Fdd's overnight brief

June 4, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The United Nations said Thursday that it had suspended the voting rights of Iran and four smaller countries for delinquent dues. The move provoked a furious reaction from Iran, which called it “astonishingly absurd” and blamed the country’s arrears on U.S. sanctions that had frozen Iranian funds in banks worldwide. – New York Times 

The United States expects to have a sixth round of indirect talks on reviving compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and probably more, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday. – Reuters

Negotiators from the E3 and the other major powers that struck the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran have been meeting in working groups in the Austrian capital since early April, with the EU team overseeing indirect talks between Iran and the United States. The agreement has been on hold since 2018 when then-U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the pact and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

ran nuclear deal negotiators are ending the week unexpectedly back in their home countries, with talks stuck over several central points of contention.  – Politico

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday that Tehran wanted action and not promises from six world powers for the revival of their 2015 nuclear deal. – Reuters

Two weeks before the controversial June 18 presidential election in Iran, the country’s reformist parties do not have their own candidate. Nor has any one of the reformist parties and political organizations put its weight behind the two non-hardliner candidates among the seven hopefuls endorsed by constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council. – Iran International

Iranian presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi should be investigated for crimes against humanity, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said in a statement today. – Center for Human Rights in Iran

Editorial: The election of a new president this month will give Tehran an opportunity for a reset. Biden needs to convince the Iranians and Congress that a comprehensive treaty is the outcome they both want — a deal that will survive the vagaries of time and presidential politics alike. – Bloomberg

Bob Menendez and Lindsey Graham write: Finally, the administration must work to ensure justice for all American citizens who have suffered from Iran’s malign activity, including those who continue to be unjustly detained. The art of diplomacy is difficult, but the path to a better deal is clear. We strongly encourage the Biden administration, the Iranians and our international negotiating partners to think beyond the past and look toward what we can achieve for the future. Refusing to do so would risk a tremendous opportunity for peace. – Washington Post 

Eli Lake writes: Western governments should “respect the concept of the right to self-determination and national sovereignty in the true sense,” she told me. This right is enshrined in the charter of the United Nations — and it is systematically flouted by the current Iranian regime, which continues to erase the few remnants of that country’s history of constitutional government. – Bloomberg 

Ali Alfoneh writes: Since the death of Qasem Soleimani last year, the leadership of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force has changed substantially, with Esmail Qaani taking the top post and, more recently, Mohammad Reza Fallahzadeh being named as his deputy this April. Such changes raise fundamental questions about the composition of the organization’s commanding echelon. Who makes it to the apex of the IRGC-QF, and on what grounds? And what do these appointments mean for Iran’s regional policy? – Washington Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: His point is that there is an illusion outside of Iran that portrays the regime as particularly complex and a system of “moderates” and “hardliners.” In fact, what appears to have happened is that the IRGC and its elements have increased their power and stranglehold on Iran. They leave increasingly less possibilities for change and less of a window for critique. This means that this election in Iran may cement their control and increase it. Whatever protests existed in the past, such as 2009 or the protests in 2019, illustrate that there is widespread opposition to this system. However those voices have been suppressed, arrested and persecuted. – Jerusalem Post


Israeli security forces on Wednesday arrested an Arab Israeli father and son suspected of smuggling a large amount of hashish and firearms into Israel from Lebanon, potentially on behalf of the Hezbollah terrorist organization, the military said. – Times of Israel 

Lebanese journalist and Hizbullah mouthpiece Ibrahim Al-Amine, editor-in-chief of the pro-Hizbullah Al-Akhbar newspaper, said that the Palestinian factions in Gaza closely coordinated and maintained a joint operations room with Hizbullah and the IRGC during their recent round of fighting with Israel. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This issue is complicated. Iran’s proxies do not rely on any one man. Unlike a regime like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Iranian octopus network is not based just on big men and small people. Because the Iranian system replicates itself like an amoeba across the region, it is fundamentally rooted in the abilities of the people it recruits, mostly among Shi’ites. […]Hezbollah will need such a structure if it is to survive Nasrallah and thrive. Not much is known about his health, except rumors. One article says he underwent a direct examination by a specialist doctor, and there was no need for hospitalization. – Jerusalem Post


The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations announced on Thursday nearly $240 million in humanitarian funding to support the people of Syria, Syrian refugees and countries hosting them, and called for access through international crossings to allow the delivery of aid. – Associated Press

The head of the international chemical weapons watchdog told the U.N. Security Council that its experts have investigated 77 allegations against Syria, and concluded that in 17 cases chemical weapons were likely or definitely used. – Associated Press

Millions of people in northwest Syria face disaster if the United Nations fails to approve an extension of cross-border humanitarian operations next month, a senior U.N. aid official said on Thursday. – Reuters


Drones built in Turkey with affordable digital technology wrecked tanks and other armored vehicles, as well as air-defense systems, of Russian protégés in battles waged in Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan. These drones point to future warfare being shaped as much by cheap but effective fighting vehicles as expensive ones with the most advanced technology. – Wall Street Journal 

Asli Aydintasbas writes: But after the failed coup attempt of 2016, Turkey’s strongman president increasingly came to rely upon the former elements of the deep state, making alliances with ultra-nationalists, legitimizing characters such as Peker and inviting former security officials into his administration. All of this makes it difficult to feel optimistic about Turkish democracy in the short run. Erdogan needs to clean up this scene, but it’s not clear that he can or even wants to. – Washington Post 

David Rosenberg writes: But it isn’t. As long as the Turkish economy is in a funk, Erdogan will need things to distract attention. Another way he has staged a tactical retreat from his usual behavior of late has been to lower the flame on his many diplomatic disputes. Don’t expect that to last much longer either: Erdogan will be back to stirring up tensions over East Mediterranean gas and the Palestinians. – Haaretz


For decades, al-Amari has been a stronghold of Fatah, the secular and nationalist party that emphasizes diplomacy as its answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in recent days, the tableau in the camp has shifted: Green flags mark the entrance and graffiti to match emblazons the walls with a single word: Hamas. – Washington Post

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to rally his right-wing base against a new ruling coalition that includes, for the first time in the country’s history, an independent Arab party that would have a role in shaping the policies of the predominantly Jewish state. – Wall Street Journal

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says it has recalled its Gaza director after he faced threats over remarks in which he appeared to praise Israel’s “huge sophistication” in carrying out precision strikes during last month’s Gaza war. – Associated Press

A long-running campaign by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families in east Jerusalem is still underway, even after it fueled weeks of unrest and helped ignite an 11-day Gaza war. – Associated Press

Israel’s visiting defense minister said Thursday that it will stay engaged as the U.S. tries to return to a nuclear deal with Iran, sidestepping what’s long been an area of open disagreement between the United States and the now-jeopardized government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. – Associated Press

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza on Thursday mostly dismissed a change in Israeli government, saying the nationalist leader due to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would likely pursue the same right-wing agenda. – Reuters

It was a photo opportunity for the history books: An Islamist politician from Israel’s Arab minority grinning alongside a far-right Jewish leader and his allies, moments after endorsing him as prime minister and handing him a governing majority. – Reuters

The United States “ironclad” support for Israel will continue regardless of what government is in place, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday, but declined to comment on the government formation process. – Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will leave office after 4,454 consecutive days on Wednesday, when the new government of incoming prime minister Naftali Bennett is scheduled to be sworn in, a Likud source said on Thursday night. – Jerusalem Post

The head of IDF Southern Command told Israel’s Channel 13 on Thursday that the IDF is preparing for “the next stage” of Israel’s latest conflict with Hamas, which ended in a ceasefire on May 21. – Times of Israel

Amid the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas and the other Palestinian factions in Gaza, Iraqi journalist Sami Al-Badri published an article harshly critical of Hamas. Writing in the Iraqi daily Al-Zaman, Al-Badri wrote that Hamas had taken upon itself to launch a hopeless battle against Israel without any justification or authority, whose only outcomes will be death and destruction in Gaza. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

David Makovsky writes: All sides realize that the coalition may not be cohesive enough to advance major policy initiatives on divisive hot-button issues such as the future of the West Bank or the role of the judiciary. Yet on crucial foreign policy issues—particularly efforts to condition Iran nuclear negotiations and Gaza reconstruction—there is likely to be more continuity than discontinuity. The decisionmaking mechanism built into the power-sharing arrangement provides for mutual vetoes of major policy departures. – Washington Institute

Tom Rogan writes: Still, Bennett is unlikely to launch a unilateral air campaign against Iran’s nuclear program. While Israel’s escalated covert action against that program will almost certainly continue, Bennett faces the same challenge as Netanyahu — that an air campaign to destroy or seriously degrade Iran’s nuclear program is highly unlikely to succeed absent active U.S. military involvement. President Joe Biden’s present appeasement of Iran suggests he is unlikely to authorize such involvement. – Washington Examiner


A previously unknown Iraqi Shia militia calling itself Ktaib al-Sabiqoun issued a warning to Israel this week. In grammatically challenged Hebrew, the statement read, “If you bomb us, we will bomb you.” It is likely that this statement was in fact issued by one of the established pro-Iranian militias. – Jerusalem Post

An explosion at a crowded restaurant in a northwestern Baghdad neighborhood killed three people and injured 16 Thursday evening, two Iraqi health officials said. – Associated Press

Nadia Murad writes: The new Biden administration has the opportunity to lead the decisive next steps on the path to justice. If the U.S. wants to stabilize the region and sustainably assist the communities it promised to protect, it will employ its unique diplomatic power to resolve the political discord impeding justice and reconciliation. If the administration wants to show true global leadership on human rights, it will support prosecutions of genocide and sexual violence at national and international levels. If Americans want to protect religious freedom globally, they will take a stand for Yazidis. – Newsweek


The Ever Given’s owners and insurers have disputed the vessel’s detention and the compensation claim, and their lawyers have said the SCA was at fault for allowing the ship to enter the waterway and for not providing suitable tugs. – Reuters

Mohamed Abdelaziz writes: While the United States has the right to pursue its own interests and the interests of its allies, the Biden administration should carefully work to balance its regional interests with its commitment to democracy and human rights in Egypt. In contrast, inconsistent U.S commitment to these values in Egypt could further exacerbate the country’s human rights situation and give the regime the green light to continue its crackdown on human rights activists and journalists. – Washington Institute

Zvi Bar’el writes: Egypt has found it hard to contend with the web of diplomatic and economic ties that Ethiopia has forged in recent years. President Sissi asked Trump and Netanyahu several times to press Ethiopia, but all he was able to obtain was an American effort to convene a summit attended by delegates from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia that yielded no real results. Sissi was also unable to extract from China any assistance in its fight against filling the reservoir, while the Gulf States, Egypt’s close allies, have stuck to issuing declarations of support that appear to have no effect on Ethiopia. – Haaretz

Arabian Peninsula

The U.N. Security Council called on Yemen’s Houthi rebels to quickly allow U.N. experts to examine an oil tanker moored off the war-torn country’s coast loaded with more than 1 million barrels of crude oil, warning there is a growing risk it could rupture or explode “causing an environmental, economic, maritime and humanitarian catastrophe for Yemen and the region.” – Associated Press

Australia’s foreign affairs minister has contacted her Saudi Arabian counterpart to raise the plight of a dual national extradited from Morocco amid mounting concerns about his detention. The Saudi Arabian embassy in Canberra remains silent in response to requests to disclose the whereabouts of Osama al-Hasani, 42, even after human rights advocates raised fears for his welfare. – The Guardian 

Annelle Sheline writes: Yet the reason the Saudis feel ready to engage and the Houthis do not lies in the terms of the negotiation. Blinken failed to acknowledge that the Saudis’ cease-fire proposal, as well as the terms offered by U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking in March, impose harsh terms on the Houthis. The U.S. and Saudi claim that they are pursuing peace is less than honest, because the plans they’ve offered the Houthis could encourage them to keep fighting rather than accept a truce. – Foreign Policy 

Middle East & North Africa

The leader of the Western Sahara independence movement, Brahim Ghali, returned to Algeria on Wednesday after spending more than a month in hospital in Spain – a stay which triggered a diplomatic row between Spain and Morocco. – Reuters

Spain’s prime minister was in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Thursday to reopen his country’s embassy and show support for Libya’s new interim authorities entrusted with leading the nation out of years of civil war. – Associated Press

After public outrage and protests, Lebanon’s Central Bank governor said Thursday that depositors can go back to withdrawing money from their dollar deposits in the local currency at a rate two and half times better than the official one. […]But critics still lambasted the ban on withdrawals of dollars, saying it is tantamount to declaring bankruptcy and urging depositors to demand their money in foreign currency. – Associated Press 

In a panel discussion at the Global Investment Forum in Dubai, sponsored by The Jerusalem Post and the Khaleej Times, a group of experts from Morocco discussed the country’s unique advantages as a platform for investment in Africa. – Jerusalem Post

The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group is now operating in the Middle East after transiting the Suez Canal on Tuesday, U.S. 5th Fleet officials told USNI News. – USNI News

Korean Peninsula

A shake-up of the North Korean leadership has created a de-facto position of second-in-command under Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, according to South Korean media. – ABC News 

Acts of outrage are committed by North Korea with alarming regularity, and unsurprisingly the country featured heavily in the recently concluded summit between President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The latest conflict between Israel and Palestine has been held in abeyance by a fragile ceasefire, and a two-state solution is looking ever more distant. Given these situations, it might seem downright naïve to engage in exercises to develop futuristic plans for prosperity. However, they do serve a useful purpose for several reasons. – The National Interest

Eli Fuhrman writes: Experts have suggested that the decision to create the new position is likely driven by Kim Jong Un’s desire to delegate some of his responsibility. In August 2020, South Korean media, citing sources in South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) reported that Kim Jong Un had delegated some responsibilities regarding economic and military issues to several top officials, and had sent other state affairs issues over to Kim Yo Jong. – The National Interest


The Biden administration is expanding a Trump-era order that banned U.S. investment in Chinese companies that support China’s military to include those selling surveillance technology, calling the entities a threat to U.S. interests and values. – Washington Post

Police arrested two people on Friday, including a prominent activist, and placed thousands of officers on standby as they sought to dissuade Hong Kong residents from observing the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre that took place 32 years ago in Beijing. – Washington Post

The video is perhaps even more notable for what it doesn’t reveal. Nothing is known outside China about the science gleaned from that expedition by the Wuhan CDC — the same agency that oversaw China’s early pandemic response. The team has not disclosed what viruses, if any, it found in the cave, or even when the mission took place. – Washington Post

A independent tribunal in London began hearing testimony from witnesses and experts on Friday to determine whether the Chinese government has committed genocide in the Xinjiang region — in proceedings Beijing has called a “farce” and a “special machine producing lies.” – Washington Post

A Hong Kong pro-democracy website was temporarily taken down after police warned the Israel-based hosting company that it breached a national security law, highlighting concerns about actions by authorities in the Chinese city to muzzle online dissent abroad. – Associated Press

China hailed on Thursday the resumption of “normal discussions” with the United States on the trade and economic fronts, apparently keen to move beyond a trade war as it said both sides aimed to resolve issues pragmatically. – Reuters

Taiwan’s people will never forget China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square 32 years ago and will stick with their faith in democracy, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday. – Reuters

Editorial: The incident is part of a broader trend. Last year, after a request from Chinese authorities, Zoom temporarily suspended two U.S.-based accounts of activists attempting to discuss the Tiananmen Square massacre. The Wix episode is a reminder that Beijing intends to censor speech worldwide if it can get away with it. The U.S. and its allies will have to push back against these threats rather than let China dictate what free people around the world can say about Communist Party rule. – Wall Street Journal 

 Josh Rogin writes: There’s growing fear around Capitol Hill that this entire project could go belly up. It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which each chamber ends up passing separate bills that never become law, each patting itself on the back and blaming the other for the overall failure. […]The good news is that it’s not too late for our leaders to get their act together and do what everyone agrees is necessary: Put our country in a position to win the strategic competition with China. But the clock is ticking. – Washington Post

Nury Turkel writes: If the IOC will not act, then the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee will bear responsibility for forcing their athletes to compete and accept medals in the shadows of concentration camps and genocide. Beijing uses its host status as validation and a badge of global leadership, treating the games as a seal of international approval. Athletes are being set up as pawns in Beijing’s global ambition, whether they wish for that or not. By showing up in Beijing, athletes and their coaches will become tools for Chinese government propaganda. – Hudson Institute 

Nikki Haley writes: Companies are free to operate overseas, including in China. But CEOs should be more self-aware. It’s outrageous and embarrassing for them to self-righteously talk about social justice in America while staying quiet when it comes to Communist China’s total injustice. That’s not “woke.” It’s just plain wrong. – Fox News


A celebrated Afghan fighter pilot trained by the American military, who hid for months with his wife and 5-year-old daughter from Taliban death threats, arrived in the U.S. after receiving temporary protection status. – Wall Street Journal 

The following report compiles all significant security incidents confirmed by New York Times reporters throughout Afghanistan for the month. It is necessarily incomplete as many local officials refuse to confirm casualty information. – New York Times

Afghan officials say that at least eight people have been killed in two bomb blasts targeting minibuses in the capital. Kabul police spokesman Ferdous Farmarz said on June 3 that both blasts occurred in neighborhoods that are home to the Shi’ite Hazara minority. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

China and Pakistan are looking to bolster their strategic partnership in Afghanistan, where the withdrawal of U.S. troops after two decades of warfare is set to bring along new opportunities and uncertainties, among them the question of a common foe that the United States says does not exist. – Newsweek

South Asia

Assailants fatally shot a politician belonging to India’s ruling party in disputed Kashmir, and separately, police on Thursday killed a detainee who they said snatched an officer’s rifle and fired at officials inside a police camp. – Bloomberg

Gunmen shot and killed two policemen patrolling a residential area in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, the interior minister and police said Friday. No one claimed responsibility for the Thursday night attack in the Shamas Colony neighborhood. Previous such attacks in Islamabad and elsewhere have been claimed by domestic militant groups like the Pakistani Taliban. – Associated Press

Pakistan has a vibrant press, with dozens of outlets producing content that often takes shots at elected officials. But criticism of the military and intelligence services is a red line. State intimidation tactics, from withholding advertising revenue to waging hate campaigns on social media, have driven many journalists and their employers to self-censorship. – Foreign Policy

Pakistan and Tajikistan have signed several accords to boost ties between the two nations, including defense and armaments. “It is very important that our defense cooperation develops,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said after the June 2 meeting. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A Pakistani court has overturned a lower court decision and acquitted a Christian couple who were sentenced to death more than seven years ago for committing blasphemy after European lawmakers sharply criticized the case. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


New Zealand’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a murder suspect could be extradited to China, but only if the government received sufficient assurances from Beijing that he would not be subject to torture and would receive a fair trial. – New York Times

Eleven days later, the Fenster family still doesn’t know why Danny was arrested or what kind of condition he’s in. All they know is that he’s being held in Myanmar’s notorious Insein prison, which houses political prisoners and has a reputation for inhumane conditions. U.S. government officials have been pushing for the 37-year-old journalist’s release but say that the junta has denied all access to him. – Washington Post

Taiwan’s foreign minister on Thursday said China is seeking political gains abroad in return for providing vaccines and other pandemic assistance, partly to increase pressure on Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory. – Associated Press

China said Thursday its relationship with Cambodia has made positive contributions to regional peace and stability, after the U.S. expressed concerns about the presence of the Chinese military in the Southeast Asian nation. – Associated Press

Japan announced Friday it was sending some of its Covid-19 vaccines to Taiwan, which has been struggling to procure its own supplies and blamed China for impeding shipments of the shots. – Bloomberg

Envoys from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations arrived in Myanmar Thursday for talks with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, as the coup-stricken nation enters its fifth month of crippling unrest. – Agence France-Presse

Oriana Skylar Mastro writes: The palpable shift in Beijing’s thinking has been made possible by a decades-long military modernization effort, accelerated by Xi, aimed at allowing China to force Taiwan back into the fold. Chinese forces plan to prevail even if the United States, which has armed Taiwan but left open the question of whether it would defend it against an attack, intervenes militarily. Whereas Chinese leaders used to view a military campaign to take the island as a fantasy, now they consider it a real possibility. – Foreign Affairs 

Bich T. Tran writes: To improve trust with Vietnam, U.S. policymakers should differentiate revisionist states like China from status-quo communist regimes like Vietnam. A revisionist state seeks to undermine the established international order for the purpose of increasing its relative power in the system. The concept, therefore, concerns a state’s behavior in international affairs. Meanwhile, a communist regime is a matter of domestic politics. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Russia is to ditch the dollar from its sovereign-wealth fund, the country’s finance ministry said, as Moscow accelerates steps toward weaning its economy off the greenback amid the continuing threat of U.S. sanctions. – Wall Street Journal

As President Vladimir Putin rolls out the red carpet for foreign investors at his flagship forum in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin is continuing a sweeping crackdown on political opponents within Russia ahead of key parliamentary elections. – Bloomberg

Russian opposition politician and former lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov was released from custody on June 3 without being formally charged. Gudkov was detained in Moscow two days earlier over an allegedly unpaid debt on a rented property dating from several years ago. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

At least seven Jehovah’s Witnesses have been handed prison terms in Russia amid a continuing crackdown on the religious group, which was banned in the country in 2017. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Tom Bossert, who previously served as former President Donald Trump’s Homeland Security adviser, took aim at the ex-president for failing to “pressure” Russia and hold the adversarial nation accountable following cyberattacks. – Newsweek

Ahead of President Joe Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin this month, more than 60 advocates, former military officers, lawmakers and government officials are asking Biden to put missile defense reductions on the agenda. – Defense News

Aliide Naylor writes: President Vladimir Putin’s promised last year to eliminate poverty in the provinces, where malnourished pensioners queue for giveaways of expired foods. However, this heart-wrenching case is happening in the nation’s capital city. The pandemic has undoubtedly made the situation worse. – Center for European Policy Analysis


While visiting her son in a Belarusian prison, Natallia Makavetskaya saw deep scars on his wrists left by tight handcuffs. She also noticed the yellow tag sewn onto his clothes. The tags mark those jailed for joining demonstrations against authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko and single them out for “particularly harsh prison conditions,” Makavetskaya told The Associated Press. – Associated Press

The U.K. is closing in on a free-trade deal with Norway with an announcement possible on Friday, an official familiar with the matter said. A final agreement hasn’t been reached yet, but any deal is likely to include digital trade provisions that go beyond the deal the European Union has with the oil-rich Nordic country, as well as extra provisions on trade in services. – Bloomberg

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer and the EU envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, are visiting Serbia to press its leaders to resume talks on the normalization of ties with Kosovo. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and more than 20 other groups have encouraged Ukraine’s parliament to address shortcomings in a proposed law to reform the country’s security service before passing it. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

President Joe Biden’s cancellation of Trump-era sanctions meant to halt the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a blow to the Ukrainian economy that will strengthen Russia’s ability to wield its influence against the Eastern European partner, Ukrainian security analysts told the Washington Examiner. – Washington Examiner

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is urging Romanian authorities to stop harassing journalists reporting on corruption and not to pursue criminal cases against them. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The U.N. refugee agency has voiced strong opposition to a law passed by Denmark’s parliament that would allow processing of claims lodged by asylum seekers outside Europe, calling it an “abdication” of its responsibility under international law. – Reuters

A Swiss law giving the police new powers to fight terrorism could expose people to torture abroad and risks harming children, human rights and legal experts told Reuters ahead of a nationwide referendum on the law. – Reuters

Leading Bulgarian politicians welcomed U.S. sanctions on three Bulgarians and 64 companies linked to them over alleged corruption on Thursday, while the European Union signalled its approval by saying it would not impose countermeasures. – Reuters

The top European Union court dismissed on Thursday Hungary’s challenge against the opening in 2018 of a disciplinary procedure against Budapest for undermining democracy in the formerly communist country. – Reuters

Oliver Yule-Smith writes: The United Kingdom, to be sure, is a middle power, but it still has many means available to it to achieve its ends on the global stage. But this can be done only from a position of clear-eyed analysis, not by groping for roles to fill in the world or by appealing to nostalgic visions of a bygone imperial past. The onus is now on policymakers to build on the review to ensure that Acheson’s bogeyman is firmly put to bed. – War on the Rocks

Patrick Tyrrell and Alexander Jelloian write: The Balkan region has made many strides over the past two decades. Gross domestic product has increased. Life expectancy has improved. Educational attainment has risen. Yet corruption persists. If the various governments of the Balkans care about improving the livelihood of their citizens, they need to create an environment of economic freedom and opportunity. The first step is to rid themselves of the dark clouds of corruption. – The Daily Signal


Sudanese investigators probing the massacre of more than 100 protesters in the wake of dictator Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow two years ago are struggling to complete their work amid warnings that their findings could undermine a fragile political transition. – Bloomberg

Shops remained shuttered, some government workers hadn’t been paid and the town’s main hospital was utterly laid to waste. But the Tigrayan fighters still claimed victory, swaggering through the streets of Hawzen with their guns. – Associated Press

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday urged Sudan’s government to swiftly form a Transitional Legislative Council and implement security measures and other provisions in October’s peace agreement. – Associated Press

France issued its strongest threat yet to Mali’s coup leader late Thursday, suspending joint military operations with Malian forces until the junta complies with international demands to restore civilian rule. – Associated Press

A 2017 article by prominent Ghanaian academic and economist Prof. George Ayittey, titled “Chinese investments in Africa: Chopsticks Mercantilism,” critiqued Chinese investment in Africa for failing to deliver on its promised developmental benefits for the continent and serving only to enrich corrupt ruling elites. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Gunmen have attacked another school in northern Nigeria, this time grabbing children as young as 3 before abandoning the youngest ones in the forest when they could not keep up with the group on foot. – Associated Press

A group of traditional chiefs in Namibia said Thursday they have accepted an offer of compensation by Germany and a recognition that the colonial-era massacre of tens of thousands of their people in the early 20th century was genocide. – Associated Press

Twitter removed on Wednesday a post by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari threatening punishment for regional secessionists blamed for attacks on government buildings. – Reuters

Torinmo Salau writes: Even with a new office in Accra, the chances Twitter’s presence on the continent will have a significant impact on the daily realities of people living under authoritarian regimes are remote. Digital authoritarianism is still a threat to basic freedoms and rights in many African countries. For more than two decades, different governments have used a plethora of measures to stifle people’s ability to organize, voice opinions, and participate in governance online. – Foreign Policy

Latin America

Police on Wednesday arrested Cristiana Chamorro, the leading opposition candidate for president, in the latest in a string of moves that have curtailed any challenge to President Daniel Ortega in the November election. […]The detention was assailed by human rights advocates in Nicaragua and abroad. – Washington Post

Several human rights organizations are worried that Vice President Harris’s upcoming trip to Mexico and Guatemala risks focusing too much on immigration and not other issues such as rule of law and government corruption. – The Hill

The Chilean Congress has drafted a bill to boycott goods, services and products from Israeli settlements, with Jewish Chileans expressing outrage at the latest anti-Israel move by Chilean parliamentarians. – Jerusalem Post

The Pentagon and US intelligence agencies are closely tracking two Iranian ships that Tehran claims are bound for Venezuela. – CNN

Jorge Jraissati and Wolf von Laer write: Alternatively, the Biden administration could start using the sanctions strategically. The Biden team must stop looking at the sanctions as an end in themselves but rather as leverage to negotiate with the Maduro regime on human rights and economic freedoms. If the Biden administration looks at them that way, sanctions could be used to improve the individual rights of the Venezuelan people. If not, Biden should expect continued crises in Venezuela—and potentially broader instability in the region. – Foreign Policy 

Chen Aizhu, Mei Mei Chu and Marianna Parraga write: However, the impact on Venezuela’s overall imports to China is not yet certain. Importers may be forced to return to labelling Venezuelan fuel as crude blends, provided they possess or can acquire the required import quotas, traders said. […]But loadings of Venezuelan oil bound for Asia have not stopped, even for those cargoes that will not make it by June 12, suggesting that charterers might try to declare most of them as crude blends, rather than bitumen mix, shipping sources said. – Reuters

The Americas

A military drone that attacked soldiers during a battle in Libya’s civil war last year may have done so without human control, according to a recent report commissioned by the United Nations. – New York Times

The U.N. Security Council will meet June 8 to make its recommendation for the next secretary-general and almost certainly approve current U.N. chief Antonio Guterres who is the only candidate. – Associated Press

David Asher writes: Finally, Congress could waive legal sovereign-immunity protections and support legal claims by U.S. citizens against the Chinese Communist Party if it doesn’t provide quick access to hard evidence about the outbreak. Beijing wants chatter about the outbreak—and the coverup—to go away. Letting litigants seek damages from any Chinese citizens or entities implicated in gross negligence will keep the issue alive in the courts and the public eye. – Wall Street Journal

United States

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to name three new nominees to senior diplomatic and foreign aid positions, including the top State Department official on refugee issues, a White House official told Foreign Policy. – Foreign Policy

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed intelligence officials “didn’t want the world to know” that the Chinese government was trying to cover up the origins of COVID, and that they were happy to “stay focused on other things.” – Newsweek

 David Ignatius writes: The initiative announced Thursday should give heartburn, and worse, to some bankers and lawyers in places such as Geneva, the Cayman Islands and, yes, New York City. It proposes better intelligence collection about the crooks, new tools to expose their shell companies and new penalties for illicit activity. Biden’s anti-corruption plan appears to have some teeth. Here’s hoping they bite. – Washington Post

Ron Kampeas writes: The future of pro-Israel activism in Washington depends on Israel itself, said a veteran AIPAC and Democratic activist who asked to speak anonymously because he had clients in the pro-Israel community. West Bank annexation, for instance, would be a game-changer, said the activist. Netanyahu’s pledge last year to annex parts of the West Bank precipitated what until the most recent war was the most pronounced congressional criticism of his government. – Times of Israel

William Reinsch writes: Biden is a multilateralist who believes in coalitions and cooperation. We should see renewed U.S. engagement with international organizations, including an effort settle to the disputes that have paralyzed the World Trade Organization. Here, as elsewhere, the difference with Trump will be over tactics rather than goals. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Thomas J. Duesterberg writes: The assault — spearheaded by South Africa and India — is not only unlikely to help get more vaccines to the developing world in a timely manner, but has the potential to unravel decades of progress in building an internationally agreed regime for IP rights, which incentivizes and rewards fundamental research and long-term capital investment. This could harm not only the medical products industry, but also spill over to other high-technology sectors that require long years of research and huge, risky capital investments before bearing fruit. – The Hill

David M. Litman writes: All this brings me to another lesson that the world should have learned after World War II: the danger of complacency with failed international institutions. I appreciate President Biden’s desire to engage with the world. However, the Human Rights Council is not the place to do so if one wishes to make the world a better place. – Algemeiner


FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency is investigating about 100 different types of ransomware, many of which trace back to actors in Russia, and compared the current spate of cyberattacks with the challenge posed by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. – Wall Street Journal

Discontent at Facebook has surged over its recent handling of international affairs, according to interviews with more than half a dozen current and former employees. For weeks, they said, employees have complained about the company’s responses in India and Israel. – New York Times

Facebook plans to announce Friday that it will no longer automatically give politicians a pass when they break the company’s hate speech rules, a major reversal after years of criticism that it was too deferential to powerful figures during the Trump presidency. – Washington Post

The European Union and the U.K. opened formal antitrust investigations into Facebook Inc.’s classified-ads service Marketplace, ramping up regulatory scrutiny for the company in Europe. – Wall Street Journal 

The Supreme Court on Monday restricted the scope of a federal anti-hacking law, with the majority of justices saying the government’s “breathtaking” interpretation of the statute could make criminals of “millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens.” – Washington Post

The White House is urging private companies to take “immediate steps” to better protect themselves against ransomware attacks following a pair of high-profile episodes in which hackers, allegedly located in Russia, targeted a major oil pipeline company and a meat supplier with operations in the United States. – Washington Post

The world’s largest meat processing company has resumed most production after a weekend cyberattack, but experts say the vulnerabilities exposed by this attack and others are far from resolved. – Washington Post

The Justice Department announced this week that it will begin elevating ransomware investigations to a similar level of priority as terrorist attacks. John Carlin, the acting deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, told Reuters on Thursday that the federal government will prioritize ransomware cases through a new process. – The Hill

Finance ministers from the G7 group of rich nations will meet in London on Friday for two days of talks aimed at moving closer to a global deal to raise more tax from the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon. – Reuters


The United States military took responsibility on Wednesday for the unintentional deaths of 23 civilians in foreign war zones in 2020. However, non-governmental monitoring groups claim that number is below the actual total. – Newsweek

The U.S. Space Force will set up a single office to assess and secure commercial services, ranging from traditional satellite communications to satellite imagery, the service’s No. 2 official said June 2. – C4ISRNET

Fifteen House lawmakers are calling on appropriators to fully fund a $4.7 billion request for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative amid criticism President Joe Biden’s new defense budget submission has missed the mark. – Defense News

A prototype multibeam antenna passed its first tests, bringing it one step closer to filling the U.S. Air Force’s desire for ensured connectivity through multiple satellite constellations. – C4ISRNET

The chiefs of the U.S., U.K. and French navies met in France on Thursday to affirm their commitment to deeper collaboration and interoperability between their fleets to address some of the most vexing maritime security issues around the globe. – Defense News

Katherine Kuzminski and Nathalie Grogan write: The incoming under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness is positioned to play a pivotal role in military recruitment, retention, and talent management, which will affect the quality of the U.S. military for decades to come. While the outlined responsibilities of this position may seem daunting, the under secretary can leverage intricately connected personnel in the Defense Department, the services, and Congress who share the vision of recruiting and retaining the most effective military in the world. – War on the Rocks

Christopher P. Mulder writes: As the world emerges from the COVID slumber, the U.S. should harness the strategic training advantage by codifying it in the next NDS. Embracing a robust foreign training program mindset, as exemplified in North Texas at ENJJPT, will widen and strengthen the strategic training advantage the US, along with its allies and partners, has over our great competitors. – The National Interest

William M. Danyluk writes: Finally, to achieve the recommendations laid out above, we must have a robust security cooperation enterprise that develops a strategic vision, advocates for resources, influences policy, attracts talent, and trains security cooperation professionals. These actions will grow the FAO talent pool required to ensure FAOs and civilian security cooperation specialists with the right training and experience are placed appropriately at all levels and across all DoD functions to achieve the 2018 National Defense Strategy directive of strengthening alliances as we attract new partners.- Military.com

Long War

Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) aired a report on Hamas’ anti-tank unit on May 31, 2021. Al-Jazeera’s reporter met with an Al-Qas’am Brigades anti-tank unit inside a Hamas military tunnel. Unit members showed the Al-Jazeera correspondent the spot where they launched an attack on an IDF armored bus in the Zikim military base on May 20, 2020. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

A seminal MEMRI study The Coming Storm: Terrorists Using Cryptocurrency published August 2019 focused on jihadis’ growing use of cryptocurrencies and the threat that this poses, and documents how these groups and individuals are already extensively fundraising in cryptocurrencies – including for attacks and for weapons and equipment purchases, for food and necessities for fighters’ families, and more. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) is now targeting Boko Haram’s soldiers after raiding Shekau’s stronghold in Sambisa forest in Borno state, local and security sources said. – Agence France-Presse