Fdd's overnight brief

December 28, 2022

In The News


When Revolutionary Guard member Mohammed Zareh Mowaydi was killed fighting Iranian protesters last month, the military broadcast footage of his body, with a cleric holding up the dead man’s right hand—rough from years as a farmer. – Wall Street Journal 

The Biden administration has launched a broad effort to halt Iran’s ability to produce and deliver drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, an endeavor that has echoes of its yearslong program to cut off Tehran’s access to nuclear technology. – New York Times 

An Iranian chess player has taken part in an international tournament without a hijab, according to media reports, the latest of several Iranian sportswomen to appear at competitions without one since anti-government protests began. – Reuters

President Ebrahim Raisi said Tuesday Iran would show “no mercy” towards “hostile” opponents of the Islamic republic, gripped by more than 100 days of protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death. – Agence France-Presse

Thousands of Iranians on Tuesday attended state-organized funerals for 400 soldiers killed in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war. Iran’s president, meanwhile, lashed out at the United States and its allies, accusing them of fomenting anti-government protests that have been underway in Iran for over three months. – Associated Press

Infamous Iranian regime judge Abolqasem Salavati, who has been tagged as Iran’s “hanging judge,” sentenced a 25-year-old Iranian woman to 10 years in prison for “encouraging prostitution” because she took off her mandatory headscarf at an anti-regime protest. – Jerusalem Post

In recent weeks, several countries in the European Union have demanded that the European Union designate the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, Amichai Stein of Kan 11 News reported on Tuesday. – Arutz Sheva

Setareh Derakhshesh writes: A young, defiant generation yearns for a new life. A generation jaded by the rules and restrictions of an anachronistic, revolutionary era now struggles to establish a secular government and is willing to give up its life to achieve its goal and redefine what it means to be Iranian. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday banned the sale of crude and other petroleum products to Western nations involved in limiting the price of Russian oil on the global market.- Washington Post

Combat raged around the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, as Ukrainian forces edged closer to reclaiming that small but strategically important city, while the Russians battled to defend some of their hardest-fought gains of the war. – New York Times 

The Ukrainian government has struggled to raise money on bond markets during the war and is paying investors more than it is collecting, according to a Central Bank statement that points to the country’s deepening dependence on foreign aid. – New York Times 

Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus have agreed on “many issues” at a regional summit, both leaders said on Tuesday, amid concerns in Kyiv that Moscow could use its ally as a launchpad for a new ground offensive into Ukraine. – New York Times 

Even under a thick coating of snow, the graveyard for Russian soldiers killed in the Ukraine war is awash in color. Graves are heaped with wreaths of plastic flowers and, at each mound, flags representing the dead soldier’s unit whip in the wind. – New York Times 

Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday warned anew Ukraine that it must demilitarize, threatening further military action and falsely accusing Kyiv and the West of fueling the war that started with Moscow’s invasion. – Associated Press

The Russian military reported Monday that it shot down a Ukrainian drone approaching an air base deep inside Russia, the second time the facility has been targeted this month — again revealing weaknesses in Russia’s air defenses. – Associated Press

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been vigorously promoting his 10-point peace plan, discussing it with U.S. President Joe Biden among others, and urging world leaders to hold a Global Peace Summit based on it. – Reuters

Russian troops who have been part of a mobilisation drive for military operations in Ukraine will have the right to get their sperm frozen for free in cryobanks, the state TASS agency reported on Wednesday. – Reuters

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

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said his government is preparing to participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos next month and that he spoke again with BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink about the postwar rebuilding effort. Bloomberg 

Ukraine’s economy may grow next year, and this year’s inflation may be less than expected, according to the head of the central bank, who cited the nation’s resilience in the face of Russia’s campaign to destroy energy infrastructure. – Bloomberg 

​Moscow rebuffed Ukraine’s proposal for a peace summit early next year by demanding that Kyiv meet the Kremlin’s requirements of “demilitarization” and “denazification” or “the Russian army will solve the issue.” – New York Post 

Ukrainian forces are on the brink of recapturing the strategically important city of Kreminna in the east, according to a local official. Serhiy Haidai, regional governor of the contested Luhansk region, which was annexed by Vladimir Putin after a sham referendum, tweeted Monday that the military command of the Russian forces “has left #kreminna, which the Ukrainian military is approaching – New York Post 

President Vladimir Putin is poised to begin seizing valuable assets of oligarchs he deems insufficiently loyal at a time that the international isolation from his unprovoked war in Ukraine is causing the Russian economy to reel. – U.S. News & World Report

“The Fourth Reich will be created, encompassing the territory of Germany and its satellites, i.e., Poland, the Baltic states, Czechia, Slovakia, the Kyiv Republic, and other outcasts,” said Dmitry Medvedev, former president of Russia and a staunch supporter of the war in Ukraine, on Monday night. – Jerusalem Post

Ukraine’s air defense forces have destroyed more than 20 percent of the drones supplied by the Iranian regime to its Russian ally, the chief spokesman for the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Tuesday. – Algeimeiner

Editorial: Russia, successor to the Soviet Union, is a party to the genocide convention. But Mr. Putin has shown little regard for international laws or norms of any kind in his war to wipe out Ukraine’s democracy and its people. He and the other Russian officials complicit in genocidal crimes against children should be held to account. – Washington Post

Tara D. Sonenshine writes:  History taught him that war fatigue is real, and he intuited that with a holiday season approaching, the war between Russia and Ukraine risked getting blurry in the minds of outsiders and observers consumed with opening gifts and gatherings with friends and family. But for those inside the conflict and for the troops supporting Ukraine from outside the country, the hard work is just beginning. War is an act of patience. Peace is a long process. Be prepared to hear about both in 2023. – The Hill 

Joseph Bosco writes: The two administrations’ efforts to strengthen allies’ contributions to the collective defense, greatly intensified by the Biden team, provide a hopeful basis for avoiding in the Indo-Pacific what has happened in Europe — but only if it is bolstered by sustained U.S. leadership. Presently, Biden’s stalemate strategy in Ukraine well suits Xi Jinping’s “new normal” approach to squeezing Taiwan. Western strategic clarity is needed in both theaters to deter further Russia’s revanchism and China’s expansionism. – The Hill 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: On the other hand, it is well known that some politicians like to appear more threatening than they are in order to get concessions. During the Nixon era, the US president also tried to convince others that he was a bit of a “madman” in order to create fear in his adversaries. Russia also has a case of this “madman” doctrine, combined with a policy rooted in dividing the West and empowering Asia. – Jerusalem Post


A Palestinian man suspected of carrying out the deadly twin bombings in Jerusalem’s outskirts a month ago has been arrested, Israel’s police and domestic security service said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu moved one step further on Tuesday toward establishing a government after parliament approved divisive legislation agreed with his far-right coalition partners. – Reuters

The final details of the coalition agreements between the Likud and United Torah Judaism were nailed down on Tuesday night, with the Religious Zionist Party following suit just hours later, early on Wednesday morning. – Jerusalem Post

The Shahab news agency, which is affiliated with Hamas, published recordings on Tuesday in which the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, Hussein al-Sheikh, was heard cursing the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, while talking about his succession struggle, seemingly interested in getting rid of Abbas. – Jerusalem Post

Israel carries out on average at least one operation against Iran every week somewhere throughout the Middle East, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi said Tuesday. The IDF will be ready when and if it is given the order to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, he said. – Jerusalem Post

Former minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who did not enter the Knesset after being placed in the 46th spot on the Likud slate, will be appointed head of the National Security Council, one of the most sensitive and central positions in the political-security establishment. – Arutz Sheva

Journalist Yisrael Frey was arrested Tuesday and questioned under caution for hours over several tweets praising Palestinian attackers for purportedly seeking out military Israeli targets, rather than civilian ones. – Times of Israel

Editorial: As soon as he takes over as prime minister, we expect Netanyahu to honor his campaign pledge. More than that, the new government together with the Bank of Israel should draft a new economic plan to harness inflation, reduce the cost of living and housing, invest in infrastructure and encourage the expansion of trade with existing and new partners. Boosting the economy is, perhaps, the biggest challenge facing the new government. – Jerusalem Post

Bezalel Smotrich writes: We seek to appoint judges in Israel in a process similar to America’s; to define the attorney general’s scope of authority and relation to elected representatives in a manner similar to what’s set down in America; to develop effective oversight mechanisms for law enforcement to ensure they protect basic rights; and to restore the Knesset’s authority to define the fundamental values of the state and its emerging constitution – Wall Street Journal 

Yisrael Medad writes: These steps should contribute to a rhetorical atmosphere in which Jews are no longer just tolerated, if at all, and surely not discriminated against. At the very least, Israel will be reordering and reconstructing a more balanced, fair and honest conversation regarding the Temple Mount, which is not only an Islamic but very much a Jewish holy site. – Jerusalem Post

Jenny Aharon writes: They should do that before EU-Israel relations deteriorate any further. As for Israel, it should invest more time and energy in defending its rights and preempt such initiatives, whether it comes from the EU, the United Nations or elsewhere. – Jerusalem Post

David Grossman writes: The occupation also evidently won’t end in the foreseeable future; it is already stronger than all the forces now active in the political arena. What began and was honed with great efficiency there is now seeping into here. Anarchy’s gaping maw has bared its fangs at the most fragile democracy in the Middle East. – Haaretz


The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday called for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in Afghanistan, denouncing a ban by the Taliban-led administration on women attending universities or working for humanitarian aid groups. – Reuters

The Taliban’s recent decision to ban women from attending universities sparked condemnations in the Arab and Muslim world. The Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, issued a statement expressing “deep sorrow” over the decision and calling it a violation of the Islamic shari’a, which urges Muslims, both men and women, to pursue knowledge from the cradle to the grave.[1] A similar condemnation was issued by Saudi Arabia’s top religious authority, the Council of Senior Scholars. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The Taliban were gifted a state in whole – ready for them, the new owners. The victims of all this are women and minorities in Afghanistan. Hazara Shi’ites are being massacred again. Women are being expelled bit by bit from every part of society. Moreover, all this was made possible by self-deception and a well-oiled PR machine that enabled the Taliban to return. – Jerusalem Post


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan received the credentials of Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey on Tuesday, as the two countries normalise ties after four years of strain. – Reuters

Bullet marks reveal the spot where a rights lawyer was shot in the head at the height of clashes in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir between Kurdish militants and security forces in 2015. – Agence France-Presse

Michael Rubin writes: While Erdogan may have Turks cowed, Turks will no more submit themselves to decades of further dictatorship than the Iranians who today march in the street against the similar repression they face. Rather than try to out-Erdogan Erdogan in terms of xenophobia, paranoia, and grievance, Turkey’s future rests with the willingness of Turks from across the spectrum to say enough and turn to the task of restoring Turkey to its democratic path. – The National Interest 

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt has set a new international tender for oil and gas exploration rights in the Nile Delta and Mediterranean sea, the state news agency reported on Tuesday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s stocks outperformed Gulf peers on Tuesday after China announced it would further ease its COVID-19 curbs, bolstering expectations of a demand recovery in the world’s second-largest economy. – Reuters

Algerian authorities have arrested prominent independent journalist Ihsane El-Kadi and shut down his Radio M internet station, which was seen as the last remaining space for free political debate in the country. – Financial Times

Neville Teller writes: For deterrence to remain effective, Israel must enhance its world-class intelligence capabilities even further. It also needs to take to heart the well-known motto of the Scouting movement: Be prepared. This is the only way to thwart the enemy’s malign intentions without resorting to an all-out conflict. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It has carried out assassinations before, such as targeting former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005. It carried out an attack on Israel in 2006 that led to a war. It has sent forces to Syria. It threatens Israel from areas in Syria near the Golan. It has also killed political enemies and likely was behind the murder of publisher Lokman Slim. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s military apologized for failing to shoot down North Korean drones that flew across the border, an incident that raised concerns about South Korea’s defenses amid the North’s growing nuclear and missile threats. – Wall Street Journal 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un unveiled new goals for the country’s military for 2023 at an ongoing meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, state media reported on Wednesday, hinting at another year of intensive weapons tests and tension. – Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Wednesday that North Korea is not a source of fear because of its nuclear weapons, and its provocations must be met with retaliation, Yonhap news agency reported. – Reuters

South Korea plans to spend 560 billion won ($441.26 million) over the next five years to beef up its ability to fend off North Korean drones, Seoul’s defence ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters

North Korea forged ahead with its missile programme in 2022 and took steps toward resuming testing of nuclear bombs, as world events including the COVID pandemic and war fractured the already tenuous international pressure against it. – Reuters

South Korea put out its first strategy report for the Indo-Pacific region, which hardly mentions China and signals Seoul is seeking a cautious balance between its biggest trade partner Beijing and main military ally, the US. – Bloomberg 

South Korea sent drones across the border into North Korea for the first time on Monday, an unprecedented tit-for-tat military move after Kim Jong Un’s regime dispatched five unmanned aerial vehicles into its air space.  – Bloomberg

Customs and Border Protection announced that it confiscated merchandise made with North Korean labor. The confiscations are an enforcement of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which prevents products that utilize North Korean labor from being sold in the United States. The goods of several Chinese companies were seized in a U.S. port on Dec. 5 after it was found that they had used North Korean labor. – Washington Examiner 


The US military will have a “transformative” year in Asia in 2023, a top defense official said this month, continuing the Biden administration’s efforts counter what US officials say is China’s destabilizing influence on the region’s security. – Business Insider

Russia and China have completed naval drills in the East China Sea, after a week of joint exercises which included practising how to capture an enemy submarine with depth charges and firing artillery at a warship, Russia’s defence ministry said. – Reuters

The U.S. government may impose new COVID-19 measures on travelers to the United States from China over concerns about the “lack of transparent data” coming from Beijing, U.S. officials said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Miles Yu writes: The order against me included no specific allegations, because there’s nothing the regime can say without calling attention to my work—advocating for a probe of Covid-19’s origin in Wuhan, developing policies for a bipartisan response in the U.S. to the China threat, and speaking the truth that the Communist Party doesn’t represent the Chinese people. – Wall Street Journal 

South Asia

A wealthy Russian businessman and lawmaker was found dead over the weekend in India, shortly after another Russian national he was traveling with died at the same hotel, local media reported, citing police. – New York Times 

India’s pharmaceuticals regulator has begun inspecting some drug factories across the country, the health ministry said on Tuesday, as it tries to ensure high standards after an Indian company’s cough and cold syrups were linked to deaths in Gambia. – Reuters

When Sri Lanka slid into its worst economic crisis in seven decades leading to deadly riots and alarming shortages of fuel, food and medicines earlier this year, its giant northern neighbour stepped into the breach. – Reuters

Russian crude oil is being shipped to India on tankers insured by western companies, in the first sign Moscow has reneged on its vow to block sales under the G7-imposed price cap. – Financial Times


Taiwan will extend mandatory military service for male citizens, a once politically unpalatable move that has become imperative in the face of growing concerns about a Chinese attack and intensifying competition between Washington and Beijing. – Wall Street Journal 

The United States and Japan have begun making arrangements for a summit meeting between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington on Jan. 13, the Yomiuri daily reported on Wednesday. – Reuters

Japan’s Ministry of Defence will deploy a surface-to-air missile defence unit in Yonaguni Island, the country’s westernmost island, near Taiwan, Jiji news reported on Tuesday.- Reuters

The Biden administration criticized Beijing’s military drills near Taiwan this week as “provocative,” insisting it will continue helping the government in Taipei defend itself. – Bloomberg 

Husain Haqqani and Aparna Pande write: The U.S. could upend China’s efforts to scare India out of close ties with the U.S. by showing an interest in improving the capabilities of the Indian army as much as the U.S. seems interested in India’s Air Force and Navy. Washington and New Delhi may also have to settle on some middle ground between India’s insistence on technology transfer and U.S. offers of just selling more military equipment, which has stalled India’s military modernization for years. – The Hill 


Protesting Serbs in the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo erected new barricades on Tuesday, hours after Serbia said it had put its army on the highest combat alert following weeks of escalating tensions between Belgrade and Pristina. – Reuters

France will provide Poland with two observation satellites and a receiving station under a deal sealed Tuesday in Warsaw which Poland says will help its armed forces recognize threats early. – Associated Press

Kosovan Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla on Tuesday said Serbia, under the influence of Russia, was aiming to destabilise Kosovo by supporting the Serb minority in the north who have been blocking roads and protesting for almost three weeks. – Reuters

The deadly attack on Kurds in Paris last week has highlighted the long plight of the non-Arab ethnic group of between 25 and 35 million people who remain stateless. – Agence France-Presse

The magnitude of the probe into allegations of bribery involving members of the European parliament is of a scale usually seen in major investigations into organised crime, said Belgium’s justice minister. – Financial Times

After decades of unsuccessful attempts to generate nuclear power in Poland, Warsaw has kick-started two separate projects to build atomic plants with foreign partners. – Financial Times

Richard Milne and Martin Arnold write: He says the EU needs to come up with a coherent and ambitious energy strategy: “If we are unable to ensure that our economies get access to affordable energy, we will start losing companies that are energy intensive and they will relocate and that will have consequences in terms of unemployment and lower growth.” – Financial Times


Angola’s Supreme Court has ordered the “preventive” seizure of assets worth around $1 billion held by Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the southern African country’s former president, Portugal’s Lusa news agency said on Tuesday. – Reuters

It’s been more than a year since jihadis first stormed Igor Kassah’s town in northern Benin but the priest still lives in fear. His once peaceful life is now marked by threatening phone calls and Islamic extremist diatribes tacked on church doors demanding that people leave. He is haunted by the bodies he has seen of those killed in the attacks. – Associated Press

The accounts are haunting. Abductions, torture, rapes. Scores of civilians including women and children have been killed by the M23 rebels in eastern Congo, according to a U.N. report – Associated Press

Kenya’s shilling weakened on Wednesday, due to a build-up in demand for dollars from oil retailing companies, traders said. At 0820 GMT, commercial banks quoted the shilling at 123.25/45 per dollar, compared with Friday’s close of 123.15/25. Kenyan markets were closed on Monday and Tuesday for Christmas and Boxing Day holidays. – Reuters

German companies want to boost their activities in Africa next year, especially in areas such as green hydrogen and liquefied natural gas, with 43% planning to increase investment in the continent, a survey seen by Reuters on Tuesday showed. – Reuters

Clashes have killed 56 people during four days of fighting in South Sudan’s eastern Jonglei state, after youth from the Nuer community attacked another ethnic group, a local official said on Tuesday, with the Nuer making up most of the casualties. – Reuters

The Americas

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday left in place for now a pandemic-era policy allowing U.S. officials to rapidly expel migrants caught at the U.S.-Mexico border. – Reuters

Police in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, said on Tuesday that a backpack found near where President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was staying that had prompted a bomb scare contained only personal belongings. – Reuters

Representatives for Panama’s government and Canada’s First Quantum Minerals are set to meet on Wednesday for a third day of talks to solve a dispute over the miner’s operations in the country, according to two sources familiar with the matter. – Reuters

Mexico’s president appealed to the country’s citizens Tuesday not to accept holiday handouts and gifts from drug gangs, after videos posted online showed garish pickup trucks handing out loads of gifts while bystanders described the drivers as members of the Jalisco drug cartel. – Associated Press

Nine months into a state of emergency declared by President Nayib Bukele to fight street gangs, El Salvador has seen more than 1,000 documented human rights abuses and about 90 deaths of prisoners in custody. And Bukele’s popularity ratings have soared. – Associated Press


The popular Chinese video app TikTok has been banned from all U.S. House of Representatives-managed devices, according to the House’s administration arm, mimicking a law soon to go into effect banning the app from U.S. government devices. – Reuters

The military has been competing with the private sector to recruit and retain a workforce with critical cyber skills — a decade-long contest where pay, purpose and personnel management have driven the flow of talent, and the services appear to be losing, according to a government watchdog report. – Military.com

Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, Canada’s largest pediatric health center, is still recovering from a ransomware attack that began on December 18. – The Record


The F-35 Joint Program Office has grounded a small number of newer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in response to the Dec. 15 incident in which a hovering fighter crashed on a Texas runway and its pilot ejected. – Defense News

Making the switch from building corporate jets to building Navy warships has been reinvigorating for a soldier-turned-business executive who’s leading Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works. – Defense News

The Navy’s littoral combat ship fleet could see a new permanent mission as part of the fiscal 2023 defense bill that President Biden signed into law Friday. – Defense News

The U.S. Navy last week declared the Marine Corps’ CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter ready for full-rate production, allowing the Marines to double their annual buys of the aircraft in the next three years. – Defense News

It’s not clear whether the Department of Defense should continue to develop new types of microreactors — primarily because they have uncertain costs and regulations. However, we can use a systematic and repeatable framework for plugging in such information as it becomes available to pave the way for effective DoD investment decisions. We can even use presently available data and information to identify preliminary findings. – Defense News