Fdd's overnight brief

April 15, 2020

In The News


Iranian naval forces seized a Hong Kong-flagged tanker and redirected the vessel into Iranian waters before releasing it, according to Western and Emirati officials, prompting a warning Tuesday to ships along the Persian Gulf’s key oil export route. The alert comes amid mounting Iranian assertiveness along the key oil export route, say Western security officials, and as broader regional tensions simmer between Tehran and Saudi Arabia as well as Western powers. – Wall Street Journal

Different political factions in Iran are rushing in to claim the mantle of saviors, promising help to ordinary people whose livelihoods have been jeopardized by the impact of the coronavirus epidemic […]It appears that this is a response to widespread criticism of the IRGC and financial organizations linked to Khameneei’s office regarding their inaction in the face of the outbreak. – Radio Farda 

The footage, and his comments, hinted at a wider truth: Iran was struggling to cope with the sheer number of people that had died, which could be far higher than it has acknowledged. Since the video surfaced on 2 March and promptly went viral, the response of Iranian authorities to the film has given a glimpse into how the country is fighting to control the narrative around coronavirus. – BBC 

In its most recent report on the world economy, the International Monetary Fund has said Iran’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, will decline by about six percent in 2020. […]Iran currently has the world’s highest inflation rate after Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Sudan. Its national currency has declined more than fourfold since early 2018. – Radio Farda

Radio Farda has learned that Iran has sent the draft of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry according to which Ukraine and the families of the victims are to accept “human error” as the cause of the crash. The said document also stipulates that Ukraine and the families of the victims should not pursue criminal and judicial action against Iran in return for the payment of compensation by Iran and releasing the plane’s flight recorder’s contents after they are analyzed. – Radio Farda 

Almost five billion dollars of the Islamic Republic’s money is missing, says the Director of the Supreme Audit Court of Iran (SAC), Adel Azar. […]Following a steep devaluation of Iran’s currency, the government decided to sell dollars to importers at a preferential rate, so important necessities would continue flowing into the country. – Radio Farda 

The Iranian chess arbiter is yet to return home to her family following the conclusion of the tournament in January, fearing punishment after she was criticized online for not wearing the appropriate headscarf. […]While trying to focus on the job at hand, Bayat was subsequently seeking reassurances from the Iranian Chess Federation who had alerted her to the apparent storm brewing at home. – CNN 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Washington’s opposition to granting a five-billion-dollar IMF loan to the Islamic Republic of Iran in interviews on April 14. […]In recent weeks Iran has also pushed for lifting U.S. sanctions, calling it “medical terrorism”. Russia and a few countries have supported Iran’s demand, but Europe has shown lackluster sympathy for Tehran’s position. – Radio Farda 

An official of Iran’s Judiciary on Tuesday said prison guards had been involved in the escape of prisoners from a jail in the northwestern city of Saqqez on March 27. […]Following the coronavirus pandemic the Iranian judiciary allowed tens of thousands of prisoner to go on furlough. However, many of the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience have been excluded from temporary release from prison. – Radio Farda  

The Trump administration has received guarantees Iran will not repatriate some $1.6 billion related to Tehran’s recent “legal victory” against American terror victims. – The Washington Free Beacon 

Jason Rezaian writes: In any case, the outside world should resist the temptation to crow at renewed evidence of the Iranian regime’s incompetence as ordinary Iranians pay the ultimate price. Few governments have covered themselves with glory in the current crisis, and almost all of them will face similarly unpleasant choices in the weeks to come. Let’s hope they don’t repeat Iran’s mistakes. – Washington Post 

A.J. Caschetta writes: There comes a time in every successful revolution when the military stops following orders from its illegitimate leaders and sides with the people. Even though Khamenei commands a police state skilled at terrorizing, the growing COVID-19 death toll in Iran could provide the tipping point for the military to stop following orders. – The Hill  

Matthew Petti writes: Iran has rolled out “smart distancing” measures to control the novel coronavirus without shutting down Iran’s sanctions-battered economy. But health experts have warned that the only way to break the chain of transmission is to lock down the entire country, and authorities are already reporting issues in securing people’s compliance with the measures. – The National Interest   

Patrick Clawson writes: In short, the IMF loan controversy will have no impact on the country’s ability to purchase humanitarian goods. It is inappropriate for news outlets, EU governments, or anyone else to claim that blocking the loan will impede Iran’s access to such goods. The real obstacle lies in Tehran’s failure to use the many resources it can already access. – Washington Institute  

Omer Carmi writes: Another cause for concern is Iran’s long scoresheet as a nuclear cheater. Its past infractions include building a clandestine enrichment facility in Fordow, hiding a nuclear archive after the JCPOA was reached, and refusing to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation of its past activities. […]Ultimately, however, the agency’s view of Iran’s nuclear activities may still be hindered during this crisis, so Western governments should invest the appropriate resources and attention to ensure a clear picture. – Washington Institute  

Amin Mohseni-Cheraghlou writes: How long this will last is uncertain, but one thing is clear: How the Iranian government responds in the weeks and months ahead to what may well be its biggest challenge yet is likely to have a deep impact on Iran’s economy and society for years to come. – Middle East Institute 


U.S. Army Capt. Cedric Pollard strolls into the business district of Tal Tamr, Syria, like a mayor at election time. […]When President Trump decided to withdraw a large portion of U.S. forces last October, Turkey quickly invaded the area. Many fled to Tal Tamr, including most recently Syrian Kurds seeking shelter. – NPR 

At a time when a deadly virus is ravaging the globe, the atrocities committed in recent years by the Syrian government might seem to pale in comparison. But they do, in fact, deserve our continuing attention. – Algemeiner 

The government, backed by Russia and Iran, launched a push earlier this year to capture Idlib, sending hundreds of thousands of residents fleeing, many of them people who were already displaced. In recent days thousands of Syrians have begun to leave camps near the Turkish border, some wary of the virus reaching tightly packed quarters, choosing instead to return to Idlib after a ceasefire struck last month that has restored calm. – Reuters


A Palestinian journalist and former employee of Amnesty International defended herself on Monday against accusations that she was responsible for the arrest of a Gaza peace activist because he held a Zoom meeting with Israeli counterparts. – Algemeiner 

Israel should refrain from annexing West Bank settlements and should instead take steps to help Palestinians survive the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov tweeted on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and their negotiators will reconvene on Wednesday evening after failing to finalize an agreement in six hours of negotiations at the Prime Minister’s Residence on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Tarek Loubani writes: Israel must immediately lift restrictions on medical supplies and equipment entering Gaza and ensure Palestinian doctors and nurses have the resources they need to ensure the health and safety of their patients. It should also lift travel restrictions so that Palestinians in Gaza who are sick can leave to receive treatment elsewhere. As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for the well-being of Gaza’s population. – Washington Post

Iona Hirsch writes: In a region infamous for its sectarian tension, the coronavirus has catalyzed an unlikely alliance between the Israeli and Palestinian governments. […]In this devastating time of corona, will unprecedented collaboration between these two governments be the silver lining to catalyze the peace process in the middle east? – Jerusalem Post  

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia has resumed indirect talks with Yemen’s Houthi movement to cement a faltering ceasefire, sources familiar with the discussions said, as the United Nations pushes for a de-escalation to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak. – Reuters  

Saudi Arabia is selling a Eurobond as it follows other Middle Eastern states that have tapped the market in recent weeks to bolster their finances in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and plunging energy prices. – Bloomberg  

Britain’s leading arms manufacturer BAE Systems sold £15bn worth of arms and services to the Saudi military during the last five years, the period covered by Riyadh’s involvement in the deadly bombing campaign in the war in Yemen. – The Guardian  

Fighting in Yemen between the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the exiled government has escalated, despite a ceasefire designed to help the war-torn country focus on containing the coronavirus pandemic. – The Guardian 

Ali Al-Ahmed writes: As much as the State Department might prefer a cautious, low-key approach to helping Bader and Salah get out of jail, the clock is ticking. Saudi Arabia should be made to honor its commitment to the United States and to respect the rights of our citizens — even as it abuses its own people. – Washington Post 

Middle East & North Africa

The contingents of mercenaries from the Wagner Group began arriving via Sudan last September, according to Western diplomats tracking their movements. […]To deepen its influence, the Kremlin has also organized secret meetings in Moscow between Mr. Hifter’s supporters and former officers in the Qaddafi-era military and security services, according to Western diplomats and other analysts who have spoken to Libyan participants. – New York Times  

Iraq has suspended the licence of the Reuters news agency after it published a story saying the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country was higher than officially reported. […]In addition to the three-month suspension, Reuters was ordered to issue a formal apology.- Reuters 

Libya’s United Nations-backed government is accelerating its campaign to reclaim territory lost to Khalifa Haftar after it seized key towns on Monday, the interior minister said, dismissing negotiations with the rival commander to end the civil war amid fears the coronavirus was taking hold in the country. – Bloomberg 

The worldwide pandemic could financially drown the vulnerable in Egypt. The partial lockdown threatens the livelihoods of many of Egypt’s 100 million residents, one of three of whom were already living in poverty, according to government figures. Many Egyptians, particularly those working in tourism, were only recently seeing an improvement in living conditions following the downturn brought about by the country’s 2011 popular uprising. – Associated Press 

An Egyptian policeman and seven suspected militants were killed on Tuesday in an exchange of gunfire, the ministry of interior said in a statement late on Tuesday. […]Egypt has been fighting an Islamist insurgency in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula since the ouster of Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 following mass protests against his rule. – Reuters  

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon on Tuesday broke up a “short standoff” between Israeli and Lebanese troops south of the Blue Line border demarcation between the two countries. […]The UN on Saturday pleaded for warring parties in the Middle East to cease hostilities amid the pandemic. – Times of Israel  

Turkey on Tuesday repeated an offer to the United States to establish a technical working group including NATO to help solve a dispute over Ankara’s purchase of Russian missile defenses that angered Washington. – Reuters  

Sasha Toperich writes: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Turkey has proven itself as a key supporter of world efforts. […]It comes to no surprise that Turkey is better prepared to deal with such pandemics when one considers that the country has a history of large-scale disasters, from devastating earthquakes to managing millions of refugees and migrants. – The Hill 

Karen Young writes: The banks can’t save Gulf economies, and governments are ill-equipped to direct bailouts to firms when they have a clear interest in saving their own state-related entities first. The legacy of a state-centered economy and a reliance on oil revenues continue to hamper the region’s ability to respond to financial crisis. – Al-Monitor

Korean Peninsula

The top U.S. general said on Tuesday that North Korea’s recent test of short-range missiles was not particularly provocative or threatening to the United States. […]North Korea launched multiple short-range anti-ship cruise missiles into the sea and Sukhoi jets fired air-to-surface missiles on Tuesday as part of its ongoing military exercises, South Korea’s military said. – Reuters 

South Korean voters wore masks and moved slowly between lines of tape at polling stations on Wednesday to elect lawmakers in the shadows of the spreading coronavirus. […]While South Korea’s electorate is deeply divided along ideological and generational lines and regional loyalties, recent surveys showed growing support for Moon and his liberal party, reflecting the public’s approval of an aggressive test-and-quarantine program so far credited for lower fatality rates compared to China, Europe and North America. – Associated Press 

South Korea is sending about 600,000 coronavirus test kits to the United States following agreements brokered by the two governments and three private companies. […]The shipment comes less than a month after a phone conversation in which Trump asked South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose country has been among the most successful in containing the virus, to “provide medical equipment and supplies” to the U.S. – Washington Examiner 

Last week, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visited an unspecified “pursuit assault plane group” where he inspected MiG-29 and Su-25 jets. […]The visit provided some rare insights about the weaponry of the Korean People’s Army Air and Anti-Air Force, including what could be the first photo of a NK MiG-29 firing an R-60 IR air-to-air missile (AA-8 Aphid in NATO designation). – Business Insider 

Guy Taylor writes: A fresh barrage of missile launches by North Korea on Tuesday marked the latest in a wave of provocations from Pyongyang, which set a monthly record for launches in March amid mounting uncertainty and unease over the impact the deadly coronavirus pandemic is having on the isolated nation. – Washington Times 


China raced to contain a new outbreak of coronavirus in communities along its northern border with Russia, just days after Beijing had all but declared victory over the disease where it emerged, in the city of Wuhan. […]Tourism and business between Russia and China have grown in recent years as Moscow and Beijing have grown closer amid rising tensions with the U.S. Cooperation has extended to military ties and Russia-China trade has exceeded $100 billion in recent years, according to Russian government data. – Wall Street Journal 

New regulations in China are delaying its shipments of medical supplies around the world. And some American officials worry accepting donated gear helps China’s propaganda efforts. […]New regulations in China are delaying its shipments of medical supplies around the world. And some American officials worry accepting donated gear helps China’s propaganda efforts. – New York Times 

As Wuhan was engulfed by the coronavirus, the Chinese author Fang Fang worked late into the night, writing a daily chronicle of life and death in her home city that gave rise to a global pandemic. […]Her account has recently drawn bitter condemnation from zealous Chinese nationalists who have called plans to publish a translation in English an effort to malign the government and undermine the heroic image of Wuhan. – New York Times  

In the six days after top Chinese officials secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people; millions began traveling through for Lunar New Year celebrations. – Associated Press  

The U.S. ambassador to China said Wednesday that he doesn’t believe Beijing is deliberately blocking exports of masks and other medical supplies to fight the coronavirus, and that the shipment of 1,200 tons of such products to the U.S. could not have been possible without Chinese support. – Associated Press 

The coronavirus outbreak will have no impact on the progress of nuclear power plant construction in China in the short term, and reactors already in operation have not been affected, a nuclear safety official said on Wednesday. – Reuters    

France’s foreign minister summoned the Chinese envoy on Tuesday after the embassy published a second article on its website criticizing Western handling of the coronavirus crisis. – Reuters 

Although China’s intercontinental strike ability is somewhat limited when compared to heavyweights like the United States or Russia, Beijing’s capabilities are growing. What China lacks in international reach is made up for big time in regional capabilities, especially anti-access/area denial capabilities. Regional adversaries—and U.S. Navy—should beware. – The National Interest 

Josh Rogin writes: The Chinese government, meanwhile, has put a total lockdown on information related to the virus origins. Beijing has yet to provide U.S. experts with samples of the novel coronavirus collected from the earliest cases. […]It’s crucial to understanding how the novel coronavirus pandemic started because that informs how to prevent the next one. The Chinese government must be transparent and answer the questions about the Wuhan labs because they are vital to our scientific understanding of the virus, said Xiao. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: Beijing bears significant blame here. If Xi’s regime is not actively encouraging such racism in order to stoke nationalist fervor, it has at least failed to quell false rumors of a surge of coronavirus-infected migrants in Guangzhou. Considering that Beijing rapidly removes any online content even hinting at criticism of Xi Jinping, it’s strange that these racist lies could spread like wildfire. – Washington Examiner  

Dr John Lee Cheong Seong writes: There is no doubt China is trying to use the pandemic to enhance its global standing and position. It is not any underlying US weakness but complacency, a turn inward, or else losing its nerve that will determine whether Beijing succeeds. – South China Morning Post


Washington peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Pakistan’s military chief Tuesday, a day after discussing the lagging U.S.-Taliban peace deal in Afghanistan with the chief negotiator for the insurgent movement. […]The U.S. military has refused to address the Taliban’s specific complaint but has said that it is abiding by the agreement and will continue to come to the aid of the Afghan military. – Associated Press  

Authorities in Kabul will ban motorcycles and scooters in the Afghan capital in a bid to control rampant crime and stop assailants on two-wheelers from conducting targeted killings, officials said Tuesday, April 14. – The Defense Post  

Ahmad Massoud writes: As a result, Kabul is experiencing a political crisis yet again; after the presidential election held in September both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah claimed to have won the presidency and have been unwilling to compromise. […]As Afghans are about to gather soon for the talks, it is imperative that all sections of Afghan society are represented, that the question of decentralization is debated and that a consensus for subsequently amending the Constitution is built. – New York Times


U.S. Forces Japan on Wednesday extended a public health emergency to all military bases in Japan, amid a steady increase in new coronavirus infections in its host country and after Japan’s government declared a state of emergency for major cities. – Reuters   

Hong Kong officials have joined Chinese counterparts in blasting the city’s pro-democracy opposition for filibustering and stalling government policy, even as the coronavirus pandemic keeps its broader protest movement largely at bay. – Bloomberg 

The 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held further talks later in the day, also through video conferencing, with their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea, who expressed support in helping ASEAN fight the coronavirus. Vietnam, ASEAN’s leader this year, has postponed an in-person gathering tentatively to June. – Associated Press  

John Pomfret writes: Since 1971, when China joined the United Nations and Taiwan was tossed out, China has worked tirelessly to isolate Taiwan diplomatically as part of a program to force Taiwan, which today is home to one of the most vibrant democracies in Asia, to accept China as its overlord. […]Taiwan won entry to the WTO because of pressure by the United States and other major trading nations, which told Beijing not to mess around. –  Washington Post  

Amy Searight writes: Over the longer term, it is difficult to predict the ultimate economic impact on Southeast Asia because there is vast uncertainty about how the pandemic will play out over the next several months and beyond, and how the crisis will reshape the global economy. […]Although certain sectors in some Southeast Asian economies have benefited from recent supply chain shifts out of China, it is less clear that post-pandemic trends will be as favorable. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Michael Rubin writes: Two unrecognized countries—Taiwan and Somaliland—have outperformed their larger, better-resourced neighbors in combatting the coronavirus pandemic, often while being denied information and resources made available to almost every other country. […]Diplomatic recognition or not, governments should only get assistance when they demonstrate the capacity to spent it effectively rather than steal it. It is time to reward good governance rather than throw good money after bad. – The National Interest 


Russia is ready to discuss hypersonic missiles and other arms control issues with the United States as part of wider discussions about strategic stability, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday. – Reuters  

Some old photos of Russia’s sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov reveal something seemingly strange. […]That was a decade ago. With tensions between the United States and Russia again on the rise, there have been reports that Moscow might install new anti-ship missiles under Kuznetsov’s deck as part of the aging ship’s off-again, on-again modernization program. – The National Interest 

Brian Whitmore writes: Some Russian analysts and opinion leaders have even tried to portray the West’s determination to keep sanctions in place through the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of ideological bankruptcy. […]The Kremlin’s campaign will intensify as the COVID-19 crisis continues. Efforts to shore up both transatlantic unity and the rules-based international order will take on added urgency. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


As Britain closes in on 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus — a solemn milestone in a contagion that has ravaged its political leadership — a raft of new statistics suggests that the government is undercounting the human, and economic, cost of the epidemic. – New York Times 

Malta is calling for a 100 million euro ($110 million) European Union aid package to avert a humanitarian disaster among people fleeing Libya, where rising violence is worsening the impact of the coronavirus crisis. – Reuters   

French President Emmanuel Macron said he has secured the agreement of three of the five permanent members of the United Nations’ Security Council to back a call by the UN for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on the coronavirus epidemic. – Reuters  

Amazon faces having its operations reduced to a bare minimum in France after a court ruled the e-commerce giant can deliver only essential goods while the company evaluates its workers’ risk of coronavirus exposure. – Agence France-Presse   

NATO defense ministers plan to hold a secure video conference on April 15 to discuss the longer-term ramifications of the coronavirus crisis, now that many member states’ new infection rates appear to be slowing. – Defense News 

Garvan Walshe writes: Orban is a master of exploiting public fear of his own creation. […]This time the threat is a real virus, and he’s put himself in charge. He’ll try to blame George Soros, the EU, and anyone else he can think of, but he won’t be able to hide his neglect of his country’s health system over the past 10 years. The depreciating forint stops with him. – Foreign Policy 


Six years after the Islamist militants kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from Chibok Government Secondary School for Girls on April 14, 2014, during their senior-year exams, the rising tempo of attacks nearby are raising a grim prospect: The young women whose ordeal spurred the world-wide #BringBackOurGirls campaign could easily become victims once more. – Wall Street Journal 

One of Brazil’s most wanted criminals has been arrested in Mozambique after spending more than two decades on the run, officials say. – BBC  

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Executive Board has approved support for Burkina Faso and Niger under its Rapid Credit Facility to help the West African nations confront the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fund said. – Reuters  

A Sudanese militia that once drew international condemnation for spearheading a bloody anti-insurgency campaign in the western region of Darfur has a new, unlikely message: Please wash your hands. – Bloomberg 

About one in every five people in Africa, nearly 250 million, already didn’t have enough food before the virus outbreak, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. A quarter of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished. […]On top of these problems, the World Bank said the virus could create “a severe food security crisis in Africa.” – Associated Press 

Africans in a major Chinese city face evictions and harassment from local officials and businesses fearful of a coronavirus outbreak, a scandal that has created a backlash on the continent at the very moment China is working to build inroads there and outflank the United States. – Washington Examiner 

The Americas

The global economy has almost certainly entered a recession affecting most of the world, with a severity unmatched by anything aside from the Great Depression, the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday. […]Separately, the IMF announced on Monday that it would suspend $500 million of payments, owed directly to the IMF from 25 low-income countries, to free up funds to fight the pandemic and support nations struggling amid lockdowns. – Wall Street Journal 

The Group of Seven countries—the world’s largest advanced economies—said they would support an initiative to suspend the debt payments of the world’s poor countries, so long as the initiative is taken up by a broader group of nations. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. President Donald Trump will hold a video teleconference with G7 leaders on Thursday to coordinate national responses to the coronavirus outbreak, the White House said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday said the majority of evidence suggests the coronavirus started from nature. […]A majority of scientists believe that the virus probably jumped from an animal to a human and have pushed back at speculation that it is an escaped bioweapon as there is no public evidence to tie such a claim to. – The Hill 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday night, saying the international body needs to “do its job” as President Trump moves to halt U.S. funding to the group. – The Hill 

Latin America

The millions of U.S. job losses and nationwide lockdowns triggered by the coronavirus pandemic are reverberating abroad. In countries such as Mexico, where hundreds of thousands of families depend on remittances sent by relatives in the U.S. to pay for food, housing and other necessities, America’s economic crisis is taking a toll. – Wall Street Journal 

More killings take place in Mexico today than at any time in the last two decades, when the nation started collecting homicide statistics. Cartels fight one another for control of local drug sales and smuggling routes to the United States, while Mexico’s armed forces battle them all. – New York Times 

Guatemala’s health minister said Tuesday that deportees from the United States were driving up the country’s COVID-19 caseload, adding that on one flight some 75% of the deportees tested positive for the virus. […]He added that the United States had practically become the Wuhan of the region, referring to the Chinese province where the pandemic began. – Associated Press 

David Smilde and Abraham Lowenthal write: We see positive signs in the State Department’s framework, however. It makes it clear, as never before, that the United States would accept a transitional authority that includes chavista elements; and that Washington will not veto a Maduro candidacy in new national elections. […] International consensus could possibly lay the foundation for Venezuelans to undertake the difficult but desperately needed turn to national reconciliation and reconstruction. – Washington Post  

Juan Ángel Soto and Jorge González-Gallarza write: Without punitive action on Podemos and PSOE officials, Maduro may simply replace oil sales with cocaine profits as the main funding source buttressing his oppression of the Venezuelan people. With their enabling of Maduro’s tyrannical rule in plain sight, now is the time for Washington to extend sanctions to Spain. – The National Interest 


More than a year ago, the U.S. asked its allies to ban equipment manufactured by China’s Huawei Technologies Co. because of American concerns about the company’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party. But European governments are still pushing back, saying there’s a safe way to work with the world’s biggest communications equipment supplier. – Bloomberg  

Lee Dong-hoon couldn’t take any more of the bloody masks. This was January, early in the coronavirus’s sweep through South Korea, and misinformation, including rumors about contaminated businesses and phony photos of masks supposedly from Covid-19 victims, seemed to be everywhere on social media. – Bloomberg  

Microsoft on Tuesday announced it would offer free cybersecurity protection tools to health care, humanitarian and human rights groups around the world following a spike in attempted hacking attempts due to the coronavirus pandemic. – The Hill 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday that the world is facing “a dangerous epidemic of misinformation” about COVID-19 and announced a U.N. campaign to flood the internet with facts and science to counter what he called “a poison” that is putting lives at risk. – Associated Press 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Tuesday warned that hackers are looking to take advantage of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to target tax professionals in a bid to steal financial information. – The Hill 

The Army has awarded a $21 million contract for a technology prototype meant to help commanders visualize, collaborate and report cyberthreats in order to improve decision-making. – Fifth Domain  

The Department of Defense (DOD) has not fully implemented three of its key initiatives and practices aimed at improving cyber hygiene. – USNI News 

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) on Tuesday sued Facebook, alleging the social media giant did not properly disclose details of its political ad sales. […]A Facebook spokesperson told The Hill that the company’s policies prohibiting Washington state-targeted ads that apply to state-specific officials, elections and ballot initiatives remain in effect. – The Hill 

Martijn Rasser writes: No one country can expect to achieve its full potential by going it alone, not even the United States. An alliance framework for technology policy is the best way to ensure that the world’s democracies can effectively compete economically, politically, and militarily in the 21st century. […]These relationships are an enduring and critical advantage that no autocratic country can match. It is time to capitalize on these strengths, retake the initiative, and shape the post-corona world. – C4ISRNET


Attorney General William Barr issued protective guidelines for Justice Department agencies on how to deal with drones, including disabling or destroying threatening unmanned aircraft systems. – Washington Examiner 

The U.S. military is bracing for a months-long struggle against the coronavirus, looking for novel ways to maintain a defensive crouch that sustains troops’ health without breaking their morale — while still protecting the nation. – Associated Press 

A struggling Philadelphia shipyard got a new lease on life April 8 with the announcement that it had been selected to build up to five training ships for the Maritime Administration destined for use by civilian mariners attending state maritime academies. – Defense News  

Those methods vary in reliability, so the Department of Defense is looking for a more accurate tool — namely, a quantum space sensor. – C4ISRNET 

The Pentagon will extend the freeze on service member travel and movement domestically and overseas past the current order’s May 11 end date, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday. – The Hill 

With the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt effectively out of commission in Guam and a handful of COVID-19 cases reported among crew members of two other carriers currently in port, the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy is keeping an as yet uninfected carrier at sea off the east coast of the United States on standby for further assignment. – Washington Examiner 

Once the Columbia-class is underway, it will likely be the United State’s sea-based deterrent for close to half a century, and the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent for probably just as long, depending on reactor design. If their design features can be realized, they’ll likely be the most advanced submarines in any ocean. – The National Interest 

Tom Rogan writes: How will the military’s top special operations units mitigate the risk of a coronavirus outbreak in their ranks? Well, in much the same way that the rest of us are: by isolation. But isolation with a few differences. […]In short, Islamic State leader Amir Mohammed al Mawli al Salbi and al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri shouldn’t view the coronavirus as a shield against facing their predecessors’ fate. – Washington Examiner 

Long War

Some groups have attempted to weave governments’ failures to control the virus into their own propaganda narratives. In Somalia, al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab fighters say the pandemic was spread “by the crusader forces who have invaded the country.” The Islamic State has told followers to prepare to exploit their enemies while they are overwhelmed by outbreaks. In Yemen, Houthi rebels have accused Saudi Arabia of airdropping masks infected with covid-19. – Washington Post 

German authorities say police have arrested four suspected members of the Islamic State group alleged to be planning an attack on American military facilities. Federal prosecutors said the suspects were arrested early Wednesday at various locations in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. – Associated Press 

Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists have claimed responsibility for killing dozens of soldiers in Mali and suggested coronavirus was weakening foreign forces in the Sahel. […]Mali has been struggling to contain a jihadist revolt that first broke out in the north in 2012, and which has since spread to the centre of the country and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. – Agence France-Presse 

Trump Administration

President Trump said the U.S. would halt funding to the World Health Organization while his administration investigates what he called the group’s mismanagement of the coronavirus response. […]United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres denounced the funding freeze, saying in a statement that there will be a time to look into how the virus spread so rapidly, across the globe, but now isn’t that time. – Wall Street Journal 

A looming showdown between President Trump’s eagerness to revive a cratering economy and governors facing a deadly pandemic is leading to what could become the most contentious standoff between state and federal governments since the civil rights era. – The Hill 

A draft Trump administration plan for reopening the U.S. economy calls for a “phased reopening” that varies across locations depending on local conditions. […]The remarks are a shift from Trump’s claims on Monday that he, not governors, had ultimate authority on reopening the country. – The Hill