Fdd's overnight brief

February 27, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran has released a Spanish woman, Ana Baneira, who had been in detention since November, Spain’s foreign minister said on Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

An Iranian general warned his country is still seeking to kill former US president Donald Trump and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo in revenge for assassinating top commander Qasem Soleimani. – Agence France-Presse

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will help kick off the latest and longest-ever session of the U.N.’s top human rights body on Monday, with Iran’s foreign minister, a senior Russian envoy, and the top diplomats of France and Germany among scores of leaders set to take part. – Associated Press 

Iran’s currency fell to a new record low on Sunday, plunging to 600,000 to the dollar for the first time as the effects of nationwide anti-government protests and the breakdown of the 2015 nuclear deal continued to roil the economy. – Associated Press 

Iran is likely to sell surface-to-air missiles to Syria, Iranian state television said on Friday, to help reinforce the air defences of Tehran’s close ally in the face of frequent Israeli air strikes. – Reuters

Iran has developed a cruise missile with a range of 1,650 km (1,025 miles) a top Revolutionary Guards commander said on Friday, in a move likely to raise Western concerns after Russia’s use of Iranian drones in the Ukraine war. – Reuters

Russia may have depleted its stock of Iranian-made kamikaze drones, the UK Defense Ministry assessed on Saturday after over a week of the weapon’s absence from the battlefield. – Jerusalem Post

Criminal gangs hired by Iran are spying on British Jews to prepare for potential assassination operations against prominent community members, a UK minister has said, after a local report said Tehran is “mapping” Diaspora Jews with the aim of retaliating for a potential Israeli military strike. – Times of Israel

Seth J. Frantzman writes: A real air force requires decades of investment and training and planes that work well together, and modern aircraft that are 5th generation will be able to easily destroy any of the piecemeal aircraft that Russia might send Iran. In short, Iran’s potential acquisitions in Russia’s flailing aircraft market is more a sign of the weakness of the two countries, than a real game changer.- Jerusalem Post

Annika Ganzeveld, Johanna Moore, Nicholas Carl, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Multiple factors may have driven the regime to escalate today. Iranian leaders may feel more confident in their capability to quell internal unrest following weeks of relatively low protest activity throughout Iran. They may also perceive a renewed sense of urgency to confront Abdol Hamid, who continues to challenge the regime’s legitimacy and criticize its performance as the country faces significant problems, such as economic mismanagement, that resonate with large segments of the Iranian population. – Institute for the Study of War

Erfan Fard writes: Most of the US intelligence community is studying his manner and how he works. Specifically, Mossad and the CIA are concentrating on Raisi and new malign activities of the Quds Force, but Hajizadeh is a threat for US national security, not only Israel’s. Hajizadeh dreams of starting a war with the US. Remember: In 2019, he ordered to shoot down a US RQ-4A Global Hawk over the strait of Hormuz by using a surface-to-air missile. – Arutz Sheva

Russia & Ukraine

Kyiv on Sunday countered Russian claims to have taken further territory around Bakhmut as Russia seeks to surround the eastern city that Ukraine’s military has defended against withering onslaughts for months. – Wall Street Journal

A year ago, the day Russia invaded Ukraine and set in motion a devastating European ground war, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland declared: “Now the masks are off. Only the cold face of war is visible.” – New York Times

At the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin and President Biden both insisted this week that they were committed to the fight. Mr. Putin prepared Russia for a long war to be waged “step by step,” while the American president said “we will not tire” in the quest to ensure a democratic Ukraine. – New York Times

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine marked the anniversary of the Russian invasion on Friday with a show of defiance, as anti-Kremlin protests took place around the world and the United States made a significant commitment of new weaponry to the country. – New York Times

As Russian tanks rumbled into Ukraine in the predawn a year ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky recorded a simple video address to his nation: “We are strong,” he said. “We will defeat everyone because we are Ukraine.” – New York Times

After a drumroll of diplomatic activity suggesting that China was poised to play a more energetic role in seeking peace in Ukraine, Beijing issued a paper on Friday that reprised its established views on the war, calling for an end to fighting while avoiding demands — or words like “invasion” — that could hurt its ties with Russia. – New York Times

Russia pounded the front line in Ukraine’s south and east with artillery strikes, Ukrainian military authorities said on Sunday, as Moscow bombarded the Kherson region and pushed to break through Kyiv’s last remaining defenses around the city of Bakhmut. – New York Times

As the fight in Ukraine has dragged on for the past year, another battle has unfolded in parallel: a war of words between Russia and the West over who is more interested in ending the conflict peacefully. – New York Times

As officials in Ukraine anxiously watch evolving diplomatic overtures between Moscow and Beijing, China’s top leader will host the president of Belarus — a staunch Kremlin ally — with the pomp of a state visit next week. – New York Times

A year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war is deepening the division among the world’s major economies, threatening fragile recoveries by disrupting food and energy supply chains and distracting from plans to combat poverty and restructure debt in poor countries. – New York Times

China made a fresh call for a cease-fire and peace talks to end the war in Ukraine, seeking to cast itself as a neutral mediator in a one-year-old conflict during which Beijing has struggled to maintain its close partnership with Moscow while not further inflaming tensions with the West. – Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon announced another $2 billion in long-term military support for Ukraine, a package that includes additional high-demand ammunition, as well as new kinds of drones, counterdrone systems and other types of weaponry. – Wall Street Journal

Top administration officials said Sunday there is no evidence that China has sent lethal military support to Russia, a step Beijing is said to be considering. One top U.S. official also said China has been surprised by the steadfast support demonstrated by Ukraine’s allies and Russia’s poor military performance on the battlefield over the past year. – Washington Post

The war in Ukraine has entered its second year, and with that come fresh challenges for President Biden. Whether ensuring that Ukraine has the necessary equipment to fight off the Russian invasion or prodding Western allies to do more to hold together domestic public opinion, the longer the war goes on, the greater those challenges will be. – Washington Post

As politicians and people worldwide marked the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor on Friday, small sporadic protests broke out across Russia, where it is illegal to criticize the military or the conflict. – Washington Post

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused NATO members of taking part in the Ukraine conflict by donating arms to the country and said the West planned to break up Russia. – Agence France-Presse

Canada is sending four more Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and is imposing new Russia-related sanctions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, marking the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Friday. – Reuters

A meeting of finance chiefs of the Group of 20 leading economies ended on Saturday without a consensus, with Russia and China objecting to the description of the war in Ukraine in a final document. – Associated Press 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other Group of Seven leaders adopted a set of additional sanctions against Russia over its war on Ukraine at an online G-7 summit Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the invasion. – Associated Press 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview broadcast Sunday that after Russia suspended its participation in the last arms control agreement with Washington, it would “take into account” the nuclear weapons capabilities not only of the United States but of other NATO countries such as France and Britain. – Associated Press 

The European Union agreed Saturday to impose new sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine targeting more officials and organizations accused of supporting the war, spreading propaganda or supplying drones, as well as restricting trade on products that could be used by the armed forces. – Associated Press

A contentious Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe parliamentary meeting ended Friday with condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — as Russian delegates accused the West of preventing dialogue by arming Kyiv. – Associated Press

A “people’s court” without legal powers has confirmed an indictment against Russian President Vladimir Putin for the crime of aggression in Ukraine and called for his arrest. – Associated Press

The U.S. State Department on Friday marked the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine by sanctioning more than 60 top Russian officials, including cabinet ministers and regional leaders, and three nuclear weapons institutes. – Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday slapped new sanctions on Russian banks and targeted its mining and metals sector, while going after over 30 people and companies from Switzerland, Germany and the Middle East for helping Moscow evade earlier sanctions and keep funding its war against Ukraine. – Reuters

Russian ally Kazakhstan expressed support on Saturday for a Chinese initiative to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, days ahead of a visit by the US Secretary of State. – Agence France-Presse

US President Joe Biden said Friday that he does not “anticipate a major initiative” from China to provide weapons to Russia in its war against Ukraine. – Agence France-Presse

Ukraine’s western allies have warned of “severe costs” for countries helping Russia evade sanctions as concern mounts about China’s role in Moscow’s war economy and the conflict enters its second year. – Financial Times 

It would be “a bad mistake” for China to send military aid to Russia, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said amid reports that China may funnel drones and ammunition to Moscow. – Politico

President Joe Biden in an interview that aired Sunday expressed skepticism about a Russia-Ukraine peace plan that China has floated. – Politico

China’s attempt to style itself as a neutral peacemaker in the Ukraine war fell flat on Friday when NATO and the EU both slammed its playbook for ending the conflict one year after Russia’s full-scale invasion. – Politico

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned the UN Security Council not to be fooled by calls for a temporary or unconditional cease-fire in Ukraine as the council met to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Nobody much likes to be nudged, but it appears that, contrary to the desire at Kyiv, a push from Western Europe for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine has begun. The momentum for such dialogue, though it brings no guarantee of resolution, has been building for some time. – New York Sun

Colin P. Clarke writes: As Vladimir Putin attempts to assuage Russians that everything is going according to plan, a surge of criminals fresh from battlefields in Ukraine could undermine this message, especially if violent crime spikes on the home front. – Wall Street Journal

Nicholas Kristof writes: To mark the anniversary of Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine, Navalny published a trenchant critique of Putin’s “unjust war of aggression against Ukraine” and argued that “Russia is suffering a military defeat.” Somehow through all this, he maintains his sense of humor. – New York Times

Kenneth C. Brill writes: Leaders at all levels in the U.S., the EU, and other Western democracies must make the case frequently and persistently to their publics that in defending itself against Russian aggression, Ukraine is also defending the security and freedom of all countries. If Western public opinion remains steadfast in its support, Ukraine will prevail over Russia. – The Hill

Jamie Dettmer writes: However, what cheers the opposition lawmaker is how Ukrainian civil society has bloomed during the war, how local self-government has been strengthened because of wartime volunteering and mutual assistance and how some state bodies have performed — notably, the railways and the energy sector. It is this — along with a strong sense of national belonging forged by the conflict — that will form the foundation of a strong post-war Ukraine, he said. – Politico

Angela Stent writes: But Putin will emerge from this war no longer the leader of a great power. His status as a competent leader has been diminished by his army’s poor performance and by the West’s isolation of him. Russia may still have the largest number of nuclear warheads and a veto on the U.N. Security Council, but it will have lost its seat at the table of global leadership. – Politico

Henry Foy writes: Many European officials believe the EPF’s support for Ukraine is all the more important given how much it surprised critics of the EU’s typically safety-first approach, and its longstanding reputation for prevarication, internal squabbling and delayed action. “Putting the money upfront shows strategic leadership, trying to lead the change, drive the narrative and not just being led by events,” says Estonia’s Salm. “This is a totally new era in the European Union.” – Financial Times 

Hal Brands writes: This, unfortunately, is where we may be headed in the coming years, as China completes its current round of military reforms, and as Xi’s coercion of Taiwan — like Putin’s coercion of Ukraine — merely strengthens that island’s determination to chart its own course. And so the origins of the war in Ukraine offer a warning about the dangerous decade ahead in Asia: Beware the ambitious autocrat who thinks his window is closing fast. – Bloomberg

Alina Polyakova writes: Looking ahead, I, and the rest of the world, continue to be humbled by the courage and determination of the Ukrainian people. It is our duty to ensure that Ukraine emerges victorious and Russia is defeated — anything short of that will have profound consequences for not only the future of European security but the future of US global leadership and the geopolitical balance of power. As we continue to navigate an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world, CEPA will continue to work with our transatlantic partners and allies to advance policy solutions to ensure an alliance that is whole, free, and at peace, with Ukraine as its anchor. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Edward Lucas writes: The big question is whether this is just a temporary failure of political will, or something deeper. Ukrainians hope that the logic of events and their own lobbying will eventually produce the needed help. A gloomier interpretation is that Western political systems, faced with huge problems—climate change, the north-south injustices of the world economy, and the threat of pandemic diseases—simply lack the necessary decision-making capability. We are similarly helpless against the global axis of autocracy now taking shape between Beijing and Moscow via Tehran. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Arthur Herman writes: Finally, the U.S. and NATO need to take in the same lessons China will, about how to integrate advanced technologies such as space, UAVs, and precision strike, into our own military posture. It’s an education in modern military science that an administration busy patting itself on the back for its support for Ukraine might be inclined to miss. – National Review


Israeli and Palestinian officials pledged Sunday to reduce the escalating violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem, but the fatal shooting of two Israeli settlers and subsequent riots in Palestinian villages underscored how tensions are spiraling. – Wall Street Journal

Hours after a Palestinian gunman fatally shot two Israeli brothers as they drove through a town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Sunday, Jewish settlers went on a rampage in the area to avenge the killings, stoning and burning dozens of Palestinian homes, stores and cars. – New York Times

Tens of thousands of Israelis on Saturday protested their far-right government’s plans to overhaul the legal system, three days after parliament advanced a bill that would enable lawmakers to overturn a Supreme Court decision with a simple majority. – Associated Press

Israel’s far-right finance minister said on Sunday he would not agree to any freeze in settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, after Israeli officials committed during a summit in Jordan to hold off on such construction in the coming months. – Reuters

Salah Bardawil, a member of the political bureau of the Hamas terrorist organization, is claiming that “the internal divisions of opinion in the “Zionist entity are an important opportunity for the resistance to bring about a breakthrough.” – Arutz Sheva

Israel’s powerful Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted Sunday to back legislation which would make it easier to impose the death penalty on terrorists who murder Israeli citizens. – Arutz Sheva

The European Union announced over the weekend a fresh raft of sanctions against individuals and entities linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including a Moscow-born former Israeli diplomat and prominent commentator for espousing pro-Russian views, public broadcaster Kan reported Sunday morning. – Ynet  

Israel’s F-35 Adir elite fighter aircraft sped off one by one down the Nevatim Air Force Base runway near Beersheba, curving at first slightly to the right and then bursting forward with a stunning thrust, cutting deep rightward, as well as sailing upward at an acute angle. – Jerusalem Post

Michael B. Mukasey writes: Real reform would recognize the distinction between legal issues that can be decided in court and policy issues relegated to the political arena. It would also permit cases to be brought only by parties with a direct and personal interest. That would make the debate less of a struggle over who controls outcomes. – Wall Street Journal

Conrad Black writes: It is difficult and hazardous to predict the outcome of the Israeli debate, but it is likely that the government will achieve at least a substantial part of what it is seeking. In Canada, while there has not remotely been such aggrandizement by the courts, our judges are proving increasingly resistless to the temptation to substitute their own for the legislators’ intentions. – New York Sun

Yoram Ettinger writes: This worldview has systematically undermined US interests, by subordinating the unilateral, independent US national security policy (on Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian issue, etc.) to a multilateral common denominator with the anti-US and anti-Israel UN and international organizations, as well as the vacillating and terrorists-appeasing Europe. – Arutz Sheva 

Dalia Dassa Kaye writes: The bottom line is that Washington should not put too much faith in its ability to calibrate the pressure to just the right level. Military escalation is containable until it is not, and the time horizon for conflict can often be longer and more painful than countries anticipate. – Foreign Affairs

Kuzzat Altay writes: Both the Jewish people and the State of Israel have faced the real threat of annihilation. You know the pain and anguish involved in facing oppression on a genocidal scale. That is why I believe you are uniquely positioned to stand up for the Uyghur people in their hour of need. As a Uyghur myself, I humbly ask – I beg you – to do just that. – Times of Israel


A Lebanese and Belgian citizen considered a key financier of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah was arrested Friday in Bucharest, Romania’s capital, federal authorities said. – Associated Press

An order signed recently by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant indicates that there is a gold smuggling operation between Iran and Venezuela that is funding Hezbollah terror activity. – Jerusalem Post

Israeli security forces foil an attempt to smuggle drugs into Israel from Lebanon earlier today, the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police say. […]Previously, Israeli security officials have indicated drug and gun-running on the border with Lebanon are often on behalf of the Hezbollah terror group, which controls much of southern Lebanon. – Times of Israel


Like their American-supplied rifles and Humvees and military fatigues, the Green Zone is becoming the latest vestige of the Western war effort that the Taliban have repurposed as they build up their own military and government. – New York Times

A U.S. judge on Friday rejected a request by families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks not to enforce his decision against letting them seize $3.5 billion of frozen Afghan central bank assets to satisfy court judgments owed by the Taliban. – Reuters

Taliban security forces killed two militants from the Islamic State group and detained a third in an overnight raid in the Afghan capital of Kabul, the spokesman for the Taliban government said Monday. – Associated Press 

Hundreds of Afghan refugees facing extreme delays in the approval of U.S. visas protested in Pakistan’s capital on Sunday, as an American program to help relocate at-risk Afghans fleeing Taliban rule stalls. – Associated Press 


Many of the Syrians who fled civil war to make new homes in Turkey now face rebuilding their lives again after this month’s earthquakes, with some under growing pressure to return across the border or move to refugee camps as a scramble for resources in the destruction zone intensifies. – Wall Street Journal

A drone strike believed to have been carried out by the U.S.-led coalition in northwestern Syria on Friday killed two operatives with an al-Qaida-linked group, Syrian opposition activists said. – Associated Press 

Senior Arab lawmakers were in Syria on Sunday for talks with President Bashar Assad on bringing his country back into the fold of the Arab world. The visit follows a mini-summit in Baghdad that affirmed the Arab League’s intentions of having Syria return to the organization despite the country’s devastating civil war. – Associated Press


An NGO started by a Turkish rock star and endorsed by pop star Madonna has raised 1 billion Turkish lira ($53 million) for earthquake victims, after many opposed to Turkey’s government said they prefer not to donate to state-run organisations. – Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that talks with Sweden and Finland regarding their NATO membership bids would resume on March 9, after being suspended in January in the wake of a Koran-burning protest in Stockholm. – Reuters

Ozgur Ozkan writes: Erdogan’s paranoia and ruthless restructuring of Turkish institutions have neither prevented a coup attempt nor enhanced the Turkish army’s performance in combat. Rather, as the death toll rises and the extent of the quake’s destruction is further revealed, it’s clear that most state institutions have been undermined of their most basic purpose: keeping Turkish citizens safe. The people of Turkey have already paid the price of their president’s obsession with centralized power and partisan control; what remains to be seen is whether Erdogan will eventually pay it too in upcoming elections. – Foreign Policy

Arabian Peninsula

Yemen’s southern separatists on Friday slammed statements by their ally, the head of Yemen’s presidential council, in which he said that now is not the right time to discuss southern independence. – Associated Press

A container ship carrying general commercial goods docked at Yemen’s main port of Hodeidah for the first time since at least 2016 on Saturday as parties in Yemen’s eight-year war are in talks to reinstate an expired U.N.-brokered truce deal. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia signed agreements worth $400 million with Ukraine on Sunday after the kingdom’s foreign minister made a surprise visit to Kyiv, a move praised by Washington. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Environmental activists will rightly hold Al Jaber accountable for translating words into actions, but they should also recognize that far more can be accomplished by accepting him as an ally than dismissing him as a foe. – Bloomberg

Fawzi al-Zubaidi writes: Without a doubt, the current international order is going through an important transitional phase that will likely result in a multipolar global reality. If they adopt a common vision, the Gulf states will likely be able to resolve the global energy security crises, regional economic shifts, and any other consequences of the transition to a multipolar world, while keeping the balance between powers like the United States and Russia and China. And if given space to do so, Gulf states could become an indispensable international actor in restoring global security. – Washington Institute

Javier Blas writes: Ironically, the only new petrocurrency to emerge of late has been the dirham of the United Arab Emirates. India is using it to settle some oil transactions with Russia, bypassing US sanctions. But for the past 25 years, the dirham has been pegged to the US dollar — another indication that the petrodollar remains the only petrocurrency that really matters. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt’s foreign minister arrived in Damascus on Monday, the first visit by an Egyptian foreign minister to Syria since its civil war began in 2011 and another sign of warming ties between President Bashar al-Assad and Arab states that once shunned him. – Reuters

A Tunisian protest coalition said on Friday it would not stop working to unite the opposition against President Kais Saied despite the arrest of its top leaders, and added that it would hold a demonstration on March 5. – Reuters

The African Union (AU) has criticised Tunisia and urged it to avoid “racialised hate speech” after President Kais Saied ordered the expulsion of undocumented migrants and said immigration was a plot aimed at changing his country’s demographic make-up. – Reuters

Hundreds of protesters in Tunisia’s capital took to the streets on Saturday to denounce racism and express solidarity towards migrants after the country’s increasingly authoritarian leader claimed there’s a plot to erase his country’s identity by bringing in sub-Saharan Africans. – Associated Press 

Jordan will on Sunday host a “political-security” meeting between Israel and the Palestinians to try and restore calm to the occupied Palestinian territories after deadly violence, a Jordanian government official said. – Agence France-Presse

Nearly 20 years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by U.S.-led forces, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid wants the world to know his country now is at peace, democratic and intent on rebuilding economic life while maintaining a government that serves the whole country and the region. – Associated Press 

Natalia Antonova writes: It’s not my intention to diminish the brutality of some of the United States’ most hotly debated foreign wars, from the Philippines to Iraq. What I do believe is that you can’t effectively reckon with the past if you don’t believe in the future. People who implicitly argue that the failures of Iraq justify a lack of response to Russia’s genocidal invasion of Ukraine have stopped believing in the future. If you rightly think that Abu Ghraib was horrible, you should have something to say about the countless Abu Ghraibs that Russia has created, not turn away and shrug. – Foreign Policy

Baraa Sabri writes: To many in the Middle East, the United States seems unconcerned with the key problems and issues occurring therein. It is uninvolved in the process of ending the conflicts in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, and is unable to find ways to open channels for resolving unfinished business in other failed states, like Iraq and Lebanon. As such, the United States must understand this Russian operation and confront it through methods that support other partners and allies, strengthen their positions, and work to reorient Turkey back towards its own bloc. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opened a major political conference dedicated to agriculture, state media reported Monday, amid outside assessments that suggest the country is facing a serious shortfall of food. – Associated Press 

North Korea test-fired four strategic cruise missiles during a drill designed to demonstrate its ability to conduct a nuclear counterattack against hostile forces, its state media said on Friday. – Reuters

There’s little doubt that North Korea’s chronic food shortages worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and speculation about the country’s food insecurity has flared as its top leaders prepare to discuss the “very important and urgent task” of formulating a correct agricultural policy. – Associated Press 

Joel Atkinson writes: We don’t know what Beijing really thinks about North Korea’s nuclear weapons. But there’s nothing so different between the two countries’ interests that we should simply assume China opposes the North’s nukes. On the contrary, given that North Korea has already developed impressive capabilities without China taking effective action to prevent it, it is safer to assume that Beijing supports Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. – The National Interest


Over a year of war in Ukraine, Russia and China have grown closer. The next stage, as China seeks to cast itself as pushing for peace, will test whether Beijing is willing to put any distance between itself and Moscow. – Wall Street Journal

New intelligence has prompted the Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the coronavirus pandemic, though U.S. spy agencies remain divided over the origins of the virus, American officials said on Sunday. – New York Times

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will visit China next week, as Beijing has sought to play a more active role in diplomacy around the war while supporting its close partner Russia. – Wall Street Journal

A Chinese diplomat accused the U.S. consul general in Hong Kong of interfering in its affairs after he said the city’s freedoms were eroding and warned the American not to cross political “red lines.” – Associated Press 

The United States and China will hold deputy-level talks between their finance officials on Friday to discuss debt and other issues on the sidelines of a G20 finance meet in India, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. – Reuters

Two and a half years after Chinese trade restrictions hit Australian products from coal to wine, a diplomatic thaw between Beijing and Canberra has raised hopes for a revival of exports and spurred businesses to take steps to rebuild ties. – Reuters

Chinese weather balloon manufacturer Zhuzhou Rubber Research & Design Institute said it had no connection to the balloon shot down by the United States earlier this month and was not a military company. – Reuters

China’s state-run media frequently touts the country’s major achievements and grand ambitions in outer space, including its space station and planned research outpost on the moon. – Bloomberg

In an encounter that added to growing tensions between the US and China, the crew aboard a Chinese fighter jet warned a US Navy surveillance pilot to move away from Chinese airspace Friday. – New York Post

The Biden administration’s scrapping of a controversial FBI initiative that monitored industrial and academic relations with China has emboldened the economic giant to increase its spying on the US, according to a security expert. – New York Post   

Editorial: Mr. Xi may still conclude he can’t afford to let his Russian ally lose in Ukraine. He’s more likely to do so if he senses that Western support for Ukraine is faltering. Beijing no doubt understands all this. American politicians who believe Ukraine is a distraction from the strategic competition with China rather than part of that competition might want to clue in, too. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: While Mr. Blinken is correct that plans like Mr. Xi’s aid Mr. Putin’s war, our president has yet to articulate a victory strategy. Mr. Biden’s failure, or inability, to explain why we back Ukraine beyond brief bromides in the State of the Union, echoes America’s forementioned failures in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Unless Mr. Biden offers a proper war plan, the Chinese-Russian wager could well pay off. – New York Sun

Jeremy Hurewitz writes: As the rest of the world is awakening to the problems that a powerful and assertive China presents, we shouldn’t look away from those in China’s west who have already been seemingly swallowed up. Tibetans, Uighurs and Taiwanese deserve to chart their own future, and they all deserve to live in freedom. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Biden’s visit to Kyiv demonstrated to Moscow that America will not back down its support for Ukraine as its resists Russian aggression; nor, for that matter, will it cower before Russian threats to retaliate for ongoing American support for Ukraine. Biden must do the same with regard to China. Not only must he spell out to Beijing in the most unambiguous detail what he means by “consequences,” but he also must make clear that America will respond forcefully and without hesitation if China were so foolish as to attempt to intervene in the Russo-Ukrainian war. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: Amid reports that China is considering supplying Russia with weapons, the European Union is warning that any such provision would cross a rare EU “red line” and affect otherwise prized China-EU economic relations. But even if China does not provide those weapons (and I have long suspected it will not), that the EU views that prospect as credible poses its own problem for China. It shows that its peace rhetoric is seen for what it is: fake news. That China pursued its duplicitous peace gambit anyway only further undermines its diplomatic credibility. Put simply, much like its recent balloon adventure, China’s diplomatic strategy on Ukraine appears to be built on a thin layer filled with hot air. – Washington Examiner

Elliot Ji writes: This means that the U.S. government should continue to monitor Chinese imitation-style innovations, and work closely with key semiconductor allies to make the export controls against China as airtight as possible. This may entail nuanced multilateral negotiations to address the specific interests of key allies like the Netherlands, which is not fully aligned with the U.S. position on the bans on older machines. Additionally, the United States should consider supporting the cybersecurity efforts of its domestic semiconductor firms to mitigate the risk of cyber espionage, which China extensively employs to lower the hurdle of original innovation both in military and civilian settings. – War on the Rocks

Donald Kirk writes: Officially, the Americans share such skepticism. The national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, appearing on CNN, had a simple response: “This war could end tomorrow if Russia stopped attacking Ukraine and withdrew its forces” — a notion that China did not mention in its proposal. – New York Sun

South Asia

A bombing at a crowded bazaar in southwestern Pakistan on Sunday killed at least five people and wounded 16, authorities said amid a surge in violence in this South Asian nation. – Associated Press

The normal trade and movement of people between Pakistan and Afghanistan fully resumed on Saturday after the two sides reopened a key border crossing that was shut nearly a week ago by Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, stranding people and thousands of trucks carrying food and essential items. – Associated Press 

Atop a police outpost in northwest Pakistan, Faizanullah Khan stands behind a stack of sandbags and peers through the sight of an anti-aircraft gun, scanning the terrain along the unofficial boundary with the country’s restive former tribal areas. – Reuters

Germany and India agreed to partner on technology to make a transition to renewable energy easier, and deepen defense cooperation and trade during Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s first visit to the South Asian nation as leader. – Bloomberg

Betsy Joles writes: Pakistan now faces overlapping crises, including an ailing economy that makes fighting terrorism more difficult. The dire economic situation hinders the potential for a renewed military operation against the TTP; Islamabad can’t sustain a costly, drawn-out offensive. And in the areas where bloody campaigns against the TTP have long disrupted ordinary life, the potential for another campaign is a cause for exasperation and resistance. Residents of the border areas have lived through many seasons of violence. This time, they are making their demands heard. – Foreign Policy


U.S. intelligence shows that China’s President Xi Jinping has instructed his country’s military to “be ready by 2027” to invade Taiwan though he may be currently harboring doubts about his ability to do so given Russia’s experience in its war with Ukraine, CIA Director William Burns said. – Associated Press

The Philippine coast guard said Monday it has joined a search for a Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessel carrying six people, which was last spotted more than a week ago off Palau in the western Pacific. – Associated Press 

An Australian-based archaeologist and two Papua New Guinea nationals have been released from captivity after being taken hostage by an armed group in a remote part of Papua New Guinea several days ago, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Sunday. – Associated Press

The Philippines’ chances of retaining special trading incentives, including slashed tariffs for a wide array of products, would be boosted if it decides to free a long-detained opposition leader and rejoin the International Criminal Court, a group of European parliamentarians said Friday. – Associated Press

The top Pacific islands diplomatic post will pass to Taiwan ally Nauru next year, the 18-member regional bloc agreed Friday, as it resolved to face climate change and superpower rivalry as a united “family”. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will tout the benefits of cooperation for Central Asian nations with deep ties to Washington’s adversaries Russia and China during a visit next week, the top State Department official for the region said on Friday – Reuters

Korea Aerospace Industries has won a competition to supply light attack aircraft to Malaysia, the company announced, marking its latest export for the line of trainer/light attack jets. – Defense News

The CEO of Taiwan-based company Tron Future, whose counter-drone radars are already used by the Taiwanese Army, says the systems are ready for mass deployment, eying a production rate of 100 per month for 2023 based on increased demand. – Defense News

Farid Guliyev writes: The competing logics of third-party interests will interfere and might complicate the process of reaching a final agreement unless Russia is completely exhausted by its war efforts in Ukraine. Once Russia stops scheming against a peace treaty, the chances are that the sides will finally agree on a lasting peace. – The National Interest


Britain and the European Union neared a landmark agreement on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, announcing on Sunday that the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, would travel to Britain on Monday to work out the final details with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. – New York Times

The onslaught has swept Albania, a Balkan nation with fewer than three million people, into a maelstrom of uncertainty and plunged it into big geopolitical battles involving Iran, Israel and the United States. – New York Times

French President Emmanuel Macron said Saturday he would visit China in April, and urged Beijing to pressure Russia to end the war in Ukraine. – Agence France-Presse

Negotiations over an overhaul of Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade arrangements are “inching towards conclusion”, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

Germany’s new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has swiftly conquered the hearts and minds of the security community — and enjoys soaring polling among German citizens. Yet massive challenges, some of them deeply ingrained in his ministry’s structures, risk derailing him from his popularity path. – Politico

Leaders of former wartime enemies Serbia and Kosovo are expected to endorse a Western-backed deal on Monday to put their relations on a more normal footing, a senior European Union official said. – Reuters

Russia is trying to derail negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, an unnamed senior EU official warned on February 24, ahead of talks that Brussels hopes will lead to “de facto recognition” between the former foes. – Agence France-Presse

Matthew Karnitschnig writes: If nothing else, Germany’s half-hearted pursuit of the Zeitenwende is forcing Americans to sharpen their German. One word bound to be making the rounds in Washington this week is fremdschämen, which is feeling shame for the action (or inaction) of others. – Politico


After Nigeria won independence from Britain in 1960, thousands of Nigerians watched as their new green and white flag was raised over the capital at the time, Lagos, at midnight. As fireworks lit up the streets, hope and promise filled the air. – New York Times

Nigeria has faced an outbreak of kidnappings in recent years, affecting people of all ages and classes: groups of schoolchildren, commuters traveling on trains and in cars through Nigeria’s largest cities, and villagers in the northern countryside. – New York Times

It took Patience Moses two years to find a job after graduating from college with high hopes and a communications degree. Then, bandits raided her relatives’ village, burning down houses and killing her grandmother and cousin. Now, an attempt by Nigeria’s central bank to limit cash transactions just before Saturday’s national elections has left her struggling to pay her son’s school fees and for the bus that takes her to work. – Wall Street Journal

Tens of millions of Nigerians cast their votes Saturday in an election that many hope will be a turning point for Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation after years of debilitating economic and security crises. – Wall Street Journal

Gunmen have killed at least 12 civilians in an attack on a village in central Mali, two officials said on Friday, the latest reported attack in an area rife with jihadist activity. – Reuters

The United States is “exerting unprecedented pressure” on African countries, including attempting to disrupt a planned Russia-Africa summit, Russia’s deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying late on Saturday. – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron will fly to Africa this week in a bid to counter Russian efforts to dislodge France from the continent, after Paris suffered a series of military and political setbacks in its former sphere of influence. – Reuters

At least 19 people were injured in an explosion Saturday at a sports event in southwest Cameroon, authorities said. – Associated Press 

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for killing more than 70 soldiers, wounding dozens and taking five hostage, in an ambush on a military convoy in northern Burkina Faso. – Associated Press

U.S. first lady Jill Biden said Friday that she feels a kinship with Africans during her sixth visit to the continent, telling The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that she wants to support nations fighting for democracy — “just like I feel we’re doing in the United States.” – Associated Press

A rebel group linked with neighboring Rwanda seized more territory Friday, threatening supply routes to the regional capital, as fighting intensified in conflict-ridden east Congo, local residents and aid workers said. – Associated Press  

The EU has announced additional sanctions against Russia’s Wagner mercenary group for “human rights abuses” in the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Mali. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Emmanuel Iduma writes: The extent to which Nigeria might face a combustion of sorts in the post-election season is worth considering by the eventual winner. In a region with record levels of insecurity and infrastructural collapse, the clamor for a Biafran state—by violent conflict or referendum—could reach a fever pitch if the most successful Igbo politician in nearly 50 years (one with good preelection poll numbers) fails in his bid to become president. – Foreign Policy

Anthony J. Tokarz writes: If President Biden follows Pope Francis into South Sudan and achieves even limited success, he might find other African nations eager to hear what he has planned next. If he allows this opportunity to slip, however, he might find himself unpleasantly surprised by the geopolitical equivalent of a tsetse fly on his shoulder. – The National Interest

Latin America

Thousands of detainees were transferred to El Salvador’s new mega prison Friday, drawing suspicion from some human rights advocates who noted that the theatrical opening of what may become the world’s largest penitentiary came shortly after U.S. federal attorneys accused government officials of cutting deals with gang leaders. – Washington Post

Peru’s President Dina Boluarte announced on Friday the return of the country’s ambassador in Mexico in response to comments from her Mexican counterpart branding her government as unconstitutional. – Reuters

Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Saturday the country will maintain its diplomatic and consular representation in Peru and vowed to keep communication channels open, while regretting Peru’s decision to remove its ambassador from Mexico. – Reuters

Chile on Monday will begin deploying troops to its borders with Peru and Bolivia in its latest attempt to control the flow of undocumented migrants, officials said Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

León Krauze writes: And then there are the prisoners themselves. Leaving aside the very real human rights implications, Bukele’s strategy carries potentially big downside risks. Even if he manages to keep tens of thousands of “terrorists” behind bars, cut off from the world outside, gangs tend to thrive in jail. (In fact, some of El Salvador’s most notorious gangs grew inside the United States’ prison system.) Who is to say that these men, who are now being denied their rights and left to rot in questionable conditions, won’t eventually become a bigger threat? And after all, they cannot be kept detained indefinitely. – Washington Post 

Scott B. MacDonald writes: The main lesson from Scholz’s trip to the lithium triangle is quite elementary: if you want to play, you have to show up. This is something that President Joe Biden and his foreign policy and energy teams need to think harder about. – The National Interest


Russia’s cyberspace attacks on Ukraine during the past year have erased data, degraded communication and stolen information, but they have fallen far short of the destruction that many predicted after the invasion a year ago. – Washington Post

The Australian government on Monday said it planned to overhaul its cyber security rules and set up an agency to oversee government investment in the field and help coordinate responses to hacker attacks. – Reuters

Crypto lobbyists have a new cudgel in their intensifying battle with U.S. regulators: Europe wants their business. – Politico

Artificial intelligence can help with this. For the past year, the Center for Strategic and International Studies has worked with FilterLabs.AI, a Massachusetts-based data analytics firm, to track local sentiment across Russia using AI-enabled sentiment analysis. – Politico

French authorities have sent a hacker suspected of a cyberheist that exposed tens of thousands psychotherapy records back to his home country, Finland. – Bloomberg

Twenty-four hours before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, a group of cybersecurity researchers from the firm SentinelLabs sat together on the floor of a Miami hotel where they had gathered for a company meeting. With laptops open, they poured over a new malware sample — one that offered a preview, as it turned out, of a Russian cyber offensive to come. – CyberScoop

Employees of News Corp are being sent breach notification letters this week following a January 2022 breach that the company believes the Chinese government was behind. – The Record


The U.S. is not currently considering sending F-16 warplanes to Ukraine, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday, doubling down on comments President Joe Biden made Friday. – Politico

The F-35 Joint Program Office cleared Raytheon’s Pratt & Whitney unit to resume delivering F135 engines for new Joint Strike Fighters, two months after deliveries were halted following a mishap. – Defense News

The U.S. defense industry’s limited production capacity is responsible for delays in U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which now stand at almost $19 billion in value, a senior U.S. State Department official said. – Defense News

While the Ukraine conflict has largely been fought on land and in the skies, there were still a few naval elements to the conflicts first year. But as Russia’s war enters its second year, two senior US Navy officers are predicting naval warfare will likely decrease, not increase, as part of the conflict moving forward. – Breaking Defense

Countries must follow required security practices and procedures if they want to buy US made weapons under the Biden administration’s updated Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) policy, a senior state department official emphasized today. – Breaking Defense

The F-35 Joint Program Office cleared Raytheon’s Pratt & Whitney unit to resume delivering F135 engines for new Joint Strike Fighters, two months after deliveries were halted following a mishap. – Military Times