Today's D Brief: Japan’s plea to Congress; Iraq seeks US reboot; Houthi drones, downed; CYBERCOM’s elite force; And a bit more.

Japan’s prime minister warned U.S. lawmakers against abandoning Ukraine in a special address to Congress Thursday evening. “Russia's unprovoked, unjust, and brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has entered its third year. As I often say, Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the U.S. Capitol. 

“Without U.S. support, how long before the hopes of Ukraine would collapse under the onslaught from Moscow? Without the presence of the United States, how long before the Indo-Pacific would face even harsher realities?” he asked. 

Tokyo has not been idle, Kishida said. “Japan has taken strong sanctions against Russia in the wake of its aggression against Ukraine. We have announced over $12 billion in aid to Ukraine, including anti-drone detection systems. This is part of NATO's aid package, and yes, we are even working with NATO on the other side of the world from us. I might add that in February, to help a devastated Ukraine get through these agonizing times, I hosted the conference for Ukraine's economic growth and reconstruction. Japan will continue to stand with Ukraine.”

A message to Americans: “I want to address those Americans who feel the loneliness and exhaustion of being the country that has upheld the international order almost singlehandedly. I understand it is a heavy burden to carry such hopes on your shoulders. Although the world looks to your leadership, the U.S. should not be expected to do it all, unaided and on your own. Yes, the leadership of the United States is indispensable…The democratic nations of the world must have all hands on deck. I am here to say that Japan is already standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States. You are not alone. We are with you.” Reuters and the Associated Press have a bit more. 

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 63 while serving an unprecedented fourth term as commander-in-chief.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani wants to reboot his country’s relationship with the U.S., he explained in Foreign Affairs this week, just a few days ahead of his scheduled state visit to the White House on April 15. “Today, we need to protect our strategic partnership by bringing it to a new phase,” he wrote, emphasizing “the sovereignty and independence of Iraq without foregoing fruitful cooperation” between the two countries. 

The new “phase” Sudani seeks is largely concerned with moving beyond the war on ISIS, which has been going on for more than a decade. For example, he acknowledged, “My government is aware of its sensitive position and the delicate balance that it must maintain between the United States and groups that sometimes enter into direct conflict with American forces.” 

However, Sudani also stressed that he and his fellow lawmakers in Baghdad “reject attacks on American interests in Iraq or in neighboring countries,” which is at least partly an allusion to February U.S. military airstrikes on Iran-backed militia leaders and infrastructure both inside Iraq and across the border in Syria. Those strikes came in response to a militia attack on a U.S. base in Jordan that killed three soldiers and wounded more than 40 others in late January. He did not say what he would do if such attacks continued in the near future. 

“Iraq must be dealt with on the basis of sovereignty and mutual respect, not as a proxy for other conflicts,” said Sudani. And while this sounds fantastic, it also would seem to be an exceptionally tall order given the degree to which Iranian influence quite naturally extends to Baghdad politics. 

Sudani noted that he and his comrades in Baghdad “need time to manage internal complexities,” but added with some optimism, “The time has thus come to turn a page and redirect our resources and capabilities from waging wars toward promoting development.” Referencing some root causes of extremism, he noted, “Ultimate victory over terrorism is unattainable without genuine development, including a decent standard of health care, education, and other essential services…It is also crucial that we combat corruption,” he said. 

What’s particularly new amid this talk of rebooting the relationship? More U.S. investment would be nice, naturally, according to Sudani. Indeed, “Iraq’s current stability should encourage American companies to take part in significant development projects in energy, telecommunications, housing, health care, education, transport, and more,” he wrote. And still, he predicted, “The fight against terrorism will continue to be a central topic for both of our governments.” More, here

A second opinion: “Washington should first let Sudani prove that he is more than the ‘general manager’ for a cabal of terrorists running today’s Iraq,” Mike Knights of the Washington Institute wrote in February. “Sudani can be a real prime minister of a real sovereign state if he wants to be, but that will require taking risk,” he wrote. Read his take in full, here

By the way: It’s been more than a year since the researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov was kidnapped in Baghdad. The White House could use next week’s visit to bring up the matter with Sudani. 

It’s also been 20 years since the Pentagon’s disgraceful Abu Ghraib prison scandal erupted with the release of photos showing the abuse of Iraqi detainees. And starting Monday, three survivors of that abuse will finally begin their court case in a civil suit against military contractor CACI, whom the survivors say is “responsible for setting the conditions that resulted in the torture they endured, citing evidence in government investigations,” according to the Associated Press. That case is set for Monday at a District Court in Alexandria. Read more, here.

The U.S. military destroyed nearly a dozen apparent Houthi drones Wednesday inside and off the coast of Yemen. “Two UAVs were launched over the Gulf of Aden and one UAV was launched over the Red Sea,” while the others were hit in unspecified Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, according to defense officials at Central Command

U.S. forces also destroyed an anti-ship ballistic missile over the Red Sea on Thursday. The missile did not damage or harm ships or personnel, CENTCOM said

Do states need a ‘Space Force militia’? Air Force says no. Whether to build a Space National Guard has been debated ever since the creation of the Space Force. 

Opponents say it would cost too much and that states don’t need military space forces. “The governors may have a different view, but I don't see a reason why a state needs a Space Force militia,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said Wednesday at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The topic is newly hot because of the service’s recent legislative proposal to allow the Department of the Air Force to move people into the Space Force from the Guard in seven states. 

This quickly drew objections from Guard supporters. But Kendall on Wednesday said the numbers were “negligible” and that the department was not vying for some larger move of Air National Guard troops into the Space Force. D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here.

It's getting harder to identify China's network attacks, Mandiant's CEO says. “The best offense masquerades as an insider, quite frankly, and does not use malware,” Kevin Mandia told Nextgov in an interview. That describes the Volt Typhoon hacking group, who have been using “living-off-the-land techniques” that allow them to hide inside U.S. infrastructure systems and bypass detection, as CISA reported last year.

Also: it's probably easier for a foreign actor to sway an election through misinformation than hacking, Mandia said. Read on, here.

CYBERCOM has an elite “hunt-forward” force whose members deployed 22 times to more than a dozen countries last year, the command’s new chief told lawmakers on Wednesday. Defense News: “Hunt-forward missions are executed at the invitation of a foreign government and are not always disclosed. They’re part of CYBERCOM’s persistent engagement strategy — a means of being in constant contact with adversaries and ensuring proactive, not reactive, moves are made.” More, here.