Fdd's overnight brief

July 16, 2020

In The News


Iranian authorities are investigating a blaze that damaged seven ships at a southern Iranian port, the latest in a string of fires and explosions that have raised suspicions of coordinated sabotage targeting the nation’s infrastructure and a nuclear facility. – Wall Street Journal 

Since becoming chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Dec. 3 with strong U.S. backing, Mr. Grossi has steered the agency into a deepening confrontation with Iran over enforcement of nuclear-weapons control rules. – Wall Street Journal 

A group of Iranian parliamentarians has abandoned an attempt to impeach President Hassan Rouhani, the Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday, marking the end of a move sparked by growing economic hardship. – Reuters 

An explosion at one of Iran’s critical nuclear sites won’t significantly set back its enrichment of uranium, the essential fuel for atomic energy and weapons. But it could collapse the remaining pillar of the 2015 accord meant to contain the program — international monitoring. – Bloomberg  

President Trump tweeted a message in Farsi on Wednesday as a direct appeal to Iran not to follow through with the execution of three men who were arrested during recent protests. – Washington Examiner 

Internet access in Iran was disrupted Tuesday after a campaign against the country’s death penalty went viral on social media, prompted by death sentences for anti-government protesters. – Newsweek

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports an interview with Sadegh Zibakalam, a political science professor at Tehran University, was uploaded to the Iranian website etemadonline.com – a reformist site, founded by Mehdi Karoubi, one of the leaders of the Green Movement who has been under house arrest since 2009. Professor Zibakalam said that the Iranian government had seriously exceeded its budget even before the coronavirus crisis, and that in light of the economic and oil sanctions against Iran, the government has no way to pay for its expenses. – Arutz Sheva

Two people were killed and one was wounded in a “terrorist” attack by “counterrevolutionary groups” in Iran’s western province of Kurdistan, the IRNA state news agency reported on Thursday. – Agence France-Presse

Dalia Dassa Kaye writes: Given these conditions, Israeli involvement in the Natanz explosion would not be surprising — and more such attacks might be coming. However, Israel’s bet that the Iranians will not respond is risky. It’s hard to control escalation when things are so volatile, especially as hardline Iranian leaders may increase pressure to retaliate. Israel and the United States may be pushing Iran toward recommitting itself to a nuclear weapons program and dangerous regional actions. – Washington Post

Marjan Keypour Greenblatt writes: In the face of injustice, we are compelled to seek justice even in a country like Iran, where it is rarely attained. We honor the high-profile individuals by remembering their names and legacies, but so many of the martyrs will remain unknown in history, so many of their stories remain untold. Perhaps one day, a critical mass of voices will come together and call for the unconditional end to the death penalty in Iran, let alone around the world. Until the time when the international community can stand together against executions in every form, we seem doomed to witness a steady pace of executions in the Islamic Republic. – Radio Farda 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: He added that Iran and the IRGC Quds Force were warning America that hard days are ahead. This appears to be a cryptic threat. It is in this context that he also mentioned the “Zionist regime.” He said the US military is tired and worn out and that US ships are just scraps of iron. Iran has warned that it could retaliate for recent mysterious explosions that affected its Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. – Jerusalem Post  

Jon Gambrell writes: As Trump campaigns ahead of a November election, he may be more willing to take those risks to highlight that he followed through on his 2016 campaign promise to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and take a harder line on Tehran. – Associated Press   


As Lebanon teeters on the brink of economic collapse, U.S. military leaders urge continued support for the Lebanese Armed Forces in the face of an alternative, a takeover by Iran-supported Hezbollah. – Washington Examiner 

CENTCOM head Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said it would be a great mistake for Hezbollah to try to carry out operations against Israel. […]It is in this context that McKenzie sought to both acknowledge that Hezbollah “remains a problem” and to recognize its role in Lebanon. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon needs to stay neutral to be saved from hunger and poverty, its senior Christian cleric said on Wednesday, urging Lebanese to keep out of conflicts in Arab countries but denying he was referring specifically to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. – Reuters 

Joseph Haboush writes: It is equally important to separate the fight against Iran and its proxies from U.S. Lebanon policy as a whole, to ensure that ordinary citizens and residents do not become collateral damage. If the U.S. does not tread this fine line carefully, the only group that will benefit is Hezbollah, as has been the case since it was formed. – Middle East Institute


The Presidency’s tweets, in both Turkish and English, conveyed a message of tolerance and pluralism, stressing that Hagia Sophia will continue to be open to the members of all faiths. Conversely, a tweet in Arabic on Erdoğan’s personal Arabic-language page presented Turkey as an active player working tirelessly for the Muslim nation – from Bukhara, Uzbekistan in the east to the Andalusia region of Spain in the west – and for the liberation of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Editorial: Evidence shows that an unchecked extremist power in the region will always eventually set its eyes on attacking Israel. Gamal Abdel Nasser filled that role in the 1950s, which later shifted to the Iranian ayatollahs. In the long term, this may shift to Turkey – if its increasing attacks on neighbors, crushing of dissent and anti-Israel rhetoric goes unchecked by the Western world. – Jerusalem Post

Judith Herrin writes: This is a decision of a beleaguered autocrat — the most dangerous — motivated by a desire to punish Istanbul’s inhabitants, who voted decisively against him, and by a desire to consolidate his position by stirring sectarian animosity between his pious followers and those attached to secular traditions. Hagia Sophia belongs to the world. Its fate is not just a matter, as Erdogan defensively insists, of Turkish sovereignty. – Washington Post 


It is safe to say that most people know there is a conflict between Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East, one that has resulted in many unnecessary deaths over the decades. What most people don’t know is that this conflict is being exported to other countries and utilized in many forms, the most prominent of them being antisemitism. – Jerusalem Post 

Musa Abu Marzuk, deputy head of the Hamas “political bureau,” says that the senior commander who defected after it was revealed that he spied for Israel – is a traitor and therefore fled. – Arutz Sheva

Israeli authorities have reportedly compiled an internal list of hundreds of military officers and defense officials who are at risk of being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. – Times of Israel

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unilaterally annexes parts of the West Bank, he will do so knowing that virtually the entire United States Democratic Party opposes the move. The entire leadership has spoken out against it, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and at least 210 of the 233 Democrats in Congress have sent or signed on to letters urging Jerusalem to drop the proposal. – Times of Israel

Richard D. Heideman writes: What the Palestinians need is not only a leader who values their lives more than his own power, but also a true commitment to achieving through diplomacy and not terrorism, a long-term peace designed to benefit all Arab Palestinians, all Israelis and all peoples of the region. – Jerusalem Post 

Gil Troy writes: The Zionist case against annexation should not validate the Palestinians’ false claim of exclusive rights to the West Bank – ignoring Jews’ legitimate stake in biblical Judea and Samaria. Yet many anti-annexationists swallow this Palestinian lie that the artificial areas defined in green pencil to suspend the 1948 war are all theirs, while others follow through on that conclusion’s delegitimizing implications. Negating Israel’s historic and legal rights to settle everywhere in the British Mandatory territory of Palestine – west of Transjordan – undermines Jews’ rights to settle anywhere in that region. – Jerusalem Post 

Lewis Libby and Douglas J. Feith write: The plan has some creative elements and some that may not prove realistic, but critics who say that Trump’s plan won’t win acceptance by Mahmoud Abbas are missing its main point, which is that the Palestinians need new leaders. The plan does not hold out the promise of a quick deal. Rather, it has a more limited aim: to improve chances that peace will one day be possible. Meanwhile, it takes the current and future security concerns of Israel seriously and bolsters US support. – BESA Center


Iraq will supply less oil to some refiners in Asia and Europe as it seeks to meet its production-cut target under the OPEC+ output agreement. – Bloomberg

Robert Draper writes: In the decade and a half since then, Powell’s world and Bush’s have intersected only at the margins. The secretary takes pains not to speak ill of the president he once served, even when he announced in 2008 that he would be supporting Barack Obama as Bush’s successor. He was on hand for the opening of Bush’s presidential library in 2013. But he has not attended the administration’s annual alumni gatherings, and since leaving office he has refused to defend Bush’s legacy-defining decision to invade Iraq. – New York Times

Munqith Dagher writes: Kadhimi is facing a formidable set of challenges in Iraq. There are high expectations for him to achieve positive change in Iraq, but he has limited power to achieve those changes. Failure to deliver on his promises to reign in the militias, to deliver a rising standard of living, to reduce corruption, and to manage a free and fair national election could see Kadhimi turn into yet another Iraqi prime minister who gets destroyed by the Iraqi “volcano.”  – Washington Institute

Gulf States

An alliance of crude producers led by Saudi Arabia agreed on Wednesday to increase oil production starting in August, officials in the group said, amid signs that demand is recovering following coronavirus-related lockdowns. – Wall Street Journal 

An oil tanker sought by the U.S. over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a seafarers welfare organization said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

A Malaysian court on Thursday granted an interim order to stop Saudi energy firm PetroSaudi International (PSI) from using more than $340 million in funds in Britain, which Malaysian prosecutors believe was siphoned from state fund 1MDB. – Reuters 

Air strikes on Yemen’s northern province of al-Jawf killed at least seven civilians on Wednesday, residents and an official from the Houthi movement said, in the third such incident since June as violence resurges in the war-damaged country. – Reuters

If action is not taken to deal with a deteriorating oil tanker stranded off the coast of war-torn Yemen there is a risk it could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster near Alaska, the United Nations warned on Wednesday. – Reuters

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: Equally important, Iran may have an option for dealing with sanctions and arms imports that U.S. policymakers have not properly considered – and one where Russia could play a role as well. Furthermore, it is clear the scale of U.S. and Chinese competition will continue to expand. Competing with China and Russia now means civil and military competition on a global basis, not simply building up U.S. military forces to deal with the forces of the other two major powers. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: A large crude oil tanker that was off the coast of the UAE and went missing on July 5 has been found off the coast of Iran’s Hormuz Island. This is, according to the search by Tanker Trackers, after reports indicated something suspicious had happened with the vessel. But how does a whole tanker just vanish and end up off Iran with rumors of “pirates” and the crew safely returning home in the meantime? – Jerusalem Post 


The Pentagon on Wednesday accused Russian mercenaries in Libya of planting land mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in and around Tripoli, the war-torn country’s capital. – The Hill

A long-delayed international audit of Libya’s central bank is finally going ahead after the country’s prosecutor threatened legal action and a military commander made it a condition to lift a crippling oil blockade, judicial officials said. – Bloomberg 

Khalid Al-Jaber and Giorgio Cafiero write: After Trump entered the Oval Office in 2017, some of Washington’s Arab partners, including the UAE, began punching above their weight in pursuit of their objectives, as the situation in southern Yemen, post-Bashir Sudan, and the blockade of Qatar all attest. When considering the potential implications of a Biden presidency, a key consideration will be the possible success the new U.S. leadership could have in reining in the maximalist agendas of the Arab region’s counterrevolutionary axis. – Middle East Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh stepped down on Wednesday, plunging the country into a political crisis as it tries to weather the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters  

The White House national security adviser says the U.S. is “very sympathetic” to France in its dispute with Turkey over a naval standoff in the Mediterranean Sea between the two NATO allies. – Associated Press

Karen E. Young writes: The story in the Middle East is more complicated, with recovery in the Gulf permeating possibilities across the region. Outliers like Iran will be under more extreme pressure. But across the board, the Middle East is bound by its demographics, and the burden of recovery will be on governments to recognize the risk to its best potential for growth: women and young people. – Al-Monitor

Ilan Berman writes: To the extent that it has been possible to find one, the answer seems to have a great deal to do with money. Over the past several years, as part of the signature foreign policy initiative known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Beijing has made massive investments throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia in everything from infrastructure to telecommunications. In the process, it has succeeded in buying the silence of Muslim states regarding how it treats their co-religionists. – The Diplomat

Korean Peninsula

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed the possibility of another summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before the U.S. presidential election, saying Trump would only want to engage if there were real prospects of progress. – Associated Press  

North Korea continues to advance its nuclear weapons and missile programs despite high-level diplomatic efforts and UN Security Council sanctions. In April 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that nuclear and long-range missile testing was no longer necessary because the country had achieved its objectives. However, in the past two years, North Korea has increased the testing pace for its ballistic missile and submarine-launched systems. – USNI News 

Dr. Jihwan Hwang writes: Achieving a peace regime means putting such a state of war to an end and creating a new security order. The problem is that the declaration to the end of the war and the peace regime are closely linked to the denuclearization process of North Korea. As is evident in the U.S.-North Korea summits in Singapore and Hanoi, there is a dilemma between denuclearization and peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula. – The National Interest 

Zhu Feng writes: The Korean War should be over and never return. Strategic competition between China and the United States might fall back into the footprints of great-power rivalry, both historical and theoretical, but, for the twenty-first century, such competition would be more manifest in maritime Asia than continental Asia. The Korean Peninsula is a nexus of these two domains, but a return to war makes absolutely no sense. – The National Interest


The Trump administration is considering a sweeping ban on travel to the United States by members of the Chinese Communist Party and their families, according to people familiar with the proposal, a move that would almost certainly prompt retaliation against Americans seeking to enter or remain in China and exacerbate tensions between the two nations. – New York Times  

China said Tuesday that it would impose unspecified sanctions on Lockheed Martin, the gargantuan American defense contractor, in retaliation for the Trump administration’s decision to continue supplying arms to Taiwan. – Washington Post 

More than 100 U.S. diplomats and family members flew to China on Wednesday, according to internal State Department emails, as Washington pressed ahead with its plan to restaff its diplomatic mission amid heightened bilateral tensions. – Reuters

China accused the United States of “gangster logic” on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law in response to Beijing’s imposition of new security legislation on the territory. – Reuters 

Dealing with China is so complex it’s produced its own lexicon: Engagement. Containment. Confrontation. Constrainment. Even “con-gagement.” – Bloomberg 

The United States on Wednesday cleared the way for sanctions on employees of telecom giant Huawei, expanding its pressure campaign on China, which summoned the US ambassador. – Agence France-Presse 

World Health Organization officials in China will have little choice but to “conduct a completely, completely whitewashed investigation” into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – Washington Examiner 

China and the U.S. gave differing accounts of a meeting between a senior Chinese official and the U.S. ambassador, as the two countries sparred over Hong Kong. – Associated Press   

Chinese state media lashed out at President Donald Trump on Wednesday, following the administration’s Tuesday decision to sanction Chinese officials and end Hong Kong’s special status with the U.S. – Newsweek 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “every foreign minister” he’s spoken to blames China for the pandemic in a new interview at The Hill’s New Threats, New Defense summit. – Newsweek

The editor-in-chief for The Global Times, a state-funded newspaper in China, asked Monday if the United States is “mentally retarded” for rejecting Beijing’s broad territorial claims in the South China Sea, a region with long-standing disputes between China and other Southeast Asian countries. – Fox News 

Daniel Moss writes: China’s second-quarter expansion is better than a repeat of the fiasco in the first three months of the year. It’s nevertheless a recovery in minor key. Wouldn’t it be ironic if, instead of shattering the pre-existing world, Covid-19 returned economic conditions to more familiar terrain? – Bloomberg  

Jianli Yang and Lianchao Han write: But it appears the Dream has shattered — not just for Xi, but for billions of Chinese people who trust him and his administration’s ambitious plans. The economic crisis that China has experienced for some years now represents a huge failure on part of the CCP. […]Undoubtedly, they’ll have reasons to question the legitimacy and authority of the CCP leadership, and that poses a challenge to the social stability of the country. – The Hill 

Rayhan Asat and Yonah Diamond write: Over a million Turkic Uighurs are detained in concentration camps, prisons, and forced labor factories in China. Detainees are subject to military-style discipline, thought transformation, and forced confessions. […]These mass detention camps are designed to cause serious physical, psychological harm and mentally break the Uighur people. The repeated government orders to “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins”; “round up everyone who should be rounded up”; and systematically prevent Uighur births demonstrate a clear intent to eradicate the Uighur people as a whole. – Foreign Policy


The news footage from a remote northern city Monday showed only the rubble that remained, hours after a Taliban car bomb and gun attack left 11 Afghan intelligence workers dead and at least 60 civilians wounded. But although most Afghans never heard the explosions, gunfire and screams ring out, the incident reverberated across the demoralized country. – Washington Post 

The coronavirus pandemic is expected to severely weaken Afghanistan’s economy, the World Bank said on Wednesday, as donor governments struggle themselves and uncertainty over peace talks curb private investment. – Reuters 

A powerful Afghan warlord accused of kidnapping and raping a political opponent and of committing rights abuses for decades has been given the country’s highest military rank. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

 As Afghanistan reels from another deadly attack that killed 11 Afghan intelligence workers and wounded 60 civilians, NATO has issued a stark warning that the Taliban are failing to keep their promise in a February agreement to reduce the overall level of violence in return for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. – Washington Examiner

On July 12, 13, and 14, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) published three statements that reveal the Taliban’s ideological thinking on how they would like to run the government in Afghanistan. The first statement, issued on July 12, accused the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well as the U.S. “invaders” of implementing an education system that, in the Taliban’s view, removes Afghans from jihad and shari’a. – Middle East Media Research Institute

South Asia

Alphabet Inc.’s Google will invest about $4.5 billion in Jio Platforms Ltd, the company behind India’s largest telecom provider by subscribers, giving the American tech giant a powerful partner for its plans to get hundreds of millions more people online. – Wall Street Journal  

It’s been a tough month for religious minorities in Pakistan, and observers warn of even tougher times ahead as Prime Minister Imran Khan vacillates between trying to forge a pluralistic nation and his conservative Islamic beliefs. – Associated Press  

China’s Belt and Road program has found new life in Pakistan with $11 billion worth of projects signed in the last month, driven by a former lieutenant general who has reinvigorated the infrastructure plan that’s been languishing since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office two years ago. – Bloomberg


Complaints about China have piled up in Western capitals in recent years, but it took Beijing’s new curbs on Hong Kong’s autonomy to galvanize them around something approaching a common cause. – Wall Street Journal 

For decades, Hong Kong’s press freedoms have made it a hub for Western media organizations covering Asia. Beijing’s new national-security law is causing many newsrooms to rethink the city’s status as a haven for journalists. – Wall Street Journal 

Taiwan’s air, sea and land forces conducted live-fire exercises simulating the repulsion of an invading force on Thursday, with President Tsai Ing-wen saying it showed their determination to defend the democratic and Chinese-claimed island. – Reuters 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States will support countries that believe China has violated their maritime claims in the South China Sea but suggested it would do so through diplomatic rather than military means. – Reuters

Australia will continue to advocate “very strongly” for the freedom of navigation through the South China sea, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday. – Reuters

Taiwan’s military fired missiles from the air and the island’s shore facing China on Thursday in a live-fire exercise to demonstrate its ability to defend against any Chinese invasion. – Associated Press 

In its latest whitepaper, Japan has discussed its impending acquisition of F-35B fighter jets and highlighted efforts by regional militaries to expand their influence and activities despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. – Defense News 

Fuad Chiragov writes: People in Azerbaijan have been cautiously hopeful that changes in Armenia would eventually have a positive impact on the resolution of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. It seems to me, however, that hopes for a prosperous future of Armenia and a peaceful resolution of the regional conflict are waning. – The National Interest  

Michael Mazza writes: The NSL is, first and foremost, a tragedy for Hong Kong, where new secret police are hard at work extinguishing freedom’s flame. The implications for Taipei, however, are substantial, and extend beyond the question of what to do with Hong Kongers seeking safety within Taiwan’s borders. There are new opportunities for Taiwan to safeguard its place in the world—a world that has also just become more dangerous. – Global Taiwan Institute


Dozens of people were arrested at a protest in Moscow on Wednesday against constitutional reforms that give President Vladimir Putin the option to remain in power for another 16 years, witnesses and a monitoring group said. – Reuters

U.S. sanctions against firms involved in the Nordstream 2 pipeline equate to political pressure, TASS news agency cited Russia’s foreign ministry as saying on Wednesday. – Reuters

Russians who take specific actions to undermine the country’s territorial integrity could be jailed for up to a decade under draft legislation submitted to parliament on Wednesday. – Reuters  

The chairmen of the House foreign affairs and intelligence committees are pushing a measure meant to extend the last remaining U.S.-Russia arms control agreement amid fears President Donald Trump will let it lapse. – Defense News 

Russia has reportedly begun construction of its next-generation PAK DA stealth bomber as part of an apparent strategic effort to usher in a new era of stealth bombing technology. Moscow hopes to get ahead of the U.S. Air Force’s emerging B-21 stealth bomber and China’s H-20 strategic bomber. – The National Interest 

John Sipher, Steven L. Hall, Douglas H. Wise and Marc Polymeropoulos write: Shared goals against terrorism, it turns out, do not necessarily translate into a common outlook and approach. Russia may be determined to stamp out radical terrorism inside Russia, but the heirs to the Soviet intelligence services are quite comfortable supporting those terrorist groups at war with the United States. While Islamic terrorism is a mutual enemy, Russia’s top enemy is the United States. The Kremlin is more interested in doing damage to the United States than in helping solve the terrorism problem — even if there is some ancillary benefit to them. – Washington Post 

Cyrus Newlin, Heather A. Conley, Amy Searight, and Time Kostelancik write: While a growing body of literature describes the strategies and tactics foreign influence activities, we sought to better understand how these influence efforts play out in these four democracies and how democratic governments and societies have (or have not) responded. We examined which factors make democracies particularly vulnerable to Chinese or Russian malign influence operations and identified the sources of resilience that enable democratic governments and polities to mitigate, fend off, or push back on malign efforts. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Jonathan E. Hillman writes: In responding to these developments, the very least the United States and its allies can do is avoid unintentionally driving China and Russia together. An even more powerful response would be to work together to offer an allied vision for economic development and back it with financial support to incentivize participation and deliver tangible results. The best answer to Xi and Putin’s global ambitions is to offer superior alternatives. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Companies that do business in Europe are worried that a long-anticipated court ruling this week could disrupt how they transfer personal data to countries around the world. – Wall Street Journal 

Apple Inc won a major battle with the European Union when the bloc’s second-highest court on Wednesday sided with the U.S. company over a €13 billion ($14.8 billion) tax bill that EU antitrust officials had said the company owed to Ireland. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday warned investors in two Russian natural gas pipeline projects that they could face sanctions as the Trump administration seeks to curb the Kremlin’s economic leverage over Europe and Turkey. – Reuters 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed implementing the Minsk agreement to peacefully solve the conflict in eastern Ukraine in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said. – Reuters

Border clashes erupted again early on Thursday between arch-foes Azerbaijan and Armenia, officials in both countries said, following a pause in fighting amid a flare-up over a decades-long territorial dispute. – Agence France-Presse 

The European Union should prepare for the possibility of a gradual disengagement by the United States from the continent, even if Democratic challenger Joe Biden beats President Donald Trump in the November election, according to Germany’s defense minister. – Defense News 

The European Union’s top court fined on Thursday Romania and Ireland for delays and incomplete application of the bloc’s rules against money laundering and terrorist financing, it said in a statement – Reuters  

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is to trial the use of unmanned aircraft from the decks of the Royal Navy’s (RN’s) two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) disclosed on 15 July. – Jane’s 360 

The US ambassador in Warsaw has been facing a sustained rhetorical attack from Polish right-wing nationalists this week, with one televised missive falling upon classically-antisemitic tropes in denouncing her for allegedly violating the country’s sovereignty. – Algemeiner

A Belgian man was sentenced to one year in prison on Tuesday for his refusal to remove the Nazi flags and slogans that adorn his house in the town of Keerbergen. – Algemeiner

Editorial: As the attempt at back-door antitrust taxation falters, expect more calls for a EU-wide digital-sales tax on U.S. firms. That may succeed. But European companies and foreign competitors would be better off if Europe made itself a more hospitable tax and regulatory climate for its own startups instead of trying to drag the rest of the world into its high-tax red-tape morass. – Wall Street Journal


Egypt has asked Ethiopia for urgent clarification on whether it had started filling its Grand Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Nigeria’s candidate to head the World Trade Organization urged U.S. President Donald Trump or his successor on Wednesday not to leave the Geneva-based body, saying reforms were possible. – Reuters

Now the Muslim cleric is targeting Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the president of the country that is at the heart of the fight against jihadism in the vast Sahel region and is a western ally. – Financial Times 

Ken Ofori-Atta writes: We need to leave in the minds of U.S. policymakers and citizens that Africa is a great investment, period. And from that point of view, that’s how we’ll start changing our lens and our framework. We cannot remain in this spiritual stupor that has prevented some from looking at this continent as a great friend for the future. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Americas

Mexico proposed to the United States extending a ban on non-essential travel by land over their shared border for another 30 days considering the development of the coronavirus pandemic, Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Twitter on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Canada said the U.S. should be patient about determining whether to reimpose aluminum tariffs on imports, but says it will retaliate if the U.S. pulls the trigger. – Bloomberg 

Shi’ite Islamic scholar Molana Shamshad Haider of the Islamic Education Center in Houston, TX was featured in a two-hour-long tribute to the leader of Iran’s Revolution Imam Khomeini in honor of the 31st anniversary of his death, the tribute was streamed live on the AIM Islam YouTube channel on June 6, 2020. He said that Imam Khomeini had been an international leader for all the Muslims of the world, and that this enabled him to inspire Muslims to support the people of Palestine, Kashmir, Yemen, and elsewhere. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Jewish communities in America should follow the example of those in Europe and put security measures in place in synagogues, Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has said in an interview, as he warned that “we are in a dangerous place in history.” – Jerusalem Post 

Latin America

Once a rising star of Mexican politics, Emilio Lozoya could trigger a precipitous fall from grace of former colleagues if he returns to spill the beans on alleged corruption inside the government of the country’s last president, Enrique Pena Nieto. – Reuters

Mexico could issue arrest warrants for suspected tax dodgers by September, a top prosecutor said, as the government ramps up an aggressive campaign to squeeze more revenue out of businesses and end years of what it calls weak tax collection. – Reuters

Editorial: It nevertheless looks possible that the Chavista movement, like that of Fidel Castro in Cuba, will survive a U.S. boycott and consolidate a comprehensive dictatorship. U.S. policy ought to adjust for that eventuality. A good start would be to expand refugee admissions for Venezuelans, including activists from the authentic opposition. – Washington Post 


Twitter Inc. was hit with a widespread attack Wednesday that allowed hackers to take over an array of accounts including those of celebrities, politicians and billionaires such as Bill Gates, Kanye West, Joe Biden and Barack Obama, as well as Apple Inc. and other companies. – Wall Street Journal 

Before it unraveled in an accounting scandal, Wirecard AG built up an image as a fast-growing financial technology company. It spewed out news releases publicizing partnerships with blue-chip names such as SAP SE, Zurich Insurance Group and SoftBank Group Corp. – Wall Street Journal 

Twitter accounts belonging to high-profile business leaders and politicians were hacked yesterday in the biggest security breach in the website’s 14-year history, opening a new range of possibilities for disinformation campaigns. – Foreign Policy 

Online profiles describe him as a coffee lover and politics junkie who was raised in a traditional Jewish home. His half dozen freelance editorials and blog posts reveal an active interest in anti-Semitism and Jewish affairs, with bylines in the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. The catch? Oliver Taylor seems to be an elaborate fiction. – Reuters  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday announced that the State Department will impose visa restrictions on employees of the Chinese tech giant Huawei, saying the restrictions are meant to punish complicity in human rights abuses. – The Hill  

Some of the highest-profile Twitter accounts, including former President Barack Obama and Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, were subject to a breathtaking hack on Wednesday involving a Bitcoin-related scam. Twitter Inc. temporarily blocked all verified accounts from posting or even changing their passwords while it investigated and sought to resolve the issue. – Bloomberg 

The hijacking of several prominent Twitter accounts, including that of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, has again raised questions about the company’s ability to combat disinformation on its platform and rekindled concerns about potential election interference with November just four months away. – Bloomberg  

Eli Lake writes: Washington now has a chance to return the favor. Germany has hinted that it will allow Huawei on its networks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in a strong position to ask the Germans to reconsider — lest they end up isolated among America’s allies. – Bloomberg  

Craig Arndt writes: We’re facing one of the greatest challenges of our century. Our enemies have already chosen identity and privacy as a combat zone. By giving citizens, industry, and government better control of privacy, we can prevent our many adversaries from even entering the battlefield—and that’s how we’ll win. – The Hill 

Teresa Shea writes: The commission’s findings place an emphasis on protecting the Defense Industrial Base’s intellectual property, and called on Congress to require that these firms share threat data with the DoD and conduct threat hunting on their networks. Both sharing threat data and conducting threat hunting are proven to result in increased defense of our networks. – C4ISRNET


The more than 4,000 sailors and Marines of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit wrapped up a seven-month deployment to Europe and the Middle East, the Navy and Marines announced this week. – USNI News 

Less than a year after being created, the Air Force’s new information warfare command has finalized its organizational structure and has reached the milestone known as full operational capability, its commander said July 15. – C4ISRNET 

Eighty defense industry executives have written to top congressional leaders to ask for emergency appropriations to reimburse defense contractors’ coronavirus-related costs. – Defense News 

The National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched four classified payloads into orbit July 15 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility — the agency’s first dedicated launch from the Virginia facility. – C4ISRNET 

After decades of trying to break into the U.S. military aircraft market, Airbus is shifting course with a new strategy that prioritizes selling off-the-shelf sensors, data, space and intelligence capabilities that have been customized for U.S. government buyers. – Defense News 

The U.S. Navy wants $464 million for unmanned surface vessels, but Congress is not on the same page. – C4ISRNET 

The U.S. Army has awarded BAE Systems a contract for the first two production lots of its Limited Interim Missile Warning System, or LIMWS. – Defense News 

Britain’s Ministry of Defence has signed a deal with General Atomics for the first three Protector remotely piloted air vehicles destined to equip the Royal Air Force with a replacement for its Reaper drone force. – Defense News 

The US Army is looking for new technologies that will bolster the performance of an array of small arms and associated soldier equipment, and is seeking industry input. – Jane’s 360 

Seth Cropsey and Harry Halem write: Particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19, policymakers will encourage the armed services to cut costs without reconfiguring American interests. In a “joint” military, the branches with the least institutional power — the sea services — are unlikely to receive the share of the budget that their strategic importance merits. This will be a mistake. America’s deterrence and warfighting strategies in the single most important global strategic fulcrum, the West Pacific, center on naval power. – National Review

Long War

The U.S. has joined six other nations in sanctioning a financial network linked to the Islamic State terrorist group and its affiliates, blocking any of their assets in the U.S., the Treasury Department said. – Wall Street Journal  

The Trump administration on Wednesday announced that a U.S. operation has successfully led to the arrest of multiple MS-13 leaders as well as the first time one of its gang members has been charged for terrorism-related offenses. – The Hill 

Hassan Mneimneh writes: The catch-22 situation seems to be that “de-radicalizing” ISIS families is perceived as a pre-requisite to their exit from the camp, while their mere presence in the camp is an insurmountable obstacle to said de-radicalization efforts. Counterintuitively, it is important to recognize that the ideological radicalism of the camp population is largely the visible aspect of its behavioral radicalism. […]The longer they stay in the camp, the less the possibilities of success at shedding the methodology and ideology of terrorism, and the more potential danger for the whole world. – Washington Institute  

Orwa Ajjoub writes: In al-Jolani’s attempts to neutralize the presence of AQ in northwest Syria, his goals are aligned with those of the international coalition; indeed, Ambassador James Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria engagement, has highlighted that HTS claims to be “patriotic opposition fighters” and noted that they have not generated “international threats for some time,” suggesting a softening of the U.S. line against the group. Even without open conflict, pressure from both the international coalition and HTS means that AQ-affiliated groups in northwest Syria face an uncertain future. – Middle East Institute  

Lorenzo Vidino writes:  It has also contributed to the growing Trans-Atlantic divide over Islamism and how to deal with it. While it might be true that the internal Islamist challenge to the United States is smaller or of a different character than the one that parts of Europe are facing, this may not always be the case. It would be wise for U.S. policymakers at the federal and state levels to learn from the European experience, and to initiate a debate and domestic policy changes that incorporate a healthy skepticism toward political Islamism without degenerating into paranoia. – Hudson Institute