Fdd's overnight brief

August 20, 2020

In The News


President Trump has directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to go to the United Nations on Thursday in the first step toward reimposing all U.N. sanctions against Iran, using a legal maneuver that most of the Security Council considers dubious. – Washington Post 

State TV said officials unveiled the two new missiles on Thursday — National Defense Industry Day in Iran. They are named after top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed outside Baghdad’s international airport in a U.S. strike in January. – Associated Press

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on two United Arab Emirates-based companies, the U.S. Treasury Department said, accusing them of providing material support to Iranian airline Mahan Air. – Reuters 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Russia and China not to disregard the reimposition of all United Nations sanctions on Iran, which President Donald Trump has directed him to trigger at the U.N. Security Council in New York on Thursday. – Reuters

The oil market has not yet stabilised, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told state TV on Wednesday, but added that the measures implemented by OPEC have been successful in raising crude prices. – Reuters

A former aide to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden believes the former vice president has a “durable way” to stop Iran from getting the bomb “without resorting to military force” — while restoring trust with U.S. allies and partners. – Jewish Insider

The Islamic Republic’s Court of Appeals recently upheld the sentences of Rev. Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi. They were sentenced to ten and five years in prison respectively Article 18 a website covering news on minority rights in Iran. – Radio Farda

The head of a wealthy, state-sponsored charity in Iran has apologized Wednesday for his controversial and revealing remarks earlier naming officials who received real estate holdings by orders of the Supreme Leader. – Radio Farda

The United States is willing to enter peace negotiations with Iran if US President Donald Trump is reelected in November, top White House official Jared Kushner said, as Washington tries to snap back UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic. – Times of Israel

Since its formation in 2009, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps – Intelligence Organisation (IRGC-IO) has gained increasing dominance over the domestic security sphere in Iran. Under the direct control of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, it has targeted officials, journalists, lawyers, activists, and dual nationals, severely undermining the policies and status of successive elected governments. In doing so, it has encroached upon, and in many respects sidelined, the government’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). – Jane’s 360 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Minister of Defense Amir Hatami said that in the field of missiles Iran has reached real deterrent power. He argued that now Iran’s missiles can reach 2,000 km and that this new Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis missile can reach 1,000 km. In solid fuel missiles Iran also says it has a range up to 1,400 with other missiles. It is not clear if these boasts have been proven but Iran did use ballistic missiles to target the US in Iraq in January and has targeted ISIS in Syria. […]This shows Iran has reached sophisticated levels of missile and drone production. It also used cruise missiles against Saudi Arabia last year, coordinating the attack with drones. Not all the cruise missiles made it to their targets.- Jerusalem Post


As the United Nations prepares to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping operation in southern Lebanon, Israel is working with Security Council members to push for tough changes in the way the force deals with the Hezbollah militant group, Israeli officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Hezbollah received from Iran many supplies of ammonium nitrate, the same substance that caused the massive explosion in Beirut’s port earlier this month, the German Die Welt newspaper reported on Wednesday. – Arutz Sheva

Hussein Ibish writes: To its deep discomfort, Hezbollah can no longer operate behind the façade of the state. The Lebanese government most directly responsible for the port explosion was entirely made up of Hezbollah allies. Its militia defends the corrupt political and economic system that has hollowed out the country. – Bloomberg


The U.N. special envoy for Syria announced Wednesday that the 45-member committee charged with drafting a new constitution for the conflict-torn country will meet for the first time in nine months on Aug. 24. – Associated Press 

Syrian authorities have agreed to give Russia additional land and coastal waters in order to expand its military air base at Hmeimim, a Russian government document published on Wednesday showed. – Reuters 

Australian airforce pilots and private contractors are being drafted in to help fly UK armed Reaper drones over Syria and Iraq amid shortages in RAF crew and concern over the stresses of piloting deadly unmanned aircraft. – The Guardian


Turkey has discovered energy in the Black Sea, most likely natural gas, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Wednesday, but gave no indication of the size and depth of the find, nor how difficult it will be to extract. – Bloomberg 

Turkey’s lira has been driven to record lows on concerns that lower interest rates, depleting FX reserves and a flood of easy credit could pave the way to a second currency crisis in as many years. – Reuters 

Can Dundar writes: We have arrived at a moment of truth for Google and Twitter. They are now being forced to choose between oppressive Turkish laws and freedom of speech. […]If the companies decide in favor of freedom of speech, refusing to censor content at the government’s behest, the government will have the power, under the new law, to almost entirely block the Internet traffic of these platforms. In that case, we will have to find a new way out of our game of whack-a-mole. – Washington Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The fact that it put to sea its research vessel and seven naval vessels shows this is a real display of force. Ankara has also recruited lobbying firms in Washington and think tanks and experts to push its case via various media. This is a full-court press by Ankara that combines, in a Clausewitz-like style, the military, research vessels, energy claims, politics, foreign policy, Syrian mercenaries, lobbyists and media. Whether France, Greece, Egypt and others can actually work together to deal with this issue and get the US to take it seriously rather than give-in to Turkey’s unclear demands, remains to be seen. – Jerusalem Post


An Israeli court decision last week stopping the military from demolishing the family home of a Palestinian man accused of killing a soldier represents a rare intervention against a policy that is widely popular in Israel but sharply criticized abroad. – Washington Post 

The IDF struck the Gaza Strip early Thursday morning, responding to incendiary balloon attacks that had entered Israel throughout the past day and caused fires in various regions, Walla reported, citing the Palestinian Shehab agency. – Jerusalem Post

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s former adviser, acknowledged that the question of applying sovereignty over Judea of Samaria was not completely “off the table,” but rather postponed due to the signing of the historic agreement between Israel and the UAE. – Jerusalem Post

A Palestinian was killed while attempting to use an improvised explosive device (IED) hidden in a burning tire, The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv reported early Thursday morning. – Jerusalem Post

Any future sale of advanced weapons to the United Arab Emirates – including F-35 fighter jets – would be governed by the United States’ obligation to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and claims that the peace deal undermines Israel’s security are no more than part of a political assault by the “pro-Iran crowd”, US Ambassador David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Several thousand Palestinians on Wednesday held a protest in the West Bank against last week’s announcement that Israel was normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates. – Agence France-Presse

The United Arab Emirates’ sovereign wealth fund is interested in investing in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a meeting with lawmakers from the south of the country on Wednesday. – Bloomberg 

Israel and Sudan are in contact, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Channel 12 on Wednesday, just after Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Haider Badawi Sadiq was fired for speaking to the international media about normalization efforts by both countries. – Jerusalem Post

In the wake of the normalization deal reached by Israel and the United Arab Emirates last week, a video of a young Emirati girl playing the Jewish state’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” has appeared on Twitter. – Algemeiner

Israel is quietly raising alarm with United States over new developments in Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program, Axios reported on Wednesday. – Algemeiner

Lahav Harkov writes: Unlike those countries, the UAE can afford to buy the weapons, which is all the more incentive for the US – especially under a president like Donald Trump who is loath to pay for other countries’ security – to give an arms deal the green light in conjunction with peace. […]All this raises the question of whether Netanyahu knows about possible deals between the UAE and US that could weaken the QME, at least in the Israeli security establishment’s view. – Jerusalem Post


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged that the Trump administration will continue to support Iraq as it confronts the threat posed by the Islamic State group, but he also called for the Baghdad government to redouble efforts to rein in pro-Iran militias. – Associated Press 

Further reductions to the U.S. military footprint in Iraq will be among the topics of discussion when Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visits the White House on Thursday. – Military Times 

A female activist was killed on Wednesday and three others wounded when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their car in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, security and health sources told Reuters. – Reuters 

The rocket attacks are part of a series of violent incidents involving U.S. forces and Iranian-backed militants in Iraq and Syria over the past week. But the Trump administration insists that its own maximum pressure campaign has kept Iranian attacks at bay. – The National Interest 

Five U.S. firms including Chevron Corp signed agreements on Wednesday with the Iraqi government aimed at boosting Iraq’s energy independence from Iran as the Iraqi prime minister prepared to make his first visit to the White House on Thursday. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The impunity of assassinations illustrates how militias, many affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, are working slowly and systematically to silence any dissent. This is especially true for targeting young people and women. The goal is to preserve the system that arose in Iraq in the last decade, a rule that is increasingly beholden to militias, clerics, and the politics of the gun. – Jerusalem Post 

Kenneth M. Pollack writes: Alternatively, if becomes clear that even Kadhimi — with his technocratic smarts, his non-partisan nationalism, and the assumed support of the United States — cannot begin to move Iraq in the right direction, the Iraqi people may turn against the system entirely and opt for a revolution that would be unlikely to work out well for the United States. – The Hill


The U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian support for the Lebanese people affected by a deadly and devastating explosion at the port of Beirut in early August, a top State Department official said Wednesday, but will not underwrite the current government until real reforms take place. – The Hill 

Michal Kranz writes: The United Nations has put forward an independent aid appeal of its own, but the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which had been negotiating with the Lebanese government on a reform package before talks fell apart last month, stated that an additional, more significant assistance package totaling billions of dollars won’t arrive until those reforms are implemented—something that Macron, the donor group, and U.S. officials had echoed as well. – Foreign Policy 

Dalal Yassine writes: The best way to achieve this is to fully fund UNRWA and UNHCR programs and services in Lebanon. […]Although this will not eliminate corruption completely, it will be a significant improvement over the current situation or the alternative of direct government involvement. Therefore, this is an opportunity to strengthen UN agencies already operating in Lebanon. Otherwise, marginalized groups will be invisible and they will not receive the support they so desperately need. – Middle East Institute


Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won all but a handful of declared seats in a newly created second chamber of parliament, official first round results and media reports showed on Wednesday. – Reuters

Sam Magdy writes: The exact impact of the dam on downstream countries Egypt and Sudan remains unknown. For Egyptian farmers, the daunting prospect adds a new worry on top of the other causes of mounting water scarcity. Egypt is already spreading its water resources thin. Its booming population, now over 100 million, has one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, at around 550 cubic meters per year, compared to a global average of 1,000 – Associated Press

Haisam Hassanein writes: In response, however, Washington should make clear that the future of peacemaking will be dictated by regional normalization. In other words, Egypt will need to join the normalization camp after stalling for years, or else watch its prestige and international influence continue to diminish. Cairo has not been serious about normalizing with Israel for years. […]These policies need to end if Cairo wants to be a major peace mediator and regional player in the changing Arab-Israeli paradigm. – Washington Institute

Saudi Arabia

President Donald Trump said he expects Saudi Arabia to join a peace deal agreed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates last week, and that the emirates might be allowed to buy U.S. F-35 jets, one of the most advanced fighters in the world. – Bloomberg 

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Wednesday cautiously welcomed an agreement between its close ally the United Arab Emirates and Israel to establish full diplomatic ties and exchange embassies. – Associated Press 

Donna Abu-Nasr writes: The rise of the UAE as a new power broker in the region could mark a shift in Arab leadership, dilute Saudi influence, and further fracture Gulf Arab unity. The kingdom has to balance that immediate geopolitical concern against other ideological ones. As the location of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia is the symbolic leader of the global Muslim community, which is overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Palestinians. The Saudis’ archenemy Iran would likely pounce on any hint that Riyadh’s support for the Palestinians was wobbling. – Bloomberg

Gulf States

The Trump White House is quietly planning sales of F-35 stealth fighters and advanced drones to the Emiratis as part of a wider plan to realign the Middle East, but Israel and Congress may object. – New York Times 

A senior U.N. official warned Tuesday that war-torn Yemen is sliding toward famine as the coronavirus spreads and its economy implodes — all amid a funding crisis that is forcing the United Nations to make deeper aid cuts, including stopping treatment for 250,000 severely malnourished children. – Associated Press 

On the surface there’s no reason why Kuwait, the kingdom at the end of the Persian Gulf, would be a leading critic of Israel. […]However, in the wake of the UAE decision to normalize relations with Israel, Kuwait has appeared to be the coldest toward Israel of all states in the Gulf. – Jerusalem Post 

The United Arab Emirates’ deal to establish formal ties with Israel helped salvage a Saudi-drawn plan to make peace between the Jewish state and the Arab World in return for a Palestinian state, the UAE’s envoy to the United Nations said. – Bloomberg 

Joel Gehrke writes: Gulf countries have a lot riding on the exact details of how a Biden team might turn those statements into new policies while beginning new talks with Iran. [..]Such rebukes, combined with a conciliatory posture toward Tehran and the U.S. focus on China and the Indo-Pacific rather than the Middle East, raise the prospect that Gulf nations will find consolation with other countries. – Washington Examiner

Elana DeLozier writes: More broadly, Sultan Haitham’s appointments seem to reward experience, and the coming months will gauge whether that experience can be turned into measurable results. Initial impressions suggest that his approach to consolidating, professionalizing, and empowering institutional knowledge is just the kind of leadership Oman needs at this critical time. – Washington Institute


Libya could export oil again, but only temporarily. […]Officials at the state-run National Oil Corp., which has imposed force majeure on most of Libya’s crude shipments, weren’t immediately available for comment. The NOC, based in the capital Tripoli, must approve any exports. – Bloomberg 

Spanish authorities have found a boat near the Canary Islands with 10 dead migrants on board, while another another 45 have perished in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast. […]The UN said it was “deeply concerned” and criticised the “sharp reduction” in efforts by European countries to respond to distress calls and carry out search and rescue operations. – Sky News (UK) 

Anas El Gomati writes: As Haftar began losing ground, his political behavior looked increasingly desperate, and his focus turned to his own political survival and relevance. In a matter of weeks, Haftar staged a failed military coup over his political allies in eastern Libya and promised to launch the largest air campaign in Libyan history against the GNA, before abruptly backtracking and announcing his desire for a new, inclusive peace process and a return to political talks. – Foreign Policy

Middle East & North Africa

A new commander has taken charge of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East as tensions with Iran continue to simmer. On Wednesday, newly promoted Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo took charge of U.S. 5th Fleet from Vice Adm. James Malloy in a change of command ceremony in Bahrain. – USNI News 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: These issues are relative because the UAE is not a democracy, and, given the fact that the majority of its population are not citizens but foreign workers, it doesn’t seem clear how it might chart a path to more democratization. In contrast, Israel is a vibrant democracy but is criticized for controlling the West Bank and denying Palestinians a path to a state. This means Israel and the UAE are united in visions of a future as well as having many challenges in terms of human rights. – Jerusalem Post 

Aaron David Miller writes: The administration has every right to take credit for an unprecedented agreement. But it would be wise not to overrepresent its significance. The Middle East is literally littered with the remains of great powers who wrongly believed they could impose their will on smaller ones. And it can be a cruel teacher for the arrogant, the naive, and those who believe they have the key to fixing it. The Israeli-UAE accord holds tremendous promise and should be celebrated. But what is required now is less crowing and more humility, vision and a clear sense of direction by those within and outside the region to tackle the tough challenges that remain. – NPR 

Cameron Khansarinia writes: The notion of a joint Jordanian, Iranian, and Israeli squadron of jets flying on an anti-ISIS mission or a joint Kuwaiti, Emirati, and Lebanese economic venture may, today, seem far-fetched. Yet in the aftermath of World War II, so did the notion that there might ever be a lasting alliance between Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. From the first declaration of human rights to the development of music and mathematics, the people of the Middle East are no strangers to taking on big challenges. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

Back in 2016, North Korea’s freshly minted leader, Kim Jong-un, held the country’s first ruling Workers’ Party’s congress in three decades and laid out an ambitious five-year economic plan to build what he called a “great socialist country” by 2020. On Thursday, he admitted that the plan had failed. – New York Times

Kim Jong Un acknowledged that North Korea’s development goals have been “seriously delayed,” in the latest sign that sanctions, flooding and the coronavirus have dealt a triple blow to the country’s already anemic economy. – Bloomberg 

Though South Korea is one of the global hubs for ship manufacturing—and likely the number one country for ship production by tonnage—submarine design is a different beast entirely. […]If all goes according to schedule, Seoul will be able to boast one of the most capable, if not the largest, submarine fleet in Asia. Watch out Beijing and Pyongyang. – The National Interest 

The Democratic Republic of Congo unit of Cameroon’s Afriland First Bank Group may be violating sanctions by providing banking services to a North Korea-linked statue-building company, a U.S.-based anti-corruption group said. – Bloomberg 

Dr. Jihwan Hwang writes: Biden needs to understand that Kim Jong-un wants to secure a regime guarantee in return for denuclearization. Since North Korea’s security problems are focused on the abandonment of the U.S. hostile policy toward the regime, North Korea will ultimately seek to fundamentally change U.S. policy toward the Korean Peninsula. Even Kim Jong-un does not make it clear what types of measures can guarantee his regime security, but it would be something like the Vietnamese case, wherein Vietnam now seeks security cooperation with America in Southeast despite the fact that the two were at war in the last century. – The National Interest


U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators plan to confer by video in the coming days over progress in fulfilling terms of the “Phase One” trade deal and U.S. actions against Chinese technology firms, according to officials in both nations. – Wall Street Journal 

Officials in Beijing were kept in the dark for weeks about the potential devastation of the virus by local officials in central China, according to American officials familiar with a new internal report by U.S. intelligence agencies. – New York Times

Heavy rains that again swelled the Yangtze River are expected to hit the Three Gorges Dam with its largest-ever flood this week. […]Flooding this year has affected more than 63 million people and exacerbated strains to China’s economy from the coronavirus pandemic, which first broke out in the Hubei city of Wuhan. – Wall Street Journal 

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Wednesday accused the Democratic Party and Chinese Communist Party of entering into a “common cause” to defeat President Trump in November. – The Hill 

Rob Rosenberg writes: National security threats have spurred U.S. agencies to overhaul global trade risk management practices before. Following 9/11, border agencies increased cooperation with international partners and adjusted their assessment of supply chains based on the risk of terrorism. To prepare for and mitigate the supply chain vulnerabilities that could emerge from great power competition, the U.S. must again adjust its assessments of supply chains for this new global trade paradigm. – The Hill 

Chris Buckley writes: China has emerged from the coronavirus crisis, and its economy is recovering. But Mr. Xi and other senior officials meeting in Beijing late last month warned that China’s “international environment grows ever more complex, and instability and uncertainty have clearly increased.” They cited Mao’s notion of waging “protracted war” to drive home that warning. – New York Times


Four people are dead and 13 wounded after explosions targeting government agencies in Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday. […]The attacks occurred as prospects of a peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban waned after officials said they would not release 320 remaining Taliban prisoners until the insurgents free more captured Afghan soldiers. – Fox News 

An Army veteran who lied about receiving the Purple Heart and Silver Star medals received the maximum prison sentence of 12 months on Tuesday, according to the Justice Department. […]Ramsdell pleaded guilty in December to lying about serving in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2009. He also admitted to falsely claiming to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder when he applied for disability payments through the VA in 2014, according to court records. – Military Times 

Michael Rubin writes: So it has come to pass with the Taliban peace deal. Trump may like to extract the U.S. from its longest war, but if he is to succeed, it is important to hold the Taliban to the letter of their commitment. They must release the 22 Afghan commandos who fought not only for their country, but to defend the U.S. from a regime which collaborated with and harbored the terrorists which struck on Sept. 11, 2001. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that Pakistan will not recognize Israel as a state until there is a state for the Palestinian people, as well, during an interview with Dunya News. – Jerusalem Post

Daniel P. Sullivan and Tun Khin write: The United States has led the world in providing humanitarian aid and in supporting Bangladesh in hosting Rohingya refugees. But it has fallen short in addressing the root causes of the Rohingya’s circumstances. What happened to the Rohingya are crimes against humanity and genocide. Using the words that fit the crimes will not, in of itself, guarantee a brighter future for the Rohingya. But it is the strongest single step that the world can take now to ensure the Rohingya are not forgotten. – The National Interest 

Aijaz Hussain writes: Now, the India-China conflict threatens to exacerbate tensions between China and the United States, which have locked horns this year over a range of issues, from trade disputes and human rights to Hong Kong’s status and the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press


The effect of the new national-security law that China imposed on Hong Kong is extending far beyond the territory to American college campuses. – Wall Street Journal 

The Trump administration on Wednesday suspended or terminated three bilateral agreements with Hong Kong related to extradition and tax exemptions, the latest in a series of measures that escalate tensions between Washington and Beijing. – New York Times

Thai police arrested a rapper and seven pro-democracy activists in a crackdown on growing protests that have emerged as the most serious threat to the government led by a former army general they accuse of incompetence and corruption. – Washington Post 

Japan’s two largest opposition parties are set to merge, as they look to present a more credible alternative to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party ahead of elections that must be held by next year. – Bloomberg 

But Indigenous and land rights activists say the project will disrupt largely agrarian and fishing-based livelihoods among residents of about 225 villages in the proposed park area. The project – now on hold while the U.N. program’s inspector general investigates their complaints — is but one example of conflicts between well-meaning, top-down conservation efforts and Indigenous peoples. – Associated Press 

Japan is looking at offensive counter-strike as one way of deterring China’s and North Korea’s expanding missile threats, as Tokyo re-examines its future defense needs after backing away from building two Aegis Ashore sites, an author of a recent report on emerging defense technologies said Wednesday. – USNI News 

Damien Cave writes: To some, especially American and Australian officials who helped the image go viral this week, there was no greater symbol of Chinese “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy — in their view, it reinforced Beijing’s domineering, colonial approach. To others, including people from Kiribati, the criticism was a sign of ignorance. The ambassador was simply taking part in a local welcome ceremony, typically reserved for weddings, that elders had chosen to adapt. – New York Times


Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s political elite, is unconscious and undergoing treatment at a Siberian hospital after being poisoned, his spokeswoman said. – Wall Street Journal 

Royal Navy and NATO vessels have escorted nine Russian warships in waters close to the UK. […]It is not the first time this year that Russian warships have been detected in waters near the UK. – Sky News (UK) 

Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday it had scrambled a jet above the Black Sea to intercept two U.S. spy planes approaching its border, following a similar incident earlier in the day over the Baltic, Interfax reported. – Reuters 

George Barros writes: A Kremlin security force intervention into Belarus on behalf of President Alexander Lukashenko is reportedly underway following the defection of Belarusian Interior Ministry elements in Grodno, which is near the Polish and Lithuanian borders. – Institute for the Study of War


Mindful of Russia’s warning against interfering in Belarus, European Union leaders have taken a nuanced approach to the unfolding crisis, preparing sanctions against officials they say are responsible for rigging this month’s presidential election and violently dispersing protesters, while emphasizing that only Belarusians can resolve the turmoil there. – Wall Street Journal 

European Union leaders said on Wednesday that they would not recognize the results of the recent Belarus election and would shortly impose sanctions on those who were involved in electoral fraud and the repression of protests. – New York Times

Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron meet on Thursday in a medieval island fortress in the Mediterranean to chart the next steps for a partnership that is the driving force behind the European Union. – Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Minister of National Defence Mariusz Błaszczak signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between their two countries in Warsaw on 15 August. – Jane’s 360 

Norway announced Wednesday that it has expelled a Russian diplomat days after authorities made an arrest in a spying case they have linked to Moscow. – The Hill 

Britain is stepping up its military support in Ukraine with an announcement that the U.K. will lead a multinational maritime initiative to train the Ukrainian navy. – Defense News 

Janusz Bugajski writes: However, Putin can no longer take for granted the passivity of the Belarusian people who have already protested against one fraudulent election. If protests in Belarus become anti-Putin rallies, the fervor could spill over the eastern border, where Russians could also discard their stereotype of political passivity. – The Hill 


Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s sudden ouster this week thrust the nation into chaos as it struggles to repel fighters loyal to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The militants have expanded their territory in the countryside during the pandemic, analysts say, despite military intervention from France and the United States. – Washington Post 

Sudan on Wednesday fired the spokesman for the foreign ministry, a day after he remarked that the African country was looking forward to making a peace deal with Israel. – Associated Press

Army colonel Assimi Goita on Wednesday introduced himself as Mali’s new military strongman a day after a coup that was condemned by the international community but won support from the country’s opposition. – Agence France-Presse

African and Western leaders condemned on Wednesday the junta that forced Mali’s president from power, warning the coup was a deep setback for the West African nation that could threaten the battle against Islamic extremism. – Associated Press 

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemned a mutiny in Mali and urged the soldiers involved to immediately release all government officials they had detained and and return to their barracks without delay. – Reuters

Paul D. Williams writes: For outside parties that want to stabilize Somalia, this suggests that the principal objective should be framed as political reconciliation rather than military victory. Again, it would be better to do this sooner rather than later. Moving forward, therefore, Washington should focus on increasing its diplomatic muscle to encourage these two sets of negotiations. This is preferable to both the main alternatives: continuing the business-as-usual approach of the last decade or abruptly disengaging militarily before the Somali security forces are able to stabilize the country. – War on the Rocks 

Judd Devermont writes: The Malian government and relevant stakeholders need a fresh approach to manage and move past the conflict, including integrating parallel processes; incorporating key actors, including Islamists; and identifying new international guarantors for a revitalized peace process. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Americas

Venezuelan officials are denouncing people who may have come into contact with the coronavirus as “bioterrorists” and urging their neighbors to report them. The government is detaining and intimidating doctors and experts who question the president’s policies on the virus. – New York Times

Mexican officials and border town residents criticized U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday for threatening to levy a tax on cars crossing into the United States to fund his signature border wall. – Reuters

Editorial: President Nicolás Maduro undoubtedly sees value in his American prisoners. The U.S. leads a coalition of some 60 countries pressuring the regime to restore free and fair elections, and the regime is feeling the pinch of U.S. sanctions. Rather than compromise with the opposition, Mr. Maduro turns to extortion. Welcome to Venezuela. – Wall Street Journal 


Facebook Inc. said it is removing and will limit the spread of accounts that celebrate or suggest violence, including those associated with QAnon as part of a crackdown on the extremist conspiracy theory that has thrived on the company’s platforms in recent years. – Wall Street Journal 

For nearly a decade, Huawei kept worldwide sales growing as Washington told U.S. phone companies not to buy its network equipment and lobbied allies to reject China’s first global tech brand as a security threat. – Associated Press 

TikTok’s Chinese owner is proposing to settle consumer privacy litigation that has exposed it to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages as the video-streaming app prepares for a possible acquisition under threat of being shut down in the U.S. over national security concerns. – Bloomberg


The Army’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Task Force is helping the service modernize its ability to see across huge ranges through a layered approach that includes ground, air and space. – C4ISRNET 

The Navy’s Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) pod began its first flight tests earlier this month and could move into production this fall. – USNI News 

In 2022, the U.S. Air Force will take delivery of the F-15EX, a new and improved version of the nearly 40-year-old F-15E Strike Eagle. – Defense News 

An Airbus A400M transport/tanker aircraft has conducted a ‘wet’ air-to-air refuelling (AAR) contact with a helicopter, it was announced by the French Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) on 19 August. – Jane’s 360 

The following is the Aug. 13, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. – USNI News 

The U.S. Army’s tactical network program office expects to reap the full benefits of low-and medium-Earth orbit satellite constellations in the 2025-2027 time frame, the head of the office said Aug. 18. – Defense News 

The Global Positioning System underpins almost every aspect of modern life. This invisible utility, beamed to us by a constellation of 32 satellites zipping around Earth 12,550 miles overhead, does much more than give us directions to the nearest pizza place. GPS also allows sectors like transportation, telecoms, emergency services, finance and more to function with breathtaking speed and efficiency. – C4ISRNET

Missile Defense

The U.S. Air Force has issued, and quietly revoked, a solicitation to industry seeking technologies that would support a hypersonic glide vehicle capable of traversing intercontinental ranges, potentially signaling the military’s interest in a hypersonic nuclear weapon. – Defense News

Zack Brown writes: This vacillation is putting American interests at risk, explained Gottemoeller in an interview with the nuclear security podcast, Press The Button. It also doesn’t make much strategic sense. The United States is embarking on a contentious modernization of its entire nuclear arsenal, one which relies on the predictability provided by New START to shape the limits of its new weapons programs. – The National Interest 

Kris Osborn writes: Achieving air-launched hypersonic speed is by no means easy, as it relies upon scramjet technology and newer methods of propulsion and heat management. The biggest challenge when it comes to engineering hypersonic weapons is widely known to be related to managing temperature. Finding ways to manage the excess heat generated by a weapon traveling at that speed presents technical challenges, as the weapon can itself become too hot, burn up or simply be thrown off course. – The National Interest 

Long War

Attorney General William P. Barr has notified the British government that the United States will drop its insistence on the death penalty for two admitted Islamic State members if British authorities promptly transfer evidence to aid their prosecution for suspected involvement in the executions of American, British and other foreign hostages in Syria. – Washington Post 

Islamist militants are wreaking havoc in West Africa. A separatist insurgency that began in northern Mali in 2012 first enabled jihadists to gain a foothold in the country. Attacks have since spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and are threatening coastal states including Benin, Ghana and Ivory Coast. Thousands have died in recent years. Increased defense spending weighs heavily on the budgets of some of the world’s poorest countries. – Bloomberg 

Ali Al-Tamimi, a native of Washington, D.C., was convicted in 2005 of soliciting treason and other charges for actions he took following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He is currently an inmate in the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colo., also known as Supermax. – NPR

The victims and families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks are urging Congress not to move forward with removing Sudan from the list of State Sponsor’s of Terrorism in a deal they say would rob them of holding Khartoum accountable in a court of law. – The Hill 

On August 13, 2020, the U.S. government announced that it had seized about $2 million in Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency from accounts that had sent or received funds for three foreign terrorist organizations: Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades. […]According to the announcement, this was “the government’s largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context” and involved “the solicitation of cryptocurrency donations from around the world.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

Trump Administration

The Trump administration’s bid in the coming days to reimpose United Nations sanctions against Iran, on the heels of its failed effort last week to extend an arms embargo on its Middle East foe, risks isolating the U.S. diplomatically while doing little to curb Iran’s access to weapons from Russia and China, analysts and diplomats said. – Wall Street Journal

A former FBI lawyer pleaded guilty Wednesday to altering an email that one of his colleagues relied on as he sought a court’s blessing to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser during the bureau’s 2016 investigation of Russia’s election interference. – Washington Post 

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s final report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections describes numerous links between members of the Trump campaign and an array of Russian and Russian-linked oligarchs, political figures and middlemen. – Washington Post 

U.S. President Donald Trump has retweeted an audio recording that U.S. intelligence officials have described as being part of a Russian campaign to denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. – Haaretz