Fdd's overnight brief

June 19, 2020

In The News


Member states from the United Nations atomic agency board voted Friday to condemn Iran for failing to cooperate with its probe of Tehran’s nuclear activities, a move that gives Washington fresh ammunition in its push to kill the Iranian nuclear deal. – Wall Street Journal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Thursday that “an agreeable solution is possible” for the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s request for access to two nuclear sites in the country. – Reuters  

Britain, France and Germany will on Friday define their Iran strategy for the coming months amid talks at the United Nations and violations by Tehran of a 2015 nuclear deal, France’s foreign ministry said. – Reuters

Diplomacy over Iran’s atomic program erupted into a new level of rancor, with China warning that even a toned-down rebuke of Tehran over its alleged lack of cooperation with inspectors could unravel global efforts to contain the spread of nuclear weapons. – Bloomberg 

Todd South writes: A recent, steady flow of rocket attacks in the past week on facilities housing U.S. troops in Iraq, including Camp Taji and Baghdad, may be attempts of Iranian-backed groups to pressure an American exit. But the region’s top military commander sees little effect. […]McKenzie recounted tit-for-tat attacks and provocations by Iran and the U.S. military and coalition responses, asserting that those responses were actually de-escalations of Iranian probing. – Military Times 

Daniel Schwammenthal writes: Paradoxically, closing ranks with the U.S. and promising decisive measures against any nation supplying Iran with weapons is actually Europe’s best chance to save the remains of the nuclear deal. A united transatlantic front would give Russia and China pause for thought, pushing them perhaps to accept a new arms embargo. –  Newsweek  

Mariam Memarsadeghi writes: With such help, the Iranian people can be a most natural and loyal friend to all free nations. What’s more, their new Iran will mean all peoples of the region will not only have the chief enemy to their peace and freedom removed, but will gain a true ally to build up their countries, too, in one shared, humanist vision. – Newsweek

Farzin Nadimi writes: Iran still lacks an authentic blue-water navy, and IRIN has a long way to go in replacing its fleet with modern ships. Iranian naval vessels are also hard pressed to find ports that will accept them. Therefore, an IRIN or IRGC “stunt” mission to the Mediterranean or Caribbean Sea would not necessarily give them any sort of effective maritime global reach. Yet Tehran has never relaxed its policy of arming and empowering the IRGCN in the Persian Gulf, both to assert hegemony in the region and to challenge the Western naval presence there. – Washington Institute 

Omer Carmi writes: Iran’s recent messaging suggests that it will opt for limited retaliation against the IAEA, following in the footsteps of its 2005-2006 brinkmanship strategy. […] Changing or hindering any of its commitments to the IAEA—even if perceived by the regime as a “proportionate response”—would likely create more damage than value for Iran, pushing it closer to a noncompliance resolution or UNSC referral. The question is whether less pragmatic decisionmakers in Iran’s conservative camp and the IRGC understand this as well, and who will win this internal debate. – Washington Institute 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: In contrast, the Islamic Republic has a wide range of effective alliances with world powers and with militia proxies, and much of the world takes its diplomatic moves seriously. It knows how to leverage even the possibility of nuclear weapons for far more than North Korea’s already existing nuclear bombs and potential arsenal. This makes it far more deadly not only to Israel, but also to the US and the rest of the West. – Jerusalem Post


A draft U.N. resolution would maintain two border crossing points from Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria’s mainly rebel-held northwest and reopen an Iraqi crossing to the northeast to deliver medical supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic. – Associated Press 

Syria’s economy is indeed devastated, and while the Trump administration insists its sanctions “are not directed at the Syrian people,” many Syrians fear that while the measures may increase pressure on Assad’s government, they’ll also increase the suffering of the country’s beleaguered citizens. – CBS News 

Iran on Thursday condemned as inhumane a fresh round of U.S. sanctions against its regional ally Syria and said it would expand its trade ties with Damascus. – Reuters 

Gregory Waters writes: While Turkey will almost certainly prevent the regime from crossing the M4, an assault on the towns and farmland south of the highway will still create immense suffering for the civilians and internally displaced persons crammed into the Idlib pocket. For the regime, such an offensive will only hasten the rapidly approaching total collapse of the state’s economy and subsequent mass famine. Whatever happens in the coming months will no doubt be decided by leaders residing outside of Damascus — a story all too familiar for Syria. – Middle East Institute


Religious Jewish settlers like Deutsch are mounting unexpected, vocal opposition as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to execute one of the provisions of President Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. – NPR

Palestinian mothers reportedly encouraged their daughters to be terrorists, via song, on a Palestinian TV channel, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) wrote in a press release on Thursday.  – Jerusalem Post

In his new book, former US national security adviser John Bolton said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed doubts to him about the assignment of Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner as chief architect of the administration’s Middle East peace plan. – Times of Israel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz reportedly said in a Thursday meeting that he will not support applying sovereignty to West Bank areas with “many Palestinian residents.” – Times of Israel

Palestinians fear communities across the Jordan Valley will meet a similar fate if Israel proceeds with its plans to annex the territory, which accounts for around a quarter of the occupied West Bank and was once seen as the breadbasket of a future Palestinian state. – Associated Press

Editorial: Israeli leaders always knew how to keep Israel above political conflict in the US. These days, US politics is polarizing and it is hard to juggle between both parties. However, our prime minister, despite his friendship and interest to support the current president, should find a way to make it happen. When we hear such strong opposition from the international community – from Europe and the Arab world – we need to make sure annexation is being done right. – Jerusalem Post

Yitz Tendler writes: Opponents of sovereignty warn that its application by Israel would erode US Jewish support for Israel. The truth, in fact, is the exact opposite. Not seizing the opportunity to apply sovereignty would have the effect of alienating higher numbers of America’s most committed Zionists than allowing this unique moment in Jewish history to slip through our fingers. – Jerusalem Post

David M. Weinberg writes: And thus, Israel will not freeze development of its strategic and historic heartland while waiting endlessly for a peaceful and democratic Palestinian political culture to miraculously emerge; while waiting for a compromise deal that the Palestinian leadership doesn’t want and repeatedly rejects. Israel cannot be held hostage to never-ending Palestinian vetoes. – Jerusalem Post

Radu Golban writes: The reputation of a nation which, to avoid paying reparations, still obstinately refuses to sign a post-World War II peace treaty, is not the best. Maybe sharing the German experience with Israel’s neighbors would be a better contribution to sustainable peace instead of arrogantly pointing a moral finger at Israel. Speaking humbly of the Holocaust but criticizing a constructive peace process raises questions about the integrity of a self-declared friend. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This is a fact of the current century, and as China and India expand, they will both play a growing role in the Middle East, without the burdens of the past that have shaped the current prejudices that underpin conflicts in this region. Israel must and will take account of these new winds of change. – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: While reportedly Bolton left the Trump administration partially over the possibility that the US president might reduce Iran sanctions – something which never happened – none of the leaks to date suggest that Trump warmed up to any Iranian leaders behind the scenes. This is a win for Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Amos Harel and Amir Tibon write: Huge uncertainty is hovering over everything. If there is one thing that the intelligence personnel have learned from the events of the past few decades – the two intifadas and then the Arab Spring – it’s the hopelessness of trying to guess the public’s behavior. The same cautionary note applies in the annexation case, too. – Haaretz

Avi Issacharoff writes: While seemingly a bureaucratic detail, the change has dramatic and symbolic implications: Palestinian residents of the West Bank are now going back to conducting some aspects of their lives in direct contact with Israel’s military authorities, rather than the PA. […]Such moves may end up exacerbating the plight of PA President Mahmoud Abbas who, while championing an aggressive anti-annexation policy, has so far been largely met with indifference by the Palestinian public. – Times of Israel

Gilead Sher and Tami Yakira write: Palestinians and Israelis have each accumulated a long list of violations and infringements of signed agreements. If annexation leads to a single state, this would be lethal to Zionism and would likewise detrimentally affect the Palestinian aspiration for a peacefully negotiated statehood. Such a scenario would result in perpetual conflict and likely deteriorate into a civil war. Only a political agreement will promote Israel’s national security and inner strength and maintain its nature in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, while bringing about, gradually, a safer future. – War on the Rocks 

Michael Rubin writes: In effect, Amnesty International is defending actions by Oldon, which are little different than those of Khoudary. While Somaliland’s leadership subsequently granted Oldon a pardon, blind acceptance of Amnesty pronouncements in effect granted an engine of hatred who targeted children the mantle of “human rights defender.” Amnesty’s leadership should be ashamed, but, as with the case of Khoudary, they appear more concerned with circling the wagons than with rooting out the rot that makes such pronouncements possible. Such knee-jerk reactions erode Amnesty International’s moral legitimacy and put innocent people in jeopardy. – Washington Examiner


With U.S. troops in Iraq at 5,200, U.S. Central Command’s Gen. Frank McKenzie foreshadowed a further withdrawal related to negotiations with the Iraqi government, noting the Iraqi army was “good enough” to fight the Islamic State. – Washington Examiner

Baghdad on Thursday summoned ambassadors from Turkey and Iran over their countries’ separate military operations this week targeting Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, calling the attacks an affront to Iraq’s sovereignty. – Associated Press 

Turkey plans to set up more temporary military bases in northern Iraq after stepping up its strikes against Kurdish militants there, a senior Turkish official told Reuters, saying the effort would ensure border security. – Reuters

Pshtiwan Faraj and Bahroz Jaafar write: With a new pandemic and the spread of poverty in the region, the people in the Kurdistan region and Iraq are expecting that even in the Iraqi Pandora’s Box there still remains hope and the strategic dialogue could be the Golden Fleece, and through it the Iraq people rightfully claim what is theirs, and also learn humility, compassion and respect, but also respect for laws and the need for accountability. – Jerusalem Post

Arabian Peninsula

Yemen’s Houthis have said they won’t be responsible if an aging oil vessel anchored near the war-torn country’s coast starts leaking crude into the Red Sea. – Bloomberg

David Ignatius writes: MBS has defended his pressure on these prominent families as part of an attempt to stop corruption, which for many decades had been an unfortunate fact of life in the kingdom. […]Holding innocent family members hostage to extort cooperation is a practice characteristic of the most brutal regimes throughout history. Yet as the Saudi machine of repression accelerates, it has sadly become a standard part of MBS’s governance. – Washington Post 

Nawaf Obaid writes: If the West Bank annexation bill is pushed through the Knesset, all these opportunities will be reduced to a footnote of history. A unilateral annexation will send the region one clear message: Israel has decided to slam the door shut on a negotiated two-state solution, and with it on all hope of normalizing relations with the Arab and wider Muslim worlds. – Haaretz


In the 13 months since the swashbuckling Russian sociologist was kidnapped by terrorists in the Libyan capital, he has been tortured, starved and tormented with mock beheading by sadistic Islamists. Through it all, he stoutly rejected demands that he confess to being a Russian spy. – New York Times

U.S. Africa Command expressed concern Thursday that Russian aircraft clandestinely delivered to Libyan rebels in May have been “actively flown” by mercenary pilots, but experts say American support for allies who back the Russian side in the conflict is more disconcerting. – Washington Examiner 

Twenty-three Egyptian workers who were recently detained by militias allied with the Tripoli-based government in western Libya and later released arrived home on Thursday, Egypt’s official news agency MENA reported. – Associated Press  

The U.S. government is worried Russia is tightening its grip in Libya after fighter jets from Moscow, transferred last month, are now being flown in the north African country in support of Russian mercenaries, a top general said Thursday. – The Hill

Middle East & North Africa

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the lengthy jailing of a former head of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party violated his rights, a decision published on Friday showed, but he was not expected to be released due to a separate investigation. – Reuters 

A financial adviser working with Lebanon’s government in talks with the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that he had resigned, citing “no genuine will” to reform and attempts to dismiss the size of losses in the financial system. – Reuters 

Jordan’s foreign minister made an unannounced visit to the West Bank on Thursday during which he warned against any Israeli annexation of occupied territory, saying it would “kill” hopes for a two-state solution with the Palestinians. – Associated Press 

Jordan’s king held a series of meetings with leading members of the US Congress on Wednesday, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, during which he expressed intense opposition to Israeli annexation of any part of the West Bank. – Algemeiner

The head of Lebanon’s Kataeb Party, Sami Gemayel, spoke out against the Hezbollah terrorist movement after the movement’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah gave an address on Tuesday concerning the country’s financial and political crisis. – Jerusalem Post

NATO will investigate French accusations that Turkey’s navy failed to respond to an allied call to inspect a vessel this month in the Mediterranean, the alliance chief said on Thursday, an incident Paris suspects involved Turkish arms smuggling to Libya. – Reuters

Korean Peninsula

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday accepted the resignation of his point man on North Korea, who had asked to quit after the North destroyed a liaison office while ramping up pressure against Seoul amid stalled nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration. – Associated Press 

Brooks, no more Mr. Nice Guy: With the relationship between North and South Korea as shattered as the symbolic liaison office building demolished by the North earlier this week, the former top U.S. commander in Korea is advocating an uncompromising response to Pyongyang. – Washington Examiner

Kim Yo Jong appears to be stepping out on her own recently — without her elder brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by her side — which analysts said may indicate that she could be moving into a bigger role within the country’s leadership structure. – CNBC

President Trump attacked his former national security adviser John Bolton on Thursday, saying he should have fired Bolton for “stupidly” tanking negotiations with North Korea by suggesting a “Libyan model” for nuclear talks. – New York Post

As tensions continue to rise on the Korean peninsula – with the Republic of Korea (South Korea) sending tanks and troops to the DMZ – the government in Seoul could rest easy in knowing that its air force will be bolstered by early next year with 40 additional F-35A stealth fighters. South Korea already received 13 F-35A fighters in 2019. – The National Interest


Chinese prosecutors have formally indicted two Canadian citizens on espionage charges, more than 18 months after the men were first detained, advancing a pair of cases widely seen as retribution for Canada’s arrest of a well-connected Chinese Huawei executive. – Wall Street Journal 

Chinese lawmakers have been meeting behind closed doors in Beijing this week to push forward a proposed national security law that could drastically curtail free political expression in Hong Kong and add to China’s tensions with the West. – New York Times

China lashed out at the United States on Thursday after President Trump signed into law a bill that would allow him to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the mass incarceration of more than one million Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang. – New York Times

As national security officials and some trade advisers in the Trump administration tried crafting get-tough-on-China policies to address what they viewed as America’s greatest foreign policy challenge, they ran into opposition from an unexpected quarter. President Trump himself was undermining their work. – New York Times

Donald Trump has renewed his threat to cut ties with China, a day after his diplomats held high-level talks with Beijing and his top US trade negotiator said severing the trade relationship was not a viable option. – The Guardian  

A senior State Department official said Thursday that the United States was disappointed by China’s attitude at a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top Chinese diplomat in Hawaii this week. – Associated Press 

China’s top legislative body has taken up a draft national security law for Hong Kong that has been strongly criticized as undermining the semi-autonomous territory’s legal and political institutions. – Associated Press 

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said China’s top foreign policy official committed in a meeting this week to honor all of his nation’s commitments under its first-phase trade deal with President Donald Trump. – Bloomberg 

China plans to accelerate purchases of American farm goods to comply with the phase one trade deal with the U.S. following talks in Hawaii this week. – Bloomberg 

About 20% of projects under China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to link Asia, Europe and beyond have been “seriously affected” by the coronavirus pandemic, an official from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday. – Reuters 

In an interview published Thursday, US President Donald Trump repeated his suggestion that China may have deliberately started the coronavirus pandemic, while acknowledging he had no evidence to say so. – Times of Israel

Josh Rogin writes: Yang came to Hawaii because he knows China has a huge international image problem. But the days of Beijing convincing the world that avoiding tensions with China requires acquiescing to its demands are over. The Chinese government must realize it needs to act differently to achieve the international standing and respect it demands — or become a global pariah. Truly helping the world fight the pandemic would be a good start. – Washington Post

John Pomfret writes: How will these firms react when Chinese authorities approach them to take a stand on Hong Kong, Taiwan or any other sensitive topic? Beijing no longer views these businesses as simply banks or video-chat companies. Instead, it sees them as vectors of influence. They are either friends or enemies. What will Apple do, for example, when it ultimately is forced to choose between the huge market of China and its home country, the United States? – Washington Post

Robert Hormats writes: More broadly, preventing and controlling a future pandemic, developing the drugs and vaccines to control and eliminate this one, and dealing with the highly disruptive financial aftermath that will hang over the world for many years will require a substantial measure of Sino-American collaboration. – The Hill 

Yun Sun writes: Despite what the outsiders might see as China’s mistake, China is unlikely to change its current strategic assessment. China and India will eventually find a face-saving mutual compromise to end the Ladakh standoff, as neither wants a war. However, the unsettled border will continue to destabilize, fester, and brew more clashes down the road. – War on the Rocks 

Dr. Satoru Nagao writes: China’s lack of respect for international law, expansion of territorial claims where there are power vacuums, and efforts to exclude outside actors from the regional intervention are all common themes of China’s exploits in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and now the India-China border. Thus, the question remains—how do countries affected by China’s ambitions, like India, Vietnam, and Japan, respond? Knowing the pattern of China’s behaviour points toward the answer: they should do the opposite of what China wants. – Wion News


The United States has reduced the number of troops it has in Afghanistan to 8,600 in accordance with a preliminary peace deal with the Taliban, a top American general said on Thursday, even as other aspects of the plan to end the war have faced setbacks and delays. – New York Times

Western powers are backing the Afghan government’s refusal to free hundreds of prisoners accused of some of Afghanistan’s most violent attacks, a release demanded by the Taliban as a condition to start peace talks, five sources told Reuters. – Reuters  

Afghan security officials say a mortar shell has exploded inside a religious school in northern Afghanistan, killing at least nine students. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

South Asia

A wave of anti-Chinese anger is cresting across India as the nation struggles to absorb the loss of 20 Indian soldiers beaten to death this week by Chinese troops in a high-altitude brawl along India’s disputed border with China. – New York Times

Weekslong tensions between China and India turned deadly this week. Here is what we know about the clashes in a remote Himalayan area that could significantly worsen relations between the neighbors. – Wall Street Journal 

India is under a lot of pressure to respond to China after a border clash high in the Himalayas left 20 Indian soldiers dead, an expert on Chinese defence and foreign policy told CNBC. – CNBC

 The United States offered condolences to India on Friday over the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers killed in vicious hand-to-hand combat with Chinese troops during a clash on the two Asian giants disputed mountainous border earlier this week. – Reuters  

A Pakistani court sentenced three men to life in prison on Thursday for their part in the assassination of a Pakistani political leader who was stabbed to death in London in 2010, a government prosecutor said. – Reuters

In the days leading up to the most violent border clash between India and China in decades, China brought in pieces of machinery, cut a trail into a Himalayan mountainside and may have even dammed a river, satellite pictures suggest. – Reuters  

China’s military has released 10 Indian soldiers captured on Monday during deadly clashes between troops from the two nations along their contested Himalayan border, senior Indian officials with knowledge of the matter said. – Bloomberg 

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi thought he could count on the public support of neighbors as he faced his most significant foreign policy challenge as India’s leader, he was mistaken. – Bloomberg 

U.S. Air Force Bomber Task Forces are sustaining patrols and combat readiness in numerous areas throughout the Indo-Pacific theater to maintain war-readiness and pursue deterrence missions amid heightened tensions with China and America and growing India-China tensions. – The National Interest 

Maria Abi-Habib writes: Despite warm meetings between Mr. Modi and President Trump, their countries’ relationship has at times been rocky. But given China’s increasingly hard line in territorial disputes, some Indian officials fear there may be little choice but to look West. – New York Times

Michael Rowand writes: In 1967, India was a member of the nonaligned movement. In recent years, it has deftly maintained cordial relations with both the United States and China during their growing rivalry. Whether it will maintain such a position indefinitely after its soldiers’ blood has been spilled is less certain. – Foreign Policy 

Ramesh Ponnuru and Michael R. Strain write: Even if it were desirable to impoverish China, we do not have the power to do it at an acceptable cost to ourselves. We can and should act in concert with other nations to limit the damage that the Chinese regime can do and to encourage better behavior from it across a range of concerns. […]Trade restrictions should continue to be far down our list of preferred options to achieve these ends — and even farther down our list of methods for strengthening the U.S. economy. – National Review 


Japan is laying out the welcome mat for Hong Kong-based financiers while China is encouraging them to stay put, adding to the chill between Asia’s two biggest economic powers. – Wall Street Journal  

Every Hong Konger I’ve interviewed this week — lawyers, protesters and teachers among them — has paused our conversation to comment on the push for accountability in U.S. police departments, and opine on why their aspirations for the same cannot be met. – Washington Post

The Australian government is grappling with massive cyber attacks from what Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described as a “malicious” and “sophisticated” state-based actor. – CNN 

 Beijing’s recent push to implement a national security law in Hong Kong — a Chinese special administrative region — once again heightened worries that the city’s autonomy is being compromised.  – CNBC

The presidential run-off in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati between a pro-Beijing leader and an opposition candidate sympathetic to Taiwan is the most aggressive campaign in the country’s history, according to former president Anote Tong. – Reuters  

The new national security legislation China is imposing on Hong Kong could be used against journalists operating in Asia’s main financial hub, which maintains distinct freedoms from the mainland, a global media watchdog group said. – Bloomberg  

An F/A-18F Super Hornet operating off USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) crashed in the Philippine Sea on Thursday, a Navy official confirmed to USNI News. – USNI News  

Gregory B. Poling and Kim Mai Tran write: The United States cannot rebuild influence in Southeast Asia simply by highlighting China’s bad behavior. […]The United States can still work with allies and partners to pursue a long-term, more effective agenda in Southeast Asia—one covering public health, development assistance, trade and investment, and regional security. That is the only way to rebuild American influence; otherwise, it won’t matter how badly China stumbles along its way to regional preeminence. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Michèle A. Flournoy writes: Given Beijing’s assumption that the United States is preoccupied and in decline, Chinese leaders’ propensity to test the limits in areas such as Taiwan or the South China Sea, and the faulty, potentially escalatory assumptions embedded in Chinese military doctrine, such a dialogue cannot come too soon. – Foreign Affairs


Russia scrambled fighter jets to intercept two U.S. B-52 bombers flying over the Sea of Okhotsk, off Russia’s far eastern coast, the Interfax news agency cited the Defence Ministry in Moscow as saying on Friday. – Reuters

Moscow will react if Berlin takes new actions against Russia over the killing of a Georgian national in the German capital last year, Russia’s ambassador to Germany said on Thursday, Interfax news agency reported. – Reuters  

Russia on Thursday lifted a ban on the Telegram messaging app that had failed to stop the widely-used programme operating despite being in force for more than two years. – Reuters  

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia’s approval would be required for any solution reached in peace talks between Kosovo and Serbia, whose leaders are scheduled to meet in the White House next week. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

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

The Russian Orlan-10 medium-range, multipurpose unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), has been in service for a decade and it has been used in a variety of rugged terrains. This week it was further tested in the Kemerovo Region of southwestern Siberia. Teams from the motor rifle large unit of the Central Military District’s 41st all-arms army used the UAVs to deliver precision artillery strikes during a live fire exercise. – The National Interest 

Tom Rogan writes: Regardless, this is a very sorry state of affairs. Kowtowing to a killer, Georgia is only encouraging further aggression from said killer and Putin. Considering Russia already occupies significant areas of Georgian territory, this appeasement strategy is not a very clever one, to say the least. The only language Kadyrov understands is resolve. – Washington Examiner 

Cynthia Roberts writes: Debate over Russian nuclear intentions will not end with the publication of Russia’s new statement about its deterrence policy — nor should it since both the United States and Russia consider the nuclear deterrence mission as the bedrock of their national security. Nevertheless, U.S. policymakers and analysts should read Russian statements and publications more carefully to avoid succumbing to confirmation bias. A better understanding of Russian intentions and perspectives would help advance critical analyses of the nuclear policy challenges facing the United States and its allies. – War on the Rocks 

President Vladimir Putin writes: Seventy-five years have passed since the end of the Great Patriotic War. Several generations have grown up over the years. The political map of the planet has changed. The Soviet Union that claimed an epic, crushing victory over Nazism and saved the entire world is gone. Besides, the events of that war have long become a distant memory, even for its participants. So why does Russia celebrate the ninth of May as the biggest holiday? Why does life almost come to a halt on June 22? And why does one feel a lump rise in their throat? – The National Interest

Peter Suciu writes: The U.S. and its NATO allies have paid similar visits to Russian waters. Last week the movements of the French guided-missile frigate Aquitaine in the Barents Sea were closely tracked by the Russian Northern Fleet, while last month four U.S. Navy warships from the U.S. 6th Fleet (C6F), along with one Royal Navy vessel, entered the Barents Sea to conduct maritime security operations, assert freedom of navigation and to demonstrate seamless integration among allies. It was the first time U.S. and British warships had operated in the Barents Sea since the Cold War. – The National Interest 

Peter Suciu writes: The Russian Aerospace Force (Air Force) will soon receive deliveries of an advanced but more importantly domestically-produced helmet-mounted target acquisition and display system for its MiG aircraft beginning next year. This is a major step as the previous versions of the helmets were produced in neighboring Ukraine, a situation that almost seems ironic given the recent history between the two nations. – The National Interest 

Peter Suciu writes: The Baltic Sea has been quite crowded with military warships and aircraft this month, and to the observing eye, it could appear that a major war is being fought in the remote corner of Europe as NATO and Russia each conducted a series of drills and exercises. – The National Interest 

Nathan Hodge writes: But Putin’s essay elevates the Soviet war in Europe to something higher: A crusade to save the world. And in doing so, he suggests that the darker wartime chapters are above criticism — and by extension, so is Putin’s Russia today. – CNN

Emil Avdaliani writes: All this is bad news for Vladimir Putin. The EEU was part of his attempt to portray Russia as a reborn great power, a Eurasian center of gravity to match Europe and China despite the dismal record of defeat and loss of influence in Ukraine, Georgia and other countries. The perception of foreign policy achievement fuels his domestic political machine, which is now attempting to persuade Russians that the country needs another decade of his rule. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Lloyd’s, the insurance giant, and Greene King, which owns pubs and breweries, have been forced to answer for sinister chapters in their past, as part of an unsparing focus on racism brought on by the Black Lives Matter protests against the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by the police in Minneapolis. – New York Times

Hungary’s restrictions on the financing of civil-society organizations are unlawful, the European Union’s highest court ruled on Thursday, in a resounding rebuke to Prime Minister Viktor Orban over measures that experts have denounced as an attempt to stifle criticism of his administration. – New York Times 

While attacks linked to the far-right dominate the headlines, more general incidents of racial discrimination have also been on the rise in Germany over the past year, according to the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. But the killing of George Floyd in the United States has triggered a wave of introspection here. – Washington Post

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sees no imminent threats to members of the 30-country alliance, even in the face of a rising China and worsening relations with Russia, he told CNBC on Thursday. – CNBC

President Trump’s decision to withdraw thousands of U.S.troops from Germany is a mistake, according to a former commander of allied forces in Europe. – Washington Examiner

In vowing to pull thousands of American troops from Germany, President Donald Trump is following a pattern of disruptive, sometimes punitive, moves against allies that have dismayed his fellow Republicans and cast doubt across the globe about the future of partnering with the United States. – Associated Press 

EU industry chief Thierry Breton has urged EU governments to be more active in setting global standards for ultralight battery metal lithium, key to many strategic industries and electric cars, or cede technological advantage to China. – Reuters 

European Union leaders are expected on Friday to back extending the bloc’s main economic sanctions against Russia over the turmoil in Ukraine until the end of January 2021, diplomatic sources and officials said. – Reuters 

 German federal prosecutors accused Russia on Thursday of ordering the killing of a former Chechen rebel in Berlin last summer and indicted a Russian man for the murder, which has severely strained diplomatic ties. – Reuters 

Germany should consider sanctions against Russia over the murder of a former Chechen rebel in Berlin last summer, a lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel conservative bloc said on Thursday. – Reuters 

A senior French official said on Friday she could not rule out the European Union’s trade talks with departed ex-member Britain ending without a deal though it was in the British interest to reach one. – Reuters 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday he would reject European Union membership if Belgrade does not receive concessions in return for recognising Kosovo and dropping attempts to stop it joining the United Nations. – Reuters 

Former British spy Christopher Steele, whose controversial dossier roiled American politics, scored a major victory Thursday when an appellate court upheld the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit against him by two powerful Kremlin-linked Russian oligarchs. – McClatchy 

Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron on Thursday agreed to step up efforts to secure a UK-EU trade deal, amid signs Britain could be open to a compromise in which the country would face tariffs if it undercut European regulations. – Financial Times

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has expressed concerns about Ukraine’s justice system at a time when the State Bureau of Investigations (DBR) and the Prosecutor-General’s Office are considering arresting former President Petro Poroshenko amid a spate of investigations involving him. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

The European Union has rolled over for another year sanctions imposed over Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

He has long been a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, and in recent weeks assumed the role of one of the EU’s most vocal opponents of Israel’s plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank — second perhaps only to the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. – Times of Israel

In a news release, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the State Department’s approval of a potential military sale of 16 Mark VI Patrol boats and associated technologies to Ukraine. The DSCA is a branch of the Department of Defense responsible for promoting military cooperation between the United States and its allies, providing technical assistance, and military training. The release estimated a sale price of about $600 million dollars. – The National Interest 

Dirk Olin writes: The overall effect is sadly moving — and profoundly educational. Many Lithuanians patronize the park to show their children the realities of Soviet brutality. […]A crowdsourced and expertly curated assembly of Confederate statues would invite a more enduring pedagogy than historic cancellation. Such an installation could uphold a fundamental principle of social memory. Our country could avoid erasing its history — while never forgetting it. – Washington Post 

William Smith writes: Germany is thus capable of protecting itself against Russia and it could also be more than capable of protecting its European neighbors. So the United States cannot afford to offer such broad security protections to wealthy countries. Trump should understand that if we can convince Germany and others to invest in their security, the benefit for us must be reduced defense spending. – The Hill  

Ferdinando Giugliano writes: The leaders of the frugal four may feel they have domestic support for their battle, but they risk becoming isolated at the European level. Instead of pushing back against a necessary upgrade to Europe’s economic infrastructure, they should seize their chance to improve its functioning. – Bloomberg


African countries on Thursday backed off their call for the U.N.’s top human rights body to launch its most intense scrutiny on the hot-button issue of police brutality and systemic racism in the United States, after American officials led back-channel talks to air opposition to the idea, diplomats said. – Associated Press  

The latest round of talks between three key Nile basin countries have failed to resolve a contentious dispute over construction of a giant $4.6 billion hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia, Sudan’s irrigation minister said. – Associated Press 

Kenya was elected to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, defeating Djibouti in a second-round of voting by the 193-member General Assembly after an initial ballot failed to produce a clear winner. – Reuters  

Exiled former Ivory Coast cabinet minister Charles Ble Goude appealed to the government to let him come home, as the International Criminal Court prepares to hear an appeal against his acquittal on war crimes charges. – Bloomberg 

Kenya and other countries in Africa are in danger of being caught in the crossfire of US-China rivalry, Uhuru Kenyatta, the president, warned as he appealed for international co-operation in the face of the coronavirus crisis. – Financial Times 

The Americas

The attack in April was part of a stunning surge of piracy in the southern Gulf of Mexico, a threat that prompted an American government security alert on Wednesday. – New York Times 

British financial institutions that benefited from slavery such as Lloyd’s of London should go further than simply saying sorry for their role in the Atlantic slave trade and make proper atonement for their sins, Caribbean countries said. – Reuters 

Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it would monitor the continuity of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program in the United States after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Donald Trump’s bid to abolish it. – Reuters 

Oil prices rose slightly on Thursday as a panel of OPEC and its allies met to review record oil supply cuts, even as the market remained concerned about additional coronavirus cases reported in parts of the United States and China. – Reuters 

Nearly 80 million people worldwide, or 1% of humanity, were uprooted at the end of 2019 after fleeing wars or persecution, a record figure capping a “tumultuous” decade of displacement, the United Nations said on Thursday. […]Syrians, Venezuelans, Afghans, South Sudanese, and stateless Rohingya from Myanmar top the list of 79.5 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally-displaced, it said in its annual flagship report, Global Trends. – Reuters

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Thursday his country’s guiding principles as it takes a seat on the United Nations Security Council will be peace, avoiding the impositions of the major powers and cooperation for development so people are not forced to migrate. – Associated Press

Latin America

The Trump administration on Thursday blacklisted more than a dozen individuals, their businesses and tankers alleged to have been involved in as much as 40% of Venezuela’s crude-oil exports in recent weeks. – Wall Street Journal 

Secret detentions, known under international law as “forced disappearances,” are playing a critical role in the Venezuelan government’s increasingly authoritarian efforts to control its population, discourage dissent and punish opponents, according to a new report by two human rights groups, provided exclusively to The New York Times. – New York Times

Venezuela has released a video showing six American oil executives jailed in Caracas as relatives appealed for international help in securing their release over fears about the men’s health amid the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press  

Two travelers from Switzerland and Brazil who were kidnapped along with their pet dogs by dissident rebels in Colombia at the start of the coronavirus pandemic were rescued Thursday by the military, ending a three-month ordeal. – Associated Press

The United States is offering rewards of up to $10 million each for the arrests of two prominent Colombian rebels who were key figures in the nation’s historic peace process but have since returned to arms. – Associated Press

The Trump administration increased pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Thursday, targeting a lifeline he’s used for selling crude oil run by a close associate of the socialist leader who was recently jailed in Cape Verde. – Associated Press

Roger F. Noriega writes: Trump was never sold on Guaido and considered Maduro a “tough” customer. His instincts were right. He sought military options to confront the regime in Venezuela. He was right to demand options. On these extraordinarily important questions, Trump was right, and Bolton was wrong. As it happens, Bolton makes a strong case backing up Trump’s frequent complaint that the Obama administration left him many messes to clean up. – Washington Examiner

United States

John Bolton’s claim in an explosive new book that President Donald Trump urged China’s Xi Jinping to help him win reelection could undermine his campaign’s effort to portray Democratic rival Joe Biden as soft on Beijing. – Associated Press   

The new chief of U.S.-funded global media is facing a conservative backlash over his decision to fire the heads of two international broadcasters, adding to concerns about the direction of the agency, which oversees the Voice of America and other outlets. – Associated Press

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned John Bolton as “a traitor who damaged America” with his memoir while denying the veracity of his explosive account. – Washington Examiner

Rep. Michael McCaul writes: While the U.S. government has pushed back against these aggressive actions by the CCP, more needs to be done. […]We don’t have time to waste re-learning the lessons of the Cold War. The U.S. must reincarnate a modern version of the AMWG and create a long-term strategy to discredit and disassemble the CCP’s disinformation campaign. – The Hill 


Facebook Inc. said it took down posts and ads for President Trump’s reelection campaign because they violated the social-media giant’s policy against “organized hate,” marking the latest confrontation in an escalating battle over how tech companies handle controversial political content. – Wall Street Journal 

Small and midsize companies are fighting a rising tide of cyberattacks largely out of public view, posing an underappreciated risk for the bigger companies and institutions that use their services. – Wall Street Journal 

A top French court on Thursday struck down critical provisions of a law passed by France’s parliament last month to combat online hate speech, dealing a severe blow to the government’s effort to police internet content. The court’s ruling comes as authorities around the world try to regulate what can be shared on vast internet platforms like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, all American companies with attitudes toward free speech and government oversight that often differ from Europe’s. – New York Times

On Thursday, officials abruptly reversed course, saying Britain will join other countries and design a new contact-tracing app based on software provided by Apple and Google. – New York Times 

Twitter Inc added a ‘manipulated media’ label on a video posted on U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed on Thursday that showed a doctored news clip with a mis-spelled banner flashing “Terrified todler runs from racist baby.” – Reuters  

Officials from Twitter and Facebook said Thursday that while they have not seen any “coordinated” efforts by malicious foreign groups to spread disinformation around the 2020 elections, the groups’ tactics are changing and evolving. – The Hill  

Executives from Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Google told U.S. lawmakers they are combating disinformation on a range of subjects including the 2020 election and have taken down videos, posts and messages deemed false and a risk to health and safety. – Bloomberg 

Huawei poses challenges to national security and has engaged in unacceptable acts, Google’s former boss Eric Schmidt has told the BBC. – BBC

Kyle Sammin writes: Those tensions boiled over last month when Twitter took it upon itself to fact-check one of the president’s tweets, appending a link below his text that connected users who clicked on it with a page that said the opposite of what Trump had said. Trump reacted as expected, criticizing Twitter, on its own platform, and calling for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That would cause more harm than good, but it does get at an important point: After 24 years, Section 230 is in need of an update. – Washington Examiner 

Lionel Laurent writes: After unity within the EU almost completely broke down early in the Covid-19 crisis, this kind of proposal helps answer a constant existential riddle: Just what is the bloc for? If the 750 billion-euro pandemic recovery plan shows the economic benefits of pooling resources, a creative push to punish trade distortions shows how it can protect its market abroad. If Vestager’s stance is anything to go by, Europe is serious about asserting itself on the world stage. – Bloomberg


The Air Force inspector general is investigating whether the military improperly used a little-known reconnaissance plane to monitor protests in Washington and Minneapolis this month, the Air Force said on Thursday. – New York Times   

A former analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for leaking classified information about a foreign country’s weapons systems. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. Department of Defense’s new space strategy is doing little to settle fears that the United States isn’t ready for a conflict that would extend beyond Earth’s atmosphere, experts told Foreign Policy on Wednesday. – Foreign Policy

A leading U.S. Defense Department policy official resigned Thursday after the Trump administration passed over her nomination for another top defense job, as the White House continued its efforts to fill the Pentagon with loyalists to  President Donald Trump. – Foreign Policy 

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is cranking up the heat on Ligado Networks with new legislation that would require the company to cover the costs of any Global Positioning System user — government or commercial — that is hurt by the company’s newly approved use of L-Band spectrum, C4ISRNET has learned. – C4ISRNET 

The Pentagon’s primary artificial intelligence hub is already studying how to aim a laser at the correct spot on an enemy vehicle, pinpointing which area to target to inflict the most damage, and identifying the most important messages headed to commanders, officials said June 16. – C4ISRNET 

With a pair of contract awards over the last two months, the Army has kicked off the first phase of its program to deliver to brigades the first ground-based integrated signals intelligence, electronic warfare and cyber capability — the Terrestrial Layer System. – C4ISRNET 

The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office is sticking with Rocket Lab for two back-to-back launches from New Zealand in 2021, the company announced June 18. The announcement follows the completion of Rocket Lab’s second successful mission for the agency earlier this month. – C4ISRNET

All unclassified Pentagon reports ordered by Congress could be made public under an amendment Rep. Jackie Speier will propose to the annual defense policy bill, Defense News has learned. – Defense News 

Frustrations are mounting in Congress over the limited insight lawmakers and the public have into the Navy’s future fleet, and the service now faces fiscal consequences in upcoming defense bills. – USNI News 

Jim Golby writes: The conditions that set the stage for today’s crisis in civilian-military relations have been developing for decades. The problems won’t disappear anytime soon, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office next January. But Americans must realize before it’s too late that no one should ask the military to take sides to save American democracy. That is a task for civilian leaders and institutions. The moment the military becomes the arbiter of political legitimacy in U.S. politics, democracy will have been lost. – Foreign Policy

Missile Defense

The Marine Corps is in talks with the Pentagon’s research and development community over how a land-based hypersonic weapon could be incorporated into the smallest service’s quick-maneuver concept. – USNI News 

The Hellfire missile was originally developed in the 1980s as an anti-tank missile, though its role has been expanded for a variety of missions thanks to the missile’s high precision. It is currently in service with a number of countries including the United States, and is most often used with the Predator or Reaper drones for operations in crowded urban environments. – The National Interest 

The U.S. Air Force is arming its cargo planes with bombs for attack missions in a clear move to expand the offensive warfare envelope for its fleet of tactical supply and transport aircraft, bringing a significant ability to drop weapons from austere, low-altitude, hard-to-reach areas. – The National Interest

Long War

Since 2014, Qatar’s Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs has been holding an annual Ramadan conference titled “And Made Them Safe from Fear” (a phrase from Quran 106:4). […]Although its website states that its goal is “to renew [the glory] of the Islamic nation with living and moderate voices” and “to serve as a platform… for making a real contribution to the fight against zealotry and extremism, the conference is regularly attended by  clerics and politicians known for their extremist positions and support of terrorism. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The Defense Department’s information warfare leaders want to know what they can learn from U.S. Cyber Command’s online offensive against the ISIS. – C4ISRNET 

Katherine Zimmerman writes: The Islamic State’s threat to the West remains very real. That threat remained high even after the territorial defeat of ISIS in Baghouz, Syria, in March 2019 and the death of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in October 2019. Islamic State groups outside of Iraq and Syria, especially in Africa, have been thriving..[…]Stamping out the Islamic State and its ability to inspire terror attacks require more than pressure on ISIS or individual branches, a lesson the U.S. should have learned from its approach to fighting al Qaeda. – Wilson Center

Azeem Ibrahim and Myriam François write: The lack of political will to deal with the Islamic State supporters and their families is matched by a lack of resources to adequately meet their daily needs, with issues of malnutrition and ill-health prevalent and a complete lack of adequate infrastructure for the short- or long-term care of vulnerable children. […]Though there may not be much political appetite for this policy at the moment, it should appeal to nearly any nation’s long-term strategic interests. The Islamic State once festered and grew in the prison of Iraq and Syria; let us not allow such a mistake to occur again. – Foreign Policy

Trump Administration

President Trump said that there was some systemic racism in the U.S. and that removing Confederate names from military bases would further divide the country, and took credit for popularizing Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery. – Wall Street Journal 

A top Senate Republican withdrew his objection to two Trump national security official nominees on Thursday after receiving more answers from the White House about President Trump’s reasons for removing two independent watchdogs this year. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to confirm a federal judge who is a protege of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to an influential appeals court in Washington. – Reuters