Fdd's overnight brief

September 17, 2020

In The News


U.S. prosecutors say they have indicted two Iranians on allegations they were hackers connected with a “coordinated cyberintrusion campaign” that targeted American and foreign universities, a Washington-based think tank, and other organizations in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The United States said on Wednesday it plans to impose sanctions on those who violate a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, which Washington says will now stay in place instead of expiring in October as agreed under a 2015 nuclear deal. – Reuters 

Iran has developed a longer-range version of its Jask-2 submarine-launched anti-ship missile, according to Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, the commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN). – Jane’s 360 

A U.S. judge on Wednesday forcefully rebuked federal prosecutors for a series of failures, including withholding exculpatory evidence, that led to the dismissal of an indictment against a banker who had been convicted of Iran sanctions violations. – Reuters

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it has formed paramilitary “strike teams” in districts of Tehran and plans patrols to ensure security in the southern oil-rich province of Khuzestan, without giving a reason for the deployments. – Bloomberg

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain would be responsible for any “consequences” resulting from their normalisation of relations with Tehran’s archrival, Israel. – Aljazeera 

Highlighting his “great efforts to circumvent the sanctions,” Islamic Republic Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh disclosed that he had sought assistance from Khatam al-Anbia Headquarters (KAH) to export Iranian oil. – Radio Farda 

An explosion two months ago at a key Iranian uranium enrichment facility in Natanz was meant to send a message of determination to stop the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The purpose of the attack was to send an unambiguous deterrent message that progress toward a nuclear weapon beyond certain redlines would not be tolerated. – Jerusalem Post 

Lawyers for Iran told judges on Wednesday at the United Nations’ top court that by crippling Iran’s economy, sanctions imposed by the United States in 2018 had violated a decades-old bilateral friendship treaty. – Reuters

Barnett R. Rubin writes: This lugubrious morass of countervailing intrigues provided the context for Tehran’s statements, carefully straddling the invisible line between nuance and incoherence, on the U.S.-Taliban negotiations in Doha. With channels to all camps, and the direct threat to Iran from the United States largely neutralized for now, Tehran has retained freedom of action to confront whatever further vicissitudes may agitate its relations with its eastern neighbor. – War on the Rocks 

Stuart Williams writes: Iran has signaled it intends to ignore a growing outcry over its use of the death penalty against people arrested during anti-government protests by executing with unusual swiftness a wrestler whose case had won international attention, activists say. – Agence France-Presse


For nearly 60 days, the Israel Defense Forces has been on high alert along the Lebanese border, bracing for the retaliatory strike that the Hezbollah terror group and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, had vowed to carry out. – Times of Israel 

Four former directors of a Shi’ite Muslim center in France were arrested on Tuesday after allegedly continuing to run an association that was closed down for allegedly encouraging armed jihad, according to AFP. – Jerusalem Post 

Lebanon is grappling with a financial meltdown and is facing the biggest threat to its stability since a 1975-1990 civil war. […]The most significant objections have come from Shi’ite Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, an ally of Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah. He has insisted on naming the finance minister, a post he has decided on since 2014. – Reuters 


Syria is experiencing worsening gasoline shortages as a result of tougher U.S. sanctions disrupting crucial fuel imports, its oil minister said on Wednesday, the latest crisis to hit the war-devastated country’s crumbling economy. – Reuters 

President Bashar Assad’s forces thanks to help from Russia have regained control over most of the territory they lost to rebels in the still-simmering civil war, but the country’s economy is in tatters. Syria’s infrastructure and finances are crumbling under the weight of years of international economic sanctions, government corruption and infighting, and what seems to be a vastly underestimated coronavirus epidemic. – CBS News

Neil Hauer writes: The fortunes of most Chechen fighters, however, like the Syrian rebel movement as a whole, have been at a low ebb in recent years. With the opposition largely confined to Idlib for the past three years, there have been few opportunities for the remaining Chechens in Syria to make an impact. That’s what makes the apparent emergence of a new Chechen faction so intriguing. – Middle East Institute


President Tayyip Erdogan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a video call on Wednesday that the docking of Turkey’s Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel for maintenance does not mean its operations in the eastern Mediterranean are done, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. – Reuters

Top diplomats from Greece and Turkey are in contact amid recent regional tensions, and Ankara has to decide whether it wants to engage with Europe or continue with unilateral actions and face consequences, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at an event on Wednesday in Athens. – Bloomberg

Ayca Alemdaroglu and Sultan Tepe write: Erdogan’s remarkable U-turn has a simple explanation: His regime and Turkey’s economy are in crisis. With few other friends, Ankara is counting on Beijing to patch things up, and that requires adherence to Beijing’s talking points. […]China’s appetite for expansion into Western Asia and Europe offers Erdogan a lifeline. – Foreign Policy 

Henri J. Barkey writes: Yet at home, Erdogan’s rhetoric remains rancorous; he is threatening the French as well as all the others and using the Eastern Mediterranean crisis to inflame nationalist sentiments. Facing a series of domestic setbacks, he faces the unenviable task of figuring how to climb down from the escalation ladder. The jury may still be out on Macron’s step into the leadership vacuum; Turks have backed down for the moment. – The National Interest 


The historic trip to sign two peace agreements with Arab countries will bring good things to Israel and the world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as the plane he took from Washington began its landed in Israel on Wednesday evening. – Jerusalem Post

An Israeli man who was seriously wounded in a rocket attack on Tuesday was delivering food to the needy in the southern city of Ashdod when he was hit by shrapnel, hit family said Wednesday. – Times of Israel 

Jonathan H. Ferziger writes: The two Gulf Arab states effectively declared that they would not wait until the Palestinians’ grievances are resolved before coming to terms with Israel. In Netanyahu’s view, it was a ratification of his long-standing doctrine that Israel’s military strength and economic vitality would eventually lead its Arab neighbors to put aside decades of hostility. – Foreign Policy 

Douglas J. Feith writes: This diplomatic double-play refutes notions that have powerfully influenced U.S. Middle East policy for more than half a century. The first is the assumption that the Palestinians are central to the larger Arab-Israeli conflict. The second is the belief that the Palestinian problem has to be solved before the United States or Israel can improve relations with the Arab states. Both belong on the trash heap of the peace process. – Foreign Policy 

Dan Blumenthal writes: Israeli policymakers should think long and hard about the danger of allowing its nascent relationship with China to drive a wedge between Washington and Jerusalem. Given the range and magnitude of threats China can pose to the Jewish state, Israeli leaders should ask if Chinese money and scientific collaboration are really worth it. – Jewish Review of Books

Neville Teller writes: Israel is here to stay. It will cooperate with those nation states that are prepared to do so, bringing prosperity and a new bright future for the Middle East within grasp. The Palestinians could be part of all that, to their immense benefit. Is it not a betrayal of the Palestinian people to withhold from them the opportunity of participating in the prosperous future that is within reach in the Middle East? – Jerusalem Post

Yoel Guzansky and Ari Heistein write: Even before normalization was announced on Aug. 13, Netanyahu seemed to have realized that annexation would incur unjustifiable costs, but there was legitimate concern that upcoming elections in Israel or the U.S. could push the prime minister to follow through with his promise. […]So while the UAE-Israel agreement does not resolve any of Israel’s core challenges vis-à-vis Iran, by offering an exit ramp from annexation it has helped to avert a self-inflicted crisis. – Middle East Institute


A French official has said it might be difficult for Lebanon’s banks to prevent savers losing some of their deposits, according to the minutes of a meeting in which France outlined steps to help the crippled banking industry. – Reuters 

Lebanon’s banks are trying to outmaneuver the government before the new premier forms a cabinet, throwing prospects for a bailout further into disarray. – Bloomberg 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: France wants reform in Lebanon. It is not against the system entirely, since it appears to accept that the massive extralegal terrorist group Hezbollah will inevitably play a role, but it wants the old elites to step aside or give technocrats a chance. It knows that Lebanon needs some $93 billion in bailouts and that the port explosion has only made things worse. – Jerusalem Post 

Gulf States

A shipping line between Eilat and Dubai will open in October, shortening the time needed to deliver Israeli goods to the Gulf state to 10 days, DoverTower reported on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

The head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency indicated in an interview aired Wednesday that Saudi Arabia could be in line to normalize ties with Israel following landmark peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, while refusing to comment on whether he had met with the rulers of the Arab kingdom. – Times of Israel

The minister of economy of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday declared that the difference between his country’s peace accord with Israel and previous deals between the Jewish state and Arab nations was the level of enthusiasm and hope involved on both sides. – Algemeiner

Following the agreement to normalize relations between the UAE and Israel, Saudi journalist Fahed Ibrahim Al-Dughaither published an article in the ‘Okaz daily in which he advocated placing the holy sites in Jerusalem under international oversight. The Arab calls to liberate Al-Aqsa are meaningless, he said, because, even if the Muslims recapture East Jerusalem, they will have to grant freedom of worship to the members of all faiths. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

James Phillips writes: Eventually, the Bahrain and UAE diplomatic pacts could lead Palestinians to adopt a more realistic negotiating position vis-à-vis Israel and join the other Arab states on the peace train. But regardless of how the Palestinians react, those two agreements represent a quadrilateral diplomatic achievement that will pave the way for closer strategic cooperation against Iran. – The National Interest


Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj announced Wednesday that he intends to step down by the end of October and make way for a new government to unite the North African state divided by war and foreign military interventions. – Bloomberg

Turkey and Russia have moved closer to an agreement on a ceasefire and political process in Libya during their latest meetings in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk late on Wednesday.  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

Middle East & North Africa

Former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Wednesday that the Israel-UAE-Bahrain normalization agreements were made possible by a concerted strategy adopted by President Donald Trump that bypassed the Palestinians, concentrated on Iran, emphasized unapologetic support for the Jewish state and won the trust of Arab leaders. – Algemeiner

Oved Lobel writes: Although it has neither the desire nor the financial or military capacity to actually displace the United States in the Middle East, Russia has become adept at planting itself firmly in the middle of crises and conflicts and establishing itself as an indispensable intermediary at relatively little cost. This has been most visible in Syria and Libya, where Russia and other regional powers manage the complicated political and military dynamics while the US focuses on counterterrorism operations. – Australian Strategic Policy Institute 

David Makovsky writes: For Israel and the UAE, the rationale behind the accord stems from their strong alignment on two fronts: marginalizing the region’s most destabilizing forces amid concerns about gradual American pullback, and removing barriers between two of the most globalized and technologically focused countries in the Middle East. This same logic led Emirati minister of state Anwar Gargash to publicly state that he foresees a “warm peace,” and Israel is certainly eager to continue dissolving its regional isolation. Yet if either party’s political determination flags for whatever reason, even the best text will be unable to advance their peace any further. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has told Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, that he was willing to sit down anytime in a bid to improve ties strained by historical and economic disputes, Moon’s office said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

In the latest economic projections by the OECD, South Korea is looking at a mere 1 percent GDP contraction for 2020, the second-best performer among major economies behind only China. In contrast, the euro area is expected to shrink by around 8 percent, and the United States could see full-year contraction on the order of almost 4 percent of GDP. – Foreign Policy 

Denny Roy writes: Thus, if Trump won a second term, he would likely be content to leave U.S. policy toward North Korea on autopilot, with the same orientation seen today. A return to his belligerent posture of 2017 is not likely.  The issue then was whether or not Pyongyang would get a nuclear missile capability, but that is now settled. Furthermore, Trump now has a relationship with Kim that he describes as mutually respectful. – The National Interest


Shipbuilders in Shanghai have laid out the hull of China’s first modern aircraft carrier, which could be launched into the water in the coming months as it enters the latter phases of construction, according to new satellite images and state media reports. – Washington Post

China’s ByteDance faces an uphill struggle to convince the White House to allow it to keep majority ownership of its popular short video app TikTok in the United States, according to former national security officials and regulatory lawyers. – Reuters

Companies that supply the chip sector with sophisticated and expensive equipment plan to warn the Trump administration against a proposal to blacklist China’s top chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp 0981.HK, arguing it would be “detrimental” to U.S. industry. – Reuters

Investment between the United States and China tumbled to a nine-year low in the first half of 2020, hit by bilateral tensions that could see more Chinese companies come under pressure to divest U.S. operations, a research report said. – Reuters

South Asia

India’s defense minister said Thursday the country faces challenges in its border dispute with China and urged Beijing to sincerely implement an understanding they reached previously to completely disengage forces from the Ladakh region. – Associated Press 

The Taliban’s burgeoning financial might could make the militant group immune to pressure from the international community as it negotiates a role in postwar Afghanistan, according to a confidential report commissioned by NATO and obtained by RFE/RL. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A Pakistani ruling party parliamentarian has introduced legislation seeking to jail anyone who “ridicules or brings into disrepute or defames” the military, according to records posted on parliament’s website on Wednesday. Civil rights groups and opposition parties have long held that the military meddles in politics and had supported crackdowns on critical voices, an allegation the military denies. – Reuters 

Richard M. Rossow writes: The United States should consider multiple new consulates in India over the coming decades. In the meantime, following through on the earlier promise of a single new consulate, which would reiterate U.S. support for India as tensions with China rise, is vitally important. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Political turmoil isn’t new in Thailand, which has been rocked by coups and periods of unrest for decades. But a new generation of Thais has taken to the streets in recent months against a system they see as dictatorial and out-of-place in the 21st century, with some questioning the very foundation of what it means to be Thai. – Wall Street Journal 

Japan’s Parliament elected Yoshihide Suga as prime minister Wednesday, replacing long-serving leader Shinzo Abe with his right-hand man. – Associated Press

Two Chinese anti-submarine aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Wednesday and were warned to leave by Taiwan’s air force, the island’s defence ministry said on Thursday, the day a senior U.S. official is due to arrive. – Reuters

U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach will visit Taiwan for a memorial service for former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui on Saturday, the U.S. State Department said, a move likely to anger Beijing as U.S.-China ties are at their lowest ebb in decades. – Reuters

The Trump administration is planning to undergird its mounting pressure campaign against communist China with a dramatic expansion in U.S. weapons sales to the democratic island of Taiwan, whose independence has long been threatened by Beijing.  Washington Times

Yoichiro Sato writes: The present deadlock over the ECS, under which China exploits energy resources and fisheries with little constraint, has allowed China tangible economic benefits. Japan, on the other hand, has attempted to defuse Chinese pressure on the Senkakus by not pushing the ECS boundary issue too hard, while retaining this card. – Center for International Maritime Security


Traces of the poison that put prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny into a weeks-long coma was detected on a water bottle recovered from his Siberian hotel room, according to a post on his Instagram page Thursday. – Washington Post 

The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) called ongoing anti-government protests targeting the pro-Russia president of Belarus the result of alleged U.S. efforts to inspire a coup against Alexander Lukashenko. – The Hill

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not discuss supplying Belarus with new weapons when he met President Alexander Lukashenko for talks this week, the TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The Kremlin said on September 16 that there should be no connection between the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and the case of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, who Berlin says was poisoned in Russia with a nerve agent. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Julia Davis writes: There is no shortage of local topics that interest the Kremlin—from the poisoning of an inconvenient dissident, to the events in neighboring Belarus and the ongoing battle against the coronavirus. In the thick of it all, America remains front and center of the Russian state media’s steely focus. In Putin’s Russia, U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s rallies, events and press comments are viewed and reported with maniacal obsession. – The Daily Beast


The Caribbean island nation of Barbados announced this week that it is time to remove Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and become a republic. The British queen appeared to take the news in stride. – Washington Post 

Four Afghans were charged with arson on Wednesday for the alleged involvement in fires that destroyed most of a large migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, authorities said. – New York Times 

A police force in Germany on Wednesday suspended 29 officers suspected of sharing images of Hitler and violent neo-Nazi propaganda in at least five online chat groups, adding to concerns about far-right infiltration in Germany’s police and military. – New York Times

The president of the European Union’s executive arm said Wednesday that the United Kingdom cannot unilaterally change the bilateral Brexit agreement without destroying global trust in the country. – Associated Press

Belarus’ authoritarian leader on Wednesday sought to disparage protesters demanding his resignation for a sixth straight week following a disputed election by accusing the United States of fomenting the unrest. – Associated Press

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned the United Kingdom that it must honour the Northern Irish peace deal as it extracts itself from the European Union or there would be no U.S. trade deal. – Reuters

British junior health minister Edward Argar said on Thursday that he did not believe the 1998 Northern Irish peace deal was at risk, responding to criticism from U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. – Reuters

Cyprus is ready to talk with Turkey to resolve differences in a dispute over Mediterranean drilling rights, but only “without blackmail and threats”, its president said on Wednesday. – Reuters

A court in Minsk has found two photojournalists — including one from RFE/RL — guilty of violating Belarus’s law on mass gatherings and sentenced them each to 11 days in jail. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Before European leaders agree to a landmark investment accord with Beijing, they want to know what kind of China they’d be striking a deal with. Is it the internationalist, multilateralist country trumpeted by Beijing’s top diplomats abroad? Or is it the one centered around a more Marxist vision, as presented by President Xi Jinping at home? Suspicions are growing among EU leaders that it’s the latter. – Politico

Chairwoman of the Knesset’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee, MK Sharren Haskel, met the Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel Lina Antanavičienė on Wednesday and asked her to promote the idea of moving the Lithuanian embassy to Jerusalem, according to a Facebook post by Haskel. – Jerusalem Post 

Caroline de Gruyter writes: But the Netherlands had little choice. The post-war economy was weak. Losing its colonies, the country needed to earn its income closer to home. Its first post-war trade agreement with Germany functioned well—already the Netherlands was, economically speaking, becoming a German province. In short, the Dutch couldn’t afford to say no to the Schuman plan. Since France and Germany would go ahead anyway, it would be smarter to join and water it down from the inside. – Foreign Policy


A new report by the United Nations commission of inquiry on Burundi sees little optimism in the government of new President Evariste Ndayishimiye, saying it is “extremely concerned” that he has appointed senior officials who face international sanctions for alleged human rights abuses in the country’s 2015 political turmoil. – Associated Press 

Mali’s junta said Wednesday it was working to respond to the renewed demands made by West Africa’s regional bloc that the country’s military leaders announce a new civilian transitional government within a week’s time. – Associated Press

The UN children’s agency Unicef has called on the Nigerian authorities to urgently review an Islamic court’s decision to sentence a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison for blasphemy. The boy was convicted in August of making uncomplimentary remarks about God during an argument with a friend in northern Kano state. – BBC 

A military court in Somalia has sentenced a militant Islamist to life in prison for his role in a deadly attack on a US base in Kenya. Farhan Mohamud Hassan was also convicted of being a member of al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate headquartered in Somalia. – BBC

The Americas

United Nations investigators said Wednesday that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and some of his top lieutenants had committed crimes against humanity by ordering extrajudicial executions, the jailings of political rivals and the torture of protesters, including sexually abusing those in detention. – Wall Street Journal

Mexico said on Wednesday said it had formally requested a report from U.S. authorities regarding alleged negligent practices in U.S. immigration detention centers, citing accusations of sexual abuse and unauthorized hysterectomies. – Reuters

Venezuela’s new finance minister offered a proposal to holders of defaulted bonds that she says will pave the way for an eventual restructuring. – Bloomberg 

Jeremy Kryt writes: Large-scale demonstrations against police brutality began the next day in Bogotá and soon spread to Medellín, Cali, Popayán, and other major cities. The protests have been compared to the Black Lives Matter and “Defund the Police” movements in the U.S. However Colombian authorities reacted to these marches with a brand of ferocity seldom seen stateside, repeatedly using live rounds and firing indiscriminately into crowds of unarmed civilians, and thus further fanning the flames of unrest. – The Daily Beast

R. Berg and J. Gonzalez-Gallarza: The EU hierarchy also appears wary of US-led efforts at political transition in Venezuela, with Borrell referring to US efforts in Venezuela as “cowboy diplomacy”. As far as December’s elections are concerned, the EU must follow the rest of the Western world in denying Maduro the international recognition he craves. That can only mean one thing – siding unequivocally with Juan Guaidó’s boycott. – CapX

United States

As Mark Feldstein, the first witness on the first day of the high-stakes extradition hearing for Julian Assange, appeared by video link from his home recently, reporters following the case remotely and those watching in an adjoining court could see and hear him. […]The hearing, taking place in the Central Criminal Court in London this month to decide whether the embattled WikiLeaks founder should be extradited to the United States, is one of the most crucial junctures yet in a legal fight that began nearly a decade ago. – New York Times

The World Health Organization’s top emergency expert, asked on Thursday about contradictory remarks by President Donald Trump and U.S. health officials on COVID-19, said it was important for all countries to have “consistent messaging” for their public. – Reuters 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will hold a virtual hearing on September 16 about what it says is the alarming state of religious freedom in Russia and Central Asia. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 


The Justice Department said on Wednesday that a group of hackers associated with China’s main intelligence service had infiltrated more than 100 companies and organizations around the world to steal intelligence, hijack their networks and extort their victims. – New York Times

While the Air Force’s new information warfare command has reached its full operational capability less than a year after it was created, leaders still have work to do to fully integrate its combined capabilities in a mature fashion. – C4ISRNET 

The Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said Wednesday that it has been “highly successful” at accessing the agency’s networks as part of a security audit due to cybersecurity shortcomings. – The Hill 

WeChat users will not face civil or criminal penalties even if the United States bans the Chinese-owned messaging app through other actions next week, the Justice Department said on Wednesday. – Reuters

ByteDance’s proposal for U.S. software firm Oracle Corp to become a technology partner in its TikTok app will ultimately need approval from both Chinese and U.S. officials, the company said on Thursday. – Reuters

As the Air Force works on the new architecture and way of war dubbed Joint All-Domain Command and Control, leaders are beginning to think about how this networked system must be protected from digital threats. – C4ISRNET 

Allies and partners from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East are joining the Pentagon’s recently announced partnership around AI practices, defense officials said Wednesday. – Defense One 

The U.S. Air Force’s fresh intelligence and cyber entity at the Pentagon is adding electronic warfare to its profile, continuing to build out a more robust information warfare portfolio. – Defense News 

Trump administration officials reportedly want to ensure U.S. investors get a majority share of the company that will take over the Chinese-owned video sharing app, TikTok. – Washington Examiner


While the U.S. military is still “addressing” a few problems with its Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, efforts are apparently well underway to develop the next-generation fighter jet. The U.S. Air Force secretly designed, built and even flew a prototype of the fighter of the future. – The National Interest 

While capacity at the Navy’s shipyards has nearly returned to pre-COVID-19 rates, the service does not expect to have widespread testing available for workers until later this year. – USNI News

The Navy is expanding how it coordinates anti-submarine warfare missions in an exercise the service began in the Atlantic last week, as Russia continues to have a more active presence in waters off the U.S. coast. – USNI News

The U.S. Army is looking to industry to help develop a new requirement to modernize an aging fleet of radios. – C4ISRNET 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is open to increasing Navy budgets to support a new shipbuilding plan and future force design, he said today in a speech at RAND Corporation’s Los Angeles office. – USNI News

Within a few weeks, the Air Force will have the data it needs to make a decision on whether to install an interim version of the KC-46′s troubled remote vision system, the head of Air Mobility Command said in a Sept. 10 interview. – Defense News

The sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite completed its On-Orbit Test (OOT) period Aug. 27, clearing the way for it to be transferred to the U.S. Space Force by the end of 2020, primary contractor Lockheed Martin announced Sept. 15. – C4ISRNET 

Anthony H. Cordesman: Claiming lasting victory against ISIS in Iraq, ignoring Syria, and claiming Afghan forces can survive some kind of peace agreement with the Taliban ignores all of these realities. So does the lack of any clear plan for the future development of a U.S. forward presence in USCENTCOM and AFRICOM. It says nothing about what the U.S. will now do to deter and potentially defeat Iran; the impact of a Turkey that steadily distances itself from NATO and U.S. goals in the Middle East; the impact of Russia and China’s efforts in the region; the lack of any Arab unity in the Gulf; or how the U.S. will deal with the wars in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Long War

Prosecutors in Washington have charged a US citizen for joining the so-called Islamic State group in Syria, according to a statement from the Justice Department Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse 

The Secretary-General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, Ziyad Al-Nakhalah, stated that Palestinian terror groups have military presence in the West Bank in an interview with Al-Mayadeen on Wednesday, warning that there are “no redlines” if war breaks out with Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

A British child left orphaned by the collapse of the Islamic State caliphate has been repatriated from Syria, the Foreign Office has said. The child is understood to be the first to have returned to the UK from Syria since November, when a small number of other unaccompanied British children were repatriated. – The Guardian 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The result is a smaller footprint with just a few thousand U.S. forces. This potentially enables the U.S. to be more confident because it doesn’t have soldiers exposed to Iran’s threats but can continue to support operations against ISIS. Time will tell whether this becomes a new American way of war — no “surges” such as those in the mid-2000s, and a focus on having partner forces do field operations. As long as ISIS stays in its caves and Iran’s militias can’t strike at U.S. forces, this process of consolidation in Iraq could prove successful.  – The Hill

Trump Administration

Attorney General William P. Barr delivered a scathing critique of his own Justice Department on Wednesday night, insisting on his absolute authority to overrule career staffers, who he said too often injected themselves into politics and went “headhunting” for high-profile targets. – Washington Post 

Top aides to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went before a congressional committee on Wednesday to defend President Donald Trump’s dismissal of the former State Department inspector general as he investigated weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and allegations that Pompeo misused department funds. – Reuters

Former special counsel Robert Mueller has declined an invitation to testify about the Russia investigation before the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Chairman Lindsey Graham. – Washington Examiner 

The FBI hasn’t seen evidence that foreign adversaries have attempted to tamper with U.S. voting systems but has alerted social media companies about malign influence operations, especially by Russia, Director Christopher Wray said on Wednesday. – Bloomberg

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee voted Wednesday on party lines to back subpoenas of about 40 people in its probe of the FBI’s Russia investigation and the Obama administration’s actions. – Bloomberg