Fdd's overnight brief

May 6, 2021

In The News


Iraq is carving out a mediating role between Iran and Gulf Arab oil producers including Saudi Arabia, a shift for a country better known as a victim of regional conflict than a conduit to defuse it. – Bloomberg 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps released a propaganda video showing the United States Capitol being blown up, which aired on state-run television. – Washington Examiner

The head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard said recent events across the Middle East have exposed vulnerabilities in Israel, which he argued could be defeated with just one, decisive blow should a conflict break out between the two top foes. – Newsweek

An Iranian diplomat who was sentenced by an Antwerp, Belgium court in February to 20 years in prison for his role in a failed 2018 bomb attack in Paris has dropped an appeal and will serve out his sentence. – Arutz Sheva 

The head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard said recent events across the Middle East have exposed vulnerabilities in Israel, which he argued could be defeated with just one, decisive blow should a conflict break out between the two top foes. – Newsweek

Farzin Nadimi writes: Regardless of who is foreign minister, Iran’s diplomatic machine will continue taking a back seat to the IRGC’s constitutionally mandated military interventionism as directed by the Supreme Leader, and IRGC commanders will continue advancing their missile projects and foreign policy objectives according to their “non-conservative” military vision. […]And if Washington and other parties attempt to curb Iran’s missile capabilities and regional adventures via new JCPOA mechanisms, separate deals, or back-channel measures, the IRGC will do whatever it can to stymie these efforts. – Washington Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Switzerland has played a key international role with Iran in swapping detainees, hostages and prisoners that have been held by the Islamic Republic. The US and Iran have both thanked Switzerland in the past. Swiss diplomats have been praised in 2019 and 2020. Switzerland confirmed its role in freeing US-vet Michael White from Iran last year. – Jerusalem Post 

Mora Namdar writes: As the Iranian people signal their rejection of the current regime and appeal for international assistance in support of an end to the Islamic Republic, the United States, the world’s leading democracy, should take the lead in responding to the call, by urging a UN-sponsored and -monitored referendum that would allow the will of the Iranian people to determine their future. – The Hill 

Amir Toumaj writes: In all, whoever becomes the next president of the Islamic Republic will face many crossroads. There are renewed nuclear talks and a restless nation licking its wounds from two bloody protests that happened in the past five years. There will probably be a death and a succession to the position of supreme leader. The powers that be must be watching all of this with a plan. They will tolerate a low turnout of voters and inflate the numbers. Then they will anoint the new president as their very own yes man to prepare for what’s to come. – New Lines Magazine 

Elliott Abrams writes: The Biden administration has a sort of answer to this complaint: step one is to go back to the JCPOA, then step two will be to negotiate something longer and stronger. But the administration will, I believe, agree to lift the most important financial and petroleum sanctions to get back to the JCPOA, thereby eliminating its own best leverage to get a further agreement. The remaining sanctions leverage will not be enough. – Council on Foreign Relations


The IDF reportedly bombed targets in Syria after midnight on Thursday in what would be the second such strike in less than 24 hours. State media SANA reported that Israeli helicopters bombed the Quneitra border town in the Syrian Golan Heights, claiming that no injuries or damages were incurred. – Times of Israel 

Syrian media reported overnight Wednesday that Israel carried out an air strike against Hezbollah targets in the Quneitra area. – Arutz Sheva

A senior Saudi Arabian delegation led by intelligence chief General Khaled al-Khomedein on Tuesday visited Damascus, Syria, as part of a widescale attempt by Saudi Arabia to improve relations with those aligned with Iran, the Saudi Al Rai al Youm reported. – Arutz Sheva

Mohammed Hassan writes: Relations between the local communities and the AANES have further broken down due to the failure of the civil councils, their rampant corruption, and their inability to provide for the economic and public service needs of local communities. […]Moreover, ISIS has also taken advantage of the chaos accompanying the protests and popular discontent against the administration’s performance to strengthen its cells and increase its activities, and as long as tensions between the local communities and the AANES remain, ISIS is likely to continue to expand. – Middle East Institute


Egypt and Turkey will hold two days of political consultations in Cairo on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a push to mend ties between the regional rivals, the two countries said. – Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Libya would be an “important signal” as both leaders vowed to support the new interim government there, a German government spokesman said. – Reuters

The Simsek System has been converted into a kamikaze drone, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) head Temel Kotil said during an interview with CNN Turk last week. The unmanned drone has been modified to detonate on impact with a target. It can also be launched from a drone and be used as a decoy to confuse enemy air defenses. – Defense Post

Azerbaijani opposition activist Bayram Mammadov has been found dead in Istanbul in an apparent drowning. Mammadov’s body was pulled from the sea on May 2, hours after he disappeared into the water on Istanbul’s Asian side while reportedly trying to retrieve his slippers. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


Yair Lapid, a former news anchor and leader of Israel’s centrist opposition, was picked to negotiate a new governing coalition Wednesday, opening the possibility of Israel getting its first government not led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in more than a decade. – Washington Post

Yair Lapid, the centrist politician and former media celebrity whose party took second place in Israel’s March election, had pledged to forgo the premiership if that’s what it would take to form a coalition of diverse parties that could oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power. – New York Times

Russia ready to promote direct contacts between Israel and the Palestinian leadership and working toward a high-level meeting of the Middle East Quartet mediating the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the Russian foreign minister said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Israel’s military and the Shin Bet security service said Thursday that they arrested a Palestinian suspect in a weekend drive-by shooting in the West Bank that left one Israeli dead and two injured. – Associated Press

The Hamas terror group in Gaza threatened Israel on Tuesday over tensions in East Jerusalem, as a number of Palestinian families face eviction as part of an ongoing effort by right-wing Israelis to take control of homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. – Agence France-Presse

Jared Kushner is forming a group to promote relations between four Arab states and Israel, normalized under agreements he helped broker as a top adviser to his father-in-law former President Donald Trump, the group said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Gulf States

A British academic, who was detained in the United Arab Emirates two years ago on spying charges, has launched legal action against a number of senior officials from the Gulf state, accusing them of assault, torture and false imprisonment. – Reuters

Jamal Benomar writes: Ultimately, it is for Yemenis to decide what a viable power sharing deal would look like. The Yemeni elites must cease their excessive reliance on outsiders to solve their problems and stop blaming them for everything that has gone wrong in the country. – CNN 

Blaise Malley writes: Just as with any other country, it is important that the U.S. be willing to cooperate with Saudi Arabia when the two countries’ interests align. Washington, though, must also be unafraid to stand up for its interests when they diverge from Riyadh’s. […]No good has come of trying to isolate other authoritarian countries, such as Iran, North Korea, and others. But the release of the Khashoggi report, the continued blockade in Yemen, and a clearer recognition of what constitutes American interests in the region mean that the door is open for the U.S. to alter its relationship with Saudi Arabia in a meaningful way. – Washington Examiner

Middle East & North Africa

France’s foreign minister began a visit to Lebanon Thursday with a message of “great firmness” to its political leaders, threatening to take additional measures against officials obstructing the formation of a government in the crisis-hit country. – Associated Press

In an April 29, 2021 article titled ‘Can There Be Peace in the Middle East,’ Saudi journalist and businessman Hussein Shobokshi notes that several hopeful developments have sparked cautious optimism in the region. The first of these developments is the recent reconciliation between the Gulf states and Qatar. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Senior Biden administration officials visiting the Middle East this week urged “de-escalation and diplomacy with Iran, Turkey and Qatar,” an Arab official briefed on the talks told me.”They just want to keep the temperature down in the region.” – Axios 

Korean Peninsula

Those in the South enjoy creative freedom in a society whose pop music has spread across the world; Seoul, the capital, is a major Asian art hub with a lively, diverse gallery scene. In the North, all professional artists are organized in two official studios that work under the strict control of the communist dictatorship, isolated from international influences. – New York Times

South Korean police raided on Thursday the office of an anti-North Korea activist group that said it had released balloons into the North last week carrying dollar bills and leaflets denouncing the government in Pyongyang. – Reuters

The foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea showed little sign of resolving differences at their first in-person meeting in more than a year, which came as the U.S. seeks their cooperation on its revised policies toward North Korea. – Bloomberg

Josh Rogin writes: U.S. options vis-a-vis North Korea, as is often noted, are all bad. There’s little chance of returning to the previous administration’s policy of “maximum pressure” because there’s no international consensus for new sanctions. […]It’s clear that the Biden administration has several foreign policy priorities, and that spending time, resources and political capital on the North Korea issue isn’t one of them. Trump failed on North Korea, but at least he tried. The Biden team is going to have to try harder, and they would be better off doing that sooner rather than later. – Washington Post


The European Union unveiled draft rules on Wednesday aimed at cracking down on state-subsidized foreign companies in Europe, a move that could allow regulators to pursue big Chinese companies in much the same way they have targeted U.S. multinationals such as Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. – Wall Street Journal

China “indefinitely” suspended on Thursday all activity under a China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, its state economic planner said, the latest setback for strained relations between the two countries. – Reuters

Katherine Tai, US trade representative, said she expected to meet her Chinese counterpart soon, in the first sign that the Biden administration was preparing to talk to Beijing about trade tensions. – Financial Times

Jailed Hong Kong dissident Joshua Wong was handed an additional 10-month sentence on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to taking part in an “unlawful” protest last year over the Tiananmen Square crackdown. – Agence France-Presse

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy industrialized nations on Wednesday accused China of human rights abuses and economic mischief, but offered little concrete action to deal with an increasingly forceful Beijing. – Associated Press

China and the United States face a growing likelihood of conflict over the status of Taiwan, a contest that current and former officials fear could lead to upheaval unseen since World War II. – Washington Examiner

Group of Seven countries are looking for a “constructive, calibrated approach” to China, British foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Wednesday following a foreign ministers’ meeting in London. – Reuters

The resumption of student visa applications at U.S. missions in China got off to an acrimonious start this week when netizens took exception to an American embassy social media post they interpreted as likening Chinese students to dogs. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the West had to be very careful about the exact nature of Chinese investment in Western economies and think very carefully about investments in strategic assets. – Reuters

There’s a new major player in the final frontier, but the United States’ space agency under President Joe Biden sees an upside to its top competitor’s success, even if U.S. scientists remain formally banned from cooperating with their Chinese counterparts. – Newsweek 

China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday condemned a joint statement by G7 foreign ministers that expressed support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan and cast Beijing as a bully, saying it was a gross interference in China’s internal affairs. – Reuters

George F. Will writes: Buying time, although frequently prudent, is, however, never a sufficient policy for our creedal nation. China is inflicting on millions of Uyghurs what Biden has termed genocide, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is apparently orchestrating the semipublic, slow-motion assassination of the dissident Alexei Navalny. Fortunately, Blinken is emphatically not one of those “who know too much to believe anything in particular and opt instead for accommodations of reasonableness and urbanity that drain our world position of moral purpose.” Those are Moynihan’s words. – Washington Post

James Palmer writes: The intense political mood in China explains some of this behavior, with posts aimed at bosses at home rather than a foreign audience. Junior bureaucrats often see jingoistic rhetoric online as a way to get noticed. But many of the incidents are outright blunders that reflect an underlying problem: In periods of heightened political tension, the bombastic—and sometimes the mediocre—are more likely to be promoted than the careful bureaucrats diplomacy usually requires. – Foreign Policy 

Philip Stephens writes: Beijing and Moscow want a return to a 19th century global order where great powers rule over their own distinct spheres of influence. […]Today’s contest is between these two systems. It is a fight the west can win by persuading the world’s non-aligned nations that it has a better offer. It is quite simple, really. Instead of complaining about the economic coercion inherent in, say, Beijing’s Belt and Road plan, the G7 should present its own development projects. A timetable to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 would be a good start. – Financial Times


Four Pakistani soldiers were killed and six others were wounded along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on Wednesday in an ambush by militants from Afghanistan, Pakistan’s military said, as the soldiers were doing controversial border fencing work. – Reuters

Elliot Ackerman writes: As Jack and I ran, we discussed this history and other complex aspects of America’s withdrawal: how many senior members of the Afghan government possessed dual citizenship and would likely depart the country, leaving behind less capable subordinates to fill critical positions; the challenges of collapsing more remote outposts; and whether the State Department would grant visas to those Afghans who’d thrown their lot in with their government and us. – New York Times 

William R. Hawkins writes: The American withdrawal from Afghanistan does not mean the end of power projection or support for local allies who are better positioned to suppress radical movements and who are also valuable allies in facing the larger challenges in a contentious world. U.S. strategy must evolve and not remain in the thralls of a twenty-year-old mistake. – The National Interest 

Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware write: Keeping a small number of elite troops in Afghanistan, while unlikely to elicit roars of approval at campaign rallies in the 2024 presidential race, would likely keep both the Taliban and al-Qaeda at bay in the country while protecting a forward operating base on China’s and Russia’s doorstep. Withdrawal, by contrast, will be universally seen as defeat. As with bin Laden 25 years ago, it will give a rhetorical victory to terrorists the world over. And it will boost the morale of state adversaries that benefit from the perception of U.S. weakness. – War on the Rocks 

South Asia

India’s foreign minister, visiting London for a gathering of ministers from the world’s top industrial powers, said on Wednesday that he was self-isolating after coming into contact with people who tested positive for the coronavirus. […]The first face-to-face meeting of foreign ministers comes just weeks ahead of the G7 summit, which will be the first in-person meeting of the world leaders in two years. – New York Times 

India and the United Kingdom have announced a 2030 roadmap to strengthen relations across a range of sectors including defence. The two sides said the new arrangement, which was announced on 4 May, elevates bilateral ties to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ that will encompass deeper co-operation in defence industry and technologies. – Jane’s 360 

The European Union will ask India to join its push for a global treaty on plastic pollution, according to a draft statement prepared for a virtual summit on Saturday and seen by Reuters. – Reuters

Anit Mukherjee writes: The Ladakh crisis highlighted the importance of new-age technologies, primarily drones and cyber warfare, to the Indian military. […]There is still a lack of clarity on the organizational and doctrinal changes that logically should follow such changes. However, it is clear that new-age “disruptive technologies” are increasingly the focus of attention within the military. – War on the Rocks


Despite Australian government figures publicly warning about the risk of war in the region, the prime minister appeared to endorse a formula for Taiwan that is actually Beijing’s stated vision for unification with the currently self-governed island. – The Guardian 

China criticized New Zealand after its parliament passed a motion declaring “severe human rights abuses” are taking place against Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang. – Bloomberg 

The U.K. plans to have a greater British presence in the Indo-Pacific region, as it adheres to a recent security assessment that calls for a pivot to Asia, the top admiral in the Royal Navy said on Wednesday. – USNI News

More than 200 global organizations urged the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar, saying the time for statements has passed and immediate action is needed to help protect peaceful protesters against military rule and other opponents of the junta. – Associated Press

A bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers is asking the Biden administration to seek the elimination of Vietnam’s tariffs on American pork and address other restrictions as it engages with the Southeast Asian country over currency and trade practices. – Bloomberg 


Russia has kept a heightened military presence near the Ukrainian border despite announcing the withdrawal of the troops it deployed last month, the U.S. and its NATO allies said, leading to concerns in Washington about Moscow’s intentions. – Wall Street Journal 

Amid sinking relations, President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin appear to be seeking a June summit while Biden is in Europe for talks with allies. – Washington Post

The Group of Seven (G7) advanced democracies has wrapped up its first in-person meeting in more than two years with a pledge to bolster collective efforts to counter Russia’s “irresponsible and destabilizing” behavior, but offered little concrete action aside from expressing support for Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russia scrambled a fighter jet by its far eastern border to escort a U.S. military plane as tensions continue to grow between Washington, DC and Moscow over tit-for-tat aircraft maneuvers. – Newsweek

On the frontlines of the battle against Russia-backed separatists and in the halls of government in Kyiv, Ukrainians hold strong hopes for Thursday’s visit of the U.S. secretary of state — increased military aid and strong support for NATO membership among them. – Associated Press

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday carrying a tough anti-graft message and strong U.S. backing for the country’s response to Russian aggression. Blinken has also brought along a familiar face in the long-running Washington-Moscow tug-of-war over Ukraine: Victoria Nuland, now the No. 3 State Department official. – Associated Press

The Russian Defense Ministry has announced the existence of a new interceptor, or missile defense technology. It is apparently intended to challenge U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and countermeasures in new and potentially unprecedented ways. – The National Interest 

The business newspaper Konkurent, that is published in the Russian Far East, a region that is traditionally warier of the powerful Chinese neighbor, was significantly less upbeat about what it called Chinese smiles and waves at Russia in the statement by the Chinese foreign ministry. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The US secretary of state has told the BBC that the US will respond to reckless or aggressive acts by Russia. – BBC

With Mr Navalny himself behind bars, there is a steady, methodical chipping away at everyone involved with the country’s opposition. […]Vladimir Putin had a choice when he saw the appalling repressions under way in neighbouring Belarus: to try to distance himself from Soviet-style behaviour, or to follow suit against the far smaller segment of Russian society who dare to question the state. – Sky News (UK) 

James Stavridis writes: When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, Putin’s military used a witch’s brew of tactics and procedures. Offensive cyberwarfare, unmarked special forces (the so-called little green men), clandestine attacks on transportation nodes, propaganda over social networks, and lightning-quick conventional strikes were part of the mix. No doubt, Putin has a maritime version of this playbook. – Bloomberg


An Italian jury on Wednesday convicted two Americans of murder, with a punishment of life in prison, a decision that comes nearly two years after the men had been charged in the killing of an Italian police officer while on vacation in Rome. – Washington Post

If the pro-independence vote surges in Thursday’s elections for the Scottish Parliament, momentum for an another referendum on independence may become unstoppable. It has weathered the conquest and loss of an empire, survived two world wars and witnessed more than one deadly pandemic. But now Scotland’s ancient alliance with England is itself in poor health, and on Thursday it could take a serious turn for the worse. – New York Times 

As Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken arrived in Ukraine early Thursday, he encountered an all too familiar scene: a country struggling to defend itself from without and reconstruct itself from within. – New York Times 

Britain’s government said Wednesday it is sending two Navy patrol vessels to monitor the situation on the island of Jersey, amid an escalating dispute with France over fishing rights in the waters there following Britain’s departure from the European Union. – Associated Press

Military cooperation in the European Union will get a boost as the 27 nation bloc is admitting for the first time outside partners such as the U.S., Canada and Norway to join in one of its projects, Germany said on Thursday. – Reuters

The Irish government has urged Britain against taking unilateral action to shield former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the UK province’s sectarian conflict from facing prosecution, a foreign ministry spokesman said. – Reuters

UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab has finally ended a corrosive diplomatic dispute over the status of the EU’s ambassador in London, a stand-off that had added to post-Brexit tensions. – Financial Times

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday stressed the importance of close trans-Atlantic relations with the United States, which she said are now more important than ever. – Associated Press

Editorial: The EU is a long way from having its own foreign policy and Nato is the place where Europeans meet Americans to talk about security. But Brussels is the capital of a regulatory superpower, which gives it strategic heft in the global conversation about China and the tension between commercial partnerships and principles of democracy. Britain has done itself no favours by flouncing out of the European rooms where those conversations happen. – The Guardian 

Dominic Waghorn writes: Beijing will hate that kind of rhetoric and the criticism in the communique, but may have to brace itself for more as the G7 prepares for its summit in Cornwall with what appears to be renewed sense of diplomatic vigour. – Sky News (UK)

Deborah Haynes writes: Boris Johnson may live to regret his raid on the overseas aid budget if the short-term benefit to UK coffers is overshadowed by a much costlier, enduring price for the planet. […]But it also impacts the relatively comfy lives of people in the UK and other richer nations, through increased migration and a greater threat from terrorism, launched by groups that have been allowed to grow in impoverished and ungoverned spaces. – Sky News (UK)

Kurt Volker writes: To facilitate that kind of consultation, it would be helpful for the Biden Administration to nominate a new U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine as soon as possible, and to designate a senior administration official with the responsibilities of a Special Envoy to follow through on the above agenda and support Ukraine in various diplomatic forums. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Paweł Paszak writes: For China, politically motivated infrastructure projects in the Balkans provide lucrative contracts to its state-owned enterprises and build political and economic connections. In many cases, the scarcity of cost-effectiveness assessments puts recipient countries in a vulnerable position, as the example of Montenegro proves. –  Center for European Policy Analysis

Jeffrey Kucik writes: The five years since the Brexit referendum show what happens when the rules break down and uncertainty reigns. When the referendum cast doubt over the future of economic cooperation, the impact on British traders was immediate and significant, leading to a sharp drop in exports from the United Kingdom in 2016. Over the subsequent five years, firms struggled to adapt. In turn, there was much more volatility in British trade relations than in recent decades, marked by shorter, sharper fluctuations in trade flows. More recently, UK exports to the EU were down markedly in the first months of 2021—and not simply because of the COVID-19 pandemic. – Foreign Policy


The top U.S general for Africa is warning that a growing threat from China may come not just from the waters of the Pacific, but from the Atlantic as well. – Associated Press

European Union defense ministers on Thursday were discussing plans to set up a military training mission in Mozambique in the coming months to help the government there take control of parts of the southern African country held by extremist rebels. – Associated Press

South Africa’s governing ANC party has suspended its secretary general, Elias “Ace” Magashule, over graft charges in a move seen as a political victory for President Cyril Ramaphosa in the divided party. – Agence France-Presse

Nearly 30 abducted Nigerian college students have been freed, government officials said on Wednesday, two months after heavily armed gunmen kidnapped them in the north of the country. – Agence France-Presse

Kenya will waive work and business permits for investors from its neighbour Tanzania, President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Wednesday, as his counterpart made similar overtures in a thawing of often frosty relations between the two countries. – Reuters

Sudan said on Wednesday it had cleared its arrears to the African Development Bank through a $425 million bridge loan provided by Britain, Sweden and Ireland, opening it up to new funding, including an immediate grant of $207 million. – Reuters 

In an article, Nigerian expert Socrates Mbamalu wrote that China sees itself as “a trusted and consistent comrade” to Africa, and that China had offered military intelligence, weapons, and training of “freedom fighters” to Algeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, and Namibia. – Middle East Media Research Institute   

Lynsey Chutel writes: But Angola’s rot ran far deeper than the dos Santos regime—earlier exposés have alleged the MPLA and the Angolan military have all benefited from the country’s wealth while most of its citizens live in poverty. Last year, the president refused to fire his chief of staff after he was implicated in corruption; when citizens protested, police responded with violence, a reminder of tactics from the dos Santos era. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

Eight days of protests have left 25 people dead, a major city cut off from food supplies and Colombia’s conservative government scrambling to assert control as it fights the country’s worst Covid-19 surge. – Wall Street Journal 

The Biden administration plans to release by the end of June a list of corrupt Central American officials who may be subject to sanctions, a U.S. special envoy told Reuters, as Washington seeks to cut back on a root cause of increased migration to the U.S.-Mexican border. – Reuters

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Wednesday she will travel to Guatemala and Mexico next month, as she spearheads the Biden administration’s efforts to deal with an increase in migration at the U.S. southern border. – Reuters

The sanctions prohibit Venezuela from selling oil to the US and make it difficult for it to export elsewhere, although the government has found ways to get round the measures. Venezuela’s oil exports have risen slightly in each of the past five months, hitting a 10-month high in March — although they are still feeble compared with historical highs. – Financial Times

United States

Seven months later, as the U.S. vaccine rollout nears its peak and life veers back toward normal, Washington has reversed its position to support a short-term waiver, infusing hope into global health efforts to ramp up vaccine production as severe shortages coincide with enormous variant-driven waves of virus infections in India, Latin America and other parts of the developing world. – Washington Post 

A Rwandan woman who was deported by the United States and is facing charges related to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda appeared in court on Wednesday and denied the charges against her. – Reuters

Dianne Lob, Chair, William Daroff, CEO, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued the following statement: “We applaud the Biden Administration’s decision to refuse to participate in commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the UN World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, which openly embraced antisemitism and anti-Israel extremism. – Conference of Presidents  

Yukon Huang and Joshua Levy write: Aside from potentially destabilizing inflationary pressures, relying on the almost-bulletproof reliability of U.S. Treasury bills might be as good a trick as China’s land-financing one was. But unless the U.S. dollar remains the de facto global reserve currency, it too has an expiration date. – Foreign Policy


Facebook Inc. was justified in suspending then-President Donald Trump early this year, the company’s independent oversight board ruled Wednesday, but it must better explain its reasoning if it decides to permanently lock him out of its social-media platforms. – Wall Street Journal 

The Biden administration and Congress are mobilizing to confront ransomware attacks on critical organizations such as schools and hospitals, which some officials have labeled a national security threat. – The Hill

The Air Force school to prepare airmen to become high-end cyber defenders will introduce an online training tool in its upcoming curriculum. U.S. Cyber Command mandated that all services must adopt the Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE) at schoolhouses. – C4ISRNET 

Editorial: The oversight board advises that “Facebook must resist pressure from governments to silence their political opposition.” But this is already happening in the U.S., as Democrats in Congress use their legal leverage over social-media platforms to press for censorship. This is a graver threat to democracy than Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. Mr. Zuckerberg needs the courage of his professed convictions. – Wall Street Journal


The vice-chair of the House Armed Services Committee does not support the Navy’s “divest to invest” strategy of ridding the fleet of aging and expensive-to-maintain ships and systems to free up money for the development of unmanned platforms and other new technology, saying the sea service needs to focus on getting ready for a near-term battle instead of looking too far out into the future. – USNI News 

The U.S. Air Force aborted the test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, after an undisclosed issue on the ground, the service announced Wednesday. – Military.com 

The hull of the former amphibious warship Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) is approaching the Panama Canal on the way to a Texas shipbreaker for dismantling, USNI News has learned. – USNI News 

The Air Force carried out the first flight test of a “Skyborg” drone last month with an Kratos UTAP-22 Mako equipped with a bespoke autonomy system, moving the service one step closer to fielding an uncrewed “loyal wingman” for human pilots. – Defense News 

The U.S. Space Force awarded Raytheon Intelligence & Space a $228 million contract for the follow-on control system for the GPS satellite constellation. The contract awarded April 30 extends Raytheon’s work on a new ground system for the GPS constellation known as the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX). – C4ISRNET

The following is the April 23, 2021 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, National Security Implications of Fifth Generation (5G) Mobile Technologies. – USNI News 

The Pentagon is set to begin the most expansive look yet at the military’s response to “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” in an inspector general investigation announced this week. – Washington Examiner

When a U-2 spy plane can pass target details to an F-22 fighter jet, an F-35 fighter jet, and ground control center all at once, in near real-time, amid heavy multi-domain combat, the speed and operational efficiency of warfare attack change dramatically. – The National Interest 

A U.S. legislative proposal to allocate about $110 billion for basic and advanced technology research and science in the face of rising competitive pressure from China will be debated by the Senate Commerce Committee on May 12, sources said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Lloyd J. Austin III writes: The nature of warfare is changing; it spans an unprecedented theater that stretches from the heavens to cyberspace and far into the oceans’ depths. That demands new thinking and new action inside the Defense Department. We must redouble our efforts to work together — with allies and partners, across commands, across services and across our fiefdoms and stovepipes. – Washington Post

Long War

After living in freedom for decades in France, nine Italians convicted of left-wing terrorism for attacks in the 1970s and 1980s appeared in a Paris court Wednesday for an extradition hearing. – Associated Press

A senior Kurdish official has said there are growing indications that Islamic State is trying to make a comeback after an uptick in attacks in Iraq. – Reuters

F-35B stealth jet fighters aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will soon be deployed against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria (ISIL). – The National Interest 

Hamdi Malik writes: Ahd Allah Islamic Movement is a social and cultural movement built around Kataib Hezbollah ideologue Seyyed Hashem al-Haidari. – Washington Institute

Despite a lack of material evidence, and no established intention of harm, three Russian 14-year-olds are facing lengthy prison sentences after being charged with “training for terrorist activities” in a case that initially alleged the schoolboys were planning to destroy a virtual Federal Security Service (FSB) building they created in the popular computer game Minecraft. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty