Fdd's overnight brief

June 26, 2020

In The News


The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday imposed sanctions on nine entities allegedly operating in or providing materials to Iran’s metals sector, including four large Iranian steel, aluminum and iron producers and some of their foreign subsidiaries and sales agents. – Wall Street Journal 

Iranian authorities said they were investigating an explosion in the early hours of Friday at a Defense Ministry facility east of Tehran, near a site that has been crucial for Iran’s development of missiles and munitions. – Wall Street Journal  

Iran plans to export oil from a port on its Gulf of Oman coast by March, the president said on Thursday, a shift that would avoid using the Strait of Hormuz shipping route that has been a focus of regional tension for decades. – Reuters

Iran’s U.N. ambassador said Thursday that he believes a U.S. resolution to extend an arms embargo against his country will be defeated and warned it would be “a very, very big mistake” if the Trump administration then tries to re-impose U.N. sanctions. – Associated Press 

Iranian state television has broadcast the suspected coerced confessions of at least 355 people over the last decade as a means to both suppress dissent and frighten activists in the Islamic Republic on behalf of security services, according to a report released Thursday. – Associated Press 

The State Department on Wednesday issued a report on global terrorism that outlined Iran’s funding and backing of terrorism abroad — just as the Trump administration escalates its efforts to extend an arms embargo on the rogue regime set to expire in October. – Fox News 

State institutions in Iran are pressuring mental health workers to avoid controversial issues such as honor killings and violence against women, wife and child marriages on social media to avoid controversies about sharia laws. – Radio Farda


Growing desperation in Syria could trigger another mass exodus unless donor countries send more funds to alleviate hunger and the international community ensures aid shipments can reach the war-ravaged country, the head of the U.N. food agency said Thursday. – Associated Press  

Russia said on Thursday it has quit a voluntary United Nations arrangement that aimed to protect hospitals and humanitarian aid deliveries in Syria from being hit by the warring parties. – Reuters 

Ron Ben-Yishai writes: Nevertheless, all signs show that Solimani’s death and the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic as well as U.S. sanctions on Iran’s economy – are already causing the Iranians to rethink their course of action. They have begun curtailing their operations in Syria and are trying to keep themselves out of harm during Israeli attacks. – Ynet


The European Union will help Cyprus try to negotiate its maritime border with neighboring Turkey in order to end an ongoing wrangle that has raised tensions in the east Mediterranean, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Thursday. – Associated Press  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: When Turkey sought to invade northern Syria, it claimed to be doing so for security reasons and to fight “terrorists.” However, the increase in the number of terrorists in Turkish-occupied areas in recent months – and the insecurity for minorities and women – points to a troubling result of the NATO member’s role. – Jerusalem Post

Jomana Qaddour and Cansu Camlibel write: Many of the core problems in the YPG/Turkey dispute are bound up with questions that require broader Syrian national consensus to answer, and even resolving portions of this cross-border dispute would still leave the Kurds in a tenuous position with Damascus. Accordingly, the United States should remain committed to the whole-of-Syria approach represented by the Geneva process, acknowledging that Syrians will eventually need to negotiate viable solutions to most of these issues themselves. – Washington Institute


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to begin annexing parts of the occupied West Bank as early as July 1—a controversial plan that aims to appeal to his political base and bolster his legacy as the country’s longest-serving leader. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.N. envoy for the Middle East warned Israel on Thursday that carrying out its plans to annex parts of the West Bank could set of a spasm of violence that would upend Israeli-Palestinian relations and reverberate across the region. – Associated Press 

President Trump has no final decision on whether to support Israeli plans to annex areas of the West Bank and Jordan Valley, outlined in his “Vision for Peace” and following a series of meetings at the White House. – The Hill 

Democrats and Republicans are making a last-minute stand to have their voices heard on the Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley. – The Hill 

A sermon delivered by an unnamed preacher, broadcast by state-sponsored Palestinian Authority television “warning… the occupation that its end, Allah willing, is near,” was flagged by the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). – Jerusalem Post

The United Nations has warned it does not have the capacity to take over tasks that the Palestinian Authority has abdicated to protest annexation, particularly when it comes to the fulfillment of PA agreements with Israel regarding humanitarian issues. – Jerusalem Post

As part of its efforts to foil Israel’s intention to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority announced on Wednesday an assistance package for Palestinians living or working in the Jordan Valley. – Jerusalem Post

Nothing will stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, so Israel must work on a menacing deterrent capability to keep the Islamic Republic in check even beyond its eventual attainment of them, former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit has told The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s plan to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank would be considered a “declaration of war” on the Palestinians, and it will regret the move, Izzadin al-Qassam, the so-called “military” wing of Hamas, said Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

As Jerusalem gears up for its annual LGBT pride festivities, an opposing Jewish far-right organization published a special pamphlet detailing for its activists how to infiltrate rallies by acting like an “LGBT person” for the purpose of causing disruptions, Channel 12 News reported on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post 

Israeli officials are preparing for an International Criminal Court’s decision on whether it can open an investigation into potential war crimes committed by Israel in the Palestinian Territories “within days.” – Haaretz

Security chiefs are reportedly deeply divided on the possible ramifications of Israel annexing parts of the West Bank, with the chiefs of the military and Mossad at odds on whether the move will be met with significant Palestinian violence or not. – Times of Israel

Alon Ben-Meir writes: We are all mortal, Mr. Abbas. What legacy do you want to leave behind? Do you want to be remembered as a loser, whose shortsightedness, lack of courage and self-conceit betrayed his people, or as the leader who finally rose to the occasion to bring peace and prosperity to his countrymen before it was too late? – Jerusalem Post

David M. Weinberg writes: Again, one can debate the wisdom of the American plan. (I consider it the only realistic path to the vision of “two states for two peoples.”) But one must not make malicious, pernicious, and false allegations that this is driven by intentions of apartheid; nor will it create a situation of apartheid. Finally, when discussing apartheid, one mustn’t overlook the elephant in the room: The deep and dirty discrimination that is the rule in most Arab countries (and in Gaza), where Jews are not allowed to live at all. – Jerusalem Post


President Michel Aoun warned on Thursday of an “atmosphere of civil war” during recent unrest in Lebanon and what he described as attempts to stir up sectarian tensions as a financial crisis sweeps the country. – Reuters

Zvi Bar’el writes: This does not mean that there is at present any political or military force that can get Hezbollah to disarm. But if the government and public are able to make it clear to the organization that the threat of the use of force will be met by a broad public and perhaps also governmental response, Hezbollah might begin to grasp the limits of its power. – Haaretz

Toufic Baaklini writes: Dismantling the supply line that continues to funnel arms to Lebanon’s southern border is a vital means to that end. Secretary-General Guterres needs to ensure that UNIFIL’s actions are geared towards the goal of establishing a new status quo in which his organization’s presence in Lebanon is no longer necessary. – The National Interest 

Gulf States

Senior Trump administration officials are quietly discussing whether to end a decades-old process for congressional review that has allowed lawmakers from both parties to block weapons sales to foreign governments over humanitarian concerns, according to current and former administration officials and congressional aides. The move could quickly advance sales of bombs to Saudi Arabia, among other deals. – New York Times

Fierce fighting continued in southern Yemen between Emirati-backed separatists and the country’s internationally recognized government Thursday, security officials said, a blow to the Saudi-led coalition’s declared ceasefire between the factions. – Associated Press 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that his government and the United Arab Emirates will soon announce a partnership in the fight against the coronavirus. – Associated Press


Thousands of Syrian men have been recruited for the warring sides in Libya over the past year, coaxed to fight there by powerful foreign sponsors and promised lucrative salaries or other incentives, according to a Syrian human rights monitor, Syrian opposition members, and Libyan and U.S. officials. – Washington Post 

Libya’s coast guard intercepted 71 migrants hoping to make it to Europe, including four women and two children, and returned them to the capital Tripoli, the UN migration organization said Thursday. – Associated Press 

France, Germany and Italy on Thursday called on forces in Libya to cease fighting and for outside parties to stop any interference in a bid to try and get political talks back on track. – Reuters  

Bobby Ghosh writes: It does not take Macronian cynicism to see his rhetorical bluster toward Turkey as a desperate effort to distract attention from French culpability. He has other battles with Ankara, including the contest over energy rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. A more charitable suggestion might be that Macron retains fantasies of French influence in the southern Mediterranean. The Libyan reality be what it may, France’s president is certainly not displaying an eclipse in ambition. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Iraqi security forces raided a headquarters belonging to a powerful Iran-backed militia in southern Baghdad late on Thursday and detained more than a dozen members of the group, government officials and paramilitary sources said. – Reuters 

A leading media watchdog group condemned the arrest of an editor-in-chief of one of Egypt’s last independent news platforms, who was eventually released late Thursday after an extensive interrogation, her outlet said. – Associated Press  

A new report by Amnesty International claims that the NSO group, an Israeli surveillance firm, helped the government of Morocco spy on Moroccan journalist Omar Radi from January 2019 until at least January 2020. – Jerusalem Post

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen visited Jordan last week to convey a message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to King Abdullah II about the West Bank annexation process, which Israel said it would start as early as July 1. – Haaretz

Ranj Alaaldin writes: Countries like Iraq—and soon, Syria—constitute the leading edge of Iran’s proxy infrastructure, including critical conduits through which the regime can circumvent sanctions or mitigate their impact. As a result, Iran will double-down on its efforts to consolidate influence in these countries. It will also combine its strong political presence with coercion and intimidation. – Heritage Foundation 

Brian Katulis and Gordon Gray write: All of this amounts to a tall order and agenda for the United States — but one that learns the lessons from the past two decades and seeks to advance a different way of engagement that helps countries help themselves. By working towards a fundamentally different approach to the region at a time when the world is being reshaped by the coronavirus crisis, America can turn the page on the last few decades of confused strategy and mixed results in the Middle East and North Africa and create a new pathway for progress in the region. – The Hill

Korean Peninsula

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday warned North Korea against conducting any armed attack on Seoul following several weeks of rising tensions that have dragged inter-Korean relations to their lowest point in years. – Wall Street Journal  

North Korea said that it had no choice but to “counter nuclear with nuclear” because of the U.S. arsenal. The hermit nation made the bellicose statement Thursday, which corresponds with the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. – Washington Examiner 

South Korea police on Friday raided the office of an activist whose anti-North Korea leafleting campaign has intensified tensions on the Korean Peninsula. – Associated Press 

Nearly one year after U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last met, North Korea has returned to conducting short-range missile tests and issuing harsh rhetoric, while Washington shows little interest in easing sanctions. – Reuters 

Tensions on the Korean peninsula are on the rise as North Korea is reasserting an aggressive military posture — cutting hotline communications, blowing up a liaison office and issuing threats to send armed soldiers into guard posts along the Demilitarized Zone. – USNI News 

Sung-Yoon Lee writes: Expect a goad, a jab, one outrage or another, certainly some challenge ahead of the election in the United States — anything to throw off Mr. Trump, beleaguered as he is by the pandemic, mass protests and a historic economic crisis. And don’t be surprised if Kim Yo-jong delivers it. – New York Times

Sung-Yoon Lee writes: North Korea lies for a living. […]On June 19, just six days before the invasion, North Korea called on Seoul to send a delegation from its “National Assembly” to Pyongyang on June 21, stating that it would “provide inviolability and security to the delegates of the south Korean ‘National Assembly.’” The rest is history — one part bright, one part dim, with much farcical in between — and very much ongoing. – The Hill 

Rebecca Lissner writes: If Washington adopts a purely reactive approach to the diverse and growing array of crises it faces — from  COVID-19’s domestic and international impacts, to a prospective showdown on the Korean Peninsula and tension between nuclear-armed neighbors along the Indo-Chinese border, with more turmoil likely forthcoming — its efforts will be inadequate and possibly self-defeating. […]To seize rather than cede the initiative in forging the coming era of geopolitics, the United States must approach each crisis with a clear vision of the future it seeks to create. – War on the Rocks


China’s military assertiveness reflects a growing sense of confidence and capability, but also one of confrontation, particularly with the United States over the pandemic, the fate of Hong Kong and other issues that China considers central to its sovereignty and national pride. – New York Times

American taxpayer dollars intended to help countries weather the global downturn could flow into Chinese Communist Party coffers, U.S. officials and analysts fear. – Washington Examiner

China’s ambassador in Washington and a Chinese diplomat in New York City secretly aided in the recruitment of scientists in the United States, according to the FBI. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. and China are heading into a new “cold war” that could be more damaging to the world compared to the geopolitical contest between the U.S. and Soviet Union at the end of World War II, a consultant said on Friday. – CNBC 

Josh Rogin writes: Trump often mixes his personal interest and the national interest, so it’s hard for the rest of us to separate them when his administration acts. But these moves to call out the Chinese Community Party for what it is and protect ourselves from what it does — regardless of Trump’s motivations — are important and overdue. – Washington Post

Fareed Zakaria writes: These ideas might have sounded like good global citizenship, but they were rooted in an acute understanding of China’s geopolitical position. China is not rising in a vacuum but in a region with other major countries such as Japan and India and Australia. […]Thanks to its actions over the past few years under Xi, China today finds itself in the same strategic situation as the Soviet Union did during the Cold War — surrounded by countries that are growing increasingly hostile to it. – Washington Post


Few have died, the officials say, but little to no testing capacity has forced many into weeks of isolation, leaving deployable forces stretched thin at a time when the country is under pressure from both increased Taliban violence and from the United States, where officials are eager for the government and militants to begin direct talks. – Washington Post

A U.S. watchdog warned that “systemic” corruption within the Afghan government is weakening its bargaining position in upcoming peace negotiations with the Taliban, even as the insurgents said Thursday they were ready and had compiled their agenda for the long-awaited talks. – Associated Press 

The U.S. State Department has added Afghanistan to a list of nations doing little to stop human trafficking, saying Kabul has failed to properly address child sexual slavery and the recruitment of child soldiers. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

South Asia

Pakistan’s prime minister said on Thursday that the United States “martyred” the al-Qaida leader and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, a term that reflected a subtle stab at Washington as it’s mainly used for honorable figures slain in battle. – Associated Press 

Indian and Chinese troops are still locked in a standoff on their contested Himalayan border and Beijing accused New Delhi of “vile” acts, showing that tensions remain high after their worst military clash in 45 years. – Bloomberg 

Pakistan has accused old rival India of trying to distract the attention of its people by expelling Pakistani diplomats after Indian forces got a “battering” at the hands of Chinese troops in a clash on their disputed Himalayan border. – Reuters 

Bangladesh has improved its efforts to combat human trafficking but must do more to increase convictions and investigate cases involving Rohingyas, according to the U.S. government’s annual report ranking countries on their anti-trafficking standards. – Reuters  

New satellite imagery from the disputed border area of the Himalayas between China and India shows evidence that China has been building up its military presence after a clash there that left 20 Indian troops dead earlier this month. – Fox News

Sadanand Dhume writes: For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this is a moment of truth. Six years ago, he rose to power in part by promising to make India strong. He cannot afford to be seen as a pushover either at home or abroad. (The opposition is already rhyming Mr. Modi’s first name with “Surrender.”) In a rapidly changing Asia, the costs of kowtowing to China are simply too high. – Wall Street Journal


The U.S. Senate passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill that would put sanctions on Chinese officials who erode Hong Kong’s limited autonomy from Beijing, as well as the banks and firms that do business with them. – Wall Street Journal 

The Australian authorities raided the home and office of a federal lawmaker on Friday as part of a sweeping investigation into allegations of a Chinese government plot to manipulate the politics and policy of Parliament. – New York Times

The United Nations’ former human rights chief and eight former U.N. special envoys urged the body’s secretary-general Thursday to appoint a special envoy on Hong Kong, saying they are deeply concerned about a potential “humanitarian tragedy” as Beijing prepares to impose a draconian national security law on the city. – Associated Press 

Southeast Asian leaders are holding an annual summit Friday by video to show unity and discuss a regional emergency fund to tame the immense crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. The long-divisive South China Sea conflicts are also in the spotlight. – Associated Press 

Japan’s National Security Council has endorsed plans to cancel the deployment of two costly land-based U.S. missile defense systems aimed at bolstering the country’s capability against threats from North Korea, the country’s defense minister said Thursday. – Associated Press  

Support for year-long pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong has slipped, now getting the backing of a slim majority, as the city braces for the imposition of Beijing-drafted national security legislation, a survey conducted for Reuters showed. – Reuters 

Daniel Lee says a surge of new customers came to his Hong Kong Reader Bookstore after pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in the Chinese-ruled territory last summer, looking for books on political protest. – Reuters  

Azerbaijan is planning to acquire scores of Turkish-made armed drones, the Azeri defense minister has said. […]Military analysts say Azerbaijan aims to use the Turkish drones to win military leverage on neighboring Armenia, with which it has been at low-intensity conflict since 1988 over border disputes and control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. – Defense News 


Russia is taking a leaf out of the U.S. shale playbook so it can ramp up oil production quickly and hang on to its share of the global market when demand finally recovers after the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters 

The European Union’s top court on Thursday upheld sanctions against Russia’s second-largest bank VTB (VTBR.MM), dismissing the lender’s appeal against the restrictive measures the bloc had first imposed in 2014 over the turmoil in Ukraine. – Reuters  

French President Emmanuel Macron will hold a videoconference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 26. The coronavirus pandemic and security issues, including the situation in Ukraine, are on the agenda. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

A court in Russia-controlled Crimea has postponed a preliminary hearing in absentia against a veteran Crimean Tatar leader and prominent Soviet-era dissident who has vehemently opposed Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Vladimir Kara-Murza writes: Either way, in the system created by Putin, Russia’s political future will be decided on the streets, not at the ballot box. It won’t be this week or the next. But it will certainly be much sooner than 2036. – Washington Post 


An American-mediated initiative to stabilize the Balkans, which the Trump administration hoped might burnish its foreign policy credentials in an election year, was postponed on Thursday after one of the main participants, President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo, was indicted on war crimes charges. – New York Times

In a decisive break with the hard-left wing of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, its new leader dismissed a senior lawmaker on his leadership team Thursday for having shared an article online that the party said contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. – New York Times 

A court here is set to rule in the case of a Norwegian-Iranian man accused of plotting to assassinate three dissident Iranians with suspected links to Saudi Arabia, a fresh twist in a contest between two Middle East rivals that has spread into Europe. – Wall Street Journal

Germany is preparing to strike back against the U.S. if President Donald Trump follows through on his threat to kill off the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with additional sanctions. – Bloomberg  

An Albanian man has been arrested for allegedly using social media to call for the killing of Israelis, police said Thursday. – Associated Press

Ukraine on Thursday asked the European Union and NATO for help coping with the aftermath of massive floods in the country’s west. – Associated Press 

Germany’s failure to fulfill NATO military spending commitments suggests that defense strategists in Berlin don’t take the threat of Russian aggression seriously, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – Washington Examiner 

Despite widespread speculation in the Polish press that President Trump would reward one of his favorite NATO allies by basing an additional 1,000 troops in Poland, President Andrzej Duda received no commitment beyond a vague statement that some of the U.S. forces being withdrawn from Germany will “go to Poland.” – Washington Examiner

After years of courting closer economic ties with China, the European Union is ratcheting up its rhetoric against Beijing’s heavy-handed approach to the economy and human rights, with many officials describing what they once saw hopefully as a partnership as more of a rivalry. – Foreign Policy

Finance ministers of Spain, Ireland and Luxembourg are in the running to chair meetings of the powerful Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, with euro zone officials saying it is likely to be a close race between the Spanish and Irish contenders. – Reuters 

The United States and European Union need a shared understanding of China to resist it, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, calling Beijing a threat and accusing it of stealing European know-how to develop its economy. – Reuters 

China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] said on Thursday it had received planning permission for a 1 billion pound ($1.2 billion) research and development facility in England. – Reuters 

Britain will ultimately have to side with the United States in a decision on allowing China’s Huawei Technologies a role in its 5G network, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday. – Reuters 

France, the U.K., Italy and Spain offered to limit the scope of a proposed global digital tax, a concession after the U.S. threatened to hit those countries with tariffs if they moved ahead with planned levies on tech companies. – Bloomberg  

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has accused Russia and Poland of “meddling” in the country’s upcoming presidential election as he continues to crack down on potential challengers and the independent media. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The Ukrainian and Hungarian foreign ministers have met for the second time in less that a month as the two neighboring states seek to overcome an impasse over a restrictive language law in Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The Belgian parliament on Friday morning passed with an overwhelming majority a resolution urging the government to act to prevent Israel from unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank and to actively advocate for European-wide punitive measures against Jerusalem if it proceeds with its controversial plan. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Mr. Lukashenko knows how to navigate between the big powers. He has toyed with closer union with Russia, where President Vladimir Putin does not want Belarus to veer toward the West. He has flirted with the Trump administration, meeting in February with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. […]The question is whether they can be heard on Aug. 9, or whether Mr. Lukashenko will resort to fraud and force to hang on once more. – Washington Post

Joachim Kuhs writes: It is time for European Governments to abandon their obstruction and sabotage of a realistic peace, to end their generous and secret support for the Palestinian Authority, UNRWA and anti-Israel NGOs, and to support Israel in its quest for a peaceful future for all. It is time for Germany and the EU to join Arab governments like Egypt, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia in welcoming the Trump Peace Plan, and to support Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. We must recognize the fact that Israel is our friend, and Israel is here to stay. – Arutz Sheva


Sudan has joined Egypt in asking the U.N. Security Council to intervene in a dispute over Ethiopia’s newly built hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, warning that the window for the three countries to reach an agreement “is closing by the hour.” – Associated Press  

Western and Arab countries pledged a total $1.8 billion in aid to Sudan on Thursday to help the struggling African nation a year after pro-democracy protesters forced the removal of the country’s longtime autocratic ruler, Omar al-Bashir. – Associated Press  

Somali security forces have killed a commander of the al Shabaab militant group in a military operation, state radio reported on Thursday. – Reuters

At least 10 local aid workers have been kidnapped in southwest Niger near the border with Burkina Faso, security sources and an official from APIS, the non-governmental organisation for which they worked, said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Ivory Coast’s army said on Thursday it had identified a detained Burkina Faso national as the coordinator of a suspected jihadist attack that killed at least 13 soldiers this month. – Reuters 

The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s governing political party, has called on the speaker of the parliament to censure Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng over his expression of support for Israel in a webinar hosted this week by The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post 

Joshua Meservey writes: Since the Cold War ended, American policy has not evolved to account either for Africa’s growing strategic importance, or for the fact that the United States’ primary geopolitical competitor has groomed many African leaders into consistent supporters of its international agenda. This state of affairs is a disadvantage for Washington, but it also provides a starting point for creating an updated American strategy superior to Beijing’s formidable palace diplomacy. – War on the Rocks

The Americas

The politically influential mentor of U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was behind a monthslong effort to contract mercenaries to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to several people involved in the planning. – Wall Street Journal 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador plans to meet with President Trump for the first time next month, punctuating an often tense relationship during which Trump has frequently used Mexico as his punching bag. – Washington Post 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday ruled out releasing a top Chinese tech executive in an attempt to win the release of two Canadians detained by Beijing. – Associated Press 

The United States called on Russia and China on Thursday to provide more humanitarian aid to their ally Venezuela in its fight against the growing COVID-19 epidemic. – Reuters  

Joe Parkin Daniels writes: While talk at the time of a “Latin American Spring” may have been a stretch, the sense that the winds were shifting toward an incrementally more socially just region, with governments more responsive to all citizens, was palpable. Now, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, that generational protest movement is at a crossroads. – Foreign Policy

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA.), Rep. Rick Crawford (R-ARK.), and Manuel Alfredo Espina Pinto write: The United States cannot afford to waste any more time allowing China to position itself as a closer ally or better neighbor to the nations in our own hemisphere. […]We cannot wait for China’s next move to determine our national security policy. The United States must aggressively pursue a holistic strategy for the Northern Triangle and the greater region that not only defends our own security, but also the security of our side of the world. – The Hill

United States

As Ohio National Guard soldiers were dispatched to help quell unrest in Washington, D.C., one was keeping a secret from his commanders: He had frequently espoused neo-Nazi views among like-minded friends. – Washington Post 

The U.S. won arrest warrants for the former president of a China state-owned chipmaker and two other engineers charged with stealing secrets from Idaho-based Micron Technology Inc. – Bloomberg

The White House announced Thursday that the Trump administration’s top IT official, Suzette Kent, will step down from her position in July. – The Hill 


Trump administration officials have talked about inserting the federal government deep into the private sector to stiffen global competition against Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. – Wall Street Journal 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation in the House that would establish a “national cybersecurity director” to lead government efforts on cybersecurity. – The Hill  

At air bases across Europe, networks are under attack. Malicious hackers have gained access to sensitive systems, information, controls and critical infrastructure. But cyber operators from U.S. Cyber Command, in concert with Five Eyes partners, have been called in to thwart these attempts in real time. – C4ISRNET

So Arrington flies all over the country, speaking to room after room of defense contractors and trying to convince them, somehow, that they must impose tighter cybersecurity controls. And if they don’t? The Pentagon could lose out on state-of-the-art technology to protect national security secrets. –  C4ISRNET 

While much of the national security community has had to rethink or delay operations and business practices because of the global pandemic, the Army’s cyber school has been able to carry on business as usual due to prior investments in online tools and virtual training environments. – Fifth Domain 

The Department of Homeland Security is warning US police that surveillance drones made by Chinese company DJI are “at risk” of having their data intercepted, The Post has learned. – New York Post

Major telecommunications companies are shifting away from tech giant Huawei as the coronavirus pandemic deepens global suspicion of companies backed by the Chinese Communist Party. – Washington Examiner

When a U.K.-based technology vendor started doing business in China, it hired a cybersecurity firm to proactively hunt for any digital threats that could arise as part of doing business in the country. The firm discovered a problem, one with such major implications that it alerted the FBI. – Bloomberg 

David Ignatius writes: In the shadow of the pandemic, it’s clear how unprepared we are for a disabling attack, carried by viral disease or viral malware. And the awful truth is that we don’t seem to have learned much yet from our mistakes. Sensible policies are available, but they won’t work unless America recovers its balance and finds good leadership. – Washington Post


Congressional defense leaders now have at least three competing plans to push back on China in the Pacific. Which will they choose? – Defense News 

The U.S. Air Force wants to lease advanced trainers as early as next summer while it waits for Boeing’s T-7 Red Hawk, creating an opportunity for the two training jets that lost out to the Red Hawk during the T-X competition. – Defense News  

The U.S. Navy’s interminable quest to design and field a next-generation large surface combatant is going back to the drawing board once again, a victim of the Pentagon’s disorganization around this year’s long-range shipbuilding plan, according to documents and a source familiar with the situation. – Defense News 

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will have access to new synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data thanks to a new research agreement with Capella Space. – C4ISRNET 

The crew of carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) has spent 161 days at sea while on station in the Middle East – breaking a record set during the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, according to the Navy. – USNI News 

Jonathan Panter, Anand Jantzen, and Johnathan Falcone write: We cannot predict what public foreign policy preferences, or the fiscal environment, will look like in the future. But given prevailing trends, navalists should interrupt their 355-ship dreams to consider a darker picture. Sharing some missions now is preferable to abdicating nearly all of them later. – War on the Rocks