Fdd's overnight brief

October 2, 2020

In The News


An appeals court in Iran has reportedly denied a Christian couple custody of their adopted daughter after they were put on trial by the Islamic courts for religious offenses. – Algemeiner

The US Transportation Department said Thursday it fined Emirates airline $400,000 for operating flights in parts of prohibited Iranian airspace in 2019. – Reuters

Iranian-sponsored terrorism in Bahrain is expected to increase to capsize the normalization trend with Israel, a new intelligence report obtained first by The Jerusalem Post said Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Zhanna Malekos Smith writes: The leader of Iran’s national space agency, Morteza Berari, claims that Iran’s use of outer space is peaceful.  In contrast, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says Iran’s space program is “dangerous” and that the Noor-1 military satellite “makes clear what we have said all along: Iran’s space program is neither peaceful nor entirely civilian.”[…] With the creation of the U.S. Space Force, a new branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, a new DoD Defense Space Strategy, and the SPD-5, policymakers should harness this momentum to articulate the United States’ goals and priorities for an International Strategy for Space. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Turkey supplies weapons and training to Azerbaijan, and there are signs that it is actively engaged in the fighting, which Ankara has denied. If Turkish involvement is confirmed, even in a supporting role, it would be just one of several fronts where Mr. Erdogan has deployed troops, ships and aircraft with increasing readiness this year. – New York Times

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday implied that Jerusalem belongs to Turkey, referring to the Ottoman Empire’s control over the city for much of the modern era. – Times of Israel

Turkish authorities detained 19 people including two Kurdish deputy mayors in the northeastern province of Kars as part of a terrorism related operation, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Thursday. – Reuters

Greece and Turkey have set up a mechanism to avoid accidental clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, part of efforts to defuse a dispute over energy resources in the region. – Reuters

Congressional lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning Azerbaijan for an outbreak of violence against Armenia in the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh, and calling out Turkey for interfering in the conflict. – The Hill


Yossi Cohen, head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, visited the kingdom of Bahrain on Wednesday, the official Bahrain News Agency announced on Thursday afternoon. – Times of Israel

Armenia said on Thursday it had recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations over Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan. – Reuters

Syria affirmed on Thursday that it remains staunchly opposed to any normalization agreements with Israel, i24NEWS reports. – Arutz Sheva

Kosovo Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi held a phone call for the first time to discuss establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. – Jerusalem Post

Drone footage, released by Azerbaijan of a drone strike on an artillery position in the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, appears to show an Israeli drone in the frame. – Jerusalem Post


A few hundred Iraqis gathered in Baghdad’s central Tahrir square on Thursday to mark the anniversary of anti-government unrest that erupted last year and to put pressure on the authorities to meet their demands. – Reuters

Washington warned Thursday that it would not tolerate attacks on US interests in Iraq by Iran-backed militias, as Baghdad worries about a possible US withdrawal. – Agence France-Presse

Most Arab regimes have dealt with covid-19 by tightening their grip. Not Iraq. It gave up on lockdowns long ago. The government seems powerless to enforce social distancing or the wearings of masks (some men see the coverings as an insult to their virility). It has little money to spend on a health service gutted by war and corruption. – The Economist

Ever since, Jasb’s father has been on a search for justice that has run repeatedly against one major obstacle: the increasing helplessness of Iraq’s government in the face of powerful, Iranian-backed Shiite militias. – Associated Press

Bobby Ghosh writes: The protesters will also require convincing that Kadhimi is not beholden to foreign powers. They are as suspicious of American influence as they are hostile to Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs. The Trump administration can help by dialing down its demands of the prime minister, and easing up on the threat to shut down the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Washington should recognize that the embassy — and American interests more generally — will be better protected by a prime minister working with the protesters. – Bloomberg


Israel and Lebanon agreed to begin U.S.-brokered talks this month aimed at resolving a long-running maritime border dispute, an achievement that would allow both sides to exploit natural-gas reserves in the disputed area off their eastern Mediterranean coasts. – Wall Street Journal

Lebanon has asked Interpol to issue arrest warrants for the Russian captain and owner of the ship that brought the explosive material that detonated at Beirut port in August, killing nearly 200 people, state media reported on Thursday. – Reuters

In one week, Steinitz and his Egyptian counterpart established a new international organization dedicated to regional natural-gas developments, the minister spoke with two of his counterparts in the United Arab Emirates for the first time and negotiated the terms for starting maritime border talks with Lebanon, which were officially finalized on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper met with leaders in the capital of Algeria on Thursday, making a rare high-level American visit to the largely isolated North African nation. – Washington Post

The Egyptian government continues to target gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in a “systematic fashion” through arbitrary arrests, torture and other forms of abuse, including forced “virginity tests,” Human Rights Watch said Thursday. – Washington Post

Israel, the UAE and the US issued a joint statement on Thursday presenting a “strategic vision for energy partnership,” the Emirati state news agency WAM reported. – Algemeiner

Gerald M. Feierstein writes: Despite differences in perspective on elements of the regional situation, especially prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah remained a staunch partner of the U.S. in later years and the two countries worked closely together on issues of regional security and stability, GCC cooperation, and energy security. All signs are that these essential pillars of Kuwaiti foreign policy that Sheikh Sabah established in his over half-century of leadership will continue to guide Kuwait into the future. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

For decades, North Korea’s ruling Kims portrayed themselves as quasi-gods, incapable of error. Now, as the country faces some of its toughest challenges in years on several fronts, leader Kim Jong Un is taking a different approach. He is showing himself to be fallible—even human. – Wall Street Journal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected recovery efforts in a flooded village, his latest visit to areas damaged by recent typhoons, while his sister reappeared in public for the first time in about two months, staazerbaijate media said on Friday. – Reuters

Business and banking dealings by North Koreans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo appear to violate numerous international sanctions, according to watchdog groups who say Pyongyang is taking advantage of the DRC’s lax bank system. – Voice of America


The Chinese government has taken the rare step of formally confirming to the UN the death of a Uighur man whose family believe had been held in a Xinjiang internment camp since 2017. – The Guardian

Jonathan E. Hillman writes: As in so many earlier imperial adventures, China is struggling to cut its losses, even as fewer new projects are announced. A debt crisis in emerging markets is looming, and historically, most infrastructure booms go bust. But the Belt and Road is enshrined in the Chinese Communist Party constitution like a tattoo gotten during a drunken binge. It cannot be removed or even called ugly. It is Mr. Xi’s vision, and until he leaves power or says stop, Chinese officials will march forward with it. – Wall Street Journal

Harold Furchtgott-Roth and Kirk R. Arner write: None of this is to say that American wireless consumers won’t be harmed by a trade war with China, or that the quality, competitiveness, and timely rollout of American 5G networks won’t eventually be compromised as a result. But at least for now, thanks to open trade with other countries, 5G deployment by the major American carriers is roughly on pace with international competitors. – Hudson Institute

South Asia

Indian police detained key leaders of the opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi, on Thursday after preventing them from visiting a northern village where a 19-year-old woman from India’s lowest caste was allegedly gang raped last month and later died in a hospital. – Associated Press

India’s tougher rules on foreign funding for non-profits will severely crimp their activities, the chiefs of some bodies said on Thursday, after human rights group Amnesty International suspended its work in the country, citing government harassment. – Reuters

Three Indian soldiers were killed on Thursday, the Indian army said, in what a spokesman described as unprovoked firing by Pakistani forces at the border in the disputed region of Kashmir. – Reuters


Hong Kong police arrested at least 86 people on suspicion of unauthorized assembly on China’s National Day holiday after crowds gathered on the streets of a popular shopping district and other areas chanting pro-democracy slogans. – Associated Press

Armenia’s military said its rockets shot down an Azerbaijani drone near the capital on Thursday night, as heavy fighting persisted in the conflict over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. – Associated Press

Azerbaijan’s general prosecutor’s office said Armenian shelling killed a civilian in its town of Terter on Thursday morning and badly damaged the train station there. – Reuters

Vietnam said on Thursday that military drills conducted this week by Beijing in the South China Sea will hurt negotiations on a regional maritime code of conduct (COC) for the disputed waters. – Reuters

France, Russia and the United States on Thursday demanded an immediate ceasefire between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces around the Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh, calling for a return to negotiations without delay. – Reuters

The Tokyo Stock Exchange has announced that trading will resume on Friday, after a hardware glitch caused equity trading to be suspended for a full day in the worst outage since the world’s third-biggest bourse shifted to a fully electronic system in 1999. – Financial Times


Poisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, now recovering in Berlin, told Der Spiegel magazine that he intended to return to Russia to continue his political activities, campaigning to unseat President Vladimir Putin. – Reuters

The Kremlin accused specialists at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency on Thursday of working with Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and said Moscow believed he was receiving instructions from people it described as “instructors”. – Reuters

The European Union on October 1 announced asset freezes on four companies and two individuals responsible for the construction of the Kerch Strait railway bridge. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


The European Union took legal action against Britain on Thursday over its plans to pass legislation that would breach parts of the legally binding divorce agreement the two sides reached late last year. – Associated Press

Police in Ukraine are investigating the death of an American woman who worked for the United States Embassy in Kyiv. – Associated Press

European Union leaders agreed early Friday to impose sanctions on dozens of senior officials in Belarus accused of falsifying presidential election results and leading a crackdown on peaceful protesters, after unblocking a veto against the move by one of the EU’s smallest member countries. – Associated Press

The U.S. and the Vatican butted heads over China on Thursday as the Holy See chafed at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s public call to take a harsher stance against Chinese restrictions on religious freedom. – Associated Press

Police in Berlin have launched an investigation into officers suspected of using a chat group on their mobile phones to exchange racist messages about African and Muslim migrants, a police spokesman said on Thursday. – Reuters

The pope declined to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his visit to the Vatican this week, claiming that a meeting before Election Day would be inappropriate. – The Hill

President Emmanuel Macron, trying to rid France of what authorities say is a “parallel society” of radical Muslims thriving outside the values of the nation, is laying the groundwork Friday for a proposed law aimed at helping remedy the phenomenon. – Associated Press


Destroyer USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110) performed a freedom of navigation operation on Wednesday off the coast of Venezuela, U.S. Southern Command announced. – USNI News

Building on its Switchblade 300 loitering missile legacy with the U.S. Army, AeroVironment is releasing a family of capabilities to include its new Switchblade 600, a larger version suited to go up against armored targets at greater ranges in denied and degraded environments. – Defense News

The U.S. Air Force halted a delivery of the KC-46 yet again after problems with the electrical system were found on one new tanker slated to make its way to the service. – Defense News

The Air Force last month conducted the first flight of an MQ-9A Reaper that had been configured to carry eight AGM-114 Hellfire missiles — twice the number the drone normally carries. – Defense News

In what some observers might view as back to the future, the U.S. Army is altering the way it fights to keep up with sophisticated adversaries, which means shifting from the brigade-centered focus of the last decade to bringing the division and corps levels into the fold. As a result, new capabilities are under development to increase range, fight deeper and bolster presence on the nonphysical battlefield, such as the electromagnetic spectrum. – C4ISRNET

After a failed test in February, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the Army successfully intercepted a target in an Oct. 1 test using a Patriot air and missile defense system as well as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system integrated together, according to an MDA statement. – Defense News

The U.S. Army wants to know if there are additional radio vendors that can compete on an integration effort involving the service’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS. – C4ISRNET

General Dynamics Land Systems has secured a $1.2 billion contract at the close of the fiscal year to build and deliver the U.S. Army’s Interim Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense system, or IM-SHORAD. – Defense News

The U.S Space Force plans to stand up a new command to oversee all of the service’s acquisitions in 2021, although that timeline is dependent on identifying the space-related parts of the other military branches that will be transferred into the nation’s newest service. – C4ISRNET

The Marine Corps has released new information about its F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter that crashed earlier this week after a mid-air collision with a KC-130J tanker. – USNI News

Long War

Counter-terrorism experts interviewed by The Media Line say that Islamic State is exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to plan and carry out attacks against Western targets. – The Media Line

Opposition leaders in Bahrain met last week in Beirut with senior officials from Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front and the PLO, the Al-Akhbar newspaper reported. – Arutz Sheva

The ongoing trial in Paris of 14 suspects in the January 2015 terrorist attacks heard testimony on Thursday from a far-right political activist and arms trafficker whose weapons were funneled to Amedy Coulibaly, the Islamist gunman who murdered a policewoman on Jan. 8 and four people in a kosher supermarket on Jan. 9 before he was shot dead by anti-terrorist police officers. – Algemeiner

Trump Administration

President Trump said early Friday morning that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus, throwing the nation’s leadership into uncertainty and escalating the crisis posed by a pandemic that has already killed more than 207,000  Americans and devastated the economy. – New York Times

The retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster became the latest of President Trump’s former aides on Thursday to declare that the president was aiding Russia’s disinformation campaign by failing to acknowledge how President Vladimir V. Putin was trying to manipulate American voters. – New York Times

The CIA and National Security Agency directors opposed U.S. spy chief John Ratcliffe’s decision to declassify and send to a top Republican lawmaker unverified Russian intelligence that may have been fabricated, according to current and former U.S. officials. – Reuters