Fdd's overnight brief

August 16, 2022

In The News


Iran said Tuesday it submitted a “written response” to what has been described as a final roadmap to restore its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. – Associated Press

The only way to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is for Tehran to abandon its extraneous demands, the U.S. State Department said on Monday, saying Washington believes everything that can be negotiated already has been. – Reuters

An Iranian-flagged tanker has retrieved an oil cargo which the United States had confiscated and is set to leave Greece, sources familiar with the matter said on Monday. – Reuters

An Iranian base that is allegedly used to train foreign terrorists to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is hosting part of the International Army Games 2022, raising questions about earlier reports that Russians are training to operate UAVs in Iran. – Janes

Dr. Emad Abshenas, an Iranian political analyst who serves as the head of the Iranian Research Centers Union, said in an August 12, 2022 show on Alghad TV (UAE/Egypt) that Iran has placed former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor John Bolton, as well as “all of CENTCOM”, on its terror list for their role in the January 2020 assassination of IRGC Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: The attack might be part of a wider pattern of Iranian-organized or -inspired terrorism on U.S. soil. The FBI recently broke up an assassination-for-hire plot aimed at former national security adviser John Bolton. […]Mr. Bolton, Mr. Esper and Mr. Pompeo all advocated for the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran; the plots against them and others might be Iran’s revenge for the 2020 U.S. drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. – Washington Post

Eugene Robinson writes: Three decades ago, I got a firsthand glimpse of Rushdie’s day-to-day existence as the most hunted man on the face of the earth. He became one of my heroes, not merely for his sublime and challenging prose but for his indomitable courage. – Washington Post

Mehdi Khalaji writes: Tehran’s latest rhetoric about Rushdie reflects the same mindset, insisting to listeners that the regime is fully capable of threatening its American, Muslim, or Iranian opponents even on U.S. territory. […]Policymakers should be careful not to forget the apocalyptic mindset that undergirds much of this rhetoric, whether one is talking about assassination attempts against lone activists, provocative regional military strikes, or, most important of all, nuclear brinkmanship. – Washington Institute

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: This may be Iran’s true goal: Engage enough and appear flexible to avoid global snapback sanctions, but figure out a way to blame the US for inflexibility so it won’t have to give up the nuclear advances it has made since April 2021, when it started enriching to the 60% level. […]With the EU having set Monday night as an unofficial deadline and another IAEA Board of Governors meeting coming up next month, the answer is not far off. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

There’s no warning when incoming fire slams into the grounds of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, sending workers scrambling for cover. – Washington Post

Over the past six months, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has become an inspiring wartime leader and champion of his country. During an hour-long, wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post at the presidential office, where hallways are kept dark and are lined with sandbags to protect against Russian attack, Zelensky discussed U.S. warnings about Russia preparing to launch a full-scale invasion — and if he believed them. – Washington Post

The United States had discovered Putin sharply increasing funding for military operations while leaving his pandemic response underfunded. “We assess that they plan to conduct a significant strategic attack on Ukraine from multiple directions simultaneously,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Biden. “Their version of ‘shock and awe.’ ” – Washington Post

On a sunny October morning, the nation’s top intelligence, military and diplomatic leaders filed into the Oval Office for an urgent meeting with President Biden. They arrived bearing a highly classified intelligence analysis, compiled from newly obtained satellite images, intercepted communications and human sources, that amounted to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. – Washington Post 

In their summer campaign to drive Russian troops from the southern region of Kherson, Ukraine’s forces have decimated Russian command centers and ammunition depots, severed supply lines with precision strikes on key bridges, and sown terror among collaborationist officials with a spate of car bombings, shootings and, Ukrainian officials say, at least one poisoning. – New York Times

It was the beginning of six weeks of “hell,” said Vasiliy, 37, who like most people interviewed for this article declined to give his surname for fear of reprisals. Shunted from one place of detention to another, he was beaten and repeatedly subjected to electrical shocks under interrogation, with little understanding of where he was or why he was being held. – New York Times

The Ukrainian military said Monday that it had repelled more than a dozen Russian attacks in the country’s east and north, including attempts to advance on key cities in the eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas. – Associated Press

With much fanfare, ship after ship loaded with grain has sailed from Ukraine after being stuck in the country’s Black Sea ports for nearly six months. More quietly, a parallel wartime deal met Moscow’s demands to clear the way for its wheat to get to the world, too, boosting an industry vital to Russia’s economy that had been ensnared in wider sanctions. – Associated Press

Lawyers for American basketball star Brittney Griner have filed an appeal of her nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession, Russian news agencies reported Monday, amid talks between the U.S. and Russia that could lead to a high-profile prisoner swap. – Associated Press

An independent military intelligence group says Russia is amassing anti-aircraft missile systems in Belarus in preparation for what it says is a large-scale attack against Ukraine. – Newsweek

A video that has gone viral on social media appears to show Russia’s defenses failing to block a HIMARS attack on a strategic bridge in Ukraine’s occupied Kherson region. – Newsweek

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that Russia’s actions could “cause a catastrophe” should Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine not be defended properly. – The Hill

The sweeping Western sanction imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine have hit Russia’s access to technology intensive products again raising the call for Russia to achieve technological sovereignty. Vladimir Putin and Denis Manturov the Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade have promised an intensive program to achieve that purpose relying on capital-rich companies to make the necessary investments. Russia can call upon a legacy of scientific prowess to generate innovation. – Middle East Media Research Institute


An Israeli military court on Monday rejected an appeal for release by a Palestinian prisoner whose health is deteriorating as he continues a 165-day hunger strike to protest being held without charge or trial, his lawyer said. – Associated Press

A Hamas terrorist was accidentally killed by a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket during Operation Breaking Dawn, according to information released by Hamas and Palestinian media during the conflict, together with corroborating statements made on Sunday by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. – Jerusalem Post

The Israel Police arrested three people Monday morning on suspicion of conducting a money-laundering service on behalf of criminals in France who defrauded the French government out of millions of euros. – Times of Israel

The CEO of a leading Canadian human rights group has called for dissolving the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory (COI). – Algemeiner

Editorial: How is peace possible with those who view as heroic the shooting in the stomach of a woman in her 26th week of pregnancy? How is peace possible with people who put in their pantheon of heroes the person who carried out such an attack? What kind of accommodation can possibly be made with those who view an act so despicable as one that is heroic? – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Because there is no significant difference between trade in physical weapons and in digital weapons, controls over cyberweapons exports must be improved and strengthened as if they were nonconventional weapons. Moreover, the entire industry should be subject to export control – not just companies registered in Israel, but also Israeli know-how and technology that are sold to governments or private organizations. The most effective way to do this may well be to set up an independent agency that is not part of the Defense Ministry. – Haaretz


The Biden administration has decided it won’t release any of the roughly $7 billion in foreign assets held by Afghanistan’s central bank on U.S. soil and has suspended talks with the Taliban over the funds after the killing of al Qaeda’s leader in Kabul, according to U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal

Soon after the U.S. military mistakenly killed 10 civilians, including seven children, last August in the final U.S. drone strike before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan, the Biden administration pledged to help surviving members of the family relocate to the United States for their safety. – New York Times

A year after the Taliban swept across Afghanistan, sparking a chaotic withdrawal of US and allied forces, the country’s dire economic and human rights outlook has only worsened. – Bloomberg

In a new memo, the White House is defending President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal last year, claiming it strengthened national security by freeing up military and intelligence resources that the United States can deploy in other areas. – Washington Examiner

Russia, China and other non-Western powers are making diplomatic overtures to Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government as the U.S. continues to stonewall the hardline Islamist group a year after it forcefully seized control of the country. – Newsweek

David Ignatius writes:  The war in Afghanistan from the beginning was a story of overly optimistic assumptions about our Afghan partners’ ability to contain the Taliban, and that continued to the end. Nobody predicted that a panicked President Ashraf Ghani would flee the country and that the Afghan army would suddenly collapse — and perhaps nobody could have. But the Biden administration could have hedged better against the possibility of such “black swan” disasters — and, indeed, some officials tried, unsuccessfully, to do just that. – Washington Post

Obaidullah Baheer writes: Of course, there’s fear. I often wonder whether I am pushing too much and whether the Taliban’s patience will finally run out. I just hope that if Taliban fighters do come for me, many more Afghans — inspired by my nonviolent actions and eagerness to change society through dialogue and cooperation — pick up where I left off. – Washington Post

Fereshta Abassi writes: But would it be too much for the United Nations Security Council to impose travel bans on senior Taliban officials — and for the UN Human Rights Council to mandate an international body to collect evidence of the grave human rights abuses being committed in Afghanistan today so that there could be justice one day? […]We have lost our beautiful Afghanistan for now, but it is still my home. Many of my close friends and extended family members are still in Kabul Jan, and more importantly, so is my heart. And it is broken. – The Hill

Rep. Steve Scalise and Jake Ellzey write: House Republicans are committed to honoring those who served, and those who lost their lives in Afghanistan. We will not let their sacrifice be in vain. We will leave no stone unturned in our oversight of this embarrassing disaster of American foreign policy, and in our efforts to ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for terrorists. – FOX News

Jen Wilson writes: One year later, I wish our nation had done more to assist and save our brothers and sisters that gave 20 years to our democracy project. But I stand here in awe of what the veterans community has built and continues to fight for every single day for their friends. The men and women who stood shoulder to shoulder with them during years of deployments to ensure they came home. – FOX News

Saad Mohseni writes: Many continue to view the Taliban leadership as intransigent, recalcitrant, and unyielding. A year in office has helped some Taliban leaders recognize the need for compromise, even though they have mostly not acted on that impulse. But the cement is not yet dry. […]But Washington ignores Afghanistan at its own peril: by failing to support the Afghan people or engage with the Taliban, the West may be consigning the country to a future as a humanitarian catastrophe and terrorist haven. – Foreign Affairs

Husain Haqqani writes: The need to focus on the U.S.-China peer rivalry was touted as one of the reasons for American withdrawal from Afghanistan. But from China’s perspective, the U.S. now no longer has a military presence in South and Central Asia. Working with Russia and Iran, China can now call the shots over much of the continental Asian landmass. Responding to public frustration instead of building public opinion, two American presidents made decisions relating to Afghanistan that have wider strategic implications than they probably recognized. – Washington Examiner

Marvin G. Weinbaum writes: Experiences have shown that normal canons of international diplomacy do not apply very well to a movement whose goals and ethics are guided by a rigid set of core religious beliefs. Sanctions and other pressures cannot succeed with a Taliban that feels its faith is being tested. For the foreseeable future, the United States would seem to have no choice but to accept the Taliban for what it is. With American security and strategic interests and the well-being of the Afghan people at stake, we may have little choice but to carve out a narrow, if uncomfortable, relationship. – The National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

Saudi Arabia has executed 120 people in the first six months of 2022, according to a rights organization, nearly double the number put to death in all of last year despite its promises to reduce capital punishment. – Washington Post

A base housing U.S. troops in eastern Syria was attacked by multiple drones early on Monday, though no casualties or damage were reported, according to a Pentagon statement. – The Hill

Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry on Monday strongly condemned Israeli missile attacks on Syria and the use of the Lebanese airspace to launch such attacks, the Xinhua news agency reported. – Arutz Sheva

Korean Peninsula

The United States and South Korea will begin their biggest combined military training in years next week in the face of an increasingly aggressive North Korea, which has been ramping up weapons tests and threats of nuclear conflict against Seoul and Washington, the South’s military said Tuesday.  – Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to expand relations with North Korea, reaching out to his neighbor as the Kremlin scours the globe for weapons for its war in Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Microsoft Corp co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates called on Tuesday for South Korea to play a bigger role in global health and to increase aid, working with his foundation to strengthen the fight against diseases. – Reuters


China’s military responded to the surprise arrival in Taiwan of a new delegation of U.S. lawmakers by announcing a resumption of military drills around the island, in the latest flare-up of tensions in the region. – Wall Street Journal

China on Tuesday imposed sanctions including an entry ban on seven Taiwanese officials and lawmakers it accused of being “independence diehards”, drawing condemnation from the democratically governed island. – Reuters

Competition between the US and China is escalating in the Pacific, with both rushing to cement their influence. They have reached out to Pacific nations, offering loans, security aid and development assistance. The stakes rose in April when the Solomon Islands signed a security accord with the Chinese government, Beijing’s first such deal in the region. Since then Australia and China have ramped up diplomacy. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a rare eight-day trip to the region in May while Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong visited the Pacific four times in two months. – Bloomberg

Russian diplomats in Beijing received a reminder about the hazards of paying unwelcome compliments this week, courtesy of a controversial Chinese drone company keen to avoid additional U.S. scrutiny. – Washington Examiner

On August 14, 2022, almost two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Democratic Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) landed with a U.S. congressional delegation to Taiwan. In an article titled “More Congressional Visit To Taiwan, More Forceful Countermeasures,” Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media outlet China Daily wrote that “by flagrantly playing with fire on the Taiwan question,” some U.S. politicians “are making themselves enemies of the 1.4 billion Chinese people.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: China needs its entrepreneurial business class to revive the economy’s supply side—and to rescue demand by boosting wages and giving households some investment other than property from which to earn returns on their savings. Leading Chinese economists know this, but doing so would mean easing up on the Communist Party’s political control. That may be more than Mr. Xi can tolerate, in which case more economic trouble lies ahead. – Wall Street Journal

South Asia

A senior U.N. official is visiting Myanmar this week, the United Nations said, on a rare visit that comes amid domestic political turmoil and fraying ties between Myanmar and its Southeast Asian neighbours. – Reuters

A Chinese scientific research ship whose port call was earlier deferred due to apparent security concerns raised by India arrived Tuesday at a southern port in Sri Lanka. – Associated Press

Indrajit Samarajiva writes: The Western media accuses China of luring us into a debt trap. Tucker Carlson says environmental, social and corporate governance programs killed us. […]But from where I’m standing, ultimate blame lies with the Western-dominated neoliberal system that keeps developing countries in a form of debt-fueled colonization. The system is in crisis, its shaky foundations exposed by the tumbling dominoes of the Ukraine war, resulting in food and fuel scarcity, the pandemic and looming insolvency and hunger rippling across the world. – New York Times

Nisid Hajari writes: Modi likes to call India the “mother of democracy.” But the central test of a democracy is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens — whether their rights are protected and their views heard. Nehru and India’s other founding fathers saw it as their most basic duty to prove Jinnah wrong, forging a pluralistic India that would thrive because of its diversity not despite it. Three quarters of a century later, Indians should ask themselves whether they, not their former brethren across the border, are the ones now making a mistake. – Bloomberg


A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on more corruption charges on Monday, adding six years to her earlier 11-year prison sentence, a legal official said. – Associated Press

The US and its two top Asian allies announced they had conducted a joint missile defense exercise off Hawaii, raising the profile of exercises that show their willingness to work together in the face of threats posed by North Korea and China. – Bloomberg

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip was only the most high-profile in a series of moves by Congress that are forcing President Joe Biden to test Beijing’s red lines — whether he wants to or not. – Bloomberg

China has no basis for using foot-and-mouth disease as a reason to suspend beef imports from Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Tuesday in response to reports that Beijing has restricted trade. – Bloomberg

A court in military-ruled Myanmar sentenced deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to six years in prison on Monday after finding her guilty in four corruption cases, a source with knowledge of the proceedings said. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Western countries were seeking to extend a “NATO-like system” into the Asia-Pacific region. – Reuters

Philippine officials are considering a U.S. offer to provide heavy-lift helicopters like its widely used Chinooks after Manila scrapped a deal to buy military choppers from Russia due to fears of Western sanctions, the Philippine ambassador to Washington said Monday. – Associated Press

The German Air Force has sent a fleet of aircraft around the world for its first-ever deployment to the Indo-Pacific region, a move meant to demonstrate its operational capability during two regional exercises and to show solidarity with its allies there. – Defense News


The UK is set to launch formal dispute proceedings against the European Union, accusing the bloc of breaking the post-Brexit trade deal by blocking its access to three international science programs. – Bloomberg

Latvia, a former member of the Soviet Union that shares a border with Russia, could move to restrict the Russian language in workplaces in the near future in a potential blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the country’s deputy prime minister. – Newsweek

On July 27, Poland signed one of its largest arms deals ever for more artillery, tanks, and aircraft to modernize its military amid heightened tensions in Europe. – Business Insider

Editorial: Parties in opposition may be entitled to use a party-wide vote to choose a leader, who will then face the broader electorate. For a party in government, whose programme has been endorsed in a general election, the job of replacing a leader midterm should be returned to MPs. […]It is logical and consistent that they decide who should lead them — allowing the government quickly to get back to managing the crises of the day. – Financial Times

Christopher Tremoglie writes: Petkov helped position his country at the forefront of toppling Putin’s energy behemoth. By being the first country to stand up to Putin and pivot away from dependency on Russian energy, Bulgaria has shown itself to be a trailblazer in both European energy independence and freedom. – Washington Examiner


Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto was declared the winner of last week’s presidential election on Monday. But a majority of the commission said they could not stand by the result, leaving voters confused and on edge in a country with a history of post-election violence. – Washington Post

The Central African Republic is defending the use of Russian assistance to take back territory the government says rebels have illegally occupied, despite widespread claims of indiscriminate killings of civilians and looting of mining sites. – Bloomberg

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Mali claimed on Monday it had killed four mercenaries from Russia’s private military firm Wagner Group in an ambush around Bandiagara in central Mali. – Reuters

The United States imposed sanctions on three Liberian government officials, including President George Weah’s chief of staff, for what it says is their ongoing involvement in public corruption, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Monday. – Reuters

France said on Monday that all of its troops battling Islamist militants in Mali since 2013 have now left the country after a decision in February to withdraw over the deterioration of relations between Paris and Bamako. – Reuters

Burundian troops entered the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday as the first deployment of an East African regional force aiming to quell rebel violence, Congo’s army said. – Reuters

Gilbert B. Kaplan writes: Finally, with the great need to promote more allied- or friend-shoring of manufacturing out of China, Africa could be an ideal location after further development of its manufacturing expertise. Holding an African Leaders Summit in Washington would be a great opportunity for the United States to define and refine its Africa policy. The creation of Process Africa should be part of that. – The Hill

United States

John R. Bolton writes: Biden’s bizarre policy of “nuclear deal über alles” reflects an instinct for the capillary when it comes to Washington-Tehran relations. Iran’s nuclear program is only a symptom of the real problem: the regime itself. That is what the United States must focus on ending. – Washington Post

Andrew Latham writes: The bottom line? If you are looking for a critique of the GPC narrative, you need look no further. “America’s Great-Power Opportunity” is without question invaluable as an antidote to the more simplistic notions of great-power politics currently in circulation. But if you are looking for an analysis that might provide a conceptual foundation for a next-generation U.S. grand strategy that is more restrained – more committed to prudent balancing and less interested in yet another exercise in international order building – then this work is bound to leave you disappointed. Count me in the latter camp. – The Hill

Tom Corben and Peter K. Lee write: Roosevelt’s call to arms came a year before the United States formally entered World War II. Yet he presciently recognized that the power of American industry would tilt the scales of the war. That expectation has been revived in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Biden administration’s commitment to provide advanced weapons systems to Kiev for “as long as it takes.” But this endeavor, like many others, is one that the United States can no longer fulfill alone. The K-arsenal can help. – War on the Rocks


A group of US lawyers and journalists sued the Central Intelligence Agency and former director Michael Pompeo on Monday, arguing that their electronic devices were illegally copied and the data later shared with the Trump administration when they visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK. – Bloomberg

U.S. sanctions against cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash last week have ignited concerns from industry stakeholders, privacy advocates and legal experts over what the future of virtual currencies look like under the Biden administration. – CyberScoop

Torch.AI, a data infrastructure artificial intelligence company, said it won a multi-million dollar contract to support the Pentagon’s efforts to combat cyber attacks and insider threats. – Defense News

United States National Cyber Director Chris Inglis said the cyberdefense tactics used in Ukraine by residents, government agencies and companies is something the U.S. needs to replicate going forward. – The Record

Chris Kubecka writes: The frequency and severity of cyber attacks have increased, while tech policy in most of the Western world remains in its infancy. Much of the same advice was given 10 years ago, but we haven’t acted on it and not enough has changed. Cyber attacks and privacy breaches are simply expected these days. No one bats an eye at news stories about digital attacks, as if we’ve collectively become desensitized to them. – Middle East Institute


Despite plans to decommission Littoral Combat Ship USS Sioux City (LCS-11) next fiscal year, the Navy is preparing funds to repair a latent issue with the ship’s propulsion system, USNI News has learned. – USNI News

The Navy wants to shed 39 ships in Fiscal Year 2023, with the first ship set to depart on Halloween. – USNI News

The Air Force announced Monday that its F-35A Lightning IIs are flying again, after a recall related to the aircraft’s ejection seats grounded the fighter jets late last month. – Military.com

Nicholas Dockery and Margaret Smith write: Using the blueprint of the multi-functional Jedburghs and the lessons learned from the embedded JTACs – models known to work effectively – a joint Cyber-SOF effort could better thwart attacks from peer adversaries like China, and provide another layer of proactive defense to the strategy of integrated deterrence. – C4ISRNET

Long War

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) arrested two ISIS-affiliated Arab-Israelis from Umm el-Fahm in July on suspicion that they intended to carry out terrorist activity for the organization and to fight for it in Africa, an agency representative said Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s military said on Monday it blocked a tunnel dug by the Gaza’s ruling Islamist group Hamas that was meant as a passageway for militants from the enclave into Israel. – Reuters

Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian man on Monday, claiming he had attempted to stab officers during a raid in east Jerusalem. – Associated Press