Fdd's overnight brief

April 3, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Hackers working in the interests of the Iranian government have attempted to break into the personal email accounts of staff at the World Health Organization during the coronavirus outbreak, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. – Reuters 

Stealth is something that Iran just doesn’t do. In fact, capable and domestically-produced military planes are also something they don’t do. Is the Shafaq a truly new creation? That’s extremely unlikely. Is it stealthy? Also unlikely. Chances are the Shafaq charade is a rebadged Russian Yak-130. Still, if it could ever enter serial production, it could be a decent trainer airframe. – The National Interest  

Iran has no proxies but it has friends, tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said that the country or its proxies planned a sneak attack on U.S. targets in Iraq. – Reuters 

President Hassan Rouhani says U.S. sanctions have not curbed Iran’s ability to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, for the first time he acknowledged that there is no end in sight for the current crisis. – Radio Farda 

The fresh details about the warnings by doctors and why Iran’s establishment didn’t disclose early on the spread of coronavirus come in the wake of allegations by some Iranians, including former officials and medical professionals, that the government has low balled the death toll. This account, based on interviews with officials and doctors in Iran, also underscores how governments of all stripes, democratic and authoritarian, in rich nations and poor ones, have made similar miscalculations. – Reuters 

In 2018, Iran informed the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was planning to “construct naval nuclear propulsion in the future.” – The National Interest  

The Democratic members of the Gang of 8, a group of congressional leaders who receive high-level briefings on intelligence matters, urged President Trump in a March 27 letter to consult Congress before ordering strikes on Iran or taking other actions that could lead to war. The lawmakers cited recent media reports that suggested the administration was preparing for military action. – CBS News  

Former Vice President Joe Biden called for the government to ease its sanctions on Iran as the country struggles to contain an exploding coronavirus outbreak. – The Hill 

If there is one word to describe the state of US-Iran relations in 2020, it’s “edgy.” […]The gap separating these two countries is astronomical, made worse by Trump’s proactive destruction of the Iran nuclear agreement. But there is one issue that could force US and Iranian officials into a dialogue: prisoners. – Business Insider 

The Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education has repeatedly pointed to a serious shortage of physicians and nurses in Iran over the past several years. […]The shortage becomes even more glaring when we know that from the outset of the 1979 Islamic Revolution some Baha’i doctors have been executed solely for their beliefs while the rest were dismissed from their positions for the same reason. – Iran Wire 

Kenneth M. Pollack writes: The regime has made an absolute mess of the situation. Many Iranian officials have even been infected, and roughly a dozen senior leaders have died. The regime has been repeatedly caught lying about the spread and impact of the disease, as well as its own preparedness to cope with it. COVID-19 has reinforced common Iranian frustrations with the corruption and ineptitude of the regime. – Foreign Policy  

David Albright and Sarah Burkhard write: Apparently, the IAEA and Western governments did not know about this facility prior to the seizure of the Nuclear Archive. The site’s secrecy and documented involvement of Groups 5 and 7 of the Amad Plan suggest that Iran was not intending to declare this site to the IAEA, unless discovered, such as was the case with the Natanz enrichment plant and the Gchine uranium mine. – Institute for Science and International Security


The military is concerned that the Islamic State terrorist group could rebound amid an unfolding humanitarian crisis in northeastern Syria, as local officials sound the alarm about a lack of resources to deal with a coronavirus outbreak. […]In addition to the potential for a new humanitarian crisis, the worry is that worsening conditions across the besieged region could spark riots in the detention centers and provide ISIS the opportunity to recruit additional members, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons. – Politico  

Syrian authorities on Thursday sealed a major Shi’ite shrine that is a magnet for tens of thousands of Iranian pilgrims whom medics and the U.N. officials warned their congregation puts the country at risk of a major spread of coronavirus. […]U.N. officials have warned that religious pilgrims and clerics who regularly cross Iran’s frontiers to Iraq and then Syria where often border controls are weak put the country at high risk of a major outbreak. – Reuters

Jesse Marks writes: It will take more than a nationwide cease-fire to prevent a covid-19 disaster in Syria. The WHO hopefully will be able to coordinate a response with government and nonstate groups that addresses all of Syria’s medical needs, despite the country’s geographic and political fragmentation, deteriorating health-care infrastructure and lack of government resources. Otherwise, regions outside of government-held areas will be underprepared to face the crisis. – Washington Post


The World Bank approved a new US $5.8 million emergency operation on Thursday to help the West Bank and Gaza address urgent health needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. […]The project will not only support the epidemiological surveillance systems, it will also strengthen the overall Palestinian public health system in response to the virus, including establishing and equipping quarantine and treatment centers and hiring short-term health personnel. – Jerusalem Post 

The head of Hamas in Gaza warned Israel if more ventilators for coronavirus patients were not brought into the Palestinian enclave then his terror group will “take them by force.” – Times of Israel 

Violent attacks on Palestinians at the hands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank have increased in recent months, despite the imposing of strict restrictions by authorities on both sides of the Green Line aimed at keeping civilians at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. – Times of Israel 

Raphael Ahren writes: Is Jerusalem in favor of temporarily easing sanctions on Tehran, as a humanitarian gesture? Or does Netanyahu fully back the White House’s ongoing “maximum pressure” campaign against the regime? […]While Netanyahu hasn’t said so explicitly, Jerusalem still supports Washington in its struggle against Tehran, according to Dore Gold, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry who is known to be close to Netanyahu. – Times of Israel


The U.S. military said Thursday that air defense systems are “moving” into Iraq following attacks on American and coalition forces in recent weeks. The weapons include Patriot surface-to-air missiles and a variant of the Navy’s SeaRAM and CIWS, or close-in weapon system, which fires 3,000 rounds a minute, a defense official with knowledge of the order told Fox News. – Fox News

Tensions between the arch-foes flared in Iraq where the United States deployed Patriot air defence missiles prompting neighbouring Iran to warn of consequences and demand a US withdrawal. Iran said Thursday it “only acts in self-defence” after President Donald Trump warned it against attacks on US troops in Iraq, as a new war of words heated up despite the coronavirus pandemic. – Agence France-Presse 

The United States and Iran appear prepared for an escalation in their common battlefield of Iraq, even as all three nations battle a pandemic that experts say may serve to only inflame tensions. – Newsweek

Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace write:  Iran continues to escalate proxy attacks against the U.S. in Iraq, demonstrating that it remains undeterred despite the January 3 strike that killed IRGC – Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and key Iraqi proxy leader Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis and subsequent U.S. strikes. Iran’s proxy network in Iraq is advancing its campaign to compel an American withdrawal by increasing the operational tempo of its attacks on U.S. and allied personnel. – Institute for the Study of War

Gulf States

Leaning on two authoritarian leaders he has befriended as president, Mr. Trump spoke this week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, urging them to bolster prices by cutting their domestic oil production. […]President Trump said on Thursday that he did not agree to cut American oil production in return for cuts from Russia and Saudi Arabia. – New York Times 

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had brokered a deal with top crude producers Russia and Saudi Arabia to cut output and arrest an oil price rout amid the global coronavirus pandemic, though details of how cuts would work were unclear. – Reuters 

Kuwait supports Saudi Arabia’s invitation for a meeting between meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers, an informal grouping known as OPEC+, to curb global oil supply and halt the oil price rout, oil minister Khaled al-Fadhel said on Friday. – Reuters  

Editorial: Oil at $20 does not represent free-market supply-demand price discovery. It is the result of a once-a-century pandemic-caused demand shock and the Saudis picking the worst moment to flood the market for political reasons. Media reports Thursday said Saudi Arabia has called an emergency meeting of OPEC members. U.S. diplomacy is a better response to the double-barreled oil shock than are tariffs or quotas. – Wall Street Journal

Ibrahim Jalal writes: After five years of indecisive warfare, the coalition’s publicly declared objectives remain unrealized. […]To engage the Houthis in serious, credible peace talks, the coalition must double down on its political efforts and impose strategic military pressure to improve the government’s position and reduce the perception of a Houthi victory, or else risk paving the way to a seventh year of conflict. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The Defense Department is removing an aircraft carrier from the Middle East, a U.S. official confirmed to Foreign Policy, in a move that could trigger a fight for assets within the Pentagon with the coronavirus outbreak sidelining the infected carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific. – Foreign Policy 

A suffocating economic crisis has left Lebanon’s poor with little or no means to cope with extra hardship. Two weeks into Lebanon’s lockdown, there are growing signs of desperation. – Reuters 

Bobby Ghosh writes: Nor can the president hold out for any foreign-policy successes to distract from the economic hardship he must inflict on Algerians. The pandemic has forced the postponement of the Arab League summit in Algiers. Tebboune, as host, would have held the spotlight; he was also hoping to make some waves by calling for Syria’s return to the fold. Algeria’s desire to play a bigger role in resolving the civil war in Libya will also be tempered by problems closer to home. – Bloomberg 

James Durso writes: The U.S. had a starring role in the bad decision to attack the Qadhafi regime under UN Security Council authority in 2011. It can help right the situation in 2020 and ensure mediation between the Libyan factions moves ahead smartly by supporting Ramtane Lamamra’s nomination. – The Hill 

Zvi Bar’el writes: No sooner than one estimate is made of the economic damage the coronavirus epidemic is wreaking on the Middle East, a more dire forecast supercedes it. […]At the moment, these countries are split between those that are wealthy and hold huge foreign currency reserves that can help fund impressive economic assistance plans, and those that are poor and are now seeking to figure out how they will finance ongoing essential needs at a time when international financial institutions are concerned about making risky loans. – Haaretz

Korean Peninsula

North Korea remains totally free of the coronavirus, a senior health official in Pyongyang has insisted, despite mounting scepticism over the claim as known cases of infection topped one million worldwide. The already isolated, nuclear-armed North quickly shut down its borders after the virus was first detected in neighbouring China in January and imposed strict containment measures. – The Guardian 

North Korea may claim it has no coronavirus infections, but the country still is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the World Health Organization to contain the deadly virus. Data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) shows the WHO will spend $900,000 to support North Korea’s efforts to fight COVID-19. – Fox News 

A U.S. official said troop funding talks with South Korea are continuing despite reports out of Seoul that a deal was near to end the impasse that has led to the unprecedented furlough of thousands of civilian Korean workers at American bases. – Bloomberg 

South Korea is struggling to retain its lead in global next-generation 5G telecom services, as the coronavirus pandemic further cools sentiment of consumers whose interest in the technology has waned due to cost and quality concerns. – Reuters  

North Korea is one of the only countries that still maintains a fleet of J-6/MiG-19 planes. Although it was speedy for its era, it couldn’t hold its own anymore. – The National Interest

Nathan Park writes: This is nonsense, and it repeats the same mistake that allowed the rampant coronavirus outbreaks in the United States and Europe in the first place: the mistake of seeing Asia as an unrelatable other, a place so fundamentally different from the West that no knowledge or experience is transferable. […]Now, they run the risk of rejecting the best practices of combating the pandemic as they imagine “Asian solutions” that can never be replicated in their countries. – Foreign Policy

Bruce W. Bennet writes: We are not predicting a collapse of the North Korean regime. But we have to believe that Kim is worried, given the paranoia he has displayed in the past—for example in killing his older brother with a banned chemical warfare agent. And so we also need to worry. It’s not unthinkable that Kim could decide to take even more extreme actions than missile launches to demonstrate that he is still the all powerful leader of North Korea. – The National Interest  

Sung-han Kim writes: In the forthcoming months, North Korea will be taking a cautious—but provocative—attitude so that the COVID-19 situation will play a catalyst for America to revisit its North Korea policy and ease economic sanctions for whatever rationale to create a strategic victory for North Korea. […]President Trump could stretch his appeasing hands to Chairman Kim before ICBMs are test-fired. President Moon would welcome it, but it is unlikely to happen since the U.S. appeasement policy to North Korea will guarantee neither diplomatic success nor the denuclearization of North Korea.- The National Interest 

Alexandra Bell writes: Unfortunately, North Korea can and will continue to operate in its own self-interest, even to the detriment of global security. That leaves the United States with no choice but to try to change their interests. That means showing them, over the course of the next months and years, that they can meet their security needs without nuclear weapons. – The National Interest 


The C.I.A. has been warning the White House since at least early February that China has vastly understated its coronavirus infections and that its count could not be relied upon as the United States compiles predictive models to fight the virus, according to current and former intelligence officials. – New York Times  

China’s new coronavirus policies roiled the operations of FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., rattling flight crews, disrupting cargo shipments and prompting appeals from the carriers to the White House and other U.S. officials to stave off supply-chain disturbances amid the pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal 

Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden on Thursday called for America to ease sanctions on Iran, saying the US should offer relief to the Islamic Republic and other nations to help them deal with the coronavirus pandemic. – New York Post  

In the last few weeks, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been busy calling leaders across the world and rallying for global coordination in managing the coronavirus outbreak. Chinese health experts have hosted video conferences with those from other countries to share experiences. – CNBC 

China’s foreign ministry is advising foreign diplomats to stop coming to Beijing, after the country temporarily banned most foreigners from entering to prevent a resurgence of a coronavirus epidemic, a spokeswoman said on Friday. – Reuters 

Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the coronavirus pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. […]Most returnees need to spend two weeks in isolation, and a widely shared video of a returned student who tried to escape her quarantine accommodation in the city of Qingdao has prompted outrage online. – Agence France-Presse 

China’s commerce ministry pledged its support to help foreign invested firms in the country get back to work in the face of disruptions in global supply chains and plunging foreign demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters 

News that Chinese officials have ordered a county in central China back on lockdown has some questioning whether President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party took its coronavirus victory lap too soon and what that might mean for other countries using China’s template. – Fox News 

The Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) said on Friday it was proposing to its board to form a $5 billion financing facility to help public and private sector entities amid the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters   

Josh Rogin writes: For Beijing, the propaganda war is just one aspect of the greater competition between China and the United States (and its partners) over values and governance. In fact, the values of truth, transparency and accountability are much better for our collective health. That is the greater struggle we are in, and it’s just beginning. – Washington Post  

Mark Minevich writes: A new world order under China is inevitable if we fail to act now. […]Additionally, The U.S. must transfer all of its manufacturing capacities back home and discontinue supporting China’s local domestic economy. This is the only way to beat the Chinese monopoly over masks and PPEs. The U.S. must lead the world effort in pushing back against China instead of treating it like a regime that is doing the world a favor. – The Hill 

Joseph Bosco writes: There seems to be not much that is beyond the pale for a Chinese Communist Party system that herds a million Uighurs into brutal concentration camps, harvests organs from Falun Gong members, allows the deadly flood of opioids into the United States and, with reckless disregard, unleashes a pandemic on the world. Trump and Biden surely can agree on that threat and the urgent need to confront and defeat it. – The Hill  

Tom Rogan writes: To ignore these similarities of ambition and action is to ignore a very real threat. But it is also to ignore Xi’s minions at their words. […]Ultimately, we need to be wary of those who pretend China wants to be our friend. Let us hope that one day, Chinese leaders will empower their people to make that better judgment. But it is not today, and to allow tropes to define our strategy is a very bad and dangerous idea. – Washington Examiner 

Tim Morrison writes: We are witnessing the dangers of biological threats. But they pale in comparison to the threats posed by nuclear weapons. We cannot afford to let the Chinese Communist Party continue to avoid its place in nuclear arms control. The president must reaffirm his push for trilateral arms control when the near-term crisis of the “Wuhan virus” has passed. – Washington Examiner  

Dean Cheng writes: Similarly, Chinese political warfare will operate as a “combined arms” effort, employing different methods and exploiting the strengths of each. We see this with the Chinese lawsuits accusing the U.S. of starting (or at least spreading) the new coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. […]But that’s not how the Chinese see it at all. For them, political warfare is the hardest form of soft power and is a strategic option that is underway all the time. That the world is in the grip of a pandemic makes little difference, because for the Chinese Communist Party, war is not politics by other means. Politics is war by other means. – The Daily Signal 

Patrick M. Cronin and Ryan D. Neuhard write: China is not playing games in the Indo-Pacific. The United States needs to implement a comprehensive competitive strategy that proactively outmaneuvers China’s government and leverages U.S. strengths. Until policymakers do, they may as well spend their time playing laser tag while the rest of us watch the Indo-Pacific gradually slip into China’s control. – The Diplomat 

Orville Schell writes: Decoupling was already underway, pushed by both Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rigid ideology and U.S. President Donald Trump’s nationalism. But as each country tries to blame the other for the coronavirus crisis, as the world becomes starkly aware of supply chains and their vulnerability, and as the global order shifts tectonically, China and the United States are moving further and further apart. – Foreign Policy 

Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup writes: While the novel coronavirus is changing the world, China is trying to do the same. Already a serious strategic rival of the United States with considerable international clout, it’s now moving into a new field—health. […]Most critically, Beijing succeeded from the start in steering the World Health Organization (WHO), which both receives funding from China and is dependent on the regime of the Communist Party on many levels. – Foreign Policy 

Nicholas Eberstadt and Dan Blumenthal write: When the full history of this episode is eventually written, the Chinese Communist Party will bear massive responsibility for this plague that has swept the earth. So will a World Health Organization that seemed too interested in the health of the Chinese regime at the moment of truth. – New York Post 


A Pakistani court overturned the 18-year-old murder conviction of a British national for killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and reduced his death sentence to seven years for kidnapping. – Wall Street Journal  

Tom Rogan writes: The United States should suspend aid to Pakistan if the four men convicted of Daniel Pearl’s murder are released. […]But the simple point is that Pakistan must know there will be consequences if these terrorists are freed. While the Trump administration has previously suspended and canceled some aid to Pakistan, it has room to exert far more significant pressure. – Washington Examiner  

Jonathan E. Hillman and Maesea McCalpin write: Facing a harsher economic environment, however, China and Pakistan may be forced to make additional tradeoffs between completing energy and transportation projects that were started during the first phase and focusing on these areas. Canceling more big-ticket projects could be financially wise but politically challenging given the CPEC’s symbolic importance to Xi’s signature foreign policy vision. But if Pakistan does not carefully steer the Belt and Road’s flagship during the next five years, it could find itself scrambling for the lifeboats. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

South Asia

The following report compiles all significant security incidents confirmed by New York Times reporters throughout Afghanistan from the past seven days. It is necessarily incomplete as many local officials refuse to confirm casualty information. […]Similarly, the reports do not include Taliban claims for their attacks on the government unless they can be verified. Both sides routinely inflate casualty totals for their opponents. – New York Times 

With the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Modi has gotten more blatant in his attempt to control coverage and, as with other difficult stories, some Indian news executives seem willing to go along. […]The Modi government has been particularly concerned about broadcast media, which reach into every corner of the country. It has approved very few new TV channels, and even Bloomberg, the American media giant, has been unable to get a license, despite investing millions of dollars with its Indian partner. – New York Times 

Aid workers are bracing for a possible outbreak of the coronavirus in one of the world’s largest refugee camps in Bangladesh, with officials warning that containing the disease among more than 1 million tightly packed Rohingya Muslims will be a daunting task. – Reuters 

Sadanand Dhume writes: What do Indian anger and Chinese condescension mean for bilateral relations? Mr. Saran believes that, notwithstanding popular rage, New Delhi will continue to maintain a relationship with Beijing marked by both competition and cooperation. Unlike the Trump administration, the Indian government is unlikely to call China out bluntly for its calamitous handling of the early stages of the outbreak. – Wall Street Journal  


Since the government announced its rehabilitation plans for the fishing complex, Ms. Maraguinot, the president of an organization that supports rights for the area’s informal settlers, has been negotiating with the port authorities not to demolish their homes. […]With the coronavirus having shut down much of the Philippines, the residents of Market Three feel abandoned by the government, Ms. Maraguinot said, with many in the community surviving only on privately donated rice. – New York Times 

Don’t even mention “coronavirus” by name in this former Soviet Republic, otherwise you could end up in the slammer. The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has banned the media from using the word “coronavirus” and threatened harsh punishments for those caught talking about the global pandemic. – Fox News 

A $1.6 billion defensive ring around Guam. Millions in new military funding for partner nations. A billion dollars for increased stockpiles of long-range weapons. These are just some of the investments on a $20 billion wish list quietly submitted to Congress in recent weeks by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command head Adm. Phil Davidson and obtained by Defense News. The wish list was specifically requested by members of Congress who are eyeing it as the basis for a new Pacific-focused pot of money to deter Chinese military action in the region. – Defense News 

Joel Gehrke writes: Taiwan’s ability to donate millions of face masks to the United States and other nations allows the beleaguered island government to use the coronavirus pandemic to resist Chinese pressure, diplomatic sources say. […]The statement by the Taiwanese officials is an unmistakable call for other nations to help Taiwan fend off Beijing’s often successful attempts to isolate Taiwanese officials diplomatically. – Washington Examiner  


A Russian state-owned fund that says it footed half the bill of a coronavirus aid shipment delivered to the U.S. on Wednesday has been on a U.S. Treasury restricted lending list since 2015. – Wall Street Journal 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration are using the coronavirus crisis to spread conspiracy theories in a bid to “subvert the West” and create a new world order, a new report has alleged. – CNBC 

A little-known Texas state regulator waded into oil diplomacy on Thursday, calling Russia’s energy minister to discuss possible oil production curbs and angling for talks with Saudi Arabia as many producers in the U.S. state’s biggest industry warned it was near collapse. – Reuters  

Tom Rogan writes: Putin sees the young Saudi leader-in-all-but-title as a linchpin for his long term strategy to usurp American political and economic influence in the Middle East. […]Ultimately, we should expect a Saudi-Russian deal. But not quite yet. Not until Putin has tried to make the Shale producers and Saudis sweat a little longer. – Washington Examiner 

Pavel Luzin writes: Where Russia is really trying to improve its military space capabilities is in the following: opportunities for jamming and radio intelligence; sustainability of its command, control and communication systems; and the offensive capabilities against ground-based space infrastructure. The goal here is to prevent its adversaries from using of their space-related infrastructure. – Defense News


The coronavirus pandemic, with its simultaneous health and economic crises, is deepening fault lines within Europe in a way some leaders fear could prove to be a final reckoning. The cohesion of the European Union had been battered by Brexit, bruised by the political fallout from the 2015 migration surge and the 2008 financial crisis, and challenged by rising autocracy in the east that runs contrary to the professed ideals of the European project. – Washington Post 

Facebook Inc. launched a service in Italy to check the accuracy of information on coronavirus circulating on its messaging platform WhatsApp, the U.S. tech firm said on Thursday. – Reuters 

NATO foreign ministers welcomed North Macedonia as the alliance’s newest member on Thursday, ending a long process that included a change to the country’s name. […]NATO members signed an accord last year allowing the ex-Yugoslav republic to become the 30th member of the U.S.-led military alliance, after a deal with Greece ended a long dispute over its name. Macedonia changed its name to North Macedonia. – Reuters  

The European Union should worry about saving lives during the pandemic rather than waste time on criticizing Hungary’s measures to combat the coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. – Bloomberg 

The United States says it has delivered 128 anti-tank Javelin missiles to Estonia as part of a larger contract with the Baltic NATO member and the U.S. Department of Defense. – Associated Press 

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on April 2 that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic violated EU law by refusing to accept asylum seekers under a 2015 migrant redistribution scheme. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

European countries are racing to save their tech start-ups as the region faces an impending economic downturn because of the coronavirus crisis. […] The U.K., which is no longer an EU member but still adheres to its trade rules, is facing calls from its own tech industry to bail out start-ups that could collapse in the coming months without access to government support. – CNBC  

Editorial: What’s remarkable is where the most bald and far-reaching political coup has taken place: in Hungary, a nominal democracy in the center of Europe that is a member of both NATO and the European Union. […]What’s remarkable is where the most bald and far-reaching political coup has taken place: in Hungary, a nominal democracy in the center of Europe that is a member of both NATO and the European Union. – Washington Post 

Tom Rogan writes: The EU’s supreme court has told Hungary that it broke the law by failing to accept refugees that other, non-Hungarian politicians demanded it accept. […]Once again we’re seeing the EU’s arrogant dismissal of the concerns of many Europeans. This political union keeps finding new ways to drive more support away from it. Once coronavirus is wrapped up, expect to see more Brexits. – Washington Examiner  

Yasmeen Serhan writes: Perhaps a better question than what the EU should be doing to prevent Hungary undermining democracy, is whether the bloc is even capable of doing so. “The EU seems to be a paper tiger,” Bárd said. “What we’ve seen in the past 10 years in Hungary is that there has been a continuous decline … I think the EU has already given up on Hungary a long time ago.” – The Atlantic


The United Nations food agency has negotiated a humanitarian corridor to keep food aid flowing in southern Africa after many countries shut their borders to stop the spread of the coronavirus, an official said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Some African countries will have more than 10,000 coronavirus cases by the end of April, health officials projected Thursday, as the continent least equipped to treat serious infections has an “enormous gap” in the number of ventilators and other critical items. […]The virus “is an existential threat to our continent,” he said. All but four of Africa’s 54 countries have cases after Malawi on Thursday reported its first, and local transmission has begun in many places. – Associated Press 

Lack of resources, a muddle over confinement and incipient panic are hobbling the response to coronavirus in DR Congo, fuelling fears especially for Kinshasa, one of Africa’s largest and most chaotic cities. Almost all of the infections in the vast central African nation have occurred in the capital, along with a handful in the east — a deeply-troubled region hit by Ebola and militia attacks. – Agence France-Presse 

Countries with large populations and low levels of development are most likely to see a rise in the risk of armed conflict after extreme weather events, according to a new study that researchers said underscored the need to boost their resilience. […]They cited Mali, where the militant group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb exploited a weak state and people’s desperation after a severe drought in 2009 to recruit fighters to expand its area of operation. – Reuters 

Construction at the Air Force’s Nigerien Air Base 201 might have violated federal law and skirted security standards, resulting in increased risks for troops operating at the remote outpost, according to a new report released by the Pentagon’s inspector general. – Air Force Times 

Sam Wilkins writes: It would be ill-advised to walk away from Africa, a continent of over a billion people with vast economic potential and a rapidly transforming political landscape. […]While Chinese activity is not always a zero-sum calculus, Beijing’s growing presence sharpens the need for a positive strategy that emphasizes America’s unique values abroad, provides opportunities for American businesses to invest in African markets, and protects American interests at home and abroad from the continued threat of jihadist terrorism. – War on the Rocks 

United States

Investigators examining the beginnings of the 2016 probe of possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference are pushing to complete their inquiry despite the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal 

The leader of the United Nations has called the coronavirus pandemic the most challenging crisis since the organization’s founding after World War II. But the Security Council, its most powerful arm, has been conspicuously silent. – New York Times  

The U.S. government’s efforts to clean up Cold War-era waste from nuclear research and bomb making at federal sites around the country has lumbered along for decades, often at a pace that watchdogs and other critics say threatens public health and the environment. – Associated Press 

US Democrats on Thursday postponed their national convention until August 17 over concerns about coronavirus, pushing back by five weeks the gathering that nominates the party’s candidate to challenge Donald Trump in November. – Agence France-Presse 

Equally, the epidemic feeds into existing tensions such as the struggle between China and the U.S. for global strategic and economic influence. […]As the International Crisis Group said in a report last month, “unscrupulous leaders may exploit the pandemic to advance their objectives,” exacerbating domestic or international crises. That could mean crushing dissent at home or escalating conflicts with rival states, it said, all “on the assumption that they will get away with it while the world is otherwise occupied.” – Bloomberg  

A staggering 10 million US workers have lost their jobs in the second half of March as the coronavirus forced stores and businesses nationwide to close their doors. […]The result far surpassed even the highest of estimates by economists, and reflected the growing damage to the US economy as the pandemic worsens and the rising death toll prompts more states to impose lockdowns. – Agence France-Presse 

Sen. Martha McSally is calling on the World Health Organization director general to step down over what she deems his assistance in covering up China’s underreporting of the coronavirus, part of an escalating series of GOP criticisms of the organization. – Politico

Latin America

Five additional members of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s team have been kidnapped, according to local reports on Monday – bringing the total to 10 who are now languishing behind bars. – Fox News 

Recent negotiations involving leaders from major oil-producing nations and the United States will prove irrelevant for oil prices, which are low because of depressed demand, the chief executive of Brazil’s Petrobras said on Thursday evening. – Reuters 

The U.S. Defense Department has pushed back sharply against President Donald Trump’s decision to send a phalanx of naval assets to interdict drug shipments in the Caribbean Sea, a former senior administration official told Foreign Policy. Resources are somewhat limited: The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged a U.S. aircraft carrier in Asia and sidelined thousands of troops. – Foriegn Policy 

Brazil faces a tense period in the coming weeks in its battle against the coronavirus, with supplies of medical and protective equipment running low and fresh shipments from China not expected to arrive in the country for another month. – Reuters 

Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has remained steadfast against sweeping restriction measures that could help the spread of the coronavirus in his country. This weekend, he balked at the idea of self-isolating, claiming that his rivals would use that time to overpower him politically and take control of the government. – Fox News 

Editorial: In the meantime, the United States should be looking for innovative ways to get help to Venezuelans; one possibility is to channel now-frozen Venezuelan funds to humanitarian groups via Mr. Guaidó. If this already stricken country suffers a catastrophic attack by the coronavirus, neither “maximum pressure” nor a maximalist political plan will be of much help. – Washington Post  

Jason Pye writes: What is happening in Venezuela today is demonstrative of the importance of a light-touch regulatory framework with regard to network discrimination in the United States. […]Hopefully, once this crisis passes, policymakers won’t soon forget the important part that network freedom played in keeping America connected when we were all stuck at home. – Washington Examiner


While it is true there is Russian and Chinese disinformation pushing various narratives regarding the coronavirus, foreign actors are often merely curating messages that we Americans created. Instead of making stories up from whole cloth, foreign adversaries take the misinformation we give them and launder it into disinformation. – Washington Post 

Twitter took down thousands of accounts linked to Egypt, Honduras, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Serbia on Thursday for either taking directions from the governments or promoting pro-government content. – Reuters  

Twitter says it has removed more than 8,000 fake accounts allegedly linked to Serbia’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and its leader, President Aleksandar Vucic. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

EU justice chief Vera Jourova on Thursday criticized U.S. tech giants such as Google and Facebook for making money off coronavirus-related fake news instead of putting in more efforts to stop the deluge. […]That has in turn sparked alarm and criticism because of the flood of disinformation. – Reuters 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Thursday warned Americans that scammers and hackers were likely to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to target financial information. […]The warning from the IRS comes as cyberattacks against health agencies and organizations have increased in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. – The Hill 

Google announced Thursday that it would spend $6.5 million toward fighting the spread of misinformation around the coronavirus pandemic. […]The funds will also go to similar groups in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, and to the International Fact-Checking Network, a global advocacy group. – The Hill  

Google will publish location data from its users around the world from Friday to allow governments to gauge the effectiveness of social distancing measures put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the tech giant said. […]But activists say authoritarian regimes are using the coronavirus as a pretext to suppress independent speech and increase surveillance. – Agence France-Presse 

Videoconferencing group Zoom pledged to step up privacy and safety controls after a series of complaints about the application which has surged in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. […]The FBI’s Boston office warned on Monday that it had “received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language. – Agence France-Presse 

Google is lifting the ban on coronavirus-related advertising on its platform after facing pushback from Democrats, according to A Google memo obtained by The Hill. […]Google had decided to ban most nongovernmental ads related to the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to fight the spread of misinformation. – The Hill 

Internet users have seen a surge in COVID-related cyberattacks and fraud schemes which could add to the misery of the pandemic, even as some hackers have called for dialing back their criminal efforts. A deluge of attacks has included phishing emails purported to be from health agencies, counterfeit product offers and bogus charity donation requests, according to security analysts. – Agence France-Presse  

The Department of Defense released its fourth and final request for prototype proposals for 5G technology development on April 1, according to a news release from the National Spectrum Consortium. – C4ISRNET 

Richard Henderson writes: Today, that saying should be updated: “the hacker will always get through.” There’s no such thing as an impregnable computer defense. From finding holes in cloud security, coaxing employees into making mistakes, to exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities, a hacker who is determined, skilled, and well-funded is capable of breaking into any system, given enough time. A breach is as inevitable as post-war analysts expected a bomber over London to be. – Fifth Domain


American military commanders are using the restrictions imposed by the spread of the coronavirus to reshape the deployment of Special Operations troops all over the world, according to military officials. The decisions mean the withdrawal of elite commandos from some conflict zones and shuttering longstanding missions. – New York Times 

The U.S. Navy on Thursday relieved the commander of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote a scathing letter that leaked to the public asking for stronger measures to control a coronavirus outbreak onboard his warship. – Reuters 

The U.S. Air Force will release $882 million to Boeing that it had retained due to ongoing technical problems involving the KC-46 tanker, the service announced Thursday. The move is meant to help the company make ends meet during the novel coronavirus pandemic. – Defense News  

Boeing and the Air Force have finalized an agreement to fix the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker’s most serious technical problem, Defense News has learned from multiple sources familiar with the matter. – Defense News 

The Navy exercised contract options with Boeing worth $84.7 million to buy three MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueling tankers as part of a modification to a previously awarded contract. – USNI News  

The Navy has begun contributing to the broader fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, with several centers using additive manufacturing capabilities to print protective gear for frontline workers at community hospitals. – USNI News  

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger has a vision for the Corps unlike that of any of his immediate predecessors. To say his 10-year plan to remake America’s most storied military service into an even smaller, more tailored fighting force is radical would not be far off the mark. Washington Examiner

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency plans to hold a competition that could split up the work among contractors to modernize and sustain America’s missile defense system, which is designed to destroy intercontinental ballistic missile threats. – Defense News