Fdd's overnight brief

August 5, 2020

In The News


A California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai, his family said Tuesday. The suspected cross-border abduction of Jamshid Sharmahd appears corroborated by mobile phone location data, shared by his family with The Associated Press, that suggests he was taken to neighboring Oman before heading to Iran. – Associated Press 

Authorities on Wednesday executed an Iranian for killing an elite soldier during anti-government unrest in 2017, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency said, drawing condemnation from a rights group. […]Iranian officials have accused arch-foe the United States and government opponents living in exile of fomenting unrest. – Reuters

The U.S. has circulated a new resolution to United Nations Security Council members calling for an extension of the UN’s arms embargo against Iran, according to a copy of the text obtained by Bloomberg News. – Bloomberg

China and Russia are likely to veto an American effort to extend a United Nations arms embargo against Iran before it expires in October, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said. – Bloomberg 

In a statement on Tuesday, the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said Ambassador Lyndall Sachs had been allowed to visit jailed academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert at Tehran’s notorious Qarchak prison on Sunday and found that she is well. – Radio Farda 

In a speech prior to Friday prayers in Qom, Iran on July 24, 2020, Iranian Shi’ite cleric Sayed Abbas Mousavi Motlagh, a seminary lecturer and expert on religious affairs, said that the coronavirus was secular and was released with the aim of harming believers and leading religious societies towards secularism. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Iran sought a propaganda victory by constructing by attacking a fake American aircraft carrier during war games, but instead has harmed its own navy’s ability to function. The fake aircraft carrier, which was actually a barge mocked up to look like an US navy vessel, was accidentally sunk, according to images shared by Aurora Intel and taken by the PLEIADES satellites. – Arutz Sheva

Michael Eisenstadt writes: Tehran’s counter-pressure campaign has neither delivered sanctions relief nor led to renewed negotiations with Washington, and there is little chance of reaching a new deal with the election less than four months away. Thus, the regime will likely continue with elements of this campaign to show that it is not bowed, yet defer any major action it may be planning against U.S. targets until shortly before or after election day. To further encourage Iranian restraint, Washington should demonstrate continued readiness to respond militarily to attacks while eschewing measures that push Tehran deeper into a corner. – Washington Institute


Four suspects belonging to Lebanon’s armed Shi’ite Hezbollah group have been tried in absentia by the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon for the 2005 murder of former Sunni Muslim prime minister Rafik al Hariri. The verdict is due on Friday. – Reuters

Zvi Bar’el writes: The Lebanese are well acquainted with the map of Hezbollah’s bases and missile stockpiles, since their location has been reported in the media and on the internet. Anyone who lives near one is aware of the threat posed by the possibility of an accident causing an explosion or a deliberate Israeli attack. The explosion at the port makes this threat even more concrete. – Haaretz 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: However, if Lebanon falls deeper into crisis and default, it could destabilize the region, further empower Hezbollah and create an opening for China, Qatar or even other terrorist groups to infiltrate the country. This means Lebanon falling apart under the weight of its debts is a kind of catch-22. Funding the country’s bad habits fuels Hezbollah, not funding them might fuel Hezbollah as well. – Jerusalem Post


Facing extreme financial pressures because of U.S. sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and Lebanon’s economic collapse, Hezbollah appears to be growing increasingly reliant on criminal enterprises, including drug smuggling, to finance its operations, U.S. and Middle Eastern analysts said. – Washington Post 

But diplomatic and humanitarian assistance experts are wary of the strategy, saying economic sanctions alone, no matter how punishing, will do little to bring Mr. al-Assad to the negotiating table and will only worsen the humanitarian crisis in Syria, which has been exacerbated by a collapsing economy. – New York Times 

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs “resolutely” condemned on Wednesday Israeli airstrikes that targeted Syrian military positions on Monday evening, warning Israel against “dangerous consequences.” – Jerusalem Post


Austria will allow the descendants of Holocaust victims to receive citizenship beginning Sept. 1, the country’s embassy in Israel announced Sunday. Before an amendment to Austria’s citizenship law ratified last September, only survivors were entitled to receive citizenship, and then only if they left Austria due to Nazi persecution before May 1945. – Jerusalem Post 

Israeli and U.S. F-35s drilled together for the second time in six months during a military exercise. This joint drill occurred in the shadow of growing Israel-Hezbollah tensions. Dubbed Enduring Lightning 2, the drill on August 2 involved the U.S. 421st Squadron and Israel’s F-35I Adir fighters. Israel now has two F-35 squadrons and Israel’s 140th squadron flew alongside its U.S. peers. – The National Interest 

Palestinian officials claimed on Tuesday that Israel is “secretly” implementing its plan to apply sovereignty to portions of the West Bank and said they would pursue their efforts to foil the move. – Jerusalem Post

Israel Police arrested a 14-year-old Arab suspected of destroying a memorial constructed in honor of a Jew who was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City. – Arutz Sheva

Zev Chafets writes: Israeli democracy is now in the midst of its stress test. The legal system is holding up under the pressure. So are the media, despite Bibi’s efforts to portray reporters and critics as enemies of the state. Inspired by the courage of the protestors, some center-left members of Bibi’s coalition are also now standing up to the boss. Netanyahu still has his fans, but far fewer seem willing to defend his personal ambitions. – Bloomberg


Dozens of people were confirmed dead and thousands more injured after a massive explosion caused by a warehouse fire rocked Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut. The warehouse held highly explosive material, said an official with Lebanon’s army who added that the blast was likely caused by a fire and wasn’t an attack. – Wall Street Journal 

Three US Defense Department officials told CNN that as of Tuesday night there was no indication that the massive explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday were an “attack,” contradicting an earlier claim from President Donald Trump. – CNN 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said a state of emergency should be declared in Beirut for two weeks after a massive explosion in the capital on Tuesday, and called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday. – Reuters

Lebanon’s Supreme Defence Council recommended declaring Beirut a disaster-stricken city following a massive explosion, declaring a two-week state of emergency in the capital and handing over security responsibility to military authorities. – Reuters

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States stands ready to assist the Lebanese people after the massive explosion that rocked Beirut. – Washington Examiner 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Unlike Syria, which is destroyed by civil war, Lebanon’s southern neighbor is a hi-tech giant with the capabilities to aid in times of explosions like the one in that just happened in Beirut. It appears, at least a day after the explosion, that the ability to rapidly and easily support Lebanon has many hurdles due to Lebanon’s fractured politics and inability to put politics aside in favor of average people. – Jerusalem Post 

Gulf States

Saudi Arabia has constructed with Chinese help a facility for extracting uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, an advance in the oil-rich kingdom’s drive to master nuclear technology, according to Western officials with knowledge of the site. – Wall Street Journal

A group of investors is raising concerns about the treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf, warning that labour practices risk leading to abuses such as modern slavery. – Reuters

Reuben F. Johnson writes: Up until now, the US could argue that its superior airpower gave it the capability to knockout any of these Iranian missile emplacements and other assets that are deployed in the Gulf. However, should Iran acquire advanced platforms from Russia and China and a parallel set of air defense batteries as well, this would no longer be a given. Trying to prevent the UN from permitting these arms sales from happening is not just election-year grandstanding. It has some severe implications for the future of the US military and its presence in the Middle East. – Middle East Institute  


Columns of fighters loyal to Libya’s United Nations-backed government, advised by Turkish military officers, are poised west of Sirte on the Mediterranean Sea coast, ready for battle. In and around the city, about 2,000 Russian military contractors with armored vehicles and Syrian militiamen have moved into position to shore up the defenses of the opposing side in Libya’s bitter civil war. – Wall Street Journal

The United States on Tuesday condemned all foreign military involvement in Libya, including the use of mercenaries and private military contractors, and said Libyans themselves must rebuild a unified country. – Reuters

Although it holds Africa’s biggest crude reserves, Libya’s production has plummeted to about 90,000 barrels a day from 1.2 million last year. Output collapsed largely because supporters of Khalifa Haftar, an eastern commander fighting against the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, halted flows from many oil fields and ports. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

A Katyusa rocket was fired towards the Green Zone in Baghdad where the US embassy is located on Tuesday night, according to Iraqi media. A siren was sounded in the embassy to alert those inside to find shelter. – Jerusalem Post 

Turkey’s economy, like that of many countries, is in trouble. The decline has been clear even before the coronavirus appeared, but the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout have only made matters worse. The country’s economy will shrink for the first time in a decade and the government will post a record deficit. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Ola Salem writes: While the United States and other European nations cannot export their human rights values to the Arab world, they can, at the very least, help those who escape in getting justice, particularly when their citizens are involved. Any less would likely embolden these regimes to go further in their repression. – Foreign Policy

Korean Peninsula

U.N. experts say North Korea is flouting U.N. sanctions by expanding its nuclear arsenal and ballistic missile program and by exporting coal and illegally importing refined petroleum products in excess of its annual quota. – Associated Press 

North Korea has increased its illegal smuggling of coal, suggests new satellite imagery, as Kim Jong Un faces the country’s worst economic downturn on record. – Financial Times

If there are three consistent themes North Korea has mastered since the country became a nuclear weapons power in 2006, it is that 1) the Kim dynasty treats its nuclear weapons deterrent as a crown jewel, 2) the North Koreans make mincemeat of the U.N. Security Council sanctions regime, and 3) North Korea will never give up anything for free. – The National Interest


It runs China as a one-party state with no opposition allowed, and heavily censors the Internet, making it difficult to access information that doesn’t fit the official narrative. […]Party membership means better education prospects and better jobs, more politically advantageous marriages and nicer apartments. For many, it is a ticket to a brighter future. – Washington Post 

The U.S. and China have agreed to high-level talks on Aug. 15 to assess Beijing’s compliance with the bilateral trade agreement signed early this year, according to people briefed on the matter. – Wall Street Journal

In the regular drumbeat of arrests of alleged Chinese spies, one case last month stood out. It did not involve the U.S. or another rival of China, but Russia, whose security services  accused a prominent arctic scientist of selling classified data on technologies for detecting submarines. – Bloomberg 

Iranian conservatives have been justifying the Chinese government’s suppression of Uyghur Muslims in China and keeping silent in the face of systematic violence against Chines Muslims in Xinjiang Province. – Radio Farda 

China’s actions are prodding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to pivot to Asia, a potential sea change that’s roiling an alliance that was created to protect Europe against the Soviet Union and then Russia. China’s growing influence in the Balkans mirrors its push into other areas previously dominated by Russia. The Belt and Road enterprise already has made it a major player in Central Asian politics. – Bloomberg 

The following is the July 30, 2020 Congressional Research Service Report, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress. – USNI News 

Beijing does not want tensions with Washington to escalate further following tit-for-tat consulate closures over the past weeks, the Chinese ambassador to the United States said on Tuesday. – Reuters

An editorial in a Chinese state newspaper on Wednesday sharply criticised Washington for what it termed an attempt to provoke an “all-out confrontation with China” over Chinese journalists’ visas. – Reuters

International banks in Hong Kong are caught in the crossfire of competing laws enacted by the United States and China as the superpowers clash over the city’s future, with analysts warning businesses are being forced to pick a side. – Agence France-Presse

Mark Episkopos writes: Even as the PLA continues to grapple with economic growing pains and a deeply entrenched graft culture, there is little room for doubt that China’s armed forces have made immense strides since the 1980’s in modernizing large swathes of their military-industrial base. The CCP’s growing military confidence overlaps with Beijing’s increasingly assertive policy approach vis-a-vis its Pacific neighbors and Washington in recent years. – The National Interest 

Riley Walters writes: Challenges created globally by the Chinese Communist Party are plentiful, including military and security threats, violations of basic human rights, competing for influence in the international community, engaging in disinformation campaigns (such as the most recent efforts to shift blame for the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic), committing corporate data and trade secret theft, and failing to fulfill its trade agreements. The United States and others have their work cut out for them in dealing with these various issues. – Heritage Foundation 

South Asia

President Trump said that there would be fewer than 5,000 American troops in Afghanistan by Election Day in November, signaling that the United States would continue to withdraw troops from the country despite limited progress toward the start of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. – New York Times

In Kashmir, they speak of feeling humiliated and silenced, of crippled businesses and shuttered schools — and the fear of never knowing when deadly violence may strike again. A year ago, Kashmiris watched as India’s leaders unilaterally changed the constitutional status of their strife-torn territory. – Washington Post 

A border dispute between India and China – which turned deadly in June when troops of the two sides clashed – should not dominate relations between the nuclear-armed Asian powers, the Chinese ambassador to the United States said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Sri Lankans started voting Wednesday to elect a new Parliament that is expected to give strong support to the powerful and popular Rajapaksa brothers. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected last November projecting himself as the only leader who could secure the country after the Islamic State-inspired bombings of churches and hotels that killed 269 people. – Associated Press 

Indian soldiers patrolled streets and kept watch from the rooftops in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on the eve of the first anniversary of the Muslim majority region’s loss of autonomy. – Reuters

Rana Ayyub writes: Then there’s the spectacle planned for Times Square, a reminder that many remain complicit in enabling a fascist regime in India that is turning Muslims into second-class citizens in the world’s largest democracy.[…]Aug. 5 marks another day in the continuing erasure of India’s syncretic culture, another day of blood and soil in India, with a Modi emboldened by the world’s inaction. – Washington Post 

Sumit Ganguly and Pushan Das write: Sadly, the external security threats that India confronts, especially that from the People’s Republic of China, will not miraculously disappear. In the absence of a dramatic reorganization of the country’s unwieldy defense procurement mechanisms, its national security will remain acutely vulnerable to extant threats for the foreseeable future. – The National Interest


U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will travel this month to Taiwan, the two governments announced Wednesday Asia time, setting the stage for a politically charged trip that will likely showcase closer governmental and trade ties and deeply anger China. – Washington Post 

Chinese naval exercises off the coast of the Philippines this summer finally forced the hand of President Rodrigo Duterte, if only for six months. Despite a friendly relationship with President Trump, the Filipino president had maintained a hard line against the United States while continuing to appease China. – Washington Examiner 

Malaysian police raided the office of news broadcaster Al Jazeera and two local TV stations on Tuesday, seizing computers as part of an investigation into a documentary on undocumented migrants that enraged the government. Al Jazeera, a Qatari-state owned broadcaster, said in a statement that police seized two computers during the raid, which it called a “troubling escalation” in a government crackdown on media freedom. – Associated Press 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has banned joint military exercises with the United States in the South China Sea, where American officials seek to aid the Philippines in territorial disputes with China. – Washington Examiner 

Artist. Propagandist. Urban planning enthusiast. Traditional Chinese medicine student. Zheng Yanxiong doesn’t fit the usual mold of a top Communist Party security agent. Zheng’s eclectic background suggests someone who will bring a broad approach to running the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong, the powerful and secretive agency China created to implement a new security law in the former British colony. – Bloomberg 

Joseph Bosco writes: China’s Xi Jinping will complain about not being consulted as he was assured after the first Trump-Tsai conversation. He should be reminded of Beijing’s broken promises to enforce sanctions against North Korea; not to militarize the South China Sea; to implement its Phase 1 trade obligations; to stop stealing intellectual property; to cooperate honestly on the pandemic; and so on. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it recently, Washington’s approach to Beijing henceforth will be “distrust, and verify.” – The Hill 

Burhanuddin Muhtadi and Kennedy Muslim write: Within the academic literature on Indonesian politics, a consensus appears lately to have emerged that populism, Islamism, and democratic regression are the three fundamental, mutually reinforcing forces responsible for impeding Indonesia’s democratic consolidation since the fall of Suharto’s New Order regime in 1998. But do the empirical polling data of the Indonesian electorate support this hypothesis? Our 2018 national polling data analysis tries to interpret and clarify the debate surrounding the issue of populism and how it relates to Islamism and democratic regression. – Middle East Institute  


Belarus’s authoritarian president vowed to maintain a close alliance with Russia even as he blasted the country Tuesday for sending in military contractors with allegedly nefarious purposes as he campaigns to win a sixth term in office in a weekend election. – Associated Press 

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday voted to adopt its fifth and final report on Russia’e election interference efforts in 2016, with committee leaders vowing to keep working towards releasing a declassified version of the report to the public. – The Hill 

The Russian military has been developing a number of unmanned combat platforms, including the Uran-9, which was deployed to Syria with mixed results; and earlier this year deployed the Orlan-10 drones in drills in Siberia and Tajikistan. – The National Interest 

Vladislav Inozemtsev, Cyrus Newlin, Heather A. Conley and Maria Snegovaya write: If Lukashenko emerges wounded from the election and on uneasy political footing, Moscow could seek to exploit his weakness to its favor, perhaps by trading economic and security support for the embattled dictator in return for closer integration on Moscow’s terms. However, in his own attempt to prolong his tenure by defying the Kremlin, Lukashenko may have closed that option, leaving Russia with a series of more difficult and costly choices at a time when the Russian elite view political developments in Belarus as eerily mirroring some of their own. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  


Approximately 200 soldiers assigned to a U.S. Army headquarters will begin serving in rotating tours in Poland, the Army said Tuesday, in the latest push by the Trump administration to bolster the U.S. presence there. – Wall Street Journal 

The FBI has raided the offices of U.S. companies owned by a powerful Ukrainian tycoon linked to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The FBI searched offices in Cleveland and Miami on August 4 belonging to billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskiy, whose media company informally backed Zelenskiy’s successful presidential bid in 2019. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday his country’s budget had been deprived of 1.5 billion Belarusian roubles ($700 million) due to oil disputes with Russia. – Reuters

Ukraine’s state energy firm Naftogaz said it would not resume buying natural gas from Russia, suspended since late 2015, until Moscow offered it competitive prices and conditions. – Reuters

Liam Fox is facing questions from opposition politicians, former civil servants and campaigners about how Russian hackers were apparently able to obtain government documents marked “official sensitive [UK eyes only]” from his personal email last year. – The Guardian


Zimbabwe’s president, calling the main opposition party “terrorist,” vowed to flush out opponents in an ongoing clampdown in which scores of opposition members and government critics have been arrested and rights groups allege security forces have carried out illegal abductions and torture. – Associated Press 

Tanzania’s biggest opposition party chose Tundu Lissu as its candidate for presidential elections scheduled for October. […]Lissu returned to Tanzania last week from exile in Europe, three years after surviving an assassination attempt. – Bloomberg 

Egypt said on Tuesday that it has decided to withdraw from the latest round of tripartite negotiations with Ethiopia over its multi-billion dollar dam on the Blue Nile for internal consultations after Addis Ababa proposed new draft of filling guidelines. – Reuters

The Americas

Argentina could now face more difficult talks with the IMF over restructuring its bailout from the fund, which will likely pressure the government to pass economic reforms that are unpopular in the country and opposed by the ruling Peronists. – Wall Street Journal 

The Trump administration will maintain support for opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president and expects dozens of other countries to continue recognizing him following Dec. 6 legislative elections that opposition parties plan to boycott, a U.S. envoy said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will not be allowed to remain at liberty while the Supreme Court investigates allegations of witness tampering against him in another blow to one of the nation’s most powerful political leaders. […]Political analysts have been watching it as an important test of Colombia’s justice system, which throughout its history has struggled to hold prominent political and military leaders accountable. – Associated Press 

Iran has sent nine oil tankers to its ally Venezuela in recent months. Trade alliances will deepen, Molina says. Venezuela’s regime thanked Iran for its support. Caracas also works with Russia and Turkey, both of whom work with Tehran on Syria issues, cementing themselves as a kind of group of countries that all oppose US interests both in the Middle East and globally. – Jerusalem Post 

A court in the West African nation of Cape Verde has approved the extradition to the United States of a Colombian businessman wanted on suspicion of money laundering on behalf of Venezuela’s socialist government, his lawyers said Tuesday. – Associated Press 

Eric Herschmann, formerly a law partner at Kasowitz Benson & Torres, revealed in an unrelated court filing on Monday that he is starting a new post as senior adviser to the president. White House spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment. Herschmann’s bio page on the firm’s website has been removed. Herschmann’s former firm represented Trump at the onset of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into the Kremlin‘s 2016 election interference. – Politico


The National Security Agency issued new guidance on Tuesday for military and intelligence-community personnel, warning about the risks of cellphone location tracking through apps, wireless networks and Bluetooth technology. – Wall Street Journal 

The European Union imposed sanctions for the first time in response to major cyberattacks, bringing the bloc more in line with the U.S. approach of publicly naming and seeking punishment for nation-state hackers.- Wall Street Journal

Cybercrime has become a major issue amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from the International Criminal Police Organization. Interpol reported on Tuesday that web attacks that once targeted individuals and small businesses have now expanded to hack corporations, governments, and critical infrastructure. – Washington Examiner 

The European Commission has launched an in-depth investigation into Google’s $2.1bn bid for fitness tracking company Fitbit, citing fears that the takeover could harm competition in online advertising markets. – Financial Times

After the EU’s top court last month struck down a second transatlantic data protection agreement, called Privacy Shield, in five years, businesses on both sides of the pond have been quick to call for a swift replacement, rallying around the concept of frictionless data that has undergirded the internet since its inception. – Politico

Malware used frequently in cyberattacks against the United States over the past decade has been linked to the Chinese government, according to a new Department of Homeland Security report. – Washington Examiner

Kris Osborn writes: Improved data access and networking bring unprecedented warfare advantages, all the while necessitating a great need to build “defenses” into otherwise vulnerable systems. An approach of this kind is fundamental to Haugh’s point, namely that weapons functionality and sensor to shooter networks fundamentally rely on data infrastructure to a large degree. The data itself is often dispersed and not contingent upon any specified location. – The National Interest 

Arthur Herman writes: While TikTok and ByteDance have both denied any relationship with the Chinese government, any Chinese company can be commanded to turn over its data and information to the government, as a matter of law. And although TikTok says it stores American user data in the U.S., there’s a very real concern that it could pass that information to Chinese state agencies who can manipulate that data in ways to boost their strategic plans. – Forbes


The Army network modernization team announced a technical exchange meeting Tuesday to discuss the service’s plan for its next round of network tools, known as Capability Set ’23. – C4ISRNET 

A year after L3 and Harris merged into a single $18-billion defense company, the corporation is finding its formerly siloed components can come together to meet some of the Navy’s and joint force’s most complex needs. – USNI News 

The U.S. Air Force has completed critical design review of an experimental navigation satellite, clearing the way for fabrication to begin and keeping the launch on track for 2022. – C4ISRNET 

The U.S. Navy’s path to 355 ships was unrealistic, prompting the Pentagon to delay the release of the Navy’s annual 30-year shipbuilding plan, the presumptive incoming head of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s in-house think tank told Senate lawmakers Tuesday. – Defense News 

As the Navy continues its pursuit of unmanned vehicles, Huntington Ingalls Industries hopes to harness its experience building the service’s largest platforms to expand naval capability in the unmanned realm. – USNI News 

The United States is developing new options for arms customers as a way to ensure allies and partners don’t drop planned procurements as the world economy remains in shock from the impacts of COVID 19. – Defense News 

The Navy will remove the aft mast USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) this week out of an abundance of caution, after the fire on the ship last month particularly affected the superstructure area of the amphibious assault ship. – USNI News 

Joseph V. Micallef writes: The Trump administration’s plans to expand the USCG polar icebreaker fleet is a necessary and important first step to countering Russian and Chinese aims in the Arctic region. It is only the first step, however, in what must be an expanded and more active role for the U.S., both diplomatically and militarily in the region. – Military.com 

Hal Brands writes: Great-power competition will be something of a cold shower for the SOF community, not least because elite military units—and perhaps the US military as a whole—will no longer have the starring part in addressing the nation’s greatest strategic challenge. It will require unwinding patterns of training and deployment that have become deeply embedded in the SOF organizational culture. But confronting these issues is crucial if SOF are to help the nation succeed in the defining geopolitical contests of the 21st century. – American Enterprise Institute 

Missile Defense

An unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile was launched early Tuesday morning over 4,000 miles from a base in California into the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command announced. – Fox News 

The Missile Defense Agency has paused its effort to design a defensive hypersonic missile and wants to refocus its plan of attack by concentrating on near-term options that could feed into a more “elegant” solution, according to Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the organization’s director. – Defense News 

U.S. security officials have said that the development of sea-launched nuclear missiles is necessary to combat Russia, which has been developing their tactical nuclear weapons. – Fox News 

The U.S. Army has bought two Iron Dome batteries to fill a cruise missile threat gap as an interim solution while it continues to shape its future Indirect Fires Protection Capability being developed to battle against not just cruise missiles but unmanned aircraft threats, rockets, artillery and mortars. – Defense News

Long War

Six years after Islamic State fighters launched an attack on Iraq’s Yazidi minority, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney accused government leaders and the United Nations on Monday of failing to bring the extremists responsible for the genocide to justice. – Associated Press 

On August 2, 2020, Al-Kataib, a media foundation associated with Al-Shabab Movement, released the first part of the third installment of its video series “They Are Not Welcome, They Shall Burn In The Fire.” The new video, which coincided with Eid Al-Adha and was released in Arabic, Somali, and English, suggests  that Ethiopia is seeking to conquer Somalia and subdue it. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Dozens, if not hundreds, of Americans have joined the People’s Defense Units (YPG) and its successor, the Syrian Democratic Forces, as volunteers in the fight against ISIS. And the Department of Homeland Security has struggled to make sense of these foreign fighters, often attempting to tie them to the terrorist threat of the day, leaked documents show. – The National Interest