Fdd's overnight brief

February 1, 2021

In The News


Iran’s foreign ministry on Saturday rejected any new negotiations or changes to the participants of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, after French President Emmanuel Macron said any new talks should include Saudi Arabia.  – Reuters

The security of the region is an indivisible one and therefore any further discussion on the Iran nuclear deal must include the opinion of all countries including the Gulf countries, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council told Al Arabiya during a special interview. – Al Arabiya

Iran executed on Saturday an ethnic Baluch militant convicted of killing Revolutionary Guards members, the judiciary’s official website reported, a day after the United Nations urged Iranian authorities to spare his life. – Reuters

The United Nations human rights office on Friday condemned an alleged spree of 28 executions in Iran, including several prisoners from minority groups, and called on Tehran to halt the hanging of an ethnic Baluchi man. – Reuters

Iran has hosted the political leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban during the past week, offering Tehran’s own help as a mediator in peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government that have become stalled in Qatar. – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron said any new negotiations on world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran would be very “strict” and should include Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya television reported on Friday. – Reuters

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Sunday called for the formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan, during talks with a visiting Taliban delegation in Tehran. – Anadolu Agency

Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, warned of “an escalating nuclear crisis” with Iran as the Biden administration seeks to salvage the multinational agreement that President Donald Trump abandoned. – Bloomberg

President Biden is coming under pressure to deliver on his campaign pledge to re-engage with Iran as Tehran pushes a deadline for Washington to lift Trump-era sanctions. – The Hill

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps said Sunday the Islamic Republic no longer needs an agreement with world powers on its nuclear program, dismissing efforts to save an unraveling 2015 deal regulating its activities, according to the semi-official Fars News agency. – Times of Israel

In a January 27, 2021 article titled “Iran Continues to Test Biden’s Limits,” senior Saudi journalist ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rahsed notes that Iran welcomed the Biden administration with a series of provocations – namely the December 20, 2020 rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and with the January 23, 2021 Houthi attack on Riyadh – so as to test the patience of the U.S. and its allies and their willingness to retaliate. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Victoria Coates and Len Khodorkovsky write: Driven by a revolutionary theology, the Islamic Republic’s regime has been metastasizing across the region since its founding in 1979. From funding and arming anti-Israel terrorists, to blowing up Saudi oil facilities, to pirating commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf, Iran is the Middle East’s preeminent menace. Not only is it out of step with the Abraham Accords, Iran is the neighborhood’s chief purveyor of discord. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: While some in the Iranian regime would have us believe that what is important is the “resistance” and need to confront Israel, the real story in Iran is that people want basic things, not another ridiculous foreign conflict. “The main problem of our people today is the issue of livelihood and economy, which unfortunately, the government’s performance in this area has not been appropriate,” said the secretary general of the Islamic Revolutionary Martyrs Association. “There are many criticisms of the government and we even see friends of the government have criticisms, we must see what was the reason for such a problem for the government in the future.” – Jerusalem Post

Michael Knights writes: U.S. officials are right not to overreact to what may have been a probe of Riyadh’s airspace, and the Saudis may have their own reasons to save face and downplay the penetrations. If left unchecked, however, such probes may become bolder, especially if Tehran’s motive is to splinter the U.S.-Saudi and U.S.-Emirati relationships and coerce Washington into providing sanctions relief more quickly. The Biden administration should therefore take appropriate and measured steps in response: – Washington Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran under sanctions has not been able to modernize many parts of its regular army and navy. That means relying on ships and planes that are many decades old. Sometimes Iran even uses old US Boeings, C-130s and other planes from the era of the shah. Sutton points out that Iran still has several smaller 600-ton Fateh-class submarines, but these also don’t seem to be active. Iran’s submarines are not ancient: They were built in the 1990s. However it is unclear what is wrong also with them – and how this setback may harm Iran’s capabilities. – Jerusalem Post


At least five people were killed and scores wounded when a car bomb detonated in the northern Syrian town of Afrin on Saturday, the Turkish defence ministry and local civil defence said. – Reuters

Unidentified aircraft targeted sites belonging to pro-Iranian militias near Al-Bukamal in the Deir Ezzor region of eastern Syria on Saturday night, according to local news source Deir EzZor 24 and Syrian news source Step News Agency. – Jerusalem Post

Airstrikes have targeted an area of “pro-Iranian militia” influence in the vicinity of Al-Bukamal on the Euphrates River in the Deirez-Zor Governorate of eastern Syria near the border with Iraq, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Saturday. – Jerusalem Post

The United States renewed the temporary protected status (TPS) granted to thousands of Syrians stranded in America past their visa expirations on Friday, citing the civil war in their country. – Agence France-Presse

Isabel Ivanescu writes: Fighting between pro-Assad regime forces and local opposition elements in Dera’a Province is at its most intense since Russia brokered reconciliation agreements between the two factions in 2018. […]There has been an inflection in Russian behavior, however; Russia did not intervene to stop the first assault on the town by Iranian-backed forces and threatened to itself carry out airstrikes in the vicinity if locals refused to turn over individuals wanted by the regime. This may represent a Russian belief that Tafas, a hub of anti-Assad activity, will be less likely to capitulate than other towns in which similar events have previously transpired. – Institute for the Study of War

Mason Clark writes: The United States and its allies must prepare to confront an increasingly effective Russian military that is intent on further developing expeditionary capabilities and using them in coalition environments. Russia is still involved in and still learning from the conflict in Syria. […]The Russian military’s learning from Syria is driving Russian modernization efforts; the United States must understand this learning and adaptation to confront the Kremlin effectively. – Institute for the Study of War


Uighurs have traveled to Turkey for decades in search of refuge from political and religious repression, but recent arrests and a proposed extradition treaty with China are making many fear the country is no longer a haven. – Wall Street Journal

A Turkish-Qatari armored vehicles manufacturer has unveiled a hybrid tank that combines the hull of a German Leopard 2A4 with a Turkish-made turret in an effort to win a serial production contract. – Defense News

Two students have been arrested in Turkey on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values for a poster depicting Islam’s most sacred site with LGBT flags. – Associated Press

Sinan Ulgen writes: Under these circumstances, the only way for the Biden administration to reach a proper reset with Turkey is a grand bargain with Mr Erdogan. Failing to secure one carries the real risk of a permanent rift in Turkey’s western orientation and a strategic realignment with Moscow. – Financial Times


A Moroccan delegation is expected to visit Israel by the end of February, and an Israeli one to visit the North-African kingdom – as long as COVID-19 infections rates in Israel do not rise. – Jerusalem Post

The Qatari government on Sunday said it would provide $360 million in assistance for the Gaza Strip during the coming year, renewing a program that has helped reduce fighting between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers. – Associated Press

Iran has been engaged in a years-long effort to infiltrate Israel, set up terror cells within its borders and in the Palestinian territories, and carry out terror atrocities against Israeli civilians and infrastructure, Israeli news site Walla reported on Sunday. – Algemeiner

As tensions between Israel and Iran intensify, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that options are on the table for making sure that the Islamic Republic does not become nuclear. – Jerusalem Post

The Biden administration is not expected to try to push a peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, according to a high-level Israeli government source. – Jerusalem Post

Israel and Kosovo will establish full diplomatic relations on Monday, Kosovo’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Meliza Haradinaj-Stubla, wrote on her official website. – Jerusalem Post

Israel Aerospace Industries signed a sale and lease agreement for two Heron MK II unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems with an unnamed country in Asia, the company announced last week. Each system, including the UAVs, ground systems and sensors for collecting intelligence, costs tens of millions of dollars. – Jerusalem Post

US President Joe Biden had yet to call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as of Sunday, 11 days into his presidency. – Jerusalem Post

An attempted stabbing attack was reported at the Gush Etzion Junction on Sunday morning after a terrorist reportedly ran toward soldiers with a knife and was shot. – Jerusalem Post

Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed his appreciation to the commander of the United States Central Command, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., for Israel’s move to CENTCOM. – Jerusalem Post

Atallah Rayyan, 17 years old, attempted to kill an IDF soldier and stab her at a junction near Ariel on Tuesday. But certain Palestinian media sources claim that he, and not the soldier who shot him in defense, was the victim. – Jerusalem Post

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israel is still keeping open the possibility of taking action against Tehran’s nuclear project if necessary. – Times of Israel

The head of the Mossad intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen, panned as “irresponsible” a speech that IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi delivered last week in which he disparaged the Biden administration’s policy on Iran’s nuclear program, according to reports on Sunday. – Times of Israel

The Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), in the Directorate for Defense R&D of the Israel Ministry of Defense, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems have completed a successful series of flight tests of the Iron Dome weapon system. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) and Navy also participated in the test, which was conducted in a base in central Israel. – Arutz Sheva 

Editorial: Israel must continue to sound the warning about the dangers of Iran under its current regime. Biden, as the leader of the world’s only superpower, needs to recognize these dangers and act against them. But Jerusalem and Washington need to work together on these issues – and make it clear that this is not a matter of politics and personalities, but a priority in making the world a safer place. – Jerusalem Post

Hussein Ibish writes: It is much more probable that the election plan will fizzle out, and that attempts at reconciliation will end in the usual recriminations. Hamas will hunker down in its Gaza redoubt and launch sporadic rockets into Israel, while Abbas tries to restore relations with the U.S., secure more aid and rally international support. Few people on earth need political change more than the Palestinians; even fewer are more hopelessly trapped in their status quo. – Bloomberg

Stephen H. Norwood and Rafael Medoff write: Have you ever heard of BDS activists boycotting Israeli Arabs in general, or Israeli Arab residents of settlements or exempting non-Israeli settlers? We haven’t. The reason is simple: they are targeting Jews. And that makes their actions uncomfortably similar to the behavior of the fascists to whom Andrew Yang referred. – Jewish Journal


American airstrikes in a joint mission with Iraqi forces have killed the top Islamic State leader in Iraq, an attack aimed at stemming the group’s resurgence and exacting retribution for a deadly double-suicide bombing in Baghdad last week. – New York Times

Katherine Lawlor and Nicholas Carl write: Iranian-backed Iraqi militias likely conducted a kamikaze drone attack into Saudi Arabia on January 23, 2021, for the second time in recent years. This attack could indicate a significant change in how the Iranian regime imposes pressure on its adversaries around the Persian Gulf. The potential expansion of Iraqi proxies’ ability and willingness to target foreign states in ostensibly deniable ways and in coordination with other components of the Axis of Resistance would pose a growing security challenge to the US and its regional partners. – Institute for the Study of War

Jonathan Shamir writes: The “Israel in the Iraqi Dialect” page continues with its mission, though, and only seems to be expanding. Yet when you study the latest comments, another trend becomes clear: the despondence and desperation of Iraqis in light of their decades of difficulties. For instance, one Iraqi pondered why, unlike Jordan and Egypt – who share borders with Israel – or the UAE and Bahrain, with their oil wealth and technological capabilities, Israel would want anything to do with a country like Iraq. For Israel’s own sake, he concluded his post, “better for you to stay away.” – Haaretz

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia has been sharply criticized over the decades for school textbooks that preach women’s subservience to men, anti-Semitism and a general enmity toward religions other than Islam. But those textbooks have been slowly scrubbed of much of this objectionable content, with particularly significant revisions made in the fall.  – Washington Post

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Saturday it had destroyed in Yemeni airspace a drone armed with explosives that was launched by the Iran-aligned Houthi group towards the kingdom, Saudi state TV reported. – Reuters

Due to still-rampant coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly significantly shortened next week’s scheduled historic visit to Gulf states that recently established ties with Israel from three days to just three hours. – Times of Israel

Hugh Hewitt writes: Of all the accomplishments of the Trump administration, the one that seemed least likely to fall under President Biden and a Democratic-majority Congress were the Abraham Accords. No longer. With the announcement last week that the new administration will review a sale of a batch of fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, one of the most important diplomatic achievements in the Middle East could be in question. – Washington Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Saudi Arabia has become a testing ground for how a country can create multi-layered and integrated air defense to stop the drones. […]Riyadh, a key ally of the US, may get advice on how best to continue to confront the threats. Evidence shows that it has done a good job downing drones and missiles in recent years. The question is whether the threats will grow as Tehran seeks to target US allies to put pressure on them and Washington, and to test new weapons. – Jerusalem Post

Allison Schwartz writes: In considering the regional balance of power, Congress should understand that being the primary arms provider for the UAE gives the United States substantial influence. […]By backtracking on our commitment to sell advanced fighters and other deterrent weapons, we will do little to stop the regional arms race (the Emiratis will likely buy the same weapon systems from China or Russia), but a great deal to signal open season for Iran to menace its neighbors. – American Enterprise Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Participants at Libya’s U.N.-sponsored peace talks have approved a list of candidates seeking to lead a transitional government that will prepare the North African state for a national election at the end of 2021, the United Nations said. – Reuters

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister and its president on Friday condemned overnight violence in the city of Tripoli, where protesters angry over a strict lockdown clashed with security forces and set the municipality building on fire. – Reuters

Secret Hamas internal elections have become the subject of a growing rift in the party amid calls for greater openness and representation ahead of Palestine’s general elections scheduled for May. – Arab News

Representatives of Palestinian Arab organizations are scheduled to meet in early February in Cairo to discuss the mechanism for holding general elections to the Palestinian parliament, presidency and Palestinian National Council, which is the parliament of the PLO. – Arutz Sheva

Dr. Ali al Nuaimi writes: The United States has always been a model of coexistence. After World War II, the U.S. led the creation of large global institutions like the United Nations to promote cooperation and collective action. And more importantly, the world saw an incredibly diverse American population speak with one voice.  The image reaching the Middle East today, however, is a different one. We see Americans fighting among themselves. We see Americans sacking their own Capitol. We see anti-Semitism on the rise. We see African Americans dying in the streets. – The Hill


China’s Communist Party is amping up efforts to control its image around the world by jailing Chinese citizens, many of them ordinary people with little influence, who use foreign social media to criticize Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his government. – Wall Street Journal

China on Friday accused Britain of turning Hong Kong residents into “second-rate” citizens as the country prepares to welcome tens of thousands of people fleeing Beijing’s crackdown in the Asian financial center. – Washington Post

The World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of COVID-19 during a mission that has been tightly controlled by its Chinese hosts visited a hospital on Saturday in the central city of Wuhan that treated early coronavirus patients. – Reuters

BGI Group, the world’s largest genomics company, has worked with China’s military on research that ranges from mass testing for respiratory pathogens to brain science, a Reuters review of research, patent filings and other documents has found. – Reuters

Thousands of Hong Kongers have already made the sometimes painful decision to leave behind their hometown and move to Britain since Beijing imposed a strict national security law on the Chinese territory last summer. Their numbers are expected to swell to the hundreds of thousands. – Associated Press

After months of Republican concern that Joe Biden would be soft on Beijing, the new US president received unexpected praise from a leading China hawk after less than two weeks in the White House. – Financial Times

The U.S. military said on Friday that Chinese military flights in the past week in the South China Sea fit a pattern of destabilizing and aggressive behavior by Beijing but posed no threat to a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group in the region. – Reuters

The Biden administration will review all national security measures put in place by former President Donald Trump, including the U.S.-China Phase 1 trade deal signed in January 2020, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday. – Reuters

A race between Chinese and U.S. military forces to gain crucial advantages in a potential conflict to control the South China Sea is well underway, and neither side will hide it any longer. – Washington Examiner

The Biden administration will put the trade deal struck with China by Donald Trump “under review” as the broader US relationship with Beijing is assessed, the White House said on Friday. – Financial Times

Nicholas Kristof writes: Dealing with Mitch McConnell will be a piece of cake for President Biden compared with dealing with Xi. Biden’s challenge will be to constrain a Chinese leader who has been oppressive in Hong Kong, genocidal in the Xinjiang region, obdurate on trade, ruthless on human rights and insincere on everything, while still cooperating with China on issues like climate change, fentanyl and North Korea (which many experts expect to resume missile launches this year). Oh, and we don’t have a China strategy. – New York Times

Peter Harris writes: If he makes a serious effort to engage China in this way, Biden will find that it is possible to encourage change from a great power like China but that reforms cannot be imposed from the outside. Beijing must be convinced that cooperation with Washington and the rest of the world is in the Chinese national interest, otherwise it will shun international collaboration. – USA Today

Hal Brands writes: The Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy was surely right about one thing: The challenge of keeping China from establishing its own regional primacy will be hard, given the power Beijing wields and the potential it may still realize. As one administration gives way to another, the U.S. shouldn’t make that challenge harder by confusing the condition it seeks to prevent with the one it seeks to attain. – Bloomberg


Both the Afghan government and its Taliban foes appear to be gearing up for a violent spring amid uncertainty over whether the Biden administration will meet a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan. – New York Times

Taliban attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul are on the rise, with increasing targeted killings of government officials, civil-society leaders and journalists, a report by a U.S. watchdog said Monday. – Associated Press

A member of the Afghan government’s peace negotiating team Sunday warned the Taliban that if they don’t resume peace talks in Qatar soon, the government could recall the team before a deal is reached. – Associated Press

As the Biden administration considers whether it should pull remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in the coming months, some fear for the fate of an American who could be left behind: an abducted contractor believed held by a Taliban-linked militant group. – Associated Press

The Taliban on Friday rejected Washington’s accusations that it had not lived up to its promises in Afghanistan, in turn claiming the US was ‘bombarding civilians’. – Agence France-Presse

International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the insurgent Taliban’s deal with the United States, four senior NATO officials said, a move that could escalate tensions with the Taliban demanding full withdrawal. – Reuters

The Biden administration suspects the Taliban are not honoring the terms of a landmark agreement with the United States, a pact that calls for the withdrawal of all remaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan. – Washington Examiner

Ahmad Shah Katawazai writes: The fragile situation presents a unique opportunity for Afghan and U.S. officials to achieve their goals, but it is important to exert more pressure on the Taliban. The best option will be a conditions-based, step-by-step withdrawal of U.S. troops, with guarantees from the Taliban that they will indeed renounce their ties with al Qaeda, reach an agreement with the Afghan government, and not allow other terrorist groups to operate within Afghanistan. While the agreement is under review, this is the time to address underlying challenges and exert more pressure on the Taliban to get serious about a permanent ceasefire. – The Hill

Daniel F. Runde and Hannah Davin write: The new administration has a key NATO meeting in February that will signal its intentions about how quickly, how many, and under what conditions the remaining U.S. troops will be drawn down. The Trump administration’s erratic and too rapid draw down in the last year weakened the hand of our diplomats and Afghan partners. It also left allies who have lost troops in Afghanistan and shared the burden with us wondering about U.S. reliability.  – Center for Strategic and International Studies

South Asia

A “very low intensity” device exploded Friday near the Israeli Embassy in the Indian capital, but there were no injuries and little damage, police said. – Associated Press

The Israeli embassy in New Delhi was on high alert because of “threats” it had received, even before a small bomb went off outside the mission, its ambassador told AFP on Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

The family of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan in 2001, plans to appeal to Pakistan’s Supreme Court to overturn a decision to free the four men convicted of his murder. – Reuters

A terror organization called Jaish-ul-Hind, believed to be affiliated with Iran, has taken responsibility for Friday’s attack near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, according to Indian media. – Reuters

Israel’s ambassador to India expressed heartfelt thanks to “our friends in India” for their support following Friday’s terror attack on the Israeli embassy in New Delhi. – Algemeiner

Israel’s ambassador to India said Sunday that Iran is a possible suspect in a bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in Delhi last week, which was close enough that it was felt in the mission and could have caused much more damage. – Times of Israel

Israeli spy agency Mossad has become involved in investigating the bomb blast in New Delhi, Kan News reported Saturday, without citing sources. – Times of Israel

A threatening letter warning of follow-up attacks was left for Israel’s ambassador in India, near the site of the bombing attack outside of the Israeli embassy in New Delhi. – Arutz Sheva

Dov S. Zakheim writes: It should follow as a natural consequence of the growth in Indo-American military cooperation that the Biden administration reprises Kennedy’s readiness to support India in the face of Chinese aggression. It should convey to New Delhi that, as in 1962, it would not sit on its hands were India to request assistance in the form of military equipment and supplies. If stated in no uncertain terms, it is a message that certainly will not be lost on Beijing. Nor should it be. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: The present Pearl situation is a matter of justice as much as anything else. Just as ISIS rightly faced severe American retribution for its kidnap, torture, and murder of Americans such as James Foley and Kayla Mueller, so also must al Qaeda, the Taliban, or any other Pakistani-based terrorist group face severe consequences for doing the same to Pearl. To allow Sheikh to run free wouldn’t simply excuse his brutal slaughter. It would play pitch-perfect to Salafi-Jihadist narratives that their enemy (secular America) is weak and that God’s faithful servants (the terrorists) will be rewarded for their service. – Washington Examiner

Arif Rafiq writes: In recent years, cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey has strengthened not just in the defense, diplomatic, and economic realms, but also in the cultural space, causing geopolitical ripple effects in the Himalayas, the Arabian Peninsula, and the South Caucasus. The emerging Pakistan-Turkey entente now has the buy-in of Pakistan’s leading political parties and three military services, as well as the Turkish leadership. – Middle East Institute


The head of Myanmar’s military has taken charge of the country from its civilian-run government, an army-run television station declared, after civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained in a Monday morning raid. The coup marks a major blow to the country’s transition from military rule to democracy, which began about a decade ago. The U.S. and human-rights groups called on the military to adhere to democratic norms. – Wall Street Journal

The military of Myanmar overthrew the country’s fragile democratic government in a coup d’état on Monday, arresting civilian leaders, shutting off the internet and cutting off flights. – New York Times

Transforming a loose network of U.S. allies in the Pacific into something more than an informal security relationship between four Indo-Pacific democracies is a goal for the Biden administration, its new national security advisor said Friday. – USNI News

South Korea’s energy ministry said on Sunday that documents about a potential plan to build a nuclear power plant in North Korea were meant to suggest an “idea” but this has never been pursued as an official project. – Reuters

Bangladesh called for peace and stability in Myanmar after a military coup on Monday, and said it hoped its neighbour make genuine efforts to move forward the stalled process of voluntary repatriation of Rohingya Muslim refugees.  – Reuters

China said on Monday it had “noted” the military coup in Myanmar and hoped that all sides could properly manage their differences under the constitution and uphold stability. – Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he condemned the coup in Myanmar after the military in the Asian country seized power, saying Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders must be freed. – Reuters

The United Nations led condemnation of Myanmar’s military on Monday after it seized power, calling for the release of elected leaders, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. – Reuters

Six Chinese fighter aircraft and a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Sunday, the island’s defence ministry said, in an unusual admission of U.S. military activity. – Reuters

Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua will hold a virtual meeting with the United States next week to discuss supply chains, with semiconductor firms present, her ministry said on Friday, amid a global shortage of chips used by automakers. – Reuters

Russia and Turkey opened a joint centre on Saturday to observe a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh that was agreed following a flare-up in the conflict in the region last year, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said on Saturday. – Reuters

Elbit Systems will supply tracked light tanks and wheeled fire-support vehicles to an army in the Asia-Pacific region under an approximately $172 million deal, the Israeli company announced Tuesday. – Defense News

Editorial: The message is clear: Hong Kong may become a place you can’t escape. So it’s a shame that last month Sen. Ted Cruz blocked legislation that would have made it easier for Hong Kongers to gain refugee or temporary protected status in the U.S. The Biden Administration has a chance to do better by the cause of freedom by following Britain’s excellent example. – Wall Street Journal

Iulia-Sabina Joja writes: With Georgia’s Western path resurfacing on the international agenda, Eastern European countries will be watching to see if the Biden Administration’s foreign policy can make a difference to regional security. – Middle East Institute


The Kremlin responded to a second straight weekend of protests on Sunday with a violent crackdown, arresting thousands in a show of Moscow’s unease at the growing unrest triggered by the treatment of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. – Washington Post

Russia’s prosecutor general said Monday that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny should receive jail time when he faces court after weekend protests that saw an unprecedented 5,000 arrests, including dozens of journalists. – Washington Post

Opinion polls have for a few years been tracking a pivot in the national mood, away from what was called the “Crimea consensus” of wide support for President Vladimir V. Putin for annexing the Ukrainian peninsula. Now, people are focused on their disappointment over slumping wages and pensions. – New York Times

Opposition to President Vladimir V. Putin has long come in many hues — […]Rarely have these disparate groups come together as they have in the last week around Mr. Navalny — because the moment has arrived, more and more Russians say, when they can no longer abide passive acceptance of Mr. Putin. – New York Times

U.S. President Joe Biden called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny during their phone call this week, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday. – Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday condemned Russian authorities for their “harsh” response to protests across the country that called for the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. – Agence France-Presse

Billionaire and Vladimir Putin ally Arkady Rotenberg Saturday said he owns a Black Sea coast property that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says costs over $1.5 billion and belongs to the Russian president. – Agence France-Presse

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed off on legislation extending a key nuclear pact between Russia and the United States by five years, the Kremlin said on Friday. – Agence France-Presse

Rostec announced this week it has begun developing the MiG-41, a fifth-generation fighter jet set to replace Russia’s MiG-31 jets currently in service. However, amid a number of other ongoing military aerospace projects, experts are questioning whether industry has the resources to produce the aircraft by its deadline of 2030. – Defense News

Pro-regime spokespersons and surrogates attempted to denigrate Navalny and dismiss the demonstrations as miniscule and over-reliant upon impressionable minors, who additionally served as human shields to deter an effective police response to the demonstrators. […]Below is MEMRI’s review of the events surrounding Navalny’s arrest. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Editorial: THE BIDEN administration has quickly and appropriately toughened the U.S. response to Russia’s human rights violations. A statement last weekend condemned the suppression of protests in favor of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and called on the regime of Vladimir Putin to “fully cooperate with the international community’s investigation” into Mr. Navalny’s poisoning. That, of course, is unlikely to happen. But the new administration may have a readily available means to advance knowledge of Russia’s poisoning operations and hold its regime accountable. – Washington Post

Vladimir Kara-Murza writes: The regime is trying to regain the upper hand. Predictably, officials accused Western security services of orchestrating the protests, while Putin compared the demonstrations to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying that both were against the law. This sort of whataboutist demagoguery had long been a staple of Soviet propaganda — but drawing a parallel between a violent assault on an elected legislature and peaceful protests by citizens who are denied the right to free elections might be a stretch even by Putin’s standards. – Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes: On Wednesday, Blinken told reporters that Navalny’s voice “is the voice of many, many Russians and it should be heard, not muzzled.” Such expressions of concern are positive but must be combined with action to be effective. The Russian people’s struggle for a government that isn’t run by authoritarian criminals is their fight, not ours. But the least we can do is not allow those criminals go completely unpunished. – Washington Post

Vladimir Ashurkov writes: Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation urges sanctioning just 35 individuals. Freezing their assets and barring them from entering the U.S. would be a powerful way to force change. […]The West must speak loudly and make it clear that the failure to release Navalny and to change course will be met with immediate and painful sanctions on the pillars of the Putin regime. – USA Today

Andreas Kluth writes: In a gesture of global protest against this insanity, 86 non-nuclear countries have signed a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with a goal of totally banning these satanic arms. […]They must put their daunting other differences aside and begin comprehensive talks to prevent the worst. And the best placed to extend the invitation is the leader who’s newest in office, and yet has the most experience with disarmament: Biden. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: Even if Labour’s former leader was a Putin dream, the Conservative Party has acted as a laundry machine for illicit Russian finances. Russia’s SVR intelligence service has facilitated these efforts, gaining quite extraordinary access to the literal centers of British political power. This has to change, and now’s the time for Biden to push that change forward. – Washington Examiner


The British government expects hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents to follow in Ms. Yeung’s footsteps. In an unusual move that is exacerbating tensions with Beijing, Britain has opened its doors to as many as five million residents of its former colony. – Wall Street Journal

French President Emmanuel Macron called for international regulation to curb the spread of ideological extremism in Western democracies, chiding tech companies and political correctness for allowing it to flourish. – Wall Street Journal

But now, as the Biden administration settles in, some close allies of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are opening up about one of the longest-running dramas from the Trump era — the blitz of meetings, messages and public statements in Ukraine by former president Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani. – Washington Post

Britain will formally apply Monday to join the Pacific free trade area not long after quitting the European Union’s single market. – Agence France-Presse

David Frost’s appointment as Brexit and international policy representative to the U.K. government proves that, contrary to what Boris Johnson has said, Brexit is not done and dusted. – Politico

Queen Elizabeth will host new U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders at Buckingham Palace before a summit of the G7 big economies in June, the Sunday Times newspaper reported. – Reuters

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has nominated Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya for the Nobel Peace Prize, two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Saturday. – Reuters

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin welcomed a decision by the European Union executive not to invoke the safeguard clause in the Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, having earlier expressed his concern to Brussels over initial plans to do so. – Reuters

The United States’ Committee for the Preservation of Heritage Abroad, led by Chairman Paul Packer, has condemned comments made by Lithuanian Seimas member Valdas Rakutis, after he claimed that Jews had a hand in the perpetration of the Holocaust. – Jerusalem Post

Sorin Ioniță writes: We have enough mavericks in Europe—politicians who admire authoritarianism or influencers with anti-Western inclinations—who are ready to collect internet memes about the superiority of the Chinese model and build their own narratives. Comparative ignorance among Europeans about Chinese realities makes their task all the easier. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Militants stormed a major hotel in the capital of Somalia on Sunday evening, the authorities said, raising fears of growing violence in the Horn of Africa nation as it faces a bitterly contested election season and the withdrawal of American troops. – New York Times

At least one of the more than 100 young women still missing after their abduction by Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the Nigerian town of Chibok almost seven years ago managed to escape her captors this week, according to family members and local officials. – Wall Street Journal

More than 200,000 people have fled fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) since violence erupted over a December election result, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday, with nearly half crossing into the Democratic Republic of Congo. – Reuters

The former ruling party in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray is committed to “extended resistance”, according to an audio message purporting to be from its leader, who accused federal government forces and their allies of rape and looting. – Reuters

Latin America

With Argentina broke, Finance Minister Martín Guzmán is pushing for a deal by May with the International Monetary Fund to repay $44 billion in debt. To win the IMF’s acquiescence, he’ll narrow a yawning budget gap, he said in an interview on Friday. – Wall Street Journal

Newly filed lobbying records show Venezuela’s socialist government previously hired a longtime Democratic Party donor for $6 million at the same time it was lobbying to discourage the U.S. from imposing sanctions on the oil-rich nation. – Associated Press

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has temporarily suspended its operations in El Salvador after one of its teams came under attack from an armed gang, the medical NGO said on Sunday. – Reuters

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Sharp criticism from the international financial community seems to have given AMLO second thoughts. He knows that if Mexico is marked a money launderer, the peso will hit the skids, and so will his presidency. His finance minister now says the government is working on an alternative idea for migrant cash transactions. If he and Morena back off, it will be a small but important victory. Preserving Banxico’s autonomy may not be a sufficient condition to save Mexican pluralism from the Venezuelan fate, but it is a necessary one. – Wall Street Journal

Patrick Oppmann writes: Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden, has promised to engage with Cuba, potentially breathing new life into one of Obama’s major foreign policy achievements. But it’s not clear how high Cuba is on his list of priorities — while his wife, Jill Biden, showed a personal interest by traveling in Cuba during the Obama opening, visiting schools and attending a US-Cuba soccer game, Joe Biden never did. – CNN

United States

Former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and his deputy, Avi Berkowitz, were nominated by a friendly attorney on Sunday for the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in negotiating four normalization deals between Israel and Arab nations known as the “Abraham Accords.” – Reuters

Editorial: The hot spots are many and varied. And it shouldn’t take a terror attack, genocide, or the outbreak of a deadly disease for an administration to focus its attention on Africa or the Middle East. […]This may not be the American Century, but American respect for the rule of law still has value on the world stage. So too do American strength and resolve and consistency. Joe Biden’s most powerful international weapon may well be his basic decency — that alone should win back this nation’s “seat at the table.” – Boston Globe

Brian Michael Jenkins writes: We must be realistic in our expectations. It took more than a decade to shut down the terrorist groups of the 1970s and decades to break up the Ku Klux Klan. The threat posed by homegrown jihadists is still ongoing after 20 years. The domestic extremists now threatening the peace are the latest incarnation of beliefs and quarrels reaching back to the 19th century. They may be contained, but never entirely rooted out. – The Hill


A national-security panel on the hunt for Chinese involvement in U.S. technology companies is scrutinizing startup investments that are months or even years old. – Wall Street Journal

Three China hardliners in the Senate are calling on President Joe Biden’s Commerce Department nominee to clarify if she would remove China’s telecoms equipment giant Huawei Technologies Ltd from a trade blacklist under any circumstances. – Reuters

Until recently, even the most secretive material — about wiretaps, witnesses and national security concerns – could be filed electronically. But that changed after the massive Russian hacking campaign that breached the U.S. court system’s electronic case files and those of scores of other federal agencies and private companies. – Associated Press

A group of House and Senate Democrats led by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) this week grilled the National Security Agency (NSA) on a years-old breach of a company that potentially compromised the federal government in a similar way to the recently uncovered breach of IT group SolarWinds. – The Hill

A newly established State Department bureau focused on cybersecurity and emerging technologies could give the Biden administration a launch pad for strengthening ties with allies after a massive Russian hack on the federal government.  – The Hill

When hackers break through the Pentagon’s cyber defenses, it’s the job of elite threat-hunting teams to find intruders or damage. – C4ISRNET

Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker, has sued the US government over a move by Donald Trump in his last week as president to place the company on a Pentagon blacklist that bars Americans from investing in it. – Financial Times

James Andrew Lewis writes: The internet and the digital technologies that create cyberspace are transforming society, business, and politics as people respond to new opportunities online and change their behavior accordingly. These effects are reshaping politics and are the result of the nature of the online environment itself, where the combination of technology, information, and instinctive mental processes can unconsciously reshape how people think. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


A Maine company that’s developing a rocket to propel small satellites into space passed its first major test on Sunday. – Associated Press

The U.S. Army is heading into a culminating event used to evaluate four different unmanned aircraft systems capable of replacing the service’s current tactical UAS — the Textron-made Shadow. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is evaluating Israeli defense company Rafael’s shoulder-launched, short-range version of its Spike missile and demonstrated the capability at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment 2021 earlier this month, according to a company statement. – Defense News

The Department of Defense will reassess its cloud-computing options if a federal court does not dismiss allegations of improper influence in the contract process for the project worth billions, a new DoD memo said. – C4ISRNET

DoD’s plans for a new network of low-cost missile tracking satellites is now taking shape under the direction of the Space Development Agency. And key to that network will be space-based laser communications capability linking those myriad satellites together. – Breaking Defense

The great sniper rifle replacement across the Army, Marine Corps and SOCOM has begun with the newest sniper rifle and it’s the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design rifle chambered in three calibers. – Army Times

Letitia A. Long and Larry Hanauer write: If the community is to understand foreign cultures and bring varied perspectives to its assessments, it must build a workforce that reflects the nation it serves. These challenges are complex and cannot be solved with the stroke of a pen. But empowered by the confidence of the president, bipartisan congressional support and four years (if not more) to take action, Haines is well positioned to make the intelligence community more capable, more diverse and better prepared to address the most pressing threats to the nation’s security. – The Hill

Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins writes: Our service members are our No. 1 weapon system. We must, as a nation, come to terms with what it costs to have a dominant defense capability. Continued fiscal maneuvers such as the ones noted here will impact retention — and the word will get out to those who are considering military service. – The Hill

Harlan Ullman writes: Make no mistake: Former General Lloyd Austin faces monumental challenges and formidable obstacles at the Pentagon. Strategy, budget and culture are among the most daunting. That Austin is also the 11th secretary of defense in as many years  (seven confirmed and four acting) is not only an unacceptable turnover in civilian leadership, it has led to greater military influence to keep the department running and an erosion of civilian control. – The Hill

Steve Cohen writes: The problem is not just China’s emergence as a maritime power; it is our own seemingly apathetic willingness to cede dominance at sea. Although the past two administrations have agreed that the Navy needs a minimum number of 355 ships to meet its assigned roles, we have taken too few steps to appropriate the necessary funds to expand the fleet or identify what its composition ought to be. The current plan is too small, too slow, too fearful of making more mistakes in the acquisition process. – The Hill

Bill Mulholland writes: History shows that the probability of lower-intensity conflicts is significantly greater than a high-intensity conflict. As such, the air wing needs a complement of Day 1 operations that the F-35C can provide and the greater strike capability of the Super Hornet. – Defense News

Mark F. Cancian writes: Great power competition has returned after a generation of absence, and the U.S. military edge over prospective opponents is eroding. Whereas the United States previously could overwhelm adversaries with sheer force, if necessary, it now needs every advantage it can get. This study analyzes how the United States might inflict surprise on its adversaries to gain a strategic advantage. – Center for Strategic and International Studies