Fdd's overnight brief

August 31, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran on Sunday allowed thousands of its Shia faithful to gather for one of the Islamic sect’s most important religious holidays, the latest attempt on the part of leaders to preserve a sense of normalcy even as the country grapples with high infection rates from coronavirus. – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s central bank said on Saturday it was taking legal steps to counter a lawsuit filed in a U.S. court by creditors seeking to seize $1.7 billion of its assets held by Deutsche Boerse’s (DB1Gn.DE) Clearstream unit. – Reuters

A new travel documentary broadcast by Persian-language channel Manoto is changing how Iranians perceive Israel and the Persian community living there.  – Jerusalem Post

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a renowned Iranian writer, human rights lawyer, and activist, is reportedly in critical condition after being on hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin prison for over two weeks. PEN America today calls for her and other political prisoners’ immediate release and for an end to judicial and legal harassment of her and her family. – Pen America

Cameron Khansarinia and Kaveh Shahrooz write: Western governments will only be able to protect dissidents, often full citizens of their adopted countries, by forcing Iran’s leaders to pay for their crimes. Toothless statements won’t be enough. As long as Iranian officials can freely roam European capitals, they will know there is no price to pay for killing dissidents—and Iranians abroad like Mr. Sharmahd will continue to live in fear of the assassin’s bullet and the kidnapper’s trap. – Wall Street Journal

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian write: This report provides an introduction to the Marivan location and its activities based on information in the Nuclear Archive, a significant portion of which was seized by Israel in 2018 and shared widely. A Farsi-language slide set from the archive obtained recently by the Institute, containing ground photos of a large-scale test, enabled the Institute to independently evaluate, geo-locate, and, in light of other Archive reporting, ultimately confirm the Abadeh site as Marivan. – Institute for Science and International Security

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The overall goal is to give the country a large number of abilities to threaten sophisticated adversaries such as the US and Israel by being able to fields maneuverable munitions that also have their own bombs attached. Iran may sense that western air defense systems will have difficulty dealing with a complex threat like this. It is already known Iran pioneered precision guided munitions, adding these capabilities to drones seems to be what it is moving toward. – Jerusalem Post

Farzin Nadimi writes: In recent years, Iran has accelerated its development of more-capable weapon systems in smaller packages, whether by obtaining/copying technologies from abroad or developing its own. […]Given the regime’s stated intention to continue advancing such systems—almost certainly with the help of technology and know-how from Russia and China—international and regional players should get more serious about establishing multilayer, 360-degree, integrated missile defense systems to address potential future Iranian advantages at the qualitative (e.g., precision) and quantitative (saturation) level. – Washington Institute


For many, the Iran-backed Hezbollah now stands at the top of Lebanon’s sectarian-based system of power — and so is complicit in the corruption many blame for the port disaster and for driving the country into near bankruptcy. – Associated Press

An IDF soldier will die in retaliation for each Hezbollah operative killed by Israel, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Bulgaria’s Chief Public Prosecutor Ivan Geshev told media outlets on Friday that a verdict will be issued in September in the eastern European country in connection with allegations that operatives from the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah blew up an Israeli tour bus in 2012, murdering five Israelis and their Bulgarian Muslim bus driver. – Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday the powerful Shi’ite movement was open to discussing a new political order in Lebanon if all factions agree to it, as foreign donors press for deep reforms to tackle the country’s multiple crises. – Reuters

Lawmakers in the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah nominated Mustapha Adib as the next prime minister on Monday, the head of its parliamentary bloc said after a meeting with President Michel Aoun. – Reuters

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai is at the center of controversy in Lebanon as he has increased his calls for the state to crack down on unauthorized weapons in the country, appearing to critique the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. – Jerusalem Post

Mark P. Fitzgerald and Geoffrey S. Corn write: Deep reforms are needed if Lebanon has any hope of restoring governing normalcy. Unfortunately, Hezbollah, which exploits Lebanon’s weak political system to operate with no transparency or accountability, presents a major barrier to such reform and the hopes of the Lebanese people. By comprehensively blacklisting Tehran’s top proxy, the EU would decisively signal that Hezbollah is not a legitimate actor, directly threatens stability in and beyond Lebanon, and must be countered if Beirut is to have a hope of a true recovery. – The Hill


The main Syrian opposition called on major powers on Saturday to help clinch a nationwide ceasefire in coming months to pave the way for a political transition after nearly a decade of war. – Reuters

Turkey, Russia and Iran reaffirmed their commitment to Syrian “sovereignty” on August 26 and slammed an oil deal a US company allegedly has with American-backed partners in eastern Syria. – Jerusalem Post

Benedikt Barthelmess and Liam Carson write: The key threats to the Assad regime have eased following Russia’s intervention in late 2015 and the deployment of Iranian troops in April 2016, which eventually led to the regime regaining territory. A fresh risk stemming from escalating protests may be one that flies under the radar, but eventually presents a larger danger to the stability of the regime than is currently widely anticipated. – Middle East Institute

Rowan Moore writes: It was hard to miss that this was not a happy country. You could feel that the regime, as Yassin al-Haj Saleh has written, imposed an existence “deprived of any moral, ethical, spiritual and aesthetic dimensions, purely worldly lives to the point of abject cynicism”. We now know just how devastating this mentality would be. The very great challenge is to recover, in the most difficult imaginable circumstances, the best spirit of Syrian city-building. – The Guardian


A growing dispute between NATO members Greece and Turkey is straining a military alliance that has in recent years been confounded by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly assertive and antagonistic foreign policy. – Wall Street Journal

Turkey marked the 98th anniversary of the decisive War of Independence battle against Greek forces Sunday as the threat of a new conflict with Athens looms in the eastern Mediterranean. – Associated Press

The European Union on Friday urged Turkey to halt what it called its “illegal” prospecting activities in contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean and ordered EU officials to speed up work aimed at blacklisting Turkish officials linked to the energy exploration. – Associated Press

The European Union is preparing to sanction Turkey over its actions in the eastern Mediterranean, where a confrontation between Turkish and Greek military ships is raising the risk of open conflict between NATO allies over claims of drilling rights for natural gas. – The Hill

Greek and Turkish warships are testing each other’s naval prowess while political leaders in Athens and Ankara probe each other’s resolve over a search for hydrocarbon reserves in east Mediterranean waters that each nation claims. Despite the saber rattling, there’s doesn’t appear to be a real appetite for war. But neither nation is ready to back down and look weak. – Associated Press

Turkey on Saturday launched new military drills in the eastern Mediterranean and Greece accused Turkish jets of an incursion as tensions mount in a maritime standoff between the NATO members. – Agence France-Presse

Turkey warned Greece its soldiers on a tiny island violate a 1947 peace treaty, stoking tension between the two NATO members over energy resources in the Mediterranean. – Bloomberg

Louis Fishman writes: Militarily, Turkey might be stronger than ever, but it’s overcompensation for a lacerated, disillusioned society. […]It’s no longer enough to keep promising a glorious — and starkly militaristic, Islamist and ultra nationalist — future, re-engineered from a mythic past, and to found that faith in the future in a leadership cult that’s lost its touch. Not even when those aspirations are wrapped in the dark kitsch, gloss and glamor of a stirring propaganda movie. – Haaretz


When Palestinians cut off long-standing security, financial and civil ties with their Israeli counterparts in May, they pledged not to resume them until Israel gave up its plans to unilaterally annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank. […]But when annexation plans were halted as part of a diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, Palestinian leaders did not celebrate. – Washington Post

White House adviser Jared Kushner on Sunday trumpeted the recent agreement by Israel and the United Arab Emirates to establish diplomatic relations as a historic breakthrough and said “the stage is now set” for other Arab states to follow suit, but he gave no indication that any new deals were imminent. – Associated Press

Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi on Sunday stepped up his efforts to end the current tensions between Israel and Hamas amid reports that he intends to remain in the region until the two sides reach an agreement. – Jerusalem Post

A Star of David-adorned El Al plane took off Monday from Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, carrying a high-ranking American and Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi in the first-ever direct commercial passenger flight to the United Arab Emirates. – Associated Press

A delegation of Israeli firefighters is being sent to California to aid the largest wildfires in the state’s history. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam reported on Sunday that progress has been made in talks between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip in an effort to deescalate the increasing cross-border tensions. – Ynet

Israeli tanks hit Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the army said, as Palestinian balloon attacks across the border continued despite international truce efforts. An early-morning military statement said there had been airborne explosive and incendiary attacks into southern Israel on Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday denounced the apparent inaction of a group of soldiers who were captured on video not responding as a Palestinian teenager threw rocks at them in the West Bank city of Hebron over the weekend. – Times Of Israel

The Arab world is not waiting for the Palestinians to make peace with Israel before they do, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, in remarks to the press with White House Special Adviser Jared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien. – Jerusalem Post

Arabs and Muslims across the world should watch the airplane flying from Israel to the United Arab Emirates on Monday as a sign of what is possible through peace, Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, said just before boarding the historic flight. – Jerusalem Post

Ana Brnabic writes: Serbia is the only country in the world that has FTAs with the EU, Russia and Turkey. Adding Israel to this list would generate additional opportunities for economic cooperation between Serbian and Israeli commercial actors. The Serbian and Jewish people know all about their shared history, which no one can negate, deny or erase. It’s now time to use this common history to modernize the partnership between our two countries. Both Serbia and our friends in Israel are committed to this effort. – Jerusalem Post

Herb Keinon writes: If these countries do get on the wagon now, Kushner would be making strides toward accomplishing what Newsweek intimated, rightfully, is almost an impossible task: brokering Middle East peace and getting Trump reelected. Considering the time Kushner is spending on the Middle East precisely now – at this critical juncture in the campaign – he apparently believes the two are linked. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The end result is that the Israel-UAE deal generally got a lukewarm response for many reasons: partisan opposition to the Trump administration; criticism that it doesn’t achieve much for Palestinian demands; concern that it was done cynically or for weapons sales; anger over it appearing to cement a victory for Netanyahu and Trump; and criticism of the UAE by those who are closer to the regional views of Turkey or Iran. In many ways, it was seen as linked to US domestic politics or was overshadowed by the domestic crises in the US, and thus didn’t inspire voices to celebrate the agreement. – Jerusalem Post

Ahmed Charai writes: Let’s hope that Kushner’s three years of behind-the-scenes diplomacy is now paying off. Many Arabs, myself included, are hoping for the day when Arabs and Israelis can peacefully prosper together through tolerance, trade, tourism and cultural exchange. – Jerusalem Post

Joseph Braude and Mostafa El-Dessouki write: The above laws, edicts, and resolutions, part of a much larger library of Arab rulings against civil engagement with Israelis, cannot be fully appreciated, let alone addressed, in isolation. […]the journey to a peace between peoples will certainly not be complete before Arab governments repeal these laws and end the draconian practices they have normalized. – Washington Institute

Bishara A. Bahbah writes: The new Arab strategy would lay out the path and conditions for establishing Arab-Israel relations contingent upon real progress on the Israel-Palestine front. In other words, the UAE’s move would not be followed by countries like Bahrain or Oman unless serious and tangible progress is made on the ground on the Israel-Palestine front. Now, these “unthinkable” ideas, as outlandish as they might appear to some, are by far a better strategy than the state of inertia that the Palestinian leadership has adopted at the present time. If peace is not worth the gamble, then what is? – Times Of Israel


The Pentagon is cutting the U.S. force in Iraq to about 3,500 troops, U.S. officials said, a roughly one-third reduction that President Trump is expected to tout as progress toward winding down what he has described as endless wars. – Wall Street Journal

A Katyusha rocket landed in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, causing damage to an empty building and no casualties, Iraqi police sources said on Saturday. – Reuters

Iran’s pro-government Fars News was excited on Saturday to report that the Iraqis are fully in control of Camp Taji, where the US-led coalition once had a major presence. – Jerusalem Post

Hakeem Dawd Qaradaghi writes: In the first democratic election in 2005, voter turnout was nearly 80%, but by 2018, only 44.5% of eligible Iraqi voters took part. The majority of Iraqis do not trust the current dysfunctional system and its political elites. Thus, the solution to Iraq’s numerous crises is a radical change in the political system and bringing the corrupt politicians to justice, not repeating already failed attempts to solve the problem by changing the faces after sending voters to the polls. – Jerusalem Post

Calvin Pugh, Brian Carter, and Katherine Lawlor write: Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi led an Iraqi delegation to Washington, DC, for a productive second stage of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue. […]Iran’s proxy militia network in Iraq accelerated its campaigns of targeted assassinations of activists and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on US-affiliated Iraqi contractors during Kadhimi’s Washington visit. Iran’s proxies likely intend to demonstrate Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s domestic weakness and inability to control Iraqi security or protect Iraq’s allies, undermining his domestic authority and global credibility. – Institute for the Study of War

Michael Rubin writes: By turning toward Egypt and Jordan, Kadhimi is doing two things. First, he is side-stepping both the U.S.-Iran and the Iran-Gulf Arab rivalries. Rather than be a political football between rival blocs, Kadhimi simply refuses to encourage the competition. Rather, he seeks to ensure that Iraq is valued as an equal player rather than a scrap to be fought over. – The National Interest


The U.N. Security Council will extend the mandate for a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon for another year later on Friday, but will reduce the number of troops amid U.S. and Israeli criticism over the mission’s efficiency, diplomats said. – Reuters

Lebanese leading Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri nominated the country’s ambassador to Germany Mustapha Adib to be the next prime minister in formal consultations on Monday, major Lebanese broadcasters reported. – Reuters

A deadly battle between Lebanese Sunnis and Shi’ites overnight prompted warnings of more violence as the country is pushed to breaking point by a financial meltdown and political tensions. – Reuters

Arabian Peninsula

An al-Qaeda commander was arrested in Yemen on Saturday while he was planning a terrorist attack in the capital Sana’a, according to the Tasnim News Agency. – Jerusalem Post

The ruler of the United Arab Emirates issued a decree Saturday formally ending the country’s boycott of Israel amid a U.S.-brokered deal to normalize relations between the two countries. – Associated Press

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone at Saudi Arabia’s Abha international airport and a remotely controlled explosive-laden boat in the south of the Red Sea both launched by Iran-aligned Houthis on Sunday, Saudi state news agency (SPA) reported. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

The head of Libya’s internationally recognised government suspended his powerful interior minister from his duties on Friday, saying his handling of street protests and a violent crackdown against them would be investigated. – Reuters

Egyptian authorities said on Friday they had arrested the acting leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ezzat, during a raid on an apartment in Cairo. – Reuters

Egypt’s army announced Sunday that more than 70 alleged jihadists have been killed in recent military operations in North Sinai, the location of an insurrection affiliated to the Islamic State group. – Agence France-Presse

Daoud Kuttab writes: Arab leaders and the international community should give priority to freedom of expression as a critical piece of the reform and democratization effort that is necessary to move the Arab region forward. Leaders should not be allowed to get away with saying nice things about democracy in New York and Brussels, while gagging journalists and detaining cartoonists in their own capitals. – Washington Post


In a bureaucratic two-step, China on Friday updated its export control rules to cover a variety of technologies it deemed sensitive, including technology that sounded much like TikTok’s personalized recommendation engine. […]Beijing’s last-minute assertion of authority is an unexpected wrinkle for a deal as two groups race to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations before the Trump administration bans the app. – New York Times

China’s foreign minister defended detention camps in Xinjiang and Hong Kong’s new security law on Sunday, brushing off human rights concerns by European countries and cautioning against interference in Chinese affairs. – Associated Press

China accused President Trump on Friday of putting his self interests and those of the Republican Party above the interests of the U.S. following his threats to remove American businesses from the Asian country.  – The Hill

The owner of popular video app TikTok said Sunday it will “strictly abide” by China’s new export rules, which could potentially complicate a sale of the business as demanded by US President Donald Trump. – Agence France-Presse

The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said on Sunday it was possible to conclude an EU-China investment accord by the end of 2020. – Reuters

The Trump administration has determined that another 11 Chinese firms, including construction giant China Communications Construction Company, are owned or controlled by the Chinese military, the Pentagon said on Friday, laying the groundwork for new sanctions. – Reuters

Gregory Poling and Zack Cooper write: The United States is right to use economic tools to impose cost and incentivize changes in Beijing’s behavior, and that of its state-owned enterprises and private companies. But sanctions are most effective when aimed at specific and ongoing illicit activity. In the South China Sea, this means going after China’s illegal fishing, maritime militia, and hydrocarbon surveyors. […]Washington should make clear that future malign activity, such as illegal oil and gas drilling or new military construction, would bring new sanctions. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Three Afghans accused of involvement in the deaths of U.S. troops in so-called insider attacks are among more than 300 high-value Taliban prisoners that the Afghan government is set to release to facilitate direct talks with the militant group, according to a senior Afghan official and a Kabul-based diplomat briefed on the matter. – Washington Post

Rockets launched at a U.S. military base and a joint U.S.-Afghan airfield in southern Afghanistan in recent weeks are believed to have been fired by the Taliban, according to three American military officials, in what would amount to a clear breach of the peace agreement between the United States and the insurgent group. – New York Times

At least 13 people were killed on Friday when their vehicle set off a landmine in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, local officials said, blaming Taliban fighters for the attack. – Reuters

South Asia

India said Monday its soldiers thwarted China’s “provocative” military movements near a disputed border in Ladakh region months into their deadliest standoff in decades. – Associated Press

India has pulled out of a multilateral military exercise hosted by Russia next month, citing the coronavirus pandemic. – Bloomberg

India said on Monday it had foiled an attempt by Chinese troops to change the status quo on their disputed and ill-defined border in a fresh flare-up between the two nuclear-armed countries. – Reuters

A court in Pakistan has sentenced to prison three leaders of Jamat-ud-Dawa, an organisation accused by India and the United States of masterminding the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. – Reuters


Beijing’s crushing of pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong has deepened Taiwanese fear and resentment of China’s Communist Party, injecting new energy into the island democracy’s efforts to build up its military defenses. – Wall Street Journal

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would resign Friday because of worsening health, ending the career of a politician who hailed from a long line of leaders but became almost a dynasty of one, serving two stints in office that reshaped modern Japan. – Wall Street Journal

Czech Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil will “pay a heavy price” for making an official trip to Taiwan, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Monday, prompting Prague to complain though Vystrcil said he didn’t seek confrontation. – Reuters

Taiwan paved the way for an eventual free trade deal with the United States on Friday by announcing an easing of restrictions on the import of U.S. beef and pork, as the island looks to boost ties with Washington at a time of tensions with China. – Reuters

A U.S. Navy warship has transited the narrow and sensitive Taiwan Strait, the U.S. Navy and Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Monday, the second such operation in two weeks amid rising tensions between China and the United States. – Reuters

The United States plans high-level talks with “Quad” security partners from India, Australia and Japan in September and October, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said on Friday, while criticizing “very aggressive” behavior by China. – Reuters

President Trump said that he feels “very badly” that Japan’s longest-serving prime minister is stepping down from the role. – Washington Examiner

Japan has concluded its first export sale of major defense equipment, with the Philippines signing a contract for fixed and mobile air surveillance radars to cover potential flashpoints around the country, including the South China Sea. – Defense News

Thailand’s intention to buy two more submarines from China has run into vociferous resistance, with the country’s main opposition party questioning the need to go ahead with the acquisition against the backdrop of the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic. – Defense News

The United States “is not going to back down” in asserting its rights to freedom of navigation, freedom of flight and use of space in the face of China’s “increasing assertiveness and aggressiveness,” National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said on Friday at an online event at The Atlantic Council. – USNI News

Editorial: Despite some diplomatic missteps such as his handling of the dispute with South Korea over wartime abuse of Korean women, Mr. Abe’s diplomacy and commitment to the military will stand Japan in good stead as China continues its regional expansionism. […]Plenty of work remains to be done to reinvigorate Japan’s economy and prepare the country and its voters to play a more active role in world affairs. Mr. Abe leaves a foundation on which that successor can build. – Wall Street Journal

Elliot Silverberg and Charles Crabtree write: Still, U.S.-Japan alliance proponents have many reasons to be optimistic. Despite Abe and his inner circle’s long monopoly over key leadership positions, the LDP boasts a deep roster of policymaking and diplomatic expertise. Abe’s successor will have outsized shoes to fill — not only as a political and bureaucratic manager, but also as a foreign policy strategist. – The Hill

Michael Mazza writes: With an FTA, the Trump administration would leave a positive, enduring mark on the US-Taiwan relationship. Tsai Ing-wen has given President Trump an opportunity to do so. He should take it. – American Enterprise Institute

Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi write: In terms of diplomacy, Abe’s vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) supported by close alignment among maritime democracies was also consequential and has helped frame the approaches of the United States, Australia, and India. […]Abe did not realize all his policy goals but accomplished more than any Japanese leader in many decades. And above all, he demonstrated that Japan can lead. It is now up to others to carry that legacy forward. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Anthony B. Kim and Walter Lohman write: A liberalizing, bilateral trade and investment agreement is the logical next step for upgrading mutual trust and expanding economic interaction. Policy experts from both countries have long called for such an agreement. Starting the negotiation process not only would strengthen the U.S. partnership with Taiwan but advance America’s strategic vision in the Indo-Pacific region. – The Daily Signal


The Russian navy conducted major war games near Alaska involving dozens of ships and aircraft, the military said Friday, the biggest such drills in the area since Soviet times. – Associated Press

The U.S. military intercepted six Russian military jets off the coast of Alaska on Thursday night, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said Friday. – The Hill

U.S. Defense officials said two Russian planes conducted an “unsafe” intercept of a U.S. bomber over international waters Friday. – The Hill

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday said Europe would not follow the U.S. “America First” policy of President Donald Trump and kept up pressure on Russia to do more to clarify the case of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko have agreed to meet in Moscow in coming weeks, the Kremlin said on Sunday. – Reuters

An Azeri presidential aide said on Saturday that Russia has been supplying Armenia with weapons since a clash between the two former Soviet republics in July. – Reuters


European Union foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on senior Belarusian officials in response to what the EU called violent repression against peaceful protesters and opposition figures by the country’s autocratic regime. – Wall Street Journal

The long rule of Alexander Lukashenko, the embattled president of Belarus, has left his country economically depleted and reliant on Russia, largely trapped in its Soviet-era past and likely bound to Moscow for many years to come. – Wall Street Journal

Belarus has revoked the accreditations of some journalists working for foreign media and covering anti-government protests that erupted after a disputed presidential election, news organisations and a journalist association said on Saturday. – Reuters

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Friday condemned what he said was the mass detention of over 50 journalists in Belarus on Thursday evening, including from the UK’s publicly owned BBC, as well as local and international media. – Reuters

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, facing a nearly three-week popular uprising since a disputed election, threatened on Friday to cut off European transit routes across his country if sanctions are imposed. – Reuters

The EU urged Russia on Friday not to intervene in Belarus after President Vladimir Putin vowed military support for the country’s embattled leader. – Agence France-Presse

A French military officer, reported to be a lieutenant-colonel seconded to Nato accused of passing top secret documents to a Russian agent, has been arrested on suspicion of spying for a foreign power, French defence minister Florence Parly said on Sunday. – Financial Times

Fourteen suspected accomplices to the French Islamist militants behind the 2015 attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris will go on trial next Wednesday. – Reuters

The president of the Czech Republic’s senate on Sunday became the most senior official from the country to visit Taiwan, reflecting a growing backlash against China in a part of Europe courted by Beijing. – Financial Times

The United States is flying B-52 Stratofortress bombers over the skies of all 30 NATO counties as a show of solidarity with the alliance. – Washington Examiner

George Barros writes: Russian involvement in Belarus will very likely increase. Russian President Vladimir Putin held a phone call with Lukashenko on August 30 and agreed to meet in Moscow at some time “in the coming weeks.” Lukashenko’s dependence on Kremlin backing will likely increase given Lukashenko’s decision to escalate protests with the use of armed conventional forces and the opposition’s growing boldness to resist detentions. – Institute for the Study of War

Arseniy Yatseniuk writes: Last, we need the US and the EU to support our region via a shared sense of solidarity. To do this, I call on our partners to create a high-level joint mission to defend freedom and democracy in Europe’s east. The guiding aim of this mission should be to create a unified vision about how best to continue Europe’s historic processes of unification, and liberation from the threats of authoritarianism, external aggression and disregard for human and national freedoms. – Financial Times


When the French ambassador to Mali and France’s top military brass in the Sahel had an audience with the new strongman of Bamako last week, it was an acknowledgment of the facts on the ground. With Mali at the centre of a fight against jihadism that has spread across the Sahel, the former colonial power is there for the long haul no matter who is in charge or how they came to power. – Financial Times

Mali’s military junta on Saturday postponed the first meeting on the transfer of power after rising tensions with the group that sparked the August 18 coup. – Agence France-Presse

Sudan’s main rebel alliance has agreed a peace deal with the government aimed at ending 17 years of conflict, official news agency SUNA said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

Western diplomats in Zimbabwe expressed deep concern on Friday over a deteriorating political and economic crisis, and said the government should stop using the COVID-19 pandemic to curtail freedoms. – Reuters

The life of a top Congolese doctor who won the Nobel Peace prize for his work treating war rape victims is in danger after a series of death threats, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday. – Reuters

Ten Islamist militants were killed after they ambushed an army convoy in eastern Congo on Friday, according to the military, while a community leader said five civilians were killed by members of the same rebel group soon after. – Reuters

France wants to see the Malian junta return power to civilians “in a matter of months” after an Aug. 18 coup in the West African country. – Bloomberg

K. Riva Levinson writes: There are other global players of influence, including France and the United States, with its security commitment to Mali and the Sahel, and the western democracies who are vested in the future of a continent bound together by trade through the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. But it will be African leadership that matters[…]. – The Hill

Gwynne Dyer writes: In what is probably the poorest region of the world, West Africa, there is an unsung success story. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) doesn’t just work for economic integration; it tries to defend democracy and prevent war among its member states, and often it succeeds. – Jerusalem Post

Latin America

The Trump administration has blocked the scheduled removal of a former Colombian paramilitary boss to Italy and now intends to deport him to his South American homeland, where he’s been found responsible for hundreds of war crimes. – Associated Press

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: The Trump administration’s efforts to block oil and gasoline shipments into and out of Venezuela are designed to force strongman Nicolás Maduro to step aside. But his supporters say the sanctions demonstrate indifference to the suffering of Venezuelans. Their argument would be more convincing if not for Mr. Maduro’s persistent cruelty against his own people. – Wall Street Journal

Moises Rendon and Estefania Perez Cuellar write:The United States has committed to help Venezuelans restore their democracy. It’s in the national and regional interest to see security and stability in the region. But efforts by the international community have fallen short so far. Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, which now faces the added implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, continues to deteriorate at breakneck speed with no political solution in sight. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

United States

The head of federal intelligence agencies said Sunday that his office will curb in-person briefings to Congress about security threats to the 2020 presidential election, saying he was concerned that lawmakers had leaked sensitive classified materials to the public. – Wall Street Journal

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked two intelligence agencies on Friday if surveillance has been conducted on members of Congress in the last decade. – The Hill

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said congressional oversight is facing a “historic crisis” after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe notified Congress on Saturday that the intelligence community will be scaling back in-person congressional briefings on election security. – The Hill

A Chinese military-linked researcher was caught by U.S. authorities at the airport attempting to flee to China with highly advanced computer code he stole from a U.S. university that could be used for underwater robots and aircraft engines, according to the FBI. – Washington Examiner

Richard Grenell writes: The most underutilized asset in America’s foreign policy arsenal is its network of embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world — 307 in total. All of them are staffed with some of the brightest and most well-trained Americans the country has to offer. But most of them operate under 20th century and sometimes 19th century assumptions of what ends diplomatic outposts are meant to serve. – The Hill


Energy industry owners and operators are growing increasingly nervous about new rules proposed by the Trump administration in an effort to limit foreign threats to the grid. – The Hill

Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is focusing on its budding cloud business, which still has access to U.S. chips despite sanctions against the company, to secure its survival, the Financial Times newspaper reported. – Reuters

New Zealand’s government and its foreign spy agency are getting involved after cyber attacks disrupted trading on the nation’s stock market several times this week. – Associated Press


Israeli defence company Elbit Systems (ESLT.TA) (ESLT.O) said on Monday its U.S. subsidiary won a contract to supply the U.S. Army with gunner hand stations, commander hand stations and circuit cards for the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. – Reuters

The newest version of the UH-72B Lakota light utility helicopter will enter the U.S. Army fleet in 2021, aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced Aug. 28 at the National Guard Association of the United States virtual trade show. – Defense News

It’s growing more likely that components of the mine countermeasures mission package designed for the Littoral Combat Ship small combatant will end up also fielded on the Navy’s massive Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary sea bases, the director of expeditionary warfare (OPNAV N95) said this week. – USNI News

Previous comments from the reform-minded Marine Commandant have suggested that those plans will include moving Marines from large, big-deck amphibious ships to smaller, faster and harder to track ships that can move Marines around contested areas in the western Pacific or the crowded Baltic Sea quickly. – Breaking Defense

Trump Administration

The Justice Department secretly took steps in 2017 to narrow the investigation into Russian election interference and any links to the Trump campaign, according to former law enforcement officials, keeping investigators from completing an examination of President Trump’s decades-long personal and business ties to Russia. – New York Times

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) has initiated contempt proceedings against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, alleging the top U.S. diplomat has hindered a congressional inquiry into his alleged politicization of the department. – Wall Street Journal

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe revealed he is coordinating with U.S. Attorney John Durham in the federal prosecutor’s inquiry into the Russia investigation and expects to make further declassifications public soon. – Washington Examiner

Eli Lake writes: The real answer for Trump’s seemingly contradictory policy is that he wages aggressive economic and political warfare against American enemies like China, Iran, Venezuela and more reluctantly against Russia, while favoring a withdrawal of military forces from the Middle East and, more recently, a NATO ally like Germany. – Bloomberg