Fdd's overnight brief

April 2, 2020

In The News


U.S. intelligence out of the Middle East suggests that Iran or Iran-backed forces are planning a potentially serious attack against U.S. military personnel in Iraq, said officials monitoring the information. – Wall Street Journal 

As Iran struggles with a devastating coronavirus outbreak, a broken economy and a severe shortage of medical equipment, it says that American trade sanctions are taking Iranian lives and has called for the United States to lift them on humanitarian grounds. – New York Times

Human rights activists say that around 20 prisoners were killed on March 30 and 31 during disturbances in two prisons in Ahvaz, the capital of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province. […]Amnesty International last week called on Iran to free all political prisoners due to the acute danger of the coronavirus spreading to crowded and substandard prisons. – Radio Farda 

Iran’s foreign ministry Wednesday warned about American “military moves” in Iraq leading to “disastrous instability” in the region. The official warning came after expressions of concern by Iranian officials and allegation of U.S. preparing some sort of military operation. – Radio Farda 

Iran Human Rights (IHR) has reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out at least 280 death penalties in 2019 including at least four juvenile offenders. Official Iranian sources have only announced 84 of the 280 executions carried. Human rights activists say many of the executions in Iran are implemented secretly without the knowledge of the convict’s lawyers. – Radio Farda 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said the COVID-19 outbreak provided a good opportunity for the United States to apologize for the sanctions it has imposed on Iran. […]Rouhani’s comment came amid a widespread campaign by Islamic Republic officials and supporters abroad to call on the United States to lift the sanctions on Tehran as Iranian officials are under pressure to cope with the outbreak. – Radio Farda 

Continued American sanctions on Iran represent “medical terrorism” as Tehran continues its battle with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson. – Newsweek

On March 29, 2020, a group of 100 Iranian academics and political and social activists published a letter holding Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei chiefly responsible for the COVID-19 epidemic becoming a national disaster. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Caleb Larson writes: There has not been any explicit agreement or coordination between the United States and Iran on the ISIS issue, at least not publicly. […]Still, the facts spoke for themselves. Footage apparently showed an F-4 fighter jet dumping ordinance on an ISIS target in Syria, spurring a rumor that the United States and Iran were enjoying some level of cooperation. – The National Interest 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran is happy. It wants a weakened Iraqi government that it can co-opt and where it can transfer missiles and build up its local militias into an Iraqi version of the IRGC. The US is busy dealing with coronavirus too, and as long as both the US and Iraqis on the ground are distracted by the pandemic the war of words might stay just words. […]Iraqis will be watching the aftermath of that strike and whether Iran seeks to respond to whoever Iran blames for it. – Jerusalem Post


Hezbollah says it is turning the organizational might it once deployed to fight Israel or in the civil war in neighboring Syria to battle the spread of the virus pandemic in Lebanon. It wants to send a clear message to its supporters in Lebanon’s Shiite community that it is a force to rely on in a crisis. The Iranian-backed guerrilla group and political powerhouse is under pressure to send that message after a series of blows to its prestige. – Associated Press 

Relatives of Americans who are wrongfully imprisoned abroad or held hostage by militant groups say in a report issued Thursday that the U.S. government still must do better in communicating with them, though improvements have been made over the last five years. […]American journalist Austin Tice remains missing after vanishing in Syria in 2012. Trump recently mentioned Tice by name in saying that the government was working to bring him home. – Associated Press 

A British charity that employed the murdered aid worker Alan Henning failed to properly safeguard him and other other volunteers on convoys to war-torn Syria, a government report has found. – The Guardian 

Between 2013 and 2017 a small number of L-39 light attack jets at a Syrian air force base east of Aleppo changed hands several times. Syrian rebels captured them from the Syrian air force. Then Islamic State militants seized the planes from the rebels. Finally, forces loyal to the Syrian regime recaptured the L-39s. – The National Interest 

Aaron Y. Zelin and Oula A. Alrifai write: The coronavirus gives Washington a fresh opportunity to show real leadership in Syria, primarily by helping those suffering in densely populated IDP camps and areas with limited supplies. […]Whatever happens next, Assad’s longstanding pattern of obfuscation will surely result in unnecessary deaths, and the international community may never truly know how many Syrians become victims of the coronavirus. – Washington Institute 


Turkish academics, journalists and rights groups are demanding that a planned release of tens of thousands of prisoners to stem the spread of the coronavirus should not exclude inmates whose only crime, they say, has been to challenge the authorities. – Reuters 

The United States believes Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was directly involved in the killing of Iranian dissident Masoud Molavi Vardanjani, who was shot dead last November in Turkey, a senior administration official told Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters 

David Axe writes: On the night of July 15, 2016, elements of the Turkish military rose up against Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan — and very nearly succeeded in killing or capturing their controversial leader. A few military units remained steadfastly loyal to the embattled president. Among them — the 1st Main Jet Base in Eskisehir in northwestern Turkey. The base’s F-4E Terminator 2020 fighters flew to Erdogan’s aid during the direst hours of the daylong attempted coup. – The National Interest  


A top Iranian general arrived in Baghdad this week to try and unify Iraq’s fractured political leaders, Iraqi officials said Wednesday, as stiff opposition by one major bloc thwarts chances the country’s latest prime minister-designate can form a government. – Associated Press 

In February, an Iraqi militia commander trained by Iran took over the empty office of his slain superior, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, killed weeks before alongside Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike. […]Now, sources in the Iran-backed factions of the PMF and commanders in groups less close to Tehran describe growing fractures over leadership and reduced Iranian funds, thwarting attempts to unite in the face of adversity. – Reuters 

Michael Rubin writes: Here’s the point for U.S. policymakers: To target groups like the Badr Corps, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq without first delegitimizing them allows these groups to depict themselves as martyrs and the United States as an enemy of Iraq. This enables recruitment and causes retrenchment. […]Only when this differentiation is achieved, will Iraqis broadly join in and accept the dissolution or destruction of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias. – The National Interest 

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia showed no sign of bowing to pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to dial back its oil-price war with Russia. Instead, the kingdom pushed crude supply to record levels. Trump said Tuesday night that he’d spoken to both President Vladimir Putin and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an effort to broker a truce between the world’s two largest oil exporters. – Bloomberg 

While President Donald Trump remains optimistic that Saudi Arabia and Russia will work out a deal to stabilize the oil market, his Energy Department took to scolding the Middle Eastern kingdom for defying U.S. calls to curb its output. – Bloomberg 

Ellen R. Wald writes: If Saudi Arabia is able to demonstrate that it could sell all of its supply, then that could signal that, at least on one level, its gamble is working. […]If, on the other hand, Saudi Arabia can’t find buyers, the market will have little confidence in the kingdom’s ability to impact prices or its power over the oil market. Global oil prices will fall and Saudi Arabia will face an identity crisis. – Bloomberg 

Simon Henderson writes: How the oil price war eventually will play out — and when — is anyone’s guess; the story is fast-moving. Despite President Trump’s assertion that Russia and Saudi Arabia are having discussions, the Kremlin said on Wednesday that the two countries are not holding talks and there are no plans for President Putin to call the Saudi leadership. – The Hill 

Middle East & North Africa

The Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah is marshalling its deep resources in the fight against coronavirus, using a corps of volunteers, doctors and facilities to carve out a prominent role in the crisis-riven state’s response. – Reuters 

Israel on Wednesday linked any assistance it might offer for the Gaza Strip’s efforts against coronavirus to progress in its attempt to recover two Israeli soldiers lost during the 2014 war in the Palestinian enclave. – Reuters

Dr. Vish Sakthivel writes: The pandemic has brought profound and indefinite uncertainty to societies the world over, and whether the opening provided by the health crisis will have lasting effects on Hirak’s modes of action is yet to be seen. […]However, that the majority is calling for a different tack and ready to use the crisis — and the public outrage that will likely ensue — as a political opportunity reveals a dynamic and adaptable movement that will continue to be a fixture in Algerian politics. – Middle East Institute 

Jacob Mchangama and Sarah McLaughlin write: However, an increasing number of governments are also using the current health emergency to suppress criticism and undesirable information through the proliferation of laws against disinformation. Free speech advocates have long warned against so-called fake news bans, fearing that they would prove to be, at best, a well-intended but ill-conceived effort to address a real problem and, at worst, another weapon in the authoritarian’s arsenal. – Foreign Policy 

Geoffrey Aronson writes: The Sinai-based Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) will soon celebrate its 41st anniversary. […]Is the MFO a fading echo of a world transformed or a still-relevant example of U.S. international leadership? That is the question now being addressed by the Trump administration in Washington. No matter the decision, one thing is certain: The MFO’s best days are behind it. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

Wednesday marked the first day of a furlough of roughly half the 9,000-strong Korean workforce staffing U.S. military bases in South Korea. The layoffs without pay — the first in the history of the seven-decade U.S.-South Korea alliance — were forced by an impasse between the two countries on paying for the cost of stationing some 28,500 American troops in South Korea. – NPR 

South Korea’s fierce battle against the coronavirus has turned the pandemic into an unlikely boon for President Moon Jae-in and his ruling party as campaign season kicks off on Thursday ahead of parliamentary elections on April 15. […]The results of the parliamentary election could shape Moon’s ability to implement his agenda in the final two years of his administration, including looser fiscal policy aimed at creating jobs and the raising minimum wage, as well as continued re-engagement with North Korea. – Reuters 

Bruce Klingner writes: The regime so far has shown no sign of abandoning its nuclear and missile arsenal nor its continued defiance of the international community. It is possible that North Korea’s mounting economic problems could lead it back to nuclear talks. But the amount of pressure North Korea feels in the months ahead will depend not so much on international sanctions as on the extent of COVID-19 in the country and Pyongyang’s response measures. – The National Interest

Henri Féron writes: It should be amply clear that North Korea has no intention to surrender and has the means and determination to pose a growing threat to American and allied security as long as it doesn’t see recognition of a right to exist. The status quo of a failed hardline policy remains much more dangerous than one of peace and reconciliation that at least ends the hostilities with this nuclear power, and then seeks to negotiate an arms control agreement. […]We need to shake off the sunk costs fallacy and wake up to the opportunity costs of the fruitless policy on Korea. – The National Interest


The three images, posted close to each other on the Twitter feed of China’s official Xinhua News Agency one day last week, encapsulate a sweeping effort by the Communist Party to craft the story of the pandemic and cast China in the role of global savior. […]China, the country where the virus first appeared and claimed its first several thousand lives, is now using the global spread of the disease to bolster an increasing vocal, assertive bid for global leadership that is exacerbating a yearslong conflict with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal 

Ms. Wang’s diary has become a focal point of bitter online debate over the value of allowing independent voices that deviate from the official narrative being pushed with increasing assertiveness under President Xi Jinping. A rare example of critical commentary about the pandemic, the diary also suggests that gaps still exist in the Communist Party’s system of information control for those deft enough to exploit them. – Wall Street Journal 

For weeks, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo forcefully used the controversial terms “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” in public and said they intended to hold Beijing responsible for the crippling coronavirus pandemic. Now, they have avoided using those phrases, and the administration is welcoming planeloads of medical equipment from China. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump was effusive in describing his relationship with President Xi Jinping of China, whom he spoke with last week. – New York Times

Beijing is stepping up its oversight of exports of coronavirus test kits after several European countries complained about the accuracy of some Chinese-made tests. – Reuters

China is moving forward with plans to buy up oil for its emergency reserves after an epic price crash, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The world’s biggest importer is taking advantage of a 60% plunge this year to snatch up cheaper barrels for its stockpiles, a source of considerable speculation in the oil market because of the government’s reluctance to release information about their formation, size or use. – Bloomberg 

A U.S. congressman is calling on the State Department to urge China to investigate the disappearance of three Chinese citizen journalists who sought to expose the impact of the coronavirus on the Chinese city of Wuhan. – Reuters

China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials. – Bloomberg 

China said the U.S. is trying to shift the blame for the outbreak after American intelligence officials concluded China concealed infections. The Pentagon aims to provide as many as 100,000 body bags for civilian use. – Bloomberg 

A majority of members of the United Nations Security Council are pushing for a resolution to address the coronavirus outbreak after talks stalled last week due to a U.S.-China disagreement over the origins of the pandemic. – Bloomberg 

President Donald Trump has held an unequivocal position about China and the coronavirus — several of them. […]The diverging messages have generated finger-pointing by both Beijing and Washington that is further destabilizing a critical relationship between countries with the two largest economies and militaries. – Associated Press 

Anjani Trivedi writes: Don’t hold your breath. Massive Chinese stimulus isn’t coming to shore up the world. […]This time, China has limits that it has rarely faced in the past. As Beijing is constrained to turn inward, it’s no wonder that other countries are coming out with far more aggressive measures. – Bloomberg 

Brenda M. Hafera writes: The CCP’s techniques of intimidation will be an obstacle to China’s recovery. I have spent months in Hong Kong and have interacted with many students from the mainland. Their fear is striking. […]When this crisis has passed, the U.S. undoubtedly will revisit its relations with China, during which the “don’t tread on me” attitude could soon come to the forefront. – The Hill


The Taliban said Wednesday the group was ready to declare a cease-fire in areas of Afghanistan under its control if they are hit by a coronavirus outbreak. The announcement follows a U.N. Security Council statement Tuesday urging Afghanistan’s warring parties to heed the U.N. secretary-general’s call for an immediate cease-fire to respond to the pandemic and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the country. – Associated Press

Afghanistan has been hit by a spike in prices of essential goods including food and medicines, as shortages and panic buying increase in the face of a rising coronavirus threat, residents and retailers said. […]Landlocked Afghanistan’s main supply line is through Pakistan, which in mid-March shut its borders as part of measures to contain its own coronavirus epidemic. – Reuters

The Afghan government will release 100 Taliban prisoners from jails on Thursday, said a senior security official, adding that in exchange the Taliban will release 20 Afghan security members. – Reuters

South Asia

A Pakistani court overturned the murder conviction of a British national for killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, and reduced his death sentence to seven years’ time served in prison for his kidnapping conviction. […]It wasn’t immediately known if the ruling would be appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court. – Wall Street Journal 

An estimated 350,000 displaced people across Myanmar are “sitting in the path of a public health catastrophe”, says rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW). […]Waves of communal violence in Myanmar have displaced tens of thousands of people, many from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority. – BBC 

Bangladesh has received the last of five UK-surplus Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules transport aircraft it ordered, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) told Jane’s on 1 April. – Jane’s 360 

Nisid Hajari writes: Those Indians embarking on grueling foot journeys today may not be fleeing sectarian violence, but they have equally legitimate fears—not only of the coronavirus, which has spread quickly in densely populated cities from Wuhan to New York, but more fundamentally of hunger and homelessness. […]In 1947, more refugees may well have died on the roads from disease and hunger than from the massacres that were driving them. Even at a smaller scale, that’s a tragedy India cannot afford to repeat. – Bloomberg 


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave authorities the green light to shoot dead protesters who attempt to riot or disrupt food distribution during a lockdown prompted by the Covid-19 outbreak. […]Duterte’s comments, which are similar to his orders in a drug war that has killed thousands, come as his government seeks to enforce a monthlong lockdown of Luzon, the Philippines’s main island. – Bloomberg 

Even before the outbreak, Hong Kong was dealing with the effects of last year’s violent clashes between police and antigovernment protesters—as well as the U.S.-China trade war. […]This time around, though, the city is unlikely to see the same rush of support by travelers coming and spending money, because of a lingering anti-mainland Chinese sentiment that swelled during the protests and has only grown stronger since the virus took hold. – Bloomberg

Taiwan will donate 2 million hospital masks to the United States in an expanded effort to provide hard-to-find medical supplies to nations afflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. The masks are expected to arrive next week. Half will be provided to the federal government, and the remainder will be divided between individual states, according to a statement by Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. – Washington Examiner

The Japanese Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) has confirmed to Jane’s that it plans to pursue a Japan-led development project of a next-generation fighter aircraft, rejecting proposals by foreign manufacturers, including the one by Lockheed Martin to develop a new stealthy aircraft by combining elements of the F-22 and F-35 fifth-generation fighters. – Jane’s 360 

Tom Rogan writes: China’s attacks on Indonesian fishermen are, further, a direct threat to the post-World War II liberal international order. That rule-of-law-based order was earned with American blood and is valued for the prosperity it has given us and the rest of the world. But just as it is seizing fishing stocks, China’s military is trying to turn the Western Pacific Ocean into its private retreat — a place where guests must ask to enter, then accept Chinese economic and political hegemony in return for transit and trade. – Washington Examiner 

Daniel Moss writes: The big question is whether that largesse will evaporate in the post-virus era and if the Philippines, a former U.S. colony, can tap China’s financial heft without acceding to its strategic goals. This pandemic will no doubt test the nation’s economic aspirations. But long used to adversity, citizens must resort to their wits and pragmatism. – Bloomberg


When Russia announced it was sending the world’s biggest cargo plane, an Antonov-124, to the United States loaded with medical aid, President Trump called it “very nice.” […]Publicity around the aid also would boost Putin, whose messaging on the coronavirus has been weak and contradictory. Other analysts wondered if a longer-range objective was in play, such as gaining leverage to ease U.S. sanctions in the future. – Washington Post 

Russia is not alone in sending aid abroad. The United States, Germany, and France have also sent supplies despite dealing with their own domestic outbreaks. […] Since its relations with the West soured amid the Ukraine crisis in 2014, and Moscow was placed under economic sanctions by much of the world, President Vladimir Putin’s government has lobbied for the world to see it as a force for good, with a crucial role to play in the international arena. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation on Wednesday to allow the government to declare a state of national emergency in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus. – Reuters

Russian lawmakers have approved fines of up to $25,000 and sentences of up to five years in prison for spreading misinformation relating to the coronavirus. – The Hill 

China and Russia are using the coronavirus pandemic to position themselves as world leaders while the United States turns its focus to domestic matters to battle the infectious disease, experts on geopolitical affairs and a senior U.S. intelligence official briefed on the matter told Newsweek. – Newsweek 

Walter Russell Mead writes: The bitter competition between the Trump administration and Vladimir Putin’s Russia may be the most underreported geopolitical news story of our time. […]In recent weeks, the struggle has grown more intense as Russia has sacrificed longtime allies Venezuela and Iran in a no-holds-barred attempt to counter the Trump administration’s efforts to reshape world energy markets and undercut Moscow’s power. – Wall Street Journal 

Janusz Bugajski writes: Moscow’s coerced border changes can be depicted as legitimate moves that mirror Western support for ethnic homogenization in the Balkans. This could reduce calls for economic sanctions against Russia for carving up its neighbors’ territories. Instead of pushing back on Moscow’s subversion and destabilization of the Balkans, U.S. supported border changes could turn out to be a gift for President Putin. – The Hill 

Amy Mackinnon and Robbie Gramer write: As top American officials bash the Russian government for spreading disinformation on the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump is accepting a supply of medical equipment from Moscow. […]But the delivery also represents a major optics win for Moscow as the worldwide delivery of medical supplies from competing powers takes on an increasingly geopolitical edge. The United States appears to have shed its traditional role of world leader in a global crisis, critics say, instead redirecting its focus on domestic needs. – Foreign Policy


A group of countries in the European Union’s western core urged governments to exercise restraint when adopting emergency measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, an apparent rebuke of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s move to take sole command of his nation. – Bloomberg 

Kamal Foroughi, an 80-year-old man with dual Iranian-British nationality, has returned to Britain nine years after being arrested in Iran on spying charges, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement. – Radio Farda 

Computer hackers have attacked Italy’s social security website, forcing it to shut down on Wednesday just as people were starting to apply for coronavirus benefits, the head of the welfare agency said. – Reuters 

Since becoming mayor of Prague more than two years ago, Zdenek Hrib has repeatedly irked China by meeting dissidents, criticizing its treatment of ethnic minorities and promoting ties with Taiwan. – Bloomberg 

The Swedish military says it is against canceling a major military exercise in May even after several allies have pulled out. […]Many national and international military exercises in Europe have been called off in the past weeks due to the spread of COVID-19. – Associated Press 


Ethiopia has postponed parliamentary elections scheduled for August due to the coronavirus outbreak, the electoral board said on Tuesday, a move endorsed by some key opposition parties. […]Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous nation with 105 million citizens. Abiy promised to liberalise the state-run economy and oversaw reforms that freed thousands of political prisoners, journalists and opposition activists. – Reuters

The World Bank approved a $500 million education project for Tanzania, two months after it postponed the decision amid criticism of President John Magufuli’s call to restrict pregnant girls’ attendance of school. – Bloomberg 

A group of G-20 leaders are preparing an international response to the impact of the coronavirus crisis in Africa that would include debt relief and financial aid, African officials and European diplomats said. A comprehensive package supported by countries including France and Italy would incorporate recent demands from President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, who have called on the world’s most industrialized countries to support the continent through the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. – Politico

United States

The Treasury Department plans to hire three Wall Street banks for advice on doling out tens of billions of dollars in aid to the airline industry, which is hemorrhaging cash as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal 

The Justice Department inspector general revealed Tuesday that his investigators found errors in every FBI application to a secret surveillance court examined as part of an ongoing review — suggesting that problems exposed in the bureau’s probe of President Trump’s 2016 campaign extend far beyond that case alone. – Washington Post 

President Donald Trump is resisting calls to issue a national stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the new coronavirus despite his administration’s projections that tens of thousands of Americans are likely to be killed by the disease. One by one, though, states are increasingly pushing shutdown orders of their own. – Associated Press 

The global economy could shrink almost 1% this year due to the new coronavirus, a sharp reversal from the pre-pandemic forecast of 2.5% growth, the United Nations said Wednesday. […]The report said the negative effects of current economic restrictions in richer developed nations will soon spill over into developing countries, which will see lower trade and investment. – Associated Press 

Michael Rubin writes: With democracies in peril across the globe, effective, impartial, and honest human rights advocacy is more needed than ever. […]Perhaps when Human Rights Watch has new leadership, it can restore itself to its moral and academic high ground. Until then, however, it should have no weight in the U.S. and human rights policy debates. – Washington Examiner 

Latin America

The Trump administration said Tuesday it would lift tough sanctions against Venezuela if both President Nicolás Maduro and his political nemesis, opposition leader Juan Guaidó, step aside and agree to a transitional government guided by both the ruling socialists and opposition lawmakers. – Washington Post 

The Trump administration will send an additional 540 troops to the southern border “very soon” to aid federal border agents in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according top military officials. – The Hill 

President Donald Trump said he’s deploying more Navy vessels and Air Force planes in the Caribbean to ramp up pressure on drug cartels in a move that is also meant to put added strain on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime. Trump said cartels from Latin America and the Caribbean are seeking to capitalize on the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. and that efforts need to be redoubled to stop them. – Bloomberg 

President Jair Bolsonaro took to airwaves Tuesday night in an apparent bid to calm political tensions, shifting gears to assure Brazilians that his main concern “was always to save lives.” – Bloomberg 

Mac Margolis writes: As coronavirus gales across the Americas, officials from Mexico to Chile have puzzled over how to keep millions locked down at home. […]If policy-makers fail to act decisively, those behind bars will not only be even more vulnerable to coronavirus but also risk accelerating Latin America’s biggest crisis in memory — and thereby making everyone a prisoner in their own homes. – Bloomberg 

Moises Rendon writes: Maduro’s foreign minister already rejected this week’s deal, so the ball remains in Maduro’s court. If the Maduro regime cooperates, the international community needs to be more vigilant and active than ever to ensure that the conditions for free and fair presidential elections are actually met. If Maduro does not collaborate, the United States and Venezuelan democratic forces will need to reevaluate their strategy moving forward. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Delivering better data will be this year’s primary focus of the Department of Homeland Security’s program for federal network cybersecurity as it prepares to deploy new dashboards to agencies. – Fifth Domain 

Huawei warned that 2020 would be the firm’s most difficult year yet, as it looks to revamp operations against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and the prospect of further US restrictions, according to Light Reading. – Business Insider 

EU industry chief Thierry Breton says he does not see any ulterior motive behind Huawei and other Chinese companies’ donations of face masks to the bloc and that solidarity is the best way to tackle the global coronavirus outbreak. […]Dubbed by some as mask diplomacy, critics say the move could be a ploy to win lucrative 5G contracts following EU guidelines announced in January which block the company from core infrastructure networks. – Reuters


The Navy plans to remove about 2,700 sailors from an aircraft carrier in Guam afflicted by the novel coronavirus within days, senior Navy officials said Wednesday, as government officials on the island worked to secure hotel rooms for many of them. – Washington Post 

A Marine Corps decision to reduce the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters per squadron from 16 to 10 won’t lead to a cut in the total number of planes the service wants to buy just yet – but the commandant warned industry that external factors could lead to programmatic changes down the line. – USNI News

The top officer in the U.S. Marine Corps is sticking to the planned procurement of the F-35 joint strike fighter — but indicated a willingness to cut planes in the future if analysis says it makes sense. – Defense News 

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) has begun flight trials of the first production-standard MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the company announced on 31 March. – Jane’s 360 

The Air Force is implementing a service-wide “reset” meant to insulate its most essential missions from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Air Force’s top general said Wednesday. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein ordered the leaders of each Air Force major command on April 1 to pivot toward essential tasks that may require additional manpower or other resources. – Defense News 

The Navy’s acquisition community is seeking to move work ahead of schedule and find as many efficiencies as possible, ahead of what could be a mountain of work to adjust contracts and try to keep programs on track once the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are more fully understood, the Navy’s top acquisition official said today.- USNI News 

The top Marine told reporters Wednesday that current layout and organization of the Corps’ Light Armored Reconnaissance units were better equipped to handle another conflict in the Middle East instead of rising near-peer rivals. – Defense News 

The U.S. Navy generated glowing headlines and cheering crowds when deploying its hospital ships Mercy and Comfort to Los Angeles and New York City respectively. But the ships are both pushing 50 years old and need replacing, and what those replacements will look like is anything but certain. – Defense News 

The amount of funding for defense research awarded through other transaction authorities have increased nearly tenfold in five years, according to a new analysis seen exclusively by Defense News. – Defense News 

Michèle A. Flournoy and Gabrielle Chefitz write: The United States cannot continue to use the same acquisition and development approach it uses for an aircraft carrier, understandably optimized to avoid large cost and schedule overruns, to develop new technologies and capabilities. Our current risk-averse system simply cannot deliver the necessary disruption at speed and scale. If we don’t accept more risk now, we will face the far greater risk of falling behind our adversaries in the future. – Defense News

Long War

Both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida see the coronavirus as a threat, but some of their fighters also see the upheaval from the pandemic as an opportunity to win over more supporters and strike harder than before. – Associated Press

A Georgia man pleaded guilty to plotting an attack on the White House using weapons and explosives, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday. – The Hill 

Christopher P. Costa writes: The United States should continue to pursue terrorists and fight terrorism like we are now fighting the coronavirus: relentlessly, creatively, and coherently. […]The disease is occasionally in remission, sometimes it is not, but still it can be relentlessly managed — yet never fully cured. Aggressive surgical strikes and having the right foreign partners on the ground is the best strategy we have —because terrorism is a disease that’s not going to end. – Defense One