Fdd's overnight brief

July 15, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iranian intelligence agents plotted to abduct an Iranian American journalist living in Brooklyn and take her to the Middle Eastern country, possibly via a daring maritime evacuation, the Justice Department alleged in an indictment unsealed Tuesday. – Washington Post  

Iranian leaders conceded they won’t secure the revival of a nuclear agreement with world powers during their last few weeks in office, and signaled that they’re leaving behind an atomic program poised on the threshold of what’s required for a weapon. – Bloomberg 

An explosion was reported at an office building in western Tehran on Wednesday night, according to Voice of America. As of yet, there has been no official confirmation of the report. Footage shared on social media showed emergency services, including ambulances, at the scene. A heavily damaged building could be seen in the footage. – Jerusalem Post  

Iran’s foreign minister sent a report to the country’s parliament asserting that the US has agreed to far-reaching concessions on sanctions in order to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal. – Algemeiner 

Admiral Hossein Khanzadi commander of Iran’s Navy said that in the past, Iran would only monitor American presence in the region and prepare a reaction to any possible “mischief”, but now Iran is the one “initiating processes” in the Atlantic Ocean. He made his remarks in an interview that aired on Channel 1 (Iran) on July 10, 2021. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

President Joe Biden’s effort to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal was already in a precarious position. Allegations this week that Tehran planned to kidnap a U.S. citizen are not helping. – Politico 

Since securing Iran’s nuclear facilities is the responsibility of various security and intelligence apparatuses subordinate to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), criticism of these apparatuses’ performance is limited and implicit. Instead, criticism has been directed at the pragmatic Rohani government and elements associated with it. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) today condemned in the strongest terms a foiled attempt by Iranian state agents to kidnap Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad from U.S. soil, and urged the American and European governments to urgently pursue policies that address Iran’s  kidnappings and increasingly unlawful and violent behavior. – Center for Human Rights in Iran 

On June 12, 2021 the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif delivered a 264-page document titled “The 22nd Report on the Implementation of the JCPOA Including the Latest Status of Ongoing Negotiations” to the Parliament. Included in the document was a 4-page section on “Vienna Negotiations In Line with the System [Islamic Republic]’s Policy” and the sanctions it claims the parties have agreed are to be lifted by the United States. NUFDI has translated this section, below. – National Union for Democracy in Iran 

Andrew Lovy writes: A correspondingly troubling aspect of the JCPOA is that it provides sanctions relief for Iran but doesn’t tackle the country’s sponsorship of terrorism. Prior to former president Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran received billions of dollars in frozen assets from sanctions relief. The influx of cash into Iran only increased its aggressive actions, given that it could then provide more funds to its terrorist proxies. […]The JCPOA fails to achieve its ultimate goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This failure could have immeasurable consequences for both the region and the international community as a whole. – Jerusalem Post 


There is a slow march back to Damascus by Arab nations that cut relations with Syria’s authoritarian leader Bashar Assad during the country’s decade-long civil war. Arab countries — including states that invested millions in backing an armed uprising against the Assad regime — are among the first to be building back diplomatic ties with the government. – NPR 

When Ibrahim Al Hussein fled Syria in 2012 after being wounded by an explosion during his country’s civil war, his life was turned upside down. Nearly a decade later, Al Hussein is preparing for his second Paralympic Games in Tokyo and credits swimming with helping him to rebuild his life and integrate after migrating to Greece. – Associated Press 

Matthew Levitt writes: In fact, Syrian government support for the terrorist network that morphed into ISIS goes back many years, to include support for foreign fighters traveling through Syria to join al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI later the Islamic State in Iraq, ISI), making it the group’s earliest and most significant state sponsor. – Liber Amicorum for Gilles de Kerchove 


Turkey and Israel have agreed to work towards improving their strained relations after a rare phone call between their presidents, a spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AK Party said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan removed a loyalist university rector, making a rare U-turn in the face of public protests. The dismissal of Melih Bulu as head of the prestigious Bogazici University was announced Thursday in the Official Gazette. No replacement was announced and no reason was given for his removal. – Bloomberg 

Jonathan Spicer writes: Five years after President Tayyip Erdogan saw off a coup, his chances of extending his rule into a third decade may depend on whether he can reverse an economic decline that has seen Turks’ prosperity, equality and employment fall since 2013. – Reuters 


A former top Mexican official accused of compromising the investigation of a notorious mass abduction has taken refuge in Israel while the extradition case against him is mired in a diplomatic tussle over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Israeli and Mexican officials say. – New York Times 

With the Lebanese economy in a free-fall, the IDF is concerned that there may be an increase of incidents such as drug smuggling and infiltrations of migrant workers or refugees along its northern border. – Jerusalem Post  

The Israeli military has reportedly asked for a major budget increase so that it can strengthen its attack capabilities should it need to attack Iran’s nuclear program. – Jerusalem Post 

A delegation of Iranian dissidents and expatriates plan to pay a solidarity visit to Israel next week with officials from the Trump administration. – Jerusalem Post 

Dozens of terror operatives were arrested in a village north of Ramallah in the West Bank on Wednesday night in a joint operation by the IDF, the Shin Bet, and the Border Police. – Jerusalem Post 

Slovakia upgraded the status of the diplomatic mission it plans to open in Jerusalem in September so that it now falls under the country’s Foreign Ministry. – Jerusalem Post 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to visit Israel at the end of August, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

A Palestinian journalist who was fired by the BBC for posting an antisemitic tweet that included the words “Hitler was right” has issued a defiant statement against her former employer, accusing the British broadcaster of “capitulating” to the “whim of a pro-Israel mob.” – Algemeiner 

Editorial: There is every reason to believe the West Bank may face increased instability due to the Palestinian Authority crackdown on dissent and its aging leadership. It is in Israel’s interest to try to help create stability where it can. Now is the time to act with vision and innovation to help Gaza and to bypass Hamas. – Jerusalem Post 

Micah Goodman writes: Boosting Palestinian autonomy would achieve the seemingly impossible. It would answer the Israeli public’s two contradictory wishes: Israel would exercise much less control over the Palestinians than it does now, but it would not become more threatened by them than it is now. An initiative to shrink the conflict would give expression to Israel’s invisible and unspoken ideological consensus. – Wall Street Journal 

Dany Tirza writes: The presence of an Israeli civilian settlement there would likewise require the evacuation or relocation of civilians in any plan of geographical separation between Israel and the Palestinians, so as not to harm the need of a future Palestinian state to maintain a continuum of land control in the northern West Bank. In short, establishing a settlement at Eviatar would prevent a Palestinian continuum that would enable the existence of a future Palestinian state within any two-state solution. – Washington Institute  


Lebanon’s president said Wednesday there would be no political cover for anyone implicated in last year’s massive explosion at the Beirut port, speaking a day after protests erupted over the handling of the investigation. – Associated Press 

The Israeli military on Wednesday shared intelligence of a possible target belonging to Hezbollah in the southern Lebanese village of Ebba in the Nabatieh Governorate. – Jerusalem Post 

The IDF is following the situation in Lebanon with concern, as the country is on the brink of economic collapse and its leaders are losing their grip on power. Senior Israeli security officials have said that while the chance of a large-scale war in Lebanon remains low, they do not rule out the possibility that the country’s continued economic, social and political instability will directly impact its security, which could lead to an escalation. – Haaretz 

Russell A. Berman writes: American national interest, including American values, requires a different path: Instead of misusing Lebanon as an accommodation to Tehran, the U.S. should make a stand in Lebanon, with policies designed to renew its democracy (and purge its corruption) and to protect its sovereignty by diminishing Hezbollah, as first steps toward pushing back against Iran’s broader expansionist ambitions. – The Hill  

Judah Ari Gross writes: In the time since the war, Hezbollah has turned from a terror group into a full-blown terrorist army, with a massive arsenal of rockets and missiles that can hit every Israeli population center, and significant wartime experience from its nearly 10 years fighting in Syria on behalf of its ally, dictator Bashar Assad. – Times of Israel 

Gulf States

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have reached a compromise over OPEC+ policy, an OPEC+ source said on Wednesday, in a move that should unlock a deal to supply more crude to a tight oil market and cool soaring prices. – Reuters  

The ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Belgium and the European Union paid a historic visit to the Jewish community of Antwerp on Monday, his advisor said in a press release. – Jerusalem Post 

Donna Abu-Nasr writes: On a recent visit to a pharmacy in the capital, Riyadh, the pharmacist told a woman he couldn’t dispense medicine because it was prayer time. She insisted; he refused. The reason, he said when asked later, was that he didn’t want to be reported by the religious police. – Bloomberg 

Middle East & North Africa

A bipartisan congressional delegation returned to the US on Monday after spending a week in the Middle East, including Israel, The Palestinian Authority and Qatar. This was the first congressional delegation to any destination since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. – Jerusalem Post 

Egypt’s highest civilian court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by a group of 13 people including two prominent activists who were disputing their placement on a terrorist list for a period of five years, a judicial source said. – Reuters 

More than 100 African men used grapples and threw stones at police as they tried to scale a high border fence and enter a tiny Spanish territory in North Africa in the middle of the night, authorities said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

The report, which focused on migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean and who disembarked in Libya in 2020 and 2021, suggests worsening conditions in the camps despite being recently placed under the control of the Libyan interior ministry. – Reuters 

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Wednesday ordered the release of 101 members of a protest movement that forced his predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down, the presidency said. – Reuters 

Gordon Gray writes: Tunisia may not be at the top of the Biden administration’s long list of foreign policy priorities, but the president and his national security team should not repeat the Trump administration’s mistake of neglecting it. Fortunately, every indication thus far is that the new administration understands the importance of tangibly supporting this new democracy. – The Hill 

Michael Rubin writes: Too many Americans look at Iraqi Kurdistan as an island of stability in which they can operate productively as militia violence puts the rest of Iraq off-limits. For the first time since 2003, however, the United States is going to learn what it is like to operate without true friends in Iraqi Kurdistan. Simply put, Director of Central Intelligence Bill Burns, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken appear asleep at the switch as they allow Tehran’s men to fill the top political and security positions in Sulyamani. – 19fortyfive.com 

Korean Peninsula

South Korea is sending a medical team to the Middle East to tackle a coronavirus outbreak on one of its ships on anti-piracy patrol while at home, new daily infections are hovering around record levels with 1,600 reported on Thursday. – Reuters 

South Korea is planning to build its own satellite navigation system, as well as a 6G communications satellite network, Lim said, adding it plans to send a spaceship to the moon by 2030. South Korea has been aiming to send a probe there for more than a decade, and in May it joined NASA’s Artemis program, which plans to return humans to the lunar surface. – Bloomberg 

North Korea, infamously, has a cell phone network that is still on par with 3G. But a new report says that country may be using 5G technology for border control purposes. Daily NK reported this week that the North Korean regime is planning to use “cutting edge technology” for control of its border with China. – The National Interest 


Tech experts in China who find a weakness in computer security would be required to tell the government and couldn’t sell that knowledge under rules further tightening the Communist Party’s control over information. – Associated Press 

China’s economic rebound steadied in the second quarter and showed more balance as consumer spending picked up, providing support to a global recovery being shaken by resurging coronavirus cases. – Bloomberg 

In recent years, the industry insider, who works to help western developers in China, has found his job increasingly difficult. Growing restrictions on the internet meant he could no longer access Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, which he needed to promote his client’s games, or online game publishing platforms, which he used to sell the games. – The Guardian 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan highlighted the importance of Uygur Muslims living in freedom as “equal citizens” of China during a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Tuesday. – South China Morning Post 

As Beijing and Washington compete for influence in Southeast Asia, China has warned that U.S. President Joe Biden’s positions on territorial disputes there threaten to foment disunity and unrest across the region. – Newsweek 

Satellite images obtained by The Washington Times show several Chinese military aircraft deployed from islands in the widely disputed South China Sea, indicating that China has taken residence and established military operations there. – Newsweek 

Matthew P. Funaiole and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. write: Recent satellite imagery reveals that China has made considerable progress in the construction of its third aircraft carrier, known as the Type 003, since CSIS reported on the vessel last month. […] Once the Type 003 is put into the water, it will likely be moored to one of Jiangnan Shipyard’s nearby “T”- or “H”-shaped piers for fitting out. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Doreen Horschig writes: China has become more assertive in the expansion and modernization of its nuclear forces. […]Despite recent challenges driven by nuclear modernization, there is hope and perhaps even an opportunity for nuclear arms control. A renewed awareness and risk of a second nuclear arms race is creating a larger public debate. That provides an opportunity for the arms control and disarmament community to address these issues and advocate for more diplomatic approaches. – The National Interest 

Bradley A. Thayer and Lianchao Han write: While the CCP has many weaknesses — the absence of legitimacy is its greatest — the clarity of intent and determination to rule are not among them. The path identified by Xi almost ensures the inevitability of a hot war against the West. – The Hill 

Sam Brownback and Ngodup Tsering write: As for the CCP’s attempts to select the next leader of Tibetan Buddhists, we stand with His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, when he suggested that the Chinese Communist Party should first identify Mao and Deng’s reincarnations. Until then, we hope many will join us at the Summit to highlight these and other religious freedom abuses, as we work together to bring an end to persecution of all faiths, all around the world. – Newsweek 


The Biden administration will begin flights later this month to evacuate interpreters and others who assisted the American war effort in Afghanistan, and it may house some Afghan nationals on military bases in the United States while their visa applications are processed, officials said Wednesday. – Washington Post 

Former president George W. Bush said he believes the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is a mistake, in rare public remarks on the military intervention he launched nearly two decades ago. – Washington Post 

 American diplomats are escalating a charm offensive with Central Asian leaders this week as they work to secure a close-by spot to respond to any resurgence of outside militants in Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdraws. – Associated Press 

Moscow expects the Taliban to fulfill its pledge not to threaten Russia or its allies in Central Asia, the Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan said in an interview published Wednesday. – Associated Press 

China says the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan offers the country a new chance to take its destiny into its own hands, while calling for the resurgent Taliban to cut all ties with terrorist groups. – Associated Press 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets regional leaders for talks in Uzbekistan on Thursday as deteriorating security in his country raises fears of a new Afghan refugee crisis with neighbouring Pakistan already ruling out taking any more. – Reuters 

Elisabeth Braw writes: Now, Europe is facing a new refugee crisis as a result of President Joe Biden’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Washington’s international allies have no choice but to pull out too. “In together, out together” has been the mantra because the war was built around U.S. manpower and equipment. Although Biden claims to have ended the Afghanistan War, nobody—especially not Afghans—is fooled, and Washington’s best friends are being left to pick up the pieces. – Foreign Policy  

Henrik Larsen writes: NATO and the U.S. need to be at least privately honest about the fact that they will continue to be subsidizing a patronage system that buys elite loyalties in the struggle with the Taliban. Continued financial support should encourage unity for negotiations about shared power. The ambition now should be to prevent the worst-case scenario of a protracted civil war with atrocities similar to the 1990s. – The Hill 

South Asia

Relations between Twitter and Modi’s government have gone downhill ever since. At the heart of the standoff is a sweeping internet law that puts digital platforms like Twitter and Facebook under direct government oversight. Officials say the rules are needed to quell misinformation and hate speech and to give users more power to flag objectionable content. – Associated Press 

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi urged Pakistan to investigate a blast on a bus that killed 13 people, including nine Chinese workers, but stopped short of calling it an attack, according to a post on Thursday on the foreign ministry’s website. – Reuters 

The foreign ministers of India and China met in Tajikistan on Wednesday with New Delhi stressing that a military standoff along a mountainous border area was profoundly disturbing their ties, and warning that any unilateral change in the status quo by Beijing was unacceptable. – Associated Press 

China’s crackdown on its technology firms could spur global investors to focus on India, according to Krishna Kumar Karwa, managing director of Emkay Global Financial Services Ltd. – Bloomberg 

Myanmar’s junta rejected on Wednesday a UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for reconciliation with the persecuted Rohingya minority, slamming “one-sided allegations” over its treatment of the stateless community. – Agence France-Presse 


Fifty years since a secret visit to Beijing by then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger paved the way for American engagement with communist China, ties between the two rival powers are now heading in the opposite direction. – The Japan Times  

An Armenian soldier was killed on Wednesday in an exchange of fire on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Armenia’s defence ministry said. – Reuters 

Australia, one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel exporters, has strongly criticised the European Union’s proposal to enact a carbon border tax. The measure was confirmed yesterday in the EU’s sweeping new climate plan. – BBC 

The sale of passports brought in more than US$100m to the Vanuatu government last year, with analysis by Investment Migration Insider finding it accounted for 42% of all government revenue in 2020. Revenue from the program has enabled Vanuatu, one of the poorest countries in the world, to reduce its debt stock. – The Guardian 

Human rights groups on Thursday called for Japan to cancel a real estate project involving Myanmar’s defence ministry, saying the project is linked to the military, which has waged a deadly crackdown since the February 1 coup. – Reuters 

Akira Igata and Brad Glosserman write: Japan’s mastery of new technologies, its networks and connections throughout the Indo-Pacific, and its prestige and soft power in the region all make it an invaluable economic security partner for the United States. But there is still more that Japan and the United States can do to address the economic security challenges posed by China. – Foreign Affairs  

Michael Mazza writes: China might think such an approach is far more likely to convince America to leave Taiwan to its own devices and more likely to ensure victory if America does intervene. After all, quick nuclear strikes on US regional assets could devastate America’s ability to operate in the western Pacific, presenting Washington with a menu of unappetizing choices (to put it mildly). – Global Taiwan Institute 


Russia and China have circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would immediately strip the powers of the international high representative overseeing implementation of the 1995 peace agreement that ended the devastating war in Bosnia and eliminate the position entirely in one year. – Associated Press 

Russia’s defense ministry has said it scrambled fighter jets to escort U.S. bombers over the Bering Sea in the country’s far east, as tensions between Moscow and Washington continue to ramp up. – Newsweek 

Far from signaling a decline in Moscow’s interest in Moldova, however, analysts say that, when it comes to Russia’s role and interests, the elections were evidence of the Kremlin’s dissatisfaction with Dodon and its desire to influence Moldova without assuming responsibility for the economy of Europe’s poorest country. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Maxim A. Suchkov writes: But stability in Central Asia, the security of Russia’s own southern borders, as well as the spread of extremist ideologies are all issues that Putin will always have the time, resources, and appetite to address. This is especially true now that he believes the Russian military has a lot more means than the Soviets did to make the Taliban’s life miserable without a direct intrusion into the country. Therefore, it appears that in Moscow the conversation was more about setting red lines, rather than exchanging promises. – Middle East Institute  

Jacob Heilbrunn writes: But Putin’s own stance now appears to be hardening. His interest in compromise with the West, never all that great in recent years, now appears about as low as the water level at the Hoover Dam. Putin may be at a crossroads. If he acts upon the precepts he enunciates in his essay, it could transform the East-West confrontation into something much nastier and more foreboding. – The National Interest 

Philip Stephens writes: Add the rampant corruption that starts with the Kremlin and you have the explanation for Putin’s fear of Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned opposition leader. Foreigners cannot be blamed for state graft as well as falling living standards. And the decarbonisation of energy supplies will soon begin to cap the flow of money to the Kremlin’s coffers from oil and gas. – Financial Times 

Leonid Bershidsky writes: To the rest of the world, however, Putin’s tortured journalism is of more consequence than to Ukrainians. It shows that the Russian leader is unprepared to negotiate with third parties about Ukraine’s fate and direction. – Bloomberg 


The head of the U.K.’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, said the agency is doubling the resources it devotes to tackling threats from Russia, China and Iran—and faces a growing challenge from right-wing extremists, many of whom are teenagers. – Wall Street Journal 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s farewell visit to Washington this week will broadcast a new, friendlier tone between the U.S. and Europe after the acrimony of the Trump era but will likely do little to reverse the long-term divergence of interests in the trans-Atlantic relationship. – Wall Street Journal 

From lavish barbecues with President George W. Bush to awkward moments with President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angel Merkel’s 16-year tenure has had many a candid moment with her U.S. counterparts. – Washington Post 

The European Union and China presented sweeping plans to limit greenhouse-gas emissions that will increase costs for industry and consumers, though they drew criticism from environmentalists as not going far enough to slow climate change. – Wall Street Journal 

A 22-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker was convicted Wednesday of attempted murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for a knife attack that injured seven people in a southern Swedish town earlier this year. – Associated Press 

The U.K. government announced Wednesday that it plans to introduce a statute of limitations for alleged crimes committed during decades of violence in Northern Ireland, a move that would end prosecutions for killings by both British soldiers and members of militant groups. – Associated Press 

Poland’s Constitutional Court defied the European Union on Wednesday with a ruling that government critics said puts a question mark over the country’s future membership of the bloc. 

The court ruled that any interim measures issued by the EU Court of Justice against Poland’s controversial judicial reforms were “not in line” with the Polish constitution. – Agence France-Presse 

Belarusian police have carried out sweeping raids on human rights groups and the media, including the Vyasna human rights center and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, as authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka further ramps up his crackdown on dissent. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Germany’s spy chief has warned that foreign intelligence agencies could be seeking to influence September’s Bundestag election, with a spike in phishing attacks on German MPs and regional politicians. Since February this year, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, has recorded “intensive attacks” by the “Ghostwriter” cyber group that appeared to be linked to a foreign intelligence service. – Financial Times 

Companies may ban Muslim employees from wearing a headscarf under certain conditions, the European Union’s top court said on Thursday, in two cases brought by Muslim women in Germany who were suspended from their jobs after they started wearing the Islamic garment. – Reuters 

A UK man with a previous record of antisemitic harassment has appeared in court, charged with defacing a war memorial in a coastal town in North Wales. – Algemeiner 

Editorial: But don’t underestimate more cynical explanations. The backdrop for all of this is a new U.S. Administration that also wants to talk about its climate virtue. Brussels may hope that, by talking up its own climate ambitions, it can goad President Biden into inflicting on the U.S. economy costs similar to those that already hobble European industries. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: But now she faces Biden, whom Merkel already knows from his time as vice president during the Obama administration and who views the world through a similar, pragmatic lens. Biden has praised the German leader, who has outlasted her critics in the Trump administration. – Washington Post 

Katja Hoyer writes: The difficult task to find a concrete way forward for the two allies will fall to Merkel’s successor. That is likely to be Armin Laschet, who earlier this year was elected as leader of her Christian Democratic Union but has neither Merkel’s experience nor gravitas. The serious U.S-German discussions will be postponed to later in the year. This visit is mostly about saying “auf Wiedersehen” to Chancellor Merkel. – Washington Post 

Charles Lane writes: Merkel has made the most of her country’s soft power — its financial strength; its democratic prestige — but, bowing to Germany’s quasi-pacifist public opinion, and sheltering under the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization, she has done little to bolster German hard power through higher military spending. How much longer Biden and future U.S. presidents can continue to tolerate that, without offending the United States’ own electorate, is a crucial question that Merkel is undoubtedly only too happy to let her successor deal with. – Washington Post 

Marco Marsili writes: The Nord Stream 2 underwater twin pipeline will transport every year 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas into the European Union, running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. The question divides Germany and the United States which opposes the project. In supporting this project, Germany is simply serving the interests of the Union, while the United States is self-sufficient, being the first country in the world for crude oil production. – The National Interest 

Tony Barber writes: Pushbacks are also a consequence of a hasty deal that the EU struck with Turkey in 2016. In return for €6bn in financial assistance, Turkey promised to stop irregular entries into the EU and to accept the return of migrants who had crossed to Greece. […]The EU and UK pride themselves on upholding human rights and the rule of law. But their harsh, haphazard treatment of refugees and migrants tells a different story. Pushbacks and sending asylum-seekers to distant lands are methods unworthy of prosperous, civilised nations. – Financial Times 


Ethiopian leaders warned Wednesday they were ready to launch a new offensive against their “enemies” after rebels pushed deeper into Tigray, effectively tearing up a government-declared ceasefire in the war-torn region. – Agence France-Presse 

South Africa plans to deploy up to 25,000 soldiers in two provinces where security forces are struggling to quell days of looting, arson and violence, its defence minister told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, according to local news channel eNCA. – Reuters 

Ethiopian police have detained hundreds of ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Ababa since federal government forces lost control of the Tigray region’s capital on June 28, according to some of those who say they were released. – Reuters 

The ancestry of the son of a Jewish refugee in the Democratic Republic of Congo has emerged as a flashpoint for a political crisis that is threatening the integrity of the massive African country. The crisis came to a head last week when lawmakers loyal to President Felix Tshiseked introduced a bill that would restrict the presidency to those with two Congolese parents. – Times of Israel 

The Americas

As Cuba faces its largest protests in decades, amid tough economic conditions, Haiti is grappling with the chaotic aftermath of the assassination of its president. But the Biden administration has delivered the people of both countries a uniform message: “Do not risk your life attempting to enter the United States illegally,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a news conference Tuesday. –  Washington Post 

The head of security at the presidential palace here has been taken into custody as part of an investigation into the mysterious assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, who was killed last week in his home in the hills above the capital. – Washington Post 

Several of the central figures under investigation by the Haitian authorities in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse gathered in the months before the killing to discuss rebuilding the troubled nation once the president was out of power, according to the Haitian police, Colombian intelligence officers and participants in the discussions. – New York Times 

For the first time in Communist Cuba, protesters expressed their anger against the repression and the police state. Dissidents and activists say the pandemic played a determining role. – Wall Street Journal 

Haiti’s police chief on Wednesday accused a Venezuelan businessman who owns a security company in Florida of traveling to Haiti numerous times as part of a plot to assassinate President Jovenel Moïse, who was killed last week. – Associated Press 

Cuba announced on Wednesday it was temporarily lifting restrictions on the amount of food and medicine travelers could bring into the country in an apparent small concession to demands by protesters who took to the street last weekend. – Reuters 

President Joe Biden’s review of Trump-era Cuba policy could lead to big changes in the U.S. posture toward the communist government in Havana as U.S. officials take stock of large protests in that country. – Reuters 

Venezuelan opposition party Popular Will said on Wednesday that security forces detained family members of a Caracas activist, days after the arrest of opposition leader Freddy Guevara fueled concerns about a possible wave of detentions. – Reuters  

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development said on Wednesday she was looking at aid to Haiti in the hope of better results than billions of dollars in previous assistance that did little to ease the country’s deep problems. – Reuters 

Editorial: The most striking aspect of Sunday’s remarkable demonstrations in Cuba was their spontaneity. The most striking aspect of the government’s response was the dreary repetition of its timeworn repressive measures. […] Protests have flared in Cuba over the years, but Sunday’s outpouring was extraordinary. Cuba’s regime responded by showing its true character — a dictatorship — and its determination to remain one. – Washington Post 

Michael Stott writes: If the Cuban government has few good options, the Biden administration also faces difficult choices. Joe Biden’s response was notable for its harsh tone. He called for “the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs . . . rather than enriching themselves”. Caught between pressure from the Republicans and the Cuban-American lobby for a hard line and the desire of leftwing Democrats for a revival of Obama-era detente, the administration has so far left the tighter Trump-era embargo intact. – Financial Times 

Cristina Lopez-Gottardi writes: Regardless of what happens next, Sunday’s protests were a historic moment in Cuba’s long fight for democracy. Cubans appear to have lost their fear of the state’s repressive tactics and that’s a frightening reality for any dictatorship and a necessary first step in any transition. The next step, assuming protests persist and intensify, may eventually fall on the shoulders of Cuba’s military. – The Hill 

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: Internal factors weigh heavily, and Cubans will take convincing to believe that reform efforts are genuine. As Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz told officials, people do not eat plans. But Washington can do its part too. U.S. hardliners argue that keeping the squeeze on will bring democracy. In fact, in a region where the opposite of the status quo is often chaos, the opposite is true. – Bloomberg 

United States

As Americans look to resume international travel, the State Department is struggling to clear a backlog of passport applications that is frustrating some travelers, and an official said an increase in staffing won’t immediately resolve the delays. – Wall Street Journal  

In response to questions from The Washington Post, the WHO is changing the virus sequence IDs associated with three of the 13 early patients listed in a chart in the report and will clarify that the first family cluster was not linked to the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, a spokesman said. – Washington Post  

Some 135 years after the arrival of its big sister in New York, a relatively diminutive replica Statue of Liberty was unveiled Wednesday in the US capital as a token of American-French friendship. – Agence France-Presse 

The first six months of 2021 saw hate crimes against Jews in Los Angeles increase by 59.2 percent over the same period the previous year, an analysis of LAPD figures published by data journalism website Crosstown on Monday shows. – Haaretz 


Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.  and Tencent Holdings Ltd. are considering moves to gradually open up their services to one another, as Beijing’s tech crackdown makes it harder for China’s two online giants to maintain the virtual barriers they have built in recent years. – Wall Street Journal  

The Biden administration intends to crack down on the use of cryptocurrencies in ransomware attacks through more rigorous tracing of proceeds paid to hackers behind the disabling of companies, organizations and government agencies around the world, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg 

Twitter Inc saw a surge in government demands worldwide in 2020 to take down content posted by journalists and news outlets, according to data released by the social media platform. – Reuters 

Tim Culpan writes: But Tencent can’t be too excited about the prospect of its customers spending money on Alibaba within its own app. In a different regulatory environment, it might have mitigated that by collating data on usage. But Beijing is now focused on data security and will clamp down if it sees anyone overstepping the line. It’s not yet clear what that boundary is. – Bloomberg 


The United States is building a new combined joint operations centre (CJOC) at Hatzor Air Base in Israel, according to a notice released by the US government System for Award Management website on 11 July. – Jane’s 360 

Editorial: Boosting recruitment shouldn’t come at the expense of military rigor. Relaxing enlistment standards by opening the force to those with histories of truancy or drug use, for instance, would be a mistake. New waivers were granted to Army recruits at the height of the Iraq War; the result was higher attrition and lapses in discipline, and the Pentagon was forced to rethink. – Bloomberg 

Lt. Gen. Bill Liquori and Iris Ferguson write: The Department of the Air Force, through the U.S. Space Force and Air Force Research Laboratory, is embarking on two ventures with sweeping implications for the Arctic region and for how the department does business there. Both projects have the potential to dramatically improve the lives of the region’s residents, and both rely on collaborating outside the U.S. government to adapt and move quickly. […]Space is hard, and so is the Arctic. By working smartly in one realm, we are increasing our ability to operate effectively in the second. – C4ISRNET 

Graham W. Jenkins writes: The problem lies not with the quantity of forward-deployed resources so much as with the strategic assumptions underpinning their requirement. Rather than proclaiming the need to flood the zone with tremendous amounts of equipment and end strength and then having nowhere to put them, the United States is better off developing naval platforms like submarines and unmanned surface and underwater vehicles that would provide precision strike capabilities without requiring overseas basing. – War on the Rocks  

Long War

Police said they were searching locations in the central German state of Hesse on Wednesday in connection with suspected Islamic extremists. – Associated Press 

A man from East Sussex has appeared in court charged with a terrorism offence. Abu Bakr Deghayes, 53, from Saltdean, is charged with encouraging the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, Counter Terrorism Policing South East said. – BBC 

An Arizona judge will hold a hearing Thursday over whether to sign off on a request by the Iraqi government to extradite a Phoenix driving school owner on charges that he participated in the 2006 killings of two Iraqi police officers as the leader of an al-Qaida group. – Associated Press 

A powerful roadside bomb targeting security forces killed two soldiers in southwest Pakistan, the military said Thursday, a sign of increasing violence in the region. – Associated Press