Fdd's overnight brief

May 1, 2023

In The News


Iran’s parliament on Sunday voted to dismiss the country’s industry minister, the first member of hardline President Ebrahim Raisi’s cabinet to be impeached since his election in 2020 amid growing economic resentment across the country. – Reuters

Iran’s intelligence ministry on Friday accused foreign “enemies” and dissidents of fomenting fears over suspected poisonings of schoolgirls, saying its investigation found no actual poisoning. – Reuters

The foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, Syria and Turkey may hold a meeting in May in Moscow, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday, as part of efforts to rebuild Turkey-Syria ties after years of animosity during Syria’s civil war. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia and Iran will reopen embassies in each other’s capitals “within days,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Friday in a sign of warming relations after the two countries closed their missions seven years ago. – Reuters

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is expected to visit Iran soon to discuss “political and field developments,” Hamas announced on Friday. – Jerusalem Post

A senior Iranian police official was reportedly assassinated in southeastern Iran on Sunday morning. – Times of Israel

Russia could supply Iran with Western technology it captures on the battlefields of Ukraine, which Tehran could then use to further its weapons development programs, an expert told US media on Friday, as the two countries tighten their military cooperation. – Times of Israel

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In July 2020 another tanker called the Gulf Sky also was seized by Iran, but in a more complex manner. The ship was moored off the coast of the UAE in the Gulf of Oman when the ship ws allegedly hijacked and taken to Iran. The BBC reported in 2021 that “eight former crew have spoken to the BBC about the ship’s disappearance, saying they were hijacked by a group of armed men. All but the captain have asked not to be named, out of fear for their safety and livelihoods.” The ship was also taken to an anchorage off of Bander Abbas. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The US isn’t ready to send aircraft to take out Iranian fast boats or deal with the ongoing militia threat, which means that while these aircraft are important and their deployment illustrates the continuing US commitment to the region, it’s not clear if they will get a chance to serve in their potential new role as “bomb truck.” – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to hold Russia accountable after a barrage of cruise missiles killed more than two dozen people last week, as battles rage in the east of the country ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive. – Wall Street Journal

Months after Russia dialed up its offensive in the eastern Donetsk region, the Kremlin is still searching for something to call a victory. The Russians’ primary target, Bakhmut, has been decimated by eight months of artillery assaults and street battles, but Ukraine still holds a small piece of the city. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden and others at an annual Washington dinner called for the release of jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia during a gathering that brought together members of the media and government officials to celebrate press freedom. – Wall Street Journal

Russia’s hard-nosed negotiating style, forged in the country’s tumultuous past, could prove a stiff challenge to the U.S. during any talks between Washington and Moscow to free detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. – Wall Street Journal

More than a year after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, U.S. plans to increase production of key munitions have fallen short due to shortages of chips, machinery and skilled workers. – Wall Street Journal

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faced a Republican backlash this spring when he told Fox News that further U.S. entanglement with what he called a “territorial dispute” in Ukraine was not a “vital national security interest.” – Washington Post

A drone attack on a fuel depot in the city of Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea set off an enormous fire early Saturday, a Russian official said, in the latest assault on a peninsula key to Moscow’s war effort. – New York Times

Dmytro raced to the room where two of his children had been sleeping, after a Russian missile thundered into his apartment building in Uman, Ukraine, before dawn on Friday. He forced the door open and stared into oblivion. – New York Times

An attack on an oil depot in Russian-occupied Crimea that sparked a huge fire and sent a plume of black smoke billowing into the sky was part of Ukraine’s preparations for a counteroffensive, a Ukrainian military spokeswoman said on Sunday. – New York Times

An officer in Russia’s Federal Guard Service, which is responsible for protecting President Vladimir V. Putin, decided last fall to avoid fighting in Ukraine by sneaking across the southern border into Kazakhstan. – New York Times

Ukrainian air defence crews destroyed 15 out of 18 missiles launched by Russian forces in the early hours of Monday morning, the military said, as Moscow intensified attacks on its neighbour in recent days. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy carries a pistol and would have fought to the death with his inner circle had the Russians stormed his Kyiv headquarters at the start of the war, he said in an interview shown on Saturday. – Reuters

Experts working with the United Nations on Friday denounced reports of human rights violations including abduction, deportation and enforced disappearances against ethnic minorities in Russian-occupied Crimea, calling on Moscow to do more to protect the rights of Tatars and others there. – Associated Press

Wagner forces may withdraw from Ukraine’s eastern city of Bakhmut because of growing casualties and an acute shortage of ammunition, said the mercenary group’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. – Bloomberg

Editorial: All of this is an argument for doing more to help Ukraine succeed in its spring counter-offensive against Russia. But as the war drags on, the world and the Biden Administration may have to do more to stop Russia from disrupting the global food supply. Naval escorts in the Black Sea should not be ruled out. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: “Navalny is serving prison sentences based on charges which would never have been upheld under any independent legal system,” they wrote. Pressing Mr. Putin to release him, they added: “It is in your power.” Mr. Navalny is a prisoner of conscience, of courage and of significance to the future of Russia. His freedom is urgent — and essential. – Washington Post

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Prigozhin is still seen as a close Putin ally. But that could change if the expected Ukrainian spring counteroffensive proves successful. In that case, Prigozhin might patch up his differences with the numerous disgruntled generals whom Putin has dismissed. And then the former jailbird, caterer, oligarch and Wagner financier may well engineer his own elevation to the presidential office that his erstwhile friend occupies. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: The U.S. cannot yield to such brinkmanship. The Russians are using this rhetoric for the same reason they are kidnapping American citizens — because they believe they can accrue more concessions than costs by doing so. Washington must reverse that calculation. If the Russians want to escalate further, fine. The U.S. can own the escalation curve. But the current state of affairs is not tolerable. – Washington Examiner

Anthony Grant writes: Russia also has a virtual lock on the transportation of uranium from neighboring Kazakhstan as well as Uzbekistan. All of these places and developments are very far from Washington — but the fact that the latter are happening at a good clip despite the White House’s much-touted sanctions against Russia points to a simplistic approach and failure of creative thinking. The strategic implications of that failure are already coming into sharp focus. – New York Sun


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he is committed to reaching a compromise over a proposed judicial overhaul that has sharply divided the country, even as he comes under increasing pressure from elements within his own government to advance the legislation. – Wall Street Journal

Israeli forces fatally shot a Palestinian teenager in a raid in the occupied West Bank on Monday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, part of a relentless wave of violence that has rocked the region for the last year. – Associated Press

Israeli forces shot and killed a teenager in the occupied West Bank on Friday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. – Associated Press

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested judicial overhaul proposals Saturday in the 17th weekly rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. – Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said any tech entrepreneurs who withdraw from Israel out of opposition to his judicial plans will lose out because the country remains “a safe place” to do business. – Bloomberg

With an eye to securing European Union support against Iran and calming tensions over the Palestinian conflict, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is slated to visit Brussels on Tuesday to meet with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. – Jerusalem Post

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez spoke out in support of the Israeli judicial reform protests in a video that was screened at the anti-judicial reform demonstrations in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. – Jerusalem Post

Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Eli Cohen visited Spain on Thursday and met with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares in Madrid, according to Ynet, making his trip the first time in 13 years that an Israeli foreign minister visited the country. – Jerusalem Post

In Israel on Sunday, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy said that if US President Joe Biden does not invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the White House soon, he will invite the Israeli leader to meet with Congress. – Times of Israel

Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy called Israel “a blessed nation” in Jerusalem on Sunday, a day before he was set to address the Knesset. – Times of Israel

The Israel Defense Forces has imposed heavy restrictions on movement in and out of the West Bank city of Jericho for the past nine days, citing concerns of terror attacks, as the military meanwhile hunts for several wanted Palestinians. – Times of Israel

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi acknowledged Friday that the judicial overhaul is the reason that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been invited to the White House by US President Joe Biden. – Times of Israel

Editorial: It’s a hopeful sign that Netanyahu has internalized the principle that an Israeli leader can’t be perceived as siding with a particular party – an impression that many Democrats had during the Trump years, when the personalities of the two leaders became closely intertwined, and during the years of the Obama administration, when Israel and the US were often at odds, as exemplified by Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress in 2015. Israel must remain above the fray in the US and our leaders must do whatever they can to prevent support for the Jewish state from turning into a hot potato issue, one that will force Americans to choose sides based on their party affiliation. – Jerusalem Post

Efraim Inbar and Eran Lerman write: These issues – and others concerning other aspects of Israel’s strategic assets, such as cooperation in other global arenas, Israel’s status in NATO, export of advanced weapons systems to Europe and more – require an in-depth discussion as soon as possible. Precisely at the timing of tensions with the US, all branches of the Israeli government that deal with foreign and security issues must consider Israel’s strategic value in the eyes of the US, which will remain very important to Israel’s national security. – Jerusalem Post

Tal Schneider writes: If Israel and Iran get to the point of a full military crisis, Turkmenistan will not provide Israel with any support. But perhaps, in Jerusalem, the hope is that at the very least, Turkmenistan will also not give support to Iran. – Times of Israel


Lebanon’s Hezbollah was behind a rare roadside bomb attack last month that wounded a motorist in northern Israel, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said on Friday. – Reuters

Iran’s top diplomat visited Lebanon’s border with Israel on Friday where he expressed support for the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group in its struggle against their common enemy: Israel. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This illustrates that the Iranian foreign minister’s visit is part of a larger process of symbolic threats that go back many years. These threats have manifested themselves with Iran’s attempt to move missiles and weapons to Hezbollah and Iran’s entrenchment in Syria. – Jerusalem Post


U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not invited the Taliban administration to a meeting that he is convening with special envoys on Afghanistan from various countries in Doha next week, a U.N. spokesperson said on Friday. – Reuters

A group of Afghan women protested in Kabul on Saturday, defying a crackdown on dissent to urge foreign nations not to formally recognize the Taliban government ahead of a United Nations summit next week. – Agence France-Presse

A senior Taliban leader warned the United Nations Security Council Friday to give up its “failed policy of pressure” after members adopted a resolution condemning Kabul’s growing restrictions on women. – Agence France-Presse

The Islamic Republic of Iran organized an exhibition in Afghanistan’s third-largest city of Herat that advocated the “nuclear extinction” of Israel in April as part of the month-long Al-Quds Day celebrations. – Jerusalem Post


Seven Syrian men were accused in a heavily guarded Maltese court on Sunday of having encouraged and trained others to commit terrorism in Europe. – Reuters

Jordan will host a meeting of Arab foreign ministers and Syria’s top diplomat on Monday to discuss Syria’s return to the Arab League as part of a broader political settlement of Syria’s more than decade-old conflict, officials said. – Reuters

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will visit Damascus next week, a senior regional source close to the Syrian government told Reuters on Friday. – Reuters

Suspected Israeli airstrikes targeted the Syrian province of Homs early Saturday, state media reported. Syria’s state news agency, SANA, citing military officials, said that three civilians were wounded in the strike and that a civilian fuel station caught fire and a number of fuel tankers and trucks were burned. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The latest airstrikes – which pro-Iran media alleges Israel was behind – are yet another example of how Iran destabilizes Syria by moving weapons through the country to Hezbollah. It undermines any attempt to reduce Iran’s octopus-like entrenchment there. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The question with the Iranian presidential visit is whether new bilateral agreements will be signed, whether Iran will try to move more weapons and what other ramifications this will have. Syria is also trying to reconcile with Turkey. Iran supports the reconciliations, because it dovetails with Iran’s own reconciliation with Saudi Arabia and also new ties between Bahrain and Qatar and other countries that are seeking a new diplomatic era in the region. – Jerusalem Post


Renewed fighting convulsed Sudan and its battered capital Friday, and Turkey reported that one of its evacuation planes had been shot at, despite world leaders’ trumpeting the renewal of an already flagging cease-fire. – Washington Post

Turkey on Saturday closed its airspace to low-cost Armenian airline FlyOne Armenia without warning, the domestic Armenpress news agency cited the carrier’s board chairman as saying. – Reuters

Turkish defence firm Baykar aims to begin production of its new unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) next year which is already attracting international interest, its chairman Selcuk Bayraktar said. – ReutersTurkey’s first astronaut will travel to the International Space Station by the end of the year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday after an illness forced him to cancel several days of appearances. – Associated Press

Italy on Friday returned to Turkish authorities a funerary stele, dating from the second century and carrying a loving inscription to the dead woman’s spouse, after investigation determined that it was illegally excavated from southeastern Turkey. – Associated Press

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made his first public appearance since a health scare that sidelined him just weeks ahead of the nation’s election. – Bloomberg

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made his second appearance on Friday after he was forced to cancel his election campaign events over health concerns earlier this week. – Bloomberg

Mehmet Alaca writes: In addition, Turkey should keep in mind the potential necessity of PUK mediation if Ankara ever hopes to pursue future peace processes with the Kurds, particularly Syrian Kurds. Like many Kurdish political organizations, the PUK is driven by a sense of Kurdish nationalism that inevitably links them to groups like the SDF. Ankara must understand these dynamics and adapt its expectations and decisions accordingly. Acting without understanding the PUK’s position means a serious misreading of regional Kurdish politics. – Washington Institute


The United States is an unreliable friend, and Iraq should not allow any U.S. troops on its territory, Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told visiting Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid on Saturday. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid visited Iran for meetings right as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said this. Rashid said that the Islamic Republic of Iran is very important, and he wants “the expansion of bilateral cooperation and the implementation of the agreements made that are in the interest of both countries.” The ayatollah, in contrast, focuses on the US presence in Iraq. – Jerusalem Post

Haider al-Musawi writes: Sadr’s swift and decisive announcement might not put an end to these extremist groups, but it will at least significantly hinder their growth within the Sadrist Movement. Nevertheless, Ashab al-Qadiya is likely to join previous splinter groups from the Sadrist movement and remain at the margins of the Shia religious sphere in Iraq and Iran. Ultimately, it is the power of religious authorities and seminaries that restrains such splinter groups and prevents their further spread, especially when these groups’ ideologies directly challenge religious authorities and the central tenets of Shia doctrine. Nevertheless, these fringe movements can have staying power, as groups like Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq demonstrate. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum on Friday appointed another of his sons as a deputy ruler of the emirate, following the death of his brother and long-serving deputy ruler Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2021. – Reuters

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia may cut the price for its flagship Arab Light crude to Asia in June despite an extra output cut from OPEC+, as refiners hit by sliding fuel prices consider reducing output and China and India snap up cheap Russian crude. – Reuters

This Sonoran Desert field of green, cultivated by a Saudi Arabian dairy giant, has become a flashpoint among residents, who resent the Middle Eastern company’s unbridled — and steeply discounted — usage of a dwindling regional resource. – The Hill

The war in Ukraine may have pushed Europe to contribute to the largest global defense spending year in history in 2022, but it was the nations of the Middle East that shouldered the highest average “military burden” per country last year, driven by large jumps in spending from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, according to recent analysis. – Breaking Defense


New York will return three antiquities worth $725,000 to the people of Yemen, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced on Friday, as part of a criminal investigation into a Manhattan-based private collector. – Reuters

Armed private guards aboard a famous yacht once owned by the late Welsh actor Richard Burton fired on approaching ships on Friday in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Yemen, in an intense gunfight. The authorities said the guards mistakenly opened fire on Yemeni Coast Guard members but the ship’s manager insisted they shot at pirates. – Associated Press

The UK Navy downgraded an “attack” of a vessel off Yemen to an “incident,” though said the situation is ongoing and advised other ships in the area to be cautious. – Bloomberg

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has been firing off missile after missile after missile this past year — in fact, Kim Jong Un’s regime has launched more than 100 since the beginning of 2022. Nearly every time, the regime’s propagandists claim they have made significant advancements in their nuclear and weapons program. – Washington Post

President Yoon Suk Yeol went to Washington to reset South Korean diplomacy by drawing closer to the United States and taking a larger role on the international stage. If the warmth of his reception there was the gauge of success, he did well. – New York Times

Lt. Cmdr. D.E. McShane was holding his plane ticket home to begin his retirement in 2019 when President ​Donald J. ​Trump announced that he would be flying to the border between the two Koreas to meet Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. – New York Times

North Korea criticised a recent U.S-South Korea agreement to bolster the deployment of American strategic assets in the region for escalating tension to the “brink of a nuclear war,” state media KCNA said on Monday. – Reuters

Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday criticised a nuclear agreement between the United States and South Korea, saying it would destabilise the region and the wider world, and warned of a potential arms race as a result. – Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Friday it was necessary to ensure Russia’s invasion of Ukraine does not succeed and that Seoul was considering its options when it came to lethal aid to Kyiv. – Reuters

The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un slammed US President Joe Biden for making nuclear threats, saying it marked the “dotage of the old” and would be met by a boost in her country’s atomic arsenal. – Bloomberg

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plans to visit South Korea in early May to meet with President Yoon Suk Yeol, Kyodo News reports, citing sources it didn’t identify. The meeting is expected to take place around May 7 or May 8, the report says. – Bloomberg

Richard Weitz writes: If DPRK leaders understand that they cannot assuredly attack the United States with nuclear warheads, they are less likely to risk war. Likewise, if South Koreans can more confidently count on receiving U.S. military support, they are less likely to seek to accommodate China and Russia or nuclear weapons. – The Hill

Daniel DePetris writes: All of this activity is designed to reassure the South Koreans that the extended deterrence concept is alive and well. None of it, however, is likely to compel a change in North Korea’s own nuclear policy. If anything, U.S. attempts to assure South Korea via more large-scale drills and fighter-bomber deployments will have the counterproductive effect of forcing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to triple down on nuclear weapons as a regime survival tactic. – Washington Examiner


China’s party-state, long steeped in secrecy, is creating a black box around information on the world’s second-largest economy, alarming global businesses and investors. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese authorities have embarked on a campaign to bring foreign businesses to heel, just months after Beijing delivered an open-for-business message to global investors. – Wall Street Journal

China is resisting a U.S. push to build more-reliable systems for communicating in a crisis, raising the risk that a miscalculation by either side’s military could spill into conflict. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden’s global agenda faces significant challenges as major developing nations seek to evade the intensifying standoff between the United States, Russia and China and, in some cases, exploit that rivalry for their own gain, classified American intelligence assessments show. – Washington Post

Kenneth C. Brill writes: The Biden administration has renewed tilling the multilateral garden of the international order, but Congress and future administrations will need to keep working the soil for many years ahead to sustain a global order that has worked better at addressing problems and promoting progress than what preceded it — and certainly works better than one reshaped by China. – The Hill

Kyle A. Jaros and Sara A. Newland write: Establishing a common floor and, ideally, a common ceiling of security protocols to manage state and local business and educational engagement with China will reduce risk while letting states focus on the things they do best. Otherwise, states may find themselves in a new and pernicious race to the bottom as they compete over anti-China credentials. – The Hill

South Asia

At least 11 people were killed and almost as many were injured on Sunday after a gas leak in a city in the northern Indian state of Punjab. Officials sealed off a section of the city, Ludhiana, and evacuated hundreds of residents as they tried to identify the gas and the source of the leak. – New York Times

A suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up as militants attacked a temporary military camp in northwest Pakistan and at least three soldiers were killed, security officials and the army said on Friday. – Reuters

Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh urged the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Friday to work together to eliminate terrorism and ensure accountability for those who aid or fund such activities, his ministry said. – Associated Press

France and India are preparing for a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Paris after President Emmanuel Macron invited him to be the guest of honor at France’s National Day parade on July 14, officials familiar with the matter said. – Bloomberg

India and Russia agreed to strengthen defense cooperation as military supplies to the South Asian nation have stalled for want of a payment mechanism that doesn’t violate US sanctions. – Bloomberg

A Chinese citizen accused of blasphemy in Pakistan was released on bail after an anti-terror court ruled that no offense had been committed. – Bloomberg

Ties between India and China depend on “peace” on the border, India’s defense chief has told his Chinese counterpart, amid strained relations over their contested Himalayan border. – Bloomberg

Zoraiz Zafar writes: The alternative is to accept Pakistan’s status as China’s “all-weather friend” and focus on boosting ties with a country that sees both Pakistan and China as adversaries: India. Obviously, this approach would mean abandoning a geopolitically important country and leaving it in the hands of an increasingly powerful rival. If you accept domino theory, this may not seem like the finest strategy, but it sure is an option. Now, it is up to the decisionmakers in Washington to make the call as soon as possible. As onlookers, we can only hope that they make the right one. – The National Interest


Dozens of Chinese military aircraft and navy vessels were detected around Taiwan early Friday, including one that flew around the island, Taipei’s Ministry of National Defense said. – Wall Street Journal

Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will meet President Biden at the White House on Monday. The visit comes just three months after the United States secured access to four key military bases in the Philippines — a deal hailed as a major step in Washington’s bid to counter China in the region. – Washington Post

Uzbekistan has passed a package of constitutional amendments in a referendum, preliminary data showed on Monday, which will allow President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to run for two more seven-year terms when his current one ends in 2026. – Reuters

Armenia and Azerbaijan will hold a new round of talks in Washington on Sunday to try to normalise relations, Yerevan said on Saturday, after weeks of rising tensions over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. – Reuters

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Monday he personally favors his country becoming a republic, but it’s not a change he intends to push for as leader. – Associated Press

Protesters who have blocked the road leading from Armenia to an ethnic Armenian region within Azerbaijan for four months said Friday that they will end their actions because Azerbaijan has established a checkpoint at the start of the road. – Associated Press

A former U.S. national security adviser called for deeper interaction between his country and Taiwan during a visit Saturday to the self-ruled island, which has seen increasing military threats from China. – Associated Press

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he is “determined to forge an even stronger relationship” with the US ahead of a meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington. – Bloomberg

The US accused China of harassing Philippine ships and reaffirmed its defense commitment to the Philippines ahead of a visit to Washington by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. – Bloomberg

A Biden administration envoy to the Pacific Islands acknowledges that the US has some catching up to do with China after years of neglecting the historically pro-American region. – Bloomberg

US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Papua New Guinea in May to attend a meeting of Pacific leaders, the island nation’s premier said on his government’s official Facebook page. – Bloomberg

Will Marshall writes: Labor’s return to power for the first time since 2013 underscores Australians’ preference for radical pragmatism over zero-sum ideological conflict. The country has its share of knotty problems, but its leaders haven’t lost the ability to hold extremes in check, frame persuasive arguments to the public at large and forge solutions that command wide assent. That’s sensible — and a model for fixing what ails U.S. democracy. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: The Philippines deserves credit for holding a light to this injustice. As President Bongbong Marcos strengthens U.S. ties against Beijing’s increasing pressure, Washington should stand resolutely in his nation’s support. – Washington Examiner


When Poland and Slovakia announced their plans to donate up to 30 MiG fighter jets to Ukraine, it was hailed as a breakthrough in getting Kyiv ever more sophisticated weaponry and as a sign that Eastern European nations were prepared to be bolder than the United States or NATO allies in Western Europe. – Washington Post

European Union ambassadors agreed on Friday to allow Ukraine’s grains into the bloc free of tariffs for another year, while granting more than $100 million in aid for farmers in neighboring E.U. countries where crop prices have collapsed with the flood of cheaper imports. – New York Times

Stung by China’s close ties with President Vladimir Putin and its repression at home, European nations are putting new limits on Chinese exports and investments in a tack that’s more in line with a strategy championed by Washington. – Bloomberg

A long-awaited agreement between the UK and the European Union on the future of financial services could be signed off by European officials as soon as June, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg


When bombs started dropping near his home in Sudan’s capital Khartoum this month, Sudanese-American doctor Bushra Ibnauf Sulieman waived the promise of an escape to safety offered by his U.S. passport. Instead, Dr. Sulieman, a gastroenterologist and director of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Khartoum, stayed to look after his aging parents and patients at one of the city’s last functioning hospitals. – Wall Street Journal

An evacuation convoy organized by the U.S. government and carrying American citizens and other foreign nationals reached the Sudanese port city of Port Sudan on Saturday, the State Department said. – Washington Post

They had no access to electricity or proper bathrooms as they waited for their passports to be processed by Sudanese and Egyptian authorities. Several times, the border guards took long breaks from processing anyone at all, they said, even as more and more buses pulled in, carrying thousands of others running for their lives. – Washington Post

Sudan borders seven nations — Egypt, South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Libya, Ethiopia and Eritrea — each of which have faced war, violent civil unrest or political upheaval in recent years. As hopes for a swift resolution in Sudan dim with each failed cease-fire, a “catastrophic conflagration” of the conflict could consume the region, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres warned this week. – Washington Post

After a cease-fire faltered in Sudan’s capital, two weeks of fighting between the country’s army and a paramilitary group have reignited violence in Darfur, a region scarred by two decades of genocidal conflict that left as many as 300,000 people dead. – New York Times

Gunmen in Nigeria have released 74 children out of more than 80 people who were abducted earlier this month in northwestern Zamfara state, after ransoms were paid, parents and a village head said on Saturday. – Reuters

Residents and survivors of a massacre in a Burkina Faso village said on Saturday 136 people including women and infants were killed, blaming the country’s security forces for the April 20 attack. – Reuters

The Kenyan commander of a regional force set up to tackle militia violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo said he had resigned due to obstruction and threats to his safety, adding to doubts over whether the mission can be effective. – Reuters

Warring sides in Sudan are more open to negotiations and have accepted the conflict that erupted two weeks ago cannot continue, a U.N. official told Reuters on Saturday, a possible flicker of hope even as fighting continued. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund’s executive board has approved a 38-month extended credit facility of around $191 million to the Central African Republic, it said in a statement. – Reuters

Sudan’s army and its rival paramilitary said Sunday they will extend a humanitarian cease-fire a further 72 hours. The decision follows international pressure to allow the safe passage of civilians and aid, but the shaky truce has not so far stopped the clashes. – Associated Press

Scores of Somalis fleeing violence in Sudan arrived in their Horn of Africa nation on Sunday, an official said. Some 148 Somali nationals, mostly students, arrived by plane in the capital Mogadishu, said Abdurahman Nur Mohamed Diinaari, a top official with the Somali foreign ministry. – Associated Press

Gunmen killed 15 villagers and abducted five aid workers in separate attacks in Nigeria’s troubled northern region, authorities said Thursday. – Associated Press

Fewer than 5,000 US citizens have contacted the State Department about the deteriorating security situation in Sudan, and only a small number have said they want to leave the country, spokesman Vedant Patel said on Friday, offering one of the first tallies of Americans stranded by the outbreak of violence. – Bloomberg

The conflict in Sudan could deteriorate into one of the worst civil wars in the world if not stopped early, the North African nation’s former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said. – Bloomberg

Latin America

Brazil’s foreign ministry said the U.S. has requested the extradition of an alleged Russian spy, Sergey Cherkasov, who is accused by U.S. and Brazilian authorities of posing as a Brazilian student in Washington while carrying out espionage operations against the West. – Wall Street Journal

As alarm grows in the United States over the fentanyl epidemic, a highly acrimonious dispute has erupted between the U.S. and Mexican governments, threatening cooperation in battling an opioid that kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. – Washington Post

Paraguayan conservative economist Santiago Pena, 44, won the country’s presidential election on Sunday, tightening the ruling Colorado Party’s political grip in the country and defusing fears about the end of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. – Reuters

U.S. oil producer Chevron Corp (CVX.N) could raise its production in Venezuela this year by up to 50%, to 150,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), without significant new investments, Chief Executive Michael Wirth said on Friday. – Reuters

Ecuador’s military will launch special-forces operations nationally in a bid to counter groups and individuals who commit terrorism in the country, Defense Minister Luis Lara said on Friday. – Reuters

An armed attack has killed 10 people in the Ecuadorean port city of Guayaquil, the public prosecutor’s office of Ecuador and police reported on Sunday. Three people were wounded, including a 5-year-old girl, police said on Sunday. – Reuters

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced an increase in Brazil’s monthly minimum wage, as his administration seeks to balance a campaign pledge of higher social spending with keeping the growth of public debt under control. – Bloomberg

Editorial: By relaxing oil sanctions, the Biden administration confirmed that Venezuela’s oil gives it a strong bargaining chip in post-Ukraine-war geopolitics. Mr. Petro’s rise, and that of like-minded presidents in countries such as Brazil and Chile, has tilted regional diplomacy in Venezuela’s favor. Meanwhile, the democratic opposition is supposed to hold a presidential primary in October, but lacks unity; Mr. Guaidó is just one of several figures jostling to run against Mr. Maduro, even though the regime has banned him from elected office. The country’s plight calls for a much more urgent U.S. effort, especially given the pressure that mass migration out of Venezuela has put on the entire hemisphere. And yet, for now, Mr. Maduro holds the high cards. – Washington Post

North America

Canada has ended its operation evacuating people from the Wadi Seidna airfield, near Khartoum, in Sudan due to the dangerous and volatile conditions on the ground, Defence Minister Anita Anand said on Sunday. – Reuters

Canada and the United States have agreed to trace guns that are intercepted at the border, a move meant to enhance efforts to stop the smuggling of handguns to the north from the world’s biggest private firearm market, officials from both countries said on Friday. – Reuters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday linked the production of lithium in China to “slave labor” as he discussed his own country’s efforts to ramp up production of the metal used in electric vehicle and other batteries. – Reuters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday he was worried about the future of American democracy, taking a veiled swipe at former U.S. President Donald Trump during a visit to New York. – Reuters

The US Inflation Reduction Act has forced Canada to “step up” with public money to lure investment from major firms, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday in a Bloomberg Television interview. – Bloomberg

United States

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan was assigned to preside over the hush-money prosecution of former President Donald Trump because he had experience overseeing previous litigation involving the former president and his company, according to people familiar with the process, but that history could complicate the proceedings and expose him to more of Mr. Trump’s attacks. – Wall Street Journal

Former Vice President Mike Pence testified before a federal grand jury investigating the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election, giving him the opportunity to deal his former boss Donald Trump a major blow as they head toward a possible face-off in next year’s GOP nominating contest. – Bloomberg

Jonathan Turley writes: Notably, when President Clinton abused this power by pardoning his half-brother, he waited to do so until he was leaving office. Indeed, a criminal charge could create a weird end-game option for Biden. Hunter could wait to plead guilty. If he is not reelected, Biden could issue a Clintonesque pardon for Hunter on his way back to Delaware. The pressures on the Bidens are both real and rising. With both the Arkansas court and the House committees threatening greater public disclosures, a bill is coming due, and the interest will only mount in the coming weeks. – The Hill


Italy’s privacy regulator rescinded its temporary ban on ChatGPT after the chatbot’s developer, OpenAI, implemented changes demanded by the regulator, the latest twist in the complex regulatory response to new artificial-intelligence technology. – Wall Street Journal

Internet providers and wireless carriers in Brazil stopped blocking Telegram on Saturday after a federal judge partially revised a ruling suspending the social media app over its failure to surrender data on neo-Nazi activity. – Associated Press

Susan Schneider and Kyle Kilian write: We are quickly approaching a brave new world by creating a novel intelligence that we can neither predict nor understand. Researchers are currently unaware of any hard limit on AI intelligence beyond the fundamental physical limits on computation. But one thing is clear: no one party can control the behavior of an emergent AI megasystem. Global cooperation is required. A failure to investigate the problem and put effective guardrails in place could have catastrophic consequences for all of us. – Wall Street Journal

Andy Kessler writes: Meanwhile, ChatGPT has swallowed more than a trillion inputs from a billion fire hoses. But it seems to work better as a summarizer and explainer, as a tool to get plot points, rather than storage. AI isn’t sentient, not even close, but it is definitely a useful tool. Learn how to harness it. You can’t stop the fire hose of information, no quit Sherlock, but maybe with a little discipline, you can tame it. – Wall Street Journal

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: It’s a subject I will return to: how public thought and action are already sleazily algorithmic, including the output of our media and regulatory state. Maybe AI artifacts like ChatGPT, which use novel, nonhuman processes to create human-seeming word output, should frighten us less with their alienness than with their familiarity. – Wall Street Journal

Simon Winchester writes: Humankind, at last unshackled from the overindulged tedium of the modern world, unburdened by factual overload, could sit back and reap the bounty of being able once again to think. And, by doing so, come to know not simply what we do know, but what we should know, to be fully human. – Washington Post

David Ignatius writes: The right answer is that accountability and controls should be engineered into the system. The tenets of such a zero-trust architecture are neatly summarized in a recent blog post from the defense software company Palantir: “Assume a hostile environment,” “presume breach,” “never trust, always verify,” “scrutinize explicitly,” and “every transaction should be logged for analysis and audit.” Smart young engineers don’t want Big Brother looking over their shoulders into their personal data. It’s simpler, fairer and less intrusive to have the rules and permissions built into the software used for handling classified information. – Washington Post


The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is meant to be a rapid-response force, designed for quick deployment to handle crises anywhere in the Asia-Pacific region. At times, it doesn’t have the ships to leave its bases in Japan. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Army identified on Saturday the three soldiers who were killed when two helicopters collided in Alaska while returning from a training mission. – Associated Press

The U.S. Army has grounded aviation units for training after 12 soldiers died within the last month in helicopter crashes in Alaska and Kentucky, the military branch announced Friday. – Associated Press

Lockheed Martin Corp. received a $7.8 billion award Friday for 126 of its F-35s, completing a $30 billion contract to supply the fighter jets to the US military and allies, the Pentagon announced. – Bloomberg

Christian Watson writes: Unfortunately, DEI programs threaten to dismantle this model of success completely. It turns out that telling minority recruits the military is racist isn’t very helpful in persuading those minorities to join it. […]The U.S. military is the most powerful tool on earth, which helps keep us safe and promotes a stable, peaceful world. We shouldn’t let activism and “wokeness” get in its way. – Washington Examiner

Long War

Cuban and U.S. officials met on Friday in Havana to discuss anti-terrorism measures, Cuba’s interior ministry said, broaching a particularly thorny subject between the two long-time rivals in the latest in a series of bilateral talks. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkish intelligence forces killed Islamic State leader Abu Hussein al-Qurashi in Syria. – Reuters

The armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said on Thursday it would stop receiving fundraising via the crypto currency bitcoin, a method it has used for years, citing an increase in “hostile” activity against donors. – Reuters

A large number of Islamic extremists launched an attack on Burkina Faso’s military in the country’s east, killing 33 soldiers and wounding a dozen others, the army said Friday. – Associated Press

A British woman who travelled to Syria to join ISIS back in 2014 at the age of 26 is attempting a career change and styling herself as the next big thing in online fashion spaces. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: “At the heart of the commissions’ problems is their original sin, torture,” Brig. Gen. John Baker of the U.S. Marine Corps, who was chief defense counsel at Guantánamo for six and a half years before his retirement in December 2021, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The time to expect justice through the legal process has passed. As General Baker testified, “The best that can be hoped for at this point, more than 20 years after the crimes were committed, is to bring this sordid chapter of American history to an end. And that end can only come through a negotiated resolution of the cases.” Mr. Biden has the power to help reach that end and an obligation to do so. – New York Times