Fdd's overnight brief

March 15, 2021

In The News


Former secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the U.S. re-entering the Iran nuclear deal would make the Middle East ‘less secure.’ – The Hill

An Iranian container ship was damaged in an attack in the Mediterranean, the state-run shipping company said on Friday, adding it would take legal action to identify the perpetrators of what it called terrorism and naval piracy. – Reuters

Israel is highly likely to have been behind an attack in the Mediterranean this week that damaged an Iranian container ship, an Iranian investigator said on Saturday, Iran’s media reported. – Reuters

The United States and Iran have begun indirect diplomacy with Europeans and others conveying messages about how they might resume compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday. – Reuters

The husband of the British-Iranian dual national facing new charges a week after finishing a five-year sentence said Sunday that his wife was a “political bargaining chip” who would be convicted again. – Agence France-Presse

French tourist Benjamin Briere, who was arrested in Iran 10 months ago, faces charges of “spying and propaganda against the system”, one of his lawyers told Reuters on Monday, at a time of heightened tension between Tehran and the West. – Reuters

Several coast guards were injured in southern Iran when a crowd angered by the shooting death of an alleged fuel smuggler attacked their post, an Iranian news agency said on Saturday. – Reuters

If Iran is “absolutely determined” to develop a nuclear weapon, the only way to stop the rogue regime may be militarily, according to Elliott Abrams. – Jerusalem Post

Two dozen members of the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), sent a bipartisan letter today calling for continued pressure on Iran to Secretary of State Tony Blinken. – Jewish Insider

Senior security officials have recommended that Israel work to deescalate a stand-off with Iran in which both sides have accused each other of recently attacking merchant ships, damaging them with explosives. – Times of Israel

Iranian officials have told teachers to identify children from the minority Baha’i religion to convert them to Islam as part of an ongoing crackdown on the group. – Times of Israel

The last week has proven that the new US administration and the European trio (UK, Germany and France) have fallen prey to Iranian blackmail and threats, despite the “terms” they declared which many thought reflected the administration’s hesitation to give the mullahs a blank check on the nuclear deal. – Arutz Sheva

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The strange timing of Iran’s claims about the ship, which is named after a city in Iran, illustrate the murky world of shipping, especially when such shipping is linked to Iran or Iranian attacks, and now, Israel-Iran tensions. Is it a coincidence that one day, a US newspaper reports on alleged Israeli attacks, and the next day, Iran says that a ship widely known to be involved in other shipments to conflict zones, is targeted in an attack? – Jerusalem Post

Mohammed Khalid Alyahya writes: America needs to return to the idea of enemies and allies, and dispense with the idea of being a mediator. Iran’s attacks on Saudi Arabian civilian infrastructure, via its proxies in Yemen and Iraq, are reactions to US policy – not Saudi Arabian policy. Appeasing Iran, and punishing US allies, will come at the expense of the entire region. – The Independent

Dennis Ross writes: All these moves should be geared toward convincing the Iranians to dial back their pressure campaign and resume negotiations on the nuclear issue. […]The administration has a good argument on the nuclear program: if the only thing the Iranians really want is sanctions relief and they get it by the restoration of the JCPOA, we can always reimpose the Trump sanctions after negotiating for a defined period of time (e.g., twelve to eighteen months) if the Iranians prove unwilling to work out a successor agreement. – The National Interest


As Syria marks the 10th anniversary Monday of the start of its uprising-turned-civil war, President Bashar Assad may still be in power, propped up by Russia and Iran. But millions of people are being pushed deeper into poverty, and a majority of households can hardly scrape together enough to secure their next meal. – Associated Press

Pope Francis has renewed his “heartfelt appeal” to all sides in the Syria conflict to demonstrate “signs of good will so that a glimmer of hope can be open for the exhausted population.” – Associated Press

Josh Rogin writes: The easiest way to dismiss the call for action in Syria is to present it as a false choice between a full-blown Iraq-style military invasion and doing nothing. But that is using a false analogy to justify a penny-wise, pound-foolish strategy. […]The American people may be tired of the Syrian crisis, but the Syrian people — those who have survived the horrors of this war — are determined. They know their decade-long struggle for dignity and freedom is far from over, whether the world supports them or not. – Washington Post


Seth J. Frantzman writes: Turkey’s goal was not to help the Syrians, but use them, eventually recruiting them as mercenaries to fight abroad. A longer-term view may be held by Qatar, which is seeking to regain influence in Syria and Lebanon, and dovetails with Turkey’s policies. Egypt and the UAE want to reengage more with Damascus. That means there is a game afoot for new state-to-state discussions 10 years after the Syrian civil war. Turkey’s decision to try to somehow reenter into the region is part of that larger discussion. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: The only certainty is that when Erdogan’s tenure ends, it will be much more sudden than any expect: No dictator wakes up thinking today will be his last day. While it is easy for the U.S. Embassy and European diplomats to ignore the political opposition and focus only on Erdogan and his inner circle, it is essential they develop relations now with those who seek to replace Erdogan. Indeed, nothing could signal more the importance the West places on Turkey’s democracy than a concerted effort to respect the country’s political plurality. – American Enterprise Institute


Kosovo’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it has formally opened its embassy to Israel in the disputed city of Jerusalem. – Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was deterred from flying to the United Arab Emirates through Saudi Arabian airspace last week because of the threat of missile fire from Iranian proxies in Yemen. – Associated Press

The Palestinian Authority and the Arab League on Saturday condemned the Czech Republic’s opening of a diplomatic office in Jerusalem as a violation of international law. – Reuters

As the IDF completes preparations for possible combat in both the southern and the northern fronts — where it is expected to encounter a smarter, well-organized enemy —the Defense Ministry, the IDF’s Ground Forces and Elbit Systems have revealed a precise, laser and GPS guided mortar munition: the “Iron Sting.” – Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has intervened to prevent Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi from traveling to the United Arab Emirates on Monday to inaugurate Israel’s new missions in the Gulf country, Channel 12 reported Sunday. – Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly ordered the closing of Israeli airspace to flights heading to and from Jordan in retaliation for Amman’s delaying of a plane slated to shuttle the premier to the United Arab Emirates last week. – Times of Israel

The Israeli military said Friday that it had conducted a joint naval exercise with Greece and Cyprus, in the latest sign of growing cooperation with the two countries that, like the Jewish state, increasingly view Turkey as a rival in the Mediterranean Sea. – Times of Israel

After an Israeli woman crossed the border into Syria last month, the Syrians who interrogated her demanded she lead Syrian troops to an IDF military outpost to capture Israeli soldiers, according to Saturday reports – Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority’s Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs held a ceremony in Gaza in honor of freed female prisoners on International Women’s Day. […]Senior official of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Maryam Abu Daqqa lauded Palestinian women and said that they have been an integral part of the armed-struggle and resistance against Zionism, from the early days of the “Zionist invasion” to the “modern-day Palestinian revolution.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Simon Handler writes: Any meaningful progress toward a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians can take place only with a foundation of mutual trust. […]Disinformation threatens to erode what little trust exists between the two sides, further deludes parties into believing that they are even more polarized than they really are, and feeds into the agendas of extremists unwilling to consider cooperation. Until there is a means to rebuild trust on a foundation of facts, negotiations will fail and a vicious circle of violence will persist. Israelis and Palestinians can prioritize truth over lies and build a more prosperous future together. – The Hill

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Countering drones is a good place for Israeli and UAE defense tech to begin, because the systems are defensive, not controversial, and pose no threat to other countries. The need for multi-layered air defense is something Israel knows well from developing Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow missiles and interceptors. […]Better drone solutions will include more radar, more electro-optics to confirm the threat visually, and the ability to attempt jamming and use “hard kill” options to take them down. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Israel prevented Jordan’s crown prince from a high-profile visit to Jerusalem that would have included the Haram al-Sharif and apparently other sites, such as churches. […]Incidents like this, as well as Netanyahu meeting the security guard who was involved in the 2017 incident, have made ties appear cold. Nevertheless there are other agreements that appear to work, such as having Jordanians come to Eilat for work. – Jerusalem Post


Iraqi Christians say they will “never forget the joy” of Pope Francis’ historic visit to the country but they don’t expect it to stem the minority’s exodus from the country. – Agence France-Presse

Abdulsalam Medeni writes: Nonetheless, neither pessimism, nor seeking to escape these problems without fixing them, nor migrating to Europe and the United States is a solution to the country’s problems. To that point, the Rwanga Awards promote the idea that optimists will make history. Many young people have been through the trials of modern Iraqi life, but they still managed to create better situations for themselves and for the coming generations with willpower and diligent management. […]By recognizing young Iraqis who reflect these values, the foundation hopes to empower those who lead Iraqi society towards a better future. – Washington Institute

Munqith Dagher writes: For that reason, the Iraqi government, those holding on to power, and even the international community must ensure transparent and impartial elections if they want to avoid this slippery slope. The most important question in Iraq today is no longer if change in the political system will happen or not, but rather: What kind of change will it be? Will it be safe and nonviolent, based on the ballot box, or unsafe and dangerous through uprising or a popular revolution of which we may not know the extent, but do know the risks. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

Kuwait’s constitutional court ordered the country’s most outspoken opposition lawmaker expelled from parliament on Sunday, inflaming tensions between the government and legislature and revealing the limits of political freedom in the Gulf state. – Associated Press

The U.S. has resumed sending humanitarian aid to northern Yemen, which is currently controlled by Houthi rebels, as a past blockade on assistance was helping exacerbate a humanitarian crisis in the area. – The Hill

The United States plans to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts, alongside the United Nations and others, to end the war in Yemen, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told U. N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, a State Department spokesperson said on Sunday. – Reuters

Yemen’s Houthi forces fired a missile on Sunday at a school in the Taiz region where pro-government forces are stationed, killing 15 soldiers, as well as three children who were nearby, two residents and military sources said. – Reuters

A “sound plan” for a nationwide ceasefire in Yemen has been before Houthi leadership for “a number of days,” but it appears the group is prioritizing a military offensive to take Marib, the U.S. special envoy on Yemen, Tim Lenderking, said on Friday. – Reuters

The leadership of Yemen’s Houthi rebels is apparently prioritizing a military offensive over its plan for a nationwide cease-fire, the U.S. special envoy to the Middle Eastern country said Friday. – VOA News

Saudi Arabia

Yemen’s Houthi movement launched on Monday armed drones on Abha airport and an air base in the southern town of Khamis Mushait in Saudi Arabia, a spokesman of the group’s military said. – Reuters

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said it intercepted and destroyed a drone launched by the Iran-aligned Houthi group towards the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, state TV reported early on Monday. – Reuters

A Saudi court has rejected an appeal by prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul that would have allowed her to travel freely, her family and supporters said. – CNN

Iran-backed Houthi militants have “prioritized” a major military offensive while ignoring a U.S. ceasefire proposal, even as President Biden pressures Saudi Arabia to curtail military operations in the civil war. – Washington Examiner

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have ramped up drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia over the past month, employing increasingly sophisticated drones and missiles to hit targets across the kingdom’s territory, Defense officials and experts say. – NBC News

Michael Knights writes: Given their bombardment of Saudi Arabia and their ground offensive to seize Yemen’s largest energy hub at Marib, the Houthis appear determined to escalate their way to either all-out victory or a better position at the negotiating table. This strategy could galvanize Riyadh to take face-saving measures, including more-strenuous military efforts, further strikes in Yemen (e.g., Saudi forces hit drone and missile construction facilities in Sanaa on March 8), and a visible hesitance to play a constructive role in U.S.-led peace efforts. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Hezbollah slammed over the weekend an article that appeared in an Israeli Hebrew daily claiming to reveal – for the first time – the secret IDF intelligence file on Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the terror organization’s leader. – Jerusalem Post

Western countries on Friday called on Egypt to end the prosecution of activists, journalists and perceived political opponents under counter-terrorism laws, and to release them unconditionally. – Reuters

Turkey’s actions must show alignment with Egypt’s principles and goals for relations between the two countries to return to normal, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Sunday. – Reuters

Jared Kushner writes: The table is set. If it is smart, the Biden administration will seize this historic opportunity to unleash the Middle East’s potential, keep America safe, and help the region turn the page on a generation of conflict and instability. It is time to begin a new chapter of partnership, prosperity and peace. – Wall Street Journal

David Schenker and Ghaith al-Omari write: Whoever is to blame, the deterioration is cause for concern in Washington. As beneficial as Israel’s Abraham Accords with Gulf states may be, the entire region will be less secure and stable if the fundamental peace pillars erected before them—the treaties with Egypt and Jordan—are allowed to founder. Jordan serves as Israel’s strategic depth to the east, and its cooperation with Jerusalem is a key factor in any “by, with, and through” U.S. defense strategy in the Middle East. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has not responded to behind-the-scenes diplomatic outreach since mid-February by President Joe Biden’s administration, including to Pyongyang’s mission to the United Nations, a senior Biden administration official told Reuters on Saturday. – Reuters

Threats from China and North Korea will loom large over the Biden administration’s first Cabinet-level trip abroad, part of a larger effort to bolster U.S. influence and calm concerns about America’s role in Asia. – Associated Press

LG Energy Solution says it will invest more than $4.5 billion in its U.S. battery production business by 2025 as automakers ramp up production of electric vehicles. – Associated Press


A federal judge has blocked enforcement of the U.S. investment ban on Xiaomi Corp., calling the decision to blacklist the Chinese technology giant “deeply flawed.” – Wall Street Journal

President Biden is preparing to confront China on a range of issues in the coming week as he seeks to reassert America’s position on the global stage. – The Hill

Britain’s foreign secretary on Saturday criticized China for continuing to violate the Sino-British Joint Declaration as Beijing further tightens control over Hong Kong. – Associated Press

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday that tariffs and export controls will not be a top issue when U.S. and China holds their first in-person meeting next week. – The Hill

Olympic chief Thomas Bach on Friday pleaded that there be no boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games over China’s treatment of its Uighur minority, saying it would only punish athletes. – Agence France-Presse

Group of Seven powers on Friday demanded that China honor commitments in Hong Kong and end “oppression” against democratic activists after Beijing forced sweeping changes of the city’s election system. – Agence France-Presse

Despite growing concerns about Chinese disinformation and propaganda in Europe, the EU’s trade deal with Beijing makes no attempt to rectify the stark differences in access rights between European and Chinese investors when it comes to media and news operations. – Politico

Containing China and revitalizing strained alliances are the two main objectives of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s first overseas trip to the critical Indo-Pacific region, but he will also try to draw India closer to the United States, said defense officials and experts. – Washington Examiner

The Federal Communications Commission concluded that five Chinese telecommunications companies, including Huawei, pose a risk to U.S. national security, a significant move early in the Biden administration after the Trump administration’s all-out effort to limit the Chinese tech company’s reach in the United States and abroad. – Washington Examiner

China accused the U.K. of “groundless slanders” after the British government said Beijing’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong wasn’t in compliance with a treaty that paved the way for the city’s return to Chinese control. – Bloomberg

In a March 11, 2021 article, Chinese dissident Wang Dan, leader of the Chinese democracy movement and one of the student leaders of the1989 Tiananmen Square protests, coined the term “de-Dengization” and argued that Xi Jinping’s drive to bring Hong Kong to heel is primarily motivated by his desire to erase Deng Xiaoping’s legacy. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Editorial: In January, the State Department under the departing Trump administration also found China guilty of genocide, and President Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has confirmed that judgment. […]Beyond that, the Biden administration and other democracies must take on the question of whether to attend the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. To do so when the Xi regime is actively seeking to destroy a group of more than 12 million people would be unconscionable. Washington Post

Mitt Romney writes: Let us demonstrate our repudiation of China’s abuses in a way that will hurt the Chinese Communist Party rather than our American athletes: reduce China’s revenues, shut down their propaganda, and expose their abuses. An economic and diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics — while proceeding with the Games — is the right answer. – New York Times

Harlan Ullman writes: Dissent is not new to China. Currently, more than 100,000 major protests occur in China over standards of living, corruption and government failure to provide adequately for the people. None of this suggests China is about to collapse, of course. But the U.S. would be short-sighted at best, and derelict at worst, if it were not to attempt an objective assessment of China focused on strengths and weaknesses. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: Like Belarus, these are mainly a collection of African nations that rely heavily on China for economic investment (and for depleted fishing stocks) and Islamic nations such as Pakistan that don’t care much for their fellow Muslims. I don’t say that lightly, but Pakistan’s endorsement of China’s genocide against the Uyghur Muslim people of Xinjiang province is striking. Put simply, China’s human rights defenders are a collection of the bought and the desperate. – Washington Examiner

Max Hastings writes: Unfortunately, recent history — the oppression of Uighur Muslims in Western China, for example —suggests that Xi is willing to bear economic pain, and to shrug off international abuse, in order to assert and extend Chinese power. The world will be fortunate to escape a Taiwan showdown. Whether or not we accept Blackwill and Zelikow’s prescriptions, they are right that the U.S. needs urgently to dust off its options to meet a looming threat. – Bloomberg

Pranay Vaddi and Ankit Panda write: Chinese officials have ducked U.S. offers for strategic dialogue in recent years; hopefully, following an upcoming ministerial meeting, U.S. and Chinese civilian and military officials can discuss — and begin to define — strategic stability. By beginning this dialogue, U.S. officials can focus on solving the qualitative challenges that actually exist, rather than getting bogged down in imagined concerns about “overmatch.” – Defense News

Steven W. Mosher writes: This is why the games should always be held in countries where human rights are respected. This is why Beijing, where that overarching spirit is violated every day, is such a bad choice for the Winter Olympics of 2022. The Chinese Communist Party should not be allowed to hide its atrocities behind the drama of athletic competition. Because if medals were given to nations for committing human rights abuses, China would win the gold every time. – New York Post


The United States has launched its most aggressive push yet for a political settlement to end two decades of conflict in Afghanistan, but some Afghan officials are warning the campaign could backfire, by deadlocking talks, undermining the elected government and plunging the country deeper into violence. – Washington Post

Facing a high-stakes choice and running out of time to make it, the Biden administration is wrestling with whether to follow through with a full withdrawal in the next seven weeks of the 2,500 American troops still in Afghanistan — except, as it turns out, that number is actually around 3,500. – New York Times

It was a throwaway line in a grim Human Rights Watch report that sent me on my quest: “The Taliban run dozens of unacknowledged prisons.” Here, for me, was a new and sinister aspect of the kind of parallel government that this insurgent group has constructed in Afghanistan. – New York Times

A powerful car bomb killed at least eight people and wounded 47 in Afghanistan’s western Herat province, officials said Saturday. Hours later, the U.N. condemned an “alarming” increase in attacks in the country targeting civilians. – Associated Press

The Afghan government said on Saturday it would participate in two separate U.S.- and Russian-backed peace conferences in the coming weeks. – Reuters

The UN Security Council called Friday for the “full, equal and meaningful participation of women” in Afghanistan’s peace process, without mentioning recent US efforts to end the conflict there. – Agence France-Presse

Russia said Friday it backed the Taliban’s integration into a future interim government in Afghanistan, as global powers ramped up efforts to secure a peace deal and end decades of war. – Agence France-Presse

Afghanistan’s interior minister said Saturday that Afghan security forces can hold their ground even if U.S. troops withdraw, challenging a warning from the United States predicting a withdrawal would yield quick territorial gains to the Taliban. – Associated Press

Fighting in Afghanistan will intensify sharply and Taliban militants could threaten major cities unless a Biden administration diplomatic push to end the 20-year conflict yields results in the next two months, according to two senior U.S. commanders. – LA Times

Albert Hunt writes: The heart says don’t leave those struggling women. If just a few more months or a year would do the trick, it’s a no-brainer. But if America stays, the Taliban will attack our forces, pressure will mount to send in reinforcements. On May 1, 2022, we’ll hear the same arguments: just a little more time. – The Hill


Dozens were killed and several Chinese factories set ablaze in Myanmar on Sunday during the deadliest weekend since the country’s military seized power in a coup last month. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration Friday granted temporary legal authorization to Myanmar citizens living in the U.S. without permission, its latest response to the coup that ousted the country’s elected civilian leaders. – Wall Street Journal

Two ambitions lie at the center of President Biden’s foreign policy agenda: rebuilding ties with frustrated allies and assembling a united front on China. – New York Times

U.S. video streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are looking to the Indian market to power their global growth. – Washington Post 

Sri Lanka will ban the wearing of the burqa and shut more than a thousand Islamic schools, a government minister said on Saturday, the latest actions affecting the country’s minority Muslim population. – Reuters

Myanmar’s ruling junta has declared martial law in parts of the country’s largest city as security forces killed more protesters in an increasingly lethal crackdown on resistance to last month’s military coup. – Associated Press

Concerns about China’s growing influence in the region is expected to be a main focus when two ministers of President Joe Biden’s administration visits Japan for their first in-person talks with their Japanese counterparts. – Associated Press

A court in Myanmar extended on Friday the pretrial detention of an Associated Press journalist who was arrested while covering demonstrations against a coup. He is facing a charge that could send him to prison for three years. – Associated Press

A block on mobile data networks across Myanmar on Monday scuppered a scheduled video court appearance by ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as protesters returned to the streets after the bloodiest day since the military coup six weeks ago. – Agence France-Presse

Japan is on deck this year as the next US ally to formally tie a knot to Space Command, following in the footsteps of France and Germany. – Breaking Defense

Joe Biden, Narendra Modi, Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga write: Over the course of these past months, each of us has grieved the suffering that our people and the world have endured. But in this dark hour, our partnership offers a spark of hope to light the path ahead. […]We summon from tragedy the strength and resilience to unify and overcome. And we recommit ourselves, once again, to an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, secure and prosperous. – Washington Post

Antony J. Blinken and Lloyd J. Austin III write: Not all countries share this vision. Some seek to challenge the international order — that is, the rules, values and institutions that reduce conflict and make cooperation possible among nations. […]Our combined power makes us stronger when we must push back against China’s aggression and threats. Together, we will hold China accountable when it abuses human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, systematically erodes autonomy in Hong Kong, undercuts democracy in Taiwan or asserts maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law. If we don’t act decisively and lead, Beijing will. – Washington Post


Russia is not likely to build its own version of China’s Great Firewall to control the Internet. The reasons are social (Russians like foreign social media and would hate to lose access) and technical (China’s Internet developed differently than Russia’s, making it easier to cordon off.) – Washington Post

Russian police on Saturday arrested around 200 opposition politicians and municipal deputies at a Moscow conference as authorities tighten the screws on Kremlin critics ahead of parliamentary elections. – Agence France-Presse

The Biden administration is preparing additional sanctions on the controversial Russia-Germany gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, according to officials familiar with the internal deliberations, as lawmakers demand the pipeline project be derailed before it’s too late. – Politico

Three NGOs on Monday announced a landmark legal case in Moscow against Russian mercenary group Wagner over the torture of a detainee in Syria, aiming to hold to account a murky fighting force with Kremlin links. – Times of Israel

Heather A. Conley, Cyrus Newlin, and Roksana Gabidullina write: In sum, there is some room for optimism that Russian and U.S. negotiators can use the five-year extension to New START to begin building a new arms control “scaffolding” that will be able to address new technologies and prioritize the issues presenting the most immediate challenge to second-strike capabilities. Once a sturdier U.S.-Russian strategic stability negotiation framework is constructed, greater trilateral negotiating opportunities with China can be pursued. Progress in these areas will pave the way for greater success in other important multilateral non-proliferation forums such as the NPT Review Conference. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


But despite the warm words and efforts at rebuilding trust, the American willingness to punish its European allies and impose sanctions on them in pursuit of foreign-policy goals continues to rankle. – New York Times

Ireland is counting on U.S. support to help maintain the political stability of Northern Ireland as Britain withdraws from the European Union, Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Sunday ahead of a virtual summit with President Joe Biden. – Reuters

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday faced a snub from one regional leader and criticism from another as he visited Northern Ireland, with tensions growing over its post-Brexit status. – Agence France-Presse

Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney said on Saturday that Britain was demonstrating “perverse nationalism” by seeking to reach a trade deal with the United States before the European Union and questioned whether it was a trustworthy partner. – Reuters

For as long as Donald Trump was president, Ukraine was at the center of America’s partisan political brawls. President Joe Biden is now trying to shift the U.S. focus on Ukraine away from domestic politics and back onto Kyiv’s anti-corruption efforts — a push he helped initiate as vice president. – Politico

Britain’s Labour opposition party have questioned the legality of the government’s use of trade figures to hit back at Brexit concerns voiced by industry groups. – Politico

Editorial: Volodymyr Zelensky the Ukrainian president whose phone call with President Donald Trump led to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment, has yet to receive a call from President Biden. But the delay has nothing to do with Mr. Trump’s corrupt attempt to force Mr. Zelensky to dig up dirt on Mr. Biden. Instead, the new U.S. administration is seeking to induce Mr. Zelensky to tackle his own country’s endemic corruption — something that is vital to stabilizing its economy and preserving its fragile independence from Russia. – Washington Post

Martin Sandbu writes: A better place to look for hope is in the lesson that Biden’s stimulus package in the US teaches. Unless Europe becomes much more ambitious, its recovery stimulus and public investment boost both look set to be dwarfed by what Washington is seeking to achieve. But what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If the US can quickly repair the economic damage from the pandemic — and then some — by unleashing the full force of government spending, then so too, surely, can Europe. – Financial Times


Just two days before Uganda’s election in January, David Lule recalled, men dressed in black broke into his home in the middle of the night, threw him into a truck, pulled a hood over his head, and beat him until he passed out. – Washington Post

In recent months, the long-festering conflict between insurgents — linked to Isis but fuelled by local grievances — and the government has intensified, rendering hundreds of thousands of people homeless and many more living under the threat of famine. Last week the US government officially designated the insurgents as a foreign terrorist group and emphasised their links to Isis. – Financial Times

The Central African Republic voted in the second round of a legislative election on Sunday as it battles back against a rebel insurgency the government has called an attempted coup. – Agence France-Presse

Armed men attempted to kidnap more students in Nigeria’s Kaduna state overnight on Sunday, a state government official said, as 39 others from an earlier attack remain missing. – Reuters

Ethiopia on Saturday rejected U.S. allegations there has been ethnic cleansing in Tigray, pushing back against the latest criticism of its military operation in its northern region by the new administration in Washington. – Reuters

The State Department on Friday said Washington has decided not to lift the pause in assistance to Ethiopia for most programs in the security sector, days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described acts in Tigray as ethnic cleansing. – Reuters

Latin America

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Paraguay to work with its diplomatic ally Taiwan to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, after protests in the South American country over the government’s handling of the health crisis. – Reuters

Mexican left-leaning President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador celebrated on Friday the decision by a Brazilian Supreme Court to annul graft convictions of the South American nation’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. – Reuters

President Biden is in no rush to lift former President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign on Venezuela. – The Hill

Lawmakers are seeking to block President Biden from reversing the Trump administration’s last-minute decision to list Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. – The Hill

The Venezuelan government is using fake Twitter accounts to sway public opinion and stop authorities in the West African islands of Cape Verde from extraditing its chief dealmaker to the US, according to an intelligence analysis. – Financial Times


The sophisticated hacks pulled off by Russia and China against a broad array of government and industrial targets in the United States — and the failure of the intelligence agencies to detect them — are driving the Biden administration and Congress to rethink how the nation should protect itself from growing cyberthreats. – New York Times

A senior US official said Friday the Biden administration is close to a decision on retaliation for state-sponsored hacking as fears grew over the fallout from the latest of two major cyberattacks. – Agence France-Presse

Russia on Saturday accused the United States of using IT opportunities to engage in unfair competition and of social media platforms arbitrarily and indiscriminately censoring content. – Reuters

President Biden is not planning to launch any new surveillance initiatives overseeing American companies in response to a series of cybersecurity disasters “at this time.” – Washington Examiner

U.S. Cyber Command is working to instill more seamless integration of disparate cyber war-fighting systems. – C4ISRNET

Christopher Bass and Michael Sexton write: By following the guidance offered here the Biden administration will avoid wasting its time trying to form a regional security alliance modeled after NATO and put itself in a strong position to prevent dangerous cyber behavior, facilitate the creation of cyber norms bolstered by greater inter-state cooperation, and take a significant step towards increasing accountability for regional allies who misuse their cyber capabilities. […]Most of all, they are strategies that acknowledge cyber’s increasingly important role in the Middle East and its implications for U.S. interests without overshadowing or deprioritizing other regional challenges. – Middle East Institute


International deliveries of arms were flat in the period 2016-2020, ending more than a decade of increases, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report on Monday. – Reuters

The Pentagon’s onerous acquisition pipeline is “antithetical to prioritizing” artificial intelligence and must change if the country hopes to stay ahead of China, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Friday. – C4ISRNET

When new commanding officer Capt. Paul Lanzilotta wakes up each morning on USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), his long and diverse to-do list highlights the balance the aircraft carrier is trying to strike as it wraps up its new-ship testing and prepares for shock trials this summer, while also carrying out other duties as the only available aircraft carrier on the East Coast. – USNI News

The Army says its new long-range, land-based missiles will help Air Force and Navy strike planes, not compete with them — and despite traditional rivalries, some crucial Air Force and Navy leaders are listening. – Breaking Defense

Early plans for a long-awaited new ballistic missile defense system are on the desk of Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, but the industry proposals, expected to be approved for development contracts awarded this month, may take more time to work through the process. – Breaking Defense

The leaders of U.S. Southern and Northern Commands will visit Capitol Hill this week as lawmakers step up their annual defense budget work even as they wait for the White House’s official spending proposal. – Military Times

The Air Force is doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to airmen eligible for the service’s aviation bonus program in fiscal 2021 — but the lengths of the contracts have been revised slightly since last year. – Air Force Times

The U.S. Air Force is on its way to ameliorating a technical glitch that has left KC-46 tanker pilots waiting to take off, sometimes for hours, as a key system starts up. – Defense News

NATO and its member nations have formally agreed upon how the alliance should target and coordinate investments in emerging and disruptive technology, or EDT, with plans to release artificial intelligence and data strategies by the summer of 2021. – C4ISRNET

Everett Pyatt writes: While it may sound trivial, the Navy is built around its ships. The Biden administration faces several problems in maintaining and building the future Navy as it faces growing Chinese and Russian threats. […]All of these need to be solved concurrently in a period of fiscal challenge brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. – Defense News

Rachel Ellehuus and Pierre Morcos write: Political will is vital to prevent such a framework from turning into a hollow shell. […]If NATO moves too quickly or aggressively, it risks widening divisions in the alliance. Alternatively, if it moves too slowly or is overly technical in its approach, it will fail to achieve its broader political objective of repairing the values gap and restoring political cohesion. All in all, a careful balance between restraint and ambition will be paramount in this endeavor to renew NATO’s cohesion. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Long War

Islamist militants have killed about 30 government soldiers in a series of clashes in northeast Nigeria since Wednesday, military and civilian militia sources said on Sunday. – Reuters

The story of Doha Sabah Abdallah’s personal tragedy and loss deeply resonated with Pope Francis during his historic visit last weekend to the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh, once devastated by Islamic State group militants. – Associated Press

Emilia Columbo, Judd Devermont, and Jacob Kurtzer write: The Biden administration should consider revoking this designation or at least immediately issue waivers or general licenses for humanitarian assistances. […]In the case of Yemen, the Biden administration revoked a similar designation at the behest of concerted efforts by the humanitarian community. Notably, in Yemen, the designation included general licenses for humanitarian organizations to carry out their work. – Center for Strategic and International Studies