Fdd's overnight brief

June 11, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iraqi militia factions expected the usual cash handout when the new head of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force made his first visit to Baghdad earlier this year, succeeding the slain Gen. Qassim Soleimani. Instead, to their disappointment, Esmail Ghaani brought them silver rings. – Associated Press

Iran on Wednesday called on Russia and China to resist a push by Washington to extend a U.N.-imposed arms embargo due to expire in October under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers. – Reuters

The Trump administration’s senior adviser on Iran has said the negotiations that secured the release of U.S. Navy veteran Michael White began months ago, and continue with the aim of getting three more American prisoners home. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook issued a staunch defense of the White House’s “maximum pressure” policy of choking Tehran with economic sanctions over its nuclear program while continuing indirect negotiations focused on freeing prisoners. – CBS News 

Iran told the U.N.’s aviation agency on Wednesday that it would send black boxes from a downed Ukrainian jetliner to Paris for analysis, once countries involved in the investigation agree, two sources familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

Iran has backed off from directly challenging the U.S. military in the region since the Jan. 3 drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani, the top U.S. commander in the Mideast said Wednesday. – Military.com 

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, Hossein Salami, says the United States is “incapable of controlling the coronavirus [pandemic] and is in the worst economic situation”, while “our great leader shined in dealing” with the virus. – Radio Farda 

Iran is a major threat in the Middle East, the Russians are opportunistic and the US has to manage this “wild West” of an area as it prepares for possible drawdowns in Afghanistan and other moves, US Central Command’s (CENTCOM) Gen. Kenneth McKenzie indicated on Wednesday. He was speaking remotely to an event hosted by the Middle East Institute. – Jerusalem Post 

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard and Frank Pabian write: The site’s razing in July 2019 is an extremely suspicious act, given its timing following the Israeli seizure of the Nuclear Archive in January 2018, and also following or coinciding with the July 5, 2019 letter to Iran from the IAEA,5 marking the beginning of the IAEA asking official questions about the origin of undeclared uranium detected at another site. Even completely abandoned sites in Iran are not razed, despite being idle for decades. – Institute for Science and International Security

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Frank Pabian, and Andrea Stricker write: This analysis summarizes and assesses information in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA’s) periodic safeguards report, NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the most recent of which was issued on June 5, 2020. – Institute for Science and International Security


About a dozen young Syrian men spread out their arms, clutched each other’s shoulders to form a circle and began jumping up and down. As they did, they raised a chant that had rarely been heard before in their southern Syrian city of Sweida: a demand for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. – Washington Post

A region of northeastern Syria that U.S. forces ceded to Turkey has seen a spike in Islamic State-backed attacks, researchers said Wednesday during a roundtable discussion on religious liberty. – Washington Times

Hundreds of Syrians in the mainly Druze city of Sweida took to the streets for a fourth day on Wednesday, protesting worsening economic conditions and demanding the downfall of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. – Reuters

Radical groups in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region are trying to disrupt a three-month-old ceasefire reached by Turkey and Russia but the agreement still stands, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The general who helms U.S. Central Command said that any withdrawal from Syria will “ultimately be a political decision,” while still warning about 10,000 ISIS detainees at prison camps in the region, about 2,000 of whom he characterized as “hardcore foreign fighters” during a Middle East Institute event on Wednesday. – Military Times


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s goal of annexing a large portion of the West Bank as soon as July 1 is facing fierce opposition from an unexpected group: Jewish settlers living in the occupied territory. – Washington Post

Germany’s foreign minister on Wednesday expressed serious concern to Israel about its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, but he stopped short of threatening sanctions. – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass on Wednesday that the Jewish state must retain security control over the West Bank in any peace deal with the Palestinians. – Algemeiner

While Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are warning of a wave of violence in response to the possible annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel, at least a few Palestinians on the ground appear to be unconcerned. – Algemeiner

Former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, said that “annexation is the opposite of separation,” and that “it is driving the Zionist project off a cliff,” in an interview with Army Radio Thursday morning. – Jerusalem Post

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday began preparing to demolish the home of a Palestinian man suspected of killing an Israeli soldier with a brick last month during a West Bank arrest raid. – Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority refused Wednesday a planeload of medical supplies from the United Arab Emirates to help fight coronavirus since it was coordinated with Israel rather than with them. – Agency France-Presse

The leading pro-Israel lobby in the United States is telling lawmakers that they are free to criticize Israel’s looming annexation plans — just as long as the criticism stops there. – Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority (PA) officials say that the PA is not expected to pay any salaries to its employees this month as part of the fight against Israel’s plan to apply sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria, Kan 11 News reported on Wednesday. – Arutz Sheva


As American and Iraqi negotiators begin a new round of strategic talks on Thursday, the question of how to respond to the Islamic State’s quiet resurgence — and how much American help is required to do so — will be at the center of the discussion. – New York Times 

One rocket fell on Wednesday inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign missions, but caused no casualties, Iraqi military sources said.  – Reuters

The Islamic State group will never again overrun Iraqi territory, Iraq’s prime minister vowed Wednesday in an official visit to northern Iraq. The visit by Mustafa al-Kadhimi came amid a recent increase in militant attacks and the withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition forces in a planned drawdown. – Associated Press 

Iranian media continues to highlight efforts by pro-Iranian members of Iraq’s parliament to get US troops to leave. The latest salvo is from Fadhil Fatlawi, a member of the Fatah Alliance, the second largest party in parliament in Baghdad. – Jerusalem Post 


The Lebanese pound has lost over 60% of its value since October, as dollars dwindled, with banks cutting access to hard currency and rationing the greenback exclusively for fuel, medicine, and wheat at a pegged rate of 1,507.5 pounds. – Reuters

The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, criticized by the United States and Israel, needs to be “more agile and mobile,” UN chief Antonio Guterres said in a report published Tuesday ahead of the mission’s renewal in August. – Naharnet

Lebanon’s government appointed four central bank vice governors on Wednesday to posts left vacant for more than a year as the country slid into dire financial crisis. […]Lebanon has grappled since October with a financial crisis on a scale it has never seen before. – Reuters

Gulf States

A senior State Department official who helped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bypass a congressional freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pushed the agency’s inspector general to drop an investigation into whether that effort was illegal, the former inspector general told lawmakers, according to a transcript released Wednesday. – New York Times

Qatar secretly provided funding for several terror attacks that killed Americans and Israelis, according to allegations leveled in an unprecedented new lawsuit filed in New York City on Wednesday that seeks compensation for the families of those killed. – The Washington Free Beacon

A U.S. State Department inspector general fired by President Donald Trump told lawmakers the department discouraged him from investigating arms sales to Saudi Arabia before he was dismissed last month, according to a transcript released Wednesday. – Reuters

Ahead of the third anniversary of the boycott imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, and in light of reports that the U.S. has renewed its efforts to mediate a reconciliation between the sides, Saudi journalists have written that the boycott is justified and should remain in place. These writers, including senior journalist ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed and journalist ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Turiri, stressed that the main reason for the boycott is Qatar’s  support of multiple terror organizations. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Daniel Schatz writes: Given these developments, it is likely that Israel will continue to serve as the diplomatic mistress of Persian Gulf monarchs. While the Gulf states are happy to flirt with Israel in private—far away from the public limelight—no one wants to be formally involved. Without progress on the Palestinian track, this relationship will most likely continue to be kept under the covers. – The National Interest


Donald Trump has joined the calls for a ceasefire in Libya amid concerns that Egypt would be willing to send ground troops into the country to prevent a rout of its ally Khalifa Haftar, the leader of forces in the east. – The Guardian 

Libya’s warring sides have begun to engage in a new round of ceasefire talks, the United Nations said on Wednesday, after rapid gains by the internationally recognised government ended with heavy fighting around the central coastal city of Sirte. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday welcomed the resumption of talks led by the United Nations between Libya’s warring sides and urged speedy negotiations to achieve a ceasefire. – Reuters

The Egyptian Presidency said in a statement on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Egypt’s proposal for Libya ceasefire in a call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. – Reuters

Turkey on Wednesday dismissed Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire in Libya, saying the plan aimed to save Khalifa Haftar after the collapse of his offensive to control the capital Tripoli, Hurriyet newspaper reported. – Reuters

The United States needs to play a more active role in Libya, both in achieving a ceasefire and in political talks, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with broadcaster NTV on Thursday. – Reuters

Ben Fishman writes: It is time to reverse that policy. U.S. officials should start talking with Russia and Turkey to identify mutually acceptable terms for ending the war, withdrawing their advanced military assets, and urging their Libyan partners to return to the UN-led national dialogue. Germany should be brought into these talks as a voice for European interests. Absent such direct U.S. involvement, Russia and Turkey will become more deeply ingrained in a way that runs counter to American interests and puts Libya on the road to partition and continued strife. – Washington Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Italy has yet to approve the sale to Egypt of two warships made by shipbuilder Fincantieri, as the government weighs political considerations and analyses the deal, Italy’s foreign minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters

More than 20 non-governmental organizations have called on Chinese banks to withdraw financial support for a coal-fired power plant under construction in Turkey, citing environmental damage and a disregard for the “green” pledge of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. – Bloomberg

Carlotta Gall writes: Relations between President Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were in the worst state anyone could remember 10 months ago, veering toward armed clashes between their armies across the Syrian-Turkish border, while Mr. Trump threatened to annihilate Turkey’s economy. […]But their stars have aligned for the moment, with the interests of Turkey and the United States converging on several of the biggest issues that had driven them apart in recent years. – New York Times

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The Middle East today is divided along different lines than in the past, but it primarily boils down to three alliance systems. These systems are rooted in Tehran, Ankara and Riyadh, and they all seek different authoritarian agendas. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s government said Wednesday that it will press charges against two activist groups that have been floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets and bottles filled with rice to North Korea. – Associated Press

North Korea said on Thursday the United States has no standing to comment on inter-Korean affairs, and it is in Washington’s interest to stay quiet if it wants the upcoming presidential election to go smoothly, state media reported. – Reuters 

North Korea has been accused of raking in millions by selling sand despite the scheme violating international laws, according to a report. – New York Post 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regrets that North Korea has severed hotlines with South Korea, warning that such channels “are necessary to avoid misunderstandings or miscalculations,” a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday. – Reuters


The European Union on Wednesday accused China of a concerted effort to spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, lumping it with the Kremlin as a global scofflaw seeking to sow divisions in European societies. – Washington Post

Two of China’s most celebrated athletes have denounced the ruling Communist Party, a stunning display for a country used to seeing its sporting heroes lavish praise on authorities for their personal successes. – Wall Street Journal

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week stepped up his criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, accusing Beijing of using “coercive bullying tactics” against a leading British bank. – Washington Times 

China on Thursday condemned the U.S. military for the “provocative” flight of one of its aircraft over Chinese-claimed Taiwan, saying the move infringed upon China’s sovereignty and contravened international law. – Reuters

Just as China has leveraged the tyranny of distance against the United States to bolster force posture in the Indo-Pacific, so too should the United States bolster its force posture elsewhere in the world and continually develop its relationships with allies and partners alike, thereby reducing potential Chinese footholds in the future. – National Defense Magazine

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Wednesday, accusing China of a “war on faith” while presenting the 2019 International Religious Freedom Report for Congress. – Fox News 

The US has accused the Chinese Communist Party of “coercive bullying tactics” towards the UK as the British government reassesses its decision to allow Huawei a role within 5G networks. – Sky News (UK) 

Scott Kennedy and Shining Tan write: Perhaps the central question over the next 2-3 years will be about this tug of war: Can Washington use carrots or sticks to move more companies out of China, or can companies convince Washington (and other capitals) that the commercial benefits to remaining engaged cannot be replaced and that there is a way to enhance the mechanisms needed to effectively mitigate the various commercial, public health and national security risks that come with extensive connectivity with China? – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The Taliban have not yet met conditions required for a complete U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by next May as envisioned in a U.S.-Taliban deal signed in February, the commander overseeing U.S. forces there said Wednesday. – Associated Press

President Donald Trump has nominated Anthony Tata, a retired Army brigadier general and occasional Fox News commentator, to a top job at the Pentagon as he eyes a reduced troop presence in Afghanistan and escalating tensions from China to Iran. – Bloomberg

John Richard Cookson writes: The United States was successful in its initial, justified, and limited objectives of decimating Al-Qaeda and the punishing the Taliban. The murky and unnecessary project of building a democracy in Afghanistan was never to be found anyway. Such victory, properly understood, does not lie ahead in Afghanistan, and it is not decisive. Victory is, instead, thwarting the ambitions and capabilities of international terrorists, one day at a time, through targeted efforts. – The National Interest

South Asia

India and China have started pulling back some of their troops from a standoff in disputed border areas in the Himalayan mountains, following recent talks between senior military leaders and diplomatic efforts to calm tensions, according to an Indian security official. – Wall Street Journal

India has turned down a travel request for members of a U.S. government panel seeking to review its religious freedom, saying such foreign agencies had no standing to assess the constitutional rights of citizens. – Reuters

Lawyers bringing a case before the World Court accusing Myanmar of genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority have asked a U.S. district court to order Facebook to release posts and communications of Myanmar military and police. – Reuters


The U.S. deployed two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Pacific under new health procedures to guard against another coronavirus outbreak, as China’s military steps up its activity in the region. – Wall Street Journal

An award-winning journalist who has aggressively covered Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration is bracing for a verdict in a libel case and says she sees the upcoming decision as “an existential moment” for democracy in the Philippines. – Associated Press

Japan and France have agreed that foreign ministers of the Group of Seven countries should soon issue a statement on their concerns about Hong Kong, public broadcaster NHK said, citing a government source. – Bloomberg

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that he would not be intimidated or give into coercion when asked on Thursday whether Australia would keep taking hits on exports from major trading partner China. – Reuters

The Philippines’ defence minister and military officials have made a trip to a disputed South China Sea island just a few miles from a base built by China, a visit that could draw criticism from Beijing. – Reuters

China said on Wednesday it expressed grave concerns to Japan after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo wants to take the lead among the Group of Seven nations to issue a statement about the situation in Hong Kong. – Reuters

Senior officials now say that putting hundreds of American missiles with nonnuclear warheads in Asia would quickly and cheaply shift the balance of power in the western Pacific back in the United States’ favor amid growing Pentagon concern that China’s expanding arsenal of missiles and other military capabilities threaten U.S. bases in the region and have emboldened Beijing to menace U.S. allies in Asia. – LA Times


U.S. fighter jets intercepted and escorted four Russian nuclear-capable bombers during a routine flight over neutral waters near the United States, the RIA news agency reported on Wednesday, citing the Russian Defence Ministry. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin’s opponents agree a nationwide vote next month that could extend his rule is a sham, but are split over whether to campaign for a “No” vote or call for a boycott. – Reuters

Russian investigators on Wednesday detained three managers of an Arctic power station in connection with a huge fuel spill last month, as wind, rain and cold complicated the clean-up. – Reuters

The Russian military will receive three regiments of the S-400 ‘Triumf’ anti-aircraft missile systems along with four sets of the S-350 ‘Vityaz’ battlefield air defense launchers by 2023 under new contracts with the Almaz-Antey defense manufacturer Russian state media reported on Tuesday. – The National Interest


The European Union leveled its most forceful criticism yet of China’s role in the spread of false information about the pandemic, saying on Wednesday that the country had engaged in “targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns in the bloc.” – New York Times

The United States is planning to withdraw troops from Germany because Americans are against “paying too much” for other countries’ security, the outgoing U.S. ambassador said late on Wednesday. – Reuters

Former Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini announced Wednesday a plan to leave his leftist party to establish a new center-left political organization. – Associated Press

In 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron took China’s Xi Jinping for a beer in his local pub to mark a new “Golden Era” in the relationship between their two countries. The U.K., Cameron explained, would get Chinese investment, while China would enjoy access to “a leading member of the European Union.” It hasn’t quite worked out that way. It’s not simply that Britain has left the EU. In the ranks of the governing Conservative Party, there’s increasing hostility to China. – Bloomberg

The EU supports the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and rejects any annexation plans for Palestinian territories, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday. – Bloomberg

The European Human Rights Court (EHCR) ruled on Thursday that a French criminal conviction against activists involved in a campaign to boycott products imported from Israel had no sufficient grounds and violated their freedom of expression. – Reuters

The Spanish government started lobbying on Wednesday for Economy Minister Nadia Calvino to take the presidency of the Eurogroup, with a minister saying “it would be good news” if she were to replace Mario Centeno, who is stepping down. – Reuters

Stephen Bryen and Shoshana Bryen write: History teaches us that wars happen when states don’t honor their obligations and responsibilities. […]In this case, President Trump has given Germany — and other NATO allies — years of warning that their spending and rearmament had to reach the very minimal 2% level or there would be consequences. – Washington Times


It took less than two hours for gunmen to kill more people in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state than the coronavirus reportedly had in three months. – Washington Post

Ethiopia’s prime minister faces an extra year or more in office after lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend their mandates and hold the national election nine to 12 months after health authorities determine it’s safe. – Associated Press

Zimbabwe’s top military generals said they’re fully behind President Emmerson Mnangagwa and denied speculation in some local media of an imminent coup. – Bloomberg

Sudan said it was willing to discuss trials for people wanted by the International Criminal Court, a group that includes ousted leader Omar al-Bashir, a day after the ICC announced the arrest of a wanted Darfur militia leader. – Bloomberg

Burundi began an official period of mourning for President Pierre Nkurunziza on Wednesday, a day after the announcement of his death from a heart attack aged 55 shocked the impoverished East African nation he had ruled with an iron grip. – Reuters

North America

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday he was still weighing up the possibility of a meeting with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, but that the coronavirus pandemic meant they might have to talk by phone instead. – Reuters

Hundreds of thousands of people have signed online petitions demanding the federal government designate the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) as a terrorist organization. Several Change.org petitions focused on the white supremacist group have gone viral over the past week, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked protests around the world against police brutality and racial injustice. – The Hill 

White supremacists and racist domestic terrorists pose the largest threat of violence in the United States amid nationwide protests across the country, according to a new intelligence bulletin. – New York Post 

Immigration advocates have filed a pair of lawsuits in federal court challenging an order that has allowed the Trump administration to virtually end asylum at the U.S. border amid the pandemic. – Roll Call


Zoom Video Communications temporarily shut the account belonging to a group of U.S.-based Chinese activists after they held an event to commemorate the 31st anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown, the activists said on Thursday. – Reuters

Top internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China, said in a post on its verified WeChat Account it had reprimanded Weibo for “interfering with online communication order, disseminating illegal information and other problems”. – Reuters

Amazon on Wednesday announced a one-year ban on letting police use its facial recognition technology, calling for strong government regulations for its ethical use. – Agence France-Presse

Honda plants in Brazil and India have halted operations as the Japanese carmaker battles to recover from a cyberattack that affected several factories worldwide. – Agence France-Presse

The Covid crisis has reshaped the cyber-threat landscape around the globe. There may not have been a significant increase in the volume of cyber-attacks, but countries have pursued new targets, pushed boundaries and taken advantage of their adversaries working from home, according to cyber-security experts. – BBC 

Steve Blank writes: The dispute over Huawei’s access to TSMC has highlighted how vulnerable American industry is to the loss of its sole supply of advanced chips. […]It is not at all clear that Washington has thought through the consequences of its actions here, nor that the current administration has considered chip supply as part of a wider supply chain security and national industrial policy. Given that China has more positive options than the United States, it is surely time for those in charge to consider where this might lead. – War on the Rocks


The guided-missile destroyer that suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 in April is back to sea, Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday. – USNI News

The sweeping COVID-19 stimulus package passed in March does not cover more than $1 billion in COVID-19-related costs run up by the defense contractors, Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, told lawmakers Wednesday. – USNI News

The Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program is facing a “critical” stretch which will determine whether testing on the engine will occur on time or be delayed, thanks to challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a pair of Army officials said Wednesday. – Defense News

The US Navy could face a three-year delay in testing of the MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based tanking drone if it doesn’t get its designated test ships through the required modernizations on time, a possibility the Navy said was “remote.” – Defense News

The US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division took over from the 1st Infantry Division as the formation providing a rotational division forward headquarters in Poznan, Poland, on 1 June. – Jane’s 360

The US Air Force (USAF) is in the early stages of developing artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms hardened against enemy attacks to command aircraft in partnership with human pilots. – Jane’s 360

The following is the June 8, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress. – USNI News 

Kris Osborn writes: Recognizing the seriousness of this vulnerability, the Pentagon, U.S. Space Command, Missile Defense Agency, and the defense industry are moving quickly to integrate Machine Learning and AI into space-based systems and technology. The intention is to accelerate threat detection and get crucial information to decision-makers. – The National Interest

Long War

Al-Qaeda is actively trying to exploit the current unrest in the US by reaching out to both Muslims and non-Muslims to present themselves as “champions of the oppressed”. – BBC 

On June 6, 2020 Ramadan Shalah, 62, former leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) died after being in a coma for over three years following a heart surgery. Shalah was one of the original founders of the Iranian-backed designated international terrorist organization PIJ, and led the group for over 20 years. He was on the FBI’s most wanted list since 1995 for conspiracy to conduct the affairs of PIJ “through a pattern of racketeering activities such as bombings, murders, extortions, and money laundering.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Editorial: The departure of U.S. troops might not open the gates of Kabul to the Taliban, but without a viable peace process it would be the prelude to more years of bloodshed and stalemate. Afghan forces still depend on the U.S. for air support and funding; foreign contributions account for about 90% of their budget. It’s unlikely the U.S. would keep spending at the current level, or that foreign military contractors performing other crucial tasks would stay in Afghanistan, if U.S. troops weren’t there. And a chaotic scramble for power would jeopardize already fragile aid and commercial projects. – Bloomberg 

Jack Losh writes: With its long history of coups, conflicts, and civil unrest, CAR continues to face recurrent cycles of violence that expose communities to horrific attacks, promote the recruitment of child soldiers, and impede the country’s economic development, leaving it acutely vulnerable to public health crises like the coronavirus pandemic. Grassroots peace-building initiatives such as the well-drilling project for former child soldiers—as well as accompanying judicial endeavors to impose the rule of law in the country—may offer CAR an opportunity to break with the past. – Foreign Policy

Trump Administration

President Trump said his administration will not rename military bases honoring Confederate figures days after the Army said it was open to discussion on the matter. – Washington Examiner

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to defend the ouster of Steve Linick, saying the former inspector general had neglected to make a “thorough investigation” of leaks targeting the State Department’s top Iran policy official. – Washington Examiner

The legal team for retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and lawyers for the Justice Department clashed with the judge presiding over the case against the former Trump national security adviser, asking an appeals court to direct the lower court to drop all charges. – Washington Examiner