Fdd's overnight brief

September 18, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The Trump administration is preparing to enforce international sanctions against Iran that most other countries intend to ignore, testing the ability of the United States to impose its will on the rest of the world. – Washington Post 

The United States has imposed sanctions on two Iranian entities and 45 associated individuals who carried out a malware campaign targeting Iranian dissidents, journalists and international travel companies, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Thursday. – Reuters 

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, differ on most foreign policy issues, including on how to deal with Iran. But former Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told RFE/RL in an exclusive interview that regardless of which man wins the November 3 presidential election, Washington’s policies are unlikely to change. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

An Iranian lawyer says his minority Kurdish client is at imminent risk of being Iran’s next political prisoner to be executed following the Saturday execution of an Iranian wrestler who had joined a peaceful antigovernment protest. – VoA news 

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said on Monday that inspectors would “in a few days” visit the second of two sites in Iran where undeclared nuclear activity may have taken place in the early 2000s, AFP reports. – Agence France-Presse

Hugh Hewitt writes: The Politico report on Sunday suggests the beleaguered regime in Tehran — financially broke, largely isolated and watching its regional rivals join Israel and the United States in opposing the mullahs’ hegemonist ambitions and “end times” theology — may be considering an unwise lashing-out at U.S. targets. That is a sign of desperation: No one in the Iranian regime would rest easy after provoking Trump. – Washington Post 

Tom Rogan writes: And perhaps, just perhaps, former Obama administration officials should have a smidgen more humility here. After all, it was their boss who gave Soleimani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a free pass in 2011, when Iran attempted to blow up the then-Saudi ambassador as he dined at Washington, D.C., restaurant Cafe Milano.- Washington Examiner

Avi Issacharoff writes: It can be safely assumed that Tehran will try to rekindle Bahraini public sentiment against the monarchy, and against normalization with Israel. Alternatively, it may try to carry out a terrorist attack, along the lines of the plan it reportedly came up with to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa. – Times of Israel


The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a Hezbollah official and two Lebanon-based companies as the country experiences a deep economic crisis, accusing them of being linked to the Iran-backed Shi’ite group. – Reuters 

Militant group Hezbollah has stored chemicals that can be used to make explosives in several European countries, a senior State Department official said Thursday as he appealed to countries in Europe and elsewhere to impose bans on the organization. – Associated Press 

The Shin Bet has arrested a resident of East Jerusalem who was recruited by Iran’s Quds Force and Hezbollah, the Israeli security agency said in a statement Thursday. – Haaretz


A NATO investigation into a naval standoff between French and Turkish ships in June has been rated too sensitive to discuss in public and does not apportion blame, as Paris and Ankara wage a war of words, diplomats have told Reuters. – Reuters

Turkey believes conditions are conducive to restarting talks with fellow NATO member Greece after Ankara’s Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel left contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday. – Reuters

Turkey on Thursday explicitly floated the concept of a two-state solution for divided Cyprus, a proposal sure to alarm the Mediterranean island’s internationally recognized administration and hobble a proposal to resume reunification talks. – Bloomberg 

The European Parliament urged more sanctions against Turkey over its controversial energy hunt in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean unless the country shows “sincere cooperation and concrete progress” in easing tensions with Greece and Cyprus. – Bloomberg 

Toufic Baaklini and Michael Rubin write: Simply put, complicity in Turkey’s war against ethnoreligious minorities has grown wider and the incitement of a generation means that it will be harder to eradicate once Erdoğan is no longer president. Some in the State Department and members of the Congressional Turkey Caucus may seek a return to “model partnership” with Turkey, but there can be no short cuts. Turkey must be judged based on what it is now rather than what it was twenty years ago or based on what diplomats want it to be. – The National Interest


White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that five other countries were considering entering into the peace deal signed this week between the U.S., Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. – Wall Street Journal 

The first military cargo plane from Chad is set to land in Israel late Wednesday night to pick up humanitarian aid from a private nongovernmental organization called Israeli Flying Aid (IFA). – Jerusalem Post 

Palestinians throughout the West Bank attending mosque this Friday will be told in the sermon that the peace deals signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain this week amount to high treason against the Palestinian cause, and are condemned by Allah himself. – Jerusalem Post

Russia said on Thursday it would be a “mistake” to think lasting peace in the Middle East could be secured without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict. – Arutz Sheva

Azriel Bermant writes: While the peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain are a hugely positive development for Israel, there will be rising strategic costs as it seeks to widen the circle of normalization with the Persian Gulf states. More significantly, Israel’s government has thus far chosen silence amid new revelations of Saudi Arabia’s construction of a new nuclear facility in cooperation with China, suggesting that the kingdom’s embryonic nuclear program is moving forward. – Foreign Policy 

Lahav Harkov writes: But these popular criticisms do not stand up to serious scrutiny. It’s unbelievable that this needs to be repeated, but peace, in whatever guise it arrives, is a good thing, and should be valued and appreciated. – Jerusalem Post 

Steven Emerson writes: By openly threatening Israel with terrorism, Fatah and the PA’s rhetoric is now largely indistinguishable from Islamist groups like Hamas and the PIJ. Instead of using recent diplomatic breakthroughs as opportunities to negotiate for peace, Palestinian leaders continue to prioritize their fight against Israel over the well-being of their population.- Algemeiner

Zvi Bar’el writes: In general, the details of the agreements are vague enough to allow for broad interpretation, but they would all require any action to be carried out in coordination with the United States. […]These factors do not detract from the strategic significance of these agreements, but it’s worth recognizing the limits that Israel will face from here on in. – Haaretz 

Tomer Gonen and Hagar Ravet write: However, hours after the announcement came out last month regarding the “Abraham Accords,” as the agreement with the UAE was dubbed, accounts began emerging of Israeli tech and cyber companies who had already signed contracts with the Muslim state years ago, under strict confidentiality. As long as those contracts were signed with representatives of states that are considered moderate and tolerant towards Israel, such as the UAE, we could all sleep easily. However, that was not always the case. – Ynet


Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib said on Thursday he would give more time for talks on forming a new government, after faltering efforts so far have raised doubts about prospects for a French push to lift the country out of crisis. – Reuters

An old rivalry between Christian factions who fought each other in Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war has flared again on the street and in political debate, renewing fears of fresh unrest as the nation grapples with its worst crisis since the conflict. – Reuters

Lebanon is grappling with a deep economic crisis after successive governments piled up debt following the 1975-1990 civil war with little to show for their spending binge. […]But politicians and bankers need to agree on the scale of the vast losses and what went wrong, so Lebanon can shift direction and stop living beyond its means. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia showed its determination to protect the oil recovery, warning short sellers not to challenge its resolve and delivering a rare public rebuke to a close ally that had been over-producing. – Bloomberg 

Yemen is in a “desperate situation” as it stands on the brink of famine and hundreds of thousands of people face starvation, the UN secretary general has warned. – Sky News (UK) 

A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Thursday it had intercepted and destroyed an explosive drone launched towards the kingdom, as Yemen’s Houthi group said it had hit a target at Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport. – Reuters

David Ignatius writes: A big loser in the new Middle East is Saudi Arabia, whose decline is the flip side of Turkey’s rising power. The kingdom has less influence in the region today than at any time in the past generation. […]The war zones of the region remain fragile, caught in a tug of war between Trump’s desire to withdraw troops and the Pentagon’s determination to stay until conditions are more stable. – Washington Post

Gulf States

The U.S. sees Qatar as another Gulf nation potentially prepared to normalize ties with Israel as the Trump administration seeks to keep momentum behind its Middle East peace efforts, a senior State Department official said. – Bloomberg 

The tourism ministers of Israel and Bahrain held a first publicly acknowledged phone call on Thursday and discussed possible ventures including three-way travel packages involving the United Arab Emirates, an Israeli statement said. – Reuters

Bahrain may have won international praise for following in the United Arab Emirates’ footsteps and establishing ties with Israel, but the dramatic move by the close U.S. ally could stir a new wave of opposition at home. – Reuters

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

MEMRI’s extensive study Al-Jazeera Unmasked: Political Islam As A Media Arm Of The Qatari State, by Amb. Alberto M. Fernandez, published August 12, 2020, revealed that the channel serves the Qatari government and the Muslim Brotherhood. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This means that they have decided to push forward on their own, realizing that waiting forever for relations with Israel was hurting them more than it was helping them. Having weighed this, the article at Al-Ain provides a clear step-by-step logic behind the new era that appears to be emerging.- Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

The United States has fought in Syria for more than six years, and has been involved in the country’s near-decade-long civil war for even longer. Now, ahead of a national election, the faction that helped the U.S. defeat the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) expressed to Newsweek how President Donald Trump could move forward without leaving allies behind. – Newsweek 

Following the condemnation, Egyptian journalist Suleiman Gouda wrote in a September 6, 2020 article in the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm that the U.S. employs a double standard in its foreign policy: on the one hand it justifiably condemns Turkey for hosting the Hamas delegation, but on the other hand it ignores the fact that this selfsame Hamas delegation, headed by Haniyah, arrived in Turkey from Qatar, where its members have been residing for many months. According to Gouda, given this double standard it is no wonder that U.S. foreign policy has lost its credibility. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Asli Aydintasbas and Sinan Ülgen write: And finally, NATO should get involved to prevent a confrontation. The organization can develop a deconflict mechanism between Turkey and Greece, possibly including France, with a view to preempt naval accidents that could lead to war. In a world so interconnected, there can be no clear winners in a confrontation in the East Med. Best to sit and talk — and share. – Washington Post 

Baraa Sabri writes: Washington’s neglect of Syria has allowed Tehran to extend its influence in the region, capitalizing on the narrative that the United States betrays its allies. Iranian Kurds are watching the affairs of Kurds in Syria and Iraq with great concern, and they will make future decisions about their relationship with the United States based on what they see. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

Analysts and security officials say they are watching for signs that North Korea may use an upcoming holiday to unveil new weapons or test fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), after a flurry of activity was detected at a key base. – Reuters

A court in Russia’s far eastern city of Nakhodka sentenced a North Korean citizen on September 18 to seven years in prison for attacking Russian border guards. Earlier in July, another North Korean man was sentenced to four years in prison in the high-profile case, in which the trials of dozens of other North Korean nationals are still pending. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Despite them being in high demand, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent a massive shipment of surgical masks back to China because they may have been manufactured in South Korea, making them illegal, according to a report. – New York Post 

Tongfi Kim writes: With the development of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, however, what is at stake in U.S. diplomacy toward Pyongyang is too big to be sacrificed for domestic political gains. A positive step toward the reduction of North Korea’s nuclear threat will be useful for a Biden administration too, especially if it is supported by Republicans as Trump’s legacy. Thus, another Trump-Kim meeting would be beneficial for both Biden and Trump. – War on the Rocks 

Yu Bin Kim writes: Until that time comes around, Trump has to maintain at least a decent relationship with North Korea’s leader. Similar to his first term, he will thus actively engage in personal diplomacy with Kim. Of course, flattering letters will move back and forth between the two leaders whenever necessary and at the same time, Trump will continue to look the other way as long as North Korea only shoots off short-range missiles. – The National Interest


Starting this week, The Washington Post will no longer have a correspondent in China, the first time in 40 years that it hasn’t had a full-time reporter covering the world’s most-populous country. Like many Western news organizations, The Post has been caught in the middle of tensions between two superpowers that is already limiting the flow of independent news and information from the country at a critical time. – Washington Post 

With the U.S. election approaching and President Trump’s prospects hanging in the balance, China is increasingly worried that its adversary in the White House will try to provoke a confrontation — perhaps through military action — to boost his chances of reelection. – Washington Post 

An informal partnership that kept Germany’s economy tethered to China’s for decades is unraveling, threatening Berlin’s—and Europe’s—post-pandemic recovery as the Asian giant stages a powerful comeback. – Wall Street Journal 

After rebuking a senior Czech lawmaker for visiting Taiwan this month, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, received an obscenity-laced public letter that punctuated just how far China’s standing in Europe has fallen. – New York Times

TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd. and Oracle Corp. are waiting to learn whether President Trump will give his blessing to their deal, but another hurdle remains: Beijing still has to sign off too. – Wall Street Journal 

The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia said on Thursday China’s recent actions around the world were not those of a responsible global actor, but of a “lawless bully,” a further ratcheting up of rhetoric against Beijing as the U.S. election approaches. – Reuters

China faces a major test in its vaccine diplomacy, with a deadline fast approaching on whether it will officially join a World Health Organization-backed effort to ensure everyone across the globe is inoculated against Covid-19. – Bloomberg 

China wants to enhance “security and strategic coordination” with Russia and other neighboring states to counter American influence on its periphery.- Washington Examiner

David C. Logan writes: Observers have rightly criticized China’s dismissive response to U.S. arms control overtures, however insincere or misguided those overtures might be viewed in Beijing. But fixating on poorly sourced or unfounded claims makes any dialogue both less likely to occur and less effective if it does happen. There are enough real concerns about China’s nuclear modernization that need to be addressed without being distracted by myths. – War on the Rocks 

Olivia Enos writes: An atrocity determination would reflect the realities of what the Uighur community in China is facing, highlight the growing severity of the human rights violations they face, and galvanize much-needed focus and attention on a situation that may amount to some of the worst human rights violations committed in the 21st century. – Heritage Foundation


Afghanistan’s government delegation to the Afghan negotiations said on Thursday “we hope to reach a ceasefire,” the delegation spokesman told Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera TV. – Reuters

H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s former national security adviser, called the president’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan “unwise” in an interview scheduled to air Sunday. – The Hill 

Fierce fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban militants has left at least 20 government troops dead, even as peace talks continued in an effort to end the 19-year war. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

South Asia

Militants have stepped up attacks on security forces in northwest Pakistan raising fears of a revival of their insurgency and a return of lawlessness as brighter prospects for peace in Afghanistan herald shifting Islamist alliances. – Reuters 

China suffered “far fewer” than the 20 deaths incurred by India’s military in a clash on their border in the Himalayas in June, the Global Times editor-in-chief said in a tweet, contradicting a claim made by India’s defence minister. – Reuters

Delhi police have filed charges against 15 people over Hindu-Muslim riots in the capital, a spokesman said on Thursday, prompting criticism from rights groups that authorities were targeting the opposition and minority Muslims. – Reuters


The Trump administration is pushing the sale of seven large packages of weapons to Taiwan, including long-range missiles that would allow Taiwanese jets to hit distant Chinese targets in the event of a conflict, say officials familiar with the proposals. – New York Times

A senior U.S. envoy arrived in Taiwan on Thursday to attend a memorial service for former President Lee Teng-hui, in the Trump administration’s latest move to bolster its support of the island in defiance of threats from Beijing. – New York Times

New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga posted the third-highest support rate recorded for a premier entering office, with voters backing his pledges of continuity for managing a virus-hit economy, polls showed. – Bloomberg

The author of proposed Australian laws to make Facebook and Google pay for journalism said Thursday his draft legislation will be altered to allay some of the digital giants’ concerns, but remain fundamentally unchanged. – Associated Press 

Japan said on Friday it will send a five-person team to Mauritius to investigate the grounding of a Japanese-owned ship off the country’s coast that led to an environmental crisis. – Reuters

A Taiwan conservation group said on Tuesday it had been kicked out of a British-based wild bird protection body after it had been asked and refused to sign a document stating it did not advocate for the Chinese-claimed island’s independence. – Reuters

Japanese lawmakers on Thursday compiled a draft proposal urging the government to hold joint military drills with the United States around a group of East China Sea islands administered by Japan but claimed by China to fortify Tokyo’s control over them.- Reuters

A new Philippine telecoms firm with Chinese state investment on Thursday described as “truly misplaced” concerns that communications equipment it will install at military camps will be used for spying.- Reuters

Since her personal phone number was posted online, Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach”. – Agence France-Presse

Sunai Phasuk writes: The voices of Thailand’s children who are demanding democratic reform are increasingly reverberating around the world. Thai authorities should ensure that the rights of these protesting students are protected and that they are able to voice their opinions peacefully without fear or intimidation. And they should listen to the children. – Washington Post 

Seth Cropsey writes: China’s military is, therefore, built to fight a short war, relying on long-range missiles and progressively layered defenses to isolate areas near the Chinese coastline. By raising the costs of American intervention, China seeks a political-military solution to its central strategic problem. Without U.S. coordination and support, Asia’s isolated states will fall, one by one, to Chinese power. – The Hill


Russia is increasing its military presence in the Far East in response to rising tensions in the wider region, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday. – Reuters

Ukraine and the United States launched joint military exercises on Thursday, two days after Russia began joint military drills with forces in neighboring Belarus.- Reuters

Germany has asked for the assistance of the global chemical agency in investigating the alleged poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny with a banned toxic chemical, the Hague-based organisation said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters

An investigator from Tomsk, looking into the suspected poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, visited the office of the opposition politician’s anti-corruption foundation in Moscow on Wendesday, its head told Reuters on Thursday.- Reuters

Prominent Russian activist Andrei Pivovarov has been detained at the exit of a Moscow detention center immediately after being released from serving a 14-day sentence for breaking protest laws. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, warned President Vladimir Putin that Russia would pay an “economic price” for continuing to interfere in US elections if he wins the White House in November.- Financial Times

Editorial: Belarusians crave above all a right to domestic political choice, not a rupture with Russia. If they feel Mr Putin is trapping them in authoritarianism, the Kremlin will turn an uprising that has not previously been about Belarus’ east-west orientation into exactly that.- Financial Times 

Nataliya Bugayova writes: Putin exploits the forces that drive the West toward accepting his gains and dropping pressures on him. He accelerates the erosion of memory of Russian aggression. He uses legitimate causes such as counterterrorism cooperation to pull countries into Russia initiatives and legitimize his malign activities. He refocuses his opponents away from their long-term interests and from the leverage they hold vis-à-vis Russia towards the short-term benefits or costs the Kremlin can inflict on them. He benefits from the desire for normalcy in the West and the ingrained reluctance to engage in confrontational policies toward Russia. – Institute for the Study of War 

Brian Katz, Seth G. Jones, Catrina Doxsee, and Nicholas Harrington write: Russia’s strategy is straightforward: to undermine U.S. power and increase Moscow’s influence using low-profile, deniable forces like PMCs that can do everything from providing foreign leaders with security to training, advising, and assisting partner security forces. […]With operations suspected or proven in as many as 30 countries across 4 continents and an increasingly refined and adaptable operational model, PMCs are likely to play a significant role in Russian strategic competition for the foreseeable future. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Ivana Stradner and Milan Jovanović write: A longtime Moscow ally, Montenegro split from both pro-Russian Serbia and Russia in 2006, following a new pro-Western path geared toward joining NATO. Seeing NATO’s expansion eastward as a threat, Russia lobbied hard to dissuade Montenegro from joining the alliance. In 2016, the Kremlin even went so far as to back a coup attempt. Nonetheless, Montenegro joined NATO in 2017. – Foreign Policy


Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims have camped out for days in the forested no man’s land between Belarus and Ukraine, stranded by new Ukrainian border restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus as the country experiences a surge. – Washington Post 

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” Mr. Biden wrote. “Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the returnof a hard border. Period.” – New York Times

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, dogged by weeks of protests over a disputed election, said on Thursday that Belarus needs to close its borders with Poland and Lithuania, and strengthen border controls with Ukraine. – Reuters

The U.K. government said a round of informal EU trade talks this week were “useful,” as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the Financial Times she’s “convinced” a deal is possible. – Bloomberg 

The border between Belarus and Poland remained open on Friday morning after Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said his country needs to close its borders with Poland and Lithuania, Polish border guards said. – Reuters

Britain will ask parliament for permission to use powers which breach its Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels if it decides the European Union has not acted in good faith in talks on a trade deal, the government said. – Reuters

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko should no longer be recognized as president from November when his term expires, the European Parliament said on Thursday, calling for European Union economic sanctions to be imposed on him. – Reuters

Seventeen members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have appointed an independent team of experts to investigate alleged rights violations in Belarus’ August presidential election, Denmark said on Thursday. – Reuters

Twenty-nine countries including the United States and Germany issued a joint statement on Thursday condemning reported internet shutdowns by the government of Belarus after a “fraudulent” presidential election there last month. – Reuters

Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will address the U.N. Human Rights Council by video on Friday during its urgent debate to consider a resolution brought by the European Union (EU), a statement said. – Reuters

Plans by the European Union to slap sanctions on Belarus have fallen into disarray, sources say, a hostage to internal politicking that one EU official described as a threat to the bloc’s credibility.- Reuters

Poland on Thursday proposed an EU stabilisation fund for Belarus worth at least one billion euros ($1.2 billion), as a top opposition leader prepared to meet EU foreign ministers in Brussels.- Agence France-Presse

Kosovo is giving U.S. President Donald Trump its highest award for his role in helping Kosovo and Serbia reach a deal aimed at normalizing economic ties. – Reuters

German authorities said Thursday that an apparently misdirected ransomware attack caused the failure of IT systems at a major hospital in Duesseldorf, and a woman who needed urgent admission died after she had to be taken to another city for treatment. – Associated Press 

The situation surrounding the rule of law in Poland has seriously deteriorated, the European Parliament said on Thursday, adding to pressure on Warsaw amid an EU investigation that could lead to Poland losing voting rights in the bloc. – Reuters

The Kremlin will likely deploy Russian conventional military forces into Belarus on a long-term basis under the pretext of expanding bilateral exercises.  Multiple indicators ISW had identified as presaging the stationing of Russian troops in Belarus have now tripped, including the presence of Russian troops during extended exercises and specific changes in Belarusian rhetoric. – Institute for the Study of War 

Christian Davies writes: Ultimately, argues Sławomir Sierakowski, the head of left-leaning think-tank Krytyka Polityczna who spent weeks embedded with the Belarusian protesters, Poles should resist the temptation to make the Belarus crisis all about themselves.- Financial Times

Philip Stephens writes: The strains on the union, though, start with the balance between Westminster and Edinburgh. Break-up may not be preordained, but none looks so determined as Mr Johnson to force Scotland’s hand.- Financial Times

Andrei Covatariu writes: Governments looking to improve energy systems face a difficult equation; there needs to be ongoing balance between low energy prices, security of supply, and environmental impact. This is known as the energy trilemma. The Black Sea region features additional layers of complexity in this equation, with its knotty geopolitical affairs (partially linked with the security of supply dimension), as well as migration threats, and outbreaks of political populism and nationalism. – Middle East Institute 


Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has picked political newcomer Mohamed Hussein Roble as prime minister, his office said on Friday, cementing power around the presidency ahead of elections due next year. – Reuters

Armed attackers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo killed one aid worker and took two others temporarily hostage after ambushing their convoy on Wednesday, Christian charity World Vision said.- Reuters

Former Ivory Coast Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, a leading candidate barred from standing against President Alassane Ouattara in an election next month, called on Thursday for the opposition to block Outtara’s re-election by any lawful means. – Reuters

Impunity for rape, murder and other abuses is still widespread in Burundi despite a change of government, a U.N. report released on Thursday said. – Reuters

Armed militia men killed more than 30 people in the Metakal zone of Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region, a senior opposition leader told Reuters on Thursday, the latest security headache for reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government. – Reuters

Latin America

President Martín Vizcarra faces a fast-track impeachment vote Friday in what critics have described as an attempted coup d’etat, while Peru struggles with one of the world’s deadliest outbreaks of the coronavirus. – Washington Post 

Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Añez, said Thursday that she was abandoning her election campaign, capping a stormy year in power during which divisions in her polarized nation grew only deeper. – New York Times

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday said it would be “impossible” to delay parliamentary elections planned for Dec. 6, after the European Union suggested pushing back the vote to meet conditions for the bloc to send an observer mission. – Reuters

North America

The mining towns of Hyder and Stewart form one of many cross-border communities along the U.S.-Canada frontier that have been severed for months by coronavirus travel restrictions. Now several such communities are pushing for local reopenings. – Washington Post 

An American constitutional law expert said Thursday that the United States indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under an “extraordinarily broad” spying law that has been used in the past for politically motivated prosecutions. – Associated Press 

President Trump will not attend next week’s United Nations General Assembly in person, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Thursday. […]But Trump had yet to submit his own speech, raising the possibility that he may speak in person Sept. 22. – The Hill 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday that he wanted to avoid a “confrontation” with the United States after President Donald Trump issued a new warning over drug trafficking. – Agence France-Presse

The FBI is increasingly worried about possible violent clashes between ideologically-motivated extremist groups before the November election, director Chris Wray said Thursday.- Agence France-Presse


Christopher A. Wray, the director of the F.B.I., warned a House committee on Thursday that Russia is actively pursuing a disinformation campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and expressed alarm about violent extremist groups. – New York Times

Iranian hackers, most likely employees or affiliates of the government, have been running a vast cyberespionage operation equipped with surveillance tools that can outsmart encrypted messaging systems — a capability Iran was not previously known to possess, according to two digital security reports released Friday.- New York Times

TikTok’s proposed deal with Oracle is not exactly going over well in Washington. The latest skeptic is President Trump, who said yesterday that he was “not going to be happy” if ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, maintains its majority stake in the business. – Washington Post 

Europe’s deployment of 5G cellular-communications networks is alarmingly slow, says a lobbying group of the Continent’s biggest companies, warning that Europe is far behind other regions despite being home to two of the world’s top telecommunications companies. – Wall Street Journal 

Backers of a proposed new group to take over Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok are working to create an ownership structure that would give U.S. interests a majority stake, in an effort to ease the Trump administration’s security concerns. – Wall Street Journal 

The formal organizational integration of intelligence and cyber personnel is making a difference in better cyber defense, an Air Force official said this week. – C4ISRNET 

Twitter announced Thursday it will order some political candidates, lawmakers and journalists to strengthen their passwords as the platform looks to allay security concerns heading into Election Day. – The Hill 

A global hacking collective known as APT41 has been accused by US authorities of targeting company servers for ransom, compromising government networks and spying on Hong Kong activists. – Agence France-Presse

Army Futures Command has picked Austin Community College District as the home of its software factory to collaborate with student software developers at a time when the service is hungry to bring software developers to its ranks as it modernizes in a digital age. – C4ISRNET


Defense Secretary Mark Esper told sailors today that heavy investment in unmanned systems would be key to the Navy reaching 355 or more ships and having the lethality and survivability needed if a conflict were to break out with China. – USNI News 

The Army is backing off a plan for the service to submit its own bid to the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle replacement competition after it indicated its intention to offer up its own design in a draft request for proposals posted in July. – Defense News 

NATO’s Joint Force Command Norfolk has achieved initial operational capability, with plans to be fully operational by the end of next year, the head of the command said on Thursday. – USNI News

China’s pursuit of more aircraft carriers validates the U.S. Navy’s commitment to building more American aircraft carriers in the future, the U.S. admiral in charge of providing forces to the fleet said on Thursday. – USNI News 

A rash of technical and safety problems has left the U.S. Navy’s fleet short by about 90 fighter pilots. Fixing the issue is an uphill battle, a top aviator said last week. – Defense News 

The Navy is considering an extension of the service lives of the first few aircraft carriers in the Nimitz-class, the head of the service’s carrier program said on Thursday. – USNI News 

Northrop Grumman was awarded a $298 million rapid-prototyping contract to design a new anti-jamming communications satellite payload for the U.S. Space Force, the Space and Missile Systems Center announced Sept. 16. – C4ISRNET

Long War

A Rwandan court on Thursday denied bail to Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” saying the terrorism and other charges against him are serious and he should remain in detention for another 30 days. – Associated Press 

Islamic State has credited its West Africa affiliate for killing six French aid workers and their Nigerien guide and driver at a giraffe reserve in Niger on Aug. 9, according to a statement published by the SITE Intelligence Group on Thursday. – Reuters

Somali money transfer companies moved more than $3.7 million in cash between suspected weapons traffickers in recent years, including to a Yemeni under U.S. sanctions for alleged militant links, according to a report seen by Reuters. – Reuters

Missile Defense

As the U.S. Air Force embarks on a new effort to field a replacement for the MQ-9 Reaper drone, multiple defense companies are stepping up with new, long-range, stealthy design concepts for the emerging MQ-Next competition. – Defense News 

The top military officer in charge of the U.S. nuclear arsenal said Thursday there is “no condition” right now where he would recommend conducting an explosive nuclear test, though that could change in the future. – The Hill 

A group of senators pressed the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration on Thursday to explain why her agency carries over approximately $8 billion in unspent funds year-over-year that lawmakers argued could be put toward building a second Virginia-class submarine next year. – USNI News 

Alan Cummings writes: A dual-use Common Hypersonic Glide Body would close gaps in U.S. theater deterrence capabilities and offer scalable deployment options to assure allies. It would give the United States a tool for assured delivery of conventional and low-yield warheads that hedges against erosion of U.S. advantages in low-observable technology. – War on the Rocks

Trump Administration

Attorney General William P. Barr’s scalding criticism of some of his own Justice Department prosecutors grew in part from frustration with the accusation that he had improperly intervened in high-profile political cases, but those close to him insist it was also meant as a signal to those on the right calling for arrests of former officials whom President Trump dislikes. – Washington Post 

Eric Trump, the president’s son, said Thursday that he is willing to be questioned by New York state investigators examining the Trump Organization’s financial practices — but not until after Election Day. – Washington Post 

Senate Democrats on Thursday presented their most comprehensive strategy yet to confront and compete with China, rolling out sprawling legislation that would provide more than $350 billion over a decade to build the United States’ industrial capacity and challenge Beijing. – New York Times

Senate Democrats made a last-ditch attempt on Wednesday to quash a forthcoming Republican report on Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy firm, warning that the document could amplify Russian disinformation in an attempt to politically wound his father, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee. – New York Times

House Democrats are slamming Chad Wolf for defying a subpoena for testimony, alleging a dereliction of duty by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief to inform Congress and the public about threats to the U.S. – The Hill 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on Thursday denouncing anti-Asian rhetoric related to the coronavirus pandemic, including expressions like “China virus” frequently used by President Donald Trump. – Reuters

In a bipartisan initiative to mark the normalization agreements inked on Tuesday at the White House between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, four members of Congress have introduced legislation to support the historic agreement. – Algemeiner