Today's D Brief: Nations race to evac from Sudan; Global arms sales set new record; Chinese diplo fumbles in Paris; Iran arming Russia via Caspian; And a bit more.
American special forces evacuated U.S. government personnel out of war torn Sudan this weekend, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement on Saturday.
Troops from U.S. Africa Command collaborated with the State Department to relocate the civilians to other sites around the region, with help from nations like Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia, Austin said. “About 100 U.S. troops in three MH-47 helicopters carried out the operation,” the Associated Press reported Sunday. “They airlifted all of roughly 70 remaining American employees from a landing zone at the embassy to an undisclosed location in Ethiopia.”
Some 16,000 Americans remain in Sudan, and most of them are dual nationals, according to the National Security Council’s John Kirby. “These are people that grew up in Sudan, work in Sudan, families are in Sudan, and they want to stay in Sudan, so it's a number that is difficult to plan to specifically,” Kirby told ABC News on Monday.
“We still have military forces prepositioned in the region ready to respond if need be,” Kirby said. “But right now, it's not very safe to try to run some larger evacuation either out of the nearby air base or even just through rotary lift like we did the other night because the fighting is so intense.” Kirby’s advice to those still in-country? “Shelter in place and to not move around too much in the city of Khartoum.”
Several other nations rushed to evacuate their diplomats over the weekend, too. That includes the United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, and Canada. Reuters has a bit more on those disparate efforts, which have already seen an Iraqi citizen killed and an Egyptian wounded, here.
- “UN Chief Says Sudan Conflict Could 'Engulf The Whole Region',” Agence France-Presse reported Monday in a shorty;
- “Sudan fighting: Why it matters to countries worldwide,” the BBC reported Thursday;
- “Russian mercenaries closely linked with Sudan’s warring generals,” the Washington Post reported Saturday; the New York Times has similar coverage, here.
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Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. On this day in 1915, Turkey’s forced relocation and genocide of more than a million Armenians began; the deportations and ethnic cleansing would continue to 1917. To this day, Turkey’s leaders refuse to acknowledge their violent actions toward Armenians as genocide.
Iran has been sending Russia artillery shells via the Caspian Sea for the past six months, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing shipping documents and input from Middle East officials. That includes an alleged September deal for about 74,000 artillery shells at a cost of around $1.7 million.
The most recent transit occurred in early March aboard a ship called the Rasul Gamzatov, which carried “1,000 containers with 2,000 artillery shells” to Russia after a six-day journey across the Caspian, according to the Journal, which noted U.S. enforcement options in this waterway are extremely limited.
Update: Iranian-made drones targeted Ukrainian cities again late last week, including nearly two dozen used to attack cities like Kyiv (for the first time in nearly a month), as well as the oblasts of Odesa, Poltava, Vinnytsia, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv on Thursday evening. Ukraine says it shot down 21 of those 26. The following night, Russia launched another 12; Ukraine’s military said it shot down eight of those Friday. They aren’t believed to have caused significant damage, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, writing Friday evening.
The war in Ukraine is now fueling economic growth in Europe, but “Hiring enough workers to meet the demand will likely be tricky,” the Journal reported separately on Monday from both sides of the Atlantic.
One big obstacle: “Defense jobs can require niche skills and security clearances,” and “defense companies are all trying to hire at the same time in a field that has long struggled to meet recruitment goals.” Meanwhile for the U.S. side, “defense companies have been wrestling with labor shortages since last year, when they accelerated efforts to replace workers who didn’t return from pandemic furloughs.”
Consider these numbers: “Europe’s largest defense company, BAE Systems PLC, is hiring 2,600 this year for its apprentice and graduate training programs, and several thousand more for other roles,” according to the Journal. And “Missile maker MBDA wants to add 2,000 workers, equivalent to more than 15% of its workforce. Others including Saab AB, the Swedish maker of the Gripen jet fighter, and Rheinmetall AG, the German company that helps make the Leopard tank, also plan to hire thousands of new workers.” Read on, here.
Related reading: “Ukraine war spurs record global spending on military, Stockholm think tank says,” Reuters reported Sunday. Read over that report in full, here.
Discord leaks latest: It all began much earlier than just the last few months. The U.S. airman who leaked Pentagon documents online had been sharing classified information about the Ukraine war for months, and to a larger audience than was initially thought, the New York Times reported Friday.
Rewind: Jack Teixeira has been charged with posting classified information in a 50-person group on the video game server Discord. He’s accused of leaking those documents starting in October 2022, the Times writes. But he may have been posting intelligence information in a larger group—about 600 people—since February 2022, according to Bellingcat’s Aric Toler, who worked with the Times again for this development.
Less than 48 hours after Russia invaded Ukraine, a user whose profile matches Teixeira’s posted, “Saw a pentagon report saying that ⅓rd of the force is being used to invade.” That user also posted “I have a little more than open source info. Perks of being in a USAF intel unit.”
- “Pentagon Leaks Add Pressure to Overhaul Security Clearances,” the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday;
- “FBI leak investigators home in on members of private Discord server,” the Washington Post reported Friday from their ongoing coverage.
China’s French ambassador walked back surprising remarks on Ukraine this weekend, when Ambassador Lu Shaye claimed that former Soviet republics “don't have actual status in international law because there is no international agreement to materialize their sovereign status,” according to an interview on French TV. Reuters tried reaching out to China’s embassy in Paris about the comments, but no one responded. Furthermore, “A transcript of Lu's remarks posted on the Chinese embassy's official WeChat account were subsequently deleted.”
Officials from France to the Baltics, as well as Ukraine, protested almost immediately—with Paris insisting, e.g., “On Ukraine specifically, it was internationally recognized within borders including Crimea in 1991 by the entire international community, including China.”
One Ukrainian advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak, warned Beijing on Twitter Sunday, “It is strange to hear an absurd version of the "history of Crimea" from a representative of a country that is scrupulous about its thousand-year history. If you want to be a major political player, do not parrot the propaganda of Russian outsiders.”
Update: Beijing’s Foreign Ministry tried to distance itself from the ambassador’s comments, with spokeswoman Mao Ning telling reporters Monday, “China respects all countries’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and upholds the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”
Mao also tried to sidestep China’s awkward position on Russia’s Ukraine invasion, insisting to reporters several times on Monday, “China’s position is objective, just and clear: We will continue to work with the international community to make our own contribution to facilitating a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.” Read the rest from that engagement, here.
- “China Accuses Newspaper Editor of Espionage After Meeting With Diplomat,” the Wall Street Journal reported Monday from Singapore;
- “Philippines, China to set up more lines of communication to resolve maritime issues,” Reuters reported Saturday from Manila;
- And don’t miss the rare story of explorers who recently located a Japanese ship torpedoed in 1942 with over 1,000 Allied POWs onboard; the Associated Press has more, reporting from Sydney on Saturday, here.
And lastly this morning: Get a better handle on what the U.S. military and “tech billionaires” have in common when it comes to the latest developments with fusion. Hint: It involves a “toaster-sized power system” for some truly out-there equipment. The Journal’s Jennifer Hiller has that special report, published Sunday, here.