Fdd's overnight brief

July 27, 2020

In The News


A former president of Iran, known in the West for speeches that assert the Holocaust was invented and that Israel should be erased from the map, has written a chummy letter to his country’s most ardent Arab foe: the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. So far, at least, it appears to be a one-way exchange. – New York Times

Iran’s judiciary said on Saturday that passengers of an airliner that Tehran has said was “harassed” this week by an American fighter jet over Syria can sue the U.S. military for damages in Iranian courts. – Reuters

The transcript from the black boxes from a Ukrainian jet accidentally shot down by Iran on Jan. 8 confirm the fact of illegal interference with the plane, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister wrote on Twitter on Friday. – Reuters

A short-circuit on a power line sparked a brush fire near a housing area for military officials in Tehran on Friday, police and the fire department said, denying there had been an explosion, Iranian news agencies reported. – Reuters

A Swiss pharmaceutical company has completed the first transaction under a new humanitarian trade channel with Iran, the government in Bern said on Monday. – Reuters

Iran has moved a mock aircraft carrier to the strategic Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S., satellite photographs released Monday show, likely signalling the Islamic Republic soon plans to use it for live-fire drills. – Associated Press

Figures released by Central Bank Of Iran (CBI) show that during four days since July 18, it injected $921 million into the foreign exchange market to boost the country’s currency against the U.S. dollar. – Radio Farda

The United States Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook says conflicts in Syria and elsewhere will escalate if the United Nations arms embargo on Iran is lifted. – Radio Farda

The Secretary-General of Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce announced that the volume of Iran’s non-oil exports to Iraq dropped forty percent in the second quarter of 2020. – Radio Farda

In an odd and unprecedented ruling Iran’s Supreme Court has handed over the ownership of part of the country’s highest mountain, Mount Damavand, to an organization that operates under the direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. – Radio Farda

Revolutionary Guard and the Judiciary in separate statements Thursday announced that the Intelligence Unit of the Guards has arrested several officials of an industrial company in Alborz Province and has shut down fifty real estate agencies in various cities of Yazd Province. – Radio Farda

Iran has moved a mock aircraft carrier to the strategic Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S., satellite photographs released Monday show, likely signalling the Islamic Republic soon plans to use it for live-fire drills. – Associated Press

Editorial: Whoever is behind the recent attacks in Iran seems to be working on the assumption that – at least for the time being – Iran’s hands are tied. A clear signal is also being sent that even with all the other dangers currently facing humanity, to allow the Iranians to march forward with their nuclear ambitions would be utter folly that would make the current threats facing the world seem minor in comparison. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In the absence of any real evidence that something happened at Qeshm Island, the incident will likely come and go without further details. What it does show is how Iran has been jarred by all the recent explosions – and how locals are quick to report any rumors of what they think is another incident. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The incident over Tanf is only in its early days of being explained and answer sought. Iran will want to show that the US harasses civilian airliners, at a time when Iran is being critiqued for having shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner in January after Iran carried out ballistic missile attacks on US forces in Iraq. […]Iran-US tensions are already high in the region. Now they are worse. – Jerusalem Post

Yossi Melman writes: And this Iranian uncertainty translates into a policy of walking on the brink: Staying a few months to a year away from building a nuclear bomb, but not actually assembling it. Yet for Israel even a nuclear threshold is a nightmare and this is the reason why Israeli and U.S. intelligence will continue to try to sabotage Tehran’s program. – Haaretz


The deputy leader of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement on Sunday dismissed the prospect of an escalation of violence between the Iran-backed movement and Israel despite increased tensions in the last week. – Reuters

Israel sent a message of de-escalation to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Moscow, Kuwaiti news outlet Al Jarida reported on Friday quoting an unnamed source. – Jerusalem Post

Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a clear threat to the Hezbollah terror group while overlooking the northern border on Sunday, saying that the Jewish state was prepared to take harsh action against “anyone who tests us,” as the Lebanese militia was suspected of planning to strike Israel in retaliation for the death of one of its fighters earlier this week. – Times of Israel

In an article on the Lebanese website elnashra.com, Hassan Hardan, a Lebanese journalist affiliated with Hizbullah, calls for popular and armed resistance to American forces and those who collaborate with them in Iraq and in Syria, in response to the economic war which he claims the U.S. is waging against Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In the past Hezbollah has warned about retaliation for the killing of any of its members, whether in Lebanon or Syria. That means that it was under pressure after the death of Mohsen. […]Syrian media has said that Syria was responding to “hostile” elements along the border near Quneitra and this set off the incident. The overall picture is that tensions over Hezbollah’s threats to retaliate continue to overshadow tensions along the border and this includes both the Lebanese and Syrian border. Hezbollah’s leadership has said in the past that retaliation may take the form of threats in different areas, vowing to respond in a way that is different than in the past. – Jerusalem Post

Yoav Limor writes: Anyone on either side searching for conspiracy theories can rest assured: These tensions and the heightened alert are quite real. This scenario appears in every briefing the Military Intelligence Directorate has presented in recent years, certainly due to the scope of Israeli airstrikes in Syria, alleged and otherwise. We can only hope that both sides exhibit the same level of judgment that has guided their actions since the Second Lebanon War, and end this current spat before the situation dangerously spins out of control. – Arutz Sheva


Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf revealed on Sunday he had set up a web of offshore front companies to help President Bashar al Assad evade Western sanctions, in a social media post blasting the government for investigating his business empire. – Reuters

The Israeli military on Friday said its helicopters struck Syrian army targets in response to mortars fired toward the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. – Reuters

A bomb that exploded Sunday morning in a vegetable market in a north Syrian border town controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters killed eight and wounding 19, an opposition war monitor and the state news agency reported. – Associated Press

Farzin Nadimi writes: On July 8, Syrian defense minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub and Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chairman of Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff, signed an agreement in Damascus to significantly expand bilateral military cooperation, especially in the field of air defense. […]Going forward, Washington should reassert its commitment to aviation safety in the region under Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention (“Safeguarding International Civil Aviation Against Acts of Unlawful Interference”), using the standards therein as justification to prevent Iran from exporting and controlling air defense systems that have already proven a threat to civil aviation. – Washington Institute


Crowds of Muslim worshipers prayed Friday at Istanbul’s revered Hagia Sophia for the first time since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared it would be transformed from a museum into a mosque — a decision that has delighted his pious Muslim supporters even as Christian leaders warned the conversion could be religiously divisive. – Washington Post

Long-simmering tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece have flared again, after the government in Ankara said it was sending a ship to carry out a drilling survey in waters contested by both countries. – Bloomberg

Turkey and Greece exchanged harsh words on Saturday over the conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a mosque, a day after Islamic prayers were held at the ancient site for the first time in nine decades. – Reuters

Two Czech nationals jailed in Turkey three years ago for belonging to a Kurdish militant group flew back to Prague Friday after being granted early release following months-long negotiations between Turkish and Czech officials. – Associated Press

Zvi Mazel writes: Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party lost its parliamentary majority in 2018 and had to form a coalition with a small nationalistic party. The embattled president is at a crossroads. He may call for early elections, hoping for better results, or use a conflagration in Libya as a diversionary tactic. What is not in doubt is his determination to achieve his goals, perhaps even at the price of a military coup to maintain his position. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: Erdoğan, like Vladimir Putin, has long thrived by playing chicken with conflict-adverse diplomats. Everyone from U.S. Special Envoy James Jeffrey to German chancellor Angela Merkel has previously folded much stronger hands in the face of Erdoğan bluffs, hoping that by ameliorating the Turkish leader, they could calm tension in the short-term. They never recognized that Erdoğan’s bluster was a tactic and grievance feigned for negotiation advantage. – The National Interest


An Israeli drone crashed inside Lebanon during operational activity along the border, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. “There is no concern that any information was leaked,” the spokeswoman said. – Reuters

The top U.S. general made an unannounced visit to Israel on Friday to discuss “regional security challenges” at a time of heightened tensions with Iran and its allies across the Middle East. – Associated Press

Several members of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction on Sunday announced their resignation to protest the killing of one of their commanders in Nablus by PA security forces. – Jerusalem Post

Five Hundred former lawmakers, academics, artists and other prominent figures signed a letter to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi calling on Israel to take a stand against human rights violations by China. – Jerusalem Post

Rajaa Al-Halabi, head of the Hamas Women’s Movement, said at a rally in Gaza, that aired on July 9, 2020 on Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas – Gaza) that Allah will punish the Jews, whom she described as treacherous slayers of prophets. She said that the Palestinians’ conflict against the Israelites and the Zionist enemy is a conflict of faith, and that this enemy has no place in Palestine. – Middle East Media Research Institute

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi toured northern Israel on Saturday, less than a day after the military upped its alert in the northern command out of concern of an attack by Hezbollah following threats by the terrorist group over the death of one of its fighters. – Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that Syria and Lebanon would bear responsibility for any attack against Israel emanating from their territories, amid heightened tensions between the Jewish state and the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group along the northern border. – Times of Israel

Steven Emerson writes: Instead of strengthening Israeli-Palestinian cooperation to fight a mutual threat, the PA would rather risk the lives of Palestinians to underscore a political point as COVID-19 cases rise. Israel’s possible plan to annex parts of the West Bank appears to be shelved — at least for now. Yet the PA continues to undermine its constituents’ own safety and security by refusing to cooperate with Israel against a virus that is surging throughout the region. – Algemeiner

David Billet writes: This past year alone, the United Nations passed eighteen resolutions against Israel and only seven against the rest of the world. The BDS movement continues to grow and is determined to strangle the Israeli economy by leading a worldwide boycott of Israeli goods. It is time that we open our eyes and recognize what the ICC’s investigation truly represents – the latest attempt to delegitimize, harm, and ultimately destroy the State of Israel. – Times of Israel

Ronny P. Sasmita writes: But, Bibi’s position is like a race against time. To smooth the plan back to the 1967 border agreement, West bank’s annexation, Bibi needs Donald Trump to remain in power. The problem is, the pandemic comes. The plan must be postponed. And unfortunately again, Donald Trump is on the edge. His position is threatened in elections next November. Almost all surveys favor Joe Biden. So, will Bibi Netanyahu run out of the time for his third term? Let’s see. – Times of Israel

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek writes: This is not an idle threat. Much of the information in Iran’s nuclear archive, which was hijacked by the Mossad a couple of years ago, relates to Iranian elements involved in the nuclear effort—from individuals in the political, scientific, and operational systems to sites where nuclear weapons development activities were carried out. […]With this capability, the Israeli intelligence service will be able to continue to surprise Iran. – BESA Center 


The killing of a prominent researcher in Baghdad has sent shock waves through Iraq’s government, underscoring the high stakes of its fight with powerful Iranian-backed militias and exposing the potential limits of the prime minister in taking them on. – Washington Post

Iraqi security forces have rescued a German arts advocate, just days after her early-evening abduction near one of Baghdad’s busiest streets, Iraqi and German officials said on Friday. – New York Times

A weapons depot belonging to Iraq’s federal police force exploded on Sunday in Baghdad’s southern suburbs because of high summer temperatures and poor storage, the military said in a statement. – Reuters

Four Katyusha rockets hit a military base used by U.S.-led coalition troops south of Baghdad on Friday and caused some material damage but no casualties, the Iraqi military said in a statement. – Reuters

Two anti-government protesters were killed and 21 were injured in Baghdad in new clashes between demonstrators and Iraqi security forces, human rights monitors and officials said Monday. The violence comes after months of quiet in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iranian leaders recently met Iraq’s Prime Minister. He has tried to crack down on Kataib Hezbollah, a part of the PMU, but these groups have burned his image and also accused his administration of role in a kidnapping of a German woman who was recently released in Baghdad. It appears the militias linked to Iran were responsible not only for the kidnapping but murdering an Iraq analyst recently. In this context the explosion adds fuel to the fire of tensions. That is why Iraq has quickly said it was an accident, so that rumors do not grow. – Jerusalem Post

Bilal Wahab writes: Washington should privately but firmly tell KRI leaders that they need to rise up to their governance challenges. The current political moment is disturbingly similar to that of 2014, just before the national crisis unleashed by IS. This time, however, no international bailout is coming the KRI’s way given the global scale of the pandemic and related economic fallout. […]Washington can still cash in on three decades’ worth of solid ties by pushing its partner toward security, governance, and economic reforms, but only a unified Kurdish leadership can save the KRI from its current predicament. – Washington Institute

Brandon Wallace and Katherine Lawlor write: The United States continued to pressure Gulf countries to increase their energy cooperation with Iraq even as Prime Minister Kadhimi faced domestic and foreign resistance from neighboring Iran. Demonstrators are holding Kadhimi responsible for Iraq’s insufficient electricity supply, diluting his popular support. Continued criminal activity by Iran-backed groups, including the kidnapping of a German activist in Baghdad and repeated threats toward Iraqi allies, will also damage Kadhimi’s ability to secure buy-in from regional and global partners. – Institute for the Study of War

Arabian Peninsula

As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia sidelined rivals to consolidate power a few years ago, a former Saudi intelligence official feared that he would end up in the prince’s sights and slipped out of the kingdom. The prince has been trying to get him back since, first asking the former official, Saad Aljabri, to come home for a new job, then trying unsuccessfully to have him extradited on corruption charges through Interpol, according to text messages and legal documents reviewed by The New York Times. – New York Times

The U.S. said it will ease restrictions on the sale of armed drones, a shift that could benefit key allies such as Saudi Arabia while allowing Washington to better compete with countries like China. – Bloomberg

The U.S. continues to push for an end of the four-nation boycott of Qatar, even after the hospitalization of Kuwait’s ruling emir who led talks to resolve the yearslong dispute, a U.S. diplomat said Sunday. – Associated Press


Military contractors linked to the Kremlin have seized control of two of Libya’s largest oil facilities in recent weeks, heightening tensions between Russia and the U.S. over Moscow’s growing footprint in the turbulent North African nation. – Wall Street Journal

A top UN official has warned of the huge risk of a miscalculation triggering direct confrontation between rival foreign powers in Libya as weapons and mercenaries continue to pour into the north African state. – Financial Times

Libya’s political situation is characterized these days by a civil war between a mostly Islamist side based in Tripoli, in west Libya, and a mostly non-Islamist side based in Tobruk, in east Libya, with both sides being aided by foreign governments with conflicting interests. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The increased US attention on Libya from the State Department and AFRICOM appear to represent a slow shift in US policy. Trump has also spoken to Ankara numerous times as Turkey’s leader tries to get the US to do more in Libya. But the same Turkish leader who claims to oppose Russia in Libya is buying Russian S-400s. This puts Washington in a bind. Nevertheless, for AFRICOM, monitoring Russia’s role in Libya – basically in its own area of operations back yard – is a new mission and gives the command a way to emphasize its role. – Jerusalem Post

Seth Cropsey writes: A United States acting strategically would identify France’s capabilities and resolve, and after diffusing or manipulating the Libya crisis, leverage these aspects and reorient European security structures towards France. Perhaps, with enough diplomatic subtlety, a Franco-American partnership could begin courting Russia, drawing it, along with Europe, India, and Japan, into a coordinated anti-Chinese entente. By surrounding China from sea and land, the U.S. can pressure Beijing as it pressured Moscow in the 1980s, and demonstrate to the CCP that, like the Soviet Union, its prodigious military investments will not ensure the swift victory it requires. – Real Clear Defense

Middle East & North Africa

France’s visiting foreign minister pledged Friday €15 million — about $17 million — in aid to Lebanon’s schools, struggling under the weight of the country’s economic crisis. – Associated Press

While in the West, many who have become unemployed believe they will eventually get their jobs back or somehow recover from the recession, the pandemic in some Arab countries was the final blow to economies now on the cusp of complete collapse. – Associated Press

Editorial: The big loser in Libya and on the dam looks to be Egyptian ruler Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, whom Mr. Trump has called “my favorite dictator.” Mr. Sissi sought to enlist Mr. Trump in pressuring Ethiopia and backing Libya’s Mr. Hifter, but the White House’s clumsy responses were counterproductive. On Monday, Mr. Sissi tried again, calling Mr. Trump to ask for help on the two crises. An Egyptian account said Mr. Trump “expressed his understanding of Egypt’s concerns.” But the U.S. superpower that once would have been busy brokering solutions — and screening out malovent actors such as Mr. Putin — is nowhere to be found. – Washington Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Safadi has been trying to deal with fallout from the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century” and balance Jordan’s precarious position between Israel, the Palestinians, a recovering Syria and an Iraq that still has instability. It thus falls on Egypt to be the main initiator and driver of this relationship. In this context, Egypt hopes its tripartite meetings can bring more stability – and challenge the role of Turkey in Libya. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea locked down the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea after finding what could be the country’s first official coronavirus case there, state media reported Sunday. North Korea’s state-controlled Central News Agency announced “a critical situation in which the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country” after a suspected patient returned from South Korea by illegally crossing the border last week. – Washington Post

More than 40 countries accused North Korea on Friday of illicitly breaching a United Nations cap on refined petroleum imports and called for an immediate halt to deliveries until the end of the year, according to a complaint seen by Reuters. – Reuters

Ronny P. Sasmita writes: So in short, for South Korea, the dream of reunification with North Korea is still far in the future, if there is hope. It’s also for US who really want to try to offer new meeting with Kim because of nothing to do with North Korea in the substantial matters. Except for a big war in the South China Sea where one of the Americans or China wins. It would certainly change many things in Indo Pacific. – Times of Israel


Step by step, blow by blow, the United States and China are dismantling decades of political, economic and social engagement, setting the stage for a new era of confrontation shaped by the views of the most hawkish voices on both sides. – New York Times

The purchase of a gold mine in the Canadian Arctic by a state-run Chinese company is triggering alarms in Canada over China’s expanding presence in a region that is growing in strategic importance for its shipping lanes and resources. – Wall Street Journal

A political-risk consultant funded by China pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Washington to tapping U.S. government employees for sensitive information, the latest in a flurry of criminal cases accusing Chinese authorities of directing illegal activities in the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

China took over the premises of the U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Monday, after ordering the facility to be vacated in retaliation for China’s ouster last week from its consulate in Houston, Texas. – Reuters

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Friday that current tensions in Sino-U.S. relations were entirely caused by the United States. – Reuters

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on China disregarded reality and was filled with ideological bias. – Reuters

Beijing is developing a military vessel that is a hybrid of an amphibious assault ship and aircraft carrier, which would enable China to project its power far from its shores sooner than expected, according to procurement documents. – Financial Times

Today, even with US-China tensions rising, those American mercenaries are still revered in China, with memorial parks dedicated to them and their exploits. – CNN

A 21st century space race is heating up this month as both China and the United States launch missions to Mars. – The Hill

American businesses are wary of the growing animosity between the U.S. and China, particularly as Trump administration officials are starting to name and shame companies they see as bowing to Beijing. – The Hill

A Chinese fugitive who took safe harbor in China’s consulate in San Francisco is in the custody of law enforcement, a senior Justice Department official said Friday, and will appear before a federal court later on Friday. – The Hill

Editorial: The risks of confrontation are considerable. No one should want diplomatic and economic tensions to become a military showdown. Yet Beijing has grown convinced that it won’t face consequences for abuses. Now that’s changing, and the hope is that a tougher policy convinces others in Beijing that Mr. Xi’s approach is too costly to continue. – Wall Street Journal

David P. Goldman writes: Staying ahead of China will take 10 years and a trillion dollars. America can’t do it by trying to chase Huawei out of foreign markets and scolding Chinese officials for repression in Hong Kong. We need the kind of visionary leadership that brought Americans to the moon in 1969 and took down Soviet communism 20 years later. We’ll get Beijing’s undivided attention when we can destroy Chinese carrier-killer missiles in flight, and when we can produce innovations that China can’t match. – Wall Street Journal

Bret Stephens writes: If the U.S. and the People’s Republic were to come to blows after some incident over some atoll in the South China Sea, are we confident we’d prevail? When (fingers crossed) Joe Biden is president, he needn’t ask his cabinet members to deliver philippics against Beijing. But, as George Kennan once wrote about another regime, he must be prepared to confront China with “unalterable counter force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world.” – New York Times

Tom Rogan writes: Unfortunately, under Xi’s Communist Party, that opportunity is subjugated to the worse impulse of humanity. The desire to dominate in pursuit of absolute power. The most obvious victims of this parasitical political culture are the Chinese people. But what we’re seeing here proves the broader lie of Xi’s offer of mutually beneficial friendship to the world. And if Xi is able to overturn the U.S.-led liberal international order, as he so intends, we’ll ultimately find our own personal experiences of Ren’s oppression. – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: We need to look at China today as George Kennan called on us to recognize the Soviet Union in 1946 — as an intentionally existential foe both to the American way of life and to a global politics centered on human freedom. Once we admit that truth and hold to it, we’ll be able to engage with China in a more productive fashion. – Washington Examiner

James Griffiths writes: Closer to home, US federal prosecutors are currently seeking a Chinese military-linked scientist hiding out in the San Francisco consulate, a situation that shows no signs of going away, while Trump himself has threatened to closure more consulates. Any such move would surely be matched by Beijing, having now set a precedent with Chengdu, reducing the ability of both sides to avoid potentially dire misunderstandings in the event of a crisis. – CNN

Joseph Bosco writes: Pompeo issued a striking clarion call for the West to make a moral stand against the evils of Chinese communism: “General Secretary Xi is not destined to tyrannize inside and outside of China forever, unless we allow it.” His words may prove to be even more welcome within China’s population and some elements of the regime. After this remarkably candid and historic speech, Xi and his colleagues have additional reason to question the wisdom of the aggressive course they are pursuing. – The Hill

Fiyaz Mughal writes: Defending Muslims’ basic human rights – from Bosnia to Xianjiang – shouldn’t be a selective endeavor for anyone, and certainly not for Muslims ourselves. Perhaps those Muslims who deny, appease or ignore the suffering of the Uigurs should engage in some soul-searching of their own. – Haaretz

Gary Schmitt writes: And, for the Treasury secretary, where is the trade accord that would create a liberal economic order in that region? And instead of trade deals with Beijing whose focus is on increased sales of farm goods to China, where are the plans to work with Europe, Japan, Australia and the UK to leverage combined market access for China to get the kinds of reciprocity and fair trade practices that Americans in government and business have complained about for years? – The Hill


A U.N. report says more than 6,000 Pakistani insurgents are hiding in Afghanistan, most belonging to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban group responsible for attacking Pakistani military and civilian targets. – Associated Press

The Taliban say they are ready for talks with Afghanistan’s political leadership after the Muslim holiday of Eid ul Adha at the end of July, offering to hand over the last of the government prisoners in a week’s time, providing the government frees the last of its Taliban prisoners. – Associated Press

Washington has dispatched a special envoy for Afghanistan to press for peace talks between the government and Taliban fighters, with the diplomat scheduled to visit Kabul on a trip with stops in five nations, the U.S. State Department said on Saturday. – Reuters

Afghanistan saw a 13% drop in the number of civilians killed and wounded in violence across the country in the first six months of this year, compared to the same period last year, according to a U.N. report released Monday. – Associated Press


Earlier this year, as it became clear that the coronavirus pandemic was not going to pass quickly, the Japanese government delayed plans for what would be the first state visit by a Chinese leader to Tokyo since 2008. Now, with Chinese military aggression rising in the region and Beijing cracking down on Hong Kong, Japan is considering canceling Xi Jinping’s visit altogether — but very gingerly. – New York Times

A Chinese academic linked to a Singaporean consultant who pleaded guilty to acting as a spy for Beijing said he was happy that his former student was apprehended by U.S. authorities. – Bloomberg

Elaborate “virtual kidnappings” are being used to extort money from the friends and relatives of Chinese students Down Under, Australian police warned Monday, after a spate of transnational scams were reported. – Agence France-Presse

Australia has joined the United States in stating that China’s claims in the South China Sea do not comply with international law in a declaration likely to anger China and put more strain on their deteriorating relations. – Reuters

Tom Rogan writes: Yes, a state dinner is centered more on pomp than in politics. But the pomp reflects something valuable: shared commitment. Australia is an exceptional ally. It deserves the unprecedented honor of a second state visit in as many years. – Washington Examiner


Since a nationwide vote, which wrapped up July 1, paved the way for President Vladimir Putin to potentially stay in power until 2036, several high-profile journalists, politicians and activists have been arrested or convicted. The actions are widely seen as a message from Putin’s powerful security agencies on the steep cost of dissent. – Washington Post

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy discussed the conflict in eastern Ukraine and both expressed support for a ceasefire that starts on July 27, their offices said on Sunday. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that ongoing border clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia were a highly sensitive matter for Russia, the RIA news agency reported. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday the Russian Navy would be armed with hypersonic nuclear strike weapons and underwater nuclear drones, which the defence ministry said were in their final phase of testing. – Reuters

On July 20, the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, decked himself out with automatic weapons and took to Russian state television to deliver a message to the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – The Daily Beast

A US delegation, including DoD officials, on July 27 in Vienna, Austria will hold a first Space Security Exchange (SSE) with Russia. It’s the first formal bilateral meeting on space security since 2013, says Chris Ford, assistant secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation. – Breaking Defense

Pavel Chikov writes: The tragedy of Floyd’s death has given new life to the fight for racial justice and equality in the United States. In Russia, by contrast, the state will continue to regard the rights and lives of its citizens with contempt for many more years to come. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: Nevertheless, this is a wake-up call that Putin is not the West’s friend and does not soon intend to be. Just as the former KGB lieutenant colonel had much interest in Barack Obama’s appeasement, he has no sincere interest in President Trump’s delusional offers of friendship. Here and everywhere, the Russian leader must meet strength. – Washington Examiner

Kathrin Hille, Katrina Manson, Henry Foy and Christian Shepherd write: But the pivot to the east predates that. Beijing’s political and economic rise forced Moscow to recalibrate its suspicious attitude to its neighbour whose desire for energy, natural resources and defence imports matched Russia’s export basket. […]However, the two are far from an alliance in the western sense. “Both remain strategically autonomous players which share certain interests, but they have different views of the international order,” said Mr Lo. – Financial Times


Baydar is one of more than two dozen German public figures threatened over the past two years in missives signed with references to Nazi or neo-Nazi groups. – Washington Post

Germany has rejected a proposal by U.S. President Donald Trump to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin back into the Group of Seven (G7) most advanced economies, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a newspaper interview published on Monday. – Reuters

Britain will boost its ability to handle threats posed by Russia and China in space as part of a foreign, security and defence policy review being conducted by the UK government, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said late on Saturday. – Reuters

Serbia will strengthen its armed forces and is seeking to purchase more warplanes amid simmering tensions in the Balkans, the Serbian president said Sunday. – Associated Press

The U.S. is increasing diplomatic pressure on European contractors to drop out of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, Welt am Sonntag reported. – Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump’s goal to withdraw 10,000 American troops from Germany will take years to execute, according to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. – Defense News

The British coroner investigating the 2018 novichok poisoning of Dawn Sturgess will have to expand the scope of the forthcoming inquest into her death, to potentially include the role of Russian agents in addition to the two accused of killing her, the High Court has ruled. – Financial Times

Six months ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson celebrated Brexit by describing Britain as the Superman of global trade.Now, the country risks becoming an also-ran, losing its easy access to the huge EU common market, unable to strike a groundbreaking deal with the United States and on the brink of a trade fight with China. – CNN

A long-awaited parliamentary report this week failed to confirm suspicions about Russian interference in British politics, including in the divisive 2016 Brexit referendum. – Agence France-Presse

The EU and the Council of Europe on Sunday voiced regret and alarm over the Polish right-wing government’s move to withdraw from a landmark international treaty combating violence against women. – Agence France-Presse

Martin Ivens writes: The obvious conclusion is that the government prefers to signal its virtue rather than jeopardize its relations with old allies or new trade partners. Johnson, a politician of the right, is caught in a trap familiar to most parties of the left in government. An unexpected eruption of idealism among the Conservatives confronts him just as the country needs to preserve exports and jobs by trading with unsavory governments. So expect British tears for those at the sharp end of nasty regimes, but some of them will be of the crocodile variety. – Bloomberg

Tony Barber writes: Most seriously, the Donbass conflict is no closer to a solution than when Mr Zelensky took office. Any compromise with Russia risks a backlash from millions of Ukrainians who regard concessions to Moscow as a sellout of Ukraine’s interests and identity. Western support for the country is a precondition of a workable peace settlement. But to keep that support, Mr Zelensky must stay on the reform path. – Financial Times

Camilla Cavendish writes: Moscow meddling is not a joke. It is merely a foretaste of what is to come from other state actors, which also seek to bully and subvert our political and financial systems. It’s time to look McMafia in the face. – Financial Times

Jeffrey Mankoff writes: As Europe’s unquestioned heavyweight and a country with deep political, economic, and cultural ties to Russia, Germany has been a frequent target of Russian influence activities. Yet compared to other countries, Germany has proven relatively resilient. In this report, Jeffrey Mankoff examines the nature and tactics of Russian influence operations in Germany, which characteristics have made Germany vulnerable and resistant to Russian influence, and what lessons the German experience offers for other democratic states in countering malign influence activities.  – Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Americas

Armed groups in this violence-fraught nation of 50 million are imposing new levels of control during the coronavirus outbreak, and enforcing some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world — with harsh penalties for violators. In the port city of Tumaco, a narco-trafficking hub in the Colombian southwest, guerrillas posted pamphlets declaring all curfew violators “military targets.” – Washington Post

Russia, China, and Iran are working to interfere in U.S. politics in the run-up to November’s election, according to the U.S. intelligence community. – Washington Examiner

On July 12, 2020, Ishmael Muhammad, the National Secretary to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, delivered a speech defending Farrakhan’s July 4, 2020 speech (see MEMRI TV Clip No. 8119.) In his speech, Ishmael Muhammad claimed that Jews have always been spying on black people, that it was a Jew who had first invested in the Ku Klux Klan, and that Jewish merchants sold sheets, guns, and ropes to the Klan. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Their high-profile work in wealthy western as well as poorer nations has sharpened a bitter international controversy over Cuba’s longstanding policy of sending thousands of medics to work abroad, mostly in developing countries and usually in return for hard cash. – Financial Times

The decision not to renew visas for foreign journalists at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) could endanger a key part of the administration’s Venezuela policy, as a news show specialized on the country is at risk of losing its top talent. – The Hill

Norwegian government representatives plan to visit Venezuela again, the South American country’s political opposition said on Friday – Reuters

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: The U.S. played an indirect role in the persecution of this hapless family by funding the United Nations’ International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, known as CICIG. The commission’s mission was to root out corruption and assist in building transparent and accountable judicial institutions. CICIG abused its power and its mandate was not renewed in September 2019. But the consequences of its excesses linger. […]The Bitkovs fled Russia and went to Guatemala in 2009, relying on a Guatemalan law firm specializing in immigration to process their applications for citizenship under new names to help them hide from Mr. Putin. – Wall Street Journal


Many of the thousands of county and local election officials who will be administering November’s presidential election are running email systems that could leave them vulnerable to online attacks, a new report has found. – Wall Street Journal

HSBC Holdings PLC has issued a statement defending its cooperation with U.S. prosecutors in a case against China’s Huawei Technologies Co. after Chinese state media said the bank had set Huawei up. – Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon is trying to determine how its two newest space entities – Space Command and Space Force – will fit into the Department of Defense’s cyber architecture. – C4ISRNET

Editorial: Most of Mr. Trump’s disputes with Europe have focused on trade and NATO. But Washington’s anti-Huawei campaign is about national security—not promoting American business interests. The biggest winners from an EU ban on Huawei would be Nokia and Ericsson, which have the capacity to meet the bloc’s 5G needs. Though banning Huawei would be expensive at first, placing a revisionist China at the center of the EU’s communications networks would be far more costly over time. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Should prominent individuals, and especially world leaders, continue to use Twitter as a platform, the company needs to have some sort of special status for elite users whose accounts could, if hacked, alter world events in such manner. […]The bottom line is that Twitter currently poses a national security threat that must be addressed. – Washington Examiner

Michael Chertoff writes: Enhancing the use of these tools requires greater funding and training, but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks of a blanket encryption backdoor. These backdoors aren’t the silver bullet law enforcement wants them to be, and creating them would be a detriment to our collective cybersecurity. – Bloomberg


The Trump administration announced on Friday that it would allow the sale of advanced armed drones to other nations and bypass part of an international weapons export control agreement that the United States helped forge more than three decades ago. – New York Times

House lawmakers will debate defense appropriations legislation on the chamber floor this week, but the majority of military headlines on Capitol Hill will likely surround the confirmation hearing of Anthony Tata, the controversial nominee for the Defense Department’s top policy post. – Military Times

The U.S. Army plans to conduct a few fly-offs to test possible long-range precision munitions for its fleet of future helicopters, according to the chief of operations in charge of the service’s Future Vertical Lift modernization efforts. – Defense News

The U.S. Army’s combat capabilities development team kicked off a monthslong experiment last week to test emerging technologies that could be added into the service’s tactical network. – C4ISRNET

America’s adversaries have targeted the military’s weaknesses via information warfare in recent years and as a result the Department of Defense has made a series of moves to reorganize and better defend against such threats. While each service is undertaking a slightly different approach toward information warfare, Defense officials have said there is a broad buy-in to a larger vision of how to fuse capabilities and better prepare to fight. Collectively, they show the breadth of the movement. – C4ISRNET

The Navy’s own engineers and scientists can help the service maintain a technological advantage as the industrial base changes, a top service official said today. Navy acquisition chief James Geurts touted the service’s ability to use technology in public shipyards and on ships that its scientists create within warfare labs across the country. – USNI News

Long War

German prosecutors said Monday a German woman who allegedly joined the Islamic State group in Syria was arrested upon her return to the country. She is accused of membership in a foreign terrorist group, war crimes against property and other crimes. – Associated Press

Berkay Mandiraci and Nigar Göksel write: Besides the uncertainty as to the feasibility of  rehabilitation or deradicalization, Turkey’s approach to returnees from battlefields in Syria is complicated by the fluidity between the various armed groups and by Ankara’s tactical relations with some of those groups based on its own interests there. Choosing which returnees to leave to their own devices and which to prosecute and/or rehabilitate will continue to be complicated. – War on the Rocks

Lewis Libby and Douglas J. Feith write: On the issue of extending sovereignty, Israeli officials may wait or take only a small step, less than Trump’s plan would endorse. Whatever they decide, the plan’s goal is to change the diplomatic circumstances that have perversely incentivized the Palestinian side to keep the conflict going. Rejectionism, the plan says, will be costly. The administration is saying it makes no sense for Palestinian leaders to support terrorism and reject reasonable offers of peace while expecting U.S. officials to insist that Israel maintain the West Bank’s legal status quo. It has a point. – National Review