Fdd's overnight brief

October 2, 2018

In The News


Iran fired six medium-range ballistic missiles across Iraq and into Syria early Monday at what it said was an Islamic State base, according to Iranian news agencies, its allies and spokesmen for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. – New York Times

Iranian state-run media claimed Monday that the Tehran warehouse described by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the UN last week as a “secret atomic warehouse” is actually a recycling facility for scrap metal. – Times of Israel

British bank Standard Chartered Plc (STAN.L) is bracing for a possible new fine of about $1.5 billion as a result of previous Iranian sanctions violations, Bloomberg reported on Monday. – Reuters

Iran has no plans to cut oil production, the head of the state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Ali Kardor, said on Monday, according to the Tasnim news agency. – Reuters

The French government said on Tuesday that a decision to seize assets belonging to two Iranians and the Iranian intelligence services was linked to a foiled attack against an Iranian opposition group rally near Paris on June 30. – Reuters

Oil extended gains near the highest level in almost four years as investors grapple with doubts over OPEC’s ability to replace falling exports from Iran. – Bloomberg

Iran is developing a range of new financial products, from Islamic bonds to warrants and insurance-linked securities, in an effort to give local firms more funding options as sanctions put pressure on the economy. – Reuters


Lebanon’s foreign minister escorted dozens of foreign ambassadors and diplomats to visit a soccer field, a warehouse and a golf course adjoining Beirut’s airport Monday to counter allegations by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Hezbollah has stored precision guided missiles at the sites. – Washington Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, an Israel Iranian proxy, of “brazenly lying” to the international community over the secret weapons facilities in and around Beirut, which the Israeli premier disclosed on the world stage at the United Nations General Assembly last week. – Times of Israel

Lebanon’s foreign minister said on Monday that Israel sought to “justify another aggression” by making false allegations of missile sites near Beirut airport belonging to the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah. – Reuters


The U.S. has now begun training Turkish troops, marking the final step before the two countries begin conducting joint patrols likely later this month around the strategic northern Syrian city of Manbij, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday. – Associated Press

Turkey will strengthen its observation points in Syria’s northwest and work with Russia against radical groups, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Austria’s foreign minister says the return of refugees, stabilization and reconstruction in Syria must not be rigidly tied to a political process. – Associated Press

Turkey aims to secure control of the region of northern Syria east of the Euphrates river, removing the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from the area, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. – Reuters

James Jeffrey, the State Department’s special representative to Syria, insists that does not necessarily mean keeping U.S. military “boots on the ground.” Arab allies and local proxy forces backed by U.S. air power could replace the roughly 2,000 American troops deployed there as the administration begins a new push for the “removal of all Iranian-commanded forces from the entirety of Syria,” Jeffrey said late last week. – Washington Examiner


On the northern edge of Europe’s last divided capital, signs of Turkey’s growing influence are hard to miss. A brand-new mosque, sponsored by Ankara, towers over the Turkish Cypriot suburbs of Nicosia. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan inaugurated the massive building this summer, stirring unease among northern Cyprus’ largely secular citizens. – Politico

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the U.S. of using a jailed American pastor with “dark ties to terror groups” as a pretext to impose sanctions on his country, while leaving the door open for a reconciliation with the Trump administration. – Bloomberg

Turkey has delivered a list of 136 people it wants German authorities to extradite over suspected links to terrorist groups, Hurriyet newspaper quoted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying on Monday. – Haaretz


The Trump administration marked the beginning of the fiscal year on Monday by praising the “bipartisan” support for Israel that secured a landmark defense agreement with the Jewish state. – Jerusalem Post

Facing a financial crisis after the United States cut funding, the head of the U.N. agency that helps 5.3 million Palestinian refugees says the problem of their well-being will continue to exist whether there’s money or not — and especially if it was forced to shut down. – Associated Press

The Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA evacuated most of its international senior officials from the Gaza Strip Monday due to fears for their safety. The overseas staffers had received death threats and threats of violence after the announcement of cuts and planned layoffs by the organization in the wake of the US decision that it would no longer fund the agency. – Agence France-Presse

Dozens of Palestinians were reportedly injured on Monday evening in fresh clashes with IDF troops along the Gaza Strip’s northern border with Israel. The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said 51 people were injured by Israeli troops during the protests, including 10 from live fire, according to reports in Palestinian media. – Times of Israel

Senior Hamas officials complained to Egyptian intelligence officials that Israel responded with excessive force over the weekend to protests near the border fence in Gaza. – Haaretz


Saudi Arabia said on Monday it was working hard to correct mistaken targeting by its military coalition in Yemen that has killed civilians including children, but U.N. rights experts voiced scepticism. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia has given a $200 million cash infusion to Yemen’s Central Bank to shore up its reserves after the war-torn country’s currency went into freefall over the past few weeks. – Associated Press

Concerns are growing over the fate of more than 20 followers of the minority Baha’i faith in Yemen put on trial by the rebel Houthi movement. – BBC News

Middle East

Kuwait Petroleum Company said on Monday news reports of a drop in crude exports to the United States were “inaccurate and do not explain the implications of a reduction in the rate of exports between the two countries”. – Reuters

Majeed Gly writes:  So thank you, Mr. President, for calling us “Mr. Kurd.” No offense was taken. But please know that we are more than just “great fighters.” We hope that you will start taking real steps toward securing the rights of our pro-American, peace-loving people in the Middle East. The first place to start is in preventing Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria from attacking us while you depend on our soldiers to fight ISIS. – Wall Street Journal

Adel al-Gabouri writes: The regional and international actors interested in reducing Iranian influence in Iraq must realize that the PMF is not a homogenous Shia militia. In this way, any policy adopted regarding the PMF must deal with its constituent factions on an individual basis, especially those groups loyal to Iran that have religious ties to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

Army engineers from North and South Korea began clearing land mines on Monday in the Demilitarized Zone between their nations as they prepared to search there for the remains of soldiers killed during the Korean War. – New York Times

Ramping up pressure on the United States, North Korea on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of demanding too much but offering too few concessions in its negotiations over the terms of denuclearizing the North. – New York Times

After President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in Singapore June 12, analysts said they were unsure how the summit would impact the hermit kingdom’s hacking efforts. Now, there is evidence. The North Korean cyberattacks continued. – Fifth Domain

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dispatched a precious peace offering to South Korean President Moon Jae In — two Pungsan puppies. The gifts come as the latest sign of warming ties between the historic foes. – Time

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it has summoned South Korea’s ambassador in Moscow to demand that Seoul “immediately” allow a Russian shipping vessel to leave the port of Busan. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Greg Scarlatoiu writes: Mr. Moon’s speeches may read like peace-building. But to those familiar with North Korean ideology, a speech tacitly endorsing juche only validates Mr. Kim’s brand of totalitarianism. […]Opposing the Pyongyang regime’s repression of the North Korean people and its threats to the South has become increasingly difficult with Mr. Moon in office. – Wall Street Journal


U.S. military officials complained Monday that a Chinese warship harassed a U.S. Navy vessel as it sailed through the South China Sea, adding to a growing roster of disputes between the two countries in a sudden escalation of tensions. – Wall Street Journal

China expressed anger on Tuesday after a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea, saying it resolutely opposed an operation that it called a threat to its sovereignty. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said it was “too soon” for Washington to talk to Beijing about working out a deal on trade, suggesting U.S. tariffs have yet to exert enough pressure to force Beijing into making concessions at the negotiating table. – Reuters

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday that he doesn’t see the U.S. relationship with China worsening after a series of setbacks that officials said include canceling the Pentagon chief’s planned visit to Beijing this month. Mattis said the U.S. has to learn how to manage its relationship with the communist nation. – Associated Press

China is mounting an increasingly sophisticated counterattack to criticism of its policies in the restive, heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang, courting foreign media and running opinion pieces abroad as it seeks to spin a more positive message. – Reuters

Adam Taylor writes: Polling data from 25 countries released Monday showed a widespread global belief that China is a growing power, perhaps one that now rivaled the United States in economic might, but that most people wanted the United States to retain its leading role in global affairs. […]For the Trump administration, that may be an opportunity to rally other nations against China — but its also a risk. – Washington Post


A suicide bomber blew himself up at an election campaign rally in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar on Tuesday and casualties were likely, Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the provincial council, said. – Reuters

Islamabad has cut the size of the biggest Chinese “Silk Road” project in Pakistan by $2 billion, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed said on Monday, citing government concerns about the country’s debt levels. – Reuters

A device that’s like a spark plug, not a design flaw, was behind the high-profile failure of a U.S.-Japanese missile interceptor built by Raytheon Co. in a test launch in January, a Pentagon review board has found. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The message sounded with special clarity when Denny Tamaki was elected governor on Sunday. Like most other elections on the island, this one was at least partly a referendum on the American bases. Mr. Tamaki represented an anti-base coalition; his pro-base opponent was heavily supported by Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party.  – New York Times


Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic will meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss how to push forward a deal with Kosovo after a plan to rework their borders faced international resistance. – Bloomberg

The Russian Embassy in London is objecting to Britain’s reported plans to boost its military presence in the Arctic next year to counter what London has called increasing Russian aggression. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

But Norway, which has sovereignty over Svalbard, fears tensions between Russia and the West could spill over to this frozen and barren outpost because of growing interest in the Arctic’s valuable oil, gas and shipping routes. – Reuters

Seth G. Jones writes: While Russia has maintained its ability to conduct information warfare over the past several decades, the United States is ill-prepared to fight a new Cold War. […]The United States needs to quickly develop an information warfare campaign—both overt and covert—that can compete with Russia and other adversaries. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Sergei V. Skripal, the former Russian spy targeted in a nerve agent attack this spring, fed Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service information about a 1990s-era corruption scheme that reached all the way up to Nikolai P. Patrushev, a top Russian intelligence chief and close ally of Vladimir V. Putin, a new book contends. – New York Times

German police said they had arrested six men suspected of planning an attack on immigrants and politicians, as the country struggles with a backlash from far-right groups that has followed an influx of migrants. […]“Far-Right terror is posing a real and great danger and we take it very seriously,” German Justice Minister Katarina Barley tweeted on Monday in reference to the arrests. – Wall Street Journal

In the latest incident that could play out to Britain’s disadvantage in mainland Europe, Johnson’s successor, Jeremy Hunt, drew angry reactions on Sunday when he compared the European Union with the Soviet Union. – Washington Post

Theresa May has pledged to overhaul Britain’s immigration system, ending freedom of movement and replacing it with a new visa regime which treats EU citizens no differently to those from elsewhere in the world, No. 10 Downing Street said Monday evening. – Politico

The EU’s joint military pact will be open to countries outside the bloc, such as the U.S. and U.K., after Brexit, but only on a case-by-case basis, according to a confidential document seen by POLITICO. – Politico

A national referendum on changing Macedonia’s name won with overwhelming support Sunday, paving the way for the nation to join NATO as the alliance’s 30th member. – Associated Press

A referendum on changing Macedonia’s name as part of a deal that would pave the way for NATO membership won overwhelming support Sunday, but low voter turnout highlighted the hurdles that still remain for the Balkan country to join the alliance. – Associated Press

Ishaan Tharoor writes: But while the results overwhelmingly endorsed the compromise with Greece, only about a third of eligible voters cast a ballot. That fell short of the required 50 percent turnout[…]. The low turnout was seen as a blow not only to the efforts of the “Yes” camp, but also its vociferous backers in Brussels, Berlin and Washington. – Washington Post

Erin McCarthy writes: The most concerning and intractable issue today relates to the open vilification of the sector and attempts to limit fundamental freedoms of association and expression. […]Two underlying factors have allowed this attack on civil society to take root and must be addressed in order for the sector to both withstand the pressure being exerted on it in the short term as well as to grow and become self-sustaining in the long term. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The U.S. military said on Tuesday it had killed nine militants in an air strike in southern Somalia this week during a battle between U.S. and Somali government troops and al Shabaab Islamist fighters. – Reuters

A suicide car bombing by Islamist group al Shabaab hit a European Union armoured convoy in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Monday, damaging one vehicle but causing no casualties, police and the Islamists said. – Reuters

At least 10 people have died and dozens others injured after a hand grenade exploded in a night club in South Sudan’s western town of Yambio, police said on Monday. – Reuters

The Americas

White House officials are betting that concluding a trade deal with Mexico and Canada will give them more ammunition in their high-stakes battle with China on economic issues and national security. – Wall Street Journal

There’s a lot to digest in the new trade agreement that the United States, Mexico and Canada finalized in deadline-beating fashion on Sunday, starting with a name change: If the new deal is adopted by all three countries, the North American Free Trade Agreement will give way to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or U.S.M.C.A. – New York Times

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Monday the trade agreement finalized on Sunday between the United States, Mexico and Canada is a “win” for all three countries. – Reuters

The International Court of Justice on Monday ruled against landlocked Bolivia in a row with Chile over access to the Pacific Ocean that dates back to the 19th century. – Agence France-Presse


Following a wave of criticism from the defense industry and members of Congress, the Pentagon on Monday backed off proposed changes to how companies receive cash flow on their contracts. – Defense News

The B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb has completed its final design review, setting up production for March of 2020, the National Nuclear Security Administration has announced. – Defense News

Seeking to install long-term cost savings into what is routinely derided by critics as an overly expensive aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program director worked a new incentive regime into the recently inked contract with Lockheed Martin. – USNI News

U.S. Cyber Command is in the throes of entering its next era. Evolving in fits and starts from its stand up in 2009, the young command has seen the creation of its cyber warrior cadre — the cyber mission force — been fully elevated as a unified combatant command and achieved the full manning and training of its cyber force. Now it is working to equip and maintain the readiness of its organization. – Fifth Domain

Sarah Frier writes: The latest is an attack on about 50 million user accounts that gave hackers full access, potentially allowing them to read private messages and make posts. […]It’s the worst data breach in Facebook history. So will the uproar be louder? My guess is, it won’t, unless Facebook tells us what the hack actually exposed or sought to accomplish. And then that might make things worse. – Bloomberg