Fdd's overnight brief

June 21, 2021

In The News


A hard-line Iranian judge opposed to the country’s outreach to the West won Iran’s presidential election, consolidating conservative control over the country’s politics, as Tehran attempts to revive an international nuclear accord that would free the country of some U.S. sanctions. – Wall Street Journal

When Iranian diplomats resume talks with Western officials to revive a battered nuclear deal, one name will stand out on the list of individuals Tehran wants removed from the U.S. sanctions list: Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s president-elect. – Wall Street Journal

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon remains a “paramount priority” for the United States, emphasizing that diplomacy “is the best way to achieve that.” – Washington Post

Iran’s sole nuclear power plant has undergone an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown, the country’s state TV reported. – Associated Press

Top diplomats said Sunday that further progress had been made at talks between Iran and global powers to try to restore a landmark 2015 agreement to contain Iranian nuclear development that was abandoned by the Trump administration. They said it was now up to the governments involved in the negotiations to make political decisions. – Associated Press

Iran could quickly export millions of barrels of oil it is holding in storage if it reaches a deal with the United States on its nuclear programme and has been moving oil into place to prepare for an eventual restart, four traders and industrial sources said. – Reuters

Following are some world reactions to the election of Ebrahim Raisi as president of Iran. Raisi, 60, is a hardline judge who is loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and subject to U.S. sanctions for alleged human rights abuses. – Reuters

Amnesty International is urging the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi for crimes against humanity in connection with his alleged participation in the 1988 extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners and other violent crackdowns.  – The Hill

Iran’s opposition group abroad said Ebrahim Raisi’s election as president should be a turning point for how foreign governments, mainly the US and Europe, deal with the Iranian regime. – Business Insider

Editorial: The folly of the Obama and now Biden administrations is believing that the leaders in Tehran want Iran to be a normal country. They don’t. They run a government that wants to spread its religious revolution to the rest of the world by whatever means possible. Mr. Raisi’s ascension shouts that reality from the minaret, not that the Biden Administration wants to hear it. – Wall Street Journal

Jason Rezaian writes: Iran will continue to be ruled by an authoritarian regime struggling to placate a society plagued by sanctions, a decimated economy and an ongoing pandemic. […]More discontent is on the horizon and likely to spill into the streets. The Biden administration should prepare for how to address that inevitable backlash. And it should make clear that any repeat of Raisi’s history of violent suppression will be met with new and strong consequences, whether or not there is a deal in place. – Washington Post 

John Bolton writes: Whether U.S. reentry happens before or after Raisi is inaugurated is immaterial. If there is any chance whatever Biden might be dissuaded from his crusade, Raisi’s election provides him a face-saving excuse to back away. Don’t hold your breath over he will avail himself of the opportunity. – Washington Examiner

Karim Sadjadpour writes: Every decade, a new generation of disillusioned Iranians reaches the conclusion that the Islamic Republic cannot be reformed via the ballot box. […]Raisi’s election is a reminder that Iranians’ aspirations for a better life are at odds with a regime that currently appears unreformable and unbreakable. As long as Iran’s security forces remain united and willing to kill en masse, and Iran’s society remains disunited and unwilling to die en masse, the tipping points will continue to tip in the regime’s favor. – The Atlantic

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: If Raisi does succeed Khamenei, this would be the first major opportunity for change in Iran – for better or for worse. At that point, many would expect him to continue Khamenei’s policies, as that is the public image he has crafted. […]Khamenei’s putting Raisi into office as president now is designed to thwart such instability. Yet as recently as 2019, the world saw an Iran on fire with protests, so even Khamenei’s best-laid plans may eventually not be enough to hold down the oppressed Iranian people. – Jerusalem Post

Lazar Berman writes: Raisi would not be eager to make concessions that Rouhani refused to offer, especially not in his first months in office. While the sides continue to posture, and occasionally talk, Iran will keep pushing forward with its enrichment program. Despite his clear desire to return to the deal, US President Joe Biden could well be forced to impose additional sanctions on Iran, which would lead, in turn, to further nuclear escalation. By then, the sides will be too far apart to return to the deal. – Times of Israel


The agricultural blow and lack of funds to finance the imports will add to pressure on a Syrian economy already reeling from ten years of conflict and buckling under the pressure of U.S. sanctions, neighbouring Lebanon’s financial collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic. – Reuters

Those detained at the camp include family members of men who travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for Isis. Supporters of the women and children say their individual stories vary but many were tricked into going there or were trafficking victims. – The Guardian


Turkey, once a candidate for European Union membership, now stands accused of sending assassins to target women activists from Syria to France. – Jerusalem Post

The Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at the Istanbul Zaim University in Turkey will be hosting its second International Conference on Palestine this week, according to a press release disseminated by NGO Monitor. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: The problem not only that Biden and Sullivan are treating the world as if they were colonial masters, swapping territory and privilege to a country that, under Erdogan, has become alongside China the 21st century’s biggest imperial power, but also that offering concessions to cement Erdogan’s aggression actually incentivizes new aggression. Either way, while Biden and Sullivan are keeping secret the substance of their deal, the fact that they are making any suggests that Biden just got played. – 1945


The Palestinian Authority on Friday pulled out of a swap of Pfizer -BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine with Israel, citing concerns about the quality of an initial shipment. – Wall Street Journal

Their countries at crossroads, the new leaders of the United States and Israel have inherited a relationship that is at once imperiled by increasingly partisan domestic political considerations and deeply bound in history and an engrained recognition that they need each other. – Associated Press

Israel allowed a limited resumption of commercial exports from the Gaza Strip on Monday in what it called a “conditional” measure one month after a truce halted 11 days of fighting with the Palestinian enclave’s Hamas rulers. – Reuters

The military wings of the Hamas terror group and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are recruiting Palestinian children and teenagers for their upcoming annual summer camps to train them and win their support to become future operatives in the terrorist organizations. – Algemeiner

A European Union analysis of Palestinian textbooks was published Friday, following demands from European Parliament members to release the long-awaited report, as well as calls to withhold aid from the Palestinian Authority over violent and antisemitic incitement found in its educational materials. – Algemeiner

Israel’s new Prime Minister – Naftali Bennett – seems set to challenge the decades-long failure by the international community to achieve its called-for two-state solution, involving creating a second Palestinian Arab state, in addition to Jordan, for the first time in recorded history. – Arutz Sheva

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday opened his first Cabinet meeting since swearing in his new coalition government last week with a condemnation of the new Iranian president. He said Iran’s presidential election was a sign for world powers to “wake up” before returning to a nuclear agreement with Tehran. – Politico

Forty years after Israel destroyed Iraq’s fledgling nuclear program, one of the pilots who took part in Operation Opera warned that an attack against Iran’s nuclear reactors “won’t be the same.” – Jerusalem Post

Clashes continued in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli security forces on Sunday, amid continued tensions surrounding the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinian families from the neighborhood. – Jerusalem Post

Settler attacks on Palestinians have increased since the new Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett came to power, the Palestinian Authority claimed on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

The United States has pledged to replenish and reinforce Israel’s Iron Dome system following the most recent escalation between Israel and allied terror groups in the Gaza Strip, which culminated with over 4,300 rockets being shot into Israeli territory. – Jerusalem Post

The Israel Defense Forces has rejected out of hand an appeal against the planned evacuation and demolition of an illegal West Bank outpost. – Times of Israel

Strengthening military coordination against Iran will be a main topic of IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi’s visit to Washington, The Jerusalem Post has learned. – Jerusalem Post

Anshel Pfeffer writes: But the very precarity of the government means the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians will be sidelined by necessity. A lack of meaningful progress on peace may likely be Mr. Netanyahu’s most lasting legacy. […]The Netanyahu era is not yet over, though it may be in its twilight. Don’t expect this government to start tackling the core questions of Israel’s future. It has a hard enough task as it is. – New York Times

Yoram Ettinger writes: Israel’s 2021 posture of deterrence has constrained the military maneuverability of Iran and Russia in Syria, and has bolstered the stability of the pro-US Hashemite regime in Jordan in the face of existential threats by Palestinian Arabs, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS terrorism. […]If there were an Israel-like entity in the Persian Gulf, the US could terminate its military presence in the region. In 2021, US-Israel relations are a mutually-beneficial two-way-street. The US makes an annual investment in – rather than extending foreign aid to – Israel, which yields to the US taxpayer an annual rate-of-return of several hundred percent. – Arutz Sheva

Michael Harari writes: Now more than ever, Israel needs a diplomatic initiative, one that highlights the positive rather than the negative. Israel should strategize to peacefully integrate into the region and the international arena in general. – Ynet

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The systematic erosion of accountability in Israel, the lack of a budget, personal diplomacy replacing a diplomatic corps, politicized diplomacy, religious blackmail of government institutions and investigations, the concentration of power, erosion of trust, short term fixes for everything, managing various conflicts but never seeking an end to them, became endemic to Israel’s government and ending the impunity and consequences will take time. – Jerusalem Post

Micah Halpern writes: The P-5+1 are mistakenly optimistic. They are Pollyanna-ish in their thinking. Iran will drive the deal and get exactly what it wants and probably more than it expected. And then as president, Ebrahim Raisi will take everything Iran got and do with it what he wants. It falls to Israel to monitor Iran and to draw up plans that will slow it down. Israel must stop Iran from achieving its nuclear goals. Israel must stop Iran from achieving its goal of becoming a regional leader. Only Israel cares enough. Only Israel is wise enough to see the real Iran. – Jerusalem Post


The European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Sunday a fight among Lebanese leaders to secure power is at the heart of its government crisis and he urged them to set their feud aside and form a cabinet or risk a total financial crash and sanctions. – Reuters

The leader of Lebanon’s biggest Christian political party said on Sunday he still wanted Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri to form a new government, and blamed political opponents for months of political paralysis. – Reuters

Criteria for European Union sanctions being prepared for Lebanese politicians are likely to be corruption, obstructing efforts to form a government, financial mishandling and human rights abuses, according to a diplomatic note seen by Reuters. – Reuters

The head of Lebanon’s extremist group Hezbollah on Sunday congratulated ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi on winning Iran’s presidential election, describing him as a “shield” against Israel and other “aggressors.” – Agence France-Presse

Bilal Y. Saab writes: To be sure, those are bad outcomes for the United States. But how much is the United States willing to treat Lebanon as a priority with so much else competing with it? Certainly, the unwillingness of Lebanon’s rulers to reform and save the country from total disintegration is not making things any easier for U.S. officials. In Lebanon, Washington has figured out the means but maybe not the ends. – Foreign Policy

Michael Rubin writes: The UN now warns about a two-week crisis but the conditions that brought Lebanon to this state show no sign of dissipating. […]The question for world leaders is how long they will play Nabih Berri’s, Hassan Nasrallah’s, Samir Geagea’s, Saad Hariri’s, and Michel Aoun’s game. Either way, it is time to recognize that the crisis that now looms in Lebanon could be as impactful to the country as the 1975-92 civil war. – The National Interest

Arabian Peninsula

The Saudi-Led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Sunday it had destroyed a drone launched by Iran-aligned Houthi movement towards the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, Saudi state TV reported. – Reuters

A downsizing of US military assets in Saudi Arabia will not affect its defence capabilities, the Riyadh-led coalition said Sunday, after it intercepted the largest number of Yemeni rebel drones in a single day. – Agence France-Presse

Gulf Arab states are unlikely to be deterred from dialogue to improve ties with Iran after a hardline judge won the presidency but their talks with Tehran might become tougher, analysts said. – Reuters

In his first trip abroad as foreign minister, Yair Lapid will soon travel to the United Arab Emirates, Walla news reports. – Times of Israel

Editorial: When President Biden chose in February not to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi despite a CIA conclusion that he approved the operation, we were among those who warned that the result would be more victims. Sadly, that has proved true. […]As long as the Saudi ruler and his henchmen continue to enjoy that impunity, their victims will continue to pile up. – Washington Post


Forces loyal to Libya’s eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar have closed the border with Algeria, they said on Sunday, after major deployments of his forces to the south underscored his continued role despite efforts to unify the country. – Reuters

The head of Libya’s unity government on Sunday declared the main coast road across its inactive front line reopened, but eastern-based forces allowed no traffic through, underscoring unresolved divisions that threaten a fragile peace process. – Reuters

Much of the sprawling compound was destroyed in NATO bombardments during the 2011 uprising against Kadhafi and then rebels went on the rampage, ransacking it. – Agence France-Presse

Middle East & North Africa

The Biden administration is sharply reducing the number of U.S. antimissile systems in the Middle East in a major realignment of its military footprint there as it focuses the armed services on challenges from China and Russia, administration officials said. – Wall Street Journal

Jordan’s version of a trial of the century gets under way Monday when a relative of King Abdullah II and a former chief of the royal court are to be ushered into the defendants’ cage at the state security court to face charges of sedition and incitement. – Associated Press

A military exercise involving more than 7,000 U.S., African and NATO troops wrapped up on Friday in northern Africa. – The Hill

Elie Podeh writes: Does the Egyptian activism signal a sea change? […]Egypt has in recent years built a large army, although the extent of its readiness is in doubt judging by its handling of the Islamic State challenge in the Sinai. Egypt’s economy is in tatters following the coronavirus pandemic and absence of tourism, whereas demographic growth poses a heavy economic burden. All these factors do not augur success for Egypt in resuming its historic regional standing, but its renewed energies could turn it into what the late Egyptian journalist Hassanein Heikal once termed a “key state.” – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

The United States’ new top envoy for North Korea said on Monday in Seoul that he looks forward to a “positive response soon” on dialogue from North Korea. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reinforced the ruling Workers’ Party discipline and appointed new members of its powerful politburo, state media KCNA reported on Saturday. – Reuters

A North Korean hacking group known as Kimsuky broke into the network of South Korea’s state-run nuclear think tank last month, the latest in a series of cyberattacks by the North, a South Korean lawmaker said on Friday. – Reuters


The country has become one of the biggest and fastest-growing fashion markets in the world, and apparel companies have flooded in. But China’s government—and many of its shoppers—have become newly assertive in dumping brands they see as critical of Beijing. – Wall Street Journal

At a Senate hearing on efforts to combat Covid-19 last month, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky asked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci whether the National Institutes of Health had funded “gain-of-function” research on coronaviruses in China. – New York Times

Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Drexel write: Those Western information efforts were successful because they became a recognized source of truth. Against the technologically sophisticated and more dangerous miseducation of Chinese youth, America needs to launch an even stronger effort to argue for the truth. More important, it needs Americans who know the history and why it matters. – Wall Street Journal

Anjani Trivedi writes: Meanwhile, China’s state planners are well on their way to creating wide 5G infrastructure, importing machines from Japan and constructing tens of thousands of base stations — the nuts and bolts of building out the next generation in telecommunication. It has now become a central part of China’s industrial policy for the next five years. The real risk for the U.S. is that Chinese companies develop yet another new technology at massive scale that American manufacturers will have to chase. Looking in the rear-view mirror won’t help the U.S. get ahead. – Bloomberg

Jianli Yang writes: So, while the CCP prepares to celebrate, many Chinese citizens will continue to die. Reporting on the centenary preparations, the New York Times noted in April that authorities have stepped up efforts to limit dissent, signaling that officials know “the party must do more to strengthen public loyalty and fortify its control of society.” This appears to be why the anti-corruption was begun in the first place — to fortify Xi’s leadership position and to ensure that no party dissent is visible. So much for 100 years of celebration. – The Hill

Bruce Weinrod writes: This fundamental values divide reinforces the need for a NATO response to the PRC. In addition to its military role, NATO can serve as a global democratic security network for nations that share a common democratic security culture. Such nations will respond to the PRC challenge not only for geopolitical reasons but also because they are, as the NATO Treaty states, “determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” – The Hill

Henrik Stålhane Hiim and Magnus Langset Trøan write: In an era of intensifying great-power rivalry, reinvigorating the arms control agenda is crucial. Arms control could not only dampen the emerging arms race between the United States, Russia, and China, but also serve as a tool to build trust and ease broader political tensions. Unfortunately, thus far, Chinese observers see arms control as an arena for mutual accusations and blame-shifting, and a tool the United States uses to cement its nuclear hegemony. – War on the Rocks

John Ruehl writes: Russia and China will see through any attempt to divide them and are particularly sensitive to ensuring their differences are not aired in public. Beijing is also acutely aware that a United States that belatedly regards China as its most threatening strategic competitor will be willing to do more to woo Russia as a way of weaning it away from China’s embrace. This can only happen if Russia is offered terms that suit its own national interest—including freezing Ukraine’s EU and particularly NATO membership aspirations and easing sanctions over time. – The National Interest


Nearly two dozen of Afghanistan’s 387 districts were taken over by the Taliban, mostly in northern Afghanistan, on Saturday and Sunday, adding to some 30 others seized by the insurgents across the country since early May, according to local reports. – Wall Street Journal

With their ability to maintain their aircraft diminishing, Afghan pilots who fly over Taliban-held territory are finding that the condition of their aircraft upon their return is as pressing a concern as the success of their mission. – New York Times

As President Biden’s September deadline for ending the long war in Afghanistan approaches, a bipartisan coalition in Congress is stepping up efforts to ensure that Afghans who face retribution there for working alongside American troops and personnel are able to immigrate to the United States. – New York Times

The Taliban said on Sunday they were committed to peace talks, adding they wanted a “genuine Islamic system” in Afghanistan that would make provisions for women’s rights in line with cultural traditions and religious rules. – Reuters

Germany said on Friday it was ready to take in more local staff who have been working for its military in Afghanistan as NATO’s mission there winds down. – Reuters 

Qatar has not yet made tangible progress with Afghan peace talks being held in its capital Doha, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman said in a statement on Friday. – Reuters

Afghanistan’s former president said Sunday the United States came to his country to fight extremism and bring stability to his war-tortured nation and is leaving nearly 20 years later having failed at both. – Associated Press

The Biden administration is struggling to articulate how it will keep Afghanistan from falling to the Taliban after American forces depart, even as the U.S. is more than halfway through its troop withdrawal. – The Hill

Kevin T. Carroll writes: Today, if we fail to save from certain death the Afghans who served alongside us for 20 years, who will step forward the next time we inevitably need similar help? Adversaries such as China are watching what happens, as are America’s nervous allies and the fence-sitting neutrals. […]It’s clear what our duty is now, to uphold the honor of our country: save the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants. – The Hill

South Asia

A shootout between government forces and Pakistani Taliban fighters overnight in a northwestern territory left two militants and a soldier dead, the military said early Sunday. – Associated Press

Saudi Arabia has agreed to restart oil aid to Pakistan worth at least $1.5bn annually in July, according to officials in Islamabad, as Riyadh works to counter Iran’s influence in the region. – Financial Times

Mike Waston writes: Although many of the Indian elite speak English and the country shares with the United States a history of colonization by Great Britain, Washington has substantial disagreements with New Delhi that will be hard to manage. Nevertheless, the Biden administration has to get this right: India has the potential to be an important contributor to Asian security and prosperity, and this relationship is too valuable to lose. – The Diplomat


This account of the only group confirmed to have journeyed to freedom by boat is based on interviews with three of the men. Those three were on the run from Hong Kong authorities at the time of their escape, with two of them charged and facing possible multiyear prison sentences. – Wall Street Journal

As they navigate the constraints of the sweeping law, many independent bookstores have strengthened their resolve to connect with their readers and crystallized their roles as vibrant community hubs. – New York Times

The United Nations General Assembly sought to ostracize Myanmar’s ruling generals on Friday with an emphatic rebuke, demanding they end the five-month-old military takeover, stop killing opponents and free imprisoned civilian leaders. – New York Times

Myanmar’s junta leader has flown out of the country to attend a conference in Moscow, state media reported on Sunday, his second trip abroad since seizing power in February. – Reuters

Results released Monday showed that the party of Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan won snap parliamentary elections which he called to ease anger over a peace deal he signed with Azerbaijan. – Associated Press

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities froze the company’s assets under a sweeping national security law, an adviser to jailed owner Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

Three executives of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper were released from custody late on Friday, a day after being arrested on suspicion of violating the city’s national security law, the media outlet of jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai said. – Reuters

Taiwanese staff working at the island’s representative office in Hong Kong will begin leaving the Chinese-run city from Sunday, a senior official said, after the government there demanded its officials sign a document supporting Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. – Reuters

Hong Kong’s strategy to strengthen the city’s global financial hub status is through greater integration with mainland China, now that Beijing has helped restore “stability” in the city, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Sunday. – Reuters

The Australian government said on Saturday it was lodging a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization over China’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on Australian wine exports, escalating further the trade standoff with Beijing. – Reuters

A Myanmar military truck exploded in one of two blasts near an office of an army-backed political party in the country’s biggest city on Friday, local media reported, and a senior rescue official said two people were killed and six wounded. – Reuters

A Hong Kong court on Friday found five men guilty of a 2019 attack on pro-democracy protesters, reporters and bystanders at a train station at the height of anti-government protests. – Reuters

The United States is sending an additional 2.5 million Moderna coronavirus vaccine doses to Taiwan amid growing tensions between the island and China. – The Hill

EU lawmakers are fed up with the European Commission’s reluctance to start an investment deal with Taiwan, while U.S. President Joe Biden has his sights set on trade talks with Taipei. – Politico

Editorial: The CPJ award is richly deserved, and it should put a global spotlight on what is happening to Mr. Lai and Apple. As China’s Communist Party seeks to expand its political control over critics world-wide, often with the acquiescence of Hollywood and U.S. tech companies, Jimmy Lai speaks for everyone fighting for the cause of liberty. – Wall Street Journal

Harlan Ullman writes: NATO does have a role in Asia. But that role needs to be subtle, not blunt and focused on soft power supporting allies rather than on a military confrontation. After all, China is not the Soviet Union and does not pose a direct military threat to the alliance. One piece of advice however: The president would be wise to re-evaluate this muscular approach towards China to prevent this rivalry from getting out of hand. But will he? – The Hill

Evan A. Laksmana writes: In the short term, Brunei has the unenviable task of keeping the Five-Point Consensus from fracturing further. But for ASEAN to thrive in the long run, it needs to seriously review and revise the ASEAN Charter, clarifying conflicting principles and streamlining cooperation. Short of such a change, ASEAN still has a responsibility to implement the Five-Point Consensus. If ASEAN fails to deliver in the coming weeks, the international community should seek better options to help the people of Myanmar. – Foreign Policy

Mohammad Amjad Hossain writes: Economic sanctions would not have any effect on the military regime in Myanmar, which in fact recently rebuffed an ASEAN plan to help end violence in Myanmar saying, “Any suggestions need to fit in with the junta’ s stated road map and come after stability is restored.” […]Meanwhile, UN special envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener is reported to have said that a common aspiration for democracy has united the people of Myanmar as never before across religious, ethnic and communal divides.The statement by the special envoy gives the impression that the situation in Myanmar will not return to normalcy soon. – Jerusalem Post


President Biden’s national security adviser said on Sunday that the United States was preparing more sanctions against Russia in response to the poisoning of Aleksei A. Navalny, the country’s most prominent opposition leader, days after Mr. Biden attended his first face-to-face summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin. – New York Times

In April and May 1979, at least 66 people died after airborne anthrax bacteria emerged from a military lab in the Soviet Union. But leading American scientists voiced confidence in the Soviets’ claim that the pathogen had jumped from animals to humans. – New York Times

Though the Russian state agency did not identify the victim, the U.S. State Department confirmed Catherine Serou’s death in a statement to The Washington Post on Sunday and offered condolences to her family, as well as assurances that the U.S. government was providing them “all appropriate assistance.”  – Washington Post

Moscow is closely monitoring developments around a potential Turkish military base in Azerbaijan, a move that could require Russia to take steps to ensure its own security and interests, the Kremlin said on Friday. – Reuters

Russia’s ambassador has returned to the United States three months after being recalled as tensions rose between Moscow and Washington, according to a tweet from the Russian Embassy on Sunday. – Associated Press

Some European intelligence officials say Russian spies have become more brazen, caring much less about whether their work is exposed. Others say Russian agents have always been highly active on their patch; they’re just more visible now, thanks in part to the digital trails they leave behind. – Politico

Vladimir Putin’s power projection in the region is designed to secure unfettered warm water access through a war of intimidation waged on the high seas, and President Joe Biden’s detente with Putin may mean American deterrence will be left to NATO’s newest member countries. – Washington Examiner

Ross Douthat writes: But Biden is old and his constituencies aren’t powerful among the party’s young cadres and future elites, where Packer’s groups predominate. […]He would need to establish Bidenism as something coherent in its own right, with its own young adherents and consistent theory of the world. Otherwise the opportunity will fade, the suppression will weaken, and the hysteria that’s been opportunistically forgotten will probably return. – New York Times

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: The tide may be turning. Big-dollar ransomware has always been a risky racket for practitioners because it necessitates prolonged communication and negotiation with the victim. If the U.S. is making progress, it’s not because Mr. Putin is being helpful but because Mr. Biden’s threats perhaps aren’t all empty talk. – Wall Street Journal

Joshua Huminski writes: Summits are neither a reward nor is their withholding a punishment. It is about communicating your national interests directly to another party and setting foundations for dialogue. […]While Biden’s pragmatism at a macro-level is to be welcomed and is in contrast with his predecessors, it remains to be seen whether the administration truly understands Moscow in Moscow’s context, as well as its ability to shape events. At the very least, the summit was a good first step. – The Hill

Michael J. Abramowitz writes: Biden was right to deliver his message on democracy and human rights directly to the Russian leader. Putin, along with other dictators and beleaguered democrats around the world, will be watching closely to see whether the administration supports its stated principles with strong and sustained action. – The Hill

KT McFarland writes:  If the past few months have taught us anything, it is that Putin sees no reason to stop escalating. President Biden insists he has now given Putin something to think about. Indeed. But Putin is surely calculating the odds on whether Biden actually will push back if Russian hackers cross that red line. President Biden says he is confident Putin would never do it because he doesn’t want another Cold War. Perhaps. But what if Putin thinks it’s a Cold War that Russia can win this time around? – The Hill

Daniel L. Davis writes: Biden should never put America or our Armed Forces in a position where our troops or our people could get needlessly drawn into a local conflict thousands of miles away. We would have nothing to gain by getting involved in that fight and everything to lose. Biden had a successful first meeting with Putin. Let’s hope he builds on that success and resists the temptation to get drawn into a lose-lose fight. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: The record of Biden’s news conference indicates that he did not raise any of the additional concerns that had featured so prominently at the NATO summit earlier in the week. What Putin might make of these omissions is far from clear, but he may well conclude that these issues are not among Biden’s priorities. That would be a serious, indeed dangerous mistake that, if acted upon, would be certain to undermine any effort to restore Russian-American relations to some semblance of normality. – The Hill

Amy Mackinnon writes: One of the enduring ironies of the Trump years is that for all of Trump’s puzzling affinities for his Russian counterpart, his administration toed a tough line on Moscow and levied further rounds of sanctions and diplomatic expulsions over Russia’s nefarious activity. Moscow’s meddling also hardened U.S. political and public opinion toward Russia, particularly among Democrats. With that backdrop, few believe Wednesday’s summit can do anything more than make modest improvements to Washington’s fraught relationship with Moscow. – Foreign Policy


France’s far-right National Rally party led in the first round of regional elections in an important battleground region on Sunday, exit polls indicated, but the party performed worse elsewhere than many surveys had predicted. – Washington Post

Across France questions over the place of Islam in French society and tensions over immigration have come to preoccupy many and have pushed the electorate rightward. – Wall Street Journal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron called on Friday for European Union countries to coordinate their COVID-19 border reopening policies and guard against new variants of the virus. – Reuters

Britain needs to restore trust by fully implementing the protocol governing trade for Northern Ireland, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said on Friday, while welcoming a British bid to cooperate over sausages. – Reuters

Armin Laschet, frontrunner to become Germany’s next chancellor, has warned of the dangers of a new cold war against China, agreeing with Angela Merkel that Beijing was as much a partner as a systemic rival. – Financial Times

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has accused the country’s president Alexander Lukashenko of using political prisoners as “hostages”, as the EU prepares to increase sanctions on his regime. – Financial Times

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called for wide-ranging economic sanctions against Belarus ahead of an EU meeting to discuss further measures against the regime of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Parties in Germany’s coalition government have agreed to ban the flag of Hamas, as a mark of respect for Jewish citizens in the wake of anti-Semitic attacks linked to last month’s Middle East violence. – Politico

Prominent members of the European Parliament reacted angrily over the weekend to calls by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to roll back the powers of the EU assembly. – Politico

The U.S. is holding $100 million in security assistance for Ukraine “in reserve” for threats such as a renewed Russian military buildup on the border, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said. – Bloomberg

The White House denied reports President Joe Biden’s administration froze military aid to Ukraine following the announcement of a summit this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin. – Washington Examiner

Disputes over the division of labor between NATO and the European Union — between a transatlantic alliance led by the United States and a continental bloc which features France as the premier military — forced China hawks within the security alliance to settle for a more modest agreement than they had sought in the months leading up to the summit. – Washington Examiner

George F. Will writes: One purpose of Biden’s trip to Europe was to reassure allies that the United States is ready to resume its responsibilities regarding the maintenance of an orderly world. Now, some comparable reassurances from allies would be timely. – Washington Post

Andreas Kluth writes: Lawmakers in the West are better off allowing all symbols for private use, but cracking down hard as soon as they’re employed for anything threatening or criminal. […]The much bigger problem, of course, is how to respond to hatred and prejudice. Banning flags isn’t the answer. Our only hope is that humanity’s better nature will prevail. Every day and everywhere, we must counter evil sentiments with nobler ones — whether we have a flag or not. – Bloomberg

Elisabeth Braw writes: It’s surprising that Lukashenko’s dirty use of refugees hasn’t generated as much attention as his abduction of Protasevich, because the potential consequences for the EU are enormous. […]The bottom line is this: If you’re a leader intent on harming another country and don’t mind being seen as rogue, you can innovate away in the gray zone between war and peace. Lukashenko may well test additional cruel moves. And other leaders may well decide his formula is worth a try. – American Enterprise Institute


A former Liberian warlord was found guilty of war crimes including murder, cannibalism and the use of child soldiers in Switzerland’s criminal court on Friday — the first conviction specifically for atrocities in Liberia’s back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 in which a quarter-million people are thought to have died. – New York Times

Instead, the country of 110 million people headed to the polls Monday in turmoil, fighting a bloody civil war in the northern province of Tigray and escalating ethnic uprisings elsewhere that are reverberating across the strategic Horn of Africa region. – Wall Street Journal

West African states said on Saturday they will carry on monitoring events in Mali following a coup before lifting its suspension from a regional bloc. – Agence France-Presse

Prosecutors in Rwanda on Thursday sought a life sentence for “Hotel Rwanda” hero and government critic Paul Rusesabagina, who is charged with terrorism in a trial denounced as political by his supporters. – Agence France-Presse

Tsedale Lemma writes: It’s a far cry from the free and fair election Mr. Abiy promised when he became leader three years ago: The much-vaunted transition to democracy is not very evident. […]Ignoring international entreaties to end the war in Tigray and agree to an inclusive political settlement, he is instead determinedly preparing to govern an Ethiopia neither respected nor whole. His legacy, at least, is secure. Mr. Abiy will forever be the Nobel Peace laureate who refused to give peace a chance. – New York Times

The Americas

A committee of Venezuelan opposition politicians will travel to Washington and Brussels to seek support and consult its allies on their positions about an eventual lifting of sanctions, opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Friday. – Reuters

President Joe Biden’s administration rejected Nicolas Maduro’s call for relief from U.S. sanctions, saying the Venezuelan leader needs to do more toward restoring democracy before penalties would be lifted. – Bloomberg

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: If Mr. Castillo cheated, with the help of political allies like Cuban-trained Vladimir Cerrón —who heads Mr. Castillo’s Peru Libre Party—then Peruvians deserve to know. If he didn’t cheat and the nation voted, however narrowly, for a candidate who has repeatedly promised to blow up the market economy, they deserve to know that too. – Wall Street Journal

Geronimo Gutierrez Fernandez writes: Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Mexico last week should be welcomed as an effort to enhance cooperation in different areas. High-level visits generate all sorts of opinions, but one thing to highlight about this one is the decision to rely on bilateral institutions to address the many challenges both countries face together. […]Having bilateral institutions does not mean we can obviate differences, nor that we will automatically be able to address all challenges constructively. It does mean, however, that more often than not, we decide to face them in an organized and institutional way to the benefit of both nations. – The Hill

Earl Anthony Wayne writes: These efforts can help rebuild the trust between the U.S. and Mexico that was badly undermined in recent years. There is much work ahead to be able to achieve good results, and the vice president and others will need to monitor progress. Yet, this kind of regularized institutional collaboration among U.S. and Mexican officials has characterized the best periods of U.S.-Mexico relations. – The Hill

Eli Lake writes: In the meantime, Biden should keep an eye on provincial and local elections in Venezuela scheduled for November. As Bloomberg News reports, the opposition appears split on whether it should participate. Biden should make clear that whatever Maduro decides on these contests, they are no substitute for submitting to a real democratic process to determine the next president. Maduro has always had the power to ease the economic pain being inflicted on Venezuela. So far, however, he has chosen his own survival over that of his country. – Bloomberg

United States

National security adviser Jake Sullivan was grilled by Fox News’ anchor Chris Wallace about Biden’s sitdown with Putin amid the administration’s waiving of sanctions for the Nord Stream Pipeline, the cyber and ransomware attacks on US businesses and the freezing of an aid package to Ukraine. – New York Post

Zachary D. Carter writes: But for 25 years, America and its allies enjoyed unprecedented economic growth and financial stability. Democracies working together through international law had opened a new prosperous economic paradigm. It may be too much to ask for a treaty on trade and finance to repair the U.S. relationship with China, provide functional mechanisms to combat climate change, and turn back the rising tide of economic inequality around the world. But we will not solve any of those problems if we do not try. And we cannot solve them on our own. – The Atlantic

Ferial Ara Saeed writes: Multidimensionality is the State Department’s core comparative advantage. Consolidation would reinforce it. No other agency has the mandate, the expertise, and the credibility to compel consideration of that vital perspective. Without it, the United States risks undermining its complex geostrategic interests with over-securitized responses to rivalry with China and the related, evolving challenges presented by the most rapid technological change ever experienced in human history. The State Department’s technology policy apparatus was built for an era that no longer exists. This moment calls urgently for a bold reorganization. The past is never a good place to live. – War on the Rocks

Arta Moeini and Christopher Mott write: The key lesson here is that a state that overextends itself out of over-confidence in its own beliefs and norms, moral narcissism, and a disregard for the limitations of its own power eventually turns millenarian and self-destructs—missing various opportunities for diplomatic engagement and rapprochement and risking unnecessary escalation with strategic rivals. It would be tragic indeed if the North Atlantic bloc follows in this Manichean path, compelling allied nations to filter their grand strategy through liberal ideals and sacrifice their national interests at the altar of the alliance’s self-righteousness and its rather choleric compulsion to interventionism and war. – The National Interest


If your business falls victim to ransomware and you want simple advice on whether to pay the criminals, don’t expect much help from the U.S. government. The answer is apt to be: It depends. – Associated Press

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s head of digital and competition policy, has rejected the idea that its forthcoming Digital Markets Act (DMA) will only target American tech companies – Financial Times

Fiona Hill, former Russia adviser to President Donald Trump, said Sunday she is eager to see whether last week’s meeting between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will lead to “serious cyber talks.” – Politico

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are scrambling to introduce legislation to address a devastating spike in ransomware and other cyberattacks on critical organizations such as Colonial Pipeline and JBS USA. – The Hill

Huawei’s court challenge to a Federal Communications Commission order that declared it to be a national security threat and denied it access to federal funding was rejected as the FCC ramps up pressure on the company and seeks to deny all future authorizations to it and similar businesses with links to the Chinese Communist Party. – Washington Examiner

The NATO alliance plans to procure new cyber defense systems to replace aging platforms, with contracts worth tens of millions of euros coming online before the end of 2021. – C4ISRNET

Glenn Nye And James Kitfield writes: And yet still Moscow seems undeterred. Until America gets serious about building a credible, whole-of-nation cyber defense and plugging digital vulnerabilities — and counterpunches in a way that finally gets the Kremlin’s attention — decades of history suggest that there is no reason to expect Putin to surrender what he sees as an asymmetric advantage over a richer and more conventionally powerful foe. Our national goal should be to change the dynamic of the next U.S.-Russia summit in our favor with a broadly effective defense against cyber-intrusions firmly in place. – The Hill


The U.S. Navy has swapped more than 1,600 parts among its new Virginia-class submarines since 2013 to ease maintenance bottlenecks as components that are supposed to last 33 years wear out decades sooner. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Space Force sent the fifth GPS III satellite into orbit June 17, the last piece needed for a constellation that will one day provide a more secure positioning signal for the military. – C4ISRNET

Surface warfare officers are leaving the Navy at a higher rate than other unrestricted line officers despite reforms in training the service has instituted since two fatal collisions in 2017, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. – USNI News

The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is drilling near Hawaii this week as it prepares for an upcoming deployment later this summer. – USNI News

After five years the Marine Corps is shutting down its Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force–Southern Command as the Corps looks to save money to reshape itself. – Marine Times

Peter Huessy writes: That would go to the core of the “escalate to win” nuclear strategy of Putin and Xi Jinping. And reinforce that nuclear weapons as a deterrent against aggression are very much legitimate tools of statecraft. Would the Russians and Chinese abide by such a statement? There would be no way of knowing but at least discussions in this area might yield interesting points about the strategy of both nations. – The National Interest

Angela M. Sheffield writes: The United States national security enterprise must integrate AI to win in competition and conflict with China, Russia and emerging threats. […]National security agencies should turn to the Next-Generation AI capabilities of the DOE National Laboratories in the race among global powers to develop and deploy artificial intelligence. – C4ISRNET

Long War

When thousands of troops from the United States, Africa and Europe trained together here this month, one nation was notably absent: France. – Washington Post

A senior U.S. general warned Friday that the “wildfire of terrorism” is sweeping across a band of Africa and needs the world’s attention. He spoke at the close of large-scale U.S.-led war games with American, African and European troops. – Associated Press

A senior cleric with Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram confirmed the death of its leader and urged fighters to stay loyal in its fight against rival Islamic State militants, according to a video seen by Reuters on Friday. – Reuters

A Sydney man who posted extremist rhetoric and possessed recipes for explosives has been arrested for allegedly being a member of the Islamic State group, Australian police said on Saturday. – Reuters

Colum Lynch and Jack Detsch write: Macron’s desire to head for the exits would present a significant challenge to the Biden administration’s approach to the region. So far, Biden has drawn from a familiar playbook: Relying on the French as the center of gravity in the region and supporting the simmering counterterrorism campaigns with intelligence, logistics, and a limited footprint of U.S. combat troops. While the terrorist threat in the Sahel is a front-line threat for the French, experts said, the United States has less concern that those groups are capable of hitting the homeland. – Foreign Policy