Fdd's overnight brief

August 5, 2019

In The News


Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has seized a vessel accused of smuggling fuel and detained its crew, Iranian state television reported, in another case of Tehran interdicting ships in the volatile Persian Gulf. – Wall Street Journal

China and other countries are receiving oil shipments from a larger number of Iranian tankers than was previously known, defying sanctions imposed by the United States to choke off Tehran’s main source of income, an investigation by The New York Times has found. – New York Times

Iran’s foreign minister on Monday lambasted recent U.S. financial sanctions against him, calling the move a “failure” for diplomacy amid escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf. – Associated Press

Following these tanker incidents, Iranian spokesmen are reiterating the position that the regime has maintained for years: that the Persian Gulf is Iranian sovereign territory, that Iran is responsible for the Strait of Hormuz, and that IRGC forces are carrying out legitimate and legal policing activity in them, to ensure shipping security and to protect Iran’s borders. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Senior U.S. leaders expressed confidence that they will be able to convince allies to help protect shipping in the Persian Gulf area against Iranian threats, but they provided no new details Sunday on which nations may be willing to participate. – Associated Press

Iran will no longer turn a blind eye to “maritime offences” in the Gulf, its foreign minister said on Monday, a day after it seized an Iraqi oil tanker there that it accused of smuggling fuel. – Reuters

Reports alleging that fuel tankers appeared to breach U.S. sanctions against Iran were cited in court filings by a bank as it sought to seize the ships, accusing the owners of loan default. – Bloomberg

An Iranian-born Canadian resident has escaped to return to Canada after being detained in Iran for 11 years. – CBC

The family of Dr. Ahmad Reza Jalali, an Iranian-Swedish dual national scientist who has been held in Iranian custody since 2016 on charges of espionage, has claimed that security officials are pressuring him into admitting to new allegations via a broadcasted “forced confession,” according to a Radio Farda report. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian women are sharing videos of themselves removing their headscarves in public, despite a recent ruling they could face 10 years in jail for doing so. – Independent

A judge in Tehran last month handed down harsh sentences to the two members of Confess, a well-regarded Iranian heavy metal duo prosecuted for making music the regime considers blasphemous. – Quartz

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reportedly worked to set up an Oval Office meeting between President Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last month before the top Iranian diplomat was targeted by sanctions from the Trump administration. – The Hill

Last month, amid a rapid-fire escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, received an unexpected invitation—to meet President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. – The New Yorker

The International Atomic Energy Agency must be unyielding in reporting any failure by Iran to comply with a landmark nuclear agreement that is gradually unravelling, according to a leading contender to head the UN’s nuclear watchdog. – Financial Times

While many Iranians on social media are complaining about what they believe is Iran’s unfair share of the Caspian Sea, the spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed “speculations” about the legal regime of the Caspian Sea as “untrue.” – Radio Farda

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked the US sanctions regime against Iran, including the recent decision to impose sanctions against him personally, saying the US – not Iran – had been left isolated, claiming America is “standing alone” against Tehran. – Arutz Sheva

Michael Rubin writes: Let’s hope President Donald Trump is wise enough to allow his “maximum pressure campaign” to work without giving authorities in Tehran either a diplomatic out or resorting to military force that will backfire in the long-term. – The National Interest

Tom Rogan writes: Sanctioning Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, President Trump this week made likelier his meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. With the more moderate Zarif now blacklisted, his future negotiations with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or another U.S. official would make him appear weak to the hardliner faction. – Washington Examiner

Geneive Abdo writes: While not apparent on the surface, sanctions on individuals matter. Even if the United States cannot immediately change an individual’s political behavior, blocking his access to the international banking system produces damaging results. […]Nonetheless, it is easier to impose sanctions on individuals than on entities or countries. It is likely that others will be sanctioned before Trump leaves office and the results will be far more than symbolic. – The Hill


Compared to Gaza, the Iranian front – which to Israeli eyes stretches from the Persian Gulf through Iraq and into Syria and Lebanon – is bustling with action. Throughout July, reports attributed two attacks in Iraq to Israel and at least three other attacks in southern Syria, which were directed against the military apparatus Hezbollah is building on the Syrian side of the border on the Golan Heights – and in one case included the killing of a local activist.  – Haaretz

In a public speech on Saturday, the deputy leader of Hezbollah, Lebanon’s powerful Shiite party-cum-militia, said it was “necessary to put an end to the non-meeting of the government”. Naim Qassem also said the shoot-out was a “dangerous” issue that needed to find a “judicial” solution. – The National

Matthew Levitt writes: As tensions spike between Iran and the West – especially over oil sanctions and freedom of navigation in the Gulf – Iran has been able to draw upon its network of militant proxies to carry out attacks on Iran’s behalf. […]But if hostilities do break out between Washington and Tehran, both America and Israeli interests are likely to be targeted by Iranian proxy groups, including the “Black Ops of Hezbollah.” – Haaretz


The Trump administration has launched a last-ditch effort to head off a Turkish invasion of northeast Syria that it expects will come within the next two weeks. – Washington Post

The United States Sunday welcomed a ceasefire in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region after months of deadly government bombardments but insisted attacks against civilians must stop. – Agence FrancePresse

The chief of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the main jihadist group in Syria’s northwestern Idlib, on Saturday refused any withdrawal from a future buffer zone after a truce went into effect in the area. – Agence FrancePresse

Turkey’s president has renewed a pledge for a cross-border military operation into northeastern Syria. – Associated Press

A munitions blast killed 31 regime and allied fighters at a military airport in central Syria Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, increasing an earlier toll of 12. – Agence FrancePresse

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has been on the receiving end of harsh criticism for her 2017 meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California was once attacked for doing the same thing in 2007. – Washington Examiner

Turkey will carry out a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, its third offensive to dislodge Kurdish militia fighters close to its border. – Reuters


Israel, a world leader in hi-tech, is around 30 years away from its ambition of deploying robot forces, and for now will chose between three prototypes of semi-automated armored vehicles to cocoon its troops in battle, defense officials said on Sunday. – Reuters

In the early 1980s, Israeli forces stormed several Palestine Liberation Organization command posts in southern Lebanon, seizing a wide array of documents detailing various military operations. Among the papers were letters orchestrating the PLO’s dispatch of officers to East Germany, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Pakistan, India, North Korea and China for military training from the mid-’70s. – Haaretz

David Singer writes: In a remarkable outburst that can best be described as his “suicide note” – PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared on 25 July: “I reiterate that we will not surrender, we will not coexist with the occupation and we will not deal with the deal of deal of the century, or the slap of the century or the deal of shame[…].” Abbas has written his suicide note – Trump shouldn’t demean himself begging Abbas to reconsider. – Arutz Sheva


The United Nations investigators assembled in the departure hall of Sanaa’s airport were preparing to leave with precious evidence: laptops and external drives collected from the staff of the World Health Organization. These computers, they believed, contained proof of corruption and fraud within the U.N. agency’s office in Yemen. – Associated Press

Yemen’s Houthis launched drone attacks on the airports of Abha and Najran, and the King Khalid airbase, in Saudi Arabia, the group’s Al-Masirah TV said on Monday. – Reuters

Islamist militant group al Qaeda attacked a military camp in southern Yemen on Friday, killing at least 19 soldiers, security sources said. – Reuters

The U.N. food agency on Sunday said it reached an agreement with Yemen’s rebels to resume food deliveries to rebel-controlled parts of the country after suspending the aid for over a month. – Associated Press

The question is whether the move by the UAE, until now a key part of the Saudi-led coalition battling Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen, will bolster efforts to end the conflict or leave a void that leads to an escalation of the violence. Mr Obad has little hope it will be the former. – Financial Times

Middle East & North Africa

New York lawyer Sonya Shaykhoun thought she’d see the world by taking a job in the Middle East. Then she found herself trapped in the tiny, oil-rich nation of Qatar — one of numerous westerners barred from leaving the country because they have a debt, are involved in a lawsuit, had a falling out with an employer or simply crossed a powerful native. – Daily Caller

A drone strike carried out by forces loyal to eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar killed at least 43 people attending a meeting at a southern town, a local official said, in the latest eruption of violence in an increasingly deadly proxy war between regional powers. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Mr. Biden is trying to make a virtue out of a tragic strategic blunder. The total withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011 set the stage for the rise of Islamic State, and the takeover of Mosul and much of Iraq by the “caliphate.” By 2014 U.S. forces were fighting again in Iraq, and it took five years to defeat the caliphate after the premature Obama-Biden withdrawal. – Wall Street Journal

Korean Peninsula

President Trump conceded that North Korea’s recent short-range missile tests might have broken United Nations resolutions but said he didn’t consider them a violation of Kim Jong Un’s commitments to the U.S. president. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea had launched its third barrage of short-range missiles in just over a week, parading its growing ability to strike its neighbors with devastating firepower. But instead of banding together against a common adversary last week, the two American allies in the path of the missiles — Japan and South Korea — were locked in their own bitter battle, whose roots stretch back over 100 years. – New York Times

Seoul’s military says South Korea and the United States are preparing to hold their annual joint military exercises despite warnings from North Korea that the drills could derail the fragile nuclear diplomacy. – Associated Press

North Korea have nominated Pyongyang as the host venue for their World Cup qualifying match against South Korea in October, clearing the way for the two countries to play on North Korean soil for the first time in almost 30 years. – Reuters

North Korea said Saturday its leader Kim Jong Un supervised another test-firing of a new multiple rocket launcher system that could potentially enhance the country’s ability to strike targets in South Korea and U.S. military bases there. – Associated Press

Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s largest memory chipmaker, is already reeling from Japan’s export curbs on three key materials needed to make semiconductors. An expanded list that includes machine technology could make it even harder for Samsung and South Korean carmakers to make their chips and cars.  – Bloomberg

Editorial: Tokyo-Seoul security ties are in U.S. interests. But in wielding trade leverage in a political dispute, Mr. Abe may be taking a cue from his American counterpart. […]In stripping Seoul of its “whitelist” status Friday, Tokyo removed it from a group of 27 countries that enjoy preferential trade with Japan. The reciprocal Korean action suggests this trade war may be hard to stop. The ramifications will be global, but a protectionist America lacks the standing to object. – Wall Street Journal


Now, Xi is facing challenges on multiple fronts, and the Communist Party, riven with paranoia at the best of times, is seeing threats at every turn. He has to contend not just with a slowing economy but also a protracted trade war with the United States that has entered a new confrontational phase with President Trump’s decision to impose more tariffs next month. – Washington Post

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took aim at China, portraying the country as disrespectful of others’ sovereignty and branding it a selfish player in the global trading system, during a speech in Bangkok. – Wall Street Journal

China threatened to retaliate if the U.S. moves to place fresh tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods, though Beijing faces limited options to strike back without hurting its economy. – Wall Street Journal

China’s currency weakened past the psychologically important point of 7 to the American dollar for the first time in more than a decade, a move that reflects the growing severity of the trade war with the United States and that could indicate Beijing’s growing desire to find ways to retaliate against President Trump. – New York Times

China is destabilizing the Indo-Pacific, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday, charging Beijing with predatory economics, intellectual property theft and “weaponizing the global commons”. – Reuters

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Friday she met her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to discuss tensions following Canada’s December arrest of a Huawei Technologies Co executive on a U.S. warrant, and the subsequent detention of two Canadians by China. – Reuters

The most immediate threat facing Japan has been China’s ramped-up maritime intrusions into the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, Japan’s senior military official said Thursday. – USNI News

Malaysia is confident it can reach an agreement with China to settle tensions in the South China Sea after its neighbors warned that incidents in the disputed waters had “eroded trust.” – Bloomberg

James Pethokoukis writes: Overall, I think fears of a New Cold War or Tech Cold War are overblown — but maybe less so if we dismiss the risk of severe damage from engaging in one. – American Enterprise Institute

Robert Spalding writes: It’s long past time to rebuild America. The conditions are in place to have a great resurgence in manufacturing. The communities that have been devastated are begging for it. This path doesn’t need a strong-arm totalitarian government. It merely needs the president to make tariffs on China permanent, ensure manufacturing does not go elsewhere in search of lax rules — then get out of the way. American entrepreneurs will do the rest, as they always have. – The Hill


The long-distance bus, traveling on a remote stretch of highway in western Afghanistan on Wednesday was crammed with families, students and workers. They were headed cross-country on a regularly scheduled 300-mile trip from Herat city to Kandahar city when a sudden, violent blast erupted beneath the bus. – Washington Post

Washington is hoping for a breakthrough after talks between the US and the Taliban resumed in Doha Saturday amid renewed efforts to plot an end to Afghanistan’s 18-year-long conflict. – Agence FrancePresse

At least two people were killed and two injured when a private bus carrying employees of an Afghan television station was bombed in Kabul on Sunday, two government officials said. – Reuters

An Afghan policeman in the southern province of Kandahar opened fire on his colleagues, killing seven other policemen before fleeing the scene, a provincial official said Monday. The Taliban claimed the attack, saying the policeman had joined their ranks. – Associated Press

With President Donald Trump expected to strike a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, American legislators are expressing their concern for the deal that seems too good to be true, considering the Islamist group’s past record of violence and backing out of peace deals. – The Floridian

President Donald Trump has told his advisers that he wants to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the November 2020 presidential election, according to five current and former administration and military officials. – NBC

Richard Fontaine writes: Afghanistan may be America’s forgotten war, lost in the focus on China and Russia and Iran and North Korea. But the problems there endure. Whether, how, and in what ways America ends its role in that war will be vitally important—not just for the Afghan people but for Americans themselves. – The Atlantic

South Asia

The Indian military on Sunday claimed to have killed several Pakistani attackers trying to cross the de facto border in Kashmir, as tensions ratcheted up in the disputed region and sent thousands of tourists fleeing. – Agence FrancePresse

Pakistan’s foreign minister has rejected India’s revocation of disputed Kashmir’s special constitutional status, saying the move violates a U.N. resolution. – Associated Press

Two of the world’s most acrimonious neighbors also happen to be among the few countries on the planet to have nuclear weapons. Long-running tensions between India and Pakistan center on the border region of Kashmir, an area in the Himalayas claimed in full — and ruled in part — by both. Violence flares often, as it did early in 2019 when a terrorist attack led to the most serious military escalation in more than a decade. The repeated skirmishing is playing out against a backdrop of superpower jockeying by the U.S. and China. – Bloomberg


A U.N. report released Monday found countries including North Korea, Russia, China and India supplied arms to Myanmar’s military in recent years, including weapons used in a crackdown against Rohingya Muslims that has been described as genocidal. – Washington Post

The American defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, said Saturday that he was in favor of deploying ground-based missiles to Asia, a day after the United States formally pulled out of a Cold War-era arms treaty that directly limited such weapons. – New York Times

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the city was becoming dangerous and unstable, condemning violent protests in her first public comments in two weeks on the political turmoil engulfing the city, as a strike through the financial center into further chaos Monday morning. – Wall Street Journal

Australia on Monday ruled out hosting ground-based US missiles after talks with Washington’s top defence and diplomatic officials. – Agence FrancePresse

Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said on Monday recent protests disrupting the former British colony are pushing the city to the verge of an “extremely dangerous situation” and posing a challenge to China’s sovereignty. – Reuters

The progress of repairing China-Australia ties, strained over Canberra’s concerns about Chinese influence in its domestic affairs, has been “unsatisfactory,” said China’s top diplomat after meeting his Australian counterpart. – Reuters

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Friday urged the Trump Administration to suspend future sales of munitions and crowd-control equipment to Hong Kong police which has been accused of using excessive force against anti-government protesters. – Reuters

A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons. The waters are a major shipping route for global commerce and rich in fish and possible oil and gas reserves. – Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left Thailand on Saturday with his hopes for resuming nuclear talks with North Korea dashed, while facing an escalating trade war with China and a potentially devastating breakdown in relations between key American allies Japan and South Korea. – Associated Press

Editorial: With Beijing amping up its pressure on Hong Kong and the White House taking the wrong side, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers — Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) — urged Mr. Trump to condemn China’s stance: “Failure to respond to Beijing’s threats [to Hong Kong] will only encourage Chinese leaders to act with impunity,” they wrote in an open letter. They are right. – Washington Post

Editorial: If the Trump administration wanted to go further, it might also deploy boutique intelligence capabilities to Hong Kong. The U.S. intelligence community has ways of disrupting efforts by Chinese-controlled Hong Kong police and the Chinese intelligence services and military to monitor and detain protest leaders. The U.S. could also enable Hongkongers to more securely arrange protests without the prior knowledge of Chinese authorities. – Washington Examiner

Dylan Adelman writes: In May, the U.S. urged Pacific Island nations to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan. This position, although rarely stated publicly, has been policy for years. With increasing Chinese influence in the region and dwindling diplomatic support for Taiwan, the U.S. position remains important, as are endorsements from other parties. – The Hill

Jeffrey Kopstein and Jeffrey Wasserstrom write: There are limits to this comparison with the pre-Communist Chinese past, just like there are to those comparisons with various parts of the world in the 1980s. Bringing them up, though, is still relevant. It helps underscore that authoritarian governments rely on a diverse playbook. This makes them a dark mirror image of protesters, who similarly can—and, in the case of Hong Kong activists, definitely do—draw on repertoires of contention that have roots in varied places and times. – The Atlantic


The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Russia for using a banned chemical weapon in an attempted assassination of a former double agent on British soil last year. – Wall Street Journal

A second consecutive weekend of mass detentions following protests for free elections in the Russian capital left the opposition undeterred and President Vladimir Putin’s ability to manage growing public discontent in question. […]The U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Sunday said that Saturday’s response by the authorities “undermines the rights of citizens to participate fully in the democratic process.” – Wall Street Journal

Germany is calling on Russia to release the protesters detained during a rally for independent and opposition candidates in Moscow. – Associated Press

Russian police forcibly detained over 800 people attending a protest in Moscow on Saturday to demand free elections, including prominent activist Lyubov Sobol, after authorities warned the demonstration was illegal. – Reuters

Japan would like to arrange a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Russia in September, its chief government spokesman said on Monday. – Reuters

Editorial: Mr. Putin might be even more inclined to act out as some in the U.S. and Europe lose patience with the long-term strategy of isolating Russia. Rather than give in, the West should make clear that any escalation abroad would be resisted and lead to more biting economic sanctions. – Wall Street Journal


Less than five months after the military defeat of the Islamic State in Syria, a United Nations report is warning that the group’s leaders could launch international terrorist attacks before the end of the year, including those intended to “exacerbate existing dissent and unrest” in European nations. – New York Times

The European Union says it is ready for Britain to leave the bloc without a deal to smooth the split. Growing evidence says otherwise. – Wall Street Journal

European Union finance ministers have selected their nominee to be the next chief of the International Monetary Fund in a move that would require a change of the institution’s rules. – Wall Street Journal

American rapper A$AP Rocky, on trial for assault in Sweden, was released on Friday pending a verdict in a case that strained relations between the two nations after President Trump repeatedly called for the defendant’s release. – Wall Street Journal

Serbia on Monday slammed Israel for congratulating Croatia on the occasion of Victory Day, which marks a bloody battle Serbs consider a pogrom. – Times of Israel

It would take a “miracle” for Switzerland and the European Union to clinch a quick deal over a stalled partnership treaty that has disrupted cross-border share trading and strained bilateral ties, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said. – Reuters

A group of 45 American senators have signed a letter to Boris Johnson pledging to back a trade deal with Britain whether or not the UK leaves the EU with a deal. – The Times

A report saying that a “flow of anti-Semitic tweets” from 36 pro-Labour Twitter accounts fuel anti-Semitism by using “hateful language to attack Jewish Labour MPs or other people who raise concerns about anti-Semitism” was released on Sunday. – Arutz Sheva

Serbia’s police will get reinforcements from China to cope with a growing number of Chinese tourists and workers, the Serbian interior minister said on Friday. – Reuters

George Seay writes: America should not bask in its greater economic and military global might; instead, the U.S. should eagerly and magnanimously broker further economic and military ties with the U.K., in a manner to draw closer with confidence, not have Great Britain shrink back through distrust, uncertainty, and post-Brexit shock.  – The Hill


Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders signed a hard-won constitutional declaration on Sunday, paving the way for a transition to civilian rule after more than seven months of demonstrations and violence. – Agence FrancePresse

The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Sunday Sudan was turning over the page of being ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood. – Reuters

A U.S.-trained Kenyan bomb disposal technician stood in a field showing colleagues from more than 20 countries how to collect evidence after the detonation of a roadside explosive. – Reuters

Here’s a look at the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 224 people. Terrorist group al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombings. – CNN

Stephen Paduano writes: But few benefits can come from turning Africa into another theater of geopolitical tension with China. As China continues its rise, and as its loans continue to come, there is little doubt that cooperation will fare far better than confrontation. “The Chinese are answering a need for Africans, and the U.S. government should be supportive of that,” Devermont told me. “We have been way too zero-sum.” – The Atlantic

United States

Authorities say they are treating Saturday’s massacre at a Walmart store in this heavily Hispanic city, in which 20 people were killed and 26 injured, as a case of domestic terrorism. – Wall Street Journal

Mexican officials on Sunday angrily denounced the mass shooting in El Paso and announced unusual actions to protect Mexicans in the United States — including possibly charging the perpetrator in Mexican courts. – Washington Post

The FBI insists it is fully engaged in combating the threat of violence from white supremacists, but some former federal officials charge that the government is still coming up short in the face of a strain of American terrorism that now seems resurgent. – Washington Post

The man suspected of killing 20 people and injuring 26 more in a shooting rampage at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, allegedly posted a hate-filled manifesto on the same fringe online message board used earlier this year by the suspect in the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque massacre. – Wall Street Journal

The shootings in Texas and Ohio that killed at least 29 people over the weekend left authorities searching for how to confront the challenges posed by mass violence and domestic terrorism, especially attacks driven by white-nationalist ideologies. – Wall Street Journal

Nations must work together to stop lone wolf attackers, who take inspiration from each other, NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday, during a visit to a mosque in New Zealand where a gunman killed dozens of people in March. – Reuters

Beth Bailey writes: With her constituent, an American citizen, being harassed and victimized in an attempt to keep him from economic participation in the name of BDS, Tlaib should reconsider her allegiance to the harmful and anti-Semitic movement. – Washington Examiner

Latin America

U.S. prosecutors accused Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández of conspiring with his brother and other top politicians to protect drug traffickers. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and U.S. Secretary Wilbur Ross will speak at a conference on Venezuela in Peru next week as part of a campaign to force President Nicolas Maduro to relinquish power, a senior U.S. official said on Friday. – Reuters

The United States said on Friday it would bar two Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations from traveling to the United States in its latest action to pressure Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro into stepping down. – Reuters


Data breaches through hacking attacks are distressingly common these days, and personal details about you can lead to identity theft, such as credit cards and loans in your name. But it’s hard to pin the blame on any specific hack, as the most sophisticated criminals combine data from multiple attacks to better impersonate you. – Associated Press

Suspicions that Russia and the nationalist political party that won Poland’s 2015 election were behind the illegal eavesdropping persisted even after a Polish multimillionaire was convicted as the mastermind. With the country’s next election coming up this fall, a Polish journalist and the jailed tycoon have provided fresh fuel for claims that Waitergate was a prelude to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. – Associated Press

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday he ordered a review of the Pentagon’s “war cloud” contract after hearing concerns from lawmakers and the White House but maintained he was not ordered to open the probe following President Trump’s criticism of the potential deal. – The Hill

Missile Defense

The landmark treaty on intermediate-range nuclear forces lapses Friday, opening the way for a new generation of land-based missiles and casting a shadow over the future of arms-control agreements. – Wall Street Journal

NATO has agreed ways to deter Russia from launching a new medium-range missile capable of a nuclear strike on Europe, the alliance said on Friday, saying its response would be measured and only involve conventional weapons. – Reuters

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is taking heat from all sides over her proposal to make it official U.S. policy not to be the first to use a nuclear weapon. – The Hill

On July 5, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from Vostochny Cosmodrome in the easternmost territory of Russia, carrying with it 33 satellites, including a polar-orbiting Meteor M2-2 weather satellite owned by the Russian government and a host of cubesats and nanosatellites launched on behalf of universities and commercial entities. More than 3,500 miles away, the airmen of Thule Air Base in Greenland were watching, dispatching real-time reports to the Combined Space Operations Center, or CSpOC, at Vandenburg Air Force Base, California. – Defense News

With the scrapping of a landmark arms control agreement Friday, the U.S. announced plans to test a new missile amid growing concerns about emerging threats and new weapons. – Associated Press

James J. Cameron writes: The collapse of the INF Treaty leaves New START, governing strategic weapons, as the only U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control deal still standing. But national security adviser John Bolton’s recent comments criticizing New START as “flawed from the beginning” suggest that the Trump administration is unlikely to extend it past its expiration date of 2021. In the absence of new accords, the five-decade-old U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control regime will meet its demise. – Washington Post

Trump Administration

Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s election interference cost $31.7 million, according to the Department of Justice. – Washington Examiner

Donald Trump has withdrawn John Ratcliffe as his choice for US director of national intelligence following widespread reports that the Republican congressman had embellished his resume. – Financial Times