Fdd's overnight brief

September 2, 2020

In The News


Niger, the U.N. Security Council president for September, said on Tuesday it stands by a declaration that no further action can be taken on a U.S. bid to trigger a return of U.N. sanctions on Iran because there is no consensus in the 15-member body. – Reuters

The owners of four Iranian fuel cargoes that were confiscated by U.S. authorities last month mounted a challenge to the seizure, asserting their rights to control the cargo, according to a court filing on Tuesday. – Reuters

The signatories to the faltering Iran nuclear deal meet in Vienna on Tuesday as the US is urging international sanctions on the Islamic republic to be reimposed and an arms embargo to be extended. – Agence France-Presse

Major US Jewish groups called for Twitter to take action against the account of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday, following the Iranian leader’s latest antisemitic social media outburst. – Algemeiner

Tom Rogan writes: In short, Khamenei has reminded us that he is an evil leader. One who hates Jews and, for all his claims of moral leadership over Islamic peoples, provides Muslims with misery and mayhem at home and abroad. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The Iranian regime is a reactionary far-right theocratic regime and views the world in these binary terms. As such the tweets are meant as a threat against the UAE. Iran says the “betrayal won’t last long” and that the “stigma” is on the UAE, a veiled threat against the Emirates. – Jerusalem Post

Danny Citrinowicz writes: And while the issue of Iran seems a safe place to start, the differences in viewpoints must also be factored into negotiations between the two states, with the understanding that the UAE has its own methods of dealing with Iran. Israel has a major opportunity at present; but if a shared baseline foreign policy isn’t developed that takes each sides’ interests into account, both run the risk of being less prepared than they could have been for an Iranian move. – Washington Institute


Turkey on Tuesday accused the U.S. of violating the spirit of the alliance between the two countries by lifting an arms embargo on Cyprus amid a showdown over energy resources in the Mediterranean Sea. – Bloomberg

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called on Tuesday for the suspension of lawyers accused of links to terrorism, following protests over the death of a hunger-striking lawyer last week. – Reuters

Turkey is open to dialogue with Greece to solve disagreements over Mediterranean rights and resources as long as Athens is too, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday. – Reuters

On August 24, 2020, in honor of the 949th anniversary on August 26 of the 1071 Battle of Manzikert, Turkey’s Ministry of Communication released a music video titled the “Red Apple March.” […]The video also shows the Turkish drill ships Fatih and Oruç Reis, which have recently been drilling and searching for natural gas in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Altay Atlı writes: A temporary lifeline between the ports of Mersin and Beirut can be expected to generate longer-lasting benefits for Turkey in the long term. The economic rationale is clear and the business community is ready and willing, but the most important prerequisite will be delicate regional diplomacy, which might also prove to be the most difficult. – Middle East Institute


A soldier and police officer were lightly injured in a suspected ramming attack at the Tapuah Junction east of Ariel in the West Bank on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

The Hamas terrorist organization used coronavirus as a weapon of war and won a ceasefire agreement worth millions of dollars and a priceless amount of clout. – Jerusalem Post

The commander of the Galil Division, Brig. Gen. Shlomi Binder, says the recent confrontations with Hezbollah along the northern border is not yet over but vowed that the IDF would protect local residents. – Ynet

Herb Keinon writes: It means Israel must keep the UAE apprised of potentially controversial steps in real time, and that its leaders must weigh their public words very carefully after such actions to prevent inflaming public opinion against it in newly friendly Arab lands. Israel will obviously continue to act as it feels it must, but from now on the ramifications of its actions on ties with the UAE will be an additional component to take into consideration. That, too, is a price of peace. – Jerusalem Post

Anna Ahronheim writes: Unlike the south, where Israel seems to be going around and around in circles with Hamas, the IDF has a clear strategy and goal in the north. And nothing is getting in its way. Not corona, not possible elections and not tensions with Hezbollah. So why can’t we stop the cycle in the south? The ritual escalations can stop, but the right strategy has to be found and implemented. That strategy obviously has to be political, not military. – Jerusalem Post


French President Emmanuel Macron met Tuesday with political leaders across the Lebanese spectrum as part of an effort to pressure the government into making major reforms, which could free up desperately needed foreign assistance to address a series of national crises. – Washington Post

French President Emmanuel Macron said Lebanon’s embattled leaders had pledged Tuesday to form a crisis cabinet within two weeks to push forward with key reforms, as he visited the disaster-hit country.  – Agence France-Presse

French President Emmanuel Macron confronted the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc Mohammed Raad during a visit to Beirut on August 6, asking him “are you Lebanese” and telling him to “prove” it, according to French newspaper Le Figaro. – Jerusalem Post

Gunfire broke out on Tuesday in a town south of Beirut, where clashes last week killed two people and raised the risk of sectarian strife in Lebanon, the state news agency NNA said. – Reuters

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh returned to Beirut for the first time in 27 years, a spokesperson for the terror group said on Tuesday. – Ynet

Bobby Ghosh writes: Adib’s appointment was announced the day before Macron’s arrival, and local newspapers reported that the new man had the blessings of the French president. Macron denied this, but having bet on the Lebanese political elite to clean up its own act, he will not be able to shrug off responsibility for their inevitable failure. – Bloomberg

Arabian Peninsula

As Israel and the United Arab Emirates meet for their first round of peace talks, the Gulf nation is using the occasion to shine a spotlight on the U.S. stealth fighters it wants to buy over Israeli objections. – Bloomberg

After accompanying an Israeli delegation to the UAE for historic normalisation talks, White House adviser Jared Kushner set off on a tour of other Gulf capitals on Tuesday, looking for more Arab support. – Jerusalem Post

Noah Feldman writes: Of course, it remains possible that the Palestinians will stay the course. Desperation can beget more desperation rather than pragmatism. But if there is a slow generational movement among Palestinian leaders toward a different approach, the Israel-UAE deal will likely turn out to have been one of its contributing causes. – Bloomberg

Simon Henderson writes: The corruption allegation against General Fahd will only enliven rumors that there are other issues in play besides dissatisfaction with the Yemen campaign. Senior princes are rarely sacked from government positions, and when they are, succession-related politics are likely a factor (e.g., Mitab bin Abdullah, son of King Salman’s predecessor, was fired as national guard minister in 2017). For Washington, the change in military leadership could be an opportunity to engage Riyadh on changing its Yemen policy and resolving the protracted crisis once and for all. – Washington Institute

Ibrahim Jalal writes: The U.K.’s dwindling support for the ROYG might be a reflection of evolving realities and British pragmatism, crucial to navigating its interests in post-war Yemen. More than five years after Marriott left, the U.K.’s two conditions for returning to Sanaa remain unrealized, and as London looks to chart a new course after Brexit and in a post-pandemic world, its foreign policy in Yemen seems unlikely to change in the near term. – Middle East Institute

Mohammed Soliman writes: The GCC states will have to balance their economic and security interests during this severe global recession, and may need to adjust to increasing pressure from Washington if Joe Biden wins the November election and decides Gulf leaders need to be held to different standards than under the Trump administration. If the GCC states choose to maintain their relationship with Huawei, it will be a clear sign of diminishing U.S. power over its allies. However, if Gulf countries make that choice, they should also be prepared to face retribution for doing so. – Middle East Institute


The EU’s foreign policy chief held talks with Libya’s UN recognised government on Tuesday to push for renewed efforts to resolve the country’s long-running conflict. – Agence France-Presse

A loud blast hit the Libyan capital Tripoli early on Tuesday, residents said, with the noise audible across much of the city and dark smoke in the sky. – Reuters

Italy’s chief diplomat paid an unannounced visit to Libya on Tuesday to press for an end to the bloody civil war following cease-fire initiatives by the U.N.-supported government and rival parliament. – Associated Press

Middle East & North Africa

Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to promote bilateral trade and business activity as they move to normalize ties, but pushed discussion over the thorny issue of the sale of advanced U.S. military hardware to the Emiratis to a later stage. – Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi in 2018, two years before Monday’s historic El Al flight to the UAE, according to a report by Yediot Aharonot. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Israel and the UAE have dangerous enemies, from Tehran to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is a part. Navigating the US election and Washington’s increasingly partisan foreign policy will be difficult. We can face the future together with the UAE. This week began what should be a beautiful friendship. – Jerusalem Post

Rep. Buddy Carter writes: The significance of the decision, termed the “Abraham Accord,” cannot be overstated. This has the potential to lead to substantial change in the region, drive innovation and growth, and reduce threats against our strongest ally in the Middle East. After decades of attempts, and countless reports saying it wasn’t possible, Trump and his administration have delivered. – Washington Examiner

Paul Wolfowitz writes: Some naïve or wishful Westerners seem to want to dismiss that activity as purely commercial ventures, or to view it as part of a Chinese “Marshall Plan” aimed at buying goodwill among developing nations of the region. […]It may be that the countries that Xi considers responsible for China’s “150 years of humiliation,” will wake up one day to discover that the Persian/Arabian Gulf, once secure under an umbrella of American protection, has become something else entirely. – Hoover Institution

Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli writes: There are also large Sunni and Kurdish populations in Iraq, which will reject control of their country by its eastern neighbor. Finally, the world has witnessed the rebellious youth of Iraq, who have demonstrated in the streets of Iraq against both the endemic corruption and Iran’s intervention in their country. Iran’s own financial constraints will place a low ceiling on the level of financial support it can provide to its proxies. Of course, no realist could deny that logic and rational considerations may not always be the dominant factor in determining the fate of nations in that part of the world.  – Middle East Media Research Institute


China is building up its nuclear and missile forces and is mobilizing vast resources to rival the Pentagon’s, the Defense Department said in its annual report on Chinese military power, which concluded that the country’s armed forces in certain areas had eclipsed the U.S. military. – Washington Post

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday he was hopeful that Chinese Confucius Institute cultural centers on U.S. university campuses would all be shut down by the end of the year. – Reuters

China’s top leaders next month will lay out their economic strategy for the next five years that will include a new ambition to ramp up domestic consumption and make more critical technology at home in a bid to insulate the world’s second-largest economy from swirling geopolitical tensions. – Bloomberg

U.S. House lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at reducing dependence on China for rare earths used in everything from electric vehicles to missiles to wind turbines. – Bloomberg

One of the world’s fastest-moving efforts to develop a Covid-19 vaccine is falling behind rivals, its advance appearing to be stymied by political tensions between China and Canada and concerns its shot may not work as well as others. – Bloomberg

Senior US military officials are making the case for a new generation of space weapons in a sign of their concern about China’s extraterrestrial capabilities, including its recent development of a rival version of GPS. – Financial Times

Eugene Chudnovsky writes: Founded in 2011, Zoom is officially a U.S. company with headquarters in San Jose, California, but it is largely operated by its workforce of 700 in China. Since the implementation of lockdowns due to COVID-19, it has acquired enormous power in the United States. China’s effort to exert control over online meetings must be of great concern to the U.S. government. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

As tensions once again spike between India and China, the Indian Cabinet is set to approve an order of two Phalcon AWACs from Israel. – Jerusalem Post

A Tibetan-origin soldier with India’s special forces was killed in the latest border showdown with Chinese troops on their contested Himalayan border, a Tibetan representative said Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

India’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Chinese troops had “engaged in provocative action” on the border on Monday even as military commanders held talks to defuse tensions. – Reuters

Salvatore Babones writes: A Thai canal would pose little threat to the United States, its allies, or even India, which can effectively (if expensively) counter Chinese expansionism by upgrading its domestic forward bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. […] And it absolutely imperils Thailand. The Malacca Strait has been a boon to Singapore only because Singapore has an open economy that is relatively free from foreign influence. Thailand should ponder that lesson before it sticks its neck out for China. – Foreign Policy


Australia does not know why Chinese authorities have detained Australian citizen and television anchor Cheng Lei, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Tuesday, adding to the mystery why the journalist has been taken into custody. – Reuters

The large Solomon Islands province of Malaita said it will conduct an independence referendum after rejecting the Pacific nation’s decision last year to cut its association with Taiwan and establish formal ties with China. – Reuters

Fed up with being confused for China amid the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing’s stepped-up efforts to assert sovereignty, Taiwan said on Wednesday it would redesign its passport to give greater prominence to the island’s name. – Reuters

Defying anger from China, the president of the Czech Republic’s Senate addressed Taiwan’s legislature on Tuesday, offering a strong rebuke of authoritarian politics and Beijing’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy. – Associated Press

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plans to continue partnering with a Chinese state-owned construction company punished by the United States for building artificial islands in the South China Sea. And it will back other Chinese companies that want to do business in his country, a spokesman for the president said. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: China Daily slammed Taiwanese leaders for having “openly encouraged lawbreakers in Hong Kong to evade the consequences of their actions,” and this summer Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China may not recognize “as valid travel documents” the British National Overseas passports granted to Hong Kongers. Last week’s Hong Kong boat people are among the first to risk their lives to escape, but they won’t be the last. – Wall Street Journal

Joseph Bosco writes: Finally, opponents of strategic clarity argue that Taiwan matters more to China than it does to the United States, so we can’t risk World War III over it. But Chinese graduate students and scholars confide to Americans that they do not believe Taiwan is worth a war, let alone one with the U.S.  The task of American leaders is to convince Chinese civilian and military hardliners that the costs and risks of conflict with the U.S. would be catastrophic for China, destroying all they have spent 70 years building up. – The Hill

Sen. James Lankford writes: As we enjoy our freedoms here and watch the implications of Beijing’s law unfold in Hong Kong, I hope we all feel compelled to speak up in support of these freedoms for people across the globe. The internet and social media have allowed humanity as a whole to be more connected than ever before. As we watch China suppress the voices and grievances of Hongkongers, will we feel compelled to speak against this threat to democracy, or will we turn our heads because it doesn’t directly impact our daily lives here in America? – Washington Examiner

Bruce Klingner writes: Abe’s successor will face a daunting challenge of economic doldrums, escalating military threats, and growing uncertainty about the continued viability of its U.S. ally. Japan is a crucially important diplomatic, economic, and security partner to the United States. The U.S.-Japanese bilateral partnership and alliance are based on shared values, principles, and objectives. Washington must do all that it can to support Japan’s next captain as he assumes the tiller to maintain a steady course. – The Daily Signal


Within a few days last week, smoldering tensions between the United States and Russian militaries flared around the world. Already fraught with fresh evidence of election interference, the relationship between Washington and Moscow has grown even more tense after the recent military encounters. – New York Times

During more than 20 years in power, Mr. Putin has never publicly uttered the name of his most high-profile opponent, according to archives of his speeches and interviews on the Kremlin’s website. – New York Times

The pressure from Mr. Putin for Russia to be first highlights the political victory the Kremlin is seeking to score by pushing its best scientists into the center of the global fight against the coronavirus. – Wall Street Journal

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin will visit Belarus for talks on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, as Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko faces the biggest political crisis of his 26 years in power. – Reuters

Tom Rogan writes: On Monday, the Air Force flew a radar sensing intelligence aircraft past Kaliningrad and circuits near the Russian mainland near Saint Petersburg. It’s unclear whether that aircraft had a fighter escort. But the next flight and those that follow in these areas should have escorts. And if NATO commanders can’t figure that out, they should be replaced. – Washington Examiner


A Chinese diplomatic offensive to improve ties with Europe and counter U.S. influence has failed to yield clear gains so far. – Wall Street Journal

United Nations human rights investigators said on Tuesday they had received reports of hundreds of cases of torture, beatings and mistreatment of anti-government protesters by police in Belarus and urged the authorities to stop any such abuse. – Reuters

Ben Wallace writes: Expect to find the U.K. an even stronger North Atlantic Treaty Organization partner. […]Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s words, delivered after victory, still resonate: “If we keep our eyes on this guidepost then no difficulties along our path of mutual cooperation can ever be insurmountable.” I know it’s a message Lt. Kilgore will take with him as he embarks on what I’m sure will be a glittering career in the U.S. Army. – Wall Street Journal


Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the Malian president ousted in a military coup last month, was hospitalized late Tuesday at a private clinic, intensifying fears about the 75-year-old’s health after being detained for 10 days by the junta that seized power. – Associated Press

Ousted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir appeared in court on Tuesday at the start of a trial over the military coup in which he took power in 1989. – Reuters

Jeffrey Smith writes: Dictators are toxic. Their ripple effects are not confined to national boundaries alone — they spread and often take root elsewhere. It is time for the United States and global allies to stop supporting and subsidizing this repression. If the silence and the hand-wringing persist, do not be shocked if someone like Mukwege is shackled next. – Washington Post

Latin America

President Nicolás Maduro on Monday issued the most sweeping list of presidential pardons since he came to power in 2013, cleaning the judicial records of 110 political opponents as his authoritarian government seeks to bolster the credibility of upcoming legislative elections. – Washington Post

The Trump administration said Tuesday that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro should not be praised for releasing a few political opponents ahead of a congressional election, when many more opposition activists remain in jail. – Associated Press

Roger F. Noriega writes: The Trump administration has been criticized by some in the region for being “obsessed” with China, Cuba, and Venezuela. However, it cannot be denied that these regimes are active threats to free-market capitalism, democracy, and the rule of law. The most effective U.S. strategy will not seek to impose an anti-China bias on governments that have no interest in being in the middle of a geopolitical tug-of-war. – American Enterprise Institute


The Norwegian parliament suffered a cyber attack during the past week and the e-mail accounts of several elected members as well as employees were hacked, the national assembly and a counter-intelligence agency said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Facebook on Tuesday said that it caught a budding Russia-linked campaign to fuel political chaos in the US, working off a tip from the FBI in its latest take-down of coordinated inauthentic behavior at the leading social network. – Agence France-Presse

The Trump administration and Michigan officials cast doubt on claims about Russians hacking voter databases from the Wolverine State that were published in Russian media and amplified on social media by U.S. journalists and other left-leaning accounts with large followings. – Washington Examiner

The Pentagon’s top artificial intelligence office released a request for information Aug. 28 outlining interest in establishing a new acquisition approach for standardizing the development and procurement process for AI tools. – C4ISRNET

The cyber workforce is one of the most challenging cybersecurity issues, and one of the key topics the Cyberspace Solarium Commission addressed in its final report on developing a new strategy to defend the United States in cyberspace. – C4ISRNET


The U.S. Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have wrapped up captive carry tests of two hypersonic weapon variants that will perform their first free-flight tests later this year, the organizations announced Sept. 1. – Defense News

U.S. Special Operations Command has taken receipt of its first MH-47G Block II Chinook from Boeing on time, according to a Sept. 1 company statement. – Defense News

Along with the U.S. Army’s Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities office, the Defense Innovation Unit has tapped Northrop Grumman to build two new prototype ground stations that will help the Army use satellite imagery for deep sensing. – C4ISRNET

USS Sioux City (LCS-11) deployed over the weekend to U.S. Southern Command to aid in conducting counter-narcotic missions, the Navy recently announced. – USNI News

The Navy is bringing an aerial refueling capability to its E-2D Advanced Hawkeye command and control fleet, with the first operational squadron certifying its pilots to refuel with Air Force tankers. – USNI News

The Navy’s new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) program envisions procuring a class of 28 to 30 new amphibious ships to support the Marine Corps, particularly in implementing a new Marine Corps operational concept called Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). – USNI News

The U.S. Air Force has taken initial steps to begin prototyping a supersonic aircraft that could someday carry the president around the world in half the time. – Military.com

Steven P. Bucci writes: A theoretical military principle suggests that steady quantitative changes can lead to a sudden, qualitative leap. After many, many years of sustained focus to drive down F-35 costs, the program may be representative of that maxim and allow the Defense Department to fully realize the advantages of the F-35′s gamechanging technologies. – Defense News

Kaitlyn Johnson writes: This analysis focuses on space debris mitigation and sustainability efforts, rendezvous and proximity operations, and insurance for space launch and satellites on orbit. Common threads emerge that bind these key areas of governance to one another and lead to several recommendations on how the international community might proceed with building better norms of behavior or regulations for the space domain. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Long War

The Turkish authorities on Tuesday announced the arrest of Mahmut Ozden, described as a top Islamic State figure in Turkey, and said they had recovered evidence that the group was planning an attack in the country. – New York Times

Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper, reprinted caricatures of the prophet Muhammad to mark the start of the trial of suspected accomplices in the January 2015 attacks that left 12 people dead after a weekday staff meeting. – Washington Post

Afghan authorities have resumed a controversial release of Taliban inmates, an insurgent spokesman said Tuesday, marking an important step toward breaking an impasse that has delayed the start of peace talks for months. – Agence France-Presse

Wil van Gemert writes: It seems safe to assume that the containment measures taken against COVID-19 are hampering the activity of terrorist networks, creating greater difficulties in procurement and training opportunities, and also in identifying suitable targets. My fear, however, is that the developments in terrorism that we have observed over recent years will have accelerated once we overcome the pandemic. – Washington Institute