Fdd's overnight brief

April 29, 2019

In The News


Leading European countries are pursuing ways to contain Iran’s ballistic missiles work, amid growing concerns about Tehran’s large-scale weapons program and in the wake of a campaign by Washington to galvanize support for pressuring the Islamic Republic over its missiles. – Wall Street Journal

If President Donald Trump succeeds in cutting Iran’s oil exports to almost nothing, one of the main beneficiaries is likely to be Russia. The economic blow to Iran will ease the Kremlin’s efforts to rein in Iranian influence in Syria, bolstering President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to project Russian power across the Middle East. Tehran and Moscow were one-time collaborators in the region, but they’ve found themselves increasingly at odds as Syria’s eight-year-old civil war winds down. – Bloomberg

Iran’s top general warned Sunday Tehran could close the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping route if it faces more “hostility”, news agency ISNA said, as the US tightens up sanctions. “We are not after closing the Strait of Hormuz but if the hostility of enemies increase, we will be able to do so,” armed forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri told semi-official ISNA. – Agence FrancePresse

Tighter U.S. sanctions against Iran could fuel inflation to the highest level since 1980, according to the International Monetary Fund, as the Islamic Republic’s economy grapples with a weakening currency and tighter U.S. sanctions on oil exports. – Bloomberg

U.S. Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie said on Saturday the United States would deploy the necessary resources to counter any dangerous actions by Iran, Sky News Arabia reported. – Reuters

Iran on Sunday threatened to quit a treaty against the spread of nuclear weapons after the United States tightens sanctions, Reuters reported. Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since the Trump administration withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and began ratcheting up sanctions. – Arutz Sheva

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard successfully managed a surveillance flight over a U.S. aircraft carrier, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported Saturday. – Associated Press


Syria’s opposition has pinned its hopes on a new constitution that could allow for political transition in a country devastated by civil war, as it struggles for relevance eight years after an uprising began to oust the Assad regime. – Wall Street Journal

Arabs in Syria’s Deir al-Zor have stepped up protests against the U.S.-allied Kurdish militia that controls the oil-rich province after seizing it from Islamic State, residents, protesters and tribal chiefs said on Sunday. – Reuters

The U.S.-led coalition killed more than 1,600 civilians in the northern Syria city of Raqqa during months of bombardment that liberated it from the Islamic State group, hundreds more than the number the U.S.-led coalition claims over the entire four-year campaign against IS, Amnesty International and a London-based watchdog group said Thursday. – Associated Press


One of two alleged spies for the United Arab Emirates, who was also under investigation for a possible link to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has been found dead inside his Turkish jail cell. – Wall Street Journal

Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 defense system has long been a burden not only for the United States but for NATO, too, the security bloc in which Turkey is a member. – Jerusalem Post

Turkey is working on a mechanism to avert U.S. sanctions designed to halt trade with Iran, risking another showdown with Washington as it joins a group of nations determined to keep buying oil from the Islamic Republic. – Bloomberg


Israel secretly transferred hundreds of millions of shekels to the Palestinian Authority to prevent its collapse – but the Palestinians returned the money, Kan 11 News reported on Sunday. – Arutz Sheva

Despite wanting to be released to Hebron where his fiancé Nida Abu Sneina resides, Hamis Ahmed, the Syrian-Palestinian terrorist who attempted to carry out a terror attack at a Golan Heights IDF base in 2005, was expelled to Syria upon his release Sunday. – Ynet

Israel released on Sunday two prisoners – a Fatah terrorist and a drug smuggler – sending them back to Syria in what Damascus described as Russian-mediated reciprocation for the repatriation of the body of a long-missing Israeli soldier. – Reuters

Following the return of the body of Israeli soldier Zechariah Baumel this month, Israel has decided to release two prisoners as a “gesture of good will,” according to an Israeli official. – Bloomberg

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) foiled a Hamas terror attack planned to take place around the elections, the agency announced on Sunday morning. – Jerusalem Post

The newly elected Finnish MP Hussein al-Taee of the Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP) is facing a wave of criticism this week for comparing Israel to the Islamic State, antisemitic rants against Jews and pro-Iranian regime advocacy. – Jerusalem Post


Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s new company is reportedly operating in Iraq, a country from which his former company was banned for killing civilians. – Business Insider

Stabbing a teenage prisoner to death, picking off a young girl and an old man with a sniper rifle and firing a heavy machinegun into a residential area: these are some of the charges facing an elite US Navy SEAL on trial for war crimes while deployed in Iraq. – Agence FrancePresse

Phillip Smyth writes: The continued presence of Iraqi Shia fighters in Damascus may indicate that the Assad regime is beginning to chafe at how much access and power Iran has acquired there. The regime’s relationship with Tehran is still very close, but Syrian officials could be seeking to develop a more ideologically diverse Shia presence in order to reestablish some level of equilibrium with Iran. The PMF arrests also give the U.S. government another way to demonstrate that Iran is an unreliable patron for Iraqi Shia. – Washington Institute

Saudi Arabia

At a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wis., on Saturday, President Trump tore into Saudi Arabia, an important Middle Eastern ally, as yet another country giving the United States a bad deal. […]It is highly unlikely that the call took place as Mr. Trump described, but in any case, the president appears to have mischaracterized the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. – New York Times

Long before Saudi Arabia announced it had carried out one of the largest mass executions in its history earlier this week, some of the men condemned to death had made impassioned pleas to the courts in a bid to save their lives. – CNN

The United States government commission on religious freedom has urged action against ally Saudi Arabia after its mass execution of 37 people, most of them Shia Muslims. – Al Jazeera


Air raids were carried out Saturday night on the Libyan capital Tripoli, according to AFP journalists and residents who heard loud explosions. – Agence FrancePresse

Pope Francis called on Sunday for the evacuation of refugees held in detention camps in Libya as fighting there escalates. – Reuters

An Iranian cargo ship listed on sanctions lists was boarded and searched at Misrata port in western Libya, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord said Saturday. – Radio Farda

Korean Peninsula

National security adviser John Bolton acknowledged Sunday that the U.S. had promised to pay North Korea for the release of American college student Otto Warmbier in 2017, but he said the U.S. never made any payment. – Wall Street Journal

North and South Korea Saturday struck different notes as they marked the first anniversary of a summit between their leaders that fuelled a whirlwind of diplomacy which has died down amid deadlock over Pyongyang’s denuclearisation. – Agence FrancePresse

President Donald Trump on Friday welcomed Russian and Chinese help with North Korean nuclear negotiations, despite Kim Jong Un accusing the US of “bad faith” at a first summit with Vladimir Putin. – Agence FrancePresse

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accused the US of acting in “bad faith” at his summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Pyongyang’s state media said Friday after he secured Moscow’s backing in his standoff with Donald Trump. – Agence FrancePresse

North Korea accused the U.S. of pressuring South Korea to follow a policy of implementing sanctions against the regime, its state media reported. – Bloomberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after holding his first face-to-face talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday that U.S. security guarantees would probably not be enough to persuade Pyongyang to shut its nuclear program. – Reuters

Along forest trails below a bare mountain peak that until last year was a vantage point for a North Korean guard post, a group of around 20 ordinary South Koreans took a rare hike on Saturday near the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. – Reuters

The U.S. has little interest in joining other countries in a multi-nation effort to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Sunday. – Associated Press

Bret Stephens writes: The right word for such behavior is evil. The right response is intensified economic pressure, military readiness and moral denunciation — the formula under which South Koreans prospered, peace was maintained, and the North largely contained for decades. There may be no good answer to the challenge of North Korea, but there are plenty of bad ones. Trump seems eager to grasp them all. And unlike the bomb that was the Plaza deal, these ones could detonate. – New York Times

Uri Friedman writes: It is coordinating and aligning its North Korea policies with China’s, and “playing the second fiddle to Beijing” in Korean affairs. Nevertheless, the second fiddle, along with the first, is getting louder these days. […]The status quo, while reducing tensions on the peninsula and keeping North Korea’s nuclear-weapons development in check to an extent, also threatens to undermine the U.S. defense alliance with South Korea and American military readiness in the region more broadly. – The Atlantic


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that trade talks between the United States and China were entering a critical point as an American delegation heads to Beijing this week to try to finalize a long-awaited deal. – New York Times

Chinese spies are increasingly recruiting U.S. intelligence officers as part of a widening, sustained campaign to shake loose government secrets. – Wall Street Journal

In China’s long bid to gain greater influence on the global stage, placing a senior cop at the top of Interpol was meant to be a diplomatic achievement. China wanted to shoulder a bigger role in the world of international law enforcement. It also wanted Interpol’s help reeling in fugitives facing charges of alleged corruption back home, where President Xi Jinping had launched a crackdown dubbed Operation Fox Hunt. In a twist, Mr. Meng, leading the hunt, became a target.  – Wall Street Journal

Traders travel freely through the bustling Khorgos special economic zone that straddles the Kazakhstan-China border, but signs on the Chinese side bear a blunt warning — no veils or long beards allowed. It’s a stark reminder of the severe security policies that China has imposed on mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in its vast border region of Xinjiang, which it considers crucial to the success of President Xi Jinping’s cherished Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). – Agence FrancePresse

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Saturday $64 billion in deals were signed at a summit on his Belt and Road Initiative and more nations would join the global infrastructure programme as he sought to ease concerns over the colossal project. – Agence FrancePresse

The head of the U.S. Navy warned China that its coast guard and maritime militia will be treated in the same way as the nation’s navy in the South China Sea, the Financial Times reported, citing an interview. – Bloomberg

The U.S. military said it sent two Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday as the Pentagon increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China. – Reuters

Chinese surveillance tactics “pose an existential threat” to the nations of the Western Hemisphere, a senior State Department official warned Friday. – Washington Examiner

Tens of thousands of people marched on Hong Kong’s parliament on Sunday to demand the scrapping of proposed extradition rules that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial – a move which some fear puts the city’s core freedoms at risk. – Reuters

Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, and Liu He, China’s vice-premier, are poised to plunge back into face-to-face negotiations to end their trade war — with a new round of talks in Beijing this week and another in Washington next week. – Financial Times

The first of a new class of guided missile destroyer from China made an appearance at a naval review to mark the 70th Anniversary of the country’s navy. – Defense News

Neena Shenai writes: Facing pressure for political wins and fixated on trade deficits, the Trump administration may settle for compelling China to buy more US exports and agree to unenforceable changes to its economic model. If it chooses this path, the US will have created a managed trade framework with China — adopting a model out of China’s playbook — at the cost of its commitment to free market values and the international economic architecture. – Financial Times


The United States on Friday found backing from rivals Russia and China on the key formula of a peace deal it is negotiating in Afghanistan — withdrawing troops in return for Taliban pledges not to welcome foreign extremists. – Agence FrancePresse

There will be no enduring peace in Afghanistan unless the Taliban adapt to the changes that have swept the country since they were ousted in 2001, a US diplomat said Sunday. – Agence FrancePresse

Afghanistan’s president opened a grand council on Monday of more than 3,200 prominent figures seeking to agree on a common approach to peace talks with the Taliban, but the gathering instead looks to further aggravate divisions within the U.S.-backed government. – Associated Press

The suffering of young women like Khadeja is why women rights activists say they are demanding a seat at the table in negotiations between the government and the Taliban over peace and Afghanistan’s future. – Associated Press

The number of security contractors the military employs in Afghanistan is higher now than at any time since President Barack Obama declared an end to combat operations in the country in 2014, Defense Department documents show. – US News

South Asia

Police believe the Easter bombers likely worked with Islamic State to carry out the sophisticated attack that killed more than 250 people, and are working to determine how much direct support they received from the extremist group. – Wall Street Journal

Authorities confirmed that a radical preacher who inspired a series of Easter bombings died during the attack, but security forces pursued Islamist militants into Friday evening, engaging in fierce firefights in the area from which he hailed. – Wall Street Journal

Since more than 250 people were killed in coordinated terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, thousands of security forces have fanned out across the country in a massive operation intended to neutralize the ongoing threat of another attack. – Washington Post

Militants linked to Easter suicide bombings opened fire and set off explosives during a raid by Sri Lankan security forces on a house in the country’s east, leaving behind a grisly discovery Saturday: 15 bodies, including six children. – Associated Press

While monitoring the usual channels, Indian police stumbled upon something extraordinary: a detailed plot for what would become the bloodiest attack linked to the Islamic State group in South Asia. – Associated Press

The 59-second video shows eight men clasping hands and pledging allegiance to the “Emir of the Believers” and the “Caliphate of the Muslims.” They were about to launch a series of devastating attacks in Sri Lanka, an atrocity that took the lives of more than 250 people and simultaneously declared that ISIS is far from extinguished as a global threat. – CNN

The sister of the suspected ringleader of Sri Lanka’s deadly Easter Sunday bombings has told CNN up to 18 of her family members are missing and feared dead since the attacks and subsequent raids. – CNN

Terror masterminds have been freed up to carry out further Sri Lanka-style attacks on tourists because they are no longer preoccupied with running the Islamic State, intelligence officials have told the Sunday Telegraph. – Telegraph

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for three men who blew themselves up in clashes with Sri Lankan police, the militant group said in a statement. – Agence FrancePresse


While neither guided bomb nor armored vehicle, a gray oblong water pump sticking out from the brush along a remote dirt road is intended to be just as clear a sign of the United States’ efforts to stop the spread of the Islamic State. – New York Times

Canadian and Japanese leaders on Sunday jointly trumpeted a rebooted Pacific trade pact that came into effect at the start of the year, without the United States. – Agence FrancePresse

Donald Trump’s hopes of completing a trade deal with Japan next month have been severely dented after he failed to persuade prime minister Shinzo Abe to give the US greater access to the country’s agricultural market. – Financial Times


Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that the U.S. giving Maria Butina an 18-month sentence was an attempt to “save face.” – Washington Examiner

Russian agent Maria Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison Friday for conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate conservative American political circles and influence U.S. relations with Russia. – Washington Examiner

Matthew Bodner writes: Russian naval activity in the Mediterranean goes beyond the presence of American carriers. Revival of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — and, by extension, the old Mediterranean flotilla — was one of the key provisions of Russia’s updated naval doctrine in 2015. The annexation of Crimea the year before gave Moscow unhindered access to the key naval base at Sevastopol and opened the door to modernization of that fleet, once prohibited under an agreement with Ukraine. – Defense News


To all appearances, it was a stirring reminder of Britain’s commitment to European defense, Brexit or no Brexit. But the battalion, based in Estonia as a critical part of NATO’s response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, is the polished surface of a hollow shell — a British military that has been badly damaged by austerity and political choices that have consistently favored symbol over substance in a struggle to remain a global power. – New York Times

Spain’s parliamentary elections produced no clear winner, the latest example of Europe’s fragmenting political landscape in which upstarts siphon votes from traditional parties, making it harder to build governing majorities. – Wall Street Journal

With Brexit passions running high, campaigners are hitting Britain’s streets and taking to social media ahead of European elections. Political parties old and new are gearing up for what has been described as a “zombie” election that was never meant to be held until Britain delayed its scheduled departure from the European Union. – Agence FrancePresse

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged caution over the role of China’s Huawei in the UK, saying the government should think carefully before opening its doors to the technology giant to develop next-generation 5G mobile networks. – Agence FrancePresse

European leaders will try to bring bitter foes Serbia and Kosovo back to the negotiating table at a regional summit in Berlin on Monday, hoping to reboot a dialogue over one of the Balkans’ thorniest disputes. – Agence FrancePresse

The European Union warned Saturday that US President Donald Trump’s rejection of a UN treaty designed to regulate the global arms trade would hamper the global fight against illicit weapons trafficking. – Agence FrancePresse

Poland is unlikely to leave the European Union, even if the ruling eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party wins re-election this year, EU executive head Jean-Claude Juncker said in an interview published on Monday. – Reuters

Facing tough competition from China, the United States and even tiny Luxembourg, Germany is racing to draft new laws and attract private investment to secure a slice of an emerging space market that could be worth $1 trillion a year by the 2040s. – Reuters

Germany’s decision not to buy the F-35 stealth fighter jet is a “retrograde step” that could hamper the country’s ability to operate at the same level as its Nato partners, according to the European head of Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the aircraft. – Financial Times


For a quarter-century the United States shaped Sudan’s relationship with the outside world. Washington branded Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism, fired cruise missiles at a factory in the capital, Khartoum, and imposed sanctions over war crimes in Darfur. – New York Times

Sudanese protest leaders held talks with the ruling military council on Sunday after the military condemned an attack on an Islamist party close to President Omar al-Bashir, who was removed from power and jailed earlier this month. – Associated Press

The U.S. killed three suspected Islamic State militants in an airstrike in Somalia as part of a long-running campaign to curb the activities of extremist groups in the country. – Bloomberg

Gunman kidnapped three oil workers from Canada, Scotland and Nigeria at a rig in Nigeria’s Delta region on Saturday, officials said – the second abduction in the area in less than a week. – Reuters

United States

A San Diego man has been detained in connection with a shooting at a synagogue in nearby Poway, Calif., that resulted in one death, in what authorities said is being investigated as a possible hate crime. – Wall Street Journal

Inspired by the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and enabled by the largely unchecked freedoms of social media, individual extremists have launched a steady series of assaults on religious institutions around the world, the latest at a California synagogue. – Washington Post

When a man opened fire at the Chabad of Poway, near San Diego, on Saturday, it was the last day of a major Jewish holiday and the six-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. The 19-year-old suspect — accused in the killing of one and wounding of three, all of whom were Jewish — is reported to have espoused white-supremacist and anti-Semitic dogma. – Washington Post

Anti-Defamation League chief Jonathan Greenblatt excoriated The New York Times over the weekend for publishing a cartoon that depicted anti-Semitic tropes. – Times of Israel

The U.S. military is investigating 11 servicemen for links to the extremist group Identity Evropa, which was involved in planning white nationalist and pro-Confederacy rallies in Charlottesville, Va. – Washington Examiner

Veterans of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu have slammed Rep. Ilhan Omar’s, D-Minn., for accusing them of killing “thousands” of Somalis and ignoring the fact they were engaged in a United Nations mission designed to protect civilians from a murderous warlord following a devastating famine and civil war. – Washington Examiner

Bret Stephens writes: The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t. The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism — and that, at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia. – New York Times

Seth J. Frantzman writes: How can we demand that there be zero tolerance for antisemitism and antisemitic tropes when this happens? People must speak up against the cartoon fiasco and demand a real accounting. And a real conversation. Not another set of excuses where we all pretend it’s not clearly antisemitism, and it’s not clearly an attack on Jews and “dual loyalty.” We need to hear contrition and explanations. The public should be included, and The New York Times should listen to how harmful and offensive this was. – Jerusalem Post

Peter Bergen writes: Terrorism is generally defined as an act of violence against civilians for political purposes by an individual or group. Saturday’s assault at the San Diego-area synagogue by suspect John Earnest certainly fits that definition. […]There are three kinds of issues that need to be addressed to respond to these cases of domestic terrorism. – CNN

Amos Harel writes: Terror attacks by white racists in the United States and other countries may be the work of lone wolves, but these wolves are already part of a pack. There’s a direct line between the attack on a synagogue near San Diego Saturday morning and the earlier attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh exactly six months ago. Moreover, the terrorists who attack synagogues in America draw their inspiration from far-right extremists in other countries. […]all these terrorists have an older hero, far-right extremist Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people in Norway in a well-planned attack eight years ago. – Haaretz

The Americas

The prohibition, introduced by Quebec’s new center-right government and expected to take effect in June, would apply to a range of public employees and religious practices. Police officers, prosecutors and teachers hold positions of authority in their communities, provincial Premier François Legault says, and shouldn’t be wearing symbols that might promote their faith while they serve the public. – Washington Post

US sanctions came into effect Sunday to block Venezuela’s economic lifeline of oil exports, in what Washington hopes will be a major blow in its fledgling campaign to topple leftist President Nicolas Maduro. – Agence FrancePresse

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Saturday staged a rally to celebrate its split with a key regional forum, the Organization of American States. – Associated Press


In an interview on Friday, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida took it one step further, saying that Russian hackers not only accessed a Florida voting system, but were “in a position” to change voter roll data. – New York Times

U.S. officials are enjoying “dramatically better” cooperation with social media companies in the wake of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to FBI director Christopher Wray. – Washington Examiner

Industry leaders are warning that the targets U.S. Cyber Command will pursue in the future may not be connected to the internet or even accessible through the traditional, IP-based operations that the command has historically exploited in the past. – Fifth Domain

Silicon Valley is wrestling with a Pentagon-shaped ethical question, and April 25 the arena for this particular fight was a wood-paneled ballroom at Stanford University, which hosted a listening session of the Defense Innovation Board. The Board exists to advise the secretary of defense on modern technology, and for nearly two hours it heard members of the public express their fears and hopes about applying robot brains to modern warfare. – C4ISRNET


A senior Pentagon official warns that the Russian and Chinese militaries are refocusing their efforts to counter U.S. space operations, posing an existential threat to America’s military edge. – Washington Examiner

The Pentagon’s acquisition community is going after two major sources of risk within the industrial base: the cybersecurity of companies that do business with the Defense Department, and fragility within certain critical suppliers. – USNI News

Theater commanders around the world want weapons they can see and use right now, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs told the Army War College. It’s a lot harder, Gen. Joseph Dunford said, to sell experienced senior officers on an untested and intangible capability like Artificial Intelligence. – Breaking Defense

A growing number of US satellite owners/operators want to see the Commerce Department develop new on-orbit safety rules, particularly for the increasingly congested Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Nonetheless, industry officials say, there remain strong pockets of resistance to any new regulations especially among aggressive space startups. – Breaking Defense

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger all but threw his hat in the ring for Air Force secretary on Saturday, saying he would “strongly consider” it if President Donald Trump made the offer. – Defense News

A test announced in late March could herald an enormous change in the way the Navy modernizes its ships, while making a once prohibitive cost of maintaining older ships attainable. – C4ISRNET

The Navy and Coast Guard have awarded a Mississippi shipbuilder a contract that could be worth as much as $1.9 billion to build a new fleet of icebreakers. – Navy Times

Overall military expenditures rose 2.6 percent between 2017 and 2018, to hit a total of $1.82 trillion dollars, according to new research from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. – Defense News

Gen T. Michael Moseley (ret.) writes: No matter the military operation, Air Force air power provides commanders crucial options. However, leaders outside the service opted to take a “procurement holiday” in the years following the Cold War. […]The only way to address these concurrent shortfalls is to buy modern replacements in sufficient numbers as fast as possible. – Defense News

Long War

The extradition to Britain of the brother of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi is in the hands of Libya’s courts, the North African country’s interior minister said on Sunday. – Agence FrancePresse

Germany has stopped processing some applications for asylum by Syrian refugees, pending a new assessment of the security situation in the war-torn country, according to a report on Saturday. – Agence FrancePresse

A series of bombings in Sri Lanka show the Islamic State retains a deadly “virtual caliphate” despite losing the territory the organization held at peak strength, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray. – Washington Examiner

Charlie Winter and Aymenn al-Tamimi write: Two days after the bombings in Sri Lanka, the Islamic State came out and said it was behind them. It backed up its claim with video evidence that showed the attackers gathering in front of its flag to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s current leader. The attack had been coming for some time, and others like it are almost certainly being planned—and not just in Sri Lanka. – The Atlantic

Trump Administration

Democrats and the Justice Department are in a standoff over the terms of Attorney General William P. Barr’s planned testimony before the House Judiciary Committee this week, raising the prospect that the hearing might not go forward at all. – Washington Post

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, a close ally of Donald Trump, called for more sanctions on Russia and criticized presidential adviser Jared Kushner’s statements downplaying the significance of that country’s interference in the 2016 election. – Bloomberg

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Friday that he expects Russia to target the 2020 US presidential election with social media campaigns, fake news and propaganda in a bid to divide Americans and “pit us against each other.” – Agence FrancePresse

President Donald Trump has announced he is withdrawing the US from a UN-negotiated global arms treaty, a victory for the National Rifle Association, which had lobbied against the pact. – Financial Times