Fdd's overnight brief

June 28, 2019

In The News


An emerging U.S. plan for deterring attacks on tankers that Washington blames on Iran calls for ships from Arab, Asian and other foreign nations to stand watch in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman while maritime patrol planes fly overhead, U.S. officials said. – Wall Street Journal 

Iran raised the stakes in its standoff with the U.S. and Europe on Thursday, warning that if the 2015 nuclear agreement unravels, it would follow the path of North Korea and quit a treaty aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. – Wall Street Journal 

On his first international trip since his sudden ascent at the Pentagon, acting defense secretary Mark T. Esper on Thursday called on NATO nations to press Iran to return to negotiations with the United States and asked them to join an effort to bolster naval security in the Persian Gulf. – Washington Post

Political unease over the White House’s tough talk against Iran is reviving questions about President Donald Trump’s ability to order military strikes without approval from Congress. – Associated Press

Senior officials from Iran and the remaining signatories to its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers are set to gather in Vienna as tensions in the Persian Gulf simmer and Tehran is poised to surpass a uranium stockpile threshold, posing a threat to the accord. – Associated Press

The United States does not want a full-blown war with Iran, although it still is seeking to build up international defenses in the region just in case of a conflict, President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the country said Thursday. The big question is whether other countries are ready to join with Washington. So far, Europe is favoring diplomacy instead. – Associated Press

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday warned that US President Donald Trump was mistaken in thinking a war between their countries would not last long. – Agence France-Presse

Iran will not exceed Thursday a uranium stockpile limit agreed under a nuclear deal with world powers, contrary to what Tehran said earlier this month, according to a diplomatic source in Vienna. – Agence France-Presse

Iran warned the United States against violating its borders, with parliament speaker Ali Larijani threatening a stronger reaction, the Tasnim news agency said on Thursday, a week after Tehran shot down a U.S. drone, spiking tension between them. – Reuters

Trade between Germany and Iran has collapsed under the impact of United States sanctions, data published by Funke newspapers showed, supporting Iran’s assertion that Europe is failing to help preserve the nuclear non-proliferation deal it signed. – Reuters

The Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah believes a U.S. war on Iran is unlikely and U.S. President Donald Trump would not be able to control the results of a conflict that could engulf the region. – Reuters

President Trump’s standoff with Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has led to another high-stakes game of chicken: between Tehran and U.S. allies trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal. – Washington Examiner

Iran has blamed an “unusual” spike in electricity consumption in the country on cryptocurrency miners, while warning that such illicit operations will be cut off from the grid. Speaking earlier this week, Iranian Energy Ministry spokesman Mostafa Rajabi said increased digital-currency mining within the country had made the power grid “unstable” and caused problems for consumers. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone has not slowed the U.S. Air Force’s flight operations in the Middle East, its top general said Wednesday.“We’re continuing to fly. And we continue to fly where we need to be, when we need to be there,” Air Force Chief of Staff Dave Goldfein said at an Air Force Association event. – Defense News 

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook has said the United States is denying Tehran up to $50 billion in oil revenue exports as a result of sanctions imposed on Iran. – Radio Farda

Javed Ali and Josh Kirshner write: It is likely that Iran is preparing for a new round of deniable cyber operations against the United State. And given the lack of established international norms of how to reciprocate proportionally to cyberattacks, policymakers will be challenged to develop an appropriate response. Much has been reported over the past decade about the IRGC’s unconventional wing known as the Quds Force, and its support for proxy groups in the Middle East. […] As Iran looks to develop options to counter the overwhelming military strength of the United States, these proxies and militias may play a key role through attacks against the U.S. directly, or against its allies. – The Hill 

Patrick Clawson and Mehdi Khalaji write: Khamenei’s interest in gaining leverage could actually be good news if it means he is willing to consider new talks. The problem is that he has long been suspicions of negotiations and compromises, often describing them as a slippery slope (e.g., see his bitter resistance to compromise after Iran’s mass protests of 2009, or his exhortations to Hezbollah and the Palestinians about sticking with “resistance” against Israel instead of negotiating). Certainly his recent rhetoric shows no sign of interest in talking with the United States. – Washington Institute 

Michael Eisenstadt writes: Overall, Washington’s efforts to constrain Iran’s support for Iraqi proxies produced only modest results. The detention of Qods Forces operatives compelled Tehran to change its modus operandi and provided a brief impetus for renewed diplomacy. Private threats of escalation twice caused Iran to stand down. But U.S. actions ultimately failed to halt Tehran’s support for attacks on American forces or limit the growth of its influence in Iraq. Moreover, Tehran made no effort to hide its role: for example, the arms it shipped to militant Shia groups often retained the manufacturer’s logos and data plates. – Washington Institute 

Alireza Nader writes: With tensions rising in the Persian Gulf, the Trump administration has ratcheted up its sanctions against Iran to an unprecedented level, intensifying an existing banking blockade. But the White House has also selected new targets, including by placing personal sanctions on the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. – Foreign Policy

Islamic State

German authorities on Thursday said they had arrested a suspect wanted in connection with the 2015 Islamic State terrorist attack in Paris. Local prosecutors said that the man, a 39-year old Bosnian citizen named only as Adis A., was detained a week ago. Belgium had issued a European arrest warrant for the man, whom German police tracked down after discovering a weapons cache in Dresden, Germany, earlier this year. – Wall Street Journal 

Europeans were safer from jihadist attacks last year than at any point since Islamic State set up its caliphate in 2014, but a number of foiled attacks including plots to use poison chemicals show that the threat still endures, police agency Europol said. – Reuters

The US-led coalition said Thursday it had unintentionally killed at least 1,319 civilians in strikes during its fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria since 2014. – Agence France-Presse


The United States accused the Syrian government on Thursday of stalling political negotiations and called for a new route to U.N.-monitored elections and a nationwide cease-fire that would end the country’s eight-year conflict. Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen called for Russia and Syria to de-escalate military operations in the last rebel-held strongholds in Idlib and northern Hama and warned that the United States will keep ratcheting up pressure if this doesn’t happen. – Associated Press

One Turkish soldier was killed and three others were wounded on Thursday when their observation post in Syria’s Idlib region was attacked by shelling and mortar fire, the Turkish Defense Ministry said. – Reuters

“A deeper understanding” between Russia and the United States is needed to move the Syrian peace process forward, U.N. Syria envoy Geir Pedersen said in an interview published on Thursday. – Reuters


Through his 16 years in power, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been able to rely on the pious electorate of Istanbul’s Eyup district, where for centuries Ottoman sultans received their ceremonial sword after ascending to the throne. – Reuters

Two senior figures in Turkish President’s Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party are planning to launch a rival political group this year, people familiar with the matter said, a move that could further erode support for the country’s long-time leader on the heels of a stinging electoral defeat in Istanbul. – Reuters

Endy Zemenides writes: The emerging crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean over Turkey’s drilling activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) raise the prospect of an open Greco-Turkish conflict to a level higher than anytime since the Imia crisis. – Ekathimerini


France reopened a revered but long-closed archaeological site in the heart of Jerusalem on Thursday, but a dispute over access immediately caused its re-closure. – Agence France-Presse

Israeli police forces on Thursday shot and killed a Palestinian in east Jerusalem who had thrown firecrackers at them, police said. – Reuters

A day after the Trump administration wrapped up an international conference meant to lay the economic foundations for Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Palestinian premier said it was “divorced from reality” and unlikely to evolve into a political plan. – Reuters

The largest defense company in Israel is working toward an initial public offering, but “for the time being, the state of Israel comes before anything else,” said its CEO. Currently government-owned with only bonds trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Israel Aerospace Industries reported $3.7 billion in revenue for 2018 — a 5 percent increase compared to the year before, but reflecting a net loss of $44 million. – Defense News

Israel and Hamas reached a truce agreement on Friday, which would halt the launching of incendiary balloons at the Gaza perimeter, according to a report by the Army Radio. The radio station also reported that “the main points relating to the truce agreement include stopping the firing of balloons and controlling the demonstrators along the border fence.” – Jerusalem Post 

The Palestinian Authority has accelerated its efforts to seize land in Area C of Judea and Samaria – which is under full Israeli control – over the past decade, with an orchestrated campaign of illegal construction projects, a watchdog group warned Friday. – Arutz Sheva

Gulf States

The US-organised economic workshop in Bahrain failed to deliver tangible results over the long-awaited Middle East peace plan but it opened the door for closer Israeli-Gulf ties, analysts say. – Agence France-Presse

The Gulf region is in a very sensitive situation and is “standing at a crossroads of war and peace”, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday, calling for calm and restraint and talks to resolve the issue. – Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday to discuss the need for de-escalation in the Gulf after tensions rose because of a U.S.-Iran dispute over the country’s nuclear deal, May’s spokeswoman said. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Two suicide bombers struck security forces in quick succession on Thursday morning in the Tunisian capital, killing at least one police officer and wounding at least eight other people, the Interior Ministry said. – New York Times

When rogue Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar launched an attack on Tripoli in April, it plunged the North African country into one of its worst crises since Moammar Gadhafi’s death in 2011. The battle imperiled monthslong peace talks and raised the specter of a bloody showdown for control of the country. – Wall Street Journal 

Twin suicide bombings targeting security forces struck Tunisia’s capital on Thursday, killing a patrol officer and injuring at least eight people. Tunisia has been struck repeatedly by terror attacks, threatening the country’s relative political stability in the region. – Associated Press

Moroccan prosecutors on Thursday called for the death penalty for the three main jihadist suspects on trial for the “bloodthirsty” murder of two young Scandinavian hikers. – Agence France-Presse

Bahrain recalled its ambassador to Iraq after dozens of protesters stormed its embassy in Baghdad, tearing down the country’s flag and replacing it with a Palestinian banner. Ambassador Salah Ali Al Malki is returning to Bahrain for consultations, state-run BNA reported. The incident was a protest against a conference in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, to promote peace between Israelis and Arabs, the Associated Press reported. – Bloomberg

A U.S.-led conference in Bahrain designed to drum up investment in the Palestinian economy and pave a path to peace with Israel has gone largely unremarked by Israelis preoccupied with a political crisis and their arch-foe Iran. – Reuters

A U.S.-proposed $9 billion aid package could tempt Egypt with long-sought financing to transform its strife-torn Sinai peninsula, but analysts say political risks are likely to outweigh any potential financial benefit. – Reuters

One person was killed and at least 24 wounded when bombs hit two crowded passenger buses in Iraq’s oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Thursday, officials said. – Reuters

An American pilot accused of being a mercenary in Libya’s civil war was released this week after being held in the country for six weeks, CBS News has confirmed. Jamie Christopher Sponaugle, an Air Force veteran who reportedly crashed in Libya while flying a Mirage F-1 combat jet over army forces last month, was released on Tuesday.  – CBS News

Korean Peninsula

The U.S. Senate took aim at Chinese banks that do business with North Korea, with a vote that struck at institutions that U.S. lawmakers view as the chief violators of United Nations sanctions. – Wall Street Journal 

Australia’s government said Thursday it was “urgently seeking clarification” about a report that an Australian student studying in Pyongyang has been detained by North Korean authorities. – Washington Post

The U.S. and North Korea feel the need to resume diplomacy and are trying to narrow their differences for new summit talks, a top South Korean official said Wednesday as he contrasted their efforts with the tensions surrounding Iran’s collapsing nuclear accord. – Associated Press

North Korea said Thursday that South Korea must stop trying to mediate between Pyongyang and Washington, as it stepped up its pressure on the United States to work out new proposals to salvage deadlocked nuclear diplomacy. – Associated Press

Congress is moving toward slapping stricter sanctions on North Korea as diplomatic efforts flounder. The sanctions, which aim to plug what Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) described as a “leaking” sanctions regime, were added as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that passed the Senate on Thursday. – The Hill 

Time is running out for the United States to formulate a new strategy to revive negotiations with North Korea, a senior North Korean diplomat said, as a U.S. envoy was due to hold talks in Seoul ahead of a visit by President Donald Trump. – Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s commitment to denuclearization remained unchanged, South Korea’s presidential Blue House said on Thursday. – Reuters


President Xi Jinping of China plans to present President Trump with a set of terms he wants the U.S. to meet before Beijing is ready to settle a market-rattling trade confrontation, raising questions of whether the two leaders will agree to relaunch talks. – Wall Street Journal 

By the time China’s leader, Xi Jinping, sees President Trump on Saturday, he will already have met with the leaders of Russia, India, Japan and some African nations, appearances the Chinese choreographed to portray Mr. Xi as a man of the world with enough friends to offset the animosity of the United States. – New York Times

It looked as though the U.S. had succeeded in staunching the flow of cutting-edge computer technology to China. In reality, it was too late. Chinese versions of AMD chips already have been rolling off production lines. That technology is helping China in its race with the U.S. to build the first next-generation supercomputer—an essential tool for advanced civilian and military applications. – Wall Street Journal 

Mr. Lidow is among the semiconductor executives in the United States who have become concerned that the trade war with China — particularly the Trump administration’s ban on selling chips to some prominent Chinese customers — won’t just squeeze current revenue. – New York Times

President Trump risks a furious political backlash if he agrees to soften U.S. penalties for Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to speed trade talks with China, according to former administration officials and trade analysts. – Washington Post

As U.S.-China relations scrape along at their lowest level in decades, one U.S. official has stood out as Beijing’s most popular target: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – Washington Post

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong called on G-20 leaders to voice concerns over what he said are the Chinese territory’s waning freedoms at their summit in Japan. – CNBC

Josh Rogin writes: The Chinese government claims a foreign policy of noninterference in other countries’ internal affairs, but there’s a growing mountain of evidence that’s just not true. In fact, the Chinese Communist Party has been rapidly expanding its interference in developing countries around the world. Its efforts are aimed at undermining their democratic institutions, creating economic dependence and stifling any criticism of Beijing. – Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes: As President Trump heads into a crucial meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, sitting by his side will be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is quietly but steadily pushing U.S.-China policy into a more competitive and often confrontational position. – Washington Post

Robert D. Hormats writes: Many other nations are being caught up in the conflict as well. They will be targeted by both the U.S. and China to use their companies’ technologies, particularly in advanced telecommunications, AI and quantum computing. And Beijing and Washington also will likely urge other countries to accept their rules and standards on data privacy, localization of storage, censorship and government access to information. – The Hill 


There is an air of expectation on both sides as the Taliban and American diplomats gather to meet for the latest round of peace talks on Saturday. – New York Times

At least 67 pro-government forces and 10 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the past week. Casualties among pro-government forces increased compared to last week, as the Taliban intensified their attacks in some parts of the country. – New York Times

The Pentagon has announced the identities of two soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan. Killed on Wednesday in Uruzgan province were 32-year-old Army Master Sgt. Michael B. Riley and 24-year-old Army Sgt. James G. Johnston. – Associated Press

Afghanistan’s president has held talks with Pakistan’s prime minister as momentum builds for peace talks with the Taliban that are aimed at ending Afghanistan’s decades of war and conflict. Ashraf Ghani’s June 27 meeting with Imran Khan came as the Afghan leader started a two-day trip to Pakistan, his first since elections that brought Khan to power last year. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

South Asia

Sri Lankan torture victims have filed 10 new claims for damages in a U.S. court against wartime defense chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa, lawyers for the plaintiffs and a rights group said, possibly jeopardizing his plan to run for president. – Reuters

Sadanand Dhume writes: At the same time, under threat of sanctions, India’s state-owned oil companies have halted imports of Iranian oil. (Washington is encouraging India to import more of its energy from U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia.) Should India go ahead with the deal Mr. Modi signed last fall to purchase a sophisticated antimissile system from Russia, it faces sanctions mandated by Congress. Mr. Trump has the authority to grant India a waiver, but it isn’t clear that he will. – Wall Street Journal 

Alyssa Ayres writes: It would be tragic if the Trump administration forgot why India matters to larger U.S. interests, and failed to reverse the slide into competitive trade grievances poisoning the atmosphere today. – NPR


President Trump struck a conciliatory tone with other world leaders as the Group of 20 summit got started Friday, saying there would be “very big” trade deals to announce with India and Japan. – Wall Street Journal 

World leaders attending a Group of 20 summit in Japan that began Friday are clashing over the values that have served for decades as the foundation of their cooperation as they face calls to fend off threats to economic growth. – Associated Press

Protesters opposed to legislation they fear would reduce Hong Kong’s judicial independence rallied outside the Justice Department on Thursday, as the territory’s leader remained out of public view for a second week. – Associated Press

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived Friday at the G20 meeting in Osaka amid fears over her health after she suffered a second public bout of uncontrollable shaking in just over a week. – Agence France-Presse

U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Friday that the security alliance between the world’s largest and third-largest economies is stronger than ever, a senior Japanese government spokesman said. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said he would be talking about trade with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the two leaders sit down for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit meeting on Friday. – Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to work together to promote “free and fair trade” in talks on Thursday that included a “complicated” global economic landscape, a Japanese official said. – Reuters

Many Group of 20 leaders voiced concern over trade tensions and the risk they pose on the global economy at their meeting in Osaka, western Japan, on Friday, a senior Japanese government official said. – Reuters

China’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday that Canadian navy ships sailed through the Strait of Taiwan, which separates self-ruled Taiwan from China, an act that could inflame already bad bilateral relations. – Reuters

On his way to the Group of 20 summit in Japan, President Trump complained about all of its members that take advantage of the United States. But once he arrived in Osaka, he appeared to set aside those concerns, using a rapid-fire series of meetings to flatter his fellow leaders and boast about improving ties. – NPR


The last time he was to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin, President Trump called it off at the last minute, citing Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships and detention of two dozen Ukrainian sailors. They would meet, Mr. Trump declared, only after “this situation is resolved.” – New York Times

President Trump called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to stay out of the 2020 presidential election, but the tone of his comments was open to interpretation. “Don’t meddle in the election. Don’t meddle in the election,” Mr. Trump said with a bit of a smile as he sat next to his counterpart at the Group of 20 summit. – Wall Street Journal 

EU President Donald Tusk on Friday lashed out at his Russian counterpart in unusually undiplomatic language, saying he “strongly disagreed” with Vladimir Putin when he said liberalism was “obsolete.”  Agence France-Presse 

Work on the final G20 documents is not going easy, the group’s Russia sherpa Svetlana Lukash said on Friday, naming World Trade Organisation reform, information security, climate change and migration as among issues members were struggling to agree. – Reuters

Alice Hill writes: There is little doubt that stable relations are wavering between the United States and Russia in the Arctic. The United States can no longer be lulled by Putin’s statements that Moscow’s Arctic ambitions are peaceful. Russia’s actions provide the most probable answer to what Putin’s up to. Even as we continue to ask this question, however, we need to develop the nation’s Arctic presence and capabilities. – The Hill 


At the height of World War II, the Dutch railway ran special trains to transit camps where Jews and other minorities awaited deportation to Nazi death camps. […]More than seven decades later, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, known as NS, has said it will set aside tens of millions of euros in compensation for victims and their direct descendants. – New York Times

An unidentified gunman shot and wounded an imam and one other person Thursday in front of a mosque in the western French city of Brest, then killed himself, police said. The motive for the attack is unclear. France’s interior minister ordered security tightened at places of worship around the country. – Associated Press

German police have made two more arrests related to the killing of a pro-migrant politician, allegedly by a far-right sympathiser, federal prosecutors said Thursday. – Agence France-Presse

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her summit meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday would cover a wide range of topics including trade, investments, West Africa, counter-terrorism and Iran. – Reuters

Britain’s Labour opposition risked further souring its relationship with the Jewish community after readmitting a lawmaker who was suspended for suggesting the party had been “too apologetic” about anti-Semitism. – Reuters

The Dalai Lama said in a recent interview that refugees to Europe should eventually return home, despite his support for international cooperation and institutions like the European Union. – Washington Examiner

Donald N. Jensen writes: Russia long has sought to increase its influence in Georgia and undermine its democratic institutions. The 2008 August War, which resulted in Russian forces occupying 20 percent of the country, was not the beginning of a bad spell in relations. It was the culmination of a Kremlin campaign to stop Georgia’s accession to NATO using military, economic, political, and information tools dating back to the 1990s. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


The UN Security Council on Thursday agreed on a four-month pause in the drawdown of a peacekeeping mission from Sudan’s Darfur region as leaders in Khartoum press on with difficult talks on a political transition. – Agence France-Presse

Security forces fired tear gas to disperse dozens of students demonstrating against the ruling military council at a financial academy in the heart of Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Thursday, a Reuters witness said. – Reuters

Nearly 250 people have been arrested in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and the city of Bahir Dar since a coup attempt was foiled, the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday. – Reuters

Latin America

Russia said it had rotated a group of weapons specialists in Venezuela and emphasized that it didn’t intend to increase its military presence in the Latin American country. In the runup to a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump, Russia’s embassy in Venezuela said a group of trainers and technicians was being flown home. – Wall Street Journal

Venezuela’s top government spokesman Wednesday called the country’s former spy chief a “traitor,” a “mercenary” and a “slave” to the United States, and accused him of working with opposition leaders not only to overthrow the government but also to kill President Nicolás Maduro, his wife and other senior government officials. – Washington Post

Russia rotated military technicians out of crisis-hit Venezuela on Wednesday, its embassy in Caracas said, as the regime declared that it thwarted an alleged coup plot. – Agence France-Presse

Uruguay on Thursday withdrew from a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) being held in Medellin, Colombia, in protest of the presence of what it said was an illegitimate delegation from Venezuela. – Reuters

El Salvador’s new president said on Thursday that relations with China were complete and established, giving the strongest signal yet that the small Central American nation will not take up ties again with Taiwan. – Reuters

An ex-Venezuelan electricity minister and another former official at the country’s electricity ministry on Thursday were placed under U.S. sanctions for corruption and charged separately for their respective roles in an alleged bribery scheme, U.S. officials said. – Reuters


The Dutch intelligence agency (AIVD) on Thursday warned of the escalating threat of state-backed cyber espionage, saying the Netherlands was particularly vulnerable as a hub for international business, telecoms and human rights groups. – Reuters

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation designed to enhance election security following outrage over Russian cyberinterference in the 2016 presidential election. The Democratic-sponsored bill would mandate paper ballot voting and postelection audit as well as replace outdated and vulnerable voting equipment. The June 27 vote passed 225-184 mostly along partisan lines. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

European Union ministers will take part in joint war games over coming months to better prepare the bloc for a range of attacks, from cyberattacks to disinformation campaigns. Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Thursday that interior and finance ministers from the 28-country bloc will be tasked to respond to fictional scenarios during meetings in Helsinki in July and September. – Associated Press


It has been a taxing week for Mark T. Esper, the acting defense secretary, who did not have that title just a few days ago. – New York Times

The Senate passed a $750 billion defense bill Thursday without resolving whether it will seek to restrain President Trump from going to war with Iran, the most politically divisive element of the debate over the legislation. – Washington Post

Production of a component vital to protecting American troops from chemical attacks that can’t keep up with need. Key suppliers of aircraft parts that could go bankrupt at any time. A key producer of missile components that closed for two years before the Pentagon found out. – Defense News

When confronting threats from space, directed energy and hypersonic weapons, the U.S. is working toward the technology it needs; what’s slowing progress is the lack of confirmed people to fill key Pentagon positions to guide these programs, warned the chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. – USNI News

The naval aviation community is facing a budget shortfall of at least $100 million for the current fiscal year and may have to cut back flight hours and other operations between now and the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, USNI News learned. – USNI News

The Navy just graduated its first class of unmanned aerial vehicle test pilots from a new course designed to apply the lessons of manned test pilot programs to UAVs For decades, the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School trained aviators how to evaluate new aircraft and the same concepts were applied all aircraft, Marine Lt. Col. Rory Feely, the school’s executive officer, told USNI News. But until now, the school hadn’t created a curriculum focused on training the unmanned aerial systems test pilots. – USNI News 

Trump Administration

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, already serving federal prison time for financial fraud, pleaded not guilty Thursday to further graft charges brought by state prosecutors in New York. – Agence France-Presse

Robert Mueller may have been required to disqualify himself from the Russia investigation, according to Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett. – Washington Examiner

The Senate on Thursday evening confirmed the Air Force general tapped to lead the newly formed U.S. Space Command. The Senate approved Gen. John Raymond to be the commander of Space Command by unanimous consent in a package of a couple dozen military nominations. – The Hill