Fdd's overnight brief

September 3, 2019

In The News


Iran is stifling a United Nations probe of its alleged storage of nuclear equipment and radioactive material in Tehran, diplomats say, leading to fresh concerns about Iran’s activities at a critical moment for the fate of the 2015 nuclear deal. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump said Friday that the U.S. wasn’t behind a failed Iranian rocket launch this week, and sent Iran “best wishes” in dealing with the aftermath of what U.S. officials suspect was an attempt to advance its ballistic missile program. – Wall Street Journal

Iran on Saturday displayed for reporters what it said was an intact satellite ready for orbit, hitting back against President Trump’s comments suggesting a “catastrophic accident” had delayed its launch. – Washington Post

A senior Iranian delegation arrived in Paris on Monday to work out the details of a financial bailout package that France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, intends to use to compensate Iran for oil sales lost to American sanctions. In return for the money, Iran would agree to return to compliance with a 2015 nuclear accord. – New York Times

Seventy top U.S. think-tank scholars have signed an open letter of support for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has been blacklisted by Iran. – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Iran will never hold bilateral talks with the United States but if it lifts all the sanctions it reimposed on Iran it can join multilateral talks between Iran and other parties to a 2015 nuclear deal, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Iran hawks argue it’s too early for a sit-down, warning President Trump that engagement could take some weight off Tehran just when the “maximum pressure” campaign is starting to hurt. – The Hill

The United States on Friday blacklisted the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya following repeated warnings over its valuable oil cargo. – Agence FrancePresse

Iran said Monday its views have been converging with those of France on ways to save a nuclear deal at risk of unravelling since the US withdrew last year. – Agence FrancePresse

While U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry have slashed the OPEC member’s crude exports by more than 80%, oil product sales from the Islamic Republic remain strong at nearly $500 million a month, shipping data and Reuters calculations show. – Reuters

Iran said on Monday it would further reduce its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal if European parties failed to shield Tehran’s economy from sanctions reimposed by the United States after Washington quit the accord last year. – Reuters

Russia and Iran are planning to hold joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean, the TASS news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying on Monday. – Reuters

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh penned a letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praising the Iranian government for their “extensive” support of the Hamas-ruled Gaza coastal enclave, according to Khamenei’s official website. – Jerusalem Post

An Iranian judoka who was allegedly pressured into throwing a match to avoid facing off against an Israeli opponent has requested asylum in Germany. – Times of Israel

In an unprecedented statement, Iran’s Central Bank chief recently acknowledged the regime’s irreversible economic crisis. “I never said (conditions) are desirable; our tools are limited, our capabilities are limited,” Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati told Iran’s state-run Channel Five news. – Iran News Wire

Prosecutors in Iran disclosed on September 2 that a case brought against corrupt officials of a bank shows the deep involvement of military and intelligence personnel. – Radio Farda

Russia has offered to help Iran to skirt US sanctions by allowing it to transport crude oil through ports in Crimea, in a further sign of growing ties between Moscow and Tehran. – The Times

The London-based pan-Arab daily Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday that French President Emmanuel Macron offered Iran $15 billion in exchange for the Tehran government ceasing to take steps to reduce its commitment to the 2015 nuclear agreement between the Islamic Republic and the international community. – Arutz Sheva

Two years ago in New York, US President Donald Trump threatened during his speech at the UN General Assembly to “totally destroy North Korea,” and that “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” Eight months later, on June 12, 2018, Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un stunned the world when they first met one-on-one to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. […]Could Trump apply the same approach to Iran? – Jerusalem Post

Editorial : This isn’t the same as Ayatollah Khomeini ’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989. But it still needs to be taken seriously because Iran’s agents use terror against adversaries around the world. The regime has been tied to several terror plots on European soil in recent years, and in 2011 the FBI stopped an Iranian plan to assassinate a Saudi diplomat and bomb the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington. – Wall Street Journal

Josh Rogin writes: FDD is not an arm of the U.S. government. Repressive regimes in un-free countries can’t accept that in free societies, independent thinkers are allowed try to influence government policy. In closed societies, such a system might lead to independent thinkers challenging official narratives. But Iran’s attempts to export its repression to our free research environment cannot be allowed. Otherwise, the repressive regimes in Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere will come to believe they can intimidate Americans into silence, as they do to their own people. – Washington Post

David Albright and Andrea Stricker write: Iran continues violating low enriched uranium provisions of nuclear deal, breakout timeline down by half of a month, cooperation with IAEA may be decreasing, Oman heavy water loophole may still be in play, and advanced centrifuge issue persists. – Institute for Science and International Security

Omer Carmi writes: As Iranian leaders move forward with this strategy while trying to cope with growing economic difficulties, one key question stands out: do they truly believe President Trump will waive major energy sanctions in an election year, or are they making this extreme demand solely to prod Europe or America into making lesser concessions on issues like INSTEX? The answer may determine whether new talks are even feasible, never mind productive. – Washington Institute


Hezbollah fired antitank missiles into northern Israel on Sunday, prompting Israel to fire volleys of artillery against three villages in southern Lebanon in a sharp escalation of already high tensions. – Washington Post

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened Monday to hit “deep inside” Israel, a day after an exchange of fire on the Lebanese-Israeli border sparked fears of a wider conflict between the arch-foes. – Agence FrancePresse

The Iran-backed Shi’a terror group Hezbollah published a video on Monday purporting to show an anti-tank missile strike it carried out the previous day on an IDF vehicle driving along the Israel-Lebanon border. – Algemeiner

The U.S. government voiced concern on Sunday about growing tensions on the Israeli-Lebanese border, underscoring its support for Israel and warning Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah to refrain from actions that threatened Lebanese security. – Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel was prepared for any scenario after a cross-border clash with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, but neither side seemed eager for another conflict. – Reuters

Hezbollah’s precision missile program is the State of Israel’s top priority, just after working to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability, a top defense official said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

The Syrian government on Monday hailed Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah’s strike the previous day on an Israeli military vehicle. – Agence FrancePresse

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader said on Monday that while a flare-up with Israel at the border was over, the episode had launched a “new phase” in which the Iran-backed group no longer has red lines. – Reuters

Top Hezbollah officials denied on Monday Israel’s claim that it suffered no casualties in the fire exchanges with the Shi’ite group on Sunday, Lebanese television channel Al-Mayadeen reported. – Haaretz

Israel was ready to launch a massive retaliation against Hezbollah’s precision missile system in Lebanon, and only opted against carrying out that plan because no Israeli soldiers were hurt in a Sunday cross-border attack by the terror group, according to a report Monday evening. – Times of Israel

Lebanon’s prime minister on Sunday urged the United States and France to intervene after the Hezbollah terror group fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli territory, prompting retaliatory fire by the Israel Defense Forces. – Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff writes: The bottom line is that while both sides have announced the current skirmish has played itself out and things can get back to their so-called “normal,” tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border are far from fading. – Times of Israel

Ron Ben Yishai writes: Nasrallah is usually not one to make idle threats, so unless he has chosen a different path, perhaps because he failed in his retaliatory strike against Israel, this could mean he has a trick up his sleeve, courtesy of some new Iranian capability. – Ynet

Amos Harel writes: Israel has for years declared that the supply of precision weaponry to Hezbollah and setting up production lines for such weapons in Lebanon were red lines. The decision to attack, according to reports, stemmed from concern that the installation was going to be moved shortly to an underground location. But even if it will be difficult for the Iranians and Hezbollah to smuggle in a similar facility or components of the project in the future, it can be assumed that the efforts will continue. In other words, Israeli decision makers will likely have to face this dilemma – whether to attack on Lebanese soil and risk a war to prevent the enemy from becoming stronger – in the future. – Haaretz

Judah Ari Gross writes: Hezbollah and Iran, however, have in no way indicated that they plan to abandon the venture, meaning that while this round of violence may have come to an end, the next one is only a matter of time. – Times of Israel


A fragile cease-fire in northwest Syria held Monday, months after the United Nations warned of a humanitarian crisis developing in the last rebel stronghold fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. – Wall Street Journal

In the desert camp in northeastern Syria where tens of thousands of Islamic State fighters’ wives and children have been trapped for months in miserable conditions with no prospects of leaving, ISIS sympathizers regularly torch the tents of women deemed infidels. – New York Times

US forces attacked jihadist leaders in northwestern Syria on Saturday, the Pentagon said, in what a battlefield monitor called a missile strike that left at least 40 dead. – Agence FrancePresse

Syria and its ally Russia have stepped up an offensive against the last big stronghold of Syrian rebels, mounting more air raids and deploying ground reinforcements including Iranian-backed militias, army defectors and residents said on Friday. – Reuters

Russia’s military said the United States had mounted air strikes in Syria’s Idlib without forewarning Moscow or Ankara, endangering a ceasefire there, Russian news agencies reported on Sunday. – Reuters

A senior Israeli security source says that the defense establishment system has shifted its strategic focus to averting the threat of precise missiles that Iran is trying to introduce into Syria and Lebanon. – Ynet


The International Criminal Court on Monday ordered the tribunal’s prosecutor for a second time to reconsider whether to press charges over a deadly Israeli raid on a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza in 2010. – Agence FrancePresse

Long a pioneer in drone technology, Israel today sees its superiority challenged by Iran and its ally Hezbollah which are also developing military UAVs. – Agence FrancePresse

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday received Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a formal ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, at which a bilateral declaration was signed by the countries’ respective ambassadors. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas is in the process of announcing the foiling of a large-scale plot aimed at carrying out several bombings in the Gaza Strip through the exploitation of people with “deviant beliefs,” well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. – Asharq AlAwsat

Qatar has cut the amount of fuel it funds for the Gaza Strip by half, sources in the Palestinian Energy Authority told Haaretz Sunday. As a result, Gazans will now get only five to six hours of electricity per day, down from the eight they were getting until now. – Haaretz

Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk engaged in a snarky game of one-upmanship on Twitter over the weekend, culminating in a charge by Netanyahu’s son that the former diplomat sought to “destroy the Jewish state.” – Haaretz

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Trump administration is considering allowing US citizens born in Jerusalem to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on their US passports. – Arutz Sheva

Jason Greenblatt, the US Special Representative for International Negotiations, recently sent a letter to the UN in which he asked the body to continue the efforts to release the Israeli soldiers and civilians being held by Hamas in Gaza, Channel 12 News reported on Monday. – Arutz Sheva

Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh on Monday denounced Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s remarks on the possibility of applying sovereignty in Judea and Samaria as “a dangerous statement that will bring the conflict over Palestine back to its starting point.” – Arutz Sheva

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Monday that Israel is weaker during the election period than in other times. – Arutz Sheva

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to arrange a dramatic diplomatic gesture from the Trump administration that will help him win the Israeli election on September 17. – Haaretz

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez arrived in Israel late Saturday night for a diplomatic visit that will include the inauguration of a “diplomatic office” in Jerusalem. – Times of Israel

An upscale restaurant in Ramallah backed out of hosting a lunch meeting between the US Embassy’s commercial attache and Palestinian businesspeople earlier this week, according to both an activist and a businessman who said he was invited to the lunch. – Times of Israel

Prominent Palestinian religious leader denounced “Jewish attacks” against Palestinian religious symbols in Jerusalem and referred to the Jewish presence in the land of Israel as a “colonialist cancer,” NGO Palestinian Media Watch said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Israel this week restored full fuel shipments to Gaza after it had reduced the amount by half last week in response to Palestinian rocket fire, sources told The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority called for an Arab boycott of Honduras in protest of next week’s inauguration of that country’s diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. – Jerusalem Post

David Horovitz writes: While it is clear that the next Hezbollah-Israel confrontation is only a matter of time, some aspects of Sunday’s dramatic border conflict remain obscured by that fog of almost-war. For one thing, how can the military and political echelon so confidently assure Israel’s civilians that the danger has passed even as the IDF remains on wary alert at the border? – Times of Israel


A Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a Yemeni prison has left more than 100 people “presumed killed,” said the Red Cross late Sunday after visiting the facility, disputing Saudi officials’ claims that the attack had struck a rebel arms depot. – Washington Post

A group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers is making a new push to end the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen amid intensifying criticism of the air war following an attack on a rebel-run prison that may have killed more than 100 people Sunday. – Washington Post

For the past five years, a civil war has raged in Yemen between the internationally recognized government and northern rebels with no sign of imminent resolution. Now, the conflict’s landscape has gotten more complicated: Intense clashes have broken out in southern Yemen within the forces aligned with the government. – Washington Post

Saudi Arabia is struggling to hold together a military coalition fighting Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen after local allies turned on each other in a power struggle that has strained Riyadh’s alliance with its main regional partner, the United Arab Emirates. – Reuters

Yemeni medics said Monday that they pulled dozens of bodies from the rubble of a Houthi rebel-run detention center that was hit a day earlier by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, killing more than 100 people and wounding dozens. – Associated Press

Summer Ahmed writes: As the southern region’s challenging history demonstrates, southern Yemenis are the population that suffers most from the presence of AQAP, and while Yemen’s civil war is complicated, efforts to fight against terror should be clear-cut and internationally supported. Now that southerners are fighting back, the international community should not miss this chance to support Yemenis in their efforts remove the presence of these terrorists from their midst. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq has suspended the license of a U.S.-government funded broadcaster after it ran an investigation alleging corruption within the country’s religious institutions. – Reuters

A Tunisian policeman and three Islamist militants were killed on Monday in a security operation in a remote area near the Algerian border, police said. – Reuters

Lebanon’s banking sector can handle the impact of the U.S. sanctions against Jammal Trusk Bank SAL and guarantee the money of depositors, the finance minister said on Friday. – Reuters

The United Kingdom is considering deploying British drones to the Gulf amid tensions with Iran, Sky News reported early on Monday. – Reuters

Japan will not join a U.S.-led security mission to protect merchant vessels passing through key Middle Eastern waterways, but will consider deploying its naval force independently, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Tuesday. – Reuters

Jalal Selmi writes: However, Saudi efforts to woo these two countries are all the more reason for Qatar to work towards rapprochement with both these states and others in the Gulf region. Deteriorating relations with the Emirates may currently present a key opening for rapprochement, suggesting that now is the perfect time for Qatar to make these relations a priority. Although Qatar has already succeeded in weakening the impact of the boycott, countering the Saudi-Emirati strategy of forming land and sea “hoops” should be granted priority to provide effective alternatives, which can stand the test of a comparable boycott in the future and, ultimately, promise a more stable and balanced trade environment for all parties involved. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

As North Korea fired off a series of missiles in recent months — at least 18 since May — President Trump has repeatedly dismissed their importance as short-range and “very standard” tests. And although he has conceded “there may be a United Nations violation,” the president says any concerns are overblown. – New York Times

Six South Korean lawmakers on Saturday visited a group of islets at the center of a territorial dispute with Japan, a symbolic gesture of defiance as the two nations are locked in a bitter diplomatic and trade dispute. – New York Times

North Korea said on Saturday that its expectations for more dialogue with the Trump administration were “gradually disappearing,” and threatened to reconsider its conciliatory gestures toward the United States, potentially including its moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. – New York Times

South Korea’s cancellation of a key intelligence-sharing pact with Japan has triggered a growing diplomatic spat with Washington that analysts say weakens President Trump’s North Korea policy and throws into question the three-way alliance underpinning American security architecture across Asia. – Washington Times

A letter threatening to hunt Koreans and containing what appeared to be a bullet has been sent to the South Korean embassy in Japan amid worsening ties between the Asian neighbors, Japanese media said on Tuesday. – Reuters

North Korea’s vice foreign minister on Saturday said that recent remarks by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding “North Korea’s rogue behavior” will complicate peace negotiations between the two countries. – Washington Examiner


Southeast Asian countries tend to be deeply reluctant to collectively challenge China’s growing military and economic prowess in their region. But this week, they appear to be doing just that — by holding their first joint naval drills with the United States Navy. – New York Times

The escalating trade war between the U.S. and China is rippling through the global economy, hurting confidence among U.S. small businesses, crimping trade among industrial giants in Asia and hitting export-oriented factories in Europe. – Wall Street Journal

China effectively expelled a Wall Street Journal reporter from the country, one month after the newspaper published a report detailing allegations that a cousin of Chinese leader Xi Jinping was involved in high-stakes gambling and potential money laundering in Australia. – Washington Post

The Chinese government has built a vast network of re-education camps and a pervasive system of surveillance to monitor and subdue millions from Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region. – New York Times

Joseph Bosco writes: The external pressure from the Trump economic strategy and the centrifugal forces emanating from Beijing’s repressed populations are coinciding. At some point, Xi and/or his colleagues, or their successors, will need to confront the internal contradictions of the entire Chinese Communist system. […]Then, one system — democracy — likely will prove to be more attractive and workable for the core Chinese nation, and for the separate and independent entities of Hong Kong, Taiwan, East Turkestan, Mongolia and Tibet. – The Hill

Jonathan Swan writes: As the Chinese government accelerates its crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, the Trump administration has sharpened its view of the world’s most important bilateral relationship. Based on numerous conversations with Trump administration officials over the last few weeks, it is clear that many of the president’s top advisers view China first and foremost as a national security threat rather than as an economic partner. – Axios


With an accord on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in sight, the chief U.S. diplomat overseeing talks with the Taliban shared details of the proposed accord with a crucial, but largely sidelined, stakeholder: the Afghan government. – Wall Street Journal

Taliban fighters stormed the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on Saturday, U.S. and Afghan military officials said, even as negotiators for the hard-line Islamist militia seek to finalize a U.S. troop withdrawal deal with American negotiators in Qatar. – Wall Street Journal

Senior White House advisers have proposed secretly expanding the C.I.A.’s presence in Afghanistan if international forces begin to withdraw from the country, according to American officials. But C.I.A. and military officials have expressed reservations, prompting a debate in the administration that could complicate negotiations with the Taliban to end the war. – New York Times

Hundreds of residents of a Kabul neighborhood where a bombing killed dozens of people staged a raucous protest on Tuesday, demanding that the apparent target of the attack — a compound for foreign workers and international organizations — be shut down. – New York Times

The Taliban attacked a northern Afghan city early Sunday, a day after striking another city in the north, raising fears of renewed assaults on population centers even as the top U.S. negotiator said he was on the “threshold” of securing a peace deal with the militant group as he headed to Kabul. – Washington Post

As the president’s top aides prepared for a high-stakes meeting on the future of Afghanistan earlier this month, one senior official was not on the original invite list: national security adviser John Bolton. – Washington Post

An American service member was killed in combat operations in Afghanistan on Thursday, the U.S. military said, the third to be killed here in eight days. – Washington Post

The Taliban took credit for an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday as negotiations between the insurgent group and the U.S. came close to reaching a conclusion. – Associated Press

A massive blast in a residential area of Kabul killed at least 16 people, officials said Tuesday, following yet another Taliban attack that came as the insurgents and Washington try to finalise a peace deal. – Agence FrancePresse

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Fears in policy circles that a withdrawal will lead to chaos in Afghanistan are well-founded. Fears that Trump and his team could be signing a bad deal, having telegraphed to the enemy that they need the deal, could embolden  the Taliban or other adversaries. But the war may have also transformed the Taliban. They too have gotten older over the last twenty years. And they are being outflanked by more extreme groups like ISIS. What appears clear is that between the isolationist tendencies on the far-right in the US, and the tendency to critique the US global role on the far-left, there is a growing consensus in the US that 18 years in Afghanistan is enough. – Jerusalem Post

South Asia

The trade war between the U.S. and China has led many fashion brands to shift production to spots across Asia, including to Bangladesh, where safety issues persist years after two workplace accidents killed more than 1,000 workers. – Wall Street Journal

A Kashmiri militant commander said on Sunday that Pakistan should send troops to protect the people of India-controlled Kashmir if the United Nations does not send peacekeepers, after New Delhi revoked its autonomy last month. – Reuters

Bangladesh on Monday ordered operators to shut down mobile phone services to almost one million Rohingya refugees living in camps in the country’s southeast, an official said. The move follows an outbreak of violence in recent weeks at the camps, most of whose residents fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine state two years ago following a military crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority. – Agence FrancePresse

Pakistan would not use nuclear weapons first, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday, amid tensions with arch-rival India after New Delhi revoked the special status of its part of the disputed Kashmir region. – Reuters

An abducted Maldivian journalist was murdered by Islamist militants, a panel investigating deaths and disappearances under the previous government said, in remarks that were critical of former president Abdulla Yameen. – Reuters


Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she has never tendered her resignation to Beijing and is committed to leading the city out of its monthslong political crisis. – Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong’s government had been hoping that once school started, the tensions — and occasional violence — that have played out weekend after weekend on the city’s streets would subside. Students on Monday, however, hoped to send a clear message that they are not going anywhere and plan to continue to be the backbone of dissent against their government, the city’s police force and Beijing’s influence on their semi autonomous territory. – Washington Post

Japan will launch a special police unit equipped with submachine guns and helicopters to patrol disputed isles in the East China Sea — a source of tension between Tokyo and Beijing, according to police and media. – Agence FrancePresse

The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies, has formed a team of ministers to talk to Beijing ahead of a possible switch in ties that could be unveiled as early as this week, the chief of a parliamentary panel said. – Reuters

Taiwan’s relations with the United States have reached their strongest point ever despite a lack of formal diplomatic ties as officials in Washington value the Asian government’s role in international causes, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Friday. – Voice of America

Editorial: China appears to be making its long-expected move to crush dissent in Hong Kong, with arrests of pro-democracy lawmakers and activists and a ban on a march planned for this weekend. The crackdown is a gamble that the public will be cowed, but it could ignite even more resentment and protests. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: If she and other Hong Kong leaders join the protesters in showing a united front to Beijing, they might cause China to rethink the costs of its current crackdown and refusal to compromise. Resigning now is the only way she can avoid going down in history as the woman who sold out Hong Kong. – Wall Street Journal

Claudia Rosett writes: With great courage and at intensifying risk, Hong Kong’s people have brought to the fore a lesson for anyone dealing with China. For this regime, which aspires to world dominance, what matters most isn’t economic development or international treaties, never mind freedom or democracy. As in Tiananmen, the prime imperative is absolute power, whatever it takes. – Wall Street Journal

Walter Russell Mead writes: The drama in Washington sometimes makes this difficult to remember, but the most important foreign-policy development of the current presidential term isn’t the president’s tweets. It is the slow, inexorable shift in American strategy from the Atlantic and Mediterranean theaters of world politics to what U.S. diplomats and military officials call the “Indo-Pacific.” […]Asian realist thinking underlay the enthusiastic participation of many Indian Ocean countries in the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, and it continues to shape their view of relations with the U.S. and China today. – Wall Street Journal


Despite Russian denials, German politicians and media are blaming Moscow for the Berlin assassination of a Georgian who once fought Russian forces in Chechnya, an affair that could spark a diplomatic crisis. – Agence FrancePresse

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence sought on Monday to reassure Poland about Washington’s commitment to protecting it from Russia, saying allies should “remain vigilant” about Moscow’s election meddling and work towards independence from Russian energy supplies. – Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday he planned to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week when he attends the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok Sept 4-6. – Reuters

A Russian court has sentenced a Jehovah’s Witness detained for more than a year to community service instead of prison time. – Washington Examiner


Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday signaled that he is prepared to call a high-stakes snap election next month if his political opponents try to block his plans for Britain to exit the European Union on Oct. 31. – Washington Post

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wants to “reset” Donald Trump’s relationship with the EU, U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland told POLITICO on Monday. – Politico

The United States wants the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union to protect stability on the island of Ireland and respect Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday. – Reuters

Germany’s president asked for forgiveness for his country on Sunday for the suffering of the Polish people during World War Two as Poland marked 80 years since the Nazi German invasion that unleashed the deadliest conflict in human history. – Reuters

Warsaw and Washington have agreed on six locations for new US troops to be stationed in Poland, the country’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Friday, a day after Donald Trump canceled a trip to the eastern European nation. – Reuters

Rachel Ellehuus writes: In an open letter to President Trump on the eve of his anticipated visit to Poland, dozens of former Polish ambassadors echoed this sentiment by recounting Poland’s tragic past when it was abandoned by, and then isolated from, its closest allies. They assert that the modern Polish Republic rests on “two pillars: the European Union and NATO,” and that these communities are not at odds with one another. This is the strategic balance this is needed to shield Poland. What it is pursuing at the moment is strategic imbalance. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Interviews with a dozen business owners in Mogadishu reveal al-Shabab’s quickly growing ability to tax the country’s most lucrative businesses, which analysts and former government officials say earns the group tens of millions of dollars per year, which it uses to fund its attacks on government and military targets, as well as on those who refuse to pay up. – Washington Post

Jihadists have killed at least 300 civilians over the past two years, often by beheading them. Dozens of villages have been wiped off the map and thousands of people displaced. Local media reported around 20 deaths in August. […]Less than 20 percent of Mozambique’s 29.5 million inhabitants are Muslim. The majority live in Cabo Delgado, and do not understand why they are being targeted. – Agence FrancePresse

A military court in Burkina Faso on Monday convicted and jailed two generals on charges of masterminding a coup in the fragile Sahel state in 2015. – Agence FrancePresse

Latin America

The United States is not seeking a military intervention as a solution to the economic and political crisis in Venezuela, the U.S. envoy to the troubled South American nation said in an interview published by a Venezuelan online news site on Sunday. – Reuters

A mayoral candidate in southwestern Colombia was killed along with five other people in an attack likely perpetrated by dissidents from the demobilized FARC guerrilla group, the government said on Monday. – Reuters

Norway-backed talks between Venezuela’s opposition and the government of President Nicolas Maduro must focus on elections, an opposition negotiator said on Monday, as the dialogue proceedings remain stalled after the government walked out. – Reuters


U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Polish President Andrzej Duda signed an agreement tightening guidelines on 5G network security, part of a wider push by the Trump administration that has targeted Chinese telecom giant Huawei. – Wall Street Journal

The report on disinformation tactics during the 2020 election, put together by New York University’s (NYU) Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, also pinpointed China, Russia, and Iran as countries likely to launch such attacks against the U.S. in the lead up to the elections. – The Hill

A Russian experiment with AI-powered chatbots yields surprisingly sophisticated conversations — and a warning. – Defense One

An Iranian engineer recruited by Dutch intelligence provided access into Iran’s nuclear enrichment plant in Natanz that allowed the CIA and Israeli intelligence to launch the Stuxnet cyber offensive, Yahoo News reported Monday. – Haaretz

Hackers briefly gained control of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s account Friday, sending racist and vulgar tweets to his 4.2 million followers. Some of the tweets were up for about 30 minutes before Twitter took them down. The tweets included messages such as “Hitler is innocent” and, using a vulgarity, asked “bald skeleton head tramp,” apparently referring to Dorsey, to unsuspend certain accounts. – Times of Israel

Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections. – Bloomberg


The Navy’s new surface development squadron will soon receive its first unmanned vehicle to begin experimenting with, as the service looks to incorporate new types of manned and unmanned platforms into how it fights at sea. – USNI News

The first-ever test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system’s ability to remotely fire an interceptor was deemed a success by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. – Defense News

The head of the Pentagon’s new artificial intelligence center said in an Aug. 30 press conference that the organization is poised for a breakthrough in 2020. – C4ISRNET

Long War

Alleged 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp will finally go on trial in 2021, almost two decades after the devastating Al-Qaeda attack, the New York Times reported Friday. – Agence FrancePresse

A man has been arrested on suspicion of a terror offence with addresses in London and Teesside searched. The 21-year-old, from the Middlesbrough area, was arrested in north London on Saturday. – BBC

Robin Simcox writes: Boris Johnson’s premiership will understandably focus on dealing with Brexit. However another problem that refuses to go away will need to dealt with: extremism, the challenge of which is growing ever more complex. So here are six things that Prime Minister Johnson – in conjunction with Home Secretary Priti Patel – should prioritize as a part of a coherent counter-extremism agenda for his government. – CapX