Fdd's overnight brief

March 23, 2021

In The News


Iran is planning to expand its submarine fleet amid continued maritime tensions with the U.S., Israel and other powers as President Joe Biden pushes for a diplomatic thaw between Washington, D.C. and Tehran despite regional violence. – Newsweek

Iran’s economy is crumbling after years of U.S. sanctions — and Tehran insists Washington must suspend those restrictions before the two sides can return to nuclear talks. – CNBC 

Iran is deliberately concealing key components of its nuclear programme from UN inspectors that can be used for producing nuclear weapons, according to the latest reports received by Western intelligence officials. – The Telegraph 

China released data that showed it imported no Iranian crude for the first time in months, a sign that oil from the U.S.-sanctioned nation may be masked as supplies from other countries. – Bloomberg 

Victoria Coates and Robert Greenway write: Offering a voice to the Iranian people would hardly be an act of aggression—it would simply be a demonstration of America’s commitment to the basic principle of the freedom of speech, a cornerstone of our Bill of Rights. That freedom should be a signature export for us, just as despotic censorship is for the PRC. Furthermore, the people of Iran will head to the polls this June for another presidential election. – Newsweek

Seth J Frantzman writes: Iran’s point is that Riyadh cannot now extricate itself. Tehran wants to hold Saudi Arabia in Yemen and pin it down and also test its drones and missiles on Saudi Arabia. The message is clear. Iran hopes this proxy war will prove to be a watershed – and that it can then use the same tactics it used in Yemen against the US in the region and against its partners and allies, such as Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Omer Carmi writes: Given that his ideal candidate is a sharp contrast to President Rouhani’s pragmatic approach, one can understand why Khamenei would be less inclined to compromise his hardline posture toward the United States before the election. In his view, perhaps, rushing too hastily toward a nuclear compromise could have additional consequences besides playing into a potential American trap—it might also encourage voters to support another “moderate” presidential candidate. Thus, a strategy of playing hardball and preserving the stalemate makes foreign and domestic sense for the regime, at least until after the June vote. – Washington Institute


The Biden administration is mulling over America’s role in Syria’s ongoing conflict as the U.S. tries to break away from Middle East wars, but Vladimir Putin’s top diplomat already has been busy on the ground, trying to win support for a Syria approach that could establish Russia as a broker of security and power in the region. – Associated Press

Airstrikes in northwest Syria near the Turkish border that killed a person and set afire trucks used to distribute aid targeted areas considered the safest in the rebel-held region, a top U.N. official said Monday. – Associated Press

Seth J Frantzman writes: Turkey and Russia, as well as Russian-backed Syrian regime forces, appear to have increased attacks in Syria in recent days. Turkey is hammering Kurdish positions near Ain Issa with the first airstrikes in months, and Russia, or the Syrian regime it supports, is hammering Syrians in Turkish-occupied areas of northern Syria, according to reports. It appears the goal is mostly to punish Syrians, but not much else, since Turkey, Russia and Iran all work together in Syria. Ankara has targeted the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey’s currency tumbled 7.5% on Monday, in its biggest single-day selloff since 2018, after the abrupt ouster of the central-bank governor last week. – Wall Street Journal

Turkish police detained 150 people in raids targeting suspects in the military accused of links to a Muslim cleric who Ankara says was behind a 2016 attempted coup, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday. – Reuters

European Union sanctions against Turkey remain on the table, Germany warned on Monday, after Ankara decided to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a pact designed to counter violence against women, and to close down the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). – Reuters

Sinan Ulgen writes: The president has recently been lashing out at the LGBT community in his speeches. But there was little public support for a withdrawal from the agreement, especially at a time when the country is having difficulty in stemming violence again women. […]Erdogan’s opponents will undoubtedly use his withdrawal from the convention in their bid to draw women voters away from the president and his party. Even for a politician with a penchant for high-risk, high-reward strategies, these two decisions represent major political gambles for Erdogan.- Bloomberg


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel presents himself as a global leader who is in a different league than his rivals — one who can keep Israel safe and promote its interests on the world stage. But strains in his relations with two important Arab allies, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, have dented that image in the fraught run-up to Israel’s do-over election. – New York Times

Israelis vote Tuesday in their fourth parliamentary election in just two years. Once again, the race boils down to a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. – Associated Press

Jonathan Pollard, an American who served a 30-year sentence for spying for Israel, defended his actions in his first interview since arriving in Israel late last year. He said America had “stabbed Israel in the back” by withholding intelligence from its ally. – Associated Press

Israeli state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced on Monday that it has successfully tested a new long-range air defense missile that can take out airborne threats at a range of 150 kilometers, or 93 miles. – Algemeiner 

Ties between Jerusalem and Ramallah will not be “business as usual,” in light of the Palestinian Authority’s successful appeal to have the International Criminal Court investigate Israel for alleged war crimes, a senior Israeli official said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

An Israeli military unit posted on its website recently a map with the precise locations of most of the country’s bases, including ones about which the army is usually silent. – Haaretz

Two of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s top advisers on negotiations with Israel urged in an editorial that Palestinians abandon their campaign for an independent state and instead aim for a “soft” sovereignty that would see Jordan and Egypt take over responsibility for border security affairs. – Times of Israel

According to the US Missile Defense Agency, the Patriot Pac-2 has a range of some 100 km. Ostensibly, putting several batteries in southern Israel would provide radar coverage and interceptors to stop a drone swarm and cruise missile attack of the kind Iran carried out on Abqaiq. Video of Patriot batteries near Eilat was also posted online in January. – Jerusalem Post

Amos Harel writes: According to the Journal, Israel has systematically scuttled maritime oil smuggling from Iran to Syria by striking at least 12 ships. That effort, according to American sources, is intended to disrupt the use of the funds paid for the oil smuggled to Hezbollah in order to purchase combat materiel. – Haaretz 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: But if with Netanyahu, more of the current situation, a new Iran nuclear deal with only limited Israeli input and a certain level of intimidating Iran could be expected. With the other three candidates, there could be more of a chance to influence the US, but the threat of being tested by Iran would likely increase as well as the chances of the entire picture changing. – Jerusalem Post 

Jonathan H. Ferziger writes: Netanyahu, the Jewish state’s longest-serving prime minister, has meanwhile poured his all into the final days of his reelection campaign, hoping also to pass legislation that would postpone a corruption trial in which he pleaded not guilty in February. His calculation is that any affront to Bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi for mixing business and elections can be remedied if Netanyahu wins an unprecedented seventh term next week. Polls predict a stalemate. – Foreign Policy


Lebanon has been grappling with a web of economic and political crises since late 2019 that have led to rampant unemployment, skyrocketing prices, road closures by angry protesters and a government with no clear plan to slow the descent. – New York Times 

Lebanon’s financial crisis intensified on Monday after Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri publicly repudiated President Michel Aoun, saying the latter wanted to dictate cabinet membership and grant veto powers on policy to his political allies. – Reuters

A top Lebanese banker urged authorities to focus on the economy’s key vulnerabilities and called on the government to lean on its own assets to boost the central bank’s reserves. – Bloomberg

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia proposed what it described as a new peace offering on Monday to end the kingdom’s nearly six-year-old war on the insurgency in neighboring Yemen, pledging to lift an air-and-sea blockade if the Houthi rebels agree to a cease-fire. – New York Times

A former senior adviser to the Saudi Arabian government said in an editorial published Monday that the kingdom would not normalize ties with Israel until a peace agreement is reached that establishes an independent Palestinian state. – Times of Israel

The U.S. State Department says Secretary of State Antony Blinken has “strongly condemned” recent attacks against Saudi territory from “Iranian-aligned groups” in the region, and discussed cooperation to end the war in Yemen in a call with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The United States welcomes the commitment of Saudi Arabia and the internationally recognized government of Yemen to a new ceasefire plan, the State Department said on Monday. – Reuters

Saudi Aramco will ensure China’s energy security remains its highest priority for the next 50 years and beyond as new and existing energy sources run in parallel for some time, CEO Amin Nasser told the China Development Forum on Sunday. – Reuters

Seth J Frantzman writes: Israel could do the right thing by offering the kingdom assistance. Israel has multilayered air-defense systems, including Arrow, David’s Sling and Iron Dome. Over the past year, they have been shown to work together closely against threats, and in February, Israel announced new capabilities for Iron Dome. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea sees its nuclear program as essential to regime survival, serving to deter a U.S.-led invasion. Decades of denuclearization talks, economic sanctions and diplomacy have done little to slow Pyongyang’s advance to becoming a self-declared nuclear state. – Wall Street Journal

Last May, under layers of dense clouds, two tankers idled side by side in waters near Taiwan, one passing oil to the other. Weeks later, one of them docked in Nampo, the main port of North Korea. That ship, the Diamond 8, has repeatedly supplied oil to that country, violating United Nations sanctions aimed at limiting North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum, according to U.N. reports. – New York Times

An alleged North Korean intelligence operative appeared in federal court in Washington on Monday to face charges of laundering funds to evade U.S. and United Nations sanctions, in the first such prosecution of its kind as relations between the Biden administration and North Korea have had a rocky start. – Wall Street Journal

The leaders of China and North Korea are reaffirming their traditional alliance following contentious talks between top diplomats from Washington and Beijing and diplomatic isolation and economic problems in the North that have left it ever-more dependent on the Chinese. – Associated Press


The foreign ministers of China and Russia displayed unity at their meeting Tuesday amid criticism and Western sanctions against them over human rights. – Washington Post

The United States placed sanctions on top Chinese officials on Monday, as part of a multinational effort to punish Beijing for human rights abuses against the largely Muslim Uyghur minority group, which American officials have called a genocide. – New York Times

China held a secret trial Monday for a second Canadian citizen, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, in an espionage case that is widely viewed as China seeking leverage to pry Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou away from Canadian and U.S. authorities. But after 10 hours, Kovrig’s trial ended like the March 19 trial of business executive Michael Spavor, the other Canadian involved in the case: with no verdict, no transparency on the court proceedings and no new information about the fate of either man. – Washington Post

The U.S. and China are tiptoeing toward cooperation on climate change despite recent and testy high-level talks, with the two governments’ chief climate envoys scheduled to come together for formal discussions this week. – Wall Street Journal

President Joe Biden is betting that a multitrillion-dollar economic plan centered around infrastructure spending will do more than bolster an American economy hammered by the coronavirus pandemic: It will ensure his country’s competitiveness against China for decades to come. – Bloomberg

China’s double-barreled sanctions attack on the EU on Monday means the landmark Beijing-Brussels trade deal is now on life support. Furious at being targeted by Chinese sanctions on a day of high diplomatic drama, prominent European parliamentarians are threatening not to ratify the EU-China investment pact sealed in December. – Politico

Four people were killed when a man detonated a homemade bomb in a village government office in southern China, authorities said, in a rare act of violent social protest. – The Guardian

Eight out of a dozen Hong Kong activists detained last year by Chinese authorities after attempting to flee to Taiwan have been returned to the city, the Hong Kong government said. – The Guardian

Editorial: U.S. criticism and sanctions are unlikely to bring about any change in China in the short term. But over time, the regime, like the Soviet Union before it, is likely to find itself on the defensive. Most people would like to benefit from the rapidly rising prosperity they see in China. But no one wants to live in a concentration camp. – Washington Post

David Ignatius writes: The Biden administration has already started fixing three areas of U.S. weakness relative to China: The pandemic is receding, the economy is beginning to roar, and the technology sector is getting government research money and planning. Convincing the world that Biden can heal the United States’ political divisions is the hardest task — and probably the most important in restoring the credibility of American power. – Washington Post

Max Boot writes: Biden is off to a strong start on the first four action items — but, understandably, he hasn’t gotten around to the fifth or sixth yet. He needs to make them a priority for the rest of his term. If the United States does all six things successfully, there is no need to fear that the 21st century will be the Communist Chinese century. – Washington Post

Michael Schuman writes: Hopefully, with the posturing out of the way, the two sides can get down to some quieter and more productive negotiating to repair their faltering relations. An opportunity awaits in April during Biden’s Earth Day summit, which could be a suitable forum for a one-on-one between the U.S. and Chinese presidents. That will require both sides to set aside ideological potshots and accept the realities of the global scales of power. – Bloomberg

Andrew S. Erickson writes: Any U.S.-China maritime security exchanges and agreements must fully acknowledge the existence of, and include and apply to, the PAFMM and its operations. If China wants to be treated as a responsible power, it has to be honest and open about all three of its Armed Forces at sea—the Navy, Coast Guard, and Maritime Militia—not conceal key vessels as “civilian” fishing boats. – Foreign Policy

Paul Heer writes: Blinken reiterated in Anchorage that “the United States relationship with China will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be, and adversarial where it must be.” But this overlooks areas where the relationship should or even must be collaborative, and where it need not be adversarial. Beijing and Washington should be devoting as much attention to identifying those areas as they do to the competitive elements of the relationship.  Unfortunately, Anchorage offered little indication that the two sides are ready and willing to do much more than fortify the barricades. – The National Interest

Alan Tonelson writes: Throughout the last American presidential campaign, the nation was told that a Biden victory would return seasoned globalist “adults in the room” to control of U.S. foreign policy after the supposedly chaotic and dangerously reckless America First-y Trump years. But the Alaska meeting with the Chinese suggests that Mr. Biden’s top advisers could use considerable maturation of their own. – The National Interest

Edward Lucas writes: More broadly, we have to show that our approach to digital and technological issues is rooted in self-confident, clearly articulated contestability, openness, transparency, and redress — features of our societies that are so profoundly lacking in mainland China. Self-criticism is healthy; self-doubt is crippling; self-hatred is pernicious. Both Russia and China want the West to be consumed in debilitating, divisive rows about its past and present shortcomings. Don’t make it easy for them. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Now the Islamic State attacks are rare and come only at night, residents say, by fighters from areas outside of Taliban and government control. Yet while smaller and more amorphous after its military defeat, the terror group still poses a threat to the region as it recruits both in cities and the countryside, waiting to take advantage of whatever might follow in the war’s next iteration. – New York Times

The Biden administration is facing increased pressure from European allies growing impatient over whether Washington will soon remove its troops from Afghanistan, a move that would free NATO members to reposition forces to counter Russia in their backyard. – Washington Examiner

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said “all options remain open” on Afghanistan, just weeks before Washington is due to withdraw the last of its troops under a deal struck with the Taliban last year. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Daniel Markey writes: In short, Beijing’s influence with Moscow, Tehran and Islamabad will be essential to avoiding unnecessary grandstanding, costly disruptions and escalating support to Afghan factions. Both Beijing and Washington thus have something to gain by coordinating their diplomatic efforts on Afghanistan. In doing so, they will also be conducting an important, precedent-setting test of narrow cooperation under the shadow of competition, with implications for Iran, climate change, pandemic response and other challenges on the horizon. – The Hill

H. R. McMaster writes: If the Biden administration abandons the weak agreement that the Taliban have already broken, it is possible to reverse a self-defeating strategy and sustain a long-term effort at a cost acceptable to the American people. Because war remains a contest of wills, achieving peace in Afghanistan will require the Afghan government and security forces to convince reconcilable elements of the Taliban that they cannot prevail through the use of force. Sustainable, long-term military and diplomatic support for the Afghan government and security forces is essential to achieving that outcome. – Fox News

South Asia

Bangladeshi officials began investigating the cause of a massive fire that killed at least seven and displaced tens of thousands at a Rohingya refugee camp, as officials sifted through the debris looking for more victims on Tuesday. – Reuters

India and Pakistan officials are expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss a water-sharing pact, in a sign of improving relations between the nuclear-armed rivals following a ceasefire in Kashmir brokered by the United Arab Emirates. – Financial Times

India’s antitrust body on Friday told a court that a Reuters report showing Amazon.com Inc gave preferential treatment to a small group of sellers on its India platform corroborated evidence it had received and which had triggered an investigation of the U.S. e-commerce giant. – Reuters

When China acknowledged this year that four of its soldiers had died fighting Indian forces on the two countries’ disputed mountain border eight months prior, the irreverent blogger Little Spicy Pen Ball had questions. […]Qiu Ziming, the 38-year-old former newspaper journalist behind the blog, was detained and criminally charged. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to three years. – NPR

Aparna Pande writes: For this ceasefire to last longer than a few weeks or months would require the Pakistani military to ensure control over the various Pakistan-based jihadi groups that focus on India and ensure no attacks take place. India too would need to move beyond simply seeking to isolate Pakistan and come up with more options for dealing with its immediate neighbor — including discussions on Kashmir — but domestic politics in India appear to be moving in a different direction. – The Hill

Peter Vincent Pry writes: Moreover, Beijing apparently thinks blacking out India’s national electric grid is less escalatory than a shooting war in the Himalayas. In 2020, China’s strategists threatened an EMP attack on the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, as one of their “less escalatory” options. Cyber warfare between nuclear-armed powers is not a good idea, for either side and 2021 too easily could become a nuclear version of 1914. – The Hill 


The European Union and the United States imposed sanctions Monday on a number of Myanmar officials accused of involvement in the country’s military coup and the ensuing crackdown on protesters. – Associated Press

The United States said Tuesday it’s backing the Philippinesin a new standoff with Beijing in the disputed South China Sea, where Manila has asked a Chinese fishing flotilla to leave a reef. China ignored the call, insisting it owns the offshore territory. – Associated Press

Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Fujian, the closest mainland province to Taiwan, amid tensions with the U.S. over the democratically ruled island. – Bloomberg

The Philippines complained to China on Monday about what it described as the “swarming and threatening presence” of Chinese vessels in disputed waters in the South China Sea and demanded they be withdrawn from the area. – Reuters

Myanmar protesters held candle-lit vigils for the scores killed in demonstrations against military rule, as Western countries imposed more sanctions on individuals and groups linked to last month’s coup and an ensuing brutal crackdown on dissent. – Reuters

Millions of cubic metres of soil due to be used to build a controversial US airbase on the Japanese island of Okinawa contains the remains of Japanese and Americans who died in one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war, according to citizen excavators. – The Guardian

The Philippines is calling on Beijing to remove some 220 vessels moored at a reef in the South China Sea – the latest dispute between China and its maritime neighbors over claims of sovereignty in the strategic body of water. – NPR

Tristan Abbey writes: Productive bilateral cooperation on energy and natural resources allows for plenty of window dressing, with the added benefit of making a difference. The U.S. territories and freely associated states across the Pacific also provide potentially helpful launchpads for lateral initiatives of all types, beginning with studying “insular energy” systems and certainly not ending there. The United States needs not just the oft-cited “seat at the table,” but to put money on that table. The Biden administration has inherited a set of tools far more powerful than the autopen, including export credit, development finance, trade missions, and feasibility studies. – The National Interest

Wallace C. Gregson writes: The events in Seoul, Tokyo, Delhi, and Anchorage are but a “dot” in a long line into the future. They are not so significant in and of themselves but meaningful if part of a line into the future. This skillful work demonstrating America’s return to the bedrock principles that have served the country and the world so well in the past is overdue and welcome. – The National Interest


Two Russian diplomats accused by Bulgarian prosecutors of espionage will be expelled from the country, Bulgaria’s foreign ministry announced Monday. – Associated Press

Indonesia was deporting a Russian drug convict Tuesday after he fled from his home country and escaped his first deportation attempt in February on the resort island of Bali. – Associated Press

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that Washington has rejected President Vladimir Putin’s offer to arrange a quick public call with U.S. President Joe Biden to help defuse tensions raised by Biden’s recent remark that the Russian leader was a killer. – Associated Press

European Council President Charles Michel has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that relations between the European Union and Russia are “at a low point” with disagreements in “many areas,” which the Russian leader blamed on the bloc’s “confrontational policies.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

China will promote use of a safe international travel pass for trips with Russia, senior diplomat Wang Yi said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov said in an interview with the Defense Ministry’s newspaper Krasnaya Zverzda that by the end of this year three nuclear-powered submarines including the Project Borei-A strategic underwater cruiser Knyaz Oleg and the Project Yasen-M submarines Kazan and Novosibirsk will enter service with the Russian Navy. – The National Interest

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wants China “to move away” from relying on the U.S. dollar for international trade in order to undermine the power of U.S. sanctions. “We must consolidate our independence,” Lavrov told Chinese state media. “So, we must reduce our exposure to sanctions by strengthening our technological independence and switching to settlements in national and international currencies other than the dollar. We need to move away from using Western-controlled international payment systems.” – Washington Examiner

Alexander Vindman and Garry Kasparov write: U.S. and British officials are already reportedly weighing additional sanctions ranging from measures against oligarchs to targeting Russia’s sovereign debt and Nord Stream 2. The measures must be part of a concerted effort to punish the Kremlin for its blatant violations of human rights and unrestrained repression of opponents both at home and abroad. If we in the circle of democratic nations fail, Putin, his oligarchs, his enablers and the mafia-state structure built around them will know that they can snuff out the stirrings of democracy with beatings, arrests and murders — and we will be complicit. – Washington Post

Gerard Baker writes: The Chinese have proved much more adept than their Russian predecessors at adapting the precepts of Marxism to economic reality. As Lenin predicted, they’ve had plenty of help from American capitalists in the process. But our cultural elites have also been busy exporting the hangman’s rope across the Pacific. At least the capitalists have been selling it to them. Much of modern America seems intent on giving it away. – Wall Street Journal

Robert D. Kaplan writes: What Nixon and Kissinger accomplished is now impossible. That was a time when Russia and China were practically at war and thus ripe for American manipulation. But a modest prying-apart over time of the Russia-China alliance might yet be possible. At least that is the direction where we should be headed. Merely holding Russia to account is not a policy. We should learn from Napoleon. – The National Interest


At least 20 police officers were left with broken bones and other serious injuries after a protest in Bristol, England, turned violent Sunday night, with thousands gathering to denounce a bill designed to give authorities broader powers to clamp down on peaceful protests. – Washington Post

A fight between the European Union and the U.K. over vaccine supplies is demonstrating how securing national access to doses can generate conflict among U.S. allies and underlining the vulnerability of successful Covid-19 vaccine rollouts to the breakdown of international supply chains. – Wall Street Journal

Kosovo’s new parliament has elected Albin Kurti as the new prime minister after his leftist-nationalist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination Movement) party won the most votes in snap elections last month. The newly elected parliament, meeting for the first time on March 22, backed Kurti’s nomination and his proposed government 67-30. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A powerful Bulgarian politician who stepped down two years ago amid accusations of corruption is trying to make a comeback in upcoming parliamentary elections with the help of a U.S.-based trucking tycoon. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

France’s foreign ministry has summoned China’s ambassador over repeated insults and threats aimed at French lawmakers and a researcher and a decision by Beijing to sanction officials across the European Union. – Reuters

A new report by a leading British anti-racism organization showed a troubling rise in antisemitic conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, which have blamed Jews for causing, spreading, falsifying, or benefiting from the disease, and have compared measures to contain it to the Holocaust. – Algemeiner 

Russia’s heavy investment in new ballistic missile submarines and long-range precision strike weaponry signal the Kremlin’s will to challenge NATO’s ability to reinforce the High North in a crisis, Norway’s top diplomat said Friday. – USNI News

The United Kingdom has dropped its reference to an earlier stated commitment to procuring 138 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning combat aircraft, noting only that an unspecified number will be bought over and above the 48 already outlined in earlier statements. – Jane’s 360

Tom Rogan writes: Ironically now headed by two of the leaders most responsible for Europe’s defense problems, the EU is delivering less and less for Western interests and values. […]It’s a reflection of the EU’s unwillingness to confront external aggression against the Western democratic order. […]Put simply, if the Biden administration is serious about strengthening NATO, it must take action to that end. Deterring and, if necessary, defeating Russian forces requires more than rhetoric. European freeloading has gone on far too long. – Washington Examiner

Nathan Pinkoski writes: If they were wise, American liberals would learn to be modest and stop lecturing Europe — not least because America isn’t what it used to be, from a hard-power point of view. But the Bidenites think US “soft power” is enough: American cultural authority, exerted through our movies and media, including US government broadcasting. It’s true that America has a great deal of soft power. But the problem is that US liberals consider themselves on a moral crusade to promote their boutique ideological norms and racialized worldview across the globe. – New York Post

Katia Glod writes: If implemented effectively, the mandate can provide further evidence and documentation to help to bring human rights abusers in Belarus to account through the establishment of new or additional sanctions and to bring about future legal action in Belarus, or under international jurisdiction. This approach is becoming more effective — 16 countries have heard cases under international jurisdiction to date, and the majority of cases have ended with convictions. The latest example is the conviction of a former Syrian official in February in Germany. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Michael Ruhle writes: NATO’s adaptation to a new hybrid conflict landscape has been remarkably swift. Many challenges still remain. However, as Secretary General Stoltenberg put it, we have to be prepared for the unforeseen and thus need a strategy to deal with uncertainty. Broadening NATO’s counter-hybrid toolbox is a vital part of such a strategy. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Alexis Mrachek writes: The political turmoil in Belarus does not appear to be ending any time soon. Belarusians will likely continue to protest for months to come, as long as they are able to. The United States under both the Trump and Biden Administrations has shown a reasonable amount of support for their fight for democracy, but more needs to be done. The Biden Administration cannot forget Belarus and must ensure that U.S. solidarity is unwavering, especially in the months to come. – The Heritage Foundation


Armed attackers riding motorcycles killed 137 people in coordinated raids on villages in southwestern Niger on Sunday, the government said, making it one of the deadliest days in recent memory in a country ravaged by Islamist violence. – New York Times

Uganda said late on Monday it had detained an American national for involvement in subversive activities amid a deadly crackdown against opponents of longtime President Yoweri Museveni that has drawn growing international censure. – Reuters

Four Kenyan policemen will stand trial for murder after a judge ruled on Monday they have a case to answer in the death of British aristocrat Alex Monson, who died in their custody in 2012. – Reuters

Eritrean authorities described European Union sanctions targeting a security agency Monday as “malicious” and charged the EU with having “ulterior motives.” – Associated Press

The Americas

National security adviser Jake Sullivan singled out Goldman Sachs by name when he briefed reporters last month on the Biden administration’s new approach to trade policy. – Washington Post

The State Department has named a new special envoy to direct its efforts in seeking to stem migration from a trio of nations in Central America. – The Hill

A New York jury on Monday found a Honduran man accused of criminal dealings with the country’s President Juan Orlando Hernandez and other high-ranking officials guilty on three counts of drug trafficking and related weapons charges. – Reuters

Two Venezuelan soldiers died over the weekend in clashes with “irregular Colombian armed groups” near the border in southwestern Apure state, Venezuela’s defense ministry said in a statement on Monday. – Reuters

Joseph Varner and Thomas W. Spoehr writes: The Biden Administration has an opportunity and a common ideological kinship to influence Canada’s Trudeau government on long-standing mutual security concerns. It should take advantage of that opportunity before inevitable challenges cause U.S.–Canada relations to bog down over other issues and the United States is forced to concentrate on other areas of concern. – The Heritage Foundation

United States

As Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson watched the violence and horror of the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol, her mind flashed back to the war zones where she had led military intelligence operations. […]On Monday, she was sworn in as the Senate’s new sergeant-at-arms, its top security official. – New York Times

Justice Department officials have reviewed potential sedition charges against members of the Oath Keepers militia group who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, and they have been weighing whether to file them for weeks, according to law enforcement officials briefed on the deliberations. – New York Times

New U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai pledged to rebuild alliances and actively engage on international trade on Monday in her first calls as the top U.S. trade negotiator with key partners and the World Trade Organization. – Reuters

Noah Smith writes: Its stellar vaccine effort and stimulus have allowed it to jump ahead; now the country should use that time wisely to improve its competitive position for the longer term. Just as in the late 1940s and 1950s when the rest of the world was rebuilding from World War II, this is the chance for the U.S. to power ahead. – Bloomberg

Harlan Ullman writes: Returning to current American diplomacy, if the Biden team is responding to domestic politics, that would be a foolish and unworthy response. Kissinger did not. Nor did he choose to be insulting and disrespectful. If the administration thinks it can out hardball Russia and China, it should recall Vienna 1961 and the above tale. – The Hill

Elise Labott writes: The Capitol riot laid bare the dangers of ignoring the growing domestic extremist threat, now emanating from a tangled web of individuals, groups, and ideologies. But it was not an isolated event. FBI Director Wray said the bureau is currently working on upward of 2,000 domestic terrorism investigations. Without a national reckoning about what is happening in the country—and a genuinely bipartisan effort to counter the challenge, like the one seen after 9/11—Jan. 6 may go down in history as the point of no return. – Foreign Policy


On messaging apps like Telegram and on internet forums like 4chan, anti-Asian groups and discussion threads have been increasingly active since November, especially on far-right message boards such as The Donald, researchers said. – New York Times

The computer code underlying TikTok doesn’t pose a national security threat to the U.S., according to a new study by university cybersecurity researchers. – Wall Street Journal

A tool designed to help businesses protect themselves from further compromises after a global hack of Microsoft email server software has been downloaded more than 25,000 times since it was released last week, the White House’s National Security Council said Monday. – Associated Press

Royal Dutch Shell Plc was impacted by a data security incident related to using Accellion Inc.’s file-transfer software, the energy giant said in a statement dated March 16. – Bloomberg

President Biden on Monday nominated Lina Khan, a well-known anti-monopolist and a vocal critic of Big Tech’s powers, to the Federal Trade Commission. The move signals the administration’s intent to pursue an aggressive tech regulatory agenda to rein in companies such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon. – Washington Examiner

Cyberterrorism is seen as the top threat to the U.S., according to a new Gallup poll, surpassing nuclear weapons development and international terrorism. – The Hill

President Biden on Monday announced his intention to nominate influential antitrust scholar Lina Khan to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). – The Hill

Thirty-plus privacy, consumer and anti-monopoly groups are coming together to stop big tech platforms from tracking and categorizing individuals for the purpose of narrowly targeting advertising. – The Hill

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Facebook to intervene in a $15 billion class-action lawsuit charging the company with illegally tracking the online activities of its users even when they are not on the platform. The social media giant is accused of violating a federal law known as the Wiretap Act because the company secretly tracked users on websites that use Facebook tools, such as the “like” button. – Washington Examiner

Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd is having to offer concessions in a plan to merge the country’s top two videogame live-streaming sites in order to resolve antitrust concerns, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. – Reuters

A group of leading companies including Mastercard, SoftBank and IBM have called on the G7 to create a new body to help co-ordinate how member states tackle issues ranging from artificial intelligence to cyber security. – Financial Times

David Forscey and Justin Sherman write: The public core underpins data transmission across the global internet, supporting billions of internet users each day and tying its operation with national and economic security. Living, learning, and working during the pandemic have only accelerated global reliance on the internet’s public core as online activity rises to ever-higher levels. This growth in technology use, meshed with a failure of imagination with past attacks, means there is even greater risk of a much broader, more disruptive attack on the internet’s public core in the future. – The Hill

Michael Poznansky writes: First, as U.S. Cyber Command enters its second decade of existence, having a clear sense of how to think about the variety of operations in cyberspace is critical. […]Second, assessing the wisdom of the previous administration’s decision to give Cyber Command more latitude in conducting operations — which the Biden administration has purportedly left in place — requires clear metrics of what has worked and what has not. Covert cyber operations may provide a more useful benchmark than espionage operations. – War on the Rocks

James Kynge writes: The big question now is how western governments can maintain a trading relationship with China while protecting domestic markets from data breaches. In the US, the direction is already clear: a Department of Commerce “entity list” restricts American technology exports to more than 300 Chinese companies and entities. – Financial Times


The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said Monday he would support creating a quick reaction force of National Guardsmen to respond to emergencies at the Capitol. – The Hill

Washington’s budget cycle is just getting started, but already Democrats and Republicans are in a war of words over whether to curb or continue the trajectory of spending on nuclear weapons modernization. – Defense News

Years of kicking the can on modernization are finally coming due for the Pentagon at a time when the Biden administration faces major pressures to draw down the defense budget, creating a nasty situation across all three of the military services. – Defense News

The U.S. military must better integrate electromagnetic spectrum operations throughout its ranks to succeed against near-peer adversaries, rather than relegate the capabilities to a niche specialty, a panel of experts told Congress. – C4ISRNET

The Government Accountability Office will review the U.S. Air Force’s decision to headquarter Space Command in Huntsville, Alabama. – C4ISRNET

The Navy is evaluating how it can speed up the timeline for its initiative to renovate aging public shipyards amid concern from lawmakers that the current 20-year timeframe is too long. – USNI News

The Navy will get a first glimpse of what future operations could look like, when a Zumwalt-class destroyer manages long-range surveillance and fires by manned and unmanned platforms in an upcoming exercise in the Pacific. – USNI News

The U.S. carried out more freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea toward the end of Donald Trump’s presidency than any other year on record. – Military.com

Costs for the Defense Department’s upgrade to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s critical software system have gone nearly $2 billion over estimates during the last two years, according to a new congressional watchdog report. – Military.com

Robert O. Work, James A. Winnefeld, Jr. and Stephanie O’Sullivan write: These imperatives will allow the Department of Defense and the intelligence community to connect strategic vision to priority investments and help ensure that technological advances are synchronized with future concept development. We have seen such leadership work in the past and urge the executive and legislative branches to act immediately on the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence’s recommendation for a Steering Committee on Emerging Technology. – War on the Rocks

Long War

The Supreme Court said on Monday that it would review an appeals court’s decision that threw out the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of helping carry out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. – New York Times

A top federal appeals court has upheld the terrorism conviction of the wife of a German-born rapper who joined the Islamic State extremist group in Syria and likely died in an airstrike, authorities said Monday. – Associated Press

Children and young people are being radicalised in the sprawling camp in Syria housing families of the Islamic State group, where those who renounce the IS risk being killed, British broadcaster Sky News reported. – Associated Press