Fdd's overnight brief

March 30, 2021

In The News


Tehran won’t agree to stop its 20 percent uranium-enrichment work before the United States lifts all sanctions, state television quoted an unnamed official as saying, after a U.S. media report said Washington would offer a new proposal for talks to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The Bushehr nuclear power station is “facing the risk of shutdown” because U.S. banking restrictions have made it difficult for the Islamic Republic to transfer money and procure necessary equipment, Mahmoud Jafari, a deputy at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency. – Bloomberg 

If President Joe Biden is serious about rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, then the next few weeks could prove make-or-break as the politics in both Washington and Tehran appear poised to intensify. – Politico 

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC-N) is building a new class of warships, as first reported in Naval News last week based on satellite imagery. The catamaran design appears relatively large, modern and capable compared to existing IRGC commercial-based designs. – USNI News 

Editorial: Anyone who thought the world would warm to U.S. interests once Donald Trump left the scene has received a rude awakening in the last two months. The latest sign is the weekend’s pact between China and Iran, an example of U.S. adversaries uniting to advance their strategic ambitions. – Wall Street Journal 

Tom Rogan writes: Thanks to landmark reporting […], we now know that approximately 2 million Uyghurs have been removed from their homes and families and imprisoned in a vast network of concentration camps. Once there, they have been sterilized, sold for rape, stripped of their faith and values, and then deployed as slavelike labor. Put another way, they have had their Islamic identity and individuality smashed at the altar of a communist empire. It tells you something about Ayatollah Khamenei and his regime that they aren’t at all bothered by this abuse of their fellow Muslims. It tells you that they might just be Islamic charlatans who value power more than they do honest faith. – Washington Examiner

Bobby Ghosh writes: For Beijing, there are also geopolitical factors to consider. Xi is undoubtedly keen to acquire more influence in the Middle East: The region is critical to securing his country’s long-term supplies of hydrocarbons and to his ambition of creating a modern Silk Road. But China has been a cautious investor, focusing on a few big-ticket deals with state-owned entities. – Bloomberg


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the divided U.N. Security Council on Monday to stop making humanitarian aid to war-torn Syria a political issue and open more border crossings to get food and other help to 13.4 million people in need. But Russia quickly reiterated its opposition to crossings to rebel and opposition areas. – Associated Press

The United Nations will urge international donors to pledge up to $10 billion on Tuesday to help Syrians fleeing a decade of civil war in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the need for humanitarian support has never been so great. – Reuters 

Tens of thousands of Syrians will no longer receive legal support, leaving many “in utter destitution” without documents they need to work, travel or return home, after the British government pulled £4m in funding from a charity programme, according to its director. – The Guardian 


Israel’s president will begin consultations with political parties next Monday on their preferred candidate to try to form a government, a spokesman said, after a fourth election in two years ended in another stalemate. – Reuters

The IDF will carry out a large exercise in Cyprus during the summer as part of the IDF’s “War Month” drill, Israel Hayom reported on Monday. The exercise will take about a week and include special forces, the Air Force and Navy. The soldiers will simulate combat deep in unfamiliar territory. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas on Monday formally submitted its list of candidates for the parliamentary election to the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC). – Jerusalem Post

Planning is underway for an internationally led effort to vaccinate thousands of merchants in the Gaza Strip against coronavirus, so that they can cross the border into Israel and travel to the West Bank, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper reported Tuesday, citing diplomatic sources. – Times of Israel

Amos Harel writes: The delay in Israel’s response to Jordan’s request to receive water from Israel, reported in Haaretz before Passover, reflects another stage in the deterioration of the relations between the two countries. There is a serious crisis prevailing between Amman and Jerusalem, exacerbated earlier this month after the Jordanians disrupted a visit by Netanyahu to the United Arab Emirates by holding up a plane sent from the Gulf to pick him up at Amman Airport. – Haaretz

Jacob Magid writes: Washington-based experts who spoke to The Times of Israel explained that while Biden would be pleased to work with an Israeli leader with whom he is politically aligned, more than anything his administration seeks an end to the ongoing political instability, as it deprives the US of an ally that can be relied on to advance longterm policy. – Times of Israel

Lahav Harkov writes: Efron said Israel can take comfort in that China takes a more “holistic regional approach to the Middle East, and so it has similar deal frameworks with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Iran’s adversaries.” […]Moreover, Beijing sells more weapons to Iran’s rivals in the region than it does to Iran. In addition, China and Israel do not have a defense relationship due to past US interventions, but the countries do have a strong economic partnership, including a free trade agreement. All of this taken together indicates that China is not trying to take Iran’s side in the region, even if Beijing seems to be favoring Tehran more than before. – Jerusalem Post


Lebanon’s prosecutor general Ghassan Oueidat has ordered a probe into the alleged torture of more than 20 Syrians in custody following a report by Amnesty International. – Aljazeera 

Lebanon is selling five Hawker Hunter fighter jets and three Sikorsky-made S-61 helicopters, the Ministry of National Defense announced, calling for interested parties to bid on the used aircraft. – Defense News 

Amer Bisat, Marcel Cassard and Ishac Diwan write: Lebanon is facing an existential moment. Over the short term, the best one can hope for is a “muddle through” scenario (with limited foreign financial support) that arrests the economic collapse. In the medium term, the 2022 parliamentary elections, if they are held on time, and the hoped-for resolution of regional crises may open up a window for the emergence of a new leadership that can finally put the country on the trajectory of prosperity it so deserves. – Middle East Institute

Gulf States

Israel’s National Security Agency on Monday advised tourists against travel to the United Arab Emirates and other countries across the region, citing the threat of attack by arch-enemy Iran. – Associated Press

An investigation by a U.N. team of experts found Yemen’s Houthis were responsible for a Dec. 30 attack on Aden airport that killed at least 22 people as members of the country’s internationally recognized government arrived, two diplomats familiar with the matter said on Monday. – Reuters 

Mekorot, the Israeli state-owned water company, has signed an agreement to provide $3 million in consulting services to Bahrain Electricity and Water Authority in the first-ever agreement between an Israeli government company and the Gulf emirate. – Haaretz

Some of the very last Jews in Yemen were recently driven out of their homes by Houthi rebels and were to be taken to another country, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported. – Times of Israel

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

Middle East & North Africa

The vast container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for six days was freed and began moving north to an anchor point Monday, opening the critical waterway, as hopes grew that global supply delays will ease. – Wall Street Journal 

With the Ever Given freed and on the move, the spotlight is now likely to turn to the investigation of how the vessel got wedged into the Suez Canal, leading to billions of dollars in losses globally. While strong winds during a dust storm are widely seen as a major factor, Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie of the Suez Canal Authority told reporters that the investigation will not focus just on the weather and that human and technical errors cannot be ruled out. – Washington Post

The immediate crisis of the Suez Canal blockage may have ended, but the battle over damages from the waterway’s longest closure in almost half a century is just beginning. The long-term cost of the canal’s estimated $10-billion-a-day closure will likely be small, given that global merchandise trade amounts to $18 trillion a year. – Bloomberg 

Turkey has sent Israel a message indicating that it is willing to send an ambassador to Tel Aviv, the moment Jerusalem indicates that it is willing to send an ambassador to Ankara, Israel Hayom reported, quoting a Turkish official. – Israel National News

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 

Paolo Napolitano writes: Iraq will continue to be at the crossroads of several regional and international issues — relations between the United States and Iran and between Iran and the Gulf monarchies, as well as Turkey’s regional ambitions. The expanded NATO mission cannot ignore this political context by staying in its comfort zone of capacity-building — it needs to be more proactive if it wants to earn relevance. – War on the Rocks 

John Bolton writes: As long as they avoid the likes of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, their political risk would be drastically lower, not to mention their transportation costs and possible losses during shipping. Perhaps the 2021 Suez Canal Crisis will have a silver lining after all, impelling governments and companies to come to terms with the new global security dangers they face. – Bloomberg

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: A greater Chinese role in Iran gives China a stronger potential role in exploiting its ties to Pakistan and in its investments in Pakistan’s ports and transport routes to Central Asia and China – countering the “Quad” in the process. It gives China more ability to exploit the new naval base and port facility that it has established in Djibouti on the Southern coast of the Red Sea as well as to exploit what it has learned about power projection though its role in the anti-piracy force outside Somalia. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Korean Peninsula

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, slammed South Korea’s president for calling the North’s recent missile test “concerning” and suggesting Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington should not create hurdles for talks, state media KCNA reported on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Ever since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, North Korea has been taking ever-more-drastic measures to fortify its border with China. Earlier this month, the Kim regime reportedly placed an increased number of Ministry of State Security (MSS) officials in the region. – The National Interest 

North Korea recently undertook a pair of missile launches, including a ballistic missile launch that got the attention of the Western world. Much of the media coverage of those launches have pointed out that the North Korean regime has often launched provocations shortly after the arrival of a new president of the United States. – The National Interest 

According to an analysis earlier this week by The Diplomat, there has been much second-guessing of South Korea’s aircraft carrier plans, mostly because the biggest threat to the country is its neighbor, North Korea, rather than an enemy likely to confronted at sea. Also, some have been arguing that such a carrier would be too vulnerable. – The National Interest 

Josh Smith writes: The new missiles tested by North Korea last week appear aimed at matching or surpassing South Korea’s quietly expanding arsenal, and are the first such tests since leader Kim Jong Un declared in January that the country could miniaturise nuclear warheads to fit on tactical weapons, underscoring the high stakes for the Biden administration as it mulls options for reducing tensions. – Reuters 

John Bolton writes: Tokyo and Washington should both understand, however, that the real target of their efforts must be Beijing, not Pyongyang. History has proven clearly that North Korea has never made the strategic decision to give up its nuclear goals. It is always willing to trade promises of denuclearization for financial assistance and sanctions relief. That route has been tried and failed for 30-plus years. Pyongyang gets the financial benefits upfront, but mysteriously to some, never fulfills its denuclearization commitments. It is time for the U.S. to focus on China. – Washington Examiner


President Biden wants to forge an “alliance of democracies.” China wants to make clear that it has alliances of its own. Only days after a rancorous encounter with American officials in Alaska, China’s foreign minister joined his Russian counterpart last week to denounce Western meddling and sanctions. – New York Times 

In U.S.-China diplomatic circles, Tzu-i Chuang was once referred to as the “most famous diplomatic wife” and credited with helping the U.S. score soft-power points with Chinese people at a time when few others could. […]Then, in July, Chinese social-media users turned against her. They seized on a comment she had made in an earlier post—one she later said she regretted—and flooded her social-media feeds with vitriol for months. The online attack on her was both encouraged by state media and unusual for how long it lasted, according to experts who study Chinese media. – Wall Street Journal 

China finalized a sweeping plan to ensure leaders in Beijing control the outcome of Hong Kong’s elections, a move that could deepen already-fraught relations with Western nations. – Bloomberg 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a virtual meeting with senior United Nations officials in a collegial display orchestrated as Chinese officials reject the significance of American statements about human rights. “Reengaging with the Human Rights Council will amplify the crucial voice of the United States on the most urgent human rights issues,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Blinken at the outset of their encounter. – Washington Examiner

Europe’s attempt to keep politics and business apart in China is blowing up in its face. Only three months after China and the EU struck a trade deal to make it easier to do business in each other’s markets, Beijing’s acid-tongued officials are now training their full ire on the EU and other Western countries. – Politico

Henry Olsen writes: Biden could reduce consumer pain by supporting a bill similar to that introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in 2019. His Tariff Rebate Act would give the money raised by the tariffs back to taxpayers from the bottom three tax brackets (currently singles making $86,375 or less and married couples making $172,750 or less). That money could easily offset the higher prices these consumers are paying for Chinese goods, reducing or eliminating consumer pressure to knuckle under to Beijing. – Washington Post

Derek Scissors writes: Put aside whether the individual programs are wise — we’re going to borrow trillions more and raise taxes in part to compete better with China. At the same time, hundreds of billions in American capital is going to support China competing with us? This is a very serious domestic fiscal plan. Without addressing the large and growing amount of US investment heading across the Pacific, it’s not at all a serious China plan. – American Enterprise Institute 

Edward Lucas writes: China likes to build relationships with individuals and institutions over many years. That may pay off at some point. It has earned favorable coverage in the Serbian media, for example. But given the time and money spent over the past decade, the overall pickings look slim. Probably the most worrying aspect of the Chinese presence in south-eastern Europe is on the cyber front: vacuuming up personal information from locals and foreigners to swell the bulging data warehouses back in China. But enthusiasm for Chinese technology may abate as awareness grows of what its use entails. – Center for European Policy Analysis   

Gracia Watson writes: The BRI remains, at its core, an infrastructure-driven development model. Xi’s plans for the future still rely on physical economic corridors throughout Asia and Europe, and since its projects tend to use Chinese firms, they create important jobs for the workforce. However, the BRI has always been ill-defined, which means that it can adapt to new domains to remain relevant, which is something that is now happening in the health, technology and green energy arenas. – The National Interest 

Andrew S. Erickson and Ryan D. Martinson write: Beijing has been exhibiting unprecedented vitriol and aggression these days over everything from territorial claims to denials of its atrocities in Xinjiang. At some point, reputation and public opinion matter—the United States and its allies have a panoply of policy tools at their disposal. […]The fact that China got away with reneging on the 2012 Scarborough Shoal deal continues to undermine U.S. credibility—a debacle that must never be repeated. Indeed, it is for reasons such as these that Beijing has attempted to pursue its aims with gray zone operations under the radar in the first place. – Foreign Policy 

Blake Herzinger writes: When a game of maritime chicken results in ships colliding or a border argument escalates to gunfire, who is making the decisions that follow, and that could escalate, with horrific consequences? Is the PLA capable, or even interested, in defusing and avoiding dangerous low-level encounters? Or will a combination of increasing confidence and fervent nationalism result in catastrophic miscalculation? – Foreign Policy 

Tom Rogan writes: China’s strengthening of ties with Iran, Myanmar, and Russia risks its relationships with important global powers. These partnerships undermine the credibility of China’s claim to prioritize global peace, stability, and sovereignty. – Washington Examiner

Adam Minter writes: This week came news that the World Health Organization is zeroing in on China’s wildlife farms as the likely source of the global Covid-19 outbreak. What the two scandals have in common is that they demonstrate just how difficult it is to oversee China’s immense system of small farms — especially when local officials have incentives to ignore obvious problems. As the government embarks on promised post-pandemic reforms, that will have to change. – Bloomberg

South Asia

The Taliban’s swagger is unmistakable. From the recent bellicose speech of their deputy leader, boasting of “conquests,” to sneering references to the “foreign masters” of the “illegitimate” Kabul government, to the Taliban’s own website tally of “puppets” killed — Afghan soldiers — they are promoting a bold message: We have already won the war. And that belief, grounded in military and political reality, is shaping Afghanistan’s volatile present. – New York Times 

Friction between the U.S. and China could give India the boost it needs to become a global tech hub, as long as the South Asian nation addresses longstanding roadblocks including excessive red tape and government inefficiency. – Bloomberg 

The May 1st deadline to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan is “not a deadline that could have ever been achieved,” former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday. But Hagel, a retired sergeant and former Republican senator for Nebraska, also said it’s high time for U.S. forces to vacate America’s longest war. – The Hill 

Despite the signing of the Doha agreement last February that called for a full drawdown of US troops and personnel from Afghanistan by May 1, the Department of Defense issued nearly a billion dollars in contracts to 17 different companies related to work in Afghanistan past the withdrawal date. There are currently some 18,000 contractors in the country, of which 6,350 are American citizens. – CNN 

Gunmen killed an official of India’s ruling party and a policeman in disputed Kashmir on Monday, police said. Police blamed anti-India militants for the attack. – Associated Press

Sameer Lalwani writes: Ultimately, the U.S. strategic and political community should use this extension time to ready diplomatic and military tools, and come to terms with the fact that the United States is actively moving out of the business of conflict resolution and into the uncomfortable realm of risk management. – War on the Rocks


The Biden administration condemned the Myanmar government’s latest crackdown on protesters and said the U.S. was suspending relations established with the country under a 2013 trade pact after security forces there unleashed deadly violence on anticoup demonstrators over the weekend. – Wall Street Journal 

An oil refinery on the Indonesian island of Java caught fire early Monday, sending flames and smoke towering into the sky, seriously injuring six people and prompting an evacuation of nearly 1,000 nearby residents. – New York Times 

The president of the Pacific island nation of Palau was visiting Taiwan on Tuesday along with the U.S. ambassador to his country, a show of solidarity as China increases diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Taiwan. – Associated Press

The Biden administration is preparing to issue guidelines that would make it easier for US diplomats to meet Taiwanese officials by adopting some of the changes introduced by Donald Trump, in a move China is likely to see as a provocation. – Financial Times

Taiwan on Sunday (March 28) saw the arrival of the first sitting U.S. ambassador since diplomatic ties between the countries were severed 42 years ago. – Taiwan News 

Editorial: Last week, the Biden administration sanctioned two large conglomerates controlled by the Tatmadaw and on Monday suspended a trade deal. It should also target Myanmar’s hard-currency revenue from exports of gas, jade and timber. Foreign partners in the energy business, such as Chevron and Total, should be pressed to cease remittances to the government, and banks should freeze accounts the military uses to launder profits from resource smuggling. Myanmar’s people are putting their lives on the line to resist the coup; they deserve concerted international support. – Washington Post

Editorial: Western economic influence in Myanmar is limited, with 84% of the country’s imports coming from the East Asia and Pacific regions. China wants above all to retain its access through the country to the Indian Ocean. It will take deft diplomacy by the Biden Administration to safeguard U.S. and allied interests as the Myanmar cauldron burns hotter. In the meantime, the U.S. is right to stand with the democracy protesters risking their lives. – Wall Street Journal 

David Ignatius writes: An administration official queried Monday responded: “As a presidential candidate, President Biden commemorated the 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children who lost their lives in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. He said then that we must never forget or remain silent about this horrific campaign.[…] Another administration official said a final decision about formal presidential recognition of the massacre hasn’t been made yet. This year’s commemoration will be especially poignant because of Armenia’s defeat in the Nagorno-Karabakh war last year, and the anguish that followed. – Washington Post

Emily Fishbein and Kyaw Hsan Hlaing write: Some young activists hope the protest movement shapes a more inclusive view of politics in Myanmar and believe the opportunity to build a federal democratic union is closer than before. Mi Vijaya, a civil society worker in the Mon state capital, initially did not participate in the protests against the coup because she doubted the majority would stand for ethnic minority rights. Since joining the GSCN, however, her hope has grown. “I believe the current demonstrations have brought unity among us,” she said. “I believe we can bring systematic change if we work together.” – Foreign Policy


Russian officials are seizing on the Suez Canal blockage saga to promote its Northern Sea Route, an ambitious infrastructure plan being pushed by President Vladimir Putin that aims to capitalize on the polar ice melt from global warming by opening up Arctic shipping and development. – Washington Post

Russian authorities have opened a criminal case against four Jehovah’s Witnesses in Siberia, in the latest persecution against the religious group. The Investigative Committee in the Tomsk region charged the four believers for participating in an extremist group, the human rights monitoring group OVD-Info and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia said on March 29. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Lance Kokonos writes: The situation RFE/RL faces in Russia is not nearly comparable to the permissive approach the US takes to Sputnik and RT. Americans may strongly cherish freedom of speech, but they should recognize that Russia does not hold that same commitment. Policymakers must therefore consider whether to engage in reciprocity in pursuit of fairness. – American Enterprise Institute   

Ben Dubow writes: In January, YouTube partnered with Russian state censors to remove videos supportive of anti-corruption protests. Though IMHO may not have yet been explicitly wielded as a cudgel against regime criticism, the coziness of the country’s largest video service to a repressive state has a chilling effect on civil society within Russia. YouTube could — and should — do better. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Robert D. Kaplan writes: Engagement is not appeasement. It is a matter of mixing various forms of pressure and diplomacy to explore areas where Russia and the United States can cooperate to reduce tensions, and to give Russia an incentive to move away from its one-sided alliance with China. Russia itself would benefit from playing the United States off against China. And so would we. Almost anything would be an improvement given the bleak and thoroughly hostile state of United States-Russia relations today. – The National Interest

Michael McCaul and Jim Risch write: Nord Stream 2 is not just a pipeline project to bring Russian natural gas to Germany and on to Western Europe via the Baltic Sea—it is a malign Russian influence project that poses a significant national security risk to the United States and to our European allies and partners. It threatens to deepen Europe’s energy dependence on Moscow and hand Russian President Vladimir Putin another tool to exert political pressure on Europe, particularly Ukraine. Russia has weaponized its gas supply before, cutting off deliveries to Ukraine—and thus much of Europe—in 2006 and 2009. – Foreign Policy


On Sunday, Matovic announced that he would step down as prime minister and swap places with Finance Minister Eduard Heger, a member of his Ordinary People party, “in order for the coalition to continue.” His resignation came after Slovakia’s health, economic, justice, education, and foreign affairs ministers stepped down from their posts, while multiple members of parliament walked away from Matovic’s center-right coalition. – Washington Post

The word of the moment in Ukrainian politics is “de-oliharkhizatsia” or de-oligarchization: a renewal of the long-held goal — and sometimes only faint hope — to free the country’s political system of domination by the ultrarich. Whether President Volodymyr Zelensky can deliver may set the tone for relations with the Biden administration. – Washington Post

The British Army is in the process of developing a long-term strategy for the introduction and use of robotic and autonomous systems (RASs): an important part of the transformation and modernisation programme outlined in the UK Defence Command Paper published on 22 March. – Jane’s 360 

The UK has urged US president Joe Biden to back away from a tit-for-tat tariff war over Britain’s imposition of a “digital services tax” that will hit Silicon Valley tech companies. – Financial Times

Belarusian prosecutors opened a terrorism investigation against opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the latest move from authorities trying to quash opposition groups after months of anti-government protests. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Nikolas K. Gvosdev writes: Europe will always remain an important part of the world for U.S. foreign policy, but its centrality to American national and economic security is drawing to a close. How this rebalancing will happen during the 2020s will become the most critical geopolitical challenge facing the U.S. national security establishment. – The National Interest


Days of fighting in a key city in Mozambique’s north have left dozens of civilians dead as security forces battled to turn back an assault by suspected Islamic State-linked insurgents. – NPR

The United States on Monday vowed to support Mozambique after a prolonged deadly assault on the key northern town of Palma by Islamic State-linked militants waging an escalating insurgency. – Agence France-Presse

The conflict, which has taken Burkina Faso from one of the most stable countries in West Africa to one of the most dangerous, poses a dilemma to European policymakers intent on stabilizing an increasingly volatile region that is key to its geopolitical goals — chief among them containing the spread of terrorism and curtailing migration to Europe. Analysts have warned that the European Union’s Sahel strategy prioritized counterterrorism and military solutions to the conflict, rather than seeking to solve issues of governance that would bring more lasting stability to the region. – Politico 

Matthew Hill and Paul Burkhardt write: Total SA and Eni SpA plan to tap huge natural gas deposits that discovered off the northern coast of Mozambique a decade ago. Their projects and another being considered by Exxon Mobil Corp. could entail $60 billion in investment and have the potential to turn around the economy of one of the world’s poorest countries. The developments have coincided with a series of increasingly brazen attacks by Islamist insurgents in the southern African country. While the main project sites have been spared from the violence so far, the security risks to the biggest investment splurge in Africa are ratcheting up as attacks get increasingly close. – Bloomberg

The Americas

The proposed restrictions on the Washington Channel, along Fort McNair and near D.C.’s Wharf district, are not linked to recent reports that Iran has made threats against the U.S. military installation, an Army official said Monday. – Washington Post

A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic said in a report that data examined during a recent mission to China was insufficient to answer the critical questions of when, where and how the virus began spreading. – Wall Street Journal 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro unveiled a deep cabinet reshuffle Monday as his administration comes under intense pressure with Covid-19 raging out of control in the country, killing more than a hundred Brazilians an hour. Mr. Bolsonaro announced the exit of combative Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo after swaths of Congress demanded the diplomat’s ouster, blaming him for scuppering vaccine supply deals. – Wall Street Journal 

The death of Ms. Salazar, 36, highlights the parallel crises of violence against women, as well as the regular abuses endured by an ever-increasing number of Central Americans who are traveling the length of Mexico in a bid to reach the United States. – New York Times 

The Biden administration has expressed concern over the Chinese government’s role in drafting a forthcoming World Health Organization report about the source of the coronavirus pandemic. – New York Times 

Some big-name Chinese stocks could eventually be kicked off the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq if they refuse to let U.S. regulators see their financial audits. – Bloomberg 

Venezuelan mayors desperate for cash are levying hefty tax hikes and launching aggressive collection campaigns that have spurred complaints from businesses already struggling to stay afloat in an economy battered by economic crisis and the global pandemic. – Reuters 

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei decreed a “state of prevention” Monday along the country’s border with Honduras, amid reports that a new migrant caravan may be forming in Honduras. – Associated Press

Andrew R. Novo writes: Overall, establishing and maintaining a strong foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean is essential to America’s growing strategic competition with Russia and China. The region is critical because the interests of all four major powers intersect in the Eastern Mediterranean. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

John Oldfield writes: We have to stop with inadequate and temporary fixes of one incoming water-related or water-magnified crisis after another. We’ve got to minimize the risk of the next crises while stopping the bleeding from the current ones. Heightened U.S. government leadership on global water security provides just such an opportunity, and the incoming administration is well-positioned to lead on this crucial global challenge. – The Hill 


China has pushed hard to be self-sufficient in semiconductors, and state-backed chip firms have raised huge sums. But Beijing’s ambitions will ultimately depend on the country’s vibrant private sector, too. – Wall Street Journal 

Anti-monopoly advocates and liberals are enthused by the Federal Trade Commission’s decision to give itself more authority to create and enforce new rules that could hold Big Tech companies accountable for anti-competitive behavior, even without help from Congress. – Washington Examiner

Two months into his administration, President Joe Biden has yet to nominate someone to the newly created position of national cyber director but says he’s “close” to making a decision on the key post, which was mandated by Congress last year. Asked by reporters as he boarded Air Force One last night if his decision would come within days, Biden repeated he’s “close.” – Washington Examiner

The U.S. Army’s is adding a new requirement for its day-to-day business software as the service continues its march toward multidomain operations: the need to operate in a disconnected environment. – C4ISRNET 

Hackers involved in what has become known as the SolarWinds breach accessed email accounts of top officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) along with other personal information of senior federal officials, The Associated Press reported Monday. – The Hill

Marking a paradigm shift in how the Army procures, fields and updates equipment, a full brigade for the first time is testing modernized radios, tactical cell phones and network gear this month in the one of service’s most operationally realistic environments. – C4ISRNET 

Facebook will build two submarine cables connecting the US with Indonesia for the first time as the Silicon Valley group boosts its focus on the world’s fastest-growing population of smartphone users. – Financial Times

Rep. Blake D. Moore and Khosrow B. Semnani write: Surrendering critical manufacturing capabilities and losing our position as the world’s No. 1 innovator would erode our ability to hold the CCP accountable and defend our free system. Our partners in the Indo-Pacific and across the world are willing to join forces. The stakes are high, but the solutions are in front of us, and we look forward to working with the Biden administration to build on our competitive advantages. – The Hill


Biden has decided to renew the White House National Space Council, the Cabinet-level body that was revived by then-President Donald Trump in 2017 after two and half decades to coordinate national security priorities, civilian exploration, and fuel the growing private space economy, Morning D has learned. – Politico 

The Army has outlined, in a recent white paper obtained by Defense News, its “critical” role in great power competition to include deterring conflict, upholding U.S. interests and forging and strengthening relationships with allies and partners. – Defense News

The following is the March 29, 2021 announcement from the Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy on flag officer assignments for the service. – USNI News 

Austal USA has broken ground on a steel production line in Mobile, Ala., as the Navy winds down its aluminum-hulled shipbuilding programs and plans on larger numbers of smaller ships. – Defense News 

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of March 29, 2021, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship. – USNI News 

The fifth geosynchronous satellite in the Space Based Infrared System constellation was recently delivered to Florida ahead of its anticipated May launch date. SBIRS is the nation’s premier missile warning satellite, providing 24/7 coverage to detect missile launches all over the world. – C4ISRNET 

Northrop Grumman has avoided an anticipated gap in production of its MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), with the announcement that Congress had reintroduced a previously removed aircraft from the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget. – Jane’s 360 

Every day, scores of US military commands reach millions with posts aimed to inform and inspire: videos of valor, motivational photos, and, yes, puppy pics. The military has codified the rules for managing these official accounts. But sometimes these social-media pros — even those at the four-star command responsible for the US’s nuclear weapons — fail miserably. – Business Insider

Mick Mulroy, Eric Oehlerich and Walton Mulroy write: Policymakers should decide on the operational paradigm for a conflict effort. They need to determine the approach that will be used: a unilateral approach or a partnered one. It should be the responsibility of the ground commander to set the number of personnel required. Specific assets should also be left to the commander who is fighting the fight and who has the most knowledge on how to win. – Middle East Institute 

Christian Braunlich writes: Ultimately, however, leadership is necessary to shape a positive Air Force rescue culture. This starts with being honest about the mission and aggressive in its pursuit — honest in acknowledging that adversary advances make it harder, and aggressive in pursuing the belief that mission execution is possible. Rather than deriving a vision from the pursuit of resources, leaders must order the pursuit of resources in service to a vision. – War on the Rocks 

Tara Copp writes: Fifty years later, these missiles — called the Minuteman III — are still on alert, manned by members of the U.S. Air Force in teams of two who spend 24 hours straight below ground in front of analog terminals from the 1980s, decoding messages and running tests on the missiles’ systems to check if they could still launch if needed. But it’s not the age of weapons or the decades-old technology that troubles their operators. It’s that the original manufacturers who supplied the gears, tubes and other materials to fix those systems are long gone. – McClatchy

Long War

The United States on Monday offered a $10 million reward for information on a Hezbollah operative who was convicted last year in the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri. – Associated Press

A recently married couple with suspected militant links used pressure cooker bombs to blow themselves up outside a Roman Catholic cathedral during Palm Sunday Mass, Indonesian officials said Monday. – Associated Press

A Michigan county judge on Monday dismissed threat of terrorism charges against two men accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). – The Hill 

Noga Tamuz writes: What would make a middle-class, 30-something Christian woman from Indiana, who has a comfortable life, leave everything behind and go off with her family to join ISIS? How does she perceive reality? What went through her mind when she filmed her 9-year-old son assembling and taking apart explosive belts with expert skill? […] Baker, who had previously wrote stories on people from Europe who joined ISIS, did not see a similar pattern of behavior in Sam. “She’s an anomaly,” he explains. “Even the FBI can’t prove that she joined ISIS because of ideological motives.” – Haaretz