Fdd's overnight brief

February 19, 2020

In The News


Iran sentenced eight environmentalists to lengthy prison sentences, most of them for allegedly colluding with the U.S., the latest crackdown on activists and dual nationals amid heightened tensions with the West and simmering unrest at home. – Wall Street Journal 

Sen. Chris Murphy on Tuesday defended a weekend meeting he held with Iran’s foreign minister in Europe, after his actions were questioned in conservative media andas President Donald Trump suggested they may have violated U.S. law. – Associated Press 

The return of conservative control to all branches of government for the first time since the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency in mid-2013 has significant potential consequences for the Iranian economy and the wider Middle East – including any hopes Iran will renegotiate its landmark nuclear settlement with the U.S. – Bloomberg 

Interviews with seven people familiar with the immediate aftermath of the deadly US airstrike, including officials in Iran and Baghdad, have revealed a scene of chaos and dysfunction as the identities of those killed were revealed. – The Guardian 

The Chief Commander of Iran’s Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) has claimed that his country’s air defenses are “more accurate” than those of advanced countries and that Iran had readied “hundreds of ballistic missiles for simultaneous launch after the killing of Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani by an American drone. – Radio Farda 

Confrontation with America, economic hardship and an airline tragedy have battered Iranians’ confidence in their leaders, posing a potential problem for the authorities in a parliamentary election this week. – Reuters

For months, the only way Reza Amiri could tell night from day was through a few holes in the roof of his Iranian prison cell. The 31-year-old was arrested, along with a group of dissidents protesting the regime, in June 2018. He escaped the country in March of last year but still fears for family members who remain in the country. – Washington Examiner  

Opponents of Iran’s theocratic leadership are urging an outright boycott of its parliamentary elections, arguing that it is anything but democratic and that casting a ballot serves only to bolster the country’s Islamic rulers. – Agence France-Presse 

Two French academics held in Iran where they are accused of plotting against national security will go on trial on March 3, their lawyer said on Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: There are many questions about the outcome of Friday’s Iranian parliamentary elections, but virtually all predictions point to a turn toward greater conflict with the West. […]Instead of these scenarios, many of the latest predictions this week were that Khamenei’s supporters want to dominate parliament but keep Rouhani in place as a scapegoat who they could continue to blame for Iran’s troubles. – Jerusalem Post 

Raman Ghavami writes: When it comes to Iran, critics claim that reimposed U.S. sanctions have targeted ordinary Iranians, especially by making importing medicine impossible. However, these claims rely on misleading media reports that put their preferred narrative over the truth. […]In essence, it would seem that the aim of establishing the new Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement is to counter the disinformation campaign plaguing some media outlets and spread the truth that food and medicine were never actually sanctioned by the U.S. Perhaps, this time, the media will finally catch on. – Washington Examiner

David Albright and Mark Gorwitz write: Based on a recently obtained Farsi document from the Iranian Nuclear Archive, believed to date to the late 1990s or early 2000s, Iran’s theoretical work on nuclear weapons was aided by studies of certain transient phenomena in nuclear reactor accidents, a practice other countries employed in developing nuclear weapons. […]An unanswered question is whether this work continues today, helping Iran maintain a readiness to build nuclear weapons, if it decided to do so.  – Institute for Science and International Security

Katherine Bauer writes: Until Iran addresses these issues, FATF is right to blacklist it and call on member states to impose countermeasures. But these measures need not mean the end of FATF engagement with Iran. […]These states should in turn remain engaged individually, doing their best to ensure that Iran realizes the benefits of compliance and the costs of continued legislative delays. – Washington Institute


The Syrian government, backed by Russian forces, has accelerated its monthslong offensive to seize control of Idlib, the last province held by the opposition. Facing heavy bombardment of towns and villages, about 900,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled their homes since December, joining the largest exodus of Syria’s civil war since it began nine years ago. Most have headed north, toward the Turkish border, and are living out in the cold. – New York Times 

The United Nations’ human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, on Tuesday called the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria “cruel beyond belief.” Since December, 900,000 civilians have been forced to flee Syrian and Russian bombs in the northwest. Most are women and children. – CBS News 

Talks between Russia and Turkey meant to reduce tensions in northwestern Syria did not yield a “satisfactory result” for Ankara, but both sides agreed to continue negotiations, a spokesman for Turkey’s president said Tuesday. – Associated Press

A recent Defense Department inspector general report said the U.S. military did not properly account for or adequately store nearly $715 million in weapons and equipment for vetted Syrian partners fighting ISIS. – Military Times 

Government air strikes have hit hospitals and refugee camps in northwest Syria and killed about 300 civilians as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces press an assault against the last rebel stronghold, the United Nations said on Tuesday. – Reuters 


When a Turkish court unexpectedly ruled Tuesday to acquit civil society activists charged with attempting to overthrow the government, human rights advocates and others who had placed little faith in Turkey’s judiciary reacted with shock, saying it seemed to be good to be true. […]The crackdown accelerated after the coup attempt in 2016. The authorities have arrested thousands of followers of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish Muslim cleric accused of masterminding the failed coup. – Washington Post 

Turkey’s defense procurement agency has unveiled an ambitious procurement plan for 2020, even as its economy seeks to recover from a recession and the government spends money fighting wars in multiple theaters, including Iraq and Syria. – Defense News 

A group of human rights activists were poised Wednesday to make final statements in their own defense before a court in Istanbul hands down a verdict in their closely-watched trial on charges of belonging to or aiding terror groups. – Associated Press

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

Kamal Alam writes: However, given Turkey’s other problems in the Mediterranean, there is not much sympathy for Turkey’s perspective when it comes to Syria. Russia is Turkey’s only bet in Syria, and Putin has acted firmly thereby forcing Erdogan’s hand to reach out Assad, as Ankara runs out of options. Despite the bravado and Turkish insistence on forcing Damascus out, on the ground the Russian promise to provide victory to Syrian forces has come good. – The National Interest


The Iraqi government’s response to the popular protest movement has been violent and brutal. […]Some of these security forces are, the Guardian has been told, following a parallel crackdown to end the protests and silence activists and journalists through kidnappings, intimidations and assassinations. – The Guardian

The incident put into focus the question: what will happen after al-Sistani, who turns 90 this year, is gone? The question has gained added importance for an Iraq deeply embroiled in U.S.-Iranian tensions and gripped by months of anti-government protests. – Associated Press

An Iraqi member of parliament has stated that the US is planning on transferring Palestinians to western Iraq as part of the “Deal of the Century” Middle East peace plan, according to the Iranian Fars news agency. – Jerusalem Post


Israel has identified initial signs that Iran is recalculating its trajectory in Syria, giving the Jewish state an opportunity to go from the defensive to the offensive, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post 

In the face of a potential Iranian nuclear weapon, “only the Arrow missile-defense system guarantees Israeli survival,” Dov Raviv, former head of the Arrow project at Israel Aircraft Industries, said Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

The Triangle area in Israel’s North will not become part of a Palestinian state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with Israeli Arabic-language channel Hala TV on Tuesday night. – Jerusalem Post

Israel on Tuesday announced it planned to extend Gaza’s fishing zone back to 15 nautical miles and increase the number of travel permits from the Strip to 2,000, following three days of relative calm in the coastal enclave, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians said. – Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the military was planning a “big surprise” for Hamas if the terrorist group failed to rein in violence aimed at southern Israel, amid reports that Israel has been contemplating the assassination of two senior Hamas leaders. – Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority Economy Ministry said on Tuesday that it intends to send a letter to Amazon in the coming days in protest of its shipping policy to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. – Times of Israel

Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top political rival — endorsed the recently-unveiled Trump Middle East peace plan on Monday, calling it a “historic opportunity” that Netanyahu was not sincere about pursuing. – Algemeiner

On February 11, 2020, Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) hosted a debate about Israel and the Arab countries. Syrian journalist Thaer Al-Nashef said that the claim that Israel is thwarting democracy in the Arab countries is completely unfounded, and he argued that all of the dictatorial and authoritarian Arab rulers had been a product of their own Arab societies. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Editorial: The Palestinian Authority today is isolated diplomatically and internationally. It has not received much support, despite its calls for the world to oppose Trump’s plan. It has little to offer the next generation. This should concern some of the duplicitous voices – such as Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi – who called it a “disgrace” for Israeli journalists to hold meetings in Ramallah. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Israel has announced a new multiyear plan to restructure its armed forces to face existing and potential future adversaries for decades. […]But concerns about the need to confront a complex Iranian adversary drove the plan through bureaucratic hurdles toward a January announcement that Defense Minister Naftali Bennett had approved it. It was officially rolled out in a briefing on Feb. 13. – Defense News 

Martin Oliner writes: Not only can American Jewish leaders speak, we have an obligation to make our voices heard by Israelis as they go to vote. We must tell Israelis that waiting too long could result in Israel missing the ultimate opportunity – the opportunity of the century. Missing this opportunity would be a tragedy that would be added to the long list of too many tragedies the Jewish people have endured throughout our history. – Jerusalem Post

Saudi Arabia

The conflict between Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which Saudi Arabia has designated a terrorist organization and views as a political movement seeking to destabilize it, escalates day by day. As part of this conflict, the Saudi media is waging a media campaign against the organization and the countries that support it, that is, Qatar and Turkey, – Middle East Media Research Institute

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan during a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia starting on Wednesday, the U.S. State Department said. – Reuters

Editorial: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Saudi Arabia beginning Wednesday probably will focus on the administration’s continuing campaign against Iran. But also on the agenda, a briefer said, are “human rights and consular issues related to Saudi Arabia.” We hope that means Mr. Pompeo is going to stop accepting Saudi stonewalling on the continued persecution of several U.S. citizens. – Washington Post


A small instrument inside the drones that targeted the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and those in the arsenal of Yemen’s Houthi rebels match components recovered in downed Iranian drones in Afghanistan and Iraq, two reports say. – Associated Press

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have blocked half of the United Nations’ aid delivery programs in the war-torn country — a strong-arm tactic to force the agency to give them greater control over the massive humanitarian campaign, along with a cut of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, according to aid officials and internal documents obtained by The Associated Press. – Associated Press

Claims that Yemeni rebels shot down a Saudi warplane have spotlighted the increasingly potent Houthi arsenal — cause for alarm in Riyadh as fighting escalates amid faltering efforts to end the five-year conflict. – Agence France-Presse

The U.N. special envoy for Yemen warned Tuesday the “increasingly dire” military situation in the Arab world’s poorest country is putting U.N. efforts to end the five-year conflict at “great risk” and causing dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of civilian casualties. – Associated Press 


A former C.I.A. asset who now controls the most potent military faction in Libya has been accused of torturing Libyans, and some of them tried on Tuesday to use the American court system to fight back. – New York Times 

Fighters loyal to eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar shelled capital Tripoli’s port, forcing a halt to shipping and leading to a suspension of talks to resolve the conflict in the country. – Bloomberg 

Fourteen floors of office space in a prime Manhattan location has come to the market with just one caveat: The landlord is a war-torn African country in economic and political upheaval. […]That raises another issue: It’s unclear which Libyan government entity might be in control over coming months and years as Libya wages a complex civil war as extremist groups fight for power. – New York Post 

Middle East & North Africa

Italy is negotiating to sell two FREMM frigates to Egypt as local conflicts, rivalries over natural gas and shifting alliances ratchet up naval competition in the Mediterranean. – Defense News 

Jordan on Tuesday condemned an Israeli minister’s plan to extend the high-speed Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rail line to the Western Wall holy site in the capital’s Old City. – Times of Israel

Meliha Benli Altunisik writes: In short, the future of Turkey’s delimitation agreement, which for the first time gave Ankara a victory in negotiations over eastern Mediterranean energy politics, hinges upon what happens in Libya and the outcome of the fight between the forces of the GNA and Hifter’s LNA. Furthermore, it once again ties eastern Mediterranean energy politics to the broader geopolitical struggle in the Middle East. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

Other former North Koreans are throwing their hats into the ring to push South Korea to take a harder stand against the latest Kim to rule the North, Kim Jong Un. Among them is a one-time North Korean diplomat, Thae Yong-ho, who is running with Mr. Ji for South Korea’s conservative opposition party. – Wall Street Journal

There are no indications that there are cases of the new coronavirus in North Korea, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said, despite South Korean media reports suggesting the outbreak had spread to the isolated country. – Reuters 

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton has slammed President Donald Trump’s “failed” efforts to denuclearize North Korea in his first public appearance since the impeachment trial, where Republican senators refused to let him testify. – Business Insider


China revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters based in Beijing, the first time in the post-Mao era that the Chinese government has expelled multiple journalists from one international news organization at the same time. – Wall Street Journal 

The State Department on Tuesday designated five Chinese media outlets as official government entities under the Foreign Missions Act, meaning they will be treated as though they are diplomatic outposts of the Chinese government and subject to the same constraints. – Washington Post 

China’s central bank and its finance ministry will not send any officials to a G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Riyadh due to virus outbreak, officials said. – Reuters 

European leaders are being targeted as potential “pawns” of the Communist Party of China, according to a NATO member intelligence report that has angered Chinese officials. – Washington Examiner

President Donald Trump objected on Tuesday to U.S. proposals that would prevent companies from supplying jet engines and other components to China’s aviation industry and suggested he had instructed his administration not to implement them. – 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. […]Yet the leader of the world’s largest religious denomination—a pope who rails against everything from air conditioning to Donald Trump —utters not a peep of protest against what is arguably the world’s largest persecutor of religion. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Rubin writes: After Tom Cotton raised questions in a Fox News interview about whether the coronavirus originated in a Chinese biological warfare or military laboratory, the press criticized the Republican Arkansas senator for allegedly dabbling in conspiracy. However, with so many unanswered questions, a bit more caution might be warranted on the part of the press. It is just as irresponsible to trust any information put forward by the Chinese government as it is to voice theories absent evidence. – Washington Examiner 

Tom Rogan writes: Trump needs to think carefully here. Thus far, this presidency has been to China what Harry Truman’s presidency was to the Soviet Union — a much-needed pushback against an existential adversary. But if Trump surrenders our economic crown jewels in return for some soybean quotas, then history will remember a president who said a lot but ultimately put China first. – Washington Examiner

John Lee writes: This monograph, part two in the series, examines how the US and its allies can confront and counter these Chinese strategies and initiatives. It will do so by taking seriously the challenge they present and suggesting responses that take into account Chinese vulnerabilities and the points of leverage available to the US and its allies. This linking of China’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses, on the one hand, and its ambition and purpose with respect to its outward-focused policies, is essential for effective policy responses. – Hudson Institute 


Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has won a second term in office with a slim majority of the votes cast, a result that comes five months after the election and threatens to spark political unrest amid U.S. efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban. – Wall Street Journal

Ready, set, not yet: The seven-day reduction of violence agreement negotiated with the Taliban as a prelude to the withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops is now expected to begin by next weekend. – Washington Examiner

Chief of Police of Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan has said that Afghan intelligence services have evidence Iran is supplying the Taliban with Man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). – Radio Farda 

Josh Rogin writes: Some of these questions could be answered when the text of the agreement is released. Some will not be answered for many months after that, if ever. And the greatest fear among members of Congress and others alike is that Trump will want to withdraw all U.S. troops before the election regardless of whether the safety of Afghanistan and the United States can be assured. – Washington Post

South Asia

President Donald Trump said the United States and India were working on a major trade deal, but he was not sure if it would be completed before the U.S. presidential election in November. – Reuters 

Pakistan on Tuesday carried out a successful test of its latest Ra’ad-II air-launched cruise missile, with a new range of 600 kilometers. […]The range increase would allow the missile to launch well within Pakistan’s territory while being able to hit critical targets within India — New Delhi is roughly 430 kilometers from Lahore, for instance. That need has taken on a greater importance due to India’s air defense modernization efforts through the acquisition of systems such as the Russian S-400. – Defense News 

Bangladesh has seen an increase in terrorist activity in recent years, including attacks on foreigners, activists and religious minorities. Perpetrators of these attacks have included people from privileged backgrounds. News reports indicate they were all motivated by the idea that Islam is under attack by secularists and must be defended. – The Conversation

Five soldiers from Pakistan’s Frontier Corps (FC) have been killed in an overnight attack by militants near the Iran-Pakistan border, Pakistani officials told RFE/RL on February 19. – Radio Farda 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Israel and India are deepening defense industry ties as Israeli companies seek long-term partnerships through India’s efforts to encourage products to be locally produced under joint ventures. […]The ecosystem built by joint ventures between Israeli and Indian defense companies is complex and involves sensitive defense technology, know-how from which India hopes to acquire to lessen its dependence on foreign defense imports. – Defense News 


Uzbek police have detained 21 people suspected of being linked to an Islamist militant group operating in Syria, police said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Facebook has expressed concern after it was ordered by Singapore to block access to a news site’s page. […]It added that the directive could “stifle freedom of expression”. – BBC 

The Chinese government threatened to retaliate against leading Czech companies if a senior Czech official made good on a planned visit to Taiwan, according to a diplomatic message reviewed by Reuters. – Reuters 

Bruce Pannier writes: The biggest security threat to Central Asia comes from stateless militant groups who do not have warplanes or cruise missiles. But it must be noted that Russia also plans to repair the runway at the Kant air base and will reportedly station upgraded Su-25SM3 attack aircraft and drones there. […]But it also hints that there is less than total trust in these agreements. Of course, Moscow might also just be ensuring that Kyrgyzstan has Russian-made, air-defense systems. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty  

Frederick Starr and Svante Cornell write: Central Asia, including Afghanistan, presents geopolitically important real estate in the world. Building on their rich indigenous cultures, its countries now look to the Americans to provide a balance to other major powers in the region. […]Until now, the United States has hesitated to embrace this challenge. The new strategy indicates that at long last Washington is beginning to take Central Asia seriously. Having finally taken important first steps, it should now finish the job. – The Hill


Russian-backed separatists tried on Tuesday to break through the trench line in the stalemated war in eastern Ukraine, killing one government soldier and wounding four others, the Ukrainian military said. – New York Times

Serbian-Russian military cooperation is on an “upward trend” and both countries are committed to “further enhancing” it, Serbia’s Defense Ministry said on its website after hosting a delegation led by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on February 17. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 

U.S. authorities in Miami arrested a Mexican citizen who had been recruited by a Russian government official to locate and obtain the license plate number of the car of a “U.S. government source,” the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Editorial: When rogue states like Russia wreak havoc on foreign soil, they often work through proxies and deny responsibility. But occasionally the veil slips, as when evidence emerged this week that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) planned and carried out an assassination in Germany last summer. […]Rewarding Moscow now without meaningful concessions or changes to its behavior will encourage more recklessness. – Wall Street Journal

Tom Rogan writes: Ultimately, it’s up to Trump. It’s faux-defenders-of-democracy rhetoric aside, the European Union lacks the resolve or interest to support Ukrainian sovereignty. And Putin intends to turn the young democracy into a hollow shell. Only the United States can prevent that outcome. We should do so. – Washington Examiner


In a tight vote Tuesday, lawmakers in the lower house of Dutch parliament approved a free trade deal between the European Union and Canada. – Associated Press 

The European Union’s top enlargement official has voiced optimism that North Macedonia and Albania can deliver on the reforms required to join the bloc. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday announced measures intended to counter Islamic extremism in France by giving the government more authority over the schooling of children, the financing of mosques and the training of imams. – Associated Press 

Spain’s government approved Tuesday the introduction of new taxes on digital business and stock market transactions, following similar steps by other European countries. […]Finance Minister Mara Jesus Montero said the Google tax, which has angered U.S. authorities and brought a threat of tariffs by the Trump administration, will be levied only from the end of the year. – Associated Press 

France’s defense minister said Tuesday that her country stands in solidarity with Cyprus amid tensions over a Turkish search for natural gas inside Cypriot waters. – Associated Press 

Michel Barnier has rejected British demands for a Canada-style trade deal that would free the UK from EU rules as he made a thinly-veiled warning to Boris Johnson not to break his word. – The Guardian


Almost two years since President Trump named him America’s top diplomat, Mr. Pompeo has traveled to Africa to convince its leaders to shun Chinese investments and, instead, look to Washington and American companies for collaboration. – New York Times

America’s top diplomat on Wednesday asserted that South Africa’s plan to permit expropriation of private property without compensation would be “disastrous” for the country’s economy and its people. – Associated Press

America’s top diplomat in his final Africa stop on Tuesday discussed dramatic political reforms with Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, and the U.S. plans to provide “substantial financial support” to strengthen them, Ethiopia said. – Associated Press

Sen. Lindsey Graham and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, uniting against a Trump administration idea to withdraw U.S. troops from part of Africa, pushed back during a fiery exchange with Defense Secretary Mark Esper here over the weekend, according to four people present at or familiar with the meeting. – NBC News

U.S. Army leaders gather in Ethiopia today with chiefs of defense from more than 30 African nations to show support in the fight against terrorism despite expected budget cuts to U.S. Africa Command. – Washington Examiner

The Americas

A former government contractor serving time in federal prison for leaking a classified document to a news organization is making an appeal for early release to President Donald Trump, who once tweeted that he considered her crime to be “small potatoes.” – Associated Press

Seven people were killed and 11 more injured when a passenger vehicle exploded while traveling down a highway in southeast Colombia, in a key drug-trafficking region where illegal armed groups vie for control, a high-ranking military official said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The United Nations issued a scathing report on Tuesday that accused Haitian police of not protecting an impoverished neighborhood from corrupt officers and gang leaders they say shot at people and set fire to homes and cars in a recent three-day attack. – Associated Press 

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wants to avoid policies that make it difficult for other countries to do business with the United States — even as his administration has done precisely the opposite. – Agence France-Presse 

Latin America

The Trump administration directed its “maximum pressure” campaign in Venezuela toward Russia on Tuesday, announcing sanctions against the trading and marketing arm of Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian oil giant that has taken over an increasing share of Venezuela’s own state-owned oil industry and reaped huge profits from exporting its crude. – Washington Post 

For months, U.S. officials have been warning foreign companies that they could face retaliation if they continue to do business with Maduro. Those admonishments have been aimed primarily at Russia, which U.S. officials say handles about 70% of Venezuelan oil transactions that have been rerouted since the Trump administration a year ago made it illegal for Americans to by crude from Venezuela. – Associated Press

Moises Rendon and Claudia Fernandez write: Venezuela is at a critical juncture given upcoming legislative elections this year. However, transparent, free and fair presidential elections are long overdue. The international community would be remiss to lose sight of this goal and opportunity to shape the future of Venezuela. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


A new pool of subject matter experts of who can be called in to help on cyber or IT issues for the Marine Corps has begun its work, including for a project on defensive cyber operations and another to improve automated tasks on networks. – Fifth Domain

The Trump administration is stepping up pressure on European allies to ban Chinese tech firm Huawei from supplying next-generation mobile networks, with more officials visiting this week to press the case. – Associated Press 

A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday struck down a lawsuit from Chinese tech giant Huawei, ruling that the company didn’t have any legal ground to sue the U.S. government. – The Hill


Construction issues have caused major delays in establishing operational capability of the the Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Poland for well over two years and that delay has now extended out another two years, according to Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the Missile Defense Agency’s director. – Defense News 

The Army has renewed a competition to acquire a robotic mule for light infantry after it canceled its previous award following a protest. – Defense News

The U.S. Army has selected Persistent Systems to develop a secure communications network that can transmit information in real time and can help coordinate Manned and Unmanned Teaming operations, according to a Feb. 11 press release from the company. – C4ISRNET 

Twenty-six cadets in their final year at West Point are conducting bio-printing research that aims to create stem-cell laden bandages for burns in the field, bio-printed menisci and livers, and one day even build bio-engineered blood vessels to make organs viable. – Army Times 

The Navy is kicking off an effort to repurpose $40 billion in spending over the next five years as it faces pressures to grow the fleet, continue to boost readiness and build a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines amid flat budgets. – USNI News 

For the fifth consecutive year, the Air Force has failed to completely close its pilot manning gap through retaining, and recruiting and training new pilots, recently released data shows. – Military.com

Missile Defense

Northrop Grumman Corp. will receive as much as $13 billion in research spending through 2025 as the sole contractor on the Air Force’s replacement program for the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. – Bloomberg 

The Navy intends to deploy its conventional prompt strike hypersonic weapon on Virginia-class attack submarines, after previous discussions of putting the weapon on the larger Ohio-class guided-missile submarine (SSGN), according to budget request documents. – USNI News 

China is testing an intercontinental-range hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), according to written testimony submitted to the US Senate Armed Services Committee on 13 February 2020 by US Air Force General Terrence J O’Shaughnessy, commander of US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). – Jane’s 360