Fdd's overnight brief

April 28, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


A U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots during a confrontation with three Iranian vessels on Monday in the Persian Gulf, officials said, in a second high-risk encounter between U.S. and Iranian naval forces in the past month. – Wall Street Journal

Iran said Tuesday it was seeking the release of all Iranian prisoners held in the U.S. amid talks in Vienna meant to bring Tehran and Washington back into the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. – Associated Press

U.S. and Israeli officials meeting in Washington on Tuesday discussed their serious concerns about advancements in Iran’s nuclear program and agreed on the “significant threat” posed by Iran’s behavior in the Middle East, the White House said. – Reuters

World powers and Iran sought on Tuesday to speed up efforts to bring Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord, as the United States reassured its Gulf Arab allies on the status of the talks. – Reuters

Senate Republicans piled on the pressure for President Joe Biden’s climate czar John Kerry to resign on Tuesday after a report revealed the former secretary of state talked to Iranian officials about military actions of the United States’s ally Israel. – Washington Examiner

A leaked recording of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has prompted allegations that John Kerry gave classified information to Iran, but the former secretary of state’s most persuasive defense could depend on his willingness to explain whether he undercut former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” against Tehran. – Washington Examiner

Iran’s government said Tuesday an investigation had been ordered into leaked audio of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif bemoaning the military’s influence, after its emergence stirred controversy ahead of presidential elections. – Agence France-Presse

Bipartisan support is growing on Capitol Hill for a Republican-led resolution condemning Iran’s alleged human rights violations and sponsorship of militant groups in the Middle East. – The Hill

Mohammad Javad Zarif may be the public face of Iran’s nuclear deal but a devastating leak this week has made clear that the military wields the most power in Tehran and that the foreign minister sometimes found out about their decisions from the US — his supposed nemesis. – Financial Times

The United States and Israel agreed to establish an inter-agency working group “to focus particular attention on the growing threat of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [UAVs] and Precision Guided Missiles produced by Iran and provided to its proxies in the Middle East Region,” the White House said on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

As the third round of negotiations between the US, the world powers and Iran were expected to restart on Tuesday, two seemingly contradictory trends clouded the future. However, underlying the contradictions, a deal is forming, but the ambiguity has more to do with timing than with the final result. – Jerusalem Post

Roya Hakakian writes: For years, friction between the West and Iran over nuclear matters has never tripped over into war. That is a blessing. But as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” Iranian women will no doubt continue their fight for justice, but the United Nations has dealt a great blow to the valiant women engaged in that battle. – Washington Post

Jason Rezaian writes: IRGC officers — and apparently their superiors — did everything they could think of to sabotage the nuclear deal. The fact that the accord was signed, implemented and clings to life is evidence that the stories from conflicting quarters about Zarif’s supposed lack of any influence — including those coming from his own mouth — shouldn’t be taken at face value. – Washington Post

Lahav Harkov writes: So, go ahead, make fun of Kerry for not being able to predict the Abraham Accords. Be furious with him for pushing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that gives Iran a path to a nuclear weapon. That’s a real reason to criticize him. But he probably doesn’t deserve the wrath he’s attracting over this Zarif quote. It’s Zarif and his smooth-talking to cover for Iran’s genocidal regime that deserves our ire. – Jerusalem Post


Members of Turkey’s tiny Armenian community have kept a low profile since US President Joe Biden recognised the Armenian genocide, fearing retribution should they openly celebrate the landmark step.  – Agence France-Presse

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said troubled relations between Turkey and the US had sunk to a low point after Joe Biden formally recognised that Armenians suffered a genocide a century ago in what is now Turkish territory. – Financial Times

David Gardner writes: As part of the jostle for Muslim and regional leadership, Erdogan’s Turkey is widely better regarded than the Saudi and Iranian theocratic regimes. The risk is that it joins the stream of poison that has disfigured a Middle East that desperately needs to escape the mire of sectarian proxy and paramilitary conflict. – Financial Times

Alberto M. Fernandez writes: An imperial narrative can be forged that builds on that cosmopolitanism, on a pluralistic self-image and on positive international ties. Or that same imperial history can be cherry-picked and built for war, violence and intolerance. It has been, sadly, much easier to forge the latter in Erdoğan’s Turkey. The Biden off-ramp remains open for Erdogan’s regime. But backtracking is not easy when you’ve sedulously invested and built to go in the other direction. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Daniela Castro, Tom Stocks, Kelly Bloss, Martin Young, and Adam Klasfeld write: Turkish-Iranian money launderer Reza Zarrab helped the Iranian regime move oil money around the world to evade sanctions — and global banks helped him do it. Though the U.S. views them as unwitting victims, documents relating to three major lenders shows they should have known better. – Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

Kamal Sido writes: Therefore, any NATO strategy aimed at winning over the radical Sunni Islamists led by Turkey will fail, probably with disastrous consequences. Turkey would become much more aligned with Russia and China, and would also cooperate very closely with Iran. […]Today, the main sources of anti-Western ideas, antisemitism and misogyny are not to be found primarily in Moscow or Shanghai, but in Istanbul, Tehran or Islamabad. – Jerusalem Post

Meliha Benli Altunışık writes: In sum, like other regional powers, Turkey is trying to adjust its foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa to actual and expected changes in regional politics and external powers’ policies in the region as well as domestic necessities. As in the case of other regional powers, these do not point to wholesale changes, but rather pragmatic adjustments. For real peace and stability in the region, all the regional countries, including Turkey, must shift to win-win positions and cooperation. Although they do not point to such a drastic transformation, today’s efforts are still positive as confidence-building measures. – Middle East Institute


Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that Israel is committing the crime of “apartheid” by seeking to maintain Jewish “domination” over Palestinians and its own Arab population, an allegation fiercely denounced by Israel.  – Agence France-Presse

Israeli forces brought down a drone belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah group that crossed into northern Israel from Lebanon on Tuesday, the Israeli military said. – Reuters

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan committed to keeping Israel informed over concerns of Iran’s nuclear program and progress by the U.S. to return to the 2015 Obama-era nuclear agreement that former President Trump withdrew from in 2018. – The Hill

Israeli senior government officials rebuffed claims by international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW), which accused Israel of deploying “abusive policies” of “apartheid and persecution” against Palestinians and called for the imposition of sanctions and other legal actions in a report released Tuesday. – Algemeiner 

Israel fired 55 warning shots at Gaza fishing boats that sailed too close to the perimeter fence in March, according to a report published Tuesday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Rocket sirens were heard in the Gaza border community of Kissufim early Wednesday morning. The launching of the rockets came after a rise in tensions between Israel and Hamas in recent days. – Jerusalem Post

Three Palestinian cars were set alight Tuesday evening in a village outside Jerusalem and threatening graffiti was scrawled on the road in a suspected hate crime, amid continued tensions between Jews and Arabs in the capital and a series of mutual attacks. – Times of Israel

The absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement contributed to Human Rights Watch’s decision to accuse Israel of the crime of apartheid, the NGO’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, told reporters at a virtual conference on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Israel is not blocking or otherwise involving itself in the planned Palestinian election, Foreign Ministry political director Alon Bar told European ambassadors on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Dianne Lob, Chair, William Daroff, CEO, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued the following statement: “We strongly reject the disgraceful report released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that attempts to demonize, delegitimize, and apply double standards to the State of Israel. – Conference of Presidents

Editorial: No one is saying that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not need to be addressed and resolved. But reports such as the latest one by HRW contribute to the false narrative that Israel is guilty of apartheid, conveying a message that the best way to rectify the problem is to dismantle the Jewish state. It is this hypocrisy that needs to be exposed – and not Israel’s alleged crimes. – Jerusalem Post

Zev Chafets writes: The Israeli government, which claims sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, has not given approval this and, despite pressure by the EU, it is unlikely to do so. Abbas knows this. His condition is tantamount to ditching the election he initiated. But, not so fast. Hamas, hoping to capitalize on its political momentum, and having already demonstrated its own loyalty to Jerusalem, wants the election to go forward. – Bloomberg

Sandra Parker writes: As the Abraham Accords showed, Arab-Israeli peace is possible. But only if America’s allies trust us, our enemies fear us, and the sense of entitlement amongst international institutions is confounded. Presently, the Biden administration is failing on all three fronts. The window may be closing, but it’s not too late to reverse course. – The National Interest

Daniel S. Mariaschin writes: Throwing good money after bad, as we’ve seen over these past decades, has produced high expectations and low returns. A resumption of aid to the Palestinian leadership based on hope, trust, and luck, will likely be dashed. A more certain path might have been taken: we’ll consider the help, but not until this checklist of hatred, corruption, glorification of terror, and constant attempts to delegitimize Israel ends. For what is being offered now, this is surely not too much to ask. – Algemeiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The reports may have been designed to pre-empt the fact that Palestinians and Israelis are growing apart and to prevent a Palestinian state becoming more autonomous. It’s not clear if the Palestinians are on board with this idea. Israel is not. – Jerusalem Post

Khaled Abu Toameh writes: Abbas may be able to prevent a Hamas-led uprising in the West Bank, but the question is whether he will succeed in preventing a revolt by disgruntled Fatah members and other Palestinians who are evidently fed up with his authoritarian rule. – Jerusalem Post

Ben-Dror Yemini writes: Israel is not exempt from criticism. But it also does not need hostile organizations such as HRW preaching morality to it. Criticism so biased and so hostile, compiled by someone who denies the very legitimacy of Israel, undermines the factual critique that should be and is voiced. […]For no report, however hostile, should deter Israel from taking unilateral measures to ensure its continued existence as a Jewish and democratic state. – Ynet


The family of an Australian businessman arrested in Iraq during a “trap” laid by the country’s central bank say they are enduring a “living nightmare” and are frustrated by Australia’s slow and secretive response. – The Guardian

Iraq, a nation toughened by decades of dictatorship, war and sectarian conflict — and now struggling to cope with the pandemic — remains in shock. Senior health officials have been fired or suspended amid allegations of negligence. – Associated Press

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: The U.S. has many strategic objectives in the MENA region, but forging a successful strategic relationship with Iraq may now be one of America’s highest priorities. Important as the dealings with Iran and other issues driving stability and instability in the MENA region are, retaining U.S. ties to Iraq, building it up as a stable state and counterbalance to Iran, reducing its deep internal tensions and the lasting threat of extremism may well represent America’s most important immediate strategic challenges in the region. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


A Lebanese music composer close to the president’s party is believed to be detained in Saudi Arabia for unknown reasons, according to local media reports confirmed by two sources close to him and a security source. – Reuters

Edward Gabriel writes: It is with the Lebanese people and new leaders that the U.S. can help to build a more prosperous, stable and democratic nation, one that reinforces the shared values and interests of the U.S. and Lebanese people. – The Hill

Christophe Abi-Nassif writes: For American and European foreign policymakers, a plethora of options and sanctions exist targeting the billions of dollars of stolen and smuggled assets. Putting these sanctions to work may not hurt Hezbollah — that would require a far broader solution, one that has long since transcended Lebanon’s boundaries — but it would at least influence its less ideological, more materialistic allies and counterparts domestically. – Middle East Institute

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks aired on Tuesday that the United States was a strategic partner and that Riyadh had only a few differences with the Biden administration which it was working to resolve. – Reuters

Russia and OPEC leader Saudi Arabia have made a fragile oil alliance work during the pandemic, but their marriage of convenience could be undone as a rebounding market dredges up old tensions, analysts said. – Agence France-Presse

Yemen’s Houthi forces on Wednesday launched a drone at a military air base in the southern Saudi Arabian city of Khamis Mushait, the group’s military spokesman said on Twitter. – Reuters

T-Fai Yeung writes: Ultimately, both Saudi Arabia and Iran have been responsible for human rights abuses for many years, with the war in Yemen being just the tip of the iceberg. […]Nonetheless, if MBS continues to hold sway in Saudi Arabia, and U.S. strategic reliance on the country remains unchanged, then encouraging Saudi Arabia to end its long-standing practice of human rights abuse is just empty talk. At worst, Biden’s recalibration of Saudi policy will both fail to appease the human rights community and increase mutual suspicion in U.S.-Saudi relations, which would further place strategic partnership under strain. – The National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

Russian military police have been deployed to a city in northeastern Syria to halt clashes between Kurdish forces and Syrian government-allied fighters, a Russian officer said Tuesday. – Associated Press

Faisal Al-Fayez, President of the Jordanian Senate and former Prime Minister of Jordan said that King Abdullah and Jordan were forced to pay the price of their rejection of the Deal of the Century by former U.S. President Trump, his advisor Jared Kushner, and others, who were involved in the recent attempted coup in the country. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Russia Today TV Arabic on April 18, 2021. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Simon Henderson writes: The overall growth in East Mediterranean energy production is partly attributable to years of quiet U.S. diplomacy and, more recently, the arrival of oil major Chevron, which purchased Houston-based Noble Energy after the smaller firm made many of the initial discoveries in the area. Washington needs to continue its proactive role so that exploration and development are not imperiled by festering geopolitical issues, from the maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon to Greek/Cypriot tensions with Turkey. – Washington Institute

Jon B. Alterman writes: The Middle East’s middle-income and poorer states have grown accustomed to support from their wealthier neighbors in times of distress. This time may be different, though. The Gulf states are focused on domestic recovery and investments to cope with the coming global energy transition. Regional recovery may not have the urgency it has had in the past, and if that is the case, the region could be on the brink of some tectonic shifts. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Hong Kong’s legislature is set to discuss a controversial immigration bill, which lawyers, diplomats and right groups fear will give authorities unlimited powers to prevent residents and others from entering or leaving the Chinese-ruled city. – Reuters

Taiwan’s government on Wednesday accused China of waging economic warfare against the Chinese-claimed island’s tech sector by stealing technology and enticing away engineers, as parliament considers strengthening legislation to prevent this. – Reuters

The European Commission is seeking powers to levy fines or block deals by foreign state-owned companies in a thinly veiled response to the growing economic threat posed by China. – Bloomberg

President Joe Biden’s China policy, still a work in progress, has so far been a tricky balancing act. He has struck a more measured public tone than his predecessor on some issues but an even sharper one on others, while preserving some of President Donald Trump’s confrontational policies — and the Trump administration’s overarching view that Beijing is a challenge to be confronted. – NBC

Chinese social groups, enterprises and public entities will have increased responsibility to combat foreign espionage under new regulations issued by the country’s ministry of state security. – The Guardian

Thomas L. Friedman writes: That’s why — today — as much as China wants Taiwan for reasons of ideology, it wants TSMC in the pocket of Chinese military industries for reasons of strategy. And as much as U.S. strategists are committed to preserving Taiwan’s democracy, they are even more committed to ensuring that TSMC doesn’t fall into China’s hands for reasons of strategy. […]Because, in a digitizing world, he who controls the best chip maker will control … a lot. – New York Times

President Joe Biden’s national security agenda for his first 100 days in office was shaped by the COVID-19 crisis and a pledge to advance foreign policy to benefit working people. But the administration’s next actions on countries such as China could include new actions stemming from human rights abuses, the White House said. – Washington Examiner

Joseph Bosco writes: The Biden administration should relentlessly press Beijing to fulfill Nixon’s expectation and Wen’s promise. Voice of America and Radio Free Asia should start the information campaign by getting “Grandpa” Wen’s remarks to the vast Chinese population so they can see their own aspirations reflected in the words of a Chinese leader, rather than the devious Western plots the regime portrays. – The Hill

Martin Wolf writes: The US is unlikely to remain the world’s dominant power, simply because China’s population is more than four times as big. Yet, provided the US remains democratic, free and open, it has a good chance of staying the world’s most influential country far into the future. If it decides instead to be what its reactionaries desire, it will fail. But that would be its own choice, not its fate. – Financial Times

Dennis Shea writes: Focusing on trade in a specific industry like cotton may seem trivial in light of the allegations of mass imprisonment, family separation, forced sterilization, and other forms of mistreatment[…]. But China values its membership in the WTO, which has provided a platform for its remarkable economic growth over the past two decades. The Chinese government certainly does not want the WTO to became a forum in which it has to defend its use of forced labor in Xinjiang. That is even more reason why the United States and other WTO members should press the issue there. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Dean Cheng writes: Threats, coercion, and intimidation are already testing that status quo, but an open invasion—which would jeopardize not only the population of Taiwan but the thousands of Americans, Japanese, Europeans and others who are living on the island—would indicate that Beijing has truly changed its view of its intended relations with the rest of Asia and the world. – The Daily Caller


The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan said Tuesday that it has ordered all nonessential staff to leave the country, as concerns mount about an escalation in violence after the Taliban’s May 1 deadline for all troops to withdraw expires next week. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that first propelled the United States into conflict, has prompted deep fears about the Afghan security forces’ ability to defend what territory remains under government control. The attack on Captain Saleh’s forces foretells a potential reckoning for the entire nation. – New York Times

The U.S. government’s point person for negotiations with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Tuesday that he is not as pessimistic as many others are about the future of Afghanistan after the departure of U.S. and coalition troops. – Washington Post

The United States is helping to find replacements for American contractors who provide vital services to the Kabul government but must leave Afghanistan under a 2020 agreement, U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The top U.S. envoy to Afghanistan peace talks expressed some optimism Tuesday about the ability of Afghan forces to fight the Taliban after all U.S. troops leave, sounding a more upbeat tone than U.S. military officials have since President Biden announced his withdrawal plans. – The Hill

U.S. Central Command’s top officer stressed today that the military is “completely focused” on responsibly withdrawing from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the al Qaeda attack on the United States. – USNI News

Henna Hundal and Simran Jeet Singh write: The numbers of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus remain small enough for this refugee resettlement process to be smooth and practical. Not to mention, the United States has the infrastructure in place to absorb these folks in the dignified manner they deserve. It’s urgent that the Biden administration find the political courage to do so. – Washington Post

South Asia

A global divide is widening between rich nations that are quickly vaccinating their populations against Covid-19 and poor countries that are lagging badly behind, aggravated by a devastating outbreak in India that is helping to drive daily infections world-wide to their highest level yet. – Wall Street Journal

The guns have gone silent, schools have reopened and the bunkers are empty along Pakistan’s restive ceasefire line with India, but even as residents in Kashmir relax thanks to an uneasy truce, they fear fighting may erupt again soon. – Agence France-Presse

Myanmar’s junta said Tuesday it would heed regional pleas to stop violence only when the country “returns to stability”, as fresh fighting erupted with a major ethnic rebel group along its eastern border. – Agence France-Presse

Myanmar’s pro-democracy unity government, which includes members of parliament ousted by the military coup, has told Southeast Asia’s regional bloc that it will not engage in talks until the junta releases all political prisoners. – Reuters

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Tuesday urged the Biden administration to slap more sanctions on the military junta in Myanmar, including choking revenues to a state energy company, in response to its coup and violent crackdown on protesters. – Reuters


Indonesia’s top intelligence official in Papua Province was a one-star general who did not believe in leading from his office. A Bali native, Brig. Gen. I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha rose through the ranks of Indonesia’s feared special forces and often went on patrol with troops in areas where separatist rebels were known to stage attacks. – New York Times

Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua on Wednesday played down the prospect of Taiwan tech firms making advanced semiconductors in the European Union, noting industry leader TSMC has insisted it will focus its most advanced technology on the island. – Reuters

A bipartisan group of senators is calling on the Biden administration to impose additional sanctions on Myanmar’s military junta over its February takeover of the government. – The Hill

Australia will spend A$747 million ($580 million) to upgrade four northern military bases and expand war games with the United States, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday. – Reuters

This year, in a matter of months, the United States has unreservedly made two such declarations — first accusing China of genocide against the Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic people, and last week, defying years of pressure from Turkey, recognizing the Ottoman Empire’s 1915-17 killings of Armenians as genocide. The moves have heartened many rights advocates but experts doubt the US government is entering a new era of consistency over what is often seen as humanity’s greatest evil — or that statements will translate into action. – Agence France-Presse

The UN’s cultural agency on Tuesday awarded its annual press freedom prize to Philippine journalist Maria Ressa whose reporting has made her a target of her country’s judiciary and online hate campaigns. – Agence France-Presse

Japan, India and Australia’s trade ministers have met to officially launch the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, following reports that the three nations are working together to counter China’s dominance on trade in the Indo-Pacific. – Bloomberg

Masashi Murano writes: In order to compete effectively and sustainably in a resource-constrained environment, Japan and the United States now more than ever need to organically align their national security and national defense strategies by integrating various toolkits ranging from force employment and force development to strategic communications. – Hudson Institute


A Russian court on Tuesday imposed sweeping bans on Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), its director said, as Russia inches toward shutting down the jailed opposition figure’s movement. – Agence France-Presse

Russia has imposed a $12.1 million fine on Apple for “abusing” its dominant position in the market by giving preference to its own applications, a government regulator said on Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

On April 14, 2021, prominent Russian academic Sergey Karaganov, also known as the “Russian Kissinger,” published an article in Rossiiskaya Gazeta, titled “Turning To Green,” arguing that Russia should launch a new environmental policy to promote the country’s international position. – Middle East Media Research Institute

William Courtney writes: Talks between Biden and Putin may be less warm, but perhaps no less useful. Both have decades of experience in diplomacy, and perhaps in their talks they can cut to the chase quickly. Further bumps in the road could impede a summit. If Navalny were to die in prison, Biden might have to cancel it. Russia’s six-month ban on Ukrainian shipping in the Azov Sea, a vital artery, could burden relations. Further U.S. sanctions could cause Russia to drag its feet. On balance, however, the Kremlin may view a summit as helping to legitimize its rule and policies. – The Hill


The convicted Greek neo-Nazi Ioannis Lagos was stripped of his immunity as a member of the European Parliament on Tuesday, clearing the way for his extradition to Greece months after he was sentenced in a landmark trial. – New York Times

The European Parliament has voted by a large margin, in results released Wednesday morning, to give the European Union’s final approval to a Brexit deal already beset by difficulties, complaints and a court challenge. – New York Times

Instead, Mr. Volodymyrovych and his colleagues find themselves on edge as Europe’s only active armed conflict intensifies, threatening to draw in the U.S. and its allies, as Russia expands its influence across the region while Ukraine tries to build new alliances with the West. – Wall Street Journal

EU exports to China have grown at a double-digit pace since the pandemic struck a year ago, a rare bright spot in Europe’s otherwise bleak economic landscape. – Financial Times

Brussels is close to finalising new legislative powers that would enable it to crack down on market-distorting subsidies from foreign governments, as the EU seeks to defend itself from perceived unfair competition from capitals including Beijing. – Financial Times

A Coast Guard Cutter is now in the Black Sea, a first for the service since 2008, U.S. 6th fleet said in a Tuesday statement. Legend-class National Security Cutter USS Hamilton (WMSL-753) passed through the Bosphorus strait in support of NATO operations in the region. – USNI News

U.S. Army modernization officials have fielded the first Mobile Short Range Air Defense, or M-SHORAD, Stryker vehicles in Europe as part of a larger effort to beef up service’s ability to defend its forces against enemy drones and other aerial threats. – Military.com

A Scottish author who won praise for her anti-racism novel is being accused of posting anti-Semitic and racist message on social media and Scotland Yard is reportedly investigating, reported the Jewish Chronicle. – Arutz Sheva


Zambia, which defaulted on payments to bondholders in November, is doubling down on debt with a high-stakes bet that nationalizing one of its biggest copper mines will help rescue its flailing economy. […]If Zambia fails to make the repayments, analysts and Zambian officials say, the mine could be exchanged as collateral with China for debt referral or forgiveness, which would put the strategic state asset into Beijing’s hands. – Wall Street Journal

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed called early Wednesday for elections and a return to dialogue after the extension of his mandate by two years sparked the country’s worst political violence in years. – Agence France-Presse

Three European journalists — two Spanish and one Irish — have been killed in an attack on an anti-poaching patrol in Burkina Faso, officials said Tuesday. “It is very unfortunate, but the three Westerners were executed by terrorists,” said a senior security source in the West African nation. – Agence France-Presse

Civilians caught between pro-government and opposition forces in the Somali capital fled their homes Tuesday as the heavily armed rivals reinforced their positions after clashes that left three dead. – Agence France-Presse

Fighting between the army and jihadists in the Lake Chad region on Tuesday left at least 12 Chadian  dead, a provincial governor told AFP. – Agence France-Presse

Eritrean soldiers are blocking and looting food aid in Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray region, according to government documents obtained by AFP, stoking fears of starvation deaths as fighting nears the six-month mark. – Agence France-Presse

Nigeria on Tuesday urged the United States to move the headquarters of U.S. Africa Command (Africom) from Germany to the African continent to provide more direct responses to ongoing violence and insurgencies throughout the region.  – The Hill

The commander of U.S. forces in Africa sees a new trend in terrorist expansion in the vast Sahel region, saying what once was a raging forest fire of extremist activity has slowed. – Washington Examiner

The Americas

Over seven antisemitic incidents were recorded every day in Canada in 2020, with the number of incidents breaking a record for the fifth year in a row, according to B’nai Brith Canada’s advocacy arm, the League for Human Rights. – Jerusalem Post

A former minister in the government of Barbados was sentenced on Tuesday to two years in prison for laundering bribes he received from a Barbadian insurance company through a U.S. bank, the U.S. Justice Department said. – Reuters

The Russian sovereign wealth fund backing the country’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine said the decision from Brazil’s health regulator not to authorise imports of the jab was politically motivated. – Financial Times

United States

The U.S. is moving to assert greater influence over a scientific investigation led by the World Health Organization into the origins of Covid-19, with plans to submit recommendations to the agency for a new phase of studies. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden is expected to begin naming his choices for high-profile ambassador postings in May or possibly as soon as this week, several people familiar with White House plans said, revealing winners among a pecking order of Biden friends, donors and aides that spans decades. – Washington Post

Antisemitic incidents in the US decreased 4% in 2020 compared with 2019, but they were still the third-highest annual number ever recorded, the Anti-Defamation League reported this week. – Jerusalem Post

David Ignatius writes: Even after the Trump wrecking ball, America is still the global convener. That was obvious with last week’s virtual summit on climate change, attended by both Chinese and Russian presidents. Biden has shown in Afghanistan that he understands the limits of U.S. power. The challenge for the next 100 days — and beyond — is to remind ourselves and the world of this country’s strength and staying power. – Washington Post

Akhil Ramesh writes: Even with the U.S. partially lifting the ban on exports, India’s bitter experience of having to rely on a partner that would only assist after weeks of deliberation, especially during a time of crisis would prove to be a lesson for countries of the developing world. As the old adage goes, crisis does not create character but reveals it. If and when the pandemic is over, countries of the world will be able to identify real friends and partners regardless of the self-anointed labels they might attach themselves — globalist or nationalist. – The Hill


The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department on Monday experienced a large data breach after a ransomware syndicate leaked many of the agency’s police reports, internal memos, and arrest information. – Washington Examiner

The Senate Intelligence Committee is working on a bill to create some form of limited data breach mandatory reporting for the private sector, with the goal of preventing future major foreign cyberattacks on critical organizations. – The Hill

NATO officials are kicking around a new set of questions for member states on artificial intelligence in defense applications, as the alliance seeks common ground ahead of a strategy document planned for this summer. – C4ISRNET

Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Skipper writes: With the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning, DoD must continue integrating with industry experts, building talent development programs and strengthening sustainable government innovation initiatives — all in the spirit of becoming a stronger nation capable of leveraging superior technology and cyber capabilities. – C4ISRNET


The Senate confirmed Colin Kahl as the Pentagon’s policy chief on Tuesday on a party-line vote, after a long and contentious dispute over his history of support for the Iran nuclear deal and his pointed public comments about the GOP. – Washington Post

Ten years after they found and killed Osama bin Laden, U.S. Navy SEALs are undergoing a major transition to improve leadership and expand their commando capabilities to better battle threats from global powers like China and Russia. – Associated Press

America’s top military threat is separated by a vast ocean, and China possesses a larger Navy and a growing number of shipyards to add to it. But with the U.S. Navy concluding a large unmanned exercise this week, it is proving that the future fleet will integrate manned and unmanned platforms that will be more cost-effective to produce and maintain. – Washington Examiner

The Pentagon’s Next-Generation Interceptor — a weapon the department is competitively developing to replace the current ground-based interceptors within the United States — will cost nearly $18 billion across the life of the program. – Defense News

President Joe Biden has formally announced Heidi Shyu as his nominee for undersecretary of defense for research and engineering and Meredith Berger as his nominee for assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment. – Defense News

The Biden administration has officially nominated Frank Kendall to serve as secretary of the Air Force and Gina Ortiz Jones for undersecretary of the Air Force. – Defense News

In March, the Army became the latest military branch to release an Arctic strategy, titled “Regaining Arctic Dominance,” outlining how it will pursue the Defense Department’s goal of defending US interests in that increasingly accessible region. – Business Insider

Seth Cropsey writes: China has a straightforward strategy: Keep the U.S. Navy from using its formidable capabilities to support allies and disrupt the regional—and eventually global—hegemony that China’s rulers seek. The U.S. Navy is caught up in all the derivative issues that a clear strategy would address such as budgets, training, ship numbers and fleet composition. We have no maritime strategy for a conflict that would be waged at sea. There is no more important issue facing the American military. – Wall Street Journal

Dan Grazier writes: Sound financial management means knowing you can’t have everything on your wish list. The Pentagon has for too long avoided this basic reckoning, while Americans’ other priorities — from health care to education to infrastructure — always seem to be on the chopping block. Building back better in the wake of COVID-19 should include bringing all the nation’s needs into a more measured and responsible fiscal balance. – The Hill

Matthew Donovan writes: A few short years ago, the Department of Defense was not even permitted to use the terms “space” and “war fighting” in the same sentence. While the U.S. did not seek to make space a war-fighting domain, over those same years our adversaries greatly accelerated their development of capabilities aimed at diminishing the advantages the U.S. possesses in the space domain. Advancing the body of knowledge on these issues richly deserves rigorous analysis, vigorous debate and strong advocacy to ensure America preserves her space power advantage. – Defense News

John Venable writes: No one better suited to understanding the nation’s military strategy and its priorities for space deterrence and space warfighting—or how to develop and maintain the space assets to meet those ends—than the Chief of Space Operations and the USSF. The Space Force should accelerate the transfer of Air Force personnel into its ranks and complete it by the end of FY 2021, and Congress should not only grant the USSF the authorities it needs to unify the command and control of all DOD space organizations and personnel, but also direct that their transfer be completed by the end of FY 2023. – Heritage Foundation

Long War

The kidnapping of Mr. Tice, a journalist covering the Syrian war who was abducted in a Damascus suburb and is one of the longest-held American hostages abroad, has been an enduring frustration for government officials. – New York Times

Police in Denmark said they Tuesday have arrested six men who are suspected of joining and financing the Islamic State group in Syria. – Associated Press

The Supreme Court will decide whether a longtime Guantanamo Bay detainee interrogated at CIA black sites around the world should gain access to information about the two men who waterboarded him in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. – Washington Examiner

Seven Italians, who had been on the run since they were convicted on terrorism charges in Italy, have been arrested in France, the French presidency said on Wednesday. – Reuters