Fdd's overnight brief

August 7, 2020

In The News


A day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States plans to hold a UN Security Council vote next week to extend an arms embargo against Iran. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty   

Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s top envoy for Iran, is stepping down after almost two years helping to oversee the “maximum pressure” campaign that has crippled the Iranian economy but brought the world no closer to a new deal limiting its nuclear program. – Bloomberg

Iran continues to plot against U.S. interests in Africa to this very day. In January 2020, the head of U.S. Africa Command told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran is planning attacks against Americans in Africa following the death of former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. – United Against Nuclear Iran 

An Iranian social-media Threat Network (ITN) is winning over Sunnis and supporters in Asia, Africa and Europe, a new think tank report obtained first by The Jerusalem Post reveals. – Jerusalem Post 

Ukraine expects to receive full information from Iran about the circumstances in which Iranian forces shot down an airliner in January, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Wednesday, August 5. – Radio Farda 

Claire Jungman and Daniel Roth write: Observed flows of Iranian crude oil and condensates rose slightly to 264k barrels per day (Bloomberg) in July compared to the previous month. However, there remains a huge discrepancy between what we are able to track and what Iran is still managing to export under the radar. […]Given Iran’s poor record of distinguishing between military and commercial targets (such as the downing of the Ukrainian passenger jet earlier this year), it is possible that the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) wanted to guarantee its vessels were not caught in any more friendly fire incidents. – United Against Nuclear Iran 

Behrouz Bayat writes: China can find an ally through this contract. Xi’s strategy is based on strengthening Chinese nationalism inside China and creating a bloc of authoritarian states outside the country in order to confront the Western bloc. Another possibility is that China can use its influence over countries such as Iran in its confrontation with the United States. Nevertheless, because of its intertwined dynamics with the West, China cannot be a reliable security support for Iran. – Radio Farda 


The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group will give a speech Friday in what are expected to his first public remarks on the deadly blast this week at the Beirut port. – Agence France-Presse 

Anna Ahronheim writes: So while the devastation in Beirut may have turned Hezbollah’s focus inward, instead of retaliating against Israel, the tensions along the border have yet to dissipate. Though the smoke may be clearing in the Lebanese capital, it’s never over until it’s over between the IDF and Hezbollah. Until then, the IDF and its field observers will wait, patiently, with their eyes on the border. – Jerusalem Post

Yossi Melman writes: The Israeli military’s recent signals and moves – evacuating outposts and staging the evacuation of wounded soldiers, while refraining from striking Hezbollah militants – are interesting psychological warfare moves but they also project weakness and paint the Israel Defense Forces as the strongest army in the Middle East, that shies away from engagement. – Haaretz 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Israel would be reticent to carry out any actions in Lebanon amid tensions with Hezbollah, because Israel will not want to be seen as harming Lebanon more. This means the explosion becomes a perfect smokescreen and solidarity shield for Hezbollah. For average Lebanese, it is yet another disaster in a long series of disasters. While Hezbollah will pretend to be patriotic, it will work behind the scenes to corrupt everything that comes into Lebanon in the next year. – Jerusalem Post 

 Yaakov Katz writes: Over the last 14 years, Hezbollah has amassed an unprecedented stockpile of rockets and missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel with amazing precision, and warheads the size of which have never been seen before. In the face of that threat, Israel needs to always project strength and resilience. That is how you win. –  Jerusalem Post 


Hundreds of victims of Syria’s torture chambers are only now being discovered, thanks to a new effort to identify bodies from tens of thousands of photos smuggled out of Damascus seven years ago. For their families, an image of a broken body with a number tag is all that lies at the end of the quest. – Reuters 

The Pentagon wants a way to fulfill its mission of securing the oil and defeating ISIS. The SDF understands its precarious position and that the Syrian regime is driving a hard bargain for it, while the US pressures it against talking to the regime. The US Treasury Department wants to sanction Syria but not ruin the areas in eastern Syria where there are US forces and potentially cause instability. – Jerusalem Post 

John Dunford and Will Christou write: The COVID-19 outbreak in regime-held Syria is likely spreading at a significant rate and increasing internal economic and social pressures on the Assad regime. […]The outbreaks in regime areas will likely spread to anti-Assad controlled areas in the northwest and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-held areas in the northeast, further threatening stability in those regions. – Institute for the Study of War

Danny Makki writes: As the COVID-19 crisis in Syria spirals out of control and the secrecy around the Syrian authority’s methods for dealing with it begin to fade away, the country is now braced for a turbulent and costly period. The pandemic comes at a time when the Syrian currency is under severe pressure, economic difficulties are widespread, and corruption is rampant, while the crisis in neighboring Lebanon and the Caesar Act sanctions have only made it more difficult and risky for those looking to aid Syria. – Middle East Institute


Between signing an agreement with the Libyan Government of National Accord, dividing economic rights to the Eastern Mediterranean between Tripoli and Ankara in November, and encroaching on Greece’s and Cyprus’s exclusive economic zones, conducting a seismic survey near the Greek island of Kastellorizo and putting the Hellenic Navy on alert in recent weeks, Turkey’s latest moves in the Eastern Mediterranean could mean a tempest is brewing, with implications for Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

Anna Borshchevskaya writes: Instead, policymakers should focus on building leverage and asserting their own leadership position, beyond issuing more sanctions and watching Russia and Turkey make deals that ultimately will only entrench their positions, but will bring no genuine resolution to the strife in these countries. This can only hurt American and more broadly Western interests. – Middle East Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Tunisia is on the brink of political chaos as UAE-backed politicians slam the Turkish-backed Muslim Brotherhood in that country. On July 29, reports indicated that Turkey might pause its energy exploration and hold talks with Greece. For the few hundred residents of Kastellorizo, already suffering from lack of tourists due to COVID-19, the reduction in tensions would be welcome news. – Jerusalem Post


Following a relatively quiet period on the border with the Gaza Strip, incendiary balloons launched from the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave set off three fires in Israel’s south on Thursday. – Algemeiner  

As the IDF transitions to a more connected and digitized military as part of the “Momentum” multiyear plan, hundreds of officers have completed several brigade and battalion exercises using simulators rather than drills in the field. Officers from the 401st Armored Brigade as well as from the Givati and Nahal infantry brigades were training when The Jerusalem Post visited IDF Training Command Headquarters at the Julis base near Ashkelon this week to watch as they virtually trained for a future war with Hezbollah. – Jerusalem Post   

A third intifada is being planned by Fatah, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and other Palestinian groups, PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusuf confirmed following a meeting of group members last week, according to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). – Jerusalem Post 

Dexter Van Zile writes: The subhead of Agha’s article declares that an “obscure US law concealed satellite imagery of Israel’s activities in the occupied territories” and “because of an abrupt reversal satellite technology can now be used to defend Palestinians’ human rights.” […]So in the same article, Agha told us that US law made it impossible for human rights activists to use high-definition satellite imagery to determine and report what is going on in the Levant, and then she told us that the same law, which does not apply to non-US companies, has been rendered pointless because non-US companies have been selling the so-called censored images for almost 10 years. So what was the point of the article again? – Algemeiner  

Sean Durns writes: Arab leaders also spurned terms at a subsequent London Conference which, historians Barry Rubin and Wolfgang Schwanitz noted, would have made it so “no Jewish state could ever be created.” However, as the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state – something which has never existed – wouldn’t have been immediate, the terms were rejected. –  Jerusalem Post 

Prof. Elie Podeh and Prof. Onn Winckler write: His rhetorical question was intended to demonstrate that he understood better than others the histories of the Arab states undergoing revolutions. One can argue whether Netanyahu did, indeed, understand the direction of the Arab revolutions better than others, but it is evident that he has not learned the required lessons to forestall such an occurrence in Israel. – Jerusalem Post 


Rescue workers scrambled to clear rubble left from this week’s massive explosion in a search for survivors Thursday, as the government continued its investigation into the cause of a blast that killed at least 137 people and injured thousands. – Wall Street Journal

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday promised aid to Lebanon but reassured angry citizens reeling from a blast that killed 145 people that no blank cheques will be given to its leaders unless they enact reforms and end rife corruption. – Reuters 

On August 5, 2020, one day after the massive blast in the port of Beirut, which caused immense devastation and thousands of dead and injured, Lebanese journalist Nader Fawz wrote a scathing column in the Lebanese independent online daily almodon.com in which he blamed the disaster on Lebanon’s leadership. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Cypriot police said Thursday they had questioned a Russian suspect over alleged links to a ship and its cargo of ammonium nitrate said to have caused the devastating explosion in Beirut on Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse 

Jon B. Alterman writes: The world is distracted by the novel coronavirus, and the United States is absorbed in its own set of political dramas. The odds seem low for a concerted U.S. effort. While there is no certainty that international actors can use the current crisis to push Lebanese reform, the odds are far better if the United States plays a central role in the effort. President Trump may not see much upside in the process — but the consequences of Lebanon’s failure could haunt him and his successors for years to come. – The Hill 

Zeina Karam writes: The scale of the national destruction is sure to further weaken Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government. It has struggled to implement any significant reforms since coming to power in January because of a lack of will on the part of political parties in ending the corruption from which they profit. […]All those raise massive challenges. Sustained mass protests must continue, Gerges said, even if it takes years to force out the elites and change the system. “It’s a choice between death, or renewal through struggle,” he said. – Associated Press 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Neither question is clear. But what is known is that three planes, none of them with a clear Beirut destination, seem to have landed in Beirut in the two days after the massive explosion. This is not part of their usual manifest, and if Iran was just evacuating some people, it could use one airline to do it and make several trips. If it was moving medical supplies, it would likely have a team from its media networks on the flight. – Jerusalem Post 

Arabian Peninsula

A former Saudi Arabian intelligence official claims Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman dispatched a hit squad to Canada to assassinate him less than two weeks after Saudi operatives killed dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, according to a civil suit filed Thursday in a U.S. court. – Wall Street Journal 

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen on Thursday said it shot down an explosive-laden drone heading towards the kingdom, a statement published by Saudi state news agency SPA said. – Reuters

A federal judge in San Francisco questioned whether Twitter Inc. could be sued by a Saudi dissident over the hacking of his account by company employees who allegedly helped the Saudi royal family gather intelligence on him. – Bloomberg

David Ignatius writes: MBS has claimed that Aljabri is a corrupt man who stole money while he worked for MBN at the Interior Ministry. With the filing of Aljabri’s suit, the crown prince may have to make his arguments in court. But for now, we’re left with the Interpol judgment rejecting his bid to obtain Aljabri’s return. – Washington Post  

Neville Teller writes: By early 2020, US companies were in serious negotiations with Saudi authorities about a planned tender for nuclear reactor construction in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, several US senators have warned the administration against a nuclear cooperation deal with Saudi Arabia, fearing it could set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. But that possibility has been present ever since the nuclear deal with Iran was passed. It is the Obama legacy. – Jerusalem Post 

Przemysław Osiewicz writes: Taking the above-mentioned initiatives into consideration, it’s clear that the EU is proactively trying to support the peace process and provide Yemenis with humanitarian aid, adopting a multidimensional approach. The longer the conflict lasts, the worse it will be for the EU, and a peaceful settlement is a necessary step toward stabilizing the situation in the broader Middle East. In addition, EU officials are paying attention to the humanitarian dimension of the conflict and the protection of human rights. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on three individuals and a Malta-based company, accusing them of acting as a network of smugglers and contributing to instability in Libya. – Reuters

Egypt and Greece on Thursday signed a maritime deal that sets the sea boundary between the two countries and demarcates an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights. – Associated Press 

Sigurd Neubauer writes: But what is less understood, however, is that Israel also played a decisive role in stabilizing the conflict as well. Even though the two countries had not had any diplomatic contact since 2012, it quietly extended Doha a diplomatic lifeline by accelerating plans to work together on reconstructing Gaza, which changed the narrative in Washington away from Qatar supporting Hamas to one that focused on its leveraging its relationship with Hamas to get all the parties to cooperate in support of the Trump-administration’s peace plan. – Foreign Policy 

Korean Peninsula

The U.S. and South Korea plan to start their third major combined military exercise using computer simulations as early as next week, two years after President Trump ordered field drills to be scaled back. – Wall Street Journal 

Decades later, the former P.O.W., now 86, scored a landmark legal victory when the Seoul Central District Court ordered North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un, to pay him the equivalent of $17,600 in damages for holding him against his will ​and ​forcing him to work in the mines. ​ The verdict marked the first time that a court in the South recognized P.O.W.s who were illegally held in the North — an acknowledgment of their suffering there. – New York Times 

A South Korean farmers’ cooperative said on Thursday it has clinched a $150 million deal to barter sugar for North Korean liquor and food products, bypassing sanctions banning cash transfers. – Reuters

Despite the troubles, North Korea has rejected the offer made by President Donald Trump’s administration for the “complete, verifiable and irreversible” dismantling of North Korea’s atomic arsenal before it can receive relief from sanctions choking its paltry economy. – Bloomberg


A Chinese court imposed the death penalty on a Canadian citizen charged with producing illicit drugs, in a case that could further strain already frayed ties between Beijing and Ottawa. – Wall Street Journal

As Sino-American relations have reached new lows recently, the most visible reaction in China has been anger. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese companies with shares traded on U.S. stock exchanges would be forced to give up their listings unless they comply with U.S. audit requirements under a plan recommended Thursday by the Trump administration. – Wall Street Journal 

China has long been an important destination for U.S. companies. In the June quarter, the world’s second-largest economy became a vital refuge for many of them as China’s rebounding consumer economy helped offset the damage from tumbling sales back home. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s top diplomat said Wednesday that the country has no intention of involving itself in the internal affairs of other nations and “becoming another United States.” – The Hill

Henry Olsen writes: Azar’s trip — though symbolic — shows that the Trump administration is not willing to go down the appeasement route. This is a fraught strategy and the stakes are high. Let’s hope the United States and the West are able to follow through to curtail China’s ambitions before it’s too late. – Washington Post 

James R. Holmes writes: Turnabout is fair play in diplomacy and warfare. PLA commanders can try to deny the U.S. armed forces access to Western Pacific seas, skies and shores all they like. But American commanders can reciprocate if they apply intellect and material resources to this strategic problem, and do so with imagination and verve. Lawmakers should make sure they do. – The Hill

Michael Kofman writes: Geopolitical shifts, crises and events will present opportunities which can be seized, but the inevitable outcome of U.S. strategy today is to engage in activities that will only further increase Sino-Russian comity. […]The U.S. goal at this stage should not be to stop it, but to recognize the strategic implications and potential costs for U.S. strategy in these respective contests and seek to mitigate the effects by leveraging its own network of allies and partners as potential counter-balancers. – War on the Rocks

Ross Babbage, Jack Bianchi, Julian Snelder, Toshi Yoshihara, Aaron Friedberg and Nadège Rolland write: Drawing upon expert analysis of current conditions, three to four overarching scenarios for China should be considered as potential guideposts over the next 15 years. Each outcome would include a series of lead indicators, allowing analysts to determine which future scenario China is headed towards, prepare for potential alternatives in advance, and make adjustments to strategies, operational concepts, and military and security systems when necessary. – Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

Anna Lehman-Ludwig writes: The increased scrutiny of Chinese owned companies in recent months raises questions about how the U.S. might respond to these companies’ operations and mitigate the risks posed to American users. As the U.S. government weighs potential bans and export controls, it must closely consider the unique governance structures of these corporations in order to effectively evaluate the risks they pose and to implement proportionate controls and countermeasures. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The following report compiles all significant security incidents confirmed by New York Times reporters throughout Afghanistan from the past seven days. It is necessarily incomplete as many local officials refuse to confirm casualty information. The report includes government claims of insurgent casualty figures, but in most cases these cannot be independently verified by The Times. Similarly, the reports do not include Taliban claims for their attacks on the government unless they can be verified. Both sides routinely inflate casualty totals for their opponents. – New York Times

Thousands of Afghan elders, community leaders and politicians gathered on Friday to debate government efforts to make peace with the Taliban, in particular the fate of 400 hard-core Taliban prisoners whose release could clear the way for talks. – Reuters

The Pakistani military said one of its soldiers was killed and two others wounded by cross-border shelling from Afghanistan. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Taliban militants and Afghan civilians have been killed in attacks and clashes across Afghanistan amid peace efforts aimed at ending the nearly 19-year war. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

South Asia

India’s defence ministry has warned, in a statement since removed from its website, that a military standoff with China that began with border fighting in June is likely to be a long one, despite multiple rounds of talks between the nuclear-armed rivals to defuse the tension. – Reuters

Facebook has objected to a request from Gambia, which has accused Myanmar at the World Court of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority, to release posts and communications by members of Myanmar’s military and police. – Reuters

The U.S. and India will hold ministerial meetings and discussions later this year, according to a State Department read out issued after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s phone call with Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. – Bloomberg


Two dozen democracy advocates in Hong Kong were charged on Thursday with taking part in an annual vigil honoring the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the latest sign of the aggressive clampdown on dissent in the semiautonomous Chinese territory. – New York Times 

The offer was presented as a favor to Hong Kong, a city struggling with a surge in coronavirus infections: a team of 60 medical officials from mainland China who would help expand testing across the city.But it is being viewed with skepticism by some residents, who worry about the growing reach of the Chinese Communist Party and the testing project’s potential implications for their privacy. – New York Times 

In recent months, the drumbeat of workers and families leaving the city has picked up pace, and executive recruiters say China’s recent imposition of a new national-security law in the city is already making it harder for them to convince job candidates from the West to relocate to Hong Kong. – Wall Street Journal 

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong filed a court challenge on Friday against his disqualification from district polls, in a move which may have implications for this year’s removals of opposition candidates for the city’s legislature. – Reuters

Health Secretary Alex Azar said on Thursday his upcoming trip to Taiwan was designed to reaffirm the U.S. partnership with the Asian country, which he praised for its transparency and cooperation in the public health field. – Reuters

A villager in Tajikistan has been killed in a shooting incident across the Tajik-Kyrgyz border. Both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan report that an officer from Kyrgyzstan’s Border Guard Service also was wounded by the cross-border gunfire early on August 6. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

James Kynge writes: Pessimists argue, however, that with US-China relations at their lowest ebb since the 1970s, political antagonism may triumph, leading Beijing to take punitive action using the law against US and western interests in the city. If that happens, a mass exodus from Asia’s business hub becomes yet more possible. – Financial Times

Joshua Espeña and Chelsea Uy Bomping write: The meaning of the statement is important to consider as Brunei looks to take regional leadership with the ASEAN chairmanship in 2021. Moreover, the launch of its long-overdue defense white paper in 2021 will project just how Brunei intends to position itself in Southeast Asia in line with its strategic objectives. With the arrival of the white paper, it may be anticipated that Brunei’s foreign and defense policies will synchronize in time for its ASEAN chairmanship. – War on the Rocks


As a result of the informer’s work and subsequent testimony as a prosecution witness in what became known as the “New Greatness Case,” a Moscow court on Thursday found seven original members of the group guilty of “creating an extremist society” with intent to “prepare or commit extremist crimes.” – New York Times   

Moscow has wanted Minsk to integrate with Russia, pushing for tighter ties under a union state that was created in the 1990s but exists largely on paper. Lukashenka showed little enthusiasm for the effort, mainly because of expectations he would lose his job, or worse. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

The geopolitical environment for the Arctic has been substantially affected by the renewal of great power competition. Although there continues to be significant international cooperation on Arctic issues, the Arctic is increasingly viewed as an arena for geopolitical competition among the United States, Russia, and China. Russia in recent years has enhanced its military presence and operations in the Arctic. – USNI News

Henry Foy writes: If that election was the warning signal that the Kremlin had lost touch with the people of Khabarovsk, the events of the past month have made it stark. […]The protest movement — the largest and longest-running since Mr Putin rose to power more than 20 years ago — is the latest in a growing number of regional campaigns over the past year, sparked by public anger over issues ranging from rubbish heaps in northern Russia to plans to bulldoze a city park in Siberia and build a cathedral in its place. – Financial Times

Sergey Radchenko and Baurzhan Rakhmetov write: A stable democracy is, after all, first and foremost a matter of developing good political habits. The longer the habit holds, the easier it is to sustain. But every reset triggers a return to the starting line and perhaps another chance at transitioning to true democracy. The experience of Russia’s immediate neighborhood shows that such chances have been consistently squandered. – Foreign Policy


The Justice Department on Thursday accused a Ukrainian oligarch who has been considered an ally of Ukraine’s president of stealing billions of dollars from a bank he once owned, then using a vast array of companies to launder that money in the United States and all over the world. – Washington Post 

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has ordered his government to invite Ukrainian and Russian prosecutors to Belarus to investigate a group of 33 mercenaries from the private Russian security firm Vagner Group who’ve been detained in Minsk. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

A gunman who took six people hostage in a bank in northern France on Thursday surrendered to elite police after a six-hour operation to free his captives. – Reuters

Three Republican senators have issued a dire warning to operators of a small German port, threatening them with “crushing” sanctions for allegedly providing supplies to Russian vessels involved in a pipeline project the United States vehemently opposes. – Associated Press 

Facing an unprecedented challenge as he bids to win a sixth term as president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko has resorted to lashing out at Russia to try to rally public support going into Sunday’s election. Vladimir Putin may not let him savor victory for long. – Bloomberg

Huawei might be facing the heat, but so far Europe is playing it cool with Chinese video-sharing app TikTok. – Politico

Flushed with their success at changing UK government policy towards Huawei, rebel Conservative MPs are now turning their attention to a proposed Chinese project to build a nuclear power station at Bradwell-on-Sea in the south-east of England. – Financial Times 

Antisemitism remains a widespread phenomenon among Muslims in the UK, especially among those who live in communities where comparatively few non-Muslims reside, a new report has revealed. – Algemeiner  

Editorial: This mix of cynicism and naiveté encourages Russian aggression, whereas a unified U.S.-European threat of greater economic isolation would cause Mr. Putin to think twice about another military intervention. Washington and Brussels can’t control what happens in Belarus, but statements of “deep concern” aren’t enough. Elites in Minsk and Moscow need to know they will face serious costs for obstructing the democratic will of the Belarussian people. – Wall Street Journal

Leon Aron writes: In the end, the best outcome for Russia is obstreperous Lukashenko’s emerging after the August 9 voting weakened but victorious, and able to suppress the brewing revolt. The alternative — a victorious color revolution — will not be acceptable to Moscow. Washington should be ready for either development. – American Enterprise Institute

Matt Maldonado writes: However, it’s clear that the Belarusian leader is playing an exceedingly risky political game. His dogged determination to win a sixth term has caused Lukashenko to jeopardize his country’s relationship with its largest trading and military partner. As a result, even if he perseveres in Sunday’s election, the Belarusian president could soon discover that his political future is still decidedly uncertain amid a widening rift with Russia. – The National Interest


Families of the Americans killed in a truck bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya will go to Arlington National Cemetery on Friday to visit the gravesites of their loved ones, as they have for 22 years, on every anniversary of the attack. – Washington Post 

Seven people were killed and 17 wounded in ethnic clashes over land rights in Kasai, a vast region in central Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials said on Thursday. […]The UN’s peacekeeping force in DR Congo also sent a fact-finding mission. – Defense Post 

Bobby Ghosh writes: Foreign powers unconditionally supporting an unpopular secular leader in the face of Islamist opposition because of the threat of terrorism — we’ve seen this movie before, and it doesn’t end well. By pushing for reforms in Bamako, Macron can ensure that the story plays out differently in Mali. – Bloomberg

The Americas

The United States government on Thursday became, for a brief moment, one of the biggest and perhaps most annoying telemarketers in Russia. Seeking to publicize new rewards of up to $10 million for information about people trying to attack American voting systems, the State Department sent text messages to cellphones in Russia as well as Iran. – New York Times 

In May, a fleet of ships set sail for fuel-starved Venezuela with Iranian gasoline, stunning international observers who wondered if the two nations would so blatantly defy U.S. sanctions efforts in a Caribbean Sea patrolled by the U.S. Navy. – Bloomberg 

A Polish-language newspaper in Toronto has published an article blaming Jews for the coronavirus pandemic. – Jerusalem Post  

Adam Scheinman writes: For all the ferment on the question of disarmament’s effect on nonproliferation, the fact is that little more is known today than when the Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force half a century ago. […]With some modesty, one might conclude there is no a priori pathway to safety in a nuclear-weapon-capable world and that the best option is to rely on a mix of strategies, even when elements are in tension with one another. After all, good, practicable strategies often involve trade-offs among objectives. – War on the Rocks


President Trump issued a pair of executive orders that would impose new limits on Chinese social-media apps TikTok and WeChat, escalating tensions with Beijing and effectively setting a 45-day deadline for an American company to purchase TikTok’s U.S. operations. – Wall Street Journal 

David Adrian posted passionately about American politics, sharing adulatory memes on Facebook about President Trump and recirculating material from his reelection campaign. […]Facebook on Thursday said Adrian’s accounts were part of a coordinated network of accounts and pages originating in Romania and posing as conservative Americans supportive of the U.S. president’s reelection. – Washington Post 

The U.S. Air Force has realigned one of its contracting offices to better link cyber and intelligence activities. – C4ISRNET

Twitter said it would start labeling accounts from “state-affiliated media” and take other steps to try to limit the spread of government-led influence campaigns. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

A 350% increase in phishing websites was reported in the first quarter of the year, many targeting hospitals and health care systems and hindering their work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.N. counterterrorism chief said Thursday. – Associated Press 

The State Department on Wednesday night announced it would offer a $10 million reward to anyone who could provide information on individuals working with foreign governments to interfere in U.S. elections through cyber operations. – The Hill

The State Department’s top cyber policy official, who has spent the last few years warning U.S. allies about the dangers of relying on companies like China’s Huawei Technologies Co. to build 5G networks, is resigning to work on policy issues on behalf of technology companies. – Bloomberg

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, has threatened a broad crackdown on Chinese tech companies with access to American data, including barring an unspecified number of the country’s apps and limiting its cloud computing groups that operate on American soil. – Financial Times


Recent flight tests of the F-16V fighter jet incorporated a new version of the pilot’s helmet that introduces a visor with optical inertial trackers and is designed to provide improved durability, accuracy and comfort for long flights. – C4ISRNET

U.S. Special Operations Command could order up to $172 million worth of inflatable satellite communications terminals under a new five-year contract with GATR Technologies, a subsidiary of Cubic Corp. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. Air Force is on track to begin permanently basing its F-35 jets abroad next year, with RAF Lakenheath in England set to become the service’s first international F-35 base. But construction on new hangars and facilities necessary for supporting the high-tech stealth jet have gone over budget and over schedule, and many buildings won’t be ready when the first planes arrive in November 2021. – Defense News

The Army grappled with the difficult challenge of incorporating heavy robotic combat vehicles into its formations during a month-long experiment at Fort Carson, Colorado, and came away with a clearer path to bringing robots into the fold while it is still years away from ground robots fitting in seamlessly with units. – Defense News

The Government Accountability Office is warning the Army its approach to cost estimates and technical development for its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program is risky and should be amended, according to an August 6 report. – Defense News

Newport News Shipbuilding has seen a disproportionate amount of its COVID-19-related delays and inefficiencies hit its Virginia-class attack submarine production line, as the yard has prioritized its available workforce on supporting maintenance for in-service submarines and aircraft carriers, the company’s CEO told investors today. – USNI News

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Navy are formalizing a partnership on unmanned maritime systems and the policies that will govern their operations, as each organization stakes out their own unmanned futures. – USNI News

Missile Defense

Land-based ICBM launch silos are destroyed, nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines have been found and neutralized, nuclear-capable aircraft cannot get over enemy airspace and the continental U.S. is suffering a catastrophic nuclear weapons attack. – Fox News 

The Army recently released footage of their newest hypersonic missile, the Common Hypersonic Glide Body. The missile, jointly developed with the Navy, is intended to provide a measure of deterrence against adversaries, and to preserve America’s battlefield edge, if necessary. – The National Interest 

The United States is negotiating the sale of at least four sophisticated aerial drones to Taiwan for the first time, according to six U.S. sources familiar with the negotiations, aircraft that can keep watch over huge swathes of sea and land. The SeaGuardian surveillance drones have a range of 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 km), far greater than the 160-mile range of Taiwan’s current fleet of drones, potentially giving the island greater capacity to peer into China, observing its air force, missiles and other facilities. – Reuters 

William Schneider writes: The United States should apply the same rigor to the State Department’s case-by-case munitions licensing system for the export of UAS that is currently applied to manned systems, but should otherwise make no distinction between manned and unmanned systems. – Hudson Institute

Trump Administration

A bill that Democratic and Republican senators introduced on Thursday would ban the sale of advanced armed drones to any nation that is not a close ally of the United States, according to lawmakers and congressional aides. – New York Times

Amid escalating tensions with both North Korea and Iran, President Donald Trump’s advisers hesitated to give him military options fearing the President might accidentally take the US to war and deliberately informed their counterparts in both countries that they did not know what the President would do next, multiple former administration officials tell me. – CNN

Attorney General William Barr has promised to formally rule out the death penalty for two notorious ISIS detainees to ensure that the British government can provide evidence against them, relatives of the victims told NBC News after speaking with Barr by phone Thursday. – NBC News