Fdd's overnight brief

September 8, 2020

In The News


The U.S. Navy searched through the night into Monday morning for a sailor who went missing from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz during its patrol of the northern Arabian Sea amid tensions with Iran. – Associated Press

Iran, which has a history of broadcasting suspected forced confessions, aired a statement by a wrestler who faces the death penalty and whose case recently drew a critical tweet from President Donald Trump. – Associated Press

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani castigated Iran’s friends on Saturday for not standing up to the United States and ignoring U.S. sanctions during the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters

But in what appears to be a tactical shift for a theocratic state under pressure from US sanctions and hopeful for better relations with other states, Iran’s leaders are working on a “comprehensive” 25-year plan to become “important strategic partners” with China. – Financial Times

Iran has let the U.N. nuclear watchdog inspect one of the two sites it agreed last week to grant access to after a protracted standoff, while Tehran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has risen further, quarterly reports by the agency said on Friday. – Reuters

Jason Rezaian writes: That is true at this moment, too. At the start of every Iranian New Year, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, announces the official slogan for the year. With Iran’s economy sputtering and the coronavirus ravishing the country, in March he proclaimed this the year of “surge in production.” So far, the only surge has been in arbitrary arrests. – Washington Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has sought to export its air-defense abilities, which may be designed to showcase competence for export needs. Overall, the message may be to Turkey, Iraq, dissident groups and others that northwest Iran – a mountainous region that is difficult to defend – is not a porous airspace, but rather has advanced air defense. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In short: Iran will move forward with provocations and weapons import and export regardless of the US election, according to this one report at least. Iran’s goal is to isolate the US and leverage what it sees as its successes during the Trump years so far on the world stage. – Jerusalem Post

Oula A. Alrifai and Ali Alleile write: To prevent this outcome, the United States should exploit the simmering disunity between Tehran and Moscow. This includes helping the SDF and tribal allies block Iranian infiltration east of the Euphrates by enforcing robust security measures. Coalition officials and their partners on the ground should also draw closer to community and tribal leaders who do not have sectarian or political loyalties to Iran. Without such measures, any U.S. withdrawal would allow Russia and Iran to quickly expand their presence in the east—and, in the process, generate more opportunities for the Islamic State to recruit new cadres and rebuild its insurgency. – Washington Institute


Hezbollah is a name that often appears in the media, especially in regards to Israel and its relations to Iran Lebanon. The relationship between the two are a primary topic when it comes to Middle East relations, which can be complicated, and so the IDF has come out with a list easily breaking down the question, “What or who exactly is Hezbollah?” – Jerusalem Post

When it comes to Lebanon, the U.S. and France have similar outlooks, but one major point of difference involves the Hezbollah movement — shunned by Washington but tolerated by a pragmatic Parisian leadership. – Agence France-Presse

When it comes to Lebanon, the US and France have similar outlooks, but one major point of difference involves the Hezbollah movement — shunned by Washington but tolerated by a pragmatic Parisian leadership. – Agence France-Presse

On August 31, 2020 the United States Department of Justice seized two websites used by Kata’ib Hizbullah, an Iran-backed terrorist group operating in Iraq. The websites, Aletejahtv.com and Aletejahtv.org, had published numerous videos, articles, and photos, and also broadcast a live online television channel, Al-Etejah TV. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: With advice from Iran, Hezbollah challenged Israel after 2000. Hamas thought it could come to power through elections, while using terrorism at the same time. Both movements have had to govern over the last decade because they have grown in power. But with power comes responsibility. Neither want the responsibility of being held to account as a state, but both appear to want to function like a state. […]The meeting in Beirut was an attempt to prove some kind of relevance and legitimacy. Whether they can leverage support from Iran, which is starved for cash by US sanctions, remains to be seen. – Jerusalem Post


Russia and Syria plan to sign an economic pact before the end of the year that is partly aimed at circumventing U.S. sanctions, Russia’s deputy prime minister said Monday as he led a high-level delegation on a visit to Damascus. – Associated Press

President Bashar al Assad said on Monday he wanted to expand business ties with Russia to help Syria cope with new U.S. sanctions on its already crippled economy that threaten to undermine military gains Damascus achieved with Moscow’s help. – Reuters

The United States has conveyed its concerns to Russia over an incident in Syria in which several U.S. troops were injured when a Russian military vehicle collided with theirs, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said on Friday. – Reuters

Alex Fishman writes: In an effort to get rid of Iranian influence, the Russians are trying to oust the pro-Iranian militias from the Syrian Fifth Division that is deployed in the south of the country, and replace them with local militias that support Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel reported that the Russians are worried about the possibility of Iran mobilizing against Israel from southern Syria. It is not inconceivable that the attempted attack on the IDF post was Iran signaling to Israel and Russian they are already here, and nothing can stop them. – Ynet


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned Greece to enter talks over disputed eastern Mediterranean territorial claims or face the consequences. – Associated Press

President Tayyip Erdogan told European Council President Charles Michel on Sunday the EU’s stance towards the East Mediterranean would be a test of its sincerity, calling on it to take an impartial stance in Turkey’s row with Greece. – Reuters

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday Greece would start talks with Turkey to resolve a row in the Eastern Mediterranean once Turkish “provocations” ceased. – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss the European Union’s strained relationship with Turkey this week with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Macron’s office said on Monday.- Reuters

Russia’s foreign minister said Tuesday that Moscow is ready to help ease rising tensions over Turkey’s search for energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. – Associated Press


The leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Sunday warned Israel that his organization has missiles capable of striking the city of Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial and cultural center, and areas beyond it. – Associated Press

Annual trade between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is expected to reach $4 billion, an Israeli minister said on Monday. – Reuters

In another diplomatic win for President Trump, Serbia will become the third country to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. – Washington Examiner

The new president of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, on Saturday announced plans to open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem. – Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority will sever ties with any country that opens an embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, a top Palestinian official warned on Sunday, after Serbia and Kosovo announced that they will be doing so in the near future. – Jerusalem Post

David Bedein writes: Over the next month, leading to Rosh Hashanah, the terms of the new UAE treaty will be hammered out. During this month of reflection, “peace education” could become a vital clause in the new pact with the UAE. While the media focuses on dangers of F-35 stealth bombers, the UAE delivery of “lethal weapons of mass instruction” could fan the flames of war for generations to come. – Jerusalem Post

Vladimir Marinkovic and Alexander Nikolic write: Israel has a fruitful cooperation with all stakeholders in the Western Balkans region. The growth and enrichment of the diversity of trade exchange, cooperation in the field of science, culture, arts, sports, sensitive attitude toward the Jewish community and finally, ever closer bilateral relations, are concrete indicators of the best intentions of the Serbian side toward Israel and the Jewish world in general. – Jerusalem Post

Ariel Shapira writes: Surely this list will be obsolete before we know it, but the prospect of listing hundreds of cooperations between Israeli and UAE firms is anything but daunting, it’s thrilling. The Middle East is changing before our eyes, the world would do well to bring out the popcorn now. – Jerusalem Post

Alon Ben-Meir writes: This should serve as a warning. Time is running out, and any further political and on-the-ground losses they sustain today will not be able to be regained in the future. The Palestinians at this juncture cannot afford to miss yet another opportunity, which may well be their last. – Jerusalem Post

Ron Ben-Yishai writes: But the rules of the game are known to all players. Civilians on both sides were made to pay the price for this latest round – and the next one is unavoidable so long as no long-term cessation of hostilities is agreed upon. This calm reached through Egyptian and Qatari efforts will not last for long. Gazams have shown their destructive incendiary balloons have a steady supply of helium to make their way across the border fence when called to action once again. – Ynet

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Al-Akhbar, an Arabic newspaper in Beirut, appears to have a scoop. It’s all about Israel and the UAE and the “first fruits” of normalization. Of course, such a scoop may serve an agenda. It could embarrass Israel or the UAE. It may please Iran, Hezbollah or other bad actors. – Jerusalem Post

Emily Schrader writes: Trump’s actions have proven to these leaders that it’s not in their interest to continue this losing game of rejection, from the rejection of statehood in 1947, to campaigns of terrorism, to the rejection of multiple peace plans; it won’t benefit the Palestinians to continue along this path. It’s time to negotiate a genuine peace, or the Palestinians will be the party that suffers in the end – not because of, or at the hands of, Israelis, but at the hands of their own so-called leaders. – Jerusalem Post

Saudi Arabia

A Saudi court on Monday issued final verdicts in the killing of the dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi, months after one of his sons said he and his siblings had forgiven the men who killed him, effectively eliminating the possibility that the defendants would be executed. – New York Times

A few months before he was killed, dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi witnessed an ominous change in the kind of attention he was getting from his estranged homeland. […]Influential Saudis reviled him on Twitter as an “extremist,” a “criminal” and a “donkey,” attacks that were instantly repeated and amplified by scores of other Twitter accounts, some of them linked to Saudi officials.. – Washington Post

The verdict by a Saudi Arabian court in the murder trial of journalist Jamal Khashoggi fell short of Turkey’s expectations, the presidency’s communications director said on Monday, urging Saudi authorities to cooperate with Turkey’s investigation. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump told Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in a phone call that he welcomed the opening of Saudi airspace to flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and discussed ways to enhance regional security, a White House spokesman said. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call on Sunday that the kingdom was eager to achieve a fair and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue, which he said was the main starting point of the kingdom’s proposed Arab Peace Initiative, the state news agency reported. – Reuters


Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said it aimed a number of drones at Saudi Arabia’s Abha International Airport early on Tuesday and put it out of action for several hours. – Reuters

The Saudi-led coalition forces fighting in Yemen late on Sunday intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone fired by Iran-aligned Houthis targeting Saudi Arabia’s southern region, Saudi state news agency (SPA) said. – Reuters

The Saudi-Led coalition fighting in Yemen intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone over Yemeni airspace launched by Houthis towards the kingdom, the state news agency said on Friday. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and said Moscow wanted the conflict to be resolved through dialogue. – Reuters

Two Libyan families filed a civil lawsuit in a U.S. federal court late on Thursday accusing Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), of war crimes, human rights abuses and torture during a 2016-2017 offensive to seize a key Libyan district, a court filing showed. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates is reportedly planning on sending an official delegation to Israel on September 22, as part of the normalization between the two countries announced last month. – Reuters

Police in Tunisia chased and shot dead three suspected Islamist militants after they attacked two police officers, killing one of them, in the coastal city of Sousse on Sunday, the authorities said. – Reuters

Three Katyusha rockets fell in the vicinity of Baghdad airport on Sunday but caused no casualties, Iraqi state news agency INA said. – Reuters

Karen E. Young writes: In the next 20 years, we can expect a power vacuum to emerge across the Middle East. This will be problematic for the heavily populated economies that sit along its most important sea trade routes. What comes after the Gulf’s China fling is something American policymakers should be thinking about more seriously. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Israel is growing closer to Greece, Cyprus and the UAE as Turkey provokes in the Mediterranean. In the US an active pro-Turkey lobby tries to influence US policy, backed by Qatar which is allied to Turkey and Iran. However at the same time the US is finally complaining to Turkey about backing Hamas. The game is afoot and the tensions in the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean are now the playing field, a new Great Game for global influence as tectonic political plates push up against each other. – Jerusalem Post


A search by U.S. authorities for Chinese researchers with ties to China’s military is leading to intensifying cat-and-mouse tactics involving what prosecutors say are foiled escapes, evidence tossed into a dumpster and a chase through an airport. – Wall Street Journal

China is launching its own initiative to set global standards on data security, countering U.S. efforts to persuade like-minded countries to ringfence their networks from Chinese technology. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese authorities haven’t renewed expiring press credentials for at least five reporters working for U.S. media outlets, the latest escalation in a back-and-forth over journalist visas as relations between the U.S. and China deteriorate. – Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration is weighing a ban on some or all products made with cotton from the Xinjiang region of China, a move that could come as soon as Tuesday as the United States looks to punish Beijing over alleged human rights violations, three people familiar with the matter said. – New York Times

The Trump administration is considering adding China’s largest semiconductor manufacturer to a trade blacklist, in another sign of heightening U.S.-China technology tensions. – Washington Post

President Donald Trump said he intends to curb the U.S. economic relationship with China, contrasting himself with Joe Biden by threatening to punish any American companies that create jobs overseas and to forbid those that do business in China from winning federal contracts. – Bloomberg

China’s foreign ministry said on Monday the U.S. was “blatantly bullying” Chinese firms and urged it to stop oppressing foreign companies, in response to news of potential U.S. sanctions against Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) (0981.HK), China’s largest chipmaker. – Reuters

Ruling authorities in Beijing have a growing sense of “fundamental insecurity” about the popularity of the Chinese Communist Party, according to an assessment from President Trump’s administration. – Washington Examiner

The potential acquisition of supplement chain GNC by Chinese-owned Harbin Pharmaceuticals has sparked concerns in Congress and among allies of President Trump’s “America First” trade policy, who are calling for a national security review of the deal over claims it could grant Beijing-controlled Harbin access to U.S. military bases and service members’ sensitive information. – Washington Examiner

Walter Russell Mead writes: All of this suggests that Russia and China will continue to anger and alarm their neighbors and the world at large. And much as the bluster and bullying of Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II strengthened the encircling coalition that he feared, so China and Russia are driving much of the rest of the world into a defensive alliance. – Wall Street Journal

John Lee writes: Trump’s version of decoupling might be a ragged response to deny China the capital, market access, technology and know-how needed to achieve Beijing’s aims. It is fraught with unintended and unknown consequences. – Australian Financial Review

South Asia

Investigating claims of death or injury is key to ensuring civilians in conflict are protected in the future. But as the war in Afghanistan was becoming increasingly deadly, the decline in U.S. military investigations produced an incomplete account of the missteps that resulted in civilian harm, according to Afghan officials and former U.S. officials. The lack of information also leaves Afghan families with little recourse to appeal for compensation for their loss. – Washington Post 

Afghan negotiators have pushed back a planned trip to Doha for long-awaited peace talks with the Taliban as logistical issues are still being worked on in the Qatari capital, delaying the start of the talks, a government and a diplomatic source said on Monday. – Reuters

India and China have accused each other of firing in the air during a new confrontation on their border in the western Himalayas, in a further escalation of military tension between the nuclear-armed nations. – Reuters

China accused Indian troops of violating a bilateral agreement and firing warning shots in the air during a confrontation with Chinese personnel on the disputed border on Monday, amid renewed tensions between the two countries. – Reuters

The Indian Army has asked its Chinese counterpart if five civilians who went missing from an eastern border state days ago were in their custody, an Indian military spokesman said on Monday. – Reuters

The United States is ready to help resolve the dispute between India and China over the mountain border running through the western Himalayas, President Donald Trump said on Friday. – Reuters


Two Australian journalists have been pulled out of China following a tense diplomatic standoff that saw the pair seek refuge at Australian diplomatic missions while officials negotiated their exit. – Wall Street Journal

Crowds of protesters massed in one of Hong Kong’s densest commercial districts, challenging the postponement of legislative elections as the city is brought more firmly under the control of mainland China. – Wall Street Journal

Satellite imagery of a North Korean shipyard on Friday shows activity suggestive of preparations for a test of a medium-range submarine-launched ballistic missile, a U.S. think tank reported on Friday. – Reuters

President Milos Zeman sought on Sunday to defuse a row with China over a visit by the head of the Czech Senate to Taiwan, calling the speaker’s trip a “boyish provocation”. – Reuters

Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT) began a push on Sunday for a referendum to block the easing of restrictions on U.S. pork imports, which if passed could threaten a long-mooted free trade deal with Taipei’s key ally Washington. – Reuters

The Maldives is small, reliant on foreign lending, and strategically located, all of which raise concerns that China could seek to use economic leverage to extract political concessions. It might even try to go further, seeking access to facilities with obvious military implications such as the mooted observatory on Makunudhoo. India, as the Maldives’ most important traditional partner, has so far been successful in preventing such inroads. Continued vigilance is warranted, especially as the share of Maldivian debt held by China rises. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Germany signaled it is prepared to reconsider its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia in light of the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who was roused from an induced coma on Monday. – Wall Street Journal

Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned last month with a nerve agent similar to the Soviet-era chemical weapon Novichok, was brought out of an induced coma, and his condition has improved, German doctors said Monday. – Washington Post

British foreign minister Dominic Raab summoned the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Andrei Kelin, on Monday to express his concern at the suspected poisoning of Alexei Navalny. – Reuters

Russia scrambled eight fighter jets to intercept three U.S. B-52 strategic bombers flying over the Black Sea, Russian news agencies cited the Defence Ministry as saying on Friday. – Reuters

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Sunday violated a ceasefire with government forces, killing one soldier and wounding another soldier, the Ukrainian military said. – Reuters

Serbia’s president accused Moscow on Sunday of stooping to “primitivism and vulgarity” in an attack on him, after Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman compared him to the actor Sharon Stone in an explicit film scene. – Reuters

The Kremlin said on Friday that it wanted dialogue with Germany over the case of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and that Russian doctors who treated him initially were much more transparent than the German doctors treating him now. – Reuters

Editorial: The president should immediately dispatch Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for consultations in Europe. Pompeo should then push German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to adopt a tough response to what Russia has done. A response measured by few words and significant actions. Pompeo should call on Europe to sanction Russia’s Nord Stream II energy pipeline. A top priority of Putin’s foreign policy strategy, the demise of that pipeline would educate Putin to the reality of Western democratic resolve. – Washington Examiner

Paul Roderick Gregory writes: The Western world is not able to deal with a rogue state located in its heartland. Russian forces still occupy Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and Georgian territory; Russia still denies being involved in shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine in 2014. Russia ranks among the most dangerous countries for journalists, and any number of political assassinations remain unresolved. It seems that only the Russian people – somehow, some day – can find a solution. – The Hill

Stephen Blank writes: Therefore, terminating Nord Stream II and hitting Putin and his entourage in the pocketbook by imposing even more draconian sanctions than now exist is in not only our interests but those of our allies and the cause of international order. It does not suffice merely to recognize evil, give the malefactors another lecture and revert back to business as normal. For, as the evidence of Russian behavior shows, there is no normal or usual in business with Russia. – The Hill

George Barros writes: The Kremlin framed Poland as a leader in sponsoring Belarusian protests for the first time and Belarus claimed the ongoing protests are part of a Western-sponsored “color revolution.[…]The Kremlin may be setting information conditions to conduct hybrid operations against Poland. – Institute For The Study Of War


A Belarus opposition leader has been abducted, an opposition council said, raising fears that government authorities are stepping up efforts to crack down on the protest movement after nearly a month of rallies against the disputed election of longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko. – Wall Street Journal

Protesters on Sunday again flooded into the capital of Belarus and towns across the country, signaling the depth of popular anger at President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, an iron-fisted leader who, fortified by strong support from Russia, has shown no sign of bending. – New York Times

Mr. Trump’s appeal to the political fringe has now added a new and unpredictable element to German politics at a time when the domestic intelligence agency has identified far-right extremism and far-right terrorism as the biggest risks to German democracy. – New York Times

Julian Assange, the embattled founder of WikiLeaks, made his first appearance in a London court in months on Monday, as an evidentiary hearing began in his U.S. extradition case, a crucial moment in a prolonged legal struggle that has spanned a decade. – New York Times

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who is fighting to avoid extradition to the United States from Britain, failed on Monday in a bid to further delay hearings that resumed after a pause of months caused by the coronavirus lockdown. – Reuters

France has registered an official protest against Israel’s planned deportation of French-Palestinian terrorist Salah Hamouri, who planned to assassinate former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, along with other attacks. – Jerusalem Post

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo agreed to normalize economic relations in a meeting at the White House with President Trump on Friday, with the Muslim-majority nations also notably agreeing to closer ties with Israel. – The Hill

Greece will bolster its military with new arms, more personnel and by developing the country’s defense industry, the government said Monday, as a tense standoff with neighboring Turkey has led to concerns of open conflict between the two NATO allies. – Associated Press

The European Union warned Serbia and Kosovo on Monday that they could undermine their EU membership hopes by moving their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem, as U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement about the change left officials in Belgrade and Pristina scrambling to limit the political fallout. – Associated Press

The European Union warned the British government on Monday that any attempt to renege on commitments made ahead of its departure from the bloc earlier this year could put at risk the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland. – Associated Press

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in remarks released ahead of an address Monday that the country will exit the European Union (EU) without a deal if EU negotiators and his government cannot reach a deal for a free trade agreement before Oct. 15. – Associated Press

Three Belarusian opposition politicians, including protest leader Maria Kolesnikova, who disappeared on Monday, have passed border control at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, an official of the Belarusian border guard service said. – Reuters

Abandoning the nearly complete Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany could create a legal mess and nudge up energy costs for European households but Germany would cope with any disruption to supplies, economists say. – Reuters

The European Commission is deeply concerned with continued repressions against the opposition in Belarus as “completely unacceptable” and the 27-nation bloc will impose sanctions on the people responsible, a spokesman said on Monday. – Reuters

Britain will work to resolve outstanding disagreements with the European Union about the Northern Ireland protocol but is considering “fall back options”, a spokesperson said on Monday after a report suggested ministers were considering undermining the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. – Reuters

U.S. officials have been in close touch with officials from the European Union about an agreement by Serbia and Kosovo to normalize economic ties, Richard Grenell, a special adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, said on Friday. – Reuters

The European Union’s lack of action over Belarus is undermining the credibility of its foreign policy, Lithuanian foreign affairs minister Linas Linkevicius told the Financial Times newspaper in an interview published on Sunday. – Reuters

Editorial: Getting Turkey and Cyprus to agree on this would be a challenge for any mediator, to be sure. Greece and Merkel’s other European partners, vexed by Erdogan’s intransigence on other issues, may balk. She could remind them that access to the eastern Mediterranean’s natural gas reserves offers Europe its best alternative to energy dependence on Russia — while telling Turkey and Cyprus that Europe is the logical market for the gas and that the shortest route is through both countries. That seems like a basis for talks. If Merkel steps up, she might make the difference. – Bloomberg

Mason Clark writes: Lukashenko likely kidnapped Kolesnikova – rather than detaining her – to intimidate the opposition.[…]Lukashenko may have kidnapped Kolesnikova to send a message to Putin and disrupt Kremlin efforts to support an alternative to Lukashenko. Assuming Lukashenko was behind the abduction he might hope to regain some leverage with Putin through the threat of what he might compel Kolesnikova to say about Moscow’s role and plans in Belarus. – Institute for the Study of War

Mason Clark writes: The protests remain overwhelmingly focused on Lukashenko but are likely to increasingly focus on Russia as Kremlin involvement increases. ISW previously forecasted increasing Russian involvement in Belarus risked refocusing the protests on the Kremlin and disrupting the Kremlin’s efforts to consolidate control over Belarus. Belarusian protests showed no anti-Russian sentiment until the Kremlin overtly pressured Lukashenko to integrate Belarus under Russian structures on September 3. – Institute for the Study of War

George Barros writes: Security personnel wearing unmarked green uniforms appeared in Minsk for the first time on September 5. […]It is unclear why Belarusian OMON would have changed their uniforms and removed identifying markings. They could be setting conditions for the appearance of Russian security personnel in similar unmarked uniforms. – Institute for the Study of War


Two French soldiers were killed in Mali on Saturday when their vehicle hit a bomb during operations under France’s counterterrorism mission in the region. – Wall Street Journal

Three Somali military officers were killed and two others injured along with an American service member in a bombing in southern Somalia on Monday, the authorities said, the latest example of a deadly insurgency that has continued to wreak havoc in the Horn of Africa nation. – New York Times

West African leaders warned Mali’s military junta on Monday they must designate civilian heads of state by next week to chart a path back to democracy or the country will face further sanctions from the regional bloc. – Associated Press

Sudan’s transitional government agreed to separate religion from the state, ending 30 years of Islamic rule in the North African nation. – Bloomberg

Militants killed around 10 Malian soldiers on Thursday near the west-central town of Guire, the army said, the deadliest such attack against the armed forces since an Aug. 18 military coup. – Reuters

Latin America

Venezuelan health workers have started receiving $100 monthly payments financed by funds that the United States seized from the government of President Nicolas Maduro, opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Saturday. – Reuters

The United States on Friday blacklisted four individuals for what it said was their help for the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to prevent free and fair parliamentary elections in Venezuela in December, the Treasury said. – Reuters

Editorial: One reason to be suspicious of international aid institutions is that they too often become vehicles that serve everyone but the poor. A good example is playing out now at the Inter-American Development Bank, where a club of Latin cronies is trying to derail President Trump’s nominee to run the place. – Wall Street Journal

Francisco Toro writes: A year-and-a-half ago, after the crudely rigged reelection of Nicolás Maduro, the United States and much of the international community embarked on an audacious, high-risk gambit to try to restore democracy to Venezuela. […]Under these circumstances, ongoing sanctions make little strategic sense, yet bureaucratic inertia in Washington suggests they may stay in place for years nonetheless. One of the many ways the Guaidó challenge has backfired is in aligning the State Department closely not with Venezuela’s opposition as a whole but with just one of a number of warring factions within it, and one whose relevance is under increasing strain.- Washington Post

Javier Corrales writes: Rising authoritarianism in Venezuela has led to oil mismanagement, which in turn has led to environmental degradation. And oil mismanagement is now turning the regime even more autocratic, which in turn is leading to opposition debasement. […]The lesson is clear. Political accountability, human rights and environmental sustainability constitute a modern-day trifecta. Lose the former, and the rest disappears as well. – New York Times

United States

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is set to label white supremacists as the most serious terror threat facing the United States. – Politico

Sen. Kamala Harris, the running mate to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said foreign interference by Russia could cost the pair the 2020 election. – Washington Examiner

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and key U.S. spy agencies on Friday would not say whether they will participate in a classified briefing on election security, which the Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee has scheduled for Sept. 17. – Reuters

China has taken the most active role among countries seeking to interfere in the U.S. election and has the biggest program to influence domestic politics, U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Friday, without providing any details. – Reuters

Four years later, as reports emerge of a new wave of interference from Russia and other nations in the 2020 elections, officials are hoping to combat the threat with far more knowledge and preparation than before. – The Hill

The Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Sunday accused U.S. Attorney General William Barr of lying when he said China posed a bigger threat to November’s U.S. election than Russia. – Reuters

Eli Lake writes: For the Trump administration, the new sanctions imposed on Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko are a necessary defense of U.S. sovereignty from an illegitimate and politicized international court. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week, the court’s decision last year to reopen an investigation into allegations that U.S. military and intelligence officials tortured detainees in Afghanistan “threatens our sovereignty and poses a danger to the United States and our allies.” – Bloomberg


The firm, CLS Strategies, this week became the latest communications company to be chastised by Facebook for using fake accounts — including on Instagram, a Facebook subsidiary — to secretly manipulate politics in another country, in violation of Facebook’s prohibition on foreign interference. – Washington Post

Chinese intelligence hackers were intent on stealing coronavirus vaccine data, so they looked for what they believed would be an easy target. Instead of simply going after pharmaceutical companies, they conducted digital reconnaissance on the University of North Carolina and other schools doing cutting-edge research. – New York Times

The National Space Council issued new cybersecurity principles to help defend America’s space systems Sept. 4. According to the White House, Space Policy Directive-5, or SPD-5, will foster practices within the government and commercial space operations to protect space systems from cyberthreats. – C4ISRNET

The National Space Council issued new cybersecurity principles to help defend America’s space systems Sept. 4. According to the White House, Space Policy Directive-5, or SPD-5, will foster practices within the government and commercial space operations to protect space systems from cyberthreats. – C4ISRNET

American space systems face cyberattacks from China and other malign forces “with concerning regularity,” according to U.S. officials tasked with protecting satellites and other critical space infrastructure. – Washington Examiner


The House and Senate are expected to begin negotiations in earnest in the coming weeks on a massive defense policy bill President Trump has threatened to veto. – The Hill

The Pentagon on Friday reaffirmed its decision earlier this year to award a $10 billion cloud-computing contract to Microsoft over Amazon. The Defense Department said in a statement that it had completed a review of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure competition and determined that Microsoft’s proposal represents “the best value to the Government.” – The Hill

The U.S. Army’s tactical network modernization team is considering using satellite communications as a service capability for the next iteration of new network tools set for delivery in fiscal 2023. – C4ISRNET

Army Cyber Command’s new headquarters will allow the organization to take a sharper focus on its offensive and influence mission, its commander said Sept. 3. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. The Army’s tactical network modernization team is considering using satellite communications as a service capability for the next iteration of new network tools set for delivery in fiscal 2023. – C4ISRNET

Long War

The Justice Department on Friday charged two American citizens with ties to a far-right extremist group with trying to support the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas — a case that shows that extremists have sought to turn protests against racism into opportunities to commit violence, but that also runs counter to President Trump’s assertions that those extremists are predominantly on the far left. – New York Times

At least 37 million people have been displaced as a direct result of the wars fought by the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a new report from Brown University’s Costs of War project. That figure exceeds those displaced by conflict since 1900, the authors say, with the exception of World War II. – New York Times

A woman wanted in Italy for trying to recruit people to join the Islamic State group was arrested in Albania’s capital on Saturday, police said. – Associated Press

A Turkish court on Monday sentenced an Islamic State suspect to life in prison over the New Year’s Eve attack on a nightclub in Istanbul that left 39 people dead in 2017. – Associated Press

Another 9/11-style attack may be just around the corner if Joe Biden is elected president, warns Noor bin Ladin, the niece of Sept. 11 terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. – New York Post

Trump Administration

A former senior F.B.I. agent at the center of the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia defends the handling of the inquiries and declares President Trump a national security threat in a new memoir, while admitting that the bureau made mistakes that upended the 2016 presidential election. – New York Times

Fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok’s latest claims about the events leading to the bureau’s opening of the Trump-Russia investigation are contradicted by the timelines presented in reports by special counsel Robert Mueller and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. – Washington Examiner

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Sunday accused Attorney General William Barr of lying when he said China posed the greatest threat to U.S. elections this year. – The Hill

MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace posited that it’s still an “open question” as to whether President Trump is secretly working for Russia. – Washington Examiner