Fdd's overnight brief

December 16, 2020

In The News


Iran has circumvented U.S. sanctions and exported more oil to China and other countries in recent months, providing a lifeline for its struggling economy and undermining the Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran. – Wall Street Journal 

Iran’s defense minister has announced that the organization overseeing the military’s nuclear research projects will be given a 256 percent budget increase, less than a month after one of its leading scientists was assassinated near Tehran. – Newsweek

Iran is not conducting its investigation into the downing of a civilian airliner in January properly and many questions remain unanswered, an independent Canadian report into the tragedy said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday he was happy that Donald Trump was leaving office, calling him “the most lawless U.S. president” and a “terrorist”. – Reuters

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held his first public function on Wednesday since rumours surfaced of his deteriorating health, Iranian state media reported. – Reuters 

At the start, Iranian officials downplayed COVID-19 — denying the mounting toll of infections, refusing to close mosques, making half-hearted gestures at locking down businesses. That was then. This is now: Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has worn disposable gloves while planting a tree for state media, and he prayed in an empty mosque to mark the holy Shiite commemoration of Ashoura. – Associated Press

In a new report calling for tougher relations with Tehran, UK lawmakers are urging Britain to spearhead an international effort to replace the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, AFP reports. – Agence France-Presse

The daughter of a 74-year-old Austrian citizen imprisoned in Iran has told of her fears for her father’s health after he started displaying coronavirus symptoms […]. Mossaheb was detained while traveling in Iran with a delegation from an Austrian research center in January 2019 and in August it was announced that he had been jailed for 10 years on charges of spying for Israel and Germany. – Agence France-Presse 

Iran’s hardliner-led parliament passed a measure on Tuesday to ban dual nationals and holders of foreign residency from running in presidential elections, after speculation that some officials may hold Green Cards from the United States. – Reuters 

The UK should do more to constrain Iran by proscribing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group and formally describe the Iranian practice of detaining British dual nationals as state hostage taking, the all-party foreign affairs select committee has said. – The Guardian

Editorial: Iran has been signalling its interest in returning to the international agreement curbing its nuclear activities once President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month. But the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is also demonstrating that improving its tattered relations with the West is not a priority. That was driven home with the execution on Saturday of Ruhollah Zam, a dissident journalist who lived in France before he was abducted and returned to Tehran. – Washington Post


Iran’s foreign minister Tuesday condemned the imposition of US sanctions on neighbouring Turkey over its procurement of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, saying it showed “contempt for international law.” – Agence France-Presse 

Turkey’s parliament showed rare near unity on Tuesday in condemning U.S. sanctions over its procurement of Russian defence systems, and said the country will not hesitate to protect itself in the face of threats. – Reuters

Turkey’s defence industries chief said U.S. sanctions against him and his agency for buying Russian missile systems would not have a big impact on ties and may boost domestic development, though the defence minister said the move had “shaken” their alliance. – Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Washington’s decision to sanction its NATO ally Turkey over its purchase of Russian defences in a phone call on Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. – Reuters

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday U.S. sanctions over Ankara’s purchase of Russian defences had shaken all values in their alliance and he called for renewed cooperation between the NATO allies. – Reuters

Nick Danforth writes: His work must begin with recognizing that Washington cannot single-handedly rescue the U.S.-Turkish alliance, nor will Erdogan ever offer any real or lasting reset—no matter how many times he seems to do so. The United States and Turkey will continue to work at cross purposes and there will continue to be more crises. If everyone is lucky, there will also be periods of respite and some progress on areas of common interest. – Foreign Policy 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The increasingly extremist comments on Turkish media and Ankara’s army of social media activists who target any critics online illustrate that the narrative of Turkish ‘reconciliation” with Israel is largely hollow. Support for an “Islamist” army to take over Israel by numerous commentators in Turkey and Ankara’s frequent hosting of Hamas, shows that Turkey’s ruling party has embraced a worldview similar to Iran’s regime in how it views Israel as a central enemy and wants to “liberate” Jerusalem. – Jerusalem Post

Omri Nahmias writes: On Tuesday, the US State Department announced it would impose sanctions on Turkey following its decision to buy the S-400 defense system from Russia. While the sanctions were anticipated, it was unusual for a NATO member to sanction another member of the alliance. Turkey quickly reacted by condemning the sanctions, calling them a “grave mistake” and an “unjust decision.” What could it mean for the countries’ future relationship? – Jerusalem Post


Israel offered to release Palestinians who killed Israelis in acts of terror in an effort to reach a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas, a senior official in the Hamas terror group told the Lebanese the daily Al-Akhbar on Monday. – Times of Israel 

A senior US-Israeli delegation will leave for Morocco next Tuesday to begin talks on renewing diplomatic relations, senior US administration officials told Walla! News on Tuesday.  The delegation will arrive in Rabat from a direct flight from Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Qatari head of state Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha on Monday. – Times of Israel 

The Defense Ministry completed a major, unprecedented air defense exercise this month, which tested the abilities of the country’s three tiers of missile defense systems against a variety of aerial threats, officials said Tuesday. – Times of Israel

For Nabil al-Kurd, being forced out of the East Jerusalem home he has lived in since the 1950s would be a fate worse than death. – Reuters

Israel could be open to future cooperation on missile defence with Gulf Arab states that share its concerns about Iran, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A former Australian school principal accused of sexually assaulting students lost her appeal against extradition in Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday. – Reuters

The United States hopes to invite Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Palestinian Authority to participate in a virtual regional conference with Israel on energy to be held in January during the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The threat matrix is changing, and among today’s enemies, Iran is Israel’s main regional adversary with multiple complex missiles and drones. To confront these myriad threats, Israel needs its own complex multitiered system. Iron Dome has worked for 10 years to confront close-range threats and is the workhorse of Israel’s air defenders. David’s Sling, which is supposed to face higher-level threats and is similar to the US’s Patriot batteries, uses an impressive interceptor to stop enemy missiles. – Jerusalem Post

Yossi Melman writes: It is a classic example of the Mossad acting as Israel’s shadow foreign policy arm, and it would be no surprise if relations with other states – such as Oman, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, where Israel’s secret services have also taken the lead, come into the open too, with the establishment of formal diplomatic relations. – Haaretz

Arabian Peninsula

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Tuesday it intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone launched by Iran-aligned Houthis towards the kingdom, Saudi state TV reported. – Reuters

Qatar, the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas exporter, condemned the attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and warned of the impact it could have on international energy markets. – Bloomberg 

A catastrophic and “eminently preventable” oil spill in the Red Sea is waiting to happen unless the international community gets its act together to empty a million barrels of oil from a tanker that has been decaying off the coast of Yemen for five years, marine experts from Israel and elsewhere pleaded Tuesday, warning of a “regional environmental and humanitarian disaster.” – Times of Israel 

Gulf States

The United States on Tuesday designated the Bahrain-based Saraya al-Mukhtar group as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, accusing it of being an Iran-backed terrorist organization and of having plotted attacks against U.S. personnel in Bahrain. – Reuters 

An American rabbi with extensive ties to the Arab world is set to launch an effort to attract Jewish travelers to the Gulf, including to nations that have not yet established formal ties with Israel and have hitherto been closed off to Jewish tourists. – Times of Israel 

Kuwait’s ruler told the new parliament, in which opposition candidates made gains, that comprehensive reform was needed to help the Gulf Arab state exit its worst economic crisis in decades and that there was no time for “fabricating conflicts”. – Reuters

Kris Osborn writes: The proposed sale also points to a significant and often overlooked strategic and tactical reality in the Middle East, which is the vital extent to which U.S. security and war aims have been supported and helped by allied Arab nations. […]Iran continues to commit itself to the destruction of Israel, and the concern among Israeli leaders is simply that, given the longstanding history of Arab-Israeli tensions, the UAE could someday partner with other Arab countries to threaten, intimidate or even attack Israel, however likely. – The National Interest


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blasted Russia for continuing to “threaten Mediterranean stability” and sowing “chaos, conflict, and division” in countries around the region. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday approved a proposal by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint Bulgarian Nickolay Mladenov as the U.N. Libya special envoy and Norwegian Tor Wennesland as the U.N. Middle East envoy, diplomats said. – Reuters

The UN Security Council reiterated a call for all foreign fighters to leave Libya in a unanimous statement on December 15 that included the backing of Russia, which has been accused of helping a military contractor send mercenaries into the country. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Middle East & North Africa

Iran’s Tasnim news ran an article hinting at a renewed round of attacks on US forces in Iraq. Rocket attacks against facilities where US forces are located increased in 2019 […]. This argument  appears to show that there is discussion about rekindling the rocket attacks on the US. – Jerusalem Post

Moroccan authorities on Monday prevented a protest in the capital Rabat against the kingdom’s move to normalise ties with Israel following a deal brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump. – Reuters

Tunisia has no plans to match Morocco’s decision to recognize Israel, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said, insisting that establishing relations with the Jewish state was “not on the agenda.” – Agence France-Presse 

Tunisians are now free to choose their leaders and can publicly criticise the state. Yet for all the chaos they have been through, many people look back on the events of 2010 and regret that their dreams remain unfulfilled […]. Protests have flared again in recent weeks across Tunisia’s poorer southern towns against joblessness, poor state services, inequality and shortages. – Reuters 

Tunisia’s revolution after a fruit seller killed himself a decade ago inspired a wave of revolt in Arab countries as people rose up to demand democracy. This is what happened in each of the main uprisings. – Reuters 

Morocco has rebuffed a European Union request to take back third-party nationals who reach Europe from the North African kingdom, its interior ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has returned early from a trip to the Middle East and Europe to deal with the hack of U.S. government agencies, according to a National Security Council spokesperson. – Bloomberg

Popular Egyptian actor and singer Mohamed Ramadan recently faced intense backlash after a photo snapped at a Dubai restaurant, showing him with his arm around Israeli singer Omer Adam, went viral on social media. Many Egyptians condemned Ramadan and even accused him of treason, and a “Mohamed Ramadan Zionist” hashtag was launched on Twitter. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Sohrab Ahmari writes: But the fact remains that the Abraham Accords have revealed a silly side to the BDS movement: For God’s sake, when Sudan, once one of the world’s most virulently anti-Israel states, has made its peace with Jerusalem, BDS looks like a boutique cause for gentry leftists, the kind who put their pronouns in their Twitter bios. The real world — and the Middle East — have just moved on. – New York Post

Marc Champion writes: For more than half a century, conflict between Israel and the Arab nations that surround it has been a defining feature of the Middle East, producing periodic wars, lost opportunities for trade and uncountable hours of fruitless diplomacy. The rift is far from resolved. Yet there’s been a shift. Israel has made peace deals with four Arab countries late this year, underscoring that it’s now Iran — rather than Israel — that’s the common enemy uniting many Arab rulers. – Bloomberg 

Becca Wasser and Aaron Stein write: The U.S. military posture in the Middle East needs to be updated to reflect new priorities and growing threats. As Washington shifts to do more with less, a distributed basing architecture would better fit the frame of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which prioritizes strategic competition with China and Russia. Large, sprawling bases like Al Udeid served their purpose during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, as those conflicts wind down and the United States prioritizes other, more pressing threats, these bases are relics of the past that need to be rightsized. And the overall U.S. posture in the region needs to become more resilient. – War on the Rocks

Korean Peninsula

For years, activist groups in South Korea have sent everything from Bibles to K-pop across the border to the North. Now that could cost them up to three years in prison and a $27,000 fine. – Wall Street Journal 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China and North Korea, rather than Russia, present the biggest cyber security threat to the U.S. on Monday, as the furore over the SolarWinds hack—believed to be directed by Moscow—swelled to include the State Department and other federal agencies. – Newsweek 

Ambassador Robert R. King writes: Worse still, human rights must not be seen as an instrument to use against the North to make progress on other unrelated issues, as was the case with the Trump administration. The president criticized Kim Jong-un on human rights in 2017 and early 2018 to pressure for the release of detained U.S. citizens and to push Kim to make concessions on security issues. Human rights must not be raised in a short-term transactional way to make progress on other issues. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The International Criminal Court has decided not to pursue an investigation into China’s mass detention of Muslims, a setback for activists eager to hold Beijing accountable for persecution of ethnic and religious minorities. – New York Times

President-elect Joe Biden must show “sincerity” if he is to help U.S.-China ties out of their worst state since diplomatic relations began four decades ago, a Chinese Communist Party news site said on Tuesday. – Newsweek 

China has spoken out against the Trump administration’s recent sanctions on Chinese military-linked companies, dismissing the notion that their recent removal from major global indices might have an impact on foreign investors’ appetite for investment in the onshore market. – Financial Times

China may be abusing telecoms’ vulnerabilities to spy on Americans’ cellphones through Caribbean phone networks, according to a new report. – Fox News

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said Tuesday on “America’s Newsroom” that China has targeted other members of Congress besides Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who has come under fire after suspected Chinese spy, Fang Fang, gained significant access to him earlier in his career. – Fox News

As tensions between Australia and China continue to simmer, Beijing needs to think about diversifying the supply of one key commodity from Down Under, according to an analyst. – CNBC

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Trump would be remembered for jettisoning decades of wrongheaded bipartisan consensus on China, recalibrating U.S. policy to recognize Beijing as a belligerent regime intent on supplanting America as the preeminent superpower. – Washington Examiner

Over half a million Uighur laborers in the Northwestern region of Xinjiang, China, have been forced into hand picking cotton through a government run work scheme, according to new report. – Newsweek 

The US State Department has warned of continuing US investment into Chinese companies that it says are linked to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). – Jane’s 360


A Taliban team, led by the co-founder of the insurgent movement, arrived Wednesday in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani government leaders amid growing calls for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan. – Associated Press

The Morrison government has announced judge Mark Weinberg as the special investigator who will probe allegations that Australian special forces soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan. – The Guardian

A former Commonwealth director of public prosecutions and federal court judge has been appointed as a special investigator to pursue allegations of war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. – ABC News 

The United Nations estimates that 5 million more Afghans will be in need of help next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in conflicts. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Adela Raz, Afghanistan’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, is one of the highest-ranking woman officials in the Afghan government. In a wide-ranging interview with Gandhara, she weighs in on the prospects of continued support for her country and her hopes for preserving women’s rights in the ongoing peace talks aimed at carving a shared political future with the Taliban. –  Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


There is a “reasonable basis to believe” that crimes against humanity were committed amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s years-long crackdown on drugs in the Philippines, the International Criminal Court said in a report released this week. – Washington Post

A bid to remove Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister James Marape fizzled out on Wednesday after more than a dozen members of parliament switched allegiances and backed the government. – Reuters

New Zealand’s new foreign minister said on Tuesday the country would be willing to help negotiate a truce between neighbouring Australia and regional heavyweight China, who are caught in an escalating trade and diplomatic spat. – Reuters

Australia will ask the World Trade Organization to intervene in its dispute with China over barley and expects other nations to become involved in the case, Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Wednesday. – Associated Post

Oriana Skylar Mastro writes: China and Russia may be slow in enhancing their strategic coordination in the Indian Ocean slowly, but the intent is there. The United States and its allies may still be dominant militarily. But we should be careful not to fall under the illusion that this guarantees influence. With China and Russia presenting themselves as strong alternative powers, the United States and like-minded countries have to work that much harder to promote sustainable economic development, protect international rules and norms, and ensure peace and security in the region. – The Lowy Institute 

Bruce Klingner and Riley Walters write: The U.S.–Japan alliance was strong under Abe, and can continue to be strong under Suga, though it is unclear to what degree Suga’s policies might deviate from those of his predecessor. Suga will have to balance the alliance with the U.S. with Japan’s dependence on China and strained relations with South Korea. This Backgrounder details recommendations for both Japan and the United States on how to navigate these challenges. – Heritage Foundation 

Ryosuke Harada writes: Japan is a central member of both the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, of which the US and China are not members, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact in East Asia, to which the US does not belong either. The fortress of free trade cannot be protected without the active involvement of Japan and Europe. – Financial Times

South Caucasus

The leader of the ethnic-Armenian controlled enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh accused Azeri forces on Wednesday of capturing several dozen of its troops despite a ceasefire deal that ended six-weeks of fighting over the region. – Reuters

Alex Vatanka writes: As a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States can still play a role in negotiating a lasting political solution between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the near term, that starts by ensuring that Armenia’s leaders do not cave to popular demands calling for continued war. Maintaining the cease-fire is critical to strengthening NATO’s energy security. – Middle East Institute 

Michael Rubin writes: In contrast, Putin has shown that dictatorships and counter-revolutionary regimes succeed where their democratic predecessors fail. Elchibey in Azerbaijan, Saakashvili in Georgia, and now Pashinyan in Armenia all assumed office amidst popular acclaim. All presided over significant territorial loss—Elchibey to Armenia, Saakashvili to Russian-backed forced, and Pashinyan to Azerbaijan. Both Elchibey and Saakashvili ended their political careers in exile and disgrace and, if opposition parties in Armenia have their way, Pashinyan may not be far behind. – The National Interest


The Croat and Muslim Bosniak members of Bosnia’s inter-ethnic three-man presidency declined on Tuesday to meet visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, saying he had shown disrespect towards their state. – Reuters

A Russian military exercise triggered an unusual warning at a critical US military base in Germany on Saturday that ballistic missiles had been launched, according to multiple US defense officials. – CNN

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has described how he thought he was going to die after a poisoning attack he says was ordered by President Vladimir Putin. – Newsweek 

For Russia to face one accusation of involvement in an incident of international intrigue may be seen as a misfortune; two within two days may look like carelessness. – Newsweek 

Helene Cooper, Jennifer Steinhauer and Michael Crowley write: The extensive hack of American government computer systems, almost certainly orchestrated by the Kremlin, underscores the daunting foreign policy challenge that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia poses to the incoming Biden administration. – New York Times


NATO has said it must remain a nuclear-armed alliance and has opposed a United Nations treaty coming into effect next month that aims to eliminate nuclear weapons. – Newsweek 

U.S. technology firms including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google face fines of up to 10% of annual turnover and could even be broken up under draft European Union rules announced on Tuesday aimed at curbing their powers. – Reuters 

Katia Glod writes: A new tactic towards Belarus is needed, for which the United States should take the lead. Both Lukashenka and Putin fear power and may be more susceptible to US pressure. Enlisting Russia’s support would be crucial, as the Kremlin has the greatest leverage over Lukashenka. The United States, the EU, and Russia could try and broker a dialogue between society and Lukashenka. – Center for European Policy Analysis  

Eileen Donahoe and Alina Polyakova write: But Europe already finds itself in the middle of a potential “tech cold war” between the United States and China, as the two countries increasingly dominate the market for digital technologies. The pandemic starkly highlighted Europe’s dependence on technologies from the United States and China. In particular, exposure of supply chains’ fragility and the rapid move toward cloud and online conferencing platforms underscored the shortage of homegrown competitors and left many Europeans feeling at the mercy of foreign countries and companies. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Gen. Philip Breedlove and Michael O’Hanlon write: In short, America needs to be present. It needs to be a part of the leadership in this region. The EU and NATO are important, to complement our diplomacy with both those organizations, the incoming Biden administration should recognize the Black Sea as a region of importance, requiring a focus on diplomacy and economic engagement. – The National interest


People affiliated with the French military used fake Facebook accounts to meddle in African politics and also tangled with Russian fake networks in an online battle for political influence in several nations, the company announced Tuesday. – Washington Post 

Somalia severed diplomatic ties with Kenya on Tuesday, accusing the neighboring East African nation of meddling in its internal political affairs weeks before a crucial general election. – New York Times

Six years after the abduction of 276 schoolgirls ignited the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign, Nigeria is again reeling from a mass kidnapping, this time of more than 300 boys. Jihadist group Boko Haram said on Tuesday it had seized students from an all-boys boarding school in Katsina, northwest Nigeria, to punish them for “un-Islamic practices.” – Wall Street Journal

Latin America

The Trump administration said Tuesday it has finalized an agreement reached last year with El Salvador that will enable the Department of Homeland Security to send asylum seekers from the U.S. border to the Central American nation, instead of allowing them to seek humanitarian protection in the United States. – Washington Post

Venezuela targeted a local humanitarian organization in another attempt to crack down on civil society groups that the government accuses of conspiring against the administration. – Bloomberg 

Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela has begun transferring crude off of an offshore oil facility where governments in two neighboring countries have voiced concerns about a potential spill, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The leaders of Latin America’s two biggest economies, Brazil and Mexico, congratulated Joe Biden on Tuesday on his election victory after a long delay that ignited criticism they were courting danger by rebuffing the U.S. president-elect. – Reuters 

Chilean lawmakers late on Tuesday approved a bill to reserve 17 of 155 seats for representatives of indigenous communities in its upcoming constitutional convention, a measure lauded as “historic” by the government of center-right President Sebastian Pinera. – Reuters

North America

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ruling party pushed through a new law Tuesday curbing the role of foreign law-enforcement officers in Mexico, a move the U.S. believes will cripple bilateral efforts to battle powerful drug cartels. – Wall Street Journal 

Attorney General William Barr, one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies, is departing amid lingering tension over the president’s baseless claims of election fraud and the investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son. – Associated Press 

Jason Bartlett and Emily Jin write: While providing aid is only a palliative approach to de-risking Venezuela and Iran, it can lower their ultimate reliance on China and Russia as economic self-sufficiency remains a national priority. Going forward, the U.S. government should avoid attributing humanitarian aid to transparent political incentives and regime change efforts as this will only make room for increased Chinese and Russian intervention. – The National Interest  


When Russian hackers first slipped their digital Trojan horses into federal government computer systems, probably sometime in the spring, they sat dormant for days, doing nothing but hiding. Then the malicious code sprang into action and began communicating with the outside world. – Washington Post

A new report by the institute illustrates how anti-Semitism has been a feature of the widely publicized Russian disinformation campaigns surrounding American elections and other moments of social tension, with an eye toward sowing division in the United States by way of social media. – Times of Israel 

A coalition of states is finishing an antitrust lawsuit against Google focused on its power in the online search market that could be filed as soon as Thursday, two people close to the probe said. – Politico 

Some of America’s most deeply held secrets may have been stolen in a disciplined, monthslong operation being blamed on elite Russian government hackers. The possibilities of what might have been purloined are mind-boggling. – Associated Press

Editorial: President Trump should authorize cyber retaliation in response to Russia’s latest cyberoffensive against the United States. To tolerate what Vladimir Putin’s spies have just done would be to encourage their new acts of aggression. Moscow’s latest affront is serious. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: A “digital Geneva Convention” could update the norms of conflict for the cyber age; Russian president Vladimir Putin — whose Kremlin has denied being behind hacks of the US — has proposed a mutual cyber truce. But the kind of controls once adopted, say, on nuclear arms are tricky to translate into the realm of cyber space. – Financial Times


Repeated failures in the propulsion train on the Freedom-class littoral combat ships Little Rock and Detroit have raised the specter of a class-wide design flaw that could trigger an expensive reworking of a crucial component on 17 of the Navy’s small surface combatants. – Defense News

A group of high-ranking House lawmakers are pressing to restore funds cut in the proposed fiscal 2021 defense spending bills for Marine Corps efforts to develop long-range precision fires capabilities. – Defense News

The U.S. State Department recently gave the green light to Finland and Switzerland to purchase the F-35 aircraft. It’s not a fait accompli — the F-35 still needs to win each country’s competitions — but it’s telling that two friendly, but non-NATO, European countries are seriously considering the adoption of America’s fifth-generation, front-line fighter as their own. – Defense News

The U.S. Navy will review its $4 billion information technology portfolio to simplify and modernize, reducing vulnerabilities highlighted by recent cyber breaches. – C4ISRNET

In December 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017). – USNI News

Chris Bassler writes: ICE-PPR provides a key strategic cooperation framework to rapidly accelerate the abilities of U.S. and like-minded nations to preserve safe, stable, and secure polar regions through advancements in science, technology, and capability. We must be prepared and proficient across the spectrum of great power competition in the polar regions. And if deterrence fails, cooperation through ICE-PPR will help all these nations be able to fight more effectively together in the harsh conditions of high-latitude, cold weather regions. – Defense News

Long War

The terrorism trial of 14 people linked to the January 2015 Paris attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket ends Wednesday after three months punctuated by new attacks, a wave of coronavirus infections among the defendants, and devastating testimony bearing witness to three days of bloodshed that shook France. – Associated Press

Indonesian authorities transferred 23 suspected militants arrested in recent weeks to the capital on Wednesday, including a man suspected of helping make the bombs for the deadly 2002 attacks on the island of Bali. – Associated Press

The Manchester Arena bomber transferred money to his family in Libya hours before the attack, a public inquiry into the 2017 bombing has heard. – BBC 

Hizb ut-Tahrir scholar Dr. Mahmoud Abd Al-Hadi said in a November 25, 2020 interview on Al-Waqiyah TV (Lebanon), a channel that is affiliated with the organization, that Jihad means both offensive and defensive war. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

On December 12, 2020, online supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS) distributed an audio clip of a new nasheed (Islamic religious chant) titled “Coldly Kill Them With Hate And Rage.” The song spurs the group’s followers to carry out attacks in the name of ISIS to seek vengeance for Muslims who have been killed in the past, and to join its efforts to fight on behalf of the Islamic religion and to terrorize its enemies. – Middle East Media Research Institute