Fdd's overnight brief

April 24, 2020

In The News


Selling Iran’s oil in defiance of an American embargo was already a risky and complicated venture for Iranian brokers. Then came the precipitous plunge in prices because of the global coronavirus clampdown, which has shriveled demand. – New York Times 

A top Iranian general warned the United States on Thursday against “dangerous behavior” in the Persian Gulf, saying his forces would target U.S. naval ships that posed a threat to Iran’s national security. – Washington Post 

The United States believes an Iranian military satellite launch this week was overseen by a high-ranking commander involved in past attacks on American targets, a senior administration official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Iran has summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, who represents U.S. interests in the country, over recent Gulf tensions, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Thursday, according to the IRIB news agency. – Reuters

So in this light, his tweet on Wednesday that called on US Navy commanders to “shoot down” Iranian gunboats that harass US warships was only a minor mis-statement. But it was certainly the strongest threat of direct military action from the US since earlier this year, in the wake of the US killing in Iraq of a top Iranian Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) commander, General Qasem Soleimani. – BBC 

Human rights groups, together with the Vice President of the European Parliament, have called on Iran to release its female prisoners of conscience over concerns that the women are at high risk during the coronavirus outbreak. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran shouldn’t be surprised if next time one of its speedboats zigzags in front a U.S. ship in the Persian Gulf and it ends up blown out of the water, but it’s not a new rule of engagement.That is the message from both senior Pentagon leadership and President Trump, a week after video surfaced of 11 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps speedboats swarming several Navy ships, prompting Trump to tweet a threat. – Military Times 

The bad coronavirus news continues for Iran, but officials are hoping a modest downturn in the growth of new cases will become a trend. […]The coronavirus, coming on top of the economic pain of the sanctions, is increasingly damaging Iran’s struggling economy. – NPR 

When American administrations develop a deterrence strategy for Iran in the Middle East, a model to follow could be how Israel runs a covert military campaign against Iran in Syria while pursuing public diplomacy with Russia, a new report states. – USNI News 

Nazanin Boniadi writes: Defending human rights is an essential part of defending the vulnerable from covid-19 in Iran and everywhere. For all of our sakes, it is not only a public health necessity but also a moral imperative to include all at-risk communities — including prisoners and the oppressed — in efforts to battle the pandemic. – Washington Post 

Rebecca Grant writes: Iran’s pattern of escalation has crossed the line from harassment to evident willingness to inflict casualties. […]But right now, it looks like Iran’s regime wants confrontation. Sadly, Iran’s coronavirus crisis could make the regime’s leaders more eager to strike out at the U.S. to stoke revolutionary fervor, keeping the ayatollah’s regime in power. – Fox News 

Daniel N. Hoffman writes: Iran has claimed every measure was reversible — if the U.S. sanctions were lifted. Iran is facing justifiable international opposition to its request from the International Monetary Fund for a $5 billion loan, which Tehran claims is needed to fight the coronavirus. – Washington Times 

Tom Rogan writes: The IRGC is the physical martial embodiment of Iran’s Khomeinist ideology.[…]Trump’s order thus does something quite simple but necessary. It ensures commanders have the flexible authority to do what they need to in order to protect their ships, personnel, and country. – Washington Examiner 

Ray Takeyh writes: The outbreak of the pandemic has revealed all of the Islamic Republic’s pathologies: its relentless pursuit of ideological missions whose costs are more apparent than benefits, its manufacturing of absurd conspiracies to justify its inaction and deflect blame, and the propensity of its leaders to lie to each other and to their constituents. In the end, the primary victims of the mullahs’ misrule are once more the Iranian people. – New York Daily Times 

Zvi Bar’el writes: But on both of these fronts, Iran needs international support, which could compel it to soften its positions. And it’s happening just as the country is preparing for a presidential election that is expected to be held in June of next year. The internal struggles currently being waged are an indication that the election campaign has already begun. – Haaretz


Black pools, long trenches and charred earth have become common sights in the fields of north-west Syria, signs of an informal oil economy that has developed during the war. […]In and around the last remaining rebel-held areas, these refineries have provided fuel to a region where almost half the population has been displaced internally or from elsewhere in Syria. – The Guardian

Speaking to a Russian television station on Sunday, the Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov said that Russia’s newest, and possibly most capable tank ever, has undergone field testing in Syria. – The National Interest 

The group of 12, mainly technicians and engineers, hope to build hundreds of makeshift machines to combat the pandemic in Syria’s northwest, where an army advance made nearly 1 million people homeless this year. – Reuters 

Mona Yacoubian writes: Propelled by the pandemic, a confluence of factors may yield an opportunity to mitigate the conflict in Syria. The overlap of peace-building efforts with counter-epidemic measures could catalyze an important opening for peace. All key players — Syria, Russia, Turkey, Iran and the United States — will need to trade concessions to fight a common enemy. They also may bring Syria a little closer to peace. – The Hill

Elizabeth Tsurkov writes: The Syrian regime was already suffering from significant structural and economic weaknesses prior to the outbreak of the pandemic and the lockdown has only exacerbated things. […]Syrians will pay a heavy price for the corruption, stagnation, and destruction of the country’s health infrastructure, orchestrated by the regime now in charge of attempting to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on millions of Syrians. – Middle East Institute


The European Union on Thursday issued a warning against the incoming Israeli government’s intention to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, saying that such a move “would constitute a serious violation of international law. – Associated Press 

The U.N. Mideast envoy warned Thursday that Israeli moves to annex parts of the West Bank and accelerate settlement expansion, combined with the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact, could ignite Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “destroy any hope of peace.” – Associated Press 

Israel is taking measures to ensure the Palestinian Authority’s survival, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council on Thursday hours after bereaved families petitioned the High Court of Justice to stop those very actions. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, on Thursday excoriated Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour after Mansour accused Israel of exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 in Palestinian areas. – Times of Israel 

France threatened to change the nature of its ties with Israel, should the nascent government annex parts of the West Bank, in Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière’s remarks to the Security Council on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post 

David Pollock writes: The future of Israel’s fractious new “unity” government is as uncertain as the medical and economic effects of the pandemic itself. One thing is almost certain, however: Israeli politicians will all continue to pay close attention to the public opinion polls. And as long as these polls show such high levels of support for Netanyahu and his handling of the crisis, and for his Likud party as well, this new coalition is likely to last—despite its deep internal political and policy divisions, and the considerable popular disenchantment with Netanyahu personally. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

Yemen’s Houthi rebels demanded more concessions from Saudi Arabia, including lifting a five-year blockade, before they would resume United Nations-backed peace talks, raising the risk of a new flare-up of violence as a two-week cease-fire ended Thursday. – Wall Street Journal 

Dozens of U.N. programs that assist millions of ­impoverished Yemenis could shut down by the end of the month largely because of major cuts in U.S. aid, humanitarian officials warn, just as the country has seen its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. – Washington Post 

The Saudi presidency of the Group of 20 major economies on Thursday called for further immediate donations to fund the emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic and develop needed vaccines. – Reuters

President Trump is facing pressure to do something about a deluge of Saudi oil on its way to the United States, threatening to worsen an already historic glut and price crash caused by the coronavirus halting demand. – Washington Examiner 

A prominent Saudi princess has appealed to the kingdom’s king and crown prince to release her from prison as the holy month of Ramadan began, according to a letter published on her official website and Facebook account. – Reuters

Keith Johnson and Robbie Gramer write: And as long as the United States continues to view Iran as a major threat, close relations with Saudi Arabia will have a strong appeal. But in this latest crisis, Saudi Arabia’s close relationship with Trump was the one thing that saved it from an even bigger blowback from Congress and kept the eight-decade-old relationship from collapsing altogether. That could change in November. – Foreign Policy


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed to his Egyptian counterpart on Thursday that Americans detained in Egypt should be kept safe during the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department said. – Reuters

A deal struck between Spanish gas firm Naturgy Energy Group , Italy’s Eni and the Egyptian government to resolve a series of disputes over a shuttered gas plant in northern Egypt has fallen through, Naturgy said on Thursday. – Reuters

Zvi Bar’el writes: Currently, Egypt’s main concern is its foreign currency reserves, which plunged in March from $45.5 billion to $37 billion after the mass exodus of investors from the Egyptian stock market. […]The expectation is that Egypt will change its priorities and channel a larger share of its revenues to public services, especially the health and education systems. With his new powers, Sissi can now easily decide to do so. – Haaretz

Middle East & North Africa

First his Lebanese bank reduced dollar withdrawals, then it stopped them entirely. Now the central bank has issued rules saying any withdrawals must be in the collapsing Lebanese pound at a rate likely to mean he will face a loss. – Reuters

Middle Eastern and African governments are failing to take the action required to protect their airlines from the economic crisis caused by the new coronavirus pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday. – Reuters

Mohamed Chtatou writes: Countries around the world are addressing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic based on their unique needs and abilities to confront it. Morocco’s position as a north African country with extensive ties to Europe, which has been a key feature of the Moroccan economy, is now presenting numerous economic and social challenges. Morocco has had to face these challenges on many different economic, legal, and social fronts. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

South Korea launched the world’s biggest container ship Thursday at a time when carriers are drastically cutting capacity to deal with a collapse in global trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal 

Given that it’s North Korea we’re talking about, no one should be surprised if Kim Jong Un were to suddenly reappear as if nothing is amiss, leaving the country to go back to business as usual. It has happened before. Yet considering the number of variables in play, wouldn’t it be better if we — and countries in the region — were prepared for the worst? When it comes to North Korea, what we don’t know can definitely hurt us. – Washington Post 

Whatever the state of Kim Jong Un’s health, he has already put North Korea in its strongest position to resist U.S. pressure in decades. […]No matter what, North Korea leaders have strong incentives to preserve the regime and Kim’s strategy of seeking sanctions relief from the U.S. by building a more dangerous nuclear arsenal. – Bloomberg 

US President Donald Trump on Thursday rejected reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was ailing, criticizing his frequent nemesis CNN for running the story. – Agence France-Presse 

South Korea will incorporate a Hanwha Systems-developed, medium-range multifunction radar (MFR) system on the new type of frigates referred to locally as the FFX-III class, an industry source has confirmed with Jane’s . – Jane’s 360 

Bruce Klingner writes: There is always great uncertainty about North Korean intentions and capabilities, more so during a potential leadership transition. While rumors of Kim Jong-un’s failing health should be met with caution, they should also trigger continued vigilance against the myriad of threats the regime can pose to the United States and its allies. – Heritage Foundation

Nam Seung Hyun writes: The sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will act as an Achilles’ heel of international politics in Northeast Asia, where the balance of power is maintained, as well as on the Korean Peninsula. […]In particular, various changes in Pyongyang’s inner power system will occur, such as whether the Kim’s three generations of hereditary regime will continue or not. – The National Interest 


China’s supply chain for medical goods is devolving into a free-for-all as foreign governments, hospitals and businesses—and all their middlemen—descend on the country to secure ventilators and masks and other protective gear. [,..]The disarray in China, a major producer of personal protective equipment, or PPE, underscores how desperate U.S. and other buyers have become to secure medical gear as the coronavirus pandemic engulfs them. –  Wall Street Journal

China has committed $30 million to the World Health Organization one week after President Trump halted U.S. funding to the U.N. agency that has emerged as a battleground for influence between the two powers. – Washington Post 

From Asia to Africa, London to Berlin, Chinese envoys have set off diplomatic firestorms with a combative defense whenever their country is accused of not acting quickly enough to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press 

China did not cover up the novel coronavirus outbreak and so the United States should not seek to bully the People’s Republic in a manner reminiscent of the 19th century European colonial wars, the Chinese ambassador to London said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Chinese officials have no interest in allowing international inspectors into the Wuhan lab that some U.S. officials regard as a potential origin of the coronavirus pandemic. […]That statement was offered in direct response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s call for inspections of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other labs where Chinese scientists study coronaviruses and other pathogens. – Washington Examiner 

China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that Australia’s call for an independent probe into the coronavirus epidemic was political maneuvering and said the country should end its ideological bias. – Reuters

The United States must insist that developing countries disclose debt and other obligations to China as part of any future debt restructuring deal or international aid package, 16 senior Republican senators told the Trump administration. – Reuters

A disinformation campaign by the Chinese Communist Party is hard at work to distract the international community from Beijing’s failures in containing the COVID-19 outbreak, according to experts. […]The report from the State Department’s counter-propaganda center also spotlighted the efforts by the Chinese government, along with the regimes in Russia and Iran, to deflect blame. – Washington Examiner 

China’s space agency on Friday unveiled the name of its first Mars exploration mission, coinciding with China’s annual Space Day and the 50th anniversary of the launch of its first satellite. – Reuters

China will prosecute a Belizean citizen for his alleged involvement in providing funds to “meddle” in Hong Kong affairs, a newspaper backed by the ruling Communist Party reported on Friday. – Reuters

Rep. Mitt Romney writes: The covid-19 pandemic has revealed that, to a great degree, our very health is in Chinese hands; from medicines to masks, we are at Beijing’s mercy. […]And it is a clarion call for America to seize the moment. When the immediate health crisis has passed, the United States should convene like-minded nations to develop a common strategy aimed at dissuading China from pursuing its predatory path. – Washington Post 

David Ignatius writes: The pandemic that began in Wuhan last year was a history-changing event, with catastrophic effects. The world should keep demanding answers until China explains clearly and transparently what happened. Beijing should realize that this is a situation where suppression of information will only make things worse. – Washington Post 

John B. Bellinger III writes: Opposing lawsuits against China does not mean that the U.S. government should not hold the Chinese government responsible in other ways. Legal immunity does not mean a lack of accountability. […]Assertive U.S. diplomatic action is more likely to produce meaningful results for Americans than politically attractive, but ultimately feckless, lawsuits and battles over sovereign immunity. – Washington Post 

Javed Ali and A’ndre Gonawela write: As the United States continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, tensions are rising with China over the origins of the disease, and each side is attempting to blame the other for how it started. After a decade of simmering tensions, the Sino-American relationship may come to be defined by an outwardly adversarial tone — with severe implications for the world economy and global security. Should current relations deteriorate further, increasingly aggressive posturing between the United States and China risks igniting a new Cold War. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: The congressman’s proposal by no means is a hysterical overreaction based on anti-Chinese bias. Instead, it simply recognizes the reality that Beijing is not going to sit still while waiting for Washington to get its act together in response to the coronavirus public health crisis. China’s behavior is no fiction and it requires an immediate response. Thornberry’s draft is a good place to start. – The Hill

Arthur Machado writes: If the United States stays the course, and, what used to be known as the free world, can put aside its petty political machinations, then the Chinese goal of world economic, military and political dominance can be stopped. The United States is challenging China for the first time since Richard Nixon opened the door to Chinese economic expansion in the seventies. – The National Interest


China, India, South Korea and Australia are taking steps to boost their national stockpiles of oil used to safeguard domestic industries during times of crisis, after oil prices fell to historically low levels. Since those nations collectively have hundreds of millions of barrels of spare capacity, analysts say their demand could help stabilize the oil market in coming months. – Wall Street Journal

China closed a border crossing with Myanmar on Friday after fighting in that nation spilled into a Chinese province and damaged buildings. […]Various ethnic rebel groups based along the countries’ border are fighting Myanmar’s military while seeking autonomy from the central government. – Associated Press

The United Nations human rights watchdog is “closely following” the arrest and charging of 15 pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong, reminding the territory’s government of its obligations to international law. – The Guardian 

A U.S. warship has sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait for the second time in a month, Taiwanese and U.S. militaries said on Friday, amid heightened tensions between Taiwan and China and as a Chinese aircraft carrier passes near the island. – Reuters 

China’s diplomatic ambitions in the Pacific suffered a setback on Wednesday when the party that switched recognition from Taiwan to China last year lost its majority in parliament over its handling of the move. – The Guardian 

Chinese carmakers are ramping up production in Myanmar as they go head to head with dominant and entrenched Japanese rivals in the fast-growing market. – Financial Times

Editorial: Freedom of navigation exercises are important but not enough to secure the Western Pacific from Chinese domination. […]China’s recent behavior has badly damaged its claims to be a global stakeholder that plays by the rules. The U.S. is right to make clear that it remains a Pacific power and that the coronavirus hasn’t lessened its resolve. – Wall Street Journal


Russia has sought to distance itself from a dispute brewing between the U.S. and China over the origin of the coronavirus, saying it can’t support a U.S. investigation into the source of the virus. – CNBC 

Two Russian companies signed a deal on Thursday to build the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreaker to help boost trade on a northern sea route crucial to forging closer links with Asia. – Reuters

As Russia’s small oil producers struggle to survive a historic price crash, some say in private they wish they could just set their crude ablaze. […]While Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have more places to keep it, Russia is getting increasingly desperate. Even turning off the taps is expensive. – Bloomberg 

Russian gas giant Gazprom expects natural shale gas production to decline in the United States, the world’s largest natural gas producer, due to weak prices, a company manager said on Friday. – Reuters

Expanding surveillance measures to police Russia’s coronavirus lockdown, including the use of facial recognition technology and collection of personal data, need regulating to ensure they are temporary and proportionate, two rights groups said on Thursday. – Reuters

Journalists at Vedomosti, one of Russia’s most prominent business publications, on Thursday accused their editor of imposing stifling pro-Kremlin censorship upon them and suggested the board of directors appoint someone else. – Reuters

Russian state-controlled oil producer Rosneft is on the brink of closing its trading arm, two months after the unit was placed under US sanctions for handling Venezuelan crude. – Financial Times

Leon Aron writes: The tools that have served Mr. Putin so well in previous crises—television propaganda, bribes to opinion leaders and politicians, selective repression and, most of all, the people’s trust in his luck—are not likely to be as effective this time. […]Yet anger will linger and likely resurface in 2024 when the Russians will have to participate in an election charade to lend him legitimacy. Covid-19 may not destroy Mr. Putin’s presidency, but it has placed a time bomb under it. – Wall Street Journal


While the leaders of the European Union’s 27 countries approved a half-trillion euro bailout package Thursday night, their attention immediately turned to what to do next, where much disagreement remains. – New York Times 

French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe’s response to economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus crisis required financial transfers to the hardest-hit regions and not just loans. – Reuters

European Union leaders asked the executive Commission to urgently work out a plan for joint EU financing of the bloc’s economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic, the chairman of EU leaders Charles Michel said on Thursday. – Reuters

The new coronavirus outbreak crisis does not change European priorities in the Brexit negotiations, French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin said on Friday. – Reuters

Greenlanders said Thursday they welcome U.S. investment in their island, but the money has to come without conditions. The U.S administration is expected to announce the opening of a U.S. Agency for International Development office at the new American consulate in the capital, Nuuk, and confirm at least $12 million in new aid projects. – Associated Press


Africa’s reported number of coronavirus cases soared by more than 40 percent in the last week, stoking concerns that the continent could become the epicenter of the pandemic at a time when hunger is rising and doctors fear a resurgence of malaria deaths. – Washington Post 

Fourteen members of a religious sect aiming to revive the pre-colonial Kongo kingdom died during clashes with the police and locals in western Democratic Republic of Congo, the interior ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters 

African Union (AU) special envoy Tidjane Thiam on Thursday said a widespread outbreak of the new coronavirus in Africa would be a disaster for the continent. – Reuters

The Americas

The House overwhelmingly passed a $484 billion spending package Thursday as the unemployment crisis deepened, a stark illustration of how policymakers continue trying to rescue an unraveling economy amid growing despair. – Washington Post 

Trump administration officials on Thursday recommended granting U.S. energy regulators the ability to block imports of nuclear fuel from Russia and China and detailed plans for setting up a government stockpile of uranium sourced from domestic miners. – Reuters 

The World Health Organization chief said Wednesday he hopes the United States will reconsider its freeze in funding for his agency and vowed to keep working on “saving lives” despite calls from some U.S. lawmakers for his resignation. – Associated Press 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he expected an agreement to enable industrial supply chains linking the United States and Mexico to begin operating normally again pending a review by authorities. – Reuters

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday called for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to be added to the White House’s coronavirus task force, saying the administration needs to combine its domestic and international response to effectively combat COVID-19. – The Hill

The U.S. is starting to shift its World Health Organization (WHO) contributions to other health-focused groups, marking an escalation in President Trump’s fight with the WHO. – The Hill

Mexico and the United States depend on each other when it comes to migration, and it is important not to “paralyze” commercial activity between the two countries, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday. – Reuters

Amazon’s antitrust problems deepened in Washington on Thursday as lawmakers and advocacy groups alleged that the online retailing giant may have lied to Congress about the tactics it employs against rival sellers on its platform. – Politico

Brett D. Schaefer writes: This perception had shifted dramatically in the U.S. over the past couple of years, but the recent experience with the coronavirus pandemic and the World Health Organization should leave everyone convinced that China is influencing the international system far more than the reverse, and that its influence is harmful. It is now clear that Beijing’s response to COVID-19 enabled its spread, to the detriment of public health and economies throughout the world. – Washington Examiner

Latin America

A Venezuelan man was shot dead on Thursday as locals protesting food and gas shortages looted several stores in one southern town, a rights group said, as frustrations spiked six weeks into a quarantine that has worsened an economic crisis. – New York Times

Strangled by U.S. efforts to isolate it from financial markets, Venezuela is getting help from another country crushed by American sanctions: Iran. […]The support comes at a critical time. While the rest of the world grapples with a massive supply glut that has hammered energy prices, Venezuela is rapidly running out of fuel. – Bloomberg 

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. and many in the region consider the country’s rightful leader, shot down reports Thursday he and his aides were negotiating with the regime of socialist President Nicolas Maduro on a power-sharing deal that could lead to new elections. – Washington Times 

Opposition lawmakers in Venezuela quietly agreed to pay themselves $5,000 a month when they readied special $100 bonuses for doctors and nurses battling the coronavirus — a large payout for a nation where most workers are scraping by on couple of dollars a month, according to people involved in the process. – Associated Press


The first aircraft in a large group of F-35A Joint Strike Fighter jets embarked on a transfer to an Alaska military base. – Associated Press

The Trump administration on Thursday urged government intervention to rescue U.S. uranium mining and nuclear fuel industries in a tough global marketplace, from making it easier to mine public lands out West to blocking some imports of foreign nuclear fuel. – Associated Press

The Navy has tested the entire crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt for the coronavirus, the service said Thursday. – The Hill

The U.S. Army is girding for modernization program delays and a rise in acquisition costs as the coronavirus pandemic ripples across its installations and through its network of suppliers. – Defense News

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the new U.S. Space Force to shelve some key decisions that will help shape the culture of the new service, its No. 2 officer said Thursday. – Defense News

Millennium Space Systems has completed the design, production and integration of a new microsatellite prototype for the U.S. Space Force. – C4ISRNET

Senior Defense Department officials are reviewing a report on reforming space acquisitions, according to U.S. Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David Thompson, who added the report could be sent to Congress in the near future. – C4ISRNET

Maj. Gen. Larry Stutzriem (ret.) and Douglas Birkey write: The path forward begins with admitting the nation has a bomber shortfall. Retiring more aircraft exacerbates the problem. […]There comes a point where you cannot do more with less. Given the importance of bombers to the nation, rebuilding the bomber force is not an option — it is an imperative. – Defense News

Long War

The Taliban have rejected an Afghan government call for a ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and to let authorities focus on tackling the coronavirus, raising new concern about prospects for a fragile peace process. – Reuters

A pro-Islamic State (ISIS) media group, Katibat Al-Zarqawi – “Al-Zarqawi Brigade,” named for ISIS founder Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi – recently, on April 12, 2020, launched an Instagram account, @katibat_alzerkawii1, on which it disseminates ISIS news and propaganda, as it does on other platforms as well. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Domestic terrorists and violent extremists are mobilizing in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and the threat could get more severe “until the virus is contained and the normal routine of U.S. societal life resumes,” according to a Department of Homeland Security intelligence note sent to law enforcement officials around the country. – Politico 

Spanish police who this week arrested a former London rapper allegedly turned Islamic State fighter in Syria say they have no evidence he was planning an attack in Europe, but his illegal, undocumented entry into Spain raises suspicions about his motivation. – Associated Press