Fdd's overnight brief

July 16, 2021

In The News


Facebook said on Thursday it had taken down about 200 accounts run by a group of hackers in Iran as part of a cyber-spying operation that targeted mostly U.S. military personnel and people working at defense and aerospace companies. – Reuters 

Street protests broke out overnight over severe water shortages in Iran’s oil-rich southwest, according to Iranian news outlets and videos posted on social media on Friday, as the country faces its worst drought in 50 years. – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden has few real diplomatic alternatives to trying to persuade Iran to resume compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal and all appear harder to achieve, current and former U.S. and European officials said. – Reuters 

But an alleged plot to kidnap Alinejad — an activist and journalist who hosts a weekly television show on the Voice of America’s Persian Service — appears to be the latest action against her. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Contrary to hopes that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, might be looking for a swift revival of the 2015 nuclear deal before the installation of Tehran’s new hard-line government next month, U.S. and European officials now believe that success or failure lies in the hands of the incoming president, Ebrahim Raisi. – Foreign Policy 

The other was an external crisis involving Iran. It was not public at the time, but Milley believed that the nation had come close—“very close”—to conflict with the Islamic Republic. – The New Yorker 

A nationwide strike by Iranian oil workers on fixed-term contracts — which started a day after the June 18 Iranian presidential elections — has spread to 114 oil, gas, and petrochemical companies and entered its fourth week. – Kayhan Life 

Today, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) Chairman Senator Joseph I. Lieberman joined Fox Business’ “Mornings With Maria,” where he discussed the recently foiled plot by Iran’s intelligence service to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist in New York and outlined the Islamic Republic of Iran’s historic and continued mistreatment of its own people and other terrorist activities. – United Against Nuclear Iran 

Editorial: The message for the Biden administration, which has frequently proclaimed its intention to defend pro-democracy dissidents, is that Iran and other foreign dictatorships won’t shrink from launching attacks inside the United States unless deterred. Mr. Biden’s decision not to sanction Mohammed bin Salman for the Khashoggi murder won’t have helped. As Ms. Alinejad told the New York Times, the Iranians “are not scared of America — they’re scared of me.” – Washington Post 

Stephen Rademaker writes: Shortcuts like seeking ratification by the United Nations rather than the U.S. Senate, or bypassing Congress entirely, risk backfiring on any new deal with Iran, further diminishing its durability. What Biden and Iran need to do instead is negotiate an agreement that the administration is unafraid to submit to Congress because it is sure to command strong bipartisan support. Only then will Iran and its potential business partners be able to relax about what the next U.S. president may do. – Real Clear World  

Tabby Refael writes: In fact, it seems that most Iranians identify more with Alinejad than they do with their own government. And now millions of Americans know her name. And yet, despite that slim silver lining, the foiled plot has revealed that if Iran wants to kidnap dissidents on American soil, it most likely can. It’s a sobering thought. – Newsweek 

Amos Harel writes: The Iranian drones are divided between intelligence-collecting missions and attack/suicide missions. They have different ranges, from hovercraft with a range of 15 kilometers to drones that can fly 1,700 kilometers. […] The urgent need for an enhanced response to drones and hovercraft has been raised in all the recent security meetings between Israel and the United Sates, including the Washington visits by Gantz and Kochavi. – Haaretz 

Ari Cicurel writes: The dangers posed by Iranian-linked projectile attacks throughout the Middle East requires a comprehensive U.S. strategy. Currently, America’s inconsistent use of military force and reduced air defense posture needlessly exposes the region to an increasingly radical Iran and its armed proxies. Biden may be looking to shift America’s national security focus elsewhere, but America risks being further drawn into the region unless he addresses the growing threat from Iranian projectiles. – Defense News 


Israel says it arrested dozens of Palestinian students in the occupied West Bank who are linked to the Hamas militant group. – Associated Press 

Palestinian security forces, including what appeared to be plainclothes officers, violently dispersed the protesters, drawing expressions of concern from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the State Department. – Associated Press 

Iran’s burgeoning nuclear weapons threat is spurring Israeli leaders to counter with their own military expansion, according to the Jewish state’s top defense official. – Washington Examiner 

The State Department’s point person on Israel-Palestine warned Israeli officials during his talks in Jerusalem this week that the Palestinian Authority is facing dangerous economic and political crises, three Israeli officials told me. – Axios 

With the Lebanese economy in a free fall, the IDF is concerned there may be an increase of drug smuggling and infiltrations of migrant workers or refugees along the northern border. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel must insist on linking the entry of Qatari cash into Gaza with Hamas’s release of the IDF and civilian captives, Leah and Simha Goldin told Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday when they held their first meeting with him.  – Jerusalem Post 

In a June 27, 2021 article in Al-Ayyam, Palestinian political analyst Akram ‘Atallah discussed the violence which, he said, is entrenched in Palestinian society and Arab societies in general. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

China plans to increase its involvement in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Thursday. – Haaretz 

Alon Pinkas writes: The rethinking and recalibration in the administration stems from the realization that Iran may not necessarily want a deal. […]However, it is highly doubtful Israel ever imagined it would be better off if there is a nuclear deal rather than without one. That should be a good starting point for new cooperation with the United States. – Haaretz 


Iraq’s foreign minister said Thursday his government would investigate trafficking networks responsible for smuggling hundreds of Iraqis into Europe, specifically via Belarus to Lithuania. – Associated Press 

The Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Thursday he will not take part in elections in October and withdrew his support from the government, distancing himself from the state at a time when deadly hospital fires have angered Iraqis. – Reuters 

Iraq has extended an oil agreement with Jordan for another year to supply it with 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil under preferential terms, the Iraqi oil ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The office of the Iraqi prime minister has said that President Joe Biden’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk has discussed advancing the process of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq with the country’s leadership, but a senior Biden administration official has denied the claim. – Newsweek 

Alon Pinkas writes: Given this reality, the Iraqi citizen is unable to challenge the corrupt nexus that formed over this decades-long period. At present, the country is facing a longstanding health crisis that will certainly worsen in following months and years. Unfortunately, while the incidents in Baghdad and Dhi Qar highlight the dire conditions of the Iraqi health system, they will not pave the way for meaningful change. Rather, Iraqis will continue to suffer because of ineptitude. – Washington Institute 


King Abdullah has moved swiftly to shore up his grip on Jordan in the three months since an alleged plot surfaced to replace him with his half-brother, leaving his rule secure for now but still wrestling with big economic challenges. – Reuters 

Ghaith al-Omari and Karim El-Baz write: Of course, one visit cannot address the totality of U.S.-Jordanian issues. Yet restoring the relationship to its traditional strength will itself bolster Jordan’s stability, both by sending an unmistakable signal of U.S. support and by creating a fruitful environment to advance the extensive bilateral agenda. – Washington Institute 

Nicole Robinson writes: The so-called Arab Spring protests demonstrated that young, dissatisfied populations can topple regimes—but that they cannot guarantee progress or stability. The continued deterioration of socioeconomic conditions in Jordan increases the risk of domestic instability. King Abdullah’s visit to Washington is the opportune moment for the U.S. and Jordan to chart a stable path for this vital U.S. ally. – Heritage Foundation 


Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Saad Hariri on Thursday abandoned his nine-month effort to form a government, deepening a political crisis as the country struggles with a cratering economy and medical shortages amid a global pandemic. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Lebanese politician Saad al-Hariri’s announcement on Thursday that he had abandoned a months-long effort to form a new government was a “disappointing development.” – Reuters 

Lebanese veteran Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri said in a local television interview on Thursday that there should be an international tribunal to try those responsible for the Beirut port chemical blast. – Reuters 

Arabian Peninsula

Police in Dubai will use an Israeli drone company to help increase security and shorten emergency response times. – Jerusalem Post 

Yigal Carmon and A. Smith write: However, just because we do not fully understand the consequences of hostile ideological soft power and are hesitant in our response to it should not blind us to the fact that this subversion is happening. Yet the case of Qatar stands out because it does not only support anti-American Islamist movements, but also supports violent terrorist organizations who have wreaked havoc in America and spilled a lot of American blood. How long can such a policy continue? – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Gerald Feierstein And Fatima Abo Alasrar write: There are a number of local initiatives that have succeeded in reaching agreements on some of the core elements of an eventual peace, including releasing prisoners and ending political detentions. Yemeni groups are hard at work to promote realistic approaches to bring an end to the conflict. The new U.N. special envoy should do more to incorporate those efforts into the broader negotiating process. – War on the Rocks 

Middle East & North Africa

Israel’s National Cyber Directorate announced on Thursday that it had signed a cybersecurity cooperation agreement with Morocco. – Arutz Sheva 

The U.N. special envoy for Libya accused “spoilers” on Thursday of trying to obstruct the holding of crucial elections in December to unify the divided North African nation, and the Security Council warned that any individual or group undermining the electoral process could face U.N. sanctions. – Associated Press 

Syrian government rockets hit two villages in the last rebel stronghold in northwestern Syria on Thursday, killing at least nine civilians, including three children, rescue workers and a war monitor said. – Associated Press 

Libya’s banking system “will likely collapse” if the country’s two parallel central bank branches do not unify and stalled political talks could unravel a ceasefire, the U.N. special envoy to the country warned on Thursday. – Reuters 

Ali Dizboni and Karim El-Baz write: For the moment, Egypt still sees itself as an indispensable strategic ally for the United States in the Middle East; it shares the U.S. goals of peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa. […]As such, understanding the Egyptian military perspective remains important; the Egyptian military sees stronger systems and ammunition for Egypt as necessary to effectively operate in harmony with the United States and with other U.S. allies in the region, and to preserve peace and stability in the Middle East. – Washington Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: With so many balls in the air in terms of questions, Israel’s strategy with the new government in office in Jerusalem likely will be closely examined. This strategy has sought to reduce Iranian entrenchment and threats. The relative quiet in Syria in relation to Israel could indicate that this is happening, but it could also indicate a momentary pause or an Iran that is distracted for now. Israel will need to coordinate with the Gulf, Egypt, Jordan and the US in terms of what may come next on this front. – Jerusalem Post 


Despite a solid economic performance in the second quarter of the year, Chinese policy makers are expected to walk a fine line between supporting growth amid rising downside pressures and letting the economy run its course as they pivot to tackle longer-term challenges. – Wall Street Journal 

China sent regulators including state security and police officials to Didi Global Inc.’s ride-hailing business on Friday as part of a cybersecurity investigation, the latest development in a regulatory saga that has gripped China’s tech industry. – Wall Street Journal 

The Chinese government rarely passes up a chance to accuse the United States of military adventurism and hegemony. In the case of Afghanistan, though, it has changed its tone, warning that Washington now bears the responsibility for the hasty end to its two-decade war there. – New York Times 

A prominent Chinese pig farmer who was detained after praising lawyers during a crackdown on legal activists by President Xi Jinping’s government went on trial Thursday on charges including fighting with police and organizing a protest, defense lawyers said. – Associated Press 

China’s government rejected U.S. accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang and accused Washington on Thursday of hurting global trade after lawmakers endorsed import curbs and American companies were warned they face legal risks if they do business with the region. – Associated Press 

The United States is preparing to impose sanctions on Friday on a number of Chinese officials over Beijing’s crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, as well as a warning to international businesses operating there about deteriorating conditions, two people with knowledge of the situation told Reuters. – Reuters 

The head of the World Health Organisation said on Thursday that investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread there and urged it to be more transparent. – Reuters 

Beijing has snubbed the US by refusing to grant Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state, a meeting with her counterpart during a proposed visit to China that would have been the first top-level engagement since acrimonious talks in Alaska. – Financial Times 

Josh Rogin writes: President Biden is trying to convince Americans that U.S. involvement in multilateral organizations is the best way to preserve a world order that stands as a bulwark against rising authoritarianism. […]Let this sad saga be a reminder to all of the mendacity of Xi Jinping’s claims that China supports and even seeks to lead a U.N.-centered international system based on the rule of law. China is using the pandemic to undermine that system, exploit international organizations and fill its own coffers. Beijing will spare no opportunity to abuse its power during a crisis. – Washington Post 

Samantha Custer, Rodney Knight, Amber Hutchinson and Vera Choo write: First, China’s economic clout affords it a seat at the table when countries set their policy priorities, which could have repercussions for prevailing international norms. Second, although China is unlikely to displace U.S. influence in the near term, middle powers—such as Germany, Norway, and Sweden—may find their voices diluted by the intensifying competition. But if China is to successfully usher in a new form of international relations, as Xi predicts, it will have to overcome a perception that its influence is a double-edged sword. – Foreign Policy 

J. Peter Scoblic, Christopher Karvetski and Philip E. Tetlock write: Historical-counterfactual interventions explored thus far do not have big effects on the Bayesian-net predictions of the major schools of thought on Sino-American ties. At least within the last 30 years, there is considerable agreement across clashing schools of thought that it is hard to find politically plausible U.S. policy interventions that would have altered the trajectory of the relationship. – War on the Rocks 

Mike Pence writes: And so, as I closed my prior remarks on U.S.-China relations, so I close today: America’s new administration must stay the course, stay on the path that we forged: a new path for the American people built on realism and a recognition of the challenge that China poses to our country. We must stand resolute in defense of our interests and our values, even as we reach out a hand to China in the hope that Beijing will reach back with deeds, not words, with renewed respect for America. – Heritage Foundation 


A Reuters photojournalist was killed in southern Afghanistan while covering the fight between Afghan government forces and the Taliban, Reuters confirmed Friday. – Washington Post 

Women’s rights supporters and faith leaders are calling for a United Nations peacekeeping force for Afghanistan to protect hard-won gains for women over the last two decades as American and NATO forces complete their pullout from the war-torn country and a Taliban offensive gains control over more territory. – Associated Press 

The U.N. humanitarian chief in Afghanistan appealed for $850 million Thursday to help the war-torn country cope with the impact of the Taliban offensive, protracted malnutrition for a third of the country, a severe drought, and the return of 627,000 Afghans this year, most of them deported from neighboring Iran. – Associated Press 

Government officials in a western Afghan province said on Thursday they had negotiated “an indefinite ceasefire” with the Taliban to prevent further attacks on the capital of the province. – Reuters 

Afghan forces clashed Friday with Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak after launching an operation to retake the key border crossing with Pakistan, as regional capitals stepped up efforts to get the warring sides talking. – Agence France-Presse 

With US forces largely gone from the battlefield, the Taliban have conducted a staggering, land-grabbing offensive that appears aimed at forcing the Afghan government to sue for peace on the insurgents’ terms or suffer complete military defeat. – Agence France-Presse 

The White House rejected former President George W. Bush’s criticism on Thursday of President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw remaining U.S. forces from Afghanistan. – Washington Examiner 

Afghan government negotiator Nader Nadery announced on Thursday that the Taliban offered the Afghan government a ceasefire in exchange for the release of thousands of captured Taliban fighters. – Washington Examiner 

With time running dangerously short and most U.S. troops already out of the country, the United States is planning a massive eleventh-hour airlift to ferry thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. out of Afghanistan before they are subject to retribution from advancing Taliban forces. – Washington Examiner 

The American withdrawal from Afghanistan coupled with the exponential growth of those parts of the country under the rule of the Taliban have caused alarm in Russia. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Andrew Latham writes: A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan, emboldened by its victory over the United States to take its insurrection on the road, is likely to undermine Russian efforts – and perhaps Chinese ones, too – to achieve such dominance. While this will doubtless prove most unwelcome in Moscow, it should be viewed much more favorably in Washington. Whether it will or not largely depends on whether the American foreign policy establishment is finally ready to move beyond the liberal internationalism of yesteryear and embrace instead the timeless logic of balance-of-power realism. – The Hill 

John Fairlamb writes: The key lesson to be learned from Afghanistan is the same lesson we didn’t learn from Vietnam. If you are not supporting a national government that is dedicated to fighting corruption, is willing and able to provide basic services and security to its people, and one that projects a vision for the future that will garner majority support, it doesn’t matter how many troops you deploy or how many insurgents you kill. You will not be able to end an insurgency successfully. – The Hill 

South Asia

China will dispatch investigators to Pakistan, Beijing said Thursday, after an explosion this week claimed the largest loss of life of Chinese citizens in Pakistan in recent years. – Wall Street Journal 

Two Pakistani military officials were killed and three wounded when a bomb blew up their vehicle in an area of southwestern Pakistan where separatist insurgents operate, officials said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Pakistan’s military rescued five telecommunications workers kidnapped by Islamist militants last month close to the Afghan border in a series of operations in which two soldiers were killed, the military said on Friday. – Reuters 


The Cannes Film Festival plans to screen a controversial new documentary on Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy unrest on Friday, courting another film-industry clash with Beijing even as the sector remains heavily reliant on China for box-office success. – Wall Street Journal 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern discussed efforts to ensure vaccine availability in New Zealand and the Pacific region in a call with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, the government said in a statement. – Reuters 

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will visit Japan, South Korea and Mongolia next week, the State Department said, making no mention of any stop in China that had been anticipated in foreign policy circles and reported in some media. – Reuters 

Indonesia’s parliament ratified on Thursday a new autonomy law for Papua aimed at boosting development in its poorest region, sparking protests from activists who warned it would increase Jakarta’s grip on the resource-rich area. – Reuters 

An American journalist detained in Myanmar told his lawyer he believes he has COVID-19, but prison authorities deny he is infected. – Associated Press 

President Joe Biden said his administration will issue an advisory cautioning U.S. companies about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong because of “what may happen” as China continues to tighten its control over the territory. – Bloomberg 

A fleet of Chinese vessels squatting in the disputed waters of the South China Sea is damaging the environment with a stream of sewage, according to satellite imagery that has Beijing steaming and provoked a complaint from Philippine officials. – Washington Examiner 

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry has appealed to authorities in neighboring Tajikistan to facilitate the passage to their common border of hundreds of ethnic Kyrgyz who fled Afghanistan amid a major Taliban surge that is raising security concerns in neighboring former Soviet republics. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The Western-leaning former secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigorian, has been appointed first deputy foreign minister in a move that ruling party representatives see as a first step toward his being named foreign minister, a position that is currently vacant. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

John E. Whitley writes: Bipartisan agreement on national defense strategy is good for national security, but there remains significant uncertainty about how to implement the strategy. […]We need a holistic Pacific plan that includes credible protection of Taiwan, and a defense budget large enough to support these aims. Some are arguing for a reduced budget, specializing DOD on naval and air missile forces while taking risks against the posture and ground combat capability required to win in the Pacific. Before accepting these risks, Congress should ask, “What if we are wrong?” – The Hill 

Matthew P. Goodman writes: If early U.S. reentry into TPP is off the table for now, President Biden will need to come up with a credible alternative by the time he appears at the annual APEC summit in November. […]Combined with new initiatives in other important areas of economic policy such as regional infrastructure, clean energy, and women’s empowerment, this could go a long way to persuading skeptical Asian allies and partners that the United States is back and serious about its long-term economic engagement in the region. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Russian authorities on Thursday outlawed the publisher of an investigative media outlet and listed its journalists as “foreign agents,” the latest move in a series of steps to raise pressure on independent media. – Associated Press 

President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia’s government to help Belarus weather western sanctions imposed during Minsk’s crackdown on political opponents, the Kremlin said on Thursday. – Reuters 

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and his Russian counterpart on Thursday vowed to address “increasing” climate change with “seriousness and urgency.” – The Hill 

Russia and China have hailed a growing strategic partnership they say exceeds even those forged by competing powers during the Cold War, a sign of even closer ties between Moscow and Beijing as the U.S.-led NATO Western military alliance increasingly focused on the pair. – Newsweek 

A court in Russia-occupied Crimea has filed charges against an RFE/RL freelance correspondent in a process that has been decried by Kyiv, the United States, and press advocacy groups as a sham to crush dissent and information. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

A prosecutor has asked a Moscow court to hand prominent U.S. investor Michael Calvey a six-year suspended sentence in his high-profile embezzlement case. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Tom Rogan writes: Russia would have the motive to create and leak these notes for a number of reasons. Perhaps to allow the notes to be refuted in the future, undermining prospective future criticism of a revitalized Trump. Perhaps to further inflame U.S. domestic political disputes over Trump’s presidency, Russia, and Russiagate. Perhaps simply for amusement (Kremlin dark humor is real). Top line: These notes may be legitimate leaks. Or they may be a concoction of fictions. Or they may be a mix of both. We just don’t know. – Washington Examiner 


President Biden hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House on Thursday afternoon to discuss a wide-ranging agenda that marked the president’s latest attempt to rekindle warmer relationships with European allies. – Washington Post 

The European Union’s top court ruled Thursday that Poland’s judicial reforms are not compatible with European law, the latest in a series of verdicts to raise questions over Poland’s legal future within the bloc. – Washington Post 

The European Union’s top court said Thursday that employers may ban the wearing of head scarves and other religious symbols but set out conditions on when such prohibitions comply with the bloc’s antidiscrimination laws. – Wall Street Journal 

Estonia’s Foreign Ministry has expelled a Russian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move against Moscow. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Security forces have raided the offices and homes of several independent journalists across Belarus, including the premises of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Minsk. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

A lawyer for RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko, who has been in detention in Russia-occupied Crimea since March and was charged with possession and transport of explosives, said the defense wants to investigate his claims that he has been subjected to psychological and physical pressure in detention. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Belarus’s authoritarian regime of carrying out “massive, unprecedented” raids and detentions against the country’s leading civil society organizations and said those being held should be released immediately. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

NATO and U.S. military leaders celebrated the full standup of Joint Force Command Norfolk on July 15, marking the full readiness of the first NATO operational headquarters in North America that will be responsible for the Atlantic and Arctic regions. – Defense News 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the White House on Thursday could be one of the last chances for the United States to address some of its biggest issues with a top ally in the near term, experts warn, including how to confront a rising China. – Defense One 

Tom Rogan writes: So yes, Merkel’s supporters may laud her condemnations of Viktor Orban and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s human rights abuses. They may praise her dogged work ethic. But the survival of the democratic rule of law in the 21st century will not rise or fall on the choices of Orban and Erdogan. It will rise or fall on the choices that democratic leaders make in face of profound challenges from China and Russia. Merkel has plainly allowed those challenges to metastasize without restraint. And her legacy seems set to endure. Regrettably, Merkel’s likely successor seems set to continue her warped foreign policy trajectory. – Washington Examiner 

Tyson Barker writes: President Biden and Chancellor Merkel should agree to cooperate on further deepening the transatlantic tech space while hardening it to those who don’t share liberal democratic values. To do so, both the U.S. and Europe should avoid what has been called “contingent unilateralism” on digital regulation in areas around competition, data protection, content moderation, AI and taxation. – The Hill 

Dalibor Rohac writes: Instead of letting the Commission run with an ill-defined brief, EU leaders should go back to the drawing board. They must state their priorities clearly and outline a path informed both by geopolitical realities and by a sober account of Europe’s strengths and weaknesses – not by a half-hearted merger of the EU’s notorious idealism with CCP-style coercive diplomacy. – The Spectator 


Ethiopia’s government has accused humanitarian aid groups working in its war-hit Tigray region of “arming” Tigray fighters and threatened to halt some groups’ operations there. – Associated Press 

Police raided dozens of Tigrayan businesses in the capital of Addis Ababa and ordered them to shut down, while hundreds still remain in detention and their whereabouts unknown, the rights group Amnesty International said Friday. – Bloomberg 

Armed community members and vigilante groups have stepped in to tackle unrest in South Africa, taking matters into their own hands and sometimes stoking violence as security forces struggle to restore order. – Agence France-Presse 

Three Ethiopian regions previously untouched by the war in Tigray confirmed Thursday they were deploying forces to back military operations there, signalling a potential widening of the conflict. – Agence France-Presse 

Jared Thompson writes: While the ultimate composition of France’s presence in the Sahel will have a significant effect on conflict dynamics, an absence of French military operations could increase violence as local actors compete for power in the wake of a French drawdown. Additionally, while France has since resumed cooperation with the Malian military, prolonged political and military crisis in Mali could create local dynamics that are more favorable to JNIM and facilitate the spread of violence across international borders to countries like Côte d’Ivoire and Benin. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

The Americas

Haiti’s new dawn, attendees at the May 12 meeting were told, would be led by Christian Emmanuel Sanon — a 63-year-old Haitian American and self-described pastor and physician now detained in Haiti in connection with the investigation into the audacious assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. – Washington Post 

Some of the former Colombian servicemen arrested after last week’s assassination of Haiti’s president previously received U.S. military training, according to the Pentagon, raising fresh questions about the United States’ ties to Jovenel Moïse’s death. – Washington Post 

The wave of spontaneous protests that rocked Cuba on Sunday was propelled by social media and the proliferation of mobile internet, which Cubans have only had for the past three years. The government responded by leaving the island virtually incommunicado for two days. – Wall Street Journal 

Police said they killed at least three suspected assailants and arrested 18 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans, as well as a Haitian doctor who they say hired mercenaries for the operation. The country is bracing for unrest and uncertainty. – Wall Street Journal 

Cuban citizens have taken to the streets across the country for the first time in more than six decades to protest against deteriorating living conditions and the lack of basic goods and services, including medical attention amid increasing numbers of coronavirus infections. – Wall Street Journal 

As Cuba and Haiti grapple with political crises, exile communities that have long tried to shape events in their native countries are again campaigning for change. – Wall Street Journal 

A range of people, including two former Colombian soldiers, met in recent months in the Dominican Republic and Haiti in a plot that led to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, Haitian and Colombian officials said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal 

Charges could be brought in the United States related to the killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, a U.S. senior administration official said on Thursday.  – Reuters 

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is calling on the U.S. government to end the decades-long embargo on Cuba amid a growing wave of anti-government protests in the island nation, arguing that the ban on commercial activity is “cruel and inhumane.”  – The Hill 

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel for the first time is offering some self-criticism while saying that government shortcomings in handling shortages and other problems played a role in this week’s protests. – Associated Press 

The Pentagon has made clear it has no appetite for a new military entanglement in Latin America, following dual crises in Haiti and Cuba this week. – Politico 

Marc A. Thiessen writes: The one thing he should not do is ease the embargo, which would throw a life preserver to a drowning dictatorship. Regime apologists always blame the embargo for Cuba’s ills, but there is no embargo on Venezuela, which is also a socialist basket case. […]Cuba’s problem isn’t the embargo — it’s communism. We should not allow U.S. corporations to replace Venezuela as Cuba’s source of regime-sustaining hard currency. The United States must keep the embargo in place and stand with the Cuban people as they demand their freedom. – Washington Post 

Eugene Robinson writes: Biden should make clear that the United States stands with the Cuban people, supports their yearning for freedom, and is ready to help with the coronavirus vaccines and food assistance.  […]Longer-term, U.S. policy should be to end the travel and trade embargoes and flood Cuba with American tourists, entrepreneurs and ideas. Trying to starve the Cuban regime into submission hasn’t worked. Flooding it with freedom just might. – Washington Post 

Hugh Hewitt writes: An attachment to the failed appeasers of Team Obama may be holding Biden back from rallying support for the Cuban people. Biden must act. […]No Democrat should ever use the term human rights again if the party remains silent now. The United States must lead the call for freedom for Cuba, and we only have one president at a time. Seize the moment, President Biden. The counterrevolution will be televised if you make it so. – Washington Post 

Tom Rogan writes: What Cuba has done is to support communist regimes that favor its ideological agenda. If “black liberation” has been incidental to these efforts, fine. But the idea that black liberation was somehow ever a Castro priority is ridiculous. Evincing as much, black Cubans have access to far fewer opportunities and high-ranking positions than do other Cubans. Black Lives Matter should read some more history. – Washington Examiner 

Benjamin Powell writes: The United States should end its decades long embargo on Cuba. Ending it could both help protesters secure greater economic freedom and rapidly illustrate the superiority of a capitalist system to the Cuban people by fueling the growth necessary to bring them out of poverty.  – The Hill 

Jennifer Lambe writes: It is too early to search for solutions, or even platforms and manifestos. But, to start, Cuba’s new generation of opposition will have to determine whether “fatherland and life” can provide an inclusive enough banner for the island’s diverse political constituencies to unite behind — and, in the longer term, whether it can be translated into a more concrete path to bread and freedom. – Politico 

Ryan C. Berg writes: While the Guaidó-led democratic opposition continues to insist that regional elections are not the solution, Maduro’s repressive maneuvers also jeopardize the prospect of negotiating a credible roadmap for democratic reforms and eventual presidential elections. […]Meanwhile, the international community should see Venezuela’s regional elections for what they represent for the regime: a strategy to consolidate power and restructure internal regime dynamics, not a bold effort at democratization. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

United States

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday urged a federal judge to impose an 18-month prison term on the first defendant to face sentencing for a felony in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, citing the need to deter domestic terrorism. – Washington Post 

Editorial: American democracy is more than capable of dealing with its challenges at home. If Mr. Blinken wants to fight racism and human-rights abuses, he’d do better to remind the world that the test is not whether governments are accountable to some U.N. investigator but whether they are accountable to their own people. – Wall Street Journal 

A new report alleging Russian spy agencies were told to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election is “disgusting” and “fiction,” the former president said Thursday. – New York Post

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayokras on Thursday warned those fleeing Haiti and Cuba amid unrest not to attempt to reach the U.S. by boat. – The Hill 

Editorial: The Biden administration must identify new ways to confront China’s concerted efforts to influence U.S. policy and undermine our national security. But the first and easiest thing Biden should do is secure the southern border by turning off the migrant magnet and reinstating the Remain in Mexico policy. – Washington Examiner 

Michael Rubin writes: The only question for Blinken now is not whether the short-term accolades he received in Washington, New York, London, and Paris are worth the long-term price to international order — they are not — but how soon America will have to pay the price for his acting like the 20th century’s most naive secretary of state. – Washington Examiner 


An Israeli hacking-for-hire firm has helped government clients spy on more than 100 victims around the world, including politicians, dissidents, human rights activists, embassy workers and journalists, according to a Microsoft report. – Washington Post 

The State Department will offer rewards up to $10 million for information leading to the identification of anyone engaged in foreign state-sanctioned malicious cyber activity, including ransomware attacks, against critical U.S. infrastructure. – Associated Press 

Hackers gained access to the Social Security numbers of more than two dozen people during a ransomware attack that forced the city of Tulsa to shut down parts of its computer network for months, officials said. – Associated Press 

The Biden administration on Thursday will announce new cross-agency measures to address the recent major ransomware attacks on companies including Colonial Pipeline and software group Kaseya. – The Hill 

Bipartisan bills aimed at strengthening U.S. cybersecurity after a string of major attacks are making headway in both the House and Senate. – The Hill 

James Andrew Lewis writes: It is possible that the Kremlin, for negotiating purposes, may suppress in the future some of the dramatic, large-scale ransomware episodes involving disruption of critical infrastructure or hundreds of targets. […]It is equally reasonable to expect that given the continued success of phishing, the slow rate of improvement in secure coding and cyber hygiene, and the vulnerable legacy code used in many businesses and critical infrastructures, the United States should not expect a decline in the number of incidents or the costs of ransomware unless there is action by Moscow. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


The Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for combat development and integration has been tapped to serve as the second-highest-ranking officer in the service, the Pentagon announced on Thursday.  – USNI News 

Increasing gray zone conflicts around the world means U.S. Special Operations Command must adapt to the era of great power competition while still being a counter-terrorism force, a key House lawmaker said Wednesday. – USNI News 

The NCAA’s chief operating officer, a former member of the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps, has been confirmed as the second-highest official at the Department of Veterans Affairs. – Military.com 

Carrie A. Lee And Celestino Perez, Jr. write: But the Department of Defense definition of extremism remains clear in its rejection of supremacist ideology and the use of violence to achieve domestic political objectives. The military should remain committed to upholding this definition and empowering its own leaders and servicemembers in to foster an environment of unity, teamwork, and cohesion. And this requires fostering a serious, comprehensive, and informed discussion about extremism. – War on the Rocks