Fdd's overnight brief

June 3, 2019

In The News


Iran increased its stockpile of nuclear-related materials by only a small amount in the last three months, but Western diplomats said they have little doubt that Tehran has scaled up production of enriched uranium in recent days. – Wall Street Journal

In a second major softening of American policy toward Iran in recent days, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the Trump administration was ready to negotiate with the country’s clerical leaders with “no preconditions.” – New York Times

The Trump administration has delayed new, tougher sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical sector, said people familiar with the matter, as it seeks to dial back tensions that have threatened to spiral out of control. – Wall Street Journal

Reacting to a U.S. offer to talk with Iran without pre-conditions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday it was Washington that had left the negotiating table, and it “should return to normal state”. – Reuters

Iran has revealed an underground missile bunker packed with bombs in footage broadcast on its state television network as a rousing message to its people. – Daily Mail (UK)

The U.N. atomic watchdog said Friday that Iran continues to stay within the limitations set by the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, but reported its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water are growing and raised questions for the first time about Iran’s adherence to a key but vague provision intended to limit the country’s use of advanced centrifuges. – Associated Press

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later this month with Tokyo hoping to mediate between Washington and Tehran, a report said Sunday. – Agence FrancePresse

A 35 year-old actress is shot to death in the bathroom of her plush apartment in upmarket Tehran. The killer is her husband, a 67 year-old politician and potential presidential candidate. – Financial Times

U.S. military vessels in the Gulf are within range of Iranian missiles, a top military aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday, warning any clash between the two countries would push oil prices above $100 a barrel. – Reuters

Iranian police briefly detained two European diplomats at a mixed-gender party, which are illegal under Iranian law, the semi-official Tasnim news agency said Saturday. – Associated Press

The articles come in the context of a month of rising tensions between the US and Iran. It is hardly surprising that US policy on Iran is a partisan issue, considering that the Obama administration pushed for the Iran deal while the Trump administration walked away from it. But the often toxic discussions on various media platforms this month show a growing and increasingly fraught division on how to approach the Iran regime. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Makovsky writes: Mr. Trump was dealt a very bad hand on Iran. President Obama undermined U.S. credibility by failing to uphold his Syria red line and agreeing to the JCPOA. Yet Mr. Trump has managed to put Tehran on the defensive. Now his policy is being tested. How he responds will have a significant impact on U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. – Wall Street Journal

Hussein Ibish writes: As things stand, if Iran’s leaders were willing to be flexible and seriously discuss not only nuclear issues but the possibility of curbing their destabilising interference in the Arab world with Washington, it is perceivable that they could reach an agreement with Mr Trump. But they will probably continue to try to wait him out in hope of something better come 2020. If so, it is a reckless gamble and, at its own peril, Tehran will allow an important window of opportunity to slam shut. – The National

David Albright and Andrea Stricker write: On May 31, 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its latest safeguards report on the verification and monitoring of the Iran nuclear deal in light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015). The report discusses one potential violation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in footnote 27, which states, “up to 33 IR-6 centrifuges have been installed, of which up to 10 have been tested with UF6 (uranium hexafluoride)…” This number of deployed centrifuges is far in excess of what is a reasonable interpretation of the deployment rate implied in Iran’s long-term enrichment plan. – Institute for Science and International Security

A. Savyon and Yigal Carmon write: Likewise, it is well known – including from IAEA reports – that up until 2003, under Khamenei, Iran had developed components for nuclear weapons. Khamenei’s statements are concrete testimony that there was an intent, or a proposal, by Iranian regime officials to possess nuclear weapons without intending to use them. These statements are solid proof that the Iranian regime had clearly dealt with the question of developing nuclear weapons, and that all the talk by the Iranian regime and the Obama administration about a fatwa that guaranteed that Iran would not develop nuclear weapons was groundless. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah pledged on Friday to confront the U.S. Middle East plan that President Donald Trump has touted as “the deal of the century.” – Reuters

Tehran transfers $700 million a year to Hezbollah that “fuels” endless aggression by Iran and its proxies in the region, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday night at a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill marking 52 years since the reunification of the city during the Six Day War. – Jerusalem Post

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, ignored an urgent plea from the country’s tiny Jewish community to outlaw the terrorist organization Hezbollah amid a shocking climate of antisemitism. – Jerusalem Post

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Germany on Friday to follow Britain in proscribing Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist group. – Reuters

Avi Issacharoff writes: Perhaps most worrying is Nasrallah’s direct statement that his group would react “immediately and strongly” to any Israeli strike on a precision missile factory in Lebanon. […]While this is definitely a difficult time for the group in light of recent US sanctions, Washington could be overestimating their effect. While the sanctions, including those on Tehran, will affect Hezbollah’s budget, it is doubtful that the group is already going through a real crisis. They will have an effect in months and years to come, probably not days or weeks. – Times of Israel


Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been arrested after returning home as the war they fled winds down — then interrogated, forced to inform on close family members and in some cases tortured, say returnees and human rights monitors. – Washington Post

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday urged Russia and Syrian government forces to stop bombing Syria’s Idlib province, following a Friday Kremlin statement that signaled Moscow would continue to back a month-long Syrian government offensive there. – Reuters

A car bomb exploded in a north Syrian town held by Turkey-backed rebels on Sunday, killing at least 10 people, rescue workers and medics said, after a war monitor had reported blasts hitting other insurgent-held areas in the northwest. – Reuters

Syrian air defenses on Sunday intercepted an Israeli attack on the T-4 airbase in Homs province, state TV reported, citing a Syrian military source. – Reuters

The Israeli military said its aircraft struck Syrian army targets on Sunday after rockets were fired at the Golan Heights, and Syria’s state media said three soldiers were killed in the second such flare-up in a week. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Syria may have to reach out to its friend in Tehran. Press TV and Fars News in Iran both highlighted the recent airstrikes. Iran-US tensions are growing. Hezbollah has vowed to oppose the US peace plan in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia hosted three summits aimed at condemning Iran. Damascus knows all this and it knows how much of the region now sits atop a teetering structure, like one of those Jenga blocks games. Too many airstrikes and too much tensions, and the peaceful structure will fall. – Jerusalem Post


In what is seen as part of a concerted effort by Ankara to entrench its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey issued a navigational telex Thursday reserving a sea area within its territorial waters north of Cyprus for drilling activities until mid-June. – Ekathimerini

President Donald Trump agreed with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan to form a joint study group on the Russian S-400 missile defense system, which Turkey wants to buy despite U.S. pressure to abandon the purchase, according to officials from both nations familiar with the decision. – Bloomberg

Omar Kush writes: There is no doubt that the issue of Syrian refugees is fundamentally linked to any political solution for the Syrian conflict, which, judging by current conditions, remains a long way off. Furthermore, the controversy around Syrian refugees in Turkey should not be expected to die down: indeed, it is likely to intensify. Therefore, the situation of Syrians in Turkey will not change for the better until a solution is found for the violence that pushed them to seek refuge there. And even if Turkey were to grant citizenship to some of its Syrian residents, this step by itself will not solve the problem, nor will it end the suffering of the millions of Syrians in Turkey. – Washington Institute


The U.S. blueprint to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, still in draft form after almost two years, is seen by Palestinians, and by some Arab officials and politicians, as a plan to finish off the Palestinian cause. – Reuters

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said he was not certain whether the Palestinians were able to govern themselves without the help of Israel. – Washington Examiner

The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Saturday slammed the US decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem and recognise the disputed city as Israel’s capital. – Agence FrancePresse

A professor at Hebrew University reportedly wrote right-wing Israeli activists were “Nazi dogs,” after they launched a website publicizing professors as “anti-Israeli,” Makor Rishon, an Israeli religious newspaper first reported. – Jerusalem Post

Israel has completed the large-scale Argonaut 2019 exercise in Cyprus alongside 21 other nations, which involved drilling the possible evacuation of civilians from Middle Eastern nations. – Jerusalem Post

U.S. President Donald Trump, voicing impatience with close ally Israel, said on Sunday he was not happy about electoral upheaval there and urged the Israelis to “get their act together.” – Reuters

The Palestinian Authority and Jordan on Sunday condemned “Israeli raids” on the al-Aqsa Mosque after Muslim worshipers clashed with the police in protest against Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, on Sunday said there “will be consequences” to what he labeled as an “attack on the Temple Mount worshippers.” – Ynet

Gulf States

Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the 29-year-old commander of the almost negligible air force of the United Arab Emirates, had come to Washington shopping for weapons. […]But the Pentagon, trying to cultivate accommodating allies in the Gulf, had identified Prince Mohammed as a promising partner.  – New York Times

Qatar said on Sunday it has reservations about hardline statements on Iran made at emergency summits of Gulf and wider Arab states called by Saudi Arabia, becoming the second Arab country to reject the statement following Iraq. – Reuters

Bahrain, a U.S. ally that hosts the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has warned citizens and residents that following anti-government social media accounts could result in legal action, hardening a government campaign against critical online voices. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said on Saturday that attacks on Saudi oil assets last month by Iran-backed groups are a threat to global oil supplies and regional security. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said that a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca on Friday would seek to confront threats and work for the future of Arab and Islamic states. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia has called for the Arab world to take a decisive stance against Iran as King Salman convened an emergency meeting that condemned the Islamic republic’s alleged interference in the region. – Financial Times

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah discussed the latest regional and international developments with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a phone call late on Sunday, Kuwait’s foreign ministry said in a statement, without giving further details. – Reuters

Yerevan Saeed writes: With the tensions between Washington and Tehran, a potentially dangerous conflict in Iraq—ethnic tensions are simmering between Kurds and Arabs in the country’s disputed territories, especially in the multiethnic province of Kirkuk. […]It’s not clear whether Kurdish officials, including the Iraqi President Barham Saleh in Baghdad, would be able to stop violence, Acting Governor Jabouri’s apparent efforts to Arabize the disputed areas, or the removal of Kurds from political and security protections. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Mecca said on Saturday that it noted with concern growing Islamophobia in many parts of the world, according to the summit’s final statement. – Reuters

Companies in the Middle East are ramping up contingency planning for potential armed conflict as US-Iran tensions rise and Gulf states’ relations with Tehran sink to a new low, corporate risk managers say. – Financial Times

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, speaking about the unannounced U.S. Mideast peace plan, said on Sunday that his country would not accept anything undesired by the Palestinians. – Reuters

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement launched a drone attack on a military parade for Saudi-led coalition forces in the port city of Aden, the group’s Al Masirah TV said early on Monday. – Reuters

At least 18 people were wounded in two car bomb explosions that targeted a military unit in Libya’s eastern coastal city of Derna, sending plumes of black smoke into the sky, a medical source and residents told Reuters early on Sunday. – Reuters

The U.S. military says a B-52 bomber and an aircraft carrier dispatched to the Mideast over a perceived threat from Iran have conducted a joint exercise together in the Arabian Sea. – Associated Press

Editorial: One of the most brutal but least-known battles against Islamic State-affiliated militants has been underway for eight years in the Sinai Peninsula. […]Human Rights Watch proposes that the United States and other suppliers of the Egyptian military cease aid and sales until the regime improves its human rights record and allows an independent investigation of the probable war crimes in Sinai. Since the Trump administration refuses to hold the Sissi regime accountable, action by Congress is necessary. – Washington Post

Korean Peninsula

Kim Yong-chol, a former North Korean spymaster and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart in recent diplomatic contacts between the North and the United States, resurfaced in public this week, undermining a South Korean newspaper’s report that he was banished to forced labor in a re-education camp. – New York Times

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Sunday that he did not see a need to restore the large-scale joint military exercises that the United States and South Korea suspended over the past year as a concession to North Korea. – New York Times

The factories have innocuous names, but analysts say several ostensibly civilian facilities visited by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently are also used to build ballistic missile launchers and other weapons. – Reuters

Editorial: Perhaps Mr. Trump is playing good cop here, attempting to keep Mr. Kim from going back to ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests like those that escalated tensions during the “fire and fury” phase of Mr. Trump’s previous “maximum pressure” campaign. […]Nice words may placate Mr. Kim for now but, eventually, North Korea’s people must be released from such systemic suffering, and the regime that created it must be held to account for its crimes. – Washington Post

Uri Friedman writes: The problem is that so far, Trump has little to show for the respect he’s given Kim, other than a channel for dialogue between the countries’ leaders and a suspension of North Korean nuclear and long-range missile tests. And in the meantime, Trump’s sided with yet another autocrat. If Trump is playing mind games with Kim, however, Kim may be doing the same with Trump. – The Atlantic


The U.S. and China accused each other of trying to destabilize Asia and stir up geopolitical friction at a high-profile security summit over the weekend. But they also signaled interest in keeping military tensions contained, as trade disputes between the two countries threaten the global economy. – Wall Street Journal

China escalated an already spiraling trade dispute with the U.S., saying it would create a blacklist of foreign entities that harm Chinese businesses, in apparent retaliation for Washington’s clampdown on Huawei Technologies Co. – Wall Street Journal

Huawei Technologies Co. has spent 15 years and billions of dollars building an advanced semiconductor company, with the aim of making the Chinese telecom giant self-sufficient. A U.S. blacklisting stands to set it back years in that goal. – Wall Street Journal

China and Mexico both signaled a willingness to negotiate with Washington over escalating trade issues, while the Trump administration took to the airwaves to defend its use of tariffs to gain concessions from trading partners. – Wall Street Journal

China struck a defiant stance on Sunday in response to President Trump’s growing pressure on trade, blaming the United States for a breakdown in negotiations and saying it must withdraw its latest round of tariffs before a deal can be reached. – New York Times

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan sought to lower the temperature on the Trump administration’s stew of hostilities with China on Friday, saying it was imperative to look for ways for the two competing militaries to “create upside” in their relationship, even in the middle of a trade war. – New York Times

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday that technology firm Huawei was too close to the Chinese government, adding that Washington was concerned about cyber attacks and the theft of intellectual property. – Reuters

China will issue a warning about the risk of studying in the United States, the editor-in-chief of a widely read Chinese newspaper, the Global Times, said on Monday. – Reuters

US moves against Chinese tech titan Huawei have had “no effect” on the firm’s aviation business despite several countries taking steps to block its mobile services, a top company executive said Monday. – Agence FrancePresse

China on Saturday increased tariffs on billions worth of US goods as it prepares to unveil a blacklist of “unreliable” foreign companies that analysts say aims to punish US and foreign firms cutting off supplies to telecoms giant Huawei. – Agence FrancePresse

They expected the event to follow a typical routine: The U.S. and its friends gang up on China, leaving it alone to push back against a host of complaints. But this year, with an escalating trade war threatening global growth, the People’s Liberation Army officers saw other Asian leaders critiquing key aspects of the Trump administration’s attacks on China. – Bloomberg

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) said on Monday curbs on employees of Huawei Technologies and its subsidiaries have been lifted, and they would be allowed to participate in a peer review process for its research papers. – Reuters


For almost a year, Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have consistently rejected calls for a cease-fire by officials working to negotiate peace. So a group of grass-roots Afghan activists is going to try asking them in person. Members of the People’s Peace Movement have been walking across Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan since Thursday, when they left the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. They are heading toward territory controlled by the Taliban. – New York Times

The head of the Afghan Taliban pledged on Saturday to continue fighting until the movement’s objectives were reached and indicated it was still not ready to open talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul. – Reuters

Three explosions struck the Afghan capital, including a magnetic bomb attached to a bus carrying university students that killed at least one person, officials said. – Al Jazeera

South Asia

President Trump’s move to pressure India to do more to open its markets will force Prime Minister Narendra Modi to walk a careful line as he balances a fresh mandate for his nationalist policies against New Delhi’s efforts to build closer ties with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

The Indian government said on Saturday it will continue to seek to build strong economic ties with the United States despite a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to end preferential trade treatment for India from June 5. – Reuters

India on Sunday accused Pakistani security services of widespread harassment at an Indian embassy event in the capital Islamabad a day earlier, alleging that hundreds of guests were turned away and some of New Delhi’s diplomats were “threatened”. – Reuters

Andy Mukherjee writes: The loss of GSP privileges is an economic challenge, but it’s also a diplomatic opportunity. Having won a landslide electoral victory, the Indian leader doesn’t need to respond in kind to the White House’s machismo just to please voters.[…]Trump has thrown down the gauntlet. Modi should respond by instilling more pragmatism into India’s trade and investment policies. – Bloomberg


China’s defense minister warned Sunday that its military will “resolutely take action” to defend Beijing’s claims over self-ruled Taiwan and disputed South China Sea waters. – Associated Press

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan stressed the U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and highlighted key messages from the Pentagon’s new Indo-Pacific Strategy Report in a Saturday speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue. – USNI News

President Donald Trump downplayed the chance he would impose tariffs on Australia, a top U.S. ally, after the New York Times reported his administration considered doing so last week. – Bloomberg

Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrived in the Solomon Islands on Sunday, the first visit by an Australian leader in more than a decade as Western nations seek to rein in China’s influence in the Pacific. – Reuters

Three Chinese warships have pulled into Australia’s Sydney Harbor for a four-day stopover. – CNN

French energy company Total said on Friday that it expected Papua New Guinea’s incoming government to honour a contract signed by the previous administration for a liquefied natural gas project in the South Pacific archipelago. – Reuters


Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Games, is all about Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — a place to host foreign envoys and indulge in some Putin-style diversions. At the annual Sochi gala hockey match a few weeks ago, Putin scored nine goals. Sochi, in many ways, offers a distilled image of the country he wants Russia to be. Multibillion-dollar construction projects by Putin’s friends and oligarchs have created some of Russia’s best — and most expensive — infrastructure. – Washington Post

At least two people were missing and numerous others were treated for injuries on Saturday after blasts were reported at an explosives plant in the central Russian town of Dzerzhinsk, the Interfax and RIA news agencies reported. – Reuters

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia issued a stark warning about the geopolitical threat of Russia’s presence in the Arctic, saying Moscow’s military and economic activity in the region is at the highest level since the Cold War. – CBS News

Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft said on Monday that it expects clean Russian oil to reach Poland on June 8-9, the TASS news agency reported. – Reuters


Behind the pageantry of President Trump’s state visit to Britain this week lurks some awkward diplomacy. The three-day tour is supposed to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day embarkations during World War II and reaffirm the deep U.K.-American relationship. But Mr. Trump’s arrival here is expected to be marked by protest and to lay bare some of the uncertainties in both Brexit and the U.K.’s security relations with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

In Britain, a state visit doesn’t just mean dining with the prime minister, or even tea with the queen. It means an extraordinary level of pomp and pageantry, plus a sleepover at Buckingham Palace. Britain is gearing up for this week’s state visit by President Trump as only Britain can do. There will be an official greeting ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a lavish banquet with the queen’s best china, a gun salute fired from Green Park and the Tower of London. – Washington Post

UK Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Saturday U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments endorsing Conservative front-runner Boris Johnson as the next prime minister were an “unacceptable interference” in Britain’s affairs. – Reuters

Britain should go for a no-deal Brexit with the EU and refuse to pay the agreed £39 billion (45 billion euros, $50 billion) divorce bill, US President Donald Trump told The Sunday Times newspaper on the eve of a visit to London. – Agence FrancePresse

Suing one of your biggest customers may seem unthinkable, but the chief executive of Airbus, Europe’s biggest aerospace and defence group, will not rule it out. Germany’s decision last October to ban arms exports to Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi threatens a border contract that Airbus has with the kingdom. – Financial Times

President Donald Trump normally is a chaos maker when he travels abroad. But he will attempt to use his pomp-laden state visit to Britain this week to wring strategic advantage out of another country’s already raging political meltdown. – CNN

The man suspected of planting a parcel bomb in the French city of Lyon that wounded 14 people last week has been remanded in custody and placed under formal investigation, public prosecutors said on Friday. – Reuters

A candidate for Britain’s Labour party has apologized for liking an anti-Semitic Facebook post that claims British Prime Minister Theresa May has a “Zionist Slave Masters agenda”, but local Jewish leaders have called on Labour to disown her. – Times of Israel

Peter Nicholas writes: No one on either side of the Atlantic is expecting much to come from Trump’s visit.  […]If nothing tangible comes out of the visit, some hope that the D-Day ceremonies will at least make an impression on Trump and show him the power of collaborative, multinational action. They’d like to see his attention pivot, at least for a moment, from the political squabbles at home to the larger meaning of Normandy. – The Atlantic


Sudanese security forces stormed a monthslong sit-in of civilian protesters in the capital Khartoum on Monday, signaling a breakdown in negotiations between the military junta and protest leaders over who should rule the country after the April ouster of longtime strongman Omar al-Bashir. – Wall Street Journal

South Sudan slammed the United Nations Security Council’s renewal of an arms embargo and other sanctions, saying the step won’t help end a five-year civil war. – Bloomberg

At least 11 people were wounded by gunfire near a protest sit-in in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Saturday, an opposition doctors’ committee said. – Reuters

Bilal al-Masri writes: Sudan is a major pillar of Egypt’s national security and deserves to be treated as such; it is part of Egypt’s strategic purview and it is important to apply long-term strategies that will secure the most positive outcome possible. Although politicians in the two countries are currently discussing prospects for a political solution, a solution cannot be reached as long as the differences between the two countries remain unresolved and remain subject to political blackmail. Egypt has the highest chance of success by engaging with all sides, thereby avoiding an alienation of any one party that may subsequently come to power. – Washington Institute

North America

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Mexico would continue with the process of approving a trade agreement with the U.S. and Canada despite President Trump’s plan to impose escalating tariffs on all Mexican imports beginning June 10. – Wall Street Journal

The trade fight between the U.S. and China has pushed firms to shift manufacturing to Mexico to avoid tariffs and keep prices steady. Now the prospect of new U.S. tariffs over immigration threatens to disrupt that shift and drive up costs for American consumers. – Wall Street Journal

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said Sunday he doesn’t plan to initiate an independent review by Pentagon investigators into a White House request that the USS John S. McCain be kept “out of sight” during President Trump’s visit to Japan last month. – Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon has told the White House that the U.S. military will not be politicized, a U.S. official said on Sunday, in response to a controversy after officials directed the United States Navy to keep the USS John S. McCain out of sight during a recent speech by President Donald Trump in Japan.  – Reuters

Michael O’Hanlon writes: Today’s U.S. national-security and defense strategies are right to focus on great-power war. But the most plausible conflict scenarios against Russia or China require more than military action to handle correctly. The first step is for Washington and its allies to telegraph Beijing and Moscow that they have credible options, including non lethal ones, in the event of a crisis. – Wall Street Journal

Latin America

Russia has withdrawn key defense advisers from Venezuela, an embarrassment for President Nicolás Maduro as Moscow weighs the leader’s political and economic resilience against growing U.S. pressure. – Wall Street Journal

Canada said Sunday it was temporarily suspending its diplomatic operations in Venezuela, and planned to evaluate the status of Venezuelan diplomats here. – Wall Street Journal

Protesters torched the access gate to the U.S. Embassy in the Honduran capital on Friday during a second day of major protests against President Juan Orlando Hernandez. – Reuters

El Salvador’s decision to establish ties with China was correct and the two countries have bright prospects, a Chinese envoy told El Salvador’s maverick new president, who has been critical of Beijing. – Reuters

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: The cause of freedom is best served using more brains than brawn. A full assessment requires mapping the threat network throughout the region. Venezuela cannot be reclaimed without dedicating serious resources to counteracting Cuban control of cyberspace and communications and to enhancing public diplomacy. […]In other words, this is another conflict in which the U.S. and its allies are nominally facing a small, politically weak opponent but are in fact dueling with great powers. Venezuela is the proxy. This suggests a strategy of giving the alternative regime that the U.S. is backing, that of Mr. Guaidó, real power. – Wall Street Journal


The Justice Department is preparing to launch a fresh antitrust probe into Google, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, setting up a potential clash over how to regulate one of the world’s most powerful companies and perhaps the tech industry more broadly. – Wall Street Journal

In this pleasant, kibbutz-like atmosphere, the IDF’s “cyber-warriors” undergo their training, before launching cyberattacks behind virtual enemy lines, obtaining data or disrupting systems by remote control. The school is called Ashalim, and its commander is Lt. Col. N. – Haaretz

Bret Swanson writes: Current laws, written for siloed industries in a pre-digital era, are likely not up to the task. In a world of extreme data abundance and dynamic cross-industry and cross-border data flows, we may need a new privacy law to protect consumers and encourage open-ended innovation. Privacy is a slippery concept, and it is therefore important to set expectations by defining an analytical framework. Bolstering the approach of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which focuses on consumer welfare and rigorous analysis of costs and benefits, is a good place to start. – American Enterprise Institute


Coal ash could be the next source of elements the U.S. defense industry uses in everything from night vision goggles to gyroscopes for smart bombs. – Washington Examiner

KBRwyle Technology Solutions LLC, a unit of KBR Inc, has been awarded a $530 million contract for U.S. Marine Corps prepositioning program logistics services in support of Blount Island Command, the Pentagon said on Friday. – Reuters

United Technologies Corp’s Pratt and Whitney Engines has been awarded the $3.24 billion modification to a U.S. defense contract for the production and delivery of 233 propulsion systems, the Pentagon said on Friday. – Reuters

Long War

The program, run by the local U.S.-backed Kurdish administration, aims to rehabilitate young, mostly Syrian former Islamic State fighters and help them reintegrate into society. Only a few such re-education programs are operating in Syria, where tens of thousands of former Islamic State militants and their families are being held in prisons or camps. – Wall Street Journal

An Iraqi court sentenced two French men to death on Sunday after finding them guilty of being members of Islamic State, a prosecutor told Reuters. – Reuters

The Shin Bet security service last month arrested a 22-year-old Arab Israeli woman suspected of having joined the al-Nusra Front terror group in Syria in March 2018. – Times of Israel

Trump Administration

President Trump said the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers is leaving the job and a replacement would be named soon. – Wall Street Journal

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee slammed a Justice Department review of the origins of the Russia investigation as a politically charged effort to cast doubt on special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings, demanding the nation’s intelligence chiefs share with the panel any materials they turn over to Attorney General William Barr. – Wall Street Journal

The government on Friday released the full transcript of a November 2017 voice mail urging an attorney for onetime national security adviser Mike Flynn to share with the president’s legal team any information that would implicate Mr. Trump. […]The voice mail, which was referenced in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference, was released under order from a federal judge who is handling Mr. Flynn’s criminal case on a single charge of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. – Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon has told the White House to stop politicizing the military, amid a furor over a Trump administration order to have the Navy ship named for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain hidden from view during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Japan. – Associated Press

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that Russia definitely tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. – Politico

Greg Ip writes: President Trump’s threat to hit Mexico with tariffs over immigration is the latest and most dramatic step in the weaponization of international economic levers. In the short run, these moves may serve the U.S. interest. But in the long run, they could do the opposite, by emboldening everyone to ignore international conventions and rules that reserved tariffs and sanctions for specific purposes. The U.S. may also find its “soft power,” the ability to get other countries to cooperate out of shared mutual interest rather than threat, diminished. – Wall Street Journal