Fdd's overnight brief

August 29, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Canada will deny temporary residency to Iran’s former health minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller said on Monday, citing Tehran’s human rights record, after Hashemi was reportedly seen in Montreal. – Reuters

Iran has summoned a Swiss diplomat over the apparent U.S. seizure of Iranian crude oil from a ship that sat for months off Texas, an official said Monday, as the oil now appeared to be moored in Houston. – Associated Press

Iranian police arrested pop singer Mehdi Yarrahi on Monday for releasing a song against women’s compulsory wearing of the headscarf, the judiciary said. – Agence France-Presse

President Biden’s special Iran envoy had his security clearance suspended earlier this year after “serious” issues were raised internally about his handling of “protected material,” according to a leaked State Department memo published over the weekend by an Iranian media outlet. – New York Post

Republican lawmakers are calling for the State Department to probe how the Tehran Times, an Iranian state-run media outlet, obtained a purported memo informing U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley that his security clearance was suspended. – Politico

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s comments reveal its regional agenda. It wants Syria to be less isolated, it is working on diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt, and it is pressing its demands in Iraq and Syria to remove critics, dissidents, and US forces. The overall trend is clear: Iran believes it is on a winning streak, and it feels confident in the discussions of numerous files in the region. – Jerusalem Post

Bilal Y. Saab writes: Saudi Arabia’s deterrence options against Iran are not great, but Washington’s options for preventing Saudi Arabia from pursuing them are worse. So long as the United States has (legitimate) concerns about providing Riyadh with a formal defense pact, the Saudi leadership will use any means necessary to achieve a deterrent against Iran. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

The Biden administration and its European allies are laying plans for long-term military assistance to Ukraine to ensure Russia won’t be able to win on the battlefield and persuade the Kremlin that Western support for Kyiv won’t waver. – Wall Street Journal

Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, said on Monday that it planned to interrogate two U.S. diplomats after accusing them of directing a former employee of the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok to gather information about Russia’s war in Ukraine. – Washington Post

Russia scrambled two fighter jets on Monday to prevent two U.S. drones from violating its border over the Black Sea, the Russian Defence Ministry said. – Reuters


The United States is in no position to go after Israel on human rights issues given how its army acted in Iraq and Afghanistan, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionist Party) said. – Jerusalem Post

US President Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly furious with Jerusalem for revealing last week’s meeting between the foreign ministers of Israel and Libya. – Times of Israel

The UN must act against a potential escalation on Israel’s northern border that would be provoked by Iran and Hezbollah, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Efforts to hold the second-ever ministerial gathering of the Negev Forum suffered a significant blow following Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s publication of a secret meeting he held with his Libyan counterpart, two senior Arab diplomats told The Times of Israel on Monday. – Times of Israel

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Monday that Israel will not make concessions to the Palestinians as part of any normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, as has been demanded by Riyadh and Washington as part of a potential agreement. – Times of Israel


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia soon to discuss the collapsed United Nations deal that had allowed Black Sea exports of Ukrainian grain, a spokesperson for Turkey’s ruling AK Party said on Monday. – Reuters

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are planning to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly in New York this September. – Bloomberg

Shad Sherko writes: An autonomous Kurdish region would be a model for those fighting to free the remaining parts of what is known as Kurdistan, which have been long divided between Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Governments have been and remain afraid that any concessions to Kurdish demands will result in further demands for independence. Therefore, from Ankara and Tehran’s perspective, a subservient or weakened Iraqi Kurdish region must be achieved. – The National Interest


Libya’s prime minister on Monday suspended his foreign minister after her secret meeting with Israel’s top diplomat became public and sparked angry protests in the oil-rich North African nation. – Wall Street Journal

Monday’s sacking of Libya’s foreign minister, after her Israeli counterpart revealed that they held an unprecedented sit-down in Rome last week, suggests she was the “fall person” for decisions made by Libya’s rival leaders, according to analysts who spoke to AFP. – Agence France-Presse

The fallout from the meeting between Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Libya’s Government of National Unity Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush has been greeted in the Middle East with intense interest and scrutiny. Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

The schedule change seemed to highlight both the persistence of the conflict and the muddled approach to it by the United States — which is both an active participant that maintains troops in Syria and broad sanctions on its government, and a distant observer, eying pockets of hardship from a remove as the country’s future is shaped by forces beyond America’s control. – Washington Post

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned that any Israeli assassination in Lebanese territory would “lead to a strong reaction,” in response to reports that Israel could target Hamas officials in the country, during an interview with al-Manar TV on Monday evening. – Jerusalem Post

The Jordanian army said it downed a drone heading from Syria on Monday in the third such incident thi s month, while officials said an increase in weapons being smuggled across the border was raising concerns about a new Iranian-instigated threat beyond drugs. – Jerusalem Post

Two Russian citizens were recently detained in Beirut on suspicion of spying for Israel and have been referred to an investigative military judge who issued arrest warrants for them, two Lebanese judicial officials said Monday. – Agence France-Presse

The United Nations’ top official in Yemen warned Monday that the Arab world’s poorest country will remain a powder keg for renewed war unless its rival factions work out a new cease-fire deal. – Agence France-Presse

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s government is planning its smallest-ever increase in annual expenditure for its 2024 budget, as President Yoon Suk Yeol keeps fiscal policy tight. – Wall Street Journal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for his military to be constantly ready for combat to thwart its rivals’ plots to invade his country, state media said Tuesday, as the U.S., South Korea and Japan held a trilateral naval exercise to deal with North Korea’s evolving nuclear threats. – Associated Press

Michelle Steel writes: As a proud Korean American who immigrated to the United States from Japan, I was encouraged by the historical trilateral summit held at Camp David. There is strength in unity, and I hope more will come from this summit. We cannot waste time. President Biden must work with Congress on proper economic agreements that promote American interest. – The Hill


The U.S. and China agreed to set up new channels of communication for economic and commercial issues, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Monday, including a new bilateral forum to discuss export control measures to reduce misunderstanding of national security policies. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is meeting China’s vice premier He Lifeng on Tuesday, her second full day of talks in Beijing, aiming to boost business ties and communications. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department has picked veteran diplomat Mark Lambert as its top China policy official, five sources familiar with the matter said, bringing in new leadership for a part of the department that has faced staffing problems and criticism over its handling of China-focused initiatives. – Reuters

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, a 2024 Republican presidential hopeful, said China was closely watching the divisions and infighting that were on display in last week’s GOP debate. – Bloomberg

The Pentagon is about to make a huge bet that it can field thousands of autonomous systems within two years — an attempt to use technological innovation to counter China’s much larger stockpile of traditional weapons. – Politico

South Asia

India has been trying to lure some of the world’s biggest companies to set up new factories after repeated lockdowns under Beijing’s zero-Covid policy and rising geopolitical tensions with the West prompted many firms to look for alternatives to China, in a strategy referred to as “China plus one.” – Wall Street Journal

Russia will be represented by its foreign minister at the G20 summit in New Delhi, President Vladimir Putin told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a phone call on Monday where the two leaders also discussed bilateral ties. – Reuters

India’s diplomacy is increasingly courting controversy, thanks to the Modi government’s Hindu nationalist agenda. The government’s right-wing ideological beliefs are increasingly driving the country’s actions inside and outside India. While some diplomats resist the push, others—including the country’s own foreign minister—adopt it. We might dub them the “tiger warriors” after the infamous “wolf warrior diplomacy” of India’s neighbor, China. Increasingly, there is pushback—from parliamentary resolutions to full-blown protests, from subtle digs by friends to whispers in the corridors of foreign governments. – Foreign Policy


International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva will visit China from Wednesday to meet with top leaders, before travelling to Indonesia and India for ASEAN and Group of 20 summits, an IMF spokesperson said on Tuesday. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Vietnam next month to meet with top officials on issues ranging from technology and the economy to regional stability and climate change, as Washington eyes closer ties in a region where China looms large. – Reuters

Japan said on Monday it had received many “extremely regrettable” harassment phone calls, likely from China, after the release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific. – Reuters

Across the Pacific, local politics are being shaken by the echoing footsteps of distant giants. The United States and China are competing over small islands that could play an outsize role as logistical nodes in any future conflict—including the archipelago of Vanuatu and its roughly 320,000 citizens. – Foreign Policy

Karishma Vaswani writes: The bulk of Gou’s fortunes have been built from doing business with China. Taiwanese voters will have to decide whether they believe it’s his pockets or his patriotism that matter to him the most. – Bloomberg


Poland and the three Baltic countries called on Belarus to expel the Wagner Group due to border security concerns exacerbated by the Russian paramilitary organization’s presence. Fighters from the mercenary group — led by Yevgeniy Prigozhin until his death in a plane crash last week — relocated to Belarus following a short-lived rebellion against Russian military leaders in June. Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski made the demand at a news conference attended by his Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian counterparts. – Washington Post

France will bar children in public schools from wearing the abaya, a loosefitting, full-length robe worn by some Muslim women, the government said this week. It said the measure was necessary to stem a growing number of disputes in its secular school system. – New York Times

Israel’s envoy to Romania met Monday with the head of a local right-wing party accused of antisemitism, breaking a boycott by Israel of the party, and drawing criticism from the Yad Vashem Holocaust center and Romanian political figures. – Times of Israel


The United Nations is in the throes of what Secretary-General António Guterres calls an “unprecedented” six-month exit from Mali on orders of the West African nation’s military junta, which has brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group to help fight an Islamic insurgency. – Associated Press

Niger was, in many ways, one of the West’s last and best hopes for a flailing, decades-long counterterrorism campaign in the Sahel region of Africa. The West African country, though struggling with poverty and instability, was led by a democratically elected leader with a pro-Western orientation. – Foreign Policy

Hannah Rae Armstrong writes: Washington’s moves carry a lot of weight. Unlike France, the United States still enjoys a favorable reputation and goodwill across the Sahel. Locals and officials have tended to perceive the discreet way it deploys its military in the region as an opportunity for partnerships rather than as a violent disruption. It must not disrupt that goodwill by repeating France’s mistakes. As undesirable as a coup may be, the risks of attempting to use force are far worse. – Foreign Affairs

The Americas

Presidents Joe Biden and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will call for improved working conditions in the US and Brazil at a joint event in New York on the sidelines of next month’s United Nations General Assembly, according to Brazilian Labor Minister Luiz Marinho. – Bloomberg

Last week’s BRICS summit concluded with an invitation to Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Iran to join the emerging-market bloc. If confirmed, it would lead to the enlargement of the group to 11 countries from five […]. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, of those nations only Argentina can be considered a democracy — albeit a flawed one. That means the enlargement would leave the group dominated by non-democratic countries, with seven of them headed by hybrid or authoritarian regimes. – Bloomberg

In the face of rising global antisemitism, many nations have endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Yet, paradoxically, several of these very countries are also financially supporting NGOs that contest this definition. NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based think tank conducted a recent study that casts a spotlight on this inconsistency. – Jerusalem Post

Arturo McFields Yescas writes: The atrocities of the war in Ukraine have, unfortunately, reduced U.S. focus on Central America. That focus is badly needed right now, as it is having a negative impact in the areas of migration, political turmoil and Chinese interference. Taiwan still clings tooth and nail to Central America, maintaining a strong presence in CABEI and SICA. China has not yet won, and Taipei is not giving up. But the increasing presence of China in Central America is bad news. It is urgent that the most powerful nation in the world pay attention to its own backyard. – The Hill

United States

A decade ago, Jawed worked as an interpreter for U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, a popular aide-de-camp known as A.J. He served as the voice of American troops on missions to capture or kill suspected Taliban militants in far-flung rural villages. With the Taliban now in charge, he is one of the hunted. – Wall Street Journal

Marc Thiessen writes: But this much is certain: The American people’s confidence in Biden’s leadership has been shaken. If Biden loses the presidency, his political demise started in Kabul. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: At the same time, while Xi and his crony American allies such as Pat Gelsinger and Larry Fink are desperate to see relief from U.S. technology export restrictions, those restrictions are set to stay. The Biden administration and bipartisan majorities in Congress recognize that they are of critical importance toward mitigating China’s use of Western technology in the strengthening of its military. Put simply, Raimondo has the cards in her favor. Beijing is delusional to pretend otherwise. – Washington Examiner

Ariel Cohen writes: The West needs to fund the Ukrainian war effort not only to protect Ukrainian democracy, independence and territorial integrity, but to teach our adversaries that aggression is punished and not rewarded. America and the West can remain secure and prosperous, and freedom can triumph over dictatorship. With our leaders staying focused and our alliances and resources well managed, this is our victory to lose. – The Hill

Michael Brown and Robert Atkinson write: If it maintains its current trajectory, U.S. industrial policy will amount to a series of slow, piecemeal, and parsimonious moves that lack a comprehensive vision. But the United States cannot afford to wait for China to gain even more in the race to improve its economic or military position. […]The newly created House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party is a bipartisan body working on how to respond to this challenge. This body should help spur Congress as a whole, and the Biden administration, to enact a more comprehensive blueprint for an advanced industries strategy. Only by doing so will the United States be able to win the race with China and ensure economic prosperity and national security in the decades to come. – Foreign Affairs

Jay P. Greene writes: In conclusion, to combat antisemitism, American policymakers must simply remember what principles have made this country so great for Jews historically and fight to strengthen them. From winning the culture war to defending Israel, policymakers would do well to ignore President Biden’s game plan and instead take a note from his predecessor George Washington, who once wrote to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island: […]. – Heritage Foundation 


Organized cybercrime is set to pose a threat to Canada’s national security and economic prosperity over the next two years, the national signal intelligence agency said on Monday. – Reuters

Apresidential advisory council is calling for the creation of a Department of Water or an equivalent cabinet-level agency to deal with the looming water crisis and cybersecurity threats that could endanger treatment plants that serve millions of Americans. – CyberScoop

Cyber executives told the Financial Times that the west is struggling to replicate the collaborative methods that had proved successful in the conflict, complaining they are instead mired in regulatory and legal roadblocks that thwart fast-moving responses that require open sharing of often sensitive or embarrassing information. – Financial Times


The Pentagon announced on Monday that it would buy thousands of unmanned drones and other autonomous devices over the next two years, adding that it had been far too slow to embrace new technology that is “small, smart, cheap” and that could bolster the U.S. military as it prepares for possible future conflict with China. – New York Times

The head of US Indo-Pacific Command hopes a new “Joint Mission Accelerator Directorate” under his command will help make it easier to connect industry to the military’s key innovation programs and efforts, he said today. – Breaking Defense

Nick Danby writes: After two decades of post-Cold War technological advancement, the information warfare community has grown complacent, dependent on advanced, data-intensive tools that may be degraded or ineffective in conflict. Only by developing and reinstating resilient, low-emission, and low-tech capabilities will carrier strike groups be able to neuter China’s anti-access/area denial threat and mount a formidable challenge to the adversary. – War on the Rocks