Today's D Brief: Return to Iran deal?; Brazil’s military leadership quits; Russia girds for protests; E-grid risks; And a bit more.
World powers are preparing for an American return to the Iran nuclear deal. Officials from the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and Iran all welcomed Washington’s “full return” to the agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Associated Press reports today from Brussels. And all of those officials “underlined their readiness to positively address this in a joint effort,” according to a collective statement released after a virtual meeting Thursday.
Next up: A meeting in Vienna slated for Tuesday. “However, there will be no direct discussions for now between U.S. and Iranian officials,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The idea behind Vienna is to draft “two separate agreements, one with the U.S. and with Iran on which steps they will take when to return to compliance with the agreement,” the Journal writes. “After senior officials launch the discussions, they will leave nuclear and sanctions experts to hammer out the details of the work.”
The messaging from Iran seems to remain as it has been for the past several years, certainly since former President Trump’s time in office. And that message is “Iran will suspend its steps (scaling back compliance with the deal’s terms) as soon as (U.S.) sanctions are lifted and this is verified,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted saying in state-run Fars news agency, according to Reuters. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif affirmed today in a tweet that Tehran expects to “Rapidly finalize sanction-lifting & nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures” at Tuesday in Austria.
There will be “No Iran-US meeting” in Vienna, Zarif tweeted, calling it “Unnecessary.”
FWIW: Iran is holding presidential elections in June, which the Journal reports “could lead to a new Iranian negotiating team and more delays, and before Iran takes further steps to expand its nuclear efforts and limit international monitoring” of its ongoing enrichment program. A bit more here.
In other nuclear developments, President Biden’s North Korea policy review will be shared with South Korean and Japanese officials today when Biden’s National Security Advisor hosts his counterparts from Seoul and Tokyo at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. (Thursday: State spox Ned Price: “Denuclearization will remain at the center of American policy towards North Korea.”)
Also: “The three officials are also expected to discuss a global shortage of semi-conductor chips that has forced U.S. automakers and other manufacturers to cut production,” Reuters previews. More here.
From Defense One
Electric Cars, Smart Refrigerators Pose Cyber Risk To US Utilities, GAO Finds // Patrick Tucker: The risks aren’t well understood by researchers, in part because of local and state control of electrical utilities.
Let’s Get Real About US Military ‘Dominance’ // Collin Meisel: American strategists need to drop the assumption that the U.S. military will be the superior force in any given situation.
Don’t Divide the World Between Democracies and Autocracies // Daniel DePetris: There are better ways to face our challenges than pushing for ideological blocs.
What Is DevSecOps, Anyway? // Gerry Morelli: How one company used it to accelerate improvements to an Air Force cyber defense program.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked a joint session of Congress to declare war on Germany, saying, “We have no selfish ends to serve.”
The White House has tapped veterans groups to help with its COVID-19 vaccination outreach, Military Times reported Thursday.
4th-Wave Watch: “New infections are up 20 percent in the past two weeks, spurred by more contagious strains of the virus, increased travel and a loosening of public health restrictions across the country,” Politico reports.
Meanwhile, in France: President Emanuel Macron has imposed a one-month lockdown amid a “faltering vaccine rollout and spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants,” Reuters reports.
ICYMI: A new COVID variant appears to evade some standard tests. French scientists have been investigating the variant; “early analysis did not suggest the mutation was more contagious or more deadly than earlier versions of the virus,” Reuters reported in mid-March.
One day after Brazil’s military chief and five other cabinet ministers were fired, its army, navy and air force chiefs all resigned on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported.
What’s going on: Brazil has the “highest [COVID-19] death anywhere in the world,” with roughly 100 deaths every hour, and far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is facing mounting criticism of his decidedly negligent response to the global pandemic.
Worth noting: Brazil ended 21 years of military rule in 1985, the BBC reminds us. CNN reports Tuesday’s “military departures have been particularly scrutinized because Bolsonaro, a former captain, has made much of his ties to the armed forces, filling his cabinet with generals and even celebrating the military dictatorship that once ruled the country.”
BTW: The three generals penned a letter of warning after their resignations, writing that Brazil’s armed forces are “institutions of the state, permanent and necessarily separate from party politics.” A bit more to all that at the Journal, here.
Russian police are stocking up on riot gear ahead of an upcoming protest, adding “more than 2,000 police anti-riot kits worth some 239 million roubles ($3.15 million),” Reuters reports from Moscow.
What’s going on: Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s supporters “said they would announce a date for a new nationwide street protest once 500,000 people had registered to attend. Some 370,000 people have registered so far." In February, Russian authorities made similar purchases of “tasers, smoke grenades and protective gear after nationwide rallies in support of Navalny.”
The race to provide the world internet via small, lower-orbiting satellites is heating up. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday about how it’s not just SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb Global Ltd. and Telesat Canada “building rival networks set to go live in the coming years.” Now “a U.K. space entrepreneur” is planning one too. But his optimal target isn’t exactly the wider world, including folks like you and me; rather, these particular constellations “cater to the high-frequency trading crowd” that watches financial markets from London to Tokyo.
For your ears only: Review the risks to such constellations in our podcast from last February all about “War in space.”
Get to better know a low-profile firm called Anomaly 6, which Vice news reported Tuesday is “a secretive contractor run by ex-military and location industry veterans.” The company "offers clients a tool that can track the movements of hundreds of millions of mobile phones worldwide" with "access to location data from more than 500 mobile apps."
Why it matters: U.S. Special Operations Command paid Anomaly 6 $589,500 this past September for a "Commercial Telemetry Feed," making it the “first reported contract” the firm is known to have secured from the U.S. government. Continue reading here.
And finally this week: Police in Belgium came out on horses and in specialized trucks Thursday after a fake concert announcement — it was April Fool’s Day, after all — brought about 2,000 largely maskless students to a park in Brussels.
Bigger picture: “Large crowds have been gathering in Brussels parks this week to enjoy the unusually sunny, warm weather, despite coronavirus restrictions limiting outside gatherings to four people,” AP reports. “Belgium has reported over 882,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 23,000 virus-related deaths. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have risen in recent weeks and health authorities have warned that intensive care units could reach a critical level by April 10 if the pace of new infections and hospitalizations does not slow down.”
Four people were reportedly arrested and three police were injured in the park Thursday, which Agence France-Presse covered in a 90-second video posted to Twitter.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!