Fdd's overnight brief

December 30, 2022

In The News


Iran’s military on Friday kicked off its annual drill in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman and near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, state TV reported, even as the authorities continue their crackdown on anti-government protests that have been underway for over three months. – Associated Press

Iran appointed a new head of its central bank on Thursday after the currency crashed to its lowest level ever against the dollar amid mass protests and ongoing Western sanctions. – Associated Press

Iran has sentenced a dissident author to death on “espionage” charges after giving an interview earlier in the year to an Israeli television channel, opposition-affiliated media reported Thursday. – Agence France-Presse

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday claimed that Moscow supports the U.S. and its Western allies in finding a nuclear deal with Iran and warned against the threat of an “irreversible” arms race. – Fox News

President Biden’s efforts to grant wide-ranging economic concessions to Iran’s regime during 2022 to temporarily stop Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons program have been rebuffed by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, experts say. – Fox News

Crowds of Iranian demonstrators gathered at the graves of protesters murdered by Iranian security forces during the anti-government protests that continue to sweep Iran to mark 40 days since their murder on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Bobby Ghosh writes: But to bring him down, the protesters will need to coopt some elements of the state; Khomenei was able to overthrow the Shah of Iran only after large sections of the armed forces mutinied. There have as yet been few signs of disgruntlement within the security apparatus, which is comprised of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the military, the paramilitary Basij and the police. – Bloomberg

Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Zachary Coles, Johanna Moore, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Raisi stressed the importance of managing exchange rates and reducing inflation in publicized comments on Farzin’s appointment. Farzin’s appointment likely reflects the regime’s growing concern with the Iranian rial’s decline in recent months, although it is unclear how his appointment will rectify Iran’s deteriorating economic conditions and endemic corruption. – Institute for the Study of War

Russia & Ukraine

Explosions rocked cities across Ukraine early Thursday morning, as Russia continued its unrelenting pummeling of the country’s energy infrastructure, launching dozens of missiles and hospitalizing at least three people in the capital, Ukrainian officials said. – Washington Post

When Vladimir Putin visited Minsk last week to discuss deepening cooperation, a sarcastic joke by his host, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, seemed to ring all too true. “The two of us are co-aggressors, the most harmful and toxic people on this planet. We have only one dispute: Who is the bigger one? That’s all,” Lukashenko said. – Washington Post

The Ukrainian effort relies heavily on volunteer units grafted onto the professional army. A novel military experiment driven at first by expediency, the decentralized command has since given Ukraine a crucial advantage in tackling the lumbering Russian military. – Wall Street Journal 

President Biden signed a $1.7 trillion spending bill into law on Thursday, averting a shutdown and keeping the government funded through September while adding to his legacy of expanding federal programs as president[…] That money included significant new aid to Ukraine to help in its fight against the Russian invasion. – New York Times

Ten months into Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine, overwhelming evidence shows the Kremlin’s troops have waged total war, with disregard for international laws governing the treatment of civilians and conduct on the battlefield. – Associated Press

The Bulgarian foreign ministry on Thursday summoned Russia’s ambassador to explain why Moscow has placed a Bulgarian journalist working for an international investigative website on a list of wanted persons. – Associated Press

Russia launched 16 “kamikaze” drones into Ukraine overnight, Kyiv’s military said on Friday, a day after Moscow fired dozens of missiles in its latest barrage against Ukrainian critical infrastructure. – Reuters

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on NATO member states to supply more weapons to Ukraine, according to an interview published on Friday. – Reuters

Belarus protested to Ukraine’s ambassador on Thursday after saying it had downed a Ukrainian S-300 air defence missile in a field, during one of Russia’s heaviest aerial onslaughts against Ukraine since the start of the war in February. – Reuters

Russia is finding it difficult to combat air threats on its own land as it continues its war with Ukraine, according to the latest British intelligence update. – Newsweek

Russia’s Ministry of Defense pledged that it will “never” run out of missiles after the country launched a barrage of missiles in Ukraine earlier on Thursday amid the ongoing war in the Eastern European country. – Newsweek

Tunku Varadarajan writes: The narrative of a godly Russia versus a satanic Ukraine has been sold especially hard by Mr. Medvedev, currently deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council. In a recent post on Telegram, the popular social-media platform, Mr. Medvedev offered a defense of the war that teetered on the hysterical. – Wall Street Journal 

David Satter writes: Russia’s inability to rid itself of the Soviet legacy is the underlying cause of the war. If Ukraine cedes territory, the Soviet imperialist mentality will survive intact. Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War (1853-56) led to the emancipation of the serfs, and defeat in the Russo-Japanese war (1904-05) led to Russia’s first constitution. We need to support a decisive Ukrainian victory to punish aggression—and to free Russia from the burden of its past. – Wall Street Journal 

Antony Beevor writes: Putin seems to be in denial about the state of his army and the way that General Winter will favor his opponents. He may also have made another mistake by concentrating his missiles against Ukraine’s energy network and its vulnerable civilian population. They will endure the greatest suffering, but there is little chance that they will break. – Foreign Affairs

Angela Howard, Riley Bailey, Karolina Hird, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan write: The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) responded to ongoing Western assessments that it has severely depleted its stock of high-precision weapons systems amidst the massive strike against Ukraine by stating that it would never run out of Kalibr missiles. ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces have significantly depleted their arsenal of high-precision weapons systems but will likely continue to threaten Ukrainian critical infrastructure at scale in the near term and cause substantial suffering to Ukrainian civilians. – Institute for the Study of War 

Herman Pirchner, Jr. writes: Second, even if the peace fully restores Ukraine’s territory, the U.S. should nevertheless take the lead in developing a multilateral security architecture sufficient to deter Russian imperial impulses in the future — whether against Ukraine once more, or against other lands considered “lost” by Kremlin ideologues. Such preemptive investments would be prudent, despite the associated costs. In retrospect, if Putin knew how strongly the West would support Ukraine, would he have attacked in the first place? – American Foreign Policy Council


Israel’s new government was sworn in on Thursday, returning Benjamin Netanyahu to power at the head of a right-wing and religiously conservative administration that represents a significant challenge for the country on the world stage. – New York Times

Israel’s military said on Thursday it filed “severe indictments” against two soldiers who threw an improvised explosive at a Palestinian house in the occupied West Bank in retaliation for the kidnapping of the body of an Israeli teenager last month. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday he looked forward to working with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and promoting regional peace, including between Israelis and Palestinians, with the new Israeli government. – Reuters

A series of planned protests are now ongoing as demonstrators arrived at the Knesset Thursday to protest the establishment of Israel’s 37th coalition government – a coalition marked by far-right controversy. – Jerusalem Post

Newly appointed Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer will reportedly serve as the point man for ties on White House matters in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government. […] According to a Thursday Channel 12 report, Dermer will use the vaguely defined role to work on expanding the Abraham Accords, specifically seeking a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia. He will also likely have a seat on the high-level security cabinet. – Times of Israel

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday said there had been a sharp rise in violence in the West Bank over the past year and warned that a plan to remove Border Police forces from the area would potentially harm the military’s operations and training schedule. – Times of Israel

The Palestinians are not afraid of the new Israeli right-wing government and are ready to confront it, Palestinian officials said on Thursday as Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu presented his cabinet ministers to the Knesset. – Jerusalem Post


Even before the Taliban barred Afghan women from working at non-governmental groups, their forces visited the office of one local organization in the capital Kabul several times to check female staff were obeying rules on dress codes and gender segregation. – Associated Press

Major aid agencies on Thursday warned that Afghans will die because of the Taliban order banning women from working at nongovernmental groups, and stressed that female staff are crucial for the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance across war-battered Afghanistan. – Associated Press

G7 foreign ministers on Thursday called on the Taliban to “urgently reverse” a ban on women working in Afghanistan’s aid sector. – Agence France-Presse

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths will visit Afghanistan in the coming weeks and seek to meet the highest possible officials within the Taliban-led administration after it banned female aid workers, a senior U.N. official said on Thursday. – Reuters 

“I love three things in this world,” Ahmad Massoud once told French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, “books, gardens and astronomy.” Now, the young Afghan finds himself leading a rag-tag band of rebels nestled in the mountains of the Hindu Kush. They are the last remnants of the Global War on Terror launched by America and her allies in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. – New York Sun

The U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan left President Biden saddened, frustrated and sleepless as he faced deep criticism over its handling, according to a new book about the administration. – The Hill 

Afghan women have found a strong supporter as they protest against the Taliban banning women from universities — men. Hundreds of male professors and students, as well as husbands and fathers, are publicly airing their opposition to the latest restriction imposed by the Taliban against their “sisters.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Ruth Pollard writes: From the time the administration of former President Donald Trump signed a “peace deal” with the Taliban in February 2020 that set the stage for the withdrawal of US troops — an agreement his successor Joe Biden decided to honor — Afghan women knew that all the advances they’d made in education, at work and in government were under threat. Just how quickly those gains were eroded has been agonizing. Listen to them — it is the only way forward. – Bloomberg

Beth Bailey writes: Opportunities and the quality of life for Afghan women have slowly winnowed away since the August 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. These new misogynistic restrictions now affect the lives of approximately 18 million Afghans whom the World Food Program of the United Nations assesses are “acutely food-insecure,” which includes 6 million Afghans “teetering on the brink of famine.” In the wake of these concerning developments, it is imperative for the international community to do everything in its power to support the people of Afghanistan in their fight against leaders who are callously indifferent to their suffering. – Washington Examiner


A Turkish court Thursday refused to release a top doctor who faces years in jail for demanding a probe into the army’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters in Iraq. – Agence France-Presse

President Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to allow more than 2 million Turkish workers to retire early is his latest measure to ease economic hardships in the run-up to tight elections, and it will swell government spending to record levels. – Reuters

Turkey on Thursday denounced French politicians for attending a Paris protest at the killing of three Kurds, in which demonstrators waved flags of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). – Reuters

Finland and Sweden have adopted a common “future ally” approach with Turkey in an attempt to fast-track their NATO membership — something hindered by the Ankara government. – Defense News

Sam Heller writes: Whether Turkey actually invades Syria again, though, is a decision that will likely be made in Moscow, not Ankara. So when Turkish officials next threaten an incursion, U.S. officials and other concerned parties need to be watching for another Turkish-Russian convergence. Another agreement between Erdogan and Putin could mean not only a new military offensive in northern Syria but also, if it entails Turkish-Syrian normalization, a huge political shift in Syria’s war. – War on the Rocks

Saudi Arabia

This year’s race takes place against a backdrop of concerns linked to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and military intervention in neighbouring Yemen[…] Last year, preparations were rocked by an explosion two days before the start of the race which left French driver Philippe Boutron seriously injured. – Agence France-Presse

The Saudi Arabian stock market ended lower on Wednesday, marking its first annual loss in seven years, while the Egyptian bourse was the Middle East’s best performer in 2022. – Reuters

Gregory Gause III writes: The elements of continued co­operation between the United States and Saudi Arabia are still in place. But the two countries must set aside their unrealistic dreams of changing or influencing the other’s domestic politics. Both sides must learn to deal with the other side as it is—not as they wish it to be. – Foreign Affairs

Middle East & North Africa

An American citizen who was detained in Dubai for seven weeks and faced possible extradition to his native Egypt over criticizing the government there and calling on Egyptians to protest is back home after he was freed. – Wall Street Journal

Landmark talks between the Syrian and Turkish defense ministers in Moscow included border security and how Turkey can act jointly against Kurdish militants, a senior Turkish official said, after a meeting underlining thawing ties between the foes. – Reuters

Egypt on Thursday lifted a key restriction on imports and approved a list of economic activities the government would leave to the private sector, in an effort to meet two key conditions attached to the International Monetary Fund’s $3 billion support package. – Reuters

Moqtada al-Sadr, the Muslim Shi’ite cleric who dominated Iraqi politics for two decades, seems isolated for now after his move to step back from formal politics emboldened his Iranian-backed rivals and raised the prospect of fresh factional flare-ups. – Reuters

Married for over a decade, Alia Abdel-Razak is one of a million Iraqis deprived of crucial civil status documents, often caught in legal limbo in a country paralysed by bureaucracy and the ravages of war. – Agence France-Presse

Hizbullah has recently renewed its anti-American rhetoric that blames the U.S. for all of Lebanon’s problems. One reason for the escalation was remarks made by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf in which she called Hizbullah a “plague.” These remarks drew furious responses from Hizbullah officials, chief of them the organization’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, who stated that America, rather than Hizbullah, is the plague and curse afflicting Lebanon, “whose effects are felt even today and are evident in the economic situation, the living conditions and the economic collapse” in the country. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Similarly, having worked to get back on track with meetings with US Jewish leaders, creating another crisis would seem odd. However, as Erdogan is fond of telling Greece, Turkey “may come suddenly one night,” a reference to military threats and how it conducts foreign policy. Ankara may decide one night to suddenly create a new crisis with Israel, in which case Netanyahu will have to judge how to respond. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Adversaries, such as Iran, with its backing of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, will want to create a crisis. It remains to be seen if the kingdom will seek to turn down the rhetoric, or if it will keep the spotlight on Jerusalem and what affect this may have in coming months. – Jerusalem Post 

Amos Harel writes: The current plan for 2023 is to deploy 19 battalions, in the hope that the barriers and observation technology located along the line will somewhat reduce the load on the troops and enable the army to return to a reasonable training schedule, after training periods were seriously cut back throughout the past year. But these are only plans that, as always, are dependent upon the seriousness of developments in the field. – Haaretz

Avishai Levi writes: Communications with partners like the United States and United Kingdom will also be vital, and Israel is already preparing its Western friends for these scenarios. Israel’s current campaign between the wars, a shadow campaign to keep Iranian entrenchment out of Syria, contributes substantially to Israeli deterrence, and it is deterrence that may just be able to postpone a Third Lebanon War—for the time being. – Newsweek

Korean Peninsula

South Korea staged large-scale military drills Thursday to simulate shooting down drones as a step to bolster its readiness against North Korean provocations, three days after the North flew drones into its territory for the first time in five years. – Associated Press

President Yoon Suk Yeol said he wants to put South Korea on a path of overwhelming military strength against North Korea and pledged to boost defenses against drones after his neighbor sent five across the border this week. – Bloomberg

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered his government to devise stronger incentives to drive its chip industry, accusing opposition lawmakers of impeding that critical effort as other countries spend billions on semiconductor policy support. – Bloomberg


The U.S. military said a Chinese jet fighter conducted an unsafe maneuver while intercepting an American spy plane in international airspace over the South China Sea last week. […] The footage shows the J-11 flying slightly ahead and to the left of the RC-135, with the distance between them narrowing until the American plane seemed to maneuver away. – Wall Street Journal 

Canada has kicked out Chinese companies from its critical-mining sector, accused Beijing of meddling in its domestic affairs and publicly called China “a global, disruptive force.” – Wall Street Journal 

While frustration over zero-COVID and its devastating impact on the second-largest economy did little to disrupt Xi’s march towards five more years as general secretary of the ruling Communist Party, 2022 was a year of crises at home and abroad for the 69-year-old leader. – Reuters

A meeting between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin via video conference is underway, with analysts watching for any sign of a softening in the Chinese leader’s support for his Russian counterpart as the war in Ukraine drags on and as China faces an unprecedented Covid outbreak. – CNN

Oil prices fell for a second straight session on Thursday on an uncertain demand outlook as more countries considered restrictions on Chinese travelers with COVID-19 infections spreading in the top oil-importing nation. – Reuters

China said it is up to the US to take steps toward resuming high-level military discussions that were suspended after Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, comments that hint at lingering tensions between the world’s two largest economies. – Bloomberg

Lawyers are leaving Hong Kong en mass in response to increasing restrictions from the ruling Chinese Communist Party. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: The more France and Germany tolerate Xi’s double-dealing, the more damage they do to their own EU agenda. The credibility of Macron’s vaunted European “strategic autonomy” withers if the EU cannot muster the courage to demand at least lip service to a principle Beijing cites cynically for its own benefit. – Washington Examiner 

Zachary Faria writes: The NBA will never sever its “special relationship” with China, no matter how many times the league pretends to care about “equality” or “dignity.” China pays the bills, and so China calls the shots in the league’s relationship, which means teams like the Wizards will continue to debase themselves whenever it’s time to cash the checks. – Washington Examiner

Ferial Ara Saeed writes: Biden should pivot. Offer a vision for unifying the global order and identify a very narrow area where severing economic ties with China is unavoidable because America cannot afford to lose, and a very broad area for competition. […] The world had to exhaust itself with massive bloodshed and destruction to reach a new equilibrium. America is far from perfect, but a world order where the United States is not at the head of the table will be a dangerous and unhappy place. There is time to fix this, but not much. – The Hill 

Michael Schuman writes: All the same, the China-Russia relationship could remain dangerous to the U.S. and democracy more broadly. Whatever differences or points of distrust they may have, Beijing and Moscow still share an objective of altering the world order, and they will continue to pursue that, within the constraints of their relations. – The Atlantic

South Asia

Authorities in India say they are investigating the deaths of two Russians, one of them a well-known politician and wealthy businessman, who died within two days of each other at a hotel in the country’s east. – Wall Street Journal 

Pakistani police in multiple raids detained at least 1,200 Afghan nationals, including women and children, who had entered the southern port city of Karachi without valid travel documents, officials said Thursday. – Associated Press

Three Pakistani soldiers were killed Thursday when troops raided a hideout in a former militant stronghold near the border with Afghanistan, the military said. Two insurgents also died in the raid. – Associated Press


Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader, was found guilty of corruption on Friday and sentenced to seven years in prison, almost two years after she was first detained by the military in a coup. – New York Times

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen thanked navy and army personnel on Friday for their service defending the island, after China sent a record-breaking number of warplanes and ships toward Taiwan this week. – Associated Press

Russians have this year shunned Vietnam, traditionally a popular retreat for its travellers, with a war-induced halt on direct flights and the appeal of rival destinations among factors that have kept its biggest-spending visitors at bay. – Reuters

The Indian maker of a cough syrup that was linked to the death of 19 children in Uzbekistan said on Friday that it had halted production of all medicines after an inspection by the drug regulator. – Reuters

Kazakhstan is preparing to deport a Russian security officer who fled his country because he objected to the invasion of Ukraine and hoped to find refuge in the West, his wife said on Thursday. – Reuters

When Myanmar carried out the death penalty for the first time in three decades by executing four activists in July, China and Russia stayed silent while the US and its allies condemned the junta. Now the regime is on the verge of doing it again. – Bloomberg

Li’s flurry of activity starkly underscored his country’s determined push for economic and political influence in the South Pacific, where growing competition between China and the United States—joined by allies such as Australia and Japan and closely watched by India—swirls across thousands of miles of ocean in a region with sea lanes that are important for world trade. – Newsweek

The Republic of Azerbaijan on Thursday announced the appointment of its first-ever ambassador to Israel, less than two months after approving the opening of an embassy in Tel Aviv. – Times of Israel

Colin Clark writes: Underlying all of the above is the grim question, how will China react? Will Xi, weakened by the most brazen public criticism since the Tianamen Square revolt and his economic problems, come roaring back? Or will China spend the year regrouping and reconsidering its economic and defense policies? Many of these questions may be answered in 2023, perhaps bringing with them an altered balance of power in the Pacific. – Breaking Defense


Serbia on Thursday revoked combat readiness of its troops on the border with Kosovo as local Serbs started removing more than a dozen of the roadblocks they had set up in the north of the state, in a sign of easing of tensions that have sparked fears of a renewed conflict in the Balkans. – Associated Press

President Maia Sandu, elected in 2020 on a pro-European and anti-corruption platform, expressed hopes on Thursday that crisis-hit Moldova would join the European Union before 2030. – Reuters

The Danish foreign ministry on Thursday said a Dubai court had ruled that the main suspect in a dividend tax fraud case can be extradited to Denmark for prosecution, although the decision will be appealed. – Reuters

Serbian police have arrested an Afghan army general and a sniper wanted by France on terrorism charges during a raid on an migrant camp in the north of the Balkan country, Tanjug news agency reported on Thursday. – Reuters

Philip Stephens writes: All of this will take time. New initiatives will need to be negotiated not demanded. There will be a price to pay. Above all, the British approach should embrace an unfamiliar humility — a recognition, if nothing else, that the EU still holds most of the cards. – Financial Times

Tim Martin writes: These acquisitions are the kind that Poland would so often talk about but subsequently delay or cancel. But with a war on its border, there can be no excuse for scaling down investment. With that in mind and Russia’s menace still dominating NATO thinking, 2023 will likely see European defense spending less laughed at by critics but rather applauded. Trump’s threat might not have worked, but Putin’s most certainly has. – Breaking Defense


Ethiopia’s federal police said Thursday that its members have entered the Tigray region’s capital Mekele for the first time in more than a year, under last month’s peace deal between the federal government and Tigray leaders. – Associated Press

Eritrean soldiers, who fought in support of the Ethiopian federal government during a two-year civil war in the northern Tigray region, have pulled out of the major towns of Shire and Axum, three eyewitnesses told Reuters. – Reuters

Armed raids in a region of South Sudan plagued by ethnic clashes have forced around 30,000 civilians to flee their homes, the UN’s emergency response agency said Thursday as international partners demanded an end to the violence. – Agence France-Presse

The deputy head of Sudan’s sovereign council led a mission to the city of Nyala in South Darfur on Thursday to assess the security situation following another spate of violence there, the council said. – Reuters

Latin America

But nearly four years later and with little to show for the effort, the experiment appears to be coming to an end. On Friday, the opposition lawmakers who once rallied behind Guaidó are expected to end his mandate. They approved the move in a 72-23 preliminary vote last week. – Washington Post

A Bolivian court sentenced right-wing opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho to four months of pre-trial detention, a day after he was arrested in connection to 2019 social unrest that saw former leftist President Evo Morales flee the country. – Reuters

A fire halted operations on Wednesday at a coking plant of Petromonagas, a joint venture of the state oil companies of Venezuela and Russia, four sources told Reuters, adding that no one was injured. – Reuters

Arturo Mcfields Yescas writes: Nicaragua has become the first Latin American country in which keeping the Catholic faith can mean jail. Religious freedom is an essential human right. […] While religious and civil liberties continue to be under attack in Nicaragua, migration will continue to rise. A humanitarian, legal and comprehensive response is urgent. – The Hill 

Christopher Sabatini and Bruno Binetti write: The Biden administration will need to put pressure not just on Maduro but on the opposition, as well. In anticipation of the 2024 election, these leaders should organize primaries and pick a single presidential candidate. In the past, internecine battles have prevented the opposition from mounting the most potent challenge they can. This time, they must rise to the occasion. – Foreign Affairs


Twitter is closing down its Seattle offices and telling employees to work from home as the social media giant continues to cut costs under the leadership of new CEO Elon Musk, according to reports. – New York Post

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration said it’s reviewing the use of TikTok on state government devices, as the popular social media app is a growing source of security concerns from politicians in Washington and other states. – Associated Press

The website for the Port of Lisbon is still down days after officials confirmed it was the target of a cyberattack. The Port of Lisbon is Portugal’s busiest and one of the most used across all of Europe, handling 13,200,000 tonnes of cargo each year due to its strategic location between Europe and Africa. – The Record


The Air Force captured the aviation world’s attention when it rolled out the B-21 Raider stealth bomber in December. In 2023, the service hopes to show off the highly secretive aircraft’s first flight — though that target has been pushed back multiple times. – Defense News

Some models of the F-35 Lightning II are being investigated and grounded by the military services following a crash in Texas earlier this month that forced the pilot to eject from the runway. – Military.com

Tim Gallaudet writes: To maintain its narrowing competitive advantage over China in this area, the Navy must fully fund the research sponsored by this division and ensure more of the scientists supporting it are given the security clearances necessary to aid them in effectively enhancing capability development in offensive and defensive seabed warfare. – The Hill 

Long War

American military personnel, together with local forces in Iraq and Syria, killed nearly 700 suspected members of the Islamic State in 2022, officials said Thursday, highlighting an aggressive counterterrorism campaign that quietly endures five years after a U.S.-led coalition destroyed the militant group’s caliphate. – Washington Post

Syrian Kurdish-led forces said Thursday they had launched an offensive against Islamic State group fighters, days after jihadist gunmen launched a deadly prison attack. – Agence France-Presse

Ever since, what to do with the women and children at al-Hol has been a conundrum for the Kurdish-led authorities. Most of the women are wives and widows of IS fighters. Thousands of Syrians and Iraqis have been released and sent home, as well as a number of foreigners. – Associated Press

A year after the girls were kidnapped, now-President Muhammadu Buhari rode a wave of goodwill to power after promising to rescue them. […] Many parents, however, are beginning to question the government’s commitment to the girls’ freedom. And the Chibok community continues to suffer attacks from Boko Haram and a breakaway faction that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. – Associated Press