Fdd's overnight brief

December 17, 2020

In The News


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday that he has “no doubt” the incoming U.S. administration will rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal and remove punishing sanctions on Iran’s economy. – Washington Post

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on companies based in China and the United Arab Emirates, accusing them of supporting the sale of Iranian petrochemicals as Washington increases pressure on Tehran in the closing days of President Donald Trump’s term. – Reuters

An audacious cross-border kidnap plan carried out in Istanbul and involving a “honeytrap” is further straining relations between Turkey, Iran and Europe. – Sky News (UK)

Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, speaking at the first DiploTech Global Summit, said that “it would be devastating and a massive step backward” if the United States were to resume the Iranian nuclear deal as it was originally formulated. – Jerusalem Post

The remaining parties to the faltering 2015 Iran nuclear accord met Wednesday after Tehran announced plans for a new breach of the deal, and as uncertainty reigns ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden’s January inauguration. – Agence France-Presse

An independent Canadian report published on December 14 has questioned Iran’s investigation into its own military’s downing of a Kyiv-bound passenger plane that killed 176 people. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

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

The Foreign Affairs Committee has published its report No prosperity without justice: the UK’s relationship with Iran. The report highlights the need for the UK Government to foster a long-term, international response that addresses Iran’s wider destabilising activities. – UK Foreign Affairs Committee

Iranian government operatives lured several dissidents being protected by Western governments into locations where they could be kidnapped or killed in recent years. – Business Insider

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Monday claimed that Israel was behind the killing of a scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program in the 2000s in an effort to start a war in the last days of President Trump’s administration. – Yahoo News

Iran condemned an attack on a tanker at a Saudi Arabian port as a threat to maritime security, in its first official comments on the assault against its regional rival. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Mr Zam’s treatment shows yet again that the regime will stop at nothing to crush civil society. Snipers shoot demonstrators. In September a prominent wrestler was hanged for joining a protest. The hardliners control parliament and the courts, so they can rig next year’s presidential election. – The Economist

Daniel Schwammenthal writes: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani boldly claimed this murder wouldn’t hurt Iran’s relations with Europe. A Biden administration keen on bolstering human rights ought to encourage Europe to prove the Iranian regime wrong and help the U.S. forge a truly united Iran policy. – Newsweek


President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday U.S. sanctions imposed on Turkey over its purchase of Russian defence systems were a “hostile attack” on its sovereign rights and defence industry, and the move was bound to fail. – Reuters

Turkey will not turn back on its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems and will take reciprocal steps after evaluating the U.S. sanctions imposed because of the acquisition, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday. – Reuters

President Tayyip Erdogan told European Council President Charles Michel in a call that Turkey wants to build its future with the EU, calling for Ankara and the bloc to move on from a “vicious cycle” in ties, the Turkish presidency said late on Tuesday. – Reuters

YouTube has bowed to pressure from Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to set up an office in the country after the government threatened the video-streaming service with a de facto ban. – Financial Times

Editorial: Turkey’s economy has struggled under Mr. Erdogan, who overhauled his economic team last month. But the country’s best path to prosperity is through closer integration with the West and particularly the European Union. Whether Ankara deepens ties with its NATO allies or an economic backwater like Russia is up to Mr. Erdogan. – Wall Street Journal

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Turkey has also become fundamentally a one-party authoritarian state opposed to the US and US interests and values. Much of this empowered by a US administration that was bullied, threatened, misled and intimidated by Ankara. It took four years for the administration to tire of the late night calls from Ankara demanding the US do this or that, while Ankara hosted Iranian and Russian officials and laughed about how it could get the White House to do its bidding. – Jerusalem Post

Zvi Bar’el writes: Turkey is facing an economic crisis, with growing unemployment, dwindling foreign currency reserves, dramatically shrunken tourism due to the pandemic and growing military expenditures as a result of the country’s involvement in wars in Syria and Libya. And its friend in the White House is about to pack up and leave. Now is not a time for Erdogan to allow himself to step on America’s toes. – Haaretz


U.S. victims of extremist violence in Israel allege that three of Qatar’s leading financial institutions have secretly funneled millions of dollars to Palestinian groups responsible for killing Americans, accusing a key U.S. ally in the Middle East of duplicity. – Washington Post

US President-elect Joe Biden will not be able to pursue Israeli-Arab normalization deals if he softens America’s stance against Tehran, former US special representative for Iran Brian Hook told i24 News. – Jerusalem Post

“Jerusalem will remain undivided, but there is room for a Palestinian capital in it,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz told London-based Arabic news outlet Asharq al-Awsat in an interview that was published on Thursday, Israeli media reported. – Jerusalem Post

AIPAC built its muscular reputation on winning votes for Israel’s massive aid program and fighting weapons sales to Israel’s enemies. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas spoke on Wednesday with the President of Indonesia and thanked him for his support for the Palestinian Arab position and his opposition to normalization with Israel before it commits to peace on the basis of a two-state solution in accordance with international institutions. – Arutz Sheva

Human rights organizations in Gaza have sent a letter to the Arab League and the Arab foreign ministers warning of the Israeli government’s intention to appoint Likud MK Avi Dichter as Israel’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. – Arutz Sheva

The Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency for the first time demonstrated a multilayered air defense system using the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow weapon systems in a recent series of tests. – Defense News

Editorial: Israel should offer only humanitarian aid as part of any deal. Vaccines save lives, while freeing terrorists endangers lives. This is the only kind of offer that is morally defensible. Israel should have learned by now that freeing prisoners convicted of terrorism will only return to inflict untold damage on the country and its people. – Jerusalem Post

Barton Swaim writes: Most American voters are grown-ups who can appreciate the gravity of the challenge posed to Israel by a Palestinian minority in the grip of Jew-hatred. […]A group called the Jewish Democratic Council of America has managed to get 200 “rabbis, cantors, and other Jewish faith leaders” to sign a letter supporting Mr. Warnock’s candidacy. There are no doubt a significant number of Jewish faith leaders who would prefer to see a Democratic Senate and would consider the elevation of Mr. Warnock a price worth paying. But I suspect Georgia voters know a leftist when they see one. – Wall Street Journal

Aviram Shaul and Avi Kalo write: An agreement for the return of the Israeli captives must include humanitarian aid – including help to fight the pandemic and meet the immediate needs of the people of Gaza – in line with Israel’s interests in keeping the Strip healthy and functioning. […]Israel’s government must not miss this real opportunity to bring back Oron and the others. This might be the last real opportunity we will have for the foreseeable future. – Ynet

Haviv Rettig Gur writes: There are two ways to hold at bay an enormous and aggressive Iran perched on one’s doorstep. One can rely on stronger friends, or one can become one of those stronger friends. Emirati officials have insisted repeatedly to Israelis visiting the country in recent weeks that they should consider the UAE their “second home.” They mean it more emphatically than their Israeli visitors suspect. – Times of Israel

Gulf States

The 2030 Asian Games were awarded to Doha on Wednesday and the 2034 event went to Riyadh after a deal was struck between the rival nations. – Associated Press

There has been a notably reduction of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist content in Saudi Arabian textbooks for the coming school year, a Jerusalem-based monitoring group found in a report released Tuesday. – Times of Israel

The detention of the former crown prince of Saudi Arabia in breach of international law is weakening the security of both the kingdom and the west, a cross-party investigatory panel of British MPs has found. – The Guardian

The state prosecutor’s office in Saudi Arabia is seeking the maximum possible jail sentence for the women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, raising the possibility that the campaigner could face 20 years behind bars after a verdict in her case is announced next week. – The Guardian

Maya Carlin writes: Hopefully, the Biden team will realize that if Saudi Arabia and its neighbors believe the United States won’t leave them in the dust as Iran continues to expand its regional influence, they will be less inclined to secretly build up their own deterrents and replace their relationships with the United States with new agreements. – The National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt was the first Arab country to recognize Israel more than 40 years ago, but the nation’s relationship with it shows the challenges of translating government ties, often driven by mutual security interests, into grass roots goodwill. – Wall Street Journal

Iraq’s new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, vowed when he took office in May to rein in militia activity. Fakhry’s disappearance suggests that little has changed, Human Rights Watch said in a statement this week denouncing what it described as the “enforced disappearance” of Fakhry.  – Washington Post

The U.N. Security Council is planning to discuss Western Sahara on Monday, diplomats said, after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed region in return for the kingdom normalizing ties with Israel. – Reuters

Libya’s Central Bank said its board has approved a single official exchange rate for its currency, the dinar, following its long-awaited meeting Wednesday. – Associated Press

US President Donald Trump’s surprise backing of Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara upended years of international consensus, but will this break a deadlock or inflame a conflict? – Agence France-Presse

Morocco’s Ambassador to the United Nations Omar Hilale will join Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan in-person on Thursday night to light the final Hanukkah candle, less than a week after the two countries announced the establishment of formal relations. – Arutz Sheva

A majority in nine countries across the Arab world feel they are living in significantly more unequal societies today than before the Arab spring, an era of uprisings, civil wars and unsteady progress towards self-determination that commenced a decade ago, according to a Guardian-YouGov poll. – The Guardian

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to visit Egypt, Israel, Qatar and other countries in the region in what would be his final overseas trip as a U.S. government official, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Daphne Mccurdy and Charles Thépaut write: By lowering its sights and leveraging its pressure points strategically, the United States may actually succeed in extracting some concessions from the regime and Russians. This result will undoubtedly be unsatisfying, but in Syria, where actors are now tragically dealing with least worst outcomes, a small improvement in humanitarian conditions requires a tremendous amount of diplomatic work and is still better than what donors have been able to achieve so far. Moreover, by achieving small wins, such an approach might lay the foundation for future confidence-building measures geared toward a political solution. – War on the Rocks

Francisco Serrano writes: The frequency of these attacks highlights the dangers posed by an uncertain political environment, widespread economic problems, and regional instability. But the fact that they have become less deadly over time also seems to underline the improvements that successive governments have made to Tunisia’s security apparatus. […]In the long run, improving security will require more than just military and policing solutions.  – Middle East Institute


China’s space program executed the final stage of an ambitious mission to capture moon fragments and return them to Earth, state media reported, as its space vehicle touched down in a northern China landscape covered in snow. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. military accused China’s People’s Liberation Army of skipping a scheduled bilateral discussion on aviation and maritime safety this week, a rare snub that comes at a sensitive moment in the soured relationship between Washington and Beijing. – Wall Street Journal

As the Chinese government tracked and persecuted members of predominantly Muslim minority groups, the technology giant Alibaba taught its corporate customers how they could play a part. – New York Times

Ten Hong Kong activists who were captured at sea while trying to flee to Taiwan in August were charged in mainland China on Wednesday with illegal boundary-crossing offenses that could put some of them behind bars for years. – New York Times

Perhaps nowhere do the U.S. and Chinese militaries come closer to each other than in the South China Sea. And the brinkmanship in the waters could soon rise under President-elect Joe Biden. – Bloomberg

What may seem like a little corporate intrigue in fact matters to China and the world. The state-backed company lies at the heart of Beijing’s intentions to build a world-class semiconductor industry free of U.S. technology. – Bloomberg

Editorial: That would be a victory for China, which sees the organisation as a beachhead in its campaign to redefine global norms. It has used it to secure resolutions that weaken the language of human rights, emphasising state-led development over the rights of individuals, and respectful “dialogue” between states rather than holding countries to account when they commit abuses. It has also vigorously opposed resolutions against specific states, arguing that countries should not interfere in others’ affairs. China’s voice in the council, whether as an observer or a member, helps it to counter its growing band of critics. – The Economist

Daniel Yergin writes: History versus international law, nationalism and military power versus interdependence and common interests—these define the contention over the South China Sea. […]And with the growing rift between Washington and Beijing, think of Norman Angell and the costs of confrontation between two nations that are so economically interdependent. These are the four ghosts who haunt those troubled waters.  – Defense One

South Asia

Magnetic bombs are part of a Taliban strategy to sow terror and chaos among Afghans, particularly in the capital, local security officials say. – New York Times

India reassured Bangladesh it will prioritize the supply of Covid-19 shots to its South Asian neighbor, part of its vaccine outreach to counter China’s rising influence in the region. – Bloomberg

India will identify “trusted” sources of telecoms gear its carriers can use in their networks as part of the new security directive for the sector, technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told a news conference on Wednesday. – Reuters


Ethnic Armenian authorities in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh accused Azeri forces on Wednesday of capturing several dozen of their troops, putting further strain on a ceasefire deal that brought an end to bloody fighting in the region last month. – Reuters

Taiwan launched the first of its new heavily armed “aircraft carrier killer” warships on Tuesday, with the homemade vessels touted as a key to the country’s self-defense efforts against China’s overpowering People’s Liberation Army (PLA). – Newsweek

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the China-Australia free trade deal, a diplomatic triumph that has boosted trade by A$100bn a year. But no one is celebrating in Canberra amid a breakdown in bilateral relations, which has sparked a rare debate about Australian diplomacy. – Financial Times

Sunny Cheung writes: We owe the current administration credit for leading the world to acknowledge the threat that is China and to redraw relations with it. Now the next president has to set the tone. Hong Kong is a litmus test for the American resolve to defend democracy and a check on how far China can reach to overturn the liberal world order. A new policy is needed for Hong Kong. – The Hill

Michael Rubin writes: What should be of greater concern, however, is the recent trajectory of Azerbaijan’s leadership not only to embrace rhetoric rooted in the Armenian genocide but also to welcome as a partner a Turkish leader whose obsession lays not with territorial dispute but rather with religious warfare, jihad, and deeply anti-Semitic conspiracies. Simply put, the days of Azerbaijan being an oasis for Jews is now in the past. – Washington Examiner


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual end-of-year news conference, expected to last roughly four hours on Thursday, will have the same format as most of his speaking engagements this year: a remote one, due to the pandemic. – Washington Post

The penetration rekindles long-running questions about Trump’s approach to Russia — questions that have spanned his entire presidency and now threaten to cast a pall over his final days in office. – Washington Post

Putin’s tirade and one-week deadline were conveniently timed for just before his annual marathon news conference Thursday. Inflation is projected to hit nearly 5 percent this year, according to Reshetnikov, while real incomes have fallen by more than 4 percent. – Washington Post

Olevskiy’s firing has turned into a mini-propaganda coup for the Kremlin, which has used it to portray Radio Free Europe as hypocritical in its claims about free speech. – Washington Post

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is due to announce its verdict on Russia’s appeal of a four-year ban from major international sporting events imposed over allegations of state-sanctioned doping. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russia conducted its second test this year of a direct ascent anti-satellite missile test, according to a U.S. Space Command, yet again drawing sharp criticism from the U.S. – C4ISRNET

Editorial: The administration has barely slapped Russia on the wrist, putting two Russian facilities suspected of chemical weapons development on a Commerce Department blacklist. We don’t have much hope Mr. Trump will do more. But President-elect Joe Biden should make it clear the United States will not excuse such dangerous behavior, and impose stricter sanctions on Russian officials, including those measures available under the Magnitsky Act and other laws. – Washington Post

Adam Taylor writes: When Russian President Vladimir Putin sits for his annual marathon public Q and A on Thursday, he is likely to face questions, not for the first time, about Russian hacking efforts. In the past, he has responded with a smirk — denying, yet implying. What might be harder to brush off, however, are a number of recent investigations detailing excesses of Russian state power. […]As Navalny’s poisoning shows, those who seek to do this work can be putting their lives on the line. But in doing so, they turn the tables on a government that often trades in corruption and subterfuge. – Washington Post

Lauren Speranza and Miruna Sirbu write: The United States must make its presence felt in the Black Sea Region, restoring U.S. political leadership and cooperation with core allies and partners. The wider Black Sea region is an important chessboard upon which the 21st century’s geopolitical competition is playing out. […]Focused U.S. engagement in the Black Sea will not only support core regional allies and partners, it will directly serve American interests. – Center for European Policy Analysis


A former Vatican envoy to France was found guilty of sexually assaulting five men, in the latest case of such misconduct by a senior Catholic Church official. – Wall Street Journal

Negotiators moved closer to an agreement on the future relationship between the U.K. and European Union, officials from both sides said, though they remained far apart on a major stumbling block: access by EU boats to British waters. – Wall Street Journal

The German government Wednesday moved closer to allowing the use of Huawei’s technology in 5G mobile networks, giving the Chinese company a small victory on a European continent increasingly aligned with the Trump administration’s anti-Huawei views. – Wall Street Journal

Three immigration and border inspectors have been indicted on homicide charges in the case. And last Wednesday, the head of Portugal’s Immigration and Border Service resigned as part of a restructuring ordered by the interior ministry after Mr. Homeniuk’s death. – New York Times

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 UK and the United States are hoping to reach an agreement on reducing trade tariffs, according to Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative in Donald Trump’s outgoing administration. – The Guardian

Ivan Krastev writes: By making a deal, Ms. Merkel has sent a strong signal to ordinary Europeans that solidarity matters when it is most needed — and exposes the emptiness of the sovereignty rhetoric coming from Warsaw and Budapest. The only thing those governments actually care about, it is now clear, is staying in power. – New York Times

Rachel Ellehuus and Donatienne Ruy write: By analyzing the internal causes of instability in littoral Mediterranean countries and external influence, the United States can craft a more effective strategy for the Mediterranean. Identifying common threats and opportunities throughout the Mediterranean and enhancing the ability of the United States and NATO to compete along the Southern Flank will be vital for continued success in this region. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Six years after the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok ignited the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign, the cries of schoolchildren’s parents are again echoing across Africa’s most-populous nation. – Wall Street Journal

Somalia’s opposition says it has written to Turkey urging it not to send a planned shipment of weapons to a special police unit that they fear incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed could use to “hijack” forthcoming elections. – Reuters

Sudan’s armed forces said on Wednesday that a number of its officers had been ambushed by “Ethiopian forces and militias” during a security patrol of the border region. – Reuters

Acting on a tip from Japanese cyber researchers, the African Union’s (AU) technology staffers discovered that a group of suspected Chinese hackers had rigged a cluster of servers in the basement of an administrative annex to quietly siphon surveillance videos from across the AU’s sprawling campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. – Reuters

The European Union has postponed 90 million euros ($109 million) in budgetary support to Ethiopia over lack of access to the country’s Tigray region to deliver humanitarian aid amid the conflict. – Associated Press

United States

The Treasury Department on Wednesday formally accused two U.S. trading partners of manipulating their currencies in ways that harmed U.S. economic interests, as President Trump fired what could be one of the final shots in his global trade war. – Washington Post

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the global nuclear watchdog, told CBS News that the world has become a more dangerous place partly due to President Donald Trump’s policies, and he urged Mr. Trump’s successor to return to nuclear negotiations with adversaries. – CBS News

Nikki Haley writes: Staying the course on China, Latin America and the Middle East is the right path. Biden can expand on our success and promote America’s interests in each. It would be disastrous if he missed the opportunity because of a partisan desire to reverse the course of his predecessor. – Washington Post


It now is clear that the broad Russian espionage attack on the United States government and private companies, underway since spring and detected by the private sector only a few weeks ago, ranks among the greatest intelligence failures of modern times. – New York Times

The Department of Defense has outlined what contracts will initially fall within its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. – C4ISRNET

The Pentagon’s combat support agency tasked with information technology and communications support has said it’s taking active measures to investigate potential intrusions and guard against future threats after a massive hack that infiltrated across at least several departments of the U.S. federal government. – Newsweek

The U.S. government confirmed on Wednesday that a recent hacking campaign affected its networks and said the attack was “significant and ongoing.” – Reuters

Thomas P. Bossert writes: The response must be broader than patching networks. While all indicators point to the Russian government, the United States, and ideally its allies, must publicly and formally attribute responsibility for these hacks. […]While we must reserve our right to unilateral self-defense, allies must be rallied to the cause. The importance of coalitions will be especially important to punishing Russia and navigating this crisis without uncontrolled escalation. – New York Times

Timothy Dolan and Toufic Baaklini write: We hope President-elect Biden will build on the accomplishments of the Trump administration, namely its assistance to genocide survivors and priority on international religious freedom as a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy. At the same time, Mr. Biden should correct the Trump administration’s shortcomings, particularly its failure to confront Turkey meaningfully. – Wall Street Journal


The Air Force allowed an artificial-intelligence algorithm to control sensor and navigation systems on a U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane in a training flight Tuesday, officials said, marking what is believed to be the first known use of AI onboard a U.S. military aircraft. – Washington Post

Bell’s technology demonstrator designed to show the Army the realm of the possible in Future Vertical Lift capability has flown 200 hours since its first flight three years ago, according to Keith Flail, the company’s executive vice president for advanced vertical lift systems. – Defense News

A university in South Carolina is teaming up with the U.S. Army to create models for self-driving military vehicles. – Associated Press

Plans for the U.S. Space Force’s new Space Systems Command are all but set, with the new acquisitions organization expected in early 2021, said Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond. – C4ISRNET

In addition to the latest contracts for its F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, last week the United States Air Force awarded the company a $900 million contract to provide sustainment support and deport-overflow services for the F-16. – The National Interest

A recent Boeing MQ-25A Stingray flight test was a success, according to the company, and demonstrated that the UAV can fulfill its intended role as an aerial tanker and extend the reach of carrier air wings. – The National Interest

From new contract structures to robotic safety tools, Army Materiel Command is working on an ambitious master plan to modernize its arsenals, depots, and ammunition plants. – Breaking Defense

Kris Osborn writes: Close air support for advancing infantry and precision-guided pinpoint strikes on enemy positions and fortifications were indispensable amid efforts to destroy Iraq insurgents, ISIS and the Taliban, yet there was no need for any kind of air-to-air engagement or destruction of advanced enemy air defenses. These things would be crucial in any war against a major adversary capable of projecting massive and destructive power from the sky. […]These dynamics are likely one reason why both Air Force and Army leaders signed a joint, mutual-service agreement to reinforce one another, support each other’s domain and more successfully network weapons and attack platforms to one another in real-time. . . . thus enter Joint All Domain Command and Control.  – The National Interest

Kris Osborn writes: The U.S. Air Force Reaper Drones were crucial to victories in the War on Terrorism by delivering lethal, decisive and precise hellfire missile attacks upon terrorist and insurgent targets. They also provided countless hours of real-time intelligence to ground commanders through video surveillance in the Middle East and around the world. In fact, these drones have been continually expanding mission scope through a growing weapons arsenal and even new air-to-air attack capability. Yet, could the Reaper survive a war against China or Russia? Probably not. – The National Interest

Jason Lyall writes: Cheap, survivable drones, combined with armor and artillery, offer the militaries that field them real advantages. The four recent conflicts in which drones have appeared show that even modest vehicles can help win military victories and reshape geopolitics. And as drones become part of the arsenals of more countries—surging from eight in 2015 to 20 today—new actors are poised to seize the opportunity they offer to grab territory or ignite previously frozen conflicts. Governments and analysts need to rethink the role these weapons may play in actually increasing the risk of interstate violence. – Foreign Affairs

Long War

A French court convicted 14 people Wednesday of helping carry out the 2015 terrorist attacks on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store, as France sought to close one of the more painful chapters in its modern history. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. prosecutors are expected to unseal charges against a suspect they allege was a top bomb-maker for the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and assembled the device that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, opening a new chapter in one of the world’s longest and most sprawling terrorism investigations. – Wall Street Journal

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged a Kenyan man with plotting a Sept. 11-style attack on a building in an American city, according to a newly unsealed federal indictment. – New York Times

Residents of Egypt’s restive North Sinai region ran for their lives when an Islamic State group affiliate occupied their villages. Now, they are returning to find their homes booby-trapped. – Agence France-Presse

Benjamin Haddad writes: In recent years, a new political, economic, cultural French elite has emerged from these generations of immigrants, some claiming their Muslim faith, others preferring to live without it. Some of them, especially women, have been the strongest voices in the current fight against separatism. It is their integration, their success, that extremists are trying to stop. Well-intentioned critics who care about integration and tolerance in the French Republic should celebrate those voices, not the ones who are trying to stifle them. – Washington Post

Trump Administration

Incoming acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen declined to say on Wednesday whether he would name special counsels to investigate President Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud or the tax issues of President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter. – Reuters

In a wide-ranging exit interview with the Washington Examiner’s Senior Political Correspondent David Drucker, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vigorously defended President Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, arguing it has increased America’s capacity to deliver “good, peaceful outcomes” by aggressively challenging adversaries around the world instead of trying to get along with them while waiting for change that never comes. – Washington Examiner

President Donald Trump’s spy chief won’t meet Friday’s deadline to submit a classified report to Congress on foreign efforts to sway the Nov. 3 election, officials said, because of arguments within the intelligence community over whether China should be cited more prominently for its attempts to influence American voters. – Bloomberg