Fdd's overnight brief

May 31, 2019

In The News


Iran bears responsibility for recent drone attacks carried out by Houthi rebels on targets in Saudi Arabia, John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal

The threat from Iran is not over but quick action from the United States has helped deter it, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Thursday. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department sought to quash speculation that the Trump administration is easing its clampdown on Iranian oil exports after a sanctions waiver program ended May 2, saying there was no softening in the American stance that any country buying Iran’s oil would be subject to penalties. – Bloomberg

Russia has rejected an Iranian request to buy S-400 missile defense systems, concerned that the sale would stoke more tension in the Middle East, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, including a senior Russian official. – Bloomberg

The United States could present evidence linking Iran to attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates earlier this month to the United Nations Security Council as early as next week, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Thursday. – Al Jazeera

The United States will sanction any country which buys oil from Iran after the expiration of waivers on May 2, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said on Thursday. – Reuters

Iranians have begun rallies across the country to mark Quds, or Jerusalem Day, which will see demonstrations across the Mideast as the Trump administration tries to offer an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. – Associated Press

The Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, B-52 bombers and sophisticated air defense systems were rushed to the Middle East in early May because intelligence suggested an Iranian-led “campaign plan” taking shape to disrupt the region, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff said Wednesday. – USNI News

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Iran attacked oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) earlier this month in an effort to push global crude prices higher. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Jason Rezaian writes: A bizarre scandal rocked Iran this week. Former Tehran mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi shot and killed his wife, Mitra Ostad. But it’s how authorities and the state media have handled the crime that has Iranians outraged. […]With this twisted version of reality TV, Iran’s regime has just demonstrated its shamelessness and depravity, offering a reminder of just how rotten it is. – Washington Post

Merrill Matthews writes: The Iranian government is rattling sabers once again, and the Trump administration is rattling back. In years past those tensions would have sent world oil markets into a panic. Not so this time around — at least not yet. And one important reason is the U.S. has become so dominant in crude oil and natural gas production and export. – The Hill

Islamic State

Iraq handed death sentences this week to seven French citizens who joined Islamic State, in trials that have drawn criticism from rights groups and spotlighted the challenges of dealing with foreign fighters captured in Iraq and Syria. – Wall Street Journal

The main suspect in the bombing last week in the central French city of Lyon has told investigators that he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, a French judicial official said on Thursday. – New York Times

A Dutch hostage held by Muslim militants in the southern Philippines for seven years was killed by his captors on Friday as he tried to escape during a bloody rescue attempt by the military, officials said. – New York Times

The program, run by the local U.S.-backed Kurdish administration, aims to rehabilitate young, mostly Syrian former Islamic State fighters and help them reintegrate into society. Only a few such re-education programs are operating in Syria, where tens of thousands of former Islamic State militants and their families are being held in prisons or camps. – Wall Street Journal

The alleged leader of a jihadist cell accused of killing two Scandinavian hikers in Morocco admitted to the murders in court on Thursday, saying they were carried out in the name of the Islamic State group. – Agence France-Presse

Congolese forces killed 26 rebels from a group thought to be linked to Islamic State on Thursday in a shootout in the country’s eastern Ebola zone, the army said. – Reuters


Syrian doctors and humanitarian workers voiced growing alarm at the plight of civilians in northwestern Syria this week, as fighting intensified in the nation’s last rebel-held province and hundreds of thousands of people fled north toward the Turkish border. – New York Times

It was looking to be a good year for farmers across parts of Syria and Iraq. The wettest in generations, it brought rich, golden fields of wheat and barley, giving farmers in this war-torn region reason to rejoice. But good news is short-lived in this part of the world, where residents of the two countries struggle to cope with seemingly never-ending violence and turmoil amid Syria’s civil war and attacks by remnants of the Islamic State group. Now, even in areas where conflict has subsided, fires have been raging in farmers’ fields, depriving them of valuable crops. – Associated Press

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that Iran is withdrawing Hezbollah forces from Syria because of Washington’s pressure campaign against Tehran, including sanctions and military deployments. – Anadolu Agency


Turkish-American former NASA scientist Serkan Golge, newly released from jail in Turkey, said on Thursday he would like to go back to the United States and get his job back, but the terms of his probation won’t allow it. – Reuters

Turkey is considering deploying a Russian missile-defense system along the country’s southern coast, near where its warships are accompanying vessels exploring for energy, according to four people with knowledge of the deliberations. – Bloomberg

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday unveiled a package of judicial reforms after years of criticism over a crackdown on dissidents and the jailing of thousands said to be linked to a 2016 coup attempt. Speaking from his palace in Ankara, the president took aim at the European Union, which a day earlier released a damning report on Turkey’s bid to join the union. – Al Jazeera

A top Pentagon official has again warned Turkey about the consequences of purchasing a missile-defense system from Russia, turning up the pressure despite Ankara’s stated determination to go through with the deal. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a phone conversation on May 30 with U.S. President Donald Trump in which he reiterated Ankara’s proposal to form a working group to discuss Turkey’s pending procurement of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. – Anadolu Agency

As observers await a reported second autopsy for an alleged United Arab Emirates “spy” who died in a Turkish prison, analysts told The Media Line the case could become part of an ideological struggle between Turkey and its Gulf foes centered on the Muslim Brotherhood. – Jerusalem Post


As presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner visited Israel for meetings Thursday to bolster support for his Middle East peace initiative, he was met by political chaos, as the sudden prospect of a second round of Israeli elections muddied the plan’s long-delayed rollout. – Washington Post

Israel’s surprise elections have thrust one man and one issue into the spotlight: Avigdor Lieberman, a bitter right-wing rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who says he is trying to stop the country from becoming a religious state. – Wall Street Journal

After the spectacular collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to build a coalition threw Israel into an unprecedented do-over election, Israeli public attention on Thursday was glued to two politicians. […]That divide, between the ultrareligious right and the secular right, has for the moment eclipsed the old left-right divide in Israel. It proved to be Mr. Netanyahu’s undoing on Wednesday, his deadline to form a governing coalition, and could be critical in the next election, scheduled for Sept. 17. – New York Times

A Palestinian stabbed two Israelis in Jerusalem on Friday, wounding one of them critically, before being shot dead by police, an Israeli police spokesman said. – Reuters

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on Thursday thanked Iran for providing his terror group the rockets it used to strike deep into Israel and warned the Jewish state that Tel Aviv would be struck again in response to any offensive against the Gaza Strip. – Times of Israel

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Thursday released footage showing what it claims is a drone belonging to its military wing hovering over an Israeli tank and dropping an explosive device in its vicinity. – Ynet

Editorial: Israel was founded as a secular, European-style state with a religious minority. In later decades, as in much of the rest of the world, religious traditionalism has become more prominent. That issue was suppressed while Israel was concerned above all with its survival. Mr. Netanyahu’s success in turning the country into a regional power and making Israelis more secure has made intra-Jewish divisions more salient. This messy culture war could define Israeli politics in coming years as much as the Palestinian conflict. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: The Trump administration, meanwhile, will have little choice other than to put its peace plan on hold for a few more months — something that likely will be greeted with quiet relief by both Mr. Netanyahu and Palestinians. If Mr. Netanyahu somehow loses the new election, Mr. Trump will be deprived of one of his closest foreign allies, a leader who shares his polarizing political tactics and has even adopted his rhetoric, from “fake news” to “witch hunt.” Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu each are betting that the other will win reelection. If either is wrong, U.S.-Israeli relations could be in for a shake-up. – Washington Post

Daniel Gordis writes: With Israelis of all stripes now bracing for far-reaching and potentially painful conversations about the fragility of Israel’s democratic institutions, this would be a perfect time for Jewish Israelis to hear a different voice from their Arab fellow-Israelis. For the sake of both Israel’s Arabs as well as Israel’s democracy, one can only hope that someone will assume that mantle and engender a conversation both among and about Israel’s Arabs that has long been absent, but that could be more important now than it has ever been before. – Bloomberg

Steven A. Cook writes: Between now and September a lot of smart analysts will game out the Israeli elections and inform their readers and listeners of all the different ways in which Netanyahu is vulnerable. But upon the dissolution of the Knesset, an Israeli interlocutor—someone who dislikes the prime minister—sent me a message saying he cannot be hopeful for a different outcome. That is because Netanyahu, for all his faults both real and perceived, has kept Israel prosperous and safe. And that is what Israelis seem to care about most and why heading into a long, hot summer of crazy politics and electioneering, the prime minister continues to have the electoral edge. If Netanyahu is interested in a new campaign slogan, he’d be smart to consider: It could be worse. – Foreign Policy

Khaled Elgindy writes: If Palestinians hope to weather the coming storm, their best hope is to close ranks. Only by ending the highly corrosive political division between Hamas and Fatah can Palestinians begin to break the suffocating siege on Gaza. That will also enable them to be seen as a credible interlocutor on the regional and international levels, and potentially begin the process of forging a new national strategy. While Palestinian reconciliation may not be enough to forestall any impending disaster, in the context of continued division such a disaster is all but assured. If nothing else, the Palestinians should brace themselves for likely retaliation by the Trump administration if—or, more likely, when—the Manama workshop proves to be a bust. – Foreign Policy

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is Thursday hosting leaders of other Arab states to discuss security in the Middle East, as it seeks to rally support from its neighbors amid tensions with rival Iran. – Wall Street Journal

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Friday ratcheted up the rhetoric against arch-nemesis Iran, calling on Arab states to confront its “criminal” actions after attacks on oil installations sparked fears of a regional conflagration. – Agence France-Presse

Jennifer Spindel writes: Assuming Trump follows through and uses the emergency provision in the 1976 act, he will authorize the sale of precision-guided munitions and fighter jets to Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, driving a bigger wedge between himself and congressional Republicans on U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia. But unless Congress can include a clause blocking the arms sale in a must-pass spending bill — or use informal influence — the arms sale is likely to go forward, in line with existing U.S. law and practices. – Washington Post

Middle East & North Africa

A series of explosions shook the center of the northern city of Kirkuk Thursday, killing at least four people and wounding 23, Iraqi security officials said. – Associated Press

Nabih Berri, the powerful speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, reached for one of the ugliest antisemitic stereotypes in the book during a media interview on Thursday that was ostensibly about the maritime border between his country and Israel. – Algemeiner

The Kingdom of Jordan’s highest court has rejected a French appeal for the extradition of a suspect in a deadly attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris more than 30 years ago — raising further concerns that the stalwart ally of the West continues to offer safe haven to terrorists wanted by the courts of other countries, including the United States. – Algemeiner

Douglas A. Ollivant and Erica Gaston write: While no one doubts that Iran (and the United States) are able and willing to exert some influence over security actors in Iraq, these militias are still their own actors first and foremost. Our research shows that in most scenarios, domestic agency and the groups’ own political and strategic calculations explain their actions better than the simplistic narrative of external puppeteering. Overplaying that connection and the idea of Iran’s “proxies” will lead to further mistaken signals and escalating conflict, to the detriment of both U.S. and Iraqi security. – War on the Rocks

Giorgio Cafiero writes: For international actors seeking to help stabilize Libya, preventing the resurgence of ISIS is key. Doing so will require addressing the underlying root causes, but that seems impossible as long as fighting persists and the LNA seeks to achieve a military victory. Hifter’s offensive against Tripoli and fight with the GNA-linked Islamist militias have created new conditions on the ground that are heating up the conflict, resulting in myriad security, political, economic, and social problems that give ISIS fuel to sustain its fight. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has executed its special envoy to the United States on spying charges, as its leader, Kim Jong-un, has engineered a sweeping purge of the country’s top nuclear negotiators after the breakdown of his second summit meeting with President Trump, a major South Korean daily reported on Friday. – New York Times

David P. Fields writes: Understanding who divided Korea will not magically produce solutions to that division. But it will at least allow Americans to understand how Koreans on both sides of the DMZ regard themselves, to some extent, as victims of American foreign policy. – Washington Post

Kyle Ferrier writes: Peru may not be South Korea’s most obvious partner in global affairs, but last week’s meeting between their two foreign affairs ministers emphasized the significance of the relationship. – The Diplomat


Dong Shengkun survived June 4, 1989, with his life, but with little else. His decision to go to Tiananmen Square in the days and weeks leading up to the violent crackdown ended up costing him almost everything: his wife, his son, saying farewell to his father. It also cost him his job and any hope of a halfway decent job in the future. But Dong, who is now 59 years old, says it was worth it. – Washington Post

The newly published documents lay bare how after the massacre, party leaders quickly set about reinforcing a worldview that casts the party and China as menaced by malign and secretive forces. It is an outlook that continues to shape Chinese politics under Xi Jinping, the party leader facing off with President Trump in a trade war. – New York Times

Top American and Chinese defense officials will lay out rival visions for the Indo-Pacific region as they meet in Singapore this week amid a bruising global trade war, tensions over China’s push for technology leadership and the specter of stalled U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks. – Bloomberg

As trade tensions rise between the U.S. and China, the oil market is watching the progress of a Chinese ship loaded with Iranian crude to see whether it heads home with its cargo — in possible violation of U.S. sanctions. – CNBC

Jessica Chen Weiss writes: China uses coercion to dissuade other states from enforcing their legitimate rights and interests within their own coastal waters. A 2016 court decision completely nullified the nine-dash line as a basis for China’s maritime claims. That means China unequivocally has no right to prevent the Philippines from exploiting seabed resources within 200 nautical miles of its coast — or any reason to harass Philippine fishermen plying these same waters. This applies to other countries bordering the South China Sea. The results of the 2016 decision can help Washington consider ways of helping its allies and partners defend their coastal-state rights from China’s maritime gray zone actions. – Washington Post

John Pomfret writes: But flash forward to 2018. In ramming through a constitutional amendment doing away with term limits, Xi singlehandedly dismantled the architecture of political succession that Deng established in an effort to ward off internal party squabbles, which in communist China have always caused unrest in the streets. That and Xi’s unwillingness to groom a successor all but guarantee another political crisis and the very “chaos” that the Chinese Communist Party so deeply fears. – Washington Post

Nina Shea and Bob Fu write: The Pentagon estimates that up to three million Uighur Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang province. Beijing can’t do the same with 100 million Christians, but technology still enables mass repression. Police ordered facial-recognition cameras installed inside Zion, an unofficial Protestant megachurch in Beijing, prompting the pastor to close it. Priests have reported being pressed to provide police with parishioners’ socioeconomic data. This can influence their personal social-credit scores, which Beijing uses for behavioral control. – Wall Street Journal

Peter Morici writes: It is time to join the commercial cold war on China. The United States must fully implement the sanctions against Huawei and other technology pirates, implement a system of auction quotas that limit imports from China to the value of exports to China, and develop aggressive national strategies within advanced computing, space exploration, and artificial intelligence that ensure national survival. The real danger lies not from Beijing but rather in pressures from members of Congress who are not willing to accept higher prices for clothing and gadgets and lost farm exports and pass up the opportunity to make those an issue for 2020. – The Hill


A car bomb targeting a U.S. convoy exploded in the Afghan capital on Friday, wounding four U.S. service members and causing a number of other casualties, officials said, in the second attack in the city in two days. – Reuters

Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing near a military training center in the Afghan capital earlier on Thursday, the militant group said on its Amaq news agency. – Reuters

Senior Afghan politicians and the Taliban said they made progress during peace talks in Russia, although they did not make any significant breakthrough. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A pregnant American woman Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle were captured by the Taliban while hiking in Afghanistan in 2012. They were held hostage for five years before finally being rescued, but it appears the situation was more complicated than that. – Business Insider

South Asia

Modi won a landslide victory in last week’s national elections by appealing to voters’ sense of nationalist pride and casting himself as the only leader who could ensure India’s security and future aspirations. Now the hard part begins: delivering on his promises and meeting the heady expectations for his second term. – Washington Post

Pakistan’s army has sentenced a general to life imprisonment for spying and ordered the death penalty for a brigadier and a civilian officer convicted in the same case, a military statement said on Thursday. – Reuters

Sadanand Dhume writes: But although federalism may ensure that Mr. Modi does not quite become an Indian Vladimir Putin, it will do little to quell the fears of those who worry that the BJP will use its mandate to marginalize India’s Muslim and Christian minorities, empower Hindu zealots who espouse violence, replace scientific rationalism with Hindu mythology, and use tax authorities to bully and badger opponents. Mr. Modi may well prove his critics wrong by reining in party hotheads and focusing more on economic growth and less on divisive cultural issues. But until that happens, anxiety about what his mandate means cannot be dismissed. – Wall Street Journal

Muhammad Akbar Notezai writes: If these attacks continue, the CPEC’s chances of success will decrease, as will the possibility of Saudi-Iranian tensions on Pakistani soil. It is time for Islamabad to start treating the Baloch as stakeholders in the development of the Gwadar port, to make the CPEC successful. But unfortunately, Islamabad has always treated the Baloch as a problem, not a solution—and even increasing violence probably won’t change that. – Foreign Policy


Hong Kong will make concessions to a controversial extradition bill, Security Secretary John Lee said on Thursday, but opposition lawmakers called for the legislation, which they fear will extend Beijing’s reach into the city, to be scrapped. – Reuters

“We are now entering into a period of great power rivalry. The outcome is unclear, but it is critical that we stabilize the system.” […]The Singaporean deputy prime minister’s sentiment was echoed by other political figures and experts gathered in Tokyo for a conference on the future of the region. At the event, which was sponsored by Japanese media group Nikkei, one of the repeated messages was meant for both Washington and Beijing: The world’s economic and military powerhouses need to find ways to coexist before things spiral out of control. – CNBC

Matthew P. Goodman writes: Again, the United States starts with tremendous advantages in the Indo-Pacific. We don’t need to spend trillions of dollars on grand initiatives to sustain our economic leadership there. Nor will we succeed by hunkering down behind a wall of tariffs, investment restrictions, and visa denials; that is the road to perdition for a United States that has built its strength on openness. What we do need is a comprehensive, coordinated, and confident economic diplomacy that plays to our strengths—the kind of strategy I’m sure George Kennan would advocate were he writing from our embassy in Beijing today. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold a summit meeting on June 29, when Putin visits Japan for a meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 nations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday. – Reuters

The United States believes Russia may be conducting low-level nuclear tests, a US intelligence official said on Wednesday, while the head of a body monitoring a global nuclear treaty said there was no sign of such violations by Moscow. – Reuters

Russia expressed support for Japan’s intention to play a role in helping ease tensions between Iran and the United States, an official in Tokyo said on Thursday after a meeting of Japan and Russia’s foreign and defense ministers. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A Russian social media network has taken down the event page for a “Miss Hitler” beauty pageant slated to take place later this summer after an appeal from an Israeli group, Channel 12 reported Thursday. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Democrats must stop whining and start acting. Russia’s 2016 election attacks were encouraged by President Barack Obama’s hesitant response to Russian aggression in Syria, Ukraine, and cyberspace. Those attacks escalated in 2016 as Obama showed he would not impose serious consequences on Putin. If Democrats want to prevent the same from occurring in 2020, they should act aggressively now. – Washington Examiner


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo headed to Europe on Thursday as part of another bid to build support for the U.S. government’s pressure campaign against Iran. But there is one stop en route that is sure to interest those who are more conspiratorially minded: Pompeo’s side trip to the secretive Bilderberg Meeting. – Washington Post

After seven years holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is showing symptoms of “psychological torture” as he serves a British prison sentence and battles extradition to the United States, according to a United Nations official. Extraditing Assange to the U.S., following the announcement last week of 17 new charges under the Espionage Act, would represent a grave threat to his human rights, including a scenario in which the anti-secrecy activist could receive “a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges were to be added in the future,” said Nils Melzer the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. – Washington Post

Days after European elections emboldened nationalists in the heart of Europe, Pope Francis was scheduled to arrive on Friday in Romania, on the Catholic and European periphery, to assert himself as the global conscience on the dangers of populism. – New York Times

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a five-day European trip on Friday with a delayed visit to Berlin, where he was expected to press Germany to boost its military spending, avoid dealings with China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and reconsider a pipeline project with Russia. – Reuters

Climate activists from Extinction Rebellion are considering using drones to shut London’s Heathrow Airport this summer in a campaign against plans to build a third runway at Europe’s busiest airport, the group said on Thursday. – Reuters

France and Germany are seeking the resumption of stalled peace talks for the bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Western nations’ foreign ministers say. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to tell the British government in person that Washington may limit intelligence sharing with the U.K. if it allows Huawei to build part of its 5G high-speed mobile network, the Financial Times reported. – CNBC

Two neo-Nazi parties are stoking the flames of BDS, a sanctions campaign targeting Israel that was classified as antisemitic in May by the German federal parliament. A third neo-Nazi party attacked Israel on Twitter. The party Die Rechte (The Right) used an election poster for the weekend’s EU parliament vote stating: “Boycott Israel. Stop ethnic cleansing.” – Jerusalem Post

Lionel Laurent writes: Intelligence sharing is not a magic wand for dealing with the Chinese 5G problem, of course. The “Five Eyes” network – a spooks alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. – has been riven by disagreement over Huawei too. And with the Chinese company offering telecoms operators eye-popping price discounts of about 60 percent versus its closest competitors, according to the Washington Post, business interests will also have their say about how Huawei should be treated. But unless the EU member states find a way to trust each other, their attempts to steer an independent course on the U.S.-China technology clash will look doomed. – Bloomberg

United States

President Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time Thursday that Moscow helped him win the White House in 2016 — before retracting himself to launch a fiery attack on Robert Mueller and the Russia probe. – Agence France-Presse

Lawyers for the man accused of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue say the FBI has been discouraging witnesses from talking to the defense, undermining the suspect’s right to a fair trial. – Associated Press

Sixteen women alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that they faced rampant gender discrimination at the FBI’s training academy in Quantico, Virginia, which they say continues to foster a “Good Old Boy Network” within its ranks. – Business Insider

Karlyn Bowman writes: The Center for American Progress recently released a new poll: “America Adrift: How the U.S. Foreign Policy Debate Misses What Voters Really Want.” Does it break new ground? […]In many areas, the poll shows continuity with surveys conducted over many years. In some areas, the similarities are impressive. – Forbes

Latin America

President Trump said Thursday the U.S. would impose escalating tariffs on all Mexican imports beginning June 10, in an effort to push the country to deter the flow of asylum-seeking Central American families to the southern border. – Wall Street Journal

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s top lieutenants discussed the possibility of early presidential elections in talks with the opposition in Norway this week, according to people familiar with the talks. – Wall Street Journal

Former guerrilla commander Seuxis Hernández was freed from jail on Thursday and preparing to be sworn in as a congressman, capping a weekslong legal roller coaster that pitted courts against politicians in a country polarized over what to do with the ex-rebel. – Wall Street Journal

U.S.-supplied humanitarian aid that was earmarked for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó will now be distributed in Colombia, officials said Thursday. Colombia’s government said it had reached the decision with the U.S. and representatives of Guaidó because of Nicolás Maduro’s continued “blocking” of the aid. – Associated Press

U.S. federal court documents show Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández and some of his closest advisers were among the targets of a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation. – Associated Press

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday called on Canada to do more to engage directly with Cuba over what Pence called the island nation’s “malign influence” on Venezuela’s political crisis. – Reuters

Nicaragua’s government said on Thursday it was releasing another 50 political prisoners, amid opposition threats to ramp up demonstrations if President Daniel Ortega does not honor a pledge to free hundreds of people detained for opposing him. – Reuters


Technology giants Apple, Google, Microsoft and WhatsApp have condemned a proposal by the UK’s intelligence agency to eavesdrop on encrypted communication as a “serious threat to cybersecurity” and a “violation of human rights”. – Al Jazeera

Cyber Command has a new deputy commander to help as the organization continues to define itself as an unified combatant command. Vice Adm. Ross Myers was named deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command May 27, approximately one year after he was named the organization’s chief of staff. At the same time, Myers earned his third star. – Fifth Domain

The county votes on electronic voting machines, which don’t provide a paper trail — something cybersecurity experts vehemently warn against. But those machines weren’t what caused the issue in November. Instead, the problem came from the computer system, known as an electronic poll book, that poll workers were using to check people in. Increasingly, more and more states and voting jurisdictions are using these systems to speed up and improve in-person voting. – NPR

Russian Twitter trolls have attempted to fuel the anti-vaccination debate in the U.S., posting about the issue far more than the average Twitter user last year, a study out of George Washington University has found. The “sophisticated” bots shared opinions from both sides of the anti-vaxxer debate, which took the U.S. by storm and prompted tech companies to crack down on the spread of misinformation surrounding vaccinations. – CBS News

Dave Weinstein writes: The need to balance security and privacy is greater in the digital age than ever before. Let’s not forget that Baltimore is a victim. It’s time for governments and agencies to stop blaming each other and unite against the attackers. – Wall Street Journal

Jim Harper writes: In a recent post, I cast doubt on the assumption that privacy legislation would actually improve people’s privacy. To be more precise, legislation might improve privacy slightly by restricting flows of information about people. That could be consistent with the stated preferences of many, but it may come at a greater cost to interaction, social life, and commerce than people realize, leaving consumers marginally worse off and still unprotected in many ways. – American Enterprise Institute

Yigal Carmon and Michael Davis write: Hateful and aggressive content is easily found online, and only a very few of those posting it, commenting on it, or sharing it actually plan to carry out attacks. However, the price society pays for such terrorist attacks is high – dictating a need for special efforts to thwart them. It has been shown above that in some cases this is possible if, among the recognized members of the “online pack,” we can identify those with a concrete intention to attack. In order to accomplish this, there is a need to intensively study the language that these individuals and groups use, to learn to identify the symbols and codes with which they communicate, and to gain familiarity with their sources of inspiration. In this way, it is possible to close in on imminent danger. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Jennifer Daskal writes: In a world in which even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is now calling for increased governmental regulation of content online, the privacy consequences of the push to monitor speech cannot be ignored. Laws like Singapore’s set a deeply troubling precedent. – New York Times


A dust-up over who directed and knew about White House efforts to obscure the USS John S. McCain ahead of President Trump’s visit to Japan has raised new questions about whether the military’s culture is changing under a president who has challenged institutional norms. – Washington Post

The Advanced Turbine Engine Company — a team of Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney — is pushing to stay in the Army’s helicopter engine replacement program into the next phase after the Army chose competitor GE Aviation to build the future engine and the Government Accountability Office denied its protest of the service’s decision. – Defense News

Across the Department of Defense, organizations and agencies want to transport parts and ready-to-go systems to field units on demand. For the Army’s sustainment community, this means keeping up with the dynamic pace of deployments to by placing qualified workers closer to the battlefield or assembling reserve systems ahead of time. – C4ISRNET

James G. Foggo III writes: BALTOPS will evolve and adapt to ensure we continue with the mission of maintaining peace and stability through collective defense. Participants may vary year to year, but the exercise’s purpose will never change. Our commitment to the Baltics and other NATO nations remains firm, and our actions match our words as we welcome Vice Adm. Lewis and C2F to the Baltics. – Defense News

Vice Adm. John Nowell was sworn in as the 59th Chief of Naval Personnel last week, taking charge of a community amid a dramatic recruitment and retention push. – USNI News

The Navy will field versions of both its highest-power laser weapon and its low-end non-lethal laser dazzler later this year, gaining operational experience with directed energy weapons that will continue to focus engineers’ efforts building out the Navy Laser Family of Systems (NLFoS). – USNI News

The Army is opening up more assignments for female officers in the infantry, armor and field artillery occupations at another five major posts this year, the Army announced last week. – Task & Purpose

Brad Orgeron writes: The F-15C has performed spectacularly over the past 40 years and helped to establish American air superiority as a certainty in modern conflict. Yet, air superiority is not guaranteed in future conflict against rising powers. F-15C aircraft need to be replaced and new capabilities developed to enable U.S. warfighters to dominate future adversaries. An initial purchase of the F-15EX will help cycle out old and expensive aircraft and restore readiness, all while improving capacity and capability. – War on the Rocks