Fdd's overnight brief

July 3, 2020

In The News


A fire ripped through a building at Iran’s main nuclear-fuel production site early Thursday, causing extensive damage to what appeared to be a factory where the country has boasted of producing a new generation of centrifuges. The United States has repeatedly warned that such machinery could speed Tehran’s path to building nuclear weapons. – New York Times 

A mysterious group calling itself “Homeland Panthers” on Thursday claimed responsibility for the explosion at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility hours before its announcement by sending emails to a number of BBC Persian journalists. – Radio Farda 

The rate of exchange for the U.S. dollar has risen 2,700 times during the past 41 years since the start of clerical rule in Iran under the Islamic Republic system. – Radio Farda

Former US national security adviser John Bolton on Thursday said Israelis should be worried about US President Donald Trump winning a second term in office. Bolton excoriated his ex-boss as detached from reality, and said Trump could shift policies and try to foster ties in a second term with Iran’s regime, as he did with North Korea. – Times of Israel 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei assured a doctoral student in a 2016 meeting that there was nothing wrong with criticizing the country’s top official. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Six months after the U.S. killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) Quds Force commander, the Islamic Republic’s ability to fight on without its most famous military leader has been tested but its sophisticated, international war-fighting machine lives on. – Newsweek 

In the last several days Iranian media have highlighted the possibility of a 25-year memorandum or agreement with China that would see Iran benefit from China’s robust and strong economy and help increase the partnership between the two countries. Iran and China already have warm relations and China is likely keen to knit Iran into its various economic plans, such as the Belt and Road Initiative. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran may be hinting at threats to Israel now. An analysis piece at IRNA news said the “Zionist regime and the US” were crossing red lines. Natanz has been struck in the past. In 2010 workers found that high-speed centrifuges had been sabotaged by the Stuxnet computer worm. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Tehran will be quick to try to move these stories off the front page. Having “admitted” that nothing important happened, it will then go on to highlight other regional issues, such as the Houthis fighting Saudi Arabia or Hamas “resisting” Israel. Any suggestion that three incidents in Iran in a week are linked can be brushed aside by Tehran by saying they had already been investigated and commented upon. – Jerusalem Post


U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft is warning of “mass graves” if the United Nations Security Council fails to extend a vital Syrian cross-border aid program, as she races against the clock to overcome Russian opposition. The program is due to expire in just over a week. – Fox News 

Seth J. Frantzman: Russia, Turkey and Iran held a virtual meeting on Wednesday to coordinate efforts in Syria. They have been holding similar meetings since 2017 as part of what is called the Astana process. Their goals have increasingly converged and their statement this week appeared aimed at undermining the US role in eastern Syria and isolating US partner forces. – Jerusalem Post 

Michael Rubin writes: Jeffrey and other realists say U.S. forces were perfectly within their rights to walk away from a deal that was only “tactical and temporary.” If that is true, then they should explain why Turkey’s subsequent ethnic cleansing, systematic violence against women, support for extremism, and the resulting resurgence of ISIS are U.S. interests. – Washington Examiner


A court in Turkey is set to begin a trial Friday in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, though none of the 20 defendants charged in the murder, all nationals of Saudi Arabia, were expected to be in attendance. – Washington Post

A Turkish court on Thursday heard a case aimed at converting the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul back into a mosque and will announce its verdict within 15 days, a lawyer said, on an issue which has drawn international expressions of concern. – Reuters

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday Turkey expects France to apologise after an incident between Turkish and French warships in the Mediterranean prompted Paris to request a NATO investigation. – Reuters 

Jonathan Spyer writes: This element notwithstanding, Operation Claw Tiger fits into an arc of Turkish military assertiveness currently extending from northern Iraq, across northern Syria, going down via the Mediterranean and via Israel, and reaching Libya. Turkey also has a military presence to the south and east of this area, in Qatar, and in Somalia. – Jerusalem Post


In a rare show of cooperation, Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas pledged unity against Israel’s West Bank annexation plans and vowed to “topple” the Trump administration’s peace proposal, at a joint press conference Thursday. – Agence France-Presse 

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Iron Drone announced on June 29 that they have signed a collaboration agreement for the integration of interception capabilities into IAI’s advanced anti-drone system, Drone Guard. – Jerusalem Post

The Israel Defense Forces has made the West Bank a priority, above other fronts, ahead of possible annexation moves by the government, a senior Military Intelligence officer said Thursday. – Times of Israel

Here’s What You Need To Remember: Although never officially acknowledged, Israel has widely considered a nuclear power. Though the Popeye Turbo and Jericho 3 are the likely nuclear delivery vehicles, Israel’s non-nuclear missile umbrella is also quite impressive. Enemies beware. – The National Interest 

Ever since Benjamin Netanyahu began a record fifth term as prime minister this year, July 1 was supposed to be an auspicious milestone for Israel’s center-right government: the beginning of the annexation of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Instead, the date came and went Wednesday, with most Israelis still in the dark about the scope and timing of the move—and whether it will happen at all. – Foreign Policy


A former U.N. envoy to Libya has accused the Security Council of “hypocrisy” and of undermining his efforts to bring peace to the war-torn North African country. – Associated Press  

Lawmakers demanding to know whether President Donald Trump and his inner circle ignored intelligence about Russian bounties on U.S. troops have a clear precedent for getting answers: Benghazi. The special Republican-led House committee investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. mission in the conflict-torn Libyan city conducted an extensive — and possibly unprecedented — dive into President Barack Obama’s daily intelligence briefings – Politico

Fighting has recently escalated in Libya between the two sides in the country’s civil war: on one side the Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj, which is supported by the UN, Turkey and Qatar, and is also backed by Islamic circles in Libya, such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and on the other side the Libyan National Army, under the command of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, which is supported by Egypt, the UAE and Russia. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Iran’s financial and military support for Shi’ite proxy paramilitary groups in Iraq, a linchpin of its regional foreign policy, has been dramatically disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter. – Reuters 

The International Monetary Fund warned Lebanon that its economic implosion is accelerating and told authorities to act urgently to pull the country back from crisis. – Bloomberg  

The harsh criticism of Hizbullah and the damage it is causing to the country leveled by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea in an interview with the Saudi-owned Al-Hadath TV channel on June 26, 2020, has sparked outrage among members of the organization and its supporters in Lebanon. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Zvi Bar’el writes: Constraining the power and operations of the Shi’ite militias is necessary to satisfy Washington and prevent a repeat of the attacks by the Americans on militia bases – and to guarantee the supply of weapons and training the Iraqi army needs. Stability in Iraq and the American withdrawal are also in Iran’s interest, and Iran could well be showing restraint over al-Kadhimi’s actions against the Shi’ite militias because in return, they expect that this will lead to the withdrawal of American forces, which will widen the window for Iranian involvement in the end. – Haaretz

Korean Peninsula

The U.S. point man for North Korea is due to visit South Korea next week as it pushes for a resumption of talks with the North ahead of the U.S. election and despite few signs of any progress. – Reuters  

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged officials to maintain alertness against the coronavirus, warning that complacency risked “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis,” state media said Friday. – Associated Press  

Gordon G. Chang writes: Perhaps these obstacles could be finessed, but it does not matter because peace is absolutely unacceptable to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The DPRK, as it calls itself, maintains it is the only legitimate state on the peninsula. The war, which it started to get conquer the other Korea, is the defining moment for the Kim regime, and it is not in its interest to end it. – The National Interest


The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation to impose sanctions on Chinese officials trying to stamp out political dissent in Hong Kong, sending the measure to President Trump’s desk for his signature. – New York Times

The U.S. Defense Department expressed concern on Thursday about China holding military exercises in the South China Sea, saying the move will further destabilize the situation in the disputed waters. – Reuters   

China on Friday rejected criticism by the U.S. Defense Department of its plan to hold military exercises in the South China Sea, and suggested that Washington was to blame for increased tensions in the region. – Reuters

The World Health Organization backtracked on its assertion that the Chinese government alerted the United Nations agency about the coronavirus outbreak. – Washington Examiner

The Trump administration is advising US companies against doing business with Chinese suppliers that use forced labor from Uighur Muslims, a minority ethnic group being forcibly detained in concentration camps in China. – New York Post

Richard Fontaine and Ely Ratner write: This is where the China debate should now focus: not on top-down questions of how to wage or avoid a Cold War, but rather a bottom-up effort to renew American competitiveness, with more serious debates about specific issues and less nostalgia or neuralgia over past rivalries. In December 1989, George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Malta to declare the Cold War over. It still is. A new and different era of competition between the United States and China is dawning. Washington needs to update its mind-set as well. – Washington Post

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: There is no simple or reliable way to define Chinese “gray area” or “hybrid” civil and military operations that affect U.S. strategic interests. Many Chinese low-level operations, military claims, and political acts are reported as only serving commercial interests, reflecting local claims or interests, or supporting China’s broader security needs. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

William D. Hartung and Mark Hannah write: In the end, perhaps the biggest cost of a Pacific Deterrence Initiative is not that it would misread the geopolitics and security dynamics of Asia, but that it would mistake the security interests of America — and misrepresent the political preferences of Americans. – CNN 

Caleb Larson writes: Although China’s intercontinental strike ability is somewhat limited when compared to heavyweights like the United States or Russia, Beijing’s capabilities are growing. What China lacks in international reach is made up for big time in regional capabilities, especially anti-access/area denial capabilities. Regional adversaries—and U.S. Navy—should beware. – The National Interest


The attack quickly faded from public attention as one of many violent incidents in a war that has killed nearly 2,400 Americans in combat over more than 18 years. But it has been thrust into the spotlight in recent days amid revelations that intelligence analysts believe those who planned it may have been paid a bounty by a Russian military intelligence unit to kill Americans. – Washington Post 

Now the uproar over U.S. intelligence showing that Russia paid bounties for the killings of American troops in Afghanistan is renewing focus on a conflict that had drifted to the political back burner, and turning what had been a qualified success story for the president into at least a short-term political disaster. – New York Times

Moscow and Washington are intertwined in a complex and bloody history in Afghanistan, with both suffering thousands of dead and wounded in conflicts lasting for years. – Associated Press 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Moscow has never delivered weapons to the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, countering U.S. allegations. – Associated Press  

Washington’s peace envoy told Pakistani officials that Afghanistan’s Taliban and Kabul’s political leaders were close to starting negotiations to decide the face of a post-war Afghanistan, a crucial next step in a U.S. deal signed with the Taliban in February, according to a statement released Thursday by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. – Associated Press 

U.S. congressional leaders will seek more information from top intelligence officials Thursday on reported Russian payments to Taliban militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. – Reuters

Some call it “Putin’s assassination squad.” Some say, “Russian killing squad.” In any case, there is a Russian clandestine military intelligence unit known as the 29155, and it is believed to behind a string of scandals – most recently, a reported scheme to pay bounties to Afghan insurgents to kill U.S. troops. – Fox News

Noah Rothman writes: Russia is an imprudent and risk-prone power. These allegations are only the latest evidence that a country capable of invading and annexing neighboring territory and deploying sophisticated chemical weapons on NATO-aligned soil can bumble its way into accidental conflict with a major power. […]We try to keep evolving threats to national security a secret for a reason. It seems we may have to relearn the value of that aspect of statecraft the hard way. – Commentary Magazine

South Asia

TikTok, a popular short-video app, sought to distance itself from Beijing after India banned it and dozens of other Chinese mobile apps in retaliation for a deadly border clash last month. In response to the ban, which was given on cybersecurity grounds, TikTok Chief Executive Kevin Mayer said Chinese authorities had never requested the data of their Indian users, and even if they had, the company wouldn’t comply. – Wall Street Journal 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew into the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh on Friday, officials said, weeks after Indian and Chinese troops clashed on their disputed border there, escalating tension between the Asian giants. – Reuters

India’s government on Thursday approved the purchase of 33 Russian fighter jets and upgrades to another 59 planes, acting to beef up its air force at a time when the military is locked in a border stand-off with China. – Reuters

Italy should compensate India for damages incurred by the shooting of two fishermen by Italian marines off the coast of India in 2012, but India has no jurisdiction over the men, the Permanent Court of Arbitration said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The Indian military has been talking about a two-front war with neighbors Pakistan and China for decades to keep politicians focused on defense spending. Now that scenario is looking ever more realistic, with conflicts flaring on both its disputed borders. – Bloomberg 

The Rohingya are among the world’s most persecuted ethnic minorities — haunted by the past and denied a future. […]The Rohingya are a Muslim minority from Rakhine state in western Myanmar — formerly known as Burma. Most fled their homes after the military launched a brutal crackdown in August 2017. – CNBC

India will not compromise on its strategic interest, a cabinet minister said on Wednesday, even as New Delhi and Beijing seek to defuse tensions after last month’s border clash in the Himalayas. – CNBC 

China’s Twitter like service, Weibo, has removed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s account at the request of the Indian embassy in Beijing. The unusual move comes amid rising tensions between India and China over their disputed border high in the Western Himalayas and a clash earlier this month that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. – CNBC

Shairee Malhotra writes: Likeminded partners are equally important for India in this context, and the standoff could be the catalyst India needs to finally shed non-alignment in its traditional sense and align its interests with those of the United States, with lesser qualms or hesitations. – The National Interest


China’s state security apparatus has largely worked in the shadows while the Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, expanded it over recent years into a bulwark against threats to party rule, public order and national unity. Hong Kong could change that low profile. – New York Times

A day after China began to enforce a sweeping national security law over Hong Kong, several governments were moving to offer the territory’s residents the opportunity to resettle abroad as they grapple with the new reality of a city fundamentally transformed by the legislation. – Washington Post

Beijing appointed a veteran in quashing popular unrest to head its contentious new national security agency in Hong Kong, as it moves to enforce draconian restrictions on political freedoms. – Washington Post

Hong Kong’s fate shows China’s true authoritarianism so the rest of the world should stand up to President Xi Jinping and start to put human rights above financial gain, pro-democracy activist Nathan Law told Reuters. – Reuters  

The popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” connotes separatism or subversion, the city’s government said, pointing to crimes that are covered under the new national security law imposed by Beijing. – Reuters   

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists are discussing a plan to create an unofficial parliament-in-exile to keep the flame of democracy alive and send a message to China that freedom cannot be crushed, campaigner Simon Cheng told Reuters. – Reuters

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told CNBC on Thursday that China’s new law on Hong Kong is a betrayal of an international agreement. – Reuters

Vietnam and the Philippines on Thursday criticised China’s holding of military drills in a disputed part of the South China, warning it could create tension in the region and impact Beijing’s relationship with its neighbours. – Reuters

Taiwan citizens should avoid unnecessary visits to or transit through Hong Kong, Macau or mainland China after the passing of an “outrageous” national security law for the former British colony, a Taiwan government official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Hong Kong’s chief justice said on Thursday that judges appointed to cases under Hong Kong’s new national security law would be appointed on the basis of judicial and professional qualities, rather than politics. – Reuters

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: On the political and military fronts, the sort of fecklessness Mr. Xi is exhibiting in Hong Kong may carry a steep cost too. The bill will come due if ever Mr. Xi must try to negotiate himself out of a foolish military escalation in his neighborhood—such as a border dispute with India. Nations with less credibility enjoy fewer options. A previous generation of Chinese leaders understood Hong Kong’s capacity to help make China a prosperous nation. Mr. Xi has squandered Hong Kong’s capacity to make China a serious nation. – Wall Street Journal

Tom Rogan writes: Notable also is Australia’s intent to purchase new electronic warfare, airborne warning, and at-sea replenishment systems. These assets would be particularly useful in sustaining an allied effort to deny China’s forward power projection. Put simply, Morrison’s new defense plan fits almost perfectly with what would be needed to fight most effectively alongside U.S. forces against China. Considering that the prospect of a conflict with China is growing every month, these purchases should be welcomed by everyone. Once again, Australia is proving it is a great ally. – Washington Examiner

Timothy William Waters writes: China sees aggrandizement as greatness; it isn’t asking Hong Kongers if they agree. There’s not much Americans can do to stop them, except show what a free nation aspires to be. Fling open the gates and ask ourselves to stay. Many nations could answer that challenge, but no nation afraid to ask can call itself great. – The Hill 

Sheena Chestnut Greitens and Aram Hur write: By contrast, Taiwan’s liberal appeal toward Hong Kong aligns the island clearly with the most recent version of the U.S. National Security Strategy, which portrays the Indo-Pacific as defined by “a geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order” and embeds Taiwan within a global community interested in preserving and defending democracy in Hong Kong and around the world. This seemingly small difference establishes Taiwan as the new front line in a broader struggle for democracy and human rights in Asia, and worldwide. – Foreign Policy


Late last year, 10 Russian submarines slipped out of their bases on Russia’s Arctic coast and set an underwater course westward toward the North Atlantic. – Wall Street Journal 

A Russian court jailed a Russian think-tank expert specialising in military affairs to seven years on Thursday after convicting him of treason for allegedly selling secrets to a German consulting firm. – Reuters

U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan has warned that Russia will likely try to interfere in the upcoming parliamentary elections. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The European Union has called on Russia to probe reports of irregularities in a national, nonbinding plebiscite that approved a sprawling package of constitutional amendments that, among other things, would open the possibility for President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Janusz Bugajski writes: Disclosures about the greed and backstabbing within the ruling elite can also generate uncertainty in government circles and expose the regime’s political weaknesses. Suspicion and distrust will raise fears of political purges or state expropriation of oligarchs, and it can aggravate factional infighting. All these factors can undercut the Kremlin’s anti-American campaign. And ultimately, Washington will need to prepare for various scenarios, including the international repercussions of Russia’s potential fragmentation. – Washington Examiner

Tony Barber writes: As a result, Putinism displays a policy paralysis and enthusiasm for empty political rites that echo those of the later years of Brezhnev, who ruled from 1964 to 1982. The parallels may go further. The constitutional amendments permit Mr Putin to stay as president, if he chooses, until 2036, by which time he would be in his early eighties, the same age at which Brezhnev died in office. – Financial Times

Anthony H. Cordesman and Grace Hwang write: There is no simple or reliable way to define Russian “gray area” or “hybrid” civil and military operations that affect U.S. strategic interests. Many Russian low-level operations, military claims, and political acts are reported as only serving commercial interests, reflecting local claims or interests, or supporting Russia’s broader security needs. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The police in Europe said Thursday they had arrested hundreds of people on suspicion of drug trafficking and other crimes after successfully hacking into an encrypted phone network being used by organized criminals around the world. – New York Times

The Ukrainian government plunged into another round of turmoil over foreign aid and anti-corruption policy when the director of the nation’s central bank resigned this week, citing political pressure in violation of International Monetary Fund guidelines. – New York Times

The UK and EU have said serious differences remain over a post-Brexit trade deal, following the latest negotiations in Brussels. – BBC  

Germany will keep reviewing travel advice for Turkey, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told his Turkish counterpart on Thursday, saying decisions were coordinated with the European Union (EU) and based on reliable infection data and the health situation. – Reuters

France’s efforts to nurture a new relationship with Russia over the last year to bring Moscow back into the fold of leading industrialised nations has yet to yield any results, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Thursday. – Reuters 

NATO has put a defence plan for Poland and Baltic states into action after Turkey dropped its objections, officials from Lithuania, Poland and France have said. – Reuters

Members of the U.S. Congressional Ukraine Caucus have asked President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to find a compromise with renewable energy producers over prices as a months-long dispute threatens foreign investment. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says Russia’s departure from the Black Sea Crimea Peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, is “inevitable.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty   

Following a December 2018 incident at the mouth of the Sea of Azov between Russia and Ukrainian forces, the United States has accelerated its assistance to Ukraine’s maritime forces. – Defense News


The unrest, analysts say, threatens the stability of Africa’s second-most populous country and deepens the political crisis in a nation already undergoing a roller-coaster democratic transition. – New York Times

At least 32 civilians were killed in central Mali when unidentified armed men on motorbikes attacked ethnic Dogon farming villages on Wednesday, local authorities said. – Reuters  

A small homemade bomb exploded in Cameroon’s capital on Thursday, wounding two people, a senior official told Reuters, the third minor explosion of its kind in Yaounde in recent weeks. – Reuters  

Pirates attacked an oil production vessel off Nigeria in the early hours of Thursday and kidnapped nine Nigerian nationals, the ship’s owner BW Offshore said. – Reuters 

Eight years after a suicide bomber destroyed the building, Somalia has reopened its imposing national theatre in Mogadishu as a symbol of culture in the heart of a city often defined by violence. – Reuters

Latin America

Colombian authorities have captured eight members of a left-wing guerrilla group who helped carry out the deadliest attack in years in the capital city, Bogotá, officials said on Thursday. – New York Times

A British judge ruled on Thursday that President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela cannot get access to $1.8 billion in gold in a Bank of England vault, because Britain does not recognize him as the leader of his suffering country. – New York Times

Three American defense contractors held for five years by leftist rebels in Colombia moved closer to collecting on a $318 million judgment against their former captors after a U.S. Supreme Court justice rebuffed a last-minute appeal by a sanctioned Venezuelan businessman whose assets they seek to claim. – Associated Press 

Kathleen Page and Tamara Taraciuk Broner write: The agreement is unlikely to reflect a deeper change of direction from Maduro and his government, given the reckless disregard they have shown for the life and health of the Venezuelan people. It took sustained international pressure to get them to turn to the outside world for help. That is why the pressure needs to continue and monitoring needs to be meaningful. If the world can’t quickly bring sufficient aid to Venezuela and ensure it reaches the people who need it, we will find ourselves mourning countless, avoidable deaths. – Washington Post

North America

Most Mexicans support their president’s planned visit to his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump next week, though they continue to regard the American leader in a distinctly negative light, an opinion poll showed on Thursday. – Reuters

An armed member of the Canadian military drove a truck through gates protecting an exclusive part of Ottawa where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lives on Thursday but was quickly arrested, police said. – Reuters  

Hate crimes targeting Jews rose sharply in California in 2019 despite an overall decline in hate crimes in the state, according to a report released on Thursday by the state’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center. – Algemeiner

Melissa Braunstein writes: There’s no question anti-Semitism is resurgent, and it will not disappear on its own. It is time that all people who are troubled by hatred start talking more about how we are going to fight it together. – Washington Examiner


Senate lawmakers are trying to fortify state and local cybersecurity through amendments to the annual defense budget as it is debated on the chamber floor this week. – Wall Street Journal

With the U.S. Justice Department nearing a lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google for antitrust violations, a coalition of states that are conducting a parallel investigation are divided over the best strategy for taking on the internet giant, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Microsoft Corp.’s licensing agreements with European Union authorities gave the U.S. tech giant free rein to oversee data processing activities for more than 45,000 EU officials, the institution’s own privacy watchdog warned. – Bloomberg 

Welcome to TikTok, a place designed for fun and dancing that has a dark underbelly. The video is referring to the Boogaloo Bois, perhaps the most troubling movement to have emerged in the US recently. It’s hard to describe the group succinctly. Broadly it is an extremist, libertarian militia that is deeply distrustful of government and prepared for a civil war. They are almost always heavily armed. – BBC


The much anticipated, high-tech B-21 bomber will “come on in two years,” bringing new dimensions of stealth, software, attack possibilities and nuclear deterrence to the U.S. Air Force. It would even possibly usher in new tactical approaches to how modern operations may move forward in the years ahead. – The National Interest 

A recent experiment by the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command successfully provided so much data to crews that leaders now have to rethink the user interface to accommodate that amount of information. – C4ISRNET 

Less than two weeks after the U.S. Space Force invoked the Defense Production Act to prop up six small launch providers, those awards have been withdrawn. – C4ISRNET 

Guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) arrived at its new homeport of San Diego today, following a two-and-a-half-year repair period after the warship was involved in a fatal collision in 2017. – USNI News 

The Navy has had more warships operating in the Caribbean and the Eastern Pacific in the last three months than it has in the last five years, pushing the results of a U.S. effort to seize drugs at sea to all-time highs. – USNI News 

The first four of the Navy’s notoriously expensive Littoral Combat Ships have under a year of service life left in their hulls. The announcement by Vice Admiral J. W. Kilby, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations listed March, 31, 2021 as the ship’s projected inactive date. – The National Interest 

Kris Osborn writes: Reconciling or optimizing a seemingly contradictory balance between survivability and mobility very much informs the Army rationale for its family of Next-Generation Combat Vehicles. Given this, it is not surprising that the advent of advanced, AI-empowered computer algorithms are greatly impacting the developmental equation, as explained by Jette. – The National Interest  

Seth Cropsey writes: After 16 years, any service’s missions and equipment must change as it adapts to new threats; the same is true for the Coast Guard. A robust force review is in order, potentially modeled off the Navy’s 30-year plan which will generate a new fleet capable of meeting the demands of great-power competition, especially in the Asia-Pacific. –   The Hill

Rear Adm. Brian Hendrickson, Lt General (Ret.) Tom Trask, Lieutenant General (Retired) John F. Mulholland and MajGen Mark Clark write:  Conventional airpower, which has been fully engaged in the air over Afghanistan, Iraq, and other areas in the region will be brought home to rebuild readiness and focus on peer competition. We cannot afford to keep fifth generation fighters over top of SOF scattered in small teams across huge theaters like Africa. These aircraft must be honed to meet the threat of modern militaries, and with the small fleets we will have, their deployments must be carefully metered. – The Hill 

Missile Defense

Japan’s decision to scrap two Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence systems means it must find other ways to defend a 3,000-kilometre archipelago along Asia’s eastern edge. […]Past U.S. administrations have opposed an independent Japanese strike capability. – Reuters 

Jeffrey W. Hornung writes: Perhaps the cancellation could not have come at a better time. […]This could include integrated air and missile defense or even ground-based intermediate-range missiles. At a minimum, they could discuss ways to improve U.S. foreign military sales to Japan to prevent a similar situation from occurring again, something Kono is reportedly interested in. – Foreign Policy 

James Grant writes: The problem is acute. Today, America’s preeminence in missile technology is being challenged for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Alongside the United States, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are currently developing the next generation of kinetic weapons: the hypersonic missile. – The National Interest

Long War

Sri Lanka has a long, morbid familiarity with suicide bombing. […]Easter Sunday turned out to be the most horrific example of ISIS’s successful franchising of terrorism — worse than the siege in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2016, or the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015, or the Bataclan attack in Paris that same year. – New York Times

Eli Lake writes: Paul and his supporters are correct when they point out that today al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, is far weaker than it was nearly 20 years ago. At the same time, other terrorist threats have gotten stronger. The real threat to the U.S. and its allies has always been weak and corrupt governments in the Islamic world that enable terror organizations to take over large swaths of territory. That threat does not disappear just because America stops fighting. Congress cannot just sit on the sidelines simply because the war against jihadist terror is long. A new generation of lawmakers should have a chance to vote for or against this war. – Bloomberg 

Robin Simcox writes: Yet it is also very possible that terrorism in Europe will continue to look broadly how it does currently. Flare-ups will occur from the far-left, far-right, and various other fringe ideologies. But the primary threat to life will continue to be from Islamists, who now have been targeting Europe with some determination and some success for a quarter of a century. They had been doing so with such success that Europeans were being warned that terrorism was simply the “new normal” they would have to learn to live with. – Foreign Policy 

Trump Administration

Rep. Liz Cheney is walking the Republican Party’s finest line. The third-ranking GOP lawmaker in the House has regularly broken with President Trump over his foreign policy and national security decisions—while sidestepping any bruising personal fights with him. – Wall Street Journal

Democratic U.S. lawmakers are highly unlikely to gain access before the Nov. 3 election to material withheld from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian political meddling after the Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear President Donald Trump’s administration’s bid to keep it secret. – Reuters

A Pentagon internal think tank, whose leadership is under scrutiny due to its leader’s connections to a key figure in the Russia collusion investigation, could have its yearly budget slashed in half and be under tighter restrictions in next year’s military defense budget. – Washington Examiner