Fdd's overnight brief

June 5, 2019

In The News


Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran would not be “deceived” by U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer of negotiations and would not give up its missile program. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to talk to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani but that there was always a chance of U.S. military action against the Islamic Republic. – Reuters

Iran’s Fars News reported on Wednesday that the US has been forced to keep its USS Abraham Lincoln carrier outside of the narrow confines of the Persian Gulf due to Iran’s missile threat. “The difficulty of facing military movements in the Persian Gulf and Iran’s deterrence is the reason the Lincoln Strike Group has stayed 450 miles from the area of tension outside the Strait of Hormuz,” the report said. – Jerusalem Post

A member of the Shiraz City Council, Hajati had been arrested in October 2018 and held for 10 days for seeking the release of two local Baha’is who had been arrested for practicing their faith, which is severely persecuted by the Iranian government. – Center for Human Rights in Iran

Todd South, Kyle Rempfer, Shawn Snow, Howard Altman, and David B. Larter write: So far, a full-scale conflict between the U.S. and its allies and Iran and its proxies remains in the realm of wargaming at the moment. But with tensions rising between the U.S. and Iran, and as the U.S. moves more troops and military assets into the region, Pentagon planners and top U.S. intelligence officials have begun taking a closer look at what such a conflict might entail. – Military Times

Olli Heinonen, who headed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) security team and served as the organizations’ deputy director general, on Wednesday morning told Army Radio that Israelis on the whole are not aware of the severity of the Iranian threat. – Israel National News


The U.S. ambassador to NATO told CNBC that Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile system could help the Kremlin in its bid to weaken NATO. – CNBC

Ekrem Imamoglu writes: In today’s Turkey, any politician who listens to ordinary people candidly quickly sees the reality of the situation: If you aren’t talking about how to overcome economic difficulties and social injustices, people won’t listen. Citizens don’t have the time or the interest in large-scale engineering projects or big investment strategies. You have to focus instead on urban poverty and injustice — on children who don’t have enough educational opportunities; young people and women who are struggling with unemployment or unequal wages; and all the disadvantaged groups who are barely involved in urban life. – Washington Post

Muhammed Bahadır Gülle writes: Given that Europe is not eager to lend strong support for the U.S. sanctions and Russia and China will push to thwart them, the United States will have to exert significant pressure on Iran. Any escalation with Iran will also deepen the dependence of U.S. regional allies on Washington and they will use all their significant lobbying power to obtain more U.S. involvement in the region. Turkey’s support for Iran can further complicate the efforts of the United States to cope with the absence of an international coalition against Iran and the pressure from its demanding regional allies. – The National Interest


Pressured by the Trump administration, confronted with Israeli talk of annexing the West Bank, increasingly isolated in the Arab world and running out of money, the beleaguered Palestinian Authority is staring at what its new prime minister acknowledges could be its own demise. – New York Times

Israel expects to launch U.S.-mediated talks within weeks with Lebanon on setting their maritime border, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday, naming a U.N. peacekeeper compound in southern Lebanon as a possible venue. – Reuters

An alleged Israeli airstrike on Syria’s T4 airbase on Sunday night likely took out an advanced weapons system which had been transported from Iran a day earlier, an assessment by ImageSat International (ISI) found on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Even if Iran leaves the 2015 nuclear deal out of anger at the US maximum pressure campaign against it, it may fail to obtain a nuclear bomb, IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Heiman said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday during a conversation with American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO David Harris that “it is unimaginable that any arrangement will be agreed to by the Israelis absent them protecting their own natural security interests. That’s a prerequisite.” – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian labor market in the West Bank was limping along in 2017, with unemployment stubbornly high and economic growth slowing. But that didn’t stop the Palestinian Cabinet from secretly giving itself a series of lavish payouts and perks, highlighted by a 67% salary hike. – Associated Press

Yochanan Visser writes: The Iranians, furthermore, deliberately provoked the Israeli military by launching the two missiles Saturday evening and are increasingly threatening the Jewish state via proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. – Israel National News

Gulf States

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat and a close congressional ally of President Trump are teaming up to try to block 22 arms deals largely benefiting Saudi Arabia, a move that seeks to quash the administration’s attempt to use emergency powers to circumvent congressional objections. – Washington Post

A U.S. aircraft carrier ordered by the White House to rapidly deploy to the Mideast over a perceived threat from Iran remains outside of the Persian Gulf, so far avoiding any confrontation with Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces amid efforts to deescalate tensions between Tehran and Washington. – Military.com

The Trump administration granted two authorizations to U.S. companies to share sensitive nuclear power information with Saudi Arabia shortly after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October, a U.S. senator who saw the approvals said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Raihan Ismail writes: Until MBS’s rise to power, the state responded to dissident clerics such as al-Awdah with a carrot-and-stick approach, at times suppressing the Sahwa, but at others giving them room to air carefully constructed criticism. Now, even clerics who do not comment on political issues, and are perceived as loyalists, have been targeted. – Washington Post

Middle East & North Africa

For nearly two months, this besieged North African capital of more than 1 million people has been ensnared in its worst episode of violence since the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi almost eight years ago. The forces of renegade commander Khalifa Hifter have reached the city’s southern edges and are battling a constellation of militias aligned with a U.N.-backed government. – Washington Post

Baghdad’s Green Zone area, the heavily fortified strip on the west bank of the Tigris River, reopened to the public Tuesday after 16 years — a move meant to portray increased confidence in the country’s overall security situation after years of war. – Associated Press  

Militants launched attacks on a number of security checkpoints in northern Sinai, state television reported on Wednesday, and medics and a security source said at least four people, including one civilian, were killed. – Reuters

Fighters have set fire to thousands of acres of wheat and other crops in northwest Syria in a campaign that has turned food supplies in a “weapon of war” and forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee, the United Nations said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A Syrian official told Russian media that there are no plans for Iran to reduce its troop levels in the country, even if the US and Israel seek to offer Russia a deal. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

Days after this year’s “Mass Games” debuted before North Korea’s top leadership, the huge pageant has been put on hold after leader Kim Jong Un expressed his dissatisfaction, foreign tour groups said on Wednesday. – Reuters

South Korea said Wednesday North Korea has so far ignored its calls for joint efforts to stem the spread of highly contagious African swine fever following an outbreak near North Korea’s border with China. – Associated Press

The North Korean diplomat who South Korea’s largest newspaper said had been executed by firing squad is alive and in state custody, according to several sources familiar with the situation. – CNN


China’s government lashed out Tuesday at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for commemorating the “heroic” protests leading to the violent crackdown at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, warning that its critics would “end up in the ash heap of history.” – Wall Street Journal

A financial-information company partly owned by the news organization Thomson Reuters removed articles related to the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square massacre from the feeds of its data terminals in China last week. The move came under pressure from the Chinese government, Reuters reported Monday. – New York Times

China successfully launched a rocket from a ship at sea for the first time on Wednesday, state media reported, the latest step forward in its ambitious space program. – Reuters

China’s determination to resist U.S. bullying in two years of negotiations to end the Korean War is a reason not to bow to Washington in bitter trade talks, a top Chinese newspaper suggested on Wednesday. – Reuters

A rise in tensions in the Middle East owing to U.S. pressure on Iran is worrying and all parties need to exercise restraint, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian media ahead of a visit to the country. – Reuters

China nominated a former Hong Kong police chief to lead the UN’s drug crimes division, the South China Morning Post reported, the first time it has sought a global post since detaining Interpol’s chief last year. – Bloomberg

Marco Rubio writes: Two decades after its accession to the World Trade Organization, China still uses its intertwined public and private sectors to serve the Communist Party’s mercantilist goals. Many Chinese businesses are listed on U.S. stock exchanges, but Beijing’s intransigence ensures that American investors often don’t get a true picture of those companies’ financial health. – Wall Street Journal

John A. Burtka IV writes: A new report by the bipartisan Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group shows that the most underrepresented electoral constituency is socially conservative and fiscally moderate. If Republicans can speak to this audience by curbing the power of socially progressive corporations and developing a pro-worker economic platform to compete with China, they could build a new majority that might last a generation. Failure to apply fresh thinking to these two issues could mean heading into the political wilderness. – Washington Post

Eli Lake writes: On the 30th anniversary of the Chinese government’s massacre of student protesters at Tiananmen Square, it’s appropriate to look at the extent to which Beijing has tried to spread two separate myths to two separate audiences. It wants its own people to believe it never happened, and it wants the rest of the world to believe that the students had it coming. – Bloomberg

Clay R. Fuller writes: America should build a monument dedicated to the memory of Tiananmen. It should have a characteristically Chinese style because the new statue should ultimately be a gift to the Chinese people when their government is ready to transparently address what happened thirty years ago. America must return to shining the light of opportunity and liberty for all the world to see, lest the darkness of dictatorship — and its associated poverty and war — creeps back over the world. – American Enterprise Institute

Michael Mazza writes: Washington might find itself alone in a boycott of the Olympic games, with Chinese abuses continuing unimpeded. But at the very least, the United States would save itself from complicity in some of the most despicable human-rights violations of the modern era. Importantly, standing on principle, as the United States failed to do in 1989, would convey that human-rights violations stand in the way of a “solid relationship,” which would at least make Beijing consider the impact on bilateral ties of future abuses. It is rare for a notorious human-rights abuser to willingly grant the free world the leverage it needs to hold it to account. We better make the most of it. – The National Interest

Judd Devermont and Catherine Chiang write: There are signs that Beijing plans to use these port investments to increase its military and political reach. The various Chinese entities driving African port development have deep ties to Beijing. At least six of the ports captured within this data were also visited by Chinese naval vessels or are dual-use civilian-military ports. Seven of the eleven ports operated by Chinese entities are deep-water, opening the possibility for larger commercial, but also military, vessels to dock. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Over 18 years, the Taliban’s ideological movement has intertwined with local rivalries, blood feuds and a thriving black market. And it may have seen a divide open up between some young fighters, like Mr. Khan, and the Taliban’s more dogmatic leadership. Signs of that divide emerged during a rare cease-fire last year, where some Taliban fighters openly disobeyed the limitations set by their leaders. – New York Times

More than 180,000 people attended a vigil in Hong Kong to remember victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre 30 years ago, organizers said, equaling the record turnout for the event as locals also voiced anger over a tightening of their own freedoms. – Wall Street Journal

The Australian Federal Police raided the Sydney offices of Australia’s public broadcaster on Wednesday, apparently in connection with an article published in 2017 about Australian special forces being investigated over possible war crimes in Afghanistan. – New York Times

Raging global trade tensions are likely to force some finance leaders from Group of 20 nations meeting in Japan this weekend to issue stark warnings about risks to the world economy, challenging the forum’s more upbeat outlook on global growth. – Reuters

Ray Wong Toi-yeung writes: Back in 2016, a hot topic was what would happen to Hong Kong after 2047, the year that the city’s current, special status is supposed to elapse. Some of us believed then that a referendum could be held under the Basic Law to determine Hong Kong’s future — perhaps even secure its independence from China. Beijing’s actions since then show that there is no chance of this happening. Today, I advocate the release of political prisoners and the full restoration of freedoms already guaranteed by Hong Kong’s existing laws. – New York Times


The United States believes Russia may be more amenable than in the past to addressing U.S. and Israeli concerns about Iran’s influence, including in Syria, when national security leaders meet in Jerusalem this month, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping headed for Russia Wednesday to mark a new era of friendship and reinforce economic ties that had benefited from Moscow’s isolation from the West. – Agence France-Presse

A U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft in international airspace off the coast of Syria was intercepted three times by a Russian jet fighter over three hours on Tuesday, including a high-speed pass that was deemed unsafe and put the plane at risk, the U.S. Sixth Fleet said. – Haaretz


President Trump promised Britain a broad free-trade accord once it leaves the European Union, an offer that would require the U.K. to secure the decisive break with the bloc advocated by prominent Brexit backers in the race to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May. – Wall Street Journal

Tens of thousands of men, women and children, coming from across the Czech Republic, waving flags and carrying signs attacking the government, gathered for what they said was yet another struggle for the soul of their democracy. – New York Times

U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States and Britain could work out any differences over China’s Huawei, dismissing any suggestion that disagreement could threaten intelligence-sharing between the two close allies. – Reuters

The European Commission will launch disciplinary procedures against Italy on Wednesday with a letter stating that Rome’s fiscal policies lack prudence and could expose the nation to a shock loss of market confidence, newspaper La Repubblica said. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said NATO allies had no choice but to increase their military spending, repeating his demand that all those in the alliance meet the target of spending 2% of GDP a year on defense. – Reuters

Facebook on Tuesday said an EU court opinion calling for it to seek out content deemed illegal by a local court on its platform undermined free speech across borders. – Reuters

China’s crackdown on dissidents exactly 30 years ago serves as a warning for Europeans to cherish and defend their democracies in the face of populism, European Union President Donald Tusk said. – Bloomberg

Jennifer S. Bryson writes: To counter a wider spread of Islamist anti-Semitism among the Muslim population living in Germany, to start with as wide a public as possible needs to be made aware of this issue. Especially those who have professional contact with Muslims with an immigrant background or refugees need to be prepared for the potential presence of such thinking. These include, among others, teachers, social workers, police, as well as staff at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the corresponding state offices. – Hudson Institute


Paramilitary troops surrounded the sit-in protest site that had been the heart of a pro-democracy uprising in Sudan’s capital Tuesday, a day after an explosion of violence thrust the country’s political future into even greater turmoil. – Washington Post

The South African economy shrank sharply early this year, underscoring the steep challenges facing South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as he embarks on his new term. – Wall Street Journal

A day after security forces violently cleared the main protest camp in Khartoum, the leaders of Sudan’s protest movement rejected a plan by the nation’s military leaders to hold elections within nine months. The protesters vowed instead to push ahead with an open-ended civil disobedience campaign to force the military from power. – New York Times

In April, the dictator who ruled Sudan for 30 years was toppled, after months of pro-democracy protests and the decision of career generals to heed demonstrators’ demands and oust him. […]Here is how Sudan, after three decades in the grip of one man, became caught in a crisis between civilian revolutionaries, hardened generals and a fractious network of paramilitary groups and militias. – New York Times

The number of people killed since security forces stormed a protest camp outside Sudan’s Defence Ministry in central Khartoum two days ago has risen significantly to 60, a doctors group linked to the opposition said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Latin America

The Kremlin on Tuesday denied having told the United States that it was pulling personnel out of Venezuela, contradicting a Twitter posting a day earlier by President Trump. – Washington Post

American cruise ships will be barred from going to Cuba under strict travel restrictions rolled out Tuesday by the Trump administration, as it ratchets up pressure on Havana to abandon its support of Venezuela’s beleaguered government. – Wall Street Journal

China will work with the international community to play a constructive role with Venezuela and help the country to get back on a normal development path as soon as possible, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian media. – Reuters

Ryan C. Berg and Thiago de Aragão write: Venezuela’s transition was never going to be an organized affair, but Guaidó and U.S. policymakers would do well to study the motivations of the Venezuelan military when reconsidering their flawed strategy to negotiate with the Maduro regime. – Washington Examiner


The House Armed Services Committee wants to fence off about 15 percent of the Navy’s funding for its advanced at-sea network until the service answers questions about the program’s cybersecurity. – Fifth Domain

On May 20, 2019, an anti-Jewish thread was posted on the imaging board 8chan, titled “I’m done. I’m angry. Gas all kikes.” The post, which was uploaded to the page “/pol/ – Politically Incorrect,” is another example of the hate speech and calls to action, namely to attack and kill Jews, on this platform. […]The following is an examination of the anti-Jewish thread on 8chan posted May 20, 2019 that specifically targeted a Jewish journalist. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: Senators on the Commerce Committee have been insisting for months that a bill is coming soon that would end the unfair and non-transparent exploitation of personal information. They should stop stalling now and prove that Congress not only thinks the Internet is broken but also has the wherewithal to start fixing it. – Washington Post


The Air Force general nominated by President Trump to head the new U.S. Space Command said Tuesday that increasing competition with China and Russia is raising the stakes over the use of intelligence and weapons orbiting the globe. – Wall Street Journal

The state of the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B Lancer fleet is bad — really bad — and lawmakers on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee want the service to come up with a plan to fix the problem. – Defense News

The Army will field a hypersonic weapon and a directed energy weapon in less than four years and the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) is leading the charge, according to its director. – Defense News

Throughout the hearing, Raymond hit the usual talking points about the changing realm of space operations — that it is becoming a contested “war-fighting domain” and that improved relationships with international partners and across agencies will be critical for adjusting to the heightened threats posed by Russia and China. But in answers to written questions posed by lawmakers, Raymond — who currently leads Air Force Space Command — spelled out new details on what the first months and years of U.S. Space Command could look like. – Defense News

The U.S. Space Force will incorporate National Guard units that already have a space-related mission, according to the head of Air Force Space Command. – Military.com

The question of whether to authorize the Navy to deploy ballistic submarines with low-yield nuclear warheads caused a House Armed Services subcommittee to approve its Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorize Act mark on a rare party-line vote. – USNI News

The Army general in charge of long-range hypersonic weapons said Tuesday that the service hopes to select a commercial firm to build prototypes of the advanced strategic weapon by late summer. – Military.com

Long War

Now Morton and Silber are launching part of the effort to counter extremist propaganda online with a new magazine called Ahul-Taqwa, Arabic for People of Consciousness. […]The goal is to challenge the jihadist narrative spread via online outlets and to combat the migration of extremists to encrypted platforms. – Washington Post

The F.B.I., which had been investigating the 20-year-old Mr. Reed for about four months, weighed charging him. But federal prosecutors were concerned that the threat was too vague, so the F.B.I. quickly passed the case on to local law enforcement officials, who thought they could build a case under state law. In early December, a detective from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office arrested Mr. Reed. He pleaded guilty in May to making bomb threats and was sentenced on Tuesday to a year in jail. – New York Times

In an article on the Saudi liberal website Elaph, Kurdish Iraqi author and political analyst Kifah Mahmoud Karim, who was an advisor to former Kurdistan president Mas’oud Barzani, praised the Kurdish forces that recently managed to capture ISIS’s last stronghold in Syria with the help of the U.S.-led coalition. He added, however, that defeating ISIS on the ground is not enough. […]In order to fully eradicate ISIS, he said, it is necessary to “purge minds of the germs of these ideas before they grow and spread,” by examining the curricula in all educational institutions and by separating religion from politics. The following are excerpts from his article. – Middle East Media Research Institute