Fdd's overnight brief

July 16, 2019

In The News


European diplomats who gathered Monday to try to save the Iran nuclear deal warned that the agreement was close to unraveling, but several held out hope they would be able to lure Tehran back into compliance. – Washington Post

The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal do not see Tehran’s breaches as significant and do not intend for now to trigger the pact’s dispute mechanism, preferring more diplomacy to ease the crisis, the EU foreign policy chief said on Monday. – Reuters 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday demanded an explanation from Iran after the arrest last month of Franco-Iranian dual national Fariba Adelkhah, an incident that complicates Paris’ efforts to defuse tensions in the region. – Reuters 

The United Nations told the United States it is concerned by tight travel restrictions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during his visit to New York this week, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday. – Reuters 

The leading candidate to become Britain’s next Prime Minister, lawmaker Boris Johnson, said on Monday he would not currently back the United States if it took military action against Iran. – Reuters 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned a European Union response on Monday to Iran’s breaches of nuclear limitations, saying it recalled failed diplomacy with Nazi Germany ahead of World War Two. – Reuters 

If European countries continue to support Iran’s uranium enrichment, the United States should “grind them into the ground” with sanctions, Sen. Lindsey Graham said. – Washington Examiner 

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he would speak to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump this week as part of a French initiative to prevent an escalation of tensions in the Middle East. – Reuters 

Iran’s recent breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal are not significant and can be reversed, the European Union’s foreign policy chief says. – BBC

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday that Iran’s actions were “profoundly destabilizing” but said he wanted to reduce tensions in the Middle East, ahead of talks with his EU counterparts. – Agence France-Presse

Farzin Nadimi writes: Perhaps most important, Iranian leaders should be made to understand that taking a belligerent stance in these vital waterways would seriously harm their own economy and national interests, as happened in the late 1980s when attacks on nonbelligerent shipping contributed to internationalization of the conflict with Iraq. The IRGC is attempting to depict these historical deeds as instrumental to strategic success, and Western countries are understandably bracing for further tanker attacks, perhaps involving greater damage. Yet those past deeds were in fact very costly at a time when Iran’s most important national interests were at stake, and that would no doubt be the case again today. – Washington Institute 


The Hezbollah terror organization moved some of its forces which were previously located around Syria, to the Lebanon-Syria border, Asharq Al-Awsat reported. – Arutz Sheva

In an open field on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, workers in black uniforms, surgical masks and red hardhats toil under a scorching sun to dig up bodies from a large mass grave discovered last month. They have so far unearthed 313 bodies from the grave since it was discovered last month, the official said. – Associated Press

A senior humanitarian official on Sunday dismissed criticism that United Nations assistance to Syria is helping prop up the Damascus regime, saying that realism and the need to help those affected by the civil war shape the aid operations, not who is in power in a particular country. – The National


Turkey’s relationship with the West suffered a fresh blow on Monday when the European Union decided to suspend contacts between high-level officials, as well as to pull financial aid, in response to Turkey’s gas exploration in Cypriot national waters. – New York Times 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that the Russian S-400 missile defence system, parts of which have been delivered to Turkey over the past four days, would be fully deployed in April 2020. – Reuters 

In a court case that could further strain American relations with Turkey and weigh on the sentencing of former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn, a criminal trial began on Monday involving a former Iranian-American business partner of Flynn. – Reuters 

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program’s civilian and military management are in the midst of a changeover just as government officials from the U.S. and partner countries are considering ejecting Turkey from involvement in the aircraft’s manufacture and deployment. – USNI News

Turkey’s decision to ignore U.S. warnings and take delivery of a Russian-made air defense missile system could signal a permanent rupture in its alliance with Washington and will test President Donald Trump’s willingness to punish Ankara with sanctions, former officials and experts said. – NBC News

If the United States ejects Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, it would gain new enticements to help sell the stealth fighter jet to other allies. That’s because contracts for the 900-plus F-35 parts currently made in Turkey could be offered to countries that are considering buying the jet, such as Canada, Finland, Switzerland and Spain. – Defense One 

Walter Russell Mead writes: The potential defection of a major ally like Turkey poses a significant challenge to NATO, not least because the alliance has no legal means to expel members that default on their obligations. While Mr. Erdogan’s purchase of the Russian system requires a serious response, and the delivery of F-35s must be put on hold, Washington should move cautiously. – Wall Street Journal 

Thomas Karako writes: If Turkey’s S-400 is indeed intended to provide military and political insurance for Erdogan against another coup attempt, it would go a long way to explaining why he is willing to endure considerable U.S. and NATO pressure to acquire it. […]In the long term, Turkey may reverse the current move towards Russia, perhaps in a post-Erdogan period. If so, the prospects of both F-35 and Patriot air defenses could be reopened along with a future integration with NATO air defenses. For now, however, Turkey’s decision to acquire the S-400 represents a significant win for Russia. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


A senior Hamas official on Monday attempted to walk back his call for members of the Palestinian diaspora to kill Jews around the world, as the terrorist group distanced itself from his remarks. – Times of Israel

“These remarks do not reflect the official stances of Hamas and its policy,” stated Hamas on Monday in response to Hamas official Fathi Hamad who on Friday told Palestinians worldwide to “attack every Jew on planet Earth.” In the statement on their website, Hamas stressed that it’s stances and policy “state that our struggle is only against the Israeli occupation which occupies our land and desecrates our holy places.” – Jerusalem Post

Hamas has once again been trying to obtain intelligence from Israeli troops stationed along the Gaza border using online messaging applications. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: The sensitive subject of Chinese investments is expected to be discussed at Wednesday’s security cabinet meeting. […]The question of foreign investment – and particularly Chinese – is important not only for its domestic implications; there are huge foreign policy ramifications. As The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon noted this week, the issue is one of the few points of friction between Jerusalem and Washington under the Trump administration. – Jerusalem Post

Abha Shankar writes: Board members for the Generosity Without Limit Association (“Generosity Association”), a charitable organization operating in the Gaza Strip since 2007, either serve as operatives or have close affiliations with an umbrella group called the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC). Israel declared the PRC a terrorist organization in 2006, and claims the PRC is funded and trained by Hamas. Its largest attack came in 2011, killing eight Israeli civilians and wounding another 20. – Algemeiner

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi vice minister of defense Khalid bin Salman stressed Saudi support for a political solution in Yemen in a meeting with U.N. special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths on Monday. – Reuters 

Yemen’s warring parties have agreed new measures to enforce a ceasefire and facilitate a troop pullback from the flashpoint port of Hodeidah, the United Nations said on Monday. – Reuters 

Saudi Arabia is preparing to support Lebanon through its economic challenges, three Lebanese ex-premiers indicated after meeting Saudi King Salman in Jeddah on Monday. – Reuters 

A Yemeni human rights group says civilians are paying the human cost of the country’s five-year war. […]The group documented 74 cases of obstructing aid or access, largely blaming Iran-backed rebels known as Houthis. – Associated Press

Editorial: An enduring settlement in Yemen will almost certainly require a de-escalation of tensions across the region — which, in turn, can come about only if the United States and Iran reach some kind of detente. For now, Mr. Trump appears bent on continuing his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran while supplying Saudi Arabia with fresh bombs for Yemen. So Congress could play a constructive role by ratifying the ban on those deliveries — and by sending the firm message that war with Iran is not an option. – Washington Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea warned Tuesday that planned military exercises involving U.S. and South Korean forces would jeopardize proposed disarmament talks with Washington, and hinted it might respond by resuming nuclear and missile tests. – Washington Post 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he hoped both North Korea and the United States could “be a little more creative” when the two sides restart talks aimed at ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. – Reuters 

South Korea imported no crude oil from Iran for a second month in June following the end of a U.S. sanctions wavier, with Iranian imports for the first half dropping 36.9% from a year earlier, customs data showed on Monday. – Reuters 

Evan S. Medeiros writes: There is a crisis unfolding in Asia, and few are paying attention. Not least the U.S. government, which is probably the only actor that can fix it. Two of the United States’ core allies — Japan and South Korea — have become deeply estranged. Earlier this month, the bickering broke out into a nasty trade war. The conflict threatens not only the U.S. alliance network but also regional prosperity and global supply chains. On Wednesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in called relations with Japan an “unprecedented emergency.” – Washington Post


As Beijing faced international criticism for its continued crackdown on Uighurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang region over recent days, a Chinese diplomat based in Pakistan responded by highlighting what he called racial segregation in Washington. In tweets that began Saturday, the deputy chief of mission at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad issued condemnations of the United States’ legacy of racism, religious intolerance, gun violence, Internet surveillance, income inequality, the problem of sexual harassment and more. – Washington Post 

China’s government and Chinese companies will cut business ties with U.S. firms selling arms to Taiwan, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday, declining to give details of the sanctions in a move likely to worsen already poor ties with Washington. – Reuters 

From the expansive dunes of the Taklamakan Desert to the snow-capped peaks of Tianshan, Chinese authorities are selling troubled Xinjiang as a tourist idyll, welcoming travellers even as they send locals to internment camps. – Agence France-Presse

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer may travel to Beijing for trade negotiations if talks by phone this week are productive. – Bloomberg 

The U.S. may approve licenses for companies to re-start new sales to Huawei in as little as two weeks, according to a senior U.S. official, in a sign President Donald Trump’s recent effort to ease restrictions on the Chinese company could move forward quickly. – Reuters

Joseph Bosco writes: On many fronts, democracies, and those who aspire to it, are taking a stand against “Red China’s” campaign to change the world in its despotic favor. At some point, as happened in World War II and the Cold War, the forces supporting freedom and the rule of law will coalesce and prevail against the actual “greatest threat to world peace.” – The Hill 

Jianli Yang and Lianchao Han write: We believe the Trump administration’s China policy worked well previously and created new dynamics that might offer golden opportunities to create positive changes in China and protect American interests. But this concession will offset most of the gains. President Trump should continue his original policy of containment of Huawei and not let a perceived short-term benefit shift the course.  – The Hill


At least 11 pilgrims including seven children were killed and on Monday when their vehicle set off a landmine in southern Afghanistan, local government and health officials said. […]No group immediately claimed responsibility for the landmine blast and the explosion inside the mosque. Taliban fighters say they use roadside bombs and landmines to attack security forces, but civilians are frequently hurt or killed. – Reuters 

A local radio station in eastern Afghanistan was forced to shut down after repeated threats from the area’s Taliban commander, the head of the station said on Tuesday. – Associated Press 

Stefanie Glinski writes: Small numbers of fighters for the Islamic State of Khorasan Province, the Afghan branch of the militant group, have been in Kunar since 2015. But the group’s new stronghold is in Kunar’s deep forests, inheriting a booming wood industry previously controlled by the Taliban that is now generating a growing income for Islamic State militants. – Foreign Policy


The U.S.-China technology war is raging around the world, but the Philippines is no longer torn. It is binding its telecommunications future to China’s. The country got its first taste of next-generation 5G services in late June with gear supplied by Huawei Technologies Co. – Wall Street Journal 

Anti-government protesters who fought police inside a Hong Kong shopping mall were “rioters”, the finance hub’s pro-Beijing leader said Monday, as she threw her support behind the city’s beleaguered police force following another weekend of clashes. – Agence France-Presse

Hong Kong’s protesters haven taken their fight beyond the skyscraper-filled city center in recent weeks, holding marches in areas frequented by mainland Chinese visitors and migrants, spurring more clashes with police. – Bloomberg 

Pakistan opened its airspace to civil aviation on Tuesday, following months of restrictions imposed in the wake of a standoff with neighboring India. – Reuters 


President Trump is sending a high-level delegation to meet with Russian counterparts in Geneva this week to pursue an arms control treaty that for the first time would cap the nuclear arsenals of not just the two largest powers, but China as well. – New York Times

India and Russia have agreed on a new payment method through their national currencies for multi-billion-dollar defense deals, in a bid to avoid risks created by the U.S. threat of sanctions and banking restrictions. – Bloomberg 

Hackers stole thousands of Bulgarians’ personal financial data and distributed it from a Russian-based email in an attack possibly related to the purchase of new F-16 fighter jets from the United States, the government said on Tuesday. – Reuters


The two contenders to succeed Theresa May as U.K. prime minister said they want to ditch controversial proposals for managing the Irish border after Brexit, setting up a likely clash with the European Union that raises the risk of an abrupt and messy split with the bloc. – Wall Street Journal 

The police in Italy seized a large arsenal of weapons, including an air-to-air missile, in raids on Monday on neo-Nazi sympathizers. – Reuters

The frontrunner to become Britain’s next prime minister, Boris Johnson, said on Monday that the leader of the main opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, was guilty of anti-Semitism. – Reuters 

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he would to help relaunch talks to normalize ties between Serbia and Kosovo in the next few weeks. – Reuters 

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen says she is resigning from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet to focus on becoming the next head of the European Commission, the top job in the European Union. – Defense News

United States

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Monday that a movement to boycott Israel has become a “pernicious threat” on college campuses and is fueled by bias against Jews. – Associated Press

Nicole Malliotakis, a member of the New York State Assembly and candidate for congresswoman in Staten Island, who was also the 2017 Republican nominee for New York City mayor “Right now we see in New York City a rise of anti-Semitism,” Malliotakis said. “In fact hate crimes overall have gone on but the majority of them have been crimes against Jewish people, and in fact they’ve more than doubled over the last year alone.” – Arutz Sheva 

Attorney General William Barr said on Monday he was “deeply concerned” by an increase in recent years of the number of reported hate crimes targeting Jews in the US. – Algemeiner


Ahead of highly anticipated hearings this week, Facebook vice president David Marcus, head of the company’s blockchain division, said in his prepared remarks that Facebook won’t move forward with its Libra cryptocurrency without full approval and regulation. – Washington Post

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that he has “very serious concerns” about cryptocurrencies, including the one being developed by Facebook, the latest indication that Washington is preparing to exert its power over digital currencies. – New York Times 

U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Monday pressed major social media companies on how they plan to handle the threat of deepfake images and videos on their platforms ahead of the 2020 elections. – Reuters


Agency officials say they have taken various technical precautions to keep DJI from gathering intelligence with their drones. The Interior Department authorized officials to buy drones from a Chinese manufacturer that experts in government and industry view as a national security threat. – Defense One

A year and a half after surface navy leadership demanded ships implement new work schedules to ensure sailors got enough sleep, officers aboard a destroyer say the new scheduling has made them more effective at sea and they’re not looking back. – USNI News 

U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee for defense secretary, Mark Esper, must “take additional steps” to wall himself off from his previous role as the top lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon, according to Sen. Elizabeth Warren. – Defense News

President Trump sent the Senate his nomination of Army Secretary Mark Esper to become defense secretary just one day before Esper’s scheduled confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. The nomination sets into motion a succession process that requires Esper to return to his duties as Army secretary and makes Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer acting defense secretary. – Washington Examiner

Long War

Kuwait has handed over to Egypt eight Egyptians who it said had admitted to carrying out terrorist operations in their home country, and had fled to Kuwait after being convicted in Egypt, the state news agency KUNA reported. – Reuters 

Latvia’s financial watchdog has fined Rigensis Bank, the Baltic country’s 11th biggest bank by assets, 1 million euros ($1.1 million) for lax anti-money laundering controls, it said on Monday. The Financial and Capital Market Commission (FCMC) said in a statement the fine was “for infringements of regulatory requirements regarding the prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing” – Reuters

Bosnia’s state prosecutor on Monday indicted for terrorism a Bosnian Muslim who fought for Islamic State (IS) in Syria, after he was brought back to the country in April. – Reuters