Fdd's overnight brief

June 12, 2020

In The News


Amnesty International (AI) has urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to “urgently clarify the fate and whereabouts” of a Kurdish prisoner who may recently have been secretly executed in the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) custody. – Radio Farda 

The Chairman of Iran-UAE Chamber of Commerce on June 10 refuted reports of a standstill in trade between the two Persian Gulf neighbors. – Radio Farda 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has filed a complaint with Germany’s Federal Public Prosecutor against an Iranian judge whom the Paris-based media freedom watchdog accuses of being responsible for the “arrest and torture” of at least 20 journalists in 2013. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

As a corpse sticks out from the back of a blazing car on a road in central Iran, a badly burned young Afghan who escaped the flames stumbles along the road. […]The two events have sent Afghans protesting in the streets and onto social media to denounce Iranian authorities for what they allege is abuse and discrimination against the estimated 1 million Afghan migrants and refugees in neighboring Iran. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Until his release in December, American student Xiyue Wang spent more than three years behind bars in Iran — not because Iranian authorities hoped to glean any information from him, he says, but because they believed he would be useful in their negotiations with the U.S. – NPR

Iran’s state broadcaster said it may have to close some foreign-language networks including Press TV, which broadcasts in English, because of a shortage of funds, semi-official Fars news reported. – Bloomberg 

A New York federal judge has scolded prosecutors for potentially withholding evidence against an Iranian businessman convicted of being a key nexus in growing ties between the Islamic republic and fellow U.S. adversary Venezuela. – Associated Press  

Iran has expressed “disappointment” over the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest report complaining of blocked access and said it is ready to resolve any issues with the UN nuclear watchdog, AFP reported on Thursday. – Arutz Sheva

Yaakov Katz writes: This semiannual assessment is of particular importance on three counts. One is the prediction that none of Israel’s enemies – not Iran, Syria, Hezbollah nor Hamas – have any plans to initiate a war against the Jewish state in the coming year. Second is that ultimately, everything is about Iran, which continues to top any Israeli threat assessment due to its nuclear program, its continued support of terrorist proxies and its development and production of long-range ballistic missiles. – Jerusalem Post


In scenes not witnessed for years in government-controlled parts of Syria, dozens of men and women marched through the streets this week, protesting a sharp increase in prices and collapse of the currency, some even calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad and his ruling Baath party. – Associated Press  

Dana Stroul and Katherine Bauer write: The Treasury Department will need to keep up a steady drumbeat of new designations to deter investment and reconstruction. This will require the administration to prioritize Syria and ensure that those working on new sets of Caesar sanctions have the support and resources necessary to stay on course for the long haul. – Washington Institute  


An Istanbul court sentenced on Thursday a U.S. Consulate employee to more than eight years in prison on charges of aiding an armed terror group, a ruling likely to exacerbate a long-running dispute between Turkey and the United States over the prosecutions of three Turkish citizens employed by the American government. – New York Times

A Turkish court has jailed a prominent opposition journalist from an online news outlet pending trial on “military and political espionage,” the state-run Anadolu news agency said on Friday. – Reuters

Shukriyah Mahmoodee writes: Whether Turkey will be another rogue state in the region, depending on how long Erdogan’s stay in power with his rebuilding Ottoman Empire power policy, also who will replacing him in any chance of change in Turkey. – Jerusalem Post

David Gardner writes: Reversing Ataturk’s decision will be raw meat to the Islamist base of Mr Erdogan’s national-populist government and, by design, a loud distraction from other problems. But ultimately, it is no more than a neo-Ottoman gesture — a bit like his interventions in Syria and Libya. – Financial Times 


An espionage scandal between Iran and Hamas was recently exposed after the Gaza-based group discovered that Tehran activated agents who followed every movement and recorded phone calls made by senior Hamas member Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, N12 reported. – Jerusalem Post 

The Descendants of Nasser (Ahfad Al-Nasser) balloon unit in the Gaza Strip threatened Israel with renewed incendiary and explosive balloon launches on Thursday, warning that the coming days would be the “beginning of hell” for Israelis who live near the Strip. – Jerusalem Post

The application of sovereignty to portions of the West Bank is legal, a right-wing legal think tank told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as they presented him with a paper to bolster that argument on the international stage. – Jerusalem Post

A Palestinian camp for high school boys organized by Fatah, held earlier this year, was allegedly named after the deceased Palestinian terrorist Omar Abu Laila, according to Palestinian Media Watch. – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority security forces have stepped up their cooperation with activists belonging to the ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, a Fatah official confirmed on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz spoke with his US counterpart Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Thursday evening, his first since assuming office. – Jerusalem Post

Settlements Minister Tzipi Hotovely accepted the position of ambassador to the United Kingdom, she said on Thursday, almost a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered it to her. – Jerusalem Post

Israel has not proposed to extend sovereignty to part of the settlements or to move forward in stages, a source involved in the matter said on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

The government is set to approve a town called ‘Ramat Trump’ in the Golan Heights on Sunday, a year after announcing plans to establish the town in appreciation of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinians might try to carry out cyberattacks against Israeli targets should the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follow through on its plans to annex the West Bank and Jordan Valley. – Jerusalem Post

Several months ago, the C4i Directorate, the IDF’s elite technological unit, identified attempted Iranian cyberattacks on the army’s supply chain – a highly-sensitive link that is vital in peacetime and critical in wartime. – Israel Hayom

More than 50 Members of Congress signed a public letter calling on President Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, to denounce violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, in the same manner that he condemns violence committed by Palestinians against Israelis. – Haaretz

The purpose of the census is to determine how many Palestinians live in areas Israel plans to annex, as well as ensuring Palestinians from other parts of the West Bank don’t move to the areas to be annexed, in a bid to get a permanent status in Israel. – Haaretz

Over 100 experts and scholars of international law from around the world have called on Israel to not annex parts of the West Bank, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared it is his intention to do. – Times of Israel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he spoke Thursday morning with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, stressing his commitment to peace with the Palestinians but avoiding mentioning Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank. – Times of Israel

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert gave a rare interview to a Saudi-owned Arabic-language news outlet, warning against Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley, an area that he said was irrelevant to Israeli security concerns, Channel 12 news reported Thursday ahead of the interview’s publication. – Times of Israel

Editorial: It’s not too late, but the annexation train is pulling out of the station at an increasing speed. If the Palestinians, with the support of many Israelis who are against a unilateral move, are not able to change its course, they will – once again – only have themselves to blame. – Jerusalem Post

Oded Revivi writes: There is no doubt the Trump administration has been the most pro-Israel government that the country has ever seen. To reject the plan would harm Israel and insult the US-Israel relationship. The decision could not be easier to make. The time to apply Israeli law in Judea and Samaria has come. We must not let that time expire. – Jerusalem Post

Beth Oppenheim writes: Whether Netanyahu is truly willing to test international patience and to mess with his winning formula for territorial expansion – all in the name of pleasing Israel’s far-right – remains to be seen. Regardless of whether annexation becomes formal, Israel’s intentions are beyond doubt. Europe can no longer shroud Israel’s behavior in diplomatic obfuscation. It must act. – Haaretz


The United States and Iraq launched much-anticipated strategic talks Thursday that are to span the gamut of their bilateral relations, with Washington prioritizing the issue of the future of its forces in the country while Baghdad is expected to focus on the nation’s dire economic crisis. – New York Times 

Iraq and the United States have affirmed their commitment to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq without giving a timeline, state news agency INA said on Friday, citing Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. – Reuters 

Denmark will send up to 285 military personnel to NATO’s non-combat training operation in Iraq as it takes over leadership of the mission training Iraqi security forces from Canada by the end of 2020, it said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Iran’s allies had been winning. They installed a governor favoured by Tehran a year ago. But then anti-government protests, U.S. sanctions and the assassination of Iran’s military mastermind Qassem Soleimani challenged Iranian influence. The pro-Western camp replaced the Nineveh governor with a longtime U.S. ally. The contest mirrors a wider struggle over the future of Iraq itself. – Reuters

Zvi Bar’el writes: But even if by some miracle, there is agreement over a new election law and elections are held in accordance with a plan acceptable to the protest movements, any government elected would still have to resolve the country’s economic crisis at a time when the traditional donor countries need every dollar they can hold onto to stabilize their own economies. – Haaretz 

Jack Detsch writes: Yet even as the State Department and the Pentagon insist that the United States will stay in Iraq until the Islamic State is permanently defeated, former officials aren’t convinced that Trump, who has requested that NATO play a bigger role in Iraq, is on board with the plan. “I don’t think you ever go into a negotiation saying we must stay,” said a former State Department official, who spoke to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity. “What will this POTUS do if the Iraqis insult him on Twitter based on the strategic dialogue? He’ll pull out.” – Foreign Policy


A new wave of anti-government protests erupted across Lebanon on Thursday with people blocking roads, burning tires and chanting against the political elite amid a deepening economic crisis. – New York Times 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg on Thursday. Among the topics discussed were the Trump peace plan; Austria is one of the countries that has consistently come out against EU statements condemning Israel before a decision is made on annexation. – Jerusalem Post 

Lebanon could have recently had an oil tanker seized by Eurobond holders because of its stinging debt crisis and the government was taking steps to avoid such risks in future, the energy minister said on Thursday. – Reuters

Gulf States

Qatar told government-funded entities to cut spending on non-Qatari staffers’ wages as it tries to shore up its finances to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. […]At the same time, cutting jobs and salaries for foreigners could threaten Qatar’s economic growth by raising the risk of labor shortages and hurting consumer spending. – Bloomberg  

Oman has discussed the possibility of financial aid with other Gulf states to help it cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices, according to two officials in the region and a U.S. government official familiar with the contacts. – Bloomberg 

Cruise missiles used in several attacks on oil facilities and an international airport in Saudi Arabia last year were of “Iranian origin,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council in a report seen by Reuters on Thursday. – Reuters  

War-ravaged Yemen, whose malnourished population has among the world’s lowest immunity levels to disease, is now divided between a Saudi-backed government based in Aden in the south and the Iran-aligned Houthi group in the north. – Reuters 

Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank could destroy its normalization efforts with the Arab world, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba said on Friday in an unusual appeal to the Israeli public. – Jerusalem Post


The United Nations has expressed horror at the discovery of eight mass graves in Libya, mainly in the town of Tarhuna, south of Tripoli, in an area recently retaken from forces loyal to Gen Khalifa Haftar. – The Guardian  

For over a year the un-backed Government of National Accord (gna) in Libya had been under siege by the forces of Khalifa Haftar, a renegade general. Then, all of sudden, it wasn’t. […]After six years of civil war, the division of Libya into a Turkish zone of influence in the west and a Russian zone in the east—in other words, de facto partition—looks increasingly likely. “We’re heading towards a frozen conflict,” says a diplomat in Tripoli. – The Economist  

Parts of a proposal by Egypt for a truce in Libya are “helpful,” but a United Nations-led bid to broker peace in the North African country is the best way forward, the State Department’s top Middle East diplomat said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Bobby Ghosh writes: Then, it was Haftar who walked away, gambling that he could get better terms at the gates of Tripoli. With the Egyptian cease-fire plan a non-starter, the rebel commander — the besieger turned besieged — might want to achieve a face-saving battlefield victory, or at least to grind down the GNA advance at Sirte, before he agrees to any deal. – Bloomberg

Korean Peninsula

North Korea on Friday said that two years of diplomacy with President Trump had “faded away into a dark nightmare,” and vowed to increase its nuclear weapons capabilities. – New York Times

The plastic leaflets, millions of which have pierced the stranglehold of North Korean censorship over the years, recently drew an angry response from Pyongyang, threatening to upend the relatively cordial relations that the Koreas have maintained for two years. – New York Times

A court in Seoul ruled Friday that a woman adopted by an American couple almost four decades ago must be recognized as a daughter of an 85-year-old South Korean man, providing hope for the thousands of Korean-born adoptees who want to know the identities of their birth parents. – New York Times  

China said on Friday the United States should take concrete measures to address North Korea’s concerns, amid escalating tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. – Reuters  

International human rights groups vowed to work clandestinely to spread information into North Korea, defying a move by South Korean president Moon Jae-in to crack down on activists launching balloons with anti-Kim regime leaflets and electronic devices. – Financial Times

North Korea on Thursday warned the US to “hold its tongue” over the Hermit Kingdom’s escalating spat with South Korea — threatening a “hair-raiser” before the presidential election if it interferes, according to a report. – New York Post


China has embarked on a new trillion-dollar campaign to develop next-generation technologies as it seeks to catapult the communist nation ahead of the U.S. in critical areas. – Wall Street Journal 

The Chinese Beidou navigation network will be complete this month when its final satellite goes into orbit, giving China greater independence from U.S.-owned GPS and heating up competition in a sector long dominated by the United States. – Reuters    

The United States is using the case of a senior Chinese telecoms executive who was arrested in Vancouver on a U.S. warrant 18 months ago to create friction between China and Canada, China’s envoy to Canada said on Thursday. – Reuters 

As hostility rises between the world’s two biggest economies, the business of the United Nations is increasingly falling prey to their competition. The U.S. and China have been feuding over everything from the novel coronavirus to 5G networks to Hong Kong, and tensions are spilling into UN meetings, adding a layer of difficulty in a place where getting things done is already hard enough. – Bloomberg 

David Mozingo writes: A four-character Chinese adage, one alluding to the familiar troubled marriage scenario, sums up the dilemma that has confounded the American-Chinese relationship from its inception: “sleeping in the same bed, dreaming different dreams.” This captures the tragedy of the long-term misunderstanding between Washington and Beijing. The two countries have so much more in common than their leaders’ cultural walls will permit them to see, much less pursue. – Washington Examiner


The Afghan government plans to complete a Taliban prisoner release to pave the way for peace talks with the militant group, President Ashraf Ghani said on June 11. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Michael Rubin writes:  The United Nations found that the Taliban continue to profit tremendously from heroin and the illegal narcotics trade, and that they have also moved into methamphetamine production and trafficking. All of it means that continuing the current peace deal empowers terrorists and drug cartels as cancerous to regional security as those in Mexico and Central America. Make no mistake: Wishful thinking now will kill American civilians later. – Washington Examiner

Javid Ahmad writes: For now, it is hard to imagine a way forward for Afghanistan. The running challenge is that the United States remains undecided about what it wants to do with Afghanistan. But whatever the U.S. decides in the coming months, the threat posed by overlapping alliances of the Taliban-allied jihadist groups should not be ignored. – The Hill

South Asia

Hiding from Myanmar’s police, journalist Aung Marm Oo refuses to conceal his anger with the civilian government led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as his country prepares for an election later this year. […]Journalists had been widely respected by the general public for defying the junta, but now many people view them with suspicion if they criticise the government led by the overwhelmingly popular Suu Kyi, he said.- Reuters 

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday offered to help neighbouring India disburse cash to the public during the coronavirus lockdown, citing a report Indians were struggling to make ends meet, but India later rejected the offer. – Reuters 

Pakistan’s annual budget is a chance for Prime Minister Imran Khan to revisit his government’s spending priorities to help an economy assailed by one crisis after another. The spending plan for the year starting July 1, due to be presented in Parliament Friday, will be a tough balancing act of reviving economic growth without depleting the coffers. – Bloomberg 

Sadanand Dhume writes: The size and scope of India’s economic ties with China make it impossible for New Delhi to decouple without big economic disruptions. […]Instead of mindlessly boycotting Chinese products, India should up its own game by slashing red tape, improving its roads, ports and railways, wooing foreign investment, and embracing multilateral trade agreements that force its firms to become more competitive. Only an outward-looking India embedded in the global economy can hope to compete with the dragon at its doorstep. – Wall Street Journal


Goldman Sachs is trying to get federal prosecutors to ease up on the bank for its role in a brazen scheme to loot billions of dollars from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. – New York Times

A Hong Kong judge on Thursday summoned a traffic officer to appear in court over the shooting of a demonstrator last year, making him the first member of the police force to face charges over the street clashes that have roiled the city since last summer. – New York Times

China’s plan to impose a sweeping national security law on the city in response to huge pro-democracy protests has Ng mulling the prospect of leaving, the first time he has contemplated such action since Britain returned the former colony in 1997. – Agence France-Presse

Australia’s finance minister urged students from all over the world to “consider Australia,” telling CNBC the country remains “friendly” and “multicultural” as it grapples with the latest turn in increasing tensions with China. – CNBC  

Protesters in Hong Kong got its government to withdraw extradition legislation last year, but now they’re getting a more dreaded national security law. And the message from Beijing is: Protest is futile. – Associated Press 

The rumble of construction rings out in the northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan, a sound that has become more common on the self-ruled island — and one that heralds change for mainland China. – Financial Times

Hundreds of activists in the Philippine capital staged protests Friday against a proposed anti-terror law they say could be used to quash dissent, ignoring police threats that they could be arrested for violating coronavirus restrictions against large public gatherings. – Associated Press 

For the first time in nearly three years, three American aircraft carriers are patrolling the Indo-Pacific waters, a massive show of naval force in a region roiled by spiking tensions between the U.S. and China and a sign that the Navy has bounced back from the worst days of the coronavirus outbreak. – Associated Press  

The Hong Kong government hit back on Friday at a report by Britain criticising Beijing’s move to impose national security legislation on the global financial hub, saying the report was “inaccurate and biased”. – Reuters  

Taiwan is gearing up to welcome Hong Kong people fleeing their city as China tightens its grip, but the island has little experience of handling refugees and is scrambling to prepare and to keep out any Chinese spies who might try to join the influx. – Reuters

One of China’s top agencies responsible for Hong Kong urged the city’s education departments to “cut off” the “black hands” influencing its school system, in response to students’ plans for a weekend referendum vote to determine whether to strike against new national security legislation. – Bloomberg  

Andy Mukherjee writes: Singapore’s planners know that unlike London, New York or Hong Kong, which sits at the mouth of China’s planned Greater Bay Area, their island nation doesn’t have a hinterland to accommodate the losers of financialization. Orbigood, a Singaporean exclamation for others getting their comeuppance, is best kept for its rival’s cramped housing and noxious air. Singapore wouldn’t really want deposits to rush in from Hong Kong. It might do more harm than good. – Bloomberg


Close to Russian government but nominally independent, private military contractors give the Kremlin a degree of plausible deniability and have complicated efforts by Western policymakers to formulate a response. – Foreign Policy 

Russia lashed out at the U.S. for its insistence that China join talks on salvaging a key nuclear arms pact before it expires next February, accusing Washington of seeking a pretext to “bury” the agreement. – Bloomberg 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday welcomed President Donald Trump’s reported plan to withdraw more than a quarter of U.S. troops from Germany, saying it would help bolster security in Europe. – Associated Press   

Vladimir Kara-Murza writes: Next year, this experience could well be repeated nationally. Where there’s a will, there is always a way — and Russians’ growing will for change after two decades of single-man rule is becoming increasingly difficult to hide. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: That system is designed to undermine NATO’s strategic nuclear posture by operating in between full-scale nuclear war and conventional conflict. Fortunately, the United States has improved its ability to deal with this threat. That’s primarily due to the Trump administration’s development of nuclear counterforces, including submarine-launched weapons, which can match Russia in the limited nuclear warfare domain. – Washington Examiner

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: As with Saudi Arabia, nobody is underestimating the challenge of making a resource-based economy more sustainable. But Russia could do more. As the painful events of 2020 unfold, Moscow has been adding to a fiscal support package. It should make it a little greener too. – Bloomberg


A 22-year-old Norwegian man who said he was inspired by far-right attacks was sentenced on Thursday to 21 years in prison after being convicted of killing his stepsister and opening fire in a mosque near Oslo last August. – New York Times

The killing of George Floyd has resonated in Europe, drawing thousands of demonstrators into the streets of cities like Paris, London and Berlin. Statues of colonizers and slave traders have been pulled down or defaced. The message has been one of solidarity with protesters in the United States — but also a call to look at racism at home. – New York Times

The government is expected to apply much less rigorous EU border checks on imports than it initially had planned, after the Brexit transition period finishes at the end of this year. – BBC   

The Netherlands is “very disturbed” by an executive order issued by U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday that paved the way for sanctions against employees of the International Criminal Court, which is based in the Dutch city of The Hague. – Reuters  

France plans to hold its 5G spectrum auction at the end of September after repeated delays, the country’s telecoms watchdog Arcep said on Thursday. – Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed in a video conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that Beijing needs to take action to open up its market and treat foreign companies fairly, her spokesman said on Thursday. – Reuters   

The former American ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, has confirmed that the US plans to withdraw troops from Germany, in a further blow to a transatlantic relationship that is already under strain. – Financial Times 

Newly elected Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti says the European Union and the United States have complementary roles in helping the country meet its top priority: successful dialogue with Serbia. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

The U.S. Defense Department has announced a resumption of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine after it was frozen last year, putting it at the heart of the impeachment of President Donald Trump. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Brexit is back on the agenda in the U.K. as the country starts to emerge from a three-month coronavirus lockdown. – CNBC

The 19 finance ministers of the euro area are looking for a new president, at a time when the region is facing tough negotiations over a 750 billion euro ($851 billion) fiscal plan to help it recover from the coronavirus crisis.  – CNBC 

Scotland’s parliament voted Thursday to call on the U.K. to suspend exports of tear gas, riot gear and rubber bullets to the U.S. in light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests that have spread across the nation following the death of George Floyd. – Fox News 

Estonia’s military says a civilian aircraft belonging to Russia has violated the airspace of the Baltic nation, a member of NATO. – Associated Press 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold talks with top European Union officials on Monday to try to push forward trade discussions after post-Brexit negotiations ended last week with little sign of progress and a new deadline looming. – Associated Press 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he’s come around to support the European Union’s plan to jointly finance a 750 billion-euro ($850 billion) recovery fund but there’s still work to do to agree on its fair distribution. – Bloomberg  

Donald Trump’s decision to authorize sanctions against the International Criminal Court is “a matter of serious concern,” the EU’s top diplomat said. – Politico 

IS bride Shamima Begum should have her British citizenship restored because she has no hope of a “fair and effective appeal” when she is not allowed in the country, the Court of Appeal has heard. – Sky News (UK) 

Mac Thornberry writes: Allies and partners need to do more and pay more to maintain this system. Most NATO nations are on-track to fulfill their commitment to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. Japan and South Korea are doing more, and they should. But there is no substitute for American leadership. Even if others do more, without the U.S. those efforts will splinter, benefiting the authoritarian states that are waiting to take advantage. – Wall Street Journal  

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ben Hodges, Janusz Bugajski, Ray Wojcik, and Carsten Schmiedl write: Russia’s ambitions, capabilities, and actions along NATO’s eastern flank threaten the vital interests of the most vulnerable members of the alliance and its closest partners. This danger is not necessarily confined to low-intensity or non-military conflict. […]NATO wins when it operates as a cohesive team of allies and partners. The readiness and resolve of NATO allies to respond effectively when challenged by an expansionist, authoritarian adversary can be encapsulated in the rallying cry “one flank, one threat, one presence.” – War on the Rocks


Nigeria’s reintegration of the breakaway state was surprisingly successful, despite the horrors of the war. About 2-3 million people—mostly women and children in Biafra itself—died in nearly three years of conflict. But 50 years later, Biafran independence is once again a powerful cause. – Foreign Policy 

The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday it had approved an additional $111.06 million disbursement to Rwanda to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s economy. – Reuters  

International aid agency Mercy Corps on Thursday said it believed over $600,000 was siphoned from its emergency cash programme in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a scam that could have targeted other aid groups. – Reuters  

The government of Ivory Coast is investigating an attack that could be the first assault by Islamist insurgents since 2016 within the borders of the world’s biggest cocoa grower. – Bloomberg 

A Gambian man has been indicted in Colorado on federal charges that he tortured planners of a failed 2006 presidential coup when he was a member of a special armed unit that reported directly to the dictator of the African nation, prosecutors said Thursday. – Associated Press  

Michael Rubin writes: Central to President Trump’s international philosophy is the idea of restraint: The U.S. should not deploy its forces across the globe in pursuit of agendas that do not directly impact the security of the American homeland. In these troubled economic times, that makes sense, but it requires effective diplomacy now to avoid scenarios where state failure mandates far more expensive responses. The best way to promote regional security is to continue to cultivate democracy and provide a peaceful mechanism for ordinary citizens to hold ineffective leaders and would-be dictators to account. – Washington Examiner

Latin America

Now, a study published this month in Conservation Biology provides a more complete overview of the illegal trade, bringing together data from all of Central and South America. The findings confirm that seizures of jaguar parts have increased tremendously throughout the region, and that private investment from China is significantly correlated with trafficking of the species. – New York Times

Colombian authorities said Thursday they’ve captured a Venezuelan soldier who claimed to seek refuge in the neighboring Andean nation but was actually still working for his old boss and spying on the military. – Associated Press  

Antisemitic statements dressed in the guise of attacks on Israel and Zionism were a consistent feature of the Venezuelan regime’s rhetoric during 2019, the US State Department’s annual report on religious freedom around the world released on Wednesday disclosed. – Algemeiner

North America

The White House is expanding sanctions against International Criminal Court officials, citing Russian influence and investigations into American military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal  

The European Union is planning formal antitrust charges against Amazon over its treatment of third-party sellers, according to people familiar with the matter, expanding the bloc’s efforts to rein in the alleged abuses of power by a handful of large U.S. technology companies. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s technological ambitions are eliciting rare bipartisan agreement in Washington, with lawmakers considering investing tens of billions of dollars in America’s semiconductor industry over the next five to 10 years to help the United States retain an edge over Beijing. – New York Times

Ledan is one of at least several hundred asylum seekers risking their lives, and in some cases dying, for as little as $10 an hour in the trenches of Canada’s coronavirus fight, working the “essential” jobs few Canadians want, even as their own futures in the country remain uncertain. – Washington Post

President Trump’s announcement that the United States would end cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic has not resulted in any formal action, and American institutions are still engaged in longstanding relationships with the Geneva-based international agency. – The Hill

The Trump administration is taking the first steps toward allowing international development funds to be spent on nuclear projects, working to lift a longtime prohibition on how the anti-poverty funds can be spent. – The Hill 

The Trump administration is proposing sweeping, permanent changes to the U.S. asylum process that would make it more difficult for refugees seeking admission to the country, according to a statement from the Justice and Homeland Security departments. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: The Trump Administration would perform a public service by releasing whatever evidence it has of alleged wrongdoing at the court. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s order is a vital defense of the constitutional rights of American citizens to have criminal complaints against them adjudicated in impartial, democratically legitimate courts. – Wall Street Journal  

Nina Shea writes: For decades religious freedom has been treated as the unwanted stepcihld in the human-rights side of U.S. foreign policy. But in a rare ray of light this dark spring, America’s defining right has been recognized at the highest level as a “moral and national security imperative.” This is more than a symbolic gesture. – Wall Street Journal

Rep. Don Bacon writes: Russia and China’s recent spate of malign activities demonstrates the need to hold a hard line against authoritarian attempts to sow chaos within the United States as well as within its alliances and partnerships. America’s network of international partners, and the values upon which these partnerships rest, remains one of its greatest strengths as a nation. Americans’ embrace of freedom, the rule of law, and free markets powers their strength and vitality, and draws other countries together to their side. Rather than pulling away, Americans should invest in these alliances, enlarge them, and build trade agreements that strengthen their hand against totalitarian states. – War on the Rocks


Twitter has suspended more than 23,000 accounts it says were linked to the Chinese Communist Party and covertly spreading ­propaganda to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and counter criticism of Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak that grew to a global pandemic. – Washington Post

Japan’s Honda Motor Co has resumed production at automobile and motorcycle plants in the United States and other countries after they were hit by a suspected cyber attack this week, a spokesman said on Friday. – Reuters  

China on Friday said Twitter should shut down accounts that smear China if it wants to fight disinformation, arguing that the country is the biggest victim of disinformation. – Reuters  

Three U.S. lawmakers asked Zoom Video Communications Inc (ZM.O) to clarify its data-collection practices and relationship with the Chinese government after the firm said it had suspended user accounts to meet demands from Beijing. – Reuters 

A Senate committee wants the Pentagon to produce a report detailing the risks of allied nations having Huawei technology as part of their network infrastructure, according to a summary of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s annual defense policy bill for fiscal year 2021. – C4ISRNET 

The Senate Armed Services Committee wants to add new responsibilities to the Pentagon’s Principal Cyber Advisor as part of a broader effort to ensure cyber forces can meet new challenges. – Fifth Domain 

A new report by the watchdog group Canary Mission showed widespread far-right antisemitism and incitement against Jews surrounding the issue of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. According to the report, right-wing antisemites are extremely active in spreading coronavirus conspiracy theories online. – Algemeiner


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley broke his silence and apologized for his involvement in President Trump’s June 1 march across a protester-cleared Lafayette Square for a photo opportunity in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. – Washington Examiner 

Following a significant merger and reorganization of its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and cyber enterprises, Air Force leaders are turning their attention to how these functions can work more closely together. – C4ISRNET

A Senate committee wants more information before taking action on a host of U.S. Space Force-related provisions, and as a result an early version of the chamber’s annual defense legislation calls for a series of relevant reports according to a summary released June 11. – C4ISRNET  

An early version of the Senate’s annual defense bill would provide additional funding for space-based sensors capable of detecting and tracking hypersonic weapons, according to a summary released June 11. However, details on the proposal are scant. – C4ISRNET

The Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act contains language attempting to slow the rollout of Ligado Network’s use of the L-band spectrum, which defense officials say will harm GPS capabilities. – C4ISRNET 

 The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act recommends increasing funding for the future long-range assault aircraft and to buy additional drones, according to a summary report released Thursday. – Defense News 

The Senate Armed Services Committee wants to give the Air Force more F-35 fighter jets and drones, but the panel’s version of the 2021 defense policy bill leaves many questions open about the future of the service’s legacy aircraft. – Defense News

Plans for a Senate-crafted version of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a new military fund to boost deterrence against China in the Pacific, is one step closer to becoming law. –  Defense News 

Despite howls of criticism from Congress over the Navy’s seven-ship budget request earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act stopped short of adding extra ships. Instead, lawmakers are opting to authorize the purchase of long-lead-time materials to keep the industrial base healthy. – Defense News 

One year post merger, L3Harris is a third of the way to its goal of shedding roughly $1.5 billion of the company, with COVID-19 slowing progress, said its two top executives in an interview with Defense News. – Defense News 

Just eight workdays into the job, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite planned to spend his first of many long nights at the Pentagon, in the latest effort to solve the Navy’s biggest problem: how to build a fleet to compete with Russia and China without the money the service saw during its Cold War buildup. – USNI News 

The Senate Armed Services Committee version of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act keeps shipbuilding in line with the Navy’s budget request from February but adds additional oversight to the service’s plans for the unmanned ships and unmanned aviation, committee staffers told reporters on Thursday. – USNI News 

Josh Rogin writes:  Money is not the most important consideration. We should appropriate military resources according to the threats we face and the capabilities needed to counter those threats, period. We should spend what it costs to keep Americans safe, no more, no less. But this administration is so disorganized and consumed by its internal and external battles that important national discussion is impossible right now. Meanwhile, our dysfunction is harming our national security, alienating our allies and playing into the hands of our enemies. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: Regardless, the simple point is this. The Pentagon needs proven leadership on the matters of its remit, and someone who is trusted by the president. Tata offers both. – Washington Examiner

Sarah Bidgood writes: In short, if decision-makers in Washington do choose to test, this attempt at brinkmanship will certainly fail to convince Russia or China to sit down at the arms control negotiating table. Instead, it will make it all the more likely that the very outcomes trilateral arms control seems to be intended to prevent come to bear—and soon. The good news, then, is that there is plenty of time to walk this ill-conceived and ineffective plan back from the brink. In this instance, restraint—such as it is—may be the most effective nuclear signal this administration could possibly send. – Foreign Policy

Long War

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told members that terrorist and criminal groups are expanding their activities and exploiting longstanding tensions along community lines in Mali and the region — and they are attempting to capitalize on the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press 

The Danish Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned the Saudi ambassador after terrorism charges were brought against three leaders of an Iranian Arab separatist group based in Denmark. – Radio Farda

Lior Lehrs writes: Therefore, the Israel-Palestinian cooperation should be welcomed and the parties should make every effort to avert a deterioration into a harsh health or economic crisis that might increase the threat of escalation. Leaders in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority could learn from efforts made in the past by other rival parties to exploit such crises to advance conciliatory moves and a diplomatic breakthrough. – Jerusalem Post 


Trump Administration

A second Republican-controlled Senate committee gave itself expansive power on Thursday to seek documents and testimony from a list of Obama-era officials in relation to the Russia investigation launched in 2016, dismissing concerns raised by Democrats that the probe is politically motivated to help re-elect President Trump in the fall. – Wall Street Journal 

President Trump’s interest in reducing the number of U.S. troops deployed to Germany is drawing strong opposition from a key Trump ally, one of the senior Senate Republicans responsible for U.S. policy toward Europe. – Washington Examiner 

A federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances submitted a proposed $10 billion budget on Thursday as federal legislators debate whether to curtail the board’s power over the U.S. territory. – Associated Press