Fdd's overnight brief

November 21, 2019

In The News


An Iranian court sentenced six conservationists to prison Wednesday on charges of collaborating with an “enemy state” — namely, the United States — rights activists and former colleagues said. – Washington Post

Tehran used arrests, deadly force and a prolonged internet blackout to contain nationwide protests that pose the most serious test in years for Iran’s leaders. – Wall Street Journal

For Europe, it’s like choosing a poison: U.S. President Donald Trump or Iran? As Tehran inches ever closer to developing nuclear weapons, pressure is building on the European Union to choose a side in a standoff where it has done its utmost to remain on the sidelines. – Politico

Iran’s navy has sent a fleet of 64 ships to the Gulf of Aden, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported, citing the force’s commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi. – Bloomberg

The European Union Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Maja Kocijancic issued a balanced statement regarding fuel price increases in Iran and the subsequent riots that have plagued the Islamic Republic, noting that the disturbances “led to serious loss of life and left many people injured.” – Arutz Sheva 

A new public report, Iran’s Military Power, produced by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, details how the 40-year-old Islamic regime boosts its relatively weak conventional forces with “a hybrid approach to warfare” that relies on missiles, naval forces, and proxies to threaten its neighbors. – Washington Examiner

Iran is building space capabilities that could be a launching pad to developing intercontinental ballistic missiles and has made progress in its efforts to disrupt GPS and communication satellites, according to a new report from the Defense Intelligence Agency. – C4ISRNET

Iran’s shutdown of domestic Internet access as part of a crackdown on anti-government protests has stretched beyond four days, an unprecedented outage that has caused growing harm to the economy. – VOA News

The French government urged Iran on Wednesday to refrain from destabilizing actions in Syria and said it remained committed to Israel’s security. – Reuters

Editorial: This would be a good moment for Trump to affirm that the Islamic Republic of Iran is an illegitimate government and that Iranians have every right to overthrow it and forge a new democratic government. Trump should make this clear, but without endorsing any particular alternative Iranian political group. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Now Iran must decide its next step in Syria. The role of its IRGC Quds Force has been key to supporting the Assad regime while also benefiting on the side. But Iran understands that its role is entangled with the regime and also with Russia. Its presence must not undermine either of these two. In addition, the Syrian regime and Russians are focused more on the north today, while there are questions about what the US is doing in the east. […]Towards that end, it has invested in new missiles, drones and other technology which it has transferred to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. While those transfers have made Iran’s role in Syria even more dangerous, any seasoned chess player knows that pieces spread too thinly across the chessboard may result in checkmate. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: NIAC often bristles at the suggestion that they are a de facto lobby for the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the past, their internal emails belied that claim, and they lost a lawsuit when they sued an Iranian American journalist who voiced this belief. Today, they still maintain that they put the interests of Iranian Americans first and do not follow Tehran’s lead. Alas, their actions this month suggest otherwise. – Washington Examiner


The Syrian regime condemned the Israeli airstrikes that occurred Wednesday morning. SANA, the government media outlet, said that widespread strikes had affected areas around Damascus and that the government would provide assistance to those who suffered the “brutal Israeli aggression.” – Jerusalem Post

An attack by Syrian government forces on the rebel-held area of Idlib in northwestern Syria killed at least 15 and wounded several at a displaced persons camp on Wednesday, rescue workers said. – Reuters

Moscow opposes Israel’s aerial attack against Iranian military facilities in Syria, its Chargé d’Affaires Dmitry Polyanskiy told the United Nations Security Council in New York on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

John Dunford writes: Russia also likely intends to deploy new air defense systems to Qamishli, allowing it to constrain further the freedom of movement of the U.S. in Eastern Syria. Meanwhile, the U.S. expanded its ground patrol routes to villages west of Qamishli. The U.S. will thus likely come into closer contact with the growing number of pro-regime forces – including Russians – based in and around Qamishli. – Institute for the Study of War

Benjamin Haddad writes: European governments denounced the ensuing Turkish invasion and its disastrous humanitarian consequences for the Kurds, warned of a potential resurgence of terror groups, and criticized Trump’s abandonment of his allies. And they were right to speak out: Trump’s decision will have a much greater impact on European security than America’s. But moral condemnation and expression of concern are cheap currency. European leaders cannot absolve themselves of the blame for the current situation in Syria: Their inaction helped bring us here. – Politico

Gregory Waters writes: What exactly the SAA hopes to achieve in the battles around Tel Tamar is unclear, as Turkey and Russia continue to be the real powers behind their respective Syrian affiliates. The fate of the town would therefore seem to rest not in the hands of Syrians, but will likely be determined by the agreements Ankara and Moscow reach. Yet, as in all things with Syria, there is no knowing how permanent this dynamic may be. – Middle East Institute


Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank (HALKB.IS), which U.S. prosecutors have criminally charged with helping Iran evade sanctions, said it should be able to challenge whether U.S. courts can hear the case at all before it entered a formal plea, according to a court filing made public on Wednesday. – Reuters

Turkey has arrested a Turkish lawyer hired by the German Embassy in Ankara, a diplomat at the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, a measure that could further raise tensions between the NATO partners. – Reuters

Turkey’s officials and politicians use the word “terrorism” to describe their political enemies and groups that they claim are security concerns to Turkey. But when it comes to ISIS and other extremist groups, it appears Ankara has had a blind spot, as new US sanctions identified “two Turkey-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) procurement agents,” on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Can Dundar writes: Few cases demonstrate the brutality of Erdogan’s rule quite so vividly as Ahmet Altan’s. The son of one of Turkey’s most famous writers — who was himself both imprisoned and lionized in the course of his long-standing resistance to a series of authoritarian governments — Ahmet Altan today stands accused of abetting the July 2016 coup attempt, when plotters tried to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. – Washington Post


Former military chief Benny Gantz failed to form a government by his Wednesday deadline, raising the likelihood of a third election in a year while prolonging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule and political uncertainty in the country. – Wall Street Journal

Europe is to blame for the lack of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the Jewish state’s UN envoy asserted on Monday. – Algemeiner

The United States on Wednesday defended itself at the United Nations against strong opposition from the European Union and other world powers to the Trump administration’s declaration that it no longer considers Israeli settlements to be in violation of international law. – Reuters

The European Union should recognise a Palestinian state after the United States expressed support for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Israel Wednesday of violating Jordanian airspace when Israeli aircrafts flew over the country on Monday on their way to attack targets near the Syrian-Iraqi border. – Haaretz

Mostafa El-Dessouki and Eglal Gheita write: Boycotting Israel and its people has only strengthened both, while doing great harm to Arab countries, and not least to the Palestinians. For the sake of the region, it is long past time to move forward to a postboycott era. [….]Peace has eluded the region for generations. But we’re determined to push for cooperation between the Arab world and Israel, firm in our belief that the benefits of partnership must replace the ravages of exclusion. – Wall Street Journal

Tom Rogan writes: Because Benny Gantz, the former uniform head of the IDF, is Netanyahu’s primary challenger for the premiership, the incumbent has a special reason to ensure that Israeli voters continue to believe he is their best bet for future security. It would be a stretch to say that Netanyahu is baiting Iran here, but he is making the case that he will roll the dice for Israel’s security if and when doing so is necessary. Thus, this action is ultimately both about defending the Israeli state and supporting Netanyahu’s continued premiership. – Washington Examiner


Anti-government protesters blocked access to Iraq’s main Gulf port in Umm Qasr for a third day Wednesday, as protesters said recent efforts by political parties to placate them were insufficient. – Associated Press

Two people were killed and 38 wounded early on Thursday after Iraqi security forces fired tear gas canisters at protesters near two key bridges in Baghdad, security and medical sources said. – Reuters

A report from the US Lead Inspector-General on the anti-ISIS coalition Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) has spotlighted “tensions with Iran and suspected Israeli airstrikes,” as a complication for the OIR mission against ISIS in Iraq. – Jerusalem Post 

Arabian Peninsula

Spokesman Turki al-Malki for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said on Wednesday that “Yemen Houthis claim of shooting down a coalition F-15 warplane is incorrect”, according to the Saudi state news agency. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman struck a defiant note against the kingdom’s enemies, saying on Wednesday that missile and drone strikes it blames on Iran had not halted development and reiterating that Riyadh will not hesitate to defend itself. – Reuters

China has launched military drills alongside Saudi Arabia, and the United States believes it will soon sell weapons to Iran as well—signaling Beijing’s strengthening ties to two sides of a tense rivalry in the Persian Gulf. – Newsweek

Middle East & North Africa

An Egyptian whistleblower who prompted mass protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has told Sky News that Britain must stop supporting him, warning it could lead to bloodshed and mass immigration to Europe. – Sky News (UK)

The anti-government protesters filling Lebanon’s streets have been unappeased by proposals to cut politicians’ salaries, recover looted money and create a national anti-corruption commission. […]Some want a redrawing of the entire political system that would eliminate the religion-based framework they blame for empowering inept leaders who serve themselves and perhaps their coreligionists rather than the country. – Bloomberg

The U.S. State Department has greenlighted a possible sale to Morocco of Boeing-manufactured AH-64E Apache attack helicopters worth an estimated $4.25 billion, according to a Nov. 20 Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcement. – Defense News

Maysam Behravesh and Giorgio Cafiero write: While much recent analysis of the Gulf region has focused on the prospects that the Qatar blockade will be lifted and the nearly-30-month-old feud resolved, from Doha’s vantage point questions concerning the future of intra-GCC relations are less urgent than the emirate’s security dilemmas stemming from U.S.-Iran brinkmanship. There is no way around the fact that any country that shares a maritime border and an overall positive relationship with Iran while also serving as a close military ally of the U.S. has an extremely difficult balance to strike, especially amid the unpredictable Trump presidency. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea rejected an invitation for leader Kim Jong Un to attend a planned summit in Seoul with Southeast Asian nations next week, saying “now is not the time” due to strained ties, North Korean state media reported on Thursday. – Reuters

President Donald Trump walked away early from his second bilateral summit with North Korea earlier this year and now his administration has pulled a similar tactic on longtime U.S. ally South Korea, potentially setting a difficult tone for diplomatic moves in the region moving forward. – Newsweek 

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday he does not regret postponing a U.S.-South Korean military exercise, even though the gesture was rejected by North Korea as not enough to restart nuclear diplomacy. – Associated Press

The Pentagon on Thursday denied a South Korean news report saying that the United States was considering a significant cut to its troop numbers in South Korea if Seoul does not contribute more to the costs of the deployment. – Reuters

A senior North Korean official said on Wednesday that the United States must drop its “hostile policy” towards Pyongyang in order to restart stalled denuclearisation talks, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. – Reuters

President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next number two at the State Department said on Wednesday he was confident agreements could be reached with South Korea and Japan over the costs of hosting U.S. troops, but nobody would get “a free ride.” – Reuters

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said on Wednesday a year-end deadline North Korea has set for Washington to show more flexibility in nuclear talks was an artificial one, but could mean a return to “provocative” steps that preceded the past two years of diplomacy. – Reuters

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Wednesday night said President Trump “got punked” when it comes to the administration’s so far unsuccessful denuclearization negotiations with North Korea. – The Hill

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper ended an Asia tour Thursday with the same trio of troubles on the Korean peninsula that he found on arrival last week. Together they pose risks to U.S. national security and to the future of Washington’s alliance with South Korea. – Associated Press

South Koreans increasingly wonder whether the White House’s transactional approach to foreign relations means the United States will honor its commitment to come to their aid in a crisis, a panel of security experts said this week. – USNI News

B.J. Lee writes: So it should come as little surprise that a growing number of South Koreans are enraged by the Trump administration. Some even wonder whether the president’s outrageous demand is just an excuse for withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea in case ongoing negotiations on the cost fall apart. That could be a worst-case scenario for both Seoul and Washington. – Washington Post 


China set up a $21 billion fund to further develop its advanced manufacturing sector, demonstrating that Beijing is pursuing its ambition to lead globally in technology, despite U.S. criticism of subsidies. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump criticized China’s efforts to reach a trade agreement during a visit to a Texas plant where Apple Inc. is assembling its new desktop computer. – Wall Street Journal

China’s chief trade negotiator has invited his American counterparts for a new round of face-to-face talks, according to people briefed on the matter, as both sides are struggling to strike a limited deal to help de-escalate tensions between the world’s two largest economies. – Wall Street Journal

China will strive to reach an initial trade agreement with the United States as both sides keep communication channels open, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday, in an attempt to allay fears talks might be unraveling. – Reuters

The Chinese government warned self-ruled Taiwan on Thursday that it was courting “disaster”, after the running mate for President Tsai Ing-wen in January elections said he was working toward the island’s independence, a red line for Beijing. – Reuters

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday accused China of using coercion and intimidation against smaller Asian nations to impose its will in the South China Sea. He urged Vietnam and others in the region to push back. – Associated Press

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said the U.S. and China were in the “foothills of a Cold War,” and warned that the conflict could be worse than World War I if left to run unconstrained. – Bloomberg

Bradley Jardine writes: The U.S. has taken important first steps toward addressing Xinjiang’s human-rights crisis. But Washington must build bridges to its Western allies to disrupt China’s police state. Disunity strengthens Beijing’s hand. – Wall Street Journal

Louis Charbonneau writes: To back up their words, countries should impose sanctions on individuals orchestrating the repression and other measures to press China to end its campaign. Finally, international companies should think twice about the ethics of doing business in Xinjiang to avoid being complicit in China’s abusive policies, which have sparked one of the biggest human rights crises of our time. – The Hill

Michael Mazza writes: The US State Department’s Indo-Pacific vision report presents Taiwan as a valuable partner. Even so, Taiwan could have, and should have, had a stronger presence in the report. – Global Taiwan Institute


War after war, piling on each other for decades, has left Afghanistan covered in more than 1,000 square miles of mines, unexploded munitions, roadside bombs and shuttered firing ranges, according to Afghan government data. Many hazards have been marked, cordoned off, cleared or avoided. – New York Times

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he hopes the release of two Western prisoners held hostage by the Afghan Taliban this week could help pave the way to an end to the war in Afghanistan. – Reuters

Earl Anthony Wayne and Christopher D. Kolenda write: The U.S. approach needs to test credibility and build trust via a step-by-step process, and, if successful, work toward reductions in violence and toward Afghan political negotiations.  Efforts may best advance by initially pursuing simple measures that do not require large concessions and building from there. These could include coordinated statements of peace principles, shared disaster hotlines, joint civilian casualty investigations, etc. If the Taliban fail to partake in such steps, then the futility of additional efforts will be clear.  – The Hill

South Asia

As Indian helicopters touched down this week on the deck of an American warship in the Bay of Bengal, what was billed as a modest military simulation became the latest sign of progress in a growing great power partnership in Asia. – New York Times 

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi will lead the legal team that will seek to contest an accusation of genocide at the International Court of Justice over the treatment of the nation’s Rohingya Muslim minority. – Bloomberg

The U.S government has approved the sale of naval guns worth $1 billion to India in the biggest defense deal between the two countries in four years. – Bloomberg


Defense Secretary Mark Esper received a chilly reception this week when he appealed to allies in Asia for a unified response to Chinese aggression, a new sign of potential trouble for the Trump administration’s policy in the region. – Wall Street Journal

China’s Foreign Ministry summoned the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in the capital to object to Washington’s support for Hong Kong protesters, a day after Beijing asserted its authority to rule on Hong Kong’s constitutional issues. – Wall Street Journal

The crisis over Hong Kong’s future took center stage in worsening U.S.-China relations Thursday, as protesters called on President Trump to sign into law a bill intended to protect human rights in the territory over Beijing’s increasingly shrill objections. – Washington Post

Tuvalu’s foreign minister said on Thursday the South Pacific nation had rejected offers from Chinese companies to build artificial islands to help it cope with rising sea levels, an approach viewed as undermining Taiwan’s influence in the region. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign legislation passed by Congress supporting Hong Kong protesters, setting up a confrontation with China that could imperil a long-awaited trade deal between the world’s two largest economies. – Bloomberg

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and his British and Japanese counterparts today signed a trilateral cooperation agreement reaffirming their commitment to working together on global security concerns. – USNI News


Swedbank AB may have violated U.S. sanctions against Russia by facilitating the transfer of about 10 million Swedish kronor ($1 million) from gun maker Kalashnikov to a U.S. subsidiary in Florida, according to a report by Swedish state broadcaster SVT. – Wall Street Journal

U.S.-made medical equipment, night-vision devices and countermortar radar make a difference for Ukrainian troops fighting Kremlin-backed separatists on the front line of the standoff between Russia and the West. Sometimes, it’s the difference between life and death. – Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he’s pleased that the “political battles” in Washington have put on the back-burner accusations that Russia interfered in U.S. elections. – Associated Press

Russia has condemned the United States’ plan to send troops to Saudi Arabia, a decision likely to be seen as a provocation by rival Iran. – Newsweek

Representatives from the Russian Embassy in the United States visited Russian hacker Alexei Burkov in the detention center where he is being held. – Arutz Sheva

Serbia is investigating reports of an alleged spying affair involving Russia, sparked by a video posted on social media, officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press 


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended meetings at NATO on Wednesday amid questions about U.S. leadership in the military alliance and whether it will even continue to be a member. – Washington Post

If Boris Johnson is to win next month’s national elections and take Britain out of Europe, his party needs to win over swing towns like this one, which got rich in the 19th-century industrial revolution but have been left behind in the 21st. – Wall Street Journal

A prominent British climate change activist sparked anger Wednesday after appearing to downplay the Holocaust in an interview with a German newspaper. – Associated Press

Germany sought Wednesday to ease French worries about NATO by offering to set up a group of experts to examine the alliance’s security challenges after President Emmanuel Macron lamented the “brain death” of the military organization. – Associated Press

NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels Wednesday to make final preparations for an imminent summit of the military alliance’s leaders amid deep political tensions between the allies. – Associated Press

Outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday was elected president of the center-right European People’s Party, a pan-European umbrella group that has been riven by infighting in recent years. The EPP brings together conservative and centrist parties across the European Union, including those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. – Reuters

Hungary hopes to reach a NATO defense spending target in 2023, a year ahead of the deadline agreed by allies who are facing strong pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to invest more in European security. – Reuters

France and Germany each sought to claim European leadership within NATO on Wednesday in the first ministerial meeting since French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the U.S.-led military alliance was experiencing “brain death.” – Reuters

A 16-year-old self-declared neo-Nazi has been found guilty of plotting multiple terror attacks on targets in the UK between October 2017 and March of this year, British media outlets reported Wednesday. – Algemeiner 


Islamist militiamen killed at least 19 people overnight in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, stepping up attacks on civilians in response to a military campaign against them in border areas with Uganda, local officials said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Sudan’s most prominent Islamist politician was arrested on Wednesday after being summoned for questioning over former leader Omar al-Bashir’s rise to power in a 1989 coup, a senior official from his party said. – Reuters

France’s armed forces minister criticized close ally Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for failing to honor commitments it made almost two years ago to provide millions of euros to a West African counter-terrorism force fighting Islamist militants. – Reuters

Islamic State’s West African affiliate claimed responsibility on Wednesday for an attack on an army patrol in northern Mali that killed 30 soldiers, according to a statement published by the SITE Intelligence Group. – Reuters

North America

A former Twitter Inc employee accused of spying for Saudi Arabia pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in San Francisco, where he remains in custody. – Reuters

Lawyers for Huawei Technologies Co Ltd asked a Canadian court to immediately stay proceedings seeking to extradite the company’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou to the United States, a company spokesman said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The Trump administration has begun an effort to send some asylum seekers encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border to Guatemala, a move that promises to transform the U.S. asylum system, according to three officials briefed on the initiative and related training materials. – Reuters

Latin America

Brazil’s government, under fire from Western governments over deforestation in the Amazon, will ask developed countries to help finance efforts to preserve rainforest and promote sustainable economic activities during a climate-change conference in December. – Wall Street Journal

The Colombian government has taken extraordinary security measures before nationwide antigovernment demonstrations set for Thursday, fearing a repeat of what has happened in Chile, once a model of stability in the region that is now reeling from protests, looting and arson. – Wall Street Journal

Bolivia’s political crisis is deepening as state security forces use increasingly lethal force against mobs of protesters demanding the return to the country of former President Evo Morales, whom the country’s interim government accuses of stirring up the trouble. […]Ms. Añez’s government says it plans to hold new elections soon. But Mr. Morales, who fled to Mexico after he lost support from the armed forces, says his departure came as the result of a coup, and has encouraged his supporters in Bolivia to act against what he calls a fascist dictatorship. – Wall Street Journal

Colombia’s ambassador in Washington was embarrassed Wednesday by publication of a recording in which he trashes the State Department as a feckless institution subjugated to the whims of the White House. – Associated Press


The Trump administration has given permission to some U.S. suppliers to Huawei Technologies Co. to resume shipping to the Chinese telecom giant, easing export restrictions while U.S. negotiators struggle to wrap up the first stage of a trade deal, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal

Alphabet Inc.’s Google said Wednesday it plans to stop allowing highly targeted political ads on its platform, further fragmenting the rules being set by Silicon Valley tech giants for guarding against misinformation. Google will roll out the ban within a week in the U.K., in advance of a Dec. 12 general election. The ban will take effect in the European Union by the end of the year and in the rest of the world on Jan. 6, the company said in a blog post. – Wall Street Journal

A key House committee on Wednesday advanced legislation that would ban the government from buying telecommunications equipment from companies deemed to be national security threats, such as Chinese telecom giant Huawei. – The Hill

NATO has declared cyberspace a domain of warfare it must operate in and called on the integration of cyber alongside operations. However, as a defensive alliance, it has declared it won’t seek offensive cyber capabilities itself, instead relying on the capabilities of voluntary member states. – Fifth Domain

Deployed inside the sprawling communist-era army command headquarters in Montenegro’s capital, an elite team of U.S. military cyber experts are plotting strategy in a fight against potential Russian and other cyberattacks ahead of the 2020 American and Montenegrin elections. – Fifth Domain

The Federal Communications Commission announced Nov. 18 it plans to hold a public auction for C-band spectrum, freeing up much of the needed space for 5G usage. – C4ISRNET

The military wants to demonstrate innovative prototypes that use commercial 5G technologies as a way to augment future military capabilities. – C4ISRNET


U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper urged federal regulators to deny Ligado Networks LLC’s proposal to develop some of the nation’s most valuable airwaves, saying the risks to global positioning systems and military operations are too great. – Wall Street Journal

When it comes to plotting the future of artificial intelligence, the military has a metaphor problem. Not a metaphorical problem, but a literal one based on the language used to describe both the style and the structure of the AI threat from abroad. – C4ISRNET

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), for the first time, designed, assembled, and tested exclusively in-house a small thrust class size expendable turbine engine. – Jane’s 360

The U.S. Navy’s move to potentially punish a decorated Navy SEAL, who was supported by an order from President Trump, is fueling a new debate over the military justice system’s treatment of active-duty service members and veterans. – Fox News

Susanna V. Blume and Molly Parrish write: This paper provides a review of the Department of Defense’s three core decisionmaking processes, what is working in them, what is not, and some recommendations for how to make them deliver better outcomes for the U.S. military and for the American people. These recommendations would improve the way DoD makes the decisions that size and shape the future Joint Force. By extension, they would help ensure that the U.S. military can compete effectively with China, with specific emphasis on sustaining and enhancing U.S. military technological advantage. – Center for a New American Security

Trump Administration

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has requested an interview with the whistleblower whose complaint concerning President Trump’s July call with his Ukrainian counterpart triggered the House’s impeachment inquiry, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump’s nominee for the No. 2 State Department official faced questions from senators about his independence and willingness to defend career diplomats and employees during a confirmation hearing Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal

A Pentagon official told House impeachment investigators that Ukraine inquired about the status of frozen security aid on the same day that President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations that could benefit him politically. – Wall Street Journal

Laura Cooper, a Pentagon expert on Ukraine, told the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday evening that Ukrainian embassy staff in Washington contacted her office in July with questions about the White House’s hold on military aid promised to their country. – Roll Call 

Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday he has no recollection of a conversation described by Gordon Sondland about a link between military aid for Ukraine and investigations sought by President Donald Trump — a slight departure from an aide’s earlier statement – Associated Press