Fdd's overnight brief

August 12, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran’s new president presented a Cabinet dominated by hard-liners on Wednesday, state TV reported, providing one of the first glimpses into the policies he might pursue over the next four years. – Associated Press

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday urged Iran to return to the Vienna negotiations on reviving a nuclear deal as soon as possible. – Reuters

U.S. officials who visited Israel with CIA Director William Burns believe that the chances of Iran returning to the 2015 nuclear deal are slim, Israeli officials familiar with the details said Wednesday. – Haaretz

A senior Iranian official tweeted a message in Hebrew on Wednesday amid high tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran, though the purpose of the message seemingly aimed at Israel was not immediately clear. – Times of Israel

Robert Satloff writes: Reasonable people can disagree on the wisdom of resurrecting the JCPOA. But if Washington is committed to that course, the tactical path runs through an effective response to the Mercer Street attack. It won’t ensure the success of nuclear diplomacy but will remove one key obstacle to a deal. – Foreign Policy

Amin Naeni writes: Nevertheless, the Raisi administration will need to promote an African orientation in its foreign policy to convince international and particularly domestic audiences that the county has alternatives. This highlights the importance of the worldview that the “world is not limited to the West,” regardless of the outcomes. [….]While Rouhani was interested in reviving the deal as a way to improve Iran’s relationship with the West, the new administration aims to take advantage of the JCPOA to invest in non-Western countries to further protect itself against the West. – Middle East Institute

John W. Miller writes: Over the longer term, Washington should lead an effort to form a regional, multilayered air defense and early warning network to enable faster identification and response against Iranian attacks. […]America and its partners must push back on Iran’s naval and drone aggression. Accomplishing this goal requires a steadfast and comprehensive approach. Failure to do so may invite even greater aggression from Tehran. – Algemeiner


Israel is set to approve construction of new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank but in a rare step will also grant permits for Palestinian housing construction, an Israeli security official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

A Palestinian man who was part of Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades passed away on Wednesday after succumbing to wounds sustained during clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank city of Jenin last week, according to Palestinian media. – Jerusalem Post

Israel on Wednesday urged the international community to condemn the appointment to Iran’s new cabinet of a “criminal” wanted by Interpol over his alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. – Associated Press

Deadly rocket and mortar fire on Israeli cities by Palestinian militant groups during a May conflict in and around Gaza constituted war crimes, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. – Agence France-Presse

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan sent a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres and to the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, UN Under-Secretary-General Philippe Lazzarini after UN officials were barred by Hamas from inspecting an UNRWA school in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza. – Arutz Sheva

Elder of Ziyon writes: Hamas has started a military training camp under the name “Sword of Jerusalem” for Gazans. […]This is more proof that rather than investing their limited resources into rebuilding Gaza and improving the lives of average citizens, Hamas remains committed to its one true goal: murdering Jews and destroying the Jewish state. – Algemeiner

Gulf States

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Wednesday named an ambassador to Saudi Arabia after Riyadh in June reinstated its envoy to Doha, in another sign of improved ties after rival Gulf states agreed this year to end a long-running dispute. – Reuters

Editorial: There is more to do on key issues. The Saudis want to see more progress on the Palestinian front, for instance, and they have not normalized ties with Israel. The Iranian threat is growing, as evidenced by the attack on a ship off the coast of Oman. However, the current trend with Bahrain shows how Manama’s role has been key and should be heralded. – Jerusalem Post

Terry Strada writes: For nearly 20 years, the 9/11 community has been fighting not only the Saudi government for accountability and justice but also our own government, which has prioritized short-term diplomacy over transparency to its citizens. […]As we look to that day, we are not seeking compassion or words of condolence from our commander in chief. We are looking for him to lead – now – and recognize that 9/11 is more than a date to honor, but a wound that deepens for us with each slight and each passing year. – USA Today

Middle East & North Africa

Morocco’s foreign minister told his visiting Israeli counterpart on Wednesday that their countries’ newly upgraded ties would bring economic benefits, and urged him to work towards a two-state solution in Israel’s long-running conflict with the Palestinians. – Reuters

Several Lebanese parties said on Wednesday they would boycott a parliamentary session called to discuss a proposal that critics say would effectively derail judicial efforts to question senior officials over the Beirut port blast. – Reuters

Libya’s presidential elections this year were meant to be a key marker in the oil-rich North African state’s return to stability after years of civil war. Instead, they risk unleashing more chaos as outside powers try to leverage their preferred candidates into place. – Bloomberg

Richard Norland met with Khalifa Hifter, commander of the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. The meeting was part of U.S. efforts to support Libyan parliamentary and presidential elections in December, the U.S. Embassy said. – Associated Press

Pinar Tremblay writes: The nanny state in Turkey is working to protect the interests of its own cronies, not those of the public. And the public now asks us to vote for the presidential system because of its promises of efficiency. There is no good in crying over spilled milk. It is efficient and prompt in benefiting the president and his men. That was the silent part of the promise. When Turkish voters handed over their nascent democratic institutions to the dream of efficient one-man rule, they should have known that they can no longer ask questions or hold their government accountable. – Jerusalem Post

Nimrod Goren writes: Lapid would do well to present his Moroccan counterparts a regional agenda for Israel-Morocco relations, and to increase the number of Israeli diplomats serving in Rabat to facilitate its realization. Morocco views itself as a country that strives to advance stability and security in the regions around it. Adding a regional framing to bilateral ties could therefore contribute to additional upgrading of Israel-Morocco relations and yield substantive benefits for both Israeli and Moroccan foreign policy. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J Frantzman writes: That test came with the conflict in Gaza in May. The Accords survived and are flourishing, according to those who helped craft them and according to experts, academics, cultural, religious and political figures from the US to Israel and the Gulf. In the course of writing this article I reached out to a large number of people, most of whom agreed to speak on the record and provide exclusive details to the Magazine. – Jerusalem Post


Korean Peninsula

North Korea intends to strengthen cooperation with Russia to counter the United States, and peace on the Korean peninsula will not be possible until American troops are withdrawn, Pyongyang’s ambassador to Russia told TASS news agency. – Reuters

South Korea and Turkey have signed a currency swap agreement that will allow both countries to provide liquidity for the counterparty in a move aimed at strengthening financial stability, the Bank of Korea (BOK) said on Thursday. – Reuters

In June, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his country to prepare for both “dialogue and confrontation” with the United States. It didn’t take long for the U.S. and its ally South Korea to experience both sides of that directive. – VOA News


The dispute over the supposed Swiss biologist and his prominence in Chinese state media came amid continuing disputes about the origin of the coronavirus and a renewed push for the WHO to investigate further. – Washington Post

China will draft new laws on national security, technology innovation, monopolies and education, as well as in areas involving foreigners, the national leadership said in a document published late on Wednesday. – Reuters

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet on Thursday with China’s new ambassador to Washington as the world’s two largest economies navigate deeply strained relations. – Reuters

China denounced Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments as “extremely unreasonable, absurd and arrogant,” as Beijing ramped up an 11th-hour effort to prevent a Huawei Technologies Co. executive’s extradition to the U.S. – Bloomberg 

China’s plan to expand its anti-sanctions law into Hong Kong is a fresh compliance headache for international banks already caught up in deteriorating relations between Beijing and major western powers, analysts and insiders say. – Agence France-Presse

Canada will appeal Canadian businessman Michael Spavor’s 11-year jail sentence for spying in China, the country’s top diplomat said Wednesday, citing a lack of evidence in what he called a “sham trial.” – Agence France- Presse

The Chinese military sees the Littoral Combat Ship armed with anti-ship missiles as a key element of a U.S. distributed maritime force in the Western Pacific, according to a translation of a 2020 Chinese government research paper on the U.S. Navy’s distributed lethality concept reviewed by USNI News. – USNI News

Editorial: The timing of Mr. Spavor’s sentence is also no coincidence, with an extradition decision for Ms. Meng near. The vague language of the sentencing pronouncement hinted that China may be willing to expel Mr. Spavor, which is one more sign that his arrest was political. […]Neither the U.S. nor Canada can submit to this human blackmail, or it will happen any time a well-connected Chinese national is accused of breaking one of their laws. The countries will have to let the legal process play out while making clear how dangerous it now is to do business in China. – Wall Street Journal

Kathrin Hille writes: But as Beijing’s economic interests grow around the globe, it may need to deploy carriers farther and farther from its shores. McDevitt argued that anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, where PLAN ships would operate alone in waters where the airspace is dominated by the US or India, reinforced for Beijing the importance of air cover for distant operations that could involve combat. In a conflict with the US, such deployments would be problematic. – Financial Times

Jianli Yang writes: In the decades since Nixon and Kissinger opened the door, China has transformed from an isolated, estranged nation to an openly hostile enemy of the United States. […]As the rivalry with China grows, and U.S. allies begin to recognize the threat that China poses, it’s essential to realize that China’s threat to the United States has begun to penetrate even within the country, making them indeed the world’s greatest security threat today. – The Hill

Gordon G. Chang writes: The White House said it raised concerns with senior Beijing officials about “broader malicious cyber activity.” Fine, but the Chinese regime will not stop hacking American networks until the costs Washington imposes exceed the enormous benefits of this criminal activity. Chinese communists are villains, but it is American political leaders who have permitted them to be villainous. Americans should be mad at Beijing — and at the people they elected to protect them but who have decided not to do so. – The Hill


Afghan President Ashraf Ghani replaced the country’s army chief on Wednesday and flew to the besieged northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, trying to organize its defenses and halt the Taliban’s rapid offensive. – Wall Street Journal

The rapid collapse of regular Afghan forces has dismayed allies, including those that have contributed troops to the U.S.-led coalition, and revived worries about the value of U.S. commitments overseas. – Wall Street Journal

Hundreds of Afghan forces surrendered to the Taliban in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the military’s most significant single collapse since the withdrawal of U.S. forces triggered a wave of territorial gains for the militants. – Washington Post

The Biden administration has mounted a last-ditch effort this week to convince the Taliban, as it continues its relentless march across Afghanistan, that the world will reject it if it takes over the entire country by force. – Washington Post

Since international troops began withdrawing from Afghanistan in May, the Taliban have carried out a sweeping military campaign and gained control of much of the country’s rural areas. But for months, the insurgents failed to capture major cities — until now. – New York Times

The Taliban have taken the strategic Afghan city of Ghazni just 150 kilometres (95 miles) from Kabul, a senior lawmaker and the insurgents said Thursday. – Agence France-Presse

The Taliban on Wednesday denied targeting and killing civilians during an offensive against Afghan government troops, calling for an independent investigation and seeking to assure Afghans that “no home or family shall face any threat from our side.” – Reuter

Turkey is for now still intent on running and guarding Kabul airport after other foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan, but is monitoring the situation after rapid advances by Taliban insurgents, two Turkish officials said. – Reuters

Afghan government forces are collapsing even faster than U.S. military leaders thought possible just a few months ago when President Joe Biden ordered a full withdrawal. – Associated Press

As international forces complete a pullout from Afghanistan against the background of a rampant Taliban offensive, campaign veterans remember with emotions veering from trauma to pride a deployment that has marked a generation of Western soldiers. – Agence France-Presse

Donald Trump made the politically popular pledge to bring U.S. troops home from the nation’s longest war. Now Joe Biden is delivering on the promise — and reaping growing criticism over the grim results that are unfolding in Afghanistan. – Bloomberg

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the Afghan government has all of the tools necessary to prevent a total Taliban takeover after U.S. forces withdraw from the country but needs to “develop the political will to do so.” – Washington Examiner

Editorial: There is no point in denying that Taliban influence and control in Afghanistan are increasing. But it would be folly to accept the Taliban’s return to nationwide power as a fait accompli. U.S. interests demand reasonable actions to obstruct the Taliban. U.S. air support is a reasonable and necessary price for upholding those interests. – Washington Examiner

Joel Simon writes: Experience has shown that most exiled Afghan journalists who are able to flee the country will leave the profession, finding other jobs to survive. But a select group will stay engaged, reporting independently on the country, while keeping Afghan journalism alive and documenting the country’s uncertain future. Half measures — such as the State Department designation — will not get the job done. The United States must go all in for Afghan journalists if it wants to convince the world it stands for press freedom. – Washington Post

Jeanne Bourgault and Ahmed Rashid write: As international forces withdraw from Afghanistan, we have a moral obligation to stand with those who worked toward a more open and inclusive country. For 20 years, Afghan journalists were among the West’s greatest allies. We cannot be bystanders to their undoing. – New York Times

Tom Rogan writes: Now facing the Taliban’s prospective victory, Biden’s only response is to ask them to stop winning. Making matters worse, Biden proudly suggests that he’ll suspend U.S. military air support to the Afghan army come September. The president has apparently forgotten his inaugural pledge to “repair” alliances and “be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.” – Washington Examiner

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: The key issue is not why the war was lost, it is whether letting it escalate and prolonging it was worth its cost. The examination of the civil and military challenges as well as the mistakes is the central focus of this analysis and, to some extent, a warning that the United States needs a far more realistic approach to “strategic triage.” Like the Iraq War, the U.S. needs to be far more careful in deciding if a conflict is worth fighting, escalating, and continuing. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Katrina Manson writes: Many say the group has access to international legitimacy elsewhere: Taliban leaders recently visited China, Russia and Iran. “The international community created a stage for legitimising a terrorist group,” said Raz, mourning leverage she said had fallen away. The final misapprehension may be the most dangerous for the US. Biden argued that al-Qaeda, the jihadi group that launched the 9/11 attacks and triggered America’s global war on terror, was so degraded the US could stomach the risks of withdrawal. – Financial Times


South Asia

As the Taliban swiftly capture territory in Afghanistan, many Afghans blame Pakistan for the insurgents’ success, pointing to their use of Pakistani territory in multiple ways.  – Associated Press

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the United States of seeing his country as useful only in the context of the “mess” it is leaving behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting. – Reuters

China has used its massive economic clout in Pakistan to gain Islamabad’s cooperation in its transnational campaign targeting Uyghurs, a model that Beijing wants to export across Asia and the Middle East, a new report finds. – Gandhara


Russia will give its ally Tajikistan $1.1 million to build a new outpost on the Tajik-Afghan border, a senior Russian diplomat was quoted as saying on Thursday, amid growing instability in Afghanistan as U.S.-led troops withdraw. – Reuters

China will transfer over $6 million to Myanmar’s government to fund 21 development projects, Myanmar’s foreign ministry said, in a sign of cooperation resuming under the junta that overthrew an elected government on Feb. 1. – Reuters

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to launch a new “strategic economic dialogue” with the United States to counter China’s economic clout. – Washington Examiner

Zack Cooper and Adam P. Liff write: Since the United States first pledged it would rebalance to Asia, there has been a disturbing and recurrent gap between U.S. rhetoric and action. Responsibility lies with administrations of both parties and with Congress. […]It makes little difference how many times U.S. officials or congressional leaders say the United States is competing with China or pivoting, rebalancing, or shifting its focus to Asia. What matters more is what they actually do. – Foreign Affairs


About 10,000 troops from China and Russia are carrying out joint military exercises in northwestern China to test some of the People’s Liberation Army’s newest weapons and signal unity on common security concerns such as Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal

Russian authorities announced a new criminal charge against Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Wednesday, the latest move in a crackdown ahead of September’s parliamentary election that could add as much as three years to his prison term. – Reuters

Facebook has targeted and removed a Russian disinformation campaign that claimed that coronavirus vaccines could turn people into chimpanzees. – The Hill

Andreas Kluth writes: Similarly, Biden should realize that today’s public protestations of lovey-dovey anti-Western fraternity between Putin and Xi mask deep animosities and insecurities. The anxieties, moreover, are disproportionately on Putin’s side. […]As hard as it will be psychologically, Biden should therefore make an overture to Putin for a joint approach to Xi, offering the Chinese leader new and comprehensive nuclear talks. – Bloomberg


German police detained a British employee of the U.K. Embassy in Berlin on suspicion of spying for Russia, prosecutors said Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal

Germany’s Green Party wants to overhaul the economic, foreign and climate policies of the continent’s largest economy in a political realignment that could have a profound impact on the European Union and potentially harden Germany’s stance toward China and Russia. – Wall Street Journal

Belarus announced retaliatory action against Washington, including rescinding its consent of the appointment of the U.S. ambassador, in response to the latest U.S. sanctions on the regime of the country’s authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko. – Wall Street Journal

Polish lawmakers advanced a bill on Wednesday that the opposition says aims to silence a U.S.-owned news channel critical of the government, leading to a swift denunciation from the United States, one of Warsaw’s most important allies. – Reuters 

Germany and the Netherlands said Wednesday they have stopped forced repatriations of Afghan migrants because of deteriorating security in Afghanistan, as the Taliban pressed on with its rapid advance in the country’s north. – Agence France-Presse

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that the US is “deeply concerned that Poland’s parliament passed legislation today severely restricting the process for Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish property owners, to obtain restitution for property wrongfully confiscated during Poland’s communist era. – Jerusalem Post


Ethiopian authorities have launched reprisals against ethnic Tigrayans across the country, arresting hundreds and accusing members of the minority group of supporting rebels who have been locked in a bloody war with the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. – Wall Street Journal

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has held talks with Sudanese officials on accelerating practical steps to hand over those wanted by the court over alleged atrocities committed in Darfur in the early 2000s, two senior Sudanese government sources said on Wednesday. – Reuter

Nigeria plans to soon lift its ban on Twitter, the country’s information minister said Wednesday, two months after authorities blocked the social network when a tweet by the president was deleted. – Associated Press

Sudan will hand longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court along with two other officials wanted over the Darfur conflict, officials said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

Ethiopia’s dissident Tigray region agreed to ally with insurgents from the nation’s most populous ethnic group, potentially deepening a nine-month conflict raging in the country’s north. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The bodies washing up in Sudan, dismissed by Mr. Abiy as a hoax, are among many warning signs that a brutal conflict is expanding and growing more barbaric. The United States must stand up to an inhumane regime and press all parties to allow unfettered humanitarian access and seriously negotiate. – Washington Post

The Americas

The U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments said Wednesday the U.S. government is committed to supporting the Cuban people’s access to the internet and open to issuing additional authorizations if needed. – Reuters

Norway said on Wednesday it was involved in upcoming talks between the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the political opposition, the first time Oslo has confirmed its involvement. – Reuters

Spain has recalled its ambassador to Nicaragua after the Nicaraguan government accused Madrid of meddling in domestic politics, the Spanish foreign ministry said on Wednesday, further isolating the Central American country. – Reuters

James Roberts and Lora Ries write: Notwithstanding the rising power of China in the region, the United States is still by far the pre-eminent power in Northern Triangle countries. The Administration should not be afraid to exercise the immense influence of the U.S. government and the U.S. military to leverage the policy changes in the region needed to truly address and provide sustainable solutions to reduce crime, violence, and poverty. – Heritage Foundation

North America

After more than two and a half years of diplomatic squabbling, Canada and China saw their relations sink to a new low this week after two Canadian citizens were handed stiff sentences by Chinese courts — one of them a death sentence. – Agence France-Presse

Top U.S. officials held talks with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico on Tuesday to discuss immigration and other issues ahead of a planned economic summit next month, the White House said on Wednesday. – Reuters

US President Joe Biden will gather world leaders in December for a virtual “Summit for Democracy” that is being seen as a challenge to authoritarian China and an alternative to the traditional G20 meeting. – Agence France-Presse

Accenture, the global consulting firm, has been hit by the LockBit ransomware gang, according to the cybercriminal group’s website. – CNN

Andrew I. Rudman writes: At this moment, when firms are considering ways to shorten their supply chains and create resilience, Mexico should be top of mind. […]As a result, rather than capturing additional investment and cultivating a positive relationship with its most important trading partner and neighbor, López Obrador’s “non-non-interventionist” foreign policy risks undermining new investment in Mexico and the Biden administration’s ability to partner with Mexico to address myriad issues where shared solutions are essential. – The Hill

Gary Schmitt writes: Drawing precise lines when it comes to war powers is never easy given America’s role in the world. And attempts to hamstring presidents are unlikely to succeed given both the Oval Office’s institutional capacity to take the initiative and the resources a commander in chief has on hand. Nevertheless, Congress still retains the whip hand of the budget to challenge excessive claims of presidential discretion. It’s a blunt tool, but it’s also the most likely effective tool if Congress wants to preserve its own constitutional role in this critical policy area. – The Hill


The Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council is set to begin an assessment of the U.S. military’s integrated air-and-missile defense capability gaps as part of a larger effort to develop a joint war-fighting concept and defense strategy, Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Aug. 11 at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium. – Defense News

Space Force leaders are hashing out a plan to create a new group under U.S. Central Command to coordinate what military space assets to use in the region, complementary to the Air Force’s own ops organization in the Middle East. – Defense News

The Large Scale Exercise 2021 taking place across the globe is meant to validate the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps’ new operating concepts — but it’ll also be the biggest test yet of a live, virtual and constructive (LVC) training framework that has never been asked to connect so many players around the planet in real time. – Defense News

The U.S. Army chose Sierra Nevada Corp. and General Dynamics Mission Systems to build its next-generation encryption device that will secure the joint force’s future tactical network, the service announced Wednesday. – C4ISRNET