Fdd's overnight brief

July 2, 2020

In The News


U.S. federal prosecutors filed suit late Wednesday to seize four tankers-worth of gasoline Iran is sailing to Venezuela, the latest salvo in the administration’s effort to stifle flows of goods and money helping to keep two of its top foes in power. – Wall Street Journal 

A confrontation is heating up between Tehran and Washington over the possible extension of a five-year arms embargo against Iran that is due to expire in four months. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Iran’s newfound energy is clear: It is working on multiple fronts and senses that the US administration is flailing around before elections. It also senses that Israel’s annexation plan has put momentary controversy into the equation that often saw the US, Gulf states and Israel all opposed to Iran’s actions. – Jerusalem Post 

An “incident” has damaged an under-construction building near Iran’s Natanz nuclear site, but there was no damage to its centrifuge facility, a spokesman said Thursday. – Associated Press 

The Trump administration’s envoy for Iran said Tuesday that the White House was willing to take military action against Tehran to prevent the regime from acquiring nuclear weapons. – Times of Israel 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday warned that the Iranian regime will become an arms dealer to despots in places such as Syria and Venezuela if a 13-year-old arms embargo is allowed to expire — and that more people will die in the Middle East as Tehran gets its hands on weapons. – Fox News

Ever since the founding of the Ayatollah regime in Iran, the country has invested significantly in the export of the principles of the revolution to the world at large, in establishing local support bases in other countries, and in undermining local governments abroad. […] Thus, in an attempt to reach a Spanish-speaking audience, Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, has both a website and a Twitter account in Spanish. Furthermore, in 2001 the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting set up a Spanish-language television channel called HispanTV. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Matthew Petti writes: An Iranian general would not rule out that a massive explosion east of Tehran last week was caused by “hacking,” amidst speculation that the incident was an act of sabotage. Iranian authorities had attempted to downplay the blast—which tore through a missile factory east of Tehran—as a gas tank explosion at a different industrial park. But one official refused to rule out an act of cyber-sabotage. – The National Interest 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: The problem for the US and Israel – and the Saudis for that matter – is that UNSC members’ immediate fears of Ghaani and Iran far exceed their fears of what might happen down the road with Tehran’s nuclear programs or with new conventional weapons it will be able to buy from China and Russia. This is despite Pompeo pointing out that some of them could soon fall within the range of Russian aircraft likely to be sold to Tehran. It does not help America’s cause that many traditional US allies actually agree with China, Russia and Iran when they refer to the US as acting as a bully against almost all multilateral initiatives in recent years. – Jerusalem Post

Kasra Arabi writes: Only one man’s vote — namely, Khamenei’s — is likely to count. It is without question that Fattah will be an attractive choice for the ayatollah. A Fattah presidency would lead to the further consolidation of the IRGC, an escalation of domestic Islamization, and a deepening commitment to Tehran’s regional militancy. These outcomes all meet the requirements of Khamenei’s “Second Phase” and in tandem with Ghalibaf and Raisi will pump young blood into the ayatollah’s ageing ideology. – Middle East Institute


The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran on Wednesday discussed efforts to stabilize Syria in a video call, emphasizing the need to promote a political settlement for the nine-year conflict. – Associated Press  

The U.S. government has long imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has presided over more than nine years of a civil war that has claimed the lives of an estimated half a million people. But for the first time ever, on June 17 his British wife Asma was targeted with economic restrictions of her own. – Fox News 

More than two dozen Syrian torture victims are expected to testify in the unprecedented trial that began in April, examining state-sponsored torture in President Bashar Assad’s Syria. – NPR 

Fabrice Balanche writes: What is required instead is Western political determination against Russia and Turkey’s strategies, supported by a sufficient military presence to dissuade external coup efforts and a Marshall Plan-style humanitarian and economic campaign to reduce internal tensions. The contrast between improvements in the AANES economy and financial deterioration within regime-held areas (e.g., because of new U.S. sanctions arising from the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act) could give a particularly potent boost to local authorities. – Washington Institute

Jonathan Spyer writes: What has changed, in two short years? How has Assad’s triumph turned to disaster? The answer is the Trump administration’s Syria policy. The application of quiet but unrelenting pressure is transforming the Syrian president’s victory into ashes. What it has yet to do is persuade Russia to cease backing the Assad regime, which means the strategy remains at a stalemate. – Foreign Policy


A Turkish court will open the trial on Friday of 20 Saudi officials indicted over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a step his fiancee hopes will shed more light on the death and reveal where his body was hidden. – Reuters  

Turkey said on Wednesday it is disappointed by the European Union’s decision to exclude it from a list of countries recommended for non-essential travel and called on the bloc to correct the “mistake” as soon as possible. – Reuter

At least 11 people were detained in Turkey for social media postings that allegedly insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter and son-in-law after they announced the birth of their fourth child on Twitter, police said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urged Turkey to let Istanbul’s former Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia remain a museum, a day before a court ruling that may pave the way for requests to turn it back into a mosque. – Reuters

Turkey will introduce regulations to control social media platforms or shut them down, President Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday, pressing ahead with government plans after he said his family was insulted online. – Reuters

In a recent article titled “The Coming Regional War,” in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian  journalist and author Khaled Al-Berry wrote that the Arab countries are approaching the moment at which they will have to wage a war with Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he called “more dangerous than Hitler.” Al-Bari wrote that Erdogan and his supporters in the Arab world (i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood) have been spreading jihadi propaganda in Arab countries and acting to weaken them, in preparation for the moment in which the “Turkish Hitler” will launch a war against them to recapture territory and revive the Ottoman Empire.  – Middle East Media Research Institute


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged Israel not to go ahead with the annexation of part of the occupied West Bank, saying it would be illegal and “contrary” to the country’s interests. – BBC 

Israeli annexation in the occupied West Bank might be weeks away, a government minister said as a start date on Wednesday for cabinet discussions of the move slipped by in the absence of a green light from Washington. – Reuters 

While the United States looks forward to continued discussions with Israel over possible application of sovereignty in the West Bank, July 1 was never a deadline for the White House, a senior American official told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday evening. – Jerusalem Post

The Vatican, in a highly unusual move, summoned both the US and Israeli ambassadors to express the Holy See’s concern about Israel’s moves to extend its sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. – Reuters

A letter signed by a group of far-left US lawmakers calling for a cut of American military aid to Israel in response to any annexation of parts of the West Bank has been met with criticism from pro-Israel groups, including those affiliated with the Democratic Party. – Algemeiner

A massive fire raged last night near the communities of Kochav Hashachar and Ma’aleh Shlomo in Binyamin, threatening to destroy a number of residential houses. Local residents say it is the latest in a series of fires set deliberately by Arabs currently squatting in the area. They say fires are set twice a week for the past two months while authorities are unable to catch the arsonist. – Arutz Sheva

Walter Russell Mead writes: The Israeli cabinet is scheduled to begin discussions this week on the possible unilateral annexation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank along with strategically important roadways and the Jordan Valley. While anything is possible in the tumultuous world of Israeli politics, what changes come are likely to be modest and incremental—more like slicing a salami than swallowing large new additions in a huge gulp. – Wall Street Journal

David Makovsky and Dennis Ross write: Given the opposition of his own camp to the Trump Plan, it may be understandable that Netanyahu is focused only on what Israel gets and not what it would have to give. But as the administration decides what to do about Israeli annexation, it should at least be clear that its plan is not being treated “holistically.” Whether the Trump Plan advances or not, little can change until both Israelis and Palestinians realize that each needs to give, not just take. – The Hill


Two of Iraq’s most powerful Iranian-backed militias have accused Israel and the US of carrying out military overflights of Iraq and demanded the US leave the country. – Jerusalem Post 

Zvi Bar’el writes: Each one of the parties involved understands the balance of interests and the rules of the game, as well as their limitations, quite well. If al-Kadhimi wants to carry out a strategic move against Iran, he will need to wait until the next general election and win them with a large majority. Until a date is set for the elections and until a new election law is agreed upon, Iraq will continue to be run like a sled pulled by wolves from rival packs. – Haaretz 

Shukur Khikhal writes: To realize these objectives, the Iraqi government must understand that neutralizing Iran’s influence in their country should not only be a U.S. goal but an Iraqi goal. Iraq must recognize that Iranian influence is behind a large share of its political, economic, and security-related problems. On the U.S. side, it must deliver a comprehensive plan that transforms the theoretical talk of “helping Iraq address its crises” into a tangible reality that can win over Iraqis and refute the arguments of political actors who oppose an Iraqi-partnership with the United States. – Washington Institute 

On May 19, 2020, Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Alawi sent a letter to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in which he pledged that the Finance Ministry would provide it with the equivalent of 400 billion Iraqi dinars ($338 million) to cover its public-sector salary payments for the month of April. […]This, he stated,  was a condition for the central government’s future allocations of such funds, in exchange for finalizing a longer-term oil and budget deal within a 30-day window. – Middle East Media Research Institute


The parents of the one of the victims of a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem pizza restaurant in August 2001 have launched an online petition demanding that the Kingdom of Jordan extradite the atrocity’s main planner, who has been residing in Amman since she was released in a prisoner exchange with the Israeli government a decade ago. – Algemeiner

David Pollock writes: Results of a rare Jordanian public opinion poll, conducted by a leading regional commercial firm in June, show widespread popular concern about current discussion of Israeli annexation in the West Bank, in the context of the Trump “Peace Plan.” 68% of Jordanians say they “need to be concerned that some Israelis and Americans want to make our country into the alternative Palestinian state”—though this is not actually part of the plan at all. – Washington Institute 

Jomana Karadsheh and Ghazi Balkiz write: The influential diplomat also singled out Jordan and his country’s concerns about the impact annexation will have on the Kingdom. Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed reiterated his country’s support for Jordan’s bid in a tweet last week. “(The annexation) will send shock waves around the region, especially in Jordan whose stability — often taken for granted — benefits the entire region, particularly Israel,” Al Otaiba warned. – CNN

Gulf States

Inside the sprawling American Embassy compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a coronavirus outbreak was spreading. Dozens of embassy employees became sick last month, and more than 20 others were quarantined after a birthday barbecue became a potential vector for the spread of the disease. – New York Times 

Saudi Arabia has threatened to ignite an oil-price war unless fellow OPEC members make up for their failure to abide by the cartel’s recent production cuts, delegates said. – Wall Street Journal

A Saudi-led coalition has started a military operation against Yemen’s Houthi movement after it stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, Saudi state television reported on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The United Arab Emirates is seeking to verify the credentials of Pakistani pilots and engineers employed in its airlines, as global concern mounts after the South Asian government grounded 262 pilots for holding “dubious” qualifications. – Reuters 

Yoel Guzansky writes: In contrast, annexation can be expected to prompt a rollback of certain different aspects of the other three Gulf states’ normalization with Israel, particularly those that are public. Saudi and Emirati representatives have said as much in Hebrew newspapers. This is notwithstanding that the Palestinian issue does not figure among the top priorities in those states, and despite their suspicion and sometimes even hostility toward both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. – Washington Institute 


U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the commander of Libya’s eastern-based forces Wednesday that there can be no military solution to the conflict he launched in April 2019 against the U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli. – Associated Press 

France announced Wednesday that it is suspending its involvement in a NATO naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea after a standoff with a Turkish warship, amid growing tensions within the military alliance over the conflict in Libya. – Associated Press  

A Turkish business delegation is set to visit Libya within two weeks to assess how Turkey’s companies and banks can help rebuild the war-torn country and secure its energy needs, two people familiar with the plan told Reuters. – Reuters 

Turkey’s ambassador to Paris accused France of having a biased policy over Libya, turning a blind eye to suspected violations of a U.N. arms embargo by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to the benefit of eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Wednesday issued his first pardon for members of the protest movement that toppled veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika last year, the presidency said. – Reuters

Arabs listed as “Palestinian refugees” in Lebanon demonstrated on Wednesday against the US Middle East peace plan, known as the “Deal of the Century,” Xinhua reported, citing the online independent newspaper Elnashra. – Arutz Sheva

Karen E. Young writes: For all the hype around Beijing’s supposed advantage of state capitalism, through which all its FDI activity in the region counts towards a national political goal, China has not yet proven to be a good investor or a desirable development partner for the Middle East—and certainly not a great power. – Bloomberg 

Korean Peninsula

President Trump has written a letter of condolence to the widow of a prominent Japanese activist who died recently without ever seeing his daughter who was abducted by North Korea in 1977. – New York Post 

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Spencer Faragasso write: The United Nations Panel of Experts on North Korea (or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)), established pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1874 (2009), periodically reports its findings and recommendations on the implementation of Security Council resolutions on North Korea. These reports list in detail cases of proven or alleged sanctions violations of the UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea that have been passed by the Security Council since 2006. – Institute for Science and International Security 

Rodger Baker writes: Together, Kim Yo Jong and Kim Jong Un represent a potential bridge to a different North Korea, one still controlled from the top, but perhaps not as isolated. […]There is no rapid change impending in Pyongyang, no easy move to follow a Chinese or Vietnamese path. But with two foreign-trained and relatively young voices leading North Korea, there may be a willingness to experiment more, not just in retaining the military-first focus of Kim Jong Il, but in economic and social dynamics for a new generation. – The Hill


Before the Chinese police hung high-powered surveillance cameras and locked up ethnic minorities by the hundreds of thousands in China’s western region of Xinjiang, China’s hackers went to work building malware, researchers say. – New York Times 

The United States on Wednesday issued an advisory warning U.S. companies about the risks faced from maintaining supply chains associated with human rights abuses in China’s western Xinjiang province. – Reuters 

Relations between the U.S. and China — the world’s top two economies — could worsen further as both countries have signaled that they are prepared to fight each other in many more ways, according to a political risk expert. – CNBC

US federal authorities have seized a shipment of products made from human hair believed to have been taken from Muslims in labor camps in China’s western Xinjiang province. – The Guardian 

Joseph Marks and Tonya Riley write: The United States’s move to label Huawei as a national security threat and block it from billions of dollars in subsidies is its toughest move yet against the Chinese telecom. And with more allies poised to follow suit, Washington’s uphill diplomatic campaign to isolate the company is at a turning point – and it’s a sign of deepening fissure between the West and China. – Washington Post

Heather A. Conley, Cyrus Newlin, and Tim Kostelancik write: Just as China is learning from Russia, democracies under threat can learn from one another. Increasing this cooperation and finding common approaches to countering malign influence activities are the best ways to ensure those activities continue to fall short of their goals. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


He was a lowly drug smuggler, neighbors and relatives say, then ventured into contracting, seeking a slice of the billions of dollars the U.S.-led coalition was funneling into construction projects in Afghanistan. – New York Times 

First President Trump denied knowing about it. Then he called it a possible “hoax.” Next, the White House attacked the news media. And now an unnamed intelligence official is to blame. – New York Times  

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan said its findings indicate the Afghan military had mistakenly fired the mortars this week at a busy market in southern Helmand province that inflicted heavy civilian casualties. – Associated Press 

The Senate on Wednesday rejected an attempt by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to include a proposal on withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in a mammoth defense policy bill. – The Hill 

The House Armed Services Committee voted Wednesday to put roadblocks on President Trump’s ability to withdraw from Afghanistan, including requiring an assessment on whether any country has offered incentives for the Taliban to attack U.S. and coalition troops. – The Hill 

South Asia

The European Union’s announcement that Pakistan International Airlines would be barred from flying into Europe for at least six months is the latest blow to the country’s national flag carrier, which has been mired in financial and administrative troubles and has come under scrutiny after a crash in May that killed 97 people. – New York Times 

Indian and Chinese military commanders met for a third time in an attempt to ease a monthlong face-off over disputed territory and emphasized the need for a phased deescalation of tensions, a senior Indian army official said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Pakistani and Indian troops have traded fire in Kashmir in an exchange that killed a boy in the Pakistan-controlled section of the disputed Himalayan region, officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday that it hopes India would correct its discriminatory actions against Chinese companies immediately, after India banned Chinese mobile apps amid a border crisis between the two countries. – Reuters

India’s additional scrutiny of imports from China has disrupted operations at plants owned by Apple supplier Foxconn in southern India, three sources told Reuters, and other foreign firms are also facing delays as tensions between the two countries build. – Reuters 

Joseph Bosco writes: He specifically called attention to Beijing’s increasingly aggressive moves in the South China Sea, where the U.S. Navy is conducting regular freedom of navigation operations. If Trump continues to approve his team’s substantive approach in implementing his policy objectives, the free world’s prospects will continue to improve. – The Hill

Christopher Clary and Vipin Narangwrite: India finds itself in a very difficult position vis-à-vis China on their disputed border. […]Even if it can halt additional gains by the Chinese military, New Delhi may find it difficult to restore the status quo, since its options range from bad to worse to ugly. This is precisely why faits accomplis are so attractive to states, and why they are so important to reverse quickly, before they are completed and consolidated. In international politics, possession is not just nine-tenths of the law, it is the law. – War on the Rocks


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned China’s decision to enforce a new national security law on Hong Kong and retaliated with new rules to make it easier for millions of people from its former colony to emigrate to the U.K. – Wall Street Journal

After China published a Hong Kong national security law as a fait accompli Tuesday night without the usual consultation, the broader implications of the most consequential political change in the financial center since its 1997 handover are coming into focus. – Washington Post 

Twitter users here deleted their accounts en masse. Political parties disbanded, including the one founded by democracy activist Joshua Wong. Restaurants and cafes removed posters showing their support for the movement. – Washington Post 

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has long tried to convince Taiwan that unification was a historical inevitability, alternately enticing the democratic island with economic incentives while bluntly warning that any move toward formal independence would be answered with military force. – New York Times

The full text of the law, released late Tuesday, requires Hong Kong authorities to strengthen regulation of the media and internet, as well as to promote national security through those channels. It also blocks media and the public from certain court trials, including those involving state secrets and public order. – Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong police arrested a 24-year-old man at the city’s airport in the early hours of Thursday on suspicion of attacking and wounding an officer during protests against a new national security law Beijing imposed on the financial hub. – Reuters  

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday that would penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement a national security law that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called a “brutal, sweeping crackdown” on Hong Kong. – Reuters  

Taiwan’s armed forces carried out live fire drills on its west coast on Thursday practising “enemy annihilation on the shore”, ahead of its main annual exercises later this month and as China steps up military activities near the island it claims. – Reuters

A Japanese man in his 50s has been released from detention in China after completing a five-year prison sentence, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. – Bloomberg  

China has said the UK has no right to grant residency to Hongkongers fleeing a harsh new national security law, and vowed to take “corresponding measures” to stop such a move. – The Guardian 

From Tokyo to Brussels, political leaders have swiftly decried Beijing’s move to impose a tough national security law on Hong Kong that cracks down on subversive activity and protest in the semi-autonomous territory. – Associated Press 

China promised Thursday to take countermeasures against Britain if it presses ahead with plans to extend citizenship rights to Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed a sweeping security law on the restless financial hub. – Agence France-Presse

Australia is actively considering providing safe haven to Hong Kong residents in response to China’s sweeping new security law, it said Thursday, a move likely to further inflame tensions with Beijing. – Agence France-Presse

A major shift in Australia’s defence posture will see the country prioritise its geographic focus on the Indo-Pacific region while spending about AUD270 billion (USD184 billion) over the next decade on new and upgraded defence capabilities, including long-range missiles. – Jane’s 360 

Editorial: China seems unconcerned by recent protests and threats of sanctions from the United States, and no wonder, considering Mr. Trump’s evident disinterest. A response worthy of consideration is legislation in Congress introduced by Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) that would open a pathway to enter the United States for Hong Kong entrepreneurs, scientists and academics. […]These measures will help individuals escape China’s persecution, but the flame of Hong Kong’s democratic ideals has been abruptly extinguished. It is a momentously sad day for world freedom. – Washington Post

Editorial: The Hong Kong government and its overlords in Beijing defend the law as a necessary response to a year of demonstrations and civil unrest — sparked, ironically enough, by fears that Beijing intended to end Hong Kong’s autonomy. Many of the city’s business leaders are eager to believe that the law will be narrowly applied. Sadly, however, there is little reason to believe that Beijing will apply it with restraint. The government of Xi Jinping has already demonstrated, on multiple fronts, its contempt for liberal freedoms. – Financial Times

Therese Raphael writes: None of this was on the schedule for a post-Brexit U.K. The idea was that Britain’s outward orientation and trade agenda would be anchored by close ties with China and the U.S. But the new security law, and its harsh application, is an affront to modern, democratic notions of human rights and the rule of law. If there is any issue on which democratic nations could find common ground and a coordinated response, it ought to be this one. Johnson’s sending the right signals. He now needs to stay the course. – Bloomberg


Russians have strongly supported constitutional reforms that could keep President Vladimir Putin in power until 2036, preliminary results indicate. – BBC    

Russia’s newest improved Borei-class submarine, the Knyaz Vladimir, was seen in open source satellite photos leaving a Russian naval base at Severodvinsk along Russia’s White Sea where it was built. – The National Interest 

The dizzying, often contradictory, paths followed by Trump on the one hand and his hawkish but constantly changing cast of national security aides on the other have created confusion in Congress and among allies and enemies alike. To an observer, Russia is at once a mortal enemy and a misunderstood friend in U.S. eyes. – Associated Press

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday the United States must immediately impose sanctions on Russia over reports that Moscow offered Taliban militants money to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. – Reuters 

Adam Taylor writes: Russia also faces challenges on the world stage. Moscow looks like a bit player next to the geopolitical battle between Washington and Beijing, in which Putin may struggle to avoid embroilment. And few world leaders risked attending his high-profile military parade last month to mark the 74th anniversary of the end of World War II. – Washington Post  

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: In his next act, Putin will still prioritize stability and will surely turn back to his $400 billion national projects. That won’t fix the need for more innovation and enterprise, the impact of a weak oil price or international isolation, which would be likely to increase in the event of a Joe Biden presidential victory in the U.S. Putin’s new powers will at least keep critics at bay. – Bloomberg 

Francis Wilkinson writes: Over the next four months, Americans will find out what Putin is prepared to do to sustain his winning streak. What we are unlikely to learn, in a systemic political failure unparalleled in American history, is why Trump is so very keen to enable it. – Bloomberg 

Eli Lake writes: This would have the advantage of making the GRU’s assets toxic for the legitimate financial industry. It would also force Putin to choose. Right now, he has two foreign policies: His diplomats demand that Russia be shown the respect of a great power, while his spies assassinate rivals, bankroll terrorists and interfere in elections. If Putin wants respect, his regime must earn it. – Bloomberg

Richard Weitz writes: What remains unknown is how the Caspian states collectively will respond to Moscow’s changing policies in the region. They perceive Moscow as an important security and economic partner, as well as a critical balancer to China’s overwhelming demographic preeminence and heavy-handed anti-Uighur demands, but also as potential threat due to Moscow’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine and anti-Western paranoia. Intraregional cooperation has increased in Central Asia, thanks to Uzbekistan’s more cooperative approach, but not in the South Caucasus, where the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute presents an ineluctable obstacle. – Middle East Institute


A former employee of the British Consulate in Hong Kong who said he was tortured by the authorities in mainland China last year has been given asylum in Britain. – New York Times 

Germany’s defense minister announced Wednesday that she would partially disband the most elite and highly trained special forces in the country, saying it had been infiltrated by far-right extremism. – New York Times 

It was long a rather surprising choice of imagery for Finland’s Air Force Command – a swastika and pair of wings. – BBC  

The House Armed Services Committee delivered a near-unanimous bipartisan rebuke to President Donald Trump’s plans to pull about 10,000 U.S. troops from Germany. – Defense News 


The military was deployed in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday, as armed gangs roamed neighbourhoods in a second day of unrest that has claimed more than 80 lives and deepened political divisions in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s political heartland. – Reuters 

Burkina Faso’s defence ministry said on Wednesday it has launched an investigation following the discovery of seven bullet-ridden corpses in the outskirts of a town in the east where the army had carried out an operation. – Reuters 

Mali has been in political turmoil since a disputed legislative election in March. The lead-up to the poll was marred by allegations of vote buying and intimidation and the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cisse. – Reuters 

Michael Rubin writes: It is time, however, he directs his Africa bureau to recognize that the competition with China or the need to support Taiwan does not end on the Taiwan Strait or in the South China Sea, but also extends to Africa. It is time to support Somaliland more, not less. While Yamamoto and career diplomats might complain, doing so not only is the moral thing to do, but there is both long precedent and doing so will also benefit the U.S. strategically. – Washington Examiner 

Michael Rubin writes: Rather than simply react, the time is now for U.S. officials to reach out to Eritreans, both inside the country and out, and put plans in place to help build the institutions Isaias has left weakened or destroyed. These officials must ensure Eritrea’s continued independence against the backdrop of Ethiopian ambitions, ready the resources to help Eritrea recover and thrive to take its place in the world, and help advance its stability and moderation in an increasingly strategic corner of Africa. – The National Interest 

The Americas

A federal judge in Washington struck down a Trump administration policy late Tuesday that bars most Central Americans and other migrants from requesting asylum at the southern border, saying the government failed to justify making the sudden change last July without public notice or comment. – Washington Post 

Venezuelan officials announced Wednesday that congressional elections will be held on the first Sunday in December to choose members of the only branch of government not now controlled by socialist Presidethat nt Nicolás Maduro. – Associated Press 

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday that demands an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in conflict zones around the world, due to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. It is the first resolution related to the coronavirus that the council has passed. – NPR  

Mexico celebrated the implementation of a new free trade agreement with Canada and the United States that it hopes will lead to more investment in its struggling economy. – Associated Press 

Mercosur ministers reported progress on the final text of a trade agreement with the European Union on Wednesday on the eve of a summit meeting overshadowed by French President Emmanuel Macron’s latest comments against the deal. – Reuters 

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has not left his country since taking office in December 2018, and paying his first foreign visit to Trump is politically risky because the Republican U.S. president is widely disliked in Mexico. – Reuters

Mexican labor attorney and independent union leader Susana Prieto was released from jail on Wednesday after her arrest nearly a month ago on charges of inciting violence at a workers protest, state prosecutors said. […]U.S. union leaders and Democratic lawmakers had called for her release ahead of the start of the new regional trade deal, fearing her detention was a warning sign of Mexico’s challenges in meeting its labor obligations. – Reuters

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus writes: The WHO’s constitution redefined health as not just the absence of disease, but the presence of physical, emotional and mental well-being. Investing in public health isn’t a matter of charity. This helps everyone — not just Americans, but all people in all countries. We hope the United States will keep working with the WHO so we can jointly continue the important progress we have made. There is so much more we can do together. – Washington Post 


The chief executive officers of Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. have agreed to testify before a congressional panel investigating competition issues in the technology industry, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee overseeing the probe. –  Bloomberg 

Nadia Schadlow and Brayden Helwig write: Finally, the Trump administration should sound a louder alarm on Huawei Marine. In order to reduce or prevent the exfiltration of data, telecommunications companies should be required to use undersea infrastructure from verified suppliers. At the very least, owners of data transmitted this way should be aware of the undersea path their data is taking — and potential vulnerabilities. – Defense News

Kris Osborn writes: The U.S. Army is working to both leverage the advantages of cloud migration and simultaneously ensure data security, taking on what could be characterized as a paradox. […]This not only streamlines communication but also prevents larger pools of data from being more vulnerable to enemy penetration. – The National Interest


Russia’s massive 70-warship Ocean Shield exercise in the Baltic Sea last year signaled the Kremlin’s intention to be the dominating Arctic power militarily and economically, two international security experts said Tuesday. – USNI News 

A House panel late Wednesday approved plans for a $740.5 billion defense authorization bill which would provide a 3 percent raise for troops, limit the president’s ability to withdraw troops from Europe and Afghanistan, and force the military to reckon with Confederate symbols and legacy on its bases. – Military Times 

The Air Force on July 1 announced its second round of Advanced Battle Management System contracts, a series of awards to 18 companies worth up to $950 million apiece. – C4ISRNET 

Unless Defense Secretary Mark Esper meets a legal requirement to explain where troops are deployed around the world, he’ll lose a quarter of his personal travel budget, according to a plan passed by the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday. – Defense News 

The U.S. Marine Corps has awarded FLIR Systems a $10 million contract for dozens of SkyRaider drones, the company announced June 30. – C4ISRNET 

The Navy’s first four littoral combat ships will be headed into mothballs next March, according to a June 20 message from the chief of naval operations. – Defense News 

U.S. Air Force F-35 pilots at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, will now be able to step into a simulator and train alongside virtual F-16s, F-15s and other aircraft, a Lockheed Martin executive said Wednesday. – Defense News 

Poor management of artificial intelligence projects in the Department of Defense could erode the United States’ competitive advantage in the emerging technology, the Defense Department’s watchdog warned in a July 1 report. – C4ISRNET 

The U.S. government has placed a new $127 million order for 248 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles from Oshkosh, the company announced Wednesday. – Defense News 

Lawmakers took another apparent jab at Ligado Networks on Wednesday as the House Armed Services Committee passed a ban on the Pentagon awarding contracts to firms that interfere with Global Positioning System signals. – C4ISRNET 

The US Air Force’s (USAF’s) outgoing chief of staff believes the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker will overcome its troubled early development period to become an essential weapon system as did the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport platform. – Jane’s 360 

General Electric (GE) has been awarded USD101.3 million to launch engine production for the Boeing F-15EX Advanced Eagle combat aircraft, ahead of the US Air Force (USAF) potentially opening the requirement up to competition. – Jane’s 360 

Missile Defense

A society that prizes harmony, Japanese are known for going to great lengths to avoid saying “no.” But last month Tokyo did just that, stunning Washington as it pulled the plug on a big-ticket U.S weapons purchase, the Aegis Ashore missile defense system. – CBS News 

The House Armed Services Committee reiterated its support for Navy shipbuilding today in an all-day markup of its annual defense bill, voting to include money for an additional Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) and issuing an opening argument to the Senate for an additional Virginia-class attack submarine. – USNI News 

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday shot down a plan to slash funding for the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program. The vote was a bipartisan 44-12. –  Defense News

Long War

Italian police have seized what they believe is a world-record haul of 14 tonnes of amphetamines they suspect were made in Syria to finance the jihadist group Islamic State (IS). – BBC 

Remote areas of Afghanistan remain home to “terrorist sanctuaries” and some Taliban members routinely cooperate with extremist groups such as al Qaeda, the Pentagon warned Wednesday in a sobering new report to Congress that paints a bleak picture of the security situation inside the country. – Washington Times 

Leaders from the five countries of West Africa’s Sahel region — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — on Tuesday called for intensifying counter-terrorism operations supported by the French military that have already seen successes in the recent months despite growing jihadist attacks in the region. – Associated Press  

Carlo J. V. Caro writes: This picture is grim. The options to combat this monstrous phenomenon are limited. But America must recognize that the backbone of terrorist violence is a religious ideology. Not doing so will mean we will continue to be vulnerable. Not doing so will be to continue betraying the memories and deaths of all the victims of this terrorism inspired by Salafism. The victims of 9/11, and the victims of the Pensacola shooting. – The National Interest  

Trump Administration

The publisher of a tell-all book from the niece of US President Donald Trump can go ahead with publishing the work, a New York court ruled Wednesday, lifting a temporary restraining order that had been sought by the Trump family. – Business Insider

The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said on Wednesday it had rescheduled until later in July a hearing in its investigation of the firing of the State Department’s inspector general, with testimony from a top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – Reuters

The House Armed Services Committee has approved a plan for the elimination of the Pentagon’s chief management officer, which was created three years ago to spearhead reforms within the department. – Defense News