What We’re Watching: Biden campaign hacked, Iran war games, “Secretary General” Xi
Hackers (again) target US election: Hackers affiliated with the Russian government have reportedly tried to break into the servers of a US strategy and communications firm that is advising Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign. Microsoft evidently detected the suspicious activity and informed the company, SKDKnickerbocker, before any data were compromised. Moscow denies any involvement, but the attempt is consistent with US intelligence community findings that Russian hackers (and others) have tried, are trying, and will continue to try to influence the outcome of the US election. Microsoft says the attacks are affecting hundreds of firms on both sides of the political divide. The extent to which Russian meddling can affect the final result is debatable (and almost certainly minimal, in the grand scheme of things) — but that's not really the point: From the Kremlin's perspective in particular, sowing doubt about the legitimacy of the result is at least as big a prize as actually altering it. Only 53 days until Election Day!
Iran holds naval drills amid US tensions: The Iranian military has started its annual war games near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The exercises come at a fraught time (and a horrible year) for the Islamic Republic, as tensions with the US remain high. The countries have been to the brink of war multiple times since January, when an American drone strike killed General Qassem Suleimani, leader of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in Iraq. Just days later, Tehran retaliated by launching a missile strike against a facility hosting US troops in Iraq, and then in late July the Iranians again "provoked" America by attacking a replica US aircraft carrier near the area where this week's naval drills will take place. We are watching to see if Iran "does something" again, and if so how the highly unpredictable US leader will react... in the homestretch of his reelection campaign.