Fdd's overnight brief

March 26, 2021

In The News


A cargo ship owned by an Israeli company was damaged by a missile in the Arabian Sea on Thursday in what was suspected to be an Iranian attack, an Israeli security official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ship was on its way from Tanzania to India and was able to continue its voyage after the attack. – Reuters

Forty-three U.S. senators, many of whom opposed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, appealed to President Joe Biden on Thursday to work toward an international agreement that addresses issues beyond just Tehran’s nuclear program. – Reuters

China will make efforts to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal and defend the legitimate interests of Sino-Iranian relations, the commerce ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Progressives were counting on President Joe Biden to have rejoined the 2015 agreement by now, but every day the odds of that happening look worse. – Politico

John Irish, Parisa Hafezi, and Arshad Mohammed write: Iran’s nuclear policy is ultimately determined by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is not on the ballot.However, the privations suffered by voters could influence Iran’s approach by reducing turnout and bolstering those who believe the establishment must moderate its policy. – Reuters

Michael Knights writes: Iran-backed Iraqi militias value legitimacy and try to portray themselves as acting within the law. They value being a formal part of the security forces, yet they simply lack the discipline to follow Iraq’s constitution and laws. The next steps in this effort will be to develop more evidence of militia culpability in crimes, and to provide that evidence to Iraqis, to support civil lawsuits and criminal cases. – Washington Institute 

Lazar Berman writes: Iran has also projected confidence around its nuclear program. Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday reiterated the Islamic Republic’s “definite policy” that Washington must lift all sanctions before Tehran returns to its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal. Tehran has been steadily violating the restrictions of the deal, including on the amount of enriched uranium it can stockpile and the purity to which it can enrich it. – Times of Israel 

Karim Sadjadpour writes: After four decades of the Islamic Republic, the light in Iran is a young, dynamic, educated society that aspires to live like South Koreans, not North Koreans—prosperously and at peace with the world. Although the tunnel from Iranian theocracy to Iranian democracy might take years to build, its completion is the single most important key to transforming the Middle East. – The Atlantic


Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday he and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu had agreed to work together to prevent violations of a ceasefire in northern Syria, adding that Russia would take measures of its own. – Reuters

Eva Kahan writes: The United States and Russia are exerting pressure to limit Iran’s military and diplomatic leverage in Syria. The United States conducted several airstrikes targeting Iranian proxies in Albu Kamal, Deir ez-Zour Province, on February 25, 2021, in response to a series of proxy rocket attacks in Iraq in mid-February. Meanwhile, Russia began several new diplomatic initiatives on the behalf of the Assad regime that could diminish Iran’s potential economic and political leverage in Syria. – Institute for the Study of War

Anchal Vohra writes: They say while the term refugee can be used pejoratively and perhaps isolates the whole community, it is a necessary legal category only to protect Syrians from deportation. But most Syrian refugees are hoping to assimilate as citizens into their host countries, and some have already joined electoral politics. It has been a decade since the Syrian uprising began in search of democracy, respect for human rights, and a decent life. Those uprooted are now chasing a political voice inside Europe. – Foreign Policy 


European Union leaders made good on Thursday on a 2016 promise to deepen trade ties with Turkey, but also warned Ankara to expect sanctions if it restarts exploration over disputed hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean. – Reuters

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday that she lamented Turkey’s decision to quit a convention protecting women from violence, saying it was another sign of worsening human rights in the country, which is an EU candidate. – Reuters

The European Union will remain cautious on its improved relationship with Turkey, which must stick to its recent more “moderate behaviour”, European Council President Charles Michel said after chairing a summit of the bloc’s leaders on Thursday. – Reuters

Turkey on Thursday welcomed efforts and rhetoric by the European Union to advance a recent positive atmosphere between Ankara and the bloc, but rejected criticism over its operations in the east Mediterranean after heightened tensions in the region over a row with member state Greece. – Reuters

Hundreds of Uyghurs staged protests in Ankara and Istanbul on Thursday, denouncing Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Turkey and demanding that the Turkish government take a stronger stance against human rights abuses in China’s far-western Xinjiang region. – Associated Press 

Maged Atef writes: With the exception of the Egyptian Minister of Information’s comment on Turkey’s good gesture regarding the anti-Sisi channels, the Egyptian media did not feature any mention of Erdogan at all after the Turkish initiative, positive or negative. In the coming weeks, it will important to watch whether Sisi accepts the gift and reconciles, or else demonstrates that Erdoğan’s overtures have been for nothing. – Washington Institute 


Israel’s political deadlock is set to continue after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rivals failed to make decisive gains in the latest national election, according to official results from Israel’s election commission. – Wall Street Journal

The surprising star turn of Mansour Abbas at the center of Israeli politics stems from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s desperate search for parliamentary seats. And it could signal the possible softening of Israel’s long-standing taboo against Jewish parties partnering with Arab parties. – Washington Post

The Israeli campaign, confirmed by American, Israeli and Iranian officials, has become a linchpin of Israel’s effort to curb Iran’s military influence in the Middle East and stymie Iranian efforts to circumvent American sanctions on its oil industry. But the conflict’s expansion risks the escalation of what has been a relatively limited tit-for-tat, and it further complicates efforts by the Biden administration to persuade Iran to reintroduce limits on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. – New York Times 

The Biden administration took its first step toward restoring funding to the Palestinians when it announced Thursday that it would spent $15 million on humanitarian assistance in the West Bank and Gaza. – Jerusalem Post

In a recent conversation with Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Brad Bowman, the director of US Air and Missile Defense Brig.-Gen. Brian Gibson praised the Iron Dome system. – Jerusalem Post

Officials from Persian Gulf countries have expressed concern to Israel over far-right candidates being elected to the Knesset, according to a Wednesday report. – Times of Israel

Udi Shaham writes: The IDF Intelligence Directorate believes that the Lebanese front is the most sensitive among all of the current threats to Israel. It said in its recent annual assessment that Hezbollah is still seeking to avenge the death of an operative who was killed in an attack attributed to the Israel Air Force in Damascus last July. – Jerusalem Post 

Ghaith al-Omari writes: As things stand, Hamas seems better positioned to contest the election, and if members of this U.S.-designated terrorist group win entry to a resurrected PLC, the results will have substantial implications for U.S. policy toward the PA and the Middle East peace process. To avoid any Palestinian miscalculations, the Biden administration should keep a close eye on these developments and make the bilateral consequences clear. – Washington Institute 

Arabian Peninsula

The head of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission on Thursday denied media reports that a senior Saudi official had threatened the U.N. expert who led the investigation into the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi. – Washington Post

A fuel tank at an oil facility in Saudi Arabia caught fire after being struck by a projectile, the kingdom said Friday, an attack that came on the sixth anniversary of its entry into Yemen’s years-long civil war. – Times of Israel 

U.S. Special Envoy Tim Lenderking will travel to the Middle East on Thursday to press a plan for a ceasefire in Yemen, talks on settling its civil war and an end to the humanitarian catastrophe that it has caused, the State Department announced. – Reuters

The Saudi-led coalition said on Thursday that Yemen’s Houthis attempted to target both Najran and Jazan’s universities and said the coalition has destroyed the explosives-laden drone aimed at Najran, state TV reported. – Reuters

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels are ready for an “honorable peace” but Saudi Arabia must end its attacks and lift its siege, group leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi said on Thursday. – Bloomberg

The arrival of the ship, the Gabon-registered Thuruya, follows a UN announcement on Wednesday that the internationally recognized government of Yemen — supported by Saudi Arabia and its military — had agreed to allow four ships carrying fuel to unload at Hodeidah. It was not clear if the relaxation was temporary or a permanent change. – CNN 

Mohammad Al-Saidi writes: Planners can deliberate and implement an array of infrastructure innovations. Yemen’s war demonstrates the imperative to strengthen infrastructure provision and resilience at the micro level. This strategy does not mean to seek simple designs or to favor certain technologies. Rather, Yemen demonstrates that donors and planners must fundamentally rethink how to develop and rebuild conflict-affected states in the twenty-first century. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Fatima Abo Alasrar writes: For the time being, the Houthis’ best move is to maintain the status quo by upping the ceiling of their demands, maintaining an emphasis on the Saudi role in the conflict, and continuing their military expansion and violence in order to negotiate from a position of strength. […]Failing to understand that the Houthis have played the long game will undoubtedly pave the way for a non-inclusive Yemeni future that would end with the establishment of a theocratic Houthi state. – Middle East Institute


The new U.N. special envoy for Libya urged foreign forces and mercenaries Wednesday to leave the conflict-stricken country as demanded in last year’s cease-fire agreement. Jan Kubis, addressing the U.N. Security Council, warned against “pitfalls” that could obstruct or delay elections in December aimed at providing a unified government for the nation after years of division. – Associated Press 

The foreign ministers of France, Italy and Germany met with Libyan officials Thursday to show support for the country’s newly elected transitional authorities, who are expected to lead the war-stricken country through general elections by the end of 2021. – Associated Press 

Libyan officials said armed men Wednesday shot dead a military commander wanted by the International Criminal Court in an eastern city. Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a commander in the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, was killed by assailants who opened fire on his car in a busy street in Benghazi, the officials said. – Associated Press 

Libya’s new presidency council will visit Turkey on Friday for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish presidency said late on Thursday, marking the council’s first official visit to Turkey since taking office. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Headaches continued to mount Thursday as a mammoth cargo ship remained stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal for a third day, blocking a crucial choke point in global shipping. – Washington Post 

The sheer scale of the destruction in Beirut’s Karantina district after the massive explosion at the port last August made rebuilding a daunting feat. That was where Marc Torbey El Helou, a charity worker, came in. – Reuters 

Jonathan Spyer writes: But the broader picture – of the stark gap between meager resources and self-perception as a major power – is the essential reality of Moscow’s position in the Middle East. It means that ultimately Russia must of necessity be reactive and tactical, but that its shrewd tactical moves will then be cloaked in the appearance of great power strategy. – Jerusalem Post 

David Schenker writes: But cutting deeper could provoke a painful and self-defeating backlash, undermining Egyptian cooperation on Washington’s core interests and specific priorities (e.g., releasing wrongly detained American citizens; limiting further purchases of significant Russian weapons systems). At one time, the bilateral relationship may have been “strategic.” These days, Washington may have to settle for “productive.” – Washington Institute  

Jon B. Alterman writes: This refocus does not suggest that the United States is withdrawing from the Middle East, although some suggest it should. Neither does it suggest that the United States is ceding the region to Russia or China. Instead, it is an appeal to align the U.S. reach with its grasp, and to focus on what matters. […]But for many circumstances, what the United States really needs is influence. Focusing on what it can do to advance its interests and block its adversaries, rather than what it hopes to do but cannot, will do more than lead to a more sustainable U.S. position in the Middle East. It will also lead to one that better serves U.S. interests. – Defense One

Mohammed Soliman writes: Space is emerging as a new field of competition between Middle Eastern powers, and that rivalry has been given a big boost by the Emirates Mars Mission. A scientific and geostrategic success for the UAE, the mission has enabled the country to present itself as a leader among Arab nations in a new domain. Its symbolism has also had a broader regional effect as well, prompting Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran to try to follow suit and join the UAE in exerting their power in space as a reflection of their strategic positioning in the region. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

With Thursday’s ballistic-missile launch, North Korea has now tried to use military fireworks to grab the attention of a new White House over four consecutive presidencies. – Wall Street Journal

Confronted by North Korea’s defiant missile tests and continued nuclear program, US President Joe Biden is weighing whether to step up pressure or to open a new diplomatic initiative. – Agence France-Presse

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said on Friday that the two Koreas and the United States should make efforts to continue dialogue, not create difficulties. – Reuters

The United Nations Security Council North Korea sanctions committee is due to meet on Friday, at the request of the United States, over Pyongyang’s launch of two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea near Japan, a spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations said. – Reuters

Hyung-Jin Kim writes: While Kim Jong Un has claimed to have achieved the ability to attack the U.S. homeland with nuclear missiles, outside experts said the North hasn’t mastered everything it would need to do that. Such a major provocation would certainly prompt the United States and its allies to seek additional U.N. sanctions against North Korea. But tougher sanctions may be difficult because of China, the North’s major diplomatic ally and economic lifeline, wields veto power on the U.N. Security Council. – Associated Press

Michael Rubin writes: History did not begin with Biden’s inauguration. The United States never has a tabula rasa. There is no magic formula to success on North Korea, but certain strategies are guaranteed to fail. Relying on Beijing’s good offices both encourage China to play a double game, encouraging the occasional crisis to reap its own rewards, and enables Beijing to use the North Korea issue to drive a wedge between Washington and its chief regional allies: South Korea and Japan. – The National Interest


President Biden forecast “steep competition” with China and said his administration is teaming up with allies around the world to hold China accountable for violating international rules with its aggressive actions in the region. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s tit-for-tat sanctions war with the West escalated Friday as Beijing fired back against more than a dozen British politicians and entities that include the Conservative Party chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee amid growing international furor over Xinjiang and allegations of forced cotton production. – Washington Post

Western brands are suddenly feeling the wrath of the Chinese consumer, the very shoppers who for years have clamored for their products and paid them vast amounts of money. Egged on by the ruling Communist Party, Chinese online activists are punishing foreign companies that have joined a call to avoid using cotton produced in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, where the authorities are waging a broad campaign of repression against ethnic minorities. – New York Times

Britain told Hong Kong on Friday that it had “no right” to order other countries not to accept a UK travel document for a popular youth working scheme after the city confirmed it had made the request to several other nations. – Agence France-Presse 

President Biden on Thursday warned that China’s President Xi Jinping sees autocracy as the wave of the future, offering wide-ranging reflections on his relationship with the Chinese leader and how it informs his administration’s approach to Beijing. – The Hill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber will move quickly to address U.S. competitiveness with China as he laid out an ambitious schedule that also includes voting rights, gun control and President Joe Biden’s plan for a massive economic investment package. – Bloomberg

Editorial:  Mr. Xi is banking that nationalism, which the government plays up at every opportunity, will triumph over consumer choice. The Communist Party strategy is to use China’s market power as leverage to shut down critics anywhere in the world. This includes companies, university scholars, journalists and governments. China will continue these commercial beatings until they no longer work. – Wall Street Journal

Josh Rogin writes: It’s not the drive to confront China that is fueling hate and racism against Asians in America. Political opportunists are abusing that effort by fueling bigotry to score political points. This makes a unified strategy to confront the Chinese government only more difficult to achieve. In fact, addressing racism at home is crucial to winning the competition with China in the long run. – Washington Post 

Nury Turkel writes: Conventional wisdom in Washington acknowledges that China is a geopolitical rival to the United States. These sanctions remind us that is also a moral threat. The pledge, “Never again,” has been broken too many times in the past eight decades—in Rwanda, Sudan, Cambodia, Yugoslavia, and now in China. Sanctions may not be enough to stop the genocide of the Uyghurs, but at least we can say we didn’t do nothing. – The Bulwark


Fortifications expanded rapidly after the start of the war in 2001. The Green Zone became an obstacle to ordinary urban life, causing a daily traffic nightmare that radiates throughout this sprawling city of more than 4 million people. In Kabul, it is felt as an alien presence, a source of deep resentment — and an indelible legacy of two decades of U.S. military intervention. – Washington Post 

Germany paved the way for its troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond an April 30 deadline that the United States last year agreed with the Taliban for the withdrawal of U.S. forces after nearly two decades of war. – Reuters

Support from U.S. troops is “critical” to Afghan forces’ ability to fight the Taliban and other militants, a top general said Thursday. – The Hill

President Biden on Thursday was unable to offer a firm timeline for getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan but said he “can’t picture” American forces still being there next year. – The Hill

South Asia

Tensions this month between India and Saudi Arabia over rising oil prices have underscored the growing importance of the bilateral relationship and its potential to generate conflict as well as cooperation. – Reuters 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a $500 million tranche to Pakistan after the lender’s Executive Board completed a review of Islamabad’s $6 billion loan program. – Radio Mashaal

Harsh V. Pant and Kriti M. Shah write: While Washington has periodically applied pressure on Islamabad to do more to root out terrorism at home, others have been hesitant to touch the issue at all. Yet India is right that until Pakistan stops providing safe havens to senior Taliban leaders, their families, and the Haqqani network, Afghanistan can never be a stable, peaceful nation. […]As for New Delhi, its consistent advocacy of Afghan interests is likely to continue even as it is now formally part of a peace process that has so far delivered more process and little peace. – Foreign Policy


The two huge Myanmar military-controlled conglomerates targeted by U.S. and UK sanctions following the army coup last month span a wide spectrum of businesses. Human rights advocates applauded the decisions to target those companies and cut them off from dealings with banks and businesses in the United States and United Kingdom. – Associated Press 

The Philippine military has ordered more navy ships to be deployed for “sovereignty patrols” in the South China Sea, where a Chinese flotilla has swarmed around a disputed reef and ignored Manila’s demand to leave the area. – Associated Press 

Taiwan and the United States have signed their first agreement under the Biden administration, establishing a Coast Guard Working Group to coordinate policy, following China’s passing of a law that allows its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels. – Reuters

Myanmar anti-junta protesters held more rallies on Friday after the military reportedly shot dead nine people a day earlier and as the World Bank warned the country’s economy could slump 10% this year due to the turmoil since last month’s coup. – Reuters

Japan’s cabinet approved on Friday a bill that will tighten oversight of land deals and land use near military facilities and border islands, reflecting Tokyo’s concern about overseas security risks. – Reuters

The U.S. military landed in hot water with Japanese officials on Thursday when a spokesman used the term “East Sea” to refer to the wedge of sea between Japan, Russia, and the Korean peninsula where North Korea tested missiles earlier in the day. – Reuters

Myanmar’s security forces have killed more than 300 people in attempts to crush opposition to a Feb. 1 coup, with nearly 90% of victims shot dead and a quarter of them shot in the head, according to data from an advocacy group and local media. – Reuters

The Hong Kong government on Thursday confirmed a Reuters report that it had told 14 countries to stop accepting a British travel document that many of its young people use to apply for working holiday visas in Europe, North America and parts of Asia. – Reuters

The US has imposed sanctions on two companies it said was controlled by Myanmar’s military in the latest attempt to squeeze the finances of the junta in the wake of a coup that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi. – Financial Times 

A term in increasingly frequent use in global politics these days is “the Quad.” – Bloomberg

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has come under criticism for what the opposition says are lies and contradictory statements about why the Armenian military did not deploy fighter jets purchased from Russia during last year’s war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

U.S. Special Operations Command created a task force in the Pacific region to work with allies there to thwart China’s information operations, the commander told lawmakers Thursday. – C4ISRNET

In an international security environment described as one of renewed great power competition, the South China Sea (SCS) has emerged as an arena of U.S.-China strategic competition. – USNI News

Brahma Chellaney writes: To be sure, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aggressive policies, underlined by his hegemony-seeking “Chinese dream,” will ensure that the Quad continues to solidify and actively work toward establishing a new multilateral Indo-Pacific security structure. […]As Biden develops great strategic clarity on China, the Quad is likely to become the central dynamic of his Indo-Pacific policy. Xi’s renegade expansionism could even help build a grand international coalition, with the Quad at its core. – The Hill

Michael Bailey writes: The future of Burma is at a tipping point. Democracy, human rights, and lives are at stake. Members of the younger generation like Aung Kyaw Moe will continue to place their lives on the line to peacefully demonstrate that a country is only successful when all people are represented and valued equally. – The Hill

Rajni George writes: With this latest gambit at China’s borders, however, the competition has heated up. And India’s announcement that it will temporarily suspend exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be a gamechanger. Meanwhile, as reports about the downside of vaccine diplomacy abound around the world—with rumors of incitement to cut diplomatic ties to Taiwan and prisoner exchanges in return for vaccines—vaccine diplomacy continues to complicate the world’s efforts to defeat COVID-19. – Foreign Policy


Last week, authorities in Bulgaria, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said they broke up a Russian spy ring that was gathering information for Moscow on the NATO military alliance, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Ukraine, and the conflict in the disputed South Caucasus territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. – Wall Street Journal

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Thursday that being woken up by a guard every hour during the night amounted to torture and that his appeal for treatment for acute back and leg pain had been refused in a deliberate attempt to run him down. – Reuters

The United States and other Western countries are waging a psychological war on Russia to try to undermine President Vladimir Putin and state institutions, an adviser to Russia’s defence minister said. – Reuters 

The Memorial human rights organization says Russian authorities have rejected an asylum request filed by a Turkmen known for his public criticism of the regime in Ashgabat and deported him to Turkey. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Amid ongoing attempts to impose more control over the Internet, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor has proposed users of social-media networks and messenger applications hand over passport data and other personal information for verification. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

On March 12, 2021, the CCP state-run media outlet Global Times published an interview with Russian expert Oleg Ivanov, Vice-Rector of Research at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the interview, Ivanov extolled the merits of enhanced Sino-Russian cooperation. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: This brutality must not be visited upon Mr. Navalny, who over the past decade has done more than anyone to stand up to the corruption and authoritarianism of the Kremlin. Mr. Putin’s security forces already tried to kill him once. The United States and other democratic nations should make clear that a second attempt would be intolerable. – Washington Post 

Janusz Bugajski writes: Growing involvement by China and Turkey and any ruptures in the Russian state would encourage other nations to pursue independence, including resource-rich republics such as Sakha-Yakutia and formerly independent states such as Tuva. Several others can gravitate toward neighboring countries due to long-standing ethnic and linguistic links even if there are no vocal claims to Russian territory. – Washington Examiner  

John Dizard writes: While Biden makes the public sounds of a hardliner, he will probably be cautious about imposing financial sanctions that go much beyond a few unattractive oligarchs and lower-level officials. One of his problems is that US laws make it easy to impose sanctions, but difficult to remove them in response to improved behaviour. That makes any negotiations with Putin more difficult: too much stick and too little carrot. – Financial Times


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, police said Monday. – Washington Post 

The United States and European countries are closing ranks to respond to what the U.S. calls “aggressive and coercive” behavior by China, days after the U.S. and its allies launched coordinated sanctions against Chinese officials accused of rights abuses in the far-western Xinjiang region. – Associated Press 

Hungary has been hosting China’s defence minister for an official visit, Chinese television reported on Thursday, after Budapest criticised an EU decision to impose sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights. – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden, in phone call with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday, conveyed his hope for stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, the White House said. – Reuters

Vandals defaced the facade of a mosque in ethnically split Cyprus on Thursday, daubing it with Greek flags and slogans and drawing a harsh condemnation from authorities. – Reuters

The European Union and the United States must together safeguard global security, democracy and stability, European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday after chairing an EU summit that U.S. President Joe Biden joined briefly. – Reuters

The European Parliament voted on Thursday to sue the European Commission unless the EU executive quickly applies new legislation that makes access to billions of EU funds conditional on respecting the rule of law. – Reuters

Austrian authorities have extradited Boris Mazo, a former employee of the Russian Culture Ministry who is suspected in Russia of fraud and embezzlement. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The United States continues to call for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus, site of nearly daily protests since a disputed presidential election last year handed Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term amid claims the vote was rigged. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Moldova’s Socialist-dominated parliament has failed for a second time to approve the candidate nominated by pro-Western President Maia Sandu to serve as prime minister, moving the country closer to snap elections. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


The pandemic is reshaping how citizens and nations understand their position in a changing world. A shrinking global economy and growing support for nationalism has heightened pressure on governments over the past year to reallocate resources locally and bring supply chains closer to home. For Africa, these moving parts present development opportunities as well as challenges, underscored by the recent launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). – Washington Post 

A U.N. humanitarian official warned Thursday of an ongoing crisis in Ethiopia’s conflict-torn Tigray region, pointing to targeted civilian killings, over 500 recent rape cases, an increasing number of people fleeing violence, 4.5 million people needing food, and children on the brink of starvation. – Associated Press

The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against a “vaccine war” among nations amid renewed fears vaccine shipments to the continent face delays. […]There are ongoing discussions between WHO, the global vaccine alliance GAVI and Indian authorities aimed at ensuring COVAX shipments continue to be prioritized, the official said. – Associated Press 

Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its troops from Ethiopian territory along their joint border, Ethiopia’s prime minister said on Friday, days after first acknowledging Eritrean forces had entered Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region during an almost five-month war. – Reuters

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rejected U.S. calls for a unilateral ceasefire in the northern Tigray region and dismissed allegations of ethnic cleansing, according to a senior U.S. lawmaker sent to Addis Ababa by President Joe Biden. – Reuters

More than 500 rape cases have been reported to five clinics in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the United Nations said on Thursday, warning that the actual numbers were likely to be much higher due to stigma and a lack of health services. – Reuters

Editorial: For now the focus must be on protecting civilians, ending the culture of impunity which fuels war crimes, and working towards a cessation of hostilities that would allow aid to reach all those who need it, and farmers to prepare their land as planting season approaches. The swiftness of Ethiopia’s descent into this war is unlikely to be matched by the speed of its exit. – The Guardian 

The Americas

Clashes that began over the weekend between Venezuela’s military and a Colombian armed group in a community along the nations’ shared border have continued, prompting more Venezuelans to seek refuge in a nearby Colombian community, international monitoring groups said Thursday. – Associated Press 

The United States should help countries in the Western Hemisphere that do not yet have COVID-19 vaccines to acquire them, Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Thursday. – Reuters

As China imposed a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong last year after massive protests, residents of the city moved tens of billions of dollars across the globe to Canada, where thousands are hoping to forge a new future. – Reuters

Lawyers representing a businessman close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have appealed a Cape Verde court’s ruling that he be extradited to the U.S. – Bloomberg

United States

A coalition of House committees is asking the White House and 16 other agencies to turn over a trove of documents from the Trump administration related to the electoral vote count and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. – The Hill

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan are three major and interlinked challenges confronting the Biden administration. […]Jerusalem is a bystander on some of these issues, but would much rather the US project strength. Ultimately, there is no question that the way Biden addresses the current North Korean flareup, as well as the Taliban pressure in Afghanistan, will either strengthen or weaken his hand in dealing with the Islamic Republic over the nuclear standoff. – Jerusalem Post 


House lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on Thursday interrogated the chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter, escalating their calls for swift regulation of the tech industry. – Washington Post 

The nation’s top military cybersecurity leader said Thursday that U.S. Cyber Command conducted dozens of operations ahead of the 2020 elections aimed at securing voting against foreign interference. – The Hill

Bipartisan leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday urged Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to prioritize cybersecurity and maintain leadership for the agency’s key cybersecurity office in the face of growing threats to the power grid. – The Hill

The U.S. Space Force created a three-year arrangement for allies to borrow and test equipment for navigation that uses a new GPS signal that is difficult to jam or spoof. – C4ISRNET

Thomas Shugart writes: Defense thinkers are using a variety of means to fill this widening chasm in knowledge including wargames, models, simulations, and inferences from peripheral conflicts like the 2006 Lebanon War or the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. All of these methods have their uses, as well as their flaws. I would argue that, properly studied and placed in context, studying the remorselessly competitive crucible of multiplayer online games like EVE could provide a useful source of insights and information on how to deal with particular aspects of future warfare, specifically information processing, organization, training, personnel integration, and command-and-control. – War on the Rocks


As Congress this week renews what has become a perennial debate over war powers, lawmakers are focused on the White House, with many Democrats hoping the new president will break with recent history and back their cause. – Washington Post 

The U.S. Navy is exploring a major ship alteration for its three stealth destroyers that would further drive up the cost of the platform but could deliver a radical new hypersonic capability in the ongoing naval competition with China in the western Pacific. – Defense News

Forty percent of U.S. Special Operations Command is now aligned to meet the challenges of great power competition, a shift that means the command needs modernized intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance hardware and software, and electronic warfare defenses, its commander told lawmakers Thursday. – USNI News

Sailors and Marines onboard three amphibious ships deployed on Thursday with the Marine Corps’ new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Navy announced. – USNI News

Naomi Egel and Jane Vaynman write: That the future of arms control poses many challenges is not news to most experts. Yet some of the barriers to arms control are overstated, while others have been overlooked. Unpacking assumptions about the form of arms control agreements and the conditions under which arms control can take place reveals that opportunities for arms control extend far beyond the model epitomized by New START. […]Future progress requires a careful assessment of the consequences of technological and political developments, and a more creative, expansive understanding of what arms control involves. – War on the Rocks

Justin T. Johnson writes: The Space Force has a good vision, and now it needs to implement that vision. If the Space Force can deliver a 20-year vision that incorporates allies and leverages commercial space, publicly describe responsible behavior, and deliver capabilities rapidly and affordably all while building a unique service culture, the results will speak louder than any public relations campaigns, and American interests will be protected. So, for those in the Space Force, and those of us watching the Space Force, let’s stop arguing about public relations and focus instead on results. – War on the Rocks

Long War

Sticky bombs slapped onto cars trapped in Kabul’s chaotic traffic are the newest weapons terrorizing Afghans in the increasingly lawless nation, as Washington searches for a responsible exit after decades of war. – Associated Press 

Helicopter gunships exchanged fire with suspected Islamist insurgents as fighting raged for a second day around a gas hub town in northern Mozambique, a security source and a diplomat said. – Reuters

The Trump administration’s movement of most U.S. troops out of Somalia to other countries in Africa “probably” had “significant downsides,” a Pentagon official said Thursday. – The Hill

A man has been denied bail after appearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court over his alleged involvement in running a terrorist network that facilitated the travel of a number of Australian foreign terrorist fighters to Syria between 2012 and 2013. – ABC News

MI5 is seeking to keep details of its investigation into the Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist secret after it emerged it held a meeting about the killer, 11 days before he stabbed two Cambridge University graduates to death. – Sky News (UK)