Fdd's overnight brief

February 19, 2019

In The News


European officials brushed off U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s calls during a diplomatic trip to the continent this week to ratchet up pressure on Iran, saying they will continue defending the 2015 nuclear deal and stay engaged with Iran’s government. – Wall Street Journal

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany delivered a strong rejoinder on Saturday to American demands that European allies pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and gave a spirited defense of multilateral institutions in a world increasingly marked by great-power rivalry. – New York Times

A former Air Force sergeant who defected to Iran did severe damage to American intelligence operations, and is suspected of revealing the names of double agents run by United States military intelligence, some of whom had their cover blown after her defection, according to former counterintelligence officials. – New York Times

Less than seven months after the Tehran conference, according to an indictment unsealed on Wednesday, Ms. Witt defected and became a spy for the Iranian security service. It was the climax of a radicalization that was rooted in Ms. Witt’s military service and that accelerated while she was in graduate school. The F.B.I., around the time Ms. Witt earned her graduate degree, alerted her that Iran’s intelligence service had its eye on her. – New York Times

Businesses and government agencies in the United States have been targeted in aggressive attacks by Iranian and Chinese hackers who security experts believe have been energized by President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year and his trade conflicts with China. – New York Times

Iran on Sunday launched a new locally-made submarine capable of firing cruise missiles, state TV said, in the country’s latest show of military might at a time of heightened tensions with the US. – Agence France-Presse

Revolutionary Guards have broken up a group of militants in southeast Iran who were linked to a suicide bombing that killed 27 guards near the border with Pakistan last week, the Corps said  on Monday. – Reuters

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday warned his country’s government not to be deceived by European countries that say they want to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump last year. – Reuters

Europeans need to do more than talk if they want to preserve a deal meant to keep Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States, Iran’s foreign minister said Sunday, slamming Washington as the “biggest source of destabilization” in the Middle East. –  Associated Press

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has warned the U.S. and its allies that it would be “suicidal” to start a war with Iran, accusing Washington of having a “pathological obsession” with his country. – MSNBC

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Israel of looking for war and warned that its behavior and that of the United States was increasing the chances of a clash in the region. – Reuters

American politicians have expressed consternation at British support for a European plan to establish a special financial mechanism to improve trade with Iran. – The Times

Irwin Cotler and Yonah Diamond write: Since the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian people have suffered 40 years of mass imprisonment, forced exile, thousands of executions and even crimes against humanity by a largely unchanged leadership. Yet, the repression continues to intensify and shows no signs of abating. As many around the world mark the anniversary this week, attention should be paid not only to the events in history but to the state of Iran today and how the international community can respond. – Open Canada

Islamic State

At the end, the Islamic State is little more than a hamlet of tents, pitched in panic between U.S. bombing raids. Inside, there has been chaos, witnesses say. Families have fled. Militants are hoarding food. Some fighters have turned their guns on each other. As U.S.-backed forces surround the last square mile of Islamic State territory, preparing for a final assault on the eastern Syrian village – Washington Post

Islamic State militants hiding among civilians have slowed an advance by U.S.-backed coalition forces in Syria, said the top American ground commander, a setback in the fight to reclaim the last vestiges of Islamic State’s territory. – Wall Street Journal

The U.N. counter-terrorism chief warned Monday that recent losses by Islamic State extremists “should not lead to complacency at any level,” saying the extremist group remains a global threat with up to 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria. – Associated Press


The Kurdish commander leading the fight against Islamic State in Syria urged the U.S. to reconsider its decision to withdraw all its forces and instead leave a small contingent in the country. – Wall Street Journal

The Syrian government and affiliated forces have launched more than 300 attacks using chemical weapons during the country’s nearly eight-year conflict, a report said Sunday. – Washington Post

Through the grinding battle to reclaim northeastern Syria from militant control, the volunteers and the militias they joined have received crucial protection and support from the United States military. But the Trump administration is now considering a swift withdrawal from Syria — and American volunteers like Mr. Pugh are worried about where that will leave them. – New York Times

A double bomb attack in Syria’s jihadist-held city of Idlib on Monday killed 24 people, including four children, a war monitor said. – Agence France-Presse

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Saturday that Washington’s plan to swiftly pull its soldiers out of Syria risks allowing Russia and Iran to boost their role in the region. – Agence France-Presse

Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan struggled Friday to convince sceptical allies in the coalition fighting the Islamic State militia to help secure Syria once American soldiers pull out. – Agence France-Presse

The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday. – Reuters

France’s foreign minister on Friday said he was mystified by U.S. policy on northeastern Syria after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops, because it would only benefit Iran, which Washington wants to be tough on. – Reuters

A U.S. appeal for NATO allies to fill the void left by its imminent withdrawal from Syria was dismissed by Spain’s foreign minister, still bristling at Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to bring his troops home. – Bloomberg

The United States is lobbying Gulf states to hold off restoring ties with Syria, including the UAE which has moved closer to Damascus to counter the influence of its rival Iran, five sources told Reuters. – Reuters

David Ignatius writes: Trump supporters, such as Graham, often propose workarounds that try to preserve sensible policy while accommodating the president’s whims. That might be doable in Syria, with allied help and some legal and military juggling. But the best course would be for Trump simply to acknowledge that his earlier decision was unwise and reverse it. – Washington Post


The US Department of State on Thursday updated its travel advisory for Turkey amid stalled US-Turkey talks on Syria and growing differences over Venezuela and Turkish S-400 deal with Russia. – The National

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused NATO allies of supporting “terrorists” with thousands of truckloads of weapons while ignoring Turkey’s request to buy their arms. – Al Jazeera

The main suspect in a New Year’s Day 2017 shooting attack that killed 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub denied the charges against him in court on Monday, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency reported. Abdulkadir Masharipov, an Uzbek national, was captured on Jan. 17, 2017 by police who said he had acted on behalf of Islamic State. The jihadist group claimed credit for the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria. – Reuters


Speaking with reporters after leaving the camp Friday, Pence likened the Nazi genocide to the vow of modern-day Iran to “wipe Israel off of the map of the Middle East” and said that Tehran voices “the same vile, anti-Semitic hatred that animated the Nazis in Europe.” – Washington Post

The decision to hold the annual “V4” summit in Jerusalem — the first time the bloc of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia had met outside Europe — was intended to build on the growing bonds between Israel and Central European nations. But instead, it was called off amid a spat over the role Poles played in the Holocaust, highlighting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s awkward alliances with countries accused of seeking to gloss over their history during World War II. – Washington Post

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Monday in Jerusalem with a visiting Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations leadership delegation. Commenting on the regional situation, Netanyahu said, “With the Arab countries, as with many Muslim countries, the question is how to fight militant Islam.” – Algemeiner

Israel said its security cabinet on Sunday decided to withhold $138 million (122 million euros) in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority over its payments to prisoners jailed for attacks on Israelis. – Agence France-Presse

Oman will not formalize its ties with Israel without the founding of a Palestinian state, the Gulf sultanate’s top diplomat said on Monday. – Algemeiner

Jordan has moved to give Palestinians in Jerusalem a greater role in administering the Muslim institutions on the Temple Mount, expanding the Waqf religious trust council and appointing to its ranks East Jerusalem political and religious leaders. – Times of Israel

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday boasted that the terror organization is capable of infiltrating northern Israel, even as Israelis are uncertain that their army can protect them. – Ynet

Qatar’s envoy to the Gaza Strip, Mohammad al-Emadi, has warned its Hamas rulers that Doha will not extend payments for the territory’s electricity supply beyond April, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday night. – Times of Israel

An Israeli soldier injured in clashes along the Gaza border was identified on Monday as Yoadd Zaguri, a lone soldier from Los Angeles. Zaguri, an infantryman in the army’s Nahal Brigade, was moderately wounded Sunday after an improvised explosive device was thrown at troops during rioting in northern Gaza. – Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority on Monday warned that Israel was “playing with fire” after clashes erupted at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem over the closure of the Golden Gate site – also known as the Gate of Mercy – to Muslim worshipers. The PA also accused Israel of “waging war on Islam” and called on the intervention of the international community. – Jerusalem Post


The parliament in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Monday elected its first ever woman speaker as a temporary stop-gap while deep political rifts persist more than four months after legislative elections. – Agence France-Presse

In a video, translated to English this week by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Al-Maliki says that “our Iraqi society is under a dangerous attack.” He explains that this attack is coming from “Zionist Jews [who] are exerting efforts to thwart everything we have achieved in Iraq. – Jerusalem Post

Renad Mansour writes: Earlier this month, Iraq’s paramilitary group raided the home of and arrested one of its own — a prominent and longtime paramilitary leader, Aws al-Khafaji. The Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) — an umbrella organization of about 50 predominantly Shiite paramilitary groups — has initiated a crackdown on groups. The purging reveals an emerging reality in Iraq: The paramilitary groups that fought together against the Islamic State are competing against each other for power, legitimacy and resources. – Washington Post


A suicide bombing in the heart of Egypt’s capital killed two police officers late Monday, the third attack in four days on the country’s security forces, as they carry out a yearslong campaign against Islamic State and other extremist groups. – Wall Street Journal

An explosion in Cairo on Monday killed two policemen who were chasing a man believed to have planted an explosive device last week near a mosque, Egypt’s interior ministry said. – Agence France-Presse

An attack Saturday on an Egyptian army checkpoint in the restive Sinai Peninsula left 15 soldiers dead or wounded and seven of the suspected jihadist assailants killed, the military said. – Agence France-Presse

Gulf States

Saudi Arabia’s state arms producer and a French government-majority firm signed an agreement Sunday on a joint venture to boost the kingdom’s navy, amid calls to halt weapons sales to Riyadh over it role in Yemen. – Agence France-Presse

An industry team consisting of Lockheed Martin, Saab, and Diehl Defence, have unveiled a new air defense system, known as the Falcon at IDEX 2019 in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. The three companies are aiming for the Falcon to replace the UAE’s aging Hawk air defense systems–and potentially those of other countries as well. – Defense News

Elana DeLozier writes: The U.S. government has a key role to play in addressing the Red Sea area’s growing importance, but to be effective, it will need to shift toward managing the diplomatic and military “seam” that runs down the region. Working across this seam is nothing new for U.S. officials; for example, Near East and Europe bureaus are accustomed to coordinating on Turkey, while CENTCOM often has to coordinate with AFRICOM, which oversees the base in Djibouti. – Washington Institute

Rick Novak writes: Europe increasingly appears to agree that a joint strategy is needed to compete with the United States and other arms producers. The far more consequential question is which approach will prevail: Germany’s responsiveness to human rights criticism –– or the more lucrative alternative pursued by Britain, France and others. – Washington Post


Desperate to break through enemy lines, the Saudi-backed forces fighting in Yemen are sending untrained soldiers to clear minefields, sometimes using only their bayonets. – New York Times

Yemen’s government and Huthi rebels have agreed on the first phase of a pullback of forces from the key city of Hodeida, in a deal the United Nations described Sunday as important progress. – Agence France-Presse

The US is still supporting the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, an American army general told AFP Sunday, days after lawmakers voted to end involvement in Riyadh’s war effort. – Agence France-Presse

Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to start withdrawing forces from the main port of Hodeidah under a U.N.-sponsored deal, the United Nations said, following weeks of diplomacy to salvage a pact that stalled over control of the Red Sea city. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Militiamen have kidnapped a group of Tunisian workers near the Libyan capital Tripoli, demanding Tunis release a comrade, the foreign ministry and a rights activist said. – Agence France-Presse

President Trump’s intent to withdraw American forces from Syria and Afghanistan is provoking concern and skepticism from U.S. officials and military brass gathered at a major security conference. – Washington Examiner

An “Arab NATO” is as ambitious as it may be far-fetched — acknowledging common interests, but not the tensions that permeate the region. Defense News asked Emile Hokayem, senior fellow for Middle East security with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, about the odds of success. – Defense News

The jihadist terror group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate”, which once ruled over nearly eight million people across Syria and Iraq, has been all but eliminated. – BBC News

Korean Peninsula

The U.S. is considering opening a liaison office in North Korea, in what would be another potential step toward normalizing relations while the two sides negotiate to curtail Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile forces, according to a Trump administration official. – Wall Street Journal

A senior North Korean official known as Kim Jong-un’s “butler” has begun scouting hotels, factory sites and resorts in Vietnam ahead of the North Korean leader’s highly anticipated summit meeting with President Trump in Hanoi next week. – New York Times

In a rice field in northern Vietnam, 14 headstones are an enduring symbol of the wartime friendship of Vietnam and North Korea. They mark the original burial ground of North Korean pilots who died while secretly fighting alongside Vietnamese comrades against U.S. Air Force and Navy planes during the Vietnam War. – Associated Press

The United States has blocked efforts by a U.N. agency to improve civil aviation in North Korea at a time when Pyongyang is trying to reopen part of its airspace to foreign flights, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. – Reuters

Two senators are wary there will be any movement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula following this month’s summit talks between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in Vietnam. – USNI News

Twelve North Korean officials — including Kim Jong Un’s de-facto chief of staff — were en-route to Vietnam Friday ahead of a second scheduled summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said. – Agence France-Presse


Ren Zhengfei, the founder of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, has accused the United States of having political motivations in leveling criminal charges against the company and his daughter, a top Huawei executive. – New York Times

United States officials said on Friday that they had made “progress” during a week of trade talks with their Chinese counterparts, but big sticking points remain and the two sides plan to continue negotiations next week in Washington to try to end the trade war. – New York Times

China wants to deepen “strategic trust” with Iran, the Chinese government’s top diplomat told Iran’s foreign minister on Tuesday, days before Saudi Arabia’s crown prince visits Beijing, underscoring China’s difficult Middle East balancing act. – Reuters

The Chinese database Victor Gevers found online was not just a collection of old personal details. It was a compilation of real-time data on more than 2.5 million people in western China, updated constantly with GPS coordinates of their precise whereabouts. Alongside their names, birthdates and places of employment, there were notes on the places that they had most recently visited — mosque, hotel, restaurant. – Associated Press

A new round of talks between the United States and China to resolve their trade war will take place in Washington on Tuesday, with follow-up sessions at a higher level later in the week, the White House said on Monday. – Reuters

China’s economy czar is heading to Washington for talks Thursday and Friday aimed at ending a fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions ahead of a deadline for a massive U.S. tariff hike. – Associated Press

British security officials do not support a full ban of Huawei from national telecoms networks despite U.S. allegations the Chinese firm and its products could be used by Beijing for spying, people with knowledge of the matter said. – Reuters

China’s space ambitions are shifting into a higher orbit. Following its successful and world-beating trip to the far side of the moon, China is preparing to build a solar power station in space, as the world’s No. 2 economy strives to burnish its superpower credentials. With an $8 billion annual budget for its space program, second only to the U.S., China is seeking to compete with its rival for economic, military and technological dominance. – Bloomberg

European leaders should disregard “lectures” from Vice President Mike Pence and other U.S. officials about Chinese encroachment into Europe, a top diplomat from the communist nation said Saturday. – Washington Examiner

The Chinese shipbuilder China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company is developing a small unmanned surface vessel that China wants to function essentially like the uninhabited baby brother of a U.S. Arleigh Burke destroyer. – Defense News

Erin Dunne writes: Trump and his administration have made clear that what he hopes to achieve in talks with China is nothing short of rewriting the country’s entire economic model by cutting state ties to industry and opening up previously closed sectors to foreign investment. […]For Trump, that means that he’s more likely to have to claim victory on “getting it done” when it comes to a deal with China rather than actually securing significant concessions. He likely knows this, hence the open-ended suggestion that it’s unclear what negotiations “going well” actually means. – Washington Examiner

Dennis J. Blasko writes: A large body of evidence in China’s official military and party media indicates the nation’s senior civilian and uniformed leaders recognize significant shortcomings in the warfighting and command capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, most of this evidence is not translated into English for public consumption and is not considered in much of the foreign analysis of China’s growing military capabilities. […]This lack of confidence in PLA capabilities contributes to Beijing’s preference to achieve China’s national objectives through deterrence and actions short of war. – War on the Rocks


The Taliban have called off meetings in Pakistan, including a first audience with a national leader since their regime was ousted from power in Afghanistan in 2001, after the Afghan government protested to the United Nations Security Council that leaders of the insurgent group were violating travel restrictions under international sanctions. – New York Times

Afghan border security troops were asleep inside their remote post in southern Afghanistan early Friday when a Taliban infiltrator climbed a guard tower. Moments earlier, a lone sentry had left the post to wake his replacement. – New York Times

That was Laila Haidari, who runs a popular cafe in Kabul that allows men and women to dine together, whether married or not, with or without a head scarf, and uses the profits to fund a rehabilitation clinic for drug addicts. […]Now, Ms. Haidari plans to start a popular uprising against the continuing peace talks with the Taliban. – New York Times

Amid plans to withdraw 1,000 or more American troops from Afghanistan, several key U.S. lawmakers, after meeting with President Ashaf Ghani on Saturday, warned against a wider drawdown like the one President Donald Trump has planned for Syria. – Defense News

South Asia

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has pledged $20 billion worth of investments in Pakistan to shore up the country’s struggling economy while strengthening bilateral ties at a time when Islamabad is trying to revive its global standing. – New York Times

Fighter jets escorted his plane through Pakistani airspace, and a 21-gun salute greeted him upon landing Sunday evening. The capital was blanketed with enormous posters of the royal guest, grinning beneath his familiar red and white-checked headscarf. Banners welcomed him to his “second home.” – Washington Post

Saudi Arabia vowed to “de-escalate” rising tensions between Pakistan and India during a high-profile summit in Islamabad Monday as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prepares to travel from Islamabad to New Delhi. – Agence France-Presse

Indian authorities withdrew police protection for five separatist leaders in Kashmir on Sunday amid mounting fallout from a suicide bombing that killed 41 soldiers in the disputed region. – Agence France-Presse

Pakistan’s foreign minister appealed to the U.N. Secretary General on Tuesday to help ease tension with India that has escalated sharply following a suicide bomb attack in the Indian part of disputed Kashmir, that India blamed on Pakistan. – Reuters

India asked the World Court on Monday to order the release of an Indian national sentenced to death by Pakistan, saying Islamabad had failed to allow him diplomatic assistance before his conviction, as required by an international treaty. – Reuters

Pakistan’s foreign minister appealed to the U.N. secretary-general on Tuesday to help ease tension with India that has escalated sharply following a suicide bombing in the Indian part of disputed Kashmir. – MSNBC

India on Monday accused Pakistan of breaching the rights of an alleged spy who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court, a case at the U.N.’s highest court that has exacerbated tensions between the longtime rivals. – Associated Press

India’s oil imports from Iran fell by 45 per cent in January to 270,500 barrels per day oil (bpd), ship tracking data reviewed by Reuters showed, below the estimated 300,000 bpd for the month as some cargoes were delayed. – Reuters


Two miles above sea level in the inhospitable highlands of Central Asia, there’s a new power watching over an old passage into Afghanistan: China. For at least three years, Chinese troops have quietly monitored this choke point in Tajikistan just beyond China’s western frontier, according to interviews, analysis of satellite images and photographs, and firsthand observations by a Washington Post journalist. – Washington Post

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is embarking on what is expected to be a three-country sweep through Asia to nurture alliances there as the murder of a Saudi dissident and the Saudi-led war in Yemen continue to disrupt the kingdom’s relations with the U.S. and European powers. – Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan moved to put the Nobel genie back in the bottle on Monday when he told the country’s Parliament that he would not comment on President Trump’s surprise announcement that Mr. Abe had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. – New York TImes

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that no final decision has been made on whether Huawei equipment can be used in a planned network upgrade. – Associated Press

John Lee writes: The challenge for ASEAN is that what worked well in the past will be less effective in the evolving environment. China is increasingly challenging the U.S. pre-eminence and aspects of the rules-based order when it is convenient for Beijing to do so. Its grand strategy is to weaken the strategic role of the U.S. and degrade Washington’s credibility as a security provider, and gradually dismantle its system of alliances. – Hudson Institute


Michael Calvey, one of the most prominent U.S. investors based in Russia, faced fraud allegations in a Moscow courtroom on Friday in a case that could raise fresh doubts about the country’s ability to attract foreign capital. – Washington Post

Over the past few years, Russia’s most famous gun manufacturer Kalashnikov has been busy diversifying its product portfolio to include things such as patrol boats and light reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles. And at IDEX 2019, the company unveiled its newest offering: a kind of kamikaze drone known as KUB. – Defense News

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Monday said it was “deeply disturbing,” “shameful” and the “height of irresponsibility” that President Donald Trump took the advice of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the counsel of U.S. intelligence officials, as reported by former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. – The Huffington Post

During his speech to the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a prediction that many in the West dismissed. He said the Western system of alliances — with its “one master, one sovereign” sitting in Washington, D.C. — would eventually “destroy itself from within.” – Time


European leaders expressed skepticism Monday about their willingness to cooperate with a request by President Trump to bring home citizens who went to fight with the Islamic State, underlining a security dilemma as the U.S. military prepares to pull out of Syria following the collapse of the group’s self-declared caliphate. – Washington Post

Israeli plans to hold a summit aimed at improving relations with Eastern European countries fell apart Monday after acrimonious exchanges over who was to blame for the murder of Jews during World War II. – Wall Street Journal

A spate of anti-Semitic incidents has accompanied France’s yellow-vest protests in recent weeks, raising fears that the movement is stirring up hatred in the nation that is home to Europe’s largest Jewish population. – Wall Street Journal

Alarmed by the erosion of the post-Cold War order, Europeans are grasping at ways to influence a world in which Russia, China and the U.S. under President Trump are all jockeying for position. – Wall Street Journal

A bitter internal struggle within Britain’s opposition Labour Party burst into open warfare on Monday, when seven lawmakers resigned, castigating their left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and calling for a movement to champion a brand of new, more centrist, politics. – New York Times

European leaders have long been alarmed that President Trump’s words and Twitter messages could undo a trans-Atlantic alliance that had grown stronger over seven decades. They had clung to the hope that those ties would bear up under the strain. – New York Times

Vice President Mike Pence made his case for “America First” in the deeply hostile territory of an annual conference of America’s closest European allies on Saturday. He was not deterred from repeating his demands that Europe withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, ban Chinese gear from global communications networks and accelerate its increases in contributions to NATO. – New York Times

In Budapest this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned bluntly of security threats from Russia and China, but he did not overtly criticize the assault on liberal democracy by Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, who has systematically stripped the courts, media and academia of their independence. – New York Times

Gary Donnelly, a city councilor in Londonderry, has fought for years to end British rule in Northern Ireland. After the 1998 peace agreement many of his allies put aside the struggle to expel the British and reunify with the Irish Republic, but not Mr. Donnelly. Now, in the unremitting gloom that has been Northern Ireland’s lot in recent years, he has sighted a beacon of hope in Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, or Brexit. – New York Times

Ireland’s deputy prime minister expressed annoyance on Monday at Britain’s continued failure to ratify a deal on its orderly withdrawal from the European Union. – Agence France-Presse

French officials on Sunday strongly condemned anti-Semitic abuse and anti-police attacks by some “yellow vest” demonstrators as hundreds gathered in central Paris to mark the third month of the anti-government protests. – Agence France-Presse

The French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, has said she won’t join other political parties in a march against anti-Semitism on Tuesday, accusing France’s leaders of doing nothing to tackle Islamist networks in France and saying she will mark the occasion separately. – BBC News

Mass rallies are planned in Paris and other French cities Tuesday to denounce a flare-up of anti-Semitic acts which culminated in a violent tirade against a prominent writer during “yellow vest” anti-government protests last weekend. – Agence France-Presse

Gibraltar’s leader on Monday said an incursion into British waters by a Spanish warship at the weekend was a quixotic attempt at intimidation but that the people of Gibraltar would stand up to bullies both before and after Brexit on March 29. – Reuters

Ukraine’s foreign minister asked the European Union on Monday for hundreds of millions of euros in loans and aid for infrastructure and businesses in its troubled east and south, regions he said Russia was trying to “suffocate”. – Reuters

Prime Minister Theresa May launched a desperate appeal to Conservative Party lawmakers to unite behind her derided Brexit plan as she prepares for a return to Brussels for more talks with European Union leaders. – Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump said he expects trade with the U.K. to increase “substantially,” handing a boost to Theresa May, the beleaguered prime minister, who has flagged a trans-Atlantic agreement as one of the great prizes of Brexit. – Bloomberg

Henry Olsen writes: But even Democratic leadership might rest uneasily with European desires. It is painfully clear that the phrase “American leadership” means something different on both sides of the Atlantic. For many Europeans, it seems to mean the United States following Europe’s lead on relations with the Middle East and less developed regions of the world while Europe allows the United States to defend it against Russia. – Washington Post

Walter Russel Mead writes: Instead of reforming itself, a beleaguered European establishment is circling the wagons against critics at home and abroad. Meanwhile, an American president who would rather have a Diet Coke with Viktor Orban than with Angela Merkel is hurling rhetorical firebombs across the Atlantic. No good will come of this sterile trans-Atlantic feuding, though both Russia and China will be happy to exploit the tensions and cleavages that result. – Wall Street Journal

Julianne Smith writes:  Berlin’s political stasis in the face of so many profound and, in the view of some, existential questions about Europe’s future is unnerving. So is its inability to craft policy responses to challenges posed by China, Russia, and yes, even the U.S. government. That’s not to say that there is a dearth of fresh thinking across Berlin’s national security community. As in any other national capital, German think tanks, academics, journalists, and industry groups regularly churn out papers full of policy proposals. – War on the Rocks

Conor Mccabe writes: The question of the frontier between the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland played a relatively minor role in the 2016 Brexit referendum. In recent months, however, it has become the singular issue on which Britain’s withdrawal from the EU depends. […]Peace came slowly to Northern Ireland. It needs to be nurtured and protected so that the music and the vinyl—not the violence—define the region. – The Atlantic

United States

A coalition of 16 states, including California and New York, on Monday challenged President Trump in court over his plan to use emergency powers to spend billions of dollars on his border wall. – New York Times

Rep. Ilhan Omar said she was oblivious that tweets she sent last week about why she believes politicians support Israel could be seen as anti-Semitic. – Washington Examiner

The remarks of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and another speaker at Sunday’s Saviours’ Day event at the United Center in Chicago were rife with antisemitism, according to an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report. – Algemeiner


President Trump urged senior members of the Venezuelan military Monday to abandon President Nicolás Maduro and switch their allegiance to congress leader Juan Guaidó, threatening that those who do not will “lose everything” fighting to defend a failed socialist system. – Washington Post

Vice President Pence urged the European Union to denounce Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Saturday and recognize National Assembly head Juan Guaidó as the country’s leader, increasing diplomatic pressure as a potential standoff brewed over blocked shipments of U.S. humanitarian aid. – Washington Post

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who faces growing pressure to step down and a public-relations problem on the border with Colombia, plans to organize a rival musical performance this week in response to a Live Aid-style concert staged by billionaire Richard Branson. – Wall Street Journal

OPEC will continue to operate normally despite U.S. sanctions placed on the oil cartel’s Venezuelan president, officials from the group said on Monday. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump, speaking to the Venezuelan community in Miami on Monday, put an overtly political gloss on his administration’s push for Venezuela’s leftist president to step aside, casting that country’s turmoil as a cautionary tale for those who would embrace socialism. – New York Times

The U.S. sanctioned the head of Venezuela’s state-owned oil giant and five top intelligence and security officials and the Trump administration said it planned to deliver at least 200 tons of humanitarian aid to a border city in Colombia, intensifying its effort to ratchet up pressure on President Nicolás Maduro. – Wall Street Journal

A faint voice comes through the crackled phone line. On the other end, Tomeu Vadell, speaking from a military counterintelligence prison in Venezuela’s capital, asks his daughters in Louisiana whether they’ve gone to church and says he plans to spend his Sunday doing pushups to keep his body and spirit intact. – Associated Press

President Trump called ousted Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro a “Cuban puppet” while condemning socialism in a speech aimed at Venezuelan-Americans in Miami Monday. – Washington Examiner

President Donald Trump condemned socialism and urged a peaceful transition of power to end the Venezuelan crisis on Monday. – MSNBC

The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, called the self-declared interim president and opposition leader Juan Guaido “a CIA agent who serves the interests of the United States and the Zionists” in an interview with the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese media group, Al-Mayadeen. – Haaretz

Cyber Security

After 18 months investigating Facebook and online misinformation, a British parliamentary committee issued a scathing report on Monday, accusing the company of breaking data privacy and competition laws and calling for new regulations to rein in the technology industry. – New York Times

A cyberattack on Australia’s parliament was carried out by foreign agents, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, coinciding with a warning from the country’s top intelligence official that spying against the key U.S. ally has reached unprecedented levels. – Wall Street Journal

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs told reporters Thursday that the Homeland Security Department’s election security and countering foreign influence efforts are ramping up, not tapering down as a report Wednesday by The Daily Beast suggested. – Defense One


Long War

Mohammed Khalifa, captured in Syria last month by an American-backed militia, spoke in his first interview about being the voice of the 2014 video, known as “Flames of War.” He described himself as a rank-and-file employee of the Islamic State’s Ministry of Media, the unit responsible for publicizing such brutal footage as the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and the burning of a Jordanian pilot. – New York Times

Now that the caliphate has collapsed, and the planned U.S. withdrawal has compounded regional instability, grandparents across Europe are pushing to save children who in some cases they’ve seen only in photos, looking up at them from the dusty desert floor. – Washington Post

The 19-year-old woman who left Britain to join the Islamic State and who recently spoke out about wanting to return home has given birth to a boy in a refugee camp in Syria. – New York Times

Just a few miles separate the place where Adil Ahmad Dar grew up from the place where he ended his life in an act of wanton violence. When Dar drove an SUV packed with explosives into a convoy of Indian security personnel on Thursday, he carried out the single deadliest attack in decades in a region torn by strife. The bombing may mark a turning point in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where an insurgency against Indian rule has waxed and waned since 1989. – Washington Post

Indian troops suffered new losses Monday in a battle with Kashmir militants that left nine dead, officials said, just days after a major suicide bomb attack escalated tensions with neighbouring Pakistan. – Agence France-Presse

An American woman captured by Kurdish forces after fleeing the last pocket of land controlled by Islamic State says she “deeply regrets” travelling to Syria to join the terror group and has pleaded to be allowed to return to her family in Alabama. – The Guardian

German citizens who have fought with the Islamic State militant group in Syria have a fundamental right to return to Germany, a spokesman for the interior ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

Seven Niger soldiers were killed when their post was attacked by Boko Haram in the country’s southeast near Nigeria, the birthplace of the jihadist group, the government said Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

Britain’s Home Secretary has warned he’ll block the return of Britons who traveled to the Middle East to join the Islamic State group. – Associated Press

Detained after fleeing the Islamic State group’s crumbling Syrian holdout, two women from France say they are ready to go home — if they are judged fairly. – Agence France-Presse

European nations must take back hundreds of Islamic State group fighters captured in Syria, President Donald Trump said late Saturday, after a delay in announcing what he said would be the end of the “caliphate.” – Agence France-Presse

Hassan Hassan writes: For decades, Sunni jihadism has been characterized by transnational terrorism, suicide bombing, and excommunication. These three pillars not only attracted the ire of American and European governments, but turned off many of the jihadists’ target constituents, namely Sunnis living in the Muslim world. Yet there are signs that Sunni extremists are changing their ways, drifting away from the global agenda that reached its apotheosis in al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center, and toward a hyperlocal one. – Defense One

Karol Markowicz writes: Hoda Muthana, a 24-year old American woman who left the US to join ISIS 5 years ago, is really sorry and wants to come home. We shouldn’t let her. It should be obvious that when someone takes up arms against their country that they have committed treason and should never be allowed to return. Yet our friends across the pond are proving obvious it isn’t. – New York Post

Trump Administration

President Trump’s pick to serve as ambassador to the United Nations withdrew from consideration on Saturday, citing family concerns. – New York Times

Federal prosecutors recommended Friday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, serve up to 25 years in prison and pay up to $25 million in fines for a fraud scheme[…]. They said that a tax and bank fraud scheme allowed Mr. Manafort to hide millions of dollars in “ill-gotten gains” from political consulting work in Ukraine and to defraud American banks in an attempt to “maintain his extravagant lifestyle.” – New York Times

President Donald Trump is considering four people to be his next UN ambassador: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner Dina Powell, the current ambassadors to Canada and Germany, Kelly Craft and Richard Grenell, and John James, a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Michigan, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a 2020 candidate for president, on Sunday endorsed the idea of President Trump’s team invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office if the circumstances call for it. – Washington Examiner

Former FBI general counsel James Baker testified to Congress last fall that he was told by two officials that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said a pair of Cabinet officials was “ready to support” an effort to remove President Trump from office. – Washington Examiner

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Friday that she met with special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. – Politico