Fdd's overnight brief

September 24, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The U.S. State Department is stepping up its efforts to tighten the sanctions regime arrayed against Iran, drawing renewed attention to the thriving arms trade between Pyongyang and Tehran. – The National Interest 

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard force has managed to fly a surveillance drone over the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier which last week transited through the Strait of Hormuz, an Iranian news agency has reported. – The Guardian 

Iran’s Health Ministry said it’s received just a small fraction of a promised $1 billion infusion from the country’s sovereign wealth fund to fight the coronavirus. – Bloomberg 

Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was hospitalised after going on hunger strike for over 40 days, has been returned to prison “without any medical intervention”, her husband said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse 

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it would be beyond the pale for Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be returned to detention in Iran at this time. – Reuters 

A fire broke out at an Iranian factory near Tehran on Tuesday, Iran’s state TV reported, the latest in a string of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.- Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday declared “victory” over the United States after the UN Security Council rejected the Trump administration’s bid to reimpose UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic.- Arutz Sheva

Bobby Ghosh writes: But it would be good for all the parties — Biden, the Europeans and the Iranians — to be reminded that resistance to the JCPOA runs deep in American politics. Ignoring that reality brought us to this sorry pass. That mistake should not be repeated. – Bloomberg 


A senior spokesman for the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces says Iran plans to fortify Syria’s air defense. – Radio Farda 

Clashes in Syria between pro-regime forces and Islamic State group jihadists, along with air strikes, have killed at least 28 fighters in the northern province of Raqqa, a war monitor said Tuesday.- Agence France-Presse

Diana Darke writes: Such initiatives would never be undertaken or supported by the current Syrian government, where coordination between ministries and other authorities is weak or largely absent, and where civil society initiatives are seen as challenging to state authority, closed down, or met with arrest and imprisonment. Yet Syria’s unique cultural identity remains. It was always there, way before the Assads — and is still there, in spite of the Assads. – Middle East Institute


The European Union is unlikely to follow through on a threat to impose sanctions on Turkey after Ankara agreed to talks with Greece over maritime claims on Tuesday, senior EU diplomats and officials said. – Reuters 

Turkish government officials and industry executives are hoping to find new sales in what they see as emerging export markets in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. “These are promising markets for Turkish manufacturers,” said one senior procurement official. – Defense News 

Turkey’s growing reliance on Huawei and other Chinese companies could complicate U.S. military cooperation with the major NATO ally, according to Mike Pompeo. – Washington Examiner

David Ignatius writes: A referral either to the international court in The Hague or independent mediation could begin to resolve the maritime issue, without concessions that neither Erdogan nor Mitsotakis can afford politically. But first, the two sides need to agree on “terms of reference” that specify the issues they are prepared to submit for arbitration. Each side has recently tried to bolster its negotiating position by making agreements with governments along the eastern Mediterranean coast — Turkey with Libya, and Greece with Egypt. – Washington Post 

Samuel Ramani writes: Although Turkey’s ability to exert geopolitical influence in the Sahel pales in comparison to established great powers, such as the U.S., France, and China, and emerging powers such as Russia, West Africa is likely to become an increasingly important vector of Ankara’s continental strategy. As tensions between Turkey, France, and the UAE boil over in the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, we should keep a close eye on a spillover of these hostilities to West Africa in the months ahead. – Middle East Institute 

Patricia Karam writes: The tug of war in the region between malign actors is intensifying, and Turkey is no longer a bystander. Despite setbacks and potential negative spillover of conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq, Turkey has emerged as a heavyweight with Erdogan as a new Putin seeking to lead in an order that the United States is clearly absent from. […]Left unchecked, the consequences of Turkey’s adventurism will endanger, not just its immediate borders, but the entire Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. The United States will not be spared, as it will be called upon to write a new script. – The Hill 

Michaël Tanchum writes: With Greece, Cyprus, and France advocating strong action against Turkey while Italy, Malta, and Spain demur, the Mediterranean is evenly split. But if Italy shifts toward France, resulting in a meeting of minds between the EU’s two largest Mediterranean states, then it is likely that the entire southern EU will swing in favor of some form of sanctions. The momentum in the EU as whole would then be for a tougher line toward Turkey. – Foreign Policy


Peace between Israel and the Palestinians will come through Israel establishing relations with Arab states, former British prime minister and longtime Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair said at The Jerusalem Post conference. – Jerusalem Post

Israelis want negotiations with the Palestinians based on two-states, but prefer that the next agreement reached should be with a Gulf state, preferably Qatar, according to a poll commissioned by the left-wing Geneva Initiative in conjunction with the Adva Center. – Jerusalem Post

Abu Zayyad wrote that the Palestinian discourse is rigid and has failed to adapt itself to the spirit of the age, and has therefore become like a “broken record” that the world can no longer listen to. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The energy ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates discussed possible cooperation and investment opportunities, including natural gas exports to Europe, in a video call on Wednesday, an Israeli statement said. – Reuters

Danish shipping giant Maersk aid it will now transport ocean cargo between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, a further sign of business opening up after the two countries established full ties. – Reuters

A well-known Palestinian official is facing a potential legal challenge to his current role as an academic at Harvard University. […]But one former American government official is seeking to hinder Erekat’s activities, arguing that he is an apologist for terrorism and therefore legally ineligible to enter the US. – Algemiener

In a first-of-its-kind event made possible by the normalization agreement signed by their countries earlier this month, the UN envoys of Israel and the United Arab Emirates sat down for a meeting on Wednesday in New York City. – Algemeiner

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft said in an interview with Al-Arabiya Wednesday that another normalization agreement between Israel and an unnamed Arab country will happen in the next day or two. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF targeted illegal Palestinian building in a special West Bank operation on Wednesday, as the United Nations warned against a four-fold spike in such demolitions despite the COVID-19 pandemic. – Jerusalem Post

Former IDF lone soldier Rebecca Ram filed on Tuesday a $6 million lawsuit against Suhair Nafal, a senior member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, for slandering her online. – Jerusalem Post

A court handed sentenced  an Ashkelon resident with posting threats against the Netanyahu family on Facebook to two months probation on Wednesday. – Haaretz

The proposed United States sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates could have a long-term negative strategic impact for Israel, Air Force Chief Amikam Norkin said in an interview aired Wednesday. – Times of Israel

The top US defense official told his Israeli counterpart that Washington was committed to maintaining Israel’s military edge in the region Tuesday, as the sides sought ways to defray Jerusalem’s worries over the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates. – Times of Israel

Allan Marks writes: Until Israeli-Palestinian relations are dealt with directly and comprehensively, Israel’s security and international relations remain fragile. These recent international agreements will further the goal of peace only if followed by sustained diplomatic efforts and a shared commitment to building trust on all sides. – Algemeiner


Lebanon’s sectarian politicians have overshot one deadline they had agreed with France and missing more may put at risk a French lifeline to haul the Middle East nation out of its worst crisis since a 1975-1990 civil war. – Reuters 

France backed on Wednesday a proposal by a former Lebanese prime minister that could help break a deadlock blocking formation of Lebanon’s new cabinet amid the Middle East nation’s worst crisis since its 1975-90 civil war. – Reuters

Facing an economic meltdown and other crises, Lebanon’s president on Wednesday asked for the world’s help to rebuild the capital’s main port and neighborhoods that were blown away in last month’s catastrophic explosion. – Associated Press 

Hezbollah’s hegemony over Lebanon has destroyed the country’s constitutional, state institutions and the only way to break out of this is for the Iran-backed group to be disarmed, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said Wednesday. – Al Arabiya

Saudi Arabia

King Salman, the 85-year-old monarch who ascended the throne of his oil-rich kingdom in 2015 but has left the day-to-day running of affairs to his 35-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, made his General Assembly speech debut. He used it to assail Iran, Saudi Arabia’s longtime regional adversary. – New York Times

A group of Saudi dissidents, most of them in exile, on Wednesday announced the formation of a party to push for political reform in Saudi Arabia in defiance of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has moved to crush any dissent. – Reuters 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran wants to undermine Riyadh and show it can strike at Saudi Arabia’s allies, but it is concerned about US reactions if it harms civilians or US military personnel. The calculations before the US election will include these concerns by Tehran not to provoke the US and give the Trump administration an excuse to strike at Iran or its proxies. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

Arab leaders voiced fears Wednesday before the United Nations of new conflict in the region as tensions soar between Iran and the United States. – Agence France-Presse

If there is a sale of F-35 fighter jets from the United States to the United Arab Emirates, the first planes will arrive in the Gulf state in “six or seven years,” US Ambassador David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

Aaron David Miller writes: What’s clear, though, is that regional priorities are changing. The Bahrain-U.A.E.-Israel deal suggests the regional consensus on Israel and Palestinians has broken down. Key Arab countries may still nominally adhere to the goals of the 2002 Arab League peace initiative — a Palestinian state on something close to the June 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as a capital, a result Israel shows no signs of accepting — even while they negotiate their own relationships with Israel. – Washington Post 

Edward Wong writes: When challenged over why the United States has continued to assist Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations in a bombing campaign that has killed thousands of civilians in Yemen, Trump administration officials have often responded that American involvement is helping to hold down unnecessary casualties by advising the Saudis and their allies on targeting and rules of engagement. – New York Times

Christine McVann writes: Although U.S. policymakers will need to strike a delicate balance between these opportunities and risks, this is not the first time that the sale of a top-shelf U.S. system has evoked such concerns. The F-35 may involve higher stakes than past transfers, but with forethought and planning, Washington can make it a much safer bet for all parties. – Washington Institute 

Salem al-Ketbi writes: Seven decades of Arab-Israeli fighting have passed at the same pace. The old preconceptions no longer have a place in politics and the ties between nations. Two countries like the UAE and Israel cannot entrust their future to worn-out and obsessive rhetoric. It only suits those who hide behind slogans of the past and play politics with their own cause. – Jerusalem Post 

Elie Podeh writes: Bahrain is not a Middle Eastern power, and not even a Gulf power. However, the peace agreement holds three important advantages for Israel. The first stems from Bahrain’s close ties with the Saudis, who have clearly given their blessing and provided an additional sign of indirect normalization with Israel. – Jerusalem Post


Libya’s state oil company reopened another port, the third to resume operation in less than a week, as a political truce takes hold in the OPEC member’s devastating civil war. – Bloomberg 

Amnesty International said Thursday that thousands of Europe-bound migrants who were intercepted and returned to Libyan shores this year were forcefully disappeared after being taken out of unofficial detention centers run by militias allied with the U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli. – Associated Press 

An oil tanker is expected to load crude at Libya’s Marsa el-Hariga terminal this week, the first since a blockade by eastern forces in January slashed the OPEC member’s oil production to a trickle. – Reuters

Eastern Libyan forces said on Wednesday they killed the leader of the Islamic State group in North Africa during a raid in the southern desert city of Sebha earlier this month. – Reuters 

Major Thomas D. Arnold writes: Finally, regardless of international support or action, the United States must ramp-up its information operations beyond just “outing” Russian arms transfers to Libya. A deliberate and sustained information operation that highlights Russian interference and Haftar’s own methods for retaining power would imperil Moscow’s position in Libya. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Middle East & North Africa

An announcement last month that Egypt’s top prosecutor would investigate an alleged 2014 gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at a luxury Cairo hotel marked a rare moment of triumph for human rights activists. – Associated Press

Egypt is committed to helping Libyans “rid their country of armed militias and terrorist organizations, and put an end to the blatant interference of some regional parties,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: Iraqi Kurdistan is different: two families – the Barzanis and the Talabanis – have maintained a political and economic stranglehold since 1991. To win contracts in order to explore (or, exploit) the region’s energy resources means partnering with a Barzani senior enough to bypass bureaucratic hassles and legal obstacles. Because the Barzanis are the law, this also makes investment risky. – 1001 Iraqi Thoughts 

Zvi Bar’el writes: So at the moment, the “American trap” that Iran and its allies in Iraq are afraid of, out of concern that it might bring about peace between Iraq and Israel, appears to be more of a scarecrow than a real threat. – Haaretz

Korean Peninsula

A South Korean government official apparently trying to defect to North Korea was shot and killed by troops in the North who set his body on fire for fear he might be carrying the coronavirus, South Korean officials said on Thursday. – New York Times

Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, spoke to South Korea’s president for the first time on Thursday, calling for both countries to repair their frayed ties and cooperate to counter any threat from North Korea. – Reuters

Michael D. Cohen writes: It could be that a Biden term will be quickly met by a North Korean missile test but that a Trump term will be met by a less provocative challenge to signal to Trump that Kim wants the previous diplomacy to continue. – The National Interest 

Victor Cha writes: Beyond Parallel cross-tabulated U.S. presidential and congressional midterm elections, with our original dataset on North Korean provocations. This dataset comparison allowed us to evaluate how close (in number of days or weeks) the North Korean provocations occurred in relation to U.S. elections. – Beyond Parallel 

Yong-Chool Ha writes: There are two important legacies of the Trump presidency in handling North Korea: One is the summit formula, and the other is the fact that the United States, for the first time, approached North Korea with North Korea’s agenda for domestic reforms. If negotiations with North Korea are to yield any possibility of success, the latter legacy demands further attention. – The National Interest


But the 45-foot-high walls and guard towers indicate that this massive compound — next to a vocational training school and a logistics center south of Kashgar — is not just another bureaucratic outpost in western China, where authorities have waged sweeping campaigns of repression against the mostly Muslim Uighur minority. – Washington Post 

Chinese state media took turns denouncing a White House-approved plan to turn TikTok into a U.S.-based company, casting more doubt over the fate of the Chinese-owned short-video app that needs nods from both Beijing and Washington to avoid a ban in the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a statehouse speech in Wisconsin on Wednesday to warn about the dangers of Chinese political influence in the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, has become a key player in Chinese expansionism around the globe, according to a senior State Department official. – Washington Times 

Western diplomats and legal experts urged China on Wednesday to clarify the status of 12 Hong Kong residents arrested by China at sea last month and whether they have seen lawyers of their choice. – Reuters

China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday China has lodged stern representations to the U.S. House of Representatives after it passed legislation restricting imports of goods made using forced labour from Xinjiang region. – Reuters

Beijing warned Hong Kong’s foreign correspondents to stop interfering in the city’s affairs under the guise of press freedom, piling further pressure on media organizations in the financial hub. – Bloomberg 

NASA chief Jim Bridenstine told lawmakers Wednesday it was crucial for the US to maintain a presence in Earth’s orbit after the International Space Station is decommissioned so that China does not gain a strategic advantage. – Agence France-Presse

The Trump administration is building an international consensus aimed at countering increased Chinese aggression in multiple forms, according to White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien. – Washington Times 

The US is guilty of “obstructing” the global fight against emissions, China said Wednesday, as Beijing seized the climate agenda by vowing to go carbon neutral by 2060 — a target welcomed by environmentalists despite its patchy detail. – Agence France-Presse

Dan Blumenthal writes: Indeed, the very purposes of a strategy of competition should be to illustrate to the CCP that it cannot prevail in its more nefarious purposes. US strategy would try to make unattractive all other options besides returning to open-market policies which benefit both countries. That is a far more complicated strategic task then anything the US faced in the Cold War. – Law and Liberty

South Asia

Deadly violence in Afghanistan has marred the first-ever direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban, underscoring the high stakes that face the warring sides as they struggle to get negotiations off the ground to end nearly two decades of fighting. – Wall Street journal

Senior military commanders from India and China have agreed to not add more troops along their fast-militarizing disputed border in the mountainous Ladakh region where the two Asian giants are locked in a bitter months-long standoff, the sides said late Tuesday. – Associated Press 

The Taliban launched a wave of attacks on security checkpoints in southern Afghanistan overnight, killing a total of 28 Afghan policemen, officials said Wednesday. The violence comes even as Taliban leaders and Afghan government-appointed negotiators are holding historic peace talks in Qatar, a Mideast country where the Taliban set up a political office after they were toppled from power in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. – Associated Press 

Mohamed Zeeshan writes: As Iran joins hands with Pakistan and China – and the Taliban threatens to dominate Afghanistan once more – India could get geographically boxed in. New Delhi needs to build a strong outer circle of allies to safeguard its own strategic interests. That opportunity now lies with Israel and its new friends in the Gulf. – Haaretz


Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Chinese President Xi Jinping plan to hold talks by telephone on Friday evening, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters, in their first discussion since Suga took over as Japan’s leader. – Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen promised on Thursday to help the island’s key semiconductor industry overcome difficulties and consolidate its leading position, offering support to a sector increasingly caught up in China-U.S. trade tensions. – Reuters

China has barred entry to two “anti-China” Australian scholars, the Global Times newspaper said on Thursday, citing unnamed sources, amid heightened tension between Beijing and Canberra. – Reuters

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said on Thursday a move by police to narrow the definition of “media representatives” allowed at public events such as protests could limit scrutiny on law enforcers. – Reuters

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was arrested on Thursday in relation to a protest at the height of the city’s pro-democracy unrest last year, his lawyer said. – Agence France-Presse

The Philippine police and military on Wednesday denied any links to Facebook accounts that were taken down by the social media giant after it said they had engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” interfering in Asian and American politics. – Reuters

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Wednesday opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim must prove he holds a parliamentary majority before laying claim to the premiership.- Reuters

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo used his first address to the United Nations General Assembly to warn on Wednesday that global stability and peace could be “destroyed” if growing geo-political rivalries persist. – Reuters

The Philippine president got rare praises Wednesday from his key critics for invoking before the United Nations a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s vast territorial claims in the South China Sea, in a surprise move that will likely pique Beijing. – Associated Press 

Westpac, Australia’s second-largest bank, agreed to pay a 1.3 billion Australian dollar ($919 million) fine for breaches of anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws, the largest ever civil penalty in Australia, a financial crime regulator said on Thursday. – Associated Press 

Adrian Zenz writes: The purpose of these policies is clear, as are the stakes, and targeted groups are trying to push back. […]In Fei’s vision, ethnic fusion would happen slowly, naturally. That has failed. In Mr. Xi’s vision, the assimilation of minority groups must be coerced by the state. That, too, will fail.- New York Times


Shortly after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny collapsed last month on a plane over Siberia with signs of poisoning, his supporters rushed to the hotel room where he had been staying to look for clues. – Wall Street Journal

The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced sanctions against eight individuals and seven groups related to efforts by Russia to spread malign influence around elections and to evade sanctions. – The Hill 

The poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and Moscow’s involvement in political turmoil in neighbouring Belarus have put additional Western sanctions against Russia back on the agenda ahead of the U.S. presidential election. – Reuters 

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that opposition politician Alexei Navalny was free to return to Russia like any other citizen after being discharged from a hospital in Germany, which says he was poisoned with a nerve agent. – Reuters

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has not fully capitulated to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desired Union State integration demands in Belarus – yet. – Institute for the Study of War 

France’s president on Tuesday demanded an immediate explanation from Russia over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, warning that Paris would not allow its red lines on the use of chemical weapons to be crossed. – Reuters

France’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it was reviewing a request from Russia’s prosecutor general to help in the case relating to the poisoning of Kremlin critic Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. – Reuters

Russia said on September 23 that it is expanding a list of barred European officials in response to what it called “hostile steps” against it and its citizens. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Jade McGlynn writes: To do so requires a line of inquiry into Russian influence operations that is grounded in the domestic context as well as local narratives of history and is open-minded to the idea that Russia can use soft power constructively, even if it is often used to exploit divisions and undermine rivals. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Travis Frederick writes: Through developing a unified history “free of internal contradictions and double interpretation,” Putin hopes to use information measures to create a cohesive nationalist identity, thereby preempting the possibility of a color revolution in Russia. […]Given this potential vulnerability, Putin appears to believe that preemptive information measures are his best hope to manage Lenin’s time bomb. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Hannah Alberts writes: Western audiences would do well to understand this phenomenon as an increasingly entrenched feature of Russian society that will contribute significantly to Russia’s future military power. With every child exposed from an early age to positive information and experiences of the military and military service, the government may well succeed in boosting the prestige of the Armed Forces, increasing the number of enlistees, decreasing the number of those shirking conscription, and ensuring Russia’s ability to achieve mass mobilization. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Stanisław Żaryn writes: Poland is an active party in this respect, so the Kremlin is trying to smear and slander Warsaw in the international arena. Pushing propaganda by Russia and Belarus is nothing else but an attempt to eliminate Poland from the game of influence in Central and Eastern Europe.- Washington Examiner


Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in for a sixth term in a surprise inauguration ceremony, catching his opponents off guard and depriving them of an opportunity to stage another mass protest against the handling of last month’s election. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union on Wednesday unveiled a new attempt to cajole reluctant member nations into participating in a common system for handling asylum seekers, offering them both cash incentives to take in refugees and quicker deportation of people who are denied asylum. – New York Times

An election-year investigation by Senate Republicans into corruption allegations against Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, and his son, Hunter, involving Ukraine found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, bringing to a close a highly politicized inquiry they hoped would tarnish President Trump’s rival. – New York Times

Demonstrations in Minsk and other cities calling for the ouster of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who claims he won reelection last month despite alleged vote-rigging, are in their seventh week. Lukashenko was sworn in Wednesday in a previously unannounced ceremony. The rallies represent the greatest challenge yet to his 26-year grip on power, but rather than cause damage, as many other revolutions have done, Belarus’s has been uniquely considerate. – Washington Post 

Dutch officials demanded answers from Pete Hoekstra, the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, on Tuesday in light of reports that the Trump appointee had held a private event for a rising right-wing political party and its donors at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague earlier this month. – Washington Post 

The symbol of this Baltic capital also reflects Lithuania’s unexpected role as chief harbinger of democratic transition in the Russia-aligned nation suffering widespread human rights abuses just 20 miles across its southern border. – Washington Examiner

Britain’s Brexit supremo Michael Gove said on Wednesday that he was confident of securing a trade deal with the European Union, while the bloc’s chief negotiator said he was determined to clinch an agreement. – Reuters

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he told the U.S. government during a recent visit to Washington it was the European Union, not the United Kingdom, that was threatening the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland. – Reuters

Swiss voters will decide on Sunday whether to tear up a pact with the European Union on the free movement of people, after a referendum campaign that exposed rifts in society over foreigners who make up a quarter of the population. – Reuters

A Russian navy vessel collided with a Swiss-owned container ship in Danish waters on Wednesday near the Oresund Bridge linking Denmark and Sweden, Danish defence authorities told Reuters. – Reuters

Russian paratroopers parachuted into Belarus on Wednesday as part of joint military drills, the Ministry of Defence said. – Reuters

Bulgaria expelled two Russian diplomats who prosecutors suspect were involved in espionage and gave them 48 hours to leave the Balkan country, the foreign ministry said on Friday. – Reuters

Kelsey King writes: The United States and Europe need to carefully calibrate their responses to the Belarusian protest movement, centered on rhetoric for supporting the democratic process and the will of the Belarusian people, while avoiding the appearance of supporting regime change. It would be more important for the will of the people to play out, as too much western support could risk unintended escalation by Moscow, which has far more to lose than the West has to gain. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Lili Bayer writes: How this plays out will be significant not just for democracy and the rule of law in Hungary, but for the EU and the European project. With concerns rising about the rule of law in Poland, Bulgaria and Malta, what happens in Hungary could determine the course of the entire Union. – Politico


In a troubled part of West Africa, Europe is fielding a military force intended to show it can handle its own security and reduce its reliance on the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

West African leaders may lift painful economic sanctions against Mali once an interim president is inaugurated on Friday in the wake of the Aug. 18 military coup, the bloc’s envoy said, praising the junta’s leadership. – Reuters 

Seeking to calm tensions in Ivory Coast ahead of a presidential election, the authorities plan to release associates of opposition leader Guillaume Soro who have been held in detention for months, a government spokesman said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Mozambique has asked the European Union for support in tackling a wave of militant attacks in the country’s north by rebels with links to Islamic State, a conflict that has raised fears for stability and security in southern Africa. – Reuters

A United Nations human rights expert on Wednesday urged Mali’s junta to release former government officials they have held since a coup d’etat on Aug. 18. – Associated Press 

Guinean President Alpha Conde has urged his base to rally behind him in next month’s election, where he is controversially seeking a third term, referring to a “war” between his government and the embattled opposition. – Agence France-Presse

Mali faces mountainous economic and political challenges more than a month after the military coup that toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, analysts say.- Agence France-Presse

Sudan and the United States have discussed how Khartoum could advance Arab-Israeli peace, authorities said on Wednesday, adding the talks also covered the removal of the former hardline foe of Israel from a U.S. list of terrorism sponsors. – Reuters

Sudanese transitional leader Adbel Fattah al-Burhan and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok returned to Khartoum from Abu Dhabi on Wednesday without securing a final deal for aid from the US and normalization of ties with Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Latin America

In the tense months after a submarine carrying 44 crew members ​went missing in 2017, Argentina’s intelligence service illegally spied on ​their​ families​​, ​the ​current head of the agency said on Wednesday. – New York Times

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro told the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday all “countries that defend peace” should rally against U.S. sanctions clamped on the South American country and its allies like Cuba, Nicaragua and Syria. – Reuters 

Bolivia’s interim leader Jeanine Anez criticized the government of Argentina for harboring former President Evo Morales, who she accuses of conspiring to foment unrest in her country. – Bloomberg 

After an investigation of the Herrera killing by forensic police at the nearby port of Puerto La Cruz, a state court in March ordered the arrest of three sailors from the Venezuelan Navy and four soldiers from the National Guard. – Reuters

President Trump on Wednesday announced that his administration would impose new sanctions on Cuba blocking American travelers from staying at Cuban government-owned properties and restricting imports of Cuban alcohol and tobacco. – The Hill 

Alarms are sounding in Colombia over a rising tide of violence. More than 230 people have been slain in massacres this year. The deaths signal a new chapter in the country’s long history of bloodshed. – Associated Press 

A business jet that was reported stolen in Mexico crashed in a Guatemalan jungle on Wednesday near a hidden airstrip after making a mysterious trip to Venezuela, leaving two men dead near an onboard stash of drugs and weapons. – Reuters

Ecuador’s navy said on Tuesday that Chinese fishing vessels have gradually left the area near the Galapagos Islands and are now operating in international waters off Peru, following months of fishing that spurred criticism from environmental groups.- Reuters

The Israeli firm Cellebrite sold its phone-hacking technology to Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, despite American sanctions which ban exports to the country. Meanwhile, Cellebrite vehemently denies any bid to sell its new system, capable of allowing regimes to break into mobile phones, to the South American nation. – Haaretz

Moises Rendon and D.C. Lucan Sanchez write: Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, millions of Venezuelans struggled with daily food security and access to basic health services. This situation has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the United States and other allies continue to pressure the Maduro regime, they should not lose sight of the bleak humanitarian situation on the ground. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


TikTok Inc. asked a federal judge to stop the Trump administration from imposing a ban on the popular video-sharing app over national-security concerns. – Wall Street Journal

Today, as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he sees China’s erosion of that technological advantage as an existential threat to American values at home and abroad. – Wall Street Journal

A computer programmer associated with the infamous Silk Road website faces up to five years in prison for lying about his ties with the long-shuttered online drug bazaar, the Department of Justice said Monday. – Washington Times 

Attorney General William Barr and other U.S. national security officials haven’t signed off on plans to let Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. take a stake in TikTok to avert President Donald Trump’s threat to bar the social network from the U.S., according to a person familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg 

Tyler Technologies TYL.N, whose products are used by U.S. states and counties to share election data, said on Wednesday that an unknown party had hacked its internal systems. – Reuters

AT&T will deliver network tools and 5G to three U.S. Air Force bases, the telecommunications giant announced Wednesday. – C4ISRNET 

While the phrase “tsunami of data” seems to have exited everyday use by Defense Department officials, the problem remains the same: The Pentagon simply cannot exploit the sheer amount of information that comes in every day to its fullest. – Defense News

Chinese interference is of particular concern for a number of specific reasons, not the least of which is the well-known reality that the communist country seeks to expand its global influence and control through investments in technology and regional economic interests. […]U.S.-based military radar also relies upon the Safety Band, a circumstance which further underscores the need for its preservation. – The National Interest 

Joseph Robbins writes: The NATO and EU responses to Russia’s ongoing efforts to sow discord offer some useful suggestions for moving forward. These organizations have created task forces and organizations that, collectively, reveal a holistic framework that can help uncover subversive efforts, coordinate a cogent response, and promote multilateral collaboration in response. With additional buy-in from EU and NATO members, these efforts will evolve and strengthen the response to disinformation operations. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Omer Benjakob writes: Deepfakes are becoming an increasingly major concern worldwide, building upon the problems created by fake news. For example, according to Graphika, last year saw the first known cases of Chinese deepfakes. A Chinese network of deepfake videos in English was also taken down last month, as were the scores of accounts used to disseminate them. – Haaretz


Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, told senators at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that white supremacist extremists represented a lethal domestic terrorist threat, even as he strongly denied suppressing a report that would have rendered that judgment more officially.- New York Times

The following is the Sept. 18, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues. – USNI News 

Partnering helicopters and unmanned aircraft just a few years ago meant that a pilot could control a drone to fly ahead to conduct reconnaissance. Maybe it meant a pilot could control payloads or even the weapon systems on that drone. – Defense News 

The Marine Corps is asking hard questions about its Force Design 2030 plan and gaining answers through a flurry of experimentation and wargaming, to help quickly reshape the force to deter or win a fight against China. – USNI News 

The Pentagon’s shared supply chains with battered commercial aviation companies will suffer if Washington doesn’t provide that sector with aid soon, the Aerospace Industries Association warned Wednesday. – Defense News 

A freedom of information lawsuit from retired Navy Capt. James Bryant, a former Thresher-class submarine commander, compelled the Navy to release the documents on a rolling basis starting today. The following is the first of 12 volumes of proceedings of the court of inquiry ordered by the commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. – USNI News 

Ten U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters got underway aboard U.K. aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) on Tuesday ahead of an upcoming series of drills, the squadron announced. – USNI News

Long War

Relatives of two Britons killed by an Islamic State (ISIS) cell welcomed on Wednesday a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths. […]The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq. – Agence France-Presse 

An online San Francisco State University seminar featuring an infamous Palestinian terrorist was briefly broadcast live on YouTube on Wednesday afternoon, after both Zoom and Facebook refused to host it. – Algemeiner

Farooq Yousaf writes: Although technological advances have enabled the monitoring of terrorists in online networks, monitoring and countering physical family networks present significant policy challenges. There are also gaps in security infrastructure, especially in the global south, for understanding and dealing with the role of kinship and family ties in terrorist recruitment and radicalisation. – Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Missile Defense

The recent announcement by the U.S. Air Force that it will award Northrop Grumman $13.3 billion to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile raises more questions than it answers. First and foremost: what’s the rush? – Defense One

Jim Golby writes: But there should be little doubt: arms control—in the form of New START extension—is the right tool to use now so the United States and its allies will be best positioned to carry out the Trump administration’s ambitious agenda for great power competition with Russia and China. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Spenser A. Warren writes: Limitations on hypersonic weapons may play a role in future arms control agreements, but instead of being the goal of the U.S. arms control strategy, they should be a means to achieve that goal. […]Given that the counterforce threat posed by hypersonic weapons increases as the size of the strategic deterrent decreases, limits on U.S. hypersonic capabilities may be necessary for future bilateral arms reductions. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Trump Administration

President Trump declined an opportunity on Wednesday to endorse a peaceful transfer of power after the November election, renewing his baseless warnings about extensive voting fraud before saying there would be no power transfer at all. – New York Times

One of President Trump’s most outspoken ambassadors has found himself in a new controversy after co-hosting a fund-raiser for a populist far-right Dutch political party in the American Embassy in the Netherlands. – New York Times

President Trump nominated on Wednesday a onetime aide to one of his top congressional allies to serve as the inspector general of the intelligence community, succeeding a former official who played a role in revealing the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint that prompted impeachment proceedings and was later fired. – New York Times

President Trump said on Wednesday that he wants to ensure confirmation of a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by the Nov. 3 election because he expects disputes over who won the White House to be resolved by the Supreme Court. – New York Times

Human rights advocacy group Amnesty International USA on Wednesday called for a halt to the nomination hearings for acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, citing “serious human rights violations.”  – The Hill 

President Trump signaled during a press briefing on Wednesday that he has made up his mind about whom he will nominate for the U.S. Supreme Court, offering the clearest indication yet that he will opt for conservative Amy Coney Barrett. – Washington Examiner

A bipartisan US House of Representatives resolution attacking Palestinian Authority “martyr payments” to terrorists and their families was introduced this week in memory of a New Jersey native who was killed in a bloody attack by Hamas terrorists in Jerusalem in 1996. – Algemeiner