Fdd's overnight brief

December 10, 2020

In The News


Iran has blacklisted the US ambassador in Yemen, the Iranian foreign ministry said on Wednesday, a day after Washington imposed terrorism-related sanctions on Tehran’s envoy to the Yemeni Houthis. – Reuters 

The UN’s nuclear watchdog has warned against any further escalation in the wake of the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakrizadeh. – Sky News (UK)

The ultraconservative former chief of Iran’s judiciary, Mohammad Yazdi, has died at the age of 89, the official IRNA state news agency reported. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Kermanshah Prosecutor Shahram Karami says Iran’s security forces have arrested four people for advertising with live models in a promotional video. – Radio Farda

China urged the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal. – Newsweek

Jordan Steckler writes: Iran views education as a core component of its mission to propagate Khomeinist and anti-Western ideology at home and abroad and has accordingly invested heavily in international university endeavors. Ayatollah Khomeini sought the creation of a revolutionary, clerical vanguard to educate the masses of Iran and other Islamic countries in order to impel them to rise up against what he considered “illegitimate” forms of government. – United Against Nuclear Iran

Ari Morgenstern writes: Biden’s desire to see a durable agreement with Iran and an end to the Islamic Republic’s perennial status as a pariah state is laudable. But success won’t be realized without speaking the one language Iran’s rulers understand: strength. – Haaretz 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Britain, France and Germany already expressed concern about Iran’s advanced centrifuges at the Natanz site this week. The new photos show that there is a concerted campaign to reveal to the world the extent of Iran’s troubling activities. The end goal of this is likely to slow down the western desire to embrace or appease Iran’s nuclear ambitions until Iran returns to the guidelines of the 2015 deal. – Jerusalem Post

Ehud Eilam writes: We might also see US threats to use force against Iran, but that is unlikely to happen. At most, the United States, unofficially, might allow Israel to strike Iran. Israel will certainly not let Iran produce a nuclear weapon. Israel barely accepts that Iran has a nuclear program. Therefore, Israel might attack Iran, despite all the risks, hoping to receive significant US military and political support during and after the raid. – Jerusalem Post

Mohammed Al-Sulami writes: Such justifications are intended to confuse the U.S. position on Iran, in addition to increasing support for Rouhani’s “reformist” government and the political bloc backing it in the domestic political contest between Iranian “reformists” and “hardliners.” It should be noted that any U.S. return to the nuclear deal under an Iranian government whose term is about to end is a bad bet which will leave Washington with little leverage or way to influence Iran’s regime on the nuclear deal, its missile program, or its hostile regional behavior. – The National Interest  

Amir Toumaj writes: In the aftermath of the brazen assassination of Iran’s top nuclear official and military officer, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iranian officials and media outlets have offered up multiple conflicting, and often bizarre, accounts of how he died, even as Tehran scrambles to respond to the massive security breach. – The Daily Beast


Madrid does not plan to ban Hezbollah in its entirety, in keeping with EU policy, Spanish Foreign Minister María Aránzazu González Laya said during a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon’s Hezbollah is suing the estranged brother of the country’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri after he accused the militant group of being responsible for the massive explosion at Beirut’s port earlier this year, a TV station reported Wednesday. – Associated Press

Hanin Ghaddar writes: Despite Lebanon’s deteriorating financial and economic situation, the country’s political elite have made clear that they will not implement reforms laid out by the international community as prerequisites for a bailout. In their view, the changes specified by the IMF, the World Bank, and the French-sponsored aid framework CEDRE would mean the eventual collapse of their political class, whose corruption and illegal business dealings are protected and encouraged by Hezbollah. – Washington Institute


No longer restrained by President Trump’s affection for Turkey’s authoritarian leader, U.S. officials and Congress are using the waning days of his presidency to ready sanctions and strike a strident tone against the strategic but unreliable ally. – New York Times

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled he’s interested in resolving differences with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, a vocal critic, as the Turkish government finds itself increasingly at odds with world powers. – Bloomberg

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, for a two-day visit with officials of Ankara’s close ally. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The EU will prepare new sanctions against Turkey over the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean, under proposals to be discussed by European leaders at a summit this week. – Financial Times

David Gardner writes: After the United Arab Emirates normalised relations with Israel this year, Turkey moved to patch up a decade-old row with the Israelis part, diplomats say, of its rivalry with the UAE. Indeed, a senior Turkish official scorns what he sees as Emirati aims to supplant Turkey in western eyes […]. Mr Erdogan’s bluster and belligerence can hardly be ignored, but there are signs Turkey still wants to be that country. The EU and the west should explore and exploit all such signs. – Financial Times


Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi announced on Wednesday that she had submitted her resignation from the pan-Palestinian organization. – Times of Israel 

Preparations are underway for an official visit to Egypt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming days, in what would be the first such trip by an Israeli leader in a decade, according to several Hebrew-language media reports. – Times of Israel

The Foreign Ministry reprimanded Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov on Wednesday over remarks he made in an interview with The Jerusalem Post this week. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The overall feeling at GITEX was that Israel has entered a new world through the Abraham Accords and this is giving many countries that might have been hostile to Israel a chance to meet and see the innovations that Israelis are creating. It made Israel and the companies feel part of the region in a way that is unusual and unprecedented. – Jerusalem Post


A government-commissioned study in the wake of the disaster says the 50-year-old silos could collapse at any moment and should be demolished, sparking an emotional debate among the city’s residents over how to preserve the memory of the tragedy. In Lebanon, where a culture of impunity has long prevailed and where those behind violent attacks, bombings and assassinations have rarely been brought to justice, the debate is steeped in suspicion. – Associated Press 

A prominent Lebanese politician said on Thursday it seemed there would be no “white smoke” soon to signal the formation of a new government, indicating more deadlock after the prime minister-designate presented a draft cabinet line-up. – Reuters 

Itzhak Levanon writes: The intensity of the conflagration due to the Beirut Port blast in August, which destroyed a significant part of the city, also damaged the Lebanese capital’s central synagogue, Maghen Abraham. The synagogue is located in the former Jewish quarter, known as Wadi Abu Jamil, a few kilometers from the seaport and near the private house of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. – Jerusalem Post 

Gulf States

The Trump administration remains on course to complete a controversial $23 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates after bipartisan Senate efforts to block the deal failed to gain enough support to clear a critical procedural hurdle Wednesday. – Washington Post 

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Wednesday it intercepted and destroyed two explosive-laden boats south of the Red Sea, Saudi state TV reported. – Reuters

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s lawyer has asked a U.S. court to dismiss a case filed by a former top-ranking Saudi intelligence official, claiming it has no jurisdiction over the prince, according to court documents viewed by Reuters. – Reuters 

Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch write: Though the resolutions stood little chance of blocking the sales even if passed—Trump threatened to veto the measures if it came across his desk—lawmakers proceeded with the vote anyway. Congressional aides said the move was meant to lay down a marker for the administration and to send a signal to the incoming administration that they are unlikely to support U.S. arms sales to the Gulf and U.S. military support for the Saudi- and UAE-led coalition in Yemen. – Foreign Policy

Middle East & North Africa

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday said she was dropping a preliminary probe into alleged war crimes by British troops in Iraq, even though she found a reasonable basis to believe they committed atrocities. – Reuters 

 Eli Lake writes: None of this is to say that Austin’s role in the U.S. withdrawal in 2011 is disqualifying. He was serving a president who campaigned on ending the Iraq war. Biden says Austin’s command of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq showed a mastery of logistics, which will be important for a defense secretary who will oversee the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. – Bloomberg

Stephen Zunes writes: Virtually no country recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The U.N., for its part, has affirmed that Western Sahara is a non-self-governing territory—a verdict repeated by a landmark ruling of the International Court of Justice Still, recognition only goes so far when the occupying power refuses to budge: The U.N.’s peacekeeping and human-rights operations in Western Sahara have been severely curtailed by Rabat—and key allies with veto power on the U.N. Security Council. – Foreign Policy 

Alexander Langlois writes: This is an outline for a renewed foreign policy doctrine that the Biden administration must consider for the MENA region, as well as globally. Diplomacy and human rights constitute the core of international peace and security, of which the United States has historically helped build through multilateral cooperation and military restraint. However, its recent unilateral path, driven by militarism in both weapons sales and military intervention, continues to harm its legitimacy and will contribute to the MENA region’s destabilization. – The National Interest

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s ruling party is pushing a law through parliament that would criminalize sending leaflets, flash drives and money to North Korea, in what the opposition calls a “disgraceful submission” to Pyongyang and human rights groups say will stifle freedom of expression and humanitarian work. – Washington Post

Kim Yo Jong, 32 years old, is a senior North Korean official helping oversee the country’s policies toward the U.S. and South Korea, according to Seoul’s intelligence agency. She is a full member of North Korea’s Politburo and often at her brother’s side during key events in the one-party state. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea, quiet on foreign relations for months, vilified a top Seoul official over her recent remarks about Pyongyang’s pandemic response and deployed an increasingly familiar mouthpiece, Kim Yo Jong, sister of the regime’s leader. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. President Donald Trump’s top North Korea envoy urged Kim Jong Un to return to talks, while expressing disappointment that negotiations since the two leaders first met didn’t achieve more. – Bloomberg 

President Donald Trump radically changed the U.S. approach to North Korea, and President-elect Joe Biden may have no choice but to follow in his footsteps if he hopes to achieve progress toward peace on the peninsula, analysts and former officials told Newsweek. – Newsweek


The Trump administration, using its anticorruption powers, sanctioned three men including a convicted Chinese gangster who has set up businesses seeking to benefit from Beijing’s flagship transcontinental infrastructure-building program. – Wall Street Journal 

For two years, the Canadian men have been held in separate prisons in northern China, largely cut off from the rest of the world. They have been accused of espionage, without evidence, and forced to go months without visits from diplomats. They have waited as their cases have meandered through China’s opaque legal system, despite calls around the world for their release. – New York Times

China is revoking visa exemption treatment for United States diplomat passport holders visiting Hong Kong and Macau, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news conference in Beijing on Thursday. – Reuters 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused U.S. universities of caving to Chinese pressure to blunt or bar criticism of the Chinese Communist Party. The attack, which included identifying two university administrators by name, comes as the Trump administration seeks to cement its anti-China policies before leaving office in January. – Associated Press 

The Chinese embassy in the U.S. said its Twitter account was hacked after it retweeted a baseless claim from President Donald Trump that the Democrats cheated in the election. – CNBC 

China said on Thursday Wan Kuok Koi is not a member of China People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), in response to the United States imposing sanctions on Wan. – Reuters 

A Chinese professor’s speech boasting about Beijing’s influence over President-elect Joe Biden was removed from the country’s social media platforms after going viral in the U.S., underscoring how sensitive ties between the world’s two biggest economies are after strife under Donald Trump. – Bloomberg 

Hope is fading for a significant change in U.S.-China relations under President-elect Joe Biden, Alicia Garcia-Herrero, Natixis’ chief economist for Asia-Pacific, said on Thursday – CNBC

A citizen journalist detained for more than six months after reporting on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has had a feeding tube forcibly inserted and her arms restrained to stop her pulling it out, her lawyer has claimed. – The Guardian 

Muslims in China’s Xinjiang were “arbitrarily” selected for arrest by a computer program that flagged purportedly suspicious behavior, activists said Wednesday in a report detailing big data’s role in repression in the restive region. The U.S.-based NGO Human Rights Watch said leaked police data that listed over 2,000 detainees from the Aksu prefecture was further evidence of “how China’s brutal repression of Xinjiang’s Turkic Muslims is being turbocharged by technology.” – CBS News 

Hal Brands writes: Ever since the U.S. reached the pinnacle of global power after World War II, Americans have worried it wouldn’t remain there. Waves of “declinism” rolled across the country after Sputnik in the late 1950s, the Vietnam War, the oil shocks of the 1970s, the rise of Japan in the 1980s, and the Iraq War and the global financial crisis of the 2000s. Now, amid a global pandemic and at the onset of a long struggle with China, the question of American decline has taken on renewed urgency – Bloomberg

Edward Lucas writes: The CCP implements this strategy with decisive leadership, as well as a clear-eyed appreciation of and means of exploiting foreign diplomatic, economic, political, and social weaknesses. These “sharp power” tactics include censorship and manipulation of the information system, cyberoperations, leverage of trade and investment, propaganda, and military bluff and intimidation. – Foreign Policy


Gunmen shot and killed a female television journalist, who was also a women’s rights activist, in Afghanistan on Thursday, an incident that underscores an increasing trend of violence against journalists in the country. – Reuters 

NATO says an increase in attacks carried out by the Taliban threatens to derail Afghanistan peace process talks whose terms have just been hammered out. – Newsweek 

The Taliban is employing a fight-and-talk strategy in Afghanistan, seeking to gain leverage in peace talks through gains on the battlefield. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Barnett R. Rubin writes: Although its relations with China and Russia are otherwise in a downward spiral, the United States shares an interest with both countries in stabilizing Afghanistan. A political settlement that enjoys the support of Afghanistan’s neighbors wouldn’t just reduce the need for U.S. troops; it could serve as the foundation of a more ambitious and effective Asia policy. – Foreign Affairs

James Stavridis writes: These days, it is popular to say that twenty years is too long, and that we should just leave Afghanistan to the Afghans. Such a view is understandable, but this moment with relatively few troops in the country, infrequent casualties, and reasonable financial burden-sharing by the international community is not the time to suddenly pull out. Keep the negotiations alive, retain a modest level of military pressure, and keep the financial lifeline in place: we can still achieve a modest but important success in this most challenging of places. – TIME

South Asia

Pakistan’s military said Thursday that two soldiers were killed by Indian fire in Kashmir overnight, with each side blaming the other for the latest violence in the disputed Himalayan region. – Associated Press 

India and Australia are in discussions for a bilateral free trade agreement, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Wednesday, following New Delhi’s decision to walk out of a China-backed trade bloc. – Reuters 

Anik Joshi writes: Congress doesn’t need a childless leader, but it doesn’t need to be tied to the mast of the Nehru-Gandhi clan either. A non-Gandhi might be able to mount a serious challenge to Modi. As former Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha has written, the history of India and the Indian National Congress are closely tied. If the country is to stay a democracy, the party must do so as well, and they must act before it’s too late to make a difference. – Foreign Policy


Facing charges related to his activism, Ted Hui, a former Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker, flew to Denmark last week ostensibly to discuss climate and sustainability issues — topics innocuous enough for a court to release his passport and allow his departure. – Washington Post

Japan’s vice defense minister said he’s eager to hear details of the new Biden administration’s policies toward Taiwan, adding that Biden’s stance on China-Taiwan frictions would be a focus for him in 2021. – Bloomberg 

A Taiwan television station at the centre of a dispute over media freedom that could be forced off the air this week has received a boost to its online presence, a senior executive said on Thursday, as it prepares to shift its focus to the internet. – Reuters 

China will temporarily impose anti-subsidy fees on some Australian wine imports from Dec. 11, the commerce ministry said on Thursday, ramping up pressure on the industry amid rising tensions between the two nations. – Reuters 

Taiwan may be acquiring U.S.-built MQ-9 Reaper drones according to a U.S. State Department Congressional notification, a move which could massively improve Taiwan’s electronic eyes on vital areas of the Chinese coastline and waters between them and the mainland. – The National Interest

The United States has imposed sanctions against former Kyrgyz customs official Raimbek Matraimov, a wealthy and influential political player who is currently under house arrest in Kyrgyzstan. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

A former intelligence analyst who suspects he was denied a high-level security clearance because of his links to China says Australia must overhaul its accreditation process. – The Guardian


Russia’s military conducted sweeping drills of its strategic nuclear forces that featured several practice missile launches on Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Authorities in Denmark say they have charged a Russian citizen living in the Scandinavian country with espionage for allegedly providing information about Danish energy technology to Russia. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Editorial: In a broad sense, Mr. Putin may be seeking to score political goals, such as forcing Americans out of Afghanistan, disrupting the U.S. election or spoiling the U.S. rapprochement with Cuba. Or his attacks may serve tactical ends: weakening U.S. cyberdefenses; tormenting U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers serving abroad. – Washington Post

Benjamin Schmitt writes: Like the passing of the seasons, the Kremlin’s playbook for malign energy activities comes around year after year. Whether it is using energy infrastructure proposals to export strategic corruption into the Transatlantic community, advancing schemes aimed at challenging Western legal norms, or engaging in disinformation campaigns to undermine Transatlantic consensus, Putin’s energy strategy is nothing if not consistently damaging. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The government of President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday proposed legislation to outlaw a broad array of activity that it defines as forms of “Islamist separatism,” from the abuse of home schooling to online hate speech. – Wall Street Journal 

Talks between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Union’s top official ended without breakthrough Wednesday night with both sides saying they would decide on the future of the talks by Sunday. – Wall Street Journal 

European leaders plan to use a summit that starts Thursday to agree on a sweeping new strategy to rebuild strained relations with the United States, after four years of a divide-and-conquer approach from President Trump. – Washington Post

Hungary and Poland’s decision to block $2.2 trillion in European Union funds — including emergency pandemic financial aid — has deepened an existential crisis in the 27-member block over the fundamental liberal values it is supposed to represent. – Washington Post

The European Union and the United States should work together to stand up to coercive Chinese diplomacy and coordinate with other countries in the region on the disputed South China Sea, the EU ambassador to China said on Thursday. – Reuters 

For much of the past decade and a half, the EU could generally count on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to come to the rescue. But between the coronavirus pandemic, the dragged-out Brexit talks, a budget stalemate, and an array of geopolitical tensions especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, the year 2020 has turned into such a hellscape of policy problems, even Europe’s steady-handed matriarch has found herself outmatched. – Politico 

Henry M. Paulson Jr. writes: America’s leadership in financial services is a core strength of the U.S. economy. But this mantle of leadership isn’t preordained. If it is to endure, America needs to play to the strengths that have made its capital markets the envy of the world. At the same time it must craft a smarter approach to dealing with China, one that avoids unnecessary conflict and takes advantage of the opportunities that exist to attract more capital. – Wall Street Journal


As the fighting in Tigray continues, it is degenerating into a guerrilla war that could unravel both Ethiopia’s national fabric and the stability of the entire Horn of Africa region. That includes Eritrea, which is allied with Ethiopia against the Tigray and has been shelled by the rebel forces; and Sudan, which has heavily deployed its army along its restive border with Ethiopia even as it has allowed refugees to cross. – New York Times 

Families of hundreds of U.S. soldiers who are suing South African telecoms firm MTN for allegedly aiding militant groups in Afghanistan have filed papers challenging the firm’s argument that the case should not be heard in the United States. – Reuters 

Ethiopia’s situation is “spiraling out of control with appalling impact on civilians” and urgently needs outside monitoring, the United Nations human rights chief warned Wednesday. But Ethiopia is rejecting calls for independent investigations into the deadly fighting in its Tigray region, saying it “doesn’t need a baby-sitter.” – Bloomberg 

Alice Hunt Friend writes: At a minimum, an honest survey of the political context and the state of civilian control over Sahel militaries will inform donors about the likely outcomes of any military training. It is futile to ask a country’s armed forces to become professionals in a context where corruption and cronyism characterizes governance. In places where institutions are sure to fail militaries, security assistance is best focused on improving civilian, not military, capacity. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Latin America

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó is vowing to stay in Venezuela and press for an end to President Nicolás Maduro’s rule despite threats, while working with the administrations of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and other world leaders to revise sanctions aimed at forcing a transfer in power. – Associated Press 

Allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won 91% percent of the legislature’s seats following a vote on Sunday that was boycotted by the opposition and disavowed by the United States and the European Union. – Reuters 

Cash-strapped Cuba said on Tuesday it had attracted $1.9 billion worth of foreign investment over the past year despite tighter U.S. sanctions and said it continued to reduce internal obstacles to investors. – Reuters

Latin America is facing a pandemic of malnutrition. Hunger and obesity are rising side by side in the region. The working poor who can’t afford a nutritious diet are suffering at times from a lack of food and at others from an overabundance of poor-quality food. – NPR 

Patrick Oppmann writes: The increased smuggling is a prime example of what has come of deteriorating US-Cuban relations hitting their lowest point in decades, after a short-lived burst of rapprochement during the Obama years. The trend, US and Cuban officials say, has left the country less equipped to combat drug smuggling, human trafficking and counter terrorism between Cuba and the US, due to severed ties between Cuban and US law enforcement. – CNN

North America

The Trump administration filed a complaint against Canada over the market access for U.S. dairy products, in the first enforcement action under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. – Wall Street Journal 

Mexico’s Senate approved Wednesday a bill that will force the central bank to buy dollars from banks that can’t place them elsewhere, ignoring concerns from policy makers that the bill could make the bank take illegal drug money. – Bloomberg 

The leader of an anti-government white supremacist militia group and former sheriff’s deputy has been convicted of hate crime charges after a pipe bomb attack on a Minnesota mosque in 2017. – NPR 

President Donald Trump and 17 U.S. states on Wednesday threw their support behind a long-shot lawsuit by Texas seeking to overturn his election loss by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the voting results in four states. – Reuters


Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google will ban the data broker X-Mode Social Inc. from collecting any location information drawn from mobile devices running their operating systems in the wake of revelations about the company’s national-security work. – Wall Street Journal 

The Federal Trade Commission and 46 states sued Facebook Inc. on Wednesday, accusing the social-media giant of buying and freezing out small startups to choke competition. – Wall Street Journal 

The trend of Americans working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic is increasing risks for U.S. companies as employees may be lax with their computer security, according to the executive selected to be President-elect Joe Biden’s top economist. – Bloomberg 

The Army and Navy named principal cyber advisers who will help their services become better prepared in the digital domain. – C4ISRNET

The annual defense policy bill would reorganize the Pentagon’s top IT responsibilities to prepare the department for operational 5G wireless networks. – C4ISRNET

Simple shifts in how the Pentagon approaches its electromagnetic spectrum tools could offer the U.S. superiority needed to best adversaries that have figured out over the last decade how achieve their own advantages, leaders have said. – C4ISRNET

Alina Polyakova and Eileen Donahoe write: These uncoordinated or even clashing approaches leave tech companies of all kinds in an increasingly ambiguous regulatory environment and weaken democratic norms worldwide. The winner is China. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) direct support for its tech industry has created a global innovation powerhouse and a competing model of digital governance. In place of democratic norms and principles of transparency, accountability, privacy, and free expression are the state’s interests in censorship, intimidation, and surveillance. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Lauren Speranza, Franklin D. Kramer and Conor Rodihan write: NATO has recognized the collective dangers of these hybrid attacks in cyberspace. Up to this point, however, the Alliance has taken a reactive approach, responding as if Russian and Chinese cyber attacks are isolated incidents. But because Russian and Chinese cyber efforts are part of continuous campaigns directed at the overall capability of the Alliance, NATO’s response has been insufficient, failing to reduce or dissuade further attacks. To assure the security of its members going forward, NATO needs its own continuous response campaign to these threats. – Center for European Policy Analysis


President-elect Joe Biden, introducing his pick for defense secretary, launched Wednesday into what could be a tough, weeks-long sales pitch to persuade members of both parties that retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III is the right choice despite the long-standing principle of civilian leadership at the Pentagon. – Washington Post

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy could stay on as the service’s top civilian for as long as one year under the Biden administration, several people close to the president-elect’s transition team told Defense News. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is launching a phase for the concept design of its future Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, which is intended to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. – Defense News

The B-1B Lancer has successfully fired a stealthy cruise missile from an external pylon for the first time, adding another capability to the Bone’s massive arsenal and potentially paving the way for the bomber to launch hypersonic missiles in the future. – Defense News

The nation’s spy chief issued a warning about dangers posed by China and Russia in space. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe did so as the Trump administration unveiled this week its new strategy for the key arena, labeling space a priority domain for U.S. military and intelligence operations and warning foreign adversaries that the United States will defend its national security in and through space. – Washington Examiner

Russ Vought and Robert O’Brien write: Mr. Trump delivered on his promises to rebuild the military. Yet the national-security challenges before America are urgent and immense. Although less capable than ours, China’s navy already stands at more than 350 vessels and is growing rapidly. Beijing is building islands in the South China Sea, threatening trade routes, and menacing allies. U.S. maritime dominance is necessary to meet this great challenge. The shipbuilding plan will deliver the president’s promise of “peace through strength” in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. – Wall Street Journal 

James Palmer writes: But it also raises tricky questions about the level of caution necessary for politicians when dealing with Chinese nationals—where to draw the line between security and paranoia. China isn’t the Soviet Union: There are numerous Chinese citizens, former citizens, and people with strong family ties to China who play a meaningful role in U.S. political and economic life whose rights should be protected. – Foreign Policy 

Walter Haynes writes: The acrimonious divide in U.S. society about what exactly the Constitution means shows how allowing too much leeway for personal interpretations can create a slippery slope. Until now, the military’s strong internal culture has overcome the challenge of toxic constitutional interpretations, but the risks of failing to meet this threat require more direct action. Therefore, senior officers should work with their enlisted advisers to provide clarity that smaller groups can execute. – War on the Rocks 

George Perkovich writes: The United States, of course, will have to provide reciprocal reassurance to Moscow and Beijing, which is easier said than done. The other, not mutually exclusive, need is to improve U.S. and allied non-nuclear capabilities to prevent Russia or China from taking small bits of disputed territory and then leaving Washington with the dreadful choice of capitulation or major conflict that could escalate purposefully or inadvertently to nuclear war. To allay concerns of arms racing, Washington should make clear to Moscow and Beijing that it prefers to negotiate confidence-building and arms control mechanisms with them if they want to. – War on the Rocks 

Zachary Kallenborn writes: By contrast, by that point in the fighting Azerbaijan reportedly lost as few as one TB2, and a small number of loitering munitions. Armenia had little choice but to concede defeat. The conflict illustrates the effectiveness of drones on the modern battlefield, but also a corollary: the importance of counter-drone systems to defend against them. The United States needs to consider counter-drone systems as part of US military aid to partners and allies. Such systems can help balance the destabilizing effects of drone proliferation. – Modern War Institute 

Long War

The mounds of debris around her bear witness to the violence Iraq’s second-largest city has endured. From Mosul, IS had proclaimed its caliphate in 2014. Three years later, Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition liberated the city in a grueling battle that killed thousands and left Mosul in ruins. – Haaretz 

The Islamic State group used companies in the UK to acquire weapons technology including parts for a jet-powered drone similar to the V-1 “flying bombs” dropped on London during the Second World War, a new report reveals. – Telegraph 

Notorious convicted terrorist Abdul Nacer Benbrika will face a key High Court challenge today as the Federal Government battles to extend his detention beyond the end of his sentence. Benbrika was the “guiding light” for a group of 16 men in Melbourne and Sydney who were later arrested under the police operation Pendennis in 2005. – ABC News 

Jason M. Blazakis writes: Biden inherits a challenging national security environment, and efforts to counter far-right, ISIS and al Qaeda threats remain paramount. But human right considerations must be fundamental to the Biden team’s application of counterterrorism power. Mistakes of the past, such as drone targeting that has resulted in too many civilian casualties, must be avoided. – The Hill