Fdd's overnight brief

October 13, 2020

In The News


China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has called for a new forum to defuse tensions in the Middle East after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart where he reiterated Beijing’s support for Tehran. – Agence France-Presse

Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, state media reported on Sunday, as the country announced a new record high in daily fatalities. – Agence France-Presse

Iran has registered 251 new COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, a record daily toll, the health ministry said on Sunday, as the total number of identified cases rose above 500,000 in the worst-hit country in the Middle East. – Reuters

The Iranian rial fell to a new low against the U.S. dollar on Sunday as a record daily death toll from COVID-19 compounded concerns over new U.S. sanctions which may block some of Iran’s medicine purchases. – Reuters

Iran does not at this stage have enough enriched uranium to make one nuclear bomb under the U.N. atomic watchdog’s official definition, the agency’s head told an Austrian paper. – Reuters

President Trump warned Iran during an interview on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show not to “f— around” with United States. – Washington Examiner

Next June, Iranians will also elect a new president, as the era of Hassan Rouhani, who staked his career on clinching the historic nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, comes to an end, his legacy upended by hardliners in the U.S. and at home. – Bloomberg

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday called on the international community to condemn the Trump administration’s decision to blacklist Iran’s financial sector, the country’s official news agency reported. – Associated Press

Newly-released figures have confirmed what environment activists have known for years: successive Iranian governments have failed to protect Lake Urmia, one of Iran’s most precious ecological treasures. The lake, located in the province of West Azerbaijan, was once a haven for wildlife. But now it is vanishing at an alarming speed, the result of decades of neglect. – Iranwire

Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani (pictured), daughter of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is a reformer, just like her late father. And one of the things she wants to see reformed is Iran’s policy of hostility vis-à-vis Israel. – Israel Today

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Sunday for promoting trade with neighboring countries and boosting non-oil exports to face the impact of the US sanctions. – Asharq Al-Awsat

Editorial: The confidence Trump engendered among Iran’s neighbors by being tough on Tehran was important to sealing historic peace agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. With Iran on its heels and peace spreading in the Middle East, now is the time for America to press its advantages and ratchet up the pressure against its declared enemy. – Washington Examiner

Kevin Carroll writes: America should be prepared to give Iran a big bloody nose if Tehran acts out over the next few months — but on our terms, while marshaling limited forces for future needs, and allowing whoever takes the oath of office on Jan. 20 to focus on our now-overwhelming domestic needs. – Washington Examiner

Bobby Ghosh writes: Khamenei, for whom Iran’s confrontation with the U.S. is a war in all but name, may well want a warrior as president. The supreme leader has tried a civilian (Ahmedinejad) and two cleric-politicians (Mohammed Khatami and Rouhani), with little to show for it. Iran remains an international pariah, and Iranians have long since lost faith in the Islamic Revolution. From his point of view, giving the Guards a shot at protecting his legacy might just be the most logical thing to do. – Bloomberg


A Turkish ship set sail on Monday to carry out seismic surveys in the eastern Mediterranean, prompting Greece to issue a furious new demand for European Union sanctions on Ankara in a row over offshore exploration rights. – Reuters

Turkey said on Monday Greece had no right to oppose Turkish seismic exploration work 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from its mainland in the Eastern Mediterranean and on its continental shelf, as tensions between the NATO members spiked again. – Reuters

Greece accused rival Turkey of lacking credibility on Monday by sending a survey vessel into contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean, and of orchestrating the partial opening of an abandoned town on ethnically-split Cyprus. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told European Council President Charles Michel on Monday that progress was needed on improving ties between Ankara and the bloc, the Turkish presidency said, amid renewed tensions between Turkey and Greece over the eastern Mediterranean. – Reuters

Turkey’s army in Qatar is an element of instability in the Gulf region, a senior official of the United Arab Emirates has said, adding that it contributed to negative polarisation. – Reuters

Turkey has “activated” a Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft defense system to track F-16 fighter jets flown by several other NATO members, U.S. lawmakers and analysts suspect. – Washington Examiner

Evidence is mounting that Turkey has sent hundreds of Syrian mercenaries to fight for Azerbaijan. Videos of Syrians on the front lines are circulating on social media. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, says that 72 of them have already died in combat. The use of mercenaries indicates the difficulty in mobilising Azerbaijan’s youth to fight for a small, mountainous region populated by ethnic Armenians that it lost 30 years ago. – The Economist

Editorial: While the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, NATO, Pope Francis and others have called for a ceasefire, Erdogan fans the growing fire, offering Azerbaijan unwavering support. But it’s the history that makes this beyond horrific: Ankara still refuses to acknowledge its genocide of nearly 1.5 million Armenians at the end of the First World War, and now it’s bent on slaughtering countless more. – New York Post

Tom Rogan writes: In turn, the EU must now move expediently to impose sanctions on Erdogan. The EU should find overt American support. While the United States has a key strategic interest in maintaining its alliance with Turkey, that cannot come at the expense of European security. Nor can it come at the cost of sacrificing another American ally, Greece.[…]Erdogan must be sanctioned. If he escalates this situation further, the U.S. and EU should escalate right along with him. – Washington Examiner

Cengiz Candar writes: Erdogan, of course, is not stronger than the EU, the United States and Russia. But as a nationalist autocracy, Erdogan’s Turkey needs aggressive foreign policy adventures to distract public attention from the ever-deepening economic crisis. When the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean subsided, Turkey turned to the Caucasus. If the situation in the Caucasus de-escalates, then one should pay attention to northern Iraq and Syria, where Turkey has relatively more room to maneuver than in the eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus. – Al-Monitor

Mordechai Kedar writes: With that said, it is becoming harder for Erdogan to hide behind his NATO membership as he designs a foreign policy that is less West-oriented and more EU- and US-hostile — a far cry from the political reforms that were once promised for a democratic transition in Turkey. This will have consequences for the country’s regional and international relations as it becomes less and less reliable as a security partner, especially if it chooses to work increasingly with those who fight against the West. – Algemeiner


The Israeli government on Monday approved an airlift of 2,000 Ethiopians of Jewish descent to Israel in the coming months, prompting angry reactions from Ethiopian Israeli activists who insist that about 8,000 should be resettled. – New York Times

The exchange suggests something about the role that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long played in excusing injustices in Arab societies—and helps explain why many young people, especially in the Gulf states, are tired of sacrificing their interests to it. – Wall Street Journal

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan tweeted on on Monday that he had had a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss strengthening bilateral ties and the prospects for peace in the region. – Reuters

Israel would oppose any U.S. sale of advanced F-35 warplanes to Qatar, Israel’s intelligence minister said on Sunday, citing a need to maintain Israeli military superiority in the region. – Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder in the West Bank on Saturday, a Palestinian minister said, following a call by Lauder for Palestinians to revive peace talks with Israel. – Reuters

The leaders of Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to meet soon, the Israeli prime minister said on Monday, shortly before his cabinet approved an accord to normalize diplomatic relations with the Gulf Arab state. – Bloomberg

The first ship carrying cargo from the United Arab Emirates to Israel entered the Haifa Port on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s Missile Defense Organization is looking to develop directed-energy capabilities, and is in early talks with the Pentagon about collaborating on those efforts, according to agency director Moshe Patel. – Defense News

A recent poll published in the United Arab Emirates over the weekend shows that there is growing support for establishing ties with Israel in some Arab countries. – Israel Hayom

An overwhelming majority of social media posts in the Arab world about Israel’s recent normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were negative, an Israeli government report published on Sunday found. – Times of Israel

The UAE-Israel peace deal offers tangible benefits to Palestinians, a senior Israeli official has said. “If I can help bring a UAE company to invest in helping us build a Silicon Valley to [Arab] East Jerusalem, that’s a tangible benefit [to the Palestinians] of the UAE-Israel peace deal,” Fleur Hassan-Nahoum Deputy Mayor, Foreign Relations, Jerusalem Municipality and co-founder of the UAE Israel Business Council said. – Gulf News

The Palestinian leadership is facing immense pressure from several parties to resume peace negotiations with Israel, Palestinian sources said on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

A US entry ban on a Middle East correspondent with dual British and Israeli citizenship has been rescinded, following an outcry from media freedom advocates and policy experts who vouched for him. – Algemeiner

Palestinian support for the two-state solution has hit a nine-year low, dropping to 39% in the aftermath of the announcement of the Israeli-United Arab Emirates normalization deal, political scientist Khalil Shikaki told the Jerusalem Press Club on Monday morning. – Jerusalem Post

An Israeli government delegation is expected to go to Bahrain on Sunday, the first such visit since the countries announced they were making peace and normalizing ties last month. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Singh writes: Yet whatever reservations may be in order, the Israeli-UAE and Israeli-Bahraini agreements are, beyond a doubt, a net positive for U.S. interests in the region and a challenge for American rivals. China in particular will find its enormous economic influence in the region — and the diplomatic leverage it buys — diminished, and its ability to maintain cordial and profitable relations with all sides of the region’s conflicts undermined. – War on the Rocks

Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli writes: As Israel and some of the Gulf countries enter a new era of diplomatic and business relations, it should be realized that Jews have had a long history in that part of the Arab world. […]This report will focus on the Jewish presence in some of the Gulf countries from the 19th century to the present, based primarily on a well-documented book by Kuwaiti scholar Yusuf Ali Al-Mutairi titled al-yahud fi al-khaleej (“Jews in the Gulf”),[4] as well as some additional material that has recently become available. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Ari Ingel and Karys R. Oschin write: The movement’s core principle of “anti-normalization” works to restrict any interaction between Israelis and Arabs, and considers any form of cooperation treasonous. “Strongly condemning” the Abraham Accords, the BDS movement is now calling for a full boycott of United Arab Emirates-sponsored activities, festivals and projects. – Jerusalem Post


A group of Iran-backed militias said Sunday that it has agreed to a “conditional” cease-fire against U.S.-linked interests in Iraq on the condition that Washington present a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops. – Washington Post

A spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq, said the groups were presenting no set deadline, but that if U.S. troops “insisted on staying” they would unleash much more violent attacks. – Reuters

Dana Stroul, Bilal Wahab, and Barbara A. Leaf write: Iraq today highlights the strategic consequences of tactical steps. Although Kadhimi is the first Iraqi leader willing to take on this entrenched, corrupt system from which Iran benefits, his preferred approach is an incremental one that will avoid sparking a confrontation he believes he cannot currently win. The administration has already dealt a devastating political blow—but to the wrong target. It would do better to coordinate closely and marshal the requisite collective support for Kadhimi, lest the Iraqi fence-sitters and Kadhimi’s adversaries judge he is fatally wounded by a withdrawal of U.S. backing. – Washington Institute

Maya Carlin writes: In order for Kadhimi to stabilize the US-Iraqi relationship and quell civil upheaval on the ground in Baghdad, Iran must be confronted head on. Without effective countermeasures and sustained pressure, these militias will succeed in undermining the prime minister and increasing Iran’s footprint in the region. – Jerusalem Post


After the August port explosion that disfigured much of Beirut, many compared the city to a phoenix that would rise again. […]Two months later, some businesses have begun to reopen, and teams of volunteer engineers and architects are working to save heritage buildings. But even the bullish say they do not believe a full recovery is possible, pointing to the lack of government leadership and resources, combined with an imploding economy that has put even basic repairs beyond the wallets of many residents. – New York Times

Lebanon and Israel, formally still at war after decades of conflict, launch talks on Wednesday to address a long-running dispute over their maritime border running through potentially gas-rich Mediterranean waters. – Reuters

Lebanon on Monday announced the members of the delegation it is sending to hold indirect talks later this week with Israel over the disputed maritime border between the two countries. – Times of Israel

In two recent articles on Saudi media, Lebanese journalists urged their country to follow the example of the UAE and Bahrain and advance towards peace with Israel. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Patricia Karam writes: Lebanese kleptocrats have nothing to lose by participating in these talks. While showing flexibility on the issue the United States cares about, they will be hard to convince with a new government. However, the Lebanese people, after a terrible year of protests and severe crisis, have everything to lose with the fateful return of Hariri as prime minister. – The Hill

Arabian Peninsula

Fighting in Yemen has intensified in recent days, threatening to unspool a stalled peace process and deepen what aid groups call the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. – Wall Street Journal

The Saudi-led coalition said on Saturday it intercepted and destroyed two explosive-laden drones launched towards Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis. – Reuters

The Saudi-led coalition said on Sunday that it intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone launched by Yemen’s Houthis towards the kingdom’s Najran city, the state news agency reported. – Reuters

Felice Friedson writes: Normalization requires many steps, and recognizing not only the trial balloons but also the tangible public changes is vital to the kingdom’s re-branding. It will not come overnight and it will not come without mistakes. But nods and winks toward the Jewish state provide reason to believe the stage is being set for tectonic change. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Again and again in the Middle East, where volatility has burnished or battered previous presidential legacies, President Trump has run roughshod over conventional thinking, advancing key policy aims or fulfilling campaign promises in ways that experts warned could set off a conflagration or blow up in his face. – New York Times

Despite death threats, a barrage of hate, Nazi rhetoric and antisemitic backlash, Emirati Norah al-Awadhi has no regrets about posing in an image with her Israeli friend. It has become an icon of the historic Abraham Accords. – Jerusalem Post 

The Trump administration predicted that the normalization deals signed in September between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain would have a domino effect on regional peace, with as many as nine countries lining up to sign deals with the Jewish state. But while many analysts believe that further peace deals are likely, there is also a growing concern that the moves could spark an arms race, injecting increasingly advanced US military weapons into an already highly armed and fraught region. – Times of Israel

Gideon Rachman writes: The Russian, Turkish and Saudi leaders are all nationalists with regional ambitions.[…]As their economies struggle, all three leaders need more than ever to demonstrate strength overseas. The danger of clashes between them is rising. – Financial Times

Korean Peninsula

North Korea displayed what appeared to be its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile during a nighttime military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday, but it was not immediately clear if the missile would work or was for show. – New York Times

North Korea celebrated 75 years of communism with a military parade at which it unveiled an intercontinental missile that experts say is likely larger than anything else like it on Earth. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea, even as it pursued denuclearization talks with the Trump administration, kept advancing its arsenal. Now the behind-the-scenes progress is in the public eye. – Wall Street Journal

The reason: what appeared to be a huge new intercontinental ballistic missile paraded through the streets of Pyongyang on Saturday that served as a chilling reminder that North Korea’s nuclear deterrent is a very real threat to the U.S. homeland. – Washington Post

Chinese social media filled with outrage that the BTS leader, Kim Nam-joon, who performs under the stage name RM (formerly Rap Monster), did not also recognize the sacrifices of the Chinese soldiers who fought on the side of North Korea. – New York Times

North Korea’s new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, paraded through the streets of Pyongyang this past weekend, has underscored a worrying reality: The global threat from nuclear weapons and menacing missiles has grown since President Trump entered office, despite his administration’s fitful efforts to control them. – Washington Post

Japan may not attend a leaders’ meeting with South Korea and China this year unless “proper measures” are taken in a dispute with South Korea over compensation for wartime forced labour, Japanese media said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A senior U.S. administration official on Saturday called North Korea’s display of a previously unseen intercontinental ballistic missile “disappointing” and called on the government to negotiate to achieve a complete denuclearization. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched tens of thousands of dancers, gymnasts and other performers in a large-scale celebration on Sunday of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to shed tears at the weekend as he thanked citizens for their sacrifices, in the most striking demonstration yet of how he is relying on his “man of the people” persona to tackle his country’s deepening crises. – Reuters

South Korean officials have seized on conciliatory comments by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the weekend as a sign that tension could be easing but also worry the huge number of rockets he showcased is evidence that peace may be elusive. – Reuters

South Korea urged the North on Sunday to stick to agreements that bar armed clashes between the neighbours, in comments made a day after North Korea unveiled new strategic and tactical weapons at a predawn military parade. – Reuters

South Korea doesn’t have to remain allied with the United States as the American rivalry with China intensifies, according to a key envoy. – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: In short, what we saw on Sunday appears to give physical substance to Kim’s July warning that he has lost patience with Trump’s diplomacy. One way or the other, something will have to give. – Washington Examiner


President Trump’s bet that he could tame China’s rise through a mix of personal charisma and dealmaking prowess has faltered in the fourth year of his presidency — giving way to the most hostile period of bilateral relations in decades and a pitched conflict that could endure for a generation. – Washington Post

The Hong Kong police said on Saturday that they had arrested nine people accused of helping a group of protesters, who were later intercepted by the mainland Chinese authorities, flee the city in August by speedboat. – New York Times

The U.S. has been fighting a trade war with China over broad economic terrain—agriculture, steel, electronics. Newly entering the battlefront is a crucial American technology: the twist-tie. – Wall Street Journal

Worsening Sino-U.S. relations present huge risks to technology supply chain security for China’s financial network, Fan Yifei, a central bank vice governor said on Monday, according to China Finance, a magazine run by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). – Reuters

Detained Australian writer Yang Hengjun is accused of espionage and his case is currently being heard by a Beijing court, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday. – Reuters

China and Cambodia signed a free trade agreement on Monday, put together in under a year and aimed at slashing tariffs and boosting market access between Beijing and one of its most important Asian allies. – Reuters

The leaders of the State Department and the Education Department joined forces to warn that K-12 classrooms and universities nationwide are being targeted by the Chinese Communist Party’s influence operations, including the presence of Confucius Institutes on campus. – Washington Examiner

With relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorating, and companies increasingly being caught in the crossfire, AVIC could join Huawei Technologies Co., ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat as a target for U.S. politicians wanting to crack down on China’s reach. – Bloomberg

As China pushes to become a blue-water power, nuclear-powered submarines are critically important to Beijing’s plan. Historically the Chinese Navy’s (PLAN) nuclear-powered submarine fleet has been constrained by its limited construction capacity. There is only one shipyard in the country up to the task. But that yard has been undergoing a massive enlargement. And now, recent satellite imagery suggests an additional capacity expansion. – USNI News

Rick Noack writes: But while confidence in China plummeted, approval of the United States also dropped to a record low in Australia and among six other allies, including Britain, Canada and Japan. Across many of the nations in question, Trump is less trusted than Xi. […]And in the United States and many foreign capitals, Trump’s opponents hope that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is leading in polls, could mend strained ties if elected. – Washington Post

Tate Nurkin and Evanna Hu write: The Chinese government has known and built, since the 1990s, its arsenals in indirect warfare. The only way to combat Chinese authoritarian values is to construct resiliency of norms, outcomes, and more importantly, vision of what democratic societies stand for. But the reconstruction will only work with U.S. leadership at the helm to enhance opportunities for security, freedom, and shared prosperity in a new international system. – The Hill

John Owen writes: Those who detect a reversal in the 20th century spread of democracy, or dangers for democracies themselves, are not imagining stories. Plenty of the blame lies with the democracies themselves. Their governments have altered the liberal niche so it skews the economy, alienates many citizens, and undermines democracy. Meanwhile, China is shifting its international environment to select in autocracy. How far it succeeds could decide the fate not only of that regime but of global democracy. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: For all our flaws, the U.S. can respond to China’s aggression by offering a hand of friendship to those smaller nations it bullies. And while China might be able to bully one nation into retreat, confronted by a partnership of many nations, Xi’s ambitions can be restrained. – Washington Examiner


After months of tortuous negotiations and diplomatic efforts to settle the 19-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, President Trump’s tweet last week saying he intends to bring all U.S. troops home by Christmas has landed here like a bomb from nowhere, leaving Afghan hopes for nascent peace talks scattered like shrapnel. – Washington Post

The nation’s top general declined on Sunday to endorse either of the sudden announcements on Afghan troop withdrawals that came out of the White House last week. – New York Times

The Taliban have opened an offensive on the southern Afghan city of Lashkar Gah, overrunning some of its surrounding security checkpoints and largely cutting it off, even as their negotiators remained at the table for talks with the Afghan government that appear stalled. – New York Times

But outside the base, Afghan officials say, the U.S. withdrawal has had an outsized impact. Targeted killings are on the rise, school attendance is down, and Taliban fighters are expanding their areas of influence, according to residents and officials. – Washington Post

Mr. Trump has long vowed to leave Afghanistan and, more broadly, to conclude what he calls the United States’ “endless wars” across the Middle East, reviving a core theme from his 2016 campaign that some data suggest could have played a crucial role in his election. – New York Times

The United States launched air strikes against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, U.S. officials said on Monday, after a large-scale offensive saw insurgents take over military bases in the region and close in on a key provincial capital. – Reuters

The top general in the United States dodged questions on a timeline for U.S. withdrawals from Afghanistan after President Trump said all U.S. troops “should” be “home by Christmas.” – The Hill

United States forces in Afghanistan announced early Monday that they have continued to defend Afghan partners from attacks by the Taliban even as Taliban-Afghan government peace negotiations enter their second week. – Washington Examiner

Bernard-Henri Lévy writes: In a Kabul groaning under the weight of refugees, where foreigners haven’t been seen in the street since President Trump’s summer announcement of the American withdrawal, carnage like today’s can occur anywhere at any time. – Wall Street Journal 

South Asia

Pakistan has become the latest country to ban TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform, in a move that government critics said stemmed as much from politics as from allegations of immoral content. – New York Times

India opened dozens of new bridges — many of them providing all-weather access along its disputed border with China — in a move that could provoke a fresh round of tensions. – Bloomberg

A top U.S. envoy speaking in New Delhi has called China “an elephant in the room” and said Washington is keen to advance India’s interests across the Indo-Pacific region. – Associated Press

An Indian court has reached out to a group of Chinese banks that are trying to recover money from Anil Ambani, in the latest twist in a personal bankruptcy case against the former billionaire. – Bloomberg

Ruchir Sharma writes: Can Vietnam continue its success, despite potential obstacles such as shrinking populations, declining trade and an autocratic government’s tenacious grip on power? Probably. While its own working age population growth is slowing, most Vietnamese still live in the countryside, so the economy can continue to grow by shifting workers from rural areas to urban factory jobs. Over the last five years, no large country has increased its share of global exports more than Vietnam has. – New York Times


Political turmoil following a disputed election in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan continued over the weekend as parliament chose a prime minister who was recently freed from jail while security services detained the country’s ex-leader. […]Kyrgyzstan has been a stage for competing Russian, Chinese and U.S. interests since independence from the Soviet Union. – Wall Street Journal

Feted by progressives globally for compassionate and decisive responses to crises, she earned the nickname “the anti-Trump” for her embrace of multilateralism and liberal values. Ardern is on course to comfortably win a second term in elections Oct. 17, with her Labour Party holding a double-digit lead over conservative National in surveys. – Washington Post

With tensions soaring in the Taiwan Strait, China responded to Taiwanese overtures for dialogue by releasing new footage showing a large-scale military exercise simulating an invasion and a purported confession from a Taiwanese businessman held captive in China on spying charges. – Washington Post

The White House is moving forward with three sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan, sending in recent days a notification of the deals to Congress for approval, five sources familiar with the situation said on Monday. – Reuters

The premier of Australia’s most populous state told a corruption inquiry on Monday that she had had a secret “close personal relationship” with a politician under investigation for monetising his position through business dealings with China. – Reuters

Taiwan’s government has denounced China, citing entrapment and manipulation, after Chinese state television aired a documentary showing a Taiwanese citizen confessing to visiting Hong Kong to support anti-government protesters there. – Reuters

Japan’s Coast Guard said on Sunday that two Chinese vessels entered what Japan considers its territorial waters near disputed islands in the East China Sea. – Reuters

The foreign ministers of Philippines and China reaffirmed their countries’ strong relations on Saturday, Manila’s foreign ministry said, amid bilateral tensions over the South China Sea. – Reuters

An informal grouping bringing together India, Australia and Japan with the United States could be opened to other countries that support a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Beigun said on Monday. – Reuters

The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said on Tuesday that Beijing and members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) should work together to remove “external disruption” in the South China Sea. – Reuters

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will set up an office at Cambodia’s national police headquarters to help track down American criminals, at a time when Washington is seeking to repair strained relations with a close ally of China. – Reuters

Taiwan has labelled new spying accusations by China as fake news after Chinese state television aired a programme showing a Taiwanese academic arrested in China on national security grounds at a time of heightened Taipei-Beijing tensions. – Reuters

The Australian government is seeking clarification from Beijing on reports that China has suspended purchases of Australian coal amid heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries. – Bloomberg

Freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea puts stress on the fleet when the Navy could use that time more effectively “to train up for high-end conflict,” a national security expert who served in the Trump administration said Friday. – USNI News

Michael Schuman writes: That makes Taiwan the ultimate test for Washington in Asia. If Beijing does dare to attack the island, what happens next may well determine whether China or the U.S. reigns supreme in the Pacific. Failure by Washington to stand by Taiwan would potentially unravel the American alliance system in the region, and destroy American power along with it. The battle over Taiwan may be a Cold War relic, but it will shape the future. – Defense One

South Caucasus

Fierce fighting over a breakaway Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan partly subsided on Saturday after a cease-fire took effect. But there was little expectation of a durable peace two weeks into the most violent conflict that the volatile region has seen in decades. – New York Times

Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of intense shelling on Sunday, denting hopes that a Russia-brokered cease-fire announced the previous day will hold following two weeks of fierce clashes over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. – Wall Street Journal

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has asked his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to press Armenia to abide by the terms of a Russian-brokered truce in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Turkish foreign ministry said on Sunday. – Reuters

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that Moscow, if necessary, will use troops to ensure Armenia’s security. However, the Russian newspaper Vzglyad wrote that a build-up of the Russian military presence in Armenia may prove complicated due to Georgia’s position. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in a phone call Monday that Armenian forces must immediately be removed from Azeri lands they occupy and halt attacks on civilians, Turkey’s ministry said. – Reuters

Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday accused each other of attacks over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh despite a cease-fire deal brokered by Russia to try to end the worst outbreak of hostilities in the region in decades. – Associated Press

President Trump’s silence on a weeks-long conflict in the southern Caucasus is roiling the Armenian community in the U.S., which is expressing outrage over a lack of action by the administration. – The Hill

State-produced videos of armored vehicles being devastated by airstrikes during the recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has caused some to wonder whether tanks are too vulnerable, slow and expensive for modern warfare. – Army Times

Christos A. Makridis and Alex Galitsky write: While Azerbaijan has attempted to shield itself from international scrutiny by riding on the presence of tense domestic politics in the United States and a global pandemic, we cannot ignore it any longer. The international community must recognize that failure to stand up for religious minorities anywhere is a threat to them everywhere. Inaction creates precedent and emboldens dictators. – The Hill

Janusz Bugajski and Margarita Assenova write: Washington now has a valuable opportunity to begin decisive international mediation not only to stop the armed conflict but also to negotiate a durable settlement. Previous formats, including the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, France and the U.S., have obviously failed to resolve the conflict. […]U.S. leadership, with support from the EU and NATO allies, can not only defuse the war, it can also prevent the region from falling under even more pernicious Russian and Iranian influence. – The Hill

Mason Clark and Ezgi Yazici write: Azerbaijan therefore likely seeks to use the current conflict to deepen Turkish support outside the Minsk Group framework, introduce Azerbaijan’s capability to launch offensive operations into Armenia’s calculus in negotiations, and initiate a new diplomatic process – even if it is dominated by the Kremlin – that challenges Armenia’s control of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan likely believes Armenia will blink first in a standoff due to Azerbaijan’s stronger economy and overt Turkish military support, such as the deployment of F-16s and SNA fighters, in the absence of similar Russian support to Armenia. – Institute for the Study of War

Luke Coffey writes: Far from being just a localized conflict in a place far from Washington, DC, the fighting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian militaries and Armenian-backed militias in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region could destabilize an already fragile region even further. What happens in the South Caucasus usually does not stay in the South Caucasus. Because the region is so important for transit, trade, and energy reasons, geopolitical shocks in the South Caucasus often have second and third order effects across the broader region. – Middle East Institute

Maxim A. Suchkov writes: In the Middle East, Russia has grown into a skillful player. In post-Soviet politics, it has mostly been rather clumsy. In the Caucasus, throughout its history, Russia has been both. From working with allies to countering rivals, it will soon be clear whether Russia has learned something in the Middle East that it can now apply to its own “near abroad.” – Middle East Institute


The European Union agreed Monday to impose targeted sanctions against Russian officials and entities allegedly involved in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny but officials insisted the move should not undercut Europe’s continued high-level contacts with President Vladimir Putin.- Wall Street Journal

Bulgaria’s ambassador was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday in connection with the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Bulgaria last month who had been accused of spying, the RIA news agency reported. – Reuters

Russia declared two Bulgarian diplomats personae non grata on Monday, the Russian foreign ministry said, describing the move as a response to Bulgaria’s expulsion last month of two Russian diplomats suspected of spying. – Reuters

A gunman opened fired at a bus and a bus stop in central Russia on Monday, killing three people and wounding three more, police said. […]The motive for the shooting hasn’t been revealed, but Russian authorities haven’t indicated the shooting was terror-related. – Associated Press

President Trump is looking to Vladimir Putin to close the deal on a pre-election nuclear agreement, a timetable that’s an October surprise even for senior Republicans and some in the White House. – Axios

Judyth Twigg writes: But he had already missed becoming the first world leader to get one approved. Vladimir Putin of Russia had already done it. And in stark contrast to Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach, Mr. Putin is using his under-tested vaccine as part of a global full-court press to win friends and enhance his country’s soft power. – New York Times

Tom Rogan writes: A nuclear arms control agreement with Putin is both possible and preferable. But it cannot come at the expense of other critical American interests. A line must be drawn over what Russia has done to Navalny. Trump should join the Europeans and impose sanctions on the Kremlin. – Washington Examiner


European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to impose sanctions on President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, widely seen as having stolen the recent election — but they also appeared to offer him a way out of the penalties. – New York Times

French President Emmanuel Macron and other EU leaders will insist on tough enforcement rules for any trade deal with Britain, warning that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s bid to override the Brexit treaty has shown Britain’s word cannot be trusted, the Financial Times reported. – Reuters

Britain will work as hard as it can to secure a post-Brexit agreement with the European Union by Oct. 15 but the country is prepared to move ahead without a free trade deal, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday. – Reuters

The European Union’s new trade chief has told the U.S. to withdraw tariffs on more than $7 billion of EU products or face additional duties on exports to Europe, as he urged a settlement to the dispute over Airbus SE and Boeing Co, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. – Reuters

Russian-made jet fighters, helicopter gunships and tanks fired at ground targets while Chinese combat drones flew overhead on Saturday at the desolate Pester training ground in Serbia’s westernmost region in a show of revamped military power. – Reuters

Norway has granted asylum to a Polish man who had fled prison term for fraud and forging of documents, but says the prison term was a form of political persecution under Poland’s right-wing government. – Associated Press

Finland, a non-NATO ally, has been cleared to purchase $12.5 billion in F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, boosting the Nordic country on the Russian front line. – Washington Examiner

Yannis Palaiologos writes: Americans should not take for granted that this message will be heard in their country. American white supremacists such as Matthew Heimbach, who promoted the fateful “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, made no secret of their admiration for Golden Dawn. […]The cordon sanitaire that has kept such groups at bay has noticeably frayed in the Trump era. Greece came to the brink — and turned away. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: That blackmail effort speaks to the nature of Xi Jinping’s investments. They always come with unpleasant political strings attached. This is something that former Prime Minister David Cameron never understood as he sought to maximize Chinese investment in Britain. Put simply, a deal with the Chinese communist dragon will always ultimately burn you. Fortunately, Britain appears to have woken up in the nick of time. – Washington Examiner

David Auerswald writes: For now, willing NATO members and partners should focus on more robust training, exercises, and a rotational presence in the Arctic. If done outside of formal NATO command, these actions could advance the alliance’s own security interests and prepare it for an increased regional role should actions by Russia and China force its hand. – War on the Rocks

Andrew R. Novo writes: The crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean is not only challenging regional security, it is testing the EU’s willingness to defend the values it claims to cherish. To preserve its legitimacy, the EU must act cohesively and decisively. European policymakers need to remember that diplomacy is not just open-ended dialogue. And this dispute is not merely a parochial territorial squabble, but a fight over how the rule of law will figure in Europe’s neighborhood for years to come. This is no time for prevarication. Real values are at stake. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The Shabab, the Somalia-based militant group that is Al Qaeda’s most powerful ally in Africa, is not only collecting millions of dollars in tariffs and payoffs but moving the money through local banks and even investing it in real estate and businesses, according to a new United Nations Security Council report. – New York Times

The Swiss foreign ministry said on Friday it had been informed by French authorities that a Swiss hostage who had been held in Mali for four years was dead. – Reuters

Malian politician Soumaila Cisse’s captors kept him constantly on the move in the inhospitable desert, he told French television, describing his six months with al-Qaida-linked militants as “near permanent physical and moral isolation.” – Associated Press

Latin America

In the Venezuelan town of Urachiche, long a bastion of support for President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party, a radio station broadcast messages in September calling for a protest over decaying public services and chronic fuel shortages. – Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department slapped sanctions Friday on Nicaragua’s attorney general, the U.S.-born private secretary to President Daniel Ortega and a savings-and-loan business. – Associated Press

An Iranian-flagged oil tanker left Venezuela on Friday for Iran’s Kharg Island, Refinitiv Eikon data showed, after the vessel loaded 1.9 million barrels of heavy crude at the South American country’s Jose oil terminal. – Reuters

Jorge Jraissati writes: For this reason, I would argue that the U.S. foreign policy is — at least — partially responsible for this growing relationship between Caracas and Iran. While the Treasury’s sanctions against Venezuelan officials and oligarchs are being effective, the sanctions against the Venezuelan oil industry are having the unintended consequence of bringing Iran and Venezuela together. As a result, my recommendation to the State Department would be to reevaluate the desirability of the Treasury’s sanctions against the Venezuelan oil industry, PDVSA. – National Review

North America

Federal and state officials revealed Thursday that they had thwarted a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, unsealing charges against 13 people who they say were involved in various plans to attack law enforcement, overthrow the government and ignite a civil war. – Washington Post

But the Watchmen and their associates did not stop at demonstrations, state and federal officials said Thursday, and eventually plotted to attack the Capitol and kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Their broader goal, according to a state affidavit: “civil war leading to societal collapse.” – Washington Post

The nation’s top intelligence official briefed lawmakers last month that foreign influence campaigns targeting Congress were more expansive than previously known, but a lack of specifics has left some with questions, multiple sources tell The Hill. – The Hill

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe has reviewed the classified intelligence from a 2018 Republican-led House Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. – Washington Examiner

A senior executive for Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies has been denied access to most of the documents her lawyers hoped to use to help prevent her extradition to the United States. – Associated Press

Kevin K. McAleenan and Thomas K. Plofchan III write: The challenges are daunting, but law enforcement on many levels is responding. Efforts include the FBI’s work to investigate domestic terrorism cases and to counter foreign influence; the U.S. Secret Service’s analysis and guidance on factors leading to mass attacks; and the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency’s support for local communities with training and other resources. […]The best antidote to violent extremism is for the American people to exercise the most powerful guarantor of democracy and freedom — by casting their ballots. – Washington Post

Walter Russell Mead writes: The next administration should cultivate the sources of U.S. strength. Whoever holds the White House will have the chance to reshape and renew American alliances as the shift of U.S. strategic interest to the Indo-Pacific gains momentum. For Mr. Trump the danger is that he will be unable to shift from disruption to building in a second term. For Joe Biden the risk is that the new team will be too focused on restoring the pre-Trump status quo to seize the historic opportunities before it. – Wall Street Journal

Anthony Ferrante writes: Malicious actors are consistently finding new vulnerabilities and access points to exploit, giving them a seemingly perpetual upper hand. Securing the 2020 presidential election — and our democracy — requires a proactive and innovative mindset that leaves politics out of the equation and rather focuses on the three pillars developed in 2016. Otherwise, we teeter on the edge of giving power to outside forces, instead of it remaining with the people who fought so tirelessly for this right. – The Hill

Eric Tucker writes: Those attacks on the Russia probe may not win over many undecided voters. But they could energize Trump’s base at a time when the campaign needs a strong turnout in crucial battleground states. – Associated Press

Clarence Page writes: Yet, acting Homeland Security director Chad Wolf writes in the department’s new threat assessment report, released Wednesday, that he is “particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years.” […]Indeed, race is only one element in the rise of angry right-wing militancy, although its visibility often adds fuel to the fire. That’s alarming — and, having lived through too many crises of racial tension since the early 1960s, I am not easily alarmed. – Chicago Tribune


The choose-your-own-adventure nature of QAnon makes it compelling to vulnerable people desperate for a sense of security and difficult for Twitter and Facebook to control, despite their efforts. It’s becoming increasingly mainstreamed as several QAnon-friendly candidates won congressional primaries. And the FBI has warned that it could “very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal, sometimes violent activity.” – Washington Post

In recent weeks, the U.S. military has mounted an operation to temporarily disrupt what is described as the world’s largest botnet — one used also to drop ransomware, which officials say is one of the top threats to the 2020 election. – Washington Post

Facebook Inc. FB 4.27% said it would begin removing Holocaust denials or distortions from its social-media platforms, a move that follows years of complaints from civil-rights groups that the company tolerated hate speech and enabled the spread of misinformation. – Wall Street Journal

World governments have failed to agree to new rules on taxing the profits of multinational companies, a long-running point of tension between the U.S. and Europe over levies paid by the likes of Apple Inc. and Google and one that has raised the threat of trans-Atlantic tariffs. – Wall Street Journal

As the Trump administration and lawmakers attempt to cut technology ties with China, they are facing powerful opponents: U.S. companies that say some of the measures are too costly and cumbersome. – Washington Post

Microsoft announced legal action Monday seeking to disrupt a major cybercrime digital network that uses more than 1 million zombie computers to loot bank accounts and spread ransomware, which experts consider a major threat to the U.S. presidential election. – Associated Press

Computer hackers who obtained information about a Virginia public school district’s students and employees have posted stolen data online, school officials said Friday in an email to parents and staff. – Associated Press

Chinese telecom giant Huawei is finding it harder to counter U.S. sanctions designed to choke off its access to semiconductors but can continue to serve European 5G network clients, a senior European executive told an Austrian newspaper. – Reuters

Two top Democrats launched an inquiry Friday into the Defense Department’s potential steps toward a national 5G network, raising concerns about the Pentagon’s recent engagement with the wireless telecommunications industry. – The Hill

Increased telework amid the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated conversations about zero-trust cybersecurity architectures, but IT officials at the Pentagon are still wrestling with how that would work for a department stretched across the globe. – C4ISRNET

James Ryseff writes: Ultimately, close collaborators in any AI alliance must pass two tests: They must be able to usefully contribute to the work, and they will also need to be trustworthy enough to share in these cutting-edge technical advancements. While achieving the kind of close collaboration with allies that the United States has enjoyed in other realms may be difficult, it will be essential if the United States hopes to achieve the data dominance needed to succeed in future combat. – War on the Rocks

Steven P. Bucci writes: I applaud DOD for realizing the importance of 5G leadership, including its work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to clear 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for auction. However, we must fight the misguided tendency to think the federal bureaucrats can stand up a nationwide 5G network quickly and operate it effectively. They most assuredly cannot. – Heritage Foundation


The U.S. Army’s new tactical information warfare unit conducted its first training exercise specifically dedicated to maturing the formation’s concepts and tactics. – C4ISRNET

Pentagon leaders approved in late September a set of requirements to help counter small drones, laying a path for how industry can develop technology to plug into a single command-and-control system, according to the general in charge of the effort. – Defense News

The U.S. Army’s new pursuit for a mid-range missile will be finalized by the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office by the end of the year, the office’s director told Defense News in an interview ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference. – Defense News

During a recent U.S. Army exercise, the service was able to link a Marine Corps F-35B into its developmental networks, enabling the jet to both receive targeting data from satellites and send it to ground-based shooters. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. Army’s tactical network modernization team has started a prototyping effort to improve its armor brigades’ connection to the network while on the move. – C4ISRNET

As the U.S. military shifts away from fighting technologically inferior enemies in its global war on terror, and toward sophisticated state actors, the Pentagon is reviewing its approach to modernizing electronic warfare systems. – C4ISRNET

On August 21, six nuclear-capable B-52H Stratofortress bombers, representing approximately one-seventh of the war-ready US B-52H bomber fleet, flew from their home base in North Dakota to Fairford Air Base in England for several weeks of intensive operations over Europe. – Business Insider

Sean McFate writes: China and Russia conquer through irregular-war strategies. That works because they disguise war as peace, until it’s too late. It’s a “boiling the frogs slowly” approach. Just ask the Crimeans or Sri Lankans. Irregular warfare manufactures the fog of war for victory, something that makes the conventional warrior’s head explode. […]Irregular warfare is the armed conflict of our lifetime, and the Pentagon’s strategy to confront it is long overdue. – The Hill

Thomas Spoehr writes: Protecting the defense industrial base from the effects of the coronavirus is a wise and legitimate investment in the national security of the United States. Lawmakers best serve the country when they take a broad view of our needs and act accordingly, even in the midst of an election year. – The Hill

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: Secretary Esper stayed committed to his ten targeted goals—each with subtasks—under these three broad objectives to begin achieving “irreversible implementation” of the National Defense Strategy. He has made laudable progress — while leaving plenty of work for next year. – Defense One