Fdd's overnight brief

February 22, 2021

In The News


Iran appears to have partly lifted its threat to sharply limit international inspections of its nuclear facilities starting on Tuesday, giving Western nations three months to see if the beginnings of a new diplomatic initiative with the United States and Europe will restore the 2015 nuclear deal. – New York Times

But on Friday, the formal announcement that the Biden administration was seeking a return to nuclear negotiations with Iran, after the collapse of the 2015 agreement under President Trump, did not provoke a sharp backlash — not just in Jerusalem, but also in the Gulf nations of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which also oppose too generous a rapprochement with Iran. – New York Times

National security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday said the Biden administration has begun discussions with Iran regarding the American hostages the Islamic Republic currently holds. – The Hill

President Biden’s decision to open the door to negotiations with Iran and other nations underscores a sharp turn away from his predecessor and back to the diplomacy-first foreign policy championed during the Obama years. – The Hill

Any communication between Tehran and Washington about U.S. citizens detained in Iran has been conducted via the Swiss embassy that handles U.S. interests rather than through direct contact, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Sunday. – Reuters

Tehran said on Sunday the United States must first lift sanctions on Iran if it wants to talk about salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal, reiterating its stance that it will not make the first move to restore the pact with major powers. – Reuters

The United States plans to take no additional actions in response to pressure from Iran before talks with Tehran and major powers about returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the White House said on Friday. – Reuters

The U.N. nuclear watchdog found uranium particles at two Iranian sites it inspected after months of stonewalling, diplomats say, and it is preparing to rebuke Tehran for failing to explain, possibly complicating U.S. efforts to revive nuclear diplomacy. – Reuters

US President Joe Biden urged European powers Friday to work together to curb Iran’s “destabilizing” activities in the Middle East, a day after committing to rejoin talks on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. – Agence France-Presse

Iran is ready for talks with its Arab neighbors “without preconditions,” the country’s foreign minister said as nations such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalize their relations with the Islamic Republic’s arch-enemy Israel. – Bloomberg

Iran indicated it would not be interested in talks about changing “the terms” of its nuclear deal with U.S. authorities as the United States says, “The ball is in their court.” – Washington Examiner

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa stating that women in cartoons and animated features must be depicted wearing a hijab, according to al-Arabiya citing Iran’s Tasnim news agency. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday accused Western leaders and the International Atomic Energy Agency of hypocrisy in targeting Iran’s nuclear program, while ignoring Israel’s. – Times of Israel

President Trump in 2019 sought to open a back channel of communication with top Iranian officials and saw the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September as a potential opportunity to defuse escalating tension with Tehran, but the effort failed. – Washington Times

Before any serious discussions get underway, however, international commercial banking interests (not just government finance ministers) must be given an opportunity to provide substantive input—because, as a practical matter, these private enterprises will have the final say as to how much sanctions relief Iran effectively receives. – The Bulletin

A Thursday announcement by the United States that it was ready to talk directly with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement was met with concern in Israel, amid accelerating Iranian breaches of the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities. – Algemeiner

Editorial: The U.S. says it wants Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and then negotiate a follow-on agreement. But Tehran says its goal is to return only to the 2015 deal—which pays Iran billions to hold off on building a nuke for a few years while ignoring Iran’s regional imperialism and its ballistic-missile program. The problem with the art of concession is that it tends to lead to many more concessions—from the U.S., not Iran. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Iran offered “implausible answers” and “typical delaying tactics” in response, a source said. Tehran has vowed to bar short-notice inspections by the IAEA starting Feb. 23 if the United States doesn’t lift its sanctions. It’s yet another extortion attempt from the bullying regime. But Biden seems hellbent on rewarding its ongoing villainy. – New York Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: However, even the new deadline is somewhat of a bluff. It will take months after a deal in principle is reached for Iran to export all of the additional and excess enriched uranium it has illegally produced, to reduce other violations and for the US to remove sanctions. At most, the Islamic Republic can hope for some kind of partial reduction of sanctions for a corresponding partial reduction of violations or an announcement of a deal in principle which may lead to sanctions relief later in 2021. – Jerusalem Post

Herb Keinon writes: The US and the other world powers would do well to listen to what Israel and the key Gulf states have to say on the matter – first, because they are closest to the Iranians and have the most to lose if the Iranians get nuclear weapons or ballistic weapons or an infusion of cash to send to regional proxies, and secondly because, if left out of the loop, they could decide to take actions themselves to set back what they view as an existential threat. – Jerusalem Post


A wave of air strikes by government ally Russia killed at least 21 Islamic State group jihadists in the Syrian desert over the past 24 hours, a monitor said Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

The United Nations announced on Thursday that Syria is set to be elected to a senior post on a UN “decolonization” committee charged with upholding human rights including the “subjugation, domination and exploitation” of people. – Times of Israel

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Russia has threaded the needle in Syria. It has enabled friction between the Syrian regime and Turkey, and between Israel and Iran, gambling on the idea that all those involved in Syria now come to Moscow to figure out what to do next. The recent deal to release an Israel woman who entered Syria illustrates that. – Jerusalem Post


The common interests of Turkey and the United States outweigh their differences and Ankara wants improved cooperation with Washington, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday striking a rare conciliatory tone. – Reuters 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Sunday he saw a window of opportunity for Iran and the United States on sanctions after recent statements, adding he wanted U.S. sanctions on Tehran to be lifted, the Turkish presidency said. – Reuters

Turkish authorities are investigating a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over suspected militant links, prosecutors said on Sunday, after a minister said the lawmaker had visited an area in northern Iraq where 13 Turks were killed. – Reuters

On February 14, 2021, Russian expert Gevorg Mirzayan published an article, titled “How Russia Can Block Erdoğan’s Imperial Ambitions,” in the Russian media outlet Vzglyad, reacting to a segment aired by the Turkish state channel TRT1, which showed a map of Turkish spheres of influence predicted by 2050. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

A recent program on the state owned Turkish national channel TRT1, showed a map that included the territories that Turkey will annex in the next thirty years attracted attention in Russia. The lands in question included the southern Russian territories of These were the regions of Rostov, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Saratov, Samara oblasts, Chuvashia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Adygea, North Ossetia, and Crimea, Sevastopol. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It’s unclear why Turkey receives almost no critique from the UK, Germany, US or other countries that claim to stand for democracy. […]Western democracies have often told militant groups that if they lay down their arms and embrace democracy, as happened in Northern Ireland, they will receive support. People in Turkey did that: they sought a ceasefire and went to the polls, and then found that preaching peace would also be labelled “terrorism” so that Turkey’s ruling party can stay in power forever using “fighting terrorism” as an excuse. – Jerusalem Post


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sidestepped questions over whether his country agreed to pay Russia to provide coronavirus vaccines to Syria as a part of a prisoner swap between the two Middle Eastern countries. – Wall Street Journal

The decision stunned and angered American diplomats in Washington and Africa and government officials and human rights activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Mr. Gertler had been accused years earlier by the United Nations and other groups of working with the then-ruling family on deals that looted the nation’s mineral wealth and propped up a corrupt regime. – New York Times

Israel’s reopening of its economy, combined with a murky prisoner swap with Syria and the arrival of a batch of vaccines in the Gaza Strip, have all underscored how those with access to the vaccines have political power in the turbulent region. – Associated Press

A shipment of coronavirus vaccines arranged by a rival of President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, giving a lift to the blockaded territory’s vaccination efforts and embarrassing the Palestinian leader ahead of national elections. – Associated Press

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday issued a decree ordering the respect of freedom of expression ahead of legislative elections in May, a step demanded by Palestinian factions who discussed the polls in Egypt-hosted talks this month. – Associated Press

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the second largest constituent group of the PLO after Fatah, has decided to participate in the Palestinian parliamentary election, slated for May 22. – Jerusalem Post

Israel has been chosen to participate in the World Logistics Passport (WLP) program following the establishment of normalized relations with the UAE, a statement from the WLP said. – Jerusalem Post

Questions are swirling about new satellite images which have revealed that Israel is expanding its Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev desert. – Jerusalem Post

Israel and the United States have begun developing the Arrow-4 missile defense system that includes next-generation interceptors and will replace the Arrow-2 over the next decades, according to a statement from Israel’s Defense Ministry. – Defense News

The Palestinian Authority has reportedly sent a letter to Washington stating that all Palestinian factions — including Hamas — have committed to a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, and to peaceful popular resistance against Israel. – Times of Israel

Hamas will not nominate a presidential candidate in the scheduled Palestinian elections, a senior official in the terror group told Al-Jazeera on Sunday. – Times of Israel

With Palestinians set to head to national elections in May, the Hamas terror group officially began its own internal leadership elections on Friday. – Times of Israel

An Israeli woman who crossed into Syria two weeks ago, and was returned under a murky deal brokered by Russia, reportedly told investigators that she was “seeking adventure” and did not apologize or express regret for the trip. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Even a history lesson about ancient Carthage’s destruction by the Romans asks students to name a Palestinian village destroyed by “the Israeli Occupation.” Indeed, Israel is referred to only as “the Enemy,” “the Israeli Occupation” or “the Zionist Occupation.” No maps in the materials even show the Jewish state. President Donald Trump was right to cut off funding — $360 million a year — to UNRWA, which devotes most of its budget to “education.” Biden ought to rethink his plan to reverse that: These hatemongers don’t deserve a dime. – New York Post

Nicholas Goldberg writes: The situation is not entirely hopeless. It’s conceivable that over time, the two sides could restart talks and revive the two-state solution, or work out some kind of confederation, or even, I guess, agree to a single-state model, although I remain highly skeptical. But that’s going to take a while. Hard-nosed realists tend to shrug and say that after a century of conflict, if it takes 10 or 20 or 50 more years to fix, that won’t be the end of the world. – LA Times

Avi Issacharoff writes: One thing that is already pretty clear is that elections in East Jerusalem will not be acceptable to Israel. In the past, the Palestinians used this excuse to cancel the elections. Now their approach seems to be that any East Jerusalem resident with voting rights can vote freely at one of the ballot boxes that will be set up throughout West Bank cities. – Times of Israel

Zvi Bar’el writes: Israel could perhaps derive some comfort from Biden’s statement that he sees returning to the nuclear deal as just the first stage in a series of agreements he hopes to sign with Iran that would address its ballistic missiles and support for terrorism. Granted, this promise doesn’t satisfy Jerusalem. But satisfying Israel evidently isn’t a top priority for the current occupant of the Oval Office. – Haaretz


But the Biden administration’s otherwise measured response to the rocket fusillade in Erbil stood in sharp contrast with President Donald J. Trump’s pitched campaign against Iran — one that often caught Iraq in the crossfire. – New York Times

Four rockets hit the Al-Balad airbase north of the Iraqi capital on Saturday, the military said, as security sources told AFP a local contractor for a US company managing Iraq’s F-16s was wounded. – Agence France-Presse

Iraq has decided against signing an oil-supply deal with a Chinese state company that would’ve seen the cash-strapped Arab nation get about $2 billion upfront, according to its oil minister. – Bloomberg


The Lebanese judge leading the investigation into the August explosion that tore through Beirut had set his sights on the caretaker prime minister and three former ministers, charging them with negligence for ignoring the highly combustible material stored for six years on the waterfront. – Washington Post

The U.N. Security Council has given a green light to keep the U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri operating and funded for at least this year. – Associated Press

Christophe Abi-Nassif writes: For civil society and alternative parties, by-elections could be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, most vacancies are in districts that are relatively more favorable than others to alternative candidates. […]On the other hand, a disillusionment due to low turnout or an inability to coordinate a compact, unified front can easily backfire. If alternative parties cannot achieve encouraging results in places like Beirut’s first district or Metn, the political road ahead may be somber. – Middle East Institute


The military escalation in Marib, the last northern stronghold of the internationally recognized Yemeni government, threatens to displace hundreds of thousands of Yemenis, many of whom have already fled violence multiple times. – Washington Post

Yemen’s warring sides did not achieve progress in their latest round of negotiations over a prisoner swap, the United Nations said on Sunday. – Associated Press

Yemen’s Houthi rebels killed a tribal leader and four of his immediate family in the rebel-held capital, tribal leaders said on Saturday. – Associated Press

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen said Friday it was “extremely concerned” by the recent escalation of violence between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and government forces in in the oil-rich Marib province. – Associated Press

Michael Kruger writes: The U.S. is currently working to foster a solution. We are advocating for peace, ending support for the war, and reducing the barriers to humanitarian assistance. These are tough, complicated, and at times imperfect decisions in a very difficult environment, and each move has advantages and disadvantages. However, we need to remind ourselves that these are necessary decisions meant to prevent mass starvation that would undoubtedly shock our consciences. Before it is too late, we need to rally together to support necessary food and humanitarian aid to save innocent lives. – Washington Examiner

Sean Durns writes: And while some analysts objected to the designation, it is undeniable that the Houthis act in a manner that is little different from other terrorist organizations. The group has purposefully targeted civilians, cooperated and trained with other FTOs, and tortured and raped villagers. […]Regrettably, many press reports on the debate have done just that, failing to note both Iran’s objectives and the Houthis’ history. – Washington Examiner

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is facing more frequent and increasingly precise airborne attacks as Iran-linked groups in neighboring Yemen and Iraq exploit persistent gaps in the kingdom’s defenses and the Biden administration reconsiders the U.S. approach to the region. – Wall Street Journal

Saudi Arabia will invest more than $20 billion in its domestic military industry over the next decade as part of aggressive plans to boost local military spending, the head of the kingdom’s military industry regulator said on Saturday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) has signed an agreement to set up a joint venture with U.S. firm Lockheed Martin to enhance the kingdom’s defence and manufacturing capabilities, the state-owned Saudi company said on Sunday. – Reuters

Washington has reaffirmed its “strategic defence partnership” with Riyadh in the face of increased attacks by Yemeni rebels but the move came in a call from the Pentagon not the White House. – Agence France-Presse

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The WSJ article points to Saudi Arabia being vulnerable to drone attacks. The challenge for Saudi Arabia is that it is a large desert kingdom, and it requires a lot of radar and also defense systems to stop drones. Most air defense systems that can address drone threats, are relatively short range. Many other air defense systems are not that capable or reliable in detecting or stopping drone attacks. Advanced militaries that make the hi-tech air defenses that a country like Saudi Arabia needs are all rapidly upgrading radars and interceptors to deal with the threat. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

In spite of the surging coronavirus pandemic, major arms makers descended Sunday on a convention center in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, hoping to make deals with militaries across the Middle East. – Associated Press

The U.N. human rights office said Friday that it has asked the United Arab Emirates for evidence that an Emirati princess held against her will for almost three years is still alive. – Associated Press

The establishment of a new rabbinical court for Jewish communities in the Gulf states indicates the integration of Jews into local society and an opportunity to “revive a golden age” of Jewish-Muslim understanding and cooperation, two of the court’s rabbis have said. – Jerusalem Post

Houda Nonoo and Alex Peterfreund write: The creation of the AGJC represents the dawn of a new era for Jewish life in the Gulf as we now embark on creating a joint vision for Jewish life in the Gulf rather than doing so country-by-country. Now, the Jewish communities of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are all moving in lockstep to create Jewish infrastructure that supports both our residents and tourists. We look forward to welcoming you to our communities. – Jerusalem Post


A United Nations report accuses Blackwater founder Erik Prince of assisting in violations of an international arms embargo on Libya, placing the military contractor at risk of U.N. sanctions, according to a diplomat with access to the report. – Wall Street Journal 

Responding to accusations by United Nations investigators that he violated an international arms embargo, Erik Prince, the Blackwater Worldwide founder and prominent supporter of Donald J. Trump, denied playing any role in an $80 million mercenary operation in Libya in 2019. – New York Times

The interior minister of Libya’s U.N.-backed government survived an ambush by gunmen on his motorcade on Sunday, a brazen attack highlighting the towering challenges that remain for the newly appointed government that is trying to unite the country before elections late this year. – Associated Press

The U.N. special envoy to Libya on Friday met with the country’s east-based military commander as part of efforts to unite rival factions in the war-torn North African nation ahead of elections in December. – Associated Press

Middle East & North Africa

Israel and Egypt continued to expand their cooperation on natural-gas issues on Sunday, as Egyptian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Tarek El Molla visited Jerusalem for the first time. – Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah-affiliated reporter Ali Shoeib claimed on Sunday that the Israeli woman returned to Israel in a prisoner exchange deal with Syria last week was spotted along the Lebanese-Israeli border in 2020. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Since taking office, Mr. Biden has been speaking up strongly in defense of human rights and democracy, including in Myanmar, Russia and China. That’s a welcome and badly needed change from President Donald Trump, who loudly defended tyrants such as Mr. Sissi. But if the new president is to have a meaningful impact, he must connect his words to actions. A good first step would be to consult with the Egypt Human Rights Caucus on linking further military aid and sales to Egypt to the release of political prisoners — starting with Mr. Soltan’s relatives. – Washington Post

Danny Citrinowicz and Roie Yellinek write: China and Russia are on a collision course in the Middle East. While Moscow has been involved in the Middle East for a relatively long time, Beijing’s forays into the Middle East are comparatively recent, but are likely to become more expansive. Given the BRI and other mega-projects, China’s position on the world stage and its presence in the Middle East are expanding, which will likely lead to conflicts, given Russia’s historical presence in the region. – Middle East Institute

Aaron Zelin writes: To be sure, security issues are unlikely to reach the forefront of Tunisia’s agenda in 2021 given the country’s bevy of other concerns, from the pandemic’s economic consequences to parliament’s continued instability and friction with President Kais Saied. Yet even as immediate security problems became more manageable in recent years, the sheer volume of Tunisians mobilized into the jihadist milieu over the past decade suggests that the consequences will be felt for years to come, as individuals complete their prison sentences, reorganize abroad, or are inspired to plan attacks locally. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

A former North Korean ambassador has been quietly living in South Korea for more than a year, two aides to a Seoul lawmaker said, adding to the ranks of Pyongyang’s senior diplomats who are known to have defected in recent years. – Wall Street Journal

Kim Jong Un is angry, and he’s lashing out. North Korea’s last economic plan failed “tremendously,” he complained. And his inner circle lacked an “innovative viewpoint and clear tactics” in drawing up a new one, Kim told the ruling Workers’ Party last month, yelling and finger-pointing at frightened-looking delegates. – Washington Post

Matthew Pottinger, the top Asia expert on Trump’s National Security Council told us: “President Trump offered Kim a lift home on Air Force One. The president knew that Kim had arrived on a multi-day train ride through China into Hanoi and the president said: ‘I can get you home in two hours if you want.’ Kim declined.” – BBC


A cavernous new airport cargo terminal in Ethiopia’s capital is the center of a vast supply network China is assembling to speed delivery of its coronavirus vaccines—and deepen its influence across the developing world. – Wall Street Journal

But thousands of companies worldwide are affected after the United States blacklisted 87 percent of China’s cotton crop — one-fifth of the world’s supply — citing human rights violations against Muslim Uighurs in China’s northwest Xinjiang region. – Washington Post

China’s foreign minister has urged Washington to lift sanctions and to stop interfering in the country’s internal affairs and suppressing its tech sector, in his first big speech on US-China relations since Joe Biden’s inauguration. – Financial Times

The US has expressed concern about a new law that authorises the Chinese coastguard to fire on foreign ships operating in disputed waters claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea and East China Sea. – Financial Times

Vice-chancellors and senior leaders at UK universities say they are “in the dark” about tightening national security requirements for Chinese partnerships and are seeking greater clarity on how to navigate regulation of research and commercial work. – Financial Times

China’s foreign ministry said on Friday that seeing the plight of Americans suffering in a severe winter storm that hit the state of Texas this week reinforced a belief among Chinese citizens that their country is “on the right path”. – Reuters

Allies around the world should brace for “stiff” competition with China for victory in “the race of the future,” according to President Biden. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: Paris will have zero effect on the climate even if every nation meets its commitments. Mr. Biden will dispatch John Kerry, his climate envoy, to lobby China and everyone else to reduce emissions, which will also please President Xi Jinping. Mr. Xi will be happy to make promises about the future while demanding U.S. concessions today on Taiwan, trade and more. The Chinese Communists must sit back and marvel as they watch the U.S. undermine its own economic strength. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: President Donald Trump banned cotton and tomato products made in the Xinjiang region from forced labor in the Uighur camps and issued visa restrictions and financial sanctions on Communist Party officials. The bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would add new sanctions. Yet here’s the new president basically denying Beijing’s ethnic cleansing of a minority group of 3 million. If Biden can explain away genocide, what can’t he make excuses for? – New York Post

Scott Gottlieb writes: The WHO team said the lab-escape theory is so remote that it doesn’t merit any further investigation. But frozen salmon does? By giving weight to the food theory, the WHO is making itself less credible, which is a pity. The WHO provides important public-health functions, especially in low- and middle-income nations, where its assistance saves lives. Its work is essential. But the WHO risks eroding its standing and mission if it trades rigor for access and the pretense of relevancy. – Wall Street Journal

Fred Hiatt writes: Will the world’s democracies really take part in the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year, as though none of this is happening? Will we decide that nations can break their word, ignore their treaty commitments, commit crimes against humanity — with no consequences? Martin Lee sits in court because he would not abandon principle. Will we abandon him? – Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes: Xi is driven by “fear of losing control” and an ambition to promote China’s authoritarian, mercantilist model at the expense of the free world, McMaster said. Beijing’s strategy uses a mix of co-optation, coercion and concealment to get Western nations and leaders to support the Chinese Communist Party’s goals or at least stop criticizing them. He labeled the Chinese state-driven industrial model a “Ponzi scheme.” – Washington Post

Dennis Shea writes: Only time will tell if the desire for collaboration bears any fruit. But an effective transatlantic response to the China challenge would have many facets beyond new WTO rules. These include the joint imposition of sanctions against Chinese companies engaged in predatory or illicit behavior; common defense mechanisms in the face of retaliatory Chinese trade actions; a collective effort to improve supply chain resiliency for critical goods; the joint development of technical standards for the leading industries of the future; and, yes, tariffs too. – The Hill

Judith Bergman and Aaron Rhodes write: But there is a difference between Biden’s lapse on human rights and those of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. While they appeased the socialist interpretation of human rights, as opposed to one centered on freedoms, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, Biden’s words suggest that he denies the universality of human rights altogether. That message is music to the ears of authoritarians and dictators around the world, but deeply discouraging to those who hope America can defend inherent liberties.  – The Hill

James Griffiths writes: But while the stage may appear set for China to capitalize on a successful Games as a propaganda victory for its handling of coronavirus and its authoritarian style of governance, the trajectory of the pandemic remains unpredictable and too many variables, not to mention variants, remain for any concrete predictions. […]In the end, China’s leaders may hope that, like in 2008, after a lot of commotion in the run up to the event, all that is remembered about Beijing 2022 is a successful Games — and not the controversy. – CNN

James Roberts writes: The President should also insist that the G7—consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the United States—lay down clear markers at the meeting to signal to communist China that the U.S. and its closest (and most economically powerful) allies will remain resolved to stand firm against China’s aggressive mercantilism and its many ongoing efforts to exploit the pandemic and otherwise undermine the economic and political health of Western market democracies. – Heritage Foundation

Louis Charbonneau writes: Finally, the United States should urge U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to be more vocal on human rights. Guterres is allergic to criticizing specific governments for rights abuses, effectively abandoning one of the few weapons in the secretary-general’s limited arsenal. He has been especially reluctant when it comes to China. […]Thomas-Greenfield has an opportunity to make the U.S. a credible voice on human rights at the U.N. We urge her and the Biden administration to make the most of it. – USA Today


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday that an end to U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan hinges on a reduction in Taliban attacks. – The Hill

With talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban stalled and the new administration in Washington mulling its options, Russia is stepping up efforts to try and find a way forward in the peace process. – Associated Press

The United States should consult the Taliban on any extension of a May 1 deadline for a full U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan and should not decide unilaterally, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States said on Friday. – Reuters

Editorial: Biden, a skeptic about U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan when he was vice president, said during last year’s campaign that it was past time to end “forever wars.” His administration retained former Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as President Trump’s representative in talks with the Taliban. Biden can make it clear that he still supports a negotiated settlement while also making it clear that the Taliban must negotiate in good faith. – LA Times

South Asia

Anti-India rebels in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Friday killed two police officers in an attack in the disputed region’s main city, officials said. Elsewhere in the Himalayan region, three suspected rebels and a policeman were killed in two gun battles. – Associated Press

Families of people who disappeared in Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province ended a 10-day sit-in near parliament in Islamabad on Saturday, after a government minister promised to look into their relatives’ case files. – Associated Press

India said Sunday that its troops, along with their Chinese counterparts, had completed a pullback from a disputed part of their Himalayan border after months of heightened tensions. – Agence France-Presse


Bank tellers, cooks, grocery workers and hundreds of thousands of others in Myanmar answered a call for a general strike on Monday to protest the military coup, bringing cities to a standstill despite fears of a violent crackdown. – Washington Post

Two protesters were killed Saturday in the city of Mandalay, marking Myanmar’s bloodiest day yet of anti-government demonstrations since the military seized power about three weeks ago. – Washington Post

Hong Kong’s government on Friday replaced the director of the city’s acclaimed public broadcaster and flagged further moves to curb its editorial independence, extending a squeeze on press freedoms as China’s tightening political control reshapes the city’s institutions and unnerves residents and business. – Washington Post

China’s leaders plan to curb the influence of Hong Kong opposition groups on a body that selects the city’s top official, taking seats away from pro-democracy politicians and handing them to pro-Beijing loyalists, according to people familiar with the proposal. – Wall Street Journal

Lawmakers from the U.K. and Canada criticized Facebook Inc.’s ban on Australian users sharing news articles, and they said the tech giant could attract more scrutiny around the world as authorities grow increasingly concerned about its market power. – Wall Street Journal

France strongly condemns the Myanmar security forces’ violence against peaceful demonstrators, which has caused the death of several people, the foreign ministry said on Saturday. – Reuters

Britain will consider further action against those involved in violence against people protesting Myanmar’s coup, foreign minister Dominic Raab said, after two people were killed when police and soldiers fired to disperse protests. – Reuters

Taiwan’s air force scrambled for a second straight day on Saturday after a dozen Chinese fighter aircraft and bombers carried out drills close to Taiwan-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea, the defence ministry in Taipei said. – Reuters

The U.N. refugee agency said on Saturday at least six people registered with it were among 1,200 Myanmar nationals to be deported by Malaysia next week, while the United States voiced alarm that the plan could put deportees’ lives at risk. – Reuters

A Singaporean firm that has sold anti-drone products to Myanmar’s police is halting further business in the country and has canceled a deal with its main airport following a military’s coup, a company official said. – Reuters

Facebook on Sunday deleted the main page of the Myanmar military under it standards prohibiting the incitement of violence, the company said, a day after two protesters were killed when police opened fire at a demonstration against the Feb 1 coup. – Reuters

A broken-down boat carrying ethnic Muslim Rohingya is believed to drifting in the Andaman Sea with some of them already dying from lack of food and water, the U.N. refugee agency said Monday, appealing to Southeast Asian governments to rescue them. – Associated Press

A lethal attack on anti-coup protesters in Myanmar sparked fresh UN condemnation of the country’s new military regime on Sunday, as mourners held a funeral for a young woman who has become a national symbol of resistance to the junta. – Agence France-Presse

Calls from pro-Beijing figures in Hong Kong to radically reform the territory’s judiciary could spell “the end of the present legal system”, the new head of the city’s Bar Association has warned. – Financial Times

Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen has strengthened her national security team, signalling a fresh resolve to tackle long-delayed defence reforms and a new push for improving stalled dialogue with China. – Financial Times

Many citizens have told CNN they are terrified of being dragged from their beds in nighttime or early morning raids, which have become frequent occurrences since the military takeover, and detained or charged on the basis of vaguely worded laws commonly used in the country to stifle dissent. – CNN

Facebook’s decision to block people from sharing news in Australia has been rebuked by lawmakers around the world, raising the specter of a much wider showdown between the world’s biggest social media platform and the governments and news organizations fighting to check its power. – CNN

Editorial: Governments everywhere, including in the United States, may want to ask whether they can play a role in reviving local journalism without compromising journalistic independence. They may also want to ask whether Google and Facebook should give back, via taxation, more of the money they are taking in. Those are two separate questions, however. Australia’s decision to fuse them will not produce one sound answer. – Washington Post

Richard Glover writes: Then, always, comes the moment of reform. A Ruskin or a Dickens campaigns for factory reform; a Ralph Nader demands safer cars. It’s now the turn of Big Tech to be bent to the human will. We need to keep the good and dump the bad. We need to demand it pays its way. And the world shouldn’t let plucky Australia stand on its own. Consider this an urgent friend request. – Washington Post


The State Department in a report to Congress didn’t name new companies as targets for sanctions related to an $11 billion pipeline designed to transmit Russian natural gas to Germany, allowing work on the pipeline to continue unabated for now. – Wall Street Journal

For years, the Russian government has been putting in place the technological and legal infrastructure to clamp down on freedom of speech online, leading to frequent predictions that the country could be heading toward internet censorship akin to China’s great firewall. – New York Times

A Russian court cleared the way on Saturday for the possible transfer of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny to the country’s penal colony system, the latest step by the authorities to silence the man who has become the country’s most vocal critic of President Vladimir V. Putin. – New York Times

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged on Monday his EU counterparts to give the green light for the preparation of additional sanctions on Russia at a meeting in Brussels. – Reuters

The G-7 is unlikely to become the G-8 again any time soon, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, a pivot away from former President Donald Trump’s position. – Washington Examiner

Daria Solovieva writes: To be sure, these young people are only a fraction of the Russian opposition and Navalny himself doesn’t share all of their values. The majority of Russians still get their news from traditional news media, which is more loyal to the Kremlin. But in this moment—after Navalny’s latest poisoning attempt, recovery, return from Germany and hasty sentencing in Moscow—he is the one who is uniting Russia’s opposition, including this younger generation who can only remember a Russia under Putin. – The Daily Beast

Udi Shaham writes: This deal comes amid an ongoing battle over influence in the region. Israel wants to maintain its ability, through understandings with the Russians, to combat the Iranian entrenchment in Syria. The Russians want to make sure Israel understands that it is able to do so thanks to their grace. – Jerusalem Post


In a desperate appeal to France’s government, some 10 Frenchwomen who joined the Islamic State and are now being held in detention camps in Syria began a hunger strike on Saturday, protesting the government’s refusal to bring them home for trial. – New York Times

A 95-year-old man who lived in Tennessee was deported to Germany on Saturday, one year after a federal judge found that he had served as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp where prisoners were forced to work outdoors “to the point of exhaustion and death.” – New York Times

Britain circulated a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Friday demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable people in conflict areas to be vaccinated for COVID-19. – Associated Press

President Joe Biden used his first address before a global audience Friday to declare that “America is back, the transatlantic alliance is back,” after four years of a Trump administration that flaunted its foreign policy through an “America First” lens. – Associated Press

Members of Northern Ireland’s two largest pro-British parties are set to take part in legal action challenging part of Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union, the parties said on Sunday. – Reuters

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Friday welcomed an announcement from U.S. President Joe Biden that U.S. troops stationed in Germany will stay. – Reuters

Ukraine on Friday announced sanctions on Viktor Medvedchuk, a prominent opposition party leader with ties to the Kremlin, and also said it was taking back into state hands a pipeline that transports Russian oil products to Europe. – Reuters

China’s state broadcaster has turned to French authorities in an attempt to regain its right to broadcast in Europe, after a UK regulator revoked its licence to air earlier this month. – Financial Times

For 24 hours, much of Poland’s private media united in protest against a plan to impose a tax on advertising revenues, which they see as a serious — and targeted — threat to independent journalism. – Financial Times

At home, the U.K. prime minister has a reputation as a political chameleon, and he pulled off a similar trick on the international stage on Friday. Once described by Joe Biden as a Trump “clone,” Johnson gave a Munich Security Conference speech that positioned himself as the optimistic champion of the transatlantic alliance Donald Trump so often scorned. – Politico

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will call on the United Nations to take action against “systemic” human rights violations in China, Myanmar, Russia and Belarus in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday. – Bloomberg

Tara John writes: It sets a markedly different tone for the Conservative government, and its cheerleaders in the British press, who have spent the past decade pushing anti-immigrant policies. And critics say it is predicated on a flawed idea of Hong Kongers as a “model minority” who will need no support to settle into a new life in the UK. – CNN

James Stavridis writes: There are plenty of other hurdles facing the alliance: The counterterrorism mission in Iraq; Russian adventurism in Ukraine; naval tension in the Arctic; cyber vulnerability; refugee flows from the unrest in the Levant and Libya. But the big three are unbalanced defense spending, what to do in Afghanistan and how to confront China. With this week’s summit, Lloyd Austin’s honeymoon period is over. – Bloomberg

George Barros writes: Belarus’ forced integration with Russia will remain Lukashenko’s greatest threat in 2021. […]Kremlin pressure will likely lead to further protests if only by provoking renewed public opposition to Russian influence. The Kremlin’s previous involvement in the crisis briefly shifted the protests’ central focus away from Lukashenko and toward the Kremlin, for example. Putin may attempt to prolong the protests and prevent Lukashenko’s efforts to defuse the protests. – Institute for the Study of War

Ambassador Kurt Volker writes: Finally, the U.S. should join with the EU, IMF, and other international supporters to help Ukraine implement far-reaching anti-trust legislation. Ukraine’s current anti-monopoly commission is ineffective. In a situation where a handful of people control vast segments of the economy, media, judiciary, state-owned industries, Rada votes, and state administration – corruption is merely the symptom of a failing system, not the disease itself. The Ukrainian leadership needs to take ownership of such far-reaching reform, but again can only succeed with staunch U.S. and EU support. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Gun and mortar fire could be heard in central Mogadishu on Friday morning amid a lockdown imposed by the Somali government — a measure ostensibly intended to enforce social distancing but timed to coincide with mass protests called by opposition parties. – Washington Post

The Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo and a military policeman travelling with him have been killed in an attack on a United Nations convoy in eastern Congo, the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday. – Reuters

Seven poll workers were killed during Niger’s presidential vote on Sunday when their vehicle struck a landmine, an election official said, marring a day meant to usher in the country’s first democratic transition of power. – Reuters

Somalia’s president, whose four-year term expired this month, should not take part in talks aimed at resolving a dispute that has caused a delay in choosing a new head of state, two of Somalia’s five regional governments said on Sunday. – Reuters

Violence is still raging in vast swathes of South Sudan a year after a peace deal was signed to end a civil war that began in 2013, a United Nations report said on Friday. – Reuters

Sudan on Saturday accused Ethiopia of an “unforgivable insult” in its sharpest statement since a decades-old border dispute flared late last year. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department on Friday said Washington will de-link its pause on some aid to Ethiopia from its policy on the giant Blue Nile hydropower dam that sparked a long-running dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. – Reuters

Forces fighting Ethiopia’s military in the Tigray region laid out eight conditions on Friday for beginning peace talks, including the appointment of an international mediator and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid. – Reuters

Sudan announced a managed flotation of its currency on Sunday, in an unprecedented but expected step to meet a major demand by international financial institutions to help transitional authorities overhaul the battered economy. – Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Equatorial Guinea would move its embassy to Jerusalem in the latest sign of improving ties with African nations. – Associated Press

The United Nations says Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region faces a “very critical malnutrition situation” as vast rural areas where many people fled during three months of fighting remain out of reach of aid. – Associated Press

Two days after violence related to Somalia’s delayed elections, the country’s foreign ministry has accused “external forces” for contributing to the problems. – Associated Press

Eritrea’s government is rejecting as “outrageous lies” a story by The Associated Press in which witnesses describe a massacre of several hundred people carried out by Eritrean soldiers in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. – Associated Press

We applaud the commitment by the government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, demonstrating official recognition of Israel’s capital. – Conference of Presidents

Usumain Baraka and Emily Zoffer write: The removal of the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur is a travesty, leaving innocents unprotected and allowing terrorists masquerading as democratic leaders to escalate their murderous tactics. […]UN peacekeeping forces must be restored to the region, and the United States must hold the Sudanese government accountable for the violence happening on its watch. Only these steps will finally offer genuine relief to the people of Darfur, the Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains. – Haaretz

The Americas

President Biden will meet virtually with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, in his first bilateral meeting as president. – Wall Street Journal

A group of Miami-based Cuban musicians including reggaeton duo Gente de Zona launched an impassioned anti-Communist anthem this week that has gone viral, sparking a furious state response. – Reuters

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday said the country should propose supplying natural gas to Mexico, which this week experienced disruptions to its supplies from Texas, though energy experts dismissed the plan as unrealistic. – Reuters

The slowdown in lending to Latin America reflects a broader, global pullback, as China turns inward to bolster its own recovery efforts amid the pandemic. – Associated Press

Nicaragua has created a new National Ministry for Extraterrestrial Space Affairs, The Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, which is drawing amused reactions on social media in a nation that has been struggling since anti-government protests three years ago. – Associated Press

Rosa María Payá writes: All Cubans dream of a country without today’s ideological intolerance, political apartheid and economic exclusion. Many Cubans are working to make that dream come true through initiatives such as Cuba Decide, a comprehensive effort to empower Cuban citizens and pressure the regime so that it finally submits to the will of the people and accepts a binding plebiscite with strict democratic preconditions giving way to change. Our efforts seek to promote a nonpartisan approach to Cuba policy. – Washington Post

Michael Stott writes: Then there is the economy. Argentina is still trying to renegotiate $44bn of debt with the IMF, its dollar reserves are running low and a bout of central bank money-printing has boosted inflation, leaving the economy in a parlous state. Facing problems like these, it is perhaps not surprising that Fernández made frequent references to the Pope in his conversation with Biden. Divine intervention might be a blessing. – Financial Times

United States

Six more people allegedly affiliated with the right-wing militia Oath Keepers were indicted on charges of planning the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, as prosecutors sketch out a portrait of a group preparing to disrupt the certification of President Biden’s election and developing a military-style plan to do so. – Wall Street Journal

A leader of the far-right “Oath Keepers” group charged in the deadly U.S. Capitol riots said she was in Washington on Jan. 6 to provide security for legislators and meet with Secret Service agents, according to a court filing. – Reuters

A federal grand jury has indicted a Stanford University medical researcher for allegedly concealing and lying about her membership of the Chinese military. – Reuters

As President Joe Biden takes up crises from Iran to Myanmar to climate change, one aspect of his approach has been strikingly consistent — seeking rock-solid cooperation with allies. – Agence France-Presse

Dan Brouillette, the Energy secretary in the Trump administration, says President Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry is “misguided” to think he can set aside the biggest confrontations with China to cooperate on combating climate change. – Washington Examiner

Kenneth Roth, executive director of the NGO Human Rights Watch, blamed the US Wednesday for the vast number of resolutions targeting Israel at the United Nations Human Rights Council, facing pushback from other observers of the institution. – Algemeiner

Israeli officials and several major US Jewish groups on Sunday accused Saturday Night Live of spreading anti-Semitic tropes after one of its actors joked in a news segment that Israel has only been vaccinating its Jewish citizens. – Times of Israel

Editorial: America needs more human talent to remain a vibrant economy as the population ages and China rises. Bowing to the left will play into the hands of restrictionists who want to define Democrats as the open borders party. Immigration offers Mr. Biden an opportunity to claim a political victory that has eluded his predecessors. But he’s going to have to work with Republicans and risk disappointing the left to get it. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Laws should be toughened to prevent the ill-gotten gains of these dictators from being hidden and laundered abroad. Standing up for democracy is a long-term project. Now is the time for the United States and other democracies to develop novel ideas and implement a broad strategy to start confronting tyrants head-on, where they live. – Washington Post

Harlan Ullman writes: The greatest danger may arise from violent extremist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS. Recruiting jihadis can be converted to attracting white nationalist supremacists to attack the U.S. government. And the damage can be enormous. […]The most effective solution is to understand that the greatest clear and present danger to America is a disunited United States that creates too many opportunities and vulnerabilities for those wishing us harm. – The Hill


Every public communication platform you can name—from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to Parler, Pinterest PINS and Discord—is wrestling with the same two questions: How do we make sure we’re not facilitating misinformation, violence, fraud or hate speech? At the same time, how do we ensure we’re not censoring users? – Wall Street Journal

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is pushing Facebook and Twitter to clamp down on coronavirus vaccine misinformation campaigns that are targeting pregnant women.  – The Hill

President Biden on Friday called on the United States and other democratic nations to shape the “rules of the road” on cybersecurity and tech issues, particularly as part of efforts to confront China and Russia.  – The Hill

The list of IT issues awaiting the U.S. Defense Department’s next chief information officer is filled with pressing concerns to harness the power of emerging technologies and defend the military against those capabilities. – C4ISRNET

Gab, the alternative social media platform that exploded in popularity following the Capitol riot last month and former President Donald Trump’s ban from Facebook and Twitter, went offline Friday evening. – Washington Examiner

Michael V. Hayden, Thomas J. Ridge, John E. Shkor and Mark C. Montgomery write: The departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, Treasury, Commerce and the United States Trade Representative and Director of National Intelligence now should be tasked with developing a full array of sanctions and consequences that can be levied against malicious cyber actors. Improving our ability to repel cyberattacks is important, but our overall cyber strategy must also include a strong offensive capability and the will to use it whenever and wherever necessary. – The Hill


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday there has been no request for the National Guard to stay at the U.S. Capitol beyond mid-March. – The Hill

NASA engineers flawlessly did their job on Thursday, safely landing a rover on the surface of Mars after a journey of 130 million miles. Now, it’s up to Congress to make sure that big plans for follow-on missions become a reality. – Politico

The Department of Defense’s inspector general announced Friday that it was reviewing the Trump administration’s last-minute decision to relocate U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama. – Associated Press

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group deployed today for the second time in a year, after wrapping up a final training and certification exercise with its new set of cruiser and destroyer escorts. – USNI News

The Pentagon plans to take a big step in its long and costly effort to build a new missile defense system, the Next Generation Interceptor program, in coming weeks. – Breaking Defense

As budget battles intensify in the face of COVID relief and the shift to the Pacific, Army Chief of Staff James McConville argues that the Army’s new missiles, aircraft, & networks can help the other services in long-range, fast-paced, high-tech combat. – Breaking Defense

The head of the House Armed Services influential seapower subcommittee just stepped closer to the position of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs that the Navy might be in line for a funding boost — and other services will have to pay the bill. – Breaking Defense

The Air Force Chief of Staff is calling on the Pentagon leadership to launch a targeted roles and missions review of the key functional areas of future All Domain Operations detailed in the impending Joint Warfighting Concept.  – Breaking Defense

On Feb. 9, the Senate confirmed Kathleen Hicks as the deputy secretary of defense after her testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 2. Hicks may be the Pentagon’s most influential player on nuclear weapons issues during the Biden administration, and her confirmation hearings shed new light on the administration’s policies in this area. – Defense News

Long War

Iraqi security forces clashed with the Islamic State group north of Baghdad on Saturday, leaving at least five jihadists and two security personnel dead. – Agence France-Presse

Separate roadside bomb explosions in Afghanistan killed at least three people including a child and wounded 20 others on Sunday Afghan officials said. – Associated Press

Daniel Kimmage writes: Still, the GEC recognizes that the U.S. government is not always the best communicator to a foreign audience, so its partnerships with embassies, local actors, and religious leaders are all the more essential. The center often coordinates with community-level partners to assess major threats, better understand the affected audiences, and collaborate on best practices. In particular, it has worked with teachers and youth leaders in East Africa to detect signs of radicalization and build local resiliency to disinformation. – Washington Institute