Fdd's overnight brief

August 11, 2022

In The News


The Justice Department charged a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on Wednesday with planning to assassinate John R. Bolton, who served as the national security adviser to President Donald J. Trump, as payback for the killing of a senior Iranian official. – New York Times

Iran has begun training Russian officials to use its advanced drones, according to the Biden administration, the latest sign that Moscow plans to use Tehran’s military weapons to try to seize a new aerial advantage in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

The White House warned Iran on Wednesday after the Justice Department charged a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in connection with a plot to kill former national security adviser John Bolton. – The Hill 

Former national security adviser John Bolton on Wednesday slammed the Biden administration for negotiating with Iran on a new nuclear deal after it was revealed he was targeted in an Iranian assassination attempt, saying attempts to “appease” Tehran are encouraging threats against U.S. officials. – The Hill

A new Iranian satellite has surveillance capabilities that present a serious problem for Israel due to its ability to monitor sensitive sites in the country, snapping high-resolution images of objects on the ground, experts have warned. The Khayyam satellite, built and launched by Russia on behalf of Iran, lofted into orbit on Tuesday from the Russia-controlled Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. – Times of Israel

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also a target of the Iranian assassination plot which targeted former National Security Advisor John Bolton, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing a federal law enforcement source familiar with the investigation and a source close to Pompeo. – Arutz Sheva

Joe Lieberman and Mark D. Wallace write: Mr. Raisi meets all these standards. No treaty or U.N. host country agreement requires the U.S. to admit Mr. Raisi. The president of a country actively seeking to assassinate American citizens on U.S. soil shouldn’t be allowed to enter the U.S. at all. – Wall Street Journal

Thomas Halvorsen writes: On the one hand, a Russian alliance could provide economic relief and increased geopolitical leverage. On the other hand, such a relationship, if overwhelmingly skewed in Moscow’s favor,  would go against every anti-imperialist principle of the Islamic revolutionary narrative, forcing Iranians to overlook centuries of troublesome history with the hollow hopes that Russia might treat them differently this time. This is the challenge Iran faces today as it once again captures the attention of global powers vying to expand their spheres of influence. – Middle East Institute 

Stephen Silver writes: When pressed on the matter by host Jake Tapper, Bolton said he was talking about the failed regime change effort in Venezuela in 2019. However, Bolton had specifically stated in 2019 that what was happening in Venezuela was “not a coup.” – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

A powerful attack on a Russian air base in occupied Crimea was the work of Ukrainian special forces, a Ukrainian government official told The Washington Post on Wednesday, suggesting an increasingly important role for covert forces operating deep behind enemy lines as the country expands efforts to expel Russian troops. – Washington Post

Ukraine said Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in a deadly string of explosions at an air base in Crimea that appeared to be the result of a Ukrainian attack, which would represent a significant escalation in the war. – Associated Press

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, stoking international fears of a catastrophe on the continent. – Associated Press

Russian authorities detained a former state TV journalist who quit after staging an on-air protest against Moscow’s war in Ukraine and charged her Wednesday with spreading false information about Russia’s armed forces, according to her lawyer. – Associated Press

Heavy fighting raged around the eastern Ukrainian town of Pisky on Thursday as Russia pressed its campaign to seize all of the industrialised Donbas region, while to the west Kyiv accused Moscow of using a nuclear plant to shield its artillery. – Reuters

As Ukraine and Russia trade blame for shelling around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, one former employee said the consequences could be catastrophic and that she is terrified for her former colleagues at the facility in the town of Enerhodar. – NBC

Satellite images of the aftermath of deadly explosions at a Russian air base in Crimea show that several warplanes were destroyed in the blast, and the base sustained heavy damage. – Washington Examiner

Spencer Bokat-Lindell writes: In The National Interest, Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson argued that Ukraine’s allies can push the conflict in the direction of negotiations by conditioning military aid on diplomatic engagement, which they have so far been reluctant to do. If an opportunity for dialogue arises, Kyiv’s refusal to seize it would prompt a reduction in arms transfers to Ukraine, whereas Russia’s refusal would prompt an increase. – New York Times

Niko Vorobyov writes: Russia’s drug laws are cruel and an integral arm of the authoritarian state. Griner’s case has amplified that. It should also open our eyes to the drug war’s global toll on freedom and public health. Sadly, Russia is far from the only abuser. There are drug users all over the world in desperate need for compassionate addiction treatments. There are people languishing in prisons for possession and nonviolent offenses. – Washington Post

Victor Rud writes: We remain bulletproof against reality. Russia is not simply a state sponsor of terrorism. It was and remains the quintessential terrorist state. After eight years, we’re still rolling out sanctions? We must match Ukraine’s will and share its purpose. Strategic aphasia won’t cut it. – The Hill 

Kateryna Stepanenko, Katherine Lawlor, Angela Howard, Layne Philipson, Karolina Hird, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Russian officials remain confused about the August 9 attack on the Saki Air Base in Russian-occupied Crimea, over 225km behind Russian lines, which destroyed at least eight Russian aircraft and multiple buildings. – Institute for the Study of War

Cynthia R. Cook, Alexander Holderness, Grace Hwang,  Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and Jennifer Jun write: Alternatively, if there is evidence that Russia is importing these capabilities from other nations, this could be a signal of how it sees the world and how it wants to engage in its own strategic realignment. As the world moves to an era of great power competition where competition sits in a context of industrial integration and cooperation, understanding how industrial policy relates to other instruments of national power will be vital to estimating risk and responding to those seeking to undermine the international rules-based order. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld writes: Eroding Putin’s internal legitimacy is a safer path than attempting to disarm him in permanent direct battle—or ignoring his bloody imperial agenda and falling victim to the cowardly self-defeating path of appeasement. And this can only be done by broadening economic pressure toward comprehensiveness, working hand in hand with business. – Foreign Policy

Jack Detsch writes: “For Russia, this is shifting because before that, it was just shooting Ukrainians from the Black Sea that they hate on their own territories without fear,” said Ustinova, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who cautioned she did not know who was directly responsible for the strike. “Now they understand that this is part of their war and this can be dangerous for them.” – Foreign Policy


Eight terror suspects were arrested overnight in raids across the West Bank, the IDF said in a statement Thursday. There were no injuries to Israeli forces, and all of the suspects were taken for questioning. – Times of Israel

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said in a Wednesday interview that the US fully backed Israel in its fight against Gaza terrorists in the past week. The Israel Defense Forces launched airstrikes against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Friday, kicking off three days of fighting, before an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into force Sunday night. – Times of Israel

A United Nations team visited Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Bassem al-Saadi in Ofer prison as one of its top regional officials warned against another outbreak of Gaza violence. – Jerusalem Post

Ali Al-Amoudi, the head of the information department of the Hamas terrorist organization, says that the Israeli government continues to “sell illusions to the families of the prisoners of the occupation army” and does not provide any evidence regarding their situation. – Arutz Sheva

Russia’s embassy in Egypt on Tuesday lashed out at Prime Minister Yair Lapid, slamming him for past criticism of an alleged Russian massacre in Ukraine in light of the past weekend’s fighting in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian terrorists. – Times of Israel

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: The solution may be that Israel’s law may need to be amended with clearer specifications. This may mean that Israeli law may also need to abandon terms like “war” or “likely to lead to war” to relay with greater nuance what level of risk and suffering the home front can be exposed to without consulting the security cabinet. – Jerusalem Post

Orly Azoulay writes: The U.S. is tired of the ongoing Mideast blood bath. And that brings us to my earlier point – there is a connection between the nuclear talks and the military campaign in Gaza over the weekend. Washington was unimpressed by Israel’s swift action against the Islamic Jihad in the Strip. The terror group may have been dealt a sever blow, but the conflict remains unresolved and the next round of cross-border fighting is around the corner. – YNet

Geoffrey Aronson writes: It is still far too early to evaluate the prospects of the new nuclear order inaugurated by Biden’s Jerusalem Declaration. What is clear however is that the search is on to establish an effective successor to the JCPOA. – The National Interest


One year ago, the fall of Kabul to the Taliban stunned the world. Afghans fled to the airport in droves. A suicide bombing killed nearly 200 people. The departure of U.S. forces just days later brought an eerie quiet as the country grappled with its new reality. – Washington Post

More than 70 economists and experts, including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, called for Washington and other nations to release Afghanistan’s central bank assets in a letter sent to U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday. – Reuters

Since the Taliban swept back to power in August last year, hundreds of fighters have returned to school — either on their own or pushed by their commanders. The word “Taliban” actually means “students” in Arabic, and the hardline Islamist movement’s name stems from the religious schools in southern Afghanistan it emerged from in the 1990s. – Agence France-Presse

A year since returning to power in Afghanistan, the Taliban are a stronger military force than ever, but threats to their rule do exist. To tighten their grip, the Taliban have poured thousands of fighters into the Panshjir Valley, home to the only conventional military threat the Islamists have faced since their takeover. – Agence France-Presse

Jason Criss Howk writes: Next time, the Afghan people might add compromise to the system and see if they can make progress. If you want to hear Afghans discussing this concept, tune in to or attend the Annual Global Friends of Afghanistan-Georgetown University Afghanistan conference on September 1. – The National Interest

Gulf States

The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday overturned a three-year prison sentence for an American citizen who had represented slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, one of his lawyers and the Emirati judicial department said. – Associated Press

A unit of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund scooped up state-owned stakes in four Egyptian publicly listed companies for $1.3 billion, as part of the kingdom’s commitment to channel resources to the struggling economy of a country seen as a linchpin in the Arab world. – Bloomberg

Israeli soccer fans on Wednesday found their country was not on the list of FIFA, an international governing body of association football or soccer, member states ahead of the World Cup competition, due to take place in Qatar later this year. The list, however, includes “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” – Ynet

Middle East & North Africa

President Biden on Wednesday demanded that the Syrian government release freelance journalist and Washington Post contributor Austin Tice, saying that the United States knows that he has been held by their government. – Washington Post

Powerful Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday called on the country’s judiciary to dissolve parliament by end of next week, threatening unspecific consequences if it does not do what he says. – Reuters

Infighting among pro-government Yemeni forces has killed 35 troops in a southern province in the past 24 hours, officials said, a development that threatens a ceasefire in the country’s wider conflict. – Associated Press

Korean Peninsula

North Korea, which has one of the poorest health-care infrastructures in the world, now claims it has done what few other countries have accomplished: eradicate the coronavirus […] North Korea has also used the virus to attack South Korea, which it blames for its health crisis. Last month, state media blamed “alien things” from the South for bringing the virus across the border, warning of items such as balloons carrying propaganda leaflets released by anti-Pyongyang activists. – Washington Post

South Korea’s government stressed Wednesday it will make its own decisions in strengthening its defenses against North Korean threats, rejecting Chinese calls that it continue the polices of Seoul’s previous government that refrained from adding more U.S. anti-missile batteries that are strongly opposed by Beijing. – Associated Press

Climbing Russian casualties and reports suggesting that Russia is now looking to North Korea to aid its flagging troops raised eyebrows this week as some began to question whether Moscow would drag Pyongyang into its war in Ukraine. Russia expert and former intelligence officer in Russian doctrine and strategy for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Rebekah Koffler, threw cold water on these claims and said they were “implausible.” – Fox News


A Beijing court on Wednesday dealt a serious blow to China’s beleaguered #MeToo movement, rejecting the appeal of a woman whose harassment claims against a TV host had inspired dozens of others to open up about their assaults. – Washington Post

China, which Russia has sought as an ally since being cold-shouldered by the West over its invasion of Ukraine, has called the United States the “main instigator” of the crisis. – Reuters

China has withdrawn a promise not to send troops or administrators to Taiwan if it takes control of the island, an official document showed on Wednesday, signalling a decision by President Xi Jinping to grant less autonomy than previously offered. – Reuters

China on Wednesday repeated military threats against Taiwan while appearing to wind down wargames near the self-governing island it claims as its own territory that have raised tensions between the two sides to their highest level in years – Associated Press

China on Wednesday criticized a U.S. law to encourage processor chip production in the United States and reduce reliance on Asian suppliers as a threat to trade and an attack on Chinese business. – Associated Press

Hal Brands writes: It wouldn’t be the first time Xi has scored a diplomatic own goal. One of the defining characteristics of his foreign policy has been a remarkable capacity for convincing countries on multiple continents that China’s power must be checked. Amid the current crisis, Beijing’s military intimidation hasn’t bent Taiwan — but it has alarmed Japan and other countries in the Western Pacific. – Bloomberg

Matthew Brooker writes: Should Taiwan care about the white paper? Perhaps. Much of it might be considered bombast directed at a domestic audience; the timing, published in the wake of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island, underscores saber-rattling aimed at the US and its allies. But it is nevertheless a signal of intentions, and serves as a marker of the Communist Party’s sense of the evolving balance of strength across the Taiwan Strait. – Bloomberg

Joel Hickman writes: This may require a collective mix of reducing regulatory burdens, increasing competition, AI-facilitated horizon-scanning, backing innovation and startups, expanding our industrial base and enabling allies to do the same, and even increasing our tolerance for risk. What’s certain is that if we tread the same path as we have for the last 20 years, our competitors will quickly and permanently overtake us. – Center for European Policy Analysis

South Asia

Sri Lanka’s justice minister submitted a proposed constitutional amendment to Parliament on Wednesday that would clip the powers of the president, a key demand of protesters calling for political reforms and solutions to the country’s worst economic crisis. – Associated Press

Pakistani police Tuesday arrested a prominent politician from the party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan for allegedly attempting to incite soldiers to revolt against the top military leadership. – Associated Press

But in the last two years, since a deadly border clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Kashmir’s Ladakh region, policy makers in New Delhi have been increasingly turning their focus to Beijing, a significant shift in policy as the nation celebrates 75 years of independence. – Associated Press

Indian companies are using Asian currencies more often to pay for Russian coal imports, according to customs documents and industry sources, avoiding the U.S. dollar and cutting the risk of breaching Western sanctions against Moscow. – Reuters


The Biden administration is vowing to continue sailing warships through the Taiwan Strait and to conduct air operations in the region in response to Chinese military drills that U.S. officials say are evolving into a long-term strategy of heightened military pressure on the island. – New York Times

China’s war games around Taiwan have led Biden administration officials to recalibrate their thinking on whether to scrap some tariffs or potentially impose others on Beijing, setting those options aside for now, according to sources familiar with the deliberations. – Reuters

Taiwan rejects the “one country, two systems” model proposed by Beijing in a white paper published this week, the self-ruled island’s foreign ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday the United States could not allow China to normalize the new level of pressure on Taiwan it asserted with days of military drills following her visit to the Chinese-claimed island. – Reuters

The United States is doubling down on its investment in the Pacific, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Tuesday as she concluded a five-nation visit to the region where China has been making inroads. – Associated Press

China appeared to be rehearsing an invasion just miles away. World leaders issued forceful condemnations. But as Beijing’s military sent missiles and jets over their heads in a display of fury, many residents of Taiwan remained unmoved by what outside observers fear is a rising threat of war. – NBC

Christopher J. Coyne writes: An alternative view is that many opportunities exist to work together to find solutions with other nations. Instead of signaling weakness, working towards nonviolent solutions to pressing challenges shows significant strength through self-control and a determination consistent with America’s purported values. That is a perception worth cultivating. – The Hill 

James Palmer writes: Nationalism, overconfidence, fear, and stupidity are powerful forces in global affairs. But for the moment at least, the massive risk of China invading Taiwan—along with the assumption that the island can still be strong-armed into submission—work against the likelihood of war. – Foreign Policy


The U.S. will conduct more military exercises with Baltic nations such as Latvia, and look to provide increased training, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday, saying the U.S. may bring in additional troops from America if needed to bolster the region against any possible threat from Russia. – Associated Press

Slovak refinery Slovnaft on Wednesday said Russian oil was once more flowing to the EU member through Ukraine after supplies had been halted due to sanctions. – Agence France-Presse

Kosovo is prepared to stand against a possible attack by Serbia as worsening strife with minority Serbs could result in a new armed conflict, Prime Minister Albin Kurti told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. – Reuters

David Wallace-Wells writes: Whether that reaches a point where you start to see the West put pressure on Ukraine to capitulate, I think we’re pretty far away from that now, because everyone recognizes how outrageous and unacceptable Putin’s conduct is. But I think Putin believes that he can withstand the pain of this aggression longer than some other Western countries can. We’ll see whether there may be some truth to that in the months and years ahead. – New York Times

John R. Deni and Michael O’Hanlon writes: As the alliance’s military and strategic backbone, the U.S. should for the first time establish a permanent troop presence in the Baltic region. A brigade of aggregate combat power would complement what the U.S. already has stationed in Poland. Europe doesn’t need a big military buildup. But NATO’s commitment should be forward-deployed, combat-capable and resolute. – Wall Street Journal

Daniel Kochis writes: Today, 16+1 is dying a slow death. Many European nations downgraded their participation in the group’s February 2021 virtual summit. It is time for the remaining 16 to follow Lithuania’s lead, abandon the initiative, and put the format out of its misery. – Heritage Foundation

Ben Judah writes: Her main battle will be the one at home. Constricting economic pressure will be making itself felt in Downing Street over the coming winter. Britain’s latest self-styled heir to Margaret Thatcher is unlikely to have as much time for foreign policy or economic space to stand up to either the EU over Northern Ireland or China over geopolitics as she might hope. That doesn’t mean she won’t at first try. – Foreign Policy

Kathleen Doherty writes: However, the attitudes and opinions of the potential coalition parties—and of Italian voters who have fueled their momentum—should be of great concern to Washington. The Biden administration has done an extraordinary job revitalizing NATO and the trans-Atlantic partnership. Now it needs to shore up its relationship with one key partner, Italy, and with Italians. The United States and NATO cannot have Italy become the alliance’s weak link. – Foreign Policy


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Rwanda, the last stop on his three-nation tour of Africa where he has articulated Washington’s new strategy for engaging with sub-Saharan African nations as “equal partners.” – Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that his country will support the efforts led by Kenya and Angola to put an end to the violence in Congo’s east and to help solve the central African nation’s crisis with Rwanda. – Associated Press

The threat from the Islamic State extremist group is growing by the day in Africa and the continent could be “the future of the caliphate,” an African security expert warned the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday. – Associated Press

When Israel’s non-resident ambassador to the Republic of Chad, Ben Bourgel, presented his credentials to President Mahamat Idriss Déby in May, the biggest surprise was that it all felt very normal. – Jewish Insider 

Howard W. French writes: In this era of greater plurality in world affairs, the United States and the rest of the West will be obliged to compete on a much more virtuous basis in the global south than they did during the Cold War. In matters of soft goods like governance and capacity-building, as much as in hard ones like infrastructure, this will mean proving their effectiveness like never before. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

Costa Rica is readying a plan to regularize the status of some 200,000 migrants, largely from the Central American country’s northern neighbor Nicaragua, authorities told Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters

In decidedly undiplomatic language, Brazil’s economy minister has renewed a spat with France over deforestation in the Amazon, telling the European nation it is becoming “irrelevant” and risks being told where to stick its criticism. – Agence France-Presse

The U.S. military announced late on Tuesday that a Russian surveillance aircraft had intruded into the U.S. air defense identification zone near Alaska on “two separate occasions, over the past two days.” – Washington Examiner

A fear of attacks that had rippled through Muslim communities nationwide after the fatal shootings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque gave way to shock and sadness when it turned out the suspect in the killings is one of their own. – Associated Press


While tech giants including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok have succeeded in crimping the reach of the largest Russian state media outlets, partly in response to European sanctions, new research highlights blind spots in their efforts. And Ukrainian officials are calling on them to recognize and adapt to changing Russian tactics. – Washington Post

Facebook sparked outrage by complying with US police probing an abortion case, boosting simmering fears the platform will be a tool for clamping down on the procedure. – Agence France-Presse

So far in 2022, the Federal Communications Commission has received more than 8,500 complaints about “unwanted text messages,” according to a consumer alert released last month. That number is on track to surpass the number of complaints in 2021, which included 15,300 messages. But according to industry data, the number is likely just a small sliver of the problem. Spam-blocking app RoboKiller estimated that consumers received more than 12 billion robotexts in June alone. – CyberScoop

The Chinese government appears to use its software vulnerability disclosure rules to preview dangerous zero-day flaws before tech companies can deploy fixes, a top Department of Homeland Security official said Wednesday. – CyberScoop

Andy Mukherjee writes: If a comparison with a global financial center like Singapore is not very helpful, maybe India should look to Thailand for inspiration. There, the existing digital regulations are being tweaked to actively create a role for the central bank in safeguarding investors at licensed entities like Zipmex (Thailand) Ltd., a cryptocurrency exchange that briefly suspended coin withdrawals. All that the RBI wants, meanwhile, is a blanket ban on crypto because “it is not possible to regulate something that one cannot define.” – Bloomberg


The past year has been hard on the carrier aviation community. Since November, three fighter jets — two of them highly advanced stealth aircraft — worth some $300 million have gone overboard due to accidents aboard aircraft carriers. The string of mishaps shows how tricky it can be to operate an aircraft aboard an aircraft carrier. – Business Insider

Late last year, government employees forged a copy of a license to buy hazardous, radioactive material. They created shell companies, then placed orders, generated invoices and paid two U.S.-based vendors. – Defense News

A new U.S. Marine Corps regiment has shown how it can protect a carrier strike group while navigating through a strait, using only sensors, an unmanned truck armed with anti-ship missiles, and a fires and air detection unit. – Defense News

Maxar Technologies will build 14 spacecraft platforms for L3Harris Technologies as part of a Pentagon program for tracking missile threats, including from hypersonic systems, Maxar announced Tuesday. – Defense News

Brent Sadler writes: It is heartening that Congress has sought greater clarity from the Navy about its fleet needs for both peacetime competition and warfighting. It would be better if this report and the rationale for 373 ships could be shared openly. And better still to have a Navy acquisition chief in place to ensure those requirements are adequately resourced and met. – Heritage Foundation

Long War

China on Wednesday blocked the imposition of U.N. sanctions sought by the United States and India against the deputy chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based extremist group designated by the United Nations as a terrorist organization. – Associated Press

Militants attacked an Indian army post in the disputed Kashmir region on Thursday, killing three soldiers, while two attackers died in the shootout that came amid heightened security ahead of India’s independence day celebrations. – Reuters

A man accused of being part of a notorious Islamic State group cell which murdered hostages, has been arrested on terror charges in the UK. Aine Davis, of west London, flew into Luton airport after his release from a Turkish jail where he was serving a seven-and-a-half-year sentence for membership of the terror group. – BBC