Fdd's overnight brief

February 28, 2020

In The News


The U.S. and Switzerland formally launched a humanitarian trade channel for Iran on Thursday, a move meant to counter criticism of Washington’s economic pressure campaign while opening the way for the release of Americans detained by Tehran. – Wall Street Journal 

The United States and Iran may have pulled back from the brink of war, but they have refused to stand down since the American drone strike in January that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, commander of Tehran’s elite Quds Force. – New York Times

In the Middle East, even virus outbreaks are political. […]That spread has put renewed scrutiny on Tehran, with many of its regional foes blaming it for mishandling the outbreak. – Associated Press 

Four days after the February 21, 2020 elections for Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, veteran Saudi journalist Tareq Al-Homayed, former editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, published an op-ed in the Saudi daily ‘Okaz headlined “The Virus of the Khomeini [Regime].” In it, he criticized Western media, leftist organizations and U.S. Democrats for hypocritically turning a blind eye to “the farce of the Iranian parliamentary elections” in advance of which thousands of reformist and moderate candidates had been disqualified by the regime. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Joseph I. Lieberman and Mark D. Wallace write: The Islamic Republic of Iran’s bad year might get worse before it gets better. Those in power are to blame. They have to change their behavior or reap the consequences of their current unsustainable path, which has led to a faltering economy and a restive population. […]Only Khamenei and his regime can make the big course corrections that are rightfully demanded and entirely necessary or, ultimately, the Iranian people will step in. We can help them make that decision so the world becomes safer faster. – Jerusalem Post 

Greame Wood writes: At some point, incompetence and evil become indistinguishable. I feel like we have passed this point several times in the past few years, and Iran’s leadership in particular keeps passing it over and over, like a Formula 1 car doing laps. […]Iranians are understandably primed to wonder whether this disaster is similar, a tragedy of malign incompetence that is expanding beyond the government’s ability to contain. – The Atlantic 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: All of Iran’s neighbors have closed their borders with Iran. Most have severed air links, isolating Tehran. But this siege mentality of isolation is how the government appears to thrive. […]In this respect, Iran joins other countries in the region by potentially using the religious system in place to spread information. But if Tehran continues on its path of denial and conspiracy theories, instead of using opportunities the change course, it will likely make the situation worse and also harm its economy more. – Jerusalem Post 

Svante E. Cornell and Brenda Shaffer write: In the Middle East, the Trump administration understood that Iran’s use of proxies was helping it undermine U.S. interests and the stability of a half-dozen states in its neighborhood. It is now working to put an end to this subterfuge. The time has now come for Washington to take steps to call the bluff in Eurasia as well and stop effectively rewarding the use of proxies that undermine conflict resolution efforts and the stability of key U.S. partners. – Foreign Policy

Meir Javedanfar writes: With the differences between the regime and the public’s priorities so unsurmountable, the regime seems to have decided that consolidation is the best strategy moving forward. This is why so many reformist and moderate candidates were disqualified before the recent parliamentary elections, thus making it look like a one-horse race. This further damaged the legitimacy of the electoral system in Iran in the eyes of the public. – Middle East Institute 


The Turkish Army suffered mass casualties in an airstrike in northwest Syria late Thursday, an attack that could dramatically change the course of the Syrian war as fears grow of a direct conflict between Russia and Turkey, a NATO member. – New York Times 

Russian military officials denied responsibility for an airstrike in northern Syria that killed dozens of Turkish troops, as the risk of a major military confrontation between Russia and Turkey in the region escalated sharply. – Washington Post

An Israeli drone struck a car in a Syrian village in the Golan Heights, killing a civilian, Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Thursday. – Reuters

A long-developing proxy clash in Syria between Russia and Turkey is “very much moving into crisis mode,” a senior American diplomat said amid reports that Turkish troops were attacked in an airstrike. – Washington Examiner

The Turkish army is retaliating with artillery fire at Syrian government targets in Syria after an airstrike killed 22 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern Idlib province, two Turkish security officials said on Friday. – Reuters

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday voiced “grave concern” about the escalation of fighting in northwest Syria and reiterated his call for a ceasefire. – Reuters

Amid heavy fighting in northwest Syria between government forces backed by Russia and Syrian rebels supported by Turkey, the U.N. Security Council heard a plea on Thursday from women caught in the middle: “All we are asking, is for the misery to stop, for the killing to stop. We want the right to live.” – Reuters

The battle is proving one of the war’s most intense. […]Civilian targets are not off limits. Russian and Syrian forces have been accused of intentionally targeting medical centers which are protected under the Geneva Convention are continuously attacked. – Newsweek 

Russian state television said on Thursday Turkish military specialists in Syria’s Idlib region were using shoulder-fired missiles to try to shoot down Russian and Syrian military aircraft. – Reuters

Russia’s Defence Ministry late on Thursday accused Turkey of illegally sending strike drones into Syria’s Idlib region to support rebels fighting Syrian government forces, and of providing artillery support for them. – Reuters

Irwin Redlener and Sean Hansen write: You may not realize it from the news coverage, but we are witnessing one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. Resurgent fighting and violence around Idlib, Syria, have produced the largest wave of human displacement in Syria’s nine-year civil war. But with the rapidly emerging global crisis related to the uncontrolled spread of the lethal new coronavirus, as well as the 2020 presidential election, these refugees and displaced civilians are simply not getting the attention this humanitarian catastrophe deserves. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: Ultimately, what Russia, Assad, and Iran are doing to the people of Idlib is a moral outrage. To support our erstwhile Turkish ally and mitigate humanitarian suffering and associated refugee flows, we have an interest in helping Turkey put the Russians on their back foot. – Washington Examiner

Sinan Ulgen writes: After its strategic failure in Syria, the West should at least strive to protect civilians caught in Idlib—moving beyond a superficial interest in their fate and relying on Turkey to open its borders. The proposed formula for Western action would require the U.S. government to accept NATO to serve a primarily civilian mission to be led by the EU in northwestern Syria. It would also compel Turkey to give up its political objective of retaining control in Idlib and abetting its motley crew of proxy groups. – Foreign Policy

Labib al-Nahhas De La Ossa writes: The humanitarian catastrophe that is Idlib has shown that the lessons from the beginning of World War II still apply: Appeasing dictators who are willing to kill massive numbers of people to realize their delusions of grandeur never works. But if the U.S., Europe, and the international community at large fail to heed these lessons, it will not only be Syrians who pay the price. – Middle East Institute 


Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. has no plans to re-engage in Syria’s civil war, where NATO ally Turkey is facing off against Russian-backed Syrian government forces to try to prevent the fall of the last major rebel bastion. – Bloomberg 

Ambassadors from the NATO military alliance are holding emergency talks Friday at the request of Turkey following the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in northeast Syria, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that the talks Friday morning would be held under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which allows any ally to request consultations if it feels its territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened. – Associated Press 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan chaired an emergency security meeting late on Thursday to evaluate the latest developments in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, two Turkish security sources said. – Reuters 

The United States is very concerned about a reported attack on Turkish soldiers in Syria’s Idlib region and it stands by its NATO ally Turkey, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday. – Reuters

Turkey will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said, as Ankara responded on Friday to the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in an air strike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region. – Reuters

Turkey decided on Thursday to exempt citizens of Croatia, Ireland, Malta, Portugal and Norway from tourist visa rules from March 2 to boost the country’s tourism potential, the Foreign ministry said. – Reuters

Turkey emphasized the need for a ceasefire in Syria’s northwest Idlib province and what steps are needed on the ground to achieve it during talks with a Russian delegation on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said. – Reuters


Fifty former European prime ministers and foreign ministers have condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan in an open letter, saying it would create an apartheid-like situation in occupied Palestinian territory. – Reuters

The IDF on Thursday decided to postpone an annual joint military exercise with the US European Command scheduled for next week due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Israeli news site Walla reported. – Algemeiner

Ksenia Sverlova writes: Relations with the countries of the Middle East are very important for Israel. The importance of proper ties with Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other states cannot be overstated. At the same time, Israel clearly must strive for resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians, first and foremost for its own sake. Advancing ties with Arab states and Israel’s integration in the region are a highly significant bonus. Those dreaming of shortcuts that will allow them to reach Riyadh without stopping in Ramallah should think again. – Jerusalem Post 

Raphael Ahren writes: Indeed, Sanders would probably not want to repeat what he and many other Democrats said was Trump’s mistake in moving the embassy — handing one party to the conflict a major gift without leveraging it into getting concessions needed to get closer to an agreement. – Times of Israel

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has closed the two holiest shrines of Islam to foreign travellers and banned pilgrims from entering the country as fears surrounding the coronavirus outbreak continue to grow in the Middle East. – The Guardian 

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet urged Saudi Arabia on Thursday to uphold freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly and review convictions of activists, religious leaders and journalists as it prepares to host a G20 summit this year. – Reuters 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell asking that he declassify part of a report on the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. – Washington Examiner

Middle East & North Africa

Iraqi politicians failed on Thursday to agree on a new government, prolonging deadlock that has failed to resolve unprecedented mass unrest and has stalled the country’s recovery from years of war. – Reuters

Tunisia has a new government at last, after four months of arguing among rival parties in the young North African democracy. […]The prime minister said the government’s focus will be on boosting the digital economy and tackling unemployment and violent extremism.- Associated Press 

Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Fareed Yasseen says his country aspires to be the “Switzerland” of the Middle East and will resist being drawn into the escalating clash between the U.S. and Iran. – Washington Times

Lara Jakes and Michael Crowley write: President Trump has long sought to avoid confronting the leaders of Turkey and Russia — two foreign strongmen who are facing off in civil wars in Syria and Libya. But after an airstrike on Thursday that killed dozens of Turkish troops in northwest Syria, Mr. Trump may be forced to pick a side. – New York Times

Michael Knights writes: These concepts are already beginning to show themselves in the Middle East, which is why I have increasingly placed pandemics at the center of my forecasts for the region. […]Displaced person camps (such as the 80,000-person Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan) are particularly vulnerable. Refugees and other migrants flowing undetected to Europe are further risk factors for the spread of pandemics via the Middle East. – Politico

Bilal Y. Saab and Chen Kane write: All international parties with a stake in Middle East stability should devote much more time, effort, and resources to helping regional stakeholders better prepare, both conceptually and practically, for the development of a regional security framework. Leaders meet in summits and sign the deals, yes, but it’s their diplomats, advisors, scientists, experts, military generals, and broader expert communities (both public and private) that lay the groundwork and make those deals stick. – Middle East Institute 

Michael Patrick Mulroy and Eric S. Oehlerich write: The longer U.S. decision-makers in Washington D.C. stall, the more our national security goals will lag behind Russian expansion in the Middle East. The longer we stall in implementing the IWA, the more difficult it will be to catch up to the Kremlin and gain lost ground and influence in the Middle East. It might not be our preferred form of warfare, but it is the warfare we find ourselves in. – Middle East Institute 

Korean Peninsula

Now the president is facing a political backlash over his response as the number of cases continues to climb — 505 new infections on Thursday alone.​ […]The virus is also intensifying existing pressure from the weak economy, which is being made worse by a sharp decline in trade with China, South Korea’s biggest trading partner. – New York Times

A plan is in the works to evacuate quarantined foreign diplomats from North Korea, a source inside the country has revealed, as concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus grow. – CNN 

The South Korean and U.S. militaries announced Thursday that they were postponing their annual joint drills due to concern about a viral outbreak that has infected soldiers in both countries’ armed forces, put many troops in quarantine and closed base facilities. – Associated Press 


A Chinese national was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly stealing proprietary information worth about $1 billion from his Oklahoma employer, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal 

Chinese telecom giant Huawei said Thursday that it would begin manufacturing radio equipment for next-generation 5G networks in France, its first such facility outside of China. – Agence France-Presse

The Navy said Thursday that a Chinese warship fired a military grade laser at a U.S. surveillance aircraft flying over the Pacific Ocean last week, calling the action “unsafe and unprofessional.” – The Hill 

Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei is pitching lucrative goodies to European governments in the hopes of fending off bans. […]Huawei has been under immense pressure from the U.S. government in the past year, including through a ban on companies supplying components and software to the Chinese network gear and smartphone maker. – Politico 

Joseph Bosco writes: That is an (almost) unprecedented  expression of strategic clarity on the U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s democratic security. But Beijing might be forgiven for dismissing it as so much political rhetoric in the midst of a presidential campaign. It has heard such tough talk before, and seen it dissipate once the candidate took office and actually had the power to follow through — but didn’t. – The Hill

Scott Kennedy, James Andrew Lewis and Mingda Qiu write: This report, with contributions from leading U.S. and Chinese experts, provides a dispassionate assessment of China’s high-tech drive and the implications for the United States and the global economy. […]The report’s final section suggests how, in light of these findings, the United States and China should address the challenges in technology innovation and their broader relationship. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The two men’s fates were inextricably linked last year when they were released as part of a prisoner swap that freed Haqqani and two other high-level commanders in exchange for Weeks and U.S. citizen Kevin King. Weeks and King, both formerly lecturers at the American University of Afghanistan, were kidnapped at the same time when gunmen ambushed their SUV in central Kabul. – Washington Post

In one of Afghanistan’s most volatile provinces, cautiously optimistic about a peace deal set to be signed between the United States and the Taliban on Saturday, Karwan and his men thus did something that would have been unthinkable even a week ago: They invited Taliban fighters to lunch. – Washington Post

Many Afghans view Saturday’s expected signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal with a heavy dose of well-earned skepticism. They’ve spent decades living in a country at war — some their whole lives — and wonder if they can ever reach a state of peace. – Associated Press 

The fate of some 5,000 Taliban prisoners jailed in Afghanistan is threatening to turn into a major stumbling block in efforts to end the 19-year war in the country. […]There are fears that the release of thousands of Taliban fighters could deprive the Kabul government of a key amount of leverage and undercut the peace process by strengthening the Taliban’s position on the battlefield. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 

Twenty-two House Republicans are expressing “serious concerns” about the Trump administration’s plans to sign a peace deal with the Taliban this weekend. – The Hill

Douglas London writes: No one cares more about finding lasting peace in Afghanistan than those of us who have toiled on these issues for years and lost friends on its battlefields. But there is little reason to believe that an agreement calling for substantial concessions from the Taliban is possible right now, regardless of the optimistic talk emanating from Washington. A one-week “reduction in violence” is not a cease-fire, and a deal that yields concessions without demanding any in return will not bring real peace. – New York Times

Judah Waxelbaum writes: A perfect exit strategy in Afghanistan is hard to imagine. It is easy to see how this agreement would allow the very people who killed our men and women to set themselves up for control. Celebrate the U.S. sending less of her own to war, but do not forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice when the Taliban is negotiating their role in the government. – Washington Examiner


A Hong Kong media tycoon known for his ardent opposition to China was arrested on Friday over his role in a pro-democracy protest last year, the police said, dealing another blow to the city’s independent media. – New York Times

Australia’s deportation policy is so “corrosive” that it has soured its bilateral relationship with New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday, a rare bust-up between the two historic allies. – Reuters

A U.S.-Philippines troop agreement recently scrapped by President Rodrigo Duterte could still be salvaged, a senior diplomat said on Friday, boosting hopes in both countries of retaining one of Asia’s oldest military alliances. – Reuters


The United States embassy in Moscow urged Russia on Thursday to find the people who organised the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov who was gunned down near the Kremlin five years ago. – Reuters

A federal judge says she is considering whether to hold a company reportedly controlled by Kremlin-linked Russian financier Yevgeny Prigozhin in contempt for ignoring court orders. […]The IRA, a St. Petersburg-based organization known as the Russian “troll farm,” was mentioned repeatedly by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena — a journalist who was convicted of separatism in Ukraine’s Russia-occupied Crimea region before a court there expunged his criminal record — has been removed from Russia’s list of “terrorists and extremists.” – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 

Russia’s “increasing militarization” of territory seized from Ukraine in 2014 poses a threat to Western allies, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned while acknowledging the sixth anniversary of when Russia captured Crimea. – Washington Examiner

Kommersant columnist Mikhail Gurevich wrote a column titled “Web of fears defeats any technology and innovation”, where he beseeched the authorities to be frank and open with the citizens about the spread of the coronavirus. […]If the Russian leadership attempted to withhold accurate information from the public, the public would be governed by unverified rumors, and this would result in still greater panic. Russia should have learned this lesson from previous disasters. – Middle East Media Research Institute


The U.K. and the European Union set the stage for months of tense and highly pressured negotiations, laying out clashing approaches to their post-Brexit relationship. – Wall Street Journal

As Carnival celebrations occupied streets around the world this week, a Spanish parade troupe featured Nazis dancing with guns, scantily clad concentration-camp inmates waving Israel’s flag and a float with two crematorium chimneys. The display was met with indignation from European politicians, Jewish rights groups and other observers who called it a disgusting symbol and an insult to the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. – Washington Post

A court ruling in Ukraine has forced state investigators to open a probe into alleged pressure by then-vice president Joe Biden that led to the 2016 dismissal of Viktor Shokin as the country’s prosecutor general, officials said Thursday. – Washington Post

The U.S. special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo says the United States does not support the Kosovar government’s decision to temporarily and partly lift the import tariff on products from Serbia. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

For the Greeks, the U.S. is the only country that can contain the expansionism of Turkey, which last week sought Washington’s military help as it gets mired in the war in Syria where it’s fighting Russian-backed forces. Turkey, which is also NATO member, requested a meeting with its allies in Brussels on Friday after an airstrike in Syria killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers. – Bloomberg 

The European Union could open membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia within weeks amid good progress made by the two Balkan countries in their preparations, the 27-member bloc’s enlargement chief, Oliver Varhelyi, said on February 27. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The Austrian parliament on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution that calls on the government to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. – Times of Israel

Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) is asking U.S. officials to review the national-security implications of AT&T’s planned sale of its majority stake in Central European Media Group Enterprises (CME) to a Czech-owned conglomerate because of its record of acting as “China’s proxies” inside the Czech Republic. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 

Mark Jamison write: EC laws and regulations on AI have implications for the United States. Europe has spent considerable time investigating U.S. tech companies and collecting billions of dollars in fines. In addition to draining companies’ resources, the rules will have a chilling effect on new investments. New U.S. companies will be cautious about entering European markets. And the regulations will hinder innovations that U.S. companies could create if they had better access to European markets. – Morning Consult 

Iulia-Sabina Joja writes: Beyond possible comparisons in societal resilience, there is an obvious point I need to make: Georgia, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Moldova are all vulnerable to malign foreign influence. EU and NATO membership or geography matter less for building societal resilience than does the stability provided by liberal democracies. […]Therefore, lessons should be learned from both resilient democracies with high media literacy as well as from those countries that were forced to build resilience in the face of external aggression. – Middle East Institute 


France accused Mali’s ambassador on Thursday of spreading false accusations against its soldiers that could play into the hands of Islamist militants at a time when Paris is trying to organize a more efficient response to insurgency in the region. – Reuters

Islamist militant groups in Nigeria have begun targeting Christians in an attempt to provoke a religious war, the information minister said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The upcoming 2021 defense policy bill will likely restrict the Pentagon from reducing its footprint in Africa, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday. – Defense News 

The State Department is warning that violent extremist groups could be scheming an attack in Nairobi, Kenya — a warning that comes weeks after al-Shabab militants attacked U.S. and Kenyan forces in Manda Bay, Kenya in January. – Military Times 

The Americas

The flow of migrants being returned across the border into Mexico included more than 100 people a day here last fall. That stream of Central Americans, carrying papers stamped with a future date in U.S. immigration court, has now slowed to a trickle, with fewer than a dozen crossing back into Matamoros daily. – Washington Post

Amid the Trump administration’s policies to close off the border to Latin American asylum seekers, the U.S. government is still separating families as they attempt to cross into the United States. As the Flores family’s situation shows, the administration is struggling with how to handle an increasing number of Venezuelans appearing at the border. – Washington Post

The Justice Department is proposing to dramatically increase the cost of appealing deportation orders, according to a federal regulatory filing Thursday, a move critics say would effectively limit access to the legal system to more affluent immigrants. – Wall Street Journal 

The Trump administration is ready to unleash the full impact of sanctions on Chevron Corp.’s operations in Venezuela as the U.S. seeks to further squeeze the Maduro regime. – Bloomberg

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Thursday signed into law new rules that increase government oversight of non-profit groups operating in the Central American country, despite international pressure that he veto the bill. – Reuters

A bipartisan group of six U.S. lawmakers are urging President Donald Trump to reverse his decision to let Pentagon leaders strip collective bargaining rights from military civilian employees. – Federal Times 

A United Nations report critical of Colombia’s efforts to protect human rights advocates failed to recognise advances in that area and social investment in regions suffering violence, President Ivan Duque said on Thursday. – Reuters

An associate professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) who was receiving funding from NASA has been arrested and charged by federal authorities with hiding his relationship with a Chinese university. – The Hill 

President Iván Duque writes: Colombia is on the front lines of the most serious humanitarian challenge the Western Hemisphere has seen in the modern era: the Venezuelan refugee crisis. This ongoing crisis on America’s doorstep must be met with greater urgency before the situation spirals out of control. We need a stronger commitment for more funds and resources from the international community. Colombia cannot do it alone. – Washington Post

Michael A. Matera and Maripaz Álvarez write: Irrespective of the election outcome, the Guyanese people and their political representatives should renew in a serious and deliberate manner past efforts to address the ethnic and racial divisions that have plagued the country and to work toward a broad consensus over how best to manage its newly found resource wealth for the good of all Guyanese. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Anne Applebaum writes: I am tempted to end here with a warning, because Venezuela does represent the conclusion to a lot of processes we see in the world today. Venezuela is the endgame of ideological Marxism; the culmination of the assault on democracy, courts, and the press now unfolding in so many countries; and the outer limit of the politics of polarization. But I don’t want, as so many have done, to treat Venezuela as just a symbol. It’s a real place, and the hardships faced by the people who live there have not ended, culminated, or been limited at all. – The Atlantic


The U.S. Senate approved legislation that would provide $1 billion for rural telecom carriers to replace equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co. in their networks. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump has signaled his support for a measure that would prohibit the U.S. government from turning to a secretive surveillance court to get wiretaps on Americans, according to a White House official, setting up a potential clash between the president and the intelligence community. – Wall Street Journal

A slew of new National Guard personnel are cycling into a major cyber task force for U.S. Cyber Command. – Fifth Domain 

Private companies have a crucial role to play in assisting the Department of Justice and FBI as they gather information to charge malicious cyber actors with crimes, especially as the department views criminal charges as a form of indictments, a top FBI cyber official said Feb. 26 at the RSA Conference. – Fifth Domain 

Andrew Eversden writes: Last week’s international attribution of cyberattacks on the nation of Georgia to Russia demonstrated the progress like-minded nations have made in establishing norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace, according to one senior Department of State cyber official. […]Looking toward the future, the government wants to continue to “build that tent of countries” that would cooperate and collaborate in cyberspace, including participating in attributing or supporting public attribution work by the United States and its closest allies. – Fifth Domain 


The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is working on a bill to “claw back” the $3.8 billion the Pentagon is redirecting from weapons programs to President Trump’s border wall, he said Thursday. – The Hill 

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett is coming into the service at a unique time, as the civilian leader of both the Air Force and the fledgling Space Force, which was established late last year. Turning that new service into a fully-formed organization is a major priority for Barrett, and one with no real blueprint to follow. – Defense News 

The Navy could build a 355-ship fleet by 2030, but paying for such a force will require adding between $120 billion and $130 billion to the service’s funding over the next decade, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly told lawmakers Thursday. – USNI News 

When Americans think about military power, they often associate our wars with iconic commanders like Grant, Eisenhower, Nimitz and Doolittle. They may also think about the famous weapons that helped win them: the P-51 Mustang fighter, the Essex-class aircraft carriers of World War II, and more recently the Abrams tank, F-117 stealth fighter and GPS-guided smart bombs. – Defense News 

The U.S. Pacific Fleet has ordered all ships and afloat units in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility to remain at sea for 14 days between port visits, a quarantining restriction intended to limit transmission and exposure to the coronavirus, a Navy official said Thursday. – USNI News

The U.S. Air Force’s new combat rescue helicopter will be known as the HH-60W Jolly Green II, the Air Force secretary announced Thursday. – Defense News 

When robots lend humans a hand on the battlefield of the future, it might not actually be a hand. It could, just as easily, be a tentacle. […]More novel applications are robotic limbs that could instead mount on artillery pieces, automating part of the loading process, or that could slide onto a picatinny rail, letting infantry take advantage of more terrain as a stabilizing brace for a rifle. – C4ISRNET 

Northrop Grumman conducted a static test of their new OmegA rocket at their facility in Promontory, Utah, Feb. 27, keeping it on track for a certification flight in spring 2021. – Defense News

Missile Defense

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps are working to refine the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile’s software after it failed to achieve desired lethal effects on a maritime target during its initial operational test, Col. David Warnick, the Army’s program manager for joint attack munition systems, told Defense News in a recent interview. – Defense News

The following is the Feb. 26, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Columbia(SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress. – USNI News 

Enemy drones over the ocean could track and surveil U.S. Navy ships, designate targets for aircraft or maritime attacks, or even fire dangerous weapons themselves at surface ships. – Fox News  

Jamie McIntyre writes: Virtually every major component of America’s nuclear force is past its sell-by date and needs to be rebuilt, retooled, or replaced. […]With Russia’s stated doctrine of “escalate to deescalate” — that is, deliver a knockout blow upfront so an adversary judges the risk of retaliation too high — the U.S. can’t afford to be seen as falling behind. – Washington Examiner

Long War

The only place in the world where fighters linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group are cooperating is in West Africa’s sprawling Sahel region, giving the extremists greater depth as they push into new areas, according to the commander of the U.S. military’s special forces in Africa. – Associated Press 

The Islamic State’s Afghanistan branch has lost more than half its fighters due to Afghan and U.S. airstrikes, and ground operations conducted by Taliban fighters, according to a recent inspector general report. – Military Times 

African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union official said Thursday. – Associated Press 

Ryan Greer and Vidhya Ramalingam write: Today’s extremists are now recruited at the speed of the Internet, yet resources to prevent extremism are uneven. There is much more to be done domestically to counter both terrorism and violent extremism. The deployment of the Redirect Method shows promising results, lends itself to measuring results, and is inherently scalable. When scaled, it could be the missing link between the online and offline space in the fight against violent extremism across the United States. – Washington Institute