Fdd's overnight brief

February 21, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


United Nations atomic agency inspectors have detected uranium that has been enriched to near weapons-grade in Iran in recent weeks, three senior diplomats said Sunday, a finding that will deepen concerns about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. – Wall Street Journal

An Iranian foundation has praised the man who attacked novelist Salman Rushdie last year, leaving him severely injured, and said it will reward him with 1,000 square metres of agricultural land, state TV reported on Tuesday through its Telegram channel. – Reuters

The British government summoned Iran’s most senior diplomat in London on Monday to protest what it said were serious threats against journalists living in Britain, as ministers launched a new security review into Iranian activities. – Reuters

Dozens of actors and filmmakers gathered on the Berlinale’s red carpet on Saturday to show solidarity with anti-government protesters in Iran, with one exiled Iranian film director predicting the imminent fall of the country’s government. – Reuters

A group of exiled Iranians will increase support for opposition movements in the country so they can continue to pressure the authorities there, amid a crackdown on protests, the last heir to the Iranian monarchy said on Saturday. – Reuters

Britain imposed sanctions on three Iranian judges, three members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and two regional governors, an update to a British government website showed on Monday. – Reuters

Iran denies Israel’s accusation that Tehran targeted an Israeli oil tanker on Feb. 10, Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday. – Reuters

Iran’s troubled currency broke below the psychologically key level of 500,000 rial per U.S. dollar on Monday, as market participants saw no end in sight to sanctions. – Reuters

The European Union will impose sanctions against dozens of Iranians, including judges, for their role in imposing death penalties on protesters, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said on Monday. – Reuters

Israel said on Friday that “all possible means” were on the table to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon and it demanded that the international community do more to stop Tehran’s proliferation of advanced weapons. – Reuters

A London-based television station critical of the Iranian government said on Saturday it was moving its live broadcasting studios to the United States following threats it faced in Britain. – Reuters

Germany’s foreign minister said on Saturday that a nuclear escalation with Iran must be avoided. – Reuters

Iran’s city of Qom is one of the country’s most important centers for Shiite Muslim clerics, packed with religious schools and revered shrines. But even here, some are quietly calling for Iran’s ruling theocracy to change its ways after months of protests shaking the country. – Associated Press

A Farsi-language satellite news channel based in London long critical of Iran’s theocractic government said Saturday it had moved its broadcasts to Washington “to protect the safety of its journalists” after being targeted by Tehran. – Associated Press

The Iranian government has been behind 15 credible threats to kill or kidnap British citizens or UK-based people in just over a year, security minister Tom Tugendhat has told parliament following intimidation that forced the closure of a Persian-language television station. – Financial Times

A German MP in the European Parliament said it is significant that for the first time Iran is not represented by its foreign minister at the Munich Security Conference but by other political figures who have a different vision for the future of Iran. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Reza Pahlavi, the former crown prince of Iran, says he and other opposition activists attending the Munich Security Conference want to bring the demands of Iranians to the world. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iranian authorities say they have arrested a police officer over the killing of a Kurdish youth in a rare move against security forces who have been leading a brutal crackdown against anti-government protesters. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said the “Iranian establishment” was behind an armed attack on his country’s embassy in Tehran last month in which a security officer was killed and two others wounded. – Bloomberg

Iran wasn’t involved in a Feb. 10 attack on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman told reporters in Tehran on Monday. – Bloomberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s burgeoning military partnership with Iran could hasten the Middle Eastern regime’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. – Washington Examiner

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday accused Iran of advancing sales of missiles and drones to dozens of countries, in violation of a 2015 United Nations Security Council resolution. – Times of Israel

Benny Avni writes: Would any of Tehran’s violations suffice for the Security Council to trigger the snapback mechanism that it rejected three years ago? “Not yet,” a Western diplomat at the UN told the Sun recently, asking not to be identified. No wonder talk of military action to stop Tehran’s rush to a bomb has been revived. […]Mr. Biden may also want to look into plans for armed action. For now, though, greenlighting an expedited delivery of Boeing jets capable of beefing up Israel’s capabilities would be a good signal. – New York Sun

Simon Henderson writes: But officials also acknowledge that their level of confidence in knowing what Iran is doing on weapon design is significantly less than its enrichment activities. And if Iran were to settle for a bomb delivered by an aircraft, rather than on a long-range missile, the sophistication of design needed could be less. Of course, if Iran were to test a device in a remote desert area, it could be much cruder than a deliverable bomb. – The Hill

Bijan Ahmadi writes: The recent protests in Iran after the killing of Mahsa Amini have brought about a new level of convergence among opposition groups both inside and outside the country. But the road ahead is challenging, as the regime has a long history of using violence and repression against its citizens, as well as utilizing its regional and international influence to retain power. – The Hill

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: This could be because the West and Israel are still deciding what has happened and what it means about Iran’s intentions, especially given estimates that its weapons group needs another 6-24 months to develop actually deliverable nuclear weapons. Or it could mean that everyone has been caught again by the Islamic Republic unprepared for the next move. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The West is focused on Ukraine now, and Iran’s enrichment can no longer be held onto in some kind of blackmail diplomacy as it has in the past. Where Iran goes from here is unclear, but the drive for diplomacy has shifted narratives. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: As the world becomes more familiar with the Iran drone threat it will be interesting to see if anything is done regarding these incidents. The fact that the incident on February 10 went unreported for a week appears to show it is not a top priority. – Jerusalem Post

Annika Ganzeveld, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Johanna Moore, and Frederick W. Kagan write: By publicly discussing Mousavi’s revolutionary statement, these opponents are inadvertently legitimizing the very ideas they seek to undermine. This may have the unintended consequence of increasing support and traction among the Iranian people and various government officials for Mousavi’s call for fundamental change. – Institute for the Study of War

Michael Rubin writes: Back to the present: Regime change in Iran will be difficult, but it is inevitable. Khamenei will die, and it is unclear any new ayatollah will be able to consolidate power. The Revolutionary Guards will play the role of the Russia-backed reactionaries of a century past as they intercede to stymie more liberal-minded politicians. It will be a tough fight—and very likely a violent one—but the sheer suspicion Iranians have of charismatic figures may ironically give them a second chance at democracy. After 115 years, they deserve one. – 19FortyFive

Michael Rubin writes: Australia’s brand has long been moral clarity. Frankly, its exercise has never been more important. Lebanese of all religions appreciate that the women of Australia’s Beirut embassy remain firm in their liberal values even as Hezbollah, Iran’s local proxy, imposes its own beliefs on the country. As women across the region risk everything for liberty, they should look to Australia for inspiration, not obsequiousness. “Women, life, freedom” should mean as much in Canberra as it does today in Tehran. – The Australian

Russia & Ukraine

President Biden made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday, a dramatic show of solidarity with Ukraine’s leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky, days before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country. – Wall Street Journal

Top oversight officials responsible for tracking over $110 billion in U.S. military and economic aid to Ukraine said they would press to deploy auditors and investigators directly into the war zone to beef up monitoring as the scale and scope of American assistance expands. – Wall Street Journal

A scientist who swapped Antarctica for Bakhmut, a famed ballet dancer and the actor who dubbed Captain America into Ukrainian all left stellar careers to fight on the front line. – Wall Street Journal

Nearly one year into the brutal and costly war in Ukraine, Western leaders pledged to remain steadfast in their support for Kyiv amid worries about whether their unity can survive what France’s president called “a prolonged conflict.” – New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris declared on Saturday that the United States had formally concluded that Russia has committed “crimes against humanity” in its invasion of Ukraine, and warned China against providing any kind of support to Moscow’s war effort. – New York Times

A Nobel Peace Prize winner from South America has warned that the West’s heavy focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine risks alienating much of the rest of the world, which is dealing with the consequences of higher energy and food prices stemming from the war. – New York Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin will deliver a highly symbolic state of the nation address Tuesday to the Federal Assembly — or both houses of the country’s parliament — as the invasion of Ukraine nears its first anniversary this week. – Washington Post

Top officials on Sunday called for more tools to penalize Russia as its invasion of Ukraine nears its first anniversary and fresh concerns have arisen about the possibility that China may be getting ready to support Russia in the war effort. – Washington Post

More than 30,000 members of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary outfit, have been injured or killed in Ukraine, the White House estimates. Of those, about 9,000 were killed in action, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at a briefing Friday. – Washington Post

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western leaders Friday to “speed up” their support for Kyiv in its fight against Russia. “There is no alternative to speed. Because it’s what saves lives,” he said at the Munich Security Conference. – Washington Post

A week before the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the leaders of Russia and Belarus, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, met in Moscow on Friday. They mostly avoided discussion of the war — a sign of their awkward alliance, and even more awkward political relationship. – Washington Post

Over the past year, as Western governments have ramped up weapons deliveries to Ukraine and economic sanctions against Moscow, U.S. and European security services have been waging a parallel if less visible campaign to cripple Russian spy networks. – Washington Post

A Russian court sentenced two defendants to three-and-a-half years in a strict regime colony for plotting to sabotage the railway in a region bordering Ukraine, the first convictions for sabotage since Russia’s invasion, media reported on Tuesday. – Reuters

Ukraine is hoping to clinch a multi-year support programme of at least $15 billion, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Monday after meeting the head of the International Monetary Fund. – Reuters

His army has made three humiliating retreats in Ukraine in the past year and nearly 200,000 of his men have been killed or wounded according to U.S. officials, but Russia’s defence minister is still in a job thanks to President Vladimir Putin. – Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an interview published on Sunday that Ukraine would maintain its months-long defence of the eastern city of Bakhmut, mindful of the price paid in human lives. – Reuters

Ramzan Kadyrov, the ally of President Vladimir Putin who leads Chechnya, said on Sunday that he one day planned to set up his own private military company in the style of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group of mercenaries. – Reuters

Blasts wounded two civilians and shattered several hundred windows in the west Ukrainian city of Khmelnytskyi as Russia fired missiles from the Black Sea on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday that the U.S. government has had conversations with Elon Musk about the use of Starlink satellite internet in Ukraine. – Reuters

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) praised President Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday, saying the trip to the war-torn country was “the right signal to send at the right time.” – The Hill

A group of American, European and Russian national security professionals are urging nuclear weapons states to strengthen safeguards surrounding deployment procedures of the weapons, warning that Russia’s war in Ukraine is raising the risk of an unintended nuclear confrontation. – The Hill

Russia called the U.S. the “primary source” of international tensions after Washington expressed support for Ukrainian strikes in Crimea and accused Russia of war crimes. – The Hill

The White House provided Russian officials with advance warning that President Biden would be traveling to Ukraine to mark the approaching anniversary of Russia’s invasion to avoid escalating tensions, administration officials said Monday. – The Hill

The determination that Russia has committed crimes against humanity in its war against Ukraine is an attempt to demonize Moscow, argued Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., blasting Biden administration officials just a day after Vice President Harris confirmed the findings. – The Hill

The Biden administration is facing mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers and Ukrainian officials to equip Kyiv with F-16 fighter jets as Russia’s war approaches its one-year anniversary later this week. – The Hill

Six Russian soldiers were killed in the country’s Kursk region in a fire blamed on a “gross violation” of safety rules, Russian state media reported on February 20, citing the Defense Ministry. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis slammed President Joe Biden during an appearance on Fox & Friends Monday morning, chiding the commander in chief’s “blank check” policy on the war in Ukraine as it enters the one-year mark. – Washington Examiner

A Republican political consultant was sentenced to 18 months in prison for funneling money from a Russian national to a presidential campaign in 2016. – Washington Examiner

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is urging President Joe Biden to provide Ukraine with the fighter jets Kyiv has requested for months. – Washington Examiner

Less than half of the financial aid pledged to Ukraine by the west has actually reached Kyiv since Russia’s invasion last year, according to analysis of international financial support. – Financial Times

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has admonished Germany’s allies for failing to deliver tanks to Ukraine after having spent months urging Berlin to do so. – Financial Times

Nearly a month after announcing its decision to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the United States is still deciding which version is best and whether it will pull those vehicles from existing stockpiles or have them produced, according to a top US State Department official. – Breaking Defense

Editorial: This is a pivotal moment in 21st-century history and a critical juncture for U.S. interests, leadership and prestige. The crucial objective should be fortifying Ukraine so that Russia’s unwarranted war is understood by dictators as a cautionary tale — and not as a template for remaking the world to their liking. – Washington Post

Editorial: It is the only way Russians can start to reverse their economic and social alienation from Europe and the only way Europeans can reaffirm the postwar order that brought them decades of relative stability, prosperity and security. But serious diplomacy has a chance only if Russia accepts that it cannot bring Ukraine to its knees. And for that to happen, the United States and its allies cannot waver in their support. – New York Times

Mary Elise Sarotte writes: The greatest damage has, of course, been done to Ukrainians. They have faced unspeakable war crimes and immense suffering with bravery and dignity. Further from the front, others will be forced to adapt to bitter new realities as well: a new generation of western policymakers will have to learn the rigours of great-power military competition in Europe. Sadly, the European past provides abundant examples for them to study. As I will be telling my classes again this week: history matters. And so does the unravelling of twisted tales.. – Financial Times

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: The U.S. and NATO, in their innermost sanctum, should be asking themselves a question and probably are: Would this war already be over if they had sent a couple dozen F-35s to assert mastery over the skies of at least Western Ukraine on or about day 14? – Wall Street Journal

Gerard Baker writes: Instead of worrying publicly about the softening of American—he means Republican—support for a long hot war with an uncertain outcome, the president should start building support for a cold peace in which the nation can achieve its larger objectives. – Wall Street Journal

Eugene Robinson writes: Last week, at this year’s Munich gathering, she laid out a compelling case for holding Putin and his soldiers criminally responsible for “crimes against humanity.” It would be no surprise if Putin reacted to the Biden visit with a deadly barrage of missiles against civilian targets. No one can keep Putin from waging his war. But Biden can — and will — keep him from winning it. – Washington Post

Antony Beevor writes: Only a relatively small advance is needed to bring his bridge over the Kerch Strait to the Crimean peninsula under direct fire, provoking a panic-stricken exit by recent Russian settlers. Whether NATO tanks will arrive in time to accomplish the breakthrough needed to achieve that climax will be one of the key questions in the outcome of the war. – Washington Post

Jason Willick writes: Republican skepticism of the war is likely to persist, and one interpretation is that this will undercut America’s strategic objectives. Another interpretation is that it will help the Biden administration triangulate and make its real objectives — the degradation of Russia’s military, the preservation of Ukraine’s independence and the avoidance of direct war — more likely to be vindicated in the end. – Washington Post

Nicholas Kristof writes: While the risk of escalation can’t be ruled out, it must be balanced against the risks of allowing this conflict to drag on as Ukrainians and Russians are killed daily. Putin will negotiate seriously when he sees no military path forward — and that may happen if his hold on Crimea becomes untenable. – New York Times

David Axe writes: They’re also the clearest sign yet that the weapons Ukraine’s allies are sending to the war zone are more and more meant for attacking rather than defending. And that suggests some important changes on the battlefield. – New York Times

David French writes: At that moment, American troops and American treasure were on the line. Now only American treasure is at stake. But the same words apply — they apply to President Biden, to Congress, and, crucially, to the American people. This is no time to go wobbly. It’s awful to say this about any war, given the horrific loss of life, but this one is winnable. And Russian aggression cannot prevail. – New York Times

Oksana Zabuzhko writes: If there could be any positive result found in the 12 months of this horrific war — in tens of thousands of people murdered, raped and mutilated, in millions of lives ruined, in the best black soil on earth littered with mines, in innumerable treasures of cultural heritage turned to debris — it would be that we Ukrainians have all together, in a united effort of resistance, proved that non-Russian lives matter. – New York Times

Hal Brands writes: So Ukraine will likely remain an economic ward of the West, with Washington and its allies funding the country’s defense for the foreseeable future. Even if Kyiv isn’t headed for NATO, the end of the war may be only the beginning of a long Western commitment to Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Andreas Kluth writes: Putin and Xi remind us that autocracies are at particular risk of intellectual hubris. By definition, these systems are closed mental universes that require conformity and punish free thinking. – Bloomberg

Minxin Pei writes: Withdrawing Chinese support for Putin could also accelerate the latter’s defeat in Ukraine, which would allow the US to concentrate its undivided attention on China sooner. Xi is trapped in a strategic dilemma, at the mercy of events. His erstwhile masterstroke is looking more and more like a losing bet. – Bloomberg

Dean Karayanis writes: The Ukraine War and America’s commitment to it cannot go on forever, and neither can Washington’s habit of plunging into fights without respecting the intent of the Constitution to ensure that there’s an endgame in mind from day one, so we’re not left groping in the dark for an exit we can’t find. – New York Sun

James Kitfield writes: The real lesson of this sorrowful anniversary is that there is no going back to some “golden age” of positive and normal relations between the West and Russia, however much we might desire it because time has revealed that golden hue as a figment of post-Cold War optimism. In the harsh light of Moscow’s continuing atrocities in Ukraine, that interim looks in retrospect like a brief pause in a long twilight struggle. – The Hill

Harlan Ullman writes: The crucial question remains: Who is today’s General Jack Keane? To whom will President Biden listen? There is no Colin Powell. Henry Kissinger may be too old. Perhaps former Presidents Clinton, G.W. Bush or Obama could play that role, however unlikely. But make no mistake: On the current course, the outcome of the war in Ukraine may not be in Kyiv’s favor. We cannot take that risk. Mr. President: Are you listening? – The Hill

Matthew Wallin writes: With limited resources, the United States is spending significantly on transfers of extremely effective weapons and resources to ensure that Ukraine is able to maintain its freedom from Russia. It is also spending money to replenish its own inventory, and to modernize its aging nuclear delivery vehicles. In the event New START fails or sunsets, allowing Russia to goad the U.S. into a level of unnecessary spending on superfluous nuclear weapons that distract from what’s needed would be unwise. – The Hill

Ilan Berman writes: In other words, as has long been the case, nothing succeeds quite like success. And the surest way for the West to bring about the change in Russia that it so desperately desires — in the form of a sustained, powerful internal opposition to Vladimir Putin and his regime — is to ensure that Ukraine keeps winning. – The Hill

Eva Busza and Jerry Hartz write: If Ukraine wins this war, the world’s democracies must unite to win the peace. When the Berlin Wall fell, the West prematurely declared victory and the end of the Cold War. The world cannot make that mistake again. A democratic Ukraine is key to a more democratic, more peaceful and more secure region. As the Ukrainians continually remind us, their fight is our fight. – The Hill

Alex Hinton writes: For these reasons, I am convinced Russia has committed genocide. Regardless of one’s position, we must not lose sight of what is most important: bringing an end to the tremendous loss of life and suffering in Ukraine — and ultimately holding Russia accountable for its brutal war of aggression and crimes of atrocity. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: That, however, is the reality which both the Biden administration and Congress must accept, however grudgingly. And in doing so, it is imperative that the White House propose, and the Congress authorize and appropriate, defense budgets that go well beyond mere minimal real growth in military expenditures — that could only whet the insatiable, ongoing territorial appetites of both Moscow and Beijing. – The Hill

Gideon Rachman writes: But just as Moscow is hoping that western resolve will crack, so Ukraine and its allies are watching Russia closely for any signs of second thoughts or threats to Putin. Because both sides have some reason to hope that the other will crack, they both have an incentive to keep fighting. It is right to push for a quick resolution to this war. It may be more realistic to expect a long conflict. – Financial Times

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The era of counter-insurgency and the global war on terror is now over. Biden’s presidency helped end that era by leaving Afghanistan. Now, going to Kyiv, he has shown how the US has pivoted from the small wars that defined the era 1990-2022, to larger conventional conflicts. – Jerusalem Post 

Riley Bailey, Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Nicole Wolkov, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Biden’s visit and the timing of his trip to Europe clearly signal continued Western support for Ukraine following concerted Russian efforts to deter Western military aid and political support. […]It has long been clear that Ukraine would not continue to defend Bakhmut at the risk of seeing large numbers of Ukrainian troops encircled in the city, so Zelensky’s comment is not likely a real change in Kyiv’s strategy. – Institute for the Study of War


The U.S. envoy to Israel said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should slow progress on a judicial overhaul that could make it harder for Washington to help him promote ties with Saudi Arabia or deal with Iran. – Reuters

At least one Israeli-owned vessel was attacked in the Arabian sea on Feb. 10, a regional defence source said on Friday, in an assault that Iran is assumed to have carried out. – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that Iran was responsible for a reported attack on an oil tanker last week. – Reuters

Israel will not authorise new settlements in the occupied West Bank in the coming months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Monday, after behind-the-scenes talks to head off a planned U.N. Security Council vote on the contested issue. – Reuters

The U.N. Security Council issued a formal statement on Monday denouncing Israel’s plan to expand settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, the first action the United States has allowed the body to take against its ally Israel in six years. – Reuters

The United States planned to veto the United Nations Security Council resolution against settlements and as a result, the Palestinian Authority pulled the text, Israel’s National Security Advisor Tzahi HaNegbi said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Gilad Erdan on Monday condemned Palestinian terrorism during a speech in the UN Security Council. – Algemeiner

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) on Friday introduced legislation to cut off funding to the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees and their descendents unless the agency completes radical reforms to counter its anti-Israel, anti-American, and antisemitic tendencies. – Algemeiner

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel is making strides towards a “quantum leap” in regional relations, which he predicted would culminate in full diplomatic ties and trade with Saudi Arabia. – Arutz Sheva

The chief of the Boeing aircraft manufacturer’s defense wing was in Israel on Sunday and Monday to advance the supply of new, long-awaited refueling planes and fighter jets for the Israeli Air Force looking to boost its capabilities to strike Iran. – Times of Israel

US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides said over the weekend that the Biden Administration is calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to slow legislation of the government’s plan to change the judicial system. – Arutz Sheva

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday hinted that he would introduce new legislation concerning U.S. aid to Israel, issuing stark condemnations about the approach Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is taking toward the Palestinians. – Haaretz

The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel, Mathijs Le Rutte, expressed his fear for the future of the Ukrainians who had fled to Israel, six months after taking up the post at the height of the refugee crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. – Haaretz

Henry Olsen writes:  They will have to choose between their center-left principles and continuing the historically strong alliance between the United States and Israel. Given that liberal Democrats already sympathize more with Palestinians than Israelis, maintaining the alliance will be increasingly difficult for any Democratic president. Before long, the long-standing bipartisan support for Israel in the United States could be a thing of the past. – Washington Post

Anthony Grant writes: There are high stakes at play. Mr. Tzivin told Ynet that Mr. Luft’s testimony could “bury Hunter Biden, that’s why they’re trying to bury him first.” He added that any such testimony “will be very devastating” and will “divert attention to [President Biden] himself.” The lawyer also said that it’s “not unreasonable to think that the Democrats or some of their peers would like him gone.” He maintained that his client is “in great danger.” What exactly Mr. Tzivin meant by that was not immediately clear. – New York Sun

Benny Avni writes: All that does not necessarily mean that America would once again join the Palestinian Authority’s strategy of using the UN and other international bodies in its war against Israel. Yet, the rift between Messrs. Netayahu and Biden appears to be widening. Along with it, traditional diplomatic rituals — including the delicate dance that leads to American vetoes at the UN — could fall by the wayside. – New York Sun

Amos Harel writes: Israel very much needs all these planes for its defense – but also for building true offensive capability to attack Iran – if the most pessimistic scenarios ever come about. But because the funding for these planes comes from the American military aid budget for Israel, a great deal of good will is needed on the part of the Democrats in Washington. Maybe, the steady stream of insults against Biden’s representatives is not the best way to preserve it. – Haaretz

Zvi Bar’el writes: In light of the tense relations between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and the UAE on the Palestinian issue, everyone is now waiting in anticipation for a softer version of the Security Council resolution.[…]This time, however, Israel’s domestic affairs are also the domestic affairs of Arab countries that have signed peace agreements with it, and to which the U.S. is committed. – Haaretz

Michael Rubin writes: As security guards accosted Sharon Bar-Li, the Israeli foreign ministry’s deputy director general for Africa, Blinken’s team appears to have remained silent. If Biden and Blinken truly stood by their allies, they might have instead walked out alongside Israel’s extra-legal expulsion. – 19FortyFive


When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the group quickly launched what officials called a “purification” campaign aimed at stripping the country of civil laws and institutions to build an entirely Islamic society. – Washington Post

The Taliban administration will move ahead with plans to turn former foreign military bases into special economic zones for businesses, the acting deputy prime minister for economic affairs said in a statement on Sunday. – Reuters

A key border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan remained closed for a third day, with thousands of goods vehicles stuck and businesses facing losses as officials from both sides try to broker a solution. – Reuters

Afghan police have arrested the former bodyguard of a female member of parliament who was shot to death at her home in Kabul last month, the Taliban administration said on Friday. – Reuters

Bulgarian police have arrested four people after they found the bodies of 18 dead migrants from Afghanistan, including that of a child, in an abandoned truck near the capital Sofia, officials said on Friday. – Reuters

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are ramping up their investigation into the turbulent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2021, with the panel sending letters to senior administration officials on Friday demanding information pertaining to their decision-making. – Washington Examiner

Pakistani border guards and Afghan Taliban forces traded cross-border fire on Monday morning, officials said, a day after Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers closed the Torkham border crossing amid increasing tensions between the two neighbors. – Associated Press

Editorial: Mr. Haqqani is no moderate. The United States holds him responsible for several bloody terrorist attacks during the Afghan War, including against U.S. personnel. And yet his words are what passes for pragmatism in Kabul these days. If he wants to back them up, he could start by freeing Mr. Mashal, who was arrested by Taliban fighters while continuing his protest on the streets of Kabul on Feb. 2 and has not been heard from since. – Washington Post

Roshni Kapur writes: It is likely that the US will continue to find it challenging to push the Taliban to institute positive change, given Washington’s self-imposed restrictions on engaging the regime, preoccupation with the Ukraine war, and geopolitical limitations. While the US should continue to press the Taliban to honor its commitments, such efforts should be undertaken within a broader strategy, one that acknowledges the importance of, and promotes regional cooperation aimed at contributing to the longer-term stability of Afghanistan and its immediate neighborhood. – Middle East Institute


Aid flows into northwest Syria have increased since deadly earthquakes devastated a swath of the country and disrupted lifesaving assistance to millions of people in an area that has been under a crippling siege for years. – Wall Street Journal

A strong earthquake and its aftershocks struck southern Turkey and Syria on Monday, causing buildings to collapse and killing at least six people, Turkish officials said, in a sign of the region’s vulnerability after it was devastated earlier this month by its worst seismic event in decades. – Wall Street Journal

Syria accused Israel of carrying out a deadly missile strike on Sunday, the first such attack to target the key Iran ally since earthquakes devastated swaths of the country earlier this month. – Wall Street Journal

The five Sannaa brothers—Abdo, 39; Alaa; twins Akram and Adham, 34; and Muhannad, 28—fled their hometown of Idlib during Syria’s civil war and scattered around the world. The earthquakes earlier this month that have left more than 40,000 people dead in Turkey, and killed at least 5,800 in Syria, reunited them. – Wall Street Journal

The head of the World Food Programme (WFP) on Saturday pressured authorities in northwestern Syria to stop blocking access to the area as it seeks to help hundreds of thousands of people ravaged by earthquakes. – Reuters

Paris-founded medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said that a convoy of 14 MSF trucks had entered northwestern Syria on Feb. 19 from a nearby border crossing to assist in earthquake rescue operations. – Reuters

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad travelled to Oman on Monday, his office said, his first foreign trip since the deadly earthquake and a sign of easing isolation after nearly 12 years of civil war. – Reuters

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday said that it strongly condemned an Israeli air strike on the Syrian city of Damascus and its surroundings, calling it a “flagrant violation” of international law. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said consensus was building in the Arab world that isolating Syria was not working and that dialogue with Damascus was needed “at some point” to at least address humanitarian issues, including a return of refugees. – Reuters

David Daoud writes: His logic holds today. Sending humanitarian aid to Syria would be to Israel’s moral credit. But the same moral imperative requires that Assad – the only person deserving the title “Butcher of Syria,” – and his regime be kept pariahs. – Haaretz

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Syria might want to secure Russia’s backing now, and it would use Cohen’s visit to Ukraine as leverage. This also wouldn’t be the first time it did this. In November 2019, Russia revealed that Israel was carrying out airstrikes in Syria. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: President Donald Trump betrayed Syrian Kurds in order to appease Erdogan.  Despite Biden’s promise to resist Erdogan’s blackmail, the default position of his team remains to appease. If Biden wants to drive a nail into the coffin of the Islamic State and Iran’s destabilization of the Middle East, there is no other option. The strategic interest of the United States should be to support and reinforce Kurdish autonomy and the AANES. – 19FortyFive


When Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken first planned a trip to Turkey, it promised to be a difficult, even contentious diplomatic visit. Washington and Ankara have been at odds on several important issues, including Turkey’s ties to Russia, its refusal to allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO and the authoritarian drift of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has been so exasperating in so many ways in recent years that Mr. Blinken, in his confirmation hearing, referred to Ankara as a “so-called ally,” and in two years had not visited. – New York Times

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in earthquake-ravaged Turkey on Sunday, announcing $100 million in disaster assistance and offering unreserved solidarity to a NATO ally with an often-strained relationship with Washington. – Washington Post

FIFA has allocated $1 million to its FIFA Foundation to provide humanitarian aid to people affected by the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, soccer’s world governing body said on Friday. – Reuters

Turkey is not exporting products that could be used in Russia’s war effort, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday, after U.S. warnings this month about exports of chemicals, microchips and other items. – Reuters

The fate of Finland’s bid to join NATO is in “Turkey’s hands”, President Sauli Niinisto said on Friday, after the Finnish parliament agreed it would ratify NATO’s founding treaties on Feb. 28. – Reuters

Washington strongly supports Sweden and Finland’s quick NATO accession given steps they have already taken, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, even as his Turkish counterpart stressed the need for more concrete action. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday called for Sweden and Finland to be accepted into NATO “as quickly as possible,” although his Turkish counterpart dismissed the possibility of any link between their accession and Turkey’s request for F-16 fighter jets. – Associated Press


Iranian filmmaker Sepideh Farsi’s debut animation aims to counter what she says is the traditional narrative of the Iran-Iraq War as her contribution to supporting protests at home. – Reuters

Kuwait and Iraq will hold a round of legal and technical talks on Sunday as they look to bring an end to a maritime border dispute, which if resolved would spur economic development between the states, Kuwait’s foreign minister said on Saturday. – Reuters

A metallic-looking orb was filmed by a U.S. military spy plane in an active conflict zone, but the Department of Defense has declined to answer any questions about it. The four-second clip of the Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon, a government-coined phrase that means UFO, was recorded by a reconnaissance plane moving over Mosul, Iraq, in April 2016. – Fox News


The Israel Defense Forces on Monday said a suspect who had been detained by troops after crossing the border from Syria into the Golan Heights last month was involved in efforts by the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group to gather intelligence on Israel for future attacks. – Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Hassan Nasrallah’s speech, in which the Hezbollah leader boasted that a civil war between the left and right would soon topple the Israeli regime. – Arutz Sheva

Hanin Ghaddar writes: As Washington continues to support the Lebanese Armed Forces and other security institutions, it should make sure that they are protecting victims and their advocates, not the aggressors. Along with Judge Bitar and the families of the port victims, Lebanon’s political activists will need more protection as state institutions collapse. The military did protect some protesters in 2019—but not within Hezbollah’s closed-off Shia towns. Going forward, security institutions should be helping activists, not summoning and interrogating them. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, according to people familiar with their plans. – Bloomberg

The United Arab Emirates told the U.N. Security Council that it will not call a vote on Monday on a draft resolution demanding Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory,” according to a note seen by Reuters. – Reuters

A major defence expo kicked off in the United Arab Emirates on Monday with Russian firms participating in the maritime section despite Western pressure on Gulf states to help isolate Moscow and a strong showing by Israeli companies. – Reuters

Walter Russell Mead writes: But wider insecurities persist. With war in Europe and tensions growing over Taiwan, Emiratis wonder, do the Americans have the resources and wisdom to manage a major Middle East crisis as Iran nears the nuclear threshold? It’s a good question, and the Emiratis aren’t the only ones asking it. – Wall Street Journal

Saudi Arabia

Decisions by OPEC+ are not politicised and are based on market fundamentals, Saudi Arabian energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Monday, adding that the alliance of oil producers is sufficiently flexible to adjust policy as needed. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said consensus was building in the Arab world that isolating Syria was not working and that dialogue with Damascus was needed “at some point” to at least address humanitarian issues, including a return of refugees. – Reuters

Oshkosh Defense is extending its reach in Saudi Arabia’s defense market with the signing of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) today with the Zahid Tractor and Heavy Machinery Company. – Breaking Defense


The African Union is organising a national reconciliation conference for Libya, AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat told AFP on Sunday, the latest bid to restore stability to the conflict-wracked nation. – Agence France-Presse

A former JPMorgan investment manager and an ex-Julius Baer banker were sentenced to a total of 11 years by a London court on Monday for defrauding a Libyan sovereign wealth fund out of millions of dollars. – Reuters

An Israeli professor was arrested in Cyprus last week under an Interpol Red Notice issued at the request of the United States, which he claims is part of an effort by the Biden administration to silence him for cooperating with an investigation into the U.S. president’s son’s business dealings. […]Luft is wanted by the U.S. for charges tied to the illegal export of arms to Libya and China.- Ynet

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisia expelled the head of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on Saturday after she took part in an anti-government protest organised by the country’s UGTT union, one of Tunisia’s leading political forces. – Reuters

In an historic first, Israel and the United Arab Emirates participated in a joint unmanned maritime demonstration where they performed a range of military and commercial missions. EDGE, ADSB and IAI held the joint demonstration at NAVDEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi. – Arutz Sheva

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday received a phone call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during which they discussed the upcoming United Nations Security Council session on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The question is whether the attempt to secure Jenin and Nablus will be a symbolic gesture, involve backroom deals with the gunmen to be less visible, or whether it will be a real confrontation with the setting of a new course. This would require a crackdown on illegal weapons and gun violence. – Jerusalem Post

Blake Herzinger and Ben Lefkowitz write: Most Middle Eastern states are uninterested in choosing sides in the expanding U.S.-China competition. Arab states in particular can be expected to seek maximal utility from both relationships without incurring the ire of either partner. This hedging will manifest in a number of ways, but ultimately Washington will need to decide when and how to limit engagements with traditional security partners as their exposure to the Chinese military increases. Clear communication will be crucial in setting limits for what defense equipment and support will be available if relationships with the PLAN mature into basing or operational access. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea fired two ballistic missiles off its east coast, as the sister of leader Kim Jong Un warned the U.S. and South Korea against holding military drills and deploying strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, escalating tensions in the region as the U.S. and South Korea prepare for joint military exercises. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea has long maintained that all six of its nuclear weapons tests were conducted safely. But on Tuesday, a Seoul-based human rights group warned that radioactive contamination may have spread through groundwater from the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, ​potentially jeopardizing the health of people in North Korea and neighboring countries​. – New York Times

The United States held joint air exercises bilaterally with South Korea and Japan involving strategic bombers on Sunday, a day after North Korea fired a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a “sudden launching drill”. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter watched a sports event attended by government officials on Friday, according to state media, the first time the girl has been seen at a non-military event. – Reuters

The leader of South Korea’s ruling party has warned that the country may have to “seriously consider” developing its own nuclear weapons as a deterrent to its northern neighbour in the wake of Pyongyang’s latest barrage of missile tests. – Financial Times

The United States and its allies urged the U.N. Security Council on Monday to condemn North Korea’s unlawful ballistic missile launches, but China and Russia blamed the U.S. for escalating tensions with stepped-up military exercises targeting Pyongyang. – Associated Press

Donald Kirk writes: Nor has the North tested a missile since January 1 after having tested nearly 100 last year. The latest statement from Pyongyang, though, suggests the North may resume missile testing while South Korean and American forces stage military exercises that have been encouraged by the South’s conservative president, Yoon Suk-yeol. – New York Sun


U.S. officials are warning China against supplying Russia with arms and ammunition, as Moscow struggles to gain ground in Ukraine despite deploying almost the entirety of its ground forces in its smaller neighbor. – Wall Street Journal

China’s leadership is growing worried that increased Western military support for Ukraine will severely weaken Russia, a key partner for Beijing in its heightened competition with the U.S. and its allies. – Wall Street Journal

The growing conflict between China and the U.S. extends from computer-chip factories to a suspected spy balloon over American skies. Running through it all is a struggle for technological superiority. – Wall Street Journal

China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, visited Hungary, one of Beijing’s staunchest European partners, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban signaled Budapest’s determination to strengthen ties with Beijing despite U.S. concern over growing Chinese investment in the country. – Wall Street Journal

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken held what American officials described as a confrontational meeting with his Chinese counterpart on Saturday night in Munich, warning him that the flight of a Chinese surveillance balloon across the United States “must never happen again.” – New York Times

Bristling against U.S. claims that Beijing may be poised to send “lethal support” to help Russia’s war in Ukraine, China accused the Biden administration on Monday of spreading lies and defended its close partnership with Russia. – New York Times

British foreign minister James Cleverly said on Monday he had spoken with Chinese counterpart Qin Gang and raised alleged human rights abuses in China’s western region of Xinjiang. – Reuters

Retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane on Sunday said Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s warning on Sunday that China could provide lethal aid to Russia could actually cause Beijing to cancel those plans. – The Hill

Graham said that the “most catastrophic thing” that could happen to the United States’s relationship with China is if the country gives lethal weapons to Putin. Graham called for marking Russia a state-sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law to make it more difficult for China to aid the war against Ukraine. – Washington Examiner

Diplomatic but not military channels remain open currently between the United States and China, the White House said. – Washington Examiner

A handful of Trump-era Pentagon officials reportedly tracked a series of mysterious objects now suspected to be Chinese balloons, though it was not reported to the White House at the time. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: But Mr. Xi and his war hawks may be willing to take that risk if they want to prevent a Russian defeat in Ukraine. China may want to bleed the West of its weapons and see if Russia can outlast political support in Washington and European capitals for Ukraine. This would be foolish, and bad for China and the world, but the possibility is one more urgent reason for Members of both parties in Congress to get serious about rebuilding U.S. defenses. – Wall Street Journal

Richard A. Muller writes: Perhaps the Happe program also alerted China to the espionage potential of stratospheric balloons. (In World War II Japan flew lower-altitude balloons carrying incendiary devices timed to fall over the U.S.) Or maybe Happe initially intrigued China with its science potential. By the 1980s, Chinese scientists were launching their own stratospheric balloons over the Pacific. They named their projects HAPI—written in Mandarin, of course, not English. Was it called that for the joy it brought, as some have suggested? I now think it might have been an homage to Happe. – Wall Street Journal

Sheldon H. Jacobson writes: As more information is collected from the first balloon shot down, a clearer picture will come together as to the capabilities of China’s balloon program and whether it poses a threat to the nation and its allies. Until then, we will continue to wait, observe and track balloons hovering over the United States. – The Hill

Donald Kirk writes: While focusing on nukes and missiles, no one imagined such relatively simple devices as balloons could capture the attention of statesmen, national leaders, generals and emissaries. Call them China’s once secret weapon. Balloons are more than merely the stuff of headlines du jour. In a war of wits and nerves as well as strength and power, it’s wise to expect the unexpected, including hot air blowing in from China. – The Hill

John Bolton writes: Both the House and Senate have passed unanimous resolutions condemning the Chinese overflights, a rare display of bipartisanship in today’s Washington. Let’s get on with enhancing our national security against Beijing’s menace, not only from balloon flights but across the board. – The Hill

Stanley Chao writes: Whether it’s throwing punches or doling out flowers, China is not really interested in ideological alliances or an international rules-based order. Whether you call it socialist market capitalism or pseudo-communism, China’s approach is one of a kind. Going it alone often begets chaos. It’s simply hard to predict China’s mood at any given time. Ultimately, however, Beijing does want to be a global citizen, just on its own terms. Expect surprises, good or bad, and then roll with the punches when they inevitably come. – The Hill

South Asia

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will not attend the Raisina Dialogue in India, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson said on Monday, criticising a video posted by the conference organisers showing protests in the Islamic Republic. – Reuters

The United States brought its most advanced fighter jet, the F-35, to India for the first time this week alongside F-16s, Super Hornets and B-1B bombers as Washington looks to woo New Delhi away from its traditional military supplier, Russia. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is considering approving a loan for Sri Lanka, even without China’s assurance of debt-restructuring support, Bloomberg News reported on Friday. – Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party accused billionaire financier-philanthropist George Soros of trying to undermine India’s democracy on Friday by predicting that the Adani group’s woes would loosen the Hindu nationalist leader’s grip on power. – Reuters

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was granted protective bail by a court in the eastern city of Lahore on Monday, providing him respite from arrest for two weeks in a case that involves charges under the country’s anti-terrorism laws. – Reuters

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says ties between the U.S. and India are a “crucial counterweight to outcompete China” as he leads a congressional delegation to New Delhi to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. – The Hill


For years, the Philippines largely stood by as Chinese forces rammed its fishing vessels and occupied the reefs and shoals that once belonged to the Southeast Asian nation. Those days may soon be over. – New York Times

Exposing China’s activities was the “key purpose” of Australia’s foreign interference laws, but the scheme has failed to do this, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who introduced the laws, said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday announced a new $5.5 billion financial aid for Ukraine and will mark the first anniversary of the war by hosting an online Group of Seven summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. – Associated Press

Defence cooperation between South Korea and Indonesia will expand, diplomats from the two countries said on Friday, after a dispute over funding for a joint fighter jet project was resolved last year. – Reuters

The United Nations plans to slash food aid to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, blaming a funding shortfall for cuts that agencies warned on Friday would deepen food insecurity and malnutrition in the world’s largest refugee settlement. – Reuters

Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi met his South Korean counterpart Park Jin on Saturday and reiterated the need for continued communications between the two countries to return to a “healthy relationship”. – Reuters

Myanmar’s pro-democracy forces want the United States to issue stronger sanctions against the junta that seized power in the country two years ago and increase funding for pro-democratic forces, the parallel civilian government’s foreign minister told Reuters on Friday – Reuters

Japan and China will hold security talks next week, Japanese foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said after meeting his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. – Reuters

A balloon that came down on a remote Taiwanese-held islet close to China’s coast was used for weather monitoring and had no audio-visual recording equipment on board, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday after analysing the remains. – Reuters

The European Union on Monday imposed a sixth round of sanctions on Myanmar over the 2021 military coup that overthrew elected leader Aung Suu Kyi and sparked global outrage. – Reuters

Taiwan is bolstering its military ties with the United States and will cooperate even more closely with it and other friendly nations to deal with “authoritarian expansionism”, President Tsai Ing-wen told visiting U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday. – Reuters

The Philippines and the United States are discussing conducting joint coast guard patrols, including in the South China Sea, a Manila official said on Monday. – Reuters

A U.N. torture prevention panel terminated its suspended visit to Australia, saying it continued to face obstacles in getting access to some detention centres in the country. – Reuters

Former leaders from Australia, Britain and Belgium called Friday for a tougher international approach to China to reduce the possibility of war over Taiwan and respond to human rights violations. – Associated Press


European leaders put on a show of unity Friday, stressing their support for Ukraine against Russian aggression, while also seeking possible negotiated paths to end the conflict. – Wall Street Journal

With the Ukraine war on its doorstep, Poland has emerged as Europe’s pre-eminent hawk on the conflict with Russia, as Warsaw plays a central role in stiffening Western resolve toward Moscow through public pressure and backchannel negotiations. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden is in Poland ahead of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, seeking to applaud the global coalition that has helped thwart Russia’s military ambitions and also shoring up an alliance threatened by shifting political winds and fatigue with the war effort. – Washington Post

President Biden landed in Poland’s capital late Monday, capping a day of cloak-and-dagger moves, a surprise Kyiv trip and an announcement that the United States would send $460 billion worth of aid to bolster Ukraine’s defense against Russian invasion. – Washington Post

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday he had ordered the formation of a new volunteer territorial defence so everyone knows how to “handle weapons” and be ready to respond to an act of aggression and keep public order in peacetime. – Reuters

More than 30 countries, including the United States, Britain and France, on Monday pledged their support for banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in international sporting events, a British government statement said. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an interview published on Sunday that the French leader Emmanuel Macron was wasting his time considering any sort of dialogue with Russia. – Reuters

The European Union is urgently exploring ways for its member countries to team up to buy munitions to help Ukraine, following warnings from Kyiv that its forces need more supplies quickly, diplomats and officials said. – Reuters

Kosovo feted 15 years of independence with a parade of soldiers and police cheered by thousands in Pristina on Friday with an eye to a normalisation deal with Serbia, key to stability in a region still scarred from ethnic wars in the 1990s. – Reuters

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris discussed challenges posed by China with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and agreed to remain closely aligned during meetings with the leaders in Munich, the White House said on Friday. – Reuters

Russia said on Friday that it had summoned the Dutch ambassador over what it called “obsessive attempts” by the Dutch authorities to hold it responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine in 2014. – Reuters

Russia has in recent months tried to gain intelligence to sabotage critical infrastructure in the Dutch part of the North Sea, Dutch military intelligence agency MIVD said on Monday. – Reuters

Russia on Sunday scolded Emmanuel Macron over remarks about wanting to see Russia defeated, saying Moscow still remembered the fate of Napoleon Bonaparte and accusing the French president of duplicitous diplomacy with the Kremlin. – Reuters

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday she was confident the EU’s joint interest in getting more ammunition to Ukraine will trump individual national interests when it comes to common European defence procurement programmes. – Reuters

Britain’s Rishi Sunak said “intensive work” was needed in coming days to reach a resolution to the Northern Ireland protocol issue after what he described as a positive discussion with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. – Reuters

A former security guard at the UK’s Berlin embassy, who admitted spying for Moscow, was on Friday jailed for over 13 years under the Official Secrets Act. – Agence France-Presse

In Moscow-allied Belarus, officers look out across a snowy training ground outside the capital Minsk as Russian and Soviet-era tanks fire into the distance. – Agence France-Presse

Demonstrators took to the streets of the Moldovan capital of Chișinău on Sunday, demanding the removal of pro-west president Maia Sandu after US and European officials raised concerns about an alleged Russian plot to topple her government. – Financial Times

The prime minister of Sweden has warned against delinking his country’s Nato membership bid from Finland’s, after the alliance acknowledged for the first time that the two might have to join separately owing to Turkey’s obstruction. – Financial Times

The Kremlin has urged Moldova to exercise caution in its statements about Russian forces stationed in the breakaway Transdniester region just days after a new pro-Western government led by Prime Minister Dorin Recean was sworn in. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Belarus has expelled three Polish diplomats, the Polish Foreign Ministry confirmed on February 20, according to the Onet.pl news service. The service reported that those being expelled were a Polish border-guard liaison official and two members of the Polish Consulate in the city of Hrodna near the border. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss called for Western nations to send advanced fighter jets to Ukraine in her first address to her fellow members of Parliament since she stepped down as the head of the U.K. government last year. – The Hill

Editorial: That means more air defense, artillery, aircraft, ships and other hard power, not pensions or vanity procurement projects. Ukraine is burning through 6,000 artillery shells a day, and production lines are struggling to keep up. Donated air defenses are working hard against everything from drones to cruise missiles. Ukraine needs more tanks, but some like Spain’s Leopards have been mothballed for years and are in dubious shape. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: In that situation, removing the DUP’s veto on allowing the Northern Ireland assembly to sit so it could have input into those decisions would be a bare minimum. Dublin should also be consulted on decisions. This solution is clumsy. But Northern Ireland’s future, and the UK’s ties with the EU, cannot be kept in limbo by the demands of a party whose stance threatens to undermine the very cause it claims to represent. – Financial Times

Anthony Grant writes: A more enterprising state secretary would have recognized that, modified the script, and flown to Nicosia for a little  sit-down with Mr. Christodoulides. One thing the American people can count on, though, is this: when the leader you are following has lost his way, there will still be photo opps aplenty to cover it up. – New York Sun

Mike Gonzalez writes: About six years ago, Brian Hook, then director for policy planning, wrote in a memo what may be one of the best rationales for how to treat allies and foes. Hook wrote : One useful guideline for a realistic and successful foreign policy is that allies should be treated differently — and better — than adversaries. Otherwise, we end up with more adversaries, and fewer allies. The classic dilemma of balancing ideals and interests is with regard to America’s allies. In relation to our competitors, there is far less of a dilemma. We do not look to bolster America’s adversaries overseas; we look to pressure, compete with, and outmaneuver them. Perhaps this is a better approach than the “Sullivan Doctrine” of continuing our culture wars overseas. – Washington Examiner

Sophie Rose writes: With a new cabinet facing so many challenges, ruthless prioritisation is needed to safeguard the UK’s economic wellbeing and national security. Biosecurity needs to be up there — delivered through an ambitious strategy and dogged implementation of its recommendations. – Financial Times

Daniel Kochis writes: President Biden’s trip to Poland comes at a critical moment in the Russian war against Ukraine and on the heels of continued Chinese provocations against the United States. As such, friend and foe alike will be watching carefully. The President should remain committed to transatlantic security and grow important ties with Eastern Europe, a dynamic region that is emerging as a strengthened force within Europe, a trend that is almost certain to be underscored in the decade ahead. President Biden should work to strengthen European resolve to tackle the threat from China in the same way it is addressing the long-term strategic threat from Russia. – Heritage Foundation


But the governments of Uganda and Tanzania are arguing that they can’t afford not to exploit their natural resources while the world still runs on fossil fuels. It is unfair, they say, to ask poor countries to safeguard global carbon sinks and nature reserves that rich Western countries, which are responsible for most historic emissions, destroyed long ago in pursuit of their own economic development. – Wall Street Journal

A senior Israeli diplomat on Saturday was removed from the African Union’s annual summit in Ethiopia, as a dispute over Israel’s accreditation to the bloc escalated. – Reuters

France’s defence minister pledged on Monday to boost military support to Ivory Coast, as Paris adjusts its strategy in West Africa after neighbouring Burkina Faso ordered French troops to leave and vowed to curb a worsening Islamist insurgency solo. – Reuters

The United Nations will spend $250 million from its emergency fund to tackle “forgotten crises’ around the world, including helping communities that are facing the risk of famine in Africa, its secretary general said on Saturday. – Reuters

Failure to renew a U.N.-backed initiative that has enabled Ukraine to export grain from ports blockaded by Russia would be catastrophic as millions in Africa are on the cusp of famine, the head of the U.N. food agency warned on Saturday. – Reuters

African countries are getting a raw deal from the international financial system which charges them “extortionate” interest rates, the U.N. chief said on Saturday, as he announced $250 million in crisis funding, including for famine risk on the continent. – Reuters

Fighters from Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebel group killed at least 20 men and raped scores of women and girls in the east in November, Amnesty International said in a report on Friday. – Reuters

At least 51 soldiers were killed when their unit was ambushed in northern Burkina Faso on Friday, the army said on Monday, one of the highest reported death tolls from a single attack since the area became a hotbed of jihadist activity. – Reuters

The head of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group accused of widespread human rights abuses, said on Sunday he was committed to intergrating the force into a reformed national armed forces. – Reuters

Burkina Faso announced on Sunday that operations by the French army in the jihadist-hit West African state were officially over, after bilateral relations soured in recent months. – Agence France-Presse

Latin America

Paraguayan President Mario Abdo on Saturday sought to calm jitters that an election in April could see his country ditch long-standing ties with Taiwan in favour of China, saying at the end of a Taipei trip that nobody would dare to end relations. – Reuters

There will be no “witch-hunt” to root out members of Brazil’s military who may have potentially been involved in the Jan. 8 Brasilia riots, the country’s top military prosecutor said in an interview, pledging to follow due process to mete out justice. – Reuters

Brazil’s new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping on March 28 on Lula’s first trip of his current term to his country’s largest trading partner, official sources told Reuters. – Reuters

Anthony B. Kim writes: It’s in the clear interest of Washington to welcome Paraguay’s continued, recommitted diplomatic engagement with Taiwan and further encourage more practical interaction of an elevated, forward-looking partnership amongst the three nations. – The Daily Signal

United States

House Homeland Security Committee ranking Democrat Bennie Thompson (Miss.) on Monday blasted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for handing over tens of thousands of hours of riot footage from Jan. 6, 2021, to Fox News host Tucker Carlson. – The Hill

The Justice Department probes into Donald Trump’s conduct appear to be ramping up, as special counsel Jack Smith approaches key allies of the former president with knowledge of his activities surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and classified documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. – The Hill

Justice Department investigators on Friday searched the offices of former Vice President Mike Pence’s political advocacy group as part of a review of his handling of classified documents, a spokesperson said. – The Hill


Google goes before the U.S. Supreme Court this week to defend what is widely regarded as a pillar of the online economy—and one that is also being blamed for a proliferation of harmful content. – Wall Street Journal

Meta Platforms Inc. is launching a paid subscription service that enables users to verify their accounts with government identification and receive direct access to customer support. – Wall Street Journal

Tech giants including Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok face stricter online content rules in the European Union due to their huge number of users. – Reuters

Independent journalist Matt Taibbi released another batch of “Twitter Files” Saturday night using a series of tweets to reveal the internal communications between Twitter executives and government officials looking to target constituents and a political rival, as well as label various users’ accounts as “Russian-controlled.” – Washington Examiner

Tesla employees claim that Elon Musk shadowbanned their Twitter account after they attempted to unionize, raising fears of a conflict of interest in Musk’s management of the social media platform. – Washington Examiner

Tech giant Apple has contracted the former chairwoman of the U.S. International Trade Commission ahead of a decision from President Joe Biden on a possible ban of Apple Watches. – Washington Examiner

The Supreme Court will meet on Friday to decide whether to review a case challenging the legality of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program that hoovers up Americans’ internet traffic as it flows in and out of the U.S. – ​​CyberScoop

The FBI says it has contained a cyber incident at the agency’s New York field office that reportedly affected a computer network used in child sexual exploitation investigations. – ​​CyberScoop

Researchers from the Chinese cybersecurity company Qi An Pangu Lab believe they have identified six members of the “Against The West” hacking group, according to a report published Sunday by state-controlled media. – The Record

“The work that companies like Microsoft and Google have been doing in Ukraine is really unique,” says David van Weel, NATO’s assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, and the alliance should consider how they can cooperate during future conflicts. – The Record

Several Chinese military hacking groups are targeting European businesses and organizations, the European Union’s cybersecurity agency warned this week. – The Record

U.S. law enforcement and its international allies will continue to target ransomware actors with more sanctions and with more hacking operations, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Friday. – The Record

Editorial: But lawmakers could mandate more transparency about how moderation policies are enforced. They could set rules to stop government officials from secretly jawboning platforms into censorship. They could also clarify how a law from the AOL era applies to an AI age that was unimaginable in 1996. – Wall Street Journal

Bob Goodlatte writes: The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to take up this case will have long-lasting implications for independent oversight of the NSA, CIA, and FBI, and other intelligence agencies. Meanwhile, the public’s privacy hangs in the balance. – Washington Examiner

Caden Rosenbaum writes: Instead of limiting access to social media, we need to focus on education and empowerment, providing minors and their parents with the skills and judgment they need to navigate the online world and interact with their peers in and outside of Utah. – Washington Examiner

Jeffrey M. McCall writes: The Supreme Court has to find a magic wand to wave over these messy tech problems. Sadly, the justices have to do some broken field running on their own. The constitutional framers, well-intentioned as they were, could never have foreseen having to interpret the First Amendment with regard to a digital universe. – The Hill


Lockheed Martin will deliver hypersonic missiles to the Navy and Army that can be integrated with the Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyers under a $1.2 billion deal awarded Friday. – Defense News

Manufacturers of counter-drone weaponry say they are increasingly miniaturizing and simplifying their solutions to meet rising demand for man-portable weapons, as recent conflicts have accentuated the importance of mobile capabilities. – Defense News

The Space Force expects the scope of its next phase of major National Security Space Launch contracts to increase by about 50% due to surge demand for military lift services, according to the general who oversees the launch enterprise. – Defense News

The Marine Corps has kicked off its evaluations of the advanced reconnaissance vehicle prototypes that are competing to replace the aging light armored vehicle. – Military Times

Long War

Militants launched an hourslong assault on the police headquarters in Pakistan’s largest city on Friday, officials said, the latest in a string of attacks in recent months that have shaken many Pakistanis’ sense of security and spurred concerns about militant groups regaining strength from safe havens in neighboring Afghanistan. – New York Times

At least 53 civilians were killed in an attack in Syria’s central desert province of Homs, state media reported on Friday, blaming jihadist militant group Islamic State. – Reuters

The U.S. military said Friday a helicopter raid led by its forces in northeast Syria left a senior leader with the Islamic State group dead and four American service members wounded. – Associated Press

Facebook’s algorithm has automatically created over 100 pages for US-designated terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al-Quaeda, according to a new report by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP). – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: By the fall of 2019 the border crossing to Iraq was reopened once ISIS was removed from this key area of Syria. ISIS was also defeated near the Golan in July 2018. However, ISIS today appears to be trying to show it is a threat again. – Jerusalem Post