Fdd's overnight brief

February 9, 2021

In The News


Cybersecurity researchers have uncovered the identities of more than 1,000 victims of two hacking groups tied to the Iranian government. – Washington Post

The United States is weighing a wide array of ideas on how to revive the Iranian nuclear deal, including an option where both sides would take small steps short of full compliance to buy time, said three sources familiar with the matter. – Reuters

United Nations Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed on Monday how to make progress toward a nationwide ceasefire and reviving the political process in Yemen, a U.N. spokesman said. – Reuters

Iran on Tuesday launched a coronavirus inoculation campaign among healthcare professionals with recently delivered Russian Sputnik V vaccines as the country struggles to stem the worst outbreak of the pandemic in the Middle East with its death toll nearing 59,000. – Associated Press

Iran’s intelligence minister has warned the West that his country could push for a nuclear weapon if crippling international sanctions on Tehran remain in place, state television reported Tuesday. – Associated Press

Former President Donald Trump’s final spy chief argued there is “no intelligence” supporting the United States rejoining the Iran nuclear deal as the Biden administration calls on a defiant Tehran to come back into compliance. – Washington Examiner

In a signal to Tehran and its proxies in the region, Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday said Israel is constantly acting to prevent Iranian entrenchment near Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Iran has reportedly submitted a complaint to the United Nations over alleged Israeli threats made against the Muslim state and called on the intergovernmental organization to respond accordingly, Al Jazeera reported Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

In a column published in the Bahraini daily Akhbar Al-Khalij on January 26, 2021, several days after the inauguration of the Biden administration, and against the backdrop of speculation that this administration will resume negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue, journalist Al-Sayyid Zahra discussed the discrepancy between the Iranian advocacy efforts in the U.S. and those of the Arabs. He noted that, while the Iranian lobby in the U.S. is busy promoting Iran’s causes and demands, including the demand to lift the sanctions on Iran and resume negotiations with it without preconditions, an Arab lobby promoting the Arab’s interests and opinions is conspicuously absent. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Iran appeared Monday to dismiss an offer by France to mediate between the United States and the Islamic republic in order to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. – Agence France-Presse

Amid rising regional tensions, Iran continues to seek ways to target Israel and the United States abroad. Iran deployed several agents to collect intelligence on the diplomatic missions of Israel, the U.S., and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an undisclosed East African country ahead of a potential attack, Israel’s Kan News reported on Monday, based on insight from Western intelligence sources. The attack was foiled last month. – Arutz Sheva

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi on Monday, filed two complaints against Israel with the UN Security Council  calling on the international community to take a stand against the “Israeli regime” in response to a speech by the Israeli Ambassador. – Ynet

The head of the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) said Monday that the US has achieved a state of “contested deterrence” with Iran through its presence in the Middle East. – Algemeiner

Iran and the United States have deepened their standoff over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers as the leaders of both countries demanded the other side act first.  – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Aylin Sedighi-Gabbaizadeh writes: Iran, a country who is a prime danger to the existence of Israel must be stopped. Not only is Iran a true evil and danger to world peace, and the existence of Israel, it does not care about the lives of anyone who does not follow the law as they see fit – even its own innocent citizens. – Times of Israel

Amos Yadlin writes: This Israeli-American parallel agreement needs to include points of agreement vis-à-vis the redlines that must not be crossed by Iran, an impetus to fix and improve the agreement down the road, and the curbing of negative activity carried out by Iran in the Middle East in light of the nuclear agreement. – Jerusalem Post

Elie Podeh writes: The US decision to place Israel under the CENTCOM umbrella along with Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States illustrates the willingness of these states to cooperate with Israel openly against the Iranian threat. The Americans still maintain military bases in Bahrain and Qatar, but given the gradual US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel and other countries in the region appear to be assuming a growing role in defending against the Iranian threat. – Jerusalem Post

Mehdi Khalaji writes: Domestic political maneuvering aside, Khamenei likely also hopes that delaying negotiations and/or JCPOA compliance with the Biden administration will increase Tehran’s leverage, make the West more frustrated and anxious about Iran’s nuclear progress, and dissuade U.S. officials from trying to add other issues to the agenda for talks (e.g., the missile program). – Washington Institute

Wang Xiyue writes: The contradictions of the regime’s intentions are likely to continue. What should be clear is that while many in the West are ardent advocates of détente with Iran, the Islamic Republic regime is only eager for the cash benefits that come with this rapprochement — not for the détente itself. The regime has no interest in altering its behavior: It recognizes that cash comes with risk, and it acts to mitigate the risk with increased aggression. This is the conundrum that the Biden team will face as well. They should walk in with their eyes open and be aware that previous experience demonstrates that engagement with Iran produces no incentive for the regime to improve its behavior. – American Enterprise Institute

Alex Vatanka writes: Iranian-Turkish trade and economic cooperation is significant because, since 1979, it has been the all-important platform on which otherwise often tense relations could survive on. With trade and economic ties weakening, Iranian-Turkish geopolitical rivalry has the potential to sharply intensify. That is true in Syria, Iraq, in the South Caucasus, and elsewhere. – Middle East Institute


Syrian authorities believe they have found the body of a top archaeologist who was killed by the Islamic State (IS) group in 2015 while he tried to protect the ancient city of Palmyra. – BBC

U.N. rights experts urged 57 states on Monday to repatriate nearly 10,000 of their citizens – women and children associated with Islamic State fighters – held in camps in northeast Syria in “sub-human” conditions without legal process. – Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed their countries’ coordination in Syria on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Aaron Zelin writes: Even as U.S. policymakers must stay focused on the Assad regime’s culpability, they also face a complex web of power dynamics in which Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, and other actors are attempting to secure their various interests. – Washington Institute


Reforms that would address the U.N. Human Rights Council’s “disproportionate focus” on Israel are among changes the United States wants to see, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday. – Reuters

Leaders of rival Palestinian factions began Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks in Cairo on Monday to try to heal long-standing internal divisions, ahead of planned Palestinian elections later this year. – Reuters

The Golan Heights will always be part of Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Tuesday after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken walked back the Trump administration’s recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel. – Reuters

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi launched a round of talks on Monday with counterparts from around the world with the aim of putting pressure on the International Criminal Court to keep it from taking any additional steps against Israel. – Haaretz

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken downplayed speculation surrounding the lack of communication between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday, saying that he was sure they would speak “in the near future.” – Haaretz

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that under current conditions he supports Israel controlling the Golan Heights, but cast doubt on the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau. – Times of Israel

The UNHRC is likely to call for an arms embargo against Israel this year, just as it did last year. The only difference will be that in 2020, the US was absent from the proceedings because former US President Donald Trump boycotted the council, severing ties in 2018. – Jerusalem Post

The Trump administration’s decision to move military responsibility for Israel from U.S. European Command to U.S. Central Command will help work toward a collective approach to security in a region where America’s main allies have traditionally been in conflict. – Defense News

US Reps. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) reintroduced a bill in the House of Representatives on Thursday to leverage US and Israeli research that helps treats post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) plan to introduce companion legislation in the Senate. – Jewish News Syndicate

Editorial: The challenge awaiting Jerusalem now is how to coordinate and work with a new administration that does not share the ‘no daylight’ approach of its predecessor. Going head to head against these policies is one way. Quiet diplomacy and working together behind the scenes to arrive at a mutually agreeable destination is another. Before choosing the former, Israel should consider the latter. – Jerusalem Post

Ilan Manor writes: Of all the signals, one of the most important one is Israel’s silence on the issue. On Twitter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not addressed Iran, or its nuclear program for some time. Foreign analysts may falsely assume that Israel’s silence signals acquiescence with an Iran Deal. […]Unlike the past, Netanyahu’s election campaign does not focus on Iran and its existential threat to Israel. This is because the 2021 elections are a referendum on Netanyahu’s management of the Covid crisis. As Henry Kissinger famously remarked, Israel has no foreign policy. Only a domestic policy. – Times of Israel

Eric R. Mandel writes: Even if the Biden administration wants a treaty to prevent Israel from acting against Iran, it is a good bet that Israel will resist signing a document that thwarts their freedom to act. That is because the Israeli credo is to defend themselves by themselves, not having to risk putting American soldiers in harm’s way to protect the Jewish state. At this time, a treaty to satisfy both nations’ interests is probably unrealistic — but stay tuned. Things always change in the Middle East. – The Hill


The Saudi-led coalition engaged in Yemen said it intercepted an armed drone launched by the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement towards Saudi Arabia on Monday for the second day running. – Reuters

The United States will keep up pressure on the leadership of Yemen’s Houthis, the U.S. State Department spokesman said on Monday, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress he intends to revoke the terrorist organization designation of the movement. – Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken intends to reverse his predecessor’s decision to label Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen as a terrorist organization, despite a new round of “attacks impacting civilian areas” in the days after he made that decision. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: Backed by an Iran that expects to be courted by the U.S., the Houthis think they’re winning and will try to gain ground as America retreats. Undermining friends and emboldening adversaries is not a good formula for peace. – Wall Street Journal

Alexandra Stark writes: The U.S. investment in diplomacy will be critical because ending American support for the coalition’s intervention won’t end the war in Yemen. The conflict is localized and began with local armed groups competing for access to governance. Ending this conflict depends on the decisions of local Yemeni groups — and whether and how they are included in peace negotiations. – Washington Post

Gulf States

Saudi Arabia has announced new judicial reforms, putting the kingdom on a path to codified law — a huge step, considering the deeply conservative country has no codified legal system to accompany the Sharia, or Islamic law, which is currently in place. – CNBC

Adam Hoffman writes: With Saudi Arabia possibly joining the growing trend of normalization with Israel in the next few years, the potential opportunities for the private sector in Israel and the Gulf are almost limitless. – Jerusalem Post

Salem Alketbi writes: What matters is, in spite of the obstacles that the mullahs may set in the way, to work with allies in the Middle East to ensure relations are sustainable. Joint action and the belief that Iran is not solely Israel’s or the Gulf’s problem is the one key to achieving lasting security in the region and the world. In the end, US relations with its regional allies have been deeply destabilized by the 2015 deal. It seems clear that remedying this situation should be the main goal of any new US plan to engage in dialogue with the mullahs. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Ten years after the Arab Spring uprisings began in Tunisia with a street vendor’s lonely protest, revolutions elsewhere in the Arab world have ended in failure. Only in Tunisia has a fragile democracy endured. – Washington Post

Explaining Morocco’s reasoning for normalization with Israel, Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita addressed his counterparts at the Arab League on Monday. During a video conference he said his country is of the opinion “Arab common action needs a new dynamic.” – Jerusalem Post

Egypt says a recently constructed 36-kilometer (22-mile) concrete and wire barrier encircling Sharm el-Sheikh will help protect tourism at the Red Sea resort on the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula. […]Sharm el-Sheikh is about 360 km (224 miles) south of Sinai’s northern, Mediterranean coast, where an insurgency by Islamist militants has been concentrated. – Ynet

A new report has shed light on Hezbollah’s systematic use of civilian infrastructure to shield its missile storage and launch sites in Lebanon. – Jewish News Syndicate

An independent autopsy revealed no signs of torture on the body of a well-known Lebanese publisher and vocal critic of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group shot dead in his car last week, his wife said Monday. – Associated Press

Alan Baker writes: Sadly and regrettably, this decision not only irreparably harms the integrity and credibility of the ICC, but it also has the potential to undermine and derail the Middle East peace negotiating process, since the Court, at the behest of its prosecutor, is attempting to prejudge the outcome of that process, contrary to all historic and legal logic. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has modernized its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles by flaunting United Nations sanctions, using cyberattacks to help finance its programs and continuing to seek material and technology overseas for its arsenal, U.N. experts said. – Associated Press

South Korea’s new foreign minister said on Tuesday he was confident about coordinating North Korea policy with the United States despite earlier signs of differences. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called on his ruling Workers’ Party to thoroughly implement the five-year economic plan, posited at a rare congress last month, state news agency KCNA reported on Tuesday. – Reuters

Iran and North Korea cooperated on long-range missile development projects last year, according to a confidential United Nations report that may pressure the Biden administration to respond to one of its first major geopolitical crises. – Bloomberg

Toby Dalton writes: This article explores how the alliance management challenge with South Korea intersects with putative U.S. nuclear posture adjustments and suggests some ideas on the types of initiatives the United States could implement to manage this tension. There is a narrow window of opportunity — approximately 15 months — between the start of Biden’s term and the next South Korean presidential election in spring 2022 during which Washington and Seoul can work the problem. – War on the Rocks

Jason Bartlett and Francis Shin write: There are many reasons as to why states and entities host and/or facilitate North Korean sanctions evasions, such as poor regulatory scrutiny and legal safeguards, high exploitation of existing crime networks, and willful blindness to illicit activity. Numerous U.N. reports and U.S. government analyses suggest that the latter represents the bulk of sanctions evasions conducted in Chinese and Russian jurisdictions. – Center for a New American Security


For a brief time, those bounded by the Great Firewall, China’s system of Internet controls blocking access to platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, had found an island of unregulated speech in the U.S.-based app Clubhouse, an invitation-only platform where users talk in audio-chat rooms. The app, which debuted in March but gained popularity after Elon Musk joined last week, had escaped the notice of Chinese regulators. On Monday, the hammer descended as users in several Chinese cities reported they could no longer access Clubhouse. – Washington Post

The UK has warned Britons in Hong Kong that the territory has stopped recognising dual nationality and it might no longer be able to help citizens who also hold a local passport. – Financial Times

Chinese President Xi Jinping will speak to Eastern European officials on Tuesday, a bid to reboot relations flailing amid some countries’ disillusionment with Beijing’s investment promises and a lack of regular dialogue due to Covid-19. – Bloomberg

Gideon Rachman writes: On the other hand, in what is likely to be seen as a historic blunder, China killed Indian troops in a clash in the Himalayas last June. […]Technological co-operation is one area where India and the Anglosphere are likely to work together. India is already part of “the Quad”, which brings together the US, Australia, Japan and India for naval exercises. As the US seeks allies willing to push back against China, the Anglosphere plus the big Asian democracies looks like the most promising combination. – Financial Times

J.T. Young writes: By forging bipartisan unity here, perhaps Washington bipartisanship can extend further to domestic priorities. Yet even if it does not, it is crucial here and now. China’s Communist government must see a continuity of purpose to respond to it, even as it sees a change in regimes. Because in 2020, the Chinese government did not just add insult to injury, it added injury to injury. – The Hill

Eric Sayers writes: Gone is the optimism about China’s behavior becoming more moderate, as well as the belief that Beijing is ready to be a net contributor to global goods. In its place is a more assertive approach designed to mitigate the Chinese Communist Party’s capacity and will to advance objectives antithetical to U.S. interests. What follows are a range of brief perspectives and recommendations on where Washington finds itself in this new and unfolding peacetime competition with China as it enters its next phase. – War on the Rocks

Prof. Vera Schwarcz writes: There are many weapons in China’s arsenal for imposing autocratic control within and for seeking hegemony in the world arena. Two of the ideological tools are the concepts of “unification” and of “harmony.” Both are tooted in Confucian tradition, both are used to strengthen the Chinese Communist Party (CCPT) and the reign of President Xi Jinping. […]Xi’s current vision of a world threaded by a common, China-defined order goes beyond its prowess in 5G technologies. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Derek Scissors writes: Some people consider US investment in China a positive, because they want to treat China like any other partner. They are manifestly, and horribly, wrong to do so. But either way, it’s no help for President Trump. He pledged to reduce the money leaving for China due to trade, and didn’t. Instead, more money left for China due to investment, helping the same Chinese firms he called out for killing American jobs. – American Enterprise Institute


U.S. Central Command Chief Frank McKenzie indicated Monday that the Taliban would have to change course abruptly for the United States to hold to a peace deal signed last February that calls for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 1. – Washington Examiner

The United States military has not had any combat deaths in Afghanistan for a year, with the last deaths coming shortly before former President Donald Trump brokered a peace deal with the Taliban. – Washington Examiner

Vance Serchuk writes: Too often in foreign policy, the instinct of a new administration is to reverse the strategy of its predecessor, provoking a crisis. In the case of Afghanistan today, it is the essential first step toward defusing one. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Rubin writes: Perhaps a misunderstanding of the Taliban agenda was an excuse 20 years ago. It should not be one now. If the Biden administration says no to pipeline jobs in the Midwest, it should not then turn around and help enrich the Taliban to ship Turkmen gas to the Indian Ocean. It is time for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to call his envoy, end this hypocrisy, and to stop coddling some of the world’s most anti-American movements. – Washington Examiner


President Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, discussing regional security issues that revolve around China and the upheaval in Myanmar, the White House said. – Wall Street Journal

Two U.S. carrier groups conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea on Tuesday, days after a U.S. warship sailed near Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed waters, as China denounced the United States for damaging peace and stability. – Reuters

New Zealand is suspending all high-level contact with Myanmar and imposing a travel ban on its military leaders following last week’s coup, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wished China a happy Lunar New Year on Tuesday, but said she will not yield to Chinese pressure and reiterated a call for dialogue to resume with Beijing. – Reuters

Hong Kong’s top court denied bail on Tuesday to media tycoon and Beijing critic Jimmy Lai, the most high-profile person to be charged under the city’s national security law. – Reuters

A prominent Singapore businessman has said he will exit his investment in a tobacco firm linked to the Myanmar military, after the army deposed the country’s democratically elected government in a coup last week. – Reuters

The United States was concerned about an order by Myanmar’s military restricting public gatherings following three days of large demonstrations against a Feb. 1 military coup, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday. – Reuters

The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Friday to discuss the crisis in Myanmar after its elected civilian government was taken over by the military, the United Nations said in a statement on Monday. – Reuters

United Nations human rights experts on Monday spoke out against Thailand’s increasing use of a law forbidding criticism of its royal family, singling out a 43-year sentence for an elderly woman convicted under the law. – Reuters

As the Marine Corps reorganizes to prepare for a potential conflict with China, the service is considering three new Marine Littoral Regiments for its campaign of land warfare in the Indo-Pacific. – USNI News

Rufat Ahmadzada writes: Azerbaijan is the first post-Soviet country to have restored its territorial integrity. For the first time Russia has had to recognise Turkey as a geopolitical regional factor in the South Caucasus, though Moscow has retained the greater role in the post conflict “peace building” process. […]The Biden administration needs to reach out to Azerbaijan and Turkey and to convince the Armenian side to normalise its relations with Baku and Ankara. Armenia can develop and achieve economic prosperity only if it builds good relations with its key neighbours. – Times of Israel


Germany, Poland and Sweden announced a coordinated, tit-for-tat expulsion of three Russian diplomats on Monday, in retaliation for Moscow’s decision last week to expel diplomats from the three countries for monitoring the protests that followed the jailing of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny. – New York Times

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s allies of treachery on Tuesday for discussing possible sanctions against Russia with the West over the opposition politician’s jailing, the RIA news agency reported. – Reuters

Russia plans to hold joint naval drills with Iran and China in the Indian Ocean later this month, the RIA news agency cited Moscow’s ambassador to Tehran as saying on Monday. – Reuters

George Barros and Savannah Modesitt write: The Kremlin is increasing its projection capabilities against both NATO and Belarus. The Kremlin announced in December 2020 its decision to field a new motorized rifle division in Kaliningrad. Baltic Fleet commander Admiral Aleksandr Nosatov announced on December 7, 2020, that the Kremlin decided to reinforce the Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps with a motorized rifle division in response to an alleged NATO military buildup near Kaliningrad. – Institute for the Study of War

Daniel Milo writes: The COVID-19 pandemic and the initial slow reaction by the EU, especially the lack of coordination in the procurement of medical supplies and the lack of mutual support in the early months of the crisis, was leveraged by both Russia and China to increase their respective standings in the region. While China used its mask diplomacy to win hearts and minds with mixed results, Russian-originated information campaigns had different goals more in line with Russia’s long-term regional strategy. They aimed to portray the western liberal democratic order as weak and incompetent, while simultaneously pushing many, often contradictory, conspiracy theories as to the origins of the virus. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The European Union’s latest clash with Russia has presented an opportunity for the U.S. to advocate a joint position on Moscow, as officials on both sides of the Atlantic consider how to hold the Kremlin accountable for the treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. – Wall Street Journal

British tech billionaire Michael Lynch begins his fight against extradition to the United States to face charges over the sale of the software company he co-founded on Tuesday, in a test of an extradition treaty critics say is lopsided. – Reuters

Envoys from Britain and the European Union on Monday underscored their willingness to negotiate with the new U.S. government to quickly resolve a 16-year dispute over aircraft subsidies that has triggered tariffs on both sides. – Reuters

Britain called on Monday for a reset in relations with the European Union and a refinement of a Brexit deal covering trade with Northern Ireland, saying trust was eroded when Brussels attempted to restrict COVID-19 vaccine supplies. – Reuters

Brussels appears poised to reject the UK’s calls for a two-year extension of the grace periods for post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland, the Telegraph reported late Monday. – Reuters

The European Union has had positive, early contact with the Biden administration on trade, but will need to wait for a new U.S. trade representative to be in place for real talks to begin, the EU trade chief said on Monday. – Reuters

The U.K.’s intelligence agencies have raised concerns over links between British universities and the Chinese government amid claims sensitive defense technology is being passed to Beijing. – Bloomberg

French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing Europeans to embrace “strategic autonomy” as the best way to revitalize NATO and address global challenges from the pandemic to arms control to climate change. – USNI News

Both Greece and the Republic of Cyprus are remaining firm in their support of a bizonal, bicommunal federation as the solution being sought for the Cyprus problem, the leaders of the two nations said Monday after a meeting held in Nicosia. – Ekathimerini

Edward Lucas writes: The worst thing is the lack of a common position. High-level representation, plus a tough message on human rights, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other issues would be defensible. It might even do Emperor Xi good to hear the same message repeated from lots of foreigners. A boycott by a large number of countries would be fine too. But this shambolic response just shows how easy it is for China to play divide and rule in Europe. The Kremlin benefits from that too. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Anthony B. Kim writes: In a broader perspective, Poland is a key pillar of security in Europe. Enhancing bilateral relationships with Poland on key economic and security policy fronts is clearly in America’s national interest. To that end, one of the pragmatic and strategic engagements Washington can opt for is to continue supporting Poland through the Three Seas Initiative, while encouraging tangible results from the 5-year-old effort. – The Daily Signal

Latin America

U.S. prosecutors are investigating the president of Honduras for accepting bribes to protect drug traffickers who shipped tons of cocaine to the U.S., according to a court filing. – Wall Street Journal

Cuba has warned that rebels from Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) may be planning an attack on Bogota, the Colombian defense minister said on Monday. – Reuters

The Biden administration turned down a meeting request with El Salvador’s president on an unannounced trip to Washington last week, as criticism of the Central American leader mounts among Democrats, three people with knowledge of the decision said Monday. – Associated Press

Gladys McCormick writes: Taking on extortion as a more of a discrete problem than wholesale organized crime focuses official efforts on more manageable and realistic targets. Yes, the longer term and less evident incentives of institution building may not have the satisfying short-term results of military options, but they are more likely to improve the security situation in Mexico and, by extension, U.S.-Mexico relations. – The Hill

United States

The Justice Department will allow John H. Durham to remain in the role of special counsel appointed to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia inquiry, even after he relinquishes his role as the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, according to a senior Justice Department official. – New York Times

A man who authorities say is a leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group and helped to organize a ring of other extremists and led them in the attack last month at the U.S. Capitol has held a top-secret security clearance for decades and previously worked for the FBI, his attorney said Monday. – Associated Press

A coalition of six Senate committees took the unusual step Monday of jointly requesting information from 22 different law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies for an accounting of their response to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. – The Hill

Ned Price, the US Department of State’s spokesperson, addressed the administration’s decision to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council, and said that the orienting principle is that “the United States can be a constructive force and can help shape the course of world events when we’re present, when we’re at the table.” – Jerusalem Post

While much of the liberal West watched the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol in horror, right-wing extremism and anti-Semitic ideas are gaining ground in certain corners of the globe. German officials say the violence in Washington, together with coronavirus skepticism and anti-lockdown sentiment, has emboldened right-wing groups. The rising extremism has prompted the country’s intelligence services to place a number of people under surveillance. – NBC News

Editorial: A leading conceit of Joe Biden’s foreign policy is that the U.S. can reform international organizations—and make them live up to their ostensibly noble purposes—simply by showing up. History shows that America’s involvement condones the farce rather than ending it. – Wall Street Journal

Brett D. Schaefer and Danielle Pletka write: The U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to review the Council between 2021 and 2026. That is, we argued last year, an opportunity for the United States to propose substantial reforms. But in rejoining the Council before laying out its own agenda for change, the Biden administration has squandered its leverage. Without reform, the Human Rights Council will continue to fail those who need it most. Shame on them; shame on us. – The National Interest

Richard Fontaine writes: Yet like their sports counterpart, most foreign policy Hail Marys are dropped or intercepted. It’s often better to put a few points on the board than none at all. And managing foreign policy problems will help the new administration stay out of the kinds of desperate situations in which wild, risky passes look like the best way to play. – Foreign Affairs

Michael Rubin writes: An overly centralized Somali state will lead only to a multibillion-dollar failure and either war or the empowerment of Al-Shabaab across the Horn of Africa. Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s attention may be elsewhere, but the decision he makes or avoids now will have profound repercussions for African security and American national security for years to come. – 1945


Huawei Technologies’ founder Ren Zhengfei said on Tuesday it would be “extremely difficult” for the United States to end the sanctions that have crippled its phone business, but that he hoped the new U.S. administration would have an “open policy”. – Reuters

A hacker gained unauthorized entry to the system controlling the water treatment plant of a Florida city of 15,000 and tried to taint the water supply with a caustic chemical, exposing a danger cybersecurity experts say has grown as systems become both more computerized and accessible via the internet. – Associated Press

Facebook said Monday it will remove posts that spread false information about “COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general.” – The Hill

Viasat is upgrading Skynet satellite communications capabilities to enable the British military to comply with the latest integrated waveform requirement known as IW Phase 2, the company said on Feb. 8. – C4ISRNET


The Senate confirmed Kathleen Hicks as deputy defense secretary on Monday evening, making her the first woman to be confirmed by the Senate to the position.  – Defense News

Two major initiatives of the new defense secretary are advancing as the Pentagon head steers the department in his effort to tackle major personnel problems — extremism in the ranks and sexual harassment. – Military Times

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who has served as the top Republican on defense appropriations committees and helped determine how the Pentagon spent hundreds of billions of dollars in funding, will not seek reelection next year. – Defense News

The Navy is in the final stages of fully adopting a Precision Landing Mode for fighter pilots, with young fleet replacement squadron pilots for the first time conducting carrier qualifications with the tool that significantly cuts down on the work required during an approach to the back of an aircraft carrier at sea. – USNI News

The Navy envisions a future fleet with manned and unmanned ships, submarines and aircraft operating in a dispersed manner and collecting a ton of data to fill in a common operating picture[…]. That entire vision, though, would require a robust network that could withstand an enemy cyberattack; that could have enough bandwidth to manage video, voice, and targeting data coming and going; and could present a huge amount of data in a visual way that helps commanders make quick and good decisions. – USNI News

With defense budgets around the globe expected to fall, simulation and training firm CAE is moving to diversify its defense and security portfolio, with an emphasis on space and cyber capabilities. – Defense News

A new sensor that can detect the entire radio spectrum could play a big role in the future of electromagnetic warfare and communications.  – Defense One

Rebecca K.C. Hersman and Maxwell Simon write: Ultimately, greater engagement between the nuclear and non-nuclear defense policy communities will be central to managing our new, contemporary security environment. Rapid technological innovation, cross-domain competition and a looming nuclear shadow require examining international security at the nuclear nexus. – Defense News

Long War

Britain’s terrorism threat level from international terrorism has been lowered to ‘substantial’ from ‘severe’, the third highest tier which means an attack is deemed to be likely as opposed to highly likely. – Reuters

A boy who headed a neo-Nazi group and carried out his first offense aged just 13 was spared jail on Monday after becoming the youngest person in Britain to be convicted of terrorism offenses. – Reuters

The US State Department said it stands with Yazidis who are grieving for their community members massacred by ISIS six years ago. Along with US support, the UN in Iraq “worked with the Iraqi government to return the remains of 104 Yazidis to Kocho, Sinjar [District] to be laid to rest,” it said. – Jerusalem Post