Fdd's overnight brief

July 13, 2020

In The News


Iran and China have quietly drafted a sweeping economic and security partnership that would clear the way for billions of dollars of Chinese investments in energy and other sectors, undercutting the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate the Iranian government because of its nuclear and military ambitions. – New York Times

Iranian investigators blamed the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet over Tehran earlier this year on the misalignment of an air defense unit’s radar system, in a report issued late Saturday. – Washington Post

Iran said on Saturday that it cannot afford to shut down its sanctions-hit economy, even as the Middle East’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak worsens with record-high death tolls and rising infections. – Agence France-Presse

Iran is determined to develop its oil industry in spite of U.S. sanctions imposed on the country, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in a televised speech on Saturday. – Reuters

A series of mysterious blasts at sites across Iran in recent weeks have led to speculation that the U.S. and Israel may have launched a covert sabotage campaign against Tehran’s nuclear program. – Jewish Insider

The managing director of the Kish Free Zone Organization, which manages part of an island that offers free trade opportunities in southern Iran, rejected claims that the islands status would be up for sale to China as part of an Iran-China deal. The comments made on Saturday to Iran’s Fars News seek to reduce concerns across Iran that a secret deal with China is in the works among officials within President Hassan Rouhani’s administration. – Jerusalem Post

An explosion was heard in Tehran, shaking buildings in Iran’s capital on Saturday night, according to international media. – Jerusalem Post

Following the US assassination of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, Washington had begged Tehran not to carry out any retaliation against US interests, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said Sunday, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency. – Jerusalem Post

David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Ronen Bergman write: As Iran’s center for advanced nuclear centrifuges lies in charred ruins after an explosion, apparently engineered by Israel, the long-simmering conflict between the United States and Tehran appears to be escalating into a potentially dangerous phase likely to play out during the American presidential election campaign. – New York Times

Eli Lake writes: At the very least, the fact that someone was able to explode a “crown jewel” of Iran’s nuclear program should make clear that the civilized world can delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions without conferring legitimacy to the regime. – Bloomberg

Michael Rubin writes: The real problem to the United States is not that China will start supporting Iran at the United Nations—after all, whether it votes yes or no, China often does as it pleases anyway. Rather, it is that if Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani lock in China to a long-term Iran deal before Khamenei dies, a death which may unleash both a succession struggle, massive anti-regime protests, and even a turn among many Iranians to the West, a more aggressive Beijing may simultaneously try to enforce its holdings militarily or undermine a post-Khamenei Iran’s recovery via debt traps. – The National Interest

Hillel Frisch writes: Yet even at this point, Soleimani’s death might be instructive. His assassination was a remarkable display of US military and technological capabilities at beheading its enemy. Is Soleimani’s demise and fast-fading memory the first sign of a war that presumably led to the end of the Soviet Empire? – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: The questions remaining then, are how long these attacks can continue and whether Iran can cope with them or try to make some sort of secret contact to cut a deal to get them stopped. If it does not, the message from whoever is making this happen is clear: Continued aggressive actions on nuclear and other fronts will lead to consequences that the ayatollahs had never imagined. – Jerusalem Post


The novel coronavirus has crept into the last opposition-held territory in Syria, as Russia and China move to restrict an aid corridor that humanitarian groups warn could hamper attempts to contain an outbreak in the besieged area. – Wall Street Journal

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday approved aid deliveries to Syria through one border crossing from Turkey, a day after its authorization for the six-year-long humanitarian operation ended, leaving millions of Syrian civilians in limbo. – Reuters

Several explosions have been heard over the Syrian coastal town of Jabla, state TV reported on Saturday. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: America’s role, despite having a seat on the UN Security Council, has been ineffective in making sure areas it has influence over receive aid and support. This was made brutally clear last week as water was cut off and aid was not allowed to reach eastern Syria. – Jerusalem Post

Zvi Bar’el writes: Therefore, it’s not yet time for a new constitution or to force Assad to make political concessions. Russia must ensure that the opposition forces – like the militias in Idlib and the Kurds in the north – lay down their arms, and that Turkey and the United States withdraw their forces. Assad supposedly has no military or political bargaining chips against Russia, but he does have civil control over most of Syria, and an army that’s in the main still loyal to him, while the Russians still have no alternative leader who could do the job for them. – Haaretz


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that the city’s sixth-century Hagia Sophia, which became a symbol of secularism in modern Turkey when it was converted into a museum in the 1930s, would reopen to Muslim prayer as a full-fledged mosque later this month, a shift opposed by the U.S. and others. – Wall Street Journal

But by deciding on Friday to transform back into a full-fledged mosque a building that has been a museum since the 1930s and has become a powerful symbol of ecumenical relations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a triple tremor, historians say. – Wall Street Journal

Palestinian resistance group Hamas has welcomed the Turkish court verdict directing the opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque. “Opening of Hagia Sophia to prayer is a proud moment for all Muslims,” said Rafat Murra, head of international press office of Hamas, in a written statement. – Anadolu Agency

Soner Cagaptay writes: For officials in Washington and other allied governments considering how best to sway Erdogan from this damaging course, such conversations are likely best conducted in private given the issue’s domestic sensitivities. But if the Trump administration does decide to comment publicly, its statement should highlight Turkey’s long, proud history of religious tolerance—and encourage Ankara to shy away from further steps that undermine this tradition. – Washington Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Turkey is seeking to supplant Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, such as Egypt and Jordan, as the main determiner of what is “Islamic.” This means Ankara’s leadership believes that its changes to Hagia Sophia are only one step of a larger religious militarist agenda in the Middle East[…]. In June, Turkey launched airstrikes in Iraq against Kurdish groups, claiming to be fighting “terrorism.” One day, Turkey could even aim its sights at Jerusalem. The speech about Hagia Sophia clearly indicated this is on the agenda in the future. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: These are some of the largest naval tensions in the region in decades. At stake is Turkey’s newfound decision to have an aggressive military policy that has brought together Greece, Egypt, the UAE, France and others in opposition to Turkey’s moves. Egypt’s naval drill is emblematic of how Turkey’s increased posturing will result in other countries seeking to show off and increase their naval power. – Jerusalem Post

Anthony Avice Du Buisson writes: There will be no peace in Kurdistan until Turkey withdraws. There will be no peace for victims until Turkey is held accountable for its criminal actions now and in the past. And as long as these atrocities are left without a response by international state actors and multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and NATO, Turkey will continue to commit crimes against Kurds, including Kurdish civilians. […]I learned from a young age that remaining silent to injustice does nothing but embolden tyranny. Where there is something wrong or unjust, brutal or barbaric, there is a moral imperative to act. – Jerusalem Post

Louis Fishman writes: Turkey’s opposition is focused on replacing him, even as Erdogan’s authoritarian hold over the country seems tighter than ever, and they have the patience and strategy not to be unnecessarily distracted. That commitment to what once seemed like an impossible goal is a subversive analogy to Erdogan’s long-held and once fantastical dream of “converting” Hagia Sophia. Perhaps Erdogan has actually just shown Turkey’s opposition the way. – Haaretz


A senior naval commander in the armed wing of the Hamas terror group, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, fled the Gaza Strip to Israel after suspicions arose that he was working for Israel as a so-called “collaborator,” according to unsourced reports in the Palestinian media. – Times of Israel

The Hamas interior ministry on Sunday denied a report that claimed the terrorist group had arrested a senior commander in its armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, on charges of collaboration with Israel. – Times of Israel

French President Emmanuel Macron has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to refrain from annexing territory — in the West Bank and elsewhere — during a telephone call between the two leaders, Macron’s office said on Friday. – Agence France-Presse

The website of the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, has been targeted by a series of cyberattacks since Thursday, the brigade announced on Saturday night. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas and Hezbollah are allied against Israel over its annexation plans, Tasnim News Agency reported Saturday. – Jerusalem Post

The UN’s peacekeeping mission on the Lebanese southern border (UNIFIL) must be better empowered to monitor violations by Hezbollah, Israeli officials said on Friday as they toured the area with 12 foreign ambassadors and diplomats. – Jerusalem Post

In March 2019, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) held a drill codenamed “Towards Jerusalem 1,” near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. […]Now Israeli scientists are developing a system they believe will let them accurately locate the operator of hostile drones and neutralize him. – Breaking Defense

While widely panned by mainstream commenters, US Jewish journalist Peter Beinart’s New York Times op-ed earlier this week in which he called for a one-state solution to the Middle East conflict did earn the praise of some on the far-left — including anti-Israel firebrand Linda Sarsour. – Algemeiner

Elder of Ziyon writes: Beinart will claim that his solution is different, because Isratine would not be defined as an Islamic or even an Arab state. But can that really be stopped? Lebanon is a perfect example of how a nation that is constitutionally committed to equal rights is not the same as one actually committed to equal rights. Of course, Beinart studiously ignores the thousands of statements from Hamas every year that contradict the language of tolerance in its manifesto. To Beinart, Arabs must be judged favorably; only Jews must be judged harshly. Palestinians must have sovereignty, Jews should be happy with whatever they can get. – Algemeiner


Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi launched a new campaign on Saturday against corruption at the country’s borders, saying millions of dollars were being lost by not properly taxing imported goods. Speaking at the Mandili crossing on the border with Iran, Kadhemi said Iraq’s frontier had become “a hotbed for corrupt people”. – Agence France-Presse

He is among tens of thousands of Iraqis who have filed claims to the Nineveh province’s Subcommittee for Compensation, seeking reparations for material goods, injuries and even lives lost in the months-long fight to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group. – Agence France-Presse

Kataib Hezbollah, the Iranian allied group, has vowed to force the US to leave Iraq. It is the last threatening statement in a year of tensions between pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and US forces. US forces are in Iraq as part of the anti-ISIS Coalition. But rocket attacks by Kataib Hezbollah have resulted in three rounds of US airstrikes against the groups and its leaders since December 2019. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The attack underpins the uncertainty in Iraq and the increasing pressure on the US to leave the country. Diwaniyah is on a road that leads from southern Iraq toward Baghdad. […]What is important is not necessarily whether it happened or who was in the vehicles but rather the attempt to create an atmosphere of attacks, pushed by pro-Iranian media, to pave the way for larger real attacks, such as the dozens of rockets fired at US bases in Iraq over the last year. The creation of new groups that claim to target the US is also part of this pattern – whether these groups really exist or are just a rebranding of existing cells from Kataib Hezbollah or other groups. – Jerusalem Post

Patricia Karam writes: As Iraq resumes negotiations with the United States over the fate of the strategic relationship, hopes have been raised that the reformist Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi may finally be able to address the debilitating problems that have stymied the transition of the beleaguered country to democracy. […]For the first time in years, one can cautiously praise the recent measures taken by the government of Iraq to address the many ills that still plague this perennially troubled country. However, there is lots to do and a ways to go before it can come close to winning the war on corruption. – The Hill

Brandon Wallace and Katherine Lawlor write: Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), a key Iranian proxy militia and US-designated terrorist group, is retaliating against Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi for launching a coordinated campaign to retake segments of the Iraqi state from entrenched political and militia corruption. KH, more than any other militia, is sending a series of violent messages to Kadhimi to force him to abandon his campaign. – Institute for the Study of War

Maya Carlin writes: Kadhimi’s actions so far do indicate that he is committed to some degree to pushing out Iranian influence. However, in order to truly stabilize his country, the prime minister must rein in these rogue militias and consolidate Iraq’s security forces. – Jerusalem Post

S. Ali writes: Al-Hashimi’s killing highlights also the fear of Iran-backed factions that Al-Kadhimi’s plan to curb their power and deprive them of financial resources might succeed[…]. The assassination of Al-Hashimi puts more pressure on Al-Kadhimi, who publicly promised to take serious action to bring to justice the assassins and those behind the assassinations of many protesters. The Iraqi prime minister now has two options: either to turn a blind eye like former prime ministers did and as AAH leader Qais Al-Khazali advised in his televised June 26 speech. Alternatively, he could confront Iran-backed militias despite all the risks involved. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Lebanon’s economic crisis is getting out of hand, the UN rights chief warned Friday, calling for urgent internal reforms coupled with international support to prevent further mayhem. – Agence France-Presse

Dozens of Lebanese protesters held a raucous anti-U.S. rally outside the fortified American Embassy in Beirut on Friday, denouncing what they said was Washington’s interference in Lebanon’s affairs while some chanted in support of the militant Hezbollah group. – Associated Press

Lebanon’s top Christian cleric stepped up criticism of the Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its allies without naming them on Sunday, saying Lebanese rejected being isolated from their allies and driven into decline. – Reuters

Arabian Peninsula

Yemen’s Saudi-Led coalition said on Monday it intercepted and destroyed four missiles and six explosive drones launched overnight by Houthi forces towards the kingdom. – Reuters

Yemen’s Houthi movement has agreed to provide the United Nations access to a stranded oil tanker that risks causing an environmental disaster off the coast of the war-divided country, two U.N. sources familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

The United Nations said Friday it is encouraged that a U.N. team may be able to visit an oil tanker loaded with 1.1 million barrels of crude oil that is moored off the coast of Yemen, posing a serious risk to Red Sea marine life, desalination plants and shipping. – Associated Press


Forces loyal to a Libyan commander said they will only allow the reopening of oil fields and terminals once a mechanism has been set up to fairly distribute revenue across the country, which is split between rival, warring factions. – Associated Press

Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord would not benefit if a ceasefire was declared in the country right now along the current frontlines, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Monday. – Reuters

Libya’s national oil company announced Friday it has resumed crude exports, ending a months-long blockade that eastern tribes had called to protest revenue distribution in the war-torn country. – Associated Press


As tensions between the two sides mount, the Chinese government announced on Monday that it would impose sanctions on three American lawmakers and a diplomat in retaliation for similar moves last week by the Trump administration against four  officials in China. – New York Times

A Chinese legal scholar known for his outspoken criticism of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has been released from police detention, days after he was first taken into custody, the professor’s friends said Sunday. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump damped expectations for a promised phase-two trade pact with China on Friday, saying the relationship between the countries has been too badly damaged by the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal

A violent confrontation between the United States and China could take place within months, according to an American lawmaker wary of Beijing’s expansionist foreign policy. – Washington Examiner

China said Friday it will retaliate against U.S. officials and institutions following Washington’s imposition of sanctions on three local officials of the ruling Communist Party over human rights abuses in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. – Associated Press

The U.S. State Department warned American citizens on Saturday to “exercise increased caution” in China due to heightened risk of arbitrary law enforcement including detention and a ban from exiting the country. – Reuters

China has fast become a top election issue as President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden engage in a verbal brawl over who’s better at playing the tough guy against Beijing. – Associated Press

The U.S. and Chinese ambassadors have gotten into a Twitter spat in Brazil, echoing the tense relations between the nations as a whole. – Associated Press

John Pomfret writes: At the center of all this is the word “reciprocity.” Chinese officials have told me that they define reciprocity to mean that Chinese government media outlets should be able to benefit from the openness of the American system while their U.S. counterparts must tolerate restrictions imposed by Beijing. That’s reciprocal in Beijing’s view. That’s a perversion of the word. Still, that can be discussed in depth after we’ve called a truce. And to get there, a simple quota system for media access is a good start. – Washington Post

Anjani Trivedi writes: As Covid-19 absorbs the world’s attention, Beijing’s steady focus on implementing this industrial policy may make China the manufacturer of parts that most countries will need – soon. In other words, it will yet again become the factory floor, mastering the production of all things 5G. – Bloomberg


During one of the most violent stretches of fighting in northern Afghanistan, as the Taliban scored victories that had eluded them since the beginning of the conflict, the top American commander went public with a suspicion that had nagged for years: Russia was aiding the insurgents. – New York Times

The competing visions of a postwar Afghanistan within the Taliban’s ranks reveal the difficult task facing the group’s leaders as they seek to rally support for an agreement with the government in Kabul ahead of long-awaited formal talks. Many fear that even with a peace deal, a fractured Taliban could lead Afghanistan back to a period of perpetual violence. – Washington Post

The Taliban waged a sustained assault against the Afghan intelligence complex in the city of Aybak on Monday, part of a bloody wave of violence across the country’s north. With the opening of peace talks between the insurgency and the Afghan government stalled for months, the Taliban have intensified their offensives, creating one of the deadliest years of the long war. – New York Times

A suicide car bomber struck on Monday in northern Afghanistan’s province of Samangan, setting off a large explosion followed by a gun battle between other attackers and Afghan forces, officials said. – Associated Press

South Asia

Now, weeks after a deadly brawl erupted along the border, thousands of Chinese and Indian troops are amassed over a contentious, jagged line in one of the most remote places on earth. Satellite photos reveal a major Chinese buildup, including a blizzard of new tents, new storage sheds, artillery pieces and even tanks. – New York Times

India has started trade talks with the European Union (EU) and is open to dialogue with the United Kingdom for a free trade agreement, the trade minister said on Saturday, as Asia’s third largest economy looks for new markets for its products. – Reuters

India’s government has petitioned a state court to stop any of the Chinese companies whose 59 apps it recently banned from obtaining an injunction to block the order, according to two sources and the legal filing. – Reuters

India’s external affairs minister said Saturday that Indian and Chinese troops are disengaging from a monthslong standoff along the countries’ undemarcated border following a clash last month that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s military on Sunday said four soldiers and four militants were killed during a shootout in the rugged northwestern region of North Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan. – Associated Press


As U.S. officials weigh sanctioning China over its recent moves in Hong Kong, the city’s status as a global financial center limits the menu of effective levers available to Washington. – Wall Street Journal

Hundreds of thousands of people voted in primaries held by the city’s pro-democracy camp over the weekend, reflecting steely support for the movement despite Beijing’s imposition of a national-security law that has curbed public expressions of dissent in recent weeks. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea denounced Britain on Saturday for announcing sanctions against two organisations that the British government has said are involved in forced labour, torture and murder in North Korean prison camps. – Reuters

Hong Kong expatriates living in Britain have welcomed London’s pledge of “a pathway to future citizenship” for millions of the territory’s residents after China imposed a controversial security law there. – Agence France-Presse

A majority of U.S. companies in Hong Kong surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) are concerned about the sweeping new national security law in the global financial hub, with a third looking to move assets or business longer-term. – Reuters

The Philippines on Sunday renewed its call for compliance with a 4-year-old arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s vast claims in the disputed South China Sea on historical grounds “without any possibility of compromise.” – Associated Press

The Australian government says it will offer around 10,000 Hong Kong passport holders currently living in Australia a chance to apply for permanent residence once their current visas expire. – Associated Press

Zoe Leung writes: In many ways, Hong Kong is at the forefront of clashes between Western values and an increasingly powerful and autocratic government in Beijing. China has shown the world that it will stop at nothing to restore stability and solidify the legitimacy of the Communist Party. But it must understand that doing so at the expense of the will of the people is the surest way to lose “hearts and minds.” – The Hill

Ambassador (Ret.) Mark Green writes: Respecting human dignity, forging against long odds a better future for former adversaries, overcoming old enmities and discredited policies, having the character to move past the debilitating wounds of war — that is John McCain’s legacy. Today, as we celebrate 25 years of improved relations and a growing friendship with Vietnam, we should recognize it’s our legacy as well, and one where our interests and our most cherished values will remain central and determinative. – The Hill

Emil Avdaliani writes: The shift of American attention from inner Eurasia to the Indo-Pacific region will accelerate in the 2020s. This will benefit Russia, as it will have a much freer hand in dealing with its immediate neighborhood. It should also result in a further delay of NATO/EU expansion, which works to Moscow’s benefit. […]The Indo-Pacific region is already a geopolitical constant. It connects large swaths of the globe into one unit. The region has the largest and wealthiest states in the world and will attract the US and other global players. It is on the way to becoming a major playground for geopolitical influence.  – BESA Center


Tens of thousands of people protested in Russia’s Far East on Saturday in a rare display of opposition to President Vladimir V. Putin in the country’s vast hinterland. […]Unlike streets protests in Moscow, which the authorities can easily discredit as the work of a privileged metropolitan elite led astray by Russia’s enemies in the West, the outburst of anger against Mr. Putin in a hardscrabble region nearly 4,000 miles east of the capital presented an unusual and potentially more troublesome challenge. – New York Times

President Trump took credit late last week for a cyberattack on Russia’s Internet Research Agency two years ago, citing it as evidence that he has responded strongly to Russian provocations, despite considerable evidence that he has often excused Moscow’s aggressions in cyberspace and on European territory. – New York Times

The Dutch government is taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights over the downing nearly six years ago of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine. – New York Times

Marc A. Thiessen writes: During an Oval Office interview with me this week, President Trump acknowledged for the first time that, in 2018, he authorized a covert cyberattack against Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg-based troll farm that spearheaded Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and was doing the same in the 2018 midterm elections[…]. Here is something he did right. While Trump is accused of not taking Russian interference seriously, he did more than Obama ever did to combat it. – Washington Post


The rapprochement between the West and Belarus, Moscow’s restive ally, is hitting new turbulence as outrage grows over arrests of the country’s opposition leaders and its mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal

A former Swedish ambassador to China was cleared of charges of wrongdoing on Friday, culminating a strange saga that combined elements of a spy novel with the opaque reality of dealing with an authoritarian state where people can be grabbed in public and disappear. – New York Times

Robert O’Brien, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, is traveling to Paris on Monday for a three-day trip to meet with European officials on China and other foreign policy issues, according to an administration official. – Politico

A leading Jewish group criticised Poland’s public broadcaster on Friday for its “hateful” role in a tight presidential election race that pits the conservative incumbent against the liberal mayor of Warsaw. […]Home to one of the world’s largest Jewish communities before World War Two, Poland is the only European Union country that has not legislated on restoring property to pre-war Jewish owners or their descendants, despite U.S. pressure. – Reuters

BT CEO Philip Jansen urged the British government on Monday not to move too fast to ban China’s Huawei from the 5G network, cautioning that there could be outages and even security issues if it did. – Reuters

Two former agents of France’s external intelligence agency DGSE were sentenced to prison terms on Friday after being found guilty of spying for China, Agence France Presse and radio and television station France Info reported. – Reuters

Hostile rhetoric has ratcheted up in recent days over Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong. Britain’s decision to offer refuge to millions in the former colony was met with a stern telling-off by China. And Chinese officials have threatened “consequences” if Britain treats it as a “hostile country” and decides to cut Chinese technology giant Huawei out of its critical telecoms infrastructure amid growing unease over security risks. – Associated Press

Cyprus’ government said Friday that a U.S. decision to provide education and training to the island nation’s armed forces won’t hamper relations with either Russia or China. – Associated Press

Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it invited China’s ambassador to meet with one of its top diplomats to again express Berlin’s concerns about the situation in Hong Kong. – Associated Press

German authorities are investigating suspicions that an employee of the government’s press office worked for years for an Egyptian intelligence service, according to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. – Associated Press

Mira Rapp Hooper writes: The reckless drawdown plan is a reminder that the president holds nearly unfettered authority to manage allies however he pleases. Given that the administration stood by as Russia paid bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan, the least Congress can do is stop another sacrifice to Putin. Even if it passes this amendment, lawmakers have to be vigilant. Whether in Germany or in South Korea, where the administration has yet another spending standoff, Trump seems bent on unraveling alliances in Europe and Asia, which have kept the United States safe and prosperous for 70 years. Impulsive moves such as this one can be perilous. – The Hill

Serkan Aydin writes: While politicians in China and US should do their best in a bid to avoid a “new Cold War”, Europe, which suffered tremendously owing to the Cold War, can play a key role in preventing such a dangerous scenario from becoming reality. Therefore, the expected China-EU Summit in Leipzig scheduled for autumn is expected be an important moment to achieve this. – Times of Israel


Burkina Faso is one of the frontlines of a security crisis in the Sahel, a semi-arid region that extends from Senegal eastward to Sudan. […]The resulting vacuum has allowed armed groups, including jihadists affiliated with Islamic State and al-Qaida, to spill over from neighbouring Mali, driving the government from swathes of Burkina Faso’s northern and eastern frontiers, and sending nearly a million citizens fleeing for their lives. – The Guardian

Alberto Fernandez writes: Heir to a grim historical legacy and caught up in Nile dam tensions between neighboring Egypt and Ethiopia, Sudan would be easy to write off. Yet given the deepening despair and deadlock in most of the Arabic-speaking world, it is crucial that Washington do all it can now—not later—to ensure that Sudan emerges as a tolerant, civilian-led country rather than another failed state. This would be better not just for the United States, but also for a region that is starved for relative success stories amid the gathering gloom. – Washington Institute

Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa writes: The history of the appearance of ISIS in Mozambique demonstrates a new stage in the evolution of IS jihadists. The speed with which the local IG center has gone from a group of a dozen people to units capable of capturing and maintaining control over thousands of cities is amazing. […]Given this, as well as new challenges in the form of coronavirus and the consequences of the global economic crisis for the continent, we can only fear to expect what the spread of IS in Africa will lead to. – Times of Israel

The Americas

U.S. national-security officials are reviewing the 2017 acquisition of a South Carolina pharmaceutical company by Chinese investors after learning the firm was in talks to participate in a Pentagon project to develop injection devices for a coronavirus vaccine, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

Several companies that certify vessels are seaworthy and ship insurers have withdrawn services to tankers involved in the Venezuelan oil trade as the United States targets the maritime industry to tighten sanctions on the Latin American country. – Reuters

President Trump’s move to withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization (WHO) has received only muted criticism from allied nations as they look to preserve American cooperation amid the global challenges posed by COVID-19. – The Hill

Congress appears poised to do little, if anything, to pass legislation responding to intelligence indicating Russia had offered bounties for the killing of U.S. troops, despite the initial firestorm that erupted on Capitol Hill. – The Hill

A medical researcher and professor who had been working most recently at Ohio State University is facing federal charges in what prosecutors say was a sophisticated scheme to transfer U.S.-backed research to China. – Associated Press

Stephen Long writes: Withdrawing from the World Health Organization at the time when American leadership is so critical hands an easy propaganda victory to our competitors. Whether it is a friendlier rise of Europe or a more hostile rise of China, the United States is opening the door to its own replacement by leaving its international commitments. Great powers rise and fall, but rarely do they throw away leadership of the international system voluntarily. That is exactly what this administration is doing by pulling out of the only multilateral institution capable of dealing with pandemics like the coronavirus that threaten stability. – The Hill


Facebook executives are considering a temporary ban on political advertising in the final days before the U.S. election in November as the company continues to grapple with a large advertising boycott, employee unrest and other issues related to its policies on hate speech and misinformation, according to two people familiar with the company’s thinking. – Washington Post

Since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Monday that the United States was considering banning TikTok over national security concerns, a sentiment echoed by President Donald Trump in an interview on Tuesday, TikTok users have been scrambling. […]Suspicion of TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has come from the private sector, too. – New York Times

Amazon on Friday asked its employees to delete the Chinese-owned video app TikTok from their cellphones, putting the tech giant at the center of growing suspicion and paranoia about the app. Almost five hours later, Amazon reversed course, saying the email to workers was sent in error. – New York Times

China’s Huawei Technologies has requested a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to work out a deal to delay its potential removal from the country’s 5G phone network, the Sunday Times newspaper reported on Sunday. – Reuters

A U.S. Cyber Command official said that when they examine whether any given operation or even when a strategy has been successful, they’re not looking at metrics, but rather outcomes. – C4ISRNET

Iridium is considering legal action to block the FCC’s controversial approval of Ligado’s 5G mobile wireless network, which much of the federal government says will interfere with GPS. – Breaking Defense


As the last portions of the altered Defender 2020 exercise kick into gear, the U.S. Army is beginning to plan its 2021 edition, a top general said Thursday. – Defense News

The U.S. Space Force and the National Reconnaissance Office will stick with Rocket Lab for upcoming launches, despite the failure of the company’s most recent rocket launch to reach orbit. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. Department of Defense announced Friday it is issuing $84.4 million in funding through the Defense Production Act to small unmanned technology, space and shipbuilding companies. – Defense News

The FFG(X) program is a Navy program to build a class of 20 guided-missile frigates (FFGs). Congress funded the procurement of the first FFG(X) in FY2020 at a cost of $1,281.2 million (i.e., about $1.3 billion). The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $1,053.1 million (i.e., about $1.1 billion) for the procurement of the second FFG(X). The Navy estimates that subsequent ships in the class will cost roughly $940 million each in then-year dollars. – USNI News

The big companies of Silicon Valley are more entangled in Pentagon contracts than the industry tends to publicly admit, according to a review of thousands of contracts by technology accountability nonprofit Tech Inquiry. But if the Pentagon’s keenest interest in the valley is in buying cutting edge tech from small, agile firms, it’s not reflected in the actual acquisitions data, which instead show vast spending going primarily to giants working with subcontractors. – Breaking Defense

Richard M. Harrison and Peter Garretson write: China’s space strategy, then, should properly be seen from a great power perspective. The strategic role in space to which Beijing aspires is potentially threatening to the United States, both economically and militarily. In order to compete successfully against it, the United States will need to go on the strategic offensive. America now needs a concrete plan to cement its position as the planet’s dominant space power. Without one, we will cede the advantage to Beijing in what is quickly emerging as the next great economic, military and political domain. – Newsweek

Long War

A man who left London to join the Islamic State group in Syria has died while being held in prison in the country, the BBC has been told. – BBC

Argentina’s federal judiciary last week froze Hezbollah’s finances for an additional year. – Jerusalem Post

Tunisians have constituted one of the largest groups of foreign jihadists in Syria, Iraq and Libya since 2011, with almost 3,000 departures, according to the Tunisian authorities. […]While public opinion at home is hostile towards the return of jihadists, President Kais Saied raised families’ hopes in January by bringing back six orphans from Libya and promising to “speed up the repatriation” of the others. – Agence France-Presse

Trump Administration

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on Sunday that he would call the former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to testify before his panel about the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and ties to the Trump campaign. – New York Times

The former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III broke his long silence on Saturday to defend his prosecution of Roger J. Stone Jr., forcefully rebutting President Trump’s claims that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was political and illegitimate. – New York Times

An internal Justice Department draft memo from late January 2017 indicates that the FBI concluded retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was not acting as an agent of Russia and noted that agents believed he did not think he was lying to them during an interview about his calls with Russia’s ambassador. – Washington Examiner

President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, sparing him from prison after he was convicted of lying under oath to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. – Reuters

President Trump has called for the extradition of a former MI6 agent who compiled a controversial report about his alleged links to Russia during the 2016 campaign. – New York Post

Danny Crichton writes: Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other nations with less than savory governments have similar objectives—and wallets to match. Saudi Arabia is among the largest investors in Silicon Valley, for example, and China, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates have invested heavily in the coming wave of companies in key emerging industries like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and next-generation silicon semiconductors. […]The Trump administration and Congress should be lauded for beginning to confront these new challenges, but much more needs to be done. – City Journal