Fdd's overnight brief

May 20, 2019

In The News


Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif asked China to help save the 2015 nuclear deal, seeking to bolster ties between the two countries as the U.S. intensifies its campaign to isolate Iran. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump warned Sunday that threats from Iran against the United States would mark that nation’s “official end” — taking a sharply more aggressive tone after a rocket landed inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone near the U.S. Embassy amid increasing tensions in the region. – Washington Post  

Iran has unloaded missiles from at least two small boats in its territorial waters in what two American officials said on Friday was a sign of easing tensions in the brewing confrontation between Washington and Tehran. – New York Times

President Donald Trump won the White House pledging to wind down the nation’s many foreign entanglements and put “America First.” But as his administration in recent days has sent mixed signals on the prospects of a military conflict with Iran, Trump’s campaign trail promise is being put to the test. – Associated Press

Across Iran’s capital, the talk always seems to come back to how things may get worse. Battered by U.S. sanctions and its depreciating rial currency, Iran’s 80 million people struggle to buy meat, medicine and other staples of daily life. Now they wonder aloud about America’s intentions as it rushes an aircraft carrier and other forces to the region over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Iran. – Associated Press

Iran’s supreme court has upheld the death sentence of an Iranian man for killing an American woman seven years ago to steal her car, the state-run daily Iran reported on Saturday. – Reuters  

Former CIA Director David Petraeus warned Iran that it is going to have to be “very careful” as tensions between the Middle Eastern nation and the United States continue to ratchet up. – Fox News  

In a glaring repudiation of freedom of expression and the right to peaceful dissent, the Iranian judiciary sentenced three prominent members of the Iranian Writers Association (IWA) to six years in prison each on May 15, 2019. The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) joins the IWA in forcefully condemning these unjust and unlawful sentences against Baktash Abtin, Reza Khandan Mahabadi, and Keyvan Bajan. – Iran Human Rights

Hugh Hewitt writes: Democrats who ignore these realities and who promise a return to the appeasement policies of the Obama era may be signing up for a replay of the 2016 election, which didn’t turn out very well for Obama’s former secretary of state. Millions of Americans understand Iran’s threat far better than the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party does. They will reject a return to the policies that saw America’s enemies grow stronger while the U.S. military budget was sapped during the Obama years. – Washington Post

Eli Lake writes: As tensions rise, so does the risk of miscalculation. And while the older generation of Iranian officers remembers when the U.S. sunk its navy, says Michael Rubin, an Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute, the younger generation “knows only American weakness.” It’s fair to point out the risks. It’s irresponsible to allege some kind of conspiracy to trick the U.S. into a war. It’s understandable why Zarif would push this nonsense; less so is why any Democrat would. – Bloomberg

Montel Williams writes: President Trump and I have known each other for a long time, and I know that he cares deeply about the plight of Americans held abroad. When President Obama was in office, both he and I called on the previous administration to act under very similar circumstances. Now, the time has come for the families of the Americans arbitrarily detained in Iran to hear from their president. This isn’t about the left or right – it’s not even about politics. It’s about standing up for what we believe in. It’s about doing the right thing. – The Daily Beast

Mike Giglio and Kathy Gilsinan write: Ahead of a fuller briefing to Congress, though, the partisan split over Iran is glaring. And it speaks to a broader mistrust that Democrats like Schiff have toward the administration. Through his committee, Schiff has been one of Trump’s most aggressive investigators on the Russia inquiry. The debate over the Trump administration’s use of intelligence on Iran has also played out against the backdrop of the president’s own complicated relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies. – The Atlantic

Gulf States

Middle East tensions appeared to ease over the weekend after the Trump administration moved to de-escalate two weeks of crisis, while Saudi Arabia and Iran toned down their threatening rhetoric in an attempt to avoid military conflict. – Wall Street Journal

The Federal Aviation Administration has warned all American air carriers to “exercise caution” when flying over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, saying that civilian aircraft are at “increasing” risk because of the escalating political tensions in the region. – New York Times  

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have agreed to a request for a renewed deployment of US forces to deter Iran, the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported on Saturday. – Jerusalem Post

Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began “enhanced security patrols” in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf area on Saturday, the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said on Sunday. – Reuters  

U.S.-allied Bahrain warned its citizens on Saturday against travel to Iraq and Iran and asked those already there to return “immediately” for their safety, state news agency BNA said. – Reuters

The U.S. Navy says it has conducted exercises in the Arabian Sea with an aircraft carrier strike group ordered to the Persian Gulf to counter an alleged, unspecified threat from Iran. – Associated Press

Michael Eisenstadt and Farzin Nadimi write: Foreign crises are challenging for even the most seasoned administrations, and President Trump’s team is concurrently caught up in tensions with Iran, China, North Korea, and Venezuela. The mental bandwidth and physical capacity available to deal with such situations are finite, and spreading America’s military resources and the attention of its senior decisionmakers too thinly around the globe risks courting disaster in one or more places. As the United States works through the current crisis with Iran, it should deescalate in these other arenas. – Washington Institute


The powerful Lebanese Hezbollah militia has thrived for decades on generous cash handouts from Iran, spending lavishly on benefits for its fighters, funding social services for its constituents and accumulating a formidable arsenal that has helped make the group a significant regional force, with troops in Syria and Iraq. – Washington Post

In the streets and on television, a national obsession with politics has given way to talk of “economic collapse” and panic over looming reforms. With the country swept up in nationwide protests, even the head of Hezbollah — whose talking points usually include missiles and martyrs — made an unusual appeal to local lenders to assist the government by lowering the cost of debt servicing. – Bloomberg

Lebanon’s health minister — named to the post by the country’s Hezbollah group — said Saturday he has overcome U.S. concerns about his ministry potentially funneling finances to the militant organization by gaining public trust and ensuring transparency. – Associated Press

In the event of war with the United States, Iran “will not be alone.” That message was delivered by the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group to a mass rally in Beirut in February marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. “If America launches war on Iran, it will not be alone in the confrontation, because the fate of our region is tied to the Islamic Republic,” Hassan Nasrallah said. – Associated Press


The Syrian military and its allies have begun a long, slow and violent campaign to recapture the last province in the country still under opposition control, where the government has gradually cornered rebels, extremists and civilians alike. – New York Times

Syrian rebels held onto a commanding position in a mountain range in the coastal province of Latakia, the ancestral home of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after government forces were forced to withdraw. – Reuters  

Syrian air defenses targeted projectiles fired from the direction of Israel for the second night in a row, Syrian state media said on Saturday. – Reuters

Syrian government forces have unilaterally ceased fire in the northern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold, Russia said Sunday, while opposition activists reported continued shelling and airstrikes. – Associated Press

Syrian state media accused Israel of launching a strike against targets outside Damascus on Saturday night and claimed the country’s air defenses intercepted a number of missiles, the second time in less than 24 hours. – Jerusalem Post

John Holland-McCowan writes: In short, a Turkish incursion could unravel the SDF at the seams. If current negotiations fail, U.S. policymakers must recognize that allowing Ankara to unilaterally establish a buffer zone may essentially eliminate the coalition’s best ally in Syria. To secure their protection, the SDF would be forced to seek a deal with the Assad regime and Russia, critically weakening U.S. influence in the region. – Washington Institute

Hadeel Oueis writes: How much easier and more frequent it is today to hurl charges of extremism in our region. In fact, the solution to extremism lies in part in convincing Western governments of the danger of patchwork solutions that expel Christians from the country of Bashar, whose supporters call him the “protector of minorities.” It is imperative that the United States operates on the understanding that repression is not a solution to combating extremism. Rather, extremism is now in the service of the tyrant, Assad, and will become a tool for him to fall back on when he cannot find solutions for his people when they once again ask for their rights. – Washington Institute


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the purchase of S-400 defense systems from Russia was a done deal, adding that Ankara would also jointly produce S-500 defense systems with Moscow. – Reuters

Tensions over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean have risen sharply after Turkey said it would “exercise its sovereign rights” to drill off Cyprus in flagrant defiance of warnings from western allies. – The Guardian  

Turkish authorities ordered the arrest of 249 foreign ministry personnel over suspected links to the network of a U.S.-based cleric accused of orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016, broadcaster NTV said on Monday. – Reuters


The Trump administration is inviting government officials and business leaders from the Middle East and Europe to Bahrain in late June to discuss the economic portion of its plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. – Wall Street Journal

The Israeli broadcaster of the Eurovision Song Contest said on Sunday that an unauthorized display of Palestinian flags by Iceland’s band could draw “punishment” from the event’s organizers. – Reuters

Any American peace plan that ignores the Palestinian people’s political aspirations for an independent state is doomed to fail, a senior Palestinian official said Monday — boding poorly for a Mideast peace conference planned next month. – Associated Press

The Trump administration will unveil the first phase of its long-awaited blueprint for Mideast peace next month at a conference in the region designed to highlight economic benefits that could be reaped if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved, the White House said Sunday. – Associated Press

Al Jazeera removed a video posted on AJ+, its youth-oriented Arabic news platform, that claimed the Holocaust was good for Israel, suspending the two journalists who created it. – Washington Examiner

A growing chorus of voices in the US has singled out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the bogeyman behind US President Donald Trump’s Iran policy. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to prevent an annual Jerusalem Day march from passing though the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. – Jerusalem Post

A senior Palestinian Authority official who was once granted amnesty by Israel following a history of terrorism has been accused of involvement in a series of shooting attacks near the Israeli town of Beit El, north of Jerusalem. – Arutz Sheva

A cluster of balloons attached to an explosive device landed Saturday morning in an IDF base in southern Israel. – Arutz Sheva

Terrorist attacks on Israelis more than halved over March last month, which was the first month in over a year with no casualties among victims. The Israel Security Agency (Shabak) documented 126 attacks in April, compared to 308 in March, the agency said in its monthly report. – Arutz Sheva

Tom Rogan writes: Israeli governments are obligated by democratic mandate to the protection of the Israeli people and their prosperity. That makes the threat of a war with Iran so much better constrained than entertained. And this is an especially important concern in Israel, where governments rest on coalitions. While the Israeli polity would unify against Iran in a war, any unjustified effort by an Israeli prime minister to risk war with Iran would risk their government. Coalition building is rarely an easy task in Israel: Netanyahu has still not built his government following the April election. – Washington Examiner

Michael Milstein writes: On the long run, Israel must maneuver wisely between its interest that Qatar remains active in the Palestinian scene, and the fact that this involvement could hamper Israeli relationship with other Arab countries, primarily with Saudi Arabia. Israel should also attempt, with its limited power, to help ease the tensions between Qatar and the Arab world, which harms Israel’s interests and the interests of its friends in the Middle East and allows the Iranian nuclear threat to grow. – Ynet


A rocket landed inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which houses the sprawling U.S. Embassy, Iraqi security officials said Sunday, in an apparent warning shot to the United States amid escalating tensions with Iran. – Washington Post

An Iraqi Shiite paramilitary group says a roadside bomb has hit a bus carrying its fighters in eastern Iraq, killing seven people and wounding 26. – Associated Press

When U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down with Iraqi officials in Baghdad last week as tensions mounted between America and Iran, he delivered a nuanced message: If you’re not going to stand with us, stand aside. – Associated Press

Leader of Iran’s Quds force, Qassem Soleimani, meet with Iraqi leaders three weeks ago, and told Iraqi militias that they should “prepare for proxy war,” the Guardian reported on Thursday night. – Jerusalem Post

Saudi Arabia

A Saudi Arabian freighter allegedly carrying weapons that could be used in the war in Yemen has docked at the Italian port of Genoa, despite protests by harbor workers. – Associated Press

A senior Saudi official denied the authorities posed any threat to prominent Palestinian human rights campaigner Iyad al-Baghdadi, who has said the Norwegian security services warned him of a threat against him from Saudi Arabia. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia does not want war but will not hesitate to defend itself against Iran, a top Saudi diplomat said Sunday after the kingdom’s energy sector was targeted this past week amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf. – Associated Press

Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud invited Arab states and Gulf leaders to two emergency summits that will take place on May 30 in Mecca, according to Al Arabiya. The summits are intended to discuss “aggressions and their consequences” in the region. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

A roadside bomb targeted a sightseeing bus near Egypt’s famed Pyramids on Sunday, injuring at least 14 people, an attack on one of the most visited sites in the country that threatens its vital tourism industry. – Wall Street Journal

Fighters allied with the U.N.-recognized government in Libya’s capital said they have received armored vehicles and “quality weapons” despite a U.N. arms embargo on the country. – Associated Press

Yemen’s Houthi group said targeting Saudi Aramco’s installations last week was the beginning of military operations against 300 vital military targets, Houthi-controled SABA news agency said on Sunday, citing a source in the movement’s military. – Reuters

Two guards and a soldier were killed and four other people were kidnapped early on Saturday in a suspected Islamic State attack targeting Libya’s Zella oilfield, a security source said. – Reuters

As the US administration prepares to roll out its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, there are indications of growing instability and consternation in Jordan. Facing increased demands for major political and economic reforms in the kingdom, King Abdullah II seems worried that his kingdom will pay a heavy price whether it accepts or rejects the deal. – Jerusalem Post

Newt Gingrich writes: In 2014, during the Syrian civil war, ISIS occupied a site in the Syrian desert which once held a nuclear weapons facility. It reportedly had been built for the Syrians with North Korean help. If that reactor had been there, ISIS might have had a capability to inflict terrifyingly massive casualties. However, seven years earlier, in September 2007, Israel launched a secret air attack against this obscure site in the Syrian desert called Deir es-Zoir. The reactor building was called al-Kibar. Without that Israeli destruction of this Syrian-North Korean project, the world possibly would have had to deal with a nuclear armed ISIS and become a much more dangerous place. – Newsweek

Korean Peninsula

Escaping North Korea’s authoritarian regime comes at a high price. The perilous journey through China is especially punishing for many women and girls, forced to sell their bodies in their attempt to reach freedom. – Wall Street Journal

South Korea vowed Monday to move quickly on its plans to provide $8 million worth of humanitarian aid to North Korea while it also considers sending food to the country that says it’s suffering its worst drought in decades. – Associated Press

North Korea has asked United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to deal with the “illegal” seizure of one of its cargo ships by the United States, state media said on Saturday. – Reuters

Inside, waitresses meander about serving cold noodles and kimchi to customers. However, online records show the restaurant could also be a cover for a company selling high-tech facial recognition software. Two prominent US think tanks say the sales could be a possible violation of United Nations sanctions imposed in 2017, which had intended to clamp down on businesses generating cash to support leader Kim Jong Un’s regime. – CNN

Joseph Bosco writes: Existential struggles are not conducive to compromise, especially when the opposing sides see the competition in those stark terms. The United States is in such confrontations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its junior communist ally, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). – The Hill


The United States for years relied on economic interdependence with China as a stabilizing force in relations with Beijing, with business between the two nations forming what former treasury secretary Hank Paulson used to call the “ballast” in U.S.-China affairs. But as President Trump escalates his trade dispute with Chinese President Xi Jinping, there is a realization that those days are gone. The result is a reduced incentive for stability and restraint in Washington when it comes to China, raising the possibility that tensions could extend beyond the trade sphere and impact other areas of contention, including Taiwan or the South China Sea. – Washington Post

A former C.I.A. officer was sentenced on Friday to 20 years in prison by a federal judge in Northern Virginia for passing secrets to China in return for $25,000, bringing to a close one of several cases involving Chinese attempts to recruit former American intelligence officers. – New York Times

Chinese people have long looked to America as a source of inspiration, with its gleaming skyscrapers, financial power and unparalleled military might. But they also increasingly see it as a strategic rival — a view partly fueled by pride in China’s rise, and by the party’s propaganda organs, which have long depicted America as a hostile, imperialist country that has tried to keep China down. – New York Times

The U.S. military said one of its warships sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea on Sunday, a move likely to anger Beijing at a time of tense ties between the world’s two biggest economies. – Reuters   

China has been increasingly successful in recruiting former U.S. intelligence officers to pass along government secrets, a trend that is getting more attention as the Trump administration attempts to limit Beijing’s spy abilities. – Washington Examiner

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is asking the federal government to investigate if a plan for new subway cars in New York City, designed by a Chinese state-owned firm, could pose a threat to national security. – Reuters

The US ambassador to China is making the first trip to Tibet by an American envoy in four years after obtaining rare access to the restricted region, his embassy said Monday. The visit by Ambassador Terry Branstad comes two months after the US State Department said Beijing had “systematically” impeded access to Tibetan areas for US diplomats, journalists and tourists. – Agence France-Presse

Damien Cave writes: In a gold-curtained meeting room in Sydney, the Chinese consul general appealed to a closed-door gathering of about 100 people, all of them Australian residents and citizens of Chinese ancestry. He called on the group to help shape public opinion during a coming visit of China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, in part by reporting critics to the consulate. […]It is a calculated campaign unlike any other Australia has faced — taking advantage of the nation’s openness, growing ethnic Chinese population and economic ties to China — and it has provoked an uncomfortable debate about how Australia should respond. Many countries face the same challenge from China, an authoritarian power pushing its agenda inside and beyond its borders. – New York Times

Graham Webster writes: The gloves are coming off against Chinese tech giant Huawei. The Trump administration took two major steps on Wednesday to address long-standing U.S. government concerns about national security and information technology infrastructure from China. The timing and content of the announcements make it less likely the United States and China will soon reach a trade and economic agreement. The potentially devastating effects on Huawei in particular could create ripple effects throughout global technology supply chains and hasten any potential “decoupling” between Chinese and U.S. tech ecosystems. – Washington Post

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: Mr. Trump annoys economists and pundits with his sophomoric trade thinking, but he wouldn’t be the first president to prefer colorfulness to cogency. Yet the right moment may have come to serve up to China’s elite a warning about the wrong turn they’ve taken under Mr. Xi. His reversion to crypto-totalitarianism is not a cost-free indulgence. It isn’t serving China’s interests. It’s making a hash of China’s all-important economic ties with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal  

Dan Hannan writes: In pursuit of commercial gain, modern China is doing something that we associate with Hitler and Stalin, namely locking up whole populations on ethnic and religious grounds. If you’re more bothered by Trump saying hurtful things, you need to ask yourself some hard questions about what motivates you. – Washington Examiner


U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan killed as many as 18 Afghan police officers late Thursday during heavy ground fighting with Taliban forces near the capital of Helmand province, Afghan officials and provincial leaders said Friday. – Washington Post

A group of lawmakers, many of them women, blocked the Afghan Parliament’s newly appointed speaker from taking his seat on Sunday, and security forces were dispatched after a scuffle broke out. – New York Times

An Afghan official says gunmen stormed a checkpoint in Kabul, killing at least three police officers. – Associated Press

Afghanistan’s Taliban and U.S. representatives have held six rounds of peace talks since October in the Gulf state of Qatar, where the group maintains a political office. While there have been significant steps toward a deal to end the nearly 18 years of war, those diplomatic gains have come with some costs — namely travel costs for the Taliban, according to the spokesman for the Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. – Military Times

South Asia

These three Pakistanis are among 40 imprisoned on blasphemy charges or convictions. About half are serving life terms, and half have been sentenced to death. Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy, but many convicts are held in solitary confinement for years while awaiting appeals. – Washington Post

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition is poised for victory in India’s general elections, exit polls showed, which would give it another five years running the world’s fastest-growing major economy despite a jobs crisis and struggling rural sector. – Bloomberg

A prominent rights group in Indian-controlled Kashmir is advocating for the United Nations to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate what it calls the endemic use of torture by government forces who have faced a decades-long anti-India uprising in the disputed region. – Associated Press


Russia’s efforts to keep Ukraine in its orbit have included invasions, targeted assassinations and economic coercion. Less prominently, Moscow has directed a clandestine campaign of vandalism and hate crimes aimed at spoiling Ukraine’s relations with its western neighbors, Ukrainian and European officials say. – Wall Street Journal

President Vladimir Putin says that new types of laser weapons developed in Russia will significantly enhance the nation’s military capability. Speaking during Friday’s meeting with top officials, Putin specifically mentioned the Peresvet, the military’s first laser weapon that entered service last fall. – Associated Press

Mark Weinberg writes: Three decades later, Reagan’s hope remains unfulfilled because of Vladimir’s Putin’s corrupt, oppressive and dictatorial policies. It is now Trump’s turn to try to bring Reagan’s vision to reality. Whether he is able or willing remains an open question. The world will be looking for the answer when Trump and Putin meet in Japan next month. Washington Examiner


Twelve far-right parties have formed an alliance — a “patriot family,” some called it — ahead of next week’s European Parliament elections. Salvini, the head of Italy’s nationalist League party, is its headliner. – Washington Post

The German parliament condemned as anti-Semitic a growing international movement that targets Israel and called on the government to withdraw funding for events or institutions affiliated with the initiative. – Wall Street Journal

For weeks, Europe’s far-right populists have been dashing across the Continent, joining arms and presenting themselves as a united front that will batter the political establishment and score a big breakthrough in this week’s elections for the European Parliament. – New York Times

French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as Europe’s savior, and this week’s European Parliament elections as a make-or-break moment for the beleaguered European Union. But Macron is no longer the fresh-faced force who marched into a surprising presidential victory to the rhythm of the EU anthem two years ago. His pro-Europe vision has collided with national interests across the continent. And at home, his pro-business policies have given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising. – Associated Press

The social democrats, including German social democratic foreign minister Heiko Maas, have been under fire for mainstreaming Iranian regime antisemitism and Tehran’s goal to destroy Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Deputy Minister of Sports and Tourism Anna Krupka was presenting her party’s views when Konrad Berkowicz [Korwin] approached her from behind and placed a Jewish skullcap above her head as she was speaking, Krupka is a member of the current ruling Law and Justice Party [PiS]. The incident was aired on a local television channel in Kielce. “They [PiS] bow down to Jews,” Berkowicz reportedly said. “They will sell this country for money.” – Jerusalem Post

The Arab League called Sunday on the German parliament to rescind a resolution that condemned a boycott movement against Israel as anti-Semitic. – Arutz Sheva

Justin Huggler writes: Germany is to increase defense spending by more than €5bn (£4.4bn) this year, Angela Merkel’s government informed Nato on Friday. It is the biggest rise in the German military budget since the end of the Cold War, but will still leave the country far short of meeting Nato’s target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence. – The Telegraph

United States

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan denied a report that he threatened to resign if he was not given more authority over his agency after a clash with White House adviser Stephen Miller. – Washington Examiner

Norman Rosenbaum and Isaac Abraham write: The disgraceful decision by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to have Al Sharpton speak this morning at a plenary session of its conference in Washington, D.C., (titled “Consultation on Conscience”) sends a very dangerous and intolerable message to the anti-Semites among us. – Washington Examiner

Latin America

Days before she is set to go on trial on corruption charges, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced on Saturday that she intends to return to the presidential palace this year, this time as vice president running alongside Alberto Fernández, a former ally with whom she has had an uneasy relationship. – New York Times

Jailed in the squalid barracks of a military base, members of Guatemala’s once untouchable elite plot their return to power. Former presidents and ministers, legislators, judges and business owners, all accused in a yearslong battle against graft, spend their idle hours gardening, strumming guitars, studying English, barbecuing for Sunday visitors — and waging a campaign to crush the anti-corruption drive that put them in jail. – New York Times

Zimbabwe’s collapse under Robert Mugabe. The fall of the Soviet Union. Cuba’s disastrous unraveling in the 1990s. The crumbling of Venezuela’s economy has now outpaced them all. Venezuela’s fall is the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years, economists say. – New York Times

On May 6, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Finland, where the two diplomats took part in the ministerial session of the Arctic Council. During the meeting, the two diplomats discussed the Venezuelan crisis. After his meeting with Pompeo, Lavrov reiterated to the media that Russia is categorically opposed to armed action. – Middle East Media Research Institute  


European governments armed themselves with a new tool against cyberattackers, adopting a sanctions regime to allow them to penalize foreign individuals and entities as western countries seek fresh ways of deterring large-scale hacking of their computer networks. – Wall Street Journal

Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday, in a blow to the Chinese technology company that the U.S. government has sought to blacklist around the world. – Reuters

The federal government should have a hand in helping states secure elections, within limits, according to House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. – Washington Examiner

Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum thinks Florida residents should know which counties Russia hacked. – Washington Examiner

The Army will soon award a contract for a private company to own and operate the headquarters network used by its new Futures Command, the Army CIO told me. If this pilot project for Enterprise IT As A Service works out, Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford said, the Army will hand over the networks at more of its 288 installations to the private sector — which has proven far more adept at building, managing, and continually upgrading business IT than the government has. – Breaking Defense


In a trio of notifications Friday afternoon, the U.S. State Department cleared more than a billion dollars in potential weapon sales for three of America’s military allies. – Defense News

U.S. Special Operations Command is bullish at the prospect of buying a light-attack aircraft, according to the command’s top leaders — a marked contrast from the U.S. Air Force, which wants to expand the effort to other types of platforms. – Defense News

The U.S. Army has been building a virtual world in which to train soldiers for war, and it’s expected to award contracts in June for reconfigurable virtual air and ground trainers and for a common synthetic environment that includes complex and real-life terrain. – Defense News

A House subcommittee’s draft for fiscal 2020 defense spending bill includes $500 million for an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance fund. Defense officials have a wide range of freedom in determining how the money is used—it can be dedicated to anything from personnel pay to purchasing new platforms to data processing as long as it improves the Department’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. – C4ISRNET

Industry leaders and government officials warn position, navigation and timing services are increasingly under attack, including through a method that allows adversaries to manipulate computers that use GPS. – C4ISRNET

The Senate Armed Services Committee will mark up its draft of the annual defense authorization bill this week while the House Appropriations Committee advances its own work on the annual defense spending plan. – Military Times

A hazing investigation by Naval Criminal Investigative Service into the Corps’ Silent Drill Platoon resulted in at least five Marines being punished ― three of whom recently were separated from the Corps, according to officials. – Military Times

Long War

Even as fellow European countries worry about hardened Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, Britain has another problem: the re-emergence of a homegrown militant cell, Al Muhajiroun, one of Europe’s most prolific extremist networks, which was implicated in the London bombingsLondon bombings of 2005. – New York Times

Ibrahim’s parents, both from Scandinavia, joined Islamic State at the height of its power and were killed as U.S.-backed forces battered the group’s last redoubts in Syria this year. Swedish authorities, under pressure from humanitarian organizations and the children’s tenacious grandfather, Patricio Galvez, earlier this month evacuated the orphans from a camp in Syria. – Wall Street Journal  

Islamic State militants have rioted at a prison at a high-security prison just outside the capital in Tajikistan, killing three prison guards and 29 inmates, the Justice Ministry said on Monday. – Reuters