The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 55

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, March 11th, 2024

Good morning everyone,

It’s a routine morning, so let’s jump right in today.

In Europe, Sweden joins NATO, the US warns of a potential terror threat in Moscow, and the Russian’s leak German military intelligence.

Over in the Middle East, several Palestinians are accidentally killed by aid packages, Al-Qaeda gets a new leader, and the United States deploys to Gaza to build a humanitarian port.

Meanwhile, in Africa, Senegal sets an election date after political turmoil, Sudan faces a historic food crisis, and the African Union analyzes the Pretoria Agreement.

In the Americas, Venezuelan intelligence services arrest a member of the oppositions campaign, Colombia experiences wide-spread protests, and Ecuador continues it’s state of emergency.

In Asia and Oceania, an unknown driver rams the front gate of Xi Jinping’s residence, Japan and South Korea meet, and India captures Chinese supplied military tools for Pakistan.

It’s just another day at the office. Let's take a look:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr, & the Atlas team

US Bill Introduced to Ban TikTok

March 5th, 2024: (2 Minute Read) A House Bill has been introduced, named the “Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” which will ban TikTok unless its Chinese parent company ByteDance fully divests and severs ties with the app.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and was backed by 18 other Democrat and Republican lawmakers.

The Bill seeks to “protect the national security of the United States from the threat posed by foreign adversary controlled applications, such as TikTok and any successor application or service and any other application or service developed or provided by ByteDance Ltd. or an entity under the control of ByteDance Ltd.”

ByteDance, like many companies in China, maintains ties with the CCP, raising concerns that the personal data obtained through the app could be accessed by the Chinese government or military. TikTok has maintained that user data is not a risk.

According to a statement by the Select Committee on the CCP, the Bill has three main components:

  • Unless TikTok is fully divested such that it is no longer controlled by a PRC-based entity, the application will face a prohibition in the U.S. from app store availability and web hosting services until such time as a divestment occurs.

  • Establishes a process for the President to designate other foreign adversary controlled social media applications that shall face a prohibition on app store availability and access to web hosting services in the United States unless they sever ties to the foreign adversary-controlled company. The President may exercise this authority if:

    • An application presents a national security threat

    • Has over one million annual active users

    • And is under the control of a foreign adversary entity

NOTE: This would allow for other apps controlled by Russian, Iranian, Cuban, and Venezuelan companies to be subject to the Bill

  • Designated applications must provide users with a copy of their data in a format that can be imported into an alternative social media application. All users would be able to download their data and content and transition to another platform.


March 7th, 2024 - Sweden has officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The White House said in a statement, “Having Sweden as a NATO Ally will make the United States and our Allies even safer.” Sweden’s ascension as the 32nd member of the alliance follows neighboring Finland, after the two countries fought a lengthy political battle with Turkey and Hungary to receive the required unanimous consent among current member states. Sweden sought this alliance, along with Finland, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The ceremony will likely take place on Monday, the 11th, at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. During the ceremony, the Swedish flag will be raised for the first time among the flags of the other NATO members.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson. (Photo - Tom Samuelsson/Government Offices)

March 7th, 2024 - The United States State Department issued an urgent security alert warning that the American Embassy in Russia is monitoring potential terrorist attacks in Moscow over the coming days. They have advised all U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings. According to the advisory statement: “The Embassy is monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts, and U.S. citizens should be advised to avoid large gatherings over the next 48 hours.” The exact threat or by what group remains unknown and Russia is currently classified as a level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory by the State Department.

March 5th, 2024 - A German meeting regarding the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine was leaked by Russia following a technical blunder by a member of staff on Tuesday. The leaked discussion, likely intercepted by chance through widespread surveillance, focused on the delivery of weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by the Ukrainian military on a bridge in Crimea. The participant dialed into the Webex meeting from Singapore, where it was likely intercepted by Russian intelligence through regular intelligence gathering efforts. Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius stated that Webex was authorized to be used in meetings of lesser importance but stated the German government would continue to investigate the breach in order to uncover if sensitive issues were discussed that shouldn't have been. Pistorius further claimed that Russia leaked the meeting in order to sow distrust between Germany and his allies. While Germany's allies have expressed continued trust, some voices, like former British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, have criticized Germany's security measures, suggesting they are neither secure nor reliable.

Middle East

March 8th, 2024 - According to claims from Gazan health officials, five people were killed when an aid package being airdropped over Gaza faced complications while dropping, with the parachute seemingly failing to deploy. The main package quickly fell to the ground, and debris from the package scattered around, impacting several locations. The incident, but not the reported fatalities, was caught on video by a journalist within Gaza. The airdrop took place over al-Shati, which is north of Gaza city.

March 10th, 2024 - Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced the death of their leader, Khaled Batarfi al-Kindi through a statement. The AQAP spokesperson, Ibrahim al-Qossi said the group named Saad bin Atif al-Awlaki as his successor. Al-Qossi did not say how al-Kindi died or say where he died.

March 7th, 2024 - During the State of the Union address, United States President Joe Biden has announced that American forces will be deployed to construct a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza to transfer humanitarian aid shipments. The announcement comes after a series of airdrops of aid carried out by the US, France, Jordan, and Egypt over Gaza over the past week, following increased reports of famine throughout the region, particularly in the north, where the UNRWA has halted aid deliveries due to continued fighting and lack of supplies. US officials have told American media that the port plan will move forward without waiting for any sort of Israeli approval, however, there will be coordination with Israeli forces in regard to security.


March 8th, 2024 - After a several-week political crisis, Senegal has set its official election date for the presidential election for March 24th. The official date comes after the Senegalese Constitutional Court ruled that the proposed date of June 2nd would be unconstitutional, as it would be after the end of President Macky Sall’s official term ending on April 2nd. Senegal experienced one of its worst-ever political crises after the government delayed the initial February 25th election for 10 months until December 15th, pending a parliamentary inquiry into the independence of two of the judges. The inquiry was opened after two primary opposition leaders were barred from running in the election by the court.

Senegalese President Macky Sall (Photo from Bloomberg).

March 7th, 2024 - The World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that the hunger crisis within Sudan is threatening to become the world’s largest. The WFP stated that approximately 25 million people across Sudan, Chad, and South Sudan are “trapped in a spiral” of food insecurity. 18 million of those are within Sudan itself, of which five million are experiencing emergency levels of hunger. 90% of those at emergency levels are in areas completely inaccessible to aid organizations. Matters have been made worse after the WFP said that “authorities” had barred them from delivering aid into the Darfur region from Chad. While they did not explicitly state who the “authorities” were, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces control the overwhelming majority of Darfur. 

March 7th, 2024 - The African Union (AU) is hosting a ‘Strategic Review’ of the Pretoria Agreement, the peace deal that was responsible for ending the Tigray War, which raged from November 3rd, 2020, to November 3rd, 2022. The review is in order to examine whether the provisions of the agreement have been properly implemented. The review is to involve envoys from the AU, the Ethiopian government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the EU, the UN, and the US. The US has sent their Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, in order to both attend the review as well as to meet with Ethiopian government officials in order to discuss ongoing conflicts within the Amhara and Oromia regions of Ethiopia. 

The Americas

March 8th, 2024 - The campaign director and regional coordinator for their party, Vente Venezuela, of Venezuelan opposition candidate Maria Machado was arrested by the nation’s intelligence service, SEBIN, on Friday. Authorities announced on Saturday that the director, Emil Brandt, was arrested on charges of conspiracy, alleging the director participated in anti-government protests before adding that he will be charged under anti-terrorism laws in the capital. This comes amid a number of opposition candidates being banned from running for public office as President Maduro seeks to consolidate power for the upcoming Venezuelan presidential elections, slated for sometime in 2024. Machado was previously barred from holding public office in 2023, with the ban being upheld by the Supreme Court in late January. The ban led to the United States revoking a portion of their sanctions relief in late January, reimposing sanctions on Venezuela’s gold mining industry, with the US claiming that the bans violated the 2023 Barbados agreement. The Barbados agreement was signed in order to promote political rights and electoral guarantees for those wishing to run for office. The agreement outlines several key points, including recognizing the right of political actors to choose their candidates freely and promoting electoral guarantees before the National Electoral Council.

(Photo - Telegraph)

March 6th, 2024 - Protests against Colombian President Gustavo Petro erupted on Wednesday after opposition leaders within Colombia called for citizens to take to the streets to protest Petro’s controversial “total peace” policy alongside several reforms the leftist president wishes to pass through Congress. The protests were largely within the nation’s capital of Bagota, where thousands converged on the Plaza de Bolivar, a square that houses key cultural buildings as well as the nation’s Congressional building, with one congressman, Miguel Polo Polo, claiming that 60 thousand Colombians had gathered there for their voices to be heard. Protestors can be seen with signs demanding that Petro be removed from office, signs against abortion, and banners spreading awareness regarding recent disappearances alleged to be connected to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Other cities, including Cali and Medellín, among others, also saw protests, while police estimate that nearly 52,000 people have taken action in these protests nationwide. Petro’s plan for “total peace” within Colombia has led to some criticism, as opposition candidates have alleged the president’s previous membership in the communist M-18 movement has influenced his decision to make peace with a number of communist guerrilla groups, including the FARC as well as the National Liberation Army of Colombia. While a ceasefire has been signed between these two groups and the government, critics claim that violence against rural populations still persists despite the agreements.

March 8th, 2024 - The Ecuadorian President, Daniel Noboa, re-signed the nation’s state of emergency on Friday, marking nearly the third consecutive month of the security situation within the country. The President stated the declaration was vital in order to maintain military participation across the country as well as to reassert control across the various prisons within the nation. President Noboa originally declared an emergency in early January following the escape of infamous crime lord José Macias, better known as Fito, from a prison within Guayaquil. A surge in violent crime followed the escape as well as Noboa’s declaration, leading to the takeover of a TV station and the capture of 130 prison guards and administration employees who have since been released.

Asia and Oceania

March 10th, 2024 - An unknown individual reportedly drove onto the sideway near the entrance of Zhongnanhai in an attempt to ram the Xinhua Gate in the early morning. Zhongnanhai is the residence of not only Chinese leader Xi Jinping but also State Council and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo members and their families. In the footage, several plain-clothed police officers drag the individual out of the vehicle, a black sedan, and carry him away from the scene. Recent images of Xinhua Gate match the appearance of the gate in the video, indicating that the video is not old. While it is unknown why the individual drove their vehicle onto the sideway and the steps of Xinhua Gate, it is likely to protest the current socio-economic situation in China and its effect on most of the country’s population.

Screenshot of Chinese plainsclothes police officers detaining the individual after he attempted to drive into Zhongnanhai (Photo - via X, formally known as Twitter/@whyyoutouzhele)

March 8th, 2024 - South Korea and Japan held a vice-ministerial meeting in Tokyo, discussing methods to increase economic and financial cooperation between the two nations. South Korea’s Deputy Finance Minister Choi Ji-young met with his Japanese counterpart, Vice Finance Minister Masato Kanda. The two ministers discussed “issues of mutual concern,” such as ways to address the global economic and financial markets. They also discussed how to increase cooperation on the issues together to mutually promote prosperity for both nations and on a proposed meeting between the nations’ financial ministers, similar to the June 2023 meeting that focused on bilateral relations, which both nations’ plan to expand as time goes on. In 2023, South Korea and Japan agreed to revive a $10 billion USD currency swap deal that had expired in 2015.

March 2nd, 2024 - Indian news outlets reported that Indian authorities intercepted and seized suspected dual-use military equipment bound for Pakistan in late January. Indian customs officials initially boarded and inspected the cargo of the Malta-flagged vessel, CMA CGM Attila, during its stop at the Nhava Sheva port located in the city of Navi Mumbai. The officials boarded the vessel due to noticing discrepancies with the consignment’s suspected Bill of Lading (BOL) during regular inspections of the vessel’s cargo. Specifically, the BOL said the consigner was a Chinese company, Shanghai JXE Global Logistics Co. Ltd., while the bill identified the consignee as Sialkot-based Pakistan Wings Pvt. Ltd. However, the officials found another BOL that identified the actual consigner as Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co. Ltd. and the actual recipient as Cosmos Engineering, based in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. The equipment that was outlined on the fraudulent BOL was identified as an Italian-manufactured CNC machine that weighed approximately 24 tons (22 metric tons) that had military and civilian uses. The machine was assumed to be set to used in the manufacture of Pakistani weapons.

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