Fdd's overnight brief

August 12, 2022

In The News


European Union diplomats trying to break a deadlock in talks over an Iran nuclear accord have proposed a significant new concession to Tehran aimed at speedily ending a U.N. investigation into the Islamic Republic’s past atomic activities. – Wall Street Journal

Russian officials trained in Iran in recent weeks as part of an agreement on the transfer of drones between the two countries, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday. – Reuters

Iran has dismissed as “fiction” US allegations it had plotted to kill former White House national security adviser John Bolton in retaliation for the assassination of one of its top commanders. – Associated Press

With a long list of crimes punishable by death, Iran put at least 314 prisoners to death last year, second only to China, which recorded more than 1,000 executions. The Iran Human Rights organization actually puts the figure at 333. That’s up from 267 executions in Iran in 2020. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran gives millions of dollars annually to Palestinian Islamic Jihad so that it can attack Israel, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Thursday as the dispute over the release of Palestinian prisoners threatened to undo the fragile Gaza ceasefire. “Islamic Jihad has an open tab in Iran,” he said, adding: “Iran provides Islamic Jihad in Gaza with tens of millions of dollars per year.” – Jerusalem Post

The number of Iranian cargo flights to Russia has surged since the war in Ukraine began, an analysis of open-source flight data shows. Since April, at least 42 flights by Iranian carriers linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have landed in Moscow, compared to just three in 2021. – Haaretz

Editorial: Iran has openly bragged about how it is pushing the US out of the region and how it can threaten Israel from a number of angles and fronts. The nuclear front is just one of those problems. The deal being discussed today must take into account Iran’s threats to the region and Israel.  – Jerusalem Post

Bobby Ghosh writes: It is especially ironic that one of the Iranian demands that has stalled negotiations for the resuscitation of the nuclear deal was that Biden remove the IRGC from the State Department’s list of designated terrorist groups. The president has, wisely, refused to make that concession. But Biden should now ask himself whether a regime this reckless can be trusted with any deal at all. – Bloomberg

Russia & Ukraine

The chief of the United Nations on Thursday called for an immediate end to fighting around a nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, warning that damage to Europe’s largest nuclear power facility could have “catastrophic consequences.” Yet attacks on the Zaporizhzhia plant continued, with the site’s operator reporting multiple instances of Russian shelling: “The situation is getting worse,” the company wrote. – Washington Post

For weeks, Western intelligence and military analysts have predicted that a Ukrainian campaign retake the strategic port city of Kherson and surrounding territory is imminent. But in trenches less than a mile from Russia’s positions in the area, Ukrainian soldiers hunker down from an escalating onslaught of artillery, with little ability to advance. – Washington Post

Russia confirmed Thursday for the first time that negotiations between Washington and Moscow on a prisoner exchange are underway, after the United States proposed a deal to release WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American prisoner, Paul Whelan. – Washington Post

Satellite images of the Russian air base in Crimea hit by explosions appear to show several destroyed war planes, contradicting Russia’s official account that no planes were lost in the blasts. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address late Wednesday that Russia lost nine combat aircraft in Crimea. Officials in Kyiv have mocked Russia but not taken responsibility for the blasts. – Wall Street Journal

The staggeringly high rate of Russian casualties in Ukraine means that President Vladimir V. Putin may not be able to achieve one of his key war objectives: seizing the entire eastern region of the country this year, officials in the Biden administration and military experts say. – New York Times

The pivotal importance of long-range fire was one reason the United States and other allies rushed NATO-caliber howitzers to Ukraine. Its military is close to depleting the entire stock of Soviet-legacy shells in its own arsenal and from allied countries in Eastern Europe, and it is now shifting to more abundant NATO ammunition. – New York Times

A former Russian state television journalist who gained global attention for staging a rare protest against the war in Ukraine live on air has been placed under house arrest on criminal charges by a Moscow court over a recent demonstration against President Vladimir V. Putin, her lawyer said Thursday. – New York Times

Western countries agreed Thursday to continue long-term funding to help Ukraine’s military keep fighting nearly 5½ months after Russia invaded its neighbor, saying 1.5 billion euros ($1.5 billion) has been pledged so far and more is coming. – Associated Press

One of the last working dairy farms on Ukrainian-controlled territory in the eastern Donbas region is doing everything it can to stay afloat in a place where neither workers nor animals are safe from Russia’s devastating war. – Associated Press

As Russia continues to suffer losses in its invasion of Ukraine, now nearing its sixth month, the Kremlin has refused to announce a full-blown mobilization — a move that could be very unpopular for President Vladimir Putin. That has led instead to a covert recruitment effort that includes using prisoners to make up the manpower shortage. – Associated Press

With graves marked only with numbers, not names, burial services were held Thursday for 11 more unidentified bodies found in Bucha, the town outside the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv that saw hundreds of people slaughtered under Russian occupation early in the war. – Associated Press

On a day of give and take, Western nations made more pledges to send arms to Ukraine while the European Union’s full ban on Russian coal imports kicked in Thursday, adding to the sanctions against Moscow that intelligence claims are hurting its defense exports. – Associated Press

Russia and Ukraine accused each other of shelling Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, compounding fears of a disaster as the U.N. chief said it should be made a demilitarised zone and Ukraine demanded that Russian forces withdraw from it. – Reuters

Blasts this week at the Russian-operated Saky military airfield in western Crimea led to the loss of eight Russian combat jets, degrading its navy’s Black Sea aviation fleet, Britain said on Friday. – Reuters

Russia has doubled the number of air strikes on Ukraine’s military positions and civilian infrastructure compared with the previous week, Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov said on Thursday. – Reuters

Ukraine is calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to sanction all Russian private banks to help end President Vladimir Putin’s ability to wage war, according to Kyiv’s envoy to Washington. – Bloomberg

Russia said on Thursday it had turned down a Swiss offer to represent Ukrainian interests in Russia and Moscow’s interests in Ukraine because it no longer considers Switzerland a neutral country. – Reuters

The destruction of a Russian base at Crimea this week is a major military achievement that may also help Kyiv convince outside skeptics that the most consequential conflagration on European soil since World War II can end in victory for the West. – New York Sun

Alexander J. Motyl writes: Of course, that contradiction doesn’t matter in Putin’s rabbit hole. The Kremlin’s propagandists don’t care whether what they say or write makes sense to thoughtful people, because they know that many Russians have ceased to think. One day, it’s possible that the capacity for critical thought will reappear in the Muscovite state. If and when it does, Russians will realize that they have been living a bloody lie for all of Putin’s unhappy reign. The moment of reckoning will be painful indeed, and no amount of soma will assuage it. – The Hill

Alexander Baunov writes: The Russian Embassy in the UK sparked outrage and fierce criticism recently when it tweeted that prisoners of war from Ukraine’s Azov battalion, who had defended the city of Mariupol right up until the bitter end, deserved “a humiliating death” by hanging. Following an avalanche of complaints, Twitter’s moderators decided to leave the tweet visible, as a kind of monument to the madness into which Russian diplomacy has descended. – Financial Times

Jennifer Kavanagh and Frederic Wehrey write: Every month that the war in Ukraine drags on, the costs to Russia’s defense industrial base are likely to grow. Even an isolated and diminished Russia will probably remain a player in the Middle East, as evidenced by the desire of Arab states to hedge their bets and avoid alienating President Vladimir Putin. But any erosion of Moscow’s once-prominent profile as an arms seller could have unforeseen ripple effects in a conflict-prone region that is awash in weapons and hungry for more. – Foreign Policy


As the cleanup in Gaza continues from last weekend’s brief conflict with Israel, another battle has continued over which side caused the casualties, after Israel said misfiring rockets from the Palestinian side killed 15 people in the enclave. – Reuters

A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-largest militant group in the Gaza Strip, appeared to be holding this week, ending three days of cross-border fighting that killed dozens of Palestinians. – The Guardian

Israel has denied reports that it appealed to Russia to not interfere in the upcoming November elections. According to the report, originally by Maariv, Israel is concerned with the possibility of external interference, particularly via cyber means. – Jerusalem Post

The terrorist killed in an Israeli security forces raid in Nablus on Tuesday was praised by Canadian pro-Palestinian activists during a series of protests across Canada in support of “martyrs” on Wednesday. “Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, we will carry on your legacy,” chanted activists in Toronto, according to a video recorded by Eye on Palestine. – Jerusalem Post

An Israeli woman who was accused of spying for Iran attempted to end her life, KAN News reported on Thursday. The woman is in critical condition. The investigation was carried out by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police after it was suspected that a number of citizens were in contact with an Iranian intelligence agent known as Rambud Namdar, who recruited the Israelis to carry out missions within the country. – Jerusalem Post

Israel and Morocco agreed to advance extradition agreements and joint efforts against crime and terror during Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai’s five-day visit to Rabat last week, Hebrew media reported on Thursday. – Times of Israel

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 sparked a surge of refugees fleeing the war zone, but political repression and economic uncertainty have also prompted emigration from Russia itself. Among the emigrants are Russian Jews, 16,000 of whom have left for Israel in the nearly six months since the war’s start. – Times of Israel

Amoz Harel writes: A multitude of questions could be asked about this incident. Why do Israeli soldiers come under fire almost every time they enter the cities and refugee camps in the northern West Bank? What’s the PA doing to thwart terrorism against Israelis? Have the rules of engagement in such operations been revised after Yamam fighter Noam Raz was killed in Jenin three months ago? – Haaretz

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: If Jerusalem was more vocal about having nuclear weapons, Iran, Turkey or even countries which are more like allies these days, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, might feel under pressure to develop their own nuclear capabilities. As things stand, all of these countries have started to pursue some additional aspects of a nuclear program as Tehran has barreled forward.- Jerusalem Post


An uneasy calm has settled over the Afghan capital this summer, a wary detente between the country’s stern religious rulers and a deflated, worried populace that is struggling to survive but also relieved that the punishing 20-year war involving foreign troops is over. – Washington Post

Spain’s Interior Ministry declined to comment on individual cases. According to ministry data, almost 3,000 Afghans have arrived in Spain expressing a wish to seek asylum in the last year. Nearly 2,000 have sought asylum and just over 1,500 have been granted it so far. – Reuters

The Islamic State claimed on Thursday responsibility for an attack on a seminary in Kabul that killed a prominent Taliban cleric, according to the group’s channel on telegram. – Reuters

For most teenage girls in Afghanistan, it’s been a year since they set foot in a classroom. With no sign the ruling Taliban will allow them back to school, some are trying to find ways to keep education from stalling for a generation of young women. – Associated Press

The unrecognized Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have imposed severe restrictions on human and civil rights in the year since they took over de facto control of the country and must reverse course to avert a humanitarian disaster, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) monitoring group has asserted. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

General Frank McKenzie was on his way to negotiate with the Taliban when he got the call that Kabul had already fallen. […] McKenzie was flying to Doha, Qatar that day to offer the Taliban a deal: Keep your forces outside the capital so the U.S. can evacuate tens of thousands of Americans and Afghans from the city, and we won’t fight you. – Politico


Regional security threats, which include a tentative peace settlement in the fight over Nagorno-Karabakh — Turkey supports Azerbaijan, while Russia intervened to save Armenia — mean that any Turkish government would want a balanced working relationship with Russia, said Sinan Ulgen, director of EDAM, a Turkish research institution. – New York Times

The first grain ship to depart from Ukraine under a U.N.-brokered deal docked in Turkey on Thursday after 11 days at sea, Refinitiv data showed, and the ship’s agent in Turkey said it would continue to Egypt after unloading part of its cargo. – Reuters

Sweden’s government has decided to extradite a man to Turkey wanted for fraud, it said on Thursday, the first case since Turkey demanded a number of people extradited in return for allowing Stockholm to formally apply for NATO membership. – Reuters

Eugene Chausovsky writes: As the Russia-Ukraine conflict heads for the six-month mark, Turkey has emerged as a major swing player in the protracted war. Ankara is involved in the conflict on a number of fronts, from security cooperation with Ukraine to energy cooperation with Russia to serving as a diplomatic mediator between Kyiv and Moscow. […] This increasingly proactive approach to the conflict has presented both substantial opportunities and significant challenges for Ankara while offering important lessons for the West on how to most-effectively deal with Russia. – Foreign Policy


An armed man took hostages at a bank branch in Beirut on Thursday, quickly becoming a folk hero for a tired and angry nation. A man identified as Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein entered the Federal Bank of Lebanon in the Hamra neighborhood with a can of gasoline, threatening to set himself on fire if he couldn’t access the money in his account, amounting to about $210,000. He later brandished a rifle, leading to hours of tense hostage negotiations. – Washington Post

Anti-aircraft fire targeted a drone over the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon on Thursday night, according to Lebanese reports. Initial reports indicated that Hezbollah was responsible for the fire and that an Israeli drone was targeted. The reports did not indicate that the drone was hit. The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Hezbollah and Israel surrounding ongoing talks about the maritime border between the two countries. – Jerusalem Post

Israel has rejected the Lebanese proposal in the maritime border demarcation talks between the two countries, after holding meetings with American mediator Amos Hochstein, the Lebanese El-Nashra newspaper reported on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq’s government has agreed to continue supplying Lebanon’s electricity company with heavy fuel oil for another year, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister said on Thursday, alleviating pressure on Lebanon’s struggling power grid. – Reuters

The Chinese president Xi Jinping is expected to visit Saudi Arabia next week, where plans are under way for a gala reception to match that given to Donald Trump on his first trip abroad as president. – The Guardian

Permission for flag carrier El Al Israel Airlines to fly over Oman is expected in “a matter of days”, chief executive Dina Ben-Tal said on Thursday. Ben-Tal, speaking to reporters after El Al issued second-quarter financial results, said the airline had already received approval to fly over Saudi Arabia but it also needed to fly over Oman to save time for routes to Asia. – Jerusalem Post

Mark Regev writes: Last month, when Biden left the region for home, it remained unclear as to whether the current US president will be making any meaningful contribution to Middle East peace – either by design or by folly. – Jerusalem Post

Jonathan Campbell-James writes: When Qaboos died without a direct heir amid reports that his secret choice of successor was written on a piece of paper in an envelope, concern about the country’s political stability was widespread. Today, however, the process is settled—Oman’s security apparatus ensured a smooth succession in 2020, the system is now clearly set out in the Basic Law, and Theyazin is being prepared for his future, in part by strengthening his relationship with the military, the section of Haitham’s portfolio that was perhaps the weakest. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday proclaimed unwavering U.N. commitment to a fully denuclearized North Korea, even as a divided Security Council allows more room for the isolated country to expand its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. – Associated Press

Bruce Klingner writes: Unfortunately, to date, the Biden administration—like its predecessors—has been lackadaisical in vigorously enforcing U.N. and U.S. sanctions against North Korean and other violators. Most notably, Washington continues to refrain from targeting Chinese banks and businesses that violate resolutions and U.S. laws on behalf of North Korea. – Heritage Foundation

Seoho Lee writes: And even if the military as a whole somehow becomes infuriated enough to launch a coup, the modern structure of South Korean society, military, and the government makes any coup almost definitely impossible. South Korea’s robust telecommunications network, multiple flows of information in the internet age, notorious traffic, and soldiers and officers who were born and only grew up in a liberal democracy all point to how a coup in South Korea would not be feasible. – The National Interest 


Four days before U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Chinese leader Xi Jinping got on the phone with President Biden and delivered a message: Now isn’t the time for a full-blown crisis. Mr. Xi—who views bringing Taiwan under Beijing’s control as central to his vision of Chinese national revival—was frustrated that months of diplomatic efforts had failed to stop Mrs. Pelosi’s planned trip, according to people close to China’s decision-making process. – Wall Street Journal

The bigger risk is to China’s economy. Bank of America research analysts noted in a report last month that approximately 9% of the housing floor space that was presold in 2020 and 2021 risks not being completed on schedule because of developers’ financial troubles, affecting roughly 2.4 million households. – Wall Street Journal

If China’s show of force over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip was meant as a deterrent, it has not had the intended effect in Taiwan, where the military drills have reinforced a careful two-pronged strategy of shoring up international support, while avoiding overt confrontation. – New York Times

While China’s expanded drills surrounding Taiwan have marked an unprecedented military and political warning against outside interference over the island, they opened a window to gather intelligence for the United States and its allies. – Reuters

Chinese military frigates recently conducted a three-day drill in the South China Sea, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday. CCTV did not specify if these drills were related to the set of drills around Taiwan which ended on Wednesday and had been conducted in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visit to the self-ruled island. – Reuters

Hong Kong censors have banned an award-winning animation from being shown over a one-second scene depicting the 2014 pro-democracy protests, local media reported, in the latest sign of free speech curbs in the finance hub. – Bloomberg

Editorial: A global pandemic, a major war in Europe — both were risks that seemed almost unimaginable, until they happened. Now the tensions with China provoked by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan last week, coming just months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have forced businesses to confront the possibility that a danger long seen as similarly distant could yet come to pass: a US-China conflict, or something close to it. – Financial Times

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: There’s a lot of ruin in an empire, including an empire that has never achieved its full potential. Still, it’s becoming clearer that an important political fact of the coming years will be China’s failure to live up to the high hopes Western trading partners once harbored for its economy—and how this failure will free those partners to reconfigure their relationships with Beijing. We may never wake up not caring at all about China, but we could very well find we start caring less or differently. – Wall Street Journal 

Josh Rogin writes: China’s overreaction and retaliation toward Taiwan following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit show that the leadership in Beijing is now focusing on taking the island by force, not through peaceful reunification, as it has long claimed. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s strategy has moved from winning Taiwanese hearts and minds to inciting fear and loathing. – Washington Post

Shuli Ren writes: Xi has preached a lot of ideology to his cadres, highlighting the importance of good governance to keep the Communist Party in power. But mere righteousness and draconian punishments are not enough. Xi has to give out some carrots too. – Bloomberg

Michael Schuman writes: Examining the exchange between Biden and Deng from 1979 gives a sense of what may be missing in U.S.-China relations today: a mutual interest in achieving shared goals. The two had their disagreements back then too—many of them the same as today, such as the fate of Taiwan. But Washington and Beijing were able to set those aside, the best they could, in pursuit of bigger gain. The two needed each other. – The Atlantic 

Jagannath Panda writes: Therefore, a more belligerent China should be expected in the Indo-Pacific. The CCP will feel China has to react firmly to Pelosi’s visit so that it does not appear weak or humiliated by the fact it could not force the United States to comply with its warnings over Taiwan. Like in Taiwan, Beijing is likely to ramp up military intimidation over other contested hotspots in the Indo-Pacific to induce a level of respect in regional powers for its core national interests and territorial claims. – The National Interest

South Asia

As India celebrates 75 years of independence on Monday, the legacy of the “father of the nation” who advocated nonviolence and secularism is being debated, downplayed and derided as never before. Instead, Indians are embracing a pantheon of other 20th century heroes, particularly leaders who favored armed struggle or overtly championed Hindus, in a reflection of the nation’s mood and its shifting politics. – Washington Post

The Chinese navy ship is reportedly unarmed. It’s probably cruising somewhere in the Indian Ocean. And no one is even sure where it will go. But for the past week, a 730-foot-long Chinese satellite-tracking vessel has been the source of rising tensions and a symbol of the mounting geopolitical tug-of-war between India and the United States and China over Sri Lanka at a time when the economically devastated island nation is caught between major financial supporters. – Washington Post

Former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrived in Thailand on Thursday, according to three Reuters witnesses, as he seek temporary shelter in a second Southeast Asian country after fleeing his island nation last month amid mass protests. – Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition is likely to win a smaller parliamentary majority in India’s next general election less than two years away, a new survey shows, but he remains by far the most popular choice to lead the country. – Bloomberg

China on Thursday defended its decision to delay a proposal by the United States and India at the U.N. Security Council to sanction a senior commander in a Pakistan-based militant group. – Reuters

Mihir Sharma writes: The old republic described its vision of itself as “unity in diversity.” That sentiment has little place in the new one, which sees diversity as the fatal weakness that led to 12 centuries of “slavery.” The patriotic song that defined my generation was a paean to diversity, composed by a Muslim from a southern state. It seemed to fit a 50-year-old India perfectly. Everything about it is wrong for the India that’s turning 75. – Bloomberg


To reach vulnerable communities, Western governments often take the cross-border route—but it is convoluted. Myanmar-focused groups like Mr. Khu’s aren’t eligible for legal status in Thailand, which means most foreign governments can’t send funds directly to them. Instead, the governments contribute to larger, registered organizations that, while primarily focused on Thailand, channel some of the funds to the dozens of smaller groups operating inside Myanmar. – Wall Street Journal

As China rapidly extends its reach in the Pacific, its growing influence is unmistakable in the Solomon Islands, a country with which it established diplomatic ties only in 2019. The relationship between the world’s most populous country and this Pacific archipelago of 700,000 people was thrust into the spotlight this year when word leaked that they had struck a secret security agreement. – Washington Post

A Japanese ruling party lawmaker has met with Myanmar’s junta leader, according to Myanmar state media, days after a Japanese documentary filmmaker was arrested while covering a protest in the Southeast Asian country. – Reuters

An Australian economist and former adviser to deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has pleaded not guilty in a closed Myanmar court to charges of violating an official secrets law, Australian broadcaster ABC reported on Friday. – Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Thursday that at present the Chinese military threat has not decreased and while Taiwan will not escalate conflicts or provoke disputes, it will firmly defend its sovereignty and national security. – Reuters

Kazakhstan is expected to sell some of its crude oil through Azerbaijan’s biggest oil pipeline from September, as the nation seeks alternatives to a route Russia threatened to shut, three sources familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

China and Nepal have agreed to build the so-called Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network, the Chinese foreign ministry said, following a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries. – Reuters

Daniel W. Drezner writes: Because Russia and Iran have considerable stakes in the Caucasus, the salience of their ties with Armenia will always be high. In contrast, Armenians view the United States and Europe as having paid only fitful attention to the South Caucasus. The Armenian officials I spoke to welcomed the idea of greater European and U.S. involvement in the region. They simply do not believe that it will happen. – Foreign Policy


Estonia is suffering the worst inflation in the euro area, with consumer prices rising at an annual rate of nearly 22 percent — more than twice as fast as in the United States. This tiny Baltic nation, and its neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania, represent extreme examples of the price pressures sweeping Europe and confronting policymakers, executives and consumers with a challenge unseen for 40 years. – Washington Post

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has no concrete plans yet for a visit to China, he said on Thursday. There were talks but no date had been set yet, Scholz said at a news conference in Berlin. – Reuters

Latvia and Estonia withdrew from a cooperation group between China and over a dozen Central and Eastern European countries on Thursday, following in the footsteps of Baltic neighbour Lithuania which withdrew last year. – Reuters

Estonia said on Thursday it will from next week prevent most Russians from entering the country with visas issued by Estonian authorities, cutting off a popular route into Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone. – Reuters

Russia on Thursday condemned a resolution by Latvia’s parliament that designated Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism”. – Reuters

A former officer in Germany’s army reserve force went on trial on Thursday on charges of spying for Russia, in a case that could worsen relations deeply strained by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters

Italy’s centre-right alliance has pledged to maintain support for Ukraine’s struggle against Russia and deepen integration with the EU, if it comes to power in the next elections, according to a platform unveiled on Thursday night. – Financial Times

European electricity prices have soared to new records as the prolonged heatwave disrupted power markets that were already under strain from Russia’s cuts to the continent’s gas supplies. – Financial Times

Alice Hancock writes: Nothing unites people like a common enemy. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s determination to weaponise gas and oil supplies to Europe in retaliation for the UK and EU’s support for Ukraine appears to do just that. – Financial Times


Shortly after a fire destroyed the biggest market in this independence-minded region of Somalia, a senior Chinese diplomat asked permission to visit to pay his respects. […] The ambassador’s requests raised immediate suspicions among Somaliland authorities. Beijing’s real agenda, they concluded, wasn’t to talk emergency aid. It was to recruit local allies to sabotage Somaliland’s warm diplomatic relations with Taiwan. – Wall Street Journal 

Dozens died in anti-government protests in Sierra Leone, police and other sources said on Thursday, sharply raising the death toll from the previous day’s clashes as shocked citizens stayed mostly behind closed doors in the capital Freetown. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday he discussed with Rwandan President Paul Kagame “credible reports” that Rwanda continued to support the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo. – Reuters

Human rights groups on Wednesday warned anxious Kenyans over “rising levels of false or misleading information being shared on social media” as the country awaited results of a close presidential election. The electoral commission indicated it would be at least Thursday before a winner is declared. – Associated Press

While Blinken was in Congo, the U.S. State Department announced the allocation of up to $23.75 million to support the country’s general elections scheduled for 2023. The funding is to support the electoral system, improve civic and voter education, and help marginalized communities to understand and participate in the political process, said a statement. – Associated Press

Ethiopia kickstarted electricity production from the second turbine at its controversial mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Thursday, despite continuing objections by Egypt and Sudan over the project. – Agence France-Presse

South Africa said on Thursday it had struck a deal to clear tonnes of oranges stuck at European ports amid a trade dispute with the European Union that growers say has cost them millions of dollars. – Agence France-Presse

Zainab Usman writes: What happens in African countries will increasingly shape the rest of the world. The international partners that help African countries overcome some of their seemingly intractable challenges and unlock their latent potential will reap significant economic and political gains. China, Turkey, the UAE and other countries are attuned to this reality. To realize the vision of a twenty-first-century partnership outlined in the Biden administration’s Africa strategy, economic diplomacy should be at its core. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation. – Washington Post

Argentina on Thursday ordered the seizure of a Venezuelan plane held in Buenos Aires since June at the request of the United States, amid suspicions the aircraft of Iranian origin could have ties to terrorism, local media reported. – Reuters

Peru’s political crisis is worsening with the prime minister calling for people to defend the government in the street and lawmakers exchanging shoves in congress as graft probes close in on embattled President Pedro Castillo. – Bloomberg

Venezuela and Colombia on Thursday appointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals, moving to rebuild relations between the two countries that have been broken for more than three years. – Reuters

An official Venezuelan delegation, including the country’s transportation minister, protested Thursday outside Argentina’s embassy in Caracas against the grounding of a plane and its crew in Buenos Aires since June. The Boeing 747 cargo plane, owned by Venezuelan company Emtrasur, has been held in Argentina since it arrived on June 8 from Mexico with a shipment of auto parts, after having tried unsuccessfully to enter Uruguay. – Agence France-Presse

Hundreds of Guatemalans set out from various points of the capital Thursday to protest alleged corruption by a deeply unpopular government, the high cost of living and attacks on freedom of expression. – Associated Press 

An international food crisis exacerbated by the Ukraine war has spurred Canada to boost an over $6 billion annual foreign aid budget to help the most hard-hit countries in Africa and the Middle East, Canada’s aid minister said on Thursday. – Reuters


Google has grave reservations about developing a self-regulatory body for the social media sector in India to hear user complaints, though the proposal has support from Facebook and Twitter (TWTR.N), sources with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters. – Reuters

The overall Russian approach to incorporating cyberattacks into its ongoing assault on Ukraine is “chaotic,” and reflects an “absence of strategy,” Victor Zhora, one of Ukraine’s top cybersecurity officials, told CyberScoop Wednesday. – CyberScoop

The State Department on Thursday announced a $10 million reward for information related to five specific individuals associated with the Conti ransomware group. The Russian-based cybercriminal group has wreaked havoc around the world. As of January 2022, there were more than 1,000 victims of attacks associated with Conti ransomware and payouts exceeding $150 million, according to the FBI. – CyberScoop


The U.S. military is working “furiously” to rewrite its nuclear deterrence theory to deal with threats from China and Russia better. […] Officials have also sought to move past the traditional deterrence theory of “mutually assured destruction,” which posits that should any country deploy a nuclear weapon, it would result in a retaliatory strike that would result in the destruction of both sides. – Washington Examiner

A congressional push to block the U.S. Air Force’s plan to retire 33 F-22s could have ripple effects for one of the service’s top priority programs, the Collaborative Combat Aircraft. – Defense News

It’s not a pleasant scene, but it is a realistic one, according to a series of wargames hosted in early August at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a DC-based think tank. The goal of the wargames — determining what would happen if China tried to take Taiwan through military force — is both an existential one for America’s security posture and an unintentionally timely one. – Breaking Defense

“The global security environment is now today a three-party nuclear peer reality where the PRC [the People’s Republic of China] and Russia are stressing and undermining the rules-based international order,” Strategic Command head Adm. Charles Richard told the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala. “I’m not sure what strategic stability looks like in a three-party world.” – Breaking Defense

The US military will need to start “leaning” toward kinetic options for knocking out drones as unmanned aerial systems become increasingly autonomous, the Army’s top counter-drone leader said Wednesday. – Breaking Defense

Aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) is scheduled to return to the navy following its refuelling and complex overhaul (RCOH) in 2023, shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) CEO Chris Kastner confirmed. – Janes

Caitlin Lee writes: The Air Force’s current modernization plan is to retire 1,463 aircraft, but acquire only 467. We need to flip that ratio, and drones are part of the answer. Nothing reduces risks to aircrew like taking the pilot out of the cockpit, and bringing in a new way of thinking about capacity and cost could make drones even more effective in future fights. – The Hill