Fdd's overnight brief

July 5, 2019

In The News


Tighter new U.S. sanctions have proved more punishing than Iran’s leaders expected, driving Tehran to hit back militarily and breach limits it had agreed to put on its nuclear program. This increasingly confrontational approach aims to raise the costs to the U.S. of its maximum-pressure campaign and to push Western European nations to offer economic relief, according to former Iranian officials and analysts. – Wall Street Journal

British Royal Marines in fast boats and helicopters on Thursday seized a supertanker suspected of carrying Iranian oil to Syria near the Mediterranean peninsula of Gibraltar, the first such detention of a ship under the terms of European sanctions targeting supplies to Syria. – Washington Post

Now, with the nuclear deal on the brink of collapse, with the Trump administration reimposing crushing sanctions on Iran, and with Tehran threatening to restart elements of its nuclear program, Mr. Zarif is coming under renewed fire not only from hard-liners in Tehran but also from Washington. White House officials say that President Trump has requested sanctions specifically against the Iranian foreign minister, stirring debate in both countries about the administration’s intentions. – New York Times

Iran’s intelligence minister says any negotiations with the United States would have to be approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and would require the lifting of U.S. sanctions. – Associated Press

The European Union says it’s in contact with signatories of the Iran nuclear agreement and will discuss with them what steps to take should the country ramp up uranium enrichment this weekend. – Associated Press

Iran said on Thursday that “active resistance’ was an antidote to U.S. President Donald Trump’s warning over Tehran’s commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal, state TV reported. – Reuters

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday he hoped a special trade channel set up with Iran would complete a first, limited transaction in the coming days. – Reuters

White House national security adviser John Bolton on Thursday welcomed Britain’s seizure of an oil tanker loaded with Iranian oil bound for Syria, saying the United States and its allies will continue to prevent Syrian and Iranian governments “from profiting off this illicit trade.” – Reuters

When it comes to saving Iran’s nuclear deal, Europe finds itself in the impossible situation of trying to salvage an accord unraveling because of the maximalist U.S. sanctions campaign. – Associated Press

The Trump administration is advancing a plan to escort or accompany ships through the Strait of Hormuz with international assistance, fearing an increase in attacks on oil tankers by Iranian forces. – McClatchy


The first of the Russian S-400 defense systems that Ankara has purchased will be loaded on to cargo planes on Sunday and arrive in Turkey some time next week, privately-held broadcaster Haberturk reported. – Reuters

Turkey announced a meeting in August that will be a “trilateral summit” between Ankara, Tehran and Moscow. This is the latest in numerous meetings the three countries have had on Syria that began with a ceasefire in 2016. It also reflects growing influence for Russia and its ability to try to keep the Syrian crises from escalating while working closely with Turkey on military deals. – Jerusalem Post

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a soft line on China’s mass detention centers in Xinjiang while in the Chinese capital Beijing this week, in a departure from the previous harsh criticisms made by his government. Turkey is one of the few Muslim-majority countries to have criticized China’s “re-education” camps, where the US State Department says up to two million Muslim-majority Uyghurs are being held. – CNN


President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner called on the Palestinians to reengage with the administration’s peace efforts in the Middle East, stressing they would benefit from the plan’s economic assistance only after agreeing to its yet undisclosed political demands. – Wall Street Journal

The son of one of Hamas’s founders has caused an uproar in Palestinian society recently by speaking out against the militant Islamist movement he grew up in, calling it a “racist terror organization that is dangerous for the Palestinian people.”  – Washington Post

The Gaza-based Hamas terror group has launched an expansive effort to counter an Israeli television news interview with the son of one of the terror group’s founding fathers in which he accused the organization of being corrupt and power-hungry, Channel 12 news reported Thursday, a day after it broadcast the interview. – Times of Israel

While 80% of Palestinian respondents supported the Palestinian Authority’s call for boycotting the Bahrain workshop, a similar percentage viewed the participation of Arab countries as an abandonment of the Palestinian cause. – Jerusalem Post

On July 1, 2019, the PLO’s Higher Council for Youth and Sports (HCYS) announced the opening of 625 summer camps, under the slogan “This Is Our Home and Jerusalem Is Ours. […]Special focus is placed this year on the right of return and on opposition to the U.S.-led Middle East peace plan known as the Deal of the Century, which is expected to be announced soon and which, according to certain leaks and assessments, will not include the right of return.  At a summer camp in the Tulkarm governorate campers even tore up and burned American flags and pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump. – Middle East Media Research Institute

The July 2, 2019 editorial of the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, based in East Jerusalem, titled “Our People Are on the Brink of a New Intifada,” compared the current situation of the Palestinians with their situation before the first intifada in 1987 and the second intifada in 2000, stating that conditions are now ripe for the outbreak of a new uprising. […]The following are excerpts from the editorial. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi-led military coalition said on Thursday it had intercepted drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi group that was targeting Jizan airport, a statement on Saudi state media said. – Reuters

In a growing and increasingly consistent sign that Iran is linked to the Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, Iranian media plastered their headlines with a story of drone attacks on Jizan airport in southern Saudi Arabia. – Jerusalem Post

Saudi Arabia’s new ambassadors to the United States and the United Kingdom have taken up their posts after several months’ vacancy amid tensions with Western allies over the Yemen war and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. – Reuters


Libya’s United Nations-backed government blamed the United Arab Emirates for an airstrike that killed more than 50 people in Tripoli this week, suggesting a new level of foreign intervention in the battle for the capital. – Wall Street Journal

The president of the U.N. Security Council says it will issue a statement condemning the attack on a migrant detention camp near Libya’s capital of Tripoli, but there is no agreement yet on the text. – Associated Press

The UN says it has received reports that guards fired on migrants who tried to flee air strikes on a detention centre near Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday. – BBC

Middle East & North Africa

The Iraqi government’s move this week to place Iranian-backed militias under the command of the armed forces is a political gamble by a prime minister increasingly caught in the middle of a dangerous rivalry between Iran and the U.S, the two main power brokers in Iraq. – Associated Press

Amid Lebanon’s efforts to find oil in the Mediterranean Sea, the country’s Army is working to expand its search-and-rescue and air-defense capabilities. And the Air Force is trying to bolster its air dominance by procuring six additional A-29 Super Tucanos equipped with an advanced precision kill weapon system, and MD 530G helicopters armed for the first time with the APKWS. – Defense News

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he was worried that militants were flowing into Libya from Syria’s Idlib province and warned that the Libyan situation was deteriorating. – Reuters

Islamic State claimed responsibility on Thursday for an attack that killed two police officers and two soldiers on patrol in patrol in Lebanon’s Tripoli last month, the group’s Al-Nabaa newspaper said. – Reuters

Aaron Y. Zelin writes: Regardless of this progress, however, Tunisian jihadists—whether returnees from abroad, local cells, or current prisoners—will not stop trying to undermine the state. Given the currently fragile context of upcoming elections and Essebsi’s health concerns, Washington should continue supporting the government’s efforts to bring its security, judiciary, and prison systems more in line with the rule of law in a democratic framework. U.S. officials should also make clear to Tunis that transparency in how its security agencies deal with jihadism offers more upsides than downsides in the long term. Finally, a better understanding of past jihadist networks and locales would provide clues on where terrorist activity might arise in the future, since this type of mobilization does not come out of nowhere. – Washington institute

Korean Peninsula

An Australian student who was detained in North Korea for more than a week has been set free, a move that Prime Minister Scott Morrison said was a victory for behind-the-scenes diplomacy with Pyongyang. – Wall Street Journal

Two heads of state at the inter-Korean border. Smiles. Peace overtures. And promises to move beyond old roadblocks. These scenes unfolded Sunday at the Demilitarized Zone when President Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, stepped briefly into forbidden territory in the North and restarted a stalled diplomatic process with nuclear-armed Pyongyang. – Wall Street Journal

But military dictators who ruled South Korea after the war banned any public discussion of the atrocities committed by the South Korean police and right-wing vigilantes. The police put the victims’ families under surveillance and kept secret files on them into the 1980s. The families themselves hid their backgrounds, fearful of the stigma of being labeled the “reds’ offspring.” Today, many victims remain buried where they were executed and dumped nearly seven decades ago. – New York Times

Three days after President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un shared a warm and fuzzy moment on North Korean soil, the despotic regime accused the U.S. of being “hell-bent on hostile acts” against the secluded nation. – USA Today

A new public broadside by North Korean officials against U.S.-backed sanctions highlights the tough road ahead as negotiators prepare for talks in the wake of Sunday’s meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. – Reuters

Josh Rogin writes: Of course, there’s always the risk that Trump could end up taking the small deal and pretending it’s a big victory. And as far as our own intelligence community is concerned, Kim has no intention of fully denuclearizing anyway, so a small deal might be all we can get. But if it’s really all at once or nothing, the result will be a quick end to the diplomacy and a return to the policy of maximum pressure, high tensions, heated rhetoric and potential conflict. If the negotiations fail, that’s where we will end up anyway. The chances are slim that Pompeo and Biegun can get a small deal good enough for Trump to publicly defend, but they should be allowed to try. – Washington Post


The U.S. government issued its first public defense of a law that restricts federal agencies from doing business with Huawei Technologies Co., saying it had ample national-security reasons for enacting it. – Wall Street Journal

Police arrested and charged a dozen protesters suspected of involvement in antigovernment clashes and widened a hunt for others who joined a rampage through the city’s legislature. […]Officials were forced to suspend the bill, which would have moved the semiautonomous city closer within Beijing’s legal jurisdiction. The concession emboldened younger activists to challenge the government more strongly. – Wall Street Journal

China continues to stress that the U.S. must remove all the tariffs placed on Chinese goods as a condition for reaching a trade deal. On Friday, an influential blog connected to state media said the talks will “go backward again” without that step, echoing the line from Ministry of Commerce’s weekly briefing on Thursday. – Bloomberg

China is considering buying some U.S. agricultural products as a gesture of goodwill amid the resumption of trade talks between Beijing and Washington, though the volume is likely to be smaller than before, according to people familiar with the situation. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The larger conclusion to be drawn is that China’s leaders should abandon their old thinking. Repression will ultimately fail and generate more resistance. China can’t grind down Hong Kong for another generation, and it would be terribly counterproductive to try. – Washington Post

Chris Horton writes: The implications of the relationship between Hong Kong and Taiwan stretch beyond just the extradition bill and the prospects for democracy in Hong Kong. The majority of Taiwanese are already opposed to unification with China, but if Beijing cannot be seen to implement the “one country, two systems” framework in an even-handed manner in Hong Kong, what prospect does it have of being putting in place here, argue Taiwanese critics of China. – The Atlantic

Dan Blumenthal and Annie Kowalewski write: In the lead-up and aftermath of President Trump’s meeting with Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, a few themes emerged in official Chinese state media and other outlets of state propaganda. The bottom line is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) views the current Sino-US trade tensions as an attempt by the US to slow Chinese growth. In response, the CCP’s strategy is to wait out the trade negotiations because it believes that US businesses and consumers cannot prosper without growing economic relations with Beijing. – American Enterprise Institute


Taliban and U.S. negotiators are scrambling to finalize a draft agreement that will outline the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan and a verifiable Taliban guarantee to fight terrorism ahead of an all-Afghan peace conference Sunday. – Associated Press

Walls and fences have been going up along borders across the globe, but relatively little attention has been paid to the one being erected along the Durand Line, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous international crossings. – The Guardian

Ashley Jackson writes: For better or worse, the fate of Afghanistan is up to political leaders in Washington, Kabul, and Doha to decide. As the current round of talks—the seventh such attempt—continues in Qatar, the United States is eager to finalize a deal to end its involvement in the war. […]The Afghan government is increasingly consumed by infighting and electoral politics. And the Taliban are running out the clock, betting that their refusal to talk to the Afghan government will allow them to strengthen their negotiating hand and their territorial control. At present, none of these actors appear ready, or able, to make the sacrifices required to end the war. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

Under pressure from the United States and a global watchdog group, Pakistan is prosecuting the founder of the Islamist terrorist group that carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks on charges of terrorism financing, along with several of his close aides. – New York Times

Prime Minister Imran Khan will travel to Washington to meet US President Donald Trump on July 22, the Pakistani foreign ministry said Thursday, a rare visit between leaders of the sometimes prickly allies. – Agence FrancePresse

An explosion has killed five soldiers and wounded one near the border with India in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, Pakistan’s military said in a statement on July 3. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

India said on Thursday Pakistan’s announcement of a crackdown on Hafiz Saeed, leader of a group blamed for Islamist militant attacks on Mumbai in 2008, lacked sincerity and meant to mislead foreign governments. – Reuters


More than two dozen countries formally called on Thursday for a United Nations investigation into thousands of killings in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, activists said. – Reuters

The Trump administration’s plan to sell more than 60 new F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan is now moving forward after longer-than-anticipated negotiations, paving the way for a deal that is sure to prompt fresh protests from China only days after Washington and Beijing agreed to restart trade talks. – Foreign Policy

A Jewish-owned café was defaced with violently antisemitic and Holocaust denial graffiti in the Australian city of Melbourne. – Algemeiner


A secret Russian military submarine that caught on fire killing 14 sailors earlier this week was nuclear-powered, the government said Thursday, amid criticism that authorities withheld information about the country’s deadliest naval accident in more than a decade. – Wall Street Journal

NATO military officials are exploring whether to upgrade their defenses to make them capable of shooting down newly deployed Russian intermediate-range nuclear missiles after a landmark arms treaty dissolves next month, according to three European officials. – New York Times

President Vladimir Putin said Russia is ready to restart discussions with the U.S. over arms control and denied that the collapse of a significant nuclear missile treaty between the two nations would prompt an arms race. – CNBC

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he hoped Italy would battle to restore fully fledged relations between the European Union and Russia and help persuade the bloc’s new leadership that sanctions on Moscow were counter-productive. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on Ukraine’s newly elected Jewish president to stamp out an alleged “frenzy of neo-Nazism” convulsing his country. – Times of Israel



The proposed new leaders of the European Union include strong trans-Atlanticists who nonetheless are expected to pursue a tough stance on U.S. tech firms and staunchly defend the bloc’s interests in trade talks with Washington. – Wall Street Journal

EU president-elect Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday made her first trip to Brussels since being nominated as senior officials sought to shore up support for her appointment in the European Parliament. – Agence FrancePresse

Young Jewish Europeans experience more anti-Semitism than their parents, with a rise in abuse coming in emails, text messages and social media postings, according to a European Union study released on Thursday. – Reuters

A German far-right party was accused on Thursday of attempting to fan racial hatred by using a video of a brawl it suggested involved migrants at a water park in the southern city of Stuttgart – when the scuffle took place in Israel. – Reuters

The Jewish community in the Czech Republic said there was an increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country last year. In a report released on Wednesday, the Federation of the Jewish Communities said there were 347 anti-Semitic attacks in 2018, up by 221 from 2015 when the last equivalent report was published. – Associated Press

Kosovo has banned all Serbian officials from entering the country, in another escalation of relations between Serbia and its former province. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Officials from European countries sought to reassure Western Balkans nations that are hoping to join the European Union that the bloc still looks favorably on their aspirations. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A Spanish socialist politician strongly tipped to become the next European Union High Representative for foreign policy is raising hackles in the US, Israel and the Arab Gulf states over his sympathies with the Islamist regime in Iran. – Algemeiner

An antisemitic talk has been delivered by Petra Schöning, a representative of the human rights organization Amnesty International, who also works for the German government’s development agency GIZ. The incident follows a series of antisemitic incidents in both organizations. – Jerusalem Post

German neo-Nazis are hosting Waffen-SS and Hitler youth veterans as inspirational speakers in an attempt to radicalize young people, Germany’s domestic security agency warned in a recent report. – Times of Israel


Sudan’s military and civilian leaders announced on Friday that they had reached an agreement to share power until elections, promising an end to the standoff that has paralyzed the African country since the ouster of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April. – New York Times

Somalia’s government announced it is cutting diplomatic ties with Guinea, accusing the West African country of violating its sovereignty. – Associated Press

The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Wednesday for attacks on a military camp in western Niger on Monday, the group’s Amaq news agency said. – Reuters


The Defense Department’s next generation space architecture would consist of several layers based around a mesh network of small communications satellites, according to a document released by the Space Development Agency July 1. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. Navy and its partners in Central and South America just wrapped up the UNITAS 2019 Pacific exercise, with a U.S. destroyer leading the 13-nation force through an anti-submarine and surface warfare drill. – USNI News

The Navy has finished the structural testing needed to confirm that the Hellfire anti-surface missile can safely operate on the Littoral Combat Ship, and the missile will go out on a ship deployment later this year, USNI News understands. – USNI News

Great power competition dramatically expands the challenges of confronting irregular naval warfare such as defending against maritime pirates or preserving the security of data sent through undersea cables, a panel of experts said at the Hudson Institute last week. – USNI News

Long War

Bosnia’s state court on Thursday sentenced two radical Islamists to four and 2-1/2 years respectively in prison after convicting them of plotting a terrorist attack on security police. – Reuters

A German woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for membership in the Islamic State group. – Associated Press

Sri Lanka is moving to curtail Saudi Arabian influence, after some politicians and Buddhist monks blamed the spread of the kingdom’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam for planting the seeds of militancy that culminated in deadly Easter bomb attacks. – Reuters