The Soufan Group Morning Brief


The Soufan Group Morning Brief, May 26, 2017
FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017
There will no Morning Brief on Monday. Have a pleasant holiday weekend!

AT NATO, TRUMP IS VAGUE ABOUT MUTUAL DEFENSE PLEDGE

President Trump declined on Thursday to explicitly endorse NATO’s mutual defense pledge and lashed out at fellow members for what he called their “chronic underpayments” to the alliance. Speaking in front of a twisted shard of the World Trade Center that has been placed at NATO’s gleaming new headquarters in Brussels, Trump upbraided America’s longtime allies for “not paying what they should be paying.” “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” Trump said. “And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.” Allied contributions are voluntary, with multiple budgets.
 
Trump also declined to explicitly endorse Article V, the “one-for-all, all-for-one” principle that has been the foundation of the alliance since its establishment in 1949. Trump did promise to “never forsake the friends that stood by our side” in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks — a pledge that White House officials later said was an affirmation of mutual defense.
 
Trump’s speech left European leaders visibly unsettled, and the president appeared isolated afterward. When the leaders lined up to pose for the traditional photograph at NATO headquarters, Trump appeared to push aside the Montenegrin prime minister, Dusko Markovic, to get to his assigned place in the front.
 
One senior diplomat told Reuters the speech did not go down well at all with Trump’s fellow leaders. “This was not the right place or time," the diplomat said of the very public harangue. "We are left with nothing else but trying to put a brave face on it.” New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post, CNN
APPEALS COURT RULES AGAINST TRUMP’S REVISED TRAVEL BAN
The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond rejected President Donald Trump’s request to reinstate his executive order on immigration, ruling Thursday that the president's temporary ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” The administration said it would appeal to the Supreme Court. Wall Street Journal
 
KUSHNER NOW A FOCUS IN RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Investigators are reportedly focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters. Kushner had meetings late last year with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, and is reportedly being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians. Washington Post, NBC News
Related:
Wall Street Journal: Kushner to Cooperate in any Probe into Meetings with Russians
 
FBI delays providing Comey memos to Congress: The FBI has told Congress that it will withhold for now memos written by former Director James Comey concerning his interactions with President Donald Trump while the bureau weighs how the appointment of a special counsel will affect investigations underway on Capitol Hill. Wall Street Journal
 
Guantanamo: No health survey: Ten years after the Pentagon opened its war court complex at Guantánamo as an expeditionary legal complex, there is no agreement that Camp Justice is expeditionary, according to a Navy report released this week. The report said no entity did an occupational and environmental health site assessment of the site to “identify and evaluate potential environmental exposures that may impact the health of deployed personnel prior to establishing the installation so appropriate risk management actions can be implemented.” Miami Herald
 

PENTAGON BLAMES ISIS FOR CIVILIAN DEATHS IN MOSUL
A long-awaited military investigation made public on Thursday concluded that an American airstrike in March killed more than 100 Iraqi civilians by inadvertently setting off a large amount of explosives that ISIS fighters had placed in a building in Mosul. The blast killed two Islamic State snipers and 105 civilians -- probably the single deadliest civilian casualty incident in the nearly three-year-old air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Washington Post, New York Times
 
IN SECRET TAPES, IRAQI TROOPS TORTURE AND EXECUTE CIVILIANS
Officers of an elite Iraqi special forces unit, praised by U.S. military commanders earlier this year for its role in fighting ISIS, directed the torture and execution of civilians in Mosul in at least six distinct incidents caught on tape.
 
“That’s a murder,” retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Scott Mann told ABC News after reviewing the graphic footage. “There should be punishment for anyone doing it. It's reprehensible and it shouldn't be allowed on any modern battlefield.” ABC News
 
GUNMEN ATTACK COPTIC CHRISTIAN CONVOY IN EGYPT, KILLING 20
Gunmen opened fire on vehicles carrying Coptic Christians in southern Egypt early Friday, killing at least 20 people, according to local reports. New York Times
 
PHILIPPINE ARMY LAUNCHES ATTACKS AGAINST ISIS-LINKED MILITANTS
Violence erupted for a third day in the restive southern province of Mindanao on Thursday, as the Philippine army sent in tanks and launched airstrikes against members of the ISIS-linked Maute group in the city of Marawi. New York Times, USA Today, Reuters
 

UK POLICE RESUME SHARING INTELLIGENCE WITH U.S. COUNTERPARTS
British police have resumed sharing information with their counterparts in the US after a brief suspension over a series of leaks by American officials to journalists providing details of the Manchester bomb investigation. The suspension, announced early on Thursday morning, lasted less than 24 hours. It was primarily intended to send a message to US law enforcement agencies registering anger at the casual way in which sensitive information was disclosed to American journalists. Guardian
 
After hearing complaints about the leaks from British Prime Minister Theresa May at the NATO summit Thursday, President Trump ordered the Justice Department to launch a “complete review” of the leaking. “If appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he added. New York Times
Related:
New York Times: Leaks -- A Uniquely American Way of Annoying the Authorities
Wall Street Journal: Manchester Police Say They Have Important Evidence on Attack
TOP OP-EDS
Preparing for the ‘day after’ ISIS: “Once Raqqa and Mosul are cleared, the challenge will be rebuilding the Sunni areas of Syria and Iraq — with real governance and security — so that follow-on extremist groups don’t quickly emerge,” writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. “This idea of preparing for the ‘day after’ the Islamic State has gotten lip service from U.S. policymakers for three years but very little serious planning or funding. It should be an urgent priority for the United States and its key Sunni partners, such as Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”
 
Why the Libyan connection matters in Manchester attack: “As UK security services investigate what led Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old-British national of Libyan descent, to carry out the deadliest attack on British soil since the London bombings, a key line of inquiry will be what he got up to during the three weeks he spent in Libya before the attack,” writes Paul Cruickshank in CNN.com.
 
How far should societies go to prevent terror attacks? “Almost everyone is unwilling to do certain things to eliminate terrorism,” writes Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. “And that is fortunate, for the endurance of a free society depends upon it.”
 
Sectarian fires feed European terrorism: “It would be a mistake to pretend that Islamist extremism is indifferent to the policies of western governments,” writes Philip Stephens in the Financial Times. “At its most basic, the latest in the long line of indiscriminate attacks in European cities was a reminder that we cannot build walls against the world beyond. The murderer in this instance carried a British passport, but the inspiration for such acts is found in the raging fires of sectarian conflict in the Middle East. You cannot build borders so high as to stop the corruption of young minds by warped ideologies or halt the digital transfer of lethal know-how.”

Why Libya is still a global terror threat: “While Abedi might represent a new terrorist profile – a UK national with possible connections to broader terrorist networks based in Libya – his attack is part of a larger trend that has confronted Europe since 2012,” writes Alia Brahimi in the Guardian. “In this new wave, terrorist operatives are both capable and very difficult to detect, given our lack of ‘eyes and ears’ on key jihadist arenas such as Syria and Libya.”
EDITOR'S PICK
 
SOUFAN GROUP
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