Fdd's overnight brief

June 7, 2021

In The News


Candidates in Iran’s presidential election this month traded strong barbs in a debate on Saturday, accusing each other of treason or of lacking the education to run an economy devastated by three years of U.S. sanctions. – Reuters

Iran’s Guardian Council said on Friday that the vetting body will soon announce a review of candidates barred from this month’s presidential vote following the Supreme Leader’s intervention. – Reuters

Britain, France, Germany and the United States will not push for a resolution against Iran at next week’s meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s board despite Tehran’s failure to explain uranium traces found at three sites, diplomats said on Friday. – Reuters 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday welcomed the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will no longer serve as Israel’s Prime Minister once the new government is sworn in. – Arutz Sheva

China is one of the few actors which could potentially save Israel from Iran in favor of stability, a new report by the Institute for National Security Studies exclusively first obtained by The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

An explosion and fire were reported at the Zarand Iranian Steel Company in eastern Iran on Saturday night, in the latest in a series of similar incidents throughout Iran, according to Iranian media. – Jerusalem Post

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Andrea Stricker write: Under the present circumstances, any re-establishment of the JCPOA will be under a very dark cloud, signaling that the United States and the E3 favor temporary nuclear limits on Iran’s nuclear program more than preventing the erosion of IAEA inspections or insisting on Iran providing the necessary cooperation for the IAEA to determine if Iran’s safeguards declaration is correct and complete. World leaders, in essence, would choose convenience rather than doing the difficult but critical work to determine if Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. – Institute for Science and International Security


Hamas and Mr. Sinwar are now confronting the political and economic fallout of repeated clashes with Israel, which have set back development in the Gaza Strip, home to more than two million Palestinians—half of whom live below the poverty line, according to the United Nations. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration has committed to help rebuild Gaza after the devastation of the recent Mideast conflict, but without providing any support to Hamas, which governs the territory and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and its allies. – Wall Street Journal

Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as Israel’s hard-right prime minister now appears to be ending, and with it a tumultuous and politically divisive chapter in U.S.-Israel relations. – Washington Post

The head of Israel’s internal security service said that “extremely violent and inciting discourse” targeting the lawmakers who are seeking to end Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as prime minister could take a potentially lethal form — a grim echo of the warnings ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. – Washington Post

Naftali Bennett may, in some respects, be little different from the man he is set to replace, Benjamin Netanyahu. Both are politicians of the Israeli right, determined to take a hard line in dealing with the Palestinians and committed to their country’s inexorable expansion across land they consider the rightful home of the Jewish people. – Washington Post

An Al Jazeera journalist was arrested in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Saturday, with Israeli police accusing her of attacking officers. – Times of Israel 

A young Palestinian was shot by Israeli troops and seriously injured during clashes north of Ramallah, Palestinian media reported. – Times of Israel 

Israeli security forces launched large-scale searches along the Lebanese border after two people apparently illegally crossed into Israel late Sunday night, the military said. – Times of Israel 

Six Israeli F-35 stealth fighters landed in Italy last week to take part in a two-week air exercise in Italy with its air force, alongside those of the United States and United Kingdom, in the largest and farthest drill that the aircraft have taken part in to date, the military said Sunday. – Times of Israel 

Fatah and various Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions have continued their calls for an intifada through social media, following a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza that ended 11 days of violent hostilities, as highlighted in a press release from Palestinian Media Watch on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

The incoming national unity government will renew final status talk with the Palestinian Authority as soon as it is sworn in, several officials from the Change Bloc have reportedly told the Biden administration. – Arutz Sheva

Two weeks after the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls, senior Israeli officials estimate that it will soon be possible to reach an agreement on the issue of prisoners and missing persons within the next few weeks or months. – Arutz Sheva

Al-Jazeera TV on Sunday evening published previously undisclosed footage from the period in which Gilad Shalit was held captive by the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. – Arutz Sheva

Israeli police on Sunday detained two members of a prominent family in the contested Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem who led protests against attempts by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in the area. The twin brother and sister were released later in the day. – Associated Press

Israel’s attorney general informed the Supreme Court on Monday he will not intervene in the high-profile eviction case before the court against Palestinian families of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in a move officials say bodes ill for the chances of stopping their slated eviction. – Haaretz

Editorial: “Cooperating” with Hamas, meanwhile, is par for the course for UNRWA, which in the past has turned a blind eye as the terrorists store weapons in its buildings and whose workers have been caught with bomb-making material and even throwing firebombs at Israelis. […]Yet in April, Biden restarted the aid, much of which goes to help Hamas provide social services in Gaza, freeing up cash for more nefarious purposes. Hamas showed its deep appreciation a few weeks later — by firing 4,000 rockets at Israel. Surely Biden can think of better uses for US taxpayer money: Burning it would be better. – New York Post

Editorial: The real reason for Schmale’s ousting is that he refused to abide by Hamas’s false narrative. […]This should raise serious questions about the kind of aid that can be provided to Gaza to help alleviate the suffering of the ordinary Palestinians – suffering caused by its own leadership there. Sinwar’s comments show clearly that Hamas has no intention of ending the hostilities. Efforts to help Gaza must take this into account. A way must be found to help Gaza without strengthening Hamas. – Jerusalem Post

Mark Episkopos writes: “There’s truth to the notion that there are major shifts in the party about how we rubber-stamp Israel writ large,” a Democratic Senate aide told The Washington Post. These deep-seated  “shifts” in the way that some American elites think about Israel were not born with Netanyahu’s prime ministership, and show no signs of receding with his imminent departure. The coalition government has its work cut out for it as it navigates uncharted waters in the rapidly changing US-Israeli relationship. – The National Interest

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Israel attacked the system several days into the recent conflict. This apparently occurred when it became clear that Hamas would not stop the long-range rocket fire and Israel’s political leadership took a decision to increase the pressure on Hamas. “I think we learned that Hamas counted on these tunnels and once you take it away it changes the whole fighting ground. It changed the face of these two weeks and the way Hamas uses the tools they have to fight Israel.” – The National Interest


The United States is grappling with a rapidly evolving threat from Iranian proxies in Iraq after militia forces specialized in operating more sophisticated weaponry, including armed drones, have hit some of the most sensitive American targets in attacks that evaded U.S. defenses. – New York Times 

Almost 1,400 of Iraq’s Yazidi minority were left homeless Friday after a fire destroyed sections of their displacement camp, adding a new trauma for survivors of a genocide by the Islamic State group. – Washington Post

Iraqi military said on Sunday that air defences at Iraq’s Ain al-Asad air base that hosts U.S. Forces, intercepted and shot down two drones. – Reuters

Turkey hit a senior Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) official at a refugee camp in northern Iraq, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, in the first Turkish confirmation of an air strike on the camp which Ankara says is a haven for Kurdish militants. – Reuters

Russian media reports are claiming Iraq is interested in purchasing S-400 and S-300 air defense systems as well as Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jets, but experts say Moscow is facing competition due to increased cooperation between Iraq and two regional powers: the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. – Defense News 


Prime Minister-Designate Saad al-Hariri asked the Lebanese government on Saturday to pay its dues to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and for the international community to shoulder its responsibility. – Reuters

French prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into money laundering allegations against Lebanon’s central bank governor, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday. – Reuters

Lebanon’s endless political crisis has continued. Lebanon has lacked a government since Hassan Diab resigned last year after the port explosion. Since then the country has lurched from crisis to crisis. Hezbollah has benefited from this. – Jerusalem Post


Russian charter flights to Egyptian resorts are expected to resume in the coming days after a years-long hiatus, Interfax news agency cited the boss of Aeroflot as saying on Friday. – Reuters

Egypt has sent a convoy of engineers and building equipment to Gaza to begin reconstruction in the Palestinian enclave after the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Egyptian state television reported on Friday. – Reuters

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has never been one to shy away from making bold promises while vowing to revive the Arab world’s most populous state. But in March, he delivered a prediction that was audacious even by his standards. – Financial Times


A ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Saturday killed at least 17 people in a government-held city, including a 5-year-old girl, officials said, as a U.S. envoy to the country accused the rebels of failing to try to reach peace in the war-wrecked nation. – Associated Press

U.S. and British diplomats urged Houthi forces to end an offensive in northern Yemen on Sunday after at least 17 people were killed in an explosion which the Saudi-backed government blamed on a Houthi missile strike. – Reuters

The Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi movement said it intercepted an armed drone launched on Sunday towards the southern Saudi Arabian city of Khamis Mushait, which the group said was fired at a military air base. – Reuters

The United States on Friday blamed Iran-aligned Houthis for the failure of a ceasefire to take hold in Yemen on Friday and accused them of not taking other steps toward ending the brutal conflict. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

The Biden administration is strongly considering a former ambassador to Israel for a role as an envoy to the Middle East, people familiar with the planning said. The role is likely to include a portfolio involving diplomatic accords between Israel and Muslim neighbors that were a hallmark of Middle East policy under President Donald Trump. – Washington Post

Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, a Shiite cleric who as Iran’s ambassador to Syria helped found the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and lost his right hand to a book bombing reportedly carried out by Israel, died Monday of the coronavirus. He was 74. – Associated Press

Akil Marceau writes: The Turkish president never hesitates to accuse Israel of apartheid towards the Palestinians, while he sends the political representatives of his country’s own 20 million Kurds to prison, having removed Kurdish MPs’ parliamentary immunity. Since the 2019 municipal elections, the mayors of 48 out of 65 municipalities won by the pro-Kurdish HDP party were replaced by state-appointed administrators. […]Today’s Kurds cannot imagine an Arab, Turkish or Iranian Saladin freeing them from their oppressors. But the Kurds also have the right to dream, the right to justice, the right to expect solidarity. Their blood shouldn’t be considered cheaper than anyone else’s. – Haaretz

Natasha Hall writes: Geopolitically, allowing Russia to control the conversation over humanitarian operations in Syria every six months is not in anyone’s interest. Donor governments will either need to reduce overall dependence on UN cross-border operations—ensuring greater resilience to obstruction at the Security Council—or extend the mandate indefinitely. Operating in an environment where assistance is regularly obstructed or threatened perpetuates aid dependency and entrenches a war economy at the expense of civilians and regional stability. It contributes to a scenario in which the conflict and the emergency humanitarian response never end. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Ryan Gingeras writes: It might make more sense to see Sedat Peker’s videos as a symptom of a different historic tradition: the lack of official transparency. Given Erdoğan’s stranglehold over the state, no institution, be it the judiciary, the police, or the parliament, appears both willing and able to pursue justice. For the most part, the press can only watch and report what Peker says next. As a result, we are unlikely to ever know just how true Peker’s allegations actually are. […]When the Turkish state cannot be trusted to police itself, citizens and observers alike are left to rely on the word of a gangster. – War on the Rocks


A buzzy Chinese Instagram-like startup backed by the country’s two biggest technology giants had its domestic social-media account shut down amid an investigation by Beijing’s cyber watchdog into a post it shared on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, according to people familiar with the situation. – Wall Street Journal

The latest salvos in China’s campaign against its tech companies make one thing clear: Jack Ma’s businesses aren’t the only ones under the regulatory microscope. – Wall Street Journal

Bitcoin enthusiasts prize the cryptocurrency as beyond the reach of any government. Yet up to three-quarters of the world’s supply has been produced in just one country, China, where a government push to curtail output is now causing global bitcoin turbulence. – Wall Street Journal

Microsoft’s Bing search engine briefly blocked images and videos of the famous “tank man” of Tiananmen Square on Friday, the anniversary of China’s massacre of pro-democracy protesters in 1989, in what the company said was an error. – New York Times 

China’s muted reaction over a U.S. military flight to Taiwan prompted criticism from nationalists online, underscoring the pressures on President Xi Jinping to follow through on heated “red line” rhetoric. – Bloomberg 

Chinese birth control policies could cut between 2.6 to 4.5 million births of the Uyghur and other ethnic minorities in southern Xinjiang within 20 years, up to a third of the region’s projected minority population, according to a new analysis by a German researcher. – Reuters

China is hosting foreign ministers from 10 Southeast Asian nations this week amid heightened competition between Beijing and Washington for influence in the region. – Associated Press

Former President Trump on Saturday called for China to pay “reparations” for its role in the coronavirus pandemic amid a renewed debate around its origins. – The Hill

China on Friday pressed President Biden to provide a “fair and nondiscriminatory” business environment to Chinese companies after the White House expanded a Trump-era order prohibiting investments in certain firms. – The Hill

Chinese officials want to seize the mantle of the world’s “only” superpower from the United States, a four-star U.S. Air Force general is warning Washington’s Indo-Pacific allies. – Washington Examiner

Dr. Anthony Fauci wants to review the medical records of nine people in China whose illnesses might help determine the origins of the coronavirus, he said. – Washington Examiner

A Chinese Communist Party military scientist who got funding from the National Institutes of Health filed a patent for a COVID-19 vaccine in February last year — raising fears the shot was being studied even before the pandemic became public, according to a new report. – New York Post

Editorial: What seems clear is that the regime’s brutal attempts at social engineering — including millions of forced abortions and sterilizations — have complicated not just its aspirations to become the world’s dominant power, but also the long-term prospects for stability in the world’s most-populous country. – Washington Post

Nicholas Wade writes: Dr. Fauci has long suggested that the virus emerged naturally—until the past few weeks, when he started to allow that lab escape is possible and should be investigated. The Jan. 31, 2020, email from Mr. Andersen shows that Dr. Fauci knew from the beginning that experts had serious suspicions about the virus’s origins. There were many other matters on his agenda at the time, but it’s too bad he didn’t ask for an independent panel, one not dominated by virologists, to look into the possibility that Chinese researchers genetically manipulating coronaviruses in low-level safety conditions had sparked a global pandemic. – Wall Street Journal

David R. Stilwell and Bradley A. Thayer write: The proud people of China must recognize that their government’s inability to hold itself accountable has held China back — and will continue to do so. They deserve better. The recent anniversary of Tiananmen and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic give us occasion to ask whether China possesses the credibility required of a great power. – The Hill

Mike Pompeo and Miles Yu write: To forget Tiananmen is to betray freedom and to surrender to tyranny. After decades of misguided engagement with Beijing, the free world is faced with an existential threat from the same Chinese Communist Party regime of 1989 that looked to Berlin not as a hope, but as a warning. The regime in Beijing today is more ideologically animated and more economically, militarily and technologically capable. But America has prevailed against such foes before, and it can stand triumphant again. – The Hill

Mei Fong writes: The two-child policy died a few days before the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Thirty-two years ago, Beijing ruthlessly quashed student demands for political reform. […]Quite possibly, the death of the two-child policy now replaces it as the greatest act of resistance on Chinese soil. The women of China have resoundingly voted with their wombs against the government’s latest attempt to dictate their reproductive choices. They’re saying: No. No. No. – Foreign Policy

David Asher and Miles Yu write: There is an opportunity for a bipartisan, bicameral initiative to establish a 21st-century framework for defending the United States and international partners against the prospect of another devastating pandemic. We cannot afford further impunity by Beijing and passivity from Washington as we enter what may be a century of synthetic biological adventurism and potential biowarfare. – Hudson Institute


The rapid U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan is creating intense pressure on the C.I.A. to find new ways to gather intelligence and carry out counterterrorism strikes in the country, but the agency has few good options. – New York Times 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Friday urged the Biden administration to “immediately” evacuate Afghan citizens who helped U.S. forces before the military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. – The Hill

A minivan carrying civilian passengers in northwest Afghanistan was hit by a roadside bomb, leaving at least 11 passengers dead, including three children, an Afghan official said Sunday. – Associated Press

Taliban insurgents show no sign of reducing the level of violence in Afghanistan to facilitate peace negotiations with the government, and appear to be trying to strengthen their military position as leverage, with the “unprecedented violence” of 2020 carrying into 2021, U.N. experts said in a new report circulated Friday. – Associated Press

An Afghan airstrike on Friday that targeted Taliban fighters inside an abandoned army base in southern Helmand province killed at least 20 people, including some civilians, reports said. – Associated Press

China plans to link Afghanistan to the Belt and Road Initiative as the withdrawal of NATO forces from the country clears the way for Beijing’s return to one of the ancient Silk Road nations. – Washington Examiner

Afghan government forces could lose the single most important military advantage they have over the Taliban — air power — when private contractors and U.S. troops leave the country in coming weeks. – NBC

Editorial: “The United States has no obligation to evacuate one, or 100,001, South Vietnamese,” then-Sen. Biden said in 1975 as the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam. The result was the exodus of the “boat people,” many of whom died in the open ocean, that was a stain on America. Mr. Biden has an opportunity—make that an obligation—to do better by thousands of Afghans. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Another possibility is to consider widespread use of parole processing into the United States. This does not confer immigration status but could be used to admit large numbers of people, who would then apply for various pathways, such as visas or asylum. The U.S. refugee program could also be expanded to cover Afghans not covered by the SIV program, such as at-risk humanitarian aid workers, activists and journalists. It’s essential to plan now, and not leave these loyal allies behind during an ignominious retreat. – Washington Post

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah writes: The United States will undoubtedly be remembered for the last things we do as we leave Afghanistan. We have the opportunity to bookend our nation’s longest war with the world’s boldest humanitarian evacuation in modern history. It is critical that President Biden heed the growing calls of thousands of veterans, human rights groups and legislators. As the clock on withdrawal winds down, the stakes could not be clearer: Our Afghan allies’ lives, as well as our nation’s legacy, are on the line. – Washington Post

Ronald E. Neumann writes: Morale is as much a part of combat power as equipment and technology. The current uncertainty undercuts morale and could gravely weaken the Afghan army just as major Taliban attacks begin. And if the army crumbles, it will be the women of Afghanistan, the journalists, judges, democracy activists and the like — the same people now being regularly assassinated — who will be left to the Taliban’s mercy. – Washington Post

South Asia

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday that Pakistan is ready to restart talks with arch-rival India if Delhi provides a roadmap towards restoring the previous status of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. – Reuters

Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan is pushing for a political settlement in Afghanistan before foreign troops leave later this year, to reduce the risk of civil war in its western neighbour. – Reuters

India has told Twitter Inc it has one last chance to comply with new IT rules, or face “unintended consequences” according to a copy of an official letter seen by Reuters. – Reuters

S. Paul Kapur writes: Trump’s South Asia strategy was clear on the need to link U.S.-Pakistan cooperation with improved Pakistani behavior, and the Biden administration would do well to take a similar approach. Even if doing so does not change Pakistan’s policies, then it will create incentives for improvements and, at the very least, not support ongoing Pakistani malfeasance. Pakistan is too important for the United States to ignore. But the United States must not harbor any illusions regarding a reset in U.S.-Pakistan relations. – The National Interest


Envoys from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called on Myanmar’s junta to free all political prisoners and discussed implementing a regional “consensus” to end turmoil since the Feb. 1 coup, the regional bloc said. – Reuters

Thailand is concerned at the violence in many parts of Myanmar and wants to see the implementation of steps agreed by Southeast Asian leaders with the military junta to help end the turmoil since the Feb. 1 coup, the foreign ministry said on Sunday. – Reuters

The top lawyer for Myanmar’s deposed leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, voiced concern on Friday that she had no legal representative listed in the case against her brought by the military junta for breaking the Official Secrets Act. – Reuters

Myanmar’s security forces clashed with villagers armed with catapults and crossbows during a search for weapons in the Ayeyarwady river delta region on Saturday and local media reported as many as 20 people had been killed. – Reuters

The international campaign to pressure Myanmar’s military putschists to relinquish power has run aground at the United Nations, amid growing resistance by the country’s Chinese and Southeast Asian neighbors against imposing an arms embargo and sanctions on the military junta. – Foreign Policy


Apprehensive about Hong Kong’s future as the best place to do business in China and beyond, multinational firms are pulling up stakes, adding to uncertainty about the outlook for one of the world’s premier commercial cities. – Wall Street Journal

Thousands of people in Hong Kong defied a huge police presence and threats of jail to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, seeking to keep alive an annual vigil that has become an important symbol of opposition to China’s continuing crackdown on freedoms in this former British colony. – Wall Street Journal

Taiwan and its leader, Tsai Ing-wen, were riding high last year as the island fended off the coronavirus, expanded its economy and won vocal support from Washington. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. will give Taiwan 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, part of President Joe Biden’s move to share tens of millions of jabs globally, three American senators said Sunday, after the self-ruled island complained that China is hindering its efforts to secure vaccines as it battles an outbreak. – Associated Press

A Hong Kong activist was released Saturday after being detained on suspicion of publicizing a commemoration of China’s deadly crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and said her arrest was meant to have a chilling effect on marking the anniversary. – Associated Press

A South Korean court on Monday rejected a claim by dozens of wartime Korean factory workers and their relatives who sought compensation from 16 Japanese companies for their slave labor during Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea. – Associated Press

Three U.S. senators will visit Taiwan on Sunday and will meet President Tsai Ing-wen to discuss security and other issues, Taiwan’s government and the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei said on Saturday, a trip that will likely irritate China. – Reuters

Kazakhstan on Saturday dismissed a senior Russian official’s idea of a joint response to Western sanctions against Moscow and its allies such as Belarus by a Russia-led post-Soviet trade bloc. – Reuters

British judge Brenda Hale will step down from Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal next month when her three-year term expires, the judiciary said on Friday, a move that may deepen uncertainty over the role of foreign judges in the semi-autonomous city. – Reuters

Tensions escalated along a disputed segment of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border as Bishkek said on June 4 that Tajik military personnel had placed a container overnight on what Kyrgyz officials called “a disputed area” along the border between the two Central Asian nations. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Having survived being shot, stabbed, and severely beaten in his home French city of Nantes, well-known Azerbaijani vlogger Mahammad Mirzali says he’s receiving new warnings and that his life is in danger. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

U.S. Pacific Air Forces is crafting a dual strategy of defensive capabilities and dispersal of forces in order to negate the threat posed to its forces and bases by China’s increasing military capabilities, the PACAF commander said. – USNI News

Timothy McLaughlin writes: But in Hong Kong’s new political climate, resistance to Beijing is far more difficult. Wong is now in jail and facing charges under the national-security law. The overhaul of primary and secondary education he helped keep at bay is well under way, targeting students as young as 6 years old. Benny Tai, a legal scholar and former HKU professor targeted for years by Beijing, was sacked last year after being found guilty for his role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement demonstrations. Like Wong, he is now in jail and charged with violating the national-security law. – The Atlantic


Less than two weeks from a first face-to-face with President Biden in Geneva, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday criticized the U.S. prosecution of rioters who took part in the January attack on the Capitol, calling it an example of American “double standards.” – Washington Post

A well-known Russian opposition politician who was held in police custody for two days last week in a criminal investigation said Sunday that he has left the country for Ukraine. – Associated Press

Ukraine provoked Moscow’s ire Sunday as its football federation unveiled Euro 2020 kits that feature Russian-annexed Crimea and popular nationalist slogans. – Agence France-Presse

Families of people who died in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 said they were preparing to hear painful details when a critical stage of a trial over the crash starts on Monday. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States was wrong to think that it is “powerful enough” to get away with threatening other countries, a mistake, he said, that led to the downfall of the former Soviet Union. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that suggestions the Russian state was linked to high profile ransomware attacks in the United States were absurd and an attempt to stir trouble ahead of his summit this month with U.S. President Joe Biden. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed legislation that bars members of “extremist” organisations from running for office, a move allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny say aims to sideline them from parliamentary election this year. – Reuters

While claims of links to Moscow have not yet been proven, there is a distinctly Russian-style pattern in the attempt to use disinformation to sow division and doubt among people living in western democracies, which dates back decades. – Business Insider 

Russia has completed the laying of a controversial gas pipeline to Europe in defiance of western sanctions, president Vladimir Putin said as he derided US attempts to prevent its construction. – Financial Times

For anyone who thinks the seven-year-old war with Russia is over, they need only spend time on the front line in eastern Ukraine. These positions are shelled two to three times a week. Soldiers die, casualties continue. – Washington Examiner

In a political changeover that turned Ukraine away from Russia and toward the West, Russia seized the peninsula, and its Black Sea navy easily encircled Ukrainian ships, capturing 70% of the country’s navy. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: Needless to say, it is up to Russians to change Russia. But politically motivated imprisonment is a violation of Moscow’s international commitments — and this week the number of political prisoners (already higher than in the late Soviet era) has grown again. The European Union has demanded that the Kremlin “immediately and unconditionally” release Pivovarov and others unjustly detained. On June 16, during his meeting with Putin in Geneva, President Biden will have a good opportunity to do the same. – Washington Post

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: Mr. Putin is letting the U.S. know he holds it responsible for ensuring that he doesn’t end up like Gadhafi, whose overthrow, frantic flight and roadside murder is said to have strongly affected Mr. Putin. He probably doesn’t need to worry. The Biden administration is not going to break form here. If it was, the president would not be meeting with Mr. Putin in Geneva in a couple of weeks. – Wall Street Journal

Liz Peek writes: If nothing of significance is to arise from the talks, why hold them? Biden has much to lose and not much to gain for playing diplomatic Russian Roulette. Canceling the meeting would show that he has a backbone and is not afraid to incur Putin’s inevitable wrath. That would be the better prize. – The Hill

Daniel Davis writes: Nothing is going to happen quickly, diplomacy takes time, but Biden can arrest the downward trend in relations with the only superpower that has the nuclear capacity to destroy our country. This mutually assured destruction, however, successfully deters an unprovoked Russian attack against our country. Biden is safe, therefore, in engaging in hard-nosed diplomacy that reduces tensions and increases the chances that U.S. interests are successfully served. – Washington Examiner


As they prepare to welcome President Biden, the simple fact that he regards Europe as an ally and NATO as a vital element of Western security is almost a revelation. – New York Times 

Footage of detained journalist Roman Protasevich that aired on Belarusian state television Thursday has raised renewed concerns that he is being coerced to take part in political propaganda under duress. – Washington Post

Italy’s last government had already begun to cool on Chinese investment amid significant US pressure. Even so, Draghi’s move marked a decisive Italian shift towards a foreign policy he has described as “strongly pro-European and Atlanticist, in line with Italy’s historical anchors”. – Financial Times

The U.K. government urged the European Union to show a “common-sense” approach to their post-Brexit future ahead of a key meeting this week, where the two sides will seek solutions to prevent further unrest in Northern Ireland. – Bloomberg 

Thousands demonstrated against a Chinese university’s planned campus in Budapest, saying the project reflects Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s disregard for democratic values. – Bloomberg 

A Belarusian opposition leader on Friday helped unveil a new monument commemorating Solidarity, the Polish trade union and freedom movement that played a historic role in the collapse of communism in eastern Europe. – Associated Press

The United States’ reputation as the leading global power has suffered in France and Germany because of Washington’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed nearly 600,000 Americans, a poll showed on Monday. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden will warn British Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to renege on the Northern Ireland Brexit deal when they meet for the first time at the G7 summit this week, The Times reported on Monday, citing unidentified sources. – Reuters

Belarus carriers will be banned from flying over European Union territory or having access to its airports from Friday, the bloc said, as the country’s exiled opposition leader called for more joint Western sanctions. – Reuters

Bulgaria will set up its own “blacklist” of companies and people associated with three Bulgarians and 64 entities that the United States has imposed sanctions on over alleged corruption, preventing state dealings with them, the interim government said late on Friday. – Reuters

Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry accused Belarus on Friday of an attempt to interference with diplomatic mail and summoned Minsk’s ambassador to lodge a protest over the matter. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in an interview with Axios published on Sunday, implored President Biden to meet with him before Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he would meet “at any moment and at any spot on the planet.” – The Hill

Belarus’s diversion of a commercial flight to arrest an opposition activist and journalist last week “has to have consequences,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday. – The Hill

European Parliament President David Sassoli has called for allowing Western Balkan states into the European Union, saying expanding the EU would be positive for peace and prosperity. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Serbia’s president says European Union-mediated negotiations on normalizing relations with Kosovo will resume within days. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Ethnic divisions and racial conflict did not exist in modern Ukraine until 2014, when Russia engineered civil strife to weaken state control. Moscow’s efforts to sow discontent here continue seven years later, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Washington Examiner. – Washington Examiner

Russian intelligence activity in Germany has significantly increased and now reached Cold War levels, Berlin’s top domestic intelligence chief warned. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

Editorial: President Joe Biden said last month that US sanctions are “in play” but declined to “speculate until we get it done.” Now Belarus’ ruler has added torture to the illegal kidnapping of a man who should’ve been protected by international law. Whatever Biden had in the works, it needs to get tougher still: Lukashenko and his inner circle all need to suffer until they free Pratasevich and pay damages for his suffering. – New York Post

President Joe Biden writes: At the same time, I have also imposed meaningful consequences for behaviors that violate U.S. sovereignty, including interference in our democratic elections. And President Putin knows that I will not hesitate to respond to future harmful activities. […]This is a defining question of our time: Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world? Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries? I believe the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have the chance to prove it. – Washington Post

Demetri Sevastopulo, Sam Fleming and Michael Peel write: While enthusing about the benefits of deeper co-operation, EU officials and diplomats complain that they have so far only seen a relatively thin array of US proposals for specific outcomes from the summits. […]While Europeans have strongly welcomed the thaw with the election of Biden, some mutter darkly about what might come in four years, particularly with Trump threatening to run again for the White House. – Financial Times

David Frost writes: We want an approach based on the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland. That means putting the Good Friday Agreement first and supporting rather than undermining the political process and the institutions. […]In 2019 we agreed, as a huge compromise and for the greater good, to control certain goods movements within our own country and customs territory. If that situation is not to be totally unsustainable we need to be able to do so in ways which do not disrupt everyday life and which respect everyone’s identity and interests. We continue to work for negotiated solutions which achieve this. – Financial Times


Nigeria has blocked Twitter after the social media site deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened secessionist groups in the southeast who had been responsible for attacks on government offices. – New York Times 

Germany’s offer to fund projects in Namibia worth more than a billion euros ($1.22 billion) over 30 years to atone for its role in genocide and property seizures in its-then colony more than a century ago is not enough, Namibian Vice President Nangolo Mbumba said on Friday. – Reuters

France said on Thursday it was suspending its joint military operations with local troops in Mali as part of efforts to pressure the military junta there to restore a civilian-led government. – Reuters

The World Bank said on Friday it had temporarily paused payments to operations in Mali following a military coup, while the man expected to become the new prime minister warned sanctions would only complicate the country’s crisis. – Reuters

James Barnett writes: Fears of Nigeria’s impending collapse are as old as the state itself, which is reason enough to temper the most pessimistic predictions. But there are no quick fixes to the country’s insecurity, as the banditry crisis attests. The Nigerian government has unveiled an ambitious plan to create special cattle ranches to mitigate farmer-herder violence, which most believe is the key to reducing banditry. – Foreign Policy

Latin America

But the two-day gathering, convened in Miami over the weekend, also included a potential milestone moment in global economic policy: The president of El Salvador announced that he is trying to make bitcoin legal tender in his country, which would be the first in the world to take such a step. – Washington Post

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s coalition hung on to its control of congress in mid-term elections on Sunday but lost its super-majority in the lower house, according to preliminary results that indicated that one of Latin America’s most popular leaders could face new limits on his power. – Washington Post

Nicaraguan police detained another opposition presidential hopeful Saturday, the second such arrest in four days, and charged him with “conspiring against Nicaraguan society,” ratcheting up the government’s repression against potential opponents of President Daniel Ortega in coming elections. – Wall Street Journal

The United States is expected on Monday to announce steps to tackle human trafficking and smuggling in Guatemala, a senior U.S. official said, as Vice President Kamala Harris visits the region to try to lower migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle countries. – Reuters

El Salvador on Friday pulled out of an anti-corruption accord with the Organization of American States (OAS) in protest at an OAS decision to take on as an adviser an opposition politician under investigation, and also ordered his arrest. – Reuters

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Friday slammed the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) ahead of mid-term elections this weekend, prompting a terse response from the head of the Washington-based association. – Reuters

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Ms. Harris’s show of support for Ms. Aldana and Ms. Porras was political theater. If the U.S. vice president were serious about drawing investment to Guatemala, she would have told them to go home and face justice. Paraphrasing Ms. Aldana from her time as the nation’s top prosecutor, if there’s nothing to hide, there’s nothing to fear. – Wall Street Journal

Ann Deslandes writes: López Obrador’s public accusations have a political purpose. The president appears to be confronting his critics in civil society in part by tapping into resentment among Mexicans over their country’s unequal interdependence with the United States. […]Beyond an attempt to score political points by going on the offensive against the United States, the features of López Obrador’s discourse—state-sponsored repression of independent journalism and widespread misinformation campaigns—nullify his claim to protect the country from destabilization by outside forces. – Foreign Policy

North America

Canada’s official opposition party wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use his time at the G7 Leaders’ Summit to take a stand against China and call for the 2022 Winter Olympics to be moved from Beijing. – Associated Press

But now the relationship between western oil companies and their governments is undergoing a dramatic shift as governments commit to going green and fossil fuels fall out of favour — a move that gathered pace in April when US president Joe Biden convened an international climate summit to put pressure on countries to cut emissions. – Financial Times

Leonard Hochberg and Michael Hochberg write: For far too long, American national security analysts have ignored the geopolitics giving rise to Mackinder’s nightmare. Authoritarian powers have a strong history of finding common cause and coordinating their actions; autocrats have the luxury and the curse of making decisions without legislative debate. If the U.S. fails to deter coordinated action by the axis of autocracy — China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — these powers surely will find common cause and a multi-front war will result. – The Hill

Herman Pirchner, Jr. and Alexander B. Gray write: The United States, and its allies and partners, have an opportunity in Ukraine to demonstrate their commitment to the existing international order, and thereby to deter potential aggressors long before military force is required. […]Such signals will send a clear message not only to Moscow, but to Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang as well. Weakness remains provocative, while strength deters. The coming decade is not necessarily destined to be one of continued military aggression and adventurism by our authoritarian competitors. – The Hill


It can feel abstract: A group of organized but faceless criminals hijacking corporate computer systems and demanding millions of dollars in exchange for their safe return. But the impact of these ransomware attacks is increasingly, unavoidably, real for everyday people. – Washington Post

Facebook said Friday that it plans to suspend former president Donald Trump for two years following his comments inciting violence in the wake of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. – Washington Post

More transparency is needed into what kind of cash payments are made after ransomware attacks, a top Democrat said, following a recent spate of cyber-attacks aimed at U.S. companies. – Bloomberg

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Sunday called for more public-private cooperation on cyber defenses and said U.S. adversaries already are capable of using cyber intrusions to shut down the U.S. power grid. – Associated Press

Foreign keyboard criminals with scant fear of repercussions have paralyzed U.S. schools and hospitals, leaked highly sensitive police files, triggered fuel shortages and, most recently, threatened global food supply chains. – Associated Press

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco on Friday urged companies to tell federal authorities whether they paid ransom to cyberattackers, saying such information can help investigators. – Reuters

Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson said Saturday she is more concerned about a cyberattack on the government than another insurrection like the one that rocked Capitol Hill on Jan. 6. – The Hill

Former CIA chief Leon Panetta said that Russian hackers behind recent crippling cyberattacks are “terrorists” as the Biden administration ramps up efforts to curtail the intrusions. – The Hill

Cox Media Group, which owns television and radio stations in 20 media markets around the U.S., was the victim of a ransomware attack Thursday, according to several reports. – The Hill

A Latvian woman has been charged with developing malicious software used by a cybercrime organization that infected computers worldwide and looted bank accounts of millions of dollars, the Justice Department said Friday. – Associated Press

Bryan Harris and Dave Lee write: The approach is a controversial one, given the potential for retaliation and escalation. What most cyber security experts have agreed on, however, is the need for sustained political pressure on Russia to hold hackers accountable. The White House has pledged to take up the issue with Putin at the upcoming Geneva summit, although few expect the Russian leader will change course. – Financial Times


It is time for the Pentagon to deliver on its joint war-fighting concept after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed off on foundational strategy behind Joint All-Domain Command and Control, the three-star leading the effort said Friday. – C4ISRNET

The Navy’s cost estimate for the lead ship in its new ballistic-missile submarine program grew by $637 million over the last year, according to the service’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget submission. – USNI News

The Space Force is asking Congress for $832 million in extra funds for 2022, including $279 million in unspecified classified programs and $113 million in funds for new types of missions such as deep space surveillance and tactical ISR for the Air Force. – Breaking Defense  

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has signed the strategy guiding the massive effort to knit troopers on the front lines to F-35s, submarines, satellites, ships and commanders across the globe, known as Joint All Domain Command and Control. – Breaking Defense

Dov S. Zakheim writes: In the absence of budget caps now that the Budget Reduction Act no longer is in force, it is possible that Congress could increase the DOD top line. No less important, however, will be congressional action on both the budget’s details and its focus. America’s allies and friends will be watching carefully as Congress responds to a defense budget that, for the first time in many years, is not a top administration priority; so too, and far more ominously, will America’s enemies. – The Hill

Hal Brands writes: That fact isn’t lost on Beijing; any hope that the U.S. would revert to its pre-Trump state of complacency has surely been dispelled. But as Biden rightly dials up so many aspects of the competition, the Sino-American rivalry is moving into a sharper, more dangerous phase. That’s a bad time to keep a tight lid on a deficient defense. – Bloomberg 

Long War

Armed assailants killed more than 100 people in an attack on a village in northern Burkina Faso, the government said on Saturday, burning houses and leaving many more injured in one of the deadliest assaults the West African nation has seen in years. – New York Times 

The Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) militant group said in an audio recording heard by Reuters on Sunday that Abubakar Shekau, leader of rival Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram, was dead. – Reuters

The multinational effort to stave off an encroaching takeover by extremists in the part of Africa known as the Sahel is facing severe challenges. – BBC

The Kurdish-led administration in Syria’s northeast handed over on Saturday to the Netherlands a Dutch woman, her two young sons, and a Dutch girl, who lived in a camp for families of alleged Islamic State militants. – Associated Press