Fdd's overnight brief

April 13, 2023

In The News


Iran’s embassy in Saudi Arabia reopened its gates on Wednesday for the first time in seven years, a Reuters witness said, under a deal to re-establish ties that could ease a long-standing rivalry that has helped fuel conflicts around the Middle East. – Reuters

Iran hanged 75 percent more people in 2022 that the previous years, two rights groups said on Thursday, denouncing an “execution machine” aimed at spreading fear as protests shook the country. – Agence France-Presse

Sahand Nourmohammadzadeh, who was detained during recent nationwide protests, faces two new charges of “spreading lies” and “disturbing public opinion,” according to his defense attorney Hamed Ahmadi. The new charges emerged after the release of an audio file in which Nourmohammadzadeh detailed his experience of torture during detention. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) has developed a new type of one-way-attack unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called the Meraj-532, the Tasnim News Agency reported on 9 April. – Janes

Najmeh Bozorgmehr writes: No one expects the law on the hijab to change. But neither will the women’s movement be suppressed. […] These previous generations may have been more modest in their push for change. But today’s women will not wait for decades while their scarves recede inch by inch from their eyebrows to the top of the head to the shoulders. – Financial Times

Barry Rosen and Masih Alinejad write: The Treasury Department should start fully enforcing U.S. sanctions against Iranian allies, like China, that help perpetuate the regime’s abuses by purchasing billions of dollars of smuggled oil and providing Iran with surveillance technologies. […] In so doing, the U.S. stands a greater chance of ending the horrors that Siamak, Emad, and Morad are enduring, protecting innocent lives, and keeping the homeland safe from terror and the prospect of another American adversary being armed with nuclear weapons. But time is running out. – Newsweek

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s role in Syria has been emboldened in the wake of the earthquake. It has carried out multiple attacks on US forces in eastern Syria using its proxies. It has also continued to threaten Israel. This illustrates that Iran’s entrenchment is not being diminished, but is continuing. That means that the post-earthquake period has actually eroded the Syrian regime’s control and yet at the same time paradoxically, the regime has been rewarded by several important Arab states, without any clear demand that Iran reduce its weapons smuggling. – Jerusalem Post

Ilan I. Berman writes: Against this backdrop it is increasingly clear that the Biden administration, through its single-minded pursuit of nuclear diplomacy with Iran, is courting disaster — either in the form of a region dominated by a nuclear Iran, or of a region destabilized by an Israeli military strike meant to ward off precisely that outcome. Washington needs to change course, before it’s too late. – American Foreign Policy Council

Russia & Ukraine

A video circulating on Russian-language Telegram channels that emerged this week appeared to show the beheading of a restrained prisoner wearing symbols associated with the Ukrainian military. The video prompted horrified responses, including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. – Washington Post

The Serbian government on Wednesday rejected claims that it had sent weapons to Ukraine and doubled down on its policy of noninvolvement in the war, after a leaked U.S. intelligence document, the authenticity of which could not be verified, appeared to indicate that the Balkan country provided lethal aid to Kyiv. – Washington Post

The grinding war between Ukraine and Russia is expected to bleed into 2024 with neither side securing victory yet both refusing to negotiate an end to the conflict, according to a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that is among the highly sensitive U.S. government materials leaked online and obtained by The Washington Post. – Washington Post

Leaked documents purporting to contain Pentagon presentations depicted Russia’s military leadership as distracted by infighting over the war in Ukraine and grappling with the outsize role played there by the paramilitary Wagner Group. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.S.’s top hostage negotiator called on Russia to allow American Embassy officials to visit detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and pledged to find a way to secure his release and that of another American, Paul Whelan. – Wall Street Journal 

The depth of the infighting inside the Russian government appears broader and deeper than previously understood, judging from a newly discovered cache of classified intelligence documents that has been leaked online. – New York Times

After 10 months of one of the longest and bloodiest battles in Russia’s war in Ukraine, Ukrainian soldiers are now defending a shrinking half-circle of ruins in a western neighborhood of Bakhmut, only about 20 blocks wide and continually pounded with artillery. – New York Times

Ukraine compared Russia on Wednesday to Islamic State and called on the International Criminal Court to investigate after a video emerged online showing apparent Russian soldiers filming themselves beheading a Ukrainian captive with a knife. – Reuters

The U.S. Commerce Department said on Wednesday it is imposing export controls on more than two dozen companies in China, Turkey and other countries for supporting Russia’s military and defense industries. – Reuters

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday called for continued significant aid to Ukraine as it battles against Russia’s invasion, and lauded Ukrainian authorities for their focus on good governance and anti-corruption. – Reuters

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that a move to bring in electronic draft papers for the first time in Russia’s history was needed to sort out what it called “a mess” at military recruitment offices. – Reuters

Britain is ready to provide an extra $500 million of loan guarantees to Ukraine, taking the total this year to $1 billion, British finance minister Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Britain targeted individuals and companies who it accused of acting as “financial fixers” for Russian businessmen Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov in its latest round of sanctions against Moscow for the war in Ukraine. – Reuters

The Kremlin warned on Wednesday that the outlook for extending a deal beyond May 18 that allows the safe wartime export of grain and fertilizer from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports was not great as Russia’s own such exports still faced obstacles. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the arrest of a US reporter on espionage charges for the first time since the Cold War, according to people familiar with the situation. – Bloomberg

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov still has not received the visa he needs to enter the U.S. for a United Nations Security Council meeting later this month, despite Russia’s seat as president of the top international body. – Fox News

Officials in Kyiv are pounding their fists over leaked U.S. intelligence that downplays Ukraine’s ability to recapture seized territory from Russia this spring. – Politico

American-made smart bombs are falling victim to Russian electronic jamming in Ukraine, causing them to miss their targets, according to leaked documents and confirmed by a Defense Department official. – Politico 

Andreas Kluth writes: Ukraine’s war of self-defense, as it progresses into its second year, remains entirely unpredictable. Some of Kyiv’s allies are growing fatigued, and Ukraine’s army and ammo often near exhaustion. Fortunately, the Ukrainians still have their heroic will to fight the aggressors. For their spring offensive to succeed, they’ll need it. – Bloomberg


Since Israel’s government announced plans in January to overhaul the judiciary, the country has been gripped by growing turmoil in the streets, disquiet in the military — and warnings from its president, Isaac Herzog, of societal collapse and even civil war. But now Mr. Herzog, who is overseeing negotiations to find a compromise, has a more hopeful message — two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the overhaul to allow for a month of negotiations with the opposition. – New York Times

Israeli police will curb the number of worshippers in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem for safety reasons during Orthodox Easter ceremonies on Saturday, drawing anger from church leaders who said they would not cooperate. – Reuters

The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency on Wednesday called on the West Bank local staff union to end a strike, saying the stoppage was hindering access for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to basic services. – Reuters

The Israel Defense Forces has reprimanded a senior officer for meeting with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir without obtaining prior permission, the army said Thursday. – Times of Israel

Top police officials believe the decision to bar Jews and other non-Muslims from visiting the Temple Mount during the last 10 days of Ramadan prevented clashes at the Jerusalem holy site that could’ve sparked a wider conflagration, Israeli television reported Wednesday. – Times of Israel

Deputy chief of Hamas’ political wing Saleh al-Arouri said on Wednesday that the rocket fire from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip towards Israel “proved that there are those who will protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” – Haaretz 

Israeli officials believe that increasing military cooperation between Iran and Russia amid the war in Ukraine could significantly harm ties between Moscow and Jerusalem, potentially imperiling Israel’s coveted security coordination with Russia in neighboring Syria. – Haaretz 

Frances McDonough writes: Perhaps most important, an appetite for visible cooperation with Israel persists despite the strong reactions to the current crisis. Most recently, the UAE finalized a free trade agreement with Israel aimed at strengthening bilateral economic ties, while President Muhammad bin Zayed and Netanyahu expressed their desire to “promote peace” and “continue dialogue” during an April 4 phone call. And in Morocco, the palace has defended its diplomatic ties with Israel against criticism from the country’s largest Islamist party. – Washington Institute 


The Taliban’s chief spokesman said Wednesday there are no obstacles for the U.N. to function in Afghanistan, after they barred Afghan women from working at the global body. – Associated Press

Afghanistan’s Taliban administration has said forbidding Afghan women from working for the United Nations was an “internal issue,” after the global organisation expressed alarm at the decision and said it would review its operations there. – Reuters

Defence has received the largest share of funds in Afghanistan’s budget as the Taliban government aims to boost forces by a third and build anti-aircraft missile capacity, the army chief told Reuters in a rare interview to foreign media. – Reuters

Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper rebuked the Biden administration’s after-action report on the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. […] While the Trump administration agreed to leave in the deal with the Taliban, which came during Esper’s time as secretary of defense, the Biden administration opted to move forward with that plan, as the president campaigned on and advocated ending the forever wars. – Washington Examiner


Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, state media said, in a major signal that Syria’s decade-long regional isolation is nearing an end. – Reuters

Syria will reopen its embassy in Tunisia, state media reported Wednesday, as Syria’s top diplomat visited Saudi Arabia seeking to restore ties that have been severed for more than a decade. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran traffics this technology to various armed groups and then has them do the dirty work for Tehran. The goal of Iran is to keep adversaries off balance and to keep the threat up everyday. That means extensive resources have to be devoted to combat the threat and that distracts from the kinds of missions the US is doing in Syria, such as keeping ISIS defeated. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

The Gulf nations of Bahrain and Qatar agreed to restore diplomatic relations late Wednesday. Bahrain had been the last holdout of four Arab nations that imposed a boycott on Qatar in 2017. They were angered by Qatar’s support for Islamist groups that rose to power in some countries following the 2011 Arab Spring protests, which the other autocratic nations viewed as terrorist organizations. – Associated Press

The Biden administration praised the diplomatic breakthrough between Qatar and Bahrain after years of estrangement, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan saying the U.S. has been working to encourage rapprochement between the two nations. – The Hill

Jordan Cope writes: The EU bribery scandal must alarm and trigger further investigation into the depths of Qatar’s influence campaign. With senior editor O’Toole’s dual role indicative of MEE’s ties to Qatar, with the Emir having placed an op-ed in The New York Times, and with Qatari-state enterprises having paid for features in Politico and Fox Sports, western journalism might be the next sector worth screening as Qatar seeks to promote its agenda, and sabotage America’s relationship with key allies such as Israel and India. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

A Saudi-led push to bring Syria back into the Arab fold is facing resistance from some of its allies, according to Arab officials, in a setback to the kingdom’s efforts to lead a broader geopolitical realignment under way in the Middle East. – Wall Street Journal

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on at least four Turkey-based entities it said violated U.S. export controls and helped Russia’s war effort, in the biggest U.S. enforcement action in Turkey since the invasion of Ukraine last year. – Reuters

United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed arrived in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Wednesday, the UAE state news agency (WAM) reported. – Reuters

Syria and Saudi Arabia are moving toward reopening embassies and resuming flights between the two countries for the first time in more than a decade, the countries said Thursday in a joint statement. – Associated Press

Just three years ago, when OPEC+ oil giants fell out, the US found itself playing the role of peacemaker. Now it looks more like their target. The Saudi-Russia oil alliance has the potential to cause all kinds of trouble for the US economy — and even for President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign. This month’s OPEC+ decision to cut crude output, for the second time since Biden flew to Saudi Arabia last summer seeking an increase, may be just the start. – Bloomberg

A trove of Pentagon documents that may have been leaked to serve the interests of adversaries shows that former top Arab allies, from Egypt to the Arabian peninsula, are seeking ties with Moscow and Beijing at America’s expense. – New York Sun

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In short, all the key US partners and allies in the region now have issues that separate them from key US policy goals. Qatar, for instance, hosted the Taliban. The UAE is often critiqued in US media. Israel has been pressured to support Ukraine more. Turkey just carried out a drone strike near a vehicle carrying US personnel and US-backed SDF leader Mazlum Abdi while he was in Sulimaniyeh in Iraq. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Thursday, nearly a week after the country’s military stopped responding to calls on an inter-Korean military hotline and days after leader Kim Jong Un vowed to strengthen the military’s capabilities. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea fired what might be a new model of ballistic missile on Thursday, South Korea said, triggering a scare in northern Japan, where residents were told to take cover, though there turned out to be no danger. – Reuters

Leaked U.S. intelligence documents suggesting Washington spied on South Korea have put the country’s president in a delicate situation ahead of a state visit to the U.S., the first such trip by a South Korean leader in 12 years. – Associated Press

The White House released a statement Wednesday night condemning a North Korean missile test that prompted an evacuation call for the Japanese island of Hokkaido. – Washington Examiner

Christopher Green writes: There is every reason for Japan, South Korea, and the United States to cooperate in maintaining peace and stability in East Asia, and normalization of the GSOMIA agreement is a particularly welcome step in that direction. But discretion is also the better part of valor, and all three parties should proceed without excessive fanfare if they want to avoid bringing about more of the kind of instability that the flawed Japan-South Korea rapprochement is partly intended to preempt. – Foreign Policy


Multiple probes into both events by U.S. and international scientists and lawmakers are spotlighting what experts describe as China’s vulnerability to serious lab accidents, exposing problems that allowed deadly pathogens to escape in the past and could well do so again, potentially triggering another pandemic. – Washington Post

Two months after declaring victory over Covid-19, Beijing is trying to shape the way the pandemic is remembered in China by withholding data on its impact and censoring people who contradict the government line that its handling of the virus was a triumph. – Wall Street Journal

China is not participating in a United Nations project to survey Asian wet markets and other facilities at high risk of spreading infectious diseases from wild animals to humans, despite long-running talks with Beijing, a UN official told Reuters. – Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping inspected his country’s Southern Theatre Command navy on Tuesday and stressed the need to deepen military training and preparation, state media reported. – Reuters

China wants to start building a lunar base using soil from the moon in five years, Chinese media reported, with the ambitious plan kicking off as soon as this decade. – Reuters

Some experts say Beijing’s lending spree to developing countries and refusal to play by western-established rules represents the single greatest impediment to government debt workouts and threatens to leave some countries in debt limbo for years. – Financial Times

A veteran Chinese diplomat warned that unless the US fundamentally changes its attitude toward the nation, there’s no point in talks on ways to safeguard the relationship. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Mr. Xu’s and his colleague’s prison sentences reflect the intolerable injustices that Chinese leaders have and continue to perpetrate, with no apparent shame. These activists should be released. Mr. Xu’s declaration deserves to be heard far and wide in China. “I do not believe the future will forever be a dark night without daybreak,” he said. Let’s hope not. – Washington Post

Editorial: Authoritarian rule can sometimes seem like an abstraction for people fortunate enough to live in free countries. But never forget that tyranny in practice imposes cruel hardship for countless individuals caught in its maw. – Wall Street Journal 

John Bolton writes: Third, after Ukraine wins its war with Russia, we must aim to split the Russia-China axis. Moscow’s defeat could unseat Mr. Putin’s regime. What comes next is a government of unknowable composition. New Russian leaders may or may not look to the West rather than Beijing, and might be so weak that the Russian Federation’s fragmentation, especially east of the Urals, isn’t inconceivable. – Wall Street Journal

Ross Douthat writes: Abroad, you simply cannot build the alliances required to contain China or Russia if you can’t work with countries that don’t embrace Anglo-American liberalism or Eurocrat proceduralism. You need a way to deal constructively not just with monarchies and military rulers but also with the political models variously described as populism or illiberal democracy or soft authoritarianism, with leaders in the style of Narendra Modi of India and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, if you don’t want the world to belong to the harder authoritarianism of Moscow or the techno-totalitarianism of Beijing. – New York Times

Nicholas Kristof writes: It would simply be to tackle American dysfunction — from addiction to child poverty and our failed foster care system — and to invest in our education system so as to produce stronger citizens and a more robust nation. That, not prickly nationalism, is the lesson we should take from China — and is the best way for us to meet the China challenge. – New York Times

Tom Rogan writes: Addressing China’s threat to Taiwan requires the U.S. to maximize the scaled readiness of its best warships (another issue with regards to stretched resources) and aircraft in the Pacific. U.S. nuclear weapons and Army maneuver forces should be kept on NATO’s eastern flank, but NATO air forces should fill the F-22 gap. Indeed, unlike in the Pacific, the F-35, which many NATO nations now possess, is well suited to fighting Russian air and air defense forces. The F-22s, however, need either to be going to the Pacific or undergoing maintenance at their home bases. Spreading these forces thin, the U.S. undermines an already weakened means of defending Taiwan. The U.S. cannot do everything everywhere. Pretending otherwise is to embrace arrogant strategic idiocy. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

The Indian army said on Wednesday it had located an assault rifle believed to have been used to kill four soldiers at a military base in the northern border state of Punjab, though no one had yet been arrested over the attack. – Reuters

A soldier died of a gunshot wound at a military base in India’s northern border state of Punjab, but it was not related to the killing of four soldiers there hours earlier, the Indian army said on Thursday. – Reuters

India’s financial crime-fighting agency has opened an investigation into alleged violations of foreign exchange rules by the BBC, a source told Reuters on Thursday, months after tax officials searched the broadcaster’s Mumbai and Delhi offices. – Reuters

Japan, France and India will announce a new platform for creditors to coordinate restructuring of Sri Lanka’s debt, Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Wednesday, adding it would be “very nice” if China were to join the effort. – Reuters

India said on Wednesday that Ukraine has asked for more medicines and medical equipment and has invited Indian companies to help rebuild the country battered by Russia’s invasion. – Reuters

India on Wednesday asked Britain for increased monitoring of UK-based supporters of a Sikh separatist movement following a “breach of security” at its High Commission in London, an incident that has raised tension between the two countries. – Reuters

Imran Khan has said Pakistan will struggle to break out of a cycle of debilitating debt repayments without reform, as the country’s opposition leader and former prime minister warns the debt burden on low- and middle-income economies is becoming unmanageable. – Financial Times


Taiwan’s pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party nominated Vice President Lai Ching-te as its candidate in the 2024 presidential election, two days after China concluded large-scale wargames around the self-governed island. – Associated Press

Myanmar’s military said it carried out a deadly attack on a village gathering organised by its insurgent opponents this week, and if civilians were also killed it was because they were being forced to help “terrorists”. – Reuters

The Japanese government said the emergency evacuation warning it issued and later retracted against residents of the northern island of Hokkaido after a North Korean missile launch on Thursday morning was appropriate and not an error. – Reuters

The chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said on Thursday the bloc “strongly condemns” a military air strike this week on a village in Myanmar, which is reported to have killed up to 100 people including civilians. – Reuters

China is highly concerned about Japan’s plan to put export curbs on 23 types of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, Wang Shouwen, a Chinese vice commerce minister, said. – Reuters

Formally named on Wednesday by Taiwan’s ruling party as its candidate in a presidential poll due in January, Vice President William Lai urged people to “choose democracy” just a day after China ended military drills around the self-ruled island. – Reuters

Australia wants exporters to diversify markets and become less reliant on China, because it cannot separate economic and strategic relationships, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Wednesday, after the two countries unveiled a path to ending a trade dispute. – Reuters

A Singapore-registered oil tanker was boarded by “unidentified persons” about 300 nautical miles (555 km) off Ivory Coast in the Gulf of Guinea, the city-state’s port authority said. – Reuters

The Philippines will pursue its appeal questioning the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) jurisdiction and authority to investigate killings during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, its top lawyer said on Wednesday. – Reuters

China warned on Wednesday that a deepening security alliance between the United States and the Philippines should not harm its security and territorial interests and interfere in long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea. – Associated Press

Airstrikes by Myanmar’s military on Tuesday killed as many as 100 people, including many children, who were attending a ceremony held by opponents of army rule, said a witness, a member of a local pro-democracy group and independent media. – Associated Press

Taiwan said on Wednesday it had successfully urged China to drastically narrow its plan to close air space north of the island, averting wider travel disruption in a period of high tension in the region due to China’s military exercises. – Reuters

US and Philippine officials have expressed their “strong objections” to what they say were China’s unlawful maritime claims and “threatening and provocative activities” in the South China Sea as they committed to finalize plans for their joint patrols of the disputed waters. – Reuters

Malaysia finally declassified a report on a 1976 plane crash that killed several top state politicians, revealing that the Australian-made turboprop was loaded improperly, causing the pilot to lose control. There was no evidence of aircraft malfunction, sabotage, fire or an explosion. – Bloomberg

China backtracked on Wednesday over plans to block some of the world’s busiest airspace near Taiwan, in a rare move that caused confusion over Beijing’s handling of its stand-off with Taipei and Washington. – Financial Times 

The last time Taiwan’s president met a US House Speaker, China launched unprecedented military drills, simulating a complete attack on the island from missile bombardment to amphibious invasion. But after President Tsai Ing-wen met Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California last week, China’s military response was more narrowly defined. The People’s Liberation Army mainly practised preventing Washington and its allies from coming to Taipei’s rescue if Beijing did attack the country. – Financial Times

Editorial: It might be considered a positive sign that Asia’s military rulers and autocrats see the need to hold regular elections as a way to create a veneer of legitimacy. As the United States competes with China for influence in the region, it might also be tempting to accept these elections as democratic steppingstones, somewhat free if not wholly fair, and then get on with pursuing closer ties with these countries. – Washington Post

Editorial: The current members, together with their distant new recruit, need to uphold this ambition. With that understood, they should push to bring in as many other countries as possible. The potential benefits of wider and deeper cooperation are enormous. Taiwan, South Korea and the US — once Washington remembers that trade is an opportunity not a threat — should be folded in. And so should China — if and only if it agrees to the rules, and can show it’s willing to follow them. – Bloomberg

Farah Stockman writes: Political scientists weren’t sure that Singapore’s highly successful system would outlast Lee Kuan Yew. By the end of his life, even the great man himself spoke of preparing for the day when his party would lose power. That’s the thing about benevolent autocracies: They tend to expire. They either cease to be autocracies — as happened in South Korea and Chile — or they cease to be benevolent. – New York Times

Gregory B. Poling writes: Speculation about the Philippines’ role in a Taiwan crisis is understandable given the state of tensions. And the U.S. and Philippine governments are discussing how such a crisis would impact their respective national interests and the alliance. But that discussion is a sign of the alliance’s modernization, not its cause. The South China Sea, disaster response, and the pressing needs of Philippine military modernization are the alliance’s top priorities. If they can adequately address those, perhaps their enhanced capabilities and shared interests will eventually extend to cooperation on a Taiwan crisis. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Derek Grossman writes: Besides China, the small handful of nations that have outright opposed the deal are largely pariah states aligned with Beijing, specifically Myanmar and North Korea. Beyond the region, China’s “no limits” partner, Russia, opposes it too. But the fact that these countries are such a small minority suggests that AUKUS—as long as it continues to assuage nuclear proliferation concerns—will be viewed in the region as a legitimate counter to Chinese military excesses. – Foreign Policy 


French President Emmanuel Macron walked a diplomatic tightrope Wednesday, seeking to calm a trans-Atlantic uproar over his recent remarks on Taiwan while also defending his push for Europe to chart its own course on foreign policy. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden offered optimism for Northern Ireland in comments marking 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement ended decades of civil conflict in the fractious British province, declaring that “peace and economic opportunity go together.” – Wall Street Journal

Poland’s prime minister said he believed that only the direct intervention of President Biden would lead to an agreement for South Korea to make its artillery shells available to Ukraine to use in the fight against Russia. – New York Times

A Russian fighter jet fired a missile at a manned British surveillance aircraft flying over the Black Sea in September but the munition malfunctioned, according to U.S. defense officials and a recently leaked classified U.S. intelligence report. The incident was far more serious than originally portrayed and could have amounted to an act of war. – New York Times

French President Emmanuel Macron is not backtracking on comments in China urging the European Union to reduce dependency on the United States, a senior diplomat said on Wednesday. – Reuters

President Emmanuel Macron said France’s position on Taiwan had not changed and that he favoured the current “status quo” in respect of the island, after he was asked to clarify comments that prompted a backlash in the United States and Europe. – Reuters

Germany is reviewing its decision to allow China’s Cosco (601919.SS) to take a stake in one of logistics company HHLA’s (HHFGn.DE) three terminals at Hamburg port, a spokesperson for the German economy ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Poland aims to become the service centre for U.S.-made Abrams tanks in Europe, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday during a visit to the United States. – Reuters

Protests by European farmers are political and shipments of Ukrainian grain are not reducing the profitability of their business, Ukrainian food producers’ union UAC said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The United States imposed sanctions on three top officials of the Russian-controlled International Investment Bank in Budapest on Wednesday after it said Hungary had ignored U.S. concerns raised over the “opaque Kremlin platform”. – Reuters

The leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Northern Ireland will not change his party’s more than year-long boycott of the region’s power-sharing government. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday a deal between Britain and the European Union to simplify post-Brexit trade rules would lead to significant investment in Northern Ireland from “scores” of major U.S. companies. – Reuters

The Biden administration deflected British calls for a resumption of trade talks, saying such discussions might next come up in June at a planned meeting with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. – Bloomberg

Emmanuel Macron has sought to reassure allies that his policy on China and Taiwan remains unchanged, but diplomats and analysts said his remarks as he returned from Beijing had hampered the European Union’s attempts to forge a coherent approach. – Financial Times

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is heading to China to represent Berlin, but she’ll likely have more explaining to do about Paris in the wake of French President Emmanuel Macron’s explosive comments on Taiwan. – Politico

Editorial: The ramifications are wider than Taiwan, for Macron is making it clear that U.S. efforts to build and maintain a united allied front will be sacrificed to French commercial interests. Whether it’s human rights, intellectual property theft, espionage, or other urgent concerns, Macron has either stated or hinted that he will have Xi’s back. This needs to be factored into American thinking about France. President Joe Biden might believe the best way to deal with Macron is to fete him with state visits. But the next U.S. president should accept Macron’s France for what it is, an old friend who, on the most consequential of concerns, does not have America’s back. – Washington Examiner

Thorsten Benner writes: Building a coherent EU China policy on “derisking” got much harder after Macron’s dismal China trip. But it is the only way for Europe to assert, in Macron’s term, its “sovereignty.” Baerbock should find ways to publicly back this “derisking” agenda as well as the G7 and EU position on Taiwan during her trip to Beijing. But let us not hold our breath this will impress Xi very much. As long as he can count on Macron as his best ally against a sovereign Europe asserting its interests vis-á-vis an aggressive Beijing, he will simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. – Foreign Policy

Clara Gutman-Argemí writes: The White House hosted another Summit for Democracy in Washington last month. It made headlines for booting Hungary and Turkey from the event. Less noticed was the fact that those in attendance promised to counter the misuse of commercial spyware by governments. Well, almost all. Poland, Greece, and Spain declined to sign. – Foreign Policy


Sudan’s military on Thursday warned of potential clashes with the country’s powerful paramilitary force, which it said deployed troops in the capital and other cities. – Associated Press

Thomas Tumusifu Buregeya wishes he were studying for his final school exams. Instead, he scrapes a living doing odd jobs in a displaced people’s camp in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a wave of rebel violence upended his life yet again. – Reuters

South Africa’s political climate is the most uncertain since the end of the apartheid era, with investors acutely concerned about a potential coalition between the governing party and a leftist group after next year’s elections, Investec Bank Ltd.’s chief executive officer said. – Bloomberg

Latin America

Latin America’s largest country finds itself in a tricky position. Brazil has called for peace and, in carefully worded statements, criticized Russia’s invasion. But the country, which relies on Russia for fertilizer and fuel, has also made clear that it will not send any weapons destined for the front lines, and is instead pushing to mediate peace talks. – New York Times

Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrives in China on Wednesday as President Xi Jinping seeks to build momentum for talks to halt fighting in Ukraine more than a year after Russia’s invasion. – Bloomberg

United States forces will assist their Colombian and Panamanian counterparts with intelligence gathering to dismantle smuggling rings operating in the dense jungle of the Darien Gap, a key route for migrants heading to the U.S. from South America, a senior Biden administration official said Wednesday. – Associated Press

United States

The man behind a massive leak of U.S. government secrets that has exposed spying on allies, revealed the grim prospects for Ukraine’s war with Russia and ignited diplomatic fires for the White House is a young, charismatic gun enthusiast who shared highly classified documents with a group of far-flung acquaintances searching for companionship amid the isolation of the pandemic. – Washington Post

The U.S. government is treating the apparent disclosure of classified material surrounding the war in Ukraine as an insider’s leak, people familiar with the matter say, but hasn’t yet homed in on key suspects for a massive intelligence breach that has exposed the challenges of safeguarding sensitive U.S. information and tested ties with some of America’s closest allies. – Wall Street Journal

The United States has said it will return money and assets confiscated from a convicted former senior Mexican state official that were worth over $246 million, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday. – Reuters


Brazil could fine or suspend social media companies that do not effectively regulate content related to school violence, Justice Minister Flavio Dino said on Wednesday. – Reuters

South Korea’s top court on Thursday said Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google should disclose whether the technology giant had shared local user information with third parties, news agency Yonhap reported, sending the case back to a lower court. – Reuters

ChatGPT could return to Italy soon if its maker, OpenAI, complies with measures to satisfy regulators who had imposed a temporary ban on the artificial intelligence software over privacy worries. – Associated Press

A trove of leaked Pentagon documents were circulating online for months without being discovered by the U.S. government — raising questions about how the administration missed them. – Politico

The Biden administration is considering expanding its social media and chatroom monitoring protocols after classified documents were circulated online for weeks without notice, according to a report Wednesday. – Washington Examiner


Former defense officials and industry executives are calling on the Pentagon to expand the influence of its commercial innovation hub to make it easier for the military to buy off-the-shelf technology. – Defense News 

The U.S. Navy plans to operate a fleet of crewed and unmanned platforms within the next 10 years — an ambitious timeline that will require the service to quickly develop and mature autonomous systems, while ensuring confidence in the technology. – Defense News

The U.S. Army has approved the Integrated Battle Command System for full-rate production following years of delays as the service struggled with technical issues partly due to the expansion of the system’s mission well beyond simply serving as the brain for air and missile defense. – Defense News

Long War

The United States may not be allowed to keep a man imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay after he is no longer deemed a threat, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in an opinion released Wednesday. But the court disappointed advocates for prisoners by leaving unresolved the question of what constitutional protections he and other prisoners at the military facility have. – Washington Post

Three suspected Uzbek militants escaped from an immigration detention center in Indonesia’s capital after fatally stabbing an officer and seriously injuring four others, police said Wednesday. – Associated Press

The U.S. military conducted a helicopter raid in eastern Syria late on Saturday and captured an Islamic State operative and two of his associates, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on Wednesday. – Reuters

Katherine Zimmerman writes: For those who want to do counterterrorism better, the answer is not to do less but to do it differently. This approach should address underlying grievances and conflicts that have allowed al Qaeda and the Islamic State to fester—bringing governance to the fore of the effort and placing the military in a support rather than leading role. Until then, however, the United States should stay the course. – The Liberal Patriot