Fdd's overnight brief

October 23, 2020

In The News


Three years into the global #MeToo movement, women who say they have been sexually assaulted are improbably going public in the Islamic Republic of Iran. – New York Times

“It doesn’t matter to Iran who will win the upcoming presidential election in the U.S. Whoever comes to power in America has no choice other than surrender to the Iranian nation,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told onlookers at a weekly cabinet session on Wednesday. – Radio Farda 

Under no circumstances will Ukraine accept money in exchange for covering up the truth, the head of the Ukrainian delegation in Tehran, Yevhenii Yenin, told Radio Farda. The delegation was in Iran for the second round of talks between Iran and Ukraine over the downing of a Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) passenger plane on January 8, 2020 over Tehran. – Radio Farda 

Iran has been turning up its cyber spigot on the Trump administration since it pulled the U.S. out of a multinational nuclear accord with Iran in May 2018. Since then, Treasury Department officers have been targeted by Iranian social engineering campaigns. While Iran’s cyber capabilities pale in comparison to Russia’s, they still aspire to “do to Trump what the Russians did to Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Prudhomme said. – Bloomberg 

Government analysts and private sector investigators were able to rapidly attribute to Iranian hackers a wave of thousands of threatening emails aimed at U.S. voters because of mistakes made in a video attached to some of the messages, according to four people familiar with the matter. – Reuters

Iran summoned the Swiss envoy on Thursday to protest against what it called “baseless” U.S. claims that Tehran has tried to interfere with the 2020 presidential election in November. – Reuters

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has documented recent episodes in a new report, The Iranian Cyber Threat. It analyzes the regime’s cyber decision-making structure, modus operandi, and offers recommendations on how to combat this growing threat. – United Against Nuclear Iran

Iran is showcasing its capabilities with radar and the Bavar-373 air-defense system in nationwide drills. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The reports of the attack comes as Iran has received sanctions relief from an arms embargo and conducted air defense drills this week. Iran has been seeking to show off its new technological abilities, such as radar, in recent months. This is part of Tehran’s boast about its ability to get around US sanctions and develop indigenous capabilities. – Jerusalem Post


The Treasury Department on Thursday announced that it was sanctioning Iran’s ambassador to Iraq for his role in carrying out the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force’s (IRGC-QF) “destabilizing foreign agenda” in Iraq, according to a press release from the department. – The Hill 

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) Chairman Senator Joseph Lieberman and CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace released the following joint statement today after Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the Government had imposed sanctions against Hezbollah in its entirety. – United Against Nuclear Iran 

Estonia on Thursday said it would sanction Hezbollah and prevent officials from the terror organization, or those affiliated with it, from entering its territory. – Times of Israel 


Turkey has withdrawn the soldiers who manned an outpost that had been surrounded by the Syrian pro-government forces for 14 months. – Jane’s 360 

The US Army said Thursday it carried out a drone strike against Al-Qaeda leaders in northwest Syria near the border, killing 14 jihadists, according to a war monitor. – Agence France-Presse

The Mufti of Damascus, Sheikh Mohammad Adnan Afyouni, was killed in a car bombing near Damascus on Thursday night, according to the Syrian state news agency SANA. – Jerusalem Post

Reem Salahi writes: While an ICJ ruling is unlikely to end Syria’s use of torture, it could open the door to additional efforts at finding accountability, including further attempts at a referral to the International Criminal Court or as evidence for cases brought under universal jurisdiction — where a national court can claim jurisdiction over a few types of international crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and torture regardless of where the alleged crime was committed or the nationality of the perpetrator. – Middle East Institute 


World-famous video blogger Nas Daily posted a six-minute video to his Facebook account in which he refutes an accusation by news broadcaster Al Jazeera in which he was accused of working with the Israeli government. – Jerusalem Post

In the wake of her trip to the UAE, where she met with government and business leaders in a variety of sectors including tourism, Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum called on Israel’s government on Thursday afternoon to change airport protocols and to increase Temple Mount’s security as Israel prepares to welcome Muslim tourists from the Gulf following the Abraham Accords. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF struck sites belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, after two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Ashkelon on Thursday night. – Jerusalem Post

Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz met US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon Thursday and signed a joint declaration confirming the latter’s strategic commitment to maintaining qualitative military edge (QME) in the Middle East, according to a defense ministry press release Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinian Authority lawyers on Thursday filed a complaint to sue the British government for the 1917 declaration setting out London’s support for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. – Agence France-Presse

Nadav Tamir writes: The classical example of a win-win approach is the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will enable Israel to be the state of the Jewish people and a democracy at the same time, according to the Zionist vision, while enabling the Palestinians self-determination and the end of occupation. Israeli diplomacy should strive to achieve this solution as its main goal. – Jerusalem Post

Yaakov Katz writes: Ahead of the upcoming election, Israel has to stay focused on what is truly important and remember that no matter who wins, it has to know how to work with the man in the White House. Was Trump the greatest president for Israel ever, as Netanyahu claims? There is no answer because the question itself is irrelevant to begin with. What truly matters is that America is the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the world. Not the president. America. – Jerusalem Post

Gershon Baskin writes: The chances of future peace will not suddenly materialize. It will take a concerted effort to regenerate the belief in peace among Israelis and Palestinians. I have very little confidence that governments and leaders in Israel and Palestine will play a positive role in the effort. It will take Israeli and Palestinian citizens to learn the language of “peace speak” to create an enabling environment that will change hearts and minds among both peoples. Maybe we can all learn something from the new peace agreements. – Jerusalem Post

Alon Ushpiz writes: The significance of the role that President Trump and the American administration played, and continue to play, in the accomplishments of the past two months cannot and should not be understated. It is a strategic alliance in the full sense of the word, and the United States has invested the full spectrum of its capabilities as a superpower in order to ensure greater things for Israel and its people. We extend our thanks. – Times of Israel



U.S. authorities have seized two domain names linked to an Iran-backed terrorist group operating in Iraq, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday. – Fox News 

Iraq’s government is struggling to pay the salaries of the ever-swelling ranks of public sector employees amid an unprecedented liquidity crisis caused by low oil prices. September’s salaries were delayed for weeks, and October’s still haven’t been paid as the government tries to borrow once again from Iraq’s currency reserves. The crisis has fueled fears of instability ahead of mass demonstrations this week. – Associated Press 

Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, has warned that he is being forced into an impossible balancing act between the US and Iran, as he urged Europe to come to the aid of his country’s debt-ridden economy. – The Guardian 

On October 20, 2020, the daily Al-Arab, which is UAE-affiliated and based in London, published an op-ed by Lebanese writer Khairallah Khairallah in which he discussed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s ongoing series of visits to some of Europe’s capitals in relation to the recent security challenges his government is facing. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Munqith Dagher writes: The only peaceful way to avoid a scenario of violence and chaos in Iraq now is for the Iraqi government and the international community to provide Iraqi youth with real and convincing guarantees that the upcoming elections will be characterized by integrity and transparency in a departure from how they have been in the past. But with elections coming in less than a year, the window available for real work to be done appears to be gradually closing. – Washington Institute 

Michael Rubin writes: Certainly, there is a reason for Pompeo’s frustration. Iran and its proxies have historically attacked the very foundation of modern diplomacy. […]They have repeatedly targeted and tracked American diplomats. Those who say Washington should ignore Tehran forget the impossibility of diplomacy when those across the table are less interested in talking than in murdering those who would talk. – The National Interest


Despite a public outcry for change, Lebanon’s president has tapped Saad Hariri, the embattled former prime minister who stepped down late last year amid antigovernment protests, to again try to form a government. – New York Times

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the Trump administration to ensure that continued assistance is provided to the Lebanese people and action is taken to prevent taxpayer dollars from benefitting Hezbollah, terrorist organizations or corrupt nonprofits in the region. – The Hill 

A leading international human rights group on Thursday said a Lebanon-led probe into the devastating port explosion in Beirut this summer has been marred by political meddling and lack of judicial independence, resulting in failure to yield credible results two months later. – Associated Press

Frederic Hof writes: There is no iron law of diplomacy dictating that the compromise of eight years ago be the mandatory formula now. Yet it would not be advisable for Israelis, Lebanese or Americans to ignore altogether the results produced in 2012 by an intensive, good-faith mediation. Starting over from scratch is neither necessary nor wise. This maritime separation line — or something close to it — would meet the bottom line of international law: an equitable solution to a maritime dispute. – Financial Times

Rebecca Collard writes: Hariri is an old hand in Lebanon’s political game and more likely to accommodate the demands of the traditional political parties than Adib was, but success in forming a cabinet is not guaranteed. It will be a balancing act of political interests. The process could go on for months. If it’s unsuccessful, Lebanon could see its fourth prime minister in less than a year and more delays on its road to recovery. – Foreign Policy 

Gulf States

UAE media is speculating on Israel’s possible relationship with Sudan amid widespread rumors across the Middle East. An Israeli delegation visited Khartoum on Wednesday to discuss signing a peace agreement between the two countries, “informed Sudanese sources” told Al Ain News, an online news portal based in the UAE. – Jerusalem Post 

The 2017 blockade of Qatar came out of nowhere on a summer day in June, when Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates decided to cut ties with the tiny oil-rich Gulf state. It isn’t until three years later that a definitive account of the incident, which realigned the Middle East, is provided in the form of Qatar and the Gulf Crisis, by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. – Jerusalem Post

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince enjoyed a near free pass under his personal relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, but the kingdom’s brazen young leader will have to tread more carefully should Democrats take the White House and reset strategic ties. – Reuters

A senior defense official on Thursday predicted Saudi Arabia would soon move to normalize ties with Israel. – Times of Israel

Middle East & North Africa

As the Nov. 3 election approaches, President Trump has been pressing more Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel. Having hosted the agreement establishing ties between Israel and two Arab Gulf states, the White House is now encouraging Sudan and others to follow suit. Regardless of who wins the election, the prospects for further normalization are expected to become more challenging next year. – Wall Street Journal 

Mohamed Abdelaziz writes: Currently, there are two prevalent visions among the official circles on the future of parliament beyond the current elections. The first vision calls for openness and the allowance of fresh faces into parliament that would save the reputation of the regime and improve its image. The second vision refuses that proposal for fear of elements who may be secretly supporting the Brotherhood. As for now, it seems that the regime will adapt the second vision and continue to tighten its grip on the legislative body, avoiding potential oppositionist disruptions to the currently entrenched legislative process. – Washington Institute 

Maya Carlin writes: As the violence continues to escalate, prospects for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are dim. As long as Turkey continues its malign involvement in the struggle, cease-fires will be impossible to maintain and the death toll will only rise. – The National Interest 

Patricia Karam writes: But already the protests’ messaging post-coronavirus has sought, while criticizing the state for its lackluster response to the virus, to ensure that people not forget the government’s role in deepening suffering before the coronavirus and intensifying the prevailing sense of alienation. The new forms of mobilization, both in person and online, underscore the determination of Algerian activists to sustain, despite this new plague, a wider message of social activism and political solidarity. – The Hill

Korean Peninsula

A senior U.S. justice official accused China on Thursday of helping North Korea launder money from massive cyber thefts it has carried out to raise funds in the face of international sanctions. – Reuters 

North Korea this week announced an “Emergency Quarantine Law” which, per NK News, “hashes out different levels of disease-related red alerts and COVID-19 countermeasures, including detailed guidelines for handling patients who test “positive” for general infectious diseases.” – The National Interest 

Ri Sol-ju, the wife of North Korean premier Kim Jong-un, has not appeared in public in several months, and some in that country are beginning to ask questions about why that is. – The National Interest 

South Korea’s Navy has received its first training ship, built with a reduced radar signature, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration announced Oct. 20. The delivery came two years after the ship was launched in 2018 at a dockyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries in the South Korean coastal city of Ulsan. – Defense News 

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is “a thug’ who has benefited from President Trump’s diplomatic outreach, according to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. – Washington Examiner

Dylan Stent writes: Since democracy was installed in South Korea, inter-Korean relations have followed a trajectory of North Korea being the aggressor, conducting limited provocations, followed by Seoul managing, defusing, and re-grouping. South Korean elites have pursued high-level summits or talks, with limited objectives during periods of crisis. Such diplomacy has resulted in short-term cessations of escalations, while offering little in incentives to stop provocations in the long-term. – The National Interest 


It was a time of Chinese sacrifice and bravery in the face of U.S. aggression. It was a just war in which the hardscrabble, newly established People’s Republic reluctantly stood up to American imperialists — and the Americans, richer but hardly tougher, were beaten. – Washington Post 

China and the Vatican renewed a controversial power-sharing agreement on the appointment of bishops, which has drawn criticism from Washington as well as Catholic critics, who say Pope Francis has compromised on defending religious freedom in the country. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s foreign ministry said Beijing wants to take an active role in the World Health Organization reform process. – Reuters

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the United States’ approval of a potential $1.8 billion arms sale to Taiwan would have a major impact on Sino-U.S. ties, and China will make the necessary response as the situation develops. – Reuters

President Xi Jinping said on Friday that China will never allow its sovereignty, security and development interests to be undermined, and that the Chinese people are not to be trifled with. – Reuters

China will make a necessary response to the action of the United States in designating Chinese media firms as foreign missions, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday, but stopped short of revealing what the move would be. – Reuters

Huawei unveiled its latest flagship smartphone lineup on Thursday, lacking Google services but touting a powerful new 5G chip as the company faces a semiconductor supply shortage due to U.S. sanctions. – CNBC

Zachary Faria writes: Consumers should stop praising companies for taking domestic political stances while ignoring or covering for human rights atrocities around the world. Even if you support the political positions that a company is taking, it is hijacking them for profit while tying the movement you support to its hypocrisy. If we are supposed to hold companies responsible for their political decisions, maybe we can start at their placation of the Chinese government. – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: Second, Xi shows that the Politburo Standing Committee anticipates no serious respite to declining U.S.-China tensions even if its favored victor, Biden, wins on Nov. 3. Recognizing the Trump administration’s rising Quad-based deterrent alliance against China’s imperial militarism in the South China Sea, and its crackdown on Chinese feudal mercantilism, Xi sees stormy waters ahead. Thus recalling his people to a war that won a stalemate against America, Xi aims to encourage the masses that they can win in the coming great fight. Tune in. – Washington Examiner

Rep. Scott Perry writes: As Americans and the global community continue to awake to the transgressions and ill intent of the CCP, our approach to combating their malign activity must change. That’s why I recently offered legislation in Congress to provide our federal law enforcement agencies a clear strategic directive to take on the CCP for its illegal behavior. – The Hill 


An Afghan airstrike killed 12 children in a religious school, local officials said Thursday, as government forces responded to a wave of Taliban attacks that have raised questions about Kabul’s ability to secure the country after a U.S. troop drawdown. – Wall Street Journal 

Mawlawi Ansari, 36, a burly, bearded cleric, has carved out his own fief in a conservative district of Herat, a western Afghanistan city renowned for art and culture. Residents say his enforcers have seized control of the district from the police, who rarely interfere with their vigorous enforcement of strict Shariah law. – New York Times

At least four civilians were killed in their homes by militant rocket fire in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, the country’s Ministry of Defense said. – Associated Press 

South Asia

The United States is urging Sri Lanka to make ‘difficult but necessary choices’ to secure its economic independence instead of choosing opaque practises, a senior State Department official said on Thursday, in an apparent reference at China deepening its influence over the South Asian country. – Reuters

Sri Lanka’s parliament on Thursday voted to give President Gotabaya Rajapaksa widespread powers to appoint top officials and dissolve the legislature after an acrimonious two-day debate during which the opposition accused him of becoming a constitutional “dictator”. – Agence France-Presse

Michael Rubin writes: Hence, China’s action and the Friday vote on the question of Pakistan’s FATF status will be as much about countering terror finance as they are about whether China will use its membership in yet another international body to corrupt it beyond recognition, the goal being to subordinate the liberal order to Beijing’s narrow interests. – Washington Examiner 


Thailand lifted an emergency decree issued last week that banned public gatherings, a reversal that embattled Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said was a good-faith gesture aimed at defusing protests against his administration. – Wall Street Journal 

The Trump administration has approved the sale of more than a billion dollars worth of advanced weaponry for Taiwan in a move that will enrage China and further exacerbate tensions between Washington and Beijing that have are already heated over issues such as trade, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. – Associated Press 

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament has rushed through a bill to delay a rerun of parliamentary elections, set just a day earlier for December, until after constitutional reforms. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite visited Palau during a weeklong swing through the Pacific, making him the second high-ranking Defense Department official to visit to the small island nation in the last two months as the Second Island Chain is being eyed to play an even larger role in military plans and operations going forward. – USNI News 

Britain confirmed details of its route to citizenship for almost three million people in its former colony Hong Kong, saying in a statement that there would be no quota on numbers and that a five-year visa would cost 250 pounds ($330) per person. – Reuters

The Hong Kong office of China’s foreign ministry urges Britain to “immediately correct its mistakes” regarding visa policy for those with British National (Overseas) status, it said on Friday. – Reuters

Police in Georgia were on Thursday searching for an unidentified gunman who took 43 hostages during a bank robbery and disappeared after releasing them, the interior ministry said. – Reuters

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Indonesia next week as U.S. and allied leaders seek to band with other democratic powers to curb China’s capacity to dominate the Indo-Pacific region. – Washington Examiner

Global financial titan Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $2.9 billion in penalties to settle criminal charges in the 1MDB Malaysian bribery scandal, the largest US fine ever in a corruption case, the Justice Department announced Thursday. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: The Trump Administration moved forward this week with a $1.8 billion arms sale to Taiwan. The timing is right, given China’s lawless takeover of Hong Kong and its escalating threats against Taiwan. […]The arms sale is much-needed for Taiwan’s defense, but it’s also a crucial signal of U.S. support. Whoever wins on Nov. 3 will need to do more lest China see weakness and strike. – Wall Street Journal 

Erica Marat writes: While there’s hope that political life will return to normal after a rerun of the parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec. 20, many in the country are concerned that the most powerful political parties are affiliated with individuals with criminal and corrupt backgrounds. The criminal underworld has always played a role in supporting both government and opposition forces in Kyrgyzstan. – Foreign Policy 

South Caucasus

Armenia’s main opposition party leader has been released on bail nearly a month after his detention in a vote-buying case he calls politically motivated. […]Calls for the release of the head of Armenia’s largest parliamentary opposition force grew after the outbreak of conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Moscow believed that nearly 5,000 people had been killed in fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. – Reuters

Hopes of ending nearly a month of bloodshed in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh looked slim on Thursday as Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces fought new battles on the eve of talks in Washington. – Reuters

The Kremlin on Thursday said a peaceful solution was the only way to resolve the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, as bloodshed in the mountain enclave continued between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces on the eve of talks in Washington. – Reuters


While senior Trump administration officials said this week that Iran has been actively interfering in the presidential election, many intelligence officials said they remained far more concerned about Russia, which in recent days has hacked into state and local computer networks in breaches that could allow Moscow broader access to American voting infrastructure. – New York Times

The European Union imposed sanctions on the head of Russia’s military intelligence, Igor Kostyukov, and another Russian on Thursday, accusing them of stealing Angela Merkel’s emails in a 2015 hacking attack on the German parliament. – Reuters

The era when the United States and Russia decided the world’s most important questions is in the past, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, saying China and Germany were now heading for superpower status. – Reuters

Russia has granted U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden permanent residency rights, his lawyer said on Thursday, a step towards Russian citizenship if he wants it. – Reuters

The Kremlin on Thursday denied allegations from the United States that it had tried to interfere with the 2020 presidential election, calling accusations of hacking unfounded. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he personally intervened to ensure that Aleksei Navalny could be evacuated to Germany for treatment after the opposition politician was poisoned with a Soviet-style chemical agent in August. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 


Treated with contempt by President Trump, who considers them rivals and deadbeats instead of allies, many European leaders look forward to the possibility of a Biden presidency. But they are painfully aware that four years of Mr. Trump have changed the world — and the United States — in ways that will not be easily reversed. – New York Times

The head of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service made a surprise visit to Belarus on Thursday in what looked like a show of support by Moscow for veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally who is under pressure to step down. – Reuters

The founder of the Greek far-right movement Golden Dawn turned himself in on Thursday after a court refused to suspend jail terms on him and other leading figures for running a criminal gang linked to hate crimes. – Reuters

Belarus’s interior ministry said on Thursday that opposition protests were developing into a terrorist threat. – Reuters

The European Parliament on Thursday awarded the Sakharov Prize for human rights to the movement opposing President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus, led by the exiled Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. – Agence France-Presse

Britain and the European Union launched an intensive round of Brexit talks on Thursday, vowing to work round the clock to seal a trade deal in the little  time left. – Agence France-Presse

A town in North Macedonia that became famous for spreading “fake news” to U.S. voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election is back at it in 2020. Internet researchers at Stanford University say “partisan clickbait” websites in Veles, North Macedonia, are once again posing as conservative U.S. news outlets in order to gather online advertising revenue. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The UK has completed its first large post-Brexit trade deal after signing an agreement with Japan that will take effect from January 1. – Financial Times

Two women were stabbed beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris in what French authorities are calling a racist incident. – Fox News

Albania formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism Thursday, making it the first Muslim-majority country to accept the formulation and promise to fight anti-Jewish prejudice. – Times of Israel

Aurimas Lukas Pieciukaitis and Richard Weitz write: Lithuania, as a front-line state anchoring NATO’s eastern defenses against Russia, has long been a target of Moscow’s disinformation operations. In general, Russian government propaganda aims to depict Baltic countries as flawed and failing states. By distorting history, Moscow strives to obscure or justify the Soviet Union’s brutal occupation of the Baltic republics. – Hudson Institute 

Tony Barber writes: The recovery fund breaks new ground in that the EU will for the first time borrow on capital markets to finance transfers to its member states. But if European public opinion were to turn against this initiative because of corruption scandals, it would deal a heavy blow to the project of closer EU integration. The EU is sure to face various dangers in the years ahead, but corruption may be the biggest of them all. – Financial Times


Guinea’s President Alpha Conde has won a landslide re-election victory, giving him a third term in office after official results from 37 of 38 voting districts showed him with double the votes of his nearest rival on Thursday evening. – Reuters

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is ready to proceed with normalizing relations with Israel once a yet-to-be-formed transitional parliament has approved the step, two Sudanese government sources told Reuters on Thursday. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department on Thursday condemned “excessive force” by Nigerian military forces on unarmed civilians and called for restraint, two days after soldiers opened fire on protesters demonstrating against police brutality in Lagos. – Reuters

Christos A. Makridis writes: While there has been bipartisan support for removing Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list, politics has gotten in the way for far too long. The road ahead is not easy, but now the stage is set for Sudan to continue its historical economic, social, and political reforms to become another light to the world. The tide is turning with the advent of the Middle East peace deals—and the good news from Sudan is yet another illustration of the possibilities that reside when we come together. – The National Interest 

Raphael Ahren writes: The normalization process with Sudan will likely be complicated, uneasy and much slower than those with the UAE and Bahrain. But if concluded successfully, Jerusalem would finally have peace with a large and important country that for decades exemplified the Arab world’s war against the Jewish state. To many Israelis, that may ultimately be even more meaningful than lucrative business deals and the prospect of vacations in luxury hotels. – Times of Israel

Latin America

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday asked the country’s National Assembly to discuss same-sex marriage during its next term beginning in January, citing Pope Francis’ comments this week supporting civil unions for same-sex couples. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund is concerned that social unrest will make a comeback in “lots of countries” across Latin America once the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, a top IMF official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Trinidad and Tobago said Thursday that a damaged oil tanker off the island’s coast was “stable” after opposition politicians in neighboring Venezuela warned of a potential “environmental catastrophe.” – Agence France-Presse

United States

As the eyes of the world focus on the U.S. election, teams of international observers are heading out across the United States amid concerns about the vote’s integrity. For the ninth time, observers affiliated with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have come to the United States to watch over an election and recommend improvements, a mission little-noticed by most Americans. – Washington Post 

The United States is urging countries that have ratified a U.N. treaty to ban nuclear weapons to withdraw their support as the pact nears the 50 ratifications needed to trigger its entry into force, which supporters say could happen this week. – Associated Press

The phenomenon was quickly dubbed the “Havana syndrome.” And while similar symptoms have been documented by U.S. government employees in other places abroad, reports emerged this week suggesting that the potential sonic attacks might be far more pervasive than what was publicly known. In turn, more fingers are pointing toward Russia as being behind the global barrage of possible sonic attacks. – Fox News

Seth G. Jones et al., write: White supremacists and other like-minded extremists conducted two-thirds of the terrorist plots and attacks in the United States in 2020, according to new CSIS data. Anarchists, anti-fascists, and other like-minded extremists orchestrated 20 percent of the plots and attacks, though the number of incidents grew from previous years as these extremists targeted law enforcement, military, and government facilities and personnel. Despite these findings, however, the number of fatalities from domestic terrorism is relatively low compared to previous years. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Pentagon IT leaders have spent the week insisting the Defense Department does not want to build its own 5G network after a controversial request for information troubled lawmakers, including, most recently, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith. – C4ISRNET 

Facebook’s Oversight Board has begun allowing users to appeal the removal of content. […]Emphasizing the board’s independence from company interference, the announcement included the unveiling of a case-management system for the board to use “that protects their privacy and keeps their data secure.” – Washington Examiner

TikTok, the short-video app known for hosting viral dance challenges and comedy skits, has said it aspires to be an “uplifting and welcoming app environment” for millions of young users. – Financial Times

A prominent Israeli attorney who files lawsuits on behalf of terror victims and their families says that Facebook’s new ban on Holocaust denial marks a step in the right direction, but the fight to force social media companies to eliminate incitement and antisemitism from their platforms is still at its start. – Algemeiner

Bret Swanson writes: The Pentagon can be helpful in supporting America’s 5G rollout and aspirations. But building or operating its own domestic network, especially when private sector 5G momentum is so strong, is a bad idea. The military is good at lots of things, but building or operating 5G networks is not one of them. – American Enterprise Institute 


U.S. allies in Europe and Canada have increased defense spending for a sixth consecutive year but most of them will still fail to achieve a NATO spending ambition by the target date of 2024, according to new figures being discussed by defense ministers on Thursday. – Associated Press 

After successfully carrying out an integrated exercise in the Indo-Pacific region, the Navy and Marine Corps are ready to take their new level of naval integration to the joint force in an exercise next year. – USNI News 

The US Department of State has approved the potential sale to Taiwan of USD1.8 billion worth of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles, and MS-110 multispectral airborne airborne reconnaissance pods, along with related equipment, training, support, and services. – Jane’s 360 

BAE Systems is remaining tight-lipped over whether it will compete in the US Army’s revamped M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle replacement competition, but told Janes a newly forged partnership with Elbit Systems could help it outfit such proposals with added capabilities. – Jane’s 360 

Once challenged as duplicative and unnecessary, the United States Space Force in 10 month’s time has spurred America’s closest allies to create their own space agencies and sign partnering agreements to follow the U.S. lead in space security, Space Force commander Gen. Jay Raymond told the Washington Examiner this week. – Washington Examiner

Kris Osborn writes: The Stormbreaker was engineered with the strategic recognition the future targets in major war will be much more difficult to reach given enemy countermeasures, sensor detection ranges and an increase in stand-off weaponry. With this in mind, Air Force and Raytheon developers sought to engineer a multi-mode targeting link able to draw upon a two-way data link to track and destroy enemy targets from distances as far at forty miles. – The National Interest 

Seth Cropsey writes: Nuclear weapons compound the issue, generating the prospect of mutual annihilation, or at minimum severe casualties, in any confrontation. The only way to secure US interests, therefore, is to create a military capable of deterring and winning conventional war so decisively as to forestall nuclear escalation. This military force must be deployed forward. – Hudson Institute 

Timothy A. Walton and Bryan Clark write: The Navy is now developing a new shipbuilding plan as part of its FY22 budget submission. Congress should carefully assess that plan and, in collaboration with the DoD, refine the budget. Esper may depart, but the results of this study can serve as a starting point for an operationally effective and fiscally sustainable fleet for the next administration. – Defense News 

Mark Whittington writes: Besides, space exploration and the expansion of human civilization beyond the Earth have benefits that are not partisan but universal. Those benefits include the furtherance of science, commerce, and American soft political power. The Trump administration recognizes this truth. If Biden replaces him, he would do well to recognize it, too. – Washington Examiner

Long War

Over the past two days, reports and articles that included incitement following the October 16 beheading of French history teacher Samuel Paty, as well as condemnations of French policy in response to Islamic terrorism, have been removed from the website of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS). […]Al-Qaradaghi’s article, as well as statements containing incitement he voiced following the attack, were identified, translated, and published by MEMRI on October 20. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

A Syrian suspected of killing a tourist in the German city of Dresden early this month had been classified as a radical Islamist and was under observation on the day of the attack, security officials said on Thursday. – Reuters

The father of a teenage girl who was among 15 people murdered in the 2001 suicide bombing at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem condemned the BBC this week for giving one of the terrorists involved in the attack a platform, the UK-based Jewish News reports. – Arutz Sheva

The investigation into the murder of a French teacher for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in class turned to Syria on Thursday, where the killer was in contact with a Russian-speaking jihadist, it emerged Thursday. – Agence France-Presse

Vera Mironova writes: Those who went to Syria for adventure or for money or because it seemed the best opportunity to use skills they had developed in the course of other wars do not care about strict religious rules anymore. For example, a person who is a chiropractor now even welcomes female clients, which would have been absolutely unimaginable during their Islamic State years. – Foreign Policy 

Charles Thépaut writes: Now more than ever, the fight against terrorism will remain a foreign policy priority for the French government. Moreover, partnerships with European countries, the United States, and Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq—whose prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, visited Paris on October 19—will remain of the utmost importance. Sadly, the case of Abdullakh Anzorov shows that homegrown violent extremism often has international dimensions. – Washington Institute

Missile Defense

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump to agree to his proposal for a one-year extension of the New START arms-control treaty as talks enter a vital phase less than two weeks before the American presidential election. – Bloomberg 

The following is the Oct. 14, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions. – USNI News 

In order to accommodate the equivalent of an intermediate-range ballistic missile aboard the Navy’s current crop of destroyers, the service would need to undertake complex modifications to both the Zumwalt and Arleigh Burke classes of ships to install a long-range hypersonic strike weapon on DDGs, as the national security advisor called for this week. – USNI News 

Basing Japan’s missile defence systems at sea may cost at least twice as much to complete as its now-abandoned plans for Aegis Ashore ground-based sites and delay it to 2028, a person with knowledge of the plans told Reuters. – Reuters 

George P. Shultz, William J. Perry and Sam Nunn write: With the foundation of New START in place, all of the two countries’ nuclear weapons — including those associated with short-range systems, the so-called tactical nuclear weapons, of which Russia has a larger number — should be subject to limits. But the United States and Russia will have to invest the time and effort necessary to establish new verification methods. Other long-standing issues will need to be discussed in parallel, including ballistic-missile defense; weapons in space; precision-guided, long-range conventional arms; and emerging technologies, including cyber. – Washington Post

Trump Administration

Russian government hackers have targeted dozens of state and local government and aviation computer networks since last month and stolen data from at least two servers, actions that could presage efforts to undermine the election, two federal agencies said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. President Donald Trump and his intelligence chief have pushed for quick declassification of a document disputing the 2017 intelligence community finding that Russia acted to help Trump get elected in 2016, three U.S. government officials familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday. – Reuters

President Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the president will commit to a peaceful transfer of power, despite speculation that Trump may refuse to leave office if he loses the Nov. 3 election. – Washington Examiner

A New York state court appeals panel ruled Thursday that Paul Manafort, the disgraced former chief of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, cannot be prosecuted on state criminal charges related to the same conduct that led to his federal criminal convictions. – CNBC