Fdd's overnight brief

April 16, 2021

In The News


Negotiators for the U.S. and Iran, working to revive an international deal aimed at restricting Tehran’s atomic ambitions, are looking for ways to untangle a knot of interlocking American sanctions in exchange for Tehran’s return to limits on its nuclear activities. – Wall Street Journal

While U.S. and Iranian officials won’t hold direct discussions for now, bringing them to the same gathering for two rounds of meetings so far in the Austrian capital is a major first step toward salvaging the deal. – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s sanctioned oil production has risen to its highest level in almost two years thanks to growing Chinese imports—a development that could lessen the West’s leverage in talks over reviving a nuclear deal with Tehran. – Wall Street Journal

The speaker of Iran’s parliament said on Friday that Tehran had successfully enriched 60% uranium. – Reuters

Iran has finalized a deal with Russia to purchase 60 million doses of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Thursday. – Associated Press

An adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel stole the country’s nuclear archive, in what appears to be the first public admission of the 2018 Mossad operation by an Iranian official. – Jerusalem Post

Prosecutors in Denmark charged three members of a dissident Iranian opposition group with promoting and financing terrorism in Iran in coordination with Saudi Arabian intelligence. – Bloomberg

Beijing is reluctant to let Iran have its J-10C lightweight fighter jet in a barter trade for oil or natural gas, according to military analysts. – South China Morning Post

Najmeh Bozorgmehr writes: The priority for the guards — and the other powerful factions — is to influence the transition of power once the supreme leader dies. The guards are mandated to ensure political divisions do not disrupt the process and that the country — about half of which is home to non-Persian ethnicities including separatists — does not fall under the control of the US. – Financial Times

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: Iran clearly, however, has the capability to develop genetically advanced biological weapons, and its UCAVs and drones can easily be adapted to create highly effective and advanced line source systems for dispensing chemical and biological weapons. Covertly testing and weaponizing such agents is at least possible, and advanced biological weapons do have nuclear levels of lethality and could present major problems in detection until the results became apparent as mass casualties. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: How will any centrifuges operate without electricity? However, there are so many moving pieces to the nuclear program that a delay in one piece might not prevent a jump forward on another front. Farkash is doubtful that the Islamic Republic will jump forward too far at Fordow as action at that underground facility might also force Israel’s hand. The picture is extremely ambiguous and fluid. Israel will need to keep a close eye on both the new moves at Iranian nuclear facilities and the ongoing negotiations in Vienna, which still may be Iran’s true focus. – Jerusalem Post


A meeting aimed to improve fraught ties between NATO allies Greece and Turkey quickly descended into a tense exchange of accusations between the two neighbors’ foreign ministers on Thursday. – Associated Press

Turkey’s central bank is banning the use of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin in payments for goods and services, according to a decision published in the country’s Official Gazette on Friday. – Associated Press

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday briefed his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Hanif Atmar on NATO discussions in which the allies agreed to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. – Reuters


Police were gearing up for possible unrest around the Old City of Jerusalem following the first Friday prayers of the Ramadan holiday, after three consecutive nights of rioting in the area. – Times of Israel

In an Independence Day tradition, President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday hosted the foreign diplomatic corps at his Jerusalem residence, this time with some new guests: the freshly appointed envoys to Israel of the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. – Times of Israel

Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, the EU representative to the PA, said the EU continues its contact with the Israeli government to allow the legislative elections to be held in Palestinian territories “without interruption or obstacles.” – Arutz Sheva

The Israeli military says a projectile fired from the Gaza Strip Thursday evening landed in the south of the country, breaking weeks of relative cross-border calm. – Associated Press

The United States stands ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel that will have benefits for the crisis-hit Lebanese economy, a U.S. envoy said on Thursday. – Reuters

Pro-Israel groups blasted on Thursday a new bill set to be introduced in Congress by Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum that would condition US aid to Israel on the Jewish state conforming to specific conditions, mainly on the detention of juveniles, demolition of property, and “annexation.” – Algemeiner 

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar asked whether the “Neo-Arab-Zionist” regimes consider the possibility that the Holocaust happened for good reason. He made these remarks on Al-Etejah TV (Iraq) on April 10, 2021 in response to a Holocaust memorial event held in the UAE earlier that month. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Four people were killed and 20 wounded in a car bomb attack on Thursday in the Sadr City neighbourhood of Baghdad, Iraqi police and medical workers said. – Reuters

Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister on Thursday blamed the country’s fuel crisis on profiteers who smuggle gasoline into neighbouring Syria. – Reuters 

Sean Yom writes: But time is running out. The Middle East remains a revolutionary place, as six of its autocratic rulers have lost power to mass uprisings in the last decade. Whether Jordan is next depends upon if the monarchy can fundamentally rethink its approach, rather than fall back upon the United States for affirmation. If it does, the Hashemite Kingdom may actually become the model of reform and moderation that Washington proclaims it is now. – Foreign Policy

Korean Peninsula

A South Korean steelmaker on Friday said it plans to end a joint venture with a military-controlled firm in Myanmar following criticism that its business has benefited military leaders who have violently suppressed pro-democracy protests there. – Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un paid his respects at the mausoleum for his grandfather Kim Il Sung on Thursday to mark the birthday of the founder of the state, official media KCNA reported. – Reuters

David Ignatius writes: Lowering expectations on what’s achievable now with North Korea makes sense, but it’s not a policy. Biden needs a formula that balances competing interests — tough enough to bolster Japan, but not so aggressive that it frightens South Korea. Just matching Trump’s success in getting North Korea to stop its nuclear testing would be an achievement. North Korea seems to be in the “too hard” folder for now. But one thing we’ve learned about Kim is that he doesn’t like to be ignored for long. – Washington Post

Manseok Lee and Hyeongpil Ham write: Ultimately, however, unilateral South Korean restraint would not advance the security interests of South Korea or the United States. Instead, Seoul and Washington should work together to reinforce South Korea’s conventional posture. Doing so might even provide North Korea with incentives to return to the negotiating table and refrain from making nuclear threats. Moreover, it is time to think more seriously about how countries (e.g., Australia, Japan, the European Union, the United Kingdom, etc.) that share values with both the United States and South Korea could act collectively to prevent North Korea’s nuclear adventurism and help guarantee strategic stability on the Korean Peninsula. – War on the Rocks


The world’s second-largest economy has more than regained its pre-pandemic activity, despite challenges such as lower efficacy rates of its coronavirus vaccines, pandemic travel limitations and U.S. sanctions on key Chinese industries. – Washington Post

On Thursday, President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, met in Shanghai with his counterpart to press China on reducing its carbon emissions, at a time when an emboldened Communist Party leadership has become increasingly dismissive of American demands. – New York Times 

As China’s Communist Party revs up its 100th-birthday plans, it is celebrating a new addition to its list of accomplishments: the production of a genuinely popular patriotic TV drama. – Wall Street Journal

China on Thursday summoned Japan’s ambassador in protest over Japan’s planned release of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant and said it would assess possible safety threats to food and agricultural products. – Reuters

Athletes have legitimate concerns about the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and organisers need to be transparent in addressing them, says the Centre for Sport and Human Rights chief executive Mary Harvey. – Reuters

Hugh Hewitt writes: The confrontation with China over Taiwan approaches. It is up to Biden to very clearly communicate that the United States will meet force with force and for our allies to back us up. This is not the time for diplomatic pirouettes about what constitutes “ambiguity.” It is a time for clarity. Its absence sends every signal the Chinese Communist Party needs. – Washington Post

Jamie Mclntyre writes: Already, at least twice this year, formations of Chinese jets and bombers appeared to carry out a mock attack on U.S. aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, exercises that appear aimed at practicing ways to sink the supercarrier and its escort ships. […]I’d be surprised if cyber is not the primary offensive weapons in a decade, particularly as quantum computing comes online toward the end of the 2020s,” Stavridis said. “It will be not only a tool that great powers, U.S., China, and Russia, can wield, but very likely within reach of small to midsize countries, too, such as Iran and North Korea.” – Washington Examiner 

Peter Mattis writes: China’s recent push to punish companies that refuse to use Xinjiang cotton shows Beijing demands complicity as a cost of engaging with them. Regardless whether officials call it genocide or merely crimes against humanity, China’s policies demand a response commensurate to the scale of the atrocities happening at this very moment. And the world has to acknowledge these atrocities are exactly what the CCP intends. – Foreign Policy

Akinori Kahata writes: Moving forward, policymakers must focus their efforts on creating and enforcing rules for the global market to prevent predatory behavior and improve supply chain resilience. Accomplishing this will mean imposing strong consequences for states who break global market norms, working together with allies to establish secure and diverse supply chains for critical technologies and supporting open competition and investment in R&D. The United States has an opportunity to lead this work. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Claire Cousineau writes: While situated soundly within the CCP’s framework propelling development through technological innovation, Chinese smart courts also signal an increased oversight over the judicial system that could serve as a tool to improve party outcomes. Perhaps more notably, if successfully implemented, Chinese smart courts could set a precedent for the digitalization of courts worldwide. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced stop in Afghanistan on Thursday for meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, civic leaders and the National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah to reassure them that Washington’s support for the war-torn country will continue despite the U.S. decision to withdraw all military forces by Sept. 11. – Washington Post

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

Afghanistan’s beleaguered government will be on its own against the Taliban once American forces withdraw in September. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration said Thursday they could assess “with low to moderate confidence” that Russia was behind bounties placed on U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan in 2019. – The Hill

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, acknowledged Thursday that the U.S. government’s “ability to collect intelligence on a day-to-day basis” within Afghanistan “will diminish” with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. – The Hill

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the United States to commit to expanded support for human rights in Afghanistan amid what it calls “fears of increased insecurity” fueled by its announced plan to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan later this year. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Chris Dolan writes: Given these realities, while it is likely President Biden may carry out his promise to withdraw America’s remaining military forces in Afghanistan, the U.S. is not going to leave or abandon Afghanistan and concede that vital space to China. The U.S. will not tolerate Afghanistan, and its rare Earth mineral wealth, falling under China’s control. Biden’s challenge will now be to convince a war-fatigued American people that the U.S. will likely never leave Afghanistan. – The Hill

Sean Mcfate writes: Anytime David wins, Goliath’s explanation is always the same, whether it’s Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan: “We didn’t win, but we didn’t lose.” […]This is the myth of bifurcated victory — that one can win militarily, yet lose the war. But this is like the old joke: “Doctor, the operation was a success, but the patient is dead.” Victory and defeat have meaning only in political terms. Failure to translate military victories into political ones equals defeat, and this is how big militaries lose. – The Hill

Husain Haqqani writes: The U.S. choice in Afghanistan was never just about leaving in a hurry and staying indefinitely. The U.S. must now set realistic targets for Afghanistan’s defense, commit to sustained and sustainable support for Afghan security forces and persist with diplomatic efforts that include talks with the Taliban but do not hand the country to them. […]American troops have stayed in Afghanistan for almost two decades, not because that was the plan but because there were 19 one-year plans. This might be the time to develop a long-term U.S. plan for Afghanistan’s future. – The Hill

South Asia

France has advised French citizens to temporarily leave Pakistan and warned of serious threats to French interests in the country, two diplomatic sources said on Thursday, after violent clashes there this week. – Reuters

Mujib Mashal, Salman Masood and Zia ur-Rehman write: In President Biden’s decision to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by September, Pakistan’s powerful military establishment finally gets its wish after decades of bloody intrigue: the exit of a disruptive superpower from a backyard where the I.S.I. had established strong influence through a friendly Taliban regime before the U.S. invaded in 2001. […]Afghan government officials, meanwhile, were becoming increasingly distraught that their American allies were not coming down harder on Pakistan. – New York Times 

Sadanand Dhume writes: It’s no coincidence that the members of the so-called Quad—a loose grouping of America, Australia, Japan and India—have long been seen as established democracies. Washington has a history of working productively with imperfect allies, but India’s backsliding nonetheless raises a question mark over the logic and sustainability of the Quad. Are its members bound merely by a shared interest in preventing China from dominating Asia, or do they share values as well? – Wall Street Journal

Jeff M. Smith writes: In fact, critics in New Delhi seemed more perturbed by the statement about the FONOP than the operation itself. “If you must do it, do it quietly,” was the common refrain. It’s a recommendation the 7th Fleet might take into consideration. Just as India has resolved not to operationally challenge U.S. FONOPs or highlight their differences on UNCLOS publicly, the United States might reconsider the merits of drawing attention and controversy to an area where Indian and U.S. policies, if not their laws, are coming into greater alignment. – Foreign Policy

Michael Rubin writes: U.S. Peace Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad may trust the Taliban and expect Afghan liberals, minorities, and women to follow his lead and sacrifice their freedoms in the spirit of compromise with an uncompromising group, but he is wrong. The Taliban seek to impose their ideology by force and Afghans will resist by force. Pakistan will soon discover that such resistance may know no borders. –  19fortyfive


Thursday’s events also emphasized that Hong Kong, returned to China in 1997 under an accord meant to grant the city limited self-government, is now firmly under Beijing’s control. – Wall Street Journal

The worst drought in half a century is hitting Taiwan, adding strain to an island that is home to two-thirds of the world semiconductor manufacturing capacity during the worst global chip shortage in recent memory. – Wall Street Journal

Nine of Hong Kong’s leading pro-democracy advocates were sentenced to jail terms Friday for organizing a march during the 2019 anti-government protests that triggered an overwhelming crackdown from Beijing. – Associated Press

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga arrived in Washington on Thursday for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden meant to show the strength of the two nations’ security alliance at a time when both are concerned with China’s growing economic and military clout. – Associated Press

Japan’s plan to release radioactive water into the Pacific has put Taiwan’s government in a bind, caught between standing up for its fishing industry and avoiding a dispute with its northern neighbor on the eve of a summit between its two key allies. – Bloomberg

Opponents of Myanmar’s junta announced a National Unity Government on Friday including ousted members of parliament and leaders of anti-coup protests and ethnic minorities, saying their aim was to root out military rule. – Reuters 

The fear of detention and inability to rebuild a civilian government without internet connectivity has driven some Myanmar lawmakers involved in the resistance to work from India, the two MPs elected to Myanmar’s parliament said. – Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen told emissaries visiting at U.S. President Joe Biden’s request on Thursday that the island would work with the United States to deter threats from Chinese military activities. – Reuters

Chinese carrier drills and stepped-up incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone in recent weeks are meant to send a message to Washington to stand down and back off, security sources in Taipei say. – Reuters

Myanmar security forces on Thursday arrested one of the main leaders of the campaign against military rule after ramming him with a car as he led a motorbike protest rally, friends and colleagues said. – Reuters

Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong last year in the wake of anti-government protests in 2019 that rocked the Chinese territory. The subsequent crackdown on the pro-democracy movement has crushed opposition in the city and many activists have been jailed or fled overseas. – Financial Times

Patrick M. Cronin writes: While China will be the elephant in the room at the White House summit, it need not be the foreboding presence lurking in the myth of a supposed Thucydides Trap. Instead, Biden and Suga can spur Xi into a brighter future for all, encouraging China to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century, rather than 2060, and engaging in a win-win competition over clean-energy technology. Although we cannot sustain cherry blossoms for long, at least we can marvel at the public goods that can emanate from an alliance in full bloom. – The Hill

Scott W. Harold writes: If so, Biden could urge his Japanese counterpart to introduce “Magnitsky legislation” in the Diet that would enable Tokyo to impose sanctions on China’s criminal actions in Xinjiang. Biden could also encourage Suga to coordinate further on the issue of a boycott, either in full or in part, of the Chinese 2022 Olympic Games unless Beijing dismantles its concentration camps in Xinjiang and ceases its crimes against humanity. – The Hill


President Biden on Thursday announced retaliatory measures against Russia over election interference, the SolarWinds cyberattack and other malign activity, saying he isn’t seeking to kick off “a cycle of escalation” but would take more drastic action if necessary. – Wall Street Journal

The sanctions imposed Thursday restrict U.S. financial institutions from buying a range of Russian government bonds, target Russian cyberhacking companies, expel Russian intelligence officers in the United States, and include an option to broaden the range of measures further. – Washington Post

RFE/RL has filed an urgent petition with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to block Russia from enforcing penalties for violations of its controversial “foreign agent” law that could cost the broadcaster more than $1 million. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The European Union must pressure Moscow to allow Alexei Navalny to have access to his doctor, allies of the hunger-striking Kremlin critic wrote in a letter sent this week to EU foreign ministers. – Reuters 

There is a “low to medium” risk that Russia will invade Ukraine over the next few weeks, the top U.S. general in Europe said on Thursday, in the first such military assessment amid mounting concern about Russian troop movements toward Ukraine’s borders. – Reuters

Whatever the motivations, most observers agree Russia’s natural resources and military modernization program, launched in 2008, provide Russia’s leadership the means to conduct a flexible and often aggressive foreign policy, as well as to project force in neighboring countries and further afield (such as in the Middle East). – USNI News

Editorial: On a Tuesday call with Mr. Putin, the President suggested a summit meeting in a third country in the coming months. […]As Russia’s economy stumbles along, Mr. Putin needs a summit more than Washington does. Mr. Biden shouldn’t accept a meeting absent a change of behavior from his Russian counterpart. The world would be a safer place if Washington and Moscow got along. A natural place to start would be cooperation against Islamic extremism or Chinese adventurism. But getting to that point will require Russia to act like a responsible country. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Perhaps Mr. Putin will react to Mr. Biden’s relative restraint with some of his own. If he pulls back troops from Ukraine and frees Mr. Navalny, as the United States and its allies have called for, the administration’s initiative will be judged a success. If the Russian leader shrugs off these measures that have no effect on his power base, and continues seeking to disrupt the U.S. economy, political system and alliances, the Biden administration will have to be ready with fresh sanctions — ones with more bite than bark. – Washington Post

Editorial: Joe Biden is no foreign policy naif. Like Clinton, he knows too well how ruthless and ambitious Putin is. The new sanctions on Russia, and the pledge that more could follow, is the best evidence yet that abandoning Ukraine won’t be an option and that Russia’s bullying on the world stage won’t go unanswered. – The Boston Globe

Philip Stephens writes: Russia’s interests, though, are not Putin’s. His priority is the preservation of his own power and wealth. Autocrats need enemies. The supposed threat from the US and its allies sustains his populist pitch to Russian nationalism. […]The idealists have a point when they say that 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

Leon Aron writes: The Biden administration’s foreign policy strategists may have been possessed of some deep — very deep — strategic considerations inaccessible to amateurs, but until they show their hand this hasty summit looks like an unforced and costly error. Interpreted as a reward for the threat of an aggression — which is exactly how Putin will interpret it — it is precisely the wrong way to begin Biden’s four years of dealing with Moscow. – American Enterprise Institute


French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks on Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support for the former Soviet state, which fears a Russian invasion. – Agence France-Presse

Ukraine’s top diplomat asked Thursday for stronger Western backing, saying “words of support aren’t enough” amid escalating tensions in the country’s east and a Russian troop buildup across the border. – Associated Press

The European Parliament’s committees on relations with Britain on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favour of the post-Brexit trade and cooperation agreement, clearing the path to its final ratification. – Reuters

Britain’s foreign ministry said it summoned Russia’s ambassador on Thursday to express its concern about “malign behaviour” by the Russian state and show London’s support for actions announced earlier in the day by U.S. President Joe Biden. – Reuters

A bipartisan group of senators reintroduced a bill Thursday aimed at blocking any U.S. president from leaving NATO. – The Hill

Ukraine warned Russia against troops crossing its border and the Kremlin described the situation as “quite tense” as evidence mounted that a standoff between the two neighbors isn’t easing. – Bloomberg

But a public squabble born of Slovenian indelicacy rippled through the Bosnian and EU capitals this week and raised uncomfortable questions about the durability of borders and institutions in the Balkans, particularly Bosnia-Herzegovina. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Moldova’s Constitutional Court has ruled that President Maia Sandu can dissolve parliament, paving the way for early elections. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Poland has ordered three Russian diplomats to leave the embassy in Warsaw in what it said was an act of solidarity with the United States. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Ryan Evans writes: As for how the United States chooses to respond, it is not just Britain that is watching. This brings me to the more general context: Other countries will watch how Washington treats a middle power that is taking some risks to align itself even more closely with the United States when other allies and partners in Europe and Asia are hesitant. […]With China aiming toward the antithesis of an open world, the United States should be supportive of those efforts, though careful to allow people to make their own choices. Britain is not doing this simply to court the United States, but because it benefits Britain. If the United States can help set Britain up for success in this regard, it too stands to reap benefits around the world. – War on the Rocks


Eritrean troops continue to commit atrocities in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, despite assurances by Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, that they were leaving, a senior United Nations official said Thursday. – New York Times 

David Shearer said Wednesday he’s leaving the top U.N. job in South Sudan convinced the world’s youngest nation has the potential to become a tourist destination to rival any country in East Africa and the oil and mineral riches to spur economic progress — if it can eliminate corruption and establish a transparent and open government. – Associated Press

A former Ugandan child soldier who became one of the top commanders of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army told judges at the International Criminal Court on Thursday that he was not responsible for any atrocities and felt powerless to stop them. – Reuters

The Americas

With its health care system buckling as Covid-19 cases soar, Paraguayan officials across the political spectrum say the time has come to consider dumping Taiwan, which doesn’t export vaccines, in order to establish diplomatic ties with China, which does. – New York Times 

The anticipated exit of Raúl Castro, 89, has been a chronicle of a retirement foretold. Fidel Castro’s younger brother has hinted for a decade at an expiration date to his public life; he’s expected to step down as first secretary of the Communist Party when it meets this weekend in Havana. – New York Times 

Now, with the Caribbean country in crisis and even the most basic goods in short supply, the party is under pressure to act faster as it convenes this weekend for its eighth congress since the 1959 Revolution. – Reuters

David Miliband and Marianne Menjivar write: The Biden administration has to make up for long-term neglect at the southern border. The response to the crisis in Venezuela is separate but related. A regional approach to those fleeing Venezuela would address the need for safety and security well before they reach the U.S. border. There is no quick fix. The approach we are suggesting can at least ensure that doctors, factory workers and teachers can contribute to the countries of Latin America to which they flee, and offer dignity and security consistent with stability in those countries. – Newsweek

North America

A Canadian court ruled that asylum seekers arriving in Canada at official border crossings can be turned back to the U.S., reversing an earlier decision that found the practice to be in violation of Canadian law. – Wall Street Journal

Canadian lawmakers on Thursday urged the leaders of the United States and Canada to take further steps to resolve a dispute between Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO) and the state of Michigan over the cross-border Line 5 oil pipeline. – Reuters

The nation’s top intelligence leaders faced sharper political questions during a House hearing on global security threats, with lawmakers as focused on rehashing issues from the Trump era as future threats. – The Hill

Buildings and landmarks across the US and the globe lit up in blue and white Tuesday evening in celebration of Israel’s 73rd Independence Day. – Times of Israel

Editorial: All over the globe, we see people struggling for liberty and equality. Now is the time to reverse the rising tide against freedom. Democracy’s strengths are the very attributes that authoritarians most fear: the inherent demand for self-examination and criticism, and the capacity for self-correction without sacrificing essential ideals. This report is both a call to action for US leadership and a roadmap for a practical, bipartisan path forward. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Josh Rogin writes: Perhaps the Canadian defense ministry honestly believed that upsetting Beijing with a provocative move such as this would be counterproductive. But that’s the wrong way to think about it. We can’t tell our citizens to censor themselves because it might offend China’s delicate and paranoid sensibilities. That is a recipe for losing our integrity and undermining a system in which our independent institutions are actually independent. – Washington Post


The Biden administration revealed on Thursday that a business associate of Trump campaign officials in 2016 provided campaign polling data to Russian intelligence services, the strongest evidence to date that Russian spies had penetrated the inner workings of the Trump campaign. – New York Times 

A global epidemic of digital extortion known as ransomware is crippling local governments, hospitals, school districts and businesses by scrambling their data files until they pay up. Law enforcement has been largely powerless to stop it. – Associated Press

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) led a group of Senate Republicans on Thursday in reintroducing legislation to ban the use of social media app TikTok on federal government devices, citing potential national security concerns. – The Hill

Using artificial intelligence software for mass surveillance and ranking social behavior could soon be outlawed in Europe, according to draft legislation that has been shared online. – CNBC

Senior NATO officials vowed to boost the alliance’s cyber defense capabilities at a conference on Thursday, tucking the efforts under the top-priority thrust of hardening member nations against catastrophic disruptions. – C4ISRNET

The Pentagon’s top IT office is considering establishing a portfolio management office dedicated to accelerating the adoption of zero-trust cybersecurity architectures, a senior IT official told Congress April14. – C4ISRNET

Patrick Hearn writes: By elevating digital identity to a national security and counterintelligence priority, the Biden administration can set in motion several initiatives to keep the country and its secrets safe. The United States should prioritize centralizing digital identity efforts at the White House, creating best practices across agencies, and arming Americans with accountable tools to protect themselves. By doing so, the White House can help build a strong digital infrastructure that is essential to the country’s digital safety, privacy, economy, and democracy. – War on the Rocks

Sarah Johansson writes: By focusing on facilitating trade and diplomacy of cyber tools, innovation, and talent in the region, the Biden administration could also disincentivize Chinese and Russian influence and promote alignment with EU allies and U.N. norms. It is critical to note, however, that the Trump administration left a challenging diplomatic legacy that the Biden administration must quickly address through clear and decisive action; time is of the essence. Diplomatic efforts around cyber action and policy will be both crucial and useful for rebuilding trust with the U.S.’s European allies and finding common ground in the Middle East. – Middle East Institute


A pair of leading Democrats in the House and Senate reintroduced a bill Thursday to make it U.S. policy not to use nuclear weapons first in a military conflict. – The Hill

The Marine Corps put an assault amphibious vehicle back in the water this week for the first time since one sank last summer, killing nine service members, Marine Corps officials told Insider Thursday. – Business Insider 

The Marine Corps has released the first version of its Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations manual and is kicking off a two-year process of near-constant experimentation and analysis to help refine the document before it becomes formal doctrine. – USNI News

The Air Force wrapped up the latest round of tests on its new combat rescue helicopter Tuesday, moving the Sikorsky-built HH-60W Jolly Green II a step closer to full-time operations. – Air Force Times

The deadline to submit a preliminary design for the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) is April 16, but the cutoff marks not the time for industry officials to put pencils down, but rather the time to pick them up. – Defense News

The U.S. Army has yet to schedule a limited-user test for the latest variant of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter, instead ordering its return to flight testing to gather more data. But despite issues cropping up in previous testing, Boeing is confident it will win a first production contract in fiscal 2021, two company executives told Defense News. – Defense News

William D. Hartung writes: Adopting this approach would have a stabilizing effect and could set the stage for further measures aimed at achieving the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether, as required under the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January of this year after it was ratified by 54 nations, but none of the major nuclear powers, yet. Canceling the new ICBM project would be a good place to start towards the goal of creating the nuclear-free world that Barack Obama endorsed and Joe Biden could help advance. – The Hill

Long War

Up to 65,000 people in northeastern Nigeria are on the run after an attack by armed groups on Wednesday in which 8 people were killed and at least a dozen injured, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday. – Reuters 

Mozambique had pinned its economic hopes on the colossal natural gas deposits discovered a decade ago — but an escalating Islamist insurgency threatens to pull the rug from beneath a surge in private investment. – CNBC

Nate Rosenblatt writes: Foreign fighters are part of a complex system of potential threats to communities, fragile states, and the international community. Hubs can emerge for foreign fighter recruitment efforts in much the same way hubs can emerge for gang recruitment, organized crime recruitment, or domestic insurgent group recruitment. […]That is why an integrated approach to addressing the complex system of problems is so important. By giving diplomatic and development actors more sway, counterterrorism efforts are more likely to see the foreign fighter challenge in the complex context from which it emerges, rather than solely as a threat to be eliminated. – Washington Institute