Fdd's overnight brief

April 15, 2019

In The News


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. lawmakers calling for an even harder sanctions policy against Iran were grandstanding and vowed that the State Department would ultimately “get it right” when it comes to exerting the needed level of pressure. – Washington Post

Iran protested to France on Sunday over comments by the French ambassador in Washington concerning Tehran’s right to enrich uranium after 2025. – Reuters

Iran will ask the international community to take a position on the U.S. designation of its Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was cited as saying on Sunday. – Reuters

Iran’s oil minister said on Sunday that U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela and tensions in Libya have made the supply-demand balance in the global oil market fragile, and warned of consequences for increasing pressures on Tehran. – Reuters

Floods caused by heavy rain across Iran in recent weeks have caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes and agricultural land, state media cited ministers as telling lawmakers on Sunday. – Reuters

Activist Yasaman Aryani was arrested in Tehran on April 10, 2019, after appearing in a widely shared video of women peacefully protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab law in a Tehran Metro train on March 8, International Women’s Day. – Iran Human Rights

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reports the foreign ministry has summoned France’s ambassador to Tehran over remarks made on Twitter by his colleague in Washington. – Associated Press

Burning American and Israeli flags, Iranians rallied after Friday prayers against the U.S.’s decision to designate the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization. Thousands of worshippers came out of the mosques chanting traditional anti-U.S. slogans at such rallies of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” Iranian state media said similar demonstrations took place in other Iranian cities and towns. – Associated Press

Sarah N. Stern writes: The 2015 Iranian nuclear deal brokered by former President Barack Obama was extremely weak, but yet, given its weaknesses, the agency that was expected to monitor Iran’s compliance has been exceedingly lax. […]These failures of the IAEA show that the agency that is supposed to verify Iran’s compliance with the deal has given too much leeway to the Islamic Republic. It would appear that the IAEA’s role in the nuclear deal is to validate it, not to verify it. – Jewish National Syndicate

Hanin Ghaddar writes: Many in Beirut, Washington, and Europe still believe that Hezbollah’s ties to Iran constitute a strategic partnership, and that the group is reliant on rather than beholden to Tehran. But Hezbollah’s margin of independent decisionmaking has always been small and is diminishing rapidly under Soleimani’s hands-on approach. On issues related to Lebanese political dynamics, Iran still sees Nasrallah and a few other senior Hezbollah officials as reliable advisors, but none of them are ultimately the decisionmakers on matters of import. – Washington Institute

James M. Dorsey writes: The US designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, and the Iranian response, has potentially put US military personnel in the region in harm’s way. The designation increases economic pressure on Iran — because the IRGC is not only an army but also a commercial conglomerate — but it remains to be seen to what degree the sanctions will affect the IRGC. The stakes in the Middle East couldn’t be higher. – Besa Center


For more than five years, her employer and her government imposed an especially strict media blackout, warning that any mention not only of her identity, but even of her nationality, could endanger her. But now that ISIS’ caliphate has collapsed, the aid group has broken its silence in hopes that the public can help find her and two Red Cross drivers, both Syrians, kidnapped alongside her. – New York Times

Satellite images released by the Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) on Sunday showed the complete destruction of a possible Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in Syria’s Masyaf District, allegedly struck by Israel on Saturday. – Jerusalem Post

An Israeli airstrike on a military position in central Syria early Saturday wounded six soldiers and destroyed several buildings, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported. – Associated Press

Israeli planes targeted a military position near the province of Hama in Syria on Saturday, but Syrian air defenses intercepted and downed some of the rockets, Syrian state television said on Saturday. – Reuters

Syria’s President Bashar Assad has survived an uprising, a years-long ruinous war and an Islamic “caliphate” established over parts of his broken country. As the Syrian conflict enters its ninth year, the 53-year-old leader appears more secure and confident than at any time since the revolt against his rule began in 2011. But the war for Syria is not over yet, and the path ahead is strewn with difficulties. – Associated Press

Efforts to forge a political deal between Kurdish-led authorities in northern Syria and the Syrian government are at a standstill and President Bashar-al Assad’s ally Russia is to blame, a Syrian Kurdish official said. – Reuters

It’s Arab Spring, season II, and he’s one of the few holdovers. The last man standing among a crop of Arab autocrats, after a new wave of protests forced the removal of the Algerian and Sudanese leaders from the posts they held for decades. Syria’s President Bashar Assad has survived an uprising, a years-long ruinous war and an Islamic “caliphate” established over parts of his broken country. As the Syrian conflict enters its ninth year, the 53-year-old leader appears more secure and confident than at any time since the revolt against his rule began in 2011. – Associated Press

Editorial: When Mr. Trump announced plans for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Syria in December, allies criticized the move as endangering the West’s security. They were right, and Mr. Trump partly reversed the decision. Now the roles have flipped, with some prioritizing domestic politics over international security. If Mr. Trump changed course, they can too. – Wall Street Journal


As the Arab Spring uprisings have been trampled underfoot by resurgent dictators or devolved into brutal civil wars, Istanbul has emerged as the region’s capital for many of the Arab politicians, activists, rebels and journalists who tried to push history in a different direction in the countries where they were born — and stalled. – New York Times

The winner of the Istanbul mayor’s race is still uncertain after two weeks of counting and recounting, opening up the possibility of a tense legal tussle in a megalopolis polarized over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party. – Wall Street Journal

After experiencing a decade of growth, Turkey’s increasingly vibrant defense industry may fall victim to the government’s quest to purchase the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system, a deal that will make Turkey the first NATO ally to deploy the system on its soil. […]Turkey risks severe U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. Top U.S. lawmakers are threatening to pass legislation that would bar Turkey from buying the F-35 fighter jet, and sanction the country if it buys the Russian S-400. – Defense News

Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak offered little convincing detail of his economic turnaround plan and failed to enthuse investors at a private meeting in Washington on Thursday, according to four people who attended. – Reuters


President Trump’s proposal for a “deal of the century” to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict promises practical improvements in the lives of Palestinians but is likely to stop short of ensuring a separate, fully sovereign Palestinian state, according to people familiar with the main elements of the effort. The White House is expected to roll out its long-anticipated peace package later this spring or by early summer, after more than two years of effort by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. – Washington Post

Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas has predicted that the ‘Deal of the Century’ Middle East peace plan drawn up by the Trump administration will not be implemented, due in large part to the PA’s own staunch opposition to the proposal. – Arutz Sheva

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday swore in a new government headed by a loyalist from his dominant Fatah party, a move rejected by his Islamist rival Hamas as a blow to unity efforts. – Reuters

The Trump administration’s acceptance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talk regarding his plans to annex portions of the West Bank will inflame the region, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman said on Sunday. “These statements will harm any international efforts to achieve peace,” Nabil Abu Abu Rudaineh said. – Jerusalem Post

National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat will meet with his US counterpart John Bolton on Monday in Washington to discuss Iran and “other destabilizing actors.” Bolton tweeted Sunday that he and Ben-Shabbat will discuss their “shared commitment to countering Iranian malign activity & other destabilizing actors in the Middle East and around the world.” – Times of Israel


Iraq must never forget Saddam Hussein’s crimes or allow his party to return, President Barham Salih said on Sunday after attending the unearthing of a mass grave of Kurds killed by the former leader’s forces three decades ago. – Reuters

Security forces killed an Islamic State commander and four fighters in the Hamrin Mountains area of northeast Iraq on Sunday, the military said. – Reuters

A group of Iraq’s Shi’ite militia groups said on Saturday that they strongly rejected the designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) as a terrorist organization by the United States. – Reuters

After decades of conflict, Iraq is seeking to reclaim a leadership role and status in the Arab world with a centrist policy and a determination among the country’s top leaders to maintain good relations with both Iran and the United States. A flurry of recent diplomatic activity and high-profile visits to the Iraqi capital, including this month’s re-opening of a Saudi Consulate in Baghdad — for the first time in nearly 30 years — points to a new era of openness as the nation sheds its war image and re-engages with the world. – Associated Press

Aaron Magid writes: Despite the many obstacles, the U.S. and Iraq continue to work together to combat the threat of ISIS, and security elites in Baghdad and Washington understand the importance and value of the relationship. Yet, populists on both sides have repeatedly tested the others’ will in a dangerous game of chicken. […]If actors on both sides aren’t careful, the tightrope-balancing act of Iraqi-U.S. collaboration against ISIS could quickly fall apart, either because of a PMF rocket or a Trump tweet. – Middle East Institute


The Islamic State and al-Qaeda are waging a deadly contest for territory, recruits and influence in Yemen that is dividing tribes and deepening instability in the Middle East’s poorest nation, according to tribal leaders, security officials and analysts. – Washington Post

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who lives in Saudi Arabia while rival Houthi forces control the capital Sanaa, made a rare visit to his country on Saturday for a meeting of the divided parliament in a loyalist southern province. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia is looking to find a way out of its devastating war in Yemen and the United States, the kingdom’s stalwart ally, can play a critical role, the International Crisis Group said Sunday. – Agence France- Presse

White House staff has stonewalled for more than a week a group of lawmakers asking for a meeting with President Trump in a bid to convince him to sign legislation ending the U.S. role in Yemen’s civil war. Despite an official veto recommendation from White House staff, Trump has continued to appear open-minded, saying Wednesday that the matter was “very serious” and that he would have more to say later. – Washington Examiner


Days before Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to seize the capital and attempt to unite the divided country under his rule, Saudi Arabia promised tens of millions of dollars to help pay for the operation, according to senior advisers to the Saudi government. – Wall Street Journal

The United Nations-backed government of Libya sought on Saturday to reassure its Western supporters by distancing itself from terrorists and extremists. Some fighters with extremist ties or who have been targeted by United Nations sanctions have said this week that they were joining the Libyan government’s fight against an attack by a militia leader. – New York Times

A week after an aspiring strongman launched a surprise attack on the Libyan capital, an assortment of criminal gangs and extremists are rushing into the fight against him, raising new questions for the United States and other Western powers that have condemned his attack. – New York Times

More than 120 people have been killed since a Libyan military commander launched an assault on the capital 10 days ago, igniting clashes with rival militias, the U.N. health agency said Sunday. – Associated Press

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday met in Cairo with Khalifa Haftar, the commander of eastern-based Libyan forces, who is under international pressure to halt an advance on the capital Tripoli. – Reuters

Eastern Libyan forces will pursue their advance on the capital Tripoli, the head of the eastern parliament in the divided country said on Saturday, despite international calls for a halt in an offensive that risks causing many civilian casualties. – Reuters

Italy’s prime minister has said any foreign military intervention in Libya would not resolve the latest conflict in its former colony, warning that it might trigger a refugee exodus across the Mediterranean. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

The armed forces of Algeria and Sudan, which pushed out the long-serving rulers of those countries after mass protests, are following a script that has failed millions of Arabs since the 2011 uprisings. Those “Arab Spring” upheavals raised hopes of political and economic reforms in countries such as Egypt, where the army watched patiently from the sidelines and then capitalized on the turmoil to widen its influence in politics. – Reuters

Hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding the departure of Algeria’s ruling elite rallied in the North African nation’s capital on Friday and police reported nearly 200 arrests after clashes that left more than 80 officers injured. – Reuters

A delegation from Israel that was due to attend a conference in Bahrain this week has pulled out due to security concerns, the organizers said on Sunday, after Bahrainis held an extensive campaign against the visit. – Reuters

The late Saudi Arabian journalist, editor and kingdom-insider Jamal Khashoggi, writing on Twitter from 2011 until 2018, said Jews had no roots in historical Palestine, that one must know how to speak to Jews when meeting them, and that Jews were conspiring to divide al-Aqsa Mosque. The tweets, still online as of April 14, show a pattern of anti-Jewish views that even hinted at references to the antisemitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and complained that the West had laws preventing Holocaust denial. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave the U.S. until the year’s end to break a deadlock in stalled nuclear talks, Pyongyang state media reported on Saturday, saying he remained open to a third summit with President Trump. – Wall Street Journal

An American P-8 surveillance plane had spotted three ships huddled together in the East China Sea. About 80 miles northwest, the USS Milius and a Japanese warship were following a tanker blacklisted by the United Nations for smuggling oil into North Korea. – Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump declared sanctions against North Korea because of its remaining missile and nuclear weapons testing programs but didn’t rule out a future third summit try at negotiations with Kim Jong Un. “I think that sanctions right now are at a level that’s a fair level,” he said Thursday as he met with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in at the White House. – USNI News

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday he’s ready for a fourth summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to help salvage faltering nuclear negotiations between the North and the United States. – Associated Press

A Vietnamese woman who had been accused of killing the half-brother of North Korea’s leader will be freed from a Malaysian prison on May 3, her lawyer said, a day earlier than previously expected. – Reuters

Sanctions on North Korea are full of holes and the international community needs to crack down, Japan’s foreign minister has said in an interview with the Financial Times. – Financial Times


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday the U.S. and China are continuing to make progress on trade talks and “getting close to the final round of concluding issues.” – Wall Street Journal

The Chinese government has drawn wide international condemnation for its harsh crackdown on ethnic Muslims in its western region, including holding as many as a million of them in detention camps. Now, documents and interviews show that the authorities are also using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority. It is the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling, experts said. – New York Times

Just as he had on previous trips, Zhu Feng bolted down his lunch at a Los Angeles airport before sprinting to catch his Air China flight back to Beijing. Suddenly, two F.B.I. agents blocked the Chinese scholar at the boarding gate and ordered him to hand over his passport. They flipped to the well-used 10-year visa to the United States and crossed out the page with a black pen. – New York Times

Growing up as a member of the Uighur ethnic group in China’s far west, Farhad Habibullah never felt that his people were oppressed by the state. He came from a family of Communist Party loyalists, part of an elite segment of Uighur society celebrated by the party as model minority members. But now he has joined other Uighurs in doing what was once, to him, unthinkable — and unthinkably dangerous, even in his new home in Australia: calling for an independent Uighur nation. – New York Times

A businesswoman from China who was arrested last month at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida when she showed up with a bag full of questionable electronics gear was indicted on Friday after a federal grand jury found there was sufficient evidence to hold her for trial. – New York Times

President Trump reportedly spoke with former President Jimmy Carter on Saturday about China. Emma Hurt, a reporter for NPR affiliate WABE, said in a series of tweets that Carter relayed his discussion with the president at church Sunday morning. Trump, Carter told those in attendance, is right to be worried “China is getting ahead of us.” – Washington Examiner

U.S.-China relations will continue to evolve as negotiations between the two countries stretch over decades, but a resolution to the current trade dispute will likely happen in the “not too distant future,” General Electric Co.’s Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said. – Bloomberg

The US is willing to face “repercussions” from China if it fails to comply with the terms of a likely deal to end the trade war between the world’s two largest economies, Steven Mnuchin, the US treasury secretary said, suggesting the US will meet Beijing’s demand for a “two-way” system to enforce the agreement.  – Financial Times

Tokyo has expressed concern with Beijing over policies that could give Chinese companies unfair advantages when competing on new technologies, joining a chorus of other countries that have made similar complaints. – Financial Times

Protectionism has harmed mutual trust among countries and limited the scope for multilateral cooperation, a vice governor of China’s central bank said on Saturday, taking a swipe at the Trump administration’s “America First” trade policies. – Reuters

Michael Silver writes: A trade agreement with China must include provisions requiring the same availability and pricing of rare-earth metals inside and outside China, with strong enforcement and transparency mechanisms. Otherwise, China will need only to quit the WTO to be in a position to stymie the promised U.S. manufacturing renaissance, have overwhelming leverage in all future trade disputes, and, in the longer term, gain a decisive strategic military advantage over the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

Joseph Bosco writes: It is up to Washington to invoke the TRA and tell China that attacking Taiwan certainly would mean war with the United States. To be credible, the warning has to be public. Chinese leaders have proved themselves rational actors when they fully understand the consequences of their actions, so there would be no war, even if Taiwan politicians tried to take advantage of the U.S. security guarantee by making moves toward formal independence. – The Hill


The Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive on Friday, even as the United Nations lifted travel bans on 11 of their senior leaders to facilitate peace talks with the United States. – New York Times

Trump administration officials took a victory lap Friday after the International Criminal Court decided not to proceed with an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, hailing it as vindication of their insistence that the court has no jurisdiction over U.S. forces who might have been implicated in a probe. – Washington Post

Taliban forces attacked the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on Saturday, a day after the launch of their annual spring offensive, as fighting intensified across the country ahead of the next round of peace talks with U.S. representatives. – Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the International Criminal Court’s decision last week to reject a request to investigate US forces for possible war crimes in Afghanistan. – Jerusalem Post

Daniel F. Runde and Richard Olson write: Peace talks between the United States and the Taliban appear to be advancing, and a settlement could lead to a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan as the result of dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government[…]. This is an alternative in which U.S. policy objectives are met and in which the United States retains a partnership with a post-settlement with Afghanistan. There is hope for peace and the preservation of the gains made in the last two decades, but the United States and the rest of the international community need to be patient and take gradual, thoughtful measures. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

South Asia

Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least 18 people in a Pakistan market, the group’s Amaq news agency said on Saturday. – Reuters

India is hopeful it will avoid US sanctions over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told AFP. – Agence France-Presse

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of Afghanistan’s most notorious former warlords, said there is “no doubt” neighboring Pakistan supports the Afghan Taliban. – Radio Free Afghanistan

Husain Haqqani writes: Pakistan’s support for militancy is motivated by the desire to provide a force multiplier for a relatively poor country trying to act as a major regional power without resources comparable to its perceived rival. Pakistan is an ideological state and is unlikely to change without questioning the state ideology. But for some in the West, the notion that “surely they must have understood by now that they need to change” often overrides the lessons of history. – The Print


The foreign minister of Brunei has defended his country’s new penal code — which made adultery and gay sex punishable by death from stoning, and allows for the amputation of limbs for theft — saying the laws are meant as a deterrent. – New York Times

China slashed by nearly a third its price for building a multibillion-dollar Malaysian railway, salvaging a project seen as crucial to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s program to develop global infrastructure. – Wall Street Journal

As optimism grows that the United States and China are nearing a trade deal, Japan kicks off its own negotiations with Washington from Monday, hoping to resolve some of the issues “very quickly.” – Agence France-Presse

The U.S. State Department has cleared a further sale of missiles used for ballistic missile defense to Japan, marking the third and largest batch of such missiles to the U.S. ally. – Defense News

Philippine officials on Sunday confirmed that a leader of an alliance of pro-Islamic State militants was one of four insurgents killed in a clash with the military last month. – Reuters


The Russians have started hacking into the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) on a mass scale in order to confuse thousands of ships and airplanes about where they are, according to a study of false GNSS signals by C4ADS. GNSS comprises the constellation of international satellites that orbit the earth. The US’s Global Positioning System (GPS), China’s Beidou, Russia’s GLONASS, and Europe’s Galileo program are all part of GNSS. – Business Insider

It has the makings of a new Cold War, or worse. The deep chill in U.S.-Russian relations is stirring concern in some quarters that Washington and Moscow are in danger of stumbling into an armed confrontation that, by mistake or miscalculation, could lead to nuclear war. – Associated Press

Russia is back in the Central African Republic (CAR). In a military training base located on former palace grounds southwest of the capital Bangui, hundreds of Russian fighters, described as army reservists, are training CAR government soldiers in preparation for deployment along the country’s border. – Al Jazeera


Pro-Brexit figurehead Nigel Farage launched a new political party to fight a European election few people thought would happen in Britain and where the winners might never take their seats. – Wall Street Journal

Johannes Hahn, the European Union’s commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, finds Washington “interesting.” Hahn was in town last week in part to discuss the Middle East, Ukraine and the western Balkans with his U.S. counterparts. – Washington Post

China’s premier surveyed construction of a long-sought bridge over Croatia’s Mali Ston Bay, home to China’s largest infrastructure project in Europe — built by a Chinese company with Chinese workers, and financed in large part by European Union money. – New York Times

British police officers fired shots Saturday at a car outside the Ukrainian Embassy in London after it rammed other vehicles parked in front of the building. – Associated Press

So far only the Pacific region and, more recently, the Middle East have seen operational deployments of the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, but now it’s headed to Romania this summer, according to an April 11 U.S. European Command statement. – Defense News

Thousands of Hungarians attended the annual March of the Living in Budapest on Sunday to commemorate victims of the Holocaust, including Jane Haining, a Scottish missionary who refused to abandon her Jewish charges during World War Two. – Reuters

France will be overruled on Monday when the EU votes to launch trade talks with the US — putting Paris at odds with Berlin and other capitals for the second time in a week. – Financial Times

German conservative leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said divisions in the ruling coalition about planned military spending were undermining Germany’s credibility worldwide. – Reuters

The leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who has been beset with antisemitism scandals since he took over leadership of the party in 2015, has been caught on tape admitting that evidence of antisemitism within the party has been “ignored or not used.” – Algemeiner

Countries in the western Balkans aspiring to join the European Union, such as Serbia and Kosovo, should be given a clear pathway to membership provided they solve their differences, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Friday. – Associated Press

Nicky Woolf writes: The longer it plays out, the clearer it is that Corbyn’s struggle with anti-Semitism lies not just in his unwillingness to confront it, but in his inability to acknowledge it as a problem—or even feign interest. […]With Corbyn’s leadership assured by tens of thousands of new members who swept into the party and delivered it to him, he should now be free to remake it in his own image.  – The Atlantic

Tom Rogan writes: Corbyn is a devoted anti-American with an odd penchant for parroting Putin’s talking points. Reminding us of this on Thursday, Corbyn took to Twitter to offer unique support for Julian Assange. […]Of course, it’s not terribly surprising that Corbyn and Abbott side with the terrorists. Today’s devoutly socialist Labour Party has a clear message: It prefers Putin to freedom, terrorists to Jews, and appeasement to deterrence. – Washington Examiner


Sudan’s powerful intelligence chief stepped down on Saturday, two days after the president was ousted, as huge crowds of demonstrators remained encamped outside the country’s military headquarters. – New York Times

Thousands of demonstrators staged sit-ins outside Sudan’s Defense Ministry in defiance of curfews this weekend, as organizers of protests that forced the ouster of long-serving President Omar al-Bashir pressed the military to immediately hand power to a transitional civilian government. – Wall Street Journal

Some of the young women are thriving at a new school. Some have returned home to their family farms. But the fates of more than 100 other students who were kidnapped from a school in northeastern Nigeria are unknown, five years after militants from Boko Haram abducted them. On Sunday, the fifth anniversary of the kidnappings from the village of Chibok, President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated a pledge he had made years ago to bring back all of the students. – New York Times

Two Cuban doctors were abducted near Kenya’s border with Somalia on Friday, in a bold attack that left one police officer dead and that officials say was probably linked to the Shabab militant group. – New York Times

An air strike killed the deputy leader of the Islamic State group in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region, alongside another militant, a local security official said on Sunday. – Reuters

Jamal Mahjoub writes: If this revolution is to succeed it must sweep away not just this regime but also the stagnation that has dominated politics for decades and turned indifference into an ideology. A transformation of the political spectrum, one that allows a new generation of young men and women to flourish, representing not only the diversity of the country but also its true potential. One can only hope. – New York Times

Judd Devermont writes: On April 11, 2019, the Sudanese military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir who had ruled his country for three decades. Sudan’s First Vice President and Minister of Defense Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf announced that he will lead a two yearlong transitional government. […]For three decades, the United States has called for new leadership in Sudan. It should not see this transition as squandered, but rather as just the beginning. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Nina Shea writes: Bashir should instead be tried for genocide by a Sudanese court. Secretary Pompeo should honor the Bush administration’s genocide designation by helping Khartoum identify Sudanese jurists and witnesses, many of whom are now in exile, and by providing expert legal counsel and encouragement. It’s the best chance the world stands of forcing this monster to answer for his crimes. – National Review

North America

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she asked police on Capitol Hill to step up protection of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) after President Trump tweeted a video of remarks she made about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. – Wall Street Journal

Canada’s top economic diplomat personally lobbied President Trump’s advisers this week to remove American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imports and warned that the levies could jeopardize that country’s ratification of the rewritten North American Free Trade Agreement. – New York Times

President Donald Trump did not wish any harm in his Twitter post criticizing Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments on the 9/11 attacks, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Sunday. – Reuters

David Frum writes: It cannot be pleasant for Omar’s colleagues to have to wonder and worry what that next remark will be—knowing that Donald Trump and his Twitter feed will be waiting to blame all Democrats for the provocations of one. But by not putting themselves on record about Omar when they could, Democrats now find themselves bound to her for the duration. This problem will get worse, and its political consequences will become ever more costly for Democrats who want to win national elections and govern the country. – The Atlantic

Latin America

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a lot to feel good about during his four-country swing through South America this past week. – Washington Post

A bombing damaged a section of Colombia’s Trasandino pipeline, state-run company Ecopetrol said on Saturday, and the company was investigating a crude spillage from the Cano Limon pipeline to determine if it was also caused by an attack. – Reuters

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel accused the Trump administration on Saturday of dragging relations with the United States to their worst level in decades and called on Cubans to strengthen the Communist-run country’s defenses and economy. – Reuters


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touted the Trump administration’s plans to promote democracy and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere—and to counter growing Chinese influence—during a trip to Latin America Friday. – Wall Street Journal

A former Venezuelan spy chief has been arrested by Spanish authorities who acted on an extradition request from the United States, where he is wanted for drug trafficking. – New York Times

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took direct aim at China and Russia on the first leg of a four-country trip to South America on Friday, saying the two countries’ military and economic influence in the region was abetting authoritarian leaders and spreading corruption. – Washington Post

Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro must be “fought against” to ensure that he leaves power, a top regional diplomat said Saturday after a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – Washington Examiner

Germany’s state-funded public broadcaster Deutsche Welle said on Sunday that Venezuela’s broadcast authority had blocked its Spanish-language channel from cable networks in the country. – Reuters

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday ordered an expansion of civilian militia by nearly one million members as opposition leader Juan Guaido toured western Zulia state, which has been hard hit by electricity blackouts. – Reuters

A group of finance ministers is working on a $10 billion package of trade finance that could be made available to help Venezuela out of its economic and humanitarian crisis once a new government is put in place, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday. – Reuters


Thousands of FBI and law enforcement officials could be at risk after having their personal data stolen and published by a group of anonymous hackers, according to a new report. – Washington Examiner

Chinese telecommunications giants are not outpacing western companies in the race to 5G, according to the State Department’s point man for cybersecurity issues. – Washington Examiner

A swathe of the world is adopting China’s vision for a tightly controlled internet over the unfettered American approach, a stunning ideological coup for Beijing that would have been unthinkable less than a decade ago. – Bloomberg

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange repeatedly violated his asylum conditions and tried to use the Ecuadorian embassy in London as a center for spying, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno told Britain’s Guardian newspaper. – Reuters

An Ecuadorean judge ordered a Swedish citizen, who according to the Andean country’s government was linked to WikiLeaks, jailed pending trial for alleged involvement in hacking government computer systems, the prosecutor’s office said on Saturday. – Reuters

Authorities were investigating Saturday the online posting by a hacker group of the personal information of hundreds of federal agents and police officers apparently stolen from websites affiliated with alumni of the FBI’s National Academy. – Reuters

Germany’s telecoms regulator has given the clearest signal yet that equipment maker Huawei will not be excluded from the buildout of the country’s superfast 5G network, despite fierce pressure from the US to shut out the controversial Chinese supplier for security reasons. – Financial Times

Paul Bedard writes: Still, the number of hacks is stunning. At a House hearing this week, he spelled them out: “In just one month, the CAO blocks an estimated 1.6 billion unauthorized scans, probes, and connections aimed at the House and an average of 12.6 million questionable emails to thwart phishing attacks from reaching intended targets.” – Washington Examiner

Shane Tews writes: It will be crucial for the White House to provide leadership and strategic guidance to federal agencies on the changes that need to be made to remove the barriers to 5G implementation. The ability for governments to accelerate openings around innovative technology will enhance the economy and help move the US toward the next generation of technology that is unfolding on a global scale. – American Enterprise Institute


The Pentagon within the coming months is expected to undergo its most dramatic period of turnover at top military levels under the Trump administration, during which top civilian leaders aren’t serving in a permanent capacity. – Wall Street Journal

Rapid advancements in technology outpace military acquisition or doctrinal development, so Navy and Marine Corps officials are using a series of advanced naval technology experimentation exercises to shorten that timeline gap and ensure operational forces in the high-tech battlespace are equipped for the high-end future conflicts. – USNI News

The Department of Defense has confirmed it is ending a decades-long, open-ended agreement with a legacy science advisory board, a move that has set off alarm bells for some analysts. But the department has not ruled out relying on that office for more information in the future. – Defense News

With six months before the first budget deadline, it may be already time to panic. Lawmakers’ worries the budget fight between President Donald Trump and Democrats will cause a deadlock were on full display this week. If the two sides can’t reach a deal to ease statutory budget caps, a stopgap continuing resolution, or CR, could freeze the Pentagon’s budget at last year’s level, or leave the department in a worse state — automatic sequestration cuts could slash its budget by $71 billion. – Defense News

A high-powered panel of Pentagon officials faced a group of skeptical senators Thursday during a key moment in the department’s push to create a new branch of the military focused on space. – Defense News

Trump Administration

The finalizing of Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference, expected to be released this week, had the capital abuzz and members of both parties lining up their political messaging over what the findings will mean for the Trump presidency. – Wall Street Journal

After Bernie Sanders lost his presidential primary race against Hillary Clinton in 2016, a Twitter account called Red Louisiana News reached out to his supporters to help sway the general election. “Conscious Bernie Sanders supporters already moving towards the best candidate Trump! #Feel the Bern #Vote Trump 2016,” the account tweeted. The tweet was not actually from Louisiana, according to an analysis by Clemson University researchers. Instead, it was one of thousands of accounts identified as based in Russia, part of a cloaked effort to persuade supporters of the senator from Vermont to elect Trump. – Washington Post

The indictment of former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig on charges related to foreign work marks a stunning turn in a legal career that has spanned decades and drew shocked responses from his former law partners and colleagues. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday he could not commit to meeting Democrats’ new April 23 deadline for turning over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to them, adding that he wanted to keep the Internal Revenue Service from being “weaponized” for political gain. – Reuters