Fdd's overnight brief

August 6, 2020

In The News


Mehrdad Oskouei’s latest documentary, “Sunless Shadows,” is a startling, raw confrontation with Iran’s patriarchy. A poignant follow-up to his 2016 “Starless Dreams,” about teenage girls in a Tehran juvenile detention center, the new movie focuses on a group of adolescent girls and older women imprisoned for murdering male relatives. – New York Times

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the U.S. plans to hold a United Nations Security Council vote next week in its effort to extend the UN’s arms embargo against Iran. – Bloomberg

US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said on Tuesday that extending the arms embargo on Iran is “a choice between freedom and tyranny.” Speaking at the Aspen Institute Security Forum, Craft addressed a question about the embargo, which is set to expire on October 18. – Jerusalem Post

A member of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce has said that China’s Kunlun Bank is refusing to deal with Iran, as warnings from the international watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regarding banking ties with the Islamic Republic have become tougher this year. – Radio Farda

Outspoken former lawmaker Ali Motahari on Wednesday said a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official has admitted to him that Iran remains silent about the suppression of Chinese Muslims — mainly Uyghurs — because of economic dependence on China. – Radio Farda

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s latest warning that China would destabilize the Middle East by deepening ties with U.S. foe Iran is raising questions about how far Beijing will go to boost its partner Tehran in an emerging deal that would heighten U.S.-China tensions. – VOA News

Uzi Even writes:  All in all the damage done to the Iranian nuclear program, in terms of time, is estimated at about two years. There is no doubt that these secret operations have halted the Iranian program for a few years – delaying it, but it hasn’t been destroyed. Stay tuned. – Haaretz


Hezbollah kept three metric tons of ammonium nitrate, the explosive thought to be behind the mega blast in Beirut this week, in a storehouse in London, until MI5 and the London Metropolitan Police found it in 2015. – Jerusalem Post

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the Lebanese government to disarm the militant group Hezbollah in a report he intends to present to the United Nations Security Council next Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Wednesday said it would postpone its verdict in the trial over the 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri to August 18, following the huge explosion in Beirut’s port on Tuesday. […]The four defendants, who are not in custody and are being tried in absentia, are linked to Lebanon’s Shia Islamist group Hezbollah. – Reuters

Editorial: Tuesday’s horrendous explosion, and the death and destruction it has wrought, is a tragedy for Lebanon. No less a tragedy is Hezbollah’s commandeering of that country and turning its cities into weapons storage centers that could ignite as easily as that mountain of ammonium nitrate apparently did at Beirut’s port. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: That Lebanon can unload weapons via its own terminal at Beirut port shows how unregulated its transfer of dangerous weapons has become. Israel has warned about the PGM threat and Hezbollah’s destabilizing activities. The foreign reports and IDF report last year make clear how serious a threat these weapons and the network of corruption, state weakness and illicit storage, have become. – Jerusalem Post

Hussein Ibish writes: Hezbollah finds itself uncomfortably positioned as the principal backer of the government presiding over a thoroughgoing collapse of the Lebanese state and society. It will not easily shake off blame for the Beirut blast, or for the Hariri assassination. Even in this country that has suffered so much and for so long, the latest of Lebanon’s tragedies will not soon be forgotten, nor its perpetrators forgiven. – Bloomberg

Anna Ahronheim writes: Should Hezbollah keep their massive explosive arsenals in residential areas, it’s a disaster that will only repeat itself should a war break out. Lebanon should not be subject to – and cannot afford – another disaster on that level. – Jerusalem Post

Amos Harel writes: But the desire to do so takes on new proportions after Lebanon sustains more than 100 fatalities in the explosion in Beirut, and perhaps dozens if not hundreds of missing people buried beneath the rubble. Under these circumstances, it is hard to believe that Hezbollah would take the risk of another attempt against Israel. – Haaretz


Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi called on Latin American countries to ban Hezbollah, in a meeting with ambassadors from the region on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

The likelihood of Hezbollah making a move that would escalate the tensions in the north has dropped significantly because of Tuesday’s massive explosion in Beirut, defense officials believe. – Haaretz

The Israeli security establishment is keeping a close eye on developments in Lebanon following the massive explosion in Beirut on Tuesday, and is maintaining its high-alert status on the northern border. – Algemeiner


Iraqi researcher Jomaa Al-Atwani said in a July 28, 2020 interview on Al-Nujaba TV (Iraq) that the resistance is fighting Israel with its own weapons, and that it doesn’t need nuclear missiles, because it only takes one precision missile aimed at Israel’s already-existing nuclear arsenal to cause Israel to kill itself “by [its] own hand.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

In Iraq’s Kurdistan region and at the country’s Muslim Shiite holy sites, trading US dollars for rials from Iran was once big business. But the money exchange trade has been hard hit by lockdown restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19, and by deep economic woes in both countries. – Agence France-Presse

An Iraqi delegation headed by the Iraqi oil minister met the Lebanese prime minister, Hassan Diab, on Wednesday and informed him that Baghdad will provide fuel aid to Beirut after the blast on Aug. 4, according to a statement by the Lebanese government. – Reuters

Sam Gollob and Michael O’Hanlon write: The U.S. has devoted so much to Iraq since 2003—at least $1.5 trillion, more than 4,500 American lives and many times that number wounded, not to mention huge political effort in the Bush and Obama years. More-modest investments are appropriate today. If the issue comes up in the 2020 electoral campaign, American politicians should emphasize not only Iraq’s terrible past, both during and after Saddam’s rule, but its potential—and America’s capacity to help realize it. – Wall Street Journal


At least 100 people were killed and thousands injured in a massive explosion at the port in Beirut, ravaging the heart of the city’s vibrant downtown business district. Here’s what we know so far. – Wall Street Journal

Lebanon and its people have a long history of resilience—surviving years of brutal, sectarian civil strife, an invasion by Syria and a bruising war with Israel. But the country’s latest run of misfortune threatens to push it over the edge. – Wall Street Journal

The countdown to catastrophe in Beirut started more than six years ago when a troubled, Russian-leased cargo ship made an unscheduled stop at the city’s port. – New York Times

Reflecting both the gravity of the disaster and France’s special relationship with its former protectorate, French President Emmanuel Macron was to visit Lebanon Thursday. Paris wasted no time in dispatching two planeloads of specialists, rescue workers and supplies to Beirut on Wednesday. – Associated Press

President Donald Trump on Wednesday continued to suggest that the massive explosion that killed at least 135 people in Lebanon might have been a deliberate attack, even as officials in Lebanon and his own defense chief said it’s believed to have be an accident. – Associated Press

Conservative MPs have urged the Government to take long-term strategic action in Lebanon, warning of a power “vacuum” that could help groups who “pose a threat” to the West. – Telegraph

Rival factions composed of Syria and Iran on one side and Israel and the United States on the other are offering assistance to Lebanon after the massive explosion that ravaged its capital. – Newsweek

Several Beirut port officials have been placed under house arrest by the Lebanese government after a huge explosion on Tuesday that killed at least 135 people and injured around 5,000. – Jerusalem Post

Luna Safwan writes: Today, most Lebanese have no faith that this political class or government will bring any sort of justice. To Lebanon, this catastrophe could be a new trigger to revolt, or a new reason to surrender to total helplessness. This time, there is no place in between. – Washington Post

Rabih Alameddine writes: For years, every faction in the country blamed the other for any disaster. We had a civil war that ended only when all the sides figured they could steal a lot more money if they cooperated. There were always scapegoats, and I’m sure that some will be offered this time as well. But enough, enough! This government must go. All of them. The government, the president, the prime minister, Hezbollah, the Hariris, the Lebanese forces, the Aouns, the Jumblatts, the Berris, the Gemayels, every one of them. Enough. Get out. We need to plant anew. – Washington Post

Lina Mounzer writes: Mr. Aoun is now our octogenarian president, allied with Hezbollah and Syria. That is how vile and opportunistic and immortal our warlords are. I use him as an example not because he is the worst among them — that is a tough competition. I mention Mr. Aoun to remind myself how long we have been at the mercy of the same people and their pernicious ambitions. – New York Times

Faysal Itani writes: Lebanon — and the Lebanese — will need a rapid influx of external aid to stave off a critical food shortage and public health catastrophe. It seems to be coming, from countries across the Middle East and around the world. But this will not arrest the country’s decline. Emergency aid will only magnify public humiliation and helplessness. Yesterday’s explosion made clear that Lebanon is no longer a country where decent people can live secure and fulfilling lives. – New York Times

Michael Rubin writes: Beirut was once the Paris of the Middle East, and it is easy to fall in love with the city that represents the Middle East at its cosmopolitan best. That the Lebanese have suffered so much both for reasons beyond their control and because of the fickleness of their political machine is a tragedy. Some Lebanese will try to blame Israel, others Syria, and others Iran for their plight before Tuesday’s events, and for their desperation today. Only, however, when the Lebanese people shirk off corrupt and incompetent elites and a political culture where too many act with impunity will the country thrive, and its people achieve the justice they so much deserve. – Washington Examiner

Arabian Peninsula

American intelligence agencies are scrutinizing efforts by Saudi Arabia to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel that could put the kingdom on a path to developing nuclear weapons. – New York Times

Following the massive explosion yesterday, August 4, 2020, at the Port of Beirut, that killed over 100, injured thousands, and caused widespread property damage, the Saudi establishment dailies ‘Okaz and Al-Riyadh published editorials linking Hizbullah to the explosion, even hinting that it was responsible for it. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Simon Henderson writes: Justifying Saudi behavior in terms of Iran’s assumed continuing determination to have the capability to make nuclear weapons is an explanation, but it does not help U.S. policy. For example, a different path appears to have been taken by Riyadh’s close ally, the United Arab Emirates, which has forsworn enrichment and is just starting up the first of four South Korean nuclear power reactors. – The Hill

Middle East & North Africa

For Turkey’s Christians, the country’s decision to reconvert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque represents yet another blow to their already marginalized community. – Politico

Martin Engelberg writes: This is certainly not possible with threats and sanctions against Israel, but rather by demanding the principle of reality, understanding the narratives of both sides, pushing for a willingness to compromise and last but not least: the promise to Israel and the emerging Palestinian state structure that they both can expect generous economic support from the EU and maximum integration into Europe. This could form a viable bridge from Europe to the Middle East, which could become an alliance for peace, freedom and prosperity. – Times of Israel

Michael Rubin writes: Instead, the international community should seek a combined strategy to interdict Turkish aircraft and ships transporting terrorists and equipment into Libya. If Turkey stops its transports, Egypt will be far more likely to keep its tanks on its side of the border. Then the goal should be to simultaneously build up new Libyan armed forces and a cadre of mid-ranked professional officers who will outlast both Sarraj and the elderly Haftar. There is no short-term fix to Libya; it is time to recognize where U.S. interests lie and play the long game. – The National Interest


President Trump’s administration does not regard the Chinese Communist Party as “a legitimate system” of governance, according to a senior U.S. diplomat. – Washington Examiner

A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian national to death for producing drugs, according to a court posting, amid rising tension between the two countries over the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. – Reuters

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Wednesday ratcheted up the rhetoric on President Donald Trump’s handling of the country’s increasingly tense relationship with China, saying the Republican’s much-vaunted trade deal was “failing.” – Reuters

A U.S. Republican congressman urged the Trump administration to review millions in coronavirus stimulus loans paid to U.S. companies with ties to China’s aviation and defense industries, amid deepening tensions between Beijing and Washington. – Reuters

The first in a new class of Chinese amphibious warships began sea trials, according to photos released on Chinese social media platforms. […]The sea trials for China’s new amphibious assault ship come as strains between Washington D.C. and Beijing have worsened in recent months amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration’s increasingly vocal criticism of China. – USNI News

Editorial: Through a combination of overt state-sponsored media and covert tactics such as content farms and fake personas, China is trying to convince the world of the same thing it attempts to prove by touting invasive technologies: that closed is better than open and that controlled is better than free. The only bright spot? The trickery isn’t all that sophisticated or convincing — yet. China has a vision not only for itself but also for the globe, and it is doing all it can to turn that vision into reality. To promote a more attractive alternative, the United States must engage with the world rather than retreat from it. – Washington Post

Michael Pillsbury writes: United States policy toward China is the preeminent strategic issue of our time. In the last several years, the U.S.-China relationship has undergone its most dramatic changes in over forty years. This report is a guide to the Trump administration’s most important policy statements on China, going up to July 23, 2020. It organizes nearly two hundred statements into seven major themes, based on discussions with the president and his senior advisors. Each document, interview, and tweet is hyperlinked. – Hudson Institute

South Asia

Authorities enforced security restrictions in many parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday, a year after New Delhi revoked the disputed region’s semi-autonomy in a decision that set off anger and economic ruin amid a harsh security clampdown. – Associated Press

The U.N. Security Council discussed disputed Kashmir at Pakistan’s request Wednesday for the third time since India’s Hindu nationalist government decided to end the Muslim-majority region’s semi-autonomy a year ago. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations has warned that the possibility of a war between his country and India remains one year after the neighboring rival moved to take total control over a stretch of their disputed border region of Kashmir, a move that also sparked tensions with China. – Newsweek

At least 30 people were injured in a grenade attack on a rally in Karachi on Wednesday, as Pakistan marked the first anniversary of India’s revocation of Kashmir’s semi-autonomy. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: Pakistani officials and human rights activists may demonize India and seek to return the status quo ante, but a return to the past is impossible. Instead, a far more productive approach would be to embrace a zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism while simultaneously working with India to finetune its actions and to invest in Kashmir in order to shape a future where all of its people can benefit. – The National Interest

Aparna Pande writes: One year after India repealed Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, China and Pakistan seem to be the only countries that seem to oppose India’s moves. Although there has been some criticism of India’s human rights record and allegations of excesses in suppressing dissent, there is little appetite around the world to elevate Pakistan’s claims of dispute over Kashmir’s status to a serious international issue. – Hudson Institute


Hong Kong’s expatriate community is shrinking, as new restrictions by China on speech and political activities and a tumultuous year of protests have diminished the allure of living and working in the Asian financial hub. – Wall Street Journal

On the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of his city, the mayor of Hiroshima warned the world about the rise of “self-centered nationalism” and appealed for greater international cooperation to overcome the coronavirus pandemic. – Washington Post

Journalists have been caught up in spiralling US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in recent months. – Agence France-Presse

Why has the announcement by the United States of its highest-level visit to Taiwan for four decades sparked such anger from Beijing? Here is a recap of the key issues surrounding the delicate relations between the US, China and Taiwan. – Agence France-Presse

Chinese fighter jets and bombers have completed a series of combat readiness exercises in the disputed South China Sea, as Beijing continues to assert its dominance over an area that has become a tense flashpoint in the brewing Sino-U.S. confrontation. – Newsweek

Once meant to rally the proletariat in Mao Zedong’s China, they carry a new meaning in Hong Kong: The opposition to China’s clampdown on Hong Kong’s autonomy may be struggling, but it isn’t dead. – Bloomberg

Arthur Tam writes: The protests and crackdown of the past year have motivated young Hong Kongers to plead for another generation to realize there is more at stake than financial gain — that Hong Kong can offer more. Justifying modern atrocities in response to past atrocities guarantees no permanence of wealth, power or stability; only that cycles of violence and division continue. But, mired in massive amounts of nationalist propaganda, many older Hong Kongers seem unable to fathom this. – Washington Post

John C. Hopkins writes: The Japanese losses from the atomic strikes were tragic. But their use prevented far more pain, suffering and death than it caused. The U.S. chose the lesser of evils. – Wall Street Journal

Tom Rogan writes: In reality, China is likely to tolerate this visit as long as it is short. But what we’re seeing here is just one more flashpoint in an increasingly tense and dangerous U.S.-China relationship. – Washington Examiner


The Russian government official sounded concerned in comments to Sergei Furgal, the governor of a province in Russia’s Far East: “Your rating is going up, and the president’s is falling.”Being more popular than President Vladimir Putin is not a recipe for political longevity. Furgal was arrested last month, flown to Moscow and charged in connected with four murders in 2004 and 2005 — allegations that Putin’s opponents decry as a sham. – Washington Post

Twelve years after his country’s war with Russia, Georgian Ambassador to Israel Lasha Zhvania described the events as a cautionary tale, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Russia’s security chief described the arrest of 33 Russian private military contractors in Belarus as a presidential campaign stunt and warned Wednesday that it would have grave consequences for ties between the two neighbors and allies. – Associated Press

The United States and seven European countries marked Friday’s 12th anniversary of the conflict between Russia and Georgia with a call to Moscow to withdraw forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia and allow medical evacuations and aid deliveries especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. – Associated Press

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the United States had made progress with Russia on nuclear arms control recently and hopes China will decide to join the discussions. – Reuters

A Russian Su-27 fighter jet was scrambled to chase away two U.S. reconnaissance planes that approached the Russian border over the Black Sea on Wednesday, news agencies cited Russia’s defence ministry as saying. – Reuters

Rose Gottemoeller, Thomas Graham, Fiona Hill, Jon Huntsman Jr., Robert Legvold and Thomas R. Pickering write: Premising U.S. policy on the assumption that we can and must change that framework is misguided. Likewise, we would be unwise to think that we have no choice but to stick with current policy. We must deal with Russia as it is, not as we wish it to be, fully utilizing our strengths but open to diplomacy. So focused, we can both cope with the challenge that Russia poses and strive to put the relationship on a more constructive path. Failure to do so carries too high a price. – Politico


Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, is facing an unprecedented challenge from a 37-year-old newcomer ahead of Sunday’s presidential election, a sign of the groundswell of frustration with Mr. Lukashenko’s 26-year reign. […]Sunday’s election is likely to be the most hotly contested ever in Belarus, a strategically-placed country wedged between Russia and Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he would visit Poland and three other European countries next week, as the United States announced plans to reposition troops outside of Germany. – Agence France-Presse

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that wealthy countries in Europe and elsewhere must contribute more to regional security and spend more on defense — even more than President Trump’s strict 2% threshold. – Washington Times

Andreas Kluth writes: So the EU’s leaders are potentially facing a familiar dilemma. They know that Lukashenko, unsavory as he may be, is the best guarantor of Belarusian independence from Russia, and thus of Belarus as a buffer zone. […]As this plausible scenario right on the EU’s doorstep shows once again, it’s hard to conduct foreign policy with only the soft power of “values,” when “interests” demand instead a realism that’s wholly alien to EU diplomacy. For now, the EU’s leaders can only hope that after Sunday things turn out differently in Belarus. – Bloomberg


More than 1,300 people were killed in the first half of 2020 by armed groups in DR Congo, three times more than in the same period in 2019, according to a report published on Wednesday by the United Nations. – Agence France-Presse

Anti-government protests in Mali last month were “brutally repressed,” with demonstrators shot by security forces and bodyguards of the country’s top judge, Amnesty International said Wednesday. […]Amnesty also called for “thorough investigations” into the activities that weekend of a special government anti-terrorist unit called FORSAT.  – Agence France-Presse

The U.S. sanctioned Zimbabwean businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei, an adviser to the President Emmerson Mnangagwa, for alleged corruption it said has derailed the nation’s economic development. – Bloomberg

Egypt and Sudan suspended talks with Ethiopia after it proposed linking a deal on its newly constructed reservoir and giant hydroelectric dam to a broader agreement about the Blue Nile waters that would replace a colonial-era accord with Britain. – Associated Press

Jacob Kurtzer and Nadia Schaaphok write: The United Nations should advocate on behalf of the NGO community and ensure all qualified national and international humanitarian organizations have access to all regions of Sudan. Humanitarian organizations should continue to advocate to Khartoum and at the state level for access to Darfur and the Two Areas via regularized corridors from Khartoum. Further, the United Nations and donor states should publicly commit to a sustained UNAMID presence for the near future. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Americas

At a time of warming U.S.-Brazil relations, a diplomatic dilemma of sorts has emerged for the American ambassador: how much to embrace a polarizing president. – Associated Press

David Von Drehle writes: All of these urgent steps require a new blast of the sort of statesmanship that characterized postwar American leadership. Truman and his administration fostered the creation of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, NATO and other institutions to lend stability to a world that had become too dangerous to leave to itself. The success of American-led internationalism has become its own worst enemy. People have come to take stability for granted. – Washington Post

Mario Lopez writes: It is wrong for the socialist government in Venezuela to steal private property to enrich elite members of the ruling regime. And it is wrong for the U.S. government to ignore the property rights of private companies and court rulings that say those companies should be compensated when their rights are violated. Trump should order the Treasury Department to hold the socialist Venezuelan regime accountable for its illegal actions and move forward with compensation for the theft of private property. – Washington Examiner

Evan Ellis writes: Countries affected by the influx of Venezuelan pandemic refugees will desperately be calling on the aid of multilateral organizations, the United States, the European Union, China, and anyone else in the international community who will listen. If international politics makes a multilateral humanitarian military intervention unthinkable—as has occurred elsewhere in the world—when the international community fails to act, Venezuela’s neighbors could be forced to take matters into their own hands as a matter of national self-preservation. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Peter Vincent Pry writes: The most important lesson of Nagasaki: The United States, the most benign and humanitarian nation in history, was willing to strike Japan with all its nuclear might to achieve victory. What might dictators in Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang or Tehran do against a nuclear-weakened and deeply-demoralized America? – Washington Times


TikTok owner ByteDance has secured a potential workaround for President Trump’s plan to ban or force a sale of the popular social media app in the United States by establishing its global headquarters in the United Kingdom, a decision already approved by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. – Washington Examiner

The Trump administration said on Wednesday it was stepping up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from U.S. digital networks and called the Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok and messenger app WeChat “significant threats.” – Reuters

Facebook and Twitter have sanctioned President Donald Trump for spreading misinformation on Covid-19 on Wednesday, including blocking his campaign from tweeting until it removed an offending post. – Politico

Senators and other energy sector officials warned Wednesday that foreign adversaries are continuing to target the U.S. electric grid, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored the dangers. – The Hill

The director of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency said Wednesday that more details will be released in the future around foreign election interference efforts amid calls from congressional Democrats to release more information to the public. – The Hill

Cybersecurity professionals are warning that hackers can upend the November elections. – Washington Times

Lawmakers and a congressionally mandated commission agree that the Pentagon’s cyber operations force will likely need to grow to meet burgeoning threats. But one senator is concerned that if the Defense Department can’t attract and retain the necessary talent, then creating more cyber teams will be an exercise in futility. – C4ISRNET

TikTok has said it plans to build a $500m (£375m) data centre in Ireland. […]The announcement comes at a time when President Trump has threatened to ban the app in the US on the grounds its Chinese ownership makes it a national security risk. – BBC

Steven Stalinsky and R. Sosnow write: Every day, bots are being used by jihadis, especially on Telegram, for a wide variety of purposes. Highlighting these uses just recently was the pro-Al-Qaeda Jaysh Al-Malahim Al-Electroni Telegram channel that announced, on July 20, 2020, that it was recruiting supporters with expertise in programming, “media raids,” film montage, hacking, translation, and graphic design. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Karen Leigh, Stepan Kravchenko, and Saritha Rai write: Chinese President Xi Jinping has led the way in asserting what’s become known as cybersovereignty. That means government control over how the internet is run and used, as well as what happens with the troves of user data generated – an immensely valuable resource in the digital economy. Other authoritarian regimes have followed suit. The U.S. and other democracies also have taken steps to secure control over local data, including going after Chinese-owned apps such as TikTok, even as they defend an open internet as promoting free speech and innovation. – Bloomberg

Tim Culpan writes: MediaTek has built a good business from being a smaller, less-famous name from a little-known place in Taiwan. With Beijing-Washington tensions heating up, it now finds itself at the center of the action. The trick will be to remain indispensable without becoming collateral damage. – Bloomberg

Eli Lake writes: That’s the risk that the U.S. government is now trying to mitigate. TikTok may conform to Western norms now, as it seeks to expand its market share in places such as the U.S. and Australia. Over time, however, the situation may reverse itself. As TikTok becomes ever more popular among Westerners, their outlook on the world may more closely resemble China’s. – Bloomberg


Esper outlined an across-the-board reorientation of the Department of Defense from education to shifting priorities at global combatant commands, all with the goal to counter China’s influence and align efforts with the National Defense Strategy great power competition. – Washington Examiner

A pair of artificial intelligence projects from U.S. Army researchers are easing communication barriers that limit the relationship between AI systems and soldiers. – C4ISRNET

An anti-tank rocket first used by American troops fighting in the jungles of Vietnam is slated to get a second life with upgrades expected to make it more lethal yet safer for the U.S. service members squeezing the trigger. – Washington Times

The Missile Defense Agency is nearing its planned defense-of-Hawaii test event with an Arleigh Burke destroyer and a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, to prove the ship can serve as a back-up to ground-based homeland defense systems if needed. – USNI News

Past ship design and acquisition mistakes, such as those with the Ford-class carrier and Littoral Combat Ship programs, are leading to some extra steps in today’s shipbuilding programs to ensure no time or money is wasted again, two speakers said at a virtual naval engineering symposium this week. – USNI News

The Army — in conjunction with the Navy — is planning to conduct three flight tests of its hypersonic glide body in 2021, an ambitious schedule to initially field the weapon in fiscal 2023, according to Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, who oversees the Army’s rapid development of hypersonics, directed energy and space capabilities. — Defense News

The Army has wrapped up developmental testing for its interim short-range air defense system after experiencing a minor “hiccup” that, when paired with complications due to the coronavirus pandemic, set the program back by a few weeks, Maj. Gen. Robert Rasch, the service’s program executive officer for missiles and space, said Aug. 5. – Defense News

That’s the problem Willie Nelson is trying to solve as director of the Army’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing (APNT) Cross-Functional Team. In that role, Nelson is integrating the Army’s efforts to locate beyond-line-of-sight threats and delivering accurate targeting data to weapons systems in a timely manner.  – Defense News

A new CubeSat experiment by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), designed to explore the use of microelectronic materials in extra-terrestrial environments, could pay dividends for future capabilities fielded by the US Space Force and the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency. – Janes

Victor Davis Hanson writes: In the cruel logic of existential war, demonstrating rather than using a new weapon can convey to autocratic belligerents hesitancy seen as weakness to be manipulated rather than as magnanimity to be reciprocated. – Washington Times

Vic Mercado writes: There is no higher security requirement than deterring a nuclear attack against the U.S. homeland or our allies and partners. Today, the United States is in the early stages of comprehensively modernizing the nuclear forces to protect the United States from such an attack. Redeveloping a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile, or SLCM-N, is a vital component of our modernization plan. – Defense News

Bryan Clark and Henry Sokolski write: Armed with the answers to these questions and new technologies such as directed energy weapons or ultra-performance concrete, the United States and its East Asian allies could plan a coordinated defense against Chinese and North Korean missiles and face the threat at a lower cost and with more confidence than military planners in Tokyo or Washington currently enjoy. – Real Clear Defense

Trump Administration

Former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates told Congress on Wednesday that President Trump’s incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn in late 2016 had secretly “neutered” Obama administration actions toward Russia, prompting an investigation that consumed the early days of Trump’s presidency. – Washington Post

The acting State Department inspector general has resigned and plans to return to the private sector, stepping down as the agency’s internal watchdog as a congressional inquiry into President Trump’s May ouster of his predecessor gains steam. – Wall Street Journal

The State Department says Russia is using a well-developed online operation that includes a loose collection of proxy websites to stir up confusion around the coronavirus by amplifying conspiracy theories and misinformation. – Associated Press