Fdd's overnight brief

March 4, 2021

In The News


Israel’s top environmental official on Wednesday accused Iran of deliberately causing the major oil spill that despoiled Israel’s Mediterranean coastline last month, an act she described as “environmental terrorism.” – Washington Post 

Iran is reaching out to old customers in Asia to gauge their interest in buying its oil as Tehran ramps up diplomacy to get U.S. sanctions lifted. – Bloomberg 

Dr. Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state for both Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, likened President Donald Trump’s Middle East diplomatic achievements to Nixon’s opening of China in 1972. He also warned that the U.S. should continue the tough Trump policy on Iran. – Fox News 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that America and the world would have to kneel before the “great nation” of Iran and they would be forced to give up their “oppressive” sanctions. President Rouhani made his remarks during a public address that was aired on IRINN TV (Iran) on March 1, 2021. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The chance that Iran would risk damaging the coastline of Gaza or its Hezbollah friends in Lebanon – who all share a coastline with Israel – would appear to be a major risk for Tehran. Nevertheless, recent incidents like the reported Iranian cyberattack against Israel last year, could mean that the Islamic Republic is using every asymmetric means of attack at its disposal, including the environment. – Jerusalem Post 

Fariba Parsa writes: The Islamic state faces a challenge: millions of young women who do not see themselves primarily as housewives. These women often strive for higher education, demand the same job opportunities as men, and equal political representation, such as the freedom to run in a presidential election. – Middle East Institute 


Turkey and Egypt could negotiate and sign a maritime demarcation deal in the eastern Mediterranean if their ties, which have been strained, allow for such a move, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Turkey has stopped insulting France and the European Union, providing some reassurance, but ties will remain fragile until it takes concrete action, France’s foreign minister said. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In each “deal,” it secures a huge claim to the Mediterranean far beyond its rights and tramples Cyprus and Greece. Egypt and Israel would get nothing out of any deals with Turkey because they already have their economic zones established. They don’t need Ankara to agree to them because they have Greece and Cyprus much closer offshore. – Jerusalem Post 

Robbie Gramer, Katie Livingstone and Jack Detsch write: The quiet phone line became a major news story in Ankara, despite—or perhaps because of—years of perceived slights between the NATO allies, from jostling over Syria to Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air defense system. But interviews with over a dozen officials, lawmakers, and other experts make clear that the U.S. president’s radio silence is indicative of a tougher American tone toward Turkey: Ankara will keep getting the cold shoulder unless it cleans up its act—and fast. – Foreign Policy  


The International Criminal Court prosecutor said she is opening an investigation into possible war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories since 2014, a move welcomed by the Palestinian Authority and condemned by Israel. – Wall Street Journal 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed the US’s opposition to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to open a full war crimes probe against Israel and the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night. – Jerusalem Post 

Any new nuclear deal between the West and Iran should be “dramatically improved” from the previous agreement, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The former deputy head of the Mossad said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has poorly managed both the coronavirus pandemic and the struggle against the Iranian threat, in excerpts of an interview published Thursday. – Times of Israel 

Leading American Jewish and pro-Israel groups condemned the International Criminal Court’s decision Wednesday to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in the in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem. – Algemeiner 

Shahar Azani writes: Mr. Netanyahu, often maligned in international media as an extremist, has already confounded critics by bringing about peace with several of Israel’s Arab neighbors. Now, he is trying to pull off an even greater coup by wooing Arab Israelis off the sidelines straight into voting for his Likud party, which is running campaign ads in Arabic. For more than 70 years, Arab Israelis have been effectively absent from national decision-making processes. Now, they have a chance to become power brokers and anoint the Jewish state’s next prime minister. – Wall Street Journal 

Lazar Berman writes: One option may be a strategy of deterrence by hitting back. Israel and Iran have been involved in a low-level tit-for-tat war for years, with cyberattacks on infrastructure and other soft targets. On Wednesday, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel blamed Iran for an oil spill that has dirtied Israel’s coasts, possibly previewing a new maritime front being opened between the countries. – Times of Israel 


A U.S. contractor died during rocket attacks on an Iraqi military base Wednesday, the Pentagon said, posing a fresh challenge to the Biden administration days after it launched military action in retaliation for an earlier attack. – Washington Post 

After more than a year cooped up behind the Vatican walls, he will fly to Baghdad on Friday at one of the most virulent moments of the entire pandemic, sending a message that flies in the face of nearly all public health guidelines and putting potentially thousands of Iraqis in danger. – New York Times

The White House warned that the U.S. may consider a military response to the rocket attack on Wednesday that hit an air base in western Iraq where American and coalition troops are housed, raising concerns this could trigger a new round of escalating violence. – Associated Press 

The group behind the attack has not been confirmed, but this morning’s (7:20 a.m. Baghdad time) rocket assault on an Iraqi base hosting U.S. troops has all the earmarks of the same Iranian-backed militias responsible for previous attacks in recent weeks. – Washington Examiner 

Six al-Qaeda-linked militants stormed and seized the church, killing dozens inside. At the time, the Oct. 31, 2010 attack was the bloodiest in a drumbeat of violence that Iraq’s Christians suffered during the brutal sectarian warfare following the 2003 U.S. invasion. More than a decade later, it still stands as perhaps the deadliest single attack against the community. The carnage prompted many Christians to flee Iraq and deepened the mistrust between the community and its Muslim neighbors, a chasm that endures to this day. – Associated Press 

Ruwayda Mustafa, Yerevan Saeed and Mohammed Salih write: The bleak situation in other parts of the country, characterized by deepening militarization, growing Iranian influence, and rising ISIS activities, highlights the strategic value of Kurdistan in countering ongoing threats within Iraq and the broader region. The potential for progress on critical security issues calls for deeper mutual engagement by both sides. – Washington Institute 

Mehdi Khalaji writes: The Vatican’s outreach to Iraq is laudable in its goal of decreasing religious violence, but Western officials should be realistic about what engagement with Shia religious leaders can accomplish in the near term. – Washington Institute  

Gulf States

Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed they hit an Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, the latest in a string of attacks on the kingdom by the group, but hours later there was still no confirmation from Saudi authorities. – Washington Post 

Senior U.S. officials have held a first direct meeting with officials from the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls Yemen’s capital, two sources familiar with the matter said, as the new U.S. administration pushes to end a six-year war. – Reuters

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen said on Thursday it had destroyed a ballistic missile fired towards Jazan in the south of the kingdom by Houthi forces, in a statement carried by Saudi state media outlets. – Reuters

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have taken control of 10 out of 14 districts of the strategic northern city of Marib, the Houthi deputy foreign minister, Hussein al-Ezzi, told CNN Wednesday. Despite this, Marib’s key city center district still remains under the control of the Saudi-backed government. – CNN 

U.N. human rights experts called on Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to free three young Shi’ite Muslims whose death sentences for taking part in protests as minors have been commuted, citing allegations of torture and unfair trials. – Reuters

Yemen’s Iran-backed rebels Wednesday warned that the U.S. sanctions imposed the previous day on two of their military leaders would only prolong the conflict in the impoverished Arab country. President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday slapped sanctions on two Houthi leaders, citing their alleged roles in cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and shipping vessels in the Red Sea. – Associated Press 

Saudi Arabia has said that relations with the US will not be hurt by the Biden administration’s release of a US intelligence report incriminating the Saudi crown prince in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. – Financial Times

With President Joe Biden’s election, the Gulf states –  especially in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain – are concerned that this administration will revive the Obama administration’s lenient policy towards Iran and its proxies in the region, and will reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, from which Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew. From the Gulf states’ perspective, the main problem with this deal is that it ignored the issues of Iran’s ballistic missiles and its interference in the countries of the region. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Thousands of his partisans had flooded downtown Tunis on Saturday in what some observers called one of the largest demonstrations in the past decade. Men, women and children backing his party, Ennahda, had been bused in from throughout the country. Draped in Tunisian flags, they chanted “National unity!” and slogans in support of Ghannouchi. – Washington Post 

The United States demanded Tuesday that the status of tens of thousands of civilians detained in Syria during the country’s 10-year conflict be made public, and that the bodies of those who died be returned to their loved ones. – Associated Press 

Protesters blocked some roadways in Lebanon for a second day on Wednesday after the currency’s fall to a new low further enraged a population long horrified by the country’s financial meltdown. – Reuters

Qatar’s foreign minister met with his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Wednesday on the sidelines of a meeting of Arab states, Qatar’s state news agency reported, two months after the end of a bitter regional dispute that placed the countries on opposing sides. – Reuters

Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem stressed that Hezbollah intends to “remain in a state of defense,” but would make Israel “see stars” if it attacks the Lebanese terrorist group. Qassem made the comments in an interview with Al-Mayadeen on Wednesday night. – Jerusalem Post 

Aaron Y. Zelin and Oula A. Alrifai write: To be sure, the Assad regime’s domestic negligence, mismanagement, illegitimacy, and criminality provide sufficient reason on their own to shake up Washington’s approach. Yet reinvigorating a serious U.S. policy toward Syria is crucial even from a purely realpolitik, power competition perspective, if only to curb the advance of American adversaries in Tehran and Moscow. – Washington Institute

Vali Nasr writes: The Middle East is at the edge of a precipice, and whether the future is peaceful hinges on what course the United States follows. If the Biden administration wants to avoid endless U.S. engagements in the Middle East, it must counterintuitively invest more time and diplomatic resources in the region now. If Washington wants to do less in the Middle East in the future, it has to first do more to achieve a modicum of stability. It has to start by taking a broader view of regional dynamics and making the lessening of new regional power rivalries its priority. – Foreign Policy 

Ilan Berman writes: To date, the Biden administration has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to confronting China on the world stage. The president told the Munich Security Conference in late February that the West must prepare for “long-term term strategic competition with China.” What administration principals still don’t seem to realize, however, is that the Middle East represents an essential part of that contest, and a place where China’s inroads are liable to come at America’s expense. The White House would be wise to calibrate its approach to the Middle East accordingly. – Newsweek

Korean Peninsula

North Korea may be trying to extract plutonium to make more nuclear weapons at its main atomic complex, recent satellite photos indicated, weeks after leader Kim Jong Un vowed to expand his nuclear arsenal. – Associated Press 

Drastic measures taken by North Korea to contain coronavirus have exacerbated human rights abuses and economic hardship for its citizens, including reports of starvation, a United Nations investigator says. – Reuters

Bruce Klingner writes: Unfortunately, there is much distrust and animosity between Tokyo and Seoul, but common adversity and threats can provide a basis for moving forward. The historic issues are unlikely to be solved to both sides’ satisfaction, but delinking them from current policies would be beneficial to all. The United States shares common values, principles, and objectives with both Japan and South Korea. Washington should engage forthrightly with both to address the past, but focus on the future. – The Daily Signal

Josh Smith writes: Several former members of Donald Trump’s administration, however, have called for Biden to double down on sanctions and the threat of military action to pressure North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons, arguing that his “maximum pressure” campaign was never fully enforced or given time to work. – Reuters 


Xi Jinping has struck a confident posture as he looks to secure China’s prosperity and power in a post-Covid world, saying that the country is entering a time of opportunity when “the East is rising and the West is declining.” But behind closed doors, China’s Communist Party leader has also issued a blunt caveat to officials: Do not count out our competitors, above all the United States. – New York Times

President Joe Biden singled out a “growing rivalry with China” as a key challenge facing the United States, with his top diplomat describing the Asian country as “the biggest geopolitical test” of this century. – Reuters

A marathon court hearing for 47 democracy activists charged under Hong Kong’s national security law entered its fourth day on Thursday, as the court deliberates whether the defendants will be granted bail. – Associated Press 

Editorial: If Western mining drives up rare-earth costs by fully accounting for environmental effects, that would be an important price signal. The Biden Administration and Congress could help by telling the truth about this trade-off and reducing the burdens on mining critical minerals. – Wall Street Journal 

Edwin J. Feulner writes: It’s natural for people to look to the government for help in times of uncertainty. Yet a free people can’t pin their hopes on a government solution to every problem. Not if they expect to remain free. Economic controls, environmental regulation, and Beijing-style centralized planning aren’t the answer to America’s challenges. Only a return to free-market principles, and a recommitment to individual liberty that lies at the heart of the American way of life, will get us out of the mess we’re in. – Wall Street Journal 

Joseph Bosco writes: Biden may not wish to hear his predecessor’s name again, but his forthright actions to date have earned him China’s condemnation for “Trumpism.” While “Trumpism without Trump” may not be Biden’s preferred China policy, he and his team deserve credit for moving American foreign policy back to its bipartisan roots. – The Hill

Salvatore Babones writes: Politically and temperamentally, the hardest thing for any U.S. president to do is nothing. The extraordinary power concentrated in the president’s hands generates extraordinary temptation to use it, and there are many stirring arguments for decisive leadership. But in the current situation, decisive leadership can only disrupt an already benign policy environment. China’s only hope for victory in the current situation is to provoke a crisis—and then benefit from the ensuing disorder. Biden’s number one job is to make sure the crisis doesn’t occur. – Foreign Policy 


The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the slaying of three female journalists in eastern Afghanistan. – Washington Post 

The United States has proposed convening a United Nations-sponsored international conference on Afghanistan, a senior U.S. State Department official said. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Unidentified gunmen have shot dead a Kabul University professor and religious scholar in the Afghan capital, a day after three female employees of a television channel were gunned down in the east of the war-torn country. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

A roadside bomb explosion killed a female doctor in the eastern city of Jalalabad, provincial officials said on Thursday, days after three female media workers were shot dead in the same city. – Reuters

South Asia

Dozens of ethnic Baluch rights activists have staged a protest in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi to condemn the killing of their ethnic brethren by Iranian border guards last month. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

About 300 refugees from a Christian minority community from Myanmar held a demonstration in India’s capital on Wednesday against last month’s military takeover in their country and demanded the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Myanmar leaders. – Associated Press 

Chris Alexander writes: Alongside regimes in Russia, China and Iran, Pakistan deserves recognition as amongst the world’s greatest disruptors for its proxy war in Afghanistan. Many Canadians have lost their lives in pursuit of Afghanistan’s freedom and prosperity. – MLI


At least 38 people were killed in Myanmar on Wednesday, the biggest one-day toll in a worsening repression of anti-coup protests, the United Nations special representative for the country said. – New York Times

The triple meltdowns at Japanese nuclear reactors in Fukushima after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami marked a turning point in an industry that once dreamed of providing the world with nearly unlimited power. A decade after Fukushima, just nine reactors in Japan are authorized to operate, down from 54 a decade ago, and five of those are currently offline owing to legal and other issues. – Wall Street Journal 

Thousands of opposition supporters have rallied in the Armenian capital Yerevan to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

The United States on Wednesday called on military authorities in Myanmar to release an Associated Press journalist and five other members of the media detained while covering demonstrations against a military coup. – Reuters

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha says he has assigned the Royal Thai Army to investigate after Facebook Inc. removed 185 accounts and groups allegedly engaged in an information-influencing operation in Thailand run by the military. – Associated Press 

Myanmar’s deputy U.N. ambassador, who was assigned by the military to head the country’s mission to the United Nations after the ambassador strongly opposed their recent coup, resigned on Wednesday, according to social media and newspaper reports. – Associated Press 

Myanmar’s military says it is ready to withstand sanctions and isolation after its Feb. 1 coup, a top United Nations official said on Wednesday as she urged countries to “take very strong measures” to restore democracy in the Southeast Asian nation. – Reuters

Nearly a decade ago, the United States was touting Myanmar as an American success story. The Obama administration reveled in the restoration of civilian rule in the longtime U.S. pariah as a top foreign policy achievement and a potential model for engaging with other adversaries, such as Iran and Cuba. – Associated Press 

New Zealand police said on Thursday they have arrested two people following a threat made against the mosques that were the scene of mass murder by a white supremacist nearly two years ago. – Reuters

The US is working with Japan, India and Australia to develop a plan to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to countries in Asia as part of a broader strategy to counter China’s influence. The White House has held discussions with other members of the Quad, a diplomatic and security initiative between the countries, in recent weeks, according to six people familiar with the talks. The plan to use vaccine distribution to counter Chinese efforts is among a range of measures the countries hope to announce soon, according to two people familiar with the situation. – Financial Times

Hong Kong has been dropped from a prominent index of the world’s freest economies, underlining growing concerns over Beijing’s tightening grip on the Asian financial centre after it introduced a national security law last year. – Financial Times

No country should create tensions or “make threats” in the South China Sea, Taiwan’s president has said, in a statement that included seldom-heard territorial claims in the contested waters. Her comments come as China begins a full month of military exercises in the region, with its government repeatedly expressing disapproval of navigation exercises conducted by the U.S. and its allies. – Newsweek

H.R. McMaster and Riley Walters write: President Biden and Prime Minister Suga will have their hands full overcoming the economic, health and social traumas caused by the pandemic. In the U.S., the Biden administration is building a team while coping with these challenges and attempting to overcome maladies associated with political polarization and social divisions. – Hudson Institute

Russell Hsiao and David An write: In the final analysis, while Taiwan is not a driver of the Indo-Pacific strategy, it is within the broader context of a changing strategic environment that a pivotal role for Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific emerges. Taiwan can be a closer U.S. partner in each of these aspects. It is now up to Taiwan to seize this opportunity and take the initiative. – The National Interest 


Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has sent his first message from custody after being transferred from a detention center in Moscow to the Vladimir region, northeast of the Russian capital, in late February. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russia’s caustic Foreign Ministry spokeswoman had this to say: “We urge our colleagues not to play with fire.” Allies of Aleksei Navalny — the poisoned and now imprisoned Russian opposition activist — lamented that the measures stopped short of what one called “the most painful sanctions… sanctions against the oligarchs.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

A nuclear-capable, long-range U.S. bomber flew over the capitals of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Wednesday in a show of solidarity with NATO allies, the U.S. Air Force said, amid Western concerns over a more assertive Russia. – Reuters


Germany’s intelligence agency opened an investigation into the far-right Alternative for Germany as a potential threat to the constitutional order, officials said Wednesday, an unprecedented move at the start of a decisive election year for the country. – Wall Street Journal 

Relations between Mr. Orban and the center-right group, the European People’s Party, had become increasingly frayed as he grew more authoritarian, and the alliance had signaled that it might finally expel him. But Mr. Orban jumped first on Wednesday, pulling his Fidesz party out of the group. – New York Times

The European Union’s special envoy has warned Serbia and Kosovo that they must resume talks on normalizing ties if they want to make progress toward membership in the bloc. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

A blast struck a coronavirus testing centre north of Amsterdam before sunrise on Wednesday, shattering windows but causing no injuries in what police called an intentional attack. – Reuters

France on Wednesday banned far-right group Generation Identitaire, which is known to be hostile to migrants, for incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. – Reuters

The European Union promised legal action on Wednesday after the British government unilaterally extended a grace period for checks on food imports to Northern Ireland, a move Brussels said violated terms of Britain’s divorce deal. – Reuters

Swedish police said they were investigating possible terror motives for a knife attack on Wednesday in which at least eight people were injured, and that the assailant has been arrested after being shot and wounded. – Reuters

The United States on Wednesday hailed plans by NATO ally Germany to sail a warship across the contested South China Sea, calling it welcome support for a “rules-based international order” in the region, something Washington says is threatened by China. – Reuters

Andrea Dudik, Milda Seputyte, and Lenka Ponikelska write: Whereas four years ago populist forces seemed on the ascendancy across Europe, the arrival of U.S. President Joe Biden promising the end of “America First” means the air is getting thinner for leaders who model themselves on Donald Trump. Equally, Angela Merkel’s departure from office this fall denies the likes of Orban the ear of a German leader who kept channels for dialogue open, however stark their differences. – Bloomberg

Steven Kenney writes: The changing dynamics of the Black Sea region, and the significance of the interests at stake, demand a U.S. strategy that benefits from this kind of thinking. Any strategy based on a single set of assumptions about the future is a strategy vulnerable to disruption. – Middle East Institute 

Heinrich Brauss, Ben Hodges and Julian Lindley-French write: The Military Mobility Project, launched by the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), is designed to promote the establishment of the multiplicity of conditions (legal and regulatory standards, infrastructure and military requirements, the management of risks to the security of transiting forces) needed to enable, facilitate, and improve military mobility across Europe. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Senegal’s main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, was arrested on Wednesday after hundreds of his supporters clashed with police in the capital while protesting against a rape accusation he denies. – Reuters

Ethiopia on Wednesday said it is investigating “credible allegations of atrocities and human rights abuses” in its embattled Tigray region, including in the city of Axum, where The Associated Press and Amnesty International have separately documented a massacre of several hundred people. – Associated Press 

Editorial: The new administration nevertheless cannot ignore the mounting reports of war crimes or the warnings from aid groups that famine could spread in Tigray if access for aid deliveries and workers does not improve. Amnesty International reported last Thursday that Eritrean troops “went on a rampage” in the historic town of Axum and “systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood.” – Washington Post 

The Americas

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Wednesday that he would support naming a new electoral council but said its members should not be chosen unilaterally by the National Assembly currently held by the ruling socialist party. – Reuters

Adam Taylor writes: The problems between the ICC and the United States go beyond Israel, however. Some critics, such as American national security lawyer John B. Bellinger III, have argued that both sides need to de-escalate, with the ICC taking a step back from actions that could implicate U.S. officials. But supporters of the court, including Kersten, argue that Biden is taking a similar hands-off approach to international justice that Obama took — what he described as “selective engagement and polite hypocrisy.” – Washington Post 

Dana Frank writes: It’s time for Biden to listen to the senators — and to the members of Congress who have supported since 2016 the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act also prohibiting U.S. assistance to the police or military of Honduras — rather than continue to shore up and whitewash a vicious regime. The United States should stop dancing with dictators and allow the Honduran people to have the democratic space to express, and build, their own vision of a good society. – Washington Post 

United States

The U.S. Capitol Police said Wednesday that they have information regarding a possible plot by a militant group to breach the Capitol on Thursday, a date that some followers of the QAnon extremist ideology falsely claim will mark former president Donald Trump’s return to the White House. – Washington Post 

President Biden’s tepid responses to Saudi Arabia’s murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the case of a Russian dissident have disappointed supporters while drawing praise from an unlikely quarter: Trump administration alumni. – Washington Examiner 

President Biden’s strike in Syria is reviving a dormant fight over war powers as Congress looks to claw back some of its authority. The military action sparked grumbling from Democrats who say they weren’t adequately consulted on the strikes and questioned where Biden drew the authority, which the White House says falls under his powers as commander in chief. – The Hill

The White House released its interim national security strategic guidance Wednesday, stressing a need to build alliances and strengthen democracy, an implicit rebuff of former President Trump’s “America first” strategy. – The Hill



Google says it won’t develop new ways to follow individual users across the internet after it phases out existing ad-tracking technology from its Chrome browser, a change that could shake up the online advertising industry. Google says it’s taking the move to protect user privacy. It’s part of a broader shift in the industry as marketers such as Apple and regulators in the U.K., U.S. and elsewhere increasingly are seeking ways to phase out more egregious data collection practices. – Associated Press 

The Defense Intelligence Agency announced a contract worth up to $12.6 billion for a broad range of IT services, naming 144 vendors that can compete for pieces of the award. – C4ISRNET

Countries are curbing the power of Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Google by regulating anti-competitive behavior and content moderation, imposing high fines for rule violations, and threatening to break them up. – Washington Examiner 

Far-right social media website Gab was severely hacked on Sunday night by the WikiLeaks-style group Distributed Denial of Secrets which collected more than 70 gigabytes of the platform’s data, including from former US President Donald Trump’s account, representing more than 40 million posts, the Wired.com website reported. – Jerusalem Post 

Josh Rogin writes: Perhaps recognizing that national security concerns are impacting its image in Washington, Zoom just hired to its board former Trump administration national security adviser H.R. McMaster. McMaster’s latest book calls the Chinese Communist Party the greatest threat in a generation. Last month, he gave a book talk to Banks’s Republican Study Committee. The event was held over Zoom. – Washington Post 

Michael Rubin writes: A broader question for Big Tech is why they censor relatively innocuous commentary in the United States, but continue to provide an open platform for terrorists and apologists for genocide outside the country. […]As U.S. big tech firms increasingly act as political actors with partisan and foreign policy agendas and as they prioritize short-term business interests over both liberty and U.S. national security, it behooves Congress to act in a bipartisan fashion to protect all American interests and compel social media and tech companies to do the right thing. – 19FortyFive


Leaders can also encourage the use of behavioral interventions to improve sleep quantity and quality, such as the use of mobile applications to help track sleep. If viewed as a key component of readiness, military cultural attitudes regarding sleep deprivation can be shifted to ensure that Service member performance is optimized, and even enhanced, rather than compromised. – USNI News 

The head of the U.S. Space Force said the nascent service is developing a declassification strategy for space, but he could not share many details on what a new classification would look like or when it would be implemented broadly. – C4ISRNET 

Former Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper will join the board of directors of Volansi, a commercial drone delivery company looking to expand its defense revenue, the company announced March 3. – Defense News 

A fuel leak aboard a Navy cruiser that recently deployed was caused by “single tank corrosion,” the service said Wednesday. – USNI News 

The U.S. Army is putting the finishing touches on its requirements for a replacement for its Shadow unmanned aircraft system as it conducts a week-long rodeo with four tactical UAS that offer far greater capability than the decades old, runway-dependent, noisy and logistically burdensome system used today. – Defense News 

The U.S. Air Force just reconfigured the F-15E Strike Eagle to carry more Joint Direct Attack Munitions under its wings, proving the fighter can be used to transport a heavier payload and eliminating the need for a cargo plane. – Military.com 

Navy ship readiness has trended down over the past three years, with many ship systems on surface ships and submarines, in particular, showing lower readiness scores in Fiscal Year 2020 compared to the recent average, according to the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) annual report released today. – USNI News 

The U.S. Navy’s surface fleet continues to struggle to keep its ships adequately maintained, according to the Board of Inspection and Survey, an entity responsible for monitoring the condition of the service’s ships. – Defense News 

The United States is “in catch-up mode” to restore its deterrent and fighting capability that increases the size of the Navy’s fleet to compete with China in the Indo-Pacific, a former White House national security adviser told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. – USNI News 

Cole Stevens, Nathalie Grogan and Chris Estep write: This dynamic is worthy of careful attention; with less than 1 percent of Americans serving in the armed forces today, there are both risks and benefits to a subset of the U.S. population bearing the burdens of war. Sharpening America’s strategic edge and sustaining the U.S. military advantage is about more than technology and budgets. Crucially, it is about the people who operate the equipment and put boots on the ground and ensuring success. – Center for a New American Security  

Todd Harrison writes: Remotely crewed systems have the potential to help provide the capabilities and capacity the U.S. military needs to execute the strategy in a budget constrained environment. But this potential cannot be achieved if remotely crewed systems are staffed and operated in the image of their crewed counterparts. Different approaches are needed for setting personnel requirements, conducting training and in-garrison operations, leveraging automation, and organizing units for success. Unlocking the full potential of remotely crewed systems is more a matter of policy innovation than technological innovation. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Long War

The Biden administration has quietly imposed temporary limits on counterterrorism drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional battlefield zones like Afghanistan and Syria, and it has begun a broad review of whether to tighten Trump-era rules for such operations, according to officials. – New York Times 

Since U.S. President Joe Biden replaced former president Donald Trump, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) has been worried that the Doha agreement, which it signed with the U.S. and which is considered an achievement of the former president, might be ignored, diluted, and even formally abrogated. This worry is reflected in a speech that Haqqani Network chief Sirajuddin Haqqani gave at a major gathering of jihadi commanders somewhere in Afghanistan in February 2021. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The killings have spread fear among Afghanistan’s journalist community, prompting some to stop working or flee or self-censor to avoid angering militants or government officials, who have threatened journalists reporting on killings of civilians by government forces. – Associated Press