Fdd's overnight brief

May 18, 2020

In The News


An Iranian court sentenced the French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah to a potential sentence of six years in prison for alleged breaches of national security and for fostering anti-Iranian propaganda, her lawyer said Saturday. – Washington Post

Its appearance, however brief, represented a rare criticism of Iran’s ruling religious establishment by the media and came amid a wider outcry among Iranians over the role played by the Shiite Muslim clergy during the pandemic. – Washington Post

Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. interests in the Islamic Republic, over possible measures America could take against an Iranian fuel shipment to Venezuela, the Mehr news agency reported. – Reuters

Americans will be expelled from Iraq and Syria, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday, renewing Iran’s demand for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from the Middle East. – Reuters

Five Iranian tankers likely carrying at least $45.5 million worth of gasoline and similar products are now sailing to Venezuela, part of a wider deal between the two U.S.-sanctioned nations amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington. – Associated Press

Even as U.S. sanctions, unemployment, inflation and low oil prices batter the Iranian economy, there seems to be at least one refuge for investors. – Associated Press

Rallies next week in Tehran to mark the annual Quds Day against Israel will involve Iranians driving in vehicles not marching through the streets, to avoid spreading the coronavirus, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on state television on Saturday. – Reuters

An Iranian news agency close to the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday there would be repercussions if the United States acted “just like pirates” against an Iranian fuel shipment to Venezuela. – Reuters

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believes that women living in Western societies are living daily life in “captivity,” according to a recent series of tweets by the Iranian leader. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This is a way to dehumanize Israel, as part of the regime’s attempt to try to portray Israel as both a dog and a virus. This has parallels with historic antisemitism where Jews were accused of being vermin-like and accused of spreading disease. Iran has long pretended it is a tolerant regime and Jews are able to live in Iran, while the regime’s narrative portrayed other countries in the region as antisemitic. But the language Iran’s regime uses to discuss Israel is language that has clear meanings to the people expected to read it in the original. – Jerusalem Post


In the age of the coronavirus, schools and universities across the world have rushed to switch to education online. In this corner of Syria, the move also brings together students separated by war, distance and technological hurdles. – Associated Press

Seven Iranian-backed militants were killed after unidentified aircraft attacked a site belonging to Iranian forces and Iran-backed militias near Al-Bukamal in the Deir Ezzor area near the Syria-Iraq border on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. – Jerusalem Post

A loud explosion was reported by the residents of Aleppo, Ynet reported, citing Syrian television on Friday night. The news follows a series of airstrikes in Syria, allegedly targeting an Iranian build-up of forces there. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The idea that the US and Russia would somehow confront Iran’s presence seems unlikely. Iran and Russia continue to work together in Syria. The fact that the US wants to make Syria a “quagmire” for Russia and the fact the US is confronting Russia and Iran in Venezuela runs counter to a strategy to talk with Russia about Iran’s role in Syria. – Jerusalem Post


China’s ambassador to Israel, who took up his post in February, was found dead at his home on Sunday morning in a coastal suburb north of Tel Aviv, officials said. – New York Times

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new unity government was sworn in Sunday, cementing a fragile political alliance with former rival Benny Gantz to end more than one year of political stalemate in the country. – Wall Street Journal

His decision to share power with former rival, centrist Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, opens the way for Netanyahu to proceed towards a pledged annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, land that Palestinians seek for a state. – Reuters

An Israeli court found a Jewish settler guilty of racially motivated murder on Monday in a 2015 arson attack that killed a Palestinian couple and their baby in the occupied West Bank. – Reuters

Jordan’s king warned Israel of a “massive conflict” if it proceeds with plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, as European Union foreign ministers agreed on Friday to step up diplomatic efforts to try to head off such a move. – Associated Press

Increasingly close ties between China and Israel risk straining the special relationship Israel has with the U.S., especially as Washington ramps up its feud with Beijing over the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic. – The Hill

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday warned the International Criminal Court against asserting jurisdiction over Israel, saying the United States will “exact consequences” for any “illegitimate” investigations. – Times of Israel

US President Donald Trump’s peace plan gives Israel the chance to determine its final borders, new Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Monday, at a ceremony welcoming him to his new post. – Jerusalem Post

Applying Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and combatting the accusations against Israel in the International Criminal Court are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s priorities as he begins work in the fifth government he’s led. – Jerusalem Post

The application of sovereignty on portions of the West Bank within the context of the US peace plan is in the best interest of both US President Donald Trump and Israel, Efrat Council head Oded Revivi told The Jerusalem Press Club at a virtual event broadcast on Saturday night. – Jerusalem Post

US top administration officials congratulated Israel on Sunday for forming a new power-sharing government. – Jerusalem Post

In Washington these days, the US is careful to speak of a peace process, keeping alive the hope of Israeli-Palestinian talks. But no such ideas were alive in the Knesset on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

On the surface, there should be no thought of an international conspiracy having any connection to the sudden, very unfortunate death of Du Wei. Police say there were no signs of foul play and presume that the 58-year-old ambassador succumbed to a heart attack while sleeping. […]Coming so soon on the heels of last week’s high-profile visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the escalating war of words between the US and China, it’s open season for conspiracists to suggest there’s a connection to Du Wei’s death. – Jerusalem Post

A crucial” meeting of the Palestinian leadership that was scheduled to take place in Ramallah on Saturday night, to discuss a series of measures in response to Israel’s plan to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, has been postponed until further notice, Palestinian officials said. – Jerusalem Post

Israel is coming under pressure as President Trump seeks to force US allies to join his campaign to check China’s global ambitions. – The Times

The US Senate has introduced legislation to enhance partnerships between American and Israeli companies on COVID-19 projects, thus lessening US dependence on China for life-saving medications and treatments. – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Israeli troops shot a man who crossed the border from Lebanon into Israel for as-yet unknown reasons on Sunday, the military said. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Even without listening to Abdullah it’s obvious that annexation will endanger peace. The problem is that the annexationist right wing is not deterred by this possibility. On the contrary, it believes that toppling the Jordanian monarchy might fulfill the vision of Jordan as the Palestinian state. […]the agreement also contains a clause that requires Netanyahu to approve the Trump plan while seeking “to maintain regional stability, to maintain the peace accords.” Abdullah’s remarks show clearly that this is not the case. Gantz will have to insist that annexation hurts peace with Jordan and to thwart this needless and dangerous initiative. – Haaretz

Douglas J. Feith writes: With ample enemies in their immediate vicinity, Israelis haven’t historically looked at China as a national-security problem. But the world is changing. That doesn’t mean that China should be categorized as an enemy or that all commerce with China should cease, either for Israel or the U.S. It means that both countries should see China clearly, in light of Mr. Xi’s ambitions, strategy and actions. Israel should understand how U.S. national-security officials perceive China—and how its entanglements with China will affect one of its prime strategic assets: its U.S. alliance. – Wall Street Journal

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In recent years, increased openness from governments in the UAE and Oman have illustrated that winds of change may be blowing. Israel has held discussions with Chad and Sudan as well and Israeli ministers went to the Gulf and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Oman. There are many challenges to be surmounted, including the Iranian threat, and Israel’s domestic politics regarding possible annexation of the West Bank. However, the changes in views of Jews in general is a major milestone in a region where it was largely taken for granted that antisemitism was almost official state policy in most places. – Jerusalem Post

Armin Rosen writes: Armed with the U.S.-produced map that emerged from the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century” process, Israel’s new coalition government will soon begin exploring possibilities for the permanent application of sovereignty to Israeli-controlled territories beyond the 1948 Israeli-Jordanian ceasefire line. The U.S. presidential election is a de facto deadline for any such change in borders, which would seem baldly reckless under a possible Joe Biden presidency. But an Israeli move prior to Nov. 3 might obligate a Democratic administration to deal with the proverbial facts on the ground[…]. – Tablet

Jerold Auerbach writes: Appropriately, Professor Erekat’s book cover displays enthusiastic praise from Professor Richard Falk, who has elsewhere asserted that it is not “an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with the criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity”; and Angela Davis, who has described Israel as the practitioner of modern-day apartheid. Professor Erekat is in good company. – Algemeiner

Arabian Peninsula

Weapons supplied by American companies, approved by American officials, allowed Saudi Arabia to pursue the reckless campaign. But in June 2017, an influential Republican senator decided to cut them off, by withholding approval for new sales. It was a moment that might have stopped the slaughter. Not under President Trump. – New York Times

Armed pirates attacked a British-flagged chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday but were repulsed, the ship’s manager Stolt Tankers said. The pirates approached the Stolt Apal in two speedboats some 75 nautical miles off Yemen, it said, in one of the most important trade routes for oil heading from the Middle East to Europe. – Reuters

Deaths in Aden have surged to at least five times higher than normal, an NGO and medics say, igniting fears that the coronavirus is spreading unhindered in the Yemeni port city. – Agence France-Presse

Karen Elliott House writes: So, why should the Saudis fold on their determination to maintain their share of dwindling world oil sales? For three reasons. The market’s large supply overhang will force them to cut because there’s no place to sell. Dwindling U.S. support can only embolden Iran. And political problems for Mr. Trump could lead to a victory of the Democrats, eager to punish Saudi human-rights abuses and improve relations with Tehran. – Wall Street Journal

Yasmin Al-Qadhi writes: Now, there is grave concern within the governorate that if the Houthis do succeed in taking over, they will launch a rampant, vicious clampdown on all the rights and freedoms we have worked so hard to build. Women like myself and my colleagues are especially worried—we have seen how women under Houthi control are being violated every day. Marib has made major strides in women’s rights and protecting children. If the attacks on Marib are allowed to succeed, this will take us back decades in the ongoing fight for stability, equality, and progress. – Washington Institute


Egyptian security forces arrested a prominent Egyptian journalist on Sunday as she interviewed the mother of a political prisoner outside Cairo’s Tora Prison, the latest attack on press freedom by the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, a key U.S. ally. – Washington Post

Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations released a statement on Sunday, calling on the Trump administration to continue its participation in the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) peacekeeping force in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. – Jerusalem Post

Eric R. Mandel writes: It was a mistake for President Obama to withdraw troops from Iraq in 2011 and for President Trump to try to leave Syria’s Kurds in 2019. It would similarly be a mistake to remove American forces from the Sinai because it would show the world that the U.S. is an unreliable ally. – The Hill 


Shelling killed two people on Saturday, the emergency services said, at a displaced people’s shelter in a part of the Libyan capital Tripoli that has been under bombardment by eastern forces seeking to capture the city. – Reuters

Forces loyal to the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli said Monday they had captured a key air base in the western part of the OPEC nation. – Bloomberg

The United Arab Emirates has been involved in operating a covert air-bridge to supply weapons to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar in contravention of a United Nations arms embargo on the North African country, according to a confidential UN report. – Bloomberg

Migration through Libya eased during the height of the pandemic after governments locked down and closed frontiers to curb the spread of the deadly virus. As African economies crater because of disruptions to supply chains and farming, violence and food insecurity are increasing—and traffickers say people are on the move again. The alarm has already gone off in the European Union. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

The Lebanese environmental NGO Green Without Borders (GWB) should be added to the US Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Global Terror entities for their clear connections to Hezbollah, urged a new report released by a Washington-based think tank. – Jerusalem Post

Stephen Blank writes: The West will have no choice but to deal with this Turkish mindset for, if anything, it has grown much stronger due to Turkish domestic and foreign policy trends of the last decade. Nonetheless there is now, precisely because of the crisis with Russia and the new economic challenges cited above, a new basis for resuming this necessary dialogue with Turkey. Failure to do so will mean endless and protracted crises for Turkey, Europe, and the U.S. We should seize the day and start accumulating those nuances so that they provide a more durable future foundation for conflict resolution rather than conflict diffusion and/or escalation. – Middle East Institute

Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace write: New Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi jumpstarted his term by conducting a series of executive-level actions favorable to Iraq’s restive population and the United States, but potentially harmful to Iranian interests in Iraq. Kadhimi appointed powerful generals with US ties to head the US-trained Counterterrorism Service and Iranian-infiltrated Ministry of Interior, indicating a willingness to push back against corruption and Iranian influence in Iraq’s security sector. […]Each of these moves challenges Iran’s influence in Iraq and may draw backlash from Iran’s political and militia allies in the country – Institute for the Study of War

Korean Peninsula

When Kim Jong Un emerged after weeks of questions over his health and whereabouts, the North Korean leader picked a visit to a fertilizer factory as the stage for his public return. The setting was no accident, South Korean officials and Pyongyang experts said. It was an indication that Mr. Kim is far less focused on the outside world now than the world is on him. He has significant challenges piling up at home. – Wall Street Journal

To help the people left behind, Park and other North Korean defectors are big supporters of the US-funded, Seoul-based Free North Korea Radio that began the year Park escaped and which broadcasts news of the outside world every day and night without fail into the Hermit Kingdom. – New York Post

Malcolm Davis writes: When considered against a broader context of increasing tensions between China and the United States over Taiwan and in the South China Sea, and the global economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a gamble by Kim for missile diplomacy could fail badly. – The National Interest


“Evil.” “Lunacy.” “Shameless.” “Sick and twisted.” China has hit back at American criticism over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic with an outpouring of vitriol as acrid as anything seen in decades. – New York Times

China’s ruling Communist Party faces a new chorus of criticism from abroad over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. This time, it comes from a source that is hard to brush aside: angry Chinese citizens stuck overseas. – Wall Street Journal

Beijing has urged the United States to stop the “unreasonable suppression of Huawei and Chinese enterprises” after Washington announced new export controls to restrict the tech giant’s access to semiconductor technology. – Agence France-Presse

The latest U.S. sanctions on Huawei threaten to devastate China’s first global tech competitor, escalating a feud with Beijing that could disrupt technology industries worldwide. – Associated Press

U.S. lawmakers and officials are crafting proposals to push American companies to move operations or key suppliers out of China that include tax breaks, new rules, and carefully structured subsidies. – Reuters

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd has stopped new orders from Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] in response to Washington’s move aimed at further limiting chip supplies to the Chinese company, the Nikkei reported on Monday, citing multiple sources. – Reuters

The Senate this week passed legislation urging President Trump to issue sanctions against those responsible for China’s actions against its Uighur Muslim minority as the president and his GOP allies have ramped up pressure on China over its handling of the coronavirus. – The Hill

China confirmed Friday it had ordered unauthorized laboratories in the country to destroy coronavirus samples early in the outbreak. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has charged that Beijing refused to provide virus samples taken from patients when the pandemic began in China in late 2019, and that Chinese authorities had destroyed early samples. – New York Post

Huawei Technologies Co. warned the latest U.S. curbs on its business will inflict a “terrible price” on the global technology industry, inflaming tensions between Washington and Beijing while harming American interests. – Bloomberg

Bradley A. Thayer writes: The U.S. must squarely face the threat from China and publicly acknowledge that it is doing so. This will raise awareness of the threat, mobilize resistance to it and plot a course to victory. Not terming China a foe of the U.S. — or clearly identifying the intensifying Sino-American security competition for fear of worsening it — does not dissuade China from its challenge. Nor does it reassure U.S. allies and others in the Indo-Pacific that the United States possesses the willpower to resist China and will be a steadfast ally. – The Hill


Afghanistan’s monthslong election dispute, which resulted in the bizarre reality of two men taking the oath of office as president, reached a resolution on Sunday when President Ashraf Ghani gave his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, the leading role in the country’s peace process with the Taliban and the right to appoint half the cabinet. – New York Times

The two sides in the monthslong dispute over Afghanistan’s presidential election are close to signing a power-sharing deal, the terms of which include giving top military honors to a former vice president who is accused of torturing and ordering the rape of a political rival while in office. – New York Times

American officials scrambled on Friday to keep Afghanistan’s tenuous peace process from falling apart, blaming the Islamic State for horrific attacks that have recently killed dozens of people and further inflamed tensions between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. – New York Times

A suicide bomber in a stolen military Humvee targeted a base in eastern Afghanistan belonging to the country’s intelligence service early on Monday, killing at least seven members of the force, a provincial official said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. – Associated Press

India should speak with Taliban militants if it feels that it will help the peace process, Pakistan’s envoy to Washington said on Saturday, after a series of attacks in Afghanistan raised questions about whether the U.S. peace effort may collapse. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday welcomed a power-sharing deal to end a months-long political stalemate in Afghanistan, but chided President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah for taking so long. – Reuters

Editorial: The compromise shows the good faith of our Afghan allies in putting aside personal agendas for the good of the country. The best chance for a U.S. exit with honor, one that doesn’t lead to a murderous Taliban march on Kabul, is to make clear to the Taliban that the U.S. won’t force its allies to accept a bad deal. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Rubin writes: Precedent matters in diplomacy, and so, the State Department should tread carefully. For Khalilzad to want the peace agreement to succeed more than does the Taliban is to condemn the agreement to failure. Khalilzad’s increasing desperation (ignoring and excusing terrorism and demanding other countries do likewise) will never bring peace; rather, it will simply condemn the region to greater bloodshed. – Washington Examiner

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize for his successful effort to end the Russo-Japanese War. Trump has lusted after the prize. Given his failure to recognize that peace negotiations must include the parties most directly involved, the prospects for the self-proclaimed master of “the art of the deal” to win that prize and achieve any sort of meaningful peace agreement, either in Afghanistan or in the Middle East, look very dim indeed. – The Hill

Roya Rahmani writes: President Ghani had to return to an offensive posture in order to protect the people. If the Taliban are serious about peace, they must enter peace talks soon and become a partner in preventing cold-blooded attacks on maternity clinics and funerals, not an enabler. Progress is urgently needed. Every day that the Taliban refuses to enter peace talks or commit to a humanitarian ceasefire, an untold number of lives are lost to both the virus and the violence. – The Hill

South Asia

Cross-border shelling between Pakistan and India has intensified in recent months along the Line of Control in Kashmir, sending more families rushing to community bunkers when the alarm sirens ring, particularly on the Pakistani side. – New York Times

The Indian and US governments were in such a hurry to get sub-hunting US helicopters into the hands of the Indian navy that the Americans gave up some of their own helicopters to fill a rushed delivery early next year. – Breaking Defense

In a recent article, noted Indian journalist and author David Devadas warned that a new wave of Pakistan-backed terrorism is yet to come to Kashmir. Devadas, who has written multiple books on terrorism in Kashmir, argued that India’s decision to quash Article 370 and Article 35A, thereby reducing the special status of Jammu & Kashmir from a state to a federally administered territory, was bound to elicit a response from Pakistan. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Jeff Smith writes: Just as the U.S. looks to India to play a more active role in balancing China’s growing power and influence — including taking more forward-leaning positions on issues like the South China Sea and Taiwan, the Quad, and the Indo-Pacific — India is looking to the U.S. to help shore up its own vulnerabilities vis-à-vis China, not least at the disputed border. […]Should there be another prolonged Doklam-like incident at the border or inadvertent escalation, India will likely again be looking to the U.S. for diplomatic and intelligence support, and calibrating its Indo-Pacific strategy accordingly. – The Diplomat


Scuffles erupted Monday between lawmakers in Hong Kong as they debated the leadership of a committee that is to consider legislation that pro-democracy politicians fear would tighten China’s control over the semiautonomous territory. – New York Times

An official watchdog group released a long-awaited report that largely exonerated the use of force by police to suppress antigovernment protests, sparking anger among opposition groups who said the findings reinforce the idea that police aren’t accountable to the people. – Wall Street Journal

Tibet’s self-declared government-in-exile marked the 25th anniversary of the disappearance of a boy named as Tibetan Buddhism’s second highest figure by calling on China on Sunday to account for his whereabouts.- Associated Press

A draft resolution pushed by the European Union and Australia calling for an independent review into the origins and spread of the coronavirus has support from 116 nations at the World Health Assembly, almost enough for it to pass, a document showed. – Reuters

China’s commerce minister Zhong Shan said the two countries are in communication when asked about Australia’s request to discuss beef and barley trade issues, amid escalating tensions over the COVID-19 pandemic. – Reuters

Despite strong efforts Taiwan did not get invited to this week’s meeting of a key World Health Organization (WHO) body due to Chinese pressure, its foreign minister said on Monday, adding they had agreed to put the issue off until later this year. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday he believed China had threatened to interfere with the work of U.S. journalists in Hong Kong, and warned Beijing that any decision impinging on Hong Kong’s autonomy could affect the U.S. assessment of Hong Kong’s status. – Reuters


A gas transit deal between Russia and Poland that expires later this month will not be renewed, Russia’s Gazprom said, as Warsaw aligns its energy regulations with European Union rules and curbs its decades-old dependence on Russian fuel. – Reuters

Nataliya Bugayova, Mason Clark, and George Barros with Aleksei Zimnitca, Aidan Therrien, and Kayla Grose write: The COVID-19 crisis has impeded some of the Kremlin’s efforts but has not changed its objectives, one of which is expanding Russia’s power projection capabilities internationally. Russia’s military footprint and basing opportunities are expanding but remain limited. Putin is thus using coalitions and partnerships to amplify Russia’s security space – as ISW will analyze in its upcoming major report on Putin’s geopolitical thinking. – Institute for the Study of War

Rachael Menosky and Luke Coffey write: Russia, on the other hand, has its eyes on militarization. The past few years have seen a heavy increase in Arctic bases, nuclear icebreakers, and military training activities. […]As the ice reduces for the summer months, another good opportunity for those operations will arise in the northern sea route. The recent freedom of navigation operation is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done, especially considering Russia’s and China’s increasing role in the region. – The Daily Signal


German lawmakers have voted to make the destruction of foreign state flags, including that of the European Union, and the denigration of national anthems punishable by a fine and up to three years in prison, in a relatively rare move by a government to protect the symbols of other nations. – New York Times

Post-Brexit talks (once again) are a game of chicken — and no one wants to blink. On Friday, the third round of talks between the EU and the U.K. on their future relationship ended again with “very little progress made,” according to both sides, and plenty of hostile rhetorical flourishes. – Politico

If China has infiltrated the Maltese Embassy in Brussels, then the EU hasn’t been told about it, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said. – Politico

Thousands of Bosnians, many wearing masks, demonstrated Saturday against a Mass in Sarajevo for Croatia’s Nazi-allied soldiers and civilians killed by partisan forces at the end of World War II. – Associated Press

Spain has officially joined the European Patrol Corvette program to design and develop a prototype of a modular 3,300-ton ship responsible for a number of tasks and missions, including those performed by ocean patrol vessels and light frigates. – Defense News

The European Union should impose a temporary ban on Chinese takeovers of companies that are currently undervalued or have business problems because of the coronavirus crisis, the leader of the bloc’s largest political alliance said on Sunday. – Reuters

An agreement on fisheries has become “mission impossible” in trade talks between Brussels and London. – Telegraph

David Frost, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, has told Boris Johnson that Michel Barnier is “losing the argument” in UK-EU trade talks but negotiations could end in no deal. – Telegraph

Raoul Ruparel writes: June’s deadline for the U.K. to ask for more time to strike a deal with the European Union about its future relationship with the bloc is fast approaching. Without a deal come December, the U.K. will leave the Brexit transition period with no preferential trading terms in place[…]. I believe there is a way to tread this fine line — namely a conditional extension, which creates time to allow everyone to prepare for any deal reached. If it needs a Whitehall acronym, as these things generally do, I’d suggest Preparation, Ratification and Engagement Period (PREP). – Politico


One of the most-wanted fugitives of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Félicien Kabuga, was arrested Saturday morning in a rented home just outside Paris, protected by his children, the French authorities said. – New York Times

Mozambique’s armed forces have killed 50 Islamic extremist fighters this week in two battles in the country’s north where the insurgents have launched 11 attacks this month, the government said Thursday. – Associated Press

Years of conflict, instability and poverty have left Somalia ill-equipped to handle a health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, no one really knows how many cases of COVID-19 it has. – Associated Press

The governor of Mudug, a region in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland, was killed with three of his bodyguards in a suicide car bombing on Sunday that was claimed by Islamist group al Shabaab, police said. – Reuters

The Americas

Venezuela sits on the world’s biggest oil reserves but has registered the biggest drop in oil production seen anywhere in at least four decades. The country has some of Latin America’s biggest oil refineries, but they have become so run down over the years that nowadays none produce gasoline, said Ivan Freites, an oil union leader. Venezuela’s shambolic oil industry has been further weakened by American sanctions, which have severely constricted all remaining gasoline imports. – New York Times

A Pakistani doctor and former Mayo Clinic research coordinator was indicted for providing support to a terrorist group after he told paid informants that he planned to carry out attacks against the US. – New York Post

The World Health Organization will on Monday kick off its first ever virtual assembly, but fears abound that US-China tensions could derail the strong action needed to address the COVID-19 crisis. – Agence France-Presse

Munir Valencia is not the only one in Latin America who converted to Shia Islam and traveled to Qom to get an Islamic education to spread in local communities. In fact, Iranians have built a well-structured and systematic network of cultural centers and local mosques usually led by converts trained in Iran with an aim to recruit local people and increase Tehran’s influence in the region. – Radio Farda


Countries across Europe, like others in the developed world, are building their own smartphone apps to help conduct contact tracing. The aim of the apps is to help public-health officials identify and test everyone who has spent time near an infected person, to better understand and contain the virus. […]The embrace of Apple and Google protocols by European countries contrasts with the approach in the U.S., where state and local authorities are taking the lead on digital contact-tracing efforts. – Wall Street Journal

Information about more than a thousand staff and members of the European Parliament has been exposed in what a key lawmaker called a “major data breach.” – Politico

A high-profile New York law firm targeted by hackers said it has never worked with President Donald Trump after the alleged cyber criminals threatened to release damaging information about the President. – CNN

Jane Holl Lute and Peter J. Beshar write: Our main cyber adversaries and other malevolent actors are acutely aware that our country is consumed by unprecedented health and economic crises. This is a critical moment for government and corporate America to come together to protect U.S. cyber resources and critical infrastructure. – Washington Post

Kaylee McGhee writes: The Senate failed to pass an amendment to a package of surveillance laws on Wednesday that would have prevented the FBI from searching through your internet browsing and search history data without a warrant. […]The Patriot Act and its subsequent revisions might be necessary, but without accountability and oversight, it is a vehicle for abuse. The Senate had the opportunity to limit it but refused to do so. This is a shame. – Washington Examiner

Sean Kucer writes: It is time to enact stricter export controls on semiconductor manufacturing equipment. This is an excellent opportunity for us to collaborate with our allies, bolster national security, and keep the United States at the forefront of technological development. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Army recruiters, unable to head to high schools and set up booths at state fairs because of the coronavirus, are turning to videogame tournaments to reach prospective soldiers. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. military’s mystery space plane rocketed into orbit again Sunday, this time with an extra load of science experiments. – Associated Press

Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn has announced a deal that would keep the U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs for at least six years. – Associated Press

The Air Force said on Thursday that Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach has been nominated to receive his fourth star and be the next commander of Pacific Air Forces. – Defense News

An upgunned version of the Corps’ new amphibious combat vehicle will be armed with a lighter version of the Army’s Stryker 30mm cannon, according to Marine Corps Systems Command. – Marine Corps Times

The Space Development Agency wants to put an initial batch of satellites capable of tracking hypersonic weapons on orbit in fiscal 2022, according to a draft request for proposals the agency released May 11. – C4ISRNET

The Navy is confident its COVID-19 mitigation efforts are working well enough to increase the number of recruits arriving at boot camp to 750 per week. – USNI News

The Pentagon is hunkering down to live with the coronavirus for the foreseeable future. The Defense Department must accomplish a delicate balancing act: continuing essential missions such as the fight against ISIS, while keeping forces healthy enough that those missions aren’t adversely affected anyway. – The Hill

President Trump on Friday touted a mysterious new military asset: a missile that could travel significantly faster than any warhead the U.S. currently has in its arsenal. – The Hill

The Trump administration on Friday unveiled the official flag to be used by the Space Force, the newest branch of the military. – The Hill

As the Army urgently develops its 31 top-priority technologies for future war, service leaders are studying a proposal to field-test some of them together later this year, Army officials told me. – Breaking Defense

The Air and Space Forces are speeding efforts to adopt 3D printing as a major pillar of force sustainment, now making critical spare parts for weapon systems such as engine components for fighters and rockets. – Breaking Defense

The Army’s IBCS missile defense command and control system is still in testing. But in the not too distant future, it’s supposed to become a major building block for a future meta-system linking all the armed services, known as Joint All-Domain Command & Control. – Breaking Defense

The U.S. Navy granted its first waiver this week that will allow a transgender service member to continue serving despite a 2019 policy that would have seen the sailor discharged. – Navy Times

The Navy’s top enlisted recruiter was fired Wednesday “due to loss of confidence in his judgement,” officials said Friday. – Navy Times

Twenty lawmakers are asking that the Department of the Defense stop appeasing “anti-religion activists,” citing recent complaints made by an advocacy group amid the coronavirus pandemic that were met with corrective actions by base commanders in two cases and an investigation in the third. – Army Times

The elite US special operations forces are ill-equipped for high-tech warfare with China and Russia, experts warn, as the Trump administration pivots from the “war on terror” to a struggle with geopolitical rivals. – Financial Times

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: In a Senate hearing last week, a Pentagon official charged that Ligado’s heavily vetted plan could interfere with the GPS chips in weapons systems, never mind that Ligado is licensed to operate only in the U.S. and would be in a position to interfere only with smart bombs aimed at U.S. territory. […]Given the decades-old political allocations through which these rights were originally bestowed, the U.S. faces a pickle now in trying to rationalize use of its airwaves. In many cases the only solution will be a highly motivated, innovative company willing to lobby and maneuver to liberate these resources from the palsied hands that now monopolize them. – Wall Street Journal

Peter Garretson writes: Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett’s announcement that Saturday’s mission of the X-37B military space plane will be to demonstrate how to use satellites or other space systems to generate solar power marks a major milestone[…]. It sends a powerful signal of our intention to remain preeminent in space, and to contest leadership on grand world-changing ideas like space solar power. It provides the first tangible evidence that the new U.S. Space Force and its leadership grasp the broader significance of its role in building long-term comprehensive security beyond simply protecting America’s critical military satellites. – Politico

Trump Administration

President Trump is again considering cutting off funding to the World Health Organization, administration officials said, in a possible shift from a prior plan to restore partial funding to the group. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. President Donald Trump’s firing of the State Department’s top internal watchdog “could be unlawful” if it was intended to retaliate against one of his investigations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday. – Reuters

Democrats in Congress on Saturday launched an investigation into President Donald Trump’s move to oust the State Department’s internal watchdog, accusing the president of escalating his fight against any oversight of his administration. – Reuters

The Senate Intelligence Committee announced Friday it has submitted the fifth and final volume of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election for classification review, marking one of the last steps before the sprawling probe concludes. – The Hill

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a vote for next Tuesday to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee John Ratcliffe to the post of Director of National Intelligence, two Congressional sources told Reuters. – The Hill

Editorial: If reform fails, there’s no reason for Washington to continue funding the agency at current levels. One option would be to shift funding to a new agency devoted exclusively to pandemic response, as Mr. Bate suggested to us. We’re skeptical of creating new international institutions, but a limited agency like Interpol could be an effective coordinator for pandemic response if WHO is unreformable. The world will face a disease like Covid-19 again. We’ll handle it better next time if a lean and effective agency leads the response. – Wall Street Journal

Rep. Mark Walker writes: From Chinese drywall to the coronavirus, it is clear that the world cannot trust Chinese standards and processes. […]As with the monumental challenges of our past, our nation’s resilience is bigger than this crisis. We will prevail against our invisible enemy. But we don’t have to keep letting history repeat itself if we realize our invisible enemy is not the only enemy in this fight. – Washington Examiner