Fdd's overnight brief

May 28, 2020

In The News


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would stop allowing foreign companies to facilitate Iran’s civil nuclear activities, a core provision of the 2015 international nuclear agreement. – Wall Street Journal 

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unveiled scores of new and upgraded defensive speedboats with a warning to the U.S. that it won’t shy away from challenging American naval power. – Bloomberg

Iranian lawmakers elected former Revolutionary Guards air force commander Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf on Thursday as the speaker of the hardliner-dominated parliament for one year, state television reported. – Reuters 

Iran installed a parliament dominated by hardliners who have opposed the governments of President Hassan Rouhani, setting the stage for an uneasy cohabitation as ministers attempt to protect what’s left of the landmark nuclear deal and confront the Middle East’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak. – Bloomberg 

The interim chairman of Iran’s new parliament has characterized the new Iranian Majles as the “Supreme Leader’s Majles”, and the Islamic Republic’s leader Ali Khamenei in his message stressed the importance of his undefined theory of Jihadist Economy as a guideline for the new parliament. – Radio Farda 

Members of Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish religious minority have faced more harsh treatment from Iranian authorities, with one recently freed dissident being sent into internal exile and another detained activist being forced to stay in a coronavirus-plagued prison system far from home. – Voice of America

Brian Hook writes: Now more than ever, the Iranian people need unbiased news. Regrettably, VOA Persian is letting them down. It is failing to effectively communicate US policies to Persian-speaking audiences with the balance and accuracy required in a contested information environment, especially with the regime’s sophisticated disinformation campaigns. – New York Post 


A Turkish soldier was killed in the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib on Wednesday after an explosion along the M4 highway, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said in a statement. – Reuters 

Will Todman writes: As I have argued elsewhere, UN Security Council members must place greater pressure on the Syrian government and its Russian allies to facilitate all UN operations to deal with COVID-19. They must stop Assad from using COVID-19 as another tool to stoke misery in Syria. The Middle East appears to have avoided widespread outbreaks of the pandemic, but Assad’s efforts to weaponize COVID-19 threaten a disaster. – The Hill

Robert G. Rabil writes: Considering all of this, Washington’s misreading of both Russian policy in the Middle East in general and Syria in particular and Syria’s palace dynamics is a recipe for other serious blunders. If these egocentric and haphazard views of Russian policy in Syria become the drivers of American foreign policy, then one should not be surprised if Russia (potentially supported by China) supplants Iran as the leader of the anti-American “Resistance Axis” in the Middle East. – The National Interest 

Charles Thépaut writes: The UN should therefore prepare the steps that could potentially follow a successful constitutional committee, such as designing a robust monitoring mechanism for the presidential election and preparing safe, neutral voting options for the diaspora. Hopes are not high for a transparent constitutional and electoral process in Syria. Nevertheless, a carefully tailored effort from the United States and Europe would increase this possibility—or at least prevent Russia from draping its window dressing over an illegitimate process. – Washington Institute


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he spoke Wednesday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, following an Israeli court ruling that a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her students in Australia was fit to stand trial and be extradited. – Associated Press 

Israel’s national cyber chief Thursday officially acknowledged the country had thwarted a major cyber attack last month against its water systems, an assault widely attributed to arch-enemy Iran, calling it a “synchronized and organized attack” aimed at disrupting key national infrastructure. – Associated Press   

Palestinian officials said on Wednesday they are planning to step up their efforts to thwart Israel’s intention to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, now that the Palestinians have “successfully” prevented the spread of the coronavirus. – Jerusalem Post  

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has confirmed it would respond to the International Criminal Court’s questions regarding the decision to sever all ties with Israel and the status of the Oslo Accords by a June 10 deadline. – Haaretz 


Marking 20 years since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel of “the great war that will open all fronts at once,” saying that it would be “the end of Israel.” The Hezbollah leader stressed, however, that there are “no indications that Israel intends to launch a war against Lebanon.” – Jerusalem Post 

Lebanon’s prime minister visited United Nations peacekeepers in the country’s south near the border with Israel on Wednesday, describing the presence of the force in the volatile area as a necessity. – Associated Press 

The International Monetary Fund is having constructive, ongoing discussions with Lebanon about the details of the government’s economic reform plan, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Arabian Peninsula

The Trump administration is pursuing another arms sale to Saudi Arabia, a top Democratic senator said Wednesday, amid a previous controversial arms sale coming under new scrutiny. – The Hill

Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed to closely coordinate on the OPEC+ output cuts deal, two weeks ahead of a crucial meeting of the group. – Bloomberg 

Editorial: The crown prince continues to market himself as a voice of progress, campaigning to win a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council in October, and preparing to host the Group of 20 Summit in November. For mercenary motives, or from cluelessness, or — as in President Trump’s case — both, some people continue to go along with the show. Most of the world is not fooled. The only “crime” these brave women committed was to speak out for what is right. They should be freed immediately. – Washington Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Now on Iran’s Quds Day this year, the regime in Tehran sought to give the Houthis even more credit and exposure. […]The Houthi leaders have reportedly said they recognize the authority of the Iranian supreme leader as a kind of “commander of the faithful.” They appeared to give allegiance to Tehran last August. – Jerusalem Post


Libya’s cumulative losses from the current oil blockade imposed by forces allied to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar since Jan. 19 have neared $5 billion, National Oil Corporation (NOC) said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said on Wednesday the situation in Libya was very worrying, warning the Syria scenario was being replicated in the country. – Reuters 

Jonathan M. Winer writes: Hifter first declared himself in charge of Libya in February 2014. His forces have carried out apparent war crimes. For Hifter, there is no Plan B. Even as he loses support among Libyans, the question of what to do with him remains. Previously, Hifter spent decades in exile in the United States. If his foreign sponsors want to see Libya stabilize, and choose to accept pluralistic solutions rather than winner-takes-all, perhaps one of them could make the humanitarian gesture of providing him a home in a quiet gated community somewhere in the Gulf. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

In response to written questions from Reuters about complaints from doctors and reports of suppression of information, the state press centre said Egypt was “one of the most successful countries in dealing with coronavirus”. It did not elaborate. […]On state media, doctors who have criticized the government’s coronavirus figures or success in combatting the virus, have been accused of Muslim Brotherhood links. – Reuters  

Two diplomats are quietly leading Iran’s push to influence politics in Iraq, in a departure from the more blunt enforcement employed by Qassem Soleimani, a top commander slain in a U.S. air strike. – Reuters 

Turkey is in talks with several countries over possible swap agreements, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said on Wednesday, saying the initiative was part of Ankara’s campaign to prioritise trading in local currencies. – Reuters

Simon Henderson writes: Overall, the development of East Mediterranean energy resources to the mutual advantage of at least some regional states is a political success story—one attributable in no small measure to American diplomacy. U.S. engagement needs to continue if the current difficulties are to be overcome and more countries are to benefit. – Washington Institute


The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to pass a measure that would punish top Chinese officials for detaining more than one million Muslims in internment camps, sending President Trump a bill intended to force him to take a more aggressive stand on human rights abuses in China. – New York Times 

The Trump administration plans to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers in the United States who have direct ties to universities affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army, according to American officials with knowledge of the discussions. – New York Times

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union has a “great strategic interest” in maintaining cooperation with China in the face of a widening list of grievances with the government in Beijing. – Bloomberg

Hundreds of fake or hijacked social media accounts have been pushing pro-Chinese government messages about the coronavirus pandemic on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, a BBC investigation has found. – BBC

Josh Rogin writes: This monumental challenge of our national great-power competition with China existed long before the current political season. Its ramifications go far beyond this political season. We have to prioritize U.S. national security above short-term partisan political gain. – Washington Post

Dr. Marc Siegel writes: President Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” is a bold attempt to win the race to the vaccine against China, much as the Manhattan Project beat Germany to the atomic bomb during World War II. This is a much quieter war, but we must win it, too, in order to protect our health care system and save the world once again — this time from a lethal virus and the country that wants to use it to exploit us further to win the quiet war. – The Hill

Salvatore Babones writes: The World Health Assembly’s official resolution establishing the investigation, tellingly, does not mention China, which may be why China ultimately agreed to co-sponsor it. The resolution also suggests that the investigation might take advantage of “existing mechanisms, as appropriate.” Translation: Don’t be surprised if WHO ends up evaluating itself. And be even less surprised if that evaluation ultimately pins no blame for the coronavirus pandemic on WHO—or on China. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

As border tensions have escalated between China and India in recent weeks, President Trump made an unsolicited offer early Wednesday to mediate the two countries’ decades-old border disputes. – Wall Street Journal  

But the potential for sticks and stones to escalate into something more serious is causing alarm as far away as Washington. And its western border is far from the only place where China is flexing its muscles these days. – Washington Post 

U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan is down to nearly 8,600, well ahead of a schedule agreed with Taliban militants in late February, in part because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, U.S. and NATO officials said. – Reuters

India’s antitrust body is looking into allegations that Alphabet Inc’s Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app in the country, five sources familiar with the case told Reuters. – Reuters  

Pakistan’s intelligence services are deploying secretive surveillance technology normally used to locate militants to instead track coronavirus patients and the people they come into contact with. – Agence France-Presse  

Pakistani troops shot down a small Indian spy drone as it flew into the country’s airspace over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir on Wednesday, the military said. – Associated Press

Walter Russell Mead writes: In that kind of world, the nascent Washington-Beijing rivalry could fade into the background, and the U.S. could enjoy trade relationships with a rich Asia that posed fewer threats to American security. India’s emergence as an economic superpower would also strengthen the cause of democracy, demonstrating that people don’t have to give up their freedom to thrive. – Wall Street Journal 


China officially has the broad power to quash unrest in Hong Kong, as the country’s legislature on Thursday nearly unanimously approved a plan to suppress subversion, secession, terrorism and seemingly any acts that might threaten national security in the semiautonomous city. – New York Times 

The State Department determined that Hong Kong no longer has a high degree of autonomy from China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday in a statement likely to unsettle the global financial center and certain to aggravate Beijing. – Wall Street Journal 

Protesters resisting China’s tightening grip over Hong Kong gathered Wednesday in defiance of thousands of riot police who locked down parts of the city and barricaded the legislature, where Beijing’s allies pushed a bill to criminalize disrespect of China’s national anthem. – Washington Post 

The U.S. determination that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from mainland China has significant implications for the city’s exporters and businesses. But that could pale in comparison to further action by the U.S. to use its dominant position in the global banking system against Beijing. – Wall Street Journal 

Two of China’s most valuable U.S.-listed companies are pushing ahead with multibillion-dollar share sales in Hong Kong, amid growing pressure from U.S. lawmakers for greater financial scrutiny of Chinese companies. – Wall Street Journal  

Three pro-democracy lawmakers were ejected from Hong Kong’s legislative chamber Thursday morning, disrupting the second day of debate on a contentious bill that would criminalize insulting or abusing the Chinese national anthem. – Associated Press

China is taking matters into its own hands after last year’s tumultuous anti-government protests in Hong Kong that often descended into tear gas-filled clashes. […]China’s decision raises questions about the future of the semi-autonomous territory. Will China station its feared state security officers in the city? Does it signal an erosion or the end of the “one-country, two-systems” framework that gives Hong Kong a high degree of local autonomy? – Associated Press 

The U.S. finding that China has effectively stripped Hong Kong of its political autonomy leaves President Donald Trump with a difficult choice about how harshly to penalize Beijing. – Bloomberg

As China and the U.S. trade barbs over everything from trade to Covid-19 to Hong Kong, the two powers are at greater risk of careering into physical confrontation. And nowhere are their warships and fighter jets coming as close to each other, with as much frequency, as the South China Sea. – Bloomberg

Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy advocates called on President Donald Trump to hit China hard, even to the point of revoking the city’s special trading status, over Beijing’s plan to impose sweeping national security legislation on the financial hub. – Bloomberg

China blocked a Trump administration effort to hold a United Nations Security Council meeting on the Beijing government’s proposed national security law on Hong Kong, as relations between the two powers continued to deteriorate. – Bloomberg

President Trump is considering a “whole menu” of options in response to a proposed Chinese national security law that would compromise Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday. – The Hill

Britain temporarily closed its embassy in North Korea and all diplomatic staff have left the country, the U.K. ambassador said on Thursday, the latest foreign delegation to leave amid strict coronavirus restrictions. – Reuters

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee says the State Department’s declaration that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China is “regrettable,” but recent moves on behalf of Beijing prompted the decision. – Washington Times

Editorial: President Trump has said he’ll act by the end of this week, and he might note that Chinese spokesmen are saying he’ll blink and do very little. He needs to send a message that the Chinese Communist Party can’t renege on its international promises without paying a price. Hong Kong’s people are bravely standing up against an authoritarian takeover, and the U.S. needs to show the world where it stands. – Wall Street Journal 

Eli Lake writes: Finally, an open door could help repair America’s image as a refuge from despotism. In the Trump years, it’s easy to forget that many oppressed and subjugated people around the world still look to the U.S. with hope. They see the founding ideals of America’s revolution as a promise to emulate. To them, those ideals (to borrow a phrase) make America great. The crisis in Hong Kong is an opportunity for Trump to renew that promise. – Bloomberg 

Joel Gehrke writes: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is pushing ahead with the threat to revoke the special legal status that made Hong Kong such a valuable piece of China’s economy, raising the question of why communist officials would court that backlash if they don’t feel vulnerable. […]Blumenthal acknowledged that Xi has devoted significant effort to “coup-proof” the party and ensure that he controls the levers of power, but he and Buchan agree that Xi is on alert for grumbling within and without the party. – Washington Examiner


Putin’s centralized power structure cannot handle the crisis alone. The president delegated much of the burden to regional officials, who were frightened of drawing attention to local problems and risking Moscow’s wrath. – Washington Post

President Vladimir Putin is looking to change Russia’s education curriculum to include war history and patriotism, as part of his effort to militarize Russia’s youth. – Business Insider  

Russia said on Wednesday it has decided to postpone the summit of the BRICS nations, initially scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg in July, due to the spread of the coronavirus. – Reuters  

The U.S. Navy has again criticized the conduct of Russian fighter pilots operating in the Meditarranean Sea, after what it called the third “unsafe” interception of a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft in the past two months. – Newsweek 

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. The seven other Arctic states are Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark (by virtue of Greenland), and Russia. – USNI News 

Cyrus Newlin and Heather A. Conley write: Ironically, Putin’s “Fortress Russia” is highly economically dependent on the rest of the world. His best chance to strengthen Russia lies in a more resilient and diversified economy. But what strengthens Russia weakens Putin’s hold on power, and as he rewrites the constitution to allow himself another term as president, we know his power will be what is preserved. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


European Union leaders on Wednesday proposed an $825 billion coronavirus rescue plan that would give Brussels major new tax and spending powers of the sort held by a federal state. – Washington Post

Anti-Semitic crimes in Germany last year reached their highest level since the country started keeping statistics, amid an overall strong increase in right-extremist criminality that is a cause for “great concern,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Serbian authorities have banned Montenegro’s national carrier from operating flights out of Belgrade after the small nation’s government excluded Serbia from a list of countries with which Montenegro will reopen its borders after declaring an end to its coronavirus outbreak. […]The flight and border entry bans come amid deepening tensions between the former Balkan allies, which existed as one state before Montenegro split off through a 2006 referendum. – Associated Press

The United Kingdom’s chief negotiator with the European Union following Brexit called on the bloc to “evolve” in order to make progress in key talks. – Washington Times 

An employee at the UK’s Government Legal Department recently took part in a virtual Quds Day event and recited a poem that appeared to call for Israel’s replacement with an Arab state. – Algemeiner  

The Chinese Embassy in France tweeted an anti-US, anti-Israel cartoon depicting the grim reaper, donned in an American flag cloak holding a scythe with the blade being the Israeli flag, according to multiple media sources. – Jerusalem Post 

Editorial: Perhaps the EU needs closer fiscal and political integration to survive this crisis. But then someone should tell voters, and persuade them to assent. They’re entitled to change their minds after 2005, especially if a new political organization for the EU gave voters more direct control over Brussels. But until that happens, advocates of a federal Europe should be wary about this borrow-spend-and-tax scheme. German voters might one day figure out that they’re on the hook for the Italian government. – Wall Street Journal 

Francesco Bechis writes: In both cases the goal is to show that authoritarian regimes beat the virus and democracies do not. Borghi notes that experience in South Korea and Germany demonstrates that democracies organize themselves better, “because they guarantee better health results and less decreases in freedoms.” – Center for European Policy Analysis

David Hutt and Richard Q. Turcsányi write: Pointing fingers at Central and Eastern Europe with the easily refutable claims of economic dependency distracts from the fact that Western European dealings with China have impacted the ability of the EU to form a common position. The intra-EU blame game can poison the relations among various European regions and is certainly not helping the EU in reaching unity on the issue. – Foreign Policy


Almost 40% of the $312 million Niger spent on defence procurement contracts over the last three years was lost through inflated costs or materiel that was not delivered, according to a government audit of military contracts seen by Reuters. – Reuters 

Widespread and systematic killings, beheadings, rape and other barbaric acts by militia mostly from the ethnic Lendu community in northeastern Congo may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, the United Nations said on Wednesday. – Reuters  

Concern is mounting that Guinea-Bissau’s efforts to stem the flow of drugs to Europe and the US have suffered a setback after a military-backed president took office, writes journalist Ricci Shyrock. – BBC  

Negotiations between aerospace company PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) and the Senegalese Air Force (Armée de l’Air du Senegal) for a second CN-235 aircraft have been put on hold amid Covid-19-related travel bans. – Jane’s 360

Israel sent a plane with medical staff and equipment to Sudan in an attempt to save the life of a diplomat sick with COVID-19, who managed the clandestine ties between Jerusalem and Khartoum, Channel 13 reported Wednesday. – Times of Israel 

North America

A Canadian judge ruled that the U.S. met a key legal test to seek the extradition of a senior Huawei Technologies Co. executive who is at the center of a fight between Washington and Beijing over the giant telecom-equipment maker. – Wall Street Journal 

A Chinese transformer weighing more than 500,000 pounds arrived by ship at the Port of Houston last summer, en route to an electrical substation in Colorado that funnels electricity to Denver. It never made it there. – Wall Street Journal 

As Mexico’s health-care system has strained under the coronavirus, small community hospitals in Southern California, some of the poorest in the state, have been flooded with Americans who have fallen ill and crossed the border. They are retirees and dual citizens, Americans working in Mexico or visiting family there. – Washington Post

Frustration with hyperglobalization, China’s “economic imperialism,” and a seemingly broken world trading system is boiling over into serious calls for the United States to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO)—which would have potentially disastrous implications for the country if carried out. – Foreign Policy

A Canadian judge ruled Wednesday that the high-stakes extradition case of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou will proceed, a decision poised to inflame Canada’s already testy relationship with China. – Politico 

As universities across the US prepare to welcome back students for the fall semester, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Wednesday called on campus administrators to proactively counter anti-Israel activists. – Algemeiner  

Hal Brands writes: That we can even talk seriously about de-emphasizing the balance of power is an ironic testament to just how much the global environment has favored the U.S. The geopolitical dominance Washington and its allies have long enjoyed gives them the luxury of not knowing what it is like to live in a world shaped by someone else’s dominance. Deciding that the balance of power is an anachronism is probably the best way of re-discovering, sooner or later, just how critical it truly is. – Bloomberg

Terry Glavin writes: For all anybody knows, China will be doing everything it can to make life miserable for Canada and for Canadians for as long as this case goes on, and probably until well after it’s all over. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay for ignoring all those warnings, for thinking we were clever, and for taking the guidance and counsel of Jean Chrétien and the rest. – Maclean’s

Latin America

It was mid-January and Jordan Goudreau was itching to get going on a secret plan to raid Venezuela and arrest President Nicolás Maduro when the former special forces commando flew to the city of Barranquilla in Colombia to meet with his would-be partner in arms. – Associated Press

A U.S. army unit will arrive in Colombia in the coming days to help the Andean country’s armed forces fight against drug trafficking for a four-month period, the U.S. embassy in Bogota said on Wednesday. – Reuters  

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday pledged to begin charging citizens for gasoline, as the fourth cargo of a five-tanker flotilla bringing fuel from Iran approached the South American nation’s exclusive economic zone. – Reuters 

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday charged a former Venezuelan lawmaker with taking part with President Nicolas Maduro in a scheme linked to South American and Middle Eastern militant groups to traffic cocaine and military grade weapons. – Reuters 

The arrival of Iranian fuel tankers to Venezuela has been hailed by officials from both countries as they look to resist threats of intervention against their trade by the United States. – Newsweek

Dalibor Rohac and Ryan C. Berg write: However, becoming a truly “Global Britain” — one that is active in the defense of democratic governance and freedom around the world — means embracing high standards of financial transparency and dealing with “dirty money” in a principled way. Rejecting the request from Maduro’s regime would send a strong signal that the UK takes the challenge of global kleptocracy seriously. – American Enterprise Institute


Donald Trump has been raging against Twitter Inc. since the social media platform that helped vault him to the presidency slapped fact-check links on a pair of his tweets. Now, he’s poised to take action Thursday that could bring a flurry of lawsuits down on Twitter, Facebook Inc. and other technology giants by having the government narrow liability protections that they enjoy for third parties’ posts, according to a draft of an executive order obtained by Bloomberg. – Bloomberg 

Security experts at Alphabet Inc’s Google sent 1,755 warnings in April to users whose accounts were targets of government-backed attackers, following a resurgence in hacking and phishing attempts related to the coronavirus outbreak. – Reuters 

The FBI announced Wednesday that it is seeking information on victims of so-called “Zoom bombings” that contain videos of child sexual abuse, calling such instances a “violent crime.” – The Hill 

Vice Adm. Tom Moore has listed “cyber” as a top priority for Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) since assuming command four years ago, but despite the emphasis, the organization hadn’t found a way to define and pursue cyber and digital issues in any kind of unified way. – USNI News

The U.S. Census Bureau released a request for information May 20 asking for industry input to shape the statistical agency’s cybersecurity acquisition strategy for the coming decade. – Fifth Domain

US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on social media companies on Thursday, White House officials said after Trump threatened to shut down websites he accused of stifling conservative voices. – Reuters  

The EU’s diplomatic service has launched an investigation into the leaking of an internal email criticizing how a report on Chinese disinformation was edited. – Politico


The Air Force has acknowledged “persistent and consistent” bias against black airmen in its judicial system in internal documents, according to a report published Wednesday by an outside advocacy group. – The Hill

The U.S. Coast Guard’s operations in a COVID-19 environment require constantly gauging risk and accepting that large-scale exercises like Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020 “will feel a little different,” senior service officials said last week. – USNI News

An investigation into the circumstances around the March COVID-19 outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) has been handed over to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday for review, Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday. – USNI News

The Navy released a new set of COVID-19 guidelines Wednesday to standardize the fleet’s response to the pandemic and establish a framework for commanders to use as the Pentagon moves toward resuming full operations. – USNI News

Humble airlift planes like the C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III could become heavily-armed weapons trucks capable of airdropping large bundles of munitions that deliver a massive blast. – Defense News

Boeing’s massive commercial business will take the brunt of the cuts, with the company’s defense, space and security division only expected to shed less than 100 employees through involuntary layoffs this week. – Defense News

The U.S. Army’s newest short-range air defense system is one of several projects that are facing delays due to COVID-19, but top officials insist that all major acquisition programs remain on track for their planned delivery dates to the field. – Defense News

A request for information (RFI) for the Multi-Engine Training Aircraft (META) requirement called for a commercially available aircraft to replace the Beechcraft T-44 Pegasus variant of the King Air 90 that the service has used for the role since 1980. – Jane’s 360

Michael Kratsios writes: The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated both the benefits and the dangers of AI. GPAI will be launched at a moment when critical decisions about the use of AI have far-reaching implications. It matters more than ever that America and our allies remain united by a desire to drive technology leadership and protect cherished rights and freedoms. – Wall Street Journal 

Todd Harrison writes: This paper analyzes international perspectives on space weapons and the weaponization of space, focusing relatively more on countries other than the United States, Russia, and China. It examines how existing international agreements define and limit space weapons and weapons-related activities, proposed international agreements and the reactions of other nations to these proposals, and current developments that relate to space weapons and the weaponization of space – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Long War

A Florida man is charged with providing material support to the Islamic State extremist group, including attempting to buy multiple weapons and scouting potential targets for an attack in the Tampa Bay area, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. – Associated Press  

Ali Fauzi was a key member of Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant group with links to al-Qaeda, which was responsible for Indonesia’s worst attack – the 2002 Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people. […]Now Ali Fauzi’s mission is very different. He works to help former jihadis leave a life of violence and to stop new recruits from joining the next wave of militant groups in South East Asia. – BBC 

Melissa Dalton and Hijab Shah write: Partners will be vital to the allies’ ability to compete effectively in hybrid warfare environments. Pursuing partnerships through a principled approach provides the allies with an asymmetric advantage in contrast to rivals that resort to autocratic, deceptive, and extra-legal tactics. Allies’ laws, principles, and values are strategic advantages in hybrid warfare. Investing in partners rather than casting them as proxies will increase allied strategic action and operational effectiveness. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Trump Administration

The former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein will testify before senators next week in a hearing that will give President Trump’s allies a high-profile platform to escalate their attacks on the Russia investigation. – New York Times

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) yanked a vote scheduled for Wednesday night on a bill reauthorizing lapsed surveillance programs after opposition from Republicans and progressives made it unclear if it could pass. – The Hill

Vice President Pence on Wednesday named a new press secretary, Devin O’Malley, and promoted his current press secretary, Katie Miller, to communications director. – The Hill