Fdd's overnight brief

February 20, 2019

In The News


Iran said Tuesday that at least three Pakistani citizens were among the assailants responsible for killing 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on a bus last week, including the driver of the explosives-laden car that rammed the vehicle. – New York Times

The trial has begun for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s brother and close confidante, who faces corruption allegations brought by hard-liners who dominate the country’s judiciary. – Associated Press

A group of Iranians attacked a morality police van in Tehran last week after two young women were detained for “improperly” wearing a compulsory headscarf, according to state-owned Iranian media and activists. – CNN

The entire secret Iranian nuclear archives taken by the Mossad from Tehran should be posted online, former foreign ministry director-general Dore Gold said on Monday. Gold was speaking at a panel on Iran at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem. – Jerusalem Post

Bill Gertz writes: U.S. officials revealed last week that a federal grand jury indicted Monica Witt, a former Air Force counterintelligence official, on charges of passing extremely sensitive secrets to agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The case highlights how broken the U.S. intelligence system has become. For more than 30 years it has demonstrated an inability to keep secrets, to protect itself from foreign penetrations by hostile spy services, or to prevent current and former officials from defecting. – Wall Street Journal

Dennis Ross writes: Last week, I was invited to moderate a panel at the “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East,” cohosted in Warsaw by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz on February 13-14. The panel included three senior Arab officials—Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir, Emirati foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed, and Bahraini foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa. Afterward, I interviewed Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who also attended the event. These and other conversations yielded several interesting—and in many cases promising—takeaways. – Washington Institute

Firas Elias writes: Dealing with Iranian influence in Iraq requires a comprehensive strategic vision beyond sanctions or the mere maintenance of the current U.S. military presence in Iraq. This should begin with isolation and containment but also focus on building strategic partnerships within Iraq to counter Iranian influence there. […]United States then, if it seeks to continue its policy of preventing Iranian expansion, must see Iraq as an important step but not the final measure to a policy of containment. – Washington Institute

Terry Glavin writes: It should be obvious to the world by now that the Khomeinist regime is irredeemable. It cannot be reformed. The Islamic Republic has to go. But the theocracy’s overthrow can occur only as a direct consequence of a sustained, non-violent campaign of civil resistance mounted by Iranians themselves aimed at pushing the regime to the point of collapse, Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s most prominent human rights champion and Nobel Peace Prize winner, told me on Sunday. – Maclean’s


Air strikes targeted Islamic State’s last pocket in eastern Syria late on Tuesday as U.S.-backed fighters pressed for a victory that would bring the jihadists’ self-proclaimed caliphate to its bloody end. – Reuters

A senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday flatly rejected the idea of giving Syrian Kurds a measure of autonomy, saying such a move would open the door to the partition of the country. – Reuters

US-backed forces said several jihadists and dozens of civilians quit the Islamic State group’s last patch of territory in Syria Tuesday, and warned remaining fighters should surrender or face death. Backed by air strikes by the US-led coalition, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have trapped the jihadists in a segment of Baghhouz village that is less than half a square kilometre (a fifth of a square mile). – Agence France-Presse

John Saleh writes: Given the short-term military and long-term soft power options available to the United States, the military withdrawal from Syria does not need to mean a complete U.S. disengagement from the war-torn country. Through limited presence on the ground, the declaration of a safe zone, and soft power efforts to promote economic, social, and educational recovery, the United States can continue promoting its objectives in Syria. – Washington Institute


Known as the “Yemenite Children Affair,” there are over 1,000 official reported cases of missing babies and toddlers, but some estimates from advocates are as high as 4,500. Their families believe the babies were abducted by the Israeli authorities in the 1950s, and were illegally put up for adoption to childless Ashkenazi families, Jews of European descent. […]While the Israeli government is trying to be more transparent about the disappearances, to this day, it denies that there were systematic abductions. – New York Times

Hungarian leader Viktor Orban urged Poland and Israel on Tuesday to resolve their dispute over accusations of Polish complicity in the Holocaust, making the appeal in Jerusalem after Warsaw pulled out of a planned Israeli-hosted summit. – Reuters

The United States Consulate General in Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, will be absorbed into the new U.S. Embassy to Israel in March, a U.S. official said on Tuesday, giving a date for a merger that has been condemned by Palestinians. – Reuters

A U.S. appeals court has revived a $1 billion lawsuit by Palestinians seeking to hold billionaire Sheldon Adelson and more than 30 other pro-Israel defendants liable for alleged war crimes and support of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. – Reuters

The Fatah movement is calling on the Palestinian Arab public to arrive at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, to gather outside and hold a prayer until its entrances are opened by Israel. The call follows riots and clashes on the Temple Mount in recent days, as Muslims have forcibly tried enter the closed Gate of Mercy compound. – Arutz Sheva

Israel has “potential” diplomatic relations with Mali and Niger — two Muslim countries in Africa — according to a map Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed American-Jewish leaders this week. – Times of Israel

Grace Wermenbol writes: Israel’s desire to normalize relations with Africa is inspired by the same motives behind Netanyahu’s outreach to South America and the Gulf Arab states. Netanyahu regularly vows to expand Israel’s diplomatic ties. […]Following the resumption of Israel-Chad relations, a meeting by the Arab League – which includes nine members on the African continent – was held to curtail Israeli “expansion” in Africa. This meeting, held “within the framework of the league’s continued support for the Palestinian cause,” suggests that the so-called “normalization” of ties with Israel is still subject to intense scrutiny. – Middle East Institute

Saudi Arabia

A House committee is deepening its investigation into what it describes as ongoing White House efforts to “rush” the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, a move some experts argue could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. – Bloomberg

Bob Graham and Fionnula Ni Aolain write: While Saudi Arabia has made progress in reforming its laws and prosecuting alleged acts of terrorism, the reasons cited above strongly suggest that this progress is, at least in part, illusory. To admit Saudi Arabia to the task force before it has addressed these shortcomings would send the message that what counts is a high number of prosecutions, regardless of their merits. The nation should not be admitted to the task force until it has amended its counterterrorism laws to focus on terrorism and demonstrated progress in prosecuting terrorism financing outside the region. – Washington Post

Dana Stroul writes: Members of Congress—especially those committed to global U.S. leadership anchored in a network of alliances and partnerships—must fully reckon the consequences of a diminished Saudi relationship. […]Without prejudging the answers to these critical questions, the executive and legislative branches should urgently engage in an honest dialogue about an acceptable outcome, not only on Khashoggi’s murder, but also on the future of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

American efforts to create a new alliance of Middle East nations to counter Iran are faltering amid regional divisions, a departure of key Trump administration officials leading the project, and disagreements over the group’s mission, say U.S. and Arab officials. Once touted as an Arab version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the so-called Middle East Strategic Alliance, or MESA, is no longer expected to bring countries together with a NATO-style agreement holding that an attack on one member would be seen as an act of war by all the others. – Wall Street Journal

Egyptian officials detained a New York Times correspondent after he arrived in Cairo on Monday, holding him incommunicado for hours before forcing him onto a flight back to London without explanation. – New York Times

Hezbollah’s growing role in the Lebanese government worries the United States, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon said during a meeting with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Tuesday, according to the U.S. embassy. – Reuters

US lawmakers said Tuesday they were probing whether President Donald Trump is rushing to sell sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia to please corporate supporters who stand to profit handsomely. The House of Representatives committee in charge of investigations, led by the rival Democratic Party since last month, said that “multiple whistleblowers” warned of conflicts of interest “that could implicate federal criminal statutes.” – Agence France-Presse

Turkey, which already hosts the largest refugee population in the world, is at a tipping point, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning his country wouldn’t be able to cope with another influx of people fleeing the conflict in neighboring Syria. – Bloomberg

A Turkish appeals court upheld the convictions of journalists and executives from the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, a case which has raised concerns about media freedom under President Tayyip Erdogan. – Reuters

A redeployment of forces in Yemen’s Hodeidah by the warring parties could start “possibly even today or tomorrow,” United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday. – Reuters

Gerald M. Feierstein writes: The root causes of the ongoing civil conflict in Yemen lie in the failure of Yemeni society to address and resolve the popular anger and frustration arising from political marginalization, economic disenfranchisement, and the effects of an extractive, corrupt, rentier state. This systemic failure has produced a cycle of violence, political upheaval, and institutional collapse since the creation of the modern Yemeni state in the 1960s, of which the current conflict is only the latest eruption. – Middle East Institute

Rikke Hostrup Haugbølle and Ahlam Chemlali write: There is a need for a holistic approach which links and documents the complexity of everyday violence and security and the deeper causes of migration and radicalization, not only in Tunisia but in the wider Maghreb. Everyday experiences of violence are a burden to many ordinary citizens in Tunisia and the Maghreb region and constitute a root cause of pending social and political challenges for — at least in the case of Tunisia — further progress in the transitional process and in the development of a participatory democracy. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

The highest-ranking North Korean official to defect in recent years said the U.S. should press Pyongyang to rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a step toward denuclearization and warned that the North would try to deceive Washington by offering hollow concessions when the two sides meet next week. – Wall Street Journal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has exiled, imprisoned or executed suspected opponents of his diplomatic outreach to the U.S. and South Korea, while also targeting his country’s moneyed elite with asset seizures, according to a new report that details a purge of some 50 to 70 individuals. The crackdown, portrayed as an anti-corruption campaign in state-run media, suggests Mr. Kim is looking to silence critics and shore up his regime’s finances in the face of international sanctions, said U.S. security analysts and former South Korean intelligence officials. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump said Tuesday that he is in “no rush whatsoever” on North Korean denuclearization, setting low expectations for his summit next week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. – Washington Post

South Korea’s leader on Tuesday urged President Trump to offer joint North-South economic projects as an incentive for North Korea to denuclearize when he meets with its leader, Kim Jong-un, next week. – New York Times

Veteran North Korean diplomats are being sidelined from nuclear talks ahead of a second summit with the United States as recent defections and allegations of spying undermine the trust of leader Kim Jong Un, South Korean officials and experts say. – Reuters

The U.S. special representative for North Korea is traveling to Hanoi on Tuesday to continue preparations for a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be held next week in Vietnam, the State Department said. – Reuters

Youkyung Lee and Jon Herskovitz write: For much of the past four decades, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have focused on a sprawling complex nestled in the mountains north of Pyongyang. All of that could come to an end after President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un meet next week. […]In exchange for dismantling Yongbyon, Kim would probably demand relief from international sanctions — the U.S.’s main point of leverage in negotiations. The demolition would require delicate negotiations on where and when inspectors can roam, an area where similar talks collapsed a decade ago. The regime might divert nuclear materials to other facilities. – Bloomberg


European leaders are rediscovering the appeal of giving the market’s invisible hand a helping hand in an effort to counter China’s state-backed capitalism. Government intervention to help build corporate champions was Europe’s standard for the postwar decades but faded amid privatizations and deregulation starting in the 1980s. Now, Europe’s struggle to keep up with China’s government coordination of business and the economic might of the U.S. has prompted more European politicians to advocate interventionism. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump gave his firmest indication yet that the U.S. may not increase tariffs on Chinese goods on March 1, as scheduled, despite statements by his top trade official that the U.S. should stick to a firm deadline. That deadline to complete talks with Beijing is “not a magical date,” he told reporters Tuesday, as midlevel U.S. and Chinese negotiators started this week’s trade meetings. Cabinet-level officials will join the discussions Thursday. – Wall Street Journal

The Chinese government on Monday unveiled a blueprint to knit the semiautonomous enclaves of Hong Kong and Macau with Shenzhen, Guangzhou and seven other mainland cities into a tech, financial and academic hub. The goal is to compete with innovation cradles such as Silicon Valley, Seattle or New York. – Washington Post

Taiwan will not accept any deal that destroys its sovereignty and democracy, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday after the island’s opposition KMT party said it could sign a peace deal with China if it wins a presidential election next year. – Reuters

Jane Nakano writes: China is not to be conflated with Russia when it comes to the ability to export nuclear goods and services. […]The country’s only concrete overseas accomplishment has, however, been in Pakistan. Meanwhile, six of the ten recent nuclear projects that have come online were built by Russia, including in Bangladesh, India, and Turkey. In fact, it could take a decade before Chinese exports start rivaling that of Russia and the West. Yet, a decade is not a long time as nearly anything to do with nuclear typically requires a long lead time, especially in the West. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

South Asia

European governments, stung by President Trump’s barbs against NATO and sudden ordering of a military pullout from Syria, are urging the U.S. to coordinate with them on plans to reduce forces in Afghanistan and avoid a unilateral withdrawal. European allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization also worry that plans to put an end to the 18-year conflict could further undermine the alliance as it grapples with Mr. Trump’s expressions of doubt about its relevance.  – Wall Street Journal

In the wake of Thursday’s attack — the deadliest in three decades of insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir — the mood in India is tense and angry. In a search for scapegoats, some have lashed out at Kashmiri students and shopkeepers in other parts of India. – Washington Post

Pakistan’s foreign minister appealed to the U.N. Secretary General on Tuesday to help ease tension with India that has escalated sharply following a suicide bomb attack in the Indian part of disputed Kashmir, that India blamed on Pakistan. – Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday Pakistan would retaliate if India attacked in response to a bombing in the disputed Kashmir region, which India blamed on Pakistan. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday, with his business mission under threat of being overshadowed by soaring tensions between India and Pakistan. The crown prince, who wants to persuade the world’s fastest growing major economy to consume more Saudi oil, was greeted at the airport by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gave his traditional bear hug for honoured guests. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: Short of a military operation with unpredictable consequences, however, India’s options are limited. One is to seek, again, United Nations designation of Mr. Azhar as a global terrorist — but Pakistan’s ally China has blocked that action in the past. Mr. Modi’s best course, however unsatisfactory, may be to avoid overreaction — including against the Muslim population of Kashmir and those in India who speak out on its behalf. – Washington Post

Emily Tamkin writes: Last week, 40 paramilitary police officers were killed in a terrorist attack in Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan territory that both India and Pakistan claim in its entirety. The attack, the worst in the territory in decades, quickly spiraled into a major standoff between the two nuclear-armed rivals. […]The fraught situation in South Asia, however, does not seem to have generated much concern in one place: Washington. – Washington Post

Mariam Safi and Muqaddesa Yourish write: There is a growing sense among Afghans that their concerns have remained secondary in United States-Taliban talks. For Shaharzad Akbar, a political activist in Kabul, for example, the talks would be successful if they lead to direct negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan stakeholders — government, political parties, civil society, women, youth and representatives of the victims of conflict. These talks should concern not only the constitution but also the Taliban’s transition to a political movement and the disarmament of their militants, transitional justice and postwar development. – New York Times


Russian lawmakers voted on Tuesday to prohibit the country’s troops from using smartphones or recording devices, or posting anything online about their military service, after journalists used soldiers’ digital traces to reveal actions the Kremlin wanted to keep secret. – New York Times

Mohammed Issam Laaroussi writes: Russia has encountered obstacles that have impeded its ambitions and strategies in North Africa and may face more depending on whether regional dynamics shift. Western powers continue to treat Russia as a regional actor rather than a major world power, despite Russia’s efforts to influence foreign policy-making on a global scale. And since its current policy in North Africa relies on exploiting uncertainty in existing alliances among North African countries and Western powers in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, focused U.S. reengagement with North Africa could significantly hamper Russia’s efforts. – Washington Institute

Bruno Maçães writes: Europe’s obsession with Russia is unrequited. Moscow just isn’t interested in the Continent anymore. It doesn’t care about European integration, or moving toward Europe. But neither is it interested in Europe’s predicted disintegration, or in pulling countries away from the West and closer to its way of thinking. In the halls of the Kremlin these days, it’s all about China — and whether or not Moscow can convince Beijing to form an alliance against the West. – Hudson Institute


Dozens of Jewish graves in eastern France were vandalized amid a recent rise in anti-Semitic acts and days after yellow-vest protesters were filmed accosting a prominent Jewish academic. Marches against anti-Semitism were due to take place across France on Tuesday, including one led by government ministers, as President Emmanuel Macron seeks to distance himself from the protesters who have dogged him for months. – Wall Street Journal

A group of hackers associated with Russian intelligence targeted civil society groups across Europe ahead of May elections there, Microsoft said on Tuesday. – New York Times

The German government is leaning toward letting Huawei Technologies Co. participate in building the nation’s high-speed internet infrastructure, several German officials said, the latest sign of ambivalence among U.S. allies over Washington’s push to ostracize the Chinese tech giant as a national security risk. – Wall Street Journal

But the battalion — Europe’s first made up of soldiers from two countries — is an important baby step toward deeper European military cooperation. First floated after World War II, the idea of a European army is as old as the European Union itself, but has yet to become a reality.

Now, though, the idea has taken on new urgency because of the Trump administration’s threat to withdraw the Continent’s security guarantee if it does not spend more on its defense. At a high-level security conference last weekend, the breach between the United States and Europe burst into the open, leaving many European officials feeling increasingly on their own. – New York Times

Thousands rallied against anti-Semitism in Paris on Tuesday night, summoned by France’s major political parties, the country’s Jewish organizations, and by a sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents, including the desecration of a Jewish cemetery the night before. – New York Times

A delegation of U.S. lawmakers sought to reassure European allies in Brussels on Tuesday that differences over President Donald Trump’s policies were mere “family squabbles” and transatlantic ties remain strong. – Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May makes another trip to Brussels on Wednesday, hoping European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker may prove more yielding than of late to salvage her Brexit deal. – Reuters

The party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban should leave the mainstream European center-right grouping, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, comparing Orban to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen. – Reuters

The Balkan state has joined an unbroken strip of countries in eastern Europe stretching from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea where populist parties have taken over state media and denounced critics as spreading lies. Physical attacks, harassment by police and politicians and even the murder of a reporter have drawn condemnation across former communist Europe and are threatening to unravel decades of progress building the rule of law. – Bloomberg

Rick Noack writes: Europe increasingly appears to agree that a joint strategy is needed to compete with the United States and other arms producers. The far more consequential question is which approach will prevail: Germany’s responsiveness to human rights criticism, or the more lucrative alternative pursued by Britain, France and others. – Washington Post


More than 100,000 people have been displaced by factional fighting and lawlessness in Burkina Faso, most within the past two months, according to a U.N. report published on Tuesday. “Burkina Faso is, for the first time in its history, facing massive internal displacement,” the report said. “Repeated raids by armed groups and insecurity in the regions of Centre-Nord, Nord and Sahel have also triggered an unprecedented humanitarian emergency.” – Reuters

The death toll from an attack last week by gunmen in northwestern Nigeria has doubled to more than 130, the Kaduna state governor said on Tuesday, adding it appeared to have been a deliberate plan to “wipe out certain communities”. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: Winston Churchill supposedly said “Americans always do the right thing; they just try everything else first.” That may eventually become true in the Horn of Africa too, but unless Congress starts asking some hard questions about how US money is spent Somalia, taxpayers will be bilked and national security imperiled. – American Enterprise Institute


Brazil will deliver humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan border by Feb. 23 together with the United States at the request of Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó, presidential spokesman General Otavio Rego Barros said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Cuba denied on Tuesday it has security forces in Venezuela and charged the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign of lies paving the way for military intervention in the South American country. – Reuters

Venezuela’s military said Tuesday it was on alert at its frontiers following threats by US President Donald Trump and suspended air and sea links with the island of Curacao ahead of a planned aid shipment. Opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido has vowed to bring aid in from various points Saturday “one way or another” despite military efforts to block it. – Agence France-Presse

US President Donald Trump on Monday urged Venezuela’s military to accept opposition leader Juan Guaido’s amnesty offer, or stand to “lose everything,” as a crisis deepened over President Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to let in desperately needed humanitarian aid. Bringing in humanitarian aid is crucial to the viability of Guaido, who has denounced Maduro’s re-election last year as fraudulent and in January declared himself interim president, a move recognized by some 50 countries. – Agence France-Presse


A federal judge delayed a lawsuit over a massive Pentagon cloud-computing contract Amazon.com Inc. was favored to win so the government could investigate what it said was “new information” on possible conflicts of interest in the procurement process. – Wall Street Journal

Britain’s defense company BAE Systems on Tuesday said it had won additional funding up to $575 million from the U.S. Army to begin production of its new armored vehicles that would replace the Vietnam War-era M113 fleet of personnel carriers. – Reuters

President Donald Trump on Tuesday directed the Pentagon to develop plans to create a new Space Force within the Air Force, accepting less than the full-fledged department he’d wanted. – Associated Press

Raytheon has completed delivery and integration of launchers for eight United Arab Emirates ships, the company announced, and is closing in on delivering all the Block 1A and Block 2 Rolling Airframe Missiles. – Defense News

The Army has beefed up the firepower of some of its Stryker fleet in Europe, with 30mm cannons on some and others with remote-firing Javelin missiles, making it better ready to take on light armored and armored threats. But adversaries are finding other ways to attack the platform — with cyber. – Army Times

The Marine Corps wants to select and field a long-range anti-ship missile “as fast as possible” to support the Navy in a fight for sea control, the commandant told USNI News. The Marine Corps has been refreshing its doctrine and concepts for naval warfare, and the Expeditionary Advance Base Operations (EABO) concept in particular is already informing wargames, exercises and acquisition. Fielding a long-range anti-ship missile is an important part of this concept, which calls for the Marines to spread out over islands or pockets of beaches and using that temporary base to secure air and sea space. – USNI News

U.S. Fleet Forces Command announced a new initiative to address operational fleet and industrial base readiness through data analytics. “We need some fundamental changes in how we approach readiness, how we generate it, analyze it, measure it, integrate it, articulate what we need and predict what the return on our readiness investment might be,” Fleet Forces commander Adm. Christopher Grady said during a speech at the WEST 2019 conference, co-hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA. – USNI News

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Donald Cook transited the Dardanelles Strait on Tuesday en route to its second Black Sea operation in a month, as Russia again shadows the ship amid growing tensions between Moscow and the West. – Military.com

Long War

A small number of Americans — as few as 59, according to data tracked by the George Washington University Program on Extremism — are known to have traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Nearly all the American men captured in battle have been repatriated, but it is unclear why some of the American women and their children — at least 13 known to The Times — have not been. – New York Times

The British government has told the family of Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old woman who traveled to Syria to marry an Islamic State fighter four years ago, that it intends to revoke her citizenship, according to a family lawyer. – New York Times

Switzerland would prefer to have citizens who fought for Islamic State tried on the spot rather than be brought home to face criminal charges, its justice minister said on Tuesday. The remarks by Karin Keller-Sutter echo reluctance by other European countries to take back combatants whose fate has become more pressing as U.S.-backed fighters seek to capture the last enclave of Islamic State’s self-styled Caliphate in Syria. – Reuters

Katherine Zimmerman writes: President Trump’s counterterrorism strategy has amounted to doubling down on past failure. He has promised a full withdrawal of troops from Syria and a partial withdrawal from Afghanistan, the better to focus on directly attacking terror cells. That narrow definition of counterterrorism misses the real threat: the Salafi-jihadi movement, which continues to gain strength across the globe. – Wall Street Journal

Jessica Trisko Darden writes: As the hundreds of women currently held in Syria and Iraq begin returning to their home countries, often with children, countries should treat these women as a significant terrorist threat. Given the vital roles that ISIS women played and the significant threat posed by women in other terrorist groups, there is little reason to welcome them back with open arms. – American Enterprise Institute

Trump Administration

In the first two years of the Trump presidency, Vice President Mike Pence has worked to put religion at the heart of key diplomatic efforts, steering hundreds of millions in U.S. aid toward Christians and other minorities who were victimized by Islamic State. Among the measures he has favored, Mr. Pence pushed to redirect U.S. money that would have been distributed by the United Nations widely in Iraqi areas targeted by Islamic State toward Christians, Yazidis and other minorities. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump has grown increasingly disenchanted with Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, who has served as the nation’s top intelligence official for nearly two years, leading some administration officials to worry he will soon be dismissed, according to people familiar with the matter. – Washington Post

The Trump administration is launching a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it’s still illegal to be gay, U.S. officials tell NBC News, a bid aimed in part at denouncing Iran over its human rights record. – NBC News

Rick Gladstone writes: While a few months is not necessarily a long time to leave any ambassador post empty, the gap comes against a backdrop of President Trump’s avowed suspicion of multilateral institutions like the United Nations and his repudiation of some its major achievements and programs. […]Even though Ms. Haley sharply differed with Mr. Trump on some important issues, like Russia’s behavior, she played a critical role on pushing through policy on North Korea at the United Nations, which underscores the importance of the position. – New York Times

Eli Lake writes: It’s just about impossible to justify Trump’s bragging to the Russians about firing the FBI director. Regardless, his actions primarily raise a political question — best settled by election or impeachment. No one elected Andrew McCabe, James Comey or anyone else at the FBI to lead the country. They work for the man who was elected in 2016. Even as they investigate the election, they need to remember that. – Bloomberg