Fdd's overnight brief

March 24, 2023

In The News


Iran would need only several months to build a nuclear weapon if Tehran opted to produce a bomb, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Thursday. – Wall Street Journal

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Thursday the United States was looking at ways to strengthen its sanctions against Iran, but acknowledged the sanctions had not resulted in the behavioral or policy changes Washington desires from Tehran. – Reuters

Twelve Republican US Senators on Wednesday joined a worldwide chorus urging the European Union to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. – Algemeiner

Congress has played a key role in shaping U.S. policy toward Iran, providing for extensive U.S. sanctions, providing aid and authorizing arms sales to partners threatened by Iran, seeking to influence negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and enacting legislation that allows Congress to review related agreements. In addition to Iran’s nuclear program, its government’s support for armed proxies and terrorist groups, its human rights violations, and its increasingly close relationships with Russia and China have all posed challenges for the United States. – USNI News

Vladimir Khanin writes: To sum up, antisemitism has been and remains a key element of the Islamist Iranian regime’s foreign policy, including its political interests in the South Caucasus, where the rapidly changing situation creates both new challenges and new opportunities for local and foreign players. The Iranians are trying to boost their influence with the help of anti-Zionist rhetoric as expressed by pro-Iranian Islamist circles in Azerbaijan and in Armenia, where the combination of classic and new-age antisemitic propaganda promoted by interest groups and domestic antisemites has a limited but still significant audience. – Algemeiner

Omer Carmi writes: Although Khamenei criticized Washington’s supposed attempts to weaken Iran and demoralize its people, his Nowruz Day speech did not specifically mention the stalled nuclear negotiations or the recent advancements in the regime’s nuclear program. Instead, he repeated his old argument that the best way to counter U.S. sanctions is not through diplomacy, but through domestic efforts that render them toothless. This stance is unsurprising given that the regime has been downplaying the prospects of returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement for more than a year now. – Washington Institute

Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, Johanna Moore, Ashka Jhaveri, Nicholas Carl, and Frederick W. Kagan write: The regime’s intransigence on both economic and sociocultural issues will likely fuel greater instability and unrest. This rhetorical focus on the economy is not enough to address the underlying problems or address protest grievances. Khamenei’s focus on the economy will only lead to public disappointment if he does not plan to seriously reform the economy. […]Regime officials have intensified their efforts to enforce mandatory veiling, including by announcing plans to reestablish morality patrols, for example. – Institute for the Study of War

Jonathan Michanie writes: A Western victory in Ukraine would not keep U.S. adversaries at bay forever. It would, however, give America and Europe an opportunity to invest in the much-necessary conventional hard power to continue deterring their adversaries in other theaters, mainly the Middle East and the Pacific. This will require many hard conversations in Washington and European capitals, but these will be necessary for the sake of preserving the rules-based international liberal order. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

One Ukrainian paid almost $10,000 to flee the draft. Another has ignored five military summonses. A third avoids public spaces, fearing a military official will pounce and issue a call-up. – Wall Street Journal

The nine-year-long status quo near Niu-York may soon be challenged by battles in Bakhmut to the northeast and Avdiivka to the southwest, where Russian troops are making bloody gains. A breakout in those areas, leaders have said, would strangle supply routes into the area and risk units here becoming encircled. – Washington Post

Open-source researchers have found evidence that Moscow is dusting off Stalin-era tanks — some first deployed more than 70 years ago — and shipping them west, possibly a sign that battlefield losses have led to a shortage of armor for Moscow’s forces on the front in Ukraine. – Washington Post

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, touring areas affected by Russia’s full-scale invasion and its monthslong campaign to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, he said on Thursday. – New York Times

“We need Western equipment so that we can go out at night,” Chancellor said, “and good communication and good optics. Here, it’s all old.” – New York Times

A top Russian security official warned Thursday about the rising threat of a nuclear war and blasted a German minister for threatening Russian President Vladimir Putin with arrest, saying that such action would amount to a declaration of war and trigger a Russian strike on Germany. – Associated Press

European Union leaders endorsed a plan Thursday for sending Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition within the next 12 months to help the country counter Russia’s invasion forces. – Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday urged Europe to increase and speed up supplies of modern weaponry and impose tougher sanctions on Russia, saying otherwise the war could drag on for years. – Reuters

Russian forces are depleted in Bakhmut and a Ukrainian counter-offensive could soon be launched, one of Kyiv’s top generals has said, raising the prospect of an unlikely turnaround in the besieged city. – CNN

Russia unleashed a wave of deadly attacks on towns and cities across Ukraine on Wednesday as Chinese leader Xi Jinping departed from Moscow following talks with President Vladimir Putin. – CNN

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday said the alliance needs to buckle down for a prolonged war in Ukraine as Russian President Vladimir Putin is showing no signs of edging toward any peace deal. – Fox News

Slovakia handed over the first four Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine on Thursday, with nine more expected to be delivered in the coming weeks, Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad announced. – Fox News 

On March 16, 2023, the Hamas website reported that a Hamas delegation headed by senior officials Moussa Abu Marzouq and ‘Izzat Al-Rishq had arrived in Moscow for a visit, and that it had met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also Special Representative of the President of Russia for the Middle East and Africa. The meeting took place at Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday night that he will become personally involved in efforts to put major sections of a controversial judicial overhaul to a vote in the Knesset next week, following yet another day of anti-government protests across the country. – Washington Post

The Kohelet Policy Forum, founded by an American Israeli and funded by a U.S. libertarian billionaire, quietly authored and helped introduce the far-reaching package of judicial changes that has sparked a national crisis and driven hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets. – Washington Post

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday vowed to “mend the rift” in a nation deeply divided over his proposed overhaul of the country’s judiciary. But he offered no details on how he intends to do so and gave no indication that he would slow down the plan. – Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned his defence chief on Thursday after reports the minister wanted to halt the government’s judicial overhaul plans, as cracks opened in the ruling coalition over the bitterly disputed project. – Reuters

A senior Israeli intelligence officer has spent 28 years as an army reservist, sometimes leaving his family at a moment’s notice to go on duty overseeing classified projects out of love for his country. Now, he’s had a change of heart. – Reuters

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian officials said, amid attempts to curb surging violence from spiralling further. – Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu violated his conflict of interest agreement ruled on by the High Court of Justice on Thursday evening when he announced he was “taking over” the proposed judicial reform, attorney-general Gali Baharav-Miara wrote in a letter to the prime minister on Friday. – Jerusalem Post

If an election were held today, a new liberal right-wing party would win eight seats, according to a new poll by Panels Politics commissioned by The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to London early Friday morning to discuss Iran’s existential threat as top military officials warn that his government’s judicial overhaul plan was harming national security. – Jerusalem Post

Protest organizers began a fresh day of demonstrations against the government’s judicial overhaul Thursday, with dozens of large gatherings expected to draw as many as half a million people to the streets in major cities, on highways and outside of coalition members’ homes. – Times of Israel

Amir Abu Khadija, a high-profile Palestinian terrorist, was killed Thursday morning in clashes with IDF forces in a Palestinian village near Tulkarem in the West Bank, according to Palestinian reports. – Ynet

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday that his intention to take part in his government’s legislative blitz on Israel’s judiciary despite a High Court’s ruling is illegal. – Haaretz

Editorial: This week’s diplomatic gaffes show that this is not the case, because if Netanyahu had two hands on the wheel his ministers would not be taking steps and making comments that alienate friends. Forget two hands on the wheel, at this point even one would be an improvement. Netanyahu needs to take control of his ministers and instill discipline and order before they cause more gratuitous damage to Israel’s relations with key countries and constituencies around the world. – Jerusalem Post

Amos Harel writes: Elsewhere, and much more importantly, Iran is expanding its nuclear program and has enriched uranium to 84 percent levels, close to weapons-grade material. Evidently, Israel’s enemies are watching the domestic crisis unfold—and drawing their own conclusions about the state’s capability and willingness to engage in battle, if necessary, under the new circumstances. And as Israelis know from experience, war in the Middle East often breaks out when nobody really plans to start one. – Foreign Policy

Mark Regev writes: As with other authoritarian regimes, those following Palestinian developments tend to focus on Abbas’ health and longevity, the conventional wisdom being that he will only end his term in office through natural causes. Under such circumstances, Israel has little choice but to pursue a minimalist strategy of conflict management. Unfortunately, adopting a more ambitious peace agenda will first require a massive dose of wishful thinking. – Jerusalem Post

Sharon Roffe Ofir writes: There are no more checks and balances and the vision of the Zionist state will gradually recede. The severe crisis we have found ourselves in is an opportunity to stop and create order by demanding a constitution for Israel. If not, demography will win. – Jerusalem Post

Elliott Abrams and Eric Cohen write: We hope that this national debate in Israel may still produce an outcome that improves Israeli democracy and balances majority rule and representative government with the essential power of the judiciary to protect basic rights. That outcome is far more likely if all sides accept that principled compromise—achieved through the deliberative institutions of Israeli democracy—is what true leadership now demands. – Jerusalem Post

Rafael Castro writes: The risk that citizens lack the legal expertise to weigh the pros and cons of each plebiscite option is real. Yet the greater danger is that if Israel does not settle the issue via a plebiscite, the future of Israel will hinge on shady backroom deals in the midst of chaos on its streets. – Arutz Sheva


Retired Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, formerly the leader of U.S. Central Command, oversaw America’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, nearly 20 years after the 9/11 attacks plunged the nation into a long-term commitment. But the Afghanistan troop withdrawal has long been a sore subject for House Republicans, who hold a narrow 222-213 majority and are now in a position to hold oversight hearings. – Washington Examiner

House Republicans hammered Secretary of State Antony Blinken Thursday over the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, threatening to subpoena a letter that highlighted internal dissent over the episode. – Bloomberg

Adam Weinstein writes: Continuing to communicate with the Taliban despite its failure to meet international standards safeguards diplomatic engagement from being perceived as a reward for minor improvements or an acceptance of further deterioration. Some may argue that engaging with the Taliban normalizes its policies, but that ship sailed the moment U.S. diplomats publicly sat down with Taliban leaders in Doha in 2018, culminating in an agreement signed in 2020 and a photo op between then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Baradar later that same year. Continued outreach is necessary, even if it is laborious and discouraging for now. And eventually U.S. diplomats must sit down with the Taliban in Afghanistan. – Foreign Policy


The U.S. carried out airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria on Thursday after a drone struck a base used by U.S. personnel in the northeast part of the country, the Pentagon said. – Wall Street Journal

An intelligence report by satellite and intelligence solutions company ImageSat International (ISI) was able to determine that based on satellite images, an attack in Syria on March 12 included attacks on entrances to underground tunnels. According to intelligence estimates, these tunnels contained the means for the production of surface-to-surface missiles. – Jerusalem Post

James M. Dorsey writes: Much of the Arab proposition is about enticing the United States and Europe to be more accommodating and more inclined to a conditioned lifting of sanctions. The problem is that Al-Assad is likely to call the Arab states’ bluff in the knowledge that Iran is his trump card. A speedy in principle US and European embrace of the Arab proposition would hold Emirati and Saudi feet to the fire and put Al-Assad on the back foot. – Algemeiner


The oil is pumped 24 hours a day several meters from Raghed Jasim’s home in Iraq’s crude-rich southern heartland. Gas flares from the field light the night sky bright orange, spewing acrid smoke; when the wind picks up, the 40-year old’s clothes are coated black. For Iraq’s poorest, evidence of the country’s monumental oil wealth is inescapable. So is the knowledge that very little of it trickles down to them. – Associated Press

Two decades ago, Crow was a 24-year-old platoon leader in the American invasion of Iraq. Platoon members carried gas masks and gear to wear over their uniforms to protect them from the chemical weapons the U.S. believed — wrongly — that Iraqi forces might use against them. Today, Crow sits on committees that oversee the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. The mistakes of Iraq are still fresh in his mind. – Associated Press

Editorial: The only bright spot is the young generation of Iraqis who aspire for a better future: about 60 per cent of the population are aged under 25 and they will, one day, drive change. Until then, the legacy of a badly planned and badly fought war is the shattering of the Iraqi state and the fabric of Iraqi society. – Financial Times

Michael Rubin writes: Washington need not rehabilitate Qais but as Iraq begins its third post-war decade, the Biden administration must focus more on the future than the past. It should stop puffing up aging warlords like Barzani, who holds no position but whom Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin nevertheless met, or believing would-be warlords like Muqtada are messiahs. It is time to end the era of personality-based diplomacy behind it, stop seeing Iraq only through the lens of Iran, and respect rather than undermine Iraq’s democracy at this time of generational change. – Washington Examiner

Mina Al-Oraibi writes: While the trajectory of U.S.-Arab relations over the past two decades was by no means exclusively shaped by the Iraq war, the conflict cast a long, dark shadow over the region’s view of the United States. – Foreign Affairs


The International Monetary Fund warned on Thursday that Lebanon was in a very dangerous situation a year after it committed to reforms it has failed to implement and said the government must stop borrowing from the central bank. – Reuters

Victims of the 1983 attack on a US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon got closer to recovering their $1.68 billion judgment against Iran for sponsoring the attack, when a federal court ordered two financial institutions to turn over funds held for Iran. – Bloomberg

Adnan Nasser writes: The 2020 Beirut blast will not only be remembered as an event in history but also as a painful, living memory for those who lost loved ones. While houses can be rebuilt, emotions healed, and time can pass, a person who has been killed can never return. The best way to honor them is to uncover the truth without any hesitation or apology. This can only be achieved by conducting an honest and transparent investigation that is free from the influence of Lebanon’s divisive and regrettable politics. – The National Interest

Arabian Peninsula

Female aid workers in north Yemen cannot do their jobs tackling one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises as tightening male guardianship rules by Houthi authorities restrict their movement, nine female humanitarians told Reuters. – Reuters

Renewed fighting has erupted in central Yemen, killing at least 16 forces, security and health officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Secretary of State Tony Blinken, testifying yesterday to the House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations Committees, sought to further downplay the nature of China’s involvement in the recent pact normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. – Jewish Insider

Middle East & North Africa

The U.S. will send aging A-10 attack planes to swap for more advanced combat aircraft in the Middle East as part of a Pentagon effort to shift more modern fighters to the Pacific and Europe to deter China and Russia, U.S. officials said. – Wall Street Journal

Saudi Arabia and Syria are nearing an agreement to restore diplomatic ties after negotiations mediated by Russia, according to Saudi and Syrian officials familiar with the discussions, as the geopolitics of the Middle East shift. – Wall Street Journal

Tunisian President Kais Saied has caused “enormous concern” about where Tunisia is headed with moves that have weakened democratic checks and balances, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf said on Thursday. – Reuters

Preparations for the first review of Egypt’s economic reform programme with the International Monetary Fund have begun and dates for the review mission will be announced when agreed with the authorities, an IMF spokesperson said on Thursday. – Reuters

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said yesterday that the recent China-brokered agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to normalize relations has not derailed efforts to advance Saudi-Israeli normalization. – Jewish Insider

Anna Borshchevskaya writes: For example, more than Europe, the Middle East needs stronger journalism training programs and improved access to outside information tools. This could include increased funding for outlets such as VOA Arabic and BBC Arabic, as well as effective ways to get the Western—including, in particular, the Ukrainian—narrative into local media. Indeed, the region has yet to hear the Ukrainian narrative to the same degree it has heard the Russian one. Most of all, the West needs to think strategically and long term. Western leaders talk about isolating Russia globally, but they cannot achieve this goal without discrediting the Kremlin’s narrative where it resonates most. – Foreign Policy

Korean Peninsula

North Korea said on Friday that it had used an underwater drone to practice launching a nuclear attack on an enemy seaport, saying that threats from the United States and its allies were forcing it to develop diverse means of carrying out nuclear strikes. – New York Times

Japan and South Korea almost simultaneously dropped their export claims against each other on Thursday in the latest sign of improving ties. – Associated Press 

Extrajudicial executions, rape, forced abortions, jail without trial, torture, starvation rations that leave prisoners so hungry some turn to eating insects. These are just some of the abuses commonplace in North Korean prisons and other detention facilities, according to former detainees whose testimony forms the basis of a new report released by a human rights watchdog this week. – CNN


Kim Wong, a longtime journalist in Hong Kong who now lives in the Boston area, has attracted a giant online audience with his Mandarin-language videos criticizing the Chinese government — including, he says, a substantial number of people inside China who use software tools to access information the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t want them to see. – Washington Post

Hours before TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was set to appear before Congress on Thursday, the Chinese government said it would strongly oppose any forced sale of the company. – Washington Post

China threatened “serious consequences” Friday after the U.S. Navy sailed a destroyer around the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea for the second day in a row, in a move Beijing claimed was a violation of its sovereignty and security. – Associated Press 

A new U.S. congressional committee on China held its second hearing on Thursday, highlighting what Washington says is an ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region. – Reuters

China has never deliberately pursued a trade surplus with the United States, Shu Jueting, a commerce ministry spokesperson, said on Thursday, despite signs that China is continuing to reduce its reliance on American exports. – Reuters

China has released a top chip investor after an eight-month detention as the country battles to bolster its semiconductor industry in the face of Washington’s containment efforts. – Financial Times

Chinese authorities have raided US due diligence firm Mintz Group’s Beijing offices, detaining five local staff and closing its China operations, the company said in a statement. – Financial Times

Editorial: Cutting off a service that 150 million people in this country use, whether to watch lip-syncing videos, hype their small businesses or share news, might look like a blow to China in the short run. Yet it would be a victory for that country’s philosophy of techno-nationalism and a defeat for an open world and open web. If the White House does try to ban TikTok, it will owe citizens — users of the platform and non-users alike — a good explanation. – Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes: Putin and Xi want to have it both ways; they want to run their systems as dictators while claiming the mantle of democracy in the 21st century. The fact they are pretending shows that they know their actual model is neither popular nor just. Leaders in open societies must ensure that democracy isn’t defined by those who oppose it. – Washington Post

David Brooks writes: Miller was asked what were the odds that over the next five years a dangerous military clash between the United States and China would produce an economic crisis equivalent to the Great Depression. He put the odds at 20 percent. That seems high enough to focus the mind. – New York Times

Tom Rogan writes: But the most basic premise for why China is willing to stay close to the stinking Russian bear is also the simplest. Facing an increasingly complex geopolitical environment, each of these two rogue nations is willing to put historic enmity and territorial disagreements aside. They see overwhelming advantages in cooperation. And the costs of that cooperation, largely thanks to European appeasement, are as yet marginal. – Washington Examiner

Renee Buhr writes: A marriage of convenience meant to weaken the liberal international system is what brought these two states together this week, but China seems unwilling to go too far to defend their “limitless friendship” at any cost. Ultimately, Xi will act in China’s interests, and in many ways that will not serve Putin’s. – The Hill

Dennis M. Powell writes: The thought of our great nation ending with a whimper no longer may be far-fetched. The most lethal enemy America faces may be that which comes from within. When the American people no longer are able to share ideas, the idea of America dies. – The Hill

Pankaj Mishra writes: Certainly, successful or not, China’s new reputation as mediator will grow by default so long as the US seems more committed to war than peace. – Bloomberg

Minxin Pei writes: We do not know if Xi is committed to this course of action. But the meagerness of the economic deals signed during his visit to Moscow — which glaringly omitted the second gas pipeline from Russia to China — indicates that China is not ready to go all in, at least for now. This portends trouble — not bliss — even for this marriage of geopolitical necessity. – Bloomberg

Joel Wuthnow writes: With Chinese leader Xi Jinping beginning a third term in power, and with China growing increasingly belligerent in its interactions with Taiwan, Washington must act to ensure that Beijing does not grow overconfident in thinking it can deter the United States in the wake of an invasion. China must understand the true risks of a conflict over the island; should it dismiss these dangers out of hubris, it could invite catastrophe. – Foreign Affairs

Graham Allison writes: Since Xi and Putin are not just the current presidents of their two nations but leaders whose tenures effectively have no expiration dates, the United States will have to understand that it is confronting the most consequential undeclared alliance in the world. – Foreign Affairs

Rebekah Koeffler writes: While Russia and China portray themselves as “no limits” strategic partners, in reality, they are adversaries in the long term. The two share a border of around 2,500 miles and a tumultuous history. Both expect to face off in a military clash in the future. Changes are indeed coming in the world. Regretfully, the Biden administration which is hyper-focused on Ukraine, is blissfully unaware that the two dictators are upending the world order on which the United States and its allies relied for security for decades. – Fox News

South Asia

A long-awaited loan agreement between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be signed once a few remaining points, including a proposed fuel pricing scheme, are settled, an IMF official confirmed on Friday. – Reuters

Russia is unable to deliver vital defence supplies it had committed to India’s military because of the war in Ukraine, the Indian Air Force (IAF) says. – Reuters

Bangladesh will open up three of its ports for Bhutan to facilitate trade with other countries, the Bhutanese government said on Thursday, a step that is expected to help the landlocked Himalayan nation reduce its dependence on India for transit. – Reuters

At a time of rising global debt distress, Sri Lanka has become an extreme example of what excess borrowing can do to vulnerable countries. It defaulted last year. […]His successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, this week secured a long-awaited deal with the IMF for a $3bn, four-year lending programme. – Financial Times


Maritime issues between the Philippines and China remain a “serious concern”, a Philippine official said on Friday, as the countries pledged to use diplomacy to resolve differences peacefully during high-level talks. – Reuters

A push by the United States to upgrade ties with Vietnam this year is facing resistance in Hanoi, over what experts say are concerns that China could see the move as hostile at a time of tension between superpowers Beijing and Washington. – Reuters

Russia’s backing for Myanmar’s military rulers is unacceptable and destabilising, with its supply of weapons helping to fuel a conflict that has become a catastrophe for the country, a top U.S. official said on Thursday. – Reuters

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said she will discuss concerns about key regional and global security challenges when she meets with her Chinese counterpart, foreign minister Qin Gang in Beijing Friday. – Reuters

President Joe Biden’s administration is seeking more than $7 billion over the next two decades for economic assistance to three Pacific island countries, a State Department official said on Thursday, funds seen as key to insulating the U.S. allies from growing Chinese government influence. – Reuters

Filipino diplomats are expected to unleash a slew of protests over China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, including targeting a Philippine coast guard ship with a powerful military laser, when they meet with Chinese officials Friday, an official said. – Associated Press


Strikes in France brought trains to a halt as more than a million protesters flooded the streets, clashing with police in some cities on Thursday, in a resounding burst of defiance after President Emmanuel Macron pushed through legislation to raise the retirement age. – Washington Post

European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to back a revamp of the single market, simplified regulations and other steps to ensure the bloc can compete with the United States and China as an industrial leader in green and digital technologies. – Reuters

Denmark on Thursday invited the Russian-controlled operator of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to help salvage an unidentified object found close to the only remaining intact gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. – Reuters

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni vetoed a takeover deal by a cloud services provider due to links with Russian internet giant Yandex (YNDX.O), according to a government document and three people familiar with the matter. – Reuters

The Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission approved a bill ratifying Finland’s bid to join NATO, state broadcaster TRT Haber reported on Thursday, effectively taking Helsinki another step toward membership of the trans-Atlantic pact. – Reuters

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged North Macedonia’s leaders Thursday to deliver on a pledge to amend the constitution to speed up the country’s path toward European Union membership. – Associated Press

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Thursday he would seek an explanation from Hungary about why it is delaying its parliament’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid but not Finland’s. – Agence France-Presse

Hungary says it would not arrest Russian president Vladimir Putin if he entered the country, despite the International Criminal Court (ICC) issuing an arrest warrant for him last week, accusing him of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. – CNN


Ethiopia has established an interim administration for the country’s war-ravaged northern Tigray region, the prime minister’s office said on Thursday, a key step in the implementation of a peace agreement. – Reuters

At least 15 Burkina Faso soldiers and army auxiliaries were killed in an attack in the north of the country on Wednesday, three security sources said on Thursday. – Reuters

Ethiopia has dropped a draft motion that sought to bring an early end to a U.N. mandated investigative probe into the Tigray war, diplomats and observers told Reuters, after pressure from Western countries. – Reuters

Kenya expects to finish talks for a trade and investment deal with the United States by the end of this year and to sign the agreement by April 2024, Trade Minister Moses Kuria said. – Reuters

President Joe Biden’s administration is stepping up a campaign to build American influence in Africa, where the US has lost ground to its main rivals in what’s starting to look like a new Cold War. – Bloomberg

Latin America

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva heads to China this weekend for a five-day visit to refresh relations with his country’s largest export market and seek new Chinese investment in the Latin American country. – Reuters

Bolivian President Luis Arce said on Thursday he would be willing to jointly design a lithium policy with other Latin American countries to benefit their economies, echoing a similar proposal from Mexico’s President. – Reuters

The Honduran foreign minister is travelling to China to “promote” the establishment of diplomatic ties, an official said, signalling the end is most likely near for the country’s decades-long relations with Taiwan. – Reuters

Alan Beattie writes: This slightly more nuanced approach is not guaranteed to build a Chilean value chain, nor to get Europe the minerals it needs. It’s only a small concession, and Chile still has problems with investment and industrial capacity. But it certainly shows the EU beginning to learn a subtler and more sensible approach to sourcing its critical minerals than risking accusations of colonial arrogance by demanding raw materials without enough in return. – Financial Times

North America

President Biden made his first visit to Canada as president Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that are expected to focus on the war in Ukraine and a U.S. push for Canada to bolster its northern defenses and spend more on its military. – Wall Street Journal

The United States and Canada have reached an agreement to let each country turn away asylum seekers who reach their border at unofficial crossings, striking the long-sought deal shortly before President Biden began his first visit to Canada as president. – Washington Post

A Chinese-Canadian lawmaker, cited in unconfirmed media reports as having ties to the Beijing government, forcefully denied those allegations but announced his resignation as a member of the Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. – Reuters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid out a three-pronged vision of engagement, competition and confrontation with China in a CNN interview on Thursday, ahead of a much-anticipated meeting with US President Joe Biden in which the two Western leaders are expected to cover a number of security issues. – CNN

Darryl White and Ian Bremmer write: The United States and Canada have already announced complementary Indo-Pacific strategies. Working together to present a coordinated North American front will only amplify the benefits for our Indo-Pacific peers. […]So, during his visit, Biden must take with him the understanding that our two countries need each other in more ways than many Americans and Canadians fully understand. We simply cannot take each other for granted. The stakes are too high. As President Reagan said at the Shamrock Summit, “We’re more than friends and neighbors and allies; we are kin.” Four decades later, that political rhetoric is starting to reflect our economic realities and geopolitical necessities. We need it to stay that way, for all of our sakes. – The Hill


TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew faced scrutiny from members of Congress on Thursday as he testified for the first time on Capitol Hill amid heightened wariness of the popular short-form video app’s ties to China. – Washington Post

Do Kwon, the South Korean crypto entrepreneur behind the $40bn implosion of terraUSD and luna digital tokens last year, has been charged in the US with fraud, hours after he was arrested in Montenegro. – Financial Times

Oak Ridge, Tennessee said city officials are working with law enforcement and cybersecurity experts to deal with a ransomware attack affecting its technology systems. – The Record

The largely unknown amount of Chinese-made equipment within the North American grid is a threat to national security, experts warned during a Thursday congressional hearing that explored cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the electric sector. – CyberScoop

Following Iranian cyberattacks against Albanian networks last year, a team from U.S. Cyber Command embarked on a months-long deployment to survey the damage and gain insights into the tactics used. The so-called hunt forward operation was the first such action taken with the nation of Albania, according to a Cybercom release on Thursday that shed more light on the effort. – CyberScoop

The Space Force is pursuing a hybrid, multi-cloud approach as part of its efforts to modernize and streamline its ground-based satellite command-and-control systems, a top Space Force IT leader said Wednesday. – CyberScoop

Jemima Kelly writes: The legitimisation of crypto is happening in UK politics too. Rishi Sunak suggested last year, while he was chancellor of the exchequer, that Britain should become a “global cryptoassets hub”. MPs have also established a “central bank and digital currency” all-party-parliamentary group whose secretariat is — surprise — a crypto company. They might use real words and speak in complete sentences; they might turn up at banking conferences and speak sombrely about financial inclusion; but we must see this crypto crowd for what they really are: snake-oil salesmen in sensible clothing. – Financial Times


The chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee indicated his belief that the Department of Defense’s budget should be increased by Congress. – Washington Examiner

A rocket made almost entirely of 3D-printed parts made its launch debut Wednesday night, lifting off amid fanfare but failing three minutes into flight — far short of orbit. – Military.com

The U.S. military must be ready for possible confrontation with China, the Pentagon’s leaders said Thursday, pushing Congress to approve the Defense Department’s proposed $842 billion budget, which would modernize the force in Asia and around the world. – Associated Press

The top general in the U.S. military warned Thursday that not supporting Ukraine now would lead to a massive increase in future defense budgets — and global conflict that has been avoided since World War II ended. – Military.com

The Navy denied that an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile illegally entered China’s maritime territory and was chased off by People’s Liberation Army forces, contradicting claims by China’s Southern Theatre Command. – USNI News

For nearly 50 years, the E-3 Sentry aircraft served as the cornerstone of the U.S. Air Force’s ability to keep eyes in the sky. In the waning years of the Cold War, and throughout America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the airborne warning and control system aircraft, or AWACS, and its trademark 30-foot rotating radar dome swept battlefields and potential conflict zones around the world. – Defense News

Long War

After ISIS promised in 2014 that the world would “hear and understand the meaning of terrorism,” fervent western support came from a Jamaican preacher once imprisoned in Britain for urging violence, and later expelled from Kenya by officials fearing he would encourage radicalism. – New York Times

Canadian police on Thursday arrested a teenage male in Montreal, citing “allegations of terrorism” based on U.S. FBI intelligence. – Reuters

Aaron Y. Zelin, Gina Ligon, and Thomas Hegghammer write: Prior to the organization’s rebranding and reemergence in 2013, many officials and researchers believed that IS and its predecessors had been defeated. This history is now repeating itself in the group’s “post-territorial control” phase. Although focusing on today’s wide constellation of other pressing geopolitical concerns is no doubt warranted, the present lull between large-scale jihadist mobilizations should not be mistaken for an end to the challenge. And whether or not IS recaptures territory and resumes large-scale external operations, the Institute’s new interactive map will give researchers and officials a one-stop repository for understanding what is happening. – Washington Institute