Fdd's overnight brief

January 2, 2020

In The News


President Trump on Tuesday was pulled toward the kind of Middle East tinderbox he has tried to avoid, as he blamed Iran for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq that further damaged U.S. relations with Baghdad and appeared to put Trump’s hopes for diplomacy with Tehran further out of reach. – Washington Post

Iran protested on Wednesday to a Swiss envoy representing U.S. interests in Tehran over what it called “warmongering statements” by American officials, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said. – Reuters

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei strongly condemned U.S. attacks on Iran-allied militia group in Iraq, Iranian state TV reported on Wednesday, blaming the United States for the violence in the neighbouring country. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he does not want, or foresee, war with Iran, after he earlier threatened to retaliate against the country following violent protests led by Iranian-backed militias at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. – Reuters

Iran denied it was behind violent protests at the U.S. embassy in Iraq on Tuesday and warned against any retaliation, after President Donald Trump blamed Tehran for an attack on the mission and said it would be held responsible. – Reuters

Charging that Iran was “fully responsible” for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, President Donald Trump ordered about 750 U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East as about 3,000 more prepared for possible deployment in the next several days. – Associated Press

The U.S. and Iran have lived in a state of hostility for decades. But rarely have relations been as tense as in recent months. – Bloomberg

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei taunted President Donald Trump after the U.S. leader’s warning that Tehran will be held “fully responsible for lives lost” after the storming of the American embassy in Iraq. – Newsweek

The Iranian government has played a direct role in organizing the demonstration into the U.S. embassy in Baghdad in a violent demonstration distinct from the protests sweeping Iraq, an Iraqi intelligence official and senior Pentagon official told Newsweek. – Newsweek

It should be noted that, while Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei denied Iran’s responsibility for the attacks on Americans in Iraq, his mouthpiece, the daily Kayhan, bragged about the attack on the embassy, calling it “the latest slap in the face” delivered by Khamenei to America. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Iran had a rough year in 2019 and the New Year is quite likely to bring just as many difficulties to the door of the Islamic republic. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran is coming under some maximum pressure of its own. As protesters tried to breach the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, and Iraqi and American officials feuded over the necessity of recent U.S. airstrikes, critics blamed the chaos on the Trump team’s laserlike focus on cracking the Islamist regime in Iran. – Politico

Editorial: Mr. Trump’s maximum-pressure campaign, which is showing dividends with widespread discontent inside Iran, would be undermined as its rulers benefit economically from having a freer hand in Iraq. The sooner Iran understands that the U.S. won’t tolerate attacks on Americans, the less chance Tehran will take actions that could lead to a larger war. – Wall Street Journal

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran appears to understand this converging U.S.-Israeli policy. It has depicted itself as “resisting” the U.S. and Israel for decades and its attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and rocket fire at Israel near the Golan are calculated to provoke as well as to respond to U.S. and Israeli operations. And if the end game is for the United States to pull out of Syria and Iraq, as President Trump appears inclined to do in any case, then Iran will have gotten just what it wanted. – The Daily Beast

Hillel Frisch writes: The Israel Air Force has been unrelenting toward the Iranian build-up in Syria despite the dangers these attacks pose, most of all, the fear of incidents of clashes between the IAF and Russian Air Force planes. […]But there is clearly another reason behind Israel’s resolve in striking the Iranians in Syria that dovetails with the American strategy toward Iran: increasing the costs of Iran’s imperialism. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Pregent writes: There will be more attacks, and the US needs to be prepared to punish Iran directly by hitting the IRGC and its Quds Force. […]More important, it’s time to target “dust off” the target packets against Soleimani and Mohandes – they are enemies of Iraq, the region and the United States. – Jerusalem Post


European and U.S. authorities have struggled to successfully prosecute returning Islamic State members, largely because of the difficulties in collecting evidence of crimes that happened in Iraq and Syria. But the Yazidi who survived carry detailed accounts of one of the militia’s worst crimes: The attempt to wipe out the religious minority and the mass enslavement of its women and female children. – Wall Street Journal

The bombs smashed into a child care center, a refugee camp and a school. They destroyed makeshift clinics and hospitals, disabling essential services for tens of thousands of people. – New York Times

At least eight people were killed on Wednesday when the Syrian army launched missiles that struck a shelter for displaced families in the country’s northwest, witnesses and residents said. – Reuters

It is “out of the question” for Turkey to evacuate its military observation posts in Syria’s Idlib, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday, after Russian and Syrian forces intensified their bombardment of targets in the northwestern province. –  Reuters


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday that he would ask the Israeli parliament to grant him immunity in three criminal cases, tying up further the already lengthy legal proceedings against him in a political system that has been gripped by deadlock for the past year. – Washington Post

Jana Tawil was born in 2012, the same year that the United Nations released an alarm-raising report on the state of the Gaza Strip: If the prevailing economic, environmental and political trends continued, the organization warned, the besieged coastal enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt would become unlivable by 2020. – Washington Post

Following the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with The Prime Minister of Iraq and Emir of Qatar on Tuesday via phone. – Jerusalem Post

The EU must not give in to Palestinian organizations’ demands that it allow aid to go to groups with ties to designated terrorist groups, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan wrote in a letter to the EU’s new Foreign Minister Josep Borrell. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly sent a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning him that Israel’s decision to cut funds from Ramallah at the same time as it works toward a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza is fueling mounting anger in the West Bank. – Times of Israel

Simon Henderson writes: Finally, the advent of Iran’s precision-guided missile capability is a major concern, as evidenced by its presumed responsibility for the attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil facility in September. Lebanese Hezbollah already has sophisticated Iranian missiles in its arsenal. Moreover, during a Gaza clash several years ago, a rocket hit an area of Israel just north of where Leviathan gas is coming ashore. In short, the celebration over new gas flows may be a brief one. – Washington Institute


The siege by supporters of an Iranian-backed militia at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad ended Wednesday after the militia ordered them to withdraw, bringing relief to the diplomats trapped inside and averting a potential showdown between the United States and Iran. – Washington Post

Supporters of an Iran-backed militia tried to storm the American embassy compound in the Iraqi capital, driving the U.S. to send military reinforcements and pointing to the fraught challenge for Washington in maintaining forces in Iraq. – Wall Street Journal

Supporters of Iraq’s pro-Iranian force Hashed al-Shaabi began leaving the encircled US embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday but hardliners insisted they would stay, a day after their dramatic incursion into the compound. – Agence France-Presse

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said on Wednesday that all public consular operations were suspended, a day after Iran-backed militias and their supporters stormed its outer perimeter, setting fires, throwing rocks and smashing surveillance cameras. – Reuters

Iraqi President Barham Salih rejected on Tuesday attempts to breach the United States embassy in Baghdad, saying they were a violation of binding international agreements to protect foreign missions that the Iraqi government is signatory to. – Reuters

Iraqi leaders guaranteed the safety of American personnel and property on Tuesday in a telephone call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department said after protesters attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. – Reuters

The United States has no plans to evacuate its embassy in Baghdad and additional forces are being sent following violent demonstrations outside the compound by protesters and militia fighters enraged by American air strikes, U.S officials said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A prominent Iraqi political party leader is an Iranian proxy, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq will return to the embassy in Baghdad, a State Department official told The Hill on Tuesday, denying reports that the ambassador had been evacuated amid an attack by Iraqi protesters on the U.S. compound in the capital city. – The Hill

Iranian-backed militia swarmed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday chanting “Death to America,” sparking widespread concern among officials in Iraq and Washington about further targeting of American outposts in the days to come. – The Daily Beast

At least 100 Marines were deployed Tuesday as reinforcements for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq after Shiite demonstrators protested Sunday’s U.S.-led airstrikes against five sites held by militia group Hezbollah, which is allegedly backed by the Iranian government. Protesters set fires outside the embassy building, hurled stones over the walls, broke windows and yelled “Death to America.” – Newsweek

Josh Rogin writes: The Pentagon’s decision to keep lawmakers out of Iraq and Syria over the holidays makes sense from a strictly security vantage point. But the fact that there is not enough staff in Iraq to safely host lawmakers and staffers calls into question the Trump administration’s plans to further drastically reduce the number of U.S. embassy personnel there. – Washington Post

Yasmeen Serhan: So far, however, the Iraqi government—split between public hostility toward the U.S. and its own relationship with Washington—has appeared to follow the Iranian playbook: by not providing sufficient and early security enforcements, thereby apparently allowing the breach of the embassy compound, and issuing warnings against further violence only after it was too late. – The Atlantic

Bilal Wahab writes: Although Iraqi officials have taken legal and political pains to keep their anti-Americanism in the realm of mere rhetoric in recent years, that may no longer be enough now that American blood has been shed. At the same time, some Iraqi leaders remain wary of the inconsistencies in U.S. policy as seen next door in Syria, so Washington should take care to avoid making promises (or threats) it is unwilling to fulfill. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the Dakar Rally this month is just the latest international sporting event to take place in the kingdom as part of a multi-billion-dollar push to boost its battered global image. – Agence France-Presse

Southern separatists in Yemen have pulled out of committees implementing a November agreement to end a power struggle in the south that had opened a new front in the country’s multifaceted war. – Reuters

Six Saudi Arabian prisoners held in Yemen by the Iran-aligned Houthi group returned home on Wednesday, in a move welcomed by the United Nations as it pushes for political negotiations to end almost five years of war. – Reuters


Just months after mounting a third military incursion into Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is preparing another military intervention abroad, this time to dispatch troops to Libya. – New York Times

The Arab League urged the warring sides in Libya on Tuesday not to do anything that might enable the deployment of foreign fighters in the North African country and worsen its conflict. – Reuters

Turkey’s parliament is expected to authorize President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday to order the deployment of troops to Libya to back the UN-recognized government against rival forces, deepening a proxy war that’s drawn in Russia and regional powers. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: What has happened is that the historically powerful periphery states, Turkey and Iran, have risen to grab influence throughout the Middle East. These states, as the Ottoman Empire and Persian Empire, were weakened in 1920 and European powers supplanted their historic role. But now, with Europe looking more insular, these countries are rising again. Turkey’s expedition to Libya is just one symbol of that new world order in the Middle East. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Carlos Ghosn’s escape to Lebanon from Japan followed months of planning by associates aimed at getting the former head of the Renault-Nissan alliance to a country they believed would provide a more friendly legal environment to try the claims of financial wrongdoing against him, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon barred lawmakers from visiting Iraq and Syria in the weeks surrounding the holidays, House Armed Services Committee spokesperson Monica Matoush confirmed Tuesday. – Politico

As Iraqi militants and protesters surrounded and stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, a leader of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) umbrella militia group threatened to carry out similar attacks on the embassies of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. – Jerusalem Post

Dore Gold writes: No set of global understandings was more significant for the emergence of the modern Middle East than those that were concluded at the end of World War I, when the Ottoman Empire – which once stretched from what is today Algeria in the west to Iraq in the east – collapsed. […]This history is not irrelevant or outdated. It is critical to spread if the war of ideas is to be decisively won. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s threat of a return to nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests dials up pressure on the U.S., as President Trump faces the prospect of an election-year setback to what he champions as a signature foreign-policy achievement. – Wall Street Journal

If North Korea returns to long-range missile launches or other weapons tests in 2020, its military could make valuable technical advances and gain experience alongside whatever political message is sent to Washington. – Reuters

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply concerned” that North Korea has indicated it could resume nuclear and missile tests, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had signed a contract about denuclearization and that he thought the North Korean leader was a “man of his word.” – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday he hoped North Korea would choose peace over war, a response to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un saying would introduce a “new strategic weapon” in the near future. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned the world will witness “a new strategic weapon” from the isolated nation in the “near future” as nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang are stuck in a stalemate. – The Hill

An expert on North Korea accused President Donald Trump of lying about the denuclearization agreement he signed with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. – Newsweek

Nicholas Eberstadt writes: Mr. Trump’s declarations on North Korea’s human rights abuses were splendid at first, but then he let the matter slide as he chased a nuclear deal. Yet Pyongyang’s terrorism at home and its terrorism abroad are two sides of the same coin, inextricably linked. Reducing the threat Mr. Kim poses to his subjects will help reduce the threat he poses to the rest of us, too. Success in this endeavor will require nerve and constancy. But we should be prepared for nothing less. – New York Times

Ankit Panda writes: Fundamentally, what hasn’t changed is that North Korea is still not disarming or is not about to kowtow to American sanctions pressure. Just as every missile test in 2015, 2016, and 2017 was laying the groundwork for an eventual turn to diplomacy—if and only when North Korea became ready—so too will whatever demonstrations lie ahead in 2020 lay the foundation for the eventual next round of U.S.-North Korea engagement. – The Daily Beast


President Trump said he would sign the recently negotiated phase-one trade deal with China in Washington on Jan. 15—marking a formal truce in the U.S-China trade war—and would later travel to Beijing to negotiate a broader pact. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Army has banned the use of the popular video app TikTok on government-issued phones, following guidance from the Pentagon and highlighting growing tensions over the app’s Beijing-based parent firm. – Washington Post

China on Wednesday moved to pump more cash into its financial system, suggesting that Beijing remained concerned about faltering growth despite signs that the world’s second-largest economy was stabilizing. […]China’s struggles have spread to much of the rest of Asia, where it is the dominant economy, and also to Africa and Latin America, which have become increasingly reliant on Chinese investment. – New York Times

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei said Tuesday that “survival” was its top priority after announcing 2019 sales were expected to fall short of projections as a result of US sanctions. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: Mr. Wang’s trial took place in secret Dec. 26 without family or church members present. The sentence is one of the harshest in recent years, although other unofficial church leaders have also been harassed and prosecuted. […]China has been particularly harsh in its treatment of Christians and Muslims who refuse to accede to state control. It has established concentration camps to wipe out the culture of the ethnic Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. – Washington Post


International media outlets have reported that a cease-fire is imminent, citing unnamed sources after Taliban leaders held several meetings in Pakistan. The prospect of a truce, seen as the first step toward a U.S.-Taliban peace deal that would soon be followed by negotiations between Taliban and Afghan leaders, has also sparked a flurry of political activity and controversy over who would lead and participate in such talks. – Washington Post

At least 26 members of Afghanistan’s security forces were killed in a new wave of Taliban attacks in northern Afghanistan, local officials said on January 1. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The U.S. military’s combat casualties in Afghanistan were the highest in five years, and Army service members bore the brunt of those losses. – Army Times

The Taliban on Monday strongly denied reports that it had agreed to a ceasefire with the US in Afghanistan. – Jerusalem Post


Eight people including the chief of Taiwan’s armed forces were killed Thursday after the military helicopter carrying them crashed on a mountainside during a routine trip, Taiwan’s military said. – New York Times

Indonesia said on Wednesday it rejected China’s claims over a disputed part of the South China Sea as “having no legal basis”, after two days earlier protesting to Beijing over the presence of a Chinese coastguard vessel in its territorial waters. – Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday the island would not accept a “one country, two systems” political formula Beijing has suggested could be used to unify the democratic island, saying such an arrangement had failed in Hong Kong. – Reuters

In the Pakistani city of Abbottabad – where Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in a night raid on May 1, 2011 – a higher secondary school has come under fire for allowing the Israeli flag to be put up alongside other nations’ flags for a United Nations model conference. UN model conferences are held in schools and colleges across the world where students debate global issues and learn how the UN functions. – Middle East Media Research Institute


The Islamic State group is claiming responsibility for an attack on a police post in southern Russia. – Associated Press

An Israeli-American woman imprisoned in Russia on drug charges was moved back to a Moscow facility on Wednesday after having been abruptly relocated last week to a remote prison. – Times of Israel

A row between Russia and EU countries over the causes of World War Two has escalated, with a top Russian official condemning the US ambassador to Poland. – BBC

President Trump and his Russian counterpart have the coming year to deal with an expiring nuclear treaty that will lapse just after the end of his first term. […]Experts say reaching a trilateral deal within a year is highly unlikely. And some worry that Trump’s focus on a bigger deal risks upending the existing treaty with Russia, which could lead to a new arms race. – NPR


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday canceled a weeklong trip to Ukraine and four other nations to stay in Washington and monitor tensions in Iraq after protesters broke into the United States Embassy compound in Baghdad and wrecked parts of it, the State Department said. – New York Times

Austria’s Conservatives and Greens have agreed to form a new government in a move that could inspire similar alliances across Europe, where incumbent center-right parties are looking to harness rising voter interest in the environment to fight off insurgencies led by populist rivals. – Wall Street Journal

Venice’s mayor said Wednesday police were investigating an attack with possible anti-Semitic characteristics in which youths punched a left-wing Italian politician in the city’s St. Mark’s Square. – Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to visit Athens on Thursday in order to formally move ahead with the construction of the EastMed pipeline that will bring Israeli and Cypriot natural gas to the European market via Greece. – Haaretz

A Bosnian war crimes prosecutor on Tuesday indicted a Bosnian Serb former army general for taking part in the 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, an atrocity described as genocide by two international courts. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy have agreed to begin work immediately on a new prisoner swap, Ukraine’s presidential office said. – Reuters

The fundamental question — whether Ukraine leans east or west — is going nowhere without concessions regarded as impossible by one side or another. The standoff with Moscow over Ukraine’s desire to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will remain a headache for world powers from Brussels to Washington. – Bloomberg

In the face of this growing challenge, the Belarusian leader has inserted new variables into his tried formula of strategic hedging and in the process turned Belarus into an important front amid deepening rivalries and growing competition among Russia, the United States, and China. – Foreign Policy 

Leonid Bershidsky writes: Though far-right parties are now a fixture on the European political stage, they made no significant gains on the continent in 2019. Despite growing political fragmentation, the center is holding. Nationalist populists are still as unsuited to governing as ever. – Bloomberg


The battles against extremist violence and Ebola will also continue to be major campaigns in Africa in the coming year. – Associated Press

At least 24 people were confirmed killed after a camp for internally displaced people was attacked in Sudan’s West Darfur, an international peacekeeping official said on Wednesday, as top officials arrived to try to calm the violence. – Reuters

Opposition leader Umaro Sissoco Embalo beat the ruling party’s Domingos Simoes Pereira in Guinea-Bissau’s Dec. 29 run-off vote to be president of the West African nation. – Bloomberg

The Americas

The United States consulate in Mexico’s border city of Nuevo Laredo issued a security alert on Wednesday, warning against gun battles and urging government employees to take precautions. – Reuters

When a machete-wielding attacker walked into a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, during Hanukkah and a gunman fired on worshippers at a Texas church 14 hours later, the two congregations in different regions of the country joined a growing list of faith communities that have come under attack in the U.S. – Associated Press

The expansion of Hasidic communities in New York’s Hudson Valley, the Catskills and northern New Jersey has led to predictable sparring over new housing development and local political control. It has also led to flare-ups of rhetoric seen by some as anti-Semitic. – Associated Press

A white nationalist who ran for the U.S. Senate in Florida and was a featured speaker during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was arrested on charges of kidnapping, domestic violence and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. – Associated Press


U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern on Tuesday about disinformation amplified by the internet and social media as he focused his year-end report on the weakening state of civics education in the United States. – Reuters

California will become the first state in the country to have a comprehensive data privacy law on Wednesday when the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) goes into effect. Companies are scrambling to figure out how to handle the law, which is expected to require major firms to disclose the personal information they collect from consumers and what they do with it. – The Hill

James Stavridis writes: First, on the risk side of the equation, there is very real potential for a major series of coordinated cyberattacks around the globe. These could occur out of frustration as Iran or North Korea chafe under sanctions; both nations have highly capable offensive cyber programs. Russia or China could use cyber to undermine U.S. objectives in various regional hotspots, from Venezuela to Hong Kong – as well as the 2020 presidential elections, of course. – Bloomberg


The Marine Corps put into practice the concepts it has been writing and wargaming in recent years, showing what its Expeditionary Advance Base Operations (EABO) might look like in a modern-day island-hopping campaign. – USNI News

While China and Russia are the long-term focus of the National Defense Strategy, the Navy’s 2019 operations were still heavily centered on countering threats in the Middle East. – USNI News

The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) since FY1998. The three Virginia-class boats that the Navy has requested for procurement in FY2020 (which are to have the hull numbers SSN-804, SSN-805, and SSN-812) would be the 31st, 32nd, and 33rd boats in the class. Virginia-class boats scheduled for procurement in FY2019-FY2023 are to be procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract. – USNI News

The U.S. Navy’s aging Guam-based submarine tender Frank Cable completed sea trials Dec. 19, even as the White House canceled plans for its eventual replacement over cost. – Defense News

The U.S. Military’s massive transportation in September ordered the largest stress test of its wartime sealift fleet in the command’s history, with 33 out of 61 government-owned ships being activated simultaneously. The results were bad, according to a new report. – Defense News

The newly reinstated Norfolk, Virginia-based 2nd Fleet, which was opened for business in 2018, is now fully operational, the U.S. Navy announced Dec. 31. – Defense News

An experimental satellite in geostationary orbit will serve as a testbed for future GPS technology and could also augment the current GPS constellation by providing advanced position, navigation and timing data to the war fighter. – C4ISRNET

Gyrocopters are the oft-overlooked child of aviation, lacking the straightforward design of fixed-wing aircraft or the hovering capabilities of a helicopter. But their unusual design offers stability at slow speeds, a trait that could be especially useful when applied to a drone. – C4ISRNET

The US Army wants to outfit its Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicles (FHTVs) with protection kits to better protect soldiers inside. – Jane’s 360

The US 2nd Fleet (C2F) achieved full operational capability (FOC) on 31 December, about seven months after reaching initial operational capability (IOC). – Jane’s 360

The Navy’s fleet created to beef up its Atlantic presence against Russia is now fully operational, according to a Tuesday statement from the service. – USNI News

Steven Simon writes: The biggest threat from hypersonics is that they come at a time when the world’s arm control treaties are falling apart. We need a multilateral agreement to limit hypersonic arsenals and their use, but unfortunately, the United States, which would have to take the lead in orchestrating the negotiation of such an agreement, is uninterested in any deals that might tie its hands. – New York Times

Bryan Clark and Timothy A. Walton write: With U.S. carrier aviation constrained in range and capacity and challenged by rising sustainment costs, and with the submarine force shrinking, the surface fleet will have increased importance in deterrence, reassurance, and warfare. U.S. Navy leaders should make the hard choices needed to ensure the surface force can meet that challenge. – Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

Trump Administration

If President Trump’s unprecedented decision to retain ownership of his global real estate business has tested the limits of America’s ethics laws and traditions, sparking lawsuits and allegations of influence by foreign interests, a Bloomberg presidency could present a whole new level of overseas entanglements — with China as a prime example. – Washington Post

President Trump ended 2019 with a strong economy, a string of domestic policy achievements—and the notoriety of becoming the third president to be impeached by the House. – Wall Street Journal

The US House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism will hold a Congressional hearing on January 15 about the rise of antisemitism, subcommittee chairman Max Rose announced on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is calling for the Trump administration to give Congress an explanation for the security failure at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after protesters stormed it on Tuesday. – The Hill