Fdd's overnight brief

April 12, 2019

In The News


The U.S. Treasury Department levied sanctions against a Lebanese currency exchange for allegedly laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and handling transactions for Hezbollah, the Iran-backed group designated by the U.S. as terrorists. – Wall Street Journal

The era of the U.S.-Europe dispute over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers is over, says an American diplomat, adding, “EU’s new proposal (Special Purpose Vehicle or SPV) for trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran is nothing, but a paper tiger.” – Radio Farda

The President Donald Trump administration announced its plan this week to officially designate Iran’s military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), effective April 15. The unprecedented move garnered swift reaction from critics as well as the Iranian government, which subsequently labeled the U.S. a terrorism supporter and Centcom, U.S. Central Command, a terrorist group. By definition, terrorists are non-state actors — so this designation for a foreign government’s military is a major first on the international stage. But with Iran’s economy already resembling that of a basket case, how much does this really change things? – CNBC

The Trump administration’s April 8, 2019 designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terror Organization (FTO) evoked harsh responses from the Iranian regime. On April 9, the Iranian Majlis retaliated by designating the U.S. military as “terrorist.” Iranian spokesmen stressed that the U.S. move would not affect Iran or the IRGC, and that the latter would continue to gain strength, and some stated that, from now on, the IRGC would indeed regard the U.S. forces as terrorists and as legitimate targets. However, past experience indicates that the Iranian regime will not hurry to risk its forces in a direct attack on U.S. troops or interests, but will prefer to employ the Shi’ite militias it controls outside Iran. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Even when U.S. coalition air strikes and artillery paused for people to evacuate during lulls in fighting, the killing did not stop in Islamic State’s final enclave. – Reuters

A Tajik man who joined Islamic State said many foreigners who enlisted in its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria were jailed or killed for trying to leave. – Reuters

Michael Goodyear writes: The lesson of ISIS is a warning to all countries about the collateral dangers of a civil war and domestic unrest. Syria and Iraq are not alone in having endured the de facto rule of a brutal terrorist state, and the shared experiences of these countries highlights the danger of weak central government and a volatile political system. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: With the U.S. withdrawal from Syria off the table for now, and with the Turks recognizing that they cannot make an end-run against U.S. interests, negotiations now center on a buffer zone inside Syria to keep Kurdish forces away from the Turkish border. A buffer zone to separate the Turkish military and Kurdish forces might be a good idea, but if it is to succeed in its stated purpose rather than simply be cover for renewed Turkish ethnic cleansing, it should be on the Turkish side of the border rather than inside Syria. – Washington Examiner


Turkey on Thursday strongly condemned separate decisions by France and Italy to officially recognize the mass killings of Armenians a century ago as a genocide, an issue that has regularly caused friction between Turkey and European Union nations. – Reuters

Turkey’s chief election authority has ruled that several mayors-elect from the main pro-Kurdish party cannot take up their posts because they were previously dismissed from their jobs under government decrees, the party said on Thursday. – Reuters

On April 8, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met in Moscow. The meeting comes as Russia is seeking to increase trade with Turkey, and Ankara has agreed to acquire Russia’s S-400 air defense system. The larger picture is that Moscow and Ankara are now becoming a key alliance that will shape the Middle East in the years to come. This comes as Washington says Turkey’s S-400 deal threatens relations with the US. – Jerusalem Post

Alex Ward writes: The United States and one of its longtime NATO allies, Turkey, are suffering a complete breakdown in their relationship — and it’s unclear if it will ever recover. Though Turkey and the US have a long history of partnership (including years of fending off the Soviets together), Ankara’s recent actions have blown a hole in the center of their alliance. […]This swift breakdown in ties is bound to have wide-ranging consequences. As a result of losing a friend (or, for some “frenemy”) in the region, the US will surely find its goals in Europe and the Middle East harder to achieve over the coming years. – Vox


The Trump administration’s new envoy to combat anti-Semitism said Thursday that participating in boycotts of Israeli companies and products made by Jews living in the West Bank is anti-Semitic because the campaigns implicitly deny the legitimacy of Israel itself. – Washington Post

A small spacecraft launched by an Israeli nonprofit crashed while trying to land on the moon Thursday, dashing hopes for the first lunar landing by a private organization. – Wall Street Journal

Israel’s young people have helped move the country right during the past decade, supporting Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud and smaller parties that help him form governing majorities. It is likely to be a lasting shift because of the rising ultra-Orthodox population, which tends to vote for religious parties that align with Likud in governments. – Wall Street Journal

Like many others in this area where the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Israel meet, Kanaan — a member of Chebaa’s municipal council — is angry about President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981. The American president has no right to give Israel lands that belong to Syria and Lebanon, he says. – Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s record fifth term is likely to be dominated by corruption allegations, scrutiny of his election promises and the unveiling of U.S. President Donald Trump’s long-awaited Middle East plan. – Reuters

US President Donald Trump is unlikely to roll out his Mideast peace plan until after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sets up his new government, Israeli officials said, despite US National Security Council John Bolton’s comment Wednesday that it could be published in the “very near future.” – Jerusalem Post

A founder of the Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel was blocked from entering the United States in what he said was a “politically motivated” move. – Associated Press

Israel’s military completed a large-scale divisional exercise in the North on Friday to improve its readiness for war, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced. – Jerusalem Post

Boris Zilberman writes: By moving forward with the recognition, the Trump administration is sending an important message to Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus: the United States stands with Israel in ensuring our most important regional ally has defensible borders against a broad spectrum of threats. […]To anyone who has ever stood on the Golan Heights, it is perfectly clear why the area would be vital to any successful attack on Israel, and why Israel, once in control of the strategic plateau, could never relinquish the Golan Heights and keep itself secure. – Washington Examiner


An offensive by eastern forces on the Libyan capital Tripoli stalled in the face of strong resistance on the southern outskirts on Thursday and the internationally recognized government said it had taken almost 200 prisoners. – Reuters

They trekked through the Sahara in hope of crossing the Mediterranean to a better life in Europe – but instead ended up in squalid detention centers and are now engulfed by war. Thousands of African and Syrian migrants and refugees are trapped in Tripoli as a battle for the city draws closer. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday he was still trying to determine the best way to respond to the October murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate, but described the kingdom as an important U.S. ally against Iran. – Reuters

Iran’s foreign ministry says it welcomes Egypt’s reported decision to withdraw from a US-led “Arab NATO” initiative, according to the Iranian state news agency IRNA. – Al Jazeera

Egypt says its police forces have killed 11 militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula, after several attacks in the last two days have killed eight policemen and three civilians in the restive area. – Associated Press

Carl Anderson writes: The genocide ISIS conducted is now being facilitated and even actively continued by Iran’s proxies with the tacit support of the Iraqi government. The situation is beyond demoralizing for anyone who has stood by Iraq’s minorities and prayed for their triumph after years of adversity. […]Washington’s designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization should encourage Baghdad to rethink its embrace of Iran-backed militias. If Iraq wants Iraq to remain Iraq, it should get serious about protecting minorities before it is too late. – Wall Street Journal

Korean Peninsula

President Trump said that a third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “could happen,” though he reiterated he would keep U.S. sanctions on Pyongyang in place until North Korea agrees to denuclearize. – Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump rejected calls for confidence-building economic projects with North Korea, in a blow to South Korean leader Moon Jae-in’s efforts to restart nuclear talks with Kim Jong Un. – Bloomberg

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has retained his most important leadership post as his rubber-stamp parliament made a slew of personnel changes that bolstered his diplomatic lineup amid stalemated nuclear talks with the United States. – Associated Press

North Korea’s new nominal head of state is a long-time loyalist with deep ties to the ruling Kim family and whose fortunes have closely followed the rise of leader Kim Jong Un, analysts said. – Reuters

South Korean President Moon Jae-in will seek to hold another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an early date as part of diplomatic efforts to convince the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Moon’s national security adviser said on Thursday. – Reuters

Patrick M. Cronin writes: As South Korean President Moon Jae-in visits the United States for the fifth time in two years, both countries need to stay alert to fault lines emerging in their alliance and in managing North Korea. Despite predictable talking points about an “ironclad” alliance and persistent optimism about talks with North Korea, a Moon-Trump press conference at the White House is unlikely to erase festering doubts about bilateral relations or Kim Jong Un. – The Hill


China sweetened an offer to open its cloud-computing sector to foreign companies, in a bid to forge a trade deal after U.S. negotiators rejected an earlier proposal as inadequate, said people briefed about the negotiations. – Wall Street Journal

Erin Dunne writes: The U.S. has a new strategy for dealing with China’s investments: Help countries negotiate better deals. That’s what we should be doing. […]In the end, such a strategy might even be good for China too, ultimately creating more stable trading partners and more profitable markets. That, to borrow a phrase from China’s official rhetoric, would truly be win-win cooperation. – Washington Examiner

David Hoffman: Instead, the U.S. should be demanding that foreign firms be allowed to operate in China just as Chinese companies do in the U.S. Truly open competition would test the mettle of China’s industrial policies and subsidy programs. If history is any guide, market-driven competition will win out, making it too expensive for the state to continue to support uncompetitive firms. Chinese firms that are truly competitive will succeed without the need for such aid, both at home and abroad. – Bloomberg


The Taliban announced Friday the start of their spring offensive despite talking peace with the United States and ahead of a significant gathering of Afghans meant to discuss resolutions to the protracted war and an eventual withdrawal of American troops from the country. – Associated Press

The Afghan Taliban have banned the World Health Organization and the Red Cross from operating in areas under their control until further notice, a spokesman said on Thursday, citing unspecified “suspicious” actions during vaccination campaigns. – Reuters

CIA Director Gina Haspel visited Afghanistan this week to discuss a number of issues including maintaining and possibly expanding the US intelligence presence in the country, according to sources familiar with the visit. – CNN


Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an interview Tuesday with foreign journalists, expressed concern and sorrow over the deterioration in relations with India. He said the Modi government was unleashing domestic hostility against Muslims, a minority of more than 200 million, and that the very idea of “Muslim-ness” was under attack. Nevertheless, Khan also suggested that if Modi were to win reelection, his “right-wing” government might be more likely to reach a settlement on Kashmir, which both countries have claimed since they were partitioned in 1947. – Washington Post

At least 16 people were killed when a bomb ripped through a vegetable market in Quetta in southwestern Pakistan early Friday, officials said. Eight of the dead were Hazaras, a Shiite Muslim minority group that has repeatedly been the target of Sunni extremists. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which also injured at least 30 people. But Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned militant Sunni group, has often carried out attacks against Hazaras in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province. – New York Times

Malaysian officials said on Friday that they would allow work on a controversial Chinese rail project to resume after billions of dollars in costs were slashed. – New York Times

Japan is finally stepping into the ring for a fight it had managed to dodge for more than two years: Bilateral trade talks with U.S. President Donald Trump. The world’s third-biggest economy has a lot at stake in the talks, which are expected to start next week in Washington just as the U.S.’s negotiations with China appear to be winding down. – Bloomberg


After finishing a training drill on surviving the bitter cold, the soldiers gathered around a Ranger, Debbie Iqaluk, to hear about an inescapable fact of life in the high Arctic: The ice is melting despite the frigid temperatures. And that means the Russians are coming. […]NATO is rushing to try to catch up. Last month, hundreds of troops from member countries and partners, including France, Norway, Finland and Sweden, joined Canadian soldiers, reservists and rangers for the Nanook-Nunalivut exercises that aimed in part to help alliance forces match Russian readiness in extreme-cold climes. – New York Times

A Moscow judge moved U.S. fund manager Michael Calvey from a Russian prison to house arrest Thursday, a marginal victory for his investment group, whose executives earlier in 2019 were slapped with fraud charges after a conflict with a Kremlin-connected businessman. – Wall Street Journal

Russia took a step toward government control over the internet on Thursday, as lawmakers approved a bill that freedom of information advocates worry will open the door to sweeping censorship. – New York Times

Russia’s Investigative Committee has asked Moscow’s Basmanny district court to extend the house arrest of U.S. investor Michael Calvey until July 14, the court said in a statement on Thursday. The court released Calvey earlier on Thursday after two months in jail and placed him under house arrest until Saturday, softening his treatment in a fraud case that has rattled investors. – Reuters

The president of Belarus on Thursday threatened to retaliate against Russia for what he called its “insolent” trade restrictions. – Associated Press

Russia and the U.S. must find a way to resolve their differences on the international stage in order to improve the overall health of the global economy, Russia’s finance minister told CNBC on Thursday. – CNBC


The ‘De Gaulle moment’ that many had speculated about before Wednesday night’s Brexit summit did not come, but President Emmanuel Macron still lived up to the spirit of the post-war French leader by throwing his weight around the EU table. Macron may not have used his veto, but his dogged determination to block a one-year extension to Britain’s divorce talks with the EU, favoured by a majority of European leaders, irritated many in Brussels – and chiefly Germany. – Reuters

The National Union of Students, the main student body in Britain, has elected a new president who once said she wanted to “oppress white people” and have “an Islamic takeover.” – Washington Examiner

Ukraine’s president and his electoral challenger for the office are in Western Europe to meet with key leaders ahead of the country’s April 21 runoff vote. President Petro Poroshenko and challenger Volodymyr Zelenskiy are scheduled to meet separately on April 12 with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The lead article Thursday on the opinion page of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the 1940 Nazi antisemitic movie The Eternal Jew. – Jerusalem Post

With global growth already slowing down, starting a trade war now between the U.S. and the European Union would be both a political and economic mistake, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday. – CNBC

Editorial: In the end, Remainers and Leavers alike might settle for May’s flawed plan out of sheer exhaustion. But as Britain starts negotiations about its future trade relationship with the EU — which May’s plan doesn’t settle — their quarrel will intensify. Instability and uncertainty will continue to tax the economy. And Europe won’t be able to safely stand aloof, least of all if the U.K. contests the EU elections, because it has compelling economic and diplomatic interests in good relations with Britain. – Bloomberg


The ouster of Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir, heralds a major reset of power in the African country of 40 million, an anchor in the U.S. war on terrorism and European efforts to contain migration. – Wall Street Journal

Sudan’s military removed the country’s dictator from power on Thursday following months of protests against his 30-year rule, as a wave of popular unrest shakes North Africa that is reminiscent of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts. – Wall Street Journal

For 30 years, the Sudanese president ruled with an iron fist, first overthrowing an elected government in a 1989 military coup and then cementing his grip on power. Remarkably, he held on for years even as he faced international condemnation, a warrant for his arrest on genocide charges, war, uprisings and sanctions. […]Here are just a few of the many storms Bashir weathered in the past three decades. – Washington Post

Sudan’s defense minister, who led the overthrow Thursday of autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir, has had his assets blocked by the U.S. Treasury since 2007 for supporting and managing militias accused of carrying out genocide in the country’s Darfur conflict. – Associated Press

It was the man named by President Omar al-Bashir as his deputy just six weeks ago who broke the news to the Sudanese people of the longtime ruler’s removal. Dressed in army fatigues, General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf declared on Thursday that the 75-year-old had been overthrown and arrested following months of nationwide protests against his three-decade rule. – Al Jazeera

A Kenyan official says suspected Islamist militants have abducted two Cuban doctors after killing their bodyguard in Kenya’s northern county of Mandera. – Associated Press

Editorial: Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir’s three decade reign of misery ended Thursday following a military coup. Good riddance, though his arrest alone won’t satisfy the protestors who have filled the country’s streets for months. […]Washington will need to continue counterterrorism cooperation with whoever comes to power while still pressing for democratic elections. The Trump Administration followed Barack Obama’s lead and rewarded antiterror help by removing some sanctions. The White House can use more sanctions relief as leverage with the new government. – Wall Street Journal

Eli Lake writes: The ouster of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir should be a moment for celebration: one of the world’s worst villains, driven from power after waves of popular protest.  […]There are other steps the West can take to aid and protect Sudan’s opposition, such as building up legal cases against other regime leaders and offering encrypted communication technology to protest organizers. The most important step, though, is to resist the temptation to reach out to the military regime that replaced al-Bashir. Sudan should remain isolated until it is free. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: The Sudanese military’s deposing of President Omar al-Bashir is a step in the right direction towards Sudan’s better future. But it’s only a small step, because those replacing Bashir are too much like him. […]As the protests continue, we’re about to find out. But if a crackdown follows, human suffering may escalate dramatically. For that reason, President Trump should implore the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to warn the military against any use of force. Those American allies are top Sudanese export destinations. The military cannot afford to isolate them. – Washington Examiner

Alberto M. Fernandez wrties: Sudan’s most successful regime—measured solely in terms of sheer survival and misery inflicted on its people—will not reach its thirtieth anniversary. It was on June 30, 1989, that an obscure Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) general named Omar al-Bashir overthrew the democratically elected government of Sadiq al-Mahdi. At least that is what it looked like from the outside. In reality, it was a hardcore Islamist coup led by the urbane extremist Dr. Hassan al-Turabi working in cooperation with likeminded military elements. In an exquisite bit of theater, Turabi and some of his fellow plotters were detained at the beginning of the coup, creating confusion as to who was actually in charge and disguising the true nature of the resultant regime. – Washington Institute

United States

Disney CEO Bob Iger on Thursday called upon US politicians to reject hate in the run up to the 2020 election — and claimed that Adolf Hitler would have “loved social media” as a tool to spread extremist propaganda. – Agence France-Presse

Federal prosecutors said Thursday a Pennsylvania man created a digital image of himself pointing an AR-15 rifle at a group of praying Jewish men and posted it online. – Associated Press

Mitchell Bard writes: When Democrats failed to explicitly rebuke Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her antisemitic remarks, they sent a disturbing message beyond the Beltway — namely, that it is acceptable to use antisemitic tropes without facing any consequences. This was the latest sign of the normalization of antisemitism, which is also reflected in the tolerance of antisemitism on college campuses, and the effect that it is beginning to have on younger Jews. […]We are a nation that now tolerates antisemites at the highest level of American politics. Bigots are emboldened, and Jews are threatened. But why should anyone worry about teenagers who express hatred for Jews; after all, one day they could be elected to Congress. – Algemeiner

Latin America

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the Security Council on Wednesday the Trump administration is determined to remove President Nicolás Maduro from power in Venezuela, preferably through diplomatic and economic pressure, but “all options are on the table” — and Russia and others need to step aside. – Associated Press

International Monetary Fund and World Bank shareholders are still undecided on whether to recognize Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaido as the country’s leader, the institutions said on Thursday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday began a three-day visit to Chile, Paraguay and Peru, a clutch of fast-growing countries in a region where China’s growing presence is a concern for Washington and Venezuela’s crisis has escalated. – Reuters

Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro is giving Russian and Chinese military forces the ability to better infiltrate the American mainland, a Republican senator warned Thursday. – Washington Examiner


For almost seven years, Ecuador’s government weighed the risks and rewards of providing a haven to Julian Assange at the country’s embassy in London, a diplomatic high-wire act that put the small South American nation at odds with one of its most important partners. By Thursday, Ecuadoran officials eager to improve trade and other relations with the United States and exasperated by what they described as the WikiLeaks founder’s overbearing presence had reached a decision. A gambit that began as a show of anti-U. S. defiance by a leftist Ecuadoran president collapsed with Assange’s expulsion and arrest under that president’s more moderate successor. – Washington Post

British police dragged Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean Embassy that was the WikiLeaks founder’s refuge for nearly seven years, and hours later the U.S. charged the man it says ran a hostile foreign-intelligence service with conspiring to hack into a military computer. – Wall Street Journal

American officials had debated bringing charges against Julian Assange almost from the moment in 2010 that his organization WikiLeaks dumped onto the Internet a historic trove of classified documents, including internal State Department communications and assessments of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. – Washington Post

Assange didn’t need to be kicked out for British police to arrest him: Police officers went into the embassy. A video of the arrest showed Assange, gray-bearded and pale after years indoors, being pulled out of the embassy and pushed into a police van. But how were British police officers legally able to enter the building, if it was under the diplomatic control of Ecuador? The answer is simple: Ecuador allowed them to. – Washington Post

Editorial: Julian Assange has done much harm to American interests over the last decade, and on Thursday the WikiLeaks founder moved a large step closer to accountability in a U.S. court. British authorities arrested him on a U.S. warrant after Ecuador finally waived diplomatic immunity after protecting him for seven years at its embassy in London. […]Despite his many apologists, Mr. Assange has never been a hero of transparency or democratic accountability. His targets always seem to be democratic institutions or governments, not authoritarians. If he really is such a defender of transparency, he should have no fear of a trial to defend his methods. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Mr. Assange is not a free-press hero. Yes, WikiLeaks acquired and published secret government documents, many of them newsworthy, as shown by their subsequent use in newspaper articles (including in The Post). […]Mr. Assange’s transfer to U.S. custody, followed possibly by additional Russia-related charges or his conversion into a cooperating witness, could be the key to learning more about Russian intelligence’s efforts to undermine democracy in the West. Certainly he is long overdue for personal accountability. – Washington Post

David Ignatius writes: Assange’s supporters describe his arrest and proposed extradition to the United States as an attack on press freedom. But there’s some skepticism about that claim, even from several of the country’s most prominent defenders of the First Amendment. […]Assange wants to fight his case under the banner of press freedom. His problem is that the Justice Department has drawn its indictment carefully enough that the issue is theft of secrets, rather than their publication. – Washington Post


The Pentagon has identified Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. as finalists for its massive cloud-computing contract, and says the award process will move forward despite being clouded by “potential ethical violations.” – Wall Street Journal

So far only the Pacific region and, more recently, the Middle East have seen operational deployments of the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, but now it’s headed to Romania this summer, according to an April 11 U.S. European Command statement. – Defense News

The man President Donald J. Trump has nominated to replace Adm. John Richardson as the Navy’s 32nd chief of naval operations is a Cold War aviator who helped reinvent the sea service as its top personnel officer. – Navy Times

When the Air Force’s second Global Positioning Systems 3 satellite launches this summer, it should help set a new high-water mark for position, navigation and timing information and do so at a time when GPS satellites and signals are increasingly under attack. – C4ISRNET

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday indicated there could be an integration of the National Reconnaissance Office into the Space Force down the line, despite a decision to leave the NRO on its own for now. – Defense News

A move to a continuous upgrade system for the Joint Strike Fighter software will help pilots deploy with the latest and greatest warfighting capabilities, but the move is costing the Navy the ability to procure more new planes in the near-term, officials told the Senate this week. – USNI News

The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $3.2-billion five-year contract modification to buy 24 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne surveillance aircraft. – USNI News

Lt. Col. James Zumwalt writes: Now is the time for the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, as well as the House and Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, to ensure the Pentagon commits proper funding to rapidly build an effective defense against hypersonic missiles, here and abroad. America must not risk losing the next war game. The hypersonic missiles might be very real. – The Hill

Chris Dougherty writes: The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) shifted the Department of Defense (DoD) away from a strategy focused on counterterrorism and deterring regional threats like Iran toward competing with, deterring, and, if necessary, defeating Chinese and Russian aggression. DoD is portraying the President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020, which is the first such request submitted since the release of the NDS, as a down payment on the long-term investments required to develop a future force that can execute this strategy. Given the price tag of $750 billion, Congress and the American people should, in the words of Ronald Reagan, trust DoD, but verify that this is money well spent on advancing the priorities of the NDS. – Center for a New American Security

Trump Administration

In his first interview since the conclusion of the special counsel’s investigation, Mr. Rosenstein beat back suggestions that Mr. Barr is trying to mislead the public by releasing only a four-page summary of Robert Mueller’s investigation. The attorney general in that letter said the Mueller probe found President Trump and his campaign didn’t conspire with Russian interference in the 2016 election but reached no conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice. With the absence of a recommendation, Mr. Barr and Mr. Rosenstein determined Mr. Trump’s actions weren’t criminal. – Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump seemed gratified Thursday that his attorney general has endorsed a key talking point of the president’s supporters: that there was spying on Trump’s 2016 campaign. But Trump went a step beyond Attorney General William Barr, accusing the government of committing an illegal, unprecedented act. – Associated Press

The new chief of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) named the United States’ top airport-security official, David Pekoske, his acting deputy on Thursday, as President Donald Trump overhauls the leadership of the domestic-security agency. – Reuters

Eli Lake writes: Schiff should recalibrate his umbrage. Trump will be president until at least 2021. If Democrats see no problem with the anonymous disclosure of elements of ongoing counterintelligence investigations, or the fruits of surveillance, what is to stop Trump from doing it too? To borrow a popular slogan of the moment: This is not normal. – Bloomberg