Fdd's overnight brief

June 11, 2019

In The News


The authorities in Iran have barred the Tehran-based correspondent for The New York Times from working for the past four months, the newspaper said Monday. – New York Times

Germany’s foreign minister made a bid to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, reassuring leaders in Tehran of Europe’s commitment to the pact and showcasing European support for Iran at a time when the Islamic Republic is locked in a high-stakes battle with Washington. – Wall Street Journal

Iran will release a Lebanese citizen charged with spying for the United States on Monday, Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency reported. – New York Times

The Trump administration is weighing sanctions against the Iranian financial body set up as a go-between for humanitarian trade with Europe, a move likely to sever the economic and humanitarian lifeline that France, Germany and the U.K. have sought to create for Tehran. – Bloomberg

Iran’s foreign minister warned the U.S. on Monday that it “cannot expect to stay safe” after launching what he described as an economic war against Tehran, taking a hard-line stance amid a visit by Germany’s top diplomat seeking to defuse tensions. – Associated Press

Britain, France and Germany are committed to stick to their commitments from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, adding that it was important to keep on talking to avoid a military escalation. – Reuters

Iran has followed through on a threat to accelerate its production of enriched uranium, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Monday, departing from his usual guarded language to say he was worried about increasing tension. – Reuters

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani on a visit to Tehran this week, in a bid to ease tension between Washington and Iran that experts called a bold move for a Japanese leader. – Reuters

The U.N. atomic watchdog’s chief said on Monday he was worried about rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and called for de-escalation through dialogue, departing from his usual guarded language on the country. – Reuters

In response to questions today in Tehran from a reporter for the mass circulation German paper Bild, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated his country’s lethal homophobic law and its opposition to the Jewish state and the US. – Jerusalem Post

Iran may be hiding as many as five underground clandestine nuclear sites from the IAEA, former deputy director-general for Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency Olli Heinonen has told The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

Iran’s economy has had a turbulent decade. In 2016, Iran was on the rise economically, but since 2018, United States sanctions have sent the Middle Eastern nation in a downward spiral. The sanctions had previously been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal between the two countries. Now, experts predict that Iran will face a shrinking economy, ballooning inflation, and a significant budget deficit. As Iran looks to the future, it’s relying on trade partners other than the US in hopes to get its economy back on track. Here are eight surprising facts about Iran’s economy. – Business Insider


The Hezbollah terror group bypasses US sanctions against Iran and launders many millions of dollars by playing a key role in the global drug trade into Europe, Israeli researchers said Monday. – Times of Israel

Radicals linked to the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement were found to be stockpiling bomb-making ingredients in London in 2015 in a case that was kept “hidden from the public”, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday. – Agence FrancePresse

Israeli officials confirmed Monday that the Mossad intelligence agency provided information that led British law enforcement to thwart a 2015 plot by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to attack targets in the UK. – Ynet

David Daoud writes: Hezbollah’s skillful use of propaganda has allowed it to remain a relatively small group that wages war effectively, but cheaply. The organization has learned to adeptly amplify its threats in such a manner that they become military “achievements” in and of themselves. […]By projecting outsized power to restrain Israel, Hezbollah is gradually moving towards its annihilationalist goal – with minimal resistance from Israelis. – Haaretz


Russian forces are preparing a military operation to help Syrian dictator Bashar Assad reclaim the last major cities held by rebel forces and terrorists, according to Moscow’s top diplomat. – Washington Examiner

Aerial strikes on Monday killed at least 25 people, mostly civilians, in northwestern Syria in the sixth week of a Russian-led military offensive that has so far killed hundreds of civilians, according to residents and civil rescuers. – Reuters

Up to 2 million refugees could flee to Turkey if fighting intensifies in northwestern Syria as aid funds run dangerously low, the United Nations said on Monday. – Reuters


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing to retain control over this city, which propelled his political career and drives Turkey’s economy, but the real prize in this month’s election rerun is its budget. – Wall Street Journal

It’s not only Donald Trump who has a beef with CNN’s news coverage. Cable News Network Inc.’s Turkish franchise is also facing backlash for its sympathetic coverage of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party. Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, organized simultaneous protests outside CNN headquarters in Atlanta, CNN New York and the White House claiming the channel acts “as a mouthpiece for Erdogan’s AKP government and purposefully spreads false propaganda about opposition parties in Turkey.” – Bloomberg

The U.S. military has grounded the Turkish pilots training on the F-35 fighter jet in the United States and cut off their access to the aircraft’s restricted information in anticipation of Turkey’s expulsion from the program over its plans to purchase a contentious Russian missile system. – Foreign Policy

Soner Cagaptay writes: Although massive state resources have been mobilized against Imamoglu, the opposition candidate has taken up the mantle of the underdog who could challenge the status quo nationally, just as Erdogan himself did two decades ago. – Washington Institute


The Palestinian foreign minister said on Monday that comments by the U.S. ambassador to Israel were intended to help Israel annex parts of the occupied West Bank, underscoring the Palestinians’ distrust of the Trump administration. – Reuters

Israel has quietly waged a two-year financial campaign against organizations promoting a boycott of the Jewish state by revealing their connections to terror operatives, leading to the closures of dozens of fundraising accounts, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs said Monday. – Times of Israel

The US announced that White House national security adviser John Bolton will meet in June with his Russian and Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem. In an article published in the liberal Russian media outlet Republic.ru, Russian expert Vladimir Frolov wrote that the meeting will focus on Iran, stressing that Russia is prepared to take in consideration and promote American interests regarding expanding the Iranian deal in terms of setting limits on Iran with regards to its regional expansion and aggressive actions via ‘allies’. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Mohammed S. Dajani and Marcus Sheff write: The Palestinian school curriculum is making headlines because of its antagonistic orientation. Donor nations have given millions to the PA, hoping that their donations would help guide Palestinian children towards a more fruitful, prosperous, and peaceful future. The PA, with international assistance, designed a new, revamped curriculum for its schools that teaches animosity, violent jihadism, martyrdom, and antagonism. – Washington Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: What Bahrain, its supporters and Washington now must do is convince the Palestinian leadership to change their tune. If the U.S. can come out of the Bahrain conference with an attractive economic incentive, it might be too important for the Palestinian leadership to continue to boycott. It will be hard for Abbas to walk back from harsh comments about the White House plan. Ramallah’s recalcitrance could be good news for Israel, demonstrating to Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia that Israel is more reasonable on this topic than the Palestinian leaders. – The Hill


Pope Francis said on Monday he wants to travel to Iraq next year, which would be the first ever papal trip there. – Reuters

New Zealand will begin scaling back its non-combat mission in Iraq next month and bring home the last of its troops by mid-2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday. – Agence FrancePresse

The prime minister of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Nechirvan Barzani, was sworn on Monday in as its president, filling the most powerful regional office, vacant since 2017 when his uncle quit after a failed independence bid. – Reuters

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against a teenager accused of crimes he allegedly committed as a minor, drawing fire from rights groups who say his execution would violate international law. – Washington Post

Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces intercepted two drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis and targeting the city of Khamis Mushait, a Saudi led coalition spokesman said in statement released by Saudi Press Agency early on Tuesday. – Reuters

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement said on Monday that it carried out attacks on King Khalid airbase near Khamis Mushait in southwestern Saudi Arabia, the group’s Al-Masirah TV reported. – Reuters

At least four Senate Republicans will join Democrats on 22 resolutions to disapprove of the Trump administration’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a move that could tie up the Senate for days and put the president’s closest allies at odds with part of his foreign policy. – Bloomberg

Yemen’s foreign minister has submitted his resignation as differences emerge within the Saudi-backed government over the handling of a U.N.-led peace initiative in the main port city of Hodeidah, two ministry sources said on Monday. – Reuters

Dana Stroul writes: In essence, the senators are using that same standard tool for a nonstandard situation. Yet while twenty-two resolutions can help grab headlines and send a signal to the executive branch, foreign governments, and the defense industry, they are unlikely to compel speedy legislative consideration on the Senate floor. Even if the Senate and House were to pass some of them, President Trump would no doubt veto them, and the Senate is unlikely to override him given the required two-thirds margin. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

Kim Jong Nam, the slain half brother of North Korea’s leader, was a Central Intelligence Agency source who met on several occasions with agency operatives, a person knowledgeable about the matter said. – Wall Street Journal

A human rights group said Tuesday it has identified hundreds of spots where witnesses claim North Korea carried out public executions and extrajudicial state killings as part of an arbitrary and aggressive use of the death penalty that is meant to intimidate its citizens. – Associated Press

North Korean state media called on the United States on Tuesday to “withdraw its hostile policy” towards Pyongyang or agreements made at a landmark summit in Singapore a year ago might become “a blank sheet of paper”. – Reuters


The U.S. Energy Department is banning its researchers from joining Chinese talent-recruitment programs after finding personnel were recruited by foreign military-linked programs and lured with multimillion-dollar packages. – Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday a highly controversial extradition bill will proceed to the legislature for debate after the territory’s largest protests in at least a decade filled the streets to oppose the legislation. – Associated Press

Chinese tech giant Huawei said Tuesday it would have become the world’s number one smartphone maker by year’s end if it were not for “unexpected” circumstances — a hint that pressure from the U.S. may be hurting its sales. – Associated Press

President Donald Trump says if Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) doesn’t meet with him at the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, this month, additional tariffs will go into effect. – Associated Press

A New Zealand court stopped a murder suspect being extradited to China Tuesday, saying it could not send a suspect to a country where torture was “widespread” and “systemic”. – Agence FrancePresse

The Chinese financial news website wallstreetcn.com said it has been shut down to undergo “rectification” amid a wider crackdown by the Chinese authorities on websites and news providers. – Reuters

The U.S. expressed “grave concern” over Hong Kong legislation that would for the first time allow extraditions to mainland China, raising pressure on Beijing as the city braces for new protests and potential strikes amid a showdown over the proposal. – Bloomberg

The Trump administration’s fight against China’s Huawei Technologies Co. justifies Russia’s decision to build a “sovereign internet” to protect its domestic network from external threats, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov. – Bloomberg

Donald Trump’s softened stance on whether he’d freeze out allies over Huawei Technologies Co. is a “new nuance” as deliberations continue over whether to ban the firm, a senior Canadian official said. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The massive crowd in downtown Hong Kong Sunday showed that the city’s residents understand very well what is at stake. Once the law is in effect, politicians, journalists and civil society activists who speak about the city’s steadily eroding autonomy and Mr. Xi’s consolidation of dictatorship will be under perpetual threat. As Jimmy Lai, a local media magnate, put it, “Hong Kong will just become another Chinese city ruled by the Communist Party.” That, of course, would be a betrayal of China’s commitment to preserve Hong Kong’s separate economic and political systems until 2047. Yet as Mr. Xi has demonstrated again and again, treaties and international law won’t restrain his ambitions. Nor, alas, will the wishes of the Chinese people. – Washington Post

Tuan Pham writes: What a difference a few weeks makes. In late April, optimism about a looming U.S-China trade deal permeated the spring air. Stock markets were upbeat, and press reporting confident. Then, in early May, Chinese negotiators unexpectedly (or maybe expectedly) backtracked on previously settled commitments for structural reforms. – War on the Rocks


The arrest of a respected investigative journalist on dubious drug charges has hit a nerve in Russia, spurring growing protests on Monday and statements from a wide circle of celebrities criticizing abuse by the security services. – New York Times

A U.S. diplomat has rebuked the Russian government for discouraging Russian citizens from participating in English language courses operated by the State Department. – Washington Examiner

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said he discussed regional and international issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call on Monday. – Reuters


Such are the competing realities in Moldova, a small former Soviet state in southeast Europe, where two of the country’s three largest parties formed a new coalition government on Saturday in order to oust the third from power. But the latter, the Democratic Party of Moldova, has refused to leave office — leaving the country with two claimants to every ministry. – New York Times

Five EU states including Britain, France and Germany on Monday threw their support behind Moldova’s parliament as it negotiated a constitutional crisis pitting it against an interim president wanting it dissolved to hold new elections. – Agence FrancePresse

Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain’s Brexit Party, is planning to start his own trade talks with the White House amid frustration that the British government has let the process stall. – Washington Examiner

Poland will unveil a deal with Washington this week to bolster the U.S. military presence there, expecting more troops, command and logistics capability, though not quite a single big “Fort Trump” as Warsaw floated last year, President Andrzej Duda said. – Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a group of British Jewish leaders that Washington would “push back” against UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn  and do its “level best” to keep him from taking any steps that would make life difficult for Jews in the United Kingdom, a report said Saturday. – Times of Israel

Maya Kandel and Caroline Gondaud write: Populism has never been so scrutinized, analyzed, and questioned. One aspect of populism, however, remains less studied: its impact on countries’ foreign policies and on their interstate relations in an international system in flux. – War on the Rocks


At least 95 people were killed in central Mali when gunmen stormed a village overnight, carrying out an especially bloody attack in the West African nation, which has been gripped by surging extremist violence and ethnic tensions. – Washington Post

The U.S. top diplomat for Africa will visit Sudan this week to meet with a transitional military council and the country’s civilian opposition to urge talks, the State Department said on Monday. – Reuters

Sudan’s Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) alliance will propose eight members of a transitional council, and Abdullah Hamdouk as prime minister, a source from the alliance told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

Rwanda said on Monday it would re-open its busiest border post with Uganda to cargo trucks for 12 days, more than three months after it was closed amid tensions between the two neighbors triggered by security and economic disagreements. – Reuters

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir brutally crushed dissent during the three decades he ruled the North African nation. But his overthrow in April hasn’t ushered in peace. Instead, the military council that replaced him is accused of some of the worst-ever violence in the capital, Khartoum.  – Bloomberg

Islamist militants are likely to try to carry out attacks in Ghana as their influence is spreading in West Africa, according to the U.K. Foreign Office. – Bloomberg

United States

The New York Times has announced it will no longer include daily political cartoons in its international edition, weeks after apologising for publishing a caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deemed anti-Semitic. – Agence FrancePresse

The Department of Justice has made its formal request to the U.K. to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. – Washington Examiner

A student’s collective for a Palestinian state rallied on Israel’s Independence Day in Brooklyn. The group, according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), called for Israel’s elimination repeatedly. – Jerusalem Post

Latin America

Members of Mexico’s newly created national guard are to be deployed this week to the country’s southern border, forming a force that will eventually reach 6,000 as part of the agreement with the United States that helped to stave off President Trump’s threat of tariffs. – Washington Post

Colombia’s House of Representatives opened a debate on Monday to censure the country’s defense minister, amid national criticism that the military had issued orders this year encouraging human rights abuses. – New York Times

President Donald Trump on Monday hinted more details were to come about a migration pact the United States signed with Mexico last week, saying another portion of the deal with Mexico would need to be ratified by Mexican lawmakers. – Reuters


A federal subcontractor working for U.S. Customs and Border Protection suffered a malicious cyberattack that compromised likely tens of thousands of photos of travelers’ faces and their vehicles’ license plates, officials said. – Wall Street Journal

A Huawei executive defended the company’s security practices in the face of tough questioning from members of the British Parliament on Monday, as the Chinese technology giant seeks to contain an American-led effort to ban it around the world. – New York Times

When Alexa Koenig learned of Facebook’s abrupt decision to turn off a set of advanced search features last week, she thought of a Libyan military commander named Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli. […]Now that kind of work is being put in jeopardy, according to Koenig, executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She said Facebook’s recent decision to turn off the features in its graph search product could be a “disaster” for human rights research. – BuzzFeed

In its attempt to crack down on videos promoting hate speech and extremist ideologies, YouTube has inadvertently blocked some channels featuring archival footage of Nazis and Adolf Hitler. – Business Insider


The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have reached a “handshake agreement” that will bring the price of a basic model F-35 joint strike fighter below $80 million a plane, the lowest price tag in the long history of the most expensive weapons program ever. – Washington Examiner

Democrats and Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have agreed on a slimmed-down version of President Trump’s Space Force and plan to add their version of the proposed sixth branch of the military to the National Defense Authorization Act this week. – Washington Examiner

Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. was awarded a $542 million to build six VH-92A Presidential Helicopters to mark the start of low-rate initial production, the Navy announced Monday. – USNI News

United Technologies Corp.’s planned purchase of Raytheon Company, announced over the weekend, is spurring lawmakers and the White House to ask questions on how the merger would limit competition in the defense industry. – USNI News

A salvage team recovered remains of Marines who were killed in a 2018 crash off the coast of Japan, III Marine Expeditionary Force said on Monday. – USNI News

The president of the U.S. Naval War College has been reassigned while he is the subject of a Navy Inspector General investigation, the service announced on Monday. – USNI News

After evaluating two active protection systems in a demonstration late last fall and determining neither were the right fit for the Stryker, the Army is now evaluating how to protect one of its critical combat vehicle. – Defense News

Greg Thielmann writes: Taken off life support in February by the Trump administration’s suspension of compliance, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty will be officially declared dead on Aug. 2. We must now urgently consider how to keep alive one part of the agreement — the ban on intermediate-range ballistic missiles — until a new INF arms control treaty can be born. – Defense One

Mackenzie Eaglen and Rick Berger write: Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said a year ago that military had operated under 1,000 days of debilitating continuing resolutions (CR) over the past decade. Yet another continuing resolution looms again this fall. Even as Congress moves ahead with its spending bills for the Defense Department, the odds remain low that both parties can agree to an overall spending level by the start of the fiscal year still. – American Enterprise Institute

Long War

Twelve French and two Dutch orphans of Islamic State fighters were repatriated to France from Syria on Monday, a French diplomatic source said, confirming a statement made by the Kurdish-led administration in the northeast of the country. – Reuters

Authorities tried to deport a Palestinian activist who served more than a decade in prison, but because of a federal court ruling, he is now back in Virginia. – Washington Examiner

The Supreme Court turned away an appeal Monday from a Yemeni man detained at Guantanamo Bay who believes he should be released because the war in Afghanistan has ended. Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni citizen, was captured in Pakistan in 2001 not long after the start of American operations in Afghanistan and has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since January 2002. In his 17 years in detention, al-Alwi has not been charged or sentenced, but the federal government has categorized him as a Taliban or al Qaeda fighter. – Washington Examiner

Police on Monday shot and injured a man at the central station in Malmo in southern Sweden after witnesses said he made threats and claimed to be carrying explosives and firearms, law enforcement officials said. – Reuters

Trump Administration

In a statement, Mr. Nadler said the department would begin sharing documents with the committee on Monday, and that both Republicans and Democrats would have access to them, ending weeks of brinkmanship between the Trump administration and Capitol Hill over the evidence collected by Mr. Mueller in the course of his nearly two-year-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow. – Wall Street Journal

A bipartisan group of senators is trying to put more teeth into a law that became a staple of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutions. – Bloomberg

President Donald Trump renewed his attack on the Federal Reserve, complaining it doesn’t “listen” to him and contrasting that lack of obedience with the control that China’s leader wields over its central bank. – Bloomberg

Aaron Rhodes writes: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo deserves praise for proposing an Unalienable Rights Commission to help guide American human-rights policy. Defending and promoting freedom is an essential element of U.S. foreign policy, and one that’s been neglected by recent administrations. – Wall Street Journal