The Soufan Group Morning Brief


President Trump will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi on Monday in Washington. On the agenda: the fight against terrorism, the Middle East’s multiple wars, the refugee crisis, and Egypt’s anemic economy. Trump has been criticized for his embrace of al-Sissi, with critics saying it sends the signal that his administration places security cooperation over human right concerns. The rapport between the two leaders will be closely watched as a barometer for U.S. engagement with authoritarian leaders.

They are unlikely to discuss the plight of Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian American humanitarian worker from Virginia, who has been incarcerated by the Egyptian regime for nearly three years, accused of abusing children she was seeking to help through her nonprofit organization. The charges are widely seen as false.  Washington Post, Voice of America
Washington Post op-ed: It’s Time to Take a Hard Look at the U.S. Relationship with Egypt
As part of the broad schism between the Trump administration and the intelligence agencies, Trump officials have expressed an interest in having more raw intelligence sent to the president for his daily briefings instead of an analysis of information compiled by the agencies, reports the Associated Press. The change would give his White House advisers more control about the assessments given to him and sideline some of the conclusions made by intelligence professionals. Associated Press

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the military can keep secret at least 28 videotapes showing guards at Guantanamo extracting a hunger-striking detainee from his cell and then force-feeding him. More than a dozen news organization had petitioned to release the tapes after they were made part of the court record in a lawsuit challenging the military’s force-feeding procedures. A federal judge ordered them released, but the Obama administration appealed, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the original ruling. New York Times
Lawfare: Movement in a New Guantanamo Habeas Case

NSC No. 2 to Singapore: K.T. McFarland, a former Fox News analyst brought in as the No. 2 at the National Security Council by Michael Flynn, has reportedly been offered the post of U.S. ambassador to Singapore, though it is not clear if she has accepted. CNN

Obama administration holdovers: The New York Times looks at the handful of Obama-era diplomats who have survived Trump’s sweep of the State Department bureaucracy. New York Times

Guantanamo drowning: An Iraq combat veteran serving on the staff of the detention center at Guantanamo drowned Thursday off a beach in a death that is under investigation, reports the Miami Herald.

‘Death list’ lawsuit: A bureau chief at Al Jazeera and an American freelancer filed suit against the government last week alleging that they are being targeted for death because a flawed algorithm put their names on the U.S. government’s kill list. Courthouse News

Laptop bombs: CNN reports that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies believe that ISIS and other terrorist organizations have developed innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that FBI testing shows can evade some commonly used airport security screening methods. CNN

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, made an unannounced trip to Iraq over the weekend. He was reportedly invited by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, who traveled with him. The purpose of the visit wasn’t immediately clear, though Kushner has steadily increased his portfolio in recent weeks, taking on Middle East peace, arranging this week’s summit with China, and creating an office on government innovation. NBC News, New York Times

An Iraqi intelligence spokesman said this weekend that Ayad al-Jumaili, believed to be a deputy of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in an airstrike on Friday carried out by the Iraqi air force in the region of al-Qaim, near the border with Syria. The U.S.-led coalition said it was unable to confirm the report. Reuters

Trump and ‘unilateral action’ on North Korea: In an interview with the Financial Times days ahead of his meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week, President Trump said that the U.S. would be willing to take unilateral action against North Korea. “China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won't,” Trump said. “If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don't, it won't be good for anyone.” CNN, Financial Times
New York Times: North Korea’s Nuclear Strength, Encapsulated in an Online Ad for Lithium

Afghanistan: Officials in Afghanistan said on Sunday they were investigating claims that at least nine civilians, including six children, had been killed when Afghan and coalition forces blew up a Taliban weapons depot in southern Helmand Province. New York Times

Twenty people were tortured and then murdered with clubs and knives at a Pakistani Sufi shrine, authorities said Sunday, in what officials are calling a cult ritual. The motive for the killings also may have involved a dispute over control of the shrine. New York Times, NBC News
What I learned reading ISIS’s propaganda instruction manual: “If the international community is ever to meaningfully challenge the so-called caliphate’s information supremacy, it must begin by better comprehending the strategic logic that underpins it,” writes Charlie Winter in Lawfare.

Trump is in for long war on ISIS: “The painful and politically inconvenient fact [is] that the so-called war on terror is bound to be a long one, perhaps without end; and that the international community is unlikely to win it in any conventional sense,” write Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky in USA Today. “Unless Trump comes to understand this, he's going to make a bad situation even worse.”

How Pakistan warped into a geopolitical monster: “How long will America continue to allow Pakistan to undermine its overseas antiterrorism efforts?” writes Robert Cassidy in the National Interest.

What’s behind Flynn’s request for immunity? “Flynn and his lawyers may actually think that he has a rather low chance of being successfully prosecuted,” writes Andrew Kent in Lawfare. “There are a number of reasons why that could be so. And if that is right, Flynn's actions might be best understood as a smart play by someone seeking a clear win, rather than a desperate attempt to minimize losses.”

Research Professor (Open Rank)
Arizona State University
Center on the Future of War
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Iran's Escalating Regional Activity

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