Fdd's overnight brief

December 22, 2022

In The News


Iranian security forces killed two men and arrested two others allegedly behind a deadly shooting last month in a southwestern city, state-run media reported, amid conflicting accounts of the incident that coincided with a wave of anti-government protests. – Associated Press 

President Joe Biden’s administration is poised to announce new export controls targeting Iranian drones and drone parts that Russia has used in Ukraine since its invasion, according to people familiar with the matter.  – Bloomberg 

Russia and Iran are building a new transcontinental trade route stretching from the eastern edge of Europe to the Indian Ocean, a 3,000–kilometer (1,860–mile) passage that’s beyond the reach of any foreign intervention. – Bloomberg 

Britain warned on Tuesday that Russia is set to provide Iran with advanced military technology that will threaten security in the Middle East and around the world. – Associated Press 

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI)’s efforts to stop the illicit sale of Iranian oil and gas by identifying and detecting vessels participating in Tehran’s smuggling schemes, and alerting maritime authorities to their activities, has led to 100 vessels losing essential insurance coverage through Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Clubs. – Iran News

As Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky prepares to visit Washington on Wednesday, the need to tackle the arms proliferation pipeline between Russia and Iran during his trip is vital. Earlier this month, the White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby revealed that Russia is offering an “unprecedented level” of military assistance to Iran, including helicopters, fighter jets, and other air defense systems. – Iran News

US officials have poured cold water on the prospects for a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, one day after a previously unseen video emerged of US President Joe Biden telling a woman that the deal was “dead, but we’re not gonna announce it.” – Algemeiner 

In the editorial, which is titled “Are We Not the Nation of Imam Hossein?” Shariatmadari claimed that the international passage in the Strait of Hormuz is actually through a “strait located in Iran’s territorial waters.” He also stressed: “There is no reason for hostile countries to be allowed through the strait, which is in our territorial waters.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

Iran could employ the same technology it uses for the missiles in its space program to make ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads, Israeli officials said Wednesday. – Haaretz 

Nicole Krauss writes: It was her protest of an execution that provided an excuse for her arrest. But the real reason, of course, is that she is one of the most brilliant, respected, courageous and influential voices in Iran, an artist who has, at every chance, used her fame to draw attention to the oppression of her people and to demand their basic rights. […]I, like countless fans, know what it has meant to have her lend her voice and we will not rest until she is released and allowed to speak freely. – Washington Post 

Erfan Fard writes: These days in Iran, the young generation still exhibits a strong will to eliminate the mullah’s terrorist regime. The mullah’s notorious institution is on the edge of the precipice. The young must choose their leader wisely. – Arutz Sheva

Russia & Ukraine

Beyond the sincere expressions of Ukrainian gratitude and firm pledges of ongoing American support, President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Biden came together Wednesday with specific, and sometimes differing, goals for their meeting. – Washington Post

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an impassioned and emotional plea to Congress on Wednesday for continued American support against Russia’s unrelenting assault, speaking personally and passionately about why Ukraine needed more aid and weapons to lawmakers whose ranks include some vocal skeptics of future reinforcements. – Washington Post

Victor Zhora, deputy chief of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection, said that the country is still battling Russian cyberattacks, and although the strikes haven’t been as destructive as many people expected, the situation could escalate quickly. – Wall Street Journal

President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday directed Russia’s military to overcome its equipment problems on the battlefield and assented to an increase in the size of the country’s armed forces, his latest effort to show the world that he has no intention of giving up in the war against Ukraine. – New York Times

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday said a U.S. promise to provide the Patriot surface-to-air missile defense system was an important step in creating an effective air shield. – Reuters

The Kremlin said that nothing good would come from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s trip to Washington on Wednesday and that Russia saw no chance of peace talks with Kyiv. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday said that a “just peace” with Russia means no compromises on his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but questioned if there could be such a peace for parents who have lost their children. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington on Wednesday marks a high point in ties between Ukraine and its most important ally, putting the spotlight on a relationship strengthened by Russia’s invasion, but not without some friction along the way. – Reuters

Ukrainian Americans in Washington saw President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s U.S. visit as a promising sign that displayed strong relations between the countries but also urged more American assistance to defend against the Russian invasion. – Reuters

The Biden administration on Wednesday unveiled new curbs on technology exports to Russia’s Wagner military group, in a bid to further choke off supplies to the contractor over its role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the Russian army must learn from and fix the problems it had suffered in Ukraine, promising to give the military whatever it needed to prosecute a war nearing the end of its 10th month. – Reuters

Russia on Wednesday announced an ambitious plan to beef up its military from 1 million to 1.5 million and create multiple new units, an attempt to bolster the forces that have lost momentum and many soldiers in the war in Ukraine. – Associated Press

President Joe Biden defended his reluctance to give Ukraine all of the advanced weaponry it wants to fight off Russia’s invasion, saying the provision of longer-range missiles and other sophisticated gear risks straining US alliances in Europe, including NATO. – Bloomberg 

Plans in Congress to quickly advance a package of $45 billion in Ukraine aid in a broader spending package hours after an historic address by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy were scuttled late Wednesday over a dispute about US border security.  – Bloomberg 

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Lynne Tracy as the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, backing her nomination on the same day Ukraine’s president is making a historic visit to Washington that serves to underscore support for Kyiv amid Russia’s invasion. – The Hill 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to thank the U.S. Congress on Wednesday night for its $65 billion backing of Ukraine as it fends off a Russian invasion, even as he indicates that Ukraine will need billions more to defeat its foe. – Fox News

Despite months of setbacks, Russia is still sticking to its delusional mantra that “everything is going according to plan” with its war against Ukraine. Sure, hundreds of thousands more men may be needed to replenish the fledgling military, but according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, everyone can count on the war dragging on well into next year. – The Daily Beast 

Editorial: Mr. Biden has so far made this argument convincingly. He can point to the favorable results of U.S. policy in 2022 to reinforce it in the year ahead. “We will stay with you for as long as it takes,” Mr. Biden promised Mr. Zelensky on Wednesday. There is no reasonable alternative in the face of Russia’s aggression, a threat to the whole world. – Washington Post

Editorial: Some Republicans in Congress are now claiming there should be no support for Ukraine while the U.S. southern border isn’t secure. But that argument is a non sequitur. There are enough resources to do both. The problem at the border is Mr. Biden’s failure of will to do anything to stop the migrant flood. All wars end with some form of negotiation, and this one will too. But Mr. Putin betrays no willingness to do so on anything other than his terms. The faster and more decisively Ukraine regains its territory, the sooner Russia may reconsider its disastrous war. – Wall Street Journal

David Ignatius writes: As Putin watches Zelensky’s bravura performance in Washington, he will surely say to himself, perhaps with grudging admiration: This little man has survived the worst. He isn’t afraid. His allies stand with him. So the question becomes, how does this war end without a catastrophe for Russia? – Washington Post

Peter Rough and Luke Coffey write: Where NATO and EU expansion are inappropriate, the U.S. and EU should strengthen economic and diplomatic ties and encourage regional integration. At some point, Russia will be back. The West will never be able to count on Moscow’s abandonment of centuries of imperial designs—even if it takes many years to rebuild the forces necessary to threaten its neighbors. But what the U.S. and Europe do now can decisively enhance European security for decades to come.- Wall Street Journal 

Hal Brands writes: There is little sign of aid fatigue right now: The White House greeted Zelenskiy with promises of another $1.85 billion in military gear, and Congress is set to appropriate another $45 billion to see Ukraine through the coming months. But the influence of Ukraine skeptics in the new Republican-led House of Representatives must be making Kyiv nervous about what happens after that: It’s not clear that today’s standing ovations will translate into an open checkbook next year. Putin’s dream is Zelenskiy’s nightmare — that America will fall short as the Ukraine war goes long. – Bloomberg 

Tom Rogan writes: As an extension, Ukraine’s assassination of a Russian ultra-nationalist outside Moscow in August was unjustified and self-defeating. At the margin, the attack fueled Putin’s false presentation of the conflict as a struggle for the Russian nation’s survival. If Zelensky wants to maintain U.S. support for the long term, he must go above and beyond to ensure he can be trusted as a reliable party. This is particularly important in the context of Russian threats of nuclear escalation. – Washington Examiner 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Ukraine has withstood 300 days of a grueling war. This visit comes two months before the first anniversary of this war. If Zelensky’s visit can do one thing it is to make this a game changer for the country, but without seeming like he is doing too much grandstanding and without making any stumbles that might give critics some kind of talking point. – Jerusalem Post 

Richard Kraemer writes: The bedrock of oversight mechanisms for foreign funds for Ukraine’s future reconstruction should be cemented in enforceable commitments to transparency and accountability applied equally to all engaged. If effectively upheld, they will help to deter malign investments from unfriendly powers. Finally, if the West seeks to keep Chinese firms out of Ukrainian industry — as was the case with Motor Sich — American and other friendly companies must be willing to fill the gap. – Middle East Institute 

Peter Rough and Can Kasapoglu write: Putin still sits atop the Russian system unchallenged, not least because he has made sure that all lines of loyalty lead directly to the Kremlin. As the war in Ukraine drags on and accelerates unexpected shifts in Russian power dynamics, the trio of Prigozhin, Kadyrov, and Surovikin may be the most significant nexus of new power to have emerged. They may not yet herald any challenge to Putin’s rule. But the prospect that the influence of these three hard-liners is jointly growing should ring alarm bells for Western policymakers. – Foreign Policy


Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu announced the formation of the most far-right government in the country’s history Wednesday night, marking the imminent return of its longest-serving leader and granting an unprecedented portion of power to his far-right and ultra-Orthodox allies, who have vowed to make far-reaching legislative changes in the country. – Washington Post

Israel’s defense minister said Wednesday that the remains of a Palestinian prisoner who died a day earlier from lung cancer would not be released for burial. Benny Gantz’s office said the body of Nasser Abu Hamid, one of the founders of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, would be held as a bargaining chip for the return of captive Israelis and the remains of soldiers held by the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. – Associated Press

Israeli security forces were involved in a late Wednesday night gunfight with Palestinian rioters near Joseph’s Tomb, in the West Bank city of Nablus. – Jerusalem Post

President Joe Biden and his administration plan to deal with the far-right upcoming Israeli government by making it all about Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu. – Jerusalem Post

Dozens of right-wing lawmakers from both the presumed incoming coalition and its opponents on Wednesday called a leaked European Union document formulating a new program to protect Palestinian claims in the West Bank an “extremely grave breach” of the EU-Israel relationship. – Times of Israel 

Pope Francis on Wednesday committed to work toward bringing home two Israeli civilians and two slain IDF soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza. – Times of Israel 

A new report has revealed that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem is considering barring Jews who are suspected of having been involved in violent incidents against Palestinian-Arabs from receiving US visas. According to Israel Hayom, the embassy has been closely monitoring violent incidents on the part of Jewish “settlers” against Palestinian-Arabs in Judea and Samaria. – Arutz Sheva 

According to the report, the fact that an Iranian organization hacked the camera, which serves a security agency, has been known to the security establishment for months, but nothing was done to rectify the situation. Within just a few minutes on the channel, one can find security footage from cameras in places such as the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and even the surroundings of the Rafael arms factory. – Arutz Sheva

Tovah Lazaroff writes: The cult of personality is likely to be more difficult to promote abroad than at home. As a known quantity, Netanyahu will not get a honeymoon period. He might like to be in charge, but from the start, he will find himself in troubled diplomatic waters. He will be a caretaker of perpetual crises and have to walk a tight tightrope between domestic political demands and those of his allies abroad. – Jerusalem Post

Herb Keinon writes: Were the JCPOA negotiations going strong, it is unlikely Netanyahu would be willing to engage with the US on these matters – just as was the case before and after the JCPOA was signed in 2015 – not wanting to give the deal any tacit Israeli legitimacy. Now with the deal dead, as Biden said, Netanyahu can work fully with the US on Iran. – Jerusalem Post 

Alan Dershowitz and Andrew Stein write: Only a joint approach by the Biden and Netanyahu governments can prevent Iran from endangering the world by arming itself with nuclear weapons. So let these leaders put aside any differences they have and work together for their common good — and the good of the entire planet. – New York Post 

Dalal Iriqat writes: If Netanyahu wants so badly a regional settlement and to combat Iran via a grand process of normalization, it would be a much bigger victory, and a genuine contribution to regional peace and security, to reach normalization with over 22 Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia – by finally achieving a just resolution of the always-simmering conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. – Haaretz


The Taliban has banned musical entertainment and singing for men in segregated wedding halls. […]Outside the high-tech fairy-tale setting, the Afghan capital remained firmly in the grip of a strict religious regime that has barred teenage girls from school, prohibited women from traveling without a male guardian, required them to wear shapeless Islamic robes in public and most recently banned them from all universities. – Washington Post

Armed soldiers preventing women from entering universities Wednesday provided new proof, not that any more was needed, that there is nothing new about the so-called new Taliban that took over following America’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Will a resumption of hosting international terrorists be next? – New York Sun 

The new year will see a new Congress, and one of the first orders of business for Republicans is to investigate the Biden administration for how it handled the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — an operation that saw a suicide bombing, and with it, the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and over 100 Afghans in its final few days. – Military.com 

Editorial: In a Tuesday press release, Mr. Blinken said the U.S. “condemns in the strongest terms” the Taliban’s “restrictions on the ability of women and girls in Afghanistan to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”[…]But the Taliban don’t care about joining the “international community.” They care about imposing strict Islamic law on the people of Afghanistan, which includes no education for girls. No matter Mr. Blinken’s distant rebuke, this was inevitable the minute Mr. Biden ordered the last American out of Kabul. – Wall Street Journal 

Shabana Basij-Rasikh writes: A new generation of Afghan women is being pushed off the pathway toward education and independence. The bright balloons that once filled our sky are punctured and falling to earth. These women and their hopes are allies against extremism that the world can’t afford to lose. See them, hear them, honor them. Don’t look away. – Washington Post

Zachary Faria writes: As a result, he stranded Americans in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, condemned our Afghan allies to their fates, got 13 U.S. troops killed, and launched a drone strike against civilians so that he could take a “righteous” victory lap. All the while, he misled or outright lied to everyone about what was happening and what was going to happen. Is it really any wonder why the Biden administration is worried about Republicans investigating this issue further? – Washington Examiner 

Noah Rothman writes: What progress has the terrorist outfit made in its effort to reconstitute itself and export its capabilities abroad? And have America’s vaunted “over-the-horizon” capabilities matured sufficiently in the interim to disrupt the organization in perpetuity?Maybe the administration can satisfy Republican investigators. Maybe not. But the American people deserve to know the answers to these and other questions about the national humiliation they were forced to witness. We’re fortunate that American voters saw fit to elect politicians who are even willing to ask them. – Commentary Magazine


Russia laid the groundwork on Wednesday for another fight over whether the U.N. Security Council should renew approval of humanitarian aid deliveries from Turkey to about 4 million people in northwestern Syria, which is due to expire on Jan. 10. – Reuters

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued an amnesty on Wednesday that pardons draft dodgers and helps them avoid prison if they report to duty within three to four months. Syrians who escaped the mandatory military service and are inside the country will have three months to turn themselves in, while those abroad will get four months. – Reuters

With the backing of Iran and Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime brutally crushed the rebellion and now controls about two thirds of the country but conflict, western sanctions and the collapse of neighbouring Lebanon’s banking system have brought the economy to the verge of collapse. – Financial Times


Turkey’s government and private companies are in talks with the US for purchases of small nuclear reactors, as the country looks to wean itself off coal. – Bloomberg 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In another recent provocation, Turkey claimed to send planes into Greek airspace as part of a NATO drill. […]This continues to erode the unity of NATO and makes it hard for democracies threatened by Moscow to join the alliance, which was specifically created to help Western democracies unite against authoritarian adversaries like Russia. – Jerusalem Post 

Michael Rubin writes: The best way to ensure peace is to raise the cost of war. The problem the White House must address is that it has convinced dictators they can act without cost. So long as Putin, Xi, or Erdogan believe themselves immune from the consequence of aggression, then an attack becomes more likely. The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean is growing more dangerous daily. The White House and Pentagon can no longer simply wish Erdogan’s arrogance and aggression away. It is time to swat the fly. – 19FortyFive


A flagship anti-corruption drive under the tenure of U.S.-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi used incommunicado detention, torture and sexual violence to extract confessions from senior Iraqi officials and businessmen, according to a nine-month investigation by The Washington Post. – Washington Post

Two soldiers were killed and three were injured in an explosion in northern Iraq, Iraqi state news said Thursday. – Associated Press 

Regional powers in the Middle East have underscored their solidarity with Iraq at the French-mediated Baghdad II summit in Jordan – an event designed to help Iraq rebuild after nearly two decades of war. – Agence France-Presse

Nawras Jaff writes: Nobody is certain what the future of this region holds, but the present reality in which parties are increasingly competing for their own interests rather than working together does not bode well for Kurdistan. To avoid even more drastic decisions and their serious consequences, the KDP and PUK must both put aside their differences for the good of the region. Instead of competing via Yellow and Green zones, the two parties must reframe their thinking on the idea of a singular, unified “Kurdistan Zone.” – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

20 young Israelis departed this week for Bahrain on a mission to promote positive diplomatic relations between the two nations. – Jerusalem Post

The Red Cross said Wednesday that it had conducted rare visits to thousands of prisoners on both sides of Yemen’s eight-year civil war, a step that could pave the way for an exchange of detainees between the rival parties. – Associated Press

Salem Alketbi writes: Riyadh, which will host two major US-China summits on Gulf Arab dialogue in six months, reflects Saudi Arabia’s growing international role. It confirms the existence of a new geostrategic reality that will undoubtedly help shape the new rules of the game in the future world order. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Morocco is hoping its unprecedented World Cup exploits can help it win friends and influence people, especially among an Arab public opposed to its 2020 rapprochement with Israel. – Agence France-Presse

A wounded Irish U.N. peacekeeper in Lebanon was transferred on Wednesday from a hospital to Beirut’s international airport to be medically evacuated to Ireland. – Associated Press

Israeli security officials are worriedly watching the latest developments in Jordan. At the moment the stability of the kingdom is not believed to be at risk, but the events of the past week show the difficulty that the royal house and the government in Amman are having with the combination of protests, violence and economic crisis. – Haaretz

Seth Crospey writes: President Biden seeks both a Ukrainian victory over Russia and expanded Iranian influence in the Middle East — two priorities that clash in Moscow’s growing dependence on Iran to wage war in Ukraine. Mr. Biden should decide which priority is greater. – The Hill 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The attack on the UN peacekeepers was extreme. It does not appear to have been an ordinary accident. People don’t usually spray a vehicle with gunfire and then hunt down the occupants, shoot at their windows and then shoot one dead. […]This was a murderous warning from Hezbollah. What was the message? To keep the UN from expanding its mandate? To make sure UN vehicles only pass where they have coordinated, so that Hezbollah’s actions are never seen? – Jerusalem Post

Ahmed Charai writes: Arabs and Jews were celebrating side-by-side with no one staging it for the world’s cameras. This should give us hope that the Abraham Accords, which enabled four Arab nations, including Morocco, to diplomatically recognize Israel, can succeed. – Jerusalem Post  

David Kirichenko writes: Both Ukraine and the West have a lot of work to do in reversing Russian influence. Continued diplomatic efforts from the United States will be vital in this process, as Africa’s importance and economic strength continue to grow. Morocco’s military aid — if confirmed — is an important win, but much, much more needs to be done. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Korean Peninsula

South Korea and the United States are considering staging their first large-scale joint live-fire demonstration in six years in 2023 amid North Korea’s growing military threats, Seoul’s defence ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters

The Western sanctions that followed the invasion of Ukraine have made it impossible for Russia to import what it needs. Foreign investors are staying away, thousands of the country’s elite have emigrated, and the price of its main export has sunk. President Vladimir Putin’s war has isolated his country. The great shut-off of its economy will accelerate in 2023, as Moscow moves closer to the North Korean economic model. – Reuters

Frank Aum writes: Despite his hard-line stance, Yoon has already recognized the need for a bolder appeal through incentives, having offered Kim an “audacious” plan that would provide significant economic and security incentives in exchange for denuclearization progress. But North Korea scoffed at the proposal, recognizing correctly that only Washington, not Seoul, can guarantee what Pyongyang really wants. The United States has an opportunity to offer something that is both truly audacious and in its own interests: a push for peace. – Foreign Affairs


Experts at the World Health Organization called on China to share thorough and reliable data, beyond the limited figures released so far, to allow global health officials to assess the scale of the country’s fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak. – Washington Post

In China, Russia and the United Kingdom, unmarked sheets of white paper have become a potent symbol of defiance. […]Demonstrators appeared in cities and on college campuses, criticizing Covid policies or even denouncing the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping. Many brandished a symbol of protest: plain, unmarked sheets of white paper. – New York Times

A close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met with China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, on Wednesday, a sign of the countries’ alignment amid Russia’s deepening international isolation. – New York Times

World Trade Organization arbitrators concluded Wednesday that the United States was out of line in requiring that products from Hong Kong be labeled as “Made in China,” a move that was part of Washington’s response to a crackdown on pro-democracy protests there in 2019-2020. – Associated Press

Tom Rogan writes: Just don’t expect Macron and Scholz to complain about this show of force against their democratic allies or its proof of their nonexistent security influence with Xi. When confronted with utterly shameless Chinese efforts to work with Russia to undermine democratic security, it’s always all quiet on the Franco-German front. – Washington Examiner 

Michael Barone writes: Economic damage from pandemic restrictions, it turns out, can’t be repaired the same way as economic damage from downward thrusts in the business cycle. Some surprises, such as the weakening of Russia and the chastening of China, are good news. But others, like America’s current economic conundrums, leave us puzzled and most likely unprepared for the surprises of 2023. – Washington Examiner

Jonah Goldberg writes: Sadly, I don’t think the Chinese regime is about to crumble any time soon, though I’m less gloomy about Russia or Iran. I do think they will all crumble eventually, because tyranny is not sustainable over the long haul—when there is a viable alternative available. This has been a good year for that alternative, because I think at the end of 2022, fewer people look around at authoritarianism in the real world and think: That’s the future I want to be part of. – The Dispatch


The U.N. Security Council approved its first-ever resolution on Myanmar on Wednesday, demanding an immediate end to violence in the Southeast Asian nation and urging its military rulers to release all “arbitrarily detained” prisoners including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to restore democratic institutions. – Associated Press

Japanese authorities are investigating a report from a human rights group that China has set up police offices in Japan, a top government spokesperson said on Thursday, following similar checks by European countries, the United States and Canada. – Reuters

Taiwan scrambled combat jets to warn away 39 Chinese aircraft that entered its southeastern air defence zone, the island’s defence ministry said on Thursday. Taiwan has complained of repeated missions by the Chinese air force over the last two years, often in southern areas of its air defence identification zone, or ADIZ. – Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged congratulatory messages with his Australian counterpart to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, the latest sign of warming ties between the two major trade partners. Bloomberg 

China’s military sent 39 planes and three ships toward Taiwan in a 24-hour display of force directed at the island, Taiwan’s defense ministry said Thursday. – Associated Press

But now Tokyo is in talks with Washington to acquire Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles that can be launched from submarines and can strike targets deep inside China, reports say. The NSS also talks about extending the range of indigenous ground-launch missiles for strikes across the East China Sea. – Military.com 

But Taipei will have to settle for U.S.-backed loans instead of grants next year after losing out on a behind-the-scenes Capitol Hill battle. The FY 23 omnibus spending bill that Congress released on Tuesday stipulates that the assistance must come in the form of loans – at least for the next fiscal year. Taiwan would be required to pay back the loans within a 12-year period. – Defense News 

Editorial: Japan, a close ally, is moving to join the U.S. in actively confronting the most profound threat to international security since at least the end of the Cold War. It is moving in ways that go beyond rhetoric and posturing. Tokyo is showing that should the fight come, America will not stand alone. – Washington Examiner 

Hal Brands writes: US-Australian teamwork is the key to the democratic world’s fight for influence in the South Pacific. In September, President Joe Biden hosted a summit with the region’s leaders and announced a Pacific Partnership Strategy meant to enhance America’s diplomatic, economic and security. But due to proximity, Australia has the greater local knowledge of the South Pacific and the greater interest in keeping autocratic rivals out. That challenge has a familiar feel given Australia’s history, and is taking on new relevance amid China’s rise. – Bloomberg


Hungary’s prime minister thinks it’s time to “drain the swamp” in the European Union, he said on Wednesday, something he imagines could lead all the way to dissolving the bloc’s legislature. – Associated Press

Albania has purchased three Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones, the model that is becoming increasingly popular after its use by the Ukrainian forces against Russian invaders, the government press office said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Belarus issued a ruling on Wednesday temporarily restricting access to parts of the southeastern Gomel region that borders Ukraine and Russia. The government said on its website it would “temporarily restrict entry, temporary stay and movement in the border zone within the Loevsky, Braginsky and Khoiniki districts of the Gomel region”. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Belarus this week escalated concerns that he is seeking to drag the country into his war in Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine have acknowledged they are expecting a long fight, and Putin’s high-profile trip to Minsk to meet Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko underscored the country’s role as a border state to both countries. – The Hill 

Fresh worries are coming from Moldova, just as President Putin’s botched land grab in Ukraine should be serving as a wake-up call to Moscow that its belligerence is a bust. – New York Sun 

Romania’s state-owned defense company Romtehnica, acting as a representative of the country’s Ministry of National Defence, has signed a framework agreement with Israel’s Elbit Systems to buy up to seven Watchkeeper X drones. – Defense News


For a year and a half, phone calls to people trying to survive one of the world’s worst wars didn’t go through. Now, as phone lines start to be restored to parts of Ethiopia’s Tigray region after a fragile peace deal, some Tigrayans are relieved while others grieve. – Associated Press

International pressure is growing on Rwanda as France and Germany are the latest parties to openly accuse the country of supporting armed rebels in neighboring eastern Congo — with possible repercussions for foreign aid that Kigali has long enjoyed. – Associated Press

 Philippe Benoit and Bayo Oyewole write: What might Africa look like 20 years from now? A real possibility is a 2.4 billion-person continent with significantly diminished poverty and a large and growing middle class that can provide a vibrant economic partner for the U.S. To achieve this, a strong partnership between the U.S. and Africa is key and in the interest of both their peoples. – The Hill

The Americas

But this year, doors have begun to close for artists from Cuba and other countries facing U.S. sanctions because key NFT trading sites have gradually blocked them from doing business on their platforms, often with little or no explanation. – Associated Press 

The U.N.’s deputy secretary-general urged every country “with capacity” to urgently consider the Haitian government’s request for an international armed force to help restore security and alleviate a humanitarian crisis in the Caribbean nation, which is in “a deepening crisis of unprecedented scale and complexity that is cause for serious alarm.” – Associated Press 

Mexico plans to ask U.S. President Joe Biden for as much as $48 billion in financing for solar projects, Foreign Relations Secretary Marcel Ebrard said Tuesday. – Associated Press

Long War

Three people, including two police officers, were killed Wednesday morning in an attack by al-Shabab extremists in northern Kenya, Kenyan police have announced. – Associated Press

An Ivory Coast prosecutor Wednesday urged life in jail for four suspects over one of West Africa’s bloodiest jihadist attacks — a 2016 machine-gun assault on a beach resort that killed 19. – Agence France-Presse

Raffaello Pantucci writes: These things tend not to come out of the blue. But trying to divine where the next hazards may emerge requires careful observation, assessment and attention. While there was clearly a need to adjust the terrorist threat response given the growing state-based threats, the concern now is whether we are going too far the other way — especially when the picture is so confusing. […]Any reduction in resources, therefore, must be carefully thought through. Re-evaluating the risk is fine — forgetting it entirely is not. – Financial Times