Over the course of the 2016 election, Donald Trump routinely flip-flopped on issues of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* Americans. After first saying he would consider appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn nationwide marriage equality, he soon made it a recurring talking point to highlight how he would be “better for the gays” than his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. This was mainly to bolster his extreme anti-Muslim stance on immigration after a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando last June left forty-nine people dead. The shooter, who had indeed pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was in fact American-born.

LGBT Americans have good reason to be nervous about what the Trump administration means for the huge advances made under former US President Barack Obama.

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While Russia was “probably surprised” by the US missile strike on a Syrian air base, it is unlikely that the Kremlin will respond with escalatory force, according to a former deputy secretary general of NATO.

“They’re surprised, but I don’t necessarily think their reaction will be to escalate the situation,” said Alexander Vershbow, who now serves as a distinguish fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. “The Russian reaction, while harsh in rhetoric… they’re going to try to draw a line around this incident,” he said.

“For the Russians, and I would hope for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, they would not provoke an open-ended conflict with the United States,” said Vershbow. However, he said, this incident “might convince the Russians to reign in their client more effectively than they ever have.”

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President’s plan for state of emergency could further reduce space for dissent, said Atlantic Council’s Mirette Mabrouk

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi’s decision to impose a three-month state of emergency in response to deadly church bombings will likely further shrink the space for freedom of expression and dissent in Egypt, according to Mirette Mabrouk, director of research and programs at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

“The space for freedom of expression and dissent in Egypt has already shrunk considerably. I can’t imagine that this is to going help,” said Mabrouk. The state of emergency, which must first be approved by parliament, would allow security forces to monitor people's social media and communications without permission, but after the president has issued a verbal or written order.

Sisi’s relationship with the United States grew frosty on US President Barack Obama’s watch amid concerns in Washington about the military coup that brought Sisi, then a general, to power on July 3, 2013, and the bloody crackdown that followed on August 14, 2013, which killed an estimated 817 peaceful demonstrators in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

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On April 6, US President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States had carried out a missile strike on a Syrian air base in response to a chemical attack by the Syrian government, which killed nearly eighty civilians on April 4.

Trump said the strike was in the “vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

Trump had been critical of former US President Barack Obama for failing to enforce red lines with regard to the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. He called Assad’s use of sarin gas—a toxin only available on the regime—on civilians “an affront to humanity” that “could not be tolerated.”

While the White House had recently expressed that the United States would accept the “political reality” of Assad’s grip on power, Trump later said the chemical weapons attack “crosses many, many lines.”

World leaders have been divided in their reactions to the US strike. While Russia and Iran, supporters of Assad’s regime, have condemned the strikes, US allies across Europe have lauded Trump’s proactive approach to the conflict and intolerance of chemical weapon attacks on civilians.Both multilateral institutions such as the European Union and NATO, as well as individual nations, have also expressed their support for Washington and condemnation of Assad’s actions.

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US missile strikes cannot be a one-off response, said the Atlantic Council’s Frederic C. Hof

US missile strikes on a Syrian air base from where a deadly chemical weapons attack is believed to have been launched send a clear message that the United States is now “directly engaged” in addressing the mass homicide perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, said Frederic C. Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

“The president’s top priority in Syria will continue to be the defeat of the so-called Islamic State, but in the wake of the chemical attack, the president realized that the Bashar al-Assad side of this problem is closely related to his top priority,” said Hof, noting that Assad’s brutal crackdown has helped recruitment for terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Hof, who served as special adviser for transition in Syria in US President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012, has been calling for a stronger US response to the war in Syria, both in and out of government. The war, which erupted in March 2011, has killed more than 450,000 people and created more than five million refugees.

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The United States’ role as a global leader in defense is not “automatic,” it must be maintained and improved by building bridges between the technology and security sectors to encourage innovation in military operations, former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the Atlantic Council on April 4.

While the US military “is the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Carter said, “that excellence is not a birthright; it’s not automatic.” He called for the federal government to invest in innovation technology to meet an uncertain future. “I believe that we need to ensure that our innovative engine works… to bring innovation and public purpose together,” he said.

Carter delivered the keynote address at the launch of an Atlantic Council report, Keeping America’s Innovative Edge, authored by Peter Engelke, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, and Robert A. Manning, a senior fellow with the Scowcroft Center and its Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative. The report is the culmination of a year-long effort, as part of a two-year partnership with Qualcomm.

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One might have hoped that the United Kingdom’s security relationship with Europe could be kept out of the Brexit negotiations, which will be difficult enough without an added layer of political complexity. Alas, just a week after the UK fired the starting gun on its departure from the European Union, it is already clear that this won’t be the case. The security relationship has already been politicized by Brexit, and it is largely London’s fault.

In British Prime Minister Theresa May’s letter formally activating the EU exit process on March 29, she suggested that if an agreement couldn’t be reached between the UK and the EU-27, “cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.” This did not go over well in Europe. The Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, warned May against haggling with the UK’s military assets, and the European Parliament subsequently published guidelines stating, explicitly, that tradeoffs between security and economics will not be acceptable

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The United States has limited options when it comes to responding to the deadly chemical attack likely carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria’s Idlib province on April 4, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

The international community has so far imposed sanctions on Syria, which haven’t worked, said Faysal Itani, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “There is diplomacy, which in fairness we’ve been trying for a long time… That leaves the military option, or the military option combined with diplomacy. That’s something we haven’t done.”

If the military option is chosen, “We would either have to build an indigenous proxy force that can fight properly, or [the United States] and our allies have to do something in the country,” said Itani. The alternative to military and diplomatic action, he said, is “nothing. Those are our options.”

[UPDATE: The United States on April 6 carried out a missile strike in Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack. US President Donald J. Trump said he ordered the strike because it is in the “vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”]

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US President Donald J. Trump’s “America First” policy—marked by a retreat from multilateralism—has paved the way for China to step into the void and for its president, Xi Jinping, to realize his “Chinese Dream,” according to two Atlantic Council analysts.

Trump and Xi met at the US president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on April 6 for a two-day summit.

Trump’s “America First” policy is a “double-edged sword” for China, said Robert A. Manning, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and its Strategic Foresight Initiative.

“On the one hand, Trump is handing the ‘Chinese Dream’ to Xi on a silver platter,” said Manning. Xi has described the “Chinese Dream” as “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” But on the “flip side is American nationalism… and Trump’s indictments of China,” Manning added.

Jamie Metzl, a nonresident senior fellow for technology and national security at the Scowcroft Center, said Trump’s “America First” policy has “so far proven mostly bluster by talking loudly but carrying a very small stick and undermining elements of America’s strengths in the Asia-Pacific region, including our alliances and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

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Eager to unlock the door to US-Arab cooperation on tackling regional issues following decades of disappointment with Washington’s lack of understanding of their concerns, three Arab leaders are engaging US President Donald Trump’s new administration over the next month.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met Trump at the White House on April 3; Jordan’s King Abdullah II will be in Washington on April 5; and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to follow later this month or in May. In their meetings, these leaders hope to discuss a number of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the civil war in Libya, and the threat posed by global terrorist organizations.

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