Fdd's overnight brief

April 8, 2019

In The News


The Trump administration is preparing to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. officials said, a step that would vastly escalate the American pressure campaign against Tehran but which has divided U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal

Top Iranian officials have threatened retaliation against American forces in the Middle East in response to the U.S. plan to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, amplifying tensions between countries that have clashed repeatedly over the Islamic Republic’s footprint in the region. – Wall Street Journal

Iranian Major General Mohammed Ali Jafari warned that US troops could be targets in response to reports that the US would list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a designated terrorist organization. Jafari is the head of the IRGC. – Jerusalem Post

U.S. sanctions have prevented the Iranian Red Crescent from obtaining any foreign financial aid to assist victims of flooding that has killed at least 70 people and inundated some 1,900 communities, the group said on Sunday. – Reuters

A submarine battery exploded in an Iranian military shipyard on Saturday, killing three workers, state broadcaster IRIB said. – Reuters

Germany’s government will pull the plug at the end of 2019 on public funding for a radical pro-Iranian-regime organization- the Islamic Community of Shi’ite Communities of Germany – that is packed with antisemitic representatives who urge the destruction of Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Iran and Iraq have reached an understanding about developing two oilfields on their mutual border, Iran’s oil minister was quoted saying on Sunday, a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for increased trade between the two countries. – Reuters

The United States is considering sanctions against allies of Lebanon’s parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri on account of his longstanding ties with Hezbollah and Iran. – The National

Masih Alinejad and Roya Hakakian write: We ask that American women support Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh , who has been sentenced to 38 years in prison[…]. Just as Americans must distinguish between violent radicals and ordinary Muslims to successfully fight the former and honor the rights of the latter, so must they recognize that not all hijabs are created equal. Omar and other Muslim women who benefit from the freedom that America has bestowed on them are especially well-positioned to speak up for women forced into hijab. – Washington Post

David Albright and Andrea Stricker write: Notwithstanding good intentions, rejoining the deal without the necessary fixes to it would in essence bless Iran to enlarge its conventional, missile, and nuclear programs without receiving any commensurate concessions from Iran. All these increases will occur during the next administration, whoever wins the presidential election. – The National Interest

Islamic State

Putin had been ruthless in his pursuit of Islamist insurgents — vowing once to “rub them out in the outhouse” — yet his government appears to be changing tack when it comes to those who joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where Moscow is a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad. – Washington Post

Those in critical need – mostly emaciated babies born in war to the wives of dead Islamic State militants – are taken to the nearest hospital, a bumpy two-hour drive away. Other people cram into a waiting room with a tin roof in a growing queue for basic medical treatment. – Reuters

Coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State dropped off considerably in February, as the campaign to oust the militant group from its last strongholds in Syria reached its final stages. – Military Times

The US-led coalition said its Syrian allies have successfully dealt with an “incident” at a detention center in northeastern Syria which activists described as an attempted prison break by Islamic State jihadists. – Associated Press

Dina Al Raffie writes: The recent declaration of the Islamic State (IS) territorial defeat in Syria has refocused the debate on how to achieve an enduring peace based on successful counterextremism initiatives. This raises a crucial question: who may legitimately be tasked with countering the religious appeal of jihadism in the region? […]the persistent deficit in human rights advances in most Middle East countries—itself a significant contributor to extremism—a two-pronged approach could move Egypt and neighboring countries interested in countering fundamentalism to further moderate religious thought: – Washington Institute


2019 should be “the year of reality check” for the Assad regime and its backers, including Russia, to accept that there can only be a political solution to the conflict in Syria, the United States Special Envoy for the country said on Saturday. – The National

At least 15 people were reported killed on Sunday in shelling by government and insurgent forces in northwestern Syria, further straining a Russian-Turkish ceasefire deal for the region. – Reuters

Marking the anniversaries of two horrific chemical weapons attacks during the Syrian Civil War, the US State Department warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against committing similar atrocities in future, while holding Iran and Russia directly responsible for his regime’s continued violence against the Syrian people. – Algemeiner


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank provided another jolt to volatile relations with Palestinians in an 11th-hour bid to win right-wing support for re-election. – Wall Street Journal

Liberal left-wing NGO J Street has slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his comments on annexing territories of  the West Bank if reelected as Israel’s leader. – Jerusalem Post

The United States is aware of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex West Bank settlements and his rejection of full Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu told Israeli media on Sunday as he continued to expand on his historic announcement regarding Israeli sovereignty. – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority has warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about any attempt to annex the West Bank, which will lead “to a cycle of violence and chaos.” – Jerusalem Post

A senior Palestinian official condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign promise on Saturday to apply Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements if he is reelected, while hinting such a move could trigger an appeal to the International Criminal Court. – Times of Israel

Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot for Israel’s national election, yet he’s a dominant factor for many American Jews as they assess the high stakes of Tuesday’s balloting. At its core, the election is a judgment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has won the post four times but now faces corruption charges. In his battle for political survival, Netanyahu has aligned closely with Trump — a troubling tactic for the roughly 75% of American Jewish voters who lean Democratic. – Associated Press

With Hamas targeting the country’s center more frequently, Israel needs a radical shift in its missile defense strategy, former deputy head of IDF Military Intelligence Brig.-Gen. Meir Elran wrote in an Institute for National Security Studies post on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas’s chief in Gaza said Saturday that if there is a war, Israel will need to evacuate its civilians from Tel Aviv as well as the border communities, a day after the terror group’s leader said talks to achieve a truce were advancing. – Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he did not convene a security cabinet meeting during last month’s flareup with Hamas because he was concerned that politically motivated participants would leak contents of the high-level discussions to the press. – Times of Israel

Stephen M. Flatow writes: One of Barack Obama’s very last actions before leaving office seemed, at the time, to be one his strangest: the appointment of his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. […]Serving on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council gives Rhodes cover as he plans his next move. You can almost hear him warming up the argument: “You can’t accuse me of being anti-Israel—I’m part of the leadership of the Holocaust Museum!” Sadly, Israel and American Jewry have not heard the last of him. – Jewish National Syndicate

Saudi Arabia

Brushing back pressure from Washington, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia escalated his crackdown on even the mildest forms of dissent with the arrests this week of at least nine intellectuals, journalists, activists and their family members, according to rights groups and a Saudi associate of the detainees. – New York Times

Four attackers targeted a security checkpoint with guns and explosives in eastern Saudi Arabia as they tried to flee the country, leading to the death of two and the arrest of two others, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Sunday. – Reuters

On the outskirts of Riyadh, a building site is quickly being transformed into the birthplace of Saudi Arabia’s quest for nuclear power, a bid that has sparked concern in the US Congress and fury in Tehran. New satellite imagery shows that construction on an experimental reactor is making “expeditious” progress — just three months after the Kingdom announced plans to build it, according to former director for nuclear inspections at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Robert Kelley. – CNN

The detentions of activists follows US lawmakers’ moves to deny support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and Trump’s promise to veto that bill as he continues his staunch defense of the kingdom, a stance that has created a rare schism between the President and Republicans who are usually loathe to criticism him. – CNN

Eli Lake writes: This maneuver is more a matter of messaging: In effect, Democrats are signaling what their policy toward the Saudis will be if they win the White House in 2020. And here, the resolution matters a great deal. […]No one, least of all the Trump administration, should turn a blind eye to the Saudis’ crimes. But it’s much easier to exercise leverage when both sides have confidence the relationship will endure, no matter which party occupies the White House. – Bloomberg

Gulf States

Russia and China are stepping up their efforts to woo Persian Gulf arms buyers, encroaching on a market long dominated by the U.S. and Europe and raising security concerns in Washington. – Wall Street Journal

Details of the lavish payments made by Qatar to Muslim Brotherhood organisations in Europe, including furnishing funds the academic Tariq Ramadan has used for legal fees to fight rape allegations, have emerged in a new book. – The National

Oman’s foreign minister urged Arab countries on Saturday to reassure Israel that it is not under threat in the Middle East, drawing a rare public rebuke from his Jordanian counterpart. – Associated Press

The US administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan will fail if it does not provide for a Palestinian state, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi said on Saturday. – Times of Israel


American forces operating inside Libya have temporarily evacuated, the U.S. military’s top commander for Africa said Sunday, as clashes between rival militias raging in the capital’s outskirts raised the specter of all-out urban war – Washington Post

Libya edged closer to full-blown civil war on Friday as forces of an eastern commander clashed with pro-government ­militias near the capital, Tripoli, and an effort by the U.N. chief failed to stop the offensive. – Washington Post

But who is Hifter? And why has he sent troops toward Tripoli? Hifter, 75, first became a military man in 1966 under King Idris I. Just three years later, he joined Moammar Gaddafi’s coup against the crown. Hifter spent the next two decades rising through the ranks of the Libyan military, and in the 1980s he was a commander in the country’s conflict with Chad. But Chadian forces took him captive, and in 1987 he defected, pledging his loyalty to the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which was U.S.-backed. – Washington Post

A renegade Libyan military commander launched an offensive to capture the capital Tripoli, raising the risk of a full-blown civil war in the oil-rich North African country on Europe’s doorstep. – Wall Street Journal

The US on Sunday appealed for an “immediate halt” to a military offensive by Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, as fighting raged near Tripoli despite a UN call for a ceasefire. Haftar’s forces and the UN-backed unity government exchanged air strikes Sunday, three days after Haftar launched an offensive to seize the capital. – Agence France-Presse

Middle East & North Africa

A large explosion at a warehouse in Sana, Yemen’s rebel-held capital, killed at least 13 people on Sunday, including seven children, and wounded more than 100, local medical officials said. The Houthi rebels, who seized control of the capital in 2014 and are aligned with Iran, said the Saudi-led coalition had targeted the warehouse with an airstrike. The coalition denied carrying out any strikes in the area. – New York Times

When is the United States on the sidelines, and when is it at war? That question is at the heart of the debate over an unprecedented congressional challenge to the Trump administration’s support of Persian Gulf nations mired in Yemen’s civil war. Voting 247 to 175, largely along party lines, House lawmakers on Thursday passed a measure that for the first time uses the ­Vietnam-era War Powers Resolution to force an end to U.S. participation in an overseas conflict. – Washington Post

Russia’s S-400 system, for instance, mixed with other overlapping missile batteries, fighter aircraft and command and control nodes, would have tested America’s ability to carry such an air raid like never before. And that’s part of the reason why U.S. lawmakers, defense officials and the White House have been oddly unified in preventing Turkey from acquiring the S-400 alongside the F-35 joint strike fighter. – Defense News

Pope Francis blamed Europe and the United States for the deaths of children in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, saying Saturday that wealthy Western countries fuel conflicts by selling weapons in war zones. Speaking to students and teachers of Milan’s San Carlo Institute, Francis said the reason there are so many wars around the world is “the rich Europe and America sell weapons … used to kill children and kill people.” – Associated Press

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations revealed stark divergences in views on the Middle East on Saturday as they wrapped up a meeting in France that opened with the goal of finding common ground on contentious global challenges but was shaken by the absence of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – Associated Press

The Pentagon is upping the official estimate on the number of U.S. troops in Iraq who were killed by Iranian-backed militias, now putting that number at at least 603. – Military Times

Sources close to the administration of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi are looking to US President Donald Trump to endorse moves in Cairo’s parliament allowing the former field marshal to run for two further presidential terms after his current mandate ends in 2022. – The Media Line

Korean Peninsula

With little progress to show from two nuclear summits with the U.S., North Korea is turning to an old friend—Moscow—as leader Kim Jong Un tries to chart a course toward winning relief from sanctions and economic isolation. – Wall Street Journal

Moon Jae-in plans to ask the U.S. to ease sanctions on North Korea when he meets President Donald Trump at the White House this week, say unnamed South Korean officials cited by the Korean Times. – Time

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday he hoped North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would use a meeting of the country’s parliament next week to state publicly “it would be the right thing” for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. – Reuters

William Burns writes: Now that North Korean president Kim Jong Un has rejected Donald Trump’s offer to “go big” and agree to immediate, full denuclearisation, the US president has a choice to make: double down or embrace the art of the possible. Despite the overtures, Mr Kim remains convinced that nuclear weapons guarantee his security, stature and survival. Full denuclearisation remains an important aspiration, but the more practical challenge is to reduce nuclear danger now. […]The White House must recognise that the alternative to a modest agreement is not always a “better deal”, or a grand bargain. Sometimes it is no deal at all. Sometimes, it is war. – Financial Times


As Communist Party chief for Xinjiang for the past 2½ years, Mr. Chen has created a policing regime unmatched in scale and sophistication. He brought some of his techniques from earlier provincial posts, including in Tibet, and expanded them with new technology and tactics. – Wall Street Journal

Whatever deal Washington and Beijing reach over the trade war, President Trump has already scored a big victory: Companies are rethinking their reliance on China. – New York Times

The embrace of hype has not changed. When the U.S. and China finally agree a trade deal, it will be the “granddaddy” of all deals and a “monumental” agreement, according to President Donald Trump. – Washington Examiner

China’s refusal to give the EU solid commitments over access to its markets is preventing the two sides from agreeing a joint statement for a high-profile summit next week, European sources said Friday. – Agence France-Presse

The UK government has expressed concern over a new extradition law between Hong Kong and China, as British lawmakers warned the move could see pro-democracy activists, journalists, and foreign business owners surrendered to Chinese authorities. – CNN

Editorial: In its latest report released last Thursday, the State Department reported that the “tempo” of mainland China’s interference is increasing, including political restrictions that may be diminishing “fundamental freedoms” and “straining the confidence of the international business community.” AmCham was right to raise its voice, but Western political leaders should also be willing to speak up about China’s creeping betrayal of its promise to Hong Kong of “one country, two systems.” – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: President Trump’s long anticipated trade deal with Beijing might finally be in sight. This is an opportunity for Trump to help the United States, push China toward reform, and make a lasting mark in the realms of diplomacy and the global economy. But getting a good trade deal won’t be easy, and getting an easy trade deal won’t do much good. – Washington Examiner

Catherine Porter writes: One pattern that emerged was identity theft. Many of Sheng Xue’s adversaries told a strange story of someone posing as them online to spread more accusations against her. Many experts, from academics to former intelligence officers and human rights campaigners, said it all reflected a Chinese Communist Party strategy of seeding and stirring division among the dissidents so they were in no position to present a real challenge to the party. – New York Times

Yasunori Nakayama writes: A few deals here, a few deals there, and it’s often so low key that many fail to grab attention. It’s only when the dots are joined that the wider picture emerges. In the case of China’s ambition to become a global naval superpower, there are important political and security implications for Europe and the US. The creeping expansion of China’s presence in the South China Sea should provide a sobering lesson for Europe. – Financial Times

Gordon G. Chang writes: China, unfortunately, at the moment looks too big and proud to accept a rules-based trade order, especially when compliance with agreements and others’ norms is seen as a national indignity. Trump, by threatening to cut off trade, may have hit on a solution to what otherwise looks like an intractable problem. – The Daily Beast

Desmond Lachman writes: After many years in which the US consistently pushed China to move in the direction of a market-determined exchange rate, the Trump Administration is now pushing China to effectively fix its exchange rate to the US dollar. It is doing so as part of its ongoing trade negotiations with that country. This would seem to be a singularly bad idea both for the Chinese and for the global economies. – American Enterprise Institute


In a sign that a logjam in Afghanistan over entering peace talks with the Taliban could be easing, the Afghan government announced Sunday that it had named a council of senior political leaders who will appoint negotiators, create their mandate for talks and oversee their work. – New York Times

The United States has revoked the visa of the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor because of her attempts to investigate allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, including any that may have been committed by American forces. – New York Times

Twin explosions on Saturday in the eastern Afghanistan city of Jalalabad killed three people and injured 20 others, local officials said. – Reuters

Hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed a district in Afghanistan’s western Badghis province, with both Afghan government forces and the insurgent group suffering dozens of casualties, provincial officials said. – Reuters

Afghan security forces are battling the Taliban for a fifth day after the insurgents launched a wide-scale attack in the western Badghis province, officials said Monday. – Associated Press

South Asia

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s political party looks to have scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections Sunday. According to state media, initial results show Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has won 67 out of 87 seats in parliament, an historic margin that will strengthen his mandate to investigate the former government’s ties to China. – CNN

Myanmar’s military said on Friday six Rohingya Muslims killed and nine wounded in an aerial attack in the western state of Rakhine this week were affiliated with an armed rebel group. – Reuters

Pakistan has “reliable intelligence” that India will attack again this month, its foreign minister said, drawing condemnation from New Delhi which described the claim as irresponsible. – Reuters


The U.S. will remain the Philippines’ only military ally, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said, amid an increased Chinese presence near a disputed island in the South China Sea. – Bloomberg

Two Russian destroyers and a tanker have docked in the Philippines for a “goodwill visit” amid escalating tensions in the disputed South China Sea. – CNN

Brunei’s new law punishing homosexual sex with death by stoning has sent a wave of fear across the LGBT population in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia. – CNN


A British man whose girlfriend died after they were both poisoned by a nerve agent thought to have been discarded by Russian intelligence officers in England went looking for answers at the Russian Embassy in London this weekend[…]. Mr. Rowley met with Russia’s envoy nine months after he and Ms. Sturgess were poisoned by a nerve agent that the authorities say was originally used to target a former Russian spy, Sergei V. Skripal, in March 2018. – New York Times

Even as U.S. President Donald Trump pursues his goal of better relations with Russia, his administration has added sanctions targeting Russian government and businesses. Since 2014, the U.S. has imposed travel bans, asset freezes and finance and trade restrictions against hundreds of Russian individuals and companies, part of a multinational effort to punish President Vladimir Putin’s government for alleged trouble-making beyond its borders and online. – Bloomberg

Russia won a dispute about “national security” at the World Trade Organization on Friday, in a ruling over a Ukrainian transit dispute that may also affect global automobile tariffs that could be imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump. – Reuters

The Kremlin said on Friday that an idea floated by U.S. President Donald Trump for a deal between the United States, China and Russia to reduce spending on weapons production deserved attention and should be discussed further. – Reuters


European investigators are digging deeper into possible links between far-right ideologues and the suspected New Zealand mosque attacker, who sent at least two donations to an anti-Muslim group with branches around Europe. – Washington Post

Britain’s two main political parties are pushing to reach a new Brexit deal this week ahead of a European Union summit that will consider British Prime Minister Theresa May’s request to further postpone the country’s departure from the bloc. – Wall Street Journal

British citizens here and elsewhere on the continent have suddenly found themselves consumed by uncertainty. If Prime Minister Theresa May can’t convince European leaders to grant another Brexit extension this week, then Britain is scheduled to crash out of the European Union without a withdrawal deal on April 12. British nationals in Europe could soon be sent home. – Washington Post

The man whom Chancellor Angela Merkel calls “dear Barack” was back in Berlin on Saturday, his lanky figure and easy smile a reminder for Germans of a different era that ended not so long ago. But former President Barack Obama had not come to speak about the past. He came to speak to the future: some 300 young leaders from across Europe, who had gathered for a town hall-style meeting in the German capital. – New York Times

British police stationed armed officers outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Friday after tweets from WikiLeaks quoted what it said were high-level sources saying that Julian Assange could be kicked out of the building within “hours to days.” – Associated Press

The Jewish Labour Movement, which is affiliated to Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, passed a motion of no confidence in party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday over his handling of anti-Semitism complaints, Sky News reported. – Reuters

The Labour Party has failed to take disciplinary action against hundreds of members accused of anti-semitism under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, according to internal documents leaked to The Sunday Times. – The Times

A prominent German journalist last month compared the Jewish state to its enemies in a Tweet, sparking sharp rebukes from Israeli experts on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

A lawyer and vocal BDS activist was jailed for six months by a British court on Thursday, after she was convicted for drunkenness and assault on a crew member in the business class cabin of an Air India flight from Mumbai to London last year. – Algemeiner


An American woman and her Ugandan guide who were kidnapped while on safari this past week have been freed after a ransom was paid, according to officials with the safari company with which they were traveling. – New York Times

President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Sunday that he wanted to create a national day of commemoration for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which has been a longstanding source of tension between the two countries. – New York Times

China’s bridgehead here is part of its globe-girding “Belt and Road” initiative, an amalgam of economic strategy, foreign policy, and charm offensive that’s fueled by a torrent of Chinese money and is designed to rebalance global alliances. And as with dozens of other way stations along this new Silk Road, Djibouti’s dalliance with China is raising hackles from Paris to Washington. China has no qualms. “China-Africa cooperation is yielding fruitful results all across Africa, bringing tangible benefits to every aspect of local people’s lives,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said – Bloomberg

A U.S. airstrike in Somalia killed two civilians — an unknown woman and child — but was not reported for more than a year. – Military Times


The Americas

Mexico is struggling to contain a surge of Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. border that has been fueled by a softening of Mexican migration policies and a severe drought in Guatemala. – Wall Street Journal

Canada’s foreign minister said on Friday it was likely that foreign actors would meddle in her country’s October elections and her British counterpart said a deterrent to stop countries like Russia from interfering was critical. – Reuters

The Trump administration on Friday increased economic pressure on Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro by sanctioning 34 vessels used by the country’s oil company PDVSA to transport fuel to Cuba. – Washington Examiner

Switzerland and the United States signed an agreement on Friday for the neutral country to represent U.S. interests in Venezuela, which broke off diplomatic relations with Washington after it recognised the opposition leader as president. – Reuters

More than six months after the United States, Mexico and Canada agreed a new deal to govern more than $1 trillion in regional trade, the chances of the countries ratifying the pact this year are receding. – Reuters


British regulators on Sunday unveiled a landmark proposal to penalize Facebook, Google and other tech giants that fail to stop the spread of harmful content online, marking a major new regulatory threat for an industry that’s long dodged responsibility for what its users say or share. – Washington Post

The Department of Defense’s cyber teams have typically defended IP-based networks, but now leaders are requiring a sharper focus on other networks that power installations. – Fifth Domain

New Zealand’s privacy commissioner lashed out at Facebook, calling those behind the company “morally corrupt pathological liars.” […]”They are morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide,” he wrote, referring to Facebook’s admission in November that it failed to prevent the social network from being used to incite violence in Myanmar. – Business Insider


Mindfulness — the practice of using breathing techniques, similar to those in meditation, to gain focus and reduce distraction — is inching into the military in the United States and those of a handful of other nations. – New York Times

The Navy now boasts its Super Hornet fleet is routinely 63 to 75 percent mission capable, a significant jump from the fall when the Navy struggled to keep half of its F-18s ready to fly. – USNI News

The Navy is creating “digital twins” of its four public shipyards so engineers can conduct modeling and simulation and identify ideal new configurations for the yards to boost productivity. – USNI News

The Marines’ top aviator said the new CH-53K heavy lift helicopter has had some struggles during its past year of testing but would emerge from it a capable and reliable asset for the Marines. – USNI News

The fiscal 2020 budget request is out, showing the U.S. Army is ready to put money where its mouth is when it comes to funding two efforts to build, then buy, new vertical lift aircraft — a Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and a Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) — while simultaneously funding new unmanned aircraft and developing a backbone for mission systems and weapons that will be installed across the future fleet. – Defense News

A new generation of satellites is coming to the launch pad, and they are promising a tectonic shift in satellite operations. – C4ISRNET

The U.S. military is slated to deepen its logistics footprint in the former Soviet Bloc country of Poland, and contrary to recent proclamations from the Trump administration, NATO is actually paying for a share of it. – Defense News

To ensure its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft can survive a war with Russia or China, the Army wants radically superior speed and range compared to current helicopters. But a joint Request For Information released yesterday shows that the tech-savvy Special Operations Command and the hard-charging Marine Corps want even more. – Breaking Defense

Congress should change laws to ensure that the Defense Department fully commits to creating a “large, updatable, and resilient national security constellation” in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). That’s the conclusion of  a new study chaired by two former lawmakers, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers, and Democratic congressman Glenn Nye, once a member of the House Armed Services Committee. – Breaking Defense

Soldiers with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) will case their colors and deploy to Ukraine within days. About 150 soldiers will deploy in mid-April, according to a Friday release from the 101st Airborne, and they are expected to be gone for nine months. They will replace the Tennessee National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which has been in Ukraine since last summer. – Military Times

Missile Defense

The next Missile Defense Agency director will be now-Vice Admiral Jon Hill, who currently serves as the agency’s deputy director, the MDA has confirmed. – Defense News

Lockheed Martin and Israeli radar company Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, are teaming up for the U.S. Army’s upcoming “sense-off” demonstration of possible radars for its Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense System. – Defense News

Loren Thompson writes: Which is why the Pentagon needs to prepare for defending against them now, before Russian systems and their likely Chinese counterparts become operational. However, while the Defense Department is making rapid progress in applying hypersonic technology to an array of munitions, it isn’t spending much on defending against them. […]This seems out of step with the identification of hypersonic defenses as an urgent priority in the Trump administration’s recently completed missile defense review.  – Forbes

Long War

Seven years ago, when a former C.I.A. prisoner, Majid Khan, pleaded guilty at Guantánamo to being a courier for Al Qaeda, his lawyers were warned that any mention of the word “torture” would lead a court security officer to trigger a mute button so the public, listening on a 40-second delay, would not hear it. This week the question of his treatment was front and center, this time in a pre-sentencing hearing. – New York Times

Brussels’ plans to force tech giants to remove terrorist material within one hour of detection was supposed to be one of the least controversial EU regulations on digital companies. – Financial Times

State Department lawyers were in federal court arguing that Hoda Muthana – who was born in New Jersey, raised in Alabama and secretly traveled to Syria in 2014 – should not be allowed to return to the U.S. Now the mother of an 18-month-old boy, Muthana says she regrets her choice, wants to return home and is willing to go to prison for her offenses. – USA Today

Israel learned of an alleged Palestinian Islamic Jihad plot to conduct a terror attack along the Gaza border from a member of the group who was captured by security forces last week, a Palestinian newspaper reported Sunday. – Times of Israel

An Israeli military court on Sunday convicted a Palestinian of murdering an Israeli soldier in the West Bank last year, the army said. “The military court in Judea (the West Bank) convicted the terrorist Islam Yusef Abu Hamid on charges of murdering soldier Ronen Lubarsky,” the army said in a statement. – Agence France-Presse

Trump Administration

President Trump announced Sunday that Kirstjen Nielsen has resigned as secretary of homeland security, marking the exit of a second top immigration official in a matter of days as the White House continues to grapple with an influx of migrants on the southern border. – Washington Post

President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, has acted as an enforcer, though not an architect, of Mr. Trump’s often hard-line approach to illegal immigration, including last year’s controversial and short-lived policy of separating immigrant parents and children at the border. – Wall Street Journal

The escalating political battle over special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report centers on redactions — a lawyerly editing process that has angered distrustful Democrats eager to see the all evidence and conclusions from his 22-month investigation of President Trump’s conduct and Russia’s elaborate interference operation during the 2016 campaign.  – Washington Post

Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to President Trump, said on Sunday that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., should get all of the information in Robert Mueller’s report on collusion between the Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. – Washington Examiner

Yoram Hazony and Ofir Haivry write: Isolationists are also right about one thing: The U.S. cannot be, and should not try to be, the world’s policeman. Yet it does have a role to play in awakening democratic nations from their dependence-induced torpor, and assisting those that are willing to make the transition to a new security architecture based on self-determination and self-reliance. An alliance including the U.S., the U.K. and the frontline Eastern European nations, as well as India, Israel, Japan and Australia, among others, would be strong enough to exert sustained pressure on China, Russia and hostile Islamist groups. – Wall Street Journal

Nick Miroff writes: One of the most difficult jobs in Washington now belongs to Kevin McAleenan, who President Trump is placing in charge of the Department of Homeland Security after the ouster of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Sunday. […]It is McAleenan’s relatively favorable reputation among Democrats and his ties to the Obama administration that have also made him unpopular with those who want someone more hawkish in the DHS role, whose messaging will be consistent with the president’s. – Washington Post