Fdd's overnight brief

July 29, 2020

In The News


A British-Australian academic serving a 10-year sentence in Iran for espionage has been moved to a remote prison south of Tehran that is said to be riddled with coronavirus cases, according to rights activists, raising further concerns about her deteriorating health. – New York Times 

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched underground ballistic missiles as part of an exercise involving a fake aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz, state television reported Wednesday, the latest barrage in a drill that saw two American bases temporarily go on alert over the launches. – Associated Press 

Iran detained two Swedish nationals over drug smuggling, the website of the country’s judiciary reported on Tuesday. – Associated Press   

Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which oversees censorship in the clergy-dominated country, has censured Etemad, a local pro-reform daily for an interview touching upon the sensitive issue of revolt against the regime. – Radio Farda  

Tom Rogan writes: The IRGC is concerned with growing resistance to its activities from the Iraqi government and the increasing political challenge facing the Lebanese Hezbollah. In the case of Hezbollah, the group’s attempted attack on Monday against Israel should be seen as a similar effort to appear strong. Ultimately, however, this exercise should be seen for what it is. Antics designed to show strength but actually represent the Iranian regime’s fear and weakness. Watch elements of the Iranian news report below. – Washington Examiner 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Regarding Natanz, the IAEA confirmed to the Post that it is “conducting safeguards verification activities as before at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility” – despite the July 2 explosion that destroyed three-quarters of an adjacent facility that was the heart of Iran’s advanced centrifuge program for enriching uranium at a more brisk pace. With all of the rising tensions, the expectation is still that there will be no game-changing actions before the November US presidential election. – Jerusalem Post


The IDF has reinforced Northern Command in anticipation of additional attacks by Hezbollah. An infiltration attempt by a cell belonging to the Lebanese terrorist group failed on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

An Israel Defense Forces soldier who spotted a group of Hezbollah terrorists making their way across the border from Lebanon to carry out an attack that was later denied by the terror group, and then helped direct forces who chased the alleged attackers away, has described how proud she was of her role in the incident. – Times of Israel  

The Israeli army said on Tuesday “several suspects” crossed in from Lebanon in the Western Galilee, hours after it said it was reinforcing troops in the area amid heightened tensions with Hezbollah. – Haaretz  

The leader of a major Christian group in Lebanon on Tuesday blamed the terror group Hezbollah and its local allies led by President Michel Aoun for the rapidly deteriorating economy and worsening relations with neighboring Arab countries, saying the only solution is for them to leave power. – Times of Israel 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Hezbollah has shifted its narrative to deny that any clash took place with Israel on Monday. This may bode ill for reducing tensions because it means Hezbollah keeps the “retaliation” card in its hand, ready to play it when it wants, holding this over Israel in a manner that Hezbollah’s cheerleaders, members and leadership seem to endorse. – Jerusalem Post  

Hussein Ibish writes: An economic collapse of Lebanon would be damaging for Hezbollah, which is closely tied into the country’s economy. And he has plenty of other battles to wage. As a key part of Iran’s “maximum resistance” campaign, Hezbollah is training or fighting alongside other militias in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The question for Nasrallah now is how far he can serve Iran’s interest without terminally damaging Lebanon’s—and his own. – Bloomberg 

Zvi Bar’el writes: It has accepted Hamas rule in Gaza and made it an indirect partner in the effort to obtain a tahadiya, or cessation of hostilities, while permitting the transfer of funds to Hamas leaders. There is no more talk of eliminating them. These policies in regard to Hamas and Hezbollah are essential if Israel wishes to avoid war. – Haaretz


The Trump Administration has described U.S. policy towards Syria as seeking (1) the enduring defeat of the Islamic State; (2) a political settlement to the Syrian civil war; and (3) the withdrawal of Iranian-commanded forces. – USNI News 

Some 60 pro-Iranian militants have been killed in attacks targeting Iranian strongholds in Syria since May, many of which were alleged Israeli airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). – Jerusalem Post 

On July 17, 2020, Eye of the Euphrates, a Syrian opposition Facebook page, published a report claiming that Iran and its allied Shi’ite militias are digging tunnels and trenches in the city of Al-Bukamal and in the town Al-Mayadin in Deir Al-Zour Governorate, designed with the purpose of protecting missiles and weapons depots. In the post, the page also included a short video and maps of the digging sites along the Syria-Iraq border. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Eli Lake writes: In the hands of a competent spy service, Makhlouf could provide a detailed roadmap on how the Assad family and Syrian regime shield their wealth from Western sanctions. Even if Makhlouf doesn’t turn against his family and country, this public rift between him and the dictator is a valuable political victory. America and the West may have failed to stop Assad from immolating his country, but even in victory, Assad’s allies cannot find security. – Bloomberg


Turkey’s parliament approved a law early Wednesday that gives authorities greater power to regulate social media despite concerns of growing censorship. – Associated Press

Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday that Turkey’s goal is still to join the European Union (EU), nearly four years after negotiations were suspended. – The National Interest

Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar condemned the United States for using the “language of threats and sanctions” against Turkey even as he praised the “comprehensive and strategic alliance” between the two countries in a Tuesday video conference. – The National Interest

Michael Rubin writes: Further delay does not preserve the status quo in the Eastern Mediterranean; Turkey has made that untenable. Indeed, as Turkey not only continues its occupation of Cyprus, but also seeks to steal its resources, threatens Greek islands, and makes expansive claims that upend existing security arrangements involving Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, and Greece, it is time to act. Every day the arms embargo remains in place undermines U.S. national security, undercuts the deployed U.S. military, and signals to U.S. allies that Washington is unreliable. – The National Interest


A court in the West Bank on Tuesday ordered the Palestinian Authority to release on bail 12 activists detained over the past 10 days for trying to stage an anti-corruption demonstration, arrests that had prompted sharp criticism that officials were using the pandemic to crack down on dissent. – New York Times 

Iran’s bold summer campaign against U.S. allies and interests in the Persian Gulf– including military support for Houthi rebels and an alleged drone strike against Saudi Arabia–has alarmed Jerusalem to the prospect of an imminent Israel-Iran conflict, shining a critical spotlight on the core pillar of Israel’s defensive deterrent against Iran: its anti-air systems. – The National Interest 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited his country’s border with Lebanon on Tuesday, a day after an attempted Hezbollah terror attack there, saying, “We will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves.” – Algemeiner 

 After weeks of silence on US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it back on the agenda in their remarks at an event on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post  

Israel is trying to foil efforts to end the Hamas-Fatah rift, Hamas officials said Tuesday. The claim was made after the IDF arrested several Hamas operatives in the West Bank over the past few days. – Jerusalem Post  

Israel’s returning ambassador to the United Nations affirmed the country’s bond with the Trump administration Tuesday, dismissing notions that Israel would pay a price for its tight ties to the divisive president should he be defeated in November. – Associated Press

Arabian Peninsula

The U.S. filed a revised indictment against two former Twitter Inc. employees and a Saudi national, alleging the three spied on dissidents for the Middle East country’s royal family. – Bloomberg

Yemen’s leading separatist group will abandon its aspirations for self-rule to implement a stalled peace deal brokered by Saudi Arabia, the group announced early Wednesday in a step toward closing a dangerous rift between nominal allies in the five-year war. – Associated Press 

Saudi Arabia has presented a framework to expedite a stalled November deal in Yemen’s south designed to end a standoff between nominal allies under a Saudi-led coalition, Saudi state news agency SPA said on Wednesday. – Reuters  

A Saudi court has sentenced a Yemeni blogger to 10 months in prison, a fine of 10,000 riyals ($2,600) and deportation for a social media post supporting equal rights for people in same sex relationships, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). – Reuters  

The United Nations said on Tuesday it was still waiting for Yemen’s Houthi group to authorize deployment of an assessment team to a decaying oil tanker that is threatening to spill 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the war-torn country’s coast. – Reuters 

Cinzia Bianco and Corrado Čok write: On the one hand, even at a time of U.S. retrenchment, Beijing seems unwilling to get enmeshed in MENA politics and conflicts. Indeed, it has favored engagement with the Gulf monarchies precisely because, unlike many other regional states, they guarantee a degree of political stability. But, on the other, this hands-off Chinese approach does not really provide the Gulf countries with an alternative to the U.S. Thus, the Gulf monarchies won’t risk alienating Washington to preserve their Chinese strategies. In the end, it seems that once again in the Gulf, geopolitics will be king. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

U.S. lawmakers are advancing a bill that would compel the Trump administration to levy sanctions on Russia and Turkey for fueling an escalation in the civil war in Libya, as the Defense Department has warned about the deployment of foreign mercenaries into the war zone. – Foreign Policy 

Bilal Y. Saab and General (ret.) Joseph Votel write: Under the Trump administration, leveraging and amplifying this network has been hard to do, given the president’s antipathy toward multilateralism and policies that have raised questions about our security commitments to our allies and partners. But to effectively deal with China in the Middle East and elsewhere, which is our biggest concern, this is precisely what we must do. – Defense One

Anchal Vohra writes: Lebanon’s economy was in shambles even before the coronavirus hit and expedited its collapse. The workers had been paid in U.S. dollars, to which the Lebanese currency had previously been pegged, but as the local currency plummeted by 80 percent, Lebanese with domestic help found it impossible to maintain their lifestyles and started to fire their staff en masse. But Lebanon is not an outlier. The ax is also falling on the foreign workers of nearby petrostates. – Foreign Policy

Korean Peninsula

The South Korean government said on Tuesday that it would begin work on launching its own military surveillance satellites to monitor North Korea, after negotiating a loosening in an agreement with the United States that limits the kind of rockets it is permitted to develop. – New York Times 

This month, after three years of life in the South, Mr. Kim went back — swimming across the same river he’d crossed in 2017, South Korean officials said. On Sunday, North Korea said he may have brought the coronavirus into the country for the first time, and it put Kaesong, Mr. Kim’s hometown, under lockdown. On Monday, a police department in South Korea said that before Mr. Kim left, a warrant had been issued for his arrest on a rape accusation. – New York Times 

North Korean women detained in prison camps suffered from torture, rape and other forms of “multiple and serious” violence by security and police officials, a U.N. human rights report said on Tuesday, citing accounts from over 100 women. – Reuters 

Caleb Larson writes: The Hermit Kingdom has one of the largest standing armies in the world, at around 1.2 million soldiers. If Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation were to be launched, a ground war of epic proportions would almost certainly follow, though how effective a North Korean fighting force would be without senior leadership remains open for debate. Still, the opening hours of either of these scenarios would be incredibly consequential. Pyongyang beware. – The National Interest 

Katherine Bauer and Kevin Mathieson write: South Korea’s interest in establishing a new, won-denominated channel may help offset this limitation and meet the more immediate needs of the Iranian people and their medical system. As the Zong case demonstrates, banks holding Iranian funds have reason to be cautious, and Tehran will hopefully reflect on how its misuse of some South Korean accounts has clouded the relationship. […]Establishing a humanitarian channel subject to U.S. Treasury oversight is the best chance to ensure that these trade flows are not exploited, and the United States should work quickly to take advantage of this opportunity. – Washington Institute

Mark Episkopos writes: There is little historical question that North Korea’s defense industry was not only founded and sustained by direct Soviet military-technological transfers over a period of half a century, but that Soviet and Soviet-licensed hardware continues to be a pillar of North Korea’s current military equipment roster. However, the USSR’s Russian successor has been much less willing to act as a military beneficiary of Pyongyang; in the 21st century, that role has instead fallen to a People’s Republic of China that has been increasingly active in asserting its geopolitical interests in the East Asia region. – The National Interest


Antagonisms between the United States and China are rattling governments around the world, prompting a German official to warn of “Cold War 2.0” and Kenya’s president to appeal for unity to fight the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press

They have the largest economies in the world. They spend more than anyone else on their militaries. From high-tech chips to control of the high seas, their interests are closely intertwined. The ongoing sharp deterioration in U.S.-China ties poses risks to both countries and the rest of the world. – Associated Press

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing would respond “firmly and rationally” to peremptory U.S. acts and called on other countries to resist what he called America’s bullying, as bilateral relations hit multi-decade lows. – Bloomberg 

China should prepare for potential U.S. sanctions by increasing use of its own financial messaging network for cross-border transactions in the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, according to a report from the investment banking unit of Bank of China. – Reuters  

U.S. prosecutors brought tax charges on Tuesday against a Harvard University professor accused of lying to authorities about his ties to a China-run recruitment program and funding he allegedly received from the Chinese government for research. – Reuters 

On July 25, 2020, CGTN TV, an Arabic-language Chinese TV channel, posted a video to its Facebook page in which Chinese journalist Li Gang said that there is “new cold war” between China and the United States. He said that this “war” is taking place because China’s GDP has grown to 60% of America’s GDP, and he claimed that whenever the economy of another country grows this large, the U.S. implements a strong-arm policy against it, because it threatens American hegemony. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Dan Coats writes: As we know from the past, only the United States can forge those tools. Our allies and other like-minded nations are beginning to recognize the threats China poses to our common future. They will become increasingly receptive to enlightened leadership from the United States. – Washington Post 

Mark Episkopos writes: There is much that is still unknown about the J-20, including its launch mechanism and the final specifications of its WS-15 engine currently in development. It remains to be seen if this particular armament configuration makes it into the regular production process, but the juxtaposition of the PL-15 and PL-10 inside the J-20’s frame can become a stark concern for the United States and some of its regional allies who continue to rely on aging AMRAAM technology. – The National Interest

Andreas Kluth writes: History, of course, is not doomed to repeat. And yet, people in Beijing, Washington and other capitals would do well to reread it, lest our generation also “sleepwalk” into a world war. By 1914, as today, the international system had become too complex for the antagonists to grasp. And then a fuse was lit in Bosnia, a place many Germans and Brits couldn’t have found on a map. In our time, it may happen on the log of a computer that’s been hacked by an enemy, or on an uninhabited rock in the South China Sea. – Bloomberg


The Taliban announced a temporary cease-fire Tuesday as pressure builds to bring the militants and the Afghan government together for direct peace talks now months overdue. – Washington Post

An alliance of terror groups aimed at destabilizing peace in South Asia is emerging in Afghanistan as U.S. troops pull out of the war-ravaged nation, security officials said. – Bloomberg

Top U.S. officials have hailed a three-day cease-fire proposed by the Taliban and agreed by the Afghan government, raising hopes that the long-delayed intra-Afghan peace talks could begin next week. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


In tackling the coronavirus pandemic in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte and his officials are turning to tactics such as mass arrests and threats of state violence — methods employed to deadly effect in his war on drugs. – Washington Post 

The European Union imposed sanctions on China over its treatment of Hong Kong on Tuesday, inching the bloc closer to the Trump administration’s more hawkish stance toward Beijing. – Wall Street Journal  

The U.S. and Australia announced agreements to bolster diplomatic and military cooperation on Tuesday, presenting a united front against an increasingly aggressive China and the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal

The United States and close ally Australia held high-level talks on China and agreed on the need to uphold a rules-based global order, but the Australian foreign minister stressed Canberra’s relationship with Beijing was important and it had no intention of hurting it. – Reuters 

American forces deployed to the Pacific are “highly vulnerable” to attacks from China, according to a senior GOP lawmaker who fears that Beijing could instigate and win a conflict with the United States. – Washington Examiner

China will grant Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for access to any coronavirus vaccine developed by Chinese researchers, a senior diplomat said in an apparent effort to woo the key U.S. ally. – Washington Examiner 

China and the United States face a growing risk of stumbling into a conflict in the coming months, according to Asian officials who monitor Beijing’s foreign policy. – Washington Examiner 

Japanese fighter pilot Lt. Col. Takamichi Shirota says his country is under increasing pressure from the air. Analysts say it’s a pressure faced by few other nations. – CNN

The United Nations has called for an independent investigation into the death of an ethnic-Uzbek rights defender, Azimjan Askarov, while in Kyrgyz custody. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

A professor and leading figure in Hong Kong’s political opposition has been fired from his university job following China’s passage of a sweeping new national security law. – Associated Press 

Joseph Bosco writes: Washington refuses to say it will defend Taiwan or any of the Southeast Asian countries — even our Philippines ally — against Chinese aggression. Only that “it will depend on the circumstances.” That strategic ambiguity, if coupled with a failure to use all available non-kinetic measures to support the people of Hong Kong, would demoralize those looking to America for leadership in the existential geostrategic challenge of our time. – The Hill

Scott Kennedy and Matthew P. Goodman write: There is plenty of scope—and a pressing need—for the United States and Japan to work together to manage the challenges of a stronger and more assertive China. Trying to enlist Tokyo in a concerted effort to decouple is a fool’s errand. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


This surge in climate change in interior Russia — more than three times the global average — is throwing new risks in the way of President Vladimir Putin’s Far North agenda, among his top domestic initiatives. – Washington Post

U.S. and Russian officials have opened three days of nuclear arms-control talks in Vienna less than a year before a treaty covering about 90 percent of the world’s atomic weapons expires. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The Foreign Ministry’s Appointments Committee chose Alexander Ben Zvi as the ambassador to Russia on Tuesday, after nearly a year in which no one held the job. – Jerusalem Post 

 The Air Force has sent a group of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to an Alaskan Air Base as part of a clear strategic shift toward both the Pacific and the Arctic region. – The National Interest

Two Russian military aircraft are suspected of having violated Finland’s airspace close to its capital city of Helsinki, Finland’s defense ministry said Tuesday. – Associated Press 

Henry Foy writes: But analysts said that the local nature of the demonstrators’ demands meant the movement was more galvanised and determined than previous national protest campaigns against issues such as government corruption, and bore similarities to protests in Moscow last summer against the arrest of a journalist, who was later released. – Financial Times 


When Richard Grenell left his post as U.S. ambassador to Germany in February, government officials in Berlin were relieved. But Donald Trump’s pick for the position, retired U.S. Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, has them wondering if the new envoy will be just as combative as his predecessor. – Bloomberg

The U.K.’s deteriorating relations with China are casting a pall over venture capital firms, with investors saying that a lack of clarity over what further restrictions could be imposed is leaving them in limbo. – Bloomberg  

Poland would face possible financial consequences if it pulled out from a European treaty on preventing violence against women, France’s junior minister for Europeans affairs said on Wednesday. – Reuters  

France will continue to take a tough line on defending the rights of French fishermen in Brexit talks but a deal with the United Kingdom remains possible, said French junior European affairs minister Clement Beaune on Wednesday. – Reuters  

An ax-wielding man who attacked a synagogue in Ukraine on Tuesday managed to escape after being fought off by a security guard, local news outlets reported. – Algemeiner 

Thousands of prominent figures and organizations in the United Kingdom joined a boycott of Twitter and Instagram that lasted 48 hours starting on Monday morning in response to antisemitism on the social media platforms. – Algemeiner

Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine on Tuesday announced a new platform for increasing cooperation in security, economy, and political matters, as well as for fighting COVID-19. – Associated Press

Tom Rogan writes: One pillar of Russia’s war strategy against NATO is to maximize the threat of disruption to Western civil societies early on in any conflict. Vladimir Putin hopes this would allow him to fragment the NATO alliance with a binary offer between a Moscow-favorable peace or costly, escalating war. And while NATO is countering Russian cable targeting, it cannot do so with total assurance. In short, Grace Hopper might be good for Google and its users. But it will also be of great interest to others out of sight. – Washington Examiner

Mark Galeotti writes: The release of a long-delayed report on Russian interference in the United Kingdom by the British cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee has inevitably revived the debate about how a democratic state can best resist Moscow’s meddling. […]Along with a general lack of clarity on just how certain sources of potential influence, from oligarchs to trolls, may affect the political system, this means everyone can put their own personal spin on the issue. The risk, then, is that this simply generates a short-term storm of comment, reaching few actionable policy conclusions, that is soon overtaken by the next issue of the moment. – War on the Rocks 


The International Monetary Fund agreed to lend South Africa $4.3 billion, the largest loan any African country has received since the start of the coronavirus crisis, underscoring the force of the pandemic’s blow to the continent’s most developed economy and prompting concerns among South Africans that the funds could encourage government corruption. – Wall Street Journal  

The Pentagon has admitted for the third time that its bombing campaign against terrorist groups in Somalia, which has been underway for more than a decade, had caused civilian casualties there, a military report said on Tuesday. – New York Times 

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said his country is committed to talks to resolve an impasse over the filling and operation of Ethiopia’s mega-dam on the Nile’s main tributary. – Bloomberg

Robert Farley writes: The region and the world are undoubtedly safer because of the decisions made in the 1990s to relinquish South Africa’s nuclear program. Moreover, the dismantling of the relatively small program provided a template for how other nuclear powers could think about eliminating their own programs. However, with the exception of the Soviet successor states (which faced dramatically different constraints) no other states have yet taken up South Africa’s example. With the apparent increase in global tensions over the past few years, it seems unlikely that anyone will join South Africa in the post-nuclear club anytime soon. – The National Interest

Areig Elhag writes: It is expected that these measures will temporarily placate the Sudanese street until the new government proves its efficiency and its compatibility with the demands of the revolution. It is also in the interest of Sudan’s politicians in the coming period to avoid being drawn into scenarios that could restore dictatorship in Sudan. Political exclusion does not operate in the interest of Sudan and the best course of action is to adapt an inclusive policy towards all balanced political forces with agendas consistent with the people’s choices. – Washington Institute

Latin America

More than a year after a young U.S.-backed politician rose up to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, the socialist leader holds a yet stronger grip on power — with a boost from the novel coronavirus. – Associated Press 

The United States warned Tuesday that elections planned in Venezuela later this year would be deeply fraudulent, accusing leftist leader Nicolas Maduro of seeking to manipulate the outcome. – Agence France-Presse 

Tom Rogan writes: If Beijing wants to challenge the Ecuadorian navy by directing its fishing crews to ignore the latter’s warnings, Ecuador should act to seize the crews and sink their ships. The current situation is intolerable. If China learns that its piracy will now result in its vessels being transformed into new coral habitats, it is likely to act with a little more humility. The alternative is to sit by and watch as China dragnets all life out of the ocean. – Washington Examiner

Ryan C. Berg writes: This report explains the urgent need for a more decisive US strategy to help confront the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua, including clear and achievable objectives backed by a coherent plan of action that anticipates the reactions of Ortega’s regime. Today, US policy toward Ortega is improvised and haphazard at best. Unless Ortega is forced from power by unforeseen events, the general elections scheduled for November 7, 2021, offer the best chance to beat him in a free and fair contest with the help of robust and proactive international observer missions. – American Enterprise Institute

North America

Former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, who played a key role in the Russia investigation but whose pejorative text messages about Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign made him a target of the president’s wrath, is releasing a book on his concerns the president could be compromised. – Associated Press  

A man who vandalized an auto parts store in Minneapolis during protests over the death of George Floyd is believed to have ties to a white supremacy group and was trying to stir tensions, according to a new court filing. – NBC 

A meme that compares the requirement to wear a mask during the coronavirus to the yellow Stars of David that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust appeared on the Facebook page of a Republican organization in Minnesota. – Times of Israel  


Russian intelligence services have been spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, according to newly declassified intelligence, material that demonstrates how Moscow is continuing to try to influence Americans as the election draws closer. – New York Times  

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on Wednesday its Twitter accounts had been hacked. – Reuters 

Hackers linked to the Chinese government have infiltrated Vatican computer networks, including the Roman Catholic Church’s Hong Kong-based representative, a U.S. firm that tracks state-backed cyber attacks said on Wednesday. – Reuters  

A group of top Republican U.S. Senators on Tuesday ramped up pressure on TikTok, asking the Trump administration to assess the threat that the popular Chinese-owned video sharing app might meddle in U.S. elections. – Reuters 

The U.S. Army’s top cyber general has described three phases that will prepare the service for information warfare over the next decade. – C4ISRNET

The Navy took some risk in permitting hundreds of thousands of service members and civilian employees to use personal laptops and cell phones at home during the COVID-19 pandemic to transact normal business, the service’s top cybersecurity official said. – USNI News 

China’s leading artificial intelligence start-ups Megvii and SenseTime are raising money and winning overseas contracts despite landing on a US blacklist last year, underscoring how Beijing’s brightest young companies are weathering the setback rather than scrambling to survive. – Financial Times


The U.S. Air Force could narrow the playing field of its Skyborg competition by the end of this summer, with plans to dole out awards to one or more companies to begin prototyping an autonomous combat drone. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is still considering two different paths to build prototypes for its future long-range assault aircraft following an industry day earlier this month, but is pushing toward a contract award in fiscal 2022, according to the service’s FLRAA program manager. – Defense News

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the Army’s plans for testing upgrades to its network, according to two top Army generals working on the project. – C4ISRNET

The nominee to lead the nearly year-old U.S. Space Command voiced support for addressing the problem of over-classification in space, during a July 28 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. – C4ISRNET

More than 120 space specialists, including representatives from the Pentagon, are calling on the United States to develop and promote a “North Star” approach for industrial development to maintain American leadership in space. – C4ISRNET

In his latest political move to stymie Ligado’s spectrum plans, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., has placed a hold on the renomination process of Federal Communications Commission member Michael O’Rielly. – C4ISRNET

The nominee to lead U.S. Northern Command told a Senate panel he would support placing a base for the Coast Guard’s new icebreaker fleet in the Arctic. – USNI News

The Navy is kicking off a pilot program for an autonomy lab that would eventually help test and integrate new advances in autonomy software with existing unmanned vessels, keeping the unmanned fleet outfitted with the newest capabilities for the lowest development cost. – USNI News

Long War

German authorities on Tuesday arrested a woman accused of traveling to Syria with her four young children to join the Islamic State group, as well as her brother-in-law, who is accused of helping her. – Associated Press 

A Syrian-born woman who charged employees at a tire shop in Canada in 2017 in an attempt to carry out an attack inspired by ISIS was denied parole on Monday after prosecutors said she continues to threaten to commit another attack if she is released. – Fox News 

A teenager charged with terrorism-related offenses pleaded guilty on Tuesday in a Canadian courtroom. – Reuters 

The latest issue of Sawt Al-Hind (“The Voice Of India”), a magazine published by supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS) in South Asia, includes an article about to Prophet Ibrahim (i.e., Abraham) whose obedience to Allah’s order to sacrifice his son is celebrated on Eid Al-Adha, the annual three-day feast of sacrifice in Islam that this year begins on August 1, 2020. – Middle East Media Research Institute