Fdd's overnight brief

February 16, 2021

In The News


When Ethiopia’s intelligence agency recently uncovered a cell of 15 people it said were casing the embassy of the United Arab Emirates, along with a cache of weapons and explosives, it claimed to have foiled a major attack with the potential to sow havoc in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. […]Now American and Israeli officials say the operation was the work of Iran, whose intelligence service activated a sleeper cell in Addis Ababa last fall with orders to gather intelligence also on the embassies of the United States and Israel. – New York Times

Iran said on Monday it will block snap inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog from next week if other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal do not uphold their obligations, a challenge to U.S. President Joe Biden’s hope of reviving the accord. – Reuters

Iran has informed the U.N. nuclear watchdog about its plan to end sweeping inspection powers given to the agency under the 2015 nuclear deal, its envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote on Twitter on Monday. – Reuters

Iran said on Monday that a U.S. move this month to seize a cargo of oil on the grounds that it came from Tehran was an act of piracy, adding that the shipment did not belong to the Iranian government. – Reuters

At least 60 people were injured as hundreds of fuel vehicles exploded in a massive blaze that tore through a customs post in Afghanistan close to the Iranian border, disrupting power supplies and causing millions of dollars of damage. – Reuters

Turkey has arrested an Iranian official suspected of instigating the killing of an Iranian dissident in Istanbul 15 months ago, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday. – Reuters

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards conducted an overnight ground forces drill near the Iraqi border in the southwest of the country, state television reported on Friday. – Reuters

Iran’s army test fired a sophisticated short-range missile on Sunday, state media reported. – Associated Press

Former crown prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late shah of Iran, warned that the Biden administration’s intent to rejoin the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran is a mistake and that the deal was based on the misconception that the current regime would change its ways. – Jerusalem Post

Iran’s prolonged economic recession and increasing regional isolation as its Islamist rulers mark 42 years in power is largely a result of those rulers maintaining ideological adherence to their 1979 revolution through a discordant power structure, according to some Iranian analysts. – Voice of America

Iran insisted Monday that its opposition to nuclear weapons was official policy as laid down by its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the wake of recent remarks by a minister saying it might seek the bomb if cornered. – Times of Israel

Lawrence J. Haas writes: Nevertheless, Iran’s nuclear progress of recent weeks — combined with the emerging political dynamics in and between Washington, Tehran, Jerusalem, and Europe — could leave the issue where it has lingered for years: with Tehran working both out front and clandestinely to build the architecture of a nuclear weapons program, and Washington and its allies desperate to find a peaceful way to stop it. […]In the end, the question is whether the parties involved can sidestep their political constraints and make progress on a thorny issue that has plagued the region and wider world for all too many years. – The Hill

James Phillips and Nicole Robinson write: Although Shia Iran and Sunni al-Qaeda have conflicting ideologies and sectarian agendas, they have many enemies in common, including the United States, Israel, and many Arab states. By covertly protecting and enabling al-Qaeda, Tehran has helped to preserve its enemies’ enemy and further destabilized the Middle East. The limited but lethal coordination between the two allows both Iran and al-Qaeda to expand their threats to the U.S. and its allies. – Heritage Foundation


With the regime of President Bashar al-Assad emerging largely victorious from nearly a decade of conflict, efforts to bring about some measure of accountability are gaining speed, largely in European courts. – Wall Street Journal

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was widely criticized by the United Nations and Western leaders three years ago when he ordered Turkish troops across the Syrian border into Afrin, an action seen as opportunistic and destabilizing at the time. – New York Times

Once synonymous with combat fatigues and weapons, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani has undergone an image change, with the Syrian jihadi this month photographed wearing a western-style business suit. – Financial Times

Israel fired several missiles early on Monday targeting areas near the Syrian capital, Damascus, Syria’s state news agency reported. An opposition war-monitoring group said the strikes killed nine Iran-backed fighters. – Associated Press


Simmering hostility between Turkey’s government and the Biden administration burst into the open Monday when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States of supporting Kurdish militants and his Foreign Ministry summoned the American ambassador. – Washington Post

Turks reacted with shock and anger Monday to the news that Kurdish guerrillas had executed 13 Turkish soldiers and police officers held captive in a cave in the mountains of northern Iraq. – New York Times

Turkish police detained more than 700 people, including members of a pro-Kurdish political party, in operations against the PKK militia following the killing of 13 Turkish captives in northern Iraq, the Interior Ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

A Turkish court handed jail sentences on Monday to four employees of a now-defunct pro-Kurdish newspaper on terrorism charges, a lawyer in the case said, describing the verdict as politically motivated. – Reuters

Fifteen Turkish sailors kidnapped by pirates last month in the Gulf of Guinea arrived back in Turkey on Sunday and the ship’s captain described how they faced death threats and were held in a forest during their three-week ordeal. – Reuters

If Turkey’s hostile relationship with some Gulf countries is beginning to thaw, the new dynamics could bring a boost in defense and aerospace exports, particularly to Saudi and Emirati markets, Turkish officials and industry sources told Defense News. – Defense News


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday acknowledged differences with U.S. President Joe Biden over Iranian and Palestinian issues, but said they enjoy a “very strong” working relationship. – Reuters

Israel has cancelled plans to participate in a major defence expo in the United Arab Emirates next week due to COVID-19 curbs on air travel, Israeli officials said on Monday. – Reuters

Israel’s air force began a “surprise exercise” to improve combat readiness along the country’s northern border, the military said on Monday. – Reuters

The White House on Friday denied that U.S. President Joe Biden was intentionally snubbing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by failing to include him so far in an early round of phone calls to foreign leaders since taking office on Jan. 20. – Reuters

Israel held out the possibility on Tuesday it would not engage with U.S. President Joe Biden on strategy regarding the Iranian nuclear programme if he returns to a 2015 deal with Tehran. – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not troubled that U.S. President Joe Biden has not phoned him yet, Israel’s ambassador to Washington said on Saturday, seeking to play down the lack of direct contact so far. – Reuters

The Palestinian Authority said Monday that Israel was preventing it from sending coronavirus vaccines to the Gaza Strip that are intended for frontline medical workers in the territory controlled by the Islamic militant group Hamas. – Associated Press

Israel seized over $120,000 and goods worth hundreds of thousands of shekels last month in what it says was an effort by the Palestinian terror group Hamas to transfer funds from Turkey to its operatives in the West Bank, the Defense Ministry said Monday. – Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority’s minister of justice went on an antisemitic rant comparing the International Criminal Court’s recent ruling confirming its jurisdiction to investigate Israel for possible war crimes to the Nuremburg trials of Nazi officials. – Algemeiner

The ongoing Israel-US military exercise known as Juniper Falcon is seeing the two countries simulate and train for a number of scenarios in which Israel faces unprecedented missile attacks from Gaza, Lebanon, and even Syria and Iran. – Algemeiner

The Biden administration accused Israel of violating the freedoms of the air and creating a crisis with the new administration following the Israeli border closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, N12 reported. – Jerusalem Post

The International Criminal Court released a fact sheet Monday on the recent decision that it has jurisdiction to investigate Israel and the Palestinians for alleged war crimes, rejecting the claim by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the decision proved that the court was politicly motivated. – Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday vowed opposition to those who oppose his hawkish stance toward Iran, as he downplayed not receiving a phone call from Joe Biden since the new US president took office last month. – Times of Israel

Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Emadi, said Sunday that an agreement has been signed to deliver natural gas from Israel to the Gaza Strip’s power station. – Haaretz

Vivian Bercovici writes: Truth is, for the last four years Israel had become accustomed to being treated as a constant priority in the Oval Office, with the formidable and combined muscle of Ambassadors Friedman and Dermer, Jared Kushner brought to bear, combined with Trump’s reported lack of discipline in his approach to, well, everything. If there is a message in the non-phone call phone call, it is likely far less dramatic than some may be thinking, and more like: “You’re important, Israel, but perhaps not always the most important. Let’s hope so. – Commentary Magazine

Arabian Peninsula

Five months after the two nations signed the historic Abraham Accords to normalize relations, the United Arab Emirates on Sunday night swore in its first ambassador to Israel late Sunday. – Ynet

Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that it plans to stop signing contracts with foreign companies that don’t have their Mideast headquarters in the kingdom, state-run media reported, a bold move that could escalate business competition in the region. – Associated Press

Under a new US glare, Saudi Arabia is rushing to release some political prisoners and make up with regional rivals, attempting to clean up its act as it braces for a policy reset in Washington. – Agence France-Presse

Haena Jo writes: Despite the ongoing dependencies on defense imports, the UAE’s focused investment on R&D is expected to accelerate the country’s transformation as a formidable defense supplier. Furthermore, continued partnership and technology transfers will support the UAE in its attempts to broaden its range of customers. – Defense News


Houthi rebels in Yemen will be stripped of a U.S. terrorist designation next week, the State Department said on Friday, despite a recent surge of violence that officials said may have been carried out with Iran’s help. – New York Times

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said on Monday it had struck Saudi Arabia’s Abha and Jeddah airports with drones. – Reuters

America’s recent freeze on the sale of approved munitions to Saudi Arabia, along with a new policy curtailing U.S. involvement in the conflict in Yemen, is setting up an early test of the relationship between Riyadh and President Joe Biden. – Defense News

Heavy fighting between forces of Yemen’s internationally recognized government and Houthi rebels raged again on Sunday, extending a week of violence in the strategic province of Marib, Yemeni officials said. With dozens killed, the fighting has cast major doubt over U.N.-led efforts to restart negotiations to end years of civil war. – Associated Press

The United States announced Friday it is revoking the designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist group effective Feb. 16, a reversal by the Biden administration welcomed by the United Nations and humanitarian groups who feared former president Donald Trump’s actions would impede aid deliveries to the conflict-torn country facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. – Associated Press

Middle East & North Africa

A rocket attack on the U.S.-led coalition in northern Iraq on Sunday killed a contractor and injured a U.S. service member and five other contractors, the U.S. military said. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States is “outraged” by a rocket attack on Monday in the Iraqi Kurdistan region that reportedly killed a civilian contractor and injured several others, including a U.S. service member and several American contractors. – Reuters

Lebanese Prime Minister designate Saad al-Hariri on Sunday said that his country could not be rescued from its current crisis without the support of Arab countries and the international community. – Reuters

Iraqi and Syrian forces still depend on foreign air support, even though the U.S.-led coalition has largely shifted away from hands-on training to advising remotely out of a few consolidated bases, according to an inspector general report on the anti-Islamic State mission released Tuesday. – Air Force Times

Bret Stephens writes: If the first lesson of the Arab Spring is that revolutions fail, the second is that repression ultimately makes revolution more likely and more deadly. The lesson for the Biden administration is to push our partners toward reform before a second spring returns to further extend the chaos. – New York Times

Korean Peninsula

North Korea tried to hack into the servers of U.S. drugmaker Pfizer to steal coronavirus vaccine technology, South Korean intelligence officials reported Tuesday, despite leader Kim Jong Un’s professed view that his isolated dictatorship is untouched by the pandemic. – Washington Post

South Korea’s military said on Tuesday it had captured a North Korean man who crossed the heavily fortified border between the two countries and was investigating whether he tried to defect. – Reuters

North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs are an urgent priority for the United States and Washington remains committed to denuclearization of the country, the U.S. State Department said on Friday. – Reuters


A group of mostly Western countries led by Canada have formed a coalition against the detention of foreign nationals for diplomatic leverage, taking aim at a practice that diplomats say has been used by Beijing and Tehran. – Wall Street Journal

President Joe Biden’s plan to halt U.S. funding for overseas fossil fuel projects will turn the global spotlight on China for bankrolling coal projects around the globe. – Politico

From Beijing and Washington to Moscow and Tehran, political leaders and allied media effectively functioned as superspreaders, using their stature to amplify politically expedient conspiracies already in circulation. But it was China — not Russia – that took the lead in spreading foreign disinformation about COVID-19’s origins, as it came under attack for its early handling of the outbreak. – Associated Press

The European Union on Saturday called on China to reverse its ban on the BBC World News television channel imposed in apparent retaliation for Britain’s pulling of the license of state-owned Chinese broadcaster CGTN. – Associated Press

The Chinese government ripped into U.S. officials on Sunday after the White House suggested Beijing was dishonest in reporting coronavirus data to international public health officials. – The Hill

China on Friday offered an optimistic – almost rosy – assessment of a call this week between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden as the new American leader works to determine how aggressive an approach to take with his country’s principal rival. – U.S. News & World Report

China has been waging a sprawling COVID-19 disinformation campaign through news and social media aimed at advancing a conspiracy theory that the US created and released the contagion as a bioweapon, according to a new investigation. – New York Post

China is exploring whether it can hurt U.S. defense contractors by limiting supplies of rare-earth minerals that are critical to the industry, the Financial Times reported. – Bloomberg

Editorial: For Beijing, the overriding purpose of hosting the Olympics in 2022 — as it was for the Summer Games in 2008 — is to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the world. That legitimacy would implicitly extend to their brutal campaign against the Uighurs unless explicitly countered. If they do indeed participate, the United States and others must do so while making it clear that they in no way approve or tolerate China’s human rights abuses. – Washington Post

Jianli Yang writes: The U.S. sanctions for which China vilified the former Trump administration officials are not merely an invention of that administration.[…]In this context, Chinese sanctions against the outgoing U.S. officials seem to be inspired less by policy needs and more by an effort to corral and — as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, put it — “silence and intimidate officials who had exposed abuses” by China. – The Hill

Tim Morrison writes: There is a clear bipartisan consensus for a whole-of-government effort to contest the multifaceted CCP campaign to undermine our democracy and steal our innovations. […]Every nominee to come before the Senate must understand that role and the stakes involved in the contest against the CCP. The Senate must exercise its constitutional role to ensure that President Biden’s nominees understand and appreciate this threat. One thing we can all agree on: There’s no advice and consent in China. – National Review


The Taliban have been encroaching on key cities around Afghanistan for months, threatening to drive the country to its breaking point and push the Biden administration into a no-win situation just as the United States’ longest war is supposed to be coming to an end. – New York Times

A fuel tanker exploded Saturday afternoon at a crowded border post in western Afghanistan, setting off an enormous fire that spread to more than 100 other tankers as intense flames slowed the response of firefighters and rescue vehicles, Afghan officials reported. – New York Times

Taliban militants in Afghanistan must do more to meet the terms of a 2020 peace agreement with the United States to allow for any possible foreign troop withdrawal by a May deadline, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday. – Reuters

The United Nations on Monday denounced attacks on Afghan journalists and human rights activists at a time when dialogue was needed more than ever amid talks to try to end two decades of war. – Reuters

At least four Afghan security force members, including a commander, were killed and seven were critically injured in blasts in eastern and southern provinces on Saturday, officials said, adding that three civilians were injured in the east. – Reuters

After 20 years of military engagement and billions of dollars spent, NATO and the United States still grapple with the same, seemingly intractable conundrum — how to withdraw troops from Afghanistan without abandoning the country to even more mayhem. – Associated Press

The Taliban on Saturday warned NATO against seeking a “continuation of war,” as the alliance weighs a planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. – Agence France-Presse

NATO defense ministers on Thursday will consider setting aside a May 1 deadline for international troops to leave Afghanistan, the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. – Politico


Some 30 years on from the war that saw Armenian forces drive hundreds of thousands of Azeris from their homes in and around the conflict-torn enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, many hope they can soon return after Azerbaijan regained much of the surrounding area in a counteroffensive last fall. – Wall Street Journal

France will keep supporting the people of Myanmar in their struggle for democracy, a spokeswoman for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday. – Reuters

A court in Bangladesh sentenced to death five members of an Islamist militant group on Tuesday for killing a U.S. blogger critical of religious extremism six years ago. – Reuters

Protesters opposed to Myanmar’s military coup blocked train services between Yangon and a southern city on Tuesday, hours after a U.N. envoy warned the army of “severe consequences” for any harsh response to the pro-democracy demonstrations. – Reuters

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday accused Australia of abdicating its responsibilities by “unilaterally” cancelling the citizenship of a woman detained in Turkey and accused of having links to the Islamic State. – Reuters

The United States is providing the Philippines with military aid that amounts to “loose change” compared to other Asian countries, a top government spokesman said on Monday, supporting demands by President Rodrigo Duterte for Washington to pay more. – Reuters

The U.S embassy in Myanmar urged its citizens to “shelter-in-place” on Sunday, citing reports of military movements in the commercial capital Yangon, after armored vehicles were sighted there for the first time since the Feb. 1 military coup. – Reuters

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who first seized power in a coup, said on Wednesday he had received a letter from Myanmar’s new junta leader asking for help to support democracy. – Reuters

Thousands of mostly silent demonstrators paraded through central Tokyo on Sunday in protest against the coup in Myanmar, many carrying photos of detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi in what organisers said was the largest such march in Japan to date. – Reuters

Singapore’s foreign minister on Tuesday spoke out about “alarming developments” in Myanmar but said he did not support widespread sanctions on the country in response to a coup there, which could hurt ordinary citizens. – Reuters

Myanmar’s generals imposed a second straight overnight internet shutdown into Tuesday, ignoring international condemnation as they worked to grind down a popular uprising against their coup. – Agence France-Presse

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration wants considerably more military aid from the United States in exchange for not abrogating a key security pact with Washington, his spokesman said Monday, rejecting criticism that the blunt demand resembled extortion. – Associated Press

Myanmar’s new ruling junta is releasing tens of thousands of prisoners Friday as angry protests against the military coup continue for the seventh straight day. – CNN

Janusz Bugajski writes: In his first major foreign policy address, President Biden called for a restoration of America’s alliances and greater U.S. diplomatic engagement.[…] A good place for the president to demonstrate his new approach would be with Georgia, a linchpin in the strategic Black Sea region. Georgia was the first victim of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on the national independence and democratic development of neighboring states, and Moscow’s aggression against this close U.S. ally continues to this day. – The Hill

Michael Green and Evan Medeiros write: To demonstrate its seriousness, the United States needs to make big moves in Asia—moves that will shape the regional environment around China and loudly signal the return of U.S. capability, activism, and creativity. Past administrations have tried to begin their Asia policies by building “positive, cooperative, and constructive” relationships with China. […] Instead, the United States must focus on building up a new position of strength and advantage in the surrounding region—taking bold moves now and turning to Shultz’s gardening to sustain them over the long term. – Foreign Affairs


Russia’s opposition has gone into what it calls a strategic pause. The decision came after more than 10,000 people were detained in back-to-back weekends of mass street protests throughout the country demanding the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. – Washington Post

A criminal libel trial alleging Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny defamed a World War II veteran was adjourned Friday after more than 10 hours of testimony in what Navalny has called a trumped-up attempt by the Kremlin to further smear him. – Washington Post

Russia and the United States are in talks on a possible prisoner swap that could secure the release of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine jailed for spying, within two to three months, his lawyer told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday blamed the European Union for its deteriorating relations with Russia and accused the bloc of systematically destroying mechanisms for cooperation. – Reuters

Editorial: The Biden administration has pledged to push back against Mr. Putin’s aggressions, unlike the curiously passive Mr. Trump. In this case, one option would be to threaten the reciprocal closure of Russian government broadcasters in the United States, such as Sputnik and RT. At a minimum, the State Department should pursue sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against Russian officials involved in the campaign against U.S media. – Washington Post

Eli Lake writes: All of this is to say that Biden has many options for making good on his promise of a tough Russia policy. By avoiding an arms-control negotiation with Moscow, the president has also removed a powerful temptation to weaken those policies. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: Biden should have learned from President Barack Obama’s weak response to Russia’s 2016 election interference campaign. Putin doesn’t respond to rhetorical threats.[…] He should immediately introduce unilateral U.S. sanctions on Putin’s top oligarch enablers, including those based in Britain. He should then make clear to Putin that if he keeps doing what he’s now doing in Ukraine, the Russian energy export sector, including Nord Stream II (which should be dead, anyway), is going to get slammed with new sanctions. And Biden should act quickly. – Washington Examiner


Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, has been named Italian prime minister after persuading nearly all of the country’s squabbling parties to support his government, raising hopes that he can succeed where many others have failed: in leading Italy out of its deep economic malaise. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, expressing her commitment to strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries, her office said in a statement. – Reuters

Parties to the International Criminal Court on Friday elected Britain’s Karim Khan as the new prosecutor for a nine-year term starting on June 16. – Reuters

Germany’s Foreign Ministry on Friday described as “disconcerting” comments from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Moscow was ready to sever ties with the European Union if the bloc hits it with new economic sanctions. – Reuters

After a landslide win in Kosovo’s parliamentary elections, left-wing reformist Albin Kurti told AFP Monday he wants to reframe talks with Serbia to put the two sides on equal footing. – Agence France-Presse

Germany wants to make a deal with the U.S. in order to complete the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas project that has caused friction between the two countries. – Bloomberg

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney has called for “pragmatism and flexibility” in implementing the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol, saying rising tension over the arrangement has polarised politics there. – Financial Times

China and Russia should be barred from investing in the UK defence supply chain, MPs have warned, as pressure mounts for the government to take a more assertive stance on potential threats posed by Beijing and Moscow in the forthcoming defence and foreign policy review. – Financial Times

Brussels is set to allow data to continue to flow freely from the EU to the UK after concluding that the British had ensured an adequate level of protection for personal information. – Financial Times

The year is only six weeks old, but 2021 is already revealing the European Union’s inherent limitations. While the EU is no stranger to crises, the past few weeks have thrown up issues that highlight the chasm between the grand ambition of Brussels and its capability. – CNN

The administration of US President Joe Biden has appealed a British judge’s ruling against the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a Justice Department official said Friday. – Agence France-Presse

Tony Barber writes: In short, the argument that a close economic and energy relationship with Russia brings dividends in European security appears shaky, at least in the Putin era. The question German politicians should ask themselves is not how big their country’s moral debt to Russia is, but whether Nord Stream 2 and other bridges to Russia are achieving any worthwhile results. – Financial Times


The WTO’s 164 members unanimously backed former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an economist who also rose to the top ranks of the World Bank a decade ago, as director-general. – Wall Street Journal

Suspected Islamists killed three soldiers and 13 civilians and burnt down a church in a raid on a village in Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeastern Ituri province, the army and a rights group said on Monday. – Reuters

Ethiopian forces crossed into Sudanese territory in an act of “aggression”, Sudan’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, marking the latest flare-up in a long-standing border dispute. – Reuters

Chad will deploy some 1,000 troops to the tri-border region of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali to reinforce national armies that, backed by French and European allies, are battling Islamist insurgents, according to French and Chadian sources. – Reuters

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and France are holding talks on the future of their campaign against insurgencies raging in the Sahel, which according to the UN have killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million. – Agence France-Presse

Three people were killed and eight wounded after the Al-Shabaab Islamist group detonated a car bomb near a security checkpoint in the Somali capital Mogadishu Saturday, a security official and witnesses said. – Agence France-Presse

One of the 28 U.N. peacekeepers wounded in an attack on a temporary United Nations base in central Mali has died from his injuries, the United Nations announced Friday. – Associated Press

French and West African heads of state began a two-day summit Monday on the fight against Islamic extremists in Africa’s Sahel region, as France considered a gradual reduction of its troops in the area. – Associated Press

West African countries are considering opening talks with jihadis in the region, as a nearly decade-long battle against extremism in the Sahel shows no sign of ending and France’s president Emmanuel Macron signals that he may cut support. – Financial Times

Michael Rubin writes: On November 9, 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan hotelier, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[…] At his Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony, Bush continued to quote Rusesabagina. “I’m not a hero. I’m simply a man who made a decision to hold on to my family, my life, and my beliefs until the end,” the president quoted the former hotel manager. Unfortunately for Rwanda, the beliefs Rusesabagina has sought to hold to the very end are moral equivalency, genocide denial, megalomania, and support for terror. – The National Interest

The Americas

President Biden will participate in a virtual meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations on Friday, the White House said, joining a forum for leaders of member countries to discuss plans to defeat the coronavirus pandemic as death counts rise and the global economy remains sluggish. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden had managed to assemble his foreign policy team with remarkably little trouble — until last week. His picks to lead the State and Defense Departments, and to fill senior intelligence posts, drew little controversy and almost no Republican opposition. – New York Times

A top Cuban official said on Thursday that declassified U.S. documents pointing out deficiencies in the response to health issues reported by American diplomats on the island show some of the falsehoods the Trump administration used to impose measures against Cuba. – Associated Press

A U.N. envoy on Friday said U.S. and E.U. sanctions on Venezuela were worsening a humanitarian crisis and recommended the United States relax the measures, an argument the country’s opposition labeled “regime propaganda.” – Reuters

A federal appeals court on Friday ruled that Arkansas’ law requiring state contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel is unconstitutional. – Associated Press

Walter Russell Mead writes: With the U.S. trade representative’s recent announcement that Trump-era retaliatory tariffs on European wine, cheese and food imports aren’t going away soon, this has been one of the shortest and coldest diplomatic honeymoons on record.[…]The Biden administration sees a renewed American commitment to multilateralism as a way to sign allies up to an ambitious U.S.-led agenda. But many allies, even close and deeply democratic ones, embrace multilateralism as a way to limit America’s ability to press policies on them that they don’t like. Interesting times lie ahead. – Wall Street Journal

Daniel H. Nexon writes: The United States must adapt to a world in which China and Russia are growing stronger, both militarily and economically. But in many instances, cooperation—including with rivals—will advance U.S. security and prosperity far more effectively than competition. The world faces existential challenges such as climate change, ecosystem collapse, and nuclear proliferation that will only worsen if the United States, China, and others fail to collaborate. – Foreign Affairs


The right-wing friendly social network Parler, which was forced offline following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, says it is re-launching. – Associated Press

The Army recently announced a new tranche of National Guard units to staff a critical and ongoing task force for U.S. Cyber Command. – C4ISRNET

The Space Force is getting its first cyber warriors, transferring cyber personnel from the Air Force into its ranks to protect sensitive systems and missions. – C4ISRNET


By the time the crews of the aircraft carrier Nimitz and its escort ships step on the pier in Bremerton, Washington, they will have been away from home for almost a year, most of which will have been spent floating around in the Middle East. – Defense News

Plans for where, how and when the U.S. Army’s two new Iron Dome air defense batteries could deploy are being finalized, according to Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson, the lead on the service’s air and missile defense modernization effort. – Defense News

As the Biden administration and 117th Congress begin ranking their priorities on U.S. nuclear modernization and arms control, the United States stands at a critical juncture where decisions made now will affect the U.S. nuclear force well into the 2070s and 2080s — the expected service lives of several nuclear delivery systems in development. – Defense News

With potential French Rafale jet sales to Egypt and the UAE in the works, one crucial issue arises, especially in the face of the Iranian threat: can they share data with the American fighters that pervade so much of the region. – Breaking Defense 

The former National Security Agency director and nine prominent retired general and flag officers have signed on to legal brief asking that the U.S. Supreme Court rule that the military draft is unconstitutional. – Military Times

Maj. Jessica Dawson and Lt. Col. Todd Arnold write: The algorithmic social media ecosystem and targeted advertising economy represent a national security threat, one that the Department of Defense should take seriously. […]Understanding and defending against targeted and algorithmic manipulation must be addressed as a force protection critical vulnerability before the erosion of cohesion — already undermined by the current social media divisiveness over the COVID pandemic response, masks, the vaccines and the recent election turmoil — achieves our adversaries’ greatest victory: erosion of the United States from within. – C4ISRNET