Fdd's overnight brief

August 24, 2020

In The News


A Canadian-Iranian software engineer at Facebook, a superstar among technology students in Iran, traveled to Tehran in January to visit his family. It was a trip that would upend his life. A few weeks later, the engineer departed under what he now describes as a coerced deal to act as an informant for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the powerful arm of Iran’s military. – New York Times

America’s European partners in the Iran nuclear deal made clear Friday they have no intention of recognizing or enforcing wide-ranging “snapback” sanctions the Trump administration says the world must impose on Tehran. – Washington Post

Iran said Sunday that an upcoming visit this week by the head of the U.N.’s atomic watchdog agency to Tehran has nothing to do with a U.S. push to impose so-called “snapback” sanctions on Iran — even as Tehran acknowledged a recent explosion at a major uranium enrichment site was “sabotage.” – Associated Press

Iran has retrieved some data, including a portion of the cockpit conversations, from the Ukrainian jetliner that was accidentally downed by the Revolutionary Guard forces in January, killing all 176 people on board, an Iranian official said Sunday. – Associated Press

Iran’s constitutional watchdog on Monday set June 18 as date for the country’s next presidential election, a vote that will choose the successor to President Hassan Rouhani who has served two four-year terms in office. – Associated Press

Iran said a blast that caused significant damage to a compound near the country’s largest uranium enrichment facility was a deliberate act of sabotage, the state-run Al Alam TV reported, citing an interview with a top nuclear official. – Bloomberg

The United States was further isolated on Friday over its bid to reimpose international sanctions on Iran with 13 countries on the 15-member U.N. Security Council expressing their opposition, arguing that Washington’s move is void given it is using a process agreed under a nuclear deal that it quit two years ago. – Reuters

The behaviour of the United States’ European allies has been “disappointing” with regards to a U.S. move to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran, Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told a German newspaper. – Reuters

The United States on Friday said it was imposing visa restrictions on 13 Iranian officials it accused of involvement in “gross violations of human rights” for a 1990 assassination of an Iranian opposition figure in Switzerland. – Reuters

The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations on Friday added its voice to the demand that the UN Security Council renew a 13-year-old arms embargo on Iran that is due to expire in October. – Algemeiner

Michael Oren writes: All of these potential historical developments are dependent, however, on continued American opposition to Tehran. No American who cares about ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should ever support the restoration of the JCPOA. No country promoting Arab-Israeli reconciliation should empower an Iranian regime committed to undermining those efforts, most often with violence. – CNN

Omer Carmi writes: With the U.S. presidential election approaching, Rouhani seemingly hopes that Trump will lose and the resultant Biden administration will seek a different state of play with Iran. Hence, similar to its calculus on regional military provocations, Tehran will likely defer any nuclear crises until after the election’s dust clears. […]Although hardline commentary in Kayhan hurried to call those who wait for a new U.S. administration “naive,” Iran’s nuclear actions will likely follow Rouhani’s patient and prudent line of thought in the near term. – Washington Institute

Doron Itzchakov writes: Revolutionary ideology relies by definition on the demonization of the adversary as a means of justifying its path and values. The survival of a revolutionary regime depends, to a large extent, on its ability to sustain such thinking in the minds of its citizens. The Israel-UAE deal makes it much harder for the Iranian regime to justify an imperialist foreign policy that comes at the expense of the Iranian people. – BESA Center


Israel’s military said on Saturday that one of its drones fell inside Lebanon during “operational activity” along the frontier, and the armed Lebanese group Hezbollah said it shot it down. – Reuters

Hezbollah’s emphatic defence of the political status quo in Lebanon has exposed it since the deadly Beirut blast to levels of public contempt and anger it was once shielded from. – Agence France-Presse

The ship that carried the huge supply of ammonium nitrate that exploded earlier this month at Beirut’s port was reportedly owned by a Cypriot businessman with ties to a bank used by the Hezbollah terror group, and not in fact a Russian national. – Times of Israel


The Syrian government said an explosion on a main gas pipeline traversing the Middle East on Monday was the result of a terrorist attack, and the United States said it suspected Islamic State militants of carrying out the sabotage. – Reuters

Syrian government, opposition and civil society delegations were resuming meetings Monday in Geneva to discuss a possible new constitution — a step seen by the U.N. mediator as a prospective “door-opener” to a final resolution of the country’s devastating nine-year civil war. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: At the same time, Arab tribes on the other side of the Euphrates have been protesting against the US-backed SDF in recent weeks. Is ISIS stirring up discontent among the tribes? Or is the Syrian regime’s long hand at work, destabilizing areas on one side of the Euphrates, only to find out that ISIS exploited this power vacuum as well? – Jerusalem Post


Turkey announced its biggest natural gas discovery on Friday, a 320 billion cubic metre (11.3 trillion cubic feet) Black Sea field which President Tayyip Erdogan said was part of even bigger reserves and could come onstream as soon as 2023. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reconverted the historic Chora church, one of Istanbul’s most celebrated Byzantine buildings, into a mosque on Friday, a month after opening the famed Hagia Sophia to Muslim worship. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Hamas receives backing from Tehran. No other country in the world gives Hamas the large, high-level welcome that Turkey regularly does – not even Iran, Qatar and Malaysia. The meeting appears to be intended to increase Hamas’s appearance of legitimacy and raise its stature at a time when Israel and the UAE are making peace. – Jerusalem Post


The head of the IDF’s Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Herzl “Herzi” Halevi, led an Israeli delegation to Qatar in an attempt to reduce tensions with the Gaza Strip and restore a sense of quiet to southern Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Sean Durns writes: By the late 1980s and early 1990s, usage of the term “West Bank” became more widespread at the Times and other outlets — and with it, the implied notion that “West Bank” means “Palestinian” and that the land was, and always had been, Arab. But according to many in the press, the land could not — it must not — ever be held to be Jewish. It can be Jordanian. It can be Palestinian. But Jews’ claims to their ancestral homeland are to be erased or minimized. – Algemeiner

Hany Ghoraba writes: The historic peace between the UAE and Israel may help reopen the doors to a sustainable peace in the Middle East. Countries such as Bahrain, Oman, and possibly Sudan are open to the idea of normalization of relations with Israel. The deal, however, has exposed the disingenuous nature of the anti-peace Islamist camp. Their reactions show they care much less about attaining peace or the fate of Palestinians than about imposing their agenda and settling political scores. – Algemeiner


The Trump administration is urging Iraq to proceed with a project to connect its power grid with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, among steps to reduce Baghdad’s longstanding dependency on Iranian energy, U.S. and Arab officials said. – Wall Street Journal

United States-led international coalition troops withdrew from Iraq’s Taji military base on Sunday and handed it over to Iraqi security forces, Reuters witnesses and the coalition said. – Reuters

Her killing cast a pall over the prime minister’s trip to the United States. The violence reignited anti-government protests in Basra and the U.S. State Department publicly urged Kadhimi to hold the militias accountable, just two days after he sacked the Basra police and national security chiefs and formed a special committee to investigate the attacks. – Reuters

David Ignatius writes: Asked about his agenda, Kadhimi listed a series of initiatives dealing with public health and the economy. But to make progress in each area, he said, “the most important issue is corruption.” Sadly, such reforms rarely succeed in the modern Middle East. But in Iraq and across the region, the public anger about politics as usual is growing. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: To his credit, Trump seems to have come away from this meeting with an open mind to the future American relationship with Iraq. […]It’s the right tone and a positive strategic shift from some of the more unfortunate comments and policy proposals Trump has previously offered with regards to Iraq. As I say, this was a very successful meeting. – Washington Examiner

Brian Carter, Nicole Millar, Calvin Pugh, Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace write: Iran and its proxy network in Iraq escalated a kinetic campaign to build political pressure and attempt to force Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to limit his support for the US force presence ahead of the next stage of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue. […]Iran and its proxy network in Iraq escalated a kinetic campaign to build political pressure and attempt to force Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to limit his support for the US force presence ahead of the next stage of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue. – Institute for the Study of War

Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace write: Kadhimi’s early efforts to reform Iraq’s security, economy, and government have achieved mixed but worthwhile results. Without improved security and stalwart international support, Kadhimi’s government is likely to be whittled away by harassment and targeted violence. With US and international support, Kadhimi may be able to generate enough momentum to stabilize Iraq and improve the US-Iraqi relationship beyond his time in office. – Institute for the Study of War

Maya Carlin writes: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi must draw a red line to thwart Turkey’s aggression. […]The prime minister cannot afford to completely cut off ties or to wage military action against its neighbor amid this uncertainty. Ankara’s surge in military action in the Iraq’s northern districts is likely intended to test the prime minister’s resolve in countering foreign presence. – Jerusalem Post


Lebanon’s state institutions have failed the country—before and after the blast. The tragedy was the result of years of government neglect that allowed a stockpile of explosive chemicals to be stored in the heart of the densely populated Lebanese capital. – Wall Street Journal

Kuwait said it will rebuild Lebanon’s only large grain silo that was destroyed by the massive Beirut port explosion, raising fears of food shortages in a country already in financial meltdown. – Reuters

Hassan Mneimneh writes: There is vital value in not wasting the immediate opportunity now presented in highlighting the true substance of the verdict and its implications, to counter the push to despair and surrender that the pro-Iran narrative wishes to impose on the Lebanese, and to expose the reals ills of Lebanon as a homeland victim of corruption and occupation, hostage to kleptocracy and satrapy. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

The starkly different viewpoints of Ashrawi and Ghobash, who spoke to The Washington Post in separate interviews, reflect a growing divide over the Palestinians as the UAE becomes only the third Arab country to currently have diplomatic relations with Israel. – Washington Post

Jared Kushner suggested Sunday in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the recent peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates “should increase the probability” of an F-35 jet sale to the UAE. – CNN

Saudi Arabia’s price for normalising relations with Israel is the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, a senior member of the Saudi royal family reaffirmed on Friday. – Reuters

Dissidents in the UAE established an association against the normalization deal being signed between Israel and the Gulf state, reported the Turkish Anadolu Agency on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Last week Israel and the UAE announced a historic agreement to normalize relations between the two countries, in exchange for the suspension of Israel’s annexation of Palestinian land. One of the architects of the agreement was Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer. – Al Arabiya

President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and White House envoy Avi Berkowitz are expected to travel to the Middle East and visit Israel along with several Gulf states during the first week of September to check on the U.S.-brokered normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Israeli and Arab officials tell me. – Axios

Dr. James M. Dorsey writes: The UAE’s recognition of Israel puts Saudi Arabia more than any other Gulf state on the spot when it comes to establishing relations with Israel, and puts UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in the driver’s seat. This is all about interests and competition. It has little to do with Arab or Muslim solidarity. – BESA Center

Tom Rogan writes:  Again, Riyadh might just accept those safeguards as sufficient. Finally, Israel might solve the Iranian nuclear problem for the Saudis, thus removing Riyadh’s perceived need for its own program. Regardless, Biden needs to address this issue. The lie that the JCPOA keeps the Middle East safe is proved by what Saudi Arabia is now doing — and where the Middle East is thus headed. – Washington Examiner


Libya’s two rival governments declared a cease-fire in the country’s civil war on Friday, easing months of tensions that threatened to draw forces from Turkey, Egypt, Russia and other regional powers into a wider conflict. – Wall Street Journal

The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) dismissed a ceasefire announcement by authorities in the capital, Tripoli, as a marketing stunt on Sunday, saying rival forces were mobilising around front lines in the centre of the country. – Reuters

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has welcomed a ceasefire announcement in Libya, the UAE news agency WAM reported on Saturday. – Reuters

Ari Cicurel writes: Finally, the United States lacks a Special Envoy for the Eastern Mediterranean that can focus on negotiating a solution to the Libya civil war. Ending the flow of arms into Libya should be the immediate priority. American leadership is crucial as a dangerous arms race brews in the Eastern Mediterranean. Without it, Turkey is currently the biggest winner and regional stability, the clear loser. – Breaking Defense

Middle East & North Africa

Investors in Israel and the United Arab Emirates are moving to strike deals in a business environment transformed by a diplomatic breakthrough between the two countries. – Wall Street Journal

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani on Sunday rejected any normalization of relations with Israel. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Israel on Monday and the United Arab Emirates a day later to discuss the countries’ normalisation deal, two sources briefed on his itinerary said. – Reuters

Editorial: And what of those other fault-lines? The most dangerous lies between, on one side, America, Israel and much of the Arab world, and, on the other, Iran. […]The Israel-uae deal, as much as it reflects their shared antagonism to Iran, adds a new element to President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Where that campaign will ultimately lead remains an open question. But officials in America and the Middle East would do well to remember that bitter enemies need not always remain so. – The Economist

Korean Peninsula

A South Korean diplomat is speculating that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has fallen into a coma and that his sister, Kim Yo Jong, is poised to take the rogue nation’s reins. – Fox News

Senior South Korean and Chinese officials on Saturday reaffirmed plans to arrange a summit between their leaders “at an early date” once coronavirus concerns subside, Seoul’s presidential office said. – Associated Press

Choi Moon-soon writes: Resolving tensions along the border and creating an environment where two countries can peacefully co-exist is an opportunity within our reach. […]So, it is not too early to discuss the idea — counter-intuitive to some — of tourism on the border of North and South Korea. – CNN

Cory Evans writes: Given the critical security threat posed by its clandestine nuclear program, suspending sanctions against North Korea would be a grave strategic mistake. Let’s hope the next administration avoids it. – Washington Examiner


This cotton is now a focus of U.S.-China rivalry, with Treasury Department sanctions taking effect next month on China’s largest supplier. […]But the flow of Western cash has taken on darker implications as human rights abuses in the region have come to light, and with Xinjiang’s cotton income contributing to China’s construction of a network of surveillance technologies and internment camps targeting Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities. – Washington Post

A commercial satellite image shared on social media appears to show a Chinese submarine entering an underground base off the island of Hainan in the South China Sea. – The Hill

In an interview with CNN from the United States, where she has lived since last year, Cai went a step further by calling on the US government to double down on its hardline approach towards Beijing.  Cai also called for sanctions on top Chinese officials and appealed to the international community to join hands in stopping the Communist Party from “infiltrating” global institutions and spreading Xi’s “totalitarian” ideals. – CNN

Huawei Technologies and ZTE, China’s two largest telecoms equipment providers, have slowed down their 5G base station installation in the country, the Nikkei Asian Review has learnt, a sign that Washington’s escalating efforts to curb Beijing’s tech ambitions are having an effect. – Financial Times

David Ridenour writes: The National Center for Public Policy Research has devised a nine-point plan, “Beyond COVID-19,” that does just that. It calls for continuing the ban on travel to and from China until the Chinese come clean on COVID-19, increasing the types and number of investments subject to security reviews by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S., and expanding use of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to restrict new U.S. investments in China in critical sectors. We didn’t want a cold war with China. But now that it has started, we need to win it. – Washington Examiner


As peace talks to end Afghanistan’s long war face delays, the Taliban may be sparing Kabul, the capital, from mass-casualty attacks as part of an understanding with the United States. But the insurgents have instead shifted to a tactic that is eroding the Afghan government’s standing with each passing day: frequent targeted assaults that the country’s security forces seem unable to control. – New York Times

On August 18, 2020, the 101st anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence from Britain, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) published a statement and an article marking the day and reiterating its jihadi ideals. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

On August 20, 2020, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) released a statement rejecting a U.S. Department of Defense report that had accused it of continuing to nurture relations with Al-Qaeda. – Middle East Media Research Institute 


Two powerful explosions ripped through heavily populated areas of a southern Philippine island on Monday, killing at least nine people in a known stronghold of the extremist group Abu Sayyaf. – New York Times

The gunman who attacked worshipers at two New Zealand mosques last year, killing 51 people and injuring 49, faced his surviving victims and relatives of the deceased in a courtroom on Monday as harrowing new details of the killing spree emerged. – Washington Post

Amid rising tensions with Beijing, the de facto U.S. ambassador in Chinese-claimed Taiwan took part on Sunday for the first time in commemorations of a key military clash and the last time Taiwanese forces joined battle with China on a large scale. – Reuters

In a landmark decision, a Hong Kong court denied on Friday a bid for the release of the first person charged with inciting separatism and terrorism under a new national security law in the Chinese-ruled city. – Reuters

Outrage following a deadly Islamic State militant group (ISIS) bombing last year helped pave the way for a return to power for Sri Lanka’s influential Rajapaksa brothers, two men who have forged a close relationship with China in spite of the United States’ attempts to contain the People’s Republic in the region. – Newsweek

Simon Henderson writes: In political terms, General Bajwa is more powerful than Prime Minister Khan, whose 2018 electoral victory is often credited to the fact that the military disliked the other candidates and backed him. The general’s main lever in dealing with Riyadh is his control over security and nuclear policy. But recent reports suggest that although Pakistan may have offered the Saudis nuclear assistance years ago, China now dominates this role. Any future Saudi willingness to back Islamabad’s policies on Kashmir and other issues may also be tempered by Riyadh’s desire to ease the India-Pakistan nuclear rivalry. – Washington Institute

Walter Lohman writes: In the longer term, American interests align with the Thai people. They will remember where we were in these days of protests. Any tactical edge we may gain with U.S.-Thai military exercises or new arms sales will be overshadowed by their disappointment in our sense of priorities. American values are a strategic asset, not a liability. We may soon be called upon to treat them as such. – The Daily Signal


A former Army Green Beret captain was accused on Friday of violating espionage laws after federal investigators said they uncovered evidence he joined the military at the behest of Russian intelligence operatives and had betrayed the United States for years. – New York Times

The sudden and mysterious illness that left Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in a coma has delivered a blow to Russia’s political opposition, throwing into question its future at a time when the Kremlin has stepped up its efforts to stamp out dissent. – Wall Street Journal

The head doctor of the Siberian hospital that treated Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday denied that the hospital had come under outside pressure from local authorities. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko will probably cling to power for now despite protests against him and is content to let him sweat it out, two sources close to the Kremlin said. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Security Council agreed at a meeting on Friday that the Belarusian authorities and its people should enter into dialogue to resolve the political crisis there, TASS news agency cited the Kremlin as saying. – Reuters

European Council President Charles Michel expressed concern about Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is fighting for his life after a suspected poisoning, during a call with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, a senior EU official said on Friday. – Reuters

Editorial: Russia has seen many instances of justice deferred. Let us hope that the investigation into Mr. Navalny’s case is quick and thorough, and that the president of the United States has the fortitude to punish those responsible. – New York Times

Vladimir Kara-Murza writes: Time after time, people who crossed the Kremlin’s path have fallen victim to mysterious poisoning attacks: opposition politicians and independent journalists, Russians and foreigners, on our own soil and abroad. […]Apart from its sadism — excruciating pain and, in case of survival, lasting health effects and a long and difficult road to rehabilitation — this method gives the authorities plausible deniability. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: Hopefully, the German medical team will be able to find some evidence of what truly happened to Navalny. I would also expect, based on the panicked FSB response, that the NSA will get some good evidence of Kremlin officials screaming at their subordinates to get to Omsk and take control of the situation. Let’s see what happens next. – Washington Examiner

Paul Roderick Gregory writes: Perhaps the tried-and-true Putin playbook will not work this time; Russia already is sufficiently riled up — and Navalny is a sympathetic figure with a beautiful wife and daughters. Maybe Putin can no longer go to this well. But does he have other tricks up his sleeve? The smart money would bet that he does. – The Hill


He leaked files that led to the prosecution of one of the biggest labor corruption scandals in Spain’s history. But instead of being lauded for whistle-blowing, he was charged with revealing workplace secrets and sentenced to two years in prison. The leaker, Roberto Macías, filed an appeal this month in a case that highlights the weak protections given to whistle-blowers in many of the member states of the European Union — and the bloc’s efforts to strengthen them. – New York Times

On Saturday, Lukashenko ramped up his anti-Western rhetoric, accusing NATO of “seriously stirring” tensions on the nation’s western border and announcing he had deployed military forces there and put troops on full combat readiness. He blamed Poland and Lithuania for fomenting the protests, adding that he was confident of Russian security support. – Washington Post

The White House and the European Union struck a deal Friday expected to ease the pain the Maine lobster industry has experienced under the Trump administration and its trade war with China. – The Hill

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday that it would be impossible to prove that Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko did not win an Aug. 9 election in the absence of international observers, the Interfax news agency reported. – Reuters

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and other senior government politicians said they were shocked over an attack on a Jewish community leader in the southern city of Graz on Saturday, and ordered tighter security at Jewish institutions around Austria. – Reuters

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will travel to Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine on Aug. 24-27 to meet senior government leaders to discuss regional issues, the State Department said in a statement on Sunday. – Reuters

Northern Cyprus is almost ready to begin reopening the town of Varosha, the breakaway state’s premier said on Friday, a former resort area fenced off and abandoned in no-man’s land since a 1974 Turkish invasion that split the island. – Reuters

Christopher Hartwell writes: Belarus has many problems, but addressing the one at hand, namely Mr. Lukashenko, is necessary before any of the others can be considered. By not pushing for a Europeanization that Belarus isn’t ready for and doesn’t want—despite the gains that it would bring to the country—the West may be able to consolidate democracy in Belarus and spare it the horrors not of Ukraine in 2014, but of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. – Wall Street Journal

Lev Stesin writes: For the people of Belarus to finally gain real independence, it is of paramount importance that the crisis be shortened and Lukashenko replaced with a transitional government before the “liberators” from the East arrive. Time is not on their side. – BESA Center

Vladimir Kobets and David J. Kramer write:  The sooner a peaceful transition of power occurs, the sooner political turbulence in Belarus will end. Then, Belarusians will finally be able to pursue the path of peaceful and democratic development, as well as good relations with all of their neighbors, while also determining their own destiny, starting with new fair and free elections. The West must help get Belarus to that point. The question is whether it will. – Politico

Brad Lendon writes: US and European military experts tell CNN the new troop reduction plan would provide few benefits on any potential future battlefield, and certainly not enough to justify its enormous cost, estimated to be in the billions of dollars. […]In any event, the plan would take years execute and Congress would have to find the billions of dollars needed to make it happen. And with a US election less than three months away, new thinking could emerge with a possible new occupant of the White House. The Germany pullout is far from a done deal. – CNN


The military officer who declared himself in charge of Mali after leading a coup that ousted the West African nation’s president this week received training from the United States, the Pentagon said Friday. – Washington Post

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to visit Sudan in the coming days, a Sudanese government official said on Sunday. – Reuters

A key meeting on Saturday between Mali’s coup leaders and mediators from West Africa’s regional bloc seeking a return to civilian rule ended after just 20 minutes. – Reuters

Sudan’s prime minister said on Saturday the country was ready to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) so those accused of war crimes in Darfur appear before the tribunal, a list that includes ousted President Omar al-Bashir. – Reuters

A Panama-flagged ship boarded by Somali police is safe and underway, the EU Naval Force said on Saturday, after conflicting reports two days earlier about whether it had been hijacked by Somali pirates. – Reuters

Suspected Islamist militants killed 13 people during raids on two villages in eastern Congo, the army and a village chief said, the latest in a spate of attacks the United Nations says may constitute war crimes. – Reuters

The leaders of the coup that ousted Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita spent most of the year training in Russia before returning to boot out the democratically-elected leader at gunpoint, according to sources in the Malian military. – Daily Beast

The head of the Mossad spy agency reportedly met with a senior Sudanese official in a meeting organized and hosted by the United Arab Emirates, Arabic media reports said Friday. – Times of Israel

The Americas

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday said it would be a “good idea” to look into buying missiles from Iran, a day after Colombia said Venezuela was considering such a plan amid growing ties between Caracas and Tehran. – Reuters

Three Interpol red notices have been issued for former paramilitary boss Salvatore Mancuso, the Colombian government said on Friday. – Reuters

Maj. Gen. Andrew Croft writes: We share this neighborhood of the Americas with our partners, and the many opportunities to work with them while also validating our own training concepts are too good to pass up. With Colombia as the first NATO global partner in Latin America, and with Brazil’s recent designation to join Argentina as a major non-NATO ally, the region’s shared interest in partnering with the U.S. remains high. We have ready and willing partners in the Western Hemisphere. Working with our neighbors showcases our commitment to the region. We can no longer afford to overlook the Americas. – Defense News

Jeff Mendelsohn writes: Melton-Meaux may not have won a seat in Congress, but the pro-Israel community that supported him sent a very clear message that being an outspoken anti-Israel legislator will not be cost-free politically. Thousands of grassroots donors and activists across the country showed their conviction and willingness to fight back. Their efforts are not just about one race — they are about fighting for the future of the US-Israel relationship. As we head into November, they will continue to be a serious force in important elections. – Algemeiner


When Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg delivered a speech about freedom of expression in Washington, D.C., last fall, there was also another agenda: to raise the alarm about the threat from Chinese tech companies and, more specifically, the popular video-sharing app TikTok. – Wall Street Journal

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday he is worried that Americans may “unwittingly” be promoting a Russian disinformation campaign designed to interfere with the 2020 presidential election. – The Hill

A coalition of WeChat users in the US sued the Trump administration on Friday, challenging its ban of the messaging app, which they claimed had become an essential digital service for millions of Chinese-Americans. – Financial Times

Facebook Inc (FB.O) is considering halting political advertising after U.S. Election Day to curb post-election misinformation, a source who has had discussions with the company said Friday. – Reuters


The U.S. Army and Space Command unfurled a flag Aug. 21, making the Army Space and Missile Defense Command the official service component command to the new organization focused on the final frontier. – Defense News

An artificial intelligence algorithm has defeated a human F-16 fighter pilot in a virtual dogfight simulation. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. Army is altering one of its cyber events in an effort to shape and equip one of the service’s newer multidomain formations. – C4ISRNET

Soldiers with a select air and missile defense battalion knocked down both a cruise missile and a ballistic missile nearly simultaneously in recent testing at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. – Army Times

In the Marine Corps’ new concept of expeditionary advanced base operations, its forces disperse light, agile units with a small footprint over a wide area while working jointly with naval forces to counter and fight a credible enemy threat in a multi-domain contested environment. To prepare for that real-world mission, disparate squadrons and battalions that often don’t train together must integrate to exercise as a Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF). – USNI News

Douglas Birkey writes: The DoD should be commended for pursuing new war-fighting concepts. The nation faces serious challenges that require sincere change. However, fundamental to these decisions are hard conversations regarding what yields the most relevant combat power per dollar. Each capability must earn its way into the operational plan. This begins with cost-per-effect analysis — measuring what it takes to get the job done. It is not a time when the nation can afford to pursue “every kid gets a trophy” approach — nor will future defense budget constraints allow it. – Defense News

Bob Wilson writes: SOCOM and the Department of Defense should develop, and Congress should fund, an easy-to-maintain light attack aircraft that can deliver the lethal precision firepower and situational awareness special operations units need to make informed decisions, overwhelm adversaries and achieve strategic objectives in complex operational environments. An investment in this capability today will pay off immediately, and ensure future special operations forces are more agile and lethal than future adversaries as well. – Military Times

Trump Administration

Former CIA director John Brennan was interviewed for eight hours Friday by the federal prosecutor specially assigned by Attorney General William P. Barr to review how the U.S. intelligence community and law enforcement apparatus handled investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, answering questions on a “wide range” of topics, including the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia intended to help Donald Trump become president, a Brennan adviser said. – Washington Post

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are in a standoff that’s certain to end, one way or another, before the end of the year. – The Hill

Attorney General William Barr said he would be “vehemently opposed” to any attempt to pardon former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, after the president suggested he might consider it. – Associated Press