Activist turn for Trump’s foreign policy?; A week of terror around the globe; China, South Korea agree on NorK sanctions; What US missiles hit in Syria; and just a bit more...

SecState Tillerson signals a new tone and direction for U.S. power. Speaking from Italy during a two-day visit with members of the G7, Tillerson said, "We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world." Tillerson spoke at a commemoration of the 1944 German Nazi massacre in Sant'Anna di Stazzema, Reuters reports this morning.

It’s an interesting position to take one day before the new secretary of state makes his first official visit to Moscow. Then there’s Tillerson’s statement last week that Russia was "complicit or simply incompetent" in its failure to deliver on a 2013 commitment to ensure that Syria got rid of its chemical weapons.

Russia’s response: Tillerson will not get to meet President Vladimir Putin this trip, said Kremlin spox Dmitry Peskov, who added that “there is no other alternative” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power.

For what it’s worth: Assad himself says a military victory for Damascus is the only solution. Interview from last week, here.

Tillerson’s “holding to account” remarks could be an effort to smooth over apparent rifts in the Trump administration’s shifting Syria policy. Who’s on the same page: Tillerson and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Both hit the Sunday talk show line-ups to explain “the American attack last week on a Syrian air base was intended solely to halt future chemical attacks, not to destabilize or overthrow the Assad government,” The New York Times reports.

McMaster: “What’s significant about the strike is not that it was meant to take out the Syrian regime’s capacity or ability to commit mass murder of its own people, but it was to be a very strong signal to Assad and his sponsors that the United States cannot stand idly by as he is murdering innocent civilians.”

Tillerson: “Our priority is first the defeat of ISIS. Once we can eliminate the battle against ISIS, conclude that, and it is going quite well, then we hope to turn our attention to cease-fire agreements between the regime and opposition forces. In that regard, we are hopeful that we can work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all of the parties on the way forward, and it is through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will lawfully be able to decide the fate of Bashar al-Assad.”

Muddying the waters: UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Speaking to CNN, Haley said, “We know there’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime. If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it’s going to be hard to see a government that’s peaceful and stable with Assad.”

Unimpressed with that apparent discordant approach from the White House: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. To ABC News: “There seems to be a difference between what Ambassador Haley is saying, and what she said last night that Assad really has no future, and what I heard this morning from Secretary Tillerson. You cannot have a stable Syria without jihadist elements on the ground with Bashar al-Assad in power. They're two sides of the same coin.”

The Washington Post rolls up more on the multifaceted messaging front from the White House, here.

Also calling for Assad to go: influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. He also condemned the 59-cruise-missile strike on Thursday and called for the U.S. and Russia to stop intervening in Syria. More on that Saturday statement via AFP, here.

About that one day of strikes on Syria’s Shayrat air base—and the uproar it caused—consider this: “The U.S. has conducted 7,524 airstrikes in Syria since 2014. Worth remembering while discussion one strike on a Syrian military base,” noted Christiaan Triebert of the open-source investigators at Bellingcat.

Or as Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote: The “U.S. dropped 26,172 bombs in 2016. How does 59 more suddenly demonstrate US ‘resolve,’ ‘credibility,’ and ‘leadership?’”

From Defense One

Can US Warplanes Evade Russian Air Defenses? We May Soon Find Out in Syria // Patrick Tucker: If things go south, high-end American fighters may take on top-of-the-line Russian anti-aircraft missiles.

Here's What US Missiles Hit At the Syrian Airbase // Caroline Houck: And why Shayrat Airfield's runways weren't one of the targets.

The Syria Strike Was International Security Theater // Theresa Hitchens: It was designed to look as if it would keep us safer, while actually doing nothing of the sort.

In Love and War With Iraq's Elite Fighters // Carmen Gentile: Born in war, raised in war, Iraq's young special operations forces fight their turn – they just hope their familes understand.

Easy There, Blob. With Obama, We Faced A Different Syria // Derek Chollet: Four years ago, everything was different in Syria. I support these strikes, but two of our worries remain the same: escalation and loss of control.

The US Is About to Stop Buying Tomahawk Missiles, Like the Ones That Hit Syria // Marcus Weisgerber: But it's planning to upgrade its existing stock — and lay the groundwork for a next-generation cruise missile.

SOUTHCOM: 'ISIS Is In the Western Hemisphere' // Caroline Houck: They're not fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, says Adm. Kurt Tidd; they're Latin Americans who became radicalized online.

Seven Disturbing Implications of Trump's Syria Strike // David Frum: The attack raises a series of questions about the president's approach to America's political processes and institutions.

The Stockholm Attack Is a Stark Reminder We Have No Way to Fight Low-Tech Terror // Aamna Mohdin: As terror attacks become less sophisticated, they are also becoming more difficult to prevent.

What Are America's Options on North Korea? // Uri Friedman: At this point, there are only two ways to reverse its nuclear program, one expert says.

'It Was High Time' // Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: The right move, if the wrong president, for Obama's internal critics who wanted air strikes in Syria for three years.

America Should Have Hit Assad Four Years Ago // Tom Malinowski: When dealing with mass killing, deterrence is more effective than disarmament.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. #OTD1963: The nuclear sub USS Thresher sinks with all hands. Send us your news:

Church bombings in Egypt punctuates a week of terrorist attacks across the globe. The New York Times, reporting from Tanta, Egypt: “Two suicide bombings that killed 44 people at Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday raised the specter of increased sectarian bloodshed led by Islamic State militants.”

What happened: “One attack on Sunday struck at St. Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Church in Alexandria, where the bomber blew himself up at the church gates as the Coptic patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, led a Palm Sunday service inside. The other struck in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, where the attacker slipped past security to the front pews of the church and blew himself up, turning a religious celebration of joy into a ghastly scene of bloodshed and death.”

The Times called the attacks “one of the deadliest days of violence against Christians in Egypt in decades,” and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi “promptly declared a three-month state of emergency.”

For those keeping track, victims of terrorist attacks over the past week spanned: Russia (13); Pakistan (11); Iraq (44); Somalia (41); Nigeria (7); Sweden (4); Egypt (44); and Mali (5). And that list is hardly comprehensive, former FBI Agent Ali Soufan of the Soufan Group wrote this weekend.

Also in global terrorism this weekend: Police in Norway detonated an explosive device left on a busy commercial street in the center of Oslo, Sky News reported Sunday.

On topic: A new Government Accountability Officer review of America’s countering violent extremism (CVE) programs yields a brutal verdict—the review “was not able to determine if the United States is better off today than it was in 2011 as a result” of some 44 programs being implemented. Why? The authors say it’s “because no cohesive strategy with measurable outcomes has been established to guide the multi-agency CVE effort.” (h/t @MicahZenko again)

North Korea watch: One week after Pyongyang test-fired a liquid-fueled ballistic missile, “China and South Korea agreed on Monday to slap tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile tests,” Reuters reports, citing a senior official in Seoul.

And that may come sooner rather than later: “North Korea marks several major anniversaries this month and often marks the occasions with major tests of military hardware.”

And: “The possibility of U.S. military action against North Korea in response to such tests gained traction following last week's strikes against Syria. Previously, Washington has leaned toward sanctions and pressure to deter North Korea, but comments from U.S. President Donald Trump's top aides at the weekend suggest that position may be hardening.”

Two quotes from Japan: "It probably is not realistic for the U.S. to attack North Korea," a Japanese defense ministry source said. "If America says it is going to attack, both Japan and South Korea will probably put a stop to it."

A senior Japanese military source added: "If the U.S. military was to attack, there could be a request to Japan for rear-guard logistics support but there has been no talk of such preparations."

The sanctions meeting was “the first visit to South Korea by a senior Chinese official since the planned deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system led to a diplomatic row between Beijing and Seoul.” The Chinese side reiterated their opposition, saying that the radar undermines their nuclear deterrent. Read more, here.

Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group is headed toward the Korea peninsula. Said one U.S. official: "We feel the increased presence is necessary." Reuters, here.

How 38North’s nuke-watchers track North Korea’s progress: pixel by pixel. Wired, here.

ICYMI: Last week, Cambodia told a U.S. Navy Seabees unit to pack up and get out, disrupting 20 planned projects and ending a nine-year air program that had built schools, maternity wards, and rural development. Stripes, here. Why? Phnom Penh offered no explanation, but has been actively courting China. “On Tuesday, Hun Sen thanked Beijing for a $150 million grant for the construction of a new sports stadium in the capital,” VOA reports.

In the globe-trotting war against ISIS, coalition troops and their “vetted Syrian opposition forces” fought off an ISIS attack in southern Syria this weekend, the coalition announced Sunday. "ISIS initiated the attack on the An Tanf garrison with a vehicle bomb and between 20 to 30 ISIS fighters followed with a ground assault and suicide vests" before multiple airstrikes reportedly ended the assault."

What are the coalition troops doing on the Syrian-Jordanian border region? Conducting operations “to clear ISIS from the Hamad Desert and...countering the ISIS threat in southern Syria and maintaining security along the Syria-Jordan border," the coalition said.

Curious story from Iraq news, which reports the U.S. has requested that some of Iraq’s special forces participate in the upcoming battle for ISIS-held Raqqa, Syria. That, here.

In case you were curious about Russian forces in Syria—where they are, for example, as of March 21: They reportedly maintain 21 locations or bases, with considerable air force assets, including S-300, S-400 air defense systems, noted the folks at the Institute for the Study of War this weekend.

Now to Iraq, where Iraqi security forces reportedly control 75 percent of West Mosul, and the al-Nuri Mosque is said to be “completely surrounded.”

Here’s some allegedly recent drone footage of the approach to the al-Nuri mosque.

Oh by the way: ISIS has been downing a heckuva of lot Iraqi police drones around Mosul.

And Iraq's defense ministry is reportedly calling for volunteers, aged 18-30.

In Afghanistan: A U.S. special forces troop was killed in Achin district of Nangahar province on Saturday fighting the ISIS affiliate there, Resolute Support announced this weekend. Still too early for many specifics. But here’s a bit more from the Washington Post.

Lastly today: An interesting video from police in central Florida, where “Sheriff Peyton Grinnell Issues [a] Warning to Lake County Drug Dealers.” Surrounding the sheriff: four officers in black ballistics gear with their faces covered. (For what it’s worth: the video it may be more effective than this classic from Mr. T, who attacked the camera to warn kids against drug use in the ‘80s.)

Among other responses the clip elicited on social media: "These cops look like they're going to create a caliphate and behead moderate police officers." See the warning for yourself, here