Fdd's overnight brief

April 1, 2021

In The News


Secretary of State Antony Blinken is discussing options with European allies to revive the Iran nuclear accord “through a series of initial and mutual steps,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Wednesday. – Bloomberg

The United States has renewed a waiver allowing Iraq to pay for electricity imported from Iran, this time giving Baghdad 120 days to reduce its energy dependence on neighboring Tehran, a State Department spokesman said on Wednesday. – Reuters

OPEC oil output has risen in March as higher supply from Iran countered reductions by other members under a pact with allies, a Reuters survey found, a headwind for its supply-limiting efforts if Tehran’s boost is sustained. – Reuters

The United States said Wednesday that it has a shared interest with Beijing in curbing Iran’s nuclear program, declining to fan the flames over a 25-year cooperation pact signed by the frequent US nemeses. – Agence France-Presse

Dan Schueftan writes: While Israel was busy with the domestic political imbroglio surrounding last week’s Knesset elections, a strategic threat that could threaten the country’s very existence was developing. If the Iranian-Chinese alliance reaches its full potential, the Middle East could once again be dragged into a new cold war between superpowers. […]This is a very important Chinese bargaining chip in the international area—one that was suspended under Trump and pulled out once again under Biden, with significant repercussions for Israel. – Arutz Sheva


A popular Palestinian militant broke with the political party that controls the Palestinian authority late Wednesday, escalating a power struggle and dimming the party’s hopes of retaining a monopoly on power in parliamentary elections. – New York Times 

Senior ministers have not held a meeting to discuss and decide on Israel’s approach to the pending International Criminal Court investigation in the three weeks since receiving the official letter from The Hague announcing the probe, a senior government source said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority targeted – and in some cases tortured – participants of the Trump-administration-led 2019 “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop in Bahrain, the United States charged in its 2020 Country Report on Human Rights. – Jerusalem Post

Zev Chafets writes: The pragmatic Dr. Abbas is unlikely to be swayed by the trial. He will meet with all comers willing to accede to his party’s demands. Abbas has repeatedly said that he is in nobody’s pocket. If things go his way, both Bibi and his rivals may well find themselves in his. – Bloomberg

Ori Wertman writes: Although some claim that Israeli democracy is in danger, the repeated elections prove that Israeli democracy is alive and kicking. I strongly believe that Israeli society — a strong society that has already proven itself in times of crisis — will figure out how to overcome the political tangle. But in order to do so, we need real leaders who will stop boycotting each other, and form a government that will work for all the citizens of Israel. – Algemeiner


Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Wednesday it was time for politicians to put aside their demands and allow the formation of a new government that can rescue the country from an unprecedented financial crisis. – Reuters

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday the country could face chaos before it can recover from a financial meltdown.Crushed under a mountain of debt and decades of graft, Lebanon has plunged into its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. – Reuters

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah stressed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in a “difficult situation and an internal crisis” after last week’s elections, comparing Netanyahu’s situation to former US president Donald Trump, in a speech on Wednesday. – Reuters

Arabian Peninsula

Nearly half of Yemen’s population, 13.5 million people, are struggling to get enough food, according to the United Nations. That number is expected to rise by nearly three million by the end of June, largely because funding shortfalls have reduced how many people aid agencies can feed. – New York Times

The State Department said Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, had “productive” meetings during his trips to Saudi Arabia and Oman as progress over the Yemeni civil war stalls. – The Hill

Alexa Santry writes: At a time when US-China animosity is at the forefront of the international stage, it would be prudent for the Kingdom to signal to the Biden administration that it has an ally in Saudi Arabia. […]As the Biden administration struggles to break the impasse over the nuclear deal with Iran, now is also an opportune time for the Saudi regime to bolster its relationship with Washington. – American Enterprise Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Forces in Zawiya in western Libya on Wednesday released more than 100 captives taken from Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) to solidify a months-long ceasefire and move towards national unity. – Reuters

Turkey’s top court returned to the state prosecutor an indictment seeking to shut the country’s leading pro-Kurdish party on separatism charges. – Bloomberg

Along Iraq’s borders, a corrupt customs-evasion cartel is diverting billions of dollars away from state coffers to line the pockets of armed groups, political parties and crooked officials. – Agence France-Presse

Ahmed Marwane writes: Today, however, Algerians are wondering what their country has accomplished in the two years since the movement. Have Algerians realized their dreams of fundamental change to the regime? […]Openness in the national dialogue will inevitably push towards the emergence of consensual alternatives to current laws and policies that stem from the will of the people and derive from the views of real, liberated elites. – Washington Institute

Ido Levy writes: The SDF cannot manage these tasks alone while still concentrating sufficiently on security. In addition, U.S. forces should continue helping the SDF establish local civil councils and develop closer relationships with communities that are under threat of IS extortion. – Washington Institute


Propaganda officials quietly celebrated in Beijing two days after a Chinese social-media post helped ignite a frenzy of outrage against Western clothing brands, according to people familiar with the matter, in what they saw as a victory in a new effort to inoculate China against criticisms from the West. – Wall Street Journal

Beijing on Wednesday rebuffed criticism from the head of the World Health Organization and foreign governments, saying China had shared coronavirus data openly and cooperated with an international probe. – Washington Post

The national security advisers for the United States and the Philippines discussed their shared concerns over Chinese activities in the South China Sea in a call on Wednesday, the White House said. – Reuters

The Biden administration raised concern about some of the policy tools China is using to spur its economy, saying they crowd out international companies and will skew markets. – Bloomberg

Canada needs to adopt a united front with its Five Eyes allies on China, according to one of Justin Trudeau’s top ministers who handled trade, foreign affairs and is now in charge of industry. – Bloomberg

Chinese officials are trying to embed the communist regime’s understanding of human rights at the United Nations and in diplomatic relations, dissidents warn, at the expense of U.S. influence and the widely accepted view of human rights espoused by American thinkers. – Washington Examiner

Republican Florida Representative Michael Waltz said during a recent interview the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uighurs is similar to past ethnic genocides committed in Rwanda, Sudan, Bosnia and Nazi Germany. – Newsweek

Hal Brands writes: This tussle in the tundra signaled that there will be no “reset” between Washington and Beijing; a period of high-tempo competition is upon us. But Cold War history shows that diplomacy can still play a critical role, if U.S. officials view negotiation as a tool of competition rather than a replacement for it. – Bloomberg

Sen. Rick Scott writes: Recently, Biden met with the leaders of Japan, Australia, and India to discuss our mutual security interests in the Asia-Pacific. Biden must work with these allies to stand up for democracy, reject appeasement of communist China, and stress that its actions in Hong Kong and Taiwan threaten our security interests and those of other democracies across the world. – Washington Examiner

Betsy Mccaughey writes: The WHO-China report dismisses a lab leak as “extremely unlikely,” calling lab accidents “rare.” That’s laughable. Our own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had several near misses. Viruses can leak out of labs on workers’ clothing or accidentally infect a worker. In 2018, US embassy personnel in Beijing alerted the State Department of safety problems at the Wuhan Institute, but China resisted international monitoring. […]The WHO-China report tells us almost nothing. But the information coming out about China’s bioweapons research is a wakeup call our political leaders should heed. – New York Post


The seven convicted include Martin Lee, an 82-year-old barrister who helped launch Hong Kong’s main opposition party in the 1990s, and Lee Cheuk-yan, 64, who backed the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and helped organize a yearly vigil for it in the city. Two others had already pleaded guilty. – Washington Post 

Attackers gunned down a policewoman on Thursday in eastern Afghanistan as she was headed to work, provincial officials said, the latest targeted killing in the war-torn country. – Associated Press

The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar warned Wednesday that the country faces the possibility of civil war “at an unprecedented scale” and urged the U.N. Security Council to consider “potentially significant action” to reverse the Feb. 1 military coup and restore democracy. – Associated Press

Opponents of Myanmar’s military government declared the country’s 2008 constitution void and put forward an interim replacement charter late Wednesday in a major political challenge to the ruling junta. – Associated Press

An armed woman shot dead at Indonesia’s national police headquarters Wednesday was an Islamic State sympathiser, authorities said, citing social media posts she made shortly before the fatal gun battle. – Agence France-Presse

Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced a court hearing Thursday, after a UN envoy warned of the risk of civil war and an imminent “bloodbath” as the junta represses pro-democracy protests. – Agence France-Presse

For Hong Kong residents wondering what sort of behavior might breach the Beijing-imposed national security law, one of the city’s top police officers says it’s the wrong question to ask. “Do not tempt the law — it’s simple,” Oscar Kwok, the Hong Kong Police Force’s deputy commissioner for management, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. – Bloomberg

Myanmar’s parliament, ousted by the military Feb. 1, plans to set up a national unity government in the first week of April, according to a statement by a parallel administration of key allies of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. – Bloomberg

Pakistan’s government will resume trade with India, in the latest sign that tensions are easing between the two nations. – Bloomberg

Philippine authorities announced on 31 March that many of the Chinese fishing vessels that have been moored for weeks near the disputed Whitsun Reef in the Spratly Islands have dispersed to other areas in the South China Sea (SCS) that are also claimed by Manila. – Janes

Fred McMahon and Michael Walker write: The people of Hong Kong deserve to have their descent into tyranny recorded. History also deserves a record of the Chinese Communist Party’s suppression of what was once the freest place on the planet. One international index has already expunged Hong Kong, but the Economic Freedom of the World Index, published by Canada’s Fraser Institute, and the Human Freedom Index, co-published by Fraser and the Cato Institute, won’t abandon Hong Kong. – Wall Street Journal

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: Creativity may matter even more. That means finding ways to support Myanmar’s extraordinarily resilient protesters and strikers, helping civil society, and keeping the population connected to the outside world. The approach should include an effort to exploit the generational gap in the military, between high-ranking older officers and web-savvy younger ones. Defections have been low-ranking so far, but an internal rift is at least imaginable. The alternative is too bleak to consider. – Bloomberg

Stephen Tankel, Lisa Curtis, Joshua Fitt, and ​Coby Goldberg write: While expanding U.S. cooperation with Quad countries, the United States cannot neglect Southeast Asia, where competition with China for influence is fiercest. Southeast Asia is at the heart of U.S. and Japanese efforts to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, and is a region where Australia has played a traditional leadership role. Competing effectively with China requires offering Southeast Asian countries a positive alternative vision to the one Beijing promotes. – Center for New American Security


Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, declared a hunger strike on Wednesday in protest over what he said was prison officials’ failure to provide him with proper medical care for severe pain in his back and his right leg. – New York Times

Russia has begun mobilizing troops along its border with Ukraine, presenting a fresh challenge at the Biden administration and threatening to upend a cease-fire between Ukraine and pro-Russian fighters. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. military’s top officer on Wednesday spoke to his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts to discuss “concerns” over a buildup of Russian forces and aggression in eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon confirmed. – The Hill

The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey passed through the Bosporus and back into the Mediterranean Sea last week, signaling more than just the end of Sea Shield 2021, U.S. commanders said. It was also a stark reminder to Moscow that the Black Sea is not just a Russian lake. – Washington Times

The Russian military is spending “hours” in airspace near Alaska when it performs flyovers in the region, the head of U.S. Northern Command said on Wednesday. – USNI News

Heather A. Conley and Colin Wall write: It is an opportune moment for Washington to press Moscow to uphold its promising language made in bilateral meetings, interviews, and strategic documents, and to take them up on their offer for “new cooperation formats” as they prepare for their upcoming Arctic Council chairmanship. […]Although these initiatives may not capture global headlines, they would strengthen much-needed cooperation across the Arctic region. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Italy expelled two Russian diplomats suspected of spying Wednesday, the latest in a spate of incidents involving suspected Russian espionage in Europe. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. will sanction nine petrochemical companies from Belarus next month unless President Alexander Lukashenko releases political prisoners and starts talks with his opponents, the State Department said Wednesday. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: Russia is moving thousands of military personnel and a great deal of equipment toward the southeastern Ukrainian border area held by Russian-allied rebels. The deployments are likely to portend a new offensive by those rebels. – Washington Examiner


An ongoing, week-long assault by Islamist militants on a northern Mozambique town that has left dozens dead and tens of thousands fleeing marks a significant escalation of the conflict that will precipitate a “humanitarian catastrophe,” analysts and aid organizations said. – Washington Post

Niger’s security forces thwarted an attempted military coup at the West African country’s presidential palace overnight just two days before the newly elected president is to be sworn into office in a peaceful transfer of power, the government said Wednesday. – Associated Press

UN experts expressed concern on Wednesday over reports of “grave human rights abuses” by Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic, where they have supported the embattled government’s military. – Agence France-Presse

Niger thwarted an “attempted coup” on Wednesday, the government said, two days before the historic inauguration of Mohamed Bazoum as president of the unstable Sahel nation. – Agence France-Presse

Suspected ADF militia fighters have killed 25 people in a new massacre in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a senior local official said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

More than 8,100 people have reached safety outside the northern Mozambican town of Palma a week after it was besieged by jihadists, the UN said Wednesday, as thousands others remained stranded. – Agence France-Presse

The Americas

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou’s arrest was valid, but her ongoing detainment is illegal, defense lawyers told a Canadian court on Wednesday, in a slight deviation from China’s official stance on the case. – Reuters

Paraguay’s 63-year-old alliance with Taiwan — forged when both were run by right-wing authoritarians — means the government can’t directly buy from China’s vaccine makers that have supplied other Latin American nations. Officials say they’ve been approached to switch to Beijing to get the doses. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken phoned President Mario Abdo Benitez to stiffen his spine against such a shift. – Bloomberg

Haiti’s government will not give in to demands to halt elections and hand over power, as doing so would only fuel the unrest that is gripping the nation, the country’s top electoral official said. – Bloomberg


Few companies have gained more from the U.S.-led campaign against China’s Huawei Technologies Co. than Ericsson AB. The Swedish business, in a tailspin a few years ago, now surpasses Huawei in selling cellular equipment in much of the world. – Wall Street Journal

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday issued a “call for action” to confront mounting cybersecurity threats to the federal government, laying out a plan to combat hacking efforts following two major foreign cyberattacks. – The Hill

The Army Cyber Institute is building a portable, tailorable platform for cities to practice responding to cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure. – C4ISRNET

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan released Wednesday calls for $180 billion in new research and development spending on emerging technologies expected to define the coming decades and drive military innovation. – C4ISRNET


The U.S. Army has awarded Microsoft a contract worth up to $21 billion for augmented reality headsets that are supposed to help soldiers map the battlefield, select targets and stay aware of possible threats by overlaying intelligence information directly onto their field of vision. – Washington Post

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is launching air missions as part of the international coalition’s anti-ISIS effort, the Navy announced on Wednesday. – USNI News

The Navy and Marine Corps will team up with the Air Force for the first time in an Alaska exercise that will serve as a testbed for emerging joint warfighting ideas in all three services, planners told reporters on Thursday. – USNI News

The U.S. Air Force will begin testing in May whether it can use one of the “flying cars” under development for the commercial market for military missions, including rescuing troops, delivering cargo and conducting security checks over an airfield. – Defense News

The U.S. Army has awarded contracts to both Bell and a Sikorsky-Boeing team to continue into a second phase of competitive development and risk reduction as the service prepares to begin its formal program to acquire a future long-range assault aircraft, or FLRAA, by 2030. – Defense News