Fdd's overnight brief

September 14, 2020

In The News


A new trial in Iran to present fresh charges against a British-Iranian woman who has been held in the country since 2016 was postponed at the last minute on Sunday, her husband said. – New York Times

Iran has executed a wrestler and alleged murderer whose life President Trump had asked the country’s leaders to spare, Iranian state TV reported. – Associated Press

Iran on Saturday strongly condemned Bahrain’s plan to normalize relations with Israel, calling it a shameful and ignominious move by the Gulf Arab country. – Associated Press

The head of Iran’s atomic agency said Sunday that 1,044 centrifuges were active at the Fordow uranium enrichment plant, in line with steps to reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal. – Agence France-Presse

The Iranian government is weighing an assassination attempt against the American ambassador to South Africa, U.S. intelligence reports say, according to a U.S. government official familiar with the issue and another official who has seen the intelligence. – Politico

At least one person was killed and several injured in an explosion at a shop in an area near Iran’s capital Tehran, Iranian state TV reported on Friday, adding that at least 30 buildings were damaged by the blast. – Reuters

The Iranian rial fell to a record low against the U.S. dollar on Saturday as the Islamic Republic’s economy struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. sanctions. – Radio Farda

Iran has sentenced a Kurdish political prisoner to death on charges of membership with a Kurdistan Region-based opposition group and murder of a paramilitary force member, according to a Paris-based Iran human rights monitor – despite earlier assurances from Iranian authorities that he would be immune from punishment. – RUDAW

The Trump administration is tightening the screws on Iran, upping sanctions on private companies and putting the spotlight on governments that continue to help the theocratic regime evade US sanctions. – Algemeiner 

The German athletic advocacy association Athleten Deutschland on Sunday urged the International Olympic Committee and United World Wrestling to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran for hanging a reportedly innocent champion Greco-Roman wrestler. – Jerusalem Post

Reza Pahlavi writes: For every Navid Afkari the regime takes, dozens more Iranians join the struggle for liberty and democracy. When the people of Iran take to the streets again to call for an end to the Islamic Republic—and inevitably they will—the free world must stand with them. – Wall Street Journal

Natasha Schmidt writes: And when lives are lost, these campaigns — international or local, planned or spontaneous, online or on the streets — must speak louder. The world must see this as a long-term struggle, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam says. Voices and campaigns and outrage have made a difference. And they must continue to do so. – Iran Wire

Seth J. Frantzman writes: These ranges are not arbitrary. They are designed to show that Iran can reach almost all the way to Israel. That is because Israel’s borders are just 1,000 km. from Iran. Tehran knows its messaging matters. In the past, it has sent ballistic missiles to Iraq and drones to Syria to threaten Israel. – Jerusalem Post


The United States on Sunday welcomed Serbia’s decision to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. It called on the European Union to follow suit by making a similar declaration with regard to the group’s political arm. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group said on Saturday it strongly condemned Bahrain’s move to normalize ties with Israel as a “great betrayal” of the Palestinian people. – Reuters

Miran Khwais writes: Despite Nasrallah’s attempts to deflect blame by turning up the decibels on threatening Israel, many more Lebanese are now dismissive of these tactics. […]What is clear is that any moves towards normalization between Lebanon and Israel, two neighboring states with decades of actual conflict and bloodshed between them, would definitively signal a new era in Arab-Israel relations, and a radically new political and economic geography for the Middle East. – Haaretz


Turkey’s seismic research vessel Oruc Reis returned to waters near the southern province of Antalya on Sunday, Refinitiv data showed, a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions over offshore natural resources. – Reuters

The United States remains “deeply concerned” about Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday, urging a diplomatic end to a simmering crisis over offshore natural resources. – Reuters

Turkey’s president has taken aim at France’s leader, following French criticism about Turkish maritime activities in the eastern Mediterranean that have ignited tensions with Greece and the European Union. – Associated Press

Turkey called on European Union countries Friday to abandon a policy of “blindly” taking the side of EU members Greece and Cyprus in a tense standoff over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: What is clear is that Turkey’s daily role in the Mediterranean appears to be cultivating crises. At the same time, media in the Gulf is laser-focused on Ankara’s role in Libya and what might come next. The US is also deeply interested in Cyprus and Libya. That means these conflicts are connected, and it is important to see what Turkey’s next move is in regards to the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya. – Jerusalem Post


Bahrain and Israel will normalize ties in a U.S.-brokered deal, President Trump said Friday, advancing a broader realignment in the Middle East as Israel and Gulf Arab states find common cause against Iran. – Wall Street Journal

But Israel’s back-to-back agreements to normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to be marked in a signing ceremony at the White House on Tuesday — and the much-buzzed-about possibility that other Arab nations could follow suit — are causing some Israelis to ask whether a deeper shift may, after years in the making, finally be underway in the Middle East. – New York Times

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left for Washington on Sunday night as the country prepared to lock down to combat the spread of coronavirus. He left for the airport immediately after a press conference in which he announced new restrictions. – Jerusalem Post

The anger across the estate is mirrored elsewhere in Hamas Islamist-run Gaza and in the West Bank, where Palestinians fear the UAE’s move will weaken a long-standing pan-Arab call for Israeli withdrawal from occupied land and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries. – Reuters

Palestinians in Gaza burnt pictures of Israeli, U.S., Bahraini and United Arab Emirates leaders on Saturday in protest over the two Gulf countries’ moves to normalize ties with Israel. – Reuters

Editorial: As long as the Palestinian leadership rejects peace, the Palestinian people should reject their leadership. Ordinary Palestinians deserve better. They, too, deserve a chance to live in peace. It’s time to build a better future together. The Palestinians need to realize that the paradigm has changed. This is the perfect opportunity for them to reject rejectionism. – Jerusalem Post

Dennis Ross writes: It is not just the Palestinians who need to adjust their behavior or likely get left behind. Supporters of their cause need to look again at what is happening in the region. Old assumptions are like habits: They are hard to give up. But the Israeli-UAE-Bahrain breakthroughs are a reminder that the political landscape of the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli issue is changing. Time to change with it. – Washington Post

Hillel Frisch writes: For the EU, what is impartiality or the welfare of individual Palestinian inhabitants when it comes to creating the Palestinian state that will be perennially divided between a one-party fiefdom in Judea and Samaria and another one-party state in Gaza governed by fundamentalists. This is what the world really needs according to the EU – another failed state like Lebanon, and if takes a deeply skewed reporting of housing demolitions (amongst many other things) as part of demonizing Israel, the historical scapegoat – so be it. – Jerusalem Post


Militia groups continue to target U.S. troops in Iraq, eight months after the bombardment of rockets that killed an American contractor and wounded four American service members in Kirkuk. – The Hill

Iraq cut pricing for all of its crude grades for sale to Asia and the U.S. for October, following similar reductions by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf producers and further signaling that a global demand rebound is faltering. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In short, the US knows who is behind the attacks, Iran knows it has ordered the attacks, and both countries continue their complex dance in Iraq, using media and messaging to show off. – Jerusalem Post


French President Emmanuel Macron has been pressing Lebanese politicians to deliver on promises to form a new government this week and haul the country out of its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, his office said on Sunday. – Reuters

Lebanon’s parliamentary speaker said his group opposed the way the prime minister-designate was forming a new cabinet and that it would not join on those terms, but that he would still cooperate to stabilise the nation in crisis, his office said. – Reuters

Several tonnes of highly explosive material found at Beirut’s port, just weeks after the same chemical was blamed for causing a massive detonation there, had been in storage for 15 years, the Lebanese president said on Friday. – Reuters

Lebanese soldiers on Saturday fired rubber bullets and live rounds in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters trying to march to the presidential palace during an anti-government demonstration. – Associated Press

Arabian Peninsula

Those concerns — stemming from U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and the Emirates as they waged a disastrous war in Yemen, using American equipment in attacks that have killed thousands of civilians — will be the subject of congressional hearings on Wednesday. – New York Times

Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighter jets early on Sunday attacked barracks and military sites of the armed Houthi movement in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya reported. – Reuters

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen launched air strikes early on Saturday on two sites in the capital Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthi movement, residents and a spokesman for the coalition-backed Yemeni forces told Reuters. – Reuters

Gulf States

Oman welcomes Bahrain’s decision to normalise relations with Israel and hopes it will contribute to Israeli-Palestinian peace, Oman state media said on Sunday. – Reuters

Bahraini opposition groups have said they reject a decision by the Gulf state to normalise relations with Israel, with a leading Shi’ite cleric on Sunday calling on the people of the region to resist. – Reuters

Bahrain will do its best to protect visiting Israelis from threats from the country’s Shi’ite population and from Iran, former Mossad chief Efrayim Halevy said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

The people of the United Arab Emirates are full of “excitement and joy” about the normalization of ties with Israel, a senior UAE official told The Times of Israel on Sunday, two days before the two countries are set to sign a historic agreement in the White House. – Times of Israel

Saqr Ghobash, Speaker of Federal National Council, FNC, has welcomed the decision taken by the Kingdom of Bahrain to establish diplomatic relations with the State of Israel as an “important step” in supporting stability in the Middle East. – Gulf News

Bahrain’s move to formally establish relations with Israel could not have happened without Saudi Arabia’s green light, another step in what observers call Riyadh’s “alternative normalization” of ties with the Jewish state. – Agence France-Presse

David D. Kirkpatrick writes: So Bahrain’s announcement on Friday that it would become the fourth Arab state to normalize relations with Israel was arguably the most significant clue yet that Saudi Arabia — the heavyweight of Gulf politics — might be moving in the same direction, albeit on its own slower time scale. […]Yet although Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, it is also a much larger country with more complicated internal power structures that its neighbors, and scholars say Prince Mohammed must worry more than other Gulf rulers about public opinion and about the views of his own family. – New York Times

Marc Schneier writes: All of these moments led up to today’s monumental announcement and it is exciting and gratifying both as a nation and for me personally. We’re seeing a shift in the Gulf that myself and others have been working toward for more than a decade and I predict that a third – either Oman or Qatar – will be next. Mazel Tov and Mabrouk to all and I’m looking forward to more Jewish tourists and businesspeople visiting Bahrain, a state that has become like a second home to me. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: For now, that is the message. Because most of the media in the Gulf reflects the views of the countries they are based in, what is being pushed quietly from above, what is embraced and what are the concerns are all not a great secret. – Jerusalem Post

Simon Henderson writes: Washington’s influence in Bahrain is considerable, given the presence there of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquarters. Because of the economic benefits it brings, the facility is not contentious in local political terms. Bahrain’s diplomatic step is predictable but also brave. Even more than the UAE normalization shift, Bahrain’s future relationship with Israel will need to be protected from a range of dangers. – Washington Institute

Simon Henderson writes: Qatar itself has allowed its anarchic media to criticize the normalization agreement between the UAE and Israel, although Doha maintains discreet but close official contacts with Jerusalem, helping to reduce Israeli tensions with Hamas in Gaza by giving financial aid to Palestinian civilians and mediating ceasefires. […]The U.S. priority should be to reconstitute unity to deal with the malevolent intent of Iran. – Washington Institute


More than a dozen attack jets that Russia sent to Libya this year are conducting ground strikes and other combat missions in support of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside a beleaguered commander in his campaign to oust the government from Tripoli, the capital, a top American military official said on Friday. – New York Times 

Protesters set fire to the government’s headquarters in the Libyan city of Benghazi, as rare demonstrations over living conditions and corruption continued in the east of the country for a third day. – Reuters

Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar has committed to ending a months-long blockade of oil facilities, the U.S. embassy in the country said in a statement on Saturday, but it was unclear if oil fields and ports would reopen. – Reuters

A military buildup in Libya now pits Syrian mercenaries on both sides of the battle — with one faction using high-end Russian weaponry against the U.S.-supported government. – Washington Examiner

Heba Saleh and Andrew England write: Any collapse of the GNA or a fresh round of fighting between western militias would also add another layer of complexity to what has morphed into a proxy war drawing in regional and international powers. – Financial Times

Middle East & North Africa

The treaty Israel and the United Arab Emirates will sign this week won’t fully normalize ties, but will be the start of a yearlong process that could protect the Gulf nation’s interests as it lobbies to buy the U.S.’s top warplane, according to people briefed on the pact. – Bloomberg

A deal establishing relations between Israel and Bahrain will result in direct flights between the countries, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates’ Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science have agreed to work together, UAE state news agency WAM said on Sunday. – Reuters

Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi said in a statement on Friday, that the necessary steps to achieve a fair and comprehensive peace in the region should come from Israel. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain’s decisions to normalise relations with Israel follows a history of peace efforts between Israel, the Palestinians and their Arab allies that have failed to overcome decades of distrust and violence. – Reuters

Egypt’s president on Friday said he appreciates the “important step” of Israel and Bahrain establishing diplomatic relations. – Reuters

Israel and Morocco are set to announce direct flights as part of the next step in US efforts to facilitate normalization efforts between Israel and Arab states, according to Israeli Channel 12. – Al Arabiya

New images reveal evidence of an attack on a secretive missile facility in Syria. The photos, released by ImageSat International on Sunday, show that two structures at Al-Safirah missile factory near Aleppo were hit. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Bahrain’s decision would not be possible without at least the tacit approval of Saudi Arabia, which the Trump Administration has backed as part of its plan to contain Iran. A more stable Middle East with a united front of U.S. allies advances American interests by reducing the need for future interventions. – Wall Street Journal

David Ignatius writes: The decision by two wealthy Gulf countries to recognize Israel doesn’t help the shattered nations of the Middle East, such as Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Libya. And it doesn’t represent Middle East peace, whatever may be said at the White House next week. But for a region that sometimes seems to be in slow-motion collapse, it’s a building block for a better future. – Washington Post

Korean Peninsula

A North Korean man previously arrested in connection with the killing of Kim Jong Un’s half brother has been charged with violating U.S. sanctions against North Korea, the Justice Department announced Friday. – Washington Post

Designed for a global audience in the social media era, the state-sponsored message in the high quality, slickly produced videos is simple: North Koreans, they’re just like everyone else. […]It is the highly curated and deeply misleading version of North Korea that its leader, Kim Jong-un, wants the world to see as he pushes his agenda at home and abroad. – New York Times

Woodward wrote that Trump said he was impressed with Kim when he first met the North Korean leader in Singapore in 2018 and that Kim was “far beyond smart.” Trump also said that Kim “tells me everything” and even gave the president a graphic account of how Kim had his own uncle killed. – Associated Press


China’s arrest of 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, nabbed as they tried to flee the city by boat in the face of an intensifying crackdown on dissent, is fueling a new war of words between Washington and Beijing. – Wall Street Journal

Families of Hong Kong activists detained by mainland Chinese authorities last month after trying to flee the city by boat appealed for information and demanded their immediate return. – Wall Street Journal

Beijing said it has imposed restrictions on American diplomats in China to retaliate against Washington’s recent move to curb activities of Chinese diplomats in the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

The American ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, is stepping down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday, after a tenure that paralleled a sharp deterioration in relations between China and the United States. – New York Times

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European leaders, as Beijing seeks to keep the continent from aligning more closely with the U.S. on disputes ranging from market access to human rights. – Bloomberg

China’s Defense Ministry on Sunday blasted a critical U.S. report on the country’s military ambitions, saying it is the U.S. instead that poses the biggest threat to the international order and world peace. – Associated Press

A group of bipartisan U.S. lawmakers urged Walt Disney Co DIS.N CEO Bob Chapek to explain the company’s connection with “security and propaganda” authorities of China’s Xinjiang region during the production of live-action war epic “Mulan”. – Reuters

Once billed as the diplomatic high point in China-European Union relations, a summit on Monday is likely to show how far the relationship has ebbed, with the main achievement a deal involving Irish whiskey and Pixian bean paste. – Reuters

Scott Kennedy writes: Although the vast majority of introduced bills haven’t made it to the President’s desk (and in most cases, even out of committee), Congress has had a growing effect on American China policy. Moreover, Congressional attention to China is unlikely to wane. Quite the contrary, we should expect it to continue to expand in the coming years. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban sat down Sunday to kick off a historic round of direct talks this week aimed at ending the two-decades-long conflict, a day after delegations met for the first time in a hotel in Qatar. – Wall Street Journal

Taliban and Afghan government forces clashed across Afghanistan hours after the start of long-awaited peace talks in Doha on Saturday, officials said, underscoring the uphill challenge of settling a 19-year insurgency. – Reuters

Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani met representatives of both the Afghan government and the Taliban to wish them success during peace talks taking place in the Gulf state, Qatar state media reported on Sunday. – Reuters

A clutch of the “most dangerous” Taliban prisoners has been transferred from prison in Afghanistan over the objections of key American allies in an effort to jumpstart peace talks this weekend. – Washington Examiner

Roya Rahmani writes: Afghanistan will be able to empower women more than ever and continue to foster a free, democratic society. Once we are finally at peace, we will truly be able to thrive. In sharp contrast to the fear and brutality of Sept. 11, Sept. 12 must be about progress and hope for Afghanistan. Today, we remember. Tomorrow, we ensure nothing like this ever happens again. – Washington Examiner


South Asia

China and India, after a meeting between their foreign ministers in Moscow, say they agreed to “disengage” their forces along their disputed Himalayan border. – Wall Street Journal

Five Indian nationals from a remote eastern state who had been detained by Chinese authorities in a region bordering Tibet were handed over to Indian authorities on Saturday, the Indian army said. – Reuters

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday said it hoped China and India would find a solution as soon as possible to de-escalate renewed tensions on their disputed Himalayan border, the Interfax news agency said. – Reuters

Vinay Kaura writes: Whenever the Taliban is integrated into the Afghan governing apparatus after a final deal is signed, it will be extremely difficult for them to recognize the validity of the Durand Line for the simple reason that doing so would allow their opponents to brand them as caving in to Pakistan. None can dispute that a strong Taliban in Afghanistan suits Pakistan, but that is not the whole truth; the Taliban did not feel the need to make any concessions to Pakistan on the issue of the Durand Line when it was in power from 1996 to 2001, nor has it endorsed the Durand Line as Afghanistan’s legitimate border with Pakistan. – Middle East Institute

Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes: It is no longer possible to dismiss the conflict between India and China as a skirmish. The understanding reached last week between the countries’ foreign ministers points to a pause. But it does not address the underlying issues that have pushed the countries closer to serious conflict. The American historian Barbara Tuchman is often cited as observing: “War is the unfolding of miscalculations.” The next few months might prove a test case for that hypothesis. – Financial Times


A U.S. Marine who was convicted of killing a transgender woman in the Philippines was released and deported from the country Sunday after being pardoned by President Rodrigo Duterte. – Washington Post

Abe’s statement on missile defense Friday leaves a big piece of unfinished business for his top aide and likely successor, Yoshihide Suga. While few expect the long-time chief cabinet secretary to share Abe’s zeal for amending the constitution, he’ll be confronted with the same dilemma of how to counter growing threats from China and North Korea — and the same security demands from Japan’s sole ally, the U.S. – Bloomberg

Chinese investment to Australia last year dropped for the third straight year, researchers reported Sunday, a further sign of the impact of souring economic and diplomatic ties. – Bloomberg

Hong Kong’s government stood fast in its refusal to interfere with the arrest of 12 residents seeking to flee to Taiwan by sea, despite pleas from families for assistance, saying the crime falls under mainland Chinese jurisdiction. – Reuters

Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday defended the government’s right to intelligence raids to prevent foreign interference, after China condemned searches on the homes of its journalists working in Australia. – Reuters

Months before he announced his resignation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set in motion a policy change that could for the first time allow Japan’s military to plan for strikes on land targets in China and other parts of Asia. – Reuters

Joseph Bosco writes: Trump and his national security team seem poised to define those triggering circumstances as: “You attack Taiwan, we defend it and defeat you.” It would be appropriate for the US and Taiwanese presidents to discuss the new security relationship electronically or in person. – Taipei Times

Linda Zhang writes: Taiwan’s government and civil society has responded to the PRC’s threat in innovative ways. The United States has helped Taiwan fight PRC propaganda and disinformation through the GEC and should continue to do so by connecting Taiwan to companies and allies, increasing funding for Taiwan’s efforts to fight disinformation, and advocating for its participation in international organizations. – Military Review

Bruce Klingner writes: The challenge for U.S. policymakers and alliance managers will be to find the delicate balance of continually pushing Tokyo past its comfort zone while understanding the many constitutional, legal, budgetary, and societal restrictions that hinder Japan’s ability to become a stronger alliance partner. – Heritage Foundation


Navalny, 44, was poisoned last month in Russia with a banned chemical weapon in the same group as the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, according to a German military laboratory. – Washington Post

The ruling United Russia party looked set for an array of local election wins on Sunday, but was also on course for some setbacks as stricken Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s supporters made rare gains in city politics in Siberia. – Reuters

Berlin prosecutors said on Friday they would investigate the case of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who is being treated in Berlin for suspected poisoning, and hand information to Moscow – if he agreed. – Reuters

The novichok nerve agent used to poison Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was ‘harder’ than previous forms, Der Spiegel magazine reported the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service as saying. – Reuters

A suspected assassin has reportedly been detained in connection with an attack against a Russian exile. Musa Lomaev says he survived what appears to be the latest in a string of brazen attacks, two of them fatal, against dissidents in Europe who have railed against the brutal Kremlin-backed ruler Ramzan Kadyrov. – The Daily Beast 

Russia plans to send investigators to Germany to continue the probe into the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: But where Russia sees and senses that not all the alliance’s members are ready to step up, Putin finds added reason to test it. Trump has a responsibility to keep pushing NATO members to do more for the alliance, and more often. In short, we need more exercises such as this one. But with more nations than three. – Washington Examiner

James Jay Carafano writes: It’s past time. Europe and Russia could well live peacefully side-by-side if Russia had a responsible leader. It doesn’t. Moscow is run by Putin and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Germany and Europe would be wise to insulate themselves from Putin’s worse impulses. Killing Nord Stream 2 would be the right next step. – Fox News


A day before high-stakes talks in Russia, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the embattled strongman leader of Belarus, deployed his security forces in large numbers to deter ongoing protests. But tens of thousands of people still took to the street on Sunday to once again clamor for his resignation. – New York Times

After more than a month of protests, there is still no clear endgame in sight for either side, with Mr. Lukashenko and his foes both insisting they can prevail but neither offering a clear and plausible path to victory — other than continued peaceful defiance by protesters and relentless repression by the government. – New York Times

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto will be the only EU diplomatic leader to attend the signing ceremony on Tuesday in Washington for the Israel-United Arab Emirates peace deal, his spokesman said on Sunday. – Reuters

Greece’s prime minister outlined plans Saturday to upgrade the country’s defense capabilities, including purchasing new fighter planes, frigates, helicopters and weapons systems amid heightened tensions with Turkey over rights to resources in the eastern Mediterranean. – Associated Press

The European Union stepped up planning for a “no-deal” Brexit on Friday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government refused to revoke a plan to break the divorce treaty that Brussels says will sink four years of talks. – Reuters

The European Union is requesting an urgent debate on Belarus at the top U.N. rights body next week, describing a “deterioration” in the situation there, a letter written by the German ambassador showed on Friday. – Reuters

Andrew A. Michta writes: The frayed state of U.S.-European relations, especially the increasingly contentious relations between Washington and Berlin, offers Mr. Xi an opportunity to “play Nixon” in his own way. Washington needs to pay attention to the EU-China summit this week—and its aftermath. – Wall Street Journal

Mason Clark writes: Lukashenko is likely shifting his framing of the protests away from the Kremlin’s preferred narrative of a Western hybrid war against Belarus to reduce Putin’s leverage by refuting the Kremlin’s justification for the necessity of Russian involvement. – Institute for the Study of War


The land used to be a tourist magnet, a haven for elephants and lions. Now park officials in the West African nation of Burkina Faso say extremists have turned wildlife reserves into a battlefield, targeting rangers and exposing endangered animals to poachers. – Washington Post

Mali’s ruling junta pushed through a political charter on Saturday that could lead to the appointment of a soldier as interim president despite objections from the coalition that led anti-government protests before last month’s coup. – Reuters

Tonderayi Mukeredzi writes: Meanwhile, the SADC does not appear to have a coordinated response to the insurgency in Cabo Delgado. But the longer Mozambique struggles on its own, the more likely it becomes that extremism will spread beyond its borders. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

Political appointees from the White House and the State Department wanted the aid agency’s logo affixed to all assistance packages to show the world how much the United States was sending abroad, even as it grappled with its own outbreak. – New York Times

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday that a “U.S. spy” was captured while spying on the largest refining complex in the country, which is going through a severe fuel shortage crisis. – Reuters

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Guatemala and El Salvador are lauded by the Trump administration because of their cooperation on immigration, Venezuela policy and other Washington priorities. But Central American poverty and violence grow out of institutional weaknesses. By overlooking the lack of political will to adhere to the rule of law, the administration invites future humanitarian disasters. – Wall Street Journal


Unlike the wars the nation has fought over the past two decades against terrorists and violent extremist groups, the next one — potentially against China or Russia — threaten the nation’s survival, said Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command. – Air Force Times

USAFE found the right balance for operating during a pandemic by giving individual wing commanders the authority to work out their own strategies on how to lessen the threat, Harrigian said. Different wings operate in different nations, he said, and some locations were in very different stages of the pandemic — particularly Italy, where Aviano Air Base is located. – Air Force Times

Six months after the nation began to lock down to slow the spread of coronavirus, Air Education and Training Command is starting to roll back some of the emergency moves it made to keep basic training working. – Air Force Times

Now, as the Air Force shifts to an era of great power competition — and, in all likelihood, reduced budgets — AFSOC is going to need to adjust again, part of a broader shift in how the Air Force operates, and to make the special warfare community more sustainable. – Air Force Times

The U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers will be prepared to fight at extended ranges well into the future, the service’s director of air warfare said Saturday. – Defense News

Long War

British police said counter-terrorism officers arrested a man on Saturday on suspicion of attempting to cause an explosion over a package sent to an address in north London earlier this week. – Reuters

A U.S. judge directed Saudi Arabia’s government to make 24 current and former officials, including a former ambassador to the United States, available for questioning in litigation claiming it provided assistance for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers for victims said on Friday. – Reuters

A man dubbed the “Emir of Winterthur” by Swiss media, described by prosecutors as a leading figure among Islamist militants in Switzerland, was sentenced to 50 months in prison on Friday for supporting and recruiting for Islamic State. – Reuters

An assailant stabbed the driver of a car in western Germany early Sunday and investigators weren’t ruling out an Islamic extremist motive for the attack, police said. Two men, including the suspect, were arrested. – Associated Press

Tom Rogan writes: In short, the nation’s counterterrorism apparatus must cast a wide net. Violent white supremacists demand serious attention. But we must be prudent as to the nature of the threat in any one moment. Resources are limited, after all. As of today, it remains lone jihadists and their foreign ideological sponsors, not white supremacists, who absorb the most intense resourcing of FBI investigations. – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: Don’t get me wrong. The loss on that day was immense and continues to be felt by both the families of the fallen and those who still suffer and die from related medical effects. And, of course, on the part of those military families who have sacrificed so much since then. But 9/11 could have been much worse. Recognizing that truth should motivate our continued seriousness about counterterrorism strategy at home and abroad. – Washington Examiner