Fdd's overnight brief

May 22, 2020

In The News


The Trump administration believes Iran has growing incentives to pull out of a multibillion-dollar military campaign in Syria as the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the country, the U.S. State Department’s top official for Iran told Foreign Policy. – Foreign Policy 

The U.S. Navy’s stay-away warning to marine traffic in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman was intended for Iran, Pentagon officials confirmed on Thursday. – USNI News

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday morning that the State of Israel was the greatest threat to international peace and security. – Jerusalem Post

Iran’s top health official appealed to Iranians to avoid travelling during the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday later this month to avoid the risk of a new surge of coronavirus infections, state TV reported on Thursday. – Reuters

As it does every year, the Iranian regime is marking Qods Day – Jerusalem Day – on the last Friday of Ramadan, which in 2020 falls on May 22. This year as well, the call for destroying Israel features prominently in statements by regime officials, who announced that the due to the coronavirus Qods Day marches would be presented via the media and there would be no parades in the streets. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Iran’s foreign minister on Thursday defended an anti-Israel poster shared by the country’s leader that invoked the term “final solution,” after Israeli and US leaders accused him of advocating genocide. – Times of Israel

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell condemned calls by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for a ‘final solution’ to destroy the State of Israel. – Arutz Sheva

David Horowitz writes: An Iran without “Israel inside,” Singer said, “would make North Korea look advanced and cosmopolitan. Essentially, Iran would go back to the world of 50 years ago, maybe more. It would look like a huge Amish colony in Muslim garb. Meanwhile, it would be party time in the US, Israel, and most of the Arab world.” On the other hand, of course, Iran could acknowledge the centrality of Israeli innovation to the improved functioning and health of society, stop subverting its diminishing resources to the vile cause of wiping us out, and rejoin the family of nations. – Times of Israel

Michael Rubin writes: Khamenei and Zarif are right. Referendums can bring clarity. Surely, if they have confidence both in their popular legitimacy and in the Palestinian people’s willingness to subordinate their desire for freedom to Abbas’s kleptocracy, they would have nothing to fear from allowing their people an internationally supervised referendum. – Washington Examiner


Israel watched the fighting between Hezbollah’s Radwan unit and Turkish forces in Syria’s Idlib province very closely, learning that the elite unit found it difficult to stand up to a conventional army. – Jerusalem Post

Ten years after relations between Israel and Turkey crashed and burned, the two former allies may once again be growing closer over shared concerns, including Hezbollah’s presence in Syria. – Jerusalem Post

Leaders of Iran-backed terrorist groups across the Middle East will participate in a virtual rally on Friday to mark “Quds Day” — the annual event sponsored by the Tehran regime to promote the elimination of the State of Israel. – Algemeiner

Judah Ari Gross writes: Twenty years after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, the enemy it fought there — the Iran-backed Hezbollah — is stronger than ever, battle-hardened from its time in Syria backing the regime, expanding its operations to the Syrian Golan border, and constantly amassing more powerful weapons for a future war with the Jewish state. […]The IDF hopes to prevent a situation in southern Syria like the one in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah maintains a major presence, that it could use to wage a deadly war against Israel with the civilian residents of the area as a human shield. – Times of Israel


A Syrian court has placed a temporary travel ban on prominent businessman Rami Makhlouf, a copy of the court order posted on the Ministry of Justice’s Facebook page showed on Thursday, amid a high-profile dispute over his mobile phone company Syriatel. – Reuters 

Iran is slowly pulling out of Syria in response to Israeli strikes, as well as growing domestic discontent linked to the economy and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Israeli military said Thursday. – Associated Press 

The camp is one of several in Syria’s war-torn northwest region where makeshift barbers are being set up by the International Association for Relief and Development (ONSUR), part of a project to bring relief to children during the Eid holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. – Reuters


The rival sides in ethnically divided Cyprus agreed on Thursday to partially re-open crossing points for Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north to cross into the internationally recognized south amid a wide-ranging rollback of a two-month lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. – Associated Press

The Chinese Communist Party is trying to extradite a Uighur man who has been living in Turkey since 2014 to escape Beijing’s persecution of the mostly Muslim group that lives in western China, according to a report. – New York Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The COVID-19 crisis presents a further opportunity for healing. Al-Monitor reported sales to Israel from Turkey in April and Turkey has sent aid to Palestinians. Add it all up and there is much that could change, but there is a lot of inertia in the opposite direction. – Jerusalem Post


Israeli sources confirmed Thursday that the Palestinian Authority is making good on its threat to end security coordination with Israel over the new Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. – Times of Israel  

The simmering cyber conflict between Iran and Israel reached a boiling point this week as the two enemies have been going tit-for-tat in an effort to quietly take down critical infrastructure that security analysts dub something of an electronic cold war. – Fox News

The Palestinian Authority (PA) declined a shipment of medical supplies sent by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) via Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, Palestinian news agency Maan reported Thursday. – Ynet 

A host of Israeli websites have been hacked in a massive, alleged Iranian cyber attack, the Israel National Cyber Directorate said on Thursday. – Ynet

The Northern Command reports it has seen an increase in the number of people trying to illegally cross the border from southern Lebanon to Israel over the past two months. – Ynet

A top Palestinian official said intelligence-sharing with the CIA has ended as a result of Israel’s plan to annex land in the West Bank. – Washington Examiner

Well over a dozen Democratic senators signed a letter this week warning Israel against unilateral annexation of settlements in the occupied West Bank. – Haaretz

Ruthie Blum writes: If his suggestion that Palestinians “end incitement in the West Bank and rocket attacks in Gaza” caused Abbas any ill ease, it was likely fleeting. A presidential hopeful who creates moral parity between Israel and the PA is a lot better than a president actually in the Oval Office whose compass can’t be manipulated by a terrorist in a tie. – Jerusalem Post 

Aryeh Eldad writes: Wherever sovereignty has been applied, creation of a “Palestinian state” becomes impossible, which should be our political, as well as historical, goal. The Arabs currently in power are refusing negotiations. This is a window of opportunity of which Israel can take advantage, to prevent creation of a foreign state in the heart of our homeland. – Jerusalem Post

Avi Issacharoff writes: Encouraged by the words of Jordans’s King Abdullah, who last week warned of “massive conflict” and a possible end to peace should annexation move forward, Palestinian officials are now openly speaking of further desperate measures: even a willingness to collapse and disintegrate their very structures of power in the West Bank if annexation moves forward. – Times of Israel

Chemi Shalev writes: Nonetheless Biden’s warning should give any rational Israeli government pause to reassess whether the jingoistic satisfaction of annexation is worth the potential damage to relations with a future U.S. president. – Haaretz

Ilan Berman writes: And if the Trump administration insists that Israel renege on existing projects involving China (such as the Haifa port), it will need to come up with a serious plan to compensate Jerusalem for the economic penalties and hardships it may incur as a result. Through such steps, the two countries can help safeguard their partnership in the face of what is fast becoming a serious strategic challenge. The historic and strategic nature of U.S.-Israel ties should give both nations every reason to do so. – American Foreign Policy Council


Lebanon’s financial meltdown could tip the country into a full-blown food crisis, as people hit by soaring prices and the fallout of COVID-19 become unable to afford even basics like bread, the prime minister warned. – Reuters 

The 20-year anniversary of the pullout from Lebanon – coupled with the coronavirus lockdown – has all helped to create a renewal of interest in the Israeli experience in Lebanon.  – Jerusalem Post

This coming Sunday will mark 20 years since the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the reality on Israel’s northern border remains fragile at best. – Arutz Sheva

The forced inactivity of the coronavirus days, in conjunction with the approaching anniversary, led to a unique Israeli phenomenon: a kind of mass group therapy by means of a Facebook group. Thousands of former soldiers who had fought in Lebanon during the era of the security zone (1985-2000) shared the experiences they had carried around locked within themselves for years. – Haaretz

Anchal Vohra writes: Lebanon, historically a land of seafarers and traders on the Mediterranean, has maintained itself as a middle-income nation in modern times. But a country that hitherto sought international aid for almost 2 million Syrian and Palestinian refugees now finds that 75 percent of its own population is in need of assistance, most of whom previously hailed from the middle class. […]The poor and the lower-middle class are in urgent need of pecuniary support. They are the worst-hit and, unlike the middle classes, cannot afford a veneer of respectability. – Foreign Policy

Arabian Peninsula

A United Nations staff member in Yemen died of Covid-19 amid a surge in coronavirus cases, as international agencies warned the pandemic could spiral out of control in one of the world’s most impoverished and war-battered nations. – Wall Street Journal

For years, he was one of Saudi Arabia’s top intelligence officers, an expert in artificial intelligence who played key roles in the kingdom’s fight against Al Qaeda and in its security coordination with the United States. But since 2017, Saad Aljabri has been lying low in Canada, fearing for his life and resisting increasing pressure from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to return to Saudi Arabia, according to his son and associates. – New York Times

Abdullah al-Hamid, an intellectual and human-rights activist whose calls for reforming Saudi Arabia’s monarchy made him one of the kingdom’s most prominent and persistent dissidents and led to frequent prison terms, died on April 24 in detention. He was 69. – New York Times

The family of slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi announced Friday they have forgiven his Saudi killers, giving legal reprieve to the five government agents convicted of his murder who’d been sentenced to execution. – Associated Press

Saudi Arabia on Thursday voiced its opposition to the new Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. In a statement quoted by Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya, the country’s foreign ministry said it rejects unilateral moves and any violations of UN Security Council resolutions, as they could prevent the resumption of peace talks and undermine regional security. – Times of Israel 


A string of victories by Turkish-backed forces in western Libya this week dealt a heavy blow to the ambitions of the aspiring strongman Khalifa Hifter and signaled the arrival of Turkey as a potentially decisive force among the foreign powers battling for supremacy in the Middle East’s biggest proxy war. – New York Times 

Turkey warned on Thursday against any attacks on its interests in Libya by Khalifa Haftar’s forces after his Libyan National Army (LNA) threatened to respond to recent military setbacks by striking Turkish positions in the country. – Reuters 

UN experts are investigating the suspected deployment of at least eight Russian-made fighter jets to Libya in support of renegade general Khalifa Haftar, diplomats and people briefed on the matter said. – Financial Times

Middle East & North Africa

Jordan threatened Thursday to review its relationship with Israel if the Jewish state goes ahead with controversial plans to annex parts of the West Bank. – Agence France-Presse 

Russia is bidding to rescue the collapsing Israel-Palestinian peace process with a proposal for a meeting of major foreign and Middle Eastern powers. – Bloomberg 

On May 16, 2020, newly appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi addressed the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in a visit to their headquarters. He was received by the government appointee PMU Chairman Falih Al-Fayyadh and other PMU commanders including Kata’ib Hezbollah Commander Abu Fadak, whose militias accused Al-Khadhimi in April of conspiring with the U.S. on killing Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Zvi Bar’el writes: Sissi is careful not to present Egypt as the leading country in the Middle East, but contrary to Saudi Arabia, he is adept at evading problematic arenas such as Syria and Yemen and at avoiding open confrontation with the United States, thereby protecting his status as everyone’s partner. Sissi will lose no sleep over the cost of maintaining that status in terms of human rights in Egypt. – Haaretz


China broke with more than a quarter-century of tradition by eschewing an economic growth target for 2020, a stark acknowledgment of the challenges facing the world’s second-largest economy as it grapples with uncertainties around the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal 

Turn on the TV any evening in China, and you’re likely to see a grim, razor-tongued woman letting fly at the Trump administration. The diatribes unleashed by Foreign Ministry information chief Hua Chunying are usually ignored in the West, but for China’s people, they are often the only words on the United States that make it through the heavily censored media. – Washington Post 

China reiterated a pledge to implement the first phase of its trade deal with the U.S. despite setbacks from the coronavirus outbreak, and as tensions escalate between the world’s two biggest economies. – Bloomberg 

A defender of internet censorship with ties to one of China’s largest tech companies moderated a panel Thursday at a new think tank funded by Charles Koch and George Soros. – The Washington Free Beacon

A bill that could force Chinese companies to give up their listings on American stock exchanges is now moving at “warp speed” after the U.S. Senate passed the legislation on Wednesday, Raymond James told its clients Thursday morning. – CNBC

American universities under investigation by the US Education Department are trying to keep their ties to China hidden — refusing to hand over documents detailing cash and other gifts from the Communist nation, according to a new report. – New York Post

Josh Rogin writes: But the pandemic convinced most Americans that something fundamental in our approach to China must change. And because we can’t change China (and shouldn’t try), what we can do is realize the nature of the competition we are in and then win it. – Washington Post

Hal Brands writes: Yet we ought to recognize that the debate about what China wants is growing stale, because China’s leaders and behavior have increasingly answered that question. When a proud and powerful challenger starts to advertise its global ambitions, Americans should probably err on the side of taking those ambitious seriously. – Bloomberg 

Charles Crabtree and Elliot Silverberg write: Americans must not punish the Chinese people for the actions of the Chinese government. Doing so would not only unfairly endanger the mental and physical health of many, but also needlessly fuel CCP criticisms of the U.S. The only clear beneficiary of an America perceived as irresponsible is the CCP, which will continue subjugating its own people while concealing its portion of the blame for the virus through acts of media suppression and international coercion. – The Hill 

Jeffrey Kupfer writes: China has committed to purchasing a large amount of U.S. energy production. President Trump and the trade negotiators are saying the right things about carrying through on those commitments. Let’s hope they’re right, and let’s keep pushing — as it will help the energy sector regain its footing. – The Hill 

Kevin Schoenmakers writes: And as microbiologists warned years ago that China’s natural reservoir of SARS-like viruses and the local practice of eating wild animals made the country a probable source of a new viral outbreak, so too was it unsurprising that scientists eventually traced mcr-1’s likely origin to one of China’s many pig farms. […]The slow-rolling nature of antimicrobial resistance means we can blunt its deadly potential. “We have the time and the opportunity to do something about this,” Xiao said, referring to the global struggle against the phenomenon. “It’s just a matter of whether we will.” – Foreign Policy


U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has urged a reduction in violence “by all sides” in Afghanistan, saying innocent Afghans are bearing too much of the brunt of the war. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 

The first visit to Kabul by Washington’s peace envoy since Afghanistan’s squabbling political leadership reached a power-sharing agreement comes amid increased violence blamed mostly on an Islamic State affiliate that has been targeted in stepped-up U.S. bombing. – Associated Press

Ashraf ghani remains president of Afghanistan, while his eternal rival for the job, Abdullah Abdullah, who disputes the result of the election held last September, gets yet another consolation prize. That, it seems, is the upshot of a deal finally agreed on May 17th, after months of posturing and haggling, including an absurd moment in March when both men had themselves sworn in. – The Economist

South Asia

India has drafted rules proposing tighter scrutiny of new Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) from China and Hong Kong, three government sources told Reuters, its latest effort to check foreign inflows during the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters  

India said on Thursday that Chinese troops had stood in the way of regular Indian patrols along their disputed border in flare-ups at two locations this month and called for stability on the front line. – Reuters  

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi took control of the disputed Kashmir region last August, he said it would bring India’s only Muslim-majority state closer to the rest of the country and improve economic conditions. – Bloomberg

The Indian Air Force is overhauling its plan to induct 114 medium-weight multirole fighters, with a senior service official saying the aircraft will be built in India with significant foreign technology transfer and no foreign procurement. – Defense News 

Dr. Manjari Singh writes: In these cases, diplomatic shifts can ripple outwards. If Gulf tensions are diminished by coronavirus’s regional impact—as well as Iran’s great need in focusing on its domestic challenges, Gulf Arab leaders are less likely to be invested in pressuring Iran. In this case, a shift in the Gulf might provide an opening to renegotiating with Iran. – Washington Institute


China’s Communist Party will impose a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong by fiat during the annual meeting of its top political body, officials said Thursday, criminalizing “foreign interference” along with secessionist activities and subversion of state power. – Washington Post

Secret police, surveillance, arbitrary detentions, propaganda in classrooms — all these will be coming to Hong Kong under a far-reaching national security law Beijing is unilaterally imposing on the territory. – Washington Post

China’s plans to impose sweeping new security powers over Hong Kong could inflict even more damage on already fraught relations between Washington and Beijing, and force President Trump into uncomfortable decisions about whether to maintain his self-described friendly ties with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. – New York Times 

Within a matter of years, however, China began taking steps that eroded the liberties enjoyed by Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people, and the moves have increasingly led to pro-democracy demonstrations and suspicion toward the intent of the Chinese Communist authorities in Beijing. – New York Times

The last time they faced a proposal that would have curbed their autonomy from mainland China, Hong Kong residents flooded the city’s streets, stormed its legislature and clashed with police amid flames and clouds of tear gas. They stared down local leaders, who they said were doing the bidding of Beijing, and ultimately the government relented. But Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition movement is now confronting a far mightier foe: Beijing itself. – New York Times

Swastikas were sprayed on a golf course in Melbourne, Australia, founded by Jews nearly seven decades ago because they were not allowed to play at other clubs. – Times of Israel   

Hong Kong’s government said on Friday that plans by Beijing to impose national security legislation in the Chinese-ruled city would not affect its judicial independence or that of its legal entities. – Reuters 

China will encourage the people of Taiwan to join it in opposing the island’s independence and promoting China’s “reunification”, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday, a move likely to worsen Beijing’s poor relations with Taipei. – Reuters  

Taiwan urged China on Friday to “sincerely start a dialogue” with people in Hong Kong after China proposed new national security legislation for the former British colony. – Reuters  

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made an unusually small number of public appearances in the past two months, once again going three weeks without state media reporting his attendance at a public event, according to analysts. – Reuters 

Dennis Rodman has revealed that the world will know “something is wrong” with his pal Kim Jong Un — if the despot’s sister starts getting more face time on TV. – New York Post

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers sharply criticized China’s move to take over long-stalled efforts to enact national security legislation in the semi-autonomous territory, saying it goes against the “one country, two systems” framework that promises the city freedoms not found on the mainland. – Associated Press

Editorial: The only way to deter any of this is to make sure Beijing officials know they will pay a heavy price. […]A bipartisan group in the U.S. Congress is advancing legislation that would sanction officials who implement the national-security law. The U.S. will also have to sell more arms to help Taiwan defend itself. Mr. Xi wants the world to think his China is a benign power that follows global rules, but in Hong Kong and Taiwan we are seeing the true nature of the current Communist regime. The world will have to adapt to this increasingly dangerous reality. – Wall Street Journal 

Tom Rogan writes: As a first step, President Trump should issue a clear statement that the U.S. stands with those Hongkongers who will surely now return to the streets. Their struggle for freedom is the same that brought America into being. It matters. – Washington Examiner

Sadaaki Numata writes: Okamoto’s death is a tragic loss for everyone involved in U.S.-Japan affairs at a critical time in the two country’s relations. […]Many in Japan, the United States, and elsewhere wish they could still admire these photographs over glasses of his favorite chilled single-malt whiskey and listen to his insight on how this pandemic will affect the global power balance and Japan’s role in it. – Foreign Policy 

Michael Rubin writes: Rather, by breaking down the border between Hong Kong and China, he may actually expedite the spread of Hong Kong’s dissent. Communist China controls movement, but it cannot quarantine Hong Kong forever. […]The real threat from China remains not its rise, but rather its collapse. Freedom is contagious. Xi’s actions against Hong Kong may, in hindsight, appear like treating a chest wound with a band-aid. – The National Interest

Emil Avdaliani writes: But now U.S. and EU pressure are stoking change in  Georgian minds too. A consensus behind restarting the project is emerging and strengthening. […]Georgia’s unstable politics and economic difficulties could still complicate efforts to build the port. A key indicator of success will be if U.S. engagement continues and intensifies. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Oriana Skylar Mastro writes: The United States should establish a credible deterrent to dissuade China from pursuing greater control over the South China Sea through military means. The United States should do this by improving U.S. force posture in the region and signaling to China the importance to the United States of an open South China Sea and a peaceful resolution of conflicts. – Council on Foreign Relations  

Suzanne Sataline writes: The song’s pull has surprised even the most hardened residents, including Gordon Mathews, an anthropology professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who has studied Hong Kongers’ bonds with Britain and China. […]“The song is really a sense of a national anthem,” Mathews told me. Hong Kong, he continued, “hasn’t had a sense of country before and now it does. And that’s extraordinary.” – The Atlantic


President Trump has decided to withdraw from another major arms control accord, he and other officials said Thursday, and will inform Russia that the United States is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, negotiated three decades ago to allow nations to fly over each other’s territory with elaborate sensor equipment to assure that they are not preparing for military action. – New York Times 

When Belarus ordered its first shipment of U.S. oil earlier this month, it was more than just an energy deal. It was a message to Moscow: One of Russia’s most reliable allies was testing its ties with the West. – Washington Post

The United States does not expect to pull out of the New START accord with Russia and will enter into good-faith negotiations with Moscow, a top U.S. official said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies treaty will affect the interests of all of its participants, who are also members of NATO, RIA state news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying on Thursday. – Reuters 

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he has a good relationship with Russia but Moscow did not adhere to the Open Skies treaty allowing unarmed surveillance flights over member countries. – Reuters 

A U.S. Air Force plane delivered a first batch of medical aid including 50 ventilators to Russia on Thursday to help it cope with a rising number of coronavirus cases and deaths. – Reuters 

Early U.S.-Russia talks on a new nuclear arms control agreement have begun, and the two sides have agreed to an in-person dialogue once the coronavirus pandemic subsides, according to a top U.S. State Department official. – Defense News 

Editorial: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that Washington may “reconsider our withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty.” […]That sounds like a mistake given how neither China nor Russia abide by other promises (see nearby). But leaving the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year and Open Skies by the end of 2020 at least sends an important message about what this Administration expects when negotiating arms-control deals. – Wall Street Journal 

Eli Lake writes: If Putin believes that he can get away with cheating on treaties that his most important adversary respects, what incentive does he have to come into compliance? What good are arms-control agreements if they do not enhance international security? […]So it shouldn’t be surprising that as Trump withdraws from the Open Skies treaty, his administration has agreed to begin talks with Russia to negotiate an extension to another strategic nuclear army control treaty known as New START. The Trump administration is not opposed to arms control. What it opposes is the violation of arms-control agreements. – Bloomberg


Tensions between the U.S. and its NATO allies could flare up once again in the near future, as the coronavirus pandemic puts additional pressure on public spending, according to experts. – CNBC 

The UN children’s agency is calling for all parties to the deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine to commit to a cease-fire and end more than six years of fighting, as an increase in shelling has resulted in numerous child casualties and damaged schools since the beginning of the year. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The European Union and several of its member states may break the bloc’s own guidelines on contacts with de facto authorities of the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula by participating in a Moscow-backed videoconference on the situation in the region. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

In what seemed like it may turn into the first diplomatic crisis of his three-day-old career as Israel’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Thursday denied having agreed with Hungary on the need to fight illegal immigration, refuting a claim his Hungarian counterpart, Péter Szijjártó, made after their first telephone conversation. – Times of Israel

Alessandra Bocchi writes: Ms. Romano’s story shows why European nations should follow the U.S. policy of refusing to pay ransom for hostages and seek other ways to release captives. More important, the West also needs to regain a strong sense of spiritual purpose to win the long fight the evils of radical Islam. The soul of the West is at stake. – Wall Street Journal 

Sylvie Kauffmann writes: More important, social unity has prevailed so far. Even in divided countries like France, which was scarred by two years of discontent and upheavals, or in Brexiting Britain, Europeans have mostly accepted the enormous constraints imposed by the fight against the disease, while keeping an anxious eye on the protection of public liberties. They now know that we are nowhere near the end of this crisis; mass unemployment looms, and social tensions will flare up again. There will be more moments of truth for Europe. But at least it has survived — for now. – New York Times

Tim Gosling writes: China’s clumsy lobbying efforts have proved effective in Hungary and other countries with illiberal governments that are receptive to its message. It will still have a tougher time in the Czech Republic, where political institutions remain robust and democracy has developed deeper roots. – Foreign Policy 

Mihail Naydenov writes: A single and stronger NATO Eastern Flank requires all members of the European family to serve as an integral part of the Alliance. This means continuing an open-door policy with Black Sea countries aspiring to NATO membership. Ukraine and Georgia should be encouraged to continue on their road to NATO and EU membership and should be supported on defense reform and capability building. There is also value in applying lessons learned from previous Eastern NATO enlargements. – Middle East Institute

Anders Persson writes: A full Israeli annexation will not mean peace but that the conflict will go on, and that the whole Levant will continue to be destabilized for the foreseeable future. It will inevitably mean that Europe’s obsession with the Israeli-Arab conflict will continue. – Jerusalem Post


Hundreds of people have been killed in a new burst of intercommunal violence in South Sudan, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday, with “many more” injured and thousands displaced. – Associated Press 

The United States and Sudan have reached a common understanding on the “contours” of a future bilateral claims agreement linked to the 1998 al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the U.S. State Department’s top diplomat for Africa said on Thursday. – Reuters

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has said the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals is declining, although the government has not released data on infection rates for many weeks. […]The transmission of the virus across Tanzania’s borders is of particular concern to its neighbours. – BBC

Ethiopia has emerged as a key transit hub for the shipment of much sought-after medical equipment to Latin America, as poorer countries complain they are being muscled out of the market by richer nations and their cargo seized during refuelling stops in Europe and the US. – Financial Times

North America

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that China doesn’t get that Canada has an independent judicial system and reiterated his charge that Beijing imprisoned two Canadians in retaliation for the arrest of a top Huawei executive. – Associated Press

President Donald Trump pressed for a further reopening of the United States as job losses mount from coronavirus shutdowns, while China’s premier warned of “immense” economic challenges even as the Asian giant emerges from the worst of the pandemic. – Agence France-Presse

A former head of the CIA on Thursday responded to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, calling the move “insane.” – The Hill 

J.J. McCullough writes: Canadians have little identity beyond what can be defined through contrast with American flaws, yet their understanding of these flaws tends to be heavily cribbed from U.S. sources. For those who desire a United States that is internally strong and respected abroad, with virtues that are accurately understood and appreciated, a growing danger is not merely that allies like Canada are irrationally anti-American, but that Americans are distressingly eager to encourage them. – Washington Post 

Rep. Ann Wagner writes: The Communist Party’s unconscionable coverup of COVID-19 and systematic human rights violations are killing American citizens within our own borders and unleashing an economic tragedy in our communities not seen since the Great Depression. For the health and safety of Americans and our partners and allies worldwide, the United States has a solemn duty to hold the Communist Party to account. Americans deserve justice. – Washington Examiner

Francis J. Gavin writes: As we navigate the current national and global crisis, and confront great uncertainty about the future, let us be inspired by Howard’s legacy, a combination of modesty, intense curiosity, and penetrating, searching intellect, oriented toward helping decision-makers — something that is increasingly needed today. – War on the Rocks

Latin America

The U.S. on Wednesday defended itself at the U.N. Security Council from Russian and Chinese criticism over its approach to the Maduro regime in Venezuela, accusing Moscow of indulging the regime’s “habit of blaming others for its appalling choices.” – Fox News 

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Thursday that the United States does not respect the Central American country. – The Hill 

Michael Rubin writes: Or Guaido might simply ask the U.S. to seize the tankers as negotiating leverage in his dealings with Maduro. We don’t know. But what we do know is that Juan Guaido is Venezuela’s only legitimate president and an American ally. He deserves to make the call here, and Washington should support whatever reasonable choice he makes. – Washington Examiner

Daniel Di Martino and Clay Fuller write: In the same way, the U.S. cannot allow Iran to enrich itself to finance terrorism while propping up yet another criminal regime at America’s doorstep. Authoritarianism and corruption are often said to spread like a virus, and Venezuela is awfully close to home. America must quarantine the Maduro regime until it self-resolves, or makes way for a legitimately elected leader. – Washington Examiner


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday he was “pretty confident” his company could help prevent attempts to influence the political outcome of the US presidential election later this year. – Agence France-Presse

Four federal agencies issued a joint alert May 21 warning that cybercriminals and other adversaries are using coronavirus-related lures to scam taxpayers and attempt to disrupt operations of institutions responding to the ongoing pandemic. – Fifth Domain

Jamia Collier writes: It is more useful to first identify the key cyber security challenges a state faces, whether that be fighting cyber crime, protecting the healthcare sector from attacks during a pandemic, or grappling with the issues surrounding offensive cyber operations. Contractors, reservists, private sector collaborators, and conscripts are all ultimately a means to an end. Stakeholder mobilization strategies should therefore be mapped to solutions most appropriate for the challenges at hand. – War on the Rocks 


“We’re the federal government. We have to be able to take on complex issues simply most other organizations can’t take on,” Soto said after the release of an industry-written report Wednesday on the potential uses of blockchain technology in the Department of Defense. – Washington Examiner

The recently reestablished U.S. Space Command is officially taking over Operation Olympic Defender — a U.S. Strategic Command effort to cooperate with America’s closest allies in space. – C4ISRNET 

President Donald Trump has claimed as many as “over a million” American jobs were created by U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia that are facing fresh scrutiny this week, but don’t take that to the bank, according to a new think tank report. – Defense News  

Col. Bruce Lyman (ret.) writes: If a U.S. company can inadvertently jam GPS with ground towers, so can our adversaries. While elected officials and public servants can stop American commercial actors from deploying technologies that adversely affect GPS, only a concerted, yearslong effort can stop the Russian and Chinese militaries, or terrorist groups, from using GPS jammers to devastate our military, critical infrastructure and economy. It’s time for resilient positioning, navigation and timing before our strategic weakness becomes our national downfall. – C4ISRNET 

Kori Schake writes: Artificial intelligence stokes a general concern about rapid technological innovation outpacing our human ability to understand and adapt, leading to both political incapacity and psychological enervation. It has accelerated the demise of unskilled labor and is already encroaching on white-collar professions. – War on the Rocks  

Missile Defense

President Trump’s new arms-control negotiator is planning to meet with his Russian counterpart soon to discuss a new U.S. proposal for a far-reaching accord to limit all Russian, Chinese and U.S. nuclear warheads, U.S. officials disclosed Thursday. – Wall Street Journal 

The head of the U.S. Space Force said the service recently completed an enterprise review of the military’s missile warning, missile defense architecture and noted he was “extremely pleased” with how it was received by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council. – C4ISRNET 

Kris Osborn writes: A well-armed ship, which is what the emerging structure of the ship clearly seems to be, is consistent with the Navy’s previously articulated plan for the ship, which envisioned a platform that could travel in substantial aggregated combat scenarios such as Carrier Strike Groups and Expeditionary Strike Groups. In addition, it is clear that the service seeks a ship able to function autonomously, control undersea and aerial drones and perform disaggregated or more independent missions. – The National Interest

Long War

A shooting Thursday at a Texas naval air station that left a sailor injured and the gunman dead is terrorism-related, the FBI said. Investigators are looking for a second person of interest in connection with the incident at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi, FBI officials said. – Wall Street Journal

A Czech appeals court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that convicted a former Prague Muslim leader of being part of a terror group and financing terrorism, sentencing him to 10 years in prison. – Associated Press

For more than three years, the Trump administration has questioned the value of a multibillion-dollar peacekeeping mission in West Africa touted as a bulwark against the region’s terrorist networks. Now, the United States is promoting an American national to take the helm of the United Nations mission in Mali, fueling suspicions that Washington is seeking to expand its influence there to hasten the gradual drawdown of the mission. – Foreign Policy

Trump Administration

The document that greenlighted the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign has been unveiled, giving the public a look at a key focus of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s inquiry into the Trump-Russia investigators. – Washington Examiner

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lawyer is joining a call for the transcript of conversations between her client and former Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak to be released. – New York Post

The Senate confirmed Kenneth Braithwaite to serve as the next secretary of the Navy, following the November departure of the last confirmed secretary of the sea services. – USNI News