Fdd's overnight brief

December 14, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Revealing details for the first time, the official described an elaborate scheme in which Chaab was lured to Turkey by a woman, drugged and kidnapped when he went to meet her, and then smuggled across the border into Iran — all orchestrated by a notorious drug trafficker at the behest of Iranian intelligence. – Washington Post

Iran executed a dissident on Saturday after convicting him of encouraging a wave of antigovernment protests in 2017 through an opposition Telegram channel he ran from exile in France, Iranian news outlets reported. – New York Times

Iran on Sunday summoned the German and French envoys to Tehran after the European Union condemned the execution of an Iranian journalist whose work helped inspire nationwide economic protests in 2017, Iranian state media reported. – Associated Press

Iran on Friday summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Tehran over the Turkish president’s remarks during a visit to Baku, Azerbaijan, which Iran deemed offensive and said support a secession of Azeri ethnic parts of Iran. – Associated Press

Iran sentenced a British-Iranian anthropologist who has studied child marriage and female genital mutilation to nine years in jail and fined him over $700,000 in cash, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported Sunday. – Associated Press

Top foreign policy figures within President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration have condemned Iran’s “horrifying” execution of a journalist accused of fomenting anti-government unrest, in a development that could signal trouble ahead for Biden’s plan to re-establish dialogue with Tehran. – Newsweek

Firefighters have contained most of a blaze that broke out after a pipeline carrying crude oil to Iran’s second-largest refinery ruptured on Sunday because of a landslide, the head of the state company in charge of oil pipelines said. – Reuters

Morocco’s normalisation of relations with Israel is a betrayal and a stab in the back of Palestine, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, an adviser to Iran’s parliamentary speaker, said on Friday. – Reuters

Iran could soon have the capability to launch missiles with nuclear warheads against Europe and the United States unless the international community unites to halt Tehran’s ambitions for a nuclear-weapons program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at a press event with US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien in Jerusalem on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday posthumously awarded a prestigious military decoration to top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was assassinated last month, state television reported. – Agence France-Presse

Iran’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) on Saturday urged the UN nuclear watchdog to remain “impartial” regarding his country’s nuclear activities, the Xinhua news agency reports. – Arutz Sheva

Sharif is believed to be among victims of the so-called “chain murders” of intellectuals that shocked Iran in the fall and winter of 1998 and prompted reformist President Mohammad Khatami to order an investigation. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

While president-elect Joe Biden has promised to revive the deal provided Iran returns to full compliance, this time around businesses are more circumspect. With Iran reluctant to broaden the nuclear talks to include its military and regional policies, there is a lot of uncertainty. – Financial Times

Hassan Mneimneh writes: The Biden administration is indeed equipped to engage in a more careful way with all of these dossiers, along with the still relevant Palestinian question. When faced with how the administration allocates its human and material resources to address a world in crisis, it may choose to delay the question of Iran and the U.S. role in the Middle East. It is important to remember, however, that Iran and the “Resistance Axis” are poised for another round of “strategic patience,” which, if ignored. will serve to the detriment of the United States, its allies and partners. – Washington Institute


The global chemical weapons watchdog criticized Syria for failing to declare a chemical weapons production facility and respond to 18 other issues, while Russia accused the watchdog of conducting a “political crusade” against its close ally, the Syrian government. – Times of Israel

The Syrian Arab Army has made changes to the leadership of the 1st Corps and its operations center in the southern part of the country, following threats to its leadership by the Israeli military. – Jerusalem Post

Nearly a decade into Syria’s civil war, Raslan has become the first person to face trial – anywhere in the world – over the state-sponsored torture and murder of civilians during the conflict. – The Guardian


Turkey’s foray into an area the Kremlin has traditionally regarded as its exclusive sphere of influence is emblematic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s  efforts to refashion the NATO member and once-pliant U.S. ally into a power player at the crossroads between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. – Wall Street Journal

Faced with the prospect of sanctions from both the United States and the European Union, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that economic penalties would be detrimental to all sides and that Turkey’s disputes with its allies can be resolved through dialogue and cooperation. – Associated Press

Courting the favor of US President-elect Joe Biden, Turkey has reportedly picked a new ambassador to Israel to fill the diplomatic post left vacant for over two years.  – Times of Israel

Two men from Rhodes were arrested Saturday night, accused of being Turkish spies, as reported by Ynet and AFP. – Jerusalem Post

Mark Episkopos writes: TurkStream has proven to be only as resilient as the Russian-Turkish relationship itself. As Moscow enters what appears to be a period of renewed competition with Ankara, the future of Russian gas exports into southeastern Europe hangs in the balance. – The National Interest

Christopher Miller writes: The ball is firmly in America’s court. It is doubtful whether Turkey has the institutional capacity to build bridges with the US at this point in time. Any strengthening of ties will be at the initiative of Washington. The next administration can and must take advantage of regional shifts, which include both the new Middle East alliances as well as Turkey’s own floundering economy, as an opportunity to offer cooperation and develop better relations with the Turkish government. Doing so will help ensure an important partner in advancing America’s interests over the next four years. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: While countries like the UAE are embracing Israelis and Jews and talking about tolerance, Ankara’s government jails dissidents and lashes out at minorities, spreading hatred and intolerance. In that toxic mix, there is no reality of mending fences, only a new anti-Israel envoy and an extremist authoritarian government in Ankara that wants Israel isolated so it can manipulate the incoming Biden administration. When Turkey apologizes for comparing Israel to the Nazis, then that might be evidence that it has changed. Ankara’s current regime will never do that. – Jerusalem Post 


Saudi Arabia played a role in the Trump-brokered normalization agreement between Israel and Morocco, diplomatic sources told Channel 12 on Friday. – Time of Israel

Four non-combat soldiers were accidentally left behind on the Jordanian side of the security fence, near the Syrian border, earlier this month after their mission commander failed to notice that they hadn’t returned with the rest of the group, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday. – Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said it would be a mistake “to go back to business as usual with Iran,” signaling Israeli resistance to an expected push by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran. – Ynet

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled on Sunday his visit to the United Arab Emirates scheduled for next week. – Ynet

More Israeli-Arab normalization deals will follow the one arrived at with Morocco over the weekend, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said on Sunday in Jerusalem when he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. – Jerusalem Post

While several Palestinian factions and individuals have condemned Morocco’s decision to normalize its relations with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has chosen to remain silent. – Jerusalem Post

Oman and Indonesia could be next in line to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in the coming weeks, a diplomatic source said Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

But beyond that emotional connection for many Israelis, and greater exchanges of tourism that comes with the direct flights that were announced along with normalization, there are plenty of other reasons why relations with Morocco will be beneficial to the Jewish state.  – Jerusalem Post

It made headlines around the world when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly met face-to-face with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Neom, Saudi Arabia, late last month. – Jewish Insider

Fans of an Israeli soccer club long associated with anti-Arab racism gathered on Friday in a show of support for an Emirati businessman’s purchase of a stake in the organization, welcoming it as a sign of change even as a smaller number of fans protested the move. – Associated Press

President Donald Trump won another diplomatic victory for Israel and the U.S. this week, announcing another normalization deal this time signed by Morocco. – Newsweek

Egyptian sources are reporting new developments in contacts between Israel and Hamas on a prisoner exchange deal. – Arutz Sheva

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin on Sunday put off the vote on dissolving parliament from Monday to Tuesday, potentially setting obstacles to the vote that could see Israelis heading to the polls for the fourth time in two years. – Haaretz

The Arab nations are suddenly achieving long-sought goals after agreeing to normalize ties with Israel, in a last-minute triumph for the unorthodox diplomacy of outgoing President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. – Agence France-Presse

Israel has established diplomatic relations with the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the Jewish state’s foreign ministry announced Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

It made headlines around the world when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly met face-to-face with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Neom, Saudi Arabia, late last month.  – Jewish Insider

Editorial: Previous administrations also tried to wrangle some normalization crumbs – such as overfly rights –  from the Arab countries toward Israel in an effort to encourage a Mideast peace process, but never with much success. What the Trump administration did was demonstrate a willingness to ante up, something that has made all the difference, giving the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and, most recently, Morocco the tangible benefits they needed to be willing to openly walk arm-in-arm with Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Smadar Perry writes: After all, the Moroccan Minister of Economy and Trade Moulay Hafiz al-Alami announced on Saturday that from Monday, every Israeli businessperson interested in investing in Morocco is welcome to do so. Trump, in his strange way, is leaving behind a positive legacy in the region, and Netanyahu can place another tick on his map of the Arab world. And the wave of rapprochement is far from over. – Ynet

Ahmed Charai writes: For Israelis, meanwhile, Morocco is both a vaunted destination for tourism, trade and cultural enrichment and an anchor in the continent of Africa, where the Jewish state’s engagement has many countries more to reach. Palestinians, for their part, can take heart in Morocco’s distinguished history of support for their rights and welfare: as long-serving head of the Arab League’s Quds Committee, King Mohammed VI surprised no one by calling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to assure him that the new deal with Israel would only strengthen his commitment to the two-state solution. – Jerusalem Post

Zvi Bar’el writes: Israel is not known to be preparing to send an ambassador to Ankara, and neither are plans for military or other cooperation between the two governments. The excuses are the political situation in Israel, preparations for elections and the all-powerful coronavirus. These excuses are completely baseless, given the flood of agreements Israel is signing with Arab countries. If there is a window of opportunity to improve relations with Turkey, any time is a good time. – Times of Israel 


Kurdish authorities in Iraq are struggling to quash wildcat protests as frustration at delayed public-sector payments and decades of mismanagement have boiled over into street violence. – Washington Post

The guerrillas who make the Qandil their home, though, are very different to the al-Qaeda and Isis militants who have terrorised Iraq in recent years. – The Telegraph 

An explosion took place near Baghdad international airport on Saturday in an area housing Iraqi military compounds, but caused no damage or casualties, security sources said. – Reuters


A special tribunal set up to prosecute those responsible for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri sentenced a Hezbollah member to five life sentences Friday, nearly four months after it found him guilty. – Washington Post

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, relying on reports in Western media, has championed the Lebanese attempt to frustrate US-backed talks on delimiting the maritime borders between Israel and Lebanon. – Jerusalem Post

Avi Issacharoff writes: In the meantime, the talks are continuing even though recently the American go-between has been doing a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, as both sides are avoiding holding their fourth meeting. Also, the Lebanese have attempted to draw the border significantly southwards from its estimated location, causing Israel to retaliate by drawing the border much higher north. Still, both sides remain committed to these talks and it is clear that Lebanon wants an agreement, even more than Israel.  – Times of Israel

Arabian Peninsula

An oil tanker off Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jiddah suffered an explosion early Monday after being hit by “an external source,” a shipping company said, suggesting another vessel has come under attack off the kingdom amid its yearslong war in Yemen. – Associated Press

On Jan. 20, the Biden administration will inherit a relationship with Saudi Arabia that is as troubled as it has ever been, and it will likely be up to Antony Blinken, the president-elect’s pick for secretary of state, to help sort it out.  – Yahoo News

The Trump administration is facing mounting calls to abandon threats to sanction Houthi rebels in northern Yemen to avoid an imminent danger of extreme famine in the country, where almost two-thirds of the population are in need of food aid. – The Guardian 

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in Yemen’s southern city of Taiz to express their frustration after a plunge in the local currency led to a surge in prices and shops to close. – Bloomberg

Gulf States

The export credit agencies of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel have signed a cooperation agreement to develop economic relations between the two countries, the UAE’s state news agency WAM said. – Reuters

Anchal Vohra writes: Saudi, Emirati, and Qatari sheikhs all trace their ancestry to the nomadic tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. They practice the same religion and have sustained their monarchies by a serendipitous presence of oil and gas underneath their sands. […]While Trump can wish to score a last diplomatic win, if the attitudes of the parties involved are anything to go by, any resolution would be at best temporary. It is going to remain up to Biden to bring the U.S. allies together behind a cohesive Iran policy. – Foreign Policy

Sebastian Castelier writes: The real divide between Gulf states and ambitious Muslim-majority rivals is based less on a liberal/conservative religious fault line than on a power and governance line: in the analysis of Georgetown’s Nonneman, flexible, image-conscious yet autocratic types of leadership are now pitted against a “dramatically more authoritarian” approach that systematically represses critical voices. The next few years will reveal whether Gulf states’ bold decision to use economic change to justify reinventing the role of religion, thus consolidating their autocratic regimes, is actually sustainable – and who will buy and benefit from their “liberalizing” narrative. – Haaretz

Middle East & North Africa

Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad on Saturday criticized what he described as “foreign maneuvers” he said aimed to destabilize it, AFP reports. The comments came after Washington recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat normalizing ties with Israel. – Arutz Sheva

Morocco’s relations with Israel are unique in the Arab world and bilateral ties were “already normal” before a diplomatic normalisation was announced, Morocco’s foreign minister said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

Morocco’s decision to establish diplomatic ties with Israel in exchange for U.S. recognition of Western Sahara sovereignty has sparked anger and set off a wave of criticism among the North African nation’s political parties and organizations, including its ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD). – Haaretz

Morocco’s prime minister on Friday said the decision to normalize ties with Israel as part of a US-brokered agreement would not affect Rabat’s support for the Palestinians. – Times of Israel

President Donald Trump’s administration moved forward with $1 billion in sales of drones and precision-guided weapons to Morocco on Friday, sending a notice to Congress about the potential deals, according to sources familiar with the notification. – Reuters

President Trump’s decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the contested territory of Western Sahara in exchange for the nation resuming ties with Israel is coming up against bipartisan and international pushback. – The Hill

Editorial: The Trump administration’s latest deal will not only fail to advance the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It may actually ignite a new conflict. Without the prospect of a referendum, the Polisario Front is likely to intensify its armed activities in the Western Sahara. Polisario may also receive increased assistance from its main sponsor — raising tensions between Morocco and Algeria. Rather than burnishing his credentials as a peacemaker in his last days in office, President Trump is in danger of priming a new round of instability. – Financial Times

Ahmed Charai writes: They see in Israel a strong partner in developing their economy, spreading opportunity, and securing Morocco’s future. For Israelis, meanwhile, Morocco is both a vaunted destination for tourism, trade, and cultural enrichment and an anchor in the continent of Africa, where the Jewish state’s engagement has many countries more to reach. Palestinians, for their part, can take heart in Morocco’s distinguished history of support for their rights and welfare: as long-serving head of the Arab League’s Quds Committee, King Mohammed VI surprised no one by calling President Mahmoud Abbas to assure him that the new deal with Israel would only strengthen his commitment to the two-state solution. – The National Interest

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It’s not clear if the new messages from the UAE, Bahrain and other states that are pushing tolerance and coexistence will lead to a new era in the Middle East, but today I’d feel safer in the UAE with a kippah than in most countries in Europe. That says a lot about the disastrous failure of wealthy Western countries to create a society of tolerance towards an ancient minority. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

Eight mainly Western nations accused North Korea on Friday of using the pandemic “to crack down further on the human rights of its own people,” pointing to reports of an uptick in executions related to the coronavirus and strict controls on movements in and around the capital. – Associated Press 

The Army has temporarily relieved a South Korea-based battalion commander and his command sergeant major pending the outcome of command and criminal investigations into “allegations of racism, bigotry and discrimination in one of our formations,” according to a statement published to Eighth Army’s social media channels from its commander, Army Lt. Gen. Willard Burleson III. – Army Times

Robert Kelly writes: So Biden will likely give North Korea a “college try”—he will put out diplomatic feelers, consult with allies, go slow on the rhetoric—but it is unlikely he would make the huge concessions the North would demand for denuclearization. And there will be many other pressing issues. So the status quo stalemate is likely to return, and that will be good enough for Biden. – The National Interest


China’s authoritarian system, proponents say, is not just different from the West’s democracies, it is also proving itself superior. It is a long-running theme, but China’s success against the pandemic has given it a sharp boost. – New York Times

Huawei has worked with dozens of security contractors to develop surveillance products, some of which were touted as being able to identify a person’s ethnicity or to help suppress potential protests, according to company marketing documents that shed light on a little-publicized corner of one of China’s most valuable tech empires. – Washington Post

China’s market regulator on Monday said it fined Alibaba Group and a Tencent Holdings-backed company for failing to seek approval before proceeding with some acquisitions. – Associated Press

The international criminal court (ICC) has asked for more evidence before it will be willing to open an investigation into claims of genocide against Uighur people by China, but has said it will keep the file open for such further evidence to be submitted. – The Guardian

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is taking further steps to expand its domestic aircraft carrier production plans, highlighting the rapid growth of Beijing’s blue-water navy ambitions. – The National Interest

China intends to “deepen” its partnership with Russia as a bulwark against the United States over the next year, according to a top diplomat in Beijing. – Washington Examiner

The European Union has urged China to release all journalists and citizens held in connection with their reporting, following the detention of a Bloomberg News employee. – Telegraph

China is considering pulling out of a proposed new U.K. nuclear power station project, according to the Daily Mail. – Bloomberg

It is shaping up to be a good month for the Chinese Communist party and President Xi Jinping. – Financial Times

Editorial: Joe Biden’s not in the White House yet, but Beijing is already targeting his circle — even those close to them. Let’s hope that pushes the next president to rethink his out-of-date approach to the Communist colossus. – New York Post

Jacky Wong writes: A targeted approach with American allies such as Taiwan and South Korea, both leading semiconductor manufacturers, with the narrower aim of keeping the most advanced technology out of China’s hands may be preferred by the new administration. Devoting more resources to shore up the research and manufacturing capabilities of the U.S. and its allies could make it even harder for China to catch up. Supporting chip-making at home is also consistent with President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to boost domestic manufacturing. Though there may be less fire and fury, the tech rivalry between the two superpowers is unlikely to go away. – Wall Street Journal

James Holmes writes: So if the PLA ever mounted a naval blockade of Taiwan, interdicting resource shipments the islanders need to subsist, it might be time to reopen the Cold War playbook for insight. […]Or they could interfere and reveal anew how callous they are. And once again, showing everyone that the United States has skin in the game of protecting its allies and friends could give a potential aggressor pause. – The National Interest

South Asia

This week, however, lawmakers in the Himalayan country voted to amend a line from Bhutan’s penal code that criminalizes “sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature,” previously treated as a reference to gay sex. – New York Times

India on Friday rejected a Chinese allegation that it is responsible for high tensions along their disputed border. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s foreign minister on Friday called for the United Nations and the European Union to investigate a recent report exposing a 15-year disinformation campaign that Islamabad alleges was designed to serve India’s interests and discredit Pakistan. – Associated Press

India expects to restart negotiations for a free trade agreement with the U.S. once President-elect Joe Biden’s administration enters, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said. – Bloomberg


A year ago, Sixtus Leung was busy helping Hong Kong protesters escape from a university campus besieged by police. Now, after arriving in the U.S. on Nov. 30, he is seeking asylum and lobbying U.S. lawmakers for more support for young activists who want to leave Hong Kong. – Wall Street Journal

It has been 59 years since separatists in the Indonesian territory of West Papua raised their red, white and blue flag and declared independence. The region has been in conflict ever since. – New York Times

Employees and supporters rallied for a Taiwanese pro-China cable news channel as it was taken off air Saturday, after the government refused to renew its license, citing accuracy issues. – Associated Press

Relatives of a dozen Hong Kong residents who have been detained in mainland China for more than 3 1/2 months made a plea Saturday to be informed of the timing of any trials and whether they can attend. – Associated Press

Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry appears to be trying to calm simmering tensions with the United States after a senior official criticized the top U.S. diplomat in Bishkek for his statements on the Central Asian nation’s problems with corruption. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Natan Sharansky writes: Here’s something on which Americans on the left and right can agree: Lai must be kept safe and Hong Kong must be free. Why not start the new Congress with a joint resolution demanding the preservation of Hong Kong’s liberties and confirming that how China treats Hong Kong will determine how Congress reacts to Chinese trade and diplomatic initiatives? – Washington Post

Patrick Mendis writes: The Biden associates of Obama alumni could show more effective leadership through a more conventional approach to alliance-building. They could bring back confidence in the U.S. commitment by returning the primacy of strategic thinking—as opposed to more mercurial fiscal and domestic considerations—to resource sharing, weapons sales, and efforts to enhance cooperation and interoperability. By both staying the course and bringing more allies into play on the “Taiwan problem,” Biden could well end-up being seen in the region—and Beijing in particular—as far more formidable than his predecessor. – The National Interest

Tom Rogan writes: To his credit, President-elect Joe Biden’s national security designate Jake Sullivan recently tweeted in support of Australia. That might sound like nothing, but it’s something more than Trump has yet done. Still, indications suggest that Biden will take a softer approach toward Beijing than has Trump. That makes it even more important that Trump step up now and show solidarity with this most important ally. – Washington Examiner

South Caucasus

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, has been one of the world’s most intractable territorial disputes. – New York Times

Armenia has accused Baku of violating a cease-fire agreement in the conflict over Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Farid Shafiyev writes: Future peace should be based upon a sustainable agreement rooted in coexistence and cooperation. However, the main challenge is not the status of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the lack of will of Armenians to live with Azerbaijanis—either in Azerbaijan or even in Armenia. – The National Interest


Russian government hackers breached the Treasury and Commerce departments, along with other U.S. government agencies, as part of a global espionage campaign that stretches back months, according to people familiar with the matter. – Washington Post

Political commentators saw signs of infighting among the elite. An opposition leader chalked it up to the Kremlin’s habit of lying. But for many who have been working from home for months, the report from a Russian news site just made perfect sense. – New York Times

A new round of British sanctions against Russian individuals over alleged human rights abuses in Chechnya is “unfounded” and Moscow may retaliate, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. – Reuters

This month the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation announced that vessels of its Black Sea Fleet will take part in next year’s AMAN-2021 international naval exercise in the waters off the coast of Pakistan near Karachi. – The National Interest

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow continues to reject U.S. sanctions against Iran, has put its money where its mouth is by increasing trade with Tehran, and that Moscow will continue to look for new ways to counter the punitive measures. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Caleb Larson writes: The VSS Vintorez and AS Val rifles are excellent examples of two different operational requirements— armor-piercing capability and suppression— coming together under excellent Soviet gunsmithing. The fact that they are still issued today are a testament to their quality and indicate they will continue to be used by Russia for some time to come. – The National Interest


U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and top European Union officials decided not to pull the plug from Brexit negotiations Sunday, with officials signaling last-minute progress on some of the issues that have bedeviled the talks. – 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

European leaders gathered in Brussels this week ready to clash on fundamental issues, from democracy to climate change. But they ended a two-day summit on Friday with a string of significant deals, including a plan to give unprecedented money-raising authority to the European Union to help economies struggling through the pandemic. – Washington Post

The striking of Achille Mbembe from the program of the Ruhrtreinniale, in May, led to a monthslong public debate here, in which the relationship of genocide and colonialism to the Holocaust, and Germany’s special relationship to Israel, all came into question. – New York Times

Four Royal Navy patrol ships will be ready from 1 January to help the UK protect its fishing waters in the event of a no-deal Brexit, in a deployment evoking memories of the “cod wars” in the 1970s. – The Guardian

Ambassador Cameron Munter and Valbona Zeneli write: Such topics as North Macedonian or Albanian accession to western institutions, or Kosovo’s relationship with Serbia, or the crises of governance in the unwieldy structure of Bosnia, should be recast in search of twenty-first-century solutions that are built on the foundation of EU values. Now is the time to open the aperture to give the picture some breadth and depth. When Ms. Von der Leyen announces that there are four key areas in which the EU seeks to work with America; and when Antony Blinken indicates that multilateralism will be a key tenet of American policy; Balkan leaders should make themselves part of that conversation. – The National Interest


Hundreds of students in Nigeria are feared missing after gunmen stormed a secondary school in the northern state of Katsina, news agencies and the Nigerian authorities said. – New York Times

But life for many Tigrayans began to change in early November after Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, launched a military operation in the northern region of Tigray, whose leaders have resisted Mr. Abiy’s drive to centralize power in the federal government. – New York Times

The United States formally rescinded Sudan’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism on Monday, removing the biggest barrier to the African country’s access to international lending institutions and economic development. – Washington Post

What happened beginning Nov. 9 in the agricultural town near the Sudanese border has become the most visible atrocity in a war largely conducted in the shadows. But even here, much remains unclear, including who killed whom. – Associated Press

In a development the United Nations called “disturbing,” Ethiopia on Friday said it is returning thousands of refugees who ran from camps in its Tigray region as war swept through, putting them on buses back to the border area with Eritrea, the country the refugees originally fled. – Associated Press

Mark Lowcock writes: The United Nations strongly urges all parties to the Tigray crisis to seize the initiative led by the chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, to facilitate peaceful solutions and de-escalate tensions.

Conflicts like this are hard to stop once they get out of control — the lives they extinguish cannot be brought back, and the grievances they create are long-lasting. – Washington Post

The Americas

Outraged by the arrest in California of a former defense minister, the Mexican government is championing a law that is likely to throttle cooperation with U.S. anti-drug agents and the FBI, setting up a potential crisis in relations as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to assume office. – Washington Post

Droves of Venezuelans blaming President Nicolás Maduro for their country’s collapse voiced their frustrations Saturday in a creative protest rivaling recent elections they boycotted as fraudulent. – Associated Press

Venezuela’s oil minister said Friday that security forces have thwarted an attack on a key refinery as the nation with vast oil reserves struggles to meet its domestic gasoline demands. – Associated Press

Ndros, a crude tanker booked by the National Iranian Oil Company, arrived at the Venezuelan coast and is expected to load crude as ties between the two countries sanctioned by the U.S. get deeper, according to document seen by Bloomberg News. – Bloomberg

United States

Police in Washington state have arrested an armed right-wing protester on charges of first-degree assault Saturday in Olympia, the state capital, on suspicion of shooting a left-wing protester during demonstrations fueled by baseless claims that President Trump had been wrongly denied reelection. – Washington Post

In a declaration filed in four states, Spyder alleges that publicly available data about server traffic shows that voting systems in the United States were “certainly compromised by rogue actors, such as Iran and China.” – Washington Post

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., weighs in on ‘Fox & Friends’ about Hunter Biden, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Jon Ossoff’s questionable relationships with China. – Fox News

Matt Abbott writes: Better training and coordination between officials at all levels of government will give subnational diplomacy the chance to bolster American soft power abroad while boosting trade and foreign direct investment at home. Yet without proper training and coordination, state and local officials risk sending mixed signals abroad and not fully understanding the intentions of the governments with which they engage. This in turn may undermine international initiatives led by the national government whether those initiatives involve collaboration, competition or confrontation with other countries. – The Hill


The House Armed Service Committee chairman’s advice to the incoming Biden administration is to put together a National Defense Strategy in its first six to nine months in office that will provide direction for further review of nuclear policy and budget-building. – USNI News

The US Senate on Friday threw its weight behind the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a $740 billion bill setting policy for the Defense Department, passing the bill with a margin large enough to overcome President Donald Trump’s promised veto. – Jerusalem Post

New warships that will be capable of delivering 75 Marines straight from the sea onto a beach will operate in and around the first chain of islands off China’s coast. – Military.com

President Donald Trump offered a new rationale Sunday for threatening to veto the annual defense policy bill that covers the military’s budget for equipment and pay raises for service members: China. He did not outline his concerns. – ABC News

Long War

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin of France is at the center of a triple-headed political crisis that is rocking the late stages of the presidency of Emmanuel Macron — over Islam, police brutality and freedom of the press. – New York Times

Indonesian police have arrested a man believed to be the leader of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network who has eluded capture since 2003, authorities said Monday. – Associated Press

Six law enforcement officers were wounded on Friday when a man they were trying to arrest blew himself up in a village in Russia’s North Caucasus region, counter-terrorism authorities said. – Reuters

Matthew Levitt and Aaron Y. Zelin write: That is why Washington should build on its recent successes against AQ’s leadership rather than easing the pressure. It should also work with its partners on more sustainable solutions to the many regional conflicts that still provide space for terrorist groups to operate and develop. […]Although addressing local problems related to poor governance, corruption, lack of opportunity, human rights abuses, and climate degradation will not completely eliminate the grievances that AQ is able to exploit, such efforts could reduce the network’s appeal to the many people who see it as an alternative to a broken status quo. – Washington Institute