Fdd's overnight brief

December 13, 2021

In The News


U.S. sanctions on Iran have battered the country’s economy, causing unemployment to soar and its currency to plummet, which has helped stoke public unrest in recent years. – Wall Street Journal 

Persian Gulf countries that once vociferously opposed the nuclear deal with Iran now say they support its revival, even as they have embarked on their own efforts to engage with Tehran during a period of uncertainty about U.S. staying power in the region. – Washington Post 

Long-running differences over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program have erupted into new tensions between the Biden administration and Israel, with two senior Israeli officials leaving Washington this week concerned that the Americans’ commitment to restoring the 2015 nuclear deal will lead to a flawed agreement allowing Tehran to speed ahead with its nuclear enrichment program. – New York Times 

Iran appears to be preparing for a space launch as negotiations continue in Vienna over its tattered nuclear deal with world powers, according to an expert and satellite images. – Associated Press 

Iran said on Sunday that European countries had failed to offer constructive proposals to help to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, after Britain said there was still time for Tehran to save it but that this was the last chance. – Reuters 

A top Iranian military official warned on Saturday of a “heavy price” for aggressors, state media said, after a report of U.S. and Israeli plans for possible military drills to prepare for strikes against Iran’s nuclear sites if diplomacy fails. – Reuters 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Friday that he notified US officials during meetings this week in Washington that he had instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for a strike against Iran. – Times of Israel 

Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi has signalled the country should not rely on any lifting of US economic sanctions next year as he outlined a budget funded by higher taxes on the wealthy and a modest rise in crude sales. – Financial Times 

Britain could impose new sanctions on Iran if the regime fails to row back from demands that have led to an impasse in talks over its nuclear programme. – Telegraph 

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said Saturday that Tehran was serious in its discussions with world powers aimed at salvaging a tattered 2015 nuclear deal, the official IRNA news agency reported. – Times of Israel 

Iran is preparing to launch a new ship for its navy. The ship is called the Shiraz according to reports and it is supposed to be an intelligence-gathering ship that will also be equipped with a helicopter and radar. – Jerusalem Post 

One of Iran’s leading pro-government media outlets called Israeli efforts surrounding the Vienna talks “futile,” an apparent reference to Iranian regime optimism. […]In essence, Iran believes the talks may outflank Israeli warnings, and hopes the US will call what it sees as Israel’s bluff. – Jerusalem Post 

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh praised the country’s advances in a speech reported this weekend. He emphasized that Iran’s infrastructure had advanced and the country has widespread potential now. He said Iran can be a good example for other countries and pointed to Iran’s missile and drone program. – Jerusalem Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh praised the country’s advances in a speech reported this weekend. […]While Iran appeared to be facing malaise among the youth over the last decade, especially as protests have rocked part of the country, his message was that new technologies could be developed through investing in youth organizations. – Jerusalem Post 

Yonah Jermey Bob writes: If the Islamic Republic gets to 90%, Jerusalem’s next firewall to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon is to slow and sabotage its weapons group. […]This debate will now take on a new level of importance for the Mossad and IDF intelligence, with Iran potentially only weeks from the 90% uranium enrichment weaponization level. – Jerusalem Post 

John Bolton writes: For decades, U.S. presidents have proclaimed it “unacceptable” for Iran to have nuclear weapons. They said the same about North Korea. They largely failed with North Korea, and are poised to fail with Iran, too. Economic sanctions, without more, have failed — and China in particular is poised to buy all the oil Iran can sell, and either veto or ignore future Security Council sanctions. If a nuclear Iran is truly unacceptable, the only paths open are regime change in Tehran and military/intelligence measures rendering Iran’s nuclear programs harmless. – The Hill 


Since Kabul fell to the Taliban on Aug. 15, Pakistan has sealed its borders nearly shut to refugees. Iran has deported hundreds of thousands of Afghans in recent months, unwilling to consider asylum applications. – Wall Street Journal 

Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers are committed in principle to education and jobs for girls and women, a marked departure from their previous time in power, and seek the world’s “mercy and compassion” to help millions of Afghans in desperate need, a top Taliban leader said in a rare interview. – Associated Press 

The Taliban says two separate bomb explosions in a predominately Shi’ite neighborhood of the Afghan capital claimed the lives of two civilians and wounded four others. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 

Britain has pledged a further 75 million pounds ($100 million) in aid to Afghanistan to help the country address its humanitarian crisis. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 

The State Department and Department of Defense have begun reviews into the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. The State Department’s 90-day review into the withdrawal will “seek to assess the lessons learned from our engagement in Afghanistan and provide recommendations going forward,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a memo to employees obtained by The Hill. – The Hill 

The World Bank and many Western nations are under pressure to release funds that could avert famine in Afghanistan as a Himalayan winter closes in and the country’s former allies grapple with how to keep the population alive without enabling more Taliban atrocities. – Foreign Policy 

Peter Maurer and Martin Griffiths write: Afghanistan is in free fall. The economic contraction triggered by the Taliban takeover is unprecedented. A projected 30 percent loss of its gross domestic product could occur within a year. […]The current international engagement with Afghanistan is not fit for purpose. The world sits back waiting for the Taliban to make undefined progress on a series of international norms without taking the necessary steps to enable this. The Taliban, on the other hand, is either unwilling to meet these expectations or unclear about their intentions. – The Hill 

Matthew Cancian writes: As the case of the Peshmerga and Afghan National Army showed, even paying for consumables and maintenance does not fix a partner’s shortcomings in human and organizational capital. Only partners with strong bureaucracies and sufficient technical training across their forces will benefit in the long term from logistics-heavy equipment. For the others, instead of reflexively imposing its doctrine and detritus on them, the U.S. military should give them what they need. – War on the Rocks 


U.S. forces carried out a “large airborne operation” near Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria on Monday at dawn, Syrian state news agency SANA said. – Reuters 

UN special envoy Geir Pedersen called Sunday for a “step for step” approach in finding a political solution to Syria’s conflict, following his tour of Europe, the US, and Arab states. – Agence France-Presse 

James Jeffrey writes: To be sure, a major diplomatic initiative on Syria is a lot for the administration to bite off. But doing so is less risky than allowing the conflict—and all its attendant humanitarian tragedy and security risks—to drag on indefinitely. Although an agreement will not be perfect, bringing an end to Syria’s war will dramatically strengthen Washington’s value as a security partner in the Middle East and beyond. – Foreign Affairs 


Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, his office said, the first visit by an Israeli leader to the Persian Gulf state. The countries established diplomatic relations last year. – Washington Post 

A bloody 11-day conflict with Israel in spring gave Hamas a jolt of popular support among Palestinians in the West Bank. Now, local elections this week will provide one of the first tests of whether the militant group’s gains are lasting. – Wall Street Journal 

An Israeli parliamentary committee voted Sunday to stop providing personal security for former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife and adult sons, six months after the longtime leader was ousted from power. – Associated Press 

Nine UN human rights special rapporteurs have appealed to the EU to pressure Israel to rescind its designation of six Palestinian NGOs as terror organizations. In a letter published over the weekend, the nine investigators asked EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to set a time frame for Israel to provide evidence of the terrorist activity. – Jerusalem Post 

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lapid told Blinken that “even if there is a return to negotiations, sanctions on Iran must not be lifted. The money the Iranians will receive will reach our doorstep in the form of terrorism and missiles.” The conversation was “warm, productive, and open,” Israel’s MFA said in a readout. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel is currently refusing to sell the systems to the UAE. Sources in Jerusalem fear that due to the UAE’s recent rapprochement with Iran, which is of great concern in Israel, the pressure from Abu Dhabi will be renewed to execute the deal. – Arutz Sheva 

The Biden administration has rejected Israel’s request to expedite delivery of two KC-46 refueling jets out of four purchased, which would facilitate IAF flight to attack Iran, Ynet has learned. – Ynet 

Likud MK Nir Barkat said Saturday that if the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group fires at Israel from Lebanon, Israel should respond by targeting Tehran. […]While both Barkat and the current government oppose a return to the Iran nuclear deal, the Likud MK says Israel’s leadership must also be more assertive in combating Iran through conventional warfare. – Times of Israel 

Palestinians took part in rare municipal elections across the occupied West Bank on Saturday, following months of simmering anger towards their government and the cancellation of promised parliamentary and presidential elections earlier this year. – Associated Press 

Editorial: Israel’s relationship with the US is too important to place on partisan lines. The ties should not depend on who is leading either country. The alliance is between the two countries, not between two political figures. – Jerusalem Post 

Ahmed Charai writes: The Biden administration should accordingly push for a broader effort at cultural reform with the potential to generate the popular support necessary to sustain a peace process. – Jerusalem Post 

Susan Hattis Rolef writes: The chances of a successful attempt on Bennett’s life are virtually zero. But this does not do away with the need to get rid of the toxic discourse. This rhetoric places the threat of an attempted assassination as a real possibility, which must be prepared for. – Jerusalem Post 

Sharon Altshul writes: I have no solution to the rising incitement and increase in attacks. However, the first step has to be awareness of the extent of the problem. The mainstream media have not shared the common everyday smaller events. Too many lives are at stake for the current situation to be ignored. – Jerusalem Post 

Neville Teller writes: There is a growing recognition by both the US and UK that more needs to be done to safeguard long-standing alliances against the Chinese marauder. While many nations continue to succumb to the lure of Chinese gold, giving more weight to immediate benefits than to longer-term dangers, Israel would do well to take the long view and avoid signing up formally to Belt and Road. A cooling of Sino-Israeli economic collaboration might also be advisable. – Jerusalem Post 

Elie Podeh writes: The Israel-Morocco military agreement is an important achievement, all the more so because Israel was not required to pay for it. One should not rush to conclusions about other arenas and states, because one should remember that Israeli-Moroccan relations were a special and different case, and remain so to this day. – Jerusalem Post 

Ehud Eilam writes: All in all, Israel’s military option should be used as a last resort. Yet, both Iran and world powers have to understand Israel might strike Iran more than once if this is what is required to stop Iran from having a weapon that could destroy Israel. – Jerusalem Post 


Iraq wants a U.S. partner for Exxon’s stake, Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar told reporters in Baghdad. If the talks with Halliburton fail, Iraq will step in to buy it, he added. He said a few days ago that Iraqi state company Basra Oil Co. is a potential buyer. – Bloomberg 

Michael Knights, Hamdi Malik, and Crispin Smith write: The preponderance of evidence suggests a strong Kataib Hezbollah role in some of the killings (December 4 in Karbala and December 7 bombing), while others may have been the result of AAH fighting with Moqtada al-Sadr’s supporters (such as the December 5 killing in Maysan). The killers themselves are of course in violation of many parts of the Iraq Penal Code, the Iraqi Anti Terror Law, and International Human Rights Laws. As noted in Part One) of this mini-series, Sabereen News and anyone who incites premeditated murder of government officials may be liable as accessories to the crime. – Washington Institute 

Azhar Al-Rubaie writes: Iraq is currently trapped in the midst of the security instability and the political chaos after failing to form a government months after the elections. Meanwhile, in the midst of this uptick of attacks, Iraqis are waiting for the current government to take serious steps towards settling differences. This should be the start of a new chapter of efforts to save the country from the cycle of killing and intimidation, and ridding the country of terrorists and those who violate the rule of law. – Washington Institute 


A Hezbollah-run media outlet, Al-Ahed news, had their Twitter account suspended on Saturday after a popular Mossad-themed parody account reported and showcased the outlet’s tweets supporting and glorifying terrorism. – Jerusalem Post 

Gunfire erupted Sunday during a Hamas-organized funeral in a tense Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, leaving at least two people dead and seven injured, officials said. – Associated Press 

The judge leading Lebanon’s investigation into last year’s massive blast at Beirut’s port demanded on Friday the arrest of a former Cabinet minister he had implicated in the case, judicial officials said. – Associated Press 

Arabian Peninsula

Clashes between Yemeni government forces and the country’s Houthi rebels attacking the key central city of Marib killed a senior military commander on Monday, officials said– Associated Press 

Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the United Nations said the kingdom wanted more substantive talks with Iran but that Tehran was so far biding its time and playing “games” in the discussions. – Reuters 

A memorandum of understanding resolving to build upon the foundation of the Abraham Accords was overseen by former US presidential advisor Jared Kushner and signed by representatives from the Abraham Accords Peace Institute (AAPI) and the Sharaka NGO in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

It is abundantly clear Egypt is approaching its relationship with Israel differently today than it did for most of Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister. […]Sissi sitting publicly with Lapid and Bennett shows Biden a united, pro-American regional alliance, while also increasing the incentive for Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East, to argue in the halls of Congress and the White House against pressure on Sissi. – Times of Israel 

Libya’s election commission on Saturday delayed publication of a final list of candidates for a presidential election scheduled in less than two weeks. […]The election commission did not give a new date for issuing the list. – Agence France-Presse 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov canceled on Friday a planned trip to Israel and the region, during which he had been slated to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog. – Times of Israel 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described social media Saturday as one of the main threats to democracy. – Associated Press 

Korean Peninsula

President Moon Jae-in’s government has been arguing for removing the prohibition, saying building nuclear submarines is crucial to countering North Korea’s ambitions to do the same. The sense of urgency has grown as the North’s progress has deepened concerns about South Korea’s preparedness. – New York Times  

Australia signed a contract worth about $717 million to buy self-propelled howitzers from South Korea, broadening its military cooperation as it seeks to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. – Wall Street Journal 

Since taking power following his father’s sudden death 10 years ago, Kim Jong Un has erased the widespread doubts that greeted his early attempts to extend his family’s brutal dynastic grip over North Korea. – Associated Press 

Donald Kirk writes: In Seoul, the mood of the American and South Korean defense chiefs left no doubt that China remains the immediate threat. Kim Jong Un may brandish nukes and missiles but can do nothing without the certainty of China’s support. As Minister Suh put it, he and Secretary Austin “agreed to explore cooperation means to connect our New Southern Policy and the U.S.-Indo-Pacific strategy.” He said they “agreed on the importance of ROK-U.S.-Japan trilateral security cooperation for responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.” – The Hill 


The Biden administration on Friday banned U.S. investment in a Chinese company that it said supports China’s use of repressive surveillance technology, calling the move part of a broad effort to unite democracies against authoritarian states. – Washington Post 

Chinese artificial intelligence start-up SenseTime said on Monday (Dec 13) it was postponing a planned US$767 million (S$1.05 billion) initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong after it was blacklisted by the US over human rights concerns in Xinjiang. – Agence France-Presse 

The Soviet Union’s dissolution and the creation of 15 new states was met with caution in Beijing, but the end of tensions with Moscow freed up Chinese resources and planning to focus outside its borders in a way that wasn’t previously possible. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 

The Chinese military is apparently using an abandoned NASA design to develop a 6,000-mph hypersonic nuclear missile engine. A prototype of the engine has been built and tested using a “radical” American design first proposed over 20 years ago as the country competes to outperform the West in a contemporary arms race, according to a report . – Washington Examiner 

Editorial: Congress cracked down on the spying by banning universities that host Confucius Institutes from receiving key Defense Department grants and contracts; two-thirds of the institutes across US academia have since closed. But 34 colleges have kept on: They get more money from partnering with Beijing. Congress clearly needs to crack down further. – New York Post 

Kishore Mahbubani writes: Can Washington reenter Asia’s great economic game? Yes, it can. It still has some assets. Even though China trades far more with ASEAN, U.S. private investment in ASEAN dwarfs that of China. […]Washington should find creative ways of driving even more U.S. investment in ASEAN, taking advantage of the huge reservoirs of goodwill toward the United States that still exist in the region. In short, don’t focus on selling submarines. Focus on encouraging U.S. investment and trade in the Indo-Pacific. It’s the economy, stupid. – Foreign Policy 

Agnė Rakštytė and Jason Israel write: China’s goal is to divide EU members. Central Europe needs support from the entire EU to prevent such a split. Over the past six years, the struggle has focused on Huawei and 5G. The focus is now expanding to encompass critical infrastructure. The U.S. and Europe must move fast to provide credible, practical, unified alternatives to China. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


The United States on Friday imposed extensive human rights-related sanctions on dozens of people and entities tied to China, Myanmar, North Korea and Bangladesh, and added Chinese artificial intelligence company SenseTime Group to an investment blacklist. – Reuters 

The Biden administration will seek to bolster economic and security cooperation with Southeast Asia through a visit to the region next week by its top diplomat, as it works to forge a united front against China in the Indo-Pacific. – Reuters 

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed on Saturday on the need to fortify their countries’ alliance amid a tougher regional security environment, a Japanese government official said. – Reuters 

A senior U.S. official urged Cambodia on Friday not to make any concessions to Myanmar’s military junta when Phnom Peng chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year. – Reuters 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Indonesia on Monday, kicking off a visit to Southeast Asia aimed at strengthening ties in a region that has become a strategic battleground between Washington and Beijing. – Reuters 

A full Chinese invasion of Taiwan with troops landed and ports and airports seized would be very difficult to achieve due to problems China would have in landing and supplying troops, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said in its latest threat assessment. – Reuters 

A video feed of a Taiwanese minister was cut during U.S. President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy last week after a map in her slide presentation showed Taiwan in a different color to China, which claims the island as its own. – Reuters 

Richard Haass and David Sacks write: The status quo, however, is not static, and Washington needs to shift gears in order to preserve it. Strategic ambiguity was a shrewd and effective approach for decades; now, however, it has run its course. Clarity on the U.S. commitment to Taiwan will push some American policymakers out of their comfort zones. But it is the only way to bolster deterrence, reassure allies, defend Taiwan, and protect U.S. interests. It is time to become clear on clarity. – Foreign Affairs 


Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven countries warned of severe consequences if Russia invades Ukraine, in a show of unity that they hope will deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from ratcheting up military pressure on the country and defuse tensions in Eastern Europe. – Wall Street Journal 

Since President Biden’s call with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis, Russian officials have dug in deeper: blaming NATO for the confrontation, dismissing Ukraine as a puppet state of the West and ruling out a pullback of Russian forces massed near Ukraine’s border. – Washington Post 

President Biden faces a dilemma as the United States prepares for European security negotiations with Moscow amid the threat of a new Ukraine invasion: How much should Washington accommodate Russian President Vladimir Putin — and would any plausible concessions be enough for him to stand down? – Washington Post 

The European Union wants Russia to de-escalate the tension it created by amassing troops on the border with Ukraine and the 27-bloc is ready to step up sanctions against Russia should it invade Ukraine, the head of the European Commission said. – Reuters 

Gas is unlikely to flow through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia renews its aggression against Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday. – Reuters 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden have agreed to hold more talks amid tensions over a Russian troop build-up near Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Sunday, and Putin would like to meet in person at some stage too. – Reuters 

Russia demanded on Friday that NATO rescind a 2008 commitment to Ukraine and Georgia that they would one day become members and said the alliance should promise not to deploy weapons in countries bordering Russia that could threaten its security. – Reuters 

Russia has conducted multiple tests of its 3M22 Tsirkon (Zircon) scramjet-powered maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile in the last year-and-a-half. This week, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said that the trials of the seaborne platform are successfully nearing their completion. – The National Interest 

President Vladimir Putin has lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago as the demise of what he called “historical Russia” and said the economic crisis that followed was so bad he was forced to moonlight as a taxi driver. – Reuters 

Christopher A. Hartwell writes: Russia can’t be an empire without Ukraine. But Russia will cease to be a great power if it tries to acquire the rest of Ukraine. Moscow is simply far too dependent on primary commodities, and Covid has weakened popular support for a regime that can deliver “international prestige” but little else. Any armed incursion into Ukraine will push the still-fragile Russian economy to the brink and likely over the edge. – Wall Street Journal 

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: The chaos of the Yeltsin era and a boom in oil prices were initial gifts to Mr. Putin’s 20-year reign but they have long since been squandered. Renewing Russia’s socioeconomic progress, as the Kremlin itself has all but acknowledged, requires steps inconsistent with its leader’s political interests, such as allowing rule of law and disempowering his Mafia-like retinue. A subtext of Mr. Putin’s appeal to the West has been: If not me, somebody worse. But with each passing year, Mr. Putin’s dilemmas are turning him into somebody worse. – Wall Street Journal 

Marc A. Theissen writes: Putin respects strength and disdains weakness. Biden is projecting weakness — and weakness is provocative. The good news is: It’s never too late for an American president to project strength. Cancel the summit, Mr. President, and punish Putin’s aggression — or you will see more of it. – Washington Post 

John Dizard writes: So far, the Biden administration has carefully avoided saying that steps to shut out Russia from Swift are under consideration. Moreover, despite their public rhetoric, both Washington and Moscow know that the shock value of US economic sanctions has been somewhat dulled by overuse in recent decades. – Financial Times 

Rich Lowry writes: The United States obviously shouldn’t get into a shooting war over Ukraine, and it might be that Putin, much more willing to court risk over the matter, ultimately works his will with Ukraine. It’d be another instance of him punching above his weight. Yet Putin has managed to create a simulacrum of a great power while presiding over a second-rate country with a stagnant economy and enormous weaknesses in its governing model. – New York Post 

Chris J. Dolan writes: Biden cannot repeat mistakes made by former President Obama who overstated Russian decline or make concessions as that would be similar to former President Trump praising Putin. Russia is attempting to dominate Europe and alter the balance of power in its favor, the same way China is exerting control in the Indo-Pacific. Biden must view Russia and China as major power adversaries seeking to roll back American influence in these vital regions. – The Hill 

Amy Mackinnon and Robbie Gramer write: Many Obama administration officials believed Western sanctions deterred Russia from plowing deeper into Ukraine and pushed Moscow to the negotiating table with Kyiv on de-escalation talks in Minsk, Belarus. But as the Kremlin has worked to sanction-proof the economy, it has likely factored in the threat of further penalties into any decisions on military action. – Foreign Policy 

Natia Seskuria writes: Recent events have shown what happens in Russia’s neighborhood does not simply stay there. Now the West must choose between deterring Russia and accepting defeat—and the long-term consequences for democracy in Eastern Europe and beyond that will come with it. – Foreign Policy 

Dmytro Kuleba writes: Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a stark ultimatum. In a number of recent statements, he has demanded that the United States make “reliable and firm legal guarantees” that NATO will not expand eastward—or else, his entourage has hinted, Russia will invade Ukraine. – Foreign Affairs 

Tom Rogan writes: The Biden administration’s Russia policy recipe presently consists of four slices of appeasement (ransomware, space conflict, energy blackmail, Ukraine), and a generous dollop of fiction (pretending that the Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline gives the West “leverage”). President Joe Biden’s strategy toward Ukraine is the most timely concern. […] Unfortunately, if predictably, the Europeans are now following Biden’s weak lead. President Emmanuel Macron warned on Thursday that the West cannot address the Ukraine crisis simply by increasing pressure on Russia. – Washington Examiner 

Frederick W. Kagan, Nataliya Bugayova, George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Mason Clark write: Putin is trying to panic the West into surrendering important principles and accepting Russian actions that would damage Western interests and security severely but would seem less dangerous when compared to the massive threat Putin is presenting to Ukraine. Western leaders must avoid becoming mesmerized by the threat of a Russian invasion while cajoling Putin to de-escalate the crisis he has created.  – Institute for the Study of War 

George Barros and Ivana Stradner write: NATO must increase its counterintelligence activities in Montenegro to counter the Kremlin’s malign influence, especially given that the Montenegrin government has already expanded Russia’s access to sensitive NATO information. NATO should also send its counter-hybrid warfare team back to Montenegro, as it did in 2020. Western powers must make clear to Moscow that they will not tolerate malign state-backed influence campaigns in the Balkans veiled by religious proxies. The Kremlin must be put on notice that stoking ethnic division carries clear and immediate consequences. – RealClear World 


Britain’s top diplomat welcomed Group of Seven foreign ministers to Liverpool on Saturday with a warning that “free democratic nations” must wean themselves off Russian gas and Russian money to preserve their independence. – Associated Press 

Ukraine’s president said Friday that more opportunities for talks with Russia may arise thanks to the U.S. diplomatic effort to help de-escalate tensions after Moscow massed troops near Ukraine’s border, stoking fears of a possible invasion. – Associated Press 

Ukraine’s new defence minister has blamed Germany for blocking the supply of weaponry to Kyiv through Nato, despite US warnings of a possible imminent invasion by Russian forces. – Financial Times 

Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan writes: We cannot know what choices President Putin will make with regard to Ukraine, but he has assembled the resources to give him several credible military options. If we want to prevent such a choice, it would be prudent that the U.S. and the West do the same. That means not just “saying” we would take steps, but moving the troops and equipment so that we “can” take steps if we choose. This is the kind of messaging that Russian leaders understand. – The Hill 

Dr. John C. Hulsman writes: It is time to end America’s passive approach to the coming crisis in Ukraine. The best way to avoid sleepwalking into calamity is to swiftly and decisively help Kyiv to help itself, in order for a far more resilient Ukraine to meet the perilous times ahead. – The Hill 

Mahmoud Javadi writes: As it is called an “action plan,” the Strategic Compass enjoys capacities to address these challenges in the MENA region and elsewhere through norm-setting and partnership with regional states on transnational insecurities. Similarly to how Thomas Friedman recently predicted that the United States could reengage the MENA region through a sort of ecosystem diplomacy, the EU could and should seize the moment to provide security against non-military threats in the region, both deepening its influence and avoiding a new wave of (climate) migration to European shores. – The National Interest 

Celia Belin writes: Only if these three conditions are met will France and the United States once again find, together, an alignment of their interests and wills — which could start with a joint initiative on European security, particularly with regards to Russia. Without this renewed convergence, being steam-rolled by American strategic choices in the future will be the result not of clumsiness, but of habit. – War on the Rocks 


But the historic bid of Reckya Madougou, former justice minister in the West African nation, ended abruptly in March when security agents arrested her on charges related to financing terrorism. A judge on her case fled to France, condemning the charges as “phony,” “tragic” and “entirely politically motivated.” – Washington Post 

Sudan’s military must rebuild trust with the opposition, especially the young generation who feel betrayed by its seizure of power in an Oct. 25 coup that sparked the greatest crisis in the country’s political transition, the U.N. special envoy for Sudan said Friday. – Associated Press 

Renewed tribal clashes this week between Arabs and non-Arabs in Darfur have killed at least 33 more people, a Sudanese medical group said, warning of still escalating violence in the war-wracked region. – Associated Press 

Rebellious Tigrayan forces have recaptured the Ethiopian town of Lalibela, witnesses told Reuters on Sunday, less than two weeks after the military and its allies took control of it as part of a broader offensive that pushed back Tigrayan forces on multiple fronts. – Reuters 

The U.S. government has sanctioned Liberia’s ex-warlord and current senator Prince Yormie Johnson for alleged corruption. – Associated Press 

Gunmen attacked a rural village in northern Nigeria, killing 16 worshippers at a mosque and kidnapping others, said a local official. – Associated Press 

Suspected Islamist militants killed 16 people this week in two rural towns in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official, a civil society leader and a resident said on Friday. – Reuters 

Latin America

They did so in contravention of U.S. sanctions, turning off their satellite tracking devices to avoid detection and heading north-northwest…toward Cuba. This image tells the fundamental story of Venezuela’s multilevel disaster. Even amid crippling gas shortages that left Venezuela in economic free fall, Caracas’s priorities were clear: Cuba’s needs come first. Always. – Wall Street Journal 

A creeping barrage of U.S. sanctions on top Central American officials has made China an attractive partner for governments resisting Washington’s push to tackle corruption and democratic backsliding in the region, officials and analysts say. – Reuters 

Paraguay remains resolute about maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan despite Nicaragua’s decision to shift its allegiance to China, the top adviser to the South American country’s President Mario Abdo told Reuters on Friday. – Reuters 

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: The new constitution will have to be approved in a public referendum. But Chileans are acutely aware that it was violence and intimidation that brought about this exercise. If they reject the work of the assembly, will their vote be respected by the communists and socialists who rampage through the country whenever they don’t get their way? […]Mr. Boric, a supporter of this movement, is trying to distance himself from it. But running from his record isn’t so easy. […]Against this backdrop, Mr. Kast’s offer of peace and a return to prosperity doesn’t sound so bad. – Wall Street Journal 

United States

The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is set to recommend contempt charges against former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Monday as lawmakers are releasing new details about thousands of emails and texts he has handed over to the committee. – Associated Press 

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the appointment Friday of Catherine Russell, an assistant to U.S. President Joe Biden, as the next head of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF. – Associated Press 

While Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps the West guessing over Ukraine, it was the might of Chinese President Xi Jinping that garnered the long-term strategic focus when the diplomats from the Group of Seven richest democracies met this weekend. – Reuters 

Editorial: For America, resolve, self-belief and clarity on its own red lines and readiness to defend them are key to bolstering democracy. Freedom House, which has tracked the recent decline in global democracies to which Biden referred, also warns leading nations must “put their own houses in order”. This is a matter for Republicans, too; Biden lacks the votes to enact protections for US democracy even as states pass laws to limit access to the ballot. Solidarity with fellow democracies matters, but so does leading by example. – Financial Times 

Yasmeen Serhan writes: Laying the groundwork to save democracy is a lofty goal for any summit, much less an online one spanning two days. But whether Biden’s will be remembered as a net positive will ultimately hinge on whether it can yield tangible commitments. The best proof of concept would be for the U.S. to return to next year’s follow-up having taken the necessary steps to strengthen American democracy and prevent the constitutional crisis of 2020 from repeating itself. But this summit isn’t likely to galvanize U.S. lawmakers to take this matter seriously any more than it is to compel leaders elsewhere to act. Democratization begins at home. – The Atlantic 


The Defense Department is expected to name the Defense Intelligence Agency as its lead agency for “open-source” intelligence, according to U.S. officials, highlighting the growing importance of unclassified information drawn from social media, online material and commercial data sources in modern military operations. – Wall Street Journal 

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) accused Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) of mischaracterizing the military justice reform provisions in the annual defense policy bill. – The Hill 

Officials and cyber experts on Friday sounded the alarm about a critical logging vulnerability that could potentially impact thousands of organizations, racing to implement patches before hackers can exploit the opening. – The Hill  

The U.S. State Department on Friday approved a pair of potential deals for frigate construction and modernization with Greece, as the Hellenic Navy navigates a complex effort to upgrade its surface fleet. – Defense News 

Congress would get a window into pleas from allies to the Biden administration not to change policy on the use of nuclear weapons under language in the new compromise defense policy bill. […]The bill passed the House this week and is expected to pass the Senate next before Biden signs it into law. – Defense News 

Editorial: China and Russia are threatening shooting wars against their U.S.-aligned neighbors, and Iran is accelerating its bid for nuclear weapons, as international institutions flail and weaken. For the President to propose shrinking American defense in those circumstances was astonishing. This week’s House vote suggests the American public is not prepared to abandon its global interests, especially in Asia, as easily as the White House thought and the world’s rogues hoped. – Wall Street Journal  

Peter Huessy writes: The United States should embrace a strong air and missile defense initiative—a technology we are capable of deploying but have not determined that it is consistent with strategic and regional stability—as a critical counter to limited nuclear strike threats by Russia and China. Added to that is the key requirement of getting U.S. allies to markedly improve their own military capabilities. The United States has a fairly understandable future roadmap that it needs to follow, though time will tell if policymakers have the foresight to pursue it. – The National Interest 

Wes Rumbaugh and Tom Karako write: Addressing this central challenge with regards to missile defense and defeat will require a greater scale and urgency of change. Such realignment demands, among other things, a relatively greater preference for capability over capacity. […]The 2022 budget request continues to seek alignment with this broader set of goals and capabilities, even if it does not quite achieve it. – Center for Strategic & International Studies 

Long War

A Canadian citizen who traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State group nearly a decade ago pleaded guilty Friday to serving as one of the organization’s more prominent English-language propagandists. – Associated Press 

German security officials said Friday that they have a foiled a planned Islamist attack, after arresting a man in the northern city of Hamburg over the summer who had been trying to buy weapons and make explosives. – Associated Press 

Burkina Faso’s military says that its joint operation with Niger’s army has killed at least 100 extremist rebels. – Associated Press