Fdd's overnight brief

August 15, 2022

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old man accused of stabbing acclaimed novelist Salman Rushdie, had no prior criminal history, and authorities said they have yet to determine a motive for the attack against the man targeted by Iran’s leader more than 30 years ago.  – Wall Street Journal

The attack on Salman Rushdie in western New York State on Friday prompted renewed interest in previous attacks on people connected to his 1988 novel, “The Satanic Verses,” including its Japanese translator, who was killed in 1991. – New York Times

The author Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed roughly 10 times on Friday, has been removed from a ventilator and is on the mend, his agent said Sunday. – New York Times

The 24-year-old man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie had been in direct contact with members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on social media, European and Middle Eastern intelligence officials told VICE World News. VICE News

After the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie during a Friday event in western New York, key questions about the suspect — who was charged with attempted murder on Saturday — remain unanswered. While the alleged assailant’s motives have not been confirmed, the attack on Rushdie’s life follows decades of threats of violence against the author and his associates, motivated by a fatwa that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued in 1989, when he was Iran’s supreme leader. – Washington Post

Longstanding U.S. worries about the threat that Iran and its agents pose on U.S. soil intensified in the hours after the 2020 assassination of a prominent Iranian military commander, when the Department of Homeland Security bolstered security at thousands of federal buildings against the possibility of retaliation, according to current and former senior U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal

Media in Iran on Sunday speculated that a US plot may have been behind Friday’s stabbing of novelist Salman Rushdie at a literary event in the United States. – Agence France-Presse

President Joe Biden is tantalizingly close to reviving the Iran nuclear deal. The latest alleged Iranian murder plot is not helping. – Politico

Europe’s proposal to resuscitate Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers would blunt American sanctions against Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and pave the way for Tehran to avoid further scrutiny of suspected atomic sites, according to excerpts of a draft of the text reviewed by POLITICO. – Politico

Salman Rushdie and his supporters are the only people to blame for Friday’s attack on the novelist, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

Antony Blinken has denounced Iranian state institutions for inciting violence against Salman Rushdie and then gloating about the author’s attempted murder as he remained in critical condition following an attempt on his life at a literary event. – Financial Times 

Many Iranians have turned to social media to show their anger and praise over the attack on novelist Salman Rushdie at a lecture in New York state, with some conspiracy theories linking it to Tehran’s nuclear talks in Vienna. – Reuters

Several hardline Iranian newspapers heaped praise on Saturday on the person who attacked and seriously wounded author Salman Rushdie, whose novel “The Satanic Verses” had drawn death threats from Iran since 1989. – Reuters 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid placed blame for the assault on Iran, calling it the “result of decades of incitement” by the country. – Jerusalem Post 

Editorial: But Mr. Rushdie has spent decades facing precisely this kind of threat. In 1989 the ayatollah of Iran issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill Mr. Rushdie for allegedly insulting Islam with his novel “The Satanic Verses.” Mr. Rushdie went into hiding for years but had lived more openly in New York in recent years. Perhaps he was beginning to hope that it all had faded into history. Iranian hardliners celebrated the attack Friday on social media. […]President Biden, meantime, is still trying to revive President Obama’s bad Iran nuclear deal. Even putting aside for a moment the merits of that negotiation, how can the U.S. sit across the table with such a regime and expect it to keep its word? – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Iran needs to learn that it will not win through aggression – in this case two murderous plots on American soil in the span of just a few days. If that lesson is not transmitted now, this will be a missed opportunity that will lead to disaster at a later date. Don’t let that happen. – Jerusalem Post

Almar Latour writes: The ensuing threats to Mr. Rushdie’s life caused him to live in fear of attack for decades, an episode that seemed gone and forgotten. But much like so many other ghosts from the past that have returned in recent time—from a land war in Europe to the rising threat of autocracy in Western democracies—the assault reminds us that the threat to free speech is both old and new again. – Wall Street Journal

Bob Greene writes: In 1989, Mr. Rushdie’s prospects for a long life had been widely assumed not to be auspicious. A fatwa—an edict—had been issued against the author by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and a multimillion-dollar bounty had been placed on his head. […]In 1989, when the death order was placed on Mr. Rushdie, he could have been forgiven for being suspicious of just about every person in the world. But the man who would stand accused of trying to kill him 33 years later had not been one of them. The police said he is 24. When Mr. Rushdie had first been forced to fear for his life, the man had not yet been born. – Wall Street Journal

Karim Sadjadpour writes: If the four-decade history of the Islamic Republic is any guide, Mr. Khamenei may be unwilling or incapable of marshaling an internal consensus to revive the nuclear deal with the United States unless he feels regime solidarity is faltering, and societal exhaustion is beginning to fuel a new generation of power seekers. The paradox of the Islamic Republic is that it tends to compromise only under severe pressure, yet that same external pressure and isolation help keep it alive. It is a game Mr. Khamenei has been perfecting for decades. – New York Times

Arshad Mohammed and Parisa Hafezi write: Domestic criticism of the administration is likely to be fiercer after last week’s indictment of an Iranian man on U.S. charges of plotting to kill former White House national security adviser John Bolton and the knife attack on novelist Salman Rushdie. The writer has lived under an Iranian fatwa, or religious edict, calling on Muslims to kill him for his novel “The Satanic Verses,” viewed by some as blasphemous. The lack of better policy options for Washington, and Tehran’s view that time is on its side, could leave the deal dangling. – Reuters 

Nadav Eyal writes: What’s the correlation between this case and the Rushdie stabbing? Both show trends of ignorance, prejudice, utilization of social networks for the purpose of radicalization, a persistent belief in unfounded and incorrect conspiracies, and readiness to use political violence. – Ynet 

Meir Javedanfar writes: By holding out against Biden while counting on China and Russia, Ayatollah Khamenei will find that, over time, his hand will only become weaker. Avoiding the mistake Iran made in 1987 by dropping the current preconditions could save Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian people from unnecessary pain. Repeating this mistake could ultimately force Ayatollah Khamenei to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and make a decision so difficult that it will be “worse than drinking poison.” – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

The first sign of danger came when the dwindling crew of Ukrainian technicians running the Zaporizhzhia nuclear-power station noticed that officers from Russia’s state atomic energy company had left the premises without explanation. It was Aug. 5, and Russian soldiers were patrolling the facility. – Wall Street Journal

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of using Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to blackmail Kyiv and its allies, urging tougher sanctions against Moscow after recent shelling in the vicinity of the facility prompted warnings of a nuclear accident. – Wall Street Journal

As the United States and NATO inject personnel and equipment into Eastern Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, vulnerable allies such as Latvia are scrambling to scale up their defenses for fear they will be next to come under attack. – Washington Post

The European Union and the United States in recent days have called for a demilitarized zone to be established immediately around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine, as shelling at the plant raises the risk of a nuclear accident. – New York Times

The Russian economy contracted steeply in the second quarter as the country felt the brunt of the economic consequences of its war in Ukraine, in what experts believe to be the start of a yearslong downturn. – New York Times

As the war drags on, Ukraine has managed to hold off Russian gains for the past month thanks in large part to continued support from the United States and its European allies, and help on the ground from partisans. – New York Times

Securing a new $5 billion loan from the IMF would help reassure Ukraine’s other creditors that the war-torn country’s macroeconomic situation was under control, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief economic adviser told Reuters on Friday. – Reuters

Any possible seizure of Russian assets by the United States will completely destroy Moscow’s bilateral relations with Washington, TASS quoted the head of the North American Department at the Russian foreign ministry as saying on Saturday. – Reuters

The two primary road bridges giving access to the pocket of Russian occupied territory on the west bank of the Dnipro in Kherson Oblast are now probably out of use for the purposes of substantial military resupply, British military intelligence said on Saturday. – Reuters

The US and Russia are discussing a prisoner exchange that would involve trading a notorious Russian arms trafficker for an American basketball star, a Russian diplomat said on Saturday. It marked the first time that Russia said that the talks concerned exchanging Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” for two-time Olympian Brittney Griner. – Agence France-Presse

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Ukrainian forces will target any Russian soldiers who shoot at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant as the two sides continue to trade blame over recent incidents of shelling at the plant. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk have set August 15 as the date for the trial of five foreigners accused of joining Ukrainian armed forces as mercenaries. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Editorial: There’s no military gain from a nuclear accident — both armies are equally vulnerable to radiation and contamination, and so are innocent civilians. A nuclear mishap could leave the land uninhabitable for generations. […]At Zaporizhzhia, it is a few minutes before midnight. A disaster must be averted. – Washington Post

William Nattrass writes: To keep the sanctions regime going, the bloc is aiming for cheap PR blows against Mr. Putin rather than practical help for Ukraine. Whether it’s framed as a question of moral necessity or as a matter of security, banning entry to Russia runs contrary to the Western principles of liberty and tolerance for which Ukrainians are fighting. – Wall Street Journal

Oksana Pokalchuk writes: The Amnesty report is causing long-lasting damage to the group’s reputation in Ukraine and around the world. But the blunder of the leadership does not reflect the important work of local offices, which are in danger of losing of support. My goal is to call attention to the vital work that local staffers perform and urge leaders to respect and include them in all decisions equally. The focus must be on values, evidence and action. Only then will we be able to truly restore faith in our ability to help those we are meant to serve. – Washington Post

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: Is the Biden administration afraid of victory in Ukraine? Such has been the accusation, but while it may come down to nearly the same thing, a truer statement is that the U.S. fears being dragged in if it puts its chips on Ukraine and Ukraine starts losing and also if Ukraine starts winning. In fact, almost any victory scenario might require NATO intervention to seal the deal—to draw a red line against a Vladimir Putin desperation play. – Wall Street Journal

Jonathan Sweet and Mark Toth write: The success of the strike on Saky demonstrates what Ukrainian fighters can accomplish, given the tools they need — especially variants that can strike behind Russian lines in Ukraine. Russian soldiers felt Ukraine’s wrath, and Russian civilians in Crimea now know they are not immune to the war, one that their country is losing. The Biden administration must reconsider providing Ukraine the full complement of HIMARS munitions. – The Hill

Chris Blattman writes: Most difficult of all, the world must help Ukraine and Russia make credible commitments. Most of the discussion centers on security guarantees for Ukraine, or snapback sanctions, to keep a settlement from becoming a temporary respite for Russia to regroup. But Ukrainians must also consider how they empower their leaders to make a binding commitment, and the West should support this. The alternatives — a years-long war or decades of frozen conflict — are in no one’s interest. – The Hill

Dara Massicot writes: But for such a Ukrainian strategy to have the best chance of success, it must be in progress before Russia attempts to annex the territory it holds, that way Ukrainian attacks can deny Russia a foothold in an area like Kherson. […]The sad reality is that annexing four regions is unlikely to be the end of Russia’s mission in Ukraine, but just one phase in Putin’s much longer project. Both Ukraine and its backers must be prepared for a protracted war. – Foreign Affairs 

Sam Greene writes: How people deal with that disappointment will depend in great measure on the degree to which the war is a source of pain in their lives: whether it has made them poorer than other Russians, whether it has offended their sense of ethnic identity, or whether it has disrupted their careers before they even began. Those losses may be bearable when an end to the war seems in sight. As that prospect fades, frustration and conflict will mount, and the Kremlin will find itself fighting both abroad and at home. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Kseniya Kirillova writes: It is perfectly sensible, indeed a good idea, to enforce visa restrictions. But this must be carefully calibrated in order, on the one hand, to inflict maximum damage on people who support Putin and participate in his crimes, and on the other hand, to uphold our principles while denying the aggressor an additional resource. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Alexei Bayer writes: Since February 2022, governments in Riga and Tallinn see Putin-sympathizers at home as a serious and immediate threat. Putin’s agent cultivated the fifth column of collaborators in Ukraine who were supposed to open the door to Kyiv. That didn’t work but the same strategy may succeed with the Russian minority in Latvia and Estonia. Whether Brussels approves of this or not, Russians in those countries may one day soon share the fate of Germans in the Baltic and across Central Europe – with the corresponding end of Russian influence. – Jerusalem Post


A Palestinian gunman opened fire on a bus in Jerusalem’s Old City, injuring at least eight people, including American citizens, Israeli police said, in the first such attack inside Israel in months and following a recent cease-fire between Israel and Gaza militants. – Wall Street Journal

Israel has adopted a policy of one-sided overtures to Gaza residents, advanced by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, officials said on Sunday claiming positive results. – Ynet 

The Border Police Undercover Unit neutralized a suspect that tried to stab the soldiers during a search of his home in Kfar Aqab on Sunday night, according to a Border Police spokesperson. – Jerusalem Post

Former US president Donald Trump authorized then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex parts of the West Bank, in a letter obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Economic incentives provided to the Gaza Strip over the past year were likely a major factor in keeping Hamas out of Operation Breaking Dawn, a senior defense official said on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday to reverse a decision by one of the organization’s offices to remove its director after she tweeted a condemnation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket fire at Israel. – Times of Israel

Aryeh Lightstone writes: Every prospective prime minister should articulate plans for a ministry specifically dedicated to bolstering the Abraham Accords. The ministry should be well-funded and staffed to create a single point of contact for the Accord nations and allies around the world who wish to see this tremendous opportunity furthered. Across the board, there is no better way to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords than being bold and committing now to substantive action. – Washington Examiner

Matan Tzuri writes: Most of the Gaza border community residents are satisfied with the outcome of last week’s IDF operation, and the south looks like its back to normal … for now. Some remedy for the broken soul. With post trauma, you can only learn to live with the pain, it may get less painful with time, but it will never stop hurting. – Ynet 

Hadeel Oueis writes: The Abraham Accords were an excellent opportunity to break the political taboos once considered unbreakable in the Arab world. Still, it was not alone the reason for the new trend of opposing the Islamist groups in Gaza. […]It’s demonstrated in active ways when thousands of Lebanese and Iraqis protest the influence of the Iranian-backed militias, but achieving any tangible wins against Iran’s destructive influence in the region is beyond the capability of the Arab youth, and requires a US coherent plan and active engagement in the region, which doesn’t exist so far. – Jerusalem Post

Catherine Perez-Shakdam writes: If we are ever to defeat Iran’s theological fascism we ought yesterday, today, right now, to come to terms with the ideology which underwrites it, motivates it and ultimately maps out its every move. But to do that one must come to term with the notion that Tehran’s very existence is geared towards the annihilation of Israel and all Jews. – Jerusalem Post

Kobi Michael and Ori Wertman write: The weakness of the PA may deteriorate into a more chaotic reality in the day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and in the struggle for his succession. In the reality of an apparent status quo – actually a reality that changes for the worse every day in view of Israel’s strategic interests – Israel may find itself facing an even more complex difficulty in the absence of a functioning PA and in a chaotic, unstable and probably violent reality. Therefore, Israel’s likely choice is political rather than security disengagement from the Palestinians. – Jerusalem Post

Chuck Freilich writes: Israel heads to the polls again in November and a new centrist government is not unimaginable. The battle to succeed Abbas is also underway and, though less likely, a more moderate Palestinian leadership, too, may emerge. Such are the faint glimmers of hope in the Mideast. – The National Interest


Lebanon says the structures are used by an environmental group. But Israeli officials say the tower belongs to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia group, and is one of 22 outposts that have appeared along the U.N.-monitored Blue Line in the past three months — part of a sudden and worrying escalation that has led Israel to put its northern forces on high alert. – Washington Post

An official from Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said on Saturday the group had no additional information on the stabbing attack against novelist Salman Rushdie. – Reuters

Smadar Perry writes: Even Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib highlighted Hezbollah’s isolation in the talks, adding the organization’s threats to bomb the gas fields if Israel does not back down do not represent the official Lebanese stance. The bottom line is that if we accept Hochstein’s generous offer, we can indeed allow ourselves to be optimistic for once. – Ynet


An Australian teacher who was kidnapped in Kabul by Taliban forces in 2016, then held hostage for three years before being released in an exchange deal with U.S. officials, returned here Friday and announced that he planned to “celebrate” the upcoming first anniversary of Taliban rule. – Washington Post

Taliban rule brought an end last August to America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan, but for the many here who suffered unimaginable loss during those decades, peace has neither brought prosperity nor healed old wounds. – Washington Post

Marwa Rahim began the day preoccupied with something very different than war. She had bought a new pink-and-white dress for the return of in-person medical school, and it needed to be pressed. Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, had reliable power only in the middle of the night, so she set her alarm for 2 a.m., ironed her dress and went back to bed. – New York Times

Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Sunday disclosed the findings of their inquiry into the Biden administration’s calamitous evacuation from Afghanistan a year ago, an apparent blueprint for a deeper investigation of the president and his top advisers should the GOP win the House majority in November’s midterm elections. – Washington Post

The White House is planning to circulate a new memo on Capitol Hill defending President Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and claiming the move strengthened national security by freeing up critical military and intelligence agents, according to a copy of the document obtained by Axios. – Axios 

The Taliban marked the first anniversary of their return to power in Afghanistan with a national holiday Monday, following a turbulent year that saw women’s rights crushed and a humanitarian crisis worsen. – Agence France-Presse

The brother of one of the 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport bombing committed suicide at his memorial, nearly one year after the attack. – Washington Examiner

Retired Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command at this time last year when the military withdrew from Afghanistan, believed troops should’ve been kept there “indefinitely.” – Washington Examiner

Nearly one year after the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane said on Sunday that the country has returned to conditions seen in 2001. – The Hill

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani agreed on Sunday that the Trump’s administration’s deal with the Taliban that intended to lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country was a disaster. – The Hill

The U.S. government has evacuated more than 800 American citizens from Afghanistan since the Taliban swept to power and U.S. troops officially left the country last August, according to data provided by House GOP investigators and the State Department. – Politico

A year after the Taliban returned to power in Kabul, a former top U.S. diplomat who negotiated and signed a controversial peace deal with the group gave his view on why it failed to secure reconciliation among Afghans. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The Taliban has “failed to establish an inclusive political system,” the European Union has charged on the eve of the first anniversary of the hard-line Islamist movement’s rule. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A year after President Biden’s chaotic and disastrous military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US finds itself “back where we started” two decades ago when al Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attacks, a retired four-star general said Sunday. – New York Post

Shabana Basij-Rasikh writes: And so today, one year down the spiral, as the world follows news of the death of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri at his hideaway in Kabul, girls walk into secret schools on the outskirts of our city. They learn English, and they learn art. In living rooms, women gather in secret to strategize ways to fight for the human rights they’ve been denied. As it was in my childhood, so it is again. – Washington Post

Fareed Zakaria writes: In his new book on the 20-year war, “The Fifth Act: America’s End in Afghanistan,” Elliot Ackerman notes that most of what the United States built in Afghanistan was made of plywood, a metaphor for our hesitation about the mission. Contrast that with the British, who would arrive in a country and quickly build stone monuments to symbolize their enduring empire. I suspect that America will always be ambivalent — the plywood imperialist. – Washington Post


Israel hit Iranian targets in a series of strikes on Sunday near the ancestral home region of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and close to Russia’s main Syrian bases on the Mediterranean coast, regional intelligence and Syrian military sources said. – Reuters

This Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of American journalist Austin Tice. He is believed to have been kidnapped in a suburb of Damascus, Syria, in 2012. – NPR

Thousands of people staged protests across parts of rebel-held northern Syria Friday after Turkey’s foreign minister called for reconciliation between Syrian opposition groups backed by Ankara and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. – Reuters 

Tony Hunter writes: To my colleagues in the media, do not let Austin Tice be forgotten. Keep asking tough questions and demanding answers until the administration takes action and makes his release a priority. And to President Biden, step up and insist that your team find a pathway to Austin’s release. Bring Austin Tice home! – Washington Post

Rena Netjes writes: It’s not a surprise that Syrian IDPs, displaced from their homes, would welcome ‘the liberation’ of their towns and villages. With dwindling western aid and the sword of Damocles—Russian veto of the UN aid to these areas—above their heads, these people, often farmers without another profession and depending on aid, only want to return to their homes. – Washington Institute


Sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have forced it to divert oil sales and triggered an exodus of multinationals. But one country is openly boasting of a boom in trade with Russia — Turkey. – Bloomberg

Two more ships carrying grain left from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Saturday, Turkey’s defence ministry said, bringing the total number of vessels to depart the country under a U.N.-brokered deal to 16. – Reuters

The Swedish government announced on Thursday that it intended to extradite Okan Kale, a Turkish national living in Sweden, to Turkey after the Turkish government convicted him of credit card fraud—a development possibly connected to Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s future membership in NATO. – The National Interest

Steven Erlanger writes: Turkey, which is not a member of the European Union, has refused to apply Western sanctions against Russia. It is exploring ways to work with otherwise sanctioned Russian banks and accept payments through Russian credit cards. Russian gas flows unimpeded through the TurkStream pipeline. There are also reports that Russia is seeking Turkish help in providing “subsystems” for its weapons, which can no longer source Western components directly. – New York Times


Rival protesters took to Iraq’s streets Friday as their leaders vied for political dominance, just 10 months after a U.S.-backed election that was meant to heal the country’s fractures left many more exposed. – Washington Post

Iraq’s top judicial body said Sunday it doesn’t have the authority to dissolve the country’s parliament, days after an influential Shiite cleric gave it one week to dismiss the legislature so that new elections can be held. – Associated Press 

Azhar Al-Rubaie writes: Iraqi and international calls for calm and to bring the parties to the table to resolve the current crisis have not stopped the Sadrist demonstrations inside the Green Zone, now in their second week. Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi has called for the demonstrations to continue, saying they are “very important for achieving the demands.” Meanwhile, the Iraqi people must continue to wait for the formation of the Iraqi government, after their interests have been continually obstructed by political deadlock and paralysis. – Washington Institute


The worshipers had gathered on a hot, bright Sunday morning for Mass in a small room at a Coptic Orthodox church in greater Cairo when they heard a boom. The power had been out earlier, and the generator and electrical outlets were running at the same time — a fatal miscalculation. – New York Times

It was hot, Egypt-hot, when friends and relatives gathered one recent morning outside the concrete walls of Cairo’s notorious Tora prison to greet the newly released. The flowers one family had brought were beginning to wilt. Babies were wailing. The crowd was bunched together in the shade, greetings and laughter alternating with silence, their excitement cut by the strain. – New York Times

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi swore in 13 new ministers on Sunday after parliament approved its first major cabinet reshuffle since 2019 a day earlier. – Reuters

Ethiopia has completed the third phase of filling the reservoir for its huge dam on the Blue Nile river, the government said on Friday, a process that continues to irk the country’s downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan. – Reuters

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia’s national oil company on Sunday posted a 90% jump in quarterly profit on the back of high oil prices, generating billions of dollars in cash that is infusing fresh momentum into the kingdom’s ambitious economic makeover and strengthening its geopolitical power. – Wall Street Journal

Asim Ghafoor, an American lawyer detained in the United Arab Emirates since mid-July, was released early Saturday, concluding an effort by members of Congress and Muslim advocacy groups to free him. They had raised concerns that he was being politically targeted because of his ties to Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi journalist. – New York Times

Kuwait has appointed an ambassador to Iran, both countries said on Sunday, more than six years after recalling its top envoy to Tehran in solidarity with Saudi Arabia after it severed ties with the Islamic Republic in 2016. – Reuters

A Saudi Arabian man wanted in connection with a deadly 2015 bombing in the kingdom detonated an explosive device in Jeddah on Wednesday as security forces attempted to arrest him, killing himself and injuring four others, state media reported. – Reuters

Kingdom Holding, one of Saudi Arabia’s highest-profile investors, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Russian energy firms shortly before and after the invasion of Ukraine this year, the group disclosed in a filing on Sunday. – Financial Times

Saudi Arabia has agreed to renew a $3bn deposit at Pakistan’s central bank to bolster the south Asian state’s depleted foreign reserves as Islamabad negotiates an aid package with the IMF, according to people familiar with the deal. – Financial Times

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisia’s government and both its main labour and commerce unions agreed on Friday to start talks on Monday over economic reforms required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue programme. – Reuters 

Sarah E. Yerkes writes: Saied has taken many pages from the dictator’s playbook to roll back a decade’s democratic progress in one year. But while he may have solidified his hold on Tunisian politics, he should remember the very first lesson of the Tunisia model: that the Tunisian people, when united, have the power to demand change and take down a tyrant. – Foreign Affairs 

Neville Teller writes: These are worthy objectives, and wholly in line with those inherent in the Abraham Accords. In effect, Jordan is lining up alongside the UAE and Bahrain to capitalize on the benefits that follow from a flourishing cooperative relationship with Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Amr Salah writes: Nonetheless, Russia is committed to further cooperation with the Arab states. Development needs, entangled with political dynamics in a volatile region, do not exclude an additional role for Rosatom in future nuclear projects in the Middle East. For those who seek to recalibrate their relationships with the United States, Putin’s nuclear arm remains an attractive option. – The National Interest

Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s foreign ministry on Sunday criticised the United Nations Secretary-General’s recent comment on his supports for the North’s complete denuclearisation, calling the remarks lack impartiality and fairness. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the two countries will “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts,” Pyongyang’s state media reported on Monday. – Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday offered “audacious” economic assistance to North Korea if it abandons its nuclear weapons program while avoiding harsh criticism of the North days after it threatened “deadly” retaliation over the COVID-19 outbreak it blames on the South. – Associated Press 

South Korea must overcome historical disputes with Japan and achieve peace with North Korea as key steps towards bolstering the stability and security of the North Asian region, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Monday. – Reuters

South Korea has contradicted China’s account of a discussion between their foreign ministers over a US missile defence system on the Korean peninsula, hinting at growing tensions between the two countries. – Financial Times


China announced new military drills around Taiwan on Monday, as a delegation of U.S. lawmakers met with Taiwanese officials at a time of heightened tensions in the region, with Beijing accusing the United States of “playing cheap political tricks” by strengthening its unofficial relationship with the self-governing democracy. – Washington Post 

China’s military said it would dispatch jet fighters to Thailand for joint air-force training with the U.S. ally starting Sunday, drills that come on the heels of Beijing’s live-fire exercises around Taiwan and coincide with a large U.S. military exercise in Indonesia. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese officials are making plans for Xi Jinping to visit Southeast Asia and meet face-to-face with President Biden in November, according to people familiar with the preparations, in what would mark the Chinese leader’s first international trip in nearly three years and his first in-person meeting with Mr. Biden since the American leader’s inauguration. – Wall Street Journal

China’s foreign ministry said on Friday it had imposed sanctions on Lithuanian Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Agne Vaiciukeviciute for visiting Taiwan, the latest development in Beijing’s diplomatic row with the European Union country. – Reuters

U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said on Friday that China “overreacted” to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and used it as a pretext to try to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. – Reuters

President Biden is likely to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in person in November — the first such meeting since Biden took office, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. – New York Post

Josh Rogin writes: Fabricating more semiconductors here at home is long overdue and will have many benefits. But it doesn’t get us far in dealing with the broader economic threat from Beijing. China’s predatory investing, unfair trade practices and technological expansion are increasing. The vital effort to protect our economic and national security from China’s aggression must continue, and both parties must join the fight. – Washington Post

Kevin Rudd writes: China believes that the U.S.’s longtime One China policy is evolving into a One China, One Taiwan policy. That’s not an accurate reading of the American view on Taiwan, but it explains why China is now signaling more clearly than ever its willingness to attack. I have long argued that the geopolitical disaster of a war between the U.S. and China need not be inevitable. That remains my view—if both sides adopt some basic strategic guardrails. But for the foreseeable future, it’s time for all of us to fasten our seat belts. – Wall Street Journal

Allysia Finley writes: With a single legislative act, Democrats have increased Beijing’s geopolitical leverage, reduced American living standards and global economic competitiveness, and assisted Mr. Xi’s ambitions to dominate biotech. […]Capitalism and free markets made the U.S. the world’s leading innovator, energy producer and economic superpower. Though alarms about China’s supplanting the U.S. in recent years have probably been overplayed, they could wind up being a self-fulfilling prophecy if Congress keeps passing self-defeating laws. – Wall Street Journal

Kislaya Prasad writes: In a similar vein, it will be important to develop an understanding of where the most significant vulnerabilities will be, should relations with China deteriorate, and to target investments in alternative sources of supply appropriately. The alternative sources do not have to replace China’s supply but should create sufficient capacity to enable the U.S. to rebound quickly from a geopolitical shock. – The Hill

Efraim Inbar writes: The United States’ support for Ukraine and growing tensions with Russia pushed Moscow closer to Beijing. Moreover, the war also impacted the main feature of the international system, American-Sino competition. The growing American involvement in the European theater diverts American attention and resources from dealing with its rival – China. – Jerusalem Post

Edward Lucas writes: This is no reason for complacency. China’s successes may be flimsy, but they still reflect gaps created by Western failure. The stuttering pace of EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, timidity in confronting the headstrong Hungarian leadership, failure to show solidarity with Lithuania over Taiwan, and the neglect of Chinese-language teaching in CEE universities were not the result of Chinese pressure. But they created conditions which the CCP could, and did, exploit. The Chinese leadership may be on the back foot now. But it thinks long term. And we, mostly, do not. – Center for European Policy Analysis

South Asia

The chaos, confusion and religious violence that accompanied the cleaving of Pakistan from India 75 years ago this week resulted in the deaths of up to two million people and unleashed one of history’s largest displacements, with Hindus and Muslims from once-mixed communities rushing in opposite directions to new homelands created along religious lines. – New York Times

India said on Friday it opposed any unilateral change to the status quo over Taiwan but that its stance on the ‘one-China’ policy remained consistent, days after Beijing said it hoped New Delhi would continue to recognise its claim to self-governing Taiwan. – Reuters

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

Pakistani authorities have revoked the license of a popular TV news channel days after it aired a critical report about the country’s armed forces, sparking outrage among some Pakistani journalists. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday congratulated India on 75 years of independence and said the United States and India were “indispensable partners” that would continue to work together to address global challenges in the years ahead. – Reuters

India will aim to become a developed nation within 25 years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a national day address on Monday, with policies to support domestic production in power, defence and digital technology. – Reuters

India said on Friday there was no pressure on it from Western countries or anywhere else over its energy purchases from Russia, as Indian firms step up imports of oil and coal from the country shunned by some governments for its invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters

The US expressed concern that an Indian company hid the origin of Russian oil, processed it and shipped some products to New York, according to a deputy governor of India’s central bank. – Bloomberg

The United States has expressed concern to India that it was being used to export fuel made from Russian crude, through high-seas transfers to hide its origin, to New York in violation of U.S. sanctions, a top Indian central banker said on Saturday. – Reuters

Sri Lanka said on Saturday it has agreed that the Chinese survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 can dock at its southernmost port, the Chinese-run Hambantota on August 16, despite security concerns raised by neighbouring India and the United States. – Reuters

Indrajit Samarajiva writes: It’s already begun. Sri Lanka has started settling loans in Indian rupees while India is buying Russian oil in rubles. China may buy Saudi oil with yuan. The Sri Lankan uprising that threw out our leaders is called the Aragalaya. It means “struggle.” It’s going to be a long one, and it’s spreading across the world. – New York Times

Joseph D’Souza writes: Democracies need to rise to the aid of the Sri Lankan people so that they can find their feet and begin rebuilding. One hopes Sri Lanka and other nations learn that extremism of any kind does no good for its people. Mature democracies, civil societies, incremental and responsible environmental policies, the protection of minorities, and accountability for those in power are the answers to the present leadership crisis we are facing in our complex world. – Washington Examiner

Daniel F. Runde writes: For its part, Pakistan should recommit to structural reform of the Pakistani economy, addressing longstanding issues of revenue collection and attractiveness for foreign investment. It can build on the “geoeconomics” initiative of the previous administration to make Pakistan live up to its considerable economic potential. The United States and Pakistan should repair, and restore our broken relationship, dispel misconceptions and take a long view seeking stronger ties based on economics and other non-security issues. – The Hill


The Philippines is looking to buy heavy-lift Chinook helicopters from the United States, after scrapping a deal with Russia worth 12.7 billion pesos ($227.35 million) in order to avoid sanctions, Manila’s ambassador to Washington said on Monday. – 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

Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Saturday expressed “sincere gratitude” towards the United States for taking “concrete actions” to maintain security and peace in the Taiwan Strait and the region. – Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to never again wage war on the anniversary of Japan’s World War Two surrender, while members of his cabinet marked the date with visits to a controversial shrine, moves set to anger China and South Korea. – Reuters

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will attend former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral on Sept. 27, Nikkei Asia reported on Sunday. – Reuters

New Zealand is sending 120 military personnel to Britain to help train Ukrainians in front-line combat, the government said on Monday. – Reuters

As Japan’s new defense chief, Yasukazu Hamada plans to improve Japan’s defense posture and capabilities, he said Wednesday. – USNI News

Lin Fei-fan writes: Taiwan has a demonstrated and tenacious democratic spirit that is magnified in the face of threats to our way of life. We call on the international community to see us as a trusted ally and country worthy of the world’s collective defense. – Washington Post

Jared Morgan McKinney and Peter Harris write: Today, Taiwan should do the same. It should use the crisis as a prod to overcome the perils inherent in the status quo. Taiwanese leaders should practically embrace Wu’s words and invest in autonomous, independent and integrated capabilities rather than assuming external intervention will save the day. If they do this, they will be well positioned to deter and resist Beijing when the next crisis dawns. – The Hill

Gearoid Reidy writes: Japan observes the end of World War II on Monday, an anniversary that even 77 years later remains a source of contention both domestically and overseas. Statements by the country’s leaders are routinely examined for whether their level of contrition matches expectations. – Bloomberg

David A. Merkel writes: There is no reason to believe that Tokayev would stand up to Putin and cut Russia out of their oil deal. The current geopolitical situation and the worldwide impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine makes it increasingly important to seek out alternative sources of oil for the global market. Regrettably, Kazakh oil is not a viable option in the quest for oil outside of Moscow’s sphere of influence. – Jerusalem Post

Paula J. Dobriansky and Nate Morris write: As we rely more and more on certain countries in Asia to take our garbage and recyclables, we open ourselves to the risk of literally shipping our secrets overseas to be mined by criminal elements. For still further evidence of our overreliance on Asia, look at where many technology companies place their data centers. The market for data in Southeast Asia is currently growing at close to 10 percent per year, and it will soon eclipse the market in the United States. – The National Interest

Julian Spencer-Churchill writes: While the Canberra government has publicly committed to non-intervention, this is a mistake that concedes the initiative to Beijing. If the threat of a deterrent intervention is foreclosed against the Solomon Islands, neighboring island nations will see the benefits of playing China against the coalition of liberal democracies, creating a ring of hostile bases as the Japanese did during World War II. There are plenty of other socio-economic dislocations in Micronesia and Melanesia for China to exploit. – The National Interest

Sarosh Bana writes: While Washington is mandated to defend Taiwan, it is clearly not inclined to provide “boots on the ground” support for India, nor does it seek to establish any military bases in or around the country as a counterpoint to Chinese hegemony. It is this situation that emboldens the People’s Republic of China in its transgressions against India. – The National Interest


Despite a barrage of Western sanctions that followed Alexander Lukashenko’s claim of victory in a fraudulent presidential election two years ago, the Kremlin-backed dictator of Belarus continues to brutally — and bizarrely — repress political dissent. – Washington Post

In Paldiski, Estonia, abandoned Soviet-era bunkers, splattered with graffiti and overgrown with weeds, are a reminder of the centuries-long domination that Russia once exerted over the Baltic region. Now this port city in the northwestern corner of the country is hastily being turned into a bulwark against Russian efforts to politically pressure Europe. – New York Times

Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor, has filed a lawsuit against the country’s Parliament over its decision to cut funding for his post-chancellery perks because of his ties to Russia amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, his lawyer said Friday, according to DPA, the German wire service. – New York Times

Serbia’s strongman leader, Aleksandar Vucic, is fed up with being reviled as a “little Putin” intent on aggression against his country’s fragile neighbors in the Balkans. – New York Times

The EU has demanded that Serbia and Kosovo abandon talk of war as the bloc and Nato prepare to hold crisis talks with the rivals this week in a bid to avert fresh conflict in the Balkans. – Financial Times

A potential new gas connection between Spain and France could be ready to operate in less than a year’s time, Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said on Friday, if France and other European countries agreed on the project. – Reuters

The German government said Friday it regrets plans by families of Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich to boycott a 50-year anniversary ceremony next month and said it was prepared to continue talks on further compensation. – Associated Press

The U.S. Air Force is now deploying F-22 Raptors to Poland to fly alongside F-35 fighters in support of the deterrence mission on NATO’s eastern Flank. – The National Interest

Kim Lane Scheppele writes: Orbán provides a formula for the permanent power of a minority party. Lead with culture wars to fire up the base. Discredit opponents through party-controlled media. Engineer the election rules by controlling their design.  Orbán has demonstrated that this playbook works — and the Republicans are paying attention. – The Hill

Wiktor Babinski and Maciej Smigaj write: Many speak about a possible coming of a “Yanukovych moment” for the current rulers of Georgia, comparing the GD to Ukraine’s erstwhile president, who turned his back on the EU under Russian pressure, only to be ousted by a popular uprising. Government officials, meanwhile, insist that the opposition, unable to win through electoral means for the past decade, is trying to achieve power through street protests. One way or another, Brussels, Washington, and Moscow would do well to watch Georgia closely in 2023. – The National Interest


Sailors in blue and orange coveralls milled around on the deck of the freighter Brave Commander on Sunday as a series of chutes and conveyors loaded the ship’s cargo bay with 23,000 metric tons of wheat bound for Africa. – New York Times

Troop rotations by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali will resume on Monday, a mission spokesperson said on Saturday, one month after Malian authorities suspended them and accused foreign soldiers of entering the country without permission. – Reuters

Nigerian police are to tighten security at schools and hospitals and conduct stop and search operations in a bid to stamp out increasing gang attacks, they said on Sunday, at the same time as being urged to be “professional and humane”. – Reuters

Forty-nine Ivorian soldiers held in Mali and accused of being mercenaries have been charged with attempting to harm state security and remanded in custody, judicial sources told AFP on Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

Tunku Varadarajan writes: Mr. Táíwò likens this to putting colonialism on a pedestal, to asserting that the colonization by Europeans was the single most important event in African history rather than an episode in it. This transcendence of the colonial experience, he says, turns Africans into “permanent subalterns in their own history.” That this is done by those who claim to be combatting colonial supremacy is, writes Mr. Táíwò, “the ultimate irony.” In truth, having rid itself of foreign colonists, Africa must now repel its very own decolonizers. – Wall Street Journal

Latin America

Paraguay’s vice president, a candidate in the country’s presidential elections next year, announced his resignation on Friday after U.S. officials blacklisted him for alleged “significant acts of corruption.” – Washington Post

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has held “informal meetings” with members of newly elected Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s government, he said on Friday. – Reuters

Brazil and Paraguay will resume negotiations regarding conditions for the sale of energy from the Itaipu hydroelectric plant, potentially opening a door for the bi-national company to sell electricity on unregulated markets. – Reuters

Colombia’s trade with Venezuela could hit $1.2 billion this year, its commerce minister German Umana said on Friday, after the country’s new President Gustavo Petro pledged to revive trading relations with its South American neighbour. – Reuters

Colombia’s new government and members of the nation’s last guerrilla group took steps Friday toward restarting peace talks that were suspended three years ago in Cuba. – Associated Press 

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Cuban communism has gone up in smoke. That’s the good news. But the corruption and gangsterism championed by the megalomaniac Fidel lives on. A new generation of Castro kleptocrats—think of Vladimir Putin’s Russia—is trying to grab the baton. […]As Mr. Morales notes, he leaves behind a bankrupt nation “bogged down between the stupidity of a bureaucracy that is incapable of reforming a proven obsolete model and the excessive ambition of a new mafia that has seized the country’s wealth.” He also leaves behind a power vacuum, and we know how nature feels about that. – Wall Street Journal

Richard M. Sanders writes: It is ironic to note that during the George W. Bush administration, Uruguay actually pressed for a free trade agreement with the United States. It was brushed aside, as presumably it was felt that this small economy was not worth the heavy lifting with Congress that would be required. While the rhetoric of a new commitment to great power competition with China is now the order of the day in Washington, an Uruguay-China free trade agreement, despite whatever hurdles the other Mercosur members may put on it, seems more likely than any such agreement with the United States. – The National Interest

North America

A man fatally shot himself early Sunday outside the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court after driving his car into a nearby barricade, according to U.S. Capitol Police. – Wall Street Journal 

FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home Monday removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities, according to a search warrant released by a Florida court Friday. […]Also included in the list was information about the “President of France,” according to the three-page list. – Wall Street Journal

The State Department alerted U.S. citizens near Tijuana, Mexico, early Saturday to shelter in place due to fires, roadblocks and police activity. – The Hill


Recent U.S. sanctions against cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash have sparked a debate within the crypto community on whether the ban compromises users’ ability to operate anonymously. – The Hill

A hacker has claimed to have obtained the personal information of 48.5 million users of a COVID health code mobile app run by the city of Shanghai, the second claim of a breach of the Chinese financial hub’s data in just over a month. – Reuters

Tesla Inc. chief Elon Musk has contributed a column for the official publication of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the powerful agency that oversees data security for companies from Alibaba to Tencent and works with other government organs to censor online content. – Bloomberg


Protecting the continental U.S. and Guam from missiles and hypersonic weapons are the top priorities for the Missile Defense Agency, Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the MDA director, said in an interview with Defense News. – Defense News

The head of U.S. Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard, has said his No. 1 need is a robust missile warning capability. – Defense News

One of the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers recently completed a deployment in what could be the scene of the next big war: the Indo-Pacific. – The National Interest

Brooke Taylor and Peter Layton write: Unrelenting emphasis on devising new employment strategies should proactively counter these threats, with additional verification occurring through rigorous red teaming and wargaming. This means a renewed focus on military training exercises between the United States and allies, and crucially solving what to do about extended nuclear deterrence in the Pacific in the absence of NATO. The Ukraine war shows what can happen without a NATO and its nuclear sharing posture in place. – The Hill

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: Most of all, though, more attention is warranted at senior levels. Decisionmakers must elevate this recruiting crisis to the top of their inbox and be prepared to tackle it thoughtfully over the next several years, through whatever means necessary. – Breaking Defense

Abdul Moiz Khan writes: IoT is an advanced technology, and with the revolution in military affairs, it will have a far-reaching impact on the battlefield. It has solved a few shortcomings of NCW and augmented many of its capabilities, thus increasing its efficacy. With the speed at which Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom took place two decades ago, we can envisage what the future has in store. – The National Interest

Christopher D. Booth writes: Minimizing the signature of individual soldiers and vehicles, improving their survivability, and reducing the logistics tail represent methods to maintain a critical edge in this new environment. Finally, enhancing soldiers’ performance and even treating injuries through biotechnology is an area that should be investigated. Investing in these critical technologies will improve the Army’s capabilities across the entire spectrum of conflict. – The National Interest

Long War

A US air strike killed 13 members of the al-Shabab Islamist terrorist group in the Hiiran region of central Somalia on Sunday, state-owned national television reported, citing Somali army officials. – Bloomberg

A new US intelligence assessment prepared after the US killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike earlier this month found that the terrorist group “has not reconstituted its presence in Afghanistan” since all US troops left the country last August. – CNN

Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani, an Afghan cleric affiliated with the Taliban, was killed in Afghanistan on Thursday by a suicide bomber linked to the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K) terror group. – The National Interest

The IDF, Israel Security Agency (Shabak), and Israel Border Police forces on Sunday night conducted counterterrorism activities in a number of locations in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, including the towns of Jiftlik, Al Zubeidat, Birzeit, Izbat at-Tabib, ad-Dhahiriya, Bayt Awa, Dheisha,and the cities of Jericho and Hebron. – Arutz Sheva

Farhad Rezaei writes: In yet another ironic turn of events, Al Qaeda could replace the Taliban in the Guards’ profitable drug smuggling business. The IRGC’s Sarallah Corps in Kerman Province, known for its narcotic trade with the Taliban, can use Al Qaeda to smuggle heroin and opium into the west as part of its broader scheme to support terrorism. If Iran can turn Al Qaeda Central into one of its proxies, efforts to destabilize Afghanistan would follow. – The National Interest