Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Jane Chong
Wednesday, November 23, 2016, 11:01 AM

Trump’s transition team announced this morning that he has offered South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley the post of UN ambassador, and she has accepted. The New York Times and Washington Post have more.

In his rescheduled interview yesterday with the the New York Times, Trump stepped back from several campaign promises—expressing, for example, doubt about the value of torture and an "open mind" about climate change—while reaffirming his stance on others, notably dismissing concerns about his financial conflicts and the appointment of Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist. Other details to emerge from that interview: Trump is "seriously considering" Gen. James Mattis for Secretary of Defense, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times tweeted yesterday. And Trump suggested that "Jared Kushner could help make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians," noted the Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to Trump's defense yesterday, blasting Western nations for calling Trump a "dictator,” reports the AP. Not to be deterred, Stephen Walt of Foreign Policy has published this handy guide for determining whether your president is in fact a dictator.

This morning South Korea and Japan signed a pact that removes the United States as their intelligence go-between; the two countries have agreed to directly share military information, like satellite tracking of North Korea’s missiles, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Yesterday, citing anonymous insiders, the Times reported that Facebook has developed censorship-friendly software in an effort to persuade China to lift its ban on the social media site. Facebook spokesman Debbie Frost would not confirm whether the company has built the tool, noted the Washington Post.

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei warned today that Tehran would retaliate if the U.S. levied sanctions on the House in breach of the Iranian nuclear agreement, reports Bozorgmehr Sharafedin for Reuters. Last week, the U.S. House reauthorized the Iran Sanctions Act, a ten-year sanctions bill adopted in 1996 to punish and deter investments in Iran's energy industry and which is otherwise set to expire this year.

Before dawn this morning, the U.S.-led coalition conducted an airstrike on a fourth bridge across the Tigris River in Mosul, disrupting the Islamic State's supply lines. Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the Iraqi special forces told the AP that his men were pushing back IS fighters in the Zohour neighborhood. On the historical front, Brian Fishman of Foreign Policy has a feature on Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, an al-Qaeda emissary arrested while en route to tell the movement Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had birthed in Iraq to tone it down. Fishman casts al-Hadi's mission as "al Qaeda’s boldest effort to finally control the jihadi movement in Iraq," one whose failure left the door open for the Islamic State's rise.

Pro-government Yemeni forces fighting Houthi rebels for control of Ta'iz, Yemen's third largest city, is harassing medical staff and endangering civilians by installing combatants among them, Amnesty International alleged in a statement today. “All parties to the conflict must cease attacks that fail to discriminate between military targets and civilians. They must stop using artillery and mortars in the vicinity of civilian areas, and they must do everything feasible to avoid locating military objectives near densely populated areas, particularly hospitals and medical facilities,” stated Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. Reuters reports.

Yesterday the Pentagon announced that a U.S. drone strike in Syria on November 18 killed senior Al-Qaeda leader Abu Afghan al-Masri. The AP has details.

Today French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated that states opposed to the al-Assad regime would meet soon in Paris and accused Syria and its allies of using U.S. political uncertainty to launch "total war" against rebel-held areas. John Irish reports for Reuters.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Michael Price and Faiza Patel discussed why both a mandatory "registry" of Muslims in the country and a reboot of the post-9/11 NSEERS program would be unconstitutional.

Bobby Chesney noted that a new statute is needed for General Mattis to serve as Secretary of Defense, and in another post, examined whether waterboarding would count as a "use or threat of force" under section 1045(a)(6)(A)(i) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015.

Jack Goldsmith explained why he is "less panicked" than his colleagues about Trump's pledges to take illegal action—and why his colleagues' panic is itself reassuring.

Ben Wittes responded to letters from DOJ lawyers and fresh recruits on serving under a Trump administration.

Matt Waxman reacted to Dawn Johnsen's new Foreign Affairs essay on the Obama administration’s national security law legacy, where she emphasizes the distinction between the Bush administration's commitment to Zone 3 of the Youngstown framework (presidential action contrary to statute) from the Obama administration's commitment to Zones 1 and 2 (presidential action in the face of congressional silence or authorization).

Dana Stuster covered the Assad regime's destruction of the last hospitals in Aleppo, the start of televised testimony from the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission, and the collapse of the Yemen ceasefire.

Stephanie Leutert explained why, notwithstanding Trump's claims, the number of criminal immigrants in the country won't number anywhere close to two million, much less three.

Walter Haydock suggested that AI algorithms could be used to address the “surveillance gap” between the number of potential homegrown violent extremists and the FBI’s ability to monitor them.

Michael Gibbs reviewed Oleg Khlevniuk's Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator.

Stewart Baker interviewed Betsy Cooper and Steve Weber of UC Berkeley’s Center for Long Term Cybersecurity on the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast.

David Kimball-Stanley examined a federal district court’s rejection of a proposed settlement to the ongoing litigation challenge to the New York City Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim communities in and around the city.

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