Fdd's overnight brief

April 5, 2019

In The News


The United Nations’ atomic agency has heeded calls by the U.S. and Israel to inspect a site that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed last fall was housing Iranian nuclear equipment and material, according to officials familiar with the agency’s work. But the visit may have come too late to yield proof of the claims. – Wall Street Journal

The U.N. atomic watchdog policing Iran’s nuclear deal has inspected what Israel’s prime minister called a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran, three diplomats familiar with the agency’s work said. – Reuters

Iranians affected by the county’s worst floods in a decade have been staging angry demonstrations against what they say is an inadequate relief response by the government. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

President Hassan Rouhani has once again attacked the United States for imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic, accusing Washington of blocking international aid from reaching flood-hit Iran. – Radio Farda

David Albright and Andrea Stricker write: Turquz Abad ultimately must be looked at as a failure by the IAEA to act promptly, but it can still salvage its mission in Iran and provide assurances or other conclusions following the disclosure of the Nuclear Archive information. After all, its basic mandate is to verify Iran’s safeguards agreement as a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty member state. So far, it still remains far from determining that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. – Institute for Science and International Security


A young Lebanese girl has donated money she saved to Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in exchange for a copy of the Quran and a hijab. – Jerusalem Post

Al-Jadeed/New TV (Lebanon) aired a report and hosted a show featuring Hawra Nada, a young Lebanese girl who donated money she saved to Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. The report showed Hawra removing money from a penny bank. Hawra said that she loves Hassan Nasrallah, that her life is dedicated to him, and that she gave him the money she saved up so that he could “get a missile and fight the enemies” like she saw him do on TV.  –Middle East Media Research Institute

Islamic State

Iraq must ensure that Islamic State leadership faces justice for alleged war crimes and genocide against civilians, not just charges of belonging to a terrorist group, a United Nations human rights investigator said on Thursday. – Reuters

For months, U.S. commanders have been warning that even when the last bit of Syrian territory was liberated from the control of the Islamic State, the brutal ISIS movement would be far from defeated. – Washington Examiner

Diliman Abdulkader writes: In other words, ISIS is not defeated, and ISIS will likely reemerge. […]The SDF, SDC, and the 79-member Global Coalition has taken away Assad’s lifeline by holding on to northeast Syria. The Assad regime is cash-strapped; relieving the pressure now would be a grave mistake. Assad may have retaken large swaths of territory west of the Euphrates river, but most of Syria’s assets are east of the Euphrates. He needs to take them back, and the U.S. presence there blocks him from doing so. The U.S. should hold its ground. – Washington Examiner


Syrian government shelling has killed at least a dozen people in rebel-held Idlib, according to rescue workers, the latest violence to threaten a Russia-Turkey brokered truce in the northwestern region. – Al Jazeera

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria last December, claiming that the extremist group Islamic State had been defeated. Beijing sees the situation in Syria as an opportunity to benefit economically, expand its influence in the Middle East and even boost its globe-spanning Belt and Road infrastructure investment initiative. – CNBC

Work between Turkey and the United States to implement an agreement over the Syrian town of Manbij is proceeding more slowly than desired, Turkish military sources said. – Reuters

Syria vehemently pushed back Thursday after Russian president Vladimir Putin said that Damascus had aided in the search and recovery of remains of an Israeli serviceman lost in a 1982 battle and buried in Jerusalem Thursday. – Times of Israel

Syria will not shy away from using force to reconquer “every inch” of the Golan Heights, the country’s foreign minister threatened Thursday. – Times of Israel

The Russian army chief of staff demanded Thursday to be given more warning time before any Israeli attacks on military targets in Syria. The demand comes a day after Israel announced the return of the remains of an IDF soldier missing since the First Lebanon War in 1982, whose body had been located by Russian troops in Syria. – Ynet


Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, which has raised tensions with Washington, is a “done deal” and cannot be canceled, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday. – Reuters

The United States is continuing discussions with Turkey over its plans to buy a missile defense system from Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, adding he was confident the two NATO allies could find a path forward. – Reuters

Turkey’s foreign minister on Thursday criticized a statement from the U.S. State Department about his meeting with his U.S. counterpart, saying references to Syria and detained U.S. consular staff did not reflect the truth. – Reuters

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo isn’t interested in forming a “technical working group” to discuss whether Turkey’s purchase of major Russian weaponry could endanger Western militaries. – Washington Examiner

The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin Corp. this week delivered an F-35 jet bought by Turkey to an Arizona base where it will help train Turkish pilots, despite a continuing dispute over that country’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system. – Bloomberg

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence warned Turkey that its “reckless” move to purchase a Russian missile-defense system risked diminishing the nation’s role within NATO. – Bloomberg

The University’s decision to cancel a panel discussion regarding the rule of law in Turkey has sparked national conversation among scholars regarding political pressure from the Turkish government and its potential to interfere with academic freedom at Columbia. – Columbia Spectator


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to thank him for help finding a long-missing Israeli soldier’s remains, capping over a week of high-profile diplomatic huddles as some polls showed him gaining ground before Israel’s election on Tuesday. – Wall Street Journal

Despite ups and downs in the past 37 years, Israel’s security forces didn’t give up. On Wednesday they were able to bring closure to the Baumel family, which will now finally be able to bury their son Zachary, who disappeared during the First Lebanon War in 1982. But two other families — the families of Zachary’s comrades, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz — are still awaiting their closure. – Ynet

The elections in Israel are highly anticipated – not only because of the natural curiosity and the charged atmosphere, but also because of the long-awaited peace plan. The plan was expected to be made public a few months ago, but in December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for early elections, a move that stirred things up. Since then, US President Donald Trump recently signed a proclamation that recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a decision that caused countless speculations regarding the administration’s next step. – Jerusalem Post

Global antisemitism can best be observed at the General Assembly of the United Nations. Senior diplomats of many democracies participate actively in these major annual antisemitic activities. The widely accepted definition of antisemitism agreed upon by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) states that an antisemitic manifestation, “…might include the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” – Jerusalem Post

On April 1, 2019, the International Union of Muslim Clerics (IUMS) proclaimed Friday, April 5, 2019 as “Day of Support for Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and Gaza,” and urged Muslim preachers worldwide to devote their sermon on that day to this topic. The IUMS also posted a sermon it advised the preachers to deliver on that date, which calls for armed jihad against Israel and includes antisemitic motifs. The following are excerpts from it. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi will travel to Iran on Saturday, a member of his office said, in his first official visit to the country rivaling Washington for influence over Baghdad. – Agence France-Presse

Nadia Murad writes: The Iraqi government and international actors must help preserve evidence of the Yazidi genocide and other Islamic State attacks, including mass graves, documents and the testimonies of survivors. We are ready to face our captors and rapists in local and international courts, and even participate in a truth and reconciliation committee. Do not let our stories and our bravery go to waste. – Washington Post

Hazhar Omer Ismail writes: As we witness the final moments of the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have been welcoming back Yezidis, who by some miracle survived the genocide and escaped the terror group’s last wretched days in Baghouz, Syria. For the people of the region, the liberation of the last territory held by this perverse death cult is a welcomed milestone. But this is not really an end, just the beginning of the next phase of our war against terrorism. If we are to win the post-caliphate peace in Iraq, we will need the full diplomatic and military support of the United States and its partners. – The Hill

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has reopened a consulate in Baghdad for the first time in nearly 30 years and announced a one billion dollars aid package for Iraq. – Wall Street Journal

Saudi Arabia has detained at least eight more people, including two U.S. citizens, who pressed for women’s rights in the highly conservative kingdom, deepening a crackdown on political opponents despite international criticism. – Wall Street Journal

A nuclear technology expert said Thursday Google satellite images show Saudi Arabia is about a year away from completing the construction of its first nuclear reactor. – Times of Israel


The House on Thursday gave final passage to a bipartisan resolution forcing an end to United States military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, sending President Trump a pointed rebuke over his continued defense of the kingdom after the killing of a dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. – New York Times

Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, has suspended work at its hospital in Yemen’s second city of Aden after the kidnapping and killing of one of its patients. – Al Jazeera


A military leader who has vowed for years that he would seize control of Libya ordered his troops on Thursday to march on the capital, Tripoli. – New York Times

Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar reached a security barrier within 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the capital Tripoli late Thursday, an AFP journalist saw, as world powers warned of consequences for military action. – Agence France-Presse

Eastern Libyan forces said two of their solders were wounded in clashes as they moved on the capital Tripoli on Thursday. – Reuters

The governments of France, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States said on Thursday they were deeply concerned about fighting around the Libyan town of Gharyan and urged all sides to immediately de-escalate tensions. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

The resignation of Algerian leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika after huge protests has inspired activists in the region, but looks unlikely to spark a repeat of the Arab Spring uprisings. – Agence France-Presse

Whoever replaces Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, ousted by weeks of protest, will inherit another crisis-in-the-making: the economy. Even before hundreds of thousands of Algerians began their campaign for political change, the government had only a few years worth of foreign currency reserves left. With the OPEC member heading into uncharted territory after Bouteflika resigned on Tuesday, the clock to financial upheaval is now ticking faster. – Bloomberg

David Ignatius writes: U.S. foreign policy often focuses on giving countries political advice — which in Egypt and many other countries has created a backlash of popular resentment. The Enterprise Fund idea is instead to give them capital to start new businesses. The balance sheet presented by Enan suggests this is one U.S. strategy that actually works. – Washington Post

Korean Peninsula

Just a month after hosting a summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Vietnam has deported three North Korean refugees, sending them home via China to an uncertain future in their homeland. – Washington Post

Hong Chang was identified by Spanish authorities as the ringleader of the group’s daredevil raid on the North Korean Embassy in Madrid, walking in ahead of his posse under the pretext of a meeting with an embassy official. Only bits and pieces of information are available about the man, who appears to have ties to the FBI and CIA. – The Chosunilbo

Ramon Pacheco Pardo and Lisa Collins write: The success of any diplomatic process with North Korea is predicated on the belief that Pyongyang is actually willing to change and prioritize economic growth over nuclear weapons. From a South Korean perspective, this is indeed the case. The fact that Kim publicly stated his willingness to denuclearize in Hanoi is positive for Seoul. His prioritization of economic growth since the Korean Workers’ Party plenum of April 2018 is also positive news. But President Moon has to make sure to steer Kim in that direction. Otherwise, dreams of inter-Korean reconciliation will hardly be realized. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The U.S. and China are aiming to reach a trade deal in the next four weeks, President Trump said, though he failed to announce a much-anticipated summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. – Wall Street Journal

The prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology is cutting future research collaborations with Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE, citing US investigations into the companies’ alleged sanctions violations. – Agence France-Presse

Josh Rogin writes: The issue of Chinese influence in U.S. academia is complex. Not all Confucius Institutes operate the same. Not all research partnerships carry security risks. Chinese student groups on campus are often connected to the Chinese government, but instances of their direct interference in academic freedom are few and far between. It will take all sectors of the U.S. government and society working together to further comprehend Beijing’s strategy and then respond smartly to protect our society. – Washington Post

Scott Paul writes: The time to deal is now. It’s time to demand more market access for American firms; firmly enforced intellectual property rights; enforced labor standards for Chinese workers; equivalent standards and enforcement for pollution controls; and escalated tariffs, should China fail to meet its obligations, rather than a lengthy and frustrating consultation process. – Washington Examiner


A large attack by the Taliban in western Afghanistan on Thursday killed at least 30 soldiers and police officers, Afghan officials said, in a sign of intensifying spring fighting across the country despite American efforts to reach a peace deal. – New York Times

The United States has revoked the entry visa of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, her office said on Thursday, a response to her inquiry into possible war crimes by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. – Reuters

Afghan security forces have arrested six alleged members of the Islamic State militant group and accused them of using hundreds of fake accounts on Facebook Inc and other social media to find recruits, authorities said on Thursday. – Reuters


Chinese fishing vessels have swarmed the waters around a Philippine-controlled island in the South China Sea in recent months—sparking fears in Manila that Beijing is trying to assert greater control in a disputed area. – Wall Street Journal

Three weeks after Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant live-streamed his mosque rampage on Facebook , authorities in New Zealand announced new charges against him and neighboring Australia passed laws to force social-media companies to remove violent or objectionable content. […]Mr. Tarrant will face 50 murder charges and 39 attempted-murder charges, with perhaps more to follow, New Zealand police said on Thursday. – Wall Street Journal

The suspected New Zealand mosque gunman sent money to a French far-right group and once bought a ticket to Bavaria’s “fairytale castle,” German police said Thursday. – Associated Press

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday he was open to allowing the return of orphaned children of an Australian jihadist in a Syrian refugee camp following their desperate plea for help. – Agence France-Presse

India’s claim that one of its fighter pilots shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in an aerial battle between the two nuclear powers in February appears to be wrong. Two senior U.S. defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation told Foreign Policy that U.S. personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing. – Foreign Policy


NATO said Thursday it was taking new action to counter Russia’s “aggression,” finding a united message amid other differences within the Western alliance on its 70th anniversary. – Agence France-Presse

NATO foreign ministers approved a series of measures Thursday aimed at countering Russia in the Black Sea region, an agreement that comes amid public rifts between the United States and several of the other 28 members on security and trade issues. – Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday called on NATO allies to adapt to confront emerging threats, including Russia’s military interventions in places such as Venezuela, Chinese strategic competition and cyber threats. – Reuters

Behind the perimeter of a defense ministry base in southern Russia stand three barrack buildings where two witnesses say they have seen private fighters being billeted before they are dispatched to fight in Syria for President Bashar al-Assad. – Reuters

The family of the only American killed when Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in 2014 have filed suit against two Russian banks and U.S. money-transfer firms for allegedly providing services to Russia-backed separatists accused of shooting the plane down over Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Leon Aron writes: On closer inspection, Chinese-Russian economic, foreign policy, and military cooperation is less than impressive. The history of relations between the two countries is fraught, and they play vastly different roles in the world economy, making a divergence in their objectives all but unavoidable. In short, reports of a Russian-Chinese alliance have been greatly exaggerated. – Foreign Policy


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on NATO members to “stand together” and confront evolving threats, even as resentments old and new flared at a meeting of alliance diplomats Thursday in Washington. – Washington Post

The accumulated incidents in Europe and the United States have highlighted how an ancient prejudice is surging in the 21st century in both familiar and mutant ways, fusing ideologies that otherwise would have little overlap. The spike is taking place in a context of rising global economic uncertainty, an emphasis on race and national identity, and a deepening polarization between the political left and right in Europe and the United States over the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. – New York Times

For 46 years, British manufacturers have built their supply chains and export markets around free trade with Europe. On April 12, that could come to an end, rupturing one of the world’s most advanced, cross-border assembly lines. To get ready, British companies are hoarding at rates rarely seen outside of wartime. – Wall Street Journal

A Dutch judge on Thursday extended for three months the detention of the suspect in a shooting that killed four people in the city of Utrecht last month. Turkish-born Gokmen Tanis, 37, is accused of carrying out the shooting aboard a tram out of terrorist intent. Authorities are also investigating whether he had other personal motives. – Reuters

A Twitter account for WikiLeaks, the document trove website founded by Julian Assange, said Thursday that Assange will be ousted from his sanctuary at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London within “hours to days.” – The Hill

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and French counterpart Christophe Castaner said they are in full agreement on security issues as they sought to draw a line under months of contention between their two governments. – Bloomberg

A Spanish court ruled that a city council that nixed an Israeli film festival due to its support of boycotts of the Jewish state had violated four fundamental rights enshrined in the Spanish constitution. – Algemeiner

As Brexit day looms, the question of how to handle Britain’s border with Ireland has dominated the debate over the withdrawal agreement. But now a new EU law has shone a light on the future of another tricky frontier, that between Spain and the British territory of Gibraltar. – Agence France-Presse

Across much of Britain’s former Asian colonies, many are greeting the UK’s impending departure from the European Union with a mixture of bafflement, apathy, amusement — and a touch of schadenfreude. – Agence France-Presse

The chairman of European Union leaders Donald Tusk is likely to offer Britain a flexible extension of the date of the country’s exit from the EU of up to one year, with the possibility of leaving sooner, a senior EU official said. – Reuters

With Britain still feverishly discussing its Brexit plans, the other 27 European Union states are preparing their joint stance for a top-level summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday. – Reuters

Editorial: Avoiding Brexit altogether is still the best way forward, even if it means further delay and the costs that go with it. The right result is possible even now, if Britain’s politicians finally start putting the country’s interests first. – Bloomberg

Henry Olsen writes: The threat to U.S. security from an increasingly aggressive China will also impact the alliance, regardless of who is in the Oval Office. […]A wise foreign policy would stop trying to revive the old and instead try to create the new. The United States does have important interests in a strong transatlantic alliance, and the president is wrong to think we should withdraw from NATO, as he has reportedly done in private. But it may also be pulling on a string to maintain an old alliance that some of its members no longer value as much as they used to. – Washington Post

Tim Kaine and Cory Gardner write: For long-term sustainability, it will be important for all NATO members to increase their spending on defense, in order to meet and exceed the minimum threshold of 2 percent of GDP. We strongly believe that as allies, we should have frank but respectful conversations about this important issue. – The Atlantic

Will Hurd writes: This shield remains indispensable to American national security and, it is incumbent on policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic to continue to make the case for NATO to their peoples and reinforce what we have accomplished together. These partners are our true friends, with bonds forged through the fire of conflict and through the growth of democracy. We must always stand with them. – The Hill

Howard Schulz writes: We must support the alliance’s efforts to transition resources to the increasing threat from cyber attacks around the globe — most especially from Russia. NATO needs even more fortification to fight this growing menace, which may soon become the gravest threat facing the American people. As NATO looks ahead to its next 70 years, the United States must continue to be a leader for peace and security. And we must do so in concert with our allies. – Medium


Security officials are intensifying their search for an American tourist and her local guide kidnapped Tuesday evening after armed men ambushed them on a game drive in a national park in southwest Uganda. – Washington Post

Jihadist group Islamic State said on Thursday it had killed 13 Nigerian soldiers and five troops from a west African anti-militant force in attacks over recent days. – Reuters

Seven people were injured when a car bomb exploded near the police academy in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Thursday, police said, the latest in a string of attacks in the city by Islamist insurgent group al Shabaab. – Reuters

United States

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday told lawmakers that white supremacist violence is a “persistent” and “pervasive” threat in the U.S. – The Hill

A second Democratic office in Oklahoma was vandalized Tuesday with racist and Nazi graffiti and police say the suspect is the same woman accused of vandalizing the state’s Democratic Party Headquarters and the Chickasaw Nation office with Nazi and anti-gay language last week, according to NBC News. – The Hill

The main suspect behind antisemitic and racist vandalism carried out in Norman, Oklahoma overnight Tuesday is believed to have also painted hateful graffiti in neighboring Oklahoma City last week. – Algemeiner

Latin America

The government of Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has rejected an appeal by a United Nations expert not to revise Brazilian history by denying a military coup occurred in 1964. – Reuters

The EU on Thursday condemned a decision to strip Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido of immunity from prosecution, calling it a “serious violation” of the constitution that undermined the chances of a peaceful solution to the country’s crisis. – Agence France-Presse

Venezuela’s deputy foreign minister Ivan Gil said on Thursday he does not rule out that more Russian military personnel may arrive in Venezuela under agreements already concluded with Russia, Interfax news agency reported. – Reuters

Venezuela is not going to become “another Syria” for Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a state-backed Russian newspaper in an interview published this week. “We have nothing to hide,” he said in response to a question about what Russian troops are doing in the once wealthy South American nation. – CBS News


Australia has passed tough new laws that threaten to send social media executives to jail if they do not act quickly to take down violent content. – Al Jazeera

German chemicals company Bayer said Thursday that it was the target of a cyberattack that has been traced to a hacking group in China. – The Hill

A survey of security professionals in six countries, including the UK, by the Ponemon Institute found 90% had been hit by at least one successful attack. – BBC News


President Donald Trump on Thursday lamented the amount of money that the United States, China and Russia spend on weapons production, including nuclear weapons, and suggested that such money could be better spent elsewhere. – Reuters

The United States is considering expanding sales of Lockheed Martin Corp-made F-35 fighter jets to five new nations including Romania, Greece and Poland as European allies bulk up their defenses in the face of a strengthening Russia, a Pentagon official told Congress on Thursday. – Reuters

Steve Forbes writes: The Pentagon budget has risen by billions of dollars under President Trump. But it is not enough to spend more. The money must be spent smarter. The Pentagon has needed a cleanup crew for some time. Thankfully, the latest appointee to the department is ready to get to work and run it like a solid business. – The Hill

Trump Administration

Donald Trump wanted a victory lap after the apparent flop of the Russia collusion probe, but on Thursday, 11 days later, the president instead found himself being chased in circles. – Agence France-Presse

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), a 2020 presidential candidate, is accusing CNN’s Fareed Zakaria of trying to “goad” President Trump “into going to war” with Russia. – The Hill

Shortly before Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed his report on the Russia investigation last month, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., alerted Attorney General Bill Barr to what they described as the “selective” use of emails in Mueller court filings — as well as potential “improper political influence, misconduct, and mismanagement” in the FBI’s original Russia probe. – Fox News