Fdd's overnight brief

December 13, 2022

In The News


Iran hanged a man in public on Monday who had been convicted of killing two security force members, the judiciary news agency reported, the second execution in a week as the authorities’ strategy for putting down antigovernment demonstrations emerges. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union condemned Iran’s military partnership with Russia on Monday as a gross violation of international law and announced new sanctions against eight Iranian individuals and entities over their role in supplying drones Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure. – New York Times

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Monday said Britain would continue to respond with sanctions against Iran when its actions are unacceptable in an effort to steer the Islamic Republic in a better direction. – Reuters

Fresh European Union sanctions on Iran will target the country’s Revolutionary Guards, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday. – Reuters

A prominent Iranian official rebuked Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s son for failing to respect the “legitimate freedoms” of Iran’s people, three months into mass protests triggered by the killing of a young woman in police custody. – Washington Examiner

Iran on Monday sanctioned the heads of the UK’s domestic spy agency and military along with British and German political figures, hitting back at Europe before it imposes new sanctions of its own. – Agence France-Presse

Iranian-Americans protested on the weekend against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s wrestling team at the World Cup in Coralville, Iowa. The demonstration hit the Iranian regime’s team amid the theocratic state’s public hanging via a crane of the 23-year-old Iranian wrestler Majidreza Rahnavard. – Jerusalem Post

In a confidential warning to its clients seen by Iran International, London-based Lloyds Marine Insurance Company said that the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah illegally send gold from Venezuela to Iran to finance the terrorist activities of Tehran-backed militias in Lebanon, bypassing sanctions. – Iran International

Karim Sadjadpour writes: Four decades of the Islamic Republic’s hard power will ultimately be defeated by two millenniums of Iranian cultural soft power. The question is no longer about whether this will happen but when. History has taught us that there is an inverse relationship between the courage of an opposition and the resolve of a regime, and authoritarian collapse often goes from inconceivable to inevitable in days. – New York Times 

Mel Gurtov writes: The current situation marks yet another time in Iran that the US has had to choose between supporting human rights or national security priorities. Barack Obama faced the same choice when deciding to go ahead with the nuclear deal in 2015. This time around, as the Biden administration watches Russia and China come to Khamenei’s aid, the choice should be clear in favor of human rights. Restoring the nuclear deal will have to await Khamenei’s successor. – Times of Israel 

Nicholas Carl, Zachary Coles, Johanna Moore, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Protest coordinators and organizations called for snap demonstrations in response to the execution of Majid Reza Rahnavard and seemingly succeeded in generating turnout on short notice. The neighborhood youth groups in Tehran, Karaj, Mashhad called for snap protests after the execution, and small demonstrations occurred in each city. CTP cannot confirm that the neighborhood youth groups and their calls were solely responsible for the demonstrations, however. – Institute for the Study of War

Russia & Ukraine

Shortly after a large wave of Russian missiles slammed into targets across the country in October, Ukraine’s intelligence officials noticed something strange in the rubble.It was the wreckage of a Kh-55 subsonic cruise missile designed in the 1970s to carry a nuclear warhead. The warhead had been removed and ballast added to disguise the fact that it was not carrying a payload, said Gen. Vadym Skibitsky – New York Times

Global economic powers pledged to beef up Kyiv’s military capabilities with a focus on air defence, as Russian missiles, artillery and drones hammered targets in Ukraine with no end in sight to Europe’s biggest conflict since World War Two. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pressed Western leaders again on Monday to provide more advanced weapons to help his country in its war with Russia, and he repeated his calls for Russian forces to withdraw from occupied areas of Ukraine, suggesting Christmas as a date to retreat. – Associated Press

Emmanuel Macron calls it “combat diplomacy.” The French president has vowed to make every effort to support Ukraine — including by hosting an international conference Tuesday meant to help the country make it through winter. – Associated Press

US and Russian officials will speak this week about detained American Paul Whelan, a former Marine whose release the Biden administration unsuccessfully sought along with WNBA star Brittney Griner. – Bloomberg

Asset managers are taking tentative steps towards investing in the reconstruction of Ukraine, potentially providing essential funding to restore the country’s battered infrastructure and economy.

Kyiv officials have made multiple trips to London to promote investment in the country, where rebuilding could cost around $349bn, according to estimates from the World Bank and European Commission. – Financial Times

Russia is unlikely to see a pause in combat over the frigid winter months after a key Ukrainian official promised over the weekend to continue fighting to retake territory. – Newsweek 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned his nation’s citizens to remain alert to future airstrikes despite Russia’s recent “absence” of major attacks. – Newsweek 

Russia’s ambassador in London has outlined the most “extreme measure” it could take against the U.K.—severing diplomatic ties with the NATO military alliance member. In an interview published on Monday by pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, Andrei Kelin said relations between Moscow and London are “undoubtedly at a very low level” and have been deteriorating for years, to the extent that the U.K. could be the first NATO nation Russia severs diplomatic ties with. – Newsweek 

Retired U.S. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges predicted on Monday that Ukraine’s army will be able to seize control of the occupied Crimea peninsula by August 2023 as the war-torn country continues to counter Russia’s ongoing invasion. – Newsweek 

Dozens of countries and international organizations are throwing their weight behind a fresh push Tuesday to keep Ukraine powered, fed, warm and moving in the face of Russia’s sustained aerial bombardments that have plunged millions into the cold and dark during winter. – Associated Press

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers who recently returned from Kyiv have put their support behind Ukrainian government requests for the U.S. to provide more air defense systems, munitions, drones and military training to the war-torn country. – The Hill

Neil MacFarquhar writes: Mr. Putin prefers scripted events, however, and in the past week he made several highly staged public appearances aimed at reinforcing his version of reality, at a time when a Russian victory in Ukraine appears as distant as ever. Those televised events presented Mr. Putin as a decisive leader, still fully in charge. – New York Times

Walter Russell Mead writes: Preparing for peace does not mean appeasement. Making war painful and expensive for Russia can help persuade the Kremlin to change course. But Team Biden also needs to prepare for the next stage. Negotiating with Russia will be hard, but negotiating with our allies and Congress could be nearly as tough. – Wall Street Journal

Andreas Kluth writes: Macron is thereby buying into Putin’s cynical fiction that Russia is really just terrorizing Ukraine in self-defense against NATO. Implicitly, Macron is going along with Putin’s propaganda, which is based on inverting the roles of victim and perpetrator. If anybody has to give security guarantees in peace negotiations, it’s Russia; if anybody must receive them, it’s Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Ehud Eilam writes: If Ukraine integrates nuclear weapons into its arsenal, states like Poland might demand to have their own nuclear weapons, even if only tactical ones. Furthermore, in other regions, there might be a similar request by non-NATO allies that rely on Western powers, such as Taiwan, which faces a possible invasion by a strong and intimidating power, China. The Arab Gulf States might want them, too, against Iran and so on. NATO should limit nuclear proliferation and not encourage it. – Jerusalem Post 

Gideon Rachman writes: A ceasefire would also allow Ukraine’s sympathisers to pour in foreign aid that would allow the country to rebuild. South Korea was utterly devastated after the Korean war, but is now a prosperous, advanced nation. By contrast, a Russia that was still led by Putin, and that refused to atone for its crimes in Ukraine, could expect a future of continued international isolation and growing poverty. As that reality sank in, the long-awaited political reconstruction of Russia might finally begin. – Financial Times

Andrei Kolesnikov writes: Putin’s mobilization has brought the violence closer to Russia, and not only through the legions of new conscripts who are being sent to slaughter. On the first day of the draft, many young people in Moscow and St. Petersburg protested, and over the following weeks, other signs of general unease emerged, including the mothers’ council, which demanded better provisions for soldiers, a rejection of nuclear war, and the beginning of peace negotiations. – Foreign Affairs

Karolina Hird, Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, Layne Philipson, George Barros, Madison Williams, Yekaterina Klepanchuk, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Putin is seemingly still unwilling to sacrifice his geopolitical initiatives in the short-term, however, and risks facing a financial predicament in which he will not be able to balance maximalist goals in Ukraine with his global power projection campaigns. Putin, for example, has continued attempts to reestablish Russia’s position in Central Asia by unsuccessfully proposing to create a trilateral union among Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan in late November and during a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on December 9. – Institute for the Study of War

Mark Temnycky writes: Both men know that Belarus would struggle to survive economically without Russia. Any reduction in Kremlin aid would place Lukashenka in an extremely difficult position. Putin is his only real friend and has helped him stay in power. Faced with the choice, the Belarusian president might capitulate to keep his job. Europe, which he once wooed, is now hostile. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov writes: The Kremlin is not short of assassins, and yet it wants this one to return home. This tells assassins that their work is valued, and it tells émigrés that their lives are of little concern to the West; that their murderers will go free. This is not a message to the West; it’s a message to all those Russians who have left the country in their hundreds of thousands because they disapprove of Putin and his war. – Center for European Policy Analysis


United Nations visiting official Virginia Gamba must place the IDF on the blacklist of countries with armies that commit grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict in the aftermath of the shooting of Jana Zakarneh, 16, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

During his address, British PM Rishi Sunak confirmed that the UK will vote against an upcoming UN General Assembly resolution that requests the International Court of Justice weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli “occupation, settlement and annexation.” The prime minister said that, along “with our allies,” Britain will vote against the resolution in the plenary. – Times of Israel

State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday called for accountability following the death of a 16-year-old Palestinian Arab girl during Sunday night’s clashes in Jenin. – Arutz Sheva

On Monday Ambassador of Israel to the United States Michael Herzog and Ms. Shirin Herzog hosted a Hanukkah celebration at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. – Arutz Sheva

A Bedouin terror suspect who hit a military boarding school student with his car last month in the southern city of Be’er Sheva claimed in his trial on Monday that he slammed into the uniformed teenager by accident. – Ynet

Jeff Mendelsohn writes: The broad majority of Americans support a strong and close strategic alliance with Israel. The U.S.-Israel relationship continues to enjoy deep-rooted support on both sides of the aisle.  Democracy, equality, and peace bond us together, despite the relentless attempts to tear us apart. A commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship anchors a hope for a brighter future and a better world – Times of Israel


Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday condemned what he called an unprovoked outbreak of firing and shelling by Afghan border forces a day earlier that killed seven people in Pakistan and injured more than a dozen. – Wall Street Journal 

Pakistani authorities Monday reopened a key border crossing with neighboring Afghanistan, officials said, a day after seven people were killed in clashes in Pakistan between troops and Afghan Taliban forces. – Associated Press

Worries that the Biden administration is funding the Taliban regime have grown since photos of tens of millions of dollars in cash have been repeatedly posted on social media by the central bank of Afghanistan in the last few months. – New York Sun

The program that grants visas to Afghans who helped the U.S. military during the United States’ longest war is at risk of ending next year after an extension was left out of the annual defense policy bill. – Military.com

Editorial: The Taliban takeover was a particular tragedy for Afghans who supported the U.S. mission, fought for the rights of women, or sought to build a civil society and a free political system. The U.S. has a moral obligation to do what it can to mitigate the harm of Mr. Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal, and passing the Afghan Adjustment Act would be a good start. – Wall Street Journal


The U.N. chief warned in a new report that the already dire humanitarian situation in Syria is worsening and if aid deliveries from Turkey to the rebel-held northwest aren’t renewed next month millions of Syrians may not survive the winter. – Associated Press

Israel sought to lay to rest on Monday a decades-old debate about one of its most famous spies, Eli Cohen, saying his capture and execution in Syria was due to successful counter-intelligence rather than unprofessionalism. – Reuters

Turkey’s impending invasion of northern Syria likely results from “political reasons” rather than a national security need, and it remains unclear how officials will declare “mission success,” experts told Fox News Digital. – Fox News


Turkey’s unemployment rate edged up to 10.2% in October, data showed on Monday, posing a potential challenge to President Tayyip Erdogan’s re-election hopes next year, even as inflation is set to dip and the currency should remain largely stable. – Reuters

The Greek government lashed out at Turkey Monday after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened over the weekend to hit Athens with ballistic missiles. “It is unacceptable and universally condemnable for threats of a missile attack against Greece to be made by an allied country, a NATO member,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Monday, arriving in Brussels for a European Union foreign affairs meeting. – Associated Press

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has embraced a “North Korean-style attitude” toward Greece, a top official implied in response to Erdogan’s latest threat against his NATO neighbor. – Washington Examiner

George Monastiriakos writes: Turkey’s ambition for the 21st century is to be a global power at the intersection of Europe and Asia. In addition to its strategic diplomatic maneuvers, Turkey has also threatened to attack, invaded or occupied all of its neighbors except Bulgaria to accomplish this. One thing is certain: Turkey will continue pursuing its national interests at the expense of its NATO allies. – Newsweek

Arabian Peninsula

The United Nations said Thursday that at least 3,774 children have been killed in Yemen’s civil war between March 2015 and September 2022. According to the latest statistics published by the United Nations Children’s Fund, a further 7,245 children have been maimed in the conflict, which has pitted Iran-backed Houthi rebels against a Saudi Arabian-led coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government for the past eight years. – Associated Press

Kuwait’s new M1A2K tanks were displayed in the emirate for the first time during Exercise ‘Pearl of the West 2022′, which was held with French forces from 25 November to 8 December. An M1A2K was not seen in the coverage of the exercise until the last day, when the Kuwait Armed Forces released a short video showing Minister of Defence Sheikh Abdullah Ali al-Abdullah al-Sabah being briefed on the tank during a visit to the Al-Adira (Udairi) exercise area. Three were then seen in action, although the armoured unit that featured in the earlier coverage of the exercise was still equipped with old M1A2 tanks. – Janes

Saudi Arabia has spent 5.1 billion riyals ($1.4 billion) in incentives to boost its local military industry over the last two years, the governor of the sector’s General Authority said on Monday. – Reuters

Simon Henderson writes: On Sunday, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed described his country’s relations with Saudi Arabia as “strategic, strong and sustainable.” Whether the “sustainable” bit is an acknowledgement to current green concerns or not, the words would not fit in with any description of current U.S. relations with the Gulf. Washington seems to be cast, at least in Gulf eyes, in a spectator role.. – The Hill

Omri Nahmias writes: “If the US can no longer be counted on to protect the kingdom from Iranian attack or provide it with a reliable supply of advanced weapons to protect itself, then inevitably the Saudis will be forced to look for alternatives. “Most dangerously that includes China, which exercises real economic and political leverage over Iran, and is prepared to sell Riyadh all the advanced weapons it needs and without any conditions attached regarding human rights.” – Jerusalem Post


Prosecutors said in federal court Monday that the law does not allow them to seek the death penalty for the former Libyan intelligence officer charged with building the bomb that destroyed a passenger plane flying over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people, including 190 Americans. – Washington Post 

Relatives of the victims filled the benches. They’d watched for decades as justice seemed to draw closer then fall out of reach. Some took it upon themselves to unearth details about what happened and present them to investigators. Some died waiting for answers. Children with faint or no recollection of deceased parents searched for ways to pay tribute to the mother or father they never knew. – Washington Post

Human Rights Watch on Monday accused the European Union’s border and coast guard agency of being complicit in migrant abuses by Libya by allowing the North African country’s coast guard to intercept migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea for southern Europe. – Associated Press

Korean Peninsula

Satellite images show goods from Russia appear to be piling up in a North Korean railyard, about a month after trains were reported crossing the border for the first time since the pandemic began, a U.S.-based think-tank said on Monday. – Reuters

A pair of dogs gifted by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un four years ago ended up at a zoo in South Korea after a dispute over who should finance the caring of the animals. – Associated Press

Russia and North Korea appear to have resumed trade over a rail link that had been suspended for almost three years due Covid-19, according to satellite imagery, in the latest sign of warming ties between the neighbors. – Bloomberg

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi is making a four-day trip to South Korea as concerns grow that North Korea is readying another nuclear test. – Fox News

North Korea is “ready” to test a nuclear weapon and will likely do so, the prime minister of South Korea has said. Speaking exclusively to Sky News, Han Duck-soo said that although it is “hard to know exactly when” a test would happen, “we gather that they are prepared”. – Sky News

The official introduction of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s daughter into the public spotlight may be timed purposely as the country continues its ballistic missile testing, according to one theory. – Newsweek


China’s Ministry of Commerce said Monday it had filed a complaint against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization in response to new controls from Washington on semiconductor trade with China, describing the action as a response to trade protectionism. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. tech giant Google is under increasing pressure by the Hong Kong government — and so by association China — to bury a politically sensitive pro-democracy song in its search results. – Washington Post 

New U.S. solar installations are on track to fall by nearly a quarter this year, with panel imports stalled by a ban on goods from China’s Xinjiang region over forced labor concerns, according to a market report released on Tuesday. – Reuters

China described its meeting with US envoys as “in-depth and constructive,” as the two sides look to ease tensions that have been a recent hallmark of the relationship and prepare for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s first visit to the country as top US diplomat. – Bloomberg

The Navy is not cutting back on warship passages or aerial and naval reconnaissance operations in the South China Sea, according to a spokeswoman for the Pacific Fleet, despite new claims by Chinese press outlets. – Washington Times

Australian pilot Daniel Duggan – a former US Marine Corps aviator – has been accused of breaking American arms control laws by training Chinese fighter pilots to land on aircraft carriers, according to an indictment now unsealed by a US court. – The Guardian 

Editorial: American companies haven’t always stood on principle against Beijing’s censors. Cringe-worthy moments by the NBA and Marriott come to mind. But the Communist Party’s attempts to enforce its surveillance and censorship are raising the political costs of doing business in China. – Wall Street Journal

Sana Hashmi writes: As India is beginning its G20 presidency and hosting the SCO summit next year, it is less likely to extend an olive branch to China. Normalization does not hinge on Xi’s participation in the summits or his potential visit to India next year. Indeed, the Indian side has made it clear that normalization can only take place if China accommodates its interests. So far, there are no signs of that happening. – The National Interest

South Asia

Indian and Chinese security forces clashed on the countries’ disputed border alongside a northeastern Indian state last week, injuring several soldiers on both sides, the Indian army said Monday. – Wall Street Journal

Pakistan will likely secure a multibillion-dollar financial support package from long-time ally Saudi Arabia this month, two sources said, as the country’s ninth review of a $7 billion IMF bailout ran into snags. – Reuters

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that the situation at the India-China border was “generally stable”, a few days after troops from both sides clashed at the border. – Reuters

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has given the government a Dec. 20 deadline to announce early elections and threatened to dissolve two regional legislative assemblies if officials don’t follow through. – Bloomberg

The Australian and Indian armies have conducted a bilateral training exercise with newly formed integrated combat units along India’s western border with Pakistan. The exercise called ‘Austra Hind 22′ took place from 28 November to 11 December at the Mahajan Field Firing Range (MFFR), Thar Desert, Rajasthan. – Janes

Pankaj Mishra writes: Modi is not wrong to claim that India’s core philosophy is vasudev kutamban — the idea that the world is one family. India is arguably the world’s most enduring experiment in cultural pluralism. Those culture-warriors who today belligerently police boundaries of race, religion and gender could learn a great deal from the long Indian experience of multiple, overlapping identities. – Bloomberg


South Korea, Japan and the United States will coordinate sanctions and close gaps in the international sanctions regime against North Korea, Seoul’s envoy for North Korea said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Japan and the Netherlands have agreed in principle to join the US in tightening controls over the export of advanced chipmaking machinery to China, according to people familiar with the matter, a potentially debilitating blow to Beijing’s technology ambitions. – Bloomberg

Vietnam has held its first military trade show as it seeks to continue to reduce its dependence on Russian weapons. The Vietnam International Defence Expo, or VIDEX, took place Dec. 8-10 at Gia Lam Airport in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. About 170 organizations participated in the event, including the state-owned telecommunications provider Viettel and U.S.-based unmanned technology specialist RT Robotics. – Defense News

Wendy Cutler and Clete Willems write: Just as Democrats and Republicans came together to support USMCA — in itself a renegotiation of an agreement that many believed was seriously flawed — we can do the same with a revised CPTPP. Long-term U.S. economic competitiveness and national security depend on it. – The Hill


As the war in Ukraine bogs down and Moscow’s isolation increases, European nations have grown wary that a desperate Kremlin is exploiting their open societies to deepen attempts at spying, sabotage and infiltration — possibly to send a message, or to probe how far it could go if needed in a broader conflict with the West. – New York Times

The European Parliament moved on Monday to strip one of its members of her role as vice president after she and others faced criminal charges over allegations Qatar lavished them with cash and gifts to influence decision-making. – Reuters

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared anew during the past week after Serbs erected barricades on the main roads in the north of Kosovo, a former Serbian province. They were protesting the arrest of a former Kosovo Serb police officer. – Associated Press

The EU is to appoint a sanctions envoy to push for tighter enforcement of its penalties in countries including Turkey, as the bloc seeks to crack down on circumvention of its measures against Russia –Financial Times

Tom Mockaitis writes: The Reichsbűrger movement has a disturbing similarity to its American cousin the Oath Keepers. Both groups recruit former and active-duty military and police. The Antidefamation League has identified 373 members of law enforcement and 117 members of the military who it believes belong to the Oath Keepers. Many more once served in the police and armed forces. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: The facts are clear. When it comes to Europe in 2022, the Baltic states and Finland are the ones acting most decisively both to defend NATO’s eastern flank and support the U.S. on China. The next U.S. president should prioritize these allies for what they are: better partners for the 21st century. France and Germany have every right to pursue whatever foreign policy they desire. But it is nonsensical the U.S. would fete over them even as they play to America’s preeminent adversary. Abundant economic trade is not the same thing as a true alliance. China’s challenge no longer affords such wishful thinking. – Washington Examiner


More than 40 soldiers and civilians told Reuters they witnessed the Nigerian military kill children or saw children’s corpses after a military operation. Estimates totaled in the thousands. – Reuters

China’s ambassador to the United States Qin Gang on Monday rejected charges that Beijing had mired African countries in debt during a forum ahead of a U.S.-Africa summit, citing a report that African countries owe three times more debt to Western institutions. – Reuters

With dozens of African leaders descending on Washington this week, the Biden administration is offering a not-so-subtle pitch in its economic competition with China on the continent: The U.S. offers a better option to African partners. – Associated Press

The United States slapped sanctions on the son of Zimbabwe’s president and three others for alleged involvement in corruption Monday, one day before President Joe Biden hosts a summit with African leaders in Washington. – Agence France-Presse

US resolve to claw back lost influence in Africa will be put to the test this week when dozens of the continent’s leaders and officials gather for three days of talks with their American counterparts in Washington. – Bloomberg

Latin America

Peruvian President Dina Boluarte proposed holding early elections in the wake of deadly protests in support of her predecessor, Pedro Castillo, who was ousted by lawmakers after he tried to dissolve Congress. – Wall Street Journal

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro burned buses, clashed with police and tried to force their way into the Federal Police headquarters in the capital, Brasília, on Monday night after one of their own was detained. – Wall Street Journal

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Monday announced his intention to fully open the border crossings with Colombia starting Jan. 1, a measure repeatedly postponed following the restoration of diplomatic and commercial ties between the South American neighbors. – Associated Press

For more than two years, almost since the time of his arrest on U.S. warrant, Alex Saab has insisted he is a Venezuelan diplomat targeted for his work helping the South American country circumvent American economic sanctions. – Associated Press

The leftist governments of Mexico, Argentina and Colombia called for the protection of Pedro Castillo, the Peruvian leader impeached by congress last week for attempting a coup, in a strongly-worded communique that stopped short of asking for his reinstatement. – Bloomberg


The disclosures made by new Twitter owner Elon Musk about content moderation on the social network, particularly its handling of news about Hunter Biden before the 2020 election, have added fuel to the fire for House Republicans eager to investigate the company when they take the majority in January. – Wall Street Journal

Twitter Inc. disbanded its Trust and Safety Council on Monday night, according to an email viewed by The Wall Street Journal. – Wall Street Journal

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) has implemented a ban on TikTok within the state’s government branches, joining a growing list of GOP governors who have taken action against the Chinese-owned social media platform due to security concerns. – The Hill

A bill introduced in the state Legislature would ban New York employees and contractors from downloading TikTok onto government-issued electronics out of fear of Chinese espionage. – New York Post

Gaza-based terrorists control a number of social media accounts claiming to be Israeli women, in an attempt to catfish Israelis and expose them to harm, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) approved for publication on Monday afternoon. – Jerusalem Post

It takes constant communication to enhance the efficacy of public and private sector entities in detecting and mitigating cyberattacks on everything from federal systems and critical infrastructure to banks and hospitals. While some have been calling for the Pentagon to take on the lion’s share of involvement, it’s clear that making anyone unilaterally responsible for protecting U.S. networks—both public and private—would drastically weaken cyber defenses. – C4ISRNet

Ukrainian railway, state agencies allegedly targeted by DolphinCape malware. Ukrainian government agencies and the state railway are the latest victims of a new wave of phishing attacks, Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) reported last week. The attacks involved an email campaign in which hackers sent out messages purportedly on behalf of Ukraine’s State Emergency Service with tips on how to identify a kamikaze drone, capitalizing on fears over the Russian use of Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drones to target crucial energy infrastructure in Ukraine. – The Record

The PLAY ransomware group has claimed responsibility for a ransomware attack on the Belgian city of Antwerp last week, just as the city of Diest about an hour’s drive east confirmed on Monday that it has been hit by a cyberattack. The PLAY group has threatened to begin leaking Antwerp’s stolen data on December 19. It is not clear what data was stolen. – The Record 

Emilia David and Asia Martin write: Apple regularly gets a round of bad press in the US, with media outlets and politicians calling out Apple for perceived hypocrisy. But with hundreds of millions of potential customers left to convert to iPhone users in China, Apple will absorb the hits. Apple may not need Chinese factory workers. But, it’s made the calculation that it very much needs the Chinese consumer. – Business Insider


Much of the internal U.S. government wrangling centered on funding new agreements, the former officials and others said. They said the Interior and Veterans Affairs departments, key providers of services, are cash-strapped as is the Postal Service, and the Defense Department also resisted allocating money from its budget. – Wall Street Journal

Nicholas Paul Pacheco writes: The Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office has, during its short existence, made enormous progress in protecting U.S. forces from drone technology. Like any organization, though, it should assess where it falls short and where it can improve. It has the capacity to set the tone of counter unmanned aerial system strategy for the foreseeable future and develop standard operating procedures that will keep pace with the threat. The unmanned aerial system threat will only evolve. So should the institutions tasked with countering it. – War on the Rocks

Kori Schake writes: Instead of continuing to prosecute those polarizing issues or turning Milley on a spit over a fire, Congress could instead take steps that actually support the men and women in uniform. If Congress is alarmed about the state of our military, they should pass the National Defense Authorization Act and defense appropriations bills on time. They should rigorously question whether the Biden defense budget is adequate to carry out the president’s national security strategy. – War on the Rocks

John J. Sheehan and James Amos write: The conflict in Ukraine shows the confluence of current capabilities and new technological advances. The premise that technology is “changing the character of war” is far from certain. One thing is certain: the divestiture of proven and necessary capabilities before new technologies are fielded will make the Marine Corps less capable of responding quickly and decisively to global crises and contingencies. – The National Interest

Long War

The militant Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a coordinated attack on a hotel in Afghanistan’s capital that left three assailants dead and at least two of the hotel guests injured as they tried to escape by jumping out from a window. – Associated Press

A shipment of enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, has fallen into the hands of 9/11 terrorist group al-Qaeda, according to a Middle Eastern report. – Newsweek

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Monday that the Islamic movement has created a new chapter in the conflict with the Zionist enterprise by combining the management of “resistance” with the management of governmental policy, and the policy does not come at the expense of the “resistance”. – Arutz Sheva