Fdd's overnight brief

May 8, 2020

In The News


Governments across the world—from Asia to Europe and the U.S.—are gradually reopening their countries and attempting to revive their economies. Iran, whose economy has been under serious pressure from U.S. sanctions, was eager to reopen as soon as the public-health emergency shows signs of waning. – Wall Street Journal

Iran continues to be plagued by allegations of internal corruption, mismanagement and even U.S. sanctions violations as government officials scramble to contain the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. – Fox News 

A British-Australian academic held in isolation in Iran since September 2018, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, has repeatedly attempted suicide and could be in extreme danger, according to information received by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). – Center for Human Rights in Iran 

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says a “surge in production is doable” for a nation that launches satellites into space.He was referring to his slogan of the year, “surge in production” and the recent controversial launch of a military satellite into orbit. – Radio Farda 

The Iranian regime’s annual day of rallies and demonstrations calling for the destruction of the State of Israel will go ahead this year despite the coronavirus pandemic. – Algemeiner 

One day after President Donald Trump vetoed a bi-partisan resolution aimed at curbing his war-making powers, the Senate failed to override the veto. The chamber needed two-thirds to overturn the veto, but only 44 senators voted in favor and 49 opposed the move. – Radio Farda 

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry says it has tracked down and dismantled two “terrorist cells” in the Western part of the country. […]The area has seen occasional fighting between Iranian forces and Kurdish separatists, as well as militants linked to the Islamic State extremist group. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

U.S. officials believe they’re making progress in efforts to secure the release from Iran of a detained Navy veteran, but they are pushing back on Iranian suggestions that a swap is in the works for an imprisoned Iranian that American officials have been trying to deport since last year. – Associated Press

May 8 marks the second anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). – United Against Nuclear Iran

Jason M. Brodsky writes: Thus, Shahriyari’s role in Unit 190, Ghasemi’s deep contacts in Iraq and Syria, Ghaani’s experience in financing weapons transfers, and Hejazi’s work in Lebanon all align as links in a chain of Iranian arms transfers moving forward, from Tehran to Beirut and with reach into Sanaa. The sanctions announced last week on IRGC-QF operatives were a reminder of the durability of Iran’s smuggling architecture. – United Against Nuclear Iran

Bob Feferman writes: Since the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, Iranian leaders have been obsessed with demonizing Jews, demonizing Israel, and denying the Holocaust. That is why we must take seriously Iran’s threats to the existence of the Jewish state of Israel, work to end Iran’s support for terrorism and ensure that it never acquires nuclear weapons. – Times of Israel


Hezbollah has also been investing significant amounts of manpower and time into Syria and has been reported to be embedding itself into the Syrian Arab Army in order to guarantee its survival in the country. So while the Iranians may be leaving, the reason behind their withdrawal may be more complicated than just Israeli airstrikes. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran is not reacting well to last week’s decision by the German government to label Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy, as a terror group. […]An Iranian newspaper accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of being a “Zionist spy” and called her “worse than Hitler.” – Algemeiner 

Israel’s UN ambassador said Wednesday that his government is demanding major changes in the way the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon operates on the ground and has support from the United States. […]Israel has repeatedly accused Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists of impeding the peacekeepers from carrying out their mandate. – Times of Israel


US President Donald Trump continued the “national emergency” under which the US views the Syrian regime, according to a White House statement on Thursday. The decision underpins Washington’s view that the Assad regime in Damascus, along with its “Russian and Iranian enablers,” continues brutal violence against people in Syria. – Jerusalem Post 

Syria postponed a parliamentary election for a second time Thursday as part of measures to protect the war-battered country from the coronavirus pandemic. – Al Monitor 

Satellite images released on Thursday by Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International – ISI show the outcomes of a strike in northern Syria earlier this week attributed to Israel, which reportedly targeted a research center working on developing chemical and biological weapons. – Haaretz 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The evidence points to a more complex triangular love affair between Moscow, Tehran and Damascus. The relationships are undermined, and complexity increased by leaks and misinformation that appears in regional media, percolating up from Russian, Turkish, Arabic or Iranian sources. […]The problem with Syria, like the Gulf conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is that the stakes are very high. – Jerusalem Post 

Jonathan Spyer writes: At the current price that Israel is imposing, it is difficult to see why Iran should choose to up sticks and pull everything back to Tehran. […]But if an Iranian strategic withdrawal from Syria takes place before next February, it will be visible to all. So we will know. As of now, there appears to be a discrepancy between the stated goal and the means being employed to achieve it. This discrepancy renders Israeli strategy incoherent. – Jerusalem Post


Israel’s president gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the mandate to form a unity government with his onetime rival after a parliamentary majority supported the arrangement, a remarkable turnaround for Mr. Netanyahu, who survived three inconclusive elections and is now set to begin a record fifth term while about to go on trial on corruption charges.- Wall Street Journal

The Egyptian television drama “The End” is billed as the country’s first science-fiction series, but it depicts a world many Arabs wish could become reality. In the dystopian show, set in the year 2120, Israel is destroyed. In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”- Washington Post

Iran was responsible for a widespread cyberattack on Israeli water and sewage facilities last month, Fox News reported on Thursday. According to the report, Iran used American servers to hack into the facilities. – Jerusalem Post 

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the European Union’s ambassador to Israel for an unusually harsh rebuke over the bloc’s alleged support of terrorism, warning him that backing terrorist groups will only lead to more bloodshed. – Times of Israel 

A majority of the Jewish population of Israel does not support the annexation of the West Bank, according to a new poll released by the organization Commanders for Israel’s Security Wednesday, which was first reported by Ynet. – Jerusalem Post 

Banks operating in the West Bank have begun closing the accounts of Palestinian terrorist prisoners and their proxies, ahead of a new law coming into force which would allow the Israeli authorities to prosecute the employees of any bank handing terrorist’s salaries for facilitating terror. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon suggested on Wednesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reported visit to Israel next week will be a “follow-up” visit to address issues between the two countries following Israel’s advancement toward the creation of a new government. – Jewish Insider 

Amnesty International on Thursday censured Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for detaining critics and opponents for expressing their views. – Associated Press 

A senior Hamas official on Thursday dismissed reports of progress toward a prisoner swap with Israel, after officials in Jerusalem had signaled negotiations were nearing a potential breakthrough. – Times of Israel 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a May 5, 2020 address that was posted on the Facebook page of Palestine TV that the countries of the world do not agree on where the coronavirus came from and that no serious effort is being made to find a vaccine or medicine for it. He also said that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Palestinian Authority has been dealing with the Deal of the Century and with potential Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, settlements in the West Bank, and the Cave of the Patriarchs. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Islamic State has stepped up attacks in Iraq, seeking to exploit cracks in Baghdad’s alliance with the U.S.-led coalition and new security challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal 

Iraq is facing the economic and health challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic without a sitting government. […]Abdul Mahdi said in a statement last month that all countries faced a crisis from the pandemic and that it was important for Iraq to reduce its oil income dependency. – Haaretz 

The long-time spy master, who appears to have U.S. backing, will now lead a government to replace the one forced to resign months ago amid widespread protests. But his biggest challenge may be convincing a fed-up public that he’ll act in their interest before he acts in the interest of the U.S. or any other foreign power. – CBS News 

Bobby Ghosh writes: A new vote would give Iraq the chance for a fresh start. If Kadhimi can pull off just that one thing, he could credibly claim to have done as much for his country in months than any of his predecessors did in years. – Bloomberg

Biner Aziz writes: Though there are many global challenges at present, the United States should recognize the importance of the KRI in its Iraq strategy and act accordingly. […]The United States has based its withdrawal strategy on the assumption that regions like the KRI will be able to hold their own against future extremist threats. As such, the economic viability of the region is interconnected to these security issues. – Washington Institute

Gulf States

The U.S. is removing Patriot antimissile systems from Saudi Arabia and is considering reductions to other military capabilities—marking the end, for now, of a large-scale military buildup to counter Iran, according to U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal 

A rare revolt by a Saudi tribe has spelt fresh trouble for a planned Red Sea megacity, a linchpin of the crown prince’s economic vision already beset by low oil prices. – Agence France-Presse  

Saudi Arabia’s boost to prices of most of its oil is signaling an end to a destructive price war, but it’s left Asian buyers less than impressed. – Bloomberg 

Ben Cahill writes: Ultimately the GCC states face a familiar dilemma: lower oil revenues increase the urgency of economic reforms, but governments are reluctant to take politically risky steps during downturns. […]The Gulf states are again headed for hard times, but this is an opportunity to rethink diversification strategies and experiment with new policies. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Ibrahim Jalal writes: As the STC has not yet retracted its announcement, the least costly way to avert further escalation is to implement the security, military, and political provisions of the Riyadh Agreement, which is currently on the brink of failure. […]These issues should be the core of the Yemeni government’s internal legitimacy, with or without the Riyadh Agreement. – Middle East Institute


Artillery shelling by Libya’s eastern-based forces killed more than five civilians and wounded dozens in the capital, Tripoli, an official with the country’s U.N.-supported government said Thursday. – Associated Press 

The Trump administration stepped up its criticism of Russia’s involvement in the Libya conflict, accusing the Kremlin of providing weapons and other support to mercenaries from the Wagner Group and Syrian militias siding with strongman Khalifa Haftar over the UN-recognized government. – Bloomberg

The United States does not support the offensive of Libya’s eastern-based military leader Khalifa Haftar against Tripoli and believes Russia is working with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer militia fighters and equipment to Libya, senior U.S. officials said on Thursday. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is leading a push to withdraw troops from an international peacekeeping force the U.S. heads in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where Egyptian security forces are battling Islamic State militants on Israel’s doorstep, according to current and former U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal 

The lira fell as much as 1.1% to 7.2690 per dollar on Thursday, pushing it past the level it reached during the country’s 2018 currency rout. […]The latest restrictions — which follow a gradual clampdown on how much lira foreign investors can access — have contributed to a periodic shortage of the currency in offshore markets, squeezed funding rates, and forced traders betting against the currency, or hedging their exposure to Turkish assets, to exit their positions. – Bloomberg 

The State Department has approved two potential military equipment sales that could net the United States a combined $2.8 billion, officials announced Thursday. – The Hill

Samuel Tadros writes: But propaganda and conspiracy theories require an audience willing to believe. […]The regime’s successful propaganda would have been impossible without the readiness of many Egyptians to suspend rational thought in order to inhabit a parallel universe in which Egypt stands at the center of the universe and triumphs over its enemies. – Washington Post 

Shimrit Meir writes: The coronavirus threat is abating slowly around us, and the region’s countries (with the exception of Iran) have come through the crisis in good, or even very good, overall medical condition. Now is the time for the various nations to assess the economic damage they endured – and while it is clear the damage to every economy is severe, the question is how severe, and whether there will be someone to help. – Ynet 

Joseph Haboush writes: Washington should prepare ways to increase cooperation with state institutions, like the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces, and condition aid accordingly. […]This requires close cooperation and increased aid to these institutions — potentially doubling down — to ensure they are fully capable of carrying out their roles of maintaining security and stability, without looking to non-state actors for support. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea cited a military exercise by the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) Air Combat Command on Wednesday, and said the drills violated inter-Korean agreements aimed at reducing military tensions. – Reuters

North Korea is building a facility big enough to store its ballistic missiles, according to analysis of new satellite photos by a US think tank. – Sky News (UK) 

The coronavirus pandemic has likely taken a heavy toll on North Korea, forcing leader Kim Jong Un to avoid public activities and his people into panic buying for daily necessities, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Wednesday. – Associated Press


In the preceding months, Naikon had also used it to hack government agencies and state-owned technology companies in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar and Brunei, according to Check Point, which said the attacks underscored the breadth and sophistication of China’s use of cyberespionage against its neighbors. – New York Times 

U.S. and Chinese economic officials struck a conciliatory tone during a call on Friday as they discussed the prospects of China fulfilling a Phase 1 trade deal that President Trump has threatened to scrap in the coming days as bilateral relations fray. – Washington Post

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday he expects the chamber to move soon to pass a bill that would call on the Trump administration to toughen its response to China’s crackdown on the country’s Muslim minority groups. – Reuters 

China said on Thursday it supports the World Health Organization (WHO) in trying to pinpoint the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and accused U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of telling one lie after another in his attacks on Beijing. – Reuters

Rising Sino-U.S. tension is problematic and undermines the broad multinational cooperation needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union’s ambassador to China said on Thursday. – Reuters

When the Soviet Union put the first man into space in 1961, the shock to America’s self-confidence was electric. If China should be first to produce a successful vaccine against the coronavirus, U.S. prestige is likely to suffer a similar blow. – Bloomberg

The Food and Drug Administration reversed a decision to allow the emergency use of dozens of N-95 face masks made in China, after government testing found many didn’t work properly. – Bloomberg

A bipartisan delegation in Congress is showing support for the Australian government’s call to investigate China over its cover-up of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a letter sent Thursday to the Australian ambassador. – The Washington Free Beacon 

Video footage from inside a Christian church in China shows officials raiding, violently dragging out members mid-service. […]ChinaAid, a Christian watchdog group on persecution in the most populous nation, posted the story this week from the church in the southeastern Fujian province. – Fox News 

Elbridge Colby and A. Wess Mitchell write: The U.S. and its allies can’t protect their interests without confronting China. But confrontation will change Beijing’s incentives, making it more likely to assert itself sooner rather than later. Great-power competition may have lain dormant during the era of unfettered globalization, but the pandemic has brought it roaring back. The West must recognize that it will either pay now or pay later to contain China. Paying now is likely to produce a more tolerable bill. – Wall Street Journal

David M. Weinberg writes: Through massive state surveillance and suppression of data; silencing of dissent; disappearance of whistleblowers; and purposeful bamboozling of the World Health Organization (WHO), China cost the world many lives and caused enormous economic dislocation that might take years to overcome. – Jerusalem Post 

Paul Bracken writes: China’s nuclear strategy has more far-reaching effects on peace and war than the stick man theories that are usually offered to describe it. The chance that the strategy is itself dangerously mis-designed for the political and technological contours ahead must be taken seriously in any sober assessment of international security. – The Hill

John Lee writes: The ongoing, devastating effects of COVID-19 are strengthening US resolve to increase “economic distancing” from China. There is growing discussion about economic “decoupling”, “disentangling” and “diversifying” away from China to ensure a more self-reliant and resilient United States that is less exposed to consequences of decisions made by the Chinese Communist Party. […]The US should increasingly develop approaches to deny or restrict Chinese firms access to capital, markets, and know-how in the MIC sectors. – Hudson Institute


The following report compiles all significant security incidents confirmed by New York Times reporters throughout Afghanistan from the past seven days. It is necessarily incomplete as many local officials refuse to confirm casualty information. – New York Times 

The U.S. government watchdog report—and Khalidzad’s trip—raise questions about whether the agreement can hold Afghanistan together after U.S. troops leave. But the peace process seems to have at least prevented attacks against the U.S.-led international coalition in Afghanistan, the main condition of the peace deal that calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from the Central Asian nation. – The National Interest 

Afghan authorities said on Thursday they had recovered 12 more bodies of migrants who were thrown into a river by Iranian border guards this month to stop them entering the country, bringing the death toll from the alleged incident to 17. Iran has already rejected the allegations. The case has triggered a diplomatic crisis between the neighbouring countries, who share trade, economic and cultural ties. – Reuters 

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, said Thursday that he has called for the release of an American citizen captured by Taliban-linked militants in discussions with Taliban leadership as continued violence threatens to scuttle a peace deal to end America’s longest-running war. – Associated Press

South Asia

The Bangladesh navy has rescued around 280 Rohingya Muslims from the Bay of Bengal, towing their stranded boat to an island where they will be quarantined as a precaution against the coronavirus, coast guard and naval officials said on Friday. – Reuters

Pakistan’s cabinet has declined to include a religious sect that rights group says suffers widespread persecution in a newly formed commission for minorities, after opposition from conservatives in the government, officials said on Thursday. – Reuters

A Pakistani Islamist cleric has concocted an elaborate conspiracy theory to explain the coronavirus pandemic, charging that “the Jews” created Covid-19 to accelerate their bid for “global governance” and that they would similarly decide who was eligible for a vaccine, should one be developed. – Algemeiner


On the day Hong Kong celebrated the easing of coronavirus social distancing rules, a scuffle broke out in the city’s legislature that led to at least one lawmaker being dragged out on a stretcher, while police pepper-sprayed journalists at a nearby protest. – Washington Post

A cruise ship at the heart of Australia’s biggest coronavirus cluster arrived off the Philippines on Thursday to repatriate more than 200 crew, leaving behind weeks of outrage and acrimony over why symptomatic passengers were allowed to disembark. – Reuters

Vietnam rejects China’s “unilateral decision” to ban fishing in the South China Sea from May 1 to August 16, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement posted on the government’s website. – Bloomberg

The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, has welcomed a May 6 decision by the lower house of Kazakhstan’s parliament to decriminalize defamation, calling it an “important step forward.” – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Azerbaijan failed to protect investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova’s right to privacy, saying the country’s courts should have sanctioned a local newspaper for an article making salacious claims and commentary about her private and sexual life. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

Australian leaders are taking a hard line with China despite the communist power’s economic influence Down Under, giving President Trump a forceful ally at a time when China’s financial influence has made it tougher to stand up to Beijing. – Washington Examiner 

Josh Rogin writes: The pandemic has underscored that the People’s Republic of China is a deeply unreliable partner. It is time we acknowledged that there is an alternative Chinese model on offer. The values that Taiwan champions give it a huge advantage over Beijing. Those values can become an advantage for us as well, if we live up to them. – Washington Post

Adam Taylor writes: Many in Taiwan were unsure what to expect of President Trump. As president-elect, Trump had accepted a call from Tsai that caused diplomatic shock waves as an apparent snub to Beijing. But afterward, the U.S. leader acted as if he were more interested in making a deal with Beijing than overtly supporting Taipei. – Washington Post

Zachary Abuza writes: If the COVID-19 crisis persists, militaries in Southeast Asia will likely be called upon to enforce quarantines in countries with high rates of poverty and little in the way of social safety nets. […]Beyond existing, worrisome trends towards a greater military role in domestic society and politics, then, the potential for quashing mass unrest driven by food insecurity looms large as an additional threat to civilian governance. – War on the Rocks

Michael J. Green writes: Yukio’s legacy is obvious to anyone who knew him when he worked to forge a stronger alliance in the 1980s with only a handful of officials and politicians in support. […]But those working on U.S.-Japan relations today will want to remember and take some inspiration from the fact that our alliance was ultimately forged not by the impersonal forces of history, but by men and women like Yukio Okamoto. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The cases, which police say are under investigation, come as doctors have become more outspoken about their long hours on duty and lack of protective equipment amid a surge of coronavirus infections in the country. Russian authorities and hospital leaders have tried to mute the criticism. – Wall Street Journal

But the coronavirus crisis has left Putin looking strangely diminished and has exposed one of his key weaknesses: tending to the dull, nitty-gritty work of improving Russians’ lives, such as boosting a rickety health system in far-flung regions. – Washington Post 

U.S. President Donald Trump stressed his desire for arms control that includes both Russia and China in a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, the White House said in a statement. – Reuters

A Russian court has extended the house arrest of U.S. investor Michael Calvey and his business partner, French national Philippe Delpal Delpal, until August 13. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

A court in Russia has upheld a lower-court decision to extend the detention of Yury Dmitriyev, a Russian historian and prominent Gulag researcher, who is being tried on charges of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter, which he and his supporters deny. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

James J. Coyle writes: As the United States and Russia continue to battle COVID-19, many of their strategies and difficulties appear identical. In the United States, the states have assumed primary responsibility for response to the virus; in Russia, it is that country’s 85 regional entities. […]COVID-19 does not respect borders. The United States should be working with anyone who is willing to ally themselves in the anti-coronavirus campaign.  – The Hill

James Stavridis writes: Still, even this modest flotilla is a sensible and clear demonstration to Russia that the U.S. and the U.K. are willing to operate in challenging waters in a corner of the world’s oceans that the Russians wrongly see as their own property. – Bloomberg

Emil Avdaliani writes: Yet the outlook is promising. Russia’s military pressure serves as a powerful catalyst for Ukraine’s nascent military vision. Regional and global trends create favorable conditions. The question remains how far Russia will go militarily to limit Ukraine’s military renaissance. – Center for European Policy Analysis


European Union officials on Thursday defended their handling of relations with China during the coronavirus pandemic, a day after the E.U. ambassador to Beijing allowed an opinion article about E.U.-Chinese relations that he co-wrote to be censored before publication in a state-run newspaper. – Washington Post 

Many young Germans have failed to learn the lessons of history, and anti-Semitism is becoming entrenched in the land responsible for the Holocaust, a Jewish leader warned, a day before the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe. – Reuters

A dispute over an office in Belfast looks to be small potatoes — but to Ireland’s likely next leader, it’s a sign Britain is already backsliding on the promises it made before it left the European Union. – Bloomberg

Brussels is not breaking a sweat over U.K. trade negotiations with the U.S. At least not according to the new EU ambassador to London. “I don’t feel any pressure,” João Vale de Almeida told POLITICO in an interview. “I wish good luck to our British friends.” – Politico

The EU’s smallest member is dealing with record numbers of migrants arriving on its shores but is not getting the help it needs, Malta’s foreign minister said. – Politico

Belarusian authorities have stripped two Russian journalists of accreditation after their reports about the growing coronavirus outbreak in the country. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

Moldova’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a 200 million-euro ($216 million) loan agreement with Russia is unconstitutional. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi says the 27-member bloc will make its own assessment on the democratic values of candidate countries in the Western Balkans amid criticism of backsliding in the region as it pushes for accession. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

Christina Brown writes: Military mobility serves priorities in civilian and defense budgets. It should stay on political leaders’ radar during and after the covid-19 crisis. External threats to the transatlantic community will still loom large once the pandemic is over. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Heather A. Conley writes: Simply put, while the rationale behind the deadlock in the negotiations was established well before the pandemic, the extraordinary economic measures taken by EU institutions, individual EU members, and the United Kingdom due to the pandemic may perversely encourage London and Brussels to accept the barest minimum of a trade agreement—but both can maximize their political talking points. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The Covid-19 pandemic could “smoulder” in Africa for several years after killing as many as 190,000 people in the coming 12 months, the World Health Organization has said. – The Guardian 

The king of Lesotho, Letsie III, has assented to legislation that prevents Prime Minister Thomas Thabane from dissolving parliament and calling an election in the event of a vote of no confidence against him, the attorney general said on Thursday. – Reuters

The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday rejected an assertion by Tanzania’s president that coronavirus tests it supplied are faulty. – Reuters

Patrick Gathara writes: In Kenya, on the other hand, more than a century of humiliation, oppression and robbery — first by the British colonial authorities and then their successors in the independent government — has not left the populace so sanguine about the role of the state in public affairs. Government actions are now transferring this lack of trust to the health system, resulting not just in defiance, but also in people staying away from health centers and being fearful of testing. – Washington Post 

Christopher O. Ogunmodede writes: The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to destroy the fabric of African societies — democracies and autocracies alike — whose fragilities have been overlooked for too long, and the United States (alongside the rest of the developed world) can partner with African countries in preventing the current crisis from developing into a catastrophe. – War on the Rocks

North America

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Friday for an “all-out effort” to end the “tsunami of hate and xenophobia” sparked by the novel coronavirus pandemic, without naming specific countries. […]“Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.” – Times of Israel 

In the meantime, however, the Michigan Jewish community is dealing with an added layer of complication as it tries to persevere through a pandemic, combating a movement of ideologues bent on using the COVID-19 crisis to spew its hatred. – Times of Israel 

The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released the long-delayed transcripts related to the GOP-led investigation by the panel into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. – The Hill

President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the fourth acting or confirmed Navy secretary in the last six months acknowledged a crisis in the service at a Senate hearing Thursday, as some Democratic senators suggested the Navy’s problems are largely Trump’s doing. – Roll Call

Tom Greenwood and Owen Daniels write: To truly disincentivize Russian and Chinese “gray-zone” operations, the United States should effectively use recurring and realistic “big J” operations to display credible American military force. A critical by-product of this approach is that joint force commanders will be able to integrate and shape the disparate service warfighting approaches. – War on the Rocks

Ana Rose Quintana, James M. Roberts and Anthony B. Kim write: Even before the pandemic, the three partners recognized the importance of closer economic cooperation, by charting a new chapter on trade and investment, with modernizing NAFTA into the USMCA. Recovery efforts must target current vulnerabilities, such as Mexico’s health crisis, synchronizing economic recovery timetables, and preparing for a future outbreak. The future of North America’s economic prosperity depends on the actions taken now. – Heritage Institute

Latin America

Over the weekend, a group of self-declared freedom fighters set sail from Colombia to Venezuela on an apparent mission hatched by Mr. Goudreau to overthrow the Venezuelan government. The operation failed miserably, and the men were apprehended by the authorities. Eight of the rebels were killed. Two Americans, former members of the U.S. Army special forces, have been arrested. – New York Times

In the aftermath of the rogue attempt by private contractors on Sunday to capture Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, U.S. government officials are pointing to the beleaguered regime’s efforts to spurn a “disinformation” campaign designed to deflect against their growing number of human rights abuses. – Fox News 

The former Green Beret behind a failed military incursion in Venezuela can add another infraction to his growing list of potential screw ups — cut and paste plagiarism. – Associated Press

Members of Venezuela’s opposition in October negotiated a $213 million deal with a small Florida security company to invade the country and overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, according to a document published by the Washington Post on Thursday. – Reuters

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday called on Trump administration officials to share information about a foiled military operation against the ruling Venezuelan government that involved two American citizens. – The Hill

Jose W. Fernandez writes: U.S. disengagement from Latin America during the coronavirus crisis could mean trouble for both the region and the United States. […]China’s soft-power diplomacy is already bearing fruit: When the son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, taking a page from the Trump playbook, blamed the pandemic on the “Chinese virus,” his father called Chinese President Xi Jinping to patch up relations. Days later, against U.S. entreaties, the Brazilian government announced that Huawei would be allowed to participate in the upcoming national 5G auction. – Foreign Policy


Israel is preparing to inaugurate a “cyber defense shield” for the country’s healthcare sector amid a spike in attacks since the beginning of the global COVID-19 epidemic. – Jerusalem Post 

Pentagon officials on Wednesday criticized the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recent decision to allow Virginia-based satellite communications company Ligado to deploy a nationwide mobile network, saying that it could have adverse effects on GPS signals that are integral to the military’s operations. – The Hill

When U.S. leaders talk about the promise of artificial intelligence, one application they regularly discuss is cybersecurity. But experts say European countries have thus far proven to be more measured in their approach to AI, fearing the technology is not yet reliable enough to remove human analysts. – Fifth Domain

Ronald Deibert writes: As with all social media in China, however, WeChat actively censors on its platform, including around politically sensitive topics and (as we showed in a report published in March) discussions related to the coronavirus pandemic. […]Governments may decide to ban the use of WeChat altogether for national security and privacy reasons. Human rights activists, journalists and other high-risk users may want to avoid the platform entirely, or at least think twice about what they share through it. – Washington Post


The handling of a coronavirus outbreak aboard the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier was just another example of a “failure in leadership” in the Navy in recent years, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the service said on Thursday. – Reuters

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday he anticipates language in the annual defense policy bill to address President Trump using Pentagon funding to build his border wall. – The Hill

The U.S. Space Force has unveiled its first advertisement in a push to attract recruits. – The Hill

Three Marines restrained a passenger who made threats on an international flight from Japan earlier this week, the Marine Corps announced in a statement Tuesday. – The Hill

The U.S. Air Force has officially abandoned a directive to get its F-35, F-22 and F-16 jets up to an 80 percent mission-capable rate after failing to meet that goal in fiscal 2019, the service’s presumptive chief of staff indicated Thursday. – Defense News

The U.S. Air Force has begun deploying thousands of personal devices to military personnel and health care providers that allow them to access classified information from home or outside of the office, even though the devices themselves are unclassified. – C4ISRNET

The Army is finishing up a list of requirements for technologies it needs for the next round of its network modernization capabilities, known as Capability Set 23, one of the service’s network leaders said May 6. – C4ISRNET

When the secretive X-37B space plane returns to orbit on May 16, it will be carrying more experiments than it has on any previous mission, including one that will transmit solar energy from space to the ground via microwave energy. – C4ISRNET

Six weeks after arriving in Los Angeles to help regional hospitals cope with the COVID-19 outbreak, hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) discharged its final patient on Tuesday, five days after it stopped receiving patients, USNI News has learned. – USNI News

Huntington Ingalls Industries executives are still smarting a week after the Navy awarded a potentially multi-billion-dollar frigate contract to rival shipbuilder Fincantieri. – USNI News

Recent debates about U.S. nuclear weapons have questioned what role weapons with shorter ranges and lower yields can play in addressing emerging threats in Europe and Asia. These weapons, often referred to as nonstrategic nuclear weapons, have not been limited by past U.S.-Russian arms control agreements. – USNI News

Maj. Gen. James Dawkins Jr. writes: The bomber force was home, but only for a short time. The world’s greatest bombers have again departed to deter and, if needed, compel adversaries. In line with Shakespeare, the stage remains the globe, and now the B-1B rejoins its fellow bomber fleets with dynamic and agile entrances and exits in multiple arenas. – Defense News

Long War

Spanish police have arrested a Moroccan man in Barcelona with suspected links to Islamic State who they believe was planning a militant attack. – Reuters

Two Pakistani soldiers have been killed in a rocket attack in the North Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan, officials say. Security officials told RFE/RL that unidentified attackers fired two rockets at a security post near the town of Mir Ali on May 7. […]Terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network of the Afghan Taliban, and Pakistani militants have all been active in the region during the past decade. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the US-led military coalition battling ISIS to pause or suspend significant aspects of its campaign in Iraq and Syria, even as the terror group seeks to exploit the instability caused by the pandemic and a dramatic fall in oil prices. – CNN