Fdd's overnight brief

December 7, 2020

In The News


Days after the assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, competing camps in Iran are wielding his memory in a battle over the country’s political future and how it should deal with the United States. – Washington Post

The top U.S. Navy official in the Mideast said Sunday that America has reached an “uneasy deterrence” with Iran after months of regional attacks and seizures at sea, even as tensions remain high between Washington and Tehran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. – Associated Press

Iran’s Supreme Court has agreed to retry three men over links to last year’s anti-government protests and whose death sentences have been suspended, the state IRNA news agency reported on Saturday. – Reuters

Iran has instructed its oil ministry to prepare installations for production and sale of crude oil at full capacity within three months, state media said on Sunday, ahead of a possible easing of U.S. sanctions after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. – Reuters

France, Britain and Germany said on Monday they were “deeply concerned” by an Iranian announcement that it intended to install additional advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges and a parliamentary law that could expand its nuclear programme. – Reuters

An official close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has denied rumours on social media about the top authority’s deteriorating health, the semi official Fars news agency reported on Monday. – Reuters

A former vice-president to Iran’s Hassan Rouhani says she intends to appeal a prison sentence handed to her on Saturday, the ISNA news agency said. – Agence France-Presse

The sons of the Iranian nuclear scientist who was killed Nov. 27, allegedly by Israel, said their father was warned against traveling on the day of his death, Iran’s state-run media reported. – Washington Examiner

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may have transferred power to his son amid concerns over his declining health, Iranian journalist Momahad Ahwaze reported Saturday. – Jerusalem Post

A satellite-controlled machine gun was used in last week’s assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. – Bloomberg

Israel intelligence managed to recruit an Iranian official close to the recently assassinated Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and recorded the nuclear scientist speaking about his efforts to produce “five warheads” on behalf of the Islamic Republic, according to a Friday report in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily. – Times of Israel

The Iranian Supreme National Security Council on Saturday endorsed a law intended to reduce international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program if sanctions on the country are not lifted in two months. – Arutz Sheva

K. T. McFarland writes: His death not only removes the longtime head of the program, but also sends a clear message to other Iranian scientists. Fakhrizadeh was well-guarded at all times, and kept a low profile. If he could be assassinated without warning, no one involved in Iran’s nuclear weapons program is safe. It’s also a message to the Iranian regime that Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran terrorizing the Middle East. – The Hill

Lawrence J. Haas writes: With its economy severely weakened by U.S. sanctions, fueling growing domestic dissent that could threaten Tehran’s hold on power, the regime may—may—be willing to consider not just renewed but stronger restrictions on its nuclear-related pursuits. A savvy Washington might be able to use the threat of further Israeli action to push Tehran into an agreement with stronger provisions than its predecessor. Iran, Israeli, and the greater Middle East region have evolved in the four years since Joe Biden served as Obama’s vice president. The incoming administration will achieve more by recognizing how those changes could aid—or hinder—its agenda. – The National Interest


The Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah revealed on Friday that it had sent an unmanned aerial drone (UAV) into Israeli territory in October and even went so far as to near a major IDF base, all the while not being picked up by Israeli radar, according to Hezbollah-affiliated TV channel Al-Manar. – Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah announced on Friday that it is suing a number of entities who have accused it of being behind the explosion at Beirut’s port that killed over 200 people and wounded thousands in early August, Walla reported Saturday. – Jerusalem Post

The prosecutor’s office filed an indictment Sunday in the Ramle Magistrates’ Court against Kamal Tannus, a 50-year-old resident of the city, for inciting terrorism and showing solidarity with a terrorist organization. – Ynet


Turkey’s recent moves to de-escalate a clash with Greece and Cyprus over east Mediterranean energy reserves are “unconvincing” and European Union leaders need to take action that will prompt Ankara to heed international law, Greece’s foreign minister said on Friday. – Associated Press

European foreign ministers will discuss measures against Turkey at their meeting on Monday as there has been no de-escalation in the conflict in the eastern Mediterranean in the past months, Germany’s foreign minister said on Monday. – Reuters

Turkey will not bow to threats in its dispute with Greece and Cyprus over maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday as European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss the issue. – Reuters

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the European Union to “get rid of its strategic blindness,” as Greece pushed the bloc to pave the way for punitive measures that could unleash a full-blown crisis in the Mediterranean. – Bloomberg

Lindsey Graham and James Lankford write: The people of Turkey are still our friends. But their leadership has chosen to abandon thousands of F-35 jobs, which will dry up once manufacturing stops in 2022, and to invite sanctions on an already struggling economy. It didn’t have to be this way. Yet Turkish leadership is pressing forward and earlier this year reportedly test-fired the Russian missile-defense system. The U.S. has an obligation to protect American interests from threats from Iran, Russia and North Korea. Turkey needs to understand the consequences of its decisions. – Wall Street Journal


Israeli authorities have cleared police of any wrongdoing in the case of a 9-year-old boy who lost an eye after apparently being shot in the face by an Israeli officer earlier this year. – Associated Press

Israeli soldiers fatally shot a 15-year-old Palestinian on Friday during stone-throwing clashes in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian officials said, although the Israeli military said its forces had not used live fire. – Retuers

Israel is a logical, strategic link between ports in Europe and the Middle East, DP World’s chairman said on Monday, estimating initial UAE-Israel bilateral trade could be worth $5 billion. – Reuters

In the coming years, Israelis will be able to commute into Jerusalem and Tel Aviv from settlements deep inside the West Bank via highways, tunnels and overpasses that cut a wide berth around Palestinian towns. – Associated Press

The Israeli government on Thursday urged its citizens to avoid travel to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, citing threats of Iranian attacks. – Associated Press

Hundreds of Palestinians attended the funeral Saturday of a teenager killed in clashes with the Israeli army, defying a curfew imposed on the occupied West Bank to stem the coronavirus. – Agence France-Presse

Khalil al-Hayya, a member of the Hamas political bureau and one of the group’s senior members in the Gaza Strip, on Sunday warned the Palestinian Authority against normalization with Israel. – Arutz Sheva

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that that the centrality of the Palestinian cause constitutes the basis of regional conflict and that settling the conflict on the basis of the two-state solution is the only way to achieve viable peace and stability. – Arutz Sheva

Israel is “deeply grateful” for US President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as its capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, the third anniversary of that proclamation. – Jerusalem Post

Yair Ramati writes: Ultimately, American and Israeli policies for maintaining Israel’s QME, in place since the 1960s, are due for an update. Tectonic changes in the region require fresh policies from both Washington and Jerusalem. An updated and balanced bilateral policy can enable Israel’s new peace partners to benefit from the diplomatic process they have entered, while minimizing erosion of Israel’s QME.  – Defense News

Micah Halpern writes: Israel is fighting a war against those that are threatening to wipe the Jewish State off the map. Israel’s enemies are developing weapons that can do just that. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s role was to create those weapons and to teach others to create those weapons. The best defense is to prevent your enemies from procuring those weapons. In practical terms, once Iran or any other enemy of Israel developed those weapons, it would be much harder to stop them from being used. The death of Fakhrizadeh put a big chink in the development process of those weapons. It was a devastating set back for Iran. – Jerusalem Post

Lahav Harkov writes: What Israel can understand from the Saudis fostering the continued will-they-won’t-they drama is that they are not as ready as some in Israel had hoped to establish open ties between the countries. Israel needs to continue to tread carefully to keep that progress moving in the direction of “they will.” – Jerusalem Post

Arabian Peninsula

A cargo ship traveling past Yemen in the Gulf of Aden came under attack in unclear circumstances, maritime authorities said Saturday. – Associated Press

Oman’s foreign minister said on Saturday the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East had discussed with his country the possibility of Washington designating Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement as a terrorist group. – Reuters

A top arms sale official believes it is “possible” to get the United Arab Emirates on contract to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter before the end of the Trump administration. – Defense News

Gulf States

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have reached a tentative deal to end a yearslong feud that has fractured the Middle East, paving the way for broader regional talks that could cool tensions between longstanding Gulf rivals by year’s end, U.S. and Gulf officials said Friday. – Wall Street Journal

The United Arab Emirates was the target of cyber attacks after establishing formal ties with Israel, the Gulf Arab state’s cyber security head said on Sunday. – Reuters

A senior Saudi royal lashed out at Israel at a conference with its foreign minister, in a sharp departure from the kingdom’s recent official rhetoric. – Bloomberg

A resolution of the Gulf diplomatic crisis is in sight, with all nations involved “on board” and final agreement expected soon, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

Any new nuclear deal with Iran must prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons, said the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Dr. Nayef al-Hajraf on Sunday. – Al Arabiya

Simon Henderson writes: The price hikes may be annoying for the new administration — and consumers — but also likely will be a further blow to OPEC and OPEC+, setting off arguments about increased quotas and levels of production cheating. Although OPEC internal crises may reoccur, they no longer may be cyclical. Instead of returning to the same point, the trend in the cartel may be towards unravelling.  – The Hill

Middle East & North Africa

The U.S. government is withdrawing some staff from its embassy in Baghdad over the coming weeks as tensions rise with Iran, according to a U.S. official. – Wall Street Journal

President Emmanuel Macron hosts Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi from Sunday for a three-day state visit with France facing calls from activists that Egypt should not be “indulged” despite the close alliance between Cairo and Paris. – Agence France-Presse

Ten years ago, as protests flared across the Arab world, Western governments failed to meet a date with destiny and help nurture dreams of democracy, missing an unprecedented chance to shape real reform. – Agence France-Presse

A decade on, the turmoil of the Arab Spring which shook the oil-rich Gulf states has left a very different legacy, emboldening and empowering their conservative monarchies. – Agence France-Presse

In Syria, Libya and more recently Sudan, Arab revolutionaries have begun brandishing old independence-era flags, attacking newer ones as symbols of the dictatorships they want to topple. – Agence France-Presse

A mob seized equipment from a UNIFIL convoy in south Lebanon after blocking its route, the UN peacekeeping force said Saturday of its latest run-in with the local population. – Agence France-Presse

Paul Salem writes: Many of these states have done reasonably well in managing the crisis—in most cases, certainly better than the United States—but they need support and assistance in improving governance and building resilience as their societies and economies dig out of the pandemic in 2021. […]Hence Biden will assume office with a particular mandate for standing up for democratic values and principles. Political development cannot and should not be imposed from abroad, but is up to the people and societies of the region; however, it is important to the people of the region that the United States return to standing up for its own values of an inclusive, open and democratic society. – The National Interest


Facing global anger over their initial mishandling of the outbreak, the Chinese authorities are now trying to rewrite the narrative of the pandemic by pushing theories that the virus originated outside China. – New York Times

China and the United States need to proceed together with “good will” to improve relations, the Chinese ambassador to Washington said on Saturday, as ties remained fraught between the world’s two biggest economic powers. – Reuters

China said on Monday it firmly opposes and strongly condemns U.S. interference in its domestic affairs if a media report that Washington is preparing new sanctions on Chinese officials over a Hong Kong crackdown is true. – Reuters

China firmly opposes and strongly condemns U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposing sanctions on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front Work Department, the foreign ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday he hoped and believed that U.S. policy on China could eventually “return to objectivity and rationality”. – Reuters

The United States is preparing to impose sanctions on at least a dozen Chinese officials over their alleged role in Beijing’s disqualification of elected opposition legislators in Hong Kong, according to three sources, including a U.S. official familiar with the matter. – Reuters

China has planted its flag on the Moon, more than 50 years after the US first planted the Stars and Stripes there. – BBC

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday announced that the State Department has ended five exchange programs with China, calling them “propaganda.” – The Hill

The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday warned of Chinese national security threats due to Chinese government efforts to “exert its global dominance.” – The Hill

Huawei has started investing in emerging Chinese chip companies as the telecoms group accelerates efforts to become self-reliant in semiconductor technologies in the face of US sanctions. – Financial Times

David Von Drehle writes: This question leads to a third principle: China policy is now too important to be a plaything for Washington’s reckless partisans. Just as warring Democrats and Republicans agreed after World War II to unite behind a Cold War strategy, so, too, must today’s leaders seek a consistent approach to China. Beijing has taken a menacing wrong turn. We need steady hands in response. – Washington Post

Zachary Faria writes: Joe Biden has tried to sound like he will be tough on China as a growing number of people sour on the influence that the Chinese Communist Party holds over America’s economy and culture. But Biden’s history toward China continues to shine through, suggesting he’ll do nothing more than scold the CCP. – Washington Examiner

Edward Lucas writes: This is not a conflict of means. China is big. So is the West. It is a contest based on respective capabilities in willpower and coordination. […]Alliances and the internal freedoms of our societies mean we can bewilder, distract, and demoralize those seeking to attack us while reenergizing our own systems and institutions with a sense of purpose and shared mission. This conflict is indeed real and daunting. But it does not need to end in a military confrontation. Nor need it — yet — end in defeat for the West. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Hal Brands writes: The U.S. mostly has President Xi Jinping to thank for the world’s major democracies becoming more aligned in their views of the Chinese challenge. Yet the geography of great-power competition is shifting, and succeeding in the developing world will require more than good luck. – Bloomberg

Sebastien Roblin writes: Beijing is not interested in foreign wars at this time. However, it does seek to alter the military balance of power in the Pacific Ocean. Aircraft like the J-16D suggest the People’s Liberation Army is interested in developing specialized aircraft that will offer China a full spectrum of air-warfare capabilities—just like those of the U.S. military. – The National Interest

Robert A. Manning writes: As the global backlash to China’s imperious behavior grows, this Australia incident should be a tipping point. Like-minded nations need to collectively stand up and say: this shall not stand, we cannot do business this way with China. To move in that direction, we offer Ten Demands that the world community should make of China. – The National Interest

Robert Farley and J. Tyler Lovell write: Despite these formidable obstacles, Chinese advancement in military aviation continues apace, and it is unlikely that China will lag behind in engine technology forever. Advances in 3D printing may yet provide a way for it to rapidly build, prototype, and develop jet engines. However, while 3D printing is already used by militaries worldwide to produce parts for aircraft and ships, it has yet to produce a modern military-grade turbofan jet engine. – The National Interest 

Linette Lopez writes: The United States and China are breaking up. It does not matter whether a Republican or a Democrat occupies the White House. Though the two world powers have spent years trying to make a mutually beneficial relationship work, trust has disappeared, making cooperation untenable. Now the two sides are on course to restructure their relationship — not a total divorce, but an uncomfortable period of distancing in which new boundaries are created. – Business Insider

Stephen Roach writes: A top priority for the incoming US administration of president-elect Joe Biden will be deciding how to handle the conflict with China. What started as a trade fight morphed into a tech war and is now at an impasse. A new approach is urgently needed. It should have three major elements. – Financial Times

David Axe writes: The U.S. Navy needs better surveillance and reconnaissance systems if it’s to have any chance of detecting a Chinese build-up in the Western Pacific in the weeks or days preceding a possible major war. – The National Interest

Matthew R. Crouch writes: The People’s Republic of China is joined today in revisionist policies by a Russian Federation that is belligerent in its decline. Both are openly expansionist and exercise influence over their neighbors without consideration for fairness, justice, or freedom. Together, they present dilemmas from which the world cannot withdraw. If the United States elects not to live up to its own ideals, declines to lead and abandons allies and others to this contest without our great power, that would be a tragedy. – The National Interest

South Asia

Indian officials say China is assisting rebel groups that have stepped up attacks on its border with Myanmar in recent months, opening another front in the conflict between two nations already engaged in a deadly standoff in the Himalayas. – Bloomberg

Officials in Sri Lanka and the Maldives are quick to acknowledge how beholden they are to the Asian giants as they struggle to stay solvent in a growing sea of red ink, problems plaguing other indebted countries in the region from Pakistan to Cambodia. – Financial Times

Kyle Mizokami writes: A hypothetical war between India and China would be one of the largest and most destructive conflicts in Asia. A war between the two powers would rock the Indo-Pacific region, cause thousands of casualties on both sides and take a significant toll on the global economy. Geography and demographics would play a unique role, limiting the war’s scope and ultimately the conditions of victory. – The National Interest


Many hold out hope that their sons may be in hiding or lying wounded in steep, mountainous terrain since a Russian-brokered cease-fire was signed last month to end the worst fighting over the enclave since the 1990s. – Washington Post

Eight people in Hong Kong have been arrested, including three on suspicion of violating a national security law, over a protest at a university last month, police said on Monday, as the government intensifies a crackdown on pro-democracy activists. – Reuters

Former Hong Kong democracy lawmaker and activist Ted Hui, who fled to Britain after facing criminal charges, said some of his bank accounts had been unfrozen and he had moved funds swiftly from HSBC because he no longer trusted the global bank. – Reuters

Washington’s point man on North Korea, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, is scheduled to visit Seoul next week to meet with South Korean officials, five sources with knowledge of the trip told Reuters. – Reuters

A Hong Kong pro-democracy politician who fled overseas is being investigated for national security crimes, police said Sunday, confirming they have frozen some of his bank accounts. The revelation comes as international banks in the semi-autonomous city become increasingly tangled up in political tensions as the US threatens to sanction businesses that aid Beijing’s crackdown on dissent. – Agence France-Presse

Australia lacks an overarching approach to handling a “much more assertive” China, and needs a plan for economic diversification and liaising with Asian allies to handle the emerging superpower, opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Mr. Biden should remedy that quickly once he takes office. He should look for concrete ways to show solidarity with Australia, such as sanctioning Chinese officials involved in the campaign against the country. He should back Australia’s calls for an investigation of the coronavirus’s origins, which is not only justified but sorely needed. And perhaps he should invite Americans to sample a bottle or two of Australian wine. – Washington Post


A Russian pipe-laying ship sailed into position Saturday to resume construction of a German-Russian gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea that the United States has vehemently opposed. – Associated Press

She’s being forced to leave the country as part of an escalating crackdown on nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups. First, Russian authorities labeled one of Justice Initiative’s branches as a “foreign agent,” a designation that complicates its work with everyday Russians. Then, in March, without any explanation, the group was kicked out of its Moscow offices. In September, they were forced out of another location in the city. – The Daily Beast

Kris Osborn writes: Submarine-hunting planes, surveillance assets and a heavily armed U.S. destroyer all recently conducted combat exercises and air-defense missions with allies in the Black Sea. This exercise demonstrated once again that despite all of the attention now being paid to a possible Chinese threat in the Pacific, deterring Russia is still very much on the radar as an operational priority for America and its partners. – The National Interest

Michael Peck writes: Here’s What You Need To Remember: Despite the differences between Russian and American tanks, the basic challenges of any tank program – Russian, German, American, or Israeli – are more or less the same across all nations. – The National Interest

Peter Suciu writes: The Russian Federation’s BMPT (Tank Support Fighting Vehicle), known as the “Terminator,” has traveled back in time to ensure the future for the machines—but the vehicle has come back from “financial neglect.” First introduced more than twenty years ago the platform has never been fully embraced by the Russian Military, but it has gone through a number of upgrades. – The National Interest

Sebastien Roblin writes: Despite the Akula’s poor readiness rate, they continue to make up the larger part of Russia’s nuclear attack submarine force, and will remain in service into the next decade until production of the succeeding Yasen class truly kicks into gear. Until then, the Akula’s strong acoustic stealth characteristics will continue to make it a formidable challenge for antisubmarine warfare specialists. – The National Interest

Anna Borshchevskaya writes: Given Russia’s forceful track record abroad, it may be tempting to conclude that the Kremlin does not project soft power at all. Yet the reality is more nuanced. Moscow, while abusive to its own citizens, devotes a great deal to soft power projection—often more so than to hard power. – Washington Institute


Ms. von der Leyen said Britain and the European Union would send their negotiators back to the table in a last-ditch effort to close the gaps holding up an agreement on their post-Brexit trading relationship. – New York Times

More than 300 people were detained in the Belarusian capital on Sunday, where crowds of people took to the streets for the 18th consecutive weekend, demanding the ouster of the country’s authoritarian leader who won a sixth term in office in an election widely seen as rigged. – Associated Press

Romanians voted Sunday in a legislative election that many hope will restore some stability in one of the poorest European Union nations after five years of political and social turmoil. – Associated Press

Norway’s deputy central bank governor with responsibility for the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund has been forced to resign due to security concerns over his Chinese wife. – Financial Times

Poland’s frequent clashes with the EU since the ruling Law and Justice party came to power five years ago have always had the potential to trigger a debate about the country’s future in the bloc. As Warsaw tussles with Brussels over the EU’s €1.8tn budget and recovery package, such a discussion has now flared up. – Financial Times

The UK government’s plans for a new trade border in the Irish Sea are in a “mess” and will not be operationally ready by January 1 despite the creation of a £200m support service, Northern Irish trade bodies have warned. – Financial Times

Top EU diplomat Helga Schmid was on Friday appointed secretary general of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). – Politico

Poland’s coalition government is showing fissures over its decision to block the European Union’s $2.2 trillion spending plan, with a junior coalition partner repeating a stance that puts him at odds with the shot-calling ruling party. – Bloomberg

Editorial: That’s what the news media does, at home and abroad. It is its function and duty to ask questions about the roots of racism, ethnic anger and the spread of Islamism among Western Muslims, and to critique the effectiveness and impact of government policies. When terrorists strike, however, there is only one response. On that front, Mr. Macron, France is not alone.  – New York Times

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya writes: I hope to travel to Washington during the inauguration week to personally thank the current administration for its work to help the people of Belarus. At the same time, I look forward to developing a strong relationship with the new administration in order to facilitate democratic transition in Belarus. Together, the free world will prevail. – Washington

James Stavridis writes: Let’s be honest: In the immediate future, reinvigorating relations with Europe will take a lower priority than dealing with Covid-19 domestically and getting China policy right internationally. Still, it needs to be high on the list. The motto of the U.S. military’s European Command is a simple two words we picked over a decade ago: “Stronger Together.” It’s a truth the Biden administration would do well to heed. – Bloomberg

Max Hastings writes: Nonetheless, a working relationship between the two nations, rooted in common security concerns and ancestry, should remain serviceable to both. Our soldiers are unlikely again to land together on the beaches of Normandy, as they did in 1944. But it will be a sadness, indeed, should we not remain on the same side of history’s barricades through tough decades ahead. – Bloomberg


Somalis fear a U.S. decision to withdraw troops from their country will be seen as a victory for the Qaeda-linked militants who have wreaked havoc there for years, and sow the potential for further chaos at an especially delicate moment for Somalia and the region. – New York Times

President Trump, pressing his end-of-term troop withdrawals from conflicts around the world, will pull American forces out of Somalia, where they have been trying to push back advances by Islamist insurgents in the Horn of Africa. – New York Times

Now, a monthlong civil war, coronavirus lockdowns and historic locust infestations have left the once-golden economy stumbling, as it grapples with one of Africa’s most perilous debt loads, soaring inflation and the risk of a protracted insurgency. – Wall Street Journal

Clashes continued across Ethiopia’s Tigray region and humanitarian aid remained paused at its border Friday, despite government claims that military operations had ceased and pledges to allow U.N. agencies access to hundreds of thousands of people who rely on them for food. – Washington Post

Sudan’s information minister criticized the military for developing ties with Israel without informing other officials, signaling further tensions within the power-sharing government. – Bloomberg

Ivory Coast has issued passports to former president Laurent Gbagbo, allowing him to return from exile in Belgium before the end of the year following his acquittal on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court, his lawyer said on Friday. – Reuters

A deal between the United Nations and the government of Ethiopia granting partial access for aid to the Tigray region does not go far enough and is not in line with international humanitarian law, Europe’s Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said Friday. – Politico

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The US decisions in Africa, which look to reduce America’s very small footprint on the continent, could send a message to groups destroying northern Nigeria, like Boko Haram, that Washington is not committed in the long term. While Somalia is very far from Nigeria, these groups, which are affiliates of various extremist global groups such as Al Qaeda or Islamic State, follow regional news and understand that if Western governments and the US are not committed then they could increase their attacks. – Jerusalem Post

Latin America

The election could significantly weaken Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader and legislator who in 2019 launched a bold effort to oust Mr. Maduro by declaring himself the country’s interim president, a move backed by the United States and dozens of other countries. – New York Times

Venezuela’s authoritarian regime staged congressional elections Sunday that were expected to give President Nicolás Maduro complete control of all levers of power in a vote the country’s opposition and its supporters, including the U.S., rejected as fraudulent. – Wall Street Journal

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador submitted a proposal this week that would remove diplomatic immunity from U.S. agents in Mexico. – The Hill

Hopes that a group of young independent Cuban cultural figures could hold a rare dialogue with the authorities about freedom of expression have been dashed after the communist government vetoed some of them from attending, accusing them of being US puppets. – Financial Times

US officials have watched warming ties between Iran and Venezuela with concern, expressing alarm over what they say are Iran’s military presence in and arms sales to the South American country. – Business Insider

United States

The most probable cause of a series of mysterious afflictions that sickened American spies and diplomats abroad in the past several years was radiofrequency energy, a type of radiation that includes microwaves, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has concluded in a report. – New York Times

But some observers fear that President Donald Trump — disgruntled, still claiming victory — is actively attempting to tie President-elect Joe Biden’s hands and shape America’s international outlook for months if not years to come. – NBC News

Seth J. Frantzman writes: A clandestine attempt to harm US diplomats that was reported in Cuba and China in the last several years has led the US to conclude that harm done to the diplomats was “consistent with the use of directed microwave energy,” reports indicated. The National Academy of Sciences report was included in CNN coverage of the issue this week.  – Jerusalem 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 Trump administration on Friday opted not to grant ByteDance a new extension of an order requiring the Chinese company to divest TikTok’s U.S. assets, but talks will continue over the short video-sharing app’s fate, two sources briefed on the matter said. – Reuters

Government officials and health-care groups are growing increasingly concerned about nation states and criminal hackers targeting the supply chain for COVID-19 vaccines. – The Hill

The former head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said Sunday that adversaries have attempted to steal intellectual property related to the coronavirus vaccine. – CNBC

The Trump administration is weighing an executive order that would let the government restrict the international operations of U.S. cloud computing companies such as Amazon and Microsoft in an effort to protect against foreign cyberattacks, people familiar with the matter tell POLITICO. – Politico

Roger Cochetti writes: Either a continued voluntary or a new mandatory approach to information sharing has serious consequences for the nature of the internet and its relationship with governments everywhere — and for the security of the internet on which our society, economy and security increasingly depend. Consequently, the issue of mandatory versus voluntary cyber threat information sharing will probably remain among the most important — yet least publicized or understood — internet issues facing both industry and governments. – The Hill

James Stavridis writes: We therefore must make sure the nation is prepared for cyberattacks, and protecting the frontlines will clearly require private-public cooperation. To do this most effectively, we must move the nascent public-private partnership model beyond basic information-sharing to true operational collaboration, with the government and the private sector working shoulder-to-shoulder. Only then can we understand, prevent, defend against and indeed preempt attackers. – The Hill

Bonnie Glick writes: Most of all, we want emerging nations to adopt a model for technological innovation that mirrors our own: open-ended, intellectually curious, private-sector led, iterative, competitive, and rooted in the rigors and opportunities of the free market. That’s the path of development we champion and for which I am certain America will always be known.  – The Hill

Elisabeth Braw writes: But while liberal democracies’ openness indisputably makes them vulnerable, targeted companies are not alone. They can team up with (gulp) rivals to share incident updates, a painful but mutually beneficial step. And governments can invite them to be part of a combined shield helping to keep the country safe. That includes regular consultations and even grayzone exercises, a concept I proposed this fall which is already being implemented by a NATO member state.  – The National Interest


The U.S. government approved more than $175 billion in weapons sales to other countries in fiscal 2020, up $5 billion from the previous year, the Pentagon announced Friday. – The Hill

Congress is seeking to block the Air Force from retiring any of its A-10 Warthog attack planes, KC-135 refueling tankers and RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones this fiscal year. – Defense News 

Congress wants to rapidly advance a joint program to develop and field a capability for countering drones, requiring the Pentagon to field a system as early as next fall and adding more than $47 million to fuel the effort, according to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. – Defense News

The U.S. Navy will have to set up a land-based testing site for the engineering plant destined for its new Constellation-class frigate program, according to a provision in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act on President Trump’s desk. – Defense News

Congress would approve roughly half of the money the Army requested for a new cyber tool that will allow commanders to not only visualize, but also understand the cyber environment within their battlespaces. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. military and Australia announced a first-of-its-kind agreement to develop a virtual cyber training range together. – C4ISRNET

As the Space Force nears the first anniversary of its creation on Dec. 20, some space security experts believe that the Biden administration should preserve one of President Trump’s proudest achievements. – Washington Examiner

The Marine Corps’ first squadron of F-35C Lightning II stealth fighter jets is now fully capable of deploying on board aircraft carriers. – Marine Times

Ship fired laser weapons incinerate, destroy and surveil enemy targets at sea at quickly increasing ranges, inspiring U.S. Navy weapons developers to fast-track a growing sphere of directed energy weapons for surface ships. – The National Interest

An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said. – The National Interest 

John Grady and Sam LaGrone write: Milley said that means the United States needs to remain strong economically, diplomatically and militarily to maintain credible deterrence. It also translates into maintaining strong alliances with like-minded nations in NATO and the Indo-Pacific region. – USNI News

Charlie Gao writes: With things heating up in the South China Sea (SCS), much attention has been paid to the ships and submarines that could potentially square off against each other in the region. This ignores a key asset of most navies that is already on the “front lines” and shaping military interactions—Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). Skillful use of these aircraft may determine how an engagement plays out, or it could prevent one from happening in the first place. – The National Interest

Kris Osborn writes: The Department of Defense’s acquisition process has been criticized for years as being overly bureaucratic, at times too slow and in need of reform. While most weapons developers completely agree with this assessment, there have also over the years been many success stories wherein urgently needed platforms and systems were fast-tracked to war in life-saving fashion, with great results. – The National Interest

Mark Episkopos writes: The United States, by contrast, is largely engaged in global-power projection missions spread out across the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian oceans; those types of operations are better suited for nuclear-powered submarines. AIP technology is rapidly shaping up to be a potent, cost-conscious alternative to nuclear submarines—just not for the U.S. Navy. – The National Interest