Fdd's overnight brief

January 6, 2020

In The News


He changed the shape of the Syrian civil war and tightened Iran’s grip on Iraq. He was behind hundreds of American deaths in Iraq and waves of militia attacks against Israel. And for two decades, his every move lit up the communications networks — and fed the obsessions — of intelligence operatives across the Middle East. – New York Times

President Trump served a bellicose brew of threats, rebukes and contempt on Sunday as he escalated tensions in the Middle East and awaited Iran’s possible retaliation for the U.S. killing of one of its top generals. – Washington Post

Iran said Sunday that it is suspending its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal it had struck with world powers and will abandon the accord’s “final restrictions” on uranium enrichment and other activities unless U.S. sanctions are lifted. – Washington Post

By Sunday, under the hashtag #IranianCulturalSites, a Twitter campaign cropped up in the form of history buffs taking verbal aim at Mr. Trump’s threat. Among the sites cited as irreplaceable treasures — not just for Iran, but also for antiquities preservation globally — was Persepolis, parts of which still stand. – New York Times

In cities across Iran, tens of thousands packed the streets to mourn Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. Black-clad women and men beat their chests and clutched photos of him. A black flag went up on the golden dome of Imam Reza shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of the holiest sites of Shiite Islam. – New York Times

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on Sunday that the United States could attack the country within its borders and its leaders if they take hostile actions against American interests in the aftermath of the drone strike that killed a top general. – New York Times

Iran’s strategic isolation perhaps explains a tone of caution that has accompanied its denunciations of Gen. Soleimani’s death. Iranian Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi on Saturday promised a revenge that will be “tough”—but “not hasty,” an indication that Tehran may seek to avoid an immediate escalation that could risk sparking an all-out war with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

Just hours after a U.S. drone strike killed Iran’s charismatic elite Quds Force commander in Baghdad early Friday, Tehran announced it had named a successor: the force’s little-known deputy chief, Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani. – Washington Post

But at least for now, Iran is united — in anger at the United States. For years, it has been a divided nation led by aged revolutionaries determined to impose their will on a predominantly young population with no memory of the Shah, who was deposed in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and with a thirst to live in a more normal nation integrated into the world. Suddenly, with one targeted assassination, the nation rallied behind its leaders. – New York Times

One of the many big questions looming over President Trump’s decision to assassinate Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani is this: Was it a good idea? – New York Times

In the hours after an American drone strike in Iraq killed Iran’s most important military leader, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a question has dominated discussion in the Middle East, in Congress and on social media. Could this lead to war between the United States and Iran? – New York Times

The American drone attack near the Baghdad airport early Friday that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the powerful Iranian commander, drastically ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran, threatening to tip hostilities into war. Here’s what to know about what happened and what comes next. – New York Times

President Trump’s decision to strike and kill the second most powerful official in Iran turns a slow-simmering conflict with Tehran into a boiling one, and is the riskiest move made by the United States in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. – New York Times

The United States ramped up its campaign against Iran early Friday when it killed a top Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, with a drone strike. Here’s how the situation developed over the last eight days. – New York Times

The killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. drone attack has exposed the limitations of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran as it moves into a riskier, more confrontational phase. – Washington Post

The Revolutionary Guards commander instructed his top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and other powerful militia leaders to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country using sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran, two militia commanders and two security sources briefed on the gathering told Reuters. – Reuters

The Trump administration on Friday justified its killing of a top Iranian general as an act of self-defense, trying to deflect accusations that it violated international law and concerns raised by legal experts and a senior U.N. rights investigator. – Reuters

In an exclusive interview with CNN in Tehran, the adviser — Maj. Gen. Hossein Dehghan — made the most specific and direct threat yet by a senior Iranian official following the killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad. Dehghan said Iran would retaliate directly against US “military sites.” – CNN

If Iran decides to follow through on its vow of harsh retaliation for the killing of its top general, it can call upon heavily armed allies across the Middle East that are within easy striking distance of U.S. forces and American allies. – Associated Press

An Iranian general who replaced the leader killed by a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad vowed Sunday to take revenge as Tehran abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to the slaying. – Associated Press

After months of a muted U.S. response to Tehran’s repeated lashing out—the downing of a U.S. military drone, a devastating attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, and more—Suleimani’s killing was designed to send a pointed message to the regime that the United States will not tolerate continued provocation, he said. – Foreign Policy

The killing of Iran’s Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. strike yesterday in Baghdad wasn’t just the targeted assassination of a state military leader. It marked a dangerous new chapter in a roiling region Soleimani has helped shape for more than a decade, and moved the U.S. and Iran’s cycle of proxy violence and sabotage closer to outright war. – The Atlantic

In the days since the January 3, 2020 U.S. killing of IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, Al-Jazeera has published numerous op-eds on its English-language website. – Middle East Media Research Institute

The following are January 3, 2020 reactions to the killing early that morning of IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani and PMU deputy commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport. The reactions are from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestinian terrorist organizations. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: But that is irrelevant. Soleimani was an enemy combatant waging war against America. His proxy forces targeted U.S. troops 11 times in recent months and stormed the U.S. Embassy last week. Killing him was justified under the laws of war and is a blow for deterrence against those who would kill Americans with impunity. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Doran writes: The killings of Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leaders of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, were certainly meaningful, but they were also largely symbolic, because their organizations had been mostly destroyed. Taking out the architect of the Islamic Republic’s decades-long active campaign of violence against the United States and its allies, especially Israel, represents a tectonic shift in Middle Eastern politics. – New York Times

Bret Stephens writes: On the escalatory side, a policy of deliberately disproportionate retaliation to any Iranian aggression, no matter whether it’s carried out by Iran or its proxies, and no matter whether it aims at us or our allies. The clearer we are in limning the courses of hope and fear, the likelier we are to achieve a stable balance between them. – New York Times

Eli Lake writes: Until this week, that war has been waged through economic sanctions against Iran’s regime and precision strikes against its proxies. Now Trump has erased the distinction between Iran and its proxies. That’s a blow not just to Iran’s network of militias and terrorists. It’s also a blow to the regime’s campaign to bully the world into treating it like a normal country. Iran is a country run by terrorists, and Trump is right to treat them as such. – Bloomberg

Marc Champion writes: As Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei decides how to respond to the high-profile assassination, Soleimani’s proxy fighters — from Afghanistan to Yemen — are likely to remain Iran’s main weapon in an asymmetric fight against the vastly superior conventional weaponry and forces of the U.S. and its allies. – Bloomberg

Michael Knights writes: Accordingly, U.S. policymakers should let the reality of his assassination sink in across the region before taking further actions that might distract from this dramatic gesture. Whether through sanctions or kinetic strikes, the targeting of malign elite figures should be a model for future pushback against Iran’s proxies, with Washington taking care to never impose collective punishment or fear on the innocent populations that Iran is suppressing. – Washington Institute

Mehdi Khalaji writes: Moreover, the IRGC has long proclaimed that it has “full intelligence mastery” in Iraq, so its failure to save such an important commander from assassination there could be seen as an embarrassment among Iranians and Iraqis alike. Regardless of domestic reactions, one cannot rule out the possibility that the regime might exploit mourning ceremonies as a tactical military tool abroad. – Washington Institute

Michael Rubin writes: Soleimani and Muhandis were targets of opportunity, and Trump took the decision to strike at them. It would be foolish, however, to ignore there will be an aftermath and many second and third-order effects. It is imperative that the U.S. national security bureaucracy alongside Congress now work overtime on a nonpartisan, broad strategy to contain the negative and exploit the positive. – The National Interest

Ilan Berman writes: Yet, in assessing their options, officials in Tehran are also keenly aware that the United States has the military capabilities to exact catastrophic consequences on their regime in the event of an all-out confrontation. Through its targeting of Soleimani, the Trump administration has now demonstrated something that had heretofore been missing: that the United States also possesses the political will to do so. That, in a nutshell, is what real maximum pressure should look like. – The National Interest


The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-allied Hezbollah movement declared Sunday that retribution for the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani should target the U.S. military presence in the Middle East and not U.S. citizens, saying that harming ordinary Americans would play into the hands of President Trump. – Washington Post

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday he had warned Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani of the risk of assassination and met him in the Lebanese capital Beirut on New Year’s Day before he was killed in a U.S. attack in Baghdad. – Reuters

Daniel Cohen writes: In addition to decreasing Hezbollah’s domestic and international legitimacy through designation, both the Lebanese institutional security structure (the Lebanese military forces) and the civilian sector require effective bolstering.[…] It was shown that individual countries that have designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, have continued to provide both ODA and humanitarian aid to Lebanon, consistently with the period before the designation and according to the circumstances in Lebanon. – The National Interest


Turkey has started deploying troops to Libya, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday evening in a live television interview, keeping his promise to support the fragile government in Tripoli even as Western states have warned against escalating a conflict between the government and rebel forces. – New York Times

Turkey’s president said Sunday that the country was deploying military units to Libya, where Ankara is supporting the embattled U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli. – Associated Press

The Iranian government outlets said that Erdoğan had offered his condolences to Rohani over the killing of “Martyr Soleimani,” but the Turkish government sources did not mention any such condolences. – Middle East Media Research Institute


For years, he was a distant adversary, overseeing attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets abroad. But as time went on, the threat from Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani loomed ever larger and closer for Israel. – New York Times

In an apparent slip of the tongue on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Israel as a nuclear power before correcting himself with a bashful nod and an embarrassed smile. – Reuters

Hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Saturday mourned the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, killed by a U.S. air strike in Iraq. – Reuters


President Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions and a bill for billions of dollars if the U.S. is forced to withdraw its troops from the nation after the Iraqi parliament, responding to a U.S. airstrike that killed a powerful Iranian general on its soil, voted in favor of expelling American forces. – Wall Street Journal

The attack has shaken Iraq, sharpening long-standing fears that the country’s soil will become home, again, for a bloody shadow war between Washington and Tehran. For many caught in between, Baghdad now carries echoes of the uncertainties that preceded the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. – Washington Post

As Iraq held joint funeral services on Saturday for two revered military leaders killed in an American drone strike near the Baghdad airport this past week, tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters marched through Baghdad, waving flags and chanting that “revenge is coming” to the United States. – New York Times

American oil workers were fleeing Iraq on Friday, as fears grew of war between the United States and Iran. At sermons in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, worshipers chanted, “Death to America!” – New York Times

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said pressure from Iran prompted Iraq to move toward expelling U.S. forces from the country, a decision that could jeopardize U.S.-backed operations against Islamic State and undermine efforts to counter Iranian influence in the region. – Wall Street Journal

Iran-backed militias in Iraq demanded lawmakers attend a session of parliament to vote on the possible expulsion of U.S. troops from the country, after the killing of an Iranian general there put the country at the center of an escalating conflict between its two most important allies. – Wall Street Journal

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday expressed his growing concern about the successive developments in Iraq and called for calm, the organization said in a statement. – Reuters

The United States plans to designate an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia as a foreign terrorist organization, the State Department said on Friday, accusing the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group of being a violent proxy of Tehran. – Reuters

The New Year’s Eve attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad has exposed a deepening divide between the United States and Iraq over Iran’s role there, even as the Pentagon embarks on a more aggressive mission to counter Iranian influence across the Mideast. – Associated Press

In response to the January 2, 2020 assassination of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian IRGC’s Qods Force, and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, deputy head of Al-Hashd Al-Sha’bi (Popular Moilization Forces – PMF), Iraqi Shi’ite militias implicitly threatened to target U.S. bases in Iraq, warning the Iraqi security forces to keep away from them starting January 5 in the evening. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Explaining that the request comes in line with “the commitment of the Iraqi government to end the presence of any foreign forces in Iraqi territory and prevent it from using Iraqi lands, water, and air for any reason,” the statement noted that the Iraqi government is committed to confining weapons to the state’s security institutions alone. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: Mr. Trump should make clear that the U.S. presence is to maintain a free and independent Iraq and support its sovereignty when threatened by ISIS and Iran-controlled militias. Most Iraqis know the U.S. played a decisive role in defeating Islamic State and have no interest in becoming Tehran’s colony. – Wall Street Journal

David Pollock writes: This fallback position would be to keep expanding, quietly, the U.S. military footprint inside the northern Iraqi autonomous Kurdistan Region, even while withdrawing some or all troops further south.[…] Such an outcome, although not ideal, would maintain an important security presence in Iraq, and in the region as a whole, even as it might help defuse the tensions with both Baghdad and Tehran in the wake of the current Soleimani crisis. – Washington Institute

Katherine Lawlor writes: The Iraqi Security Forces have up until this point depended on coalition military support to sustain pressure on the Islamic State (ISIS). Any withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq offers ISIS increased freedom of movement and improves conditions for ISIS to reconstitute itself inside of Iraq and Syria. – Institute for the Study of War

Kenneth Pollack writes: If the US wanted to move Iraq’s broken politics in a more constructive direction, now would be the time to do so. The Iraqis will be more willing to listen to American suggestions, and less fearful of crossing the Iranians than they have been in almost a decade. The key is whether the US is prepared to move Iraqi politics in a better direction and whether the Trump administration is even interested in doing so. – American Enterprise Institute

Michael Knights writes: Most Iraqi factions and, judging by the protests, most Iraqi people want real sovereignty and international partnership, real stability provided by professional security forces—not militias. They want real, not fake, democracy that results in new free and fair elections that give the younger generation a chance to get Iraq, one of the Middle East’s most powerful nations, back on track. – Politico


The death toll from an airstrike that slammed into a military facility in Libya’s capital climbed to at least 30 people, most of them military trainees, health authorities said Sunday, as fighting over control of Tripoli between rival armed groups escalated.Associated Press

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkish military units had started moving to Libya to support Fayez al-Serraj’s internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli. – Reuters

Turkey and Libya could work with international companies to search for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, following a deal between Ankara and the Tripoli-based government on maritime borders. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

For years, allies of the United States across the Middle East have sounded the alarm about Iran’s progress in strengthening their enemies, building up arsenals and sponsoring militant groups near or inside their borders to advance Tehran’s interests. But since President Trump ordered the drone strike on Friday that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the mastermind of Iran’s regional efforts, however pleased they might have been, the predominate response from America’s friends in the region has been silence. – New York Times

Japan will proceed with a previously planned naval deployment to the Middle East despite increased risks in the region after President Donald Trump warned Iran of major retaliation if it sought revenge for the U.S. killing last week of a top general. – Bloomberg

Killings of major political and military figures have been a recurring factor in the modern Middle East, often presenting a defining moment and changing the contours of history in several instances. – Associated Press

The killing of powerful Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani  prompted fears of violence and chaos across the Middle East as national security experts warned it could galvanize Iran’s proxy forces against the United States and put a target on Americans across the globe. – USA Today

David Pollock writes: In this context, a rare Kuwaiti opinion poll completed just one month ago offers timely insights into that country’s current political climate. The survey data demonstrate that the Kuwaiti public, like its government, remains both very leery of Iran, and more pro-American than any other Arab public. At the same time, however, most Kuwaitis want their country to “stay out of any wars.” – Washington Institute

Firas Elias writes: In particular, Saudi Arabia will benefit from help from the United States in identifying the strategic gaps through which Iran managed to conduct its latest attacks. The United States should help install early warning systems to alert against Iranian attacks, while waging cyberattacks against Iranian command and control systems throughout the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and on Iranian warships. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he did not expect North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to break his promise about denuclearization, but conceded that he might. – Reuters

Hal Brands writes: Trump has picked more than his share of fights with the allies, South Korea chief among them. But he has generally done so in search of narrower and, in the grand scheme of things, relatively trivial financial gains. That’s not tough love. It’s strategic self-harm. – Bloomberg

Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer writes: 2020 brings us more to worry about than the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad early Friday. With North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promising a new strategic weapon and abandoning the moratorium on nuclear and missile tests; Iran dropping its commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal and preparing to ramp up its nuclear program within days; and continuing tensions between nuclear weapons holders India and Pakistan, 2020 could be an unusually dangerous year. – Washington Post


Caught halfway into a multicountry escape from North Korea, 13 individuals detained in Vietnam reached safety last month due to an unexpected helping hand: the U.S. government. – Wall Street Journal

Carlos Ghosn was aided in his escape from Japan by an American security consultant who accompanied him on the flight out of the country, a person familiar with the matter said, while a Turkish charter jet company said on Friday that its planes were used illegally to pull off the plan. – New York Times

The Chinese government abruptly replaced its top representative in Hong Kong on Saturday evening, installing a senior Communist Party official with a record of difficult assignments in inland provinces that involved working closely with the security services. – New York Times

China criticized the United States for aggravating tension in the Middle East through its use of force in the standoff between Washington and Tehran and urged all parties to exercise restraint to ensure peace and stability. – Reuters

The Chinese trade delegation plans to sign the first phase of its trade deal with the U.S. in Washington on Jan. 15, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

U.S. Ambassador John Bass left Kabul on Monday as his two-year tenure as America’s top diplomat in the war-torn country has ended. His departure comes as U.S. tensions with neighboring Iran have soared following a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s top general. – Associated Press

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to prepare to deploy its aircraft and ships “at any moment’s notice” to evacuate thousands of Filipino workers in Iraq and Iran, reflecting Asia’s growing fears for its citizens amid a potential outbreak of violence in the Middle East. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s foreign minister says his country will not let its soil be used against any other state and the Islamic nation will not become part of any regional conflict. – Associated Press

Japan’s justice minister vowed Monday to strengthen border departure checks and review bail conditions after Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, fled the country despite the stringent surveillance imposed as a condition of his release. – Associated Press

Japan on Monday said it could still press Lebanon to extradite Carlos Ghosn, after the former Nissan Motor (7201.T) boss skipped bail to become a fugitive in a country that normally does not extradite its nationals. – Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeated his plans to deploy the Self-Defense Forces to the Middle East to ensure the safety of its ships, even as tensions in the region erupt in the wake of the United States’ killing of one of Iran’s top military commanders. – Reuters

Japan on Sunday said it would tighten immigration measures after former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn fled the country while on bail, its first official response to an astonishing escape that has transformed the executive into an international fugitive. – Reuters

A manager at Turkish jet operator MNG Jet has told authorities that he assisted unwittingly in the escape of ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn from Japan because he had been threatened by a former acquaintance, Hurriyet newspaper reported on Saturday. – Reuters

Protestors clashed with police in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi on Sunday, as thousands of demonstrators attempted to march toward the U.S. consulate to protest the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani. – Reuters


Russia has started European gas deliveries through the new TurkStream pipeline to Turkey, Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz said on Sunday, as Moscow looks to reduce shipments via Ukraine. – Reuters

Nick Butler writes: The partial restoration of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the past few weeks will not end the conflict in eastern Ukraine or lead to Russia returning the annexed territory of Crimea. But in energy terms the deal agreed last week is important for both countries, and potentially a significant success for Russian premier Vladimir Putin. – Financial Times

Tony Barber writes: More than 30 years on, the manipulation of history for political ends is returning with a vengeance. In the closing days of 2019, Russian president Vladimir Putin defended the Nazi-Soviet pact of August 1939 and blamed the outbreak of the second world war on alleged collusion between Adolf Hitler and European governments, including that of Poland. […]There is, however, a larger context to Mr Putin’s weaponising of history. – Financial Times

Janusz Bugajskl writes: While Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrates 20 years in the Kremlin and poses as a powerful world leader, his Russian Federation is showing increasing signs of fracture. Although a Ukraine-type revolution in Moscow to overthrow a corrupt authoritarian regime seems unlikely, a revolt of Russia’s diverse regions against a despised central government is gathering momentum. – The Hill


Escalating steps by Tehran and Washington are raising the pressure on European leaders to pick sides in a conflict they have been seeking to defuse for months. – Wall Street Journal

The leaders of Germany, France and Britain called Sunday for Iran to abide by the terms of a 2015 nuclear deal that Iranian state television reported the country will abandon amid heightened tensions with the United States over the killing of Iran’s most powerful general. – Associated Press

Threatening Iraq with sanctions is “not very helpful,” Germany’s foreign minister said on Monday, after U.S. President Donald Trump warned that Baghdad could be hit by sanctions “like they’ve never seen before” if U.S. forces were forced to leave. – Reuters

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Sunday for a crisis meeting of his European Union counterparts this week to discuss escalating tension in the Middle East following the killing of a top Iranian military commander in Iraq by the United States. – Reuters

NATO ambassadors will gather on Monday in Brussels for an urgent meeting convened by the head of the military alliance to discuss the situation in the Middle East after a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed a top Iranian general, a NATO official said. – Reuters

French police on Sunday shot and wounded a man who had rushed toward a group of policemen with a knife shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) in the eastern city of Metz, local officials said. – Reuters

Britain’s navy will accompany UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz to provide protection after the U.S. killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani inflamed tensions in the region. – Reuters

NATO has suspended training of Iraqi forces to ensure the safety of several hundred mission members amid fears for regional stability after a U.S. air strike in Baghdad killed a top Iranian general, an alliance spokesman said on Saturday. – Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the Iranian general killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq was “a threat to all our interests” and that “we will not lament his death.” Johnson, who spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday, called for de-escalation from all sides. – Associated Press

Spain’s Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez failed on Sunday in a first attempt to get parliament’s backing to form a government, leaving him two days to secure support to end an eight-month political gridlock. – Reuters

Andreas Kluth writes: Now the mullahs are pulling out of their 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers including the EU’s “big three” (France, Germany and the U.K.). That deal used to be held up as the greatest achievement of European foreign policy. Now it looks like just another indulgence in European naivety. […]Put differently, from Iran to Libya, the EU has once again failed to protect its interests in every imaginable way. – Bloomberg

Jonah Goldberg writes: But the more the EU saps power and authority from national governments, the less these local regions feel the need to be part of a country they were forced to join in the first place. Worse, the more the EU acts like a real government of all of Europe, the more it arouses nationalist and populist ire among the majority populations of member states, as we’ve seen with Brexit in the U.K. – National Review


A United States service member and two American military contractors died on Sunday in an attack on a Kenyan military base that the Pentagon said was carried out by the Islamic extremist group the Shabab. – New York Times

Police arrested three men who tried to break into a British army camp in Laikipia in central Kenya, police said in a report seen by Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

Fourteen people were killed and 19 wounded when a bus carrying students ran over an improvised explosive device on Saturday in northern Burkina Faso, the government said. – Reuters

The Americas

Thousands of antiwar protesters gathered in communities across the country on Saturday to condemn the American drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander. – New York Times

Dozens of Iranians and Iranian-Americans were held for hours at Washington State’s border with Canada over the weekend as the Department of Homeland Security ramped up security at border ports after Iran threatened to retaliate against the United States for the strike that killed its top military leader. – New York Times

President Nicolás Maduro took over the last independent institution in Venezuela on Sunday when his allies replaced the opposition head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, with their own lawmaker in a maneuver that was condemned from Washington to Latin America. – Wall Street Journal

A former Mexican government official who oversaw public security in his country pleaded not guilty on Friday to U.S. charges he accepted millions of dollars in bribes to protect the Sinaloa drug cartel once run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and let it operate with impunity. – Reuters

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials released a statement Sunday evening denying reports circulating on social media claiming Iranian Americans were being detained by CBP authorities at a border crossing in Blaine, Wash. – The Hill

Thousands of people marched in New York City on Sunday in solidarity after a spate of anti-Semitic attacks across the region, including the stabbing of five people in Monsey, N.Y., last month at a Hanukkah celebration. – The Hill

After a somnambulant few weeks, Washington is snapping back into action, kicking off what could be the most volatile slice of time in the most volatile period in memory. The United States faces international and domestic turmoil. Thousands of soldiers are beginning 2020 by boarding planes to take them to the battlefields of the early 2000s. And the political climate is as charged as at any point in our lifetimes, with the Senate set to decide on the impeachment of a president for the second time in roughly two decades. – Politico


Iran’s retaliation for the United States’ targeted killing of its top general is likely to include cyberattacks, security experts warned Friday. Iran’s state-backed hackers are already among the world’s most aggressive and could inject malware that triggers major disruptions to the U.S. public and private sector. – Associated Press

A U.S. airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, could escalate the battle the two countries already have in cyberspace, experts warned Jan. 3. – Fifth Domain

Military cyber technologies that leaked from state institutions are now the primary cyberattack tools used by civilian companies and organizations, according to Brig. Gen. (res.) Daniel Bern, co-founder and CEO of cybersecurity company Otorio Ltd. – CTech


President Trump may have reacted furiously at the idea of U.S. troops being asked to leave Iraq, but ending America’s 17 year military presence there may be easier for the country’s government than he thinks. Unlike some other deployments stretching back to 2008, American troops in Iraq are not operating under a conventional Status of Forces agreement approved by the Iraqi parliament, according to experts. – Washington Post

The United States is sending nearly 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East from the 82nd Airborne Division as a precaution amid rising threats to American forces in the region, the Pentagon said on Friday. – Reuters

Alan M. Dershowtiz writes: Whatever the motivations for trying to find or invent legal objections to the killing of Soleimani, such efforts are dangerous because they could constrain future presidents from taking military actions that are necessary and proper to protect Americans. Let’s continue to debate the wisdom and long-term implications of Mr. Trump’s decision, but let’s not conflate wisdom and policy with legality. – Wall Street Journal

Matthew Levitt writes: His death now is testament to U.S. intelligence and military prowess and sends the message that nobody is safe from potential attack. When you’re looking over your shoulder all the time—and you know you’re not untouchable—it affects your ability to operate. – The National

Long War

French prosecutors opened a counterterror probe after a man stabbed one person to death and wounded at least two others in a suburb of Paris. – Wall Street Journal

Violence directed at U.S. forces in Iraq and the threat of reprisals over the killing of an Iranian general are hampering American-led operations against Islamic State, potentially giving the beleaguered group time to revive. – Wall Street Journal

The American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria halted its yearslong campaign against the Islamic State on Sunday as United States forces braced for retaliation from Iran over a strike that killed a powerful Iranian commander, military officials said. – New York Times

Trump Administration

President Trump’s abrupt decision to kill Iran’s top security commander has reshuffled the already fraught political dynamic around impeachment and thrust matters of war and peace into the middle of an election-year debate over whether to remove Mr. Trump from office. – New York Times

The American strike in Baghdad that killed the Iranian general Qassim Suleimani thrust foreign policy to the center of the Democratic presidential race, drawing expressions of grave concern from the leading candidates and stoking a new debate in the party about the American military presence in the Middle East. – New York Times

The Trump administration disclosed on Friday that there were 20 emails between a top aide to President Trump’s acting chief of staff and a colleague at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget discussing the freeze of a congressionally mandated military aid package for Ukraine. – New York Times

The greenlighting of the airstrike near Baghdad airport represents a bureaucratic victory for Pompeo, but it also carries multiple serious risks: another protracted regional war in the Middle East; retaliatory assassinations of U.S. personnel stationed around the world; an interruption in the battle against the Islamic State; the closure of diplomatic pathways to containing Iran’s nuclear program; and a major backlash in Iraq, whose parliament voted on Sunday to expel all U.S. troops from the country. – Washington Post

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will introduce and vote on a war powers resolution this week to limit U.S. President Donald Trump’s military actions regarding Iran. – Reuters

The U.S. Senate remained at a stalemate on Friday over how to proceed with the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, as the chamber’s leaders wrangled over whether White House aides will be called as witnesses and the top Democrat appealed to a handful of Republicans who could help break the impasse. – Reuters

Through private conversations and carefully calibrated public statements, they have tried to push the President to match his often tough rhetoric toward Iran with equally tough action. The next time an opportunity arose to strike back at Iran, the hawks hoped, Trump would be primed to act. – CNN