Fdd's overnight brief

June 9, 2020

In The News


After 11 years of stalling, Iran passed a law on Sunday making it a crime to emotionally or physically abuse or abandon a child, the nation’s first legal protection for children and juveniles. – New York Times

Iran’s health ministry urged people on Monday to wear face masks in public areas, state television reported, following warnings that the Islamic Republic could face a new wave of coronavirus infections. – Reuters

Iran announced on Tuesday that it will execute a man convicted of allegedly providing information to the U.S. and Israel about prominent Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in an American drone strike in Baghdad in January. – Associated Press

U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran’s shipping network took effect on Monday, months after they were announced in December following accusations of supporting proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. – Reuters

Iran dismissed President Donald Trump’s offer of a better deal with the U.S. over its nuclear program as “nothing but political showboating.” – Bloomberg

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that America’s foreign adversaries are using the death of George Floyd and the resulting unrest regarding racism and police brutality in the United States to promote propaganda that paints the U.S. as an oppressive government. – Washington Examiner

Christopher Hamill-Stewart writes: Soleimani’s death hurt Iran. It ushered in six months of foreign-policy failure, domestic strife during the coronavirus pandemic and a slow-motion economic collapse within Iran. Without the “shadow commander,” the regime’s grip on its proxies and regional influence appear to be in retreat. It would be premature, however, to count Tehran out completely. – Arab News

Kevjn Lim writes: Absent self-sufficiency and geopolitical stability, even a government with robust reserves would do well to diversify its grain supply basket, or at least be able to do so on short notice. In Tehran, however, guns are generally sexier than butter when it comes to making budgetary decisions and crafting foreign policy. This ethos leaves the country vulnerable to big supply shocks, food shortages, and spiraling prices that can produce effects no less momentous than wars. – Washington Institute


Protests continued for a second day in regime-held southern Syria, where demonstrators openly denounced President Bashar al-Assad in a rare show of dissent in the authoritarian state. – Financial Times

Insurgents briefly captured several government-held positions in northwest Syria Monday, in fighting that left more than 40 fighters dead on both sides, opposition activists said. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The Syrian regime thought it was finally out of the woods in its almost decade-long civil war. It recaptured southern Syria in 2018 and has pushed up against US forces along the Euphrates. It has launched offensives into Idlib with Russian and Iranian backing. […]But the regime is gutted and weak. It has no finances and is fighting internally with family feuds within the Assad ruling clan. That means it is like a house of cards: very fragile. Russia can’t save the regime from everything. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey is poised to join one of Europe’s largest securities depositories, allowing investors to settle trades in its government bonds, as it bids to attract more international capital at a time when foreign investment has hit a record low. – Financial Times

Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said he reached some agreements with President Donald Trump in telephone talks about the situation in Libya. – Associated Press

Turkish prosecutors issued warrants Tuesday for the detention of 191 suspects — including 181 on-duty servicemen — who are suspected of involvement in a scheme that allegedly recruited followers of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed for a failed coup in 2016 into air force training schools, the state-run news agency reported. – Associated Press


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has assured Jewish settlers that he is going ahead with plans to begin annexing parts of the occupied West Bank next month, a settler representative said Monday. – Associated Press

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi warned on Monday that cutting Israel’s defense budget would be a “grave mistake” and a result of a “security paradox” in which the military’s operational successes had created a sense that its resources could be reduced. – Algemeiner

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has received a $350 million contract from a European country for special mission aircraft, the state-controlled company said on Monday. – Algemeiner

In the event of a partial annexation of the West Bank, Israel believes that Germany would serve a diplomatic “buffer,” moderating possible punitive measures from the European Union. – Algemeiner

A Blue and White minister on Tuesday said the centrist party has reached an agreement with Likud on annexing the Jordan Valley, but that party chair Defense Minister Benny Gantz would only support the plan if it was backed by the United States and some Arab countries. – Times of Israel

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has told the ICC’s Pretrial Chamber that a war crimes probe against Israelis can proceed despite the continued application of the Oslo Accords. – Jerusalem Post

Israeli security forces on Monday detained 25 activists belonging to the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction in Jerusalem on suspicion of carrying out activities on behalf of the PA and its security forces in the city. – Jerusalem Post

David Makovsky writes: Many worry that annexation will lead to the demise of the Palestinian Authority and erode Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state. The European Union, Israel’s biggest trading partner, remains strongly opposed to annexation. And some Israelis worry that annexation would doom bipartisanship in the United States, which has been traditionally crucial for Israel. The unthinkable is possible, but not yet inevitable. – Washington Post

Zev Chafets writes: The Trump plan, perhaps improbably given its provenance, reflects the realities of today’s West Bank demography and the balance of power between Israel and its neighbors. The two-state solution of 2020 cannot be the same as the one envisioned 50 years ago. Even so, its success is a long shot. A necessary condition is the belief of young Palestinians in the good faith of Israel and the United States. An unnecessary and provocative annexation right now is a mistake. – Bloomberg


A rocket landed in the perimeter of Baghdad International Airport on Monday, the Iraqi military said. – Reuters

A U.S. military plane crashed into an Iraqi military base north of the capital on Monday without causing fatalities, the U.S.-led coalition said. – Associated Press

Isis terrorists have ramped up attacks in Iraq, forcing government troops to step up counter-insurgency operations just as western members of the anti-Isis coalition have pared back their presence in the country. – Financial Times


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday agreed on the need to collaborate to create the conditions for a peace process in Libya, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates supports a new Egyptian peace initiative for Libya as a move towards a ceasefire and political solution, a senior official said on Monday. – Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a deal with the U.S. over Libya was likely after his phone call with Donald Trump on Monday. – Bloomberg

Libyan fighters allied with the country’s U.N.-supported government in Tripoli pressed their advance on Monday, boosted by recent battlefield gains and their rivals’ withdrawal from around the capital, the warring sides reported. – Associated Press

Korean Peninsula

North Korea said it would shut telephone hotlines with South Korea on Tuesday and ultimately sever all communications with its neighbor, hardening its policy as it attempts to gain concessions from Seoul. – Washington Post

China said on Tuesday it hopes North Korea and South Korea will cooperate through dialogue, amid renewed tensions after Pyongyang said it will cut hotlines with Seoul. – Reuters

A United Nations human rights expert voiced alarm on Tuesday at what he called “widespread food shortages and malnutrition” in North Korea, which have been exacerbated by a nearly five-month border closure with China and measures against COVID-19. – Reuters


China is making fresh efforts to influence Chinese communities around the world to advance Beijing’s interests, requiring heightened vigilance from democratic countries, a new study says. – Wall Street Journal

As the Trump administration lashes out at China over a range of grievances, Beijing’s top diplomats and representatives are using the president’s favorite online megaphone — Twitter — to slap back with a pugnaciousness that is best described as Trumpian. – New York Times

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation calling for sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for oppressing Uighur Muslims, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday without offering a time frame for the signing. – Reuters


Talks to end the 18-year-old conflict in Afghanistan may begin this month, sources said on Monday, a day after the U.S. special envoy visited the capital of neighbouring Pakistan and met Taliban leaders in Qatar. – Reuters

An Afghan commando who fatally shot a Utah mayor serving in the National Guard in 2018 had planned the killing for weeks, according to an Army investigative report. – Associated Press

On June 1, 2020, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Afghan Taliban organization), which signed a peace agreement with the U.S. in Doha on February 29, 2020, released a video showing Taliban leaders addressing squads of suicide bombers at a passing-out parade at the Al-Fateh Military Camp located somewhere in Afghanistan. Titled “Victorious Force (1),” the video was produced by Al-Hijra Studio, which is part of the Multimedia Department of the Islamic Emirate’s Commission for Cultural Affairs. – Middle East Media Research Institute


China’s leadership believes its main challenge in Hong Kong is a political struggle against forces trying to subvert Communist Party rule, a senior Chinese official said Monday, marking a shift in Beijing’s official diagnosis of unrest in the city. – Wall Street Journal

One year ago on Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong gathered for a march that became the start of the semiautonomous Chinese city’s biggest political crisis and the broadest expression of public anger with Beijing in decades. – New York Times

A year on from the start of Hong Kong’s anti-government protests, the leader of the semi-autonomous Chinese city said Tuesday that all sides should learn from the difficulties and challenging times over the past year. – Associated Press

Japan hopes to draft a joint statement on China’s new security legislation on Hong Kong at the next Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers’ meeting, a Japanese government source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

Armenia’s prime minister sacked the heads of the army, police and national security service on Monday, saying they had set a bad example over coronavirus restrictions. – Reuters

Taiwan’s air force warned off several Chinese fighter jets that briefly entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone to its southwest on Tuesday, the defence ministry said. Reuters

New Zealand police on Tuesday scrapped plans for armed patrols prompted by last year’s Christchurch mosque shootings, after criticism the change would lead to a US-style militarisation of the force. – Agence France-Presse

The world is heading for a shortage of the highly prized and super-soft cashmere wool as pashmina goats that live on the “roof of the world” become caught up in the fractious border dispute between nuclear neighbours India and China. – Agence France-Presse

Hong Kong’s leader said she told Chinese officials the city should be transformed into a global hub for private wealth and a more prominent offshore Renminbi center, even amid concerns about the former British colony’s future as a financial center. – Bloomberg

Hong Kong-based hedge funds are exploring plans to uproot their operations as China prepares to impose sweeping national security legislation on the Asian financial hub. – Financial Times

Chinese investment in Australia fell to its lowest level in a decade last year following the implementation of tougher rules on foreign investment and a sharp deterioration in diplomatic relations between the nations. – Financial Times

The Philippine government is putting the brakes on its plan to end a critical aspect of its Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S., but experts say it is too soon to tell whether this decision signals a warming relationship between the two allies. – USNI News

The development of South Korea’s indigenous KF-X fighter jet has taken another step forward with GE Aviation delivering the first engine for program, although development partner Indonesia continues to rack up overdue payments for its share. – Defense News

Aparna Pande writes: The crisis unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic will almost definitely create a new global order, and India could emerge stronger. But for that, Indians will have to shed the complacency that comes from believing that the nation’s long history makes its rise inevitable.[…] To appeal to neighbours, counter rivals, and bolster alliances, India needs to be economically strong with a rising GDP and a skilled labour force, while welcoming foreign investment and less government regulations. – Hudson Institute


Russian authorities have charged the director of an Arctic power plant that leaked 20,000 tons of diesel fuel into the ecologically fragile region with violating environmental regulations, a crime that could bring five years in prison. – Associated Press

Russia’s foreign minister is accusing the Trump administration of unleashing a politically motivated campaign against Iran and is calling for “universal condemnation” of the U.S. attempt to get the U.N. Security Council to impose a permanent arms embargo against the Islamic Republic. – Associated Press

The U.S. and Russia will send senior officials to Vienna on June 22 for a new round of arms-control talks, a State Department official said, as the Trump administration tries to enlist Moscow’s help bringing China into broader negotiations to limit all three countries’ nuclear weapons stockpiles. – Bloomberg

Russians preparing to vote on constitutional amendments on July 1 could be forgiven for not knowing they could pave the way for President Vladimir Putin to rule for another 12 years once his current term expires. Months of television, online and poster advertisements have listed proposed changes to pension rights, animal rights and others. But they have failed to highlight the fact that the amendments would allow Putin to run again for president, despite having served the constitutional maximum of two consecutive terms. – Reuters


Germany’s defense minister suggested Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported plans to withdraw more than a quarter of American troops out of Germany could weaken not only the NATO alliance but the U.S. itself. – Associated Press

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg downplayed initial reports that President Trump planned to withdraw 9,500 troops from bases in Germany while expressing concerns of an emboldened and more aggressive Russia. – Washington Examiner

The U.K. and Japan start trade talks Tuesday, aiming to replace the free-trade agreement that Britain currently enjoys with the country through the European Union. – Bloomberg

Prosecutors at Spain’s supreme court will investigate the former king Juan Carlos over suspected payments concerning a €7bn high-speed train project in Saudi Arabia, in the latest controversy concerning the former head of state, who abdicated in 2014. – Financial Times

Andreas Kluth writes: The tragedy for the world is that, without the U.S. as its guarantor, the wider “West” is also ceasing to exist as an idea, leading to global instability and anxiety, or “Westlessness,” as some think tankers have punned. […]Germans are certainly among those doubting whether Trump’s America is, in that sense, Western. […]Let’s hope the Americans stay in Germany, and that Europeans reciprocate by doing their part in military defense. Otherwise, it’ll be the cynics celebrating, from Germany’s anti-American Left to the autocrats in Moscow, Beijing and elsewhere. – Bloomberg

Heather A. Conley writes: But if both sides can overcome these obstacles, a U.S.-UK FTA could reorient the UK economy toward North American markets, perhaps justifying closer steps toward integration with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. If a UK-U.S. FTA cannot be agreed to by the end of the year, the UK government will be left unable to immediately demonstrate Brexit benefits while the British people will vividly experience its costs. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu will run for president in elections in October, three years after surviving an assassination attempt. – Bloomberg

Ethiopia’s prime minister called on opposition members to be patient amid concerns that the postponement of elections will create a constitutional crisis and stoke political tension. – Bloomberg

Andrew Harding writes: But it is also clear that China is using the cover of Covid-19, and America’s many distractions and current struggles, to promote its political agenda on the continent with growing boldness and – I suspect – effectiveness. That is not to suggest that African states – or journalists – are pawns, to be manipulated at will by global powers. But how many governments on the continent, heavily in debt to Chinese banks and under growing Covid-19-related economic pressure, may now be tempted to abandon “the failed… populist multiparty format”, and move towards the “resilience” of China’s political system? – BBC

The Americas

Venezuela’s government said on Monday that a flight carrying humanitarian aid for the COVID-19 epidemic had arrived from Iran, which has become a crucial ally to the South American nation amid U.S. sanctions. – Reuters

Canada is narrowly easing some border restrictions to allow immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents separated because of the coronavirus pandemic to reunite, officials said on Monday. – Reuters

The head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Monday said she would seek to equip officers with body-worn cameras to increase trust, accountability and transparency, according to a statement from a spokesman. – Reuters


Hundreds, if not thousands, of Philippine journalists and students awoke Sunday to find Facebook accounts made in their names — mostly ghostlike profiles with few or no friends, no pictures and sometimes misspellings. – Washington Post

Facebook and some members of the Federal Communications Commission appear to be helping President Trump in his war against Twitter as he pushes for unfettered speech and less content moderation online. – Washington Examiner

Denmark wants to be able to exclude 5G technology suppliers from providing critical infrastructure in Denmark if they are not from countries considered security allies, online technology news outlet ITWatch reported on Monday. – Reuters

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said Monday that the tech giant will stop offering facial recognition software and called for a “national dialogue” on the way the technology is used for law enforcement. – Business Insider

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has halted all coronavirus-related surveillance of infected citizens, The Jerusalem Post has learned. – Jerusalem Post


Two carrier strike groups deployed to the Pacific on Monday – the first since the Navy developed a new set of procedures to protect the ships underway from the COVID-19 virus. – USNI News

The Navy and Marine Corps are looking to quickly overhaul their Cold War-era way of moving Marines around, with the services already agreeing on the basic requirements for a new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) and in the early phases of looking at a separate small amphibious ship class. – USNI News

The secretary of the Army recently acknowledged the emotional challenges National Guard members face in their civil unrest response mission, but said soldiers and airmen cannot protest in uniform. – Military.com

Trump Administration

Senate investigators said Tuesday that government officials had “exercised minimal oversight” of the risks posed by three Chinese telecom companies that operate on American communications networks. – Washington Post

President Donald Trump’s decision to cut U.S. troop levels in Germany blindsided a number of senior national security officials, according to five sources familiar with the matter, and the Pentagon had yet to receive a formal order to carry it out, Reuters has learned. – Reuters

President Trump and his allies on Monday lashed out at activists and some Democrats for their support of the “defund the police” movement, seeking to draw a contrast with the administration’s embrace of law enforcement amid nationwide protests. – The Hill