Fdd's overnight brief

April 15, 2021

In The News


Iran’s top leader said Wednesday that his country would keep negotiating with world powers over how to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, quashing speculation that Iran’s delegation would boycott or quit participating in protest of the apparent Israeli sabotage of a major uranium enrichment site. – New York Times 

A group of European nations on Wednesday called Iran’s plans to increase uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity “regrettable” and warned that enrichment at that level, using advanced centrifuges, had no “credible” civilian purpose. – Washington Post

Iranian authorities on Monday blamed Israel for an electrical blackout over the weekend at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility — which left some older centrifuges damaged — calling the apparent cyber attack “nuclear terrorism” and vowing revenge. – Washington Post

An alleged act of sabotage against a key Iranian nuclear site appears to have complicated newly launched negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran’s supreme leader warned Wednesday against protracted talks on the country’s atomic programme, in remarks on the eve of another round of negotiations aimed at reviving a landmark nuclear accord. – Agence France-Presse

Reviving the Iran nuclear deal would seem like a simple task for US President Joe Biden. Iran wants him to lift sanctions in exchange for Tehran’s return to compliance. – Agence France-Presse

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke Wednesday with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, about Israeli moves in the Middle East. – Agence France-Presse

The alleged Israeli attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility targeted an electrical substation located 40 to 50 meters underground and damaged “thousands of centrifuges,” Iranian officials revealed in recent days. – Ynet 

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used to only wear the chequered keffiyeh scarf on special, mainly military, occasions: visits to war fronts with Iraq in the 1980s or army ceremonies. But since 2000, Iran’s supreme leader, the highest authority in the country for more than 30 years, has rarely been seen in public without it draped over his shoulders. – Financial Times 

Michael Eisenstadt writes: In this Policy Note, building on his January 2020 publication Operating in the Gray Zone: Countering Iran’s Asymmetric Way of War, military expert Michael Eisenstadt offers a primer on gray zone deterrence, incorporating insights from past decades as well as Tehran’s recent efforts to counter the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy. He argues that such a strategy will not only facilitate more successful diplomacy with Tehran but also enhance efforts to counter other gray zone actors such as China and Russia. – Washington Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The question that remains is whether Iran, along with its widespread media network and militias that it uses as proxies from Yemen to Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, will attempt retaliation against Israel, or merely claim to have “retaliated” so they can say they did something. This has happened in the past. In July 2020, Hezbollah vowed retaliation after a member was killed in Syria. It claimed to keep Israel on alert and several incidents took place, but nothing major actually happened. In another incident in 2020, Hezbollah “retaliated” by cutting holes in a fence. In 2019 it even fired missiles but ended up harming mannequins. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey has released prominent journalist Ahmet Altan from jail after almost five years on charges relating to a failed military coup, one day after the European Court of Human Rights ruled he had been wrongfully detained. – Financial Times 

The United States has cancelled the deployment of two warships to the Black Sea, Turkish diplomatic sources said on Wednesday, amid concerns over a Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders. – Reuters 

Henri Barkey writes: Erdogan inhabits a rarified world defined at one end by the Italian autocrat Benito Mussolini, as Ruth Ben-Ghiat describes, who was obsessed with slights to himself. Mussolini spent hours scouring the press for any item relating to him. Erdogan apparently does the same. The future does not augur well for Turkey. The erosion of constitutionalism and democracy through the use of arbitrary strategies will ultimately lead to the breakdown of state institutions. Once this happens it will almost be impossible to put them back together. – Washington Post


The former Israeli prime minister said that Iran needed to “cool down” amid nuclear threats by Tehran. Iran is frustrated over an alleged cyber attack it says was done by Israel that sabotaged one of Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities. – The Hill 

An aggressive Israeli settlement spree during the Trump era pushed deeper than ever into the occupied West Bank — territory the Palestinians seek for a state — with over 9,000 homes built and thousands more in the pipeline, an AP investigation showed. – Associated Press

Like the rest of Israel, Efraim Halevy has spent most of the last year with his wife Hadassah in their Tel Aviv home while sitting out the coronavirus pandemic. – Jerusalem Post

The US has raised concerns over death threats made against a well-known Palestinian-American activist critical of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a report said Tuesday. – Times of Israel


A drone carrying explosives attacked a U.S. air base in northern Iraq on Wednesday, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. No casualties were reported in the attack on the airport in Erbil, which doubles as a base for U.S. troops, according to the interior ministry of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq. – Wall Street Journal 

A Turkish soldier was killed and a child was wounded after a rocket attack on a military compound in northern Iraq’s Bashiqa region, the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Sources in northern Iraq have denied claims by Iranian Press TV that there was an attack on “Mossad agents.” Earlier in the evening, outlets in Iraq and those linked to Iran, including Press TV, reported that “Israel’s Mossad spy agency has come under attack in Iraq.” The report was based on a claim in Sabereen News. The Kurdistan Regional Government spokesperson rejected the claims and called the reports false. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey will send a diplomatic delegation to Egypt early next month, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday, for talks aimed at mending relations strained for years over Islamist politics and regional conflicts. – Bloomberg

The technical manager of the container ship that became jammed across the Suez Canal last month said on Wednesday that the vessel was fit for onward passage but remained anchored pending an agreement between the owner and the canal authority. – Reuters 

The huge container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week last month is being held by Egyptian authorities as they seek compensation of more than $900m from its owners. – Financial Times

Gulf States

The Biden administration plans to suspend the sale of many offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia approved under the Trump administration, but it will allow the sale of other matériel that can be construed to have a defensive purpose, U.S. officials said on Wednesday. – New York Times 

Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities were targeted with drones and missiles for the second time in a week, with Yemen’s Houthi rebels claiming an attack on the south-western refinery town of Jazan. – Bloomberg 

Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki Al-Faisal hinted that the new U.S. administration had submitted to Iranian extortion and called on the Gulf countries to prepare for the day when Iran will have nuclear weapons. The Saudi displeasure at the U.S. actions regarding Iran was expressed also in articles and op-eds in its press. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

A Saudi university near the country’s border with Yemen caught fire early Thursday after the kingdom’s air defenses intercepted a barrage of ballistic missiles and bomb-laden drones. – Associated Press

Middle East & North Africa

Algeria’s pro-democracy movement is at a crossroads two years after it ousted the country’s long-serving leader, confronting fears it’s been infiltrated by a group with links to an Islamist party outlawed during a dark era of strife in the 1990s. – Associated Press 

A senior U.S. official warned Thursday that Lebanese politicians who continue to block reforms in the crisis-hit country could face punitive actions by Washington and its allies. – Associated Press

Syria on Wednesday angrily rejected a global watchdog’s report that found it had used chemical weapons on a rebel-held town in 2018, dismissing the charge as “fabricated.” – Agence France-Presse

Jordanian King Abdullah II’s half-brother Prince Hamzah, allegedly involved in a plot to destabilize the country, will not face trial, the prime minister told a closed session of parliament Monday. – Ynet

Albert B. Wolf writes: The royal family’s latest feud is an allegory for Jordan’s ongoing economic and strategic problems. Should they continue, it is highly likely that this moderate ally of the United States and the West will find itself convulsed by domestic challenges again in the future. This could come in at least two forms: The first is another civil conflict with Jordan’s large Palestinian population. The second could be another challenge for the throne, possibly from Hamzah or from another royal rival who has yet to reveal himself. – Foreign Policy 

Eckart Woertz and Roie Yellinek write: If not, relations of MENA states with Russia and China could emerge stronger in a post-pandemic world. While the EU’s achievements in vaccine development are laudable in principle and can play a significant role in equitable vaccine access in the region and beyond, overt politicization of such efforts can only be avoided if the EU and the U.S. are leading multilateral efforts to provide alternatives. – Middle East Institute

Ilan I. Berman writes: Since taking office in late January, the new White House has launched a comprehensive review of a range of Trump-era policies. In the realm of foreign affairs, such reevaluations have already yielded significant changes, including a reversal of the “maximum pressure” approach toward Iran and a more punitive policy vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia. And while some things have not changed—for instance, a U.S. commitment to great-power competition with China—the new administration’s policy shifts have profoundly unsettled many of America’s international partners, Morocco among them. – Newsweek

Korean Peninsula

Life is difficult in North Korea but there is no famine and some cross-border shipments may resume soon, Russia’s ambassador in Pyongyang said, a week after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared the country was facing a “worst-ever situation.” – Reuters

South Korea’s president ordered officials on Wednesday to explore petitioning an international court over Japan’s decision to release contaminated water from its wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, amid protests by fisheries and environmental groups. – Reuters

Emalyn Atkins writes: This powerful Soviet rebuttal of the claims further enforces the conclusion of most scholars today that the allegations were nothing more than political theater during one of the most destructive conflicts in modern history. This remains true despite details that remain unclear even today, such as who first instigated the claims and the fact that there has been no retraction of the allegations from the Chinese government. – The National Interest


China is engaged in a “whole-of-government” effort to spread its influence around the world, undercut U.S. alliances and “foster new international norms that favor the authoritarian Chinese system,” the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a report released Tuesday that casts China as the most significant, long-term threat to the United States and its partners. – Washington Post

China is working to weaponize space with an array of capabilities intended to target U.S. and allied satellites as part of its ambitious plans to displace the U.S. in space, the U.S. intelligence community warned in its new Global Risk Assessment report. – Defense News 

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, recently sailed through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa. The carrier was not alone but sailed in company with a carrier strike group made up of one Ren Hai-class missile destroyer, two Luyang III-class missile destroyers, and one Zhangkai II-class frigate, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. – The National Interest 

Chinese forces are conducting military drills as a message to a delegation of prominent Americans visiting Taiwan at the behest of President Joe Biden. – Washington Examiner

Twenty-five Chinese jets breached Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Monday, China’s largest incursion into Taiwanese airspace in a year. The maneuver is part of a long-standing Chinese harassment campaign that intensified last year, when Taiwan saw a record 380 incursions. – Foreign Policy

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denounced more than a dozen former residents of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) who have testified about abuses in the region while living abroad as liars, criminals, terrorists, and persons of “bad morality,” including an RFA Uyghur Service reporter. – Radio Free Asia


Following the news that the United States was pulling all its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, NATO’s foreign and defense ministers agreed on Wednesday to begin withdrawing NATO forces on May 1 and finish “within a few months,” the alliance said in a statement. – New York Times 

The Taliban on Wednesday issued a warning in response to President Biden’s decision to extend the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, increasing fears that the withdrawal of foreign forces will be met with widespread violence. – Washington Post

But from the outset, the U.S. government never defined the terms of victory. On Wednesday, President Biden announced the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops by September. Still unresolved is the question of what kind of outcome his three predecessors in the White House envisioned when they repeatedly pledged to win the war. – Washington Post

The mission to root out al Qaeda operatives who found sanctuary in Afghanistan and from there coordinated the Sept. 11 attacks was named “Enduring Freedom.” Then-President George W. Bush said it was a reflection of America’s duty to “defend not only our precious freedoms, but also the freedom of people everywhere to live and raise their children free from fear.” – Wall Street Journal 

As the U.S. military shut down scores of remote outposts and patrol bases across southern Afghanistan 10 years ago, the Taliban planted a white flag on a former U.S. position that had been bulldozed, claiming the turf as its own and taunting the withdrawing Americans. – Washington Post

At least 10 members of the Afghan security forces were killed in two militant attacks in the country’s north, local officials and the army said on April 13. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

David Petraeus sharply criticized President Joe Biden’s decision to remove U.S. troops there, saying he worries that the “endless war” will only worsen. “I’m really afraid that we’re going to look back two years from now and regret the decision,” said Petraeus, former commanding general of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and former CIA director. – Defense One 

Timothy Kudo writes: But to me it feels wrong to forget or to move on. Maybe that’s because the only recourse I have left is to remember. I am terrified of the day when I will have the final memory of what happened over there — not because it will be my last but because it will pass unnoticed. The dead, like the war, will finally be forgotten, and there will be nothing to mark their grave. – New York Times  

Aaron Blake writes: Given the nearly 20-year war and the repeated attempts to pull out of it, it’s perhaps understandable that Biden didn’t really try to put a good face on his decision. But it’s also a massive commentary on just how difficult it is to pull out of such a war, when the message is less that it has succeeded and that the troops can come home in victory, as much as that it’s just not worth it anymore and that the objectives just aren’t realistic. – Washington Post

William Ruger writes: Those who compare our Afghanistan troop presence to other military commitments in Europe and Asia have ignored key differences—like the fact that the country is in the midst of a civil war in which we are one of the parties fighting. Or that the Afghan government has no or limited control over major parts of its territory. – The National Interest 

Elise Labott writes: Ultimately, Biden may have ended U.S. involvement in Afghanistan if not the Afghan war itself. But faced with the prospect of sending more troops, certain to anger both the Taliban and U.S. voters, Biden concluded that delaying the U.S. withdrawal would just be a recipe for open-ended commitment. It may yet be a recipe for a lot worse. – Foreign Policy

Michael Kugelman writes: In reality, the new withdrawal plan complicates U.S. efforts to broker peace between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But if there is any chance of peace in Afghanistan, the five months before the completion of the withdrawal will be critical. Peace prospects will hinge on how the Taliban react to two key dates: May 1, the previously agreed deadline for U.S. withdrawal, and Sept. 11, or whenever the last U.S. soldier has departed. – Foreign Policy 

South Asia

Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, people with close knowledge of the matter told Reuters in Delhi. – Reuters 

The United Arab Emirates’ envoy to Washington confirmed the Gulf state is mediating between India and Pakistan to help the nuclear-armed rivals reach a “healthy and functional” relationship. – Reuters 

The Pakistani government says it will ban a radical Islamist party that has spearheaded violent anti-French rallies in the South Asian nation. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Sudhi Ranjan Sen writes: The struggle over the Dalai Lama comes as the Biden administration works more closely with partners in Asia to sanction Beijing over human-rights abuses, restrict exports of key technology to China, and push back against the country’s territorial claims, including over Taiwan. Beijing has responded by lashing out at the U.S. and its allies, insisting they have no say in Tibet, Xinjiang, or other “internal” matters. – Bloomberg


But even as relations between the two countries are calming, Japan faces a perilous moment, with the United States prodding it to more squarely address the most glaring threat to stability in Asia: China. – New York Times 

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry challenged Japan’s deputy prime minister Wednesday to drink treated water, contaminated from contact with reactors, from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant, after the Japanese official suggested the water released would be safe to consume. – Washington Post

Before dawn one day late last month, Win stuffed his belongings in the trunk, buckled his 14-year-old daughter in the back seat and, with his wife next to him, drove 10 hours back to the farming village of his birth. – Washington Post

Hong Kong’s electoral reform bill was introduced in the city’s legislature on Wednesday, setting in motion changes that will give Beijing greater control over the process while reducing the number of directly elected representatives. – Associated Press 

Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong warned foreign powers on Thursday that they would be taught a lesson if they tried to use the global financial centre as a “pawn”, as tensions escalated between China and Western governments over the city. – Reuters 

Hong Kong is holding its first National Security Education Day following China’s imposition of sweeping national security legislation as part of the city’s efforts to revamp its school system after a wave of protests in 2019. – Bloomberg 

Relations between Taiwan and the United States are “stronger than ever”, an envoy for President Joe Biden said Thursday during a visit to the democratic island as it faces increasingly hostile moves by China. – Agence France-Presse

The Philippines has increased the number of maritime assets deployed to areas it claims in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) amid what Manila described as a “continuous swarming” in the West Philippine Sea of Chinese coastguard and “maritime militia” vessels. – Jane’s 360

Yoshihide Suga writes: Japan will strategically advance initiatives that protect the free and open Indo-Pacific through collaboration with like-minded countries. Building a stronger economy and society through these efforts is my government’s mission and responsibility. A strong Japan is a prerequisite for a well-functioning alliance with the U.S. and the foundation for Indo-Pacific peace and prosperity. – Wall Street Journal 

Joshua Fitt, Isha Dalal and Chris Estep write: Without decisive, coordinated action, regional trends could continue on a trajectory that further favors Beijing. In a new CNAS report, experts Stephen Tankel, Lisa Curtis, Joshua Fitt, and Coby Goldberg argue that the United States must take action in close cooperation—bilaterally, trilaterally, and through the Quad—with Japan, Australia, and India to compete effectively with China in the diplomatic, economic, and defense domains. – Center for a New American Security 

Bonnie Glaser and Jeremy Mark write: However, punitive actions directed at Taiwan that damage core Chinese interests—certainly including Beijing’s goal of developing high-tech industries—are less likely, and imports of semiconductors and other electronics components will remain prioritized. Should Beijing choose, it has the ability to exert pressure on Taiwanese businesses that have a major presence in China by disrupting their operations. – Foreign Policy


The Biden administration will impose a range of retaliatory measures against Russia on Thursday in response to Moscow’s alleged election interference, a widespread hacking campaign and other malign activity, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal 

The Russian military buildup at the Ukraine border and in Crimea could provide enough forces for a limited military incursion, the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, told senators on Wednesday as he and other senior officials outlined a range of threats facing the United States. – New York Times 

Russia has been concentrating forces in the Voronezh area 150 miles from the Ukrainian border. Reports surfaced in Russia of a shortage of rail transport for agricultural vehicles, because the military had booked the rail carriers for its purposes. The West feared that the troop concentrations, ostensibly for snap inspections represented a reprise of the strategy employed in the seizure and annexation of Crimea in 2014 when military exercises served as a pretext for concentration forces. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Dalibor Rohac writes: Those figures may testify to the extremely cosmopolitan and altruistic outlook of Russian authorities, who prioritized offering shots to other nations. It is more likely though that the numbers are an indication of the Russian population’s extreme level of distrust of the vaccine (which may or may not be justified) or the Russian government’s total disregard for its citizenry in its pursuit of geopolitical goals—or a combination of both. – Foreign Policy

Mamuka Tsereteli and James Jay Carafano write: Ukraine needs an immediate boost for its defensive capabilities. If nothing else, the United States and U.K. need to live up to their promises in the 1994 Budapest agreement, under which Kyiv de-nuclearized in exchange for guarantees of its territorial integrity and sovereignty, provided by three nuclear states: the U.S., U.K. and Russia. We know where Russia stands in this situation. There is a need for greater clarity from the U.S. and U.K. – Fox News 

Philip Stephens writes: The question then becomes how much room there is for co-operation — whether on nuclear arms control, backing efforts to restore the nuclear agreement with Iran, or promoting stability in Afghanistan when US troops complete their withdrawal this year.[…] The idealists have a point when they say that the some of the overtures to Moscow in recent years have looked more like capitulation than engagement. Biden seems to have got the balance about right. Where it can, the west should work with Russia. Just not on Putin’s terms. – Financial Times

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: It’s unclear what the exact motivation is: To test President Joseph Biden’s resolve or Europe’s patchier one? To send a warning to Ukraine’s government or simply distract from troubles at home? […]That will likely be the case for Putin, too. For now, even an ossified system can keep going, bolstered by various means of repression. But watch out for the trip-ups. – Bloomberg


The authorities have now revoked or not extended the residence permits of more than 250 of them. In doing so, Denmark has become the first European Union country to deprive Syrian refugees of their asylum status, even as Syria remains shattered. The bloc and the United Nations describe most areas in Syria as not stable enough to be considered safe for returnees. – New York Times 

The vice president of the European Union’s executive arm and the United Kingdom’s Brexit minister will hold talks Thursday in Brussels to discuss Northern Ireland trade rules, the EU said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Iulia-Sabina Joja writes: Much more can and should be done on Black Sea trade, security, and Euro-Atlantic integration. Including Georgia and Ukraine into the Three Seas Initiative is a start. Cooperation with both countries under the umbrella of the EU’s new cybersecurity center in Romania would also be beneficial for the region. Finally, Western support for Black Sea security is necessary to deter Russian aggression. Ukraine’s strategic partnership with the UK is also promising, as is Zelenskyy’s Crimea Platform as one way to move away from the inefficient Normandy Format. – Middle East Institute

Tom Rogan writes: But unlike Macron, Merkel does not send her attack submarines to exercise alongside the U.S. navy in sinking Chinese warships in the South China Sea. Instead, she tries to placate the U.S. by sending the German navy to the wrong ocean (I’m not joking). The distinction informs why Washington should see France as an ally deserving of cautious trust and engagement and Germany as an ally of old. […]Put simply, it’s time for Lloyd Austin and his boss to get real. – Washington Examiner


In a highly contentious move, Somalia’s president has extended his own term in office by two years, drawing condemnation from the United States and other allies who viewed it as a naked power grab that could upend faltering efforts to establish a functioning state in Somalia and defeat the insurgency by the extremist group Al Shabab. – New York Times 

Some women were held captive for extended periods, days or weeks at a time, said Dr Fasika Amdeselassie, the top public health official for the government-appointed interim administration in Tigray. “Women are being kept in sexual slavery,” Fasika told Reuters. “The perpetrators have to be investigated.” – Reuters 

Michael Rubin writes: Meanwhile, after the State Department directed most of the billions of dollars through Farmaajo in order to help him build his stature, Farmaajo increasingly turns to China and Russia, perhaps because he knows they will not ask questions about his ambition to revert Somalia to a dictatorship, such as existed when his uncle Siad Barre ran the country before 1991. – 19fortyfive  

Emilia Columbo and Austin C. Doctor write: As Mozambique’s neighbors grow more concerned over insecurity there, the United States could engage with these security services on intelligence collection and analysis and border security initiatives to better track fighters and prevent their entry into Mozambique. The recent foreign terrorist organization designation by the U.S. State Department, with its authorities to prosecute anyone lending material aid to ASWJ, would open the door to for greater law enforcement and judicial training programs and collaboration. – War on the Rocks

The Americas

Vice President Kamala Harris said on Wednesday she intends to visit Mexico and Guatemala soon as part of her plan to use diplomatic efforts to slow migration to the U.S.-Mexican border. – Reuters 

The leaders of the nation’s intelligence agencies on Wednesday joined bipartisan members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in pushing for measures to encourage the private sector to report breaches and to deter malicious hackers from attacking critical infrastructure. – The Hill 

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Senate Intelligence Committee members on Wednesday that the agency is opening an investigation into various Chinese government actions every 10 hours. – The Hill 

Javier Corrales writes: Latin America updated this model of caudillismo. Coups and election bans became unfashionable by the 1980s, and so rather than abolish democracy, it became more common for leaders to rewrite constitutions and manipulate institutions to permit re-election. A re-election boom followed. – New York Times 

Tim Roemer writes: China’s foolishness to proclaim that America is not a trustworthy country goes to the heart of our values and ideals, and they may very well succeed in awakening a dozing and somewhat complacent nation at a critical time in our history. Russia certainly galvanized America with its Sputnik challenge in the 1950’s. China’s derision of democracy and asserting their self-perceived claim of dominance could propel Americans to their very best instincts and ideals. – The Hill 

Stephen Morrison, Katherine E. Bliss and Anna McCaffrey write: The United States’ health, economic, and national security interests argue for seizing this moment, beginning with presidential leadership to explain the stakes to Americans still legitimately worried about the epidemic at home. […]By sharing American vaccine resources starting at the soonest possible moment, the United States can claim ascendancy against these risks. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Terry Glavin writes: Tsai has taken the indignity Canada has forced her to endure this week in her customary quiet and graceful way. “In line with the shared values of freedom and democracy,” said Taiwan’s foreign-affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou, “Taiwan will continue to maintain close contact and cordial ties with the Canadian government, HFX and other friends from all sectors of Canadian society.” – Ottawa Citizen


President Joe Biden has ditched many of his predecessor’s policies, but he agrees with Donald Trump on the need to limit exports of U.S. technology to China. – Bloomberg 

The U.S. Navy plans to blur the lines between traditional electronic warfare and cyber operations as it prepares to receive its new airborne electronic jammer, according to a top service official. – C4ISRNET 

One of NATO’s core duties has long been to establish technology standards and ensure interoperability across its member nations. Traditionally, that manifested in areas such as radio frequencies or data protocols. But with recent advances in cloud computing and storage in the private sector, the alliance also needs to move quickly to ensure standardization in that technological domain. – C4ISRNET 

Brian Feinstein and Kevin Werbach write: Hard choices remain about how policymakers can support the legitimate aspects of cryptocurrency and financial technology markets while reining in their excesses and abuses. Several federal agencies and departments will be considering significant cryptocurrency regulatory actions in the coming months. Those decisions should be made on the merits — not assumptions about market reactions. – New York Times  

Matthew Brooker writes: China’s concern at the rising power of its technology giants mirrors preoccupations that are shared globally. In the U.S., awareness is also spreading of the cost of years of inadequate antitrust enforcement. The wheels turn slower in democracies, though. There’s a good reason for that. – Bloomberg


Two lawmakers raised questions on the future of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship during a Wednesday hearing, as the service continues to wrestle with a crucial design flaw, how it will use the ships operationally and retirements of early hulls in the class. – USNI News 

Jill Hruby, an engineer with decades of nuclear experience, has been selected by President Joe Biden to lead the National Nuclear Security Administration. The NNSA is a semiautonomous agency located within the Department of Energy. It has oversight on the technical development and production of America’s nuclear warheads. – Defense News

Russia massing troops on the border of Ukraine and China continuing military overflights and maritime operations near Taiwan are in part a test of the resilience of the U.S.-led web of alliances, the chief of naval operations said on Wednesday. Speaking to a group of NATO naval officers at a maritime warfare symposium, CNO Adm. Mike Gilday gave a loose outline of how China and Russia are expanding their influence. – USNI News 

The Navy released the seventh set of documents from a previously classified investigation into the April 10, 1963 loss of USS Thresher and its crew of 129 sailors off the coast of New England. A freedom of information lawsuit from retired Navy Capt. James Bryant, a former Thresher-class submarine commander, compelled the Navy to release the documents on a rolling basis. – USNI News 

Elena Wicker writes: If the signals of each subsequent president represent surface waves, then decades of rhetorical patterns are the deep currents of U.S. national defense strategy. As readers await the publication of the next full strategy, perhaps it would be beneficial to consider whether a document that has always been nebulous, forward-thinking, and aspirational can truly be everything to everyone, as it is currently expected to be, or whether readers will always be left wanting. – War on the Rocks

John D. Maurer writes: Even in an era of deep political polarization, the president and Congress can advance American security through nuclear bipartisanship. Linking nuclear modernization and strategic arms limitation would promote political cooperation at home and strengthen the United States against the geopolitical challenges of the 21st century. – War on the Rocks 

Frederico Bartels writes: If the defense budget is not increased, the Pentagon will have few choices to allocate resources to pay for inflation growth. The fastest way to reduce costs is to cut training and defer maintenance. Though these actions free resources in the current cycle, they only push those needs into the future, where they will accumulate and become a much greater problem, like the mold underneath your sink which you do not address. – The Hill

Long War

American troops are set to leave Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11, but the Pentagon, American spy agencies and Western allies are refining plans to deploy a less visible but still potent force in the region to prevent the country from again becoming a terrorist base. – New York Times 

Nearly 1,800 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first three months of 2021 during fighting between government forces and Taliban insurgents despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations said in a new findings on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Family members of victims and those injured in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are calling on Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to release publicly an FBI report detailing what role Saudi Arabia played in supporting the attacks. – The Hill 

On April 5, 2021, the U.S. Justice Department reported that a man was arrested on March 24, 2021, after being indicted on charges of “attempting to provide material support and resources” to the Islamic State (ISIS). According to the Justice Department, the man led an international media group dedicated to the translation and publication of pro-ISIS and official ISIS media in English. He was arrested after sending ISIS media content to an undercover FBI agent. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

President Biden’s decision to withdraw all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 is a “huge propaganda victory” for the Taliban and al Qaeda, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) said Wednesday. – The Hill