Fdd's overnight brief

January 4, 2021

In The News


Iran has restarted the process of enriching uranium at a purity level of 20 percent at its underground facility at Fordow, a government spokesman said Monday. – Washington Post

The Pentagon said on Sunday that it had ordered the aircraft carrier Nimitz to remain in the Middle East because of Iranian threats against President Trump and other American officials, just three days after sending the warship home as a signal to de-escalate rising tensions with Tehran. – New York Times

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday not to be “trapped” by an alleged Israeli plan to provoke a war through attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. – Reuters

The U.S. killing of top general Qassem Soleimani will not deter Iranian resistance, a senior commander said on Friday as tensions mounted in the build-up to the first anniversary of the drone strike. – Reuters

Iran has told the United Nations nuclear watchdog it plans to enrich uranium to up to 20% purity, a level it achieved before its 2015 accord, at its Fordow site buried inside a mountain, the agency said on Friday. – Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday accused U.S. President Donald Trump of attempting to fabricate a pretext to attack Iran, and said Tehran would defend itself forcefully. – Reuters

Iran executed a man on Thursday who had been convicted of murder 12 years ago when he was 16, a Western rights group said, drawing condemnation from the U.N. rights office which said it was prohibited under international law. – Reuters

UAE intelligence agencies have arrested an Iranian squad in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on suspicion of plotting to carry out attacks against Israeli citizens. The members of the group are under investigation. – Jerusalem Post

Incoming US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that the assassination of Iranian terror mastermind Qassem Soleimani did not make America safer or protect US interests. – Algemeiner

Iranian maritime forces in the Persian Gulf have raised readiness levels in recent days, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr tweeted Friday, citing a US official. “Not clear if moves are ‘defensive’ because expect US attack, or are signals Iran preparing for operations in the Gulf against the US, official said,” Starr added. – Algemeiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Zarif can’t seem to get it straight whether to blame Israel for attacks, or allege that Israel is also behind Iranian-backed attacks on the US. Sheltering behind the “false flag” claim is bringing Iran’s regime into disrepute and the realm of antisemitic conspiracy theories. This latest tweet seems to give Iran’s militias in Iraq a pass to attack the US, so Iran can then blame Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: Iran is almost four times the size of Iraq. Current U.S. force posture does not approach what would be needed to counter Iran’s air defenses and neutralize its command-and-control let alone tackle its nuclear and missile infrastructure. Progressives might hate Trump’s Iran policy, but to proclaim war footing where none exists only feeds the partisan paranoia so corrosive to tackling the very real challenges Washington faces from Tehran. – American Enterprise Institute

Raz Zimmt writes: Under the command of Ghaani, the Quds Force has reverted back to a smaller unit carrying out clandestine operations and enlisting proxies to advance Iran’s strategic missions. This primarily means trying to remove U.S. forces from the region and continuing to build up the military capabilities of Lebanese-based Hezbollah group. After all, Tehran has consistently proven that it is willing to use any means to advance its policies regardless of the difficulties it faces. – Ynet


Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, in a speech Sunday marking a year since the US assassination of Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani and a pro-Iran Iraqi militia leader, said Iran “doesn’t need help” from its allies and will take revenge “when it decides so.” – Times of Israel

Hezbollah has suffered devastating blows in the past year and could be further pressured in 2021, a study by Al-Ain media that goes against the conventional wisdom asserts. Many have been predicting that a new US administration will relax sanctions on Iran, enabling Tehran to pour millions into Hezbollah’s coffers, after the Islamic Republic has been struggling to pay terrorist salaries over the past year, due in part to the Trump administration’s sanctions. – Jerusalem Post

Tom Rogan writes: Iran is aware that the Biden administration wants to rapidly reconstruct the 2015 JCPOA nuclear accord. It expects a far more concessionary U.S. policy toward it after Jan. 20. History comes into play here. Iran took a dangerous lesson from the Obama administration’s utterly impotent response to the IRGC’s 2011 attempt to blow up the Cafe Milano restaurant in Washington, D.C. Namely, that the administration of which Biden was a very senior figure, would tolerate an attempted act of war on American soil. – Washington Examiner


A car bomb exploded in a vegetable market in the northeastern Syrian town of Ras al Ain close to the border with Turkey, with reports of several killed and wounded, the Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Saturday. – Reuters

At least nine Syrian army soldiers were killed on Sunday in an ambush on their bus on a main highway in the central Syrian desert in the second such incident in less than a week by suspected Islamic State militants, residents and defectors said. – Reuters

A massive fire broke out Sunday in a warehouse where fuel and gas canisters were stored along the border between Lebanon and Syria, injuring seven people and causing loud explosions, the Lebanese Red Cross and army said. – Associated Press

Syria on Saturday lambasted the U.S. government for sanctions it has imposed on Damascus, following a U.N. special rapporteur’s statement that called on Washington to remove unilateral sanctions against the war-torn country. – Associated Press


In his nearly six years as the top United Nations envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nickolay E. Mladenov worked quietly behind the scenes to help keep the Gaza Strip from boiling over, preserve the possibility of a two-state solution and build support for Israeli-Arab normalization as a vastly preferable alternative to the Israeli annexation of West Bank land. – New York Times

An Israeli official on Sunday dismissed as “nonsense” an allegation by the Iranian foreign minister that Israel was trying to trick the United States into waging war on Iran. – Reuters

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday that he wants the country to buy a third squadron of stealth F-35 warplanes from the United States for now while earmarking funds for possible purchases of new F-15 jets. – Reuters

Israeli prosecutors on Sunday released an amended indictment spelling out detailed charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a corruption case in which he is accused of trading favors with a powerful media mogul. – Associated Press

The Israel Defense Forces said on Sunday it had arrested several suspects in the West Bank for a rock-throwing attack earlier in the day that seriously injured Israeli Rivka Tytell while she was driving her car. – Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority has reportedly handed over to Israel four suspects arrested over the weekend in connection with a shootout in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab that left three Palestinian residents dead and eight wounded. – Times of Israel

A top Iranian commander said Saturday that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had given an order for Tehran-backed terror groups to destroy Haifa and Tel Aviv if “any foolishness is committed against Iran,” warning that the Islamic Republic has been working for years on developing the capabilities of its proxies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. – Times of Israel

As Iran commemorates one year since the assassination of Quds Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Sunday, the IDF prepares for a possible attack by Tehran, a senior military source told The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

Two former Mossad chiefs and a former national security council chief all said on Sunday that Iran had failed to avenge the assassination of one of its most senior officials in 2020 and likely would not do so prior to US President-Elect Joe Biden taking office. – Jerusalem Post

Israeli firms are still being targeted as part of a widespread cyberattack being attributed to Iranian hackers calling themselves Pay2Key, with a new victim being revealed over the weekend. The attack has already seen at least 80 companies targeted, including Israel’s largest defense contractor, and has prompted the formation of a group of Israeli cyber-vigilantes who are vowing to mount a counteroffensive. – Haaretz

The Israeli army declared the area surrounding Metula, near the border between Israel and Lebanon, as a closed military zone on Sunday ahead of Hezbollah protests on the Lebanese side of the border marking one year since the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. – Haaretz

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Saturday that he had reached agreement with the rival Hamas movement to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. Hamas did not immediately comment on Abbas’s announcement. – Jerusalem Post

Progress in some areas of normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has slowed in recent weeks, with an Israeli diplomatic source pointing to the UAE’s designation as a “red country” by Israel’s Health Ministry. – Jerusalem Post

More than 1,000 Israeli Arabs have volunteered to serve in the IDF as conscripts or reservists in the past year, and most after the coronavirus crisis began in March, the military’s Manpower Directorate said Sunday. – Ynet

Seth J. Frantzman writes: What does Qatar’s game plan mean for the peace deals and Hamas and the Palestinians? Will it stoke tensions or reduce them? Will it mean more peace and normalization, or will it put the brakes on? Israel, pragmatically, has been able to deal with Qatar in the past and will in the future. But Israel also knows that Ankara and its links to Doha and Hamas, represent a hostility that has not changed. “Trust, but verify,” the saying goes. Ankara and Doha have not veritably changed. Many other peace-promoting countries have. – Jerusalem Post

Tevi Troy writes: Israel’s relationship with the outgoing administration was extraordinary. We shall not see its like again. The question going forward is whether the Biden administration will take the recent successes into account as it makes its own way in the Middle East—or whether the powerful urge to restore the status quo ante of the Obama administration will set the course for the next four years. – Commentary

John Holt writes: I served for more than 40 years in the Middle East and saw numerous Americans killed by terrorist attacks, all orchestrated and supported by the mullahs in Iran. I urge President Trump to bring Iranian religious leadership to justice for the Pan Am 103 bombing now. The US and Israel should work together to strike key Iranian military facilities, IRGC training camps and all nuclear development sites, both open and secret, before Iran gathers enough strength to strike again, which they will. – Times of Israel


Chanting anti-American slogans, thousands of Iraqis converged on a landmark square in central Baghdad on Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the killing of a powerful Iranian general and a top Iraqi militia leader in a U.S. drone strike. – Washington Post

An Iraqi oil tanker was evacuated after a mine was discovered attached to its hull, and explosives experts were working to make it safe, Iraq’s military said on Friday. – Reuters

Liberty is one of four former Blackwater contractors pardoned by President Donald Trump in one of Trump’s final acts in office, freeing them from prison after a 2007 shooting rampage in Baghdad that killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians. – Associated Press


The new power-sharing Yemeni government vowed on Thursday to bring stability to the war-torn country, a day after a fatal attack ripped through Aden’s airport targeting cabinet members. – Agence France-Presse

Yemen’s prime minister on Saturday said that a missile attack on the airport in Aden was meant “to eliminate” the country’s new government as it arrived in the key southern city — a daring assault which he blamed on Iran-backed rebels. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran is doing this on the eve of a new incoming US administration that is expected to be tough on Saudi Arabia regarding the Yemen war. Riyadh is accused of causing famine and hardship in Yemen, and it appears that pressure on the kingdom to stop the war will increase. Iran’s ploy seemed to be an attempt to intensify this pressure by destroying the new unity government. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

The Gulf crisis, which has pitted regional players against Qatar, could be moving closer to resolution as the key countries prepare to meet in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

John Calabrese writes: American interests would be better served and the prospects for enhancing Gulf markedly improved were the United States to invest the same time and energy in practicing preventive diplomacy as it has lately devoted to coercive diplomacy. It is not inconceivable that the next administration will follow this path. If it does, the United States will have made some headway in restoring its credibility, setting ground rules for a new security partnership model, as well as in reestablishing and rebranding itself as a new kind of global leader. – Middle East Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Qatar’s double game has never been clear. On the one hand, it appears open to Israel, and its friends say it is astute and could normalize relations with Israel. It has tried to sell itself to pro-Israel groups, including far-right pro-Israel voices, as being open to Israel. But at the end of the day, Qatar’s long-term role has been with far-right Islamist groups, not moderates. Yet it claims to be open to hosting Israelis for sports events and being moderate. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

A roadside bomb went off Friday in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, killing two members of the country’s security forces and wounding five, security and medical officials said. – Associated Press

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan resumed their years-long negotiations Sunday over the controversial dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, officials said. – Associated Press

An Algerian military appeals court on Saturday acquitted three top officials who were jailed in 2019 during mass protests, sources close to the officials said. – Reuters

Some Middle East officials worry a “perfect storm” may be brewing in the Middle East as the final hours of Donald Trump’s time in office tick down. The United States and Israel have deployed new military assets in the Persian Gulf region, as Iran sends more ballistic missiles and drones to its proxy groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, increasing concerns of an imminent confrontation. – Breaking Defense

Korean Peninsula

In October, North Korea unveiled new military hardware in a parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The biggest attention-getters were, unsurprisingly, the missiles, especially the Pukguksong-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and the Hwasong-16, which, if real, would be the largest liquid-fueled and road-mobile missile ever made. – Business Insider

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thanked the public for their trust and support “in the difficult times” and wished them happiness and good health in his first New Year’s Day cards sent to his people. – Associated Press

Kim Jong Un built anticipation for a rare party congress he plans to hold in the coming days, after skipping the New Year’s Day address North Korean leaders have long used to lay out their policy agendas. – Bloomberg


China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has in recent weeks made deals and pledges that he hopes will position his country as an indispensable global leader, even after its handling of the coronavirus and increased belligerence at home and abroad have damaged its international standing. – New York Times

The Marine Corps is stepping up training in Japan for island-based conflict in the Western Pacific, putting it at the leading edge of a pivot by the U.S. to face the military challenge from China. – Wall Street Journal

China’s relationship with the United States has reached a “new crossroads” and could get back on the right track following a period of “unprecedented difficulty”, senior diplomat Wang Yi said in official comments published on Saturday. – Reuters

China has rebuffed the latest offer of talks from Taiwan, saying the government was engaging in a “cheap trick” and provocation by seeking confrontation with China at every turn. – Reuters

The New York Stock Exchange is starting the process of delisting securities of three Chinese telecom companies, after President Donald Trump last month barred U.S. investments in Chinese firms Washington says are owned or controlled by the military. – Reuters

China on Saturday vowed to take “necessary measures” in order to protect its companies following the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) delisting three Chinese telecom firms for alleged ties to the country’s military. – The Hill

SenseTime and the seven other firms were added to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Entity List for being part of “China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance.” But that has not steered American money away from these companies, which have been snapping up contracts offered by the Chinese government to track and identify its own citizens in invasive manners. – The Daily Beast

China flew its biggest warplane, the Y-20 transporter, to Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed South China Sea on December 25, satellite images show. – Business Insider

Editorial: The United States and other democracies will succeed only if they act as a united front. Mr. Biden has, sensibly, proposed to do just that, beginning with a restoration of U.S.-European relations. He should follow through on this promise, the urgency of which the latest E.U.-China deal ironically has demonstrated. Mr. Trump’s policies have encouraged and enabled Beijing to play the allies off against one another, but Mr. Biden still has a chance to repair the breach. – Washington Post

Editorial: Chinese officials have already been spinning a story that the virus got started somewhere beyond China’s borders and came in through imported seafood. What if a researcher finds otherwise? Will he or she be permitted to publish it, or will China’s task force decide it is an inconvenient truth? […]A credible investigation of how the pandemic began will require China to be completely open and transparent, including about the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The presence of China’s thought police overseeing scientific inquiry does not bode well. – Washington Post

Michael Beckley and Hal Brands write: The bad news is that, over the next five to 10 years, the pace of Sino-American rivalry will be torrid, and the prospect of war in hot spots such as the Taiwan Strait will be frighteningly real, as Beijing becomes tempted to lunge for its geopolitical objectives. America will still need a sustainable strategy for managing and winning a protracted global competition. But first it needs a near-term strategy for navigating the danger zone. – American Enterprise Institute

Tom Rogan writes: Still, U.S. interests demand that Biden reject China’s poisoned olive branch. Xi seeks to replace the U.S.-led liberal international order with a China-led order of authoritarian China-led order of feudal mercantilism. If Biden tolerates that Chinese ambition, Americans and the world will ultimately be less free, less secure, and less prosperous for it. – Washington Examiner

Glenn H. Reynolds writes: US media companies are also prey to Chinese influence: Most major media news operations are controlled by mammoth entertainment companies that now depend on revenues from Chinese markets and have no desire to offend the Communist regime. The Trump administration’s tougher line on China has found resonance with the American public and, indeed, with many other countries that have come to regard the Chinese as bullies and a threat to freedom. Will the Biden administration give the Chinese a pass, or will it address this threat? Keep a close eye on this question. – New York Post


The video, published Monday on a Taliban spokesman’s Twitter account, came amid a rash of targeted shootings and bombings in the Afghan capital that have killed several dozen journalists, civic leaders, physicians, democracy advocates and government officials. The mayhem has brought a new kind of personal terror to a city long accustomed to insurgent attacks against official buildings and military targets. – Washington Post

A military prosecutor who thought upholding the law was the highest honor, a doctor who inspired her family to study medicine, a journalist who wanted to hold those in power to account and a human-rights activist who sought to combat poverty in her home province: all murdered within weeks by unknown attackers as winter settled over Afghanistan. – New York Times

Afghan government representatives and Taliban officials are due to resume their power-sharing talks, officials said on Monday, although battlefield clashes and targeted killings risk undermining efforts to end the war. – Reuters

An Afghan journalist was shot dead in a car ambush in the central province of Ghor, the fifth media professional to be killed in the country in two months, officials said on Saturday. – Reuters

The US military on Monday blamed the Taliban for a spate of assassinations of prominent Afghans, the first time Washington has directly accused the insurgent group of the killings. – Agence France-Presse

South Asia

Armed men abducted and killed at least 11 coal miners in southwestern Pakistan early Sunday, officials said. All the victims were ethnic Hazaras, a minority Shiite group that has often been the target of Sunni extremists. – New York Times

For years, Pakistan’s effort to wipe out the wild polio virus has been thwarted by public fears of foreign vaccines, largely fanned by Islamic clerics and others who warned that polio drops were part of a Western plot to sterilize the Muslim masses. – Washington Post

Pakistan on Saturday arrested a man accused of being a leader of an Islamist militant group blamed by the United States and India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, a counter-terrorism official said. – Reuters


Among the hodgepodge of legislative loose ends that made their way into the $900 billion spending bill signed by President Trump on Sunday night was a significant update to the 18-year-old Tibetan Policy Act, strengthening U.S. support for Tibetan autonomy and religious freedom for followers of Tibetan Buddhism around the world. – Washington Post

Insurgents from western Myanmar on Friday released three ruling party politicians who had been kidnapped from conflict-torn Rakhine state, a spokesman for the insurgent group said, calling it a goodwill gesture to build trust with the government. – Reuters

A Malaysian court on Monday announced it would not reopen a probe into the death of an Irish teenager whose body was found in a jungle after she went missing during a family holiday, saying she likely died of misadventure. – Reuters

Australia is moving to boost ties with small island nations off its eastern coastline, pushing back against China’s growing influence in the Pacific Ocean as the virus outbreak hinders travel. – Bloomberg

The PRC seeks to enforce a “one China principle,” under which other countries affirm that Taiwan is part of China. – USNI News

Editorial: The crackdown continues in Hong Kong, and this week the Chinese government made an example of the territory’s most prominent political prisoners. Publisher Jimmy Lai is back in jail after Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal revoked his bail. A long-time democracy advocate and critic of the Communist Party, Mr. Lai faces multiple charges for participating in last year’s Hong Kong protests, and authorities have also charged him under the new national-security law, which effectively outlaws dissent. – Wall Street Journal


The sprawling SolarWinds hack by suspected Russian state-backed hackers is the latest sign of Moscow’s growing resolve and improving technical ability to cause disruption and conduct espionage at a global scale in cyberspace. – Wall Street Journal

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s incoming national security adviser said on Sunday that the new administration would move quickly to renew the last remaining major nuclear arms treaty with Russia, even while seeking to make President Vladimir V. Putin pay for what appeared to be the largest-ever hacking of United States government networks. – New York Times

The ordeal faced by Shaveddinov — a close ally of opposition leader Alexei Navalny — offers another look at Russia’s increasingly aggressive tactics to silence and intimidate Putin’s critics. In recent months, authorities have ramped up harassment and prosecutions of activists, dissidents and journalists, freezing bank accounts and conducting repeated searches of homes. – Washington Post

The United States on Thursday voiced alarm after Russia expanded rules against NGOs and media considered “foreign agents,” accusing Moscow of stifling free expression. – Agence France-Presse

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a knife attack on police on Monday in the capital of Russia’s southern Chechnya region, Al-Naba newspaper affiliated with the group said on Friday. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In every invasion Ankara has performed so far, it has sought to increase Russia’s and Iran’s power – not only weaken America but to also weaken any groups that want democracy or a more free press and to bring in extremists and authoritarians. John F. Kennedy in 1960 argued that the world was not just divided into a Soviet and American camp, but rather those countries that were “free” as opposed to those that aren’t. He understood that authoritarians prefer to work together; that is what is happening in the Caucasus. – Jerusalem Post


But for the first time in over 25 years, goods traveling between Britain and the European Union will no longer move freely and customs checks will be enforced for goods entering the bloc. – New York Times

The recent Brexit trade deal generated relief in Britain and the European Union, but some issues were left on the negotiating table — including what to do about Gibraltar, the British territory at the southern tip of Spain whose sovereignty has long been disputed by Madrid. – New York Times

It is done at last. On Jan. 1, with the Brexit transition period over, Britain will no longer be part of the European Union’s single market and customs union. The departure will be ordered, thanks to a last-minute deal running to more than 1,200 pages, but still painful to both sides. A great loss will be consummated. – New York Times

A British judge rejected a U.S. request to extradite Julian Assange on spying charges, saying the risk of suicide is too high. The U.S. government has the right to appeal the decision. – Wall Street Journal

Defying U.S. calls to reduce its dependency on energy supplies from Russia, Serbia on Friday officially launched a new gas link that will bring additional Russian gas to the Balkan country via Bulgaria and Turkey. – Associated Press

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is set to reshuffle his cabinet on Monday with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of the conservative government. – Reuters

Boris Johnson has suggested Scotland should not hold another independence referendum until at least the 2050s, shrugging off claims that Brexit has strengthened the case for a new vote. – Financial Times

Donald Trump’s administration has stepped up its long-running trade dispute with the EU over aircraft subsidies, saying it will increase tariffs on aircraft parts and beverages from France and Germany. – Financial Times

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s strong push to conclude the EU-China deal in the last days of the year has left a bad aftertaste among a group of EU countries who said they felt ignored. – Politico

With Brexit now real, the U.K. may discover that it’s not so simple to shed a European identity so anchored in history and geography. – Bloomberg

In some ways, the international intervention in Bosnia represents the pinnacle of co-operation between the US, EU and even Russia. But following an agreement a decade ago that the EU should take charge of operations in Bosnia, US neglect has led to stagnation, says Ms Ruge. – Financial Times

Editorial: The EU should turn promptly back to that agenda, and avoid the risk of a transatlantic rift. A good place to start is technology — working to prevent Chinese military advances, teaming up with U.S. technologists to set new international standards, and coordinating efforts to screen Chinese investments in sensitive sectors. European leaders were right to call the Trump administration’s unilateral approach to China all bluster and no results. There’s no reason to think European unilateralism will work any better. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Yet westerners should keep in mind that, for many central and eastern Europeans, national independence is no abstract concept. Its recovery after 1989 was a prized achievement after decades of dictatorship and foreign oppression. The year 2021 can and should be the time when each side tries harder to understand each other and co-operate on the basis of common interests and values. – Financial Times

Peter Gumbel writes: Indeed, roles have been reversed in some ways: Today, it is Germany that opens its door to refugees and whose chancellor, Angela Merkel, is outspoken in defense of global values and embodies decency and respect. By contrast, the Britain that sheltered and nurtured my family is a sad shadow of its former self. After 80 years, I feel ready to close a cycle of history. British by birth, I am European by heritage and conviction — and now have an unambiguously European nationality to prove it. I am still proud to be British, but I am also proud to be German. I think my grandparents and parents would approve .- New York Times

Nicola Sturgeon writes: More and more people in Scotland believe our aspirations can best be met by continuing to contribute to the shared endeavor and solidarity that the EU represents. Because of Brexit, we can now only do this as an independent member state in our own right. We have been inside the European Union family of nations for nearly 50 years. We didn’t want to leave and we hope to join you again soon as an equal partner as we face the opportunities and challenges of the future together. – Politico

Tom Rogan writes: Moving past President Trump’s faux pas toward Denmark, the Biden administration should push Copenhagen to use DNV GL’s withdrawal as a reason to abandon the project altogether. Denmark should do so. As attested by the recent Russian air force breach of sovereign Danish airspace, Putin is no friend of the Danish people. America, however, is. And as a side note, DNV GL deserves preferential treatment from the U.S. government as a reward for its positive decision. – Washington Examiner


A hundred civilians were killed in attacks by suspected militants in the West African nation of Niger on Saturday, according to government officials. – New York Times

Rebel fighters in Central African Republic attacked and partially occupied a diamond-mining town on Sunday, four security and humanitarian sources said, a day before authorities are due to declare results of the presidential election. – Reuters

Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission said on Friday that security forces killed at least 76 people and wounded nearly 200 during violent unrest in June and July that followed the killing of a popular singer. – Reuters

Sudan said on Thursday its forces had taken control of all of Sudanese territory in a border area settled by Ethiopian farmers, after weeks of clashes. – Reuters

The Malian authorities on Thursday charged six prominent figures, including a former prime minister, with seeking to mount a coup, a move that came after a military putsch in August, their lawyers said. – Agence France-Presse

The United Nations and African Union on Thursday ended a 13-year mission to keep the peace in the vast Sudanese region of Darfur, even as recent violent clashes leave residents fearful of renewed fighting. – Agence France-Presse

The French presidency announced that two French soldiers were killed Saturday in Mali when an improvised explosive device hit their armored vehicle, five days after three others died in similar circumstances. – Associated Press

A suicide bombing near the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Saturday killed five people including two Turks, Turkish and Somali officials said. – Associated Press

At least 25 people were killed in an attack on New Year’s Eve by rebels in Congo’s eastern Beni territory, local officials said Friday. – Associated Press

The Americas

But with Nicolás Maduro still occupying the presidential palace and commanding Venezuela’s security forces, Guaidó’s so-called interim government needed cash to project power abroad and undermine the president at home. –  Washington Post

Brazil’s pugnacious president, Jair Bolsonaro, survived 2020 in surprisingly good shape personally and politically, with buoyant popularity ratings despite his own bout of COVID-19 and a broader pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 of his countrymen. – Associated Press

But less than a year after his guest appearance at the State of the Union address capped a triumphant overseas tour, it is Mr Guaidó who appears broken while Mr Maduro’s hold on power seems stronger than ever.- Financial Times

The U.S. State Department on Friday added a Cuban commercial bank to its restricted list, saying it will prevent the Cuban military from benefiting from financial transactions. – Reuters


The Army has worked furiously to develop new electronic warfare capabilities for the force, rebuilding what it divested after the Cold War. With much attention paid to these new systems, the Army is also building new units across the service that will have to operate these emerging electronic warfare systems. – C4ISRNET

The Pentagon’s top artificial intelligence office, called the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, is shifting its focus and wants 2021 to be the year that it becomes the central repository for military components looking to use AI. – C4ISRNET

Future deliveries of U.S. Army tactical network tools could include new waveform technologies that would reduce adversaries’ chances of interfering with communications. – C4ISRNET


Army researchers are looking to add muscle tissue to robot platforms, giving them “never before seen mobility and agility.” – Army Times

The U.S. Navy will commission seven ships in 2021 and christen another eight, according to data provided by Naval Sea Systems Command. – Navy Times

Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry, and Donald Rumsfeld write: Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants — are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team. We call upon them, in the strongest terms, to do as so many generations of Americans have done before them. This final action is in keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the U.S. armed forces, and the history of democratic transition in our great country. – Washington Post

Trump Administration

President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act. – Washington Post

The White House is preparing to temporarily freeze some foreign aid during President Trump’s final days in office, two people with knowledge of the planning said, slowing down funds already approved by Congress. – Washington Post

The Senate on Friday voted to turn a $741 billion defense authorization bill into law over President Trump’s objections, delivering the first successful veto override of his presidency in the waning days of his administration. – Washington Post

The Trump administration made what may be its final stand against the status quo at the United Nations, voting Thursday against the world body’s annual budget over disagreements on a conference that it considers anti-Israel and on Iran sanctions. – Bloomberg