Fdd's overnight brief

August 12, 2020

In The News


Trump administration officials said there is no detailed strategy for rapid negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran despite the president’s recent remarks that he would strike a quick agreement if he wins a second term. – Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration has backed away from a hardline resolution on Iran that risked alienating UN Security Council allies, and will instead present a “clean” version to extend an arms embargo due to expire in October. – Financial Times

The United States on Tuesday circulated a revised resolution that would extend a U.N. arms embargo on Iran indefinitely, seeking to gain more support in the 15-member Security Council where veto-wielding Russia and China have voiced strong opposition. – Associated Press

Iranian authorities have arrested five Iranians on charges of spying for Israel, Britain and Germany, convicting and handing down prison sentences on at least two of them, the judiciary said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Iranian hard-liners in parliament on Wednesday voted against President Hassan Rouhani’s nominee for trade minister in the first showdown between the rival camps since the house resumed work in May despite the struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus. – Associated Press

Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili on Tuesday announced that a former lawmaker has been arrested in connection with a massive corruption case in which the current Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf allegedly paid 650 billion rials (around $25 million at the time) in bribes. – Radio Farda

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says the heads of the three branches of the state in Iran have decided to offer the country’s oil for sale to private individuals in the Energy Exchange.  – Radio Farda

The efforts of three European powers to convince China and Russia to agree to an extension of the UN arms embargo against Iran have reportedly not succeeded so far as the U.N. Security Council prepares to vote on a U.S. resolution to extend the embargo. – Radio Farda


Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi urged the UN Security Council on Tuesday to enforce Resolution 1701 — the measure that ended the Second Lebanon War exactly 14 years ago and mandated the disarmament of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. – Algemeiner

Firas Maksad writes: Resuscitating the Lebanese state and constraining Hezbollah require an almost complete overhaul of Lebanon’s decrepit political structures. […]Given the exceptional historical moment, coinciding with Lebanon’s centennial, this is the time for a new local and international understanding over the country’s future. It is time to bury the failed system of the past so that a new, more inclusive and more prosperous Lebanon can rise. – Washington Post

Shimon Shapira writes: The struggle between Hezbollah and Israel is currently at full throttle. Hezbollah, with Iran’s help, is working to build long-range capabilities that will allow it to strike precise targets in the Israeli home front. Israel is resolved to prevent Hezbollah from gaining that capability. Even though both sides want to avoid a war, the conflict between them could go out of control if one side makes a miscalculation. – Tablet Magazine

Seth J. Frantzman writes: But all the gerrymandering and careful sectarian logic, which has almost no parallels in the world, means that Lebanon is largely ungovernable. That is one reason a warehouse full of chemicals was kept at the capital’s port. It is why a massive extralegal terrorist group like Hezbollah is able to de facto control southern Lebanon, stockpile 150,000 missiles, conduct Lebanon’s foreign policy and military policy and has a role at the port and airport. So why would it matter if the Hezbollah-picked prime minister leaves. He is the fall guy, the scapegoat, and he will be replaced with some other boring technocrat who will do Hezbollah’s bidding. – Jerusalem Post

Zev Chafets writes: Today countless Lebanese citizens are demonstrating against this status quo. Some are boldly cursing Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on camera or even hanging him in effigy. But Hezbollah won’t be intimidated by inflamed mobs or some new caretaker government. Only Israel has the firepower to remove the group’s hold on the country. – Bloomberg


Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias urged Turkey on Tuesday to withdraw a vessel from the Greek continental shelf. – Reuters

The European Union said on Tuesday recent developments in the eastern Mediterranean are “extremely worrying” and warned of escalating tensions between Turkey and Greece, who are at odds over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the region. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: The persistence of Erdogan’s relationship with Hekmatyar illustrates that it was wishful thinking to believe that Erdogan was ever anything more than a jihadi in a business suit, no matter how many diplomats projected their hopes of change on him. To trust Erdogan’s word now — in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Libya, in Somalia, or anywhere else — is to betray the memory and heroism of Shurer. – Washington Examiner

Sevan Araz and Eliza Campbell write: Turkey’s decision should serve as a clear warning about the potential further erosion of big tech’s willingness to stand its ground on issues of free and open speech. In a Middle East with an increasingly squeezed civil society and shrinking space for political free speech, Turkey may have just shown us a vision of the social media of the future  — and we should watch what happens next with great care. – Middle East Institute

Selçuk Colakoğlu writes: These developments will undoubtedly add a layer of complexity to Turkey’s efforts to consolidate its strategic partnership with Pakistan without alienating and thus stunting the growth of its relationship with India. Finding the right formula for neutralizing the “Pakistan factor” in Turkey-India relations will likely prove more, not less difficult under these circumstances. – Middle East Institute


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz both issued warnings to Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip after incendiary balloons launched from the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave set fires in southern Israel for the sixth straight day. – Algemeiner

IDF fighter jets, helicopters and tanks attacked a number of Hamas terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the IDF Spokesperson said. During the attack, a military compound, underground infrastructure and observation posts were targeted. – Jerusalem Post

Balloon units in the Gaza Strip warned on Wednesday that they would continue launches of incendiary and explosive balloons in response to IDF strikes against terror infrastructure in the Strip on Tuesday night, as Israeli officials warned of a forceful response to the launches. – Jerusalem Post

The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday that it had opened an investigation after a missile landed inside an Israeli community when it was fired by a helicopter gunship toward the Gaza Strip in response to incendiary balloon attacks. – Times of Israel

Tovah Lazaroff writes: Unless the pro-sovereignty supporter holds that the issue must be done in conjunction with Washington, Netanyahu has little to offer them that Bennett cannot. Not even his tight relationship with Trump will be in play, because Trump might not be in the White House. If Netanyahu doesn’t want to continue to bleed right-wing voters to Bennett, he has to give up the “it’s all in Washington’s hands” argument and find a better spin. – Jerusalem Post

Joshua Walker writes: There are clear national security implications to China’s aggressive actions, but the problems cannot be solved by governments alone. While it may not be as obvious, business leaders and tech entrepreneurs in all three nations have already been hard at work to create a new reality where Israel and Japan, as the “start-up nation” and “scale nation,” respectively, complement one another and lead together in an unprecedented way. It is imperative that the U.S. serve as a conduit and encourage these trilateral ties as fulsomely as possible. – Newsweek


Two high-ranking Iraqi officers were killed Tuesday in what the army said was a “blatant Turkish drone attack” in the autonomous Kurdish region, where Ankara has for weeks been raiding militant positions. – Agence France-Presse

Iraq cancelled on Tuesday the Turkish defence minister’s visit to the country which was scheduled for Thursday, Iraq’s foreign ministry said in a statement. – Reuters

At least two explosions have hit convoys supplying U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq in the last 24 hours, security sources said, the first on Monday evening near the southern border with Kuwait and the second on Tuesday north of Baghdad. – Reuters


Lebanon’s leaders shifted their focus Tuesday to forming a new government, a day after the country’s cabinet resigned amid ongoing protests demanding political change in the aftermath of last week’s deadly explosion in Beirut. – Wall Street Journal

Explosions in Beirut last week left more than 160 people dead and more than 6,000 injured. Across Lebanon’s capital, people captured the stunning moment on video, creating a patchwork collage of footage documenting the disaster as it unfolded. Authorities attributed the blast to a stockpile of ammonium nitrate that sat in the city’s crowded port for years, despite warnings of danger. Protests calling for accountability erupted over the weekend. On Monday, the country’s prime minister resigned. Here’s what we know so far. – Washington Post

The U.N. Security Council remains at odds over the way the U.N. peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon operates on the ground, with the United States backing Israel’s demands for major changes. – Associated Press

France earlier this week dispatched one of its amphibious ships to assist Lebanon following a deadly explosion in Beirut. France’s Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs announced on its website last week that landing helicopter dock FS Tonnerre (L9014) would depart for Lebanon on Sunday. The French Ministry of Armed Forces is also sending a cargo ship that was slated to leave Toulon, France. – USNI News

Videos circulating online, as well as rumors and reports, indicate that “tunnels” have been found in the wake of the Beirut explosions. Some have asserted that this is evidence of Hezbollah “tunnels” storing weapons at the Port of Beirut, while others think they were used for human trafficking. Both SkyNews and Russia’s Sputnik News claimed there was a “labyrinth network of tunnels.” – Jerusalem Post

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday about the situation in Lebanon following last Tuesday’s deadly blast in Beirut. – Algemeiner

During the call, Netanyahu also called for the removal of Hezbollah missiles and explosive materials from populated areas. “In order to prevent disasters like the one that occurred at Beirut port, the explosives and missiles that Hezbollah has hidden must be removed from all concentrations of civilian population in Lebanon,” he said. – Times of Israel

Alex Rowell writes: On Monday evening, Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced his resignation. This was the bare minimum sought by the angry, anguished Lebanese who took to the streets. But unless far more extensive change takes place at all levels of the system, ousting the warlords and mafiosi for whom Diab was a mere frontman, the cycle of death and dysfunction will continue without end. Those with the means to do so will join the rapidly-growing convoy of one-way flights out of Beirut. The rest will be left to raise their children in a broken country, at the mercy of criminals who would quite literally see the capital burn rather than govern responsibly. – Washington Post

Hussein Ibish writes: The Hezbollah-backed government has refused other countries’ participation in the investigation. The group is known to dominate most of Lebanon’s key access points, including the area of the port where the explosion took place. But for a series of complex reasons, including last week’s blast, it is increasingly vulnerable. […]Between the economic bailout, aid and reconstruction following the explosions, fallout from any guilty verdicts in the Hariri killing, and, most importantly, sustained and widespread Lebanese public anger, it’s clear Lebanon needs a new national compact. Out of these tragedies, it could get one. – Bloomberg

Hanin Ghaddar writes: Finally, the U.S. government should take the lead in pushing for genuine change rather than following Macron’s lead. The French president might be satisfied with a national unity government. However, this idea reminds the Lebanese people of the first national unity government that was forced on the Lebanese after the events of May 2008. […]What Lebanon needs instead is a new beginning—a new political and social contract that eliminates sectarianism and establishes accountability through judicial reforms. – Foreign Policy

Gulf States

The State Department’s office of the inspector general has concluded that an emergency declaration facilitating $8 billion in weapons sales to U.S. allies in the Gulf last year complied with the law. – Wall Street Journal

Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi will leave Saudi Arabia and head to the United States for medical treatment early on Wednesday, two sources close to the matter told Reuters on Tuesday. – Reuters

The U.S. Department of State did not fully evaluate the risk of civilian casualties in Yemen when it pushed through a huge 2019 precision-guided munitions sale to Saudi Arabia, a government watchdog’s report said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Ryan Grace writes: In conclusion, the adoption of 5G, especially in critical sectors such as oil and gas, has the potential to further the digital transformations underway in the Gulf. However, the high cost of implementation and exacerbated cybersecurity risk could undercut the economic value of 5G, while also enabling the construction of repressive surveillance states within the region. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Tensions are flaring in an eastern Syria province after the assassinations of several powerful Arab tribal leaders, with U.S.-backed forces accusing Islamic State (IS) sleeper cells and Syrian government proxies of carrying out such attacks to cause instability in the former IS stronghold. – VOA News

On August 9, 2020, the leaders of the Al-‘Akidat tribe in the Deir Al-Zour area in eastern Syria announced the establishment of the “Al-‘Akidat Army,” to fight the American forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which work with them in the area around Deir Al-Zour, “until all the lands of Syria are liberated,” and “in coordination with the Syrian Arab Army.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

Egypt on Tuesday reopened Gaza’s main passenger crossing point for the first time in months for thousands of Palestinians who have been stranded on both sides of the border due to the coronavirus crisis. – Associated Press

Mera Jasm Bakr writes: U.S. interests understandably lie in pursuing stability, but in doing so, it must hold the region’s authorities accountable for their destabilizing actions. Pressuring the Kurdish parties to allow peaceful protests, condemning the illegal detention of journalists and activists, and supporting legitimate efforts to reform the KRI will ultimately reduce the kind of instability that followed former President Barzani’s closure of Parliament and the independence referendum. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

A combination of coronavirus border closures and an unprecedented pressure campaign by a South Korean government keen to engage with North Korea may destroy networks defectors have long used to start new lives, activist groups say. – Reuters

South Korea and the United States will kick off their annual joint military drills this week but without mobilising U.S.-based troops after scaling back the programme due to coronavirus concerns, a military source in Seoul said on Wednesday. – Reuters

As the 75th anniversary of the end of the war nears, the thousands of conscripted Korean men who vanished on Sakhalin Island are a largely forgotten legacy of Japan’s brutal rule of the Korean Peninsula, which ended with Tokyo’s Aug. 15, 1945, surrender. – Associated Press


The top U.S. health official fired fresh barbs at China’s handling of the coronavirus, revisiting a Trump administration blame game with Beijing over the pandemic that has frayed bilateral ties. – Wall Street Journal

For decades, Chinese leaders embraced foreign investments and exports to power China’s economy. Now, with the world in recession and U.S.-China tensions deepening, President Xi Jinping is laying out a major initiative to accelerate China’s shift toward more reliance on its domestic economy. The new policy is gaining urgency as Chinese companies, including Huawei Technologies Co. and Bytedance Ltd., face increasing resistance in foreign markets, Chinese officials say. – Wall Street Journal

The Education Department added Stanford University and Fordham University to its growing investigation into the influence of the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign funding on campuses nationwide. – Washington Examiner

China’s wait-and-see approach to the latest round of US sanctions reflects what experts say is an effort to minimise further antagonism during the US election season and its uncertain outcome. – Financial Times

Wall Street banks have earned hundreds of millions in fees from Chinese groups selling shares in New York and Hong Kong in 2020, illustrating the fee pool that is at stake as Washington threatens to delist these companies from US markets. – Financial Times

Companies and lawyers are rushing to work out the implications of US sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials, which have raised temperatures between the world’s two biggest economies. – Financial Times

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping has frayed in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic and that he has not spoken to his Chinese counterpart in a long time. – Reuters

China is continuing to buy U.S. goods, particularly commodities, under its Phase 1 trade deal with the United States, despite rising tensions over Hong Kong and other issues, top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday. – Reuters

China said on Wednesday that U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar has performed the “worst in the world” in controlling the novel coronavirus, rejecting criticism of China made by Azar during a three-day trip to Taiwan this week. – Reuters

With the United States surpassing 5 million cases of the coronavirus and 160,000 people dead, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro asked why more people aren’t pointing the finger at China’s cover-up of the virus when it first broke out in Wuhan in 2019. – Washington Examiner

China’s largest state-run banks operating in Hong Kong are taking tentative steps to comply with U.S. sanctions imposed on officials in the city, seeking to safeguard their access to crucial dollar funding and overseas networks. – Bloomberg

Joseph Bosco writes: That is Beijing’s thinking in a nutshell: convince U.S. leaders and the American public that China is more committed to taking Taiwan than Washington is to defending it. It’s the message about “core interests,” “red lines” and “Chinese sovereignty” that the CCP has been repeating for seven decades until it becomes accepted in the West and in China as holy writ — and theoretically, leaves no room for Beijing to back down from its extreme positions. – The Hill

South Asia

Ahead of an upcoming release of Taliban detainees held in Afghan prisons, the insurgent group warned the government in Kabul on Tuesday against any attacks on those released, saying such incidents would jeopardize the peace talks. – Associated Press

Indian tax authorities raided the premises of a few Chinese entities and their associates for money laundering, according to an official statement late on Tuesday, adding to New Delhi’s growing discomfort with Beijing after a border clash in June. – Reuters

Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir said Tuesday they are investigating allegations by three families that three of their relatives were killed by the military in a staged gunbattle and buried as unidentified militants. – Associated Press


Beijing stepped in to settle uncertainty over a controversial yearlong delay to Hong Kong’s legislative elections, approving plans to keep the city’s current lawmakers in office for at least 12 more months. – Wall Street Journal

Pro-democracy media baron Jimmy Lai was released on bail after his Monday arrest led to a public show of support for the outspoken critic of Beijing among Hong Kong’s opposition. – Wall Street Journal

Jack is among a growing number of Hong Kong protesters — mostly in their teens and early 20s — who have fled abroad and are living in legal limbo after participating in the months-long uprising against Beijing’s tightening control. Ranging from prominent activists to unknowns who had little political awareness before last summer, they have scattered as far as Britain, Germany and Canada, though many are in nearby Taiwan. – Washington Post

China’s arrests of Hong Kong publisher and prominent pro-democracy advocate Jimmy Lai, his sons, and seven others are the “latest violations of Beijing’s commitments to the Hong Kong people and the world,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a statement released last night. – Washington Examiner

The statements issued by China and Hong Kong after Monday’s arrest of media tycoon Jimmy Lai underlined how quickly a national security law passed in June is undermining the city’s independent judicial system. – Bloomberg

US health secretary Alex Azar has raised the possibility of a trade deal with Taiwan during a historic visit to the country this week in remarks that are likely to trigger protests from Beijing. – Financial Times

Taiwan sent COVID-19 assistance to foreign countries surreptitiously to avoid protests from China, its foreign minister said Tuesday during a meeting with the highest-level American official to visit the island in four decades. – Associated Press

Goods made in Hong Kong for export to the United States will need to be labelled as made in China after Sept. 25, according to a U.S. government notice posted on Tuesday. – Reuters


Yet in the rush to paint all the protesters as Bible-burning zealots, few of the politicians or commentators who weighed in on the incident took the time to look into the story’s veracity, or to figure out that it had originated with a Kremlin-backed video news agency. And now, days later, the Portland Bible burnings appear to be one of the first viral Russian disinformation hits of the 2020 presidential campaign. – New York Times

In an article titled “Russian Base Casts Long Shadow on Armenia, Turkey,” Armenian intellectual Edmond Y. Azadian described the strategic importance of Russia’s military base in Armenia. According to Azadian, although the base may be how Russia maintains its influence in the Caucasus region, it is also a powerful deterrent against any Turkish threat. “To defend its military base, Moscow has to defend Armenia’s territory,” he stressed. – Middle East Media Research Institute

David Ignatius writes: Rethinking assumptions is often valuable in foreign policy. But in this case, the rethinking should begin with an embittered Kremlin, which seems to relish icons of the Cold War and unwisely keeps taunting the United States. Putin takes pleasure in jabbing his enemies but, over the long run, he is not going to win this fight. – Washington Post

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: The world would certainly benefit if a Russian vaccine, or any vaccine, were to prove effective. But so much of what the Russian government has done lately, if not a fraud or a delusion, has been a shambolic crime, including invading Ukraine and Syria, meddling in the U.S., and various murders and attempted murders of Russian émigrés in London and elsewhere. – Wall Street Journal


Svetlana G. Tikhanovskaya, who ran for president in Sunday’s election after the jailing of her husband, an opposition blogger, was pressured to depart for Lithuania by the Belarusian authorities, two of her associates said. – New York Times

A long-awaited report by the European Union (EU) into the problem of incitement in school textbooks published by the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been plagued by faulty research that falsely claimed Israeli textbooks promoting tolerance were published by the PA, an Israeli NGO that is closely involved with the issue revealed on Tuesday. – Algemeiner

The European Union’s relationship with Belarus is under review following the contested presidential election, the European Commission said on Tuesday, though it declined to comment on whether sanctions would be reimposed on the country. – Reuters

Different German authorities have made a total of 17 requests for information to Russia in connection with the murder in a Berlin park of a Georgian citizen, but to no avail, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Serbia is considering buying a modern Chinese air defense missile system, the Serbian president said Tuesday, as the United States warned that such deals with Beijing could jeopardize the Balkan country’s proclaimed European Union membership goals. – Associated Press

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the crackdown on protesters in Belarus, where the autocrat most closely tied to Russia is trying to contain a domestic outrage over a rigged election. – Washington Examiner

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called on the White House to withdraw its nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to Belarus after a widely disputed presidential election there. – The Hill


More than 70 people were killed and dozens injured during weekend clashes between South Sudan’s army and armed civilians in north-central Tonj, the United Nations reported Tuesday. – Associated Press

France will step up security measures to protect French nationals in Africa’s Sahel region, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, two days after six French aid workers were shot dead in Niger. – Reuters

Niger’s government has extended a state of emergency to the entire region that surrounds the capital Niamey and suspended access to the giraffe reserve where six French aid workers and two Nigeriens were shot dead. – Reuters

Latin America

Chile has chosen a route proposed by Japan for the first fibre-optic cable to directly connect South America and the Asia-Pacific region, designating Australia and New Zealand as endpoints while stopping short of landing in China, Nikkei has learnt. – Financial Times

Donald Trump’s nominee to lead Latin America’s main development bank has accused Argentina’s leftist government of trying to “subvert” the selection process, as opposition to his candidature grew. – Financial Times

French humanitarian aid group AVSF said on Tuesday that one of its employees was killed by armed people on Monday in Guatemala. – Reuters

Editorial: As the US continues to compete with extra-regional powers seeking influence in Latin America — and as Washington prioritizes sustainable development for the benefit of the hemisphere — US policymakers should make a concerted push to support access to education amid the pandemic. […]While daunting, the rapid development of such initiatives now will pay future dividends for US relations with Latin America and for hemispheric growth and stability. – American Enterprise Institute


Virtu Financial Inc. VIRT 4.16% said it lost $6.9 million to hackers who seized control of the email account of one of its executives and used fake emails to send two fraudulent wire transfers to bank accounts in China. – Wall Street Journal

TikTok skirted a privacy safeguard in Google’s Android operating system to collect unique identifiers from millions of mobile devices, data that allows the app to track users online without allowing them to opt out, a Wall Street Journal analysis has found. – Wall Street Journal

Facebook on Tuesday said it updated its hate speech policy to include a ban on images of blackface and anti-Semitic tropes. – Politico

The U.S. Department of Defense has requested 30 extra days to review vendor proposals as it prepares to make another award decision for its massive enterprise cloud contract, according to a Monday night court filing. – C4ISRNET

The Pentagon plans to free up a big chunk of its military airwaves in the U.S. for high-speed internet service, part of a broader push to get ahead of China in the deployment of 5G wireless technology. – Associated Press

Reps. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) on Tuesday introduced legislation intended to defend universities conducting COVID-19 research against foreign malicious hackers. – The Hill


In yet another step toward firmly establishing an independent identity from the other services, the U.S. Space Force has published a new document articulating “spacepower” as a separate and distinct form of military power. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. Army’s tactical network modernization team is taking a serious look at how it can reduce the electronic signatures of its command posts in the field, making it more difficult for adversaries to locate them. – C4ISRNET

The Navy’s problems over the last several years have done little to change the average American’s view of the service, according to an internal Navy survey reviewed last week by USNI News.  – USNI News

Long War

Facebook Inc. FB -2.61% removed nearly 40% more content that it categorized as terrorism in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year, the company said. – Wall Street Journal

A New York man is facing up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. – Washington Examiner

Hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars and hundreds of hours spent working with and training Philippine government forces appear to be doing little to dislodge Islamic State fighters entrenched in the country’s south. – VOA News

Trump Administration

Meeting in a rare full session, most members of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit voiced skepticism about preventing U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan from reviewing the government’s move to undo Flynn’s guilty plea of lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump took office in 2017. – Washington Post

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday of a rise in authoritarianism led by Russia, China and Iran that threatens freedoms around the world. – Associated Press

Trump, who has previously incorrectly stated mail-in voting will lead to fraud, also said it will make it easier for foreign interference after U.S. intelligence assessed China, Russia, and Iran are targeting the upcoming election. – Washington Examiner

A top Senate Republican is demanding information from FBI Director Christopher Wray about a 2018 briefing in which he believes the bureau gave misleading information to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the reliability of British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump dossier. – Washington Examiner

Two high-profile Senate Republican chairmen are homing in on FBI Director Christopher Wray as they ramp up their probes into the investigation of Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. – The Hill

Nadia Schadlow writes: Trump has been a disrupter, and his policies, informed by his heterodox perspective, have set in motion a series of long-overdue corrections. Many of these necessary adjustments have been misrepresented or misunderstood in today’s vitriolic, partisan debates. But the changes Trump has initiated will help ensure that the international order remains favorable to U.S. interests and values and to those of other free and open societies.  – Foreign Affairs

Ryan Ellis writes: The alternative to taking a leadership role is creating a vacuum that will be filled by the Chinese and their allies. China already saddled the civilized world with this Wuhan-grown virus that disrupted the planet like never before. We cannot let it also be in charge of cleaning up the mess and potentially profiting from it. […]The next step here is to make sure that the U.S. works with accountable, transparent, and more efficient nongovernmental organizations to combat the realpolitik practiced by the politburo in Beijing. – Washington Examiner