Fdd's overnight brief

September 30, 2020

In The News


Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to join the Supreme Court, once represented an affiliate of an Iranian exile group as it challenged its State Department designation as a foreign terrorist organization. – Washington Post 

Iran’s armada of tankers carrying 820,000 barrels of gasoline made it to Venezuela, where they are piling up to dump their cargo onto the Caracas market. The Islamic Republic has recently been reported to have received “gold bullion” in exchange for supplying Venezuela’s energy needs. – Jerusalem Post

The U.N. nuclear watchdog has inspected the second of two suspected former secret atomic sites in Iran, as agreed with Tehran last month in a deal that ended a standoff over access, the agency said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Referring to the U.S. operation that killed the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ (IRGC) former Chief Commander of the Qods Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Americans “hit so hard that we are left with only one arm.” – Radio Farda 

Iran rejected on Tuesday an accusation by Saudi Arabia that it had trained a terrorist cell, which Riyadh said it had taken down. – Reuters 

In a video message titled the “New Pact,” the exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi defended the widespread protests and strikes inside Iran, saying that the protesters sought to “save” their country. – Radio Farda 

A U.S. proposal to almost totally sever Iran from the global financial system could sharply hinder its ability to secure supplies of food and drugs as it struggles to contain a resurgence of the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. – Bloomberg 

Three members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were killed by unknown assailants on Tuesday in the country’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, state media reported. – Defense Post 

The rediscovery of a film is seldom as fascinating a story as the film itself, but that’s the case with Chess of the Wind (Shatranj-e Baad), directed by Iranian film-maker Mohammad Reza Aslani. It was only screened twice in Tehran in 1976, once to a cinema of hostile critics, and then to an empty cinema – the bad reviews had done their work. – The Guardian 

Steph Shample writes: Having enhanced and expanded its physical and digital powers over the years, the IRGC has the media control, digital tools, and physical forces on the ground to bring about a transition to military rule should it so desire. Moreover, given the chaos of world events — from the economic hardship at home due to international sanctions to the devastation of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic — as well as the upcoming 2021 Iranian elections, it is unlikely to have a shortage of opportunities to exploit. – Middle East Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: What has bothered Iran is that several days ago it thought the US would leave and it could celebrate; now it wonders what will happen. Tehran had pressured Baghdad’s foreign minister and also had its own foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweet about removing the “occupiers,” a reference to the US. Iran is now complaining that American troops in Iraq are there in violation of Iraq’s demands that they leave. Tehran complains that Washington has even installed a system to defend the US Embassy. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran held an exhibition of its missiles and drones over the weekend that showcased its successes in recent years. The exhibition is supposed to show the successes the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps aerial power. […] The display shows that Iran believes it can field a state-of-the-art drone and missile army, backed by 3rd Khordad air defenses and a variety of cruise missiles. The country is clearly making a pitch to show that it is one of the global powers in weapons production, growing far beyond the reverse engineering of Russian, Chinese or North Korean ordnance. – Jerusalem Post

James M. Dorsey writes: There are two ways that Beijing could signal its interest in moving ahead with a proposed $400 billion economic and military cooperation agreement with Iran: by pushing for Iranian membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and by renewing interest in a China-Pakistan-Iran-Turkey energy pipeline. China has not moved on either one. – Algemeiner


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused Hezbollah of improperly storing weapons in a civilian area near Lebanon’s capital that could explode soon, adding pressure on the Iran-allied group as it faces blowback over August’s deadly blast in Beirut. – Wall Street Journal 

At a press conference the following day, September 27, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed sorrow about the failure to form a government and harshly criticized Hizbullah, saying that the organization could not be a terror organization and at the same time a political power. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Hezbollah’s leader said on Tuesday his Shi’ite movement welcomed French efforts to help Lebanon out of crisis but that did not mean French President Emmanuel Macron could act like the country’s ruler. – Reuters 

The Israel Defense Forces identified two alleged Hezbollah missile sites in Beirut Tuesday night, on top of another one Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed to reveal during an address to the United Nations earlier in the evening. – Times of Israel 

Hezbollah use of civilian, residential neighborhoods to store and manufacture arms could trigger US sanctions against the terrorist group for use of human shields, experts said following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday night speech to the UN General Assembly revealing a weapons site in Beirut. – Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah claimed that the terrorist group’s munitions are not kept in civilian areas, despite claims by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the contrary at the UN, during a speech on Tuesday on the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV. – Jerusalem Post


Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf, a cousin and long-time ally of President Bashar al-Assad, appealed on Tuesday to his relative to stop what he described as security forces dismantling charities that served the poor among loyalists in Syria’s civil war. – Reuters

According to a report published by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund in 2018, more than 1.5 million Syrians are now living with permanent impairments caused by the conflict, including 86,000 who have lost limbs. The report adds that many suffer from a lack of access to proper medical or psychological care, and often face exclusion from their societies. – Reuters 

Syrian Americans are one part of a patchwork of Arab diaspora groups in Michigan that are split between the foreign-policy impulses of hard and soft power. – Foreign Policy 

Tessa Fox writes: While the majority of IDPs in Syria are now located in areas held by one warring side, those in Shehba are caught in a precarious position between the Syrian regime, supported by Russia, and the Syrian National Army, supported by Turkey. When Turkey launched its Afrin operation, Russia condoned the attack but stopped the Turkish-backed forces from taking Shehba, seeking to maintain a strategic presence. – Foreign Policy 


Turkey held a naval exercise near Greek waters on Tuesday as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed Athens for cooperation ahead of European Union talks over Ankara’s energy exploration in the contested eastern Mediterranean. – Bloomberg 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday backed talks between Greece and Turkey to resolve tensions in the eastern Mediterranean while announcing an enhanced US military presence in the region. – Agence France-Presse

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday Turkey’s “warlike” rhetoric was encouraging Azerbaijan to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh and that was unnaceptable, though he added that he had no proof at this stage of direct Turkish involvement. – Reuters 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday called for the Trump administration to demand Turkey stay out of the escalating conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a contested territory. – The Hill

Adam Lammon writes:  Turkey has long relied on proxy groups to stabilize its southern border with Syria as well as to push back on both President Bashar al-Assad’s regime offensives and the Syrian Kurdish YPG’s aspirations for autonomy and independence. Despite that Azerbaijan has denounced reports that Syrians are fighting on its behalf, and both Ankara and Baku are contending that it is actually Armenia who has brought in “mercenaries and terrorists” from abroad, media has been abuzz with evidence to the contrary. – The National Interest 

Desmond Lachman writes: Failure by Turkey to get a handle soon on its currency crisis will certainly be bad for the Turkish economy. However, we would be making a mistake to think that a full-blown Turkish currency crisis would be confined to that country’s shores. Indeed, with a corporate sector that has more than US$300 billion in externally denominated debt that is held in large part by the European banking system, a further decline in the Turkish exchange rate could have untoward economic consequences as well for the rest of Europe. – American Enterprise Institute


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel predicted on Tuesday that more Arab and Muslim nations would “soon, very soon” establish diplomatic relations with his country, following the agreements signed this month with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. – New York Times 

For the last four months, Ahmed al-Kurdi, his wife and three children have been stranded in Jordan, where they traveled from their home in the Gaza Strip for life-saving medical treatment for his 2-year-old daughter. At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has led to border closures and travel restrictions, they find themselves stuck, not because of quarantine measures, but because of a dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. – Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel has not ruled out a preemptive strike against Iran, during a memorial service on Tuesday for those who fell in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. – Jerusalem Post

Israel and Lebanon are set to sign a border agreement delineating the maritime frontier between the two countries, Arab media outlets have reported. – Arutz Sheva 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In recent months, there have been increasing tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In general, these tensions have appeared peripheral to Israel’s concerns. […] Israel has good relations with Azerbaijan but bad relations with Turkey, and Turkey supports Azerbaijan. That means that with all this complexity there is no clarity on what a wider conflict could mean for Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

Haviv Rettig Gur writes: It’s a strange new chapter in the Israeli-Arab encounter, one that poses a surprising irony for the Palestinians — an irony that might be summarized thus: The further they are pushed to the margins of Arab political consciousness, the more valuable their negotiating position becomes. For the first time in a long time, and only as a function of their abandonment, the Palestinians have something to offer that Israel and its Arab allies want. – Times of Israel


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened to close the American Embassy in Baghdad within weeks if Iraqi leaders fail to prevent Iranian-backed militias from firing rockets at the compound, three U.S. officials said. – New York Times 

The United States is “outraged” by Monday’s rocket attack in the Iraqi capital Baghdad that killed five civilians here, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, urging Iraqi authorities to take immediate action to hold the perpetrators accountable. – Reuters

Mourners hit out at Iraq’s government over insecurity Tuesday, during the funerals of five children and two women killed by a wayward rocket targeting US troops stationed at Baghdad airport. – Agence France-Presse

Saudi Arabia

Supporters of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist murdered by his government’s agents two years ago, launched an organization Tuesday aimed at promoting human rights and democracy in the Arab world. They said this mission was dear to Khashoggi, who by the end of his life was one the region’s most visible exiles and dissidents. – Washington Post 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke via phone call on Sunday with his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to discuss a series of issues, including Israel’s newly signed normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. – Ynet

Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet reiterated the Kingdom’s position that the international community must take a firm stand towards Iran, and deal seriously against its violations related to its nuclear program, the state news agency reported in a statement early on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Gulf States

For decades, Kuwait has charted a neutral course in many of the Middle East’s intractable conflicts. But the death of its longtime ruler leaves his successor with a dilemma: whether or not to normalize ties with Israel without statehood for the Palestinians. – Wall Street Journal 

Kuwait’s new ruler in waiting may find it harder than his predecessor to uphold his country’s mediating role between rival Gulf powers, if only because he lacks his late brother’s decades of experience as a conciliator in a polarised region. – Reuters

When Oman’s ruler of a half century died without an heir apparent, brief fears of turmoil ended with the quick announcement of a new sultan in this nation on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. – Associated Press 

Adressing the local Jewish community, a senior United Arab Emirates official on Friday hailed the “wisdom of Shabbat” and said she recognized many similarities between Judaism and Islam. – Times of Israel 

The United Arab Emirates will insist on a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the pre-1967 lines in spite of the peace deal it signed with Israel earlier this month, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Simon Henderson and Elana DeLozier write: Unlike other Gulf Arab monarchies, Kuwait’s ruling al-Sabah family is not preeminent and effectively has to share power with other leading families and a vociferous parliament. Thus, the new emir’s choice of successor will need to be confirmed by this national assembly sometime within the next year—perhaps not until the next parliament is elected in November. – Washington Institute 

Raphael Ahren writes: We’re still in favor of a two-state solution, in principle, but temporarily halting Israel’s plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank is enough for us right now. No word on Israeli violations. No mention of any occupation. Condemning settlement expansions? Lamenting Palestinian suffering? Bewailing the judaization of occupied Arab lands? Not anymore. – Times of Israel

Middle East & North Africa

The United Arab Emirates ramped up deliveries of military supplies to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar this year, according to a confidential United Nations report, flouting an arms embargo as the Gulf state tried to salvage the leader’s military campaign and check the influence of regional rival Turkey. – Wall Street Journal 

Ghaith al-Omari writes: Given how important the kingdom’s stability is to U.S. regional goals, Washington should quietly engage with Jordanian authorities on efforts to keep a steady hand during the upcoming transitional period. They should also work together on strategies for addressing both preexisting structural impediments to development and the larger economic challenges created by COVID-19. – Washington Institute 

Michael Rubin writes: This puts a ticking clock on Morocco’s debate about normalization with Israel. Should the Kingdom act before Trump leaves office, they could likely get a far more generous deal for the U.S. to recognize the entirety of Morocco’s claims without any caveats. Rather than designate a diplomat within the U.S. Embassy in Rabat to handle the Sahara, every diplomat should as part of the broader Moroccan portfolio. – Washington Examiner 

Zeina Karam writes: In less than a year, Lebanon has been hit by an economic meltdown, mass protests, financial collapse, a virus outbreak and a cataclysmic explosion that virtually wiped out the country’s main port. Yet Lebanese fear even darker days are ahead. – Associated Press

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has a “reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defense” and will now focus on developing its economy, North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Kim Song said on Tuesday, though he acknowledged that international sanctions were a hindrance. – Reuters 

South Korea said Tuesday that a government official slain by North Korean sailors wanted to defect, concluding that the man, who had gambling debts, swam against unfavorable currents with the help of a life jacket and a floatation device and conveyed his intention of resettling in North Korea. – Associated Press 

Fewer than 20 per cent of Americans favour reducing the number of US soldiers in South Korea, highlighting that proposals considered by the Trump administration to withdraw troops lack broad national support. – Financial Times

North Korea’s defense budget occupies a staggering 23% of its GDP, by far the highest proportion of any 21st-century country. The DPRK’s massive military outlays have gone, in no small part, towards sustaining the fourth-largest standing army in the world. – The National Interest


When China curtailed political freedoms in Hong Kong this summer, two rival declarations circulated at the United Nations Human Rights Council. One, drafted by Cuba and commending Beijing’s move, won the backing of 53 nations. Another, issued by the U.K. and expressing concern, secured 27 supporters. – Wall Street Journal 

A Chinese journalist whose home was raided as part of an Australian anti-interference investigation in June said the action was unfounded and “baseless”, in a detailed account released by Chinese media late on Tuesday. – Reuters

Portuguese leaders have criticised U.S. ambassador George Glass after he said they must choose between the United States and China or risk the consequences. – Reuters 

Beijing’s deepening authoritarianism and aggressive nationalism have sparked a heated debate among policy analysts, former government officials, academics, and others about whether the United States got China wrong. At the heart of this conversation lies the contentious question of whether the United States even sought to change China in the first place. – Foreign Policy 

The departing U.S. ambassador on Tuesday defended a tough approach to China that has riled relations between the world’s two largest economies, saying the Trump administration has made progress on trade and that he hopes that will extend to other areas. – Associated Press 

Editorial: Mr. Xi has clearly signaled his intent to continue these criminal acts. Yet the international response remains weak. The European Union, for example, has confined itself to feckless requests to send observers to the region. What’s needed is a concerted and unified response by Western democracies that imposes much higher costs on Beijing. – Washington Post 

Joseph Bosco writes: In their debate this evening, President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden will be asked about their records of public service, and China is sure to be a major issue of contention. Here are several questions that moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News should consider asking the candidates: – The Hill

Roie Yellinek writes:  One of the major changes will be a wider margin of maneuver for countries that oppose the U.S., which has long been accustomed to its status as the sole superpower. […]This “take-all-comers” approach from China marks an epochal shift in international affairs. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, few if any countries could afford to risk exclusion from the emerging Liberal world order by balking at American demands for democratization, financial liberalization or disarmament. – Middle East Institute


The chief of Afghanistan’s peace negotiating team said Tuesday on a visit to Pakistan that the time has come for the two neighboring countries to shun the suspicion, “stale rhetoric” and tired conspiracy theories that have dogged past relations. – Associated Press 

But as the Islamist Taliban hold peace talks with the Afghan government in Doha, many women in Afghanistan worry the militant group may exert its influence through formal political channels. – Reuters

Afghan officials say a roadside bomb has killed at least 14 civilians in the central province of Daikundi, as violence continues across the country despite ongoing peace talks between Taliban militants and the Afghan government in Qatar. – Radio Free Europe / Free Liberty

South Asia

Amnesty International said Tuesday that it would halt operations in India after its bank accounts were frozen and its executives interrogated by financial authorities, the latest steps in what the human rights group called a two-year campaign of harassment. – Washington Post 

An Indian court on Wednesday acquitted all 32 people who had been accused of crimes in a 1992 attack and demolition of a 16th century mosque that sparked Hindu-Muslim violence leaving some 2,000 people dead. – Associated Press

A top Myanmar official on Tuesday accused a militant group and its supporters of hampering the repatriation of over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled a military crackdown in 2017 and are now in camps in Bangladesh. – Associated Press 

Indian troops opened fire across the border in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, killing a soldier and a 15-year-old boy and wounding four others, Pakistan’s military and other officials said Tuesday, amid tensions between the two South Asian nuclear rivals. – Associated Press 

Ligen Eliyas deftly turns the excavator’s hydraulic arm to push a huge boulder into the Zanskar river below in a cloud of dust, clearing another bit of land for a strategic highway that India is hurriedly building near the Chinese border. – Reuters 

Marvi Sirmed writes: Over the past 18 years, Pakistan’s military has consolidated its control over almost every aspect of Balochistan’s society, politics and governance. People there face intense oppression on suspicion of dissent. Anyone like me, who publicly criticizes the military or government, may find themselves targeted by blasphemy charges — which could mean assassination. – Washington Post 

Abdul Basit writes: From controlling media to managing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and running foreign policy to holding meetings with businessmen and investors, the opposition is right that the military is running a parallel government under a civilian façade to the detriment of democracy. – The National Interest 

Oriana Skylar Mastro writes: Complex calculations about how the enemy will interpret and respond to a willingness to talk create an extra obstacle to peace when wars break out. This means high costs even if the war stays at the conventional level, because it is likely to drag on. The other possibility is that the war ends quickly because China secures a decisive victory. But this scenario does not bode well for the future, either. it would leave the world with a weaker India and emboldened China. – The Interpreter


Armenia said Tuesday that Azerbaijan was employing longer range and more destructive types of artillery in fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, now in its third day, and threatened to deploy heavier weapons of its own.- New York Times 

The U.S. unveiled a plan to help Taiwan gain greater clout across Asia and Latin America by addressing needs for infrastructure funding in both regions. – Bloomberg

Top diplomats from the U.S., Australia and India plan to gather in Tokyo next week to discuss their common regional concerns, such as China’s increasingly assertive actions, in the first face-to-face ministerial meetings Japan will host since the coronavirus pandemic began. – Associated Press 

Leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia brushed off the suggestion of peace talks Tuesday, accusing each other of obstructing negotiations over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, with dozens killed and injured in three days of heavy fighting. – Associated Press 

A group of Republicanlawmakers seeking to counter national security and economic threats from China is calling for the United States to open trade talks with Taiwan, a plan which is “very much” on the radar screen of the Trump administration, according to the congressman who leads the group. – Reuters

Japan’s military has asked Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s new government for its ninth straight annual budget increase, including funds to begin development of an advanced stealth fighter to counter new aircraft being deployed by China. – Reuters

The relatives of 12 Hong Kong people arrested by China at sea last month called for access to their detained family members in a petition to the mainland’s representative office in the semi-autonomous city on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Britain’s charity regulator said on Tuesday it was investigating a British bird conservation group that cut ties with a Taiwanese counterpart because it refused to promise in writing not to use terms that represent the island as independent of China. – Reuters

There are no signs that China is preparing for all-out war with Taiwan, such as massing troops along its eastern coast, Taiwan’s defence chief said on Tuesday, after repeated Chinese drills near the island that China claims as its own. – Reuters

The UN security council has called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately halt the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and urgently resume talks without preconditions as the conflict threatened to escalate beyond the region. – The Guardian 

Gerrit van der Wees writes: Against this background, it is essential to emphasize that the fundamental U.S. understanding of moving towards normalization of relations was that Beijing agreed to a peaceful resolution. It is not helpful—as Heer seems to be doing—to create excuses that Beijing never “promised” to resolve the Taiwan issue peacefully. It is the fundamental understanding, so if Beijing is reneging on that understanding (and increasingly using non-peaceful means), then it should expect that the U.S. side will also rethink the basis of the understanding. – The National Interest 

Yao-Yuan Yeh, Charles K.S. Wu, Austin Wang and Fang-Yu Chen write: For policymakers in the United States, it is critical to understand different voices within Taiwan. Although the Tsai administration is certainly moving along with the current U.S. China policy, Taiwan’s major opposition party is still promoting hedging or maintaining equal distance between the United States and China as the more appropriate strategy in the existing U.S.-China rivalry. – The National Interest


Russia has maintained that it played no role in the poisoning of Mr. Navalny; last week the foreign ministry in Moscow accused Germany of dramatizing the episode. […]Use of the substance would be a breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Moscow is a signatory, raising the prospect that Germany could lead the European Union to enact painful sanctions against Moscow. – New York Times 

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it had received the third S-400 Triumf missile air defense system regiment set last week. The Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense Corporation JSC handed over the missile system ahead of time. – The National Interest 

During last week’s Kavkaz-2020 exercises, which ran from Monday to Saturday, Russian naval vessels took part in live fire exercises in the Black Sea. This included the launch of a Kalibr cruise missile that was launched from the Black Sea Fleet’s submarine The Kolpino and hit an on-shore target 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) away. – The National Interest 

Tom Rogan writes: The Russian intelligence services are renowned for their imaginative creation of fake news. Evincing as much, the head of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service on Tuesday suggested that the CIA is attempting to create a new provocation related to Belarus. The CIA’s intent, he said, is to see fellow Catholics inflamed to take to the streets in opposition to Alexander Lukashenko’s despotic rule. – Washington Examiner 

Jeffrey Mankoff writes: On the most basic level, the interests of Putin’s Russia are more aligned with those of China than with those of the United States, and the prospect of a deeper and more enduring U.S.-China confrontation will enhance the importance of that entente in both Beijing and Moscow. – The National Interest 

Maria Snegovaya, Stepan Goncharov and Denis Volkov write: The young people of today’s Russia — sometimes called millennials, Generation Z, or “Putin’s generation,” — have known political life mainly under the current Russian president. […]This crucial demographic could play an important role in Russia’s future political development. Despite this phenomenon, there has been scant empirical research that has systematically examined younger citizens in Russia and behavioral and attitudinal characteristics that distinguish them from older cohorts. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


The U.K. and Canada imposed sanctions on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and senior figures in his government, a sign of widening discontent in the West over ongoing repression of peaceful protests against his purported victory in a disputed election. – Wall Street Journal 

European Union leaders will on Thursday call for an economic rebalancing with China and greater reciprocity between the two sides, part of a rethink by Brussels over how to engage with the world’s second-largest economy. – Bloomberg 

U.S. and Greek officials plan to launch a wave of investments in a bid to designed to stymie China’s bid for economic clout and political influence in Southern Europe. – Washington Examiner 

The first-ever report by the European Union’s executive on rule of law gaps across the bloc, seen by Reuters ahead of official release later on Wednesday, singled out challenges to media and the judiciary as key risks to upholding democratic standards. – Reuters

The United Kingdom wants to reach a Brexit trade deal with the European Union, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Britain’s House of Commons approved legislation on Tuesday that gives ministers the power to break its divorce deal with the European Union, despite the threat of legal action from Brussels and unrest within the governing Conservative Party. – Reuters 

Priti Patel asked officials to explore the construction of an asylum processing centre on Ascension Island, a British overseas territory more than 4,000 miles from the UK in the south Atlantic, for migrants coming to Britain. – Financial Times

The deputy head of an association of Kosovo war veterans who was arrested last week on suspicion of offenses including intimidating witnesses said Tuesday he did not recognize the jurisdiction of the internationally funded court that ordered his detention. – Associated Press 

Destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG-80) performed drills in the Black Sea with the Ukrainian navy on Tuesday, the U.S. Navy announced. – USNI News 

The Kremlin will conduct multinational military exercises through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Belarus on October 12-16. An unspecified number of Russian, Belarusian, Armenian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Tajik forces will conduct the CSTO’s annual “Unbreakable Brotherhood” exercises at the Losvido training ground in Vitebsk, Belarus, on October 12-16. – Institute for the Study of War

Donatienne Ruy and Erol Yayboke write: The European Commission’s newly released Pact on Migration and Asylum aims to address the imbalances in member states’ burdens related to migrant arrivals and streamline the asylum process. However, the proposal focuses primarily on technical aspects, sidestepping the values issue and broader migration trends, and delays some tough—and politically charged—decisions on regular migration and permanent relocation. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

James Stavridis writes: The chances of a peaceful settlement seem bleak. A new version of the Minsk group that would include Turkey could build confidence for a deal. Putin is close to the leaders of both countries, although Russia tilts strongly to fellow Christian Orthodox Armenia. Perhaps the U.S., Russia and Turkey, working together, could convince the two sides to turn away from the catastrophic path they are headed down. – Bloomberg


The U.S. asked Zimbabwe to help put down an Islamist insurgency in neighboring Mozambique that’s destabilizing a region rich in natural gas, people familiar with the matter said. – Bloomberg 

Uganda’s government said Tuesday it would help finance projects to surface over 200 kilometers (124 miles) of road inside neighboring Congo as part of plans to boost trade between the countries. – Associated Press 

Zimbabwe’s security and stability is at risk as the main opposition and civil society stoke unrest, National Security Minister Owen Ncube told reporters in the capital, Harare on Monday. – Bloomberg 

Ivory Coast should briefly postpone Oct. 31 elections to settle a dispute over the legal framework of the vote, including the legitimacy of the electoral commission and the voter roll, the International Crisis Group said. – Bloomberg

The Americas

American intelligence officials have seen an uptick in Russian disinformation about mail-in ballots as President Trump has escalated his attacks on voting by mail, Representative Adam B. Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview. – New York Times 

A new round of protests has started to sweep across Venezuela as discontent intensifies in the country’s near-abandoned interior due to worsening fuel shortages and the constant failure of public services, a local non-governmental organization said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

A Canadian prosecutor says by requesting the inclusion of additional evidence the defense team for a Chinese executive wanted in the United States is coming close to turning an extradition hearing into a trial. – Associated Press 

U.S. security officials are warning that violent domestic extremists pose a threat to the presidential election next month, amid what one official called a “witch’s brew” of rising political tensions, civil unrest and foreign disinformation campaigns. – Reuters 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would have to be “almost dying” to get out of arguably the most notorious prison in the United States if convicted of espionage charges and sent there, a court at London’s Old Bailey heard Tuesday. – Associated Press 

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: But the shortage of protective equipment was years in the making, resulting from global business, failure to maintain the strategic national stockpile, outdated medical supplies, resistance from the administration to fully invoke the Defense Production Act, and more. Better use of the defense industrial base is necessary since these firms are essential and some of them changed production to support the pandemic response. – The Hill 

Desmond Lachman writes: The last thing that the United States needs is an economically and socially weak neighbor to the south of its border. However, barring a change of heart by AMLO that might prompt an abrupt policy U-turn, this is what we should be expecting from Mexico. This would especially be the case if there were to be a second wave in the U.S. pandemic or if the currently highly favorable international liquidity situation were soon to come to an end. – The Hill 


Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Jack Dorsey has pledged that Twitter’s data won’t be used for government surveillance, a commitment the company affirmed four years ago in responding to allegations of widespread police monitoring of Black Lives Matter protesters. – Wall Street Journal 

An inspector general’s report is casting doubt on the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to protect its massive repository of personal data from hackers amid a push by the Trump administration to vastly expand its collection of biometrics through the use of facial recognition and other tools. – Roll Call 

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday slammed Facebook after the social media platform said last week that it took down two networks promoting government propaganda that primarily targeted the Philippines and Southeast Asian countries. – The Hill 

Russia-based hackers are responsible for the majority of nation-state attacks on Microsoft customers, according to new data from company. Microsoft Corp. has issued 13,000 alerts about nation-state hacking attempts to its customers in the last two years, with 52% of incidents between July 2019 and June 2020 related to Russian hackers whose targets have ranged from elections to the Olympics, according to a report published Tuesday. – Bloomberg 

Popular real-time flight-tracking website Flightradar24 was hit by a cyber-attack that knocked out access to its services for hours. The attack is the third the company has suffered in two days, it said. – BBC 

The House on Tuesday unanimously passed four bills aimed at securing the power grid and other energy infrastructure against cyberattacks. – The Hill


The Pentagon’s chief of naval operations fell ill recently while on a run near his home and underwent heart surgery soon after, according to Navy officials. Adm. Mike Gilday, 57 years old, recuperated at home and returned to the Pentagon on Monday, officials said. Adm. Gilday’s medical procedure hasn’t been previously disclosed. – Wall Street Journal 

A new bipartisan congressional report calls for the Defense Department to get a lot more serious about the race to acquire artificial intelligence and autonomous capabilities, modeling efforts to become dominant in these spheres after the “Manhattan Project” initiative to test and develop nuclear weapons in the 1940s. – Military.com 

The Army is working quickly with industry to pursue massive, far-reaching weapons integration with electronic warfare (EW) systems to improve defenses, prevent enemy jamming and identify and disrupt enemy communications. – The National Interest 

A Marine Corps KC-130J refueling aircraft and an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter collided during an air-to-air refueling mission in California, causing the stealth jet to crash, officials said Tuesday. – Military.com 

The following is the Sept. 24, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. – USNI News 

The Defense Department and Lockheed Martin reached a handshake agreement that will require the defense giant to invest about $70.6 million to fix an ongoing problem with F-35 spare parts, one that resulted in increased government labor costs, the department announced Sept. 29. – Defense News 

While U.S. Space Force members may be planet-bound for now, its warfighters will eventually deploy into orbit, according to Space Command’s top operations boss. – Military.com 

A Marine F-35B aircraft has crashed near Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif., following an air collision with a KC-130J, defense officials confirmed to USNI News. – USNI News 

When paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s First Brigade Combat Team landed in the drop zone during a night jump last week, it took leaders 45 minutes after hitting the ground to locate about 90 percent of their formation. – C4ISRNET 

Destroyer USS Stout (DDG-55) recently achieved a record-breaking deployment length after operating at sea for more than 200 days, the Navy announced. – USNI News 

Since it was established in Dec. 2019 — and probably even before that — one question has plagued the U.S. Space Force: when will they send humans into orbit? – C4ISRNET 

Kris Osborn writes: This is the fundamental concept informing Project Convergence. The goal is to get ahead of an enemies’ decision cycle. Detect, Track and Destroy targets faster than an enemy can. New networking, new domains and artificial intelligence are all centered upon this premise, which places a premium on the need to gather, organize and disseminate information to attack and close with an enemy at lightning speed. – The National Interest 

Erik Khzmalyan writes: Counterintuitive as it may seem, the rise of the Chinese navy has given the United States notable leverage to affect Beijing’s risk calculus. As Toshi Yoshihara argues, land powers have historically been risk-averse to endangering their fleets and China will be no exception. If the Chinese missiles pose a threat to American flattops, the United States and allies can similarly target Beijing’s capital ships. – The National Interest 

Timothy A. Walton and Seth Cropsey write: Today’s Navy leaders, like their predecessors between the world wars, have an opportunity to establish an enduring advantage against US competitors. Without significant change, however, the fleet could enter a spiral of rising costs, shrinking numbers, and technological irrelevance. The Navy and Congress should act now to ensure this does not happen. – Hudson Institute 

Long War

A man who wounded two people in a meat cleaver attack in Paris last week has been charged with “attempted murder with relation to a terrorist enterprise,” French anti-terrorist prosecutors told AFP on Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse 

A new report on terrorism financing shows that for most Americans who sought to join or support ISIS, the trip was cheap and the money came easily, making it harder for investigators to track would-be terrorists. – NBC News 

A Canadian man who was the subject of a New York Times podcast called “Caliphate” was arrested last week for allegedly faking his past involvement with ISIS, putting the validity of the award-winning audio documentary in question. – Fox News 

A 14-year-old boy researched making shrapnel bombs and filmed a video in which he vowed to carry out “jihad”, a court has heard. The boy, from Eastleigh, Hampshire, developed “extremist and radical” views after experiencing a troubled home life, Leicester Crown Court was told. – BBC

Jonathan Spyer writes: I am an Israeli-British dual citizen, and I am banned for life from entering America. ”[…] I am only one reporter. But the Middle East remains an arena of vital importance. Citizens and policy makers need information to respond to its challenges. This requires eyes in the field and contacts on the ground. Curtailing that won’t make America more secure. Journalists, including those of us who interview terrorists, aren’t the enemy. – Wall Street Journal

Trump Administration

President Trump’s top intelligence official on Tuesday released unverified information about the 2016 campaign that appeared to be a bid to help Mr. Trump politically and was said to be disclosed over the objections of career intelligence officials who were concerned that the material could be Russian disinformation. – New York Times 

House Republicans’ blueprint to counter China’s global influence includes hitting the country on its contribution to climate change, prioritizing U.S. development of nuclear energy, and ramping up the domestic production of critical minerals used in defense equipment and clean energy technologies. – Washington Examiner 

FBI agent Peter Strzok continued to pursue secretive searches against retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn into March 2017, citing as justification how the Trump national security adviser may have received a suggestion of Russian help in 2016, even though the FBI had determined by then that it was Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos who received the alleged tip about “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. – Washington Examiner 

A bipartisan congressional task force is recommending the extension of a nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia that is set to expire in February. – The Hill