Fdd's overnight brief

December 23, 2022

In The News


Iranian border guards discovered the gray box in a van crossing from Iraq in late October. Inside was a sleek machine resembling a monitor. But after questioning the driver, the guards waved the vehicle through, people involved said. – Wall Street Journal

Nationwide protests sparked by the death in custody of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini have ushered Iran into a new era of deepening crisis between the clerical leadership and society at large. – Reuters 

Shahid Alikhani square is a nondescript part of the historic Iranian city of Isfahan. Its sole claim to prominence is the grand entrance to one of the city’s main metro stations. But now it has become a place of pilgrimage for supporters of the high-profile Iranian footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani who fear the young man could be executed in the square, where an execution platform has been installed, a witness close to Nasr-Azadani in Iran told CNN. – CNN 

Iran on Thursday took a swing at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy over comments he made to Congress this week and denied accusations that Tehran has supplied Russia with drones. – Fox News 

Iranian protesters have staged fresh demonstrations by taking to the streets and the graves of victims of the government crackdown to protest during a night that is traditionally an ancient festival to mark the winter solstice. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry claimed that it had arrested four operational teams working for Israel’s Mossad on Thursday, in its latest in a series of claims concerning alleged Mossad operatives in the country. – Jerusalem Post

Iran is working to tighten its defense relationship with Russia and to continue to supply it with advanced weaponry, Mossad chief David Barnea warned on Thursday. Russia has made extensive use of Iranian drones in attacks against civilian targets in Ukraine in recent months. – Jerusalem Post

Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Johanna Moore, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Social media accounts have reported that Iranian security forces have begun violently killing and mass arresting citizens in Izeh, Khuzestan Province since December 21 […] At least three protests occurred in three cities across two provinces on December 22. – Institute for the Study of War 

Zachary Coles writes: At least two factors are likely contributing to this phenomenon. Tehran and Esfahan are among Iran’s most populous provinces and may thus have a greater number of protesters living there. This protest movement has resonated particularly among the Iranian Kurdish communities in Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan provinces. Mahsa Amini herself was a Kurd born in Saghez, Kurdistan Province. – Institute for the Study of War 

Gerta Zaimi writes: Going forward, Iran’s attacks on Albania can be expected to continue but probably at a lower intensity. This is mainly because Iranian intelligence has lost much of its presence on the ground following the closure of the IRI embassy — a presence built up and cultivated over three decades and one that local proxy networks cannot replace. The main weapon left in Tehran’s hands is, thus, hacking and sabotage of national computer networks. – Middle East Institute  

Russia & Ukraine

Europe, home to some of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers, is struggling to produce enough ammunition for Ukraine and for itself, jeopardizing NATO’s defense capacity and its support for Kyiv, officials and industry leaders say. – Wall Street Journal

Explosions in a Russian-occupied city in eastern Ukraine killed two people and injured a prominent Russian nationalist and a Moscow-appointed leader in what Russian officials called a Ukrainian attack directed by informants. – Wall Street Journal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Congress in a joint meeting showcased the divide between Republicans who want to support the beleaguered nation’s fight against Russia and those who have become increasingly critical of the billions in aid money the U.S. is sending.  – Wall Street Journal

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s triumphant visit to Washington ended with promises of billions more in U.S. support for Ukraine, but not what he wanted most: American battle tanks, fighter jets and long-range precision missiles. – New York Times

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s unannounced trip to Washington on Wednesday buoyed morale back home in Ukraine, where millions have been plunged into darkness and cold from Russian missile strikes that have knocked out power as winter sets in. – New York Times

President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, tried on Thursday to defuse suspicions that recent military moves inside his country could presage a new ground offensive aimed at Ukraine. – New York Times

After nearly 10 months of war, but referring to the brutal invasion of Ukraine instead as “a special military operation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday finally called it a “war” for the first time, setting off an uproar among antiwar Russians who have been prosecuted for merely challenging the Kremlin-approved euphemism. – Washington Post

Throughout Mariupol, Russian workers are tearing down bombed-out buildings at a rate of at least one a day, hauling away shattered bodies with the debris. – Associated Press

A former Russian deputy prime minister and a pro-Moscow official were injured when Ukrainian forces shelled the eastern city of Donetsk on Wednesday, Russian news agencies said. – Reuters

As Russian cruise missiles sped towards their target this month, a Ukrainian pilot gave chase in an old Soviet MiG-29 fighter jet and locked onto two of them, but could not take the shot: they were nearing a large town and it was too risky. – Reuters

“The situation on the frontline has stabilized and the main efforts of our troops are now focused on completing the liberation of the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” General Gerasimov said. […]While deepening ties between Moscow and Beijing are of broader concern, the battle theater in eastern Ukraine and what a pivot there portends will have a determining factor in the course of the war. – New York Sun 

Ukraine’s government committed to steps to take in the coming weeks to access billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund, according to a memorandum signed by both sides. – Bloomberg

The Kremlin criticized the outcome of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s visit to Washington and warned that Russia would continue to target weaponry supplied to Ukraine by the US and its allies. – Bloomberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Kremlin is working to ready what he previously described as the world’s “most powerful” warhead, the intercontinental ballistic Satan II missile, for “combat duty” as the war in Ukraine rages on. – Fox News 

Much of the world has watched the war in Ukraine unfold with horror for ten months, but to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it wasn’t a “war” at all — at least until this week. Putin on Thursday publicly acknowledged the situation as a “war” for the first time since the invasion was launched in February. – Business Insider 

Editorial: Many of the same Republicans sneering at Mr. Zelensky will claim the U.S. needs to abandon Ukraine to focus on China. But Beijing and Moscow are working together to undermine the West. The best step the U.S. could take to deter another assault like Mr. Putin’s is delivering to Ukraine more of the best long-range weapons, aircraft, missiles, tanks and other tools it needs to defeat the invasion. – Wall Street Journal

David Brooks writes: Finally, Zelensky reminded us that while the authoritarians of the world have shown they can amass power, there is something vital they lack: a vision of a society that preserves human dignity, which inspires people to fight and binds people to one another. – New York Times

David Ignatius writes: At some point next year, the tension beneath the surface in this war summit will have to be addressed. There will need to be greater clarity and convergence on what Ukrainian success looks like, short of “absolute victory.” But for now, let’s take Zelensky’s formula: “Victory, only victory.” – Washington Post

Jon Sweet and Mark Toth write: What are we missing? Does Putin have a Christmas surprise for Ukraine and the West while President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a Bakhmut battle flag to the White House? If Belarus is a deception, it certainly is very believable. Something is amiss, and it is up to the intelligence community to shed light on Putin’s next move. – Washington Examiner

Ilan I. Berman writes: In other words, Russian media — even in exile — can provide an authenticity and credibility that Western outreach simply can’t. But in order for it to survive, and thrive, it needs to be actively nurtured by the West. – Politico 

Kateryna Stepanenko, Riley Bailey, George Barros, Madison Williams, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to refuse to treat Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as an equal and sovereign counterpart, further indicating that he is not interested in serious negotiations with Ukraine. […]Ukrainian partisans continued to target Russian occupation authorities. – Institute for the Study of War 

Sam Greene writes: By delivering the Bakhmut battle flag to Congress, Zelenskyy reminded Washington in general — and McCarthy in particular — of what is at stake. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Giana Pirolli writes: The Russo-Ukrainian war certainly laid bare some real faults in Euro-Atlantic security organizations, yet they still have purpose and strength. After all, if NATO does not matter, why would Sweden and Finland choose to become members? Younger Ukrainians thus realize that their own country must carefully consider all the benefits and downfalls of joining the Alliance. – Middle East Institute  

Tom Nichols writes: In the end, Zelensky made the case that Ukraine is the main front in a global fight. He’s right. Vladimir Putin is counting on America and NATO to tire and to falter. It is up to us to prove him wrong, and to warn the other dictators on the planet that they will never extinguish human liberty while America and its allies in this great battle—including Ukraine—are still standing. – The Atlantic 

Anne Applebaum writes: Because of everything that all of us did together, Kyiv still stands. Ukrainians still control most of Ukraine. The massacres, the executions, the mass violence planned by the Russians did not take place in most of Ukraine. The legend of Russia’s military prowess has been shattered. […]Zelensky came to Washington to thank Americans on behalf of Ukraine, but in truth, it is we who should be thanking them. – The Atlantic 


Israeli soldiers accused of harming Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip over the last five years have been indicted in less than 1% of the hundreds of complaints against them, an Israeli rights group reported. The watchdog argued that Israel’s military systematically fails to conduct a credible prosecution of itself. – Associated Press

A member of Israel’s Arab minority lured police into an ambush and was shot dead by police officers on Friday, the force said, describing the incident as terrorism. – Reuters

American agita is growing about what is widely described as the coming “most right wing government in Israel’s history.” At Washington, a deep schism between President Biden and Mr. Netanyahu is widely predicted, at times all too gleefully. Is it that bad? – New York Sun

US Central Command head, General Michael “Erik” Kurilla‏‏, said on Thursday that the US “Iranian drones are a threat in the region.” – Jerusalem Post

Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night announced his success in forming a government with his far-right and ultra-Orthodox allies, but still needs to finalize coalition agreements with his intended partners. – Times of Israel

Presumptive incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to advance policies to annex portions of the West Bank, as part of a coalition understanding reached just before midnight Wednesday with the Religious Zionist Party (RZP). – Jerusalem Post 

A European Parliament has recently adopted a resolution “strongly condemning” the Palestinian Authority for incitement to violence and antisemitism in its school textbooks. – Ynet

A member of the Hamas terror group was killed as Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen in the northern West Bank early Thursday. – Times of Israel

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar said on a December 12, 2022 show on Al-Masirah TV (Houthis-Yemen) that Hamas has reached a “phase of deterrence” in which it can “defend” occupied Palestine. He also added that after the “Battle of the Promise of the Hereafter,” there will be no oppression, no Zionism, and no “treacherous Christianity.” – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Mark Regev writes: Israel’s policy is nuanced, but it cannot be labeled as neutral. Jerusalem aims to support Kyiv within parameters that avert shattering avenues of communication with the Kremlin. This strategy seeks to protect Israel’s national security interests, but it also serves the larger global good. – Jerusalem Post

David M. Weinberg writes: Raw antisemitism in Ramallah is the real “extremism” that encourages Palestinian youth to kill Israelis. State Department evenhandedness that is tantamount to blind bias against Israel is the real “extremism” that fuels the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. – Jerusalem Post

Ophir Falk writes: Disgruntled diplomats and journalists should respect Israel’s democracy and refrain from inciting against the only democracy in the region. The muck of obliviousness and slander should be overrun with unrelenting advocacy for a just peace based on historical truths. – Jerusalem Post 

Matthew Continetti writes: In early December, Secretary of State Blinken spoke to the anti-Israel group J Street and pledged his commitment to expanding the circle of peace encompassing Israel and her Arab neighbors. “Integrating Israel,” Blinken said, “also means continuing to fight for Israel to be treated the same way as every other nation—no more, no less.” Maybe he should tell that to the FBI. – Commentary Magazine 



Lebanese investigators have identified suspects in the fatal shooting of an Irish United Nations peacekeeper whose vehicle came under fire earlier this month, a judicial official told AFP on Thursday. […]Wafic Safa, Hezbollah’s security chief, has said the killing was “unintentional.” – Agence France-Presse 

Alleged Israeli airstrikes targeted a site belonging to Hezbollah’s drone development unit at the al-Qusayr airport in Syria near the border with Lebanon on Sunday, the Saudi Al-Arabiya channel reported on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

However, despite the efforts of Hizbullah officials to deny any involvement by the organization, articles in the Lebanese press insisted that Hizbullah had been responsible for it and for the death of the Irish soldier […] When it was passed this resolution sparked furious reactions from Hizbullah officials, who called it “a grave development that transforms [UNIFIL] into an occupying force.” – Middle East Media Research Institute  


The minister of higher education in the Taliban government on Thursday defended his decision to ban women from universities — a decree that had triggered a global backlash. – Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said that the Taliban are trying to sentence Afghanistan’s women “to a dark future without opportunity” by banning them from attending universities. – Reuters

Gender persecution may amount to a crime against humanity, said a statement by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday on behalf of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations’ foreign ministers. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia and Turkey became the latest Muslim-majority countries to condemn a decision by Taliban authorities to bar women from universities, while about two dozen women staged a protest in the streets of Kabul on Thursday. – Associated Press



Talks between Sweden and Turkey are progressing well and Stockholm hopes Ankara will ratify the Nordic country’s NATO application well before an alliance summit in July, Sweden’s foreign minister said on Thursday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a call on Thursday with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, thanked Ankara’s efforts to ensure continuation of the UN-brokered Black Sea grain initiative, the State Department said. – Reuters

Two Turkish military planes that were stuck in Ukraine since Russia invaded the Eastern European country 10 months ago are finally home. – Business Insider 


The World Bank’s executive board has approved $500 million in development financing for Egypt to expand its social safety net and protection programme in the face of global economic pressures filtering through to the country’s economy, the international cooperation minister said on Friday. – Reuters

Egypt’s central bank hiked overnight interest rates by a greater-than-expected 300 basis points on Thursday, warning that inflationary pressures were building. – Reuters

Egypt’s Suez Canal welcomes foreign investment but foreigners would have no control over the waterway or over a proposed fund that would help to manage its resources, the head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Gulf States

German utility Uniper (UN01.DE) on Thursday said it was involved in a project with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) clean energy company Masdar to produce green hydrogen. – Reuters 

That rift is real. Around the world, “autocracy is making gains against democracy”, as the human rights non-profit Freedom House put it. Yet the rift between democracy and autocracy that Edelman rightly identified has not stopped his company from signing at least $9.6m (£7.9m) worth of contracts over the past four years with one of the world’s richest autocracies: the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. – The Guardian 

Leonardo Jacopo Maria Mazzucco writes: With the Gulf worryingly approaching insecurity onshore and offshore, Oman’s ambition to act as a go-between will face a new stress test. […]As fissures between them grow larger, it would be increasingly painful for Muscat to find a working formula to reconcile centrifugal pressures. Should the Gulf enter more turbulent waters and underlying geopolitical frictions take a turn for the worse, Oman might have a hard time abiding by its traditional balancing posture and be induced to make unprecedented tough choices. – Washington Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Lebanon Friday to “get rid” of politicians who have for months blocked sweeping reforms vital to bailing out its stricken economy. – Agence France-Presse  

Tucked away in the hills north of Beirut below a Maronite monastery, Lebanon’s only remaining Christian-majority Palestinian camp gives few outward clues to its identity. Unlike the country’s other Palestinian refugee camps, there are no flags or political slogans on display in Dbayeh camp. – Associated Press

The top US commander in the Middle East said he’s “very concerned” about a possible Turkish incursion into Kurdish—controlled parts of Syria, warning such a move might mean the release of Islamic State prisoners. – Bloomberg

The local court in Abu Dhabi issued a fine on Thursday of 65,000 dirhams, which is equivalent to roughly NIS 58,000, to Israeli citizen Nachman Gabai who has been accused of assaulting police officers at the airport. – Jerusalem Post

Eric R. Mandel writes: It would behoove the Biden administration not to wait until it is too late and to use its highest-ranking diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to persuade Iran to stop using the Beirut airport for weapons transfers. Assuming Iran gave its approval to Hezbollah for the maritime deal, diplomacy might accomplish this. – The Hill  

Andrew J. Tabler and Erik Yavorsky write: If Washington facilitates emergency fuel shipments to Syria, it should do so in a manner that does not expand normalization with the Assad regime, whose abuses are only getting worse […] By carefully leveraging the energy crisis, Washington could show Syrians that it cares about their fate—while simultaneously signaling Assad and his Russian patrons that he cannot restore full sovereignty over Syrian territory, so a negotiated settlement is his only way out of the ongoing collapse. – Washington Institute  

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has sent a large arms delivery to the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary force whose influence and operations in Ukraine are growing, according to the Biden administration. – Wall Street Journal

Amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, the rising demand for arms among Western countries has presented an unprecedented opportunity for South Korea’s defense industry to become a top arms seller and global player. – Washington Post

North Korea fired two ballistic missiles towards the sea off its east coast on Friday, the South Korean military said, the latest in an unprecedented number of missile tests this year. – Reuters

North Korean hackers have stolen an estimated 1.5 trillion won ($1.2 billion) in cryptocurrency and other virtual assets in the past five years, more than half of it this year alone, South Korea’s spy agency said Thursday. – Associated Press

South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Friday it condemns North Korea’s arms shipment to a private Russian military company, the Wagner Group, adding it supports the United States’ push to raise the issue at the U.N. Security Council. – Reuters

North Korea’s foreign ministry denied a media report it supplied munitions to Russia, calling it “groundless”, and denounced the United States for providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported on Friday. – Reuters


Chinese imports of semiconductor-making equipment plunged in November, as U.S. export controls aimed at slowing Beijing’s technological advancement took a bite. – Wall Street Journal

The Senate Finance Committee has opened an inquiry into whether auto makers including Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co. are using parts and materials made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese chemical companies are making more ingredients for illegal fentanyl than ever. Strained relations between Beijing and Washington are undermining efforts to stop the flow. – Wall Street Journal

Russian and Chinese warships on Thursday practiced joint action in the East China Sea, continuing a series of drills that reflect a growing defense cooperation between the two countries. – Associated Press

China has sanctioned two U.S. citizens in retaliation for action taken by Washington over human rights abuses in Tibet, the government said Friday, amid a continuing standoff between the sides over Beijing’s treatment of religious and ethnic minorities. – Associated Press

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang praised the Hong Kong government’s efforts in revitalizing the economy as it rolls back COVID-19 restrictions, in a meeting on Thursday with the territory’s leader in Beijing. – Associated Press

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Chinese counterpart that it was important for Beijing to be transparent about a growing Covid-19 outbreak, as questions mount about whether Chinese officials are trying to downplay the number of deaths. – Bloomberg

Adrian Wooldridge writes: Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated how dependent Europe is on Russian energy. Moscow’s energy weapon may yet bring down Western governments. Xi has abandoned his zero Covid policy in the light of mass uprisings, suggesting that he is capable of flexibility when his back is up against the wall. […] Let’s not give up hope: the liberal world order is still infinitely more appealing than conservative populism. – Bloomberg

Bradley A. Thayer writes: From a strategic perspective, there is no amount of safe trade in high-tech with China. Indeed, the right amount is zero. As the Biden’s administration “China House” and trade restrictions demonstrate, strategy, not finance, must govern U.S. relations with the CCP. That is true for U.S. firms as well. – The Hill 

Grant Rumley, Carol Silber, Eric Feely, Sarah Cahn, Sude Akgundogdu, Lauren von Thaden, and Faris Almaari write: Xi’s trip had three major dialogue tracks: with Saudi Arabia, the GCC, and the broader collective of Arab states. […]In contrast, the final communique of the China-Arab summit emphasized the “firm commitment of the Arab countries to the principle of one China,” the view that “Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory,” the rejection of “Taiwan’s ‘independence’ in all its forms,” and support for “the Chinese position in the Hong Kong file.” – Washington Institute 

South Asia

A suicide car bombing at a checkpoint in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad on Friday killed one police official and injured several others, police said. – Reuters

A key ally of Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan was removed on Friday as chief minister of the country’s largest province, dealing blow to Khan’s plans to force snap polls in the South Asian nation. – Reuters

Sadanand Dhume writes: In the long term, an overreliance on Hindu nationalist support risks turning Israel into a partisan issue in India. For now, though, India-Israel relations are on a firmer footing than ever before. It will take more than a few tart comments about a movie to change that. – Wall Street Journal

Akhil Ramesh and Samir Kalra write: At 75, India finally sits at the high table, not as a Western power but as a leader in the Global South. Time will tell if the “Hawaii to Himalayas” relationship has room for that divergence and if the U.S. will take a more egalitarian approach to world affairs, humbling itself to engage the Global South on equal terms. – The Hill 


Three Cabinet ministers from Myanmar attended an informal regional meeting in Thailand’s capital on Thursday to discuss efforts to restore peace in the military-run country, Thai officials said. – Associated Press

Indian and Chinese military commanders met in yet another attempt to end a more-than-two-year-old standoff between tens of thousands of their soldiers along their disputed border that triggered bloody clashes in 2020, an Indian Defense Ministry statement said on Thursday. – Associated Press

Australia is eyeing India’s burgeoning middle class to help offset the economic damage wrought to some of its major exports by the twin headwinds of Covid-19 and heavy restrictions imposed by its biggest trade partner, China. – Bloomberg

The Philippine Department of Defense said it ordered the military to strengthen its presence in the South China Sea, the latest sign of tensions between the Southeast Asian nation and China in the disputed waters. – Bloomberg

Narendra Modi is under growing pressure over a high-altitude scuffle between Indian and Chinese troops in the Himalayas, as opposition parties demand to know how the prime minister plans to deter Beijing from further border confrontations. – Financial Times

Fiji’s Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) said on Friday it had voted to form a coalition with two other parties to dislodge Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, signalling an end to the former military leader’s 16 years in power. – Reuters

Australia welcomes the democratic process that has taken place in Fiji and stands ready to work with whoever forms the new government, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday, adding that the process has been orderly. – Reuters

The breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is running short of food due to a blockade now well into its second week, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was quoted as saying on Thursday, blaming Azerbaijan. – Reuters

Russia accused Japan on Thursday of abandoning decades of pacifist policy and embracing “unbridled militarization”, responding to a $320-billion defence plan announced by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week. – Reuters 

Svante E. Cornell writes: Heads of State from Japan, India, Turkey, and South Korea have all visited Central Asia in recent years, showing their understanding of the region’s growing importance. In October, the European Union raised its own level of interaction with Central Asia to the same level. Meanwhile, Central Asia has never been visited by a U.S. President. The sooner this changes, the sooner America will be able to truly confront Russian and Chinese influence in one of the world’s most critical regions. – 19FortyFive 


German authorities said on Thursday they had detained an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency on suspicion of spying for Russia. – Wall Street Journal

Nearly 10 months into Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, with temperatures dropping and the cost of power soaring, Europeans are being pushed to lower their settings. For some, it is a desperate bid to cut exorbitant heating bills to make the rent. For others, it is a point of pride: to ensure that Europe doesn’t face fuel shortages this winter, or to symbolically stick it to Russian President Vladimir Putin. – Washington Post

More than nine years after Croatia became the European Union’s newest member, the country is on a roll to make the most of its status as the EU member in the Balkans. – Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday met his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda for nearly two hours of talks during his trip home from the United States. – Reuters

The Greek prime minister on Thursday offered his country’s full support to neighboring Albania’s further integration efforts with the European Union. – Associated Press

Bulgaria’s only nuclear plant on Thursday signed a deal with Westinghouse Electric Sweden to provide nuclear fuel for one of its reactors, in a bid to diversify its energy supplies, – Associated Press

Aaron Allen writes: This should include a reevaluation of current trade arrangements, capital for needed infrastructure projects for member states, and diplomatic efforts to garner support for a more economically independent Europe. Germany’s first National Security Strategy, to be released in the coming months, will be a good starting point for clarifying the current coalition government’s approach to Sino-German relations. The question now is will it live up to the moment? – Center for European Policy Analysis 


Burkina Faso’s government expelled two French nationals accusing them of espionage, the state broadcaster has announced. – Associated Press

A coalition of armed groups in northern Mali on Thursday pulled out of long-running peace talks based on a 2015 Algiers accord because of what they call a lack of political will on the part of the West African country’s military government. – Reuters 

Proposals to restructure Zambia’s debts are yet to be discussed with bilateral creditors under the multilateral Common Framework process, Zambia’s finance ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Nigeria’s central bank on Wednesday substantially increased limits it had set on weekly cash withdrawals as part of an effort to curb the use of cash. – Reuters

The Americas

Congress gave final approval on Thursday to a bill to expand the U.S. government’s power to prosecute international war crimes suspects who are in the United States, allowing them to be tried in a federal court regardless of the nationality of the victim or the perpetrator, or where the crime was committed. – New York Times

Hundreds of migrants bundled in coats and blankets formed a long line in cold winter air at the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday, hoping the Christmas period will bring an end to uncertainty over their hopes of securing asylum in the United States. – Reuters

James M. Taylor writes: If energy policymakers don’t stop soon, they risk turning the United States into a European “green” energy nightmare. That’s the last thing Americans want or deserve. Congressional leaders on both sides of the political aisle should take heed of the clear European warning signs before it’s too late and American citizens are left in the dark. – Fox News 


Latin America

Venezuela’s political opposition to the ruling Socialists voted on Thursday by a wide margin to remove the interim government led by Juan Guaido, as they seek a united front ahead of presidential elections tentatively scheduled for 2024. – Reuters

A Venezuelan man has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the May murder of a Paraguayan prosecutor in Colombia, Venezuela’s interior minister said on Thursday. – Reuters

Chile plans to open an embassy in the Palestinian territories, President Gabriel Boric said late on Wednesday, which could make the Andean country one of only a handful to have an embassy-level office in the territories that are contested with Israel. – Reuters



TikTok parent ByteDance Ltd. said Thursday that its employees improperly accessed the user data of two journalists on the social media service, according to several emails sent by company leaders to employees on Thursday. – Wall Street Journal 

Twitter Inc’s public policy chief has left the company amid additional layoffs to the unit on Thursday, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, as billionaire owner Elon Musk continues to slash costs. – Reuters

There are few things the fractious community of cybersecurity experts and researchers can agree on. One of the rare exceptions is the need for more widespread use of software bills of materials, or SBOMs, a tool that lists the components of a given piece of software. – CyberScoop

Clare Morell writes: All that could change though, as reports reveal the deal has recently stalled, with his administration at odds over whether to force the Chinese owner of TikTok to divest from its U.S. operations. […]Or at the very least, Biden’s administration should issue an order requiring ByteDance to sell its U.S. TikTok operations to an American company or set it up as a standalone company. Our national security and the health and safety of our children depend on it. – Fox News 


The U.S. military is considering training Ukrainians to operate its Patriot missile defense system on U.S. soil. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. Department of the Air Force considers 5G a promising avenue for communication — but far from the only one — on future battlefields, amid a Pentagon-wide push to keep forces connected across vast distances. – Defense News

Chris Frye writes: The DoD’s supply chain is under immense pressure, and defense leaders have an opportunity to incorporate, wherever possible, the benefits of the JIC methodology. This does not mean saying goodbye to JIT efficiency and cost savings; it means leveraging the best of both models to strengthen national defense and meet the demands of an increasingly unpredictable world. – Defense News

Long War

Suspected Islamic State militants ambushed a military patrol in northern Iraq late Wednesday, killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding three others, Iraqi security officials said, in the latest sign that the group is attempting a violent resurgence. – Wall Street Journal

Khalil al-Hayya, a member of the political bureau of the Hamas terrorist organization, warns against the new Israeli government’s activities in relation to the Temple Mount. – Arutz Sheva

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the terrorist wing of the Fatah organization, praised the terrorists who confronted IDF soldiers as they were securing the entrance of Jewish worshipers to Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus) overnight Wednesday. – Arutz Sheva