Fdd's overnight brief

December 30, 2020

In The News


The British Foreign Office has said it is not legally obligated to provide assistance to a British-Iranian woman held in Iran since 2016, a position that raises questions about how much protection a Western power is willing to offer its citizens at risk, and what Britain’s international role should be after its exit from the European Union. – New York Times 

On December 15, 2020, the Iranian reformist newspaper Shargh published an interview, titled “In Turkey’s Strategy, Iran Is The Most Important Rival,” with Sadeq Maleki, an Iranian expert on Turkish affairs. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

January 3 marks the first-year anniversary of the death of the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Corp’s (IRGC) Quds Force. To praise Qasem Soleimani and underline his image as a “hero” to Iran’s proxy groups, terrorist organizations in Lebanon and Palestine are letting their followers know just how much he will be missed. – Iran News Wire

The Iranian government has delayed implementing parliament’s controversial legislation that ordered an immediate ramping up of the country’s uranium-enrichment program. – Radio Free Europe / Radio liberty

Iran will use money from its energy exports to Iraq to buy coronavirus vaccines from Europe, Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said. – Bloomberg 

Farzin Nadimi writes: Whatever the case, Iran will likely try various measures to dissuade the Israeli vessel from entering the Strait of Hormuz, such as declaring that this action would cross a redline, refusing the vessel the right of innocent passage, conducting military exercises in the area, and increasing its patrols to locate and interdict the sub. Although Tehran may stop short of actions that precipitate a shooting war, such confrontations would nevertheless carry substantial risk of escalation. – Washington Institute


Syrian media said one soldier was killed and three injured in Israeli airstrikes outside the capital Damascus on Wednesday morning. – Times of Israel 

Many Syrians forced from their homes by their country’s brutal, decade-old war are now shocked to discover that their family farms have been taken over by regime loyalists and cronies. – Agence France-Presse

The Russian military said three of its troops were wounded Tuesday in an attack by militants in northwestern Syria. – Ynet

An Army canine earned rare military honors this month after discovering a cache of explosives in Syria while deployed as part of the U.S.-led mission to defeat the Islamic State. – Military.com


Turkey and the United States have formed a joint working group to discuss sanctions that Washington imposed on its ally over its purchase of an advanced Russian air defense system, Turkey’s foreign minister said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Turkey’s relations with Russia are not an alternative to its ties with NATO and the European Union, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Russia on Tuesday. – Reuters

Turkey’s top court on Tuesday ruled that high-profile philanthropist Osman Kavala’s detention had not violated his right to liberty and security after he spent more than three years in jail without a conviction. – Reuters

The U.K. and Turkey agreed to roll over a free trade agreement, one of more than five dozen Britain has reached as it prepares for its final break with the European Union. – Bloomberg

Turkish prosecutors on Tuesday issued a detention warrant against Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, a Turkish businessman with links to Utah-based business executives who have pleaded guilty to a $511 million tax credit scheme in the United States, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported. – Associated Press


Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst who served 30 years in prison for spying on behalf of Israel, landed in Tel Aviv early Wednesday with his wife, ending a tense chapter between the two countries and adding to the list of departing gestures from the Trump administration to the Jewish state. – Washington Post

An array of Palestinian militant groups launched rockets into the Mediterranean Sea off the Gaza Strip on Tuesday at the start of what they called their first-ever joint exercise, which Israeli media described as a show of force organised by Iran. – Reuters

Israel opposes any return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, contrary to the impression recent statements may have made, a senior Prime Minister’s Office official told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Outgoing U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has cancelled his planned farewell visit to Israel that was scheduled for next month before President-elect Joe Biden is to take office. – Ynet

Palestinian residents from East Jerusalem have filed a petition with Israel’s High Court, demanding that the arm of the Israeli government responsible for property left behind after the 1947 war recognize their rights as tenants, and cease secretly cooperating with settlers’ organizations. – Haaretz

The UN General Assembly approved 17 pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli resolutions in December, as part of what has become an annual end of the year ritual by the 193-member body, where the Palestinians have an automatic majority of support. – Jerusalem Post

The cabinet authorized Israel’s membership in the new East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) on Tuesday, after resolving a dispute between ministers on the matter. – Jerusalem Post

The United States sold the ambassador’s residence in Israel for more than $67 million in July, according to an official Israeli record of the sale that shines new light on a transaction that has been shrouded in secrecy. […]The sale helped to cement Trump’s controversial decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem in 2018 and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. – Associated Press

Editorial: This shouldn’t be happening in Israel in 2020. But it is indicative of the lawlessness that is plaguing the Arab sector in Israel society and the inability or lack of effort by the Israel Police to get to the root of the problem. Arab leaders claim the police have long turned a blind eye to the crime-riddled cities, towns and neighborhoods where gangs rule and where illegal weapons run rampant. – Jerusalem Post 

Gedaliah Afterman and Theresa Hoffman write: As tensions between the superpowers intensify, Israel and other middle powers stuck between the United States and China should tread carefully. Israel should base its decisions and policies on a much deeper understanding of China’s global and regional aspirations, policies, and the situation on the ground. – Haaretz


A hacker group called Spiderz claimed that it has succeeded in hacking into Hezbollah’s Al-Qard Al-Hassan financial organization and leaked details on depositors and borrowers from the lender, Lebanese media reported on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanese authorities have arrested a group of young men who allegedly attempted to cross the country’s disputed southern border while under the influence of alcohol, resulting in them being fired at by Israeli forces. – Newsweek

Diab, who resigned as prime minister in the wake of the port explosion on August 4 but stayed on as caretaker PM, claimed that the evening before it happened he tasked the country’s public works minister and justice minister with investigating about 2,750 metric tons of the chemical that arrived in the city on a ship in 2013. – CNN

Lebanon can ration $2 billion in reserves left for subsidies to last six more months, the caretaker prime minister said on Tuesday, as the country’s financial meltdown raises fears of rising hunger. – Reuters

Kareem Chehayeb writes: Lebanon’s catastrophic year should be a lesson for governments everywhere that ignoring your problems rather than solving them will come back to haunt you. Issues that are left to worsen often end up blowing up — sometimes literally. Will Lebanon’s ruling class ever learn? – Washington Post

Arabian Peninsula

The US state department has approved the sale of $290m in bombs to Saudi Arabia as part of a flurry of arms deals with Middle Eastern dictatorships in the last weeks of the Trump administration. – The Guardian

Yemeni men, women and children filled a hall earlier this month in rebel-held Sanaa, laughing and clapping as actors took to the stage with comic relief for their war-wracked country. Yemen’s conflict has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the UN says, and the Arab world’s poorest country has also been hit hard by the novel coronavirus. – Agence France-Presse

One of the most interesting US foreign policy developments in the last decade has been the slow shift from a policy of close cooperation with Riyadh, to one that is more critical and may become almost hostile to Saudi Arabia. Only in rare instances, historically, do countries that enjoyed a long close relationship shift so quickly. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

The company, Muhit Maritime FZE, is one of three UAE-based entities identified by Reuters that have shipped Venezuelan crude and fuel during the second half of this year. Their role emerges from an examination of internal shipping documents from Venezuela’s state oil company as well as third-party shipping and vessel tracking data. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale to Kuwait of Apache helicopters and spare parts for the Patriot missile system in two separate deals that could have a value of $4.2 billion, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — the first announced official visit to the two Gulf Arab states by an Israeli prime minister — has again been postponed, according to a report on Tuesday. – Times of Israel

Relationships developed between Israel and Qatar to provide sufficient funding to Hamas and avoid an economic collapse and war in the Gaza Strip could be the engine for normalization between Jerusalem and Doha, The Jerusalem Post has learned. – Jerusalem Post

Qatar’s ruler received an invitation from Saudi Arabia’s king to attend next month’s Gulf Cooperation Council summit, which may help to ease a dispute that shattered regional unity and set back U.S. efforts to isolate Iran. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

An Egyptian court on Tuesday convicted a former student at an elite university of sexual misconduct charges and sentenced him to three years in prison, the first conviction in a case that has fueled the #MeToo movement in the Arab world’s most populous country. – New York Times

Iran will resume normal gas flows to Iraq on Wednesday after reaching an agreement with Iraq on Tuesday over unpaid bills, a spokesman for Iraq’s electricity ministry said. – Reuters 

Judy Maltz writes: Morocco’s hesitant approach to renewing ties with Israel – at least in comparison to the demonstrative enthusiasm of the countries that signed the Abraham Accords – can also be explained by the country’s special relationship with the Palestinians. One of the first steps King Mohammed VI took after the dramatic announcement by Trump was to call the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas – two weeks before he bothered to pick up the phone to Netanyahu on the matter – in an attempt to calm him. – Haaretz

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will convene a rare congress of the ruling party in early January, where he will seek to rally public support and outline new long-term economic and political goals in the face of unprecedented challenges. – Reuters

South Koreans were largely supportive of U.S. President Donald Trump’s unprecedented engagement with North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un. Now they hope President-elect Joe Biden will fix frayed U.S. ties with both sides of the divided peninsula, according to a new survey and its corresponding authors. – Newsweek 

Although there is no official count on the number of North Korean refugees in South Korea, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said in its latest statistics released last month that, since 1988, 133,000 people have officially registered to meet their family in the north. But the chances of those reunions are dwindling as the refugees grow old. – CNN 

Andrei Lankov writes: Until recently this has been denounced but largely tolerated by North Korean authorities. But in June the North launched a noisy and theatrical intimidation campaign demanding South Korea crack down on this activity and making it a condition for further North-South talks. – Financial Times


A Chinese court on Wednesday handed down prison sentences to 10 young Hong Kongers caught at sea while attempting to flee the crackdown in their city, sending a warning shot to other pro-democracy protesters hoping to escape arrest. – Washington Post

Beijing is seeking to shrink Jack Ma’s technology and financial empire and potentially take a larger stake in his businesses, according to Chinese officials and government advisers familiar with the matter, as regulators zero in on the billionaire in a campaign to strengthen oversight of an increasingly influential tech sphere. – Wall Street Journal

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded Chinese Communist Party release Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who was sentenced to four years in prison this week for her reporting on the ground in Wuhan amid the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: So, again: What is China trying to hide? As we have noted previously, an independent and credible investigation of the origins of the virus is absolutely essential to properly prepare for and prevent a future pandemic. The prosecution of Ms. Zhang raises grave doubts about whether China can be trusted to produce an open and honest investigation. Instead of putting her in jail, China should release her and thank her for the courage to do what the cowards in the party-state would not. – Washington Post

Editorial: Officials barred journalists and foreign observers from attending Ms. Zhang’s trial and sentencing. Beijing hopes the West is too distracted to pay attention, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned this “sham prosecution and conviction” on Tuesday. Western journalists who endorse Communist Party attempts to intimidate Western critics can learn from Ms. Zhang’s brave example. – Wall Street Journal

Joseph Bosco writes: Neither the Trump nor Biden administrations is likely to accept Beijing’s latest rule-by-law gambit against Taiwanese opposing unification, so any request to send a Taiwanese person in America to China for prosecution inevitably would trigger a new arena for Sino-U.S. confrontation and retaliation. – The Hill 

Andrew Taffer writes: In addition to deterring Chinese aggression and maintaining its strategic position in the region, the United States is still trying to shape China into a rule-abiding and system-sustaining member of the international community. In other words, it continues to seek to shape China into a “responsible stakeholder,” just as Robert Zoellick famously called for 15 years ago. Thus, those that suggest the responsible-stakeholder approach is “dead” overstate just how much has changed for a wide swath of Washington. – Foreign Policy 

Tom Rogan writes: Why is the EU happy to betray its own supposedly sacred values? Well, because this trade deal will offer European businesses increased access to Chinese markets and the prospect of tens of billions of dollars in new Chinese investments into Europe. China views the deal as a top priority for its own reasons. It knows that the agreement will further divide the EU from the United States, thus encouraging America’s allies to adopt an appeasement stance toward Beijing’s South China Sea imperialism, intellectual property theft, and human rights policies. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

Over two decades of conflict and politicking, Taliban control in Afghanistan has become a patchwork of edicts and codes, with some areas seeing modest reform. But overall, fear and intimidation remain at the heart of the militant group’s command. – Washington Post

The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday raised the possibility that a man accused in the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl could be brought to the U.S. and tried here after a Pakistani court earlier this month ordered him set free. – Wall Street Journal

A Pakistani court has sentenced two alleged members of banned organizations to long prison terms on terrorism-financing charges. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Talks between India and China have yet to make headway to end a standoff on a disputed section of their Himalayan border, India’s defence minister said on Wednesday, as thousands of troops from both sides faced a freezing winter in the mountains. – Reuters


A Japanese-led group said it would extend nearly $1.8 billion in loans to build a coal-fired power plant in Vietnam, bucking criticism about the project’s impact on climate goals. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. government’s planned $332 million sale of an exclusive property in Hong Kong was thrown into doubt by the Chinese government, which has determined the transaction needs its consent and approval. – Wall Street Journal

The two youngest of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained in mainland China over an illegal border crossing will not be charged, a district prosecutor in the city of Shenzhen said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Singapore authorities arrested a man on his return to the city-state on Wednesday after he was jailed for spying for China in the United States, saying they would investigate whether he posed a security risk. – Reuters

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has confirmed that on December 20, 2020 the Shandong, the first aircraft carrier built domestically on the Chinese mainland, had set out, with its formation, for the South China Sea, sailing south via the Taiwan Strait that day. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The Chinese Navy, formally known as the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy), conducted a live-fire exercise several days ago over the South China Sea utilizing a newly expanded naval base. – USNI News

China will hold a 10-day military exercise in the South China Sea, just off the southern Chinese Coast, in the waters surrounding Hainan. – Reuters

Zhuoran Li writes: A multilateral organization like Quad is not useless. It provides a forum for members to address their shared concerns and put pressure on Beijing jointly. Furthermore, communication opens additional bilateral cooperation opportunities among members. However, a NATO-like alliance is unlikely to emerge anytime soon. – The National Interest


Russian state investigators said on Tuesday they had opened a new criminal case against Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, accusing him of fraudulently spending public donations to organisations he controls on his personal needs. – Reuters

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Tuesday it had worked with U.S. authorities to seize large quantities of cocaine and break up an international drug smuggling ring. – Reuters 

Russia sentenced a former board member of state energy holding company Inter RAO to 15 years in jail on Tuesday after finding her guilty of spying for Moldova at a trial held behind closed doors, her defence team said. – Reuters

Russia said on Tuesday it had added senior German security and intelligence officials to its list of individuals barred from entering the country, in a tit-for-tat response to sanctions imposed on Moscow in October. – Reuters

Russia’s Justice Ministry on Tuesday added a prominent organisation supporting victims of domestic violence to its list of “foreign agents”, prompting outrage among women’s groups and rights activists. – Reuters

Since August 20, 2020, when Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny fell deathly ill on a plane ride from Tomsk, Siberia, to Moscow necessitating an emergency landing in Omsk to rush him to a hospital there have been dueling versions of the events. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that Moscow and Ankara’s military cooperation would not be deterred by US sanctions on Turkey for acquiring a Russian missile defence system. – Agence France-Presse

The Council of Europe says it is concerned about Russia branding individuals as “foreign agents” after Moscow added five people to a registry that activists say is used as a way to clamp down on dissent. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russian police have released two colleagues of Lyubov Sobol, a prominent lawyer for outspoken Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, after seven days in jail.- Radio Free Europe


Russia is stepping up work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline before the U.S. tightens sanctions against the controversial project designed to feed more natural gas into Germany. – Bloomberg

China and the EU appear to have resolved their differences over protecting labour rights in China and are set to sign a long-delayed investment agreement on Wednesday likely to make the economies of the two blocs more interdependent. – The Guardian

EU leaders signed their post-Brexit trade deal with Britain and dispatched it to London on an RAF jet Wednesday, setting their seal on a drawn-out divorce just hours before the UK brings its half-century European experiment to an end. – Agence France-Presse

Britain will be able to trade with its European neighbours and keep control of its laws and destiny, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say on Wednesday before lawmakers vote on the Brexit deal he clinched at the eleventh hour. – Reuters 

Editorial: Whether it is reduced to a rump of England and Wales, Britain’s greatly reduced ties to the rest of Europe will make it a weaker and less valuable strategic partner of the United States. Perhaps the greater national sovereignty of which Mr. Johnson boasts will compensate for those losses. More likely, as the practical effects of Brexit sink in in the coming months, the percentage of Britons who conclude the break was a mistake — already a majority, according to polls — will continue to grow.- Washington Post

Jedidiah Royal writes: America’s best chance of meeting its national security interests lies in its willingness to demonstrate that the United States is, above all else, reliable. If Biden allows this to be his starting point on January 20, he will strengthen the hand of those who want to reinvest in the transatlantic alliance, and the European debate will eventually subside. America’s reliability should never have been up for debate in the first place. – War on the Rocks


Now, with hundreds of the U.S. troops who trained them leaving Somalia under orders from the Trump administration, current and former Danab officers are fearful that diminished American supervision will leave the elite division vulnerable to political interference from Somalia’s government, which is embroiled in a bitterly disputed election scheduled for February. – Washington Post

The arrest of a cameraman working for the news agency Reuters in the Ethiopian capital last week shows how press freedom has eroded in a country now engaged in a war with one of its own states, according to an international media watchdog group. – New York Times

Editorial: The Somali deployment is part of a U.S. strategy of using relatively few troops to leverage local and regional allies against jihadists. France has been fighting in the Sahel with help from the U.S. and some Europeans, and three French soldiers were killed in Mali this week. Americans lead in East Africa, but countless Kenyan and Somali soldiers have died in the fight. The Biden Administration will have a chance to revisit the U.S. withdrawal and see if it makes sense strategically in a corner of the world where jihadists are far from defeated. – Wall Street Journal 

Joyce Krajian and John Allen write: A good first step to address this issue on a global scale would be supporting the call by Reporters Without Borders for the United Nations to establish a special representative for the safety of journalists. […]As parents, we ask the president-elect — who is no stranger to the unspeakable pain of losing a child — to make Chris’s case a priority. We urge him to ensure that our son’s death is diligently investigated and that justice is served, so that U.S. journalists do not continue to be viewed as targets abroad, and other families won’t have to experience the pain we’ve endured. – Washington Post

The Americas

State Department officials have drawn up a proposal to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, a final-hour foreign policy move that would complicate plans by the incoming Biden administration to relax increased American pressure on Havana. – New York Times

When the United States and Canada agreed in March to close their border to asylum seekers at unauthorized entry points, Canadian officials said they had received assurances from their U.S. counterparts that the people they turned back wouldn’t be deported. […]At least eight others, including Nduwimana, are being held at a federal detention facility in Batavia, N.Y., many with final removal orders. – Washington Post

Amid Venezuela’s worst-ever economic crisis, which is widely blamed on corruption and mismanagement by President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime, more than 5 million Venezuelans have fled the country. The exodus began in 2014 and, since then, about 2 million Venezuelans have settled in neighboring Colombia, with smaller numbers moving to Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and elsewhere in Latin America. – NPR 

United States

Downtown Nashville appeared to be peacefully quiet early Friday morning, until residents heard what they believed to be gunshots. Videos, photos and audio show city blocks that quickly turned chaotic in the wake of the explosion. The Washington Post examined surveillance video, listened to emergency response radio channels and spoke to witnesses to reconstruct how the incident unfolded. – Washington Post

Charles Lane writes: The Supreme Court may well dispose of these cases on narrow legal grounds, limiting their precedential impact and avoiding their more controversial implications, legal and moral. The mere fact that the Supreme Court felt obligated to spend some of its time picturing the United States as the defendant in a historical reparations trial abroad, however, is further evidence that 2020 was anything but an ordinary year. – Washington Post

Frida Ghitis writes: Biden’s understanding of the problems’ complexity gives his plan a chance to have a lasting impact on improving living conditions so that Central Americans won’t find it necessary to flee their countries to survive. […]He will likely prioritize reversing some of the most egregious Trump era immigration and refugee policies, working to reunite children with their families, allowing into the country individuals with the most urgent asylum cases, raising refugee limits — all while grudgingly, temporarily, preserving some of the same policies found so deeply offensive by millions of people who voted for him. – Washington Post

Ken Oliver writes: In order for our government to function and endure, each of us has to do our part to reduce the level of division that has been rising each day over more issues. We could ask those around us to use truthful and respectful words. What better time than the end of 2020 and the dawn of a new year to resolve to move away from this dishonesty and demonization toward a more productive and healthy public discourse for our country. – The Hill

Mike Rogers writes: A pardon for Snowden would send the worst signal to our intelligence community. It would undermine the oversight and accountability process, in effect saying that if you dislike something, then you can just leak it. It would further embolden our adversaries to solicit others to be a “hero” and betray their country. Snowden is welcome to return to the United States with his family, but he must only do so to face trial. A presidential pardon would just serve to embolden our adversaries. – The Hill


Corellium, a security research firm sued by Apple, has won a major legal victory against the iPhone maker. – Washington Post

Senate Republicans are mounting a last-minute attempt to try to permit lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites for the way they police their platforms, hoping that an urgent debate over congressional coronavirus aid might offer them an opening to deal a new blow to Silicon Valley. – Washington Post

One of the oldest and most well-known iPhone suppliers has been accused of using forced Muslim labor in its factories, according to documents uncovered by a human rights group, adding new scrutiny to Apple’s human rights record in China. – Washington Post

The bombing outside an AT&T facility in downtown Nashville on Christmas triggered a cascade of technological failures that disrupted daily life and imperiled emergency services, offering a sobering reminder of the fragility of the nation’s critical communications systems, according to national security experts. – Washington Post 

In a letter Tuesday to Intel Chairman Omar Ishrak, Third Point Chief Executive Daniel Loeb said Intel’s woes could threaten the U.S. tech industry and urged the chip maker to consider alternatives, including selling some of its acquisitions and splitting its design and manufacturing operations—a move that would end Intel’s long-held status as America’s leading integrated semiconductor maker. – Wall Street Journal

State attorneys general said in a lawsuit earlier this month that a 2018 business agreement between two digital advertising giants, Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, was an illegal price-fixing deal. Lawmakers are calling for further investigation. The companies say it was above board. The Wall Street Journal viewed part of a recent unredacted draft version of the lawsuit, which elaborates on allegations in the redacted complaint filed in a Texas federal district court. – Wall Street Journal

Stephen Silver writes: After downtown Nashville was rocked at around 6:30 a.m. on Christmas morning by a mysterious explosion of an RV, the FBI announced that it was investigating whether the explosion was connected in any way to paranoia about 5G technology. – The National Interest


The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission would have broadened authority to seek ill-gotten gains in enforcement actions as part of an annual defense-spending bill that is awaiting a critical Senate vote. – Wall Street Journal

The 53rd Wing has consolidated its series of large-scale tests at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada into a new event called Black Flag. – Defense News

The U.S. Department of Defense’s logistics arm leads the federal government in deployment of robotic process automation tools, according to a new report from the federal RPA community of practice. – C4ISRNET

James Di Pane writes: Ending the dual-hat should only be done if it will enhance the effectiveness of both organizations in their operations, and a clear plan should be created with support from Congress, as it will need congressional support to be successful. Policymakers should continue to support the growth and development of Cyber Command to ensure that it would be ready for a future split down the road. – C4ISRNET

Long War

Indonesia has banned the controversial but politically influential hardline group the Islamic Defender’s Front, the country’s chief security minister announced on Wednesday. – Reuters

The UK’s Ministry of Defence says that over a six-year period, British troops helped train more than 120,000 Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers. The interpreters were helping British advisers who had been deployed to one of the coalition’s major bases to provide training for Iraqi special forces. But sometimes they would do far more than just translate, Ahmed says. He told me that if the British soldiers were concerned about the safety of the camp, the interpreter would do reconnaissance around the perimeter of the camp to check out any danger. – BBC 

Mozambican forces clashed with suspected Islamist insurgents who staged their closest attack yet to a Total SE liquefied natural gas project since Islamic State began claiming responsibility for violence in the region last year, according to three people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg 

Non-profit humanitarian agency World Vision United States improperly transacted with the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) in 2014 with approval from the Obama administration, sending government funds to an organization that had been sanctioned over its ties to terrorism, according to a new report. – National Review

Trump Administration

The Trump campaign said Tuesday it was asking the Supreme Court to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Wisconsin, following a similar appeal it filed last week seeking to reverse the Democrat’s win in Pennsylvania. – Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration is facing legal action over the “rushed” sale of £17 billion’s worth of arms to the United Arab Emirates, amid concern the weapons could be used indiscriminately in the ongoing Yemen civil war. – The Independent

President Donald Trump lashed out at congressional Republicans a day after the House easily voted to override his veto of a defense policy bill. – Associated Press