Fdd's overnight brief

December 23, 2020

In The News


The FBI has concluded that Iran was behind online efforts earlier this month to incite lethal violence against the bureau’s director, a former top U.S. cyber expert and multiple state elections officials who have refuted claims of widespread voter fraud promoted by President Trump and his allies, federal and state officials said Tuesday. – Washington Post

An Israeli submarine has embarked for the Persian Gulf in possible preparation for any Iranian retaliation following the November assassination of Iran’s leading nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Israeli media reported. – Washington Post

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran’s clerical establishment has used religious organizations to expand its clout abroad. Key among them is the Al-Mustafa International University, a network of religious seminaries based in the Shi’ite holy city of Qom that has branches in some 50 countries. – Radio Farda

Countries trying to keep alive the 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program agreed Monday to “positively address” the possibility of a U.S. return to the accord under the incoming Biden administration. Germany’s foreign minister urged Iran not to waste what he called a final window of opportunity. – Associated Press

Some of the Iran nuclear deal’s fiercest opponents are urging President-elect Joe Biden to let them have a say — and maybe even a seat at the negotiating table — in future talks with Tehran. – Politico

Two prominent Trump loyalists in the US Senate, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, are reportedly pressing the president to submit the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement to the chamber for ratification, in a last-minute attempt to scupper Democratic plans to take America back into the accords. – The Guardian

The incoming Biden administration may waste sanctions leverage the US has against Iran simply because of an emotional reaction to undo everything the Trump administration did, former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror said Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Bobby Ghosh writes: With hard-liners making the most of the early running, the campaign will likely feature even more anti-Western rhetoric than normal — hardly the most propitious climate for diplomacy. After a year in which the regime has failed on every other front, it will almost inevitably double down on its only other source of legitimacy: the visceral anti-Americanism that sustains Khamenei and his theocrats. For ordinary Iranians, another unhappy year awaits. – Bloomberg

Eli Lake writes: When Trump finally did escalate last January, the result was not a new war. The regime did fire on an Iraqi base and mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet. But eventually the pace of its attacks on U.S. forces and allies in the region diminished. Deterrence was re-established. That’s a valuable lesson for Biden as he prepares to take office. Iran’s supreme leader is now threatening revenge during a chaotic presidential transition. Biden should make it clear that the U.S. has both the capability and willingness to respond to anything the Iranians are planning. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: Iran might gamble a Biden administration would tolerate its greater malfeasance were Tehran to return to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear accord. Ultimately, however, Pompeo’s post-administration security concerns are based on credible intelligence reporting and analysis. This security complement is justified and will be necessary for the foreseeable future. – Washington Examiner


The United States on Tuesday slapped fresh sanctions on Syria, targeting its central bank and blacklisting several people and entities in a continued effort to cut off funds for President Bashar al-Assad’s government. – Reuters 

Displaced from Aleppo, Qassem Ahmad Sharraq Al-Zeit is bracing for a Syrian winter under canvas – with the struggle to keep his wife and four children protected against the bitter cold compounded by the threat of a coronavirus outbreak. – Reuters

Hussein Ibish writes: Biden must make it clear that while the U.S. recognizes Turkey’s need to protect its own territory, it is not free to occupy large chunks of Syria indefinitely or attack American allies with impunity. Curbing Turkish adventurism in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean, Libya and elsewhere requires a strong message to Ankara that it must decide if it wants to remain a partner to the U.S. and a NATO ally. Rearming and supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces is key to this, and to almost all U.S. goals in Syria. – Bloomberg


The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Turkey must immediately release prominent Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, saying the justification for his four years in prison was a cover for limiting pluralism and debate. – Reuters

A Turkish court has convicted exiled journalist Can Dundar on espionage and terror-related charges for a news report. – Associated Press

Mehmet Efe Caman and Nikos Michailidis write: We believe that the EU can do more to help the real democratic forces of Turkey, who live either in the country or abroad, by creating specific funding, educational, diplomatic, and journalistic tools. This will be good for both the EU and for the citizens of Turkey, whose children deserve to live in a geography of peace and democracy. – Jerusalem Post


Israel’s Parliament was dissolved after the short-lived unity government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to pass a new budget, sending the country to a fourth election in less than two years. – Wall Street Journal 

Morocco announced that diplomatic missions would open in Tel Aviv and Rabat within two weeks, when it hosted a joint Israeli-American delegation for a series of one day events to mark the advancement of the normalization of ties between the countries. – Jerusalem Post  

The United Nations General Assembly on Monday adopted two resolutions criticizing Israel, bringing 2020’s total tally to 17 resolutions against the Jewish state versus six resolutions singling out any other country, according to a tally by pro-Israel watchdog UN Watch. – Times of Israel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an order on Tuesday to seize $4 million that Iran transferred to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The move was recommended by the Defense Ministry’s National Bureau for Counter-Terrorism Financing (NBCTF). – Jerusalem Post

Michael Cotler-Wunsh writes: While some Israeli politicians have called for a shared capital in eastern Jerusalem, it’s not immediately clear how that could work. Only one nation can have sovereignty over a geographic area, only one nation can apply and enforce its laws. While it would be possible to put Palestinian government offices there, making it the seat of the Palestinian government, it seems safe to assume that Palestinian government offices in an area under Israeli sovereignty is not what the Palestinians have in mind when they demand eastern Jerusalem as their capital city. – Jerusalem Post

Karen Bekker writes: While some Israeli politicians have called for a shared capital in eastern Jerusalem, it’s not immediately clear how that could work. Only one nation can have sovereignty over a geographic area, only one nation can apply and enforce its laws. While it would be possible to put Palestinian government offices there, making it the seat of the Palestinian government, it seems safe to assume that Palestinian government offices in an area under Israeli sovereignty is not what the Palestinians have in mind when they demand eastern Jerusalem as their capital city. – Washington Examiner

S. Schneidmann writes: The policy of the Palestinian Authority (PA) towards Israel and negotiations with it has recently taken a sharp turn, as Palestinian officials called to restart the negotiations with Israel, renewed the security and civilian coordination with it, and also ceased their attacks on the Arab countries that have normalized their relations with Israel. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Iran is upping the ante against American military presence in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq—two of America’s so-called “forever wars” that President-Elect Joe Biden will be under pressure to finally end when he comes to power next month. – Newsweek 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more than a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone. – Associated Press 

Katherine Lawlor and Colonel Ketti Davison write: Depriving them of that arena through the establishment of a strong, stable, and sovereign Iraqi state is therefore a prerequisite for stability in the Middle East and the preservation of US interests in the region. Stabilizing Iraq, and with it, the region, will allow the United States to pivot to other foreign policy priorities without incurring excess risk in the Middle East. – Institute for the Study of War


When Joe Bejjany was shot with a silencer as he got ready to take his two daughters to pre-school, it shocked not only his mountain village but a country already on edge. No clear motive has so far surfaced for the murder of the 36-year-old Lebanese telecoms employee and freelance photographer on Monday. – Reuters

Lebanon’s finance  minister said on Wednesday the country would contact Alvarez & Marsal to resume a forensic audit of the central bank, a key condition for foreign aid that has hit a roadblock. – Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday voiced regret over a stalemate in maritime border talks between Israel and Lebanon and offered Washington’s mediation. – Agence France-Presse

Gulf States

The Trump administration is considering a request to grant Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia immunity from a federal lawsuit that accuses him of trying to kill a former Saudi intelligence official living in Canada, legal documents related to the case show. – New York Times

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels shot down a Chinese-made, Saudi drone along the border with Saudi Arabia, a Houthi spokesman said. – Associated Press

In the context of his effort to improve Palestinian relations with the Arab countries, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas began a two-day visit to Qatar, where he met on Monday with the country’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. – Jerusalem Post

Robbie Gramer writes: In Washington, the conflict in Yemen has sparked some of the most intriguing political fights in the Trump administration, as a coalition of conservative Republican and progressive Democratic lawmakers banded together to try to halt U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition and reassert Congress’s war power authorities. – Foreign Policy 


Turkey’s parliament extended for 18 months a law that allows the deployment of Turkish troops to Libya. – Associated Press

Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov has told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres he will be unable to take up the role as United Nations Libya envoy next year due to “personal and family reasons,” a U.N. spokesman said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that international efforts to reach a peace settlement in Libya should be intensified, the RIA news agency reported. – Reuters

Mordechai Chaziza writes: Once the Libyan conflict reaches an equilibrium point, China will undoubtedly seek to exploit the synergy between the BRI framework and Libya post-conflict reconstruction. When that moment arrives, the cautious and limited engagement approach that Beijing has followed will likely provide China with a broader scope for intervention, not only into Libya’s economic affairs but also its political sphere. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Morocco has signaled to Israel in recent days that it does not intend to sign an agreement to normalize relations, as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain did with Israel a few months ago. – Haaretz

Tunisia is not interested in establishing diplomatic relations with Israel and its position will not be affected by any international changes, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A Tunisian singer thought it was time to put this atmosphere of normalization into music. So, on December 13, Noamane Chaari uploaded a video of a song he had just recorded with an Israeli musician. […]Host of a broadcast of the famous radio station Mosaïque Fm, the young musician was the subject of death threats. – Arutz Sheva

Yigal Carmon and Alberto M. Fernandez write: The hope was that Middle East revolution would lead to reform and that reformed states would be better run and more attractive to their citizens, keeping them happier and at home. But war, revolution, and state collapse in the region have unleashed a wave of immigrants that threaten democracy in the West itself, as mass migration to Europe triggered an existential internal crisis about identity and politics. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Korean Peninsula

A South Korean court on Wednesday sentenced the wife of a former justice minister to four years in prison and nearly half a million dollars in fines in a family investment and university admissions case that led to her husband’s resignation last year. – Reuters

China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Chinese and Russian warplanes did not enter South Korean airspace, after Seoul said they scrambled fighter jets in response to an intrusion into its air defence identification zone. – Reuters

Victor Cha writes: The new administration will have to mix and meld from the choices above, and whatever policy they adopt will be necessarily imperfect. The fact that each strategy outlined here has disadvantages equal in weight to its advantages reminds us that the world of North Korea policy remains the land of lousy options, where the policies range only between bad and worse choices. – War on the Rocks


China’s do-everything app, WeChat, has become one of the most powerful tools in Beijing’s arsenal for monitoring the public, censoring speech and punishing people who voice discontent with the government. – Wall Street Journal

China and the European Commission appeared close to announcing a landmark agreement this week that would make it easier for their companies to invest in each other’s economies. Then it hit another snag: A tweet by a top aide to Joseph R. Biden Jr. signaled that the president-elect was not happy about the deal. – New York Times

The Hong Kong National Security Law, introduced by China on June 30, 2020, grants law enforcement sweeping powers to curb the four offenses of “secession, subversion, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign countries or elements.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Prominent U.S. lawmakers warned a Pacific ally that China risked undermining the security of a sensitive undersea cable project if a cut-price, state-backed bid wins a tender process overseen by development agencies, a letter reviewed by Reuters shows. – Reuters

Germany’s U.N. envoy, during his last scheduled U.N. Security Council meeting, appealed to China to free two detained Canadians for Christmas, prompting China’s deputy U.N. envoy to respond: “Out of the bottom of my heart: Good riddance.” – Reuters

The Department of Homeland Security is set to issue an advisory to U.S. businesses, warning them of data security risks associated with using communications equipment and services from China-linked companies. – Axios

Two key Republican lawmakers on Tuesday urged the Trump administration to strengthen new rules adopted Friday aimed at preventing China’s biggest chipmaker SMIC from getting access to advanced U.S. technology. – Reuters

The Trump administration on Monday published a list of Chinese and Russian companies with alleged military ties that restrict them from buying a wide range of U.S. goods and technology. – Reuters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government rejected a plan by China’s Shandong Gold Mining Co. to acquire a gold miner that operates in the Canadian Arctic, potentially inflaming a diplomatic feud. – Bloomberg

The incoming administration of Joe Biden has voiced its concern about EU-China negotiations over a business investment agreement amid unease that it will not be tough enough on prohibiting forced labour in China. – Financial Times

Guy Taylor writes: Although he credited the Trump administration with engineering a clear-eyed shift in U.S. policy toward China even before COVID-19 hit, Mr. May said the U.S. establishment has been dangerously slow to let go of false and long-held beliefs that China will liberalize its political system and moderate its behavior on the world stage as its wealth grew through ties to America and the U.S.-backed global economic order. – Washington Times 

Zack Dorfman writes: And as U.S. officials struggled to try and grasp what was happening on the other side of the Pacific, China was doubling down on a hacking spree that would see unprecedented amounts of data stolen and fed into an increasingly sophisticated intelligence apparatus. – Foreign Policy


A bombing and a shooting attack in Kabul killed at least two people Wednesday, including the head of an independent Afghan elections watchdog, officials said. – Associated Press

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Tuesday, meeting top leaders during the American troop withdrawal. – Associated Press

The chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, has held talks with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and other top officials in the Tajik capital as he looks to drum up regional support for peace talks with the Taliban. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered authorities to investigate the shooting death of a prominent Afghan journalist — the fifth reporter to be killed in less than two months as the government and the Taliban push ahead with peace talks to end the country’s 19 year conflict. – Bloomberg

South Asia

Votes were counted on Tuesday in the first local elections in Kashmir since the Indian government waged a harsh political and security crackdown in the restive region last year. Officials hailed a solid turnout as a sign that democracy has been restored, but little in Kashmir feels normal. – New York Times

Pakistani security forces raided a militant separatist hideout in a remote town in southwestern Baluchistan province Tuesday, triggering a shootout in which 10 suspects were killed, the military said. – Associated Press

As tension between India and China has increased in recent months, the US military has helped India keep an eye on Chinese forces, senior US military commanders said in November. – Business Insider


An Australian writer detained in Beijing on spying allegations has told his readers to “pursue democracy, rule of law and freedom” in a Christmas message from prison that said 300 interrogations had not yielded any evidence. – Reuters

Australia’s trade surplus for goods fell to a two-year low in November hit by a slump in exports to top trading partner China, which imposed a number of restrictions in an escalating trade dispute. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump raised concern about his country’s trade deficit with Vietnam in a phone call on Tuesday with its Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the White House said. – Reuters

The political head of Tibetans in exile on Tuesday welcomed legislation passed by the U.S. Congress that reaffirms the rights of Tibetans to choose a successor to their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, a move that infuriated China. – Reuters

Tokyo prosecutors do not plan to take action against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after he submitted to voluntary questioning in a case against his secretary over unreported political funds, Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday. – Reuters

A Hong Kong student protester who was shot by police during last year’s anti-government demonstrations and later charged with rioting and assaulting officers is in exile in an undisclosed location, an advocacy group said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday he wanted to meet with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden as soon as possible to discuss the U.S.-Japan security alliance, the coronavirus pandemic and global warming. – Reuters

Hundreds of opposition supporters set up a protest camp outside Armenian government headquarters in central Yerevan on Tuesday, escalating a campaign against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. – Reuters

A year and a half after Russia and China’s first joint aerial patrol over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea, Russian and Chinese bombers carried out another joint patrol in the area. – Business Insider

Indonesia could receive over $1 billion from the Trump administration should it normalize ties with Israel, US International Development Finance Corporation Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler told Bloomberg while he was in Israel. – Jerusalem Post

The U.S. warship John S. McCain steamed near the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, according to the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet. – Navy Times

Paul Heer and John Culver write: If there is good news, it’s that all three sides—Taipei, Washington, and Beijing—presumably realize that they would benefit collectively from a relaxation of tensions and a return to dialogue. Presumably, they are all interested in a peaceful and mutually acceptable resolution to this historical dilemma. Surely there is enough creativity and patience on all sides to leave that possibility open. Those who are impatient on behalf of Taiwan’s democracy should not be allowed to provoke a crisis that would more likely destroy it than preserve it. – The National Interest


Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief, Russia in Global Affairs magazine and chairman of the Presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy wrote an article for Kommersant titled “History’s Hunger” in which he argues that the pandemic had smashed the concept that globalization was irreversible. – Middle East Media Research Institute

President Vladimir Putin signed laws on Tuesday granting former Russian presidents expanded immunity from prosecution and allowing them to become senators for life in the upper house of parliament once they leave the Kremlin. – Reuters

The Kremlin on Tuesday mocked opposition politician Alexei Navalny and tried to call his sanity into question, a day after he said he had tricked a Russian secret agent into disclosing lurid details of a botched plot to kill him. – Reuters

Russia’s lower house of parliament voted on Wednesday to pass legislation allowing authorities to block or restrict websites like YouTube if they “discriminate” against Russian media on their sites. – Reuters

Russia said on Tuesday it had expanded its list of European Union officials barred from the country in response to what it described as “unacceptable” sanctions against Moscow over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. – Reuters

Russia expects nothing good in relations with a “deeply hostile” U.S. under the incoming administration of Joe Biden and has no plans to make unilateral concessions to improve ties, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. – Bloomberg

Moscow police briefly detained Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, after she tried to meet an agent who appears to have implicated the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the poisoning of the 44-year-old Kremlin critic. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A Russian documentary filmmaker was detained briefly by police after publicly expressing support for opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, who says the release of a phone conversation with a Russian agent shows how the country’s Federal Security Service (FSB) poisoned the Kremlin critic with a Novichok nerve agent. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Editorial: It is easy to imagine Vladimir Putin gloating amid the revelations that Russia’s foreign intelligence service penetrated multiple U.S. agencies and many private companies in what some are calling the most successful hack of U.S. targets in history. Moscow’s cyberspies have once again demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to exploit the vulnerabilities of an open society wedded to the Internet, just as they did during the 2016 presidential election. – Washington Post

 Mark Episkopos writes: Such truculent exchanges offer a reminder of the pattern that has developed around these episodes. One side offers opaque claims and allegations; the other, the Russian government, responds with obfuscatory language and outright prevarications. The result is that relations between Russia and the West also end up being further poisoned—and the antidote to mounting tensions seems further away than ever. – The National Interest


Norway’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an effort, based on the country’s constitutional right to a clean environment, to invalidate licenses for new oil exploration in the Arctic, allowing drilling to continue and signaling to environmental groups that it would not interfere in climate politics. – New York Times

After blocking freight traffic from Britain in an attempt to stop the spread of a possibly more contagious variant of the coronavirus, France reopened its border on Wednesday to truck transport. […]There was concern that the early morning chaos could be a prelude for the logistical nightmare to come, with the Road Haulage Association warning that even “a short delay in the process is going to mean huge delays in the supply chain.” – New York Times

Britain and the European Union have still not clinched a Brexit trade deal as serious issues remain unresolved that prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson signing up to an accord, a British minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters

As a major supplier of food in Northern Ireland, Lynas Foodservice is sourcing more goods such as cheese from across the open border with EU-member Ireland to avoid the bureaucratic trade hurdles being erected with Britain after Brexit. – Reuters

The European Union is ready to continue negotiations with Britain past the end of the year, two diplomatic sources told Reuters on Tuesday after an update on Brexit by the bloc’s negotiator, Michel Barnier. – Reuters

For Belarus and Ukraine, relations with China have become very important in recent years, and China’s involvement economically and politically has increased with those two states, a new study by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) said. – Jerusalem Post

The hundreds of trucks lined up on roads across Kent are just a taster of the even greater disruption likely to follow Britain’s final break with the European Union, representatives from the U.K.’s logistics industry said. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Senate has approved the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act, expanding the scope of who can be subjected to U.S. sanctions and providing support to independent media. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Ibrahim Khan writes: On New Year’s Eve, Britain will finally leave the European Union, after more than four years of negotiations—talks that are still ongoing as the clock ticks down. It is unclear what the conclusion of those negotiations will be, but one thing is for certain: The United Kingdom will need new alliances beyond its current relationships. – Foreign Policy 

Tarah Wheeler and Amy Ertan write: In recent years, NATO has begun to incorporate some innovative new cyberwarfare games and exercises into its annual wargames. But there is something missing. If NATO wants to see what nation-state hacking is like in the chaotic multiactor online world, it needs to practice fending off some actual hackers. – Foreign Policy 

Ben Hall writes: The putative investment agreement will do nothing to open up China’s procurement market. […]A deal looks as if it will fall well short of European business groups’ demands that the EU and China enshrine the notion of reciprocity in their investment relationship and provide a high level of protection for investors and their investments. – Financial Times


Ismail Dicky says he is afraid of political tensions and violence ahead of Sunday’s general election in Central African Republic (CAR), a sentiment that reflects the anxious mood of a country desperate for an end to years of bloodshed. – Reuters

Police said they had detained a prominent Ugandan human rights lawyer and government critic over money laundering allegations, in what his organisation said was part of a crackdown on dissent ahead of elections next month. – Reuters

Russia has sent an extra 300 military instructors to the Central African Republic at the request of the country’s leadership to help counter a surge in violence by rebel groups ahead of Sunday’s election, Russia’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The United Nations is striving to get a team on the ground to investigate alleged human rights violations including a mass killing in Ethiopia’s Tigray, described by the U.N. rights chief as one of many “appalling” human rights abuses that could amount to war crimes. – Reuters

Russian-linked trolls are waging disinformation warfare in multiple African nations, seeking to discredit the West and boost pro-Russia candidates in important elections, an investigation by The Daily Beast can reveal. – The Daily Beast 

The U.S. has amassed naval forces with about 2,500 Marines aboard off the coast of Somalia to cover the withdrawal of the estimated 800 U.S. troops from the Horn of Africa country, which has been hit by terror attacks from the al-Shabaab insurgent group, U.S. Africa Command said Tuesday. – Military.com

Joshua Meservey writes: Last week, a report emerged that hackers, probably from China, had been filching security camera footage from inside the African Union headquarters building in Ethiopia. Several years ago, AU technicians discovered that the building’s Huawei-provided servers were daily exporting their data to Shanghai, and that the walls of the Chinese-built headquarters were peppered with listening devices. – The National Interest

Latin America

The number of journalists killed as a result of their work more than doubled in 2020, an international media watchdog group said on Tuesday, with armed conflict and gang violence making Mexico and Afghanistan among the deadliest countries for reporters globally. – New York Times

Two Russian diplomats have left their posts at their country’s embassy in Colombia and cannot return, the South American nation said on Tuesday, as local media outlets accused the men of espionage. – Reuters

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday declared two Colombian diplomats personae non gratae in a tit-for-tat move after the expulsion of two Russians diplomats from the South American country. – Reuters

The hush over Venezuela’s parliament at the start of proceedings last week was broken by background noise that would last throughout the session – the clatter of construction equipment remodeling the park where the legislature had convened. The Caracas park is among the few places opposition lawmakers can meet without being harassed by President Nicolas Maduro’s government, which not only banned them from congressional headquarters but pushed dozens of lawmakers into exile. – Reuters

United States

In a message intended to prevent a rush to the southwestern border, the incoming Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it would not immediately reverse restrictions imposed by President Trump that have effectively halted asylum and left thousands of migrants stranded outside the United States. – New York Times

Donald Trump cannot denounce Russia’s alleged cyber attack on US government agencies because “he realises that Russia has helped him” in the past, a former CIA director has claimed. – Independent

Yoichi Funabashi writes: Finally, there is one caveat: the new administration should avoid catching itself in the trap of “Anything But Trump.” This is particularly important with regard to the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy (FOIP). FOIP’s vision must rather be further explored and strengthened, even though it emerged during the Trump administration, as it is now increasingly supported by like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific. – The National Interest


President-elect Joe Biden unleashed a broadside Tuesday against President Trump’s stewardship of national security, accusing his administration of opening the door to a far-reaching cybersecurity attack that has penetrated the networks of key federal agencies and U.S. companies. – Washington Post

Two weeks ago, the conservative media personalities Diamond and Silk falsely claimed on their Facebook page that people who were not eligible to vote were receiving ballots in Georgia’s special elections next month. Their post was shared more than 300 times. – New York Times

China’s market regulator has ordered the country’s tech giants to tighten oversight of an emerging e-commerce purchasing model, the latest in a string of moves by authorities to rein in the powerful internet sector. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday charged Ripple, the blockchain payments company associated with the cryptocurrency XRP, with conducting a $1.3 billion unregistered securities offering. – Reuters

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday that a widespread data breach of the government apparently carried out by the Russian government poses a “grave risk” to national security that cannot “go unanswered.” – Reuters

An investigation into a data theft at Leonardo has found that a hacker working inside the Italian defence group appeared to target details of Europe’s biggest unmanned fighter jet programme and aircraft used by the military and police, an arrest warrant shows. – Reuters

U.S. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff on Tuesday asked for a briefing from U.S. agencies about a widespread hack of U.S. government networks and potential vulnerabilities. – Reuters

Facebook Inc said on Tuesday it would start allowing users to set up physical security keys as a way to verify their identity before logging into the social network’s mobile app, beginning next year. – Reuters

While the new annual defense policy bill won’t be as consequential for the Department of Defense as in years past, it’s poised to shape DoD’s cyber forces, operations and lawmaker oversight. – C4ISRNET

Michael Segal writes: Facebook’s protection from legal liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is predicated on the notion that the web doesn’t have strong central control. A social network is more like a newsstand than a publisher. Facebook should act as a marketplace of ideas, not the Ministry of Truth. – Wall Street Journal


Despite the fact that the Tu-95 “Bear” is one of the oldest designs in active service with the Russian Air Force, much like the American B-52 Stratofortress, it shows no signs of landing into retirement any time soon. This week the Russia’s strategic nuclear forces received the latest version of heavily upgraded bombers. – The National Interest

The Army‘s groundbreaking long-range cannon hit a target 43 miles away over the weekend, military officials said, marking another successful test of an artillery system that the Pentagon says will give the U.S. a major battlefield advantage over foes such as China and Russia. – Washington Times

The U.S. Navy’s plan to deliver the first vessel in its $128 billion next-generation submarine program on time is at risk by a dependence on inexperienced contractors with spotty quality control track records, according to a congressional watchdog. – Bloomberg

President Trump is expected to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Wednesday, sources tell Fox News, forcing the House and Senate to reconvene immediately following Christmas. – Fox News

Long War

As the Iraqi government now speaks of shuttering displacement camps where tens of thousands of these internal refugees have been sheltering since then and returning them to their villages, the prospect of retribution back home awaits. – Washington Post

The first step in any effective rehabilitation program is acknowledging you have a problem. The United Kingdom has finally come to the realization that its deradicalization program for terrorists is an utter failure. – Algemeiner 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is urging President-elect Joe Biden to soften up on extremism in a new document on issues it hopes the new administration will address during its first 100 days. – Fox News 

A man supported the Islamic State group for years from a Portland, Oregon, suburb by helping the extremists maintain an online presence that encouraged attacks and sought recruits, federal agents and prosecutors said. – Associated Press