Fdd's overnight brief

February 18, 2020

In The News


Iran will refuse to negotiate with the U.S. as long as Washington maintains its campaign of “maximum pressure”—even if President Trump is re-elected, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday. – Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration justified the Jan. 3 strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in part by citing an 18-year-old congressional authorization that paved the way for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and overthrow of leader Saddam Hussein, according to a White House notice made public on Friday. – Wall Street Journal

An Iranian man accused of violating U.S. sanctions and detained in Germany has been freed and has returned to Iran after diplomatic efforts by Tehran, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday. – Reuters

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who is getting the cold shoulder from Gulf Arab states, on Monday met Iran’s parliament speaker, the first senior foreign official to visit since Diab’s government took office. – Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday that he doesn’t believe the U.S. will pursue war with his country, because it will harm President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. – Associated Press

Hajj Qasem, as Qasem Soleimani is fondly remembered by his friends from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, came into his role at a unique time. In an interview with Iranian media, a former Iranian defense minister recalled the life of Soleimani. – Jerusalem Post

Iran’s Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s elite Aerospace force, has said that the region must unite to expel “Zionists” and Americans. – Jerusalem Post

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and other Democratic senators had a secret meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during the Munich Security Conference last week, according to a source briefed by the French delegation to the conference. Murphy’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment by press time. – The Federalist

The Spokesman of Iran Electrical Power Industry on Monday said a shortage of fuel for power plants is responsible for blackouts in Tehran and several other cities across Iran. – Radio Farda

The latest report from Iran’s Central Bank (CBI) released on Thursday indicates a steep rise in the volume of money supply and increased government borrowing from banks. – Radio Farda

The U.S. “maximum pressure” policy aimed at isolating Iran will not work, but the regime would be willing to negotiate if the Trump administration returns to the Iranian nuclear deal and drops economic sanctions, President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday. – USA Today

Tuğba Tanyeri Erdemir writes: February 11th marks the 41st anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. Just in the last year, the condition of Iranian minorities has deteriorated considerably. ADL calls on the international community to demand that the Islamic Republic of Iran abide by the Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which grants everyone the right to freedom of conscience and religion, including the freedom to practice one’s beliefs and freedom to change one’s religion. – Medium


The assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and the release of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan has “ushered in direct confrontation with the axis of resistance in Lebanon,” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said recently. – Jerusalem Post

Jawad Nasrallah, son of Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah, has come under fire recently after photos surfaced on social media of him wearing shirts made by American retail brand Timberland, despite his father’s very vocal boycott of US-made products, Channel 12 News reported on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon may not survive if its new government fails, the powerful Hezbollah warned on Sunday, urging the country’s divided politicians not to obstruct the cabinet as it seeks to address an unprecedented economic and financial crisis. – Reuters

Hezbollah unveiled a statue of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in southern Lebanon on Saturday, with hundreds attending the event. – Jerusalem Post

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed writes: Hezbollah’s strategy regarding the crisis seems to be in sync with that of Iran. Tehran is experiencing a similar crisis, including the wrath of its people, who are suffering from the effects of corruption, including poverty. The strategy chiefly consists of waiting until the end of this year to see how the US presidential election plays out. All Diab can do in the meantime is try to keep the political and economic situation under control. – Asharq Al-Awsat


Turkey dispatched a delegation to Moscow on Monday for another round of talks aimed at forging a cease-fire agreement in Syria, where relief agencies warn that a deadly vortex of proxy wars could cause the worst humanitarian disaster in the nine-year conflict. – Wall Street Journal

The situation in Idlib in northwestern Syrian will not be resolved until Syrian government forces withdraw beyond the borders that Turkey and Russia outlined in a 2018 agreement, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday. – Reuters

President Donald Trump has called for Russia to end its support for the Syrian regime’s “atrocities” as he expressed US concern over violence in the Idlib region, the White House said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

ImageSat International (ISI) reported on Monday evening that heavy damage was inflicted upon Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) sites at Damascus International Airport on February 13. Airstrikes appear to have hit warehouses, a shelter, headquarters and infrastructure. – Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he did not know anything about the alleged Israeli attack that targeted the Damascus area on Thursday, adding that maybe it was “the Belgian Air Force.” – Jerusalem Post

Syrian President Bashar Assad congratulated his forces Monday for recent gains in northwestern Syria that led to his troops consolidating control over Aleppo province, pledging to press ahead with a military campaign to achieve complete victory “sooner or later.” – Associated Press

A Syrian military helicopter was shot down over the last major rebel bastion in northwest Syria on Friday, the second such incident in a week of high tensions with Turkey. – Agence France-Presse

Syrian President Bashar al Assad said on Monday his forces’ rapid recent gains in their Russian-backed military offensive presaged the eventual defeat of the nine-year insurgency that sought to oust him from power. – Reuters


Turkish prosecutors have issued detention warrants against 695 people suspected of links to the U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed by Turkey for a failed coup attempt in 2016, state media reported Tuesday. – Associated Press

Turkey is taking advantage of worsening relations between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to push for more influence in the eastern Mediterranean and most other countries have failed to react, Cyprus’s president said. – Bloomberg

A car bomb attack by the Kurdish YPG militia killed two people and wounded five on Sunday in the northeastern Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the Turkish border, the Turkish Defence Ministry said in a statement. – Reuters

Sinan Ulgen writes: So in many ways, Turkey stands alone in the face of humanitarian and military crises at its southern border. That is somewhat of a paradox for a country that remains a key ally for the security of the West. It is also an indication of the cost exacted by Turkey’s anchorless diplomacy of the past few years, carried out under the rubric of an independent foreign policy. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Turkey, Iran and Russia all agree that none of them can work with the US to stabilize Syria and they worked to exclude the US from negotiations in Astana and Sochi. They also think the US policy is inconsistent whereas they understand each other better. Turkey’s goal in Syria is not to support the Syrian opposition forever, but to manage the defeat of the opposition so that there aren’t another million refugees. Turkey also wants the Kurdish groups linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) defeated. – Jerusalem Post


Multiple rockets hit an Iraqi base hosting American troops near the US embassy early Sunday, the latest in a flurry of attacks against US assets in the country. – Agence France-Presse

The top United Nations envoy to Iraq condemned on Monday the use of hunting rifles loaded with birdshot against peaceful protesters in Baghdad and urged the government to ensure those demonstrating are not harmed. – Reuters

An Iraqi parliament member slammed the US in an interview over the weekend, alleging the Americans want to “destabilize” Iraq and that the US is involved in a pro-ISIS conspiracy to bring extremists from Syria. – Jerusalem Post

A rocket attack near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and an Iraqi base where U.S. troops are stationed resulted in no casualties, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. – Washington Examiner

Denmark will send its military personnel back to the Iraqi al-Asad base on March 1, after last month temporarily moving some of them to Kuwait due to security concerns, the Danish Defence Minister Trine Bramsen said on Monday. – Reuters

The US wants to destabilize Iraq and is involved in a pro-ISIS conspiracy to bring extremists from Syria, an Iraqi parliament member said over the weekend. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: But, until Erbil resolves its own political divisions[…] and unless Erbil can answer how an independent Kurdistan will resist Iranian aggression, be economically viable, and live alongside the remainder of Iraq without territorial disputes that could devolve quickly into military conflict, the arguments for Kurdish independence will fall flat, if not among Kurds themselves than among the international patrons whom they seek to convince. Offers of new American bases in Iraqi Kurdistan will not change that. – Kurdistan Times


The Israeli military said operatives of the Palestinian militant group Hamas targeted its soldiers in a monthslong operation that duped them into downloading spyware with the false promise of exchanging illicit photos with young women. – Wall Street Journal

A recent effort by Israel to improve living conditions in East Jerusalem and better integrate the Arab population reflects at least in part the strategic interest of cementing Israeli sovereignty. For Palestinians, it could be a chance to better their economic circumstances. For both, it’s an uneasy acceptance that the other side is here to stay. – Washington Post

The market in this West Bank city always bustles with activity, but the chaos has reached an unusual pitch in recent days. Boxes of unsold eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini are stacked high, these towers marking a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. – Washington Post

The Palestinian prime minister lashed out Sunday at U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to end the Mideast conflict, saying it would be “buried very soon.” – Associated Press

Israel’s prime minister on Sunday hailed what he called efforts by friendly states to stop the International Criminal Court opening an investigation into alleged war crimes against Palestinians. – Reuters

The Israeli air force attacked Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip on Saturday in retaliation to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave into Israel, a military statement said. – Agence France-Presse

The expected improvement in humanitarian conditions following an informal agreement between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has been cancelled following the continuation of rocket fire, according to a report from Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: “Pro-Palestinian” anti-Semites at the United Nations are so determined to smear Israel that they’re even willing to hurt Palestinians to do so. […]Singling out Israel wasn’t meant to help Palestinians or protect human rights — it’s just another bid to hurt the Jewish state. It’s hard to think of a more apt word for that than anti-Semitism. – New York Post

David Pollock writes: Three different Palestinian polls in the past few weeks confirm that the West Bank and Gaza publics roundly reject the U.S. Administration’s peace plan, by margins of around 90 percent. But the latest poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) also shows that most Palestinians now also reject an armed confrontation or intifadah against Israel—opting instead for a focus on pragmatic improvements on the ground, or even on renewed peace talks. – Washington Institute

Tovah Lazaroff writes: Moving forward, the question of Palestinian statehood before the ICC is a diplomatic wild card that could legally weaken or strengthen Palestinian claims. […]By defining Palestinian de facto statehood as merely cosmetic, they have placed a question mark on votes and actions that until now had seemed as if they squarely supported Palestinian unilateral statehood. – Jerusalem Post

Brett Schaefer writes: The Trump administration left the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2018 because of its deep anti-Israel bias. […]the decision of Bachelet, the high commissioner, to release the report directly targeting a key U.S. ally and supporting sanctions for six U.S. corporations should lead the U.S. to end its voluntary contributions to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, consider withholding its part of the U.N. regular budget funding the office, and suspend its engagement with the office and the U.N. human rights experts supported by the office. – The Daily Signal

Zalman Shoval writes: The plan has also been castigated, and not only by the usual anti-Israel corner, as one-sided. It is not. It is a pragmatic approach, taking into account realities as they are, positive as well as negative, and not as some want them to be. It looks after Israel’s security concerns and provides extensive economic and political advantages, including future self-governance, to the Palestinians, while setting a mutually beneficial framework for Jewish-Arab coexistence in the land shared by both. – Jerusalem Post


Airstrikes in Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition killed more than 30 civilians, according to U.N. officials late Saturday. – Washington Post

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement accused the Saudi-led coalition of carrying out retaliatory air strikes on Saturday that killed at least 30 people including civilians, in the latest flare-up of a five-year war. – Reuters

Elisabeth Kendall writes: An increasingly politicized incarnation of al-Qaeda in Yemen may be coming to the fore. Whether by choice or necessity, some AQAP fighters may be evolving from ideological jihadists into guns-for-hire. Even so, the ideological core of AQAP remains. […]the UN, Britain, the United States, and other stakeholders should take advantage of the group’s current disarray and take steps to ensure that no Yemeni factions are left behind—in part by addressing the underlying conditions that generate extremism, but also by introducing transparent mechanisms for inclusive representation at peace talks. – Washington Institute


The European Union agreed on Monday to launch a new naval and air mission to stop more arms reaching the warring factions in Libya, overcoming initial objections from Austria and Hungary, which feared the ships might attract migrants and enable more of them to reach Europe. – New York Times

An arms embargo aimed at curbing fighting in Libya has become meaningless because of violations and it is imperative that those who breach it are held to account, a senior U.N. official said on Sunday. – Reuters

Libya’s combatants are readying for a long conflict, as foreign weapons flood in, eastern factions close oil ports and rival alliances wrangle over revenues from Africa’s largest petroleum reserves. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

The risk of a military confrontation is higher in the Strait of Hormuz than anywhere else in the Gulf region, Oman’s foreign minister said, due in part to the growing number of military vessels from different countries that are guarding it. – Reuters

A Bahrani citizen was sentenced to three years in prison by his country’s court after burning an Israeli flag, Middle East Monitor reported, citing the Al-Bilad newspaper. – Jerusalem Post

Amnesty International has labeled 2019 a “year of defiance” across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in a report released on Tuesday. The study focuses on mass uprisings and human rights abuses, and equates the Israel Defense Forces’ use of “excessive, including lethal, force against demonstrators” in the Gaza Strip with the violent suppression seen during protests in Iran and Iraq. – Jerusalem Post

Haj Amin Husseini, who was appointed by the British High Commissioner as Mufti of Jerusalem during the British Mandate for Palestine, was the link for managing the recruitment of Arab fighters to the Nazi army, the Saudi newspaper Okaz reported in an article published on Friday. – Jerusalem Post

German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Saturday proposed a European Union-led naval protection mission for the Strait of Hormuz, piggy-backing on a French initiative already underway. – Defense News

Eric R. Mandel writes: President Barack Obama might be forgiven for believing the political Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood had a benign side compared to Salafist radicalism, but no American president going forward can claim ignorance to the dangers of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover in any Middle Eastern country; just look at Egypt in 2013 and Turkey today. The outcome in Jordan would profoundly undermine Israeli and American security interests. There are no easy choices, but it would be negligent not to plan for the contingencies. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

Fear of the coronavirus outbreak spreading into North Korea may be accelerating Kim Jong Un’s efforts to play down the legacy of his father and strengthen his own cult of personality. – Bloomberg

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance in 22 days amid an outbreak of coronavirus, state media reported on Saturday, to visit a national mausoleum and mark the anniversary of the late leader Kim Jong Il’s birth. – Reuters

North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data. – Reuters


Global competition between the U.S. and China is spurring countries around the world to increase their military spending, according to a new report by an international think tank that reported the biggest increase in more than a decade. – Wall Street Journal

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told European allies in a speech Saturday the U.S. considers China a pre-eminent threat in its pursuit of an “advantage by any means and at any cost.” – Wall Street Journal

A spreadsheet compiled by Chinese authorities responsible for tracking ethnic-minority Muslims catalogs detailed personal information—including whether they regularly pray at a mosque, possess a passport or have friends or relatives in trouble with the law. – Wall Street Journal

Houston Rockets general manager’s Daryl Morey tweet in October supporting the protesters in Hong Kong enraged the Beijing government[…]. It has been four months since the league’s reckoning, which has been overshadowed by China’s attempts to contain an outbreak of the novel coronavirus that has killed thousands of people, but the financial consequences for the NBA have only recently begun to come into focus. – Wall Street Journal

When President Xi Jinping made his first state visit this year to Myanmar and signed new infrastructure contracts, there was no indication of the obstacle about to trip up China’s plan for railways, ports and highways around the world: the coronavirus. – Reuters

William McGurn writes: This silence comes at a particularly terrible moment, when Mr. Xi is busy persecuting everyone from Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs to house church Christians and Falun Gong practitioners. […]if the Vatican is looking for a diplomatic approach that combines the wisdom, cunning and respect for Chinese culture represented by Matteo Ricci, instead of putting Europeans in the lead, it could start with bishops who have experience of living under and dealing with the Chinese Communist Party. Not to mention a little more honesty about what it has in fact agreed to. – Wall Street Journal

Danielle Pletka writes: But this isn’t about punishing Beijing with a hammer. This is about taking a scalpel to Bad China, separating it to some extent from Better China, blocking the most malign parties’ access to the benefits of global commerce and acceptance in the community of civilized nations, and disincentivizing trade and trafficking with those who are complicit in China’s destructive agenda. – The Dispatch


Insider attacks, known as “green on blue,” are a staple of the conflict, and a bitterly sad and fatal expression of the deep distrust both Afghan and American forces often have toward one another. – New York Times

The Taliban said Monday that a peace deal with the United States will be signed by the end of the month, with the top U.S. negotiator describing himself as “cautiously optimistic” about the process. – Washington Post

Taliban fighters attacked Afghan government forces overnight, and militant commanders said on Monday insurgency operations would go-ahead until they receive fresh instructions based on a deal with the United States to reduce violence in the country. – Reuters

Laurel Miller writes: The talks between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, which were abruptly canceled by President Trump in September, are back on track. After several months of diplomatic regrouping, American and Taliban negotiators are once again on the verge of sealing a deal. […]Tragedy is the word that best sums up American failure to seek a political settlement much sooner. Negotiating now, with one foot out the door, requires accepting uncomfortable compromises and precarious formulas — like “reduction in violence.” But a good enough deal is the one you can actually get. – New York Times

David Ignatius writes: Now, as in 2001, the key to stabilizing Afghanistan may lie next door in Pakistan. To bolster the chances for his peace pact, Trump should give Islamabad a stake in its success — by offering a free-trade deal to Prime Minister Imran Khan in exchange for real, verifiable support in making peace. That’s the best insurance policy he could buy. Afghanistan teaches the searing lesson that hope for peace and stabilization is not a strategy — and that American presidents regret making promises about Afghan success they can’t deliver. – Washington Post

Eli Lake writes: At the very least, representatives and senators can give the American people an honest assessment of any truce with the Taliban. It may well be that most Americans are willing to live with an unconditional withdrawal from a war the U.S. has waged for 18 years with little to show for it. If that is the case, however, then Congress should say so. Surrender camouflaged as peace is little more than an ignoble lie. – Bloomberg

Michael Rubin writes: The Trump administration and those applauding an end to the U.S.’s longest war might want to turn a blind eye to problems in Khalilzad’s deal, but the Pakistan problem cannot be wished away, nor should the U.S. fall prey to diplomatic wishful thinking and absolve Pakistan of Financial Action Task Force blacklist penalties when it has not taken real action to resolve terror support within its own borders. […]By ignoring the Pakistan problem, however, Khalilzad and Trump are ensuring neither Afghanistan nor the U.S. can find peace and security. – Washington Examiner


A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan’s interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media. – Reuters

At least 10 people were killed in a suicide blast that hit a police vehicle in southwestern Pakistan on Monday, officials said. – Reuters

A Middle East operation of Pakistan’s largest bank displayed “significant irregularities” in dealings with politically exposed clients and screening some transactions, according to an inspection by the South Asian nation’s central bank that took place more than a year after the lender was shut out of the U.S. financial system. – Bloomberg

South Asia

India is open to greater market access for American farm and dairy products and lower duties on Harley-Davidson Inc. motorcycles as it seeks to conclude a trade deal with the U.S. in time for President Donald Trump’s scheduled visit next week, according to people with knowledge of the matter. – Bloomberg

A British lawmaker, who chairs an all-party group on Kashmir, has been denied entry to India after she criticized the government’s decision to strip the disputed Himalayan region of its constitutional autonomy. – Reuters

India summoned the Turkish ambassador on Monday to lodge a diplomatic protest over President Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks on the disputed region of Kashmir and warned it would have a bearing on bilateral ties. – Reuters


The United States has imposed an entry bar on Sri Lanka’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva, citing his alleged involvement in war crimes during the final stages of the country’s civil war. – New York Times

Malaysia’s own security standards will dictate which companies take part in its planned 5G rollout this year, its communications minister told Reuters on Monday, as the United States pushes countries to exclude China’s Huawei [HWT.UL]. – Reuters

Editorial: Mr. Trump did suggest he would talk to Mr. Duterte, and he should. Mr. Trump’s presidency has seen a further erosion of the U.S. position in Asia, to Beijing’s advantage. That’s partly due to the aggressive moves made by the regime of Xi Jinping, but also to Mr. Trump’s penchant for quarreling with key allies, such as South Korea, on spurious financial grounds. The president ought to understand that preserving the U.S. presence in nations such as the Philippines is not just a matter of dollars and cents. – Washington Post


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week that he had felt a more constructive approach from Washington when it came to the U.S.-Russia strategic dialogue. – Reuters

Russia’s FSB security service planned and organized the murder of a Georgian man in Berlin last summer, a killing that triggered diplomatic expulsions from Germany and Moscow, the investigative website Bellingcat said on Monday. – Reuters

Russia said on Monday that plans by the United States to deploy weapons in space would deal an irreversible blow to the current security balance in space, the RIA news agency cited the foreign ministry as saying. – Reuters

Social philosopher and political scientist Dr. Aleksandr Tsipko,a senior  researcher, at the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Economics, is not hesitant about taking controversial positions. […]the main issue is that Russia under Putin is jettisoning the anti-Communist legacy of Gorbachev’s perestroika, and justifying the crimes of Stalin. In this situation, Russia will continue to be hated, and will inspire defensive alliances against her. Tsipko’s article follows below – Middle East Media Research Institute


Top diplomats and security officials from the U.S. and Europe sought to bridge some of the biggest security divides straining the trans-Atlantic alliance, amid disputes over topics ranging from Iran to military spending. – Wall Street Journal

Thousands of far-right demonstrators and counterprotesters convened outside Dresden’s city hall on Saturday in a face-off over the 75th anniversary of the city’s bombing, whose commemoration has become disputed, reflecting the country’s—and Europe’s—polarization. – Wall Street Journal

Europe’s trade surplus with the U.S. hit a record high in 2019, amid renewed threats from President Trump to place tariffs on European Union goods if the bloc doesn’t agree to a new deal. – Wall Street Journal

Brexit shattered 50 years of trade policy in Britain, divorcing the country from its single largest market. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now trying to glue the pieces back together. – Bloomberg 

Hundreds of posters were hung across many Italian cities on Tuesday and Wednesday in a campaign to honor slain Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by US forces in January. – Jerusalem Post

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday traded barbs with European leaders over diminishing Western influence, rejecting as “grossly over-exaggerated” their claims that Washington had retreated from the global stage. – Agence France-Presse

President Emmanuel Macron said Saturday France was growing “impatient” with the lack of German response to its push to strengthen the European Union after Brexit. –  Agence France-Presse

European Council president Charles Michel on Sunday met with leaders of the six Western Balkan nations seeking to join the EU, for ‘frank’ talks ahead of a key summit in Zagreb in May. – Agence France-Presse

French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to increase European military independence from the United States while reaching out to Russia is irritating President Trump’s administration and stoking alarm in former Soviet nations. – Washington Examiner

The European Union on Monday extended until Feb. 28, 2021, an arms embargo on Belarus and an asset freeze against four nationals from the ex-Soviet republic, according to a statement. – Reuters

Walter Russell Mead writes: For many Europeans, the essential purpose of European integration was to end war. For centuries, the restless nationalisms of European peoples plunged the Continent into one wretched war after another. The European Union was meant to bury those national antagonisms and end the cycle of war. […]Americans continue to believe that Europe is worth defending. We must hope that over the next few years more Europeans will come around to that position; otherwise, the prospects for “Westlessness” will only grow. – Wall Street Journal

Andreas Kluth writes: In such a flexible EU, parts of Europe could coalesce into powers with geopolitical heft, while other parts retain more independence. This is the only way Europe can deepen and widen at the same time. Who knows? Maybe that’s the kind of EU even the Brits might want to join one day. – Bloomberg

Richard Fontaine writes: As usual, Munich’s greatest value this year was in the side conversations, the relationships established or deepened, the perspectives better understood and the possibility of changing one’s mind, even just a little bit. As for the biggest questions — the future of the West, the attractiveness of democratic ideals, the cohesion of the transatlantic partners — well, for now, perhaps it’s better to just have a pretzel. – War on the Rocks

Edward Lucas writes: The Munich Security Conference is an intimidating venue to launch a new idea. The participants are among the most important and expert people in the world. Getting their attention is hard. Getting their agreement is even harder. On the other hand, if you want to make a difference, it is a good place to start. […]We certainly should not Putinize ourselves in defense against Putinism. But we do have other options. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled this weekend from a security conference in Germany to Senegal, where he emphasized economic partnership, even as tensions festered over the Trump administration’s recent restrictions on visas for citizens of four African countries and a potential drawdown in military assistance just as extremist attacks have surged across West Africa’s arid interior. – Washington Post

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed support for the anticorruption stance and business-oriented agenda of Angolan President João Lourenço, following a meeting on Monday. – Wall Street Journal

As the Trump administration weighs a possible reduction of its military presence in West Africa, one of its allies in the region appealed Sunday for continued U.S. support. – Wall Street Journal

Gunmen killed twenty-four people, including a pastor, in an attack on a church during Sunday mass in northwestern Burkina Faso, four security sources told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

At least 31 people were killed on Friday in an attack on a village that was the scene last year of Mali’s worst civilian massacre in recent memory, the government said. – Reuters

The European Union has renewed its arms embargo against Zimbabwe and will maintain a targeted assets-freeze against the state-controlled armaments company, Zimbabwe Defence Industries. – Bloomberg

South Sudan’s rival leaders on Saturday appeared to clear a major hurdle with just a week left before the deadline to form a coalition government[…]. International pressure by the United States and others had been building on Kiir and Machar to meet the Feb. 22 deadline to again join forces in a transitional government. – Associated Press

Burundi’s opposition CNL on Sunday picked the current chairman of the National Assembly as its candidate in the presidential election in May which the United Nations says is likely to be marred by violence. – Reuters

Sylvie Kauffmann writes: This is a war that escapes most radar screens. The French, whose troops have been fighting in the Sahel for seven years, ask few questions about their involvement. They should. In this crucible where Islamist insurgency, ancient local conflicts, fragile states, European hesitations and a shifting American strategy make an explosive mix, it is a war they may well be losing — or, in the best case, a war they may never win. –  New York Times

Michael Rubin writes: That Abiy would risk such action for a photo-op suggests the Ethiopian prime minister puts ego above common sense and may be descending down the same path of self-destruction that led an earlier generation of African leaders to destroy their countries while glorifying themselves. For the sake of the region, let us hope that regional leaders, European officials, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will try to talk sense into Ethiopia’s egotistical leader before he makes a move, which can undo decades of progress and cost tens of thousands of lives. – Washington Examiner

North America

Anxiety is increasing in Jewish communities around the United States, fueled in part by deadly attacks on synagogues in Poway, Calif., last April and in Pittsburgh in 2018. Anti-Semitic violence in the New York area has been more frequent lately than at any time in recent memory, with three people killed in a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J., and five injured in a knife attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, N.Y. – New York Times

Justin Trudeau abandoned a trip to the Caribbean to deal with indigenous-rights protests that have crippled Canada’s railways. The prime minister, who traveled to Ethiopia and Senegal last week hoping to persuade African leaders to back his push for a United Nations Security Council seat, said late Sunday he would remain in Ottawa to deal with the crisis. – Bloomberg

Meir Soloveichik writes: In the 21st century, no president could use the language of the King James Bible with Lincoln’s certainty that his listeners would grasp the allusion. But Lincoln’s description of America as an “almost chosen people” remains important, not just as a key to his thought but as a warning for Americans today. A chosen people is eternal, but America is an exceptional nation only if it remains ever loyal to the covenant of its founding, the ideals for which Washington fought and Lincoln died. – Wall Street Journal

Peter Wallison writes: On Jan. 31, more than three years after the people of the United Kingdom had voted for it, Britain left the European Union in a move nicknamed “Brexit.”  […]Here, as in so many other areas, British politics seems to foreshadow what happens in the United States. Obviously, we are not subject to foreign control through a supranational organization such as the EU. But there are serious questions about the degree to which the American people are currently able to control the rules and regulations made by unelected officials in federal agencies – Washington Examiner 

Latin America

A Brazilian army general is set to take over as chief of staff Tuesday as President Jair Bolsonaro fills his inner circle with fellow military men, distancing himself from a political establishment tarnished by corruption. […]Across Latin America, the armed forces have gained greater political influence over recent years as voters look to the military to bring order to a region shaken by political scandal, street protests and endemic violence. – Wall Street Journal

Venezuela’s armed forces and civilian militias took the streets in cities, beaches and border regions on Saturday for drills ordered by President Nicolás Maduro, amid tensions between Washington and Caracas. – Associated Press

A plane that made a forced landing in the Caribbean was carrying a ton of Venezuelan gold, which may have been destined for the Middle East and could have funded terrorist attacks against Jewish communities, the Simon Wiesenthal Center reported. – Jerusalem Post

Venezuela said on Monday it would suspend TAP Air Portugal flights into and out of the country for 90 days, accusing the carrier of allowing opposition leader Juan Guaido’s uncle to bring explosives onto a flight to Caracas last week. – Reuters


The Trump administration is weighing new trade restrictions on China that would limit the use of American chip-making equipment, as it seeks to cut off Chinese access to key semiconductor technology, according to people familiar with the plan. – Wall Street Journal

Dell Technologies Inc. is nearing a deal to sell its RSA cybersecurity business to a private-equity firm for more than $2 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

A cybersecurity firm Ms. Shaheen hired to unravel the mystery eventually concluded she was the victim of a cyberattack, most likely emanating from China, the firm’s researchers said. – Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon has dropped its opposition to efforts within the Trump administration to make it harder for U.S. chip makers and other companies to supply China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from their overseas facilities, according to people familiar with the situation. – Wall Street Journal

America’s global campaign to prevent its closest allies from using Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, in the next generation of wireless networks has largely failed, with foreign leaders publicly rebuffing the United States argument that the firm poses an unmanageable security threat. – New York Times

The U.S. ambassador to Germany said President Donald Trump had instructed him to “make clear that any nation who chooses to use an untrustworthy 5G vendor” risks jeopardizing intelligence and information sharing with the U.S. – Bloomberg

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped up U.S. warnings about Beijing’s global telecommunications ambitions, saying Chinese operator Huawei Technologies Co. must be prevented from controlling the next generation of wireless networks. – Bloomberg

Amid fears of a Big Brother-style society ruled by machines, the EU will urge authorities and companies to think hard before rolling out facial recognition technology. – Agence France-Presse

A new German strategy document declares defense-related cyber technologies as key national assets, affording the domestic sector some protection from international competition. – Fifth Domain

The Department of Homeland Security wants to establish an internal organization dedicated to coordinating cybersecurity efforts across DHS and identifying joint priorities. – Fifth Domain


As President Trump pushes to speed construction of the Mexican border wall, both opponents of the wall and his administration are invoking the environment—one side to stop the barrier, and the other to build it. – Wall Street Journal

The Defense Department said it is diverting $3.83 billion from elsewhere in its budget to build ­177 more miles of President Trump’s border barrier, setting in motion a broader White House plan to take some $7.2 billion from the Pentagon budget this year for the project without congressional approval as Trump heads into the election. – Washington Post

The Army has restored, in its fiscal 2021 budget, funding to twelve programs — a total of just under $200 million — that it cut during its FY20 night court review, according to a document the service released Feb. 14. – Defense News

National Guard leaders want the Pentagon to create a Space National Guard — and if it doesn’t, Guard officials may work independently with Congress to make it happen, top generals said Wednesday. – Defense News

Erich Feige writes: As a first step, we recommend that the Army’s Talent Management Task Force and the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence assess the viability of developing full-stack data scientists and analytics translators. Options range from creating a new job function (i.e., a MOS), expanding a current job function, or creating a new way to identify soldiers with the capability regardless of job function (through an ASI). Any one of these solutions would be a critical step in the right direction to cultivate a critical talent pool and enable our Army to maintain its status as the world’s premier fighting force. – War on the Rocks

Mark E. Mitchell, Zachary Griffiths, and Cole Livieratos write: For U.S. Special Operations Command to mature its acquisitions process, address its ethics issues, and reform the organization to match the future threat environment, civilian oversight must be strengthened. Drastic change on this scale cannot happen without a strong civilian advocate in the Pentagon who can objectively assess the current capabilities and future requirements of special operations. For U.S. Special Operations Command to fully support competition with our adversaries, it requires stronger civilian oversight. – War on the Rocks

Joshua Schwartz and Christopher Blair write: Withdraw from the INF was justified because of a number of important flaws in the treaty. Those flaws are not present in New START. The Trump Administration, then, would be wise to recognize this fact and extend New START now, while negotiating a more comprehensive arms control treaty for the future. Nuclear arms control is currently failing with North Korea and Iran, but it need not with Russia. – Defense One

Long War

Twelve men — one a police employee — were arrested Friday on charges of forming and supporting a far-right terrorism network planning wide-ranging attacks on politicians, asylum seekers and Muslims, the authorities said. […]After focusing for years on the risks from Islamic extremists and foreign groups, officials are recalibrating their counterterrorism strategy to address threats from within. – New York Times

An Istanbul court acquitted novelist Asli Erdogan on Friday of charges of belonging to a terrorist group, in one of a series of cases that have fueled concern among European Union states and rights groups about a deterioration of media freedom in Turkey. – Reuters

Mike Giglio and Kathy Gilsinan write: U.S. military officials and Western and regional politicians have never stopped warning about the Islamic State’s ability to recruit fighters and launch attacks. When Trump ordered a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria in October, he faced bipartisan resistance from lawmakers who said the job was not yet done. But what is striking about Barzani’s portrayal of the group is the idea that it is not just surviving but thriving. This cuts against the official line from the White House.  – The Atlantic

Trump Administration

More than 1,000 people gathered in a Duke University auditorium to find out whether John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser whose leaked manuscript threatened to upend the Senate impeachment trial last month, was finally ready to tell all. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. intelligence community long ago produced evidence of Russia’s illegal interference in the 2016 presidential election to try to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy. Then the special counsel investigating the matter detailed myriad ways President Trump sought to stymie the probe. And then Robert S. Mueller III testified to Congress about Trump’s conduct — and warned of Russia’s continued interest in thwarting U.S. elections. – Washington Post

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton raised alarm the Trump administration could block his memoir that describes his interaction with the president over Ukraine. – Bloomberg

High-profile dismissals of U.S. diplomats who participated in the House impeachment inquiry are raising questions about what oversight authority Congress has to push back on the president’s actions. – The Hill

John Lehman writes: It is conceivable that the episodic nature of the administration’s foreign policy is due as much to NSC paralysis, bloat and turnover as to Mr. Trump’s style. […]Since October there have been major improvements in trade, NATO and Mideast policy. There is evidence of a new coherence and direction in White House national security decision-making such as the rapid and effective decision to deal with Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Perhaps this is a sign of a more nimble and functional security council. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Rubin writes: So if Democrats and Republicans truly value diplomacy, then it is time to solicit input from those on the ground who chafe under diplomatic security parameters, diplomatic veterans, and others in order to figure out how to address and overcome the constraints negatively impacting American diplomacy in order to make the State Department great again. Only one thing is certain: funding diplomats to remain behind embassy walls will not revive diplomacy or make it an effective tool for American power. – The National Interest