Fdd's overnight brief

June 15, 2020

In The News


Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday that U.S. President Donald Trump still has a good chance of being re-elected thanks to his strong support base, despite his declining support in recent months. – Reuters

An Iranian news agency close to the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday Iran’s naval forces were preparing to target U.S. commercial vessels in the Gulf last month in case U.S. forces interfered with Venezuela-bound Iranian oil tankers. – Reuters

The number of daily deaths from the new coronavirus pandemic topped 100 in Iran for the first time in two months on Sunday, health ministry data showed. – Reuters

In its annual report on religious freedoms, the United States has once again accused Iran of widespread violations of the rights of religious minorities, including Baha’i and Sunni citizens. – Radio Farda

Iran on Friday rejected a United Nations report that said cruise missiles used in attacks on oil facilities and an airport in Saudi Arabia last year were of “Iranian origin”, saying it had been drawn up under U.S. and Saudi influence. – Reuters

Iranian investigators have asked France’s BEA air accident agency to read black boxes from a downed Ukrainian jetliner, Iran’s envoy to the United Nations aviation agency said. – Reuters

The United Nations says it has determined that Iran was the source for several items in two arms shipments seized by the United States and for debris left by attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations and an international airport, according to a new report. – Associated Press

The U.S. ambassador to Iran mistakenly told the shah in 1953 that Britain’s newly enthroned Queen Elizabeth II backed a plan to overthrow the country’s elected prime minister and America maintained the fiction even after realizing the error, historians now say. – Associated Press

On June 14, 2020, Press TV (Iran) aired a report about the “I Can’t Breathe” International Cartoon Exhibition in Tehran. Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei, the Director of the Center for Visual Arts in Hozeh Honari, explained that the exhibition was opened in light of the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd and he said that it consists of 72 art pieces by 45 artists from 27 different countries. – Middle East Media Research Institute

The spokesman of Iran’s foreign ministry, Abbas Mousavi tells the United States, “You will soon kneel in front of Iranian Nation”, in a tweet responding to U.S. officials. – Radio Farda

Saeid Golkar and Kasra Aarabi write: Policy towards Iran simply cannot afford to ignore this looming challenge. Any future talks with Tehran will take place against the backdrop of unrest and the further militarization of the revolutionary regime at the behest of the Guard. To ensure its interests—as well as the interests of the Iranian people—are fully secured, the West must acknowledge the reality on the Iranian ground before striking any prospective deal with the Islamic Republic. – Newsweek

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Whether Iran has succeeded or not at retaliating and whether it has cracked the entire cell of assets who helped the CIA take out Soleimani, railing against “the big and little Satans” is a go-to strategy for the regime to distract the public from internal disasters. – Jerusalem Post


Scattered protests have taken hold in Syria amid growing anger over the crumbling economy, testing the authority of President Bashar al-Assad as he attempts to consolidate power after nine years of conflict. – Wall Street Journal

A drone strike in northwestern Syria on Sunday killed two senior commanders with an al-Qaida-linked group, opposition activists said. – Associated Press

Lela Gilbert writes: It is widely believed that Trump’s removal of American troops was ill-conceived. It was deeply disturbing to many U.S. military personnel who had battled alongside valiant Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) fighters, who had sacrificed some 10,000 lives during joint military efforts combatting ISIS. […]In short, the Turkish agenda was to cleanse the region of Kurdish, Yazidi, Christian, and Arab residents. This meant that AANES’s noble religious freedom endeavors, along with many other positive human rights policies, would no longer be possible—certainly not with Erdogan in charge. – RealClear Religion


Russia and Turkey have postponed ministerial-level talks which were expected to focus on Libya and Syria, where the two countries support opposing sides in long-standing conflicts. – Reuters

A visit by high-level Russian officials to Turkey was postponed at the last minute, a highly unusual move that came just hours before it was due to take place. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu were set to arrive in Turkey on Sunday as part of a major high-level delegation to discuss regional issues, Russia’s TASS reported. – Jerusalem Post

Turkey’s Minister of Religious Affairs Ali Erbas vowed over the weekend that “our struggle will continue until Jerusalem is completely free.” – Jerusalem Post

Turkey fiercely criticised Twitter on Friday for suspending more than 7,000 accounts that supported President Tayyip Erdogan, saying the company was smearing the government and trying to redesign Turkish politics. – Reuters

Turkey must restore its economic credibility if it hopes to secure needed foreign funding and return to growth, said President Tayyip Erdogan’s former economy czar who recently broke away and founded his own party. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The revealing of the extent of this massive pro-government ruling party operation in Ankara shows the uphill struggle that opposition parties have in Turkey. Opposition and critical media have been totally silenced, such that there are almost no critical media voices allowed in Turkey. The use of social media to go after opposition parties was merely one more step in Turkey’s trend towards authoritarianism. That Turkey is linked to Russia and China in this respect illustrates how Ankara increasingly adopts a Russia and China model in its domestic politics. – Jerusalem Post


The United Arab Emirates made a rare appeal to the Israeli public, offering closer security and commercial ties between the two Middle East nations if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed away from his move to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. – Wall Street Journal

On the 13th anniversary of Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, several Palestinian factions and officials on Saturday called for an end to the continued dispute between the Islamist movement and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority. – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority won’t allow scenes of anarchy and lawlessness, if and when Israel implements its plan to extend sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, PA officials in Ramallah said on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the American Jewish Committee (AJC) virtual conference on Sunday, and said that the Trump administration’s vision for peace “is the most realistic path to end the conflict for the good of both Israeli and Palestinian people. – Jerusalem Post

Sweden’s designated ambassador to Israel, a political appointee, publicly disassociated himself from support for Israel and opposed members of his party holding an event in the parliament in Stockholm with representatives of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. – Jerusalem Post

The World Bank approved a grant of $15 million for the improvement of new sustainable economic opportunities through the information technology (IT) sector for Palestinian youth. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s government approved funding on Sunday to establish a new town in the contested Golan Heights that will be named “Trump Heights” after President Trump. – New York Post

Israeli security forces on Monday tore down a number of structures built in two illegal settlement outposts on the West Bank. – Ynet

Israel has agreed to transfer $ 50 million of Qatari aid into the Gaza Strip and continue the social projects started by the Gulf states in exchange for Hamas’ pledge to stop incendiary balloon terror, Beirut-based Al Akhbar newspaper reported Monday. – Ynet

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat down Sunday with US Ambassador David Friedman, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin to discuss plans to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank in accordance with the Trump administration’s peace plan. – Times of Israel

Cynthia Ozick writes: Sophisticated terms such as boycott, divestment and sanctions, designed to weaken and dismantle the Jewish state, are touted by the superior pronouncements of university professors, members of Congress, aspiring politicians, respected journalists who have forsworn impartiality for advocacy, and other pinnacles of societal influence. […]Marxism is a movement of the deluded; anti-Semitism is a movement of the cleverest. When students become inquisitors and administrations are feeble, when the elect succumb to the political haters, so will a nation’s conscience. A vengeful mob is a fearsome thing, but the true monsters are its teachers. – Wall Street Journal

Herb Keinon writes: But as some Persian Gulf leaders are now demanding that Jerusalem not annex parts of Judea and Samaria, something many Israelis believe is in their best interest, so as not to jeopardize nascent ties, Israel is in a position if it decides to heed those demands to make a counter demand: take these ties out of the closet as an important step in educating the Arab public – long indoctrinated to believe that Israel is the devil and dealing with it is treachery – that this is not the case. – Jerusalem Post

Chuck Freilich writes: The combined effects of the above, are such that Israel is rapidly approaching a near perfect storm, and with its eyes wide open. It is possible, of course, that events will not be quite as severe as feared, but much of the above will materialize. Wise people do not play roulette with their national future. It is up to one person, Prime Minister Netanyahu, to stop the imminent train wreck. Unfortunately, he is unlikely to do so. It is a shame. Israel was a nice country. – Haaretz

Yousef Al Otaiba writes: In the UAE and across much of the Arab world, we would like to believe Israel is an opportunity, not an enemy. We face too many common dangers and see the great potential of warmer ties. Israel’s decision on annexation will be an unmistakable signal of whether it sees it the same way. – Ynet

Eli Lake writes: America and Israel see eye to eye on most strategic issues. But there will be times when they don’t. In those circumstances, $3.8 billion in U.S. military assistance will likely be used as a kind of leverage. A wiser long-term strategy for Israel and AIPAC would be to anticipate those inevitable disagreements and start gradually phasing out the aid altogether. – Bloomberg

Jason Greenblatt writes: If Israel chooses to move forward with the application of Israeli law to those areas, I nevertheless hope that there will be continued, significant progress in the relationship between the UAE and Israel. This progress is important for the region for so many reasons, including its security. […]We all recognize that the road to peace is so very complicated and difficult. The region is so very complicated. But these difficult discussions and debates, including the topics covered in the op-ed by my friend Yousef, have to happen to make meaningful progress. – Jerusalem Post


Two Katyusha rockets fell in Iraq’s Taji base that hosts U.S.-led coalition troops, with no casualties reported, the state news agency said on Saturday. – Reuters

Turkey’s jets carried out new cross-border airstrikes on Monday targeting Turkish Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, the Turkish Defense Ministry said. – Associated Press

Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace write: Iraq’s most important external partners, Iran and the United States, as well as Iraq’s domestic politicians, are competing to consolidate their leverage ahead of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue set to begin on June 11. Iran dispatched its IRGC-Quds Force Commander and energy minister to solidify a key energy deal that the United States had hoped to deter by encouraging partnerships with Gulf States. Iran’s proxies in Iraq responded by opposing the US-encouraged outreach to Saudi Arabia and attempting to form a parliamentary mechanism to demand the expulsion of US forces from the country. – Institute for the Study of War


Hundreds protested for a second night over the Lebanese authorities’ handling of a deepening economic crisis, despite the government pledging on Friday to inject dollars into the market to bolster the sagging currency. – Agence France-Presse

Tom Rogan writes: Hezbollah’s influence over Lebanon and its means of exporting the Iranian revolution — something Tehran is keenly aware of. Where does this leave us? Well, with the expectation that as the summer heat grows, it will be joined in intensity with escalating economic pain. America should stand firm in support of true political reform in both nations, cognizant of the fact that such reform is the only way these suffering peoples will find final relief. – Washington Examiner

Hanin Ghaddar writes: The Caesar Act is a strong instrument to reinforce the argument that Lebanon can no longer be tied to the current Syrian regime on the economic and security levels. In order to prevent a total economic collapse, the country needs to distance itself from the Assad-Iran axis and defy any normalization with the present regime in Damascus. […]U.S. officials should emphasize that the legislation is not intended to harm Lebanese businesspeople who have not been involved in supporting the Assad regime. For many local industrialists, merchants, and farmers, Syria is the only land route to send their goods to the rest of the region. These businesses need to be reassured that Caesar is not meant to target them or further damage the fragile economy. – Washington Institute


The United Nations chief expressed horror at the discovery of at least eight mass graves in Libya in recent days and called for a prompt and transparent investigation into possible war crimes. – New York Times

Pope Francis on Sunday urged political and military leaders in Libya to end their hostilities and called on the international community to take “to heart” the plight of migrants trapped in the lawless nation. – Associated Press

The collapse of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s fourteen-month siege of Tripoli over the past week has changed the face of Libya’s on-going civil war, and left the once almost all-powerful general a political – if not literal – corpse. – Telegraph

In the interview, Dönmez said that “in three or four months,” the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation will begin seismic search activities in the parts of the Mediterranean Sea affected by the memorandum upon which Turkey and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, agreed in November 2019. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen said on Saturday it had intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile targeting the Saudi Arabian border city of Najran. – Reuters

The U.N. refugee agency announced on Thursday that fighting has forced more than 94,000 to flee their homes in war-torn Yemen since January, a grim statistic reflecting the devastation brought on by the civil war in the Arab world’s most impoverished country. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The White House must decide whether it is serious about confronting Russia in these countries. […]More broadly, there’s the question of whether the U.S. will continue to play arbiter in Middle East conflicts, or if it has decided to let Russia, Turkey and others take the driver’s seat in these conflicts. So far, it appears that Moscow and Ankara are driving while Washington sits back, watching and expressing concern but reluctant to get more deeply involved. – The Hill

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This era sees a return to stronger states after the Arab spring, the chaos and the rise of proxy groups and ungoverned spaces. Now this region is seen as up for grabs as the US begins to withdraw from areas like Syria or Afghanistan and other states, such as Iran, Turkey, Russia and China, step in. This feeds conflicts as each country seeks greater hegemony and wants to take over areas  in Syria, Libya or Yemen. In addition, terrorist groups and proxy armies and militias are well armed in the Middle East. Although they wreak havoc across the Sahel or Afghanistan, this is the region where they have the most funding and weapons and state support. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

The timing was hardly coincidental when North Korea’s foreign minister declared on Friday that hopes for finding peace with South Korea and its protector, the United States, “faded away into a dark nightmare,” and that talking with President Trump had given way to focusing on a more “reliable force to cope with the long-term military threats from the U.S.” – New York Times

There is a new face near the top in North Korea but no change in rhetoric. Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was officially elevated this month to a high-profile role that effectively casts her as her brother’s deputy. – Washington Post

The Black Lives Matter supporters who descended on the US embassy in Seoul over the past two weeks found another demonstration already taking place: scores of hardy activists who for months have protested over Donald Trump’s demand that South Korea quintuple the amount it pays for hosting American troops. – Financial Times

South Korea on Sunday convened an emergency security meeting and urged North Korea to uphold reconciliation agreements, hours after the North threatened to demolish a liaison office and take military action against its rival. – Associated Press

Editorial: Trump has obvious electoral considerations. But the president must keep a keen eye on what Kim is doing and why. If he fails to monitor both equations, the consequences for his presidency, his legacy, and the nation may be catastrophic. – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: In turn, this week’s actions are warning shots across South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s and Trump’s metaphorical bows. If Kim doesn’t receive the kind of outreach from Trump he wants, which he likely won’t, his hard-liner consigliere Kim Yong Chol will whisper in his ear: “It’s time for new ICBM tests, Mr. Chairman.” – Washington Examiner

Gordon G. Chang writes: Kim probably realizes he’s in a fix. He needs, for regime survival, both foreign enemies and foreign cash. Getting one undermines the possibility of obtaining the other. Therefore, the threat of breaking off personal relations with the American leader is high-risk for Kim, and it is not clear the North Korean at this moment is holding any high cards. – The Daily Beast

Joseph Bosco writes: After Washington merely expressed “disappointment” at the break in North-South communications, Kwon Jong Gun, director-general for U.S. affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, declared with vehemence: “If the U.S. pokes its nose into others’ affairs with careless remarks … it may encounter an unpleasant thing hard to deal with.” Making the threat explicit, he said Washington should “hold its tongue” or confront “a hair-raiser … for the easy holding of upcoming presidential election.” It is time for the U.S. to stop holding its tongue on the human rights nightmare in North Korea, which also took the life of American student Otto Warmbier, and let the Kim regime start worrying about the prospect of elections of their own. – The Hill


An Australian man has been sentenced to death in southern China, potentially escalating diplomatic tensions that have seen the two countries clash over trade, tourism and education. – Wall Street Journal

The formation of an unusual coalition of developed-world lawmakers shows how misgivings over Beijing’s recent assertiveness have rippled across the globe. – Wall Street Journal

A Chinese government-linked effort to spread pro-Beijing messages through Western social media is clumsy but persistent, allowing it to adapt and improve over time, according to a new analysis of mostly Chinese-language activity on Twitter and Facebook. – Wall Street Journal

China has retaken its mantle as America’s largest trading partner, emerging as a rare bright spot for U.S. farmers and other exporters as the coronavirus pandemic constrains global commerce. – Wall Street Journal

China’s ambitious overseas infrastructure investment program is a form of economic and geopolitical imperialism, according to a senior member of President Trump’s administration. […]That observation is a window into the message carried by Boehler, whose newly created agency is “America’s development bank,” as he seeks investment opportunities in developing countries. – Washington Examiner

Australia is seeking to engage China on the future of Karm Gilespie, an Australian man sentenced to death for drug trafficking, amid escalating tensions between the countries, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Hawaii, trying to ease tensions between the world’s two largest economies over various issues, according to media reports. – Reuters

An anti-China advocacy group that includes former White House adviser Steve Bannon is calling on the Trump administration to exclude Chinese companies from U.S. financial markets, as the White House studies new ways to crack down on China. – Reuters

China on Friday said it resolutely opposes any U.S. government move to restrict Chinese students from studying abroad, and urged the United States to do more things to enhance mutual exchanges and understanding. – Reuters

Editorial: This, of course, is the core concern — that any U.S. company that seeks to operate in China won’t be allowed to do so according to U.S. values. “It is not in Zoom’s power,” the spokesman also told The Post, “to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech.” It is within Zoom’s power, however, to decide whether it will obey. – Washington Post

Zachary Faria writes: The only way for companies such as Zoom to get the message on China is for it to hit the pocketbooks. If Zoom is so willing to play by China’s rules, let it do it without the support of U.S. schools and office spaces. It’s time for U.S. companies to remember where they are and to act like it. – Washington Examiner

Brig. Gen. Robert S. Spalding writes: While those in power have been distracted by the COVID-19 crisis and other events around the world, China has been waging a multi-front war on America. Our economy, military, diplomacy  and technology are all under attack, and the communist country is winning. If we don’t act soon, it may be too late to undo the shocking, though nearly invisible, victories the Chinese already have won. Taking steps now to ensure that America is able to stand up in the face of Chinese intimidation, and to reverse some of their ill-gotten gains, is the only way America can win this new cold war. – The Hill

Riley Walters writes: Americans’ propensity to spend is what will help bring us out of this recent slowdown, unlike in China. Of course, Americans should remain vigilant about their safety and the safety of others to avoid a second wave of infection and economic hardship. – The Daily Signal


The rush on the herbalist in Kabul nonetheless points to Afghans’ rising desperation as the coronavirus overwhelms their country’s struggling health system amid a bloody war with the Taliban. – New York Times

Afghanistan’s government and the Islamist Taliban group have agreed that Doha will be the venue for the first meeting in their peace talks, both sides said on Sunday. – Reuters

The U.N. human rights office on Friday regretted the impact that U.S. sanctions authorised by President Donald Trump may have on trials and investigations under way at the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying its independence must be protected. – Reuters

A blast in a Kabul mosque during Friday prayers killed at least four people and wounded eight, Afghanistan’s interior ministry said on Friday, at a time when the country is attempting to move towards peace talks to end 18 years of war. – Reuters

Vinay Kaura writes: The trust deficit remains a major barrier to the success of the intra-Afghan dialogue. It may be debatable whether the continued links between the Taliban and al-Qaeda represent a breach of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, but there can be no doubt that the Taliban must seek to address the contradictions of its positions. Having gained de-facto legitimation of its desired status, the Taliban must now go the extra mile to assure its detractors that it has no plans to sabotage the Kabul regime while having a superficial dialogue with it. Its failure to do so will only breed disillusionment and disappointment over the entire process. – Middle East Institute


Police in riot gear fanned out across Hong Kong in large numbers on Friday in a show of force aimed at quashing possible unrest on the anniversary of a demonstration that helped galvanize last year’s mass protests against the encroachment of mainland China. – Wall Street Journal

Maria Ressa, a Filipino-American journalist known for her critical coverage of Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte, was found guilty of cyber libel by a court on Monday in a case that has come to symbolize the erosion of press freedom and democracy in the country. – Washington Post

As the coronavirus pandemic amplifies longstanding concerns over the world’s economic dependence on China, many countries are trying to reduce their exposure to Beijing’s brand of business.  […]But outside government circles, in the companies where the decisions about manufacturing and sales are actually made, the calculations are more complex. China is a hard habit to break. – New York Times

Sweeping new national security laws being imposed on Hong Kong might not be retroactive, a Chinese official said, potentially limiting the scope of controversial legislation that’s currently being drafted in Beijing. – Bloomberg

In the battle to counter the modern-day scourge of weaponised online disinformation, Taiwan has locked on to a winning strategy – “nerd immunity”. – Telegraph

The lower house of Nepal’s parliament on Saturday approved a new map of the country, including areas disputed with India, the speaker of the national legislature said. – Reuters

Amal Clooney writes: So the world will be watching on Monday, and no one should be watching more closely than the U.S. government. Because as well as being Filipino, Maria is American. And it has been a hallmark of this administration to strongly defend its citizens captured and falsely imprisoned abroad: by sanctioning Turkey’s interior and justice ministers for detaining Pastor Andrew Brunson, intervening in court proceedings against A$AP Rocky in Sweden, and negotiating hostage releases around the world. […]Let’s hope that on Monday a trial judge in Manila will send a very different message. And that if she doesn’t, we will see a robust response. – Washington Post

Austin Doehler writes: If China’s proposed national security law winds up being enacted, the people of Hong Kong would all of a sudden be forced to reckon with an expedited shift in their way of life, a prospect that most of them dread. In light of this reality, one of the most productive things that the U.S. could do to counter China’s unlawful power grab in Hong Kong would be to open its borders to Hong Kong citizens who wish to flee the possibility of their home succumbing to CCP-style authoritarian rule. – The Hill


After 18 months in a Moscow prison on espionage charges, former Marine Paul Whelan is expected to receive a verdict Monday, the conclusion to a case that has added tension to already strained relations between the United States and Russia. – Washington Post

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Sunday described the United States as a country gripped by a “deep internal crisis” and attributed it to what he said was a refusal by opponents of President Trump to accept his “obvious” 2016 election victory and his legitimacy as leader. – New York Times

The Kremlin is scrambling to drum up feel-good patriotism ahead of a delayed nationwide referendum that would allow Mr. Putin to stay in office until 2036. But the virus keeps getting in the way, with Mr. Putin struggling to solve Russia’s biggest domestic crisis in decades even as he casts himself as a tough problem-solver who is in control of events. – New York Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin is suggesting that he was a key figure in the takeover of Kosovo’s airport by Russian troops at the end of the 1999 war. – Associated Press

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday ordered two Czech diplomats to leave the country in a quid pro quo response to Prague’s expulsion of Russian diplomats amid tensions rooted in differences over history. – Associated Press

The paradox also has led to allegations by critics and Western media that Russian authorities might have falsified the numbers for political purposes to play down the scale of the outbreak. Even a top World Health Organization official said the low number of deaths in Russia “certainly is unusual.” – Associated Press

Russia’s most-advanced new nuclear-powered submarine entered service on Friday, the defence ministry said, at a time of growing arms control tensions between Moscow and the West. – Reuters

The United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty on April 8, 2010. After more than 20 hearings, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification on December 22, 2010, by a vote of 71-26. […]The treaty is due to expire in February 2021, unless both parties agree to extend it for no more than five years. – USNI News

Dr. Benjamin L. Schmitt writes: The pandemic has not endowed Vladimir Putin with superpowers. Nor has it upended Western institutional or political resolve. […]The negative security impacts of Nord Stream 2, in particular, could last a generation. It is therefore heartening to see that Europe and the United States remain resolute in their support for Europe’s energy diversification strategies in the midst of the pandemic. The continued regulatory, legal, and sanctions policies aimed at curtailing Gazprom’s pipeline pursued by Europe and the United States remain as vital as ever. That gives heart to transatlantic security optimists – such as myself. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Since his release from prison two years ago, the former jihadist once known as Abu Aicha has made an impressive showing of turning his life around. The 27-year-old Belgian who traveled to Syria in 2013 says he rejects the Islamic State and prefers studying to fighting. His advice to other Muslim youths curious about the group: Stay away. – Washington Post

A former Ukraine president is charged with abuse of office. The current president is peppered with accusations from former allies that his anti-corruption pledges are going nowhere. And a barrage of potshots, conspiracy theories and plots for retribution has become a steady hum in the political life in Ukraine — as American election tensions again spill into the fray. – Washington Post

But the limits of that freedom are increasingly apparent, as Sweden has unexpectedly become a bellwether for the European Union’s ever more strained engagement with China. Swedish political and business leaders are asking whether the country rushed too swiftly into an economic relationship with China, with the Volvo deal as a renewed source of controversy. – New York Times

Boris Johnson will push for rapid progress in future-relationship talks with the EU on a call with the bloc’s chiefs on Monday, as Brussels warned it would not sacrifice its economic interests for the sake of a deal. – Financial Times

The Army is giving units in Europe and in the Pacific new electronic warfare equipment, marking what one service leader said was the first “reintroduction” of such tools since the Cold War. – C4ISRNET

Some members of Poland’s government on Friday denied a Reuters report saying talks over a U.S.-Polish defense deal known as Fort Trump were crumbling amid disputes over how to fund the deployment of additional U.S troops and where to garrison them. – Reuters

Poland accidentally invaded the Czech Republic in late May, in what Warsaw has described as a “misunderstanding,” according to various reports over the weekend. – Times of Israel

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called Saturday for a “courageous plan” in launching virtual talks with EU and IMF leaders to rescue Italy’s economy and society from the “unprecedented shock” triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. – Agence France-Presse

After more than a year of thinly-veiled threats to start pulling U.S. troops out of Germany unless Berlin increases its defense spending, President Donald Trump appears to be proceeding with a hardball approach, planning to cut the U.S. military contingent by more than 25%. – Associated Press

Britain’s Prince Charles will host French President Emmanuel Macron for a special celebration marking the 80th anniversary of Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s defiant appeal to the French people to resist the Nazis during World War II. – Associated Press

It takes two to tango. That’s the polite reply Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is likely to get when he meets EU foreign ministers on Monday for an hour and a half of virtual discussion, in which he is expected to request support for Washington’s confrontations with Beijing. – Politico

The U.S., U.K. and French heads of navies met virtually today for their annual trilateral maritime talk, aimed at advancing warfighting interoperability and deepening cooperation between the three NATO allies, according to a Navy statement. – USNI News

A $250 million military aid package to Ukraine, pushed by the Trump administration and approved by Congress Thursday, should benefit U.S. security by helping keep Russian forces bogged down, experts with experience in the region tell Military Times. – Military Times

Donald Tusk and the president of Poland have exchanged blows on Twitter after Mr Tusk accused his fellow Pole of ruining Poland’s reputation. – Telegraph

Leading European Jewish organizations and personalities expressed outrage on Sunday after video emerged of ostensibly anti-racism protesters in Paris shouting antisemitic slurs. – Algemeiner

A new report by a top Jewish group in the UK explores the extent of antisemitic hate speech and incitement on the radical right, calling it “an urgent and ongoing terror threat to Jewish communities.” – Algemeiner

Cordelia Buchanan Ponczek writes: Any mention of the “B-word” risks attracting attention in Washington and prompting renewed entanglement in American politics, from which Ukraine can only lose. Prosecutors will have to tread carefully to avoid an American imbroglio, while also avoiding the trap of pursuing politically-motivated claims against the opposition. Ukraine’s rulers must juggle their international supporters’ priorities and political necessities at home. The latest turn of events has thrown another ball in the air. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Ambassador Kurt Volker writes: As the world emerges from the covid-19 pandemic and its associated economic shutdowns, NATO needs to do more than just go back to normal. China, Russia, and lesser authoritarians have used the health emergency as cover for clampdowns at home and aggression abroad. The alliance — the bulwark of transatlantic security — leaves the crisis as it entered it[…]. It now needs to think big: to take a comprehensive view of 21st century security threats, to re-establish itself as the essential forum for security consultations, and to break down barriers that have hamstrung it in the past. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on Sunday said talks would continue later this week to resolve their dispute over a Nile dam Ethiopia is constructing, even as Cairo accused Addis Ababa of rejecting “fundamental issues” at the heart of the negotiations. – Associated Press

The al-Qaida-linked extremist group in Somalia has unveiled a COVID-19 isolation and care facility, a sign that the group is taking seriously the pandemic that continues to spread in the fragile country. – Associated Press

New campaigns in the U.S. and Europe are now following Africa’s lead. Monuments to slave traders and colonial rulers have become the focus of protests around the world, driven by a reexamination of historical injustice after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in the U.S. – Associated Press

Two peacekeepers with United Nations (UN) forces in Mali were killed on Saturday in an attack on their convoy in the north of the west African nation, the U.N. mission in Mali said on Sunday. – Reuters

Islamic militants killed at least 20 soldiers and more than 40 civilians and injured hundreds in twin attacks in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state on Saturday, residents and a civilian task force fighter said. – Reuters

Judd Devermont writes: With more than 200,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, an impending continental recession, and international anti-racism protests, African governments are reassessing their roles in the international system. In the coming months, African leaders will almost certainly demand a bigger say on global issues in multilateral forums and more equitable ties with existing partners as well as step up as standard-bearers for multilateralism in an increasingly fragmented world. If the United States wants to repair and revive its links to the region in this new reality, it will need to rethink its approach to developing and sustaining its partnerships. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Latin America

Authorities in the African country of Cape Verde detained a Colombian businessman wanted in the U.S. on money-laundering charges, in a blow for Venezuela’s authoritarian government, for whom he has become an important deal maker. – Wall Street Journal

Colombia’s biggest active guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), released six hostages on Sunday in the north east of the country, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said. – Reuters

A year after shutting down the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Washington’s top diplomat in Venezuela has found a way to slip back inside the South American nation — at least virtually. – Associated Press

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Saturday the opposition would not recognize a “false” electoral body named by the government-friendly Supreme Court, while his allies pledged to extend the term of the current legislature. – Reuters

The United States is investigating a Venezuelan shipping magnate for possibly violating U.S. sanctions by bringing fuel to gasoline-short Venezuela, according to two senior Trump administration officials. – Reuters

Last year, China replaced the United States as the No. 1 importer of oil from Venezuela, yet another front in the heated rivalry between Washington and Beijing.  – Reuters

Members of Colombia’s opposition are warning that the deployment of US troops in the country is illegal, and that it could hamper the country’s fragile peace process and spark an international conflict.  – Telegraph

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: The latter would be consistent with the medical-export missions that Cuba has been running for many years all over Latin America. By controlling the payroll, Havana has been able to shortchange workers and keep most of the income for itself. […]Many Mexicans took AMLO’s word for it when he said he was a democrat. His failure to come clean on his deal with Cuba undermines that claim. – Wall Street Journal

North America

In a Friday, June 5, 2020 sermon delivered at the North Miami Islamic Center, which is known also as Masjid As-Sunna An-Nabawiyya North Miami, Imam Dr. Fadi Yousef Kablawi said that he is saddened by Muslims who participate in Black Lives Matter protests because “every life matters.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

Canada’s intelligence agency warned that arresting the daughter of billionaire Huawei founder Ren Zheng would set off global “shock waves” and seriously affect ties with China, just before her detention in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request, new court documents show. – Reuters

Larry Diamond writes: The U.S. government must not only galvanize its people to act responsibly but also spearhead the international effort to distribute protective equipment and—as they become available—vaccines and medicines. Then, when the coronavirus has been vanquished, the United States must resume its leadership of global democracies in defense of liberty and against authoritarianism, corruption, and bullying. – Foreign Affairs

Heather A. Conley and Max Shafron write: Though icebreakers are not a substitute for a robust, well-resourced, and consistent whole-of-government U.S. Arctic policy, they do provide a critical capability that protects the United States and assures U.S. access to both polar regions. This is a welcome recognition of a severe lack of U.S. capabilities and a rapid assessment to enhance this deficit. The one—and perhaps most important—issue the memorandum is silent about is identification of the budget resources to pay for this important capability in an increasingly strained fiscal environment. Let’s hope this “Arctic moment” is not lost. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


A computer virus hit the Japanese automaker Honda this week, disrupting its internal computer networks, forcing it to shut factories across the globe and leaving employees cut off from email or internal servers. – New York Times

A trio of House Armed Services Committee members are asking for an Inspector General investigation into whether a company that tested Ligado Networks for GPS interference and submitted that information to the Federal Communications Commission has a conflict of interest. – C4ISRNET

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) on Friday introduced two bills designed to protect and defend the United States in the event of a nationwide cyberattack that impacts critical systems and cripples the economy. – The Hill

As satellite operators scramble to join the 5G revolution, there is growing concern that weakness in US regulatory standards for cybersecurity could mean commercial networks could be full of holes for hackers to exploit. – Breaking Defense

The Army released its highly anticipated request for proposals June 11 for a contract that could be worth as much as $1 billion to provide cyber training for the Department of Defense. – Fifth Domain

Alan Charles Raul writes: A high-level privacy and technology office won’t necessarily solve all of our digital dilemmas, but it would be a good place to think ahead. Quite simply, if the U.S. is going to lead the world to a smarter place on digital privacy, we need to have a privacy leader. – The Hill

Shane Tews writes: As the digital transformation of the economy and migration of society online have been forcibly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, cybersecurity must remain a priority for policymakers. As I’ve written previously, a comprehensive federal cybersecurity strategy could help improve the cybersecurity of assets beyond the reach of the federal government, to the benefit of local governments, companies, and citizens. – American Enterprise Institute


Despite an overall decrease in the number of nuclear warheads, all states possessing nuclear weapons have continued to modernize their nuclear arsenals, a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has found. – Jerusalem Post

President Trump told graduates of the United States Military Academy that it is not the role of the U.S. military to police the world. – Washington Examiner 

Deliveries of a new precision-guided bomb under development by Raytheon for the F-35 and other fighter jets have been at a standstill for about a year as the company struggles to correct a technical problem involving a key component. – Defense News

Overall nuclear warheads in the world decreased in 2019, but broad modernization efforts by the biggest nuclear countries — along with a degradation of arms control agreements around the world — could mean a dangerous mix for the future, according to an annual report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI. – Defense News

The White House on Friday announced its intention to nominate Bradley Hansell, a former special assistant to President Donald Trump, as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. – Defense News

Special Operations Command wants to bring the internet of things to the war fighter at the edge with their future war fighting concept—the Hyper Enabled Operator. – C4ISRNET

Rocket Lab successfully launched three U.S. intelligence satellites from New Zealand June 13 after the mission had been delayed for months due to COVID-19 restrictions. – C4ISRNET

The Army is reorganizing its chief information officer/G6 position into two roles as a way for the service to better take advantage of technology. – C4ISRNET

The Trump administration plans to reinterpret a Cold War-era arms agreement between 34 nations with the goal of allowing U.S. defense contractors to sell more American-made drones to a wide array of nations, three defense industry executives and a U.S. official told Reuters. – Reuters

In a first of a kind event next week, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) will award up to 36 contracts designed to push research on ground-breaking uses of quantum science out of university labs and eventually into the hands of warfighters. – Breaking Defense

Navy SEALs are testing a new dry combat submersible that, if successful, will deliver a team of commandos from a submarine to shore without exposing them to potentially frigid waters, a change that could have a huge impact on safety and readiness. – Breaking Defense

As the Pentagon struggles to catch up to Silicon Valley, top officials have loudly embraced the private-sector software development strategy known as “agile.” But in the GAO’s annual survey of 42 major weapons programs, while 22 claimed to be using agile methods, only six actually met the private-sector standard of delivering software updates to users every six weeks — at most. – Breaking Defense

Trump Administration

President Trump’s response to the violent turns at some racial-justice protests in U.S. cities earlier this month has ushered in the most acute test of civil-military relations in decades. Mr. Trump’s consideration of deploying active-duty troops to impose order—though ultimately not acted upon—drew objections from Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. – Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump is exaggerating his accomplishments for the military and veterans. With his relationship with Pentagon leaders under strain, the president bragged to West Point cadets over the weekend that his administration wholly destroyed the Islamic State group. He also asserted in a televised interview that he completely rebuilt a depleted U.S. military. – Associated Press

People have taken to the streets of Berlin, London, Paris and other cities around the world to demonstrate in support of Black Lives Matter protesters in the United States and to vent anger over President Donald Trump’s response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. – Associated Press

A U.S. appeals court on Friday appeared skeptical of the Justice Department’s unprecedented effort to drop a criminal case against President Donald Trump’s former adviser Michael Flynn, signaling no quick end to the politically charged prosecution. […]Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. – Reuters

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton has written a book that provides an insider account of President Donald Trump’s “inconsistent, scattershot decision-making process,” his publisher said on Friday. – Reuters

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday offered measured support for President Trump, noting that “at least” the president hasn’t started a war and has funded the military.  – The Hill

Matthew Continetti writes: This is the sort of environment that demands the forward presence of American forces to reassure host governments of our commitment to international security and to deter opponents from hostile action. Everywhere you look, however, America is leaving. […]The emergence of a fourth crisis, involving national security and great power conflict, has the potential to place incalculable strains on an already beleaguered system. An international flashpoint is not inevitable, but it has happened before in similar circumstances. The world always grows more dangerous when the superpower takes flight. – Washington Free Beacon