Fdd's overnight brief

April 20, 2021

In The News


Negotiators in Vienna have begun drafting proposals for the United States and Iran to return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, officials involved in the talks said Monday. – Washington Post

Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed trade and economic issues in a meeting in Jakarta on Monday with his Indonesian counterpart, the two countries said. – Associated Press

The U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran on Monday started talks aimed at obtaining explanations from Tehran on the origin of uranium traces found at undeclared locations in Iran, an issue which could affect efforts to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal. – Reuters

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Monday that the Biden administration will support Israel as it works to counter the threats posed by Iran’s aggressive behavior. – Haaretz

Talks between Iran and the world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear accord have reached a “drafting stage,” according to a Russian official Monday, as Israeli military intelligence officials raised concerns that the US is determined to hammer out a deal “at all costs.” – Algemeiner 

As the coronavirus brought the world to a near standstill in late 2020, BadBlood began its attack. The hacking group, considered a proxy for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, sent emails to over 20 medical professionals in Israel and the United States. Sent to senior members of a slew of medical research organizations from a seemingly legitimate Gmail account, the emails contained a link to a website that claimed to offer details on Israel’s nuclear program, in order to lure the victims into giving the attackers their details. – Haaretz

Ian Bremmer writes: Negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 was hard; renegotiating more or less the same nuclear deal with Iran after the U.S. withdrawal is harder than you’d think. And that’s before you factor in an Israeli prime minister who has little left to lose. – TIME

Amos Harel writes: As far as the Iranians are concerned, there has been an accumulation of Israeli actions that will probably require a response at some point. But at the same time, there is a strategic goal that the Iranian leadership is determined to achieve – a U.S. return to the nuclear treaty, a lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iran and guaranteeing an agreement that will not impose overly stringent limitations on the nuclear program. All these are likely to be of higher priority than settling accounts. – Haaretz

Hamdi Malik: Instead of rushing to the negotiation table and being forced to offer concessions, the Islamic Republic could use its proxies in Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, to escalate against U.S. interests and those of its allies to gain leverage in the talks. […] U.S. forces left Iraq once in 2011, and there is no reason that they won’t do so again, Iran thinks. And the Iraqi militias are entirely in agreement with that sentiment. They believe unless the U.S. forces leave Iraq, they will not be able to achieve their ultimate goal, which is to capture the Iraqi state, just like Lebanese Hezbollah. – Middle East Institute


Turkey’s Interior Ministry has launched a probe into six more municipalities in connection with an alleged human smuggling scheme where Turkish citizens wanting to migrate to Europe were, in exchange for a fee, issued special state passports allowing them visa-free travel. – Associated Press

Iranian dissidents in Turkey are unsure whether the country is still a refuge after what appears to be a new wave of arrests and deportation orders targeting asylum seekers from the Islamic Republic. – The Guardian

Alon Ben-Meir writes: In this vein, US President Joe Biden and EU leaders should call on Erdogan to rescind this appalling decision or else suffer severe economic sanctions, be denied an audience with any Western leader, be prohibited from participating in any future NATO exercises, and be excluded from intelligence-sharing. This, in combination with Biden’s revocation of the “global gag rule” in January, should send a positive message to Turkish women and across the world that their rights are recognized and respected. – Jerusalem Post


Israeli police scuffled with protesters in an Arab neighborhood near Tel Aviv for a second night late Monday after the assault of a rabbi over the weekend. – Associated Press

State affiliated companies from Israel and the UAE have agreed to form a joint venture focusing on artificial intelligence and big data, in the most significant commercial deal since the two states normalised relations last year. – Financial Times

Sen. Bernie Sanders told the J Street 2021 National Conference on Monday that the United States should be able to determine how Israel uses the aid it gives to the state, and should restrict aid in response to moves that would undermine the peace process. – Haaretz

Leading House Democrats on Monday sounded the alarm on Israel’s deepening occupation and treatment of Palestinians during remarks to J Street’s 2021 annual conference. – Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lost control of the Knesset and may soon also lose the Prime Minister’s Office, after the anti-Netanyahu bloc defeated him in a key vote in the parliament on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

The Sudanese ruling sovereignty council and cabinet on Monday officially voted to annul the so-called Israel boycott law as part of the normalization process between Khartoum and Jerusalem. – Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and President Reuven Rivlin shared a rare phone call on Monday, both presidential offices said. – Times of Israel

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed on Monday Israel must not be allowed to thwart the Palestinian elections in East Jerusalem. – Ynet

Israel will begin a concentrated diplomatic effort to improve relations with the Biden administration and the other world power signatories to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, according to a decision made at the highest levels of the political and defense echelons. – Ynet

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Monday launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and accused him of driving Israel to a political crisis as a means to protect himself from criminal charges. – Arutz Sheva

A group of more than 2,000 former high-ranking Israeli military, law enforcement, and intelligence community officials are warning the Biden administration against inking a new nuclear deal with Iran, saying the rush to negotiate with Iran directly endangers Israel and its newfound Arab allies. – The Washington Free Beacon

Herb Keinon writes: If this is indeed the case, or even if it is only Netanyahu’s portrayal of reality, it explains why Israel would want to say after the security cabinet meeting that it is disappointed in the way the US is conducting the negotiations: to let the Gulf countries know that they can continue to count on Jerusalem to lead the charge against a return to the JCPOA – even at the risk of once again incurring the administration’s displeasure. – Jerusalem Post

Arabian Peninsula

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen said it destroyed an explosive drone fired towards Khamis Mushait in the south of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, in a statement carried by Ekhbariya TV. – Reuters

Activists said prisoners protesting conditions in a Bahraini jail were beaten in a security operation last weekend that authorities had described as a response to disobedience following repeated warnings.Reuters 

China’s crude oil imports from top supplier Saudi Arabia rose 8.8% in March from a year earlier, driven by strong demand and as shipments delayed due to a port congestion finally arrived. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

The Russian military said Monday that its airstrike killed about 200 militants in eastern Syria. Rear Adm. Alexander Karpov, the head of the Russian military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria, said Russian warplanes hit two militant hideouts northeast of Palmyra. – Associated Press

A Syrian court Monday started receiving applications from presidential hopefuls, the state news agency said, for polls next month expected to keep Bashar al-Assad in power in the war-torn country. – Agence France-Presse

Lebanon’s most senior Christian cleric, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, called for a meeting with Iranian-backed political and paramilitary group Hezbollah as he urged neutrality in regional conflicts to save the beleaguered Middle Eastern country from further chaos. – CNBC

Libya’s oil production has fallen below 1 million barrels a day for the first time in months as a budgetary dispute hinders the OPEC member’s ability to fix war-damaged infrastructure. – Bloomberg

Don Davis writes: One thing nearly all analysts agree with; Iran, will decide their own fate and that of the Middle East, peace or horrid war, but odds and realities are not in Iran’s favor for victory. – Times of Israel

Gil Miller writes: One of the solutions that can constitute an alternative for importing goods from the East is Turkey. […]Even more important, the arrival times via shipping lines are set, regular and faster than those from the East. The cost of Turkish goods is higher than those from China, but in a world of abundance, there will always be someone who will pay for that. – Jerusalem Post


China has quietly begun accepting U.S. coronavirus vaccination records in travel applications to the country, as it seeks to negotiate mutual recognition of vaccine passports with other nations. – Washington Post

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for greater global economic integration and warned against decoupling while calling on the U.S. and its allies to avoid “bossing others around.” – Bloomberg

China is central to World Trade Organization (WTO) reforms, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called for a rejection of hegemonic power structures in global governance, amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing over a widening range of issues including alleged human rights abuses. – Reuters

Police in China’s southern Guangdong province have detained several people, including two senior staff of a BP Plc (BP.L) joint venture, in connection with an investigation into suspected illicit fuel trading, three people said. – Reuters

A human rights group appealed to the United Nations on Monday to investigate allegations China’s government is committing crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang region. – Associated Press

The House passed a resolution on Monday to formally condemn the Chinese government and the Hong Kong regional government for actions that “violate the rights and freedoms” of the region’s citizens. – The Hill

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said the U.S. is falling behind China on being a global leader in confronting climate change, part of a push by the Biden administration to invest in infrastructure and technology as a national security and environmental imperative. – The Hill

US secretary of state Antony Blinken has cast renewable energy investment as imperative to America’s rivalry with China days ahead of a White House climate summit where Washington’s leaders hope to reassert global influence on climate policy. – Financial Times

Editorial: President Biden’s climate envoy emerged from two days of meetings with counterpart Xie Zhenhua with a joint statement that says little new. […]Making climate the sole focus of an early visit tells the Chinese that the U.S. puts that single issue above everything else in the bilateral relationship. China is happy to jibber-jabber about climate with the Americans if it means not having to engage on Taiwan, Hong Kong, Beijing’s repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, the South China Sea, North Korea, or intellectual property theft. – Wall Street Journal 

Ashley Rhoades and Dalia Dassa Kaye write: U.S. policymakers may find it worthwhile to consider a set of reimagined policy choices in the Middle East, including being strategic about where and how to confront China and leaving openings for cooperation with its global competitor when interests overlap. Doing so will be politically difficult, especially given how unpopular China and Iran are on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. […]Instead, Washington should have a clear-eyed view about what it seeks to accomplish in the Middle East and defend those interests vigorously, but it should also work with China in the region when it’s useful to do so. – War on the Rocks 

Hal Brands writes: Nothing is predetermined: Beijing may still succeed in displacing the United States as the primary power in Asia and, eventually, the world. Yet if it does, that outcome will represent a catastrophic failure of American statecraft—or an awesome triumph of Chinese strategy in overcoming the great obstacles that litter Beijing’s path to hegemony. – Commentary Magazine

Nate Sibley writes: Despite growing awareness of the threat to prosperity and security posed by transnational kleptocracy, corrupt officials and their commercial proxies continue to siphon trillions of dollars out of the developing world each year with impunity. Meanwhile, the enduring influence of predatory elites in vulnerable democracies such as Armenia, Georgia, Malaysia, and Ukraine has prevented the consolidation of rule of law and emergence of strong democratic institutions. – Hudson Institute


As the U.S. moves to withdraw its military from Afghanistan over the next five months, concerns are growing about one American who risks being left behind. – Associated Press

Pakistan on Monday urged the Taliban to remain engaged in the Afghan peace process after the armed group said it would now shun summits about Afghanistan until all foreign forces leave. – Reuters

Max Boot writes: U.S. foreign policy should not be dictated by the least that we can get away with — but by the most that we can reasonably do. Keeping 3,500 troops in Afghanistan (0.25 percent of our active-duty military) was hardly an unmanageable commitment. Now Biden must ensure that the Afghan government continues to receive the funding it needs to survive while making provision for our local allies if it doesn’t. – Washington Post

Phil Caruso writes: America’s Afghan allies face severe consequences at the hands of the Taliban. The Taliban have long insisted that those Afghans who have worked for the United States should be punished by death. […]Should the fateful day of Taliban victory ever come, the Biden administration can avoid a similarly grim fate for our Afghan allies by developing and deliberately executing a plan to evacuate them. – Washington Post

Bret Stephens writes: In the world as it is, none of that is true, and we have to find a way of advancing our interests without betraying our values and our friends. Last week’s calamitous decision on Afghanistan fails that test on every front. – New York Times

South Asia

Pakistan’s Parliament is expected to consider a resolution on Tuesday about whether the French envoy should be expelled over the publication of controversial cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet, testing whether the government gives in to threats from radical Islamists. – Associated Press

An outlawed Pakistani Islamist political group freed 11 police a day after taking them hostage in the eastern city of Lahore amid violent clashes with security forces, the country’s interior minister said Monday. – Associated Press

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had hoped a fight over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed would result in an easy win — placating the ultra-conservative quarters at home while being hailed as a defender of Islam abroad. – Agence France-Presse

Jeff M. Smith writes: While the United States would prefer to see India’s domestic laws align more closely with established international law, the Indian government is likely to resist, at least on the subject of military operations in the EEZ. Were it to get creative, New Delhi might consider more closely aligning its domestic laws with UNCLOS while enshrining exemptions for countries with which it has active territorial disputes. – Heritage Foundation


The European Union resolved on Monday to step up its influence in the Indo-Pacific region, using areas from security to health to protect its interests and counter China’s rising power, although the bloc insists its strategy is not against Beijing. – Reuters

Former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged his successor on Monday to engage directly with Myanmar’s military to prevent an increase in post-coup violence and said southeast Asian countries should not dismiss the turmoil as an internal issue for Myanmar. – Reuters

The European Union is seeking to encourage greater investment from Taiwan, especially its semiconductor firms, the bloc’s top diplomat in Taipei said on Tuesday, amid a global chip shortage that has impacted automakers like Volkswagen. – Reuters

Southeast Asian countries will discuss the crisis in Myanmar at a summit in Jakarta on Saturday, the ASEAN bloc’s secretariat said on Tuesday, but Thailand’s prime minister said several will be represented only by their foreign ministers. – Reuters

New Zealand expressed support for its Five Eyes alliance with Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, calling it a “vital security and intelligence partnership”, a day after saying it didn’t support broadening the group’s role. – Reuters

A group of journalists in Japan called on Myanmar’s junta on Tuesday to free a colleague, Yuki Kitazumi, detained in Yangon following a crackdown on the media amid ongoing protests against the military overthrow of an elected government. – Reuters

The EU on Monday announced sanctions on 10 Myanmar junta officials and two conglomerates linked to the military over the coup and bloody crackdown on protesters in their country.Agence France-Presse

Taiwan is courting journalists fleeing China, spotting an opportunity to boost its visibility and build international support as concerns mount that Beijing is flirting with the idea of invading the country. – Financial Times


As the Kremlin threatens Ukraine and Russia’s main opposition leader’s health deteriorates, some European countries want to follow the Biden administration’s lead and take a tougher line toward Moscow. – Wall Street Journal 

Jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny was hospitalized Monday, weeks after beginning a hunger strike, as the Kremlin brushed off warnings from the U.S. of repercussions if he were to die while in prison. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan said on Tuesday he would travel to the United States this week for consultations, four days after the Kremlin suggested that Washington recall him amid a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. – Reuters

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday a MiG-31 fighter jet had intercepted and escorted patrol aircraft from the United States and Norway over the Barents Sea, RIA news agency reported. – Reuters

The European Union’s top diplomat said that Russia’s military presence on the border with Ukraine has grown to 150,000 personnel, the largest ever buildup on the frontier between the two countries, raising the possibility of further conflict. – Bloomberg

The US State Department on Monday branded as an “unprovoked escalation” reported Russian plans to block parts of the Black Sea, which could ultimately impact access to Ukrainian ports. – Agence France-Presse

Advisors to US President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin discussed on Monday the possibility of a summit between the two amid strained bilateral relations, the White House said. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: Mr. Navalny should not be in prison at all. He was detained and incarcerated for a six-year-old conviction that was found unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights. The real reason for his imprisonment is to silence him. […]Mr. Putin’s rule rests on a coterie of wealthy oligarchs and security officials who feast on the nation’s riches and glide with impunity around the world. On Sunday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned of “consequences” if Mr. Navalny dies in prison. – Washington Post

Kathryn Stoner writes: At this point for Biden, sanctions are a means to the end of stabilizing (but not necessarily harmonizing) the future U.S.-Russian relationship. Neither Biden or Putin is yet interested in ending it completely. But something unexpected — Navalny’s death in a Russian prison cell, for example — could change the calculus completely. – NBC News

Janusz Bugajski writes: A tough political response by Washington is essential in pressing Putin to desist from his costly foreign adventures and to confront his growing domestic problems. Putin should not receive a gift summit with President Biden in which he can present himself as a respected world leader. […]By imposing more comprehensive financial sanctions, the Russian public will finally have a chance to influence the regime when the economy deteriorates to such a point that the only solution will be to oust it. If Ukrainians can overthrow a corrupt and autocratic regime, then why not the Russians? – The Hill

Jacob Heilbrunn writes: Putin is reminding the West that he may be despised but he can’t be ignored. Indeed, the most likely prospect is that Putin will continue to raise and lower tensions in Ukraine at will. After the Cold War ended, America and its allies thought they would create democracies from sea to shining sea in Eastern Europe. They were wrong. When it comes to who is the Decider about Ukraine’s fate, it isn’t Biden or NATO. It’s Putin. – New York Post



Czech authorities said Monday that arms blown up by Russian agents in 2014 — an accusation that sparked a diplomatic feud between the two countries over the weekend — belonged to a Bulgarian weapons dealer who was mysteriously poisoned six month later. – Washington Post

Few Western analysts believe the Kremlin is planning an invasion of eastern Ukraine, given the likely backlash at home and abroad. But with a large-scale Russian troop buildup on land and sea on Ukraine’s doorstep, the view is spreading among officials and wide swathes of the Ukrainian public that Moscow is signaling more bluntly than ever before that it is prepared to openly enter the conflict. – New York Times

A body of experts that advises the United Nations on human rights concerns has slammed a widely criticized British government-backed report that concluded there was no systemic racism in the country. – Associated Press

The Bulgarian ambassador to Moscow arrived at Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, the RIA news agency reported, against the backdrop of a spying scandal that saw two Russian diplomats expelled from Bulgaria last month. – Reuters

While EU leaders often pledge their support for press freedom, the on-the-ground realities for European journalists are getting more grim, according to the latest World Press Freedom Index from the watchdog group Reporters Without Borders. – Politico 

The largest act of Jewish military resistance during World War II was remembered by world Jewish groups as well as diplomats from Israel and Poland on Monday, 78 years after the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. – Algemeiner 

Aya-Nay Haddad writes: There are numerous areas crying out for U.S. involvement in the Western Balkans — from supporting political cooperation to encouraging economic integration. This economic integration and co-dependency across the region should also lessen the chance of regional conflict, with each state reliant on the other to progress on an upward economic curve, with the possible end goal of EU accession. This objective could open the door, further down the line, to additional countries gaining NATO membership, thus significantly strengthening the Alliance in that part of the world. – Center for European Policy Analysis


France played a “significant” role in “enabling a foreseeable genocide” in Rwanda, according to a report commissioned by the Rwandan government that was released Monday and that echoed the findings of a recent appraisal by France. – New York Times

Ethiopia told the United Nations Security Council that Egypt and Sudan aren’t negotiating in good faith and asked members to urge the governments to return to talks on a controversial Nile dam, Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry said. – Bloomberg

Chad’s veteran president, Idriss Deby, has won a sixth term, provisional election results showed on Monday, as the army said it had beaten back a column of insurgents advancing on the capital, N’Djamena. – Reuters

The Americas

Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is poised to spend a few more months under house arrest in her fight to avoid extradition from Canada to New York in a criminal case that has strained U.S.-China relations. – Bloomberg

Cuba marked the end of an era Monday with the official transfer of power from the Castro clan, in charge for six decades, to the communist country’s first civilian leader, Miguel Diaz-Canel. – Agence France-Presse

Guatemala has set a collision course with Washington over the removal of the most prominent graft-fighting judge from the Central American nation’s highest court, despite her having the outspoken support of the Biden administration. – Reuters 

United States

Biden has made clear that he wants to reassert U.S. leadership on the world stage, including on climate change, after four tumultuous, often inward-looking years of President Donald Trump. But as much as the White House staff has tried to dress up the remote meetings he has held so far, while eyeing the climate summit Thursday and Friday as an important moment, the president has made no secret of how much he misses diplomacy with a more personal touch. – Associated Press

Former US President Donald Trump on Monday urged his successor, President Joe Biden, to reinstate the ban that Trump had placed on entry from several Muslim-majority countries when he took office in January of 2017. – Arutz Sheva 

Gideon Rachman writes: But even the most confident and nationalistic officials in Beijing and Moscow will still be conscious of the risks of head-on confrontation over Taiwan and Ukraine. The likelihood is that Russia and China will continue to use “grey zone” tactics that stop just short of all-out conflict. As America discovered in Afghanistan, it is much easier to start a war than to control its outcome. – Financial Times

Erol Yayboke and Christine Li write: While reengaging and reassessing, the United States should also make a strong domestic case for multilateral climate engagement, especially with regards to foreign assistance. It is clear to many Americans why the United States should be a party to the Paris Climate Agreement it helped negotiate. […]Without broad public support for and understanding of the domestic risks of international climate inaction, it will be difficult to institute a major strategy shift in how the U.S. government crafts international climate policy. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


A group of anonymous Californian plaintiffs suing the owner of a Chinese mobile app over alleged censorship and surveillance are clashing with defense lawyers about whether they need to identify themselves to the defense team. – Washington Post

China’s military is thought to have instructed a hacker group to conduct cyberattacks on nearly 200 Japanese research institutions and firms, public broadcaster NHK reported, citing unidentified people in a police investigation. – Bloomberg

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT.O) will invest $1 billion over the next five years in Malaysia as part of a new partnership programme with government agencies and local companies, the Southeast Asian nation’s prime minister said on Monday. – Reuters

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced legislation Monday to break up Big Tech companies such as Amazon and Google to ensure they can’t sell products on the same marketplaces that they control. – Washington Examiner

More than 10,000 British nationals have been targeted online in the past five years by hostile states such as China, as foreign spies increasingly manipulate professional networking sites to recruit new agents and steal secrets. – Financial Times

TikTok creators in India are still mourning the sudden closure of the service in the country last year as tensions between New Delhi and Beijing flared. – Financial Times

The social media app Clubhouse, which allows large numbers of people to interact by live voice chat in “rooms” on specific topics, faced a new storm of controversy on Sunday after antisemitic content in several of their rooms was exposed online. – Algemeiner

A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers is introducing legislation that would provide $30 million over five years to facilitate joint cybersecurity partnership programs between the United States and Israel. – Jewish Insider 


The U.S. Army has picked five small business innovators to build prototypes intended to help increase the rate of fire of self-propelled howitzers as well as in future systems, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, who is in charge of the service’s Long-Range Precision Fires modernization efforts, told Defense News on April 15. – Defense News

The Navy today kicked off its first-ever exercise using manned and unmanned systems together in the air and the sea, in a first test of what a future hybrid fleet of crewed and uncrewed vessels could look like. – USNI News

Commanders could use an artificial intelligence advocate by their side to explain how to use the new technology in combat, former deputy secretary of defense Robert Work said Monday. – USNI News

The Biden administration has tapped Vice Adm. Linda Fagan to serve as the Coast Guard’s new vice commandant, a promotion that would make her the service’s first woman to receive four stars, the Coast Guard announced today. – USNI News

Monica Montgomery and Kingston Reif write: Biden should make good on this campaign promise by canceling or deferring the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile before it begins. If he does so, he should anticipate a strong base of support in Congress, where the reality of flat defense budgets and emphasis on upgrading the Navy’s conventional fleet and addressing other pressing security needs make for a powerful case against this unnecessary weapon. – Defense One

Mackenzie Eaglen, John G. Ferrari, and Elaine McCusker write: Despite the number of options on the table, Capitol Hill should not expect to see dramatic changes to military modernization programs this year. The new team has had little time to evaluate detailed plans, and less time to make significant decisions about future investments. […]While the administration has limited time to put its imprimatur on the defense budget this year, the 2023 submission will be the showcase budget that presumably flows from the new team’s security and defense strategies. – American Enterprise Institute

Long War

The blow to education is especially troubling as Africa’s most populous country confronts an extremist insurgency on top of endemic gang violence — two forces that analysts say are increasingly overlapping. – Washington Post

About 40 people have been killed in recent clashes between jihadists and traditional hunters, the government of central Mali’s Mopti region said Monday, with the fighting displacing around 1,000 people. – Agence France-Presse

Video of a terror group in Egypt with ties to the Islamic State executing one Coptic Christian and two tribesmen is making the rounds online — as the country’s Interior Ministry revealed Monday that it had killed three suspects in the slayings. – New York Post

Emily Estelle writes: The blind spot over Africa’s jihadi problem exists because policymakers are afraid to take on the intractable causes and difficult solutions to resolve insurgencies. For the countries in question, an enduring solution requires money and changes to their power structure that elites cannot or will not make. The international community is equally at fault. It’s time for those who profess to care about the continent to step up. There is a war going on. – Foreign Policy

Gregory Waters writes: Five months into his job as commander of regime forces in Deir ez-Zor, Maj. Gen. Nizar Khader appears to have skillfully gained control over the diverse tapestry of loyalist forces in the region. […]But it will take more than one operation to remove ISIS from the northwest corner of the province. The recent deployment of the 4th Division, which often operates independently of the SAA high command, further complicates things. The division is not at all suited for desert combat, and fighters have little to no familiarity with the region. If they continue to take over frontline positions from the more capable SAA, NDF, and foreign fighters, they will open a window of opportunity for ISIS. – Middle East Institute