Fdd's overnight brief

November 17, 2020

In The News


President Trump asked his advisers during an Oval Office meeting Thursday about potential military options for striking an Iranian nuclear site after a United Nations agency disclosed that Tehran had expanded its supply of low enriched uranium, officials familiar with the meeting said. – Wall Street Journal

The al-Qaeda second-in-command who was killed in Tehran was in the midst of inspiring and encouraging attacks on Israel and Jews, according to reports. – Jerusalem Post

Bergman said that the very presence of Al-Qaeda members on Iranian soil should embarrass the Iranians because they defined the organization as “Satan” and fought against it. – Arutz Sheva

Any U.S. attack against Iran would face a “crushing” response, an Iranian government said on Tuesday about reports that U.S. President Donald Trump asked for options for attacking Iran’s main nuclear site last week but decided against doing so. – Reuters

Agnes Helou writes: With an international arms embargo lifted, Iran is likely to start buying armed drones, air defense systems, fighter jets and tanks, according to one expert, with another analyst linking the passage of Chinese defense export legislation on Oct. 28 with the embargo’s expiration[…]. The expiration of the arms embargo also provides Iran the opportunity to export defense systems. – Defense News

Eli Lake writes: Ten years ago, it was understandable that America would want to restrain Israel while it negotiated with Iran. The Obama administration tried but failed to reach a much stronger and more durable deal that restricted Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Now Biden should consider whether pursuit of that flawed deal is worth the effort. In the next two months, he and his transition team will have to decide whether constraining Israel helps or hinders the goal of containing Iran. – Bloomberg

Simon Henderson writes: In sum, the report is very worrisome, especially because it came out two weeks after Iran revealed video of an elaborate tunnel network for missiles that are probably capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Such missiles are not covered by the JCPOA, nor are Iran’s numerous regional military involvements. The task facing the next administration in reaching an effectual new agreement with Tehran cannot be underestimated. – Washington Institute

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Maybe taking out al-Masri was a shot at “controlling” things. In that case, Iran and Israel would actually be a sideshow in all of this – appropriate in the world of mirrors that is intelligence. But Iran has still been forewarned that continuing to harbor al-Qaeda officials is not free. – Jerusalem Post


Kurdish-led authorities Monday released dozens of Syrian families from one of the largest camps in northeastern Syria holding tens of thousands of women and children, many of them linked to the Islamic State group. – Associated Press

The US has a unique opportunity in Eastern Syria, to continue to play a positive role in the region where religious freedom is flourishing, according to an interview with an official who has been on the ground for weeks meeting with locals. – Jerusalem Post

Chloe Cornish and Asmaa al-Omar write: It is not known how much Syrian money has been trapped in illiquid Lebanese banks since the lenders, seeking to avoid a bank run, imposed informal capital controls in late 2019. Lebanon had acted as a vital financial artery for Syrians[…]. While other food is available, the collapse of the currency has fanned inflation, forcing families to cut back on meat and even fresh fruit. – Financial Times


Turkey’s government submitted a motion to parliament on Monday seeking its approval to deploy peacekeepers to monitor a cease-fire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the state-run news agency reported. – Associated Press

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a fraught visit to Istanbul on Tuesday that included no official meetings and an agenda focused on religious freedoms that Ankara dismissed as “irrelevant”. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: After years of economic mismanagement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this month replaced his central bank governor and finance minister—and promised change. Turkey needs better economic policy, but Mr. Erdogan’s political control will undermine domestic reform. – Wall Street Journal

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Washington’s unwillingness to take Turkey seriously years ago led to Ankara hosting Hamas terrorists, and empowered Ankara’s threats against Armenia, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, the UAE and other countries, rampaging among US allies and radicalizing extremists who target minorities in Syria and target France.  One lesson from it all is that if the US wants to deal with Turkey it needs to get Turkey to actually do something for the US as a trade off, and not just give Ankara everything it wants while Ankara works to sabotage US policy and work with terrorists. – Jerusalem Post


Israel and the European Union (EU) have launched talks to deepen economic cooperation and discussed the possibility of creating a new trade corridor between the east Mediterranean and Gulf states, Israel’s Finance Ministry and central bank said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

According to intelligence sources in Israel, revelation of the assassination of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Mohammed al-Masri, is meant to convey a message to President-elect Biden, who intends to renew negotiations with Iran. – Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose not to refer to Joe Biden as president-elect during a press conference Monday, saying instead that Biden was “supposed to be appointed the next president.” – Haaretz

The director-general of Israel’s Defense Ministry told reporters on Monday that if a state budget for 2021 is not passed by the end of the year, the military and other defense agencies will have difficulty carrying out strategically important plans. – Haaretz

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King and a number of right-wing activists prevented Monday European Union ambassadors from holding a press a conference in a Jerusalem neighborhood located over the Green Line to protest the decision to start construction there. – Haaretz

Senior U.S. Defense official Douglas Macgregor, who was recently installed at the Pentagon by partisan loyalists of President Donald Trump, has come under fire for saying that American politicians become “very, very rich” by supporting Israel, with pro-Israeli organizations calling his remarks “antisemitic.” – Haaretz

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said Monday that it would be a “mistake” for the incoming Biden administration to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, as President-elect Joe Biden pledged to do during the campaign. – Times of Israel

An Israeli citizen was sentenced on Tuesday to seven years in prison after he was found guilty of heading a cross-border smuggling ring that transferred thousands of tons of concrete, piping, metals and electronic equipment directly from Israel to the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip. – Times of Israel

Before Israel can address the potential damage to the country’s military supremacy in the region from the US sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, it must first find a way to pay for the aircraft and weapons systems it needs to replace its already aging fleets and inadequate arsenals, Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel said Monday. – Times of Israel

The Sa-Nur settlement in the northern West Bank which was evacuated in 2005 as part of the disengagement plan was resettled overnight Monday by about 100 settlers, including families and children. – Jerusalem Post

Lahav Harkov writes: However, Oren efforts that Biden associates have been making to counter the Trump administration’s efforts, by spreading “myths” about the efforts to curb an Iran nuclear weapon[…]. Taking that into account, strategies that the Israel and the Trump administration are not discussing openly are likely to have more staying power and be far more effective in protecting Israel from the Iranian threat at this juncture. – Jerusalem Post

Yossi Melman writes: It’s also interesting to note that the story was released after the U.S. presidential election. It’s not out of the question that U.S. intelligence agencies, Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen wanted to send a clear message to President-elect Joe Biden, and to remind him that America has to be strong and determined whenever it deals with Iran. – Haaretz


President Trump is expected to order the U.S. military to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia by the time he leaves office in January, using the end of his time in power to significantly pull back American forces from far-flung conflicts around the world. – New York Times

Iraq executed 21 men convicted of “terrorism” Monday at the notorious Nasiriyah prison in the country’s south, medical and police sources said. – Agence France-Presse

Yesar Al-Maleki writes: Iraq’s position in Biden’s Middle East policy will be to a great extent determined by staffing choices in the State Department and White House. While Biden himself has bypassed the State Department before on Iraqi affairs, given the plethora of challenges he will face both at home and abroad, his decisions on Iraq are likely be guided by bureaucrats. This dynamic creates an opportunity for Baghdad to play a proactive role in reshaping U.S. policy toward the country, especially if the new administration brings onboard seasoned diplomats familiar with the Iraqi scene. – Middle East Institute


The “worst financial crisis” ever faced by the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees could lead to “disaster” in the Gaza Strip and insecurity in Lebanon, the organization’s chief has warned. – Times of Israel

An individual who crossed the Lebanese border into Israel near the village of Ghajar on Friday was handed over to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and returned to Lebanon on Monday, the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit reported. – Jerusalem Post

Joseph Sarkis writes: Lebanon can mitigate challenges and seize opportunities by developing its naval capacities. Looking more globally, other powers also have a vested interest in Lebanon having a more robust maritime strategy. Policies proposed here would certainly work towards achieving U.S. maritime objectives of securing sea lines of communication and regional peace. Lebanon, the U.S., and the world all have much to gain from a more stronger and more effective Lebanese navy. – Middle East Institute

Ziv Bar’el writes: The sanctions bill puts the U.S. government between a rock and a hard place. If it passes, it might lose one of the most important mediators in negotiating the release of American prisoners, and an essential liaison in handling the crisis in Lebanon. If the law is vetoed, it will seem as if the administration is not doing everything it can to seriously fight the sources financing Hezbollah. Ibrahim will also find himself in an embarrassing situation, because it will become crystal clear that he is a trusted asset of the Americans, who did not hesitate to impose sanctions on other Lebanese citizens, while giving a pass to the intelligence chief. – Haaretz

Arabian Peninsula

Qatar’s foreign minister said on Monday Arab states that establish ties with Israel undermine efforts for Palestinian statehood, but it was in their own sovereign right to do so. – Reuters

Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates’ national carrier, announced Monday it will start direct flights to Israel in March 2021 after the countries’ recent agreement to normalize ties. – Times of Israel

The Trump administration is working to lift the Gulf blockade on Qatar in a last push for a diplomatic win before the president leaves office, national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in an interview released Monday. – The Hill

The United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba said he doesn’t think the dispute between Qatar and other Arab Gulf states will be resolved “anytime soon” as the split stretches into its fourth year. – Bloomberg

Bahrain’s crown prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, has taken over as prime minister after the death of his hard-line great uncle who held the job for half a century, with scant expectations for political change in the autocratic state he once sought to open up. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Morocco’s king warned Monday that his country would react with the “greatest severity” to any attack in Western Sahara, as the pro-independence Polisario Front said conflict would continue until Rabat ended its “occupation” of the disputed territory. – Agence France-Presse

A year ago armed men took Mohamed al-Magri’s son for questioning as fighting raged around the Libyan capital, and now he fears Haitham was killed and buried in a mass grave. – Agence France-Presse

In a November 8, 2020 article in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Lebanese journalist Hazem Saghieh slammed three Islamic leaders – Turkish President Erdogan, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad – for justifying the recent Islamist terror attacks in Europe, and especially for endorsing an argument that is prevalent in the Muslims world, namely that Europe is hypocritical in that it allows publishing offensive cartoons of the Prophet yet condemns denial of the Holocaust. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: Over the centuries, the Middle East has tended to flourish most when there have been places, from Abbasid Baghdad to the Ottoman Levant, that act as cultural clearing houses where civilisations and faiths, traders and travellers, meet and rub shoulders. Change in the Gulf has a long way to go before it reaches that level of amenity. But that should be its direction of travel. – Financial Times


In addition to a deadly pandemic and a weakened economy, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will inherit one more challenge when he takes office in January: a toxic relationship with the world’s second-largest economy. – New York Times

The man, Stephen Ellison, is the British consul general in Chongqing, China, and he has been widely hailed as a hero on Chinese social media after video of the swift rescue on Saturday spread quickly. The effusive response to the diplomat’s actions stands in sharp contrast to the increasingly strained relations between Beijing and London over the national security law imposed on Hong Kong, the initial handling of the coronavirus and a dispute over the Chinese tech firm Huawei’s access to 5G wireless infrastructure in Britain. – New York Times

China’s Huawei Technologies Co. moved to shore up its U.S.-sanctions-damaged business by selling budget smartphone brand Honor to a state-led consortium. – Wall Street Journal

A top Chinese securities regulator said on Tuesday that he hopes Sino-U.S. relations will be much improved under a Biden administration. – Reuters

Corey Stewart, an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, has been named to a newly created senior post at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where he can help push through hardline policies on China before the end of the administration, according to people familiar with the matter. – Reuters

Former President Bill Clinton said Xi Jinping’s long-term reign has upended U.S.-China relations, and will require Joe Biden’s incoming administration and its allies to take a more coordinated approach to dealing with Beijing. – Bloomberg

The past few weeks have shown that Chinese President Xi Jinping can move extremely fast when he hones in on long-term threats to the Communist Party. And right now they revolve around the convergence of technology, finance and Hong Kong. – Bloomberg

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden should look to develop an “overall constructive relationship” with China following “quite a tumultuous ride” over the past four years, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview. – Bloomberg

China gave one of its most detailed explanations yet for souring ties with Australia, calling on the nation to stop trying to impose its will on others. – Bloomberg

In 2020, the U.S. government exposed a half-dozen members of China’s People’s Liberation Army allegedly studying in the United States after lying on their student visa applications — just one of many statistics cited by the Justice Department related to charges against and prosecutions of Chinese Communist Party-linked individuals as it touted the success of its China Initiative on Monday. – Washington Examiner

Paul C. Atkinson writes: Looking across the South China Sea at Hong Kong, where China’s guarantee of that city’s autonomy until 2047 has been effectively nullified, it is difficult to imagine Beijing’s avowed objective of absorbing Taiwan taking place by “peaceful means.” A Biden State Department will no doubt express grave concern at threats of Chinese aggression. It may not come to a nuclear standoff; but should recent provocations escalate, would President Biden, like Ike, be willing to draw a red line? – The Hill

Dai Yuming writes: China’s growth is like an express train heading to the future despite all odds. We welcome all countries, including Israel, to hop onto the train and get a share from China’s growth dividends. Looking into the future, Israel has all the conditions to have a front seat in the train and further leverage on China’s development. It will definitely serve Israel’s economic recovery and growth. – Jerusalem Post


An Afghan man recently apprehended in the 2008 abduction of American journalist David Rohde and two others pleaded not guilty Monday and firmly denied involvement in the seven-month long hostage incident. – Washington Post

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has spoken to the new acting U.S. defense secretary about the alliance’s commitment to stay in Afghanistan as long as necessary, his spokeswoman said Monday, amid speculation that President Donald Trump might order a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops in the country. – Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he opposes President Trump’s apparent plan to begin a total draw-down of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and compared it to ‘the humiliating American departure of Saigon in 1975.” – Washington Examiner

Editorital: Pentagon officials on Monday confirmed our report Sunday night that President Trump is expected to order another troop reduction in Afghanistan—with a deadline conveniently timed just before he is likely to leave office on Jan. 20. We wish there was some justification other than the looming end of his Presidency. – Wall Street Journal

Bing West writes: The Taliban share Islamist roots with terrorists who pursue murder on a global scale. A total U.S. withdrawal would lead to a resurgence of terror plots, no longer in danger of disruption. Instead, the U.S. should continue what it is doing: keep military presence low and lethality high, and tolerate a messy government in Kabul. With modest expense and low casualties, the benefits of withdrawal can’t justify the costs. – Wall Street Journal


After President Trump in 2017 scrapped a trans-Pacific trade deal assembled by the Obama administration and 11 other governments, countries from Vietnam to Australia paused to ponder whether a trade agreement would be worthwhile without the United States. After four years and two new trade agreements, the answer from Asia appears to be a resounding yes. – Washington Post

Thousands of supporters of a radical Islamic scholar on Tuesday ended their sit-in in the Pakistani capital over the republishing in France of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, which they deem blasphemous. – Washington Post

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said on Monday the United States needed to negotiate with allies to set global trading rules to counter China’s growing influence but declined to say whether he would join a new China-backed Asian trade pact signed on Sunday. – Reuters

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday Japan and Australia had reached a broad agreement on their bilateral defence pact to facilitate more joint operations and exercises on each other’s soil. – Reuters

A senior Chinese official on Tuesday backed calls to “reform” Hong Kong’s judiciary, in a landmark speech signalling Beijing’s determination to assert more control over the city’s independent legal system. – Agence France-Presse

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the United States and at least one other country are pressuring Pakistan to formally recognize Israel. – Haaretz

China signaled further changes to Hong Kong law, in the wake of moves by Beijing to impose a sweeping national security law and require loyalty from city lawmakers. – Bloomberg

South Caucasus

Armenia’s foreign minister resigned Monday amid political turmoil that has engulfed the country following a cease-fire deal for the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh that calls for ceding territory to longtime adversary Azerbaijan. – Associated Press

Russia has moved truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers into a land corridor it controls between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh as its peacekeeping forces secure new territory for a deal struck over the enclave last week. – Reuters

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and for snap parliamentary elections, amid a deepening political crisis over the country’s defeat against Azerbaijan in fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh. – Bloomberg

Janusz Bugajski writes: Although Azerbaijan has regained its territories through war, it may now become more beholden to the Kremlin because Russia was the chief mediator with Armenia, and Russian peacekeepers will now patrol the reclaimed Karabakh region. – Washington Examiner

Kurt Volker writes: Beyond reaffirming U.S. engagement and contributing to domestic political reconciliation in Georgia, Secretary Pompeo has the opportunity to put the United States squarely behind this vision of Georgia as the key economic player in the region. He can affirm the U.S. intention to establish a regional office of the U.S.  Development Finance Corporation in Tbilisi, offer U.S.  assistance in resolving investor disputes, and lay out a strategic vision that can be picked up and advanced by the next U.S. administration. To help fend off a Russian bear and a Chinese dragon, the U.S. can help raise up a Caucasian Tiger. –  Center for European Policy Analysis

Tom Rogan writes: Unfortunately, while the State Department says that Pompeo will meet with civil society representatives during his visit, opposition parties say they are not receiving meetings. Were that to hold true, it would represent a break from previous high-level U.S. visits to Tbilisi.[…]These issues are ones that Pompeo should raise publicly during his visit. If he fails to establish the understanding that the democratic world expects Tbilisi to adhere to democratic norms, the current will simply double down on cronyism. – Washington Examiner


A former Army Green Beret charged with espionage activity on behalf of Russia is scheduled to plead guilty to federal charges. – Associated Press

Western security agencies believe the Kremlin intended to kill the opposition leader Alexei Navalny and only failed to achieve the deadly goal because of quick thinking by first responders when he suddenly fell ill in August. – The Guardian

While many nations, including the United States, have ceased using flamethrowers, Moscow has doubled down with its efforts to utilize fire on the modern battlefield. Rather than the backpack-and-nozzle systems that were employed with infantry throughout both World Wars, Russia developed its TOS-1A Solntsepek (‘Scorching Sun’), a multiple rocket launcher platform mounted on a T-72 tank chassis to launch thermobaric rockets. – The National Interest

George Barros writes: The Kremlin will likely cite Russia’s “peacekeeping mission” in Nagorno Karabakh in its 2021 bid to legitimize the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) as a United Nations (UN)-recognized peacekeeping force. The CSTO stated it plans to conduct negotiations with the UN in 2021 to hold CSTO peacekeeping operations under the UN’s auspices.This stated effort aligns with the Kremlin’s assessed campaign to leverage the UN to justify Russia’s international military deployments an important hybrid war capability the Kremlin is developing – Institute for the Study of War


But that unity was shattered on Monday when Hungary and Poland blocked the stimulus plan and the broader budget, cracking open one of the bloc’s most persistent, existential divisions over what a European Union democracy looks like. – New York Times

Maia Sandu, a Harvard-educated economist who supports closer ties with the European Union, has won a presidential election in Moldova against an incumbent whom President Vladimir V. Putin had openly endorsed. – New York Times

Bulgaria is poised to object to the official start of European Union accession talks with North Macedonia, hindering the former Yugoslav country’s efforts to open the long-delayed negotiations by year-end. – Bloomberg

The Donald Trump era may be coming to an end. But European Union ministers meeting this week to discuss the future of the continent’s defence will say the lesson has been learned: Europe needs to be strong enough to fight on its own. – Reuters

The U.S. administration and Europe need to work jointly on addressing actions led by Turkey in the Middle East over the past few months, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told French daily newspaper Le Figaro. – Reuters

Germany’s Public Prosecutor General (GBA) said on Monday charges of espionage have been filed against an Egyptian-born German citizen who worked at the German government press office and gathered information for an Egyptian intelligence agency. – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron held a closed-door, low-key meeting Monday with U.S. President Donald Trump’s top diplomat, a delicate tip-toe around the ticklish fact that France has already recognized President-elect Joe Biden as the U.S. election winner. – Associated Press

France’s Emmanuel Macron on Monday hosted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a staunch defender of President Donald Trump, for talks while at the same time seeking to build relations with President-elect Joe Biden. – Agence France-Presse

French President Emanuel Macron said European Union nations must continue efforts to become independent from the U.S. in the areas of defense and finance even after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. – Bloomberg

Kosovo expects its relations with the US to improve with the election of Joe Biden, after decades of key American support was thrown into doubt under the Trump administration, the Balkan country’s acting president has said. – Financial Times

David Frost, Boris Johnson’s Brexit envoy, was hanging tough as trade talks entered the endgame in Brussels this week, but he once felt far less bullish about the likely outcomes of such negotiations. – Financial Times

Despite attempts to drive it off the platform, a violent Ukrainian far-right group with ties to American white supremacists is using Facebook to recruit new members, organize violence, and spread its far-right ideology across the world. – BuzzFeed News

A Moroccan man and three alleged accomplices went on trial in France Monday for an attempted terror attack on an Amsterdam-Paris train five years ago that was foiled by passengers whose heroic actions were turned into a Hollywood film. – Agence France-Presse

Jean-Yves Le Drian and Heiko Maas write: But we are willing to work with the United States on joint solutions because of what is at stake for the next generation of Europeans and Americans alike: It is, quite simply, our ability to preserve our way of life and to pursue our never-ending quest for individual freedom and collective progress. There won’t be any better, closer and more natural partners for this than America and Europe. – Washington Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In general some European countries have not been forthcoming about the extent of Hezbollah plots uncovered on the continent or its trafficking in ammonium nitrate. There has been pressure in recent years to list Hezbollah as a terror group across the continent. Hezbollah regularly threatens Israel with its 150,000 rockets in Lebanon and its units in Syria. Iran also operates globally targeting Israel and dissidents. Four Iranians are on trial in a plot to target an anti-regime rally in France. – Jerusalem Post


Long-simmering tensions between Ethiopia’s federal government and defiant authorities in its northern Tigray region erupted into military confrontation on Nov. 4 after the country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, of attacking a military base, killing soldiers and stealing artillery and military equipment. – Wall Street Journal

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed warned on Tuesday that a three-day deadline for rebel regional forces to surrender has expired, paving the way for a final push on Mekelle, the capital of the northern region of Tigray. – Reuters

African leaders tried  Monday to kickstart talks in Ethiopia’s escalating internal conflict, two days after rocket strikes on Eritrea’s capital highlighted the risk that the fighting could spread. – Agence France-Presse

Russia will build a naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea coast, its first in Africa, as the Kremlin seeks to expand its global military footprint and cement its burgeoning trade and defence ties with the continent. – Financial Times

A group that campaigns to bring the Jews remaining in Ethiopia to Israel warned on Monday that those waiting in Gondar and Addis Ababa are in “immediate, real and mortal danger” and should be airlifted immediately. – Times of Israel

Michael Rubin writes: Simply put, until Farmajo dismisses Fahad as head of the National Intelligence and Security Agency and Somali officials credibly investigate him for his terror ties and abuses of power within Somalia, the U.S. government should cut Somalia off from all U.S. government assistance. Perhaps the U.S. Embassy in Somalia wants to look the other way, but Congress should not. – Washington Examiner

The Americas

The congress in Peru chose lawmaker Francisco Sagasti as caretaker president on Monday in hopes of ending a deepening political crisis that had resulted in deadly protests and a power vacuum in the midst of the pandemic and the country’s worst economic crisis in a century. – Wall Street Journal

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou finished the first day of a new round of extradition hearings Monday in Vancouver, as the two-year anniversary of her arrest by Canadian authorities approaches. – Agence France-Presse

Democratic senators on Monday urged Facebook to take action against anti-Muslim bigotry spreading on its platform. – The Hill

The dust from last week’s staff shake-up at the Pentagon may have settled, but security experts fear what might happen should a national security crisis happen while novice loyalists appointed by President Trump are in charge. – Washington Examiner

Dov S. Zakheim writes: In spite of all the departures and replacements, it is not at all clear that Trump will have his way and bring the troops “home by Christmas.” The military has ways of dragging its heels when it wants to, just as it can respond with alacrity when it needs to. Trump may find that just as those who predicted World War I would end by Christmas 1914, but found it drag on for four more years, America’s complete withdrawal from the Middle East will outlast his unhappy departure from office. – The Hill


President Trump set the United States on a new course with his years-long fight against Chinese technology, which he labeled a security threat and a tool for spreading Chinese influence. President-elect Joe Biden will probably tweak that approach, but Beijing shouldn’t anticipate a significant softening, foreign affairs and technology experts say. – Washington Post

In the United States and some other countries, technology watchers have tried to borrow from some of China’s internet habits in the belief that they’re a preview of the future everywhere. – New York Times

Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief, will appear before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning to defend actions by their companies to moderate speech. – New York Times

The Solomon Islands is planning to ban the use of Facebook for an indeterminate period after inflammatory critique of the government was aired on the social media platform, the Solomon Times reported. – Reuters

App developers expressed surprise, and in at least one case disbelief, when told access to their location data was being purchased by the Defense Department and military contractors. – Washington Examiner

Twitter is beefing up its security team. The social media company announced on Monday it is hiring computer hacker Peiter Zatko, better known as “Mudge.” Zatko confirmed on Twitter Monday that he will be “joining the executive team” to assess potential security threats on the platform. – Washington Examiner

National security adviser Robert O’Brien said that Chinese telecommunications company Huawei is the “number one concern” for democracy moving forward.  – The Hill


The Navy is looking at extending the lives of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines again – beyond the now 42-year planned life for the SSBNs – to add a little more capability for combatant commanders and a little more cushion in case of delays fielding their replacement. – USNI News

The U.S. Navy is pushing ahead with fielding more anti-ship cruise missiles on submarines in the Pacific, the head of U.S. Navy Submarine Forces said Monday. – Defense News

The U.S. Army’s heavy common ground robot has reached full-rate production, less than a year after FLIR won the contract to deliver the system, FLIR’s vice president in charge of unmanned ground systems told Defense News in an interview this month. – Defense News

The U.S. Army’s heavy common ground robot has reached full-rate production, less than a year after FLIR won the contract to deliver the system, FLIR’s vice president in charge of unmanned ground systems told Defense News in an interview this month. – Defense News

A U.S. Navy destroyer successfully intercepted a mock intercontinental ballistic missile designed to simulate one developed by North Korea, a Pentagon official said. – Bloomberg

Larry Hanauer writes: The Trump administration’s decision to close U.S. defense attaché offices in several West African countries and downgrade the ranks of defense attachés representing the United States in eight key partner nations is a bad idea[…]. Defense attachés are strategic assets that contribute critical diplomatic, military, policy, and intelligence insights regarding the countries in which they are deployed. Closing their offices and reducing the ranks of attachés in critical partner nations will produce a little savings, but at great cost. – Defense One

Alicia Sanders-Zakre writes: It is a powerful tool: important enough for leaders to ratify even in the midst of a global pandemic and influential enough that the United States actually called on countries to withdraw their instrument of ratification or accession. Analytical attempts to belittle or undermine the significance of this treaty may appease the minority of countries that cling to these weapons of mass destruction for now, but make no mistake the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a game-changer. And it is not going anywhere. – War on the Rocks

Itamar Lifshitz and Ayal Meents write: We have already seen a glimpse of the potential damage of precision-guided systems in the hands of nonstate actors. Just as these systems have revolutionized the way conventional militaries operate, they are game-changers in the hands of nonstate actors. While arms control regimes are inherently imperfect, they help mobilize states to face significant threats. An arms control initiative could help tackle some of these challenges and move the international community to adopt a new paradigm to deal with these emerging, but very concrete, threats. – War on the Rocks

Sarah Mineiro writes: Missile defense finds itself at a challenging inflection point right now, plagued by realized risk, program cancellations, and increasing threats. The next administration has the opportunity to clarify the operational consequences of offensive/defensive integration, restore the mission and resources of the Missile Defense Agency, and better account for service equities earlier in a program’s development to ensure that each service is more fully invested in the transition. – Center for a New American Security