Fdd's overnight brief

April 12, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran said saboteurs caused a blackout at the country’s main nuclear-enrichment plant, accusing the alleged culprits of attempting to derail informal talks with the U.S. on reviving a 2015 nuclear accord that could pave the way for rolling back sanctions on the Islamic Republic. – Wall Street Journal

A power failure that appeared to have been caused by a deliberately planned explosion struck Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site on Sunday, in what Iranian officials called an act of sabotage that they suggested had been carried out by Israel. – New York Times

The Biden administration has opened the door to lifting Trump-imposed sanctions against Iran that are “inconsistent” with the 2015 nuclear deal, and also those that prevent Iran from accessing broader economic benefits under the agreement, according to a senior State Department official. – Washington Post

Senior diplomats involved in the talks agreed on Friday that initial steps in two working groups designed to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the accord were positive and would continue next week. – New York Times

Iran blames regional arch-foe Israel for Sunday’s incident at the Natanz nuclear site and will take its revenge, state TV quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying on Monday. – Reuters

President Hassan Rouhani reiterated Iran’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation on Saturday while overseeing the launch of advanced centrifuges at the underground Natanz nuclear plant to mark National Nuclear Technology Day. – Reuters

U.S. and Iranian officials clashed on Friday over what sanctions the United States should lift to resume compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, with Washington predicting an impasse if Tehran sticks to a demand that all sanctions since 2017 be removed. – Reuters

The U.N. atomic watchdog on Friday flagged a new breach by Iran of its nuclear deal with major powers on the day those powers met to revive the agreement, a report by the agency seen by Reuters showed, likely raising tensions with Western powers. – Reuters

Iran on Sunday described a blackout at its underground Natanz atomic facility an act of “nuclear terrorism,” raising regional tensions as world powers and Tehran continue to negotiate over its tattered nuclear deal. – Associated Press

Iran said Saturday it has begun mechanical tests on its newest advanced nuclear centrifuge, even as the five world powers that remain in a foundering 2015 nuclear deal with Iran attempt to bring the U.S. back into the agreement. – Associated Press

The United States offered “very serious” ideas to Iran on how to revive a nuclear deal during talks in Vienna but is waiting for Iran to show the same “seriousness,” a US official said Friday. – Agence France-Presse

The Mossad was reportedly behind the cyberattack at Natanz on Sunday that caused extensive damage to Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the security cabinet’s first meeting in two months to discuss Iran next Sunday amid increased tensions with Tehran. – Jerusalem Post

The strike on Iran’s key Natanz nuclear facility was prepared long before the ongoing Vienna nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers, The Jerusalem Post learned. – Jerusalem Post

Iran claimed that damage in Natanz caused by electrical sabotage, which Iran has called “nuclear terrorism” will not result in a setback. It intends to replace the damaged centrifuges with more advanced centrifuges according to statements on Monday. Iran Foreign Minister spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh vowed revenge against Israel for the Natanz attack and also downplayed the damage. – Jerusalem Post

Negotiations between the United States and Iran on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal would progress faster if the two sides could meet face to face, according to a senior State Department official after three days of indirect talks in Vienna. – Washington Examiner

Emad Shargi, one of four Americans being held prisoner in Iran as discussions are underway that may return the U.S. to a nuclear agreement with Iran, was suddenly arrested in November, just weeks after Joe Biden won the presidential election. – CBS

Amos Yadlin, the former IDF chief of Military Intelligence, said he was concerned about Iran’s nuclear program on Sunday, after a major power cut that halted uranium enrichment at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. – Times of Israel

Mariam Memarsadeghi writes: Most recently, Iranians from throughout the country have launched a simple but powerful campaign: “No to the Islamic Republic!” They are supported by more than 1,400 leaders in the diaspora spanning politics, the arts, sports and academia. […]But if the 2009 Green Movement provides any lesson, the U.S. stands to lose much if it turns its back on a people determined to be free. The only way for the free world to secure the region’s peace and stability is to help Iranians to secure their liberty. – The Hill

Victoria Coates and Len Khodorkovsky write: The fact of the matter, however, is that both are ultimately illusory as neither can effectively address either the fundamental insolvency of the Iranian economy or the true intent of the mullahs’ nuclear program. These two issues will only be satisfactorily resolved in the real deal Iran needs, which is comprehensive economic and security pacts between the United States, Iran, Israel and our other regional partners and allies: the Cyrus Accords. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: As such the country’s discussion of “revenge,” a vow it has made many times in the past, must weigh what Iran’s capabilities are, with what it wants to accomplish and also its agenda with the international community. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran is pushing forward with “gasification of a new generation [of] centrifuge machines that was carried out in Natanz Enrichment Complex. IR-9 centrifuge mechanical tests were started, and [a] new generation centrifuge assembly center was started,” Iranian media reported Sunday. Iranian media is being forthright about the current incident but is downplaying it. – Jerusalem Post

Lahav Harkov writes: Israel and others in the region, as well, certainly have been eyeing the talks in Vienna with concern that the US and Iran may truly return to the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lift nuclear limitations on Tehran in 2030, and not make it “longer and stronger” as Washington has promised it would. Now, when it comes to nuclear negotiations, it looks like someone got Iran’s goat. – Jerusalem Post

Ruthie Blum writes: This is why reports that US and Iran are at a stalemate […]are laughable. Malley’s goal is to secure a deal; Khamenei’s is to obtain nuclear weapons and tranches of cash to fund them. With the former equal to the latter, the impasse can easily be broken. Indeed, all the regime in Tehran has to do, like last time, is pretend to agree to certain conditions. And its promises, like Zarif’s signature on any document curbing Iran’s nukes, will be as false as the outcome of Biden’s charade is preordained. – Jerusalem Post

Lazar Berman writes: Israel’s foe, though, is not in Washington, but in Tehran, and if it wants to deter Iran and feel safe sailing through the Middle East, it will likely need to find a way to work with the Biden administration and quit rocking the boat. – Times of Israel

Abhinav Pandya writes: But India’s lack of a convincing response to Iran-sponsored terror means that deterrence failed; it has actually encouraged Tehran to think it can get away with attacks, on Indian soil, with little more than a slapped wrist. As a counter-terrorism expert commented after the 2021 attack, Iran’s “message was clear and the threat is real.” – Haaretz

Ron Ben-Yishai writes: The new advanced centrifuges at Natanz mean Tehran could produce a nuclear weapon in weeks, lacking just the detonation mechanism; meanwhile, the U.S. is sending Israel a clear message not to interfere in nuclear negotiations. – Ynet



The unpredictable roller coaster that has become Turkish politics was on full display this past week after 104 retired admirals publicly challenged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an open letter — and 10 of them ended up in jail, accused of plotting a coup. – New York Times

Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh and a delegation of ministers will make their first visit to Turkey on Monday since taking office last month, the Turkish presidency said on Sunday. – Reuters

France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune said Sunday that Turkey had set a “trap” for European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen by forcing her to sit off to the side on a visit to Ankara, in a photo-op faux pas quickly dubbed ‘sofagate’. – Agence France-Presse

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called for the “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support. – Reuters

European Council President Charles Michel said he risked creating a more serious diplomatic incident if he had reacted when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was left without a chair at a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. – Bloomberg

In its latest threat to a peaceful country, Turkey threatened Greece and accused the country of supporting terrorism. Ankara has long used mythical accusations of “terrorism” to justify invasions, bombing, ethnic-cleansing and imprisoning people, including dissidents and students at home. – Jerusalem Post


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, making the first visit to Israel by a senior Biden administration official, said Sunday that the U.S.-Israeli relationship was “enduring and ironclad,” amid growing Israeli concern over American efforts to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. – Washington Post

In Jalazoun refugee camp, Mohammad Zaid on Thursday expressed a sentiment not heard from Palestinians during Donald Trump’s presidency: gratitude towards the US, even if for some it’s too little, too late. – Agence France-Presse

The Yesha Council plans to launch their own diplomatic initiative against any International Criminal Court war crimes suits, including sending a folder to The Hague explaining that the West Bank is not occupied and that Israel’s presence there is good for the Palestinians. – Jerusalem Post

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan met with a Sudanese official over the weekend, in a move signaling that the country’s fledgling normalized ties with Israel would also include the settlements. – Jerusalem Post

There were calls over the weekend by Israeli defense officials to probe the leak of an alleged sensitive IDF operation against Iran to foreign media. – Jerusalem Post

“The State of Israel will not accept threats from Iran,” Berko said. “Just days after Holocaust Remembrance and Heroism Day, we carry the existential threat with us, so anyone who wants to harm us must pay attention. The historical lesson was acknowledged by us all. – Arutz Sheva

An Iranian Jewish immigrant to Israel has joined the IDF’s elite intelligence team, Unit 8200, Israel Hayom reported, detailing the story of “B.”, the immigrant soldier who is set to receive an award from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. – Arutz Sheva

Jerold Auerbach writes: President Biden is following a path to become the Palestinian Authority’s best presidential friend and, it follows, Israel’s least supportive president. […]President Biden should be wary. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like Begin, favors the return of Jews to their biblical homeland. Nor do his knees tremble. – Algemeiner


Security forces armed with assault rifles burst into the home of one of the most prominent families in Jordan’s al-Majali tribe here in the clan’s homeland by the Dead Sea. They snatched Yasser al-Majali, a retired army colonel working for the royal family, and dragged him away. – Wall Street Journal

Jordanian authorities have evinced enormous sensitivity over public discussion of what they have said was an effort, backed by unnamed foreign entities, to disrupt the kingdom’s security and stability. Describing it at times as an attempted coup against King Abdullah II, they said they have arrested about 18 people and restricted Hamzah, the king’s half brother, to his home. – Washington Post

The prince and the general paced the garden outside the prince’s palace, locked in a deep argument. The prince was shouting, the general was barely audible. But the general made the threat. – New York Times

Jordan’s King Abdullah appeared in public Sunday alongside his half-brother Prince Hamzah, state TV showed, their first joint appearance since a palace crisis involving the prince rocked the kingdom. – Agence France-Presse

Arabian Peninsula

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen on Sunday intercepted and destroyed six explosive-laden drones launched by Iran-aligned Houthis towards the kingdom, Saudi state TV reported. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed three soldiers who were sentenced for “high treason” and “cooperating with the enemy”, a statement from the kingdom’s defence ministry said. – Reuters

Fierce fighting for Yemen’s strategic city of Marib has killed 70 pro-government and Huthi rebel fighters over the past 24 hours, loyalist military officials said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

Gulf States

But while some U.S. officials have viewed the militias as little more than proxies in a campaign to extend Iran’s regional influence, these groups are often deeply embedded in the fabric of Iraqi society, having emerged out of its own turbulent history. – Washington Post

A taxation treaty that would boost investment ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is in the works and could be finalized within the coming weeks. – Jerusalem Post

Maya Carlin writes: If the goal of U.S.-Iraq strategic talks is improved relations between the two countries, Iranian influence must be addressed. The April 7 discussions missed the mark by excluding coverage of the most significant roadblock to strengthened U.S.-Iraqi ties. Going forward, proxy groups will likely continue to launch rocket attacks in Baghdad and undermine Kadhimi’s interests. – National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

While the giant Even Given container ship might have been freed from the banks of the Suez Canal, it still finds itself stuck, embroiled in a row of who should pay for dislodging it from the waterway. Egyptian authorities said that they wouldn’t release the massive ship, which was stuck in the Suez Canal for almost a week until its owners agree to pay up to $1 billion in compensation. – Business Insider

Samir Bennis writes: The decision to suspend all collaboration with the German embassy sends a clear message to Germany. With it, Morocco is urging the European country to review its standpoint and policies towards Morocco’s strategic interests, including its territorial integrity. – Jerusalem Post

Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher, and Orni Petruschka write: We realize that constructing this framework is a difficult undertaking, replete with potential pitfalls, and success far from certain. Nevertheless, if only because it would advance the interests of the parties involved, a policy integrating Iran talks, an Israeli-Palestinian process and a regional coalition is the most achievable course of action available for reaching the primary common goal: preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. – Jerusalem Post

Ilari Papa writes: Beijing systematically uses economic benefits to boost its ties with the Middle East in what it calls a “new style of cooperation”—namely, one that does not infringe on domestic politics. […]The “Comprehensive Cooperation Plan” with Iran puts this point into sharp relief, since its language echoes previous Chinese cooperation agreements with Middle Eastern states. In short, Beijing is incrementally boosting its presence and strength in the region just as the United States attempts to counter Chinese hostilities in the Indo-Pacific. – Washington Institute 

David Schenker writes: At the moment, the French and German proposals are a sideshow to Lebanon’s slow-motion collapse, but the fact that both governments share Washington’s articulated commitment to conditioning non-humanitarian assistance on reform should be seen as a U.S. policy opportunity. […]In contrast, Beijing’s aversion to transparency and its ambivalence toward Hezbollah would make a Chinese role in reconstruction a worst-case outcome for Europe, the United States, and Lebanon alike. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun arrived in Iran on Sunday to help try to restore a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and free up $7 billion in Iranian funds trapped in South Korea, Seoul officials said. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday welcomed a settlement between South Korean battery makers LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation Co over electric-vehicle (EV) battery technology, saying it would help create jobs for American workers. – Reuters

Jay Solomon writes: The Biden administration should quickly tell Pyongyang that the U.S. is prepared to resume direct negotiations based on the structure and objectives of the Singapore declaration. […]If Pyongyang declines, the Biden administration will be in a much stronger position to increase financial and military pressure on the North. And this approach would allow the new American leader to demonstrate to key allies in Asia — namely, South Korea and Japan — that Washington is fully engaged on the North Korean threat. Some leaders in the region are voicing growing concern that the U.S. no longer is capable or committed to rolling back Pyongyang’s weapons programs. – The Hill


U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry is expected to travel to China next week in an attempt to carve out climate change as an area of closer collaboration amid deepening tensions between the two countries. – Washington Post

The Biden administration placed seven Chinese firms and government labs under U.S. export controls Thursday for their involvement in China’s effort to build supercomputers that help develop nuclear and other advanced military weapons. – Washington Post

Champions of the accelerating push for solar energy around the world are confronting a previously overlooked challenge: The industry’s supply chains are heavily reliant on Xinjiang, a Chinese region the U.S. government and others say is the scene of genocide against local ethnic minorities including the mostly Muslim Uyghur inhabitants. – Wall Street Journal

Businesses and governments across the West are gearing up to counter China’s dominance in a key component of modern technology: the magnet. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday the United States is concerned about China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan and warned it would be a “serious mistake” for anyone to try to change the status quo in the Western Pacific by force. – Reuters

China’s failure to provide access to global health experts made the COVID-19 pandemic worse than it had to be, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Sunday, and it was important to “get to the bottom” of the origin of the novel coronavirus. – Reuters

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider sweeping legislation to counter China’s influence on April 21 instead of the planned date of April 14, committee aides said on Friday. – Reuters

A Chinese state-backed human rights research organization is accusing the United States of a history of military interventions that it says have caused repeated humanitarian disasters.  – The Hill

The Biden administration is stepping up scrutiny of China’s plans for a digital yuan, with some officials concerned the move could kick off a long-term bid to topple the dollar as the world’s dominant reserve currency, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

But for now, one thing is as clear as the aqua-blue waters that lap up on the shores of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea: Beijing’s naval fleet is larger than that of the U.S. Navy. – Navy Times

At a crowded press event on Friday in Beijing, Chinese officials aired a video of a thin Uighur man with a shaved head, wearing an oversized uniform and speaking directly to the camera. […]Such press conferences have become a staple of Beijing’s widening campaign to defend its Xinjiang policies amid mounting Western criticism, including US sanctions and accusations of genocide, as Beijing prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in February. – Reuters

Editorial: But there is no reason why western broadcasters should give primetime treatment to the opening ceremony for Beijing 2022. US and EU leaders who want to signal their displeasure with Chinese policies over Xinjiang can also stay away. […]The world can enjoy a sporting event in Beijing in 2022. It does not have to participate in a propaganda event at the same time. – Financial Times

Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins write: The U.S. should also urge international partners to investigate independently and determine formally whether the Chinese Communist Party’s abusive policies in Xinjiang amount to genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as supporting an impartial international investigation of the question. […]The broader international community and global businesses must decide between good and evil. It is unconscionable to condone or, even worse, to aid and abet the Chinese Communist Party as it commits a 21st-century genocide. – Wall Street Journal 

Brett Bruen writes: China may have a lot going for its global expansion goals. But, the country faces a significant challenge. Its influence still largely perched precariously on the pillars of fear and the search for short-term profits. Long-term, it is largely failing to generate much goodwill or genuine support. That represents a worrisome weakness for Beijing and a major opportunity for Washington, if we can literally and figuratively get the ol’ band back together again. – Business Insider 

Minxin Pei writes: If the GOP continues to undermine U.S. democracy with new voter suppression laws and gerrymandering, America’s ideological appeal will suffer, turning the U.S.-China duel into a pure struggle for power that allies might hesitate to join. Trump’s dark shadow over the 2024 presidential election will also make U.S. partners reluctant to commit to a long-term effort to contain China, for fear that the next administration will ignore allies once again. – Bloomberg

Walter Lohman writes: In a sense, Congress has been preparing for a grand debate on China for years. […]The U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China are veritable idea factories. And, none of this even accounts for the almost 300 individual stand-alone measures that were introduced in the past Congress. It is time to put as many of these ideas as possible to the legislative test and construct a China policy that will give direction to the Biden Administration and Administrations to come. – Heritage Foundation 

Liselotte Odgaard writes: The US now has a great opportunity to work with Greenland, the EU, and Australian Tanbreez to get a good start on finding alternatives to China’s rare earth production. […]It looks to be a win-win-win for Greenland, Europe, and the US. It will help boost Greenland’s economy and bring Greenland closer to realizing its aspirations for independence, which IA supports. In addition, by increasing the role of Europe and the US in rare earth production, the project will reduce their vulnerability to China in an area of key importance for continued economic growth and access to advanced military capabilities. – Hudson Institute 


The scramble for peace in Afghanistan is fracturing Kabul’s political leadership and undermining the U.S.-backed government there ahead of critical negotiations with the Taliban over how much control it will have in the country’s future. – Washington Post

But how much control President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has over his imperiled country’s future and his own has become a matter of debate among politicians, analysts and citizens. Or rather, the question has been largely resolved: not much. – New York Times

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to Brussels this week for discussions on Iran, Afghanistan and Russian activities directed at Ukraine, a U.S. official said. – Reuters

South Asia

India protested to the United States for a navy vessel conducting a transit through its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without consent, the foreign ministry said on Friday, in a rare row between the friendly navies of the two countries. – Reuters

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Both the Quad summit and the Austin visit signify the potential for further expanding cooperation between the world’s two largest democracies. Nevertheless, India will not become an American ally, nor will it drop its close ties to Russia. Instead, it will carve out its own path in an increasingly multilateral international power structure. American policymakers should approach India with a heavy dose of realism and disabuse themselves of any hope for an alliance with India. If they persist with such illusions, they surely will be sorely disappointed. – The Hill

Fabien Baussart writes: While Islamabad is working on removing official hurdles for attracting more Chinese investment in CPEC phase-II, China is clearly shifting its focus beyond the mega-project. With long gestation periods and uncertainty of financial returns, China now seems keen to enjoy the low-hanging fruits at the cost of future Pakistani generations. – Jerusalem Post


Bank branches in Myanmar are closed and government employees are boycotting work. Factory workers have fled to their rural homes and foreign companies have flown their overseas employees out. The internet is largely cut off. – Wall Street Journal

The Myanmar military’s bloody crackdown on the nationwide resistance to its rule showed no sign of easing on Sunday, with a human rights group reporting that the death toll across the country had passed 700. – New York Times

From Cambodia and the Philippines to Malaysia and Thailand, democracy is languishing. Electoral politics and civil liberties have eroded. Obedient judiciaries have hobbled opposition forces. Entire political classes are in exile or in prison. Independent media are being silenced by leaders who want only one voice heard: their own. – New York Times

The European Union’s top diplomat said on Sunday Russia and China were hampering a united international response to Myanmar’s military coup and that the EU could offer more economic incentives if democracy returns to the country. – Reuters

Philippine and U.S. soldiers will conduct a two-week joint military exercise from Monday, resuming the annual training event after last year’s cancellation due to the pandemic, the Philippine military chief said on Sunday. – Reuters

An alliance of ethnic armies in Myanmar that has opposed the junta’s crackdown on anti-coup protests attacked a police station in the east on Saturday and at least 10 policemen were killed, domestic media said. – Reuters

Nineteen people have been sentenced to death in Myanmar for killing an associate of an army captain, the military owned Myawaddy TV station said on Friday, the first such sentences announced in public since a Feb. 1 coup and crackdown on protesters. – Reuters

The White House on Friday said it was keeping a close watch on increased Chinese military activities in the Taiwan Strait, and called Beijing’s recent actions potentially destabilizing. – Reuters

The United Nations special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, arrived on Friday in the Thai capital Bangkok in the hope of talks with Myanmar’s ruling junta, but said she was told by the generals they were not ready to receive her. – Reuters

China is planning a mega dam in Tibet able to produce triple the electricity generated by the Three Gorges — the world’s largest power station — stoking fears among environmentalists and in neighbouring India. – Agence France-Presse

US officials can meet more freely with their Taiwanese counterparts under new Biden administration guidelines, in the latest move by the White House aimed at checking increased aggression by China in the region. – Financial Times

Reports emerged Saturday of more than 80 killed in the latest bloodletting by Myanmar’s military, as the country’s own ambassador to the United Nations called for “strong action” against the junta. – Agence France-Presse

The organizers of one of the world’s most prestigious defense gatherings are in the midst of an uncomfortable international standoff between the Canadian government and China over a major award they had planned to give to the president of Taiwan. – Politico

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday discussed with his Philippine counterpart China’s recent positioning of “militia vessels” near the Philippines in the South China Sea. – Associated Press

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations urged the international community to take “concrete action” against the military in Myanmar on Friday including an arms embargo and sanctions against its holding companies and those who profit from them, saying this is the only way to change the military’s crackdown on civilians following its Feb. 1 coup. – Associated Press

A U.S. carrier strike group and amphibious ready group are in the South China Sea as tensions increase between Manila and Beijing over a Chinese maritime militia incursion into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, the Navy announced on Friday. – USNI News

Michael George DeSombre writes: Thailand and the U.S. also have a long and deep history of cooperation in law enforcement. […]Thailand is strategically positioned in the middle of Asean, and Asean is at the heart of U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy. As the Biden administration develops its foreign policy and national-security strategy, it should leave no doubt of its commitment to the country’s oldest ally in Asia. – Wall Street Journal


The United States will send two warships to the Black Sea next week, Turkey said on Friday as Russia, which has boosted its military forces near Ukraine, accused NATO powers that do not have a coast line in the region of increasing naval activity. – Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in an interview Sunday of “consequences” if Russia acts “aggressively” towards Ukraine, amid rising alarm over a Russian troop build-up on the border of the former Soviet republic. – Agence France-Presse

Western countries knocked Russia for failing to attend talks intended to tamp down violence in Ukraine amid a military buildup on the border by Moscow. – The Hill


Russia is steadily massing its largest military presence in years near the Ukrainian border — on land and at sea — as the Kremlin tests Western support for Kyiv and its battles against pro-Moscow separatists less than three months into the Biden administration. – Washington Post

Armored personnel carriers bristling with weapons line a highway in southern Russia. Rows of tanks are parked beside major roads. Heavy artillery is transported by train. – New York Times

The French government on Sunday condemned the defacing of an Islamic cultural centre in western France with Islamaphobic slogans, and said an attack on Muslims was an attack on the Republic. – Reuters

Ukraine’s defence minister said on Saturday his country could be provoked by Russian aggravation of the situation in the conflict area of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region. – Reuters

The presidents of Ukraine and Turkey stressed the importance of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the de-escalation of tensions in eastern Ukraine and security in the Black Sea following a meeting Saturday in Istanbul. – Associated Press

Editorial: The United States has sanctioned some 109 officials implicated in the repression, and has warned that unless prisoners are released, the United States will no longer allow transactions with nine Belarus petrochemical and other companies. […]The Biden administration ought to consider using this authority if Mr. Lukashenko refuses to budge. The tyrant must make way for the legitimate president, the English teacher. – Washington Post

Editorial: The UK and EU now appear to be edging towards an agreement on implementation of the protocol. […]Such an arrangement may not satisfy the extreme loyalists behind the present disorder, but the objective must be to cement faith among moderates in the Good Friday Agreement. Johnson led the campaign for Brexit. He denied that it risked destabilising the region. Now he must shoulder his responsibility to safeguard peace. – Financial Times

David Trimble writes: Firms selling into the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland, or vice versa, would have to declare on export that they had adhered to the regulations in the other jurisdiction. If spot checks when the goods arrive or subsequent inspections discover that the declaration was false, then the business would face stiff mandatory penalties in its home country. The question is: Does the political will exist to deal with the trade problem—or is the EU playing fast and loose with peace in Northern Ireland to punish the U.K. for voting for independence? – Wall Street Journal


Egypt and Sudan on Saturday rejected an Ethiopian proposal to share data on the operations of its giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile after negotiations between the three countries in Kinshasa this week ended without progress. – Reuters

At least two people were killed during violent protests on Friday against the United Nations peacekeeping mission in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials said. – Reuters

Posts claiming that Rwandan President Paul Kagame ordered the deportation of 18 Chinese nationals for mistreating local workers have resurfaced online. AFP Fact Check debunked the same claim in 2020 and found no evidence backing up the allegations. – Agence France-Presse

Clashes between rival groups have so far claimed at least 125 lives and left 208 others injured in the volatile west Darfur region of Sudan, according to the Western Darfur State Doctors Committee. – CNN

Bobby Ghosh writes: But the country whose support is vital for Mozambique’s chances of defeating the Islamists is its northern neighbor, Tanzania. Relations between the two have been strained in recent years, as Tanzania’s President John Magufuli led his country into isolation from regional and international affairs. But things have looked up recently, with the two countries pledging to cooperate in the fight against cross-border terrorism. – Bloomberg

The Americas

The US is negotiating a multi-billion dollar climate deal with Brazil that observers fear could help the reelection of president Jair Bolsonaro and reward illegal forest clearance in the Amazon. – The Guardian

Scott Jones writes: COCOM was a vehicle of the Cold War and was predicated on a largely unanimous threat perception among participants. Wassenaar endures, in part, because it is not similarly focused. The value proposition of a new COCOM is nil, as it is both retrograde and needlessly duplicative.To the extent that Wassenaar cannot address U.S. national security objectives regarding technology trade, then, as others have recently suggested, the U.S. can pursue plurilateral arrangements, particularly over chokepoint technologies such as semiconductors. – Defense News

Geoffrey S. Corn writes: Biden’s team, like prior administrations, recognizes that the UNHRC has fallen short of its founding mission. It has chosen engaging over ostracizing as the tactic to positively influence the council. The administration must now leverage this power to ensure the UNHRC undergoes substantial structural reform. Nothing short of this will come close to aligning the aspiration of advancing human rights with reality. – Jerusalem Post


The Biden administration plans on Monday to name a former senior National Security Agency official as the first national cyber director and another former NSA official to head the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency. – Washington Post

In a secretive military facility in southwest China, a supercomputer whirs away, simulating the heat and drag on hypersonic vehicles speeding through the atmosphere — missiles that could one day be aimed at a U.S. aircraft carrier or Taiwan, according to former U.S. officials and Western analysts. – Washington Post

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said he was more worried about the risk of a large-scale cyberattack than another financial crisis like that of 2008. – Agence France-Presse

President Biden called for over $1.3 billion in cybersecurity funds as part of his proposed budget request sent to Congress on Friday, along with major investments in emerging technologies such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence. – The Hill

Timothy L. O’Brien writes: Perhaps realpolitik explains why Biden is slow-walking his cyberattack response. He may be letting it ride in order to secure Russian cooperation in bringing Iran back into a nuclear arms agreement. He may be giving Russia and China a chance to cooperate because the U.S. cannot fully stem the sophisticated attacks. Or, Biden may prefer a diplomatic solution. But that road is no longer promising. […]However this plays out, Biden needs to do better than promise but not deliver actions seen and unseen. – Bloomberg


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin detailed new steps Friday that the military will take to combat extremism in the ranks, including screening prospective recruits on the issue and disciplining them if it is later found that they hid problematic affiliations or actions. – Washington Post

Artificial intelligence can provide vital savings for the Pentagon in the face of flat or decreasing budgets, the director of the department’s top AI office said Friday. – C4ISRNET

U.S. President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2022 budget request asks for $753 billion in national security funding, an increase of 1.6 percent that includes $715 billion for the Defense Department. – Defense News

President Joe Biden will launch the annual budget and appropriations process Friday when he sends Congress his discretionary spending top line requests for fiscal 2022 ― but Pentagon spending, policy and nominations will be jostling for attention in a busy Congress. – Defense News