Fdd's overnight brief

December 1, 2021

In The News


Senior European diplomats warned on Tuesday that negotiations to revive nuclear talks could be terminated if Iran moved to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel. – Wall Street Journal 

Farmers demanding water for their crops, protesters with blood pouring down their faces and riot police shouting at them to disperse — in recent weeks the scorched riverbed at the heart of the historic city of Isfahan has been the site of Iran’s biggest ever environmental protest. – Financial Times 

Iran’s top negotiator said Tuesday that he is pushing to completely renegotiate a nuclear weapons deal between the U.S. and Iran. Everything is on the table as world leaders meet this week in Vienna to discuss a pact that would impose limits on Iran’s nuclear stockpile in return for the U.S. lifting economic sanctions, said the negotiator, Ali Bagheri. – The Hill 

Lifting sanctions on Iran could lead to military action by Israel, officials in Jerusalem warned world powers, as negotiations to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program continued on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel’s alleged assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh did not have the desired effect of slowing down Iran’s nuclear work, an official told Israeli television on Tuesday. – Times of Israel 

Wrapping up a three-day trip to London and Paris, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid emphasized to French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday Israel’s position that sanctions must not be removed from Iran, and that only a credible military threat will stop Tehran’s nuclear program. – Times of Israel 

Several months after the 2013 election of former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, Aviv Kohavi submitted a position paper to then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he pointed to a significant, strategic shift underway in the Islamic Republic. – Times of Israel 

Iran’s president has assured his French counterpart that his government is serious about resumed talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal but stressed that lifting US sanctions is the absolute priority. – Agence France-Presse 

Islamic Republic’s officials said that they had succeeded in keeping the talks focused on sanctions relief as opposed to nuclear limitations. They also said that they had succeeded in getting the world powers to agree to toss out the understandings reached in June so that they could press for more concessions. But if you read between the lines of the different Iranian officials’ statements, all they achieved was that the sanctions relief working team meeting would occur before the nuclear limitations working team. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran has entered a gas swap agreement with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on Sunday on the sidelines of the 15th meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization. “According to the agreement, 1.5 to 2 billion cubic meters of gas will be imported to Iran annually from Turkmenistan (Sarakhs) and will be sent to Azerbaijan (Astara) through the Iran Transmission Line Network,” Tasnim News reported in Iran. – Jerusalem Post 

It is possible that Abbasi-Davani’s interview in Iran, the country’s most widely read  daily, which was published on the first anniversary of Fakhrizadeh’s assassination and two days before the beginning of the nuclear talks in Vienna, was aimed at serving Iran’s position in the negotiations with the West by publicly presenting Iran’s determination to continue its efforts to become a state capable of providing nuclear defense to the entire resistance axis, and to point out that U.S. efforts to dissuade Iran from this path would come to naught. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Michael Rubin writes: Along this line, Biden also repeats Kerry and Finer’s previous mistake: A failure to outline credibly the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. If Tehran believes the U.S. is desperate, they will not concede. If they believe the United States is willing to walk away from the table in order to emphasize other elements of strategy to deny the Islamic Republic a nuclear weapons capability, be they economic or military, then compromise suddenly becomes more attractive. – 19FortyFive 


Scenes like this became a near-nightly occurrence in southern Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country in August, according to more than a dozen family members of victims and former Afghan officials, as fighters carried out a broad campaign of targeted killings against their former foes. – Washington Post 

A U.S. delegation led by the special representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West, held talks with senior Afghan Taliban representatives in Qatar on Monday and Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said. – Reuters 

The United Nations said on Wednesday that a program to pay $300 million a year in cash to Afghan families with children, elderly or people with disabilities is the best way to target increasing poverty. – Reuters 

“The worst that can happen has happened.” Those were President Joe Biden’s words during an August 26 meeting in the White House Situation Room after learning of a devastating ISIS-K suicide bombing near the airport in Kabul amid a chaotic evacuation process, the New York Times reported, citing participants in the meeting. – Business Insider 

The UN has forecast that Afghanistan’s gross domestic product will contract 20 per cent within a year following the Taliban’s takeover of the country, representing one of the worst economic meltdowns in history. – Financial Times 

Michael Rubin writes: If Biden and Blinken truly care about the Afghan people, counterterrorism, and U.S. security, it is time for them to undertake a fundamental reset on Afghan policy. The U.S. need not reengage militarily, but vocally rejecting Taliban credentialing at the U.N., refusing to distribute aid through the group, and offering diplomatic and other support to the National Resistance Front would be a good place to start. – Washington Examiner 

Roie Yellinek writes: For now, the future of Afghanistan seems to be shrouded in fog and given the ideological differences between the superpowers, it is likely to be shaped as much, if not more, by U.S.-China geopolitical competition as developments on the ground and the needs of the Afghan people. – Middle East Institute 


The U.N. Mideast envoy warned Tuesday that without quick and decisive action to address the key drivers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the region risks plunging into “another deadly escalation of violence.” – Associated Press 

The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said Tuesday it was unable to pay its 28,000 employees on time this month because of a major funding crisis, warning of potential cuts in vital services to millions of people amid a global pandemic. – Associated Press 

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have reached an agreement by which Qatar will resume subsidizing the salaries of public employees by sending fuel to the impoverished territory, a Hamas official said Tuesday. Qatar was contributing to the salaries of some 50,000 employees of the Hamas-run government up until the 11-day war in May by sending suitcases of cash into the territory through Israel. Israel’s new government, which was sworn in the following month, vowed to stop that arrangement. – Associated Press 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in Doha on Tuesday with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, against the backdrop of increasing tensions between the PA and Hamas in the wake of a security crackdown on Hamas’s members in the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post 

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council Tuesday that Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank “has reached a critical juncture” while also admonishing the top UN body for its “overwhelming focus” on the Jewish state. – Times of Israel 

Border Police have arrested an Arab who was found to be in possession of a knife while trying to pass the al-Jib crossing early on Wednesday morning. – Arutz Sheva 

Editorial: Luckily today, there are many Arab countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, that are encouraging religious tolerance. New relations with Israel are part of this embrace of moderation. The world can learn from the religious tolerance coming from the region, and should avoid countries like Malaysia until they open their door to all athletes and turn away from the politics of hate. – Jerusalem Post 


One of Lebanon’s main Christian politicians accused foe Hezbollah and its allies of working to postpone a parliamentary election set for March over fears of electoral losses, warning such a move would condemn Lebanon to a “slow death”. – Reuters 

Iranian media said the “second phase” of distribution of Iranian diesel fuel to Lebanon would occur as winter begins. The claims portray Lebanese Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah as helping Lebanon during a fuel crisis. In fact, this is a ploy to let Hezbollah control Lebanon’s energy needs and help it in its mafia-like stranglehold over Lebanon. Iran wants to gain influence and fame for “helping” Lebanon. – Jerusalem Post 

On November 30, 2021, Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) aired an interview with Lebanese President Michel Aoun. President Aoun said that Hizbullah represents one third of the Lebanese population, and that it has done nothing wrong and hurt nobody within Lebanese territory. He said that Hizbullah has respected the local law and that it has fully adhered to U.N. Resolution 1701, which calls for the disarmament of militias in Lebanon. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Natural gas from Egypt may start flowing to Lebanon within two or three months, and hopefully “long before” the country’s elections in 2022, according to Amos Hochstein, the U.S. State Department’s senior advisor for global energy security. – CNBC 

The United Arab Emirates will not stop Lebanese from travelling to the country despite a diplomatic dispute between Beirut and Gulf Arab states, a senior Emirati official said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Nicholas Noe writes: For Western policymakers who claim they want to help the Lebanese people fix their country, acknowledging the failure of previous approaches is the first step toward implementing better ones. A good place to start might be looking back at earlier U.S. wisdom on Lebanon. […]There is some evidence that President Joe Biden has started moving in this direction. The administration hasn’t opposed multiple European corruption probes into Salameh or the local case against another longstanding pillar of U.S. policy in Lebanon, former army commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji. – War on the Rocks 

Gulf States

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen has destroyed an explosive-laden boat used by the Iran-aligned group in the south of the Red Sea on Wednesday, Saudi state TV said. – Reuters 

A senior Emirati official said on Tuesday the United Arab Emirates would soon send a delegation to Iran as part of efforts to improve ties with rival Tehran. – Reuters 

The final results announced by Iraq’s electoral commission on Tuesday confirmed Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as the biggest winner in last month’s vote, securing 73 out of Parliament’s 329 seats. A Sunni party headed by Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi came in second with 37 seats, while the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) secured 31 seats, the commission said. – Associated Press 

Middle East & North Africa

Lines outside bread stores and gas stations; farmers defaulting on loans; impromptu street demonstrations. The signs of economic distress in Turkey are all too clear as the lira continues a dizzying slide. – New York Times 

The parties behind the Algerian president’s governing majority dominated local and regional elections, while Islamist parties saw their support diminish, according to official results. – Associated Press 

Fewer violations of the arms embargo on Libya have occurred this year as compared with 2020, but the “continuing presence” of foreign fighters is “still a serious threat,” UN experts said in a confidential report. – Agence France-Presse 


A panel of lawyers and activists in the U.K. has published what it describes as leaked Chinese government documents that shed additional light on the role leader Xi Jinping played in directing the Communist Party’s campaign of forcible assimilation against religious minorities in the country’s northwestern region of Xinjiang. – Wall Street Journal 

Americans listed China as the nation’s top foe and their trust in the U.S. military dropped to its lowest levels in three years, according to the first major national-security survey conducted since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal 

Beijing seems to be relying on a two-pronged approach of maintaining the silence and waiting for the world to move on. The approach suggests that the country’s sprawling propaganda apparatus has limited options for shifting the narrative without drawing more attention to the uncomfortable allegations Beijing hopes would just disappear. – New York Times 

The United States and China are engaged in an arms race to develop the most lethal hypersonic weapons, the U.S. Air Force secretary said on Tuesday, as Beijing and Washington build and test more and more of the high-speed next-generation arms. – Reuters 

China is conducting “dramatic economic warfare” against Australia and has tried to “break” the U.S. ally, contributing to increased anxiety about Beijing in the region, the White House’s Indo Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell, said in a speech to a Sydney think tank on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The head of the United Kingdom’s foreign intelligence agency said Tuesday that China is its greatest priority, warning that a “miscalculation” from Beijing could lead to war. – Newsweek 

Joseph Bosco writes: The credibility of any U.S. warning to Beijing and/or Moscow is naturally weaker after the shambolic and tragic abandonment of Afghanistan. But that is also all the more reason the Biden administration needs to back up its strong words with a demonstration of its intent to take decisive action, with its allies and security partners, to halt this century’s most dangerous aggressive powers. – The Hill 

Thomas Shugart and Van Jackson write: Washington is finally coming to recognize the looming danger that an aggressive and increasingly powerful techno-authoritarian Chinese regime poses to the region and the world and is taking action accordingly. Failing to recognize this danger and to pursue appropriate responses would increase the chance of conflict by making it more likely that the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party will someday decide that the military balance of power has tipped in their favor—and that they should take advantage of the shift by resorting to force. – Foreign Affairs 


China told Indonesia to stop drilling for oil and natural gas in maritime territory that both countries regard as their own during a months-long standoff in the South China Sea earlier this year, four people familiar with the matter told Reuters. – Reuters 

Japan and the United States could not stand by if China attacked Taiwan, and Beijing needs to understand this, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other top military officials were set to gather in South Korea on Wednesday to discuss the future of their military alliance and plans to counter threats from North Korea. – Reuters 

A United Nations committee meeting on Wednesday is unlikely to allow Afghanistan’s Taliban or Myanmar’s junta to represent their countries at the 193-member world body, say diplomats. – Reuters 

A new report by a human rights group has found more than 600 Taiwanese arrested overseas have been deported to China in recent years. Safeguard Defenders says the practice was being “used as a tool to undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty”. – BBC  

Jacquelyn Schneider writes: If Washington does decide that Taiwan is worth fighting for, then the Army could play a major role in both deterring and, if necessary, winning that conflict. Sending Army personnel to train with Taiwanese forces and create doctrine, operations, tactics, and weapons for a Taiwanese defense strategy could help convince Beijing that Washington has the will to follow through with its ambiguous commitment to Taiwan’s security. – War on the Rocks 

Kathrin Hille writes: The Solomon Islands, once a key battlefield between the US and Japan in the second world war, have again become a frontline in great power rivalry. But the latest Honiara riots also reflect a failure to address poverty and inequality and to provide its people with economic prospects. – Financial Times 


NATO foreign ministers began talks here Tuesday as the alliance confronts mounting tensions with Russia over its military buildup near Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined his counterparts from across the 30-member bloc as the Biden administration attempts to forge a unified transatlantic response to Russia’s deployment of troops and weaponry along its border with Ukraine, which officials in Kyiv and Washington say could indicate plans for a Russian invasion. – Washington Post 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sternly warned NATO against deploying its troops and weapons to Ukraine, saying it represents a red line for Russia and would trigger a strong response. – Associated Press 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has opened the door to greater cooperation with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, as Moscow’s top diplomat slammed U.S. moves in the Asia-Pacific region also deemed provocative by Beijing. – Newsweek 

Tensions between Washington and Moscow are rising with a marked increase in competition in the undersea domain, as Russia continues to invest in a fleet of specialized submarines. – USNI News 

David Ignatius writes: How do you stop a “master of audacity,” as a former CIA official describes Putin? One way is to talk to him, as Biden is planning to do, and offer a dignified retreat. But if that fails and Putin invades Ukraine, the United States and its allies are discussing this week how to make him pay as heavy a cost as possible. – Washington Post 


Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday that the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014, was legally Russian territory, RIA news agency reported, in a reversal of his public stance. – Reuters 

Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmygal accused Russia on Tuesday of being “absolutely” behind what he called an attempt to organise a coup to overthrow the pro-Western government in Kyiv, citing intelligence. – Reuters 

Ukraine urged NATO on Wednesday to prepare economic sanctions on Russia and boost military cooperation with Kyiv as the country joined the Western alliance for talks about how to deter Russia from a renewed attack after it massed troops close by. – Reuters 

China, which is increasingly flexing its muscles around the world, is one of the biggest threats to Britain and its allies, and a “miscalculation” by Beijing could lead to war, the head of the U.K.’s foreign intelligence agency said Tuesday. – Associated Press 


Security forces fired tear gas at anti-coup protesters in the Sudanese capital on Tuesday, as tens of thousands marched in the latest demonstrations against a military takeover that took place last month. – Associated Press 

Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo have carried out a joint military operation to counter increased attacks by Islamist insurgent groups in parts of West Africa, Burkinabe Security Minister Maxime Kone said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

China on Wednesday urged its citizens to leave three provinces in eastern Congo as violence intensifies in the mineral-rich region. – Associated Press 

Latin America

The Biden administration has removed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia from the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations in an effort to support the country’s peace process five years after the end of its decades-long conflict, officials said Tuesday. – Washington Post 

The Biden administration added two new Colombian drug-trafficking gangs to its list of foreign terrorist organizations, reflecting the U.S.’s determination to support a peace agreement in Colombia threatened by the groups’ mayhem. – Wall Street Journal 

If Xiomara Castro’s wide lead in Honduras’ presidential election holds, her leftist government could present challenges, but also opportunities for a Biden administration that has struggled with how to work on the country’s problems while keeping current President Juan Orlando Hernández at arm’s length. – Associated Press 

Taiwan will work with the Honduran president-elect Xiomara Castro to deepen relations on the basis of their long-standing friendship with the country, the government said on Wednesday, though she has floated the idea of ditching Taipei for Beijing. – Reuters 


The U.S. Seventh Fleet’s commander called for an expanded presence by U.S. and allied aircraft carriers in the Pacific to persuade China and Russia that “today is not the day” to start a conflict. – Wall Street Journal 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that there’s little chance the military organization would ever introduce a system for expelling anyone among its ranks, as tensions quietly simmer between a number of the 30 member countries. – Associated Press 

America’s security partnership with the U.K. and Australia known as Aukus amounts to a “defining effort” against China’s actions, Biden’s Asia czar Kurt Campbell said on Wednesday. – Bloomberg 

With hope of a normal legislative process almost gone, lawmakers are dusting off a nearly decade-old congressional playbook in the hopes of finding a way to get the annual defense authorization bill to the president’s desk before the end of December. – Defense News 

The speed China has expanded its military has changed the way the Navy and Marine Corps must approach training, service leadership said during a panel at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference Tuesday. – USNI News 

Hal Brands writes: As the contest with China intensifies, the U.S. will be tempted to do less in other theaters so that it can do more in the Western Pacific. As the basing battle indicates, though, an America that is less committed to the Middle East or Europe may also be less capable of combating the global expansion of Chinese power. – Bloomberg 

Jacqueline Feldscher writes: Even though the bill is viewed as a must-pass piece of legislation that Congress has approved every year for the past six decades, there are few consequences when it is delayed until the new year. The bill authorizes Defense Department programs and gives Congress a chance to set priorities, but does not actually disburse any money. The appropriations bill is what funds the department, and blurred lines between authorization and funding bills means that appropriations legislation sometimes also order reports or set policy too. – Defense One 

Long War

A German court sentenced a former Islamic State member on Tuesday to life imprisonment for the killing of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl at his home, marking the first conviction for committing genocide against members of the minority religious community. – Washington Post 

The Ugandan military launched a series of strikes against Islamic State-aligned militants in neighboring Congo, the beginning of what Ugandan officials say they hope will be a quick offensive to drive the group from the mineral-rich region after a wave of attacks on the capital, Kampala. – Wall Street Journal 

A tanker truck distributing water at a sprawling camp housing families of Islamic State group members in northeast Syria rammed into a tent, apparently by accident, killing three women and injuring two children, a Kurdish official inside the camp said Tuesday. – Associated Press