Fdd's overnight brief

October 8, 2020

In The News


The Trump administration has decided to impose new sanctions on Iran’s financial sector in defiance of European allies who warned that the move could have devastating humanitarian consequences on a country reeling from the novel coronavirus and an ongoing currency crisis, three officials familiar with the decision said Wednesday. – Washington Post

The U.S. Justice Department seized 92 websites it said were used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to spread disinformation. Four of the web domains — Newsstand7.com, usjournal.net, usjournal.us and twtoday.net — were disguised as genuine news outlets based in the U.S., which the Justice Department determined were controlled by the Iranian guard. – Bloomberg 

Iran has released a prominent human rights activist who campaigned against the death penalty, Iranian media reported Thursday. – Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a phone conversation on Wednesday and raised regional security issues. – Jerusalem Post 

For Iran, struggling from sanctions imposed under Washington’s policy of “maximum pressure”, the US presidential race raises hope of change — but also fears that life could get even worse. – Agence France-Presse

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s planners assess that naval threats to Iran are increasing. Iran held a drill with the Russian and Chinese navies last year. Iran’s drones have harassed US ships. Now Iran’s missiles are in play as well, as it invests more heavily in military installations along the Gulf coast and adjacent to the Gulf of Oman. Iran has also drilled to attack a mock US aircraft carrier over the last several years. Iran has made mistakes though, sometimes firing on its own ships. – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremey Bob writes: If one believes that Tehran is potentially only months from a nuclear weapon, that context could also justify greater risks than if there is still two years on the clock. These different views are likely to start having more real-world consequences once the US presidential election is decided. – Jerusalem Post

Shirin Ebadi, Abbas Milani, and Hamid Moghadam write: In spite of its radical rhetoric and bravura, the Islamic regime has shown that it responds only to credible international pressure. It must be made to understand that with such egregious breaches of human rights, they have no place in the civilized community of nations. Suspending the regime from sports leagues and international legal organizations is the first step to delivering that powerful message. – The Hill

Rob Sobhani writes: While Russia’s ambitions and motivations along its southern periphery are clear, less understood but equally menacing have been the dangerous objectives of the Iranian regime — Iran shares a border with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The launching pad for the Iranian regime’s Nagorno-Karabagh policy starts with Tehran’s deep and strategic ties with Armenia. Yet, the Tehran-Yerevan axis has more to do with what Azerbaijan represents. – Washington Times

David Brennan writes: If Biden wins, the Iranian regime would likely “eke out a living on the little bit of sanctions relief he’s going to grant them as a goodwill gesture,” Fontenrose suggested, but still ensure a hardliner wins power in the summer. Then the regime and the new president might come to the table, but with the intention of exploiting the situation for maximum gain. – Newsweek 

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian write: This summer, Iran decided to construct a new underground centrifuge assembly plant, following the destruction of the above ground one at the Natanz enrichment site on July 2, 2020. […]Because of the added difficulties of building an underground site, the completion of a new centrifuge assembly plant able to assemble thousands of advanced centrifuges per year is unlikely in 2021. – Institute for Science and International Security


Clashes in the Syrian Desert between pro-government forces and holdouts of the Islamic State group have killed at least 90 combatants this month, a war monitor said on Wednesday. Russian aircraft carried out strikes in support of their Syrian regime ally, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. – Defense Post 

A huge explosion was heard in Syria’s city of Deraa, Syrian state TV said early on Thursday citing its reporter. There were injuries due to an explosion in a neighborhood in the southwestern city, state TV added. – Reuters 

Zvi Bar’el writes: The financial bubble enveloping the soccer teams in Syria is no different from the one protecting those close to regime, including middlemen skirting sanctions against the country. – Haaretz 

Andrew Greco writes: The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) continued to deploy to greater Idlib Province between April 1 and October 7, 2020, despite Turkey striking a de-escalation deal with Russia on March 5, 2020.[…]These new deployments have likely resulted in higher overall troop levels, even after Turkey withdrew “hundreds” of TSK and proxy forces on September 8 and continued to deploy Syrian fighters to Libya and Azerbaijan – Institute of the Study of War

Abdullah Al-Jabassini writes: To decrease the likelihood of a regime crackdown, local armed actors should collaborate to fill the security vacuum and end the current state of lawlessness.[…]Without a serious call for action and collaboration, southern Syria is doomed to be a battlefield on which the “sons of the land” are merely the pawns and the victims of internal and external actors. – Middle East Institute


A sandy beach fringing a ghost town in Cyprus’s Turkish-controlled north has become Turkey’s latest front as it pushes for a two-state solution of the divided island and defends the enclave’s claims to any offshore energy finds. – Bloomberg

Karagül further stressed that Turkey is spreading throughout the whole region the powerful political wave that started in Anatolia. Turkey’s geopolitical mind is now in South Caucasus, and united with Azerbaijan, it has formed a surprising power. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Two lawmakers are requesting that the State Department provide details on Turkey’s recent reported use of Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system against F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets, as well as Russia’s ability to gather critical intelligence through it on U.S. and NATO allies. – Military.com

Alex Galtitsky  writes: But with the deterioration of Turkey’s relationship with Israel and the West, and Israel’s normalization of relations with the Muslim world, where does that leave Israel’s relations with Turkey, and its proxy Azerbaijan? And what is Israel’s role in the accelerating conflict between Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, and its neighbor, Armenia? – Ha’aretz

Zvi Bar’el writes: Erdogan didn’t mean that Jerusalem is a Muslim city that belongs to all Muslims. As far as he’s concerned, Jerusalem belongs to Turkey. […]Turkey, which is in 154th place (out of 180 countries) in the World Press Freedom index, justifies the new regulations as being needed to safeguard the country’s security, human dignity and right to privacy. Apparently there’s no other option but to send Israeli Minister for Cyber and National Matters David Amsalem to Ankara for an urgent refresher course. – Ha’aretz


In a latest advancement of Israel-UAE normalization, the countries’ ambassadors to the United Nations on Wednesday met in Geneva, one of the more diplomatically contentious sites for Israel, because it is the seat of the UN Human Rights Council. – Jerusalem Post

European Union leaders have told the Palestinian Authority they will refuse to provide any additional financial aid as long as the Palestinians refuse to accept tax revenues collected by Israel, European diplomats and Israeli officials told Barak Ravid of Axios on Wednesday. – Arutz Sheva

Senior IDF officials instructed Yitzhar members that they must allow Israeli Arabs to enter the community in accordance with the law. – Arutz Sheva

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to a statement put out by Netanyahu’s office, the two leaders talked about “regional security issues, the Iranian aggression and the situation in Syria.” – Algemeiner


Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called for binding consultations with members of parliament next week to name a new prime minister, his office said Wednesday. – Associated Press

France will hold a humanitarian aid conference for Lebanon in November, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Bahaa Rafic Hariri writes: This should involve the EU rectifying its unenforceable distinction between the military and political wings of Hizbollah to proscribe the entire organisation. Additionally, a wider coalition of states should follow the US example and target individuals connected to both Hizbollah and Amal who are accused of rampant corruption. – Financial Times

Gulf States

Qatar has submitted a formal request to the United States to buy stealthy F-35 fighter jets, three people familiar with the deal said, in a deal that if pursued could strain U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia and Israel. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, said the kingdom must focus on its own interests and security while supporting the Palestinian cause. – Reuters

A top U.N. official Thursday condemned recent clashes in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeida, which have left dozens killed and wounded, urging the country’s warring parties to immediately stop the fighting. – Associated Press

Kuwait’s parliament unanimously voted on Thursday to endorse veteran security chief Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad as crown prince after the new emir named him on Wednesday, the parliament said on Twitter. – Reuters

The week that Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalised ties, Israeli diamond trader Zvi Shimshi headed to the United Arab Emirates to open a company in Dubai, a regional trade hub that is a major centre for the precious stones. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: F-35s are a key part of US military industrial complex diplomacy, a way that the US shows who its real friends are and knits together a global alliance system. Toward that end, it likely wants more sales in the Middle East because 5th generation fighter jets work well together and then the US could do joint drills with the UAE, Israel and its F-35s.But that is a long way in the future. If history tells us anything, it won’t be before 2025 that these countries could conceive of getting a squadron of the planes. And a lot can change in five years. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are carrying out regular and increasingly blatant violations of the UN arms embargo on Libya, fuelling a proxy war that is evading political solutions, a joint investigation by the Guardian has found. – The Guardian 

Three Libyans killed a Nigerian man by setting him on fire in Tripoli, the interior ministry said on Wednesday, in what a U.N. agency described as “another senseless crime against migrants in the country”. – Reuters

With debts of tens of billions of dollars, and local banks suffering, according to the parallel central bank set up by authorities in Benghazi, eastern Libya faces a looming crisis. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq faces “the most acute and immediate” threat from Iranian-backed militias, a top State Department official said last week. – USNI News 

Jordan’s King Abdullah on Wednesday appointed veteran diplomat and palace aide Bisher al Khasawneh as the country’s new prime minister, days after accepting the resignation of Omar al-Razzaz, the royal palace said. – Reuters 

Nawzad A Shukri writes: A withdrawal of US troops would also almost certainly lead to the collapse of the Iraqi security forces, allowing Iranian-backed Shia militias to dominate the country. ISIS would re-emerge, and instability and ethnic-sectarian conflicts would spread across Iraq. More importantly, a US withdrawal would create political vacuums in Iraq that would almost certainly be filled by Iran and its allies. All these developments would undermine the US and its allies’ position and interests, and would significantly change the regional balance of power in favor of Iran. – Jerusalem Post 

Korean Peninsula

A North Korean man accused of laundering money lost a legal bid to halt his extradition from Malaysia to the US to face charges Thursday, but will lodge a final appeal. – Agence France-Presse 

But ahead of the 75th founding anniversary of his ruling party this weekend, speculation has risen that Kim may hold a massive military parade and unveil newly developed, powerful missiles. The goal, experts say, would be to bolster internal unity and draw U.S. attention amid deadlocked nuclear diplomacy between the countries. – Associated Press

Robert E. Kelly writes: North Korea, and Stalinist states before it, have done these sorts of muscled-up parades for years, so it is not clear if they still intimidate any foreign countries. They may be more ‘deterrence theater’ for domestic consumption than genuine deterrence of foreigner threats. – The National Interest


Beijing is now deep in planning to reprise its Olympic host role for the 2022 Winter Games. And again, it’s facing a chorus of condemnation over its mass indoctrination and labor program for ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang and its security crackdown in Hong Kong. – Washington Post

The U.S. national security adviser warned China on Wednesday against any attempt to take Taiwan by force, saying amphibious landings were notoriously difficult and there was a lot of ambiguity about how the United States would respond. – Reuters

President Trump has signed an executive order aimed at countering China’s drive to corner the international market on rare earth minerals — key elements used in high-tech products that are the backbone of the U.S. economy and key weapons systems. – Washington Times

Chinese Communist Party officials are sprinting to hit strategic milestones, even as the United States tries to rally democratic allies to counter the threats posed. – Washington Examiner

The Trump administration’s potential restrictions on two Chinese payments giants would reverberate far beyond politics, potentially affecting multibillion-dollar deals, shaking up international commerce and even shaping the evolution of the global financial system. – Bloomberg

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said the U.S. and China must establish rules of engagement for their increasingly tense competition or risk recreating the uncertainty that characterized global politics leading up to World War I. – Bloomberg

Chinese censors appeared to interrupt Wednesday’s vice presidential debate to prevent viewers from hearing criticism regarding Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with the signal dropping just as Vice President Mike Pence began speaking about the topic. – Newsweek

Images published by Chinese state-owned media on 7 October have provided further evidence that the Shenyang Aircraft Company (SAC) has continued production of the J-15 carrier-borne multirole fighter, with at least two aircraft from the third batch now confirmed to be in service. – Jane’s 360

The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) – one of the country’s most important defence enterprises – has outlined plans to expand in both domestic and international markets. The plan is part of the group’s growth strategy during China’s 14th Five Year Plan (FYP), which runs 2021–25. – Jane’s 360

The Trump administration is exploring restrictions on billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Group as well as Tencent Holdings Ltd. over concerns that their digital payment platforms threaten U.S. national security, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that risks infuriating China and disrupting what could be the world’s largest initial public offering. – Bloomberg

Claudia Rosett writes: Mr. Xi’s promised U.N. China geospatial and big-data complex would allow for detailed mapping of everything from topography and infrastructure to human behavior, across time and around the globe. China under its own steam is already collecting and in some cases pilfering troves of data world-wide. But the U.N. badge of legitimacy would make it easier for Beijing to secure flows of data from member states, influence U.N. standards and norms for such data collection, shape the results, feed them into the U.N. system and project the Chinese Communist Party’s techno-tyranny around the world. – Wall Street Journal

Tim Culpan writes: Should the U.S. sever Chinese companies from working with Western firms like Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc., then the pain would be real.[…]Washington hard-liners appear to be running out of real threats to chase, so now they’re barking at the moon. The risk is that if they keep yapping at nothing, the world may soon stop listening. – Bloomberg

Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly LiI write: Industries across sectors and market watchers are paying close attention to the upcoming U.S. presidential election, but not many of them believe the competition and geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing will die down, no matter who becomes the next American president. – Nikkei Asia


President Trump’s national security adviser announced on Wednesday that the United States would cut its troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early next year. – New York Times 

The Taliban on Thursday welcomed an announcement by President Donald Trump on pulling out U.S. troops by Christmas. – Reuters

Patricia Karam writes: A more decentralized and inclusive governance model that would provide communities a say and the power to determine their fate can ensure that all the gains made to date in Afghanistan, especially in the northeast and in Kabul, will not be lost. Such a system will also prevent giving up on an entire country that is certain to otherwise descend into chaos. – The Hill

Emran Feroz writes: A war begun to oust the Taliban is ending with a whimper almost two decades later, with those same Taliban poised for some sort of power-sharing agreement with Kabul. After decades of war and heartbreak and broken promises and shattered lives, so little seems to have changed in Afghanistan. I’ve spent my life trying to figure out why. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

Alphabet Inc’s Google is facing a new antitrust case in India in which the U.S. tech giant is alleged to have abused its Android operating system’s position in the smart television market, a source and two lawyers involved in the case told Reuters. – Reuters 

Millions of people in South Asia are being pushed into extreme poverty as the region where a quarter of humanity lives suffers its worst-ever recession due to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Bank said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Jewish leaders have welcomed a recent decision by the Supreme Court in Pakistan to keep one of Daniel Pearl’s killers in jail despite his acquittal by a lower court in April. – Jerusalem Post 

China was accused by Taiwan of trying to impose censorship in India after its embassy in New Delhi advised journalists to observe the “one-China” principle after newspapers carried advertisements for Taiwan’s national day. – Reuters


Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party has threatened to invade Taiwan for more than seven decades. Now fears are growing among analysts, officials and investors that it might actually follow through over the next few years, potentially triggering a war with the U.S. – Bloomberg

The European Union will impose tariffs on imports of hot-rolled stainless steel coils and sheets from China, Indonesia and Taiwan after an investigation found they were being sold at artificially low prices. – Reuters

Taiwan government officials inspected one of the island’s major ports on Thursday to check shippers were in compliance with United Nations sanctions against North Korea, after previously being implicated in breaking them. – Reuters

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament failed to gather a quorum in an overnight session, deputies said on Thursday, leaving a power vacuum in the Central Asian nation as rival groups sought to claim power after ousting the cabinet. – Reuters

France, the United States and Russia will step up efforts to end fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces in the South Caucasus by holding talks in Geneva on Thursday, as fears of a regional war grow. – Reuters

Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces fought new clashes in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Thursday, before the United States, France and Russia were due to meet in Geneva to try to avert a wider war in the South Caucasus. – Reuters

Activists and families of victims of the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs on Thursday vowed to keep fighting for justice, after the United Nations Human Rights Council opted to give technical assistance to a government accused of ignoring atrocities. – Reuters

Opposition parties in Kyrgyzstan failed to form a new government Wednesday as different groups argued over who would be the new prime minister after three days of political chaos in the Central Asian country. – Associated Press

Clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have displaced half of the population of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, an official said on Wednesday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin urged an end to a “tragedy” that shows no sign of abating. – Agence France-Presse

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga could call a general election either at the beginning of 2021, or after the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics end in early September, according to a key political strategist. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh said on Wednesday it was “disappointed” Cambodia had razed an American-built military facility that symbolized friendship between the countries. – Bloomberg

Similar to Russia, the United States is both a Minsk Group co-chair and a U.N. Security Council permanent member. Therefore, the U.S. should have a keen interest in implementing the peace plan and the decisions by both international organizations, respectively. – Washington Times

In a rare act of bipartisanship, Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) passed a resolution on Tuesday calling for the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reestablish formal diplomatic relations with the United States, two and a half weeks after Chinese state media issued a threat against the personal safety of Taiwan’s president. – The Daily Beast

Editorial: The current conflict is a reminder of the consequences of the United States’ diminished role on the world stage. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo has rightly joined his counterparts in France and Russia in calling for a cessation to hostilities, but the United States has less credibility and effectiveness due to the continuing turmoil within the Trump administration and its shift toward an “America First” foreign policy, which has turned this country profoundly inward. America cannot be the world’s policeman, but its shambolic disengagement from most of the rest of the world has been a terrible blow to the international order. – LA Times 

Hal Brands writes: Which reinforces the need to devise ways of bringing U.S. combat power to bear without gathering forces in highly vulnerable formations, as well as the reality that war against a major power would be far more deadly than anything the American military has experienced since Vietnam. The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh may seem like a remnant of the Soviet past in an unfamiliar part of the world. Yet the fierce fighting underway there could actually be a preview of the future. – Bloomberg

Colleen Woods writes: Kyrgyzstan’s political landscape is highly fragmented, with most political parties serving as vehicles for powerful people’s interests. Of the more than 250 registered parties in Kyrgyzstan, 16 competed in Sunday’s election for 120 seats. With electoral rules dictating that parties must clear a 7 percent threshold, only four parties—representing just 65 percent of overall turnout—secured seats. – Foreign Policy 

David Pollock writes: Nevertheless, for now, it seems doubtful that even this truly unusual combination of allies will enable Azerbaijan to recapture all of its disputed territory. […]The most likely scenario, however, is that Baku’s skill at keeping unlikely bedfellows together will continue to preserve its own core interests without altering the fundamental tensions at stake. Neither Israel nor Iran is poised to gain a decisive advantage from either one’s ties with Azerbaijan, which is just the way Baku wants it. – Washington Institute


In Russia’s self-proclaimed sphere of influence, Russia is losing its influence. Concurrent crises in Belarus, Central Asia and the Caucasus region have blindsided the Kremlin, leaving it scrambling to shore up Russian interests in former Soviet republics and undermining President Vladimir V. Putin’s image as a master tactician on the world stage. – New York Times

The U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of the Russian efforts created a backlash against social-media companies, which were accused of providing platforms for a misinformation campaign aimed at influencing voters. Facebook Inc. Twitter Inc. and others have since implemented changes to limit the reach of state-run media. – Wall Street Journal 

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his first substantive remarks on the U.S. presidential race, noting what he called Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s sharp anti-Russian rhetoric. He praised President Trump for improving relations between the two countries, and said he was reassured by Mr. Biden’s support for extending arms-control agreements. – Wall Street Journal

France and Germany will propose sanctions on individuals they deem responsible for the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, their governments said Wednesday, reiterating that they suspect a Kremlin involvement. – Washington Post

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday decried what he called Joe Biden’s “sharp anti-Russian rhetoric” but praised the Democratic presidential nominee’s comments on arms control. – Associated Press

“No, despite all the bellicose rhetoric, Turkey does not want to risk its relations with Russia and will not interfere in the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Reports about deployed militants from Syria, as well as about the Armenian Su-25 downed by a Turkish F-16, are all disinformation. However, there is, of course, Turkey’s political interference – and it has already acquired impressive proportions. Why does Ankara act this way and what does it hope to achieve?” – Middle East Media Research Institute

George Barros writes: It is unclear whether Kyrgyz forces will participate in the Unbreakable Brotherhood given intensifying protests in Bishkek. A Kyrgyz withdrawal from the Unbreakable Brotherhood would likely grant the Kremlin greater opportunity to repurpose the exercises. – Institute for the Study of War


In a landmark trial reckoning with the extreme far right, a Greek court Wednesday found Golden Dawn party leaders and lawmakers guilty of running a criminal organization an extraordinary rebuke of a party that had once clawed into the country’s mainstream. – Washington Post

Britain on Wednesday pressed the European Union to secure a post-Brexit trade deal by mid-October, despite deadlock in talks and calls for movement on key areas of disagreement. – Agence France-Presse

A Russian accused of killing a Georgian man in broad daylight in downtown Berlin on Moscow’s orders went on trial for murder Wednesday, in a case that has contributed to growing frictions between Germany and Russia. – Associated Press

Cambridge Analytica, the defunct U.K. consulting company accused of using secretly mined Facebook Inc. data for targeted political advertising, wasn’t involved in the Brexit campaign, according to report by the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office. – Bloomberg

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said “considerable gaps” remain between the European Union and the U.K. in their efforts to find a trade deal, as he prepared to meet European Council President Charles Michel. – Bloomberg

Leonardo demonstrated a swarming drone capability for the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) in July, during which a number of small remotely piloted aircraft equipped with the company’s electronic warfare jamming technology were used to confuse and overwhelm trial radars simulating enemy air-defence systems. – Jane’s 360

Tom Rogan writes: To be sure, Trump’s attitude toward Putin is often delusional. But Biden’s looming inaction is prospectively a far worse threat to U.S. interests. If he wants to protect America and our allies, the former vice president should reassess his nuclear strategy. – Washington Examiner

Karina Piser writes: Macron’s plan focuses on limiting foreign influence and investing in a new generation of French imams, with a certification process based in France. Because laïcité bars the state from interfering with religious affairs, France has relied on what’s known as “consular Islam” to manage Muslim institutions. – Foreign Policy


A court in Kenya on Wednesday found two men guilty for their role in an assault on an upscale mall in the capital, Nairobi, that killed 67 people in 2013, the first convictions in one of the deadliest terror attacks in the country’s history. – New York Times 

Relatives and supporters on Wednesday anxiously awaited the return of a prominent Malian politician and a French aid worker released by Islamic extremists, after families were notified of their release. – Associated Press

The al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab has released two Cuban doctors who were kidnapped in Kenya and held for a year and a half in neighboring Somalia, officials say. But a Cuban official has denied it. – Associated Press

Mali’s former prime minister Boubou Cisse and other officials and military personnel detained during the August coup have been released, according to a statement by the vice president, Colonel Assimi Goita. – Reuters

The U.S. government’s suspension of military aid to Mali will remain in place until the West African nation has held elections, the American envoy to the Sahel region said. – Bloomberg

Latin America

The European Union said on Wednesday it will not send election observers to parliamentary elections in Venezuela in December, warning that President Nicolas Maduro’s decision to call them at short notice worsened the political crisis in the country. – Reuters 

Venezuela’s state-run Petroleos de Venezuela has boosted crude blending and upgrading to their highest levels in six months, according to company documents seen by Reuters on Wednesday, as exports rise despite strict U.S. sanctions. – Reuters 

The deterioration of its infrastructure stood out in June with the partial collapse of the roof of an outdoor walkway that is a part of the iconic architecture of the complex, which has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The institution’s troubles signal that Venezuela risks losing a generation of college graduates, potentially leaving it without the human resources to rebuild a nation where most of the professionals are now in the diaspora. – Reuters 

A network of Iranian terror proxy groups operating in Latin America, including Hezbollah, are providing the resources necessary for dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela to flourish, according to a new investigation released on Wednesday. – The Washington Free Beacon 


A mysterious European named Leo has offered a stream of familiar — and completely false — right-wing talking points on Parler, a social media site favored by conservatives: Mail-in voting amounts to fraud. Left-wing activists somehow infected President Trump with the coronavirus. His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, is a “sexual predator.” – Washington Post

Facebook said it plans to temporarily suspend all political and issue-based advertising after polls close Nov. 3, a move the company said was intended to limit confusion, misinformation and abuse of its services in the days after the presidential election. – Washington Post

The U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of the Russian efforts created a backlash against social-media companies, which were accused of providing platforms for a misinformation campaign aimed at influencing voters. Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and others have since implemented changes to limit the reach of state-run media. – Wall Street Journal

Saudi diplomats, Sikh separatists and Indian business executives have been among those targeted by a group of hired hackers, according to research published on Wednesday by software firm BlackBerry Corp. – Reuters 

A scathing report detailing abuses of market power by four top technology companies suggests a tough road ahead of new rules and stricter enforcement for Big Tech should Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden win the White House. – Reuters

Facebook Inc on Wednesday banned calls for poll watching that use “militarized language,” as it tightened a slew of restrictions ahead of U.S. elections next month amid mounting alarm that unfounded claims online could result in violence. – Reuters

Democratic lawmakers are calling for Congress to rein in Big Tech, possibly forcing Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple to break up their businesses, while making it harder for them to acquire others and imposing new rules to safeguard competition. – Associated Press

A hearing over the Trump administration’s attempt to ban the popular video-sharing app TikTok is set to be held one day after the upcoming presidential election, a federal judge said Tuesday. – The Hill

In Jordan,  Sandvine Inc.’s equipment was used to censor an LGBTQ website. Egypt’s government relied on Sandvine equipment to block access to independent news sites. In Azerbaijan, it was deployed for a social media blackout, current and former employees say. – Bloomberg

A committee of U.K. lawmakers called on the government to consider banning China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from fifth-generation wireless networks two years earlier than the current 2027 plan. – Bloomberg

Researchers from the Israeli Guardicore company have found a security breach that would allow hackers to listen to users through remotes belonging to the Comcast cable company in the US. – Jerusalem Post

Jewish organizations reacted positively to the news this week that social media giant YouTube had banned the stridently antisemitic Nation of Islam (NoI) organization, led by Louis Farrakhan, from its platform. – Algemeiner

Parliament’s Defence Committee says there is “clear evidence of collusion” between Huawei and the Chinese state in a new report on 5G security. – Sky News (UK)


Antifa is absent from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s newest report on threats facing the nation regardless of President Trump repeatedly asserting its adherents are domestic terrorists. – Washington Times

Two Washington Post national security reporters on Wednesday announced they will sue the Defense Department for further details on overseas troop reductions announced by President Trump. – The Hill

The US Department of State (DoS) is continuing to develop and improve its online Defence Export Control and Compliance System (DECCS) export licensing platform, following on from its successful rollout online of registration and licensing on 18 February and the challenges of Covid-19. – Jane’s 360

The maritime services are poised to release several documents in the next few weeks that will outline a new path forward for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard under the National Defense Strategy, Navy Secretary Braithwaite previewed on Wednesday. – USNI News

The Democratic split over the size of future defense budgets will come to a head in the new Congress, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., predicted Tuesday. – Defense News

The U.S. Navy needs to quickly modernize its fleet’s network in order to be prepared for future fights, but one of the “greatest impediments” to that effort is that 5frwcgydtqr5s4eathe hardware inside ships requires hull cuts to be upgraded, a top Navy IT official said Monday. – C4ISRNET

The Air Force has paused its effort to replace the E-4B “Doomsday Plane,” as it considers a new acquisition approach, the service said Oct. 2 – Defense News

The Army has awarded Collins Aerospace to build its Mounted Assured Position Navigation and Timing System (MAPS), a program that ensures soldiers know where they are and where they’re going even if the enemy is jamming GPS. – C4ISRNET

U.S. Transportation Command is taking the potential for cargo delivery via orbit seriously enough that it hopes to test the concept with SpaceX as soon as next year, the command’s head said Wednesday. – C4ISRNET

The cylindrical design of Ascent Aerosystems’ Spirit small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) makes it able to operate in all weather conditions with less weight than the quadcopter UAS, according to a company executive. – Jane’s 360

The US Army is on the hunt for alternative ways to increase its new Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) programme’s rate of fire and is looking to small businesses for help. What remains undetermined, though, is if the service will meet its initial 2024 timetable for rolling out that capability to the artillery community. – Jane’s 360

Littoral Combat Ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) has completed its deployment in the Indo-Pacific region and is now assigned to the U.S Navy’s 3rd Fleet, USNI News has learned. – USNI News

Dan Gouré writes: In addition to long-range, more accurate weapons, the U.S. military needs a revolution in long-range surveillance and targeting. This requires not just deploying more and better sensors but developing advanced data management and analytic capabilities with a heavy reliance on artificial intelligence. The combination of highly lethal fires at all ranges and near-real time precision targeting will change the way the joint force fights in the future. – The National Interest

Long War

Six years after the Islamic State beheaded American journalists and aid workers on camera, two men have been charged in U.S. federal court for involvement in those deaths. – Washington Post

Ali Hassan was only 15 when he left Pakistan to be smuggled to Europe, following the path of his older brother and many other young men from his home country dreaming of a better life. Nearly three years later, Hassan is today in a Paris jail after allegedly attacking and seriously wounding two people with a meat cleaver – Associated Press

A computer hacker who gave the Islamic State group personal data of more than 1,300 U.S. government and military personnel will remain in a federal prison after a judge rejected his request for compassionate release. – Associated Press

Tom Rogan writes: The two remaining members of the so-called ISIS “Beatles” cell are preparing for a one-stop tour of Florence.[…] One wonders whether the two former Britons will come to envy the fate of their Beatles ringleader, Mohammed Emwazi (aka Jihadi John). In November 2015, Emwazi ate a Hellfire missile in Raqqa. His departure from this world might have been overdue, but it was at least swift. The same will not be true for Elsheikh and Kotey. They’ll likely live in their small cells, in isolation, for another fifty years. – Washington Examiner

Trump Administration

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it inadvertently altered dates on copies of notes from two former senior FBI officials that were turned over to Michael Flynn’s defense team and filed to the court as potentially exculpatory evidence. – Washington Post

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Wednesday said he had approved the release of almost 1,000 pages of materials to the Justice Department as part of an investigation of the FBI’s probe of Russian election interference in 2016. – Washington Post

Democrats quickly called the move a political stunt in the middle of the president’s heated campaign to defeat Democrat Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election. Moreover, intelligence professionals blasted John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence and a Trump loyalist, for going along with the declassification, saying it was a flagrant example of using intelligence for political purposes. – Associated Press