Fdd's overnight brief

January 11, 2021

In The News


Iran’s supreme leader said Friday that he had banned the import of U.S. and British-made coronavirus vaccines, a surprise move that contradicts his own government’s recent efforts to ensure the country’s access to safe and effective immunizations. – Washington Post

A South Korean diplomatic delegation arrived in Iran on Sunday to negotiate the release of a vessel and its crew seized by Iranian forces amid an escalating financial dispute between the countries, Iranian state-run media reported. – Associated Press

Iran said on Sunday that South Korea should avoid politicising the seizure of its vessel by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Gulf, Iranian state media reported, while pressing Seoul to release $7 billion in funds frozen amid U.S. sanctions. – Reuters

Twitter has removed a tweet by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggesting coronavirus vaccines made in the United States and Britain are “untrustworthy”, saying the post violated its rules. – Agence France-Presse

Iran will expel United Nations nuclear watchdog inspectors unless U.S. sanctions are lifted by a Feb. 21 deadline set by the hardline-dominated parliament, a lawmaker said on Saturday. – Reuters

Foreign companies will not be allowed to test COVID-19 vaccines on the Iranian people, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday, a day after Iran’s Supreme Leader banned vaccine imports from the United States and Britain. – Reuters

Relatives of those killed by Iran’s shoot-down of a Ukrainian passenger plane last January say they do not want blood money from Tehran but rather an international trial to hold its leaders accountable, a procedure contingent on overcoming lengthy hurdles under global conventions. – VOA News

Khalijefars TV (Iran) aired a report about a new “missile city,” revealed in Hormozgan Province, Iran on January 8, 2021. During the ceremony, IRGC General Hossein Salami said that the facility was built for deterrence and defensive purposes and that these missiles bases are spread throughout Iran. He added that the missiles have a range of hundreds of kilometers and “their accuracy is complete.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a public address, in which he said that the U.S. and British Covid-19 vaccines are banned from entering Iran aired on Iran’s Channel 1 on January 8, 2021. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: In reality, the accord has already done most of any good it can; it frees Iran from nearly all its obligations during Biden’s term, even allowing it to “legally” go nuclear. And America’s allies in the region — the nations most at risk from Tehran’s ambitions — are united against any further appeasement of the Iranian regime. […]At the very least, Biden should let Iran keep suffering under existing sanctions — and wait for it to offer a deal that actually serves the interest of America, its allies and peace. – New York Post

Zev Chafets writes: In the meantime, the U.S. should make it clear to Iran (and to the other signatories) that it will not return to any form of the JCPOA until unilateral escalation toward a bomb is reversed. Israel should put aside threats to act on its own as if it was still 1981. The strategic threat posed by a nuclear Iran is genuine. There may come a time when Israel decides it has no choice but to invoke the Begin Doctrine. But this isn’t it. – Bloomberg

Omer Carmi writes: Khamenei repeated the notion that any future talks with the West should be limited to the nuclear issue. In his view, Washington is the one trying to destabilize the region, while Tehran is a stabilizing actor that is “duty bound” to reinforce its friends in the region. Hence, he promised that Iran’s regional presence “will continue to exist.” […]Khamenei did not take a vengeful tone in the Qom speech—perhaps a signal that Tehran is waiting to see how the new U.S. administration will shape its regional policy and behavior toward Iran and the JCPOA. – Washington Institute

Michael Knights writes: History has shown that Iran probes the resolve of U.S. administrations, and that it can simultaneously poke an American president in the eye and sit at a negotiating table. Iran is struggling to restrain its proxies from seeking revenge but may see the opening of a Biden administration as the first safe moment to do so. Every other potential aggressor in the world will be watching and taking note. – Washington Institute

Michael Rubin writes: European diplomats, Congressional Democrats, and those calling for restraint regardless of an adversary’s behavior might want to believe Iran’s intentions are peaceful and the problem lies more in Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh than in Tehran, but the Revolutionary Guards, at least when they write for their home audience, beg to differ. – The National Interest


Syria’s petroleum ministry on Sunday blamed U.S. sanctions for forcing it to cut by up to 24% its distribution of fuel and diesel because of delays in arrival of needed supplies. – Associated Press

Media chatter about the restoration of relations between the Syrian regime and the Palestinian Hamas movement has grown louder following the statements of Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah about a positive atmosphere surrounding efforts to restore relations between Hamas and the Syrian regime. – Al-Monitor

Amos Harel writes: Israel seems to have been exploiting Iran’s comparative weakness in Syria and the waiting game Tehran is playing prior to U.S. President Joe Biden’s inauguration, to step up its attacks on Iranian interests in Syria. Over the past two weeks, Arab media have reported three separate air strikes attributed to Israel across Syria. – Haaretz


Turkey wants to “turn a new page in its relations with the EU in the new year,” its President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday, according to a statement by Erdoğan’s office. – Politico

The United Arab Emirates has no reason to be in conflict with Turkey and wants Ankara to stop being the “primary backer” of the Muslim Brotherhood, a top official said. – Bloomberg

Kelly Bjorklund writes: If Halkbank is found guilty and ends up frozen out of the U.S. financial system, the economic implications for an already reeling Turkish economy could be massive. Likewise, the political aftershocks in Turkey from the trial’s outcome could be devastating for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has tried to blame political enemies for the whole scheme. […]It appears that Trump never understood the charges against the bank or how they related to Iran—and he just wanted to do a favor for his fellow strongman, Erdogan. – Foreign Policy

Seren Selvin Korkmaz writes: While the government seeks to revive Turkey’s old debates, the opposition is trying to create a new vision for the future of the country. The unification of the opposition, which has significant ideological differences, also embraces the country’s plurality and need for dialogue rather than polarization — and this seems set to extend beyond domestic politics as well, with a restoration in foreign policy likely to be on their agenda in the months to come. – Middle East Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Turkey’s far-right pro-government media included an article on Friday asserting that US President-elect Joe Biden was brought to office by “Jewish controlled media organization and powerful Jewish lobbies” and that “Jewish capital” controls the US “deep state.” This antisemitic conspiracy has been pushed by far-right Islamists from Hamas to Malaysia to Turkey, where the ruling party frequently taps into conspiracies to stay in power. – Jerusalem Post


Love him or hate him, and most people who have paid attention fall into one camp or the other, Ambassador David M. Friedman will complete his tour of duty in Israel this month having etched his name in history as one of America’s most influential envoys. – New York Times

Alternative Prime Minister Benny Gantz denounced terror as he condemned an alleged physical attack by a settler against a Golani officer during a West Bank protest outside the Kedumim settlement on Saturday night. – Jerusalem Post

Despite a rapprochement between Qatar and several Arab states that recently normalized relations with Israel, the Gulf nation says that it will not be establishing relations with the Jewish state. – Algemeiner

Nimrod Goren writes: Israelis and Turks who care about the relationship between the two countries and who yearn for better ties, do not have to wait for their leaders to change paths and reconcile. They can identify an issue they care about, reach out to partners in the other country, and take joint action. There are already many partnerships taking place between citizens from both countries, and there is plenty of room for more. Lets seize the new opportunities together. – Jerusalem Post


The U.S. imposed sanctions Friday on a senior Iraqi official for his link to human-rights abuses by Iran-backed militias, as the Trump administration continues its campaign to isolate Tehran during the president’s final weeks in office. – Wall Street Journal

The policeman was “killed by a bullet to the head”, a medic in the city 300 kilometres (190 miles) south of the capital Baghdad said. […]Witnesses said security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrators — including some throwing stones — from a city square that served as an epicentre of a widespread protest movement that began in October 2019. – Agence France-Presse

Iraq denounced on Saturday as “unacceptable” a U.S. decision to blacklist the leader of a state umbrella group for mainly Iran-backed Shi’ite militia. – Reuters

The Iranian website Irdiplomacy.ir published an article, titled “Baghdad Hastily Moves Closer To Ankara; Iraq, Another Azerbaijan for Turkey!” According to Irdiplomacy.ir, Turkey has the capacity to meet the commodity needs of Iraq, by providing technical engineering assistance and partnering in Iraqi investment projects. Turkey’s help to Baghdad will move Iraq’s public opinion toward Turkey, thus creating a chasm between Iran and Iraq. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Michael Knights writes: The Treasury Department and other agencies worked for a long time to collate and verify evidence of Fayyad’s role in human rights violations, corruption, and collusion with designated terrorist organizations such as Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. Thus, while the decision to sanction him comes at the end of an administration, it is by no means a hasty action. More important, the incoming Biden team should not forget that Iraq’s brave protestors deserve to be protected and lauded alongside those in Hong Kong, Russia, Lebanon, Thailand, Chile, and other locales. – Washington Institute


The leader of Lebanon’s biggest Christian political party on Sunday ruled out joining a new government led by Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri, a new hurdle for efforts to pull the country out of political paralysis. – Reuters

Hizubllah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech on January 8, 2021, which was aired on many channels, including Palestine Today TV (Lebanon). Nasrallah said that the Capitol storming by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021, reveals the truth about America’s democracy. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Israeli military jets carried out several low flying flights over Beirut as reconnaissance drones also buzzed overhead Sunday in what has become a daily occurrence. – Associated Press

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that recent events in the United States would have global repercussions and prayed that God protect the world until Jan. 20 when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. – Reuters


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a foreign terrorist organization, four U.S. officials familiar with the decision said on Sunday, deploying one of his last means of hard power against Saudi Arabia’s nemesis at the risk of exacerbating a famine in one of the world’s poorest nations. – New York Times

Aid cuts by the Trump administration and other Western countries, intended to prevent Yemen’s Houthi rebels from diverting or blocking funds, are worsening the country’s humanitarian crisis, already considered the most severe in the world. – Washington Post

A leader of Yemen’s Houthi movement said on Monday that the Iran-aligned group reserved the right to respond to any U.S. move to blacklist them after the Trump administration announced its intent to designate it as a foreign terrorist organization. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to designate Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organisation could disrupt peace efforts and hamper the delivery of life-saving aid in a country where fears of famine are rising, humanitarian agencies say. […]Here are some of the possible implications. – Reuters

Gulf States

Qatar Airways and Saudi Airlines will resume flights between Doha and Riyadh from Monday in a reopening of airspace as part of a political rapprochement in a three-year-old dispute. – Reuters

Qatari vehicles crossed into Saudi Arabia through a land border on Saturday for the first time since Arab states severed diplomatic and transport ties with Doha in mid-2017, Saudi state TV said, following a deal this week to restore relations. – Reuters

A contract for the sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to the United Arab Emirates is likely to be inked before the end of the Trump administration, according to a top U.S. State Department official. – Defense News

Nicole Robinson writes: As competition heats up in the Gulf region and other parts of the world, the U.S. has an opportunity to positively engage with its Gulf partners through a multilateral framework that will strengthen the Gulf Cooperation Council against economic and security challenges in the future. – The Daily Signal

Middle East & North Africa

U.S. Ambassador to Morocco David T. Fischer took part in a ceremony Sunday in Dakhla, the first formal step to open a consulate, marking a turning point for the disputed and closely policed territory in North Africa. – Associated Press

A top US envoy visited contested Western Sahara on Saturday, after Washington recognised Morocco’s sovereignty there in exchange for Rabat normalising ties with Israel. – Agence France-Presse

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will cut short a seven-country trip to the Middle East and North Africa and return to the U.S. this weekend, said a person familiar with his plans. – Bloomberg

Ambassador David Govrin will head to Rabat in the coming weeks to reopen Israel’s liaison office in Morocco, the Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Maged Atef writes: Therefore, the ideal solution for the Egyptian regime is to negotiate a middle ground between confrontation and compliance by creating the illusion of a space for civil liberties and releasing some of the political detainees[…]. This strategy seems to be logically consistent with Sisi’s philosophy of ruling by force. However, it will depend to a great extent on Cairo realizing that no matter how much resistance is shown, the Democrats will not engage in confrontation past the point of no return. – Washington Institute

Moshe Phillips writes: The Middle East’s political climate has changed remarkably in the last several years, in part due to the work of the Trump administration’s Middle East team. One thing that the Biden administration can do to not squander what has been accomplished is to bring a swift end to US sponsorship of the Quartet. It has shown that it is systemically incapable of being a fair arbiter where Israel is concerned — and is out of step with the Arab states normalizing relations with Israel. – Algemeiner

Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, vowed to advance his country’s nuclear capabilities, declaring that it will build land- and submarine-launched solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as making its nuclear missiles smaller, lighter and more precise, the North’s state media reported on Saturday. – New York Times

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called the United States “our biggest enemy,” and said Washington’s hostile policy toward his country won’t change despite whoever is in the White House, state media reported on Saturday. – Washington Post 

A South Korean court ruled that Japan should compensate a dozen Korean women who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during World War II, exacerbating already strained ties between the two U.S. allies. – Wall Street Journal

South Korean president Moon Jae-in has urged Kim Jong Un to return to talks with Seoul and Washington, as uncertainty builds over how Joe Biden’s incoming administration will handle the North Korean nuclear threat. – Financial Times

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has had his official party title changed, state media reported Monday, assuming a position previously held by his late father in what analysts said was a move to bolster his authority. – Agence France-Presse

Kim Jong Un’s ambitious new plan for the next five years is aimed at developing North Korea’s shattered economy, but the proposals may falter in the face of major crises that have already stalled the young leader’s current projects. – Reuters

North Korea appeared to stage a military parade as part of a grand party congress that laid out the scale of the challenge U.S. President-elect Joe Biden faces to rein in Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program. – Bloomberg


China fired back at the Trump administration on Saturday with new rules that would punish global companies for complying with Washington’s tightening restrictions on doing business with Chinese companies. – New York Times

China has agreed to allow a team of World Health Organization experts to enter the country to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, days after the United Nations agency’s top official criticized Beijing for holding up the mission. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. investors have borne the brunt of an executive order signed by President Trump that was meant to hit the Chinese military by curtailing access to American dollars. – Wall Street Journal

The EU and China have struck their long-awaited investment deal — but what is Beijing’s signature worth when it comes to trade pacts, and what does it cost? Australia, which has descended into a nasty trade fight with China, its biggest trading partner, has some uncomfortable answers for the Europeans on these questions. – Politico

The new year will present many challenges for the global defense industry. Among these is the imperative to advance our technical superiority in space to combat the increasing threats we face from China. – Defense News

Nathan Law writes: What we need for the people of Hong Kong, and democracy in general, is the determination to put human rights above trade interests. We need concrete policies that hold the authoritarian CCP accountable. Statements of concern and condemnation are not enough — and trade or investment agreements with autocracies are even worse. For Beijing, these signatures on agreements are green lights to continue their actions with impunity. The European Parliament should resolutely reject the investment deal to demonstrate leadership in the fight against authoritarianism. – Washington Post

Michael Schuman writes: The U.S. supported Beijing’s economic reforms based on the hope that as China grew richer, everyone would benefit from its greater prosperity and security. But if Xi succeeds in replacing more of what China purchases from the world, he will also undermine the economic rationale for continued engagement with a brutal authoritarian regime. Xi thinks he is shielding China against isolation. He could instead be causing it. – The Atlantic

South Asia

After Ahmad Jawad Hijri saw the wounded children in the hospital and learned of the Afghan airstrike that put them there, killing nine others around their age in northern Afghanistan, he never expected that his response would land him in jail. – New York Times

The unclaimed Dec. 23 assassination of Yousuf Rasheed, 45, the executive director of the nonprofit Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan, was among at least two dozen targeted killings of Afghan journalists, civic activists, religious scholars and government employees in recent months. – Washington Post

The Afghan government is investigating an air strike by its military in the southern province of Nimroz that local officials say resulted in the deaths of 14 civilians, as local residents brought their bodies to the provincial capital in protest. – Reuters

Pakistan is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to put the fiscal support program back on track, the country’s central bank governor said on Monday. – Reuters

China has called for the swift return of a soldier it says is being held by Indian authorities after disappearing along the border. – Reuters


The U.S. on Saturday eased restrictions governing diplomats’ and other officials’ dealings with Taiwan officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. – Wall Street Journal

Voters in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan were on track to elect as president nationalist politician Sadyr Japarov[…]. The election on Sunday, which also saw voters approve changes to the constitution giving the president greater powers, is the first vote since riots last year that forced former president Sooronbai Jeenbekov to resign, capping a long period of political uncertainty in the Russian-aligned country. – Wall Street Journal

International businesses in Hong Kong see law and order as key for investing, a city government official said on Monday, in response to concern about the impact of a sweeping national security law on the business environment. – Reuters

A Hong Kong website that publishes material mainly related to anti-government protests in 2019 said its users’ access had been blocked by the city’s internet service providers (ISPs). – Reuters

China said on Monday it strongly condemned and firmly opposed meddling in its domestic affairs by the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia, after they condemned the arrest of activists in Hong Kong. – Reuters

Philippines House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco renewed a proposal to amend the country’s Constitution by lifting restrictive economic provisions to attract more foreign investments. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Secretary of State and foreign ministers of the U.K., Canada and Australia expressed their “serious concern” about the arrest of 55 politicians and activists in Hong Kong, the governments said in a joint statement. – Bloomberg

Vietnam’s ruling Communist party has begun its secretive five-yearly reshuffle to select the leaders who will steer one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies through the coronavirus pandemic, trade tensions with the US and worsening political friction with China. – Financial Times

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev plan to meet in Moscow Monday for the first time since their countries fought a 44-day war. – Bloomberg

China’s state media lashed out at the latest move on Taiwan by the departing Trump administration, accusing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “seeking to maliciously inflict a long-lasting scar on China-U.S. ties.” – Associated Press

Editorial: The arrest of an American is a particular provocation and familiar Beijing ploy. China is still holding two innocent Canadians as political hostages in retribution for Ottawa holding a Huawei official who has been indicted by the U.S. Mr. Blinken’s comments are welcome, but China will be watching to see if words are all it has to worry about. – Wall Street Journal

Tim Culpan writes: But if it’s to truly take its place in the world, it needs countries like the U.S. to view Taipei not as a better version of their large rival, and a convenient bulwark against Beijing expansionism. Instead, it needs the world to see Taiwan as a place worthy of its own narrative, one that’s apart from their toughening policies toward China. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: To be clear, Taiwan is a democratic ally with the right to set its own destiny. The United States is right to provide Taiwan with active support, including military sales. But the U.S. must proceed with clarity as to the sensitivity with which Xi views Taiwan. He sees this nation as a breakaway province requiring submission under the communist flag. – Washington Examiner

Miro Popkhadze writes: This is why the U.S. should increase its military presence in the South Caucasus and embrace the opportunities Georgia offers against the challenges emanating from the Middle East. A American military base in Georgia, integrated into the new distributed basing architecture, will provide the U.S. with more flexibility to deter Russia, contain Iran, and get the upper hand against violent extremism while preparing for a future-focused on great power competition. – Washington Examiner

Olivia Enos writes: But it’s almost as if the Chinese government missed the second part of that fateful day. Rather than allowing for democracy to be derailed, both Democrats and Republicans returned to the same Capitol building that had been ransacked earlier that day to certify the election result and to restore order to our divided nation. – The Daily Signal


Britain started 2021 in a new relationship with its biggest trade partner, and it has immediately brought a litany of headaches and lost business. – New York Times

NATO says that Russian military activity near the alliance’s airspace increased slightly this year as its jets across Europe scrambled more than 400 times to escort or shadow unknown aircraft. – Associated Press

French Europe Minister Clément Beaune stands by his tough rhetoric on Brexit, but hopes the U.K. will come back to the EU. – Politico

Britain’s opposition leader, Keir Starmer, said there’s no case for the U.K. to seek to rejoin the European Union and that his Labour Party won’t try to reintroduce the freedom of movement that was ended by Brexit. – Bloomberg

Sweden’s top defense official said staying out of NATO remains the best security option for the country, even with an increasingly assertive Russia. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The investment agreement’s ratification is far from guaranteed. Both sides still have to finalize the text, which needs approval from the European Parliament and every European head of state or government. Finding a way to kill the deal, and start a new negotiation alongside Europe and the U.S., is an early test for Mr. Biden’s promise to rebuild America’s alliances. – Wall Street Journal

Robin Niblett writes: If Britain doesn’t invest enough in diplomacy, it can forget its global ambitions. Shorn of the loyalty of its EU neighbors, and with others obliged to prioritize relations with their own regional neighbors or the big powers, the U.K. could find itself squeezed to the margins. Britain’s recent humiliations at the U.N. — such as its failure to win a seat on the International Court of Justice in the election of judges in 2017 and its defeat in a vote over the fate of the Chagos Islands in May 2019 — are warnings for what it’s post-Brexit future could become. – Politico

James Durso writes: In an ideal world, the EU would be aligned with the U.S. so they can face the challenges of Russia and China together. But if the EU aligns with China, the U.S. should avoid futilely bidding for Europe’s attention, and align with Russia to balance against China. […]The U.S. should bear down on the seams in Europe and use bilateral agreements to fracture the continent’s new relationship with China.  – The Hill

Martin Ivens writes: The big picture, as ever, is dominated by transatlantic power politics and financial clout. France has long thought the British too servile to the American hyperpower, while the British see the French as supplicants to the mighty German economy. Having minor roles doesn’t make the cross-Channel jostling for advantage any less vigorous. […]Today London can no longer vie with Paris for influence at the heart of Europe and Joe Biden isn’t likely to be a bosom buddy of Johnson. – Bloomberg


At least six rangers in DR Congo’s Virunga national park, famous for its mountain gorillas, were killed Sunday in an attack officials blamed on a militia group. – Agence France-Presse

Rebels attacked two towns in the Central African Republic on Saturday as French warplanes flew over in an apparent attempt to deter an advance on the capital after a disputed election. – Reuters

Ethiopia’s military said on Sunday it had killed 15 members of the Tigray region’s former ruling party and captured eight others, according to state-run TV. – Reuters

In a world confronted by turmoil from the coronavirus to the transition of power in Washington, the democratic struggles of a place whose economy is only marginally larger than that of Wyoming may look like an aside. The country in Africa’s northeast, though, could provide a litmus test for a new approach to U.S. foreign policy under Joe Biden after he pledged a tougher line on overseas human rights abuses. – Bloomberg

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia failed to agree on the way forward for talks on Ethiopia’s giant dam on a Nile River tributary, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. – Bloomberg

Latin America

New York federal prosecutors made new allegations that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, a key Trump administration ally in efforts to stop illegal migrants, received millions of dollars from drug traffickers to help export tons of cocaine to the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

At least 23 people died over the weekend in a clash between police and gangs in Venezuela’s capital Caracas, according to news reports and human rights activists, as the government faces international scrutiny for killings by security forces. – Reuters

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: The breakdown of democratic institutions in the region coincides with the use of the term “participatory democracy” as a way of suffocating pluralism and tolerance. Wherever mere political activism by organized pressure groups is not enough (because two can play that game), soviets claiming grass-roots legitimacy take matters into their own hands. Bolivia, where mobs blocked highways to paralyze the country and bring Evo Morales to power, and Venezuela, where “colectivos” were unleashed to enforce chavismo, are the most extreme cases, but there are many others. – Wall Street Journal

United States

Support grew among Democrats for impeaching President Trump over the Capitol riot and a new Republican senator indicated openness to such a step, while the president remained out of public view and authorities charged more rioters. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. counterterrorism prosecutors are investigating two men who allegedly wore tactical gear and held plastic restraints or zip ties in the U.S. Senate during the breach of the U.S. Capitol last week, the Justice Department announced. The men were arrested Sunday. – Washington Post

The incoming Biden administration plans to restructure and expand the operations of the White House National Security Council, establishing new senior positions on global health, democracy and human rights, and cyber and emerging technology, signaling a sweeping shift in priorities, according to a senior adviser to the Biden transition. – Washington Post

A federal judge on Friday blocked the Trump administration from implementing a rule, set to take effect next week, that would have closed the doors of the United States to most asylum seekers. – New York Times

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to the top U.S. military commander on Friday about taking precautions to ensure that Republican President Donald Trump cannot initiate hostilities or order a nuclear strike in his remaining 12 days in office. – Reuters

The European Union’s top diplomat said on Sunday that last week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol exposed the dangers of allowing the degradation of democratic values to go unchecked and disinformation to spread on social media. – Reuters

Pope Francis urged Americans on Sunday to shun violence, seek reconciliation and protect democratic values, following the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol building by supporters of President Donald Trump that left five people dead. – Reuters

Leonid Bershidsky writes: As for Putin, America’s wars with itself are not really his to win. The value of U.S. instability to him is vastly overrated; the highly stable Barack Obama, not Trump, was president when he seized Crimea, attacked eastern Ukraine, went into Syria, made inroads in Africa. On the other hand, mob scenes on TV don’t actually detract as much from U.S. military or economic strength as Putin perhaps would like. Any “gift” he may have received this week is only an empty wrapper. – Bloomberg

Matthew Levitt writes: The United States built a global coalition to defeat the Islamic State militant group, and maintains troops around the world to help keep peace from the Korean Peninsula to eastern Syria. But now even our closest allies are expressing deep concern about the state of American democracy. – Washington Institute


Allies of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have ramped up a push for a last-minute pardon from President Trump, enlisting a lobbyist with connections to the administration, trying to rally supporters across the political spectrum and filing a clemency petition with the White House. – New York Times

President Trump’s political appointees clashed with career intelligence analysts over the extent to which Russia and China interfered or sought to interfere in the 2020 election, with each side accusing the other of politicization, according to a report by an intelligence community ombudsman. – Washington Post

The U.S. government’s ability to protect itself from Russian hackers has gotten worse, according to a majority of experts surveyed by The Cybersecurity 202. – Washington Post

Silicon Valley’s moves to eject President Trump from social media represent a display of power the companies have avoided making for nearly four years. Now Twitter Inc., TWTR -1.62% Facebook Inc. FB -0.44% and others must reckon with what comes next. – Wall Street Journal

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) says it’s responding to a breach of one of its data systems. – The Hill

New authorities from the recently enacted defense bill are expected to help the U.S. government in its response to the SolarWinds hack believed to be perpetrated by Russia. – The Hill

The Air Force is using an unclassified training exercise to ready some personnel for offensive missions that protect the nation in cyberspace. – C4ISRNET


President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for U.S. defense secretary, retired General Lloyd Austin, stands to collect as much as $1.7 million connected with leaving Raytheon Technologies Corp, an ethics disclosure showed on Sunday. – Reuters

Last month, a team from the Air Force Test Center carried out the first-ever Air Force flight demonstration of collaborative weapons, using an F-16 carrying Collaborative Small Diameter Bombs (CSDBs). The CSDBs are Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs) that have been modified with a collaborative autonomy payload. – Business Insider

The true capabilities of Russia’s and China’s new anti-carrier weapons are still unknown, but recent tests prove that US Navy carriers may not enjoy unquestioned dominance for much longer. – Business Insider

The first opportunity for industry to demonstrate technology for the Pentagon’s enduring counter-drone capability will take place in April, according to the two-star general in charge of the joint effort. – Defense News

After a bruising, year-long fight with Congress, part of the Navy’s plan to field unmanned ships appears to be on life support, making 2021 a crucial year for plotting a path forward. – Defense News

The attack from the late Sen. John McCain was predictable but that did little to lessen the pain. […]By the time McCain had finished, the battle lines between Congress and the Navy had been drawn: lawmakers were through with expensive shipbuilding failures. – Defense News

Michael O’Hanlon writes: Most of the nation’s nonlethal weapons research is done by the Defense Department. But it isn’t a Pentagon priority. Many concepts thought feasible 20 years ago or more haven’t made huge progress. Traditional ordnance remains the coin of the realm for almost all tactical settings in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether to stop a suspicious truck, incapacitate a shooter immersed within a civilian crowd, or create a perimeter around a sensitive site, lethal weaponry is still the default mechanism by which American military forces protect themselves. – Wall Street Journal

Mark F. Cancian writes: Part of U.S. Military Forces in FY 2021. Beyond the traditional military services, military forces include the new Space Force as well as Special Operations Forces (SOF, which functions as a quasi-service), Department of Defense (DOD) civilians (which perform many functions that military personnel perform in other countries), and contractors (which form a permanent element of the national security establishment, not only in the United States proper but also on overseas battlefields). – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Gen. Mike Murray writes: As the geopolitical landscape continues to shift and technologies continue to rapidly advance, the character of war will continue to evolve. Army Futures Command remains committed to providing the best solutions to rapidly transform our Army to ensure we maintain technological and war-fighting superiority in the 21st century. – Defense News

Mark F. Cancian, Adam Saxton, Owen Helman, Lee Ann Bryan, and Nidal Morrison write: With the shift of U.S. strategic focus to great power competition, interest in industrial mobilization for a long-term, high-intensity conflict has returned. However, the highly consolidated and fragile U.S. defense industrial base is not designed to meet this challenge. To gain insight into the ability of the defense industrial base to meet the demands of great power conflict, this project reviewed the history and literature on industrial mobilization and then analyzed the time needed to replace contemporary weapon systems’ inventory at peacetime and surge production rates. – Center for Strategic and International Studies