Fdd's overnight brief

March 11, 2019

In The News


President Hassan Rouhani of Iran arrived in Baghdad on Monday for a visit to a place that his country has shaped in ways big and small over the past several years. Iran was the real winner of last year’s parliamentary elections in Iraq: The parties linked to the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces, most of them with ties to Tehran, emerged as the kingmakers. […] “Iran is being targeted by the Americans, and because Iran feels targeted, they are trying by all means to protect themselves.” – New York Times

A top Iranian diplomat has rejected Britain’s decision to give diplomatic protection to a British-Iranian woman who has been detained in Iran for nearly three years, saying it contravenes international law. – Associated Press

President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Iraq this week is a strong message to the United States and its regional allies that Iran still dominates Baghdad, a key arena for rising tension between Washington and Tehran. – Reuters

Iran’s oil ministry said on Sunday that it had been receiving revenues from selling oil despite difficulties caused by U.S. sanctions, denying allegations made by former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over government mismanagement in the energy sector. – Reuters

Police in Arak, the capital of Iran’s Central Province, have arrested a young couple on the charges of undermining Islamic chastity. – Radio Farda

Marjan Keypour Greenblatt writes: As it marked its 40th anniversary, the Islamic Republic boasted the country’s reported increase in literacy and college education among girls and women as one of its most significant accomplishments. But a deeper look at Iranian society reveals alarming social trends that challenge future prospects for Iranian women, positioning them as the country’s most vulnerable population.  […]unless the repressive and systematic persecution of women is eliminated and their urgent needs are addressed, women and girls will continue to grapple with questions of life and death rather than worrying about college entrance exams.  – IranWire

Kenneth M. Pollack writes: Perhaps someday, America’s cherished desire for better ties with Iran will be reciprocated by the leaders of Iran. But the history of the past 40 years seems to suggest that that will never be more than a tantalizing dream until new leaders take the helm in Tehran. Until then, the only intelligent course for the United States is to steer clear of the Iranians as best we can and treat them like enemies when we must, not because we want them to be, but because their leaders insist on it, no matter what we may do. – Brookings Institute

Yaakov Lappin writes: In 2015, Russia formally entered the Syrian conflict, becoming the Assad regime’s second sponsor, alongside Iran. The grounds for that intervention, we now know, were laid at a 2015 meeting between Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.1 Russia’s entry, in turn, marked the start of a complex Iranian approach in Syria – one aimed at utilizing the benefits of Russia’s presence while circumventing potential constraints that this presence could place upon its expansionist agenda. – America Foreign Policy Council


Heavy fighting erupted Sunday as US-backed forces attacked the last ISIS stronghold in Syria amid a final push to clear the jihadist group from the war-torn country. A CNN team in Syria witnessed airstrikes, explosions and mortar fire in Baghouz after the operation by the Syrian Defense Forces began about 6 pm local time. – CNN

Presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) declined Sunday to say whether Syrian President Bashar Assad is a war criminal, and did not answer whether she would trust her own intelligence community if elected commander in chief. – Politico

Hundreds of Syrians in the southern city of Deraa protested on Sunday at the erection of a new statue of President Bashar al-Assad’s late father, nearly eight years after the original was toppled at the outbreak of Syria’s civil war. – Reuters

The United Nations refugee agency should have a bigger presence inside Syria to observe and help refugees returning from abroad and from displacement within the war-torn country, UNHCR Commissioner Filippo Grandi said on Saturday. – Reuters

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) paused military operations against Islamic State (IS) militants holed up in the group’s final enclave in eastern Syria, expecting more civilians to be evacuated from the area on Saturday, an SDF official said. – Reuters

International investigators are moving ever closer to finding justice for victims of atrocities in Syria’s eight-year war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, the head of a U.N. war crimes body said. – Reuters

Editorial: U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to keep a residual force of at least 400 troops in Syria prevents the immediate takeover of valuable natural resources and infrastructure in Eastern Syria by Iran, Assad, and Russia. These actors nonetheless still have options that could lead to the defeat or expulsion of U.S. forces. […]Iran, Assad, and Russia are building up forces west of the Euphrates River and using outreach to local tribes to gain footholds on its eastern bank. Even a limited drawdown by the U.S. will create security gaps east of the Euphrates River that could be exploited by Iran, Assad, and Russia.- Institute for the Study of War

Elizabeth Teoman writes: Growing Turkish-Russian military cooperation in Syria is a dangerous sign of a wider shift to a closer strategic relationship between Turkey and Russia. […]Turkey’s deepening relationship with Russia in Syria decreases the likelihood that the U.S. will reach a negotiated agreement with Turkey over the status of Eastern Syria. Russia intends to use its engagement with Turkey in Western Syria to set conditions to cooperate with Turkey against the U.S.-Led Coalition and its partnered Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Eastern Syria. – Institute for the Study of War

Anchal Vohra writes: The European Union tries to present a united front to the world, but a wide range of issues increasingly divide the continent against itself. The latest question to split the EU is whether to help rebuild Syria—or, rather, whether to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to do so. Although formally united behind a policy of sanctions against the Assad regime, individual countries are beginning to ask whether the current maximalist position should be maintained. – Foreign Policy


Two German journalists left Turkey on Sunday after authorities there rejected their press accreditations, a step that drew condemnation from Germany’s foreign minister and revived diplomatic tensions. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday accused a women’s march in central Istanbul on Friday of disrespecting Islam by booing the Islamic call to prayer. – Reuters

Germany changed its travel advice for visitors to Turkey on Saturday, warning its citizens that they risked arrest for expressing opinions that would be tolerated at home but may not be by Turkish authorities. – Reuters


One of President Trump’s lead Middle East peace negotiators lashed out at the Palestinian Authority on Friday, accusing it of institutionalizing support for terrorism amid a dispute over Israeli tax transfers that make up a significant portion of Palestinian revenues. – New York Times

Education Minister Naftali Bennett slammed Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and a former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization, in a recent debate aired on the BBC. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced a series of austerity measures on Sunday that the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership says are necessary to confront a budgetary shortfall. – Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas is hopeful that Blue and White chief Benny Gantz can unseat Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the upcoming elections next month, senior PA officials in Ramallah say, adding that the aging PA leader prefers to deal with Gantz because he is ‘inexperienced’. – Arutz Sheva

Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, who is running for the Knesset as part of the Blue and White list, told Israel Hayom and i24NEWS on Sunday night that he intends to avoid a binational state at all costs but will ensure that not a single Jew is uprooted from Judea and Samaria. – Arutz Sheva

The Dutch Green Party has said it does not support efforts to boycott Israel amid protests over its passing last month of a motion endorsing the campaign, JTA reported on Sunday. – Arutz Sheva

Economist Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of the West Bank’s dominant Fatah party, was named Palestinian prime minister on Sunday in what the rival Hamas group that runs Gaza called a blow to unity efforts. – Reuters

The Palestinian Authority is scaling back wages paid to its employees in response to a cash crunch deepened by a dispute with Israel over payments to families of militants in Israeli jails, it said on Sunday. – Reuters

Yossi Klein Halevi writes: Power and toughness are prerequisites for Israeli survival in the most dangerous region on the planet, but so are Israel’s moral credibility, the cohesiveness of Israeli society, and respectful relations with the Jewish diaspora. Netanyahu has actively turned Israelis—Arabs and Jews, right-wingers and “leftists”—against one another. No matter who wins next month, the Israel that emerges will be a more wounded and divided nation. – The Atlantic

Arabian Peninsula

An American woman who was stuck illegally in Saudi Arabia with her young daughter after her Saudi husband divorced her said on Sunday that the Saudi authorities had granted her legal residency after The New York Times wrote about her ordeal last week. – New York Times

Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday it would be too early to change OPEC+ output policy at the group’s meeting in April and that China and the U.S. would lead healthy global demand for oil this year. – Reuters

Fighting erupted in Yemen’s key port city of Hodeida on Sunday, the first significant clashes since warring sides agreed to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire deal in December, security officials and eyewitnesses said. – Associated Press

Middle East & North Africa

Baghdad’s main commercial district has seen more bombings than its residents can count. Death visited almost daily during times of war — most horrifically, a 2015 suicide bombing that ripped through two shopping malls, killing over 300 people. […]For the first time in 15 years there is no major war or insurgency in Iraq, and the defeat of the Islamic State group in late 2017 after a ruinous four-year war has given the population a moment of respite. Despite the enormous challenges ahead, there is a guarded sense of hope across the capital. – Associated Press

Sarah Feuer writes: Three weeks into a protest movement that broke out on February 22, the capital of Africa’s largest country is expecting as many as 2 million people to take to the streets on March 8. […]Washington should prepare for the possibility of continued unrest, while quietly working with Arab and European allies in urging Algiers to craft a credible roadmap out of the impasse, one that adequately accounts for the protestors’ concerns. It should also consider broadening the channels of engagement to include discussions between U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and Algerian army chief of staff Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has already pledged to maintain the country’s stability and security. – Washington Institute

Haim Malka writes: The United States should be concerned that sustained political uncertainty could distract Algeria’s military from its counterterrorism and border security mission. Algeria shares long borders with Libya and Mali, two divided countries that have active al Qaeda and Islamic State group cells. Furthermore, Algeria is an important energy supplier to Europe. […]Greater instability could also create opportunities for Russia and China, two countries with deep ties in Algeria, to expand their influence and presence. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has punched a hole in the web of United Nations sanctions intended to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear-weapons programs and long-range missiles, accelerating its import of petroleum products through illicit ship-to-ship transfers and stepping up coal exports, according to a report to the U.N. Security Council by a panel of international experts that is expected to be issued this week. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump was forced to publicly acknowledge this past week what American intelligence officials said they had long been telling the White House: Even during eight months of blossoming diplomacy, Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, was steadily adding to his weapons arsenal and nuclear infrastructure. – New York Times

North Korea acknowledged for the first time on Friday that the summit meeting last week between its leader, Kim Jong-un, and President Trump ended without an agreement, claiming that people “in and outside” the North were blaming the United States for the breakdown. – New York Times

North Korea has been carrying out major cryptocurrency hacks to bypass economic sanctions, according to a United Nations (U.N.) Security Council expert panel report. – Coin Desk

Satellite images of a facility near Pyongyang suggest that North Korea may be preparing to launch a missile or a satellite. – BCC

Former President Jimmy Carter is willing to travel to North Korea in order to meet with Kim Jong Un on behalf of President Donald Trump, a Democratic congressman told CNN on Thursday. – CNN

Amid reports that a North Korean rocket launch facility is once again operational, President Donald Trump said Friday that he would “very disappointed” if he saw signs of any renewed testing at nuclear or missile sites. – USA Today

The U.S. is prepared to engage with North Korea again after a failed second summit to end its nuclear weapons program but won’t fall for an “action-for-action ploy,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said. – Bloomberg

Leader Kim Jong Un’s ruling Workers’ Party has an iron grip on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the isolated, nuclear-armed country is officially known. Every five years it holds an election for the rubber stamp legislature, known as the Supreme People’s Assembly. The exercise has all the trappings of votes elsewhere, from electoral rolls to sealed ballot boxes to scrutineers for the count. – Agence France Presse

U.S. President Donald Trump is open to a third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but some time may have to go by before this takes place, Trump’s national security adviser said on Sunday. – Reuters


France’s President Emmanuel Macron came to the White House last April hoping to join forces with President Trump in confronting China on its trade and business practices. Mr. Macron’s bid for a united front went nowhere, according to people briefed on the discussion. Mr. Trump instead told Mr. Macron he didn’t want to see the European Union reaping the benefits of a U.S.-China trade pact, these people said. Nearly a year later, Mr. Trump continues to keep European allies at arm’s length – Wall Street Journal

A pending trade agreement between the United States and China could put few restrictions on Beijing’s control over the strength of its currency, potentially inflaming trade hawks in Congress and within the Trump administration itself. – New York Times

The Trump administration is making “headway” in trade negotiations with China, the top White House economic adviser said Sunday, brushing off reports suggesting diminishing prospects for a deal and push-back from Beijing. – Bloomberg

The U.S. ambassador for religious freedom on Monday again urged China to give its people religious freedom, a move he said could help gain trust from self-ruled Taiwan, an island China considers its own. – Reuters

Italy wants to join China’s giant “Belt and Road” infrastructure plan to boost Italian exports, not to strengthen political ties with the Asian giant, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Sunday. – Reuters

Chinese tech giant Huawei’s tensions with Washington, which says the telecom equipment maker is a security risk, stretch across four continents from courtrooms to corporate boardrooms to Canadian canola fields. In the latest twist, Huawei Technologies Ltd. is asking a court in Texas to strike down a legal ban on the government using its equipment or dealing with any contractor that does. – Associated Press

Josh Rogin writes: The grand strategic competition between the United States and China will be won or lost based on who controls the rules and systems that govern 21st-century commerce, communications and security. Washington can no longer ignore that China is way ahead on the core technology that will underpin those systems: blockchain. […]If the Chinese government is able to control the way blockchain is developed and governed worldwide, that would be a grave and long-term threat to U.S. and international economic and national security. – Washington Post


At least 13 civilians, including several children, were killed in American airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan that were carried out in support of an Afghan-led operation against the Taliban, local officials and tribal elders said on Sunday. – New York Times

Mullah Mohammad Omar, the founder of the Taliban, lived in hiding near a U.S. base in southern Afghanistan until his death, according to a new research-group report that contradicts long-held theories by U.S. officials about the notorious one-eyed leader. – Wall Street Journal

Barnett R. Rubin writes: Any U.S. exit inevitably raises the question of what might replace the near-total dependence of the Afghan state on Washington for funding, training, technology, and equipment. However concerned these neighboring countries are that Afghanistan has become an extension of U.S. power projection into the region, they have not proposed any alternative way to sustain the Afghan state. […]With the apparent support of Secretary Pompeo, Khalilzad has thus far enjoyed considerable autonomy from the chaos at the commanding heights of the Trump administration. He or his successors may need to outlast it. Afghanistan certainly will. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

India said Pakistani forces violated a cease-fire agreement along the Line of Control in Kashmir, and accused its neighbor of failing to take credible action against terror groups. – Bloomberg

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Saturday for “decisive” action by Pakistan against a militant group behind a deadly suicide attack in a border area, saying failure to act could jeopardize relations. – Reuters

Jeff M. Smith writes: If there’s one conclusion to draw from the recent crisis in India-Pakistan relations it’s this: We’ve been living on borrowed time. The latest episode in their longstanding dispute over Kashmir confirms that we have entered a new, more volatile chapter in bilateral relations, one in which the world can no longer expect India to respond with unquestioned restraint to future provocations from its neighbor. To avoid a disastrous escalation in the future, the world will have to redouble its efforts to end the scourge of state-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. – The Diplomat


Across the islands of the southern Philippines, the black flag of the Islamic State is flying over what the group considers its East Asia province. […]far from defeated, the movement has sprouted elsewhere. And here in the Mindanao island group of the southern Philippines, long a haven for insurgents because of dense wilderness and weak policing, the Islamic State has attracted a range of militant jihadists. – New York Times

An Indonesian woman who was on trial in the 2017 airport killing of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was freed on Monday after more than two years in custody. – New York Times

They are at the cutting-edge of America’s elite stealth jet technology, capable of seamlessly connecting pilots for co-ordinated missions. And now Singapore wants to become the fourth country to enmesh US F-35 warplanes above and around the South China Sea — a move likely to be greeted with trepidation in Beijing. – CNN

Malaysia has deported six Egyptians and a Tunisian suspected of being linked to Islamist militant groups abroad, despite protests from human rights groups. The suspects include five people who allegedly confessed to being part of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement on Sunday. – Reuters


Angela Merkel and her advisers, before a visit to the White House last spring, agreed on a priority: Avoid talk of Nord Stream 2. The German-Russian pipeline project had been a bone of contention between Berlin and Washington, which fears it will make Europe’s largest economy excessively reliant on Russian energy. – Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin is no slouch when it comes to geopolitics: This week, he signed a decree suspending implementation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and boasted that his security agencies had thwarted nearly 600 foreign intelligence operators last year. – CNN

Thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow and two other cities on Sunday to rally against tighter internet restrictions, in some of the biggest protests in the Russian capital in years. – Reuters

Herman Pirchner Jr. writes: These days, the progressive left’s ubiquitous use of the words “fascist” and “imperialist” to describe a multitude of political enemies threatens to render those words meaningless. Yet, for those who retain a fondness for the traditional interpretations of the words, a new exemplar has appeared. That man is Vladislav Surkov, the high-powered confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin[…]. The echoes of yesterday’s absolute tyrants are present in Surkov’s words — and, indeed, in the fabric of Putin’s unrepresentative, kleptocratic state itself. The sooner Western powers accept this fact, and adjust their policies accordingly, the better. – The Hill

Heather A. Conley, Donatienne Ruy, Ruslan Stefanov, and Martin Vladimirov write: The Kremlin has developed a pattern of malign influence across Europe. It does so through the cultivation of “an opaque network of patronage across the region that it uses to influence and direct decision-making.” 4 This network of political and economic connections—an “unvirtuous” cycle of influence—thrives on corruption and the exploitation of governance gaps in key markets and institutions. Ultimately, the aim is to weaken and destroy democratic systems from within. […]In this fight, democracies win; if “democracy dies in darkness,”27 then in the light it will thrive. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May warned Friday that if British lawmakers fail to endorse a new Brexit divorce deal next week, Britain may never leave the European Union. – Wall Street Journal

Charlie Flanagan, the Irish minister for justice and equality, said Sunday that “every effort” would be made to bring an Irish woman believed to be detained in northern Syria back to Ireland. – Washington Post

Recent weeks have seen black swastikas scrawled across portraits of Auschwitz survivor, Simone Veil; 96 tombs at a Jewish cemetery defaced in eastern France; […]These are but a few of the anti-Semitic attacks that have blighted the country in recent months. – CNN

The leader of Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) has responded to French President Emmanuel Macron’s ideas for a “European renaissance” by offering some overlap with his vision, while also warning against too much centralization. – Reuters

The Norwegian Armed Forces are exploring the use of new methods and technologies to better protect military communications against interference and jamming of GPS systems by Russia. – Defense News

Two prominent Brexit backers are warning Prime Minister Theresa May not to seek a delay to Britain’s scheduled March 29 departure from the European Union if her withdrawal deal is rejected Tuesday. – Associated Press

United States

President Trump plans to seek $8.6 billion for additional barriers along the southern U.S. border as part of his budget proposal to be released Monday, a potential prelude to another fight over funding the president’s long-promised border wall. – Wall Street Journal

An outspoken critic of Israel, Omar has courted controversy with provocative remarks that some say invoke anti-Semitic stereotypes. The pattern has alarmed many Jews, and as Omar faced yet another firestorm last week, community leaders on both sides voiced pain and confusion, fearing that the comments could damage an alliance they have spent years trying to nurture. – Washington Post

Rep. Liz Cheney said Sunday that the House resolution last week condemning anti-Semitism was little more than an attempt to protect Rep. Ilhan Omar by not calling her out by name. – Politico

It’s official,” says the fundraising appeal from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the freshman lawmaker who has become the flagbearer for the Democratic Party’s restive progressive wing. “AIPAC is coming after Alexandria, Ilhan, and Rashida.” – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Pope Francis denounced the “depraved hatred” behind a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in parts of the world and said interfaith dialogue can help counter it. Francis met Friday with a delegation of the American Jewish Committee and praised their longstanding good relations. – Associated Press

For Congress, the allegations of anti-Semitism directed toward Rep. Ilhan Omar have no precedent. Yet on college campuses, in state legislatures and in many other venues nationwide, the polarized debate about Israel is a familiar conflict and likely to intensify in the months and years ahead. – Associated Press

Michael Walzer writes: A congressional resolution condemning all forms of bigotry is no doubt commendable, but it doesn’t serve our political purpose. What is necessary is a fierce and detailed expose of all the lies about the Jews. And it is important that the word be used: lies.  […]If Jewish Democrats don’t get tough about this, they will soon find themselves unable to be tough about anything. They will be pushed out of the Democratic Party just as Jews are being pushed out of the Labour Party in the U.K. – Tablet Magazine

Brad Schneider, Elaine Luria and Josh Gottheimer write: That is why we were disappointed by the comments of our colleague Congresswoman Ilhan Omar suggesting supporters of Israel “push for allegiance to a foreign country.” […]Criticism of Israel can be at times fair and appropriate, and part of an important debate about US interests and priorities. But it is vital this discussion focuses on policy differences, not anti-Semitic tropes. – CNN

Jonah Goldberg writes: The gist of Omar’s complaints is that the perfidious, string-pulling Hebraic hordes control Congress with their shady shekels; Israel has hypnotized the world; and American Jews are guilty of dual loyalty. […]More interesting, however, is the Democratic leadership’s fact problem — namely the fact Omar simply isn’t a fan of Jews, or at least Jews who support Israel. It’s fine to be a critic of Israel, by the way. But when you hate the country so much that you can’t explain criticism of Israel without resorting to bigotry, you have a problem. Or rather, the Democratic party does. – National Review

Latin America

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido will ask lawmakers on Monday to declare a “state of alarm” over the country’s devastating blackout in order to facilitate the delivery of international aid — a chance to score points in his power struggle with President Nicolas Maduro. – Agence France Presse

Last month, an US-backed effort to break Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro’s block on convoys at the border of Venezuela-Colombia and deliver foreign aid resulted on two people dead and another 300 injured. The US government said that Maduro supporters were believed to be behind the chaos but a new report and video evidence from the New York Times suggests that a protester was seemingly responsible. – Business Insider

White House national security adviser John Bolton insisted Sunday that “momentum“ favors Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, more than six weeks after the U.S. recognized the 35-year-old politician as the country’s acting president in a rejection of strongman Nicolás Maduro. – Politico

The United States is pressing India to stop buying oil from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, Washington’s top envoy for Venezuela said, as the Trump administration this week threatened more U.S. sanctions to cut off Maduro’s financial lifelines. – Reuters

There are no signs that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is open to negotiations to end the political impasse with opposition leader Juan Guaido, Washington’s envoy for Venezuela said. – Reuters


The Army is asking for around $190 billion in fiscal year 2020, an increase of roughly $8 billion above last year’s budget top line, which will cover the cost of the advent of an ambitious modernization plan, a defense official told Defense News ahead of the White House’s FY20 budget request release. – Defense News

The F-35 fighter jet’s logistics backbone has proven so clunky and burdensome to work with that the U.S. Air Force’s instructor pilots, as well as students learning to fly the aircraft, have stopped using the system, Defense News has learned. – Defense News

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high-subsonic unmanned combat air vehicle, completed its inaugural flight Tuesday at Yuma Proving Grounds, in Arizona. The Air Force’s fleet of current drones, such as the MQ-9 Reaper, are basically giant gas bags that fly — able to loiter for long periods above friendly forces in order to provide armed overwatch and intelligence. But the airspace over future battlefields will likely not be permissive, and so new drones will need to be developed. – Air Force Times

After supporting combat operations for the Marine Corps in nearly every conflict throughout the past 40 years, the Marines’ electronic attack aircraft, the EA-6B Prowler, will fly its final flight mid-March. – Marine Times

Long War

National security adviser John Bolton said Sunday that the Islamic State remains a threat and that it is “growing in other parts of the world” besides Syria and Iraq. The statement by Bolton in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week” is at odds with claims by President Trump and Vice President Pence that the militant group, which is also known as ISIS, has been defeated. – Washington Post

Two Belgian women who joined Islamic State in Syria said on Sunday they were losing hope they will ever go home after a Belgian court overturned a ruling to repatriate them with their six children.  – Reuters

A group of Moroccans held in northern Syria by U.S.-backed SDF forces have returned home, the SDF said, in a rare case of a foreign government taking back citizens likely to have been members of the Islamic State jihadist group. – Reuters

Islamic State looks about to lose its last foothold – on the banks of the Euphrates near the Iraq border – but while its era of territorial rule may be over for now, there is near universal agreement that IS remains a threat. – Reuters

Islamic State faces territorial defeat as U.S.-backed Syrian forces attack its final, besieged enclave near the Iraqi border. This timeline chronicles the lightning rise, cruel reign and gradual fall of Islamic State. – Reuters

An Islamic State fighter detained in Syria urged Italy on Saturday to let him come home to start a new life, saying he had abandoned the self-styled jihadist “caliphate” after growing disillusioned with its rulers. – Reuters

A decision by Britain to strip a teenage girl of her citizenship after she joined Islamic State in Syria was described as a “stain on the conscience” of the government on Saturday after her three-week old baby died. – Reuters

Jessica Trisko Darden writes: The mobilization of more than 4,700 women like Shamima Begum and Hoda Muthana by IS was unprecedented because they were foreign. But women’s participation in violent projects to remake their societies is more common than we realize. Tens of thousands of Nazi women escaped justice. This historical precedent should be considered as governments decide how they will hold the women of IS to account for their crimes. – The Conversation