Fdd's overnight brief

August 21, 2023

In The News


Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will meet in New York in September to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme among other issues, Kyodo news agency said on Sunday, quoting unnamed Iranian diplomatic sources. – Reuters

Iranian assets that had been frozen in South Korea were transferred to Switzerland’s central bank last week for exchange and transfer to Iran, South Korean media reported on Monday. – Reuters

Iranian cinema directors have ridiculed a six-month suspended prison sentence handed down to Saeed Roustayi and his producer for showcasing their movie at last year’s Cannes Film Festival without authorization, saying it was designed to divert attention from the upcoming anniversary of the eruption of nationwide protests. – Reuters

Iran’s foreign ministry has summoned the Swedish and Danish charges d’affaires in Tehran to protest the burning and damaging of copies of the Koran in the two countries, state media reported on Sunday. – Reuters

A cargo of Iranian crude oil that was seized by the United States was unloading on Sunday after waiting two-and-a-half months off the coast of Texas to discharge, ship tracking data showed. – Reuters

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has met with diplomat Assadollah Assadi, recently freed by Belgium in a high-profile prisoner swap case in May, the presidency’s site said Saturday. – Agence France -Presse

The reported scandal involving the German engineering corporation Bosch’s sale of 8,000 mass surveillance cameras to the Islamic Republic of Iran sparked on Thursday a call from the US-based United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) organization to blacklist Bosch. – Jerusalem Post

Iran has “tripled” its defense exports, according to Iranian pro-regime media on Friday. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian IRGC leaders bragged over the weekend about the increased strength of their proxies and the successes they believe they are having against the US and Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Over a dozen Iranian civil rights activists have been arrested by authorities ahead of the anniversary of the killing of Mahsa Amini by “morality police” in Tehran on September 16, Iranian opposition media reported over the weekend. – Jerusalem Post

Omer Carmi writes: On the other hand, the Supreme Leader may fear that high turnout in an inclusive election process might produce a Majlis dominated by pragmatists and reformists, who could prove to be more skeptical of the regime’s current hardline approach and more willing to challenge Raisi’s government. And if Khamenei aims to prioritize longer-term succession maneuvers, he may be even less inclined to help his rivals notch political achievements in parliament or the Experts Assembly, since that could better position them for the eventual game of thrones. – Washington Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s hope is to use this to erode Saudi Arabia’s room for maneuvering relating to a potential deal with Israel. Riyadh is aware of all these machinations and therefore it is keeping expectations modest in terms of the incremental reconciliation with Tehran. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has engaged in a low-level tanker war in the Gulf, seizing and attacking ships since 2019. Numerous ships from various countries have been mined, attacked with drones, and even seized illegally by Iran. The US has sent more naval vessels to the Gulf to protect shipping. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has also allegedly shown drone footage of the Bataan, another way that Iran releases images and propaganda to threaten the US and indicate that it can maneuver as it pleases in the Gulf. The recent videos claim to show that Iran has warned the US not to fly helicopters from its ships as they patrol the Persian Gulf. – Jerusalem Post

Salem Alketbi writes: Every such bilateral situation comes with established rules and principles for handling it. Addressing differing viewpoints can’t be achieved using threats or forceful language, as Iran tries to do in other regional matters. Particularly in our region, facing a fresh geopolitical landscape, there is a shared aspiration to establish peace and stability. This is essential to sustain the path of growth, and to pursue ambitious plans for modernization and advancement. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its air-defense systems shot down a Ukrainian drone in the center of Moscow on Friday, the latest demonstration of Ukraine’s ability to conduct strikes deep in Russian territory. – Wall Street Journal

Presiding over a conference in late July titled “Russia: The Land of Possibilities,” President Vladimir Putin flinched as a tourism official described plans to hold the traditional spring picnics called mayovka. Under the czar, the Bolsheviks had used these seasonal outings as a ruse to conceal their subversive plotting. – Wall Street Journal

At least seven people were killed and more than 100 injured in a Russian missile strike on the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, according to Ukrainian officials. – Wall Street Journal

Russia’s war on Ukraine is in danger of becoming a protracted struggle that lasts several more years. The reason isn’t just that the front-line combat is a slow-moving slog, but also that none of the main actors have political goals that are both clear and attainable. – Wall Street Journal

A few feet away from a pile of U.S.-made cluster bombs, an earsplitting boom goes off 50 times a day, marking the latest volley from a Ukrainian artillery crew seeking to hold back advancing Russian forces. – Washington Post

Ukraine appears to be running out of options in a counteroffensive that officials originally framed as Kyiv’s crucial operation to retake significant territory from occupying Russian forces this year. – Washington Post

The Biden administration’s sprint to supply Ukraine with weapons central to its military success against Russia has yielded a promising acceleration of arms production, including the standard NATO artillery round, output of which is expected soon to reach double its prewar U.S. rate of 14,000 a month. – Washington Post

In 18 months of war, Ukrainian land has mostly changed hands in sudden bursts, with Russia snatching a mass of territory at the start and Ukraine recapturing chunks in dramatic counterattacks. Now 10 weeks into its most ambitious counteroffensive, with heavy casualties and equipment losses, questions have been growing about whether Ukraine can punch through Russian lines. – New York Times

The Netherlands and Denmark said Sunday that they would donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine — the first countries to do so — in what President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said was a breakthrough in his nation’s quest to acquire the aircraft considered imperative in the war against Russia. – New York Times

The total number of Ukrainian and Russian troops killed or wounded since the war in Ukraine began 18 months ago is nearing 500,000, U.S. officials said, a staggering toll as Russia assaults its next-door neighbor and tries to seize more territory. – New York Times

President Vladimir Putin visited the commander of Russia’s operation in Ukraine and other top military brass, the Kremlin said on Saturday, a meeting that came after Ukraine claimed counteroffensive gains on the southeastern front. – Reuters

Former Kremlin economic adviser Andrei Illarionov was added to a registry of foreign agents, Russia’s Justice Ministry said late on Friday, a designation the government applies to opponents. – Reuters

Ukraine has begun discussing with Sweden the possibility of receiving Gripen jets to boost its air defences, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday after meeting Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. – Reuters

Ukraine is finalising a scheme with global insurers to cover grain ships travelling to and from its Black Sea ports, the Financial Times reported on Monday citing Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister Oleksandr Gryban. – Reuters

Russia said Ukrainian drones had attacked four separate regions in a flurry of attempted strikes on Sunday, injuring five people and forcing two of Moscow’s airports to briefly divert flights. – Reuters

The situation in the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv is “difficult” but Ukraine’s forces are repelling Russian attacks and have re-taken several square kilometres on the eastern front over the past week, a deputy defence minister said on Monday. – Reuters

Russia said it foiled attacks by two Ukrainian drones in the Moscow region on Monday but nearly 50 plane flights in and out of the capital were disrupted. – Reuters

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that possession of nuclear weapons protects Russia from security threats and Moscow keeps reminding the West of risks to prevent a conflict of nuclear powers. – Reuters

Editorial: Perhaps the President figures ambiguity will give him more flexibility to negotiate a settlement. But if Mr. Biden wants Congress to pass his aid package, he has to make a better case than he has and spend the political capital like the Commander in Chief. – Wall Street Journal

Dov S. Zakheim writes: It is therefore critical that Washington, and Congress in particular, continue to prove to the Kremlin autocrat that it will indeed stay the course on Ukraine, and that his perception of American weakness and fatigue is woefully misplaced. – The Hill

Elisabeth Braw writes: Now Irish and Norwegian fishermen have taught the Russian Navy, not once but twice, to stay out of Western waters. Who will be the next unexpected group to offer the next creative solution, and why don’t we start looking for them? – Center for European Policy Analysis

Edward Lucas writes: The best alternative to this bleak scenario is simple: to give Ukraine the weapons it needs to defeat Russia while putting real pressure on the Kremlin. Victory is still achievable. But we have to want it as much as the Ukrainians do. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Timothy Ash writes: With guns likely winning out, this downward pressure on ordinary people — through rising prices and lower social spending — risks rising social unrest. Whether any of this changes the Kremlin’s calculations about the sense of continuing war in Ukraine, sanctions are having a significant effect on Russia. Eventually, one day, the grinding of the Russian economy will cause it to crack and perhaps shatter. We cannot know when that moment might come, but we do know it increases the difficult choices facing the Putin regime. That is good news. – Center for European Policy Analysis


A suspected Palestinian gunman shot dead two Israelis in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, the Israeli military said, in a flashpoint area that has seen escalating violence for months. – Reuters

Last month, after the biggest Israeli military raid on a Palestinian refugee camp in the occupied West Bank in years, Palestinians turned their wrath on their own security forces. They unleashed gunfire, firebombs and pipe bombs at Palestinian security buildings in an outpouring of rage against the Palestinian Authority’s failure to protect them from the devastating July 3 raid and a long-running, deeply unpopular security alliance with Israel. – Associated Press

Two Israelis were killed in a suspected Palestinian shooting attack on a car wash in a volatile stretch of the occupied West Bank on Saturday, the latest outburst of violence to rock the region. – Associated Press

Israel’s policy remains opposed to nuclear programs in the Middle East, the Prime Minister’s Office clarified on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

An Israeli car was torched after entering the Palestinian village of Turmus Ayya south of Shilo in the West Bank on Sunday evening, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. – Jerusalem Post

President Joe Biden has not hidden his disdain of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned rehaul of Israel’s courts. But bubbling beneath the surface of Israel’s political crisis is another concern: Shared US-Israel security interests. – Jerusalem Post

The hearing for the judicial reform’s reasonableness standard law should be delayed by at least 21 days to allow for the government to build its case, coalition attorney Ilan Bombach argued in a letter to the High Court of Justice on Friday, a request that could put time pressure on justices set to retire in October. – Jerusalem Post

The Jenin Battalion, whose members are affiliated with the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), announced over the weekend that it won’t allow anyone to confiscate its weapons. The announcement is seen as a direct challenge to the Palestinian Authority security forces, who have arrested several PIJ men in the West Bank over the past few weeks. – Jerusalem Post

Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian vehicles and homes in the town of Huwara in the northern West Bank on Saturday night, according to Palestinian reports, just hours after two Israelis were murdered in a terrorist attack in the town. – Jerusalem Post

The Right called for a new military campaign in the West Bank to root out terror and to shut down Huwara’s commercial center as the IDF continued to hunt for the terrorist who killed two Israelis in that Palestinian town on Saturday. – Jerusalem Post

The Iron Dome was activated on Monday morning and fired at an unmanned drone flying over Gaza, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Of course, we would prefer to be in a situation in which we could fulfill the biblical prophecy of turning swords to plowshares, without the need for arms deals of any kind. But since this remains a dream at present, we can at least celebrate the way Israel can defend itself and help protect its allies. – Jerusalem Post

Stephen M. Flatow writes: Friedman probably assumed that the Israeli Right would resist the plan. Instead, he now finds the leader of the Israeli Left denouncing it. I don’t suppose Friedman will be calling Lapid “pragmatic” and “effective” again any time soon. That kind of praise is reserved for those who are politically useful. – Jerusalem Post


Two years after its takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban is overseeing its first major infrastructure project, the 115-mile Qosh Tepa canal, designed to divert 20 percent of the water from the Amu Darya river across the parched plains of northern Afghanistan. – Washington Post

Amb. Kelley E. Currie and Amy K. Mitchell write: Like Vietnam, the consequences of Afghanistan are still reverberating today and will continue to haunt both President Biden and U.S. credibility. More than 100,000 eligible special immigrant visa applicants remain in Afghanistan awaiting evacuation. Tens of thousands of priority refugee applicants remain in limbo around the world, and millions of Afghan women have been relegated to the dark ages. – The Hill

P. Michael McKinley writes: But no one should harbor any illusions about the prospects. It is striking that two years after the fall of Kabul, not one of the world’s 193 governments has recognized the Taliban—not even Pakistan. This past June, the UN special representative for Afghanistan told the UN Security Council that recognition “is nearly impossible” as long as restrictive decrees on women and girls remain in place. And given the history of enmity between the United States and the Taliban—and the group’s seemingly unshakable commitment to oppressing half the country’s population—the United States should not be the country to take the first steps toward normalization. – Foreign Affairs


The fires sweeping across northwestern Syria this summer have compounded a dire humanitarian situation. The region, still reeling from two massive earthquakes in February and a grinding economic crisis, remains divided among rival factions and isolated from the world. – Washington Post

Syria’s 12-year conflict — now largely at a stalemate — has wrought widespread destruction and killed more than 500,000 people while forcing millions more to flee their homes. And like other modern conflicts, it has left a deadly legacy of unexploded artillery shells, mines and other munitions on farmland, roadsides and in buildings, posing an indiscriminate threat to lives long after the fighting subsides. – New York Times

A Syrian citizen suspected of being behind a deadly bombing that killed and wounded dozens near the capital, Damascus, last month committed suicide when gunmen tried to detain him in Lebanon where he fled, state-run National News Agency reported Saturday. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The question remains whether anything will be done beyond the sanctions, such as helping Kurds document abuses and get their property back in Afrin. Considering the massive scale of abuses across Syria it appears that beyond the sanctions not much will be done for the victims. This include victims such as Hevrin Khalaf, a young female activist murdered by these groups in 2019. – Jerusalem Post


A United Nations agency has suspended services at the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon to protest against the presence of armed fighters around its schools and other facilities within the area. – Reuters

A Lebanese Shiite cleric who has angered politicians and religious leaders in Lebanon and Iraq said Friday that groups including Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah are trying to silence voices of dissent within the sect — including his own. – Associated Press

Neville Teller writes: The last attempt to set up a presidential election was on June 14. Neither of the two candidates – Jihad Azour and Suleiman Frangieh – received sufficient votes in the first round. To win, a candidate needs a two-thirds majority (86 votes) of the elected parliamentarians, so a quorum of 86 members of parliament is necessary for a valid ballot. On June 14, after the first session, members from Hezbollah and its allied Amal Movement withdrew, leaving parliament without the necessary quorum and preventing a second round from taking place. – Jerusalem Post


Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi pardoned the prominent Arab Spring activist Ahmed Douma and more than 30 other political prisoners on Saturday, in his latest gesture toward improving his government’s human rights record as Egypt seeks badly needed international funding. – Washington Post

Egyptian authorities briefly detained a journalist working for a fact-checking platform following its coverage of a plane that was seized in Zambia along with its cargo after making a stop in Cairo, the outlet said Sunday. – Associated Press

Khaled Dawoud writes: There couldn’t have a worse launch for Sisi’s re-election campaign than the current rolling blackouts affecting millions. The availability of electricity in Egyptians’ homes has become a political issue, prompting critical discussions about Sisi’s spending priorities over the past nine years. Making matters worse is the lack of transparency and failure to inform Egyptians of the real reasons behind the recent power cuts, not to mention the current state of the economy. Together, this approach by the leadership has only added to the confusion and anger felt by the majority of poor Egyptians. – Middle East Institute

Saudi Arabia

As President Biden reportedly toils to coax the Saudi crown prince into signing a peace treaty with Israel, Britain is rolling out the red carpet for the Riyadh royal, effectively ending his international “pariah” status. – New York Sun

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer didn’t dismiss outright the possibility of Israeli support for a Saudi Arabian civilian nuclear power program that includes uranium enrichment during an interview he gave to PBS over the weekend. – Jerusalem Post

Chuck Freilich writes: At this point, all of the above is still very tentative and it is unclear whether Biden is willing to put his full weight and authority behind it. However, senior American officials who recently met with their Saudi counterparts apparently came away sufficiently encouraged to proceed to the next step, an upcoming meeting with Netanyahu’s Strategic Affairs Minister and close confidant, Ron Dermer. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

A year and a half into the Ukraine conflict, few countries have capitalized on the economic opportunities quite like the United Arab Emirates, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war effort a lift while boosting this Persian Gulf state. – Wall Street Journal

Saudi security forces have killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross the country’s border with Yemen, Human Rights Watch said, shooting people at close range and firing explosive weapons at groups in the mountains in what could amount to crimes against humanity. – Washington Post

Asian refiners are on the hunt for crude oil to replace Kuwaiti supply as the OPEC producer cuts exports by nearly a fifth to feed its huge new refinery, which is driving up prices for other sour crudes and likely to squeeze profit margins. – Reuters

Hungary can begin to receive shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) gas from Qatar in 2027, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a news conference on Friday.Demand for LNG has skyrocketed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, giving Qatar and the United States significantly larger roles in supplying gas to Europe, and forcing landlocked countries, such as Hungary, to seek to diversify their energy sources. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Morocco has not made a formal request to join the BRICS grouping and will not attend its summit in South Africa, state news agency MAP said on Saturday. – Reuters

Japan is making preparations for a meeting of foreign ministers from Japan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states in Saudi Arabia in early September, Kyodo news agency said on Sunday, quoting unnamed diplomatic sources. – Reuters

After China’s dialogue with Iran and Saudi Arabia, both countries have continued to take steps to improve relations, leading to the formation of a “wave of reconciliation” in the Middle East, China’s foreign minister said on Monday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Friday in the highest-level talks since the countries reconciled in March after years of bitter rivalry that destabilised the region. – Reuters

Libya’s central bank announced Sunday its reunification after being split for nearly a decade due to the country’s long-running civil war that resulted in two rival administrations, in the east and the west. – Associated Press

Ariel (Eli) Levite writes: Going forward, the Biden administration thus confronts two major challenges. First, to moderate the Saudi expectations in all areas they ask for while still offering them tangible benefits, albeit accompanied by safeguards and strict conditions on the parameters governing their deployment and use. Second, to directly condition any benefits to Israel on its government meeting crystal clear behavioral yardsticks on Palestinian issues. And toward both add enforcement mechanisms that would permit the US to walk back its commitments if either Saudi or Israel fails to live to its side of the deal. – The Hill

Daniel C. Kurtzer and Aaron David Miller write: A good deal would be both diplomatically ambitious and potentially transformational. It would seek to reconfigure the current regional landscape and enhance American leadership. If the Biden administration goes big, it has a chance to revive the broken Israeli-Palestinian peace process, put U.S.-Saudi relations on a mutually beneficial path, and keep alive the hope of a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike. But if it goes small or makes a bad deal, the administration will miss a rare opportunity for progress toward peace and likely erode, rather than advance, U.S. interests in the Middle East. – Foreign Affairs

Micah Halpern writes: Iran has many reasons for wanting to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia. And as important as access to the holy sites in Mecca and participation in the haj are, they don’t top the list. Iran also wants religious superiority over the Sunnis. They want all Muslims to unite under their leadership. Their ultimate goal is to oust Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Muslim world. – Jerusalem Post

Simon Tisdall writes: How things have changed. Time was, the US, like Britain before it, laid down the law in the Middle East. But that was before 9/11 and al-Qaida, Iraq and Afghanistan, the rise of China and the malignant Vladimir Putin, and the authoritarian assault on global democracy and the rule of law. […]The era of the all-dominant superpower and the “indispensable nation” is drawing to a close. Biden may do his darnedest to sustain the old order. But like Britain’s lost “imperial age”, the “American century” in which he’s so firmly rooted is passing swiftly into history. – The Guardian

Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s latest Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile – its first ICBM to use solid rocket fuel – has reignited debate over possible Russian links to the nuclear-armed state’s dramatic missile development. – Reuters

The Biden administration is concerned about potential cooperation between Russia and North Korea in developing new missile technology, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday. – Reuters

North Korea slammed a recent United Nations meeting about its human rights record, asserting the United States used the international organisation for a “scheme” against Pyongyang, state media KCNA reported on Saturday. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a test of strategic cruise missiles, state media KCNA said on Monday, as South Korea and the United States kicked off annual military drills that Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal for war. – Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Monday trilateral cooperation with the United States and Japan will grow stronger if North Korea’s threats increase. – Reuters

Tokuhiro Iked writes: Based on these decisions, it will now exercise not only denial deterrence but also punitive deterrence against the North Korean ballistic missile threat. With this major shift in Japan’s security policy, the ballistic missile defense concept will probably undergo significant changes and the country will no longer commit to maintaining an uninterrupted 24/7 missile defense system over the long term. – War on the Rocks


If this isn’t another Cold War, it certainly resembles one. On the one side, leaders of the U.S., Japan and South Korea, touting their shared democratic values, pledged cooperation in confronting China’s “dangerous and aggressive behavior.” On the other, Chinese leader Xi Jinping was traveling to South Africa for a summit with developing nations open to Beijing’s wooing. China’s state news agency denounced America as “driven by a desperate bid to salvage its hegemonic power.” – Wall Street Journal

China’s military launched fresh drills around Taiwan, in an expression of its displeasure at two stopovers in the U.S. this week by Lai Ching-te, the island democracy’s vice president and front-runner to the presidency. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. and China are accelerating research on how to integrate artificial intelligence into their militaries as part of a global race to take advantage of the fast-developing technology. – Wall Street Journal 

China launched military drills around Taiwan on Saturday, the day after Taiwan Vice President William Lai returned to Taipei after making two stopovers in the United States as part of a trip to Paraguay, angering China which views him as a separatist and a “troublemaker”. – Reuters

The mayor of Taipei will visit Shanghai at the end of this month for an annual city forum, his office said on Friday, a trip that will take place against the backdrop of frozen ties between the Taiwanese and Chinese governments. – Reuters

The U.S. urged China on Saturday to stop pressuring Taiwan, after Beijing launched military drills around the democratically governed island in response to Taiwan Vice President William Lai’s U.S. visit. – Reuters

The United States opened international aid offices in the Pacific Islands this week, bolstering support for the strategic region and pitting it more forcefully against China, which has been providing infrastructure loans to the area for years. – Reuters

China’s liquefied natural (LNG) gas importers are starting up or expanding trading desks in London and Singapore to better manage their growing and diversified supply portfolios in an increasingly volatile global market. – Reuters

China is investigating a Chinese national accused of spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the country’s state security ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

The United States on Friday finalized a decision to impose import duties on solar panel makers who finished their products in Southeast Asian nations to avoid tariffs on Chinese-made goods, according to a senior Commerce Department official. – Reuters

The Biden administration has tightened controls on the export of materials and components for nuclear power plants to China, saying it would ensure the items were used only for peaceful purposes and not the proliferation of atomic weapons. – Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping will attend the BRICS leaders’ meeting and visit South Africa on Aug. 21-24, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday. – Reuters

China has lodged representations with relevant parties over U.S., Japanese, South Korean leaders’ criticism of China at Camp David, a spokesperson with China’s foreign ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

Russia and China will look to gain more political and economic ground in the developing world at a summit in South Africa this week, when an expected joint dose of anti-West grumbling from them may take on a sharper edge with a formal move to bring Saudi Arabia closer. – Associated Press

Josh Zumbrun writes: Someone who hasn’t searched for work since two or three months ago is considered out of the labor force in the U.S. but unemployed in China. Thus, this particular methodology results in China’s rate being higher than it would be under international standards. – Wall Street Journal

Josh Rogin writes: Despite its lack of diplomatic recognition, Taiwan is a democratic country with its own identity, politics and culture. It was never ruled by the Chinese Communist Party and never wants to be. These are facts that will endure whether Lai wins or not — and that is what truly worries Beijing. – Washington Post

Christopher Tremoglie writes: Polling and perceptions aside, for the sake of the nation, no political party should be influenced by China. And, whether Democrat or Republican, this is an image problem that needs to be changed by the politicians and the people elected to office. They were sent to Washington, D.C., to look for the people of our nation’s interests. – Washington Examiner

Mark R. Whittington writes: Afterward, Artemis could also be the means of extending a helping hand to whatever government follows. If the post-Xi Jinping regime is disposed to be a good world citizen, China can, at last, become a partner rather than an enemy in the expansion of human civilization to the moon and beyond. – The Hill

Howard Chua-Eoan writes: The big trouble with the BRICS is that China (with its still enormous economic clout) dominates the group — and Beijing wants to turn it into another global forum to echo its denunciations of the US and EU. Hence, Beijing’s attempts to expand the membership to bring in sympathetic nations (e.g. Saudi Arabia). Brazil and India have resisted, preserving their own influence in the association. But why preserve influence in a China-dominated vessel that’s sprouting so many leaks? – Bloomberg

South Asia

India plans to hold bilateral free trade talks with the United Kingdom, the European Union and Canada and discuss bilateral trade issues with the Russian delegation on the sidelines of a G20 meeting next week, a top trade official said on Friday. – Reuters

Pakistani opposition leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi was detained on Saturday, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said, just hours after he said it would challenge any delay to the country’s election in the courts. – Reuters

Eleven labourers were killed in a militant attack in Northwestern Pakistan, caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said on Sunday in a post on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. – Reuters

Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi said on Sunday he had refused to sign into law two bills that would give authorities more power to prosecute people for acts against the state and military, a move the law ministry said was unconstitutional. – Reuters

Pakistani police have arrested two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy, a spokesperson and a source said on Friday, two days after a Muslim mob burnt churches and houses, blaming the two men for desecrating the Koran. – Reuters


The U.S., Japan and South Korea took a significant step on Friday toward creating a bulwark against common threats from China and North Korea, forging a sturdier three-way alliance to bolster security .- Wall Street Journal

An expansion of the BRICS bloc under consideration at a summit this week has attracted a motley crew of potential candidates – from Iran to Argentina – with one thing in common: a desire to level a global playing field many consider rigged against them. – Reuters

Japan, U.S. and Australia will hold joint naval drills in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Kyodo news agency reported on Friday citing multiple unnamed officials. – Reuters

Japan said on Friday it scrambled fighter jets after two Russian IL-38 information-gathering aircraft were spotted flying between the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea where Russia is holding a joint naval patrol and exercise with China. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department has approved a possible sale to Australia of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) for $975 million, the Pentagon said on Friday. – Reuters

The United States prevailed on Japan and South Korea on Friday to use their strongest language yet in a joint statement to condemn China’s “dangerous and aggressive actions” in the South China Sea. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden will sign a strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam during a state visit to the Southeast Asian country in mid-September, Politico reported on Friday, citing three people with knowledge of the deal’s planning. – Reuters

Taiwan’s vice president and front-runner to be the island’s next president, William Lai, is in the eye of the storm after China launched widely expected drills near Taiwan in an angry response to his brief visits to the United States this month. – Reuters

The Philippine armed forces said on Saturday it would again seek to resupply troops stationed in a rusty World War 2-era ship on a reef in the South China Sea, after China blocked a previous attempt with water cannons. – Reuters

Most Thais disagree with the leading plan for a coalition government which includes military-backed groups, an opinion poll showed on Sunday, two days before a parliamentary vote aiming to end a three-month political stalemate. – Reuters

Australia will spend A$1.3 billion ($833 million) to boost its long-range strike capabilities as it finalised on Monday a deal to buy more than 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States, part of a wide-ranging defence shake-up. – Reuters

Editorial: Summits and trilateral diplomacy are important. But in a region where China is seeking military and economic dominance, there is no substitute for the influence that comes with hard U.S. military power and free trade. – Wall Street Journal

David Pierson and Olivia Wang write: To China’s chagrin, Russia’s war in Ukraine has brought Japan and South Korea closer to NATO. Mr. Kishida paid a surprise visit to Ukraine in March and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky. Japan has also supplied Ukraine with 100 military trucks. That has deepened fears in Beijing of a so-called mini-NATO in Asia, though Friday’s agreement falls short of mirroring the trans-Atlantic alliance in a crucial way. The Camp David pact requires the United States, Japan and South Korea to treat any security threat to one as a threat to all and to respond by holding mutual discussions. That is less stringent than NATO’s Article 5, which says that each member will take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force,” if one is attacked. – New York Times

Peter Baker and Zolan Kanno-Youngs write: It is not the first time allies have questioned the United States’ commitment to its partners. Despite Mr. Biden’s promise at the NATO summit last month that Washington would “not waver” in its support for Ukraine and western allies, some leaders openly asked whether the U.S. foreign policy agenda would be upended by the outcome of the next election. – New York Times

Mark Temnycky writes: A closer relationship with India and the five big Central Asian nations will afford future presidents with allies in the region to counter Chinese influence. It would also help these countries become independent, rather than waiting on China to fill Russia’s vacuum in the region. – The Hill

Jacob Maywald, Ben Hazen, Edward Salo, and Michael Hugos write: In the first two campaign options, Taiwan should focus on delaying Chinese offensive operations and surviving long enough for inherent Chinese supply chain problems to emerge, and for its allies to organize a response to force a political settlement. If facing a joint island landing campaign, Taiwan should employ an active defense, rapidly and decisively exploiting Chinese logistics vulnerabilities. If this happens, and Taiwanese resistance does not crumble, the Chinese invasion could face acute supply difficulties, or even campaign failure, in a matter of weeks, if not days. – War on the Rocks

Margarita Assenova writes: The United States, which has already invested $62 billion in Kazakhstan’s economy, can expand its presence in new economic projects. Investors can take advantage of the ongoing privatization of major state-owned companies, particularly in the mineral extraction sector, which is on the cusp of massive expansion. Congress could also unlock trade with Kazakhstan by revoking the Jackson-Vanik amendment, an archaic Cold War law that prevents granting permanent normal trade relations status to Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states. This will open new avenues for U.S. investment and trade with a growing independent nation at the heart of a strategic region. – The National Interest

Gearoid Reidy writes: But as the latest US steps to restrict investment in Chinese tech firms show, the world is being drawn ever further into opposing camps. Yoon might pitch his country as a “global pivot state” that can maintain smoother relations with China than others, but tough choices are looming, including US chip restrictions on Beijing. As Seoul’s Indo-Pacific strategy released last year shows, it is moving closer to the broader Asian stance articulated by Japan and the US. The three countries will likely expand their cooperation across Southeast Asia. – Bloomberg

Andreas Kluth writes: Given the aims of the C in BRICS, neither the B, R, I or S nor other countries that have expressed an interest in joining, such as Indonesia, can really be enthusiastic about becoming Beijing’s vassals just to teach Washington a lesson. That’s one reason why the forum will struggle to project soft power, much less hard. – Bloomberg


Washington has cleared the way for the Netherlands to deliver F-16 jets to Ukraine, U.S. and Dutch authorities said Friday, a potentially significant boost to the country’s armed forces, though not one that is expected to help Kyiv in its current counteroffensive aimed at pushing back Russian forces. – Wall Street Journal

She grew up in a time of scarcity and repression, living on the wrong side of the line that divided two superpowers. Now she fears a new era of rival blocs could lead the world to repeat the errors of the Cold War. – Washington Post

Scuffles broke out between United Nations peacekeepers and Turkish Cypriot security forces in ethnically split Cyprus on Friday over unauthorised construction work in an area under U.N. control, the peacekeeping mission said. – Reuters

Britain on Friday asked its citizens to be vigilant when travelling to Denmark due to possible attacks, following Koran burnings by anti-Islam activists in Denmark and Sweden that have outraged Muslims. – Reuters

Hungary has signed an agreement to manufacture combat drones in cooperation with Israeli and German companies as part of an effort to grow and modernize its military and defense industry, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday. – Associated Press

Ukraine and neighboring Romania signed an agreement Friday to work together to boost Kyiv’s export of grain through Romania after Moscow broke off a key wartime shipping agreement that allowed safe passage through the Black Sea. – Associated Press

Poland’s controversial commission for examining Russian influence in Poland that is seen as targeting the opposition ahead of Oct. 15 parliamentary elections will not be formed before that vote, a prominent member of the ruling party said Friday. – Associated Press

Serbia will provide Hungary with increased shipments of Russian natural gas if Ukraine follows through on ending a gas transit agreement with Russia, Hungary’s foreign minister said Sunday. – Associated Press

Editorial: More likely, it will bolster a strongman who is shredding what remains of democratic norms in his country and has demonized arriving migrants by accusing them of changing Tunisia’s ethnic mix. That has stoked racist abuse and attacks. By lending Mr. Saied its support, Brussels puts migrants in further jeopardy rather than prioritizing legal pathways that could marginalize trafficking networks. The results of that policy might be far removed from what the E.U. intended. – Washington Post


A West African regional bloc announced Friday that it had decided upon a “D-Day” for military intervention in Niger, without giving a public date, though the door remained open for dialogue. – Washington Post

The top civilian official of the junta that seized power in the West African nation of Niger said in an interview on Friday that coup leaders had no intention of harming the deposed president or collaborating with the Kremlin-backed Wagner paramilitary group. – New York Times

When mutinous soldiers seized power in the West African nation of Burkina Faso early last year, the president of neighboring Niger struck a dismissive note. – New York Times

Kathleen Fitzgibbons, the new U.S. Ambassador to Niger, has arrived in the capital, Niamey, but will not formally present her credentials due to the “current political crisis,” the U.S. State Department announced on Saturday. – Reuters

A delegation from West Africa’s main regional bloc ECOWAS on Saturday met Niger’s ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and held talks with junta leader General Abdourahmane Tiani in the capital Niamey, a Nigerian presidential spokesperson said. – Reuters

Chadian rebel group the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) has announced an end to a ceasefire it declared in 2021, accusing the interim authorities of bombing one of its bases in what it called an act of war. – Reuters

Gunmen killed at least 21 civilians in an attack on a village in central Mali’s insurgency-hit Mopti region on Friday, two local sources said on Saturday. – Reuters

The U.S. is making precautionary plans to evacuate two key drone and counter-terror bases in Niger if that becomes necessary under the West African nation’s new ruling junta, the Air Force commander for Africa said Friday. – Associated Press

Editorial: Top line: The U.S. should provide financial, diplomatic, and intelligence support to ECOWAS as it moves to restore Niger’s legitimate government. But we should welcome the courage of bloc leaders such as Nigeria’s Bola Tinubu and the Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara as they take action to uphold the democratic rule of law. Theirs is a worthy example for other democratic leaders to follow. – Washington Examiner

François Baird writes: Had Washington taken action earlier, Africa would be stronger today, and China and Russia would have less influence on the continent. But there is still time for the U.S. to salvage its African policy and restore stability. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Albanese writes: The US and UK authorities have done well thus far in sanctioning Wagner’s Africa expansion, with near-simultaneous designations on Malian officials working with Wagner announced in July. They may soon have to target Niger’s junta leaders too. But sanctions alone will not stop this. The US is now tackling some of the key issues in its new beneficial ownership regulations but this must be applied much more broadly by democratic governments bearing down on criminals and authoritarian catspaws. Wagner must be stripped of its shadow network of companies, vessels, and aircraft. Until then, the Kremlin will continue to peddle bullets over bread. – Center for European Policy Analysis

The Americas

U.N. human rights officials denounced Friday what they called the “extreme brutality” of gangs in Haiti, with thousands fleeing several neighborhoods in the country’s capital this week amid a surge in violence. – Associated Press

Canada is imposing sanctions on 15 Russian individuals and three entities in what Ottawa said was a response to rising levels of human rights violations and violence faced by political opponents and critics in Russia, the foreign ministry said on Friday. – Reuters

The U.S. government said Thursday it is formally requesting a dispute settlement panel in its ongoing row with Mexico over its limits on genetically modified corn. – Associated Press

Max Morton writes: China’s navy could deploy a brigade-sized amphibious task force to Haiti in a matter of weeks and sustain it from a forward support base in Cuba. Following an initial amphibious entry, it could then deploy People’s Armed Police units as an occupation and nation-building force. This would be an opportunity to warm up its amphibious forces before a military operation against Taiwan and to demonstrate its chops as a new global superpower. Washington may not yet realize the degree to which its flank is exposed, but once it does, it must certainly honor the threat. A “Suez moment” so soon before the 2024 elections would be a disaster for the Biden administration—whoever ends up running on the Democrat ticket. – The National Interest

Latin America

Ecuadorean voters on Sunday chose an ally of powerful ex-president Rafael Correa and the son of a wealthy banana magnate to face each other in a runoff vote in October to elect a new president in a nation buffeted by rising drug-fueled violence. – Wall Street Journal

Bernardo Arévalo, the son of a fabled former leader of Guatemala, won a landslide presidential election victory Sunday as voters pinned their hopes on the center-left politician ending the endemic corruption that has sunk the country into deep poverty. – Wall Street Journal

Brazil intends to restore trade and political ties with Cuba, a top foreign policy aide to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Friday after meeting with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana. – Reuters

Mexico said on Friday it has notified the United States that it will not carry out a requested review of labor rights concerns at Grupo Yazaki’s auto components factory in Guanajuato. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department on Saturday sanctioned 100 Nicaraguan municipal officials accused of participating in human rights violations for their roles in the closure of a popular university and jailing of a prominent bishop. – Reuters

Carlo J. V. Caro writes: The assassination of Fernando Villavicencio thus signals the profound and intricate relationships between politics, economy, and drug trafficking in North and South America. While Ecuador grapples with its emerging role in the drug trade, Colombia’s changing dynamics, shaped by geopolitical, economic, and cartel influences, highlight the complexity of the narcotics issue. – The National Interest

Scott B. MacDonald and Alejandro Trenchi write: For Latin America, resource nationalism provides a broad policy framework; its application is where the challenge lies. While it is fully justifiable for Latin American governments to extract the best deal they can for their citizens, too stringent an application can kill deals and send investors and mining companies to find more open markets elsewhere. It can be stated that lithium is of national strategic importance; it does little good if it remains in the ground. The challenge is to find a happy medium, which historically has always been difficult. – The National Interest

United States

Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies are targeting American private space companies, attempting to steal critical technologies and preparing cyberattacks aimed at degrading U.S. satellite capabilities during a conflict or emergency, according to a new warning by American intelligence agencies. – New York Times

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Many Brazilians reject that politicized court decision and want to debate it in the public square. But the high court made it illegal to discuss the matter in media or in chat groups during the 2022 campaign. The gag order is still in place. Worse, the court has ordered social media platforms like X and YouTube to silence certain popular opinion makers in Brazil. It’s bad enough that independent thinkers are barred from offering contrary views on things like Lula’s conviction or Covid-19. But an enemies list is the stuff of McCarthyism. Somehow AOC doesn’t see the irony. – Wall Street Journal

Harold Furchtgott-Roth & Kirk R. Arner write: The challenge the administration faces, ultimately, is one of distinguishing cross-border investments that are consistent with national security interests from those that are not.  Such a task is not easy in China.  And given the recent ransom America paid to Iran, it’s apparently not easy there either. – RealClearMarkets.


Suspected North Korean hackers have targeted a joint U.S.-South Korea military exercise being held this week though classified information has not been compromised, South Korean police said on Sunday. – Reuters

A bar association representing German lawyers nationwide is investigating a cyberattack on its office in Brussels. – The Record

The organization that manages Australia’s internet domain .au denied that it was affected by a data breach on Friday after a ransomware gang added it to their list of victims. – The Record

A ransomware gang has started posting sensitive personal information connected to a devastating attack on the Raleigh Housing Authority (RHA) that disrupted the organization for weeks in May. – The Record

Hackers are targeting Zimbra Collaboration email servers in an ongoing phishing campaign, researchers have discovered. – The Record

About 250,000 people potentially had their personal information exposed in a data breach in early April, an Illinois hospital disclosed this week. – The Record

A four-month international crime-fighting operation in Africa resulted in 14 arrests and the removal of infrastructure used by cybercriminals across the continent. – The Record

Healthcare technology giant Siemens Healthineers said it is investigating a potential ransomware incident at one of its subsidiaries after claims of an attack were made by the LockBit ransomware group. – The Record

U.S. intelligence agencies are warning of increasing cyberattacks targeting U.S.-based space companies by unnamed foreign intelligence services. – The Record

An international law enforcement operation spanning more than two dozen African countries led to 14 arrests and the takedown of hundreds of malicious IP addresses and malware hosters, Interpol said Friday. – CyberScoop


AM General, the new producer of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, has chosen Navistar Defense to make trailers for the program, according to the subcontractor. – Defense News

The idea of completely replacing soldiers, tanks and other familiar trappings of war with robots, autonomy and computer-derived strategy is misguided, according to the leader of U.S. Army Futures Command. – Defense News

Robert Hale writes: We are committed to building on past efforts to reform how the Defense Department translates the National Defense Strategy to a spending plan that enables the U.S. to field the most capable force at the speed of relevance. The future of our military and of our nation demands nothing less. – The Hill

Long War

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said a military offensive against al Shabaab aims to eliminate the al Qaeda-linked group in the next five months, but security experts question the timeline amid persistent militant attacks. – Reuters

Iraqi and United Nations officials on Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of a deadly attack on the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. – Associated Press

Nishank Motwani writes: Furthermore, Central Asian countries’ growing unease about living next door to the Taliban is justified. The return of the Taliban has revitalized various terrorist networks, which have used the permissive environment in Afghanistan to rearm, recruit, and expand their ideological reach. The U.N. Sanctions Monitoring Team has revealed that terrorist groups have greater maneuverability and are rebuilding their capabilities in an environment that is conducive to growth. Such a scenario has raised legitimate concerns among Afghanistan’s neighbors, which must grapple with the implications of an emboldened Taliban and the consequences for regional stability. – Middle East Institute