Fdd's overnight brief

July 19, 2021

In The News


A U.S. drone attack targeted a truck for an Iran-backed militia in eastern Syria on Sunday, destroying the vehicle without causing any casualties, two Iraqi militia officials said. – Associated Press  

The United States on Saturday accused Tehran of an “outrageous” effort to deflect blame for the impasse in Iran nuclear talks and denied that any agreement had been reached on a prisoner swap. – Reuters  

 Iran insisted on Sunday that a prisoner swap deal has been agreed with the United States, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said, a day after Washington denied such an agreement had been reached. – Reuters  

Two years after this declaration, as part of its annual Al-Quds Day festivities, the Iranian government set up a “doomsday clock” in Tehran’s Palestine Square, counting down the days until 2040, by which time the Jewish state would ostensibly be destroyed. Last week, a rolling blackout caused the clock to lose power, turning it blank and presumably delaying Israel’s inevitable doom. – The National Interest  

Iranian police opened fire late Sunday night amid protests against water shortages in southwestern Iran, a video showed, the latest unrest after days of demonstrations that have seen at least one person killed. – Associated Press 

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator says the next round of talks in Vienna must wait until Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes over in early August. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Seyed Abbas Araghchi, Deputy Foreign Minister for the Islamic Republic of Iran, has promised that ten prisoners may be released Sunday, if the US and UK cooperate. – Arutz Sheva 

Editorial: Mr. Raisi has ruled out further talks on those issues until after both countries have returned to the nuclear deal. Add that to Iran’s continuing bad behavior on multiple fronts, and Mr. Biden has ample cause to walk away from the nuclear talks and keep the sanctions pressure on. – Wall Street Journal  

David Albright and Sarah Burkhard write: Iran’s activity must be viewed as practicing breakout to make enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons. It is learning to make such material more quickly and developing valuable experience in doing so. This experience also complicates returning to the JCPOA, since that experience cannot be destroyed. As a result, some compensating actions are needed or a number of sanctions should be left in place to compensate for this irreversible gain in violation of the JCPOA. – Institute for Science and International Security 


Syrian President Bashar Assad was sworn in Saturday for a fourth seven-year term in the war-torn country, pledging to overcome the impact of Western economic sanctions and retake territory still out of his control after 10 years of fighting. – Associated Press 

A breakaway Palestinian faction that carried out headline-grabbing attacks against Israel in the 1970s and 1980s has named a veteran new leader after its longtime founder died, the group said Sunday. – Associated Press  

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Saturday the main impediment to investment in the country was money stuck in ailing Lebanese banks. – Reuters 


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman on Sunday condemned a European Union court decision to allow employers to ban staff wearing Muslim headscarves as appeasing Islamophobia. – Associated Press 

Turkish students and academics are set to continue protests against what they say is government interference in academia despite President Tayyip Erdogan’s ousting of a rector whose appointment in January triggered months of demonstrations. – Reuters  

A pro-Kurdish politician regained his status as a lawmaker in Turkey’s parliament on Friday four months after it was removed, following a top court ruling that his rights had been violated by his imprisonment on terrorism charges. – Reuters  


Record-high numbers of anti-Arab hate speech incidents were recorded across Israel in the past year, but the number has started to decline since the inauguration of the new government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a new study from the Berl Katznelson Foundation has found. – Jerusalem Post 

A group of Iranian expatriates, including former political prisoners, will visit Israel this week to express their support with Israeli citizens after the recent clashes with Iran-sponsored Palestinian terrorist groups. – Algemeiner 

Israel has let Egyptian mediators know that it is willing to allow Turkey to negotiate a prisoner swap with Hamas, the newspaper Al-Araby al-Jadeed reported Saturday. – Israel Hayom 

The Biden administration paid $135 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) on Saturday after an agreement was signed last week, which for the first time, condemns anti-Israel hatred, i24NEWS reports. – Arutz Sheva 

Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey denounced Israel on Sunday after some 1,600 Jews visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City to mark the fast of Tisha B’Av, following overnight clashes at the holy site between Palestinians and police. – Times of Israel  


President Joe Biden will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi later this month in Washington, the White House said Friday. – Associated Press 

Iraqi state television aired a video on Friday in which a police officer said he led a group that gunned down well-known analyst and government advisor Hisham al-Hashemi a year ago outside his home in Baghdad. – Reuters  

David Ignatius writes: Kadhimi is trying to strike a tricky bargain with Biden. He wants an agreement on withdrawal of U.S. “combat” forces, as the Iraqi parliament has demanded, but a continuation of the other American military support that gives his country a shot at maintaining independence and sovereignty. His problem is that Iran wants the United States out entirely, and its militias keep firing rockets at the U.S. Embassy and military sites to make the point. Kadhimi needs to do more to stop them — for the United States’ protection and Iraq’s. – Washington Post 


President Joe Biden is set to host King Abdullah II of Jordan during one of the most difficult moments of the Jordanian leader’s 22-year rule and at a pivotal time in the Middle East for Biden. – Associated Press 

Frimet Roth and Arnold Roth writes: But King Abdullah is considered moderate and has never commented publicly on Ms. Tamimi’s freedom, fame or depravity. It’s not for us to remind Mr. Biden of the leverage he holds. He and the king know how dependent Jordan is on U.S. aid. Jordan cannot be allowed to shrug off decades of bilateral obligations. – Wall Street Journal  

Sheldon Kirshner writes: The atmospherics between Israel and Jordan have certainly improved of late, but problems remain. Bennett, a religious nationalist, staunchly opposes Palestinian statehood and favors giving Palestinians a beefed-up version of autonomy. Bennett, too, is a fervent supporter of the settlement movement in the West Bank and advocates the annexation of major portions of it. – Jewish Insider 


Tension intensified in Lebanon on Friday, with riots leaving more than two dozen people injured in the northern city of Tripoli, including five soldiers who were attacked with a hand grenade. France, the European Union and the United States in the meantime called on Lebanese politicians to urgently form a Cabinet and planned an international conference to help stabilize Lebanon after a series of crises. – Associated Press  

Lebanon’s army chief General Joseph Aoun said on Friday the situation in the country was worsening and would further escalate as a financial crisis stokes political and social tensions. – Reuters  

Steven Emerson writes: Hezbollah does not have an incentive to formally seize control over the Lebanese state, despite having the capabilities to do so, Khatib’s Chatham House report concluded. Hezbollah prefers maintaining a calibrated level of indirect influence to avoid full accountability. However, as Lebanon continues to descend towards potential state collapse, Hezbollah’s incentives could change. The group’s leadership could take even more power instead of standing by. Western governments therefore need to prepare seriously for a scenario whereby an Iran-backed terrorist organization consolidates further control over a country on Israel’s doorstep. – Algemeiner 

Arabian Peninsula

The pact by OPEC Plus, as the group is known, aims to begin pumping more oil beginning next month. It resolved a dispute between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia that had blocked an agreement earlier this month and caused oil prices to spike, briefly hitting six-year highs on July 6. – New York Times 

Pro-government commentators in Saudi Arabia are publicly criticising the United Arab Emirates’ role in Yemen, a rare move that reflects political and economic tensions between the two Gulf allies that also led to an open standoff over oil policy. – Reuters  

The investigation points to an apparent attempt by Saudi Arabia and its close ally the United Arab Emirates to leverage NSO’s spy technology after Khashoggi’s death to monitor his associates and the Turkish murder investigation, even going so far as to select the phone of Istanbul’s chief prosecutor for potential surveillance. – The Guardian 


Libya’s unity government Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah said on Friday he was unaware of any understanding between Russia and Turkey on a withdrawal of their foreign fighters, but that such a move would be welcomed. – Reuters 

Italian lawmakers approved renewed funding to train the Libyan coast guard as a human rights group released a report Thursday outlining fresh accusations that the coast guard returns the migrants it rescues at sea to horrific detention camps in the North African nation. – Associated Press 

Libya’s banking system “will likely collapse” if the country’s two parallel central bank branches do not unify and stalled political talks could unravel a ceasefire, the U.N. special envoy to the country warned on Thursday. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

Egyptian authorities released three activists and three journalists Sunday after months in pre-trial detention, officials and lawyers said. The releases came after U.S. officials, among others, expressed concern over the arrests and harassment of rights advocates and critics of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s government. – Associated Press 

The Algerian foreign ministry recalled its ambassador to Morocco on Sunday and hinted at possible further measures in the latest flare-up of tension between the North African neighbours over the disputed territory of Western Sahara. – Reuters 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will travel to Morocco next month to inaugurate the new Israeli diplomatic mission in the capital Rabat as well as to discuss further tightening ties between the countries, Ynet learned on Sunday. – Ynet 

John Dizard writes: It could get even more dicey if Morocco decides, unilaterally, to allow more migrants to pass through its borders on their way to Europe. Morocco could also decide to cancel EU fishing vessels’ permits to operate in their definition of Moroccan waters. I think the European Council, along with a couple of member states, will appeal against the CJEU ruling. But not before some coal is burnt and expensive gas imported. And any appeal is likely to only buy a year’s delay before the whole thing starts again. – Financial Times 

Korean Peninsula

More than a year after U.N. Security Council sanctions banned countries from hosting North Korea’s regime-directed workforce, North Korean workers remain in Vladivostok, a port city of about 600,000 near the Russia-North Korea border. It’s one of the main footholds in the world for North Koreans to work outside the country and provide Pyongyang with a stream of foreign currency that helps back Kim and his rule. – Washington Post  

President Moon Jae-in’s governing party has rolled out a slate of legislation, some of which has already become law, aimed at stamping out false narratives about certain sensitive historical topics, including Gwangju. His supporters say he is protecting the truth. Free speech advocates, and Mr. Moon’s conservative enemies, have accused the president of using censorship and history as political weapons. – New York Times 

Plans to hold the first in-person summit between the leaders of Japan and South Korea have hit a snag over a disparaging comment by a Japanese diplomat about the South Korean president, the latest flare-up between the fractious neighbours. – Reuters 

North Korean state media has urged its young people against using slang from South Korea and told them to speak North Korea’s standard language. There were also fresh warnings in North Korea’s official newspaper against adopting the fashions, hairstyles and music of South Korea. – BBC  

The United States will have to work with China to make progress on North Korea, a senior State Department official said on Friday, ahead of a senior U.S. diplomat’s visit to the region. – Reuters  


The United States warned businesses Friday of the risks of operating in Hong Kong after the passage of a national security law in the city last year and imposed new sanctions on seven Chinese officials who operate in the territory. – Washington Post  

Bolstered by its wide swath of data on users, mapping and traffic, Didi Global Inc. became the dominant ride-hailing company in China. Now, that data is turning into a liability. On Friday, China sent state-security and police officials and other regulators into the company’s offices, as the government zeroes in on its cybersecurity practices and collection of personal information. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s Big Tech wields as much power as the American tech giants in the national economy. Like their American counterparts, the Chinese companies have appeared to engage in anticompetitive practices that hurt consumers, merchants and smaller businesses. That deserves scrutiny and regulation to prevent any abuse of power. – New York Times 

Six years on, China’s would-be microchip champion looks more like a national disappointment. The company, Tsinghua Unigroup, said this month that one of its creditors had initiated bankruptcy proceedings, raising the prospect that it could be broken up. – New York Times 

As China’s factory-gate prices soared this year, investors worried the country would become a new source of inflation for the rest of the world. Instead, the world’s second-largest economy has helped alleviate some price pressures caused by the pandemic, and appears likely to keep doing so—at least for a while. – Wall Street Journal  

China’s foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong said new U.S. sanctions on Chinese officials and its updated business advisory on the city are “extremely rude” and “extremely unreasonable” bullying acts with “despicable intention”. – Reuters  

The Chinese military is firing off new rockets and artillery in its Western plateau region. This is the country’s latest effort to demonstrate high-altitude mobility and lethality near its border with India and other countries to the West. – The National Interest 

The death of nine Chinese workers in a bus explosion in Pakistan has underscored the security risks attached to China’s overseas projects, as anti-China sentiment simmers in countries where official ties with Beijing are strong. – CNN 

Camera drones developed by the Pentagon are more expensive and less capable than the Chinese-made models they were designed to replace, according to an internal US government memo seen by the Financial Times. – Financial Times 

Chinese-language anti-communist media and Twitter are abuzz this week with rumors that a vice minister of State Security, Dong Jingwei defected in mid-February, flying from Hong Kong to the United States with his daughter, Dong Yang. – The Daily Beast 

Newly compiled Janes data shows China’s defence exports declined mildly in 2020, interrupting a period of solid growth since 2016. – Jane’s 360 

Editorial: For decades, the United States has maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity, refusing to say publicly if it will come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of a mainland attack. But signals of weakness from Washington could lead Beijing to guess the answer is “No” — and finally make the move it’s threatened for so long. The Biden team has sailed Navy ships through the strait a couple of times, but that’s not enough. It needs to answer China’s provocations with its own maneuvers, ideally in concert with Japan and other allies, to keep the peace. – New York Post 

Joergen Oerstroem Moeller writes: No one knows the outcome of this colossal economic and social engineering, but the world should hold its breath and wish for success. If not, then a China caught in a low growth trap with a population used to higher living standards year after year could well herald a global economic depression on an unprecedented scale. In fact, China could become a recalcitrant partner in the global system blaming the West for its misery, which is not exactly conducive to a peaceful world. – The National Interest 

Todd Bensman writes: Placed in the context of very real harms of past and present Chinese espionage and foreign student terrorism, rationales like these come off as petty, petulant, selfish, and far from meeting a greater collective national safety need. Although no one in the Biden administration may ever say so out loud, they killed this greater good for perhaps the pettiest reason of all: Donald Trump was the one who proposed it. That is music to Chinese Communist Party ears. – The National Interest 

Connor Pfeiffer writes: The growing focus on China and the Indo-Pacific in Washington has been a positive development, and there is real bipartisan energy on these issues on Capitol Hill. However, the United States cannot ignore that the CCP is serious about competing with America everywhere, including in our own hemisphere. – The National Interest 

Georgia Leatherdale-Gilholy writes: What these series of projects make clear is that, for China, multilateral cooperation and free trade are not at the heart of its international expansion as much as the potential for domination via debt-trap diplomacy. While this remains a complex and highly contested concept—and certainly one of which western-controlled institutions have been guilty too—it is at least a feature of Beijing’s global strategy. – The National Interest 


The leader of the Taliban said Sunday that his movement is committed to a political settlement to end decades of war in Afghanistan, even as the insurgents battle in dozens of districts across to country to gain territory. – Associated Press  

President Vladimir Putin in June offered U.S. counterpart Joe Biden the use of Russian military bases in Central Asia for information gathering from Afghanistan, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Saturday, as American troops leave the country. – Reuters  

Fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO representative in Kabul joined hands on Monday to urge the Taliban to halt military offensives across Afghanistan, just hours after a peace meeting in Doha failed to agree on a ceasefire. – Reuters 

During a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian political alliance including China, Russia, India, and five smaller Asian states, the foreign minister called on the United States to do more to curb the Taliban’s strength and to provide greater assistance to the embattled Ghani administration. – The National Interest 

The U.N. humanitarian chief in Afghanistan appealed for $850 million Thursday to help the war-torn country cope with the impact of the Taliban offensive, protracted malnutrition for a third of the country, a severe drought, and the return of 627,000 Afghans this year, most of them deported from neighboring Iran. – Associated Press 

One of America’s former military commanders in Afghanistan said Sunday that the situation there is falling apart even before the United States completes its withdrawal from the embattled Asian nation. – Politico 

South Asia

Afghanistan has withdrawn its ambassador from Pakistan after his daughter was abducted and brutally assaulted last week. – Associated Press 

Nepal’s new Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba won a vote of confidence in parliament on Sunday, days after the Supreme Court reinstated the legislature that was dissolved in May. – Reuters  

Editorial: The cruelty with which India treats its critics speaks to the alarming deterioration of what is often celebrated as one of the world’s foremost democracies. The White House should advocate for the freeing of India’s political prisoners before another humanitarian dies awaiting trial. – Washington Post  

Kyle Mizokami writes: A war between India and China would be nasty, brutal and short, with far-reaching consequences for the global economy. The balance of power and geographic constraints means a war would almost certainly fail to prove decisive. Both sides have almost certainly concluded this, which is why there hasn’t been a war for more than fifty years. We can only hope it stays that way. – The National Interest 


Australia will deport British conservative commentator Katie Hopkins after she boasted on social media about appearing naked and maskless in hotel quarantine, in breach of the country’s strict rules, a government official said Monday. – Washington Post 

An American father and son were convicted Monday of helping former Nissan chairman-turned-fugitive Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan in 2019 and sentenced to prison by a Tokyo court. – Washington Post 

Police used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse protesters trying to march on Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s office on Sunday to demand he resign over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. – Reuters  

China and Australia have found another battleground for their deepening diplomatic standoff: the Pacific Islands’ pandemic response. Canberra has hit back at Beijing’s claims it is derailing the rollout of Chinese vaccines in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the most-populous Pacific nation. “We support Papua New Guinea making sovereign decisions,” Australia’s minister for the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday. – CNN 

The Philippines Coast Guard said it drove away a Chinese warship in the South China Sea, in another sign of tension between the two nations in the disputed waters. In a statement Monday citing a July 13 report, the Coast Guard said it had sent a verbal challenge to Chinese warship spotted at Marie Louise Bank. The Chinese vessel eventually moved away from the area, the statement said. – Bloomberg 

Armenia’s constitutional court has ruled that the result of last month’s parliamentary elections, won by the party of acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, be upheld, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Saturday. – Reuters 


A rights group in Russia announced Sunday that it was shutting down, citing fear of prosecution of its members and supporters after Russian authorities blocked its website for allegedly publishing content from an “undesirable” organization. – Associated Press 

In the meantime, Moscow appears to be balancing forces in Afghanistan in the event one side collapses. To make this work, the analyst Serenko believes, Russia will maintain two relationships in the country — one with the Taliban through the Foreign Ministry, and one with the government in Kabul through President Vladimir Putin’s Security Council. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Mark Episkopos writes: To assess this rhetoric merely as a signal that Moscow is preparing to take a specific military action is to miss the scope of what the Russian President is trying to convey. Putin’s opus is nothing less than an act of moral and political divestment not just from contemporary Ukraine, but from the very possibility of Ukrainian statehood outside the Russian sphere of influence. – The National Interest 


Last week’s devastating floods in Germany that have so far claimed nearly 160 lives have become the central issue of the country’s coming election that could reshape its political landscape. – Wall Street Journal  

A Dutch court convicted a Syrian man Friday of committing a war crime in his country for his role in the 2012 summary execution of a prisoner. The court sentenced the man to 20 years in prison. – Associated Press 

Joe Biden has tapped Jane Hartley, a Democratic fundraiser and former ambassador to France, as the US envoy to the UK, according to people familiar with the matter. – Financial Times 

Europe’s fledgling Eurodrone program received a boost Thursday in the form of a €100 million (U.S. $118 million) grant from the European Union, while an official promised a long expected, €7.1 billion production contract will be signed by October. – Defense News 

Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya arrived in Washington on July 18 as part of a multiday trip in the United States to rally support for her pro-democracy movement against authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Editorial: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who overwhelmingly won last August’s presidential election in Belarus, only to see her rightful victory stolen away, is coming to Washington. […]Mr. Biden should meet with her at the White House to demonstrate to the people of Belarus — and the world — that the United States is prepared to defend democracy and confront autocrats, and not just in news releases. – Washington Post 

Editorial: Unknowable today is whether E.U. policymakers will stick with their program or undercut the policy when prices start to rise, as they have in the past. What is clear is that their basic outline — price emissions, recycle the revenue back to consumers, impose a border adjustment — is the most rational policy response to climate change. – Washington Post 

Editorial: The Biden administration has taken note of what would be a devastating blow to media freedom in Poland. The U.S. charge d’affaires in Warsaw and the State Department’s spokesman have tweeted their concerns. “Strong democracies welcome a free and independent press,” said State’s Ned Price. That’s just the problem: Under Law and Justice, Poland’s democracy has become progressively weaker. The United States must use all the leverage it can muster to ensure that independent television news in the country survives. – Washington Post 

Editorial: The European Commission has no option but to take infringement action against Poland for its defiance. It should also now apply to the court to fine Poland for not complying with earlier orders. […]If Poland’s government does not like the obligations of being in the EU, then it should prepare to leave. Most Poles would recoil at the idea, knowing that membership has underpinned the country’s success. But their government’s actions are going to cost them one way or another. – Financial Times 

Jacob Heilbrunn writes: A scant 10 percent support a fresh term in 2025. But as the latest round of arrests in Belarus indicate, the pillar of the regime—the security services—remain loyal. During her visit, Tikhanovskaya will have to demonstrate that hers is more than a moral crusade. For now, Lukashenko doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Quite the contrary. – The National Interest 

Jan Hornat writes: Mending ties with Russia in a constructive manner, of course, is not a negative outlook. The problem, however, is that it increasingly seems that working with Russia is a binary choice – either fully engage with Moscow and start breaking ties with Western partners (as Viktor Orbán seems to be doing) or stand ground with the West and fully detach from Russia. Given structural pressures, no middle ground for the Czech small state seems viable and so the issue is to become increasingly politically contentious. – The National Interest   

Mark Episkopos writes: Though it is difficult to see exactly how these tanks could have altered the outcome of the wargame, there is little question that their acquisition will substantially enhance the capabilities of Poland’s ground forces in a pitched conflict with Russia. There may also be potential political benefits, with experts arguing that the purchase sends a clear message to Moscow about Washington’s commitment to NATO’s deterrence mission. – The National Interest  

Denzil Davidson writes: The ideological cost of each side’s answer to Northern Ireland’s problems is too high for the other. […]Continued disagreement seems easier than compromise of principle which might turn a unicorn into a real solution. So the UK and EU are likely to use the grace period to carry on throwing metaphorical stones at each other. The longer they do, the likelier such stone throwing in Northern Ireland is to be literal. – Financial Times 


South Africa has deployed 10,000 soldiers in addition to its police and expects to deploy 15,000 more in coming days even as the looting has lessened. […] It was his jailing last week that set off the protests that quickly devolved into the worst unrest South Africa has seen since apartheid ended in 1994. – Washington Post  

Creditor countries agreed to cancel $14.1 billion of Sudan’s international debts, praising its economic reforms and efforts to fight poverty. – Associated Press 

President Cyril Ramaphosa said South African’s young democracy had been targeted in “a deliberate, co-ordinated and well-planned attack” as the worst violence since the end of apartheid this week saw security forces move in to restore order on Friday. – Financial Times 

Three Chinese nationals and two Mauritanians were abducted from a construction site in northern Mali on Saturday when gunmen raided the site for equipment and took hostages, the army said. – Reuters 

Gunmen abducted at least 60 people and killed one person in northwestern Nigeria after riding motorbikes into five villages and firing sporadically into the air, a police official and several residents said on Saturday. – Reuters  

Forces in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region have released around 1,000 government soldiers captured during recent fighting, the head of its ruling party said, as both sides prepared for a showdown over contested land in the west of the region. – Reuters 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Security Council to authorise additional troops for the peacekeeping mission in Mali in response to rising violence by Islamist militants, according to a report seen by Reuters. – Reuters  

Michael Rubin writes: After all, if the Tigray Defense Forces have a choice between starving or creating a supply corridor to the Red Sea, the choice is simple: March into Eritrea. Isaias may believe that he will die in Eritrea and that his son will continue his rule. The next steps in the Tigray conflict will likely prove him wrong on both counts. – The National Interest 

The Americas

The question of who leads Haiti after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse gained a new dimension on Saturday, as a key group of international diplomats released a statement that appeared to show support for one hopeful vying for control of the country. – Washington Post 

Waving Cuban flags and photographs of Fidel Castro, the late revolutionary and Raul’s older brother, tens of thousands of Cubans voiced support for their government and laid blame for Cuba’s woes, such as a plunging economy and soaring coronavirus rates, on its enemies. – Washington Post 

In the days after Haiti’s president was shot to death, Jimmy Cherizier, leader of a powerful alliance of gangs here that calls itself the G9, issued an exhortation on YouTube, calling on his followers to rise up against the country’s oligarchs and seek justice for the assassinated leader. – Wall Street Journal  

Colombia’s National Police chief has claimed that former Haitian Justice Ministry official Joseph Felix Badio was a key player in the assassination of Haiti’s president. – CNN 

The protests in Cuba sprang from real economic suffering, and daily frustrations and resentments. Since July 11, the government has introduced new measures in an attempt to placate protesters and signalled a willingness to listen to complaints, although with its limited resources it can do little to ameliorate conditions in the short term. – The Conversation 

The British government reiterated on Monday that it recognises opposition figure Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president, a move aimed at quashing a bid by the Nicolas Maduro-backed Venezuelan central bank to repatriate nearly $1 billion of its gold stored in London. – Reuters  

Families of the victims of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded, on Sunday renewed their demands for justice as they marked the anniversary of the horror attack. – Agence France-Presse 

Editorial: The Cuban regime survives by terror and a monopoly on communications that leaves Cubans unaware of how widespread their desire for freedom is. A top U.S. priority should be giving the Cuban people the means to break through the Communist firewall. – Wall Street Journal  

Editorial: We will remain free only so long as we reject the socialist nostrums that have plagued Cuba for 62 years. To combat that evil, Biden personally needs to name it and denounce it — and resist proto-socialist policies here at home as well. – Washington Examiner 

Editorial: In Haiti, emergency food and medical assistance would help, as well as a recognition that free elections this year, a previous target of Washington’s, are unrealistic. Haitians need to be encouraged to find a consensus interim government which can hold credible elections. The answer in Cuba is not so different: at some point a regime which has run out of ideas needs to engage with its own people in an honest search for peaceful change. But in both countries, foreign intervention should be firmly ruled out. – Financial Times 

Editorial: But it looks like the White House is slow-walking any response — or, rather, leaving it to drawn-out interagency discussions, as Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s bureau of Western Hemisphere affairs, told Politico, even as she called the idea “something that we’re very interested in promoting and advocating for.” […]Desperate, hungry and oppressed Cubans are waving American flags as a sign of freedom in the streets of Havana: The least Uncle Sam can do is make sure their voices ring around the world. – New York Post 

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: The corrupt former president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, is blaming the U.S. trade embargo for the events. That’s either stupid or evil. Cubans want liberty and justice. More blood will be shed. But the financially and morally bankrupt authorities won’t be able to feed their security apparatus indefinitely. – Wall Street Journal  

Gerardo Berthin writes: While U.S. policy toward Latin America – and Cuba in particular – has been fraught, President Biden must stand with the people of Cuba, publicly back their calls for freedom. The United States must use diplomacy to defend democratic principles and human rights wherever they are under threat. – The Hill  

United States

Mike Brown’s withdrawal from consideration as the Pentagon’s acquisitions chief has become an obstacle for the Biden administration’s efforts to tap innovative tech firms to compete with China, and top lawmakers say they want the president to quickly find a qualified candidate for the role. – Defense News 

Dan Negrea writes: Many write that former President Donald Trump weakened America’s alliances with undiplomatic language, but that President Joe Biden will fix this with his “America is Back” policy of cordiality. Not so. […] On one side is the Free World led by the U.S. On the other side are China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.  The choice will have little to do with the personal charm of leaders. – The National Interest 

Kelu Chao writes: As anti-democratic threats grow, USAGM will continue to provide audiences with accurate and reliable information and support the next generation of independent journalists serving on the frontlines. Democracy and a free press depend on it. – The Hill  


Military-grade spyware licensed by an Israeli firm to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners. – Washington Post  

President Biden’s attack on Facebook Inc. on Friday followed months of mounting private frustration inside his administration over the social-media giant’s handling of vaccine misinformation, according to U.S. officials, bringing into public view tensions that could complicate efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19. – Wall Street Journal  

Some of the first governments to go digital have found an answer in cryptocurrency enthusiasts. For these rebels against traditional approaches to finance, the digital trend presents an opportunity to create virtual money for a whole nation. – Wall Street Journal  

The head of the Israeli surveillance giant NSO Group pledged Sunday to investigate potential cases of human-rights abuse following a sweeping report by The Washington Post and other media organizations that uncovered how NSO’s government clients had deployed its spyware tool Pegasus against activists, journalists and private citizens around the world. – Washington Post 

Some of the tech industry’s most important machines are made next to corn fields in the Netherlands. The U.S. government is trying to make sure they don’t end up in China. – Wall Street Journal

In communist-era Hungary, citizens were recruited to spy on their neighbors and report any potential threats to the secret police. In the Hungary of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a spyware tool has been deployed to similar effect, monitoring people with technology that can turn smartphones into troves of information. More than 300 Hungarian phone numbers — connected to journalists, lawyers, business titans and activists, among others — appeared on a list that included numbers selected for surveillance by clients of NSO Group, an Israeli security company. – Washington Post 

Facebook stepped up its criticism of President Joe Biden’s remarks that the platform was “killing people,” saying that the White House was “looking for scapegoats” after missing its Fourth of July vaccination goal. – Washington Examiner  

False news reports spread fast following unprecedented protests in Cuba last Sunday, among them: Raul Castro had fled to ally Venezuela, protesters had kidnapped a provincial Communist Party chief, and Caracas was sending in troops. – Reuters  

The National Reconnaissance Office has extended and expanded its contract with Planet Federal for commercial satellite imagery, the company announced July 15. – C4SIRNET 

China’s capabilities in artificial intelligence are “much closer than I thought” to catching up to the US, former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt told Nikkei Asia, stressing that America would not succeed without a “very strong partnership with our Asian friends”. – Financial Times 

 Ground integration tests of the experimental NTS-3 satellite, designed to demonstrate alternate positioning, navigation and timing capabilities to those now provided by GPS, will begin next month, an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) official tells Breaking Defense. – Breaking Defense 

Rumana Ahmed and Moira Whelan write: 5G is an easy tool to weaponize. As demand for it grows worldwide, citizens and infrastructure are becoming increasingly reliant on it. As of February, 131 countries announced plans to invest in 5G, which will be foundational for future internet technologies. – Foreign Policy  


Army scientists are engineering mobile, lightweight digital fibers into soldier uniforms to generate power, gather crucial time-sensitive sensor data, and take new breakthrough steps toward deploying a wearable computer. – The National Interest 

President Joe Biden on Friday announced he would nominate Andrew Hunter, a well-known defense industry expert, to serve as the Air Force’s next acquisition boss. – Defense News 

The U.S. Marine Corps has chosen Textron Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems to begin contract negotiations to build advanced reconnaissance vehicle prototypes, the service announced July 16. – Defense News 

As the F-35 program inches its way through operational testing, the number of critical technical deficiencies is slowly dwindling, dropping from 11 critical deficiencies in January to seven in July. – Defense News 

The busiest aircraft carrier on the East Coast is back home after two grueling, back-to-back deployments that kept the ship on station in the Middle East for a total of seven and a half months. – USNI News 

Fatal, serious accidents involving tactical vehicles could be prevented if the Marine Corps implements stricter oversight, enforces standards and ensures drivers and others get more realistic training, according to the Government Accountability Office. – USNI News 

The National Guard is $521 million in the hole after sending thousands of troops from a dozen states to guard the Capitol complex after the Jan. 6 insurrection. If Congress doesn’t pass funding to reimburse the Guard, they’re going to have to cancel training, drill weekends and more in order to close that gap. – Military Times 

The recent launch of small satellite platforms by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Space Development Agency (SDA) represent milestone moments in the department’s effort to advance networked, space-based radio frequency (RF) and optical broadband communication capabilities. – Jane’s 360 

William Moloney writes: In the aftermath of Vietnam, America fortuitously manifested that extraordinary resilience that has characterized much of our history, and in less than a decade we had calmed, if not extinguished, our internal divisions and regained a confidence and national equilibrium that would endure for more than a generation. Whether America has the capacity to repeat that herculean national labor only time will tell. – The Hill  

Long War

The jihadi rebels are also expanding their reach within Burkina Faso. Extremist violence centered in the country’s north and east has spread into the west and southwest areas near Mali and Ivory Coast, bringing residents and security forces in those areas to brace for more conflict. – Associated Press 

North Macedonia says it has repatriated four suspected former fighters of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group and their families from Syria and Iraq. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Kosovo’s interior minister said Sunday that 11 Kosovar citizens have been repatriated from Syria. – Associated Press  

A 50-year-old radicalised Singaporean who was detained under the Internal Security Act was on Monday (19 July) charged with financing terrorism. – Yahoo News