Fdd's overnight brief

December 20, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Negotiators at indirect talks between Iran and the United States have just weeks to reach an agreement on rescuing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, European powers and the talks’ coordinator said as negotiations adjourned on Friday for at least 10 days. – Reuters  

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday that further talks with Saudi Arabia depend on Riyadh’s “seriousness”. – Reuters 

Iran said on Monday that sounds heard near its Bushehr nuclear power plant were related to an air defence drill, Iranian state media reported, while warning Tehran would give a “crushing response” to any Israeli attack. – Reuters 

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard staged a major military exercise across the country’s south on Monday amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, state TV reported. – Associated Press 

The United States believes Iran’s breakout time to producing enough highly enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon is now “really short” and alarming, a senior Biden administration official told reporters on Friday. – Reuters 

Iran said Sunday the technical inspection of new surveillance cameras for the Karaj nuclear facility had begun after Tehran said previous cameras were damaged in an attack it blamed on Israel. – Agence France-Presse 

An Arabic language Twitter account associated with Iran on Sunday published an image that threatens to eliminate Israel in 2022. – Arutz Sheva 

These are high-stakes games that Iran is playing. Tehran now plays up how Russia and Iran are cooperating. Russia appears to be using Iran as a kind of blocking tackle against the West. – Jerusalem Post  

Simon Henderson writes: Although there are no public indications that Iran is working on an aircraft delivery system, the possibility is worth discussing given that Tehran has the necessary aircraft and is known to have worked closely with Pakistan on nuclear technology and military matters. The Beg biography also reopens the question of whether Dr. Khan […]was really a rogue proliferator or someone who acted with the encouragement of at least parts of the military and government. – Washington Institute 

Lawrence J. Haas writes: Tehran does not make decisions about its nuclear program in a vacuum. Its tough stance at the talks in Vienna reflects confidence that it can weather sanctions as well as its skepticism that anything more serious might result. At the moment, the Biden administration doesn’t seem to be doing anything to alter this calculus. – The Hill

Marzia Giambertoni writes: While Cuba may achieve some level of stability from relations with Iran, Havana-Tehran ties will continue to impede the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. Cuba eagerly welcomed the prospect during the Obama presidency, but as Tehran continues to defend Havana’s human rights abuses, it gives Cuba a diplomatic safe haven at the expense of the country’s economic and civil stability. – Middle East Institute 

Mohammad Hossein Ziya writes: The decline in religiosity in Iranian society, especially among the youth; the growing general distrust in the government and religious scholars; and the government’s increasing strictness in religious matters have not only led to tensions between the people and the government, they have also strengthened secularism. Instead of making changes to address these issues, however, the current Iranian administration is moving in the opposite direction, toward a more religious, militaristic, and nepotistic government […]. One doesn’t need to rely on divination to know that such a path hardly augurs well for Iran’s future. – Middle East Institute 


Thousands of Taliban fighters and supporters have poured into Afghanistan from Pakistan over the past four months, answering the calls of influential clerics and commanders eager to consolidate control of the country, according to interviews with half a dozen current and former Taliban members in Pakistan and Afghanistan. – Washington Post 

The Biden administration is facing mounting pressure from lawmakers, aid groups and former officials to restart the flow of billions of dollars in aid and cash to Afghanistan, where a humanitarian crisis is growing increasingly perilous. – Washington Post 

As Afghanistan sinks deeper into a humanitarian crisis, Marja’s residents are still caught in the war’s aftershocks. Amid a crashing economy and ruined harvests, in a place where most people barely live above the poverty line, many are just now realizing how dependent they were on foreign aid, their lifeline for 20 years, which was cut off practically overnight. – New York Times  

Russian military transport planes on Saturday delivered a shipment of humanitarian supplies to Afghanistan and flew back 200 Russians, Afghan students and others, the defense ministry said. – Associated Press 

A meeting of foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation agreed on Sunday to establish a humanitarian trust fund to address the growing economic crisis in Afghanistan which has left millions facing hunger over the winter. – Reuters 

The Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have announced that they will resume issuing passports, providing a window of hope for those who have applied for travel documents in an effort to leave the country. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 

Uzbekistan has sent experts to the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e Sharif to help repair its airport equipment and restart operations. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty  

The national security adviser under former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday that all trust in the U.S. was “gone” by the time the Taliban overthrew the democratically elected government and took Kabul. – The Hill 

The Taliban government urged major Islamic nations to push the U.S. to call off sanctions imposed on Afghanistan, saying the actions are exacerbating the refugee crisis and hurting its people. – Bloomberg  

Editorial: Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted on Aug. 25: “There’s no deadline on our work to help remaining U.S. citizens & Afghan partners who decide they want to leave to do so.” But the White House made that task far harder when it set the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing troops and diplomats from the country without preparing to get all Americans, U.S. residents, and allies out. Promising a serious inquiry into the Afghan withdrawal disaster would be a useful GOP campaign promise to make in next year’s congressional elections. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: Also on the agenda are U.S. concerns such as cooperation against terrorism, safe passage out for our former allies and human rights, including the fact that the Taliban insists on limiting education for Afghan girls. The United States’ goals should be to ease the Afghan people’s critical near-term needs, while securing the Taliban’s long-term commitments on human rights and terrorism. With tough but wise use of its leverage, the Biden administration could achieve both. – Washington Post 

Michael Rubin writes: The Halo Trust told me that they could employ and equip as many as 5,000 Afghans with additional funding. This opportunity for Afghans to reconcile past tensions and solve current issues might provide an outsized return on the United States’ investment. It really should be a no-brainer, and one that both Democrats and Republicans can accept: the few million dollars Congress appropriates for landmine clearance should address the threats of today rather than those of the past. – The National Interest 


Like many people in the industrial city of Konya in Turkey’s conservative heartlands, which enjoyed an economic boom in the early years of the Erdogan era, Sarikaya has been hit by the crash in the lira, spiralling inflation, and a business slump. – Reuters 

The lira tumbled to another record low after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to continue cutting interest rates, referring to Islamic proscriptions on usury as a basis for his policy. – Bloomberg  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: A weakened currency and constant crisis as home could be to its benefit. The way the leadership has mishandled the currency slide could be incompetence but it could also be stage-managed or using a crisis to the benefit of the regime. – Jerusalem Post  


Seven months after Hamas launched an 11-day war with Israel, the deadlock between Israel and the Islamist movement has returned to roughly where it was before the fighting started. – New York Times  

With diplomatic efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program teetering, Israel’s defense minister has ordered his forces to prepare a military option, warning the world that Israel would take matters into its own hands if a new nuclear agreement did not sufficiently constrain Iran. – New York Times  

The IDF has released new rules of engagement when dealing with those throwing stones and Molotov cocktails in the West Bank, relaxing the rules to allow for soldiers to fire even after the assailants throw their weapons, KAN reported Sunday. – Jerusalem Post  

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have reached an agreement to step up terror attacks against Israel, especially in Jerusalem and the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post  

Israel has threatened to resume targeted assassinations in the Gaza Strip and abroad in response to the recent spate of terror attacks in the West Bank, the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Akhbar newspaper claimed on Monday. – Jerusalem Post  

The United Nations Mideast peace envoy warned against escalating tensions on Friday after Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli in the occupied West Bank and Jewish settlers were accused of attacking Arab villages in the aftermath. – Reuters 

Each month, hundreds of trucks heavy with fuel, cement and other goods cross a plowed no man’s land between Egypt and the Gaza Strip — and Hamas becomes stronger. Hamas collects tens of millions of dollars a month in taxes and customs at the crossing in the border town of Rafah, according to estimates. The funds help it operate a government and powerful armed wing while international aid covers most of the basic needs of Gaza’s 2 million residents. – Associated Press 

Israel’s security forces have arrested four Palestinians suspected of perpetrating Thursday’s shooting attack on a vehicle in the West Bank outpost of Homesh, which killed one and injured two. – Algemeiner 


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in crisis-ridden Lebanon on Sunday, hitting out at political leaders who “paralyse” the country in the face of its people’s suffering. – Agence France-Presse 

Hezbollah in Lebanon is looking forward to the 2022 elections there with concerns about its future role in the country. Will it grow its power or suffer in the polls? Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem discussed these issues according to a recent report in Iran’s Tasnim Media. – Jerusalem Post  

Lebanon could reach a preliminary agreement for financial support with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) between January and February, the local Al Jadeed TV said in a tweet on Sunday, citing the deputy prime minister. – Reuters 


Iran’s top diplomat in Yemen flew out of the country on Saturday in an agreement between Houthi militants controlling the capital and Saudi Arabia, according to regional officials. – Wall Street Journal 

A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen destroyed a drone sent over southern Saudi Arabia early on Monday, and coalition air strikes hit parts of the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital of Sanaa, Saudi state media said. – Reuters 

The mobile phone of a UN-backed investigator who was examining possible war crimes in Yemen was targeted with spyware made by Israel’s NSO Group, a new forensic analysis of the device has revealed. – The Guardian 

Saudi Arabia’s air defences on Sunday destroyed two drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Abha international airport in the southwest of the kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. – Reuters 

Gulf States

Two Katyusha rockets hit Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, Iraq’s state news agency reported early on Sunday citing security forces. – Reuters 

The electronic music festival in Saudi Arabia this weekend highlighted the changes catapulting through the conservative kingdom under its controversial crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. In just a few years, the prince has lifted a ban on women driving, loosened gender segregation and defanged the religious police, who used to roam the streets punishing restaurants that played music. – Bloomberg 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Drone defenses may be a way to contend with this, but the overall goal of Abu Dhabi is to work successfully on several diplomatic files for now, and that can mean talks with Iran, Turkey and Israel at the same time. The Gulf crisis with Qatar is also over, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia don’t necessarily have the same policy in Yemen. – Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

The trove of documents — the military’s own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties, obtained by The New York Times — lays bare how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs. – New York Times 

Egypt sentenced Mahmoud Ezzat, the 77-year-old top leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, to life in jail Sunday after he was found guilty of “collaborating with Hamas,” a judicial source said. – Agence France-Presse  

Morocco and Israel are preparing to build two factories for unmanned aircraft in the North Africa state’s Al-Aoula region, media reported yesterday. – Middle East Monitor 

Laila Soueif writes: The pressure that the United States and Europe claim to exert on the Egyptian government to clean up its human rights act is meant only to placate certain portions of their constituents. The Egyptian authorities respond accordingly. They understand that “clean up your human rights act” actually means “we support you, but please try not to embarrass us.” – New York Times 

Neville Teller writes: Until Syria can be stabilized and disconnected from Iran’s baleful involvement, avoiding a potentially disastrous military clash between Russia and Israel is dependent on the current precarious arrangements. The main consolation is that they have not failed, so far. – Jerusalem Post  

Mark N. Katz writes: Several of America’s Middle Eastern allies, though, point to the downfall of the Kabul government in Afghanistan and the rise of Iranian influence in Iraq as casting doubt on America’s willingness to remain a great power in the Middle East. But forty years ago, those same allies raised similar concerns about how America’s withdrawal from Indochina in 1973 and its “allowing” the downfall of the Shah in 1979 cast doubts on Washington’s commitment to its other allies. But America didn’t leave the Middle East then, and is not going to leave it now either. – The National Interest 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The US has a lot to weigh in how it pushes for reforms in the KRG and AANES and works with Kurdish groups, while trying to send a message it isn’t withdrawing, even as Iran tries to pressure the US in Iraq and Syria – and Turkey and Russia both want the US to leave certain areas. […]This has handed the US too many complexities for an area it doesn’t even want to remain invested in. – Jerusalem Post 


Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai appeared in a new video on Sunday claiming that her allegations of sexual assault against a former senior Chinese official, which prompted international outcry over her apparent silencing, had been misunderstood and she remained “very free.” – Washington Post 

In a rejection of Beijing’s new direction in Hong Kong, only 30.2 percent of voters cast ballots in the territory’s first “patriots-only” election, the lowest turnout at the polls since the handover to China in 1997. – Washington Post 

China’s government has unleashed a global online campaign to burnish its image and undercut accusations of human rights abuses. Much of the effort takes place in the shadows, behind guise of bot networks that generate automatic posts and hard-to-trace online personas. – New York Times 

China would not fear confrontation with the United States but would welcome cooperation if it is mutually beneficial, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday. – Reuters 

Prospects for democracy in Hong Kong are “bright”, China said on Monday in a white paper, a day after pro-Beijing candidates won a legislative election in the city in record low turnout after a sweeping Chinese crackdown on its freedoms. – Reuters 

Amazon.com Inc was marketing a collection of President Xi Jinping’s speeches and writings on its Chinese website about two years ago, when Beijing delivered an edict, according to two people familiar with the incident. The American e-commerce giant must stop allowing any customer ratings and reviews in China. – Reuters  

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam touted plans to revive a controversial security law that ignited a political firestorm two decades ago, after completing an election to install a new legislature filled with Beijing loyalists. – Bloomberg 

Editorial: In its bullying confidence, China’s Communist Party is seeking to impose its censorship around the world. Western institutions that do business with China or accept Chinese students will have to decide if they’ll be bullied. Credit Mr. Daniels for letting Beijing know its sovereignty doesn’t extend to the Purdue campus. – Wall Street Journal 

Nathan Law Kwun Chung writes: Hong Kong and Chinese government officials have for weeks been urging the public to vote in this weekend’s legislative election. But this is not a typical free and fair election: It’s a selection process, thanks to an electoral overhaul with no meaningful participation from the opposition (not least because many are in jail). […]My guess is that election turnout will be low. Not because voters are satisfied with the government but rather because they will be refusing to assist Beijing’s attempts to recoin democracy in its own authoritarian terms. – New York Times  

David Curry and Sam Brownback write: Like all of history’s great tragedies, China’s systematic repression of faith will one day come to an end. Until then, it is incumbent upon those who have the ability and resources to do so to take action. No country actively committing genocide should ever be given the honor of hosting the Olympics. Biden’s diplomatic boycott has set the stage. Now it’s time for people of faith to step onto it. – The Hill 

Andrew R. Novo writes: The Biden administration continues to emphasize “great power competition” — meaning competition with China and Russia. To that end, US policymakers are hard at work deepening traditional alliances and building new ties. In that context, American-Italian relations have a newfound sense of significance. Fresh opportunities exist for both countries to recommit themselves to transatlantic cooperation in the economic, political, and security spheres. – Center for European Policy Analysis  

Matthew P. Funaiole, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and Brian Hart write: The expansion of the facility at Mumian and the fielding of new electronic systems in the South China Sea fit within broader efforts to modernize the PLA. […]China is expected to continue its heavy investments in these areas as it pushes to transform the PLA into a force able to operate in the complex networked environments of the future. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Max Hastings writes: Our leaders need to go on being afraid, because only prudent fear can deter them from gambling recklessly upon extending the borders of conflict, as Putin and President Xi Jinping of China risk every day. The mortal peril posed by undeclared war — cyberconflict, clashes on the electronic frontiers of our societies and of our defenses — is that it can very suddenly get very hot. – Bloomberg   

Rana Mitter writes: China’s identity is also defined negatively in terms of the threat from the outside world. The resolution’s drafters invoke the familiar notion of a China long under siege from foreign adversaries. The experience of Chinese history, and particularly the period of weakness between the Opium Wars in the nineteenth century and World War II, prompted a stark overall thought from the party’s theorists: “Constant concessions will only invite more bullying and humiliation.” – Foreign Affairs 


South Asia

A smartphone belonging to jailed Indian activist Rona Wilson was infiltrated using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware before his arrest, according to a new forensic analysis by Amnesty International’s Security Lab that reignites questions about the use of malware attacks against dissidents and government critics in India. – Washington Post 

Pakistan’s government has sought to defuse tensions linked to one of China’s showcase Belt and Road investments in the country, striking a deal with protesters who for weeks have demonstrated in the port city of Gwadar. – Financial Times 

India seeks to work with Central Asian nations to help provide aid to Afghanistan and ensure a more representative government is in place there, India Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Sunday. – Bloomberg  


Taiwan’s ruling party claimed a decisive victory in a closely watched referendum vote, in a setback for Beijing that removes a key obstacle to a U.S. trade deal with the democratically governed island. – Wall Street Journal 

Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, to be formally opened in a ceremony early next year, is the latest sign that Guam, a remote U.S. outpost in the Pacific Ocean, is becoming more crucial for military planners as they sharpen their focus on Asia, and tensions with China rise. – Wall Street Journal 

Taiwan is a “wanderer” that will eventually come home and not a chess piece to be played with, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Monday, reaffirming Beijing’s determination to bring the island under its control. – Reuters 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Japan on Monday to halt a military study-abroad program in which cadets from Myanmar receive combat training. – Reuters 

Azerbaijan handed over 10 captured Armenian soldiers to Armenia on Sunday for the second time this month following talks last week between both sides and European Council President Charles Michel, the two countries said. – Reuters 

The U.S. Senate early Saturday confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee Rahm Emanuel to be ambassador to Japan, despite questions about the murder of a Black teenager by a white police officer when Emanuel was mayor of Chicago. – Reuters 

The United Nations Human Rights Office called on Vietnam to release four activists who were jailed for as much 10 years this week for disseminating anti-state propaganda, according a statement from UN spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. – Bloomberg  

Laos opened a new $6 billion rail link with China to much fanfare this month, but analysts warn the party could be short-lived as the government grapples with a potential debt crisis. – Agence France-Presse  

A Myanmar junta court on Monday postponed giving its verdict in Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial for illegally importing and possessing walkie talkies, a source with knowledge of the case said. – Agence France-Presse  

Editorial: The fact that dictators cannot abide a free press is in itself a measure of its importance. […]But then other authoritarian leaders such as Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mohammed bin Salman — the latter responsible for one of the most gruesome murders to date of a journalist, that of Jamal Khashoggi — have not been shy about disregarding international norms and elemental decency to rid themselves of meddlesome reporters. – New York Times  

Dan Blumenthal writes: A change in the strategic framework for U.S.-Taiwan military relations may sound provocative. It is certainly risky given how the PRC has dominated the narrative about what the One China Policy means. But the United States is well within its rights to better prepare with Taiwan now that China reneged on its commitments. […]China’s abrogation of the One China Policy is an unfortunate development. But it opens up an opportunity to work with Taiwan to better deter war. – The National Interest 


Western officials need to announce what steps they will take if Russia launches a major military attack against Ukraine, the country’s foreign minister urged, as the United States and European Union weigh potential sanctions and other measures. – Washington Post 

Russia on Friday spelled out its demands for sweeping new security guarantees from the United States and NATO, seeking pledges that would halt NATO’s eastward expansion and block U.S. military ties with former Soviet states. – Washington Post 

Russia sent a pair of nuclear-capable long-range bombers to patrol the skies over Belarus on Saturday, a mission intended to underline close defense ties between the two allies amid tensions with the West. – Associated Press 

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that the United States is prepared for dialogue with Russia over its security demands and will present its own concerns. – Reuters 

NATO will discuss Russia’s security proposals but it will not let Moscow dictate the alliance’s military posture, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Sunday on a visit to German troops based in Lithuania to deter a Russian attack. – Reuters 

Kremlin-linked Russian businessman Vladislav Klyushin was extradited from Switzerland to the United States on Saturday, the Swiss justice ministry said, a move Russia said was part of an ongoing hunt for Russians by Washington. – Reuters 

Russia has imposed a travel ban on seven unnamed British citizens in a tit-for-tat response to London’s sanctions connected to the August 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 

Editorial: Mr. Biden seems to believe that improving trans-Atlantic relations requires deferring to narrow German economic interests, but NATO has 30 members and the European Union has 27. Many are unhappy with Mr. Biden’s approach. Mr. Putin’s demands show his growing confidence, and perhaps a belief that the West will do nothing serious to stop him. Mr. Biden and Europe certainly haven’t so far. – Wall Street Journal 

David Ignatius writes: When U.S. troops were poised on the border of Iraq in 2003, U.S. officials didn’t consider the grinding, enervating war of counterinsurgency that lay ahead. The Biden administration believes that Putin may be on the verge of making a similar mistake in Ukraine. They hope he doesn’t make the wrong choice, but if he does invade, they want to make it hurt. – Washington Post 

Joseph Weisberg writes: In recent years, the intensity of this conflict has occasionally waned, but never for long. There is just too much to fight about. We have involved ourselves heavily in Russia’s backyard, including Ukraine, where the possibility looms of another invasion we can’t do anything to prevent. Different priorities and alliances have pitted us against each other in Syria. Every U.S. election is a chance for Russia to intensify its propaganda war against us, while every act of political repression inside Russia provides an opportunity for us to attack them in the public arena. – Washington Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: What is important here is that it signifies how much relations have eroded between Moscow and Washington and appears linked to greater coordination between Beijing and Moscow. Both China and Russia appear to back Iran as well as Iran is negotiating its nuclear program and sanctions with the US and Europeans.  – Jerusalem Post 

Kseniya Kirillova writes: A Russian government less focused on restoring an imagined golden age of Soviet greatness could exploit the country’s genuine geographical, technological, cultural, and other advantages to a benign end. But for this Russian government, that would be impossible. The chosen path of aggression and confrontation with the West, and ever-greater repression at home, are baked into policy for the foreseeable future. The West can ignore this, or take note, and prepare for what must follow. But either way, Russia has already decided on a policy of conflict. – Center for European Policy Analysis 



NATO’s top general has suggested the alliance should establish a military presence in Bulgaria and Romania following Russia’s troop build-up near the border with Ukraine, German newspaper Spiegel reported on Saturday. – Reuters 

Tens of thousands of Poles protested on Sunday against what they see as the ruling party’s attempt to force out Discovery Inc. as the owner of the country’s most popular private television broadcaster. – Bloomberg  

Alongside the concerns about Russia’s military build-up on the border of Ukraine, regional states worry about a possible stitch-up between major powers that could turn the clock back. – Agence France-Presse  

The new German government’s focus on a common arms-export policy for the European Union is facing an uphill battle after one French official indicated this week Paris remains unwilling to cede its national say on the thorny subject. – Defense News 

Anthony Faiola writes: With winter approaching, the Germans have done what their bureaucracy does best: buy time with paperwork. Last week, the German energy regulator announced that a decision on final certification of Nord Stream 2 would not happen until the second half of 2022. By then, the Germans may know whether Russian troops have stormed Ukraine’s borders — or if tensions have cooled down enough to revisit its opening. – Washington Post 

Seth Moulton writes: Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Biden has always worked on strengthening the NATO alliance rather than antagonizing it, and he confronts Mr. Putin rather than consoling him. This puts Mr. Biden in a good position to take decisive action to defend Ukraine. But he has to act now. If there’s one lesson we should have learned from the past 20 years of war, it is that conflicts are much easier to start than they are to end. We need to stop this war before it begins. – Wall Street Journal 


Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese protesters rallied Sunday for a civilian-led transition to democracy, three years since the start of mass demonstrations that led to the ouster of veteran strongman Omar al-Bashir. – Agence France-Presse  

Bags on their backs and guns slung across their chests, soldiers trudge into the forest in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo towards alleged hideouts of the ADF rebel group. – Agence France-Presse  

Samuel Ramani writes: Going forward, Russia’s preferred scenario in Sudan is a transition to civilian rule that grants the military autonomy over foreign policy. […]It would allow Moscow to negotiate directly with the Sudanese military and drown out critics of Russia-Sudan relations within civil society. This preference will likely cause Russia to simultaneously act as a public supporter of Sudan’s transition and a spoiler of its democratic impulses in the months ahead. – Middle East Institute 

The Americas

Gabriel Boric, a congressman and former student protest leader, was elected president Sunday, auguring a shift far to the left in a nation that has long been a stalwart of centrist, market-friendly policies in Latin America. – Wall Street Journal 

Former President Donald Trump claimed in a new episode of a podcast that Jewish people in the United States “don’t like Israel or don’t care about Israel” and that the New York Times “hates Israel” even though “there are Jewish people that run the New York Times.” – Washington Post 

Scott B. MacDonald writes: All of the above points to the pressing need for U.S. policymakers to reconceptualize their thinking about Latin America and the Caribbean, taking into consideration that Washington’s days of being able to easily impose its will on its neighbors is over. […]For the Biden administration, what happens in Nicaragua, Honduras, or Guyana are not local affairs, but part of a larger and riskier new Cold War with China. – The National Interest 


A cyberattack on a popular payroll software provider sent work-tracking systems offline this week, forcing companies to resort to manual methods to pay workers. – Wall Street Journal 

Federal agencies on Friday were ordered to immediately investigate and patch systems to prevent exploitation of a massive vulnerability in Apache logging library log4j that has been increasingly used by nations and cybercriminals to target organizations around the world. – The Hill 

The Israeli army’s Cyber Defense Division (JCDD) and the US Cyber Command held a joint drill this week to train for a “variety of cyber defense challenges” and improve the readiness of both countries to growing cyber threats. – Algemeiner 


The U.S. Space Force has awarded Raytheon Technologies a $67 million contract to test a prototype weather system the company designed for the service, the American firm announced Dec. 15. – Defense News 

The U.S. Air Force on Thursday destroyed a target in the Gulf of Mexico with a cruise missile launched from the back of a cargo aircraft, marking the first live-fire test of its Rapid Dragon program. – Defense News  

In a factory in St. Louis that once helped launch the U.S. space program, the Air Force’s next generation of training aircraft is taking shape. – Defense News  

The Army has announced three brigade combat team deployments in the coming months as part of a regular rotation of forces around the globe. – Military Times  

Don Lewis writes: Given the ineffective model that the Air Force has now, one that makes the distinction between operations and support indistinguishable, it’s time to accelerate change. Now. Father Time is doing a number on the IT infrastructure at the base level, there isn’t enough money or appetite at the enterprise level to do what’s needed to fix it, and America’s adversaries are likely very happy about that. It’s time to do something about IT. – War on the Rocks 

Brent D. Sadler writes: The dangerous reality Americans now live in requires a paradigm shift in how Washington conceptualizes and acts on national security. The next NSS offers an opportunity to begin telling voters how its leaders will rise to the challenge and the cost of meeting rivals’ challenges to voters’ security, way of life, and prosperity. True leadership requires communicating this to the electorate. Another unserious NSS packed with meaningless words will only further anesthetize the public and delay action beyond any hope of deterring a disastrous war. – Foreign Policy 

Long War

A British former member of the Islamic State has sought to minimize his role in the captivity of journalists and aid workers, several of whom were killed. But in 2018, court records show he told Department of Defense investigators he was intimately involved in ransom negotiations and privy to details of some hostages’ deaths. – Washington Post 

Farhane’s former attorney had not told him that a guilty plea could jeopardize his citizenship under laws that allow the government to reverse naturalization in certain cases. For decades, that punishment has been largely reserved for war criminals — naturalized Americans stripped of their citizenship for lying about participating in atrocities in, for example, Nazi Germany or the Balkans. – Washington Post 

A 34-year-old British man, Feras Al Jayoosi, was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison on Friday for wearing t-shirts supporting the military wing of the Palestinian organization Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, the BBC reported. Al Jayoosi was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of community service and pay £288 (roughly $380) to the magistrate court. – Jerusalem Post