Fdd's overnight brief

January 14, 2021

In The News


Iran has taken a significant new step toward possible atomic-weapons production, starting work on an assembly line to manufacture a key material used at the core of nuclear warheads, the United Nations atomic agency said in a confidential report Wednesday, raising the stakes in Tehran’s standoff with Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. – Wall Street Journal 

Iran has in recent months repeatedly violated the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, reducing the time it would need to produce a nuclear weapon. The violations, a response to U.S. sanctions, have put at risk the survival of an agreement that helped remove sanctions on Iran and open it to business with the West. – Wall Street Journal 

The United States on Wednesday blacklisted two Iranian foundations controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and their subsidies, saying the institutions enabled Iran’s elite to sustain a “corrupt” system of ownership over large parts of the economy. – Reuters 

The Iranian regime’s top military commander on Wednesday poured cold water on the prospect of Tehran resuming cooperation with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the technical name for the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers led by the US. – Algemeiner

Cities across Iran have been cloaked in thick layers of toxic smog and darkened by blackouts, as the alleged use of low-quality fuel and power-sucking cryptocurrency mining deepen the country’s hardships. Tehran’s Hamshahri newspaper, the country’s most-read daily, ran the headline, “20 Days Living in Smoke,” on Wednesday over a photo of the capital covered in smog. – Bloomberg 

The daughter of one of the founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran has raised a ruckus in Tehran by saying she would have preferred a second term for U.S. President Donald Trump. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The United Nations Security Council must do more to combat state sponsored terrorism such as that executed by Tehran, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan wrote in a memo he submitted to that body. – Jerusalem Post

Lifting sanctions on Iran while it continues to pursue its nuclear aspirations will endanger America and the world, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in an interview for The Jerusalem Post-Khaleej Times conference this week. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: That the Biden administration, having embraced the calumny that tightened visa restrictions were a “Muslim ban” may make any Iranian retaliation easier although Iranian authorities just as often pay Lebanese and others to do their dirty work. Iranian authorities may also misjudge the rancor of the U.S. political debate and believe that both progressive animosity toward Trump administration veterans and moral equivalence would temper a Democratic administration’s reaction. – The National Interest


Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes early Wednesday in eastern Syria, killing dozens of people according to independent war monitors, in one of its deadliest raids on sites used by Iran-backed militias. – Wall Street Journal 

Israeli airstrikes in eastern Syria in which dozens of people were killed were carried out with intelligence provided by the United States, a senior U.S. intelligence official with knowledge of the attack said Wednesday – a rare incidence of publicized cooperation between the two countries over choosing targets in Syria. – Associated Press

Israeli warplanes have carried out what is thought to be the biggest bombing raid in years on Iran-linked military sites in Syria, reportedly killing dozens of Syrian soldiers and foreign militiamen in a barrage of strikes early on Wednesday. – Financial Times 

Likud ministers on Wednesday refrained from confirming whether Israel was behind a raid in Syria overnight, but said the incoming US administration must not “appease” Iran, and warned Tehran the Jewish state will not tolerate its military presence in Syria or its development of nuclear weapons. – Times of Israel

Gazeta.ru’s military correspondent Mikhail Khodarenok responds to an analysis by Panagiotis Nastos in the Greek news agency Pentapostagma, Nastos claimed that the the Russian S-400 “Triumph” anti-aircraft missile system based in Syria looked on silently while Israeli Air Force planes penetrate Syrian airspace with impunity and attack Iranian positions. – Middle East Media Research Institute


A top Turkish official is calling on the new U.S. administration to engage in a dialogue with Turkey and to review a decision to sanction the country over its purchase of an advanced Russian air defense system. – Associated Press

Pakistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan on Wednesday decided to broaden and strengthen their cooperation in different sectors and also enhance people-to-people linkages. – PTI News

Valerie Hopkins and Laura Pitel write: Turkey has been involved in at least 60 renditions from 17 countries over the past three and a half years, according to the US-based democracy watchdog group Freedom House. Its definition includes both abductions by Turkish intelligence and deportations where there was little or no legal due process. The Turkish justice minister said in 2019 that 107 alleged Gulenists had been brought back to Turkey from abroad. – Financial Times


Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is forming an interagency team to prepare a strategy for engaging the Biden administration on the Iran nuclear file, officials in the Prime Minister’s office tell me. – Axios 

Gaza’s Hamas rulers said Wednesday they would bar patients from the Palestinian territory from going to a field hospital opened by a US charity in protest of what they say are insufficient services. – Associated Press

Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed confidence on Wednesday that US President-elect Joe Biden will prevent the nuclearization of Iran. – Jerusalem Post

Twice on Wednesday, the IDF responded to shots from Gaza near the border by striking Hamas guard posts. – Jerusalem Post

The fifth flight of Operation Rock of Israel landed at Ben-Gurion Airport early Thursday morning. On it were 162 immigrants to Israel from Ethiopia who made aliyah as part of the operation, including 35 children and 13 infants. – Jerusalem Post

The Jerusalem Municipality’s Building and Planning committee approved plans for a new US embassy building in Jerusalem on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Yosi Cohen, head of Mossad, is in Washington today to brief key figures in the Biden administration, armed with a “mountain” of the latest Israeli intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missiles. – Breaking Defense

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday the United Arab Emirates has ratified the visa exemption agreement between the two countries, the first between the Jewish state and an Arab country. – Times of Israel

Israel has provided coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority, the government said on Tuesday, rolling back its previous claim that the Palestinians have not received any vaccines. – Haaretz


The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on an influential Iraqi militia leader and deputy of a powerful Iran-backed umbrella of mostly Shiite paramilitary groups, designating him a global terrorist figure. – Associated Press

A Twitter account apparently representing Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia based in Iraq that is US-designated terrorist organization, was suspended Wednesday hours after offering “training and advice” for prospective militants in the US. – Algemeiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: His stature may increase now as Iran sanctions could be reduced and money could flow from Iran again to its allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Sanctions on him won’t have much impact, since he doesn’t appear to travel outside a narrow orbit and he is anyway extremely careful about making appearances. He doesn’t want to end up like Soleimani, Muhandis, Imad Mughniyeh and others linked to Iran who have met a surprising demise. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Knights writes: The latest sanctions against a senior leader in the Iranian-backed terrorist militia is a reminder that such figures cannot slip onto the political spectrum merely by changing their job title. – Washington Institute 

Gulf States

Iran appears to have sent deadly drones to its allies in Yemen as Middle East tensions heat up across the Red Sea, another major flashpoint where rival forces operate, Newsweek has learned. – Newsweek 

U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock will on Thursday urge Washington to reverse a plan to designate Yemen’s Houthis a foreign terrorist organization, warning the move would push the country into a “famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years.” – Reuters 

Aljazeera’s English website retracted a story on Wednesday about an Emirates pilot that reportedly resigned to protest normalization between the United Arab Emirates and Israel in the wake of the Abraham Accords. – Jerusalem Post

Ivan Sascha Sheehan writes: Biden administration officials would be wise to enlist Qatari assistance in promoting Middle East dialogues. The small but influential country has the experience, resources, connections, and credibility to convene regional peace processes and strike durable agreements. – U.S. News & World Report 

Karen E. Young writes: In the end, 2020 seems to have made a very powerful case for mending fences in the Gulf. Their revenue streams have been devastated by an oversupplied market, a global pandemic has stripped demand for oil, and there is a growing consensus that alternative energy is both a better investment and a political lightning rod. The only recourse is tighter fiscal policy, implementing new taxes and fees, borrowing, and attracting new investment. – Al-Monitor  

David Gardner writes: The Qatar deal is not the only expiatory offering to team Biden. The Saudis are cutting oil production by 1m barrels a day for February and March, which will help US shale oil companies. They may soon release feminist activist Loujain al-Hathloul. But outgoing secretary of state Mike Pompeo has complicated efforts to end the war in Yemen by designating Houthi rebels there as terrorists — one of several grenades Mr Trump is leaving on the table. – Financial Times

Middle East & North Africa

An Egyptian court has overturned the sentences of two young women who were convicted and imprisoned last year on charges of “violating family values” and “inciting debauchery” after they gained fame on TikTok, according to state-run media. – New York Times

Interpol has issued red notices for the captain and owner of the ship that carried the chemicals which devastated Beirut in an explosion in August, killing 200 people, Lebanon’s state media said. – Reuters 

Herb Keinon writes: As Trump’s tenure comes to a close, both the Israelis and Americans are on edge over a possible Iranian attack to avenge the deaths of Soleimani and Fakhrizadeh; the Iranians are on edge that Trump may strike in his waning days in office; and Israel – if the foreign reports are to be believed – is sending clear messages to the American through attacks on Iranian assets in Syria that regardless of who sits in the White House, Jerusalem will not let Tehran entrench itself in Syria. Those are a lot of moving parts in a very volatile region, all of which increase the possibility of a misread or miscalculation by one side or the other that, as Gantz intimated, could lead to a dramatic chain of events. – Jerusalem Post

Assaf Orion writes: The Israeli government has presumably assented to this growing Egyptian military presence, which far exceeds the Sinai deployment limitations set forth in the 1979 peace treaty. Despite the unprecedented cooperation that has characterized recent bilateral security relations, however, some Israeli intelligence veterans fear that Egypt’s buildup in Sinai reflects a longer-term goal of preparing for future war with Israel. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wrapped up a rare congress at a mass indoor art performance on Wednesday, state media said, but made no mention of a reported military parade. – Reuters 

South Korea is developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) based on its 500 km-range Hyeonmu-2B (also spelled Hyunmoo-2B) ballistic missile, with underwater test launches set to be carried out later this year, according to local media reports. – Jane’s 360 

South Korea’s highest court has upheld former President Park Geun-hye’s 20-year prison sentence for her 2018 bribery conviction, ending a corruption scandal that has gripped the country for years. – CNN 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for beefing up his country’s nuclear and military capabilities, but appears to be leaving open the possibility for negotiation with the U.S., just days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. – NPR


China ended the Year of Covid in many ways stronger than it started, accelerating its movement toward the center of a global economy long dominated by the U.S. – Wall Street Journal 

A World Health Organization mission to discover the origins of the coronavirus got off to an inauspicious start on Thursday when two members of the team were barred from entering China. – Washington Post 

Scientists in Brazil have downgraded the efficacy of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine that they hailed as a major triumph last week, diminishing hopes for a shot that could be quickly produced and easily distributed to help the developing world. – New York Times

Hong Kong’s national security police on Thursday arrested 11 people for allegedly helping a group of activists attempt to flee the city by boat to Taiwan, according to social media posts and friends of those detained, expanding the dragnet around those connected with the democracy movement. – Washington Post

The Trump administration on Wednesday banned imports of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang, the broadest U.S. ban yet to target allegations of forced-labor practices in the northwest Chinese region. – Wall Street Journal 

In the 1960s, John Clancey was sent to Hong Kong from a small town in New York state to be a priest ministering to the city’s working poor. He stayed and ultimately turned himself into an advocate for the city’s powerless people. More than half a century later, the lawyer faces years in prison for his role in the pro-democracy movement in his adopted home. – Wall Street Journal 

The Trump administration took its latest stab on Wednesday at trying to ease confusion around its push to halt U.S. investment in companies that it says have ties to the Chinese military. – Bloomberg

China urged the United States and other countries to immediately stop wrongdoings, the commerce ministry said on Thursday, after Washington announced an import ban on some imports from the Xinjiang region over forced labour allegations. – Reuters 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he did not know for sure if the coronavirus pandemic began through an accidental leak from a lab in Wuhan, though he defended the theory as plausible and argued that all of the available evidence indicated COVID-19 originated in China. – Washington Examiner 

Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) said on Thursday it blocked a website that publishes material mainly on 2019 anti-government protests to comply with the city’s national security law, marking the first censorship of a local website under the law. – Reuters 

Hugo Dante writes: Ultimately, the regime’s own sensitivity to criticism could be the key to bounding China’s expansionary ambitions. The U.S. must capitalize on its own historical strength — rule-of-law and regulatory consistency — so that innovation and the center of the global economy remains proudly, free, democratic and American. – The Hill 

Jianli Yang and Aaron Rhodes write: Indeed, they are reinforcing the CCP’s grandiose ambitions by claiming the CCP has the capacity to influence local, state and federal election officialdom and American courts. If anyone claims that the Chinese communists managed to corrupt the entire American electoral apparatus, they are saying American democracy is finished — which is exactly what the CCP would have the world believe. – The Hill 

Nadia Schadlow and Richard Kang write: China’s digital yuan could siphon transactions away from Western-dominated money exchange platforms such as SWIFT, the key mechanism that maintains U.S. dollar dominance in global trade. CCP officials have described SWIFT as a means for the United States to maintain “global hegemony” and reap “huge profits by virtue of the monopoly platform.” […]The United States will lose the leverage and influence it has over many countries if they increasingly opt for the yuan over the dollar. – Foreign Affairs

Martijn Rasser and Megan Lamberth write:  A rising China poses a fundamental challenge to the economic vitality and national security of the United States and its allies and the currency of liberal democratic values around the world. Technology—a key enabler for economic, political, and military power—is front and center in this competition. Technological leadership—how a country invents, innovates, and deploys technologies to compete economically and to secure its interests—will shape the coming years to a remarkable degree. – Center for a New American Security 


Growing uncertainty over peace talks with the Taliban, a drumbeat of targeted killings and the looming withdrawal of U.S. troops have raised tension here to a fever pitch, prompting calls for President Ashraf Ghani to step down and an interim government to take over. – Washington Post

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency have said they foiled an attempt by an ISIS cell of four members to assassinate a US diplomat in Kabul. – CNN 

A group of 26 rejected asylum seekers arrived in Kabul early on January 13 after being deported from Germany, airport officials said. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Lynzy Billing writes: Yet unlike the prior four big attacks on Camp Chapman, located northeast of the city of Khost, last December’s deadly assault went unreported and unacknowledged. The attack killed four members of the Khost Protection Force, or KPF—a CIA-trained and equipped militia that maintains an iron grip on the province—as well as three Afghan soldiers and at least six civilians. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

A court in Cambodia convened on Thursday for the treason trial of scores of opposition figures, one of a series of cases seen by activists as moves by the ruling party to sideline threats to its political monopoly. – Reuters 

Pakistan is once again engaged in an intellectual debate about its religious identity. The issue is whether to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, which, seen as the Jewish state, Pakistanis deem ideologically incompatible with the Islamic State of Pakistan. Pakistanis view their country as the Medina-e-Saani, the second Medina, after the holy city of Medina, which was the first Islamic state established by Prophet Muhammad after he proclaimed Islam. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Derek Scissors writes: Ordinary and elite Indians share dreams of national economic greatness. There are some in the US and elsewhere who anticipate these dreams coming true. But 900 million people nowhere close to middle income and with no realistic path to getting there makes such greatness impossible. Indian farmers tying their future to government handouts would be an anchor the country cannot budge. – American Enterprise Institute


For decades, America’s diplomatic dealings with Taiwan were governed by intricate and arcane rules designed to support a key Asian partner without provoking Beijing — and avoid war in the Taiwan Strait. Details of the U.S. strategy toward China, meanwhile, were shrouded in secrecy. – Washington Post

Taiwan’s technology know-how should provide a diplomatic edge. TSMC, the $560 billion chipmaking powerhouse, showcases the island’s clout in international supply chains and beyond. That bodes well for bilateral trade and investment flows, even as geopolitical uncertainties mount. – Reuters

The United States stands by Taiwan and always will, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft said following a call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who told her the island would continue to seek access to U.N. meetings. – Reuters 

Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said on Thursday he would submit an appeal to the king to end a state of emergency imposed to fight the coronavirus, which he described as a move by the prime minister to cling to power. – Reuters

The island nation of Palau says a tanker that recently loaded Venezuelan crude was using a false signal to disguise its identity, potentially putting the Pacific country in the crosshairs of U.S. sanctions. – Bloomberg 

Josh Rogin writes: Until now, the incoming Biden foreign policy team had no senior officials with a specialty in Asia. But Joe Biden plans to soon announce a new Asia-related position inside the National Security Council and has chosen former State Department official Kurt Campbell to fill it. The move should reassure nervous Asian allies that the Biden administration is taking the China challenge seriously. – Washington Post


Less than six months after Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned in what he has said was a state-ordered attack, he announced Wednesday that he will return to Russia, where he could be put behind bars soon after his arrival. – Washington Post

Russian activist Pyotr Verzilov, who is a member of the Pussy Riot protest group, and blogger Ilya Varlamov were briefly detained in South Sudan. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Opposition figures who won local government offices in those elections in St. Petersburg and other cities have reported that pro-Kremlin officials have opened criminal investigations and otherwise harassed them as they tried to carry out their new jobs. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Cyrus Newlin and Heather A. Conley write: Though a growing chorus of officials are voicing concern about the economic consequences of a changing climate for Russia, the prevailing view remains one of passive resignation or misguided optimism. Some officials recognize the reality of climate change but contend that it is beyond Russia’s means to resolve and that Russia should therefore extract revenue from its abundant hydrocarbon resources while there is still global demand. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The wobbly coalition between unpopular populists and the center-left establishment risked implosion amid power struggles and ideological disputes over E.U. funds. – New York Times

The decision by Polish ecommerce group InPost to pick Amsterdam for its stock listing offers the latest sign that London risks losing its grip as a trading hub after Brexit. – Financial Times

Four human rights organizations are calling for immediate humanitarian support for nearly 2,500 refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers who remain without basic shelter in dire winter conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as “durable solutions” to meet the needs of people transiting through the country. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Michel Barnier has warned that many of the new regulatory frictions hampering cross-Channel trade will be impossible to smooth over, as the inevitable consequences of Brexit begin to manifest themselves for businesses across Europe. – Financial Times

Editorial: Beijing has become increasingly belligerent toward countries that want greater transparency in areas like the use of forced labor and the origins of COVID-19. The U.S. and the EU must work together to address the China challenge. With the CAI, Europe is making a down payment on a separate peace that will do long-term damage to the transatlantic relationship. – Heritage Foundation 

Candace Huntington writes: But as Europe contends with an evolving strategic environment, now is not the time to risk fracturing the transatlantic Alliance over a more autonomous ideal that is a long way from being realized. In reality, the Alliance remains a critical element of many European states’ security and defense strategies – especially in Central and Eastern Europe – and talks of strategic autonomy do little to unify Europe to combat the challenges it faces today. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Walter Lohman and Nile Gardiner write: Reaching transatlantic consensus on China will be challenging. It will require the U.S. to utilize relationships throughout the capitals of EU member states, in Strasbourg, and in Brussels itself to convince continental Europe of the value of cooperation. The United States has many friends in Europe who see the China challenge the same way they do. And its diplomats know their way around European capitals better than the Chinese. – The Daily Signal 

Kim Darroch writes: It was only 24 hours after the storming of the Capitol that Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, finally broke with Donald Trump. I witnessed first hand Mr Johnson’s fascination with the US president when he was foreign secretary — and how this continued when he became UK prime minister. As well as a reminder of the importance of principles in foreign policy, I fear it will cost Britain in terms of our relations with the Biden administration. – Financial Times

Robert Shrimsley writes: In the days since the storming of the US Congress a number of UK pundits have rushed to stress that UK prime minister Boris Johnson is no President Donald Trump. But this happy and correct conclusion also highlights the fact that such reassurance is needed. – Financial Times


At least 80 people were killed on Tuesday when unidentified gunmen stormed through a village in western Ethiopia, in the latest of a series of ethnically driven massacres in the area, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and witnesses said on Wednesday. – New York Times

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has blocked Facebook from operating in his country, just days after the social media company removed fake accounts linked to his government ahead of a hotly contested general election set to take place on Thursday. – New York Times

Cameroonian soldiers opened fire on villagers during a weekend raid in the country’s southwest, killing up to nine people, including civilians, and injuring others, witnesses, health workers and a human rights lawyer said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Three UN peacekeepers from Ivory Coast were killed in central Mali on Wednesday, the UN said, in the latest violence to hit the war-torn Sahel state. – Agence France-Presse

The United States has cancelled its observation of Uganda’s presidential election because most of its accreditation requests were denied and said Thursday’s vote would lack accountability and transparency. – Reuters 

An Ethiopian military aircraft crossed the Sudanese-Ethiopian border‮ ‬in a ‮”‬dangerous and unjustified escalation”, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Three leading Democratic U.S. senators have written to Ethiopia’s prime minister to express concern about the erosion of press freedoms in the country and to call for the release of journalists detained there. – Reuters 

Ethiopia said on Wednesday its military had killed three members of the Tigray region’s former ruling party, including former Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin. – Reuters 

Rebels in Central African Republic attacked the capital early on Wednesday, but were repelled by President Faustin-Archange Touadera’s security forces and United Nations peacekeepers, authorities said, in an escalation of an election conflict. – Reuters

North America

U.S. authorities have more power to obtain documents from foreign banks with U.S. correspondent accounts under recently passed defense-policy legislation. – Wall Street Journal 

Canadian officials are considering listing the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization following the insurrection attempt at the Capitol last week. – Newsweek 

Canada granted the husband and two children of detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou a travel exemption to join her in Vancouver as she fights extradition to the United States, an official confirmed Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

Brain Katz writes: The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) stands at the dawn of a new era of technological innovation and transformation unprecedented in its history. In this final report, the CSIS Technology and Intelligence Task Force set out to understand the emerging technology landscape, identify the opportunities and challenges to applying technology to intelligence missions, and generate recommendations that will enable the IC to adapt, integrate technology, and maintain an advantage over sophisticated rivals. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

United States

The House made history Wednesday by impeaching a president for a second time, indicting President Trump a week before he leaves office for inciting a riot with false claims of a stolen election that led to the storming of the Capitol and five deaths. – Washington Post

The nation’s governors, facing increasing threats to their capitols and little support or information from the federal government, said Wednesday that they are bracing for long-term danger from extremist groups who already have breached government buildings, damaged property and been linked to threats against state leaders and their families. –  Washington Post

The Trump appointee at America’s top foreign aid agency who minimized last week’s riots at the Capitol in remarks to employees on Tuesday will no longer be at the agency “until further notice,” according to an internal memo sent on Wednesday and obtained by The Washington Post. – Washington Post

National Guard forces from a growing list of states moved into positions around Washington on Wednesday as authorities scrambled to understand the extent of threats surrounding President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and prevent a repeat of last week’s deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. – Washington Post

Federal officials say they are taking aggressive aim at security concerns that have surfaced in the wake of violence at the U.S. Capitol last week, including cracking down on unruly airplane passengers and potentially placing those who participated in the riot on the no-fly list. – Washington Post 

Both the FBI and the Secret Service have issued separate warnings that a loosely organized extremist group known as the “boogaloo movement” presents a significant potential threat ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. – Washington Examiner 

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing later this week to consider the nomination of Avril Haines, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence (DNI), committee leaders announced Wednesday. – The Hill 

A heavily armed man arrested one day after last week’s deadly Capitol riot had sent text messages threatening to kill the mayor of Washington as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to a government memorandum. – USA Today

The acting director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is resigning just two weeks after taking on the role, an agency official confirmed to The Hill. – The Hill 

President Trump on Wednesday release a video in which he finally condemned violence one week after a mob fueled by conspiracy theories over the election attacked the Capitol as lawmakers were counting the Electoral College results. – The Hill 

The presence of anti-Semitic symbols and sentiment at the Capitol riot raised alarms among Jewish Americans and experts who track discrimination and see it as part of an ongoing, disturbing trend. As the threat of further chaos lingers over Washington and state capitals ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, they called for more forceful rejection of the conspiracy- and falsehood-driven worldviews on display among the mob. – Times of Israel

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested Wednesday that President Donald Trump should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting Arab-Israeli ties. – Times of Israel


The U.S. government is expected to let Americans continue to invest in Chinese technology giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Baidu Inc., after weighing the firms’ alleged ties to China’s military against the potential economic impact of banning them. – Wall Street Journal 

Facebook Inc has seen an increase in signals indicating potential future acts of violence associated with efforts to contest the result of the U.S. presidential election since the Capitol siege last week, a company spokeswoman told Reuters. – Reuters 

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Wednesday that the social media platform faced an “extraordinary and untenable circumstance” before banning President Trump’s account. – The Hill 

Editorial: As a private social network, Twitter is within its legal rights to ban Trump, but the move is the culmination of its twisted logic and shifting goal posts. It speaks to the unseriousness and rank hypocrisy of the company. – Washington Examiner 

Steven Kenney and Chloé Bernadaux write: Fake news, while a global phenomenon, is particularly prevalent in the Middle East. There is a rich history of disinformation in the region, wielded as an offensive weapon by a wide range of stakeholders. Non-state armed groups have been prolific in disseminating fake news. Hezbollah has gone so far as to establish disinformation training camps, attracting Iran-backed militias from across the region, mostly from Iraq. – Middle East Institute  

Casey Mulligan and Tomas Philipson write: Historically, consumers have been better off relying on competition rather than lagging regulators to deliver less market concentration. Although many people are concerned by the collusion between Big Tech companies, the monopolization of news, and the political discrimination both have brought about, policy should be focused on facilitating and delivering competitive relief. – Washington Examiner 

Dirk Auer writes: None of this is necessary to say that Big Tech firms were right to suspend Parler, but antitrust is patently the wrong tool to address the policy issues that arise from the suspension. If there is a problem that requires a policy fix, changes to common-carrier regulation and contract law might be appropriate tools. For example, it would be possible to require app stores, web hosts, and other online services to serve certain firms irrespective of their behavior or to require certain notice periods or terms (like arbitration to settle disputes) if they want to suspend services. – The Hill 


The U.S. military is one of America’s most respected and admired institutions, but the participation by a handful of former — and in at least one case current — military members in last week’s deadly assault on the Capitol has raised doubts in some minds about the apolitical tradition of America’s armed forces. – Washington Examiner 

The U.S. Navy wants to buy a next-generation large surface combatant by the end of the 2030s, but its not being built for a new kind of sensor or weapon system. The newly dubbed DDG(X) is being built for power. – Defense News

The U.S. Army’s future battle command system that will link sensors and shooters across the battlefield has been cleared for production, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to Defense News Jan. 13. – Defense News

In the waning days of his administration, U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at pushing the Department of Defense toward quickly developing and producing small nuclear reactors for military use — and to see if they could be used by military space vehicles. – Defense News

Editorial: Opportunities exist today for Congress and Mr. Biden to reduce the nuclear danger. Both Russia and the United States could take nuclear missiles off launch-ready alert, or at least find ways to lengthen the time a president has to make a decision and reduce the chances of a catastrophic miscalculation. […] There are signs, still tentative, that China is inching toward higher alert levels for some of its nuclear forces. It would be smart for all three nations to retreat from the Cold War madness of hair-trigger alert. – Washington Post

Michael Chertoff, Jeh Johnson, Janet Napolitano and Tom Ridge write: We urge the Senate to promptly consider and confirm Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for homeland security secretary. In the wake of last week’s domestic terror attack on the Capitol — the symbol of our nation’s democracy — it is more urgent than ever to have in place an experienced, capable and Senate-confirmed leader. That person is Mayorkas. – Washington Post

Valerie Insinna writes: To keep the development of several new space systems on track — such as the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared constellation of missile warning satellites — Harrison said the Space Force budget will likely continue to grow, although perhaps not as rapidly as under the Trump administration. However, the Biden administration should also keep pressure on the Space Force to minimize bureaucratic overhead and prevent duplication with other services, said Smithberger, of the Project for Government Oversight. – Defense News

Raphael S. Cohen writes: If a Biden administration wants to signal that “America is back,” after four years of an “America First” foreign policy, U.S. military bases around the world could provide a concrete signal of America’s enduring commitment to its alliances to friend and foe alike. While the merits of basing in Germany versus Poland, or in Japan versus Guam, should be open to debate, the underlying twin logics of deterrence and reassurance behind permanently stationing American forces overseas remain operationally, economically, and strategically as sound as ever. – War on the Rocks 

Long War

A Minnesota man who traveled to Syria and Iraq where prosecutors say he became a soldier for the Islamic State group pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a terrorism count. – Associated Press

Educational content produced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is filled with hate and encouragement to jihad, violence and martyrdom, and entirely devoid of any material that promotes peace and peace-making, according to the research institute IMPACT-se based out of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. – Jerusalem Post 

With four burgeoning safe havens, ISIS has revived in Sub-Sahara and could be deadlier than ever. Embedding at the cross borders of failing countries, ISIS has achieved near untouchability. With no Sub-Saharan government able to contain its expansion in a resource-rich area, the West, whatever its response, must urgently react before ISIS can multiply its capabilities and international reach to an unparalleled degree. Let us not forget the lessons of Sudan. – The National Interest