Fdd's overnight brief

April 1, 2019

In The News


Arab leaders on Sunday invited non-Arab Iran to work with Arab countries on the basis of good neighborly ties and without interfering in each others’ internal affairs. – Reuters

A tanker of Iranian fuel oil was sitting offshore Malaysia, ship tracking data on Refinitiv Eikon showed, as a top US sanctions official visiting Singapore on Friday urged local governments to comply with oil trading restrictions on Iran. – Reuters

Japanese refineries have put a halt on imports of Iranian oil after buying 15.3 million barrels between January and March ahead of the end of a temporary waiver on U.S. sanctions, according to industry sources and data on Refinitiv Eikon. – Voice of America

A US judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to hold nine large European banks liable for allegedly providing banking services to Iran that enabled militants to conduct 55 attacks against US armed forces in neighboring Iraq. – Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that part of Washington’s overall strategy in the Middle East is aimed at expelling Iran and its forces and militias from Syria. – Al Arabiya

Bret Stephens writes: The Trump administration has succeeded in dramatically raising the costs to Iran for its sinister behavior, at no cost to the United States or our allies. That’s the definition of a foreign-policy achievement. It’s time to move the needle up again. The longer Hezbollah fighters go unpaid, or the Assad regime unaided, the better off the people of the Middle East will be. – New York Times

Michael Rubin writes: Shiism itself—rather than political reformism—has always been the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Achilles’ heel. Khamenei may claim the ultimate political and religious authority, but he lacks the education, reputation, and respect that Sistani has earned through decades of scholarship and teaching. That Rouhani and the regime he serves have tried to twist Sistani’s subtle statements into an endorsement of Iran and condemnation of the United States only undercuts the Iranian regime’s legitimacy further in the eyes of ordinary Shiites. – The National Interest

Farzin Nadimi writes: Over the past few months, Iran has limited its ballistic missile tests to a pair of unsuccessful satellite launch attempts. Yet the escalation and nuances evident in recent IRGC rhetoric indicate that such activity might soon ramp up. For example, the IRGC could use the latest brawl with Europe to galvanize domestic support for developing longer-range missiles, as part of what military leaders call “changing the deterrence calculus” (a theme that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself spoke of more generally during his recent Nowruz address). – Washington Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In the Middle East, Iran is in a regional struggle with the United States, which it believes is becoming increasingly isolated in international affairs. It seeks to use the opportunity, after the defeat of ISIS, to leverage its allies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq to pressure the United States in each country. This was on display in mid-March when Iran’s president paid a historic three-day visit to Iraq. – The Hill

Muhammad Shehada writes: Iran is doubling down on its explosive investment in Gaza: Islamic Jihad. An impoverished Hamas faces a militant, rejectionist and increasingly untamable rival, flush with cash and determined to trigger war with Israel. – Ha’aretz

Doron Itzchakov writes: It is widely believed that the timing of Rouhani’s visit was directly related to the economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the Islamic Republic. This claim is essentially correct but insufficient, in that it does not address the broader range of Iranian interests that served as a catalyst for the visit. Obviously, the economic strangulation and the exit of international companies from the Iranian economic realm forced Iranian policy makers to expand an economic corridor and develop free trade zones with its neighbor to the west. – Algemeiner

Islamic State

For years, the fate of Abu Hamza al-Britani, as he was known, was unclear. The militant, now 26, ended up alive and held in a prison in northern Syria after surrendering to Kurdish-led forces outside the group’s final stronghold in Baghouz earlier this month. His previous posts on Twitter, Instagram and Ask.fm in the early days of the caliphate revealed a duality not often seen in the social media traffic from the Islamic State. – Washington Post

She left the Netherlands to join the Islamic State in Syria, and married a fighter here. He was killed, so she married another, who got her pregnant before he was killed, too. Then this month, as the Islamic State collapsed, she surrendered with her son to United States-backed forces and landed in the sprawling Al Hol tent camp, which has swollen to the breaking point with the human remnants of the so-called caliphate. – New York Times

The last ISIS fighters have been routed in Baghouz, the town they once held on the Euphrates that was liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces in late March with support from the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Having lost its geographical foothold, the Islamic State is in some ways more dangerous than before: Free from governing responsibility, it can focus on more traditional insurgency and terrorism. The group has both the means and the manpower for these tasks; it has already stepped up suicide attacks in Iraq. – Bloomberg

Bobby Ghosh writes: Long before the last redoubt of the Islamic State collapsed in the Syrian town of Baghouz last month, the group was regressing to a conventional militant-jihadi organization, employing hit-and-run tactics and suicide bombings to sow terror. No longer a “state” of any kind, it is now merely one of many terrorist organizations operating from secret, constantly changing hideouts. – Bloomberg

Kathy Gilsinian writes: As the last shred of Islamic State territory in Syria fell to Kurdish-backed forces this month, thousands of people, including fighters, fled the enclave or surrendered. Yet when the exodus was over and the “caliphate” was extinguished, a mystery lingered: Where was the “caliph”? – The Atlantic


Now that the Islamic State has been driven from its last sliver of territory in Syria, hundreds of American troops — not just their equipment — are leaving the war zone, just as President Trump ordered in December. But in the latest twist to the on-again, off-again American withdrawal, the Pentagon plans to cut its combat force in northeastern Syria roughly in half by early May, or to about 1,000 troops, and then pause, American officials said on Friday. – New York Times

Too poor to even buy pens and notebooks for school, Mehdi left his home in Afghanistan soon after his 17th birthday and headed to Iran, hoping to make his way to Europe and find work. Instead, Mehdi ended up fighting in Syria’s civil war, a conflict he had nothing to do with, 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from home. He was one of tens of thousands of Afghans recruited, paid and trained by Iran to fight in support of Tehran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad. – Associated Press

A Turkish soldier was killed in a mortar attack on Sunday near the northern Syrian town of Afrin, the Turkish ministry of defense said, blaming the attack on “terrorists” and responding with a barrage of shelling. The ministry said another soldier was wounded in the attack, and that Turkish forces had struck back against “terrorist targets.” – Associated Press

Australia’s prime minister said on Monday he won’t put officials in danger by retrieving three orphaned Australian children of a convicted terrorist who have reportedly been found in a Syrian refugee camp. – Associated Press

Daniel Gerlach writes: The international coalition against the so called Islamic State and the coalition’s on-the-ground allies—the Syrian Democratic Forces—have declared victory after the last stronghold of the jihadist organisation fell. However, celebrations of victory over this joint enemy will not last long. Soon, with spring arriving and the ability for tank tracks to find better grips, the international community is likely to see escalation on another, far more complex battlefield—Idlib province, with both approximately 3 million, largely displaced inhabitants and some of the country’s most hardened insurgent groups. – Washington Institute


Erdogan, speaking to reporters on Sunday night, said his Justice and Development Party and an allied party had captured the majority of votes in the nationwide contest — a continuation, he said, of his party’s electoral dominance since 2002. At the same time, he appeared to acknowledge the symbolic weight of the losses in Ankara and other cities. – Washington Post

Sunday’s vote for local offices throughout the country, the Trump administration hopes, will be followed by a period of domestic calm that will allow progress in resolving major bilateral conflicts that have been stalled for months. – Washington Post

The party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared set to lose political control of the capital and several other big cities in Sunday’s local elections, a rare electoral setback in the Turkish leader’s 16-year rule that capped months of growing economic malaise. – Wall Street Journal

Recep Tayyip Erdogan strived for a reassuring tone when he addressed supporters from the balcony of his ruling party headquarters in the early hours of Monday morning. But behind the upbeat veneer, the Turkish president was well aware that he had suffered one of the most difficult election results of his 16 years in charge. – Financial Times

Bulent Aliriza writes: Although the results on March 31 will have no impact on government at the national level, which he will continue to micromanage irrespective of the identity of those who will be leading municipalities across the country, Erdogan has been focusing on the elections as if he was on the ballot himself. By characterizing them as nothing less than “existential,” Erdogan has effectively transformed the elections into a personal referendum. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested at the fence separating the Gaza Strip and Israel to mark the first anniversary of weekly demonstrations fueled by discontent over Gaza’s dire economic and humanitarian situation. At least four people were killed, Gaza’s health ministry said Saturday. – Wall Street Journal

Israeli forces used tear gas and live ammunition Saturday to repel tens of thousands of protesters gathered along the Gaza border to mark the anniversary of demonstrations aimed at easing Israel’s blockade, but the day’s violence was muted compared to that of a year earlier. Gaza’s Health Ministry reported four deaths from gunfire: a 21-year-old man and three 17-year-old boys. About 316 people were injured, including 64 by live ammunition, it said. – Washington Post

An Israeli watchdog group has found a network of hundreds of social media accounts, many of them fake, used to smear opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in next week’s election and to amplify the messages of his Likud party, according to a report to be released Monday. – New York Times

A cease-fire deal appeared to take hold between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Sunday, with Israel expanding the permitted fishing zone and easing some tight restrictions on movement through its two main crossings with the Palestinian enclave. – Associated Press

Over the weekend, Gaza’s Hamas rulers marked a year of bloody, weekly protests that have failed to break the Israeli blockade. Rocket attacks brought a wave of Israeli airstrikes and unprecedented protests broke out against the Islamic militants’ increasingly unpopular rule. And yet Hamas’ control over Gaza is tighter than ever. – Associated Press

Brazil opened a new trade mission to Israel in Jerusalem on Sunday, edging back from earlier signals it would follow the United States with a full embassy move to the contested city. – Reuters

The Arab League rejected the U.S. recognition of Israeli control over the Golan Heights and other Trump administration policies seen as unfairly biased toward Israel at an annual summit on Sunday, showcasing unity on one of the few issues that unites the regional bloc. – Associated Press

Arab leaders said on Sunday they would seek a U.N. Security Council resolution against the U.S. decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and promised to support Palestinians in their bid for statehood. – Reuters

The Israeli military announced the end of the practical deployment of the American THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system to Israel on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Israel reopened its commercial crossing with the Gaza Strip on Sunday, a day after a smaller-than-expected Palestinian protest along the volatile frontier. –  Reuters

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Arab leaders on Sunday that the United States will tell Israel to annex part of the West Bank. Abbas made the comment less than a week after US President Donald Trump formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but did not say when he expected the US to advise Israel to make the move. – Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas spoke Sunday at the summit of the Arab League in Tunisia and attacked Israel and the United States. “Israel is not satisfied with the theft of land and resources, but also cut our tax money on the pretext that we are paying it to shaheeds and prisoners,” Abbas said, in a reference to the Israeli Cabinet’s decision to implement the policy to offset the PA’s payments to terrorists. – Arutz Sheva

Dennis Ross and David Makovsky write: As such, a Netanyahu-led government with a very slim majority will spell trouble for a Trump peace plan, even in Israel. Ironically, the administration, which gave Netanyahu a political boost with the Golan declaration, seems to have been acting on an assumption: that Netanyahu would win, form a broad-based government and, thus, be able to say “yes” to their plan. If Netanyahu were not facing the prospect of indictment, that might well have been the most likely outcome of the election. – Washington Post

Middle East & North Africa

Pope Francis, putting President Trump on notice, warned on Sunday that those who close borders “will become prisoners of the walls that they build.” The remarks came as the pope was returning from a visit to Morocco, where he worked to further his priorities of supporting migrants and establishing closer relations between the Roman Catholic Church and moderate Islam.  – New York Times

Iraq’s president said Friday he does not see any “serious” opposition to the presence of American forces in Iraq, provided they continue to be there specifically to assist Iraqi forces in the fight against the Islamic State group. Barham Salih said there is “general consensus” that Iraq needs continued collaboration with the forces, which he said can go on “as long as it is necessary.” He also warned that the threat from IS extremists is far from over, despite the announcement of the group’s territorial defeat in Syria last week. – Associated Press

President Donald Trump says a Navy SEAL accused of fatally stabbing an Iraqi war prisoner “will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court.” In his Saturday morning tweet, Trump says Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher will be moved in “honor of his past service to our Country.” – Associated Press

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria is preparing to announce his resignation, a privately owned Algerian TV network said on Sunday, following weeks of mass protests and the army chief of staff’s call to have the president declared unfit for office. Citing unnamed political sources, the network, Ennahar TV, reported that Mr. Bouteflika might announce his resignation on Tuesday, according to Reuters. – Associated Press

The United States can both reduce its Middle Eastern footprint and secure its vital regional interests. This requires a triangular strategy to mitigate what ails the region — Sunni extremism and Iranian expansionism — while amplifying the region’s strengths: capable and increasingly cooperative U.S. partners, as well as emerging economic opportunities. – Breaking Defense

Israeli speakers are scheduled to attend a conference in Bahrain for the first time next month, reflecting warming relations between the Jewish state and Gulf Arab governments with which it has no diplomatic ties. – Bloomberg

Rachel Donadio writes: The question now is whether Algeria will undergo a genuine transition of power, Bouteflika and his minions will maintain their grip, or Islamist political factions will strengthen their authority in a country where secularism is strong. – The Atlantic

Korean Peninsula

North Korea called a late February intrusion of its Spanish embassy a “grave terrorist attack” and an “act of extortion,” marking Pyongyang’s first public remarks about a puzzling raid by secretive dissidents hoping to topple the regime of Kim Jong Un. – Wall Street Journal

A Vietnamese woman accused of assassinating the half-brother of North Korea’s leader pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of causing hurt with a dangerous weapon and could be released as soon as next month, according to her lawyer. – Wall Street Journal

South Korea’s military began searching for Korean War remains at the heavily armed inter-Korean border on Monday after North Korea ignored its calls to carry out a previously planned joint search. – Associated Press

South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged Kim Jong Un to heed calls to return to the negotiating table after talks broke down between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump. – Bloomberg

The February raid on the North Korean embassy in Madrid — and a Spanish court report on the raid released this week — shed light on a shadowy world of freelance activists working to bring down the North Korean regime, and on their possible ties with foreign intelligence agencies. – Financial Times


At the heart of President Trump’s negotiations with China is a troubling contradiction: The United States wants to use the trade talks to encourage the country to adopt a more market-oriented economy. But a key element of a prospective deal may end up reinforcing the economic power of the Chinese state. – New York Times

For decades, Italy felt the brunt of the Chinese economic juggernaut that the United States argues poses a threat to the financial and political future of the West. China’s government-backed manufacturers, operating on a much larger scale with much cheaper costs, devoured small Italian companies producing machinery, textiles and pharmaceuticals. Chinese knockoffs infuriated its high-fashion brands. – New York Times

Business and human rights groups are expressing concern over proposed changes to Hong Kong’s extradition law that would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China, where they could be subject to torture and unfair prosecution. – Associated Press

Editorial: Larry Kudlow, who should know better, defended a deeply flawed corporate-welfare agency Thursday. Kudlow, President Trump’s chief economic adviser, delivered the keynote speech at the annual conference of the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that subsidizes U.S. exports by extending taxpayer-backed financing for foreign buyers. The agency has been hobbled since 2015 because conservative senators have blocked appointees to Ex-Im’s board. Kudlow said the White House needs a fully functioning Ex-Im Bank for economic and national-security purposes. – Washington Examiner

Benedict Rogers writes: Mrs. Li describes her husband as “a prisoner of conscience who is suffering in prison only because he showed concern for the families of victims of political oppression, and only because he upheld the universal value of freedom.” He is far from the only one. Increasingly China is locking up not only its own dissidents, but also those from outside. – Wall Street Journal


The Taliban ambushed a convoy escorting the vice president of Afghanistan, killing at least one of his bodyguards, Afghan officials said Sunday. The vice president, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, survived. General Dostum, the leader of the Uzbek ethnic minority in Afghanistan and a bitter foe of the Taliban, had just returned to Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province in northern Afghanistan, after a personal trip to Uzbekistan. – New York Times

The longtime motto of the American-led mission in Afghanistan that it stands “shona ba shona,” or shoulder to shoulder, with its Afghan ally no longer applies to that ally’s national security adviser. American officials in Afghanistan have repeatedly walked out of or refused to attend meetings with the Afghan president’s most senior war adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, over controversial remarks he made on a visit to the United States this month, senior officials and diplomats in Kabul confirmed. – New York Times

Mehdi and other soldiers-for-hire from Afghanistan’s impoverished Shiite Muslim communities are returning home, where they are met with suspicion. Afghan security officials believe Iran is still organizing them, this time as a secret army to spread Tehran’s influence amid Afghanistan’s unending conflicts. – Associated Press

An Afghan official says the Taliban stormed two checkpoints in northern Sari Pul province, killing at least five members of the security forces and setting of an hours-long gunbattle. – Associated Press

“Hubris and mendacity” characterize the U.S. approach to rebuilding Afghanistan, according to the federal watchdog monitoring the $132 billion of taxpayers’ money allotted for reconstruction in the war-torn country since 2002. – Washington Examiner

With the prospect of some sort of peace agreement that could end the war in Afghanistan, now in its 18th year, the Pentagon’s independent watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction is warning that with peace comes serious risks. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

Matthew Clayfield writes: The essentially violent nature of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, has now been laid bare by events. Countless Kashmiris in other parts of India spent most of late February avoiding lynch mobs—many of them helped by activists like Shehla Rashid, who you will hear from later in this series. Many gruesome scenes that recalled the 2002 Gujarat riots, which left countless people, mostly Muslims, dead. – The Daily Beast

Snigdha Poonam and Samarth Bansal write: India is facing information wars of an unprecedented nature and scale. Indians are bombarded with fake news and divisive propaganda on a near-constant basis from a wide range of sources, from television news to global platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. But unlike in the United States, where the focus has been on foreign-backed misinformation campaigns shaping elections and public discourse, the fake news circulating here isn’t manufactured abroad. – The Atlantic

Harry I. Hannah writes: India in particular may be able to exploit the differing perspectives to position itself between the United States and China to maximize its strategic autonomy. New Delhi may seek to triangulate between the two competing hegemons, actively courting them to extract maximum benefit, and bolster its global influence in the process. Indeed, in some ways this strategy is already being employed. This reflects continuity with long-established Indian “non-alignment” preferences, but it will likely slow the burgeoning U.S.-India strategic relationship and frustrate any emerging détente between New Delhi and Beijing. – War on the Rocks


Taiwan has accused China of “reckless and provocative” action, after two Chinese air force jets crossed a maritime border separating the island from the mainland. – CNN

Weeks before a gunman killed 50 Muslims in Christchurch, a man had threatened to burn copies of the Koran outside New Zealand mosques, in what community leaders said was the latest in a long list of threatening behavior against religious minorities. – Reuters

Philippine police said Sunday that 14 suspected communist rebels were killed after they opened fire during raids in a central province, but rights groups countered that the men were farmers and the latest victims of extrajudicial killings. – Associated Press

China and New Zealand signed agreements on eliminating double taxation and tax avoidance as the two countries look to shore up relations following a series of incidents that cast doubt on the strength of their economic partnership. – Bloomberg

More than 200 Chinese ships have been spotted near the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the South China Sea since the start of the year, triggering a diplomatic protest from the Philippines. – Bloomberg


The target lived on the sixth floor of a cheerless, salmon-colored building on Vidinska Street, across from a thicket of weeping willows. Oleg Smorodinov found him there, rented a small apartment on the ground floor, and waited. He had gotten the name from his two handlers in Moscow. They met at the Vienna Cafe, a few blocks from the headquarters of Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, and handed him a list of six people in Ukraine. Find them, they told Mr. Smorodinov, and he set off. He was already boasting to friends that he was a spy. – New York Times

Andrei Soldaov writes: In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law making it a crime to publish “fake news” or “disrespect of the authorities” on social media. Another proposed bill on “digital sovereignty” aims to provide the Kremlin with the ability to cut off Russia, or a particular Russian region, from the global Internet. The two bills deal with different things—content and infrastructure—but they both have the same goal, one that Putin has wanted to achieve for two decades: depriving the people of the means to start a revolution. – Foreign Affairs

Anna Nemtsova writes: The business of legalistic “hostage taking” is not limited to rivalries between the Russian and American intelligence services, it’s also a game played internally among the clans at the core of the Putin regime, Gudkov suggested. This week’s top headlines and front pages in Russia have been devoted to the arrests of former Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Abyzov and the ex governor of the far eastern Khabarovsk region, Viktor Ishayev. Both are accused of embezzling state funds. – The Daily Beast


A comedian who plays the president on TV came out ahead in the first round of the Ukrainian presidential election on Sunday, according to exit polls, a sign of widespread discontent with the political establishment in one of Europe’s biggest countries. – Washington Post

Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said he is running for the European Parliament in May’s election because he wants to fight for a more united European Union faithful to the vision of the bloc’s founders. – Associated Press

Britain’s justice secretary has signaled the government might take a more conciliatory approach to Brexit as Parliament prepares for another round of votes on alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal deal with the European Union. – Associated Press

French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed three new government members, including the minister who will be in charge of handling Brexit-related issues. – Associated Press

Desmond Lachman writes: It used to be said of the U.S. economy that when it sneezed the rest of the world contracted pneumonia. Today, the same might be said of Germany, the eurozone’s largest and most dynamic economy, with respect to the rest of Europe. – The Hill

Aisha Down writes: Civil society and international media hailed the verdict as a historic moment of recognition for victims of Karadzic’s crimes. But many in Bosnia say that that recognition is shallow, at best. Serbian and Bosnian Serb politician still deny that genocide took place during the war. And meanwhile the centuries-old narrative behind Serbian nationalism has spread far past the Balkans, driving people like the terrorist who murdered 50 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, to carry out their bloody rampages in the name of white nationalist supremacy. – The Daily Beast


Russia has been steadily expanding its military influence across Africa, alarming Western officials with increasing arms sales, security agreements and training programs for unstable countries or autocratic leaders. In the Central African Republic, where a Russian has been installed as the president’s national security adviser, the government is selling mining rights for gold and diamonds at a fraction of their worth to hire trainers and buy arms from Moscow. – New York Times

When a Nigerian presidential candidate landed in the United States in January after years of being subject to a visa ban because of corruption allegations, he had a team of Western consultants and lobbyists to thank for the warm American welcome. One of those who helped was Riva Levinson, who was mentored in the art of political consulting by Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Trump’s presidential campaign, sentenced this month to more than seven years in prison for a host of crimes. – New York Times

Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic extremist group says it has executed four men accused of spying for the British, Djibouti and Somali intelligence agencies. – Associated Press

The Americas

Senior administration officials sought to defend President Trump’s proposal to cut foreign aid to three Central American countries he says are complicit in the flow of illegal migrants toward the U.S., following a wave of criticism that the move was counterproductive. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump’s plan to cut off aid to three Central American countries for failing to stop the flow of migrants toward the United States breaks with years of conventional wisdom in Washington that the best way to halt migration is to attack its root causes. – New York Times

A record-high number of companies that offer border security-related services and products descended on southern Texas this week in hopes of appealing to Homeland Security and Defense officials in town for the Border Security Expo. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: Immigration politics is so polarized that right and left have a veto over any constructive policy. Yet a genuine crisis is building at the southern border as the perverse incentives of U.S. asylum law invite a surge of migrants that is overwhelming border security. – Wall Street Journal

Daniel Gordis writes: One thing the right and the left have in common is that they have both contributed to a growing discomfort among U.S. Jews, who nevertheless mostly believe that this wave will pass. What can’t be denied, though, is that the worry that was so evident at the AIPAC conference is not one that most Jews thought they would encounter in 21st-century America. – Bloomberg


After two Russian military planes landed near Caracas this month, the Trump administration issued stark warnings over President Nicolás Maduro’s ties to the Kremlin. But a vessel that arrived in the waters off Venezuela’s Caribbean coast a day earlier offered a more telling sign of a deepening relationship that is so alarming to Washington. – Washington Post

The Red Cross said Friday it had received permission from Venezuela’s government and opposition to roll out one of the organization’s biggest global relief campaigns, signaling a possible easing in the dire humanitarian emergency gripping the country. The announcement amounted to the first tacit acknowledgment by the government of Nicolás Maduro that Venezuelans are suffering from lack of food and other basics. – New York Times

Angry Venezuelans set up burning barricades near the presidential palace in Caracas and in other parts of the country on Sunday in protests over constant power outages and shortages of drinking water in the wake of two major blackouts this month. – Reuters

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday announced a 30-day plan to ration electricity following nationwide power cuts that have inflicted misery on millions of people and ignited protests, including one near the presidential palace in Caracas. – Associated Press

Russian military forces deployed to Venezuela pose a “direct threat” to the United States and other Western Hemisphere nations, one of President Trump’s top advisers warned Friday. – Washington Examiner

The Trump administration on Friday condemned Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro for what it said was his reliance on foreign military personnel to stay in power and renewed a warning to Russia against getting involved. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton along with the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said Russia’s military presence in the country is destabilizing amid the country’s political and economic crisis. – Military Times

Editorial: Vladimir Putin has made a career of intervening abroad and seeing if the world lets him get away with it. He did this in Georgia when George W. Bush was President, then in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria in Barack Obama’s Presidency. Now he’s doing the same on Donald Trump’s watch—this time in America’s backyard in Venezuela. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: It was an unfortunate week for Prince Charles to visit Cuba. Given how Cuban intelligence forces prop up the Maduro regime in Venezuela, pictures of Britain’s heir to the throne driving a sporty vintage car through Havana reflected poorly on the UK. It was also a sad reminder of how Venezuela’s desperate situation risks being ignored, forgotten or diminished by much of the world. – Financial Times

David E. Sanger writes: The administration so far has been quite cautious when it comes to threatening military action in Venezuela. While there have been ritual reminders that “all options are on the table,’’ there is no indication that any military intervention — which has a long and unhappy history in Latin America — is being seriously contemplated. Instead, the administration is beginning to talk about a long battle of attrition. – New York Times


What if live-streaming required a government permit, and videos could only be broadcast online after a seven-second delay? What if Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were treated like traditional publishers, expected to vet every post, comment and image before they reached the public? Or like Boeing or Toyota, held responsible for the safety of their products and the harm they cause? – New York Times

Facebook has faced months of scrutiny for a litany of ills, from spreading misinformation to not properly protecting its users’ data to allowing foreign meddling in elections. Many at the Silicon Valley company now expect lawmakers and regulators to act to contain it — so the social network is trying to set its own terms for what any regulations should look like. – New York Times

The FBI has launched its biggest transformation since the 2001 terror attacks to retrain and refocus special agents to combat cyber criminals, whose threats to lives, property and critical infrastructure have outstripped U.S. efforts to thwart them. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators haggled over how to get Beijing to walk back China’s tough cybersecurity law as both sides push to resolve deep-seated irritants and settle a yearlong tariff fight. – Wall Street Journal

Facebook on Friday said it is tightening live video streaming rules in response to the service being used to broadcast deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand. The Christchurch attacks — carried out by a self-avowed white supremacist who opened fire on worshippers at two mosques — claimed 50 lives. – Agence France-Presse

After Chinese hackers infiltrated a Navy subcontractor’s computer network and stole a trove of highly sensitive data on submarine warfare, it spurred the government to revise the standards that contractors must follow to ensure government data is properly protected data. What the hackers took was “the equivalent of the stealth technology for the Air Force,” said Ron Ross, a fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology who focuses on computer security. – Fifth Domain

Chinese telecommunications companies could help the country’s spy services blackmail leaders of crucial European allies, a bipartisan group of senators on the Foreign Relations Committee is warning. – Washington Examiner

James Andrew Lewis writes: Now that the United Kingdom’s report on Huawei is out, concluding that there is no way to manage the risk of using Huawei equipment, it is time for the U.S. to take the next step. You may think with all the recent clamor that the U.S. position is clear, but foreign partners say it is not. An executive order (EO) on the security of telecom network supply chains and the use of suspect foreign technology would remedy this. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The demise of the only U.S.-Russia arms control pact limiting deployed nuclear weapons would make it harder for each to gauge the other’s intentions, giving both incentives to expand their arsenals, according to a study to be released on Monday. – Reuters

For months, many in Washington have been scratching their heads over the Air Force’s fiscal 2020 budget submission requesting fourth-generation F-15s — a design first flown in 1972. Ever since F-117 stealth fighters amazed the world in Operation Desert Storm, the service committed to fifth-generation fighter modernization via the F-22 and F-35. Their stealth designs and information gathering capabilities reset the rules of the air superiority mission for friend and foe alike. – Defense News

The Army issued a request for proposals to competitively build next-generation combat vehicle prototypes March 29. The RFP opens up competition for industry to provide Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle prototype designs. From that pool, the Army will choose — in the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 — up to two teams to build 14 prototypes. – Defense News

As the Air Force prepares to start the second phase of its launch services competition, it is looking increasingly unlikely that it will heed Blue Origin’s call to delay the contract award, currently slated to occur in early 2020. – Defense News

Two Marine pilots are dead after a Saturday crash of an AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter near Yuma, Ariz., the service announced on Sunday. – USNI News

US commanders facing off against growing Chinese and Russian fleets want more submarines in the water, and they want them now. That will be a major challenge as the Navy struggles to keep its subs in service and out of extended repair availabilities. – Breaking Defense

Former U.S. Army Europe commander and retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges accused President Trump of kicking NATO allies “in the ass publicly.” “It’s just so unhelpful when he’s kicking the most important allies in the ass publicly and doing things that are not helpful,” Hodges said in an interview Thursday with the nonprofit Public Radio International. – Washington Examiner

Rick Berger writes: Amid the hullabaloo over the creation of a Space Force, a quieter but arguably more important fight is playing out for the future of military space launch. Just as innovation is revolutionizing space launch, the Air Force’s current space procurement will decrease the power of competition. This approach ignores an opportunity to continue driving launch costs down and might result in a space launch industrial base ill-suited to the long-term demands of great-power competition. – Real Clear Defense

Thomas Karako and Wes Rumbaugh write: The Missile Defense Review nominally widens the scope of missile defense policy from a focus on ballistic missiles to countering the full spectrum of missile threats. Yet these new policy and budget proposals remain remarkably consistent with the program of record that preexisted the National Defense Strategy. Apart from steps within the services for incremental improvements to air defenses and some studies on countering hypersonic glide vehicles, the focus remains on the limited ballistic missile threats posed by otherwise weak rogue regimes. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Trump Administration

The completion of Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election has left fewer Americans with doubts about Donald Trump’s presidency, even though a significant share say it hasn’t cleared the president of wrongdoing, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. – Wall Street Journal

The Justice Department expects to release a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference by mid-April, the attorney general told Congress, in the face of continued pressure from Democrats demanding to see the full document. – Wall Street Journal

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney claimed Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller intended for Attorney General William Barr to determine whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice in the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference. –  Politico