Fdd's overnight brief

May 7, 2019

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


U.S. intelligence showed that Iran has made plans to target U.S. forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, triggering a decision to reinforce the American military presence in the region in an effort to deter any possible moves by Tehran, U.S. officials said Monday. – Wall Street Journal

European diplomats warned Monday that Iran is preparing to abandon parts of a landmark nuclear deal in response to new U.S. sanctions, a step that risks inflaming tensions after the Trump administration dispatched warships to the Persian Gulf to deter potential Iranian attacks. – Wall Street Journal

Alireza says he used to dream of a better future in Iran and even saw himself getting a new car or house, but those days are now gone after he lost his job to reimposed US sanctions. – Agence France-Presse

A year after the US withdrew from a landmark nuclear accord, Iran’s economy is suffering under renewed sanctions — but Tehran is sticking to the pact even while warning its patience “has limits”. – Agence France-Presse

A sudden White House announcement that a U.S. aircraft carrier and a bomber wing would be deployed in the Persian Gulf to counter Iran comes just days ahead of the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal. – Associated Press  

President Donald Trump has moved closer to a military conflict with Iran than at any time in his presidency, redirecting warships to the Middle East to respond to what officials said Monday are heightened Iranian threats to U.S. troops and facilities. – Politico

Eli Lake writes: One of Iran’s greatest diplomatic achievements in recent years was getting the world to recognize its right to enrich uranium suitable for nuclear fuel. The Trump administration has now undermined it. – Bloomberg

A. Savyon and E. Kharrazi write: On April 22, 2019, the U.S. administration announced that from May 3, 2019, the U.S. would not renew sanctions waivers for nations importing Iranian oil, with the aim of cutting Iranian oil exports to zero. […]Iran’s strategy in response to the U.S. move will focus, apparently, on Iran’s rivals in the Gulf by impacting their export of their oil, by means of terror attacks on their facilities and on oil tankers as they sail in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, or Indian Ocean. – Middle East Media Research Institute  


Turkey’s national election board canceled results of the Istanbul mayoral race that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party lost five weeks ago and ordered a rerun, sparking outrage in opposition ranks and fueling investor concerns over heightened economic volatility. – Wall Street Journal

The leader of Turkey’s militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, has met his lawyers for the first time in eight years, one of them said on Monday. – Agence France-Presse

Mayoral candidates from both Turkey’s ruling AK party and the main opposition said they would again run for election in Istanbul on June 23 after results from an initial vote were scrapped, they said late on Monday in televised statements. – Reuters  

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party had claimed there were “irregularities and corruption” behind the opposition CHP’s slim win. But CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu, who was confirmed as Istanbul’s mayor in April, called the decision “treacherous”. – BBC News

Smarting from international criticism on World Press Freedom Day over their country’s continuing status as “the worst jailer of journalists in the world,” senior Turkish officials attempted to shift the opprobrium toward Israel over the weekend, as they bitterly accused the Jewish state of violating “press freedom” in its military response to rocket attacks from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. – Algemeiner


An uneasy cease-fire settled over the cities of southern Israel on Monday after a weekend that brought a rain of 600 rockets from the Gaza Strip, but not all residents thought the truce was a good thing. – Washington Post  

Israeli officials say they are increasingly concerned that Gaza’s second-largest militant group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is stoking conflict that neither Israel nor the strip’s ruler Hamas wants. – Wall Street Journal

Qatar says it will send $480 million to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after a cease-fire deal ended the deadliest fighting between Israel and Palestinian factions since a 2014 war between the two sides. – Associated Press  

The think tank for Germany’s Social Democratic Party is under fire for hosting a conference on the Iran nuclear deal that features a representative from an Islamic Republic of Iran institution that promotes Holocaust denial and a second official who supports a war against Israel. – Jerusalem Post  

Philip Carl Salzman writes: Democracies, such as Israel’s, offer many political benefits: First, all adult citizens have the right to influence government policies—through voting, lobbying, and contributions—according to their preferences. Second, changes in governments are regularized, through time limits on every administration. Third, whether administrations are re-elected or replaced by a different one, the process is peaceful, without violence and the loss of blood. – Arutz Sheva

David French writes: As of this moment, a fragile truce holds in southern Israel. After Hamas volleyed 600 missiles at Israeli civilian targets on Saturday and Sunday, prompting Israel to attack hundreds of targets in Gaza, the air-raid sirens have fallen silent, for now. […]It’s important, however, to be very clear about Israel’s legal obligations. When it comes to Hamas, “restraint” is Israel’s choice — one it may make for tactical and strategic reasons of its own. The actual law of war would allow Israel to invade Gaza, utterly destroy Hamas, and occupy Gaza City until Israel’s safety is ensured, even if it burned in the fight. – National Review

Middle East & North Africa

Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes on Monday intensified a week-long bombardment of Idlib province, targeting hospitals and other civilian infrastructure as tens of thousands of residents fled toward the border with Turkey, activists and monitors in the rebel-held region said. – Washington Post  

Mohammad Abkar thought he would be home by the time Ramadan rolled around, but the Yemeni father of three will spend the Muslim holy month in a camp — displaced. – Agence France-Presse

Libya’s internationally recognised government said Monday its head Fayez al-Sarraj will tour Europe to seek support against an attack on Tripoli by strongman Khalifa Haftar, who urged his troops to “wipe out” government forces. – Agence France-Presse

Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar has issued a message urging his forces to step up their offensive against the capital, Tripoli, hours after the United Nations called for a ceasefire. – BBC News

Korean Peninsula

The US State Department said Monday it was “gravely concerned” about human rights in North Korea, including its detention of an estimated 100,000 people in political prison camps, two days after President Donald Trump again praised leader Kim Jong Un. – Agence France-Presse

According to the director of Korean Studies at think tank the Center for the National Interest, that recent downturn in Washington-Beijing relations may not bode well for Trump’s denuclearization dialogue with North Korea. – CNBC  

The weapons North Korea launched over the weekend traveled into the stratosphere and flew at a distance long enough to strike deep into South Korean territory, according to a South Korean assessment. – Bloomberg


Prospects for a speedy conclusion to the U.S.-China trade fight dimmed Monday after U.S. officials accused Beijing of reneging on its promises and vowed to implement President Trump’s threat to raise tariffs quickly on Chinese imports. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. warned against encroachment in the Arctic by China and Russia, calling on nations with Arctic territory to guard against aggressive claims and actions in an area that has attracted global competition. – Wall Street Journal

China’s top trade negotiator is heading to Washington for two days of trade talks, despite President Trump’s threat to impose new tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods. – New York Times  

The Chinese troll army suddenly struck one evening, bombarding the Facebook pages of two pro-Uighur groups with an array of verbal grenades and offensive images. – Agence France-Presse

China has launched two more nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and might fit anti-ship ballistic missiles on a new cruiser class on the verge of entering service, according to a new Pentagon report. – Defense News

New research suggests that China may have undertaken large-scale destruction of Islamic sites in its western Xinjiang province, where Muslim minorities such as Uighurs live under severely repressive rule. – Time

Tim Culpan writes: Nobody likes tariffs. Unless perhaps you’re an executive looking for an excuse to do exactly what you’ve been wanting to do for years. […]Yet even before Trump took office in January 2017, many foreign companies had been wanting to reduce their China footprint.  – Bloomberg

David Fickling writes: President Donald Trump’s Sunday night tweet promising a fresh round of tariffs isn’t looking like the thought bubble some suspected. While the talks will go on and a Chinese delegation will visit the U.S. later this week, levies will indeed go up on Friday, according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, due to what he characterized as China going back on its promises. – Bloomberg

South Asia

Sri Lankan security authorities have either killed or arrested all the jihadists responsible for the Easter suicide bombings that left 257 people dead, police chief Chandana Wickramaratne said Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

Before jihadi bombers targeted Sri Lanka in deadly Easter attacks, Rangana Wijesuriya used to party until the small hours in the pulsating restaurants, bars and clubs of downtown Colombo. – Agence France-Presse

Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church appealed for calm and an alcohol ban Monday after clashes between Christians and Muslims in a town scarred by the Easter suicide attacks. – Agence France-Presse

Sri Lankan authorities say they have dismantled a major part of the network linked to the Easter Sunday bombings, confiscating bomb-making material and freezing assets worth about $40 million linked to the plotters. – Reuters  


Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after reporting on the military’s abuses against the ethnic Rohingya minority were freed Tuesday as part of a presidential amnesty for more than 6,000 prisoners. – Wall Street Journal

Turkish armored-vehicles manufacturer FNSS and its Indonesian partner PT Pindad have signed a contract to co-produce scores of medium-weight, new-generation battle tanks for the Indonesian army. The deal was signed during this year’s IDEF defense and aerospace show in Istanbul Apr. 30-May 3. – Defense News

The U.S. government has begun returning to Malaysia some $200 million recovered from asset seizures linked to state fund 1MDB, with about a quarter of the amount already repatriated, the two countries said on Tuesday. – Reuters  

The essays in this series explore these and other questions pertaining to the threat posed by the rise of ISIS to Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, and efforts that the governments of the region have taken and could/should take to respond to it. – Middle East Institute  


The leaders of the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services Committees are accusing the Trump administration of violating a law requiring a report on human rights abuses in Russia. – Politico

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he is trying to “begin to have positive conversations” with Russian officials. “We have interests that are definitely different, and there will be places where we run into hard stops pretty quickly, but there is no doubt there was a desire to begin to try and find paths where we can make real progress on places where we have overlapping interests, as narrow as they may be,” Pompeo told reporters in Finland. – Washington Examiner  

Russia is “ready to cooperate” with Turkey to sell its new-generation Su-57 fighter jet in case the Ankara government and Turkish companies are expelled from the U.S.-led F-35 program, according to a senior Russian defense official. – Defense News

Gerald F. Seib writes: You’ve got to give Vladimir Putin his due: The man knows how to play a weak hand well. With relatively little investment, the Russian leader is expanding his toehold in the Western Hemisphere and potentially getting access to giant oil and uranium supplies by backing a dictator in Venezuela. – Wall Street Journal


The European Union will launch a call for a new batch of proposals as part of Europe’s new Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) initiative this week. – Defense News

The latest U.S. tariffs on China could be a sign of what’s to come for Europe, analysts have told CNBC. […]His decision sparked a sell-off in global equity markets and created further jitters in Europe whose exports could also face similar U.S. tariffs. – CNBC

A Jewish advocacy group in London has accused the Labour Party of “endemic anti-Jewish behavior” and asked the government to investigate. The report by the Labour Against Antisemitism group contains “15,000 screenshots taken from hundreds of Labour members ‘and officials’ promoting anti-Semitic views.” – Times of Israel

United States

President Trump on Monday pardoned former U.S. Army First Lt. Michael Behenna, a decision the White House said was based on the support of senior military leaders for a soldier who claimed he killed a suspected Iraqi terrorist in self-defense. – Wall Street Journal

A translator working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation had a personal relationship with a terrorism suspect whose calls he translated as part of his duties for the bureau, according to documents from federal prosecutors made public Monday. – Wall Street Journal

A Philadelphia city commission said Monday it’s investigating an event last month at which Muslim children were captured on video speaking in Arabic about beheadings and the liberation of Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site. – Associated Press  

A leading US Jewish civil rights group on Monday announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of a group of men who attacked an Orthodox Jewish man in Brooklyn over the weekend. – Algemeiner

American Jews are more likely than American Christians to say that US President Donald Trump is favoring Israel too much in his dealings with Israelis and Palestinians, according to a study by the Pew Research Center released on Monday. – Times of Israel

Sarah Feld writes: There is a crucial point that may have been overlooked in all the significant statements you made. Despite having a good man and a great friend of Israel presently in the White House, the anti-Semitism in America is escalating. – Arutz Sheva


Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said Monday that backers who had pledged support for his abortive uprising last week had “failed to follow through” to dislodge President Nicolas Maduro. – Agence France-Presse

Venezuela’s opposition leader, whose most recent call for a military uprising failed to oust disputed leader Nicolas Maduro from power, said in a recent interview he is considering asking the United States to intervene in the embattled South American country. – Fox News  

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is set on Tuesday to offer new incentives to Venezuela’s military to turn against President Nicolas Maduro, responding to an attempted uprising that fizzled out last week, a senior administration official told Reuters. – Reuters  

Cuba is willing to help negotiate a peaceful end to Venezuela’s political crisis if President Nicolas Maduro requests it, one of Havana’s top diplomats said. The so-called Lima Group of nations sought to enlist the communist-run Caribbean island in brokering a solution to the standoff last week after opposition leader Juan Guaido’s attempt to overthrow the embattled president failed. – Bloomberg


The U.S. State Department is opening new, military-style training facilities around the world, expanding plans to prop up local forces battling terrorism as the Trump administration seeks cutbacks in conventional diplomacy and development programs. – Wall Street Journal

More than three dozen former military and intelligence leaders are urging Congress to get behind a separate military Space Force, lending key support to President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal as Congress prepares to vote on the idea. – Politico

Later this year, Boeing’s prototype for the Navy’s MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial tanker will make its first flight from an Illinois airport. When the Stingray will start operating from U.S. carriers is less clear. – USNI News  

The U.S. Navy’s growing and increasingly diverse portfolio of unmanned systems is creating a jumble of control systems, creating problems for a force that hopes robot ships, aircraft and submarines will help it regain a significant advantage over rivals China and Russia. – Defense News

In order to operate in the Arctic, the U.S. military must spend more money on joint training and cold weather technology and more time on Alaska’s ranges and working with Native American tribes, according to defense officials. – Defense News

As the Pentagon considers which military personnel could become part of the new U.S. Space Force, leaders with the Navy and Marine Corps have expressed confidence troops will continue to execute the space mission no matter the service to which they’re assigned. – Defense News

In March, nearly ten thousand Marines and sailors waged a campaign in the vast Pacific Ocean against a near-peer competitor, putting to test emerging technologies and fighting concepts aimed at sea control. – Navy Times

The Navy has never been closer to fielding lasers and other directed-energy weapons. Technological challenges remain, but the sea service is slated to test a 150-kilowatt spectrally beam-combined fiber laser on the amphibious platform dock ship Portland this year. – Navy Times

With the U.S. Navy poised to dive headlong into a future of robotic ships, the surface fleet is preparing to map out how best it can employ new unmanned sidekicks against potential adversaries Russia and China. – Defense News

The Army is building a new tactical cyber force and it’s going to need an arsenal. Immediately stocking one is another story, however, because “offensive cyber” tools are currently developed and owned by U.S. Cyber Command for the joint mission, so the Army is working on how to best equip its teams’ specific needs. – Fifth Domain

Long War

The grandparents of two children stranded with their French jihadist mother at a camp in Kurdish-held Syria filed a lawsuit at Europe’s top rights court Monday over France’s refusal to allow them home, lawyers said. – Agence France-Presse

Nathan A. Sales writes: On March 23, President Donald Trump announced the liberation of the last territory held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This important milestone in our fight against global terrorism was made possible by this administration’s decision over two years ago to take the gloves off. – USA Today

Nicolas Henin writes: The paradox of the defeat of the caliphate is that as it has collapsed, the transformation of Isis into a global brand has been barely affected. Now that it has lost its territory, Isis is turning more than ever to the rest of the world. – The Guardian

Trump Administration

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has made it official: The administration won’t be turning President Donald Trump’s tax returns over to the Democratic-controlled House. – Associated Press  

When President Donald Trump contradicted his own attorney general and declared on Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller “should not testify” before Congress, he caught his inner circle by surprise. – Politico