Fdd's overnight brief

December 27, 2022

In The News


After the events of that day, Ghare-Hassanlou faces a death sentence — handed down amid a spate of harsh rulings that human rights advocates say have been dispensed without due process, in an apparent effort to quell the country’s ongoing protest movement. – Washington Post

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards arrested seven people with links to Britain on Sunday, including some who held dual nationality, over anti-government protests that have rocked the country, according to a statement published by state media. – Reuters

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Monday that the company is now close to having 100 active Starlinks, the firm’s satellite internet service, in Iran, three months after he tweeted he would activate the service there amid protests around the Islamic country. – Reuters

Iran’s Supreme Court has accepted an appeal by rapper Saman Seydi Yasin against his death sentence even as it confirmed the same sentence against another protester, the judiciary said on Saturday. – Reuters

Iranian authorities rerouted a flight bound for Dubai on Monday and prevented the wife and daughter of former national soccer team captain Ali Daei, who has supported anti-government protests, from leaving the country, state media reported. – Reuters

Iran issued a statement directed at Volodymyr Zelensky after the Ukrainian president accused the regime of supplying Russia with drones. – Washington Examiner

A top Ukrainian presidential aide called for the “liquidation” of Iranian factories making drones and missiles, as well as the arrest of their suppliers, as Kyiv accused Tehran of planning to supply more weapons to Russia. – Reuters

Iran’s chief prosecutor has warned women who have rejected wearing a hijab while participating in recent nationwide anti-government demonstrations to follow the country’s mandatory head scarf law “for their own safety and health.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Jadi Mirmirani, considered to be one of Iran’s leading technologists and a defender of digital rights, has said that he has been sentenced to six years in prison for comments he posted on social media. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Iran’s top general has said that Western claims its drones are being used by Russia against Ukraine show the ‘effectiveness’ of Tehran’s unmanned aerial vehicles, Iranian media reported Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

Iran on Monday blasted Britain’s “non-constructive role” a day after the Islamic Republic announced the arrest of a UK-linked “network” involved in the three-month protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death. – Agence France-Presse 

Germany said it’s suspending trade-promotion programs for Iran, citing the “very serious situation” in the country. – Bloomberg

A former top defense official and Mossad intelligence chief warned Saturday that Iran was closer than ever to being able to produce weapons-grade uranium, and that Israel was capable of striking Tehran’s nuclear program even if not backed by the United States to do so. – Times of Israel

An explosion in a paint factory in the Shahid Salimi Industrial Area in the Iranian city of Tabriz on Monday evening has resulted in at least 50 injured, and possibly more, according to Iranian state media outlet Tasnim. – Jerusalem Post

14 Iranian fishermen were released from the captivity of the al-Shabaab militant organization, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by the US State Department, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Protests continued across Iran for the 100th day on Saturday, as the Iranian government continued to escalate its crackdown on protests, issuing additional death sentences against protesters and restricting internet access. – Jerusalem Post

Ehud Eilam writes: All in all, Israel and the US have to do their best not only to delay Iran’s nuclear program but also to encourage and assist the Iranian opposition in its heroic battle to topple the evil regime there. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The end result, the report says, is that Iran has now sought to create an “integrated missile network” that will be very important for the region, putting it “under the umbrella of the integrated missile and drone network of Iran and its allies, and a new challenge will arise for America and its regional supporters.” This is the main point of the article, suggesting that Iran has knit together the missiles that are used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Hezbollah’s missiles, and those in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. – Jerusalem Post

Micah Halpern writes: Fast forward to 2022, almost 2023. Suppose these protests continue to grow and as of now, they show no signs of dissipating. In that case, the Mahsa Amini-Inspired Protests of 2022 may be signaling the early stages of an Iranian revolution. Realistically speaking, until now, there has been no sign of the leadership splintering or even flinching as a result of the massive protests. – Jerusalem Post

Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Dana Alexander Gray, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Protest coordinators and organizations are encouraging citizens to demonstrate more regularly and spontaneously rather than awaiting planned protests. These protest coordinators and organizations are likely trying to reverse a natural consequence of the growing cohesion within the movement. Protest coordinators and organizations are continuing their efforts to cause a fiscal crisis for the regime and disrupt the transportation sector. Mounting economic issues could drive further protest activity in turn, creating a self-reinforcing cycle. – Institute for the Study of War

Javad Heiran-Nia writes:  For this reason, Iran-China ties have not produced any substantive benefits for Iran. China may offer supportive political stances in its declared opposition to U.S. sanctions, but Beijing has actually acted differently by adhering to Washington’s sanctions, replacing Iranian oil with purchases from Saudi Arabia. This is likely to continue. Iranian officials’ surprise at China’s positions also shows that the psychology of Iranian decision-makers is far removed from the geopolitical environment in which Iran finds itself. Iran’s foreign policy will be more successful if the distance between these two environments is reduced. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

Three Russian service members were killed during a Ukrainian drone attack on a Russian military air base, Moscow said, the latest apparent demonstration of Kyiv’s ability to strike military targets inside Russia. – Wall Street Journal

Air-raid sirens sounded across Ukraine Sunday morning, hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a defiant Christmas video address urging his people to stand firm and keep faith in an eventual victory over Russian forces. – Wall Street Journal

Russia’s natural-gas production will fall by 12% this year and its exports will decline by about a quarter, a high-ranking Russian official said Monday in a sign of international pressure on the country’s energy market due to sanctions over its war in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

As Russia has launched relentless strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, leaving millions without electricity, water and heat, towns across Russia have been beset by their own, utility-related disasters. – Washington Post

Despite heavy combat losses over ten months of brutal war, Russia now has more than double the number of troops poised to fight in Ukraine as it did when it invaded in February, including thousands of convicts released from prison and conscripts from a controversial mobilization drive this fall. – Washington Post

When Ukrainian forces came across the abandoned Russian fighting vehicle on the battlefield, they knew they had found a rare prize. – Washington Post

Ukraine’s foreign minister said Monday that his nation wants a summit to end the war but he doesn’t anticipate Russia taking part, a statement making it hard to foresee the devastating invasion ending soon. – Associated Press

A top Ukrainian presidential aide called for the “liquidation” of Iranian factories making drones and missiles, as well as the arrest of their suppliers, as Kyiv accused Tehran of planning to supply more weapons to Russia. – Reuters

Russians troops are working “round-the-clock” at new anti-aircraft missile system positions to defend against missile and air strikes by Ukraine, the Russian Interfax reported late on Sunday citing the defence ministry. – Reuters

Russia’s FSB security service said on Monday that a four-person Ukrainian “sabotage group” had been “liquidated” while trying to enter Russia’s Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine, on Sunday, Russian news agencies reported. – Reuters

The United States and its NATO allies together with Ukraine want to defeat Russia “on the battlefield” in order to destroy it, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the state TASS agency in remarks published Monday. – Reuters

The top Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region said on Friday that shelling of the Russian-controlled nuclear power plant there had “almost stopped”. – Reuters

Russia is ready to reinstate gas shipments to Europe through the Yamal-Europe pipeline, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told state media in an interview published on Sunday. – The Hill

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he’s ready to negotiate “with everyone involved” in the war with Ukraine. – The Hill

Russia’s war in Ukraine has accelerated the pace of clean energy spending, according to a report from the world’s leading energy agency, sparking $500 billion in new government investments alone, as leaders seek to transition away from fossil fuels and keep costs down for consumers. – Washington Examiner

President Vladimir Putin blasted the West for trying to “tear apart” Russia and said his offensive in Ukraine aimed to “unite the Russian people”. – Agence France-Presse

Russian forces have unleashed fresh attacks on the eastern Ukrainian towns of Bakhmut and Avdiyivka, backed by formidable artillery fire, Ukraine’s General Staff reported in its morning briefing, as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said millions of civilians remained in the dark and cold following Moscow’s destruction of power and civilian infrastructure. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Daniel Yergin writes: A production cut could well end up adding to the Kremlin’s long line of miscalculations. In cutting output, it would be assuming that higher prices would compensate for the reduction in volume. But after a spike, Russia might find that prices don’t make up for the lost production. The result would be a further cap on its critical oil revenue. And this it would have done to itself. – Wall Street Journal

David Von Drehle writes: Whatever aid we give Ukraine is not charity, as Zelensky explained in his message to Congress. It is an investment in our own values. Well on his way to greatness, this remarkable man reminded us that freedom has a price. – Washington Post

Donald Kirk writes: Ukraine under such a deal, like South Vietnam and Czechoslovakia, would be the loser. Ukraine has to go on holding the Russians at bay, praying the Americans won’t desert them in a deal that the Russians would see as a prelude to victory. – New York Sun

M. Vik writes: Supporting Ukraine’s defense, and holding the line against Russian aggression, is essential, in our view, as is the need to simultaneously keep our own military in tip-top shape. The latter should not be forsaken for the former — or there won’t be ammunition left to pass. – New York Sun

Jim Jones writes: Ukraine has been fighting the war for its own existence, but in large part it has also been fighting for goals that are extremely important to the U.S., our allies and the rest of the world. Ukraine’s success is our success, and we can never forget that crucial fact. – The Hill

Lise Howard and Michael O’Hanlon write: The three central tasks in these kinds of proposals must be to deter Russia, to reassure Ukraine, and to avoid inflammatory ideas such as Ukrainian membership in NATO that would make any negotiated settlement or future stable peace impossible. There is no guarantee, of course, that these ideas would work; only the parties to the conflict can ultimately decide. But at some point in 2023, continuation of warfare may begin to seem futile to both Moscow and Kyiv. When that happens, we need to be ready with a new security vision for Europe. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: It is high time the Biden administration overcame its fears, ceased to deter itself, and gave Zelensky far more of what he is seeking — for the sake of the New World as well as the Old. Should it do so, the Ukrainian president’s speech will have rendered far more meaningful the applause, ovations and shouts of support that he deservedly received. – The Hill

David J. Kramer writes: Like Churchill’s speech before Congress Dec. 26, 1941, Zelensky’s address to Congress, and his meeting with President Biden at the White House, should be remembered for a very long time. As Ukrainians patriotically say, “Slava Ukraini!” – The Hill

Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Putin’s December 25 statement is a part of a deliberate information campaign aimed at misleading the West to push Ukraine into making preliminary concessions. The Kremlin did not publish the full transcript of Putin’s interview on its official website in contrast with its normal pattern, possibly to facilitate the misrepresentation of Putin’s full statement originally broadcasted in Russian and highlight his vague statement on negotiations. – Institute for the Study of War

Jan Kallberg writes: It is now almost 50 years since the conflict in Vietnam ended. At the time, it was clear (as it was to the military generations of World Wars I and II) that junior officers acting as platoon leaders and company commanders operate at a hugely heightened risk and suffer significant casualties. The full-scale war in Ukraine is approaching 10 months of large-scale operations, and Russia is running out of these key men. Replacing them will be extremely challenging, at least in the first half of 2023, and perhaps for the whole year ahead. NATO and friendly nations should take note. Ammunition is not the only thing that has a fearsome rate of usage in high-intensity conflicts. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Stephen Blank writes: After all, if we are fighting to defend democracy in Ukraine, the most effective way to do so is by convincing the public that this is the right thing to do. And helping the truth to emerge in itself represents another critical victory over a truthless Kremlin, its amoral foreign allies, and the enemies of freedom everywhere. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Mariya Grinberg writes: Ultimately, Russia will decide when the war will end, making diplomacy necessary. A consideration of Russia’s security interests in Europe, rooted in an end to NATO expansion, will likely be needed to negotiate a settlement. – The National Interest


Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu called a vote in parliament on his new government for Thursday Dec. 29, the speaker of the Knesset said on Monday, after almost two months of coalition wrangling. – Reuters

US congress approved the 2023 budget which includes $3.3 billion in defense aid for Israel and $225 million in aid for the Palestinians. – Arutz Sheva 

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) reported on Sunday that following the crash of a U.S. F-35 Type B fighter jet in Texas earlier this month, and the recommendation of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office (JPO), 11 Israeli F-35 fighter jets will be grounded. – Ynet 

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Monday that it prevented a massive terrorist bombing attack and suicide bombings slated to occur within Israel. – Jerusalem Post

This year, Israel and India are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their full diplomatic relations. In the last three decades, bilateral trade has increased from $200 million in 1992 to over $7.86 billion in 2021-22. It is expected to rise sharply once the free trade agreement is concluded. – Jerusalem Post

Following a two-year stint of cumbersome alternative routes, a direct route from Tel Aviv to the South Korean capital city of Seoul has come back into operation. – Jerusalem Post

Likud parliamentarians Amir Ohana and Israel Katz are the likely leading candidates to be appointed Wednesday as foreign minister, with former Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer the next likely possibility. – Jerusalem Post

But today, Israeli authorities say they are beginning to gain the upper hand in a relentless battle to stymie the mass smuggling of arms into Israel and the West Bank, where the weapons are helping fuel an uptick in attacks by terror groups and deadly criminal activity within Israel’s Arab communities. – Times of Israel

Palestinian gunmen opened fire at Israeli troops in two separate instances during overnight arrest raids in the West Bank, the military said Tuesday morning. – Times of Israel

Israeli officials claim that U.S. leadership is still aiming to reach a nuclear deal with Iran and has the backing of the U.S. defense establishment. The claim was made despite recent footage that circulated on social media of U.S. President Joe Biden saying the deal was “dead”. – Haaretz

Israel will not ratify the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women, incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party agreed in its coalition agreement with far-right politician Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism faction. – Haaretz  

Benny Avni writes: The Israeli Defense Force brass for more than a decade has been hesitant to green-light an attack on Iran. The Mossad, in contrast, has recommended an aggressive approach. Now, a moment of decision seems fast approaching. – New York Sun

Benji Shulman writes: Given the global increase in mental health awareness over the last few years, one would think there would have been a wider global condemnation of Hamas’ actions. Tragically, and unacceptably, the world has remained largely silent. – Algemeiner 

Steve Apfel writes: Groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad know a gift when they see one. The laws of war, an albatross around the neck of a conscientious IDF, are for non-state actors a dandy lever. […]Odd bedfellows interpose between Israel and her attackers. The Laws of war, progressive ideals and the International Committee of the Red Cross make a fearsome axis. It puts Israel front of stage in a costume drama conflict from which a plotted victor emerges. – Arutz Sheva 

David Singer writes: The UN stands to become totally irrelevant if it continues to refuse to discuss the Saudi Solution following Danny Danon – Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations – claiming at the first Abraham Accords Global Leadership Summit – that Saudi Arabia may be one of the next nations to normalize relations with Israel. – Arutz Sheva 

Natasha Srdoc and Joel Anand Samy write: It is a worthy challenge for the incoming leadership in Congress, eager to shake up Washington’s status quo; a new government in Israel aspiring to forge new alliances in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia’s goals to transform its economy. Robust efforts to jump-start the principled Abraham Accords will create jobs, fuel economic growth and advance peace and stability in the Middle East. – Jerusalem Post


Aid groups that provide critical humanitarian assistance to millions of Afghans began suspending operations in the country Sunday in response to the weekend decision by the Taliban to ban women from working in most aid organizations. – Wall Street Journal

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have issued another sweeping ban on women in public life, barring female Afghan employees from working at international organizations. The Economy Ministry announced the decision in a statement Saturday, saying that “all female employees who are working in their respective departments should stop their work until further notice.” – Washington Post

A car blast in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province killed three people on Monday, including a provincial police chief, the Taliban-Run Afghan interior ministry said. – Reuters

A senior U.N. official has urged Afghanistan’s Taliban administration to reverse a ban on female humanitarian workers that charities fear will worsen winter hardships. – Reuters

Qatar expressed “extreme concern” over the order by Afghanistan’s Taliban-run administration to stop female employees from working, calling on the administration to review its decision, a foreign ministry statement said on Sunday. – Reuters

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Sunday strongly condemned Afghanistan’s Taliban-run administration’s order to ban women from working at all local and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs), saying this amounts to erasing women from public spaces. – Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday that a decision by the Taliban to prohibit women in Afghanistan from working for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) could be “devastating” for the people in the country. – The Hill

Editorial: The bad news is that Congress failed to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act. Some 72,500 Afghans are already in the U.S. under a temporary protective status known as humanitarian parole. Yet that expires next year. The bill would have provided a path to a green card for them, coupled with extensive vetting. The Afghan Adjustment Act would create an SIV for select members of the Afghan armed forces. And it would create an office in the State Department to review applications and issue visas to Afghan partners still trapped by Taliban rule. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: In September, the United States announced that about $3.5 billion in previously frozen reserves of Afghanistan’s central bank will be transferred to a new fund in Switzerland to benefit the Afghan people, while keeping it out of the reach of the Taliban. Afghanistan is still mired in an economic and humanitarian crisis, and those needs should be met, but the United States and its allies should make no mistake: The Taliban regime is sticking to the old, primitive approach to women, cruelly extinguishing their hopes and future. – Washington Post

David Robinson writes: Expressions of moral outrage are the necessary reassurance among responsible members of the international community that they remain united in their commitment to human rights, but they will not directly help the women and girls, or the men and boys, of Afghanistan. Quiet diplomacy might. – The Hill


Turkey is in talks with Russia to use the airspace above northern Syria for a potential cross-border operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday. – Reuters

Sophie Ben-Dor, daughter of Israeli spy Eli Cohen, on Monday appealed to the United Arab Emirates and its ambassador in Israel to help bring the body of her father back to Israel from Syria, where it has been held since he was executed in Damascus in 1965. – Arutz Sheva 

Jonathan Spyer writes: The US-guaranteed enclave is important strategic real estate that gives the opposing side in this alliance a presence in Syria and an ability to oppose, frustrate or block and contain the ambitions of Moscow and Tehran. Turkey is seeking to position itself midway between the sides, gaining advantage from both. The problem may be that strategic thinking on the pro-US side has yet to catch up with the emergent reality in this context. Until it does, the advantage will be with the Russian-Iranian side as it moves with Turkish cooperation toward an endgame intended to deliver it strategic victory in the Syrian arena. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey on Friday accused Cyprus of increasing tension in the Eastern Mediterranean after a consortium of Italian and French energy companies found more natural gas off the island earlier this week. – Reuters

A Turkish court ordered the release of a journalist held on remand under the country’s new disinformation law after his lawyer objected to his detention, he said. – Reuters

The total volume of natural gas Turkey has discovered in the Black Sea now amounts to 710 billion cubic metres (bcm) after a new field was located and a previous find was revised higher, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. – Reuters

Turkey conceded Saturday that Russia’s war on Ukraine “will not end easily”, despite Ankara’s repeated efforts to arrange peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow. – Agence France-Presse

Robert Ellis writes: However, despite Erdogan’s appeal to Putin to green-light the operation, Russia is none too keen on this distraction in its backyard. Given Russia’s reluctance, Greece could be the next target. Against this background, the US plans to finalize the sale of 40 F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits to Turkey will add fuel to the flames. In 1935, Winston Churchill regarded it as “the acme of gullibility” to trust in Germany’s protestations of peace. In the present situation, it would be the acme of irresponsibility to trust in Turkey’s. – Jerusalem Post


Jordan has seized one tonne of amphetamine pills being smuggled in date paste at the border with Iraq. – BBC

After 35 years of research, Dr. Tzvi Yehuda, 86, says he has finally managed to shed some light on the untold story of the expulsion of Jews from Iraq. – Ynet


The Lebanese army detained over the weekend a main suspect in the recent killing of an Irish U.N. peacekeeper in a move coordinated with powerful armed group Hezbollah, two security sources and a Hezbollah spokesperson said. – Reuters

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

The United Nations has said it is “heartened” by the support of Lebanese officials after a reported arrest over the death of an Irish soldier on a peacekeeping mission in the country. – Sky News

Barry Shaw writes: To call UNIFIL a powerful peace-keeping force in Lebanon is a sad reflection of the delusion we are living under. The tragic death of Sean Rooney highlights the fact that UNIFIL is barely tolerated and only operates at the will, or not, of Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, and not of the Lebanese government which, at the time of writing this report, has no president, a caretaker cabinet with limited powers, and a deeply fragmented parliament. – Arutz Sheva

Saudi Arabia

President Joe Biden’s promised reckoning for Saudi Arabia has faded as the spike in energy prices has done the same, leaving the White House to temper Democratic ire. – Washington Examiner

Saudi Arabia and Japan signed a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) on Sunday in the fields of the circular carbon economy, carbon recycling, clean hydrogen and fuel ammonia, the Saudi Energy Ministry said on Twitter. – Reuters

Saudi Arabian stocks climbed on Sunday in response to Friday’s rise in oil prices, while most other bourses in the Gulf were in the red on global economic concerns. – Reuters

Egypt is reportedly holding up the transfer of a pair of Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, months after the Biden administration was believed to have finalized a deal that included Riyadh opening up its airspace to Israeli airliners. – Times of Israel

Incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to advance annexation policies in the West Bank is part of his push for a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia the Israeli media reported over the weekend. – Jerusalem Post

Alon Pinkas writes: The two triangles converge on the issue of Iran. Netanyahu may believe that Saudi Arabia and Israel are on the same page on Iran. He’s wrong. The Saudis have shown clear signs of improving relations with Iran. If Netanyahu truly believes that an Israeli-Saudi lobby to lure the United States into attacking Iran is feasible, he’s playing a recklessly dangerous game. – Haaretz

Gulf States

Japan’s Cosmo Energy Holdings Co Ltd (5021.T) said on Friday it has signed a new agreement with Qatar Energy to continue its operation in the Al-Karkara and A-Structures oil fields, which came into effect after the expiry of the current contract this month. – Reuters

Top Japanese electricity generator JERA and trading houses Mitsui & Co (8031.T) and Itochu Corp (8001.T) plan to sign a basic agreement with supplier Oman LNG on Tuesday for long-term LNG contracts, a Japanese government source said. – Reuters

An Egyptian-American national, detained in the United Arab Emirates after criticising Egyptian president and calling for protests ahead of a climate meet there, has been released from prison, his fiancée said on Friday. – Reuters

Russia’s dominant lender Sberbank (SBER.MM) will be forced to close its office in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) early next year, First Deputy Chairman Alexander Vedyakhin said on Monday, blaming sanctions pressure. – Reuters

Council Vice-President Yaaqoub Al-Harethi said the amendment, proposed by several Council members, seeks to “expand the criminalization, boycott of this entity” and prohibit all contact with Israelis by any means, in person or virtual. – Arutz Sheva 

Oman’s Shura Council stiffened its boycott law against Israel on Monday. This is at a time when the Jewish state is pushing for overflight rights in the Gulf country to shorten the travel route to India. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

A Tunisian rights group condemned Sunday a “repressive and inhumane” government decision to deport a group of migrants who had been evacuated from a defunct refugee camp. – Agence France-Presse

The Libyan National Army of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar on Saturday announced “a final opportunity” to draw up a road map for elections, Libyan al-Hadath TV reported, a year to the day after rival factions agreed to hold the polls. – Reuters

Tunisia expects to reduce its fiscal deficit to 5.5% next year from a forecast 7.7% this year, driven by austerity measures that could pave the way for a final deal with the International Monetary Fund on a rescue package. – Reuters

Tunisia’s powerful UGTT union will hold mass protests and “occupy the streets” soon to show its rejection of next year’s austerity budget, the leader of the union said on Monday, in its strongest challenge to the government of President Kais Saied yet. – Reuters

German state lender KfW (KFW.UL) on Friday lent 300 million euros ($319 million) to Tunisia to finance projects in renewable energy, water and rural development, officials said. – Reuters

Algeria has set the reference price for crude oil at $60 a barrel through 2023-2025, state news agency (APS) said on Sunday, citing the 2023 budget approved earlier in the day by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. – Reuters

The extradition to the US of Muammar Gaddafi’s most trusted and notorious aide was abruptly halted by Libya at the 11th hour this week for fear of public anger after the handover of another ex-senior Libyan intelligence operative, officials in Tripoli have told the Guardian. – The Guardian

Gordon Gray writes: Until Tunisia clearly returns to a democratic path, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) cannot proceed with its proposed $498 million compact to, inter alia, “make trade with Tunisia easier and less expensive by investing in the management, expansion, and digitization of the Port of Rades.” This is exactly the type of assistance Tunisia needs, because foreign trade will boost employment. The U.S. government should continue to keep the MCC compact on the table as an incentive for democratic reform. – The National Interest

Korean Peninsula

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol pardoned former President Lee Myung-bak, setting the disgraced leader free from his 17-year prison sentence for bribery and embezzlement. – Wall Street Journal

Five drones from North Korea flew into South Korea on Monday, worsening ties between two neighbors already trading military shows of force with growing frequency. – Wall Street Journal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has kicked off a key meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, state media reported on Tuesday, a venue he has often used to announce major policy decisions marking the New Year. – Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Tuesday he would advance the creation of a military unit specialising in drones, criticising the military response to a border intrusion by North Korean drones. – Reuters

Canada on Friday condemned what it said were North Korean arms deliveries to Russia, saying Pyongyang’s transaction with the private military company the Wagner Group “clearly violates international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.” – Reuters

South Korea’s president on Tuesday called for a stronger air defense and high-tech stealth drones to better monitor North Korea, a day after Seoul accused North Korea of flying five drones across the rivals’ tense border for the first time in five years. – Associated Press


Chinese health authorities plan to lift Covid-19 quarantine requirements on international arrivals early next month, taking one of the country’s biggest steps to ease restrictions since the pandemic began even as case numbers remain high. – Wall Street Journal

China’s central health authority has stopped publishing daily Covid-19 data, ending a three-year effort that has drawn mounting criticism for massively underreporting the surge in infections now sweeping the country. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi defended what he said was his country’s position of impartiality on the war in Ukraine on Sunday and signaled that China would deepen ties with Russia in the coming year. – Associated Press

Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to follow the “one country, two systems” governing principle for Hong Kong on Friday, saying it is the “best arrangement” to maintain the city’s prosperity and stability. – Associated Press

After decades of U.S. efforts to engage China with the prospect of greater development through trade, the era of cooperation is coming to a screeching halt. – Politico

China said it will strive to “recalibrate” its relationship with the US and increase communication with Europe as the country outlines its major diplomatic tasks for next year. – Bloomberg

Daniel Jia writes: With its foreign reserves coffer shrinking due to the loss of export steam, offshore debt repayments would be a drain on China’s foreign reserves. That is why the Chinese government actively encourages firms to roll over their overseas debts and may even be quietly encouraging defaults. […]After this $870 billion in offshore corporate bonds, China has another $800 billion in sovereign bonds waiting in line for default. International investors may decide it’s time to cut their losses. – Washington Examiner

Peter Burns writes: The U.S. can and should do more to encourage the fight for freedom and justice in China. The CCP’s willingness to commit mass atrocities against a population that it sees as a hindrance to its agenda cannot be ignored. Indeed, China’s power and ambition leave little doubt that it hopes to exert the same influence and control over the rest of the world. The protests against China’s zero-COVID response are proof that change in the country is possible. With so many lives on the line, it’s a goal the U.S. must work toward. – Washington Examiner

Dan Blumenthal writes: China is creating more enterprises like Huawei in semiconductors, biotechnology, and other industries. At some point, if Washington does something Beijing dislikes, China may simply stop the supply of crucial goods in these sectors. The nature of China’s economic challenge has changed. America must adapt to meet it. – The Atlantic

Joel Atkinson writes: We don’t know what Beijing really thinks about North Korea’s nuclear weapons. But there’s nothing so different between the two countries’ interests that we should simply assume China opposes the North’s nukes. On the contrary, given that North Korea has already developed impressive capabilities without China taking effective action to prevent it, it is safer to assume that Beijing supports Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. – The National Interest

Dore Gold writes: China may be acquiring the means to expand its influence – including military influence. But the states that are most concerned with China’s influence in the region are not sitting on their hands. To counter what might be the beginning of a new Chinese drive for hegemony, the US has laid the foundations for new international partnerships. Israel will also have to closely monitor how the international community is restructuring itself as it faces an entirely new era in the years ahead. – Jerusalem Post

South Asia

The former leader of Nepal’s Maoist rebels, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, widely known as Prachanda, was sworn in Monday as prime minister, signaling a potential foreign policy shift in the Himalayan nation caught between international powers. – Washington Post

A Pakistani high court on Friday reinstated a key ally of former Prime Minister Imran Khan hours after he was removed as chief minister of the country’s largest province to halt Khan’s plans to force snap polls in the South Asian nation. – Reuters

Sri Lanka’s former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was forced out of office earlier this year following the country’s economic crisis, left for the United States with his family on Monday, a reporter for Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror wrote on Twitter. – Reuters

The US embassy in Pakistan warned of a possible attack against Americans at the Marriott Hotel in the capital, Islamabad, “sometime during the holidays.” – Bloomberg

Pakistani forces on Monday expanded their search for the perpetrators behind multiple attacks that killed six troops and wounded 17 civilians in a restive southwestern province the previous day. – Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he asked for India’s help in implementing a “peace formula” during a telephone call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 26. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Joseph D’Souza writes: As Indians who take pride in our country and its constitution, we need to decide if we will continue to ignore the extremists targeting Christians and others. As peace-loving Indians, we need to determine whether we will completely ignore this season’s message of peace on Earth and goodwill toward all people. – Washington Examiner


China’s People’s Liberation Army dispatched a swarm of jet fighters and other military aircraft on sorties near Taiwan on Sunday in a move that Beijing said was a response to provocation by Washington and Taipei. – Wall Street Journal

Left out of the massive spending bill that Congress raced to finish are hefty grants for weapons transfers to Taiwan, setting back efforts by some lawmakers to bolster a front-line U.S. partner against China. – Wall Street Journal

Myanmar’s shadow government on Friday urged ASEAN not to waver from its policy of excluding the country’s military leaders from its gatherings after Thailand hosted junta ministers in informal talks with other Southeast Asian officials. – Reuters

Taiwan will announce a plan on Tuesday to extend compulsory military service to one year from four months, a senior government official said, as the island deals with rising Chinese military pressure. – Reuters

Japan on Friday said it will hike defence spending by more than a quarter next year including $1.6 billion to buy U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missiles that will be part of its biggest military build-up since World War Two. – Reuters

Fiji has elected Sitiveni Rabuka as the nation’s prime minister, ending the 16-year rule of Frank Bainimarama. – Bloomberg 

A Myanmar junta court will give its verdicts on five remaining charges in the 18-month trial of jailed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday, a legal source told AFP. – Agence France-Presse 

Thousands rallied on Sunday in Azerbaijan, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region’s largest city Stepanakert, to protest the blockade of the only land link to Armenia, an AFP journalist saw. – Agence France-Presse 

The Russian Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) are exercising in the East China Sea while the PLAN Liaoning Carrier Strike Group continues operating in the Philippine Sea. – Defense News 

Rich Lowry writes: Xi views Taiwan much the same way as Putin views Ukraine — it rightfully belongs to China, and retaking it will help salve the geopolitical and psychological wounds of imperial China’s spectacular descent into disaster and powerlessness. […]The war in Ukraine shows that when an autocrat ruling a once-great empire speaks in such terms, it is time to arm the targeted state to the teeth and dispense with all illusions. – New York Post 

Jude Blanchette and Ryan Hass write: After half a decade of deterioration, the U.S.-Chinese relationship stands at the edge of crisis. Bilateral frictions have moved from trade to technology and, now, to the threat of direct military confrontation. To be sure, Beijing’s threats toward Taiwan are the fundamental cause of the tensions across the strait. […]Wise statecraft, more than military strength, offers the best path to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. – Foreign Affairs


French prosecutors are pressing preliminary charges including murder as a hate crime—but not terrorism—against the suspect in Friday’s attack at a Kurdish cultural center in the French capital that killed three people and injured three others. – Wall Street Journal

The suspect in an attack at a Kurdish cultural center in the French capital told police that he aimed to kill as many non-European foreigners as possible and had intended to kill himself afterward, French officials said Sunday. – Wall Street Journal

Tensions between Ukraine and Hungary, which share an 85-mile border, are hardly of the magnitude of Ukraine’s conflict with Russia, now in its 10th month of deadly, destructive war. – Washington Post

Finland’s Moscow embassy has asked Russia to guarantee the diplomatic mission’s safety following an incident this week in which people wearing masks threw sledgehammers into the embassy yard. – Reuters

Clashes broke out for a second day in Paris on Saturday between police and Kurdish protestors angry at the killing of three members of their community by a gunman. – Reuters

Serbia on Monday placed its security troops on the border with Kosovo on “the full state of combat readiness,” ignoring NATO’s calls for calming down of tensions between the two wartime Balkan foes. – Associated Press

French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, responsible for multiple murders in the 1970s across Asia, arrived in France on Saturday after almost 20 years in prison in Nepal. – Agence France-Presse 

Germany’s BND foreign intelligence service is concerned that a senior analyst and alleged Russian spy detained this week may have passed information shared by the US National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ to the Kremlin, Focus magazine reported, citing unidentified security sources in Berlin. – Bloomberg 

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

Adam Tooze writes: A European clash with Congress and the Biden administration would be profoundly counterproductive. What we need is co-operation not conflict. Take the positives. […]If Europe wants to boost its own companies, adopt a “buy European” clause. The US won’t be in a position to complain. – Financial Times


Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé will oversee the armed forces as part of a reshuffle amid growing security concerns in the northern regions, according to a decree announced on Friday. – Reuters

Burkina Faso’s military government in a statement on Friday ordered senior United Nations official Barbara Manzi to leave the country immediately, without giving a reason. – Reuters

The United Nations on Saturday said Burkina Faso had no grounds for ordering senior U.N. official Barbara Manzi to leave the country and that the doctrine of “persona non grata” could not be applied to her. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday that Kyiv would intensify diplomatic efforts in Africa, Latin America and Asia to take advantage of “colossal economic potential” and other international benefits. – Reuters

A delegation from the Ethiopian federal government is on its way to the northern region of Tigray to oversee the implementation of last month’s peace agreement, the government communication service said on Monday. – Reuters

Two Gambian military officers linked to an alleged plot to overthrow the government of President Adama Barrow have been arrested over the weekend, Gambia’s government spokesperson said on Monday. – Reuters

At least 10 people were killed and five others injured when a passenger bus triggered a landmine in eastern Burkina Faso on Christmas Day, the government said in a statement on Monday. – Reuters

A Nigerien military helicopter crashed landing at an airport in the capital Niamey on Monday, killing three people on board including an expatriate instructor, the defence ministry said. – Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels on Friday began withdrawing from some territories they had seized in recent offensives as part of what one of the group’s leaders termed a goodwill gesture in a ceasefire brokered by East African regional leaders. – Reuters

Kenya’s President William Ruto has expressed concern over the fighting in neighboring South Sudan and airlifted a donation of food stuffs to those affected. – Associated Press

U.N. experts say they found “substantial evidence” of Rwandan government forces crossing into neighboring eastern Congo, either to reinforce M23 rebels or to conduct military operations against another rebel group that includes fighters accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. – Associated Press

Mark R. Whittington writes: As Nigeria and Rwanda develop their space economies, the two countries will participate more fully in the Artemis program. African astronauts will walk on the moon on future Artemis missions. Their participation will serve as an example for other countries, especially in Africa, to follow. – The Hill

Latin America

Lula, 77, defied history in October to win a third term as president just three years after exiting a jail cell. But now he’s facing a greater challenge: How to govern a country divided, plug fiscal holes, and make good on a host of politically difficult campaign pledges: Protecting the Amazon jungle, tackling police brutality, and toughening the gun laws that were relaxed by his predecessor, Donald Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro. – Washington Post 

A U.S. judge dealt a blow on Friday to Alex Saab Moran, a Colombia-born businessman accused in a corruption scheme involving Venezuela’s ruling Socialists, by rejecting his assertion of diplomatic immunity. – Reuters

Election-denying protesters camping outside Brazilian army bases have become “incubators of terrorism,” Brazil’s incoming justice minister said on Sunday, a day after police detonated an explosive device and arrested a suspect they accused of links to the Brasilia camp. – Reuters

A man arrested for attempting to set off a bomb in protest against Brazil’s election result was inspired to build up an arsenal by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s call to arms, according to a copy of his police testimony seen by Reuters. – Reuters

The anti-corruption unit of Peru’s attorney general’s office on Monday detained six generals amid an investigation into allegations the government of ousted former President Pedro Castillo illegally promoted police and military officers. – Reuters

A group of armed renegades who refused to sign a 2016 peace accord in Colombia have declared a unilateral ceasefire until the new year, the country’s peace commissioner tweeted Saturday. – Agence France-Presse 

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Lula is a clever politician and will want to reconstitute a multiparty network of lawmakers who will let him do as he pleases as long as he deals them in. All indications point to a Supreme Court that is ready to help by using its power, including the threat of criminal prosecution, to pressure legislators who hesitate to cooperate. […]Eventually Lula will run out of other people’s money. But that can hardly be a comfort to aspiring Brazilians. – Wall Street Journal

United States

The House Select Jan. 6 Committee released new photos and documents as part of its final report, bringing an end to the 18-month investigation into former President Donald Trump and the attack on the Capitol. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: None of this absolves Mr. Trump for his actions, but it does underscore the strength of U.S. democracy and the dedication to it by most elected and appointed officials. It also shows the value of having had men of principle like Messrs. Pence and Barr willing to take on the duty of working in the Trump Administration. They were criticized as Trump-enablers when they made decisions the left didn’t like. But those decisions were made based on the policy merits and the law. And when it mattered most, when Mr. Trump sought to overturn an election, the country was lucky to have had these men and others like them in office. It’s a shame the Jan. 6 committee and the press won’t give them the credit they deserve. – Wall Street Journal

Walter Russell Mead writes: It is hard to disagree. American debates today, over domestic as well as foreign policy, often feature a sterile competition between technocrats immersed in conventional groupthink on the one side and populist demagogues armed with superficial slogans on the other. Henry Kissinger thinks we need to do better. I fear he is right, and I hope that “Leadership” gets the wide readership it deserves. – Wall Street Journal

Don Wolfensberger writes: I am reminded, some two decades after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., including the likely targeting of Congress by the fourth plane brought down in Pennsylvania, that we apparently still don’t have a plan in place for defending the Capitol against attacks and for swiftly moving members to more secure locations. Will we finally learn to do this any better this time? – The Hill

Harlan Ullman writes: The Ghosts of Christmases Past and Present would remind Trump of his conduct as president, the “Big Lie” of a stolen 2020 election and his many legal problems, including the Jan. 6 commission’s findings. But Christmas Future is the only significant ghost. – The Hill

Gary Schmitt and Henry Sokolski write: Former President Trump’s claim that “if you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying ‘it’s declassified’ — even by thinking about it” can be easily dismissed as typical bloviating. But even if Trump never makes it back to the Oval Office, the threat that legitimate executive authority can be abused remains. As such, the former president has done the country a favor. He has reminded Congress that it cannot depend solely on the good judgment of a president and that passing a law to guide the exercise of this core executive power is needed now. – The Hill

Agathe Demarais writes: Such an organization would analyze sanctions resistance with an eye toward adapting Western financial channels to meet the challenges ahead. It would also study the effects of sanctions, with a special focus on emerging countries. China knows that the decision of developing countries to stick with or abandon Western financial channels will make or break its bid to undermine U.S. financial hegemony. An organization dedicated to these matters may be the only cure for sanctions resistance. – Foreign Affairs


Citing security concerns over TikTok, some Biden administration officials are pushing for a sale of the Chinese-owned company’s U.S. operations to ensure Beijing can’t harness the app for espionage and political influence, according to people familiar with the situation. – Wall Street Journal

Twitter owner Elon Musk said last week that the journalists he abruptly suspended for alleged rule violations were welcome to rejoin the platform after only two days on the sidelines. “The people have spoken,” he tweeted following a poll that strongly favored restoring the accounts. – Washington Post

Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) said on Friday it will appeal the Indian antitrust watchdog’s ruling that ordered the tech giant to change its approach to its Android platform and imposed a fine of $162 million for anti-competitive practices. – Reuters

The White House pressured Twitter to suppress tweets that included “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic, even when Twitter users shared information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. – Washington Examiner

Most Republicans readily agree they should use their forthcoming House majority to take on the so-called Big Tech companies that dominate everything from social media to online shopping. But many disagree on how to do it. – Washington Examiner

The chief executive of one of Europe’s biggest insurance companies has warned that cyber attacks, rather than natural catastrophes, will become “uninsurable” as the disruption from hacks continues to grow. – Financial Times 

TikTok is getting banned from a growing number of federal and state devices, underscoring how political winds are turning against the platform given worries about China and raising questions about its future. – The Hill

Tech giants and their army of industry groups rallied together to stifle a multiyear congressional effort to overhaul antitrust laws, pouring millions into campaigns to block key bipartisan bills targeting the nation’s four largest tech firms. – The Hill

Facebook parent company Meta agreed to pay $725 million to settle a privacy class-action case accusing the social media giant of allowing consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, and other third parties, access to user’s information. – The Hill


America’s beloved West Point military academy, one of the oldest universities in the U.S., is removing more than a dozen Confederate items from its campus. – Washington Examiner

President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2023 into law on Friday morning despite maintaining concerns about several provisions included in the bill. – Washington Examiner

U.S. Marine recruits who identify as Sikhs can keep their beards and long hair when they train at boot camp, a federal court ruled. – The Hill

Lawmakers will require the defense secretary to create a federally funded research and development center that can independently assess the Pentagon’s plans to build an integrated air-and-missile defense architecture to defend Guam, according to the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. – Defense News 

The U.S. Marine Corps is one step closer to replacing its aging light armored vehicles, with the final prototype in the Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle competition now in Marine Corps custody. – Defense News 

The CH-53K King Stallion is set to enter full-rate production in 2023, meaning more Marine units will soon get to train with the extremely powerful new helicopter. – Military Times 

After a few technical difficulties and delays, some soldiers in operational and training units will finally see the Army’s new “mixed reality” goggle in their hands in 2023. – Military Times 

As the Army rolls along into 2023, everyone from recruiters to senior leaders to Congress are closely monitoring whether the Army will be able to shore up its recruiting and stem the end strength freefall that the service is currently experiencing. – Military Times 

A federal watchdog wants to make sure the U.S. military is getting the best bang for its buck when buying new aircraft. – Military Times 

After a formal review and significant pushback from the field, Army human resources officials have backed away from their earlier push to bar troops from wearing a pair of foreign awards. – Military Times 

In May 2018, a group of defense reporters visited Boeing’s KC-46 manufacturing plant here in Everett, Wash., just months after the Air Force disclosed a major problem with a critical system that provides imagery to boom operators during the refueling process. – Breaking Defense 

Rebeccah Heinrichs writes: The entire omnibus is an eye-watering size and there’s no doubt it is padded with priorities that newly elected Republicans would rightly and staunchly oppose. But there is also crucially timely military support that sitting Senate Republicans wrestled into the bill and if we avoid can go into the new year with greatly improved defense support, it will be a relief. – The Hill

Long War

The Pentagon said it has stepped up raids against Islamic State in Syria, conducting nearly a dozen risky helicopter and ground operations to kill or capture top militant operatives.  – Wall Street Journal

Al Qaeda has released a 35-minute recording the group claims was narrated by its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was believed to have been killed in a U.S. raid in August 2022, SITE intelligence group said on Friday. – Reuters

Six Kurdish-led security force members were killed in an Islamic State suicide attack on Monday on a security forces centre in Syria’s Raqqa, the chief of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazloum Abdi, wrote on Twitter. – Reuters

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a car bombing that killed a local police chief in Afghanistan. – Associated Press

Two people were shot dead by al-Shabab militants and several houses torched in a rural area in coastal Kenya, police said Monday. – Associated Press

Charlie Winter writes: But along with that kinetic pressure on the Islamic State, the United States should exert diplomatic pressure on Turkey — to the extent that it is possible — to mitigate the chances of a new ground incursion. If that were to happen and the Syrian Democratic Forces were to wind back its operations, however briefly, U.S. tactics in Syria would almost certainly shift toward short-term, reactive unilateralism rather than strategic interdiction efforts. This is a change that the counter-Islamic State mission can ill afford. – War on the Rocks