Fdd's overnight brief

August 3, 2023

In The News


When the government in Iran ordered the nation to shut down for two days starting on Wednesday to conserve energy and protect public health because of “unprecedented” broiling summer heat, Iranians and experts alike quickly discerned another, unspoken reason for the enforced holiday. – New York Times 

Iraq is trying again to crack down on money laundering and smuggling as the U.S. steps up pressure to stop dollars flowing to Iran and better isolate it from the rest of the world economy. – Wall Street Journal  

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi officially invited United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to visit Tehran in the near future, the semi-official Tasnim agency reported on Thursday. – Reuters 

The photograph of a group of young workers posing as they bid farewell to a colleague at Iran’s biggest online retailer could have been taken at a company anywhere in the world. But in the Islamic republic, the picture, which included women not covering their heads with the compulsory hijab, had dramatic consequences. – Financial Times 

As America assumes the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council for the month of August, President Biden faces a dilemma in two months: keeping his promise to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could put America in violation of a UN resolution. – New York Sun 

Iran is seeking to take over key parts of the Syrian defense industry, a new report by the Alma Research and Education Center, said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, General Hossein Salami, on Tuesday claimed that Iran’s enemies are planning “sedition”, ahead of the anniversary of last year’s protests, Iran International reported. – Arutz Sheva 

Ashka Jhaveri, Amin Soltani, Annika Ganzeveld, and Nicholas Carl write: Iranian-backed militias have prepared a runway in eastern Syria to support drone operations. These operations could include attacking and surveilling nearby US forces deployed to fight ISIS. – Institute for the Study of War 

Russia & Ukraine

China has given Russian President Vladimir Putin important diplomatic and economic backing for his war on Ukraine. But as the conflict drags into its 18th month with no clear sign of victory or capitulation on either side, Beijing faces an increasingly complicated set of risks that give it more incentive to push Moscow and Kyiv toward peace talks. – Wall Street Journal 

Weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, a White House official warned Moscow that a raft of U.S.-led sanctions could cut Russia’s economy in half. – Wall Street Journal  

Russia attacked the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, with at least 10 drones overnight, damaging a multistory administrative tower and other buildings, Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday, as Moscow kept up the pressure on metropolitan centers far from the front lines. – New York Times 

Now the Western-trained Ukrainian brigades are trying to turn things around, U.S. officials and independent analysts say. Ukrainian military commanders have changed tactics, focusing on wearing down the Russian forces with artillery and long-range missiles instead of plunging into minefields under fire. – New York Times 

Russia attacked Ukraine’s main inland port across the Danube River from Romania on Wednesday, sending global food prices higher as it ramped up its use of force to prevent Ukraine from exporting grain. – Reuters 

The European Union has warned developing countries that Russia is offering cheap grain “to create new dependencies by exacerbating economic vulnerabilities and global food insecurity,” according to a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Ukraine and Poland called in the ambassadors from each other’s countries on Tuesday as a dispute escalated after a foreign policy adviser to Poland’s president said Kyiv should show more appreciation for Warsaw’s support in its war with Russia. – Reuters 

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday that Moscow was ready to return to the Black Sea grain deal as soon as the West met its obligations with regard to Russia’s own grain exports. – Reuters 

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday he hoped a Ukraine “peace summit” could be held this autumn, and that this week’s talks in Saudi Arabia were a stepping stone towards that goal. – Reuters 

Kseniya Kirillova writes: Still, another encroachment on private life would be a ban on abortion. Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko has proposed banning terminations at private clinics and establishing strict control over medical abortion drugs, seemingly to appease demands from the Orthodox Church. It is highly likely such measures will evoke popular discontent, and, by further increasing the gap between people’s lives and the government narrative, could help loosen Putin’s once iron grip. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Ivanna Kuz writes: The Council should also be responsible for managing the process of Ukraine’s accession to NATO, paving the path to membership, and preparing allies for that historic moment. At first glance, it may appear to be a bureaucratic rebranding of an existing mechanism, but the NATO-Ukraine Council could be a real game-changer. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


Israel’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that the United States has approved the sale of a co-developed missile defense system to Finland. – Reuters 

More than 2,000 Palestinian Americans have traveled into or through Israel since it eased conditions for them at border crossings as part of a bid to achieve a visa waiver deal with the United States, an Israeli official said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The vast majority of over 55 countries that made submissions to the U.N.’s highest judicial body which will give an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories supported the Palestinians view that Israel is taking over land they seek for an independent state, their U.N. ambassador said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Armed clashes erupted on Tuesday night between Palestinian security officers and gunmen in Jenin refugee camp in the latest sign of mounting tensions between the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. – Jerusalem Post 

Israeli security forces will destroy the home of Khaled Harusha – one of the terrorists who carried out a shooting attack in February in Huwara that ended the lives of Hillel and Yigal Yaniv, according to an IDF statement issued on Wednesday night. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel believes the window for a US-backed normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia could close at the end of President Joe Biden’s term, according to Israeli media reports. – Times of Israel 

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is pushing to change Israel’s policy toward the far-right AUR party in Romania, which has expressed antisemitic positions and denied the Holocaust, against the advice of both the professional ranks in his ministry and Israel’s official holocaust institution, Yad Vashem. – Haaretz 

An Israeli family miraculously escaped serious harm Wednesday when terrorists blocked their car in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley and opened fire on them. – Jerusalem Post 

Cookie Schwaeber-Issan writes: The more Israelis are pushed and browbeaten into a system that seeks to repress and strong-arm their will as well as take away their freedoms and choices, 58% of them will feel the intimidation of theocratic politicians who, ordinary citizens, believe are dragging us into a civil war, not of our making, but rather that of extreme actors who have not learned the sad lessons of their own history. – Jerusalem Post 


Turkey’s president has called on Russia and Ukraine to avoid escalating their conflict and urged the resumption of a deal that had enabled Ukraine to export its grain across the Black Sea, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said on Wednesday after he spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin. – New York Times 

Syrians who are not registered in Istanbul must leave by September 24, the government has announced, as Turkey’s refugee population faces rising discontent after becoming a lightning rod for criticism during the country’s May elections. – Jerusalem Post 

The European Union and Turkey are discussing an update of their customs union as part of the country’s process of re-engagement to regain the trust of European partners and investors. – Bloomberg 


Heavy clashes resumed Wednesday in a Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon, ending a cease-fire there following a day of relative calm. The clashes between Palestinian factions at the Ein el-Hilweh camp have pitted members of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party against Islamist groups accused of gunning down Palestinian military general Abu Ashraf al Armoushi on Sunday. – Associated Press 

Israel’s top army brass and its president visited the Lebanese border Wednesday amid heightened tensions with the Iranian proxy group Hezbollah, as France reportedly worked to prevent an outbreak of hostilities. – Jerusalem Post 

David Schenker writes: For too long, the Lebanese people have suffered from their international partners’ low expectations for the country. The problem here is not the anti-extradition law but an abiding disinclination toward reform and accountability. Even if prosecuting Hezbollah members in Lebanon seems too dangerous at present, extraditing other alleged criminals is something even the current caretaker government in Beirut can and should do. It would be a small yet important first step on Lebanon’s road to accountability. – Foreign Policy 

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, and other lower-income Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon and Pakistan worry about what comes next. Struggling with economic woes that have driven more people into poverty, they fear rising food prices could create even more pain for households, businesses and government bottom lines. – Associated Press 

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait reaffirmed that they jointly own rights to natural resources in the Gulf’s Durra gas field, Saudi state news agency SPA reported early on Thursday, citing a statement from the Saudi foreign ministry. – Reuters 

OPEC+ is unlikely to tweak its current oil output policy when a panel meets on Friday, six OPEC+ sources told Reuters, as tighter supplies and resilient demand drive an oil price rally. – Reuters 


An unexpected reshuffle at the top levels of China’s military this week marks what analysts say is the biggest purge in years, as President Xi Jinping oversees a sweeping campaign to cement loyalty and assert more control over the People’s Liberation Army. – Washington Post 

U.S. officials want to tinker with the mix of chemicals fueling missiles and rockets to gain an advantage in the Pacific by increasing the range of its front line munitions so U.S. forces can operate further away from China. – Reuters 

The United States on Wednesday raised concerns over a Chinese call to encourage its citizens to join counter-espionage work and said it has been closely monitoring the implementation of Beijing’s expanded anti-spying law. – Reuters 

Reports that China obstructed discussions on tackling climate change at Group of 20 (G20) meetings last week in India are “completely inconsistent with the facts”, China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The United States has banned goods from two China-based companies as part of an effort to eliminate forced labor practices in the U.S. supply chain, prompting a warning from Beijing of measures to safeguard Chinese firms’ rights. – Reuters 

The Pentagon’s top official for Asia spoke with an official from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, in a rare high-level conversation between senior U.S. and Chinese national security officials. – Reuters 

China said on Thursday that it is “willing to maintain communications” with the United States on a possible future visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Washington, D.C. – Reuters 

President Xi Jinping’s sudden ousting of two generals who led his “irreplaceable” nuclear missile force has thrown a rare spotlight on a secretive Chinese unit that’s crucial to any invasion of Taiwan. – Bloomberg 

Mark F. Cancian and Bonny Lin write: It is likely that China will continue to ramp up military coercion and pressure against Taiwan. Beijing could also take more specific and targeted actions against the provision of military aid. This January, for example, Chinese media cited U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and a U.S. Navy destroyer transit of the Taiwan Strait as a rationale for engaging in combat drills around the island. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Anthony H. Cordesman write: Looking into the future, The United States cannot prevent China from becoming a peer competitor. Only internal mistakes by China’s leadership can accomplish that. The United States also cannot force China to compromise in many areas or to accept the alternatives the United States offers. What the United States can do, however, is use the creation of effective military and civil strategies, and the “big sticks” they create, to speak “softly” in ways where it is always clear that the United States is open to dialogue and compromise. The United States can and should minimize political showboating in taking hardline approaches to China and should speak to all of China and the world by showing that cooperation is a real option. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

South Asia

The death toll from a suicide bombing in Pakistan that targeted a hard-line religious group’s political rally has risen to 63 while 123 are still under treatment, a government official said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

India’s parliament on Wednesday passed a law allowing the government to auction and mine its newly-discovered reserves of lithium, among other minerals, increasing the mining of the critical raw material for electric vehicle batteries. – Reuters 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to be a virtual participant at a summit of BRICS nations in South Africa later this month rather than attend in person, sources in New Delhi told Reuters. – Reuters 

Rishi Sunak might struggle to set pulses racing at home. But Downing Street hopes for a different story when the U.K. prime minister visits India next month. – Politico  

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency and various police units in the country have been using products produced by the Israeli cybertechnology firm Cellebrite since at least 2012. – Haaretz 


Mongolia will deepen cooperation with Washington to mine rare earths, the country’s Prime Minister L. Oyun-Erdene said on a visit to Washington on Wednesday, but he warned that a “new Cold War” between the U.S. and China would harm the global economy. – Reuters 

The United States and Mongolia will sign an “Open Skies” civil aviation agreement, Vice President Kamala Harris and Mongolian Prime Minister L. Oyun-Erdene said on Wednesday at the start of discussions focused on Russia, China and economic development. – Reuters 

Two Indian navy ships docked in Papua New Guinea on Wednesday, underscoring the strategic importance of the country to global superpowers the United States and China and their allies. – Reuters 

Taiwan’s military vowed on Wednesday to step up counter-espionage efforts as authorities investigated several serving and former military officers suspected of spying for China. – Reuters 

Turkmenistan’s flagship airline has suspended flights to Moscow, it said on Wednesday, citing safety concerns after Ukrainian drone attacks on the Russian capital. – Reuters 

The North Korean government reached out to the UN “just in the last 48 hours” to acknowledge the presence of Private Second Class Travis King, the US Army soldier who bolted across the border from South Korea last month, according to the US State Department. – Bloomberg 

A partial pardon by Myanmar’s ruling military of jailed former leader Aung San Suu Kyi means “absolutely nothing”, her younger son said on Wednesday, calling on Western governments to do more to step up pressure on the junta. – Reuters 

Australia expects to hear news within days on China’s four-month review of its punitive tariffs on Australian barley exports, Trade Minister Don Farrell said, in what would be the latest sign of improving ties between Canberra and Beijing. – Bloomberg 

Myanmar’s military government followed up on its decision from earlier this week to extend the state of emergency until next Jan. 31 with a cabinet shakeup. – Bloomberg 

The United States has expressed concerns over major land reclamation projects in Manila Bay near its heavily secured embassy due to the involvement of a Washington-blacklisted Chinese company, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday. – Associated Press


France is looking at ways to prevent Velan SAS, a domestic supplier of parts for nuclear reactors, from falling into US hands as it aims to protect a strategic industry. – Bloomberg 

Polish and Romanian forces are strengthening the defense of their eastern borders. Poland’s concern is the threat posed by groupings of Belorussian forces and Wagner Group mercenaries along its southern and central border. – Washington Examiner 

Marija Golubeva writes: It remains to be seen what tactics they will deploy in the regions now that their electoral aspirations are shattered. One thing is clear – they will not stay idle. Reducing the strength of the Russian presence in Chișinău was a step in the right direction, but winning the hearts and minds of Șor’s and Dodon’s former voters remains a crucial task for the government. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Adam Taylor writes: Sweden, meanwhile, is likely to continue to be the focal point of global anger over the Quran burnings, with Kristersson announcing Tuesday that the global fallout over the desecration isn’t worth abandoning its standards for free speech. It may be a principled stance, but it is unlikely to protect it from more stunts from anti-Islam provocateurs, or the world leaders who tacitly embrace their stunts by giving them the attention they want. – Washington Post 

Harlan Ullman writes: This requires profound restructuring, but the technologies are available. Ukraine has shown how cheap civilian kit such as drones and the use of civilian satellites can be repurposed for potent military use. Without change, more of the same means less of the same — and Britain’s military will cease to count for much. – Financial Times


The State Department ordered Wednesday the departure of nonemergency U.S. government employees and eligible family members from Niger over concerns that tensions could escalate after the military junta detained the country’s elected president last week. – Wall Street Journal 

The Biden administration faces a dilemma in West Africa: Should the United States help a country in the region run by a military junta with a troubling record on human rights or risk the country’s losing territory to Islamic extremists and partnering with Russian mercenaries? It is a quandary that, in various forms, has repeatedly confronted the administration in Africa. – Washington Post 

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Wednesday announced a 58 million pound ($73 million) aid package to boost food security in Nigeria, during his first official visit to Africa’s most populous country. – Bloomberg 

The self-declared new leader of Niger on Wednesday said the junta would not bow to pressure to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, intensifying a standoff with the West African bloc which has threatened to intervene after last week’s coup. – Reuters 

Britain on Thursday said it had agreed deals with Zambia on clean energy and critical minerals as foreign minister James Cleverly ends a four-day visit to Africa to deepen ties. – Reuters 

The World Bank on Wednesday said it was “alarmed” by efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government in Niger, and had suspended disbursements in the African country until further notice, except for private-sector partnerships. – Reuters 

The British embassy in Niger’s capital Niamey will temporarily reduce the number of staff due to the security situation, Britain’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, days after a military junta took over the African country. – Reuters 

Ethiopia’s military has clashed with fighters from a militia in the Amhara region, residents said on Wednesday, in an escalation of a simmering feud between the two former allies that a doctor said had caused more than a dozen injuries. – Reuters 

A planned announcement on the expansion of BRICS at a forthcoming summit in South Africa will mark a significant change in the global order, the nation’s ambassador to the five-nation bloc said, even as some of its members push back against new admissions. – Bloomberg 

Armed men killed 13 people and wounded two in a northern village in the mineral-rich but impoverished Central African Republic, local officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Niger’s aspiring military dictator would bring “death and destruction” upon the country if he partners with Russia’s Wagner Group paramilitary force, a prominent U.S. official warned amid a tense effort to restore Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum to power. – Washington Examiner 

Samuel Ramani writes: While Niger’s near-term political trajectory is shrouded in uncertainty, rampant instability would be detrimental to the interests of every major external stakeholder. These financial interests and security imperatives could convince outside powers to strike a Faustian bargain with Niger’s junta, while pressuring Tchiani to accept a framework for a transition to civilian rule. Tchiani now has a choice whether to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy that balances rival powers or follow the pro-Russian path of junta leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso. – Foreign Policy 

Witney Schneidman writes: During last year’s summit with African leaders, a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Congolese and Zambian governments in which the United States pledged to support the development of a value chain in EV batteries in the two sectors. By including all AGOA-eligible African nations in the IRA, the U.S. government would be deepening its own commercial relationship with the continent as well as enhancing its capability to access the critical minerals it needs for its energy transition without giving greater influence and market share to its adversaries. – Foreign Policy 

Latin America

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Wednesday that he supports more countries joining the BRICS group of large developing nations, which currently includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. – Associated Press 

Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday said that next week’s summit of Amazon region nations will seek to draw up a common policy for the first time to protect the rainforest. – Reuters 

The Security Council on Wednesday unanimously authorized the U.N. political mission in Colombia to help verify implementation of a cease-fire agreement between the government and the country’s largest remaining guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army. – Associated Press 


A Russian government-linked hacking group took aim at dozens of global organizations with a campaign to steal login credentials by engaging users in Microsoft Teams chats pretending to be from technical support, Microsoft researchers said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Australia should consider extending a ban on TikTok from government devises to include WeChat, a panel of lawmakers said, in the latest move from Canberra to crack down on potential influence linked to Beijing. – Bloomberg 

A Russia-based hacking group implicated in previous attacks on governments is shifting its tactics due to increased public reporting by security researchers and tech giants like Microsoft and Google. – The Record 

A pro-Russian hacking group has claimed responsibility for cyberattacks on Italian banks, businesses, and government agencies which flooded networks and disrupted services. – The Record 


Responding to the ire of Alabama lawmakers over President Joe Biden’s decision to ignore the Air Force recommendation to establish the permanent headquarters of the U.S. Space Command in Huntsville, the Pentagon said the deciding factor was the time it would take to build a new facility and move everything from Colorado. – Washington Examiner 

The U.S. Air Force expects to release its formal request for information for a KC-135 tanker recapitalization in September, which will pave the way for an official acquisition strategy for the program it previously referred to as a “bridge tanker.” – Defense News 

Two defense companies teamed up in support of the U.S. Marine Corps to create a system capable of detecting, tracking and zapping drone swarms. Epirus, a directed-energy specialist, and Anduril Industries, focused on software and autonomy, fused their respective Leonidas high-power microwave weapon and Lattice command-and-control program for a recent Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory evaluation. – Defense News 

Bombs boom. Tanks trundle. Fighters fly. All are visible to the human eye and are familiar images of war. But invisible battles are fought, too. And as the U.S. prepares for potential conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific or with Russia in Europe, the value of the electromagnetic spectrum is proving paramount. Militaries rely on the unseen energy to communicate, guide weapons, spoof and spy, and more. – Defense News