Fdd's overnight brief

May 28, 2021

In The News


Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday endorsed the rejection of heavyweight moderate and conservative candidates for Iran’s June presidential election, in which two leading hardliners fiercely loyal to him will stand against each other. – Reuters 

Hamas’s chief in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar has said his organization has sufficient financial resources mostly provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran and will not touch aid money sent for reconstruction. – Iran International

The European Union on Thursday called on Iran to review a case of a prominent female human rights activist who was sentenced to 30 months in prison and 80 lashes on charges of protesting against the killing of protesters during the country’s 2019 unrest. – Associated Press

Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar thanked Al-Jazeera and Iran for the role they played during the recent round of fighting with Israel. He delivered a “victory speech” that was aired live on Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) on May 26, 2021. In his speech, Sinwar said that Al-Jazeera “has been the best pulpit to give the accurate voice to our position.” He added that Iran gave Hamas money, weapons, and expertise. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Iranian security agencies have harassed and abused families of the victims of the Ukrainian passenger jet shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) after takeoff from Tehran last year, Human Rights Watch said on May 27. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Mike Rogers writes: Until we recognize and call out Iran’s destabilizing influence in the region, we will not be able to make any real progress on any of the litany of issues facing the Middle East. […]The Biden administration cannot go down this path again, pursuing an agreement with hopeful naivete that Tehran will moderate its policies or abide by any agreement. – The Hill

John Ratcliffe writes: We need bipartisan consensus on our most significant security concerns. We’re getting there on China, our top national security threat -and another area in which the Trump administration took a fundamentally different approach.Now we need it on Iran, and we need to stick with the approach that produced results and exported peace, rather than terror. And it shouldn’t matter which US administration created it. – Jerusalem Post


The deputy to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday that the Lebanese terror group’s leader was in good health a day after IDF officials leaked to Israeli media the army’s assessment that he had contracted the coronavirus. – Times of Israel 

The Syrian Step News Agency, a pro-rebel news outlet, reported on May 24, 2021, that the Iran-backed Shi’ite Lebanese militant group Hizbullah has recently begun planting cannabis near Al-Bukamal in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Throughout the last round of escalations, thousands of rockets flew into Israel from Gaza, and Israel attacked accordingly within the Strip. Rockets and UAV’s were downed left and right, some even along the country’s northern borders – and yet, Hezbollah chose to sit it out this time around. – Jerusalem Post


Syrian President Bashar Assad was re-elected in a landslide, officials said Thursday, ushering in a fourth seven-year term in the war-torn country following an election described as illegitimate and a sham by the West and his opposition. – Associated Press

The Biden administration has decided it will not renew a waiver that allowed a politically connected U.S. oil company to operate in northeast Syria under President Donald Trump’s pledge to “keep the oil” produced in the region, according to a U.S. official familiar with the decision. – Associated Press

Three Tupolev Tu-22M3 ‘Backfire’ bombers landed at Humaymim airbase in Syria for the first time on 25 May, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on the same day. – Jane’s 360


Turkey pushed NATO allies into watering down an official reaction to the forced landing by Belarus of a passenger plane and the detention of a dissident journalist on Sunday, two diplomats familiar with the matter told Reuters. – Reuters 

Millions of Turks have been glued to their screens, watching a crime boss tell wild stories about international drug smuggling, murders and the murky ties between politicians and the mafia. But the gang boss starring in these videos is real, and his claims have set off a political tsunami that has unsettled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, leaving his popular interior minister particularly exposed. – Agence France-Presse

Nearly 30 years after Kurdish lawyer Yusuf Ekinci was gunned down and his body dumped by a highway, his lawyer son is still seeking justice in one of hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings. – Reuters


The fault lines have deepened in recent years, as a succession of Jewish associations have tried to secure court orders to evict Palestinian families they say are living illegally on land that is rightfully theirs and who haven’t paid rent in decades. Palestinians view the legal action as a way to alter the demographics of East Jerusalem in favor of the Jewish population. – Wall Street Journal

The top U.N. human rights body on Thursday passed a resolution aimed to intensify scrutiny of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, after the U.N. rights chief said Israeli forces may have committed war crimes and faulted the militant group Hamas for violations of international law in their 11-day war this month. – Associated Press

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken got a very warm welcome to Israel this week, on his first visit to the region in his new role after Operation Guardian of the Walls, in which the US and Israel saw mostly eye to eye, but things got chillier when it came to Iran nuclear talks. – Jerusalem Post

Despite a freshly signed ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate is already preparing for the next round of violence to break out. – Jerusalem Post

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israeli leaders this week that moving forward with a series of evictions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem could spark renewed “tension, conflict and war.” – Times of Israel

Editorial: Even if right-wing activists did use it to distribute content that incites violence, the way of addressing the problem is through official channels and Israeli law enforcement. Clearly, Facebook is obligated to uphold the law and a certain standard of online discourse, but it must do so transparently – to notify users and enable them to respond and to appeal. Because, if they cannot, the company is undermining freedom of expression in a most serious way. It must restore the accounts immediately. Facebook cannot be the police, judge and executioner. – Haaretz

Ghaith al-Omari writes: The growing number of Palestinians who have no faith in their leaders, institutions and political ideologies does not bode well for the future of the Palestinian national movement or for stability. The future looks bleak, but there are steps the international community can take to affect the process of reconciliation, mainly by weakening Hamas and strengthening the Palestinian Authority—which, for all its flaws, remains committed to diplomacy. – Washington Institute 

Maya Carlin writes: In contrast, it was shocking for Israelis to see Hamas not only to appeal emotively but to even command operationally some Israeli-Arabs, let alone Palestinians, and through that, to dictate the pace of events on the Temple Mount and devastate Israel’s control over and the security within its cities with mixed populations, and on the highways across the country. Iran had never managed to achieve that through its Hamas factions; this was a Turkish accomplishment. – The National Interest


The U.N. Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved an Iraqi request for a U.N. team to monitor parliamentary elections in October. – Associated Press

Jane Arraf and Falih Hassan write: The largely grass roots and secular protests that first swept Baghdad and the overwhelmingly Shiite southern provinces two years ago have posed an existential threat to Iran-backed militia groups that have been a main target of the demonstrators’ rage and their calls to reduce Iranian interference in Iraq. – New York Times

Michael Knights writes: After the June 2020 incident, Iraqi leaders were so shaken that they downplayed subsequent arrests of militia members, leaving many citizens with little evidence that their prime minister could protect them or stand up to militias. Going forward, Baghdad needs to proclaim its successful May 26 operation far and wide, and international partners need to loudly echo this message. – Washington Institute


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is heading to Djibouti, a small country on the horn of Africa, an important first visit for the leader that is part of a network of regional relationships he is building. He is expected to meet the president of Djibouti; planes of humanitarian aid are also coming from Egypt. – Jerusalem Post 

The Egyptian president held talks on Thursday with his counterpart in Djibouti as part of Egyptian diplomatic attempts to build more African alliances amid an ongoing water dispute with Ethiopia. – Associated Press

The container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in March was struggling to steer because of its high speed and the size of its rudder, and could have chosen not to enter the waterway in bad weather, the canal authority’s head told Reuters. The comments by Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chairman Osama Rabie on Thursday come amid a dispute over compensation with the owner and insurers of the Ever Given container ship, which is detained by court order in the canal nearly two months after it was dislodged. – Reuters

Gulf States

The chief negotiator for Yemen’s Houthi movement said on Thursday he had met UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, after Washington criticised the group for rebuffing the diplomat on a previous visit to the region. – Reuters 

A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen on Thursday acknowledged having equipment on an island in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait where a mysterious air base is now under construction. – Associated Press

Israel’s top diplomat to the United Arab Emirates attended a ceremony in Dubai on the grounds of the Arabian Peninsula’s first permanent exhibition to commemorate the Holocaust. – Associated Press

A permanent resident of the United States wanted by China was freed by Dubai on Thursday, taking off on a flight to Turkey after spending weeks in detention. […]Wang’s case comes as the United Arab Emirates, long a U.S. defense partner in the Mideast, has drawn closer to China in recent years in trade and in efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press

Qatar, a small wealthy monarchy long subject to an embargo by a quartet of influential Arab states, has wielded both influence and assistance to the blockaded Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave whose fighters, led by the Hamas movement, recently engaged in an 11-day conflict with surrounding Israel. – Newsweek

Middle East & North Africa

Abu Dhabi’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, flew to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II days after a ceasefire in Gaza ended 11 days of deadly violence, which put Arab governments that recently normalized ties with Israel in an awkward position. – Bloomberg

Two photos in a Facebook post have been shared hundreds of times in Ethiopia alongside a claim that they show huge reservoirs in Egypt that are being used to divert water from the River Nile. However, the claim is false; both images show part of the massive hydro system known as the Great Man-Made River (GMR) in Libya. – Agence France-Presse 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on Wednesday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman and discussed the recent conflagration between Hamas and Israel, and Jordan’s role in the matter. – Jerusalem Post 

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said on Thursday’s “Fox News Primetime” that President Biden seeking a diplomatic return to Libya “doesn’t make sense” as the U.S. faces a number of domestic crises. – Fox News

Ruwayda Mustafah writes: Bordered by Iran, Syria, and Turkey, the KRI exists in a region that is generally hostile to Western interests, and it is undoubtedly the most politically pro-Western area in its corner of the Middle East. For the United States, this pro-Western stance makes the Iraqi Kurds an ally worth protecting, and a strong KRI is beneficial for U.S. policy in the region generally. – Washington Institute 

Korean Peninsula

China reaffirmed its “traditional friendship” with North Korea, days after they faced new security challenges from an agreement between the U.S. and South Korea that allows Seoul to step up the range and power of its missile arsenal. – Bloomberg 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed an “uncompromising struggle” against anti-socialist elements at home, state media reported Thursday, as he tries to fortify his power amid pandemic-related difficulties and U.S.-led economic sanctions. – Associated Press

South Korea aims to use a global climate summit it is hosting virtually next week to burnish its leadership credentials on environmental issues, despite its patchy record at home. – Reuters

Bruce Klingner writes: The Biden-Moon summit affirmed the strong ties between the two countries, including announcements of extensive South Korean business investments in the United States. However, it is clear that significant differences remain on North Korea policy and Seoul’s continued reluctance to criticize Chinese belligerence and intimidation is disappointing. – The Daily Signal


Ten pro-democracy activists were sentenced in Hong Kong on Friday to prison terms ranging from 14 months to 18 months over a 2019 protest, the latest in a series of tough punishments that have put much of the Chinese territory’s opposition camp behind bars, with many more awaiting trial. – New York Times

Senate Democrats lined up alongside Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), one of their least-favorite Republicans, to support a measure urging the Biden administration to declassify intelligence on whether the novel coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab. A Democratic-led House subcommittee is pledging an investigation into the virus’s origins, including the lab’s safety record. – Washington Post

Hong Kong’s legislature approved a sweeping, Beijing-drafted overhaul of the city’s elections, dramatically curtailing the opposition’s ability to participate in government on the same day that authorities banned a massive pro-democracy vigil. – Bloomberg

To mark its 100th anniversary, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recently released the latest edition of its book A Brief History of the Communist Party of China. An online account, Ouzhou Jin Xue analyzed the differences between the previous edition of the book, published in 2001, and the 2021 edition. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Hong Kong authorities for the second year have banned the June 4 candlelight vigil commemorating the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, organizers said Thursday. – Associated Press

Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab used a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Thursday to restate Britain’s concerns over the situations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. – Reuters

On a still evening this month, the deep rumbling of a Chinese commercial sand dredger could be heard across the water from Nangan, the largest of Taiwan’s Matsu Islands. […]The ships are digging up sand to feed China’s infrastructure boom and land reclamation projects in its coastal cities, which have pushed up prices for the world’s most-used commodity after water. – Financial Times

While the Chinese are investing heavily in advanced technology, “they are not our peer or near-peer competitor just” militarily, but their goal is “to be our equal” across all domains in the coming decades, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today. – USNI News

Editorial: The mystery of the virus’s origins — including the early cases — needs a full investigation based on the science and the facts. Perhaps it will be proved eventually that the virus jumped from animals to humans and did not first pass through the Wuhan Institute of Virology or another laboratory. That would be extremely important to know, as would evidence of a laboratory leak. Much depends on China, but it has refused to even consider the kind of rigorous probe that is necessary. That only deepens the suspicions it has something to hide. – Washington Post

Fareed Zakaria writes: President Xi Jinping has transformed China’s approach, domestically and abroad. He has consolidated power for the party and himself. He has reasserted party control over economic policy, in recent months putting curbs on the most innovative parts of the Chinese economy (the technology sector) while lavishing benefits on its most unproductive one (the old state-owned enterprises). […]In doing all this, he is dismantling China’s hard-earned reputation as a smart, stable and productive player on the world stage. It all brings to mind another period of centralized politics and aggressive foreign policy — the Mao era. That did not end so well for China. – Washington Post

Lee Edwards writes: But the raison d’etre remained the same to present a carefully sanitized story of a powerful aggressive China. […]It warns officials across the country, including those who manage the Confucius Institutes, to be fully alert to the threat of certain Western ideas, known as the “Seven Don’t Speaks”: universal ideas; freedom of speech; civil society; civil rights; historical errors of the CCP; official bourgeoise universal ideas; and judicial independence. – Heritage Foundation

Mordechai Chaziza writes: China’s statements were exploiting the current situation in Israel to isolate Washington in the international community and get back at the Biden administration for recent criticism of Beijing’s Uyghur Muslims’ treatment in Xinjiang. China’s statements also are an attempt to undermine regional and international confidence in the US. Beijing has been pushing for greater global influence at the United Nations to challenge US traditional leadership and to flexing its multilateral muscle in other international organizations. – Middle East Institute 

James Thorpe writes: It’s almost impossible to suggest how to improve the way we report, write about, and discuss China as the information available has always been a house built on sand. At any time, the web of censorship, paranoia, or disregard for the truth threatened to overwhelm. The familiar call for more diplomacy overlooks that the Chinese government has done the most to damage our understanding of China—the issue is that the CCP probably doesn’t care. – Foreign Policy


Then, just as American troops began leaving the country in early May, Taliban fighters besieged seven rural Afghan military outposts across the wheat fields and onion patches of the province, in eastern Afghanistan. The insurgents enlisted village elders to visit the outposts bearing a message: Surrender or die. – New York Times 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress on Thursday that America’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is “slightly” ahead of schedule, but he provided no details. – Associated Press

The U.S. government is formulating plans to evacuate interpreters and others who worked for U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan over the past two decades, a top general said. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

South Asia

Twitter pushed back on Thursday against India’s increasingly heavy-handed efforts to control online speech, calling on the government to respect freedom of expression and criticizing what it called “intimidation tactics” by the country’s police. – New York Times

The U.S.-India relationship is back on track after hitting some unexpected turbulence last month, when Washington was slow to respond to New Delhi’s catastrophic coronavirus surge. The White House has since more than made up for the delay. – Foreign Policy

India’s government exceeded its legal powers by enacting rules that companies such as WhatsApp say will force them to break end-to-end message encryption, the messaging app owned by Facebook argued in a court filing seen by Reuters. – Reuters

Andy Mukherjee writes: The prime minister can explain how going without cheap mobile devices for five years for $15 billion in one-time vaccine imports will make India more self-reliant. Especially if it frees up local manufacturers to again export vaccines to countries needing them. That will bring huge relief to the rest of the world, and some bragging rights for India. – Bloomberg


Southeast Asia’s top diplomatic corps waited fruitlessly on the call for 45 minutes, diplomatic sources said. The incident reinforced a nagging feeling U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, which has sought to elevate the importance of repairing alliances as part of its effort to compete with China for global influence, is sidelining the region. – Foreign Policy

A Myanmar military tribunal has sentenced 28 people to 20 years in jail with hard labour for arson attacks on two factories, state media reported, after a string of mainly Chinese-financed factories were torched during unrest in Yangon in March. – Reuters

Nine Southeast Asian countries have urged the United Nations not to endorse a freeze on arms sales to Myanmar, according to a report from Benar News. – Reuters

The Navy is now pushing the Littoral Combat Ships out into the Pacific in force after more than a decade of stops and starts and studies. – USNI News

U.S. special operators could help Taiwan bolster its defenses against a potential Chinese invasion, the nominee to oversee special operations told lawmakers Thursday. – Military.com

South Caucasus

Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian stepped down on May 27 after only six months in office amid growing border tensions with neighboring Azerbaijan. Ayvazian gave no reasons for his resignation, which was confirmed by Anna Naghdalian, spokeswoman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The United States on Thursday said it was concerned by the border incidents between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including the detention of several Armenian soldiers by Baku, urging both sides to “urgently and peacefully” resolve the issue. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: Until and unless the State Department upholds the content of U.S. law on Section 907, blocks aide, and holds Aliyev responsible for his embrace of terrorist mercenaries, Blinken can expect Azerbaijani aggression to continue. Blinken may see himself as a peacemaker, but his neglect and moral equivalence are, at least in the South Caucasus, having the opposite effect. – 19fortyfive 


Hackers linked to Russia’s main intelligence agency surreptitiously seized an email system used by the State Department’s international aid agency to burrow into the computer networks of human rights groups and other organizations of the sort that have been critical of President Vladimir V. Putin, Microsoft Corporation disclosed on Thursday. – New York Times

As the West has moved to isolate and punish Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for intercepting a civilian jetliner flying over Belarus, in what European leaders have said was an operation to arrest an opposition journalist on board, the strongman is traveling to Russia Friday for a meeting with his counterpart Vladimir Putin. – Washington Post

Russia is upping the ante on the European air wars. At least two European airlines were forced to cancel flights to Russia on Thursday after they were denied permission to enter Russian airspace, as they sought to reroute to avoid flying over Belarus. – Foreign Policy

In recent months, the Russian government actively debated what is called “the youth policy” – a complex of measures aimed at transforming young Russians, if not into loyal supporters of Putin’s regime, into a group that at least does not dissent from its basic principles. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Russia’s next-generation S-500 system is coming, and it’s set to take on NATO’s most advanced stealth platforms. At a Defense Ministry meeting earlier this week, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s expansive military modernization programs are proceeding according to schedule. – The National Interest

Moscow and Washington are not discussing a possible prisoner swap that could secure the release of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine jailed in Russia for spying, the RIA news agency cited Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. – Reuters

A senior Russian security official said on Thursday that Moscow had used its navy and air force to expel a British warship, HMS Dragon, from what he described as Russian territorial waters near Russian-annexed Crimea last October. – Reuters

Elisabeth Braw writes: But Putin had to somehow support his independent-minded and incompetent comrade Lukashenko for the obvious reason that Russia doesn’t have many friends. So he once again sprang a surprise (as is his habit). He announced nothing — instead, Russian authorities simply denied entry to the Air France and Austrian Airlines flights. – American Enterprise Institute


An email cited by Belarusian authorities containing a purported in-flight bomb threat was sent after a plane was diverted to Minsk with a prominent Belarus opposition journalist aboard, Swiss email provider ProtonMail said Thursday, further challenging the Belarusian regime’s version of events. – Washington Post

For more than a generation, Belarusian authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko has looked to Moscow for money, political support and critical backing for whatever means were necessary to stay in power. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarus offers a reliable — if sometimes troublesome — partner in Europe as many other former Soviet republics have made political alliances with the West. – Washington Post

As tensions with Russia simmer, thousands of NATO troops, several warships and dozens of aircraft are taking part in military exercises stretching across the Atlantic, through Europe and into the Black Sea region. – Associated Press

Since deciding to divert an EU commercial plane with a military jet and arrest the opposition activist it carried, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has attracted western outrage and threats of economic sanctions — further isolating the landlocked eastern European country. – Financial Times

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether current and former Ukrainian officials unlawfully interfered in the U.S. presidential election, the New York Times reported on Thursday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. – Reuters

Emil Avdaliani writes: Georgia is still one of the smallest military spenders in the region, despite consistent annual budget growth. This deficiency will continue to constrain the country’s foreign policy. Facing a changing military and geopolitical balance of power in the region, the country needs to spend rationally, which means spending where it would make a difference. Air-defense and drone technologies are critical: Georgia could, if it acts thoughtfully, develop a home-grown industry, while altering foreign perceptions both for the region and crucially for the NATO alliance. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Jakub Jakóbowski writes: But the current problems of Lukashenka’s regime, and Russia’s increasing appetite for deeper integration, provided a defining test for China’s strategic intentions towards the region. Contrary to Lukashenka’s calculations, China gave Russia a free hand by recognizing its self-proclaimed sphere of influence in eastern Europe. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Heather A. Conley and Dejana Saric write: Taking into account present-day dynamics in both countries and the problems that have beset negotiation efforts to date, this brief outlines a new U.S. strategy toward Serbia and Kosovo. To break the current stasis, the United States should temporarily decouple the joint normalization process, creating separate bilateral tracks of engagement with Serbia and Kosovo that prioritize internal reforms and economic revitalization. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Luke Coffey writes: While Georgia and Ukraine are not formally in NATO, both contribute greatly to regional stability and serve as a key piece of the regional security puzzle. Therefore, it is in America and NATO’s interest to engage with both countries and help them develop and maintain a robust maritime capability. – Middle East Institute 

Hal Brands writes: China allegedly uses economic coercion to shape the way Americans and citizens of other democracies talk about that country and its ruling regime. The detention of Pratasevich is a small thing that highlights much bigger global changes. That’s why the democracies, especially the European Union and the U.S., must think broadly about their response. – Bloomberg 


French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said that France bears partial responsibility for the Rwandan genocide, a historic acknowledgment that could mark a watershed moment in the fragile relations between the two countries. – Washington Post

Mr. Macron’s two-day visit to Rwanda was the fruit of a long and tortuous process of reconciliation between Rwanda and France, one that amounted to his most successful attempt at an often stated goal of finding friends and potential business partners in new corners of Africa as countries like China, Russia and Turkey compete for influence there. – New York Times

The military officer who led the ouster of two Malian presidents in the past nine months is in charge of the West African country until a new leader is named or an election takes place next year, one of his aides said Thursday. Col. Assimi Goïta oversaw the arrest of the nation’s acting civilian leader and prime minister this week, citing security concerns, and seized control in the face of a global outcry, as well as threats of sanctions from Mali’s closest allies. – Washington Post

Germany’s government acknowledged on Friday that it committed genocide during its colonial occupation of what is now Namibia and promised more than $1 billion in development projects in communities descended from victims. – Washington Post

A U.N. official has condemned the arrests of scores of people displaced by the ongoing Tigray conflict, where fighting continues between the federal military and renegade forces. – Associated Press

Editorial: Only a few years ago, for all the queasiness about the violence unleashed by the TPLF-led government, the international community held Ethiopia up as an economic model for Africa. It had wracked up two decades of Asian-style growth and lifted tens of millions from penury. Abiy was seen as a progressive leader who could take the country further by grafting political pluralism on to broadly successful economic policies. That hope is now barely flickering. Ending the violence in Tigray is the first step if the hope is ever to be revived. – Financial Times

James Barnett writes: Every West African country supports the “One China” policy, with Burkina Faso being the last to recognise Beijing over Taipei in 2018. But an often overlooked aspect of China’s influence in the region is the soft power it exerts through relatively low-cost initiatives such as government-funded Confucius Institutes (CIs). – Centre for Democracy and Development

The Americas

Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to travel next week to Central America, where administration hopes of stemming the flow of undocumented migrants to the United States through economic assistance and democracy promotion have run into early roadblocks. – Washington Post

When the leader of the United Nations more than a year ago implored armed combatants to pause their fighting so the world could focus on battling the coronavirus, he warned that “the worst has yet to come” in the disease’s rampage, especially through conflict zones. – New York Times 

The U.S. Pacific fleet is closely tracking a Russian Navy surveillance ship which has been operating off the coast of Hawaii near a crucial American missile range. – Newsweek

Marc A. Thiessen writes: The U.S. public health bureaucracy has no interest in following a trail that could lead back to itself. Neither does the Chinese Communist regime. This is why we needed the free press to do its job. All the facts Wade uncovered were there for any intrepid reporter to find. But none did so. That was a shameful dereliction of duty. It’s time to start digging. – Washington Post

Donna Brazile writes: Anti-Semitism is based on the same belief as racism and other forms of prejudice “the other” is inferior and not entitled the same human rights as the “superior” class. So while I’m not Jewish, I can empathize with the pain and the injustice anti-Semitism inflicts in the same way Jews have expressed empathy for the racist oppression black Americans have suffered for centuries. – Wall Street Journal 

Matthew P. Goodman writes: In addition to these critical topics, it will be important to watch what the G7 says and does about another high-stakes policy issue for market democracies: data governance. As we have written, this is the missing “fifth pillar” of the global economic order, and the G7 has an opportunity to begin building a favorable system of international rules, standards, and norms for data flows and related issues. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

United States

The Biden administration has decided not to rejoin the Open Skies agreement with Russia after concluding that Russian violations of the deal and failure to take action to return to compliance undermined the pact, the State Department said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal

The Senate on Thursday was on the brink of passing expansive legislation to ramp up research and development into scientific innovation, advancing what would be the government’s first significant foray into industrial policy in decades in a bid to bolster competitiveness against China. – New York Times

The state-backed Russian cyber spies behind the SolarWinds hacking campaign launched a targeted spear-phishing assault on U.S. and foreign government agencies and think tanks this week using an email marketing account of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Microsoft said. – Associated Press

Editorial: To show he is up to the challenge of international leadership, Biden must bring European and Asian allies together to push back on every front; to publicize Xi’s conduct and ensure it has consequences; to isolate his government on the world stage, and to make sure his malign ambitions go unrealized, – Washington Examiner 

Josh Rogin writes: Put simply, it has become amply clear that these Chinese labs, which have a record of safety lapses, operate with little transparency and zero accountability, which means they present an ongoing risk that must be mitigated. The intelligence community’s job is to collect intelligence. […]Some say pursuing the lab leak investigation risks upsetting complex and fragile U.S.-China relations. Well, if uncovering the truth about 591,000 American deaths doesn’t warrant risking offending the delicate sensibilities of the Chinese Communist Party, what would? – Washington Post

Mike Gonzalez writes: Israel is not fighting the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank; Israel’s battle today is with Hamas. By siding against Israel, BLM is siding with Hamas. Saying that has become as controversial as saying that BLM is Marxist, but only because the press corps is intent on covering for BLM. Both statements are true. The reasons BLM takes the side of Hamas, however, may have little to do with postcolonialism, and much more to do with its desire to bring down the United States and the entire West. – Heritage Foundation

Karlyn Bowman writes: Navigating Israel policy will remain a challenge for the Biden administration as they hear increasing calls from their own party to reduce foreign aid to Israel or to support the Palestinian cause more publicly. And as younger Americans feel less attached to Israel, the tide may be starting to turn against one of the US’s staunchest allies. While the cease-fire seems to be holding, the divisions are here to stay. – American Enterprise Institute

Minxin Pei writes: The U.S. would be wiser to treat China as a serious but manageable threat. This requires, at a minimum, being disciplined rhetorically and in the battles the U.S. chooses to fight — in order to conserve resources and avoid needless crises. Above all, Biden must strike a balance between firm military deterrence and robust diplomatic engagement. The first step toward containing the China challenge is not to make it any bigger. – Bloomberg


As the U.S. reopens a debate into the origins of the novel coronavirus, Facebook reversed course Thursday and said that it would no longer remove posts that claim the virus is man-made. – Washington Post

Google is nearing a settlement of an antitrust case in France alleging the company has abused its power in online advertising, and is likely to pay a fine and make operational changes, people familiar with the matter said. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. pipeline operators will be required for the first time to conduct a cybersecurity assessment under a Biden administration directive in response to the ransomware hack that disrupted gas supplies in several states this month. – Associated Press

U.S. energy companies are scrambling to buy more cyber insurance after this month’s attack on Colonial Pipeline disrupted the U.S. fuel supply, but they can expect to pay more as cyber insurers plan to hike rates following a slew of ransomware attacks. – Reuters

The Department of Defense appointed a new flag officer to serve as the top uniformed cyber adviser. The agency selected Rear Adm. Jeffrey Scheidt as the deputy principal cyber adviser to the secretary of defense, according to a DoD personnel announcement. – C4ISRNET

Suzanne Nossel writes: With the rise of social media and other channels of communication and outreach, exiled and expatriate activists and thinkers have more tools available to sustain a high media profile, organize, and reach audiences even after being forced to flee their home countries. The influence these figures can wield has prompted authoritarian governments to adopt new techniques of surveillance, harassment, and even physical interdiction. They aim to send the message that those who dare challenge their authority are not safe anywhere. – Foreign Policy


A new report from the Pentagon’s inspector general asserts there were years of accumulating signs that should have prompted the Air Force to take a closer look at the KC-46′s refueling boom, on which the service is now spending $100 million to redesign. – Defense News

The U.S. Navy and its industry team conducted the first live-fire test of the rocket motor Thursday, which will propel the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike offensive hypersonic missile and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon. – Defense News

The Army will nearly triple the number of electronic warfare personnel in the next two years to begin staffing specialized units and staff sections at every echelon from brigade up. – C4ISRNET

President Joe Biden’s nominee to oversee nuclear warhead development, Jill Hruby, said Thursday the U.S. should continue plans to ramp up production of plutonium cores, a key component in nuclear weapons, by using two sites. – Defense News

David Ignatius writes: Wars of the future may look like video games, as operators control faraway swarms of autonomous systems, but the lethality on the ground will be devastating. What’s encouraging is that people like Tseng and Brose are taking their frustration with the human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and turning that knowledge into new systems that will keep U.S. troops safer, at lower cost — even as they combat future adversaries. – Washington Post

Joe Gould writes: Companies like Huawei and DJI have both denied that they send any data to China, but China hawks say that such companies may be obliged to assist espionage efforts as stipulated in China’s national intelligence law. Smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. seemed to prevail recently in its legal battle with the U.S., after federal judge ruled Washington lacked “substantial evidence” that Xiaomi is owned or controlled by China’s military. This month, the U.S. agreed with Xiaomi to set aside an investment ban and struck it from DoD’s blacklist. – Defense News 

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: The chairman clearly recognizes the importance of training the Pentagon’s attention and resources on preparing the US military for future competition with peer and near-peer adversaries. Now his words must be reflected around the world, as the Department of Defense learns how to “say no” to unsustainable mission demands. – American Enterprise Institute

David Auerswald writes: The Biden administration should publish a new Arctic national security strategy. The last U.S. Arctic strategy was written in 2013, before the country refocused on geopolitical competition with Russia and China. The strategy should prioritize deterring attacks from the Arctic on U.S. or allied territory, minimizing and defending against Russian or Chinese coercion, and preventing either country from achieving future regional hegemony. – War on the Rocks

Ariel Cohen writes: If Lockheed succeeds in acquiring Aerojet, other American companies that buy their propulsion systems will have to look overseas—bad for both our national security and economy. We should be encouraging American private-sector competition, not destroying it. The costs are too high in this life-or-death field. Iron Dome ought to remind us of that. – Newsweek

Long War

A raid on a remote village in Afghanistan kills an ageing al Qaeda leader wanted by the FBI. Messages to the group’s cells around the world are seized. Two drone strikes on militants in northwest Syria swiftly follow. – CNN

A Spanish court on Thursday imposed prison sentences ranging from 8 to 53 years on the three surviving members of an extremist Islamist cell that killed 16 people and injured 140 others in two consecutive attacks in and near Barcelona in 2017. – Associated Press

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist group, has reportedly died in northeast Nigeria after setting off explosions to kill himself during a confrontation with a rival militant group. If the reports are true, his death would deal a major blow to one of Africa’s deadliest and most brutal terrorist organizations—and provide a significant morale boost to the Nigerian military, which has struggled to make gains against extremist groups after over a decade of fighting. – Foreign Policy