Fdd's overnight brief

October 1, 2019

In The News


H.B. Fuller Co. , a U.S. manufacturer of adhesives, said it may have violated U.S. economic sanctions on Iran through the potential resale of its products by some customers of its subsidiaries. – Wall Street Journal 

The telephone line had been secretly set up. President Trump waited on the other end. All President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had to do was come out of his hotel suite and walk into a secure room where Mr. Trump’s voice would be piped in via speaker. […]In the end, Mr. Rouhani refused even to come out of his room. Mr. Macron left empty-handed and Mr. Trump was left hanging. – New York Times

Iran said Monday that the missile-and-drone attack on major Saudi oil sites was an act of “legitimate defense” by Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi rebels. – Associated Press 

Iranian courts have sentenced one person to death for spying for the United States and jailed two others for 10 years for the same crime, as well as imprisoning a fourth person for 10 years for spying for Britain, a judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Monday that destroying arch-rival Israel has become an “achievable goal” thanks to his country’s technological advances. “This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer… a dream (but) it is an achievable goal,” Major General Hossein Salami said, quoted by the Guards’ Sepah news site. – Agence France-Presse

Saudi Arabia has sent messages to Iran’s president through the leaders of other countries, an Iranian government spokesman said on Monday, at a time of heightened tensions between the regional rivals. – Reuters 

Robin Wright writes: Rouhani, who has staked his Presidency on ending Iran’s tensions with the outside world over its nuclear program, is now a lame duck. The fate of his last major diplomatic gamble will almost surely impact Iran’s parliamentary elections next year and its Presidential election in 2021. In Iran’s deeply polarized politics, the nuclear deal has been as unpopular among the regime’s hard-liners—for concessions made by Iran—as it has been with Trump’s advisers—for concessions made by the United States. – The New Yorker 


Protests ended in gunfire at a detention camp for internally displaced people in northeastern Syria on Monday, leaving four women injured, a medical aid group said. – Washington Post

The U.N. special envoy for Syria says the convening of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria on Oct. 30 “should be a sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people” — but it will matter only if it becomes a step out of the more than eight-year conflict. – Associated Press

Tom Rogan writes: Syria’s foreign minister this weekend issued a stark warning to U.S. military forces in Syria. […]President Trump should remind Bashar Assad that he will defend U.S. citizens and punish aggressors against them. The need for such a clear warning is real. […]But with Assad, Russia, and Iran all furious over Trump’s sensible decision to retain forces in Syria, Muallem’s words may be a precursor to new hostile action. […]Assad has already invited a new U.S. strike against his regime. He must know that if he attacks U.S. forces, the consequences will be truly severe. – Washington Examiner


Israel is quietly allowing thousands of Palestinians to enter from the Gaza Strip to conduct business and work menial jobs, apparently as part of understandings with the ruling Hamas militant group aimed at preventing a fourth war in the blockaded territory. – Associated Press 

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has accused Israel of being behind attacks on Iranian-backed militia positions in Iraq, the first time Baghdad has directly blamed Israel, Al Jazeera television reported on Monday. – Reuters

Israel, one of the pioneers of drone warfare, is now on the front lines of an arms race to protect against attacks by the unmanned aircraft. A host of Israeli companies have developed defense systems they say can detect or destroy incoming drones. But obstacles remain, particularly when operating in crowded urban airspaces. – Associated Press

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has edged away from a possible military confrontation with Iran despite its devastating attack on Saudi oil facilities, as the kingdom seeks to cool regional tensions and rehabilitate its image a year after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. – Wall Street Journal 

When Saudi Arabia hosted its high-profile investment conference just weeks after Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last October, top executives from some of the world’s biggest financial companies begged off, skipping the event over fears that negative publicity could tarnish their firms’ brands. A year later, human rights advocates say the kingdom has yet to deliver justice, failing to hold senior Saudi officials responsible for The Washington Post contributing columnist’s killing or to even reveal the location of his body. – Washington Post

Saudi King Salman’s personal bodyguard was killed over the weekend in what the official Saudi Press Agency said was a personal altercation with a friend. – Washington Post

Saudi Aramco has restored full oil production and capacity to the levels they were at before attacks on its facilities on Sept. 14, the chief executive officer of its trading arm, Ibrahim Al-Buainain, said on Monday. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

The Houthi group in control of Yemen’s capital released hundreds of prisoners on Monday in a unilateral move, which the United Nations hoped would help revive a stalled peace process after months of failed efforts to push through a prisoner swap. – Reuters 

Officials say Yemen’s Houthi rebels have denied entry to the top U.N. human rights official and ordered his plane to take off from the capital, Sanaa, shortly after landing. – Associated Press

An official at the Yemeni Ministry of Defense accused the Iran-backed Houthi militias of spreading propaganda in order to cover up for Tehran’s crimes. – Asharq Al-Awsat 

Michael Knights writes: Recent organizational shifts offer a glimmer of hope that Baghdad will stand up to Iranian influence, but implementation will be the test of their actual merit. […]These and other rogue actions have spurred a cautious government effort to reestablish comprehensive command and control, with the eventual goal of placing all militia and military arms under state control. Yet the chances of this effort succeeding are by no means assured, especially without concerted diplomacy and advice from Washington. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

John Bolton delivered a blistering critique of U.S. policy on North Korea in his first public speaking engagement since leaving his post as President Trump’s national security adviser—all without mentioning Mr. Trump by name. – Wall Street Journal 

North Korea and the United States have agreed to hold working-level talks on Oct. 5, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said on Tuesday, a development that would break months of stalemate since a failed summit in February. – Reuters 

South Korea on Tuesday displayed some of its newly purchased U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighter jets for the first time during its Armed Forces Day ceremony, a development that will likely infuriate rival North Korea. – Associated Press 

South Korean fighter jets conducted a patrol flight on Tuesday over islands at the center of a bitter dispute with Japan, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said at an event marking the founding of the South Korean military. – Reuters 

North Korea blamed the United States on Monday for a failure to restart stalled talks, more than a year after President Donald Trump’s first meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. – Reuters


Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over a grandiose military parade marking the 70th anniversary of Communist rule, a projection of strength as the country wrestles with a challenge from President Trump, while Hong Kong braced for another round of anti-Beijing protests. – Wall Street Journal 

A tour guide for Chinese visitors to California was also secretly working for Chinese intelligence, U.S. authorities alleged Monday as they unsealed a criminal complaint involving a double agent, dead drops and bundles of cash. – Wall Street Journal 

President Xi Jinping declared that no force could stop China’s rise, exuding confidence during a key anniversary as he faced unprecedented challenges from protesters in Hong Kong and Donald Trump’s trade war. – Bloomberg 

The way China is aggressively asserting itself in the South China Sea likely will be the way Beijing will behave in the increasingly contested domain of space, the executive secretary of the National Space Council said Monday. – USNI News 

Jimmy Lai writes: All this control is fueling unprecedented resentment and resistance—and not only in Hong Kong. Though it is now suppressed in China, there is every chance it will explode when triggered by a serious economic downturn. The China-U.S. trade war is an epochal event that can push China to the brink of collapse, especially if the U.S. links its values and human rights to its dealings with China. If China agrees to the structural changes America demands in this trade war, it will greatly increase China’s cost of doing business. And if Mr. Xi doesn’t agree to these structural changes and a deal with America is killed, the flow of foreign currency into China will slow, delivering a potentially fatal blow to an already weakened economy. – Wall Street Journal 

Jason Orestes writes: In the latest escalation in the trade wars, the U.S. is contemplating deploying a focused, strategic maneuver that is distinctly asymmetrical in its impact. It’s been essentially all tariffs so far… and the move under consideration to block U.S. investment in China, including potentially delisting Chinese companies from American exchanges, would be a major tactical and ideological blow to the anachronistic, mercantilist-esque Chinese economic model. The thing is, with or without a trade war, this should have happened a long time ago.. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

The two main contenders in Afghanistan’s presidential election both claimed they were ahead on Monday after ballot counting had barely begun, raising fears of a new political crisis in a nation convulsed by protracted war. – New York Times

Bhat was one of 19 people interviewed by The Washington Post across 13 villages in southern Kashmir who alleged abuses by the armed forces in the days after India launched a crackdown in the disputed region. […]The Indian army released a statement in response to detailed questions saying that the cases described by The Post are “baseless” and that “no complaint has been received” on such incidents from individuals or local authorities. Even in counterterrorist operations, the army said, it “has a strict protocol to protect lives.” […]The heavy security presence is a response to a long-running insurgency seeking either independence for Kashmir or a merger with Pakistan. – Washington Post

Pakistan’s government on Monday summoned India’s top diplomat in the country over accusations of deadly shelling by India in its portion of the disputed region of Kashmir, as tensions run high between the nuclear-armed rival nations. – Reuters 


President Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Attorney General William P. Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Mr. Trump hopes will discredit the Mueller investigation, according to two American officials with knowledge of the call. – New York TImes

Thousands of black-clad pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and marched in central Hong Kong on Tuesday, urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. – Associated Press 

Police shot tear gas volleys at protesters as simultaneous rallies raged across Hong Kong, including a march through the city center, hours after celebrations for a holiday marking 70 years of Communist rule in China began in Beijing. – Bloomberg


The U.S. Treasury Department issued new sanctions against the Kremlin-connected Russian businessman accused of orchestrating a campaign for Moscow to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, this time over alleged interference in the 2018 midterm vote. – Wall Street Journal 

In the two weeks since attacks blamed on missiles or drones shut down half of Saudi Arabia’s oil output, the country that has arguably moved most deftly to position itself for any upside is Russia. – Reuters 

Russia on Monday said it was “bewildered” by fresh US sanctions and vowed to retaliate following what it called an “anti-Russian attack.” The foreign ministry said the new sanctions on several Russians — including a businessman tied to President Vladimir Putin and a disinformation operation accused of conspiring to manipulate the US 2018 midterm election — “will not go unanswered.” – Agence France-Presse


Greece said Monday it wanted to start sending back thousands of migrants to Turkey, a day after a deadly fire sparked riots at an overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos. – Agence France-Presse

The trial of a neo-Nazi “terrorist” cell accused of plotting violent political upheaval in Germany opens Monday amid reports the country’s far-right scene is growing more armed and radical. – Agence France-Presse

British proposals to address the problem of the Irish border after Brexit, which were reported by Ireland’s state broadcaster RTE, are only preliminary and are not the “be all and end all” of the plans, Britain’s justice minister said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on Oct. 31, hopefully with a deal, finance minister Sajid Javid said on Monday. – Reuters 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday said a proposal to make EU development funds conditional on upholding democratic principles and the rule of law was no more than a “political slogan” used to attack member states. – Reuters 

Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Operating Officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned after a spying scandal that rocked Switzerland’s financial circles, which the lender said caused severe reputational damage to the bank. – Bloomberg 


A car bomber and a group of gunmen on Monday struck an air base in Somalia that American forces use in the fight against the militant group known as the Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the attack. Another car bombing took place later in the morning in Mogadishu, the capital. The explosion missed its apparent target, a group of Italian peacekeeping troops, but injured Somali civilians, according to local news reports. – New York Times

The U.S. military said on Monday that U.S. and partnered forces had killed 10 militants and destroyed a vehicle after Somali insurgents mounted an ambitious attack on a base where U.S. special forces train Somali commandos. – Reuters 

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday said they would put a man suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Mali to trial. – Reuters 

Militants in northeastern Nigeria killed at least nine people in an attack on Sunday, sources told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters 

Yasin Hagi Mohamoud writes: While this year’s United Nations General Assembly convened under the theme, “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion,” the forum will be unable to achieve a true international effort to tackle these challenges — not due to a lack of commitment, but rather to a failure of inclusion. My nation, the Republic of Somaliland, will not be attending, despite having achieved independence with many other African nations in 1960. – Washington Examiner

Latin America

President Martín Vizcarra of Peru ordered Congress to dissolve on Monday night, prompting lawmakers to try to suspend him and plunging the nation into uncertainty after a grinding, yearslong corruption crisis. – New York Times

Colombia on Monday publicly defended a dossier it says proves Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro supports guerrilla groups and drug traffickers but removed the armed forces’ head of intelligence after widespread criticism of the report. – Reuters 

Cuba said on Monday the Trump administration denied its health minister a visa to attend a Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) meeting in Washington and accused the United States of repeatedly violating its obligations as the host of an international organization. – Reuters

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, under fire all year to quit from the United States and its allies, exulted on Monday in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, though he did not expect the White House to let up against him. – Reuters


Army Gen. Mark Milley is taking over as the nation’s top military officer against a backdrop of controversy over defense aid to Ukraine that has triggered a presidential impeachment inquiry at a time of persistent threats from China, Russia and Iran. – Military Times 

Longtime Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, House Republican’s top voice on military and national security issues, announced he will not run for re-election next year, ending his 25-year congressional career. – Military Times 

Space technology is developing so fast that by the time the tech makes it through the acquisitions process and into orbit, it’s practically obsolete. […]To combat this trend, the U.S. Air Force’s space acquisition arm, the Space and Missile Systems Center, is focused on quickly building prototypes as a way to speed up development and bring nontraditional companies into the Pentagon’s space. – C4ISRNET 

The manufacturer says its Titan system hijacks incoming drones’ control signals, then tells them to land or return to base. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is putting up an invisible bubble along the southern border to stop drug-smuggling drones mid-flight. – Defense One 

Trump Administration

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among the administration officials who listened in on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president, a senior State Department official said Monday, a disclosure that ties the State Department more closely to the House impeachment inquiry. – Wall Street Journal 

President Trump on Monday suggested House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) be arrested for treason, a crime punishable by death or prison time, for exaggerating parts of the president’s call with Ukraine’s leader. – The Hill

The military aid scandal that spawned the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has a very different significance for Ukraine, where years of U.S. assistance have just begun to turn a ragtag army into a better-armed and professional force to counter Russian aggression. – Politico 

As President Donald Trump’s presidency is threatened by an impeachment inquiry, the Republican chairmen of two Senate committees, Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley, are asking Attorney General William Barr to investigate any ties between Ukraine and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. – Politico 

President Donald Trump attacked the Democratic lawmaker spearheading the impeachment inquiry on Monday as congressional committees subpoenaed his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for documents related to his dealings with Ukraine. – Agence France-Presse

The intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) on Monday appeared to push back on allegations that the rules regarding whistleblower reports had been changed shortly before the complaint regarding President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine was filed. – The Hill

Lawmakers face a delicate task as they try to obtain testimony from the person who blew the whistle on US President Donald Trump and Ukraine. They say they are concerned for that person’s safety, especially in light of the president’s tweets suggesting he believes the person’s actions could be treasonous. – Times of Israel