Fdd's overnight brief

May 17, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The nuclear weapon that Iran sought to build in the early 2000s was based on designs that were both innovative and original, according to a new book that warns that Tehran’s scientists could produce a bomb quickly if they acquire the necessary fissile material and an order from the country’s leaders to do so. – Washington Post

Two of the main contenders to become Iran’s president, hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi and former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, registered on Saturday to run in next month’s election. – Reuters

Iran’s foreign minister cancelled a visit with his Austrian counterpart to show displeasure that Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government had flown the Israeli flag in Vienna in a show of solidarity, the Austrian foreign ministry said on Saturday. – Reuters

The commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IGRC), General Esmail Qaani, assured Hamas of his full support on May 15, Iranian state media reported. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Alireza Fazeli-Monfared’s future was brutally cut short last week when members of his family allegedly murdered him due to his sexual orientation, according to his partner and a LGBTQ rights group. – CNN

If Iran gets nuclear weapons, it could potentially deliver them not only using land-based ballistic missiles, but also by ship-fired cruise missiles, one of the top Iran nuclear experts has told The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

Talks for the US and Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal continued in Vienna over the weekend, even as Iranian proxies Hamas and Islamic Jihad continued to bombard Israel’s cities with rockets. – Jerusalem Post

As the US, Russia, and other parties pursued efforts over the weekend to end the fighting between Israel and Hamas, Iran has praised Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and vowed to continue its support for the Palestinian “resistance.” – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: What degree of “advise and assist”, to use the term the US often uses to describe its relations with partner forces, is Iran giving Hamas. Is Iran working “by, with and through” Hamas to defeat Israel or merely to test Israel’s defenses as a test run for Hezbollah. […]This is Iran’s blueprint. Iran has said it openly. Hamas has listened. – Jerusalem Post


An unlikely solar revolution of sorts has taken off in an embattled, rebel-controlled pocket of northwestern Syria, where large numbers of people whose lives have been upended by the country’s 10-year-old civil war have embraced the sun’s energy simply because it is the cheapest source of electricity around. – New York Times

Three rockets were launched from Syria toward Israel on Friday, expanding the battlefield as Israel faces off against militants in the Gaza Strip. – The Hill

Anton Mardasov writes: Viewed from this angle, the prospect of an open-ended conflict in Syria appears to Moscow as less of a burden and more of an opportunity. It is enough to look at Russia’s domestic situation to understand Moscow’s real attitude to any strong political opposition. […]In sum, paradoxical though it may sound, Moscow lacks incentives to bring the Syrian conflict to a close. This makes it even more difficult to answer the question of who really benefits from the current stalemate. – Middle East Institute


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday ruled out the prospect of an immediate cease-fire with the Palestinians in the deadly flare-up of Middle Eastern violence, defying growing international demands for de-escalation and concerted mediation efforts by regional and world powers. – Wall Street Journal

Deployed since 2011 and built and maintained with $1.6 billion in U.S. funding, the Iron Dome system consists of a network of connected batteries and radars that fire at rockets that seem to be heading to populated areas and ignore those likely to fall into empty fields. – Wall Street Journal

United Nations Security Council members condemned the violence in the Middle East during an emergency session Sunday but failed to agree on a unified position after China accused the U.S. of blocking a joint statement. – Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pressing an aggressive campaign against Hamas, targeting its leaders, strategic infrastructure and military sites to deter the militant group from continuing its attacks on Israel. The operation could aid Mr. Netanyahu’s other vital goal of staying in power. – Wall Street Journal

Another complicated challenge is coming from within, with neighbor turning against neighbor in an escalation of communal violence that Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens haven’t seen for decades. – Wall Street Journal

This year, Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have shattered one of the holiest holidays in the Muslim calendar, leaving the streets deserted and families huddled in fear. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden urged the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to avoid additional deaths of children and other civilians in the escalating conflict on separate calls on Saturday and also affirmed his commitment to a two-state solution to bring peace in Jerusalem and elsewhere across Israel and the occupied territories. – New York Times

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he is “deeply disturbed” by the Israeli airstrike Saturday that destroyed a 12-storey Gaza City building, according to a spokesman for the top international official. – The Hill

The White House said Saturday that it communicated its concerns to Israel over an airstrike launched in Gaza that destroyed a building that housed several news organizations, including The Associated Press. – The Hill

Facebook is engaging with both Israel and Palestinian officials on the spread of hate speech and incitements to violence on the platform amid the region’s escalating conflict. – Politico

The Associated Press’ top editor is calling for an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing the AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media, saying the public deserves to know the facts. – Associated Press

The IDF released video on Sunday of an air strike on Gaza being aborted at the last minute because the pilot and Command Control realized there were children present at the target. – Algemeiner

Hamas has fired rockets towards Israel’s gas installations in the Mediterranean since violence between terror groups in the Gaza Strip and the IDF broke out on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Israel shared intelligence with the US showing how Hamas operated inside the same building with the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera in Gaza, officials in Jerusalem said on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman on Saturday denied intentionally misleading the foreign press about a nonexistent ground invasion of the Gaza Strip as part of a ruse against the Hamas terror group earlier in the week, blaming his unit’s false statements about the matter on an “honest mistake.” – Times of Israel

Two Jordanians crossed the border into Israel armed with knives and were stopped in the northern town of Gilboa, Police reported Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: But with the Trump Administration that midwifed the Abraham Accords gone, Hamas and Iran see a chance to return to the trend of the Obama years when U.S.-Israel relations frayed and Iran was on the march. […]President Biden and his strategists think returning to the nuclear deal will help the U.S. disengage from the Middle East. As the Hamas-Israel conflict shows, it is more likely to do the opposite. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: As the Obama administration discovered, there is no chance for a breakthrough as long as Palestinians are polarized between Hamas and Mr. Abbas’s secular Fatah movement, and Israeli politics are dominated by Mr. Netanyahu. Before there can be an Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough, both sides must undertake a political renovation. Unfortunately, the new eruption of fighting could make that desperately needed change less rather than more likely. – Washington Post

Michael Goodwin writes: The new president wants to lift the Trump-era economic sanctions without demanding any restraint on either Iran’s nuclear program or aggressive support of Hamas. Count that as another reason why Israel deserves the time to deal Hamas a crushing blow. Anything less will embolden the terrorists and Iran to start yet another round of bloodletting. – New York Post

Ambassador David Friedman writes: There is only one side to this story — Hamas started a war to kill Jewish civilians in order to burnish its “leadership” credentials. Anyone hoping for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict better hope and pray that Hamas is decisively defeated. Any other outcome would be devastating to the entire region, most significantly the Palestinian people.  – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Washington should, therefore, immediately press the Israeli government to announce that it will compensate the Jewish claimants, while permitting the Palestinians to return to their homes. At the same time, it should continue to work with Egypt toward a quick cessation of hostilities. In so doing, the Biden administration can spare both Israelis and Palestinians additional losses of life and limb. – The Hill

Tim Lister writes: This cycle, like that in 2014, will likely be ended when both sides feel they can claim “victory” despite the destruction and the deaths of civilians, and when Egypt and the United States can fashion the terms of a truce. But it will be no more than a truce. After the 2014 conflict, Hamas set about rebuilding its inventory of rockets and its tunnel complexes while tightening its grip on Gaza. It is difficult to see anything other than this process repeating itself. – CNN

Tom Rogan writes: Where does this leave us? Well, at the strategic level, Israeli intelligence capabilities are translating into a potent political reality: increasing Hamas desperation for a ceasefire and commensurately increasing Israeli confidence that it has restored deterrent credibility. – Washington Examiner

Haviv Rettig Gur writes: Hamas has probably won de facto control of the Palestinian national movement this week. It has shown it can spark unrest in the West Bank and within Israeli society. But it has done so at the cost of transforming beleaguered, struggling Gaza into a proxy proving ground for the next Israel-Hezbollah war. – Times of Israel

David Makovsky and Dennis Ross write: The Biden administration would be wise to work with Egypt again to bring this round of hostilities to an end. […]Beyond this, the administration should mobilize an international effort to rebuild Gaza provided that Hamas is disarmed. The point would be to publicly and repeatedly make clear what is on offer for the people of Gaza in terms of massive reconstruction. But no such massive effort is possible so long as Hamas can instigate a conflict at a time of choosing and destroy the investment. In other words, raising the cost to Hamas cannot just be measured in military terms. – Washington Institute

James Traub writes: There will be an overwhelming temptation to say, “This is not what we have in mind by ‘a foreign policy for the middle class.’” But as former President Barack Obama learned to his vast chagrin, walking away from the Middle East is not an option. The tension between rising Jewish nationalism and an increasingly restive Arab population both inside the country and in the Territories may no longer be sustainable. Biden has been carefully hoarding his political capital; he may have to spend some where he least wants to. – Foreign Policy

Kim Ghattas writes: Ultimately, the Palestinians are still mostly on their own. Their anger is directed against Israel first and foremost, but there is also rage for all those who they argue should be helping them but are not: the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been in power since 2005; Arab countries that profess brotherhood and common cause but only pay lip service to the Palestinian cause; Washington, which rhetorically voices commitment to human rights and justice but does little to hold its allies, including Israel, accountable on these fronts. – The Atlantic

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This attempt to blanket cities with rockets appears to be a new strategy and this is what Iran’s media says when it says the number of rockets fired is more than in the past. Clearly, Hamas has changed some of its tactics and learned from past conflicts. It has also consistently used longer range rockets aimed at Ashkelon, a change from the past. – Jerusalem Post


A Lebanese man was shot and killed by Israeli troops after he and others protesting in support of Palestinians tried to cross a security fence on the border with Israel, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA reported. – Reuters

Turkey’s Karpowership, which provides electricity to Lebanon from two barges, said on Friday it was shutting down supplies over payment arrears and a legal threat to its vessels as the nation grapples with a deep economic crisis. – Reuters

Hezbollah does not want to expand the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip to Lebanon, an unnamed Lebanese official told the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat in a Sunday report. – Times of Israel

Gulf States

The deadly escalation between Israel and the Palestinians has embarrassed Gulf states which forged ties with the Jewish state and put a strain on their Abraham Accords that were billed as a game-changer. – Agence France-Presse

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan offered condolences to all victims of the fighting, citing the promise of September accords that made the UAE and Bahrain the first Arab states in a quarter century to establish formal ties with Israel. – Reuters

Frédéric G. Schneider writes: But if Saudi Arabia wants to avoid disaster, Mohammed bin Salman’s next interview must be different: instead of spending on improbable vanity megaprojects and the military in the face of growing fiscal constraints and a regional rat race, the focus needs to shift towards the kingdom’s competitive advantage, education and research. […]The biggest challenge remains the softening of ultraconservative social norms without alienating conservative citizens. – Washington Institute


Bikers of Libya’s Mediterranean city of Benghazi, the cradle of its 2011 revolution and a one-time Islamist bastion, rev up their motors to show another side to their war-scarred country. – Agence France-Presse

The U.N. chief said foreign fighters and mercenaries remain in Libya in violation of last October’s cease-fire agreement and called for their withdrawal and an end to violations of the U.N. arms embargo, saying these are “critical elements” for lasting peace in the north African country and the region. – Associated Press

Editorial: Restoring order to Libya is critical to America’s trans-Atlantic allies and to energy supplies, but more important, it is a key test of the administration’s stated intention to reverse the damage of the Trump years, to revitalize American diplomacy and to re-engage allies who have sometimes found themselves on different sides of the Libyan struggle. – New York Times

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt has opened the Rafah border crossing a day earlier than planned to allow the passage from Gaza of students, people needing medical treatment and other humanitarian cases, two sources at the border told Reuters on Sunday. – Reuters

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on Sunday for an immediate halt to what it described as Israel’s barbaric attacks on Gaza and blamed “systematic crimes” against the Palestinians for hostilities now in their seventh day. – Reuters

Jordan’s King Abdullah said on Sunday that his kingdom was involved in intensive diplomacy to halt what he characterised as an Israeli military escalation in the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence in years. – Reuters

The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) today called on leaders around the world to take action against the alarming spike in antisemitic incidents in which Jews have been targeted both online and on the streets in multiple countries over the past several days. – Arutz Sheva

The United States will grant Tunisia $500 million in aid to finance infrastructure and other projects and talks are also advanced on a loan guarantee, Tunisian finance minister Ali Kooli said on Monday. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Turkey’s flirtation with Islamist extremists goes back many years. In 2014 Turkey was accused of not doing enough to close the border as ISIS members transited Turkey. ISIS leader Baghdadi was found by the US just a kilometer from the Turkish border and ISIS members fled Raqqa for Turkey. Ankara’s messaging has radicalized extremists in France who carried out terror attacks last year. Pro-Turkey demonstrators appear to be at the heart of some anti-Israel rallies in Germany and other European countries, including a rise in antisemitism. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Knights and Crispin Smith write: A preponderance of evidence suggests that the militia drone operator is Kataib Hezbollah, due to its uniquely close relationship with the operators of the type – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hezbollah. KH has been documented assisting IRGC in launching drones from Iraq into Saudi Arabia on at least one occasion (on May 14, 2019). […]If and when U.S. personnel are killed by new drone systems in Iraq, quick attribution should not be particularly challenging. – Washington Institute


A Chinese spacecraft descended through the thin Martian atmosphere and landed safely on a large plain on Saturday morning, state media reported, accomplishing a feat that only two other nations had before. – New York Times

China’s State Council announced new laws halting the teaching of foreign curriculum in schools from kindergarten to grade nine (K-9) and prohibiting the ownership or control of any private K-9 schools by foreign entities. – Reuters

At the Daqo New Energy Corp. factory in China’s Xinjiang region, workers carefully processed tall columns of refined silicon last week as a group of reporters and analysts looked on. It’s the first time outsiders were allowed to witness the mundane factory scene since China’s dominant solar industry has come under scrutiny for its labor practices. – Bloomberg

Bipartisan concern about China’s rising influence is driving the Senate toward passage of legislation aimed at bolstering U.S. competitiveness in technology and manufacturing and delivering money to spur the domestic semiconductor industry. – Bloomberg

The Guantanamo Uyghurs have also had to watch as China’s propaganda organs have deployed their own existence, and claims made by Washington about ETIM during the “war on terror,” as the justification for Beijing’s own ongoing crackdown. – CNN

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee is pushing President Joe Biden and his director of national intelligence to declassify intelligence related to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, carry out a full investigation into the origins of COVID-19, and release information about any U.S. funding for the Wuhan lab. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: Evidence is emerging that China’s repression is not only cultural but also physical. […]All the multinational companies supporting China’s 2022 Winter Olympics — Airbnb, Bridgestone, Intel, Coca-Cola, P&G, Samsung, Toyota, Visa, Panasonic and others — should take note. Either you believe in “never again,” or you contribute to “once again.” – Washington Post

Gregory J. Wallance writes: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, and the European Union, condemned as genocide this and other measures against the Uyghurs, including extrajudicial mass incarcerations, torture and forced labor, which violate multiple provisions of the genocide convention. China furiously denied the charge of genocide and imposed sanctions on some foreign critics. […]The comparison with Gilead in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is fair because China is doing terrible things to women. – The Hill

Hal Brands writes: And make no mistake: Russia and China do not like being hemmed in by American alliances and military power. That’s why they’ve been developing capabilities that might give them a good shot at defeating the U.S. military in the Baltic region, the Black Sea or the Taiwan Strait. […]Land grabs in Ukraine, the South China Sea or even the Himalayas are troubling in their own right. They are more worrying still for what they reveal about an international order that is fraying at the edges. – Bloomberg

Serena Oberstein and Meto Koloski write: It is a price that consumers should be unwilling to pay because it is the price of human dignity. Join our call to action. Hold Volkswagen accountable, and demand that the companies you buy from adhere to universal values such as human rights, labor rights, fair treatment of suppliers, and equal pay for equal work. Volkswagen can no longer remain complicit in the genocide against the Uyghurs taking place in western China. – Washington Examiner


A blast at a Sunni mosque on the outskirts of Kabul killed at least 12 people on Friday, Afghan officials said, wrecking a three-day cease-fire that was declared between the government and the Taliban during the Muslim Eid holiday. – Wall Street Journal

All over Afghanistan the orders have been similar to those issued just 40 miles south of Jowzjan Province’s capital. In districts controlled by the Taliban, no more schooling for all but the youngest girls, with some few exceptions. The Taliban’s message: Teenage girls should be at home helping their mothers. – New York Times

Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces resumed Sunday in the restive southern province of Helmand, officials said, ending a three-day ceasefire agreed by the warring sides to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday. – Agence France-Presse

The Afghan government and the Taliban met for negotiations in Doha, Qatar, on Friday to discuss speeding up peace talks amid a rise in violence in Afghanistan. – The Hill

The fate of interpreters after the troop withdrawal is one of the looming uncertainties surrounding the withdrawal, including a possible resurgence of terrorist threats and a reversal of fragile gains for women if chaos, whether from competing Kabul-based warlords or the Taliban, follows the end of America’s military engagement. – Associated Press

Nicholas Kristof writes: Education is an imperfect weapon against extremism, but it helps. […]So I hope that as we, chastened, pull military forces from Afghanistan, we will learn something from extremists and their victims alike: Promoting girls’ education isn’t about mushy idealism, but about employing an inexpensive tool that is frustratingly slow — but sometimes the best tool we’ve got. – New York Times


The circumstances surrounding Mr. Khet Thi’s death have heightened fears among families and human rights advocates about the fate of thousands of people being held in custody by Myanmar’s military regime that seized power in a Feb. 1 coup. – Wall Street Journal

Police froze the assets of media tycoon Jimmy Lai under national-security legislation, including his majority stake in a newspaper that is a fierce critic of China’s government. – Wall Street Journal

Next Digital Ltd shares were suspended on Monday after authorities froze assets of its jailed owner Jimmy Lai under a new national security law in Hong Kong, while the tycoon pleaded guilty to taking part in an illegal protest in October 2019. – Reuters

Myanmar’s election last year reflected the will of the people and the army was unjustified in using alleged flaws as a reason to seize power, an international monitoring group said on Monday in its final report. – Reuters

Fighters of a local militia opposed to Myanmar’s junta have pulled back from the northwestern town of Mindat after days of assault by combat troops backed by artillery, a member of the group said on Sunday. – Reuters

The people of Myanmar must not despair in the face of evil or allow themselves to be divided, Pope Francis said on Sunday at a special Mass for the Myanmar community in Italy. – Reuters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has rebuffed a call from China to withdraw vessels from disputed areas of the South China Sea and said he would not bow to pressure, even if it jeopardises his friendship with Beijing. – Reuters

Armenia said on Friday that Azerbaijan had failed to fulfil a promise in full to withdraw troops that had crossed the border in a disputed incident, and that it had sought Russia’s military help. – Reuters

Canada’s Centerra Gold on Sunday filed an arbitration suit in an attempt to stop Bishkek from taking further steps to nationalise Kumtor, a gold mine that produces 510,000 ounces a year. – Financial Times

Dozens of Japanese, American and French troops landed amid pouring rain from a CH-47 transport helicopter onto a grassy field at a training area in southern Japan, part of Saturday’s joint scenario of defending a remote island from an enemy invasion. – Associated Press

The Navy is temporarily moving two MQ-4C unmanned aircraft from Guam to a base in Japan, the service announced today. – USNI News

Harlan Ullman writes: The reaction by China’s neighbors to a military takeover would almost certainly be exceedingly damaging to China and could lead to new threat based alliance systems and a strengthening of links with the U.S. and possibly NATO. Hence, aside from fulfilling aspirations dating back to 1949, is this in China’s interests? […]But, as Ike assembled Project Solarium in 1953 to conduct a deep analysis of America’s strategic options vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, the same needs to be done before we rush to ill-informed conclusions about China. – The Hill

Jianli Yang and Aaron Rhodes write: The incident shows that if the Quad is to function properly, members must consider forming an economic “NATO” — a treaty-based economic alliance, wherein all commit to defending each other economically if China retaliates against any member. To realize such an initiative would require patience, discipline and long-term focus. It would be an appropriate response to the CCP’s own decades-long strategy of creating allies by coercion, rather than consent, and punishing trade partners that stand up on behalf of fundamental moral principles. – The Hill


A Russian court is set to hear an “extremism” case against the political network of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday as Moscow seeks to outlaw the opposition to President Vladimir Putin. – Agence France-Presse

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken left Sunday for a trip focused on the future of the Arctic, a source of growing tension with China and a test of the strained US relationship with Russia ahead of an expected Biden-Putin summit meeting. – Agence France-Presse

President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that neighbouring Ukraine was becoming ‘anti-Russia’ and that Moscow would be ready to react to what he said were threats to its own security. – Reuters

In early May, the US Special Operations Europe (SOCEUR) conducted its largest annual exercise in conjunction with a smaller one, training with special-operations units from several NATO member and partner countries. – Business Insider

E. Wayne Merry writes: A genuine face-to-face meeting of Biden and Putin would not repair relations that have spiraled to lower levels than in the Cold War, but it could initiate the start of the resumption of semi-normal contacts. Such a modest aspiration shows just how necessary a summit now is. […]Early in the Cold War, when hardliners advocated no dialogue with Moscow, Winston Churchill advised that “meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.” It still is. – The Hill

Samuel Charap writes: The United States should continue calling out Russian actions that violate human rights or international norms, and those that prove injurious to international stability or the security of Russia’s neighbors. However, Washington should recognize that active pressure and deterrence measures are a necessary, but not sufficient, instrument to curtail problematic Russian behavior. The Biden administration should expand the scope for statecraft in Russia policy to attain more favorable outcomes for the United States and its allies. – War on the Rocks


A convicted Greek neo-Nazi and member of the European Parliament was extradited back to Greece on Saturday to serve a 13-year prison term for his part in running the criminal organization Golden Dawn, once Greece’s third-largest political party. – New York Times

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in support of Palestinians on Saturday in major European cities including London, Berlin, Madrid and Paris, as the worst violence in years raged between Israel and militants in Gaza. – Agence France-Presse

Thousands of Colombians marched through central Madrid on Saturday in support of anti-governments protests back home which over 40 people have been killed in clashes with police. – Agence France-Presse

European Union foreign ministers will hold urgent video talks on the escalating fighting between Israel and the Palestinians on Tuesday, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said. – Agence France-Presse

The European Union has said it is weighing its “next steps” after Britain formally responded to Brussels over the launch of legal proceedings alleging London broke the Brexit protocol covering Northern Ireland. – Agence France-Presse

Russia’s decision to put the Czech Republic on a list of “unfriendly” states is silly, Czech President Milos Zeman said on Sunday, following a chill in ties between the two countries as a result of an intelligence dispute. – Reuters

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday there was no place for anti-Semitism in society and that British Jews should not have to endure “shameful racism”, after a video online appeared to show people shouting anti-Semitic abuse from a car in London. – Reuters

Britain and Ireland will work together to maintain smooth trade between Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland, the leaders of Britain and Ireland said on Friday after meeting at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s country residence. – Reuters

A barge carrying equipment to help Baltic states access Europe’s power grid passed under a bridge between Lithuania and Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave on Friday, as the former Soviet republics seek to end their reliance on electricity supplied by Moscow. – Reuters

Ireland is increasingly concerned that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to completely rewrite the Northern Ireland section of the Brexit deal, RTE reported on Monday after London said the agreement was not sustainable. – Reuters

A cyber attack on Irish health service computer systems is “possibly the most significant cybercrime attack on the Irish state”, a minister has said. – BBC

The U.S. and Greece will likely update a bilateral security pact this summer in a move that could pave the way for more American military missions in the region, Greece’s defense chief has said. – Military.com

A Belarusian military officer on Friday was sentenced to 18 years in prison for leaking a document related to the government’s crackdown on protests against the country’s authoritarian president. – Associated Press

Luke McGee and Saskya Vandoorne write: When politics returns to something resembling normal, Brussels might find itself with more than just Poland and Hungary on the naughty step. And if these recent delinquents decide that their newfound powers matter more to them than keeping their EU neighbors happy, there is very little that EU grandees can do to stop the fallout destabilizing the whole bloc. – CNN


In the United States, this police shooting of a Black man they described as a burglary suspect did not make national news. But in South Africa, it has become a cause célèbre, intensifying both criticism of racism in the United States and a feeling of solidarity with African-Americans. – New York Times

Saudi Arabia will press Sudan’s creditors to reach a broad agreement to reduce the African country’s $50 billion-plus debt pile, said a Saudi official who will be directly involved in the debt-restructuring talks. – Reuters

Police fired teargas to disperse a crowd of more than 200 people protesting in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Thursday against the Israeli bombing of the Palestinian territory of Gaza. – Reuters

Ethiopia has revoked the press credentials of a foreign journalist working for the New York Times, according to the newspaper and an Ethiopian official. – Reuters

The US has condemned Eritrea and Ethiopia for coordinating their troops to close off a key aid route to Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region, following an exclusive CNN investigation published earlier this week that found that Eritrean soldiers were blocking critical humanitarian aid to starving and wounded civilians. – CNN

French President Emmanuel Macron this week hosts African leaders and chiefs of global financial institutions for twin summit meetings that will seek to help Sudan into a new democratic era and provide Africa with critical financing swept away by the Covid-19 pandemic. – Agence France-Presse

Ethiopia has again delayed its national election after some opposition parties said they wouldn’t take part and as conflict in the country’s Tigray region means no vote is being held there, further complicating Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s efforts to centralize power. – Associated Press

Ethiopia’s military says it has “destroyed” a group of about 320 rebels trying to enter the conflict-hit northern region of Tigray from neighbouring Sudan. – BBC

Michael Rubin writes: Regional states fear Ethiopia’s dissolution—it would be a nightmare scenario of dislocation and instability—but many diplomats, including those traditionally friendly to Ethiopia, quietly question whether it is already too late. […]It is time for the United States, United Nations, and Ethiopia’s neighbors to plan for its end as a unified entity. – The National Interest

Latin America

President Nicolas Maduro’s authoritarian government seized the headquarters of one of the country’s last remaining independent newspapers, in a move that could jeopardize the regime’s efforts to improve relations with Washington. – Wall Street Journal

When the Colombian government announced in February that it would grant almost a million undocumented Venezuelan migrants legal status, the move was welcomed as “a historic gesture”. – BBC

Editorial: The harder problem is what to do when, as all expect, the Maduro regime refuses to accept genuinely democratic elections or even negotiate in good faith — as it has during multiple previous rounds of mediation. Should the United States relax some sanctions to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, in exchange for further partial concessions from the regime? Perhaps — but at a minimum, those concessions must include the release of all political prisoners, and the acceptance of media freedom and peaceful opposition activity. – Washington Post

Michael Stott writes: A mistake by an out-of-touch government triggers big street protests. Violence spirals amid a heavy-handed police response. The government backtracks but the protests continue regardless. Motivated by longstanding grievances, the demonstrators’ demands broaden to encompass radical social and political change. […]Across the region, tempers are fraying as longstanding grievances over governments seen as out-of-touch, corrupt and incompetent come to the fore. – Financial Times

The Americas

The United States, Mexico and Canada will next week hold their first formal talks on their continental trade deal, with particular focus on labor and environmental obligations, the U.S. government said on Friday. – Reuters

The United States stands with Honduras and condemns the “cynical use” of COVID-19 vaccines for political purposes, the State Department said, after Taiwan blasted China for seeking to use vaccines to make diplomatic inroads with one of Taipei’s allies. – Reuters

Canadian police used tear gas Sunday following clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in Montreal, as the worst violence in years raged between the Jewish state and Islamist terrorists. – Agence France-Presse

Luis De La Calle writes: The result of trade frictions in North America, or misguided measures taken by governments, such as Mexico’s reluctance to promote better energy integration and renewal sources, or U.S. resistance to modifying the Jones Act to allow Canadian and Mexican vessels to operate freely, is a net benefit for China and a significant opportunity cost for North American workers and consumers. Ideally, trade ministers will use their first meeting to promote a competitive and cooperative region and prevent frictions and disputes that only help our common competitor: China. – The Hill

United States

Hours after Israel launched an airstrike on a Gaza media tower, hundreds of protesters marched Saturday afternoon from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol in protest of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and what they said was an inadequate response from the United States. – New York Times

Now, with violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories forcing the issue back to the forefront of American politics, divisions between the leadership of the Democratic Party and the activist wing have burst into public view. – New York Times

Twenty-eight Senate Democrats on Sunday issued a statement calling for Israel’s military and Hamas to reach a ceasefire agreement as news reports emerged of another night of devastating Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. – The Hill

About 140 progressive groups on Thursday released a joint statement calling on the Biden administration to condemn the Israeli government over a host of policies they say amount to war crimes against Palestinians. – The Hill

Israel’s air strikes on the militant Hamas movement in Gaza have forced the Middle East on to Joe Biden’s agenda amid new questions about how his emphasis on human rights applies to Palestinians. – BBC

Newly leaked intelligence memos demonstrate how concerned law enforcement in Washington, DC, was about the Boogaloo Bois’ – a right-wing militia group seeking to incite a second Civil War – plans for violence ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration. – Business Insider

As fighting between Israel and Hamas militants entered its seventh day on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called for a “hard look” at the billions in military aid the U.S. gives to Israel each year. – Fox News

Sean D. Carberry writes: USAID will continue to be tasked with doing stabilization work and programming in the Middle East, Africa, and other regions designed to prevent conflict and reduce the influence and appeal of violent extremists. That work is vital to U.S. national security interests and can reduce the need for more costly military interventions. […]Taking the time and spending the extra money up front to assess the effectiveness of programs will improve the design and implementation of programs and allow for more efficient use of limited resources. – The Hill

Cornell Overfield writes: The forthcoming full NSS should make coalition building, rather than coalition conjuring, the central theme. After all, alliance management is the principal challenge this administration will face as it tackles the slew of threats facing the United States. The interim NSS recognizes that Washington might agree at times with adversaries—the full NSS needs to apply the same logic to allies and admit that the United States will often disagree with them as well. – Foreign Policy

Gregory Brew writes: The Biden administration regards both climate change and strengthening national energy infrastructure as top priorities and has indicated a commitment to reducing emissions and improving resilience. The Colonial Pipeline shutdown — and the unexpected shortages it produced — together with the Texas storm of February 2021 suggest the need for urgency on those points. […]But energy security can be maintained provided the United States moves on from the myths of the 1970s, recognizes the real risks for sabotage in an age of climate instability and cyber warfare, and takes steps to mitigate those risks, putting the days of panic-buying and gas lines in the rearview. – War on the Rocks

Jeffrey D. Bean and Stephen Ezell write: Maintaining its leadership in both semiconductor design and production represents an essential imperative for continued U.S. economic preeminence and national security. The Biden administration will need to effectively navigate the opportunities and challenges briefly explored here if the United States is to remain a world-leading semiconductor player and if competition across the broader global industry is to unfold on private enterprise-led, market-based, rules-governed terms. – War on the Rocks


The criminal group linked to a cyberattack that disrupted gasoline delivery across parts of the southeastern U.S. this week has told hacking associates that it is shutting down, according to security research firms. – Wall Street Journal

For years, government officials and industry executives have run elaborate simulations of a targeted cyberattack on the power grid or gas pipelines in the United States, imagining how the country would respond. But when the real, this-is-not-a-drill moment arrived, it didn’t look anything like the war games. – New York Times

US warnings of espionage by Huawei are failing to dissuade governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America from hiring the Chinese tech group for cloud infrastructure and e-government services, a study has found. – Financial Times

Facebook lost a legal battle Friday with Ireland’s data privacy watchdog over a European Union privacy decision that could result in the social network being forced to stop transferring data to the US. – New York Post

A Toshiba Corp unit said it was hacked by the DarkSide ransomware group, overshadowing an announcement of a strategic review for the Japanese conglomerate under pressure from activist shareholders to seek out suitors. – Reuters

A bipartisan group of more than a dozen House lawmakers have reintroduced legislation to defend pipelines against cyberattacks, with the bill coming on the heels of the devastating ransomware attack that forced the shutdown of Colonial Pipeline. – The Hill

The commander of U.S. Cyber Command hinted Friday that his cyber force could soon see a growth in personnel. – C4ISRNET

Marjorie Dickman writes: Comprehensive action is essential to America’s safety and our way of life. It is a win that every member of Congress can take home and the president can tout: The cybersecurity of our nation’s government, businesses, and communities. Non-partisanship that protects America — now that’s a panacea. – The Hill

Becket Adams writes: Even with all the possible caveats in place (Trump is more powerful, he has a larger platform, they deleted their tweets, etc.), the broader question remains: If Twitter sees Trump’s post-election behavior as sufficient to earn him a permanent ban, then how does it explain the continued activity of verified accounts cheering genocide and Hitler? Malik’s and Raja’s straightforward praise of the Holocaust is just as bad, if not many, many times worse than Trump’s cryptic remarks. – Washington Examiner

Charlotte Whelan writes: Colonial Pipeline is far from the first wake-up call here. We have already seen the danger of putting off updates to our cybersecurity, as the massive monthslong breach of federal servers, now called Sunburst, showed last year. […]Russia has not been held culpable for its indirect responsibility for the Colonial Pipeline attack. If Biden is going to prioritize cybersecurity, he must hold responsible those who undermine that security. To do otherwise is to risk inviting further and worse attacks. – Washington Examiner


A former captain in the U.S. Army Special Forces who last year admitted to spying for Russia was sentenced Friday to more than 15 years in prison by a federal judge in Alexandria. – Washington Post

A Space Force lieutenant colonel has been removed from his command after appearing on a conservative podcast criticizing the United States military. – CNN

A man was taken into custody on Friday after arriving at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and saying he had a bomb in his car, though no explosives have been found, officials said. – The Hill

A commander in the United States Space Force was apparently relieved from his post after appearing on a podcast to promote his book, which asserts a neo-Marxist agenda is transforming military culture and policy. – Washington Examiner

Boeing will be late to deliver the two new Air Force One planes currently under construction, the U.S. Air Force’s top uniformed acquisition official said Thursday. – Defense News

The Navy is already seeing benefits from using digital twins to test out upgrades and fixes to ships in the fleet, and it hopes to expand the capability in the future to a more comprehensive ship sustainment system, the head of Naval Sea Systems Command said this week. – USNI News

A key Air Force focus for the 2023-2027 budget will be “agile combat employment,” and the problem of contested logistics in globalized warfare, says Lt. Gen. David Nahom, service deputy chief of staff for plans and programs. – Breaking Defense

The Marine Corps broke ground here on what it plans will be a state-of-the-art war gaming center, to direct war fighting experiments and pull feedback from across the fleet to continuously refine how Marines fight. – Marine Times

Eight Air Force bases are in the running to receive the next KC-46A Pegasus tanker units, the service said Thursday. – Military Times

Anthony Brown writes: This nation was founded to form a more perfect Union, and in doing so to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare. For 233 years, Congress has endeavored to balance these responsibilities, and in doing so has often found a way to secure our democracy and freedoms while at the same time investing in America as the land of opportunity. It is imperative that we in Congress meet these challenges and fulfill our responsibilities. Our national security depends on it. – Defense News

Mike Benitez writes: To be fair, the original battle labs weren’t perfect. Fortunately, the Air Force is in the business of applying lessons learned and is capable of building a better version of the battle lab today. […]These are all valid questions to be answered in time, but first the Air Force must come to the realization that it doesn’t need another innovation organization or technology accelerator. It needs a customer-centric capability accelerator — it needs to revive the battle lab. – War on the Rocks

Long War

There are six main reasons why Boko Haram has not been defeated despite the government claims, experts say. – BBC

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is warning that terrorists may attack as coronavirus restrictions ease in the U.S. – The Hill

A joint report released Friday by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warns that lone wolf actors pose the greatest terror threat as incidents of domestic extremism steadily rise. – The Hill