Fdd's overnight brief

August 4, 2022

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Russia & Ukraine

International officials are increasingly alarmed about the security situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power station, the largest nuclear plant in Europe, with the American ambassador to Ukraine on Wednesday accusing Russian forces of using it as “a nuclear shield” — firing at Ukrainians from around the facility, knowing they can’t shoot back out of fear of triggering a nuclear catastrophe. – Washington Post

Recent frictions between President Volodymyr Zelensky, the highly popular wartime leader, and Ukrainian mayors who are trying to defend or rebuild their devastated cities and towns underscore Ukraine’s mounting internal challenges as it approaches six months of war. – Washington Post

Even before the deadly blast that killed at least 53 Ukrainian soldiers on Friday, the Olenivka prison in the country’s separatist-controlled eastern Donetsk province was known to human rights groups as a lawless place where pro-Russian forces hold civilians flagged as potential enemy “collaborators” and military prisoners of war. – Washington Post

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky floated “civil partnerships” as a potential answer to calls for the legalization of same-sex marriage, a step he said would not be possible during the war — though Russia’s invasion has reinvigorated the push for marriage equality. – Washington Post

The trial of Brittney Griner will reach its final stage on Thursday, with the American basketball star expected to appear in a Russian court for the start of closing arguments in a case that is expected to end with the conviction of Ms. Griner, who has been caught up in the deep crisis between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – New York Times

Of all the challenges facing Ukrainians who escaped to safe havens, the most pressing is access to housing, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation. The problem of finding longer-term accommodation is expected to only worsen given rising inflation, the report concluded. – New York Times

The secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, slammed oil companies on Wednesday for their “grotesque greed” and excessive profiting from rising fuel prices during the Ukraine war. He called for countries to tax those profits and distribute the proceeds to the poor. – New York Times

The first Ukrainian vessel to carry grain through Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea was cleared on Wednesday to sail to Lebanon, in what the United Nations called a “proof of concept” of a deal to free 20 million tons of grain trapped in a war zone. – New York Times

Big tech companies face intensifying criticism at home over their influence in the marketplace and public square. But at the same time their role in Ukraine shows how they are becoming a key asset in the West’s rivalry with Russia and China. – Wall Street Journal

Ukraine’s continued targeting of Russia military strongholds will highly likely impact Russia’s logistical resupply and put pressure on Russian military combat support elements, the British military said on Thursday. – Reuters

Ukraine said Russia had started creating a military strike force aimed at President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih, while NATO moved closer to its most significant expansion in decades as the alliance responds to the invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters

Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schröder has said after he visited Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week that the Kremlin is open to talks to end the war in Ukraine. “The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schröder said in an interview with the German magazine Stern. – Financial Times

In under a month, precise, long-range rockets from the US have delivered Ukraine some striking battlefield wins against the Russian army, deep behind the frontline. The Ukrainians have used Himars to take out weapons caches and make it difficult for Russian forces to be resupplied in Kherson and deny them the firepower superiority that has helped them advance in eastern Ukraine. – Financial Times

Vladimir Putin infamously predicted that Ukraine would be conquered in a matter of days. The west was equally sceptical about Ukraine’s chances of surviving a Russian onslaught. However, it has been more than 150 days since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion, and Putin is far short of achieving his original goal of Ukraine’s destruction as an independent state. – Financial Times

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the beginning of a fact-finding mission regarding last month’s attack on a Ukrainian detention facility that resulted in the deaths of at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war. – Washington Examiner

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Russia to honor its agreement to let Ukraine export grain to the world as the first such shipment since the start of the war in February left the Black Sea. – The Hill

Although the European Union introduced regulations early in the war to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to live and work in its 27 member nations while they decide whether to seek asylum or return home, many are only now starting to find jobs — and many are still struggling. – Associated Press

Amnesty International has accused Ukraine of war crimes during its ongoing military conflict with invading Russian forces. The humanitarian organization said in a release on Wednesday that the Ukrainian military’s tactics “violate international humanitarian law and endanger civilians” by operating weapons out of bases established in residential areas while civilians are present. – Newsweek

If the moral case against President Vladimir Putin’s attack on his neighbor is undeniable, the business arguments for and against pulling out of Russia can be more complicated. For any company, leaving Russia is complex and time-consuming. And the question of what actually constitutes leaving—sell everything? close temporarily?—can get murky. – Newsweek

Daniel Yergin and Michael Stoppard write: Europe’s winter natural-gas storage is about 67% filled. It is the further fill that the Kremlin seeks to disrupt. This energy war will be affected by something distinct from politics. As was the case with Napoleon’s advance into Russia in 1812 and Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II, the outcome will hinge on the severity of the weather. That is something neither Mr. Putin nor European leaders can control. But one thing on which they can all agree: Winter is coming. – Wall Street Journal

James Stavridis writes: Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to this export plan under duress, fearing that if he does not compromise on releasing the grain, NATO will simply do it by force, escorting the shipments with warships. He may try to subvert the scheme through a “false flag” operation he can blame on Ukraine or some other covert means. For now, the Western allies should do what they can to support the brave civilian mariners who are sailing into harm’s way. – Bloomberg

Alina Polyakova and Ilya Timtchenko write: The United States still sees China as the greatest long-term challenge, which means that more of the burden for securing Europe will eventually fall to the 29 European countries that are members of NATO (soon to be 31 with Sweden and Finland). The current U.S. administration is committed to supporting Ukraine and investing in broader European security. But the window for changing the trajectory of the war is narrowing. The sooner NATO takes up its political mandate to support Ukraine, the greater the chance for ensuring its future as the most effective and powerful security alliance. – Foreign Affairs


Iran, the U.S. and the European Union said Wednesday that they would send negotiators to Vienna for what could be make-or-break talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran, but expectations of an agreement weren’t high after months of stalled negotiations. – Wall Street Journal

Iran has completed installing three advanced IR-6 centrifuge cascades at its Natanz fuel enrichment plant (FEP), according to an International Atomic Energy Agency report to member states on Wednesday seen by Reuters. – Reuters

An Iranian opposition news site on Wednesday identified Sa’id Borji as the man tasked by Tehran to built nuclear warheads and the fission chain reaction needed for the production of a nuclear device. – Reuters

Russia will launch an Iranian satellite into space on Tuesday, the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced on Wednesday. The satellite, named Khayyam, was developed and manufactured at enterprises that are part of Roscosmos, according to the agency. The remote-sensing satellite will provide “accurate spatial data” to Iran to improve agricultural productivity, monitoring of water resources, management of natural disasters and monitoring of mines and Iran’s borders, among other uses, according to Iranian media. – Jerusalem Post

The Biden administration has “lost nothing” by remaining at the negotiation table to revive the Iran nuclear deal, even as Tehran continues to simultaneously expand its nuclear program, a senior US official told The Times of Israel last week, noting that Washington has not ceased imposing sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic even as it pursues a diplomatic resolution. – Times of Israel 

Iranian officials now speak openly about something long denied by Tehran as it enriches uranium at its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade material: The Islamic Republic is ready to build an atomic weapon at will. The remarks could be bluster to force more bargaining-table concessions from the U.S. without planning to seek the bomb. Or, as analysts warn, Iran could reach a point like North Korea did some 20 years ago where it decides having the ultimate weapon outweighs any further international sanctions. – Associated Press

Eric Mandel writes: This is some of the evidence of Israel’s updated approach to thwart Iranian expansionism and its nuclear ambitions. Whether Iran rejoins the nuclear deal or Biden allows the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiations to drift on indefinitely, Israel will continue to target Iran’s nuclear and non-nuclear personnel and facilities both in Iran and abroad based on its security interests. – New York Sun

Alex Vatanka writes: Tehran and Ankara will likely continue to publicly speak of “brotherhood” and cooperation but then proceed to compete against each other in various fields. […]Turkish-Iranian competition in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East could become more pronounced. Or, at the very least, Turkey may demand a lower price for Iran’s gas if Ankara is to agree to extend the contract beyond 2026. A number of different factors can pull the two countries’ multi-faceted relationship together or apart. But what is certain is that Erdoğan’s latest visit to Tehran was meant to manage their inevitable short-term competition. – Middle East Institute

Hamdi Malik and Michael Knights write: Ameri’s actions – followed by a swift show of deference by Khazali – suggest that there is a decision within the SCF and the muqawama – including their Iranian advisors – that Ameri’s idea of de-escalation was the right path and that the counsel of Maliki and Khazali proved unwise. This fits with broader trends: an Iranian desire, above all, to leave room for reunifying the Shiite house; KH political wing Hoquq’s refusal to take up five vacated Sadrists seats in parliament; a narrowing difference between Maliki’s and Ameri’s total number of MPs; and with Maliki’s desire to strengthen his own militias because the muqawama would not fully back his play. – Washington Institute

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: For the second time in three months, Russia is making noise about its assistance to Iran in the satellite technology sphere. Any such cooperation and progress greatly concern Israel and the US because aspects of satellite technology can be dual-use applied to nuclear weapons delivery skills as well as that they could greatly enhance the Islamic Republic’s intelligence collection capabilities. – Jerusalem Post


Thanks to the global surge in commodity prices amid the Ukraine war and Covid-related disruption, business is booming at Afghanistan’s coal mines. This gives the Taliban a crucial revenue stream as the militant group — after seizing control a year ago — seeks to revive an economy shattered by international isolation and sanctions. – Financial Times

Days after retaking power in Afghanistan last August, the Taliban pledged that the country would never again become a haven for international jihadis. Those assurances have been upended by the revelation that a US drone strike killed al-Qaeda’s veteran leader Ayman al-Zawahiri at a safe house in the heart of Kabul over the weekend. – Financial Times

Zachary Faria writes: The Taliban were never going to change their behavior to win some sort of approval from the international community, especially when the Biden administration handed them Afghanistan on a silver platter. The Taliban are exactly who we thought they were — and who they always have been. Somehow, Biden’s foreign policy A-team was filled with the only people who thought otherwise. – Washington Examiner


Unilever has ceased paying Ben & Jerry’s independent board members, the ice cream maker said, the latest escalation of a dispute over the brand’s attempt to stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories. – Financial Times

A commercial flight bound for Israel entered Saudi airspace on Thursday for the first time since Saudi Arabia opened its skies to all flights, including Israeli ones, last month. The flight operated by Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific airline took off from Hong Kong and was set to land in Tel Aviv on Thursday morning. – Times of Israel

The road and site closures in Gaza, as well as the disruption to the train line, will continue Thursday, for the third day in a row. The closures were instituted Tuesday following the arrest of Basa’am Asadi, an Islamic Jihad leader in Jenin. They will not be lifted, despite the seeming calm, due to threats from Gaza. – Arutz Sheva

The arrest of Islamic Jihad’s West Bank chief was a complex operation carried out in a hostile environment, under heavy fire that began ringing out before the first soldier even exited the undercover vehicle. – Ynet


Transport authorities have allowed a ship Ukraine accuses of carrying stolen grain to depart Lebanon despite the Ukrainian embassy asking Beirut to reopen a probe into the matter after presenting what it said was new evidence. – Reuters

Israeli security cabinet ministers were briefed on Wednesday, on the U.S. mediated negotiations in the maritime border dispute with Lebanon. According to some ministers, despite progress having been made, not all outstanding matters have been resolved. – Ynet

Amos Harel writes: The common denominator on land, sea and air is a more militant and aggressive stance by Hezbollah and a greater willingness than in the past to risk confrontation with Israel. In response, it appears that Israel is being careful not to allow this to escalate. But even this change has implications. A reduction in freedom of action by the Israel Air Force in Lebanese airspace may reduce the extent of intelligence-gathering on Hezbollah activities and undermine Israeli confidence in the reliability of the information it does have. Good intelligence actually acts as a restraining factor against escalation. – Haaretz

Gulf States

Iraqi activists who demonstrated three years ago against powerful parties and militias that run the country have watched with resentment as those same groups now use street protests to exert political pressure on each other, with impunity. – Reuters

Opec and its allies have agreed one of the smallest oil production increases in the group’s history as Saudi Arabia attempts to appease western allies without using up all its unused capacity. The increase agreed on Wednesday of just 100,000 barrels a day, or 0.1 per cent of global demand, is likely to cause disappointment in western capitals, after presidents Joe Biden of the US and Emmanuel Macron of France met Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman separately in recent weeks. – Financial Times

Salem Alketbi writes: Those who have followed the movements of Saudi foreign policy in recent years know how much this policy has evolved, both in terms of flexibility, dynamism and efficiency, and in terms of its ability to take the lead and advance the kingdom’s interests around the world. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea warned it will “never tolerate” the United States’ criticism of the isolated country’s nuclear programme, calling Washington the “kingpin of nuclear proliferation” and saying it would not allow any encroachment of its sovereign rights. – Reuters

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her South Korean counterpart vowed on Thursday to support efforts to maintain a strong deterrence against North Korea and achieve its denuclearisation. – Reuters

Like the United States, South Korea broke off official relations with Taiwan to establish ties with China, though it did so only 30 years ago. The U.S. made the switch in 1979, and continues to back Taiwan through political contacts and military support that have expanded in recent years. Seoul also maintains informal ties with Taipei, but has also invested heavily in its relationship with Beijing, which is Seoul’s top trading partner. – Newsweek

After infuriating China over her trip to Taiwan, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met South Korean political leaders in Seoul on Thursday but avoided making direct public comments on cross-Strait relations that could have further increased regional tensions. – Associated Press

Donald Kirk writes: One of Kim Jong Un’s greatest fears is being caught out in the open in a drone attack similar to those that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri at his home in Kabul on Sunday and Iran’s most feared military commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Aware that he could well be the primary target in any “preemptive strike,” Kim makes himself extremely hard to find, only moving about at night, in different vehicles, accompanied by dozens of bodyguards.For their first joint military exercises in five years, the Americans and South Koreans will polish up what military people here call the “kill chain” in which they target the North’s missile and nuclear sites plus bases needed to supply, refuel, and rearm them. – The Daily Beast


After weeks of silence ahead of a high-stakes visit to Taiwan, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was anything but understated on Wednesday during a day of high-profile meetings in which she offered support for Taiwan and irked China. – New York Times

Although much attention has been on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the real potential for a military showdown comes now that she has left. China’s military has said it will conduct a series of live-fire drills beginning on Thursday. A post on Chinese state media offered coordinates for six swaths of sea surrounding Taiwan, three of which overlap with areas that Taiwan says are a part of its territorial waters. – New York Times

Hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan, Beijing added economic measures to its series of retaliatory moves, suspending exports of natural sand to the island and stopping imports from Taiwan of certain types of fruit and fish. – New York Times

With few exceptions, Beijing’s irate response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan found support among Chinese people online on Wednesday. The question for many seemed to be whether Beijing’s military exercises around Taiwan starting on Thursday would send a strong enough a warning. – New York Times

A day after Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, visited Taiwan, celebrating it as a bulwark of democracy, China launched three days of military exercises around the island, which its forces may use to press in closer than ever, honing their ability to impose a blockade. – New York Times

For years the deliberate “strategic ambiguity” in Washington’s China policy has left unclear how the United States would respond to a full-scale, amphibious invasion of Taiwan. But an equally hard question — maybe harder, in the minds of many senior White House and defense officials — is how to respond to a slow squeeze of the island, in which Chinese forces cut off much of the access to it, physically or digitally. – New York Times

Ukraine is seeking an opportunity to speak “directly” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help end its war with Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday. – Reuters

Excising China from the global economy would be a near-impossible task given its integration with supply chains, the importance of the market to large Western corporations and the country’s manufacturing might. But the threat of such a significant geopolitical breakdown looms. – CNN

Chinese rhetoric was running so hot ahead of Nancy Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan this week that many people watching livestreams of the historic moment on state-controlled websites were surprised when her plane touched down at Taipei’s Songshan Airport. – Financial Times

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed his country’s efforts to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian nations at a meeting Thursday with their foreign ministers, which came as Beijing seeks to expand its influence in the region. – Associated Press

Simone McCarthy and Brad Lendon write: Taiwan’s Defense Ministry in a press briefing called the plan tantamount to a “maritime and aerial blockade” that would “threaten international waterway, challenge the international order, undermine cross-strait status quo and endanger regional security.” But how significant the exercises would ultimately be would depend on what happens in the coming days, according to political scientist Chong Ja Ian of the National University of Singapore, who said much was at stake for China’s image at home and abroad. – CNN

Marc A. Thiessen writes: Even though she was opposing the president of her own party, Nancy Pelosi did not mince words. “President [Clinton] is even saying that China is moving toward becoming a thriving democracy,” Pelosi thundered in 1998. “Yet, he ignores the continued pattern of repression … by the Chinese government.” She also accused President Clinton of seeking “special trade status for a nation that proliferates weapons of mass destruction, maintains trade barriers that bar U.S. products from its market, and continues to arrest, detain, exile or harass those who peacefully express their political or religious beliefs.” – Washington Post

Anna Mahjar Barducci writes: Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is actually trying to separate itself from the ROC, founded by the Kuomintang, based on the dream of Taiwan independence and the establishment of a Taiwan Republic. […]Admittedly, history cannot be assumed. Nevertheless, as long as a democratic Taiwan survives, under the protection of the United States and the international community, there is hope for mainland China, which share the same history and culture, to enjoy life free from dictatorship, even if not together. – Middle East Media Research Institute

South Asia

India has dramatically increased its imports of fertilizer from Russia in recent months, demonstrating the difficulties the United States and its allies face in isolating Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine. – Washington Post

The Sri Lankan government is cracking down on the people who participated in a protest movement that toppled the island nation’s president last month, arresting several demonstration leaders, slapping others with travel bans and ordering the clearing of the last remaining protest tents. – New York Times

Following the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri in a U.S. drone strike on July 31, 2022, in Kabul city, Pakistani dailies wrote editorials, giving mixed reactions to the elimination of the jihadi terror mastermind. Editorials titled “End Of Zawahiri” and “Zawahiri’s End” in the English-language dailies The News and  Dawn, respectively, noted that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Afghan Taliban jihadi organization now in power) has continued to host Al-Qaeda, which threatens the region. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Shantayanan Devarajan and Homi Kharas write: Sri Lanka’s debt crisis was the result of bad economic policies, an unwillingness to make hard decisions, and to a lesser degree, tensions between China and the West. Most developing countries have at least some of these risk factors. If they can commit to making necessary reforms, invite international financial institutions to come to the rescue, and maintain an even-handed approach to negotiations with their creditors, they are likely to weather the storm. If not, the number of defaults in the developing world will mount. – Foreign Affairs


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Myanmar for talks on Wednesday, the latest demonstration of the two countries’ close diplomatic ties as they both face Western condemnation. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi departed Taiwan after a whirlwind trip that raised military tensions over the island to their highest level in more than two decades, an escalation that is set to persist long after she returns home. – Wall Street Journal

Russia’s ambassador to Japan paid his respects at a memorial in Hiroshima on Thursday saying he wanted to highlight Russia’s efforts to reduce nuclear arms and criticising a decision not to invite him to a commemoration on Saturday, media reported. – Reuters

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Thursday its military will continue to reinforce its alertness level and will react appropriately to the “enemy situation”. – Reuters

A senior U.S. diplomat will travel to Samoa on Thursday on a multi-leg trip to Pacific Island countries intended to demonstrate re-engagement by the United States with a region in which China has been extending its influence. – Reuters

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen thanked the Group of Seven (G7) nations on Thursday for supporting regional peace and stability after the group called on China to resolve tensions in the Taiwan Strait in a peaceful manner. – Reuters

Taiwan will strengthen self-defence capabilities and closely coordinate with the United States and like-minded countries, foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told a news conference on Thursday, when asked about China’s planned military drills. – Reuters

Azerbaijan said its forces had crushed an Armenian attack near the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday, prompting international calls for an end to fighting in a region that has been a flashpoint for 30 years. – Reuters

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is calling for calm in the Taiwan Strait, urging against any “provocative action” in the wake of a visit to Taipei by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that has infuriated Beijing. – Associated Press

As momentum builds on a potential merger of the UK’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and Japan’s F-X fighter jet programmes, eight Japanese industries are deepening their involvement in developing systems and structures of the future fighter aircraft. – Janes

Matthew Brooker writes: Meanwhile, in publicity terms, Beijing looks the loser. It may have stirred some patriotic fervor on domestic social media, but the rest of the world is more likely to recoil from the tactics of a government that seeks to gain by intimidation what it has failed to achieve through persuasion. If anything, that’s likely to buttress international support for Taiwan’s threatened democracy. Pelosi’s visit may prove a clarifying moment. – Bloomberg

Michael Schuman writes: The people of Taiwan were willing to advertise her arrival from the top of their tallest building, come what may from Beijing in sanctions and pressure. Pelosi’s presence was a signal that the Taiwanese are not facing down an angry, authoritarian China on their own. An editorial writer in the Taipei Times welcomed Pelosi as “a comrade-in-arms in the fight against tyranny and the pursuit of liberty.” As the U.S. and China drift toward confrontation, Pelosi’s display of resolve may be necessary—to show the Chinese and the world that the U.S. isn’t afraid, either. – The Atlantic


The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a treaty that would expand NATO to include Finland and Sweden, with Republicans and Democrats linking arms to pave the way for one of the most significant expansions of the alliance in decades amid Russia’s continued assault on Ukraine. – New York Times

Gas storage facilities in Germany were 69 percent full on Wednesday, but officials told companies and citizens to begin reducing their energy usage as much as possible while the weather was still warm. Nearly half of all homes in Germany are heated with gas, and households, along with essential infrastructure such as hospitals and rescue services, will be given priority in the event of shortages. – New York Times

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said for the first time that his government could postpone the planned closure of its remaining nuclear reactors, as he criticized a decision by Russia to constrain gas flows to Germany—a move that could deal a severe blow to Europe’s largest economy. – Wall Street Journal

Authorities in Italy are examining the case of a former senior Russian official who was hospitalized in Sardinia this week after suffering neurological symptoms, Italian media reported Wednesday.

Anatoly Chubais, who resigned as the Kremlin’s climate envoy soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, was in intensive care after suddenly falling ill at a resort on the island. – Washington Post

Switzerland on Wednesday banned imports of Russian gold and gold products, on the heels of similar moves by the European Union and the United States. – New York Times

Europe’s human rights court on Wednesday refused a request from the parents of a 12-year-old British boy with brain damage to intervene in a decision to remove life support. – Reuters

Andreas Kluth writes: It’s encouraging that Vucic is pooh-poohing that framing. This suggests he views himself as something other than Little Putin, and that he may actually want to avoid bloodshed, perhaps even plan a joint European future for both countries, in which their borders no longer matter so much, and all people in the region can live in peace, dignity and freedom. If so, let Vucic and Kurti prove their goodwill now. Too much is at stake to start yet another war — over license plates, or anything. – Bloomberg


Nigeria’s military will use maximum firepower to uproot the armed groups that are behind mounting insecurity in the country, the airforce said on Wednesday, amid concerns that the situation, if unchecked, could impact a general election in February. – Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo has asked the spokesman of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, to leave the country, blaming him for stoking tensions that led to deadly protests last week. – Reuters

Burkina Faso’s army said on Wednesday that it had accidentally killed civilians during a counter-terrorist operation in the country’s southeast earlier this week, without saying how many. – Reuters

China will deepen its ties with Africa over the next decade by focusing on trade and is unlikely to be dislodged by US and European Union attempts to re-engage with the continent, the Economist Intelligence Unit said. – Bloomberg

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations headed to Africa on Wednesday, saying she was going to focus on how the United States can help Uganda, Ghana and Cape Verde deal with the food crisis that has hit the continent particularly hard — not to compete with China and Russia. – Associated Press

Kenya’s Aug. 9 election is ripping open the scars of inequality and corruption as East Africa’s economic hub chooses a successor to President Uhuru Kenyatta. The vastly rich son of the country’s founding leader, Kenyatta has deflected graft allegations by calling for transparency but done little in a decade in power to enable it. – Associated Press

The United Nations painted a grim picture for Sudan’s humanitarian situation, saying Wednesday that almost a quarter of the country’s population was inching toward starvation amid a dire shortage of funding. – Associated Press

The Americas

Argentina’s new economy minister has pledged to bring fiscal order to the country as the Peronist administration attempts to restore its crumbling credibility and regain market confidence by establishing a “super ministry” to tackle double-digit inflation. – Financial Times

The European Union is asking the Haitian government to step up its fight against gangs, warning that armed groups are using sexual violence to tighten their grip on the nation’s capital amid a rising death toll. – Bloomberg

Earl Anthony Wayne writes: Negotiated solutions are possible, especially if Mexico is willing to adjust practices to meet the USMCA commitments to which it agreed. Broader audiences, including potential investors and Congress, will be watching the evolution of this dispute. – The Hill

North America

The Mexican attorney general’s office said this week that it was investigating former president Enrique Peña Nieto for money laundering and illicit enrichment, the first official confirmation of such a probe by federal prosecutors. But to many Mexicans, it was not immediately clear whether the announcement was really a step toward accountability — or just a political tactic. – New York Times

A journalist and three other people were killed when gunmen stormed into a liquor store that he owned in Mexico’s central Guanajuato state, local authorities said Wednesday. – Reuters

Canada is extremely concerned with heightened tensions after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit this week, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Wednesday, calling on China to de-escalate the situation. – Reuters

After a swing and a miss with the Summit of the Americas, President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s recent meeting at the White House was a critical opportunity to reset U.S.-Mexico relations. The Biden administration should jump on one of the topics the Mexican president raised — tapping Mexican labor markets to meet persistent worker shortages in critical occupations among U.S. employers. – The Hill

Michael Walsh writes: To avoid such black and white thinking, the Biden administration and the United States Congress should take into careful consideration the perspectives and interests of the State of Hawaii, United States pacific territories, Freely Associated States, treaty allies, and Taiwan when deciding whether it would be in the national interest to reorder the region in full or part along the authoritarian-democracy divide. – The Hill


An attacker targeting the solana cryptocurrency ecosystem drained funds from thousands of wallets in an incident that could draw increased regulatory scrutiny to digital assets. – Wall Street Journal

The UK parliament on Wednesday closed its TikTok account just one week after it was launched after a group of MPs and peers placed under sanctions by China raised concerns that the regime in Beijing used the social media app as spyware. – Financial Times

The nominee to be the first U.S. ambassador at large for cyberspace and digital policy said one of his top priorities would be to “assert the State Department’s rightful place in the interagency process on topics of cybersecurity and digital policy.” – Cyberscoop


The U.S. Navy on Thursday said the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier was conducting scheduled operations in the Philippine Sea in the Western Pacific, a 5.7 million square kilometre (2.2 million square mile) stretch of ocean that includes waters southeast of Taiwan. – Reuters

At the end of May, US Navy amphibious transport dock USS Arlington arrived in the Greek city of Alexandroupoli for a port call. The 1,500 officers and enlisted Marines aboard the ship spent three days in the northeastern Greek city, and during their stay they reportedly ate all of Alexandroupoli’s eggs. – Business Insider

A widespread issue with ejection seats that impacted hundreds of aircraft across the U.S. military last week was first discovered on an F-35A Lightning II back in April, but the Air Force didn’t ground its jets for three months as it investigated. – Military.com

The U.S. most likely used an MQ-9 Reaper drone launched from a country in the Arabian Peninsula in the strike that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul on July 31, security experts said. – Defense News

Unionised workers at three Boeing military aircraft factories in and near St Louis, Missouri, have approved a new three-year contract, averting a looming labour strike, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) announced on 3 August. – Janes

For a year, U.S. officials have been saying that taking out a terrorist threat in Afghanistan with no American troops on the ground would be difficult but not impossible. Last weekend, the U.S. did just that — killing al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri with a CIA drone strike. – Associated Press

The Russian Navy will be equipped with its military’s newest naval hypersonic missile in the coming months, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during the Navy Day parade in St. Petersberg on Sunday, Russian state media reported. – Jerusalem Post

Long War

The Taliban are investigating a U.S. “claim” that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, a Taliban official said on Thursday, indicating the group’s leadership were not aware of his presence there. – Reuters

Richard Miniter writes: The manner of Zawahiri’s death also tells us something important about the Biden administration and the American system. […]Intelligence analysts scrutinized the household movements to find the times when he was likely to be alone. Officials presented a scale-model of the home to President Biden and assured him that a potential strike wouldn’t bring down neighboring buildings or harm noncombatants. The president insisted on careful planning precisely to avoid civilian harm. It wasn’t a rash decision, but a calibrated and sober one. Mr. Biden was determined not to cause terror in the name of preventing it. A sharper contrast is hard to imagine. – Wall Street Journal

Bobby Ghosh writes: It should be easy enough for Akhundzada to make the case that retaliating for Zawahiri’s killing would be against the interests of Afghanistan. But that is assuming the Taliban’s supreme commander places the welfare of his own people above that of his guests. He and his leadership team must know that Afghan eyes, as well those of the world, are on them. – Bloomberg

Hal Brands writes: The Zawahiri strike isn’t the end of America’s struggle with terrorism, not least because threats persist, from Afghanistan to Africa. Yet it is perhaps more a tribute to a prior era than to the present one. The successful mission reveals a great deal about the tools the US developed to wage the war on terrorism in the period after 9/11. What it reveals about the efficacy of counterterrorism policy in a moment of competing priorities and fewer resources is harder to say. – Bloomberg

Cole Bunzel writes: What comes next for al Qaeda, then, is unclear. The group is unlikely to fold, as the brand still offers a great deal of jihadist legitimacy for its regional affiliates, providing an identity and flag around which to rally. But the group will no longer be able to ignore problems that have festered ever since the 9/11 attacks: the inconvenient relationship with Iran, the distrust and lack of alignment with part of the Taliban, and the absence of a shared strategy among the central leadership and the affiliates. Running a global organization of ideologically committed militants has never been easy—and for al Qaeda, it just got much harder. – Foreign Affairs