Fdd's overnight brief

July 20, 2020

In The News


Iran on Monday executed a former translator convicted of spying for the US and Israel, including helping to locate a top Iranian general killed later by the Americans, the judiciary said. – Agence France-Presse

An explosion occurred at a power plant in Iran’s central Isfahan province on Sunday but there were no casualties, the official IRNA news agency reported. – Reuters

An oil pipeline exploded as a resounding boom was heard in Ahwaz in the western Khuzestan Province in Iran, according to Iranian media. No official report has confirmed that the oil pipeline was the source of the explosion. – Jerusalem Post 

In a bizarre twist in Iran’s response to a series of mysterious explosions and fires across the Islamic Republic, one of which affected the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, Iranian media has been running stories about fires across the US. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran has reportedly suspended the decision to execute three protesters whose cases were part of a global social media campaign that eventually became the subject of a US President Donald Trump tweet. According to reports the sentence was suspended and the lawyer for the protesters has sought a retrial with the Supreme Court. It now looks increasingly likely this will happen.. – Jerusalem Post 

A United Nations agency acknowledged Sunday that a U.S.-sought oil tanker “hijacked” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates after allegedly smuggling Iranian crude oil is back in Iranian waters. – Associated Press 

Iran has sent the black box from the Ukrainian passenger jet that its armed forces mistakenly shot down in January to France for reading, an Iranian semi-official news agency said Saturday. – Associated Press

A man who pleaded guilty in New Hampshire to smuggling more than $100,000 worth of motors, pumps, valves and other items from the United States into Iran has been sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison. – Associated Press

The Iranian rial fell to a new low against the U.S. dollar on the unofficial market on Saturday and has now seen its value fall by almost half in 2020 as the economy comes under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. sanctions. – Reuters

A hardliner member of Iran’s parliament, Majles, has said that he believes “transferring full authority of Iranian islands to China” was included in a proposed 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement with China. – Radio Farda

With the tanker at the center of a court case in the US against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the ownership of the Dominica-flagged vessel disputed, the tanker was not supposed to go anywhere. However, the crew members say they were hijacked and taken to Iran. – Jerusalem Post  

Editorial: The new axis, like the growing China-Russia alliance, shows the dangers from ambitious authoritarian powers. American isolationists want the U.S. to retreat to the Western Hemisphere and cede “spheres of influence” to China in Asia, Russia in Eastern Europe, and Iran in the Middle East. But these powers rarely settle for mere regional dominance. They cooperate in their common antipathy to Western democratic values. That’s the larger warning from the Iran-China condominium. – Wall Street Journal 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The timing of the execution, after the wave of mysterious incidents in Iran and after Zarif’s Iraq visit, may be designed to send a message to Iran’s adversaries. The idea is to show that Iran’s intelligence services are cracking down on various networks and that Iran is willing to execute those it accuses. It’s unclear though if it is executing people based on evidence or for other crimes or for alleged spying years ago that was only revealed now in order to show that the regime has got someone to blame. – Jerusalem Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It is clear from the report that Iran is moving cautiously and thinking about many angles of the potential Iran-China deal. However, the Iranian regime is seeking to pin some of the blame on Israel now, in addition to the US, Saudi Arabia, “monarchists” and also local populists. – Jerusalem Post  

Mehdi Khalaji writes: This paper attempts to explain the legacy of the 1979 revolution and its current crisis. It will examine the evolution of the Islamic State in Iran and its core Islamist ideology as manifested in Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s teaching on Islamic revolution and Velayet-e Faghih, the “guardianship of the jurist.” […]This, of course, is not to rule out the possibility of other pathways of political change in Iran. But it does underscore the fact that a change to a post-Islamic Republic future does not, at present, look particularly likely. – Hudson Institute


Syrians went to the polls Sunday to elect a new parliament in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak and a deepening economic crisis, as President Bashar al-Assad attempts to strengthen his political grip on the country after nearly a decade of war. – Wall Street Journal

An explosion rocked a rebel-held area in northern Syria across the border from Turkey late Sunday, killing at least five people and wounding dozens, opposition activists and Turkish state media reported. – Associated Press

A car bomb attack in northwestern Syria’s Azaz region killed five people and wounded 85 others, a local hospital in Syria and Turkish state media said on Sunday. – Reuters

Iran threatened military action against Israel if the state continues its alleged bombing campaign in Syria, Kan reported early Friday morning. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey sent between 3,500 and 3,800 paid Syrian fighters to Libya over the first three months of the year, the U.S. Defense Department’s inspector general concluded in a new report, its first to detail Turkish deployments that helped change the course of Libya’s war. – Associated Press

Turkey’s defense minister said Friday his country still expects an apology from NATO ally France over a naval standoff in the Mediterranean Sea that prompted Paris to suspend its involvement in a NATO naval operation. – Associated Press 

Under the direction of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has adopted an increasingly assertive response to being excluded from regional efforts to exploit the area’s gas resources, which are subject to claims from at least eight countries ranging from Libya to Egypt and Israel. – Financial Times 


Staunch Israeli ally Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó is scheduled to visit Israel on Monday to sign a deal with regard to space research, as other European allies are warning of weakened ties due Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex portions of the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post

Greek Ambassador to Israel Panagiotis Sarris to Israel Panagiotis Sarris lauded the Israeli government’s milestone advancement of the EastMed gas-pipeline project Sunday, as he warned Turkey’s objections to the project and its expansionist moves in the Mediterranean posed security concerns. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon’s Defense Minister Zeina Akar stated on Saturday that Israel is committing “thousands” of violations of Lebanese sovereignty every year, adding that Lebanon is working with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to stop such incidents. – Jerusalem Post

The government is set Sunday to approve the agreement Israel signed in January with Cyprus and Greece to advance the EastMed gas pipeline project. – Jerusalem Post 

An unusual incident occurred on the Israel-Lebanon border on Sunday evening, as the IDF shot down a Lebanese drone that entered Israel’s airspace, according to the IDF Spokesperson Unit. – Jerusalem Post    

The Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch issued a stinging rebuttal on Thursday to an anti-Israel report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk. – Algemeiner

Israeli soldiers arrested three Palestinians in the Jalazone refugee camp, north of Ramallah, who were planning to carry out a terror attack on a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the army said Saturday. – Times of Israel 

Editorial: The time has come for him to use those ties that he proudly touts for Israel’s security and to speak up. As long as China does business with Iran, Israel needs to reconsider doing business with China. – Jerusalem Post 

Jonathan Harounoff, Stephanie Posner, and Arman Amini write: Antisemitism has reared its ugly head in exceptionally explicit ways during the pandemic. […]individuals must learn more about discrimination instigated by disease and take advantage of their roles as consumers and voters to keep governments and businesses in check. We must all hold each other accountable to stem the spread of hate. – Jerusalem Post 

Asher Fredman writes: The last several years have shown that when the pro-Israel community invests the requisite resources, learns the lessons of past efforts, and acts in a coordinated manner, BDS initiatives can be defeated and rolled back. Countered correctly, the BDS movement, can, over the long-term, be successfully contained. – Jerusalem Post 

Jeremiah Rozman writes: There is broad consensus that Israel must maintain military control in the Jordan Valley. Continuing the status quo does Israel no favors, while the risks of extending sovereignty are likely overblown. Sovereignty reduces the likelihood that Israel will be pressured into further withdrawal. It also removes ambiguity, enhancing Israel’s ability to build infrastructure. This will yield economic and security dividends. Israel should seize the current opportunity. Long-term ambiguity is not in Israel’s interest, despite it consistently being the easier short-term route. – Algemeiner

Steven Emerson writes: Hamas claims that Israel’s annexation plans have prompted the group to step up its efforts to secure more external support. But the terrorist group has been reaching out to Iran and its terrorist partners, like Hezbollah, for years before annexation was seriously discussed. Hamas’ latest outreach campaign is part of its long-standing effort to strengthen its terrorist capabilities and strike Israel — whether annexation moves forward or not. – Algemeiner


A rare daytime rocket attack hit Baghdad’s Green Zone on Sunday, security sources said, as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met top Iraqi officials. – Agence France-Presse

Iran’s foreign minister on Sunday stressed that Iran-Iraq relations would not be “shaken” ahead of the Iraqi prime minister’s planned visit this week to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival. – Associated Press

The visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to Saudi Arabia has been postponed after the hospitalisation of King Salman, the Saudi foreign minister said on Monday. – Reuters

Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace write: Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s political maneuverability is increasingly constrained by resistance from Iran’s militia proxies and from protesters demanding better government services. […]These security operations have not resulted in arrests or the permanent ousting of any militia groups to date but do signal to the United States that Kadhimi is taking the most aggressive actions he can without triggering violent retaliation from Iran’s proxy militias. – Institute for the Study of War


An absence of U.S. leadership in Libya has allowed a dangerous international confrontation to deepen, analysts say, as a spiraling proxy war stokes threats to American economic and security interests and provides Russia a platform to expand its clout in the Mediterranean. – Washington Post

Leaders of France, Germany and Italy called for an immediate cease-fire in Libya and said they are ready to consider sanctions if conflict parties and their foreign backers continue to violate a weapons embargo. – Bloomberg 

Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) on Saturday moved fighters closer to Sirte, a gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals that the GNA says it plans to recapture from the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA). – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

The struggle for supremacy being waged by various states and coalitions in the Middle East is mirrored, not surprisingly, in the regional media. Just like there are allied regimes, there are several contending Arabic-language media blocs: the Saudi Arabia/UAE/Egypt media bloc, and the Qatar/Turkey bloc, and the pro-Iranian bloc made up of Iranian broadcasters and those of their proxies and allies in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Firas Maksad writes: As Russia makes its most determined push into the Middle East since the Cold War and China becomes the leading bilateral trading partner for most countries in the region, preserving and expanding the influence of this pro-Western Arab coalition must become a pillar of American foreign policy. Helping the Arabs regain their standing in the Middle East is increasingly a core U.S. interest. – Wall Street Journal

Simon Henderson writes: Even within Turkey’s expanded definition of its claimed waters, its energy exploration campaign has fallen short of its lofty goals. But one good result is that its LNG imports are now cheaper, even if most of its domestic demand still depends on long-term supply deals with Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. […]Heated regional rhetoric aside, near-term economic logic suggests that the energy aspect of East Mediterranean tensions is considerably overstated. Nevertheless, energy cooperation should still be a basis for U.S. policy engagement in the area, if only to help moderate positions that could otherwise lead to direct military confrontations. – Washington Institute

Sarah Feuer writes: Meanwhile, the Libya conflict has drawn in Turkish, Russian, Emirati, and Egyptian forces, as well as thousands of mercenaries, greatly increasing the risk of the conflagration spilling over onto Tunisian soil. Nearly all foreign missions to Libya are currently based in Tunis, so instability there could also undermine diplomatic efforts to resolve the metastasizing conflict next door. Given these risks, Washington should not lose sight of its ally’s mounting difficulties—especially since Beijing is sending noteworthy COVID-related assistance to Tunisia (e.g., drones equipped with temperature sensors), potentially facilitating a larger Chinese presence in North Africa down the road. – Washington Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: A loose alliance of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia with France seeks to confront a Turkish sea-grab for energy resources in the Mediterranean. But with the US conducting only limited diplomacy – often behind the scenes and with the Pentagon, State Department and CIA at cross purposes – there is a decreased US role on these major issues and thus more likelihood of conflict in the region. – Jerusalem Post  

Korean Peninsula

The Pentagon has presented the White House with options to reduce the American military presence in South Korea as the two countries remain at odds over President Trump’s demand that Seoul greatly increase how much it pays for the U.S. troops stationed in the country, U.S. officials said. – Wall Street Journal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated officials for their “careless” construction of a flagship hospital in Pyongyang and ordered those responsible to be sacked, state media reported Monday. – Agence France-Presse 

A Middle Eastern subsidiary of UK cigarette filter maker Essentra has agreed to pay a fine of more than half a million pounds to US authorities to settle criminal allegations that it breached sanctions on North Korea. – Financial Times 

Editorial: Mr. Trump’s cavalier treatment of allies, and the threat he may walk away from long-time alliances, is one risk of a second term. Apart from North Korea’s young dictator, Kim Jong Un, a U.S. retreat in Korea would most please Mr. Xi. – Wall Street Journal


The State Department has released an internal cable from 2018 detailing the concerns of U.S. Embassy officials in China about a lack of adequately trained personnel at a virology lab in Wuhan, the city that later became the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak. – Washington Post 

China isn’t seeking to confront or replace the United States as the world’s top technological power, but will fight back against “malicious slander” and attacks from Washington, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Friday, responding to a litany of recent accusations from the Trump administration. – Associated Press 

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday it was clear the Uighur minority in China had suffered abuses of their human rights. – Reuters 

China’s Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, said America must make a “fundamental choice” about whether it can live peacefully with a “modernized, strong, prosperous” China. – CNN  

When the UK announced its U-turn on allowing the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to play a part in the country’s 5G network, it signaled an end to the so-called “golden era” of UK-China relations. To the delight of US President Donald Trump, the UK would seemingly no longer equivocate on its national security in order to balance its relationship with China — and would instead adopt something closer to a US-style hard line. – CNN 

Rana Foroohar writes: The EU has unprecedented negotiating power right now. For one, the US cannot compete alone against China in 5G. If Mr Biden becomes the next US president, he will also have to spend some goodwill to fix the damage Mr Trump inflicted on transatlantic relations. […]Agreeing on all these issues would be very hard. But it would also ensure that the US and Europe are better placed to compete against China in an ever more fragmented digital world. – Financial Times

Jude Blanchette writes: There remains a robust debate over whether the analogy of a “new Cold War” is appropriate in describing the U.S.-China relationship. It’s an important discussion and one that demands seriousness and nuance. Yet historical analogies are not prisons, and while detractors point out just how different the Soviet Union is from current-day China, there remain important historical and strategic parallels that can and should guide us in the coming years as the two countries square off. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

John Lee writes: China needs the goodwill of North America, Europe and East Asia to continue its rise but neither material seduction nor coercion is bending wills sufficiently to Beijing’s requirement or expectation. Nations are moving in the opposite direction. […]Unchecked, Beijing’s anger could take the region and world to a dark place. But we now know the problem is not so much that Beijing is too powerful to resist but there was a previous lack of collective resolve to stand firm. – The Australian 

Shane Tews writes: To create this model, China seeks to first destabilize the western-centric, centralized internet governance system, then pivot back to a centralized model that reflects its own interests. […]China’s rise in technical expertise will continue to fuel tension in these discussions. While China’s capabilities are often on par with or best in class for new technologies, it is abusing the realm of standards policy–setting in an attempt to take over governance of the internet. If this happens, the internet as we know it will quickly be diminished. – American Enterprise Institute

Larry Diamond writes: This is what is at stake now in East Asia. That is why it so important for the United States to stand resolute in support of Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic rights; why we must impose serious sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong leaders who are responsible for the assault on those rights; why we must work with our allies throughout the Indo-Pacific region to counter Chinese bullying and intimidation and ensure open sea lanes and peaceful resolution of disputes; and why we must leave no doubt in the minds of China’s leaders that we will, in the words of John F. Kennedy, “pay any price” and “bear any burden . . . in order to assure the survival and success of liberty” in this vitally important part of the globe. – The American Interest


The Indian government said it will expedite visas and the possibility of long-term residency for Afghanistan’s tiny Hindu and Sikh minorities, shrunken by decades of persecution and decimated by attacks in recent years amid the Afghan war. – New York Times

The Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban has passed its first major deadline, but hopes for peace in Afghanistan remain as dim as ever. – The Hill 

The Taliban have put the son of the movement’s feared founder in charge of their military wing and added several powerful figures to their negotiating team, Taliban officials said. The shake-up, one of the most significant in years, comes ahead of expected talks with Kabul aimed at ending decades of war in Afghanistan. – Associated Press 

Afghans shared accounts of violence linked to the Taliban on social media with the hashtag phrase ‘don’t redeem the Taliban’ as anxiety grows as the United States withdraws troops and attempts to usher peace talks with the militant group. – Reuters

South Asia

Battle lines are hardening along the remote Himalayan frontier that separates China and India, where the two Asian giants have been engaged in a competitive military construction spree, expanding bases and building airfields to accommodate bigger and more heavily armed forces. – Wall Street Journal

An op-ed by a U.S. diplomat accusing China of eroding Myanmar’s sovereignty led to the two superpowers sparring online over who had the Southeast Asian nation’s best interests in mind. – Bloomberg  

China’s embassy in Myanmar on Sunday accused the United States of “outrageously smearing” the country and driving a wedge with its Southeast Asian neighbors over the contested South China Sea and Hong Kong, as tensions mount between the superpowers. – Reuters

Firing between Indian and Pakistani soldiers along the highly militarized frontier in the disputed region of Kashmir has left three members of an Indian family dead and two Pakistani civilians wounded, officials from both sides said Saturday. – Associated Press


Teachers who backed antigovernment protests in the city—by taking to the streets or supporting the demonstrators on social media—are being reprimanded and, in some cases, fired as China’s Communist Party increasingly moves to stamp out dissent.- Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong’s status as a bastion of press freedom is in crisis as authorities toughen their line against international media and fears grow about local self-censorship under the city’s sweeping new security law. – Agence France-Presse 

Britain and China issued new salvos of criticism against each other Sunday, with the U.K. foreign secretary hinting that he may suspend the U.K.’s extradition arrangements with Hong Kong over China’s moves against the city-state. – Associated Press

One of the world’s longest-running territorial disputes in the Caucasus Mountains has erupted anew after 20 people died last week in fighting on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. – Financial Times  

Days after the State Department publicly rejected China’s claims to much of the South China Sea, two carrier strike groups resumed operating in tandem in the region, the U.S. Pacific Fleet announced on Friday. – USNI News

Britain’s Supreme Court said it would continue to assess the position of serving UK judges on Hong Kong’s top court in discussion with the UK government, while raising ‘concerns’ about parts of new security laws imposed on the city by China. – Reuters

Azerbaijan warned on Saturday about security risks to the oil and gas it supplies to European markets due to the outbreak of hostilities at its border with Armenia. – Reuters 

Mitsuko Hayashi writes: By building on the alliance with the United States, budding security ties with other regional partners, and support for institutional frameworks, Japan can develop platforms for harmonizing strategies to maintain regional security and prosperity. The battle against the Covid-19 pandemic is the spur for the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen its future resilience. Japan’s defense cooperation and defense capacity building initiative will undoubtedly support that cause. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Thomas de Waal writes: This basically means that Russia, Turkey, the United States and the EU have enough leverage to contain the two sides, but neither the time or energy or will to try and impose peace on them, let alone introduce the peacekeepers needed to enforce an agreement. Hopefully another fragile ceasefire will be established out of this new round of fighting. Sad to say, it may be another generation will grow up before the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict gets nearer final resolution. – Middle East Institute


Russia’s ambassador to the U.K., Andrei Kelin, rejected allegations that hackers linked to the country’s intelligence services targeted British coronavirus vaccine research, and accused Britain of cyber attacks against Russia. – Bloomberg 

Russia is facing renewed scrutiny for its cyber espionage efforts after the U.S., Great Britain and Canada alleged Thursday that a Kremlin-linked hacking group is attempting to steal research related to coronavirus vaccine developments and testing. – The Hill 

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said on Friday he is now getting intelligence briefings, and has been told Russia continues to try to meddle in November’s U.S. election. – Reuters

Russia is holding military exercises to test its combat readiness amid clashes between its ally Azerbaijan and Armenian forces, Russia’s defence minister told his Azeri counterpart on Saturday. – Reuters  

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday he was “absolutely confident” in allegations by the UK and its allies that Russia targeted labs conducting coronavirus research, branding the behaviour “outrageous and reprehensible”. – Agence France-Presse 

Dr. Kent Sepkowitz writes: It’s unclear what, if any, information was collected from the putative Russian hack. Given the inevitable confusion ahead, getting to the head of the line just does not make sense as an explanation, at least from a financial windfall perspective or a saving lives perspective. But the need to dominate voiced both by Trump and the leader of Russian vaccine efforts, Dmitriev, makes the likely reason for any sneak attack all too clear. It’s less about saving the world with a vaccine than about beating the other guy and taking home the first place medal. – CNN 


Weary and bleary European Union leaders temporarily broke up their summit at dawn on the fourth day of acrimonious haggling over an unprecedented 1.85 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund to tackle the crisis. They committed to pick up the fight again later Monday. – Associated Press

Four German state leaders whose regions host most U.S. troops based in the country asked lawmakers in Washington to stymie President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw about 9,500 service members, a newspaper reported. – Bloomberg

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a video conference with the leaders of the European Union last month, officials on both sides came away optimistic that a deal on their post-Brexit relationship was in sight. That confidence is evaporating. – Bloomberg 

The European Union’s top diplomat on Friday slammed actions by the United States to sanction European companies working on Russian oil pipelines – The Hill 

Sweden’s leading defence contractor will this week announce plans to invest an initial £50m in the UK to develop technology for future combat air systems. – Financial Times 

The British government asked Japan to help build its 5G wireless networks without Huawei Technologies, the Nikkei said on Sunday, a further step in a global technology and security war between the United States and China. – Reuters

Investigators have begun work on the flight recorders from the Ukrainian jet accidentally shot down by Iran in January, France’s BEA accident investigation bureau said on Monday. – Reuters

The U.S. ambassador to Poland said the European Union’s criticism of Poland’s adherence to democracy is “overblown”, as Warsaw faces cuts to EU budget funds over its judiciary reforms – Reuters

A retiring admiral who has spent a lifetime supporting NATO is warning that the U.S. Navy and the alliance need to do more to push back against Russia, or else waters in the Euro-Atlantic region may be lost to Russian anti-access tactics and weapons. – USNI News

Heather A. Conley and Rachel Ellehuus write: Stronger U.S. political and security involvement in the region will help strengthen NATO’s resolve in the Eastern Mediterranean, be a bulwark against Russia’s growing military presence, and better balance tensions between France and Turkey. The European Union (and France in particular) will need to identify pragmatic ways to engage with Turkey on a range of issues and not simply denounce its actions. […]Hopefully, refocusing on a set of agreed principles and incentivizing progress can restore NATO unity and restore focus on protecting its southern flank. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Tens of thousands of protesters have flooded the capital of Mali in recent days, demanding the president’s exit as the West African nation confronts a coronavirus outbreak, a failing economy and the world’s fastest-growing Islamist insurgency. – Washington Post

Bobby Ghosh writes: To prevent backsliding in Khartoum, the U.S. has plenty of carrots and sticks it can use. […]Moreover, the threat of sanctions should suffice as a disincentive. After all, for those who need reminding, being taken off the list of terrorism sponsors is not a permanent condition: North Korea was delisted in 2008, and subsequently relisted by the Trump administration. – Bloomberg  

Muhammad Fraser-Rahim and Mo Fatah write: Al-Shabab’s aspiration to attack the United States in the region and beyond poses a direct threat to the United States’ national-security and foreign-policy interests. To defeat al-Shabab and limit Iran’s and other foreign agents’ involvement in Somalia requires the U.S. government to use all instruments of national power—including economic, military, security, and financial tools, to defeat the world’s most active, effective, and enduring al Qaeda affiliate. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

The “biological” threat was gathering on the western border, Venezuela’s socialist government claimed. So, besieged President Nicolás Maduro, ever vigilant against potential invasion, dispatched gun-toting reinforcements to the frontier. – Washington Post

Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson concluded a four-day special mission to Venezuela on Friday, succeeding in opening a direct channel with President Nicolás Maduro but failing in his immediate objective: the release of eight high-profile prisoners being held in Caracas, including seven Americans. – Washington Post 

Canadian police issued an apology after saying they launched a hate crime investigation into the vandalizing of an Ontario cemetery memorial that was linked to Nazis, CBC reported. – Jerusalem Post 

A Jewish organization has called on a Canadian auction house to drop the sale of dozens of Nazi memorabilia items, which are being sold as part of a broader estate sale. – Jerusalem Post 

Saturday will mark the 26th anniversary of the deadly bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were murdered. The July 18, 1994 attack at the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building was perpetrated by Hezbollah on behalf of its backer, Iran. – Algemeiner 


A Twitter hacking scheme that targeted political, corporate and cultural elites this week began with a teasing message between two hackers late Tuesday on the online messaging platform Discord. – New York Times

Twitter Inc. may face a large fine from U.S. regulators after a hack of several high-profile accounts including former President Barack Obama and Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos. – Bloomberg  

A legendary Israeli cyber-spy whose name has remained a secret for years is set to receive a lifetime achievement award from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin. – Algemeiner

The Air Force is realigning the cyber mission force teams it provides to U.S. Cyber Command as a way to have intelligence personnel work more closely with cyber operators. – C4ISRNET

The Central Intelligence Agency, using new powers, carried out aggressive covert cyber operations against countries including Iran, North Korea, China and Russia, a new report says. – Fox News

Kara Alaimo writes: This means that, especially on and just before Election Day, Joe Biden, President Trump, government officials sharing voting information, and others need backup plans for how to reach their constituencies — through texts, emails, community officials and organizations, and a variety of media — to immediately warn about false information that is gaining traction through fake news reports, inaccurate claims, or hacks. Wednesday’s “black swan” caught a lot of people off guard — even though the threat was far from implausible or difficult to predict. But it’s not too late for us all to act now to prevent a similar attack from upending the election. – CNN 

Bruce Schneier writes: Maybe this hack will serve as a wake-up call. But if past incidents involving Twitter and other companies are any indication, it won’t. Underspending on security, and letting society pay the eventual price, is far more profitable. I don’t blame the tech companies. Their corporate mandate is to make as much money as is legally possible. Fixing this requires changes in the law, not changes in the hearts of the company’s leaders. – The Atlantic


Epirus, a venture-backed startup offering a counter-drone capability, launched quietly enough two years ago, but it’s making noise by bringing together key veterans of Microsoft, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon ― and by landing its first deal with a name-brand defense prime contractor. – Defense News

Air Force acquisition head Will Roper says DoD needs to develop a new supply chain strategy that incentivizes industry to build a more diverse, responsive and resilient supply chain. – Breaking Defense

The Army is giving industry a lot of freedom in their designs for its future armored troop transport, letting them pick the gun, weight, number of passengers and more. But there’s one big exception. While the current M2 Bradley has three crew members – commander, gunner, and driver – a draft Request For Proposals released today says that its future replacement, the OMFV, must be able to fight with two. – Breaking Defense

Government leaders are telling industry they need help with integration as the Department of Defense and individual services push toward a unifying approach to information warfare. – C4ISRNET

Now in 2020, the NRO is looking to change once again, moving beyond the status quo by issuing a new set of contracts toward the end of this year that will reshape the intelligence community’s relationship with commercial imagery. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. Army on Friday issued a draft request for proposals for the preliminary design phase of its delayed optionally manned fighting vehicle, or OMFV, the first major step in a relaunched competition to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. – Defense News

Col. Christopher Karns writes: While the U.S. may not always have resources to lead in every scenario, finding ways to remain connected and part of international solutions is necessary. […]As COVID-19 demonstrated, we cannot afford to face the challenges of the world alone. Otherwise, we may miss or delay solutions to problems impacting us all. The safety and security of the nation depends on remaining engaged and connected. – Military Times

Long War

Turkish police have detained 27 people in Istanbul over suspected links to the Islamic State group Sunday, state-run media said Sunday. – Associated Press 

The Philippines’ foreign ministry has told the U.S. Congress that political freedoms and human rights will be respected as concerns linger over an anti-terrorism law that takes effect on Saturday. – Reuters

Svante E. Cornell writes: This Central Asian experiment is faring much better than commonly believed. Not only have Central Asian states managed to keep the problem of Islamic extremism in check; they have also begun to shift from a defensive approach to one that begins to offer the contours of a positive model that is unique in the Islamic world. This model combines secular government with the restoration of an alternative view of Islam that is open to modernity and science. And while it is far from perfect, the United States has a strong vested interest in supporting this model and helping Central Asian states to improve upon it. – American Foreign Policy Council

Cynthia Miller-Idriss writes: This isn’t the first time we have faced increased risk of radicalization. After Barack Obama’s election as the first African American US president, there was a surge in the numbers of active hate groups and militias. But 2020 is unique in important ways. The vast and evolving ecosystem of toxic online spaces, combined with potentially unprecedented amounts of time online and increasing anxiety and isolation for some, have created a perfect storm for extremist recruitment. It’s on all of us to stop it. – CNN

Trump Administration

Democrats are blasting the State Department’s new efforts to promote human rights around the world, arguing the approach Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is pushing would undermine LGBTQ rights and the right to have an abortion. – The Hill

The director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said Friday that he has not seen a foreign effort to influence U.S. elections so far this year. – The Hill 

Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins write: The administration has a wide range of tools to impose consequences for human rights violators. This is why we call on Congress to evaluate the policy tools available for targeted human rights related sanctions and consider giving the State Department authority to impose individual visa bans for gross human rights violations through new legislation. […]The imposition of a more aggressive targeted sanctions regime would go a long way in deterring religious freedom violators, bringing accountability to the perpetrators, and ultimately creating a world where all are free to practice their faith. – Washington Examiner