Fdd's overnight brief

April 1, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Pressure is building on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over tough decisions that could strain his coalition and threaten his grip over management of Israel’s nearly six-month-long war with Hamas in Gaza. – Wall Street Journal

A secret memorandum that expanded intelligence sharing with Israel after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack has led to growing concerns in Washington about whether the information is contributing to civilian deaths, according to people familiar with the issue. – Wall Street Journal

When President Biden declared in early March that the U.S. military would build a pier on the coast of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid by sea, a Spanish-American celebrity chef was already two steps ahead of the world’s mightiest fighting force. – Wall Street Journal

With famine-like conditions afflicting Gaza, Hasna Jibreel boils unclean water to make soup out of cactus and herbs she scavenges for evening meals that end her daily fasts from food and drink during Ramadan. – Wall Street Journal

Israel and Hamas are set to participate in a new round of cease-fire talks Sunday in Cairo, Egyptian state-run TV channel Al Qahera reported, reviving hopes for a pause in the fighting in Gaza and the release of hostages after earlier efforts stalled. – Washington Post

Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded Israel’s streets for a second straight night Sunday, calling for immediate elections and for the government to urgently negotiate the release of more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza. – Washington Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel underwent surgery on Sunday night to treat a hernia, his office said in a statement. Mr. Netanyahu’s office said early Monday that the surgery was successful, and that the prime minister was recovering and talking with his family. – New York Times

Days after Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, was one of the first Western leaders to arrive in Tel Aviv. Standing beside the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, he declared that Germany had “only one place — and it is alongside Israel.” – New York Times

Israeli forces have withdrawn from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital after a two-week operation during which they killed Palestinian gunmen in clashes and seized weaponry and intelligence documents, the military said on Monday. – Reuters

The Bank of Israel on Sunday warned of economic damage if more ultra-Orthodox Jewish men do not join the country’s military, weighing in on a contentious issue that has caused a rift in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wartime government. – Reuters

Israeli forces shot dead a 13-year-old Palestinian boy during a raid in the occupied West Bank, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Saturday, an incident which the Israeli military said was under review. – Reuters

The Islamist group Hamas accused rivals with the Palestinian Authority of sending security officers into northern Gaza under cover of securing aid trucks, the Gaza Hamas-run interior ministry said. – Reuters

The United States and Israel are expected to hold a virtual meeting on Monday to discuss the Biden administration’s alternative proposals to an Israeli military invasion of Rafah, Axios reported on Sunday citing three Israeli and U.S. officials. – Reuters

Israeli security forces arrested the sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Tel Sheva on suspicion of having ties to Hamas and engaging in incitement and support for terror, Israeli media and the Israel Police reported on Monday morning. – Jerusalem Post

Three people were seriously wounded in a suspected terror knifing at a mall in the southern Israeli city of Gan Yavne late Sunday, authorities said, as concern mounted that a relatively calm Ramadan period could give way to a fresh outburst of violence. – Times of Israel

Israel has lambasted an interim report reviewing allegations against Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as attempting to “cover up” the body’s failures and its ties to terror organizations in order to allow for it to resume receipt of global funding. – Times of Israel

A drone, apparently launched from Iraq, struck a building in Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat early Monday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said. The IDF said it had identified a “suspicious aerial target” that entered Israeli airspace “from the east” and then impacted “in the Eilat Bay area.” – Times of Israel

Editorial: Israel does not, however, have unlimited time to finish this war and all the enormous suffering that goes along with it. No one — Israeli society, Gaza’s suffering civilians, the hostages still languishing in Hamas’s tunnels — can afford a stalemate. For all his tough criticism, Mr. Biden is still a close friend of Israel and willing to take political risks to support it. Israel’s future might depend on understanding that, when someone like that offers advice, it’s wise to listen. – Washington Post

Editorial: Still, Mustafa and his cabinet have a long road ahead to prove to the US, Israel, and the rest of the world that they are serious about taking the PA in a whole new direction. They could start by publicly distancing themselves from Hamas terrorism while expressing their readiness to continue security coordination and conduct peaceful dialogue with Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Eric Mandel writes: If Hamas stands because there is no Rafah operation, then like a house of cards, the hoped-for pan-Arab and reformed Palestinian civilian authority that is supposed to govern Gaza will fall. It is unpalatable for Israel to agree to an “immediate ceasefire leading to a lasting and sustainable ceasefire,” while Hamas is mainly intact, and it dismays almost all Israelis to have the US fail to vote against that. – Jerusalem Post

Neville Teller writes: In general, analysts assess that the effect of the Gaza conflict will be to slow, rather than halt, Israel’s continuing normalization with Abraham Accord states UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia, its relations with Israel still very warm, remains in the wings, perhaps awaiting the moment just to sign up. – Jerusalem Post

Maya Carlin writes: When Israel invaded southern Lebanon in 1982 during Operation Peace for Galilee, the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon were already in place as the IAF’s top fighters. The Kfirs were left to carry out unescorted strike missiles during this conflict. The IAF’s Kfir fleet began to be relegated to retirement by the late 1990s. However, a few foreign customers, including Ecuador, Sri Lanka, and Columbia, still operate this Israeli platform. – The National Interest

Iran

Israel and Gaza. Yemen and the Red Sea. Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria. At flashpoints in conflicts spanning 1,800 miles and involving a hodgepodge of unpredictable armed actors and interests, there has been a common thread: Iran. Tehran has left its imprint with its behind-the-scenes backing of combatants around the region. – New York Times

British counterterrorism police are investigating the stabbing of an Iranian television presenter outside his home in London as concern grows over threats to a Farsi-language satellite news channel long critical of Iran’s theocratic government. – Bloomberg

The capital city of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, announced in early March that transgender people should not appear in popular sections of the metropolis. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian Opposition Leader and former political prisoner Vahid Beheshti told the Middle East Forum in Congress on Thursday that the United States should strike the Iranian regime now, before Iran acquires nuclear weapons. – Jerusalem Post

Political prisoner Shahriar Bayat, 64, imprisoned for participating in the 2022 protests, has been sentenced to public hanging by the Tehran Criminal Court on charges of “insulting the Prophet.” – Iran International

Susanna Hoffman writes: An example of strong US retaliation is the 2020 assassination of IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, which slowed proxy activity until the reported retaliatory October 7, 2023, strikes against Israel. To proportionately engage the Iranian threat to maintain stability in the Middle East, the US must act according to the regime’s religious ideas, for as Ayatollah Khomeini once said, “Anyone who will say that religion is separate from politics is a fool; he does not know Islam or politics.” – Jerusalem Post

Nina Khorrami writes: It must be noted, however, that the possibility of refitting some of the surveillance technology to serve both domestic control and potential foreign policy objectives underscores the high degree of pragmatism amongst Iranian strategists whose decade long struggle against Western sanctions has forced them to think and act innovatively. As such, to better comprehend the development and utilization of cyberspace and AI in Iran, one needs to reflect not only strategic imperatives but also the regime’s broader authoritarian agenda and the constraints it faces on the international stage. – Washington Institute

Russia & Ukraine

A self-described Russian smuggler in China received a request from the manufacturer of the legendary AK-47 rifle. Russia’s largest maker of small arms, Kalashnikov Concern, needed electrical parts for drones that have been among the most effective weapons against Ukrainian armor. – Wall Street Journal

From Vladimir Putin in Russia to the theocrats in Iran, authoritarian leaders are increasingly shutting down independent media and locking up reporters, with hundreds of journalists now in jail around the globe. – Wall Street Journal

No one thought Ukraine would get this close, this fast, to securing a free, democratic future as a member of the European Union — not even Olha Stefanishyna, the 38-year-old deputy prime minister whose job is to make that dream come true. – Washington Post

Large-scale Russian bombing Thursday night damaged at least three energy stations in Ukraine, leaving parts of the country without power as President Volodymyr Zelensky urgently appealed to the Republican leadership in Congress to approve a stalled aid package amid relentless Russian airstrikes. – Washington Post

Skyscraper-sized billboards show assault troops in battle gear emerging from a ball of flames. On street posters, soldiers urge passers-by to enlist, proclaiming that “victory is in your hands.” Take a seat on a high-speed train and chances are high that a television will be advertising jobs for drone operators. – New York Times

The men who killed Maksim Kuzminov wanted to send a message. This was obvious to investigators in Spain even before they discovered who he was. Not only did the killers shoot him six times in a parking garage in southern Spain, they ran over his body with their car. – New York Times

The mysterious “Havana syndrome” ailment that has afflicted U.S. diplomats and spies across the world may be linked to energy weapons wielded by members of a Russian military intelligence sabotage unit, the Insider media group reported. – Reuters

Ukraine’s air force shot down two out of three Russia-launched Shahed drones overnight, Ukrainian military said on Monday. The General Staff did not provide additional details on the attack in its report on Facebook. It was unclear whether the drone that was not intercepted reached its target. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree setting out the routine spring conscription campaign, calling up 150,000 citizens for statutory military service, a document posted on the Kremlin’s website showed on Sunday. – Reuters

A Moscow court on Friday ordered a Russian journalist who covered the trials of late Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and other dissidents to remain in custody pending an investigation and trial on charges of extremism. – Associated Press

Editorial: For example, it could confiscate millions of dollars in reserve funds held in Western financial institutions. It could stop telling Ukraine to halt strikes on Russian oil refineries. None of which is to say President Joe Biden is responsible for Gershkovich’s plight. Only the Kremlin’s criminal ruler is. Still, if more can be done to inflict pain on the Russian regime for its imprisonment of an innocent reporter, then Biden should do it. Kick a bully in his midriff, and he may just loosen his clawlike grip. – Washington Examiner

Evelyn N. Farkas writes: Ukraine is winning. The only factor that would change this reality would be if the U.S. and Europe stopped providing assistance. Most Europeans have realized the danger is so great, they cannot stop supporting Ukraine. Most members of Congress understand the implications for our security as well. We should not let a minority in Congress drive U.S. policy towards reckless inaction. – The Hill

Branislav L. Slantchev and Hein Goemans write: The Russian regime will, therefore, remain dissatisfied with its borders, much as it has been since 1991. It will continue to be a revisionist state bent on expanding its territory—by force if necessary. Any durable peace must thus be based on deterrence, not satisfaction with the status quo. It requires that Ukraine be strong enough, both internally and through its partnerships, to repel Russian attacks. Putin is right about one thing: Ukraine’s sovereignty exists only as far as it can be defended from Moscow’s grasp. – Foreign Affairs

Syria

Israeli airstrikes near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo killed and wounded numerous people early Friday, according to Syria’s Defense Ministry, in one of the deadliest attacks in recent years as an undeclared conflict between Israel and Iran rages alongside the war in Gaza. – Wall Street Journal

Two civilians have been injured in Israeli strikes on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday, the Syrian defence ministry said, in the second such attack on the country in a few days. – Reuters

At least seven people were killed and thirty injured on Saturday in a car blast in a busy market place in the rebel held Syrian town Azaz near the Turkish border, residents and rescuers told Reuters. – Reuters

Turkey

Turkey’s main opposition party kept control of the country’s largest cities and rose to power in others while clinching a surprise victory in local elections that represent a rebuke to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reflecting discontent with the country’s turbulent economy. – Wall Street Journal

Often clad in a flight jacket and aviator shades, he is married to one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughters and is swarmed by fans everywhere he goes. Polling data shows he is one of the country’s most popular public figures. – Wall Street Journal

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a phone call on Sunday that Ankara would back a candidate to be NATO’s new chief based on its expectations and needs, the Turkish presidency said. – Reuters

 

Lebanon

Three United Nations observers and a translator were wounded on Saturday when a shell exploded near them as they were carrying out a foot patrol in south Lebanon, the U.N. peacekeeping mission said, adding it was still investigating the origin of the blast. – Reuters

As the Lebanese Christian village of Rmeish marks its first Easter since the Gaza war erupted, residents say a parallel confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel is dragging them into a conflict they did not choose. – Reuters

The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday it had eliminated a top operative in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force in a drone strike in southern Lebanon, hours after a soldier was wounded in a rocket attack carried out by the terror group. – Times of Israel

Egypt

Egypt will receive the first tranche of an expanded loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next week, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said during a news conference on Saturday. – Reuters

The European Union intends to fast-track some of its aid money to Egypt using an urgent funding procedure that bypasses parliamentary oversight and other safeguards, according to the president of the bloc’s executive branch. – Associated Press

A delegation of Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officials will depart for hostage negotiations in Doha and Cairo in the coming days, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Saturday night. – Jerusalem Post

Arabian Peninsula

QatarEnergy (QATPE.UL) CEO Saad Al Kaabi announced on Sunday that the company has finalised a number of charter contracts with several Asian ship owners to bolster its shipping fleet by 19 LNG vessels ahead of a massive expansion in LNG output. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates has approached European nations including Britain to gauge their interest in the Middle Eastern state investing in their nuclear power infrastructure, according to three sources familiar with the talks. – Reuters

State-owned Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company (KIPIC) announced on Sunday in a post on X the departure of chief executive Waleed Al Bader who had led the company since 2021. – Reuters

Douglas Mackinnon writes: The reality is that Saudi Arabia — via the voice of the crown prince — is now one of the most influential nations on earth. Given past criticisms coupled with that current reality, it may be the perfect country to lead the forum. Assess their intentions and progress after their year in that position. – The Hill

Yemen

A cargo ship sank in the Red Sea after an attack by Houthi militants, taking about 21,000 metric tons of fertilizer down with it, posing a significant environmental risk to one of the world’s busiest waterways and the home of many coral reefs. – Washington Post

In the years before war and hunger upended daily life in Yemen, Mohammed Abdullah Yousef used to sit down after a long day of fasting during Ramadan to a rich spread of food. His family would dine on meat, falafel, beans, savory fried pastries and occasionally store-bought crème caramel. – New York Times

The U.S. military said Sunday its forces destroyed one unmanned aerial vehicle in a Houthi rebel-held area of war-ravaged Yemen and another over a crucial shipping route in the Red Sea. It was the latest development in months of tension between the Iran-backed rebels and the U.S. – Associated Press

Middle East & North Africa

A drone strike on Sunday killed a Sunni tribal leader in Kifri town in Diyala province east of Iraq, police and security officials said. The Sunni tribal leader from the Turkmen minority was killed when a drone dropped explosive near his guesthouse in central Kifri town, the sources said, asking not to be named because they are not authorised to speak to the media. – Reuters

The residence of Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah was targeted with rocket-propelled grenades on Sunday in an attack that left no casualties, a Libyan minister told Reuters. – Reuters

Violent clashes between Jordanian forces and protesters erupted in the past couple of days, including instances of stone-throwing and arson aimed at the country’s security forces. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s exports grew for a sixth consecutive month in March on strong demand overseas for semiconductors, ships and other Korean goods. Export growth for Asia’s fourth-largest economy was milder than expected but still kept up its recovery momentum. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea has no interest in dialogue with Japan, state media KCNA reported on Friday, citing foreign minister Choe Son Hui. – Reuters

Russia said on Friday that major powers needed a new approach to North Korea, accusing the United States and its allies of ratcheting up military tensions in Asia and seeking to “strangle” the reclusive state. – Reuters

China

Radio Free Asia, a U.S. government-funded news operation, closed its office in Hong Kong, an early sign of the impact that a new national security law is having on some media operations in the Asian financial center. – Wall Street Journal

An American executive who lives in China went to Shanghai Pudong airport six years ago for a routine business trip to San Francisco. When he tried to cross the border, he was told he wasn’t permitted to leave China. – Wall Street Journal

As tensions fester between China and Taiwan, one elder politician from the island democracy is getting an effusive welcome on the mainland: Ma Ying-jeou, a former president. Mr. Ma’s 11-day trip across China, which was set to begin on Monday, comes at a fraught time. – New York Times

The United States said on Friday it will impose new visa restrictions on a number of Hong Kong officials over the crackdown on rights and freedoms in the Chinese-ruled territory. – Reuters

China has criticised the tightening of U.S. rules on semiconductor exports, saying they have created more hurdles to trade and more uncertainty in the chip industry. – Reuters

Brandon J. Weichert writes: If Taiwan continues purchasing legacy systems from Western defense contractors, they will have a fabulous looking tin army that will fall quickly against a larger, better funded, and more robust Chinese invasion force. Insurgency is their only path forward. Taiwan will need systems to augment their coming guerilla war against China. – The National Interest

South Asia

Now as Mr. Modi stands set to secure another term as prime minister in elections starting on April 19, the value of India’s stock market has grown threefold since he first took office. India’s economy is almost twice as big as it was. – New York Times

Instead, a new threat is stalking the roughly one million Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar who have resettled in refugee camps in Bangladesh: a surge in deadly violence from some of their own people. – New York Times

Chinese investigators arrived in Pakistan on Friday to join a probe into the killing of five Chinese nationals in a suicide attack, Pakistan’s interior ministry said, seeking to stem assaults threatening Islamabad’s drive to modernise the economy. – Reuters

Indian opposition parties united on Sunday to protest against the arrest of a prominent leader weeks before a national election, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party of rigging the vote and harassing them with large tax demands. – Reuters

The US Ambassador to India said he was pleased with India’s progress on its investigation into an alleged plot to kill a Sikh activist last year, adding that the issue wouldn’t hamper relations between the two countries. – Bloomberg

Asia

A massive fire at an ammunition depot near Indonesia’s capital was extinguished early on Sunday and the military was sweeping nearby residential areas to collect materials that had possibly flown out during explosions, a military official said. – Reuters

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has ordered his government to strengthen its coordination on maritime security to confront “a range of serious challenges” to territorial integrity and peace, as a dispute with China escalates. – Reuters

Malaysian authorities have arrested three people suspected of supplying firearms to a 36-year-old man carrying an Israeli passport, who was detained this week at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, police said on Saturday. – Reuters

Japan and the European Union plan to start talks about cooperating on advanced materials for next-generation chips and batteries to reduce their reliance on China, the Nikkei reported on Saturday. – Reuters

Europe

Down on the European farm, revolt has stirred. The discontent, leading farmers to quit and demonstrate, threatens to do more than change how Europe produces its food. Angry farmers are blunting climate goals. – New York Times

Police in Amsterdam gave the all clear after briefly closing off the central Rokin metro station to the public on Sunday due to what they had said was a suspicious situation. – Reuters

France will deliver hundreds of old armoured vehicles and new surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine in its war against Russia, French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said on Sunday. – Reuters

Airports in Sofia and Bucharest on Sunday removed passport check points for those departing to or arriving from most European Union member states as Bulgaria and Romania partially joined the Schengen open-travel zone. – Reuters

Greek authorities have arrested a senior member of an international gang that smuggled Latin American fuel products for illegal sale around the world, raking in an estimated profit of more than $21 billion, police said on Saturday. – Reuters

Rishi Sunak said Easter is a time to “pause and reflect” while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was a time of “optimism and new beginnings”. The Easter messages issued by the party leaders come just weeks before a set of local polls on May 2 which could give an early indication of Tory and Labour prospects at the general election. – Bloomberg

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic proposed his ally and deputy prime minister as the country’s new government leader, more than three months after a general election cemented his hold on power. – Bloomberg

France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has slammed “unacceptable acts” against the Muslim community after a boar head was found near a mosque in the east of the country. – Agence France-Presse

Africa

Some of the world’s most ubiquitous consumer companies are going to unusual lengths to try to succeed in Nigeria, enticed by the jaw-dropping potential of Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation. – Wall Street Journal

A tropical cyclone that swept across the island of Madagascar this week killed at least 18 people and displaced thousands more, the country’s disaster management office said on Friday. – Reuters

Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland said on Sunday it has withdrawn from the country’s federal system and will govern itself independently until constitutional amendments passed by the central government are approved in a nationwide referendum. – Reuters

Immediate action is needed to “prevent widespread death and total collapse of livelihoods and avert a catastrophic hunger crisis in Sudan,” a United Nations-backed global authority on food security warned on Friday. – Reuters

The Indian Navy said it had freed the 23-strong crew of an Iranian fishing vessel which was seized by armed pirates off Somalia. – Reuters

Under a crystal chandelier in a hall where the first Geneva Convention was signed in the mid-19th century, representatives of two armed groups in Congo signed solemn pledges this week to both their violence-wracked country and the wider world: We will do better to respect and protect civilians. – Associated Press

Former South African President Jacob Zuma is not eligible to run in upcoming elections, the Independent Electoral Commission has ruled. – Associated Press

The Americas

Ecuadorean authorities on Saturday said they had captured a leader of a powerful gang, Los Lobos, which has been accused of involvement in the assassination of the country’s anti-corruption presidential candidate last August. – Reuters

Gunmen attacked a group of people in Ecuador ’s coastal city of Guayaquil killing nine and injuring 10 others, police said Sunday, the latest in a string of violent incidents in the South American country. – Associated Press

Two men in Haiti were hacked to death by a mob who thought they were buying ammunition or guns for gangs that have terrorized the country, police said Saturday. – Associated Press

Andreas Kluth writes: We’re also tempted to look the other way because we’re vaguely aware that we in the West, through our colonial and superpower meddling, played unsavory roles in destabilizing these places. The US, for instance, brutally occupied Haiti a century ago, and has intervened repeatedly and haplessly since. – Bloomberg

Latin America

The police and prosecutors in Peru carried out a surprise raid at the home of President Dina Boluarte and the presidential palace early Saturday as part of an “unlawful enrichment” investigation into news reports that she had been seen wearing Rolex watches since taking office. – New York Times

Argentine President Javier Milei doesn’t see his government dollarizing the economy before next year’s mid-term elections, providing the first inkling of a timeline on his most ambitious economic proposal from the campaign. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The Venezuelan leader has, like President Vladimir Putin of Russia, managed to survive sanctions, buoyed by an economy that runs on illicit flows of cash from drug trafficking, mining and smuggling. The United States needs to be smarter with sanctions and seek more cooperation from Europe and other Latin American nations to help isolate Mr. Maduro’s regime. Otherwise, Mr. Maduro will continue to destroy what was once among the wealthiest and most democratic nations in Latin America. – Washington Post

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Two analysts have independently told me that they’ve seen intelligence indicating that Russia recently sent weapons to Venezuela that could be used to hit Guyana or its allies hard if there is any attempt to defend against acts of piracy. Deterring the use of the Houthi model in the Caribbean won’t be easy. But a first step requires choking off the external sources of weaponry, which the U.S. and its allies can do if they find the political will. – Wall Street Journal

 

North America

A boat carrying Chinese migrants capsized off the coast of the Mexican southern state of Oaxaca, killing eight migrants, and Mexican authorities said over the weekend that they were investigating the incident. – Reuters

Canada has sent around 70 soldiers to Jamaica to train troops from Caribbean nations who are due to take part in a U.N.-authorized mission to Haiti, the Canadian defense ministry said on Saturday. – Reuters

Canada’s Niagara region has proactively declared a state of emergency ahead of a rare total solar eclipse on April 8 that is expected to gather massive crowds to areas in and around the region’s popular waterfalls. – Reuters

United States

The Biden administration is leaning away from reimposing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry despite President Nicolás Maduro’s moves to bar leading opposition candidates from the country’s July elections, said people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

A team of engineers over the weekend started the complicated and painstaking process of clearing the wreckage of Maryland’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed on Tuesday and shut down one of the nation’s most vital ports. – Wall Street Journal

The United States government is arranging a summit between President Joe Biden and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in July, on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Washington, Japanese media outlets reported. – Reuters

Editorial: Seth Jones, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, made the same point about the lack of U.S. capability to see in Afghanistan on the Journal Editorial Report on Fox News on Saturday. The Biden Administration doesn’t want to talk about this for obvious political reasons, especially in an election year. All the more so when the porous southern U.S. border could be an avenue for terrorist infiltration. But it doesn’t enhance U.S. safety to hide the truth. – Wall Street Journal

Cybersecurity

Japan and the U.S. will announce closer cooperation in high-tech areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) in a joint statement when Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meets with President Joe Biden next month, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said on Saturday. – Reuters

Israel has witnessed a significant upsurge in cyberattacks since Hamas’ attack on October 7, according to a 2023 report released by the Israel National Cyber Directorate. – Haaretz

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency notified lawmakers on Friday that the recent breach of its chemical plant security tool that was linked to flawed Ivanti products potentially affected more than 100,000 individuals, triggering disclosure to Congress under a federal cybersecurity law. – Cyberscoop

The Pentagon officially stood up the congressionally-mandated Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy on March 20, the Defense Department said in a statement. – The Record

Editorial: Even so, courts haven’t tended to find that companies have a duty to build products that will help their competitors — and they haven’t generally concluded that products must be open by design. For the transformation many competition advocates seek, the country would need different laws. – Washington Post

Curt Levey writes: It is not clear that Donald Trump, if elected in November, would choose an FTC chair who is markedly more friendly to the tech giants’ AI investments. After all, Trump is a vocal critic of Big Tech. What is clear is that, regardless of who heads the FTC, the Justice Department’s expertise in internet search, its jurisdiction over nonprofit entities, and its adherence to the Sherman and Clayton acts make it the best choice to oversee competition in the AI industry. – The Hill

Defense

The Biden administration’s plan to install a floating pier off the Gaza coast as part of a broad international initiative to feed starving Palestinians will endanger the U.S. service members who must build, operate and defend the structure from attack, military experts say, a risk with enormous political consequences for the president should calamity strike. – Washington Post

The National Guard’s budgetary wish list would restore the dozen fighter jets the Air Force trimmed in its original fiscal 2025 request, and allow the service to buy all of the F-15EXs it originally planned. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is evaluating additional 50-kilowatt platforms as it seeks to buy short-range air defense laser weapons, even as its initial four prototypes deploy in U.S. Central Command’s area of operations, a service official told Defense News. – Defense News

Rachel Hoff and Reed Kessler write: Alongside these efforts, the U.S. government must increase its institutional capacity to vet visa candidates, investigate cases of espionage and intellectual property theft, and aggressively prosecute offenders. The answer to those who claim that immigration reform will lead to exploitation by U.S. adversaries is to step up enforcement, not deprive the workforce of the vast majority of immigrants who would contribute in good faith. – War on the Rocks

Andrew Harding writes: If the United States fails to do this, it risks losing out to China, which is becoming increasingly aggressive in the Pacific. Already, Beijing has weaponized regional tourism, infiltrated media, and disrespected local laws in attempts to persuade Pacific Island nations to recognize China over Taiwan diplomatically. Beijing has also made progress in negotiating deals, most notably with the Solomon Islands, that bring Chinese police forces and enticing infrastructure deals to Pacific nations in dire need of both. – The National Interest

Harrison Kass writes: One of the primary defense measures that large vessels have is that they are hard to find in the vast expanses of the open ocean. The more constricted the search radius, the easier the vessel is to find. Given China’s stockpiling of intermediate and hypersonic missiles, agile surface vessels, and stealthy attack submarines, US vessels will want to avoid detection and tracking. – The National Interest

John R. Mills writes: The defense industrial base has contracted for multiple reasons, but the return on investment for investors is just not there, and it is too difficult with government work. This is especially true when dealing with the reality that new, greenfield, modern facilities are needed on a large scale. This budget submission was a significant misstep, but with a clear slogan and more realistic funding, 355 for Freedom is achievable. Alacrity is needed as 4,000 feet is not a lot of warning. – The National Interest

Long War

One month after suspected Islamist militants abducted more than 100 people in this remote area of northern Nigeria, their families are pressing local authorities for news of the missing — mostly girls and young women — and pleading with foreign governments for help with their rescue. – Washington Post

ISIS-K terrorists could cross America’s porous borders, and carry out an attack like the Moscow concert hall mass shooting that killed 143 people, a US counter-terrorism official and experts warned. – New York Post

Christopher P. Costa and Colin P. Clarke write: Of course, coming to any kind of agreement with the Taliban is a deeply complicated and controversial endeavor. Even a highly restricted relationship with the Taliban would be distasteful and fraught with ethical dilemmas, given the regime’s human rights record. But it’s been considered before. And the alternative is worse: a devastating attack directed at Americans overseas or at home. – New York Times