Fdd's overnight brief

June 24, 2019

In The News


The U.S. plans to impose major new sanctions on Iran, signaling it won’t ease pressure despite a diplomatic push by European leaders to persuade Washington and Tehran to show restraint. – Wall Street Journal

When Iran shot down a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz this week, tensions between the two countries escalated immediately. President Trump has since acknowledged he ordered a retaliatory strike and pulled back only shortly before the mission was set to take place over concerns it could kill up to 150 people. – Washington Post  

President Trump said Saturday that he is comfortable with his decision to call off U.S. military strikes, adding that he is “not a warmonger.” He also said he could imagine a future where the U.S. is Iran’s “best friend.” – Washington Post

The U.S. covertly launched offensive cyber operations against an Iranian intelligence group’s computer systems on Thursday, the same day President Trump pulled back on using more traditional methods of military force, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

White House national security adviser John Bolton on Sunday warned against calling the U.S. weak after President Trump called off retaliatory strikes against Iran and suggested the U.S. remained prepared to attack the Islamic Republic if necessary. – Wall Street Journal

Rising tension between the U.S. and Iran eased at least temporarily on Friday after President Trump said he called off a planned military strike in order to spare Iranian lives, a development that opened the way for offers of diplomacy from other world leaders. – Wall Street Journal

“A special blessing for the commander who ordered the attack on the American drone and for the fighters who carried it out,” a preacher declared, as recalled by one of the guests present, who said a raucous chorus of “amen” arose from the room. Their success earlier that day at shooting down an unmanned American Global Hawk surveillance drone (list price $131 million) surprised even some leaders of the Revolutionary Guards. They had wondered themselves whether they could hit an American target so high in the sky, according to the guest. – New York Times

After warning that Mr. Trump was prepared to use force because of Iran’s suspected role in oil tanker attacks, Mr. Pompeo flew to Florida on Monday to strategize with generals at Central Command. Back in Washington, he briefed the foreign minister of the European Union on intelligence. By Thursday, he was pressing the case in the White House Situation Room for a strike. Mr. Pompeo was steering Mr. Trump toward one of the most consequential actions of the administration. Only at the last minute did the president reverse course and cancel the strike. – New York Times

American intelligence and military officers are working on additional clandestine plans to counter Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf, pushed by the White House to develop new options that could help deter Tehran without escalating tensions into a full-out conventional war, according to current and former officials. – New York Times

State-backed Iranian hackers have stepped up cyberattacks on the U.S., according to the Department of Homeland Security’s cyberagency. – Bloomberg

Iran executed a former contract employee for the aerospace organization of the defense ministry on charges of spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. – Washington Examiner  

President Donald Trump is threatening Iran with additional sanctions as soon as Monday, but there’s not much left for the U.S. to target because most of the Islamic Republic’s economy is already crippled under the weight of financial restrictions. – Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he was not seeking war with Tehran after a senior Iranian military commander warned any conflict in the Gulf region could spread uncontrollably and threaten the lives of U.S. troops. – Reuters

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a map on Sunday showing a border incident with a “spy drone” encroaching its airspace in late May. Days after Iran shot down another US drone it said had entered its territory, Zarif said the US-made MQ9 Reaper — also widely used for carrying out military strikes — had entered Iranian airspace on May 26. – Agence France-Presse

A top Iranian diplomat expressed disappointment on Sunday after meeting a British Foreign Office minister amid escalating regional tensions, saying their talks were “repetitive”, state news agency IRNA reported. Minister of State for the Middle East Andrew Murrison had the “usual talking points”, said Kamal Kharazi, the head of the Strategic Council of Foreign Relations at Iran’s foreign ministry. – Agence France-Presse

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he wants to build a global coalition against Iran during urgent consultations in the Middle East, following a week of crisis that saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran. – Associated Press

The Trump administration is still not sure that Iran’s leaders authorized the downing of an American drone last week, according to Vice President Mike Pence. “We’re not convinced it was authorized at the highest levels,” Pence said on Sunday during an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.” – Politico

Editorial: Squeezed by the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign, Iran’s rulers are trying to pressure Mr. Trump in return. In recent weeks they have attacked oil pipelines, mined oil tankers, and this week brazenly shot down a $130 million U.S. drone monitoring shipping lanes over international waters. Iran’s bet is that Mr. Trump is so averse to military confrontation that he will ease U.S. sanctions. On the evidence of the aborted mission, they may be right. – Wall Street Journal

Ray Takeyh writes: In other words, Iran has much more to gain by negotiating with the U.S. than by continuing the confrontation. Iranian diplomats, who believe they came out of talks with the Obama administration with the longer end of the stick, think that if they enter any negotiating room they can easily beset their interlocutors. Stalemated talks will inevitably generate pressure on the Trump team by European allies and Democrats who will insist that the Pompeo parameters are unrealistic and must be abandoned. – Politico

Karim Sadjadpour writes: More and more, the escalation is being driven by the clashing temperaments of two cynical elderly men. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the 80-year-old Iranian supreme leader, has been steadfast, even monomaniacal, in opposing the United States. In contrast, the 73-year-old Donald Trump has employed a flurry of strategies—from flattering Iran to coming within minutes of military strikes—to bring Tehran to heel. – The Atlanic

Ahmed Charai writes: In fact, both sides in the American debate have a point. Ever since Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal last year, Democrats have characterized him as a warmonger uninterested in, or incapable of, executing a successful diplomatic gambit. Yet there’s every reason to believe a new deal was needed: The world had changed since Barack Obama embarked on the negotiations a decade ago. – Politico

Islamic State

During IS’s three-year reign over Mosul, it restricted communication and travel out of the city and encouraged residents to report on relatives or neighbours who did not abide by Islamic law. That distrust has lingered, says 30-year-old Raghid Ali, whose family is still suffering the aftershocks of his cousin’s enlistment in IS. – Agence France-Presse

Eight Australian offspring of two slain Islamic State group fighters had been removed from Syria in Australia’s first organized repatriation from the conflict zone, Australia’s prime minister said on Monday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the eight children being repatriated were in the care of Australian government officials. He would not identify the children or say when they would reach Australia. – Associated Press

A military task force from West African countries killed 42 Islamic State fighters in the Lake Chad region on June 21, the force said in a statement. – Reuters  

The U.N. human rights chief says thousands of relatives of former foreign fighters in the Islamic State group should be repatriated, insisting that children in particular have suffered “grievous violations” of their rights. – Associated Press


An opposition candidate has won a repeat ballot for Istanbul mayor Sunday, ending President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s quarter-century grip on the megalopolis and exposing troubles at his long-dominant ruling party. – Wall Street Journal

Once jailed for reciting a poem at a political rally, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has styled himself throughout his rise as a champion of freedom and justice, and his early push for judicial reforms were widely hailed. Yet after nearly two decades of Mr. Erdogan’s rule, the state of the judiciary in Turkey is in such crisis that the lives of millions of citizens are tied up in tortuous legal procedures, and public trust in justice has fallen as low as it has ever been in Turkey’s long, uneven record. – New York Times

In his June 19, 2019, column in Turkey’s Yeni Şafak daily, a mouthpiece of Turkey’s ruling AKP (Justice and Development) party, the paper’s editor-in-chief, İbrahim Karagül, focused on the June 17, 2019 death of former Egyptian president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi. […]Presenting Morsi’s death as an assassination, Karagül blamed it on a conspiracy by the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, calling them “hitmen” for the multinational forces behind them, primarily the U.S. and Israel. Linking this alleged conspiracy to the Jews, he added: “Those who crucified Christ and drove Prophet Muhammad from Mecca also martyred Morsi.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: One decision to watch is whether Mr. Erdogan reverses his purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system that has alienated his NATO allies. The U.S. may impose sanctions if he persists and kick the country out of the F-35 jet fighter program, which will put further pressure on Turkey’s economy. The Istanbul loss is a warning for Mr. Erdogan to temper his authoritarian ways, but then he has never taken defeat well. – Wall Street Journal


The Trump administration’s economic blueprint for Middle East peace won measured praise in Israel but was rejected by Palestinians for not addressing the conflict’s simmering political disagreements. – Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration on Saturday unveiled a $50 billion Palestinian investment and infrastructure proposal intended to be the economic engine to power its much-anticipated but still unreleased “deal of the century” Middle East peace plan. – Associated Press

Arab politicians and commentators greeted U.S. President Donald Trump’s $50 billion Middle East economic vision with a mixture of derision and exasperation, although some in the Gulf called for it to be given a chance. – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he is ready to “consider” a US plan to resolve his country’s long-running conflict with the Palestinians. – Agence France-Presse

A group of over 50 Palestinians is expected to request that the International Criminal Court probe the Palestinian Authority for war crimes of torturing them. – Jerusalem Post

Israeli security leaders are reportedly concerned over the inclusion in the recently unveiled American peace proposal of some form of travel corridor between the West Bank and Gaza. – Algemeiner

The IDF has reportedly stepped up its alert status amid concerns that Iran could try and harm Israel as tensions between Tehran and Washington spiral, Channel 12 reported Sunday. – Times of Israel  

Eugene Kontorovich writes: After so many rejections, one might conclude that the Palestinian Authority’s leaders simply aren’t interested in peace. Had they accepted any of the peace offers, they would have immediately received the rarest of all geopolitical prizes: a new country, with full international recognition. To be sure, in each proposal they found something not quite to their liking. But the Palestinians are perhaps the only national independence movement in the modern era that has ever rejected a genuine offer of internationally recognized statehood, even if it falls short of all the territory the movement had sought. – Wall Street Journal

Arabian Peninsula

In a Riyadh courtroom, prosecutors have outlined evidence implicating a top lieutenant of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to Saudi officials not authorized to speak publicly. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump on Sunday shrugged off the brutal dismembering of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, just days after a United Nations report described how a team of Saudi assassins called Mr. Khashoggi a “sacrificial animal” before his murder. – New York Times

Yemen’s Houthi movement launched an attack on Abha civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on Sunday that killed one person and wounded 21 others, the Saudi-led coalition battling the group in Yemen said. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he did not discuss the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a phone call on Friday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. – Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for talks on the crisis sparked by Iran’s downing an American drone. “We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned and how we can build out a global coalition” on Iran, he said. – Agence France-Presse

A Yemeni rebel attack on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia killed a Syrian national and wounded seven civilians Sunday, a Riyadh-led coalition said, the latest in a series of strikes on the site. – Agence France-Presse

The United Arab Emirates on Sunday called for negotiations to defuse tensions between the United States and Iran after Tehran shot down a US drone. – Agence France-Presse  

Hassan Mneimneh writes: Nearly two years have lapsed since what was supposed to be a political blitzkrieg against Qatar metastasized into economic and geo-strategic trench warfare. Through effective counter-measures—and despite considerable financial drain—Qatar has seemingly been able to withstand the harsh diplomatic and logistic constraints imposed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in conjunction with Bahrain and Egypt. Though incurring substantive extra expenditures due to the blockade, Qatar credibly claims that it will be able to maintain the new status quo of boycott and siege “forever.” – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Syrian regime air strikes killed five civilians including two children Sunday in a northwestern bastion of the opposition, a war monitor said. The Idlib region of some three million people is supposed to be protected by a September buffer zone deal, but the jihadist-run enclave has come under mounting bombardment by the government and its ally Russia since late April. – Agence France-Presse

Security measures were increased at one of Iraq’s largest air bases that houses American trainers following an attack last week, a top Iraqi air force commander said Saturday. The U.S. military said operations at the base were going on as usual and there were currently no plans to evacuate personnel. – Associated Press   

Lebanon will not be lured by a US plan to invest billions in the country in return for settling Palestinian refugees, its parliament speaker Nabih Berri said on Sunday. – Reuters

Thousands protested Sunday in Morocco against a planned conference in Bahrain where the economic component of a US-led plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is set to be unveiled. Demonstrators gathered in the capital Rabat burned an Israeli flag near Morocco’s parliament and shouted “Death to Israel!” and “Death to the United States!” – Agence France-Presse   

Arab finance ministers held an emergency meeting in Cairo on Sunday to discuss helping the Palestinian Authority cope with a deepening cash crunch amid a persistent dispute with Israel over payments to families of jailed and deceased militants. – Reuters

Barak Barfi writes: Mohamed Morsi’s death in a Cairo courthouse is an ignominious end for a man who briefly led the Arab world’s most populous country. Though in many ways little more than a figurehead, he nevertheless symbolized the Muslim Brotherhood’s failure to transition from authoritarian rule to democratic politics. His death is unlikely to further vitiate the degraded organization or trigger mass protests. But international pressure to explain Morsi’s dismal prison conditions may give Washington an opportunity to quietly nudge Cairo on loosening the tight strictures that have stifled civil liberties under President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

President Trump sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a letter containing “excellent content,” Pyongyang’s state media said Sunday, a sign the two sides are open to diplomacy even though nuclear talks remain gridlocked. – Wall Street Journal

They stood shoulder to shoulder in a sleek, open-air Mercedes, waving at cheering crowds in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. They watched a propaganda spectacle in a stadium, chatting all the while. And the visitor was greeted with a candy-colored banner hailing him as Grandpa Xi. Outward signs seemed to suggest a patching-up of the tattered relationship between two allies and neighbors, as North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, hosted President Xi Jinping of China this week. It was the first time a Chinese leader had stepped onto North Korean soil since 2005. – New York Times

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that he hopes a letter sent by President Donald Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can pave the way for new talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear program. – Reuters

John Delury writes: It’s against this backdrop that Mr. Xi’s visit last week must be understood — as reflecting the Chinese government’s anxiety that Mr. Kim might be tempted to defect, as it were, to the other side. – New York Times


The Trump administration is examining whether to require that next-generation 5G cellular equipment used in the U.S. be designed and manufactured outside China, according to people familiar with the matter. The move could reshape global manufacturing and further fan tensions between the countries. – Wall Street Journal

China said Monday it would seek backing for free trade and multilateralism at the G20 summit this week as it denounced protectionism while it fights a tariffs war with the United States. – Agence France-Presse

The US Commerce Department blacklisted five Chinese tech entities Friday in a new move against Beijing’s supercomputing industry likely to raise tensions ahead of a meeting between President Trump and Xi Jinping next week. – Agence France-Presse

Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators are in contact on ways of resolving disputes ahead of an expected meeting between their heads of state at the G-20 summit in Japan later this week, a Chinese official said Monday. – Associated Press

South Asia

For the past 11 months, the poplar-lined potato and wheat fields of this lush farming district were under Taliban control. The mayor had been killed and the local government compound destroyed. Women were ordered to wear burqas and men not to trim or stylize their beards. Armed insurgents often appeared at farm gates, demanding to be fed. But just over two weeks ago, about 360 Afghan army soldiers and commandos, led by army Gen. Mushtaba Mobin and backed by Afghan air force planes, pushed into this district in embattled Ghazni province, about 100 miles southwest of Kabul. – Washington Post

Five people were killed and 24 injured in a terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, authorities said. The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, in the aftermath of which four terrorists were also killed, according to the Afghan government. – CNN  

A lack of coordinated oversight of America’s spending in Afghanistan has led to a waste of funds and hampered training and development of the country’s security forces, according to a watchdog group that monitors billions of dollars in U.S. aid to the country. – Associated Press

India on Sunday rejected a U.S. State Department’s annual report on religious freedom that raised questions about the government’s inability to curb violent attacks on the country’s minority Muslims. – Reuters


More than seven decades later, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on a quixotic dream to persuade Moscow to return at least some of the islands, with President Vladimir Putin first dangling — then seemingly withdrawing — the prospect of a deal. – Washington Post

Japanese suppliers of facial-recognition technology and other security equipment are getting a leg up from a U.S. campaign to reduce reliance on China. – Wall Street Journal

Australia is planning to build a new deep-water port on its northern coast able to accommodate US Marine deployments as part of efforts to counter China’s growing presence in the region, the ABC reported Monday. – Agence France-Presse

Southeast Asian leaders made an impassioned plea against protectionism at a regional summit in Bangkok Sunday, warning that a dragging US-China trade spat could hammer their export-led economies. – Agence France-Presse

Protesters fearing an erosion of Hong Kong’s legal autonomy blocked access to a government office building for nearly two hours Monday and plan more demonstrations to draw the attention of leaders attending the G-20 summit this week. About 100 demonstrators jammed the entryway and lobby of the Inland Revenue Tower, a skyscraper in the Wan Chai district in the city center. – Associated Press

The long-simmering armed conflict between Indonesia’s military and Papuans seeking independence includes indigenous teenagers and boys who appear barely adolescent, The Associated Press has found, highlighting how Indonesia’s heavy-handed attempts to extinguish the movement have produced a new generation of fighters. – Associated Press

John Pomfret writes: It’s also important to note how seriously China is taking these protests. Beijing considers them so dangerous that its reaction is modeled after its response to the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989. Granted, China is not sending in the army to attack those marching; it can’t unless it wants to risk destroying Hong Kong, which remains crucial to China’s economic future. – Washington Post


Czechs on Sunday held their largest protest since the fall of Communism, as hundreds of thousands gathered on a hilltop overlooking the capital to try to prevent the country from joining what organizers see as the increasingly autocratic direction of the region. – Wall Street Journal

When Boris Johnson last visited the White House in 2018, Britain’s then foreign secretary surprised aides by wandering around, entering doors at random to greet staffers and bumping into President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. “Everyone was saying, ‘You are not allowed to do that,’” said one person present. This unorthodox approach has kindled an unexpectedly warm relationship with the Trump administration. – Wall Street Journal

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Georgian capital Tbilisi for a fourth day on Sunday as tensions rose between Moscow and its ex-Soviet neighbour. The Tbilisi protests erupted after a Russian lawmaker addressed parliament from the speaker’s seat last week, a hugely sensitive move for two countries whose ties remain tense after a brief war in 2008. – Agence France-Presse

The EU’s leaders Friday fired a Brexit warning to whoever wins the battle to become the next British prime minister, insisting the existing divorce deal will not be changed. Hot favourite Boris Johnson faces foreign minister Jeremy Hunt in a run-off vote to decide who takes on the tricky task of piloting the country’s departure from the EU. – Agence France-Presse

Russia’s government on Saturday banned Georgian airlines from flying into its territory, extending restrictions imposed by President Vladimir Putin as part of growing tensions between Moscow and its ex-Soviet neighbour. – Agence France-Presse


A coup attempt by a renegade general in one of Ethiopia’s largest regional states resulted in the death of four officials, including the national army’s chief of staff and the president of the region, the government announced Sunday. – Washington Post  

Islamist extremists will have a “devastating” impact in west Africa’s coastal states unless their spread from Burkina Faso and Mali can be prevented, Togo’s president has warned. – Financial Times

The generals and the opposition coalition have been wrangling for weeks over what form Sudan’s transitional government should take after the military deposed long-time president Omar al-Bashir on April 11. – Reuters

At least 11 Chadian soldiers were killed in an attack blamed on Boko Haram jihadists at Lake Chad, the latest in a surge of attacks in the region, authorities said on Sunday. “The Chadian army lost 11 men including three officers… and six soldiers were wounded,” the regional authority told AFP. – Agence France-Presse

A Sudanese court Sunday ordered authorities to end a nationwide internet blockade imposed by the ruling generals after a deadly crackdown on protesters earlier this month, a lawyer said. – Agence France-Presse

Sudan’s protest movement accepted an Ethiopian roadmap for a civilian-led transitional government, a spokesman said on Sunday, after a months-long standoff with the country’s military rulers — who did not immediately commit to the plan. – Associated Press

Claire Parker writes: While the Internet blackout has made life difficult for protesters since early June, West said the economic side effects might have the paradoxical impact of fueling protests, especially since economic grievances sparked the uprising in the first place. “When countries close down the Internet, they’re closing down a growing part of the economy,” he said. “It definitely creates a problem for small businesses, so that could definitely fuel political discontent.” – Washington Post

United States

Law-enforcement officials closed the state Capitol on Saturday, following threats from militia groups that were made while a partisan showdown has halted all activity in the Oregon Senate. – Wall Street Journal

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) is battling criticism for an exchange on the campaign trail surrounding his willingness to meet with Louis Farrakhan, the notorious leader of Nation of Islam who’s been widely panned by groups such as the SPLC and the ADL for his “antisemitic commentary.” – Jewish Insider

The United States must do a better job communicating with families of American hostages held overseas, including telling “hard truths” to loved ones about the chances for rescue and clarifying the government’s position on ransom payments to captors, according to a new report. – Associated Press

Latin America

Just like that, the cruise ships are gone, along with thousands of cash-toting Americans who oohed and aahed — and shopped — amid the crumbling grandeur of Old Havana. For Cubans, it’s a bitter reversal of fortune. – Washington Post

The United Nations top human-rights official, on her first visit to Venezuela, said she urged President Nicolás Maduro’s authoritarian government to release political prisoners and cease torture but also warned that international sanctions could aggravate a dire humanitarian crisis. – Wall Street Journal

The tourism minister grimaced as he read aloud the causes of death in autopsy reports of the growing number of Americans who have died recently while vacationing in the Dominican Republic: Heart attack. Septic shock. Pneumonia. More accustomed to ribbon-cutting ceremonies than to grappling with the uproar over Americans turning up dead in their hotel rooms, the minister, Fernando Javier García, insisted that the authorities had nothing to hide. – New York Times

Nicolas Maduro will close Venezuela’s border with Brazil, as tensions over foreign aid deliveries rise. The embattled President also is considering closing the border with Colombia — a move that would seal off most of Venezuela’s inland periphery. – CNN

Jackson Diehl writes: For lack of better options, Guaidó’s alternative government has been negotiating with Maduro for the past few weeks, but almost no one believes a deal will happen. Latin American and European nations are hoping to push the regime into scheduling elections.[…] Every new proposal for “dialogue” between the Maduro regime and the opposition simply causes another stampede of refugees for the border, one senior diplomat grimly observed. That mounting mass exodus is the real mover of the crisis. Sooner or later, it will force Venezuela back onto Washington’s agenda. – Washington Post


Australia’s competition watchdog is poised to call for far-reaching new regulations on Facebook, Google and other tech giants which could have global ramifications for how they make money and choose the content people consume. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s recommendations, if confirmed, would be among the strongest yet in a drive to rein in the power of digital behemoths amid a host of worldwide concerns ranging from anti-trust issues to privacy abuse, and their role in spreading disinformation and hateful content. – Agence France-Presse

Police have halted all work with the UK’s largest private forensics provider after a ransomware attack, in the latest crisis to hit the forensics sector. – The Guardian

Editorial: Those facing punishment might protest that resisting the criminals is too costly in money, time offline and information lost forever. But the money is an investment in preventing more attacks across the country, and it takes substantial time, too, to pay a ransom and reboot an entire government. As for the information, the threat of losing it should be an incentive to governments to get moving on backup systems. An anti-ransom law would be a dramatic step, but it’s the route to a dramatically positive result. – Washington Post


The Senate takes up the 2020 defense policy bill on Monday, but votes on hot topics like Pentagon support at the southern border, the president’s authority to go to war with Iran, and his continued authorities for Iraq and Afghanistan could be derailed by congressional fights. – Defense News

The U.S. military’s annual authorization working its way through the Senate directs the armed services and the Maritime Administration to identify and designated a new strategic port in the Arctic, a move meant to counter Russia’s presence at the top of the world. – Defense News

After less than four months since the official launch of the Space Development Agency, the office’s first leader has stepped down. Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said Fred Kennedy will return to a role at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, adding that an acting director for the SDA will be announced “soon.” – Defense News

The Defense Innovation Unit — the Department of Defense’s emerging technology accelerator — is working on several projects aimed at improving national security by contracting with commercial providers. – C4ISRNET

President Donald Trump will nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper to be the next secretary of Defense, the White House said Friday night, in the administration’s latest attempt to resolve months of uncertainty at the top of the Pentagon. – Politico

A forthcoming Pentagon test report will pan key parts of the Army’s new battlefield command network, two generals warned me this week. But they say the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) is drawing on data that is months out of date and doesn’t reflect subsequent upgrades to the software. – Breaking Defense

Trump Administration

A House committee is warning senior presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway that it may subpoena her testimony if she fails to attend a hearing this week over alleged ethics violations. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that if he could have one “do-over,” it would be “personnel” decisions, including naming former Senator Jeff Sessions as his first U.S. attorney general. – Reuters

A trove of vetting documents leaked to the news organization Axios on HBO shows “red flags” the administration uncovered as President Trump put together his cabinet and the top levels of government following his shock White House win and his decision to fire transition director Chris Christie. – New York Post