Fdd's overnight brief

April 8, 2020

In The News


The U.S. plans to block Iran’s requested $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund for funding Tehran says it needs to fight its coronavirus crisis. […]Iran’s representative at the United Nations didn’t respond to a request for comment on the U.S. decision on IMF funding. Iranian officials have called the U.S. sanctions amid the pandemic “medical terrorism” and said U.S. offers of humanitarian assistance to help fight the coronavirus are “deceptions and lies.” – Wall Street Journal 

A group pushing for California to secede from the United States is turning to Iran for help. YesCalifornia wants to open an outpost in Tehran to develop Iranian support for its “Calexit” campaign, similar to its previous effort in Moscow. – Washington Times 

The United States should stop preventing Iran from selling oil, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani urged the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday to give the country its requested $5 billion emergency funding to help Tehran fight the coronavirus outbreak. – Reuters

Iran does not agree with holding any OPEC+ meeting in the absence of a clear proposal and expected outcome from such talks for the oil market, its oil minister said in a letter to OPEC and seen by Reuters. – Reuters 

The Iranian parliament (Majles) rejected an emergency bill for a one-month nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. In its first meeting in the new Iranian year on Tuesday April 7, lawmakers rejected the proposal because it “undermines the Constitution”. – Radio Farda

The coronavirus crisis economic impact on Iran is likely to force a substantial reduction in funding terror in the region far beyond the impact of sanctions to date, an INSS report said on Tuesday. […]The report concluded that even as “there are no signs of economic collapse,” the new coronavirus-related pressures are likely to hold down Iran’s support for terror in the region. – Jerusalem Post 

Mohsen Rezaee, secretary of the Iranian regime’s Expediency Council whose members are appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and whose role it is to advise him, published an article on April 2, 2020 via the Fars news agency. In the article, Rezaee, who is also a former commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), discussed the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic for the world. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Four decades since its Islamic Revolution made it a pariah, Tehran has cobbled together one of the world’s most bizarre air forces—a combination of rebuilt U.S.-supplied planes dating from the 1970s plus homegrown designs of highly varying value and, most strangely of all, scores of aircraft essentially stolen from Iraq after they fled to Iran to escape American attack during the 1991 Gulf War. – The National Interest

Amos Yadlin and Ari Heistein write: The urgency of the situation at hand should not cause us to lose sight of the broader strategic picture. Humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people is a moral necessity at this time, but it would be preposterous to entrust such aid without adequate oversight to the very government which is responsible for murdering thousands of its own citizens as well as tens of thousands more throughout the region. – Times of Israel 

Ilan Berman writes: It would also indicate that, notwithstanding the rhetoric of regime officials and policymakers, the Islamic Republic is not actually persevering in its battle with the disease. To the contrary, the statistics suggest that the country is slowly succumbing to it, even as authorities hide the true extent of the health crisis from both the international community and their own captive population. – Radio Farda 

Rahim Hamid and Mostafa Hetteh write: If international bodies do not condemn these atrocities, the regime will see the international preoccupation with coronavirus as a way to mask its abuse of prisoners and refusal to prevent mass infections within its prison systems in Ahwaz and throughout Iran. So far, those released in amnesty have masked Iran’s continued human rights abuses against those political prisoners still trapped in Iran’s jails. In the midst of a crisis, the international community must take this opportunity to pressure Iran on this crucial issue. – Washington Institute 

Steph Shample writes: Blurring the lines between the physical world and the online one, the Iranian group known as the “Nakhsa Warriors” remains cloaked in mystery. Their identity and status are unclear. Are they a military force that carries out operations, an online group of like-minded individuals that share content, part of an Iranian disinformation campaign — or perhaps something else altogether? […]The Nakhsa Warriors provide an interesting case study and may help to shed some light on this conundrum. – Middle East Institute 


Lebanon is a small, cash-strapped country in the Middle East, but its government estimates it hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees — the highest per-capita ratio in the world. […]But although the refugees know about the dangers of the new coronavirus, they weigh another risk as they consider whether to seek testing or treatment: deportation. – NPR 

Former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power on Tuesday accused the U.N. of helping to conceal Russia’s role in a bombing campaign during the Syrian civil war that targeted sites including schools and hospitals. – The Hill 

Bassam Barabandi writes: The coronavirus provides a new challenge for the U.S. and Turkish position in Syria, but it also clarifies what must be done. In order to stop the virus, the American and Turkish governments must implement programs that will return Syrian refugees to their homes in Syria, albeit under the protection of the U.S. and Turkish militaries. – The National Interest 


Hamas said on Tuesday that it was willing to be “flexible” regarding a prisoner exchange with Israel, adding that the ball was now in the Israeli court.Earlier this week, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar indicated his group’s readiness to make concessions in order to reach a prisoner swap deal with Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel called on Tuesday for the immediate resumption of indirect talks on the return of two Israeli civilians and the remains of two soldiers held for years in Gaza, but the territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas dismissed the overture. – Reuters

The Shin Bet security service on Tuesday said it arrested an Israeli citizen last month who had made contact with Iranian intelligence agents and was asked to work on their behalf against the country. – Times of Israel 

Troops in Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate have refocused their research from enemies like Iran and Hezbollah to the deadly coronavirus, which has killed 60 Israelis in the past month. […]While he did not refer to Iran by name, he said that “there are enemy countries which have been hit much more strongly than us by corona, and therefore their activities have decreased.” – Jerusalem Post 

Earlier this week, the PA National Economy Ministry banned Palestinians from bringing used material and furniture from Israel to curb the spread of the virus. National Economy Minister Khaled al-Osaily told The Jerusalem Post that the ban does not include all goods imported from Israel, but only used items, including furniture, purchased by Palestinian merchants from Israelis. – Jerusalem Post 

An Israeli spyware company that has been accused by WhatsApp of hacking 1,400 of its users, including journalists, human rights activists, and diplomatic officials, has blamed its government clients for the alleged abuses, according to court documents. – The Guardian

The coronavirus outbreak poses a dilemma for tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers working inside Israel who are now barred from traveling back and forth. They can stay in Israel, where wages are much higher but the outbreak is more severe, or they can return home to quarantine and unemployment in the West Bank. – Associated Press 

Dennis Ross and David Makovsky write: Assuming the government forms, Netanyahu will be committed to stepping down as prime minister in September 2021, in accordance with the rotation agreed upon in the unity government deal. […]So the question remains how Netanyahu will use the next 17 months. Will he adopt a “country first” approach in order to prepare a dignified exit, by seeking to focus on the coronavirus emergency and then looking for a gradual way out of the deep impasse with the Palestinians? – Foreign Policy


The US has proposed a strategic dialogue to review its economic and security role in Iraq, weeks after Iraq’s parliament voted for the withdrawal of American troops, who have been regularly targeted in attacks by Iran-linked militia groups. […]A spokesperson for the anti-Isis coalition said it did not comment on diplomatic affairs. But analysts say the negotiations are likely to include troop reductions. – Financial Times 

Hussein Ibish writes: But Iran still has a trump card in Iraq: the Shiite sectarian militia groups collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Using them to attack the U.S. provides that military leverage with a degree of plausible deniability. […]Moreover, Iran needs the PMF groups to consolidate their position within the Iraqi political structure and fend off a potential pro-U.S. prime minister. – Bloomberg 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: As this happens, the PMU must also decide if it will take a more independent path or if it will continue to implement policies that serve Iran’s interests. This is a critical crossroads because if the PMU serves only Iran’s interests, it will rub up against large sections of the public and potentially come into conflict with either the United States or other groups in Iraq. As the country looks to an uncertain future, it is unlikely that the PMU will be content with settling into a role subservient to the security forces and disentangled from politics or, more importantly, from Iran. – Foreign Policy

Gulf States

From the start of 2016 through the end of 2019, at least 84 Saudi Shiite men were executed or killed in raids by Saudi security forces, according to ESOHR. None of their 84 families has received a body. […]Saudi Arabia is a Sunni-majority kingdom that holds to an austere form of Islam, and many hard-line Sunnis view Shiite Muslims as heretics. Shiites have long complained of marginalization by the government, though Saudi officials insist they have taken steps to ease the disaffection, by reaching out to Shiite community leaders and clerics in recent years. – Washington Post

Qatar sold $10 billion in U.S. dollar-denominated bonds on Tuesday, the first Persian Gulf state to tap the debt markets since the headwinds of the coronavirus pandemic and a collapse in oil prices tightened budgets across the region. […]Most Gulf countries have sought to diversify their economies away from oil in recent years but still depend on crude sales to fund their budgets. They are expected to issue billions of dollars of debt to help fund spending predicated on higher oil prices, bankers say. – Wall Street Journal 

Evidence suggests that Iran has deployed an array of anti-ship missiles and large rockets overlooking Strait of Hormuz. The Strait is vital for the supply of oil from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The waterway is being patrolled by U.S. Navy and its allies to protect vessels from Iranian action. – Forbes

The Qatari government said Tuesday it has implemented widespread measures to protect immigrant workers from the coronavirus, after a German documentary highlighted that ongoing construction of World Cup infrastructure raised the risk of infections. […]Qatar, like other Gulf Arab nations, relies on foreign laborers to build its mega projects and highways. – Associated Press 

Republican U.S. senators who have introduced a bill that would remove U.S. defense systems and troops in Saudi Arabia unless it cuts oil output will hold a call with the kingdom’s officials on Saturday, a source familiar with the planning said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt, like other countries, has been hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus, which has wiped out its vital tourism industry and prompted authorities to close airports, restaurants, firms and shops and to impose a night curfew. […]Nearly 2 out of three jobs in Egypt are in the informal sector, according to a study published in 2018 by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and trying to deploy emergency cash to people who are not on the system is a big challenge, according to analysts. – Reuters 

Jordan is in discussions with the IMF seeking to change some of the objectives of a four-year programme of structural reforms because of the negative impact of the coronavirus on the aid-dependent economy, the central bank governor said on Tuesday. […]The kingdom’s economy has suffered since it closed its borders nearly a month ago, followed by a tight lockdown that has shuttered businesses and paralysed public life. – Reuters

Algeria, under pressure to find new sources of finance, set up a religious body in charge of Islamic finance on Tuesday in a final step towards launching sharia-compliant services. […]The government is targeting local savers rather than foreign investors as many Algerians distrust the country’s state banks and prefer to keep large sums of money at home. – Reuters 

At the same time, there has been intense domestic and international pressure on both sides in Libya to cease the hostilities and join forces in fighting the pandemic. Among the prominent elements pushing for a humanitarian ceasefire are the UN Mission to Libya, the EU, the U.S., and several foreign embassies in Libya, those of the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UAE, Tunisia and Algeria. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Ramy Aziz writes: The question of growing Russian and, to a lesser extent, Chinese influence in North Africa is not a new issue, but the visible fissures within the European Union given the strain of coronavirus also suggest a potential shift in its attitudes towards conflicts in the Middle East where the EU and Russia have clashed. As Europe struggles, Italy may be inclined to support—or at least remain neutral on—increased Russian and Chinese influence in countries like Libya and Syria. – Washington Institute 

Korean Peninsula

North Korea, one of only a handful of countries not to have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, has said that it continues testing and has more than 500 people in quarantine, the World Health Organization (WHO) told Reuters on Tuesday. […]A U.N. human rights expert has called for lifting international sanctions against countries including North Korea – imposed for its nuclear and missile programs – to ensure that food supplies reach hungry populations during the pandemic. – Reuters

South Korea will go ahead with its parliamentary election next week as scheduled, even as political calendars around the world are seeing disruptions over the coronavirus pandemic. – NPR 

North Korea could be using fertilizer factories it is building to produce more nuclear material by extracting uranium from phosphoric acids, according to a new study. Researcher Margaret Croy said this technique can be used by North Korea as a way to conceal it was attaining uranium as part of the country’s fervent drive to boost agricultural output. – Newsweek


Epidemiologists, U.S. intelligence sources and Wuhan residents suspect that Chinese authorities substantially undercounted infections and deaths over the past several months, especially in Wuhan, in part to boost President Xi Jinping’s image. Such doubts, combined with the reports of new asymptomatic cases, are triggering fears of a potential second wave of infections that could undermine Beijing’s claim to have tamed the virus. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s Communist Party said it is investigating alleged wrongdoing by an influential businessman who has been an outspoken critic of President Xi Jinping, signaling harsh punishment for the author of a scathing essay decrying the Chinese leader’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. – Wall Street Journal

Using virus case data, official reports and over a dozen interviews with officials, residents and scientists in Wuhan, Reuters has compiled a comprehensive account of how the military-style quarantine of the city unfolded. – Reuters

China’s powerful internet regulator, Cyberspace Administration of China, said in a post published on Wednesday on its official WeChat account that Baidu’s content review on some of its news feed channels is not “strict,” therefore “it has exerted bad influence to the society.” – Reuters

The U.S. ambassador to Brazil on Tuesday denied reports that the U.S. government took over Chinese supplies of medical equipment that were ordered by Brazil to fight the coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters

China is willing to work on a bilateral basis with low-income countries facing economic challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic and may approve delays in some debt service payments, a Chinese official told Reuters on Tuesday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday urged all countries to be transparent and honest as they grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, a thinly veiled swipe at China, which reported no deaths from the illness for the first time since the outbreak began. – Reuters

A senior Trump administration official urged China on Tuesday to allow the United States to work directly with laboratories in Wuhan on research into the novel coronavirus, saying this was critical to saving lives globally. – Reuters

Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes: As Marion Smith wrote in these pages on Sunday, China’s first response was to clamp down on reports of the then-new disease that had appeared in Wuhan. The brave doctor, Li Wenliang, who first reported the disease to fellow physicians was silenced by police. Chinese media reports of the disease were censored by the government. So were ordinary citizens reporting on social media. – USA Today

Marcus Kolga, Kaveh Shahrooz and Shuvaloy Majumdar write: In homes and hospitals across the country, Canadians are now directly encountering the existential threat that authoritarian forces pose to their lives. As leaders navigate public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19, our foreign policy establishment has opportunity to dispense with ideological fantasies of post-nationalism, and embrace the reality that nations are comprised of citizens, borders and interests. – Maclean’s

Chuck Devore writes: The world as seen by Xi Jinping is different from it was in January 2016. At the time, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was strong at home, as its power and prestige were growing abroad. Hong Kong was prosperous and quiescent. The “rebellious province of Taiwan” was ruled by President Ma Ying-Jeou, a politician favoring eventual unification with mainland China […]. And China’s illegal military base-building in the South China Sea was largely complete and unchallenged. – Newsweek


The Taliban broke off talks with the Afghan government in Kabul on Tuesday, creating a fresh stumbling block for the peace process only weeks after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s diplomatic rescue mission to Afghanistan. […]The U.S. deal with the Taliban set a target date for intra-Afghan negotiations to begin on March 10, almost a month ago. Western officials involved in the process acknowledged it was likely to slide, as many key details remained unresolved. – Wall Street Journal

Recently, Afghan writer Zahid Aria wrote an article examining the recent pro-Taliban turn in Iran’s foreign policy. Delegations of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) visited Tehran in recent years, especially when the Taliban and the U.S. were engaged in 18 months of negotiations in Doha. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Pakistani security forces acting on intelligence raided two militant hideouts in former Taliban strongholds in the country’s northwest near Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing seven militants, the military said. – Reuters 

The B-1 proved to be popular in Afghanistan, where its combination of high speed, long-range, and high payload capacity meant that it could serve as a ground-attack-support platform, despite being originally designed as a nuclear bomber. – The National Interest 

Jere van Dyk writes: I spent 45 days in Pakistan as a hostage of the Taliban in 2008. A college friend recently sent a note asking if I had any suggestions as to how people can physically and mentally cope with their coronavirus-induced confinement. […]In captivity everything becomes primal. A hierarchy develops. You become territorial, no matter how small your corner. The same, I believe, would happen in a home, even in a loving family. Don’t seek power; give it to others if necessary. – Wall Street Journal 

Yun Sun writes: China sees its role in Afghanistan beyond the peace deal as cautious and flexible. It sees its role in Afghan security in three ways: as marginal in the sense that it is not a primary party to the conflict; as indispensable in the sense that China is a great power and a neighboring country that cannot be ignored; and as central in the sense that Chinese investment will be critical for the country’s future post-conflict reconstruction and economic development. The Afghan peace process still has a long way to go, and China will not be excluded. – War on the Rocks


In a televised news conference, Abe asked people to refrain from going outside needlessly. But he said that the government “will not lock cities down as has been done overseas” and that economic activity will be maintained as much as possible. […]Part of the problem: The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has extremely close ties with the business community, while Abe is keen to preserve his long attempt to revive Japan’s sluggish economy, policies known as Abenomics. – Washington Post

India has dropped an anti-dumping investigation over imports of polyester feedstock monoethylene glycol (MEG) from Saudi Arabia, but will continue the effort against Kuwait, Oman, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, the government said. – Reuters

India has approved some exports of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug being touted as a possible coronavirus treatment, after apparent pressure from Donald Trump, who has been urging Americans to take it. – The Guardian


The Kremlin on Wednesday declined to spell out Russia’s position ahead of a meeting of OPEC+ oil-producing countries on Thursday, refusing to say whether it will insist on the United States committing to oil output cuts. – Reuters 

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, accused Donald Trump on Tuesday of creating a basis to take over other planets by signing an executive order outlining U.S. policy on commercial mining in space. – Reuters

Thursday’s videoconference meeting between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia, is widely expected to be more successful than their gathering in early March. That ended in failure to extend cuts, and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia amid slumping demand. – Reuters

Russia sent a transport aircraft with medical supplies to the United States and dispatched a team of military virologists to Serbia to stem the spread of Covid-19, according to the country’s ministry of defence (MoD) and top officials. – Jane’s 360 

On April 2, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation for the second time in eight days on the Coronavirus pandemic. […]Following the address, online news outlet Rosbalt surveyed the reaction to the address on Twitter. While Rosbalt did not claim that this was a representative sample, and the highly educated urban populace that uses Twitter may be skewed against Putin, the tweets selected were highly critical of Vladimir Putin. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Russia is considering a six-month ban on gasoline imports to protect its market from a possible flood of cheap fuel, two government sources said on Tuesday, as measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak have destroyed demand and hammered prices. – Reuters 

Russia’s main home-grown passenger plane, the Sukhoi Superjet 100, will be used by the United Nations for its peacekeeping missions after a contract was signed last month, according to Rosaviatsiya, Russia’s federal air transport agency. – Reuters 

William Courtney and John Lauder write: As U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated and uncertainty and suspicions have grown, monitoring insights have become even more important for verification of Treaty compliance. They enable a deeper understanding of force capabilities, strategic postures and potential risks or misunderstandings. – The Hill


Poland’s last-minute decision to carry out its May presidential elections by post due to the coronavirus pandemic has raised “concern”, EU Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova told Polish daily Rzeczpospolita on Wednesday. – Reuters

EU finance ministers failed on Wednesday to agree on a bailout plan to help hard hit member states face the coronavirus outbreak, after Italy refused to abandon its plea for “coronabonds” to share the burden. – Agence France-Presse

The European Union’s future is at risk if it cannot come up with a joint financial response to combat the new coronavirus, Spanish ministers warned on Wednesday, after the bloc failed to agree on joint debt issuance to fight the crisis. – Reuters 

Estonia, Latvia and Finland have signed a technical agreement for a jointly developed armored vehicle, with Estonia touting the plans as a means to jump-start the defense industry and maintain its security posture following the global coronavirus crisis. – Defense News

President of the EU Research Council Prof. Mauro Ferrari resigned on Tuesday citing his disappointment over the European Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Financial Times reported. Ferrari made it clear that he is disillusioned with the mechanisms of the EU, not with the ideals of international collaboration which he still supports. – Jerusalem Post


U.S. Africa Command said an April 2 airstrike in Somalia killed a high-ranking and foundational member of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremist group known as al-Shabab. […]AFRICOM previously told Military Times it has slightly increased the pace of strikes against the Shabab militants as it sees the group as a growing threat to U.S. interests. – Associated Press 

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has condemned controversial comments made by French doctors about testing a Covid-19 potential treatment in Africa, calling the remarks a “hangover from a colonial mentality.” – CNN 

Republic Bank Ghana Ltd. is urging the government to cut tax rates to cushion the economy from the fallout of the coronavirus. […]Alongside relief for workers, Kenya last month reduced its corporate income tax rate to 25% from 30%, the first country to take the step to support businesses in response to the coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa. – Bloomberg 

The U.N. Security Council urged the government of Mali and armed groups Tuesday to accelerate implementation of a 2015 peace agreement and called for “the swift liberation” of kidnapped opposition leader Soumaila Cisse. – Associated Press 

Armed men attacked an army camp in Mali’s north, killing at least 25 soldiers, the army said Tuesday. […]The attack has not been claimed but bore the mark of armed groups linked to al-Qaida or the Islamic State group that are present in the Gao region. – Associated Press

The Americas

President Trump said Tuesday that he would consider placing a hold on funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), expressing grievances with its handling of the novel coronavirus. […]Pressed later by a reporter on whether it was a good idea to put a hold on funding during a global pandemic, the president clarified that he was considering suspending funding to the WHO. – The Hill 

A group of lawmakers announced Tuesday that they are introducing legislation that aims to fund a government purchase of oil, boosting an industry that has been hit by reduced demand and international disputes. […]There have also been some calls to include funding for an SPR purchase in the next coronavirus stimulus package. – The Hill 

Pressure is building on Congress to pass another round of coronavirus relief legislation, but Republicans and Democrats have different ideas about what’s needed and how fast. Democrats want to move swiftly while GOP aides warn it’s unlikely a fourth bill will pass before May. – The Hill 

President Trump said Tuesday night he’d like to see the entire U.S. economy reopen with a “big bang,” but acknowledged it will be difficult to manage as certain parts of the country grapple with outbreaks. […]The economy, which has been a central argument for Trump’s reelection campaign, has cratered in the last few weeks due to the spreading virus. – The Hill 

U.S. business lobbies are pressuring Mexico’s government to label certain industries “essential” so that strict health emergency measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus in Mexico do not halt key operations on both sides of the border. – Reuters

Mexico’s government on Tuesday asked the United States and Canada to grant its automotive industry extra time to adapt its supply chains as the deadline for implementing a new North American trade deal approaches. – Reuters

U.S. oil production will fall this year for the first time since 2016 as economic activity and demand for transportation fuels have cratered due to the coronavirus pandemic, causing a historic price crash. […]OPEC and Russia, along with other nations, are holding a separate virtual meeting on Thursday to discuss forming an unprecedented global coalition to cut oil production to raise prices. Saudi Arabia and Russia, the two largest oil producers outside the U.S., are hopeful the U.S. cuts production as well. – Washington Examiner

Across the Permian Basin, a swath of oil-rich land sprawling through western Texas and parts of New Mexico, rigs are groaning to a halt as massive layoffs sweep the industry. It’s ground zero for the fallout of the oil price war that erupted one month ago, ignited by a Saudi-Russian spat and turned into an inferno by the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus and the subsequent lockdowns of entire countries. – Foreign Policy 

Nikky Haley writes: Governors complaining about the president are, in some cases, attempting to distract from their own failures. Overheated critics of President Trump accuse him of being an authoritarian. Of not caring about checks and balances, civil rights, and constitutional limits on executive power. And yet, today, many of these same critics demand that he nationalize supply chains, deploy the military on our shores and shut down every town in America. It’s a curious thing.- New York Times 

James Pethokoukis writes: Skeptics of America’s (mostly) national lockdown say Sweden’s lighter-touch approach is far superior. […]Finally, I always caution against mindlessly extrapolating what works in Scandinavia to also be successful in the US. You can’t just cut-and-paste policy from a region with a very different cultural and historical background. I would double down on that advice during an evolving pandemic and economic shock. – American Enterprise Institute 

Samuel Brannen writes: The course of Covid-19 is uncertain, but it is clear the pandemic will put unprecedented strain on societies and governments. […]Covid-19 is rewriting our history and challenging the relationship between citizens and their governments. It is important that U.S. policymakers actively support protest movements that seek to move the world in a more democratic, open, and transparent direction as they shelter and sustain themselves virtually and prepare for future action. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Latin America

Twitter says it is coordinating with the World Health Organization and has ramped up efforts to remove posts with disinformation on Covid-19. […]But few world leaders find themselves in a more precarious position than Mr. Maduro in Venezuela, where the public health-care system has collapsed amid a seven-year depression. Infectious-disease experts say the country is an incubator for diphtheria, measles, dengue and other contagions. – Wall Street Journal 

Nearly 5 million Venezuelans have abandoned the collapsing socialist state in recent years, most of them to scrape out meager livings elsewhere in Latin America. But as countries from Argentina to Peru to Colombia shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, untold thousands of desperate Venezuelans, now jobless, hungry and living without a safety net, are heading home. – Washington Post

China has demanded an explanation from Brazil after the far-right government’s education minister linked the coronavirus pandemic to Beijing’s “plan for world domination”, in a tweet imitating a Chinese accent. – The Guardian

Venezuela’s acute fuel shortages are leaving medical professionals stuck in gas lines or struggling to reach their place of work just as the coronavirus outbreak threatens to overwhelm the crisis-stricken country’s battered health system. – Reuters 

Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly on Tuesday opened an investigation into Rosneft’s ROSN.MN sale of its assets in the country to another unnamed Russian state company. – Reuters 

For some of Venezuela’s high-flying “Bolichicos” — the privileged offspring of the socialist revolution — the party hasn’t stopped amid a widening pandemic in a country already gripped by crisis. […]In Latin America, the world’s most unequal region, jet-setting elites are blamed for importing the virus. – Associated Press 

Thousands of Venezuelan migrants who have returned to their country this month amid the coronavirus epidemic have been ordered into quarantine in makeshift shelters along the border, according to officials and rights activists. […]However, the influx presents a threat to Venezuela’s medical system, which has decayed during six years of economic collapse, and medical experts warn could be quickly overwhelmed should the coronavirus quickly spread. – Reuters 

Thiago de Aragão writes: If Bolsonaro continues his inconsistent and openly irresponsible behavior in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, he will become further isolated politically, have increasing trouble governing, and see his popularity continue to decrease. […]This could result in Bolsonaro paying a hefty political cost in midterm elections in October 2020 and presidential elections two years later, not to mention the thousands of additional deaths from Covid-19 that could well result from his having left the country so late in the game and ill-prepared. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp is limiting users’ ability to forward content on its encrypted messaging platform, as misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic proliferates on the service in its biggest market, India. In one of the biggest changes WhatsApp has made to a core feature, the company said Tuesday that its more than two billion users globally can now send along frequently forwarded messages they receive to only one person or group at a time, down from five. – Wall Street Journal 

Defensive cyber operators with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed for the first time with the USS America in the Pacific, according to an April 5 news release from 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. – Fifth Domain

Virtual conferencing platform Zoom is facing the prospect of mounting legal threats in Washington after a slew of prominent Democratic lawmakers urged federal regulators Tuesday to investigate its privacy and security lapses. – Politico


Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday after an uproar over his verbal attack on the former captain of the virus-stricken aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, in a saga that has dealt a new blow to a U.S. Navy beset by missteps and clashes with the White House in recent years. – Wall Street Journal 

The Pentagon is considering new steps to retain uniformed service members, including the potential revival of the military’s controversial “stop-loss” policy, as the coronavirus crisis limits the arrival of new troops and disrupts its personnel pipeline. – Washington Post

President Trump has replaced the Pentagon’s top watchdog a week after he was named to lead a committee charged with overseeing the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. Glenn Fine, who has served as acting Pentagon inspector general since 2016, will go back to being the principal deputy inspector general and will no longer lead the coronavirus relief oversight panel, his office said Tuesday. – The Hill 

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis defended Glenn Fine, the Pentagon inspector general tasked with overseeing the $2 trillion stimulus package passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, after President Trump replaced Fine earlier in the week. – The Hill 

National security officials warned in an intelligence bulletin issued Tuesday that extremist groups are exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to incite violence and bolster racist and anti-government narratives. – CNN 

The Navy’s investigation into the leak of a letter from the commanding officer of the Theodore Roosevelt is hopelessly undermined by the statements and actions of the Acting Secretary of the Navy, legal experts said. – Defense News

The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the globe has delayed the launch of three US intelligence payloads from New Zealand until at least April 23, launch provider Rocket Lab confirmed April 6. – C4ISRNET

The Army commands in charge of acquisition and modernization are taking it day-by-day as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in the United States, but so far see minimal impact to production lines and modernization efforts underway. – Defense News

The following is the April 2, 2020, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress. USNI News 

A global stop-movement order delaying all military moves into mid-May might be extended into July, the Air Force’s top officer said this week. […]Troops and families forced to delay their moves have access to additional funding for housing and food through temporary duty (TDY) orders and per diem payments, according to guidance released by the Pentagon March 18. – Military.com

A sailor assigned to the USS Nimitz, a Bremerton, Wash.-based aircraft carrier, tested positive for Covid-19 last week after experiencing symptoms while on board the ship, according to three defense officials familiar with the matter. – Politico

A House subcommittee chairman is asking the Pentagon for documents related to the coronavirus outbreak aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier. […]Tuesday’s letter also requested an inventory of medical supplies and personal protective equipment — including coronavirus tests, hospital tests, ventilators and respiratory masks — geographic combatant commands need to buy for worst, best and most likely scenarios. – The Hill 

The Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday he still has confidence in Defense Secretary Mark Esper amid fallout from the firestorm over a coronavirus outbreak aboard an aircraft carrier. – The Hill 

More than 200 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier whose captain was fired after warning of a coronavirus outbreak, have tested positive for COVID-19, the Navy said Tuesday. […]The ship became the focus of national attention last week after its commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, issued a memo warning that the crew would face dire consequences if the Navy failed to address the coronavirus outbreak on the ship. In a since-leaked message, Crozier asserted that sailors could die if the vast majority of the 4,800 crew members weren’t evacuated. – The Hill 

Attorney General William Barr will lead a revamped national security group dubbed “Team Telecom” as part of the Trump administration’s effort to combat foreign influence in the U.S. telecommunications sector amid concerns about China and other foreign parties. – Washington Examiner 

Glenn S. Gerstell and Michael Morell write: Finally, the coronavirus pandemic has made clear that understanding the scope of disinformation pushed by U.S. adversaries must become a permanent top priority. […]This is a harbinger of our future — disinformation surrounding every major event and trend. In a field fraught with challenges, our intelligence agencies will need to work more closely with law enforcement and the private sector to help the United States fend off foreign attempts to weaken our democracy and global influence. – Washington Post 

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: These needs to restructure national security spending are summarized at the end of the analysis, including a need to modernize the U.S. defense budget and to adapt to the fact that the virus will increase instability in many other countries – including U.S. strategic partners. It will be several months before the full scale of the Coronavirus crisis is known, but – once again – it is already time to begin considering the options for reducing spending and the priorities for restructuring the FY2021 budget request. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Thomas Spoehr and Frederico Bartels write: One lesson learned from the current pandemic is: The more transparency across government, the better. […]Unfortunately, the Pentagon has now submitted a legislative proposal that would move the U.S. toward the Chinese model of defense opacity. It wants to make its Future Years Defense Program, or FYDP, a classified document. Not only will this reduce the ability of the government to collaborate with the private sector, but it will exacerbate an existing problem: over-classification of data. – Defense News