Fdd's overnight brief

August 17, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


President Trump said his administration plans to move unilaterally next week to try to trigger sanctions on Iran, after the United Nations Security Council on Friday rejected a U.S. proposal to extend a five-year ban on the sale of conventional weapons to the country. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. threats of legal action and sanctions forced Greek shipowners to surrender Iranian fuel to the U.S. government in recent days, people familiar with the confiscation said. – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s foreign minister flew to Beirut last week to bolster Lebanon and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia and political group that plays a powerful role in the government. […]But almost as soon as he had landed, the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was blindsided by a new affront to Iran: a deal between two of Tehran’s chief regional rivals, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, to open formal diplomatic ties. – New York Times

The United States suffered an embarrassing defeat at the United Nations on Friday when the Security Council refused to go along with a U.S. proposal to extend an arms embargo against Iran that is due to expire in two months. – Washington Post

Iran’s approach to the United Arab Emirates will change, the country’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri was quoted as saying on Sunday, after a deal between the Arab state and Tehran’s arch foe Israel on normalising ties. – Reuters

The United States on Friday failed in its attempt to extend a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, and Washington could now act on a threat to trigger a return of all U.N. sanctions on Tehran. Here is a look at the events leading to the showdown and an explanation of what could happen next. – Reuters

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the United Nations Security Council’s decision to reject the U.S.’s request to extend an arms embargo against Iran was a “major mistake.” – The Hill

Iran’s defense minister says industrial companies his ministry controls have expanded their involvement with the local vehicle manufacturing sector with “over forty trillion rials” (about $950 million) in contracts. – Radio Farda

The mother of Iranian political activist Manouchehr Bakhtiari says her son has been on a three-day hunger strike behind bars in Iran. – Radio Farda

Editorial: Iran claims the U.S. doesn’t have the right to act because it left the nuclear deal. Never mind that Tehran has been openly violating the agreement. Though China, Russia and European states that want to keep the accord are inclined to agree with Iran, they’re wrong on the merits. While the U.S. left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—which is a limited nuclear political agreement—Washington is still in compliance with binding provisions from the Security Council resolution that implements the deal. – Wall Street Journal

Ted Cruz writes: Having exhausted every other measure to stop Iran from receiving billions of dollars of weapons starting in October, the Trump administration is going back to the UN to put an end to the benefits Iran is receiving from the Iran deal. We can go there tomorrow to begin the process, we should do so and, very soon, we will do so. – Newsweek


Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement is facing the biggest challenge yet to its outsize influence as the massive explosion at Beirut’s port earlier this month brings the group’s pervasive role in the country under scrutiny. – Washington Post

Near sunset, squads of young men gather along the narrow roads that lead in and out of their working-class Shiite neighborhood. […]But these young men see the protests as a threat that could take power and privilege away from their Shiite sect and in particular from Hezbollah, the militant Shiite party, militia and Lebanon’s most powerful faction. They set up barricades not to support the protest but to make sure the angry crowds don’t come too close to their neighborhood. – New York Times

More than 15 years after the truck bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, a U.N.-backed tribunal in the Netherlands is announcing verdicts this week in the trial of four members of the militant group Hezbollah allegedly involved in the killing, which deeply divided the tiny country. – Associated Press

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that his group would wait for results of an investigation into the Beirut port explosion, but if it turns out to be an act of sabotage by Israel then it would “pay an equal price”. – Reuters

Itzhak Levanon writes: In the latter scenario, Hezbollah becomes not only a terror organization that assassinated a former prime minister, but also a criminal one, empowering its opponents at home and abroad, putting pressure on the group to change direction. If such a situation occurs, it is not too far-fetched to assume the group would embark on another military adventure with Israel in order to extricate itself from its plight. But only continued pressure on Hezbollah can restrain it, minimize its influence and save a collapsing Lebanon. – Ynet


The Trump administration is readying new rounds of sanctions against Syria, U.S. officials said, planning to expand its blacklist by focusing on financial-support networks outside the war-torn nation in a renewed effort to coerce Damascus into peace talks. – Wall Street Journal

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed President Trump sent a letter to Syrian President Bashar Assad requesting that his government assist in the locating and release of Austin Tice. – Washington Examiner

James Jeffrey, the US envoy for Syria, said on Thursday that Russia had enough leverage to bring the Assad regime to the negotiating table and push Iran-led forces out of the country. – The National

Ishtar Al Shami writes: More importantly, the United States must realize that the recent sanctions imposed by the Caesar Act are going to affect a large segment of the Syrian people in addition to those it is designed to pressure. Therefore, the United States must seek to mitigate the effects of the sanctions by routing aid and support for sectors that will be greatly affected by the act through civil society organizations and institutions not targeted by the act. In doing so, the United States can also disprove any regime propaganda blaming the United States for the deteriorating situation in Syria. – Washington Institute


Two rival warships from Turkey and Greece have collided in the Eastern Mediterranean, officials from both countries said, amid a naval standoff triggered by Ankara’s recent decision to begin oil exploration in contested waters. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said they discussed on Sunday a standoff over disputed territory in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara is at loggerheads with Athens and the European Union. – Reuters

Turkey drew another rebuke from the European Union on Sunday when it said its Yavuz energy drill ship would extend operations in disputed Mediterranean waters off Cyprus until mid-September. – Reuters

Turkey on Saturday condemned as “interventionist” comments that U.S. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden had made in December when he advocated a new U.S. approach to the “autocrat” President Tayyip Erdogan and support for opposition parties. – Reuters

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey will not back down to threats of sanctions nor to incursions on its claimed territory in the Mediterranean Sea, where it is in a standoff with EU-member Greece over oil and gas exploration rights. – Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday France should refrain from steps that escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara is embroiled in a dispute with Greece over Turkish oil and gas exploration in disputed waters. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron “expressed concern over increased tension between NATO Allies Greece and Turkey” during a call on Friday, a White House spokesman said. – Reuters

Desmond Lachman writes: Yet another big fly in the ointment for Erdogan is that to get an IMF loan he would also certainly need the support of the United States, the IMF’s largest shareholder. That in turn would require Erdogan to mend fences with the United States, a country that in the past he has seemed to go out of his way to antagonize – The Hill


Iran unleashed an angry broadside this weekend reacting to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a deal signaling deeper cooperation between the Jewish state and Gulf Arabs to counter Tehran as it vies for regional influence. – Wall Street Journal

The surprise U.S.-brokered agreement last week to establish normal ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates wasn’t the grand bargain that President Trump hoped might make him the American president who finally achieved Middle East peace. […]But it was a powerful example of how the very notion of Middle East peace has shifted with his administration’s enthusiastic backing. – Washington Post

The diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and the United Arab Emirates caps more than a quarter-century of deepening—but largely secret—business and security ties between the two countries that signals a major shift in the geopolitics of the Middle East. – Wall Street Journal

Telephone calls began ringing Sunday between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, marking the first concrete step of a U.S.-brokered diplomatic deal between the nations that required Israel to halt plans to annex land sought by the Palestinians. – Associated Press

Israel closed the Gaza Strip’s offshore fishing zone Sunday following a night of cross-border fighting with Palestinian militants, the most intense escalation of hostilities in recent months. […]Israel holds Hamas, the Islamist militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, responsible for all attacks emanating from the Palestinian territory. – Associated Press

Israeli aircraft bombed several sites belonging to the militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip for a fifth night in a row, the Israeli military said early Sunday. – Associated Press

Bahrain and Oman could be the next Gulf countries to follow the United Arab Emirates in formalising ties with Israel, Israel’s intelligence minister said on Sunday. – Reuters

Israir Airlines Ltd. has started the process of applying for a landing permit in the UAE, Chief Executive officer Uri Sirkis said on Sunday. – Bloomberg

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Sunday that the White House is “hopeful” more nations in the Middle East will join the United Arab Emirates and formalize ties with Israel. – The Hill

The announcement of a normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE, in advance of the signing of an Israel-UAE peace agreement, sparked many reactions across the Arab world. Senior Saudi journalist Mishari Al-Dhaidi wrote in his August 14 column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the agreement was an “historic diplomatic achievement” and compared it to the peace agreements with Israel by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein.  – Middle East Media Research Institute

A prominent cleric and media personality in the United Arab Emirates praised an Israeli soldier who prevented Palestinian demonstrators from stomping on an image of one of the UAE’s leaders on the Temple Mount. – Algemeiner

Editorial: This agreement is a substantive and significant victory for Israelis and Emiratis, and the Trump administration deserves great credit for artfully helping two allies reach this accord. – Washington Examiner

Simon Henderson writes: Mutual concern about the threat posed by Iran is clearly important, but not sufficient to explain this. A major factor instead would seem to be relations with Washington.  […]The big question now is when Saudi Arabia will join the party. – The Hill

Zev Chafets writes: Implicit in the peace agreement with the Emirates is that its leader will be free to offer advice and support to Palestine, but will leave the governance of the West Bank to Israel. Netanyahu has already agreed to a Luxembourg-sized state for Palestine, and most Israelis support it. That would relieve Israel of the burden of occupation. But if the Palestinians refuse to negotiate, Israel can live without a two-state deal. And so can its Arab allies. – Bloomberg

Dan Tirza writes: At the last minute: The news of a normalization deal and a peace agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and the freezing of Israel’s annexation program encourage peace-seekers. Through an exit of honor, the US administration managed to maintain the “Deal of the Century” as a Two-Nation Stats solution and allow the Israeli prime minister to freeze the annexation plan. – Washington Institute

Yoram Ettinger writes: The UAE walk — not the UAE talk — suggests that the US and Israel should not base their national security policy on the philo-Palestinian Arab talk, which misrepresents Middle East reality. Responsible policy should be based on the Arab walk, which reflects the secondary/marginal role of the Palestinian issue in the reality of the Middle East. Moreover, responsible policy requires tenacity and decisiveness — not hesitancy and indecision — when it comes to the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, the cradle of Jewish history, culture, religion, and language. – Algemeiner

Elder of Ziyon writes: In the end, these people’s hate for Israel is so crazy that they feel they must support any group that opposes the Jewish state, no matter how illiberal or murderous they might be. This is the power of antisemitism — that anyone who hates Jews is an ally. – Algemeiner

James Phillips writes: The agreement is a huge win-win-win outcome for the United States, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates.  It clears the way for closer cooperation against Iran by defusing at least temporarily the sovereignty issue, which would have distracted attention from Iranian threats and given Iran and other Israeli enemies a wedge issue to undermine Israel. – The Daily Signal

Vivian Bercovici writes: If all goes according to plan, embassies will be established in Tel Aviv and Dubai imminently, and delegations will begin the detailed work of scoping out trade, investment, science, and technological collaboration. And Bibi will likely survive his most recent poll scare, rebound and continue to confound his nemeses. Israel is braced for the best and always prepared for anything. – Commentary Magazine

Vivian Bercovici writes: Annexation is not happening. But Bibi, never one to raise the white flag, has been adamant with the Israeli media that annexation is not dead, just deferred. It may never happen. It may. But, he told the nation on Thursday night, that any future annexation of West Bank territory will occur only in a manner consistent with the terms set out in the Trump Peace Plan. – Commentary Magazine

Alex Fishman writes: The agreement with the UAE could serve as the domino that would encourage other states in the Gulf to sign an open treaty with Israel, consequently leading to an agreement with the Palestinians. Who knows, maybe the next state to sign a treaty with Israel will be Bahrain.  Maybe it will be Sudan? And maybe even Saudi Arabia.  – Ynet

Elior Levy writes: In the end, Qatar got what it wanted – the appreciation of the international community. In a speech Tuesday, al-Emadi said that “Qatar will continue to support the Palestinian people so that it can emerge from the crisis.” The crisis in Gaza is still ongoing, but according to al-Emadi, Qatar’s aid program will most likely be extended very soon for a period of 6-12 months. After that, another solution will have to be found to satisfy Hamas and keep the peace along the Gaza border. – Ynet


A Katyusha rocket fell inside the Green Zone of Iraq’s capital Baghdad, which houses government buildings and foreign missions, but caused no casualties, a military statement said. – Reuters

Two Katyusha rockets fell in Iraq’s Taji base north of Baghdad that hosts U.S.-led coalition troops, with no casualties being reported, the coalition spokesman and state news agency said on Saturday. – Reuters

Nicole Millar, Calvin Pugh, Brian Carter, Katherine Lawlor, and Brandon Wallace write: Iran’s proxy militia network in Iraq is accelerating its attacks on US facilities and Iraqi contractors working with the US-led Coalition, undermining Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s attempts to demonstrate strength and stability ahead of the next round of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue. […]Kadhimi will likely struggle to constrain militia activity in the leadup to the next round of the Dialogue on August 20, which will cover a variety of mutual interests including US-Iraqi security cooperation and the future of US forces in Iraq. – Institute for the Study of War


In the wake of the massive explosion that devastated large parts of the Lebanese capital, a new danger is stalking the struggling country: hunger. – Wall Street Journal

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the probe into this month’s devastating blast in Beirut is “very complex” and would not be finished quickly. Responding to calls that he step down, Aoun told French TV station BFMTV that it would be “impossible” because it would create a power vacuum. – Associated Press

There can be no financial bailout for Lebanon, a senior U.S. official said Saturday, calling on the country’s political leaders to heed popular calls for change, real reform and an end to endemic corruption. – Associated Press

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday confirmed that it will assist authorities in Lebanon investigating the cause of the explosion that devastated Beirut and killed 172 people. – Reuters

Lebanese President Michel Aoun dropped a bombshell statement on Saturday night, telling French TV his country may be ready for peace with Israel. – Asia Times

Natasha Hall writes: The international community must help build a new order from the ashes, not prolong the status quo or return Lebanon to a period of foreign supervision. Such assistance should include diplomatic and economic assistance to civil society and non-governmental affiliated organizations, impartial independent investigations, capacity-building at every level of governance, and the development of financial and governmental regulatory bodies to ensure that the new government, whichever shape it takes, cannot hold the country hostage again. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: Even before these disastrous explosions, Lebanon was mired in an economic and political crisis. That crisis is now at a boiling point, risking a new civil war. Making the situation worse, the corrupted Lebanese political elite seem determined to drive their nation into the abyss.  […]Still, it speaks to why the FBI’s involvement is so critical. Hopefully, the bureau can deliver some measure of truth and justice for Lebanon’s people. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: For all these reasons, any peace with Lebanon is impossible. Hezbollah takes orders from Iran, which is the foremost anti-Israel voice in the region besides Turkey. Together, these two countries want to influence Lebanon. The allies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf who are in Lebanon, which tend to be the Sunni Arab parties, are not strong enough to make peace. […]The only thing that might be expected from Lebanon is some US-brokered discussions about delimitation of rights to offshore energy blocs, which is an issue both countries care about. – Jerusalem Post

James Phillips writes: The United States currently is pushing for a stronger mandate for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon at the Security Council. Such action is long overdue. It is a necessary but not a sufficient prerequisite for whittling down Hezbollah’s power in southern Lebanon. Unfortunately, as long as Hezbollah dominates the Lebanese government, Lebanon’s protracted crisis will grow increasingly grim. – The Daily Signal 

Mohamad Bazzi writes: The tragedy in Beirut—the result of decades of systemic negligence and lack of accountability—made clear that a new government, parliamentary elections, and new political parties will not be enough to save Lebanon. The Lebanese must rid themselves of the corrupt sectarian leaders and parties that have dominated the country for decades. And they must destroy the sectarian power-sharing system that has turned into a noose around their necks. – Foreign Affairs

Nicole Robinson writes: Lebanon has yet to formally respond to the offer, but it is unlikely that the government will accept Israel’s aid given the hostile history between the two. Regardless, Israel continues to demonstrate its support of Lebanese civilians in Beirut during this difficult time. – The Daily Signal

Gulf States

House Democrats have called on a senior State Department official to explain testimony he gave last year on the timeline of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration of an “emergency” regarding $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which conflicted with a report by the department’s office of inspector general released this week. – Washington Post

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council on Sunday condemned Iran for threatening the United Arab Emirates after it announced normalization of ties with Israel. – Times of Israel 

The secretary general of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council on Sunday condemned “threats” by Iran’s president and other Iranian officials towards the United Arab Emirates over its agreement with Israel to normalise relations, the GCC said in a statement. – Reuters

Normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates could pave the way for more U.S. weapons sales to the Gulf Arab country, according to experts. – Reuters

Palestinians taking part in Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem trampled and then set fire to a poster of the United Arab emirates leader to protest the normalization deal announced Thursday between Israel and the UAE. – Times of Israel

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has “congratulated” the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) de-facto ruler, Mohammed bin Zayed, on his deal to normalize ties with Israel, calling it “historic,” Bahrain’s state news agency said on Saturday. – Haaretz

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Trump’s announcement is certainly welcome on its face. It is all to the good that two important American allies work openly together, whether to oppose Iran or to foster a wider Middle East peace. But the deal will not be the August surprise that changes the trajectory of the presidential election. Trump still needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat sometime in October. But Trump does not wear a hat. It would muss up what he calls his “beautiful hair.” His problems, like Netanyahu’s, are not going away anytime soon. – The Hill

Jon B. Alterman writes: Most Arab governments are likely to take this in stride, in part because many are sympathetic to the Emirati calculus here and because those who are not sympathetic to the calculus do not want to alienate such a wealthy country with a rising regional profile. […]the UAE may also take this as an opportunity to pursue more vigorously the reintegration of Syria into the region. The view of many in the UAE government is that the country’s civil war is over and that it is time to move on. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Middle East & North Africa

The resumption of peace negotiations remain a priority to reach a just solution in the Middle East, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter on Sunday. – Reuters

Tiana Lowe writes: The Obama Doctrine has been disproven, and Trump’s approach to the Middle East is clearly focused in the right direction. The real political question to come: Will the Israel-friendly Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris cut their losses and follow Trump or go down with the ship to preserve Obama’s crumbling legacy? – Washington Examiner

Kenneth Pollack and Michael Eisenstadt write: US security force assistance missions to Arab partner states have had limited success, due in part to a tendency to impose American doctrine, which embodies American cultural values and norms, on Arab armed forces. Accordingly, US security force assistance missions should train Arab partners to fight in a manner better suited to their own cultural preferences and operational requirements. – American Enterprise Institute

Korean Peninsula

South Korea and the United States will start their annual joint military drills on Tuesday, in what local media said was a two-day delay after a South Korean officer tested positive for the new coronavirus. – Reuters

The drills from Tuesday to Aug. 28 could still irk North Korea, which portrays the allies’ training as invasion rehearsals and has threatened to abandon stalled nuclear talks if Washington persists with what it perceives as “hostile policies” toward Pyongyang. – Associated Press

Thousands of anti-government protesters, armed with umbrellas and raincoats, marched through the soggy streets of South Korea’s capital on Saturday, ignoring official pleas to stay home amid a surge in coronavirus infections. […]Municipal officials in Seoul had sought to forbid the slew of rallies planned by conservative activists and Christian groups for a holiday celebrating the 75th anniversary of the nation’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II. – Associated Press


For weeks, China fanned nationalist sentiment in its escalating war of words with the Trump administration. Now, it is toning down its message and calling for a truce, as President Trump increasingly makes Beijing a target in his bid for re-election in November. – New York Times

The Trump administration’s escalating pressure campaign against China calls for a beefed up military presence to challenge Beijing’s claims in Asia, signaling a widening role for the U.S. Navy. – Wall Street Journal 

A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier conducted exercises in the contested South China Sea on Friday, the U.S. navy said in a statement. – Reuters

The United States and China have delayed a review of their Phase 1 trade deal initially slated for Saturday, sources familiar with the plans told Reuters, citing scheduling conflicts and the need to allow time for more Chinese purchases of U.S. exports. – Reuters

UK politicians including the former Conservative party leader have called on large investors to use their voice more forcefully to condemn China’s crackdown in Hong Kong. – Financial Times

South Asia

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepali counterpart K. P. Sharma Oli spoke on Saturday for the first time since a diplomatic spat over a map and a disputed area of territory erupted earlier this year between the South Asian neighbours. – Reuters

Militants attacked a police team in Kashmir on Friday, killing two officers and wounding one despite tight security in the disputed Muslim-majority region ahead of India’s Independence Day. – Reuters

France has asked the Afghan government not to include Taliban fighters convicted of killing French citizens in a prisoner release deal, the foreign ministry said on Saturday. – Reuters

Ashraf Ghani writes: Assurances will no longer be enough to propel the peace process forward. It is now time for the Taliban to sit across from the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in earnest, in order to reach a political solution and to declare a comprehensive cease-fire. […]The international community will play an important role as facilitators and mediators of the talks, ensuring that momentum, and a level playing field, are maintained. – Washington Post


Taiwan formally signed a deal to buy F-16 jets from Lockheed Martin amid spiking tensions between Washington and Beijing. – The Hill

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has resigned from an honorary fellowship at a college at Britain’s Cambridge University after it questioned her commitment to the protection of human rights and freedom of expression. – Reuters

Taiwan will step up scrutiny of mainland Chinese citizens who are residents of Hong Kong and seek to move to the island to ensure they do not engage in spying or other illegal acts, the government said on Monday. – Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking on the 75th anniversary of Japan’s World War Two surrender, pledged never to repeat the tragedy of war and Emperor Naruhito expressed “deep remorse” over the wartime past, which still haunts East Asia. – Reuters

Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT), which traditionally favours close ties with China, was routed in a key mayoral by-election on Saturday, a vote overshadowed by turmoil in Hong Kong and tensions with Beijing. – Reuters

But the weak spot in the tougher US strategy is proving to be the shifting stance of the Philippines. This month, Delfin Lorenzana, Manila’s normally hawkish defence secretary, ruled the country out of participating in naval exercises in the South China Sea. – Financial Times

Editorial: China’s Communist Party crackdown on Hong Kong gets more menacing by the day. This week’s roundup of democracy advocates including publisher Jimmy Lai is the latest assault on the once-free city, and hardliners in Beijing see Taiwan as the next prize. Given the possibility of a showdown over Taiwan in the next four years, the nature of America’s commitment to the island ought to make more than a passing appearance in the 2020 presidential campaign. – Wall Street Journal


Russia said it would offer Lukashenko military help if necessary, but there was no visible police presence at the protest, which attracted around 200,000 people, a Reuters reporter estimated. At least two protesters have died and thousands have been detained in a crackdown since the vote. – Reuters

President Donald Trump has told aides he’d like to hold an in-person meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the November election, according to four people familiar with the discussions. – NBC 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke on the phone on Sunday about Russia’s proposal to hold a video summit at the United Nations to discuss Iran, the Russian foreign ministry said. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday all but dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for a summit of world leaders to discuss Iran, saying he probably would not participate. – Reuters

About 2,000 people joined another march in the Russian far eastern city of Khabarovsk on Saturday in protest over President Vladimir Putin’s handling of a local political crisis. – Reuters

Paisley Turner and Mason Clark write: The US must be prepared to deter any potential effort by Putin to take advantage of the protest movement in order to subjugate Belarus. However, the US must avoid legitimizing Lukashenko’s undemocratic actions and crackdown on the protest movement. Increased Kremlin dominance over Belarus would advance the Kremlin’s strategic goals of regaining control over the Soviet Union and free up Russian resources to further pressure Europe, which the US must contest – but not at the expense of support for essential liberal values. – Institute for the Study of War


After claiming for weeks that Russia was plotting to overthrow him, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus appealed to the Kremlin on Saturday for help against a wave of protests and strikes triggered by police violence after a disputed presidential election. – New York Times

In a video posted on social media, she called for her supporters to end their protests and accept the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, as their president. To his critics, it was a glaring example of how Mr. Lukashenko controls the political system in Belarus, the former Soviet republic he has run since the fall of the Iron Curtain. What happens in Belarus, a country of just under 10 million people, could determine the next steps in a long and frequently testy struggle for influence between the West and Moscow in Eastern Europe, right on Russia’s western border. – Wall Street Journal

Russia risks being drawn further into the political upheaval in neighboring Belarus after President Vladimir Putin agreed with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko not to let mass protests over its scandal-plagued elections pry the two longtime allies apart. – Wall Street Journal

LGBT rights have become a flashpoint in a culture war between Europe’s West, which is becoming broadly more socially liberal, and its East, which hews to more-conservative views. The social schism threatens EU unity and collective action at a time of political and economic stress. – Wall Street Journal

British Trade Secretary Liz Truss pledged to fight U.S tariffs on Scotch whisky, calling them “unacceptable and unfair” in an op-ed in the Telegraph on Sunday. – Reuters

NATO dismissed on Sunday allegations by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that it was conducting a military buildup near the country’s western border but said it was closely monitoring the situation following his contested re-election. – Reuters

Poland is monitoring the situation on its border with Belarus, as the Belarusian army plans to hold drills this week in the Grodno region bordering Poland and Lithuania, Deputy Defence Minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz said on Monday. – Reuters

The United States is discussing the situation in Belarus with the European Union after last weekend’s disputed election and subsequent crackdown on protesters, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday. – Reuters

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday rounded out his four-nation tour of Europe, signing a new defense pact in Poland that will increase the number of U.S. troops stationed in the Eastern European country. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: In the last few months, we’ve seen a revolution in British strategy toward Beijing. Finally waking up to recognize China’s absolute disdain for the rule of law and its epidemic of dishonesty over the coronavirus, Johnson’s government has moved to situate its China policy alongside the U.S. and Australia. […]Today, the government and Parliament offer a different header for China: “hostile state.” It’s an overdue but welcome shift. – Washington Examiner

Mason Clark writes: Lukashenko continues to attempt to paint the protests as an international threat to the security of Belarus. Lukashenko accused NATO of backing the protests and stated protesters are offering “a new government [which has] already been created abroad.” Lukashenko has ceased claiming the protests are Russian backed following his August 15 call with Russian President Putin. He reiterated unfounded claims of protester threats again the families of security personnel. – Institute for the Study of War

George Barros writes: A senior Kremlin media official’s August 14 statement supporting such a move is a significant inflection in Moscow’s characterization of the protests in Belarus. It could be part of a new Russian information campaign to shape conditions for a Russian-backed intervention into Belarus under the pretext of restoring order. A Russian intervention in Belarus that resulted in the stationing of Russian ground forces in the country would dramatically increase the threat to NATO’s ability to protect the Baltic States and mark another advance in Putin’s efforts to regain Russian suzerainty over the former Soviet Union. – Institute for the Study of War

Dalibor Rohac and Ivana Stradner write: True, there are no guarantees that any Western effort can do the trick—Belarus’s economy and energy sector are tied too closely to Russia, the country has little experience with democracy and only a weak sense of national identity distinct from the legacies of the Soviet era. But not even trying to help a country at Europe’s doorstep shed its authoritarian yoke would be the worst possible signal about the current state of the West and give the revanchist Russia a green light in its efforts to further destabilize the West. – The Bulwark


Militants detonated a car bomb in front of an upscale hotel in the Somali capital Sunday afternoon, then stormed the beachside property. State security forces engaged in a four-hour standoff before killing two attackers who had been holding those inside hostage. – Washington Post

Pope Francis called for dialogue between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on Saturday, urging them not to let a dispute over a dam on the Nile lead to conflict. – Reuters

Mozambique has become the latest African stronghold of Islamic State (IS) after well-armed insurgents captured a strategic port in the north of the country. – Business Insider

Phillip Carter III and John F. May write: Without better governance, major investments in health and education, and an end to gender inequality, terrorism will thrive no matter how much military assistance is channeled to the region. The U.S. and other nations must boost their support for programs that address the root causes of instability in the Sahel, not just the threat posed by terrorists. – The Hill

Emilia Columbo writes: The latest attack by Islamic State-linked insurgents on the main port in the northern Mozambican town of Mocimboa da Praia represents a significant escalation since the group’s emergence in October 2017, underscoring its growing capacity to disrupt foreign investment in the area. […]External pressure on Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to intervene will likely increase as a result of insurgent assertiveness, but political and financial realities will limit support to Maputo. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Latin America

The Office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed on Saturday that it had sent a fact-finding team to Chile’s restive Araucania region where a jailed indigenous Mapuche leader has spent more than 100 days on hunger strike over his detention during the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters

The United States said on Friday it had confiscated four Iranian fuel shipments that had been bound for Venezuela, disrupting a key supply line for both Tehran and Caracas as they defied U.S. sanctions. – Reuters

A regional bloc comprised mostly of Latin American nations said on Friday it rejects plans by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to hold legislative elections without participation by all political parties. – Reuters

It is “critical” that Haiti hold a delayed vote and strengthen the rule of law and human rights, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told President Jovenel Moise on Sunday at a meeting after more than six months of rule by decree in the Caribbean nation. – Reuters

Luis Rodolfo Abinader was sworn in as president of the Dominican Republic on Sunday in a ceremony attended by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – Associated Press

Julia Friedlander writes: In combatting illicit finance, virtue is in the details, and it takes the careful diligence and dedication of experts across the government and among partners to execute policies that are in the end less sweeping than they are minute, and less maximalist in rhetoric than they are carefully considered. The confluence of Venezuela, Russia and Iran is a cautionary tale about the limits of our own tools, as powerful as they can be, and believing the world can be examined within silos, and that if there is ever to be one silo — that it is our own. – The Hill

North America

That didn’t take long. The new trade deal between Canada, the United States and Mexico was barely a month old when President Trump, during a tour of a Whirlpool appliance factory, announced that he’d again placed tariffs on aluminum from Canada. – New York Times

Evidence used by the United States to justify the extradition of Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is “unreliable and defective” and should not be considered by a Canadian court, Meng’s lawyers argued in documents released to the media on Friday. – Reuters

U.S. allies shaken after years of President Trump denigrating them and pulling out of international accords will be closely watching the Democratic convention for signals on Joe Biden’s plans to restore relationships. – The Hill

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: This means the U.S. now needs to reshape its approach to great power competition to fully recognize that it cannot afford to focus solely on China and Russia. They already compete by creating ongoing mixes of political, economic, and national security competition that actively involve other states and non-state actors. […]It will use “multi-domain” operations at the civil level and exploit civil technology in hybrid and asymmetric ways. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he could exert pressure on more Chinese companies such as technology giant Alibaba (BABA.N) after he moved to ban TikTok. – Reuters

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced Friday the successful completion of a biannual simulated cyberattack aimed at preparing the U.S. and its partners to defend against a real attack on critical systems. – The Hill

President Trump on Friday issued an order calling on Chinese company ByteDance, which owns the popular video app TikTok, to divest from the social media platform’s U.S. operations, citing national security. – The Hill

Reps. John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Friday introduced legislation to provide election officials with enhanced cybersecurity resources, as authorities ramp up warnings of foreign interference in U.S. elections this year. – The Hill

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Friday evening directing ByteDance, the Chinese-owned parent company of TikTok, to divest interest in the app’s US operations within the next 90 days. – CNN

The Trump administration is granting the Pentagon a temporary waiver of government-wide ban on contractors using Huawei and other Chinese-made telecommunications equipment, according to a memo obtained by Defense News. – Defense News

Editorial: The United States’ electric grid is dynamic and diverse. This is perhaps a boon to consumers looking for lower costs, but a burden when it comes to securing the system. […]Invest in U.S. manufacturers to supply the largest and most essential transformers. Experts suspect China has already implanted malware in critical infrastructure. This will require leadership and an ability to imagine a disaster that has yet to occur but too easily could — so that if the shock comes, we will be ready instead of surprised. – Washington Post 


For most of this year, Pentagon planners have been developing a new joint war-fighting concept, a document meant to guide how the Defense Department fights in the coming decades. Now, with an end-of-year deadline fast approaching, two top department officials believe the concept is coalescing around a key idea — one that requires tossing decades of traditional thinking out the window. – Defense News

Silvus Technologies developed a new radio waveform that will make it more difficult for adversaries to intercept and detect communications signals of the U.S. Army, the company announced Aug. 13. – C4ISRNET

One of the biggest challenges for Collins, the Army’s new acquisition chief for tactical networks (aka PEO-C3T)? Getting data on potential targets from intelligence systems to combat units fast enough to strike them with the new long-range artillery and high-speed helicopters now in development. – Breaking Defense

The Defense Department announced on Friday evening that Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist approved the creation of an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force on Aug. 4, and the government group will be led by the Navy under the “cognizance” of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. Army is seeking industry input on new technology allowing aircraft to survive and defeat systems in sophisticated adversarial environments made up of sensitive radars and integrated air defense systems. – C4ISRNET

Missile Defense

The U.S. Army is slowing its pursuit of a future ballistic missile interceptor to replace the Patriot family of missiles, but it is continuing to conduct research on a less expensive, more capable replacement in preparation to field a new missile down the road. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is recycling demilitarized rocket motors and repurposing the materials to make test missiles and it’s saving the service money, according to Thomas Webber, director of the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center. – Defense News

Tommy Shannon, Josh Portzer, and Arturo Trejo write: Comparing the United States today with the United Kingdom from the late Victorian period up to World War I suggests several lessons. Using this lens indicates that the United States needs to choose its current and future investments carefully. Relying on ballistic missile defense and diplomacy in lieu of military power are not sound ways for America to preserve its defense capabilities going forward. And the metrics with which one chooses to measure naval capital matter. – War on the Rocks

Long War

An Islamic cleric who allegedly aided and recruited countless followers to join Islamic State was extradited from Jamaica and arraigned in a Manhattan court on conspiracy and terrorism charges Friday. – Wall Street Journal

French Prime Minister Jean Castex paid tribute on Friday to the six French aid workers who where killed by a group of gunmen on motorcycles in Niger, likening the attack to the 2015 militant attacks in Paris that shook the country. – Reuters

Emily Estelle writes: Great-power competition and the terrorist threat intersect and interact with one another in Africa and the Middle East. US disengagement from these regions to prepare for great-power competition in other theaters will increase a growing vacuum that is drawing more regional and global actors—states and non-state extremist groups—into a series of vicious cycles that will pose grave threats to American national security in the coming decades. – American Enterprise Institute

Trump Administration

The Republican and Democratic chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee notified federal prosecutors last year of their suspicion that several individuals, including President Trump’s family members and confidants, might have presented misleading testimony in the panel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, people familiar with the matter said. – Washington Post

A former FBI lawyer will plead guilty to falsifying a document as part of a federal probe into the origins of an investigation into possible contacts between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, an attorney for the former FBI lawyer said on Friday. – Reuters

Israel’s former Ambassador to the United Nations backed up rumors Monday that President Donald Trump is considering replacing Vice President Mike Pence with Nikki Haley. – Arutz Sheva

During a press conference at his Bedminster, N.J., property Saturday, President Trump said that he “considers firing everybody” when asked if he considered firing Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.   – The Hill

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he is considering a pardon for Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor – now living in Russia – whose spectacular leaks shook the U.S. intelligence community in 2013. – Reuters

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said on Sunday that pardoning former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden “would be unconscionable” after President Trump said he was considering the idea at a recent press conference. – The Hill