Fdd's overnight brief

May 23, 2019

In The News


Iran has made a dramatic shift in how it confronts the United States, abandoning a policy of restraint in recent weeks for a series of offensive actions aimed at pushing the White House to rethink its efforts at isolating Tehran, say diplomats and analysts. – Washington Post

As the United States and Iran have traded threats these past weeks and inched closer to the brink of a military confrontation, Iranian hard-liners have identified a new “political plot” by an “enemy” who is “trying different ways to create anxiety among the people,” Education Minister Mohammad Bathaei warned. Bathaei was not speaking about the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group or a bomber task force dispatched to the region earlier in May. Instead, he was referring to video clips of Iranian schoolchildren, apparently recorded in multiple schools, dancing to music by Iranian pop singer Sasy Mankan. – Washington Post

In its campaign to throttle Iran into submission, the Trump administration has in the last several weeks applied smothering force — blocking the country’s last avenues for selling oil, classifying the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization and deploying ships and bombers to the Persian Gulf. […]Instead, it appears to have only stiffened Iran’s resolve, pushing it from wary patience to calibrated confrontation against an enemy it has long mistrusted. – New York Times

Iran’s supreme leader publicly chastised the country’s moderate president and foreign minister Wednesday, saying he disagreed with the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal they had negotiated with world powers. – Associated Press

Even as the Pentagon said the threat of war with Iran had now diminished, a prominent Republican senator called the country a “cancer” on the international community and said its “evil” theocratic regime needed to be choked by economic sanctions. – Newsweek

Iran’s youth will witness the demise of Israel and American civilization, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday in comments published on his official website. – Reuters

The United States and its supporters do not dare attack Iran because of its “spirit of resistance”, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander was quoted on Wednesday as saying. – Reuters

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said on Wednesday that Guards and regular Iranian military forces had complete control of Gulf waters north of the Strait of Hormuz, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. – Reuters

An appeals court in France is set to rule on the extradition of an Iranian engineer to the United States. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The spokesman of Iran’s hardliner-dominated Guardian Council, Abbasali Kadkhodaei has criticized President Hassan Rouhani for complaining about his “limited powers.” – Radio Farda

In its May 22, 2019 editorial, by Sa’dollah Zarei, the Iranian regime mouthpiece Kayhan called for destroying the Saudi regime, terming it a “cancerous growth.” Kayhan praised the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi Ansar Allah militia’s May 14, 2019 drone attack on the Saudi oil pipeline at Yanbu port. Without explicitly claiming that Iran was responsible for the May 12 attack on the oil tankers at the UAE port of Fujairah, the newspaper clarified that the message conveyed by this attack was harm to the U.S. – Middle East Media Research Institute

David Albright and Andrea Stricker write:With tensions increasing in the Middle East, the current situation, on the surface, does not appear to favor negotiations for a new deal. Moreover, the United States is demanding that Iran meet a dozen conditions relating not only to the nuclear and missile issues, but also to its malign regional activities and support for terror. Iran appears more focused on its own efforts to isolate the United States and threaten (and possibly carry out) asymmetric retaliation for the re-imposed sanctions. However, neither Iran nor the United States appear to want a crisis to grow into a military confrontation. With this dynamic, new negotiations may be the most advantageous path forward for both sides. – Institute for Science and International Security


The United States has found no evidence so far that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have begun again using chemical weapons in Syria’s continuing civil war, the top American diplomat for Syria said on Wednesday, a day after the State Department warned of an “alleged chlorine attack” in the country’s northwest. – New York Times

The Syrian army shot down a drone loaded with bombs near Hama’s airport, Syrian state TV said late on Wednesday. – Reuters

The United States on Wednesday called for a new ceasefire in Syria as rival forces clashed in the country’s northwest, where the government is waging an offensive on the last big stretch of rebel-held territory. – Reuters

A ceasefire is needed in Syria’s Idlib province, which has seen a recent upsurge in violence, and the United States is working toward a halt to the clashes, which have put tremendous pressure on civilians there, U.S. envoy James Jeffrey said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Islamic State terrorists are “quite active” in the Syrian territory beyond the reach of the U.S.-led coalition that dismantled the self-proclaimed caliphate, a key U.S. diplomat said Wednesday. – Washington Examiner

Sahar Atrache writes: For their part, the United States, the European Union and regional leaders should redouble their efforts to dissuade Russia, Iran and Syria against further escalation. The Trump administration, in particular should press and support Turkey, a TO ally, in its efforts to reengage with regional players to stop the coming slaughter. If nothing is done, thousands will die, and the Syrian refugee crisis will grow exponentially worse. History, in turn, will hold the world responsible. – The Hill


As a controversial vote rerun looms, a barrage of interventionist policies by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has backfired, starving the economy of investment, fueling demand for foreign currency among households and businesses and further undermining the lira. – Bloomberg

The U.S. and Turkey are at a political impasse over the pending sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to the NATO ally, experts say. Turkey doesn’t understand that, for the United States, buying a sophisticated Russian air defense system is a major national security issue that can’t be papered over. But Americans don’t understand that all their tough talk about leveling sanctions against Turkey if the Russian arms sale goes through only plays into Turkish leaders’ hands politically, a panel of experts said Wednesday. – USNI News

The Kremlin has hit out at the U.S. following Washington’s threats to impose harsh penalties on Turkey if its NATO ally goes ahead with the planned purchase of an anti-aircraft missile system from Russia. – Newsweek

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump may soon have a face-to-face meeting, either in Turkey or on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan next month, a senior Turkish official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Turkey stopped purchasing Iranian oil as of May as U.S. waivers granted last November to eight buyers expired, and will continue to abide by Washington’s demand that it halt all imports of crude oil from the Islamic Republic, a senior Turkish official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The AK Party of President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday there was nothing wrong with Turkey’s intelligence agency meeting Syrian counterparts to prevent conflict – even though Ankara has backed rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. – Reuters

Turkish companies Aselsan, Roketsan, Ermeksan, and Saver, along with the Informatics and Information Security Research Center (Bilgem) within the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (Tubitak) and Gebze Technical University, have joined forces to turn their laser weapon studies into the development of a laser-based air-defence system. – IHS Janes

Editorial: The strongman’s geopolitical antics add to the financial woes. His purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system could trigger sanctions by the U.S. Congress. Turkey’s Halkbank, the second largest state-owned lender, could receive a multibillion dollar U.S. Treasury fine for evading Iran sanctions. […]The risk is that eventually Ankara’s ad hoc supports will fail and bring the economy down. As troublesome as Mr. Erdogan is, the U.S. has no interest in a financial crisis spreading beyond Turkey in a world filled with dollar debt. – Wall Street Journal

Ilan I. Berman writes: Turkey watchers believe that the country will find itself on the cusp of a serious budgetary crisis – one that could rock the foundations of Erdogan’s hold on power. Indeed, if true economic crisis hits, Turkey’s strongman could find himself rapidly shouldered out of office by the country’s oligarchs and entrenched corporate elites. Only time will tell whether he will. Over the years, Turkey’s wily head-of-state has proven himself to be a true political survivor. But mounting signs suggest that Turkish politics are suddenly in play in a way they have not been in nearly two decades. – AlHurra Digital

Philip Kowalski writes: While Erdoğan’s successes and failures with the Arab world have been much documented, his budding relationship with Pakistan could help make up for his losses elsewhere. With similar security concerns regarding foreign enemies and domestic insurgencies and a shared insecurity regarding military coups, Pakistan and Turkey are well placed to build closer ties in areas ranging from trade to culture. Should the proposed Istanbul peace talks or the FTA come to fruition, the Pakistani-Turkish relationship could take on even greater significance for both countries. – Middle East Institute


The United States called Wednesday for dismantling the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, weeks before unveiling the economic aspects of its long-awaited Middle East peace plan. – Agence FrancePresse

Amid a wave of hot and dry weather, nine fires were caused in southern Israel on Wednesday by incendiary devices launched by terrorists in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. – Algemeiner

Gaza Strip-based terrorist groups are to blame for the plight of the residents of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave, a top US official told the UN Security Council on Wednesday. – Algemeiner

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday formally rejected an invitation to a US-led peace conference in Bahrain next month, where Washington is expected to unveil the economic aspects of its long-awaited Middle East peace plan. – Times of Israel

Ahead of the announcement of the U.S. Middle East peace plan known as the “Deal of the Century,” and in light of concerns in Jordan that its implications may threaten the kingdom’s stability, the Jordanian press, including the government daily Al-Rai, has recently published scathing articles against Israel that contain calls for a new Palestinian intifada in the West Bank in order to thwart this deal, among other goals. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Lebanese journalist Nadim Koteich accused the Islamic Jihad of starting the recent round of fighting with Israel. Speaking in an interview with the Lebanese LDC TV channel on May 11, 2019, he said that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, representing the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran respectively, should have turned Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza into an opportunity for a national Palestinian compromise, but that instead, they have “thwarted all opportunities for peace” and have “ended up in a prison called Gaza.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to execute three moderate Islamic scholars despite the international outrage that followed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. – Sky News (UK)

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned Wednesday that President Trump may soon push through an arms sale to Saudi Arabia in a way that prevents Congress from blocking it. – The Hill

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration plans to use a loophole and rising tensions with Iran to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia, even though Congress blocked such sales for months over concerns about civilian deaths in the war in Yemen, Senator Chris Murphy said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Zvi Bar’el writes: For Saudi Arabia to uproot Qatar’s influence in the Gaza Strip, it would have to demand that Israel forbid the transfer of Qatari money, but then it will have to transfer its own money to Hamas. On the face of it, it shouldn’t matter to Hamas who provides it with money, but it may refuse to accept funds from Saudi Arabia or the UAE as part of the game Qatar and Saudi Arabia are playing. […]The notion that an economic plan can be implemented without a realistic diplomatic plan may turn out to be another mirage, courtesy of the U.S president. The hospitality, at least, will be superb. – Haaretz


Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is leading a military offensive against the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, rejected a ceasefire requested by French President Emmanuel Macron during talks in Paris, an Elysee official said Wednesday. – Agence FrancePresse

Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s almost two-month assault on the capital, Tripoli, has stalled and he can’t take the city, according to a Russian special envoy to the oil-rich North African state. – Bloomberg

The international community lacks the moral motivation to end the Libyan civil war and largely views the country as a prize to be captured, the UN’s special envoy for Libya has said. – The Guardian

Middle East & North Africa

The airstrike was part of a wave of bombings over the Yemeni capital, Sana, last Thursday that coincided with a spike in tensions between the United States — which supports the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen — and Iran — which backs the coalition’s enemies, the Houthi rebels. – New York Times

The Pentagon on Thursday will present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats, U.S. officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince said on Wednesday the United Arab Emirates is working with Arab countries to guarantee maritime freedom in the region, Emirates news agency (WAM) reported. – Reuters

The family of a Palestinian former intelligence agent, who have claimed that he was tortured by Turkish authorities, said Tuesday that Egyptian prosecutors had approved their request for an autopsy. – Agence FrancePresse

Editorial: The Trump administration needs to redouble its efforts to bring the Israeli and Palestinian leadership closer to a lasting accord. Without that, hopes of a substantial inflow of private capital and a vigorous economic recovery will once again come to nothing. – Bloomberg

Korean Peninsula

The U.S. government is lobbying South Korea not to use Huawei Technologies Co Ltd products, a South Korean newspaper reported on Thursday, amid a wider push by Washington to get its allies to reject the Chinese tech firm’s goods. – Reuters

North Korea has condemned plans by the Japanese military to develop a counter-attack computer virus as symptomatic of Tokyo’s “war hysteria”, with an analyst warning the move could fuel a cyber arms race. – Telegraph

Bruce Klingner writes: It is not helpful, however, for the Trump Administration to continue to claim that Kim Jong-un agreed to provisions that he clearly has not. Successive U.S. administrations have refrained from fully imposing sanctions against entities violating U.N. resolutions and U.S. laws. As such, the Trump Administration’s policy is no different. The “maximum pressure” policy has never been maximum. Yet, it must become so if there is to be any prospect for achieving the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. – Heritage Foundation


Chinese telecom giant Huawei faced new threats to its business Wednesday as some European firms followed the U.S. tech industry in suspending dealings with the company. – Washington Post

This is the vision of high-tech surveillance — precise, all-seeing, infallible — that China’s leaders are investing billions of dollars in every year, making Xinjiang an incubator for increasingly intrusive policing systems that could spread across the country and beyond. It is also a vision that some of President Trump’s aides have begun citing in a push for tougher action against Chinese companies in the intensifying trade war. Beyond concerns about market barriers, theft and national security, they argue that China is using technology to strengthen authoritarianism at home and abroad — and that the United States must stop it. – New York Times

One of China’s most-wanted men has been running a Hollywood movie company, promoting a cryptocurrency venture with boxer Mike Tyson and on one occasion posed for a photo alongside President Trump. – Wall Street Journal

A senior Huawei Technologies Co. executive was behind an alleged spy mission against a Silicon Valley chip startup with which the Chinese technology giant has since become embroiled in a trade-secret fight. – Bloomberg

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday to provide about $700 million in grants to help U.S. telecommunications providers with the cost of removing Huawei equipment from their networks. – Reuters

The Donald Trump administration took double-barrelled aim at China and Iran on Wednesday, sanctioning a shadowy Chinese weapons merchant for illegally supplying the Islamic Republic with advanced ballistic missile components. – Newsweek

The billionaires behind Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co. have watched their combined fortunes sink by more than $8 billion since March 2018 as shares of both companies sank on speculation of potential U.S. sanctions. The losses deepened on Wednesday after reports that Donald Trump’s administration is considering blacklisting the surveillance giants, in part because of their alleged role in human rights violations. – Bloomberg

Global tech firms, including chip suppliers, are cutting ties with China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd after the U.S. government put the world’s largest telecom equipment maker on a trade blacklist citing national security concerns. – Reuters

China’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has accused a US Navy (USN) warship of having entered “without permission” what it claims to be the “adjacent waters of its islands and reefs” in the disputed South China Sea (SCS). – IHS Janes

Hal Brands writes: Now that Trump has gotten rough with Huawei, he would pay a real strategic cost for backing down. It is hard enough to get European and other countries to forego the use of Huawei’s 5G technology, or commit to an economic counter-offensive against China, given the lure of Chinese trade and investment. It will be harder still if Trump shows that he will leave any allies that do take a hard line in the lurch by cutting a bilateral deal with Beijing. Trump’s move against Huawei hasn’t just ratcheted up the intensity of the U.S.-China economic conflict. It has also put the president’s credibility at stake. – Bloomberg

Leonid Bershidsky writes: By imposing restrictions on Huawei Technologies Co., the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump may force the Chinese company to do something that no one in tech has dared to do for a long time: Challenge Google’s control of the Android universe, which earned the U.S. company a huge European fine last year. – Bloomberg

South Asia

A Pakistani official says the much-anticipated Saudi oil will start flowing to Islamabad as of July, with payments deferred for three years. – Associated Press

Taliban momentum on the battlefield and divisions within Afghanistan’s central government are complicating negotiations over a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, key lawmakers say. – Washington Examiner

Pakistan has signaled a willingness to open peace talks with India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears set to return to power in New Delhi after an election fought in the shadow of renewed confrontation between the nuclear-armed enemies. – Reuters


Japan’s leader is viewed as doing what needs to be done to maintain his country’s most important foreign alliance and keep a mercurial president in check. Trump’s four-day state visit, which will begin Saturday, comes amid a trade war with China, the collapse of nuclear talks with North Korea and rumbling trade tensions with Japan — and ahead of a Group of 20 meeting in Osaka in June, when Abe will play host to Trump and other world leaders. – Washington Post

Germany has granted asylum to two Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, a sign of waning international confidence in the city’s political freedoms and justice system. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Navy ships conducted joint drills with warships from allies Japan, Australia and South Korea in their first combined exercise in the Western Pacific, the U.S. Navy said on Thursday. – Reuters

The U.S. military said it sent two Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, its latest transit through the sensitive waterway, angering China at a time of tense relations between the world’s two biggest economies. – Reuters

The Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada and leave them within its territorial waters if it refuses to accept the trash, his spokesman said on Wednesday. – Reuters


Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak will meet Belarusian counterpart Igor Lyashenko on Thursday to coordinate energy issues before their respective prime ministers meet to discuss the contaminated oil on the Druzhba pipeline, an aide for Kozak said. – Reuters

U.S. fighter jets Tuesday intercepted Russian bombers and other aircraft off the coast of Alaska for the second time in two days. – The Hill

A top European official said President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are trying to weaken the European Union (EU). – The Hill


The United Nations General Assembly dealt Britain an embarrassing defeat on Wednesday in a protracted dispute over the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, demanding that the British surrender the archipelago — home to an important American military base — to Mauritius, a former British colony. – New York Times

President Trump will visit Ireland on June 5, meeting with the Irish prime minister and spending a night at one of his golf resorts, the White House has confirmed. – New York Times

Fighting growing calls for her to stand aside quickly, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain suffered a significant blow Wednesday when a cabinet colleague resigned, saying she could no longer support the government’s latest plan for leaving the European Union. – New York Times

French prosecutors have filed preliminary charges against a prominent Qatari business executive, the head of a major international sports broadcasting company, in connection with suspected bribery in his country’s successful bid to host track and field’s world championships. – New York Times

As the U.K. stumbles on its way out of the European Union, a potentially greater disruption for the bloc is crystallizing: Other EU-skeptic movements want to stay in the EU and fight it from within. – Wall Street Journal

Dutch and U.K. polls opened Thursday in elections for the European Parliament, starting four days of voting across the 28-nation bloc that pits supporters of deeper integration against populist Euroskeptics who want more power for their national governments. – Associated Press

The World Jewish Congress thanks the Belarussian authorities for embracing their moral responsibility in ensuring that the bodies of some 1,000 Jewish victims discovered at an excavation site in the city of Brest received a proper and dignified burial, following dismay over construction at that site. – World Jewish Congress

Military officials in Ukraine said that eight soldiers were captured in the eastern region of the country occupied by pro-Russian separatists just one day after Ukraine’s newly sworn-in president announced he would submit a peace plan for a referendum. – Newsweek

Nikos Konstandaras writes: Piraeus, the gritty port city that has provided Athens’s naval and commercial power throughout its tumultuous history, is the theater of a new conflict, one that pits local interests against economic development and a superpower’s global strategy. At least that’s the story that Greece’s dueling politicians are telling. Greek archaeologists have stalled an investment of more than 612 million euros offered by a Chinese-owned company seeking to revamp and expand Piraeus’s port as part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.  – New York Times

Nile Gardiner and Theodore Bromund write: The relationship between the U.S. and Britain is deep and close. But, even leaders who were as closely aligned personally and ideologically as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher disagreed from time to time, and clear points of difference exist between President Trump and Prime Minister May. The media on both sides of the Atlantic will enumerate every one of these, and play them up, as the President’s state visit approaches. […]The President should listen courteously to the views of his British hosts, but he should speak plainly about all the issues of the day, making it clear that an independent and sovereign Britain will continue to be the United States’ closest ally. – Heritage Foundation


Islamic State’s West Africa branch claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a raid in Nigeria two days earlier in which it said 20 soldiers had been killed, and released a video purporting to show the execution of nine other Nigerian soldiers. – Reuters

More than 30 people were killed and many more wounded when an armed group attacked villages in northwestern Central African Republic on Tuesday, the UN’s peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) said. – Agence FrancePresse

A planned $10 billion port project in Tanzania backed by China has hit an impasse, with the two sides disagreeing on terms of the infrastructure investment, a senior Tanzanian port official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

On 19 May, seven people were killed in a jihadist attack on a border post at Koury in Mali’s southern Sikasso region, near the Burkina Faso border. The attack comes amid warnings and assaults in coastal Ghana, Togo, and Benin, previously unaffected by terrorism, as well as Cote d’Ivoire, which, since the 2016 Islamist attack in Grand Bassam, has also resisted jihadism. – IHS Janes

Somalia has criticized neighboring Kenya for deporting two Somali lawmakers and a minister after authorities in Nairobi blocked them from entering the country. – Reuters

United States

A Southern California synagogue where a gunman killed a woman and wounded three other people dedicated a new Torah scroll — the holiest object in Judaism — to the slain woman on Wednesday. – Associated Press

Rising tensions between the United States and Iran prompted some Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Wednesday to call for the repeal of a law that presidents have used for two decades to justify U.S. military action around the world. – Reuters

A clear majority of American Jews feel insecure and angry about antisemitism in the US, with many holding President Donald Trump at least partially responsible for this troubling situation, a new poll of 1,000 Jewish respondents revealed on Wednesday. – Algemeiner

On the eve of his second meeting with congressional Democrats about a potential $2 trillion public works bill, President Donald Trump told them such legislation should take a back seat to his trade deal with Canada and Mexico. – Roll Call

Graeme Wood writes: But the real value of the Christchurch Call was not government participation anyway. Governments already have programs to discourage terrorism, the most prominent of which is killing or capturing terrorists. The value was, instead, the participation of the social-media companies, whose policies’ influence online is at least as great as that of most governments. Anyone who watched the rise of ISIS five years ago will confirm that in those days, you could post just about anything, and major media companies would take weeks or longer to remove terrorist propaganda. – The Atlantic

Latin America

Venezuela’s opposition is engaging in a blitz of diplomacy in the aftermath of last month’s abortive uprising, including talks with the government of President Nicolás Maduro. But the opposition’s most important international backer — the United States — is skeptical of Maduro’s good faith, or that the talks will lead to his removal from office. – Washington Post

Last month, Peru’s two-time president Alan Garcia died by suicide after police arrived at his door with an arrest warrant for corruption. Garcia’s death on April 17 is the latest development in a sprawling corruption scandal unraveling across many countries in Latin America. What’s the story, and how are countries fighting back? – Washington Post

The Venezuelan government and opposition have entered into talks in hopes of finding a settlement to the country’s four-month political crisis, but White House national security adviser John Bolton has continued firing away against the socialist leadership no longer recognized by the United States. – Newsweek

Lindsey Graham writes: America must stand for our values and with the people of Venezuela. An ultimatum to Cuba to withdraw their forces would be the beginning of the end of the Maduro dictatorship and a giant step for America in pushing back against Cuba’s destructive influence. The world is watching. – Wall Street Journal


Facebook has taken down nearly 80 pages spreading fake news or using tactics that appeared aimed at unfairly influencing the European Parliament vote this weekend, an NGO reported Wednesday. – Agence FrancePresse

As the U.S. government prepares to defend the 2020 presidential election from cyber threats, the federal agency charged with helping administer elections, the Election Assistance Commission, says it is “strained to the breaking point,” according to Chairwoman Christy McCormick. – Reuters

The hacking of U.S. election systems, including by foreign adversaries, is inevitable, and the real challenge is ensuring the country is resilient enough to withstand catastrophic problems from cyber breaches, government officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press


The role played by the Pentagon’s chain of command in investigating and prosecuting military sexual-assault cases has resurfaced as a key issue in a congressional debate over the annual defense policy bill. – Wall Street Journal

Nearly two dozen progressive groups are launching a new push to persuade Democratic presidential candidates to support dramatic spending cuts at the Pentagon. – Associated Press

Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX accused the U.S. Air Force of breaking contracting rules when it awarded money to three rocket makers but passed on Musk’s rival bid, and said the tender should be reopened, according to a court filing unsealed on Wednesday. – Reuters

The Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee quickly approved its portion of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill Tuesday by a voice vote, endorsing the Defense Department’s requests for 7,700 additional troops and a 3.1 percent military pay raise next year. – Roll Call

The U.S. Navy’s Director of Surface Warfare is ready to bet the farm on using lasers to shoot down missiles. – Defense News

Theodore Bromund writes: President Trump’s decision to unsign the Arms Trade Treaty was correct. Now the Administration should take the steps necessary to make this decision fully effective. By following through at the U.N. and in the Senate, putting financial and diplomatic pressure on the ATT, and withdrawing from the U.N. network of related institutions, the U.S. can put severe pressure on what it rightly described as a “misguided agreement.” – Heritage Foundation

Long War

Iraq is preparing to bring home its citizens from al-Hol, who number more than 30,000. But it is struggling to decide what to do with them – and how to identify those with genuine IS links and those simply caught up in its caliphate. – Reuters

An Italian hostage was on his way home Wednesday after more than two years in captivity in Syria, where an unknown number of foreigners remain missing eight years into the country’s devastating war. – Agence FrancePresse

A New Jersey resident was arrested Wednesday for threatening to blow up Trump Tower and the Israeli consulate in New York City as well as numerous other terrorism-related charges, the US Department of Justice announced. – Arutz Sheva

Trump Administration

The House Intelligence Comgation. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) postponed this week’s committee vote to enforce a subpoena for the full report and underlying documents after the Justimittee and the Trump administration stepped back from a collision course after the Justice Department agreed to turn over some materials connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investice Department agreed to turn over 12 categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials on a rolling basis, to be completed by the end of next week. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump said he wouldn’t work with Democrats while investigations of him continue and abruptly ended a meeting with the party’s leaders Wednesday[…]. Speaking behind a podium bearing a sign that read “No collusion, no obstruction” and featured statistics about the cost and duration of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Mr. Trump said he told Democratic leaders: “I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. But you know what, you can’t do it under these circumstances.” – Wall Street Journal

U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the Justice Department for access to counterintelligence reports generated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation of President Donald Trump and his associates, two congressional sources said on Tuesday. Mueller’s team produced counterintelligence reports and passed the information along to the FBI and the Justice Department based on witness interviews and other evidence about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. – Reuters