Fdd's overnight brief

July 6, 2020

In The News


Iran said it was looking at possible sabotage following recent blasts at several key Iranian sites, including the country’s main nuclear facility, a senior official said Friday, deepening the mystery around these incidents after other authorities initially sought to play down any suggestion of foul play. – Wall Street Journal

A fire at Iran’s main nuclear fuel enrichment site caused significant damage, setting back the country’s nuclear program by months, the government acknowledged on Sunday, after initially saying the destruction was minor. – New York Times

Tehran has built underground “missile cities” along the Gulf coastline, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Navy chief said on Sunday, warning of a “nightmare for Iran’s enemies”. – Reuters

The Iranian rial fell to a new low against the U.S. dollar on the unofficial market on Saturday, as the economy comes under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. sanctions. – Reuters

Iranian news agencies on Saturday reported an explosion at Zargan power plant and a chlorine leak at Karoun Petrochemical Industries Plant, but possible casualties and the scope of damages remain unclear. – Radio Farda

Israel was responsible for two blasts at Iranian facilities — one related to uranium enrichment, the other for missile production — over the past week, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported Friday. – Times of Israel

Iranian authorities allowed commercial flights to fly in and out of Tehran while missiles were being fired, putting civilian lives at risk, as closing the airspace would have revealed the regimes’ intention to strike US military bases in Iraq, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has heard. If the allegation is correct, the Iranian regime may be criminally liable for the deaths of those aboard the plane, a law professor has said. – Jerusalem Post

The European Union’s top diplomat said Friday that he has received a letter from Iran that triggers a dispute mechanism in the international agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, citing concerns that Britain, France and Germany are not living up to their side of the deal. – Associated Press

The entire shoreline of southern Iran has these weapons, he asserted. Most of these weapons systems are in the hands of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, not the regular Iranian Navy. They consist of various marine forces, including units of the Basij, the reports in Iranian state media claim – Jerusalem Post

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. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The overall picture in Iran is a regime pushing message discipline to weigh its response. It is juggling many files across the region and dealing with the European Union while holding high hopes for ending an arms embargo and going shopping in China and Russia in the following months. The regime may not want to upset the apple cart. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Natanz is important and the increasing spotlight put on the damage and accusations of who did it will rile up Iran’s IRGC and demands for a response. But Iran will have to choose carefully its next moves in a region that is a powder keg and one where it is trying to open up diplomatic avenues. – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: If any of the four explosions were an attack of some kind by the US, Israel, the Saudis or someone else, the goal is at most to play for time – possibly until the US election – and to foreshadow more threats down the line if the ayatollahs move closer to a nuclear weapon. But whether in the diplomatic, military or sanctioning realms, it will take a lot more than even these four explosions to stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon in the long term. – Jerusalem Post

Zvi Bar’el writes: That would be a dangerous assumption amid the intense political battle currently being waged in Iran. An “appropriate national” response against the enemies could serve the interests of conservatives in the country, whose power has increased since the elections to parliament. The diplomatic logic guiding President Rohani and his government might not be enough in the face of adversaries looking for his head. – Haaretz

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian write: The IAEA has likely visited the workshop afterwards, including after it began operations. It is unlikely that the building ever housed any nuclear material subject to safeguards. […]10 The downplaying of the incident resembles the response to another explosion at the Khojir Ballistic missile development and production complex reported on Friday of last week, assessed to have been caused by a fire that was fed by several horizontal fuel storage tanks. It also is in line with Iran’s initial attempts in January 2020 to deny that it had shot down a Ukrainian commercial airliner. – Institute for Science and International Security


Anguished relatives are poring over photos of torture victims from Syrian prisons, posted online by activists after the United States imposed heavy new sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad last month. – Associated Press

A Frenchman who converted to Islam and went abroad to fight for Islamic State was sentenced by a Paris court on Friday to 30 years in prison in France’s first successful prosecution of an Islamist militant for crimes committed in Syria. – Reuters

A recent article on the liberal Arabic media site Raseef22 expressed how compulsory military service in Syria has become the greatest source of anxiety for hundreds of thousands of young men and their families. – Haaretz


The festering dispute between France and Turkey over a naval standoff in the Mediterranean Sea has shone a glaring searchlight on NATO’s struggle to keep order among its ranks and exposed weaknesses in a military alliance that can only take action by consensus. – Associated Press

Greece and the EU are facing calls to probe the death of a Syrian man at the Turkish border after a research report concluded it was “highly probable” he was shot by Greek soldiers. – Financial Times

As Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks for an issue to fire up his Islamic and nationalist voter base amid declining poll numbers, he is moving closer to turning Istanbul’s ancient Basilica of the Hagia Sophia, a world heritage site and a powerful symbol for both Christians and Muslims, from a museum into a mosque. – The Daily Beast

A Turkish court sentenced four Amnesty International activists to between two and six years in prison on terrorism charges in a high-profile trial Friday, which the human rights group described as a “travesty of justice of spectacular proportions.” – CNN

Russian Orthodox authorities are worried about the preservation of historic Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia if Turkish plans to convert the museum back into a mosque are carried through. – Jerusalem Post


Israel’s defence minister said on Sunday it is not “necessarily” behind every mysterious incident in Iran, after a fire at the Natanz nuclear site prompted some Iranian officials to say it was the result of cyber sabotage. – Reuters

Israel on Monday launched a new spy satellite that it said would provide high-quality surveillance for its military intelligence. – Reuters

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday responded to a series of mysterious blasts in Iran, saying that not everything that happened there could be blamed on Israel. – Times of Israel

Israel takes action to stop the Iranian nuclear threat, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said Sunday in response to a question about a series of explosions that rocked sites associated with Iran’s missile and nuclear program. – Jerusalem Post

The deaths of the three men – two unemployed university graduates and a disgruntled street vendor – have sparked widespread anger among Palestinians, many of whom are blaming Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for the failure to improve living conditions of Gazans and provide jobs for young people. – Jerusalem Post

Israel struck on Sunday targets in the Gaza Strip, hours after three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel. – Haaretz

Sa’id Nakhala, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, said on Sunday that a removal of all the punitive measures taken by the Palestinian Authority against the Gaza Strip is a precondition for reconciliation in the Palestinian Arab arena. – Arutz Sheva

Russia welcomed Friday a pledge of unity between Palestinian factions Fatah and the Hamas terror group against Israel’s West Bank annexation plans. – Agence France-Presse

Two Israeli defense contractors will partner with Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 to develop technologies to help fight the new coronavirus, the companies said. – Reuters

Douglas Schoen writes: The United States partnership with Israel is beneficial to both nations in terms of defense as well as trade and technology. The calls to condition military aid to Israel is a bad move, and it has the potential to do lasting damage to our relationship with one of our closest allies. – The Hill

Mitchell Bard writes: Israel’s leaders will make a decision that is in Israel’s best interest regardless of what Americans think because they have learned over the years that no concessions they make to the Palestinians will be applauded or bring peace. – Jerusalem Post


A raid ordered by Iraq’s new prime minister on militiamen accused of planning an attack against Baghdad’s international zone could mark a turning point in his government’s efforts to bring Iran-backed groups to heel. – Washington Post

A rocket fired towards Baghdad’s Green Zone, which hosts the U.S. and other embassies, fell just short causing damage to a home and injuring a child early on Sunday, the Iraqi military said. – Reuters

A Katyusha rocket was fired towards the Baghdad International Airport on Sunday night, according to the Iraqi Al-Sumaria news. The rocket did not explode, according to Sky News Arabia. – Jerusalem Post

Air defense systems responded to a rocket attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad on Saturday night, according to Al-Arabiya. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The Patriots and C-RAM are a start. Time will tell if it will be enough. Iraqi politicians are already chaffing and claiming the US has militarized the embassy area, a violation of diplomatic norms. These same Iraqi members off parliament from the Fatah Alliance, who support Iran, didn’t complain when their colleagues in Kataib Hezbollah and the PMU fired rockets at US forces and the diplomatic compound. They know very well the rockets targeted Union III and other areas near the embassy. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iraq is today at a crossroads as pro-Iranian groups push their agents on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. He has chosen a member of the Badr Organization for a high-level national security position. A week ago, he tried to have the Counter-Terrorism Service detain members of Kataib Hezbollah who were plotting attacks on the US. Instead, they were released and proceeded to burn the American flag and trample images of Kadhimi. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The government wants to secure the borders and end the ISIS insurgency as well as reassert itself. There are signs of hope, with reconstruction in Mosul and other areas. But there are also many pieces of evidence that show that Iranian-backed groups can, at a moments notice, do as they please. – Jerusalem Post

Arabian Peninsula

A trial in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi opened Friday in a Turkish court, though none of the 20 defendants charged in the killing, all nationals of Saudi Arabia, were in attendance. – Washington Post

A Saudi consulate worker in Istanbul told a Turkish court on Friday he had been asked to light a tandoor oven less than an hour after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the building where he was killed. – Reuters

The Saudi-led military coalition battling the Houthis in Yemen said on Friday it had destroyed four explosive-laden drones launched by the Iran-aligned group in the direction of Saudi Arabia, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. – Reuters

David Ignatius writes: The dazzling rise and tragic fall of Mohammed bin Nayef is a modern Shakespearean tragedy, set in a desert kingdom. Whatever MBN’s failings, the American intelligence officers who worked with him regard him still as a hero who helped save his country when it was mortally threatened. They recall the motto of the Mabahith, the modern security service that MBN did so much to create: “A homeland we don’t protect, we don’t deserve to live in.” – Washington Post


France’s growing spat with Turkey over the Libyan civil war has exposed cracks in the Nato military alliance and raised questions over what Paris is seeking to achieve in the region. – Financial Times

Warplanes struck overnight at an airbase that was recently recaptured by Libya’s internationally recognised government from eastern forces with help from Turkey, a military source with the eastern forces and a resident nearby said. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The US says it wants to confront Russia in Libya. Everyone seems to want a piece of the action. None of the countries involved seem to have any interest in the Libyan people or stabilizing the country after a decade of civil war. It looks more like a test bed for Turkish weaponry and Chinese drones, as well as for Russian and Turkish air-defense systems. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Libya is now the jewel in the crown. Turkey will use it to pressure Egypt and Greece for concessions and also to work with Russia. Ankara has also shown that the Arab states, despite their complaints about Turkey’s continued escalation, are largely unable to stop Turkey and will continue to be distracted by the numerous crises that Turkey heats up every month. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

Yet Mr. Kim’s grip on power, at its most practical level, hinges on North Korea’s military, the regime’s paramount institution. Military experts, in the U.S. and Asia, have long speculated the country’s armed forces are rotting from the inside, racked by corruption and strategic decisions that funnel precious funds into nuclear weapons and missile research instead of caring for its troops. Now a growing stream of defectors are building out the picture with gripping personal accounts of deprivation. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea does not feel the need to have talks with the United States, which would be nothing more than “a political tool” for Washington, a senior North Korean diplomat said on Saturday, ahead of a U.S. envoy’s visit to South Korea. – Reuters

A South Korean court on Monday refused an extradition request by U.S. law enforcement authorities for a man convicted of running a South Korea-based dark web child pornography site that sold videos for digital cash around the world. – Reuters


Strike fighters and electronic-warfare jets took off day and night from two U.S. aircraft carriers in the South China Sea to simulate sustained attacks on enemy bases as Washington put on one of its biggest displays of naval power in a potential flashpoint for conflict. – Wall Street Journal

Economic activity is gathering momentum in China, a raft of survey data showed this week, the latest sign that Beijing’s uncompromising approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic is starting to pay dividends even as the U.S. shuts down swaths of its economy in a struggle to contain the virus. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese police on Monday seized the Tsinghua University professor and essayist Xu Zhangrun, silencing one of the last voices within China’s besieged intellectual circles who dared to openly and persistently criticize President Xi Jinping’s leadership. – Washington Post

Huawei is under a lot of pressure. Fresh US sanctions have cut off the Chinese tech company’s access to vital American technology to a greater extent than ever before. Countries and mobile network operators around the world are now questioning whether Huawei will be able to deliver on its 5G promises. And rising anti-China sentiment in India and elsewhere is not helping matters. – CNN

The Chinese government took steps to boost political policing as a slew of international spats risk sowing domestic unrest, potentially undermining support for the Communist Party. – Bloomberg

China fired back at Canada on Saturday for criticising Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, the second rebuke in a week that has added to strains of their bilateral ties. – Reuters

Megan McArdle writes: So on this Fourth of July, it falls to the American public to take the same stand for liberty, equality and justice abroad that we recently have at home. We must force U.S. businesses to state, loudly and without equivocation, that all people have certain inalienable rights, even if they live in China, and that defending those rights is worth our lives, our sacred honor and, yes, even our fortunes. – Washington Post

Niall Ferguson writes: Of course, you may say, it’s just sci-fi. Yes, but “The Dark Forest” gives us an insight into something we think too little about: how Xi’s China thinks. It’s not up to us whether or not we have a Cold War with China, if China has already declared Cold War on us. Not only are we already in the foothills of that new Cold War; those foothills are also impenetrably covered in a dark forest of China’s devising. – Bloomberg


Washington’s envoy to Afghanistan on Saturday emphasized the economic benefits of the peace deal with the Taliban, forging ahead with an agreement that has run into new political obstacles in the U.S. and the region. – Associated Press

Intelligence that Afghan militants might have accepted Russian bounties for killing American troops did not scuttle the U.S.-Taliban agreement or President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw thousands more troops from the war. – Associated Press

Revelations that Russia may have paid bounties to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan is the latest and most alarming evidence to date that Vladimir Putin’s government is intent on damaging American interests there and hastening a U.S. withdrawal.  – USA Today

South Asia

India intends its ban on Chinese apps to show its willingness to dismantle important economic links between the two countries to pressure Beijing to back off in a border dispute, Indian officials and analysts say. But further steps to roll back economic integration would be at least as painful for India as China. – Wall Street Journal

Indian soldiers who died in close combat with Chinese troops last month were unarmed and surrounded by a larger force on a steep ridge, Indian government sources, two soldiers deployed in the area and families of the fallen men said. – Reuters

The $3bn Indian food delivery start-up Zomato has been cut off from its biggest Chinese investor in the first major example of how Delhi’s new foreign investment laws have hit funding. – Financial Times

Beijing is pushing back on a decision by India to ban dozens of Chinese mobile apps as tensions between the world’s most populous countries continue to rise. – CNN

Last month’s deadly border battle between India and China has already begun to affect business and technology. But the world’s two most populous countries have a lot to lose should the dispute escalate into a full-on trade war. – CNN

Editorial: Almost one-third of TikTok’s downloads came from India. This action will hurt China, in other words, but also more than 120 million Indians — not to mention the users of those 58 other apps. And though China’s short-term interest may have been harmed, its long-term goal of a fractured Internet has been served. For those who live in countries inclined to ban Web services from abroad, this fracturing of the Internet isn’t only a fracturing. It’s a shrinking, too. – Washington Post


Public libraries have removed several books by pro-democracy figures from circulation, amplifying concerns that China’s sweeping national-security law for Hong Kong will be used to restrict political discussion in the city. – Wall Street Journal

A motorcyclist who drove through Hong Kong streets during demonstrations Wednesday with a flag bearing a popular protest slogan before colliding with police officers was charged with terrorism and secession, making him the first person publicly charged under China’s new national-security law. – Wall Street Journal

But when the statement came out, only four of the countries — the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia — had signed it. New Zealand released its own, separate statement, worded almost identically. It was a sign of how, under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand is recalibrating its dealings with both Beijing and Washington — and walking a tightrope. – Washington Post

Taiwan has scored a rare diplomatic victory in establishing relations with the independent region of Somaliland. – Associated Press

The top American diplomat in Hong Kong said Monday that it is a “tragedy” to use the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s new national security law to chip away at “fundamental freedoms” in the Asian financial hub and create an “atmosphere of coercion and self-censorship.” – Associated Press

Closer ties with Asian allies, greater use of artificial intelligence and deploying more troops east of Suez are among the strategies Britain’s military chiefs are considering to counter China’s growing assertiveness since the pandemic. – Financial Times

While Taiwanese sympathise with Hong Kong’s democracy movement, the government is treading carefully. It is mindful that promoting Taiwan as a base for Hong Kong’s fight against Beijing would place the island in even greater danger. – Financial Times

A clash between Toshiba and a secretive Singapore-based activist fund is poised to create the first test case of Japan’s highly controversial new national security law on foreign investment. – Financial Times

Simon Cheng Man-kit, the British consulate worker who was allegedly tortured by Chinese secret police, is working to set up a shadow parliament to keep the flame of democracy alive for Hong Kong. – Telegraph

Lawmakers in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party have drafted a resolution calling for the cancellation of a state visit by President Xi Jinping following China’s clampdown on Hong Kong. – Bloomberg

George F. Will writes: Beijing should remember this: France’s Committee of Public Safety was created in April 1793. Maximilien Robespierre, who prefigured Lenin, joined it on July 27. One year and a day later, devoured by forces he had fomented, he was guillotined in Paris’s Place de la Révolution, now called Place de la Concorde. Beijing’s totalitarians, who have murderous French precursors, may one day have a similarly disagreeable rendezvous with their handiwork. – Washington Post

Martin S. Flaherty writes: Beijing’s enhanced version of imperial security all but obliterates the high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong it pledged for 50 years. Yet there may be some solace: With sustained pressure from within and without, even the most repressive colonial systems can eventually fall victim to their own lawlessness. – Washington Post

Marion Smith writes: There has never been a better time for a presidential visit. For that matter, Taiwan has never been more important to American interests. Taiwan is everything that Communist China is not — a responsible global partner, a flourishing democracy, and a land where human rights are respected and protected. With Hong Kong now lost to Beijing’s clutches, President Trump should respond by showing the strongest support yet for the lonely island that represents the best hope for China’s future. – USA Today


Russia’s grievances against what it sees as American bullying and expansion into its own zones of influence have been stacking up for decades, starting with the C.I.A.’s role in arming mujahedin fighters who, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, delivered a fatal blow not only to the invading Red Army but the entire Soviet Union. – New York Times

President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday constitutional amendments approved in a nationwide vote created the conditions for Russia’s “progressive development” for decades to come. One of the changes approved in the week-long vote that ended on July 1 makes it possible for Putin to seek two more terms as president and, if re-elected, to stay in power until 2036. – Reuters

Russia is not in talks with Washington about its potential role at an expanded Group of Seven summit later this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday, insisting that China should also be included in the event. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin on Friday mocked the U.S. embassy in Moscow for flying a rainbow flag to celebrate LGBT rights, suggesting it reflected the sexual orientation of its staff. – Reuters

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Perhaps, as Trump’s poll numbers continue to sink, Putin will decide that he must exploit the window of opportunity that he now has to move his forces into Belarus, thereby placing Poland in a Russian vise. Even if he does not, Putin’s extended tenure means that Russia no longer can be seen solely as a near-term threat to American interests. On the contrary, the next several presidents will have to contend with a man whose life’s mission is, as Kennan so elegantly put it in his Long Telegram, “to seek security only in patient but deadly struggle for total destruction of rival power.” – The Hill

David B. Rivkin Jr. and George S. Beebe write: Confirmed or not, the allegations should serve as a sobering reminder that unconstrained shadow warfare with Moscow can produce genuine dangers for Americans. One glaring difference between the Cold War and today is that the Cold War was fought within the parameters of agreed rules. Today, we have almost none. We would be wise to consider this as our national discourse on Russia proceeds. – The Hill


Police in Austria say they have detained a Russian man after one of his compatriots was shot dead near Vienna late Saturday in what Austrian media report is being considered a possible political assassination. – Associated Press

When the United Kingdom voted to withdraw from the European Union in June 2016, little attention was paid to the country’s only land border with the E.U. This consequential border separates Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K, from the Republic of Ireland, which is an E.U. member state. – USA Today

Polish President Andrzej Duda suggested on Friday that Germany was trying to meddle in the presidential election after a German-owned tabloid newspaper reported on a pardon that he granted to a man who had served his sentence in a paedophilia case. – Reuters

Dominic Raab, UK foreign secretary, will on Monday name the first foreign citizens to face visa bans and asset freezes for alleged human rights abuses under Britain’s new post-Brexit sanctions regime, with Russians and Saudis among those expected to be targeted. – Financial Times

Boris Johnson is this month expected to draw up plans to phase out Huawei from Britain’s 5G phone networks, after warnings that US sanctions have undermined the Chinese telecoms equipment maker’s ability to supply the UK market. – Financial Times

The Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a letter to the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell, in which Director for International Relations of the center, Dr. Shimon Samuels, suggested that the EU should stop its focus on Israel, and instead turn its attention to a Turkish ratline that is allegedly bringing former ISIS volunteers into Europe. – Jerusalem Post

For more than 70 years, the transatlantic alliance has served as the unshakable foundation of European stability and underpinned the values of the US-led Western order. In 2020, it appears that relationship is being rethought on both sides of the Atlantic. – CNN

John Sawers writes: We must be careful not to go so far as to turn China into an enemy. We need its engagement on crucial issues such as managing climate change and regulating international trade. But China’s leaders should also understand that they will pay a price if they try to impose their system and standards on other countries, be that through the Belt and Road Initiative, by manipulating economic leverage for political ends, or by more forceful military or intelligence actions. Only unity among China’s main economic partners will achieve that. – Financial Times

Michael Rubin writes: This is why not only Congress and the Pentagon, but also the State Department and the National Security Council should consider the impact of rebasing U.S. forces leaving Germany in Poland, especially when other alternatives exist in the Baltics, Romania, or the Czech Republic. The question then becomes whether Poland’s anti-democratic leaders will see the U.S. presence less as a defense against Russia and more as a means to immunize themselves from returning to the democratic order. U.S. forces should be in Europe to protect the liberal order, not to accelerate its end. – The National Interest

Ian Bond writes: Even if they would rather pretend that nothing is changing, the EU and as many non-EU, Europe-based NATO members as are willing to do so need to pay attention to Trump’s message. And they need to start thinking about how to defend Europe and deter potential adversaries with reduced U.S. help. – Defense News


As the United States again confronts its history of racism, as outrage again erupts over police killings, leaders in Ghana say they’re rolling out the welcome mat for black Americans who want to get away from the turmoil. – Washington Post

The Paris appeals court on Friday upheld a decision to end a years-long investigation into the plane crash that sparked Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, citing lack of sufficient evidence. – Associated Press

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed to start negotiations for a post-Brexit trade agreement between the two nations. – Bloomberg

Dozens of soldiers clutching AK-47s and grenade launchers watch over roaring bulldozers on the white sand beach that meets a tropical turquoise sea. They’re guarding Africa’s biggest investment: a $23 billion project to export Mozambique’s natural gas from an area increasingly besieged by an Islamist insurgency. – Bloomberg

Explosions rocked two of Somalia’s largest cities on Saturday as officials said a suicide car bomber detonated near the port in Mogadishu and a land mine in a restaurant on the outskirts of Baidoa killed four people. – Associated Press

The plane from Egypt packed with a cache of weapons was meant to arrive in Somalia in May. But the two thousand Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, pistols and mortars never touched down. They were stopped, a senior Somali official told The Sunday Telegraph, because of fears in Mogadishu of Somalia being publicly drawn into a growing row between two of Africa’s superpowers. – Telegraph  

The Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee on Sunday tapped Ishmael Khaldi to serve as ambassador to Eritrea in what will make him the first Bedouin to serve as an Israeli ambassador abroad. – Times of Israel

The Americas

An Iranian conglomerate owned by the country’s military and tied to its missile program has established a retail foothold in Venezuela, according to officials and records detailing the move, deepening Tehran’s involvement with the Maduro government. – Wall Street Journal

South America’s largest country by landmass and economy is also a flashpoint for criminal organizations, narcotics trafficking, and terrorism financing. […]Intelligence cooperation and military partnerships with Brazil broke down, and the United States lost a key partner. – Washington Examiner

For two months, the Malta-flagged oil tanker Alkimos has been quietly floating off the Gulf Coast of Texas, undisturbed by the high-stakes legal fight playing out in a federal courtroom as a result of American sanctions on Venezuela. – Associated Press

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 when a U.S. Supreme Court justice rebuffed an appeal by a sanctioned Venezuelan businessman whose assets they seek to claim. – Associated Press

Colombia’s government said on Friday it will challenge a court order to suspend the activities of a U.S. army unit advising its military in the fight against drug trafficking. – Reuters

Editorial: But the regime can’t be trusted, even if it promises to spend the gold proceeds through the United Nations. The opposition has noted that a 2018 sale of 73 tons of gold by the Venezuelan central bank occurred with zero public accounting, and the Maduro government has rejected humanitarian assistance from the U.S. The government in Caracas exists today to keep the elite in power, and handing it gold won’t help the suffering people of Venezuela. – Wall Street Journal


Federal officials and experts are warning that foreign cyber criminals are targeting U.S. businesses and Americans who are working from home on less-secure networks during the COVID-19 pandemic. – The Hill

“Israel is in many ways in the forefront when it comes to digitization, cyber and medical technology,” said OECD Deputy Secretary General Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen told The Jerusalem Post. Knudsen’s remarks came ahead of Sunday’s conference marking 10 years of Israel as a member state of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), presented by Maariv and The Jerusalem Post Group. – Jerusalem Post

Iran will retaliate against any country that carries out cyber attacks on its nuclear sites, the head of civilian defence said, after a fire at its Natanz plant which some Iranian officials said may have been caused by cyber sabotage. – Reuters

Trump Administration

Russia is once again threatening to become a major factor in a U.S. presidential election as long-standing fears about President Trump’s deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin crystallize in a scandal over alleged Russian bounty payments targeting U.S. forces in Afghanistan. – Washington Post

Leaks about Russia offering bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to target U.S. and other coalition troops in Afghanistan likely came from counterintelligence officials aligned with the Democratic Party, according to the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. – Washington Examiner

Donald Trump’s claim not to have been briefed about intelligence suggesting Russia paid Taliban-linked militants to kill US soldiers is “just not the way the system works”, former national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday. – The Guardian