Fdd's overnight brief

March 29, 2021

In The News


Iran and China signed a wide-ranging economic and security cooperation agreement, defying U.S. attempts to isolate Iran and advancing Tehran’s longstanding efforts to deepen diplomatic ties outside Western powers. – Wall Street Journal

To talk or not to talk. Iran’s political leaders are divided over how to respond to U.S. President Biden’s overture to start negotiations aimed at reviving an international agreement that puts limits on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief. – Wall Street Journal

The sun was rising on the Mediterranean one recent morning when the crew of an Iranian cargo ship heard an explosion. The ship, the Shahr e Kord, was about 50 miles off the coast of Israel, and from the bridge the sailors saw a plume of smoke rising from one of the hundreds of containers stacked on deck. – New York Times

Who might take the first step to resume compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is not an issue for the United States, a U.S. official said on Friday, suggesting greater flexibility on the part of Washington. – Reuters

Iran has indicated it wants to take advantage of the chaos in the Suez Canal by proposing itself as a way to link Europe and Asia. – Jerusalem Post

An Iranian missile was fired at an Israeli ship in the Arabian Sea, hitting and damaging it, N12 reported Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) are urging President Joe Biden to swiftly re-enter the Iran nuclear deal in a letter they’re circulating for signatures from other senators. – Jewish Insider

It was a great day and history could be seen in the making. The U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, the European Union, China, and Russia had finally reached an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran on blocking its plans to obtain nuclear weapons. As declared by President Obama in the White House on July 14, 2015, the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), had been “negotiated from a position of principle and strength, and the result is a nuclear deal that cuts off every pathway to a nuclear weapon.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Azadeh Moaveni and Sussan Tahmasebi write: With Washington and Tehran caught in a diplomatic standoff, the Iranian people await relief. A sequestered and choked off Iran is functioning effectively as a state at war, dimming the prospects for its women. – New York Times

Seth J. Frantzman writes: “The 25-year Iran-China Cooperation Document, and efforts to extend long-term Iran-Russia cooperation, could be effective steps in advancing East-facing policy, but it should be noted that East-facing is not limited to China and Russia.” Today Iran is looking east, the Iranian media argues. “In other words, countries that Washington does not see or define in its circle of friends can be on the Eastern Front.” This new front will aid Iran, the Iranian pro-regime media believe. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran wants to leverage China’s role in the region and show that it can resist the US. China also wants to reassure the West that Iran will safeguard the nuclear deal. […] Iran’s media sees this as a major shift, highlighting US press reports about how this has “thwarted” the US, according to Fars News. There will be some pushback and critique in Iran by those who wonder if Tehran has given to much to China. Also many wonder what is in the 25-year deal. But for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this is an important step. Elections are looming. He wants to show he has achieved something. – Jerusalem Post



A woman who worked as a contract linguist for the U.S. military in Iraq pleaded guilty Friday to sharing classified information with a romantic interest linked to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. – Associated Press

Defending the border from Hezbollah infiltration, destroying anti-tank missile infrastructures and maneuvering inside enemy territory are just some of the skills that were exercised in the 188th Armored Brigade drill that was completed on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

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. […]Hezbollah sees the situation as an account that needs to be settled and according to Nasrallah’s remarks, it is believed that it will try to kill an Israeli soldier in order to maintain the “equation.” – Jerusalem Post


The government of Syria has said that it will begin rationing the use of fuel after the closure of the Suez Canal delayed the delivery of a critical shipment of oil to the war-torn nation. – New York Times

A loud blast heard in the Syrian capital was the result of an operation to clear stray explosives in an area of the Damascus countryside, state news agency SANA said on Saturday. – Reuters

The Syrian pound has rebounded from an all-time low struck earlier in March after authorities tightened controls on bank withdrawals and internal transfers and restricted movement of cash around the country to stop dollar hoarding, bankers and business people said on Sunday. – Reuters


Several thousand women took to the streets in Istanbul on Saturday to demand Turkey reverses its decision to withdraw from an international treaty against domestic abuse which it once championed. – Reuters

Turkey has approved development plans for a huge canal on the edge of Istanbul, Environment Minister Murat Kurum said on Saturday, advancing a project which has attracted criticism over its cost and environmental impact. – Reuters

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed on Thursday Ankara’s change in stance on the eastern Mediterranean, but said the relationship between the bloc and aspiring member Turkey was still fragile. – Reuters


A group of 18 senators, nine Republicans and nine Democrats, has introduced a new bill that aims to strengthen and expand the Abraham Accords. – Jerusalem Post

Multiple meetings between the leadership of all of Israel’s parties have occurred since Israel’s Tuesday election as the various party heads discuss possible coalitions for Israel’s next government. – Jerusalem Post

A Palestinian driver tried to ram his vehicle into a group of Israel Defense Forces soldiers near the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim on Sunday, the IDF said. – Times of Israel

A former Hamas leader said the Gaza-ruling terror group must gain “bargaining chips” to use in a prisoner exchange deal with Israel. – Times of Israel


Along Iraq’s borders, a corrupt customs-evasion cartel is diverting billions of dollars away from state coffers to line the pockets of armed groups, political parties and crooked officials. – Agence France-Presse

Hassanein Mohsen spent months protesting against corruption in Iraq. He also lodged complaints against officials. But now he is shunned as a whistleblower and sees only one way out: emigration. – Agence France-Presse

Alfadhel Ahmad writes: There is now a seven-month window for Iraqis and the international community to provide Iraq with an environment that will allow free and fair elections. […]And if the early elections fail, another choice for the global community is to invest in Iraqi people and educating a new political elite. Investing in Iraqi people is much more important for the global community than investing in the Iraqi government. – Washington Institute


Three people were killed and 11 were wounded in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley town of Baalbek on Saturday in ongoing clashes with the army after a fugitive was killed while attempting to cross a checkpoint, security sources said. – Reuters

Lebanon’s largest Christian bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), warned prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri on Saturday against sidelining President Michel Aoun and other parliamentary interests in talks over forming a cabinet. – Reuters

Just 18 months have passed since mass protests against Lebanon’s political class brought down one government, and nearly eight more months since a huge explosion destroyed the port of Beirut and toppled its successor. – Reuters

Makram Rabah writes: Biden’s imminent appeasement of Iran should not entail an abandonment of its Lebanon policy, assuming he has one. Both the White House and Congress should continue to push for much-needed reforms, as well as to continue to pass further sanctions on Lebanon’s corrupt political elite who provide Iran’s militia with political legitimacy. […]In all, Lebanon needs a simple U.S. policy that requires a sober bi-partisan commitment to reform and human liberal values. – Washington Institute


The giant cargo carrier blocking the Suez Canal was partly refloated early Monday morning, nearly a week after it wedged sideways threatening the world’s global economy, according to the canal’s service provider and sources inside the canal. – Washington Post

Pentagon officials confirmed Sunday that the ongoing stoppage of traffic caused by a grounded container ship in the Suez Canal would affect the movement of U.S. military vessels, but stressed that the Defense Department had alternative means of supporting operations in the area. – The Hill

The U.S. Navy has offered to help Egyptian officials to clear the Suez Canal, where a cargo ship has been stuck and blocking all traffic for days, a spokesperson said on Friday. – Politico

Egypt’s Suez Canal chief said Saturday that “technical or human errors” could be behind the grounding of a huge container ship blocking the vital waterway, causing a backlog of over 300 vessels. – Agence France-Presse

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the leaders of Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, and Sudan to discuss a massive regional tree-planting project, state news agency (SPA) reported early on Monday. – Reuters

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Qatar on Monday to eliminate male guardianship rules that prevent women making independent decisions on basic rights such as marriage, travel and accessing reproductive health care. – Reuters

A Liberian-flagged, Israeli-owned container ship named Lori was struck in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday according to reports. It would be the second such incident involving an Israeli ship after the Helios Ray was hit by a mysterious explosion in the same area on February 26. – Jerusalem Post

Hussein Ibish writes: The UAE is hoping that India and Pakistan will take a similarly enlightened view of their conflict. If they do, some of the credit will redound to the Emiratis. And if not, “Little Sparta” will be credited for at least trying to make peace. – Bloomberg


Six years after Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen, booby-trapped drones have made the Huthi rebels a potent threat, enabling them to target distant Saudi cities and heavily guarded oil facilities. – Agence France-Presse

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis said on Friday they had attacked Saudi energy and military sites with 18 armed drones, and the kingdom’s energy ministry reported that a projectile had struck a petroleum products distribution station, causing a fire. – Reuters

Daniel Egel and Trevor Johnston write: While the international community, led by the U.N. Special Envoy, remains critical to resolving the conflict and bringing an enduring peace to Yemen, U.S. leadership is essential and has been sorely missed over the last few years. The U.S. Congress has the tools to help shape this effort and could play an important role in ending the conflict and bringing stability to Yemen. – The Hill

Saudi Arabia

A senior Saudi official made a public threat against a United Nations investigator looking into the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to the investigator, who decried the intimidation and violence she said defenders of human rights faced in carrying out their work. – New York Times

The United States strongly condemned attacks against a Saudi Arabian oil facility in by Yemen’s Houthis, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Friday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia has been pushing foreign firms to invest in the kingdom and set up regional headquarters in Riyadh. – Reuters

When CSG opted to shift its regional headquarters this year from Dubai to Riyadh, it marked an early win for Saudi Arabia and proved a surprisingly easy move for the U.S. technology firm: the new office was up and running in just two months. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Libyan authorities Saturday announced increased security measures in second city Benghazi and the arrest of two suspects in connection with the killing of a militia leader wanted by the International Criminal Court. – Agence France-Presse

Lev Stesin writes: As the internal crisis in the US deepens and the country’s foreign policy becomes more chaotic and less predictable and as China keeps its relatively low profile in the region, the Middle East starts resembling Europe after the wars of the Reformation. It allows for the emergence of strong durable alliances and stable nation-states pursuing their own interests based on the realpolitik of the region. […]It takes a clever intellect to stay away, and that, unfortunately, is in much deficit these days. – Jerusalem Post

Tilak K. Doshi writes: It is no surprise that the Israeli defense minister said recently that the country intends to develop a “special security arrangement” with new Gulf Arab allies who share common concerns about Iran. It is even less of a surprise that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended Mossad chief Yossi Cohen’s term through June 2021. Cohen is a frequent traveler to Arab countries with which Israel had (or has after the Abraham Accords) no formal diplomatic relations over the past years. No doubt he will continue in his quest of being a key broker for Israeli relations with the Sunni states in the region, this time without the might of the US covering his back. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea test-launched what it called a newly developed tactical guided missile ​on Thursday, violating international sanctions. – New York Times

North Korea said on Saturday that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden had taken a wrong first step and revealed “deep-seated hostility” by criticising its self-defensive missile test. – Reuters

North Korea said on Monday that the U.N. Security Council showed a double standard as its sanctions committee criticised the country’s recent missile test as a violation of U.N. resolutions. – Reuters

Olivia Enos and Luke Kim write: The Trump administration stopped short of a maximum pressure policy toward North Korea. While the previous administration increased sanctions against the country, it still left valuable leverage off the table. The challenge for the Biden administration will be to build on sanctions efforts, like the authorities enshrined in the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act, that tie human rights and security concerns together in sanctions policy. – Heritage Foundation


In recent days, Beijing got a taste of President Biden’s new China strategy: First came the dressing-down over human rights by Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a meeting in Alaska. Days later, the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States joined to censure China’s abuses in Xinjiang with coordinated sanctions. Australia and New Zealand chimed in with statements of condemnation. – Washington Post

The U.S. isn’t ready to lift tariffs on Chinese imports in the near future, but might be open to trade negotiations with Beijing, according to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. – Wall Street Journal

While the couple and many other locals bemoan the arrival of the miners, the Serbian government has enthusiastically welcomed Chinese companies like Zijin, despite their record of flouting environmental rules. – New York Times

At the end of a winding answer on Thursday about competing with China and about his relationship with Xi Jinping, a man he said does not have a democratic “bone in his body,” President Biden offered up a revealing assessment of one of America’s most pressing challenges. – New York Times

China has placed sanctions on a handful of U.S. and Canadian officials in a tit for tat response amid growing tensions over the suppression of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang province. – The Hill

Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement late Saturday condemning China for sanctioning U.S. and Canadian officials amid simmering tensions over the way China treats Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province. – The Hill

A U.S. religious-rights official said she was “flattered” to be the target of Chinese government sanctions stemming from a dispute between the two countries over Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, which Washington has described as genocide. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday he sees “increasingly adversarial” aspects to the United States’ relationship with China. – Reuters

The United Nations is holding “serious negotiations” with China for unfettered access to the Xinjiang region to verify reports that Muslim Uighurs are being persecuted, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a CBC interview broadcast on Sunday. – Reuters

China’s top ride-hailing app dropped Swedish fashion retailer H&M from its listings as Chinese celebrities stopped endorsing foreign labels in a growing uproar over Western accusations of forced labour in Xinjiang. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden said he suggested to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a phone call on Friday that democratic countries should have an infrastructure plan to rival China’s Belt and Road initiative. – Reuters

The White House on Friday criticized China for profiting from human rights abuses and said it was watching the issue of forced labor closely after U.S. and other international companies came under attack from Chinese consumers for committing not to use cotton from China’s Xinjiang region. – Reuters

The United States will have to reach an understanding with China on a new global order to ensure stability or the world will face a dangerous period like the one which preceded World War One, veteran U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger said. – Reuters

China stepped up pressure Monday on foreign shoe and clothing brands to reject reports of abuses in Xinjiang, telling companies that are targeted by Beijing for boycotts to look more closely and pointing to a statement by one that it found no forced labor. – Associated Press

A March 17, 2021 article in the Xinjiang Daily, the official publication of the CCP Xinjiang Committee, criticized both former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and German academic Adrian Zenz, who exposed CCP human rights violations in Xinjiang through his extensive research. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

In an opinion piece in Rosbalt titled ” When Will Beijing Cast a Hungry Glance at Moscow?”, senior journalist Alexander Zhelenin comments on the alliance between Russia and China that was on display in Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Beijing, where the two countries produced a joint document on international issues. Zhelenin agrees that the congruence between the regimes and their mutual annoyance with Western criticism is driving Russia and China together. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Sunday sidestepped the issue of whether the US should punish China for its handling of the coronavirus. – New York Post

Editorial: We agree that corporations pursuing profits typically improves the welfare of society — we wouldn’t have the baker’s bread, as Adam Smith reminds us, if he wasn’t trying to make money. But we have long maintained that a market needs moral guardrails. China’s treatment of the Uyghurs is out of bounds. Participating in Xinjiang’s cotton economy is direct cooperation in evil. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: Now Beijing is canceling H&M and Nike within its borders for issuing statements decrying the use of forced labor to produce cotton in Xinjiang. H&M has been pulled from major e-commerce stores in China and blocked by several major navigation, review and rating apps; Chinese celebrities have cut ties with Nike. The West does its best not to overly offend the architects of atrocity; the CCP aims to crush those who cross it. No wonder they call us “decadent.” – New York Post

Steven Lee Myers writes: Although officials denied the timing was intentional, the message clearly was. China hopes to position itself as the main challenger to an international order, led by the United States, that is generally guided by principles of democracy, respect for human rights and adherence to rule of law. – New York Times

Matt Pottinger writes: Beijing is trying to engineer victory from the mind of a single leader; free societies like ours harness the human spirit. Therein lies our ultimate advantage. The Communist Party’s leaders are right about one thing: American CEOs, their boards and their investors have to decide which side they want to help win. – Wall Street Journal

Robert Hormats writes: Rather than seeking the support of friends and allies for trade battles with China based on tariffs and similar measures, we can work together on several more positive initiatives where we have common interests relating to competition with China or even finding common ground with Beijing where interests converge. The goal is to present other countries with 21st century options that serve as sound alternatives to China in some areas of advanced technologies. – The Hill

Lawrence J. Haas writes: The United States and China show growing signs of entering a long-term cold war, strikingly similar to the U.S.-Soviet cold war of decades past and demanding the same dogged determination that Washington displayed during that earlier conflict to protect its interests and defend its allies. – The Hill

Edward Luce writes: He has also said that lack of domestic investment is a “bigger threat to national security than the US national debt”. The key to US fortunes lies in how skilfully Biden can do two things at once: bolster America’s middle class while outflanking China on the global economic stage. – Financial Times

Andreas Kluth writes: Germany and the rest of Europe should remember what’s at stake: a conflict between value systems pitting Western notions about rule of law and open societies (however imperfectly those may often be observed in practice) against a Chinese model of overt autocracy. Europe cannot pretend to remain neutral in this contest. A good way to explain this to Beijing is for the EU to hold the investment deal to ransom. – Bloomberg

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: Such policies are already producing avoidable pain and loss of identity, not to mention the missed political opportunity to build the stability that comes with fair representation and diversity. It’s not too late to consider other models. […]This is often favored in developing economies where people are otherwise disadvantaged. Unfortunately, in Russia and China, the trend is still in the opposite direction, toward homogeneity. – Bloomberg

Scott Kennedy, Bonnie S. Glaser, Jude Blanchette, and Matthew P. Goodman write: Needless to say—but apparently necessary to say—the blacklisting of MERICS along with other organizations and scholars, the gross mistreatment of fellow think-tanker Michael Kovrig, and the other recent restrictions are producing all too predictable negative consequences for China. […]If China’s precondition for stable relations with the West is that scholars all agree with Beijing’s position on Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, other “red lines,” and its broader narrative—regardless of where or in which language the opinions are shared—then China is unfortunately choosing to close the door to genuine scholarly exchange. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


A deadline looms. The Biden administration has until May 1 to withdraw troops from the country, under a U.S.-Taliban deal signed in February 2020, or negotiate a new arrangement. What the Taliban does could signal where the movement’s balance of power lies and what its vision is for Afghanistan’s future. – Washington Post

As President Biden signaled this week that he would let a May 1 deadline pass without withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, some officials are using an intelligence assessment to argue for prolonging the military mission there. – New York Times

President Biden’s prediction that all U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan by next year is being met with some skepticism. – The Hill

The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has departed for Turkey and the region, the U.S. State Department said on Saturday, in a push to encourage Afghan parties to accelerate negotiations to end conflict in the country. – Reuters

Richard Fontaine writes: While there are solid grounds for deciding to remain in Afghanistan, the idea that it is somehow too soon to depart is unfathomable to many Americans. If it’s worth staying, it is worth explaining to Americans, repeatedly and in detail, why that effort deserves their support. Afghanistan today isn’t only our longest war but a nearly forgotten one. Americans should understand why it may go on longer still. – Wall Street Journal

Ruth Pollard writes: And there’s a strong chance that if foreign troops remain after May 1, the Taliban will accuse the U.S. of violating their agreement and walk out of the intra-Afghan dialogue, he says. “The Taliban would redeclare war on the U.S., a fragile peace process would die, and Afghanistan’s already horrific violence would intensify.” – Bloomberg

South Asia

At least 10 people were killed and dozens injured in protests against a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to Bangladesh as part of celebrations for the country’s 50th anniversary. – New York Times

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has cultivated and cowed large parts of the country’s normally raucous news media in recent years as part of a broader campaign against dissent. – New York Times

Indian oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday described his Saudi counterpart’s advice to reduce oil stores to tackle high crude prices as “undiplomatic”. – Reuters

Chris Alexander writes: After 20 years of hard effort, the path to a ceasefire and enduring peace in Afghanistan requires collective action, by the U.S. and its allies, to end Pakistan’s proxy war. – The Hill



At least 114 people, including some children, were killed in anti-coup demonstrations that coincided with Armed Forces Day on Saturday, according to the news website Myanmar Now, after a warning from the military on state television that protesters could be “shot in the head.” – Washington Post

Capt. Tun Myat Aung leaned over the hot pavement in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, and picked up bullet casings. Nausea crept into his throat. The shells, he knew, meant that rifles had been used, real bullets fired at real people. – New York Times

Taiwan’s air force is no longer scrambling each time Chinese aircraft encroach on its air defence identification zone but tracks the intruders with ground based missiles instead to help save resources, a senior official said on Monday. – Reuters

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Monday his government is preparing for a potential flood of refugees from neighbouring Myanmar. – Reuters

Myanmar army fighter jets launched air strikes on Saturday on a village near the Thai border in territory controlled by an armed ethnic group, the group said, as fears grow of civil war following last month’s military coup. – Reuters

The Philippine military is sending light fighter aircraft to fly over hundreds of Chinese vessels in disputed waters in the South China Sea, its defence minister said, as he repeated his demand the flotilla be withdrawn immediately. – Reuters

The top military officer from the United States and nearly a dozen of his counterparts are set to condemn on Saturday the deadly use of force by Myanmar’s security forces and say the country’s military has lost credibility with its people. – Reuters

U.S. and Taiwanese officials have signed a Coast Guard cooperation agreement amid fears of Chinese attacks on the island. – Washington Examiner 

The US is concerned that China is flirting with the idea of seizing control of Taiwan as President Xi Jinping becomes more willing to take risks to boost his legacy. – Financial Times

The defense chiefs of a dozen nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, issued a joint statement Saturday calling for an end to violence by the military against unarmed civilians in Myanmar. – Politico

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is under pressure to join other major democracies in imposing sanctions on China over human-rights violations as he prepares for his first face-to-face summit with U.S. President Joe Biden. – Bloomberg

Maung Zarni writes: This erosion of the military’s public image potentially has far-reaching consequences. […]Yet in recent weeks, reflecting the growing popular indignation over the role of the military, the group has issued a series of statements that amount to a complete break with Aung San Suu Kyi’s policy of accommodation. It is now clear that Myanmar society is burying for good the decades-old myth of the armed forces as the selfless defenders of national unity. If nothing changes, it looks as though Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruinous policy of accommodation with the generals is likely to meet a similar fate. – Washington Post

David Ignatius writes: For all of China’s newfound confidence, its leaders seem to want regular dialogue with the United States, rather than a sharp rupture. […]Since Anchorage, Chinese think tanks have been using a phrase that means “hit, hit, talk, talk” to describe what’s ahead with the United States, according to one top Sinologist. The “hit, hit” part of that formula carries significant risks — especially if China continues to believe that a weakened America isn’t ready to fight back. – Washington Post

Barney Frank writes: In Congress I was a critic of excessive military spending and usually an opponent of military intervention, absent a physical threat to our safety. This column is an explanation of why — wholly consistent with these views — I believe strongly that Americans should make explicit our determination to defend Taiwan from any assault from China, including an invasion. – The Hill


The most cutting blow lately against Russian President Vladimir Putin was not President Biden’s recent “killer” ­epithet but the taunt from jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny calling him “grandpa in his ­bunker.” – Washington Post

The United States has invited the leaders of China and Russia to participate in a global summit on climate change in April, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday. – Reuters

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Russia and China do not yet have a formal military alliance. Nevertheless, Washington would do well to plan as if they have one. Because in practice, they already are acting as if they do. – The Hill

Peter Brookes writes: Not only are these weapons potential threats, they also are arguably a signal of Russia’s continuing commitment to the primacy of its nuclear forces as an element of its defense policy, its ongoing drive for military innovation, as well as an effort at diversifying and deepening its strategic forces and military threat. – Heritage Foundation

Samuel Ramani writes: While Russia’s relationships with Iran-aligned militia groups vary in depth, Moscow’s patterns of diplomatic engagement with these organizations deserve more attention. As Russia’s economic interests in Iraq and Lebanon grow, and the Yemen conflict transits toward a peace settlement, Moscow’s relationships with Hashd al-Shaabi, Hezbollah, and the Houthis will continue to strengthen for the foreseeable future. – Middle East Institute


Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s regime has commemorated the founding of the Confederacy, continuing its theme of authoritarian taunts at the United States and signaling its deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin. – Washington Examiner

A UK barristers’ chambers has sought to distance the majority of its members from a legal opinion written by four of its lawyers that implicated the Chinese government in “genocide” in Xinjiang after Beijing imposed sanctions on the group. – Financial Times

The EU and UK have reached a deal on how to co-operate in shaping rules for banks and financial markets, a key step before Brussels considers further market-access rights for the City of London. – Financial Times

Polish President Andrzej Duda has asked the United Nations Security Council to discuss the human rights and treatment of Poles in neighbouring Belarus, state news agency PAP reported on Friday. – Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday vowed to make developing countries less dependent on China economically, as he met five MPs sanctioned by China a day earlier. – Politico

A group of citizens on Friday filed a constitutional complaint against Germany for allowing the European Union to borrow €750 billion earmarked for the Next Generation EU recovery fund. – Politico


Insurgents seized control of much of a town in Mozambique on Saturday, after a three-day siege that has left at least several people dead and hundreds of other civilians unaccounted for as government forces try to regain control, according to private security contractors in East Africa and news reports. – New York Times

After months of denial, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia admitted this week that Eritrean troops had been fighting in Tigray, the war-torn northern Ethiopian region where the brutal conflict between pro-government and local fighters has become a byword for atrocities against civilians. – New York Times

Nearly 70,000 Tigrayans like Negusti now live in bleak refugee camps on the edge of the Sudanese desert. They have told their harrowing stories to human rights groups and diplomats who have recorded them as evidence of crimes against humanity and even ethnic cleansing allegedly perpetrated by Ethiopian troops, their Eritrean backers and ethnic militias. – Washington Post

Blinded by its fears of losing influence in Africa and by a colonial view of the continent’s people, France remained close to the “racist, corrupt and violent regime’’ responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and bears “serious and overwhelming” responsibilities, according to a report released Friday. – New York Times

A cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad — this time, its use in a British classroom — is once again stoking anger and national debates about the limits of tolerance, free speech and education. – New York Times

Local officials in northern Mali accused France’s army on Friday of killing six civilians in an airstrike, but French forces said they had hit Islamist militants. – Reuters

Somalia said Kenya is politicizing refugee camps, which have sheltered hundreds of thousands of Somali nationals for three decades, by moving to have them closed. – Bloomberg

Laird Treiber writes: The Biden administration has an opportunity to elevate the United States’ economic and commercial engagement with Africa. It is time to move beyond the unilateral trade preference program (the African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA) that has served as the centerpiece of the United States’ economic engagement for two decades and adopt a new approach that recognizes that African countries have evolved significantly and are ready for a more strategic partnership. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Latin America

Hundreds of Cubans took to Havana’s famous seaside drive on Sunday in a colorful caravan of cars, motorcycles and bicycles to demand the United States lift its 60-year-old embargo on the Caribbean island nation. – Reuters

Venezuela’s government on Sunday accused Facebook Inc of “digital totalitarianism” after it froze President Nicolas Maduro’s page for 30 days for violating its policies against spreading misinformation about COVID-19. – Reuters

Venezuelans fleeing to Colombia to escape clashes between the Venezuelan military and irregular armed groups have accused soldiers of abuses, including killing civilians. – Reuters

The United States on Friday blocked Venezuela from proceeding with its dispute over Washington’s sanctions at the World Trade Organization, seizing on the issue to underscore its rejection of Nicolas Maduro as the country’s legitimate president. – Reuters

Lawmakers are growing impatient for the Biden administration to nail down its stance toward Cuba as the White House gives few hints on how it will approach the island nation. – The Hill

Hernández, president of Honduras since 2014, has denied allegations of complicity with either man’s crimes. US prosecutors say the president, one of Washington’s staunchest regional allies, is under investigation. But he has not been charged, despite testimony that he took tens of thousands of dollars, some in cash-stuffed briefcases, to guarantee protection to drug lords. – Financial Times

United States

But Asian American advocates are raising alarm that the growing conflict with China is continuing to fan the flames of anti-Asian sentiments in the U.S. and could lead to more hate incidents against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. – The Hill

They are all signs that extremists could be infiltrating the military, according to internal training materials that offer a more detailed view into the array of radical groups and ideologies the Pentagon is trying to keep out of the ranks. – Politico

Hardin Lang and Victoria K. Holt write: Settling our arrears strengthens U.S. legitimacy at the U.N. and around the world. It allows us to work with our partners and allies to tackle global challenges and find opportunities with our adversaries to craft solutions to promote global security and stability. If America is going to lead again on the global stage, it is time to pay our U.N. bill. – The Hill

Max Hastings writes: Already, harsh realities are crowding the new administration. Iran, with which the U.S. hopes to resume dialogue about its nuclear program and disruptive role across the Middle East, remains intransigent. China and Russia make common cause against the West, in defiance as well as discourtesy. […]Even if a reborn American government does business more politely than its predecessor, in our chaotic new multipolar world, it may need to take its friends where it can find them. – Bloomberg

Manya Brachear Pashman writes: Like any virus, anti-Semitism mutates, making it next to impossible for lexicographers to keep up and for governments to recognize its many variants. […]A clear understanding of anti-Semitic lexicon and its history is key to recognizing and fighting the rising hatred of Jews. History has proven that we can’t always count on dictionaries. That’s OK. For the sharpest and clearest picture, anti-Semitism should be seen in higher definition anyway. – Chicago Tribune


As tensions between the United States and China escalate, a little-known federal agency is at the center of a debate in the Biden administration about how tough an approach to take when it comes to protecting American technology. – New York Times

Australian broadcaster Nine Entertainment was unable to air its Sunday news bulletin from its Sydney headquarters due to “technical difficulties” which a source with knowledge of the matter blamed on a suspected cyber attack. – Reuters

The Biden administration is escalating efforts to safeguard the U.S. power grid from hackers, developing a plan to better coordinate with industry to counter threats and respond to cyber attacks, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

With China sinking money into emerging technology, the U.S. government and its tech businesses need a new approach to stay ahead on artificial intelligence, microelectronics and other key military innovations, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said. – C4ISRNET


The Pentagon’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office wants industry to pitch “highly innovative” technologies that could benefit war fighters in future wars. – C4ISRNET

The Navy still has major challenges in digging out of its longstanding submarine maintenance backlog even after growing the workforce at the public shipyards, according to a Congressional Budget Office report. – USNI News

The Navy wants to emphasize the development of enablers for unmanned systems – the common interfaces and control stations, the networks, the secure data formats, the autonomy behaviors – as it pursues a hybrid manned/unmanned fleet for the future. – USNI News

Amid growing pressure from left-leaning Democratic lawmakers to reduce and redistribute defense spending by billions of dollars a year, a top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee says his colleagues need to study the intel more closely. – Breaking Defense

Evanna Hu writes: More than simply having the right tools and processes to keep on pace with rapid technological advances, defense acquisition reforms can only be effective when the workforce is sufficiently educated and is surrounded by an empowering culture that rewards mission outcomes rather than regulation compliance. Change starts with the people first and foremost. Defense acquisition reform is not any different. – The Hill

Long War

French energy giant Total SE and international contractors were scrambling to evacuate staff from a $20 billion natural-gas project in northern Mozambique on Saturday, security officials and analysts said, as a deadly attack by Islamic State-linked insurgents on a nearby town entered its fourth day. – Wall Street Journal

Two attackers believed to be members of a militant network that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group blew themselves up outside a packed Roman Catholic cathedral during a Palm Sunday Mass on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, wounding at least 20 people, police said. – Associated Press

Thousands of Kurdish-led forces, with assistance from the U.S.-led coalition, launched a military operation Sunday at a sprawling camp in northeast Syria, in a new effort to identify and arrest Islamic State militants and tamp down escalating killings and violence in the camp. – Associated Press

Indonesian president Joko Widodo strongly condemned a suspected suicide bomb attack outside a church that wounded 14 people in the city of Makassar on the island of Sulawesi on Sunday. – Reuters