Fdd's overnight brief

May 13, 2020

In The News


The Iranian parliament approved a bill on Tuesday including a list of measures against the State of Israel, such as the establishment of an Iranian consulate or embassy in Jerusalem to ‘Palestine,’ boycott measures and bans on contact and agreements between Iran and Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

Russia’s U.N. ambassador slammed the United States on Tuesday as “ridiculous” for arguing it was still a member of the Iran nuclear deal two years after it quit, so Washington could trigger a return of all United Nations sanctions on Tehran. – Reuters 

While crippling sanctions imposed by the U.S. government left the country ill-equipped to deal with the fast-moving virus, some medical professionals say government and religious leaders bear the brunt of the blame for allowing the virus to spread — and for hiding how much it had spread. – Associated Press 

The coronavirus outbreak has not stopped oil production in Iran, the official IRNA news agency quoted Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh as saying on Tuesday. – Reuters  

Iran captured world attention by launching its first military satellite into orbit just weeks ago, but its armed forces remain plagued by high-profile mishaps that undermine the Islamic Republic’s carefully crafted image as a major regional power. – Washington Times 

A parliamentary motion to officially ban Iranian athletes from competing with their Israeli counterparts has pushed the country to the verge of becoming an outcast at international sports events. – Radio Farda  

Until the end of last year, Iran, its economy stricken by draconian US sanctions, was still able to flex its paramilitary muscles across the Middle East. The Islamic Republic used US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to strengthen its Shia axis in neighbouring Arab countries. – Financial Times

A website affiliated with Iran’s army released a video Monday evening acknowledging that a missile hit one of its navy ships on Sunday in a friendly-fire incident that killed 19 sailors and injured 15. – Radio Farda 

The innumerous, pretty food packages for the poor were carefully set around the shrine of the founder of Iran’s Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to highlight support for people left in need by the deadly coronavirus pandemic. But those images filling Iranian news sites led to a sudden flood of criticism from people shocked by the stark contrast between Khomeini’s glittery shrine and the thought of the uncountable thousands of Iranians that need such handouts to survive. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Matthew Petti writes: The two officials discussed the repatriation process on Monday, according to the U.S. State Department. Iranian officials have increasingly talked about the impending release of Sirous Asgari, an Iranian academic in U.S. immigration detention, and linked his case to that of Michael White, an American held for insulting Iran’s leaders since 2018. But the Trump administration has sent contradictory signals about whether it is interested in a prisoner swap.  – The National Interest  

Irwin Cotler, Shaparak Shajarizadeh and Yonah Diamond write: Canada should do the same, and can take concrete measures by imposing visa bans and targeting the finances of Ebrahim Raisi and the architects of repression in Iran (listed in our report here) through Magnitsky sanctions. – National Post 

Bobby Ghosh writes: Again, the Trump administration may be able to deploy a combination of sanctions threats and the American veto in the Security Council to keep Iran shackled. If the embargo ends, the threat of tough penalties might prevent arms makers from doing business with Tehran. This is sure to antagonize the other powers further, and do little to rally international support for the confrontation with Iran. – Bloomberg


Months before the new coronavirus hit, Turkey was straining to stave off a currency crisis, burning through billions of dollars of foreign-exchange reserves to prop up the Turkish lira. Now, the pandemic threatens to push Turkey into a full-blown balance-of-payments crisis, leaving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing one of the biggest challenges in his 18-year rule. – Wall Street Journal

Turkey accused the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday of bringing chaos to the Middle East through its interventions in Libya and Yemen, allegations which are likely to inflame tensions between the regional rivals. –  Reuters 

Turkey’s foreign cash needs are not the sort of thing the U.S. Federal Reserve is likely to relieve given its economic challenges and volatile diplomatic relations with the United States, the New York Fed’s former chief said in an interview. – Reuters


With Israel’s longest-serving premier having secured a fifth term, the Middle East is bracing for an explosive turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if Netanyahu makes good on his campaign promise to extend Israeli sovereignty to large parts of the occupied West Bank. – Washington Post 

In pre-op at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, Dr. Madi el-Haj told his patient that the anatomical atlas he would use to guide him through the intricate nerve pathways had been produced by Nazis. Its illustrations are believed to be based on the dissected victims of the Nazi court system under Hitler’s Third Reich. – New York Times

A Palestinian assailant attempted to stab security officers at the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem, police said Tuesday. […]Recent weeks have seen several Palestinian attacks in the West Bank and in Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Israel on Wednesday for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new governing partner for talks that were expected to address Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. – Associated Press 

The U.S. ambassador to Israel did not attend Wednesday’s arrival of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Middle East nation as he was feeling unwell and had been advised to keep away, the U.S. State Department said. – Reuters  

In a May 11, 2020 show on Yarmouk TV (Muslim Brotherhood-Jordan), Jordanian TV host Omar Aysara referred to a letter sent by several Republican U.S. Congressmen to the Jordanian Ambassador to the United States. […]Al-Tamimi is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List for the role she played in an August 9, 2001 suicide attack in a Jerusalem pizzeria that resulted in the killing of 15 civilians, two of whom were U.S. nationals. Aysara said that no Jordanian would agree to the extradition of Al-Tamimi. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The greatest tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today is that while the Arab world is moving on from the war against the Jewish state, the West is still encouraging Palestinian rejectionism by giving legitimacy to a fictitious “right of return” that would flood Israel with millions of refugees, a former Knesset member said on Tuesday. – Algemeiner

The Palestinian Authority has invited representatives of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to attend a meeting of the Palestinian leadership to discuss Israel’s plan to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post 

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead during predawn clashes with Israeli troops in the al-Fawar refugee camp near Hebron on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said, amid a general uptick in violence in the West Bank in recent days. – Times of Israel

Israel’s increasingly close relationship with China is emerging as a top concern for the Trump administration heading into high-level meetings this week with Israeli officials, the administration’s assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs told the Washington Free Beacon. – The Washington Free Beacon

Nearly two-thirds of Palestinian Authority residents now support a new ‘intifada’, a poll shows, with support for a two-state solution falling to a record low. – Arutz Sheva

Editorial: Nevertheless, like all close allies and friends, Israel and the US will share these views and discuss the best way forward. Recent military drills with the US, and especially joint work with F-35s, are what underpin today’s regional security framework of which Israel is a key part. Pompeo will be greeted with a warm embrace, a symbol of a US-Israel alliance that has stood the test of time and is flourishing. – Jerusalem Post 

Zev Chafets writes: A test is coming soon. In two weeks, a Chinese-connected company, Hutchison Water International, will be one of two finalists bidding to construct what will be Israel’s largest desalination plant. The facility is located in a strategic area, not far from a major Israeli air force base, a ballistic missile testing site and a nuclear research facility. Israel would love to stay friends with both China and the U.S. But if pushed, there is little doubt that both Netanyahu and Gantz will put America first. – Bloomberg

Lahav Harkov writes: Then, there’s concern for the US-Israel relationship. The US is the lynchpin of Israeli foreign policy, and those close ties are one of Israel’s greatest strategic assets. A threat to security and intelligence cooperation between Israel and the US is a serious one. – Jerusalem Post


U.S. President Donald Trump spoke on Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to congratulate him on the approval of his new government by Iraqi lawmakers last week, the White House said. – Reuters 

Iraq’s national recovery has been brewing internally over nearly seven months of political unrest, ignited by protesters who took to the streets in October 2019 to demonstrate against the country’s endemic corruption and lack of basic services, and against Iran’s increasing meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Chloe Cornish writes: But it also means that he must find a way to reduce the impact on Iraq of the US-Iranian proxy war and his intelligence experience could help, Ms Fantappie said. As Iraq’s intelligence chief since 2016, he has worked with both American and Iranian officials and “could be a mediator who can be trusted by both sides”. – Financial Times 

Farnaz Seifi writes: It’s important to note that there are also more deeply rooted cultural assumptions and stereotypes that hold Iranian intellectuals back from approaching Arab literature. Like their Arab peers, their compass is geared toward the West. […]Iranian translators of Arab literary works do not shy away from pointing out and criticizing their society’s attitude. – Middle East Institute 

Douglas A. Ollivant writes: For all the reasons enumerated above, Iraq-watchers need to very much temper their expectations for the coming years. Iraq’s problems are deep and complex, even wicked. The prime minister has no political bloc of his own from which he can draw support when making hard choices. […]The hope of the international community needs to be put not on Prime Minister al-Kadhimi — as popular and promising as he may be — but instead on better electoral outcomes in 2022, and then in 2026 — both hopefully harnessing the energy of the protests that have characterized Iraq’s past eight months. – War on the Rocks 

Gulf States

Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has urged OPEC+ countries to further reduce oil production rates to restore balance in global crude markets, state news agency (SPA) reported early on Wednesday. – Reuters  

Yemen has more suspected coronavirus cases and deaths than the authorities have so far reported, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, as the United Nations warned the virus is spreading in the war-ravaged country. – Reuters 

Part of that popularity rests on a newfound Saudi nationalism, embodied in the youthful crown prince himself. But a large part of it also rests on a widespread optimism that he can deliver them a golden economic future. If those dreams fall flat and five years from now those jobs never materialise, then the absolute power of the Saudi monarchy may start to look a little less secure. – BBC

Nabeel Nowairah writes: In light of these realizations, U.S. policy in the Gulf will have a much better chance of bearing fruit if it jettisons the effort to repair the broken GCC and focuses more on bilateral relations with individual member states. […]Such alterations will make the overall effort to counter Iran more difficult, but even low-level GCC cooperation on that front could prove useful with judicious, realistic U.S. engagement. – Washington Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

The Lebanese government and army should ensure the disarmament of Hezbollah, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said as he warned of the dangers of the paramilitary group’s involvement in neighboring Syria in advance of Wednesday’s closed-door UN Security Council debate on the matter in New York. – Jerusalem Post

“The [interesting] story is not that Germany has designated the Lebanese Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, and has banned its activity in its territory as well as membership in it. The [interesting] point is the question: Why did Germany take so long? And who are the other European countries that are still delusional and have not yet seen the dark and criminal face of this international network that specializes in terror, assassinations, boobytrapping and explosive devices, money laundering, drug trafficking and collaboration with other terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda?! – Middle East media Research Institute 

The Jordanian Constitutional Court has decided that a natural gas deal between Israel and Jordan could not be legally canceled, as this would be “completely inconsistent” with obligations stipulated in the peace agreement between the two countries. – Jerusalem Post

The Israeli defense establishment now sees an opportunity to extricate Iran from Syria. […]But above all Iran is still committed to its strategy, its vision and its three supreme goals: preserving the Islamic regime and improving the economic situation in the country; achieving regional hegemony; and attempting to obtain nuclear weapons as an insurance policy. – Haaretz 

Michael Rubin writes: The importance of recommitting the United States to victory in Iraq was important, but the military reality was more complex. Some insurgents simply went to ground for tactical or local political reasons only to re-emerge months later, while other violence diminished as groups completed sectarian cleansing in contested regions. […]There are no short-cuts and the efforts to impose them by promising what the United States neither possesses nor controls will always catalyze violence, not peace. – The National Interest  

Jasmin Lorch and Hatem Chakroun write: While the coalition is not a Salafist political group in and of itself, it comprises several Salafist political actors and relies on a right-wing populist discourse that intersects with Salafism on various aspects. The results of the 2019 parliamentary elections, in which al-Karama won 21 seats, further illustrate that such a marriage of convenience between Salafism and populism can indeed be successful in bringing political outsiders into parliament. – Middle East Institute 

Adam Hoffman and Roie Yellinek write: Therefore, going forward the Chinese are likely to continue to provide medical assistance to the countries of the Middle East, and to continue to document and promote that assistance extensively, in an effort to improve their image in the region. At the same time, regional governments are likely to continue walking a fine line between blaming China for the pandemic and maintaining good relations with the Asian giant. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

Most South Koreans support the country’s track-and-trace methods, with investigators accessing personal data and quickly disseminating information on government websites about who might be at risk and where sickened individuals had been. But these invasive tactics pose potential hazards for LGBT people already facing stigmatization, advocacy groups say. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.S. national security advisor said recent photos of Kim Jong Un after an unexplained absence suggest the North Korean leader is likely “doing well” even if officials won’t confirm whether they’ve authenticated the photos published in state media. – Bloomberg 

Richard Javad Heydarian writes: Empowering the hawkish elements in South Korea or provoking the Trump administration’s more aggressive instincts is not in North Korea’s interest. So, expect Pyongyang to stick to a delicate strategy of “calibrated provocation,” projecting strength and resolve without completely upending the tenuous rapprochement with Seoul and the U.S. And surely, North Korea will bet on a Trump re-election, thus it might want to hold its horses until November. – The National Interest


More than four months later, Chinese officials have yet to share with the world any data from the animals Mr. Lu and others say were sampled. Beijing now appears to be stalling international efforts to find the source of the virus amid an escalating U.S. push to blame China for the pandemic, according to interviews with dozens of health experts and officials. – Wall Street Journal

The coronavirus pandemic is boosting a core element of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as rising prices and disruptions in sea and air shipping force companies to turn to trains. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz introduced legislation on Tuesday to help revive the U.S. rare earths industry with tax breaks for mine developers and manufacturers who buy their products, the latest attempt by Washington to break China’s control over the strategic sector. – Reuters 

The U.S. Senate is planning to move on legislation that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights abuses against Muslim minorities, an action sure to anger Beijing and one that signals rising anti-China sentiment in Congress. – Bloomberg 

Intel Capital, the venture arm of chipmaker Intel Corp (INTC.O), has invested in two Chinese startups in the semiconductor sector, the company announced on Wednesday, as part of its latest batch of deals. – Reuters  

China is committed to its Phase 1 trade deal with the United States and is working towards meeting its promise to boost U.S. purchases, even though the pace of buying has been restrained by the coronavirus outbreak, three Chinese sources said. – Reuters  

The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday announced a final determination that producers and exporters of certain glass containers from China received countervailable subsidies ranging from 25.5% to 320.5%, paving the way for potential duties. – Reuters  

An army of bot accounts linked to an alleged Chinese government-backed propaganda campaign is spreading disinformation on social media about coronavirus and other topics, including an exiled businessman, according to a London-based researcher. – Bloomberg 

Editorial: Plenty of Chinese citizens appear to be unhappy with the regime’s ruthless approach to dissent. When Li Wenliang, a doctor who was reprimanded for trying to sound the alarm about the coronavirus in December, died from it in February, there was an explosion of grief and anger on Chinese social media. Not everyone in China would support Mr. Zhang’s liberal democratic remedies. But we suspect he will be widely, if quietly, applauded for speaking truth to power. – Washington Post   

David Ignatius writes: Brose envisions a military version of the “Internet of things” — smart systems at the outer edges of our defenses which can blunt China’s dominance without breaking the budget or risking all-or-nothing confrontations. “We have the money, the technological base, and the human talent,” he writes. What we lack is the will to change. – Washington Post  

Joseph Bosco writes: The incompetent and/or ill-intentioned actions of the CCP that spawned the pandemic demonstrate conclusively that the Chinese people and people throughout the world are all the Party’s victims and, like victims of the pandemic itself, deserve mutual moral support. A U.S. administration is finally leveling with the American people on the existential threat posed by China’s communist government. Now the Chinese people are also owed the truth. – The Hill  

Hal Brands writes: One tragedy of geopolitical rivalry is that it often presents great powers with unappealing choices. The alternative to a bad outcome may be one that is worse, both morally and strategically. That’s why the U.S. so often resorted to behind-the-scenes intervention in the Cold War, and why it may prove useful in the future. But history shows that covert action is no cure-all for a country’s geopolitical challenges. In some cases, it can produce tragedies of its own. – Bloomberg  

Olivia Enos writes: There are many elements of the CCP’s response to COVID-19 that merit further investigation. And, beyond investigation, there are individuals and entities within the party (and perhaps outside it) who should be held accountable for their willful mishandling of COVID-19. The international community should seize on the current momentum and political will to form a coalition to investigate and hold accountable individuals responsible for suppressing information and human rights during pandemic in ways that contributed to its spread. – Heritage Foundation 


The attacks cap a deadly six-week period since the Taliban and the United States signed a deal that leaders hoped would lead to a reduction in violence and the start of intra-Afghan talks. Instead, a spike in attacks by the Taliban and other militant groups such as the Islamic State have put the fragile chance for peace in jeopardy. – Washington Post  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday urged the Afghan government and Taliban to cooperate after grisly attacks on a maternity hospital and a funeral dealt a blow to US efforts to end the war. – Agence France-Presse  

Pat A. Basu and Jason Dempsey write: As our military engagement with Afghanistan winds down, falling far short of our initial hopes, we do no disservice to those who fought there to recognize the shortcomings of that effort. Not only do we owe it to them to learn from the mistakes of the past, but the future health and prosperity of the United States relies on avoiding similar leadership failures in the face of this pandemic. – Politico 


About two-thirds of Taiwanese don’t identify as Chinese, according to a survey released Tuesday that highlights the challenge China would face in bringing the self-governing island under its control. – Associated Press 

Facebook Inc.’s lack of a serious response to signs of abuse on its platform in Sri Lanka may have helped stoke deadly violence in the country in 2018, according to an investigation of the social network’s operations there. The company released a summary of the findings Tuesday, along with other independent assessments of the service’s impact on human rights in Indonesia and Cambodia. – Bloomberg 

China has intensified a campaign of military and diplomatic pressure against Taiwan as the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has intensified around the world, according to a congressional report provided to Foreign Policy, as Republicans are pushing the Trump administration to support a closer alliance with the island nation. – Foreign Policy

The U.S. Senate unanimously voted on Tuesday to ask the Secretary of State “to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization” in a bipartisan jab at China. – The National Interest

Hong Kong is bracing for another summer of protest after renewed violence in parliament, shopping malls, and streets over the weekend. But after almost a year of Beijing’s escalating anger, a growing sense of impunity among police, and a still-dangerous pandemic the rules of engagement are being redrawn. – The Guardian

Editorial: China’s use of coercive economic diplomacy to stop an independent coronavirus investigation will make the world wonder what it has to hide. It should also encourage Australia’s friends, not least the U.S., to support its entirely reasonable requests into the origins of the virus so we can better stop the next one. – Wall Street Journal

Fariz Ismailzade writes: Azerbaijan is eager to be seen as a reliable partner for regional cooperation and partnership. […]At the same time, cooperation is needed around security and counterterrorism, humanitarian challenges and potential opportunities for Azerbaijan’s private sector to enter foreign markets. While keeping in mind the importance of strong ties with the EU and CIS countries, Azerbaijani will emphasize a balanced foreign policy approach and the role of Middle East will continue to increase. – Middle East Institute  


Russia’s U.N. ambassador said Tuesday that Moscow will oppose any attempts by the United States to extend the arms embargo on Iran and reimpose U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic. – Associated Press

A group of retired Nato generals and defence officials have urged the US to stay in a 1992 treaty with Russia on mutual reconnaissance flights, but also warned European capitals to prepare for a US exit. – The Guardian

Russia and China on Tuesday boycotted what Moscow called an “unacceptable” closed-door video conference of the UN Security Council on chemical weapons in Syria. – Agence France-Presse

Vladimir Kara-Murza writes: Yet it is an important institution: It provides much-needed oversight for all U.N. member states, not just its own members, and gives civil societies an opportunity to directly confront dictatorships that they rarely get at home. Democratic nations must at least make an effort to defend the council’s core mission. Keeping Putin’s regime out would be a good place to start. – Washington Post 

Krystyna Sikora writes: The Kremlin clings to the Stalinist interpretation of history for one primary reason: the truth of Eastern and Central Europe’s postwar history is an existential threat to the Putin regime. Putin understands that only if the Kremlin continues to deny its own horrors of World War II can Russia accept Putinism, a regime so similar to the country’s authoritarian Soviet past. Only with acceptance, can Russia make strides towards democracy. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Brian Whitmore writes: Russian officials had long been boasting that despite a rapidly rising infection rate the mortality rate was low (about 13 deaths per million people, which is significantly below the world average of 36). […]Democratic countries have a decidedly mixed record in handling the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the record among authoritarian regimes such as Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus and Putin’s Russia has been almost universally bad. This is clear to anybody paying attention. It would have taken more than a military parade to hide it. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Seth G. Jones, Brian Katz, Jason Gresh, Nicholas Harrington, Edmund Xavier Loughran, and Danika Newlee write:  Overall, this report concludes that Russia was relatively successful in achieving its main near-term political and military objectives in Syria, including preventing the collapse of the Assad regime (an important regional partner) and thwarting a possible U.S. attempt to overthrow Assad. –  Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Polina Beliakova writes: The recent coronavirus crisis demonstrates that the Kremlin seems to have reached its capacity of power. Indeed, attempts to grab more power would likely undermine Moscow’s authority. […]While supposedly employed as a face-saving measure, this behavior suggests that Putin has reached the limits of his power at home — and he knows it. – War on the Rocks


Italian police have arrested 91 suspected mobsters in a probe of money-laundering and extortion in a bid to thwart Sicily’s Cosa Nostra from exploiting economic woes triggered by the pandemic. – Associated Press

The future of ID-check free travel across 26 European countries is at risk if governments do not ease soon the emergency border restrictions they introduced to halt the spread of the coronavirus, European Union lawmakers and officials warned Tuesday. – Associated Press 

The U.K. has put financial services access at the center of its objectives for a trade deal with Japan. Trade Secretary Liz Truss set out headline objectives for the talks Tuesday evening, citing banking and clothing manufacturing as key areas where the U.K. is aiming to open up market access. She said Britain wants a better deal than Japan has with the European Union. – Bloomberg  

The European Union is in crisis, again. […]Old divisions have resurfaced and legacies of past crises are threatening to pull it apart. While this isn’t the first time the EU has faced an existential threat, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says none has been as serious as this one. – Bloomberg  

Critical programs aimed at updating Britain’s nuclear weapons infrastructure have been hit by long delays and huge cost increases, according to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. – Defense News 

The risk of an uneven economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis poses an “existential threat” to the European Union, one of its most senior economic policymakers has said. – The Guardian 

The European Union’s top diplomat is warning member countries not to slash defense spending as their economies buckle under pressure from the coronavirus, as the disease could spark security challenges. – Defense News 

A German expert on the far right has warned that the presence of neo-Nazi and ultranationalist activists in demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions could result in a fresh wave of “right-wing terrorist radicalization.” – Algemeiner 

German prosecutors have charged an Indian man with spying on the Sikh community and Kashmir activists in Germany for his country’s intelligence service for more than two years. – Associated Press 

EU member states are divided on how to respond to the possibility of Israel applying sovereignty in the West Bank, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a press conference on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

William S. Smith writes: Rather than sponsoring a proxy war in Ukraine and risking a bigger war, the leaders of the core states need to step back and acknowledge that both Russia and the West have legitimate claims in Ukraine and that a diplomatic solution is the only path forward. Whether that solution is a partition of Ukraine, a federation where the aspirations of both parts of the country are respected, or some other compromise—only sincere efforts at diplomacy on the part of Russia and the United States can solve this problem. – The National Interest 

Dalibor Rohac writes: The alternative to this scenario is not only that the EU will remain largely irrelevant as a geopolitical actor, but also that the transatlantic partnership will eventually wither. While Eastern Europeans in particular benefit enormously from NATO’s security umbrella, there is just not enough in the traditional transatlantic cooperation on matters of defense, energy, and engaging with the Balkans and post-Soviet world to keep Americans interested over the long term. – The American Interest 


Violence in northwest Nigeria has forced about 23,000 refugees to flee to Niger since April and raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane will resign by May 22nd, his spokesman said, adding he knew nothing of a report that the prime minister would hand in his resignation to the king on Wednesday. Thabane’s departure would resolve a political crisis that erupted late last year, and end a career marked by exile, political feuding, intrigue and strains with the military. – Reuters

Herman J. Cohen writes: The American presence in Africa serves crucial U.S. interests with a small contingent of troops and resources. Reducing the commitment now could lead to another endless war. Congress may well prevent the Trump administration from pulling out. But this interbranch dispute is a reminder that it is in America’s best interests to bring more than its military to African conflicts. – War on the Rocks

The Americas

Iron Mountain Inc., an information storage and management company, said it notified regulators of potential violations of U.S. sanctions on both Iran and on entities allegedly involved in proliferation or support of weapons of mass destruction. – Wall Street Journal

Canada’s data-gathering agency has suspended its practice of providing select senior government officials a sneak peek of its market-moving employment report after the April figures were leaked and published on Friday before their scheduled release. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.N. Security Council is trying again to reach agreement on its first resolution since the coronavirus pandemic started circling the globe over two months ago, but a dispute between the U.S. and China over mentioning the World Health Organization remains unresolved. – Associated Press

Cuba’s foreign minister on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of inspiring the gunman who attacked the Cuban Embassy in Washington last month. – Associated Press 

Nicolás Maduro’s security forces have continued their roundup of alleged participants in last week’s botched attempt to capture him, with the arrest of three Venezuelan men just west of the capital. – The Guardian


U.S. lawyers prosecuting Huawei Technologies Co. for alleged Iran sanctions violations said the company shouldn’t be allowed to share more than 21,000 pages of “sensitive” evidence in the People’s Republic of China because it could be “misused.” – Bloomberg  

As some countries relax their lockdowns, investors and strategists are poring over mobility data from Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to track the pace of economic recovery and estimate consumer spending across different regions. – Bloomberg  

A pitch for cellphone hacking technology sent to the San Diego Police Department in 2016 may add a new wrinkle to a lawsuit between WhatsApp and Israeli spyware manufacturer NSO Group. – Bloomberg 

Facebook has agreed to pay $52 million to content moderators who developed mental health conditions while helping the company review toxic content on its platform, The Verge reported on Tuesday.  – Business Insider

The Defense Innovation Unit awarded a $45 million to a Silicon Valley-based tech startup to perform cybersecurity testing on Defense Department weapon systems’ applications, the company announced May 11. – Fifth Domain 

Editorial: Contact tracing as traditionally conducted relies precisely on a lack of anonymity. It requires knowing names, addresses and routines to follow extended chains of transmission and also cajole people, through person-to-person interaction, into behaving responsibly. Apple and Google were wise to rename their system “exposure notification,” because that’s what it really does: reach those strangers with whom the infected have crossed paths that analog methods might not catch. What happens then will depend on old-fashioned public health policy. – Washington Post 


Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 program was hampered last year by growing parts shortages from its supply chain that “increased significantly” and could be further complicated by the U.S decision to expel Turkey from the program, according to congressional investigators. – Bloomberg 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will launch its first Blackjack satellite into orbit later this year, with more to follow in 2021. – C4ISRNET  

As the U.S. Space Force looks to expand the military’s communications capabilities in the far north, it is facing a problem. The global pandemic has hit space startups exponentially hard, and OneWeb, one of the companies aiming to provide internet to Arctic locations, filed for bankruptcy in March. – Defense News  

Almost three months after arriving in Guam, a pair of MQ-4C Triton autonomous, unmanned aircraft have integrated into fleet operations and training flights and stretched the Navy’s maritime domain awareness across the Indo-Pacific, according to the Navy. – USNI News 

It may be well after dark on a weeknight, but the Army’s newest recruiting assets aren’t sleeping. – Military.com 

An Army National Guard aviator has invented a pilot training device that partners with a smartphone app to simulate flying in limited-visibility conditions. – Military.com 

Christian Zur writes: The objective must be to define the structure of a mature regulatory environment that ensures safety at the increasing scales of users. But that future begins with finding a balanced way to manage the critical needs of the aviation community alongside commercial space launch operators. One sector should not benefit at the expense of the other. – Federal Times  

Long War

FBI lawyers accidentally revealed the identity of a Saudi diplomat who agents have suspected helped deliver crucial support to the Al-Qaeda terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to a report. – New York Post

The commander of the United States Special Operations Command said Tuesday that American commandos will continue to engage violent extremists for the “long haul.” – Military Times  

Subban Jama and Ayan Abdullahi write: Somalia has been flirting with existential threats for decades, its people celebrated for their resilience in the face of unrelenting musiibo (disaster). But this latest shock, stacked on top of many others, may finally put the lie to any notion of Somali resilience. In what has traditionally been Mogadishu’s most blessed yet bloodiest month, one can only hope that al-Shabab will ease its Ramadan offensive this year. COVID-19 could well cause more death than any terrorist attack that Somalia has ever seen. – Foreign Policy

Trump Administration

President Trump’s spy chief is reportedly declassifying information that shows former CIA Director John Brennan “suppressed” intelligence on Russia wanting Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 election. – Washington Examiner

As the supreme court heard arguments concerning Donald Trump’s tax returns on Tuesday, justice Sonia Sotomayor told a lawyer for the president “there is a long, long history of Congress seeking records and getting them” from occupants of the Oval Office. – The Guardian