Fdd's overnight brief

November 5, 2018

In The News


On the eve of new U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports and financial system, thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran on Sunday to burn American flags and mock President Trump with cardboard effigies and caricatures. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump has put Iran on notice that the punishing sanctions he plans to impose on Monday are just the opening salvo of an ambitious strategy to compel Tehran to pull back from its assertive posture in the Middle East or risk collapse. – Wall Street Journal

The latest round of U.S. sanctions on Iran are part of President Trump’s drive to contain the Islamic Republic’s regional influence and military capabilities. What do they mean and will they be effective? Here’s what we know. – Wall Street Journal

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo predicted Sunday that the remaining sanctions against Iran that resume Monday will change the Tehran government’s behavior in the region. – Washington Post

European governments are locked in negotiations over a special purpose vehicle to safeguard trade with Iran, as a US crackdown on Tehran’s oil and finance sectors came into force. – Financial Times

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic republic “will proudly bypass sanctions” by the United States that took effect on Monday targeting the country’s oil and financial sectors. – Agence France-Presse

Iran’s top leader said on Saturday U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies face opposition across the world as Washington prepared to reimpose sanctions on Iran’s vital oil-exporting and financial sectors, state television reported. – Reuters

Iran greeted the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Monday with air defense drills and an acknowledgement from President Hassan Rouhani the nation faces a “war situation,” raising Mideast tensions as America’s maximalist approach to the Islamic Republic takes hold. – Associated Press

Share on Twitter With new U.S. sanctions on Iran set to take effect Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boasted Sunday of the Trump administration’s efforts to be “tough on Iran.” – Politico

The Trump administration will allow eight countries to import limited amounts of Iranian oil even after US sanctions take effect next week, damping fears about a shortage of supplies and sending crude prices to their lowest levels in three months. – Financial Times

European governments are locked in negotiations over a special purpose vehicle to safeguard trade with Iran, as a US crackdown on Tehran’s oil and finance sectors comes into force. – Financial Times

Editorial: The U.S. retains the flexibility to tighten sanctions further in coming months, but Monday’s measures will deprive the rulers in Tehran of more cash for their foreign adventures. The U.S. should expect some retaliation, perhaps with terror proxies. As for the EU, its leaders should rethink their resistance and work with the U.S. to prod Iran to renegotiate the deal so it really would prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. – Wall Street Journal

Rick Perry writes: Empowered by its new energy arsenal that can free the world from reliance on Iranian oil, the U.S. will apply relentless pressure on Tehran until its leaders alter their destructive behavior and return to the negotiating table. Until then, the Iranian regime must remain isolated from the global economy. The international community eagerly awaits the participation of an Iran prepared to abide by basic norms of international conduct. – Wall Street Journal

Mehdi Khalaji writes: Western governments need to stand behind the Iranian people, especially those who live within their borders or hold dual citizenship. Tehran’s willingness to intimidate the diaspora through such blatant violations provides a common basis for U.S. and EU action, including intensified human rights sanctions on high-ranking Iranian political and military officials. – Washington Institute

Andrew J. Stanley and Sarah Ladislaw write: Most Iran experts […]expect an escalation of tension and malign action in the region, which can certainly impact oil markets and regional stability. The administration has been quick to point out that it is working to ensure oil market stability through liaising with other producing countries and aided by U.S. production growth. All things considered this may be possible as long as no additional and substantial oil supply disruptions take place, which is far from guaranteed. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Rauf Mammadov writes: Ultimately, the sanctions are a means to a foreign policy end, but the United States has not expanded upon what that is. Does it want to force Tehran into a new treaty? Is it hoping that the sanctions will spark regime change? At the moment, the world does not know. Whatever the ultimate goal, a protracted stand-off with Iran will only hurt the Trump administration—and prolonging it will likely be a key goal of Tehran. The faster that Trump can achieve a successful conclusion to his Iran policy, the better off his administration is likely to be. – Middle East Institute


A United Nations aid convoy on Saturday reached the Rukban refugee camp in Syria where thousands of people are stranded in the desert, close to the border with Jordan, a member of the camp’s local council said. – Reuters

A car bomb exploded near a military position in Syria’s Raqqa on Sunday, local authorities and a war monitor said, and Islamic State group said it was behind the blast. – Reuters

James Phillips writes: The U.S. should seek to deter a humanitarian disaster through diplomatic means and should not use military force unless U.S. troops in eastern Syria are threatened, or Syrian dicatator Bashar al-Assad once again uses chemical weapons. Washington should push for a long-term political settlement that would defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) and other Islamist extremist groups, as well as contain Iran, by using its military presence and reconstruction aid as leverage. – Heritage Foundation


Turkey will not allow the exploitation of gas reserves in Turkish and north Cypriot waters of the eastern Mediterranean, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday. – Reuters

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he and President Donald Trump had discussed Turkey’s Halkbank, which faces potential U.S. fines after an executive was convicted of taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions. – Reuters

Turkish authorities have ordered the arrest of gold trader Reza Zarrab, a prosecution witness in the New York trial of a Turkish banker, over unlawful building work, Anadolu news agency said on Monday. – Reuters


Jordan said on Sunday Israel had asked for consultations on a special land deal agreed upon in their peace treaty that the Jordanian government wants to end. – Reuters

Crowds of Palestinians protested along the Gaza-Israel border on Friday but in fewer numbers and with less fury than has been seen for months as Egyptian mediators worked to lower tension along the frontier. – Reuters

Joshua S. Block writes: The growing alliance between Israel and the Sunni Arab world is driven in part by economics. Israel’s entrepreneurship benefits all nations in the region. But an even more pressing concern is the common threat from Iran. Tehran’s hegemonic ambitions are being felt from the battlefields of Syria to the Gulf of Aden. In May, Bahrain went so far as to back Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian aggression. – Wall Street Journal

Saudi Arabia

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have released the first prince of a group of royals and key figures who are expected to be freed from detention following an uproar over the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, people familiar with the situation said. – Wall Street Journal

As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia charmed Goldman Sachs bankers and Silicon Valley executives on an American tour this spring, some of his most trusted lieutenants were taking care of business in Washington. – New York Times

U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed concern that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have less leeway to pursue the gradual warming of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors amid the political fallout from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. – Washington Post

The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month by a team of Saudi agents dispatched from Riyadh has prompted fresh scrutiny of the kingdom’s pursuit of Saudi nationals abroad, from ordinary dissidents to defectors from the tight ranks of the royal family. – Washington Post

Reports that the body of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was dissolved in acid need to be investigated, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Monday. – Reuters

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged on Sunday to hold accountable those responsible for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while maintaining the important “strategic relationship” between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. – Politico

Theodore R. Bromund writes: The bottom line is this: if you don’t like U.S. arms sales to the Saudis, campaign to change the policy. […]But don’t try to change the policy by committing the U.S. – or any other nation – to a set of rules that might mean everything, or nothing, or some things at some times and other things at others. That isn’t being responsible. It’s creating an instrument that, sooner or later, is going to be used to constrain U.S. policy – Heritage Foundation

Gulf States

A Shiite cleric who was a central figure in Bahrain’s 2011 Arab Spring protests was sentenced on Sunday, along with two other senior opposition figures, to life in prison, overturning previous acquittals on charges of spying for Qatar. – New York Times

Qatar rejects accusations of meddling in Bahrain’s internal affairs, Qatar’s foreign ministry said in a tweet. – Reuters

UAE oil company ADNOC has announced the discovery of new oil and gas resources, with an eye on full self-sufficiency as US sanctions on Iran go into effect. – Agence France-Presse


Intensified fighting shook a key rebel-held port city on Yemen’s Red Sea coast on Sunday, leaving dozens dead as the United Nations warned that children in the war-torn country face “a living hell”. – Agence France-Presse

Fighting has escalated around Yemen’s key port city of Hodeida, with more than 150 combatants killed over the weekend from both the rebel and government-backed sides, officials said Sunday. – Associated Press

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Monday he would push for new action at the United Nations Security Council to try to end hostilities in Yemen and find a political solution to the war there. – Reuters

President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia has misused U.S.-supplied weapons in its bombing campaign in Yemen and that his administration is carefully examining the conflict. – Bloomberg

Lama Al Jarallah and Ahmad Majidyar write: In a recent video circulating on Iraqi social media, a man appears to be showing off rows of militiamen in the background as they conduct combat drills[…]. Kata’ib al-Imam Ali’s entrance into the Yemeni combat scene could be detrimental to Yemen’s already brittle national unity: it will further reinforce ethno-sectarian nationalism and diminish efforts for national reconciliation. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Military officials are expressing alarm that a shrinking U.S. military presence in the Middle East has undermined their ability to respond to Iranian threats just as the Trump administration’s imposition of oil sanctions increases the potential for confrontation. – Washington Post

Egypt said on Sunday that it had killed 19 militants linked to an ambush that left seven Christian pilgrims dead, as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi scrambled to respond to a surge of Christian anger against his government. – New York Times

An Egyptian rights group which has supported victims of alleged police torture and forced disappearances says it is halting operations amid a sweeping government crackdown. – Associated Press

Baghdad police say four people have been killed in four bomb blasts in the Iraqi capital, including two inside commuter minivans. The blasts occurred after Sunday’s evening rush hour and appeared to target Shiite districts around Baghdad, including Sadr City and Kadhimiya. – Associated Press

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry rejected on Saturday what it called U.S. interference in its affairs after the U.S. embassy issued a statement telling neighboring Iran to respect Iraq’s sovereignty allow demobilization of Shi’ite militias. – Reuters

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to the relaxation in military posture during their summit meeting in Pyongyang in September. The measures took effect Thursday after South Korea’s government ratified the agreement, formally making it law. Yeonpyeong Island, where tensions have flared up most dramatically in recent years, is a symbol of those efforts. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea has threatened to restart the development of its nuclear weapons program unless the United States lifts sanctions, underscoring one of the major potential stumbling blocks in Washington’s diplomatic outreach to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. – Washington Post

South Korea and the United States on Monday resumed small-scale military training that was indefinitely suspended following an historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. – Agence France-Presse

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he will meet this week in New York with North Korea’s number two to discuss denuclearization and a possible second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. – Agence France-Presse

About 500 United States and South Korean marines began small-scale military drills on Monday, just days before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to hold talks with North Korea on denuclearization and plans for a second summit of their leaders. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel — both hoping to get out from under U.S. economic sanctions — have agreed to expand and strengthen their strategic relations, North Korea’s state media reported Monday. – Associated Press


Faced with mounting American tariffs that could slow China’s already weakened economy, President Xi Jinping is pressing the case to the rest of the world that China can be a positive force for global trade. The challenge will be convincing the world he means it. – New York Times

In an address in Shanghai on Monday, closely watched by observers as perhaps the Chinese president’s last major speech on trade before he is set to meet with President Trump for crucial talks later this month in Argentina, a confident Xi gave few signs that he was in the mood to make significant concessions. – Washington Post

Chinese state-backed semiconductor maker Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co Ltd billed itself as a national leader in the tech industry. It planned to drive a shift towards locally made chips and end a heavy reliance on imports, especially from the United States. – Reuters

Trade frictions with the United States and accusations of industrial espionage are set to cast a cloud over China’s largest aerospace meeting this week, as suppliers consider what the country’s slowing economy could mean for booming jet demand. – Reuters

The U.S. Navy’s chief of naval operations has called on China to return to a previously agreed-upon code of conduct for at-sea encounters between the ships of their respective navies, stressing the need to avoid miscalculations. – Defense News

Fred Hiatt writes: There isn’t much we can do to shape the success or failure of market totalitarianism inside China. But getting democracy back on track would show the Chinese people, if they are ever allowed to learn freely about the world, that freedom and prosperity can bolster each other. – Washington Post

Patrick Gerard Buchan writes: Across much of the Indo-Pacific, China currently sets the tone of the game. Critically, the United States does not. Washington needs a win. Accordingly, the United States should look to the Pacific Islands as a strategic opportunity to push back. […]At every opportunity, and at every level, United States leaders should call out China for its mercantilist approach to the region and highlight the inevitable debt and sovereign loss under the Chinese model. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

James Andrew Lewis writes: Chinese espionage against the United States has reached unprecedented levels, greater than anything seen in the Cold War. […]it means creating a global partnership, not to go to war with China but to use the tools of diplomatic and economic coercion to compel change. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


An American service member was killed and another wounded in Afghanistan on Saturday when a member of the government security forces opened fire at a base in the capital, Kabul, the U.S. military said. – Wall Street Journal

A week of fighting between Taliban militants and fighters loyal to a commander from the mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority has heightened fears of a dangerous new phase of sectarian violence in Afghanistan. – Reuters

An Afghan official says the Taliban have attacked a checkpoint in eastern Ghazni province, killing at least 13 soldiers and policemen. – Associated Press


Several thousand people gathered Saturday near the Afghan border to mourn the death of Maulana Sami ul-Haq, 82, a leading Sunni cleric and “father of the Taliban” who was stabbed to death by unknown assailants. – Washington Post

The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted after spending eight years on death row on blasphemy charges has appealed to President Trump for refuge, citing danger to the family’s lives. – Reuters

Twitter suspended the account of a ultra-right Pakistani cleric on Sunday following inflammatory statements targeting the judiciary, prime minister, and military after the acquittal of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, the government said. – Reuters


Sri Lanka’s deposed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the United States and Japan had frozen more than a billion dollars of development aid after his abrupt dismissal raised doubts about the future of democracy in the island. – Reuters

China and India are closely watching the constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka, which has been a battleground in their struggle for geopolitical supremacy in South Asia. […]The caution exercised by the Asian giants stands in contrast to calls from Western diplomats for Parliament to immediately be summoned for a floor vote on Rajapaksa’s appointment and underscores the economic and military importance the countries place on the Indian Ocean island nation. – Associated Press

U.S. fighter jets darted over the Western Pacific on Saturday as the nuclear powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier joined Japanese destroyers and a Canadian warship for the biggest combat readiness war game ever staged in and around Japan. – Reuters


In April, the Trump administration had announced sanctions on oligarchs close to President Vladimir V. Putin, and on their companies, as punishment for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and for other hostile acts. A billionaire who controls the world’s second-largest aluminum company, Mr. Deripaska faced possible ruin. – New York Times

The whirring of a low-flying Soviet Union-era war plane signaled Russia’s uninvited arrival to NATO’s biggest military exercise since the end of the Cold War. – Times of Israel

According to the official news agency of the Russian Federation, Rosbalt, agents of the Federal Security Service (the FSB) have staged raids on more than 60 state officials and private investigators to try to stanch the flow of leaks revealing the incompetence of Russia’s main military intelligence agency, the GRU – The Daily Beast


Angela Merkel’s days as German chancellor may be numbered, but many of her policies in Europe and the wider world have entrenched support in the country’s consensus-driven political system. They reflect today’s Germany, rather than the beliefs of the 64-year-old trained physicist. – Wall Street Journal

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday kicks off a week of commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, which is set to mix remembrance of the past and warnings about the present surge in nationalism around the globe. Some 70 to 80 world leaders including US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are preparing to fly to the French capital next weekend for a ceremony marking a century since the guns fell silent. – Agence France-Presse

Emmanuel Macron’s party will make its pitch for an alliance with European liberals at their congress this week, aiming to transform the Continent’s political landscape and grab second place in next year’s EU election. – Politico

The president of the French region closest to the UK has warned that a no-deal Brexit would bring much of northern Europe to its knees, as he called for more help from both Brussels and Paris to deal with the risk. – Financial Times

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office on Sunday dismissed as speculation reports that Britain and the European Union were close to striking a divorce deal after reaching a compromise on the intractable issue of the Irish border. – Associated Press

The Americas

The total price of President Trump’s military deployment to the border, including the cost of National Guard forces that have been there since April, could climb well above $200 million by the end of 2018 and grow significantly if the deployments continue into next year, according to analyst estimates and Pentagon figures. – Washington Post

President Trump vowed to reduce foreign aid to Central American countries whose citizens are marching toward the U.S. border, saying Sunday that the money “is probably just stolen” by corrupt leaders. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: This year U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley tried something different. Instead of simply voting no, the U.S. tried to inject some balance by proposing several amendments that highlighted the many egregious outrages of the Cuban regime. […]People can come down on different sides about the merits of an economic embargo. But when the U.N. condemns the U.S. while giving Cuba a pass, Turtle Bay reveals its own moral bankruptcy. – Wall Street Journal


Amid an alleged campaign of hacking by the Chinese government, efforts are taking place to prevent the exfiltration of data and protect sensitive information that is stored in the U.S. government and the defense-industrial base. In a memo dated Oct. 24, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced the creation of the Protecting Critical Technology Task Force to safeguard critical American technology. – Fifth Domain

Estimates for the cost of America’s nuclear warheads have gone up in the last year, as the government prepares to develop and maintain as many as nine new systems in the next 25 years. – Defense News

A major look at the defense-industrial base, ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump and released last month, found roughly 300 gaps and vulnerabilities across America’s network of defense suppliers, the vast majority of which are only identified in a classified annex to the public report. – Defense News

A new era is dawning in great power competition, with the Navy preparing to fight a large-scale war at sea. But to win a great sea battle, the Navy’s leaders first must win the homefront battle for the best recruits. – Navy Times

Northrop Grumman will have to pay the U.S. government $30 million as a settlement for falsely billing hours to the Air Force between 2010 and 2013, the Department of Justice announced Friday. – Defense News

Trump Administration

U.S. officials and tech companies say Russians have continued online activity targeted at American voters during the campaign for Tuesday’s election, masquerading as U.S. institutions and creating faux-American social media posts to aggravate tensions around issues like migration and gun control. – Associated Press

Is the Department of Homeland Security ready to help protect next week’s midterm elections against foreign interference? Officials are doubling down on last-minute efforts to boost cybersecurity ahead of nationwide voting on Nov. 6. – Fifth Domain

Theodore Bromund writes: The U.S. has not devised an effective strategy to resist and roll back the politicization of Interpol. The Trump Administration should take this opportunity to develop and implement such a strategy, which must include replacing the ousted President of Interpol, Meng Hongwei of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), with a representative from a democracy. Absent U.S. action, Interpol, which is heavily used by U.S. law enforcement, will continue to lose credibility in ways that will damage both the institution itself and the interests of the U.S. – Heritage Foundation