Fdd's overnight brief

March 20, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


In a remote corner of southeastern Iran, protesters from a Sunni Muslim minority are pushing for more rights and autonomy in a sustained challenge to the government, which had largely managed to tamp down last year’s nationwide protests. – Wall Street Journal 

For years, Iran’s standing as a Mideast power has been battered on a number of fronts. Some Arab neighbors have forged ties with Israel, giving it a foothold in the Persian Gulf. Regional states have closed down financial channels that once allowed Tehran to evade U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear and weapons programs. – New York Times

It was thanks in large part to Mr. Suleimani, whom the United States assassinated in Iraq in 2020, that Iran came to extend its influence into almost every aspect of Iraqi security and politics. That, in turn, gave Iran outsize influence over the region and beyond. Tehran’s rise exposed the unintended consequences of Washington’s strategy in Iraq, analysts and former U.S. officials say, and damaged the United States’ relationship with its regional allies. – New York Times

Iraq and Iran signed a border security agreement on Sunday, a move Iraqi officials said aimed primarily at tightening the frontier with Iraq’s Kurdish region, where Tehran says armed Kurdish dissidents pose a threat to its security. – Reuters

An Iranian court has handed out death sentences to two men over an attack on a Shi’ite shrine in Iran that killed 15 people in October and was claimed by the militant group Islamic State, the official news agency IRNA reported on Saturday. – Reuters  

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has “welcomed” an invitation from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to visit the kingdom following the reconciliation deal between the two countries, an Iranian official said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

The Islamic Republic of Iran is claiming its innocence regarding accusations of the mass poisoning of schoolgirls. – Arutz Sheva 

Sami Peretz writes: If Israel truly had a military option of wiping out Iran’s nuclear facilities, Netanyahu’s performance shows that it has dissipated. The Iran danger remains, but a new one has been added: the constitutional changes being pushed through. – Haaretz 

Ahmad Hashemi writes:  For the United States, devising a comprehensive strategy for targeting human rights abusers is indispensable. Designating those Iranian officials who are responsible for the biological war against women and are involved in the poisoning, killing, harming, denigrating, and subjugation of women in Iran should be a priority. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control can do a better job of further sanctioning and including Iranian individuals and entities that are connected to women’s rights abuse in the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

“We ask that our guys be recalled from this assault as they do not possess the necessary training or experience,” the man pleaded, his voice artificially warped to protect his identity. “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, we are asking you to sort out this situation.” – Washington Post

At least 4,000 elderly Ukrainians with disabilities have been forced into state institutions, according to an Amnesty International report. Many of these institutions were built in the Soviet era, when the prevailing attitude was to segregate and hide disabled people from the rest of society. – Washington Post

Judges for the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued on Friday arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and another top Russian official — the court’s first such decision related to the war in Ukraine. – Washington Post

The meeting in Moscow this week between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to showcase what they have declared a partnership with “no limits” between their countries. Beneath the surface are economic, political, cultural and historical divisions that undercut the relationship. – Wall Street Journal

In his first trip to territory seized in the past year, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which for Russia is a symbol of its goal to control eastern Ukraine and for Kyiv an illustration of Russian atrocities. – Wall Street Journal

The Russian Army has been throwing thousands of men into battle for more than two months in its latest attempt to take the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and the surrounding area. The campaign has been ruthless and hugely costly for both sides, but especially for the Russians, even as they have inched forward. – New York Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the Black Sea peninsula’s annexation from Ukraine on Saturday, the day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader accusing him of war crimes. – Associated Press

Russian fighter pilots involved in an incident with a U.S. drone that resulted in its crash will be given state awards, the Defense Ministry announced Friday. The move appears to signal Moscow’s intention to adopt a more aggressive stance toward future U.S. surveillance flights. – Associated Press

An unprecedented wartime deal that allowed grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where hunger is a growing threat and high food prices are pushing more people into poverty was extended just before its expiration date, officials said Saturday. – Associated Press 

Justice ministers from around the world will meet in London on Monday to discuss scaling up support for the International Criminal Court after it issued an arrest warrant last week for Russian President Vladimir Putin. – Reuters

Russia is likely preparing for a wider military conscription as its war against Ukraine grinds into a second year, according to United Kingdom intelligence. – The Hill

Add NATO’s military planners to the list of those concerned about having enough shells. In the coming months, the alliance will accelerate efforts to stockpile equipment along the alliance’s eastern edge and designate tens of thousands of forces that can rush to allies’ aid on short notice — a move meant to stop Russia from expanding its war beyond Ukraine. – Politico

Russia is poised to raise the age of men eligible to be drafted for military service, a sign that Moscow likely expects the war in Ukraine to drag on. – New York Post 

President Biden on Friday said that he believed the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Russian leader Vladimir Putin is “justified” and that he has “clearly committed war crimes” in Ukraine.  – New York Post 

Chinese ammunition has been used during the war in Ukraine, United States government sources have confirmed, adding that they believe Russian forces to have been the ones using it, according to a recent report. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Yet Ukraine remains defiant: “The criminal always returns to the crime scene,” an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskywrote on Twitter. The West should answer by upping its support for the invaded nation, not that it doesn’t already have ample reason to do so. A rapist and mass murderer just did a victory dance on the corpses of his victims. Everyone hemming and hawing about helping to fight this horror needs to take that as a wakeup call. – New York Post 

Chris Sununu writes: Unfortunately, Putin is now hearing future leaders of the United States speak with a lack of commitment against such aggression. […]Resolve is the United States’ most powerful tool in worldwide conflicts. We need to show it. Our hopeful vision for the world must be aspirational and ambitious, not apathetic and indifferent. – Washington Post

Jason Willick writes: Republican voters have rebelled against an excess of idealism in U.S. foreign policy — the sense that liberals in Washington have grand designs for the world, but no urgent drive to create the hard-power capabilities needed to bring about even basic order and security. Republican Senate hawks put their money where their mouth is by calling for dramatically increased defense spending and arming Ukraine to the hilt. – Washington Post

Max Hastings writes: We should derive comfort from the fact that in many regions of the world, while large minorities proclaim hostility to the West, majorities remain supportive. America, more than any other country, is where a large part of the earth’s people say they would like to live, if not in their own birthplaces. – Bloomberg

Robert Seely, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, and Ted R. Bromund write: At that point, Putin will make one of the most fateful decisions of the century: whether to employ nuclear or chemical weapons. The U.S. must act now to minimize that threat and to ensure the protection of the American public and U.S. allies. – 19FortyFive

Lise Morjé Howard and Michael O’Hanlon write: Moreover, a new security vision may improve the prospects for peace by showing how both Ukraine and post-Putin Russia can see their core interests protected and upheld. Debates must begin now, so that concepts can be discussed and developed before negotiations begin. Otherwise, they will have little chance of success. Ending this war will require a clear and cogent vision for a new security architecture for the region. – Foreign Affairs 

Sam Greene writes: Even so, complacency would be misguided, as is the continuing US refusal to engage directly with the ICC, which means America is out of step with the rest of NATO. If the US wants to demonstrate its adherence to restoring a rules-based world order, it should ratify the Rome Statute and put the final nail in the coffin of Putin’s global ambitions. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Olga Lautman writes: A good follow-up step would be to suspend the Russian Federation from the UN Security Council, whose resolutions have the force of law. It would be incredible to leave an accused criminal on a body with such powers. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Elena Davlikanova writes: “There are times when you have to be ready to defend what is important – I firmly believe in that,” Butkevych said in March 2022. It is the time for all of us to defend what is important too. And right now, that means saving Lieutenant Butkevych. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Thomas Nawrath and Sasha Stone write: Germany has strong ties — and a historical debt — to the whole of Eastern Europe. By helping Ukraine, Germany is defending all its eastern allies against an imperialist and revisionist power. More than misconceived pacifism, vigorous solidarity can show the world that Germany has learned the lessons of the darkest chapters of its history. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Graham Allison writes: Against this historical canvas, over the next several days we should expect the two parties to present competing stories about what happened and where. As the United States began to do yesterday in releasing a video of the encounter, each will do its best to make its narrative persuasive to the audience it cares about most, namely, its own citizens. Predictably, Republican critics of President Joe Biden will charge that Vladimir Putin was emboldened to act so provocatively by Biden’s weakness and argue that this would never have happened if Trump were president—without recalling that Trump was president in 2019 when the Iranians did essentially the same thing. The Biden administration will condemn Russia’s action, but not retaliate militarily. And soon the next bright shiny object will appear consigning this shootdown to the dustbin of history. – The National Interest


President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call on Sunday that democratic values — including “genuine checks and balances” — had to remain a pillar of the U.S.-Israel relationship, a veiled warning to Netanyahu about his incendiary plan to overhaul the country’s judicial system. – Washington Post

More than two weeks after Israeli settlers rampaged through Palestinian villages and towns, killing one man and torching dozens of homes and businesses, residents are wondering when justice will come, and who will deliver it. – Washington Post

The Israeli military said a Palestinian shot a U.S.-Israeli man as he drove through the Palestinian town of Huwara in the occupied West Bank, as Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Egypt in an attempt to curb a deadly wave of violence between the two sides. – Wall Street Journal

Israel and the Palestinians pledged Sunday at a meeting in Egypt to take steps to lower tensions ahead of a sensitive holiday season — including a partial freeze on Israeli settlement activity and an agreement to work together to “curb and counter violence.” – Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the military’s chief of staff on Sunday to contain a wave of protest from within the ranks over a contentious government plan to overhaul the judiciary. – Associated Press  

Israelis on Saturday took to the streets in protests, now in their 11th week, against plans by Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government to overhaul the country’s legal system. – Associated Press

The Israeli military said Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket toward southern Israel Saturday evening. – Associated Press  

The Israeli military said troops shot a Palestinian who approached soldiers on Friday and pulled a knife near the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian authorities said the man died of his wounds a short while later. – Associated Press 

Palestinians who attacked German tourists in Nablus had feared they were Israeli forces, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority security services said Sunday, stressing they have “zero hostility” towards Germany. – Agence France-Presse 

One of two German tourists attacked Saturday by a Palestinian mob while driving through Nablus told Hebrew media Sunday that he had genuinely feared for his life during the attack, saying the crowd was “full of hate.” – Times of Israel 

A delegation from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday, the Islamic Jihad said in a statement to Palestinian media. – Times of Israel

An Israeli tourist in Colombia was rescued by police from an alleged kidnapping attempt after meeting a woman he met on the Tinder dating app. – Times of Israel

Right-wing politicians called Sunday for forceful measures against Palestinians in response to a terror attack that seriously wounded an Israeli man in the northern West Bank town of Huwara, the second shooting attack there in three weeks. A spokesperson for a far-right coalition MK urged the government to “wipe out” the entire town as revenge. – Times of Israel

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich spoke at an event in Paris on Sunday night, during which he stated that “the Palestinian people are an invention that is less than 100 years old.” – Arutz Sheva 

Leaders of the parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition are expected to meet on Sunday, to discuss possible changes to their proposed judicial overhaul, amid 11 weeks of mass public opposition. – Ynet

Israel’s governing coalition announced overnight on Monday that they are accepting Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman’s proposal on softening the bill to change the method of selecting Supreme Court justices. – Haaretz  

Israel once more reiterated its pledge to temporarily restrict discussions on new West Bank settlements and the legalization of outposts following multilateral talks with a Palestinian delegation at a summit in Egypt. – Haaretz 

Israeli police are expected to significantly expand the number of forces stationed in Jerusalem to police Palestinian worshipers heading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during Ramadan, the month-long Muslim holiday set to begin Wednesday or Thursday. – Haaretz 

Daniel J. Arbess writes: Finally, the process by which constitutional reforms are undertaken will drive the legitimacy of their outcome. Israel’s coalition should elevate the discussion from what has until now been ad hoc issue-by-issue consideration by political leadership, to a more inclusive format open to all inhabitants and stakeholders. An inclusive process is especially important in a religiously diverse and multicultural homeland like Israel. – Wall Street Journal

Danny Ayalon writes: It is also in America’s interest not to internationalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because that will ensure there will be no progress on it. However, a new black swan has arrived, and it is the Israeli government’s push for judicial reform. This will undoubtedly harm Israel’s international standing, including relations with the US, even if not immediately. – Algemeiner 

Amos Harel writes: Hezbollah and the Palestinian organizations are forging closer ties and are active both in southern Lebanon and in the West Bank. And as usual, the deaths of Islamic Jihad operatives in Syria or the West Bank could also have a negative effect on the situation in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, one trend is becoming increasingly clear: Israel’s enemies are keeping an eye on its unprecedented domestic unrest and exploiting it to add fuel to the fire. – Haaretz


Australian authorities charged a former soldier who was deployed to Afghanistan with a war crime, the first prosecution of its kind in Australia, as the U.S. ally continues to grapple with the conduct of its military in the conflict. – Wall Street Journal 

Dozens of Afghan businesswomen took part in an exhibition in Dubai remotely this week to promote carpets, jewellery, dried fruit and other handmade goods as part of a push to access international markets after work options for women shrank in Afghanistan under the Taliban administration. – Reuters 

The U.N. World Food Programme has been forced to cut rations to 4 million Afghans this month, it said in a statement late on Friday, due to a funding shortfall in the midst of the country’s severe humanitarian crisis. – Reuters 

The Ministry of Defence has apologised after an investigation found Afghan applicants to a resettlement scheme were told they could only come to the UK if their documents were approved by the Taliban. – The Guardian

After the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the United States, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), and other countries evacuated tens of thousands of Afghans to temporary facilities around the world. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, his first visit to the wealthy Gulf country since the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria last month. – Associated Press 

The main U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led force in northeastern Syria said Friday it lost nine fighters, including a commander, when two helicopters crashed this week in neighboring Iraq. – Associated Press 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Syria’s new ties with various stable countries may be entirely a track of their own with no bearing on the Iranian issue in Syria. Insofar as Iran undermines Syria’s stability, however, this may be an issue of concern for countries doing new business with Damascus. – Jerusalem Post

Karam Shaar writes: Everyone deserves an equal chance to rebuild their lives following a natural disaster. Despite the great intentions, failing to understand Syria’s complex context will only ensure an unjust response. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. – Middle East Institute


Turkey unveiled a model of its first fighter jet this weekend, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended events celebrating the country’s military history and his own role in building up its defense industry. – Bloomberg

Jamie Dettmer writes: And if the unthinkable does happen, and the system fails to deliver for Erdoğan on election night, how can he afford to lose? Opposition politicians have already made clear that if triumphant, they will be pushing for him to face corruption and abuse-of-power charges along with members of his family — not to mention his inner circle. […] As May inches closer, there’s a lot for the Turkish opposition and Turkey’s Western allies to worry about. – Politico 

Ahmed Alqarout writes: From Erdogan’s point of view, the deal is a balancing act between immediate economic needs and the growing political and economic influence of the Gulf, which may restrict his ability to follow an independent foreign policy in the region. Through its engagement with Turkey, the UAE is trying to score a major victory for the Abraham Accords by attracting Turkey to the new alliance and disincentivizing Turkey’s growing ties with Iran. – The National Interest

Ivan Sascha Sheehan writes: This does not mean that all differences and disagreements would dissolve overnight, but it does mean that opportunities for cooperation would expand significantly, contributing to the stability and prosperity of Turkey, the region, and beyond. For these reasons, this election is one to watch closely. It may be the final opportunity for Turkey’s voters to seek true representation in their leadership. – The National Interest


Today, Iraq is a very different place, and there are many lenses through which to see it. It is a far freer society than it was under Mr. Hussein and one of the more open countries in the Middle East, with multiple political parties and a largely free press. – New York Times

As the clouds clear, I see Baghdad, and tears fill my eyes. My parents and I left as U.S. sanctions made life in Iraq nearly impossible. Although I know the city is safer than it used to be, I still have fears about what I may find. – Washington Post

It was the fall of 2019 and the city was gripped by what felt to her like revolution: The largest grass-roots movement in Iraq’s modern history was rising, and the politicians and militia leaders empowered by America’s 2003 invasion were on the back foot. – Washington Post

Twenty years on from the American-led invasion of Iraq, the scars are still visible in shot-up walls and bombed-out buildings. But there is another legacy, too, more insidious and enduring than violence. Where soldiers established military bases, they burned their trash in the open, poisoning the air all around them. – Washington Post

Fearing their position was about to be overrun, U.S. Army medics, mechanics, drivers and staff officers also joined the fight. Alongside outnumbered infantrymen and gunners, they became “trigger pullers” in a battle to hold a key interchange on the main highway into the heart of Baghdad. – Washington Post

Feurat Alani writes: By and large, Americans have moved on. On this anniversary, I plead for an end to amnesia. Americans should remember the debt they owe Iraq — what was destroyed, and what was left in its place. They should remember that Iraqis were once a proud people — and know that, with time and help, they will reclaim their country once again. – Washington Post

Eli Lake writes: Yet, since 2003 Iraq has had six consecutive, competitive elections. Its people have ratified a new constitution. Iraq’s oil industry has come back on line. None of that could have happened had America not ended Saddam’s reign 20 years ago. – New York Sun 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The lesson of Iraq for the region is that chaos will always lead to extremism. The return of the state-led processes, including the recent Saudi-Iran normalization deal and Russia’s backing of Syria, is part of the trend to not allow another chaotic power vacuum. – Jerusalem Post

Munqith Dagher writes: The current figures indicate Iraqis’ clear frustration and disappointment with the regime and mode of governance in Iraq. Only 40% of those surveyed say that the situation in Iraq is better than it was under the former regime, compared to 59% who say it is worse. These numbers reflect the current political crisis in Iraq and the need to review all the failures that have made many Iraqis nostalgic for the past—not out of love for what came before, but out of spite for the current regime. – Washington Institute

Mina Al-Oraibi writes: With Iraq’s young population, abundant natural resources, rich history, and tourism potential, the country is ripe for success. Yet another opportunity will be lost if those in power refuse to heed the calls of protesters who shook the political system in 2019 under the slogan: “We want a homeland.” This postwar generation wants to live under the umbrella of a united Iraq, free of regional interference and armed groups in all their forms. – Foreign Policy

John Walcott writes: In addition to eroding public trust in the media, the declining number of local reporters covering the U.S. government is depriving young reporters of the best places to learn and veterans of the best places to teach that basic lesson of Afghanistan and Iraq: If you want to know the local crime situation, ask the residents and the cops on the beat, not the police chief or the mayor. – Foreign Affairs 

Renad Mansour writes: Iraqi authorities increasingly rely on violence to maintain power, and dissent in the country is becoming ever more dangerous. The international actors still involved in working to build the Iraqi state must heed the lessons of the past 20 years. Supporting the elite at the expense of institutions and the public interest will not strengthen Iraqi democracy—it will continue to weaken it. – Foreign Affairs


Under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, a former general, the armed forces’ role in the private sector has vastly expanded since he took power nearly a decade ago, partly to maintain political control but also because he views it as the most efficient way to build his vision of a modern Egypt. – Wall Street Journal

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi held talks with high-ranking Russian officials on Sunday to discuss a Russian-built nuclear plant under construction on Egypt’s north coast as well as grains supply and food security, Egypt’s presidency said. – Reuters

Egypt and Turkey took another step towards mending relations on Saturday when Ankara’s top diplomat visited Cairo for the first time since ties were ruptured a decade ago and held talks with his Egyptian counterpart. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisian President Kais Saied named Kamal Feki, the former governor of Tunis, as his new interior minister on Friday, just hours after Taoufik Charfeddine resigned from the post, amid a crackdown of prominent opposition figures that has prompted international ire. – Reuters

Kuwait’s Constitutional Court on Sunday ruled that last September’s parliamentary election, in which the opposition made gains, was void and that the previous assembly must be reinstated. – Reuters 

The Iranian government has proposed to Saudi Arabia three locations for a meeting at foreign minister level, Iran’s foreign minister said on Sunday, citing the latest messages with Riyadh since the countries agreed to re-establish ties. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s interests additionally relate to building up its ties with the Gulf, including Iraq, Oman and Saudi Arabia. This would cement a kind of arc of southern arrangements, leading from Iran via Iraq and Saudi Arabia to Oman and the borders of Yemen. This would be a major shift from years past when Iran was involved in backing the Houthis in Yemen via clandestine maritime shipments and often at odds with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. – Jerusalem Post

Sabina Henneberg writes: Therefore, consistent advocacy for human rights protection is critical to ultimately stabilizing the country and the broader region. Since even before the Arab Spring, brave Tunisians have demonstrated their belief in coordinated as well as spontaneous civic activism in the name of justice and, ultimately, a better Tunisia. Now, the international community must do its part to address the underlying issues that were so largely overlooked in the past. – Washington Institute

Alexander Langlois writes: This is not to suggest the man is a paragon of virtue—simply observing the GSO’s brutal treatment of Syrians offers enough to reject Ibrahim as an official. However, it does speak to the scale of institutional collapse pervading the country today, in which most would likely have wished to renew his term but viewed other political battles as more important. Unfortunately, this reality has long defined Lebanese politics, even if much more accentuated in recent years, and will continue to do so for quite some time barring major reform or a discovery of conscience amongst the political elites. – The National Interest

Korean Peninsula

North Korea says it was simulating a nuclear attack on U.S. and South Korean forces with the launch of a short-range ballistic missile with a mock warhead Sunday. The short-range ballistic missile was fired off at around 11:05 a.m. local time from the North’s Tongchang-ri area and traveled about 500 miles before landing in the waters between Korea and Japan, South Korea’s military said. – Wall Street Journal 

Hundreds of thousands of North Korean troops are mobilizing to help plant and harvest crops. The country’s military is ​rejiggering some of its munitions factories to produce tractors and threshing machines, while also ​converting some airfields ​into greenhouses. Soldiers are reportedly being asked to extend their service by three years and spend them on farms. – New York Times

The United States, its Western allies and experts shone a spotlight on the dire human rights situation and increasing repression in North Korea at a U.N. meeting Friday that China and Russia denounced as a politicized move likely to further escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula. – Associated Press 

North Korea claims that about 800,000 of its citizens volunteered to join or reenlist in the nation’s military to fight against the United States, North Korea’s state newspaper reported on Saturday. – Reuters


Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia this week is aimed in part at positioning Beijing as a potential mediator between Moscow and Kyiv—but with both sides gearing up for major spring combat operations, neither is ready now to talk about peace. – Wall Street Journal 

For Vladimir Putin, the state visit to Russia by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which begins on Monday, provides a giant morale boost and a chance to showcase the much-vaunted new world order that the Russian leader believes he is forging through his war on Ukraine — in which the United States and NATO can no longer dictate anything to anyone. – Washington Post

As Xi Jinping, China’s leader, prepares to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow this week, Chinese officials have been framing his trip as a mission of peace, one where he will seek to “play a constructive role in promoting talks” between Russia and Ukraine, as a government spokesman in Beijing put it. – New York Times

But for some businesses, it has meant surging costs and hard choices about where to manufacture. More broadly, executives and trade experts say, the failure to renew the GSP is an avoidable flaw in U.S. trade policy toward China that risks denting investment in countries that show promise as alternatives for manufacturing outside China’s vast factory floor. – Wall Street Journal

The World Health Organization rebuked Chinese officials on Friday for withholding research that may link Covid’s origin to wild animals, asking why the data had not been made available three years ago and why it is now missing. – New York Times

Moscow has directed a lot of vitriol toward the West over the past year. The volume of that rhetoric sometimes drowns out an awkward fact about Moscow’s foreign policy reorientation away from the West and toward allies like China and Iran: Russian elites are not exactly thrilled with their new partners. In my conversations with Russian academics, there has been plenty of grumbling about the meager quality of Chinese support, for example. This reflects a longstanding Russian hubris toward its eastern neighbor dating back to the days of Stalin and Mao. The Russian disdain directed toward Iran is even greater. – Politico

House Republican leaders on Friday warned Biden administration officials of a “direct threat” to the US posed by a Russian energy firm that is helping China produce nuclear weapons. – New York Post  

Editorial: The rest of the West ought to greet the BFFs’ sitdown with equally dramatic new support for Ukraine. This is not an either/or proposition. Helping Ukraine against Russia helps us against the larger threat of China. Face up to the fact of the “no limits” alliance, and stop enabling China’s games. – New York Post 

Josh Rogin writes: China’s practice of mass DNA collection is unlikely to stay only in China. Absent pushback, every despot and dictator will soon be trying to buy this new, dangerous way to control what their people do, say or think. Now is the time for U.S. companies to ensure they are not complicit by getting out of business with these abusers — before Congress is forced to act. – Washington Post

Minxin Pei writes: Unlike his previous foreign trips known mainly for sealing diplomatic and commercial agreements, Xi’s visit to Moscow is thus more likely intended as a calculated gamble rather than a show of force. That doesn’t mean his challenge is any less fraught — only that the world shouldn’t be too quick to judge whether his globetrotting has strengthened or weakened China’s strategic position. – Bloomberg

Gideon Rachman writes: Also hidden from view will be any tensions between Russia and China. Some American strategists hope that one day they might be able to engineer a second Moscow-Beijing split — like the one that led to the US-China rapprochement of the 1970s. But that currently seems even further over the horizon than a successful Chinese peace initiative over Ukraine. The pictures of Xi and Putin together in Moscow will send a clear message. Russia and China remain close partners — linked by their joint hostility to America and its allies. – Financial Times 

Rebekah Koffler writes: Chinese strategists have long described America’s way of waging war as “attacking birds with golden bullets” – and it’s a style they intend to exploit. Of course as Moscow now knows, even the mightiest militaries can blunder spectacularly. But Beijing’s bellicose behavior cannot be ignored. And the Pentagon is nowhere near understanding, let alone being prepared for, the Chinese way of war. – New York Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The Russia-China meeting may not mention the Middle East but it will be important to see how the alliance between Moscow and Beijing is progressing and how this might have an effect on the Middle East. If China and Russia decide to cement a more open anti-western alliance, especially in the wake of Putin’s indictment, it could have major ramifications for the Middle East. – Jerusalem Post

Edward Lucas writes: Xi’s only real leverage is to threaten to provide more substantial military help for Russia. But that risks further angering the United States. Unless he seeks a showdown with the West right now, this option looks highly unattractive. Yet having launched his peace bid, Xi risks losing face if it fails. He will not lightly forgive Putin for this costly and dangerous mess. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Abe Greenwald writes: This is China’s fight. Xi isn’t going to Moscow to broker peace. He’s going to affirm his commitment to Putin and his war. That’s where his eye is. And whatever comes out of next week’s trip, you can bet it won’t be genuine progress toward a credible negotiation between Russia and Ukraine. – Commentary Magazine

Carlo J. V. Caro writes: Yet despite Zhao Tingyang’s objections that tianxia holds no “outsiders,” it is clear that the “Chinese center” uses dynamics of exclusion and inclusion to marginalize others like the West or even periphery nations. While Confucian thought supports the use of force only to restore political and moral order, it promotes a paternalistic diplomacy of a tributary character. – The National Interest

Andrew Latham and Logan Leybold write: If you are seeking the experience of terror, anxiety, and shock typically associated with a good horror story, then The Final Struggle is the book for you. If, however, you are looking for a serious analysis of China’s grand strategy or Sino-American strategic competition, then perhaps you should look elsewhere. – The National Interest

Brian Patrick Bolger writes: Nevertheless, the weaknesses of authoritarian, top-down states such as Russia and China are their increasing reliance on a type of expansive nationalism. Civilizations are eclipsed not by external threats but by internal incoherence. In this, both the Occident and the Orient are obscured by haze; a lack of a moral teleology hinders both. Resources and geopolitics signify a lack of Plato’s “care for the soul.” Bound to the wall of Plato’s cave, it will take an epoch-shifting Spenglerian change to drag humanity from the cave of its own making and into the blinding sunlight. – The National Interest

South Asia

Indian authorities severed mobile internet access and text messaging for a second day Sunday across Punjab, a state of about 27 million people, as officials sought to capture a Sikh separatist and braced for potential unrest. – Washington Post

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan appeared at court on corruption charges on Saturday in Islamabad, the capital, in the latest turn of a standoff between his supporters and the authorities that had led to chaotic scenes of tear gas and clashing security lines outside his home earlier in the week. – New York Times

Indian Kashmir is to get its first foreign investment, with Dubai’s Emaar Group due to build a $60 million shopping and office complex, as the government looks to stabilise a region where Muslim separatists have for years battled the government. – Reuters

Police in the Pakistani capital filed charges Sunday against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, 17 of his aides and scores of supporters, accusing them of terrorism and several other offenses after the ousted premier’s followers clashed with security forces in Islamabad the previous day. – Associated Press 

India lodged a formal protest with the British High Commission in New Delhi after a Sikh separatist sympathizer pulled down the national flag outside its embassy in London on Sunday. – Bloomberg

Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal was set to face a vote of confidence in parliament on Monday after his old coalition allies pulled out of the government over the choice of a new president, one of his aides said. – Reuters

China and Cambodia held military naval exercises for the first time in Cambodian waters, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said on Monday. – Reuters

Sumit Ganguly writes: There is little question that the arc of the Indian-Israeli partnership has undergone a significant transformation under the leadership of Modi and alongside the rise of Netanyahu. The two leaders’ common ethnonational projects have no doubt boosted the growing closeness between the states. It is a pity that Essa’s accurate core argument is diminished by factual elisions and polemical claims. – Foreign Policy


Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou is “at his host’s disposal” when it comes to meeting senior leaders during a trip to China this month, but there are no plans for him to visit Beijing, a senior official from Ma’s office said on Monday. – Reuters

New Zealand’s foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, will travel to China on Tuesday to meet her counterpart Qin Gang on the first such visit by a New Zealand minister since 2019. – Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday held the first round of government consultations in Tokyo and agreed to strengthen economic and defense ties to better cope with China’s growing influence and global security concerns. – Associated Press

A former United States military pilot accused of training Chinese aviators could have been lured from China to Australia as part of a U.S. plan to extradite him to his homeland, his lawyer said Monday. – Associated Press 

Germany’s education and research minister is making an official trip to Taiwan next week, officials said Friday. It will be the highest-level visit by a German official since 1997 to the island that China claims as part of its territory. – Associated Press

In 2020, the global pandemic halted travel and shut borders. But at the same time, two of Asia’s biggest financial centres saw an opportunity to shift the global centre of gravity for hedge funds and the world’s wealthiest families. – Financial Times 

The United States and Philippines will announce new sites as soon as possible for an expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which gives the Western power access to military bases in the Southeast Asian country. – Reuters

The United States is trying to discourage Honduras from following through on its plan to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, sources close to the matter say, hoping the lack of a formal agreement yet may leave the door open for a change of heart. – Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to seek India’s assistance to forge a broader and stronger coalition to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine when he meets Narendra Modi on Monday, adding pressure on New Delhi to choose between major world democracies and a key supplier of energy and weapons. – Bloomberg

So perhaps it should be no surprise that since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Indonesia’s most famous holiday island has once again become a magnet for thousands of Russians and Ukrainians seeking to escape the horrors of war. – CNN 

Leo Lewis writes: A new wave of recruitment campaigning by the SDF has focused on the promise of square meals, camaraderie and national service. The beef stew exhibited at the defence show, was, according to a small sample of Canadian, British, US and even French military officers in attendance, better than anything their own countries had ever fed them. – Financial Times


Credit Suisse, the battered Swiss bank, has agreed to an emergency takeover by its rival UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, a move engineered by the Swiss government to stave off immediate concerns of a global financial crisis. – Washington Post

The top-down approach is pushing France to the brink of crisis, triggering votes of no-confidence in his government next week and a new wave of protests. Police clashed again with protesters in the Place de la Concorde late Friday, firing tear gas to disperse crowds, after detaining more than 300 people a day earlier. Rioters torched cars and blockaded roads. – Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain has mothballed his predecessors’ projects, large and small, from Liz Truss’s trickle-down tax cuts to Boris Johnson’s revamped royal yacht. But one of Mr. Sunak’s most symbolic changes since taking over as prime minister five months ago has received less attention: retiring the slogan “Global Britain.” – New York Times

Sweden won’t be in a vulnerable security situation even if Finland joins NATO first, the Finnish president said Sunday, as both Nordic membership candidates negotiate bilateral military pacts with the United States. – Associated Press

Issuing an international arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin will have negative consequences and will only prolong the war in Ukraine, Serbia’s president said Sunday. – Associated Press

The U.N. human rights chief called on Belarus Friday to end its “systematic repression” of critics and immediately release people held on political grounds, saying some violations may amount to crimes against humanity. – Associated Press

Europe’s push to make arms for Ukraine has been hobbled by a shortage of explosives, which industry insiders fear will delay efforts to boost shell production by as much as three years. – Financial Times 

Serbia wants normal relations with Kosovo but still won’t sign any agreement with it, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday, a day after he verbally agreed to implement a Western-backed plan for the normalisation of ties. – Reuters

Serbia and Kosovo agreed on steps to implement a European Union plan aimed at defusing disputes that have threatened stability in the Balkans, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he mediated the latest round of talks between the wartime foes. – Bloomberg

Turkey and Hungary announced Friday that they will sign off on Finland’s NATO membership — removing the biggest barrier to Finland’s joining the alliance but leaving Sweden’s bid languishing. – Politico

Ukrainian forces repelled fresh Russian attacks on Bakhmut over the past 24 hours, Kyiv said, as the battle for the ruined city in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk continued to exact a heavy toll on both sides while European Union ministers on March 20 prepared to discuss a 2 billion euro ($2.13 billion) plan to supply Ukraine with badly needed ammunition. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Editorial: Biden must tell Europe to stand up for its own itemized constitutional values. The time has come to stand up to China and end its trade-for-appeasement strategy. If not, the United States should no longer be expected to defend Europe with scant European help. Europeans must make it clear to Xi that his camouflage of diplomatic reasonableness isn’t fooling anyone and they will make him pay if he continues to subvert them by backing Putin’s war of choice. – Washington Examiner

Oleksandr Moskalenko writes: Common market accession would of course echo that sentiment, but it would also have significant practical effects. It is one of the few available options to boost Ukraine’s economy in the short term, something desperately needed right now. It would assist in the restoration of the economy from the bottom up, helping to grow small- and medium-sized enterprises. The results would be rapid and the benefits clear — Europe would be helping Ukraine to help itself. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Fueled by guns, gold and social media, the rivalry between Russia and the West in Africa is rapidly escalating. The latest flashpoint is Chad, a sprawling desert nation at the crossroads of the continent, now a plum target for Russia’s expanding effort. – New York Times

Britain’s government said Sunday that it could start deporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda in the next few months — but only if U.K. courts rule that the controversial policy is legal. – Associated Press

Gunmen stormed a Chinese-operated gold mining site that had recently been launched in Central African Republic, killing nine Chinese nationals and wounding two others Sunday, authorities said. – Associated Press 

Sudan’s military leaders and pro-democracy forces vowed to begin establishing a new civilian-led transitional government on April 11, a spokesperson representing both parties said Sunday. – Associated Press

Security forces repelled an attack by Islamic extremists on a coalition center in northeastern Nigeria and several election officials elsewhere were kidnapped as results trickled in Sunday from the gubernatorial vote. – Associated Press  

South Africa is aware of its legal obligation, a spokesperson for President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday, referring to a proposed visit by Vladimir Putin after an international court issued an arrest warrant against the Russian leader. – Reuters

Lagos governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has won his bid for re-election, Nigeria’s electoral commission said Monday, as votes are counted following local elections marred by violence and vote buying. Governors are powerful positions in Nigeria, with some controlling state budgets larger than those of several African nations. – Agence France-Presse

South African security forces said on Monday that 87 people had been arrested in the last 12 hours across the country over public violence ahead of planned protests by the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party. – Reuters

Joshua Meservey and Jacob Pritts write: However, until they undertake the serious reforms necessary to provide the regulatory environments, rule of law and other elements that facilitate the growth of free markets and trade, African governments — and most especially their people — will remain at the mercy of wars and other disruptions in distant places like Ukraine. – The Hill

Justin Ling writes: Russia’s involvement, however, looks set to replicate many of the worst impulses of imperial power in the Sahel and may help keep democracy and liberty down. For the people who actually live in the region, replacing one bad foreign actor with another will be an exercise in frustration. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning about dangerous counterfeit pills being sold at pharmacies in Mexico that often contain fentanyl. – Associated Press 

The Biden administration thought its pressure campaign on Nicaragua might be getting some traction when the Central American country’s authoritarian government handed over 222 political prisoners to the United States last month. – Politico

Brazilian securities watchdog CVM said on Friday it has launched two new probes into retailer Americanas SA’s (AMER3.SA) accounting scandal and the firm’s reorganization process. – Reuters

Latin America

The Vatican said Saturday it had closed its embassy in Nicaragua after the country’s government proposed suspending diplomatic relations, the latest episode in a yearslong crackdown on the Catholic Church by the administration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. – Associated Press

Governments and financial institutions pledged millions of dollars Friday for humanitarian and development projects to address the urgent needs of Venezuelans at home and abroad affected by a crisis that diplomats acknowledged requires renewed attention. – Associated Press 

 Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Sunday said he had suspended a ceasefire with the Clan del Golfo, the country’s largest criminal organization, because it had attacked police. – Reuters

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will visit China this month accompanied by a delegation of 240 business representatives, including 90 from agriculture sector, a senior Foreign Ministry official said on Friday. – Reuters

The United States on Friday pledged more than $171 million in humanitarian assistance and development funding at a donor conference to help Venezuelans impacted by the South American country’s economic and political crisis. – Reuters

North America

The leaked intelligence reports have set off a political firestorm. They describe plans by the government of China and its diplomats in Canada to ensure that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party took power in the last two elections, raising troubling questions about the integrity of Canada’s democracy. – New York Times

Former vice president Mike Pence recently proclaimed that “history will hold Donald Trump accountable” for trying to overturn the 2020 election results and prompting the violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. – Washington Post

Carl Delfeld writes: Mexico has also launched more free-trade agreements that involve more than forty countries—more than any other country and enough to cover more than 90 percent of the country’s foreign trade. Finally, Mexican goods can be exported duty-free to the United States, Canada, the European Union, most of Central and Latin America, and to Japan. – The National Interest


The Justice Department is investigating the surveillance of American citizens, including several journalists who cover the tech industry, by the Chinese company that owns TikTok, according to three people familiar with the matter. – New York Times 

The BBC is pressing its staffers to scrub TikTok from any work devices amid allegations that the Chinese company that owns the app has been spying on journalists. – New York Post 

Twitter has finally resumed communicating with journalists again, after months of silence since Elon Musk’s takeover of the company. – Business Insider

The federal government should be using some of the $10bn allocated in the budget to cybersecurity defences to combat people using AI to bypass biometric securities including voice authentication, a Greens senator has said. – The Guardian

Cybersecurity researchers said this week that they have observed the pro-Russia hacking group known as Killnet increasingly launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks targeting healthcare organizations since November. – The Record

Dutch maritime logistics company Royal Dirkzwager has confirmed that it was hit with ransomware from the Play group, the latest in a string of attacks targeting the shipping industry. – The Record

Editorial: Lawmakers should provide the temporary haven of Section 230 to the new AI models while watching what happens as this industry begins to boom. They should sort through the conundrum these tools provoke, such as who’s liable, say, in a defamation case if a developer isn’t. […]They should, in short, let the internet of the future grow just like the internet of the past. But this time, they should pay attention. – Washington Post    

Julia Angwin writes: A better solution would be to pass laws that force all of our tech to serve us better. Rather than engage in what Evan Greer of the advocacy group Fight for the Future calls “xenophobic showboating,” let’s get serious about demanding true security, privacy and accountability from all of the tech in our lives. – New York Times


The U.S. Department of Defense selected Hypersonix Launch Systems, an Australian aerospace company, to develop a high-speed aircraft that can test hypersonic technologies. – Defense News

A U.S. Army hub for battlefield communications development will soon oversee a larger portfolio. The Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T, will by Oct. 1 absorb the network-heavy assignments of the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, or PEO EIS. – Defense News

HII and Ocean Aero have entered a strategic agreement that, if successful, aims to demonstrate how their two unmanned vessels could cooperatively tow, power and transfer data between one another — a step that would greatly expand the usability of both vessels, company executives told Breaking Defense. – Breaking Defense

Charles Edel writes: AUKUS has the potential to play a tremendous role in defense, in deterrence, and in maintenance of peace. The question that remains is whether the governments, legislatures, and industries of the three nations can proceed with “speed and speed now.” – The National Interest

Long War

Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack that took place in an eastern village in the Democratic Republic of Congo killing 10 people and injuring many others, a telegram account for the group said on Sunday. – Reuters

A commander in the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad was killed in Syria on Sunday in what it described as an assassination by Israeli agents. – Associated Press 

As Israel’s security establishment was gearing up for the sensitive Ramadan period, Hamas’s West Bank leader said that the group wants terror activities to be restrained in Gaza for the time being to escalate violence in the West Bank, in a leaked recording aired by Hebrew media on Sunday. – Times of Israel