Fdd's overnight brief

June 18, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


As the U.S. and other world powers hurtle toward a confrontation over the Iran nuclear accord, European diplomats are trying to forge a compromise to save the deal from collapse by proposing a limited extension of the arms embargo on Tehran. – Wall Street Journal 

Iran will send the black boxes from a downed Ukrainian airliner to Ukraine, Iran’s minister of Roads and Urban Development, Mohammad Eslami, said on Wednesday, according to the Tasnim news agency. – Reuters

Iran test fired cruise missiles in a naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman and northern Indian Ocean, state media reported Thursday. – Associated Press

Iran remains hell-bent on developing the deadliest weapons on the planet, according to a damning German intelligence service report released Monday. – Fox News 

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in its latest report says foreign direct investment (FDI) in Iran has dropped by 36.5 percent in 2019 compared with the previous year. – Radio Farda

The founder and CEO of an Iranian financial services firm has pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran one month after being arraigned in Minneapolis, federal prosecutors said Tuesday. – Radio Farda

A civil rights activist sentenced to five years in prison for her activism in support of unpaid workers says she was urged to write a letter requesting a pardon from the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. – Radio Farda

Stephen Blank writes: Tehran’s new posture in the Caucasus is almost certainly not a one-off. It is therefore worth asking if this newest revelation of Iran’s destabilizing behavior will elicit a response from Washington. If so, the United States should support Azerbaijan’s ability to defend its interests. If that comes to pass, then something positive might actually emerge from this whole unhappy episode. – War on the Rocks 


The exiled uncle of the Syrian president was convicted in France for illegally amassing real estate worth 90 million euros ($101 million), including a Paris manor and a castle, after departing Syria penniless more than three decades ago. – Bloomberg

Syria said Washington’s toughest sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which came to effect on Wednesday, violated international law. – Reuters

In the last bastion of the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, Syrians who fled his rule see new U.S. sanctions as a step in the right direction but say they must be shielded from any fallout as the currency crumbles. – Reuters   

Tensions in Syria surrounding the presence of U.S. forces in the northeast of the country are mounting, and there are increasing reports about popular resistance, both peaceful and violent, to this presence. Most of the reports speak of Syrian villagers pelting U.S. military vehicles with stones or barring them from passing through their villages, while some also claim that the Syrian army and local militias are encouraging or assisting the residents in this action. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The Kurds fought hard against ISIS and created stability in eastern Syria and northern Iraq. But many countries want to undermine that. Turkey wants any groups historically linked to the PKK destroyed. Iran’s parties in Baghdad want the autonomous Kurdistan region weakened or sidelined. […]The general tone from Washington has been to tell the Kurds not to work with the Syrian regime in Syria but then also not to help them receive UN or other humanitarian support or trade with Iraq, or even get political backing as part of a Syrian political process in Geneva. Whether the current unity talks can lead to the US actually working with its partners on the ground to achieve political success is unclear. But it’s a start. – Jerusalem Post 


The Israeli military — in conjunction with the Shin Bet domestic security agency — recently thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip by sea from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, it was announced on Wednesday. – Algemeiner

The European Parliament voted to formalize its “Open Skies” agreement with Israel late Wednesday, granting final approval to a temporary aviation agreement reached between the European Union and the State of Israel in 2013. – Jerusalem Post

Russia did not support a UN Security Council Resolution that the Obama administration considered pushing in order to force parameters for a peace agreement on Israel and the Palestinians, as indicated by recently declassified phone conversations between US President Donald Trump’s former adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time Sergey Kislyak. – Jerusalem Post

Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued a hard-line tweet regarding Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. – Arutz Sheva

Nicholas Burns, adviser to the Democratic Party’s presidential contender Joe Biden, has warned that “Annexation would be a huge mistake” on the part of Israel. – Arutz Sheva

Omar Alradad writes: Assurances from Washington about its strategic relationship with Jordan—even including the major financial support to the Hashemite Kingdom—are not enough to allay Jordanian concerns regarding the repercussions of an Israeli annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley. Jordan has no interest nor ability to accept such a scenario, especially given its likely impact on Jordan: displacement of more West Bank residents to Jordan along with the compromising of Jordan’s own national security. – Washington Institute

Lahav Harkov writes: What is indisputable is that two days after Resolution 2334 passed, then secretary of state John Kerry gave a long speech on how the Obama administration envisions a two-state solution. […]There is still the question of why this story is coming out now, three-and-a-half years after Trump came into office. The answer is likely that it is politically beneficial to both Netanyahu and Trump, and the fact that the story came out in Israel Hayom, owned by Sheldon Adelson who supports them both, supports that theory. – Jerusalem Post


Four rockets fell late on Wednesday inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. embassy and other missions in the Iraqi capital, but caused no casualties, Iraq’s military said in a statement. – Reuters

Turkish forces have hit more than 500 Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq as part of an operation in the region against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Defence Ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that Turkish and Iranian military interventions in Iraq violated the sovereignty of a sisterly Arab country. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: If the U.S. were to withdraw from Iraq or Syria, the fight would likely devolve into several smaller battles involving groups that don’t coordinate with one another. They would fight IS locally with varying degrees of success, but the terrorists would move back and forth across borders, much as Al Qaeda and other groups have done in Afghanistan and parts of Africa. Keeping the fight regional and the coalition united requires U.S. leadership. American air power and intelligence-gathering abilities are essential to tracking and destroying IS operations. But Washington needs buy-in from Baghdad to keep the effort going. – Bloomberg


That at least is Russia’s big-screen version of a real-life drama that has made the sociologist, Maksim Shugalei, and his Russian interpreter players in the latest murky tale of foreign intrigue unspooling amid the chaotic war in Libya. […]the reports underscored how the two Russians’ fate had become entangled in the byzantine jockeying among the foreign powers driving Libya’s conflict, notably Turkey and Russia. – New York Times

A senior United Arab Emirates official delivered rare criticism of the Gulf nation’s Libyan ally Khalifa Haftar after he suffered major battlefield defeats at the hands of the Turkey-backed internationally recognized government. – Bloomberg 

The battle for Tripoli has been won, bolstering the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, as Haftar abandoned his 430-day campaign to capture the capital. But Libya’s war is far from over, and concern is mounting that the OPEC producer could go the way of Syria, prompting new waves of migration and militancy on Europe’s doorstep. – Bloomberg

Top Turkish cabinet ministers, along with the country’s leading intelligence official, met Wednesday with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, as Turkey tries to reap political and economic dividends from its support for the North African nation’s internationally recognized government. – Bloomberg 

A senior Turkish military official said on Wednesday it was “completely untrue” that the Turkish navy had harassed a French warship, denying an assertion by a French official. […]He said the French ship had wanted to check whether the Turkish vessel Cirkin was smuggling arms to Libya. – Reuters

France accused Turkey’s navy on Wednesday of acting in a hostile and unacceptable manner towards its NATO allies to prevent them from enforcing a United Nations arms embargo on Libya. – Reuters  

Brian Katz and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. write: While Moscow weighs the importance of LNA setbacks and heavy Wagner Group losses, including dozens of fighters killed and key weapons systems such as UAVs and Pantsir-S1s seized or destroyed, PMC forces and key assets such as combat aircraft are likely to remain deployed at Jufra and key sites in eastern Libya. While Russia’s PMC-led intervention met its limit on the frontlines of Tripoli, it has ensured for Moscow a new strategic foothold in North Africa and on the Mediterranean. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Rauf Mammadov and Kathryn Petersen write: The future of Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE is not contingent merely on the Libyan civil war. Their relationships are complex and multifaceted. However, the issue of Libya is currently the most visible point of dispute and source of tensions between the two sides. The GNA’s recent victories and the subsequent talk of a potential cease-fire could ease the friction in the relationship, although that will surely depend on the sustainability of the solution. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The United States has contracted the building of infrastructure needed for Qatar’s future fleet of Boeing F-15QA Eagle fighter aircraft, the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) announced on 16 June. – Jane’s 360 

Saudi Arabia has proposed a framework to end the latest standoff in southern Yemen between nominal allies under a Saudi-led coalition, three sources said, as violence escalates with the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in the north of the country. – Reuters

Four workers were killed when Kurdish militants detonated a roadside bomb that struck the labourers’ pick-up truck as it passed by in southeast Turkey on Wednesday, the local governor’s office said. – Reuters 

School textbooks used in Lebanon by the terrorist group Hezbollah to teach history and other core subjects to children are filled with systematic and egregious incitement to antisemitism and support for terrorism, according to a new report from ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) issued today. – ADL

Anna Borshchevskaya writes: In other words, this is a long game, and Russia will seek to gain influence by leveraging all sides and maintaining low-level instability. Before it annexed Crimea from Ukraine, Moscow first spread disinformation and engaged in covert activity, then presented the world with a fait accompli. It followed a similar pattern in Syria for years before it openly intervened, going public with its pro-Assad campaign only when it felt confident it would be unopposed. The West cannot risk another fait accompli years down the line, especially in the strategically vital East Mediterranean. – Washington Institute 

Korean Peninsula

Seoul has long exercised restraint with its provocative northern neighbor, in hopes of drawing Pyongyang into peace talks. […]But on Wednesday, Mr. Moon’s administration dropped the pleasantries. South Korea chided the Kim Jong Un regime over its “rude and senseless” remarks, a day after North Korea blew up a liaison office jointly run by both countries. – Wall Street Journal

Now, as Mr. Kim threatens to extinguish the fragile détente with a new cycle of bellicose actions and military provocations, it’s his sister who is again speaking for the nation, this time heaping scorn on South Korea — a signal of her deepening clout in the hereditary regime. – New York Times 

For South Korean President Moon Jae-in, engagement with North Korea was a personal crusade to seek a new path on the peninsula. Now Moon is drawn into a fast-deepening crisis that has made him a target of the regime he once courted. – Washington Post  

Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that Kim Jong Un played to President Donald Trump’s “ego and penchant for pageantry” during their three one-on-one high-profile summits in 2018 and 2019, and that the North Korean leader “seems to have succeeded in acquiring de facto nuclear state status.” – TIME

South Korea said Thursday it hasn’t detected any suspicious activities by North Korea, a day after it threatened with provocative acts at the border in violation of a 2018 agreement to reduce tensions. – Associated Press 

South Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator will hold talks with officials in Washington on Thursday amid flaring tensions with North Korea after Pyongyang blew up an inter-Korean liaison office and threatened military action. – Reuters


American lawmakers have criticized Thermo Fisher for selling equipment to the Chinese authorities, but the company has defended its business. The project is a major escalation of China’s efforts to use genetics to control its people, which had been focused on tracking ethnic minorities and other, more targeted groups. It would add to a growing, sophisticated surveillance net that the police are deploying across the country, one that increasingly includes advanced cameras, facial recognition systems and artificial intelligence. – New York Times

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with his Chinese counterpart in Hawaii, part of an effort by Washington and Beijing to manage a relationship that has badly deteriorated over issues ranging from the status of Hong Kong and Taiwan to the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S.-China trade deal shows no signs of weakening despite clashes between the two nations over the coronavirus pandemic, China’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s autonomy, and China’s falling behind on purchases of U.S. goods, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration’s top trade negotiator defended the president’s economic agreement with China on Wednesday, saying that Beijing was buying more American products and had reaffirmed its commitment to live up to the deal. – New York Times

China threatened retaliation after U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation on Wednesday calling for sanctions over the repression of China’s Uighurs, as excerpts from a book by his former national security adviser alleged he had approved of their mass detention. – Reuters

China’s top diplomat told his U.S. counterpart that Washington needed to respect Beijing’s positions on key issues, halt its interference in issues such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang and work to repair bilateral relations. – Reuters

President Donald Trump expressed approval of a concentration camp for Uighur Muslims in China during a private meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to former national security adviser John Bolton’s upcoming memoir, “The Room Where It Happened.” – Business Insider

Republicans are sharpening a new prong in their anti-China policies: They want to break U.S. reliance on the country for critical minerals, used in everything from military equipment to renewable power to cellphone batteries. – Washington Examiner

China will exempt some African countries from repaying zero-interest rate loans due at the end of 2020, state television reported on Wednesday, quoting President Xi Jinping’s speech at a summit. – Reuters 

South Asia

A clash this week between Indian and Chinese troops was the worst in decades, but the two nations have been jockeying over the contours of their border straddling the Himalayan mountains since the two countries came into existence, India in 1947 and the People’s Republic of China in 1949. – Wall Street Journal

Xi Jinping of China and Narendra Modi of India probably did not intend to ignite a clash on their border on Monday, high in the Himalayas, that killed 20 Indian troops and may have resulted in Chinese casualties, too. Yet the leaders of the two nuclear-equipped countries now confront a military crisis that could spin dangerously out of control. – New York Times

India and China agreed Wednesday to ease tensions at their disputed Himalayan border, even as they traded blame for a brawl that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead. – Agence France-Presse

India on Thursday cautioned China against making “exaggerated and untenable claims” to the Galwan Valley area even as both nations tried to end a standoff in the Himalayan region where their armies engaged in a deadly clash. – Associated Press

Indian troops fired on villages along the border in the Pakistani-administered side of the Kashmir region on Wednesday, killing four civilians and wounding another, Pakistan’s military said. – Associated Press

At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a brutal border clash with Chinese troops on Monday evening, and senior Indian officials have said the troops fought hand-to-hand and with improvised weapons like metal batons wrapped in barbed wire. – Business Insider

India’s prime minister has promised a “fitting reply” to China following the death of 20 Indian army soldiers in violent clashes on the Himalayan border. – Sky News (UK)

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it hoped India and China would find mutually acceptable ways to ensure security on their border following deadly clashes, the Interfax news agency reported. – Reuters

Afghan officials say Taliban fighters have attacked a checkpoint in the northern province of Jawzjan, killing 12 security force members. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

A deadly bout of hand-to-hand fighting between Chinese and Indian forces at a disputed border could help U.S. officials convince India to provide a military counterweight to Beijing’s aggression. – Washington Examiner 

Editorial: As the Chinese economy struggles amid the pandemic, President Xi Jinping appears to be letting the People’s Liberation Army act out abroad. This may be a nationalist play to shore up domestic support. Or perhaps Mr. Xi simply feels confident enough to achieve longstanding territorial goals. […]Let’s hope China and India stand down in the current clash, but the U.S. ought to use the event to point out to Delhi and other regional capitals the strategic advantages of closer ties with America. – Wall Street Journal 

Barkha Dutt writes: While all-out combat may not be an immediate consequence of the deadly border clash, it’s clear India must reset the terms of its economic reliance on China. If it doesn’t, the Chinese won’t just be assaulting India’s troops in the high mountain reaches; they will be right in our backyard. – Washington Post  

David Fickling writes: Amid the sugar-rush of nationalism brought on by military hostilities, there’s little sign right now that cooler heads will prevail. Still, a previous 2017 confrontation in the Himalaya didn’t reverse the busy diplomatic relationship between the two countries. In smoothing over the current conflict, India and China must further deepen their economic and social links — otherwise the next fight will be still more serious. – Bloomberg 

Mihir Sharma writes: One would think the Chinese leadership, which has made such a fetish of their nation’s supposed “century of humiliation,” would be wary of deliberately fostering the same resentments in a country that will one day be a formidable competitor. China’s leaders may feel that that the U.S. has mismanaged their nation’s emergence on the global stage. But they have no one else to blame for their inept handling of India’s rise. – Bloomberg 


Chinese buyer enquiries for Australian homes fell to their lowest in almost three years in May, according to independent data, suggesting multi-billion dollar housing demand could be another casualty of a diplomatic spat between the two countries. – Reuters

India and China said they wanted peace but blamed each other on Wednesday after soldiers of the two sides savagely fought each other with nail-studded clubs and stones on their Himalayan border, killing at least 20 Indian troops. – Reuters

China’s ceremonial legislature on Thursday passed a draft of a national security bill for Hong Kong that has been strongly criticized as undermining faith in the semi-autonomous Chinese region’s legal and political institutions. – Associated Press 

The Group of Seven leading economies is calling on China to reconsider plans to impose a national security law in Hong Kong, according to a joint statement issued Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Michael Mazza writes: In the absence of a mutual defense treaty between the United States and Taiwan, it remains difficult to imagine much less implement significant, public US force deployments to Taiwan in the coming years. Yet as the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated, the world can change in a hurry. Indeed, COVID-19 might prove to be an inflection point in Washington’s approach to Taiwan, accelerating its extant pursuit of a far more normal defense relationship with Taipei. – Global Taiwan Institute 

Brad Glosserman writes: Aegis Ashore is a strategic concern for another reason: It is a tangible expression of Japan-U.S. security cooperation. Abe agreed to the deployment after meeting U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017 and the purchase of more U.S. weapons systems has been a priority of the Trump administration. With host nation support talks scheduled for later this year, suspension of the deployment will make those negotiations, certain to be difficult, even more contentious. […]This should galvanize bilateral cooperation, promoting still greater integration of the two countries’ defense systems. That unity of purpose could render a missile defense system irrelevant. – Japan Times


Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers have flown near Alaska on a mission demonstrating the military’s long-range strike capability. – Associated Press

The United States scrambled fighter jets to escort four Russian nuclear-capable Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bombers as they carried out a planned flight near the U.S. border, the RIA news agency cited the Russian Defence Ministry as saying. – Reuters

The Moscow-backed leader of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied accusations that he was behind an alleged plot to kill a Georgian journalist. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Editorial: Mr. Whelan’s attorney said Monday that an exchange for his client already is being discussed. If so, Russia stands to obtain the same benefit from Washington recently extracted by Iran: the release of criminals convicted of serious offenses in exchange for innocent Americans, who were seized precisely for that purpose. […]But perhaps also Mr. Trump could, at least, stop lobbying to include Mr. Putin in summit meetings of the world’s leading democracies. – Washington Post  

Cordelia Buchanan Ponczek writes: Armenia is locked in a decades-long frozen conflict with its much larger, richer neighbor, Azerbaijan, which also has a close relationship with Turkey. This standoff has led to a crippling economic embargo and border closure with two of Armenia’s four neighbors. For two years, Pashinyan has tiptoed around the Russia issue. But in a single week, Pashinyan’s government has taken dramatic steps with clear implications for its relationship with the Kremlin. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The European Union plans to tighten its defenses against subsidized foreign companies, marking a sharp increase in the bloc’s effort to assert “strategic autonomy” from China and the U.S. while defending its economic interests. – Wall Street Journal

Diplomats at the United Nations chose Mexico, India, Ireland and Norway in elections held Wednesday to fill upcoming vacancies on the Security Council, the most powerful authority in the 193-member global organization, which turns 75 years old this October. – New York Times

US trade talks with the European Union and Britain have stalled in part due to suspicions of poor American food standards, Washington’s chief negotiator said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

The United Kingdom said on Thursday that China, Russia and Iran were looking to exploit weaknesses shown by the coronavirus outbreak, amid suggestions Beijing had used the crisis to push through new security legislation for Hong Kong. – Reuters

The German government is urging other EU states to prepare for a no deal Brexit, according an internal document that casts doubt on Britain’s optimism over chances of an early agreement on its future ties with the bloc. – Reuters

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the U.S. assured its alliance partners that it would consult them on changes to the deployment of American troops in Europe after a plan to cut their numbers in Germany sewed confusion. – Bloomberg

Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron will meet Thursday, the U.K. prime minister’s first bilateral with a European leader since calling for fresh momentum to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. – Bloomberg

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the U.S.’s withdrawal from international talks on digital tax is a provocation and indicated his country will impose a version of the levy this year in keeping with the law. – Bloomberg

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a deal to pull the European Union out of the worst recession since World War II before the summer break, urging the bloc’s leaders to show solidarity to fight the coronavirus crisis. – Bloomberg 

Journalist rights groups and Iranian dissidents are urging Romania not to deport a former Iranian official to his homeland to face corruption charges, saying he should be prosecuted in Europe for ordering the mass arrest of reporters while serving as a judge in Tehran. – Associated Press

More than $60 million worth of weapons and other equipment is going to Ukraine as part of the U.S. security aid program with the country, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said Wednesday. – Associated Press  

The UK government is proceeding with an investigation of one of the world’s largest professional services firms on suspicion of enabling a Palestinian terrorist organization. – Algemeiner

An Irish bill that would have criminalized doing business with Israeli settlements was shelved this week, when it was not included in the incoming coalition government’s five-year plan. – Algemeiner

Henry Olsen writes: The European Union’s economy is eight times larger than Russia’s. It could easily build a military that protects all of NATO’s members, relying on the United States for its intelligence, naval and nuclear assets to help combat Russian threats outside of the European landmass. […]America is overstretched. Trump’s proposed redeployment, however clumsily handled and inadequately explained, is recognition of this fact. Those who support an active and reliable global U.S. military presence need to recognize this and act now before our adversaries act for us. – Washington Post 

Jenny Hill writes: American troops – for so many here – are woven into the fabric of German life. But with so many certainties, the once warm transatlantic relationship – the reliance on old allies and the strength of Nato – are now fraying at the edges. – BBC 

Andreea Brinza writes: Some policymakers in Washington believe CEE countries, including Bulgaria and Romania, are ‘in bed’ with China. But the dynamics of these relations are often misunderstood. While Bulgaria may continue to seek ties with China over the coming years, Romania has already chosen the side of the US by abandoning the Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant. Given it could also soon restrict Huawei operations in building its 5G network, prospects for Romania-China relations are gloomy. – Middle East Institute 

Latin America

Insults by Brazilian government officials aimed at China, the country’s main trading partner, are detrimental to Brazil’s business interests and “not even very smart,” the chief executive of Cargill’s local operations said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ramped up verbal attacks on Spain’s Iberdrola (IBE.MC) on Wednesday, accusing the power generation company of mounting a media campaign against his government as well as unspecified acts of graft. – Reuters 

President Trump said it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela and that the South American country was “really part of the United States,” according to a forthcoming book authored by former White House national security adviser John Bolton. – The Hill  

The Transportation Department said Wednesday that it fined Panama-based Copa Airlines $450,000 for operating flights between the United States and Venezuela after the Trump administration banned service between the countries. – Associated Press 

North America

A U.S. court is set to rule on an American mother’s battle for custody of her young daughter against her ex-husband from Saudi Arabia, after a legal process in the conservative kingdom deemed her unfit to parent because of her Western culture. […]The thorny legal debate, playing out amid unremitting criticism of Saudi Arabia in the West, has positioned a U.S. court to pass judgment on the efficacy of the Saudi legal system in protecting human rights. – Wall Street Journal

Brazil’s right-wing government on Wednesday welcomed the nomination of a U.S. candidate for president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), which has always been headed by a Latin American since its founding in 1959. – Reuters

The U.S. government on Wednesday issued a warning about the threat posed by pirates to boats and oil installations in the southern Gulf of Mexico, in the latest sign of concern about ongoing security challenges facing Mexico. – Reuters

Newly-published police data showed that Jews were the most targeted group for hate crimes in the greater Toronto area last year. – Algemeiner

Michael Rubin writes: There is one simple truth, however: There is no moral equivalence between dictatorships and democracies. Both may have social problems, but only one resolves its problems openly through the rule of law. Likewise, it is impossible to expose and resolve problems without the ability of politicians and people to debate openly. The U.S. embraces such debate. Erdogan fears he cannot win one on its merits, so he suppresses it and punishes those who would persist in an intellectual argument. In short, Istanbul is not Minneapolis. Minneapolis has freedom, and the rule of law will still prevail. In contrast, the real growth in the post-Gezi-era is in prison populations, police impunity, and femicide. Truth and justice are nowhere to be found in Turkey today. – Washington Examiner 


Several American civil-rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, are encouraging big advertisers to pull spending from Facebook Inc. to protest what they say is the company’s failure to make its platform a less-hostile place. – Wall Street Journal

The Justice Department proposed a rollback of legal protections that online platforms have enjoyed for more than two decades, in an effort to make tech companies more responsible in how they police their content. – Wall Street Journal 

For most of its history, Huawei’s tinkering in semiconductors was considered little more than a curious hobby by industry rivals. […]Huawei’s chip subsidiary, HiSilicon, attracted little outside attention until the Trump administration’s sanctions on Huawei brought this backup squad to the front line. – Washington Post

The United States has deported a Russian hacker who was sentenced to 48 months in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from online banking accounts using malicious software known as NeverQuest. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


Two F-35C pilots are the first naval aviators to graduate from the TOPGUN course flying the fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter, the Navy announced. – USNI News 

The Navy has accepted delivery of its first two Block III Super Hornets to begin testing, even as the pressure is on to decide within the next year or so what its path forward is with continuing to buy new jets from manufacturer Boeing or focusing on developing a next-generation aircraft. – USNI News 

The Pentagon has put forward a new Defense Space Strategy designed to maintain U.S. military superiority in space amid growing counter-space efforts in Russia and China. – C4ISRNET  

The Army program executive office responsible for network modernization is delaying the release of the final request for proposals for an advanced encryption device, in the meantime considering if it should award the contract to two vendors. – C4ISRNET 

Andreas Kluth writes: Between naivety in Germany, belligerence in Russia, ambition in China, inanity in Trumpist America and brinkmanship in North Korea, the outlook is grim. Egomaniacs or rogues could be tempted to test the boundaries in their foes’ deterrence plans, and human error could compound the folly. – Bloomberg 

Trump Administration

In a withering behind-the-scenes portrayal, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton accused him of sweeping misdeeds that included explicitly seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s help to win re-election. – Reuters

The Trump administration’s top trade official slammed John Bolton’s claim that the president asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help him win reelection by purchasing agricultural products, calling it “absolutely untrue.” – Washington Examiner

Donald Trump revealed he didn’t know the UK is a nuclear power during a meeting with former prime minister Theresa May, the US president’s former national security adviser has claimed. – Sky News (UK)

Seth Frantzman writes: What we’re looking at is a global drawdown in U.S. forces committed to counter-terrorist operations at the same time President Donald Trump is demanding other countries, including NATO allies, do more. The idea is for the U.S. to focus on using technology, such as drones, while local forces do the fighting on the ground. This long-term shift has long-term consequences that mean countries such as Iran, China and Russia, which the U.S. sees as adversaries, will have a larger footprint in places where the U.S. is reducing its role. Outsourcing counter-terrorism to these countries may not have been the plan, but it is likely one outcome. – The Daily Beast