Fdd's overnight brief

July 9, 2019

In The News


The United Nations atomic agency confirmed that Iran is enriching uranium at levels that breach the 2015 nuclear agreement, leaving France, Britain and Germany with delicate decisions in the coming days over how to respond. – Wall Street Journal

For more than a year, Europeans have balanced between Washington and Tehran as they sought to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, under pressure from both sides and trying to avoid angering either. But the next few days could be decisive as Europe desperately tries to hold the agreement together while Iran increasingly flouts it. – Washington Post

Britain’s seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar last week will not be “unanswered”, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, said on Tuesday, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron about Iran’s threat to ramp up enrichment of uranium, the White House said. – Reuters

The United States will keep increasing pressure on Iran until it abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ceases its violent activities in the Middle East, John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, said on Monday. – Reuters

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday that the United States is prepared to protect U.S. personnel and citizens in the Middle East as tensions build with Iran over its nuclear program. – Reuters

World powers will not be able to negotiate a better deal with Iran than the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Monday. – Reuters

The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, claimed on Monday that the world knows that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, Reuters reports. – Arutz Sheva

European leaders must exit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and renew international sanctions on Tehran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, comparing the regime’s activities to the Nazi occupation of the Rhineland. – Washington Examiner

Iran is planning to charge foreign ships a toll in exchange for “protection” across the Strait of Hormuz, a key trade route and a flashpoint in the escalating dispute between the United States and the Islamic Republic. – Washington Examiner

Eli Lake writes: One of the comforting illusions promoted by many critics of President Trump’s Iran policy is that his actions have alienated and weakened the regime’s moderates. […]Proponents of this view would do well to study what happened 20 years ago this week at Tehran University. […]Leading a counter-demonstration was the secretary of Iran’s national security council, Hassan Rouhani. […]The Obama administration, which relied on him to negotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, touted him as an Iranian moderate. It’s telling that in 1999, he was the face of a regime undermining Iran’s only reformist president since the 1979 revolution. – Bloomberg


Turkey has ordered the arrest of 176 serving military personnel over suspected links to the network which Ankara says was behind an attempted coup three years ago, the Istanbul chief prosecutors’ office said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A Turkish ship planning to drill for oil and gas close to Cyprus dropped anchor off the island on Monday, triggering a strong protest from Nicosia and a rebuke from the European Union. – Reuters

A messy multibillion-dollar deal between Turkey and the United States took another turn over the weekend as Moscow announced it was in the process of delivering a much-anticipated missile system to Ankara. The delivery of the Russian-made S-400, a mobile surface-to-air missile system, is said to pose a risk to the NATO alliance as well as the F-35, America’s most expensive weapons platform. – CNBC


Iranian officials could sabotage U.S. efforts to broker a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, according to one of President Trump’s top advisers on the issue. “Iran is very likely a significant spoiler to our efforts — if we’re lucky enough to actually get traction on negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” Jason Greenblatt, the White House special representative for international negotiations, said Monday. – Washington Examiner

Nearly 50% of Palestinians living in Gaza believe the best means of ending the “occupation” is through armed conflict, according to a report released Monday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR). – Jerusalem Post

A tunnel dug from the Gaza Strip into Israel has been discovered by Israeli troops, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office announced Monday evening. – Ynet

Jerusalem District Court ruled Monday that the Palestinian Authority must pay compensation for 17 attacks carried out by terrorist organizations such as the PLO, Hamas and Islamic Jihad at the start of the millennium, in which 34 Israelis were killed and seven others were wounded. – Ynet

Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland writes: Israel’s policies towards Gaza had not changed in the eight years before Protective Edge, and certainly not since. We can call this policy simply “maintaining the status quo.” This means Israel will continue to suffer from burning kites, and daily harassment along the wall that separates Gaza from Israeli territory. – Ynet

Gadi Eisenkot writes: In short, the 2006 war yielded important strategic achievements for Israel, and as long as these achievements are maintained, stability on Israel’s northern border is likely. Moreover, the current situation facing Hezbollah, Iran, and the Qods Force may provide a strategic opportunity to further weaken their influence in Lebanon. Whatever the case, Israel must maintain its readiness and military superiority, both as deterrents to delay the next conflict and as instruments for decisive victory should conflict arise. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia says it has intercepted a drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting “civilian infrastructure” in the kingdom. – Associated Press

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement said on Monday that it carried out drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport and Tihama power station, the group’s Al-Masirah TV reported. – Reuters

Naval forces from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen foiled an attempted attack on an unidentified commercial ship in the southern Red Sea on Monday by the Iran-aligned Houthis, which the group denied. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates had been planning its recent troop drawdown in Yemen for over a year and coordinated its move with key ally Saudi Arabia, a senior Emirati official said on Monday. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

A government spokesman says Germany isn’t considering sending ground troops to Syria as part of its contribution to fighting the Islamic State group. German media reported over the weekend that the U.S. envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, asked the German government last week to contribute ground troops to the anti-IS coalition led by the United States. – Associated Press

Almost two years after Iraqi forces were able to retake Mosul from ISIS and largely defeated the organization on the ground, Iraq is launching yet another offensive to root out ISIS remnants. The operation is being called “Will of Victory” and was announced Sunday by the Security Media information cell of the government. – Jerusalem Post

Simon Henderson writes: When Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani goes to the White House on July 9, it will likely be with a sense of triumph. The Qatari leader has survived more than two years of diplomatic and economic isolation by his immediate neighbors, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. And with its giant al-Udeid airbase, Qatar is now central to U.S. contingency planning for coping with the developing crisis caused by Iran’s recent nuclear program violations and its attacks on oil tankers and pipelines. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

The son of a former South Korean foreign minister who fled to North Korea in the 1980s also defected to the North last week, according to the North’s state-run news media. The minister’s son, Choe In-guk, 73, arrived in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Saturday to “resettle permanently” in the North, a website called Uriminzokkiri, which is run by the North Korean government, said on Sunday.” – New York Times

Japan says it has no plans to retract its tightened control on high-tech exports to South Korea, saying it involves Japanese internal policy review. – Associated Press

Jeffrey Lewis writes: It should be clear to everyone that Kim has no intention of abandoning his nuclear weapons. While U.S. and South Korean officials have repeatedly promised that Kim would disarm, the North Koreans have repeatedly made clear that is not in the cards. When Bolton promoted the “Libya model” for North Korea’s disarmament, North Korean officials explicitly rejected “unilateral nuclear abandonment” and ghosted their U.S. counterparts trying to prepare for the summit in Singapore. – Washington Post

Peter Huessy writes: China’s fingerprints on the origins and spread of nuclear weapons technology into North Korea suggest that the issue cannot be addressed without considering China’s strategic role and aims toward the peninsula and beyond. – Council on Foreign Relations

Tyler Grant writes: Prior to Trump, American presidents didn’t successfully engage with the Kim family. In fact, President Clinton allegedly wanted to bomb North Korean enrichment facilities. Then in 2001, President George W. Bush instigated diplomatic back-channels to improve relations and set up a summit with no real progress. – Washington Examiner


Top American and China negotiators are set to speak this week in an effort to revive stalled trade talks, as discord over prior commitments and political considerations threaten to bog down discussions. – Wall Street Journal

Caught in the crossfire of the US-China trade war, Chinese students are looking for alternative study destinations — threatening to turn off an important source of revenue for American universities. China accounts for nearly a third of foreign students on US campuses who pour billions of dollars into the economy, but in March their numbers dropped for the first time in a decade. – Agence FrancePresse

A senior Chinese diplomat told an international forum in Beijing Monday there could be “disastrous” consequences if the US treats China as an “enemy.” China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng warned against blaming Beijing for all of Washington’s problems, as both sides prepare to restart talks to end the year-long trade war. – CNN


Taliban and Afghan representatives, including some government officials, agreed on Tuesday to a basic road map for negotiating the country’s political future, a major step that could help propel peace efforts to end the long war, now in its 18th year. – New York Times

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said a controversial bill to legalize extradition to mainland China is “dead,” though she didn’t say whether she would withdraw the legislation. – Wall Street Journal

A Qatari official has announced the “success” of Afghan peace talks held this week in Doha, the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement dated Monday and published on Tuesday. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale to Taiwan of M1A2T Abrams tanks, Stinger missiles and related equipment at an estimated value of $2.2 billion, the Pentagon said on Monday, despite Chinese criticism of the deal. – Reuters

Facing a wobbly ally in the United States and an increasingly bellicose China, Australia’s military strategists are cautiously debating whether the country needs to consider developing its own nuclear deterrent. For a long time, the country’s defence forces had relatively little to worry about. A century-old alliance with the United States brought bankable security guarantees, while mineral exports to China ensured 28 recession-free years at home. – Agence FrancePresse


Tensions between Russia and Georgia sharply escalated Monday after a television host in the former Soviet republic unleashed an expletive-laden tirade directed at President Vladi­mir Putin, provoking a rebuke from the Kremlin and condemnation within Georgia. – Washington Post

A court in Moscow ruled on Monday to keep U.S. investor Michael Calvey under house arrest until Oct. 13, Interfax news agency reported. – Reuters

A federal judge in Washington ordered the U.S. to limit the public statements it makes about a Russian consulting firm that was indicted for interfering in the 2016 election, but stopped short of finding the government in contempt. – Bloomberg

Britain said Monday it had barred Russia’s RT and Sputnik news organisations from a global conference on media freedom in London because of their “active role in spreading disinformation”. –Agence FrancePresse


President Trump said Monday that the United States would “no longer deal with” the British ambassador who disparaged his administration. In a cache of diplomatic cables leaked and published over the weekend, Ambassador Kim Darroch described the Trump White House as “inept,” “dysfunctional” and “unpredictable.” – Washington Post

President Trump on Monday took a swipe at departing U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May over her handling of Brexit, while declaring that the U.S. would “no longer deal with” the British ambassador, who was critical of Mr. Trump. – Wall Street Journal

Multiple members of the British government issued an apology on behalf the country to the U.S. after the UK ambassador to the U.S. called President Trump “inept” in a leaked memo. ”Contact has been made with the Trump administration, setting out our view that we believe the leak is unacceptable,” a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters Monday. – Washington Examiner

MPs will try to block a no-deal Brexit by attempting to amend the Northern Ireland Bill on Tuesday. The amendment requires the government to update MPs on the situation in Northern Ireland in the autumn, meaning, in theory, Parliament could not be suspended during this period. There have been suggestions that a new PM could shut down Parliament to prevent MPs blocking a no-deal Brexit. – BBC


A Congolese warlord known as “the Terminator” carried out those and other atrocities in a reign of terror against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which convicted him on Monday of 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, committed in the 2002-2003 ethnic conflict between Lendu and Hema in Congo’s Ituri region. – New York Times

Sudan’s top general says the military council that assumed power after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April will be dissolved with the implementation of a power-sharing deal reached with protesters last week. – Associated Press

The United Nations on Monday hailed a landmark Africa-wide free trade area accord launched at the weekend as a bridge towards peace on the continent. The long sought-after zone, which African leaders hope will become the world’s largest free trade zone by cutting trade tariffs and barriers between 1.2 billion people, was officially launched with much fanfare at an African Union (AU) summit on Sunday. – Agence FrancePresse

The Americas

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday the creation of a State Department panel to review unalienable rights in U.S. foreign policy. – Washington Examiner

Vice President Mike Pence lashed Democratic opponents and touted President Trump’s record during an annual summit of evangelical supporters of Israel in an address that saw the policy and lobbying conference double as a campaign rally. “Anyone who aspires to the highest office in the land should not be afraid to stand with Israel,” Pence said Monday at the Christians United for Israel Washington Summit. – Washington Examiner

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said he was “optimistic” as talks between the government and the opposition to resolve the country’s political crisis resumed on Monday. – BBC


Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Sunday accused China of building a “spy network” through the use of telecommunications group Huawei around the world and said it would be dangerous to allow Huawei access to U.S. fifth generation (5G) wireless networks. – The Hill

Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced legislation Monday designed to protect small businesses from cyberattacks by making it easier for those companies to access tools to protect themselves. – The Hill

The U.S. Coast Guard recommended on Monday that ships update their cybersecurity in the wake of a malware attack on a “deep draft vessel” in February that “significantly degraded” its computer system. – The Hill

The National Institute of Standards and Technology released a new report June 27 detailing the cybersecurity and privacy risks associated with the Internet of Things and solutions for how government agencies can manage them. – Fifth Domain


Expeditionary Signal Battalions (ESB) provide the Army with uninterrupted mission communications and the ability to rapidly deploy and maneuver across the battlefield. The enhanced version, ESB-E, will provide a modular, scalable, and more agile communications system. Ultimately, it will reduce the reliance on current legacy systems. – C4ISRNET

The Air Force will see two major satellites launched from Florida in late July following the delay of an advanced anti-jamming communications satellite launch in June. – C4ISRNET

To be a fly on the wall, an observer must be ubiquitous, unobtrusive and quiet. What if, instead, the observer was just a tiny fly-sized robot, independently powered, able to travel like its insect inspiration? That’s one possibility from the long line of work on the RoboBee series of miniature flying machines, the latest of which recently flew independently under its own photovoltaic power. – C4ISRNET

Will Roper, the U.S. Air Force’s acquisition executive, wants the service to shift to a faster, more modern approach for buying software and hardware. But that’s easier said than done. – Defense News

The Army is asking Congress to shift $24 million in fiscal year 2018 funding to help pay for a demonstration of a hit-to-kill munition critical to its long-range cannon program, according to a reprogramming request dated June 25 and sent to Capitol Hill. – Defense News

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group departed Naval Station Norfolk over the holiday weekend to begin its composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) ahead of a deployment later this year. – USNI News

The Navy has just weeks to find a new nominee to lead the service, as the Senate has a long list of defense nominees to consider – including the top two positions in the Pentagon – and a five-week recess coming up in early August. – USNI News

The Defense Department is considering investing in virtual reality platforms to prepare troops to face nuclear threats. – Defense One

Will Coudret and Frederico Bartels write: The House Armed Services Committee needs to do more if it’s serious about continuing to rebuild the military and meeting the challenges outlined in the president’s National Defense Strategy. It all starts with the budget. […]All in all, if the House is serious about rebuilding the military, it needs to give the men and women of the Armed Forces the resources they need to be successful. – The Daily Signal

Long War

A Texas man has pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Monday. Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya, 20, from Houston, attempted to join and support the terrorist group by providing information to other ISIS supporters about the use of machetes and information about the homemade construction of automatic weapons and explosive materials, the DOJ said. – The Hill

A Dutch-born alleged Islamic State militant went on trial in the Netherlands on Monday for war crimes committed in Iraq and Syria, after posing with a crucified body and sharing images of dead victims online. – Reuters

A Malian jihadist accused of demolishing Timbuktu’s fabled shrines also imposed a reign of terror on local residents, who were “scared out of their minds,” the International Criminal Court heard on Monday. – Agence FrancePresse