Fdd's overnight brief

June 5, 2020

In The News


Iran released U.S. Navy veteran Michael White after nearly two years in custody on Thursday as part of a prisoner deal negotiated with Iran, a U.S. official and others involved in the exchange said. – Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump voiced hope for progress with arch-rival Iran on Thursday after the clerical regime released a US Navy veteran and the United States freed two Iranians. – Agence France-Presse

Retired Navy veteran Michael White, who was incarcerated in Iran for approximately two years, issued high praises for President Trump after his release. – Washington Examiner

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday reiterated his demands for Iran to release French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, whom Iran has sentenced to six years in prison on national security charges. – Reuters 

Switzerland confirmed its role on Thursday in the “humanitarian gesture” that led to the release of two detainees, American Michael White and Iranian Majid Taheri, saying it stood ready for “further facilitation” as a neutral intermediary. – Reuters 

The head of Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency has been convicted over publishing an article that quotes a former ambassador criticizing Tehran’s “arbitrary” intelligence operations in Europe, a journalism watchdog group said Friday. – Associated Press

Russia is defending Iran’s right to launch a satellite, dismissing U.S. claims that Tehran was defying the U.N. resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers by sending it into space. – Associated Press

For the Islamic republic, it was a mission fraught with risk: send five Iranian-flagged fuel tankers through some of the world’s most crucial maritime gateways to cash-strapped Venezuela without being stopped by the Americans. – Financial Times 

Seth J. Frantzman writes:  Iran’s goal is to show that it can also openly trade with Turkey and Iraq and thus show that even among US partners and allies, the Iranians will run circles around American sanctions. This is Tehran’s goal. Whether it will work is unclear, but news from Iraq, Turkey and Venezuela shows Iranian short-term victories. – Jerusalem Post 

Moises Rendon, Antonio De La Cruz, and Claudia Fernandez write: Iran and Venezuela are still cooperating much less than they did during Chávez years. […]The countries’ efforts to revive Venezuela’s refineries, moreover, will hinge primarily on their ability to carry out technical upgrades without delays, corruption, and mismanagement. As the countries’ long list of failed partnerships indicates, that is unlikely. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Zvi Bar’el writes: The practical test will lie in what Iran does on the ground. The assumption is that Iran is not seeking a military confrontation with the United States, but isolated attacks by pro-Iranian militias in Iraq against American targets, or attacks on vessels in the Persian Gulf could lead Iran onto a lethal path in which the presidential race could dictate the extent of escalation. – Haaretz


At least nine people were killed in alleged Israeli airstrikes targeted Syrian defense factories near the city of Masyaf in northwest Syria on Thursday night, according to Syrian reports. – Jerusalem Post

Although Turkey parades its incursion in Libya as a successful military operation and a demonstration of Turkish military might, sources reveal the ugly underside of this bright picture: Turkey fails to keep promises given to its Syrian proxies, leading to mass defections in their ranks. – Jerusalem Post 

A Syrian court has ordered that Syriatel, owned by prominent businessman Rami Makhlouf, be placed under judicial custody amid a high-profile dispute over arrears, according to a document posted on the court’s Facebook page. – Reuters 

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday denied key details in an investigative report in the Haaretz daily about a cross-border raid into Syria last year in which at least one Syrian national was killed. – Times of Israel

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Russia may be pushing for more space in eastern Syria to challenge the US during the pandemic and protests that have affected Washington. In addition, Russia may be challenged in Idlib by Syrian rebel groups.This long front line for the Russians has led to several different crises. Russia thrives on crises because it means all the countries in the region must work with Russia to solve them. – Jerusalem Post

Dania Koleilat Khatib writes: At the end of this process, which is likely to take five years, Syrians will be able to make informed decisions about the future of Syria. This transition will create the space for new local political figures to emerge. When the country is rebuilt, civil society is nurtured, and national reconciliation is conducted, free elections can be held. The elected Parliament can then draft a constitution that is inclusive and representative of the true aspirations of the Syrian people. – Middle East Institute


Turkey’s parliament on Thursday stripped three opposition party deputies of their legislative seats, setting off a raucous protest inside the assembly hall by colleagues who accused the ruling party of an assault on democracy. – Associated Press

Turkey’s government plans to give new powers to a 28,000-strong auxiliary police force, raising concerns that it’s being groomed to show allegiance to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and not the state. – Bloomberg 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Turkey’s ruling party has sought to exploit the US protests by both supporting them and trying to portray themselves as close to US President Donald Trump by condemning “Antifa.” […]In short, Turkey accuses the US of supporting terrorists and of being a racist and fascist country, while it also claims to support US efforts against “Antifa” as a way to link Antifa to the YPG to try to get the US to stop its work in eastern Syria against ISIS so that Turkey can continue its operations against the Kurdish minority in eastern Syria. – Jerusalem Post 

Selim Koru writes: In this turbulent new environment, Erdoğan might give in to the temptation to take a more activist approach towards the problem of the 30 million. […]If this should happen, politics would be an uneven contest between Islamist, pan-Turkic, and secularist hues of Turkish nationalism. Far off, in the back streets of the big cities and in the Kurdish provinces, in second-hand bookshops and hidden corners of the internet, there would be a progressive left, weathering out what is surely going to be a violent storm. – War on the Rocks 

Magnus Norell writes: As such, Erdogan likely sees parties like ‘Nyans’ as an effective way to influence European countries via political proxies that retain close ties to Turkey. This doesn’t mean that the parties don’t have legitimate issues to pursue or real questions that need to be addressed. Apart from issues of discrimination (real or imagined), issues of segregation and lack of integration in parties are legitimate points of debate in Swedish politics. – Washington Institute 

Burak Bekdil writes: Turks are not inherently masochistic. There must therefore be an alternative explanation for their persistent refusal to look squarely at the gaps and illogic in their version of the historical timeline. The Arabs allied with Western powers as they revolted against Ottoman Turkey. The Palestinians, whom Erdogan claims to support unreservedly, supported both the Armenians and the Kurds in their efforts to kill Turkish citizens. The Palestinian cause aims to annihilate Israel, a country that was once Turkey’s strategic ally. – Algemeiner


The shooting has drawn comparisons to the death of George Floyd in the U.S. and prompted a series of small demonstrations against police violence toward Palestinians. The calls for justice have crossed Jewish-Arab lines, a rarity in this deeply polarized society. – Associated Press

Yesha Council chairman David Elhayani refused to apologize on Thursday for saying US President Donald Trump is “not a friend of Israel,” even though in doing so, he ruffled feathers from Jerusalem to Washington. – Jerusalem Post

Lahav Harkov writes: Regardless of whether those ideas pan out, Israel has some reliable friends in the EU that can block major sanctions. But it’s worth keeping in mind that they’re in the minority and can’t promise Israel and Europe’s material ties will remain unscathed. – Jerusalem Post

Jibril Rajoub, a senior official with the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction, on Thursday called for peaceful protests in the West Bank in response to Israel’s intention to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke out Thursday against Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank, saying it would damage American interests in the Middle East. – Times of Israel

An early ally of Nelson Mandela, journalist and author Benjamin Pogrund was among the first Jews to fight the South African apartheid regime. […]But if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with his plan to unilaterally annex large parts of the West Bank, apparently without offering Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians who live in these areas, Israel will indeed turn into an apartheid state, Pogrund warned. – Times of Israel

Sergey Lavrov and Sameh Shoukry, the foreign ministers of Russia and Egypt, respectively, warned Israel against unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank, according to statements issued after a Wednesday phone call. – Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh attacked Israel on Thursday and tried to tie the tax money it collects on behalf of the PA to political positions and as a condition for renewing PA-Israel security coordination. – Arutz Sheva

Editorial: Elhayani, Dagan and their followers do not have to like the plan or even support it. They should also continue to criticize its substance if they believe that is right. But they should also be careful to not do what Abba Eban famously said about the Arabs who “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Don’t be the same. – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: That is not to say that China’s actions during the coronavirus crisis have not given pause to its previous Israeli supporters – they absolutely have given even strong supporters second thoughts. But unless Trump conditions Putin’s joining the elite Western club on Moscow shifting its attitude to Iran and in Syria, the only way to view this new initiative is from the perspective of damage control. – Jerusalem Post

Yossi Melman writes:  Netanyahu also remembers how Yitzhak Shamir’s government fell in wake of the first intifada. But today’s Netanyahu is different: more messianic, more anxious, more sure of himself, more eager to go down in history as the one who established “Greater Israel.” If this is really his position, he will also ignore the fact that Israel is in the grips of a major economic crisis and that annexation would mean realizing Yasser Arafat’s dream of one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. – Haaretz

Amos Yadlin writes: And in any event, even if there were no costs for the annexation process, such a move is blatantly anti-Zionist and will prevent the possibility of future separation from the Palestinians while safeguarding Israel as a Jewish, democratic, secure and moral state. – Ynet


Other than schools, Ma’aleh Efraim no longer provides any special services to the surrounding communities. Even the area’s largest supermarket is at the Fatsa’el junction. Many Jordan Valley residents prefer to go to Beit She’an or Jerusalem for their errands, leaving Ma’aleh Efraim as just another settlement on the hill. – Haaretz

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Thursday warned against Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, saying the move would lead to “confrontation, anarchy and hopelessness.” – Times of Israel

A source close to King Abdullah II of Jordan made clear on Thursday that “contrary to the impression that emerges from his statements, Abdullah will not cancel the peace agreement with Israel.” – Arutz Sheva

Allison Jacobs Anderson writes: In sum, creating the necessary conditions for economic prosperity and broader participation by women takes time. USAID’s long-term commitment to Jordan is commendable and should be maintained, but with the necessary strategic adjustments to maximize its impact. – Washington Institute

Gulf States

Women in Yemen are already dying in childbirth and thousands more will be put at risk as U.N. funding cuts force reproductive health services to close, doctors and aid workers have warned. – Reuters 

An Alaska man accused of laundering $1 billion held in South Korea for Iran funneled nearly all the money through the United Arab Emirates, U.S. federal court documents released early Thursday show. – Associated Press

Simone Foxman writes: Qatar is one of the world’s wealthiest nations, and its economy has proved resilient. Because the country has opened shipping corridors, sales of gas and oil have continued uninterrupted. Saudi Arabia shocked Qatar by closing its only land border, halting shipments of food. […]The country remains on good terms with the U.S., which bases thousands of troops and a regional air operations center there. – Washington Post


The forces of the military leader Khalifa Hifter on Thursday retreated from their last footholds in the suburbs of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, ending his 15-month-old campaign to capture the city. – New York Times 

The U.S. ambassador to Libya said on Thursday his country was concerned by a Russian military build-up in the North African state that could prompt Turkey to send in F-16 jets, but there’s a window for peace. – Bloomberg 

Libya’s internationally recognized government said on Friday it had taken the remaining stronghold of Khalifa Haftar in western Libya, after a Turkish military intervention pushed back an offensive by the rival commander to capture the capital. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

The Tunisian Central Bank said on Thursday it would allow locally based firms to borrow from abroad in foreign currencies as part of plans to help them weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters 

Algeria faces one of the biggest fiscal crises of any oil producer as a result of slumping energy prices, but after major political protests last year the government is trying to avoid big spending cuts that could stoke more dissent. – Reuters

The Facebook accounts of several high-profile bloggers and activists in Tunisia were among those deactivated without warning over the weekend. – The Guardian 

Covid-19 has killed around 700 people in Algeria, says the government, but the real toll is surely higher. The pandemic has also crippled the country’s economy. […]With the country locked down to prevent its spread, protesters have been forced off the streets. Hundreds of thousands of them had been marching for over a year, even after toppling the previous president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in April 2019. Their work was unfinished: many of the old economic, political and military elite remained in power. The nature of the system had not changed. Now the protesters must decide how and when to try to finish the job. – The Economist 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: According to reports in Al-Ain media in the Gulf, which opposes Turkey’s role in the region, Ghannouchi has been favoring Ankara and seeking to support Turkey’s role in Libya. This appears to contradict his role as speaker, because he is not the head of state. Tunisians don’t want the speaker taking sides in Libya. […]The focus on Tunisia, by both Ankara and Abu Dhabi, would seem to indicate that what comes next is part of a larger regional struggle – and that it may impact Libya as well. – Jerusalem Post 

Steven A. Cook writes: It used to be that my interlocutors in the Middle East told me that they were outraged about America’s conduct in the region but they loved the United States for its principles, its ideals, and its institutions. I don’t hear that anymore. So, yes, there are differences in the protests but not as many as Americans like to tell themselves. – Foreign Policy

Nimrod Goren writes: Restarting the peace process – not annexation in the West Bank – should be the top priority of Israel’s new government, and the Mediterranean lens can enable fresh thinking and ideas on how to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza, reestablish a unified political structure that connects the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and leverage the EMGF to becoming a regional mechanism that also produces positive incentives for Israeli-Palestinian peace and contributes to conflict resolution in the region. – Jerusalem Post 

Daniel N. Hoffman writes: Having secured an expansive base of domestic support, Mr. al-Kadhimi is poised to demonstrate Iraq has the full power of governing over itself. Now is a most propitious time for the U.S. to renew its commitment to Iraq and its promising new leadership. – Washington Times

Korean Peninsula

North Korea lashed out at both Seoul and Washington on Thursday, threatening to scrap key parts of agreements with South Korea and comparing the United States to a setting sun being eclipsed by China. – New York Times 

North Korea is conducting a wide-ranging malicious campaign against the U.S. and global targets, according to several reports. Last month, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI and the Department of Defense released three reports on malware variants used by the North Korean government. – Fox News 

Donald Kirk writes: But Kim’s obvious objective would be to take the subs and their deadly arsenal far outside his own waters, and far closer to the United States in what could become an extremely dangerous game of cat and mouse for American defenses. As eager as Kim might be to order another missile test, the most recent Workers’ Party meeting was also about morale-boosting. – The Daily Beast


The Trump administration is weighing placing new requirements on a second tranche of Chinese state-controlled media outlets, in a move that would extend a battle with Beijing that has seen reporters expelled by both countries. – Wall Street Journal

China made a rare concession in the face of U.S. pressure on Thursday by agreeing to allow U.S. and other foreign airlines to restore some China routes, less than 24 hours after the Trump administration had threatened to bar Chinese airlines from the U.S. – Wall Street Journal 

Computer chips are the quintessential high-tech industry and a symbol of American scientific ingenuity. Chip makers have also found themselves at the heart of the U.S.-China rivalry: both nations want to dominate the industry of the future—and exclude the other. – Wall Street Journal 

China has been flexing its geopolitical muscles as countries around the world grapple with the coronavirus pandemic — a reflection of Beijing’s belief that “China’s time has come,” a former U.S. diplomat said on Thursday. – CNBC 

China’s online grocery firm Dada Nexus Ltd DADA.O is looking to increase the size of its U.S. initial public offering (IPO) by more than a quarter, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday, as investors brushed off concerns about the auditing standards of Chinese companies pursuing U.S. listings. – Reuters  

A group of senior lawmakers from eight democracies including the U.S. have launched a new cross-parliamentary alliance to help counter what they say is the threat China’s growing influence poses to global trade, security and human rights. – Bloomberg 

Vijay Gokhale writes: “Sit tight in the fishing boat,” a famous Chinese saying goes, “despite the rising wind and waves.” China, we can be assured, intends to ride out the storm. And if the West can’t recover its faith in the universal power of democracy — from India to Indonesia, Ghana to Uruguay — China could then take the world, as it is. – New York Times 

Erin Baggott Carter and Brett Carter write: In our statistical analysis, we have found that the government represses protests that take place on anniversaries of pro-democracy movements twice as often as protests held on other days. The legacy of Tiananmen, like that of other protests before it and since, lives on. Contestation persists in mainland China, if cautiously and in code. – New York Times

Josh Rogin writes: The biggest difference between 1989 and now is that, back then, the Chinese government could cover up the truth. Today in Hong Kong, everyone can see the tragedy unfolding. For the sake of our values and their freedom, we cannot afford to let Beijing get away with it again. – Washington Post

Kris Osborn writes:  For years, the Chinese have been making progress with a large number of Space warfare technologies. There are several substantial tactical prospects to be considered here, the first and foremost perhaps being missile defense applications such as space-based infrared sensors designed to detect the heat signature of an enemy missile launch. – The National Interest 

Joseph Torigian writes: The meaning of June 4 this year is particularly strong. […]As protests in Hong Kong and the United States persist, people are struggling to draw lessons on what they will ultimately mean. But for the most powerful man in China, Tiananmen already determined his views on such events. They are dangerous, chaotic threats that must be prevented with propaganda and solved with violence. Doubters must toe the party line and recognize that only the party and communism can save China. – Foreign Policy

Dan Blumenthal writes: Elites in China were already frustrated with Xi’s internal and foreign overreach, which they argue caused the United States to impose tariffs, support Taiwan, and increase pushback in the South China Sea. Worrisomely, Xi’s foreign policy will likely become more aggressive as he looks for victories abroad, though a serious internal political fracturing could send China’s foreign policy in unknown directions. – Foreign Policy

Arthur Herman writes: Whether they are right or not, depends on how quickly we get our economy back on its feet — and how robustly we respond to Beijing’s macroaggressions around the world. Right now, getting America back to work isn’t just good economics; it’s going to be vital to the survival of freedom around the world. – Fox News 

Michael Dahm writes: China’s strategy for the use of AI technology is evolving from their interpretation of the character of war and is ultimately an extension of the PLA’s informationized warfare concepts.  While there is certainly overlap with U.S. military thinking on the use of AI, Chinese military scholars appear to be reaching different conclusions. […]In developing strategies to counter Chinese military capabilities, the Pentagon should pay close attention to the PLA’s evolving warfighting concepts and views on AI in future combat. – War on the Rocks 

Dan Blumenthal and Nicolas Eberstadt write: If the current arrangements were overwhelmingly disadvantageous for the U.S., it would be a straightforward matter (albeit painful and unpleasant) just to end them. But this is not the case. Instead we find ourselves in a tableau mainly painted in shades of gray. Careful discrimination and informed judgment will be required to determine whether each of the myriad cords that bind us to China today is actually in the American interest. For each of these cords, domestic U.S. constituencies will be at the ready to make the case that their particular relationship really is. – National Review Institute

South Asia

Last month saw several face-offs between the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), their long-disputed shared border, high in the Himalayas. While the entanglement in North Sikkim was resolved locally, within the framework of mutually agreed-upon protocols, the ones in Eastern Ladakh have lingered, giving rise to speculation about China’s intentions. – CNN 

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Thursday for a bomb attack inside a mosque in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed two people, including the prayer leader, and wounded eight others. – Associated Press 

Archana Chaudhary writes: India must be careful how far it pushes. The government changed rules to allow hydroxychloroquine exports to the U.S. at Trump’s request last month, yet two-thirds of India’s bulk drugs and drug intermediates come from China. There are similar levels of dependency from electronics to auto parts. Chinese investments of more than $8 billion have been made in India, mostly in finance and technology startups. – Bloomberg


Hong Kong has become a key flashpoint in what some see as an emerging cold war between the U.S. and China. […]The Trump administration has threatened retaliation, saying the move means Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to merit special treatment on trade and other cooperative endeavors. – Wall Street Journal 

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is expected to sign sweeping antiterrorism legislation that critics said on Thursday would allow the authorities to classify government opponents as terrorists and detain people for critical social media posts. – New York Times

Chanting slogans like “Liberate Hong Kong,” thousands of people in Hong Kong flouted a police ban on Thursday as they gathered to memorialize the Tiananmen Square massacre, a striking display of defiance against Beijing’s tightening grip on the territory. – New York Times

Less than a year later, with the world’s attention captured by images of U.S. authorities using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to crack down on protesters against racism and police brutality, China and other U.S. rivals have seized the opportunity to highlight U.S. domestic turbulence and accuse Washington of hewing to double standards. – Washington Post

Thousands gathered in Australia’s capital on Friday to remind Australians that the racial inequality underscored by George Floyd’s death was not unique to the United States. – Associated Press

Activists in Canada say at least 50 former Hong Kong protesters lodged asylum applications before the coronavirus pandemic ended most international travel. […]The current trickle could become an exodus after Beijing announced plans to impose a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong in response to the protests. – Agence France-Presse 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte renewed on Friday a threat to kill drug dealers after police seized 756 kg (1,667 lb) of methamphetamines, a haul he said proved the Southeast Asian country had become a transhipment point for narcotics. – Reuters 

Japan’s largest advertising agency, Dentsu Group Corp, has evacuated its Tokyo headquarters after receiving a bomb threat, an internal company email reviewed by Reuters showed on Friday. – Reuters 

Unknown gunmen abducted a Thai political activist in Cambodia, rights advocates said on Friday, in the latest in a series of mysterious disappearances of Southeast Asian dissidents living in exile. – Reuters 

A U.S. warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Thursday, the U.S. and Taiwanese militaries said, on the same day as the 31st anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square. – Reuters 

Armenia plans to start production of Russian AK-103 Kalashnikov rifles during the first ten days of July, the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The U.S. should not revoke Hong Kong’s special status because it would lose its bargaining power, which stems from its status as a financial hub, said publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai — one of the city’s most prominent democracy activists. – CNBC

Democratic senators expressed concerns Thursday that the use of police force against protestors across the nation would undermine U.S. efforts to fight China’s attacks on Hong Kong’s autonomy. – The Hill 

Australia will implement a tough new screening regime on foreign investors seeking to buy sensitive assets, as it bids to bolster national security amid a diplomatic row with China. – Bloomberg 


Smarting over decades of American criticism of its human rights record, Russia is now getting some payback. – New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has declared a state of emergency in a region in northern Siberia after a huge oil spill turned a river crimson and threatened to inflict significant damage to the Arctic environment. – New York Times

In Russia’s push to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, researchers have tested formulas on themselves, members of the military have been selected for trials and some officials are claiming that a breakthrough could be just months away. – Washington Post 

The Russian energy ministry said a video conference of a group of leading oil producers, known as OPEC+, would be held on Saturday. – Reuters 

A group of bipartisan senators has submitted legislation to stop Russia from completing a controversial undersea natural-gas pipeline to Germany. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Zachery Tyson Brown writes: As Putin works to crystalize Russia’s autumnal autocracy, the United States is flirting with its own. Where once Moscow sought to emulate the West, it is now Americans who are building a pastiche version of Putinism, complete with rampant cronyism and Soviet-style “alternative facts.” In hindsight, it should not have come as such a surprise that Russia’s current crop of cultural appropriators turned the West’s most recently successful weapons—the free market and advertising—against it. Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear. – Foreign Policy

Leonid Gozman writes: Many scenarios are possible: Putin could use the failures as an excuse to clean house or to quash dissent, pushing Russia back to a fully totalitarian state. […]His lack of action and silence during the first stage of the epidemic (reminiscent of Joseph Stalin’s behavior during the first days of World War II) has prompted many to accuse him of cowardice. The magic may finally have disappeared from Putin’s rule. – Foreign Policy


Europe, so often derided as lumbering and divided, seems to be finding its voice in the pandemic. – New York Times

Britain is rethinking its cautious welcome of Huawei Technologies Co. into the country’s fifth-generation mobile networks. Walking away from the Chinese technology giant won’t be easy, or cheap. – Bloomberg

The latest round of talks between the U.K. and European Union over their future relationship is set to finish without agreement, with both sides stuck after a week of making little progress. – Bloomberg  

London and Brussels are embroiled in a new Brexit row over up to €300 million in U.K. contributions to the EU’s emergency coronavirus fund. – Politico  

Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing goes on trial in Stockholm on Friday accused of overstepping her mandate by trying to negotiate the release of a Chinese-Swedish dissident held in China. – Agence France-Presse 

The protests in the United States against racism and police violence have inspired similar demonstrations across the Atlantic, from Amsterdam to London to Paris and Marseille. – NPR

An audit of thousands of old case files by Ukrainian prosecutors found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Hunter Biden, the former prosecutor general, who had launched the audit, told Reuters. – Reuters

An Italian judge ordered police to seize the headquarters of a far-right group in central Rome, authorities said on Thursday in a move hailed as a victory by the city’s mayor Virgina Raggi from the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement. – Reuters 

Navies from 19 NATO members and partners are slated to kick off the 2020 iteration of the “Baltic Operations” exercise on Friday, which this year excludes any amphibious drills to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus between ships and land. – Defense News 

Italy and France are to fund half the cost of new cutting-edge technology projects launched by Naviris, the joint venture between the countries’ leading shipyards. – Defense News  

Emil Avdaliani writes: This Kyiv-based quadrilateral has somewhat revived in recent years, and is focusing on regional connectivity — for similar reasons. As Western friends of the region have long argued, more options for the countries around the Black Sea in transport, energy, and other links help dissipate the lasting “all roads lead to Moscow” legacy of Soviet rule. –  Center for European Policy Analysis 

Jonathan Hibberd writes: Substantial Hungarian minorities, like any others in modern Europe, should have the right to use their mother tongue in education and public as well as private life. But it is perhaps worth noting that the most successful examples of minority provision and/or autonomy (Swedes in Finland, Italians in Switzerland, Austrians in Italy) are those not based on any outside interference. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) board on Thursday said it stood by an internal investigation that had cleared its president of improper conduct, but it would carry out an independent review of the report in the interest of due process. – Reuters 

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a South Africa leader who was actively involved in the struggle to end apartheid in her home country and is now an Under Secretary General of the United Nations, spoke with CBS News’ Pamela Falk from Johannesburg, and shared her thoughts about the George Floyd protests and where they might lead. – CBS News 

The killing of an unarmed African-American by a Minneapolis police officer and resulting civil upheaval have set back U.S. efforts to strengthen its tenuous relationship with Africa and counter China’s growing influence. – Bloomberg  

An El Al plane flying from Argentina crossed through Sudan’s airspace on Thursday, the first Israeli airliner to do so, in another sign of warming ties between the Jewish state and the Arab African country, which had long been hostile to Israel. – Times of Israel

The Americas

World Health Organization officials who praised China’s transparency regarding the novel coronavirus could face the klieg lights in an international investigation into the mishandling of the pandemic, despite Beijing’s attempt to shape the investigation. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. will not likely want to “break” its so-called phase one trade deal with China, even though tensions between the two countries have escalated in recent weeks, a Morgan Stanley economist said on Friday. – CNBC

Top U.S. health officials said they are still working closely with the World Health Organization even after President Donald Trump said last week he planned to terminate the U.S. relationship with the group for being too deferential to China. – Bloomberg 

Peter Navarro writes: It is time for the American people to understand the broader international environment and strategic competition that threatens to erode their freedoms and destroy upward mobility. Together, we must succeed in becoming too prosperous to hate. With such success, the strength of our democracy and economy will remain beacons to the world. – Wall Street Journal 

Keith Johnson writes: U.S. rivals, meanwhile, are rejoicing. […]China has gleefully used U.S. racial tensions, protests, and violent crackdowns to push back against U.S. criticism. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman offered sympathy to Americans standing up to “state oppression.” Even Venezuela is piling on. – Foreign Policy 

Margarita R. Seminario and Claudia Fernandez write: By cracking down on the press, some Latin American governments are making Covid-19 even more dangerous. […]Moreover, by corroding press freedoms and intimidating journalists, the regime has forced the public to rely on social media, and on apps like WhatsApp, for news. This has fostered a culture in which fake news and disinformation spreads faster than the virus itself. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  


Chinese and Iranian government hackers have targeted the Gmail accounts of staffers working on the presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and President Trump, respectively, Google announced Thursday. – Washington Post 

As the coronavirus pandemic is reshaping the business world and boosting online retailers and streaming services, another corner of the digital economy is thriving at least as much: cybersecurity. – Bloomberg 

A group of hackers with a history of targeting health-care organizations executed a successful ransomware attack this week on the University of California, San Francisco. – Bloomberg  

Disagreements over China’s Huawei Technologies do not pose a threat to intelligence-sharing ties between Britain and its allies, the head of the UK’s GCHQ spy agency said in an interview released on Thursday. – Reuters  

Britain’s first dedicated cyber regiment has been officially established as part of the Army’s drive to modernize its response to the growing digital threat posed by potential adversaries. – C4ISRNET 

Facebook took steps Thursday to reduce the role of state-backed media outlets from Russia and China on its global platform amid controversy over how the social networking giant handled recent posts from Donald Trump. – Politico  

One of U.S. Cyber Command’s major programs, Unified Platform, is expected to cost five times more than military officials originally estimated, according to a report from Congress’ watchdog agency. – Fifth Domain


Tensions between President Trump and U.S. military leaders have escalated over the handling of protests, culminating in officials reminding troops about their oath to the Constitution. – Washington Examiner

President Trump has indicated he is backing down on threats to deploy federal troops to states that refuse to use the military to put down violent protesters but not before taking criticism from current and past defense officials who openly broke with his position. – Washington Examiner

Several hundred active-duty U.S. troops on standby to deal with protests in the Washington, D.C., area will redeploy back home on Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s orders, two defense officials told Foreign Policy, coming just one day after the Pentagon chief reversed a decision to send the unit home. – Foreign Policy 

It has been eight years since the U.S. Air Force canceled its effort to field a successor to the MQ-9 Reaper, but it appears the service might take another swing at developing a new combat drone. – Defense News  

The Senate’s top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, is co-sponsoring legislation meant to prevent the Trump administration from restarting explosive nuclear weapons testing. – Defense News 

Soldiers assessing aerial drones to help the Army replace its aging RQ-7 Shadow said the systems they’ve piloted can launch almost anywhere, offer a better chance of survival in combat against a peer adversary and have quieter motors that will prevent targets from detecting their presence. – Army Times 

The Navy and the Department of Defense haven’t finished their homework needed to inform how the Navy builds its future fleet, a panel of naval experts told a House panel on Thursday. – USNI News 

The Marine Corps is starting to form and experiment with the littoral regiment at the heart of its modern-day island-hopping strategy, the head of Marine Corps combat development told USNI News. – USNI News 

Jim Golby and Peter Feaver write: When the crisis is a political one rather than a national security one, public confidence in the military may be a “use it and lose it” proposition. Moreover, the consequences of lost trust in amidst the volatility of the current crisis could be far more consequential for the military — and the nation — than bad poll numbers. – War on the Rocks 

Benjamin Jensen and Matthew Van Echo write: The idea was not to go to war with China, America’s third-largest trading partner. The idea was to explore coercion and setting conditions in a theater of operation in a manner that provided multiple credible and flexible deterrence and military response options to national decision-makers. As a result, students gained a better understanding of new concepts like the competition continuum and were able to evaluate them in relation to a larger body of literature on coercion, military power, and crisis management. – War on the Rocks

Missile Defense

The Pentagon is moving too slowly to spend money it’s been allocated to battle the coronavirus pandemic and is devoting millions of dollars to expenses that are not virus related, according to critics and a copy of the spending plans obtained by The Washington Post. – Washington Post 

In what has the back and forth of a 1980s “will they or won’t they” comedy, the U.S. Army has now announced it will conduct testing of two Iron Dome batteries on American soil. This is after reports circulated earlier this year that the Army had reservations about using the Israeli-built platform. – The National Interest 

The Senate’s top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, is co-sponsoring legislation meant to prevent the Trump administration from restarting explosive nuclear weapons testing. – Defense News 

Robert Soofer writes: At the end of the day, the question we must ask ourselves is whether the U.S. homeland is safer with or without a layered missile defense system designed to counter an ICBM arsenal under the “control” of an unstable, rogue adversary. Since there is only one real choice, it is critical for the United States to stay ahead of current and future threats, which multiply in scope and complexity each year. With the support of Congress, we can meet this challenge. – The Hill 

Long War

A military judge ruled on Thursday that war court judges have the power to reduce the prison sentence of a Qaeda operative at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as a remedy for torture by the C.I.A. – New York Times  

Overall violence in Afghanistan has abated somewhat as large numbers of both Taliban and Afghan national forces have continued to informally observe a cease-fire called during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marked the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan in late May. – Foreign Policy 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the coronavirus pandemic has compounded the “dire humanitarian and security situations” in Mali and Africa’s Sahel region. […]Guterres said terrorist attacks against civilians, Malian and international forces are continuing in northern and central Mali, posing the most significant security threat in the north. He said clashes between al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have also been reported. – Associated Press

An unprovoked stabbing attack of a New York Police Department officer that ended with two other officers with gunshot wounds and a suspect in critical condition is being investigated as a possible act of terrorism, a source familiar with the matter told CNN. – CNN

Trump Administration

A Republican-controlled Senate committee voted to grant itself expansive subpoena power to seek documents from federal agencies and dozens of Obama-era officials related to the Russia investigation launched in 2016, rejecting Democratic complaints that the effort was a political errand for President Trump. – Wall Street Journal

Senate Republicans thought the debate over whether to extend federal surveillance powers was settled — and then President Donald Trump tweeted. – Politico  

A Senate Republican who’s sponsoring legislation to penalize banks that work with Chinese officials moving to crack down on dissent in Hong Kong said his bill would bring “unprecedented” action to the issue. – Bloomberg 

As he departs, the Defense Department’s top artificial intelligence official says the foundation is set for the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center — but now it must deliver. […]On June 1, Shanahan passed on the reins to Chief Technology Officer Nand Mulchandani, who will serve as interim director until a permanent three-star general or flag officer is confirmed. – C4ISRNET