Fdd's overnight brief

April 5, 2021

In The News


After months of deadlock, Iran, the U.S. and the remaining five parties to the 2015 nuclear deal on April 2 agreed to resume negotiations in Vienna to restore the accord. While U.S. and Iranian officials won’t hold direct discussions for now, bringing them to the same gathering in the Austrian capital is a major first step toward salvaging the deal. – Wall Street Journal

France’s top diplomat spoke with his Iranian counterpart Saturday and urged Iran to be “constructive” and avoid further nuclear escalation ahead of talks next week aimed at trying to salvage a global accord curbing the Iranian nuclear program. – Associated Press

Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Friday that talks between world powers and Iran over its troubled 2015 nuclear deal had ended and that his assessment was that things were on the right track. – Reuters

Iran wants the United States to lift all sanctions and rejects any “step-by-step” easing of restrictions, the foreign ministry said on Saturday ahead of planned talks in Vienna next week on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers. – Reuters

Mixed messages from the Biden administration on the Iran nuclear deal days before indirect talks commence in Vienna between the sides are “very troubling,” senior Israel officials said Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday that the United States has agreed to talks with European, Russian and Chinese partners to identify issues involved in returning to compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. – Reuters

It’s not every day that you get high-level officials in Iran to hop on a social media app to answer questions — the state tightly controls social media there. But on Wednesday, Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, spent hours on an app called Clubhouse, which lets users join audio-based chatrooms. – The World

Iran attempted to sound tough even as it buckled under the pressure of US nuclear diplomacy, and agreed to join renegotiations of the 2015 nuclear deal late Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

The world does not treat the weak kindly, noted Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in an interview with Iran’s Tasnim media this weekend. – Jerusalem Post

Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American detained in Iran, marked 2,000 days — more than five years — in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison on Saturday and his family again urged the Biden administration to do everything it can to get him and his father home. – CNN

A British-Australian academic imprisoned by Iran on false charges of spying for Israel said Saturday that since her release, she has suffered a campaign of abuse by an academic who was fired by Sydney University in 2019 after he showed students a picture of a swastika superimposed on the Israeli flag. – Times of Israel

Tom Rogan writes: By desperately seeking Iran’s return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear accord, the Biden administration is squandering the vast economic leverage bequeathed to it by the Trump administration. – Washington Examiner

Michael Rubin writes: Unilateral incentives to Iran may assuage the Democrats’ progressive base, but they will neither change Iranian behavior nor resolve concerns about its nuclear ambitions that have only grown since the initial JCPOA, Iran’s investment in ballistic missiles, or Tehran’s efforts to hide its nuclear archives. As importantly, a rush into negotiations will reverberate well beyond Iran as states like North Korea recognize that defiance pays. There is power in a do-over if only to learn lessons from previous stumbles and plug earlier loopholes. Unfortunately, it appears that Biden, Blinken, Sullivan, and Malley prefer to double down on past mistakes rather than learn from them. – 19FortyFive

Ariel Levite writes: Furthermore, since the arms embargo on Iran expired last year, Israel must demand that the U.S. thwart the Iranian transfer of rockets and missiles to proxies in the Middle East and foil the Islamic Republic’s attempts to solidify its foothold in the region. Ultimately, Israel must not be tempted by promises that Iran would behave any better than it has in the past. In the meantime, Iran’s race to obtain nuclear capabilities must be stopped immediately by any means necessary. – Ynet


A million barrels of Iranian crude oil are being shipped to Syria through the Suez Canal, with the first tanker set to arrive in Baniyas, Syria this week, according to a report by TankerTrackers.com, an online service that tracks and reports shipments and storage of crude oil, on Friday. – Jerusalem Post

U.S.-backed forces in northeastern Syria are hailing significant gains following a nearly weeklong effort to clear Islamic State terror group operatives from the region’s largest displaced persons camp, though they warn the danger is far from over. – VOA News

Oula A. Alrifai and Aaron Y. Zelin write: Therefore, In light of other acute problems related to the economy, Covid-19, and continued lack of legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad, the events of March 18, 2021 further undermines the claim that Assad has “won” the conflict and is entitled to legitimate rule of the country. It also demonstrates that Assad, in his white-knuckle approach to keeping power, has not done anything to rectify the original demands of protestors. The inability to break the spirit of Syrians yearning for freedom from tyranny, after all of Assad’s uncountable human rights abuses, brings into sharp focus the ultimately unsustainable nature of his regime in the end. – Washington Institute

Zvi Bar’el writes: The publication of the report and international pressure have not deterred Russia from its goals in Syria. […]And so, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has raised the issue of assistance to Syrian refugees and citizens to the top of the agenda in an online UN Security Council conference at the end of March, Russia is looking at maritime maps in search of natural gas drilling sites. – Haaretz


Within months, all but one of the group would be in jail, accused of joining a 2016 coup attempt that brought blood to the streets and threw the country into turmoil from which it has yet to emerge.  – New York Times

Turkish authorities on Monday detained 10 former admirals after a group of more than 100 retired top navy officers issued a midnight statement that government officials tied to Turkey’s history of military coups. – Associated Press

Top Turkish officials on Sunday lashed out at an open letter signed by more than 100 retired admirals warning about a possible threat to a treaty governing the use of Turkey’s key waterways. – Agence France-Presse

Greece accused Turkey on Friday of trying to provoke it by attempting to push boats carrying migrants into Greek waters, a claim Ankara strongly rejected. – Reuters

Turkish police on Friday detained a former lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the party said, after his parliamentary status was revoked last month due to a finalised sentence against him on terrorism charges. – Reuters

The 41-year-old, whose surname means “standard bearer,” shares Erdogan’s ambition to make Turkey’s projection of military power more self-sufficient. They’re leading a push for homegrown kit that’s pitching Ankara into uneasy new alliances and convulsing ties with traditional NATO partners. – Bloomberg


Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Friday on Israel to ensure “equal” treatment of the Palestinians as the new US administration cautiously steps up efforts for a two-state solution. – Agence France-Presse

The Biden administration is quietly ramping up its financial assistance to Palestinians, in the latest reversal of former President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. – New York Post

In honor of the Mimouna holiday, which took place on Saturday night, students from both Israel and Morocco held a virtual concert together conducted by Evelyn Hagoel, according to a statement by the Education Ministry. – Jerusalem Post

Dozens of messages from the Arab world have arrived as part of the memorial sign campaign that the March of the Living is organizing for the second consecutive year. These messages, which arrived from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and other Arab countries, came due to the participation of Sharaka (Arabic for ‘Partnership’) organization, headed by Amit Deri (Israel) and Dr. Majid Al Sarrah (United Arab Emirates) the co-founders of the new organization which was established thanks to the Abraham Accords. – Jerusalem Post 

In a new report issued Monday, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the government’s multi-billion dollar international aid agency did not abide by anti-terrorism requirements in the provision of assistance to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. – Algemeiner

The giant container ship that blocked Egypt’s Suez Canal — a vital artery connecting the two seas — for almost a week, costing global trade an estimated $10 billion, revives the question of whether Israeli infrastructure proposals for alternative trading routes might lure international investors. – Algemeiner

Arab-Israeli terrorist Rushdi Hamdan Abu Mukh, a member of the cell that murdered Israeli citizen Moshe Tamam, was released from prison on Monday after serving a 35-year sentence and returned to his home in Baka al-Gharbiya, near Haifa, according to Israeli media. – Jerusalem Post

Mixed messages from the Biden administration on the Iran nuclear deal days before indirect talks commence in Vienna between the sides are “very troubling,” senior Israel officials said Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

The house arrest of Jordan’s King Abdullah’s half-brother, Prince Hamza bin Hussein, for actions targeting the security and stability of a key Israeli and United States ally reverberated globally and regionally. […]According to analysts, former diplomats and security personnel, Jordan’s stability should always be an Israeli concern. – Jerusalem Post

As the U.S carefully withdraws from the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region are eager to buy Israeli-made defense systems. But Israel is slow marching talks about weapons sales to this lucrative market. – Breaking Defense

Editorial: Turkey never does anything for Israel. This is the real agenda. Turkey wants Israel to beg and come to Ankara on a bended knee and this attitude has always underpinned Ankara’s recent treatment of Israel. […]Israel’s government has a long history of this abuse from Turkey and no evidence that Turkey does anything to mend ties. Turkey could start by stating that Israel is not like Nazi Germany. Otherwise, there is nothing to talk about. – Jerusalem Post

Harut Sassounian writes: After decades of backing Turkey, even going as far as shamefully blocking the congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Israeli and Jewish officials are now accusing Turkey of antisemitism and hostility to Israel. […]The same thing is happening now in their relations with Azerbaijan. It will only get worse, unless they quickly come to their senses. Not everything should be measured by oil, weapons and money. There is something much more valuable – like humanity, justice and truthfulness – than financial gain and self-interest. But in this selfish world, it is too much to expect such decent behavior! – Jerusalem Post

Itamar Eichner writes: The recent moves by the Biden White House and State Department are a clear indication that the Trump-era relations between Jerusalem and Washington have come to an end. Biden is signaling the dawn of a new era in which the administration will listen to Israel’s concerns and briefing it on decisions in advance, but will no longer be basing its policies on Jerusalem’s positions. Those days are gone. – Ynet


Two rockets landed Sunday near an Iraqi air base just north of Baghdad where American trainers are present, causing no casualties or damage, an Iraqi official said. – Associated Press

According to the Turkish defence ministry, five Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) combatants were “neutralised” in Iraq the same week as the three childhood friends died. – The Guardian

U.S. airpower continues to play a role in the ongoing fight against the remnants of the Islamic State. – Air Force Times

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Despite the talk of fraternal relations it is unclear what more the UAE and Riyadh can do in Iraq. The country is divided and there are unclear opportunities for the Gulf to help rebuild areas damaged in the war on ISIS, or to invest in the Kurdistan region. It remains to be seen if Kadhimi can bring something out of his visit to the Gulf, more than the lip service the region has seen in the past. On the list of things to do: Bring stability, fight Covid-19 and somehow make Iraq a prosperous secure country again. – Jerusalem Post


A schism in Jordan’s ruling royal family burst into the open on Saturday, with the reigning monarch’s younger brother saying he had been effectively placed under house arrest and state media reporting that senior officials had been detained as part of security investigations. – Wall Street Journal

Jordan was for decades considered a secure and dependable ally of the United States, a buffer against attacks on Israel, and a key interlocutor with Palestinians. But this weekend, that placid image was upended as a long-simmering rift between the king, Abdullah II, and a former crown prince, Hamzah bin Hussein, burst into the public eye. – New York Times

Jordanian authorities on Saturday arrested as many as 20 people and sought to restrain the movement of a former crown prince amid what officials called a threat to the “security and stability” of a country long regarded as a vital U.S. ally in the Middle East. – Washington Post

The government of Jordan on Sunday accused former crown prince Hamzeh bin Hussein and several of his associates of cooperating with foreign entities to pursue a long-term plot to destabilize the kingdom, a day after arrests targeted up to 20 high-level officials. – Washington Post

Jordan’s neighbours and allies reacted with statements of support after the Jordanian military said on Saturday that King Abdullah’s half-brother and former Crown Prince Hamza bin Hussein had been told to halt actions used to target the country’s “security and stability”. – Reuters

Queen Noor, widow of the late King Hussein of Jordan, described as “wicked slander” on Saturday allegations by the authorities against her son, the former Crown Prince Hamza, of actions that undermined the stability of the kingdom. – Reuters

Unprecedented public criticism of Jordan’s monarchy by a senior royal who has been placed under house arrest has shaken the country’s image as an island of stability in the Middle East. – Reuters

Jordan’s stability, long protected by the U.S. and global allies, was suddenly shaken by the dramatic weekend arrests of some royal family members and others accused of plotting unrest in the kingdom. – Bloomberg

A report from Jordanian news website “Ammon,” citing a senior source involved in the investigation, has indicated that a former Mossad agent named Roi Shpushnik was the person who contacted Prince Hamza’s wife on Saturday and offered her a way to escape Jordan via a private jet to any destination she would desire. – Jerusalem Post

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Sunday that Israel has no interest in becoming involved in an apparent foiled plot to overthrow Jordan’s King Abdullah, calling it “an internal Jordanian matter.” – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: Developing a stronger peace with the Gulf countries under the Abraham Accords in no way negates the need for a good relationship with Jordan. On the contrary, it shows the importance of Jordan in the regional scheme of things. […]Israel and Jordan are on the same side on many crucial issues. Neither country should be taking this relationship for granted. – Jerusalem Post


The German ambassador to Beirut said on Friday that several private companies would present a comprehensive proposal next week to develop Beirut port and nearby areas destroyed in last August’s massive explosion. – Reuters

Lebanon must be willing to implement some real changes in order to get international funding assistance, according to the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa vice president. – Bloomberg

Lebanon will run out of money to fund basic imports by the end of May and delays in launching a plan to reduce subsidies are costing $500 million a month, the caretaker finance minister, Ghazi Wazni, said. – Reuters

Arabian Peninsula

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen foiled an imminent Houthi attack on Saturday, destroying an explosive-laden boat in a southern part of the Red Sea, Saudi state TV reported. – Reuters

A normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be immensely beneficial for the region but can happen only once there is an Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, the kingdom’s foreign minister said. – The National

Pope Francis calls for an end of violence in Syria, Yemen and Libya in his Easter Sunday address and condemns as “scandalous” the continued armed conflicts around the world. – Agence France-Presse


The European Union on Sunday called for the departure of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, describing it as a “precondition” for a return to stability in the war-torn country. – Associated Press

European Council President Charles Michel pledged support to Libya’s new interim government Sunday during a visit to Tripoli as the country seeks to end a decade of conflict. – Politico

Israeli Intelligence Ministry officials secretly met with Saddam Haftar, the son of the de-facto leader of Libya General Khalifa Haftar, according to a report in the Washington Free Beacon. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Suez Canal authorities said Saturday they have cleared the massive traffic backlog that resulted when a giant container ship got stuck and blocked the important waterway, disrupting global trade. – Wall Street Journal

As criticism mounted after the Biden administration decided not to punish the Saudi crown prince for the killing of a journalist, a quieter conflict was brewing in Washington over another troubled U.S. alliance in the region. President Biden’s aides had signaled a renewed focus on human rights in foreign policy, and while campaigning, Biden said there would be “no more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator,’” referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi by a nickname President Donald Trump reportedly used. – Washington Post

Foreign ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan kicked off negotiations in Kinshasa on Sunday over Addis Ababa’s contested giant dam on the Nile, officials said. – Agence France-Presse

The latest meeting between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam may be the last chance to re-launch talks before it is filled for the second year in a row, Egypt said in a statement on Sunday. – Reuters

Korean Peninsula

A senior aide to President Biden met with his counterparts from South Korea and Japan on Friday, another in a series of top-level meetings with both countries in recent weeks as the White House shores up support to confront China and North Korea. – Wall Street Journal

South Korea’s foreign minister met his Chinese counterpart in the southern Chinese city of Xiamen on Saturday, as Seoul seeks to improve ties with its top trading partner even as U.S.-China relations remain strained. – Associated Press

South Korea’s foreign minister said on Saturday the government will prepare for a visit to South Korea by Chinese President Xi Jinping, local news outlet Yonhap reported. – Reuters

South Korea’s foreign minister said on Saturday he expects China to play a role in peacemaking between South and North Korea, inviting China’s president to visit as the United States and its allies agreed to continue pushing Pyongyang to denuclearise. – Reuters

Oriana Skylar Mastro writes: Rather than retread dead-end paths, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to think anew on North Korea, and it has already distinguished itself from its predecessor by signaling that it will consult with U.S. allies and partners to formulate a strong response to Pyongyang that does not rule out diplomacy. Such a reorientation is welcome. But if the new administration really wants to move the needle on North Korea, it will need to rethink the assumptions it has inherited about China’s role there. – Foreign Affairs


With a Mandarin-language movie nominated for best international feature and a Chinese-born woman the front-runner for best director, this year’s Oscars should have been an opportunity for China to take a victory lap. Instead, the annual ceremony is becoming something else in one of the world’s largest film markets: a thorn in its side. The developments are turning a potential moment of easy Hollywood harmony into a political flash point and underlining the growing complexity of the industry’s relationship with China. – Washington Post

Not long ago, China asserted its claims on the South China Sea by building and fortifying artificial islands in waters also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Its strategy now is to reinforce those outposts by swarming the disputed waters with vessels, effectively defying the other countries to expel them. – New York Times

China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats are back after a brief lull, firing insults over Twitter, smearing critics and suggesting conspiracies. – Agence France-Presse

Candidates for public office in Hong Kong will have their entire history vetted, its top justice official said Saturday, after China announced a radical overhaul to ensure only “patriots” run the city. – Agence France-Presse

The European Union on Friday called on China to ensure freedom of speech and the press after a British Broadcasting Corporation journalist in China relocated to Taiwan saying he had suffered threats and obstruction. – Reuters

Chinese authorities have asked H&M to change a map on its website in the latest clash between the clothing giant and officialdom there, media reported on Friday. – Reuters

China has intensified claims that it faced a serious “terrorist” threat in Xinjiang as Beijing remained locked in a stand-off with western capitals over its sweeping security clampdown on Muslim minorities in the region. – Financial Times

John Kerry is holding out hope that China will cooperate with US efforts to grapple with climate change — despite contentious relations between the two nations. – New York Post

Fred Hiatt writes: More than 10 months remain before the Winter Olympics are scheduled to open. The companies could say to the Chinese government: Liberate the camps. Let the Uyghurs live in peace. Allow outside observers to come see that you have done so. Then let the Games begin. Otherwise, Coca-Cola and P&G, Samsung and Intel, Dow and Toyota, all 15 sponsors the IOC says are “crucial to the staging of the Games,” will have to ask themselves: Is it really consistent with our values to sponsor the Genocide ­Olympics? – Washington Post

Pankaj Mishra writes: Certainly, the world has changed beyond recognition since the time when think-tanks parroted theories about the “domino effect.” Communist-ruled China today purports to be an exponent of free trade, while an increasingly tariff-friendly U.S. seeks to match China’s industrial policies. The crude division between democracy and autocracy won’t help us grasp such a topsy-turvy world. Though comfortingly simple, such cold war ideologies can never truly replace our messy reality. – Bloomberg

Eli Lake writes: As for China’s strategy, it is not without risks. While China has been able to undermine the independence of U.N. organizations like the WHO, its ham-handed efforts have eroded the organization’s credibility. China is free to tout the latest WHO study as exoneration. But when even the WHO director-general is dissatisfied with the report, its claims ring hollow. – Bloomberg

Christine McDaniel writes: Emerging stories of prison labor camps in China are sparking outrage. Washington policymakers are keen to act but fear that an abrupt halt to U.S.-China trade would be prohibitively costly for our economy, where manufacturers rely on Chinese inputs. There is something they can do, though: Make it easier for Americans to do business in other low-cost countries. – The Hill

Mark C. Storella writes: Just as Mao Zedong admired Chinese writer Lu Xun, Xi Jinping does too. Xun’s famous work “The True Story of Ah Q,” highlights foreign abuse of a hapless China. While it is tempting for Chinese leaders to cast the U.S. as a tormentor of China, that characterization is demonstrably false. The true story of Xi Jinping should reflect the more complex realities of the U.S.-China relations, for the good of both China and the U.S. – The Hill


U.S. diplomats are trying to build on parts of the peace deal made with the Taliban last year, specifically the classified portions that outlined what military actions — on both sides — were supposed to be prohibited under the signed agreement, according to American, Afghan and Taliban officials. – New York Times

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will put forward a three-phase peace roadmap for Afghanistan during a proposed meeting in Turkey, seeking an agreement with the Taliban and a ceasefire before elections, a document seen by Reuters shows. – Reuters

A car bombing near Kabul on Sunday killed at least three Afghan security personnel and injured 12 others, officials said, in an attack claimed by the Taliban. – Reuters

S. Enders Wimbush writes: It is time to replace a one-dimensional “strategy” for Afghanistan based on the fiction that we cut our losses pulling out. Afghanistan is messy, to be sure, but it is nothing like the mess that will ensue from all other regional actors re-setting objectives and designing more aggressive strategies — inevitably including dangerous opportunism and miscalculations — as they move to profit from America’s lack of strategic understanding and sustainable resolve. Our modest investment in Afghanistan is a sensible and effective brake on this momentum. – The Hill

Sumit Ganguly and Tricia Bacon write: Although the United States has experienced losses on the magnitude of 9/11 on a daily basis during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Biden administration can ill afford to be the one under which al Qaeda and the Islamic State stage a global comeback. The administration’s frustration with this seemingly endless war is wholly understandable. However, opting to withdraw from Afghanistan, especially on a swift timetable, is tantamount to granting the Taliban a free pass. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

At least 23 Indian security forces were killed in an ambush by Maoist militants in the central state of Chattisgarh, officials said on Sunday, reviving concerns around a decades-old insurgency that appeared to have been largely contained in recent years. – New York Times

Gunmen killed an anti-terrorism court judge and his family on Sunday as they travelled from the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan to the capital Islamabad, police official Shoaib Khan said. – Associated Press

The Americans were sent to the Maldives to train its growing security forces, the first of what are expected to be regular rotations to an archipelago that is of strategic interest to India and the United States on one side, and China on the other. – Army Times


Since staging a Feb. 1 coup and jailing the nation’s civilian leaders, the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, has murdered, assaulted and arrested with impunity. More than 550 people have been killed on the streets and in their homes by soldiers or police officers, according to a monitoring group. – New York Times

Myanmar is unusual partly because it is a country out of time, resembling a bygone style of autocracy, but also for the ways in which it is unique. And those traits, experts say, helped enable the February coup led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, and the subsequent crackdown on peaceful protesters. They also point to a long and difficult road ahead. – New York Times

For a global business center, Hong Kong has long trumpeted one of the more transparent registers of company records, a window that helped shine a light on the wealth of powerful Chinese families, exposed corruption and revealed alleged violations of Iranian sanctions. Now, the city’s government is seeking to curb public access to details that identify owners and directors[…]. – Wall Street Journal

Territorial “incursions” by hundreds of Chinese vessels in the South China Sea are straining ties between Manila and Beijing, and could lead to “unwanted hostilities”, an aide to President Rodrigo Duterte’s said on Monday. – Reuters

An Australian couple has been freed from house arrest in Myanmar and allowed to leave the country without charge, one of the two business consultants said on Sunday. – Reuters

Ten of Myanmar’s major rebel groups threw their support behind the country’s anti-coup movement Saturday, fanning fears that a broader conflict could erupt in a country long plagued by fighting between the military and the ethnic armies. – Agence France-Presse

Malaysia’s foreign minister stressed on Saturday that his country remained independent in foreign policy after some social media users and opposition politicians lambasted him for referring to his Chinese counterpart as his “elder brother”. – Reuters

European countries are providing help for Taiwan’s indigenous submarine project, the island’s defence ministry said, in a rare admission that the sensitive programme is not getting assistance solely from the United States. – Reuters

Indonesia’s state-owned enterprises minister said on Friday that a Chinese consortium would invest $5 billion in an electric batteries venture, which would include China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL). – Reuters

Thailand has slightly hardened its language on Myanmar by saying it is “gravely concerned” about escalating bloodshed since a Feb. 1 coup, but close military ties and fears of a flood of refugees mean it is unlikely to go further, analysts say. – Reuters

Japan and the United States will cooperate on the supply of critical parts for chips, aiming for an agreement when the leaders of both countries meet later this month, the Nikkei newspaper said on Friday. – Reuters

Editorial: The one thing that might sway the military would be concerted pressure from Myanmar’s nearest and most powerful neighbours — India and, above all, China. […]Despite its “cold war” with the US, those factors in theory give Beijing reason to send a unified message with western democracies and India to the regime in Naypyidaw. If it does not, Myanmar may already be on the way to becoming a failed state. – Financial Times

Natasha Kassam writes: China will look to coax and coerce full international participation from countries and sponsors alike at the Olympics; coordinated action on sanctions might signal more obstacles for that national project. Passing an Australian Magnitsky Act is only the beginning. More pressure and more tough choices are coming for Australia. – Foreign Policy

Simon Tisdall writes: The US president, Joe Biden, says human rights are a central plank of his foreign policy. But over Myanmar, he looks weak as Beijing calls his bluff. […]Is the world really prepared to tolerate a second Syria in Asia? Although Davutoglu’s 2011 mercy dash failed, early intervention remains the best hope of nipping conflict in the bud. How much more horror before we cry “enough”? – The Guardian


Changes to Russia’s draconian law on “foreign agents” are threatening to close some of the country’s oldest rights organizations, even reversing the victories of dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov in the final years of the Soviet Union. – Washington Post

But one unlikely visitor to the notoriously harsh penal colony where he is being held did turn up this week: Maria Butina, the only Russian to serve prison time in the United States in relation to investigations of Russian political influence operations during and after the 2016 election. – New York Times

Russian-backed separatists accused Ukrainian forces of killing a child in a drone attack on Saturday, as Kiev reported the death of one of its soldiers in a mine explosion. – Agence France-Presse

US President Joe Biden affirmed his “unwavering support” for Ukraine in a call to President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday after Kiev accused Moscow of building up military forces on its border. – Agence France-Presse

The Russian government approved extending an agreement on cooperation in space with the United States until December 2030, news agencies cited the cabinet’s press service as saying on Saturday. – Reuters

A court in Moscow on Friday fined Twitter for not taking down calls encouraging minors to take part in unauthorized rallies, the latest in a series of moves against the social media giant that has been used to amplify dissent in Russia. – Associated Press

Over 60 people were detained in Moscow on Friday during a rare protest against the deportation of Izzat Amon, a renowned defender of Tajik migrant workers’ rights in the Russian capital, a human rights group said. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is concerned about Russian disinformation about Russian aggressions at the border with Ukraine and is watching, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday. – Reuters

The recent move by Russia’s internet censor to start slowing Twitter was a sign of Moscow’s resolve to take on Silicon Valley and marked a test of its new infrastructure for a “sovereign internet” less dependent on western tech companies. – Financial Times

Russia on friday attempted to justify a military buildup along its border with Ukraine by citing supposed threats posed by NATO, which will require “additional measures from the Russian side to ensure its security.” – U.S. News & World Report

Russia is amassing unprecedented military might in the Arctic and testing its newest weapons in a region freshly ice-free due to the climate emergency, in a bid to secure its northern coast and open up a key shipping route from Asia to Europe. – CNN

Andrei Kolesnikov writes: For Russians faced with this grisly domestic landscape, Biden’s comments made for good TV and little more. The constructed spectacle won’t detract public attention from Russia’s real problems for very long and certainly won’t do so effectively. Though the average Russian may still be convinced that the West is wicked, they understand full well that there are tremendous advantages to Russia cooperating with the far stronger economies of the United States and EU. Indeed, Russian authorities can no longer attribute all of Russia’s misfortunes to Western intrigues. – Foreign Policy


A growing roster of European leaders are advocating the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine amid frustration with the continent’s slow Covid-19 inoculation efforts, fueling controversy in a region whose relations with Moscow have deteriorated markedly in recent years. – Wall Street Journal

On the very last day President Donald Trump was in office in January, his administration announced new sanctions targeting a catering company in Verona, Italy. […]But for Alessandro Bazzoni, the owner of the catering company, it was a confounding move. He was not involved in sanctions evasion with Venezuela. – Washington Post

Pope Francis on Sunday prayed for those experiencing hardship because of the pandemic, calling for more government support for those suffering economically and better distribution of vaccines. – Wall Street Journal 

President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday, amid a broad push by the U.S. to show its support for Kyiv against heightened Russian military pressure along Ukraine’s border. – Wall Street Journal

Police in southern France have arrested four women and a girl as part of an anti-terrorist investigation into a suspected attack plot targeting the city of Montpellier. – Associated Press

Lawmakers in Kosovo elected and swore in a new president Sunday for a five-year term, the Balkan nation’s second female leader in the post-war period. […]Resuming normalization talks with former war foe Serbia is a priority in her list, even though the government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti has said it’s not high in its key goals. – Associated Press

The foreign and defence ministers of Japan and Germany are looking to hold a “2 plus 2” dialogue online in mid-April, the daily Yomiuri reported on Monday. – Reuters

Russian news agency Sputnik will halt operations in Britain and move its English language service to Moscow and Washington, the media group that launched it in 2014 said on Friday, at a time when Russian-British relations have hit a low point. – Reuters

Ukraine’s armed forces on Saturday said joint military drills with NATO troops would begin in a few months’ time, a step that could stoke tensions with Moscow which has expressed its opposition to such a move. – Reuters

The Kremlin said on Friday that any deployment of NATO troops to Ukraine would lead to further tensions near Russia’s borders and force Moscow to take extra measures to ensure its own security. – Reuters

When Beijing imposed sanctions on Essex Court Chambers, from where a group of prominent barristers practise, it was not only striking at the heart of the British legal establishment. […]Lawyers say the sanctions could give China influence over who a firm chooses to assign to their international arbitrations. – Financial Times

Europe’s lackluster vaccination program has presented one of the continent’s greatest foes with a golden opportunity to score a serious diplomatic victory. Earlier this week, the Kremlin released a readout from a video conference between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. – CNN

The Norwegian government-owned broadcasting company NRK featured an antisemitic blood libel in a quiz about Easter and Passover published on its website on Thursday. – Algemeiner

Farid Hafez writes: Just as with France, Austria’s new legislation, now being debated in parliament, will serve neither to bolster national security nor help foster a democratic society of equal citizens: It will achieve just the opposite. The main ‘accomplishment’ of these laws will be far more frustration for Muslims and, sadly, their further estrangement as citizens from a state which seems committed to constricting and excluding them. – Haaretz

Hans Binnendijk writes: These steps are in Europe’s interest. They need not be seen as belligerent, but rather steps to avoid Chinese miscalculation and to further deter Russia. They can be combined with U.S.-European Union-China cooperative measures in areas like managing global warming, fighting pandemics and reducing nuclear proliferation. – Defense News


Simultaneous large explosions were heard in and around two Somali army bases on Saturday, with the military confirming that at least nine staffers were killed but asserting the attackers had “heavy losses” of dozens of dead. The al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility. – Associated Press

At least 10 people were killed on Saturday when a suicide bomber struck makeshift kiosks in the Somali capital, hitting hours after al Shabaab Islamist militants attacked two National Army bases outside the city, the government said. – Reuters

Senegal will open a consulate in Western Sahara on Monday, joining other African and Arab countries in supporting Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory, two official sources said. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund on Friday said its board had approved new three-year financing arrangements for Kenya valued at $2.34 billion to help the African country continue responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and address its debt vulnerabilities. – Reuters

A new round of talks between three African nations began Saturday, officials said, aimed at resolving a yearslong dispute over a giant dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River’s main tributary. – Associated Press

Nigerian authorities said an air force fighter jet lost contact days ago in Borno state while on a mission to support ground troops. The jihadist group Boko Haram released a video Friday saying it shot down the jet, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity. – Associated Press

Four United Nations peacekeepers from Chad were killed in an attack by jihadists on their camp in Aguelhok in northern Mali and 19 others were injured, U.N. officials said Friday. – Associated Press

Eritrean forces have started withdrawing from the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said, following mounting reports blaming the Eritreans for human rights abuses including rape, looting and killings of civilians. – Reuters

One of the Central African Republic’s most powerful armed groups announced Friday that its chief had died from wounds suffered during an attack, another blow to a rebel alliance’s bid to overthrow the country’s president. – Agence France-Presse

The war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region risks dragging on for months and even years, with both sides eyeing a military “knockout blow” that appears unrealistic, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said Friday. – Agence France-Presse

The United States, Germany, France and other G7 countries called on Friday for an independent and transparent investigation into alleged human rights abuses during the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. – Reuters

French energy major Total has withdrawn all its staff from its Afungi natural gas site in northern Mozambique, two sources said on Friday, as clashes between Islamic State-linked fighters and the military rage nearby. – Reuters

The World Food Programme (WFP) has temporarily suspended evacuation flights from the town of Palma in northern Mozambique due to a deterioration in security, a representative for the United Nations agency said. – Reuters

Niger’s new President Mohamed Bazoum lashed out on Friday at jihadists who have carried out devastating attacks on his country, accusing them of “war crimes” as he took the helm of the troubled nation. – Agence France-Presse

The mid-air explosion of a Nigerian military jet shown in a video released by Boko Haram was faked, according to a CNN analysis. – CNN

“New reports and footage emerging from Tigray of extrajudicial killings, murders of civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced displacement are deeply disturbing,” Coons, a Delaware Democrat, tweeted Saturday. – CNN

Daniel F. Runde writes: As the world continues to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO must be led by a Director-General who is capable of achieving serious reform, not one who has shown an unwillingness to correct mistakes. Ideally, Africa, led by the AU, would identify an alternate candidate quickly. Now is the time for the United States to return to its multilateral commitments and publicly support such a candidate. – The Hill

Latin America

U.S. military guards have moved Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other former C.I.A. prisoners to the main part of the prison compound at Guantánamo Bay from a failing secret facility, in a consolidation of detention operations that could cut costs and reduce the troop presence at the base in Cuba, the military said on Sunday. – New York Times

Venezuela is waging its most concerted military campaign in years, targeting what it says is a criminal group operating within its border near Colombia but also sending an estimated 5,000 of its own civilians fleeing into the neighboring country. – New York Times

Venezuela will ask the United Nations to help remove landmines in its territory that it says have been deployed by “irregular” armed groups near the Colombian border, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday. – Reuters

Editorial: Cuba’s current leaders should see Mr. Ferrer’s hunger strike not as a threat but as a symptom of a deeper crisis, both economic and political. They have never tolerated dissent, but are unable to extinguish it. If they stick with the old ways — a centrally planned socialist economy and authoritarian, one-party state — the island will sink deeper into despair. – Washington Post

Editorial: The congress in Brazil may move to impeach Mr. Bolsonaro for his abysmal management of the pandemic, including minimizing its seriousness, resisting public heath measures and promoting quack cures. But the United States and Latin American democracies must pay heed as next year’s election approaches — and make clear to Mr. Bolsonaro that an interruption of democracy would be intolerable. – Washington Post

Michael McCaul and Mario Diaz-Balart write: Until then, the U.S. must demonstrate solidarity with the Cuban people, which includes tough sanctions on their oppressors. We urge President Biden to uphold the sanctions imposed by the Libertad Act, legislation he voted for years ago, rather than resume the policy of appeasement. – Wall Street Journal

United States

Authorities laid out a harrowing timeline: A 21-year-old white supremacist was believed to have posted a 2,300-word screed online in August 2019, saying the mass shooting he was planning was inspired by another shooter who had killed 51 people in New Zealand mosques. Minutes later, authorities say, Patrick Crusius stormed into a Walmart in Texas, killing 23 people, most of them the Latinos he said he had targeted. – Washington Post

A Capitol Police officer died from injuries sustained Friday afternoon when a man rammed his car into a security checkpoint outside the Capitol, three months after the Jan. 6 attack on Congress resulted in the death of another officer. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration on Friday rescinded economic sanctions against two senior officials of the International Criminal Court, overturning actions by the Trump administration aimed at individuals investigating allegations against U.S. personnel in Afghanistan and elsewhere. – Wall Street Journal

A former Salt Lake City police officer was arrested Friday for allegedly taking part in the mob that breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, joining a growing list of current and former law enforcement officers charged in the riot. – Washington Post

While there’s no fast rule, the job of Canada’s ambassador to Washington often goes to a former politician or a high-profile Canadian who comes from outside of the ranks of career diplomats. But Kirsten Hillman, who took the post just over a year ago after serving as deputy ambassador, is very much from the public service side of Global Affairs Canada. A lawyer who grew up in southern Winnipeg and Calgary, she’s held various senior trade positions within the department. – New York Times

Lawyers for a Temple University professor said Friday they plan to appeal a federal court ruling that threw out most of his legal claims against the U.S. government and an FBI agent that had accused him of giving trade secrets to China, then dropped charges. – Associated Press

First-term Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) said in a recent interview, without offering evidence, that he believes the man alleged to have carried out a mass shooting in a Colorado supermarket last week was inspired to violence following U.S. airstrikes in Syria, which he called a “failed policy” of the Biden administration. – The Hill

The suspect in the attack at the Capitol on Friday was an apparent follower of Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. – The Hill

Despite a history of left-wing Zionism in the United States, a growing strand of anti-Israel sentiment among progressives is cause for concern, according to US Congressman Ritchie Torres, who joined Algemeiner supporters for a March 22 conversation with editor-in-chief Dovid Efune. – Algemeiner

Editorial: But Mr. Biden has put himself in this bind with his stunt over Georgia. He’ll inevitably be asked why a law seeking to balance voter access with ballot integrity in an American state that voted for him in 2020 warrants a boycott, while authoritarian China deserves a political pass. The answer will be instructive. – Wall Street Journal

Ray Mabus writes: By investing in international conservation efforts, the United States not only helps protect iconic wildlife and critical ecosystems; it also protects human health and prevents criminal activities that can undermine communities, governments and regional security interests. In doing so, we strengthen our partners, promote economic prosperity and enhance our own national security.  – The Hill


Personal information on more than 500 million Facebook users — previously leaked and now made more widely available — was shared online Saturday, according to the news site Insider, worrying experts who said the compromised data could make people more vulnerable to fraud. – Washington Post

A bipartisan group of US senators has sent letters to major digital ad exchanges, including Google and Twitter, asking whether user data was sold to foreign entities who could use it for blackmail or other malicious ends. – Agence France-Presse

The University of California is warning its students and staff that a ransomware group might have stolen and published their personal data and that of hundreds of other schools, government agencies and companies nationwide. – Associated Press

The computer system of one of the nation’s largest school districts was hacked by a criminal gang that encrypted district data and demanded $40 million in ransom or it would erase the files and post students’ and employees’ personal information online. – Associated Press

A top Biden administration official says the government is undertaking a new effort to help electric utilities, water districts and other critical industries protect against potentially damaging cyberattacks. – Associated Press

President Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan does not include any funds to protect critical infrastructure against cyberattacks, even as the threat grows against targets such as the electric grid. – The Hill

Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) on Friday urged the Department of Education to prioritize protecting K-12 institutions from cyberattacks, which have shot up in the past year as classes moved increasingly online during the COVID-19 pandemic. – The Hill

Israelis reported a 50% jump in cybersecurity attacks last year and the National Cyber Directorate helped resolve over 9,000 such cases, the cybersecurity watchdog said Sunday in its annual report for 2020, a year in which a surge in hacking attacks came during the coronavirus pandemic, as businesses and citizens increasingly went online in the face of social distancing measures. – Times of Israel

Annalaura Gallo writes: Communities and individuals need to think more critically about the risks they run online. And if we engage with one-another — and build those engagements into the policy-making processes going on right now, then we could create a system where international law truly applies to cyberspace. If we do that, then the states currently launching or sponsoring cyberattacks with near impunity will have no choice but to think twice and step back from the brink. – The Hill


A disaster at sea that killed eight Marines and a Navy sailor last summer will face more scrutiny after the release of the service’s investigative findings, with Congress taking interest and families involved pressing the Marine Corps for answers. – Washington Post

President Joe Biden on Friday announced a trio of nominees to be undersecretaries of defense. – Defense News

The Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is recruiting businesses to help prepare military data for use with AI. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. Air Force general in charge of managing the service’s bomber inventory slammed the Army’s new plan to base long-range missiles in the Pacific, calling the idea expensive, duplicative and “stupid.” – Defense News

Bryan Clark writes: Instead of spurring development of new technologies and inviting commercial industry to piggyback on their efforts, the Pentagon will need to increasingly leverage innovation and products from the commercial sector. The growing sophistication of technologies, like those for commercial space and telecommunications, also means defense contractors are competing with commercial providers in all but the most specialized military systems. To sustain access to those providers in the face of shrinking demand, the U.S. government may have to accept consolidation. – Defense News