Fdd's overnight brief

March 17, 2021

In The News


Iran has started enriching uranium at its undergroIran hasund Natanz plant with a second type of advanced centrifuge, the IR-4, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a report reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday, in a further breach of Tehran’s deal with major powers. – Reuters

France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that efforts to revive nuclear talks with Iran were being held up by “tactical problems” and the domestic situation in Iran ahead of its presidential election in June. – Reuters 

Iran’s defense minister said on Tuesday that the country must be ready to defend itself against nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. – Times of Israel 

A U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran remains possible, but both sides need to be prepared to negotiate, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog suggested to European lawmakers on Tuesday. – Associated Press

Twelve House Democrats and twelve House Republicans sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week arguing that the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran did not sufficiently ensure that the Islamic Republic could never obtain a nuclear weapon. – Jerusalem Post

Danielle Pletka writes: So, is the Biden administration taking a measured approach to rejoining the JCPOA? Are we really a “long way” from returning to the nuclear deal? Or is the group that negotiated the deal in the first place, the group that opposed stronger sanctions on Iran, opposed the Suleimani killing, waved off Iranian regional behavior, ridiculed Trump’s talk of negotiating a better deal with Iran, defended a crackdown by the regime on its own people and otherwise looked away as Iran sought to dominate the Middle East, actually preparing for a wide-open, all access negotiation for an Iran deal plus? Is what the US Senate has heard in nominations hearings true? Or was all this sweet talk just, as Joe Cirincione hoped, a “confirmation tactic”? We’ll know soon enough. – The Dispatch 


On the 10th anniversary of the protests, The Associated Press spoke to activists from Daraa who set aside their lives to join the marches in the streets, then paid the price in torture and exile. Unable to return home, they continue from abroad to support a cause that they hope can still prevail, despite Assad’s military victories. – Associated Press

China has joined Russia in criticizing a strategy of unilateral military actions and economic sanctions followed by the United States in Syria as the country marked a full decade of civil war. – Newsweek

Israel carried out airstrikes in Syria late Tuesday night, Syrian state media reported, in the latest in a series of raids attributed to the Jewish state. – Agence France-Presse

Mohammed Hassan writes: The aim of ISIS, currently and in the near future, is to erode the power of its opponents in the Badia. To do so, it will harass and destabilize them, dividing them physically, chipping away at their morale, and attacking them from unexpected directions. In doing so, the group will apply the strategy of indirect confrontation that it has been developing since its collapse in 2017, which enables it to avoid casualties in its ranks and allows it to wait for a favorable opportunity to return to the forefront of events, as happened earlier in Syria and Iraq. – Middle East Institute

David Gardner writes: US president Joe Biden wants to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that Donald Trump tore up. […]Any solution would need a new regional entente and security architecture, followed by massive reconstruction that Gulf Arab actors could profit from as they diversify away from oil. Right now, that looks more like a mirage than a vision. That does not mean there is any viable alternative. – Financial Times

Bobby Ghosh writes: These are challenges of a high order, and the problems of Syria are much more complex than, say, those of Yemen. But the Biden administration may have more leverage than Blinken lets on. […]A robust application of sanctions and the appointment of a Syria envoy would send important signals of Biden’s resolve to rectify the failures of his predecessors. They might even give his Secretary of State something salutary to take with him for the rest of his days. – Bloomberg


Senior diplomats from Greece and Turkey met in Athens on Tuesday in an effort to ease long-standing tensions between the two NATO members over disputed sea boundaries and related mineral rights. – Associated Press 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia is seeking to buy armed unmanned aerial vehicles from Turkey, after years of tension between the two regional powers. – Reuters 

Michael Rubin writes: As for Cyprus, Turks and Turkish settlers in Cyprus are far more extremist in general than Cypriot Turks. This is one of the reasons why Erdoğan is playing demographic games in Cyprus and also trying to impose his ideological extremism. The only solution to this is ultimately to expel Turkish settlers and to raise the cost upon all Turks of Turkey’s continued occupation. […]Frankly, the only diplomatic discussion now should be how many billion dollars in compensation Turkey should pay to Cyprus for its crimes on the island. – Simerini 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: By setting up a challenge to Greece and Israel, Turkey may be preparing the way for increased tensions down the road with Cyprus, Egypt and France. These countries, along with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, appear to have increasingly shared interests. […]This means an underwater cable or gas pipeline may be symbolic of larger, changing dynamics. Turkey, for instance, is nonplussed that Saudi Arabia is also working with Greece. – Jerusalem Post


Israeli voters, trapped for two years in a vote-rinse-repeat cycle of toss-up elections, are about to go to the polls for a fourth time with at least one new factor to consider: Their next prime minister — even if it is their old prime minister — will have to deal with Democrats. – Washington Post

Israel’s holding parliamentary elections for the fourth time in two years on March 23 — yet while it seems we’ve seen this film before, the domestic and global landscapes have changed vastly since the last vote. – Bloomberg 

Fourteen different Palestinian factions on March 16 signed an agreement to abide by an electoral “honor code” in the upcoming Palestinian elections, following negotiations in Cairo. – Times of Israel 

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday met in Berlin with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, kicking off a European tour aimed at underscoring the threat from Iran’s nuclear program and rallying opposition to the International Criminal Court’s decision to probe alleged war crimes by Israel and Palestinian terror groups. – Times of Israel

Israel is ranked among the world’s top ten arms exporters during the past five years and has an estimated 90 operational nuclear weapons, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published Monday. – Algemeiner 

Israel has four more peace agreements in the works, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. – Algemeiner 

After significant upgrades, Israel’s famed Iron Dome missile-defense system successfully and simultaneously intercepted a barrage of rockets and drones in a recent round of tests. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF recently hosted a visit by a dozen European ambassadors along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, aimed at influencing European perception regarding the regional threats posed by Hezbollah and Iran. – Jerusalem Post

On March 10, 2021 Yahya Sinwar was re-elected as leader of Hamas’s political bureau. Over the years MEMRI has published statements by him expressing support for armed resistance against Israel and threatening further deadly attacks on it, as well as statements describing Hamas’s ties with and loyalty to Iran. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Iran has again demanded that U.S. troops leave Syria in the interests of regional peace, even as militia attacks continue against American and allied targets across the border in Iraq. – Newsweek

Kyrgyzstan has brought back dozens of children from Iraq, becoming the latest Central Asian state to repatriate its citizens since thousands from the region went to fight with extremist groups in Iraq and Syria. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Ranj Alaaldin writes: Relying on its own intelligence community and that in Erbil and Baghdad, the administration should not be averse to formally and categorically attributing attacks by Iran-aligned groups to the regime in Tehran. Doing so is an important first step toward diminishing the illusion that these groups and their conduct cannot be tied to the regime, and will help mobilize international support aimed at deterring Iran from carrying out further proxy attacks to enhance its bargaining power during negotiations over its nuclear program. – Foreign Policy 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran denied its involvement in a series of recent attacks against Iraq late Monday night. The attacks targeted US bases. […]It is unclear if the rockets were the usual Iranian-supplied 107mm that are used by pro-Iranian groups in Iraq to attack the US. A logistics convoy that supplies US forces was targeted on March 13 in Iraq. Another was targeted on March 11. This appears to be a systematic Iranian-backed campaign against the US in Iraq. Like the attacks on Saudi Arabia from Yemen, Iran is trying to set the region alight. – Jerusalem Post


Lebanon on Tuesday released a social media activist on bail after her lawyer filed an appeal against a three-year sentence for “collaborating” with Israel, the lawyer and a judicial source said, according to AFP. – Arutz Sheva

Protesters burned tyres and blocked roads in Beirut on Tuesday as the Lebanese currency crashed past a new milestone. Market dealers said the Lebanese pound was trading at around 15,000 to the dollar, having lost a third of its value in the last two week to stand at barely a 10th of what it was worth in late 2019, when Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis erupted. – Reuters 

Lebanon is scaling back food subsidies and will gradually raise gasoline prices to save dwindling foreign reserves, the caretaker finance minister said. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Tensions are rising in Western Sahara, a large strip of desert stretching along the Atlantic coast north of Mauritania. Formerly a Spanish colony, the area has been claimed for the past half-century by both Morocco and the independence-seeking Polisario Front, which each control part of it for now. In November, the Polisario ditched a 30-year cease-fire with Morocco and has since claimed daily attacks on Moroccan military personnel. – Bloomberg 

Indian state refiners are planning to cut oil imports from Saudi Arabia by about a quarter in May, in an escalating stand-off with Riyadh following OPEC’s decision to ignore calls from New Delhi to help the global economy with higher supply. – Reuters

The war in Yemen is “back in full force,” the United Nations mediator told the Security Council on Tuesday amid renewed attempts to get the warring parties to talk and U.N. warnings that the country is spiralling toward a massive famine. – Reuters

Korean Peninsula

Kim Yo Jong, 32 years old, is a senior North Korean official helping oversee the country’s policies toward the U.S. and South Korea, according to Seoul’s intelligence agency. She is often at her brother’s side during key events in the one-party state. Among her various titles, Ms. Kim is the nominal head of the North’s propaganda and agitation department. – Wall Street Journal 

North Korea might begin flight testing an improved design for its inter-continental ballistic missiles “in the near future,” the head of the U.S. military’s Northern Command said on Tuesday, a move that would sharply increase tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. – Reuters 

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday the United States’ alliance with South Korea is ever more important because of growing security concerns over China and North Korea, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported. – Reuters 

Five months later, Biden is president, and getting ready for a big diplomatic push in Asia. And one new report, citing a Biden official says his administration is pushing for renewed talks with North Korea- but that there’s been no reception to those overtures so far. – The National Interest 

Doreen Horschig writes: It was a false alarm, as it turned out—caused by human error. But residents wouldn’t know that for another thirty-eight minutes. Given the geopolitical tensions between North Korea and the United States at the time, the threat seemed plausible. – The National Interest 

Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith write: The Americans’ message has focused on marshalling their Asian alliances to counter potential “coercion and aggression” by Beijing. That represents a challenge for Seoul, which is not eager to provoke China – its largest economic partner. President Moon Jae-in also needs the backing of both U.S. President Joe Biden and the Chinese to have any hope of achieving a breakthrough with Pyongyang in his final year in office. – Reuters


The United States punished 24 Chinese officials on Wednesday for undermining Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms, acting days before the first scheduled meeting of senior Chinese and American diplomats since President Biden took office. – New York Times 

Nine students, including six Americans, who attend New York University in Shanghai were detained by Chinese police in two separate incidents on the same night last week, university personnel and U.S. officials told The Washington Post. – Washington Post 

Mr. Xi’s climate-saving ambitions are a pillar of a plan for the country’s post-pandemic ascent that was endorsed by China’s Communist Party-controlled legislature days ago. The plan is designed to steer the country toward two signature commitments that Mr. Xi made last year. – New York Times

China has used the COVID-19 pandemic to rapidly expand its “corrosive, insidious influence” – from money laundering for transnational gangsters to using its own ships to illegally fish protected waters and benefit from illegal logging and mining – “in our neighborhood,” U.S. Southern Command’s top officer said Tuesday. – USNI News 

China told local media not to broadcast next month’s Oscars ceremony in real time and to play down coverage of the awards, according to people familiar with the matter, after a documentary on the Hong Kong protests was nominated and amid concern over the political views of Best Director contender Chloe Zhao. – Bloomberg 

The People’s Liberation Army Navy has conducted “intensive” combat exercises in three major seas surrounding the country, Chinese military channels reported this week. – Newsweek 

China has expressed its opposition to U.S.-led foreign policy developments in the Asia-Pacific as Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin landed in Tokyo early Tuesday. – Newsweek

The crackdown that followed the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 was but the latest fierce reaction to social unrest following a loosening of ideological control. Xi Jinping aims to cement CCP power over the population to prevent any expression of unhappiness with the current “harmonious socialist society.” The Xi personality cult being developed in China is a strategy to maintain absolute power while allowing ordinary citizens to savor a certain measure of material wellbeing and a great deal of government-sponsored national pride. – Middle East Media Research Institute   

Defending Guam is at the heart of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a massive effort pushed by Congress to add more military hardware to the Indo-Pacific area and work more closely with partners and allies. It’s all an effort to counter a more aggressive China, officials say. But China is unlikely to target Guam today — or maybe ever, says Larry Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, who worked in the Pentagon under the Reagan administration. – NPR

John R. Bolton writes: This first high-level Washington-Beijing encounter will not resolve any major issues, and no one expects it to. If Blinken and Sullivan emphasize that Biden is developing a coherent strategy to resolutely oppose China’s objectionable behavior, that alone would be a vital difference from the past 12 years. If not, however, the China question will become an increasingly important focus of America’s domestic political debate, and one where Biden is unlikely to fare well. – Washington Post

Joseph Bosco writes: The Americans should tell Wang and Yang that the provocative legislation would be tantamount to a declaration of intent to wage war — not only against Taiwan but against the United States, as Taiwan’s “security partner” and primary defender. The law, if implemented, would be a mistake of catastrophic proportions for China’s communist government. – The Hill

Melinda Liu writes: For his part, Biden cannot afford to seem soft on China by relaxing Trump’s tough approach. Nor is Xi inclined to make concessions. His support at home has grown with the perception that Beijing has vanquished COVID-19 more quickly than many countries in the West. […]That suggests no dramatic breakthroughs are expected any time soon. Even this week’s meeting location has a whiff of carefully negotiated calibration about it. Anchorage is on U.S. soil, but it also happens to be closer to Beijing than to Washington. And Alaska’s glaciers are melting at a record rate due to climate change, silently reminding both sides it may be time to meet halfway. – Foreign Policy 

Matthew Brooker writes: As China remakes Hong Kong’s political system to remove the last vestiges of independent opposition, it is simultaneously engaged in an endeavor to make its narrative of events stick. The last thing authorities need is a Chinese-owned news outlet with global reach that continues to question whether, rather than “improving” Hong Kong’s democracy, Beijing is destroying it. – Bloomberg

South Asia

A United Nations delegation will on Wednesday start a three-day visit to a remote Bay of Bengal island where Bangladesh has moved more than 13,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees since December despite criticism from rights groups. – Reuters 

A conference in Moscow this week on advancing the Afghanistan peace process does not replace the negotiations in Doha between the Taliban and a delegation that includes Afghan government officials, the State Department said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The Sri Lankan government insisted Tuesday that preventing Muslim women from wearing a burqa or niqab was a national security move, as it faced protests over the decision. – Agence France-Presse

Anne Patterson, Ali Jehangir Siddiqui and Syed Mohammad Ali write: It is in the mutual interest of Pakistan and the United States to stabilize Afghanistan and ensure that global jihadist networks do not make gains within the wider region. Despite periods of turbulence, Pakistan and the United States have a long history of bilateral relations which precedes cooperation on counter terrorism. – Foreign Policy 

Gul Maqsood Sabit writes: The Afghan government, political groups, and the Taliban must set their group and personal interests aside and work for the common good of all Afghans. They must welcome and play a positive role in the successful implementation of the plan to prevent further bloodshed of Afghans. – The National Interest


Secretary of State Antony Blinken, standing in Tokyo, fired rhetorical salvos at Beijing in a symbolic opening act of the Biden administration’s diplomacy abroad. – Wall Street Journal 

Japan announced on 16 March that it is “resolved” to enhance its national defence capabilities and further strengthen its alliance with the United States amid what both countries described as “political, economic, military, and technological challenges” posed by China to both their alliance and the international community. – Jane’s 360 

At least two people protesting last month’s military coup were reported shot and killed by Myanmar security forces Tuesday after a morning of peaceful marches. – Associated Press

Chinese factories torched as mainland workers hunker down under martial law — Beijing is being pulled into the ulcerous crisis in Myanmar, an unravelling country it had carefully stitched into its big plans for Asia. – Agence France-Presse

But for top Biden administration officials huddling with allies in Asia this week, it’s at the top of the agenda as concerns grow that China intends to use force to keep what it considers a breakaway province from becoming independent and Washington has committed to defend. – Politico 

Kamran Bokhari writes: Kazakhstan can help Washington in shaping a post-U.S. Afghanistan, countering Iran’s nuclear ambition, and containing Turkey as it eyes the trans-Caspian region—where the Caucuses meet Central Asia.The White House can and should use Kazakhstan’s tradition of hosting multilateral diplomacy and Uzbekistan’s newly opened economy, to pursue diplomatic and economic interests across Eurasia. America’s foreign policy is at a historic moment as Beijing looms. Central Asia could be the key to help revive U.S. leadership in the world. – Wall Street Journal

Patrick M. Cronin writes: The defence challenge in Asia is enormous. The Joe Biden administration must preserve a credible force posture to defend against potential threats from North Korea, China and Russia. It must also transform a Cold War legacy force structure with advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and quantum computing. It must do all this as it battles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, turn an economic recession into more equitable growth and overcome deep political and racial divisions at home. – Hudson Institute 

Barbara Kelemen writes: And despite the government’s missteps in its initial handling of coronavirus, the vaccine-rollouts still offer an opportunity for Jokowi to rebrand himself and his administration in a more positive light. Whether this will be successful remains an open question, partly because of the doubts surrounding efficacy rates of the vaccines used for the rollout. Otherwise, the consequential impact of the Covid-19 could have more lasting and far-reaching impact on the country’s society and politics than initially expected. – Middle East Institute

Gordon Chang writes: Washington needs to do more than just talk to friends, however. For instance, it has yet to make good on its many promises to hold the Chinese accountable for clearly unacceptable — and deteriorating — behavior. There have been so many rounds of useless discussions between the two countries in the last three decades, so Xi will be impressed only if Biden takes action to defend American interests. – The Hill


Russia on Wednesday described U.S. intelligence allegations that President Vladimir Putin had likely directed efforts to try to swing the 2020 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump as baseless. – Reuters

A Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday that there is “unprecedented” pressure on countries to reject Russia’s Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine. Reuters reported that Dmitry Peskov made the comments at a press conference after being asked about reports that the U.S. was pressuring countries to not accept imports of the Russian vaccine. – The Hill 

The United States and other countries responded with sanctions, leading to a period of strained U.S./Russian relations, culminating in the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But is it possible that Vladimir Putin could move to invade another neighboring country, likely one that was part of the former Soviet Union? – The National Interest

The conservative Novosti commentator Petr Akopov counterposes Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s attempt to build an alliance against the Russian threat and Chinese challenge to the words of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi about Sino-Russian solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus and the “political virus”. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The authorities in Crimea have arrested a man for allegedly spying on behalf of Ukraine, a move Kyiv characterized as propaganda ahead of the seventh anniversary of Moscow’s forcible annexation of the region. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russia’s state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has threatened to block Twitter in a month’s time if the social-media network doesn’t begin removing banned content. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


Having cast off from the European Union, Britain wants to bind itself closer to the United States in a perilous world, according to a long-awaited blueprint for its post-Brexit foreign policy, released on Tuesday. – New York Times

Ukraine plans to nationalize a prominent aerospace manufacturer and cancel its acquisition by China, after the U.S. opposed the deal to keep critical defense technology out of Beijing’s hands. – Wall Street Journal 

President Biden is set for a virtual meeting with the Irish prime minister to mark St. Patrick’s Day, a meeting that will affirm his deep ties to the nation as tensions flare over the Brexit agreement. – Wall Street Journal

In a declaration of its aspiration to become “Global Britain,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday unveiled his government’s 10-year plan to boost international trade and deploy soft power around the world. – Washington Post

A report by U.K. lawmakers cites “compelling evidence” that major fashion, retail, media and technology companies that do significant business in Britain are complicit in the forced labor of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China. – Bloomberg 

Therese Raphael writes: The other answer is political: Johnson’s goal is to rebuild Britain in a way that vindicates the decision to separate from Europe. Even after Brexit, a little punch-up with Europe has its political uses. I suspect a gradual realignment will happen over time, but neither side is in a hurry. In the meantime, Britain has set its sights elsewhere. – Bloomberg  

James Stavridis writes: It focused on Afghanistan, the Balkans, piracy and a number of other topics including NATO relations with Russia, which back then were still hopeful. So much has changed over the past decade, and clearly it is time to update it by including the “three C’s.” Jens Stoltenberg appears to be the right Viking at the helm. – Bloomberg


A regional court in West Africa has ordered the immediate release of a Venezuelan businessman close to President Nicolás Maduro, finding that his arrest in Cape Verde on U.S. money laundering charges was unlawful. – Associated Press

An internal conflict in Ethiopia is being used to settle a long-standing territorial dispute between two of its northern states. Forces from the Amhara region took control of several areas in Tigray after backing federal troops that staged an incursion into its neighbor’s territory, said Gizachew Muluneh, a spokesman for the Amhara government. – Bloomberg 

An alleged former driver for a special armed unit under Gambia’s former dictator was arrested in Germany on Tuesday on suspicion of involvement in the killings of a journalist and another dissident in the West African nation, prosecutors said. – Associated Press

United States

The leaders of Russia and Iran last year ordered their governments to attempt to influence U.S. voters’ choices in the presidential election and undermine the public’s faith in American democracy, a U.S. intelligence assessment released Tuesday said. – Wall Street Journal 

A group of lawmakers aim to drastically increase funding for diplomatic and foreign aid, an opening salvo from Democrats to correct the “militarization” of U.S. foreign policy in recent decades. – Foreign Policy 

J.J. McCullough writes: There are plenty of problems that could be solved if Canadians were more informed of American realities, and plenty of benefit to be found in a continent where U.S.-Canadian relations are more open and integrated. […]But it would be nice if more Canadians who are so inclined could direct some of that energy toward helping combat anti-American ignorance in their own country and deepening cross-border ties of trade, labor and people — a few things the United States needs a lot more than lefty hot takes about its politics. – Washington Post


Messaging app Signal became unusable for many people in mainland China this week, stifling one of the last widely used messaging apps that could send and receive encrypted messages in the country without a virtual private network. – Wall Street Journal 

For the first time, Army leaders combined two exercises to test emerging cyber technology needs in a more real-world tactical environment. – C4ISRNET

With a growing number of cyber breaches, lawmakers and outside experts are pushing to increase the role of the National Guard and National Reserve if a catastrophic cyberattack were to occur. – C4ISRNET

Alyson Chadwick and Simon Billenness write: Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental rights we all have. The decision to curtail it should never be made lightly. But the open incitement to violence is clearly a step too far. Now that Myanmar security forces are using its platform in the commission of atrocities, TikTok must ban those who abuse its tool or risk becoming complicit in their crimes. – Washington Post

Mneera Abdullah and Eliza Campbell write: Whether technology has a positive or negative impact largely depends on regulatory policies. If actors in the industry do not prioritize the safety of marginalized communities, technological platforms will likely be used to inflict harm upon those communities. Online grassroots advocacy efforts show, however, how digital platforms can be used in transformative ways. Governments and companies, therefore, should formulate policies that favor positive uses. – Middle East Institute 


The British government laid out plans to increase its stockpile of nuclear weapons as part of a shift in defense policy that recognizes that the world order it helped forge in the wake of World War II is crumbling. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Army has taken receipt of its light and medium Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) prototypes from industry teams and are putting them through the paces this year ahead of a major company-level soldier assessment in 2022. – Defense News

The Pentagon’s lead innovation office expanded its business accelerator to compete against “aggressive” foreign investment possibly tied to unfriendly governments and instead is courting U.S. investors to push its desired products to market. – C4ISRNET 

A debate between lawmakers over defense spending is brewing, as a group of progressive House members push for cuts to the defense budget while others argue for a boost to shipbuilding. – USNI News

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said, if the budget top line in future years either stays the same or falls, he doesn’t see the service’s end-strength numbers dropping, but he also doesn’t see them growing. – Defense News

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s top research arm, has a new leader. Stefanie Tompkins, President Joe Biden’s appointee, was sworn in Monday as DARPA director. She served 11 years in various roles at the agency, including a stint from 2017-2018 as acting deputy director. – C4ISRNET 

In order for the Department to deliver unmanned capability at the speed of technology in an environment of competing budget priorities, the DoN has created an Unmanned Campaign Plan that will create a collaborative and actionable effort, focused on delivering and sustaining manned-unmanned teaming for the future maritime fight. – USNI News 

The Army released a new strategy on how to operate in the Arctic, one that would set up headquarters and units capable of working across all domains and establish a stronger foothold in the region. – Defense News 

The following is the March 15, 2021 letter from the Maine and Mississippi congressional delegation to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on Navy shipbuilding. The two naval shipyards that build large surface warships are in Maine and Mississippi. – USNI News 

Decommissioning ships that have viable service life at a faster rate than industry can build new ones is not how the Navy should grow the fleet, the vice chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee said Monday. – USNI News 

After 20 years of continuous habitation, the International Space Station has entered its “Golden Age” and is abuzz with activity — thanks in large part to the return of US rocket launches via commercial partner SpaceX. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: With the U.S. seeking to hold down military expenditures and extricate its troops from long-running conflicts, drones are likely to become even more critical to the fight against terrorist threats. That’s all the more reason to bring them out of the shadows — and ensure their continued use remains consistent with the country’s values. – Bloomberg 

Blaine Pellicore and Nicholas Nelson write: The current selection of incentives and tools must be improved to maintain the shrinking capability gap in critical domains, such as space, over near-peer nations, such as China. The loss of these advantages would not only cause significant economic damage, but also pose a threat to U.S. national security in space and across all war-fighting domains that rely on space-enabled capabilities. – Defense News

Megan Eckstein writes: However, achieving this vision will require the services to buck the budgeting system in a way they haven’t had to before: they can’t just develop and buy new unmanned aircraft, surface vessels and underwater vehicles, but they’ll also need to invest in enablers like artificial intelligence and machine learning, networks, data standards, command and control systems and more – which will require constant focus from top leadership to ensure that these less tangible spending items don’t fall through the cracks in a platform-centric budget process. – USNI News

Long War

A new report says that children as young as 11 were beheaded by militants in Mozambique’s troubled Cabo Delgado province, where a local Islamist insurgency is battling against the government forces. – Washington Post

Eleven Malian soldiers were killed and 11 more are missing after Islamist militants ambushed a patrol in the desert north, the army said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Fifty-eight people have been killed in “barbarous” attacks on a bus and nearby villages in Niger close to the country’s border with Mali, the government said on Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

Police say they are alarmed by a growing “phenomenon” of young people getting radicalised online, after arresting two men and a 16-year-old boy in a counter-terrorism investigation in Melbourne’s north. – ABC News 

A North Carolina man was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly planted explosive devices at a church, community college, and a veteran’s organization over the weekend. Terry Lee Barham, 64, faces several charges, including possession of a weapon of mass destruction and three terrorism counts. – Fox News