Fdd's overnight brief

November 13, 2018

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Anxieties over the availability of medicine are mounting in Iran with the reimposition this month of sanctions by the United States after President Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal. – New York Times

The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog said Monday that Iran is abiding by the deal reached in 2015 with major powers that aimed at preventing Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives. – Associated Press

The United States will step up enforcement of sanctions on Iran, national security adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday, as Tehran tries to find ways to evade the restrictions in oil trade and in banking. – Reuters

Iran’s armed forces will protect Iranian oil tankers against any threats, an Iranian military official said on Monday after the United States called the ships a “floating liability” and warned ports operators not to allow them to dock. – Reuters

Iran’s isolation from the world has left it with one of the oldest civil-aviation fleets in the world and facilitated a fatal trend in its aviation-safety record that experts say is likely to continue amid President Donald Trump’s renewal of economic sanctions on Tehran.  – USA Today

Vali R. Nasr writes: The [Trump administration’s Middle East] strategy’s goal was to work with the Saudis to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East. Instead, we can now expect a growing sense of ease in Tehran about exerting its influence, even as it adjusts to the tough economic sanctions that were reimposed last week. That freedom is more likely to be used through maneuvering and deal-making, rather than through aggressions. – New York Times


In the worst outbreak of violence since Israel and Hamas fought a 50-day war in the summer of 2014, Israeli military jets pounded targets in the coastal Palestinian enclave while militant Gaza groups struck Israeli communities with rockets and mortars throughout the night and well into Tuesday. – Washington Post

Israel’s military and Gaza militant groups exchanged heavy fire in an escalation of hostilities that threatened to upend fragile ceasefire talks that had been gaining momentum. – Wall Street Journal

Gaza militants fired dozens of rockets at southern Israel early on Tuesday, killing a man in a strike on a residential building, and warning they would escalate their attacks if Israel continues bombing targets in the Gaza Strip. – Associated Press

The United Nations says it is working with Egypt to broker an end to the latest round of fighting in Gaza. The office of the U.N.’s Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, said Monday that efforts were underway “to ensure that Gaza steps back from the brink.” – Associated Press

As Israel’s top ministers gathered in Tel Aviv to discuss the latest flareup of violence in and around Gaza on Monday morning, which threatened to plunge the area into war, the government was rejecting outreach efforts by international mediators. – Times of Israel

The Hamas terror group said Tuesday that if Israel continues its airstrikes campaign in the Gaza Strip, it will expand the range of its rocket attacks to include the major southern cities of Ashdod and Beersheba, which together are home to nearly half a million Israelis. – Times of Israel

Hamas is “forcing” Israel into military action in Gaza with its rocket and mortar firings, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser, Jason Greenblatt, warned on Monday. Writing on Twitter, Greenblatt, who is leading an effort to jump-start peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, said that the world “has grown tired of Hamas’ violence and the violence of other bad actors in Gaza.” – Jerusalem Post

Organizations supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel have launched a campaign calling for a boycott of the European tour of Israeli Eurovision Song Contest winner Netta Barzilai, which begins on Monday. – Ynet

Chanting “revenge” and flanked by masked gunmen in camouflage, thousands of mourners in the Gaza Strip on Monday buried seven Palestinian militants killed in an Israeli incursion as the ruling Hamas group launched a feverish security sweep across the territory. – Associated Press

Israel and Qatar have reached an agreement the establishment of a sea route between Gaza and Cyprus, Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported on Saturday. – Ynet

Editorial: Although Hamas threatened on Monday that Israel will pay a “heavy price” for Sunday night’s IDF operation in the southern Gaza Strip, the movement has stopped short of saying that the incident will affect efforts to reach a truce agreement with Israel. At this stage, Hamas seems keen on avoiding a situation where the incident, which resulted in the death of seven Palestinians, would obstruct efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations to reach a truce agreement with Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Saudi Arabia

Two of OPEC’s most powerful voices defended the oil cartel’s record Monday, saying it wasn’t at risk of disbanding. The statements came in response to revelations late last week that a Saudi-funded research effort is exploring how a possible OPEC breakup might impact oil markets. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that an audio recording of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death inside an Istanbul consulate did not appear to provide any link between the killers and Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. – Washington Post

An audio recording tracking the dying moments of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has been shared with Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany in addition to the United States, the leader of Turkey said Saturday. – Washington Post

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the first leader to publicly say that his country’s intelligence officials had listened to an audio recording that Turkish officials say is evidence that the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi operatives. – Wall Street Journal

Billionaire Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal has returned as the kingdom’s public face for global investors, emerging a year after his detention to help the royal family survive the crisis over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing. – Wall Street Journal

Turkey on Monday lashed out at “unacceptable” and “impertinent” comments by the French foreign minister who accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of playing a “political game” over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. – Agence France-Presse

Turkey’s president says his country is “patiently” waiting for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to shed light on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month. – Associated Press

Jackson Diehl writes: As Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman tries to escape consequences for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it has been revealing to see who has stepped forward to help him out… there’s Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of a nation whose right to exist has yet to be recognized by Saudi Arabia. You wouldn’t think Israel, in contrast to every Western democracy, would be explicitly endorsing a latter-day version of Saddam Hussein- Washington Post

Khaled M. Abou El Fadl writes: In the aftermath of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as the world’s accusatory gaze was transfixed on Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi monarchy has again used the Grand Mosque to defend and deify the crown prince in a manner that makes its legitimacy and control of Mecca and Medina morally troubling like never before. – New York Times


Top Obama administration officials have drafted a letter acknowledging their responsibility for initiating U.S. involvement in Yemen’s destructive civil war and calling for the Trump administration to halt America’s role in the conflict. – Washington Post

The U.S. is stopping aerial refueling of warplanes bombing Yemen, dialing back support for a Saudi-led military coalition as criticism of the kingdom grows in Washington over the conflict’s civilian impact. – Wall Street Journal

At least 150 people have been killed in 24 hours of clashes in the Yemeni port city of Hodeida, medics said Monday, as Britain’s top diplomat visited the Gulf seeking to boost international calls for a ceasefire. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: The United States is rightly supporting a U.N. effort to launch peace negotiations on Yemen by the end of the year. But it has become clear that the only way to force a cease-fire and rescue the millions facing famine and cholera is to end all military support for both Saudi forces and those of its United Arab Emirates allies. – Washington Post

Elana Delozier writes: Given his affinity for Islamists and his commanding role in past wars against the south and the Houthi movement, [Vice President] Ali Mohsen is reviled across much of Yemen and objectionable to both the United States and the United Arab Emirates. His rise to power—even temporarily—could deepen existing divisions in Yemen, spark a crisis within the coalition, and potentially disrupt future peace talks. – Washington Institute

Middle East

Western officials launched a new bid to rescue Libya’s troubled peace process, days after the United Nations officially discarded a plan to hold elections this year. – Wall Street Journal

At least nine people were killed in Iraq’s Anbar province on Monday when gunmen attacked the home of a Sunni tribal militia officer, security sources said. – Reuters

Lebanese exporters rejoiced last month when the Syrian government opened a key land crossing with Jordan that had been closed by years of war, restoring a much-needed overland trade route to lucrative Persian Gulf markets. – Associated Press

Korean Peninsula

On Monday, a new report from a Washington think tank identified more than a dozen hidden bases in North Korea that could be used to disperse mobile launchers for ballistic missiles in the event of a conflict. – Washington Post

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday reaffirmed the need to keep sanctions on North Korea to achieve its denuclearization as they showcased their bilateral alliance, while Pence also urged Japan to do more to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. – Associated Press

South Korea’s resumption of small-scale military drills with the United States violated a recent agreement aimed at lowering tensions on the Korean peninsula, North Korean state media said on Monday. – Reuters

South Korea has airlifted 200 tons of tangerines to North Korea in return for shipments of pine mushrooms by the North in September, officials said Monday. – Associated Press

Eli Lake writes: Not only have U.S. intelligence agencies known about the secret missile sites for years, but Kim, the North Korean leader, has also made his intention plain: He plans to make the missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. – Bloomberg


The Trump administration is broadening its China trade battle beyond tariffs with a plan to use export controls, indictments and other tools to counter the theft of intellectual property, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

China has halted a directive that partially legalized the domestic trade in farmed rhinoceros and tiger parts, two weeks after the move drew a torrent of criticism from conservation groups. – Washington Post

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has resumed discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, about a deal that would ease trade tension, ahead of a meeting of the leaders of China and the U.S. set for the end of the month. – Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia was blindsided by reports that a state government had quietly sidestepped federal regulators and signed a deal with China to participate in that country’s contentious Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. – New York Times

At least a dozen young activists who took part in a national campaign for workers’ rights in China are missing, friends said on Sunday, in what appeared to be an effort by the government to silence one of the most visible student protests in years. – New York Times

A China-backed bid to complete the world’s largest trade deal — without the United States — was pushed back to next year after Asia-Pacific trade ministers failed to agree key terms at a Singapore summit. – Agence France-Presse

China’s Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday that Beijing hoped a consultation with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea would be completed in three years, and that such an deal would bolster free trade. – Reuters

China has shown the missiles in its advanced J-20 stealth fighter jet to the public for the first time at its largest airshow, the Global Times newspaper reported on Monday. – Reuters

After President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed that their countries should not hack each other’s private businesses in 2015, the deal appeared to work, for a short period. Now, U.S. officials are questioning the effectiveness of that armistice. – Fifth Domain

Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli write: The China Airshow in Zhuhai is the annual exhibition that China uses, for both political and commercial reasons, to display the progress of her aerospace capabilities. […] The bulk of the attention, however, went to the mockup of a new stealth drone, the CH-7, that resembles Northrop Grumman’s XB-47B demonstrator. […] Some commentators even concluded that, with this new achievement, China has already passed or will soon pass the United States in next-generation unmanned aircraft technology. – War on the Rocks

Seth Cropsey writes: While England slept before WWI, its rivals grew in power and ambition. […] Today, Americans risk the same mistake. China’s aggression mirrors Germany’s; its economic expansion has translated into political ambition – Beijing seeks to bend the world to its will. – Hudson Institute


The Trump administration is discussing whether to press the Afghan government to suspend coming presidential elections, according to people briefed on the discussions, as the U.S. seeks to engage the Taliban in talks to end the 17-year war. – Wall Street Journal

A suicide bomber attacked a demonstration by minority Shiites in the Afghan capital Monday, killing at least six people as the crowd protested a spate of deadly insurgent attacks on Shiite communities in Ghazni province, police and witnesses said. – Washington Post

When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. – Associated Press

The president of Afghanistan told a U.S. audience Monday that his country is not losing the war to the Taliban and is not at risk of collapse amid escalating attacks by the militant group and an expansion of the territory it controls. – Associated Press

Dozens of elite commandos were among the casualties suffered by Afghan security forces as the Taliban claimed to have taken a district in Ghazni province, stepping up battlefield pressure while seeking a political settlement with the United States. – Reuters

South Asia

The U.S. voiced concern about Myanmar’s plans to repatriate Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh, saying conditions weren’t yet conducive for their return and noting those who had remained in the country continued to face severe restrictions on their freedom of movement. – Wall Street Journal

Sri Lanka plunged deeper into political crisis after the president issued a decree late Friday to dissolve Parliament and hold fresh elections, a move that experts called unconstitutional and opponents vowed to challenge in court. – Washington Post

The potential damage to global trade brought on by President Donald Trump’s tariffs battle with Beijing is looming as leaders of Southeast Asian nations, China, the U.S. and other regional economies meet in Singapore this week. – Associated Press

Eight Western countries stayed away from a meeting with Sri Lanka’s government on Monday to register their protest against President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to dissolve parliament, diplomatic and government sources said. – Reuters

The Indian Navy’s new ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) INS Arihant was the boomer that completed the month-long deterrent patrol. Whilst this is not insignificant – it is the first country outside of the five members of the U.N. Security Council to develop this capability – it also shows how far away India is to achieve its goal of joining the other great powers in establishing a credible sea-based deterrent. – USNI News


A Pakistani woman whose blasphemy conviction was overturned last month remains caught in a legal limbo, fearful of staying in Pakistan but so far unable to leave amid government concerns that her departure would set off new protests by religious hardliners. – Wall Street Journal

When world leaders gather in this city-state and Papua New Guinea for regional summits this week, there will be a conspicuous absence: President Trump. Analysts view Trump’s absence as a lost opportunity and miscalculation at a time when Washington and Beijing are locked in a battle for influence over a region that is China’s backyard. – Washington Post

Pakistan released two Taliban officials on Monday during U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s latest visit to the region, in what could be part of American efforts to revive peace talks with the insurgent group, which now controls nearly half of Afghanistan. –  Associated Press

John Lee writes: Vice President Mike Pence will be meeting with Japanese and Indian Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi while traveling to the region on behalf of President Trump for the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. […] If Pence can get these two countries on board, then it is really ‘game on’ – and the odds are firmly with America and its allies and friends. – Hudson Institute


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was stopped at the border Tuesday and barred from leaving Russia as he was about to travel to a court hearing at the European Court for Human Rights in France. – Associated Press

British Prime Minister Theresa May says the West’s response to the nerve-agent poisoning of a former spy has seriously hurt Russia’s intelligence capability. – Associated Press

Leonid Bershidsky writes: The so-called elections on Nov. 11 in the unrecognized “people’s republics” of eastern Ukraine wouldn’t be worthy of discussion if they weren’t further evidence the Kremlin plans to hang on to the territories. In the absence of any international deal he could accept, President Vladimir Putin can only move toward the full recognition of the puppet states, on the model of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. – Bloomberg


British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for a Brexit deal with the EU look more precarious than ever. With less than 20 weeks until Britain’s planned departure from the European Union, it isn’t clear whether any agreement she negotiates with the bloc would secure the support of her own cabinet, let alone the U.K. Parliament. – Wall Street Journal

Far-right movements from across Europe joined a march here to celebrate Poland’s 100th anniversary of independence, in what has become an annual gathering point for Europe’s political fringe. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France sought to thaw recent tensions over the future of trans-Atlantic security ties, agreeing Saturday that Europe needs to share more of the burden for defending the continent. – Wall Street Journal

In the shadow of a grand war memorial here, French President Emmanuel Macron marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I by delivering a forceful rebuke against rising nationalism, calling it a “betrayal of patriotism” and warning against “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death.” – Washington Post

Representatives of Libya’s quarrelling factions and of countries keen on stabilizing the North African nation started meetings in Sicily on Monday, as Italy encourages a political settlement that could bolster the fight against Islamic militants and stop illegal migrants from crossing the Mediterranean to Europe’s southern shores. – Associated Press

Romania’s president said Monday his country isn’t ready to take over the European Union’s rotating presidency on Jan. 1 and called for the government to step down. –  Associated Press

Italy will stretch out the order of F-35 fighter jets, buying six or seven of the aircraft in the next five years instead of the previously planned 10 jets, a government source told Defense News. – Defense News

The Royal Norwegian Navy was dealt a devastating blow in the early morning hours of November 10 when one of its five capital Nansen-class frigates collided with a fully loaded oil tanker more than 10 times its size while returning NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise. – Defense News

Representatives of the Netherlands’ ruling party have asked the capital city’s government to explain why it allows anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement at a monument for victims of Nazism. – Arutz Sheva

Anne Applebaum writes: On the 11th day of the 11th month and at the 11th hour — the moment at which the armistice ending World War I was declared a century ago — the leaders of the nations that once murdered one another during that brutal conflict gathered in Paris. That was expected. The surprise was the degree to which a formal occasion so brilliantly exposed the relationships between former allies and former opponents today. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany earned media adoration for the “internationalist” tone of their speeches this weekend commemorating the centenary of the armistice ending World War I. But their vision of global order is vapid, built on nothing but platitudes. – Washington Examiner


Prices for some consumer goods are skyrocketing in Zimbabwe, a painful echo of the hyperinflation that ripped through the Southern African country a decade ago. – Wall Street Journal

Somali hospital and police sources say the death toll from Friday’s bombings outside a hotel in Mogadishu has risen to 53 with over 100 injured. – Associated Press

Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak is the worst in the country’s recorded history with 319 confirmed and probable cases, the health ministry said. – Associated Press

United States

Two U.S. senators called on President Trump Monday to stop publicly criticizing the Federal Reserve and warned his comments could jeopardize the central bank’s credibility and hurt the economy. – Wall Street Journal

In the past decade, U.S. debt held by the public has risen to $15.9 trillion from $5.1 trillion, but financing all of that debt hasn’t been a problem. Low inflation and strong global demand for safe U.S. Treasury bonds held the government’s interest costs down. – Wall Street Journal

The death toll from a huge blaze in northern California rose to 42 on Monday, making it the deadliest wildfire in state history. – Agence France-Presse

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are set to deliver opening statements Tuesday in the New York trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the world’s most notorious criminals accused of spending a quarter of a century smuggling cocaine into the United States. – Agence France-Presse

Cyber Security

Fifty nations and over 150 tech companies pledged Monday to do more to fight criminal activity on the internet, including interference in elections and hate speech. But the United States, Russia and China are not among them. – Associated Press

Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group is in talks to buy Fifth Dimension, a start-up chaired by former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Israeli media reported on Monday. – Reuters

Sorin Ducaru writes: With the geopolitical fissions of the physical world now mirrored in the digital environment, the future of peace in the digital world cannot be regarded as a given. It is something we must fight for. – Hudson Institute


A U.S. combat jet from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan crashed into the sea northeast of the Philippines on Monday, but its two pilots were rescued safely. The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the F/A-18 Hornet had a mechanical problem during routine operations in the Philippine Sea. – Washington Post

More than three decades ago, Michael D. Griffin was at the center of the military’s “Star Wars” initiative, working to realize President Ronald Reagan’s dream of shielding the United States from Soviet missiles. Now the 69-year-old scientist is back at the Pentagon as its top technology official, looking to revive some of the same missile defense concepts. – Washington Post

After weeks of expectations that the Pentagon’s No. 3 official would be leaving the building, he has officially resigned. Jay Gibson, the department’s first chief management officer, submitted his resignation this week, with an effective end date of Nov. 30. – Defense News

A U.S. Army research and development facility hosted NATO representatives for a three-day demonstration of its new military mobility software, as NATO allies work to ensure war fighters and their equipment can be quickly moved across Europe. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is pushing Congress to act on a looming sealift shortfall that will create “unacceptable risk in force projection” within the next five years if the Navy doesn’t act quickly, according to a document from the Army’s G-4 logistics shop obtained by Defense News. – Defense News

Robin Ganzert writes: Understandably, these military working dogs and their handlers develop a strong kinship on the battlefield. Inexplicably, reuniting them after their respective tours of duty is difficult. Despite promises from the military that they would be reunited after their respective discharges, military working dogs have been adopted out without giving first choice to their former handlers. – Washington Post