Fdd's overnight brief

August 13, 2021

In The News


Hospital medics in Iran are triaging patients on the floors of emergency rooms and in cars parked on the roadside. Lines stretch for blocks outside pharmacies. Taxis double as hearses, transporting corpses from hospitals to cemeteries. In at least one city, laborers are digging mass graves. – New York Times  

Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Friday urged the Taliban to ensure the safety of its diplomats and staff at its consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat, which the Taliban has said it has captured. – Reuters 

Iran has summoned the Russian and British ambassadors after a photograph was posted on the Russian Embassy’s Twitter account commemorating a historic meeting of allied leaders in Tehran during World War II. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, is the only minister in President Ebrahim Raisi’s proposed cabinet who has started his work even before being officially nominated as the next Foreign Minister.  He held a two-hour-long meeting with EU’s representative Enrique Mora after Raisi’s inauguration last week to convince he EU diplomat that Iran is adamant to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. – Iran International  

Blaise Misztal, Charles B. Perkins, Jonathan Ruhe, and Ari Cicurel write: Shortly after the Mercer Street attack, reports indicate that Iranian hijackers took control of the MV Asphalt Princess, a Panama-flagged tanker, in the Gulf of Oman on August 3. To deter future Iranian naval and drone aggression, the United States needs a forceful, persistent, and integrated response, alongside its partners, that disrupts Tehran’s ability to mount such attacks and instills fear of future U.S. reactions. Otherwise, Iran is likely to only escalate its attacks, as it did in 2019. – JINSA

Trevor Filseth writes: In spite of the hard-line nature of many of the new cabinet picks, Raisi has indicated that one of his priorities in office will be to bring about the end of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran through a renewal of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement. Raisi pledged to re-enter negotiations in his inauguration speech, and the country’s outgoing oil minister confirmed that working to lift sanctions on Iranian oil exports, a key source of revenue for Tehran, would continue to be one of the ministry’s highest priorities. – The National Interest  

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Either they want to gain some new concessions upon the ascension of new President Ebrahim Raisi or they merely want to improve their understanding of enriching uranium at higher levels before signing a deal. In that light, Israel would probably not choose a large public airstrike at this time regardless of the US position. – Jerusalem Post 

Amalendu Misra writes: Ever since, Iran’s power and influence in Latin America and the Caribbean have been directionless. Given his open hostility towards the United States and to cement his image as a great leader at home and abroad, Ebrahim Raisi may truly pick on Washington in its underbelly. But given its crippled economy and multifaceted domestic challenges, putting Iran’s flag on this faraway continent may just prove a little too much for Raisi. – The National Interest  


Israel and Morocco plan to upgrade their restored diplomatic relations and open embassies within two months, Israel’s foreign minister said during a visit to the North African kingdom on Thursday. – Reuters  

A new plan to approve some 2,200 new settlement homes in the West Bank was cut down by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett from an original 3,200 due to a desire not to upset the US administration, Kan news reported Thursday night. – Times of Israel 

During his meeting this week with CIA chief William Burns, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the US spymaster that Jerusalem and Washington should form a joint strategy for a scenario in which Iran refuses to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal, according to an Axios report Thursday. – Times of Israel 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Thursday that Israel and Morocco would upgrade their relations to full diplomatic ties and open embassies in each others’ countries within two months. – Times of Israel 

The Israeli military said on Thursday it downed a drone belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah group that crossed into Israeli airspace from Lebanon. – Reuters 

Of all the cyberthreats facing the Jewish state, those targeting Israel’s waterways can be especially devastating. Some 95% of the country’s imports like energy, food, and industrial and defense goods arrive via maritime freight, with virtually none coming across the land borders with its Middle East neighbors. – Algemeiner 

An international NGO whose recent report exposed the antisemitic hatred expressed on social media by some employees of UNRWA during the Israel-Hamas conflict in May has rejected a proposal for “neutrality training” by the head of the UN agency. – Algemeiner 

Yaakov Katz writes: Bennett should bear this in mind, because while he will be entering the Oval Office hoping to secure security commitments on Iran and Syria, President Joe Biden and his senior staff are looking for Israel to cut back on its relationship with China. They will be happy to talk about Iran, the Palestinians, and retaining the IDF’s qualitative military edge, but they also want secure commitments about China. – Jersualem Post 

Haviv Rettig Gur writes: To Israelis, therefore, Sheikh Jarrah is an exception in every sense. It is not seen as representative of the Palestinian experience in East Jerusalem since 1967, and attempts to depict it that way are, for Israeli officials, merely another dismal, ignorable chapter in the never-ending propaganda wars. – Times of Israel 


The assassination of Mr. Hariri, a towering politician in a country rocked by instability, rattled much of the Middle East. When the tribunal opened its doors in 2009 with a mandate from the United Nations Security Council, it set an ambitious agenda. […]More than a decade later, however, the Lebanese government has run out of money for the court and international donors are drastically cutting back funds. – New York Times  

A new report released by the ALMA Center has exposed a large-scale inter-regional tunnel network belonging to Hezbollah, stretching across Lebanon and designed to allow the group to move personnel and weapons. – Jerusalem Post 

On Wednesday night, Lebanon’s Central Bank issued an announcement that seemed to finally sound the death knell on the country’s floundering economy. Fuel subsidies, long seen as a lifeboat for the country’s growing legions of impoverished people, were halted. – CNN 

Gulf States

In July 2021, journalist Abdulhameed Al-Ghobain was released from prison in Saudi Arabia, where he served a year after being arrested for openly calling for peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Prior to his arrest, Al-Ghobain was an outspoken supporter of normalization with Israel, and was the first Saudi to publish an opinion piece in an Israeli newspaper. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

The emir’s announcement of a new election date caused quite a stir in the Qatari press. Alongside articles praising the move and depicting it as one more step toward the establishment of democracy in the country, many writers referred to the social, cultural and political obstacles in its way. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Abdulkhaleq Abdulla writes: The historic component of the Abraham Accords eventually evolved into a pragmatic pillar of infinite possibilities. The UAE came to the agreement driven by a simple, realistic line of thinking that says five wars and a 70-year-long boycott did not make Israel any weaker. Rather, Israel has become a fact of life and is a strong state recognized by 163 countries. There was a need to create a new norm in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the longest regional conflict in recent history. The current status quo is unsustainable. – Middle East Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Prosecutors in Libya have issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, over suspected ties to Russian mercenaries. – BBC  

 Police detained 76 people after a mob attacked businesses run by Syrian refugees in Turkey’s capital, violence sparked by the death of a Turkish teenager in a knife fight days earlier. – Bloomberg 

Kurdish militants launched a mortar attack on a Turkish military base in northern Iraq on Thursday, wounding a Turkish soldier who later died in hospital, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said. – Reuters 

Mohamed Al Khaja writes: Today, our table is set with a new government in Israel and multiple countries in the region who have joined together to create this new Middle East. We must ask ourselves what legacy we want to leave behind for our children and generations to come. We have the same vision and that is to create sustainable peace and economic opportunities for our citizens. We all have a seat at the table, and we must pull up our individual chairs and do our part to help move this region forward by focusing on the opportunities before us. – Jerusalem Post 

Paulo Casaca and Maurizio Geri write: Much like in Afghanistan, where the end of U.S. combat missions has seen the Taliban swoop in to expand their influence across the country, there are real fears a heavily reduced U.S. military presence in Iraq will result in the unprecedented strengthening of Iranian-backed militias and influence across Iraqi territory—spurred on by the most hawkish Tehran administration in years. With the U.S. scaling down its military presence in Iraq, it means supporting the kind of efforts that were made in Mecca, under the auspices of the Muslim World League are not merely desirable, but necessary. – Newsweek 

Korean Peninsula

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is faced with tough choices as he sets out to pursue peace with North Korea while maintaining his country’s decades-old military alliance with the United States amid yet another round of tensions on the peninsula. – Newsweek  

A UK Royal Navy nuclear-powered Astute-class attack submarine has arrived in Busan, South Korea as part of the service’s Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21). – Jane’s 360  

Anthony W. Holmes writes: Of course, a negotiated end to the Korean War is a worthwhile enterprise provided it is equitable and honorable — not the one-sided concession to North Korea that is inexplicably en vogue at the moment. We have to face facts here: The world wants a peace agreement with North Korea more than North Korea needs one. That is not a strong foundation for negotiations. – The Hill  


Beijing told foreign diplomats on Friday that China was open to further studies on the origins of the coronavirus, but only if they are based on the findings of a joint China-World Health Organization report published in March that downplayed the possibility of a lab leak. – Washington Post 

The World Health Organization expert who led a controversial joint probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic says in a documentary airing Thursday night on Danish television that Chinese colleagues influenced the presentation of their findings. – Washington Post  

China’s newly appointed ambassador in Washington stressed the utmost importance of Taiwan in the Sino-U.S. relationship during his first meeting with a top U.S. official since assuming the job, according to Chinese state media. – Reuters  

Hong Kong’s police chief has warned a group that brought upwards of 2 million people into the streets during the city’s protest movement may have violated the Beijing-imposed national security law, as authorities ramp up pressure on organizations that have opposed the government. – Bloomberg 

The Commander of the U.S. military’s nuclear weapons arsenal is expressing serious concerns about the growing weapons threat presented by China’s massive military expansion. – The National Interest  

China has released a five-year plan to strengthen regulatory control over strategic sectors including technology and healthcare, in Beijing’s latest push to assert Communist party supremacy over the world’s second-largest economy. – Financial Times 

Editorial: It is also vital for China to be brought into US-Russian arms talks. Beijing has resisted such efforts, wary of submitting its limited stockpile to verification measures. The US under Joe Biden has recently sought to relaunch arms control with Moscow, extending the New Start treaty. It should press Russia to challenge China — with which Moscow has just engaged in joint military exercises — to join. The two-sided arms race of the last century was terrifying enough. A three-sided one would be worse. – Financial Times 

Hope Marshall writes: But whether China will adjust its practices is unclear. Chinese officials have shown an interest in responding to the BRI’s shortcomings in other areas, particularly the environment. And the BRI’s flexible nature allows for continued refinement, as demonstrated by the growing importance of its health and digital dimensions. But if Beijing wants true development to occur, it must recognize and begin closing the BRI’s gender divide. – Center for Strategic & International Studies 

James Cameron writes: None of these recommendations are a silver bullet that will overcome sincere differences of opinion over China’s nuclear policy. However, acknowledging the limits of one’s knowledge of Beijing’s nuclear capabilities and intentions, identifying the falsifiability criteria for one’s assertions, and clarifying the theoretical lenses through which one analyzes China’s nuclear policy would help diminish the chances that the debate becomes increasingly polarized in a way that would be detrimental to U.S. policy in the longer term. – War on the Rocks  

Matthew Brooker writes: The dissolution of one of Hong Kong’s largest civil society groups is a sign of how Beijing is using the mainland’s political tactics to eradicate dissent in the former British colony. Its traditions of freedom of speech and trade-union membership rights were supposedly protected under the “one country, two systems” arrangement that governed the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. – Bloomberg  


The Biden administration will send thousands of troops to Afghanistan to help airlift American personnel and local allies out of Kabul, U.S. officials said Thursday, as rapid advances by the Taliban intensified the existential threat facing the Afghan state. – Washington Post 

But Afghans pouring into Kabul and those still in Taliban-held areas say they have witnessed unprovoked attacks on civilians and executions of captured soldiers. In addition, they say, Taliban commanders have demanded that communities turn over unmarried women to become “wives” for their fighters—a form of sexual violence, human-rights groups say. – Wall Street Journal  

American negotiators are trying to extract assurances from the Taliban that they will not attack the U.S. Embassy in Kabul if the extremist group takes over the country’s government and ever wants to receive foreign aid, three American officials said. – New York Times 

Canadian special forces will deploy to Afghanistan where staff in Canada’s embassy in Kabul will be evacuated before it closes, a source familiar with the plan told The Associated Press. – Associated Press 

The U.N. Security Council is discussing a draft statement that would condemn Taliban attacks on cities and towns causing high civilian casualties and threaten sanctions for abuses and acts that risk Afghanistan’s peace and stability, diplomats said on Thursday.  – Reuters  

The speed of the Taliban advance in Afghanistan appears to have taken many by surprise – regional capitals seem to be falling like dominoes. The momentum is clearly with the insurgents, while the Afghan government struggles to keep its grip on power. – BBC 

Large swaths of Afghanistan are already under Taliban control but their manpower is stretched thin. The time to reverse this trend is now and it is quickly fleeting. Arming local defense forces, including local militias, to fight the insurgency and provide security at the local level is a controversial idea within the Afghan government. It doesn’t want to lose control of warlords. But the risk of failing to act may be to lose the entire country. – The National Interest 

Germany will not support Afghanistan financially if the Taliban gain complete power over the country and implements Sharia law, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told broadcaster ZDF on Thursday. – Politico  

German aid worker Sybille Schnehage predicts that up to 3 million Afghan refugees could arrive in Europe. Schnehage, who has worked with the NGO Katachel in the Kunduz region of Afghanistan for over twenty years, told German broadcaster WDR: “Up to three million Afghans will reach Europe in the near future”, surpassing even the crisis of 2015, when 1.2 million people arrived in Europe in a few weeks, fleeing Syria. – Arutz Sheva 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging President Biden to commit to sending more troops back into Afghanistan past the Aug. 31 deadline the administration imposed on withdrawing troops. – The Hill  

A series of significant victories by Taliban forces should not obscure the value of the peace talks between the militant group and the embattled Afghan government, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s team. – Washington Examiner  

Editorial: Many Americans may not care now what happens in Afghanistan. But as in Vietnam, the abandonment of our allies will have significant costs. When the world’s rogues sense that a superpower lacks the will to support its friends, they soon look for other ways to take advantage. – Wall Street Journal  

Editorial: There is no point in denying that Taliban influence and control in Afghanistan are increasing. But it would be folly to accept the Taliban’s return to nationwide power as a fait accompli. U.S. interests demand reasonable actions to obstruct the Taliban. U.S. air support is a reasonable and necessary price for upholding those interests. – Washington Examiner  

David Ignatius writes: For President Biden, who had hoped for an orderly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the chaos in Kabul carries echoes of the fall of Saigon in 1975 — precisely the image he wanted to avoid. And the Taliban’s drive for military victory — ignoring pledges to negotiate a transition of power — will raise questions about whether its promises to prevent al-Qaeda from rebuilding safe havens in Afghanistan can be trusted. – Washington Post 

Frederick W. Kagan writes: The United States will likely also continue to pay for its actions in Afghanistan. There’s a real danger that militant groups will reconstitute themselves and once again pose a significant threat to the American homeland. With America’s allies left in the lurch, prospective partners will think twice before offering up their support in future conflicts. – New York Times 

Eli Lake writes: A president committed to a global democratic renewal would understand that the Taliban have no interest in playing a role in the international community, and that it would poison the international community if they did. And yet as a result of Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan with no conditions and no contingency plans, this is what his administration has been reduced to saying. – Bloomberg  

Michael Rubin writes: Biden may want to blame the Afghan military for what now unfolds, but this is dishonest for it both ignores Pakistan’s role and forgets that his special envoy strong-armed the Afghan government to release battle-hardened Taliban prisoners. To take a carving knife to the country would not enable the benefits O’Hanlon suggests; it simply would be the icing on the cake in a bloody betrayal of Afghanistan and America’s regional allies. – 19fortyfive 

Mosab Anwari and Ariel Cohen write: China, through its ally Pakistan, will likely use Afghanistan’s real estate and brutal Taliban fighters to gain influence, if not hegemony, in the heart of Eurasia. India and the United States would try to keep Beijing in check, while Iran, Russia, and the Arab world will all play the bloody game of geopolitics — with the people of Afghanistan continuing to pay the ultimate price. – The Hill  

Tom Rogan writes: The Biden administration doesn’t appear able to get its head around this truth. It doesn’t seem to realize that the Taliban are fanatics who believe themselves on an ordained mission to deliver the world unto Islamist medievalism. Instead, for whatever reason, Biden and co. seem to think that the Taliban are desperate for the same thing it values: feted invitation to the international community of nations. – Washington Examiner  

Mark Malloch-Brown writes: We need an immediate ceasefire, leading eventually to a negotiated political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban that guarantees the rights and safety of all Afghans. But this can only happen if the Taliban have an incentive to negotiate. To that end, it is essential that the US and other security partners continue to provide support and training, with appropriate oversight, to the beleaguered Afghan National Army so it can mount a robust counter-operation and stop further advances by the Taliban into highly populated regions or urban areas. – Financial Times 


Pakistan’s foreign minister has accused India and Afghanistan of backing a suicide bombing which killed nine Chinese workers on July 14, and called for the remaining perpetrators to be handed over to Islamabad for trial. – CNN  

Amid reports that the Afghan Taliban has seized over 200 districts and nearly a dozen provincial capitals in Afghanistan, there is growing concern among liberal groups in Afghanistan and surrounding countries that the Doha agreement signed in February 2020 between the U.S. and the Islamic Emirate (Afghan Taliban organization) is the cause for the Taliban’s growing strength. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Pakistani forces clashed on Thursday with hundreds of Afghans stranded on Pakistan’s side of a commercially vital border crossing with Afghanistan after its closure by Taliban insurgents, Pakistani security officials said. – Reuters  

The Australian government said Friday that it remained seriously concerned about the welfare of a Chinese-born Australian journalist a year after she was first detained in China. – Associated Press 

Hal Brands writes: Beijing has often used a strategy called “salami-slicing” — trying to change the status quo through incremental advances rather than great leaps forward. In the South China Sea, China expanded its influence one coral reef, one artificial island, one new military base at a time, while avoiding larger provocations that might cause a showdown with the U.S. – Bloomberg  


Russia has given a British Broadcasting Co. journalist until the end of the month to leave the country in what it said was a retaliatory move for the U.K. discriminating against Russian media and its refusal to issue visas to the country’s reporters. – Bloomberg  

Russian prosecutors have asked a court to put restrictions on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh, who is currently held under house arrest pending trial, for two years, her Twitter account said on Thursday. – Reuters  

A court in Moscow on Thursday ordered a specialist in hypersonic technologies to be kept in jail pending trial on charges of high treason, in the latest in a series of espionage cases targeting Russian scientists. – Associated Press 

On February 25, 1956. Nikita Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union delivered his “secret speech” denouncing his predecessor Joseph Stalin for his crimes against the party and the Red Army. […]In its survey of Russian opinion concerning the proposed center, the Levada Center, an independent survey data company observed the sea change that has occurred in Russian public opinion with regards to Stalin. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

William Courtney writes: Kremlin doubts may also reflect a debate about the priority of economic development. Some Kremlin policies sacrifice the economy for statist goals and economic autonomy. A Kremlin ban on importing many Western food products forces consumers to pay higher prices, one reason why living standards have declined. – The Hill  

Tom Rogan writes: Recall that this time last year, the FSB attempted to assassinate Navalny in a botched nerve agent attack. As a candidate, Biden pledged to stand up to Putin when the Russian leader shredded human rights and attacked the West. Biden recently failed that test in Syria. It’s time for him to act. The U.S. should escalate its sanctions pressure on Putin’s top cronies. – Washington Examiner 


Poland’s populist government on Wednesday advanced legislation that would restrict foreign ownership of local broadcasters — a move seen as targeting an independent TV channel controlled by a major U.S. media group. The bill has been criticized by the Biden administration and opposition lawmakers in the country. – Washington Post  

Six people were fatally shot in Plymouth, England, on Thursday, a rare occurrence in a country that has some of the world’s strictest gun control laws and had not endured a mass shooting since 2010. – New York Times 

Weeks before Germany goes to the polls, Armin Laschet is trying to burnish his credentials with forward-thinking voters by meeting Elon Musk and visiting Tesla Inc.’s new factory rising from a sandy plot near Berlin. – Bloomberg 

A group of Republican lawmakers blasted the European Union for its decision to send a senior official to the inauguration of Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, The Washington Free Beacon reported on Thursday. – Arutz Sheva 

Kori Schake and Sarah Nakasone write: A legacy of wartime cooperation between the Soviet Union, United States, Britain, and France, the perpetuance of Four Power responsibilities not only required consensus across Cold War divergence of interests with the Soviet Union but also exacerbated frictions between the three Western powers and their NATO allies. Because Berlin was the most likely crisis flashpoint that could lead to war, all NATO allies would be implicated by the decisions of the Three. – American Institute for Contemporary German Studies  

Chels Michta writes: To be sure, Polish civil society remains strong – witness the demonstrations across the country. Still, if the bill becomes law and the leading source of independent broadcasting for millions of Poles is restricted or outright eliminated, the country will enter uncharted territory. How Poland’s key ally responds could make all the difference. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Iryna Perezhogina writes: In the light of this energy transition and that Ukraine underground gas storage capacity is one of the largest in Europe, the country should focus its efforts on increasing its own natural gas production and developing the capacity to operate on alternative energy resources, which will bring Ukraine closer to Europe, enhancing energy security for itself as well as for its European partners. – The National Interest  


The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in his first visit to the capital of Sudan, said Thursday he was hopeful that the Sudanese government would turn over former President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to face charges of genocide and war crimes in the region of Darfur. – New York Times  

Zambians kept voting at jammed polling stations after polls closed on Thursday, pointing to a high turnout in a showdown between President Edgar Lungu and main opposition rival Hakainde Hichilema that looks too tight to call. – Reuters  

U.S. President Joe Biden is sending his special envoy for the Horn of Africa to Ethiopia amid international alarm at the escalation of a war that has killed thousands and created a humanitarian crisis in one of the world’s poorest regions.  – Reuters  

Zimbabwe’s government is pressing ahead with a plan to combine its mining assets under a massive private-public enterprise, even as evidence mounts that the project could be linked to a tycoon sanctioned by the U.S. and U.K. – Bloomberg  

Editorial: The bodies washing up in Sudan, dismissed by Mr. Abiy as a hoax, are among many warning signs that a brutal conflict is expanding and growing more barbaric. The United States must stand up to an inhumane regime and press all parties to allow unfettered humanitarian access and seriously negotiate. – Washington Post

Tyler Cowen writes: Africa has amazing human talent and brilliant cultural heritages, but its major political centers are, to put it bluntly, falling apart. Three countries are more geopolitically central than the others. Ethiopia, with a population of 118 million, is sub-Saharan Africa’s second-most populous nation and the most significant node in East Africa. – Bloomberg  

 Kelly Moss and Jacob Kurtzer write: Both organizations have a long-standing presence in Ethiopia, with recent activity centered in Tigray, Ethiopia’s northernmost region and the epicenter of a nine-month conflict. […]The suspension of NRC, MSF, and the Al Maktoum Foundation is a substantial escalation in the Ethiopian government’s targeting of humanitarian operations and a continuation of a broader pattern of aid obstruction throughout the conflict. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Latin America

Months before COVID-19 spread around the world, representatives of President Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan opposition for weeks shuttled back and forth to Barbados to try to agree on a common path out of the South American nation’s prolonged political standoff. Mystery surrounded the discussions facilitated by Norwegian diplomats in the summer of 2019, but Venezuelans were hopeful for change. – Associated Press 

Hundreds of people, including dozens of dissident artists and opposition activists, remain detained in Communist-run Cuba a month after unprecedented anti-government protests, according to rights groups. – Reuters 

China is pursuing a dramatic increase in trade and investment in Latin America. Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers and regional experts are calling on President Joe Biden to reverse what they describe as years of U.S. underinvestment in and inattention to Latin America that they say has harmed U.S. interests. – Politico 

David Smilde, Geoff Ramsey, Keith Mines and Steve Hege write: Instead of the equivocal support that was the case in 2019, the U.S. should seek to facilitate a Venezuelan-made solution. Instead of an overnight transition, which is unlikely and may not be sustainable, negotiation efforts need to aim for concrete benchmarks in a gradual transition — that is, a roadmap for the re-institutionalization of Venezuela’s democracy and a return to a pluralistic society where all political options have a place. – The Hill  

North America

The U.S. Department of Justice has appointed David Last chief of a high-profile unit that investigates and prosecutes companies for paying bribes to public officials overseas. – Wall Street Journal  

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce Sunday he is calling a snap election for Sept. 20, an official familiar with the plans told The Associated Press. – Associated Press 

Tom Rogan writes: Mexicans are thus caught between the chaos of the cartels and the cronyism of a government that doesn’t care. Considering that Mexican human rights and U.S. security interests are at stake, the Biden administration shouldn’t accept this sorry state of affairs. President Joe Biden should designate the CJNG as a terrorist organization. He should then authorize a covert action finding to allow the CIA to capture or kill El Mencho. – Washington Examiner 

Erol Yayboke, Catherine Nzuki and Maxwell Myers write: Though Mexico is far from perfect (and every country, including the United States, deals with varying degrees of state fragility), there is little doubt that U.S. policymakers would welcome Central American countries trending in the direction of their neighbor to the north. More importantly, Central Americans themselves might prefer that as well. The Biden-Harris administration’s strategy on the root causes of migration (and fragility) is perhaps a first step in that right direction. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  


The federal government has made “significant” progress on strengthening the United States against cyber threats over the past year, but more work remains, a congressionally-established bipartisan committee concluded in a report published Thursday. – The Hill  

A person claiming to be behind the massive $600 million cryptocurrency breach said on Thursday they stole the digital tokens “for fun.” Decentralized finance platform Poly Network on Tuesday said it had been breached, resulting in the loss of more than $600 million worth of digital currency. – The Hill  

A new service has launched on the darknet offering criminals a way to check how “clean” their digital coins are. – BBC 

But according to an internal Navy audit obtained by Navy Times, the submarines of Naval Submarine Force Pacific and their tenders did not receive the required internal and external cybersecurity inspections in recent years, raising the specter of cyber vulnerability among some of the sea service’s most potent platforms. – Navy Times 

Adam Samson writes: It is a fascinating tale that reveals a lot about where crypto is at the moment. One of the main selling points many crypto advocates make is that these digital markets are more transparent than the conventional financial system because you can see every transaction on blockchains. This particular situation did seem to take those transparency claims to their logical conclusion. – Financial Times 


The Central Intelligence Agency is weighing proposals to create an independent “Mission Center for China” in an escalation of its efforts to gain greater insight into the U.S.’s top strategic rival, according to people familiar with the deliberations. – Bloomberg 

As the Defense Department starts to put money toward advancements that will keep the F-35 relevant against Chinese threats, incumbent engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney is making the argument that F135 propulsion system upgrades should be part of the equation. – Defense News 

The U.S. Navy is “well on its way” to delivering a replacement small unmanned underwater vehicle for mine countermeasures and is in source selection for a replacement medium UUV that will support both the submarine and the explosive ordnance disposal communities. – Defense News 

Seth Cropsey writes: Maintaining the fleet at its current size of about 300 ships throughout the 2020s will allow the defense industrial base to catch up to the demands of great power competition. Accelerating submarine construction—building three Virginia-class attack subs a year—must also be a priority. Surface ships, whether large or small, manned or unmanned, will be far more vulnerable to Chinese military capabilities than undersea forces. America’s most senior naval officers have warned of a Chinese attack against Taiwan in the near future. “Divest to invest” is an invitation to attack. – Wall Street Journal 

Ian Williams writes: Yet, the influence of these weapon systems on deterrence, assurance, and stability continues to evolve and grow more complex. For international security professionals, journalists, and the interested public, tracking this changing landscape can be a challenge. To help navigate the wide world of missilery, the CSIS Missile Defense Project recently released a newly upgraded website to track and explain both missile threats and missile defenses alike. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Catrina Doxsee writes: These factors combine to paint a troubling picture of what the country might see from militia groups in the coming months or years. Overall, militia extremists pose a large and escalating terrorism threat in the United States, driven by what they perceive as existential threats justifying violence and a broadening milieu of conspiracy theories—all reinforced by recent signals from authority figures, whom militias view as legitimizing or directing their cause. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Andrew L., Mick Mulroy and Kenneth Tovo write: Today the U.S. faces a range of threats across a multi-polar security environment that is arguably unprecedented in the post-World War II era. Coupled with the likely impacts of technological trends in data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and bioengineering (to name just a few) on warfare, the future security landscape looks to be incredibly complex and challenging. The threat of conventional great power conflict, IW, and a hybrid of the two will be present for the foreseeable future. – Middle East Institute 

Austin C. Doctor and James Igoe Walsh write: The development of counter-drone technology is and should remain a priority. But even improved counter-drone technology will only help mitigate the threat, and militants will be quick to adapt. This means that, even in an era of drone warfare, traditional elements of counter-militant strategy will remain essential: rooting out the deeper militant drone threat means disrupting supply chains, targeting sources of revenue, finding and engaging combat and support units, and cutting militant forces off from any territorial safe havens. – War on the Rocks  

Long War

A leading human rights group Thursday said that rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip during the conflict with Israel in May “violated the laws of war and amount to war crimes.” – Washington Post  

Shoresh Khani writes: It is noteworthy that in the past, extremist groups have capitalized on periods after their declared defeat to re-group and expand. The international community can obstruct ISIS efforts to do so by strengthening local governments, supporting SDF military capacities, and utilizing strategic communication with Turkey. Given the geostrategic benefits ISIS enjoys, and the distractions facing other key actors in the region, these steps are crucial to limit the scope of the group’s efforts to re-establish control. – Washington Institute 

Hal Brands and Michael O’Hanlon write: Perhaps the two most important lessons of the past 20 years are that all of the United States’ counterterrorism options are imperfect, and that as bad as things seem in the greater Middle East, they can always get worse. As the United States reaches a generational milestone in the war on terror, it should acknowledge what has gone wrong—but also preserve the strategy that has allowed it to get a fair amount right. – Foreign Affairs  

Kyle Orton writes: In both cases, an imperfect status quo was easily sustainable with a “light footprint,” and the costs of pulling the plug have been disastrous — both strategically and from a humanitarian perspective. It is to be hoped these lessons are borne in mind as the U.S. considers what to do about its presence in Syria and Iraq. – Washington Examiner  

Aaron Stein and Ryan Fishel write: However, it is the most recent example of how competition between two countries may actually take place in congested skies in a country where both actors are trying to project power. American airmen were unprepared to face the range of scenarios that they confronted in Syria. Looking ahead, the Air Force should learn those lessons and incorporate them into future training. – War on the Rocks