Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 3:27 PM

Senator Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, stated at his confirmation hearing that waterboarding is “absolutely” prohibited by law, The New York Times writes. Trump has promised a return to waterboarding (which Sessions supported as a senator) along with “a hell of a lot worse.” Sessions indicated that he did not support an overall ban on Muslims entering the country, another policy supported by Trump.

At an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee convened today on Russian interference in the presidential election, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that Russian hackers had penetrated computer servers belonging to the Republican National Committee as well as the Democratic National Committee, though the compromised RNC server was out of use and the information contained was never distributed.

A bipartisan group of senators including John McCain and Lindsey Graham plan to introduce legislation that would sanction Russia in response to the Kremlin’s interference in the U.S. election, along with Russian adventurism in Syria and Ukraine. Similar legislation is also being prepared in the House of Representatives, Reuters reports.

The Times examines Trump national security advisor General Michael Flynn’s idiosyncratic views on Russia. Flynn has described the U.S. as having a “common enemy” with Russia in the form of “radical Islam” and views Russia as a crucial strategic partner in U.S. efforts to counter militant Islamists. Flynn’s ties with the Kremlin and repeated appearances on the state propaganda network have raised concerns among national security practitioners and place him at odds with many members of the President-elect’s own cabinet, though perhaps not the President-elect himself.

The Trump transition team may keep on Bob Work, the Obama administration’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, under General James Mattis for at least three months in order to ensure continuity at the Pentagon, the Post writes. Work’s situation would be anomalous among Obama administration political appointees, almost all of whom are set to leave their positions shortly after the inauguration.

The United States is set to increase its support of Turkish military operations along the Turkey-Syria border to include airstrikes and potentially advice from U.S. Special Operations advisers, at the same time as the White House considers whether to ship weapons directly to Syrian Kurdish troops participating in the offensive on Raqqa. While the former would strengthen U.S.-Turkey relations, which have frayed in recent months, the latter would place the relationship under serious strain as the Obama administration nears its final days. The Post has more.

The U.S. special forces ground operation in eastern Syria this weekend lead to the death of several ISIS fighters, including one of the organization’s leaders, The Wall Street Journal writes. According to the Pentagon, the fighters were killed in a firefight with U.S. forces. Though the operation aimed to capture the ISIS leader, no fighters were apprehended.

Tehran has decided not to retaliate against the U.S. Congress’s extension of the Iran Sanctions Act as a violation of the international nuclear deal with Iran, Reuters reports. The Act, which the Senate vote to extend for another decade in November, allows for the reimposition of sanctions should the President wish to do so; at the time of its passage, the White House emphasized that it did not consider the ISA to be a violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran announced its decision after a joint meeting of diplomats from the parties involved in negotiating the deal, including the United States.

Pakistan has successfully fired its first submarine-launched nuclear-capable cruise missile, Reuters reports. The move marks an important step forward for Pakistan’s nuclear program and will likely increase already-high tensions with India.

At the Miami Herald, Carol Rosenberg reports on yesterday’s pretrial hearings in the Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi case. The defendant was brought into the courtroom in a restraint chair and complained of pain and bruising on his hands and arms, though the video feed of the hearing did not show al-Iraqi when he spoke.


ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Rebecca Crootof argued that the DNC hack demonstrates the need for cyber-specific deterrents.

Quinta Jurecic posted a statement from Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Mark Martins on the occasion of this week’s pretrial hearings in the al-Iraqi case.

Peter Spiro reviewed Michael Glennon and Robert Sloane’s book Foreign Affairs Federalism: The Myth of National Exclusivity.

Quinta argued that Donald Trump may have inaugurated a new era of trolling as politics.

Paul noted the success of a government test of a micro-drone swarm.

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