Fdd's overnight brief

March 5, 2021

In The News


The U.S. and European powers are giving Iran a last chance to start cooperating with a United Nations atomic agency probe of Tehran’s nuclear activities, backing away from a formal censure of Iran in a bid to revive nuclear diplomacy between Washington and Tehran. – Wall Street Journal 

Republicans are pressing the State Department to back an arms embargo on Iran amid strikes on coalition forces in Iraq that are believed to be from militias with ties to Tehran. – The Hill 

Iran has agreed to sit down with international technical experts investigating the discovery of uranium particles at three former undeclared sites in the country, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog said Thursday, after months of frustration at Tehran’s lack of a credible explanation. – Associated Press 

U.S. President Joe Biden’s refusal to offer upfront sanctions relief to Iran may have angered Tehran’s clerical rulers but it has won some praise at home despite his failure so far to draw Iran into nuclear talks or deter attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. – Reuters

Iran has given encouraging signs in recent days about opening informal talks with world powers and the United States, two European sources said on Thursday after European powers scrapped plans to criticise Tehran at the U.N. nuclear watchdog. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that lifting U.S. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear work and returning to a 2015 nuclear deal will contribute to regional stability and economic prosperity. – Reuters

U.S. senators peppered President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the No. 2 official at the State Department with questions about Iran on Wednesday, a sign she could face difficulty winning support from Republicans even as she warned against “nostalgia” for the Iran nuclear deal she helped broker. – Reuters

President Biden agreed to scuttle a resolution denouncing Iran’s secret nuclear research, as three European allies dropped a planned confrontation in another attempt to facilitate talks to rehabilitate the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. – Washington Examiner 

A court in Iran has ordered the dissolution of a prominent Iranian NGO that fights poverty. […]Hard-liners have in recent years criticized the charity and accused it of being misused for political purposes and damaging the Islamic republic by highlighting problems, as well as working with foreign countries and international bodies. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

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

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The key questions linking Iran to the attacks, such as signal intelligence or some kind of courier that brings the orders to Kataib Hezbollah, and the planning structure or even the garage where the rocket trucks were assembled are key parts of Iran’s threats in Iraq. Finding those would require more cooperation from Baghdad. So far, Tehran continues to have the plausible deniability it wants with the rocket attacks in Iraq. The US under the Biden administration appears hesitant to launch airstrikes the way Trump’s administration did. – Jerusalem Post


After 10 days of deliberations, President Biden had ordered the Pentagon to conduct airstrikes on two targets inside Syria Feb. 26 when an aide delivered an urgent warning about 30 minutes before the bombs were scheduled to fall. – Wall Street Journal 

After escaping from Syria to the Netherlands, he traveled widely, sharing with audiences across the United States and Europe stories of the horrors he endured in a Damascus prison. And then, mysteriously, inexplicably and perhaps suicidally, just over a year ago he returned to Syria, to risk once again the cruelties of the government he had so strenuously denounced. – Washington Post 

The United States accused Syrian President Bashar Assad and his close ally Russia on Thursday of trying to block all efforts to hold Damascus accountable for using chemical weapons during attacks on civilians. – Associated Press 

The official Russian position is that America’s presence in Syria as opposed to the Russian and Iranian presence. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded to the American strike. […]A survey of Russian reactions to the American airstrikes follows below. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Belgium will repatriate children detained in a Syrian refugee camp to meet a 2019 court order, along with some mothers on a case by case basis, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said on Thursday. – Reuters


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday spoke to US Vice President Kamala Harris, with the conversation focusing on the pandemic, the Iranian nuclear program, and the International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigation into Israel over alleged war crimes, his office said. – Times of Israel 

Outgoing deputy Mossad chief “A.” has said that former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 principles for resolving the standoff with Iran were so unrealistic that they were “like seeking to transform the Iranians into Meretz.”  – Jerusalem Post

The IDF has completed the construction of the underground concrete wall between Israel and the Gaza Strip, as part of the effort to prevent terrorists from crossing into Israel via cross-border tunnels. – Jerusalem Post

The United Arab Emirates’ first ambassador to Israel, Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah, completed his preliminary visit to Israel Friday after meeting with the country’s top leadership and scouting out suitable locations for the embassy and his home. – Times of Israel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday said the Israel Defense Forces is continuously updating its plans for a prospective military strike on Iranian nuclear sites. – Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday welcomed the International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by Israelis and Palestinians. – Times of Israel

Greenpeace Israel released a statement on Thursday dismissing Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel’s recent claim that Iranian “eco-terrorism” was the cause of Israel’s recent ecological disaster, claiming that it is irresponsible, lacks concrete evidence and “reeks of election propaganda.” – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The use of UAVs for maritime missions is increasing. At Italy’s Sigonella Naval Air Station, NATO is supposed to be deploying a Global Hawk derivative. Given the increasing threats in maritime areas, and Iran’s threats particularly to shipping, Israel will need to focus on this arena. The case of the Emerald is a warning and a lesson. – Jerusalem Post


Pope Francis has said that he has canceled trips during the pandemic because “in conscience I cannot provoke gatherings,” but that the only thing that would stop him from becoming the first pope to visit war-scarred Iraq would be a new surge in infections. – New York Times

On March 4, Saraya Awliyat Al-Dam (“Guardians of the Blood”), which appears to be a front for Iraqi Shi’ite militias loyal to Iran, issued a statement saying that it will halt attacks on U.S. forces and their logistics convoys during the visit by Pope Francis to Iraq on March 6. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

U.S. and Iraqi officials believe that an Iran-backed group with a history of targeting Americans in Iraq was responsible for Wednesday’s attack on an Iraqi air base that hosts U.S. troops. – Politico

In Iraq, two decades of back-to-back conflicts have left ancient Christian communities that were once a vibrant and integral part of the landscape scattered and in ruins. […]Many of those who remain in Iraq feel abandoned, bitter and helpless, some wary of neighbors with whom they once shared feasts and religious celebrations, Muslim and Christian alike. – Associated Press 


Protesters in Lebanon burned tires and closed several major roads on Thursday as the severe economic crisis gripping the country continued to spiral out of control with no progress on the formation of a new Cabinet. – Washington Post 

The U.S. is considering sanctions against Lebanon’s long-serving central bank chief as a broader investigation into the alleged embezzlement of public funds in the country gathers pace, according to four people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed a classified map during a Fox News interview on Thursday to demonstrate that Hezbollah has “hundreds of thousands of missiles” and asked “what is going to happen to Lebanon?” – Jerusalem Post 

Lebanon on Thursday blamed Israel for a massive oil spill that polluted both Israeli and Lebanese coastlines as lawmakers were set to meet to approve filing a complaint against Jerusalem to the UN.  – Ynet

Dalal Yassine writes: As the impact of the pandemic and ongoing financial crisis have made clear, Lebanon can no longer ignore its obligations under international law. – Middle East Institute

Arabian Peninsula

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi group in Yemen said it destroyed an armed drone fired towards the kingdom on Friday, part of an attack the Houthis claimed to have launched into southern Saudi Arabia at dawn. – Reuters

The fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said on Thursday that world leaders should not maintain relations with a “murderer”, after a U.S. intelligence report implicated Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler in his killing. – Reuters

A U.S. intelligence report released last week concluded the prince approved an operation to “capture or kill” Khashoggi, who had criticised Saudi policies in columns for the Washington Post. Saudi officials deny this and have rejected the report’s findings. – Reuters

The release of a U.S. intelligence report implicating Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has highlighted the political risk for companies and investors of doing business with the kingdom. – Reuters

Ibrahim Jalal writes:  For any future cease-fire to have a better chance of being effectively implemented, however, the current power imbalance must first change — and ideally to better reflect the aspirations of the Yemeni people, who are seeking a more equitable distribution of power, wealth, and opportunity. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

A Turkish court trying 26 Saudi nationals in absentia for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has refused to admit as evidence a recent US intelligence report implicating the kingdom’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, despite a petition from the journalist’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. – The Guardian

İbrahim Karagül, former editor in chief of the Yeni Şafak daily, which is a mouthpiece of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling AKP, wrote a February 25, 2021 column titled “We’re Calling On The US, Europe… Stop Threatening Turkey! End This Hypocrisy Once And For All!” Addressing the U.S. and Europe, Karagül writes: “Stop threatening Turkey. Enough with your pressure-filled statements, caveats, words aimed at bringing us into line.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Yigal Carmon and Alberto M. Fernandez write: And China is not ignoring the Arab world either. China’s economic power there is being augmented by an investment in soft power, in both Arabic-language media and in government-sponsored relationship building. This has garnered tangible benefits, as Arab governments have downplayed China’s repression of its Uyghur Muslims. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Tharwa Boulifi writes: As a young Tunisian woman raised with the principles of the revolution, I’m not willing to give up the gains of the last 10 years. For me and many young people, we need a second revolution—a more inclusive one that will hopefully provide the equality and justice we’ve been seeking since the last decade. – Newsweek 

Gregg Roman writes: Helping Israel defeat Palestinian rejectionism while ensuring the post-conflict stability and prosperity of the Palestinian polity would ensure a greater possibility of peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.[…]It would also break down the last barrier towards full relations between Israel and the wider Sunni world, thus allowing for the sole focus for both to be on breaking the back of the Iranian ever-growing stranglehold on the region. – Arutz Sheva

Korean Peninsula

South Korea is seeking to iron out remaining differences and sign a deal with Washington on sharing costs for stationing 28,500 American troops in the country, its chief envoy said on Thursday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin plan to visit Japan and South Korea this month for foreign policy and security talks, three government sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Thursday. – Reuters

A top contender to succeed South Korean President Moon Jae-in called income inequality the key issue in next year’s election and urged U.S. President Joe Biden to give Seoul a bigger role in pushing Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons. – Bloomberg

Josh Smith writes: With U.S. policy toward North Korea in limbo as the new administration in Washington conducts a months-long policy review, former officials and experts are sparring over whether to shift focus from seeking the North’s full denuclearisation. – Reuters


One year after China was battered by the coronavirus, the government promised on Friday a robust return to economic growth of “over 6 percent,” a signal that China is ready to do what it takes to keep the world’s second-largest economy running strongly. – New York Times

After four days of hearings, dozens of weary pro-democracy activists charged with subversion under the national security law found themselves back where they started: in detention. In a case that has emerged as the clearest illustration yet of the pressures on Hong Kong’s courts as Beijing cracks down on the territory, lawyers were unable to secure even temporary freedom for the 47 pro-democracy activists charged Sunday with conspiracy to commit subversion, which is punishable by up to life in prison. – Washington Post 

China will resolutely deter any separatist activity seeking Taiwan’s independence but is committed to promoting the peaceful growth of relations across the Taiwan Strait and China’s “reunification”, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday. – Reuters

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged on Friday to promote business ties with the United States based on “mutual respect” that benefit both countries. – Reuters

American attitudes toward China have soured significantly in the past three years, with 70% of those surveyed for a report published on Thursday saying Washington should stand up to Beijing over its human rights record even if it damages economic ties. – Reuters

China’s government set a conservative economic growth target for this year, shifting its focus from recovery mode to longer-term challenges like reining in debt and reducing technological dependence on the U.S. – Bloomberg

David Ignatius writes: The trick will be keeping the U.S. economy open enough that it continues to draw the world’s most talented people, even as officials move to protect America’s lead in key technologies. The industrial policy the AI commission recommends could unlock talent and innovation. But if officials aren’t careful, government intervention could also afflict our best companies with the dead weight and dysfunction of our broken political system. We need government to spawn brainpower, not bureaucracy. – Washington Post 

Josh Rogin writes: Whatever else might have been accomplished with Beijing during Trump’s tumultuous term, those days were gone. In their place was a realization that China’s rise now much more directly affected Americans’ security, prosperity, freedom and public health. It was an awakening Xi surely didn’t anticipate and one that threatened to upend his grand plans to restore China’s place atop the international order. – Washington Post 

James Stavridis writes: China controls roughly 80% of the rare-earths market, between what it mines itself and processes in raw material from elsewhere. If it decided to wield the weapon of restricting the supply — something it has repeatedly threatened to do — it would create a significant challenge for manufacturers and a geopolitical predicament for the industrialized world. – Bloomberg  

Riley Walters writes: It’s fair to say the disruptions the pandemic caused for both the American and Chinese economies had a lot to do with China’s failure to buy more goods.[…]Negotiators will need to discuss why China failed to make its purchases and come up with a solution. That or withdraw from the deal altogether. President Biden wants to consult with allies first to come up with a comprehensive China strategy. But there are two outstanding problems with the deal that allies might not be able to fix. – The Hill

Demetri Sevastopulo writes: Another indication will be how Biden handles an order that Trump signed to bar Americans from investing in Chinese companies with alleged ties to the People’s Liberation Army. The Treasury recently pushed back the implementation deadline by several months, as part of a broader review of many of the sanction-related actions taken by Trump. […]While Biden sizes up China with a harsher eye, Beijing has also taken a more jaundiced view of Washington, suggesting that relations will remain choppy. – Financial Times

South Asia

Last December, Afghan media worker Shahnaz Mohmand rushed to comfort her female colleagues as they reeled in shock after fellow employee Malala Maiwand was shot dead in the eastern city of Jalalabad. – Reuters

Sushant Singh writes: Islamabad has historically had strong security and political ties with the UAE while New Delhi has forged closer ties in trade and counterterrorism intelligence sharing in recent years. The UAE also sees itself as an important geopolitical player, eclipsing the role played by the Saudis in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and seems to have taken this role in the peace process as an assertion of its status. – Foreign Policy 

Michael Kugelman writes: India’s chief concern is Pakistan-based terrorism. Islamabad has recently taken encouraging steps, such as sentencing the leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group, Hafiz Saeed, to prison on terrorist financing charges. But India won’t be satisfied until Pakistan dismantles terrorist networks on its soil. That’s a tall order, given Islamabad’s long-standing use of India-focused militants to compensate for New Delhi’s superior conventional military power. – Foreign Policy


The United States on Thursday unveiled new measures to punish Myanmar’s army for its Feb. 1 coup, blocking the ministries of defense and home affairs and top military conglomerates from certain types of trade. – Reuters

Police in Myanmar on Friday opened fired on protesters against last month’s military coup, killing one man, as international condemnation rained down on the junta, with the U.N. Security Council set to discuss the crisis. – Reuters

Myanmar’s junta lost a tug of war over leadership of its U.N. mission in New York and the United States unveiled new sanctions targeting military conglomerates after the deaths of dozens of civilians protesting against last month’s coup. – Reuters

Australian broadcaster SBS said it was suspending the broadcast of Chinese TV news services CGTN and CCTV after receiving a human rights complaint. – Reuters

A clash was averted over who represents Myanmar at the United Nations in New York following a Feb. 1 military coup, after the junta’s replacement quit and the Myanmar U.N. mission confirmed that Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun remained in the job. – Reuters

Singapore’s foreign minister said on Friday it was a “national shame” for the armed forces of a country to use weapons against their own people as he called on Myanmar’s military rulers to seek a peaceful solution to the unrest in the country. – Reuters

Myanmar’s military rulers attempted to move about $1 billion held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York days after seizing power on Feb. 1, prompting U.S. officials to put a freeze on the funds, according to three people familiar with the matter, including one U.S. government official. – Reuters

The White House said on Thursday that the targeting of journalists and dissidents by Myanmar’s military coup leaders is concerning and said the issue is a frequent topic in diplomatic conversations. – Reuters

The United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar said on Thursday the military there has murdered, beaten and unlawfully arrested protesters since its illegal Feb. 1 coup and he called for wide-ranging punitive sanctions. – Reuters

Thailand’s military on Thursday said it was not behind a network of Facebook accounts that the social media giant took down on the grounds they were using deceptive behaviour to influence public debate. – Reuters

Leaders of the “Quad” bloc will hold their first-ever meeting, as the four democracies of the U.S., Japan, India and Australia seek to counter China’s rising influence. – Bloomberg

Charles Dunst writes: Southeast Asia is now ground zero in the U.S.-China competition that many commentators and policymakers consider Beijing to be winning. Much has been made of U.S. President Joe Biden’s need to refocus American attention on the region. Less discussed are the difficulties of deepening engagement with less-than-liberal allies and partners there, such as Thailand and Vietnam, without neglecting democracy and human rights. – Foreign Policy


The U.S. and U.K. are weighing additional penalties against Russia over the use of chemical weapons, with options ranging from sanctions against oligarchs to the extreme step of targeting the nation’s sovereign debt, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg 

Caution about the pandemic took the upper hand Thursday at a meeting of the OPEC oil cartel and allied countries, as they left most of their production cuts in place amid worry that coronavirus restrictions could still undermine recovering demand for crude. – Associated Press 

In a February 19, 2021 article, titled “Russophobia As The Cause For Georgia’s Crisis,” Russian columnist Dmitry Bavyrin wrote that that Georgia is on the brink, and that the country’s political crisis has been caused mainly by its Russophobia. The article was published in the Russian media outlet Vz.ru. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

President Vladimir Putin called on Thursday for the internet in Russia to be bound by moral rules to stop society fraying and railed against what he said was its role in drawing children into opposition street protests, prostitution and drugs. – Reuters

The Kremlin on Thursday dismissed as baseless and illogical U.S. calls for Russia to destroy its chemical weapons, saying that Moscow had destroyed them long ago in line with the Chemical Weapons Convention. – Reuters

As the Su-57 moves further along in serial production, video footage has emerged of Russia’s fifth-generation fighter firing its onboard cannon. – The National Interest 

Five Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’s Komi Republic have been accused of organizing and taking part in the activities of an extremist group amid a continued crackdown on the religious group, which has been banned in the country since 2017. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary groups have told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson they are temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement due to concerns over the Brexit deal. – Reuters 

Northern Ireland’s first minister said the European Union’s promise of legal action over the UK extending grace periods for trade showed its priority was protecting the trading bloc, not the Belfast peace agreement. – Reuters

NATO officials are scrambling to understand the extent to which Chinese investments in key transportation nodes throughout Europe could impede the alliance’s ability to move troops quickly in case of a conflict. – Defense News 

The US will temporarily lift punitive tariffs on £550m worth of UK exports such as Scotch whisky and Stilton cheese, imposed as part of a row with the EU over subsidies to Boeing and Airbus, in an attempt to de-escalate one of the longest trade disputes in modern history. – Financial Times

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned against any attempts to “divide Europe from North America” and said that the European Union “cannot defend” the continent alone amid the threat of terrorism and Russia’s “destabilizing behavior.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Katia Glod writes: The opposition should seek to erode the lower echelons of the regime by encouraging sympathizers to become involved. That would certainly be difficult, but combined with other efforts to build civil society and formulate new democratic policies, such action could help to create a parallel polity in Belarus, based on modern democratic principles, which would gradually grow in strength. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Edward Lucas writes: There’s a mystery in France where the Chinese readout of a Xi-Macron phone call spoke of  “proactive discussions” on cooperation in central and eastern Europe. Macron’s flirtation with a Kremlin reset has done a lot of damage there already. […]Oddly, the Elysée take on the call made no mention of this (or of human rights). But French naval plans for the South China Sea are unchanged and Germany’s confirmed that it is sending a frigate there this summer. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Vlad Kobets and David J. Kramer writes: Before even more innocent Belarusian pro-democracy protesters are maimed or killed, there must be an immediate halt to the brutal crackdown. A thorough and independent investigation is necessary to look into the use of near-lethal weapons and ammunition, their origin, and those who authorized their illegal use. Lukashenko blames outside forces for the protests against his rule, but in reality, the only outside player complicit in the violent suppression of peaceful citizens is Putin’s Russia. – Foreign Policy 

Steven Kenney writes: Relations between the U.S. and Black Sea countries are complex. The Western-oriented Georgia and Romania have shown unconditional support for greater U.S. involvement. Others, like Turkey and Russia, will continue to challenge Western involvement. And while relations between Black Sea countries reflect similarly complex cooperation and conflict patterns, common among them is a hope that the Biden Administration will bring a shift in U.S. policy in the region. – Middle East Institute  

John R. Deni writes: In his quest for a NATO “reset,” President Biden has declared that “America is back,” offered a renewed commitment to transatlantic cooperation, and — like every post-WWII president — called for Europe to do its part for collective defense. But his measured tone on the latter point stands in sharp contrast to that of his immediate predecessor. – Defense One


U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned Thursday that “a campaign of destruction” is taking place in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray province, saying at least 4.5 million people need assistance and demanding that forces from neighboring Eritrea accused of committing atrocities in Tigray leave Ethiopia. – Associated Press 

Opposition parties led by two former presidents will try to shake the grip of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara in a parliamentary election on Saturday, five months after a presidential vote that led to deadly unrest. – Reuters

Nigeria’s central bank denied it’s planning to freeze foreigners out of its lucrative short-term bills market, backtracking on comments made by a director of the institution earlier this week. – Bloomberg

Hundreds of Nigerian girls abducted last week from a boarding school in the country’s northwest have been returned to their families amid chaos as security forces opened fire on a gathering outside the school where the reunions were held Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Cara Anna writes: That pressure is expected to spike this month as the United States chairs the United Nations Security Council and addresses the first major African crisis of the Biden administration. Millions of dollars in aid to Ethiopia, a key security ally in the region, are at stake. Here’s a look at the turmoil in Tigray as the Security Council meets behind closed doors on Thursday to discuss it. – Associated Press

Latin America

Venezuela sent gold to Mali in 2020 via Russian-owned planes to exchange for euros and U.S. dollars that President Nicolas Maduro’s government used to remain afloat despite U.S. sanctions, an opposition representative said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

A surge in poverty and unemployment in Latin America caused by the coronavirus pandemic threatens to set the region back by more than a decade, a United Nations agency has warned. – Financial Times 

Last year may have been the worst in the history of the global aviation industry but for Nicolas Maduro’s ragtag Venezuelan airline, business boomed. […]The airline, which is banned from flying to the U.S. as part of that country’s wide-ranging sanctions against the Maduro regime, now has regular flights to five countries. Three of them are led by Maduro’s political allies — Bolivia, Iran and Mexico — and there are plans to add a Moscow connection soon. – Bloomberg 

Robert Muggah writes: Brazil faces dark days ahead. Bolsonaro’s missteps are also jeopardizing global efforts to fight the pandemic. The COVID-19 nightmare unfolding in Brazil is a searing indictment of pandemic populism. It is also a flashing light for other global leaders, including in the U.S., to pressure Bolsonaro to get his house in order before it burns everyone else’s down. – NPR

United States

The U.S. Capitol Police have requested a 60-day extension of some of the 5,200 National Guard members activated in the District in response to security threats and the Jan. 6 assault on Congress, opening the door to a military presence in the nation’s capital into spring, defense officials said Thursday. – Washington Post 

A World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Covid-19 is planning to scrap an interim report on its recent mission to China amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Washington over the investigation and an appeal from one international group of scientists for a new probe. – Wall Street Journal 

A series of recent U.S. public opinion polls show some of the frostiest views ever toward China and indicate growing support for the Biden administration to take tougher stands aimed at influencing Beijing’s behavior. – Wall Street Journal 

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has singled out a “growing rivalry with China, Russia, and other authoritarian states” as a key challenge facing the United States. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

A U.S. program created after the 2003 anthrax attacks to help detect biological weapons provided protection in less than half the states and couldn’t detect many of the known threats, according to a report released Thursday. – Associated Press 

Joseph V. Micallef writes: Below are four issues that will likely dominate Biden’s foreign policy in the immediate future. Some, like Afghanistan, are long-standing problems, while others — like the growing links between Hezbollah, Venezuela, the Mexican Drug Cartels and China — are likely to take on a new urgency. – Military.com


Convening in Beijing for the most important political conference of the year, Chinese leaders on Friday issued a call to bolster scientific and technological competitiveness, floated changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system and announced a pickup in military spending. – Washington Post 

Hacker groups linked to Russian intelligence conducted cyber-attacks against top Lithuanian officials and decision-makers last year and used the Baltic nation’s technology infrastructure as a base to hit targets elsewhere, a report by Lithuania’s intelligence service said Thursday. – Associated Press 

The U.S. Defense Department struggles to outline cybersecurity requirements in contracts for weapon systems, though the agency made important strides to improve those platforms’ cyber protections, a congressional watchdog announced Thursday. – C4ISRNET 

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 

Bob Scher writes: The DoD will need to build expertise and partner with federally focused experts in the private sector to make sure U.S. tech companies are fully vetted for the government market. The DoD needs to leverage the tools of the private sector to evaluate companies, make strategic investments and vet dual-use commercial technology. – Defense News


Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee challenged President Joe Biden’s pick for undersecretary of defense for policy Thursday, portraying his criticism of former President Donald Trump’s administration as “hyper-partisan” and intemperate. – Bloomberg 

Building an Aegis Ashore facility on Guam would relieve three guided-missile destroyers from missile defense work and make them available for Navy tasking, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Thursday. – USNI News 

The U.S. Navy has transferred authorities over networks and IT systems to a newly created office dedicated to Project Overmatch, the service’s plan for a connected force for future battles, C4ISRNET has learned. – C4ISRNET

Two Democratic lawmakers are introducing legislation to kill the nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile set to begin development next year and its associated warhead. – Defense News 

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday launched an new investigation into the targeted recruitment of veterans by extremist organizations in the wake of the deadly attack on Congress earlier this year. – Military Times 

The U.S. Space Force launched an experimental research payload for the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Space and Missile Systems Center announced. – C4ISRNET 

The head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on Thursday acknowledged that his $27 billion wish list of new weapons and investments is “not without controversy,” but argued that the return on investment well outweighs the projected cost. – Defense News  

The following is the Feb. 26, 2021, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress. – USNI News 

The Air Force’s B-21 Raider program has started testing out temporary prototypes of the Environmental Protection Shelter at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota — the preferred location for the service’s first out of three B-21 main operating bases. – Military Times 

House Armed Services Committee Republicans have laid down a new marker in what’s expected to be a testy budget cycle, urging President Joe Biden to increase the defense budget by 3 to 5 percent, adjusted for inflation. – Defense News 

The following is the March 4, 2021 Department of Defense memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Message to the Force. – USNI News 

While ending the “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan was a cornerstone of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, it became increasingly difficult during his presidency for the public to get numbers of troops on the ground in those countries, as well as Syria. That was part of a concerted policy effort, according to documents obtained by the online forum Just Security. – Military Times 

Kingston Reif writes: The Biden administration should seek to reduce the U.S. arsenal in concert with Russia. But it should not give Moscow veto power over force adjustments that make sense for U.S. national security. Scaling back the modernization program consistent with a one-third reduction could save at least $80 billion through 2030 while still allowing the United States to maintain a nuclear triad. – Defense News

Long War

The following report compiles all significant security incidents confirmed by New York Times reporters throughout Afghanistan from the past seven days. It is necessarily incomplete as many local officials refuse to confirm casualty information. The report includes government claims of insurgent casualty figures, but in most cases these cannot be independently verified by The Times. – New York Times

Russia’s Federal Security Service said on Thursday it had thwarted a planned “terror” attack on a power site in Kaliningrad region and that it had arrested a suspect, the Interfax news agency reported. – Reuters

A roadside bomb killed a civilian and two fighters travelling in a convoy of vehicles belonging to Yemen’s main southern separatist forces in Aden city on Thursday, the militia said. – Reuters

A Syrian man who killed a German tourist and seriously injured another in an Islamist-motivated knife attack last year in the eastern city of Dresden has been charged with murder and attempted murder, Germany’s top prosecutor said on Thursday. – Reuters

An Oklahoma man was sentenced to more than three years in prison for illegally smuggling firearms to the Middle East to help fight the Islamic State there, according to federal prosecutors. – Fox News 

Three terror plots have been foiled during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, counter-terrorism chiefs revealed, despite a drop in arrests during the period. – The Guardian

A “worrying” number of children and teenagers are being recruited to terrorist groups during the coronavirus lockdown, the foreign secretary has told MPs. Dominic Raab was addressing the Commons about the UK’s fight against Islamic State. – Sky News (UK)