Fdd's overnight brief

December 4, 2020

In The News


The dueling messages underscore the intense debate that Fakhrizadeh’s death — in a brazen daylight ambush Friday east of the capital, Tehran — has stirred in his country, including over who was responsible for the security lapses implicated in the killing and its consequences. Most urgent is a dispute over how best Iran should respond — with restraint, fury or something in between. – Washington Post

Iran is unlikely to retaliate over the assassination of a prominent nuclear scientist before the inauguration of Joe Biden in case it jeopardizes any future sanctions relief, the top U.S. envoy on Iran told Reuters on Thursday. – Reuters

Iran will fully comply with a 2015 deal aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons if both the United States and Europe honour their original commitments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday. – Reuters

The United States on Thursday imposed fresh Iran-related sanctions, blacklisting an entity and an individual as Washington continues to ramp up pressure on Tehran during U.S. President Donald Trump’s final months in office. – Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says a law passed by parliament to expand and accelerate the country’s nuclear program will not be implemented if international sanctions on Tehran are dropped. – Radio Farda

The husband of an Iranian rights lawyer furloughed from prison last month because of poor health said authorities sent her back to jail Wednesday despite doctors’ determination that she needed to visit a heart clinic and otherwise stay home this week to recover from various health problems. – VOA News

In his first public comments on the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist over the weekend, which Tehran has blamed on Israel, US President-elect Joe Biden said Thursday it was “hard to tell” how much it had complicated his hopes of reaching a detente with the Islamic Republic once he enters office. – Times of Israel

The assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist on the outskirts of Tehran raises the possibility that Israel has an array of operatives or agents, analysts say, available to target regime officials reduced to making implausible excuses for high-profile security failures. – Washington Examiner

The assassination of a leading Iranian nuclear scientist has applied yet another shock to the precarious equilibrium in Iran and the wider Middle East, a region long beset by unclaimed acts of high-profile violence, with fingers pointing to Israel as the most likely culprit in an event that puts all the key players, both local and remote, on high alert. – Newsweek

Editorial: After the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last week, President-elect Joe Biden is coming under renewed pressure to quickly resume negotiations with the regime. He should slow down and proceed with caution. – Bloomberg

Farzin Nadimi writes: Tehran clearly expects its military relations with Iraq to grow to “strategic levels” in the future, but this will largely depend on whether Baghdad can muster enough funds and political will to support such a goal. In response, the United States should make clear to Iraqi officials that deeper military cooperation with Iran would be detrimental to U.S. interests. In particular, any moves that threaten regional stability—such as the transfer of surface-to-surface or long-range surface-to-air missiles, or integration/close coordination of air defense networks—would be unacceptable. – Washington Institute

Kambiz Foroohar writes: After years of funding terrorist organizations like Hamas, hosting anti-Semitic conferences, and generally threatening to wipe the Jewish state off the map, it is ironic that the Islamic Republic has become a playground for Mossad and there seems to be little that the Islamic Republic can do to stop the Israeli secret service operating deep inside the country. – The National Interest

James Jay Carafano writes: What Washington should keep doing is building a collective security and economic framework that knits the region together, contributes to stability and makes it more resilient against Iranian aggression, Islamist extremism, and malicious Chinese intrusion. Our current maximum pressure campaign against Iran supports all those goals. The U.S. abandons it at our peril. – Fox News

Hollie McKay writes: As the dust settles following the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last Friday, the international community is once again forced to confront the troubling question of where does Iran currently stand when it comes to nuclear ambitions. – Fox News


Lawmakers took aim at Russia in the annual defense policy bill, with provisions that include sanctions on Turkey for purchasing a Russian-made missile system and on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. – Bloomberg

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used his final NATO meeting this week to sharply criticise Turkey, saying its purchase of a Russian weapons system was “a gift” to Moscow, according to five diplomats and officials. – Reuters

A game of “cat-and-mouse” between the European Union and Turkey needs to come to an end, European Council President Charles Michel said on Friday, in reference to a dispute over natural gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean. – Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken by telephone with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. During their conversation, Erdogan said that, “The person who killed Mohsen Fakhrizadeh intended to damage regional peace, but whoever attempts to damage regional stability will fail.” – Arutz Sheva

The final version of the must-pass annual defense policy bill unveiled Thursday mandates the U.S. president sanction Turkey for its acquisition of the S-400 air missile defense system. – Defense News

Soner Cagaptay and Reilly Barry write: Challengers to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are proliferating, with two breakaway parties drawing particular notice. In December 2019, Ahmet Davutoglu, who served under Erdogan as foreign minister and then prime minister, formed Gelecek (Future) in an attempt to resurrect a gentler version of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). And this past March, former finance minister Ali Babacan, credited with masterminding the country’s “economic miracle” in the early Erdogan years, established the Democracy and Progress Party as another right-leaning alternative to the AKP. The remaining aspirants include the Peoples’ Democratic Party, whose capable leader remains imprisoned for allegedly supporting Kurdish militants.  – Washington Institute


Israeli prime ministerial hopeful Naftali Bennett declared the world a safer place following the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist killed in an ambush widely ascribed to Israel. – Bloomberg

Israel’s government is warning that Israeli targets abroad could come under attack by Iran, citing threats issued by Tehran following the killing of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist last week. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi at the Allenby Bridge border crossing Thursday, according to both the Israeli and Jordanian Foreign Ministries. The meeting was the first between the two, and the first time in years that the top diplomats of the two countries have had an official sit-down. – Times of Israel

World Likud Chairman and former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz are both responsible for Israel’s slide towards the country’s fourth general election in under two years, blaming the two leaders for the failure to reach an agreement on a spending bill. – Arutz Sheva

Israeli Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White) urged the Palestinian Authority Friday to enter into final status negotiations with Israel. – Arutz Sheva

Senior Israeli Defense Force officers have held coordination talks with US Central Command in the last few days to tighten cooperation between the two militaries against the possibility of Iranian revenge in the region. Iranian government officials have been threatening since last Friday to respond to the assassination of nuclear scientist Muhsin Fahrizadeh. Iran has publicly blamed Israel for the killing. – Breaking Defense

Editorial: Jordan has a historic relationship with Israel and signed a peace treaty in 1994 but the peace has grown cold. […]This is unfortunate, because Jordan is an important and key state in the region and its security and stability are essential to Israel due to its geographic location, wedged between Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority. – Jerusalem Post


Three Egyptian human rights activists were released from detention Thursday after a wave of international condemnation against the Arab nation’s authoritarian government that included U.S. politicians and Hollywood celebrities. – Washington Post

Egypt might become a major actor to further stabilization in the Middle East alongside the United States, according to US President Donald Trump, as reported by Egyptian media. – Jerusalem Post

Haisam Hassanein writes: The Sisi regime may be preparing to use human rights advocates as a bargaining chip with the incoming U.S. administration. […]the Biden administration should aim to sanction the murderers of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni. The administration also can target security officials who have participated or enabled the detention of American citizens in Egypt, and work with U.S. allies in Canada and Britain to ensure that they take similar steps. A multilateral approach will be far more effective than any steps Biden’s administration could take alone. – The Hill

Arabian Peninsula

OPEC and a group of Russia-led oil producers agreed to increase their collective output by 500,000 barrels a day next month, signaling the world’s biggest producers are betting the worst of a pandemic-inspired shock to demand is behind them. – Wall Street Journal

Israeli products produced over the pre-1967 lines from West Bank settlements, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights can be labeled “Made in Israel” in Bahrain, Bahraini Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani said Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

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

Arab Gulf States need to improve force integration, establish better shared-awareness capabilities, improve ISR and EW effectiveness and move from commanding the battle concept to managing the battle to successfully counter Iran’s evolving ballistic missile program, says Khalid Al Bu-Ainain Al Mazrouei, advisor to the deputy supreme commander of UAE Armed Forces. – Breaking Defense

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said there’s movement to end the Gulf rift but he couldn’t predict if a deal was imminent. – Bloomberg

Bahrain’s imports from Israel will not be subject to distinctions between products made within Israel and those from settlements in occupied territory, the Bahraini trade minister said on Thursday, drawing a rebuke from the Palestinians. – Reuters

The Senate will vote next week on legislation to halt the Trump administration’s $23 billion sale of F-35 fighter jets, Reaper drones and munitions to the United Arab Emirates, a lawmaker said Thursday. – Defense News

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could designate the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization this week, Al-Arabiya TV reported, citing the Washington Post. – Arab News

Jacqueline Alemany and Brent D. Griffiths write: Saudi Arabia agreed to allow “Israeli airliners cross its airspace en route to the United Arab Emirates” after talks with Kushner, as reported by Reuters’ Steve Holland. But experts told Power Up it’s unlikely that Kushner’s long-shot diplomatic effort this week will result in its goal of a major breakthrough in solving the years-long rift between Qatar and its other neighbors in the Gulf, including Riyadh. Yet it could benefit Kushner personally as he is poised to leave the White House, since such a trip puts his close personal relationships with world leaders on full display. – Washington Post

Ben Wedeman writes: Wary of Iran, the UAE is following in the footsteps of President Donald Trump, who in his inauguration made clear he was putting his country, the United States, first. Narrow self-interest has beaten out old alliances and causes. Trump’s days as president are numbered, but his doctrine has found fertile ground in the Gulf. – CNN

Tom Rogan writes: Votes are pending on Congressional resolutions that would prevent the F-35 sale from occurring. Members of Congress should seek clarification from the UAE on one major concern before deciding which way to vote. Namely, whether the UAE is determined to advance its strategic partnership with China. If the UAE’s answer is affirmative, Congress should block the F-35 sale. If, however, the UAE agrees to isolate China from its security, capital investment, and high technology industries, the sale should be approved. – Washington Examiner

Middle East & North Africa

On the surface, Libya’s ceasefire is holding and rival parties are at the negotiating table. But success still hangs in the balance because of deep divisions over a transitional executive. – Agence France-Presse

The appointment of Nickolay Mladenov to the post of UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General in Libya is on hold until a replacement can be found for his current role as UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. – Jerusalem Post

Andrew Greco writes: ISIS is reconstituting and expanding attack zones in northern and central Syria. ISIS militants may have carried out three explosive attacks in Turkish-controlled Aleppo Province and separately attacked a pro-regime outpost and oil facility in central Syria.  The increasing severity and geographic area of ISIS attacks likely indicates the organization is successfully expanding its freedom of action in Syria. Continued releases of ISIS militants and family members by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will likely provide ISIS with veteran fighters and enable it to further expand its operations. – Institute for the Study of War


The State Department imposed tighter visa regulations for Chinese Communist Party members Thursday in a move that puts limits on U.S. travel for tens of millions of Chinese working in government and other prominent roles — and further stokes tensions with Beijing ahead of the Biden administration. – Washington Post

The Justice Department is in talks with lawyers for a top Chinese tech executive under house arrest in Canada to resolve U.S. criminal fraud charges in a case that has strained Beijing’s relations with Ottawa and Washington. – Washington Post

The U.S. is increasing the portion of the spying budget devoted to China by nearly one-fifth this year, U.S. officials said on Thursday, reflecting rising concern over what the Trump administration says is a top economic, security and counterintelligence threat from Beijing. – Wall Street Journal

China poses the greatest threat to the U.S. and democracy around the world since Nazi Germany, and policy makers must be prepared for a prolonged period of confrontation with Beijing, according to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe. – Bloomberg

The Pentagon added four more Chinese companies to a list of firms it says are owned or controlled by China’s military, exposing them to increased scrutiny and potential sanctions by the U.S. – Bloomberg

Some damage to Sino-U.S. ties is “beyond repair” amid a new wave of Trump administration measures to counter China, Chinese state media warned, amid growing rancour underlined by an ugly Twitter spat between a U.S. senator and Chinese journalists. – Reuters

A Chinese official’s tweet of an image of an Australian soldier that sparked a furious reaction from Canberra was amplified across social media by unusual accounts, of which half were likely fake, an Israeli cybersecurity firm and Australian experts said. – Reuters

China said on Friday it firmly opposes the United States’ wanton oppression of its companies and asked America to stop abusing the concept of national security, after the Trump administration added China’s SMIC and CNOOC to a defense blacklist. – Reuters

The U.S. government has stepped up a feud with Beijing over security by adding China’s biggest maker of processor chips and a state-owned oil giant to a blacklist that limits access to American technology and investment. – Associated Press

A top retired general has warned that the U.S. underestimates China’s increasing military capabilities and fears that time is running out to stop it from making a move on Taiwan. – Newsweek

Veteran engineers and high-level executives are leaving top US chip design toolmakers for Chinese rivals as Beijing seeks to break America’s near monopoly on this key segment of the semiconductor industry. – Financial Times

President-elect Joe Biden said on Thursday that China must play by “international norms” when speaking about possible retaliatory action against the country for mishandling the coronavirus pandemic when it first broke out. – The Hill

China on Thursday chastised the United States’s reported implementation of new visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party (CPC) members and their immediate family members, accusing Washington of an “escalation of political suppression.” – The Hill

The top US intelligence official says China is the “greatest threat to democracy and freedom” since World War Two. – BBC

America worries about the Chinese coastguard’s growing role as an enhancer of Chinese maritime power. Last year an American admiral hinted that, in the event of a clash, America’s navy would treat vessels belonging to China’s coastguard and maritime militia no differently from those of its navy. In October America said it would explore the viability of deploying its own coastguard vessels to American Samoa, in the South Pacific, to counter China’s “illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels”. – The Economist

Josh Rogin writes: The Biden administration will find countering China’s military strategy, especially in Asia, to be a complex, costly and risky endeavor. But it has no choice but to embark on it, because the status quo is giving out. A good first step would be for Biden to nominate a defense secretary who understands the nature and urgency of the threat. – Washington Post

John Ratcliffe writes: The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically. Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party. I call its approach of economic espionage “rob, replicate and replace.” China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology, and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace. – Wall Street Journal

Austin Long writes: While the ultimate destination of China’s nuclear posture remains uncertain, the trajectory is clear. Changes to China’s nuclear war-fighting capabilities and policies are not myths. Instead, they are moving targets, evolving as Chinese leaders reflect on China’s role in the world and the requirements that role places on the country’s nuclear arsenal. – War on the Rocks

Dan Blumenthal writes: Team Biden was right to accept the fundamental premise of Trump-era China policy: China is a formidable strategic competitor. It was also right to focus on better alliance building as a corrective, though it will not be easy. In Asia, the president-elect will enjoy a honeymoon period with U.S. allies before they become nervous that his administration will not be tough enough on China. In Europe, the honeymoon period will end as soon as Biden asks them to do more to undermine China’s strategy. – Newsweek


His actions were featured in a video by the U.S.-led coalition eager to highlight skilled Afghan troops. But the exposure helped the Taliban mark him for death threats. U.S. officials granted his request to flee to the United States but reversed their decision hours before he was to depart — leaving Asadi wondering who will track him down first. – Washington Post

The compromise defense policy bill released Thursday includes language aimed at preventing a withdrawal from Afghanistan amid President Trump’s order to cut U.S. forces there to 2,500 by mid-January. – The Hill

A suicide car bomber killed at least three intelligence officers in an attack on a security convoy on patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday evening, officials said. – Associated Press

Brian Glyn Williams writes: President Donald Trump’s recent call to withdraw just over half of the 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan has been condemned as an act that “would hurt our allies and delight, delight, the people who wish us harm” by members of his own party and key military leaders. The Nov. 17 announcement of troop reduction is part of a ceasefire agreement with the Taliban, but may not help deliver a lasting peace to the Afghan people. – The National Interest

South Asia

India summoned Canada’s ambassador on Friday and said comments made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over protests by farmers near Delhi were an interference in its domestic affairs and would seriously hurt bilateral ties. – Reuters

Varsha Koduvayur and Akhil Bery write: What stands in the way of normalization is Islamabad’s long record of equating the Palestinian struggle for self-determination to the same struggle in Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir. To normalize ties with Israel before resolving the Palestinian issue would rob Pakistan of the justifications it has used to bolster its claims over Kashmir. Earlier this month, Khan said that serious consideration of bilateral ties with Israel would have to wait for “a just settlement, which satisfies Palestinians.” – The Diplomat

Mark Episkopos writes: New Delhi rebooted the USSR-India partnership in 2008, leasing an Akula-class submarine from President Putin. In the latest instance of long-standing military cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi, India is set to rent additional Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines as a stepping stone on its path to acquiring an indigenous nuclear submarine force. – The National Interest


Media mogul Jimmy Lai faces months in jail after a Hong Kong court on Thursday denied him bail while awaiting trial on a fraud charge, the latest in a procession of China critics to be put behind bars. – Wall Street Journal

The top U.S. general on Thursday suggested he favored an overhaul of a longstanding military policy that sends thousands of family members to live with forces deployed overseas in select locations including South Korea and Bahrain. – Reuters

The U.K. is granting the most special travel documents to Hong Kong residents since the 1997 handover, bolstering predictions of a mass exodus as China tightens its grip over the former British colony. – Bloomberg

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo accused Hong Kong of using the courts to engage in “political persecution” after prominent activists were detained and a former opposition lawmaker fled to Europe. – Bloomberg

A bilateral trade deal between Taiwan and the United States would reinforce U.S. support for the democratic island in the face of “unrelenting intimidation” from China, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday. – Reuters

Dozens of militants aligned with the Islamic State group opened fire on a Philippine army detachment and burned a police patrol car in a southern town but withdrew after troops returned fire, officials said Friday. – Associated Press

Azerbaijan said Thursday it lost nearly 2,800 soldiers in 44 days of fighting with Armenian forces over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, the first time it has disclosed its military casualties. – Associated Press

Eyeing China’s rise as a global military and economic power, lawmakers unveiled a compromise defense policy bill Thursday that targets China on multiple fronts, with $6.9 billion prescribed for a new Pacific Deterrence Initiative over two years. – Defense News

The head of the Navy’s forces in the Pacific has been tapped to lead U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, according to a Thursday Pentagon announcement. Adm. John Aquilino, the current commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, has been nominated to lead the joint combatant command based in Hawaii. – USNI News

Michael J. Green and Gregory B. Poling write: The alliance with the Philippines is an important anchor for U.S. presence in Southeast Asia. The region is central to emerging U.S.-China competition and crucial to our national interests. The alliance made important strides under the Obama administration but has come under strain since 2016 with the election of Rodrigo Duterte as president. Without putting the military and political relationship with Manila back on stable footing, it is difficult to see how we can accomplish our goals of upholding freedom of the seas and deterring Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and beyond. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Frank Aum and George A. Lopez write: New, robust, and proactive engagement, rather than tepid trial balloons or exploratory dialogues, is necessary to persuade Pyongyang to pursue de-escalation. Once bilateral negotiations resume, unilateral concessions would give way to the formal bargaining process, but the principle of reciprocity would still hold. GRIT may not pay immediate dividends, but it will create a coherent framework for engaging with North Korea, presenting it with new diplomatic choices, and arresting and reversing its nuclear aims. – War on the Rocks


The Trump administration and Congress are racing to stop Russia from finishing the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany. With bipartisan backing, Congress will pass expanded sanctions as part of its annual defense policy bill to prevent Russia from restarting the $11 billion pipeline. – Washington Examiner

Authorities in Moscow arrested a physicist on suspicion of state treason for allegedly passing classified information about Russia’s aviation industry abroad, news agencies reported late on Thursday. – Reuters

Russian oligarchs say they know why Democrats and Washington journalists seized on a now-debunked conspiracy theory that a secret computer server linked Donald Trump and Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest commercial lender. – Washington Times

David Axe writes: Russian forces have been jamming GPS systems in the Middle East. The electronic-warfare campaign could affect U.S. forces gathering in the region in advance of potential strikes on Iran. – The National Interest


France launched investigations into dozens of mosques across the country on Thursday as part of a contentious crackdown on what the government of President Emmanuel Macron considers “Islamist separatism.” – Wall Street Journal

Congress moved Thursday to stop President Trump from reducing U.S. troops in Germany, dealing a setback to the White House’s attempt to punish the country for its modest level of defense spending. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union told Britain on Friday that it was time to make a decision on a Brexit trade deal after a last-minute problem in talks prompted London to say chances of a breakthrough were receding. – Reuters

France would veto any Brexit deal between the EU and the UK if it is considered unsatisfactory regarding French interests, its European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said on Friday. – Bloomberg

The EU budget commissioner has warned Poland and Hungary that Brussels is ready to cut them out of the recovery fund and proceed with the project without them if they continue to block Europe’s upcoming budget. – Financial Times

The EU is considering two-tier legislation to impose greater responsibility on Big Tech over removal of illegal content and the fight against counterfeit products in the first overhaul of the bloc’s internet rules in two decades. – Financial Times

A Belgian court will deliver its verdict on January 22 in the trial of an Iranian diplomat accused of plotting to bomb an exiled opposition group’s rally, his lawyer told AFP. – Agence France-Presse

Christopher Caldwell writes: Every Western country has a version of this problem. All our treasured “values” were formulated for a society more uniform and more orderly than today’s. Why do we assume these values will survive diversity? Why does France assume that a system devised to subordinate its historic religion can serve just as well to mediate between its more recent secularism and a (rising) foreign religion? […]Under conditions of globalization, mass migration and the ethnic and religious recomposition of that citizenry, such forbearance can no longer be assumed. – Wall Street Journal


Mali is considering talks with militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in an apparent departure from the stance of France, its main partner in the fight against jihadists. – Bloomberg

The leader of Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigrayan forces said on Friday that protests were breaking out in the regional capital which fell to federal troops days ago in their month-long war. – Reuters

About 300 British troops have arrived in the troubled West African state of Mali at a time when the epicentre of the Islamic State group (IS) appears to have moved from the Middle East to Africa. – BBC

Samuel Getachew writes: Abiy has placed too much emphasis on his international standing when he should have prioritized national concerns. This marked his handling of the TPLF question from the outset; he was not able to narrow his differences with them and chose to neglect their grievances until they reached the breaking point. While he may win on the battleground and declare victory, this could result in a rebel movement from the north. The region’s proximity to Eritrea also means the conflict could spiral into a regional one. – Washington Post

The Americas

When Venezuelans head to the polls Sunday to elect a new National Assembly, one big name will be missing from the ballot. Juan Guaidó, the legislature’s current president, recognized by the United States and more than 50 other countries as Venezuela’s rightful leader, is boycotting the election. Guaidó and his U.S.-backed opposition say there’s no way authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro will allow a free and fair vote. – Washington Post

The Brazilian farm state of Goias rolled out a pilot project on Thursday to increase productivity and take fast action against disease using fifth-generation technology and equipment provided by China’s Huawei Technologies Co. – Reuters

The top U.S. envoy on Venezuela called on the incoming Biden administration on Thursday to use the leverage he believes has been gained from years of tough sanctions aimed at ousting socialist President Nicolas Maduro and urged against offering him any “giveaways.” – Reuters

Alex Vasquez and Patricia Laya write: Since 2015, Venezuela’s National Assembly has been the center of opposition to the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Juan Guaido, the man recognized by the U.S. and around 50 other nations as the country’s rightful leader, based his effort to oust Maduro on the support of a majority of the Assembly, widely considered the last democratically-elected body in the nation’s government. But Maduro seized control of the Assembly earlier this year, and its role as the last bastion of the opposition is likely to end in parliamentary elections on Sunday. – Bloomberg


The United States deployed operatives to Estonia in the weeks before the November election to learn more about defending against Russian hackers as part of a broader effort to hunt down foreign cyberattacks, American and Estonian officials said. – New York Times

Sophisticated hackers, assumed to be state agents, have been carrying out a global phishing campaign targeting the vital “cold chain” that will protect coronavirus vaccines during storage and transport, IBM security researchers reported Thursday. – Washington Post

The U.S. Justice Department is in talks about a possible resolution in the legal case against the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., according to a person familiar with the matter, a simmering dispute that has fueled a clash between the world’s two biggest economies. – Bloomberg

The defense policy bill Congress plans to pass this month now includes language that would create a national cyber director at the White House, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) confirmed to The Hill on Thursday. – The Hill

Shane Tews writes: In tech policy, there are areas like cybersecurity where the US should seek productive transatlantic cooperation. But on antitrust and digital taxes, punishing America’s tech champions and helping European governments pay their bills — especially on the backs of US companies — should have no place on the Biden team’s to-do list. – American Enterprise Institute


The final draft of the bicameral, bipartisan-approved defense authorization bill contains a number of rebukes of President Trump’s actions as commander in chief, in addition to defying him over both of the grounds on which he has threatened to veto the legislation. – Washington Post

After it took the better part of nine months to convince Mark Esper’s Pentagon that the naval force needed greater investment to be ready to deter or defeat China and Russia – even if that investment came at the expense of the Army or the Air Force – the Navy and Marine Corps will have to start anew with the incoming Biden administration, the chief of naval operations said today. – USNI News

A year after the U.S. Army awarded a contract to build a heavy-duty robot able to dispose of bombs and other explosives, the Air Force is looking for its own system — and it wants to see what’s on the market before committing to purchasing what the Army buys. – Defense News

Congress directed the Pentagon to build an interim homeland intercontinental ballistic missile defense interceptor, a weapon that is not in the Missile Defense Agency’s current plans to counter threats from North Korea and Iran. – Defense News

The final agreement on the fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill includes a slate of provisions intended to bolster the military’s response to the coronavirus, a day after the U.S. recorded its single worst daily death toll since the pandemic began. – Roll Call

Chris Dougherty writes: Change is difficult and not without risk. However, the current state of the debate over U.S. defense strategies, operational concepts, and capability investments to deal with the challenges posed by China and Russia suggests that there is greater risk in resisting change. Ironically, the moment that A2/AD achieved its greatest salience in the last NDS appears to be the moment that it reached obsolescence. – Center for a New American Security

Mark F. Cancian writes: The Air Force continues the development and procurement of next-generation aircraft to meet the demands of great power conflict. Fielding of new aircraft has been enough to arrest the increase in fleet age. However, the Air Force is not buying enough new aircraft to sustain its force structure, so it seeks to retire older aircraft. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Tom Rogan writes: But it is only now that the U.S. national security apparatus has begun to wake up to how successful Beijing’s and Moscow’s endeavors have been. Unless the Biden administration allocates continued resources to countering the gains America’s adversaries are making, Beijing and Moscow might soon be able to defeat America in a climactic conflict. This isn’t hyperbole. – Washington Examiner

Long War

The coronavirus pandemic risks fuelling extremism and terrorist activity as internet users from across the political spectrum are drawn into online radicalisation and the proliferation of conspiracy theories, security experts have warned. – Financial Times

Editorial: Joe Biden and his foreign-policy team are eager to focus more on issues like climate change and China. Counterterrorism doesn’t have to be at the top of the agenda, but taking shortcuts ensures it will be soon enough. – Wall Street Journal

Samya Kullab writes: There are already signs of a possible Islamic State comeback as the group exploits security gaps widened by a year of protests and the pandemic. It’s a worrying trend for Iraq’s security forces, whose collapse in 2014 allowed IS to seize a third of the country and sent American troops rushing back less than three years after they had withdrawn. – Times of Israel