Fdd's overnight brief

January 20, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran sanctioned President Trump and nine other U.S. officials, in a parting shot against an outgoing administration that has pummeled the country and its top officials with sanctions. – Wall Street Journal

An author who has presented himself as a foreign relations expert and political scientist was really a paid mouthpiece for the Iranian government and has been charged with violating the law requiring foreign agents to register with the U.S. government, federal prosecutors said Tuesday. – Washington Post

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday to return to a 2015 nuclear deal and lift crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic. – Reuters

Iran watchers are wary that President-elect Joe Biden may dive head-first into rejoining the Iran nuclear deal and squander the leverage created by his predecessor’s tough policies that kept Iran’s regional aggression in check in recent years. – Washington Examiner

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the State Department said the U.S. is still a “long way” from securing a long-term deal with Tehran that improves the original Iran nuclear agreement but insisted that the country’s ability to develop weapons of mass destruction be put “back in the box.” – Bloomberg

Iranian army commandos and paratroopers started exercises near the mouth of the Gulf on Tuesday, the last full day of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration. – Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, said on Tuesday that when it comes to Iran policy, it is vitally important that the incoming administration would “engage on the takeoff, not the landing, with our allies and with our partners in the region to include Israel and to include the Gulf countries.” Blinken addressed a question from Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) as a part of his Senate confirmation hearing. – Reuters

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday hailed the departure of “tyrant” US counterpart Donald Trump, who is due to leave office later in the day making way for US President-elect Joe Biden. – Agence France-Presse 

Texas Senator Ted Cruz blasted the incoming Biden administration, warning that its policies vis-a-vis Iran and the Iran nuclear deal could pose an existential threat to the State of Israel. – Arutz Sheva

Eli Lake writes: This is the most interesting aspect of President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to lead the CIA, William Burns. As one of the most respected diplomats of his generation (every living secretary of state recorded a message of congratulations for him at his retirement ceremony in 2014), Burns is well positioned to be the first member of the Foreign Service to lead the CIA. This will be particularly important when it comes to Iran. Biden has said he would rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran if the Iranians came back into compliance with its limitations on uranium enrichment. Burns is quite well suited for the kind of quiet diplomacy that would be necessary to restart the Iran talks. – Bloomberg

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Whether Biden’s team could pull off getting concessions from Iran after already starting the process to return to the deal will remain an open question, and no Biden officials have made clear that they would seek to extend the nuclear limits beyond 2030, maybe the most crucial issue for Israel and moderate Sunni states. […]Some, like Blinken, are seen as closer to Israel, and might push for using a gradual sanctions-lifting process to sneak in some concessions from Iran – while his main deputy Wendy Sherman, incoming environmental czar John Kerry and others whose names are on the 2015 deal, might be more likely to push for returning even if there are fewer concessions. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey’s defense and aerospace exports stood at $2.3 billion in 2020, marking a 14.8 percent decline in comparison to 2019, official figures have revealed. – Defense News

Six suspects were detained in Turkey in an alleged fraud scheme involving defense industry contracts, the government announced. – Defense News

The issue of Turkish-Pakistani military cooperation gained relevance after the emergence of allegations, understandably denied by the Pakistani government, that Pakistani soldiers fought against Armenian troops in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, resulting in a military victory for Azerbaijan. A trilateral conference between Turkey, Pakistan, and Azerbaijan – held in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on January 13, 2021 – further strengthened this view that the three countries are working together at military and Islamic religious levels. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Zenonas Tziarras and Jalel Harchaoui write: Turkey today seeks to become a great power able to negotiate on equal terms with the rest of the great powers and, wherever possible, impose its will by resorting to faits accomplis. In order to maximize its stature, then, Turkey has invested in its national security apparatus and military-projection capabilities while also ramping up its global soft power in everything including entertainment, religion, and commerce. – Foreign Policy


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spent much of his long career casting Israel’s Arab minority as a potential fifth column led by terrorist sympathizers, is now openly courting their support as he seeks reelection in the country’s fourth vote in less than two years. – Associated Press 

The Middle East has navigated another tense year without the outbreak of a major conflict. But tensions remain, many of them surrounding Israel, which contends with four serious simultaneous border conflicts. – Newsweek 

US President Donald Trump issued a pardon on Wednesday to Aviem Sella, an Israeli Air Force colonet, who was indicted by US federal grand jury in March 1987 on three counts of espionage for recruiting Jonathan Pollard to collect US military secrets for the Israeli government, according to the statement from the US press secretary. – Jerusalem Post

Lahav Harkov writes: But there is one issue that will likely come up very soon, and that is Iran. Netanyahu hasn’t even waited for Biden’s inauguration to address it. […]The urgency is not only because Iran’s nuclear ambitions are an issue that is always foremost on Netanyahu’s mind, as being the biggest external threat to Israel, but because Biden himself has said he would like the US to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the world powers’ nuclear agreement with Iran is called. – Jerusalem Post


Iraq’s Cabinet voted Tuesday to postpone early elections for four months based on a recommendation by the country’s electoral commission, which proposed the change citing technical reasons. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Claims that the US struck Iranian-backed militias were at the heart of the rumors. This is not that far-fetched, since the US did carry out airstrikes in December 2019 and March 2020 against pro-Iranian groups in Iraq. But those took place after attacks by militias on American forces in Iraq. – Jerusalem Post 

Michael Knights, Hamdi Malik, and Crispin Smith write: Even so, this period provides a powerful lens into the trajectory of the country’s Iran-backed militias, with the top groups arguing internally over attacks that ranged from massage parlors to American diplomatic facilities, eventually spurring Tehran to intervene and knock heads together. The contours of a new, less kinetic militia strategy may be coming into view, presenting new challenges for the Biden administration and Iraq’s other Western partners. – Washington Institute

Gulf States

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s arrival in the White House may signal the start of a less congenial American relationship with Saudi Arabia, but the kingdom could point to recent progress on a number of issues that have caused longstanding friction with the United States. – New York Times

Qatar is urging Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region to seek dialogue with Iran and says it is willing to act as a mediator after mending its own rift with rival neighbors. – Washington Post

The United States on Tuesday exempted aid groups, the United Nations, the Red Cross and the export of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices from its designation of Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organization. – Reuters

Y. Yehoshua writes: The summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), held on January 5, 2021 in the Saudi city of Al-Ula, announced a reconciliation among the Gulf countries and the start of a new era in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, known as the Arab Quartet, ended their economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar that lasted more than three years.[…] To date, the understandings that led to the Gulf reconciliation have not been disclosed. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Alberto M. Fernandez writes: The recent reconciliation among feuding Gulf states is potentially a positive, hopeful step. Whether engineered by self-interest, last-gasp Trump administration diplomacy, or fear of a new Democratic administration in Washington, it was an effort to repair a painful and costly episode in regional history.[…]But the actual steps of restoring air and land transport (by the anti-Qatar bloc) and the freezing of some international lawsuits (by Qatar) were more tangible. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Libyans working under a U.N. peace process on Tuesday agreed a mechanism to choose a new temporary government to oversee the run-up to elections late this year, in the hope that it can avoid being scuppered by factional rivalries. – Reuters 

The U.N. chief is urging the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya by Saturday as called for in the Oct. 23 cease-fire agreement signed by the warring sides after years of fighting split the oil-rich North African nation in two. – Associated Press

Libyan officials from rival administrations began talks Tuesday in an Egyptian Red Sea resort on constitutional arrangements laying the legal groundwork for presidential and parliamentary elections later this year, the United Nations said. – Associated Press

A fire, followed by an explosion at an ammunition warehouse at a naval academy in western Libya killed three people, including two officers, a Libyan spokesman said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Middle East & North Africa

Thanks to deadlock in its post-revolutionary parliamentary system, Tunisia has torn through new governments at a rate of one per year, and three in just the last 12 months. Political parties dominated by wealthy businessmen shuffle and reshuffle power — occasionally coming to actual blows in Parliament — while making little headway on economic reforms. As faith in politics has dwindled, so has voter turnout. – New York Times 

A fresh generation of Tunisian youth is protesting economic woes, social inequality, political corruption and other problems, driven by the unfulfilled expectations of a revolution that toppled their dictator a decade ago and ignited revolts across the Arab world. – Washington Post 

Iran blocked Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from joining as observers, lashing out at the former’s military record, while Turkey blocked Cyprus in a trend that marks a significant departure from normal U.N. protocol and might set a precedent for other bodies that operate on a consensus basis. – Reuters

The Middle East and its neighbors shouldn’t expect outside powers to defuse their conflicts, but should settle their disputes among themselves, Cyprus’s Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said Tuesday on the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration as U.S. president. – Bloomberg

A shipment of 100 armored patrol vehicles sailed from the U.K. on Tuesday as a donation from the British government to the Lebanese Armed Forces to secure the northern and eastern borders. – Defense News

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Kurds in Syria have played a key role in defeating ISIS and working closely with the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition over the last five years. However, they suffered setbacks because of Turkish-backed extremists, Turkish invasions, US policy infighting, and their own inability to come up with a way to reconcile different political movements. Now with a new US administration taking shape there is a push for Kurdish groups to hold a national conference and work with each other and other Syrian opposition groups.  – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

A South Korean official told Newsweek that the longtime U.S. ally viewed President-elect Joe Biden taking office as a pivotal moment for the historic peace talks that were launched by outgoing President Donald Trump but later stalled. – Newsweek 

President Moon Jae-in named a key figure in talks with Pyongyang to be South Korea’s foreign minister, as the Biden administration’s nominee for secretary of state pledged to review the U.S.’s “entire approach” toward North Korea. – Bloomberg

South Korean banks wary of U.S. sanctions are holding tight to billions of dollars of Iranian funds, Iran says, apparently unwilling to budge before Joe Biden assumes the U.S. presidency. – Bloomberg

Anthony B. Kim and Ambassador Terry Miller write: More than ever, 2021 is the year for Washington and Seoul to invigorate their proven and pragmatic economic partnership, working together to face the challenges of a post-pandemic world. – Heritage Foundation


On his last full day in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that China had committed “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” through a campaign of internment, forced labor and forced sterilization of predominantly Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. – Washington Post

The United States should take an “aggressive stance” toward the threat posed by the aggressive and assertive China that it faces today, Avril Haines, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for the top U.S. intelligence job, said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Hong Kong’s de facto central bank has accused State Street Global Advisors of creating “market uncertainties” with the sudden reversal of its decision to stop investing in Chinese companies on the US sanctions list via Hong Kong’s largest exchange traded fund. – Financial Times

Josh Rogin writes: The Trump administration’s handling of the Chinese government’s genocidal policies in Xinjiang was not perfect — indeed, its response was often undermined by the president himself. But the U.S. government has done more to call out and punish these crimes than any other country or multilateral body on earth, by far. By making the determination and then leaving, the Trump team is putting the Biden administration in a tough position. But that doesn’t mean they are wrong. – Washington Post

Michael R. Pompeo writes: The Chinese Communist Party, like other authoritarian regimes, has never cherished human life. That’s clear from the well-known horrors the party inflicted on the Chinese people during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen Square massacre and the decades of repression of Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners. Yet the free world has become dangerously inured to this bloody history. So long as we remain silent, party elites will continue to commit human-rights abuses against the people of China with impunity. We cannot allow this cycle of evil to continue. – Wall Street Journal

Austin Ramzy writes: The global response to the repression in Xinjiang has been relatively muted, an indication of China’s global clout. Over the past year, the United States has imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, companies and government bodies operating in Xinjiang. The genocide declaration is the sharpest response thus far. Last year, a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee reached the same conclusion. The declaration by Mr. Pompeo could lead to further penalties by the United States, but those decisions will now be in the hands of the Biden administration. – New York Times

Joseph Bosco writes: It was those events and the accompanying strategic ambiguity doctrine that precipitated China’s massive buildup, as Beijing mobilized to exploit the very U.S. “uncertainty” Sullivan and Campbell disparage earlier in their piece. The authors state: “The U.S. strategy of containment was built on the prediction that the Soviet Union would one day crumble under its own weight — that it contained ‘the seeds of its own decay,’ as George Kennan, the diplomat who first laid out the strategy, declared with conviction.” – The Hill 

Scott Kennedy writes: Although the Trump administration has tried to intentionally handcuff its successors, the Biden administration has substantial flexibility to reshape America’s China policy. Systematically working through this complex inheritance is the necessary first step to going beyond mere tinkering and reactive management. The incoming administration will be able to take some steps on its own, others primarily in consultation with allies, and still others as a process of negotiation with Beijing. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for his top diplomat said on January 19 he would undertake a review of a deal with Afghanistan’s Taliban and that the United States needed means to prevent any resurgence of terrorism. – Agence France-Presse 

A spate of violence has killed more than two dozen people across Afghanistan, even as peace talks are under way between representatives of the government and Taliban militants in Qatar. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Afghan officials have confirmed to CBS News that a terror cell was established jointly by the Taliban and the ISIS branch in the country and tasked with disguising themselves as social workers, including vaccine administrators, to assassinate journalists in Kabul. – CBS News 

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: Moreover, leaving the problem to Afghanistan’s neighbors, such as Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran, may push them into commitments that will place the burden of Afghanistan on them; forcing these states to deal with the burden of Afghanistan could actually serve the strategic objectives of the United States. Strategic triage is not a pleasant process, but the United States must use its limited resources where they are most effective. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


A British prosecutor hired by the Hong Kong government to lead a case against tabloid media magnate Jimmy Lai and several other democracy activists has pulled out after coming under pressure in Britain, the city’s Department of Justice said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, beat Russia to keep its ranking as China’s top crude supplier in 2020, government data showed on Wednesday. – Reuters

Donald Trump’s final day in office has sparked fresh political debate in Australia about whether Scott Morrison allowed himself to get too close to the outgoing US president. But the focus will soon shift to building bridges with the incoming Joe Biden administration. – The Guardian


A team led by the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny published a sprawling investigation on Tuesday describing a secret palace built for President Vladimir V. Putin on the Black Sea, with the report’s release coming less than 24 hours after Mr. Navalny had been ordered jailed. – New York Times

Russian state gas company Gazprom acknowledged there is a risk that its undersea pipeline to Germany could be suspended or canceled after the U.S. on Tuesday imposing sanctions on a Russian ship involved in its construction. – Associated Press

Editorial: Mr. Navalny has now become the most potent opposition leader Mr. Putin has faced in two decades in power. “I am not afraid,” Mr. Navalny said at the airport. Mr. Navalny has highlighted the moral and political bankruptcy of Mr. Putin’s regime. The despot is fighting back the only way he knows how, with a police state reception at the airport. – Washington Post

Leon Aron writes: Navalny’s decision to return to Russia to certain arrest was a heroic choice. But, rather than a purely quixotic gesture, it was likely a calculated risk by a popular leader with a long track record of smart political strategies. – American Enterprise Institute

Dan McCormick writes: The strategic balance in the Black Sea region has shifted dramatically in Russia’s favor in the past decade. […]Littoral states should prioritize addressing the military imbalance to deter Russian coercive actions. Rather than rely on increased U.S. presence, Black Sea states should create a flexible network within NATO or the EU to build their own A2/AD capabilities. These capabilities would counter Russian power in the initial period of any crisis without needing to match the Russian forces ship-for-ship. – Middle East Institute


French President Emmanuel Macron hoped on Tuesday that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will show a greater military commitment to fight against Islamic extremists in several theaters of conflict and especially in the Middle East. – Associated Press

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he intends to invite the rival leaders on Cyprus to an informal meeting “as soon as practicable,” but he warns that this meeting must be different and help clarify “the true extent” of their common vision “and outline steps necessary to chart a way forward. – Associated Press

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson narrowly avoided a defeat in Parliament on Tuesday after lawmakers voted against a controversial proposal seeking to bar trade deals with any country deemed by the U.K. High Court to be committing genocide. – Associated Press

The European Union called on incoming U.S. President Joe Biden to form a “new founding pact” with Europe working on issues such as peace, security, prosperity, freedom and human rights. – Reuters

The newly-elected leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Armin Laschet, incorrectly tweeted in 2016 that the Obama administration had backed the militant Islamic State in Syria. Two years earlier, after Russia’s incursion into Crimea, Laschet criticized a wave of “marketable anti-Putin populism” spreading across Germany. – Bloomberg

William Alan Reinsch writes: While many people are saying that 2021 will be the year of China, just as the past four years have been, I think we may well see our relationship with Europe occupying much of the debate space this year. There are compelling reasons for improving it, just as there are compelling obstacles to doing so. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis write: The Arctic is becoming increasingly important for economic and geopolitical reasons. The U.S. has a strong interest in safeguarding economic freedom and national sovereignty in the region. Estonian observer status in the Arctic Council will assist in these efforts, advance transatlantic interests in the Arctic, and help to counterbalance the ideas proffered by another observer nation, China. – Heritage Foundation 

Joshua Tallis writes: Finally, even as Arctic strategies must wrestle with the implications of long-term changes in the region, policymaking would benefit from a renewed focus on nearer-term commitments in order to help prioritize limited resources. Without such reforms, these documents risk generating more heat than light. Through these changes, however, the Biden administration’s new Pentagon arrivals can make the best use of the many policy innovations that service Arctic strategies represent. – War on the Rocks 

Latin America

Most of the thousands of migrants who left Honduras for the United States on foot last week have been turned around in Guatemala. By Tuesday morning, more than 3,000 had been detained or forcibly sent back by security forces. – Washington Post

As one of his final acts in office, President Trump has authorized a program to give work permits and deportation protections to Venezuelan immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission, an action President-elect Joe Biden had promised to take during the 2020 campaign. – Wall Street Journal

The United States on Tuesday sanctioned a network of oil trading firms, individuals and vessels that have helped Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA sell crude mainly to Asia despite Washington’s sanctions on the South American nation. – Reuters

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will continue to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country’s president, Anthony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, said on Tuesday. – Reuters

David Smilde writes: The goal should not be for outside powers to determine the fate of Venezuela, but for them to facilitate a solution instead of impeding it. The Venezuelan opposition will be much more likely to negotiate if they are obliged to forget the chimera of U.S. intervention. By the same token, Maduro will be more interested in seeking a deal if he is firmly encouraged to do so by the international allies he depends on. – Washington Post

North America

After four years of trade clashes, unpredictable foreign policy and insults lobbed at the prime minister by tweet, Canadian officials are optimistic that the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden will mean a return to traditionally close relations between Canada and the United States. – Washington Post

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said on Tuesday that he will work to revitalize damaged American diplomacy and build a united front to counter the challenges posed by Russia, China and Iran. – Reuters

The Trump administration was closing in on agreements with Mauritania and Indonesia to be the next Muslim countries to normalize relations with Israel, but ran out of time before the Republican president’s term ended, two US officials told The Times of Israel this week. – Times of Israel

Ryan C. Berg writes: With Cienfuegos free, a dangerous sense of impunity in the top echelons of the Mexican state has been reaffirmed, while drug cartels continue to grow more potent, gaining ground against a Mexican administration with little interest in developing a deeper domestic security agenda. The Biden administration must find a way to balance the diplomatic relationship with the need to combat corruption and organized crime in Mexico. Combatting impunity is not only critical to US-Mexico bilateral security ties, but also to curtailing the bloodshed and ending Mexico’s perpetual violence. – American Enterprise Institute

United States

Avril D. Haines, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence, took questions from senators Tuesday in a confirmation hearing that was notably free of the partisan rancor that has characterized so many oversight sessions during the Trump administration. – Washington Post 

Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, and then communicated in real time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday. – Washington Post

President Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to 143 people, using a final act of presidential power to extend mercy to former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, well-connected celebrities and nonviolent drug offenders — but did not preemptively pardon himself or his family. – Washington Post

Retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III vowed Tuesday to eradicate extremism in the ranks if confirmed as the next defense secretary, as the Pentagon struggles to address a growing internal threat in the wake of this month’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. – Washington Post

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for secretary of state backed a tough approach to China and found common ground with Republicans on issues ranging from Israel to Venezuela, hinting at a more unified approach to foreign policy in the next four years. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will assume office amid a surge in optimism among major European allies, and at home, about the future of trans-Atlantic relations and American foreign policy in general, a poll showed Tuesday. – Associated Press

President Trump ordered the declassification of Justice Department documents related to the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into allegations of Trump-Russia collusion as one of his final acts in office. – Washington Examiner


Suspected Russian hackers targeted the cybersecurity company Malwarebytes Inc. in the course of a sprawling cyber-attack that breached U.S. government agencies and companies. – Bloomberg

The European Union hailed Joe Biden’s inauguration later on Wednesday as U.S. president as a “new dawn” for Europe and the United States, while insisting U.S. technology companies should be regulated to stop the “dark forces” of hate speech online. – Reuters

Alphabet Inc’s Google is investigating a member of its ethical AI team and has locked the corporate account linked to that person after finding that thousands of files were retrieved from its server and shared with external accounts, the company said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Tom Rogan writes: In contrast, ISIS seeks to displace the U.S. government with warped Salafist theological absolutism. As manifested in its theology, propaganda, and action, ISIS offers a binary choice between death and tyranny. While its adherents sometimes engage in terrorist or criminal activity, and deserve reciprocal constraint where they do so, most of QAnon’s followers are delusional but law abiding. – Washington Examiner 

Elisabeth Braw writes: Under pressure from Beijing over Ericsson’s home government’s banning of some Chinese telecoms technologies, he feared for the future of his business. His is not an unusual case. In today’s global trade competition, companies are becoming easy prey for hostile governments. Their home governments and citizens should back them up. – Foreign Policy


Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to be Defense secretary, avoided any major missteps at his confirmation hearing Tuesday, setting him on a path to confirmation despite some lingering concerns from lawmakers about a recently retired general leading the Pentagon. – The Hill

The U.S. Navy has halted deliveries of Lockheed Martin’s Freedom-class littoral combat ship, citing a design flaw with the ship’s transmission. – Defense News

President Donald Trump did not ultimately change the course of either the Pentagon’s Air Force One replacement or JEDI cloud computing programs, the Pentagon’s outgoing acquisition chief said Tuesday. – Defense News

U.S. combat jets and a destroyer are to join the British Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier on its maiden operational deployment to the Asia-Pacific region later in 2021, after officials formally approved the deployment Tuesday. – Defense News

Jackie Speier writes: As the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in their statement after the Capitol attack, the military must “support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.” The military is also vital to preventing radicalization in its ranks. This year, the new administration and new Congress must finally give the military the tools, resources and direction it needs to achieve this critical part of its mission. – Washington Post

Missile Defense

General Atomics (GA), the firm behind the iconic Reaper and Predator drones, modified one of their flying vehicles for an unusual and novel mission: anti-submarine warfare. – The National Interest

The Pentagon could be poised to spend $176 billion over 10 years if it carries out plans informed by the Missile Defense Review published in 2019, which is roughly 40 percent higher than previous budget projections made by the agency that provides budget information to Congress. – Defense News 

When U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office, his national security team will have to work quickly to make calls on a number of key nuclear and missile defense decisions, according to a top outgoing Pentagon official. – Defense News 

Vic Mercado writes: While we are confident we can defend the homeland against today’s missile threats from North Korea, the future threat foretold by Kim Jong Un this month is dynamic and, when you factor in Iran, unpredictable. Launch after launch, test after test, these potential adversaries are learning, adapting and improving their capabilities. Iran is gaining valuable information and learning from its space-launch program, which contributes directly to an effort to develop an ICBM, should it choose to do so. – Defense News

Long War

Federal authorities Tuesday unsealed terrorism charges against a 20-year-old U.S. Army cavalry scout based in Fort Stewart, Ga., who allegedly sympathized with Islamic State in Syria and provided tactical military advice to an undercover federal agent posing as a jihadist. – Wall Street Journal

President Emmanuel Macron opened the door on Tuesday to withdrawing some troops from Africa’s Sahel region, saying France could “adjust” its operations after successes against Islamist militants and the arrival of more European forces. – Reuters 

Iraq is tightening security along its 600 km (400 mile) border with Syria to curb the movement of Islamic State militants, drug smuggling and other illegal activities. – Reuters 

Emily Estelle writes: Fighting Al Qaeda and the broader movement it is part of needs to involve breaking from the traditional counterterrorism policy and nesting it into a strategy focused on changing the conditions of the vulnerable citizens on which terrorist groups prey. Without a new course, the threat of Al Qaeda will become much greater in a few years than it is today. – The Hill