Fdd's overnight brief

April 17, 2020

In The News


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the Islamic Republic’s net debt to reach 33.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, up 22.5 percent compared with the previous year. […]U.S. sanctions and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic have exerted additional pressure on the Islamic Republic’s economy. Under such pressure, IMF says Iran’s economy is expected to shrink by six percent compared with the previous year. – Radio Farda 

With Iran one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, a war of words has broken out over the impact of US sanctions. Iran says they’re hampering its battle with the disease – but the US denies that and says Iran has mishandled the crisis. – BBC 

A dizzying zigzag of politics and fortune is making it difficult to understand which direction Iran is going in. On the one hand, in late February, Iranian hard-liners won the parliamentary election by a landslide, capturing around 200 out of its 290 seats. – Jerusalem Post  

Iran’s defense minister on Friday dismissed U.S. reports of harassment by Iranian vessels as “baseless” and said the “illegal and aggressive” American presence in the Gulf was causing insecurity in the region. – Reuters  

Iran on Friday paraded disinfection vehicles, mobile hospitals and other medical equipment as it marked its national Army Day, to underscore the military’s role in battling the coronavirus pandemic which has hit the country hard. – Reuters  

Eleven Iranian boats spent an hour making “dangerous and harassing approaches” of six U.S. Navy vessels near Iran’s coast on Wednesday, according to the U.S. military. […]But the latest incident could be a sign of more direct confrontations to come. – The National Interest  

The unveiling of a device that purportedly uses magnetic waves to detect coronavirus infections up to 100 meters away was staged as a moment of triumph for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). […]But many have mocked the equipment as a “novel and singular scientific advancement.” – Radio Farda 

Lawrence J. Haas writes: To nurture an Iran consensus, especially at a time of bitter partisanship in Washington, the man elected president in November should consider appointing a bipartisan commission of foreign policy elders — former secretaries of state, national security advisors, and so on — to consider the nature of Iran’s regime, clearly delineate the challenges it poses, and outline an approach around which the country can broadly rally. – The Hill  

Amir Afkhami, Mehdi Khalaji, Patrick Clawson, and Katherine Bauer write: Iranian officials have pointed to U.S. sanctions as a major obstacle to an effective COVID-19 response, spurring renewed calls for sanctions relief. […]At the same time, all parties need to keep in mind that Iran has access to ample funds abroad that would support humanitarian purchases. The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a license in March allowing the Central Bank of Iran to use its funds in foreign accounts for the narrow purpose of purchasing medical supplies and other allowable goods. – Washington Institute 

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner writes: It is Iran’s fever dream to deceitfully spin its COVID-19 crisis to break the three-year stranglehold of US economic sanctions. […]The combined Iranian health crisis and global oil glut is a unique opportunity to economically whack Tehran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palsetinian Islamic Jihad and reduce their capabilities that should not be missed. – Jerusalem Post 


A passenger in a car targeted in a Wednesday airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel was the son of a senior Hezbollah military commander who was allegedly assassinated in a joint Israeli-American bombing over a decade ago, the Al-Arabiya news site reported Thursday. He survived the attack, along with the other people in the vehicle. – Times of Israel 

Syria’s close ally Russia clashed with European nations in the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday over a report from the global chemical weapons watchdog blaming the Syrian air force for a series of attacks using sarin and chlorine on a rebel-held town in 2017. – Associated Press 

The roughly 3 million people who live in Syria’s northwest Idlib province have very little to defend themselves against the global pandemic. […]The province is the last rebel-held area in Syria, and since December Syrian and Russian airstrikes have forced almost 1 million civilians to flee toward the Turkish border. A fragile ceasefire is currently in place. – CBS News

Arabian Peninsula

Despite some optimism for new talks, antagonists in Yemen’s five-year-old war have basically ignored a Saudi-led unilateral cease-fire announced a week ago, United Nations officials said Thursday, warning that relief money for Yemen is running out just as the coronavirus has invaded. – New York Times 

A Saudi princess jailed without charges has made a rare public appeal to the king and crown prince for her release, exposing long-simmering tensions in the Saudi royal family. – Wall Street Journal  

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has notified some refiners in Asia that it will supply full contractual volumes of crude in May, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday. – Reuters 

Yemen’s war shows no signs of abating, one week after the Saudi-led military coalition declared a unilateral truce due to the coronavirus threat looming over the impoverished nation. […]Despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a halt in military activities from April 9, fighting on the ground and coalition air strikes continue. – Agence France-Presse 

Rarely has Saudi Arabia sounded so magnanimous. For five years it has been fighting the Houthis, a group of Shia rebels in Yemen, on behalf of the government they toppled. The war has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure and killed more than 100,000 people. But on April 8th Saudi Arabia and its allies promised to lay down their arms for two weeks. – The Economist 

David Rosenberg writes: Prince Muhammed could have done the wise thing and held out. The coronavirus’ toll on the world economy was growing quickly and the Russians were far from united on opposing cuts. They almost certainly would have come back to the negotiating table in pretty short order. […]Instead, he chose to raise the ante by boosting Saudi production to the limit and offering customers big discounts. – Haaretz 

Connor Sutherland writes: Washington can take measures at home and abroad to ensure American economic and national security policy is not dependent on a thirty-four-year-old Saudi prince. […]In order to guarantee American energy and economic security and preserve the U.S. national security agenda, policymakers should be wary of Saudi Arabia, an unreliable ally led by a prince with a questionable track record. – The National Interest 

Gulf States

The United Arab Emirates Interior Ministry’s “Happiness and Positivity Council” announced late Wednesday that police forces had adopted a new high-tech smart helmet to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus. […]The novel coronavirus has had a heavy impact on the country — especially Dubai, a city known for its millions of tourists, hundreds of restaurants and many beaches. – Washington Post 

Qatar has started drilling new natural gas wells in its shared gas field with Iran in the Persian Gulf, while Tehran’s plans to expand production remain dormant. […]Iran is handicapped in its efforts to expand production as large international companies stay away from deals that can violate U.S. sanctions, reimposed in 2018. – Radio Farda 

The U.S. Air Force quietly keeps a small, inconspicuous spy ship in the Persian Gulf, presumably in order to keep an eye on Iran’s missile launches. […]The Air Force’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, in its official history for 2012, lumped Gray Star in with its sea-based systems that collect “scientific and technical data of foreign military capabilities and systems.” – The National Interest 

Sevan Araz writes: In an effort to boost its economic competitiveness, Qatar is hedging its bets on emerging technologies. […]As states continue to identify areas of comparative advantage in the evolving AI landscape and establish niches along far-flung value chains, norms will play an increasingly prominent role as a mediating determinant of economic and security interactions. – Middle East Institute  


A woman and a child were killed and another five children were wounded by artillery shelling in Tripoli from eastern forces seeking to capture the capital from the U.N.-backed government there, a Libyan official said Thursday. – Associated Press 

The oil producing country, in chaos since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has confirmed 48 cases of the infection and one death. […]With the sound of artillery booming in the background from an offensive against Tripoli by the eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar, residents queued to get cash out of banks and to buy food. – Reuters 

Hussein Ibish writes: The stalemate over the past year suggests that a de facto partition may be developing, between an Islamist-dominated western Libya, with Turkish and Qatari support, and the Haftar-controlled east, with Egyptian and Gulf support. […]Libya, sliding toward a partition between Haftar and Sarraj, could really use a Jibril right now. None is in sight. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Israel ran into another wall — actually, the same wall — in its quest to break a year-long political impasse early Thursday when another deadline passed without the country’s main rival factions able to strike a deal and form a government. – Washington Post 

Turkish airstrikes targeting members of an outlawed Kurdish rebel group struck a refugee camp in northern Iraq and killed two refugee women, Iraqi authorities said Thursday. The strikes, which took place on Wednesday, were a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said. – Reuters 

An organized crime boss serving a prison sentence in Turkey was set free Thursday as Turkish authorities continued releasing thousands of inmates to ease overcrowding during the coronavirus pandemic while moving to keep government critics behind bars. – Associated Press  

Coronavirus outbreaks across the Middle East threaten to shatter the lives of millions of already destitute people in conflict zones, and could fuel socio-economic upheaval, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Gerald Feierstein writes: Moreover, the mission ensures that the U.S. has a seat at the table to preserve what remains of the signal U.S. diplomatic achievement in the Middle East since the end of World War II: Israeli-Egyptian peace. […]It can only be hoped, therefore, that when the answer to Gen. Mark Milley’s question whether the MFO remains a valid military mission comes, it is a resounding yes. – Middle East Institute


The coronavirus outbreak has brought China’s extraordinary, nearly half-century-long run of growth to an end — a stark reminder of the enormous task ahead for world leaders trying to restart the global economy. […]That global halt will, conversely, hurt China’s efforts to get back on track, creating a difficult economic puzzle for top leaders in Beijing. – New York Times 

New Chinese export restrictions have left American companies’ U.S.-bound face masks, test kits and other medical equipment urgently needed to fight the coronavirus stranded, according to businesses and U.S. diplomatic memos. – Wall Street Journal  

Our undercover friend told us a different story. He showed us, once again, how the authorities stop at nothing to control the narrative coming out of China. […]At the end of the week, I had to leave the country, a part of an expulsion of the majority of reporters for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. – New York Times 

China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday the World Health Organization has said there is no evidence that the coronavirus that has infected more than 2 million people globally was made in a lab. – Reuters   

China on Thursday urged the World Bank to allow its poorest borrowers to suspend debt payments while they deal with the coronavirus pandemic, saying the world’s biggest multilateral development bank should “lead by example.” – Reuters 

On Jan. 14, China’s top health agency told provincial officials that they were facing a likely pandemic from a new coronavirus — but didn’t alert the public for six key days. […]The week of silence came at a critical time — the beginning of the outbreak. Internal documents obtained by The Associated Press show the National Health Commission ordered secret pandemic preparations, even as it downplayed the outbreak on national television. – Associated Press 

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday he believes China’s leaders have been misleading and opaque about the coronavirus outbreak that originated there and does not trust that they are being truthful even now. – Reuters   

China on Thursday denied allegations in a U.S. State Department report that it was secretly testing nuclear weapons in violation of its international obligations. […]China has pledged not to test nuclear weapons, but like the U.S. and several other nations has yet to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. – Associated Press 

The West needs to do more to stop China buying up strategic technology including companies such as British semiconductor chip designer Imagination Technologies, the former head of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Eva Dou and Liu Yang write: What’s clear is the country’s current leader Xi Jinping is less interested than his predecessors in economic growth for its own sake, but harbors deep ambitions for a Chinese geopolitical rise. […]But that could take decades, he said, with a critical mass of companies in a sector all deciding to move to the same place before the math makes sense. – Washington Post 

Josh Rogin writes: The U.N. system and the WHO badly need reform, but it’s not just about China. The coronavirus pandemic shows why we can no longer let dictators abuse international support to bolster their power, line their pockets, expand their cruelty and put our lives at risk. – Washington Post  

Daniel Moss writes: China’s transformation over the past four decades from Mao-era basket case to the world’s second-largest economy has been a vital ingredient in Asia’s rise, especially after Japan’s ascent stalled in the early 1990s. To say the Covid-19 pandemic halted this in its tracks is an understatement. China’s future has arrived, and Asia will be the weaker for it. – Bloomberg  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: No other country in the world has ever been able to produce such a rapid decline as China reported. […]We now know that those who raised the alarm early were right. Those who presented an optimistic curve that would flatten and then decline in two weeks, as the WHO presented in late February, were mistaken. – Jerusalem Post 

Abraham Denmark, Charles Edel, and Siddharth Mohandas write: Ultimately, it is important for the United States and its allies and partners to understand that China has not changed its approach. […]Even as it faces devastating losses from the novel coronavirus, the United States cannot afford to act as if geopolitics and competition have been put on hold. If anything, competition for the future of the Indo-Pacific has intensified, and the United States should lead a response. – War on the Rocks


Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry says the Taliban has killed nine government soldiers in an overnight attack on an army post in the Charkh District of Logar Province, in the eastern part of the country. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The Taliban says it has released a second group of Afghan security forces it has been holding captive as part of a delayed swap considered key to paving the way for peace talks between the two sides. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Daniel Vazquez writes: The centerpiece of the Army’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the infantry brigade combat team, is in danger of becoming obsolete in the face of near-peer opponents. […]This flexibility, when coupled with a structure designed for multidomain threats, will ensure that the infantry brigade can continue to fight and win the nation’s battles for the foreseeable future. – War on the Rocks

South Asia

Bangladesh’s textile industry accounts for nearly 85% of the nation’s $40 billion in annual exports and employs nearly 4 million workers, mostly women from rural areas. It is facing serious trouble after global brands including Wal-Mart, H&M and Marks & Spencer canceled orders because of the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press 

As governments around the world try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, India has launched one of the most draconian social experiments in human history, locking down its entire population — including about 176 million people who struggle to survive on $1.90 a day or less. – Associated Press 

More than a quarter of Myanmar’s prison population is to be released, the president’s office announced Friday, as calls grow to ease pressure on overcrowded jails with coronavirus fears gripping the country. – Agence France-Presse


A push to shift U.S. military resources to Asia to counter Chinese influence is drawing new support in Congress, where a leading lawmaker wants to compel the Pentagon to invest at least $6 billion per year in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. – Wall Street Journal  

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in haven’t always been the best of friends. But investors can now hope the two will be remembered for something similar: reforming their countries’ chronic corporate governance issues. – Wall Street Journal 

A Tajik court on Thursday sentenced a local journalist to a year in prison over a dissertation in which he quoted the works of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, his lawyer said. – Reuters  

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened a martial law-like crackdown to stop people flouting a virus lockdown in the nation’s capital. […]Duterte has repeatedly threatened to impose nationwide military rule over the Philippines, where the mere words evoke the worst rights abuses of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. – Agence France-Presse 

John Lee writes: Beijing will hardly have the bandwidth to focus on Japanese attempts to economically distance itself from China. Abe has made some bold strategic and economic gambles since he assumed the prime minister’s post for the second time in 2012. Evidenced by his longevity and emergence as a leading statesperson from the region, most of these have paid off. This latest move has a fighting chance of proving as successful. – The Diplomat


Concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus have forced Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone Moscow’s highly anticipated and revered Victory Day parade, marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. – Wall Street Journal

Russia tested a missile on Wednesday that is capable of destroying satellites in low-earth orbit, U.S. Space Command said in a statement, as the Pentagon faced military challenges from Russia, China, and Iran over the course of a busy day. – Foreign Policy 

Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have started a prisoner swap, the office of Ukraine’s president said on Thursday. […]The conflict that broke out in 2014 has killed more than 13,000 people, left a large swathe of Ukraine de facto controlled by the separatists and aggravated the deepest east-west rift since the Cold War. – Reuters    

Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has filed a request to extend his residency permit in Russia for three more years, his lawyer has said, according to state-run news agency TASS. – CNN

Russia would accept a “kind offer” by U.S. President Donald Trump to ship ventilators to the country if it felt it needed them to treat people sick with the novel coronavirus, the Kremlin said on Thursday. […]Trump told Putin in a recent phone call that the United States could reciprocate as it begins to produce more ventilators, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Thursday. – Reuters 

Russia’s oil producers are at odds over their roles in the world’s largest crude reduction agreement, throwing into doubt Moscow’s promise to slash output. […)The squabble comes just two weeks before the cuts are due to come into effect, with Russia having promised to cut oil production in May and June by about 2.5m barrels a day. – Financial Times 

Russia will spell out its stance on the United Nations’ call for a global truce, so the world can focus on the coronavirus epidemic, in the coming days after consultations are completed, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday – Reuters  

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, held a phone talk on Thursday and said in a joint statement they were ready to take measures with other OPEC+ members on the oil market if necessary. –  Reuters 

Most military equipment in Russian arsenals today is legacy Soviet hardware. Russian bombers are no exception. Although some airframes in Russian inventories are quite old, they remain potent thanks to airframe, electronics and radar upgrades, along with improvements in standoff missiles and precision-guided munitions.  Here are Russia’s most dangerous bombers. – The National Interest  

Editorial: It’s also a sign of Moscow’s drive to militarize space — and challenge the United States in the process, since a growing part of the US economy as well as its military depend on space-based tech. […]All in all, it’s another sign of Vladimir Putin’s contempt for civilized norms, and the civilized world. – New York Post


Hackers have used a number of ransomware variants to attack hospitals and health-care facilities in multiple countries, adding to medical providers’ concerns as they confront the coronavirus pandemic, according to Interpol. – Wall Street Journal  

Britain confirmed on Thursday that it would prolong its lockdown for at least three more weeks as part of efforts to keep smothering the spread of the coronavirus. But the government was far less clear about the steps it is taking that would allow it to relax restrictions later without causing another outbreak. – New York Times 

The Czech Republic warned international allies on Thursday of a imminent wave of disruptive cyberattacks against the country’s hospitals and other parts of its critical infrastructure. The country’s NUKIB cybersecurity watchdog said the attacks, designed to damage or destroy victims’ computers, were expected in coming days. – Reuters   

All 30 NATO nations have their “homework to do” for boosting resilience and their countries’ domestic control over assets considered strategic for their militaries, according to allied officials and others. Those tasks will gain in urgency as the international economic and political consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic gather pace, they said. – Jane’s 360 

Boris Johnson’s plan to let Huawei Technologies Co. help build the U.K.’s fifth-generation mobile networks is under threat from mounting opposition to the Chinese company in his ruling Conservative Party, government officials say. – Bloomberg 

The German government is facilitating talks between major naval shipbuilders in an effort to set up a national conglomerate rivaling industry champions like Naval Group in France and Fincantieri in Italy, according to a local media report. – Defense News 

The spread of the novel coronavirus is unlikely to abate any time soon and the US European Command (USEURCOM) is weighing how to proceed with large-scale exercises like ‘Baltic Operations 2020’ (‘BALTOPS 2020”), designed to shore up training and military readiness against public health and safety concerns. – Jane’s 360 

Andrea Dudik and Flavia Krause-Jackson writes: Amid severe outbreaks of Covid-19 in Italy and Spain, the EU is struggling to keep its current members united. […]This fragility means that Albania, a majority Muslim country of 2.9 million and an average monthly wage of $493, is unlikely to become a member anytime soon. – Bloomberg 

Tom Rogan writes: One of the challenges in confronting ISIS-directed cells in Europe is that they keep separated from each other except for rare in-person meetings, use counter-surveillance tactics to evade anyone watching them, and communicate carefully via cell phone and the internet. […]Ultimately, this is a reminder that the ISIS threat is degraded but not defeated. – Washington Examiner


The public absence of Paul Biya — who, at 87, is the oldest leader in Africa — during the coronavirus pandemic fueled outrage, concern and wild theories before the strongman turned up Thursday in a photo with the French ambassador to Cameroon. […]The chances of Cameroon declaring a power vacancy are slim to none. – Washington Post 

Nigerian security forces killed 18 people in two weeks while enforcing lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the new coronavirus, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said. […]Last year the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings also accused Nigerian security forces of using excessive lethal force. – Reuters 

The fight to eradicate polio from Africa could become an early casualty of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw funding to the World Health Organization, the international body said. – Bloomberg 

Ivory Coast is rushing to shield its overcrowded jails from highly contagious coronavirus, with a plan to free hundreds of inmates in a bid to stop the spread. […]The country is the latest state in Africa, along with Burkina Faso, Niger, South Africa and Ethiopia, to follow recommendations by the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, to release prisoners to avoid a viral chain reaction. – Agence France-Presse  

U.S. troops were part of a multinational force that repelled a brazen daytime raid by militants inside the United Nations Super Camp near Timbuktu Airport in Mali two years ago, according to award documents obtained by Military Times. – Military Times 

Obiageli Ezekwesili writes: China should demonstrate world leadership by acknowledging its failure to be transparent on covid-19. Beijing’s leadership should then commit to an independent expert panel evaluation of its pandemic response. China and the rest of the Group of 20 countries should engage with the Africa Union and countries to design a reparations mechanism. – Washington Post 

The Americas

A Massachusetts man was charged on Wednesday with trying to blow up a Jewish assisted-living center that had been targeted for attack on a white supremacist website that promoted a “Jew killing day,” federal prosecutors said. – New York Times 

The U.N. General Assembly has until Monday to consider a draft resolution calling for global action to rapidly scale up development, manufacturing and access to medicine, vaccines and medical equipment to confront the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press 

President Donald Trump’s well-known disdain for foreign aid is colliding with the imperatives of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, as his administration boasts about America’s generosity for countries in dire need while still generating confusion and anger on the global stage. – Associated Press 

Children have so far largely escaped the most severe symptoms of COVID-19 but the social and economic impact “is potentially catastrophic for millions of children,” according to a U.N. report launched Thursday. – Associated Press 

Millions of young Americans are home from school, bored, and scrolling through social media sites for hours every day. To white supremacist recruiters, they’re prey. […]Extremism monitors are keeping tabs on so-called accelerationists, a subset of the racist right that believes in using violence to sow chaos in order to collapse society and replace it with a white nationalist model. – NPR 

Editorial: For its part, the Trump administration has supported both IMF efforts and the G-20 debt relief, while balking at the most aggressive proposed remedy under discussion: distribution of hundreds of billions worth of “special drawing rights” (SDRs) to IMF members, which debtor nations could swap for dollars and other hard currencies. […]But trying to punish Washington’s adversaries is a poor reason to deny desperately needed debt relief to the rest of the world. – Washington Post  

J.J. McCullough writes: The political culture that elevated Trump and Trudeau is not without merit. The suite of issues their conventional coalitions of right and left arose to address remain relevant. But assessments of leadership — that old-fashioned skill of being able to make difficult, pragmatic decisions in moments of crisis and strife — deserve to play a more central role in our elections than what we’ve allowed. – Washington Post  

Rep. Brad Wenstrup writes: Moving forward, China must account for its lack of transparency, and the WHO must explain its decision-making and acknowledge the role it has played in slowing our understanding of and response to COVID-19. In order to combat this global crisis, the international community has a duty to ensure the WHO is fulfilling its role of disseminating accurate, transparent, and unbiased data that can be used to inform the most effective response measures possible. – Washington Examiner  

Mark Hannah writes: Washington’s tendency to view complicated global challenges militaristically has allowed political leaders to abandon civil matters like public health—laid bare by the federal government’s failure to keep its citizens safe from nearly any threat unconquerable with missiles and machine guns. There are many ways to help arrest the spread of this virus. Declaring war on it is not among them. – War on the Rocks  

Latin America

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has insisted the risk from the new coronavirus is low and called for Brazil to stay open for business, fired his health minister on Thursday after the two clashed repeatedly over how to handle the pandemic. […]A similar dynamic surrounds daily coronavirus briefings in the U.S., where the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, sometimes counters President Trump over the facts surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal 

Venezuela’s strict national coronavirus lockdown wasn’t his main problem. Rather, this broken country, which boasts the world’s largest proven oil reserves, is running out of gas. […]For the people of Caracas, the lines are the latest sign of the crumbling state. – Washington Post 

A massive stone considered sacred by an indigenous community in Venezuela returned home Thursday resolving simmering international tension after a German artist shipped it to Berlin over two decades ago as part of a public exhibition symbolizing peace. – Associated Press 

The International Monetary Fund on Thursday said the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, combined with other problems in recent years, meant Latin America and the Caribbean would likely see “no growth” in the decade from 2015 to 2025. – Reuters 

Nicolás Saldías writes: The coronavirus pandemic — perhaps a once-in-a-century crisis — is testing Latin America’s governments. The story of Ecuador’s largest city’s struggle to cope with the coronavirus suggests the region may find it difficult to contain the disease.[…]How well governments address the crisis may have important consequences for the future of the region’s politics as well. –


Facebook said Thursday it will begin alerting users if they have interacted with harmful “misinformation” about the coronavirus, part of new, aggressive steps to combat what health authorities have described as a global “infodemic.” – Washington Post 

When Facebook unveiled its Libra cryptocurrency project last June, the social networking company described it as a futuristic global money that could serve as the foundation for a new kind of financial system. But on Thursday, Facebook and its partners rolled out a less ambitious design for Libra after the effort encountered numerous hurdles and heavy regulatory scrutiny. – New York Times 

Despite President Trump’s public comments that he would “take a close look” at the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract after receiving “tremendous complaints” about the process, the Pentagon’s internal watchdog found no evidence that the decision to award the contract to Microsoft was influenced by Trump’s well-known antipathy for Amazon and its owner, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. – Washington Examiner 

A senior cybersecurity official with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Thursday that foreign government hackers have broken into companies conducting research into treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. – Reuters   

Videoconferencing platform Zoom is rolling out a number of measures meant to stem criticism over how it has handled security as users flock to the application during the coronavirus pandemic. – Agence France-Presse   

Shouhuai Xu writes: Biological and cyber viruses have a lot in common. While it may seem odd to assess methodologies in seemingly different disciplines — for example, epidemiology and cybersecurity — analyses like these provide experts with new and valuable insights that can lead to creative and impactful solutions. – Fifth Domain


An award for the U.S. Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program is slated to granted by the end of September, but it could happen earlier, the service’s acquisition executive said Thursday. – Defense News  

The Air Force One replacement program has hit a major development milestone, and it did so without the in-person meetings that have become more risky in the age of the novel coronavirus, the U.S. Air Force’s top acquisition official said on Thursday. – Defense News 

The US Navy (USN) awarded Textron Systems a USD386 million fixed price incentive-firm target and firm fixed price contract modification for the construction of 15 Ship to Shore Connector craft. – Jane’s 360 

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday introduced a draft order reallocating a specific portion of the radio spectrum for broadband communications, a change that Department of Defense leaders claim will cause “unacceptable” harm to the GPS system. – C4ISRNET  

Boeing is aiming to expand its rotorcraft-industrial partnerships in Australia through a networking scheme positioned to support the corporation’s in-country programmes, including its campaign to supply its AH-64E Apache attack helicopter to the Australian Army. – Jane’s 360 

The Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding have finished building and testing the first lower elevator on aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and will soon announce it’s been certified and turned over to the crew. – USNI News 

Before the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, the Navy regularly had 100,000 remote users on its network. Now, as millions of Americans work from home, the Navy has expanded its network to 250,000 users and plans to increase that amount to 500,000 in two to three weeks. – C4ISRNET 

David Ignatius writes: The latest sign was Russia’s launch of an anti-satellite missile on Wednesday, joining China in demonstrating war-fighting capability in space. […]For a military that is burdened by wildly expensive aircraft carriers and fighter jets, the Space Force is a chance to start from scratch. – Washington Post 

Trump Administration

President Trump released federal guidelines Thursday night for a slow and staggered return to normal in places with minimal cases of the novel coronavirus, moving to try to resume economic activity even amid an outcry from political and health leaders about the nation’s testing capacity. – Washington Post  

President Trump announced Tuesday he would cut funding to the World Health Organization in response to what he characterized as the U.N. group’s refusal to hold China accountable for its initial response to the novel coronavirus. The move, mid-pandemic, has sparked outrage from other nations and global health experts. – Washington Post 

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee is proposing a new fund focused on countering China in the Indo-Pacific region, starting with $6 billion next year. – The Hill