in Libya last December. USA Today


TURKEY BITTERLY SPLIT OVER REFERENDUM RESULTS
Amid opposition claims of serious irregularities affecting more than two million votes, a shadow has been cast over the legitimacy of Sunday’s referendum vote that handed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vast new powers. Analysts pointed to “no” majorities in three major cities - Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir - as evidence that the country is more polarized than ever. Never before in the 14-year-rule of the governing AKP party has a majority in these three cities voted against President Erdogan. BBC News
Related:
Washington Post: Trump Calls Erdogan to Congratulate Him on Contested Election
 
TOP OP-EDS
Did the Justice Dept. really support Trump’s misstatement to Congress? “Back in February, in his address to a Joint Session of Congress, Donald Trump made an arresting claim: 'according to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offense since 9/11 came here from outside of our country'" writes Benjamin Wittes in Lawfare. “I'm going to be very blunt here: I believe the President was lying not merely about the underlying facts but about his own Justice Department.”

Trump’s dangerous impulse to go it alone on North Korea: “From President Trump’s perspective, he doesn’t want to risk signaling to the North Koreans the nature and details of the US response,” writes Jennifer Daskal in JustSecurity.org. “And that of course is a legitimate concern. But an authorization could be written in a way to give the president the power to take action without specifying when or what precisely the administration could do.”

Trump’s administration doesn’t understand the meaning of power: “There was an unseemly glee on the part of some Trump supporters in the use of the MOAB — Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — against a target in Afghanistan,” writes Michael Gerson in the Washington Post. “A powerful nation may possess 21,600 pounds of precision-guided death. A great nation uses it only in a spirit of grim necessity.”
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For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Turkey's Clean Break with the EU




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