Fdd's overnight brief

November 8, 2019

In The News


The U.S. accused Iran of intimidating nuclear inspectors after a woman from the United Nations atomic agency was blocked from entering the country’s main enrichment site and briefly stopped from leaving the country, as tensions mounted over the 2015 nuclear deal. – Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Thursday that the International Atomic Energy Agency had validated his longstanding allegation that Iran has been maintaining a secret nuclear site in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty — a claim that the agency did not publicly confirm. – New York Times 

Iran accused an international atomic monitor of setting off explosives detectors at its main enrichment plant, ratcheting up tensions that threaten to tip the nation into a new nuclear crisis. – Bloomberg

Iranian media reported on Friday that Iran had shot down a drone over its southern port city of Mahshahr, without providing further details. – Reuters

Europe has not yet taken a decision on how to respond to Iran’s decision to resume enriching uranium, which is restrained under its non-proliferation deal, but every step Tehran takes makes things more difficult, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. – Reuters 

Iran’s recent “nuclear escalations” raise concerns that should move all countries to increase pressure on Tehran, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pomeo said on Thursday, as Iran resumed uranium enrichment at one of its nuclear facilities. – Reuters 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu urged the international community on Thursday to “pressure Iran until it changes its ways,” as tensions surrounding the Tehran regime’s disputed nuclear program spiked again. – Algemeiner 

Israeli intelligence sources expressed support for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, warning that “Iran can achieve a nuclear bomb within less than a year, if they decide to act quickly in that direction,” Kan 11 reported Thursday evening. – Arutz Sheva 

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s top inspector said that Iran is not cooperating with international inspectors investigating uranium particles discovered in a Tehran warehouse, Bloomberg news reported on Thursday. – Arutz Sheva 

In a report to be released later on November 7, the London-based think tank says the United States and its regional allies retain superiority in conventional forces over Iran. However, the sanctions-bound country has managed to counter that superiority by building “networks of influence” with proxies that allow Tehran to have a major influence over the affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


The senior U.S. diplomat for northeast Syria asserted in an internal memo that the Trump administration didn’t try hard enough to dissuade Turkey from intervening militarily in northeast Syria, a person familiar with the assessment said. – Wall Street Journal 

Revenue from oil fields that U.S. forces are protecting in northeast Syria will go to U.S. partner forces in the region and not the United States, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said Thursday. – The Hill 

There was a large explosion in one of the production units of Syria’s Banias refinery near the Mediterranean coast during maintenance operations, Syria’s oil minister said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Lawk Salah Ahmad writes: This is the only appropriate way to resolve this conflict. All involved parties, and particularly Turkey, must agree on mutual understanding with the actual representatives of the Kurdish people in the region for there to be any kind of stability in this region of Syria. If such a process does not occur, the current Turkish military operation against the Kurdish people at the Syrian-Turkish border will unquestionably have a lasting negative impact on not just Syrian Kurds, but all the Kurdish communities living in the other countries of the Middle East as well. – Washington Institute 


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a visit to EU member Hungary repeated his threat Thursday to “open the gates” for millions of refugees eager to flee to Europe unless more international support was provided. – Agence France-Presse 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday said that in his meeting next week with President Trump, he plans to raise the issue of a Kurdish militia he said the U.S. has failed to remove from the Turkish-Syrian border, according to Reuters. – The Hill 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he’s ready to buy American Patriot missiles if the terms are right, and will discuss the issue with Donald Trump next week. Turkey’s testy relations with NATO ally the U.S. have been strained by Ankara’s purchase earlier this year of a Russian-made missile defense system. – Bloomberg

Asher Kaufman writes: The Turkish government may not have considered the long-term implications of its own invasion of Syria, but if history teaches us anything, just as Israel’s invasion of Lebanon had important, long-lasting consequences for Israel and the Middle East at large, Turkey’s recent military operation is likely to alter the regional balance of power for the foreseeable future. The word “peace” in the operation’s title doesn’t hide that fact. – Foreign Policy 

Soner Cagaptay, Anna Borshchevskaya, Conor Hiney, Dana Stroul, and Charles Thépaut write: Thus far, Erdogan has found ways of leveraging Trump and Putin against each other to maximize Turkish gains in Syria. After obtaining Trump’s assent for the cross-border incursion, he brokered a similar deal with Putin at an October 22 meeting in Sochi. Yet his Washington trip will require a different approach: namely, building confidence with Congress and government agencies beyond the White House. More important, his security detail must avoid confronting protestors again. The visit will be considered a success if it does not add yet another layer of disagreement and discontent to bilateral relations. – Washington Institute


French authorities reopened one of Jerusalem’s most magnificent ancient tombs to the public for the first time in over a decade, despite a dispute over access to the archaeological-cum-holy site in the city’s volatile eastern half. – Associated Press

An Israeli plan to run a cable car over Jerusalem to the walls of the Old City has angered Palestinians who say it would erase their heritage in areas they seek for a future state. – Reuters 

The head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security and counterintelligence service, said Thursday that his organization had thwarted over 450 significant terror attacks in the previous year. – Times of Israel 

An Italian Jewish survivor of the Auschwitz extermination camp was under the protection of police officers on Thursday after she received hundreds of death threats on social media from far-right fanatics. – Algemeiner 

On October 17, 2019, the Magistrate Court in Ramallah complied with the request of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Prosecutor General, Akram Al-Khatib, to block 59 websites and Facebook accounts on the grounds that they contain “expressions and images that threaten national security and public order, violate the norms of order and decorum, incite rioting among the Palestinian public,” and “attack and insult the symbols of the PA.” Many of the sites that have been blocked are identified with the rivals of Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, and especially with Hamas and with the camp of Muhammad Dahlan, which frequently voice harsh criticism against the PA’s policy. […]The following are translated excerpts from two of these articles. – Middle East Media Research Institute


From Baghdad to the Shiite Muslim shrine city of Karbala and farther south, Iraqis are pushing for a revolution. They fill central squares to sing and dance from daybreak, and face down riot police when night falls. – Washington Post 

Iraqi security forces shot dead at least six anti-government protesters in Baghdad on Thursday and killed four others as they broke up a sit-in in the southern city of Basra, police and medical sources said. – Reuters 


Yemen’s Houthi movement fired missiles and drones at the Red Sea port city of al-Mokha on Wednesday, causing deaths and injuries and damaging a hospital, forces in the anti-Houthi military coalition said. – Reuters 

Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi met the head of the Southern Transitional Council on Thursday, in their first meeting since his Saudi-backed government and the separatists signed an agreement to end a power struggle in the south. – Reuters 

Olfat Al-Duba’i writes: In his briefing on Yemen’s peace process on October 17, the United Nation’s Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, causally mentioned the importance of bringing peace to the currently besieged city of Taiz. […]The time has come to alleviate peoples’ suffering and achieve peace in Taiz. And this will only be attainable through regional and international pressure, good intentions on the part of local political forces, as well as the inclusion of women, youth, and civil society organizations in the peace making process. – Washington Institute

Gulf States

An American woman trapped in a prolonged custody battle with her Saudi ex-husband over their 4-year-old daughter said Thursday that a Saudi court had reversed its previous ruling, granting her the right to maintain custody and take the child abroad. – New York Times 

Qatar has taken some steps toward resolving its tensions with its Gulf neighbors but must still do more, a senior Saudi official said in Washington. Encouraging moves include Qatar’s passage of a law against financing terrorism, according to the official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. – Bloomberg

The U.S.-led naval coalition in the Gulf, established in response to a series of attacks on oil tankers, opened a command center in Bahrain on Thursday, the U.S. Fifth Fleet said in a statement. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisia’s main parties rejected a proposal on Thursday by the moderate Islamist party Ennahda to name a prime minister from its own ranks following its victory in last month’s parliamentary elections. – Reuters 

Jordan’s prime minister reshuffled much of his cabinet on Thursday, appointing a former palace adviser as finance minister as he pursues efforts to slash the country’s debt under a tough economic reform program. – Reuters 

Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri met President Michel Aoun on Thursday without announcing progress towards forming a new government, and banking sources said most financial transfers out of the country remained blocked. – Reuters 

The White House is rejecting claims by its Middle Eastern ally Jordan that a Palestinian-Jordanian terrorist who was involved in the murder of U.S. citizens cannot be extradited to face trial in the United States. – Haaretz 

Jonathan M. Winer writes:  While it may not be possible to convince Russia to cease providing Hifter and the east the counterfeit, but not yet prohibited, currency, Libyan authorities do have tools to reassert their authority and to counter Hifter’s now-stalled assault on the capital. […]Doing that might in turn further help the government in the political negotiations to come needed to unify the country, share its wealth among all regions, and to eventually replace the militias with the unified, civilian-controlled professional military and police institutions the country needs for long-term stability and security. – Middle East Institute 

Brenda Shaffer and Alex Vatanka write: As they mark the collapse of the Berlin Wall this week, U.S. policymakers should take the opportunity to tear down their analytical wall between the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. The dynamics of the region are vastly different than they were three decades ago, and adjusting foreign policy in ways that reflect this will enrich analysis and undoubtedly lead to new policy options. – Middle East Institute 

Korean Peninsula

North Korea on Thursday called Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe an “idiot and villain” who should not even dream of setting foot in Pyongyang, in a media commentary laden with insults in response to his criticism of a North Korean weapons test. – Reuters 

North Korea has lashed out against “reckless military moves” by South Korea and the US after they opted to go ahead with a joint aerial drill amid deteriorating relations with Pyongyang over stalled nuclear diplomacy talks. – The Telegraph 

Takuya Matsuda and Jaehan Park write: With respect to Korean unification, Washington should manage South Korea’s expectations. The problem of North Korea is not confined merely to the Peninsula, but should be seen within the framework of Asian geopolitics and the Indo-Pacific, which encompasses security, economics, and ideology. As such, Korea’s unification is more likely to occur with the United States’ support. After all, Germany’s peaceful unification was possible when Bonn and Washington were in lockstep, not when either of them pursued its own policy. It would be a mistake for South Korea to pursue unification with such single-mindedness that it comes at the expense of its ties with its maritime partners — Japan and the United States. – War on the Rocks

Kee B. Park writes: The international community is rightly concerned with the humanitarian conditions inside North Korea. But we cannot hold these positions while also supporting policies that exacerbate the problem. The time is now to lift sanctions that harm and hamper the delivery of lifesaving medical and humanitarian aid. We should never have to ask for permission to save another human being’s life. – USA Today


The discovery, detailed in a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court Thursday, was one clue that led investigators to an alleged scheme by a Long Island company to import surveillance and security equipment from Chinese manufacturers for resale as purportedly American-made goods to U.S. civilian and government clients. – Wall Street Journal 

Negotiators are making progress toward finalizing a partial trade deal between the United States and China, including agreeing on the removal of some of the tariffs that have disrupted trans-Pacific commerce for the past year and a half. – Washington Post 

President Trump’s newly appointed Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios on Thursday criticized Chinese surveillance and censorship in his first major international remarks, ramping up the Trump administration’s intensifying battle to beat out China’s fast-growing tech industry.  – The Hill 

For years, Apple made huge inroads in the world’s most populous nation with hardware that boasted crisp displays, sleek lines and speedy processors. It peddled little of the content that boxed U.S. internet giants Google and Facebook Inc. out of the country. But now that Apple is becoming a major digital services provider, it’s struggling to avoid the fate of its rivals.  – Bloomberg

China has officially launched research and development work for 6G mobile networks, having only just rolled out 5G. The Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement posted Wednesday, that it will set up two working groups to carry out the task. – CNBC 

The nation’s top official for assessing the military capabilities of foreign powers believes China is playing a specific game in space in its efforts to become the premier power in space. – C4ISRNET

David Ignatius writes: The broader risk of a U.S.-China tech war — one that could potentially create two rival camps battling for global AI supremacy — was highlighted in an interim report released this week by a commission created last year by Congress. […]China’s plan to dominate AI and other key technologies has spawned a high-level debate among policymakers and industry leaders. Some have urged sharp limits on what American companies can share with China, as in the “entity list” ban on sales to Huawei, the Chinese company poised to dominate 5G telecommunications. Others have warned that such a “decoupling” of the global tech sector would leave everyone worse off. – Washington Post 

Gordon G. Chang writes: Many say Beijing is stalling, waiting for President Trump to be forced from office. That would be a mistake. Hostility to China is now so widespread that whoever wins the White House next year will probably continue the Trump administration’s hard-line approach. Although candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have taken potshots at the White House’s China policy, establishment figures of the party, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have largely supported Mr. Trump’s approach to China, especially on tariffs. In May, for instance, Mr. Schumer urged the president to “hang tough,” saying, “Strength is the only way to win with China.” – Wall Street Journal 

Peter Huessy and Bradley A. Thayer write: A final lamentable consequence of China’s nuclear modernization effort, as well as its prominent role in advancing nuclear proliferation, may be that it provokes both Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons themselves, further undermining strategic stability in the Indo-Pacific region. A key component of the necessary response is for the U.S. to have the appropriate conventional, space, missile defense and nuclear capabilities in the region to deter the threat from China while simultaneously reassuring U.S. allies. – The Hill 

South Asia

A controversial political dynasty that made Sri Lanka a centerpiece of China’s efforts to expand its influence in Asia and defeated an insurgency is aiming to reclaim power in this island nation. – Wall Street Journal 

The following report compiles all significant security incidents confirmed by New York Times reporters throughout Afghanistan from the past seven days. It is necessarily incomplete as many local officials refuse to confirm casualty information. […]Similarly, the reports do not include Taliban claims for their attacks on the government unless they can be verified. Both sides routinely inflate casualty totals for their opponents. – New York Times 

India has increased security a week before the Supreme Court rules on a disputed religious site that has been fiercely contested by majority Hindus and Muslims for decades, police and home ministry officials said on Friday. – Reuters 

Three Afghan judges and an administrative officer have been ambushed and shot dead while they were traveling from the southeastern province of Paktia to Kabul, officials say. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 


The death on Friday of a Hong Kong student following a police operation provoked a wave of anger and heralded a new phase in five months of confrontations between authorities and demonstrators calling for democracy in the semiautonomous Chinese territory. – Washington Post 

In a city split by months of anti-government protests, consumers now have a way to identify which businesses appear to share their views, putting shops on alert and offering Hongkongers a way to show their colors. – Wall Street Journal 

A 24-year-old mainland Chinese music student living in Hong Kong on Thursday became among the first to be convicted on a charge related to the months-long protests in the city, receiving six weeks in prison for carrying an expandable baton. – Washington Post 

The United States on Friday expressed concern over Cambodia’s crackdown on opposition to authoritarian leader Hun Sen, which has seen dozens of activists arrested and opposition leaders abroad preventing from returning. – Reuters 

Vietnam will inspect all phones imported from China, such as Huawei and Xiaomi models, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reports citing Nguyen Hung Anh, head of Vietnam Customs’ anti-smuggling and investigation department. – Bloomberg 

Taiwan and the United States are co-hosting a weeklong, multinational cybersecurity exercise on the east Asian island as it seeks to bolster its cybersecurity in the face of increasing cyberattacks. – Fifth Domain

Josh Rogin writes: As McConnell himself explained, it’s not just about Hong Kong. This is about the United States’ role in confronting Chinese Communist Party repression and aggression. The people of Hong Kong will fight for their rights, with or without U.S. support. But if we abandon them now, we sacrifice real moral and strategic leverage vis-a-vis Beijing — for soybean sales. Trump doesn’t seem to care, so Congress must act. – Washington Post 


Bribe allegations leveled in court against a VTB Group executive may complicate the Russian state-owned bank’s attempts to recoup a $535 million loan that’s part of a major debt scandal in Mozambique. – Bloomberg

Russia has deployed military helicopters to patrol an area near Syria’s border with Turkey in order to help protect Russia military police working on the ground, the Interfax news agency said on Friday. – Reuters 

A Moscow court has ruled to dissolve an indigenous peoples’ rights group, the second decision of its kind in less than a week that was criticized by European authorities on Thursday. – Reuters 

Russia will deliver a sophisticated short-range air-defense missile system to Serbia despite U.S. warnings of possible sanctions against the Balkan country if the transaction goes through. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Paul Roderick Gregory writes: Vladimir Putin’s nightmare is a prosperous, rule-of-law Ukraine integrated into the affluent West on Russia’s border. Such a Ukrainian success story would trace back to its popular revolution on Maidan Square in February 2004. Might Ukraine not give the Russian people ideas to do the same? It is for this reason that the Kremlin has conducted a frantic propaganda war to demonstrate Ukraine’s abject failure, its rampant corruption, and to instruct others in Russia’s “sphere of influence” not to follow Ukraine’s example. […]In a word, Ukraine has been thrown under the bus by the media and Democrats at the very time when it was poised to truly join the West. Ukraine has a long, bloody, tragic history. Our politicians seem intent on keeping up this record. – The Hill 


NATO has suffered “brain death,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview published Thursday, warning that the 29-member alliance can no longer coordinate strategically and that its promise of collective defense is now uncertain. – Washington Post 

As Brexit continues to reshape British politics, the country’s smaller political parties are breaking with precedent and pushing for pre-election nonaggression pacts in an effort to maximize their impact on next month’s general election. – Wall Street Journal 

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Sunday, Macron’s office said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Berlin must not forget Washington’s crucial role in allowing Europe and Germany to reunify after the Cold War, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, after Germany’s foreign minister called unity “a gift from Europe”. – Reuters 

The deputy leader of the UK Labour party, Tom Watson, a prominent voice against antisemitism within Labour’s ranks, stepped down on Wednesday after reportedly telling friends he was disillusioned with far-left party leader Jeremy Corbyn. – Algemeiner 

Leonid Bershidsky writes: Macron sounds bold, strategic, even prophetic at times — but his geopolitical judgments aren’t indisputable or even universally attractive. Most of all, they’re unproven. Waiting seems more attractive at this point than feverishly developing an expensive, politically iffy project. It’ll take much more than his eloquence to make Europe’s geopolitical repositioning a reality. – Bloomberg

James J. Carafano, Nile Gardiner, Walter Lohman and Theodore Bromund write: The American experiment is rooted in Western religion, culture, and ideas, and over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries was recognized universally as the basis of modern Western civilization and the foundation for good governance and a just society. Like for all civilizations, foundational concepts are constantly under challenge, reinterpretation, and revision. Westerners’ belief in immutable rights, however, is the idea that brought the two sides of the Atlantic together—and gives them common cause in facing the world’s challenges every bit as much as a convergence of material interests. This belief and partnership are worth preserving—and it is why American conservatives have a stake in the future of the transatlantic community. – Heritage Foundation


A Canadian mining company that employed workers who were fatally ambushed Wednesday in the West African nation of Burkina Faso offered no explanation on Thursday for the attack or the possible motives of the killers. – New York Times 

As jihadists wreaked ever more havoc in the last two years, mining firms in Burkina Faso rolled out extra security measures, from barracks for government troops protecting them to safe rooms for workers behind barbed wire and mounds. – Reuters 

South Sudan’s president and a former rebel leader agreed on Thursday to delay forming a unity government for 100 days beyond the Nov. 12 deadline, Uganda’s presidency said, buying time after concerns that war could resume if the two sides were pushed. – Reuters 

Chris W.J. Roberts writes: If the White House wants to exert genuine pressure on Cameroon, it must do more. Washington curtailed military aid earlier in 2019 but has not halted it. Concessional loans from international financial institutions continue to bail out the Biya regime from its political blunders and economic mismanagement. […]The West cannot ignore its culpability given its track record of support to a regime that refuses to deal with serious political and economic grievances and then ignores the humanitarian consequences of its actions. A reconsideration of U.S. support and a genuine effort to punish the Biya regime are long overdue. – Foreign Policy 

Nasreldin Wali writes: The path that Sudan must take is clear: initiate tangible and serious reforms on key issues in Sudanese society such as economic insecurity—from food and gas shortages to skyrocketing prices—while fostering a culture of social equality, protecting human rights, and freedom of expression.  Therefore, the government should increase job availability for Sudanese youth, who seek to return home, and ensure the quality of life for the next generation. Any movement on this issue, in particular, will be vital in demonstrating to young Sudanese that change is occurring in their home country. – Washington Institute 

The Americas

In a spasm of violence related to last month’s disputed presidential election, protesters kidnapped the mayor of a small town in central Bolivia on Wednesday, forcibly cut her hair, drenched her with red paint, made her sign an improvised resignation letter, then marched her through the streets barefoot, witnesses said. – New York Times 

Brazil voted for the first time with the United States on Thursday against an annual United Nations resolution condemning and calling for an end to Washington’s economic embargo on Communist-ruled Cuba, while Colombia and Ukraine abstained. – Reuters 

Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera announced a battery of measures on Thursday to tighten security and increase penalties for vandals as ongoing riots, looting and violence have left at least 20 dead over two weeks of protests. – Reuters 

Angry kin of nine American citizens massacred in a suspected gangland ambush in northern Mexico urged the government to accept U.S. help to destroy drug cartels that one grieving relative described as being “as bad or worse than ISIS.” – Reuters 

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on three Nicaraguan government officials as it seeks to add pressure to the leftist government of President Daniel Ortega over what Washington views as its undermining of democratic institutions and the rule of law. – Reuters 


Allegations that two former Twitter employees spied on users for the Saudi government have spotlighted the threat posed by insiders who exploit their access to the mountains of sensitive data held by tech companies. – Associated Press

The top Capital One security officer is moving to a new role in the wake of the bank’s data breach, a spokesperson confirmed to The Hill. – The Hill 

Facebook is considering restricting politicians’ ability to use highly detailed demographic and personal information to narrowly target would-be voters with ads, policy chief Nick Clegg confirmed Thursday in an interview with POLITICO — in a possible shift in the social network’s broadly permissive policy on political advertising. – Politico

Editorial: The fight over fact-checking prompted by Mr. Trump’s ad is one skirmish in a broader offensive by Democrats and liberals to turn social-media platforms into their information-enforcement arm. We hope Mr. Zuckerberg shows more foresight and fortitude, and that he accepts the temporary loss of allies on the left as a price for keeping the internet open for political speech. – Wall Street Journal 


As the cybersecurity director of the National Security Council, Wray is in charge of developing international cybersecurity partnerships. Previously she served as the acting deputy director of emerging security challenges at the Department of State, where she helped build space and cyber policies. At the CyberSat19 conference Nov. 7, Wray explained how her Space Cybersecurity Working Group was fostering communications between various organizations to enhance cybersecurity in space. – Fifth Domain 

Negotiations to build the Block V Virginia-class submarines will likely result in a contract for fewer subs than what Congress authorized, than the Navy wants and than industry can build, a shipbuilding executive told Wall Street analysts on Thursday. – USNI News

The Navy and submarine builders General Dynamics Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding are executing a recovery plan to get Block IV Virginia-class submarine production back on track, after the last five submarines in Block III delivered late. – USNI News

Three guided-missile destroyers escorts returned to their Norfolk, Va. homeport on Wednesday while their carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), remains on station just outside the Persian Gulf, a Navy official confirmed to USNI News on Thursday. – USNI News

Loren Dejonge Schulman writes: The practice of denigrating and ignoring the civilian men and women who are as much a part of our national security as their uniform counterparts has to end. Sustaining our military advantage will not be a sufficient measure to keep our strategic advantage, nor is the military capable of fulfilling government demands in economic, diplomatic, ideological, or technology competition. Indeed, to understaff and undermanage civilian counterparts does our uniformed force an enormous disservice. We measure what we value, we manage what we measure. Why, then, are there no national security civilian readiness metrics? – Defense One

Long War

A French court on Thursday upheld preliminary criminal charges against one of France’s biggest companies over allegations that it financed the Islamic State and other armed groups in Syria, while putting the lives of its employees there in danger. – New York Times 

European governments have resisted taking back their nationals who joined Islamic State in Syria, despite repeated entreaties from the Trump administration. Now Europe’s courts are weighing in. – Wall Street Journal 

The United States on Thursday offered a reward of up to $10 million for information on two senior leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the State Department said. – Reuters

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a leader of an al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group in Mali and warned the influence of Islamic State in West Africa was on the rise even as it lost territory elsewhere. – Reuters  

Charles Thépaut and Matthew Levitt write: When officials held their previous “D-ISIS” meeting in Paris this June, they concluded that “taking into account the uncertain security situation on the ground, it is particularly important that Coalition military forces remain in the Levant to provide the necessary support to our partners on the ground.” This commitment is now being severely tested by Washington’s decision to remove troops and essentially abandon the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Next week’s meeting will further test U.S. leadership on preserving the coalition framework, which is essential to coordinating actions beyond the military level and continuing the march toward long-term victory against ISIS. – Washington Institute 

Trump Administration

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is making plans to enter the Democratic presidential primary campaign this week, a reflection of anxiety among party elites about the unsettled field of current contenders. – Washington Post

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a tortured response Thursday to questions about the sworn impeachment testimony of his former senior adviser Michael McKinley, who told investigators last month that he approached Pompeo three times about the need to defend the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. – Washington Post 

A senior US diplomat saw President Donald Trump’s pressure for Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival as a threat to the rule of law in both countries, testimony released Thursday showed. – Agence France-Presse 

President Trump’s national security team lifted a hold on security assistance to Ukraine without permission from the White House budget office, a top U.S. diplomat testified last month during impeachment hearings. – Washington Examiner