Fdd's overnight brief

January 13, 2020

In The News


Iran’s leaders grappled with a second day of protests that spread beyond Tehran as they tried to contain international criticism and domestic anger a day after they admitted the armed forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner, following prior denials. – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s admission that its armed forces shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner appeared intended to salvage its credibility at a time of heightened international tension and domestic unrest. Instead, it triggered quick anger from Iranians aimed at the country’s leadership. – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s admission Saturday that “human error” brought down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 added fresh details to what Western officials had concluded — a missile was to blame for Wednesday’s disaster that left all 176 people aboard the Kyiv-bound flight dead. – Washington Post

A top Iranian military commander made a rare public appeal for forgiveness on Sunday as security forces fired on protesters and outrage over the mistaken downing of a jetliner reignited opposition on the streets and stirred dissent within the government’s conservative base. – New York Times

White House officials on Sunday defended the U.S. killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, while acknowledging potential gaps in their assertion that four U.S. embassies had become imminent targets of Iranian attack. – Wall Street Journal

European foreign ministers on Friday said that the escalation between the United States and Iran had risked progress against Islamic State militants, and they rallied behind their tattered nuclear deal, despite President Trump’s renewed call for allies to abandon it. – Washington Post

Early Saturday, Tehran admitted that an Iranian missile downed the Ukrainian plane because of a “human error,” killing all 176 passengers. It was a rare admission for the authoritarian government whose talking points just hours before had dismissed the accusations as “psychological warfare.” Still, much remains at stake. – Washington Post

The Trump administration hit Iran with more sanctions Friday in the first concrete response to the attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq this week, which were in retaliation for the U.S. airstrike that killed the most powerful Iranian military commander.Washington Post

Fresh sanction powers authorized by President Trump against Iran could squeeze the remaining trade and finance channels keeping the Iranian economy on life support by threatening those companies still doing business with the country. – Wall Street Journal

Though it was fired by Shiite militia members in Iraq, Mr. Levi has sought for years to hold another party responsible: Iran. […]His name may not have been well known to most Americans, but the general had long been a focus of anger for many wounded veterans and families of those killed in Iraq. American officials have blamed General Suleimani for a campaign of roadside bombs and other attacks that they say killed hundreds of troops at the height of the Iraq war, which took the lives of nearly 4,500 American service members and left more than 30,000 wounded. – New York Times

A senior Iranian commander who admitted to Iran’s role in the recent downing of a Ukrainian airplane bragged in 2016 that even the youngest Iranian officers have unilateral authority to conduct strikes like the one that downed the Ukrainian plane, killing every civilian aboard, according to video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. – Washington Free Beacon

Fallout from Iran-U.S. tensions intensified Sunday as missiles pounded an Iraqi air base hosting U.S. troops while Iranians defied a government crackdown and protested their government’s accidental shootdown of a passenger jet. – USA Today

Iran has signalled it favours a de-escalation after 10 days of heightened tensions with the United States during which both sides fired missiles and Tehran accidentally shot down a passenger aircraft. – Agence France-Presse

US President Donald Trump said Saturday the United States was monitoring Iranian demonstrations closely, warning against any new “massacre” as protests broke out after Tehran admitted to shooting down a passenger plane. – Agence France-Presse

The Iranian regime is threatened under President Trump for the first time ever, according to one Muslim scholar. – Washington Examiner

Details about why Iran air defense forces mistook a Ukrainian airliner for a cruise missile early Wednesday remain murky, but one thing is clear: Safeguards for operating surface-to-air missiles are supposed to prevent that kind of mistaken identity and all of them failed. – Bloomberg

Qassem Suleimani’s wrecked car was still smouldering when the predicted consequences of his death started to rebound across the Middle East. […]Yet the aftermath of the most significant assassination of modern times has not created the turmoil that many had predicted. – The Guardian

The Iranian regime’s campaign to portray itself as a victim of  U.S. aggression following the assassination of Gen. Qassem Suleimani has turned into a public relations disaster at home and around the world as thousands of anti-government protesters have poured into the streets, expressing outrage over the government’s lies. – Foreign Policy

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist has reportedly defected, posting a goodbye letter to Iran on Saturday, calling out the government’s “hypocrisy” as she announced she had permanently left the country. – Fox News

Aaron Blake writes: For six days after Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s death, the Trump administration assured us he was behind “imminent” attacks but declined to offer details. Then Trump came out Thursday and just said it: The deceased Quds Force commander was going to “blow up” a U.S. embassy. – Washington Post

Karim Sadjadpour writes: These achievements made the soft-spoken, diminutive Soleimani a commanding figure in Tehran. An Iranian adage holds that if you look closely at the manicured hands of the country’s ruling clerics—especially the hard-liners romanticizing martyrdom and calling for the destruction of Israel and the West—you will see that most of them have never known manual labor, let alone war. Not Soleimani. He didn’t need to breathe rhetorical fire; his entire career had been drenched in blood, and everyone knew it. – Wall Street Journal

Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer write: As the United States and Iran exchange missiles and drone strikes, the countries’ top diplomats are fighting a global public relations campaign aimed at convincing the world they are in the right. And Zarif is proving a formidable adversary. – Foreign Policy

Kaylee McGhee writes: Right now, Iran is a powder keg. The Iranian government tried to extinguish last year’s protests with brutality, but the Iranian people have now made it clear that they care more about freedom than their own safety. “There is fire under the ashes,” Hadi Ghaemi, executive director for the Center for Human Rights in Iran, said, citing an Iranian proverb. “They did not put out the fire. And don’t be surprised if it gets inflamed.” – Washington Examiner

Barry Werner writes: Iran is especially dangerous now. It’s in a use it or lose it situation. It can’t eat its weapons; it has to use them. But Iran is also in a bind. If Iran doesn’t carry out its retaliatory threats against the US, it may lose its place as the indisputable leader of the radical Islamist crusade against Israel. If Iran does carry out its retaliatory threats against the US, it will lose everything. – Jerusalem Post

Nicholas Heras, Frederick Kagan, Kyra Rauschenbach, and Jason Zhou write: Iran has been escalating its attacks on American and allied targets since May 2019. […]Iran’s escalations occurred in phases and were part of an orchestrated campaign to achieve its strategic objectives, including sanctions relief and the ouster of the U.S. from Iraq and the region. – Institute for the Study of War

Michael Rubin writes: Simply put, Iranian engineers and scientists are adept at developing cutting edge military technologies. […]The question for policymakers in Washington and among America’s Gulf allies is how Iranian acquisition of robotics and artificial intelligence technologies might impact basic assumptions about Iranian behavior and alter the regional military balance. Iran’s military industries may not yet have developed or been able to field the robotic and autonomous systems that now populate American, Chinese, and Russian arsenals, but they may not remain far behind for long. – The National Interest

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: It would be false comfort to assume that the lack of casualties means that Iran is unsophisticated or incapable militarily. Quite the contrary. An Iranian military commander said it was intentional that there were no deaths, and policymakers should believe him. – American Enterprise Institute

Jon B. Alterman writes: The killing of Qassem Soleimani has not provoked a crisis — it has provoked three crises. The obvious one is in U.S.-Iran relations, which have been poisonous for four decades. A somewhat less obvious one is in the global counterterrorism fight in Iraq, which relies on a steady U.S. hand. […]The third is in Great Power relations, where both Russia and China seek to have the United States taken down a peg. While the potential crisis of war with Iran has been averted, for now, Iran remains a stubborn challenge for the United States, and the other two crises continue unabated. – The Hill


The Trump administration is prioritizing the threat posed by Hezbollah and the rest of Iran’s terrorist proxy network in ways President Barack Obama’s administration never did, said the DEA’s top narcoterrorism agent. – Washington Examiner

Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Sunday it was time for Iran’s allies to begin working to retaliate for the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani though it would be a “long path” to the goal of ejecting U.S. forces from the region. – Reuters

Iran has warned Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah that he could be the next target of the United States, Israeli television reported Friday. – Times of Israel

Zvi Bar’el writes: As in Iraq, where protested took to the streets calling against Iran and its Shi’ite militias, in Lebanon too, voices have been raised against Hezbollah, accusing it of acting in Iran’s name to break up the anti-government movement. After Soleimani was killed, many feared that Hezbollah would take revenge by attacking Israel. Such a scenario surely would have led to a massive retaliation that would have damaged civilian infrastructure in Lebanon, precisely at a time when the country is at the throes of one of its worst economic and financial crises. – Haaretz

David Daoud writes: While eulogizing Soleimani, the group’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah essentially declared open-ended war on all American forces throughout the Middle East, irrespective of an Iranian retaliation. But despite Nasrallah’s bellicosity, Hezbollah is too constrained by domestic factors to directly retaliate against U.S. forces. Indirect attacks are more likely. – Haaretz


Airstrikes hit Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria, killing at least eight fighters and targeting weapons stores and shipments, according to monitoring groups, at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran in the region. – Wall Street Journal

Russia and its allies halted air strikes in Syria’s Idlib region on Sunday as a ceasefire agreed with Turkey came into force, residents, rebels and respondents said, although few were optimistic the truce would hold. – Reuters

At least 17 people were killed and more than 40 injured on Saturday after Syrian army air strikes struck four cities in the country’s northwestern region of Idlib, witnesses and a local civil defense center said. – Reuters

Editorial: Among the many still-festering issues in the Middle East that may be worsened or neglected as a result of the rise in U.S.-Iran tension, none is more poignant than the plight of thousands of small children from outside the region who are languishing in camps across northeastern Syria. […]Formidable as the obstacles, legal, logistical and political, may be, it is a risk worth taking, especially given the risks of doing nothing. – Washington Post

Wladimir van Wilgenburg writes: With the latest unexpected escalation between Iran and the United States in Iraq, the ongoing challenges of Syria have, for the moment, become a less-discussed point of regional tension. However, for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which precariously continues to control an autonomous region of Northeastern Syria, the last few months have tested the organization’s hold over the region. – Washington Institute


The West’s reluctance to transfer critical air defense technology to Turkey may be pushing the NATO ally further into the orbit of Russian-made weapons systems, particularly for the acquisition of the S-500 platform currently in development. – Defense News

Pinar Tremblay writes: The learning curve of the Syrian civil war has been a steep one for Ankara. However, if conflict between Tehran and Washington compels Ankara to take sides, Erdogan’s level of success in this could largely depend on how well he can manage his team, particularly the National Intelligence Organization, to continue some degree of coordination with Iran while not alienating the United States. – Al-Monitor

Philip H. Gordon and Amanda Sloat write: The United States and Turkey are on a collision course. Although the two countries have been NATO allies for nearly 70 years, that partnership has gradually deteriorated over the past few years, as Washington wondered if it could rely on Turkey and Ankara feared that the United States didn’t take its security concerns seriously. In the last six months, however, relations have taken a real nose-dive. – Foreign Affairs


Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee, said on Thursday that the Palestinian Arabs are demanding that the EU pressure Israel to allow elections to take place in eastern Jerusalem. – Arutz Sheva

In a broadside against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman claimed on Saturday the Israeli leader would be willing to build a coalition with the Hamas terror group if it meant he could clinch parliamentary immunity from prosecution. – Times of Israel

Thursday, the Palestinian Legislative Council (Parliament) called on Thursday for the endorsement of the steadfast population of the occupied city of Jerusalem through implementing projects that aim at strengthening Palestinians’ roots in the face of the occupation and the rabid campaign of Judaisation targeting them. – Middle East Monitor

Armed with a tip from informants at the airport in the Syrian capital of Damascus, the CIA knew exactly when a jet carrying Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani took off en route to Baghdad. Intelligence from Israel helped confirm the details. – NBC

Around 1,200 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem received Israeli citizenship last year, the largest number since Israel captured the eastern half of the city in 1967. – Haaretz

Israel’s foreign minister has postponed a visit to Dubai this month due to security concerns, diplomats said on Sunday, linking the decision to Iran-U.S. tensions. – Reuters

The Palestinian Authority’s National Security Forces (NSF) and the Fatah movement recently held a training camp for high school girls, at which the participants wore military-style uniforms and took part in various activities, some of them military, such as training with mock weapons.[1] The camp was named after Karim Younis, an Israeli Arab who is serving a life sentence for the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli soldier in 1980. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Amos Harel writes: It looks as if Israeli caution includes, at this stage, restraint with regard to offensive action on the northern front. The report from last week that attributed to Israel an attack on a truck carrying weapons near the Bukamal crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi border doesn’t seem reliable. If it is true that Israeli offensive actions have been halted, one must assume that this is temporary, until what’s going on between the United States and Iran is clarified. – Haaretz

Rachel Touitou writes: It is deeply worrying that a nation which spends over 5% of its defense budget, totaling tens of billions of dollars per annum, has complete air supremacy over Gaza, is surrendering to an organization without much heavy weaponry, let alone a single tank division. Only defeated or weak-willed nations seek truces, and if Israel surrenders and admits defeat against Hamas it will only embolden all of the Jewish state’s enemies near and far. The ayatollahs in Iran, Hezbollah in the North, and the many other enemies chomping at the bit will be buoyed by these developments. – Jerusalem Post

Moshe Dann writes: Here’s how the EU/UN/PLO plan works: First, demonizing and isolating Israel diplomatically by the international community, and recognizing a Palestinian state. Second, applying economic and military sanctions against Israel in order to force it to withdraw from “occupied Palestinian territory, OPT.” Implementing this plan will not lead to peace – the “two-state solution” – it will be (for Israel) “the final solution.”- Jerusalem Post

Yaakov Katz writes: The United States learned the “kindergarten lesson” this week, something Israel has sharpened and perfected over the years in the way it formulates policy. It goes something like this: if Hamas fires a rocket but it doesn’t hurt anyone then there is no reason to retaliate aggressively. […]The problem is that this is no way to formulate policy. If rocket fire is a threat, then it needs to be dealt with whether the rockets hit and hurt someone or don’t. A government shouldn’t wait for people to be killed before dealing with a threat. That is not a strategy. – Jerusalem Post


The spike in tensions between the U.S. and Iran has made it harder for pro-democracy movements to press for more political freedoms in Iran, Iraq and across the Middle East, even if the desire for change is seldom far from the surface. – Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration warned Iraq this week that it risks losing access to a critical government bank account if Baghdad kicks out American forces following the U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general, according to Iraqi officials. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. and Iraq clashed on Friday over the future of the American troop presence in Iraq, with Washington pushing back on Baghdad’s request for talks to prepare for a withdrawal, the latest sign of diplomatic fallout from the U.S.’s killing of an Iranian general on Iraqi soil. – Wall Street Journal

More so than at any point since the rise of the Islamic State in 2014, foreign troop presence in Iraq is now in question. Iranian-backed militias and politicians want U.S. troops to leave to strengthen Iran’s influence, and many anti-government protesters, who have been filling Iraq’s streets for months, want both the United States and Iran out to overhaul the corrupt and sectarian political system set up after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. – Washington Post

The Trump administration refused again Friday to recognize Iraq’s call to withdraw all U.S. troops, saying that any discussion with Baghdad would center on whatever force size the United States determines is sufficient to achieve its goals there. – Washington Post

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has asked U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to set up a mechanism for U.S. troops to withdraw from the country, according to an Iraqi statement released Friday. On Sunday, the Iraqi parliament issued a nonbinding call for the estimated 5,000 U.S. troops to leave Iraq. – Washington Post

Ever since the Trump administration exited the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, reimposing sanctions and pursuing a “maximum pressure” policy on Tehran[…] Iraq has been at the center of an intensifying tug of war between Tehran and Washington, according to Osamah Khalil, a historian of U.S. foreign relations and the Middle East at Syracuse University.  – USA Today

In the aftermath of the U.S.-Iran escalation in Iraq, correspondents from the U.S.-funded Al-Hurra TV in Najaf and Baghdad announced on their social media accounts that they had submitted their resignations without providing reasons. Reports in Iraqi media have raised questions about the timing of these resignations, pointing out that the correspondents had been in their roles for over ten years and would therefore be unlikely to announce their resignations without giving an explanation. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Azhar Al-Rubaie writes: Despite the apparent move towards de-escalation on both sides, Soleimani’s killing has nevertheless drastically escalated U.S.-Iran tensions, which had been fraying in the past several weeks due to engagement with the Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah forces inside Iraq. For Iraq’s political establishment and its proxy forces, the response has been clear: thousands of people gathered in Baghdad and many other Iraqi cities to mourn the deaths of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) also called Hashd Al-Shaabi group. This precession wound its way through Kadhimiya and towards the Green Zone, where government and diplomatic compounds were located. – Washington Institute

Katherine Lawlor, Brandon Wallace, and Jason Zhou write: Iraq’s parliament passed a non-binding resolution to revoke U.S. and coalition basing privileges in retaliation for the U.S. strike that killed Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and Popular Mobilization Commission Deputy Chairman Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis. It is unclear whether Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi can legally rescind the executive agreement that underpins the U.S. military presence in Iraq, given his resignation on November 29, 2019. – Institute for the Study of War


A fragile cease-fire began in Libya on Sunday after months in which foreign military intervention intensified a civil war that has raged on Europe’s doorstep. – Wall Street Journal

Both sides in Libya’s conflict are expected Monday in Moscow to sign an agreement on the terms of a ceasefire which went into effect over the weekend, ending nine months of fighting after weeks of international diplomacy. – Agence France-Presse

A ceasefire in Libya initiated by Turkey and Russia saw a lull in heavy fighting and air strikes on Sunday, though both warring factions accused each other of violating the truce as skirmishes continued around the capital Tripoli. – Reuters

Ben Fishman writes: The United States is the only actor that holds enough weight with all the foreign parties to bring about an authentic ceasefire. Despite being consumed with crises in Iran and Iraq, Washington should expend the diplomatic effort required to pursue durable stability in Libya before the country slips further toward endemic chaos. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman was buried Saturday and a new ruler was named to succeed him, signaling continuity in the small Gulf Arab country that commands an outsized influence for its location along some of the world’s most vital trade routes and its role as a regional mediator. – Washington Post

The United States is preparing to remove more than a dozen Saudi military students from a training program and return them to their home country after an investigation into a deadly shooting by a Saudi aviation student at a Florida navy base last month, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. – Associated Press

Judith Miller writes: Qaboos’s diplomatic efforts were broad-ranging. He encouraged efforts to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians and kept Oman’s embassy in Cairo open after 1979, when other Arab leaders shunned Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for making peace with Israel.  […]Qaboos’s cousin and successor, former Culture Minister Haitham bin Tariq al Said, vows to continue the sultan’s policies. Still, Frances D. Cook, a former ambassador to Oman, says, “The U.S has lost not only a unique Middle Eastern leader but also its best friend in the region.” – Wall Street Journal

Twaseef Almogbal writes: If new tactics against Iran are needed in order to ensure the United States’ vision of a ‘balance of power’ in the MENA region, there are numerous regional opportunities available to more directly challenge Iranian expansionism without targeting Iran itself. To maintain this delicate balance, the United States and its regional allies must work together to find serious political solutions, especially in countries where Iran’s agents are active, such as Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. – Washington Institute

Brian Katulis and Michael Rubin write: The U.S. killing by drone of Iranian Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani unleashed vicious political fights in Washington — but it did little to shed light on the way forward. The most urgent lesson from decades of U.S. involvement in the Middle East remains unlearned: Military action can eliminate threats but does not resolve underlying causes of instability. – New York Daily News

Korean Peninsula

Pyongyang’s new policy toward Washington, unveiled last week after a rare Workers’ Party session, is a bet that provocative strategy can work again. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump has signaled to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un his hope to resume diplomacy since negotiations over denuclearizing the Korean peninsula stalled late last year. – Washington Examiner

The North Korean Foreign Ministry wrote a letter in which they acknowledged Kim Jong Un’s personal relationship with President Trump but said it would not be enough for denuclearization talks. – Washington Examiner

A North Korean official on Saturday said that the U.S. and South Korea are dreaming if they think that President Donald Trump’s sending a birthday message would get leader Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table. – Associated Press

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien tells Axios that the Trump administration has “reached out to the North Koreans” to ask them to resume diplomacy that has been all but dead since October. – Axios


Much of the U.S. economy is largely unscathed by two turbulent years of trade war with China, economic indicators show. Yet economic growth is trending near 2% in 2019, well short of the Trump administration’s goal of 3%. The U.S. and China are preparing to sign a first-stage trade accord on Wednesday, easing trade tensions and making the tariffs worth it, in the administration’s view. – Wall Street Journal

Washington and Beijing may be ready to sign a preliminary trade agreement, but companies in China are not taking any chances, forging ahead with contingency plans in case the tariff war resumes. – Agence France-Presse

China’s commitments in the Phase 1 trade deal with the United States were not changed during a lengthy translation process and will be released this week as the document is signed in Washington, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday  – Reuters

The Trump administration is set to ground one of its biggest civilian drone programmes permanently because the devices have been made at least partly in China, in the latest sign of concern in Washington about US exposure to Chinese technology. – Financial Times

South Asia

Two American service members were killed and two others were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, the United States military command in Afghanistan said in a statement. They were the first American military fatalities in Afghanistan this year. – New York Times

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told Axios in an exclusive interview that “it is possible” Trump will cut a deal with the Taliban this year but that even if a deal can’t be struck, the president is still poised to reduce troops in Afghanistan. – Axios

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid writes: What remains of Imran Khan’s remaining credibility – if not his seat in the PM’s office – is the ultimate victim of the military’s power-grab and its particular view of geopolitics, given that almost the entirety of his political career has been founded on the now-quixotic and fantastical idea of an autonomous Pakistan that would no longer be a mercenary for the U.S. or for Saudi Arabia. – Haaretz


Taiwan’s voters delivered a stinging rebuke of China’s rising authoritarianism on Saturday by re-electing President Tsai Ing-wen, who vowed to preserve the island’s sovereignty in the face of Beijing’s intensifying efforts to bring it under its control. – New York Times

An emphatic rebuke from Taiwanese voters against China’s authoritarian influence drew disdain in Beijing, prompting some in Taiwan to brace for greater coercive measures from the Communist Party. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. officials reiterated their partnership with Taiwan and Democratic candidate Joe Biden advocated stronger relations with the island after President Tsai Ing-wen swept to victory in an election that pressured voters to pick sides in the battle for influence between America and China. – Bloomberg

Fresh from a landslide reelection victory, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met Sunday with the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taipei, as China warned that countries should stick with recognizing communist-ruled Beijing as the rightful government of “one China,” including Taiwan. – Associated Press

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said Monday that the One China principle will not be changed by the Taiwan election result and will not be shaken by the wrong words and actions of Western politicians. – Reuters

The global head of Human Rights Watch said he was denied entry on Sunday to Hong Kong, where he was scheduled to launch the organization’s latest world report this week. – Reuters

Editorial: The Trump Administration can capitalize on the result by pressing for closer U.S.-Taiwan ties. The U.S. can offer the island some economic independence from China by working toward a U.S.-Taiwan free-trade accord. President Trump could also offer symbolic support by calling Ms. Tsai to congratulate her on re-election and allowing more visits by American officials to this ally in the Western Pacific. – Wall Street Journal

Ken Moritsugu writes: The landslide reelection of Taiwan’s leader underscores the population’s embrace of an identity distinct from China — a shift that the communist leaders of China refuse to accept. – Associated Press


A Russian warship made an aggressive move toward a U.S. guided-missile destroyer operating in the North Arabian Sea on Thursday, U.S. Navy officials told USNI News. – USNI News

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in Moscow on Saturday to discuss growing tensions in the Middle East and other issues. – Associated Press

On January 6, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya explained that Russia and China blocked the statement of the UN Security Council condemning the attack against the US Embassy in Iraq, because it did not take into account the subsequent US air strike near the Bagdad airport, which resulted in killing of Soleimani. Below is an overview of Russian official and media reactions to the killing of Soleimani: – Middle East Media Research Institute

Russian government figures, lawmakers and analysts sometimes mock U.S. President Donald J. Trump, and sometimes they heap praise on him as, you know, their guy. But it seems a man they really admired was Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, who was blown away last week on Trump’s orders, precipitating a fraught international crisis. – The Daily Beast

Julia Davis writes: Arguably, no one knows more about info-wars than the Kremlin, whose tactics often include the dissemination of outlandish conspiracy theories. The Iranian government seemingly caught Russian propagandists off-guard by opting finally to tell the truth. – The Daily Beast


Within hours of Iran’s stunning admission Saturday that its missile mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, Ukraine made a big reveal of its own. The country put out photos, taken a day earlier, showing wreckage riddled with small holes, suggesting damage from shrapnel. – Washington Post

The balance of power in the Middle East is shifting. German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Moscow on Saturday to discuss the crises there with President Vladimir Putin and try to save what’s left of the Iran nuclear deal. – The Daily Beast

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the arrest of Britain’s ambassador to Tehran, a spokesman from Johnson’s office said in a statement issued after the two leaders spoke on Sunday. – Reuters

A delegation of U.S. officials will arrive in Britain on Monday to try to persuade Britain not to use Huawei equipment in the upgrade of its telecoms network, two people with knowledge of the matter said on Sunday. – Reuters

Britain must invest in military hardware to become less reliant on U.S. air cover and spy planes in future conflicts, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was quoted as saying in an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper. – Reuters


A report from the United Nations’ office for human rights said Friday that killings and rapes committed by ethnic militias in Congo’s northeastern Ituri province from 2017 to 2019 may amount to crimes against humanity and even genocide. – Washington Post

President Trump’s speech at a rally in Ohio on Thursday night was typical in that it laced thoughts about current events together with criticism of his opponents. But his comments Thursday included a remark that caught the attention of many in Ethiopia, whose prime minister was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, largely for his work securing a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea after decades of hostilities. – Washington Post

The death toll from Thursday’s attack by suspected jihadists on a Niger army base has risen to at least 89, four security sources said, surpassing a raid last month that killed 71 soldiers as the deadliest against Nigerien forces in years. – Reuters

Three teachers were killed near Kenya’s border with Somalia in a suspected attack by al Shabaab militants early on Monday, police said, in what appeared to be the latest in a string of assaults by the group in Kenya since the New Year. – Reuters

Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), a group led by converts to Shia Islam originally inspired by the Iranian Revolution 40 years ago, have vowed to fight to punish Americans, “the tyrants of this century,” for the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week. – The Daily Beast

United States

Nearly four decades later, she oversees roughly 1,000 officers across elite antiterror divisions including the NYPD’s Critical Response Command, its bomb squad, maritime team and a vast electronic security network that comprise New York City’s tactical defense against terrorist attacks. – Wall Street Journal

The downing of a Ukrainian airliner carrying at least 63 Canadian citizens could encourage collaboration between President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as their governments investigate the incident – even though the two leaders haven’t always seen eye to eye. – USA Today

Abha Shankar writes: The report shows there are countless supporters of Iran and Hezbollah living in the United States. Most cases involve financial and other forms of material support. But talk of “sleeper cells” has been around for years, and at least one operative told law enforcement that Iran could activate them to carry out attacks in “certain scenarios.” – Algemeiner

Daniel S. Mariaschin writes: The solidarity march and rally in New York against antisemitism on January 5 was an important event in drawing attention to the problem and in bringing our community together. We are mobilizing to fight the scourge. But as a minority which accounts for less than one-fifth of 2% of the global population, we must look to our non-Jewish friends and allies to join the fight. They are out there in every town and city and on every block and street. We must motivate and activate the many resources that they have, to build the kind of coalitions we’ll need to turn the tide. – Jerusalem Post

Latin America

A recent tussle between Maduro loyalists and the U.S.-backed opposition for control of Venezuela’s National Assembly descended into a melee of competing claims that left neither side with clear authority over the assembly. – Wall Street Journal

The State Department said Friday that public charter flights between the U.S. and most Cuban destinations—though not the nation’s main city, Havana—would be suspended in an effort to reduce the Cuban government’s revenue, another step in the Trump administration’s move to clamp down on the island. – Wall Street Journal

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: The death of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani is a blow to the theocracy’s efforts to assert its power across the Middle East. By taking out Soleimani, President Trump also did Latin America a big favor. The end of the terrorist mastermind is a message to those in the region who harbor his networks. – Wall Street Journal


The U.S. and Iran may have walked back from the brink of war, but the potential for a cyber battle looms with no clear rules of engagement. Lawmakers and military officials say there’s no agreed-upon definition of what constitutes cyber warfare, leaving them to decide on a case-by-case basis how best to respond to individual incidents. – The Hill

Nadia Schadlow writes: Technology has subjected individuals to the omnipresent power of digital infrastructure. The line between advanced law enforcement systems and constant surveillance is thin.  […]Mann understood that protecting dignity started with confidence in the special virtues of democracy—virtues that begin in sovereign states. The virtue of individualism is the foundation of the American political order, expressed in the Declaration of Independence’s claim of inalienable rights, and embedded in the Constitution. If our renewal and rejuvenation return us to that sound foundation, Mann’s confidence in democracy’s promise can be vindicated. – Wall Street Journal

Nilda Garcia and Derek Maltz write: For U.S. law enforcement, the cross-border nature of this criminal activity presents a big challenge. But since most major social media firms are based in the United States or are listed on stock markets here, there’s one area where our government could have supreme authority: over the internet. – New York Daily News


Even though the United States has reduced the number of warheads deployed on its long-range missiles and bombers, consistent with the terms of the 2010 New START Treaty, it is also developing new delivery systems for deployment over the next 10-30 years. The 116th Congress will continue to review these programs, and the funding requested for them, during the annual authorization and appropriations process. – USNI News

As part of the Army’s effort to strengthen its partnerships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, the service is planning to deploy one of its Security Force Assistance Brigades — or SFABs — there for the first time – Defense News

The Air Force’s annual classified conference on command & control will host an unprecedented Army delegation next week as the two services wrestle with how to coordinate better in a future war. – Breaking Defense

Trump Administration

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and staunch ally of President Trump, pushed other Republicans to vote in favor of limiting Trump’s authority in the military confrontation with Iran, drawing ire from the president and other Republicans in Congress, according to aides and emails. – Washington Post

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday defended her delay in sending articles of impeachment to the Senate, which is expected this week and will set the stage for a historic trial of President Trump. Mrs. Pelosi, who has come under heightened criticism from Republicans for the delay, also said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had tried to “cover up” Mr. Trump’s actions in dealing with Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

The FBI provided a detailed look late Friday at proposed changes to how it requests surveillance permission from a secret court, after a watchdog disclosed significant shortcomings in the applications to wiretap a one-time Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser. – Wall Street Journal