Fdd's overnight brief

July 10, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The Bahamas-flagged Richmond Voyager was not involved in any collision in the Gulf, its manager, U.S. oil major Chevron (CVX.N), told Reuters on Friday, after Iran said it had a court order to seize the vessel. – Reuters

Iran has sentenced a popular rapper to six years and three months in prison over his participation in protests that rocked the country last year, his supporters said Monday. – Associated Press

Four militants attacked a police station in southeastern Iran and killed two security forces, state TV reported Saturday. – Associated Press

Two people were hanged in Iran early Saturday in connection with a deadly attack on a mosque last year, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. – Bloomberg

Women in Iran, who have long been barred from attending soccer matches except for rare occasions, will be allowed into stadiums during the upcoming season, a top official said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

The IDF and the US have started another joint drill which is a not-so-veiled threat against Iran, the military announced on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

The FBI is investigating the US special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, over his handling of classified material, a Friday report said, after the Biden administration suspended Malley’s security clearance and put him on leave. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Women in Iran can face fines, arrests and imprisonment for not wearing a hijab. But a bill introduced in parliament would carry a range of additional punishments, including monetary fines, restrictions on accessing bank accounts, confiscation of personal vehicles, travel limitations, bans on online activity and imprisonment. But no efforts by the regime have been able to squelch the revolt. In major cities, more and more women are openly going in public without a hijab. This is a sign they are winning, even if the aging theocrats who rule Iran do not yet realize it. – Washington Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: From Iran’s point of view it has adopted the Palestinian slogan of “existence is resistance.” Indeed, its proxies do exist and they continue to slowly grow. Iran’s goal is always a slow anaconda-like strategy, using its octopus of proxies to slowly move pawns toward Israel. So far it is reading into this a feedback loop of “success.” – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: However, these types of systems are new and some are experimental and they are not armed. They can help monitor but there is not much they can do if Iran is serious about seizing a ship. This presents a real challenge for the US navy and other navies in the region. Iran’s continued use of illegal actions also shows how it is willing to conduct destabilizing activities even as its diplomats work toward diplomatic goals with the Gulf states. – Jerusalem Post

Farhad Rezaei writes: To counter the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of its objectives through the SCO, it is crucial for the US and EU to maintain economic sanctions on the regime. Furthermore, to prevent it from becoming a formidable military force against the West, the United States should reimpose an arms embargo on Iran, placing emphasis, especially on the restriction of the regime’s drones and missile programs. This can be achieved by invoking the Snapback mechanism at the UN Security Council, which would permit the reimposition of these restrictions. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

In this phase of the war, Ukraine’s lack of resources is proving as much of a challenge as the dug-in Russian defenses. Despite the delivery of new Western weapons in recent months—and a promise by the U.S. Friday to send deadly cluster munitions in the future—Kyiv’s effort to push south through Russian-held territory toward the Sea of Azov has stalled. Though Ukrainian officials say they are making progress, and have reclaimed a handful of villages in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions over the past month, they also acknowledge the herculean nature of their task. – Wall Street Journal

For years, a small group of American officials watched with mounting concern as a clandestine unit of Russia’s Federal Security Service covertly tracked high-profile Americans in the country, broke into their rooms to plant recording devices, recruited informants from the U.S. Embassy’s clerical staff and sent young women to coax Marines posted to Moscow to spill secrets. – Wall Street Journal

Ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Lithuania, U.S. leaders are insisting that the war with Russia must end before Ukraine is invited to join the powerful military alliance. – Washington Post

Ukrainian forces are “running out of ammunition,” President Biden said Friday as the administration announced it will send potentially hundreds of thousands of controversial cluster munitions to fuel Ukraine’s efforts to break through Russian defensive lines. – Washington Post

The Kremlin does not speak his name. Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin, whose popularity rating soared before his short-lived rebellion, is threatened with political erasure, the modern-day equivalent of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s purging of enemies from official photographs. – Washington Post

Five Ukrainian commanders of the Azov Regiment, extolled in Ukraine for defending the port city of Mariupol last year during an 80-day Russian siege before they surrendered as prisoners of war, have been given a heroes’ welcome after returning home. – New York Times

The United States confirmed on Friday that it was in talks with Russia about a potential prisoner swap for the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, but cautioned that the discussions had not yet produced “a clear pathway to a resolution.” – New York Times

President Biden’s decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine has angered a wide range of Democrats, who are accusing his administration of making a hypocritical decision that risked the moral standing of the United States. – New York Times

Russia’s most senior general, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, was shown ordering subordinates to destroy Ukrainian missile sites in a video released on Monday, his first appearance in public since a failed June 24 mercenary mutiny. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden arrived in Britain on Sunday, starting a three-nation trip that will be dominated by a NATO summit in Lithuania aimed at showing solidarity with Ukraine in its fight against Russia while not yet accepting Kyiv as a member of the alliance. – Reuters

If Russia does not agree to extend a deal allowing the safe export of grain and fertilizer from Ukrainian ports, it is unlikely Western states will continue cooperating with U.N. officials helping Moscow with its exports, the United Nations aid chief said on Friday. – Reuters

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has inspected troops and overseen training of newly formed units made up of contracted servicemen, his ministry said on Saturday. – Reuters

The head of the United Nations nuclear agency said Friday he was pushing for access to the rooftops of reactors at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, where Ukrainian officials accused Russia of planting explosives. – Associated Press

The former chief of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, confirmed he was part of a group that met with Russia’s foreign minister in April, saying such talks are important when official negotiations are “either nonexistent or unproductive.” – Bloomberg

The European Union’s sanctions against Russia will build over time and will have a growing long-term impact on Moscow’s economy, according to the bloc’s executive arm. – Bloomberg

Ukraine plans to nationalize Sense Bank, one of the country’s systemically important lenders, from its Russian owners as early as next week, according to a person familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, praised President Biden’s decision to provide Ukraine with cluster bombs as a “smart move” but also called on the administration to “step up and provide F-16s.” – The Hill

Editorial: If you can’t see a moral distinction between Russia’s aggression and Ukraine’s use of cluster bombs for defense, then you have the blurred vision. Those best suited to make the tradeoff between risks are the Ukrainians whose lives are on the line every day. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Yevheniiya Synelnyk, whose brother Artem Synelnyk remains in Russian custody, is haunted by images of emaciated Ukrainian soldiers like Mykhailo Dianov. They looked “like a photo from Auschwitz” after they’ve been freed in a prisoner swap, she says. […]Russia’s treatment of prisoners shows how little Moscow respects its international agreements. Ukraine knows that only a Russian defeat will ensure the safety of its citizens. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: The rain of bomblets may give Ukraine a military advantage in the short term, but it would not be decisive, and it would not outweigh the damage in suffering to civilians in Ukraine, now and likely for generations to come. – New York Times

Garry Kasparov writes: President Biden, instead of offering thoughts and prayers for Ukrainian lives, send planes and guns to save them. Europe’s line of defense against a Russian invasion has moved from the Rhine to the Dnipro, but the values that line represents must not change. Slava Ukraini. Glory to heroes. – Wall Street Journal

Eric Schmidt writes: The war in Ukraine shows us the best and worst humanity can offer, from the ruthlessness of the invasion to the bravery of the defenders. It’s also a stark warning of the future wars to come. Just as drones can be deployed to protect soldiers, they can be used to hunt civilians. The world needs to learn and innovate from the lessons of this emerging form of fighting to be ready to deter and prevent such conflict from ever happening again. – Wall Street Journal

Aaron Blake writes: Biden allies have disputed reported details of his exchange with Begin, particularly that he threatened to withhold aid over the settlements issue. But 41 years later, Biden has again been forced to confront the use of cluster munitions by an ally — this time, from a much more consequential perch in which he actually has the power to provide them. And he has made his choice. – Washington Post

Marc A. Thiessen and Stephen E. Biegun write: Right now, President Biden appears to have no theory for victory, much less a theory for peace. He needs to appreciate that he has nailed America’s colors to the mast in Ukraine. We might not have soldiers fighting in this war, but make no mistake: This is our war. If the fight in Ukraine is lost, it will be America’s defeat; if it is won, it will be America’s victory — and, by extension, Biden’s victory. It is baffling that Biden does not see a specific pledge of NATO membership for Ukraine as the key to unlock a historic success. The only way he can end this conflict, and bring stability to Ukraine and the rest of Europe, is for NATO to draw a bright line that Russia dare not cross. – Washington Post

Patrick Leahy and Jeff Merkley write: Finally, providing cluster munitions to Kyiv would erode the moral advantage held by Ukraine and its supporters since the start of the war. While Russia has used cluster munitions in its barbaric onslaught, Putin’s propagandists could use our actions to further discredit Ukraine and its allies among nonaligned countries. We must continue to provide Ukraine with the military, economic and humanitarian aid it needs to persevere, but in a manner that is worthy of the United States. – Washington Post

David Ignatius writes: Sullivan, preternaturally young for a national security adviser, spoke in what’s known as the “Secretary of War Suite” in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, decorated with portraits of venerable strategists who once occupied this space, such as Henry Stimson in World War II. Many of them faced the same question that weighs on Sullivan now: How to achieve victory in war when the parameters are uncertain and some of the risks cannot be known. – Washington Post

Alyona Getmanchuk writes: America put an end to Mr. Putin’s plans to recreate a Russian empire by helping Ukraine to defend itself. Now it’s time to bury Moscow’s imperialist dreams. There is no better way to do it than by granting Ukraine a political invitation to join NATO in Vilnius now. – New York Times

Seth Cropsey writes: Increased American pressure on Russian assets in the Levant would provide Israel with breathing space and reduce Russia’s ability to maintain a Moscow-Tehran pipeline with greater Israeli freedom of action. Regime change need not be the U.S. course of action. But the Kremlin is weak and divided. The Biden administration would benefit from taking advantage of the situation to push its adversary. – The Hill

Yulia Latynina writes: Russia’s lay bureaucracy is surprisingly sound. Its state security elite, on the other hand, is the three-ring circus described above. Putin created it in his image, and now he reaps what he sowed. Perhaps the telling fact is that even these crazy guys want to stop the war. Either way, it’s the biggest cliffhanger in the Ukraine series so far. And Putin looks like a fruit ripe for plucking, but not before he loses his war. That way, whoever survives can safely pin the military failures on him. – The Hill


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet on Sunday decided that Israel would work to prevent the collapse of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), but did not offer any concrete steps to do so. – Reuters

Israel’s United Nations ambassador called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to retract his condemnation of the country for its excessive use of force in its largest military operation in two decades targeting a refugee camp in the West Bank. – Associated Press

Israel’s anti-government protest movement gained new momentum on Saturday night as tens of thousands of people spilled into the streets of cities across the country to oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contentious plan to overhaul the judicial system. – Associated Press

Israel’s army announced Friday that it has disciplined five officers, but would not file criminal charges for their actions during Israel’s 2021 war in the Gaza Strip — a conflict in which human rights advocates say Israel committed war crimes. – Associated Press

Israeli forces killed three Palestinians, including two militants shot dead in a gunbattle, in new West Bank violence on Friday, days after Israel concluded a major two-day offensive meant to crack down on militants. – Associated Press

Ukraine often turns to Israel “for various requests” yet “votes for anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations in 90 percent of cases” according to Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Michael Brodsky.  He made the comment and a raft of others that some might consider impolitic in a broad-ranging and contentious interview with the Ukrainian newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, known as ZN. – New York Sun

President Biden said in an interview aired Sunday that the current government in Israel has among its members some of the “most extreme” elements he has ever seen and that the country’s “ultimate security rests in a two-state solution.” – New York Sun

President Biden would not commit to inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, a split from previous president’s who have long welcomed the country’s longest serving prime minister. – The Hill

President Isaac Herzog delivered a powerful address during a state memorial for Theodor Herzl on Sunday, expressing deep concern over the recent attacks on religious minorities and the burning of a Quran in Sweden. – Jerusalem Post

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called for a regional coalition to halt the expansion of Syria’s drug production and trafficking, at an international conference on drug trafficking on Friday. – Jerusalem Post

A Palestinian woman attempted to carry out a stabbing attack at the Ammunition Hill light rail station in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon before being shot, police said. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Netanyahu is said to be considering an invitation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Kyiv. If he goes – and we hope he does – we trust he will impress upon his hosts that Israel expects them to start supporting the Jewish state in the international arena. Ukraine should do so not as a condition for Israeli support – which Israel should continue to extend because it is the right thing to do – but because backing Israel is also simply the right thing to do. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: One hopes that when this particular crisis blows over, when the anger dies down, the French will remember how they felt at this tumultuous hour when certain actors in the world preached to it about its behavior. Perhaps they will think twice the next time before wagging a finger at Israel and will not join the tired chorus of those urging the Jewish state to act with “restraint” and “proportionality” – which it already does, to a far greater degree than do many of its critics. – Jerusalem Post

Eric R. Mandel writes: Netanyahu needs to be proactive and negotiate with Biden now. He will likely have to concede on settlement expansion for the time being and take charge of his far-right rabble-rousers as a quid pro quo for steadfast U.S. support for a long-term operation and putting pressure on the PA to work more closely with Israeli security. For Netanyahu, getting half a loaf is better than getting none. – The Hill


At 31 years old, Nasrat Ahmad Yar had spent most of his adult life working with the U.S. military in Afghanistan before escaping to America in search of a better life for his wife and four children. – Associated Press

Pakistan is the only country Gul Mohammad, a 42-year-old Afghan refugee, knows. He was born in a refugee camp in the teeming, sizzling northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. Eighteen years ago, he married a Pakistani woman, hoping to settle down in the city he calls home. Yet the father of four has not yet been able to get Pakistani citizenship even though the country’s laws allow him to obtain nationality because of his spouse. “I don’t want to go back to Afghanistan because my children will have no future there,” he told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal about his war-ravaged homeland. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Zachary Faria writes: A man who risked his life in Afghanistan serving as a translator for the Army was brutally slain — not by the Taliban in the streets of Kabul, but by young criminals in the streets of Washington who have been coddled by the district’s Democratic leadership. […]This is a natural outgrowth of “criminal justice reform.” Ahmad Yar’s death is what the Democrats have inadvertently enabled by seeking the softest possible sentences for any and all criminals. You can imagine that all four suspects, including the one who fired the fatal shot, will be given a slap on the wrist at most. After all, that is what Washington has been doing with criminals, especially young criminals, for the past few years. – Washington Examiner


As Wagner mercenaries advanced on Moscow in an attempted mutiny in late June, authorities in Syria and Russian military commanders there took a series of swift measures against local Wagner operatives to prevent the uprising spreading, according to six sources familiar with the matter. – Reuters

The World Court on July 19 and 20 will hear a request by the Netherlands and Canada that it order Syria to cease all acts of torture and arbitrary detention, as part of a case alleging the country has breached a U.N. anti-torture treaty. – Reuters

Russia put forward a rival proposal on Friday for a six-month extension of U.N. Security Council approval for aid deliveries to northwestern Syria from Turkey, reviving a long-running fight with the United States and others who want a 12-month renewal. – Reuters

A drone strike believed to have been carried out by the U.S.-led coalition in northern Syria Friday killed one man with Islamic State links and wounded a passerby, a paramedic group and an opposition war monitor said. – Associated Press

The delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria’s rebel-held northwest from neighboring Turkey is virtually certain to get a green light to continue from the U.N. Security Council on Monday — but the big question is for how long. – Associated Press

Syria on Saturday announced it was cancelling the BBC’s accreditation over what it called “misleading reports,” a rare move against an international media outlet in the war-torn country. – Agence France-Presse

Russian fighter jets harassed U.S. drones over Syria for a second straight day on Thursday, according to the U.S. Air Force. – The Hill


Iraq has opened an investigation into the suspected kidnapping of an Israeli-Russian academic after her disappearance in Baghdad, a government spokesman said. – Agence France-Presse

Israel didn’t ask the Russian Foreign Ministry for help to release Elizabeth Tsurkov, who was kidnapped in Baghdad and is being held by Hezbollah, according to a Saturday report by Russian newspaper Kommersant. – Jerusalem Post

The kidnapping of Russian-Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov was carried out to pressure Israel to release an Iranian operative held by Israel, according to Asharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Arabic daily. – Times of Israel


While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have cited differing objections to the entry of Sweden, whose advanced military will boost NATO’s combat power, their shared status as holdouts highlights the ability of any member state to disrupt widely supported alliance priorities. – Washington Post

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited Turkey on Friday to talk to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey about supporting Ukraine’s application for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and helping to extend the Black Sea grain deal. – New York Times

The foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey spoke by telephone on Sunday, a day after Ankara angered Moscow by sending five Ukrainian commanders home with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in what Russia called a violation of a prisoner exchange agreement. – Reuters

Expected negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan remain the only hope to extend the Black Sea grain deal that is set to expire next week, Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Monday. – Reuters

President Joe Biden spoke to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a call Sunday as the US pushes for a deal with Ankara that would allow Sweden’s entry into NATO. – Bloomberg

Turkey violated existing agreements after it returned five commanders of the Azov regiment to Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti. – Bloomberg

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rebuffed calls from NATO allies to quickly ratify Sweden’s membership in the military alliance, saying his country can’t trust a country where “terrorists roam free in its streets.” – Bloomberg

Dov S. Zakheim writes: It is possible that, as he has in the past, Erdoğan is holding out until the last possible minute in order to wring concessions from Washington, Sweden and NATO. Perhaps, hours before the summit commences, he will lift his objections to Swedish entry. But this is unlikely. Even well-informed Swedes have all but given up on their country joining the alliance next week. They do hold out hope that Sweden will join NATO in the next several months. – The Hill


Deputy premier Saade Chami said on Friday deputy governors of Lebanon’s central bank should run it if no governor is appointed by the end of the month, calling their threat to collectively resign “dangerous”. – Reuters

A gunman opened fire Friday at a mosque in eastern Lebanon, killing one person and wounding several others, the Lebanese army and state news agency said. The reason behind the shooting in the eastern town of Bar Elias was not immediately clear. – Associated Press

Israel says Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia in southern Lebanon, has set up more than two dozen military outposts along the countries’ border in violation of international agreements, a development it says increases the risk of confrontation. – Bloomberg

Hezbollah is aiming to subtly take control of Beirut international airport according to a new report authored by Tal Beeri. – Jerusalem Post

Amir Bar Shalom writes: This dispute allows Hezbollah to operate there. The organization is depicted to the international community as fighting to liberate Lebanese territory. Within Lebanon, this allows it to strengthen its standing as the protector of the interests of Lebanon and all its citizens. This was true during Hezbollah’s kidnapping and killing of three Israeli soldiers at Mount Dov in October 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon, and also after the assassination of the son of Imad Mughinyeh in Syria. Hezbollah sees Mount Dov as its diplomatic and operational comfort zone. Israel is seeking to undermine this idea, and it won’t take months, regardless of whether the solution comes by diplomacy or by force. – Times of Israel

Arabian Peninsula

Yemen’s Houthi movement, which controls the country’s north, has banned Swedish imports in protest against the burning of the Koran in Stockholm, the Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said. – Reuters

Turkey expects Gulf countries to make direct investments of about $10 billion initially in domestic assets as part of President Tayyip Erdogan’s trip to the region in two weeks, according to two senior Turkish officials. – Reuters

Turkey’s vice president and finance minister will travel to Qatar on Saturday to discuss “economic cooperation opportunities” with leaders there ahead of President Tayyip Erdogan’s planned trip to the Gulf on July 17-19, Ankara said. – Reuters

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have “exclusive rights” in the Durra gas field in the Arabian Gulf, Kuwait Oil Minister Saad Al Barrak said on Sunday, and he called on Iran to validate its claim to the field by demarcating its own maritime borders first. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia

Israel and Saudi Arabia are a long way from a normalization agreement that would involve a defense treaty and a civilian nuclear program from the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden said in a CNN interview broadcast on Sunday. – Reuters

U.N. human rights experts on Friday called for the release of two Saudi Arabian women they say were arbitrarily detained and denied basic rights after tweeting criticism of the kingdom’s policies. – Associated Press

Israeli video gamers arrived in Riyadh over the weekend to compete in the world championship of the FIFA electronic game. – Jerusalem Post

Dore Gold writes: There is a historical opportunity emerging which must not be missed and it is determining the direction Saudi Arabia is taking. Israel needs to show that it understands where Saudi Arabia is heading and how both countries can become partners in creating a different Middle East. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

The Kremlin’s push to take control of the mercenary group Wagner is triggering security fears in parts of the Middle East and Africa, despite the group’s assurances that Russia’s role in these volatile regions will remain unaffected by the shake-up. – Wall Street Journal

Jordanian security forces killed three men, including two escaped inmates, in a shootout in a remote part of the country, authorities said Sunday. – Associated Press

Commercial flights between Italy and conflict-torn Libya will resume in September after the Italian government agreed to lift a 10-year-long ban on civil aviation in the North African nation, one of Libya’s rival governments said Sunday. – Associated Press

A court in the Libyan capital sentenced three people to harsh prison terms on charges of human trafficking, in a first such ruling in a North African nation where migrants are routinely mistreated. – Associated Press

Egypt will host a meeting of Sudan’s neighbors on July 13, in a gathering aimed at discussing ways to the end the ruinous conflict and mitigate its impact on the surrounding nations. – Bloomberg

Hundreds of gunmen belonging to the ruling Fatah faction took to the streets in several parts of the West Bank over the weekend, in one of the largest shows of force by Fatah there in recent years, firing into the air and chanting slogans in support of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, amid heightened tensions with Hamas. – Jerusalem Post

A delegation of three ministers from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority visited the city of Jenin on Sunday and met with local officials, apparently as part of an effort to reassert the PA’s presence and clout in the city following the IDF operation against armed groups there last week. – Times of Israel

Korean Peninsula

Kim Jong Un is enlisting North Korea’s children in his effort to modernize the nation’s weapons program. […]The event was just one incident in a campaign by the North Korean dictator to indoctrinate the country’s youth and prepare them to contribute to the country’s weapons technology program. The Kim regime is promoting science, technology and space ambition as North Korea’s new pillars for survival. – Wall Street Journal

In January, a North Korean software engineer trapped in China messaged with a South Korean pastor about an escape plan. The North Korean software engineer was desperate. He had been sent to northeastern China in 2019 to earn money for the North Korean regime. After working long hours under the constant watch of his minders, he found an email address on a website and sent a harrowing message in 2021: “I am writing at the risk of losing my life,” pleaded the engineer. – New York Times

The first meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) between South Korea and the United States will take place on July 18 in Seoul, South Korea’s presidential office said on Saturday. – Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol was set to depart on Monday for a summit with NATO leaders, seeking deeper international security cooperation amid rising North Korean threats and tension over China. – Reuters

Japan has lodged protests with South Korea over military drills by the latter on disputed islands, calling the move “extremely regrettable.” – Reuters

North Korea accused US spy planes of violating its air space and threatened to shoot them down, ramping up tensions just before NATO leaders meet this week in Lithuania for their annual summit. – Bloomberg


The U.S. and China cleared the latest hurdle in a tentative effort to rebuild high-level dialogue, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s Beijing trip yielding some progress—though deeply entrenched tensions will test whether the fragile momentum can be sustained. – Wall Street Journal

In May, Micron Technologies, the Idaho chipmaker, suffered a serious blow as part of the U.S.-China technology war. The Chinese government barred companies that handle crucial information from buying Micron’s chips, saying the company had failed a cybersecurity review. – New York Times

Yan Mingfu, the son of a Chinese Communist Party spy who became Mao Zedong’s interpreter and a negotiator who sought to defuse the standoff between the party and student protesters occupying Tiananmen Square in 1989, died on Monday in Beijing. He was 91. – New York Times

Just four years ago, a joint American and Chinese effort to stem the flow of fentanyl produced in China from reaching the United States appeared set to take off. Beijing had unveiled a sweeping new law banning the synthetic opioid, leading the Trump administration to praise China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, for “a wonderful humanitarian gesture.” – New York Times

China on Monday called on the U.S. to take “practical action” in response to its “major concerns” about sanctions on Chinese firms, after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrapped up more than 10 hours of meetings with senior officials in Beijing. – Reuters

Republican U.S. presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said on Sunday he would take steps to revoke China’s permanent normal trade relations status if he won the 2024 White House race. – Reuters

The United States has repeatedly referred to a senior Chinese central banker as the head or acting head of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) in recent days, appearing to confirm his expected elevation to the top post. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping following his meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to “be careful” because Beijing relies on Western investment, according to excerpts from an interview with CNN. – Reuters

Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko will lead a delegation to China from Sunday through Wednesday, state-run Xinhua news agency said on Sunday. – Reuters

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has been absent from public view for 12 days, an unusual absence for the normally busy senior official. – Bloomberg

China is preparing to name a provincial law-enforcement official as the head of its agency overseeing Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported, a sign that security remains Beijing’s priority four years after protests shook the financial hub. – Bloomberg

A group of Chinese female economists and entrepreneurs who dined with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have been blasted by online nationalists for betraying their country by interacting with the US official. – Bloomberg

Editorial: John Lee, Hong Kong’s leader, warned the eight bounty targets that they will be “pursued for life.” This should give the Biden administration pause as it considers whether to invite Mr. Lee to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in November. If he is invited, it will send the wrong signal that he can extend his iron fist inside democracies — without any consequences. – Washington Post

Ted Hui writes: The West should impose targeted sanctions on Hong Kong and Beijing officials implicated in the crackdown on democracy and human rights violations in Hong Kong. And democracies can enact security measures to reassure Hong Kong people that they will be safe in their new homes and protected from the Chinese government’s global intimidation campaign. If free countries fail to defend their residents and stand up to the Chinese regime, Beijing’s thuggish behavior will only get worse. If better relations with Beijing mean acceding to repression in the West, that isn’t a price worth paying. – Wall Street Journal

James Hohmann writes: Rubio believes it’s vital for the United States to continue supporting Ukraine in part to deter Xi from invading the island that China claims as its own. Policymakers can disagree about tactics, but both parties should rally behind a strategic goal of resiliency in case an invasion happens. “Even now, people who agree that we have to do something about this will tell you, ‘We can’t because it will hurt exports or they’ll put a tariff on some industry,’” said Rubio. “None of this is going to matter in five or six years.” – Washington Post

Christopher Mellon writes: The proposed change in vernacular requires no taxpayer expenditures, yet it could have more long-term impact than adding another aircraft carrier to the fleet. We need to be clear about our concerns and do everything we can to focus attention on the unjust policies of two egomaniacal dictators placing the world at increased risk of destruction. That requires putting the onus for rising tensions on the shoulders of Xi and Putin, where it belongs. – The Hill

James Rogan writes: The U.S. is blessed with abundant natural resources and world-class manufacturing and infrastructure companies. The U.S. has the ability to be an autarchic economy, almost completely self-sufficient. Rather than sending Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to kowtow to Beijing, the Biden administration should be sounding a national alarm about reshoring and adopting an asset-light business model in China. Why? Because an economic and military typhoon is coming. – Washington Examiner

Bryan Dean Wright writes: And to be clear, they’ve got leverage. China dominates global trade, leaving the U.S. in the dust in many locales. Beijing is obviously not interested in going back to an era where they are a de-risked junior partner. In other words, whatever Yellen’s mission is today, whether it be deepening, stabilizing, or de-risking, she is destined to fail. In my view, that failure would be a very good thing. Failures like hers will eventually force Western leaders to abandon their impossibly stupid strategy of have-it-all and instead they will get to the business of de-coupling. We did it with the Soviets. We did it with Nazi Germany. And it is high time we do it with the Chinese Communists too. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

India’s multi-billion-dollar purchases of U.S. arms are less about shifting its reliance on Russian defence equipment and moving towards the West – it’s more about developing its own domestic weapons industry, security officials and analysts say. – Reuters

A senior U.S. diplomat will travel to India in the coming days and engage with its civil society over free speech and marginalization of minorities, after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent U.S. visit when he denied that abuse of religious minorities existed in his country. – Reuters

Thousands of Muslims in Pakistan gathered on Friday to protest last week’s burning of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in Stockholm following a call by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to “send a strong message to Sweden.” – Associated Press

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Saturday his country looked forward to cooperating with Switzerland on managing the effects of climate change and receiving an advanced weather warning system from the European country. – Associated Press

Michael Rubin writes: Indian universities should encourage Americans of all ethnicities to study abroad in Indian universities, and establish two-way secondary school exchange programs. Hindu and Indian lobby groups in the United States should agitate for high school Hindi programs and seek an Advanced Placement exam in the language. Prestigious American universities should have India and South Asia programs as robust and well-funded as China and East Asian departments. Any investment by philanthropists, foundations, or corporations in this linguistic and academic infrastructure will pay dividends for generations to come. Bilateral ties have had enough rhetoric and declarations of intent. It is time to build the foundation for a rock solid future. – Firstpost


New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta told the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog on Monday that her government has full confidence in the IAEA’s advice on the proposed Fukushima treated water release. – Reuters

Germany will, for the first time, send troops to Australia as part of joint drills with some 30,000 service members from 12 other nations, underlining Berlin’s increased focus on the Indo-Pacific amid rising tensions with China in the region. – Reuters

Washington hopes to rally Southeast Asian nations to take tougher action against Myanmar’s military junta and to push back on China’s actions in the South China Sea as top U.S. diplomat Antony Blinken heads to the region for meetings next week, a State Department official said on Friday. – Reuters

The Philippine military on Friday reported an “alarming” increase in the number of Chinese fishing vessels in disputed waters in the South China Sea, which it said threatens the security of the oil and gas-rich Reed Bank. – Reuters

Paraguay’s president-elect, Santiago Pena, will visit Taiwan this week and meet “great friend” President Tsai Ing-wen, he said on Sunday, shoring up a relationship at a time China is working to entice the island’s dwindling allies. – Reuters

Myanmar’s prolonged civil strife, tensions in the disputed South China Sea and concern over arms buildups in the region are expected to dominate the agenda when Southeast Asia’s top diplomats gather for talks this week in Indonesia. – Associated Press

Myanmar’s military-controlled government is accusing pro-democracy fighters of killing 15 civilians in a nighttime mortar attack in a restive central area of the country, charges denied by the guerrilla group. – Associated Press

China’s People’s Liberation Army sent 13 aircraft and 6 vessels into airspace and waters around Taiwan over the past 24 hours as of early Saturday, overlapping with United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to Beijing aimed at mending strained relations. – Associated Press

Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell is traveling to Brussels for talks with European Union counterparts aimed at reaching a free trade accord. – Bloomberg

Melik Kaylan writes: Officials seem to be waiting until his condition deteriorates to an irreversible point before they release him to die away from Georgian soil. Meantime, the Georgian government maintains that the prisoner’s family is feeding him a “low-calorie diet” to help him lose weight. Save for Mr. Zelensky’s reaction, the West has done little but express concern as Russia’s proxies assault Western values through starving a leader who once embodied them. Moscow knows that Mr. Saakashvili’s fate represents the West’s resolve to uphold its values. Either the U.S. realizes this and corrects its mistake, or the West will face much worse at the hands of the Kremlin. – Wall Street Journal

Alex Little writes: While risks and obstacles inhibit Middle Corridor connectivity and subsequent Turkmen gas flowing to Europe, the benefits could outweigh the costs. Through this cooperative project, China can address trade route issues that will persist, especially while the Russo-Ukrainian War disrupts supply routes. Given current geopolitical realities, there is no better time for the West, China, and Central Asian countries, including Turkmenistan, to develop Middle Corridor connectivity. – The National Interest


The outcome of NATO’s annual summit, a gathering of three-dozen world leaders in the planning for months, is going down to the wire amid wrangling over what to offer Ukraine, which isn’t a member. – Wall Street Journal

The 300 tents, erected in recent days on a decaying Soviet-era military plot and capable of housing 5,000 soldiers, might have drawn little attention, except for the timing. They appeared just after Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group staged a mutiny against the Kremlin’s military leadership, and after the autocratic leader of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, said that an abandoned military base in his country could house Wagner fighters. – New York Times

American allies reacted with caution on Friday to reports that the Biden administration said it would provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, widely banned weapons that often cause grievous injury to civilians, especially children. – New York Times

Switzerland and Austria, two countries with strong traditions of foreign-policy neutrality, signaled their intention on Friday to join a German-led initiative aimed at strengthening Europe’s air defenses to deal with threats highlighted by Russia’s assault on Ukraine. – New York Times

Cluster bombs should not be sent to help Ukraine, the Spanish defence minister said on Saturday, a day after the United States announced the weapons would be sent to Kyiv to help with its counter-offensive against Russian forces. – Reuters

An adviser to the Belarus defence minister on Friday refused to confirm or deny whether Russian tactical nuclear weapons were stored at a facility at Osipovichi in central Belarus. – Reuters

U.S President Joe Biden arrived in London late on Sunday for the start of a three-nation tour that will include meetings with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and a discussion on climate change with King Charles at Windsor Castle on Monday. – Reuters

Ukraine’s future is in the European Union and the NATO military alliance, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Friday after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Prague. – Reuters

Mercenary fighters of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner group are preparing to move to Belarus under the terms of a deal that defused their mutiny against Russia’s military leadership, a senior commander of the group was quoted as saying. – Reuters

The EU will devote 500 million euros to boosting the production of ammunition for Ukraine and to replenish the stocks of EU member countries, it announced on Friday. – Reuters

Poland began moving over 1,000 troops to the east of the country on Saturday, the defence minister said, amid rising concern in the NATO-member that the presence of Wagner Group fighters in Belarus could lead to increased tension on its border. – Reuters

More than 700 firearms have been seized in a five-year operation by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and Spain’s Guardia Civil to prevent replica guns that can easily be converted into lethal weapons from entering Britain, the NCA said on Sunday. – Reuters

The leader of the conservative bloc in the European Parliament said in an interview published Sunday that his party would not cooperate with the far-right Alternative for Germany but expressed a willingness to work with Italy’s far-right premier to curb migration. – Associated Press

Latvia’s long-serving foreign minister, known for his tough line on neighboring Russia and strong support for Ukraine, was sworn in on Saturday as the Baltic nation’s president for a four-year term. – Associated Press

Joe Biden is set to spend Monday discussing Ukraine with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a brief visit to the UK after several allies questioned the US president’s decision to send cluster bombs to support Volodymyr Zelenskiy. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The Ukraine war exposed weaknesses in NATO while underscoring its strengths and continuing importance. A NATO capable of deterring aggression in Europe can free up U.S. resources to enhance security in Asia. There’s cause for some satisfaction in Vilnius but none for complacency. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Those are promising steps; other alliance members should follow suit. The unpleasant fact is that the West is facing a readiness race. Russia’s navy, air force and submarines remain formidable threats — and its army, though badly depleted by the war in Ukraine, might be able to rebuild itself in as little as three years, according to NATO defense officials. As it happens, that’s also the minimum time the alliance will need to reinforce units in the front-line states with the brawn, numbers and infrastructure that would convince the Kremlin that future aggression would fail. The time to start is now. – Washington Post

Andreas Kluth writes: Nor, after so many decades, will Europeans suddenly grow fangs and turn into carnivores that keep away predators. This means their fate, ultimately, may be decided elsewhere — somewhere between Washington, Moscow and Beijing. The world’s greatest peace project, which has inspired me and others for so long, may end as just that — a project, like so many we read about in history books. – Bloomberg


Satellite images provide new insight into what happened in the weeks after a grisly massacre by Eritrean soldiers, allied with Ethiopian government troops, in two small villages east of the town of Adwa in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, as the Nov. 2 peace deal to end the two-year war was being reached. – Washington Post

The Sudanese civil aviation authority extended the closure of Sudan’s airspace until July 31, with the exception of humanitarian aid and evacuation flights with permission from authorities, Khartoum International Airport said on Monday. – Reuters

Curled up on a hospital bed in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, an emaciated little girl struggles to breathe, as her father softly strokes her gaunt face and her mother sits crying. – Reuters

The U.S. assistant secretary of State for African affairs, Molly Phee, will travel to Addis Ababa on Monday and Tuesday to meet with African leaders and Sudanese civilians on how to end the conflict in Sudan, the State Department said on Sunday. – Reuters

United Nations’ Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the air strike that reportedly killed at least 22 people in Sudan on Saturday, according to a statement released by a spokesperson early on Sunday. – Reuters

The departure of hundreds of Russian Wagner troops from Central African Republic is part of a rotation of forces rather a withdrawal, a spokesperson for the CAR presidency said on Saturday. – Reuters

The conflict between military factions in Sudan has caused a surge in cases of rape and the abduction of women and girls, some as young as 12, aid agencies and officials said. – Reuters

Gunmen killed 24 villagers in a remote part of north-central Nigeria, authorities said on Sunday, raising further concerns about the West African nation’s ongoing security challenges. – Associated Press

Bayan Abubakr writes: If the international community really wants to help, it needs to stop playing God. It must stop counting on military leaders to solve our problems and start directing support to the grass-roots organizations that have been our only salvation. Entrusting the R.S.F. and S.A.F. with Sudan’s future amounts to leaving its citizens for dead, but the international community still has an opportunity to support us in trying to take care of one another — as we always have. – New York Times

Shalin Mehta writes: As the world grapples with the immediate impacts of Prigozhin’s mutiny, The United States should avoid underestimating the strategic necessity of the Wagner Group in Africa for Russia. The lack of adequate engagement with African nations targeted by Wagner may prove to be the greatest folly of Western efforts to halt Russia’s war in Ukraine. Thanks to Prigozhin, a critical opportunity for the US to undercut the Wagner empire has opened, an opportunity that the US cannot overlook. – The National Interest

The Americas

Canada is against the use of cluster munitions that Washington has promised to give Ukraine for its counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces, Ottawa said on Saturday, reiterating a commitment to the Oslo agreement that bans the controversial weapon. – Reuters

Doctors Without Borders announced Friday that it has suspended treatment at one of its hospitals in Haiti after some 20 armed men burst into an operating room and snatched a patient. – Associated Press

Caribbean leaders on Friday denounced U.S. economic sanctions against oil-rich Venezuela, saying they’ve been forced to buy costlier petroleum elsewhere as they struggle with tight budgets. – Associated Press

Latin America

Luciano Marín, a veteran rebel commander who abandoned Colombia’s peace pact with guerrilla fighters and was wanted by the U.S. for cocaine trafficking, died in Venezuela, people familiar with the matter said Friday. – Wall Street Journal

A UN mission of experts arrived in Honduras to examine the establishment of an international anti-corruption mission in the Central American nation, which is plagued by widespread corruption that exacerbates poverty and immigration, Honduran authorities announced Sunday. – Reuters

Colombia’s government has reached an agreement to begin peace talks with a faction of dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels who rejected a 2016 peace agreement, according to a statement. – Reuters

The Honduran government on Friday told Chinese officials it is seeking investors to help fund construction of a proposed $20 billion rail line connecting the country’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts, part of a binational trade and investment push. – Reuters

The Argentine government will send a delegation next week to Washington in a bid to finalize the renegotiation of its $44 billion loan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a source involved in the talks told Reuters on Friday. – Reuters

The Organization of American States (OAS) condemned the Guatemalan Constitutional Court’s (CSJ) decision to continue reviewing the results of June 25 elections, where political party challenges have delayed the official results to determine who will compete in an August 20 runoff. – Reuters

A U.S. court of appeals on Friday rejected Venezuela’s bid to prevent six companies from joining a proposed court auction of shares in a Citgo Petroleum parent to enforce judgments for past expropriation of assets. – Reuters

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Saturday met with his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro to build momentum for an upcoming regional summit on the Amazon rainforest and enhance efforts for its protection. – Associated Press

The U.N. human rights office said Friday it condemned the killing of two more Indigenous residents on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast. – Associated Press

President Joe Biden’s plan to send cluster munitions to Ukraine is dangerous for civilians and risks escalating war with nuclear-armed Russia, according to Brazil’s most prominent foreign policy official. – Bloomberg

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: The U.S. may be tempted to meddle again in the second round. But that would be a mistake, both for reasons of sovereignty and because the rule of law is the highest priority—now and for the next government. Many Guatemalans fear Semilla because it has made known its thirst for unchecked power, has signaled willingness to use mob action to get around institutional barriers, and allegedly receives foreign funding. It’s a movie with a grim ending that the region knows all too well. – Wall Street Journal

Fareed Zakaria writes: Solving the fentanyl tragedy in the United States will take time and a wide range of efforts. […]In the meantime, though, it is much easier to bellow about going to war with Mexico. Let’s hope this is just campaign craziness. If we actually try to make these threats a reality, we’ll be asking for decades of turmoil. – Washington Post

Philip Levine writes: Instead, America has less influence, the Cuban people have less hope and China has more power in the Western hemisphere — right off our southern flank. Let’s hope Biden — or whoever comes next — can learn the lessons of history and put us back on a course to normalization with Cuba. That way, the American capitalist military can do what it does best: spread freedom, opportunity and hope. – The Hill

Arturo McFields Yescas writes: Given the political, economic and security threat posed by Cuba and China, a comprehensive response is urgently needed. Partnerships with other democratic nations in Latin America should be strengthened, both in the field of security and in commercial matters. It would be a very big mistake to neglect such hemispheric threats or underestimate the dangerous strategies of such regimes as China, Cuba and Russia. – The Hill

United States

A federal appeals court tossed out what remained of Donald Trump’s unsuccessful legal fight to stop his former vice president-turned-rival Mike Pence from testifying about efforts to overturn the 2020 election. – Bloomberg

Donald Trump “must face consequences” for mishandling classified documents, former Central Intelligence Director Michael Hayden said in a new political ad that’s another indication of the degree to which the former president’s legal troubles will dominate the 2024 campaign. – Bloomberg

Special Counsel Jack Smith spent $5.4 million on staff compensation and other expenses in his first four months leading two criminal investigations involving former President Donald Trump. – Bloomberg

Philip Bump writes: Some of this is opportunistic. Some of it, though, is rooted in the idea that what occurred wasn’t really that bad. That the police generally were acting in a way that they shouldn’t have been acting. It’s the same impulse that pivots from the search for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago to calls to defund the FBI — why are you doing this instead of investigating real crimes? – Washington Post

William J. Burns writes: Another critical priority in this new era is to deepen our intelligence partnerships around the world and renew our commitment to intelligence diplomacy. At its core, the intelligence profession is about human interactions, and there is no substitute for direct contact to deepen ties with our closest allies, communicate with our fiercest adversaries — and cultivate everyone in between. – Washington Post

Hal Brands writes: But in the end, Trump’s shadow is largely shaping the world in less favorable ways. It encourages Putin to hang tough in a terrible war. It adds to Beijing’s hopes of splitting America from its European friends. It deprives the US government of leverage in dealing with friends and foes in the Middle East. It would be unfair to blame Trump for all of these strategic problems. It’s not unfair to say that he contributes to them. Whether or not he wins the presidency again, the Age of Trump isn’t over. The challenge his return could pose for US policy is already here. – Bloomberg

Christopher Tremoglie writes: Moreover, it’s indicative of the distrust in the Biden White House and what many believe to be a two-tiered justice system — one for the elite (so-called) ruling class and one for the everyday, ordinary person. It is not a good perception, as justice is supposed to be applied equally, and no one is supposed to be above the law — regardless if it is the president’s son or the janitor’s son. – Washington Examiner

Matthew Continetti writes: Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression has proven that there’s nothing old about the Reagan Doctrine. It’s as necessary today as it was 40 years ago. Reminding voters of this fact, and of America’s role as a beacon of hope for those without freedom, is Mike Pence’s mission. And most Americans—and Republicans—share his cause. – Washington Free Beacon


A July 4 injunction that places extraordinary limits on the government’s communications with tech companies undermines initiatives to harden social media companies against election interference, civil rights groups, academics and tech industry insiders say. – Washington Post

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday asked a federal judge to stay his sweeping July 4 injunction barring many government interactions with social media companies on free-speech grounds, arguing that it was vague, confusing and likely to be overturned on appeal. – Washington Post

She’s been especially popular with conservatives, who promoted her as a perfect symbol of how overly theatrical and inane liberals can be — like when she attacked the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision last week by saying “no Black person will be able to succeed in a merit-based system.” The tweet was viewed more than 27 million times. There’s just one problem: She’s probably a fake. – Washington Post

The heated technological competition between the United States and China has expanded into a new sphere this year, as popular artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT have made AI a part of everyday life. – Washington Post

False and misleading posts about the Ukraine conflict continue to go viral on major social media platforms, as Russia’s invasion of the country extends beyond 500 days. – BBC

Experts say these video clips – on platforms including TikTok, YouTube and WhatsApp – are the public face of a highly sophisticated, multi-billion dollar illegal industry that has taken advantage of confusion over changes in US immigration policies to spread disinformation and drive demand for their services. – BBC

Bret Swanson writes: Digital censorship is their response to this crisis of authority. True, misinformation is rampant online. But it was far worse before the internet, when myths could persist for centuries. New technologies allow us to compile data quickly, correct errors, find facts and dispel falsehoods. Science, supported by an open internet, is the process by which we reduce misinformation and approach the truth. Artificial intelligence will improve our ability to sift, parse, edit, authenticate and organize information. When you hear calls to license or centralize control of AI, remember the hubris of Covid censorship. – Wall Street Journal

Michael W. McConnell writes: However difficult it might be to distinguish between government suasion and government coercion, there is no good reason to shroud these efforts in secrecy. If the public were informed when government officials ask social media companies to suppress constitutionally protected speech, they might exercise more restraint — and keep further away from this dangerous line. – Washington Post

Jonathan Turley writes: House committees will hopefully force Facebook to disclose some of these details. However, as Zuckerberg sells a promise of the “saneness’ and “kindness” of his platforms, he should be willing to show precisely what that means for consumers — and at what a cost. After all, he has appealed to many of those consumers with the promise of a censored platform. If Zuckerberg is so proud of his “content moderation,” he should take a victory lap and release the Facebook Files. – The Hill


A former U.S. Army financial counselor from New Jersey was criminally charged on Friday with defrauding grieving military families out of life insurance payments, causing millions of dollars of losses while reaping big commissions for himself. – Reuters

The last of the United States’ declared chemical weapons stockpile was destroyed at a sprawling military installation in eastern Kentucky, the White House announced Friday, a milestone that closes a chapter of warfare dating back to World War I. – Associated Press

NATO allies have agreed to a new pledge to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense, firming up the alliance’s previous goal to “move toward the 2% guideline.” – Bloomberg

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: A failure to utilize uniform, realistic inflation estimates has allowed Washington to draw misleading conclusions on the size and impact of the latest inadequate defense budget request. The ‘24 topline may be nominally the largest in history; however, in real terms the military is losing money at a rapid clip. – Real Clear Defense

Long War

France has repatriated all of the French women and children who want to return home from Kurdish-run jihadist prison camps in Syria and will not be organising any more flights, a diplomatic source said on Friday. – Agence France-Presse

Mali has freed at least two jihadists from the Sahel affiliate of the Islamic State group in a prisoner exchange, a security official and two politicians told AFP on Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

Outgoing IDF Southern Command Chief Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano said on Sunday that Gaza’s terror groups will continue to pose a threat and must be handled with proactive strategies. – Jerusalem Post