Fdd's overnight brief

September 11, 2020

In The News


Two Iranian-flagged tankers transporting fuel are sailing round Africa’s Cape of Good Hope en route to the Atlantic Ocean, according to Refinitiv Eikon’s vessel tracking data. – Reuters

On Friday, the United States will pay tribute to the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001. While Al Qaeda was primarily responsible, it is important to understand the role of Al Qaeda’s silent partner through the years—the Islamic Republic of Iran. – United Against Nuclear Iran

With the incumbent president and his main challenger deeply at odds over a 2015 nuclear deal and other aspects of policy toward Tehran, the outcome of the U.S. election on November 3 could play a powerful role in shaping Iran’s development for years to come. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

New data released by Iran’s major trading partners show a significant drop in Iranian imports, as well as the nations’ exports to Iran. – Radio Farda

Foreign ministers from the UK, France and Germany have agreed to hold out against US demands to snapback all UN sanctions on Iran, despite intensified pressure from the US specifically on the UK government to fall into line. – The Guardian


Leaders of seven southern European countries on Thursday urged Turkey to end “unilateral and illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean and resume dialogue to ease tensions in the region. – Associated Press

The tensions are rooted in exploration for natural gas off the island of Cyprus, which is itself long a source of conflict between Greece and Turkey. Theirs is a history of troubles veering close to war three times in the past half century. Here’s a rundown of issues dividing them. – Bloomberg

French President Emmanuel Macron said Turkey was “no longer a partner” in the Mediterranean but called for renewed dialogue with Ankara. – Politico

Editorial: Under Mr. Erdogan, Turkey has benefited from its ties to the West while moving closer to Russia. Turkey is a strategically important NATO member, particularly in the Black Sea, and the relationship is worth trying to save. But intimidating another ally like this deserves an answer. If Mr. Erdogan uses force or threatens to cut refugees loose on Europe, Washington and Brussels will need a united response. – Wall Street Journal


Israel‘s military said on Thursday that one of its drones fell inside Lebanon during “operational activity” along the frontier, while the Lebanese army said it had shot it down. – Reuters

A first official visit to Israel by a United Arab Emirates delegation, provisionally planned for Sept 22, may be postponed or conducted under restrictions given a looming coronavirus lockdown, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Friday. – Reuters

Following the normalization agreement reached between the two countries, a major company from the United Arab Emirates is set to establish an international office in Israel. – Algemeiner

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to visit the US to participate in ceremony with the United Arab Emirates in which he and Foreign Affairs Minister and the crown prince’s brother, Abdullah bin Zayed will sign the normalization deal between the two nations. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinians have reacted with outrage and deep disappointment to the Arab League’s refusal to condemn the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. – Jerusalem Post

Ehud Yaari writes: Establishing incremental normalization arrangements with several states appears to be the likeliest route for near-term development of the Arab-Israel peace process, as opposed to an imminent series of historic UAE-style accords. […]The most important step is to ensure rapid success of the UAE normalization deal as a model for other potential partners, encouraging them to surround the Palestinians with an Arab-Israel “peace belt” that ultimately convinces Ramallah to seek a deal. – Washington Institute

Herb Keinon writes: Netanyahu should go to Washington for this event, even in the middle of a swirling pandemic. Before going, he should make a decision regarding the Rosh Hashanah lockdown, but then he should go and sign this landmark accord. While there, he should also try to meet Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden to show that Israel is not taking sides in the US election. – Jerusalem Post


A Katyusha rocket fell in the vicinity of Baghdad airport but caused no casualties, Iraq state news agency INA said on Thursday, the second such attack on the airport this week. – Reuters

A trove of Saddam-era files secretly returned to Iraq has pried open the country’s painful past, prompting hopes some may learn the fate of long-lost relatives along with fears of new bloodshed. – Agence France-Presse

Munqith Dagher writes: Indeed, Kadhimi’s current strategy, which he implemented to strengthen the state’s security institutions and contain these militias’ activities by appealing to Shia leaders who have influence over them, has run out of time. […]Thus the confrontation between the two sides now appears closer than ever before. A formidable question arises: will the pupil of Republic of Fear’s author have the power to prevent Iraq from descending irretrievably into the militias’ Republic of Terror? – Washington Institute


A large fire broke out Thursday at Lebanon’s main port, sending up a plume of smoke near the site of the massive explosion that devastated a swath of the country’s capital and killed nearly 200 people. – Wall Street Journal

During his visit this month, French President Emmanuel Macron gave Lebanon’s politicians a road map for policy changes and reform, set deadlines for them to take action and told them he’d be back in December to check on progress. – Associated Press

Edward M. Gabriel writes: This is where American values become most important, in reaching the hearts and minds of people elsewhere in the world. Not only could civil society and the people in Lebanon’s streets recognize America’s good side, but the U.S. might even open the door for a political conversation with those in Lebanon who want to ensure change and become their country’s future leaders. – The Hill

Joseph Sarkis writes: By remaining committed to strengthening LAF, the U.S. is making Lebanon more resilient as it continues to fight against terrorism and prevent WMD proliferation. This is especially important because Lebanon’s geostrategic position makes it an advanced line of defense against the spread of terrorism throughout the region and around the world. – Middle East Institute

Arabian Peninsula

A new United Nations report detailing atrocities in Yemen’s ­civil war calls on the U.N. Security Council to refer alleged actions by all parties in the conflict, including the Houthi rebels and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, to the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes prosecutions. – Washington Post

Yemen’s Houthi group said it had attacked an “important target” in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Thursday using a ballistic missile and drones. – Reuters

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday it was possible another country could soon join a diplomatic accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. – Reuters

President Trump reportedly admitted to protecting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from pressure from Congress following the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. – The Hill

With Israel and the United Arab Emirates set to ink their recently-announced normalization deal next week, the representative body of the Gulf state’s Jewish community said on Thursday it would be officially affiliating with the World Jewish Congress (WJC). – Algemeiner

Saudi Arabia has agreed to open its airspace to flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and to all eastward travel, according to Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser. – Jerusalem Post

Haisam Hassanein writes: A targeted campaign against the UAE-Israel deal at this moment has the potential to intimidate other Arab leaders from following suit on normalization; it can also empower voices of anti-normalization in Riyadh and Manama among other Arab capitals. Qatari media is certainly not the only Arab voice to come out against the deal, but special attention must be dedicated to this message and its potential impact on the ongoing regional response to peace between Israel and the UAE. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Syrian air defences thwarted an Israeli attack on Aleppo city, Syrian state television said on Friday. – Reuters

Jordan said a series of massive explosions that rocked the city of Zarqa early on Friday was likely caused by an electric short circuit at a nearby army munitions depot. – Reuters

The European Union maritime force enforcing the U.N. arms embargo on Libya said Thursday it intercepted and redirected a tanker headed for Libya after determining it was carrying jet fuel in possible violation of the ban. – Associated Press

Guy Burton writes: Looking ahead, then, it will prove challenging for China to apply its concept of peace through development in the region. But regardless of whether it works, the new tactic does herald a change in Chinese behavior in relation to conflict management and resolution. Instead of the more defensive, responsive actor it has been in the past, China appears set to become a more proactive participant. For that reason, U.S. and other Western policymakers should take note and respond accordingly. – War on the Rocks

Michael Singh writes: The future of China’s policy depends not just on these factors, however, but on the approach the United States chooses to take to Beijing overall as well as on the unanswered question of what Middle East strategy Washington will pursue to complement its broader strategy of great-power competition. The current US posture of heavy presence but strategic diffidence in the region offers China the best of both worlds—a continued American security umbrella over a region increasingly interested in diversifying its great-power relationships. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

The head of U.S. forces in South Korea said on Thursday he was not seeing indications that North Korea was looking at “lashing out” ahead of an expected military parade next month, as Pyongyang is internally focused on dealing with typhoon damage and the coronavirus. – Reuters

North Korean authorities have issued shoot-to-kill orders to prevent the coronavirus entering the country from China, according to the commander of US forces in the South. – Agence France-Presse 

Michael Hirsh writes: Indeed, with Kim now keeping out of sight and Joe Biden bidding to replace Trump after Nov. 3, the romance may already be over—and relations between the two countries could well revert back to the chronic mutual threats of decades past. – Foreign Policy


Whoever wins the presidential election, one thing is clear: The U.S. has turned a corner in its relations with China and is likely to maintain a harder line. – Wall Street Journal

When the Twitter account of a Chinese ambassador on Wednesday “liked” a tweet of an X-rated video involving the use of feet, a furious statement from the Chinese Embassy demanded that Twitter launch an investigation. – New York Times

The country is using the prospect of the drug’s discovery in a charm offensive aimed at repairing damaged ties and bringing friends closer in regions China deems vital to its interests. – New York Times

China said on Thursday the Australian embassy in China obstructed law enforcement when it sheltered two journalists who were wanted for questioning in the country and returned to Australia this week. – Reuters

China on Thursday accused the United States of political persecution and racial discrimination and said it reserves the right for further reaction, after Washington said it had revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers it had deemed security risks. – Reuters

China and the United States traded attacks about who best understands press freedom as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party for refusing to carry an op-ed by the US ambassador. – Reuters

A coalition of human rights groups delivered that demand to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach ahead of the body’s executive board meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday. In a letter, the group asked the IOC to “reverse its mistake in awarding Beijing the honor of hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 2022.” – Associated Press

China surpassed every American security planners’ expectations in its successful building and deploying of the world’s largest maritime fleet in just 20 years, a leading naval strategist said Wednesday. The question now is what Beijing’s military and paramilitary forces will look like in the future. – USNI News

James R. Holmes writes: And lastly, regular consultation is a must. Beijing may be hostile, but it is not irrational. It accepts the logic of mutual assured destruction — the cornerstone of deterrence. Because Xi Jinping & Co. are rational, they may prove receptive to relaxing the PLA’s alert posture if persuaded that Washington and Moscow will do likewise. And relaxation would be an improvement. – The Hill

James Palmer writes: To be sure, to some degree that applies to any foreign deal, especially between two countries with a contentious history. But the sheer speed with which the relationships between China and the rest of the world are snapping makes a mockery of the risk assessments of even a few years ago. Businesses are now left trying to span the China Gap between the conditions when they started a deal and today. – Foreign Policy


Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are expected to begin on Saturday in Doha, Qatar, officials announced on Thursday, in a historic negotiation between the two sides after nearly two decades of bitter war. – New York Times

Much anticipated negotiations between Afghanistan’s warring parties are likely to be “contentious,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Friday, but are the only way forward if Afghans are to find peace after decades of relentless conflict. – Associated Press

France’s foreign ministry on Thursday protested against the liberation by Afghan authorities of two Taliban prisoners who had killed two of its citizens. – Reuters

President Trump on Thursday announced his intent to nominate a new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, looking to fill a role left empty since the previous ambassador stepped down in January. – The Hill

But now Ishaqzai, who is in his 50s, has been propelled into the spotlight after he was appointed the Taliban’s chief negotiator for long-awaited peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar with the internationally recognized government in Kabul. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A group of Democratic senators has introduced legislation to impose sanctions on any Russian individual or entity involved in a reported program to place bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

South Asia

The Indian and Chinese foreign ministers have agreed that their troops should disengage from a tense border standoff, maintain proper distance and ease tensions in the cold-desert Ladakh region where the two sides in June had their deadliest clash in decades. – Associated Press

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will no longer be invited to events of the European Parliament’s human rights prize, which she won in 1990, EU lawmakers said on Thursday, a protest over accusations of genocide in her country. – Reuters

Aijaz Hussain writes: Border tensions have persisted despite talks at military, diplomatic and political levels. With strong nationalists leading both countries, the border has taken on a prominence not seen in years. […]Experts warn that if military hostilities are not stopped, war could be next. – Associated Press

Salvatore Babones writes: To ensure Western political support against China, Modi has to moderate his exercise of power in India. The BJP will never be a secular party, but it can become a more liberal party, and for most Western governments, that would be enough. For most Indians, that would be a boon, expanding opportunities for political participation while securing freedom of expression. The BJP prides itself on being a reformist party. The most difficult reform—and possibly the most important—is for the party to reform itself. – Foreign Policy


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Southeast Asian nations Thursday to reconsider deals with Chinese companies blacklisted by Washington for building island outposts he says Beijing is using to “bully” rival claimants in the disputed South China Sea. – Associated Press

India and Japan have signed an agreement that will provide their militaries access to each other’s bases for supplies and services, the Indian defence ministry said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters

Outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to make a statement on missile defense strategy that could alter his country’s security stance long after he leaves office. – Bloomberg

Joshua Walker and Hidetoshi Azuma write: Splitting a Sino-Russian alliance may be beyond Japan’s abilities, but Abe’s intrepid proposition provided the country with a geostrategic rationale for positioning itself as a force to be reckoned with across the Eurasian continent. […]While Tokyo braces for the coming post-Abe era, Abe’s unfinished deal with Russia will likely remain underappreciated at home in the immediate future. Ultimately Abe’s enduring influence on the trajectory of Japan’s foreign policy will only be appreciated in time. – War on the Rocks

Alessio Patalano writes: Whoever becomes prime minister will certainly inherit a fast-deteriorating situation, and should take the lead in resuming discussions with Beijing for a crisis management and prevention mechanism applicable to their coast guards. This might help a delaying strategy, though the air and maritime mechanisms already in place have thus far elicited limited success. Indeed, realizing that slowing the Chinese advance in the Senkakus may no longer suffice as a strategy may be the greatest challenge facing post-Abe Japan. – War on the Rocks

James Crabtree writes: Ultimately, Asian nations will adapt to whichever candidate ends up in the White House. Were Biden to prevail, he may be able to assuage his doubters quickly, leaving little nostalgia for Trump’s era of unpredictability. For now, however, Asia’s doubts about him are real. Biden’s true priority is to win over American voters. But given that he has put working with U.S. partners in Asia at the heart of any future foreign policy, a little more reassurance would not go amiss. – Foreign Policy


Russia’s top diplomat on Thursday accused the West of leveling accusations of poisoning top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny without providing evidence, staunchly denying any official involvement. – Associated Press

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has told Italy’s prime minister that he will set up a committee to investigate the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Giuseppe Conte was quoted on Thursday as saying. – Reuters

The Kremlin said on Thursday it was possible there had been a misunderstanding after Italy’s prime minister said that President Vladimir Putin had promised to set up a commission to investigate the case of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. – Reuters

The Kremlin said on Thursday it respected Serbia’s decision to withdraw from participating in joint military drills alongside Russian and Belarusian forces that are due to take place in protest-hit Belarus later this month. – Reuters

With his most prominent critic hit by a near-fatal poisoning that opponents and the West blame on the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin faces a key test of support in Russian regional elections that are a prelude to a national vote next year. – Bloomberg

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has reportedly made further progress in his recovery from alleged poisoning with a nerve agent and is able to speak and recall the incidents leading up to his hospitalization, a German magazine said Thursday. Navalny remains hospitalized in Berlin, where he was taken for specialist treatment after several days in a Russian hospital. – CBS News

This report presents two articles by leading Russian liberals. The first is by economic professor Vladislav Inozemtsev and the second by the Rosbalt Information Agency’s managing director Nikolay Ulyanov. Both argue that the West has lost patience with Moscow as a result of the cumulative effect of Moscow’s disdain for civilized practice and successive flouting of red lines. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: Europe can make use of the existing international law framework on chemical weapons, leading, at least in theory, to United Nations sanctions against confirmed violators of the global ban on deadly agents such as Novichok, the Russian-origin one that felled Mr. Navalny. […]The attack on Mr. Navalny should shock them into faster action. – Washington Post

Constanze Stelzenmüller writes: In the short term, there are many other suppliers of liquid natural gas than Russia; in the long term, the EU needs to move decisively to green fuels. It must modernise energy infrastructure and supply security across Europe, allowing no national exemptions from EU energy regulations. It should also offer refuge to those persecuted by Russia and study visas to the young. That, rather than offers of dialogue, is the language the Kremlin understands. – Financial Times

Pierre Morcos and Cyrus Newlin write: But one thing is clear: Navalny’s poisoning is the latest symptom of a jittery Russian state that has grown more inflexible, more reactive, and more repressive. Like the movements in Khabarovsk and Belarus, this trend has a momentum of its own and will continue to shift the boundaries of response by the Russian government. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The European Union delivered an ultimatum to Britain on Thursday, demanding it withdraw a proposal before British lawmakers that would breach the Brexit divorce agreement the two sides signed late last year. – Wall Street Journal

European Union sanctions on Belarus are being delayed by a separate dispute between Cyprus and Turkey over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, four EU diplomats said, in the latest sign of paralysis in the bloc’s foreign policy. – Reuters

Less than a week after Serbia agreed to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem by July as part of a deal with Kosovo brokered by Donald Trump, the Balkan nation’s president cast doubts on the timing and execution of the plan. – Bloomberg

Warships and aircraft from Britain, Denmark, Norway and the U.S. have completed an exercise aimed at demonstrating freedom of navigation in the High North, the British Ministry of Defence announced Sept 10. – Defense News

A leading Belarusian opposition official has called on the European Union to live up to its commitment to support democracy and announce that it will stop recognizing the rule of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka at the end of a three-month transition period. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Editorial: The message ought to be underscored by serious personal sanctions — frozen foreign bank accounts, travel bans and the like — against Mr. Lukashenko’s cronies and those who falsified the election results and then cruelly abused those who dared to protest. – New York Times

Matthew Karnitschnig writes: It’s worth keeping in mind that Germany’s economic relationship with Russia — even before international sanctions were imposed on the country — is negligible compared with what it has built with China. For better or worse, Kohl’s goal of tethering Germany’s fortunes to China worked, and now there’s no going back. – Politico

Maryia Sadouskaya-Komlach writes: After years of doing little, Poland now says it wants to help change Belarus for the better. But it is discovering that by pressing ahead with constitutional changes that deviate from EU core values, its influence beyond its borders is far less than it once was. – Politico

Richard Kraemer writes: Hearts and minds aren’t far from food, housing, and prospects of a more prosperous future. Effectively deterring adversarial Chinese interventions into the Ukrainian economy is the first step. […]U.S. leadership must exert the political will critical to getting companies from the U.S. and our transatlantic allies to fill voids where feasible and profitable. Failure on this front will eventually compel Kiev to resurvey eastern horizons as the Western assurances of alliance and integration ring increasingly hollow. – Middle East Institute

Paul Hockenos writes: The EU could play a constructive role in the Greece-Turkey conflict by helping the three parties declare a moratorium—even if initially for one or two years—on exploration and switch their focus to renewable energies. Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey have immensely favorable conditions for clean energy generation—which they should exploit, with as much help from the EU as possible, rather than sparring over gas fields that will issue nothing but problems for years to come. – Foreign Policy


The Trump administration’s effort to relocate the U.S. military headquarters that oversees operations in Africa could cost at least $1 billion and create new diplomatic and logistical challenges, according to current and former defense officials. – Washington Post

Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 53 villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province this week, a local official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Mozambique on Thursday denied accusations by rights group Amnesty International that soldiers had committed atrocities, saying the acts were carried out by Islamist insurgents impersonating troops. – Reuters

Latin America

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who could once call hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters to the streets, tried Thursday to hold the first public rallies since the coronavirus pandemic struck the South American country. – Washington Post

Former presidents have lined up to attack him and critics call him a single-issue ideologue, but Donald Trump’s candidate to head the most important development bank in the Americas believes he has won a majority for his programme to revamp the lender. – Financial Times

Venezuela’s worst economic meltdown in history has had a huge impact on neighboring Colombia, where hospitals, schools and welfare agencies are dealing with 2 million Venezuelan refugees. But the crisis has produced at least one silver lining for Colombia: the curtailing of gasoline smuggling. – NPR

Andrés Malamud and Luis L. Schenoni write: Latin America can still be internationally relevant in specific arenas, and particular cases may become problematic, but with a dwarfing economy and squarely under U.S. hegemony, the region may be less relevant globally than at any point in the past few centuries. And yet, who said irrelevance is bad when it means being scratched off the menu? – Foreign Policy


The Russian military intelligence unit that attacked the Democratic National Committee four years ago is back with a series of new, more stealthy hacks aimed at campaign staff members, consultants and think tanks associated with both Democrats and Republicans. – New York Times

Reports that Russian state hackers targeted one of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s main election campaign advisory firms “look like nonsense”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday. – Reuters

Authorities in government and Big Tech unveiled a number of actions and announcements on Thursday in the ongoing effort to defend the 2020 election from foreign interference. – NPR

Clint Watts and Tim Hwang write: The United States has largely failed to confront the pathologies of the information ecosystem that characterized the 2016 election cycle. There are growing signs that this year’s Election Day will mark the start of a prolonged period of election insecurity. How we prepare for this challenge in the weeks remaining before the election will be crucial to shaping the fate of our nation and its democracy. – Washington Post


The U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift program is getting “significant” levels of attention from militaries around the globe, eight of which have already sent letters of interest to the service, the head of the FVL program said Sept. 10. – Defense News

If the “resounding victory” of artificial intelligence-piloted F-16s over human pilots in a virtual dogfight is any indication, the United States would be at a battlefield disadvantage if China and Russia’s early investments in AI outpace the U.S. commitment. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. Army is in the midst of conducting what Army Futures Command Commander Gen. Mike Murray is calling “this generation’s digital Louisiana Maneuvers” in the Arizona desert, as the service aims to bring key technologies together designed to fight across air, land, sea, space and cyber. – Defense News

More than two years after the U.S. Navy publicly announced its plan for a new assessment of what its future force should look like, the product of no fewer than three iterations will soon be briefed to the defense secretary, a senior Defense Department official said Thursday. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is opening a new office and laboratory to develop agile position, navigation and timing solutions in an attempt to reduce soldiers’ dependence on GPS. – C4ISRNET

The Navy is crafting common unmanned system enablers like autonomy, network standards and control stations that would fall outside individual program offices, allowing program managers to focus on range, stealth or other features that make a particular unmanned vehicle unique. – USNI News

Harrison Schramm and Todd Lyons write: China is making massive gains in the development and adoption of artificial intelligence across the broad range of governmental activities by integrating those activities in a way that is not seen in the United States. Private industry is outstripping the ability of the government to regulate the adoption of the AI-enabled technologies or deal with the implications of its successes or failures. The need for the Digital Service Academy is incredibly clear. – War on the Rocks

Bryan Clark, Seth Cropsey and Timothy A. Walton write: However, the United States and its allies face a short window of opportunity. There is a risk that rising procurement and O&S costs for the current manned ASW portfolio and flat or declining budgets will prevent the adoption of new ASW concepts or investment in new unmanned systems. If US and allied navies fail to act during the next several years, they could lose their undersea advantage to surging fleets of adversary submarines. – Hudson Institute

Long War

In a September 7, 2020 article in  the Qatari daily Al-Sharq,  Tunisia’s former ambassador in Qatar, Ahmad Al-Qadidi, who was also an advisor to Qatar’s former prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim, wrote that the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 attacks had been trained in U.S. military centers and were controlled remotely by supernatural means. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency says it has arrested a key member of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group’s affiliate in the country who is said to be a mastermind behind the assassination of two prominent religious scholars in Kabul. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A new report by the US-led coalition against ISIS has assessed numerous reports of civilian casualties dating back several years. It was released this week and describes five “credible” incidents in which civilians were killed since 2016. – Jerusalem Post

Christopher Miller writes: Al-Qaeda misgauged the United States’ enormous resolve and fortitude. We did not seek or desire the war the terrorists started. But we will end the war on our terms. Other individuals and groups who want to harm Americans should study our war against al-Qaeda: We will pursue terrorists to the ends of the Earth, never stopping until the job is done. – Washington Post

William Danvers writes: Learning the lessons from how the U.S. and other nations reacted to 9/11 would be the best acknowledgement of the resiliency of the U.S. and its allies in dealing with crises. […]Making sure there is good coordination and effective use of resources; not having a singular focus on problems at the expense of ignoring other present and potential crises; and developing targeted strategies that respond effectively to problems, present and future, are lessons worth learning and remembering. – The Hill

Colin P. Clarke and Asfandyar Mir writes: For now, however, Zawahiri is still at al Qaeda’s helm—and this soft-spoken, moderate-mannered leader remains a force to be reckoned with, regardless of whether another 9/11-style attack is in the offing. – Foreign Policy

Trump Administration

The United States imposed sanctions on Thursday on a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker linked to Republican efforts to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, accusing him of trying to interfere in the U.S. election. – Reuters

President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the World Trade Organization during a contentious phone call with the group’s then-leader, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward. – Bloomberg

Eli Lake writes: It’s possible that other allegations in Murphy’s whistle-blower complaint are correct. But for now, it’s worth waiting to see if they are verified. – Bloomberg