Overnight Defense: US seizes Iranian fuel bound for Venezuela | Progressives cool on Biden's foreign policy | Takeaways from Israel, UAE opening diplomatic ties

Overnight Defense: US seizes Iranian fuel bound for Venezuela | Progressives cool on Biden's foreign policy | Takeaways from Israel, UAE opening diplomatic ties
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Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: The United Nations Security Council is in the midst of voting remotely on the Trump administration’s bid to extend an arms embargo on Iran, with results expected later Friday evening.

Ahead of the vote on the resolution, which is expected to fail, the Trump administration announced a new development in its pressure campaign against Iran.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Thursday night, and the Justice Department confirmed Friday, that the United States had seized petroleum from four Iranian tankers bound for Venezuela.

About 1.116 million barrels of petroleum were taken from the foreign-flagged M/T Bella, M/T Bering, M/T Pandi and M/T Luna ships in what constitutes the United States’ largest ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran, according to the Justice Department.

The seizure was carried out “with the assistance of foreign partners,” the statement added.

Connecting the dots: Earlier this week, the U.S. military called out the Iranian navy for boarding and briefly seizing a Liberian-flagged oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz.

The military’s statements didn’t elaborate on any alleged reason for Iran’s action, but Friday’s Justice Department statement alleged a connection between that incident and the U.S. seizure of the Iranian oil.

“After enforcement of the U.S. forfeiture order, Iran’s navy forcibly boarded an unrelated ship in an apparent attempt to recover the seized petroleum, but was unsuccessful,” the Justice Department said.

Pompeo on arms embargo: As noted above, the U.N. Security Council is voting on the U.S. resolution to extend the conventional weapons embargo on Iran.

If it fails as expected, the Trump administration has threatened to invoke a snapback of all sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the nuclear deal.

Speaking Friday in Vienna as he met with Austrian officials, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTreasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities Navalny released from hospital after suspected poisoning Overnight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers MORE said the United States would do everything in its power to ensure the embargo is extended and called on countries to support the U.S. resolution.

“We ask nations to urge the U.N. Security Council to renew the arms embargo on Tehran,” Pompeo said. "We can’t allow the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons. I mean, that’s just nuts.”

“The voting will be within the next handful of hours,” he added. “We hope it will be successful. When we see the results of that, we’ll make the decision about how to move forward. We have been unambiguous, however, about the fact that we have no intention of allowing this arms embargo to expire. None whatsoever.”

Putin calls for meeting: As voting was underway Friday, Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNavalny released from hospital after suspected poisoning Ex-Trump national security adviser says US leaders 'making it easy for Putin' to meddle The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting MORE called for an urgent meeting with heads of state from the five permanent members of the Security Council, as well as Germany and Iran, to discuss “steps that can prevent confrontation or a spike in tensions” at the Security Council over the arms embargo.

“We call on our partners to carefully consider this proposal. Otherwise, we could see the further escalation of tension and an increased risk of conflict. This must be avoided,” Putin said in a statement.

Asked at Friday’s White House briefing about Putin’s proposal, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE said that he “heard there's something, but I haven't been told of it yet.”

PROGRESSIVES COOL ON BIDEN FOREIGN POLICY: With the Democratic convention on the horizon next week, we took a temperature check on progressives' feelings about Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Democratic groups using Bloomberg money to launch M in Spanish language ads in Florida Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE’s defense and foreign policy.

In short, they remain somewhat pessimistic.

Though not as outwardly apparent as on domestic policy, progressives say the Biden campaign has been engaging with them on defense and foreign policy. And the left feels it has notched some wins on the 2020 draft Democratic platform.

But progressives also question how much that will translate to actual changes on troop levels in the Middle East, the defense budget and other areas of importance to them.

Read more here.

TAKEAWAYS FROM THE UAE-ISRAEL DEAL: President Trump’s announcement Thursday that Israel and the United Arab Emirates will establish formal ties is an historic diplomatic achievement.

The Hill’s Laura Kelly looked at five takeaways from the agreement, including the “Art of the Deal” president getting a pre-election foreign policy boost.

But experts are split on the impact it will have on dynamics in the Middle East, with some saying it’s a recognition of facts on the ground in an effort to counter Iran and others framing it as a reflection of short-term political goals rather than long-term strategy.

Critics, meanwhile, are seizing on the U.S. support for Israel freezing any plans to annex parts of the West Bank, undermining a significant part of Trump’s plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Read more about takeaways from the big development in Middle East diplomacy here.


Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, will participate in a webinar with the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies at 1 p.m. https://bit.ly/31PWezm


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