Fdd's overnight brief

January 25, 2021

In The News


Twitter permanently shut down an account that appeared to belong to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Friday after a tweet that hinted at violence against former president Donald Trump. – Washington Post

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden spoke on Sunday and agreed to coordinate their moves on the Iranian nuclear deal. – Arutz Sheva

Iran urged new U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday to “choose a better path” by returning to a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers, but said the opportunity would be lost if Washington insists on further Iranian concessions up front. – Reuters

Iran may cooperate with the United States on oil and security in the Gulf, but not on Israel, the Iranian foreign minister said in remarks published on Saturday. – Reuters

The Islamic republic boasts that the economy has survived in the face of US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, in part because of non-oil exports such as petrochemicals and steel, bartering and the sale of small amounts of crude to China. But many Iranians are much poorer than they were when Donald Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear accord the Islamic republic had signed with major powers. – Financial Times

Prominent Iran-based and Iranian diaspora critics of Tehran’s Islamist rulers have differing expectations about how far U.S. President Joe Biden will go to implement his promised new approach to dealing with Iran’s objectionable behavior. – Voice of America

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Current and future discussions with the Biden administration will focus on the larger Iranian octopus spreading its tentacles across the region. How to deal with that octopus and all its threats is the real hurdle. The nuclear program is just the kind of distracting dress that the octopus wears to distract from the larger looming problem. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The mystery of Iran’s threats nevertheless underpin the fact that Iran and its supporters have said Trump will not be “safe” and that the US should expect revenge for the Soleimani killing. Iran has toned down its rhetoric as US president Joe Biden took office because Iran wants the US to come to the table and negotiate a new Iran deal. – Jerusalem Post


Millions of Syrians have sought safety in Lebanon and across the region since the Syrian uprising began nearly a decade ago. Now they are stuck between untenable options: ongoing instability and violence back in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad consolidates control, and deteriorating conditions in cash-strapped Lebanon, where politicians are pressing refugees to leave. – Washington Post

A new, 5,000 Syrian Lira bank note goes into circulation Sunday, the largest denomination in the country reeling from a decade of conflict and a crippling economic crisis. – Associated Press

Rumors that the US has sent a “convoy” of trucks to Syria spread online overnight between Friday and Saturday. It was tweeted and pushed by those who are critical of US foreign policy and particularly some who have latched onto a narrative that former US President Donald Trump wanted to end “foreign wars” while President Joe Biden will “start” a new war. Neither is accurate.  – Jerusalem Post

Two women were abducted and murdered in eastern Syria. They appear to be the latest murders carried out by ISIS against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and their civilian authorities. According to Kurdistan24, which based its report on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the women were found murdered in the countryside of Hasakah. – Jerusalem Post


Turkish authorities on Friday issued arrest warrants for 44 judges and prosecutors suspected of links to the group Ankara blames for a 2016 coup attempt, state-run media said. – Associated Press

A Turkish social media site that usually posts about armed conflict attacked Jews as “overrepresented in Biden cabinet,” part of a rising crescendo of antisemitism and anti-Biden media coverage in Turkey. – Jerusalem Post

If the EU decides to impose further sanctions against Turkey it will ruin the dialogue between Ankara and Brussels, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. – Politico

After a five-year hiatus marked by grievances over their rival claims to Mediterranean waters, Turkey resumes talks with Greece on Monday in the first test of its hopes to reverse deteriorating relations with the European Union. – Reuters

Greece’s foreign minister said he hoped Turkey would have a positive approach towards a meeting next week aimed at reviving long-stalled efforts to open negotiations over disputed territorial claims. – Reuters

Talks over the divided island of Cyprus will be held in New York in the next two months with the participation of the United Nations, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday. – Reuters

Anthony Skinner writes: A softening of the Turkish government’s rhetoric about the Khashoggi killing—criticism that has antagonized Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other Saudi officials—therefore likely arises in no small part from economic considerations. […]Erdoğan can remain comfortable in his relationship with his closest ally while remaining watchful for the potential opportunity to make inroads with quartet actors. Reducing antagonism towards Turkey within the quartet would, unto itself, represent a win. – Washington Institute


The Trump administration quietly moved in its final days to ease sanctions imposed in late 2017 on an Israeli billionaire who had been punished by the Treasury Department for corrupt and abusive mining practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo. – New York Times

Israel will begin vaccinating high-school students to target a demographic suspected of accelerating the country’s Covid-19 outbreak. – Wall Street Journal

The cabinet approved Israel’s normalization agreement with Morocco in a unanimous vote on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

The Diplomatic-Security Cabinet has not convened in over a month, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formulates his policies on the Iranian threat with a new US president who seeks to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. – Jerusalem Post

Commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, will arrive in Israel later this week in what will be the first high-level visit by a top American official since Joe Biden was sworn in as president last week. – Jerusalem Post

An explosion destroyed a home in Gaza Saturday morning as terrorists attempted to prepare explosives to purportedly attack Israel, according to an IDF tweet. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and his United States counterpart Jake Sullivan spoke for the first time Saturday night and agreed that they would soon discuss regional issues such as Iran and the Abraham Accords, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. – Jerusalem Post

Israel is likely to bring up the possibility of proceedings against it in the International Criminal Court in early meetings with US President Joe Biden, an official with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

The United States is expected to soon begin deploying Iron Dome missile interceptor batteries, one of the jewels of Israel’s arms manufacturing industry, in its bases in the Gulf States, according to security officials. – Haaretz

The Biden administration will work closely with Israel on regional security issues and to build on the country’s regional normalization agreements, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told his Israeli counterpart, according to a statement on Sunday. – Reuters

Israel’s military said on Friday it downed a drone that crossed from Lebanon and would continue to protect its sovereignty. – Reuters

The Israel Defense Forces are moving to sync capabilities and modify units as part of its new multiyear plan that envision a multidimensional battlefield, an IDF official said in a background briefing with Defense News. – Defense News

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Having the Iron Dome in the Gulf could be a game changer for the region because it would neutralize Iran’s threats and prevent Iran and its militias[…]. The US would need to integrate Iron Dome into its own existing architecture, such as Patriot batteries that more nearly mirror the David’s Sling system. – Jerusalem Post

Alex Fishman writes: Netanyahu has decided to tackle the Iranian issue the same way he decided to tackle the coronavirus crisis – with him at the helm supported by the National Security Council alone. The problem is that the U.S. will not wait for Israel to work through its political divisions and will move ahead with new Iran talks – with or without us. – Ynet


At least 11 fighters from Iraq’s state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi force were killed in an ambush by the Islamic State group north of the capital on Saturday, Hashed security sources said. – Agence France-Presse

Rights defenders fear Iraq may give the green light to a spree of executions of convicted jihadists in a show of strength, days after a deadly suicide attack in Baghdad. – Agence France-Presse

Iraq has requested emergency assistance from the International Monetary Fund and talks are ongoing between the parties, the IMF said late on Sunday. – Reuters

On January 18, 2021, the Al-Nujaba Islamic resistance movement, an Iraqi, pro-Iranian Shi’ite militia, launched alnujaba.info – a Hebrew-language website. In content and structure, the website is identical to the movement’s Persian-language website, alnujaba.ir, and includes translations of reports published on the Persian-language site.  Both websites focus on reports about declarations from the movement’s leadership against the U.S. and Israel, and translations of studies published in the West about the movement and its activities. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Arabian Peninsula

The State Department said Friday it will review an eleventh-hour decision by the Trump administration to label the Houthi rebels in Yemen a foreign terrorist organization. – The Hill

Twenty-two aid groups working in Yemen called on Sunday for the new U.S. administration to revoke the designation of Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organization, saying it puts millions of lives and the peace process at risk. – Reuters

The Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi movement said it had thwarted an attack towards the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh on Saturday, Saudi state television reported, but the Iran-aligned group denied any involvement. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Saturday the kingdom was optimistic that it would have “excellent relations” with the new U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and that it would continue to talk with Washington regarding the Iran nuclear deal.  – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates cabinet on Sunday approved the establishment of an embassy in Tel Aviv in Israel, state media said, and Israel announced its embassy had opened in Abu Dhabi. – Reuters

Israel on Sunday said it has opened its embassy in the United Arab Emirates, following through on last year’s U.S.-brokered agreement to establish full diplomatic ties with the Gulf country. – Associated Press

David Ignatius writes: The Biden administration wants to maintain a strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia, just as the Trump administration did. But any reset should address the broad bipartisan concern in Washington about Saudi human rights abuses. The bogus case against Aljabri’s children would be a good place to start. – Washington Post

Middle East & North Africa

Ten years ago, much of the Arab world erupted in jubilant revolt against the dictatorial regimes whose corruption, cruelty and mismanagement had mired the Middle East in poverty and backwardness for decades. – Washington Post

The Egyptians who took to the streets on Jan. 25, 2011, knew what they were doing. They knew they risked arrest and worse. But as their numbers swelled in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, they tasted success. – Associated Press

Palestinian election officials on Sunday invited the European Union to send observers to monitor upcoming elections planned for the Palestinian legislature and presidency. – Associated Press

Western Sahara’s pro-independence Polisario Front bombarded the Guerguerat buffer zone under Moroccan control in the far south of the desert territory in an overnight attack Rabat described as part of a “propaganda war”. – Agence France-Presse

Ten years ago protesters surged onto Egypt’s streets, emboldened by the success of Tunisia’s Arab Spring uprising. – Reuters

Earlier this month, the United Nations agency tasked with working with Palestinians said it mistakenly issued textbooks that call for jihad, or holy war, against Israel. The agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said it was “taking steps” to address their glorification of “martyrs” and calls for “jihad.” – Jewish Insider

James Durso writes: The U.S. probably doesn’t understand that its apparent obsession  with rescuing the Iranian regime and the Palestinian leadership will increase cooperation between Israel and the Arabs as a counter to U.S. pressure. Encouraging more engagement, à la the Abraham Accords — rather than another forced march through the peace process — will increase Arab influence with Israel that will help secure that long-sought settlement for the Palestinians. – The Hill

Sarah Feuer writes: In any case, Tunisia’s eruption of social unrest suggests that the pandemic will no longer deter people from taking to the streets and voicing grievances over their lack of economic prospects or basic services. […]Ten years after the Arab Spring, Tunisia’s predicament suggests that regional economic and political reform may lag indefinitely, so the Biden administration should prepare accordingly. However much the new president may want to focus on his stated priorities, the outburst of protests shows that local events can quickly push their way onto the foreign policy agenda. – Washington Institute

Ilari Papa writes: In response to questions from legislators, all three officials reaffirmed that the Biden administration would take a measured approach in renegotiating a nuclear deal with Iran while addressing the country’s hostile activities in the region. Additionally, Blinken stated that the administration would refrain from supporting Saudi activities in the Yemen war when they risk compromising U.S. interests, and would reexamine the recent terrorist designation of the Houthis. He also applauded the Abraham Accords and expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. – Washington Institute

Chiraz Arbi and Maurizio Geri write: Currently, European fear over the presence of Islamism in the MENA-region governments along with fear in Gulf countries of similar revolutions inside their regimes has left the Tunisian transition largely unsupported and susceptible to the challenges that have invariably arisen. Tunisia’s relatively successful model still challenges and defies theories and skepticism around democracy and Islam, it continues to be under the loop not only for its democratic exceptional trajectory but also because of its proximity and the role it could play in Libya and other countries, even of the Sahel, with the future youth bulge that calls for more Arab Springs and new African Springs. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s top diplomat in Kuwait secretly defected with his family to South Korea where they have been living since 2019, two people in the defector community familiar with the case said on Monday. – Washington Post

The top U.S. intelligence officer for North Korea warned on Friday the country sees diplomacy only as a means to advance its nuclear weapons development, even as the new Biden administration says it will look for ways to bring Pyongyang back to talks. – Reuters

Editorial: While Mr. Kim is willing to bargain with the United States, he aspires to do so only as the recognized leader of a nuclear power. In theory, such talks could result in partial reductions of Pyongyang’s weapons; some limits are better than none. But Mr. Kim’s price would likely be a weakening of the U.S. military alliance with South Korea — something that Mr. Trump was all too willing to consider and that Mr. Biden must reject. – Washington Post


Chinese warplanes flew more than two dozen sorties near Taiwan over the weekend, as Beijing staged its largest show of aerial force toward the island democracy in four months, just days after President Biden took over the White House. – Wall Street Journal

Looking to reset the troubled U.S.-China relationship, Beijing is pressing for a meeting of its top diplomat with senior aides to President Biden to explore a summit between the two nations’ leaders, according to people with knowledge of the initiative. – Wall Street Journal

“Go back,” the Chinese air controller warned. “You are now approaching Chinese airspace. Turn around immediately or you will be intercepted.” […]This was a bomber presence mission, a taxing flight designed to demonstrate the U.S. military’s long reach and uphold the right of international passage in disputed airspace. – Wall Street Journal

China’s coronavirus vaccines were supposed to deliver a geopolitical win that showcased the country’s scientific prowess and generosity. Instead, in some places, they have set off a backlash. – New York Times

A year later, the party’s control of the narrative has become absolute. In Beijing’s telling, Wuhan stands not as a testament to China’s weaknesses but to its strengths. Memories of the horrors of last year seem to be fading, at least judging by what’s online. Even moderate dissent gets shouted down. – New York Times

But Beijing is intent on dominating the democratized space age. It is building ground-based lasers that can zap spacecraft and rehearsing cyberattacks meant to sever the Pentagon from its orbital fleets. – New York Times

Among the most important national security issues now facing President Biden is how to contend with the threat that China poses to the American military in space and, by extension, terrestrial forces that rely on the overhead platforms. – New York Times

A year after the virus broke out here, though, there is a widespread feeling that the triumphalism is misplaced. For some in Wuhan, there is a sense that it is too soon to declare victory and that the tone is inappropriate. For others, particularly those who lost loved ones at the height of the chaos, there is anger at the government for not acting more quickly and openly. – Wall Street Journal

China overtook the U.S. as the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in 2020, a year in which overall global flows cratered by 42% as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a United Nations trade agency said. – Bloomberg

The U.S. State Department urged China to engage in a dialogue with Taiwan and halt military pressure on the island, in an early nod of support for Taipei from the Biden administration. – Bloomberg

A U.S. aircraft carrier group entered the South China Sea on Sunday with the stated intent to promote “freedom of the seas,” according to the U.S. military, as tensions between China and Taiwan continue to rise. – The Hill

Chinese President Xi Jinping was on Monday slated to open an all-virtual World Economic Forum, with his country still appearing on track to emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic that continues to wreak havoc elsewhere. – Agence France-Presse

The United States often sends ships and aircraft into the South China Sea to “flex its muscles” and this is not good for peace, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday, after a U.S. aircraft carrier group sailed into the disputed waterway. – Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to deliver his first speech since Joe Biden entered the White House, remarks that could set the tone for relations between the world’s biggest economies over the next four years. – Bloomberg 

From its buildup of naval bases in the South China Sea to its theft of intellectual property to its influence in Hollywood, few people grasp the lengthening reach of China across the world. It poses perhaps the gravest foreign threat to the new administration, which, thus far, has signaled a less confrontational stance to the Asian superpower. – Washington Examiner

Sen. Tom Cotton is accusing the Chinese government of attempting to blackmail the Joe Biden administration after the country placed sanctions on members of the outgoing Trump administration. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: The Biden administration’s China policy has yet to be defined. But as far as Hong Kong is concerned, there appears to be continuity between the two presidential administrations. The little enclave has bravely resisted China’s efforts to curtail its Western traditions of free speech, fair courts and a dollop of democracy through mass protests and elections. Yet it has no real defenses against the Goliath on the mainland other than the opinion and pressures of the world’s democracies — the United States first among them. – New York Times

Editorial: Biden rightly values our alliances and international cooperation. Still, a president’s first obligation must always be to serve his own country. That obligation must come ahead of Biden’s interest in winning progressive plaudits early in his term. As he is briefed on new intelligence evidence of China’s carbon deceptions, Biden should reassess whether the Paris accord is fit for the purpose. – Washington Examiner

Bradley A. Thayer and Lianchao Han write: A positive step in the waning days of the Trump presidency was the rapid sanctioning of Chinese and Hong Kong officials over China’s crackdown on pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong in 2020 and 2021, and Mike Pompeo’s emphasis on China’s human rights abuses. These were important signals to the rest of the world that human rights abuses incur a cost. […] Those who use such labor or profit from these sordid abuses must be held to account, whether in China or the rest of the world. – The Hill

Hal Brands writes: The U.S. has long been hostile to authoritarian spheres of influence, for fear that conceding them would leave it locked out of critical areas and give ruthless competitors greater power on the global stage. That basic interest hasn’t changed in the age of Chinese revisionism, even if the nature of those spheres — and the blend of policies needed to deny them — has. – Bloomberg

Noah Smith writes: In most cases, though, the U.S. needs to let Europe go ahead and sit it out. Further bullying of the EU into being the U.S.’s junior partner in international conflicts will just result in that continent’s gradual abandonment of its transatlantic orientation — and the concomitant economic isolation of American companies. The U.S. would be better advised to enlist Asian countries in its effort to balance China — places like India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, for whom their giant, illiberal neighbor represents a clear and present danger. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In the absence of a unified West and other pacts that were the norm during the Cold War, such as the Baghdad Pact, a muscular NATO, or other measures[…].US President Joe Biden has said that the US is “back” in foreign policy. However the degree to which it is “back” will be tested and tensions near Taiwan or in the high altitudes between India and China are likely areas where such tests will come. – Jerusalem Post

South Asia

Indian and Chinese troops clashed at their disputed border last week with minor injuries on both sides, Indian officials said, underscoring the persistent tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. – Washington Post

The Biden administration has said it will review a peace deal that ex-President Trump made with the Taliban. – BBC

Top Afghan officials on Saturday welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to review a landmark US deal with the Taliban and focus on whether the insurgents have reduced attacks in Afghanistan in keeping with the agreement. – Agence France-Presse


Indonesian authorities said that they seized an Iranian tanker and Panamanian tanker suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country’s waters Sunday. – Associated Press

New U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during his first phone call with his Japanese counterpart, reaffirmed America’s commitment to Tokyo to defending a group of East China Sea islets claimed by both Japan and China, the Pentagon said. – Reuters

The European parliament has chastised Vietnam over a government crackdown on activists in the Southeast Asian country and called on EU member states to condemn the campaign ahead of a major ruling Communist Party congress next week. – Reuters


More than 3,300 people were arrested Saturday in protests spanning nearly 70 cities and towns across Russia calling for the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny — a massive show of defiance against President Vladimir Putin and his widening crackdowns against challenges to his power. – Washington Post

Russians rallied in support of the jailed opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny in more than 100 cities on Saturday, the biggest protests in the nation since at least 2017. – New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman appeared on a prime-time show on state television and denied Mr. Navalny’s assertion that Mr. Putin had a secret palace on the Black Sea. On another marquee program, the host devoted 40 minutes to Mr. Navalny, who was described as engaging in “political pedophilia.” And the evening newscast showed tweets by Western officials in support of Mr. Navalny as proof that he was working against Russian interests. – New York Times

Washington on Saturday rebuked Moscow over its use of “harsh tactics” against protesters demanding the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. – Agence France-Presse

Russia’s position as the world’s biggest wheat exporter means the move is already reverberating through global markets, and a short-term domestic advantage could lead to longer-term damage to faith in the country as a reliable supplier. – Bloomberg

President Vladimir Putin would respond in kind if the new U.S. administration showed willingness to talk, a Kremlin spokesman said on Sunday, while also accusing Washington of meddling in mass protests in support of detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny. – Reuters

Russian pipelaying vessel Fortuna has started working at the Nord Stream 2 construction site in Danish waters, defying new U.S. sanctions against the controversial gas-pipeline project. – Bloomberg

The European Union should punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and thousands of his supporters with targeted financial sanctions, the leader of the bloc’s largest political alliance said on Sunday. – Reuters

Editorial: Mr. Trump’s overly personal approach to Mr. Putin was as simplistic as it was shadowy. Mr. Biden is starting on the right foot, announcing from the outset that he is prepared to engage on important business but also that he will not flinch at Mr. Putin’s unpleasant and dark arts. – Washington Post

Editorial: Most important, his supporters won’t give up. By one estimate, 35,000 showed up to protest in Moscow, with more crowds all the way to Vladivostock. Meanwhile, Navalny preemptively warned, “I don’t plan to either hang myself on a window grill or cut my veins or throat open with a sharpened spoon.” Putin has a tiger by tail. – New York Post

Max Boot writes: There is no time to lose. Navalny could all too easily go from prison straight to the morgue. In a chilling Instagram post on Friday, he warned of attempts to kill him in prison[…]. The Biden administration must do what it can to protect Navalny’s life — and the flickering hopes of freedom in Russia. – Washington Post

Vladimir Kara-Murza writes: The United States should invest in public diplomacy and expand people-to-people exchanges between Russians and Americans. It should restore the foreign broadcasting operations the last administration damaged. And it should resume the normal issuance of visas, giving young Russians more opportunities to engage with their American peers. Nothing counters false propaganda narratives like seeing the reality. – Washington Post

William Courtney writes: Absent Russia’s overuse of hard power against neighbors, NATO would likely not have moved so much military presence so close to Russia. If it were to use substantial force against the people of Belarus, NATO might further bulk up its eastern flank. For example, a RAND study recommends that NATO deploy brigades, not just battalions, to the Baltics. – The Hill

Edward Lucas writes: In Russia, grassroots activism will help too, but the regime’s weakest point is that its performative anti-Westernism belies its dependence on the rich democracies. […]Western governments, if they choose, can destroy the Putin regime by freezing and seizing its assets, banning its cronies (and their families) from traveling abroad, and, vitally, deterring the kleptocrats’ concierges: their bankers, lawyers, and accountants. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Patty-Jane Geller writes: Our adversaries’ nuclear forces pose an existential threat to the United States, and for that reason, nuclear deterrence continues to be our nation’s No. 1 national security priority. While extending New START does not make America safer, Biden now has the opportunity to carry through nuclear modernization efforts initiated by his former boss, President Barack Obama, to ensure a strong nuclear deterrent for decades to come. – Heritage Foundation


When insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in Washington this month, far-right extremists across the Atlantic cheered. […]Adherents of racist far-right movements around the world share more than a common cause. German extremists have traveled to the United States for sniper competitions. American neo-Nazis have visited counterparts in Europe. Militants from different countries bond in training camps from Russia and Ukraine to South Africa. – New York Times

President Biden on Saturday committed to strengthening the United States’ relationship to the United Kingdom and its other NATO allies in a phone call with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday.  – The Hill

European Council President Charles Michel said Sunday that Donald Trump’s term in office had damaged the transatlantic relationship but the election of Joe Biden would mean a return to “respectful” dialogue. – Politico

The EU got its wish when U.S. President Joe Biden issued an order to reenter the Paris Agreement — but now that America is back, Europe is worried about being outcompeted and outspent. – Politico

Britain will team up with Egypt, Bangladesh, Malawi, Saint Lucia and the Netherlands to help communities around the world that are threatened by climate change to adapt and build resilience, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say on Monday. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron, expressing his desire to strengthen bilateral ties, the White House said, as Biden made the traditional ally one of the first countries contacted during his initial days in office. – Reuters

Two senior British parliamentarians called on Friday for an investigation into a British-registered company possibly linked to last year’s devastating explosion in Beirut, after Reuters found that the firm had not disclosed its beneficial owners. – Reuters


Mr. Seyoum, 71, was the most prominent casualty yet of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s 11-week-old war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. The main target of Mr. Abiy’s military campaign is not a ragtag group of provincial rebels, but the politicians and generals of Tigray, who ruled Africa’s second-most populous country for much of the past three decades through their political party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or T.P.L.F. – New York Times

Heavy fighting has broken out in a Somali town near the Kenyan border between Somali forces and those from the state of Jubbaland as Somalia’s election troubles spill over into violence. – Associated Press

Armed pirates attacked a Turkish cargo ship off the West African coast, kidnapping 15 sailors and killing one of them, officials said Sunday as Turkey sought to recover the captured crew. – Associated Press

An alleged rebel commander from Central African Republic has been detained and turned over to the International Criminal Court by authorities in the troubled African nation, on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the capital, Bangui, in 2013. – Associated Press

Ugandan presidential challenger Bobi Wine on Friday accused the country’s longtime president of staging a “coup” in last week’s election and urged people to protest his loss through nonviolent means. But he suggested he might not go to court to challenge the official results. – Associated Press

Twin attacks on the army in central Mali overnight killed six soldiers while some 30 suspected jihadists were also left dead in response, the military said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

Ugandan soldiers working as part of a peacekeeping force in Somalia have killed 189 al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters in an attack on one of their camps, the Ugandan army said. – Reuters

Latin America

A Colombian businessman was carrying a letter from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accrediting him to Iran’s supreme leader when he was arrested on a U.S. warrant last year, according to a new court filing in a politically charged corruption case ratcheting up tensions with the South American nation. – Associated Press

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Saturday he was willing to “turn the page” with the US under President Joe Biden, calling for a “new path” after years of tension with Donald Trump’s White House. – Agence France-Presse

Venezuela’s foreign minister warned Alex Saab, a businessman close to President Nicolas Maduro who is facing extradition to the United States, not to cooperate with U.S. authorities, according to a document filed in a U.S. court by Saab’s lawyers. – Reuters

Boris Munoz writes: But I hope that the new president also recognizes that this important task is not America’s alone. His attempt to heal America’s divisions must be part of an international project to restore democracy. And nowhere is that as important as in Latin America. […]A new era of United States-Latin America relations must make the protection of democracy in the hemisphere a top priority. And Latin Americans should welcome this. A weak democracy is a threat to all nations in our hemisphere. – New York Times

North America

The hundreds of far-left and anarchist demonstrators who gathered in protest mere hours after President Biden swore the oath of office Wednesday signal a fracturing on the left that could become a scourge for the new administration, political leaders and experts say. – Washington Post

As one of his first acts, President Biden on Wednesday repealed what critics called the “Muslim ban,” offering hope to thousands of families affected by the Trump-era regulations, if not an immediate solution, given the enormous volume of visa and waiver cases that must be resolved. – Washington Post

Leading members of the Biden administration are promising a very different approach to international trade. No longer would American negotiators focus on opening markets for financial-service firms, pharmaceutical companies and other companies whose investments abroad don’t directly boost exports or jobs at home. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden’s revocation of a permit for TC Energy Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline is raising pressure on Canada’s energy industry to seek new markets for oil and gas, its top export. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden does not yet have plans to meet with foreign leaders abroad and it will be “a bit of time” before his first foreign trip, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. – The Hill

Earl Anthony Wayne writes: The medium- and longer-term agendas include creating a shared vision and structures that enhance mutual prosperity and security. This encompasses dealing with a host of cross-cutting issues such as climate change, green energy futures, cybersecurity, workforce development, and the deployment of new technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence and electric vehicles.  Internationally, the three countries should forge common economic approaches to China and Asia. The payoff of this hard work among the United States, Mexico and Canada could be immense. – The Hill


A group of Senate Democrats led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) this week sought to get answers on the impact of the recently discovered breach of IT group SolarWinds on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Courts (AO), both of which were compromised.  – The Hill

Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) on Friday reintroduced legislation intended to cut down on foreign disinformation and propaganda spread on social media, in particular following a spike in the content after the presidential election and during the COVID-19 pandemic.  – The Hill

The elite Russian hackers who gained access to computer systems of federal agencies last year didn’t bother trying to break one by one into the networks of each department. – Associated Press

Analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) have purchased databases of U.S. smartphone location data in recent years without a warrant, agency officials wrote in a memo to a top Senate Democrat. – The Hill

Brussels has opened two preliminary investigations into Google’s advertising practices, investigating how the company gathers data and how it operates in the multi-layered market of display advertising technology. – Politico

The U.S. Army is developing an enterprise digital strategy as the service prepares its networks and workforce for multidomain operations, the service’s new chief information officer said Friday. – C4ISRNET

Data-driven “Smart Cities” networks could make Army bases more efficient, safe, and livable — but the Army needs to make sure they aren’t as vulnerable to cyber attack as civilian Internet of Things technologies have proven to be. – Breaking Defense

Andy Kessler writes: Let’s face it, Twitter can be a cesspool of snark. Of course, that’s what attracts many of us. Will that change? Maybe. But I like a world in which someone can be sued when he posts threatening language. If someone and libels you, you can sue him. Post about buying zip ties and invading the Capitol, and the FBI knocks on your door. This would put an immediate damper on today’s worst offenders. Every social-media company would complain but secretly agree with a know-your-customer mandate. The alternative is mindless legislators fatally rewriting Section 230 and vengeful swampers continuing their gung-ho quest to break up everything in sight. – Wall Street Journal


Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin was sworn in as secretary of Defense on Friday, becoming the first Black head of the Pentagon in U.S. history. – The Hill

A major weakness “the largest navy in the world” has yet to solve is where Beijing will find skilled shipyard workers and modern facilities to maintain its fleet’s combat readiness far from its shores, the co-author of a major study examining Chinese vulnerabilities said Thursday. – USNI News

The ballistic missile attack on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq about a year ago provides one of the starkest examples of how America’s missile warning satellites operate. – C4ISRNET

The roll out of All Domain Operation’s crucial Joint Warfighting Concept has been delayed until spring, due to pandemic-created obstacles to the large multi-service exercises needed to flesh it out, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten says. – Breaking Defense

Scott Cooper writes: We must do more than pay lip service to the stated priority of restoring our competitive edge by blocking Russia and China from challenging us and our allies. In the 1980s, we stationed more than 350,000 American troops in Europe as a capable and effective deterrent. Fortunately, none of those troops saw combat. They didn’t because of Dr. Schelling’s point that “coercion depends more on the threat of what is yet to come than on damage already done.” We should invest and prepare for the threat of what is yet to come. – Defense News