Fdd's overnight brief

December 2, 2020

In The News


Iranian lawmakers urged the Rouhani government to restrict United Nations inspections of its nuclear activities and boost uranium enrichment, following the killing last week of a top nuclear scientist. – Wall Street Journal

Humiliated by the killing of a top nuclear scientist, Iranian officials sought this week to rewrite the attack as an episode of science fiction: Israel had executed him entirely by remote control, spraying bullets from an automated machine gun propped up in a parked Nissan without a single assassin on the scene. Even hard-liners mocked the new spin. – New York Times

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday rejected a bill approved by parliament that would have suspended U.N. inspections and boosted uranium enrichment, saying it was “harmful” to diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal and easing U.S. sanctions. – Associated Press

An Iranian commander was reportedly killed in a drone strike on the Syria-Iraq border over the weekend, coming days after the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist outside Tehran that Iran has blamed on Israel. – Yahoo News

Just hours after the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, Tehran demanded the United Nations Security Council condemn the killing and take action against those responsible, but diplomats say the call is likely to go unheeded. – Reuters

President Donald Trump may only have seven weeks left in office, but he’s given his top advisers the green light to batter the Iranian regime—anything that doesn’t hazard a full-on war before Joe Biden is inaugurated. – The Daily Beast 

Imprisoned Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali, accused by Iran of spying for Israel, could be executed in Iran as soon as Wednesday, rights groups and his wife said. – Times of Israel

The alleged mastermind of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was buried with full military honors on Monday. He was ambushed with a remote-controlled machine gun mounted on a car that later blew up, according to Iranian media reports. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed Israel for the killing on Saturday and vowed retribution “in due time.” – CBS

The killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist has exposed security gaps which suggest its security forces may have been infiltrated and that the Islamic Republic is vulnerable to further attacks. […]Iran’s inability to thwart such operations could encourage future attempts. – Retuers

The Iranian Writers Association announced on Sunday that Iranian intelligence agents detained Amin Moradi, a poet and member of the organization. – Radio Farda

Germany, France and Britain urged the Trump administration in late October to reconsider broad, new sanctions against Iran’s banks, arguing that the move would deter legitimate humanitarian trade and hurt the allies’ common interests, diplomatic correspondence shows. – Reuters

Mr. Biden has said he is willing to return to the deal if Tehran comes back into full compliance with its provisions and commits to negotiations to build on the agreement. However, such negotiations will take time, and Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s death, the January killing of Gen. Soleimani and an explosion at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in July diminish patience in Tehran with attempts to engage diplomatically with Washington, as long as there is little reward in doing so for Iranians. – Wall Street Journal

Reza Behrouz and Shervan Fashandi write: The regime failed in both cases. Let us be honest. No level of diplomacy with the regime can change its malign incompetence. Although President-elect Joe Biden asserts that he has no illusions about the brutality and corruption of the regime in Iran, his plans to reconcile with it contradicts that claim. The strongest evidence showing how misguided the upcoming administration is with respect to the regime is Biden’s promise to return to the nuclear deal. – Jerusalem Post


Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said Tuesday efforts to resolve Cyprus’ ethnic division should start fresh and aim to achieve a two-state deal, because decades of negotiations for a federation-based agreement have got nowhere. – Associated Press

Turkey has turned to the U.S. courts to seek evidence against American charter schools it says are funding the activities of a dissident living in Pennsylvania. – Bloomberg

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed Turkey during a virtual meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday, accusing Ankara of stoking tensions with fellow allies in the Mediterranean and of giving a gift to the Kremlin by purchasing a Russian-made anti-aircraft system. – Politico

Turkey ordered the detention of 82 military personnel in an operation targeting supporters of the Muslim preacher who Ankara says was behind a failed coup in 2016, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Ankara has been isolated from Washington in recent months. While Turkey was able to control the Trump administration’s foreign policy on Syria and in other areas for years through a carefully orchestrated lobby in Washington, it lost influence as it continued to bash Israel, buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system and threaten the US and its allies. – Jerusalem Post


A landmark agreement between Sudan and Israel to begin normalizing relations is at risk of unraveling just over a month after it was announced by President Trump, revealing a crack in Middle East peace accords that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel have sought to cement as foreign policy legacies. – New York Times

Israel’s ongoing political crisis, which left the country without a government for more than a year and saddled it with a mostly dysfunctional one during the coronavirus pandemic, threatened to descend into chaos once again Wednesday as parliamentarians poised to dissolve the ruling coalition. – Washington Post

Israel teetered on the verge of its fourth election in two years after Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief coalition partner said he would support a preliminary motion on Wednesday to disband parliament. – Bloomberg

In an apparent hit-and-run, a bus hit seven Palestinian workers Wednesday morning near a crossing between the West Bank city of Bethlehem and Israel, killing two of them. – Times of Israel

Mansour Abbas, chairman of the Knesset Special Committee on Eradicating Crime in Arab Society, went from relative anonymity to being a media star in October after he called for cooperation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in return for his aid in addressing violence in Israel’s Arab communities. – Haaretz

Israel has released more than $1 billion in funds withheld from the Palestinian Authority, a top Palestinian Authority official said Wednesday, weeks after coordination was renewed between the two sides. – Agence France-Presse


President Emmanuel Macron will seek to revive a French initiative on Lebanon when he hosts an international aid conference on Wednesday, but with the country’s fractious political class bickering, hopes of a breakthrough appear slim. – Reuters

Lebanon’s central bank can only keep subsidising basic goods for two more months, Governor Riad Salameh said on Tuesday, adding that it was up to the state to come up with a plan. – Reuters

France’s presidency said on Wednesday that there would be no international financial support for Lebanon until there was a government in place and warned that an audit of the central bank was more urgent than ever. – Reuters

David Pollock writes: A reliable new public opinion poll conducted in Lebanon, completed just three weeks ago, offers the first solid proof that grass-roots support for Hezbollah has declined significantly, even among the third of Lebanon’s population who is Shia. This slide in support probably helps explain Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s surprising new statement that Iran—and not Hezbollah—should avenge the recent death of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Three prominent Egyptian human-rights defenders appeared in a Cairo terrorism court on Tuesday as a part of a high-profile case that has drawn international pressure to release them. – Wall Street Journal

Israel and Bahrain are working to quickly bring the normalization of their ties to fruition, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Bahraini Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani said in their meeting on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Should former members of the Syrian security forces who have defected from President Bashar al-Assad’s government be prosecuted for war crimes, or should they serve as key witnesses in an effort to bring senior officials to justice? The question has divided Syrian refugees and exiles who have fled a civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and that has been marked by atrocities since it broke out in 2011. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: There is no doubt that there have been airstrikes in the past against pro-Iranian groups and facilities in Syria. Very rarely are Iranians killed. There are thought to be less than 1,000 Iranian IRGC personnel in Syria. There are thousands of pro-Iranian militias. Precision strikes in Syria frequently target Iranian infrastructure, but not personnel. When a Hezbollah member was killed in July Hezbollah vowed revenge against Israel, illustrating the precarious nature of airstrikes in Syria and the resulting response when those strikes may harm personnel from Iran or Hezbollah. – Jerusalem Post

Jim Breckenridge and Katie Breckenridge Crombe write: We believe that competing below the threshold of armed conflict takes as much work as competing above it, albeit with less combat power. In turn, the United Sates should mitigate the peaks and troughs of resource and intellectual horsepower that characterize the American experience in the Middle East. Slow and steady always wins the race — just look at our adversaries. The United States does not need to triumph. Not losing is also winning in the competitive space. To abandon the field now is to continue the process of psychological surrender to forces inimical to liberal democratic values. – War on the Rocks

Korean Peninsula

A senior U.S. official accused China of violating United Nations sanctions against North Korea, actions that he said go against a global consensus and undermine efforts to get the isolated regime to give up its nuclear weapons. – Bloomberg

There’s signs of more trouble for North Korea this winter, as a new report states the country’s First Corps will be greatly diminished when annual training begins this month. – The National Interest

A network of North Korean money launderers and weapons program suppliers operates in China with the tacit approval of Chinese authorities, according to a senior State Department official. – Washington Examiner

James Holmes writes: How can the U.S. Navy destroy North Korea should Washington give the word? It can’t. […]And, of course, North Korea shares a long, distended frontier with China and Russia. That’s a frontier that must be sealed to isolate the battleground, yet can’t be sealed by naval aviation. The border can only be sealed by Beijing and Moscow—dubious partners at best in the Korean standoff. That grants Pyongyang an opportunity for mischief-making. In short, it will be hard to crush North Korea’s armed forces, even if Washington orders a joint offensive. – The National Interest


Advocates of the U.S. government taking a bigger role in industrial policy got a boost Tuesday from a bipartisan commission on China, which said the government should consider getting more involved in promoting U.S. technology or risk losing its edge to Chinese products. – Washington Post

China landed a spacecraft on the moon Tuesday on a mission to mine rocks and soil and return them to Earth, the latest in a series of lunar missions demonstrating the country’s emergence as a force in space exploration. – Washington Post

An influential bipartisan commission on China recommended Tuesday Congress expand the Federal Trade Commission’s authority, which would allow it to examine the influence of foreign government subsidies earlier in the process of considering large mergers and acquisitions involving foreign companies. – Wall Street Journal

President-elect Joe Biden told the New York Times he’d leave the phase-one trade deal with China in place while he conducts a full review of U.S. policy toward its Asian rival in consultation with key allies. – Bloomberg

The U.S. should ratchet up its demands of China to include equal access for companies and media, stricter monitoring of Beijing’s activities at the United Nations and preventive action to safeguard American interests in technology and finance, a bipartisan panel told Congress on Tuesday. – Bloomberg

China is refusing to apologize over a doctored image shared by its foreign policy spokesman showing an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child. – New York Post

A specialist commission has warned Congress that China’s military is rapidly expanding its capabilities and could be ready to fight extended foreign wars within the next 15 years. – Newsweek

President-elect Joe Biden will not immediately axe the tariffs imposed on China during President Donald Trump’s trade war and has said that the U.S. needs to work towards increasing its “leverage” over Beijing. – Newsweek

Chinese state-backed funds are still scouring the US for investments in critical technologies despite stiffer restrictions on such deals, prompting bipartisan concern in Washington over the national security implications. – Financial Times

A global alliance of parliamentarians has urged people to buy a bottle of Australian wine during the festive season in a campaign designed to stand up against “bullying” by China. – Financial Times

Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has been nominated by President-elect Joe Biden as his Treasury secretary — a position that would make her, if confirmed by the Senate, a critical figure in U.S. trade negotiations with China. – CNBC

While the US and its allies have been fighting in the Middle East, the Chinese military has been paying close attention, especially to US special operations. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly investing resources in its own special-operations forces. – Business Insider

Pentagon leadership has noted a “darkening mood in Beijing” as the communist government races forward with its massive military buildup to bolster its economic influence in the region, a top DoD official said Monday. – Breaking Defense

China could partner with Russia in order to develop nuclear-powered icebreakers. […]The Chinese navy already possesses two conventionally-powered flattops and is building a third. – The National Interest

Understanding the Chinese air force’s approach to technology can help the U.S. Air Force to plan its own means of defeating the Chinese air arm in battle. – The National Interest

Senator Rick Scott writes: We can no longer pretend that Communist China is an ally with good intentions, merely a partner with customs and a political system that we don’t fully understand. Communist China is a totalitarian regime bent on world domination, and as long as its officials refuse to tell the truth or respect human rights, they will be treated as such. – New York Times

Daniel F. Runde writes: As China puts down stakes on our “third border,” we have two options: We can either ignore the problem, or we can genuinely partner with countries in the region to put forward a more compelling offer than China’s. With the Caribbean’s key travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors particularly weak due to COVID-19, being responsive to the region’s needs is more urgent than ever. Knowing that, President-elect Biden should take a page from Ronald Reagan’s first term playbook and develop a new and enhanced Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI2). – The Hill

Joseph Bosco writes: The Biden administration can take the passing baton and show Xi Jinping a collaborative glide path to a democratic future and peaceful coexistence with Taiwan. The first step would be for Beijing to stop inciting artificial nationalism on “reunification” (Taiwan has never been part of the People’s Republic of China) and then using that “patriotic” fervor as the pretext for its aggression. A democratically-elected government in China would not need that dangerous tactic to establish its popular legitimacy — which it had and squandered at Tiananmen. Xi needs to start over. – The Hill


Afghan government helicopters killed two children, ages 10 and 12, and left at least two children wounded and two others missing after bombarding a village in the eastern Ghazni province, officials and local witnesses said Tuesday. – Associated Press

Afghan civil society leaders have reacted with disgust to photographs of an Australian special forces soldier drinking alcohol from the prosthetic leg of a slain Taliban fighter. – The Guardian

NATO must not jeopardize the peace negotiations for Afghanistan by withdrawing troops prematurely from the war-torn country, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said ahead of a virtual meeting with his NATO colleagues. – Reuters

Peter D. Feaver and Jim Golby write: The military units left behind in Afghanistan may face acute vulnerabilities reminiscent of Dien Bien Phu and even Benghazi, but the incoming Biden team at least will have some remaining options. The fight over Afghanistan policy will go another round—and in the next round, the civil-military questions and partisan blame games that have been mostly suppressed until now could become the main action. – Wall Street Journal

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: The United States cannot save a government or a political system from itself, and it has no moral or ethical responsibility to indefinitely support another nation’s status as a failed state. The U.S. does, however, have a responsibility to be honest and transparent in dealing with the peace effort and the U.S. withdrawal. Retreating behind a face of false data and rhetoric is morally and ethically dishonest. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


After three failed cease-fires, a Russia-brokered peace deal signed on Nov. 9 ended the six-week war that killed thousands. The deal allowed Azerbaijan to keep significant territory it had captured and required Armenia to hand over other areas, but left the capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Stepanakert, under Armenian control, protected by Russian peacekeepers. Armenians in one region designated to change hands, Kelbajar, burned their homes rather than allow Azerbaijanis to live in them. – New York Times

Now, Australia is sounding an even louder alarm. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, already vexed by China’s blockade of Australian imports — wine, coal, barley and cotton — demanded on Monday that the Chinese government apologize for a lurid tweet showing an Australian soldier with a knife at the neck of an Afghan child. The world, he warned, was watching. – New York Times

A court on Wednesday sentenced Hong Kong democracy activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam to between seven and 13½ months in prison for organizing and taking part in an unauthorized protest, as China seeks to eradicate dissent in the city. – Washington Post

Azerbaijan on Tuesday completed reclaiming territory held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter-century after a peace deal ended six weeks of fierce fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh. – Associated Press

Joe Biden is considering appointing a White House Asia tsar, signalling the rising importance of the region as the US president-elect prepares to tackle a wide range of challenges from China. – Financial Times

Australia is in an unfavorable position in its trade dispute with China, which has found alternative sources like the U.S. for supplies, according to S&P Global Platts. – CNBC

The Russian military on Tuesday announced the deployment of state-of-the-art air defense missiles to the Pacific islands claimed by Japan. – Associated Press

A Chinese real estate company that bought an Australian island has blocked its Aussie residents from living in paradise. – New York Post

India wants to diversify its oil imports, including the resumption of supplies from Iran and Venezuela, after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Wednesday. – Reuters

More than 150 parliamentarians from 18 countries have called on Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to intervene to ensure justice for 12 people, the youngest of who is 16, who have been detained in mainland China while trying to flee the city by boat. – Reuters

A Hong Kong television station said on Tuesday about 100 staff were “affected” by a shake-up as it seeks to remain competitive in a challenging economic environment, a move that has re-ignited worries over media freedom in China’s freest city. – Reuters

Nathan Law Kwun Chung and Alex Chow write: Activists like us — the authors, who are in exile and wanted for arrest or in the diaspora, and our comrades in Hong Kong who face imprisonment or persecution — will continue to campaign relentlessly against China’s authoritarian expansion[…]. The incoming Biden administration must not only remain critical of the C.C.P. regime but also have the courage to foster a new China policy that prioritizes human rights over other interests. Only then will the United States be able to restore its leadership in a global order committed to freedom, democracy, equality and multilateralism. – New York Times


The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on December 1 ruled that Russia violated a top physicist’s right to a fair trial in a 2014 trial on treason and fraud charges. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Nor are the Russians the only ones to pull risky aerial stunts. The same month that Moscow’s jets chased the U.S. spy plane into Sweden, a Chinese Flanker did a barrel roll over a U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance plane 135 miles east of Hainan Island, the site of a major Chinese naval facility. – The National Interest

Russia’s Investigative Committee has rejected reports saying a probe has been launched into opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station. – Radio  Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Mark B. Schneider writes: In my opinion, Vladimir Putin is the most likely head of state of a nuclear power to start a nuclear war. […]His assertion that Russian strategic nuclear capability “neutralises the threat of a large-scale military conflict” is another way of saying that he plans to initiate the use of nuclear weapons in any major conflict. His new nuclear bomb-proof bunkers could very well contribute to his decision to initiate the use of nuclear weapons. – Real Clear Defense


British and European Union negotiators are racing to strike a post-Brexit trade deal before the start of next week, with officials on both sides saying the outcome is still too close to call. – Bloomberg

The European Union plans a sweeping proposal for transatlantic cooperation to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden in a bid to repair relations soured by Donald Trump. – Bloomberg

Nord Stream 2 has picked a ship to finish laying sections of its pipeline under the Baltic Sea, a German agency overseeing the work said, indicating the Russian company has found a way to get around U.S. sanctions that have halted the project. – Bloomberg

Trade talks between the U.K. and European Union are “so tricky and so difficult” but there could be a positive outcome in the next few days, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. – Bloomberg

Germany military intelligence has opened an investigation into eight civilian employees of the armed forces suspected of belonging to the far-right “Reichsbuerger” movement that denies the existence of the modern German state. – Reuters

Police found a crossbow, machete, knives and Nazi symbols in early-morning raids on Tuesday after banning a far-right extremist group called “Wolf Brigade 44” which the government says wants a Nazi state. – Reuters

Belarus’ opposition will compile a register of law enforcement officers accused of abuses against peaceful demonstrators protesting the reelection of the country’s authoritarian leader, an opposition leader said Tuesday. – Associated Press

Scott Cullinane writes: European leaders are right to be optimistic about what a President Biden could mean. Still, supporters of the transatlantic partnership should make efforts to engage a wider swath of Americans to ensure the relationship’s health for many administrations to come. – The Hill 

Martin Sandbu writes: The paradox is that multilateral institutions, norm-setting and standards are the EU’s bread and butter, and nowhere more so than in trade policy, the one area of international power where the EU can challenge the US. Yet it was Washington, not Brussels, that for years pursued a multilateral trading structure — the Trans-Pacific Partnership — to tie together friendly powers in Asia and lay down firmer US-designed foundations for the regional order into which China was rapidly emerging. – Financial Times

Stephen Nix writes: Ultimately, IRI’s voter education campaign organically reached many segments of the diaspora electorate, contributing in large part to the record turnout. Overall, these combined efforts contributed to a more inclusive, transparent, and secure election in Moldova, signaling a future where candidates can no longer afford to ignore the views and interests of this community. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Ethiopia’s government said Keria Ibrahim, one of nine members of the dissident Tigray region’s ruling party executive, surrendered to federal forces. – Bloomberg

European Union officials are considering suspending budget support to Ethiopia because of the month-long conflict in the Horn of Africa nation’s Tigray region. – Bloomberg

While the world’s leading tech companies are focused on expanding their cloud computing capabilities, a tiny Russian software company is making inroads in Africa by offering governments there a chance to keep their data close to home. – Bloomberg

As Ethiopia’s federal government declared victory after a three-week conflict in the northern region of Tigray, another battle is raging: a war of words. A fierce propaganda struggle is being waged on social media, in broadcasts and in print, with both sides trying to demonise the other in a strategy aimed at both a domestic and an international audience. – Financial Times

Attacks by Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have killed thousands of people this year in Africa’s Sahel region, an arid belt to the south of the Sahara Desert. – Reuters

U.N. experts say South Sudan’s latest peace effort has stalled, with the coalition government formed in February failing to meet deadlines and President Salva Kiir locking opposition leader and now First Vice President Riek Machar “out of the government’s decision-making process.” – Associated Press

The trial of a former Liberian commander accused of rape, pillage, assassinations, and an act of cannibalism opens in Switzerland this week. The trial of Alieu Kosiah, who denies the charges, is one of just a handful of cases brought before international courts in relation to the West African country’s 1989-2003 conflict, which killed nearly a quarter of a million people, often at the hands of child soldiers. – Reuters

The United Nations refugee agency appealed on Tuesday to Ethiopian authorities for access to 96,000 Eritrean refugees in the northern Tigray region, where it said food is believed to have run out during the month-long conflict. – Reuters

Pope Francis condemned on Wednesday the killing of scores of farmers and villagers in northeast Nigeria by suspected Islamist militants as a “terroristic massacre” that offended the name of God. – Reuters

Ethiopia’s nearly month-long war against rebellious northern forces may be transforming into a guerrilla conflict, experts said on Tuesday, even though federal troops declared victory after capturing the Tigrayan regional capital at the weekend. – Reuters

Latin America

Juan Guaido will still be Venezuela’s legitimate head of state even if he loses his seat as head of the country’s parliament on Sunday, Chile’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, saying the Dec. 6 vote for a new assembly lacked any credibility. – Reuters

The United States could begin sharing sensitive intelligence with Honduras about inbound flights carrying drugs, U.S. officials told Reuters, even as the Central American country faces scrutiny from Washington over drug-related corruption. – Reuters

The United States’ anti-drug policy in Latin America needs to change if Washington is to effectively combat a problem worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, a U.S. congressional commission will say in a bipartisan report coming out this week. – Reuters

United States

A controversial political appointee of outgoing President Donald Trump who has sought to remake important programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development is set to return to the agency following a two-month absence, after he had been accused of mismanagement and hostility toward employees, according to U.S. and NGO officials. – Foreign Policy  

Attorney General William Barr has named U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut to be a special counsel in his ongoing investigation into the FBI’s Russia probe, a move that will let the inquiry continue into President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. – Bloomberg

Matthew P. Goodman writes: Deferring a decision risks undermining the credibility of your claim that the United States is back in Asia and committed to allies and partners there. […]The silos that currently exist between domestic and international policymaking should be broken down in the interest of a comprehensive economic strategy that delivers for U.S. workers and affirms American leadership in the world. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


North Korean hackers have targeted at least six pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., the U.K. and South Korea working on Covid-19 treatments, according to people familiar with the matter, as the regime seeks sensitive information it could sell or weaponize. – Wall Street Journal

A Russian who admitted carrying out one of the largest known cyberattacks against a U.S. bank is a “brazen and prolific” hacker who should serve as long as almost two decades in prison, U.S. prosecutors told a federal judge in advance of his sentencing. – Bloomberg

Facebook Inc.’s Oversight Board has picked the first six cases it will review to determine whether the company took appropriate action with controversial content. – Bloomberg

From Washington to Beijing, governments are trying to strike the right balance between enabling technology innovation and preventing giants like Google and Facebook Inc. from suffocating rivals. Now India is experimenting with a framework for financial technology that’s certain to provide lessons worldwide — succeed or fail. – Bloomberg

China unveiled draft guidelines on Tuesday seeking to limit the scope of mobile apps’ collection of personal data in the latest attempt to curb the sprawling technology sector. – Reuters

After four years in which the administration of President Donald Trump has frequently battled with major tech companies, many observers are eying what approach the incoming Biden-Harris administration will take towards Big Tech. – The National Interest

Chinese fintech giant Ant Group is considering selling its 30% stake in Indian digital payment processor Paytm amid tensions between the two Asian neighbours and a toughening competitive landscape, people with direct knowledge of the matter said. – Reuters

Alina Polyakova and Daniel Fried write: To be sure, much more needs to be done for democracies to get off the back foot and actively push back against foreign influence, more broadly, and information influence operations, in particular. Offensive measures, as they are framed here, are not a substitute for investment in long-term societal resilience, but our short-term defensive efforts thus far have not deterred Russia, China, and others. The suggestions above are intended as a menu for U.S. policymakers and, hopefully, of use to Europeans as well. – Center for European Policy Analysis


President Trump threatened to veto an annual defense-policy bill if it doesn’t include language revoking a provision that gives social-media companies broad immunity for the content they publish from users on their sites. – Wall Street Journal

The House Republican Steering Committee on Tuesday chose Rep. Mike Rogers to be the top House Armed Services Republican, according to a source familiar with the situation, beating out Reps. Mike Turner of Ohio and Rob Wittman of Virginia. – Politico

Convincing Russia and China that the Pentagon has scored a technological break-through on a new weapons system – even when success is years away or has turned into a dead end – can be a valuable strategic tool, a new think tank report details. – USNI News

Hypersonic weapons could deny the U.S. any ability to operate in the vicinity of strategically significant areas near the Chinese mainland. The Air Force is aggressively accelerating its hypersonic weapons development effort, following findings from a recent service report identifying Russian and Chinese ongoing hypersonic weapons testing. – The National Interest

Rather than clinging to Cold War era platforms that are quickly being outpaced by the enemy, the USAF must stay the course to prioritize the acquisition and modernization of the 5th generation F-35 fleet, focus on operational readiness and invest in next-generation air dominance technology— we must not deviate from investing in 5th generation fighters. – The National Interest

The Navy is looking at ways to improve its now operational airborne laser system designed to track enemy mines from low-flying helicopters and expand the surface area from which mine detection takes place — and no longer rely purely upon more narrowly configured mechanized or towed mine detection systems. – The National Interest

Sebastien Roblin writes: For now, the Navy has judged that a mixed force will be more than adequate for its needs. When facing threatening adversaries, the two aircraft types could potentially synergize well, with the Lightning, confined to lighter internal weapons loads when flying in a stealthy configuration, ferreting out targets for the Super Hornets to slug away at from a relatively safe distance. – The National Interest

Robert Cardillo writes: The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that the worst-case scenario can happen and underscored the importance of resilience. Considering the projected losses created by a serious GPS outage, government investment in private APNT services ought to be viewed both as an insurance policy – and as the kind of spur to innovation that GPS itself has represented for two decades. – Defense One

Kris Osborn writes: The pace at which China is adding carriers, destroyers and amphibious ships is staggering, the Russians reportedly already operate hypersonic missiles and possibly even satellite-launched missiles and both Iran and North Korea seek advanced nuclear weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and tactical nuclear-armed rockets. – The National Interest

Rachel Ellehuus writes: What will better protect U.S. national security, American jobs, and the transatlantic defense industrial base is a strong, bipartisan allied approach to defense sourcing and supply chains, and not a sole focus on U.S. content requirements. Done right, the tools of economic security will support economic competitiveness, not undermine it. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Long War

The civilian official overseeing the Pentagon’s campaign to defeat the Islamic State group in the Middle East was forced to resign in the latest jolt to Pentagon leadership in the waning weeks of the Trump administration. – Associated Press

On November 26, 2020 the pro-Al-Qaeda media outlet Jaysh Al-Malahem Al-Electroni released the first issue of a new magazine called Wolves of Manhattan, aimed at “instructing jihadis who live among the unbelievers” to carry out various kinds of attacks. – Middle East Media Research Institute

A prosecutor in Nevada said Tuesday that three people from Texas could face terrorism and hate-crime charges following several Thanksgiving day shootings in suburban Las Vegas, including one that killed a man at a convenience store, and more shootings before their arrests in rural Arizona. – Associated Press