Fdd's overnight brief

January 18, 2019

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


A U.S. effort to enlist Europe in its pressure campaign against Iran faced a setback after officials said ministers from several European Union members will likely skip a summit organized by Washington on Iran and the Middle East. – Wall Street Journal

China’s state-run energy giant is making a new approach to clinch a $3 billion deal for more development of an Iranian oil field, seeking to take advantage of waivers allowed under U.S. sanctions as two European nations have ended crude purchases, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s state-run English-language channel is reporting that its American anchorwoman detained in the U.S. will appear in court in Washington. – Associated Press

The United States is likely to extend waivers from sanctions on Iranian oil imports in May but will reduce the number of countries receiving them to placate top buyers China and India and to decrease the chance of higher oil prices, analysts said. – Reuters

Amid the controversy over the fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, an influential ayatollah says, “Ultimately, the deal should be burned.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who is on an extended tour of Iraq responded to his American counterpart, saying the United States has no right to interfere in bilateral relations between Tehran and Baghdad. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran is harming Europe’s efforts to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear accord with actions such as the case of suspected espionage involving a member of the German military, veteran German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger said on Thursday. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

David Gerstman writes: Until and unless the IAEA asserts its authority and insists on thorough inspections of all suspicious Iranian nuclear sites, the deal will be unable to achieve its advertised aim of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The IAEA must act — and the international community must back it up. But at this late date, one must wonder if it is still possible to make the deal enforceable. – Algemeiner


The deaths of four Americans in a suicide attack in Syria this week has intensified the military’s concern that the Islamic State may step up attacks on U.S. forces to score a propaganda victory as the Trump administration withdraws. – Washington Post

“Pretty cool,” Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, then the commander of coalition forces fighting in Iraq and Syria, told me. “This is what stability looks like. This is what winning looks like.” […]Six months later, on Wednesday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest outside that same restaurant, killing 15 people, including two American troops, a civilian employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a military contractor. – New York Times

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces vowed on Thursday to ramp up attacks on Islamic State remnants and cells, a day after a bomb attack killed two U.S. soldiers in northern Syria.

“With the help of the (U.S.-led) coalition, we will escalate our military operations to eliminate Deash remnants and chase down their sleeper cells,” the SDF alliance, led by the Kurdish YPG militia, said in a statement. – New York Times

That attack, in a Syrian town celebrated as an American-backed island of stability, raised troubling questions about whether the American military had developed a false sense of security in a conflict zone, where avoiding predictable routines like a regular lunch spot can be a matter of life and death. – New York Times

The U.S. government believes the Islamic State militant group is likely responsible for Wednesday’s attack in northern Syria that killed four Americans, although it has not reached a firm conclusion, two U.S. government sources said on Thursday. – Reuters

The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group destroyed a command center housed in a Syrian mosque on Thursday, officials said. – Agence France-Presse

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that France will not “deviate” from its efforts to defeat ISIS in Syria despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the country. – The Hill

David Ignatius writes: American troops shouldn’t stay in Syria forever; Trump is certainly right about that. But he needs to be as careful about how the United States leaves Syria, or any other Middle East battlefield, as his predecessors were sometimes reckless about getting in. For now, Trump should give U.S. commanders what they need in Syria: a small military force to sustain a clear, consistent U.S. policy of destroying what’s left of the Islamic State — and protecting our partners. If a resurgent Islamic State were able to drag the newly thriving markets and schools of Manbij back into darkness, that truly would abandon the sacrifices Americans have made there. – Washington Post

Anna Borshchevskaya writes: Western policymakers continue to cling to the belief that their goal to reach genuine conflict resolution aligns with Moscow’s. The reality is different. Putin, who has been pushing his version of a Syrian constitution since at least April 2016, is now in a better position to pursue the Chechnya model in Syria. Far from a genuine resolution, Moscow could preside over a frozen conflict of its own making. With Putin’s management it is guaranteed to simmer for many years to come. – The Hill


Turkey deported a Dutch journalist on Thursday after receiving information about her from prosecutors in the Netherlands involved in a terrorism investigation. A Dutch prosecutor’s office spokeswoman said the reporter is a suspect in an investigation, but not for terrorism offenses. – Associated Press

That’s when Ukrainian authorities arrested and extradited within days of each other two fellow Turkish nationals– a journalist and an entrepreneur — whom Ankara alleges are linked to a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more than two years ago. […]The repatriations were part of Erdogan’s relentless campaign “in the East [and] in the West” to pursue supporters of Fethullah Gulen – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

New York Knicks player Enes Kanter urged U.S. President Donald Trump to be more vocal about human rights in Turkey, after prosecutors in Istanbul requested the basketball player’s arrest and extradition over his ties to a U.S.-based cleric. – Reuters

W. Robert Pearson writes: Throughout his career, he has never articulated his long-term goals, but his actions suggest what they are. His problem today is actually the same one that faced the Ottoman Empire in its later centuries: he lacks the resources to accomplish his goals. Normally, a leader in that position would befriend those who could provide him support. In today’s world, for Turkey that would ordinarily mean working with Europe and the United States within a broader global community. Turkey once seemed to be on that path. Mr. Erdogan insisted on a different direction, and now the task is considerably more difficult. – Middle East Institute


On a cold winter’s night earlier this month, a convoy of 10 Israeli armored jeeps drove into the heart of the West Bank city of Ramallah and parked in front of the Palestinian police headquarters. […]It was the latest in a series of Israeli raids into urban areas that the Palestinians say undermine their own U.S.-trained security forces. Those forces have been coordinating operations with Israel in the West Bank for years but ties have frayed as the peace process ground to a halt. – Associated Press

The United States reportedly said it would not intervene if Israel were to bomb Shi’ite militias in Iraq. – Jerusalem Post

Israel condemned on Thursday Malaysia’s ban on Israeli participation in international sporting events it hosts and said the decision was inspired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s “rabid anti-Semitism”. – Reuters

Hamas said Thursday it had allocated new homes funded by Iran in Gaza to former Palestinian prisoners who had been held in Israeli jails. – Agence France-Presse

Israeli security forces early Friday morning demolished an apartment in the family home of a Palestinian teen who stabbed an Israeli man to death in a terror attack in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, witnesses at the scene and the Israel Defense Forces said. – Times of Israel

Former IDF chief of staff and the leader of the Israel Resilience Party Benny Gantz on Thursday launched his election campaign, unveiling his “Israel Before All” slogan. Gantz is widely seen as the biggest threat to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection in the parliamentary elections to be held on April 9. – Ynet

Lebanon’s army intelligence has detained a man on suspicion that he crossed into Lebanon from Israel, a military official said Thursday, two days after Israel discovered a possible breach in the tightly controlled frontier, where no one is allowed to cross. Lebanon’s state news agency said the detainee is a US citizen. – Associated Press

Neri Zilber writes: Striking the right balance is imperative, particularly for Israel’s global reputation. Likewise, Arab governments face a glaring media spotlight whenever news surfaces of such relations. As one senior Saudi official told the Wall Street Journal in December, outreach to Israel “definitely cooled off right after Khashoggi’s murder.” Going forward, Israeli and Gulf leaders will need to tread carefully in order to shield their historic and burgeoning ties from such crises. – Washington Institute

Grace Wermenbol writes: Israeli attempts to thwart weapon transfers from Iran to Shi’a-proxy Hezbollah have led to confrontations on the Syrian warfront between Russia and Israel. At the same time, relations between the Palestinians and the United States are at an all-time low. By leveraging Palestinian wariness of the Trump administration, Moscow seeks the dual goal of directly challenging the United States’ traditional role as Mideast peace broker while expanding its sphere of economic and political influence in the Levant. – Middle East Institute


The top U.N. official overseeing a cease-fire deal in the strategic Yemeni port city of Hodeida survived a brief attack on his armored convoy on Thursday, underscoring the brittle nature of a month-old pact widely seen as central to ending Yemen’s 4-year-old war. – Washington Post

Yemen’s Houthi rebels are holding dozens of women without trial and often torturing the detainees and blackmailing their families, activists and a human rights lawyer have told the Associated Press (AP) news agency. – Al Jazeera

Yemen’s warring parties hope to deliver final lists of prisoners to the United Nations after talks in Amman on Thursday under an exchange agreement, a government delegate said. – Reuters

Islamic State

Islamic State is reverting to the guerrilla-style tactics it employed in its early days to strike targets, including a suicide bombing it claimed in northern Syria this week, as it stands to lose the last sliver of territory it controls. – Wall Street Journal

ISIS has lost the caliphate, or Islamic State, and almost all the territory it controlled in Syria (and Iraq) at its peak in 2014. However, many fighters are still believed to be in Syria; they’ve just gone underground. […]For these reasons, many analysts believe ISIS retains the potential to mount a comeback, particularly as a guerrilla force waging small-scale attacks. – NPR

Editorial: The Trump Administration says Islamic State has been defeated, and it is moving ahead with its withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria and reducing America’s antiterror commitments in Africa. […]The world’s terrorists don’t seem to have received this news that they’ve been defeated, as a spate of recent attacks around the globe shows. – Wall Street Journal

Rick Noack writes: When political leaders have announced the defeat of terrorist groups in the past, a certain degree of skepticism often would have been warranted. It’s perhaps too early to tell if the same lesson applies to the most recent group to be declared dead: the Islamic State[…]. A look back in history shows that it certainly would not be the first group to morph into something different while maintaining its deadly mission. – Washington Post

Middle East & North Africa

The Army on Thursday published a long-awaited study of the U.S. war in Iraq that criticizes decisions of some of the service’s most senior officers and outlines some hard-learned lessons from the eight-year-long conflict. The two-volume study, written by a team of army officers, was commissioned in 2013 by Gen. Ray Odierno, when he was serving as the Army chief of staff, and a draft was finished by June 2016. – Wall Street Journal

A new book written by three Turkish reporters and drawing on audio recordings of the killing of a Saudi expatriate, Jamal Khashoggi, offers new details about an encounter that began with a demand that he return home and ended in murder and dismemberment. – New York Times

Karen E. Young writes: The truth is that the US is absent as a beacon or facilitator of a liberal economic vision for the region. So, without a champion of markets governed by rule of law, or an advocate for increasing economic mobility for a young population, markets will sort out the most favorable environments for capital in the region. How will markets respond in the Middle East, as they are more cognizant of a diminished American role in regional peace and prosperity? There is less optimism for bottom-up economic growth, particularly as state-ownership and intervention continues to dominate – American Enterprise Institute

Korean Peninsula

Now, two analysts based in the United States have located six such factories believed to be linked to North Korea’s missile program, visits to which by the country’s leaders were deliberately obscured by the state news media to thwart Washington’s intelligence-gathering or cyberattacks. The factories and their operations were discovered through a painstaking digital examination of open-source data. – New York Times

High-level talks aimed at finalizing a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are planned for this week in Washington, U.S. officials said Thursday. – Associated Press

North Korea’s lead negotiator in nuclear diplomacy with the United States is expected to hold talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and could also meet President Donald Trump on Friday during a visit aimed at clearing the way for a second U.S.-North Korea summit. – Reuters

Seven months after President Trump declared that the nuclear threat from North Korea had been eliminated, a new government report on missile defense said that the rogue regime remained an “extraordinary threat” to the US. – New York Post

Alex Lockie writes: While the Missile Defense Review in theory discusses only defensive measures against missile attacks, the military does not only defend, it also goes on offense. Trump has directed the US to research using the F-35 and possibly a laser drone to take out missile launches which only make sense over North Korea. […]as Trump goes ahead trying to find an uneasy peace with Pyongyang, the missile defense review clearly looks to give the US capabilites certain to upset the deterrence relationship and balance between the two nuclear powers. – Business Insider

S. Nathan Park writes: South Korea changes fast. It is no longer a U.S. client state but a world-class economy, a U.S. ally in the world’s most important region, and a revitalized liberal democracy. The framework Washington uses to understand South Korea needs to change as quickly as the country does. An unwarranted charge against South Korea’s liberal leader is not merely incorrect but also damaging to a key alliance. – Foreign Policy


U.S. officials are debating ratcheting back tariffs on Chinese imports as a way to calm markets and give Beijing an incentive to make deeper concessions in a trade battle that has rattled global economies. – Wall Street Journal

The federal pursuit of theft charges adds pressure on Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co. by further involving the criminal-justice system in the fight against China’s alleged encroachment on intellectual property. – Wall Street Journal

Germany and China on Friday signed agreements to strengthen coordination in banking, finance and capital markets, and pledged to further open market access and deepen cooperation to broaden economic ties. – Reuters

China’s envoy to Canada on Thursday warned Ottawa there would be repercussions if it banned technology firm Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] from supplying equipment to Canadian 5G networks, the latest blast in a deepening bilateral dispute. – Reuters

The University of Oxford said on Thursday it has stopped accepting funding from China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], the leading global supplier of telecoms network equipment, after scrutiny over the company’s relationship with China’s government. – Reuters

Lawrence J. Haas writes: Beijing’s brutal crackdown on Uighurs both at home and abroad highlights what’s at stake for not just the Chinese people but also the larger world as an increasingly aggressive regime exerts its growing military, diplomatic, and economic might. That’s because with Western populations expressing rising doubts about the promise of democracy, Beijing is trumpeting its authoritarian model as an effective alternative. – The Hill

Derek Scissors writes: The number of countries in the Belt and Road Initiative keeps expanding, but activity levels per country are flat. One explanation for weakness in various Chinese efforts to “Go Out” is caution in drawing down foreign exchange reserves. The US has restricted Chinese investment, but it was already small in size in 2018. Serious problems remain—for example, theft and coercive transfer of technology. Firms violating American law should face sanctions, not just investment bans. – American Enterprise Institute


U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday, the last leg of a regional tour aimed at finding a negotiated conclusion to Afghanistan’s 17-year war, which would end the U.S.’s longest military engagement. – Associated Press

The Trump administration has been contemplating a massive change in the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, as the war there enters a new year. In late December, U.S. defense officials confirmed reports that they were planning for the possibility of bringing home up to 7,000 of the roughly 14,000 U.S. troops currently serving in Afghanistan. – Military Times

A former translator for U.S. forces in Afghanistan was released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on Thursday after being threatened with deportation. – The Hill


The Philippine government should take control of the country’s largest shipyard, the defense secretary said on Thursday, after officials raised concerns that Chinese companies seeking to take it over would act as agents of Beijing, projecting China’s power deeper into the region. – New York Times

The U.S. Navy has not ruled out sending an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait, despite military technology advances by China that pose a greater threat to U.S. warships than ever before, the chief of U.S. naval operations said on Friday. – Reuters

Taiwan will step up its investigation of pro-Beijing newspapers accused by politicians on the self-ruled island of spreading fake news and surveillance activities that infringe national security, a security official said on Friday. – Reuters

Vietnam is importing more U.S. goods from companies like Boeing Co. and General Electric Co. to narrow the trade gap, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said, a move that may help it continue to avoid punitive measures from the Trump administration. – Bloomberg


A model from Belarus who claimed to have recordings shedding light on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia was detained at a Moscow airport Thursday on prostitution allegations, the police said. – Washington Post

The water in Belgrade’s central fountain was lit Russian red, ceremonial artillery blasts thundered at the palace, and tens of thousands of Serbs were bused in from around the country to welcome President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday. – New York Times

Facebook said Thursday it removed hundreds of Russia-linked pages, groups and accounts that it says were part of two big disinformation operations targeting users outside the U.S. – Associated Press

The social media company said its latest effort to fight misinformation came after it found two networks “that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior” on Facebook and its Instagram service. – Associated Press

Russian investigators on Friday dismissed an Islamic State claim of responsibility for a deadly apartment building explosion in December that killed 39 people, saying that militant groups had a history of falsely taking credit for such incidents. – Reuters

Russia and Serbia have signed a cooperation agreement on civil nuclear energy, state-owned Russian reactor builder Rosatom said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters

Satellite images shot Thursday and obtained exclusively by Fox News have revealed a new Russian deployment of Iskander missile batteries and launchers near the border with Ukraine. The intelligence report by Imagesat International showed the new deployment in Krasnodar, 270 miles from the border with Ukraine. – Fox News

U.S. spy agencies may already have access to what President Trump discussed during his private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last year, according to intelligence community sources, potentially undermining Democratic demands that Mr. Trump’s interpreter should be forced to disclose what the two leaders talked about. – Washington Times

Rowan Allport writes: Russia clearly resents the constraints of the INF Treaty: In December 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the agreement amounted to unilateral disarmament. He argued that the Soviet Union did not possess the sea and air-launched intermediate-range weapons the United States held (even though this is untrue). – Foreign Policy

Michael Rubin writes: Putin’s lasting legacy, however, will not be his wars in Georgia or Ukraine nor the new submarines , fighter jets , nuclear weapons , or hypersonic missiles whose manufacture and unveilings he has overseen. Rather, Putin’s historic legacy will likely be inheriting a country with great economic potential and leaving it an empty husk. After so many years in power, Putin has no one to blame but himself. Arguments that the West humiliated Russia after the Soviet Union’s fall are nonsensical. – The National Interest


Germany is exploring ways to ban the use of Huawei Technologies Co. products in the country’s telecommunications infrastructure, according to a government official, extending the Western backlash against the Chinese tech firm over security concerns. – Wall Street Journal

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said a discussion should be held on whether to re-open the draft deal for Britain’s planned exit from the European Union, but only if all EU members agreed. – Reuters

The steady rise of antisemitism around the world means that Jews in the US and Europe have little choice but to recognize that the need for “resistance and counteroffensive has returned,” the leading French-Jewish writer and public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy told The Algemeiner during an extensive interview this week. – Algemeiner

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced a bill on Thursday that intends to prohibit the president from withdrawing from NATO without Senate approval. – New York Post

Fareed Zakaria writes: Brexit should force Britons to think hard about their place in the world and make the adjustments that will allow them to prosper in it. But it should also cause Europeans overall to take stock of their project, a great idea that has gone awry. The European Union needs more than tinkering; it needs to return to first principles, rediscover its central purpose and question which aspects of its current system are no longer working, affordable or manageable. – Washington Post

Nile Gardiner writes: A “no deal” Brexit is the best path forward to ensure that Britain is a truly free sovereign nation, able to shape its own destiny on the world stage. It is also a plus for the United States. A “sovereign Brexit” would provide tremendous impetus to a US-UK free trade agreement, advancing economic freedom on both sides of the Atlantic and further enhancing the Special Relationship between the world’s largest and fifth largest economies. Such a deal already enjoys strong support from the Trump administration and on Capitol Hill. It could be in place by the end of 2019. – Heritage Foundation


When the Somali extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for this week’s 19-hour siege of a Nairobi complex that left at least 21 dead, it said the attack was “a response to the witless remarks of U.S. president, Donald Trump, and his declaration of al-Quds [Jerusalem] as the capital of Israel.” – Washington Post

America’s war against al-Shabaab is one of the longest-running conflicts in U.S. history, simmering quietly for a dozen years in the desert landscape of the Horn of Africa. It has proven a frustrating mission with wins but no victory, setbacks but no defeat. – Wall Street Journal

The police intensified their search on Thursday for the plotters of the deadly assault on a Nairobi hotel-shopping complex, as Kenyan news services said at least 11 people had been arrested, including a suspected financier. – New York Times

Congo’s constitutional court is poised to rule as early as Friday on a challenge to the presidential election results. But the African Union continental body has issued a surprise last-minute request for Congo’s government to suspend the announcement of final results, citing “serious doubts” about the vote. – Associated Press

A Canadian national has been found dead a day after reports of his kidnapping by suspected jihadists in Burkina Faso’s volatile north near the Niger border, the West African nation’s security ministry said Thursday. – Associated Press

Britain summoned the UK Zimbabwean ambassador on Thursday to express its deep concern at unrest that has left three people dead and many injured. – Reuters

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe on Thursday said that it was “alarmed” by reports of authorities responding with violence to protests of rising fuel prices and economic unrest. – The Hill

United States

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Thursday condemned anti-Semitism “in all forms.” But nevertheless, the presidential candidate declined to criticize the Women’s March, a national group whose leaders have come under fire for alleged anti-Semitism and refusing to denounce Louis Farrakhan. – Washington Examiner

The leak inquiry into former FBI general counsel James Baker had nothing to with the Russia investigation or the Trump dossier, people close to Baker say. – Washington Examiner

Philip Klein writes: Tlaib is grossly misrepresenting what the bill is about. It would not prevent anybody from advocating or participating in boycotts against Israel. Nor would it even require states to pass laws addressing boycotts. It simply says that if a state decides not to give contracts to businesses boycotting Israel, nothing in federal law would prevent that. […]So, let’s put an end this farce. Tlaib’s opposition to anti-BDS legislation is not about her love of free speech. It’s about her hatred for the Jewish state. – Washington Examiner

Tiana Lowe writes: Even worse is that Democrats aren’t just refusing to condemn her for this — they are also giving her a prestigious committee seat that could have gone to someone who hates Jews a lot less. […]Omar picked up the baton today, swearing that “lots of Americans” agree with the conspiracy, sticking by the opinion amid Democratic silence on the matter. The Right is still grappling with homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy theorists in their ranks. But the Left can’t even manage to grapple where Omar is concerned. – Washington Examiner

Latin America

A car bomb exploded in front of a Bogotá police academy Thursday morning, killing at least 21 people, wounding 68 and spreading fear about a revival of Colombia’s violent past. – New York Times

The Trump administration is weighing what could become the most serious tightening of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba in more than two decades — a move that could unleash a flurry of lawsuits against foreign companies that have invested on the island. – Associated Press

Almost 1,000 Central American migrants entered southern Mexico on Thursday in a test of the new government’s pledge to manage an ongoing exodus fueled by violence and poverty that has strained relations with the Trump administration. – Reuters

A few days after being inaugurated, new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced a tax increase, only to have his chief-of-staff say hours later that the boss “had been wrong.” The former army captain also said he would be open to putting a U.S. base in his country, but military leaders quickly squashed the idea. – Associated Press

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday he would do all he could to “to re-establish order and democracy” in Venezuela, while his foreign minister met with Venezuelan opposition leaders. – Reuters

Venezuela will receive 2,000 Cuban doctors who left Brazil following a dispute between the Communist-run island and the government of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who ordered an end to their stay after taking office this year.  – Reuters

Moises Rendon writes: Once the international community recognizes Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela, governments, companies, and international organizations will be able to begin channeling aid and contracts through the National Assembly. This would strike a monumental blow to the Maduro regime; in taking away a major source of the administration’s income, the international community would strip him of much of his power. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Cyber Security

Facebook identified two disinformation campaigns originating from Russia — including one tied to an agency controlled by the Kremlin — that were targeted at users in Europe and Central Asia. The company said on Thursday it had deleted nearly 500 pages and accounts that had posted the misleading messages. – New York Times

The National Security Agency is preparing to release to the public a powerful cybersecurity tool used within the spy agency to analyze computer viruses, winning outside praise and helping rehabilitate the agency’s reputation after years of controversy. – Washington Examiner

The Democratic National Committee was targeted by a cyber attack days after the 2018 midterm elections, the political organization reportedly revealed in a court documents filed Thursday night. – New York Post

The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday laid out a series of cyber issues where he hopes to work with Democrats this Congress. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who recently became the ranking member of the panel, named a series of cyber areas — like data privacy, the Cloud Act, and encryption — that can be addressed in a bipartisan manner. – The Hill

A massive data leak has been discovered at the Oklahoma Securities Commission, in which millions of records — including files related to sensitive FBI investigations over the last seven years, emails dating back 17 years and thousands of Social Security numbers — have been exposed. – Fox News

A team of researchers have identified a new kind of malware that they say can remove cloud security products. […]The report is particularly concerning as more and more private and public groups move toward using the cloud for online data storage purposes. This research indicates that the protections in place could be disabled. – The Hill

A cybersecurity firm has identified four different cyberattack campaigns against various banks and other financial institutions in West African countries, researchers said Wednesday. Researchers for the firm Symantec said in a new report that the attacks have taken place since mid-2017. It’s unclear who is responsible for the attacks. The impacted countries were Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. – The Hill


Over the next six months, the Defense Department will weigh whether to develop a new weapon for the F-35 fighter jet that will enable it to strike down an intercontinental ballistic missile in the early stages of flight. – Defense News

After spending the better part of the past two decades supporting small wars in the desert, the Navy is starting to bring the SEALs back into the fold as it faces threats from major powers such as China and Russia. – Defense News

Balancing the desire to build the Navy the nation needs with the ability to fight with the fleet the nation has is at the core of the mission of U.S. Fleet Forces Command mission, its commander said on Thursday. – USNI News

Elee Wakim writes: America’s ability to sustain its forces abroad and project power from the sea is brittle, tenuously maintained by an aging fleet that is undermaintained and overworked. This is worrying because it constrains operational effectiveness. – War On The Rocks

Missile Defense

President Trump called Thursday for an expanded and more sophisticated missile-defense system and said America’s allies must share in future costs of U.S. protection. – Wall Street Journal

The top Democrats from the House and Senate Armed Services committees on Thursday indicated they were alarmed by the Trump administration’s new missile defense plans, and urged the president to avoid policies that could spur another Cold War and waste critical resources. – The Hill

Thomas Karako writes: The Trump administration has today released its long-awaited Missile Defense Review (MDR). Initiated pursuant to both congressional and presidential direction, the report represents an attempt to adapt U.S. missile defense policy, posture, and programs to the strategic environment of great power competition. The United States and its allies face a more complex and challenging aerial threat environment than ever before.  – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Thomas Spoehr writes: While retaining the sensible ideas from the previous review, the 2019 review updates and makes prudent adjustments to the strategy, such as increased interoperability with allies, increased numbers of systems, and “tailored” mobile regional solutions that attempt to integrate local defense mechanisms and geography. This Missile Defense Review is a strong complement to the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review and National Defense Strategy, and the nation would be wise to follow its recommendations. – The Daily Signal

Trump Administration

At federal law enforcement agencies from the FBI to the DEA to Customs and Border Protection and others, the frustration about having missed a paycheck last week because of the partial government shutdown is growing into fear and anger, as there are signs that the lack of funds is affecting ongoing investigations. – Washington Post

Members of the Trump administration will no longer travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, due to the ongoing government shutdown, the White House said Thursday. – Washington Examiner

Congress sent legislation to President Trump on Thursday that would reauthorize a program setting standards on protecting manufacturers and other chemical facilities from terror attacks. – The Hill