Fdd's overnight brief

April 22, 2020

In The News


Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said on Wednesday that it launched a military satellite into orbit amid wider tensions with the United States, describing it as a successful launch after months of failures. – Associated Press 

Iran and Russia should increase their cooperation in the fight against the new coronavirus outbreak and continue to trade with each other, President Hassan Rouhani told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, the Iranian presidency website said. – Reuters 

The Islamic Republic’s Judiciary spokesman has dismissed as “politically motivated” a United Nations human rights report that all political prisoners must be granted furloughs during the coronavirus outbreak. – Radio Farda 

Iran’s media freedom rank is 173 out of the 180 countries in the latest press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released on Tuesday. The Islamic Republic’s rank has dropped three points from 170 in 2019. – Radio Farda 

A large number of new combat and reconnaissance drones were delivered to the Iranian army on Sunday April 19 and IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim has presented details about each model on April 21. – Radio Farda 

British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s temporary release from an Iranian jail has been extended by a month amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, her local lawmaker said Tuesday. […]Iran accuses her of plotting to overthrow the government. – Associated Press 

Iran Human Rights (IHR) reported that a young man who had been sentenced to death before reaching the legal age of 18 was hanged early Tuesday morning in Saqqez. […]Despite being a signatory to the United Nations Children’s Rights Charter, Iran is one of the four countries in the world that executes juvenile offenders. – Radio Farda

In an image shared on Twitter recently by the U.S. State Department, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is seen sitting next to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while between them is a small table with a large pile of cash on it. […]The two sides, which officially don’t talk to each other, have in past weeks been trading barbs and memes amid a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has hit both countries severely. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Rep. John R. Curtis and Khosrow B. Semnani write: It is time to stop vilifying America for the sins of a theocracy founded on fraud, fear, and force. […]The relief the Iranian people seek is the end to clerical rule: the establishment of a constitution that places sovereignty where it has always belonged—in the heart and hands of the Iranian nation. – The Hill 

Bobby Ghosh writes: This will take some doing. Russia and China are eager to sell the Iranians military hardware. But a strong show of unity and resolve by the Europeans and the U.S., along with the Arab states, might yet deter Moscow and Beijing, and keep Tehran from becoming an even greater danger to the Middle East, and the wider world. – Bloomberg

David Albright and Sarah Burkhard write: In light of a recent U.S. State Department arms control compliance report highlighting Iran’s growing “uranium enrichment activities and stockpile of enriched uranium,” this report presents recent Iranian breakout estimates and compares them to pivotal historical ones, where breakout is defined as the time Iran would need to produce 25 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium (WGU), enough for a nuclear weapon. As of late February 2020, the breakout estimate is 3.8 months, with a range of 3.1 to 4.6 months. – Institute for Science and International Security


Months after the United States killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, it has offered millions for any details on the mysterious man filling his boots — Hezbollah power broker Muhammad Kawtharani. – Agence France-Presse

The coronavirus pandemic has turned into a serious challenge for the Iran-backed Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, placing the world’s most heavily armed non-state armed group under strain. Nevertheless, recent reports indicate that these conditions have not stopped Hezbollah’s ongoing military and terrorist activity in the region. – Algemeiner 

Nine pro-Iranian militiamen were killed when Israeli planes fired several missiles in central Syria, according to a group monitoring the Syrian conflict. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty


Turkey said it will keep working with the U.S. to parry the coronavirus’s danger to their economies, as the central bank in Ankara seeks to exchange currencies with peers. – Bloomberg

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quick to close borders, restaurants and schools as the virus spread beyond China. But in recent weeks, the country’s approach has turned increasingly erratic as Erdoğan tries to balance combatting the outbreak with reining in the popularity of political rivals. – Politico

Marwa Maziad and Jake Sotiriadis write: Looking ahead, the coronavirus pandemic will temporarily shift media attention away from the crises in Syria and Libya, as well as the simmering tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.  But the unfolding pandemic may actually serve to further push Turkey into its Pan-Islamist, Neo-Ottoman ideological model, as Ankara seeks to deflect domestic criticism and “export” its problems. – Middle East Institute

Simon A. Waldman writes: When the coronavirus finally recedes and Turks break their isolation to face the economic consequences of the global pandemic, it is almost inevitable that President Erdogan and his ruling AKP will utilize the state’s coercive powers to supress critical voices while exploiting the subdued media to present themselves as the country’s saviors, thus providing yet another example for other authoritarians to follow. – Haaretz


After three fiercely fought elections within a single yearlong period, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz agreed on little. […]Annexation without a peace deal with the Palestinians could ultimately prove to be a big gamble that didn’t pay off, according to Dennis Ross, who has worked on multiple Middle East peace efforts for presidents of both main U.S. parties. – Wall Street Journal 

Israel woke up Tuesday to its first prospect of a functioning government in more than a year, but also to questions of whether that government, as proposed, can actually function. – Washington Post

Palestinians from across the political spectrum have reacted to the agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz to form a unity government by warning that the extension of Israeli sovereignty to any part of the West Bank would signal the end of the two-state solution. – Jerusalem Post 

Jason Brodsky writes: These developments demonstrate that Iran continues to use Palestinian operatives to recruit, spy, and plan terror attacks against Israeli interests. […]As the new unity government in Israel takes shape, and pursues annexation in the West Bank, there is a real risk of Iranian intelligence seeking to establish an even greater infrastructure, using the aforementioned methods. – United Against Nuclear Iran


Iran, which has been hit hard by the virus but needs trade with Iraq to help stabilize its economy, wants it reopened immediately. Iraq, which fears opening the border to the region’s most heavily infected country, is resisting. – New York Times 

U.S. service members stationed on two Iraqi airbases at al-Asad and Erbil had only hours to react to an incoming barrage of Iranian ballistic missiles launched early in the morning on Jan. 8, 2020, according to a report released by AFCENT. – Military Times

Iraq’s oil minister said on Tuesday that the OPEC+ alliance could take additional steps to absorb oil surplus, and that taking further measures by producer countries depends on the developments of the global market and the compliance of OPEC+ and other non-member producers with the oil cut deal. – Reuters 

Hafsa Halawa writes: Civil society requires a commitment from its U.S. partners that it will not be left stranded as a result of a shift in the U.S.-Iraq relationship. Whether this outcome is desired or not, civil society has been left exposed to the U.S.-Iran rift inside Iraq, as Iranian-backed militias are able to target and attack civic actors at will. – Middle East Institute 

Anthony H. Cordesman and Munqith Dagher write: That is why I believe that Iran’s acceptance of Kadhimi came with reluctance and will probably be temporary; for when the hand of ideological extremism regains its grasp on the regime, it will once again reassess its stance. The on-going threats by the ideologues and revolutionary powers allied with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards continue every now and then to criticize the choice of Kadhimi, and those voices will become louder when their leaders in Iran see that it is time to reassert Soleimani’s legacy. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Gulf States

Iran is preparing to reprise the saber-rattling and aggression that brought the United States to the brink of a clash in the Persian Gulf last year, according to U.S. sources and analysts. – Washington Examiner 

The United States is preparing a “substantial contribution” to help Yemen combat the coronavirus, but it may have to find alternatives to the World Health Organization (WHO) to spend it, a senior U.S. official told Reuters, days after President Donald Trump slammed the U.N. agency’s handling of the pandemic. – Reuters

Simon Henderson writes: Oil prices often are a complicated issue with several moving parts — Middle Eastern concerns, U.S. domestic concerns, as well as the coronavirus, and others. Is the knife-fight between President Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman continuing? […]In such circumstances, we should pray for fewer “exogenous variables” and more cautious decision-making. But don’t count on it. – The Hill

Farzin Nadimi writes: This kind of behavior further indicates that Iran will contest the U.S. Navy’s willingness to stand its ground even further in the coming months, as part of an ongoing game of deterrence. Although IRGCN forces may limit this activity to harassment operations in the near term, they will likely resort to more assertive means over time. – Washington Institute

Karen Young writes: The short answer is that we are nowhere near out of the woods yet. The volatility in energy prices is a reflection of the uneven nature of global demand recovery and any expected reopening of national economies. The longer-term risk to energy producers in the Gulf is that they will be trapped between a political standoff with an angry White House and members of Congress, and unreliable economic partners to the East. And it may be only time — not governments or cartels — that can calm oil markets. – Al-Monitor

Middle East & North Africa

A gunman went on a rampage in a mountain town in Lebanon on Tuesday, killing nine people, including his wife and brother, before fleeing into the surrounding wilderness, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said. […]Lebanon has a long history of civil violence and political assassinations; mass shootings are rare. – New York Times 

Six years ago Wassim Mukdad fled Syria, demoralized and fearing for his life as the country spiraled ever deeper into all-out war. This week, the 34-year-old will come face-to-face with the man accused of running a government detention center where Mukdad and thousands of others were tortured during the early months of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. – Associated Press 

The foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, and Iran will hold a video conference on April 22 to discuss Syria and a de-escalation deal in the last rebel-held enclave in Idlib. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Lebanese lawmakers convened Tuesday inside a cavernous Beirut theater so that parliament members could observe social distancing measures imposed over the coronavirus pandemic. Anti-government demonstrators, meanwhile, also obeyed the health safety measures — driving around the city in their cars to protest the country’s spiraling economic and political crisis. – Associated Press

Korean Peninsula

There was one state event that the secretive leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, never missed: a visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun every April 15 to mark the birthday of his grandfather, the founder of the dynastic regime. In the mausoleum, both his grandfather and his father lie in state. – New York Times 

The U.S. government has extensive contingency plans in place for an eventual death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that factor in expectations of a mass-scale humanitarian crisis inside the country, Fox News has learned. – Fox News 

Reports of a health scare for Kim Jong Un are prompting North Korea watchers to envision the country without him: And the general consensus is that not much may change in how the regime deals with the outside world. – Bloomberg

While the Kim family has ruled for seven decades by passing power between male heirs like other hereditary dynasties, the 36-year-old Kim has named no successor. His own children are still young and the ruling family’s surviving adults all face potential barriers to their rise. – Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump said he doesn’t know about Kim Jong Un’s health after American and South Korean officials gave differing accounts on the North Korean leader’s condition after he was conspicuously absent from a major celebration. – Bloomberg

The United States does not know what condition North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in and will have to see how events unfold, a top White House adviser said on Tuesday, following reports that Kim was ill and had undergone a cardiovascular procedure. – Reuters

Former Gen. Jack Keane said that while the veracity of reports regarding Kim Jong Un’s health issues has yet to be seen, it is significant that the dictator missed a “key” national holiday. – Washington Examiner 

Bruce Klingner writes: Kim Jong-un’s poor health underscores the potential brittleness of regime stability as well as the potentially fearful consequences of a botched transfer of power. The U.S., South Korea, and Japan should review intelligence collection strategies to discern whether additional assets are necessary. The three countries should coordinate their national contingency plans for North Korean scenarios. – The National Interest 

Joseph R. DeTrani writes: However, as we approach the second anniversary of the June 12, 2018, Singapore Summit Joint Statement between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, there may be an opportunity for the lead working-level negotiators of both countries to meet and attempt to restart U.S.-North Korea talks, with a focus on implementing a Joint Statement that committed the United States and North Korea to eventual normal relations, a peace treaty ending the Korean War and complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. – Washington Times


Since that wave of panic, United States intelligence agencies have assessed that Chinese operatives helped push the messages across platforms, according to six American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to publicly discuss intelligence matters. – New York Times

Oil markets should brace for more bad news—this time from China. […]China is the world’s largest crude-oil importer, and its economy is showing some signs of recovery after February’s coronavirus shutdowns. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s Foreign Ministry says it has lodged stern representations in response to what it called Vietnam’s illegal claims in the South China sea and that any attempt to deny China’s sovereignty there will be doomed to fail. – Reuters

Missouri sued the Chinese government, claiming it covered up the extent of its coronavirus epidemic through an “appalling campaign of deceit” that led to the death and suffering of state residents. – Bloomberg

China is falling behind in its promise to spend $52.4 billion buying U.S. energy over two years — even as it is filling its storage tanks with Russian and Saudi crude — independent oil producers warned the Trump administration Tuesday. – Bloomberg

The Chinese ambassador to the U.S. called for a “serious rethinking” of relations between the world’s biggest economies in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic. – Bloomberg

Huawei Technologies Co. is emerging as the runaway winner in China’s $170 billion effort to build out its fifth-generation wireless networks, part of a concerted effort by Beijing to seize the lead in a key technology from the U.S. while rebooting a virus-stricken economy. – Bloomberg

China North Industries Corporation (Norinco) announced that it has completed deliveries of its Red Arrow 12E (“Hongjian-12E” or HJ-12E) man-portable anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) – a platform that has the same range and penetration capability of the baseline U.S.-made GFM-148 Javelin. – The National Interest 

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: Mr. Xi’s very communist responsibility-ducking and secret-keeping eventually gave way to action for pretty much the same reason it did in the U.S. and elsewhere—this most recent pathogen out of China started to manifest itself in demand for health-care services beyond what existing local health-care resources were scaled to provide. – Wall Street Journal 

Sen. Tom Cotton writes: This evidence is circumstantial, to be sure, but it all points toward the Wuhan labs. Thanks to the Chinese coverup, we may never have direct, conclusive evidence—intelligence rarely works that way—but Americans justifiably can use common sense to follow the inherent logic of events to their likely conclusion. – Wall Street Journal

Joseph Bosco writes: The Chinese people, the primary victims of the regime’s incompetence or malevolence, can be enlisted in the effort effectively if they are armed with the instrument of truth from the West. […]The president should seize the main chance. Reelected or not, he will have earned a heroic and honorable place in history, just as Ronald Reagan forever will be hailed for the peaceful demise of the Soviet Union. – The Hill 

Robert A. Manning writes: So, the bottom line appears to be a continued global leadership deficit: No zero-sum gains and, with both major powers diminished, a fragmenting global system – and a China that is not ten feet tall but, instead, vastly overplaying its hand with costly domestic and global setbacks. – The Hill 

Riley Walters and Dean Cheng write: But the outbreak of COVID-19 doesn’t change that the People’s Republic of China will be our most persistent and consequential U.S. foreign-policy challenge for the next several decades. There might be right ways to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for the COVID-19 outbreak and its other misdeeds. But there are also wrong ideas that undermine U.S. long-term interests. Let’s not mix those up. – Daily Signal


Amid the economic crisis, the demand for Afghan day laborers, who work for lower wages than Iranians, dried up. […]There were also rumors that the Iranian authorities were killing Afghans suspected of being infected with corona­virus. – New York Times

Two separate bombings in Afghanistan targeted a senior police chief and a provincial governor on Tuesday, killing three policemen and wounding several people, including the police chief, local officials said. – Associated Press 

Ariel Cohen writes: The West, and especially the United States, needs to continue its support of Afghanistan and faithfully implement the pact signed in Doha. The coronavirus epidemic clearly demands resources and top leadership attention, but the U.S. can walk and chew gum at the same time—as great powers should. – Newsweek 

Yigal Carmon and Tufail Ahmad write:  So the question remains: Is the only possible American strategy to exit Afghanistan to support the terrorists and to hand over the state to the terrorists? […]Sooner or later, the Trump administration will learn that Qatar’s involvement is not part of the solution but rather the problem itself. – Middle East Media Research Institute


American warships have sailed into disputed waters in the South China Sea, according to military analysts, heightening a standoff in the waterway and sharpening the rivalry between the United States and China, even as much of the world is in lockdown because of the coronavirus. – New York Times 

A Hong Kong bookseller who fled to Taiwan amid fears of Chinese persecution was attacked on Tuesday by a man who threw red paint at him, just days before he was set to open a new bookshop in Taipei. – Reuters

Though Pakistan’s navy is not particularly large, it may not matter. Pakistan doesn’t have a terribly large coast to defend. If their latest “X-class” sub ever comes to fruition, the Special Service Teams would likely be pleased. – The National Interest 

Hong Kong unveiled a government shake-up on Wednesday that it said was aimed at reviving the financial hub’s beleaguered economy and had nothing to do with a recent controversy over Beijing’s role in the city’s affairs. – Reuters

Editorial: Military doves worry that the U.S. could provoke Beijing by upgrading American military capabilities to maintain a balance of power. But the real danger is that the People’s Liberation Army sees a window of opportunity amid the nationalist sentiment stirred up by President Xi Jinping. Against this backdrop it’s more important than ever for the U.S. to signal that it considers the independence of Pacific states a vital interest and isn’t retreating. – Wall Street Journal 

Martin C. M. Lee writes: Hong Kong people now face two plagues from China: the coronavirus and attacks on our most basic human rights. We can all hope a vaccine is soon developed for the coronavirus. But once Hong Kong’s human rights and rule of law are rolled back, the fatal virus of authoritarian rule will be here to stay. – Washington Post

Mike Gonzalez writes: As China’s treatment of Hong Kong makes clear, there is a broad record of rogue behavior on the part of China. Because we are an open society, China’s leaders well understand which buttons to push for a Pavlovian American press; namely, charges of racism and that Trump’s lack of multilateralism and crisis mismanagement have been the real problem. The media should act responsibly and not fall for any of this. – Daily Signal


Seeking to capitalize on the chaos and promote its own soft power, the Kremlin has taken Beijing’s lead and started love-bombing struggling nations with medical aid, and stepping up its efforts to broadcast propaganda and sow disinformation on state and social media. – Politico

John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, accused Moscow of making a “mockery of justice” after he was turned away Monday from the trial of jailed American citizen Paul Whelan. – Washington Times

With the International Monetary Fund predicting the worst global recession since the 1930s Great Depression, Russia’s economy is clearly not immune. Neither are its politicians, including President Putin. – BBC 

Russia and its leader President Vladimir Putin are facing an unprecedented challenge as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates in the country, the Kremlin’s spokesman told CNBC. – CNBC 

In Russia today, under President Vladimir Putin, Lenin’s memory is caught between what analysts say are two primary ideological currents of the ruling elite: the lionization of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin — whom Lenin described as “too coarse” in his final political testament, urging Stalin’s removal as general secretary — and nostalgia for Russia’s pre-Soviet tsarist past, which Lenin despised and sought to destroy. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The high-profile trial of two activists from a group known as “Set'” (Network) charged with terrorism in Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

More than 100 Russian rights activists and other public figures have called on the Kremlin to protect a prominent journalist after the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, posted what were seen as thinly veiled threats on Instagram. – The Guardian 

Tom Rogan writes: In short, intelligence operations toward Russia are always complicated and fraught with risk. And while the public deserves more insight into the origins, actions, and rationales behind the U.S. investigation into Russian election interference, these Putin redactions are eminently justified. – Washington Examiner 

Brian Whitmore writes: None of this means that the Putin regime is on the verge of collapse. But it does suggest that the use of dramaturgy, smoke-and-mirrors image manipulation, patronage, and — when necessary — coercion to preserve and sanctify its right to rule is decreasingly effective. […]The Russia that emerges from this pandemic will look very different from the country that entered it. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Armand Gosu writes: The fight against the coronavirus pandemic will be considerably more complicated for Putin. Russia does not consist solely of Moscow, where the entire healthcare effort is currently concentrated. However, Putin has time – another four years until the end of his current mandate – and enough political resource to remain in charge of the Kremlin. – Middle East Institute

Seva Gunitsky writes: Russian disinformation is not an imaginary threat. But focusing on Russian teens posting on Facebook even as Trump, large media companies, and international organizations pour out a steady stream of false and misleading information is the equivalent of treating a cancer patient for a cold. The problem is more intractable than “Putin did it,” and the sooner policymakers accept this, the sooner they can start thinking about actual solutions. – Foreign Policy


Britain’s government made a firm decision to allow China’s Huawei to have a role in building the country’s 5G phone network and as far as the foreign ministry’s top official understands it is not being reopened, he said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Germany is planning to replace aging fighter planes with new U.S. jets that can carry atomic bombs as it seeks to bolsters its nuclear defense strategy and maintain its position within NATO. – Bloomberg

European Union leaders head to a key virtual summit on Thursday without any concrete proposals from the bloc’s institutions on how to finance a controversial economic recovery fund, raising the chances of yet another inconclusive showdown. – Bloomberg

With a series of high-level summits culminating in a visit to Germany in the fall by President Xi Jinping, this was supposed to be the year of Europe-China diplomacy. Instead, Europeans are warning of a damaging rift. – Bloomberg

China’s drive to win political friends was stumbling over unmet trade expectations and mounting public debt, until the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on economies offered Beijing new possibilities in Europe, two foreign policy experts said Monday. – USNI News

Britain’s decision not to join an EU procurement scheme to buy equipment needed to tackle coronavirus was a “political” choice, one of the country’s top civil servants told MPs on Tuesday. – Politico

Ferdinando Giugliano writes: As the Covid-19 crisis continues to ravage the economy, Germany will face profound strategic questions over the the extent of its support for the monetary union. However, other countries should be under no illusion that they can bounce Berlin into anything. Germany’s economic primacy looks set to strengthen in the crisis. Inevitably, its political might will grow too. – Bloomberg


About 52 villagers in Mozambique’s troubled northernmost province were killed by Islamist insurgents on April 7 after they refused to be recruited to their ranks, police said on Tuesday. […]Security analysts say that in some cases insurgents have occupied parts of towns, villages or government buildings and hoisted a black-and-white flag. – Reuters

Authorities in Cameroon said they have arrested three soldiers for their role in an alleged deadly attack on civilians in a village in the west of the country where the military is fighting a separatist insurgency. – Reuters 

Pirates attacked a Portugal-flagged ship and kidnapped its Bulgarian captain and seven sailors off the coast of Benin, Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters

U.S. officials are drafting a plan to donate ventilators to African countries battling the novel coronavirus, an effort that comes as President Donald Trump boasts of how recently ramped-up production has made him the “king of ventilators.” – Politico

On the heels of separate allegations from Amnesty International and an al-Shabaab-linked news outlet that U.S. military airstrikes caused the deaths of civilians in Somalia, officials with U.S. Africa Command will launch a new report, to be released quarterly, tracking allegations of civilian casualties and the investigations that follow. – Military.com

The Americas

The U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump was accurate and based on strongly sourced information and sound analytical judgment, a bipartisan Senate report has concluded. – Wall Street Journal 

Since the coronavirus struck the United States, immigration authorities have deported dozens of infected migrants, leaving governments and nonprofits across Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean struggling to respond. – Washington Post

The coronavirus pandemic and the collapse in oil prices it has caused have created a monstrous calamity for countries heavily reliant on oil production for their economic survival, and forced others to change policies that no longer make economic sense. – New York Times

As physical U.S. crude grades fell into negative territory for the first time in history, Mexican, Ecuadorean and Venezuelan grades indexed to them, including Mexico’s Maya, also traded negative for the first time. Heavy volatility has caused traders to back away in recent weeks, effectively shutting down trading in key regional grades. – Reuters 

President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would soon suspend immigration into the U.S. surprised his own officials and likely overstated the extent of the still-developing executive order. – Politico

Allies of both Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his bitter foe, opposition leader Juan Guaido, have secretly begun exploratory talks as concerns grow about the possible impact of coronavirus, according to sources on both sides. – Reuters

Mexican cartels are not the only ones who are continuing to operate – organised crime across Latin America, from Colombian gangs to Brazilian urban “militias”, have continued to display their might throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, as BBC Monitoring’s Latin America specialist Luis Fajardo reports. – BBC 

The Trump administration on Tuesday ordered Chevron Corp. to “wind down” operations in Venezuela by Dec. 1, barring the California-based oil giant in the meantime from drilling or exporting, as the U.S. increases pressure on President Nicolás Maduro to give up power. – Associated Press 


The State Department has assessed that Russia, China and Iran are mounting increasingly intense and coordinated disinformation campaigns against the U.S. relating to the outbreak of the new coronavirus, according to an internal report. – Wall Street Journal 

Four Cabinet-level agencies are working to finalize risk-management strategies and improve internal cybersecurity coordination by this fall at the behest of the Government Accountability Office, according to new reports released by the watchdog this month. – Fifth Domain

Now, the hospital ships Mercy and Comfort are deployed to Los Angeles and New York, respectively, and are in the national spotlight as symbols of the coronavirus pandemic relief effort. But security and IT experts say the ships’ mission presents the Navy with distinct networking problems, from cybersecurity to network connection for patients. – C4ISRNET

Andreas Kluth writes: But, for the whizzbang digital tools currently being developed to work, people must actually download and use them.[…]That’s why the most successful data model in the world so far is not South Korea or Singapore but Taiwan. For lack of a better term, I’ll call its approach “participatory self-surveillance.” – Bloomberg


Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell on Tuesday hit back against recent criticism of the reorganization of intelligence community (IC) agencies from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). – The Hill 

Strategic bombers will no longer conduct routine rotations out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam anymore as they have since 2004, according to Air Force Global Strike Command. – Air Force Times

The coronavirus pandemic has rattled Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics business, with the F-35 joint strike fighter program facing the prospect of a slowdown in deliveries, company executives said Tuesday. – Defense News

A new satellite that will provide weather data for U.S. military operations has passed its critical design review, Ball Aerospace announced April 20, and the company is now moving forward into full production. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. Army has issued hundreds of waivers for many military permanent change of station moves, despite a Defense Department-wide ban on international and domestic travel until at least June 30, top officials said Tuesday. – Military.com

Marines who haven’t taken their physical fitness test yet this season will be able to skip it, the service’s top general announced Tuesday. – Military.com

Reinforcements are arriving to relieve military medical personnel exposed to the coronavirus, while the nation defends the homeland from adversaries and envisions how to implement widespread testing, U.S. Northern Command’s Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy told Pentagon reporters Tuesday. – Washington Examiner 

Roughly 27,000 former soldiers have responded to the U.S. Army’s call for volunteers, with 6,000 in medical specialties expressing interest in returning to duty since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, service officials said Tuesday. – Military.com

COVID-19 is slowing F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter production because of supply chain disruptions caused by national and international attempts to stop the spread of the sickness, prime contractor Lockheed Martin said Tuesday. – USNI News 

The Navy will delay moving some sailors back onboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, citing crew members who are still testing positive after a 14-day quarantine period. – The Hill

Bryan Clark writes: DoD leaders often characterize hypersonic weapon development as a “race.” Unfortunately, by reflexively mirroring our adversaries and failing to invest in the most important elements of hypersonic technology for the U.S. military, DoD is losing the race. DoD leaders need to start running in the right direction. – Real Clear Defense

Missile Defense

The Borei-class of submarines is thought to be extremely quiet—and is the launch platform for Russia’s newest ballistic nuclear missile. The Borei-class is a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine that is projected to replace the Typhoon- and Delta-classes. – The National Interest 

Pakistan’s newest fighter jet could launch a powerful, but strange, new anti-ship missile. […]The Pakistani air force is acquiring more than a hundred JF-17s from China in order to complement older F-16s, Mirages and J-7s. – The National Interest  

William D. Hartung writes: Now is the time to reduce our bloated nuclear arsenal and invest in more urgent security priorities. Deterrence can be sustained at lower levels of spending, but a robust public health system needs considerably more resources. It’s a trade-off that can and should be made. – Defense News  

Long War

Spanish police detained one of Europe’s most wanted fugitive Islamic State (IS) fighters in the southern town of Almeria, the government said. – Reuters 

A new documentary reveals that the U.S. had an opportunity to kill Usama bin Laden in the 1990s after tracking his location with the help of Afghan tribal informants, but were unable to do so because of an order signed by then-President Bill Clinton. – Fox News 

Raffaello Pantucci writes: As the coronavirus pandemic has spread, terrorist groups have reacted in different ways. Traditional terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda and its many affiliates are for the most part confused in their response to COVID-19. […]Some will draw on long-standing ideologies and groups, while others will emerge in surprising ways. Terrorism will not end in the wake of the coronavirus; instead, it is likely to evolve in ever more extreme ways. – Foreign Policy