Fdd's overnight brief

April 7, 2021

In The News


Western and Iranian officials kicked off talks on Tuesday on reviving the embattled 2015 nuclear accord, amid the challenge of bitter relations between Washington and Tehran, punishing U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic and moves by Iran to accelerate its nuclear activity. – Wall Street Journal 

An Iranian military vessel stationed in the Red Sea was damaged by an apparent Israeli mine attack on Tuesday in an escalation of the shadowy naval skirmishing that has characterized the two adversaries’ exchanges in recent years. – New York Times 

With Iran nuclear talks, albeit indirect, once again underway, some of the faces at the bargaining table remain the same, but circumstances have changed drastically since the 2015 nuclear deal came into force. – Washington Post

Facebook said Tuesday it has removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to an Iranian exile group and a troll farm in Albania. The accounts posted content critical of Iran’s government and supportive of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a dissident group known as MEK. In many cases, the Facebook and Instagram accounts used fake profile names and photos. – Associated Press 

A dispute within Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has spilled into public view with a deputy commander lashing out at an aide to the IRGC’s commander in chief who has ambitions to win the presidency in a June election. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Iran’s top diplomat is looking east, rather than to Vienna, where talks are supposed to take place regarding the Iran Deal. This is symbolic. It shows that Iran is putting on a strong face in Europe and showing it doesn’t need the talks to go anywhere. From April 5 to 8 Iran’s top diplomat will be in Central Asia. – Jerusalem Post 

Iranian officials said they are willing to once again follow the rules set out in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal but first want the U.S. to rejoin the agreement and reverse sanctions put in place during former President Donald Trump’s administration. – Newsweek

On March 27, 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Iran, as part of his Middle East official trip. In Tehran, Wang and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif signed a bilateral 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement. […]Below are reports by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Iran. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: During the recent conflict in Azerbaijan there were concerns in Iran that Azeris in Iran would become too enthusiastic about nationalism across the border in Azerbaijan. Iran has millions of Azeris who are a powerful minority. The claims of “spies” in Iran’s provinces in the north may be seen as an excuse to crack down on these regions. – Jerusalem Post

Matthew Levitt writes: For years, Hezbollah has been actively involved in helping the IRGC-QF and its international network of merchants circumvent sanctions and ship oil products directly from Iran to Syria. Thus, Israel’s efforts to disrupt such shipments should come as no surprise—especially after mid-2018, when these deliveries became Tehran’s primary means of financing Hezbollah, and in some cases included arms as well. – Washington Institute

Neville Teller writes: Ever since 1979 the world could have recognized, if it had a mind to, that the Iranian regime has been engaged in a focused pursuit of these twin objectives, quite impervious to any other considerations. Instead wishful thinking has governed the approach of many of the world’s leaders to Iran, and continues to do so. The Biden administration maintains the tradition. […] This Iranian regime is not, and has no intention of ever becoming, one of the comity of civilized nations. To do so would be to negate the fundamental purposes underlying the revolution, purposes to which the ayatollahs remain unshakably committed. – Jerusalem Post


Millions of people displaced during Syria’s 10-year war are impoverished, insecure and crowded into an area of the country’s northwest controlled by a rebel group once linked to Al Qaeda. – New York Times 

Millions of crude oil barrels are on their way to Syria from Iran, violating U.S. sanctions. According to a civilian naval intelligence firm, there are four vessels with more than 3 million barrels combined on their way to the Baniyas oil refinery, near the Mediterranean coast. – Fox News 

Daesh on Tuesday abducted 19 people, mostly civilians, in the centre of war-torn Syria, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. – Agence France-Presse

Russia sparred with the United States and its allies Tuesday over a vote later this month that could strip Syria of voting rights in the international chemical weapons watchdog, with Moscow accusing the West of trying to “demonize Damascus” and the U.S. demanding a strong message to Syria’s government that using chemical weapons has consequences. – Associated Press

Haian Dukhan and Ammar Alhamad write: U.S. policymakers should take these threats seriously, as Iran has provided the militias with the training and the physical means to seize areas controlled by the SDF should the United States withdraw from the region. As Iran continues to develop its social base and connections with the tribes by attempting to convert tribesmen, flattering tribal authority figures, and providing tribes with financial inducements, Iran is likely to have an increasingly popular base. – Washington Institute


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Tuesday with the European Union’s two presidents, but an awkward moment when the woman among them was left standing caused a bit of a diplomatic stir. – Washington Post

Turkey summoned China’s ambassador after the embassy suggested on Twitter that it could take action against two Turkish politicians who criticized Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur community. – Associated Press

European Council President Charles Michel called on Turkey to keep working to resolve disputes with Greece and Cyprus over gas rights in the Mediterranean as he visited Ankara on Tuesday to discuss trade and refugees with President Tayyip Erdogan. – Reuters 

Turkey has increased its crackdown on critics of the ruling party with a new round of arrests. This time it targeted former navy admirals who expressed criticism about the country potentially building a new canal. – Jerusalem Post

Selçuk Colakoğlu writes: Over the past two decades, Turkey has made remarkable progress in engaging Southeast Asian countries in the diplomatic and economic spheres, while institutionalizing its relationship with ASEAN. However, more recently, Turkey’s relationship with ASEAN has plateaued. Looking ahead, Beijing, whose influence in Southeast Asia has grown as a result of the forging of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), might support Turkey’s efforts to consolidate ties with ASEAN, as a means of counterbalancing India. – Middle East Institute  


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader and a defendant in a corruption trial, was tasked Tuesday by the country’s president with forming a new coalition government. – Washington Post 

The Biden administration is moving again to increase US assistance to the Palestinians as it fires up a new Mideast policy that is directly opposite of the one pursued by its predecessor. – Times of Israel

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Israel next week for the first Middle East trip by a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet, according to a Tuesday report. – Times of Israel 

Israel and the Palestinians put forth competing claims after Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man early Tuesday at a temporary vehicle checkpoint in the occupied West Bank near Jerusalem. – Associated Press

Sudan moved toward repealing its law mandating a boycott of Israel in a cabinet vote on Tuesday. The cabinet voted to cancel the 1958 law, which forbade diplomatic and business relations with Israel, it said in a statement. – Reuters

A group of four US lawmakers reintroduced on Monday a bipartisan bill that would require the US State Department to annually review textbooks and educational materials used by the Palestinian Authority for violent content, and to determine how US funds are used. – Algemeiner

Nahal Toosi writes: Among the people closely watching Biden’s Mideast moves are former top aides to Trump. Some of them argue that until the Palestinians enact serious reforms, Biden should not give an inch to their side. Those reforms should include stopping payments to Palestinians who are imprisoned by Israelis — what critics call “pay-to-slay,” said Jason Greenblatt, who served as a special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian issue during the Trump years. – Politico


Jordan placed a gag order Tuesday on the publication of anything involving the case of Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a day after the former crown prince signed a statement affirming his loyalty to his half brother King Abdullah II. – Washington Post

Employees and associates of a Jordanian prince accused of plotting to undermine the government were still being held incommunicado by security forces on Tuesday, their relatives said, casting doubt on earlier claims by the royal court that it had resolved an unusually public and bitter rift. – New York Times 

Jordanian King Abdullah II is a key Western ally who has made the stability of his country in the restive Middle East a top priority. In recent days, that image of stability has taken a hit, amid a palace rift in which his younger half-brother Prince Hamzah is accused of plotting against him. – Agence France-Presse

When Jordan’s military chief approached Prince Hamzah at his home in Amman, he displayed the respect due to a former crown prince in the Hashemite dynasty. But his message rang as a threat: he must stop associating with palace critics. – Financial Times

Editorial: Maybe Israel or Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has ties to Mr. Awadallah, has been meddling in Jordanian politics. But Prince Hamzeh, who is popular among some of the Jordanian tribes that are the backbone of the regime, appears to be reflecting genuine and widespread discontent. Rather than arrest him and his allies, King Abdullah ought to be considering how he can open space for more debate and more legitimate political activity. And rather than blindly support the ruler, the Biden administration and other Western democracies ought to be telling him, quietly but firmly, that the repressive status quo is unsustainable. – Washington Post

David Ignatius writes: Whatever conspiratorial talk may be buzzing around Amman now, the biggest potential danger to Abdullah is himself — if he listens to voices telling him to muzzle dissent, crush potential rivals and wreck the foundations of modern Jordan’s stability. Only a very unwise monarch would choose that course. – Washington Post

David Gardner writes: King Abdullah is supported by the west and, ostensibly, by his western-allied neighbours. But there are visible strains with Israel and Saudi Arabia, which intersect over Jerusalem. There is suspicion in Jordan that the House of Saud wants to take oversight of the city’s Islamic sites from the Hashemites — from whom crown prince Mohammed’s grandfather took the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in 1925 — as the price of Saudi detente with Israel. There is more intrigue to come. – Financial Times

Yoram Ettinger writes: Conflict within the Arab world highlights Israel’s unique role as the only effective, reliable, unconditional, democratic, and stable ally of the United States, and Israel’s military and technological capabilities have become a unique force-multiplier for the United States in the region. The turmoil in Jordan could have a major effect on both Israel and the United States, and both countries must be on guard for any dangerous developments. – Algemeiner


Iran’s Press TV reported on Tuesday that “the Russian government and Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement are reportedly considering the possibility of opening a representative office for the Lebanese popular organization in the capital, Moscow, following high-level meetings between the two sides last month.” – Jerusalem Post

A fugitive Hezbollah suspect convicted of the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri cannot appeal the verdict until he turns himself in, a UN-backed court said Tuesday. – Times of Israel

Joseph Braude writes: It is well we should remember Browning’s words at a time of renewal for human rights in U.S. foreign policy, for while applying human rights is rarely a straightforward exercise in a world of competing equities, values and interests do at times fully converge. The case of Kinda El-Khatib is one of those convergences. Kinda El-Khatib, a twenty-three-year-old Lebanese citizen from the northern province of Akkar, was arrested on June 20, 2020, by the internal security arm of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). – American Purpose


Egypt’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that the latest round of talks on the Ethiopian Renaissance dam with Ethiopia and Sudan in Kinshasa over April 4-5 made no progress. – Reuters 

Since the election of Joe Biden as U.S. President, and even prior to it, the Egyptian regime has been concerned about the possible resumption of the policy of the previous Democratic administration, headed by Barack Obama. The Obama administration was accused by the Al-Sisi regime of “turning its back” on Egypt by opposing the 2013 ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood rule; moreover, it had directed harsh criticism at the Al-Sisi regime for its human rights record. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Alberto M. Fernandez writes: If the GERD project and the first partial filling of the dam last summer raised tensions with downstream states Sudan and Egypt, this year the filling comes along two additional recent events that heighten them further: a brutal internal conflict inside Ethiopia in Tigray, and border tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia in the Fashaga region. The GERD should, in normal rainy years, bring benefits to all three countries in terms of regularizing waterflow, but in years of drought, Egypt would be at the mercy of a foreign power 2,000 miles away. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Gulf States

Saudi Arabia’s energy giant is in advanced talks to sell up to a 49% stake in its oil pipelines to a consortium of U.S., Chinese and local investors for between $10 billion and $15 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

The battle for an ancient desert city in war-torn Yemen has become a key to understanding wider tensions now inflaming the Middle East and the challenges facing any efforts by President Joe Biden’s administration to shift U.S. troops out of the region. – Associated Press

Operatives from an Israeli private investigations company posed as a Fox News journalist and an Italian reporter in an attempt to dig up dirt on lawsuits against the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE, The Daily Beast can reveal.- The Daily Beast

A founding member of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, Hawk Newsome, said he is appalled by the lack of coverage of the Yemeni Houthis’ crimes against Ethiopian immigrants in Sanaa in early March. – Middle East Monitor 

Iman Saleh is on her ninth day of a hunger strike to demand the end of a US-backed Saudi fuel blockade and a six-year war that has caused millions of people to suffer. Saleh, 26, is one of six Yemeni-American activists, part of the grassroots Yemeni Liberation Movement, who have gone on a hunger strike in Washington, DC, and Michigan. – Business Insider

Houda Nonoo writes: As antisemitism continues to rise in the West, we are thankful that it has not reared its ugly head here in Bahrain and more broadly in the Gulf. We put a constant and consistent emphasis on teaching tolerance and understanding that in turn permeates into all corners of society. I am incredibly grateful to be a Jew living in Bahrain and do not take it for granted. I am confident that you will feel the same when you come and visit Bahrain. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

The bottleneck created when the Ever Given container ship got stuck in the Suez Canal stranded shipments from auto parts and dairy products to beer and luxury goods on their way to markets in Europe, the U.S. and Asia. – Wall Street Journal 

Brigadier General Esmail Qaani, the commander of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force went to Iraq on the eve of Iraq holding discussions with the US this week. – Jerusalem Post

The US and Iraq are supposed to continue strategic dialogue talks, with a first round taking place today. The origin of the talks is the former US administration. Iraq sought strategic dialogue with the Trump administration. – Jerusalem Post 

Italy’s prime minister on a visit Tuesday to the Libyan capital of Tripoli — his first trip abroad since taking office — lauded the North African country’s efforts to curb the flow of migrants to Europe. – Associated Press

Korean Peninsula

Just a year ago, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s left-leaning Democratic Party was riding high. It had just won a historic three-fifths majority in the country’s legislature. Voters rewarded the administration’s handling of the pandemic. But now, South Korea’s conservatives are making a comeback, favored in polls to win mayoral races in Seoul and Busan—the country’s two-largest cities. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea became the first country to withdraw from the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, citing safety concerns because of the coronavirus pandemic and dashing hopes that the global sporting event could provide a forum to engage the regime. – Wall Street Journal 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has acknowledged his country was facing the “worst-ever situation” as he addressed thousands of grassroots members of his ruling party during a major political conference in Pyongyang. – Associated Press

The North Korean official who supervises child nutrition efforts in that country has pushed back on a United Nations report that warned there was a malnutrition crisis in that country. The UN report estimated that as many as 100,000 kindergarten-aged children reportedly lack access to fortified foods. – The National Interest 

A Maxar Technologies satellite image collected at 11:09 AM KST today shows that North Korea is moving its submersible missile test barge located at the Sinpo South Shipyard. – Beyond Parallel 

Andrew I. Park and Elliot Silverberg write: But the United States cannot wait for the headwinds of Japanese-South Korean tensions to subside. The Biden administration needs to show immediate and innovative leadership and take advantage of the strong undercurrent of bipartisanship among Democrats and Republicans regarding a proactive U.S. posture in the Indo-Pacific. Biden’s leadership during a moment of considerable strategic peril for Japan and South Korea heralds an opportunity to expand cooperation in new security domains. – War on the Rocks 

Hyung-Jin Kim writes: Experts say North Korea eventually wants talks with the Biden administration to win sanctions relief and achieve better ties because its economy has been devastated by the pandemic, U.S.-led sanctions and natural disasters last year. Analyst Seo said North Korea likely wasn’t sure about the benefits of attending the Tokyo Games because Biden has made it clear that he won’t engage in made-for-TV summits with Kim Jong Un like his predecessor Donald Trump did. – Associated Press


The flood of attacks posted and reposted by state-media outlets and nationalist bloggers followed similar themes. Xu, part of a team documenting abuses of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region last year, was a traitor, a pawn controlled by the West, or a “female demon.” – Washington Post

The State Department said Tuesday the Biden administration is consulting with allies about a joint approach to China and its human rights record, including how to handle the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics. – Associated Press

China said it was confident the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing would be a success, dismissing concerns about a potential boycott from the U.S. and its allies. – Bloomberg 

Whether we call it great-power competition or a new Cold War, there’s no denying the United States and China are engaged in an intense long-term rivalry. But many observers, especially foreign-policy generalists and realists, seem to believe that the U.S.-China conflict is driven by geopolitics, not ideology. – Foreign Policy 

In an internal speech on February 25, 2021, a senior regional Communist Party official revealed Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s attitude toward the U.S. The text of the speech appeared briefly in Qilian News but was quickly removed due to its sensitive content. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Taiwan’s foreign minister said Wednesday that China’s attempts at conciliation and military intimidation are sending “mixed signals” to people on the island China claims as its own territory to be won over peacefully or by force. – Associated Press

China has sentenced a former education official and a former legal official in the northwestern region of Xinjiang to death with a two-year reprieve on charges including separatism and bribe taking. – Associated Press

President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he has not confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping about allegations that the Chinese Communist Party misled the world at the start of the pandemic, despite Biden speaking with Xi in February. – Washington Examiner

A Chinese aircraft carrier group—accompanied by the country’s latest large destroyer—is conducting combat drills “in the seas near Taiwan” as part of a blue-water training exercise, China’s navy said on Monday. – Newsweek

Editorial: While these surveys provide only snapshots, they suggest that China’s diplomatic efforts may not be effectively advancing Chinese soft power. Growing diplomatic assertiveness may even be contributing to worsening views in some parts of the world. It remains to be seen whether Chinese diplomats will adjust their approach or if they will double down on their sharp defenses of China going forward. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Joseph Bosco writes: What might start out as an apparent temporary or transitory situation could easily morph into a permanent Chinese presence that could be broken only by overt military action that would then trigger a full-fledged Chinese military response. Being labeled as the aggressor in such a gray-zone conflict scenario would significantly inhibit restorative action by other nations. As both Sun Tzu and communist doctrine instruct, China would then “win without fighting.”  – The Hill 

Tim Morrison writes: Today, whether we are in a Cold War 2.0 with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or some other form of struggle, the greatest single threat to America’s national security and long-term economic security is the illegitimate and corrupt ruling regime in Beijing. This is the new challenge for America, including her philanthropists. It likely won’t be won in a single generation. – Hudson Institute 

Erielle Davidson and Ari Cicurel write: As Beijing deliberately pursues a balance of power in the region to rival Western countries, the onus will fall on the Biden administration to challenge China’s Middle Eastern machinations, which range from intervening with America’s traditional partners to emboldening U.S. adversaries. The China-Iran deal is just the tip of the iceberg. – The National Interest 

Brian Y.S. Wong writes: The bottom line is that China can and should repair its international image, and none of the steps it could start with would require it to capitulate or accept what it deems is the West’s most unreasonable demands. Doing so would benefit both sides in the spiraling China-West relationship and benefit all citizens. – Foreign Policy 

South Asia

India and Russia’s top diplomats sidestepped questions on the pending delivery of Moscow’s controversial S-400 weapons system to New Delhi and vowed to deepen military-technical cooperation following a meeting in New Delhi Tuesday. – Bloomberg

Barkha Dutt writes: The Americans should no longer play softball with Pakistan. Currently, the Quad is holding joint naval exercises, a reminder that India’s presence in the Indo-Pacific must be backed by other allies. […]An “alliance of democracies,” as Biden called it, must prove itself. And one key test will be the alliance’s willingness to stand united with India against the rise of a dictatorial and deceitful China. – Washington Post

Ezzatullah Mehrdad writes: After the United States established a pop-up government and constitution in Kabul, engineering civil society from the scratch came next. While a thriving civil society in most democratic countries is seen as unpaid social and political activism and hailed as the backbone of democracy, the U.S. government paid Afghans to set up nongovernmental organizations. The NGOs held workshops and seminars, teaching Afghans about liberal values. – Foreign Policy 

Abhinav Pandya writes: To conclude, the Khalistan movement not only adheres to the bigotry, extremism, patriarchy, and violence prevalent among the Jihadi terrorist groups but also has close ties with them in operational and strategic matters. Hence, they are not just a grave threat to India’s national security and an irritant in Indo-U.S. ties, but also an antithesis to the liberal and democratic societies of the Western world, where they have found safe havens. – The National Interest  


The U.S and Vietnam will work through differences over the Southeast Asian country’s currency and timber practices, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink said during a Hanoi briefing. The two nations are managing their differences “in a responsible way” and have common views on the South China Sea, he said. – Bloomberg 

Taiwan will fight to the end if China attacks, its foreign minister said on Wednesday, adding that the United States saw a danger that this could happen amid mounting Chinese military pressure, including aircraft carrier drills, near the island. – Reuters 

The Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group is once again operating in the South China Sea, amid a flurry of recent U.S. Navy activity in the Indo-Pacific region. In a Tuesday news release, U.S. 7th Fleet said the CSG sailed into the South China Sea for “routine operations” on Sunday. – USNI News 

The United Kingdom will support Southeast Asian countries in efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar, Indonesia’s foreign minister said Wednesday, after talks with her visiting British counterpart. – Reuters

The China Coast Guard’s aggressive behavior around the Senkaku islands, Beijing’s build-up of coastal military capabilities and this weekend’s transit of a People’s Liberation Army Navy carrier strike group near Okinawa underline Tokyo’s need for its own offensive military capability resources, a leading Japanese security expert said Monday. – USNI News 

Authorities in Myanmar arrested the country’s best-known comedian on Tuesday as they continue to crack down on people they accuse of helping incite nationwide protests against February’s military coup. – Associated Press

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said there was a chance he could call a snap general election before his current term as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ends in September, according to the Asahi newspaper. – Reuters 

A group representing Myanmar’s ousted civilian government said Wednesday it has gathered 180,000 pieces of evidence showing rights abuses by the junta including torture and extrajudicial killings. – Agence France-Presse

He leads one of the world’s smallest nations, but Surangel Whipps says Palau will not be bullied by anyone into deciding its future — least of all by China. – Agence France-Presse

Heather A. Conley, Michael J. Green, Nicholas Szechenyi and Cyrus Newlin write: While the Kremlin understands that an expedited alignment with Beijing in the Indo-Pacific will give it a needed, short-term global power boost, this alignment will come at a great cost to Moscow’s ability for regional policy independence and maneuverability. Russian diplomacy has traditionally supported all sides of a conflict in order to keep its policy options open. Working with the Quad and its members should be no different. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Salvatore Babones writes: With Australians’ sympathies for China running at an all-time low, Dutton’s tough-on-crime instincts should please domestic audiences when he applies them to China. They are less likely to please the Chinese government, which last year accused him of “ignorance and bigotry” for demanding greater coronavirus transparency. Expect more of the same. But Dutton isn’t at the foreign ministry, where playing the good cop is much of the job. He’s at defense, and bad cop is right up his alley. Foreign Policy 

Tyler Cowen writes: The most underrated motive in politics is sincerity, and the Chinese may believe that it is time for America’s comeuppance. Viewed from this perspective, and from the broader vantage point of world history, a major Chinese move against Taiwan — and soon — wouldn’t be much of a surprise. – Bloomberg


Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been moved to a prison sick ward with symptoms of a respiratory illness, alarming supporters, who say he is being denied proper medical care and is being “slowly killed.” – Washington Post 

Russia announced the start of mass military drills, ratcheting up tensions with neighboring Ukraine amid Western concerns about the risk of renewed fighting. – Bloomberg 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed his support for U.S. international media amid concerns over Russian efforts to shut down and muzzle RFE/RL under its controversial “foreign agent” law. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The first crop of details has emerged concerning the mysterious new Kedr intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the successor to Russia’s current Yars missile system. Russian state news outlet TASS reported earlier this month that work will soon commence on Russia’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). “ – The National Interest 

Citing a source close to Russia’s Defense Ministry, Russian state news outlet TASS reported earlier this week that the Belgorod special-purpose submarine will be commissioned to enter service in Russia’s Pacific Fleet after it passes state trials. – The National Interest 

Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny were detained Tuesday outside a penal colony east of Moscow where the Kremlin critic is currently serving time. – Associated Press

Andrei Semenov writes: Paradoxically, what Russians lack is not an awareness of environmental challenges or the willingness to act, but a political force that presents an environmental agenda as a response to wider socioeconomic and political concerns. Clearly, there is also national pride and international prestige in successfully managing climate impacts and energy transition. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Patty-Jane Geller and Peter Brookes write: Russia is clearly seeking to gain a competitive nuclear advantage over the U.S. This is unacceptably dangerous. To ensure credible, direct, and extended nuclear deterrence against Russia, and to avoid crisis escalation to the nuclear level, the U.S. must complete its own nuclear modernization while engaging Russia diplomatically on strategic issues. – Heritage Foundation


British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. are pushing for the establishment of a travel corridor between the U.K. and U.S. without requirements for expensive Covid-19 tests and quarantines on both sides of the Atlantic, as carriers here try to capitalize on a robust vaccination drive and falling coronavirus cases. – Wall Street Journal 

Amnesty International says some measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic have aggravated existing patterns of abuses and inequalities in Europe and Central Asia, where a number of governments used the crisis “as a smokescreen for power grabs, clampdowns on freedoms, and a pretext to ignore human rights obligations.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Tuesday that 24 of the country’s soldiers have been killed so far this year in eastern regions where cease-fire violations have escalated in recent weeks. – Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday urged NATO to speed up his country’s membership into the alliance, saying it was the only way to end fighting with pro-Russia separatists. – Agence France-Presse

France’s role before and during the 1994 Rwandan genocide was a “monumental failure” that the country must acknowledge, the lead author of a report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron said, as the country is about to open its archives from this period to the public. – Associated Press

An RFE/RL freelance correspondent arrested in Ukraine’s Russia-annexed Crimea has told a court he was tortured with electric shocks, beaten, and threatened with death unless he “confessed” to spying on behalf of Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Editorial: With such a significant increase in military activity, the purpose of the CSIS Arctic Tracker is to provide an up-to-date repository of military incidents for use by experts, policymakers, and academia. A regularly updated list of events can be found in the table below in chronological order, beginning with the most recent. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Luke Coffey writes: Ukraine is in the midst of a national struggle that will determine its future geopolitical orientation: the West or Moscow. The outcome of this struggle will have long-term implications for the transatlantic community and the notion of national sovereignty. Moscow is testing the new Biden Administration. The U.S. should seize the opportunity to move quickly and robustly to reaffirm American commitment and support to the people of Ukraine. This will make both America and its allies safer. – Heritage Foundation 

Heather Williams writes: What really matters here is that the United Kingdom, a leader in nuclear disarmament among the nuclear possessors, perceives the security environment to have become so much worse that it chose to increase its nuclear stockpile amidst growing pressure to disarm. It perceives the technological landscape to be increasingly dangerous, and would jeopardize its leadership on nuclear transparency in response. These are worrying trends indeed that should be a wakeup call to the changing nature of strategic threats. A change in the stockpile should say more about the security landscape than it does about U.K. nuclear warheads, but that remains a difficult story to sell. – War on the Rocks


The Nigerian authorities say they are searching for about 1,800 inmates who escaped from a prison aided by heavily armed gunmen in the southeastern corner of the country, where anti-government separatists have long been active. – New York Times 

The top priority for Mali’s interim government must be holding free and fair elections by the end of the 18-month transition period following last August’s military coup that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the U.S. ambassador at the United Nations said Tuesday. – Associated Press

The atrocities have been seared into the skin and the minds of Tigrayans, who take shelter by the thousands within sight of the homeland they fled in northern Ethiopia. – Associated Press

Congo’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday certified the re-election of longtime leader Denis Sassou-Nguesso, two weeks after provisional results gave him a widely expected landslide victory in the central African country. – Agence France-Presse

The Americas

Honduras has barely begun to recover from two hurricanes that hit late last year. With relatively little disaster relief from the U.S., many are heading for the border. – New York Times 

The U.S. risks losing its status as the world’s largest economy to China by the end of the decade if it doesn’t increase legal immigration, according to a study released Wednesday by a tech industry group that favors admitting more foreign workers. – Bloomberg 

A coalition of 140 national security leaders who served under Democratic and Republican administrations is urging congressional leaders to form a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot on the Capitol. – The Hill 

The House and Senate will hold public hearings next week on the globe’s greatest threats to U.S. national security — after a more than two-year hiatus caused by tensions between the spy community and former President Donald Trump. – Politico

Chuck Rosenberg writes: Finally, with some 2,000 open domestic terrorism investigations, does the FBI truly know which are most urgent? Has it shifted resources accordingly, and in a sustained way? Has it asked for help to fully cover the most urgent matters? Asking for help is a sign of strength, though often perceived in a bureaucracy as a sign of weakness. Does the “we got this” mentality get in the way here? Before 9/11, we failed to dismantle the wall. That was a mistake. Are there similar vulnerabilities now — habit, trepidation and confusion — that encumber the FBI in its efforts to thwart domestic terrorism? – Washington Post


The U.K. launched a new regulatory body aimed at policing allegations of anticompetitive behavior among the world’s largest technology companies, adding another agency to a growing list of watchdogs scrutinizing how tech giants use their market heft. – Wall Street Journal 

YouTube released data on Tuesday arguing that it is getting better at spotting and removing videos that break its rules against disinformation, hate speech and other banned content. – Washington Post

Facebook on Tuesday announced that during March it removed more than 1,100 accounts tied to spreading deceptive content in a variety of countries as part of its effort to root out domestic and international disinformation efforts. – The Hill

A House subcommittee is investigating YouTube Kids, saying the Google-owned video service feeds children inappropriate material in “a wasteland of vapid, consumerist content” so it can serve them ads. – Associated Press

U.S. Cyber Command is looking for contractor support to expand a secure file-sharing tool used to pass sensitive data to government and private-sector partners without being compromised. – C4ISRNET 

The Defense Intelligence Agency completed another milestone in the development of its new cloud-based data management system, successfully releasing its second minimum viable product recently. – C4ISRNET 

Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions announced Tuesday an exclusive agreement for American military equipment with SWISSto12, a firm specializing in the 3D printing of radio frequency and electronics technologies. – C4ISRNET 

Key lawmakers said Tuesday they’re concerned they’ve been kept in the dark about what suspected Russian hackers stole from the federal government and they pressed Biden administration officials for more details about the scope of what’s known as the SolarWinds hack. – Associated Press

Facebook said Tuesday that hackers “scraped” personal data of some half-billion users back in 2019 by taking advantage of a feature designed to help people easily find friends using contact lists. – Agence France-Presse

Congressional Republicans are calling on Facebook to ban the Chinese government from spreading propaganda and misinformation after recent Chinese ads portrayed Uyghur Muslims as thriving when they are facing a genocide. – Washington Examiner

Michael Hirsh writes: In both the United States and Europe, there are fresh efforts to rein in Big Tech, especially the companies that have come to dominate social media, e-commerce, and even politics in America: Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Though Republicans and Democrats disagree on the how, there is an emerging consensus that at the very least they need to beef up antitrust enforcement at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which are “a mere shadow of what they were even in [former President Ronald] Reagan’s time,” with something like half the lawyers they had then, Klobuchar said. – Foreign Policy


The House and Senate Intelligence committees will question leaders of five major intelligence and security agencies next week, resuming the annual tradition of a worldwide threats hearing that was abandoned under the Trump administration. – The Hill 

The US Air Force’s new hypersonic missile program suffered a blow Monday after it failed to launch from a B-52H Stratofortress bomber aircraft flying from Edwards Air Force Base in California. – CNN

The first rocket booster test of the U.S. Air Force’s hypersonic AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon failed when the vehicle did not launch during an April 5 flight. – Defense News 

The Marine Corps has begun a deeper investigation into the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, after an amphibious assault vehicle sank last year during an integrated Marine Corps-Navy exercise off Southern California killing nine, the service announced Tuesday. – USNI News

The U.S. arm of Israel’s Elbit Systems, Elbit Systems America, has completed its $380 million purchase of Sparton, a critical supplier of sonobuoys to the U.S. Navy and allies, from Cerberus Capital Management, the companies announced Tuesday. – Defense News 

The following is the April 1, 2021 Congressional Research Service report Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress. – USNI News 

The U.S. Army will soon be working with two defense firms selected to build prototypes of the service’s next-generation arctic combat vehicle. – Stars and Stripes 

The Air Force’s race to develop and field hypersonic weapons (and catch up to America’s rivals in that realm) suffered a setback during a flight test Monday when a booster failed to separate from the B-52 bomber on which it was mounted. – Washington Examiner

Jonathan G. Panter writes: Instead of committing to risky and politically dubious operations, the United States should encourage its allies with greater stakes in the region to assume the responsibility for FONOPs while the United States enforces the norm via issue linkages where it possesses more coercive leverage. This could both increase the likelihood of compliance and reduce the risk of accidents and escalations that endanger a fleet with far more important responsibilities. – Foreign Policy

Long War

Still, over the past year, as violence from Islamist extremists on the African continent reached a record high, the Islamic State has trumpeted these battlefield wins to project an image of strength and inspire its supporters worldwide. – New York Times

In the two years since the self-declared Islamic State lost its last physical stronghold in Raqqa, Syria, hundreds of foreign ISIS fighters, along with their wives and children, have remained in limbo, mostly in Iraqi custody or in Kurdish detention camps in northeastern Syria. – PBS

A Knoxville, Tennessee, man was arrested last month after investigators said he led a pro-Islamic State publication and translated propaganda into English. – Washington Examiner