Fdd's overnight brief

May 20, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The U.S. charged an Iranian online financial services company and two of its senior executives with violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, U.S. prosecutors said.  – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s shift, which has not been announced or explained publicly, appears to be tactical, analysts said, noting that the country still vehemently opposes the Trump administration’s demand that it renegotiate its nuclear agreement with the West and that it has not backed off its goal of ousting the United States military from the Middle East. Publicly, both countries remain engaged in verbal warfare. But the recent signs of de-escalation have been significant: – New York Times

Iran is not looking to destabilize Afghanistan, U.S. military intelligence recently said, contradicting earlier statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – The National Interest 

Iran is refuting reports that it’s reducing its presence in Syria and said it is seeking to bolster its ties with neighboring Iraq as the Islamic Republic pushes forward with a plan to expel the United States from the Middle East. – Newsweek 

A court of appeals in Tehran has upheld the verdict against ten citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for reportedly supporting monarchy. – Radio Farda

In advance of Iran’s National Persian Gulf day, which this year fell on April 29, the Iranian regime stepped up its provocations against U.S. vessels in international waters in the Gulf, in an attempt to establish in the international community the perception that these waters are Iranian. On April 15, 11 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) speedboats harassed a formation of six U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships, getting within a few meters of them. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Michael Makovsky and Rep. Jack Bergman write: Tehran’s persistence confirms that its broader, decadeslong campaign against the United States will not wane. America must empower key allies, such as Israel, and maintain a military footprint in the Middle East to defend critical interests, including keeping maximum pressure on both the Islamic Republic and the Islamic State. – Washington Examiner


The Syrian government ordered the seizure of assets belonging to President Bashar al-Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, one of Syria’s richest men, as well as to his wife and children, according to a government document reviewed by Reuters. – Reuters

Growing tensions between China and the United States around the coronavirus pandemic publicly spilled over on Tuesday during a U.N. Security Council meeting on humanitarian aid operations in Syria as envoys traded barbs over global leadership. – Reuters

Opposing sides in the Syrian civil war have agreed to reconvene in Geneva for negotiations on the constitution, United Nations Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said on Tuesday, saying that it could provide the arena for bridging “deep, deep mistrust”. – Reuters

As the Syrian war marks its ninth year, the atmosphere among circles identified with the opposition is gloomy, due primarily to the decline in its strength and influence as most of Syria is taken over by the forces of the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies. Moreover, the opposition has recently lost control of dozens of the towns and villages in its remaining strongholds in Aleppo and Idlib provinces in the northwest of the country, after intensive attacks over several weeks by the regime army with assistance from Russia, Hizbullah, and other pro-Iran militias. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Raising the stakes over Israel’s drive to annex land the Palestinians have long claimed, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday angrily declared it free of its commitments under the Oslo peace process, including security understandings that have protected Israelis and preserved the authority’s political hold over the occupied West Bank. For a change, several senior Palestinian officials insisted, Mr. Abbas was not making a mere threat. – New York Times 

Israel was behind a cyberattack on May 9 that disrupted operations at a major port in Iran, according to high-ranking intelligence officials and experts in the Middle East who are kept informed of covert Israeli actions in the region. – New York Times 

During a Tuesday virtual fundraiser with members of the U.S. Jewish community, Biden vowed to reverse President Trump’s policies in the Israeli region and restore the hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. – Washington Examiner

Army chief Aviv Kohavi on Tuesday hinted at Israel’s role in a cyberattack on an Iranian port facility earlier this month, saying the Israel Defense Forces would continue to use “various military tools” against the country’s enemies. – Times of Israel

The number of Iranians seeking help from Israel, including many who would like to emigrate to the Jewish State, has significantly increased amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Tuesday. – Times of Israel

Gulf States

A United Arab Emirates commercial airline flew its first publicly acknowledged direct flight from its capital Abu Dhabi to Israel on Tuesday, a milestone in relations between two Middle East nations with no formal diplomatic ties. – Wall Street Journal 

Congressional Democrats say the State Department watchdog fired by President Donald Trump last week was investigating possible impropriety in a massive arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year, adding new questions to the watchdog’s abrupt dismissal. – Associated Press

In an alert that appeared aimed squarely at Iran, the U.S. Navy issued a warning on Tuesday to mariners in the Gulf to stay 100 meters (yards) away from U.S. warships or risk being “interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures.” – Reuters

The Iranian navy will maintain regular missions in the Gulf, the ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday, a day after the United States warned mariners there to stay away from U.S. warships. – Reuters

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday accused the United Arab Emirates of committing “treachery” and “betrayal” after Etihad Airways made history, flying the first known direct commercial flight between Israel and the UAE. – Times of Israel


Libyan National Army (LNA) forces have decided to retire 2-3km (1.2 miles-1.9 miles) from all front lines in Tripoli from midday, their spokesman said early on Wednesday, after suffering sharp reverses in their campaign to capture the city. – Reuters

The acting U.N. Libya envoy urged the Security Council on Tuesday to pressure foreign actors to stop helping the North African country’s warring parties, warning that the flood of weapons and mercenaries will only intensify fighting. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates believes the only acceptable path forward in the Libyan crisis involves “an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire and a return to the political process”, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

A Lebanese man has pleaded guilty in federal court in Minnesota to conspiring to export drone parts and technology from the U.S. to Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. – Associated Press 

Egypt’s talks with the IMF about a standby loan to help it through the coronavirus pandemic will focus on structural reforms to remove constraints on private businesses, Egypt’s planning minister said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A Jordanian national was moderately hurt on Wednesday after trying to breach the border with Israel, security officials said. – Ynet 

Sen. John Boozman is pressing the Pentagon to upend its plans for Iron Dome and deploy one battery to the Middle East ― the latest sign of impatience on Capitol Hill with the Army’s fielding plans. – Defense News

An investigation into the shooting of a Syrian national by IDF troops after he infiltrated into Israeli territory near Mount Dov on Sunday has been completed by a joint Lebanese and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). According to Lebanon’s National News Agency, the probe of the shooting will be submitted during the upcoming tripartite meeting chaired by UNIFIL. – Jerusalem Post 

Michael Knights writes: At the same time, the United States should closely monitor all of Iraq’s new command appointments to ensure that bilateral security cooperation remains healthy at a time when the Islamic State is showing signs of recovery. […]At a time when progress is being made in the Interior Ministry, CTS, and PMF, Iraq can ill afford further command setbacks in the Defense Ministry. – Washington Institute 

Korean Peninsula

South Korean victims of Japanese wartime sexual violence boycotted a weekly protest in Seoul on Wednesday after a former leader of the group organising the rally was accused of misusing funds meant for victims. […]The scandal is also a setback for President Moon Jae-in, whose relations with Tokyo turned sour after he declared the 2015 deal flawed.- Reuters

North Korea’s delegation at the World Health Assembly threw its support behind the World Health Organization (WHO) and criticized countries that blamed the United Nations agency for the coronavirus outbreak. – Newsweek

Patricia Schouker writes:  Trump has found himself immersed in the same quagmire that his predecessors experienced—one where both sides became almost intractable in their demands. While the initial warm-up between Washington and Pyongyang is not dead, the dynamics of the talks on the denuclearization of North Korea are, at best, stalemated. Talks will likely only resume at a much slower pace and likely not before the end of Trump’s current term.  – The National Interest 


Chinese leader Xi Jinping called on the world Monday to rally behind the World Health Organization and support developing countries as he opened a WHO annual assembly after weeks of acrimony between China and the United States over a proposal to investigate the origins of covid-19. – Washington Post 

An annual legislative conclave will bring thousands of lawmakers and political advisers to Beijing this week, after a 2½-month delay, and give Mr. Xi an opportunity to lay out his economic goals and pivot back to sidelined priorities through the staging of China’s first major political assembly since the pandemic started. – Wall Street Journal

Authorities said Tuesday that they would extend social-distancing rules to contain the coronavirus to June 4, casting doubt over the annual candlelight vigil held on that date to remember victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. – Wall Street Journal

China has significantly stepped up purchases of U.S. agriculture products in the past two months, according to U.S. officials, even as purchases in other sectors fall short of expectations under the first phase U.S.-China trade deal. – Wall Street Journal

Washington on Tuesday slapped sanctions on a China-based company it accused of acting on behalf of U.S.-blacklisted Mahan Air, the Treasury Department said, and denounced the Iranian airline’s flights to Venezuela. – Reuters 

China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seriously damaged the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and China-U.S. relations by making a congratulatory statement to Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-Wen. – Reuters

China said the United States was trying to shift the blame for Washington’s own mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, responding to President Donald Trump’s letter threatening to halt funding to the World Health Organization. – Reuters

China said Tuesday that a boy who disappeared 25 years ago after being picked by the Dalai Lama as Tibetan Buddhism’s second-highest figure is now a college graduate with a stable job. – Associated Press

Facing the most disruptive pandemic in generations, the technocratic halls of the World Health Organization are now the scene of pitched battles in an increasingly bitter proxy war between the China and the United States. – Associated Press

Chun Han Wong, Drew Hinshaw and Chao Deng write: The brash new attitude, playing out on social media, in newsprint and across negotiating tables, marks a turn for China’s once low-key diplomats. It’s part of a deliberate shift within the Foreign Ministry, spurred on by Chinese leaders seeking to claim what they see as their nation’s rightful place in the world, in the face of an increasingly inward-looking U.S. – Wall Street Journal

Anna Fifield writes: While some of that anger remains, Chinese public sentiment has changed as people have seen the toll the virus has wreaked elsewhere, especially in the United States. […]Even normally critical intellectuals who access information from outside China’s Great Firewall express relief that they are in China and not the West during this pandemic. – Washington Post 

Joseph Bosco writes: At the same time, having seen Trump’s trade leverage over China dissipated by the pandemic, his administration should step up its information campaign against the world’s most dangerous regime. As Pottinger’s speech showed, the messaging would find a welcoming audience among the Chinese people and give China’s government more to think about than undertaking military adventures. – The Hill 

Rep. Dusty Johnson writes: Government should stay out of the business of private enterprise. At the same time, our nation’s leaders have an obligation to protect the American people. These values are in tension with one another. That said, I find it unwise to watch a majority of our pharmaceuticals, processing plants, and personal protective equipment become increasingly dependent on a good-standing relationship with China. – Washington Examiner


In a day of intensifying violence across Afghanistan, the country’s security forces bombed a clinic in the northern province of Kunduz on Tuesday in their efforts to thwart another coordinated assault by the Taliban on the provincial capital that the militants have twice overrun and continue to besiege. – New York Times 

The United Nations on Tuesday called for an immediate reduction of violence in Afghanistan, warning that civilian casualties at the hands of both the Taliban and Afghan security forces are on the increase. The U.N. mission also expressed concern about stepped-up attacks and brutality of the Islamic State group. – Associated Press 

Editorial: The cajoling, and the blunt pressure of a $1 billion cut in U.S. aid, appeared to pay off over the weekend when President Ashraf Ghani and his chief political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, agreed to form a government, ending a prolonged impasse following elections last year. Yet those talks appear far away, given continuing and increasingly bloody Taliban attacks — including an assault this week on the city of Kunduz, which violated a pledge the insurgents made not to besiege provincial capitals. – Washington Post

South Asia

Itself cash-strapped, the Myanmar military operates one of Asia’s largest standing armies. Soldiers, often barely out of childhood and ill-equipped, are involved in fighting in the country’s borderlands, where ethnic minorities are concentrated. Even with this record drug haul, regional experts are concerned that the seizures represent only a tiny fraction of what is being churned out in jungle redoubts in Shan State. – New York Times 

A rebel commander and his aide were killed in a gunbattle with government forces in Kashmir’s main city on Tuesday, officials said, triggering anti-India protests and clashes in the disputed region. – Associated Press

Militants killed seven Pakistani soldiers in two attacks in the country’s mineral-rich southwestern province of Balochistan, the military said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A Christian pastor in Southeast Asia who preached a sermon telling churchgoers they would be immune to coronavirus — then contracted COVID himself — is facing charges for organizing services in defiance of Myanmar government orders, Reuters reports. […]Canadian officials are in contact with Lah offering consular services and he is on the list for evacuation for the end of May. – Fox News


The Trump administration has for years sparred with China over tariff threats, technology and the terms of their trade deal. But in a pair of actions last week, the administration escalated those economic tensions in a way that comes close to touching a red line for Beijing: its contentious relationship with Taiwan. – New York Times

Intent on preventing a repeat of anti-government protests that drew millions to the streets here last summer, Beijing is moving to block Hong Kong’s avenues for dissent — and its capacity to resist full absorption into China. With pro-democracy protests re-emerging as coronavirus fears ease, the coming weeks are likely to reveal whether China’s approach can work, or if shutting off peaceful means of resistance will drive more people to the streets and to more extreme tactics. – Washington Post 

An Australian university is threatening to expel and take legal action against a student known for his criticism of Beijing, in a case that has renewed tensions over Chinese influence in higher education. – Wall Street Journal

Taiwan cannot accept becoming part of China under its “one country, two systems” offer of autonomy , President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday, strongly rejecting China’s sovereignty claims and likely setting the stage for an ever worsening of ties. – Reuters

The Chinese envoy to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday denounced the support shown by the United States and others to Taiwan during its annual ministerial assembly and said that was undermining the global response to the pandemic. – Reuters

“Reunification” of Taiwan with the mainland is the natural trend of history and efforts to seek independence for the island are a dead-end, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called for stability in relations with China in her inaugural address Wednesday but said she would not accept Beijing’s political terms that would “downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.” – Associated Press

Australian officials announced a raft of plans on Wednesday to speed up the resumption of public life to boost the ailing economy amid a diplomatic spat with major trading partner China. – Reuters

Three tiny words stitched into the bottom of face masks worn by key members of President Donald Trump’s administration could signal a diplomatic success for Taiwan. […]According to The Atlantic’s Timothy McLaughlin, Trump’s advisers wore the masks as “a form of political statement, proof that Taiwan’s recent barrage of health-care diplomacy was reaching the highest levels of the US government.” – Business Insider 

Peter Suciu writes: This month the United States Navy’s Pacific Fleet submarine force announced that all of its forward-deployed submarines were simultaneously conducting “contingency response operations” in the Western Pacific in support of the Pentagon’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” policy. This was to counter China’s expansionism in the South China Sea, but also to downplay the notion that the U.S. Navy has been hampered by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. – The National Interest


Russia’s foreign minister said Tuesday that Moscow has scaled down its military drills amid the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press

Russian efforts to repatriate all North Korean workers have been hampered by the coronavirus outbreak, the Interfax news agency cited Russia’s ambassador to Pyongyang Alexander Matsegora as saying on Wednesday. – Reuters

The United States said on Tuesday it would start delivering 200 medical ventilators this week to Russia, which has the world’s second highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases. – Reuters

Russian gas giant Gazprom decreased its supplies to major clients Germany and Turkey in March, the Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday, citing Russian customs data. – Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project would be completed despite experiencing difficulties, the Interfax news agency reported. – Reuters

Alex Lehtis writes: The struggle between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in Moldova represents a normative struggle in governance between two types of systems: one based on the rule of law, accountability, transparency, and institutions, and another based on patronage, kleptocracy, and arbitrary rule. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Ilya Timtchenko writes: Within the country, Ukraine’s reformers must finally unite in their fight against corruption. […]It is time, however, for emotionally charged political differences to be set aside so that those seeking justice in Ukraine can battle the monolith on its eastern border while resisting endemic corruption at home. – Foreign Policy


Germany’s foreign-intelligence agency, which is banned from spying on Germans, now faces strict limits on its overseas activities after the country’s constitutional court decided that the protections against arbitrary surveillance Germans enjoy applied to everyone world-wide. – Wall Street Journal

Europe is lagging behind the U.S. in funding its share of the billions it will cost to manufacture vaccine doses on an unprecedented scale. Still, European governments expect their citizens to be among the earliest recipients of any vaccine against Covid-19, because the continent is home to pharmaceutical giants like Sanofi and AstraZeneca PLC that are developing some of the world’s most promising candidates. – Wall Street Journal

Germany’s agreement to share debt with other EU countries to finance an economic recovery plan is being greeted as a political breakththrough and an overdue sign of unity in the face of the worst downturn the bloc has ever seen. – Associated Press

The coronavirus pandemic could damage European competitiveness by accelerating the economic dominance of the United States and China, Siemens (SIEGn.DE) Chief Executive Joe Kaeser warned. – Reuters

It took a courtroom of scarlet-robed judges to spur Angela Merkel to make one of her boldest moves in 15 years as German chancellor: propose huge cash handouts to the European Union’s weaker economies. – Reuters

The French and German proposed 500 billion euro ($547 billion) recovery fund will “short-circuit” euro zone government bond yields for now and spark a further fall in Italian and Spanish borrowing costs, Goldman Sachs said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The European Commission will not copy and paste a Franco-German proposal when it presents its own recovery fund idea next week and will include a mix of grants and loans, rather than just grants as suggested by Paris and Berlin, its spokesman said. – Reuters

The Franco-German idea that the European Union should borrow to issue grants for its economic recovery is a historic step as it would be the first time that budget spending is financed through EU debt, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said. – Reuters

A group of six European NATO nations next month will take delivery of the first two of eight Airbus A330 aircraft suitable for aerial refueling and transport missions, the alliance announced. – Defense News


Nkurunziza, Ndayishimiye and Rwasa were all rebel leaders during the civil war from 1993 to 2005 and come from the Hutu majority group. Both Ndayishimiye and Rwasa have assured their supporters of victory, setting the stage for street protests in the likely event that Rwasa is not announced the winner. – Washington Post 

Moeketsi Majoro was sworn in as Lesotho’s new prime minister on Wednesday, a day after his predecessor resigned under pressure over a scandal involving the killing of his wife. – Reuters

French intelligence agents spied on the children of Rwanda’s most-wanted genocide fugitive to track him down to an apartment in a Paris suburb and end a 26-year-long manhunt, the head of the police unit who arrested Felicien Kabuga said. – Reuters

Wealthy countries are failing Africa, with pledges of financial support and debt relief falling well short of the continent’s needs as it battles the COVID-19 pandemic, several African presidents said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo police killed at least 55 people in a crackdown on a separatist religious sect in April, more than double the toll reported by the interior ministry at the time, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday. – Reuters

North America

Local governments across Mexico pushed back Monday against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s call to reopen the economy in some 300 townships that do not have active cases of coronavirus, with leaders saying they preferred to wait until June before resuming normal activities. – Associated Press

The only two hospitals in Southern California’s rural Imperial County were forced to close their doors to new coronavirus patients on Tuesday, after admitting scores believed stricken with the virus from across the border in Mexico, officials said. – Reuters

The US government on Tuesday extended for another month restrictions on non-essential travel across the borders with Canada and Mexico to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. – Agence France-Presse

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many international conferences and sports events were canceled or postponed. In September, the UN is traditionally holding its annual General Assembly. Could the high profile diplomatic event take place on Zoom? – Jerusalem Post 

An online video event in Canada hosted by virulently anti-Zionist activists to mark the Iranian regime’s annual “Quds Day” protest calling for the elimination of the State of Israel was distinguished by its antisemitic rhetoric, a leading Canadian Jewish advocacy organization said on Monday. – Algemeiner 

Latin America

At least five Iranian tankers carrying fuel are currently en route to gasoline-starved Venezuela, which has the world’s largest crude reserves. The United States, which maintains sanctions on both OPEC members, is weighing a response to the supply. – Reuters

With the United States weighing a response to a gasoline shipment from Iran to Venezuela, people waiting in line outside service stations in the country’s capital said they were eager to fill their tanks, regardless of how the fuel arrived. – Reuters

China ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing said on Wednesday that it will start using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to verify if drivers in its Latin American markets wear masks and disinfect cars to keep rides safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters

British supermarkets have warned Brazil they might have to boycott its products if lawmakers there pass a contentious bill that could enable faster destruction of the Amazon rainforest. – Reuters


A former Apple contractor who helped blow the whistle on the company’s programme to listen to users’ Siri recordings has decided to go public, in protest at the lack of action taken as a result of the disclosures. – The Guardian

Israeli defence firm Elbit Systems (ESLT.TA) said on Tuesday the Charlesbank Technology Opportunities Fund invested $70 million in Elbit’s commercial cybersecurity subsidiary Cyberbit. – Reuters

Hacking tools and techniques used to access the travel records of millions of customers of Britain’s easyJet (EZJ.L) point to a group of suspected Chinese hackers thought to be behind multiple attacks on airlines in recent months, two people familiar with the investigation said. – Reuters


Lockheed Martin will throttle back the pace of F-35 production on May 23, leaving it anywhere from 18 to 24 jets short of the 141 scheduled for delivery this year. – Defense News

A satellite designed to rapidly provide space-based environmental monitoring for the war fighter has achieved two major milestones, passing a critical design review and receiving Milestone B certification, the U.S. Space Force announced May 19. – C4ISRNET

More women are joining the U.S. military but the individual services must do more to continue the trend and ensure they stay in uniform, according to the Government Accountability Office. – Military.com

Keeping the Navy’s new officer pipeline open while mitigating COVID-19 risks means altering, delaying or even skipping some of the long-held traditions considered rites of passage for midshipmen. – USNI News

Keith Zuegel writes: Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging small space companies, so increased investment and innovative financial support is critically needed now to sustain the space-industrial base. America relies on space every day, and the benefits of our nation’s space-based capabilities are clear. The U.S. Space Force needs support now, and sustained investment over the next several years, to maintain our critical war-fighting advantages in space. – Defense News

Bryan Clark and Timothy Walton write: If the DoD does not mount a new more strategic and proactive approach to fighting in the EM spectrum, adversaries could be emboldened to continue their efforts to gain territory and influence at the expense of U.S. allies and partners. Demonstrating the ability to survive and fight in a contested and congested EM spectrum could help U.S. forces slow Chinese and Russian activities and give them something to worry about for a change. – Breaking Defense

Missile Defense

The U.S. Space Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $2.375 billion contract for two Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites that will help provide ballistic missile warning for the military. – C4ISRNET

Japan’s defence ministry is investigating a possible leak of details of a new state-of-the-art missile in a large-scale cyber attack on Mitsubishi Electric Corp, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported on Wednesday. – Reuters

US Army officials are in a race to field Stryker A1 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) inside the European theatre that are outfitted with host weapons to down potential Russian aerial threats. However, their bid to do so is hitting some technological snags associated with the integrating the mission equipment package – which includes a 30 mm cannon and Stinger missile system – into the platform, Janes has learned. – Jane’s 360

Long War

Taliban attacks on Afghan forces were high in the first three months of the year even with a one-week reduction in violence ahead of the Trump administration signing a withdrawal deal with the insurgents, a U.S. government watchdog said Tuesday. – The Hill 

Southern Africa’s regional bloc urged member states to support Mozambique in fighting militias with suspected links to Islamic State in the natural gas-rich north of the country. – Reuters

Police in Canada are treating a machete attack in which a woman was murdered and two others injured as an act of terrorism, after discovering evidence suggesting that it was motivated by violent misogyny. – The Guardian 

Terrorism suspects who have not been convicted of any offence face expanded and potentially never-ending measures to control their lives under proposed counter-terrorism laws unveiled by the UK government. – The Guardian 

David Tafuri writes: With both U.S.-led operations and training programs currently shelved, ISIS fighters may find breathing room in Iraq and Syria that they’ve not had in years. […]Unfortunately, the appeal of terror groups like ISIS remains, especially in Iraq and Syria. We must prevent ISIS from leveraging that while the world is focused on COVID-19 — because the consequences would be severe. – The Hill

Trump Administration

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved the nomination of Kenneth Braithwaite to be secretary of the Navy, the committee said Tuesday. – The Hill 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that he wants to release the findings of his investigation into the federal Russia probe before the November election. – The Hill

Former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice has called for the Trump administration to release transcripts of phone calls between Michael Flynn, her successor under President Trump, and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. – The Hill

Joel Gehrke writes: The Trump administration and other Western nations have a growing interest in an alliance to establish critical supply chains outside of China, but the plan for how to do it remains in its infancy. Some Trump advisers think of this international coalition as an “economic prosperity network.” The effort would seek achievements like the announcement last week that a major Taiwanese electronic chips manufacturer plans to make a $12 billion investment in the United States. – Washington Examiner