Fdd's overnight brief

December 12, 2022

In The News


For decades, Iran’s clerical leaders have striven to make sure their country stays on a conservative, Islamic path. They have expanded religious education. The faithful have been urged to have more children. Those deemed to be exhibiting what the government regards as anti-Islamic behavior risk the full force of the law. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration said on Friday that Russia and Iran were strengthening their military ties into a “full-fledged defense partnership,” warning that their relationship posed a threat to Ukraine as well as to Iran’s geographic neighbors. – New York Times

Iran hanged a man in public on Monday who had been convicted of killing two members of security forces, the judiciary’s Mizan news agency reported, the second execution of people involved in anti-government protests in less than a week. – Reuters

Germany on Friday condemned Iran’s execution of a man over recent anti-government unrest, called on Tehran to immediately end its violence against protesters and confirmed it had summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin. – Reuters

Iran’s troubled currency fell to a new low against the U.S. dollar on Saturday amid continued unrest and the country’s increasing isolation in the face of Western criticism of its security crackdown and ties to Russia. – Reuters

Britain on Friday summoned Iran’s most senior diplomat in London to protest the execution of Mohsen Shekari, the first such execution over recent anti-government unrest. – Reuters

Iran has become Russia’s “top military backer” over the course of the war in Ukraine, and the two countries’ growing military partnership is “transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership,” National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby said on Friday. – Washington Examiner

Russia is trying to obtain “hundreds of ballistic missiles” from Iran as the military ties between the two countries deepen and the war in Ukraine continues, according to British intelligence. – The Hill

The US alleged on Friday that Russia is providing Iran with “an unprecedented level of military and technical support” as Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine draws the increasingly isolated countries closer together. – Financial Times 

Iran has jailed two prominent Baha’i figures for 10 years each as part of a crackdown on its largest non-Muslim religious minority, the group representing the community at the UN said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse 

Iran has stopped channeling funds to a number of Palestinian factions, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds revealed on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post 

Dan Hannan writes: This last point has until now proven difficult. But the potential prize for the Saudis, and for the rest of us, is vast. A world in which a new Iran can take its place as a civilized nation will be an altogether warmer, brighter, and safer one. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It’s clear in the last several years that Iran’s threats go far beyond this. Iran has helped outfit militias in Iraq and Syria. Tehran is becoming more brazen with its attacks, such as the attack on Saudi Arabia in 2019 targeting Abqaiq. With Russian technology, Iran’s brazen attacks may become even more destabilizing for the region. – Jerusalem Post 

Neville Teller writes: Meanwhile, Iran remains a seething cauldron. Opposition to the regime is being met by increasing levels of suppression. Will the anger and resentment eventually boil over into outright revolution? Many believe the regime is sufficiently grounded to contain and outlive the current wave of protest. Others hope that this is the beginning of the end for Iran’s Islamic republic. – Jerusalem Post 

Henry Rome writes: Finally, Washington and its partners should consider using sanctions in a deterrent capacity. The regime has yet to unleash the full force of the IRGC against protesters, so the West still has time to try warning Tehran away from even greater bloodshed. For instance, governments could identify and publish lists of IRGC officers who might be involved in a broader crackdown, threatening the imposition of personal sanctions if such an action proceeds. Encouraging defections or even just hesitation among Iran’s security forces may be a longshot, but the West should at least consider this possibility. – Washington Institute

Nicholas Carl and Frederick W. Kagan write: The ineffectiveness of the regime protest crackdown has likely allowed and encouraged some in the political and religious establishments to criticize and debate more openly. The regime’s use of brutality and extreme force has thus far failed to end the protests as they continue in their thirteenth consecutive week. Many protesters, especially the Iranian youth, have repeatedly expressed their readiness to die fighting the regime, reflecting its failure to deter demonstrations, as CTP previously reported. The political and religious establishments would not have likely debated over these issues related to the crackdown—at least not as openly as they have—had the regime successfully quelled the unrest within the first few days. – Institute for the Study of War

Jason M. Brodsky writes: In the end, there are domestic and international audiences for these gimmicks being deployed by the Islamic Republic. At home, in undertaking these gestures, the regime aims to divide and conquer the revolutionary sentiment among significant segments of the Iranian population. Abroad, the Islamic Republic wants to project a mirage that reform is possible to deflect increased scrutiny. But these ideas are cynical plots to preserve the Islamic Revolution rather than make life meaningfully better for the Iranian people. This is why chants of “death to the dictator” and “this is the year of blood, Seyed Ali will be overthrown” have become commonplace in major Iranian cities. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

Kyiv’s military demolished a hotel complex hosting dozens of Russian military personnel overnight with U.S.-supplied long-range artillery, while more Russian drone strikes continued to destroy Ukraine’s electricity grid. – Wall Street Journal

Russia launched fresh attacks with Iranian-made drones early Saturday over Ukraine, where the country’s southern command said it shot down 10 of the unmanned aerial systems, an indication that Moscow has replenished its supply of the drones as the two countries move toward what the U.S. has called a full defense partnership. – Wall Street Journal 

After nine months of death and destruction, the key to Russia’s war against Ukraine lies in the craggy, sea-swept peninsula of Crimea — with its limestone plateaus and rows of poplar trees — which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. – Washington Post 

A Russian court on Friday sentenced an opposition politician, Ilya Yashin, to eight years and six months in prison on charges of “spreading false information” about atrocities by Russian forces in Ukraine — the latest criminal verdict intended to silence critics of President Vladimir Putin’s war. – Washington Post 

In an impassioned speech upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday, the laureate from Ukraine seized the moment to make an incongruous but powerful point: At this moment in history, she said, the only way to secure democracy, human rights and a lasting peace in Ukraine is to fight. – New York Times

NATO’s secretary general warned on Friday that Russia’s war in Ukraine could expand into a wider war with the Atlantic alliance. The official, Jens Stoltenberg, repeatedly cautioned in news media interviews this week against underestimating the situation in Ukraine and emphasized the wider threat President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could pose to Europe. – New York Times

It was a fitting coda to a week that saw Mr. Putin particularly busy in constructing his version of reality at a time when a Russian victory in Ukraine appears as distant as ever. In a marathon of public appearances that began on Monday with a televised drive across Russia’s damaged bridge to Crimea, Mr. Putin held forth on nuclear doctrine, prisoner swaps with the United States, supposed Polish revanchism and even the “very harsh” practices of European zoos. – New York Times

In the West, he is known as a convicted illicit arms trafficker, “the merchant of death” who helped fuel wars around the world. But in Russia, Viktor Bout was welcomed home this week as something of a hero, or at least an innocent victim of American politics. – New York Times

Russia wants to turn Ukraine into a “dependent dictatorship” like Belarus, the wife of jailed Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Byalyatski said on Saturday upon receiving the prize on his behalf, speaking his words. – Reuters

Russia will be invited to attend meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc hosted by the United States next year, a U.S. official said on Monday. – Reuters

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, on Friday said 30 more embassy staff would have to leave the country on Jan. 1 due to visa restrictions, RIA news agency said. – Reuters

Russia, the world’s biggest exporter of energy, could cut oil production and will refuse to sell oil to any country that imposes the West’s “stupid” price cap on Russian oil, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said the West’s desire to maintain its dominance on the world stage was increasing the risks of conflict. – Reuters

Russian and U.S. diplomats met in Istanbul on Friday to discuss a number of technical issues in their relationship, Russia’s deputy foreign minister and the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said. – Reuters

The United States is prioritising efforts to boost Ukraine’s air defences, President Joe Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart on Sunday, as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy stepped up efforts to secure international assistance over the Russian invasion that is dragging into a 10th month. – Reuters

A senior official in eastern Ukraine said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had attacked a hotel where members of Russia’s private Wagner military group were based, killing many of them. – Reuters

Russia launched what it calls a special military operation in Ukraine because its concerns around peace accords between Kyiv and Russian-backed separatists were ignored, Russian news agencies quoted the Kremlin spokesman as saying on Sunday. – Reuters

Russia’s ambassador to Moscow said Britain’s royal family had been recommended not to have any contacts with the Russian embassy in London, the Izvestia newspaper reported. – Reuters

Some Russian officers fighting in Ukraine are unhappy with the military top brass and President Vladimir Putin because of the poor execution of the war, an influential nationalist Russian blogger said after visiting the conflict zone. – Reuters

Biden administration officials will meet early Monday to discuss next steps in securing the release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was jailed in Russia in 2020 on spying charges, President Joe Biden’s top hostage negotiator said on Sunday. – Reuters

When President Joe Biden agreed to swap Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout, he left two Americans whom the administration sought to release behind, not one. – Washington Examiner

Russian President Vladimir Putin said additional U.S.-Russia prisoner exchanges are “possible” after the two countries agreed Thursday to an exchange of WNBA star Brittney Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. – The Hill

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia is “modernizing and expanding its nuclear arsenal” as its invasion of Ukraine continues and Russian President Vladimir Putin has made threats about using nuclear weapons in the conflict. – The Hill

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday thanked President Biden for “unprecedented” support the U.S. has provided as the country’s fight against Russia enters the rough winter months. – The Hill

Former President Trump on Sunday said he turned down a deal to release former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who’s been detained by Moscow since 2018, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout during his time in the White House. – The Hill

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said on Sunday that he’s worried the U.S. prisoner swap with Russia to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner could encourage other countries to take Americans hostage in the future. – The Hill

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Sunday suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agreement to free WNBA star Brittney Griner was “calculated” to stir division within the U.S. – The Hill

US efforts to negotiate the freedom of a former Marine held in Russia as part of the swap involving basketball star Brittney Griner were thwarted by Moscow’s demand for the release of a convicted murderer held in Germany, according to a top US official and media reports. – Agence France-Presse 

Just weeks after Russians retreated from the southern Ukrainian city, authorities are working to hunt down collaborators who aided Moscow during the occupation of Kherson. – Agence France-Presse 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that ultimately an agreement would need to be struck to end fighting in Ukraine, nine months after the Kremlin launched its “special military operation” there. – Agence France-Presse 

The Biden administration has “concerns” about fulfilling Ukraine’s request for cluster munitions, weapons banned by more than 100 countries that Russia is using to deadly effect on the battlefield, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said. – Politico 

A neo-Nazi paramilitary group linked to the Kremlin has asked its members to submit intelligence on border and military activity in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, raising concerns over whether far-right Russian groups are planning an attack on Nato countries. – The Guardian  

Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Friday that the Kremlin would likely have to come to the negotiating table to end the war it started in Ukraine — but claimed he’d been cheated in such negotiations before. – New York Post 

Editorial: Mr. Putin may hope that by jailing Mr. Yashin, he will intimidate others into silence. But the truth won’t sit quietly behind bars. The barbarism that has taken place in Ukraine is being closely observed and should lead to war crimes trials. Recently, researchers at the Royal United Services Institute in London obtained copies of orders issued to a range of Russian units before and during the launch of the invasion on Feb. 24. Their plans included “the murder of Ukraine’s executive branch and the capture of parliament.” The Russian security services and military rehearsed “kill-or-capture” missions to find those behind Ukraine’s pro-democracy Maidan Revolution in 2014.- Washington Post 

Elisabeth Braw writes: Unlike the Finns, the Ukrainians are receiving daily deliveries of everything from ammunition to heavy weaponry from friends around the world. Without the same reliable stock, Russia desperately needs these mysterious shipments. And that’s good news for Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Boris Johnson writes: Mr. Putin knows he can’t use nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. He knows the consequences. The truth is that he’s the one who fears escalation. It wasn’t a threat from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that “provoked” him to invade. It was decades of Western lassitude and irresolution about Ukraine’s status that enticed the bully to make his mistake. The West has atoned for this failure with a stunning display of coherence and unity since February. We must be stronger and bolder. This thing is only going one way. For the sake of the world, let’s help those brave Ukrainians finish the job, and the quicker the better. – Wall Street Journal

Nicholas Casey writes: Growing up at the end of the Cold War, it felt to me not just like America had won, but Russia had truly lost. We watched an attempted coup against Russian President Boris Yeltsin. We watched as life expectancy in Russia began to fall and the proud Soviet state was sold off to a system of oligarchs. But more recently, we’ve seen life expectancy in the U.S. fall, too — as it did last year, and the year before. […]This morning, Griner’s plane landed in San Antonio, ending her 10-month ordeal. Until yesterday, it was conceivable she would spend years in a Russian penal colony. Now she may be back on the court with the W.N.B.A. We’ll see. That certainly gives me more hope than the thought of Bout possibly heading back to the arms trade. – New York Times

Marshall Billingslea writes: Of course, the scale and intensity of the war in Ukraine dwarfs the 1980s insurgency in Afghanistan. So too will be the sums needed to defeat Russia this time around. To date, we have supplied approximately $17 billion worth of military equipment, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. We certainly can afford to do more. – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: That’s a pride Putin needs to bolster. After all, the war in Ukraine is likely to get even worse for Russia in the coming weeks. Evincing his concerns in this regard, Putin won’t admit any difficulties in Ukraine. He told reporters on Friday that “everything is stable there with us — there are no questions there, and there are no problems today.” – Washington Examiner

David Lingelbach and Valentina Rodríguez Guerra write: From the beginning of this war, we have been arguing that it would open up new opportunities for an oligarch like Putin. He remains a master oligarch, and his time is, in our estimation, far from over. Whether it’s prisoner swaps or some as-yet unimagined action, count on Putin to keep switching it up. That’s what works for him. – The Hill

Brock Bierman writes: Russia has weaponized winter by destroying critical infrastructure under the guise that these facilities are contributing to the war effort. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government are pleading for more defensive military systems from the U.S. and NATO. It is clear that the time to step up is now — to help Ukraine stop the shelling. We as a nation and within the world community need to learn from history before it’s too late and “never again” becomes here and now. – The Hill

Julian Lee writes: The Kremlin is already facing a big hit to its revenue from crude export duty next month. Based on crude prices since the middle of last month, Russia’s per-barrel duty could well fall in January to its lowest since the Covid-19 pandemic slashed revenue in early 2020. For now, the world has been well able to cope with the diversion of Russian crude from Europe to Asia, and the cost, as hoped in Western capitals, is falling on the Kremlin. – Bloomberg 

Riley Bailey, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Belarusian provision of territory and airspace allows Russian forces to support their offensive operations in Ukraine and conduct their strikes on Ukrainian civilian targets from a safe haven. Russian officials will continue to conduct information operations aimed at suggesting that Belarusian forces might invade Ukraine in order to pin Ukrainian forces at the Belarusian border. These information operations are extraordinarily unlikely to herald actual Belarusian intervention in the foreseeable future. – Institute for the Study of War

Edward Lucas writes: In the “new West,” eyes are clearer and thinking crisper. In a blisteringly good article in the latest Foreign Affairs, the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, argues that the war is not an east-west tussle over squares on a chessboard. It is about real people and real countries, with real hopes — and real fears. The death and destruction Ukrainians are experiencing now at Russian hands echoes what the Soviet Union inflicted on the Baltic states and other countries. The only choice is to stop it now, or suffer more later. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Yulia Bychkovska writes: The US and other NATO members should also provide Ukraine with the maximum military and financial support, prepare Poland for a military response if there are future attacks and ensure that everything possible is done to defend civilians from the consequences of Russian aggression. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Two pending agreements between Israel and the European Union could face obstacles to their completion in the incoming government because of Brussels’ requirement that they exclude Judea, Samaria, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. – Jerusalem Post 

The Lions’ Den armed group held a large rally in the Old City of Nablus on Friday, signaling the return of the militia after several of its leaders and members were killed and arrested by the Israeli security forces in October. – Jerusalem Post 

Former senior Israel Police official Uri Bar-Lev warned 103FM on Monday morning about the security challenges that Israel Police is about to face, saying that “Operation Guardian of the Walls was just the beginning.” Guardian of the Walls was the operation carried out between Israel and the Gaza Strip in the Spring of 2021 during which dozens were killed and even more were injured, and violent riots broke out in some of Israel’s mixed Jewish-Arab cities. He, however, says that the operation was just a “promo” for the real thing. – Jerusalem Post

The Biden administration has pushed the United Nations not to update its database of companies that operated in West Bank settlements and over the pre-1967 lines in east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, warning that it poses a threat to those corporate entities. – Jerusalem Post  

Presumed prime minister-to-be Benjamin Netanyahu met on Sunday with a group of 13 United Nations ambassadors who are visiting Israel. Netanyahu spoke with the delegation — which visited the United Arab Emirates before arriving in Israel — about the “historical importance of the Abraham Accords,” according to his office. –  Times of Israel 

IDF soldiers and the Mista’arvim counterterrorism unit of the Border Police on Sunday evening arrested three wanted terrorists in Jenin on suspicion of planning to carry out a shooting attack. – Arutz Sheva 

Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky announced last Friday that Israel is preparing to send further humanitarian aid to war-torn Ukraine, as Jerusalem hopes to reverse Kyiv’s recent voting pattern adverse to the Jewish state at the United Nations. – Ynet 

Lior Ackerman writes: The new government, with all its political sensitivities, must initiate such a plan and lead its implementation in front of the PA, under the auspices of international parties. This must be done to prevent further escalation and a complete collapse of the Palestinian Authority, the results of which would be a return to the disastrous situation that prevailed before the Oslo Accords. – Jerusalem Post 

Amos Harel writes: At the same time, another question arises, which the official communiques don’t answer. In the past, when the U.S. assisted in Israel’s Arrow project, it refused to grant Israel the intellectual property rights and vetoed transactions that could have generated large profits, on the grounds that it was jointly developed. In this case, the initial development is exclusively Israeli, and the Defense Ministry has an interest in preserving freedom of action in future transactions. It’s still unclear what has been decided on this question. – Haaretz


Hezbollah has pulled its forces from Damascus and Aleppo fearing an Israeli attack, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday. – Haaretz 

Israel has warned Lebanon that it could bomb Beirut’s international airport, according to one Saturday report, after an earlier report claimed Iran had recently transferred weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group via civilian flights. – Times of Israel 

The Israel Defense Forces dropped threatening pamphlets in southern Syria on Sunday warning Syrian soldiers to stop cooperating with Hezbollah, opposition media reported, hours after it reportedly conducted missile strikes on a Syrian military site. – Times of Israel


The Taliban regime, stepping up the pace and severity of Islamic punishments, carried out its first public execution this week since taking power 15 months ago. A convicted murderer was shot Wednesday, followed a day later by the lashing of 27 men and women in a soccer stadium on charges that included adultery, theft, drug use and running away from home. – Washington Post 

Six Pakistani civilians and one Afghan soldier were killed on Sunday in cross-border shelling and gunfire, according to officials on both sides of the frontier. – Reuters

Haidari tried to stay in Kabul with her family after the Taliban took over. She became an outspoken activist of the Afghanistan Women’s Political Participation Network to fight for women’s education, work and political involvement. But the risks soon became too high. Haidari was not only an educated female activist, but also a member of the Hazara ethnic group. The Hazara minority has been a frequent target of violence since the Taliban takeover. Most are Shiite Muslims, despised and targeted by Sunni militants like the Islamic State group, and discriminated against by many in the Sunni majority country. – Associated Press 

An imprisoned Afghan refugee wrongfully accused of smuggling people into Greece has been told he can walk free in a trial that activists hope will set a precedent for thousands of others in similar situations. – The Guardian 

At times, voices of Afghan women rise from the streets of Kabul and other cities in small, loud, protests. Often, they ring out in speeches by women now far away, outside Afghanistan. But mostly, their thoughts are only expressed quietly, in safe places. Or they fester in their heads as they try to reconcile their lives with the increasingly rigid rules of the Taliban government. They restrict what women wear, where they work, what they can do, or not, with their lives. – BBC 

Abigail Hauslohner writes: Last year, lawmakers from both political parties assailed the Biden administration for its handling of the withdrawal. Fischer was among the Republicans who, at the time, implored the White House to do more to protect America’s Afghan allies, saying she was working aggressively to help people escape the Taliban takeover. “The United States made a promise to these brave Afghans. If you work with us, we said, then we will take care of you and your family,” she said as the airlift operation came to an end. – Washington Post


After weeks of deadly Turkish airstrikes in northern Syria, Kurdish forces and international players are trying to gauge whether Ankara’s threats of a ground invasion are serious. – Associated Press 

According to a report in Israel Hayom, Syrian media is claiming that the Israeli Air Force attacked tonight (Sunday) in the south of the country. According to local reports, a radar station on the mountain of Tel Kalib in the A-Suvidaa area was attacked by Israeli aircraft. It was also reported that the echoes of explosions were heard throughout the area. – Arutz Sheva 

United Nations observers on the Golan Heights have recorded seven instances since August in which Israeli troops have crossed the Golan Heights cease-fire line with Syria, a recent UN Security Council report states. – Haaretz 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday that it was imperative the Kremlin “clear” Kurdish forces from northern Syria. – Agence France-Presse 

James Jeffrey writes: The latest crisis in the Turkey-U.S. relationship—Turkish threats to launch ground operations into Syria against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) Syrian Kurdish offshoot, the People’s Defense Units (YPG)—has again raised tensions in a bilateral relationship that is as critical as it is tumultuous. Although no final decision has yet been taken by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is certainly likely he will launch some form of ground operation, which, depending on where and how, will more or less tank bilateral relations. – Foreign Policy


As European nations opposed to the invasion of Ukraine have moved to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas, enduring soaring price increases and possible shortages, Turkey has deepened its energy ties to Russia. – New York Times

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Black Sea grain export agreement on Sunday with the leaders of Russia and Ukraine, as both sides seek changes that would boost their exports. – Reuters

Alexei Miller, head of Russian energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM), met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul and discussed the prospects for the Turkish gas hub as well as Russian gas supplies to Turkey, Gazprom said on Friday. – Reuters

Turkey emerged as a critical stumbling block to a complex international plan to deprive Russia of wartime oil revenues as the number of tankers waiting to exit the Black Sea through Turkish straits continued to rise on Friday. – Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a 30-kilometer (19-mile) security corridor on Turkey’s border with Syria in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s office said Sunday. – Associated Press 

Turkey’s ballistic missile test has scared Athens, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, adding that Ankara will not sit by idly if Greece continues to arm its islands in the Aegean. – Bloomberg  

The United States has blacklisted prominent Turkish businessman Sitki Ayan for allegedly operating a trading network that facilitated oil sales on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Robert Ellis writes: Last year, Putin signed a law paving the way for two more terms as president, and in China, Xi Jinping has secured a third term as president. In Turkey, there is the possibility that Erdogan will secure a further term as president. With the talk of a new constitution, “the new Turkey” could also become an Islamic republic. As he demonstrated in his July meeting in Tehran with Putin and Raisi, Erdogan is well on his way to becoming a permanent member of the despots club. – Jerusalem Post 

Magnus Norell writes: On the other hand, if Sweden continues to attempt concessions past what was already agreed upon in June, Ankara under President Erdoğan will wring as much as possible out Turkey’s newly-acquired key position both in the region and through the war in Ukraine. Based on the past six months, further Swedish concessions only strengthen Erdoğan’s leverage over them, without speeding up the Swedish application in the slightest. – Washington Institute

David L. Phillips writes: The United States and the SDF are natural allies. They share a commitment to democratic federalism, the emancipation of women, and environmental sustainability. Turkey may be a NATO ally, but Kurds are America’s friends in the fight against violent extremism. – The National Interest

Zvi Bar’el writes: One might expect these two main combat forces, whose activities are coordinated and funded by Turkey, to display a united front, at least vis-à-vis the Kurdish forces. But the Kurdish provinces are the region’s main oil suppliers, and they also sell oil to their enemies – i.e., Turkey’s militias – which allows them to also collect fees for every tanker that passes from Kurdish territory to other parts of northern Syria. Turkey also turns a blind eye to this “arrangement,” which saves it money when funding its militias. Any agreement between Turkey and Syria on a withdrawal would mean tremendous economic damage to those militias and could lead to a violent clash between them and whoever deprives them of their income – even if it is Turkey that does so. – Haaretz


Sanctions-hit Iran is consolidating its hold over neighbouring Iraq, an economic lifeline where pro-Tehran parties dominate politics, all to the chagrin of the United States, experts say. – Agence France-Presse 

The body of a Yazidi child who died at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after an attempt at life-saving surgery was not allowed through Ben Gurion Airport on Friday, and was en route to the land crossing into Jordan near Beit Shean. The boy’s mother was forced to fly from Ben Gurion to northern Iraq without the body of her only child earlier this week. – Times of Israel

Iraq’s parliament speaker has recently confirmed that hundreds to thousands of people who went missing from 2014 to 2016 were kidnapped and killed by Iran-backed militias. – Iran International 

Dr. Salem AlKetbi writes: Everyone knows in advance that the Arab regional order is in a sorry state. Iraq hopes that active and influential Arab powers will play their part in containing and deterring Iran from committing fresh mischief in Iraq by expanding its military operations menacing its security and stability. – Arutz Sheva


Lebanon has again extended the deadline for applications to explore for hydrocarbons in eight offshore blocks, the energy ministry said on Friday. – Reuters

Lebanon’s energy ministry said on Thursday it has begun hiring for a key power sector regulatory body, taking the final step towards unlocking World Bank financing for regional gas import deals to ease long-standing electricity shortages. – Reuters

Lebanon has been without a president for over a month, its legislators unable to agree on a new head of state. – Associated Press


Two troops from Yemen’s pro-government forces were killed in an armed ambush on a United Nations convoy in eastern Yemen, the U.N. said Saturday. – Associated Press 

An Italian man trapped for six months in his country’s embassy in the UAE has claimed he is the victim of a diplomatic spat between the two states and pleaded with Giorgia Meloni’s government to bring him home. Andrea Costantino, 49, said he had been living a “Groundhog day-like” existence in a tiny room at the Italian embassy in Abu Dhabi since being released in late May from the emirate’s notorious maximum-security prison, Al Wathba, where he spent more than a year on charges of funding terrorism in war-torn Yemen after shipping a cargo of diesel to a client there. – The Guardian

Fatima Abo Alasrar writes: The Houthis’ daring claims to lands they had never governed in the past nor have any legal or historical rights to could easily stoke a renewed national conflict between Yemen’s North and South. A scenario in which Yemen’s government acquiesces to pressure to pay the Houthis will enable the militia to further forsake its responsibilities on the humanitarian front and reinforce the perception that the South is neglected, thus igniting a new and even more intense civil war in a country already exhausted by nearly a decade of conflict and violence. – Middle East Institute

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Sunday that Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbours would act to shore up their security if Tehran were to obtain nuclear weapons. – Reuters

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Sunday the impact of European sanctions on Russian crude oil and price cap measures “did not bring clear results yet” and its implementation was still unclear. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman extended “personal mediation efforts” to facilitate the release of American basketball star Brittney Griner in a Russia-U.S. prisoner swap, the kingdom’s foreign minister said on Thursday. – Reuters

China’s ominous policies toward Taiwan and Hong Kong won an endorsement from Arab League states at a landmark diplomatic forum in Saudi Arabia. – Washington Examiner

Chinese leader Xi Jinping met on Thursday with Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince while on a visit to the kingdom, solidifying ties with a region crucial to his country’s energy supplies as sanctions intensify on Russia over its war on Ukraine. – Associated Press 

Knox Thames writes: Consequently, the leaders meeting with Xi in Saudi Arabia have leverage — perhaps more than they realize. Muslim countries joining as a block with Western criticism would shock Beijing. It could possibly cause China to change course and allow Uyghur Muslims to live out their faith peacefully. China responds to strength, and there is strength in numbers. What is missing is the voice of governments representing Muslim-majority nations. We know criticism by the West alone is not working. – The Hill

Gulf States

The office of the Belgian federal prosecutor announced on Sunday that it had charged four people with corruption and other crimes as part of a major investigation into suspected bribes from Qatar to current and former officials and lawmakers in the European Parliament. – New York Times

Russia’s war in Ukraine has jolted global energy markets, leaving Europe short of natural gas, raising prices for all fossil fuels and threatening a global recession. But one country has maneuvered effectively to gain economic and political advantage from the turmoil: Qatar. – New York Times

China plans to cooperate with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in the fields of nuclear energy, nuclear security and space exploration, President Xi Jinping said on Friday, showcasing his nation’s strengthening ties with a region that was once firmly in the U.S. sphere of influence. – New York Times

President Xi Jinping told Gulf Arab leaders on Friday that China would work to buy oil and gas in yuan, a move that would support Beijing’s goal to establish its currency internationally and weaken the U.S. dollar’s grip on world trade. – Reuters

A senior United Arab Emirates official said on Saturday it was encouraging to see greater European outreach to Gulf Arab states in the face of the Ukraine conflict and energy crunch, but that engagement should not be “transactional”. – Reuters

The governments of the United Arab Emirates and Israel ratified their comprehensive economic partnership agreement, UAE minister of state for foreign trade, Thani Al Zeyoudi, said on Twitter on Sunday. – Reuters

What began as a diplomatic endeavor two years ago came full circle on Tuesday when Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan touched down in Abu Dhabi with a group of diplomats representing 15 countries around the globe. – Jewish Insider

Middle East & North Africa

The alleged bomb-maker in the 1988 terrorist attack that destroyed a commercial jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, is in U.S. custody and will face federal charges, marking a breakthrough in one of the world’s longest and most sprawling terrorism investigations. –  Wall Street Journal

Hundreds protested in Tunisia Saturday against President Kais Saied ahead of parliamentary elections that represent the latest consolidation of a power grab he began in July last year. – Agence France-Presse 

Ahdeya Ahmed al Sayed writes: A lot has been done during the past two years and warm peace is being achieved but I cannot end this column without owing a lot of what is happening to Israel’s Ambassador to Bahrain, Eitan Naeh. An ambassador who succeeded in making great friendships here and has been a great representative of his country must be appreciated. It is never easy to break the ice with people you do not know but this ambassador hasn’t just broken the ice but barriers that could have taken tens of years to be removed. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s truck drivers, under pressure from the government to return to work, have ended a weekslong strike over wage demands that had disrupted economic activity and supply chains in one of Asia’s major export hubs. – Wall Street Journal

Serbia has emerged as a likely location for crypto fugitive Do Kwon, the fallen 31-year-old entrepreneur facing charges in his native South Korea over the $60 billion wipeout of digital assets that he created. – Bloomberg

Far closer to the North Korean mainland than it is to the South, Baekryeong is a fortress: tanks are parked at the sides of roads, there are guard posts on every hill, and the picturesque beaches are covered in dragon’s teeth — concrete pyramid-shaped fortifications — to deter invasion. – Agence France-Presse 

When Daniel DePetris, a U.S.-based foreign affairs analyst, received an email in October from the director of the 38 North think-tank commissioning an article, it seemed to be business as usual. […]The email is part of a new and previously unreported campaign by a suspected North Korean hacking group, according to the cybersecurity experts, five targeted individuals and emails reviewed by Reuters. – Reuters  

Choe Sang-Hun and Pablo Robles write: The country has cracked down on the use of the American dollars in non-state markets, to force people to convert them into local currency. An unlicensed money-exchanger was executed for disrupting currency rates, according to South Korean intelligence officials. The government has encouraged people to deposit their dollar savings in banks, to place them under state monitoring. – New York Times


Hungry for foreign currency to shore up their dwindling reserves, some troubled countries have in recent years turned to an unusual source of funds: The People’s Bank of China. China’s central bank has funneled billions over the past decade to around 20 countries, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Argentina and Laos, via swap lines that allow overseas central banks to exchange their domestic currencies for Chinese yuan. – Wall Street Journal

Jimmy Lai, the staunchly pro-democracy Hong Kong media tycoon, was sentenced by a Hong Kong court Saturday to more than five years in prison for fraud over a sublease at the former headquarters of his media company. – Wall Street Journal

After years of alienating other countries with his foreign ministry’s abrasive style of diplomacy and then retreating into semi-isolation for most of the pandemic, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is returning to the global stage to repair China’s position and catch up to the United States, which Beijing sees as having emerged stronger from the coronavirus crisis than expected. – New York Times

A high-level U.S. delegation will travel to China next week to follow up on President Joe Biden’s recent talks with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and prepare for Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit there early next year, the U.S. State Department said on Saturday. – Reuters

The U.S. Justice Department will appeal the dismissal of a lawsuit against casino magnate Steve Wynn, who it accused of acting as a Chinese agent. – Reuters

China is building capabilities that put most U.S. space assets at risk, and China sees the domain as crucial to their military strategy, the head of the U.S. Space Command said on Friday. – Reuters

The U.S. is closely monitoring Chinese activities that potentially threaten American assets in space as debris rapidly accumulates in low Earth orbit, the head of United States military operations in space said Friday. – Associated Press 

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Saudi Arabia this week made clear just how quickly ties are intensifying during a period of geopolitical realignment, despite warnings from the White House. – Agence France-Presse 

The Biden administration on Friday announced sanctions against a Chinese company listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, saying Pingtan Marine Enterprises Ltd. engaged in “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing that contributing to grave human rights abuses. – The Hill

Editorial: The big risk: China is likely to be making the turn too quickly and is opening itself to a tidal wave of omicron infections. Airfinity, a London-based health analytics firm, estimated that lifting the zero covid policy could result in between 1.3 million and 2.1 million deaths in China over 83 days, based on modeling from Hong Kong’s outbreak earlier this year. The country lacks the ICU beds and medical staff to cope with such a flood. China is finally facing reality, but could have a rough season ahead. – Washington Post 

Megan K. Stack writes: But let’s put the governments aside and focus on the people. Through all the vagaries of their leaders’ rhetoric and programs, neither the Chinese nor the American population stuck to their expected script. Chinese people got fed up with endless isolation and demanded, at considerable risk, greater civil liberties. Some Americans, meanwhile, lamented — despite emerging evidence of the extreme harm done to kids’ education and mental health by the closures — their own leaders’ failure to impose even stricter controls. […]We all crave freedom and safety. Maybe it’s the fate of governments to botch the balance. – New York Times

Donald Kirk writes: What’s happened to Mr. Lai and his company, Next Digital, is the most visible evidence of repression of free speech in an environment in which dozens of papers once competed with one another while often criticizing the government. The importance of the jailing of Mr. Lai can’t be overstated. – New York Sun

Brad Polumbo writes: Yes, media coverage is often biased and sometimes outright false. But we litigate the truth in an open market of ideas, and better that than an America where the government can treat its citizens like the CCP has treated Lai and other Hong Kong democracy activists. – Washington Examiner

Sheena Chestnut Greitens writes: The United States and the international community are overdue in gaining a comprehensive picture of China’s police activities abroad, identifying more precisely the risks that these activities generate, and developing a strategy to ensure citizens and countries remain protected from those threats. – Washington Examiner

James Jay Carafano writes: Where international cooperation is vital and China stands in the way, Washington ought to take the lead in crafting alternatives. For instance, the U.S. is more than up to delivering an alternative to the WHO if that is what we really need to do. Make no mistake: Effectively countering China starts with putting a team on the field that believes Beijing poses an existential threat to our freedoms and is committed to girding up for the fight. Without that, the U.S. and the free world may well lose everything. – Washington Examiner

Rebeccah Heinrichs writes: A strong America that refuses to bend the knee to CCP demands will keep Americans physically safe, secure, and their quality of life and livelihoods unharmed. Investing in a modern superior military is not the only thing we must do to prevail over the rise of Xi’s Chinese Communist Party, but it is the first and most urgent thing if anything else stands a chance of succeeding long term. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Now, Washington is seeing how countries are willing to move toward embracing China or talking to Russia – and historical US partners from Riyadh to Ankara are all making the same choices. This could have long-term effects for the Middle East as well as China’s initiatives, such as what it calls the “Belt and Road,” a massive infrastructure and regional connectivity project, as well as China’s new deals with Iran and its work in Africa. China cannot compete with US technology and systems such as air defenses. The Gulf will hedge on these issues, and America will have to decide whether meetings with China are a redline, or whether this is just how the new world order will look. – Jerusalem Post 

Matthew P. Goodman writes: Two years into the Biden administration, the elements of its China economic strategy are coming into clearer definition. Overall, the approach is sound, but it needs a few tweaks and additions to persuade domestic stakeholders, allies and partners, and Beijing itself that the administration is serious about balancing competition and engagement and advancing shared interests. No less important, a more confident, optimistic tone from Washington policymakers—the kind used by Secretary Raimondo in her speech—would be welcome. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

South Asia

Pakistan is restricting imports and trying to get an International Monetary Fund bailout back on track, as it struggles to find dollars to pay a mountain of foreign debt. – Wall Street Journal

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold an annual in-person summit this year, an Indian government source said on Friday, after the two held discussions on the sidelines of an event in September. – Reuters

The White House on Friday called on the government of Bangladesh to fully investigate reports of violence against journalists and human rights activists ahead of a major political protest, and urged all parties to refrain from violence. – Reuters

A team set up by the Pakistani government to probe the killing of a well-known Pakistani journalist in Nairobi said it found several contradictions in the version given by Kenyan authorities, and believes it was a case of pre-meditated murder. – Reuters

A bomb exploded in a bakery in Pakistan’s restive southwestern Baluchistan province killing at least one person and wounding six others, including a woman and a child, police said Saturday. – Associated Press 

John Reed and Chloe Cornish write: India’s government responded that it “exercises with whomever it chooses”, and would give no veto to third countries on the issue. A US official said, in reference to China’s objections, that it was “none of their business”. India will hope that exchanges with its neighbour get no more aggressive than that in coming months, as analysts say the fundamental imbalance in military power between the two remains unchanged. “The Chinese look at the US as their peer competitor,” says Joshi. “That is trouble for India, since the Chinese effort and resources being deployed to take on the US will give them a capability boost that India cannot hope to match.” – Financial Times 

Anat Bernstein-Reich writes: Meanwhile, the strengthening of the U.S.-India relationship against China will also increase security cooperation between Israel and India. Benjamin Netanyahu’s very good relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to contribute to this. When he takes over as prime minister, Netanyahu will probably make India one of his first official visits. – Haaretz 

Derek Grossman writes: For U.S. policymakers, India’s relentless ambiguity about Russia’s war in Ukraine has been maddening. At the United Nations, India has voted to abstain on nearly every resolution condemning Russian aggression. In other multilateral venues, such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or Quad)—which consists of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States—New Delhi refuses to even mention Moscow, let alone criticize it. Nor has India signed on to economic and financial sanctions on Russia. – Foreign Policy

Sumit Ganguly writes: This military establishment now confronts an intransigent adversary in New Delhi. Modi, an unabashed exponent of Hindu nationalism, sees the conflict through the prism of his own domestic politics: An unyielding stance toward Pakistan plays well with key constituencies at home. Perhaps more than ever, the two sides face a near impasse. Furthermore, the continuing political uncertainty in Pakistan provides Modi a ready-made excuse to avoid taking the initiative to improve ties. As the politics of Hindu nationalism become entrenched in Modi’s India, the possibilities of any meaningful dialogue look increasingly like a mirage. – Foreign Policy


Alarmed by increasing security threats and the risk of war in the Indo-Pacific, Japan will seek to purchase hundreds of U.S.-built Tomahawk cruise missiles as part of a major defense buildup unprecedented in the postwar period, Japanese and U.S. officials said. – Washington Post 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday she hoped to lead a trade mission to China once border settings are changed to allow travel to her country’s biggest trading partner as it emerges from the pandemic. – Reuters

Australia is a close security and humanitarian partner for Vanuatu and the Pacific island’s new government has not held security discussions with China, Vanuatu’s foreign minister said on Monday. – Reuters

Australia’s foreign minister said on Saturday the government would place targeted sanctions on Russia and Iran in response to what it called “egregious” human rights violations. – Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen pledged on Saturday to deepen security cooperation with Japan to ensure freedom in the Indo-Pacific, during a meeting with a senior member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). – Reuters

Japan needs to increase its military spending in the face of the “grim reality” of the threat from China and North Korea, a senior member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party said on Sunday during a visit to Taiwan. – Reuters

Hundreds of people marched in the Philippine capital on Saturday protesting what they said was a rising number of extrajudicial killings and other injustices under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. – Associated Press 

In the event of a Communist Chinese attack, the toll in defending Taiwan would be so great that it “would break the back of U.S. military power for a generation.” That is the conclusion of an architect of a new war game conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Matthew Cancian. – New York Sun

Australia and Japan will pursue opportunities for “more complex” joint military exercises, Canberra’s defence minister said Friday after talks with his Japanese counterpart and the countries’ foreign ministers in Tokyo. – Agence France-Presse 

At the end of her visit to Tajikistan, Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur for human rights, called on the government to “eliminate the intense atmosphere of fear.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Michael Mazza writes: For too long, China has had the initiative in the Taiwan Strait. It has changed the rules of the game, established a new normal, and put itself in an advantageous position vis-a-vis Taiwan and Taiwan’s partners. Washington should not continue to abide by this state of affairs blithely. The U.S. is uniquely capable of putting the PLA in an uncomfortable position, one with which it is now largely unfamiliar — the defensive. – Washington Examiner

Tedford Tyler writes: An invasion would be terrible for all sides involved. Right now, the status quo benefits all sides. Taiwan effectively enjoys independence, China holds onto hope for reunification, and the U.S. does not have to abandon Taiwan or fight China. Everyone wins. China isn’t ready to invade. Let’s not back it into a corner. – The National Interest

David A. Merkel writes: Washington’s policy in Asia needs to be predictable and reliable in the age of great power competition. Maintaining Taiwan’s status is imperative for Tokyo and Seoul to have confidence in America as an effective security partner in the Indo-Pacific. In this pursuit, Washington must deter rather than tempt an aggressive move by Xi to unite a democratic Taiwan with a communist China. – The National Interest

Azeem Ibrahim writes: Now an avowed democrat, a believer in multi-ethnic, multi-religious democracy has come along to occupy the highest office in Malaysia, after years of struggle. It will not be easy. In fact, it will be a great and difficult job. But if Americans have surveyed Malaysian politics with resignation for most of this century, we might be able to breathe a little easier now that Ibrahim has achieved the first step of his long life’s dream. – The National Interest

Nathan F. Batto writes: But although Tsai may no longer be the party chair, her grand vision for Taiwan’s future—situating Taiwan in the international community of democracies, strengthening the country’s own military and bolstering cooperation with other militaries, gradually diversifying Taiwan’s economy, pursuing progressive social welfare policies, defending Taiwan’s sovereignty, and a host of other measures—remains unchallenged inside the DPP. China will inevitably be on the ballot in the 2024 presidential and legislative elections. Unless the DPP forfeits its dominant position as the champion of the status quo by recklessly pursuing formal independence, it should once again have a clear electoral advantage. – Foreign Affairs


Frigid temperatures are boosting demand for natural gas in parts of Europe, providing an early test of the continent’s readiness for winter without Russian energy. – Wall Street Journal

German police briefly evacuated areas of the eastern city of Dresden on Saturday morning due to a hostage-taking incident, closing an area around a shopping center and a Christmas market amid reports that shots had been fired. – Washington Post 

A bitter political and diplomatic rift between Germany and Poland, both important members of the European Union and NATO, has worsened as Russia’s war in Ukraine has ground on, undermining cohesion and solidarity in both organizations. – New York Times

Starved of natural gas from Russia and electricity from Ukraine’s missile-battered power grid, Moldova has been so unsettled by skyrocketing utility bills and occasional blackouts that, according to the mayor of a small city in the north, residents can barely contain their anger. – New York Times

Serb protesters in northern Kosovo blocked main roads for a second day on Sunday following a nighttime exchange of fire with police after the arrest of a former Serb policeman, amid rising tensions between authorities and Kosovo’s Serb minority. – Reuters

Bulgaria will send its first military aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion after parliament on Friday approved a list of arms drawn up by the interim government. – Reuters

Belarus told the United Nations on Friday that it would allow, without preconditions, the transit of grain from Ukraine through its territory for export from Lithuanian ports, a U.N. spokesman said. – Reuters

A dozen countries including Belgium, Italy, Poland and Slovenia have made a push to “significantly” lower a planned European Union cap on gas prices, as the bloc struggles to strike a deal on the measure. – Reuters

Serbia will ask NATO peacekeepers to let it deploy Serbian military and police in Kosovo, although it believes there is no chance of the request being approved, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Saturday. – Reuters

Kosovo Serbs and country’s police exchanged gunfire on Saturday after a flareup of tensions in the volatile northern part of the country. – Reuters

Serbia demands the release of all arrested Serbs from northern Kosovo, but also seeks to defuse tensions there following tensions in the restive region, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday. – Reuters

Britain said the human rights situation in China worsened last year and announced sanctions on Friday against 30 people worldwide, including officials from Russia, Iran and Myanmar who it deems responsible for human rights abuses or corruption. – Reuters 

Kosovo on Saturday postponed a local election due Dec. 18 in four municipalities with a predominantly ethnic Serb population, in an effort to defuse recent tensions there that have also caused relations with neighboring Serbia to deteriorate further. – Associated Press 

German authorities said Friday that judges have confirmed the arrest of 23 people detained earlier this week on suspicion of planning to topple the government, while the extradition of two others detained abroad is being sought. – Associated Press

Freshly arrived at Cincu army training camp, 120mm cannons loaded on French tanks are already booming out across the muddy firing range as NATO bolsters its forces in Romania, a member country bordering Ukraine. – Agence France-Presse 

Group of Seven leaders will hold a virtual meeting on Monday hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to a public itinerary for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. – Bloomberg 

Matthew Brooker writes: What happens now is crucial. Transparency International is lobbying EU lawmakers to set up a single system that would then enable registered users to have open access to corporate registries across the bloc. That would remove some of the frictions thrown up by this ruling which, whatever its strict legal merits, is unfortunate from a moral and practical standpoint. […]The European Commission needs to respond quickly. – Bloomberg

Javier Blas writes: Can the same happen with Russian gas and Putin? It’s likely. Europe probably will never go back to the same long-term contracts of the past with Russia, and probably would need to import less gas as time goes by thanks to renewable energy. But if it’s going to keep its chemical, food and heavy industries competitive, it will need some cheap gas. And there isn’t cheaper gas for Europe than Russia’s. – Bloomberg  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The decision by Kosovo to likely apply for EU membership soon, as well as Russia’s interests in provoking tensions in the Balkans, and the very real issues that confront people in daily life in northern Kosovo over who issues license plates to the Serbian minority areas; are all coming together in the winter of 2022. It remains to be seen whether the positive discussions in Tirana will prevail or whether more escalation will happen. – Jerusalem Post


Zambian police on Sunday found the bodies of 27 men, believed to be migrants from Ethiopia, dumped in a farming area on the outskirts of the capital after they died from suspected hunger and exhaustion, authorities said. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Ghana are expected to reach a staff-level agreement on a loan deal by Tuesday at the latest, said three sources with knowledge of the ongoing talks. – Reuters

Mining companies and governments in Africa are calling for stronger trade ties with the United States after a new climate law set out incentives for U.S. carmakers sourcing battery materials from trade partners. – Reuters

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Nigerian authorities to investigate allegations of systemic and coerced abortions reportedly perpetrated by the Nigerian army, U.N spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday. – Reuters

President Joe Biden is set to play host to dozens of African leaders in Washington this week as the White House looks to narrow a gaping trust gap with Africa — one that has grown wider over years of frustration about America’s commitment to the continent. – Associated Press 

President Biden next week will call for the African Union to get a permanent seat as part of the Group of 20 (G-20), which would give African nations a seat at the table on key economic matters and diversify the organization of major economies. – The Hill

Violent attacks targeting Nigeria’s election commission offices are raising concerns about the security of the West African country’s upcoming elections in February. – Associated Press 

The body of a Zambian student who died while fighting in Ukraine after he was recruited in a Russian jail arrived home in a makeshift coffin Sunday. – Agence France-Presse 

Maurizio Geri writes: Now is the time to build a foundation that Russia cannot manipulate, and the West can no longer overlook. Unless we urgently address West Africa’s moral leadership problem, Russia will keep blatantly exploiting it — with dangerous and far-reaching implications way beyond African borders. – The Hill

Peter Pham writes: A more stable and democratic Sudan would send ripples across the Horn of Africa and impact conflicts as far as Libya and Yemen. Thus, it is in America’s interest that Sudan’s transition succeeds — and for that to happen, we have to be engaged now more than ever. – The Hill

Michael Rubin writes: Biden, of course, can invite whom he wants, but the White House and the State Department should realize: Somaliland is a reality that will not go away. The Pentagon realizes it. So does the intelligence community and, most importantly, so does Congress. It is a strategic asset, and an ideological ally. Unlike other states in the region, it has demonstrated capacity. It is not a corrupt kleptocracy or autocracy like South Sudan and Eritrea. It has borders set by international treaty to which the United States is party. – 19FortyFive

Michael Rubin writes: The Founding Fathers separated the branches of government for good reason, but this does not mean the executive and legislative need to act in opposition to each other. Biden and the press may focus on the main stage during the summit but, if the White House and State Department have done their legwork, they might amplify the summit’s success and demonstrate to Africa’s biggest human rights and democracy backsliders, not only in Ethiopia but also in Liberia, Benin, and Nigeria, that Washington speaks with a single voice. – 19FortyFive

Michael Rubin writes: It is time Washington learn from its mistakes, encourage African success stories, and work through African partners to reverse the contagion of instability and extremism making a comeback on the continent. The way forward is not through conferences or dumping money and responsibility upon the United Nations. Rather, it is through careful diplomacy not beholden to disaffected exiles and through military partnerships. In each case, Rwanda is key. – The National Interest

Latin America

Colombia and the United States will hold a conference in the first quarter of next year to look at measures that would guarantee rights for migrants heading north to the U.S. border, officials from the two countries announced on Friday. – Reuters

The United States sanctioned several Central American officials it accused of possible corruption in their respective countries on Friday, including two politicians close to El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele. – Reuters

Peru’s foreign ministry summoned the Mexican ambassador on Friday, saying that it considered that statements made by Mexican leaders constituted “an interference in Peru’s internal affairs.” – Reuters

Long lines for motorists at Venezuela’s refueling stations are back due to repeated outages at state oil company PDVSA’s refineries and a lack of diesel and gasoline imports. – Reuters

Protests against Peru’s new government grew this weekend, with police clashing with angry demonstrators calling for a national strike, fresh elections and the release of detained former president Pedro Castillo. The protests have swollen steadily since the South American country’s legislature on Wednesday threw out the leftist Castillo after he tried to dissolve Congress and rule by decree. – Agence France-Presse

Peru’s newest president, Dina Boluarte, gave in to protesters’ demands early Monday announcing in a nationally televised address that she will send Congress a proposal to move up elections. – Associated Press

North America

Quebec on Friday passed a law ending a requirement for elected officials to take an oath to Britain’s King Charles, agreeing to make such a show of fealty optional. – Reuters

Russia is banning 200 prominent Canadians from entering the country in a direct response to personal sanctions announced by Ottawa, the foreign ministry in Moscow said on Friday. – Reuters

A Capitol rioter who assaulted officers during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection was sentenced to more than five years in prison on Friday for multiple charges stemming from his actions before and on that day. – The Hill

The founder of the Hawaii chapter of the far-right white nationalist group the Proud Boys and another person who rioted at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection were sentenced to four years in prison on Friday for their involvement in the attack. – The Hill

The World Trade Organization ruled on Friday that former President Donald Trump violated global trade rules in 2018 when he invoked national security concerns to justify his tariffs on steel and aluminum products from around the world. – Politico 

A federal judge refrained from holding former President Donald Trump or his legal team in contempt of court Friday for defying a May subpoena demanding classified documents, according to multiple reports. – Washington Examiner

The House’s passage, by a wide margin, of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act yesterday advanced several key domestic and foreign national security policy priorities for advocates in the Jewish community. But other provisions that Jewish groups had supported were left on the cutting-room floor amid negotiations between legislators in the House and Senate. – Jewish Insider


Apple Inc. is planning to significantly expand its data-encryption practices, a step that is likely to create tensions with law enforcement and governments around the world as the company continues to build new privacy protections for millions of iPhone users. – Wall Street Journal

China’s new rules for content providers that alter facial and voice data will take effect from Jan. 10, its cyberspace regulator said, as it looks to more tightly scrutinize so-called “deepfake” technology and services. – Reuters

Australia’s competition regulator said on Friday its lawsuit against Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google that alleged consumers were misled about expanded use of personal data for targeted advertising had been dismissed by a court. – Reuters

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, a notorious cyber-criminal group called Conti declared its “full support” for President Vladimir Putin. Three days later, a pro-Ukraine member of Conti leaked logs detailing the group’s plans to follow that up with action, saying Conti’s leaders had “lost all their shit.” – Politico 

The latest disclosures from Twitter are raising concerns among lawmakers that the platform’s former proprietor, Jack Dorsey, lied to Congress when, in 2018, he denied Twitter was “shadow banning” or censoring conservatives. – New York Sun

The latest release of the Twitter Files reveals shifting opinions among executives about how to handle the effects of Jan. 6 and the protests. – Washington Examiner

A major question surrounding Elon Musk’s release of internal Twitter documents about content moderation decisions is whether government officials had any role in pushing the platform to censor. – Washington Examiner

The latest installment of Elon Musk’s Twitter Files, a release of extra documents and details regarding the social platform’s internal operations, went into detail about how Twitter handled election-related information in 2020. – Washington Examiner

Yoel Roth, the former head of Twitter’s “Trust and Safety” department, hasn’t tweeted since Dec. 1, when new owner Elon Musk started releasing internal documents about the deliberations among employees on censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story. – Washington Examiner

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and newly anointed “Chief Twit” Elon Musk publicly clashed over the company’s handling of child exploitation cases Friday. – Washington Examiner

Elon Musk issued a sharply worded email to Twitter employees warning of severe legal consequences should they violate their nondisclosure agreements by leaking company information to the media. – New York Post 

The networks of several local governments in the U.S. have been targeted with the Drokbk malware, allegedly wielded by Iranian government-backed groups exploiting the Log4j vulnerability. – The Record 

Laura Forman writes: But that will be little consolation to Twitter stakeholders such as its creditors. In fact, it just adds to the urgency of competing for a shrinking pool of ad dollars. Mr. Musk’s show may be entertaining, but someone still has to pay for the production. – Wall Street Journal

Andy Kessler writes: Rather than legislation forcing Apple to add additional app stores, or Federal Trade Commission lawsuits for years, maybe the White House can ask Apple nicely to allow competing app stores. Then Mr. Cook could say, “Yep, on it!” – Wall Street Journal

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: But it also produces its haywire moments. One came when the political establishment banded together to crush Mr. Zuckerberg’s conscientious attempt at a cryptocurrency experiment. Another came when the same establishment helped fan Mr. Bankman-Fried’s hollow simulation of a responsible business until it relieved its trusting customers of an estimated $51 billion in personal wealth. – Wall Street Journal

Christopher Tremoglie writes: There are many parallels between Twitter’s suppression of opposing ideologies and viewpoints and the tactics used by the Soviet Union, North Koreans, and the Chinese Communist Party. The only difference was that instead of sending people to a real gulag, Twitter suspended people’s accounts. And, if there were ways to send people to gulag, given the company’s extreme actions to suppress opposing viewpoints, it’s not far-fetched to think the People’s Democratic Republic might have done that, too. – Washington Examiner

Kaylee McGhee White writes: The problem, of course, is that Twitter isn’t an activist organization or Democratic PAC. It’s a public forum on which national conversations take place, and the targeted efforts by Twitter officials to control who participated in those conversations and what they were allowed to say should disturb everyone. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This is an important question in a world of rising authoritarianism. Social media giants were told after the 2016 US election that they could be victims of foreign governments meddling in future elections. It was under that guise that these tech giants prevented the sharing of a controversial story about a laptop in 2020. […]This matters when it comes to controversial subjects discussed on social media as well as things like incitement and antisemitism. Regardless of a person’s political stance, people should want to know how those companies that sit astride most of the information that exists in the world today are operating and whether users will ever get the transparency they deserve. – Jerusalem Post 

Miranda Devine writes: More recently, the First Amendment warriors at MRC Free Speech America demonstrated that Google manipulated search results in last week’s runoff Senate race in Georgia, to elevate victorious Democrat Raphael Warnock and bury mention of Republican Herschel Walker. The incoming House GOP has a lot on its plate, but tackling election interference by Big Tech should be a top priority. – New York Post 

Marina Yue Zhang writes: In contrast to a world order that is determined by superpowers, data is globally distributed, meaning that any digital order should be inclusive of state and non-state actors, both large and small. Ultimately, we are all data generators and should benefit from the value derived from that data. Cyberspace, as a new arena for global activities, requires that all members, regardless of their strength, have a say in the making of an international digital order. – The National Interest


The U.S. Navy is creating an innovation center and an advisory board focused on science and technology as the service seeks to better invest its resources to stay ahead of potential adversaries in the long term, the Navy secretary told Defense News. – Defense News 

The U.S. Army’s one-stop shop for all things intelligence and electronic warfare is in the preliminary stages of constructing a digital pipeline to more efficiently develop artificial intelligence and machine learning tools. – Defense News 

Harlan Ullman writes: The Biden administration has released its National Security and Defense Strategies; Nuclear Posture Review; and Missile Defense Study. Making a radical shift absent a crisis will not happen. Instead, a serious effort must be undertaken now to show that even with a $858 billion defense budget, a hollow force may still be inevitable. But will that happen? – The Hill

Arnold L. Punaro writes: If we were able to increase capacity then, we can do so today. Congress and the DOD need to better incentivize industry to deal with some of these challenges in order to strengthen the DIB. This includes finding other, more reliable sources for rare earth materials, such as domestic sources for antimony, or building strategic partnerships with allies that would help shore up their own industrial capacities and reduce the burden on the U.S. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Restraining senior military leaders from political partisanship would constitute a critical step toward restoring the great confidence that Americans have had in their military leaders over the past several decades. The need to do so is especially urgent, because America once again faces major security challenges from states that would undermine its leadership and seek to do irreparable and lasting harm. – The Hill

Long War

In the Sahel, the U.S. and its allies are betting that Niger, the worst-off country in the world by a U.N. measure, offers the best hope of stopping the seemingly inexorable spread of al Qaeda and Islamic State. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. military is scrambling to make up for lost time in Somalia after President Biden this spring reversed his predecessor’s order to pull American soldiers out of the country and returned hundreds of them to the fight against one of al-Qaeda’s most powerful global affiliates. – Washington Post 

A man accused of taking part in attacks in Mali in 2015 that killed dozens of people, including an American aid worker, was extradited to the United States to face multiple terrorism charges in federal court in Brooklyn, the authorities said on Saturday. – New York Times

U.S. Special Operations forces carried out a helicopter raid against the Islamic State in northeastern Syria early Sunday, killing two operatives, including one official who the military said was involved in plotting and enabling terrorist attacks. – New York Times 

German aid worker Jorg Lange was freed Saturday more than four and a half years after Islamic extremists kidnapped him in the West African country of Niger, according to Help, the German aid organization where he works. – Associated Press

The Burkina Faso government has announced plans to raise 152 million euros for a “fund to support the war” against a bloody jihadist insurgency. The fund “should enable us to raise 100 billion CFA for the year” 2023, Economy Minister Aboubacar Nacanabo said on Friday after talks with President Ibrahim Traore, employers and social partners. – Agence France-Presse 

Just weeks after Indonesia burnished its international standing by successfully hosting a G20 leaders summit in Bali last month, a suicide bomber reminded the world of the ever-present threat of Islamist extremism in south-east Asia’s largest country. – Financial Times 

Douglas London writes: The U.S. still needs a hammer, but relying on a single-threaded strategy for terrorism, only to reduce resources and impose further restrictions, risks placing the U.S. once again in a reactive posture. Smarter, holistic integration of soft and hard power tools, constructive outreach to the foreign communities we need to influence, and international partnerships to address the conditions that give rise to terrorism and strategic competition might mitigate against the need to choose dealing with one threat over another. – The Hill

Judah Waxelbaum writes: Two years into his presidency, it is not too late to change course. Stop negotiating with terrorists, cease this trend of giving hostile actors what they want, and remind the world that the US and its allies are not to be trifled with. Biden can make the world stronger by putting his foot down and promising destruction, not rewards, for capturing civilians and threatening allies. – Jerusalem Post