Fdd's overnight brief

July 1, 2019

In The News


The Trump administration’s threat to sanction Iran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, singles out the official European allies have looked to as they try to keep the clerical government in compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. – Wall Street Journal

Europe has no immediate plans to follow the U.S. and impose sanctions on Iran, even if the regime in Tehran makes good on its threat and breaches a nuclear accord President Trump pulled out from last year, French President Emmanuel Macron said. – Wall Street Journal

European efforts to persuade Iran to stick within the limits of the nuclear deal have been insufficient and the country will breach uranium stockpile limits “soon,” Tehran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency reported Saturday, a move that could further escalate tensions with the United States. – Washington Post

A British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran has ended her hunger strike after 15 days. […]He has ended his own hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy in London. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charitable Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 on charges of trying to topple the government while traveling with her toddler daughter in Iran. – Associated Press

An official with an Iran-backed militia says members of his group comprised the majority of protesters outside the Bahrain embassy in the Iraqi capital that was attacked this week. But he says he doesn’t know who stormed the mission. – Associated Press

Iran will never succumb to U.S. pressure and if Washington wants talks with Tehran it should show respect, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday. – Reuters

European proposals to facilitate trade with Iran are likely not enough to prevent the Islamic Republic from breaching restrictions on its nuclear activities, a senior official warned. – Telegraph

The Iranian foreign minister said on Saturday that Iran would resist any US sanctions, just as it persevered during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war when the forces of the then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein launched a chemical attack on an Iranian town. – Reuters


Israeli warplanes attacked military positions in central Syria early Monday, with a missile near the capital, Damascus, killing four civilians and wounding 21, Syrian state media reported. – Associated Press

Syrian government forces and insurgents fought fierce battles that left dozens dead in the country’s northwest Friday as troops tried to regain control of two villages they lost earlier this month, state media and an opposition war monitor said. – Associated Press

A Turkish Cypriot official said Monday that a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that missed its target and reached ethnically divided Cyprus may have been the cause of an explosion outside a village in east Mediterranean island notion’s breakaway north. No injuries were reported. – Associated Press

Fabrice Balanche writes: Various pressures have so far prevented the regime and its allies from launching a full-scale ground invasion of Idlib, yet their current strategy may be sufficient to destroy the rebel stronghold and displace its population if left unchecked. […]The precedent set in East Aleppo is ominous—the Syrian army bombed the area for three years before storming it, thereby reducing the number of civilians from 1.5 million to less than 100,000 on the eve of the ground offensive. Damascus and Moscow seem intent on applying the same strategy to Idlib, and the humanitarian time bomb they have set is ticking away. – Washington Institute


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the first delivery of the Russian S-400 missile defense system would take place within 10 days, Turkish media reported on Sunday, a day after he said there would be no U.S. sanctions over the deal. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday the United States did not plan to impose sanctions on Ankara for buying Russian defense systems, after the U.S. president said Turkey had not been treated fairly over the contract. – Reuters

A former Turkish prime minister and close ally of President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday harshly criticized the ruling AK Party after a stinging electoral defeat in Istanbul last week that was widely seen as ominous for Erdogan at national level. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said it was “never possible” for Turkey to positively consider the $50 billion U.S. peace plan for the Middle East, broadcaster NTV reported on Monday. – Reuters

Soner Cagaptay writes: By annulling Mr. Imamoglu’s victory, Mr. Erdogan unwittingly boosted his rival. Turkey is a centralized state—local governments rely on Ankara for much of their revenue—so Mr. Erdogan has the power to make Mr. Imamoglu’s life difficult. But the president should be careful not to overplay his hand. The Turks love an underdog, as they’ve demonstrated more than once. – Wall Street Journal


The Palestinian Authority has targeted local businessmen who participated in a U.S.-led economic conference in Bahrain last week centered on improving the Palestinian economy, arresting one attendee and trying to detain another. – Wall Street Journal

American officials looked on Sunday as Israel opened a newfound Roman-era street at a divisive archaeological site in east Jerusalem, a move that deepened Palestinian animosity toward the White House’s mediation efforts. – Associated Press

U.S. envoys wielded hammers on Sunday to break open a new tunnel at a Jewish heritage site in East Jerusalem, signaling Washington’s support for Israel’s hold over parts of the city that Palestinians seek for a future state. – Reuters

Israeli police wounded 90 Palestinians with foam-tipped bullets during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah early Saturday morning, which broke out after the fatal shooting of Mohammed Samir Abid by police on Thursday, and continued after his death. – Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused the Palestinians of being “determined to continue the conflict at any price,” and slammed those pressuring him into launching a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. – Associated Press

Sirens warning of incoming rockets sounded in southern Israel on Monday morning, in what the army later said was a false alarm. – Times of Israel

Arie Egozi and Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. write: Israeli sources are increasingly convinced that three weeks of GPS disruptions for civilian flights are a side effect of Russian jamming and spoofing in Syria… […]But if Russia is indeed disrupting a friendly nation’s GPS by accident, why haven’t they stopped? The answer may lie in the limits of Russian electronic warfare, which — while far more potent than US military EW — still relies on raw power more than precise targeting. It may also show the weakness of the warm relationship Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cultivated with Vladimir Putin, which could run aground on Russia’s increasing support for Iran. – Breaking Defense

Avi Issacharoff writes: But Hezbollah’s highly ambitious war plan is exceptionally risky for the organization itself, and its leaders are aware of that. Sending or trying to send thousands of its best warriors across the border might ultimately prove too dangerous a gamble. It would, after all, present an excellent opportunity for the IDF to eliminate the elite fighting force of Hezbollah in a matter of hours. That, in turn, would expose Hezballah‘s home front to counterattacks and ease the IDF’s path to a clear victory in a future war. – Times of Israel

Elior Levy writes: The belief of those in Hamas who assumed Israel was purposely stalling on fulfilling its part in the agreements was based on three major factors. […]According to the latest assessment, if the calm on the Israel-Gaza border is maintained in the near future, the potential long-term ceasefire arrangement will advance further and will include a series of additional large-scale projects in the coastal enclave. – Ynet

Arabian Peninsula

U.S. officials have concluded that drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in May were launched from Iraq, not Yemen, raising concerns that Iran’s allies in the region are trying to open a new front in the conflict between Tehran and Washington. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump on Saturday professed to be “very angry” over the murder last year of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate, but the president again declined to pin responsibility on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom he called “my friend.” – Washington Post

The US has deployed F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar for the first time, its military said Friday, adding to a buildup of US forces in the Gulf amid tensions with Iran. – Agence FrancePresse

Over 7,500 children have been killed or wounded in Yemen in the last 5 1/2 years as a result of airstrikes, shelling, fighting, suicide attacks, mines and other unexploded ordnance, according to a U.N. report released Friday. – Associated Press

By now, President Donald Trump’s bromance with Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is well documented. The platitudes and chummy photo-ops. The billions of dollars in U.S. arms sales. And, of course, the willingness to brush aside evidence implicating the crown prince in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. – Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia says it intercepted two drones launched by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels targeting the kingdom. – Associated Press


Turkey’s foreign ministry said Sunday that six of its citizens had been detained in Libya by militias loyal to the powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter, and warned that Hifter’s forces would become “legitimate targets” if the Turks were not released. – Washington Post

Eastern Libyan forces loyal commander Khalifa Haftar said they destroyed a Turkish drone parked at Tripoli’s only working airport on Sunday and declared a “general mobilization” as tensions between Ankara and the eastern administration mounted. – Reuters

Libya’s eastern forces supreme commander Aguila Saleh declared a state of general mobilization in the country late on Sunday. – Reuters

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar has threatened to attack Turkish interests and accused Ankara of backing his rivals after he suffered a major setback in his push to take the capital Tripoli. Anti-Haftar forces that nominally back Libya’s internationally recognised government announced Wednesday they had retaken the strategic town of Gharyan in a surprise attack, seizing Haftar’s main supply base for his months-long offensive. – Agence FrancePresse

Libya’s internationally recognized government said it seized sophisticated U.S.-made missiles after its forces pushed out eastern commander Khalifa Haftar’s troops from a strategic city south of the capital. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

A Lebanese Cabinet minister said gunmen opened fire at his convoy in a mountain village near Beirut on Sunday, killing two of his guards and wounding another. Saleh al-Gharib, the minister of state handling refugee issues, told local TV he was heading to the mountain village of Qabr Shamoun when his convoy came under fire. Al-Gharib is a member of a Druze party allied with the militant Hezbollah group and supportive of the Syrian government. – Associated Press

Qatar has bought some Lebanese government bonds as part of a planned $500 million investment to support Lebanon’s struggling economy, a Qatari government official told Reuters on Sunday. – Reuters

Turkey’s increasing military role in Syria and Iraq is in the spotlight after the country’s forces exchanged fire with the Syrian regime and carried out an airstrike that killed civilians in northern Iraq over the weekend. – Jerusalem Post

Iraq’s sacrifices fighting the Islamic State group have earned the country greater support in its reconstruction efforts from the international community, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said Saturday. – Associated Press

Korean Peninsula

President Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to step across the boundary dividing North and South Korea, leading to a hastily organized meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a commitment to restart nuclear talks. – Wall Street Journal

Japan tightened controls on exports to South Korea, hitting the supply chain for Korean-made technology products and heightening tensions between the two U.S. allies. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump said on Sunday morning that he would stage another dramatic encounter with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, in a last-minute meeting that could serve the interests of both men but is unlikely to bring North Korea closer to Mr. Trump’s goal of denuclearization. – New York Times

President Trump struck a cordial tone in a meeting with South Korea’s largest businesses on Sunday, praising their investments in the U.S. But noticeably absent from his remarks: any mention of China’s Huawei Technologies Co. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. candidates running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday criticized President Donald Trump’s latest overture to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying the leaders’ meeting lacked substance and elevated a ruthless dictator. – Reuters

North Korea on Monday described the weekend meeting between its leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in the Demilitarized Zone as “historic” and “amazing”. The two leaders agreed to “resume and push forward productive dialogues for making a new breakthrough in the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, the official Korean Central News Agency said. – Agence FrancePresse

South Korea’s military detected an “unidentified object” flying near the border with North Korea on Monday, officials said, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at the border and agreed to resume diplomacy. – Associated Press

The Facebook page of an Australian man missing in North Korea reappeared then disappeared again on Saturday hours before Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia is still trying to find out what has happened to him. – Reuters

President Donald Trump says that sanctions remain on North Korea following his Sunday meeting with Kim Jong Un at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. – Associated Press

Editorial: President Trump believes in personal diplomacy and showmanship above all in foreign policy, and both were on display this weekend in East Asia for better or worse. If nothing else, Mr. Trump has revived negotiations that had stalled with China and North Korea as he looks for a foreign-policy victory heading into a re-election campaign. – Wall Street Journal

Uri Friedman writes: The way things are going, Trump probably won’t be the president who finally convinces the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons. […]But that doesn’t mean Trump has accomplished nothing. What Sunday’s meeting in the demilitarized zone highlighted is that the president has shattered the American taboo of meeting with the head of the Kim regime and established a top-level channel of communication between decades-old enemies—to the point where such a dialogue doesn’t only have ample precedent but is commonplace, even casual. For better or worse, it’s a real legacy. – The Atlantic


The Vatican is encouraging Catholic bishops and priests in China to register with state authorities, a sign of the pope’s bigger push for rapprochement with Beijing even at a cost to the church’s independence. – Wall Street Journal

China is holding military exercises across a broad swath of the South China Sea, reinforcing its claim to virtually the entire strategic waterway. – Associated Press

The U.S. and China declared a truce in their trade war on Saturday, as Donald Trump said he would hold off imposing an additional $300 billion in tariffs and the world’s two largest economies agreed to resume negotiations. – Bloomberg

President Donald Trump’s decision to allow expanded sales of U.S. technology supplies to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei will only apply to products widely available around the world, and leave the most sensitive equipment off limits, a top White House aide said on Sunday. – Reuters

China’s army is holding its annual open house in Hong Kong this weekend, even as historic protests challenge the city’s Beijing-backed government. The People’s Liberation Army is flexing its might at three bases in the territory, putting on a show for the public that had in the past included military hardware demonstrations, marching formations — and even jumping through fire hoops. – Bloomberg

Six weeks after Huawei was blacklisted by the US government, President Donald Trump had what the Chinese telecom firm described as a “U-turn.” – CNN

U.S. intelligence agencies are encouraging American research universities to develop protocols for monitoring students and visiting scholars from Chinese state-affiliated research institutions, as U.S. suspicion toward China spreads to academia. – NPR

Li Yuan writes: It isn’t a surprise that many people in China oppose the protests against a proposed law that would allow Hong Kong to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China. They see only the news that Beijing’s censors let them see. What is surprising is that many Chinese people who know the full story share that opinion. Independent polling isn’t allowed in China, so judging public attitudes toward Hong Kong is largely guesswork. But among the educated Chinese I know, the ones who travel and can see the global internet, a large number believe the protesters are wasting their time. – New York Times

Jonathan Manthorpe writes: Beijing’s long-threatened invasion of Taiwan is well underway, but its shock troops are not the foot-soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army. They are the shadowy agents of the United Front Work Department (UFWD), Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “magic weapon,” who over the past decade have infiltrated Taiwanese society and institutions. – Asia Times


Deadly violence surged across Afghanistan as American and Taliban officials started a seventh round of peace talks on Saturday, with high hopes for a breakthrough. – New York Times

The Taliban said Sunday that the latest round of peace talks with the United States is “critical” as the two sides “rewrite” a draft agreement in which American forces would withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees from the insurgents that they would fight terrorism. – Associated Press

Taliban insurgents killed eight election officials in a bomb attack in the southern Kandahar province, Afghan officials said on Sunday. – Associated Press

Authorities in Pakistan say counterterrorism forces have raided a Taliban hideout, triggering a shootout that killed three insurgents in the eastern city of Gujrat. – Associated Press

Afghan security forces were battling gunmen on Monday who had forced their way into a building in the capital, Kabul, after a bomb-laden truck exploded near a defense ministry compound during rush hour, injuring at least 65 people, authorities said. – Reuters

Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 19 people in an attack on a government office on Saturday night, officials said, in the latest episode of violence in Afghanistan as peace talks continue to end the war. – Reuters


The anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China on Monday began with fresh clashes between riot police and protesters, who once again took over the city’s main thoroughfares and attempted to storm the Legislative Council building. – Washington Post

Highlights of the agreements from the Osaka, Japan, summit of the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies, spanning a slew of issues including global warming, trade and international finance, the environment and sustainable development: – Associated Press

An Abu Sayyaf commander aligned with the Islamic State group most likely plotted the suicide attacks on an army camp in the volatile southern Philippines by two militants whose identities remain unknown, a Philippine official said Saturday. – Associated Press

A brawl between Kazakh workers and their Arab colleagues in one of Kazakhstan’s largest oil fields has left 30 people wounded and led to an outcry in Lebanon and Jordan, a news agency said Sunday. – Associated Press

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will spend four nights in the United States this month while visiting Caribbean diplomatic allies, her government said on Monday, in a move likely to anger China, which considers the island a renegade province. – Reuters

Lewis Lau Yiu-man writes: This a moment of desperate hope. One-quarter of Hong Kong’s population has marched against Mr. Xi’s attempt to extend the Chinese Communist Party’s absolute rule to the city. After that, how could things go back to normal? China is likely to seek revenge for our recent audacity. But punishing Hong Kongers would only unite us further. – New York Times


Russian President Vladimir Putin fired a new broadside against Western liberalism at the Group of 20 summit in Japan, saying that policies such as welcoming migrants have hurt people’s interests. – Associated Press

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin have announced new initiatives to further expand economic ties and tourist exchanges between the two nations, but have made no visible progress on a decades-long territorial dispute. – Associated Press

The U.S. is ill-equipped to counter the increasingly brazen political warfare Russia is waging to undermine democracies, the Pentagon and independent strategists warn in a detailed assessment that happens to echo much bipartisan criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump’s approach to Moscow. – Politico

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Today, Russia is increasing its influence. […]Russia is cultivating ties not only with Iran but also with China and Turkey, seeking to build a more comprehensive partnership that includes key regional powers and global economies, all looking at certain issues similarly, and mostly opposed to US hegemony. The idea is that as we approach 30 years after the Cold War ended and Russia was plunged into its own internal instability, the world has changed. […]It wants to be an alternative to the US and show that it plays a constructive role. – Jerusalem Post


The European Union signed a trade deal with Vietnam on Sunday, underscoring the bloc’s commitment to opening up its market and trading freely in the face of rising protectionism and trade tensions around the world. – New York Times

It took 20 years of on-and-off talks to reach a deal Friday on a trade pact between the European Union and four South American nations. Winning implementation could take years, with environmentalists and trade unions making final approval a challenge. – Wall Street Journal

European Union leaders have started another marathon session of talks desperately seeking a breakthrough in a diplomatic fight over who should be picked for a half dozen of jobs at top EU institutions. – Associated Press

British trucks will not be able to board ships in Dover in a “no deal” Brexit if they do not have the correct customs paperwork, following a deal between the Port of Calais and Channel shipping lines, the head of the Road Haulage Association has told the Telegraph. – Telegraph

Despite a pro-Palestinian demonstration, the “Place de Jérusalem” plaza was inaugurated in Paris, at the initiative of Mayor Anne Hidalgo. – Jerusalem Post

Sunday’s European Council summit seemed to be over before it started. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative European People’s Party (EPP) rebelled forcefully against a plan developed by EU leaders on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Japan’s Osaka that would have installed a Social Democrat, Frans Timmermans, as the next Commission president. – Politico


Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters filled the streets of Sudan’s major cities on Sunday in a defiant rebuke of the generals whose violent crackdown earlier in the month had left scores of people dead. – New York Times

Seven people were killed Sunday as tens of thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets to demand civilian rule in the first mass rally since a bloody crackdown on demonstrators — a show of street power despite heavy troop deployments by the ruling generals. – Agence FrancePresse

A feared militia commander in Sudan has hired a Canadian lobbying group he hopes will secure a public meeting with US president Donald Trump, support from Libya’s military leader and free wheat from Russia in return for an upfront fee of $6m. – Financial Times

A senior member of Sudan’s military leadership said unknown snipers shot at least five civilians and three paramilitary soldiers on Sunday as tens of thousands marched in the capital demanding a return to civilian rule. – Reuters

United States

A California federal judge issued a ruling blocking President Trump from using $2.5 billion in military funds to build a wall along the southern border. – Washington Examiner

Dr. Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Sidiqqi said in a June 21, 2019 Friday sermon at Masjid Darussalam in San Francisco, which is the largest mosque in downtown San Francisco and which is managed by the Islamic Society of San Francisco, that former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who died recently, had been murdered by Zionist agents. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Eli Lake writes: There are a number of good reasons why Cheney should take her chances now in the Senate. […]Cheney could also have great impact in House leadership.  But the House is more fickle and volatile than it was when her father was chairman of the House Republican conference in the 1980s. And while Republican isolationists could not stop her ascension to the leadership, there are enough of them to block her bid to be speaker. In the Senate, Cheney would not only have a freer hand to influence foreign policy, she could prevent isolationists from taking root in the executive branch. – Bloomberg

Latin America

The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on the son of Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro for his involvement in his father’s regime. – Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration joined Venezuelan opposition leaders on Sunday in blasting the death of a Venezuelan navy captain hours after he had appeared in court on suspicion of plotting to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro, bearing what his attorney says were signs of torture. – Associated Press

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Mr. Guaidó thinks he protects himself by insisting Mr. Maduro must leave power before any new presidential election can be held and that negotiations are about releasing political prisoners and what a transitional government would look like. But his only weapon is reality laid out on the world stage. Talks undermine the truth, lend the war criminals legitimacy, and open the door to age-old Cuban manipulation. – Wall Street Journal


The Army has awarded several key contracts to build virtual trainers, which make up a critical part of the service’s developing Synthetic Training Environment (STE). – Defense News

With bigger, faster missiles in development and bound for the fleet, the Navy’s engineers are eyeing back-fitting upgraded launchers on its stalwart Arleigh Burke destroyers. – Defense News

With the Navy looking to keeps its surface combatants such as the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers for 40-to-45 years each, sailors and maintainers must do everything they can to keep corrosion under control, one of the Navy’s senior-most engineering duty officers said to a gathering of naval engineers June 20. – Defense News

The key to targeted killing is surveillance and verification. This element of counterinsurgency warfare looks for clear targets and makes sure that the people found are the same people that intelligence points to. This style of conflict is also one reason drones have so dominated the popular understanding of America’s long-running war. Now, this idea is also the impetus behind a Pentagon program called “Jetson,” which can identify unique biometric signatures from heartbeats using a laser. – C4ISRNET

The new information environment will require the Intelligence Community to invest more in research, ensure data can be easily ingested, and learn how to communicate information threats to the public more effectively, the nation’s No. 2 intelligence official said June 27. – C4ISRNET

F-35 pilots from the U.S., U.K., and Israel took part in a one-day training exercise over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea June 25, according to an Air Force press release. – Air Force Times

Elbridge Colby and Mike Gallagher write: Some in Congress who objected to Mr. Trump’s decision are trying to nullify it by defunding conventional weapons covered by the soon-to-be defunct treaty. The House voted largely on party lines last month to zero out research and development for conventional intermediate-range missiles. If they prevail, it will heighten the risk of nuclear war. – Wall Street Journal