Fdd's overnight brief

June 28, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran’s parliament speaker said Sunday that Tehran would never share with the U.N. nuclear watchdog recorded footage of activity at some of its nuclear sites, in a sign of the hardening rhetoric by both Iran and the United States during the prolonged and increasingly tense negotiations aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear accord. – Washington Post

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday said France was waiting for Iran to take the last-step decisions needed to breathe new life into Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal. – Reuters

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said of Friday a nuclear deal with Iran is “within reach”, the TASS news agency cited him as saying. – Reuters

Iran has drones with a range of 7,000 km (4,375 miles), Iranian state media cited the top commander of the Revolutionary Guards as saying on Sunday, a development which may be seen by Washington as a threat to regional stability. – Reuters

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has granted clemency to more than 5,100 prisoners to mark a Shi’ite religious holiday, his website announced on June 26. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The Biden administration is considering lifting sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader as part of negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, a former U.S. official and two people familiar with the matter told NBC News. – NBC News

Dov S. Zakheim writes: The Biden administration is determined to lower the United States’s profile in the Middle East. But as former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis once noted, “The enemy gets a vote.” With the IRGC and its Quds Force likely to be bolstered by both new funding and the support of a hard-line president, Iran certainly will cast that vote in a manner that could well force the administration to reconsider just how low America’s profile really can go. – The Hill

Amotz Asa-El writes: Israel should initiate and also preempt, but only tactically; derail whatever it is the mullahs are plotting about us, bomb their Syrian outposts, sting their nuclear operation, but avoid the grand attack. That attack should come not from without, but from within, and not from the air, but from below, and it should be waged not by foreigners, but by the great Persian people whom the ayatollahs have so thoroughly disempowered, dispossessed and dishonored, and now so justly fear. – Jerusalem Post

Simon Henderson writes: A revived JCPOA, which is being negotiated in meetings in Vienna, is beginning to look increasingly inadequate for the challenge, even if an agreement of sorts can be reached. For the moment we have firm ambiguity, rather than anything more solid. Nuclear weapons have spread surprisingly slowly since the end of World War II and never have been used in anger. This template looks like it’s changing. – The Hill

David Pollock writes: My own very limited personal experience aside, the non-nuclear threats Iran poses to Americans, Arabs, Israelis, and others are deadly serious. No nuclear agreement can confront those threats. On the contrary, some of the resources Iran will gain from sanctions relief will no doubt once again be applied to such abhorrent propaganda, and much worse. Thus, once that agreement is revived, the U.S. and its friends and allies must become more vigilant, creative, and resolute about meeting that challenge—in both words and deeds. – Washington Institute

Jonathan Greenblatt writes: The devastation wrought by dictators from Hitler to Stalin to Khomeini brandishing The Protocols should compel all of us to take seriously the threat represented by an Iranian regime bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and sponsoring terrorism across the region. Raisi comes to this job as a perpetrator of crimes against humanity, and no responsible country should host him for a state visit or any official talks. Now the U.S. and all world powers must work together to assure that he can commit no additional crimes against humanity. – Newsweek 

Fardin Eftekhari writes: Following notable developments such as Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s leaked comments about Russian efforts to “sabotage” nuclear talks in 2015, the exclusion of Tehran from the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh cease-fire talks and agreement, and the growing competition with Iran for economic and political influence in Syria, Moscow intends to assure the Islamic Republic’s national security and foreign policy establishment that it still sees Iran as a security ally in the Middle East. – Middle East Institute


Failure to renew a cross-border aid operation into Syria before it expires next month could trigger a new “humanitarian catastrophe” inrebel-held areas in the northwest, the World Health Organization said on Friday. – Reuters

The Biden administration is confident the U.S. can work with Russia to keep open a critical border crossing between Turkey and Syria that serves as a lifeline for humanitarian assistance to millions of Syrians suffering after a decade of war, a senior State Department official said Friday. – The Hill

With no progress toward ending the 10-year Syrian conflict, the U.N. special envoy for Syria called Friday for new international talks on concrete steps like exchanging prisoners and a nationwide cease-fire that the government and opposition could agree on as initial steps to give impetus to a political solution. – Associated Press


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met in Rome on Sunday as their new governments look to turn the page on former President Donald Trump and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose close alliance aggravated partisan divisions within both countries. – Associated Press

Israel summoned Poland’s ambassador on Sunday to express its “deep disappointment” over a Polish bill that critics say will make it harder for Jews to recover property seized by the country’s Nazi occupiers during World War Two and then kept by post-war communist rulers, the foreign ministry said. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet Israel’s outgoing president, Reuven Rivlin, at the White House on Monday for a broad discussion about U.S. efforts to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal and Israel’s formation of a new government. – Reuters

Fuel tankers funded by Qatar entered the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing for the first time since Operation Guardian of the Walls on Monday. The decision was approved following a security assessment and is dependent on continued stability of the security situation in the Gaza Strip. – Jerusalem Post

A top watchdog group asserts that a new UN report on children in armed conflict that will be presented to the Security Council on Monday is biased against Israel due to the involvement of “radical” NGOs in its formulation. – Algemeiner

The New York Times is being condemned for publishing a nearly-15-minute long propaganda video criticizing Israel for an attack that “could be a war crime.” – Algemeiner

Thousands marched through the streets of Hebron on Friday at the funeral of a Palestinian Authority critic who died in PA custody, with many calling for the end of President Mahmoud Abbas’s 16-year rule. – Times of Israel

Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Saturday accused Hamas and deposed Fatah operative Mohammed Dahlan of exploiting the death of political activist Nizar Banat to incite protests against the Palestinian Authority. – Jerusalem Post

The United States rejected as “false” a claim by the Washington Free Beacon that it had “walked back” its recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. – Jerusalem Post

The activists blamed the US, European Union and other international parties of turning a blind eye to human rights violations and corruption by the PA, including the crackdown on dozens of critics and political opponents in the West Bank in the past few weeks. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Gilad Erdan, announced Sunday that he will leave as soon as a new envoy is appointed, and will not continue in his post beyond the end of November. – Times of Israel

Bipartisan support for Israel in the United States was harmed during the Benjamin Netanyahu years, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome on Sunday. – Times of Israel

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Other generalized statements on the website of the representative can be found relating to calling on all sides to protect children. There was a push last year to raise awareness about the recruitment of child soldiers by Palestinian groups. However, there does not appear to be much emphasis on the issue this year, and Hamas and other terrorist group training camps appear to come and go as if they are a normal activity, as opposed to an invitation to recruit children for war. This appears to be a violation of international law. – Jerusalem Post

Howard Rotberg writes: We hope that the Abrahamic Accords will once again have Arabs (for now in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco) accepting, for the mutual benefit of all their people, one small Jewish state among a vast sea of Muslims. We hope that the Europeans who killed so many of us will agree to stop using ‘settler” and “occupier” and learn the history of the Jews to know that we are those who have returned to our indigenous Homeland. – Arutz Sheva

Yoseph Haddad writes: There is no doubt that Israel has much to repair. The Arab sector needs massive government investments in education, housing and infrastructure. The government failed to act against the violent crime wave ravaging Arab communities and the Nation State Law passed by the Knesset in 2019 must be amended to restore Arabic as an official language of the state and to ensure that future land development is not exclusive to Jewish cities. […]But despite all of its deficiencies, Israel is not an apartheid state. Not even close. – Ynet


The United States carried out airstrikes early Monday morning in Iraq and Syria against two Iranian-backed militias that the Pentagon said had conducted drone strikes against American personnel in Iraq in recent weeks, the Defense Department said. – New York Times

In Iraq, a war-scarred country awash with weapons, a row over a duck or a cockerel or even squabbling between children can degenerate into deadly tribal clashes. – Agence France-Presse

Tammy S. Schultz and Noah Ramsey write: Bureaucracy and excessive caution have prevented America from fulfilling its moral obligation to the men and women who served it faithfully, and risk undermining its ability to recruit local employees in the future. As the United States continues to draw down its presence in the Middle East, it should remember those who are being forgotten — the translators. – War on the Rocks

Ali Al-Mikdam writes: The growing opposition among Iraqis to Iran’s influence is leading Iranian-backed militias to double down on repression to keep in place the political order that ensures their enrichment and power. […]Statements of concern and moral support alone will not stop bullets or even Telegram channels. Iraq’s best chance at reform, a mass cross-sectarian protest movement, is being killed off, driven underground, and into exile. – Washington Institute


Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday repeated pledges to import Iranian fuel should shortages across the country persist, saying that all logistical steps for that possibility were complete. – Reuters

Lebanese troops deployed in the northern city of Tripoli early Sunday taking positions around major state institutions after a night of protests and riots against worsening living conditions left several protesters and 10 soldiers injured. – Associated Press

Dr. Salem Al Ketbi writes: The hijacking of decisions in some Arab countries by pro-Iranian militias, groups and parties remains one of the most serious dilemmas that need urgent solutions, and the solution will not be through dialogue with the mullahs’ regime, as it is believed, but primarily begins with restricting its movement and ability to finance and arm these arms. – Arutz Sheva

Arabian Peninsula

Clashes between rebels and Yemeni government fighters killed at least 111 in Marib in three days, pro-government sources said, following a renewed offensive by Huthi insurgents. – Agence France-Presse

Saudi Arabia has released two women’s rights activists detained nearly three years ago after they had served their time, London-based Saudi rights group ALQST said on Sunday. Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah were detained in July 2018, along with more than a dozen other activists, on suspicion of harming Saudi interests, a move that drew international condemnation. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates is evicting Italian aircraft and personnel from a key military base in retaliation for an arms embargo slapped on the UAE by Rome in January, an Italian politician has told Defense News. – Defense News

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq, Egypt and Jordan took a step toward deepening a regional alliance by holding tripartite talks in Baghdad on Sunday, in a first visit by an Egyptian head of state to the country in 30 years. Talks ranged from trade to Mideast crises. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Countries need better air-defense systems against drone and cruise-missile threats. This is particularly true in the Middle East, where new weapons are proliferating, especially among Iranian-backed groups, such as the Houthis in Yemen and Hamas in Gaza, as well as militias in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon. – Jerusalem Post

Carmiel Arbit writes: The pursuit of peace in the Middle East — between any and all regional actors — cannot be relegated to a partisan endeavor. But if Biden fails to take meaningful action to advance these accords, he will be complacent in doing just that: bequeathing a partisan legacy of advancing regional peace to his predecessor. […]If the Biden administration fails to capture this moment, it will be a huge missed opportunity. – The Hill

Bruce Fein writes: Congress should, additionally, enact legislation directing the Biden administration to deny visas and block any commercial transactions involving any Egyptian official, including Sisi, who has been credibly accused of complicity in extrajudicial killings, torture, or violations of other internationally recognized human rights. Experience teaches that the executive branch invariably subordinates human rights to the realpolitik of Empire. If Congress does not attempt to extinguish the human rights inferno in Egypt, it will burn out of control. – The Hill

Josh Block writes: In the broadest sense, the Middle East is dividing into two spheres: actors willing to lay down old disputes and cooperate (Israel, the Gulf states, and cooperation-minded Arabs inside Israel) and forces of terror intent on subjugation of one form or another (Iran, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, the Islamic State, Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the Muslim Brotherhood). […]The new Middle East is emerging, and not even the most fervent hate or the most brutal barrage of rockets can stop the momentum. – Washington Examiner

Samir Bennis writes: No matter how dismissive Spain may be of Morocco’s claims, the Spanish government will at some point have to sit at the negotiations table with Morocco to discuss a viable solution to the economic activities in Ceuta and Melilla that could preserve the two’s parties’ strategic interest and safeguard their privileged partnership. […]It would behoove the two countries to find a formula that could help them overcome their recurring misunderstandings and build their bilateral ties on more solid grounds. – Washington Institute

Yörük Işık writes: A major question about the proposed canal is whether it could bypass the Montreux treaty, thus allowing unlimited access to the Black Sea for non-Black Sea countries’ naval forces. […]The relevant questions are how to provide maritime security in the Black Sea, limit Russia’s territorial incursions toward NATO partner countries like Ukraine and Georgia, and perhaps how to counter Russian meddling in Turkey’s new energy projects in the Black Sea. What’s needed is a permanent NATO group, consisted of rotating ships in line with the Montreux treaty’s time limitations. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

A rare mention in North Korean state media of leader Kim Jong Un’s health could be intended to head off speculation and play up shared sacrifice amid food shortages, analysts said. – Reuters

Bruce Klingner writes: In the meantime, the Biden administration must take steps to uphold allied deterrence and defense capabilities, including resumption of military exercises on the Korean Peninsula when COVID-19 conditions allow. Washington should also implement long-stalled sanctions against North Korean, Chinese and other nations’ entities violating U.S. laws and U.N. resolutions. Dialogue and deterrence are not mutually exclusive. – The Hill

Grażyna Strnad writes: North Korea, even if the worst of political and economic outcomes come to fruition, will serve to distract the United States, giving China potential leverage. China will support North Korea out of its vested regional interests. Beyond that, North Korea’s history of survival accompanied by other “arduous marches,” points to the dictatorship of Kim Jong-un to remain in power, regardless of the success or failure of the Byungjin Policy. – The National Interest


The academic is one of a spate of LinkedIn users whose profiles have been blocked in recent weeks. – Wall Street Journal 

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, speaking in an interview after a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France, said the United States and France were “on the same page” in their determination to resist the possibility of a Chinese-led world order that would be “profoundly illiberal in nature.” – New York Times

For over a year they have whipped up outrage against the West, but as China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats are told to tone down the fury, they face an unexpected source of opposition: nationalists at home. – Agence France-Presse

A human rights group that attracted millions of views on YouTube to testimonies from people who say their families have disappeared in China’s Xinjiang region is moving its videos to little-known service Odysee after some were taken down by the Google-owned streaming giant, two sources told Reuters. – Reuters

China’s foreign ministry on Friday rejected comments by U.S. President Joe Biden that the closure of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper signaled intensifying repression by Beijing in the semi-autonomous city. – Reuters

The United Nations human rights chief should document her own findings on the plight of Uyghurs in Xinjiang even without China’s blessing for a visit, activists and Western diplomats say, amid signs that her patience may be running out. – Reuters

Devin Nunes and fellow Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are investigating China’s efforts to manipulate and coerce U.S. businesses and warning that Beijing has launched a “campaign of malign influence across a wide range of U.S. economic sectors.” – Washington Examiner

Editorial: The recently unearthed operation reveals China’s continued intention to exploit the openness of the United States, its allies and the technology companies their citizens rely on to spread false and regime-friendly political narratives — even as the Great Firewall shuts the rest of the world out for fear that true and critical narratives could make their way in. – Washington Post

Editorial: China is a rapidly expanding global economy with major expertise in many fields and China is hungry for Israel’s technology. Much of this can lead to positive relations with Beijing that won’t come under the focus of the US. But there are other fields, such as aerospace or defense companies or strategic ports, that will be of importance, and Israel’s leadership needs to keep an eye on those issues and not naively blunder into the US-China struggle. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: By now, there can be no denying that, as the White House noted, China’s “systematic abuses go beyond forced labor to include sexual violence and large-scale forced detentions, and the PRC continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.” […]Biden is correct to take repeated, measured steps to pressure China to stop its brutishness and, separately, its belligerence. His actions toward those ends so far have been a pleasant surprise. – Washington Examiner

Mark Simon writes: What Jimmy Lai and the Apple Daily team have done to upset the authorities was to advocate for democracy, property rights and the rule of law. These principles are ones the Hong Kong people were promised would continue for at least 50 years under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that came into effect in 1997. – Washington Post

Tracy C. Miller writes: Providing subsidies to expand U.S. chip production capacity may make sense when a leading supplier such as Taiwan is vulnerable to attack by China. But it is important to continue to import semiconductors from a diverse group of low-cost foreign suppliers, particularly those of trusted allies. – The Hill

Bradley A. Thayer and Lianchao Han write: A transition from a Biden to Harris administration would be neither the first nor the last in the country’s political history. […]The fact that the U.S. may face one before 2024 requires the preparation of U.S. allies, heightened deterrence of a potential aggression, and the recognition that Beijing’s political warfare campaign will seize upon it as an indication that the United States is enfeebled and in decline. A robust response is necessary and possible, and a President Harris would be well-positioned to provide it. – The National Interest


The head of Afghanistan’s peace council said on Friday that long-stalled talks on a political settlement to decades of strife should not be abandoned despite surging Taliban attacks, unless the insurgents themselves pull out. – Reuters

Dozens of Afghan former interpreters who aided American and NATO troops held a demonstration in Kabul on Friday, as panic grows that some could be left behind to face threats from the insurgent Taliban as the United States withdraws troops. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday Washington was assessing whether the Taliban was serious about ending the conflict in Afghanistan, and that trying to take back the country by force was not consistent with peace efforts. – Reuters

About 5,000 Afghan families have fled their homes in Kunduz after days of fighting between the Taliban and government forces, officials said Saturday, with the insurgents continuing to surround the key northern city. – Agence France-Presse

President Joe Biden on Friday promised Afghanistan’s top leaders a “sustained” partnership even as he moves to accelerate winding down the United States’ longest war amid escalating Taliban violence. – Associated Press

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani on Friday said his country is experiencing an “1861 moment, like President Lincoln” after he met with President Joe Biden, while emphasizing that America’s decision to withdraw its troops was a sovereign one. – Politico

Another group of Afghan government soldiers has fled across the border into Tajikistan as Taliban militants press an offensive across swaths of northern Afghanistan. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

President Biden’s plan to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans who assisted U.S. military efforts in the country has left lawmakers and advocates with a number of unanswered questions as time dwindles amid the U.S. withdrawal. – The Hill

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday rejected the notion reportedly concluded by American intelligence agencies that Kabul could fall within six months. – Washington Examiner

Matt Watters writes: The U.S. should double the number of special immigrant visas available to Afghans and reduce the service requirement to one year to mirror the policy for Iraqi interpreters. […]We also have a national-security imperative. If the U.S. abandons those who served with such loyalty and conviction, why would anyone risk his life to help America again? Who will tell our soldiers which streets to avoid? – Wall Street Journal

South Asia

A global dirty money watchdog said on Friday it had added European Union member Malta to its “grey list” of countries under increased monitoring, and kept Pakistan on the list despite progress on tackling terrorism financing. – Reuters

At least seven people were killed and more than 50 people were injured in an explosion in the Bangladeshi capital late on Sunday, police said. – Reuters

Pakistan’s military said on Friday that suspected militants had ambushed and shot dead five soldiers in the province of Balochistan, where insurgent have stepped up attacks this year. – Reuters


The U.S. will revive trade and investment talks with Taiwan next week in a move intended to draw Washington and Taipei closer that also is likely to irk Beijing. – Wall Street Journal

Since that law took force one year ago, Beijing has unleashed a stampede of actions to bring Hong Kong into political lock step with the Chinese Communist Party: arresting activists, seizing assets, firing government workers, detaining newspaper editors and rewriting school curriculums. – New York Times

Hong Kong police arrested a former senior journalist with the now-closed Apple Daily newspaper at the international airport on Sunday night on a suspected national security offence as he tried to leave the city, according to media reports. – Reuters

China on Friday approved the promotion of Hong Kong’s security secretary John Lee to chief secretary, while police chief Chris Tang will take Lee’s position in what critics say will further tighten Beijing’s security squeeze on the global financial hub. – Reuters

Myanmar security forces punched, slapped and beat a U.S. journalist and kept him blindfolded for more than a week of interrogation, he said after being deported to the United States following over three months in detention. – Reuters

James Crabtree writes: For the United States, these tensions are a feature—not a bug—of regional diplomacy. Finding the right balance between competing with China and reassuring Southeast Asia will not be easy. The problem is the Biden administration does not appear to even be trying to strike that balance. Complaints in the region about a lack of focus ring true. And if Southeast Asia continues gradually to drift toward China as a result, Washington will only have itself to blame. – Foreign Policy

Brenna Artinger and Michael Rowand write: A decade ago, Myanmar was seen as a bright spot of political progress. Since then, amid the global authoritarian revival, its leaders have committed genocide and killed peaceful protesters. […]The ability of public criticism and demands for accountability from protesters to elicit censure of military violence from Sitagu Sayadaw, one of Myanmar’s most prominent nationalists, offers a faint hope that the threat to democracy may be repulsed. – Foreign Policy


Nearly two weeks of multinational naval exercises are set to begin in the Black Sea amid warnings from Russia that it will respond to challenges in contested waters off Ukraine after an incident with a British warship last week. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

William Moloney writes: Needless to say, the leaders of these countries never would say such impolitic things in public, but in a crisis, it is inconceivable that they would defy the very people who elect them. It is thus apparent that, with the end of the Cold War, the NATO alliance lost its main reason for existing and, over the past 30 years, lost its focus, coherence and eventually its willingness to risk actual military combat with a hostile superpower. – The Hill

George Barros writes: The Kremlin’s increasing capability to create integrated units with Belarus is likely intended to support a permanent Russian presence in Belarus. The Kremlin may also be preparing Russian forces to subsume elements of Belarusian combat units in the event of a Russian intervention against the will of the Belarusian government—an unlikely but dangerous course of action ISW has previously warned of. – Institute for the Study of War

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It was HMS Defender that ran into tensions with Russia last week. Russian jets and ships have shadowed the British ship. Moscow is now doing drills in the Mediterranean, saying that it does not rule out a “tough response” to the UK. This sets the stage for a week or more of tensions.  – Jerusalem Post

Jill Kastner and William C. Wohlforth write: Moreover, as authoritarian states, China and Russia have unique vulnerabilities in the subversion game. The openness of democratic societies does make them softer targets, but repressive regimes are more brittle. Witness Beijing’s and Moscow’s desperate attempts to curtail Internet freedoms. […]This is to be expected, because authoritarian regimes almost always have a legitimacy problem. They know that grassroots opposition to their system of government is more prevalent than grassroots opposition to democracy. – Foreign Affairs


The centrist ranks of President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen’s far-right party both failed to notch victories in France’s regional elections Sunday as voters gravitated toward establishment candidates amid tensions over recent terrorist attacks and the place of Islam in society. – Wall Street Journal

Sensitive defense documents containing details about the British military have been found at a bus stop in England, the BBC reported Sunday. – Associated Press

Germany could stop gas flowing through the almost-complete Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia if Moscow breaks the terms of the arrangement or uses it to put pressure on Ukraine, conservative chancellor candidate Armin Laschet said on Saturday. – Reuters

The British destroyer Defender, which angered Russia by sailing through waters off Crimea, docked at the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi on Saturday. – Reuters 

President Emmanuel Macron defended on Friday a failed attempt by France and Germany to hold an EU summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after eastern European leaders shot down the initiative they said would send the wrong message to Moscow. – Reuters

Prison has only strengthened the political convictions of Catalan civil disobedience advocate Jordi Cuixart, one of the nine separatist leaders pardoned by the Spanish government earlier this week, he told Reuters two days after his release. – Reuters

When Antony Blinken meets the pope and top Vatican officials on Monday, the new secretary of state’s visit will put relations between Washington and Holy See on a new footing. – Reuters

During Defender Europe exercises hosted by Romania on the Black Sea coast, the Washington Examiner spoke to both Romania’s defense minister and foreign minister to understand how the threat posed by Russia has increased since the seizure and militarization of Crimea seven years ago. – Washington Examiner

Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch write: The impasse underscores how Nord Stream 2 has become a major thorn in the side of U.S. relations with Europe, as Biden’s olive branch to Germany by waiving sanctions left him in a tough spot. During a trip to Berlin this week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the U.S.-German relationship but conceded that both countries still hadn’t reached any agreement on the Nord Stream 2 project. – Foreign Policy

Ivana Stradner and Jakub Janda write: The new Russia strategy is based on three principles “push back, constrain and engage.” The EU finds itself in an unenviable position vis-à-vis Russia, but urgent action by European nations would go a long way in addressing existing vulnerabilities. Negligence and appeasement are no longer options. – Newsweek

Rana Foroohar writes: If the EU really wants to protect liberal values in the age of surveillance capitalism, it needs America. And if the US truly wants to decouple from China economically in strategic areas such as semiconductors, green batteries and electric vehicles, it needs demand from more than just the domestic market. There is low hanging fruit to be plucked here. But it requires some real empathy and understanding on both sides. – Financial Times


Russian mercenaries deployed in one of Africa’s most fragile countries killed civilians, looted homes and shot dead worshipers at a mosque during a major military operation earlier this year, United Nations investigators have found. – New York Times

Sudan has rejected an Ethiopian proposal to manage the filling for a second time of a giant dam that it is building on the Blue Nile, a senior official said on Sunday, deepening a regional dispute over the project. – Reuters

Three employees working for the Spanish branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were killed by unknown assailants in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the medical charity said on Friday. – Reuters

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused authorities in Ethiopia on Friday of blocking ambulances from reaching scores of victims of an air strike this week, a rare case of speaking out in his official capacity about the conflict in his homeland. – Reuters

A suspected bomber was blown up when his improvised explosive device went off in a busy intersection of the Democratic Republic of Congo eastern city of Beni on Sunday, authorities said, the second blast in Beni on the same day. – Reuters

The Americas

Five months into his administration, President Biden’s campaign promise to “go back” to the Obama policy of engagement with Cuba remains unfulfilled, lodged in a low-priority file somewhere between “too hard” and “not worth it.” – Washington Post 

President Iván Duque of Colombia said he was aboard a helicopter that was shot at late Friday afternoon, in an attack that left bullet holes in the aircraft. – New York Times

Nicaragua’s government launched a blistering attack on Spain and its Foreign Minister on Saturday, alleging interference by Madrid in its affairs and imperialist attitudes towards the Central American country. – Reuters

Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday that Nicaragua should not use repression or jail opponents, and that the people of the Central American country should be able to make choices freely in elections. – Reuters

North America

Canada on Friday declared the Three Percenters a terrorist entity, saying that it had “ample reason” to believe the U.S.-based right-wing, anti-government, self-styled militia group is active in Canada and that officials have been monitoring its movements with “growing concern.” – Washington Post

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou’s request for a publication ban on new evidence her legal team received from HSBC has been denied by a Canadian court in her U.S. extradition case, a lawyer involved in the case said on Friday. – Reuters

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Thursday to advance the bipartisan Israel Relations Normalization Act, a broadly popular bill originally sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN) and James Risch (R-ID) that seeks to strengthen and expand last year’s agreements between Israel and a number of Arab nations. – Jewish Insider

United States

The Biden administration said Thursday it banned U.S. imports of a key solar panel material from Chinese-based Hoshine Silicon Industry Co, but stopped short of imposing a ban on all imports of silica from Xinjiang and said the action would not harm U.S. clean energy goals. – Reuters

Mark Whittington writes: Barring any unexpected development, such as the sudden appearance of a Chinese Starship, the United States and the Artemis Alliance of nations and commercial companies should be on the moon as much as a decade before the Chinese-Russian Lunar Axis. Countries that might think of joining the Chinese-Russian effort would know that they can have their nationals on the moon much earlier if they, instead, throw in with the Artemis Alliance. – The Hill


Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Friday introduced legislation meant to tackle parts of the government’s cyber workforce shortage. – The Hill

Pro-Palestinian hackers have stolen the personal information of hundreds of thousands of Israeli students and have begun leaking it online, including names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and home addresses. – Times of Israel

China’s strengths as a cyber power are being undermined by poor security and weak intelligence analysis, according to new research that predicts Beijing will be unable to match US cyber capabilities for at least a decade. – Financial Times

Erica Borghard, Mark Montgomery, and Brandon Valeriano write: Without meaningful change and investment in professional military cyber education, service efforts will likely remain in a state of flux and uncertainty. The potential consequences of maintaining the status quo are significant. For instance, academic research on military innovation has shown that military organizations adapt poorly to modern technology when they are not sufficiently educated on the dynamics of change. – War on the Rocks


In a memo to U.S. military leaders, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said a long-awaited U.S. government report released Friday highlights “the current challenges associated with assessing Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) occurring on or near DoD training ranges and installations. – Associated Press

UFOs exist that appear to display technology the United States does not possess and lacks the ability to defend against, according to a former intelligence chief. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. Air Force unveiled a weapon this month designed to take out hundreds of drones at once with barely a sound. – Washington Examiner

In fiscal 2021, Congress slashed funding for the Advanced Battle Management System, leaving only about half of the money requested by the Air Force for one of its top modernization priorities. – C4ISRNET

President Biden has tapped Rear Adm. Daniel Dwyer to lead U.S. 2nd Fleet, according to a Pentagon news release. Dwyer is up for a promotion to vice admiral and would also serve as the commander of NATO’s Joint Forces Command Norfolk, the dual-hatted position held by the commander of 2nd Fleet. – USNI News

Brian Burton writes: Continuing the current approach to allied future fighter programs will hinder the development of U.S. allies’ defense capabilities at a time when the United States needs them to be stronger than ever. Ultimately, if the U.S. government is serious about the importance of its allies fielding capable military forces in the future, it needs to be a serious partner in their future fighter programs. – War on the Rocks

Rebecca Reesman and James Wilson write: However, contrary to the hopes of some defense analysts, they will not allow the Space Force to defy physics. Policy planning and strategizing should be based on reality and built upon an understanding of astrodynamics. Having spacecraft with massive amounts of fuel will certainly be beneficial to space operations, but that will not take space warfare into the realm of science fiction. Any conflict in space would be a slow and deliberate affair. An effective spacepower strategy should be developed with physics-based constraints in mind, not based on dreams of starcruisers. – War on the Rocks

Peter Huessy writes: ICBMs are unambiguously in the central lands of the continental United States. Any attack on those missiles cannot be surreptitious or limited. The United States will know unmistakably that an attack has occurred and from where. A retaliatory strike is assured and any adversary knows that, which means deterrence works. – The National Interest

Long War

An estimated 30 people died on Sunday when Somalia’s Islamist al Shabaab group launched an attack in a town in the country’s semi-autonomous state of Galmudug, a security official said. – Reuters

A group of fighters from Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram pledged allegiance to rivals the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) weeks after the former group’s leader died, according to a video seen by Reuters. – Reuters

Islamic State claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on a power station in Iraq, the group’s Nasheer News said on its Telegram channel. – Reuters

Thirteen U.N. peacekeepers, 12 Germans and one Belgian, were wounded in northern Mali on Friday by a car bomb, the U.N. mission said, while Mali’s army said six of its soldiers were killed in a separate attack in the centre of the country. – Reuters

Armed assailants killed 19 villagers in western Niger near the border with Mali, where Islamist militants have increasingly targeted civilians this year, the mayor of a nearby town said on Friday. – Reuters

Authorities in Germany were investigating on Saturday what prompted a man to go on the rampage with a knife in the town of Wuerzberg on Friday, killing three women and seriously injuring five other women. – Reuters