Fdd's overnight brief

February 10, 2023

In The News


The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned nine companies for allegedly helping move Iranian petroleum products and petrochemicals valued at hundreds of millions of dollars to buyers in Asia via a previously sanctioned Hong Kong company. – Wall Street Journal 

Brazil bowed to U.S. pressure and declined an Iranian request for two of its warships to dock in Rio de Janeiro at a time when Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was planning his trip to Washington to meet U.S. leader Joe Biden, sources said. – Reuters 

France’s new envoy to Iran told President Ebrahim Raisi that Tehran had to immediately release seven French nationals detained in the country, the foreign ministry said after the envoy handed his credentials to the Iranian leader this week. – Reuters 

Two Iranian university professors have been suspended from their jobs after they came out in support of nationwide protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The families of those killed by authorities in Iran — including people who have died in recent mass protests over the death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly — have launched a campaign on Twitter asking foreign diplomats not to participate in a government ceremony for the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Nicholas Carl, Annika Ganzeveld, Johanna Moore, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid escalated rhetorically against the regime, expressing support for reformist calls for “fundamental” change in Iran. Hardline officials may be inadvertently facilitating and amplifying the calls from Mousavi and other reformists for serious change.[…]President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian have tried to defend the regime’s protest crackdown and treatment of women to an international audience in recent days. – Institute for the Study of War 

Leonardo Coutinho writes: It is hard to say why Iran’s naval mission to South America has been “delayed”—or even interrupted. Maybe the mission was just another empty provocation. Maybe it was a smokescreen for clandestine activity, such as transporting nuclear material. If the first scenario is correct, Iran may have achieved what it wanted by causing tensions and forcing the United States to spend time, money, and attention on purely a propaganda operation. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

Russia’s Wagner Group is no longer recruiting convicts from prisons, its founder said, marking an end to one of the sources of troops that has helped tip the fighting in eastern Ukraine in Moscow’s favor. – Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon is urging Congress to resume funding a pair of top-secret programs in Ukraine suspended ahead of Russia’s invasion last year, according to current and former U.S. officials. If approved, the move would allow American Special Operations troops to employ Ukrainian operatives to observe Russian military movements and counter disinformation. – Washington Post

Ukrainian officials said they require coordinates provided or confirmed by the United States and its allies for the vast majority of strikes using its advanced U.S.-provided rocket systems, a previously undisclosed practice that reveals a deeper and more operationally active role for the Pentagon in the war. – Washington Post

President Vladimir Putin waved a sarcastic farewell on Thursday to foreign businesses which have left Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, saying their departure would benefit Russian companies. – Reuters 

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said during a visit to a tank factory in the Siberian city of Omsk on Thursday that Moscow would increase production of tanks in response to Western arms supplies to Ukraine. – Reuters 

Russia and the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog on Thursday said they hoped to make progress on creating a safety zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has come under repeated shelling over the past months. – Reuters 

Russian forces struck critical infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and launched multiple strikes on energy infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia early Friday as Moscow stepped up its attacks in Ukraine’s south and east and air raid sirens went off across much of the country. – Associated Press 

President Joe Biden hinted that he would not travel to Ukraine as speculation swirls around the prospect of a visit nearly one year into the war. – Washington Examiner

Moldova’s intelligence service has confirmed statements made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy alleging that Russia has acted to destabilize the country. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

David Arakhamia, the faction head of Ukraine’s ruling party “Servant of the People” revealed that the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) will vote for the resignation of Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov at its next plenary session. Reznikov will be succeeded by Kirill Budanov, head of the Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate. Reznikov will remain in the cabinet and is slated to replace Pavel Ryabikin as Minister for Strategic Industries of Ukraine. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

England’s new offer to train Ukrainian fighter pilots may have whetted the appetite in Kyiv for a potential transfer of Western fighter jets, but a senior UK official said it was really about Ukraine’s “post-war” military — while also acknowledging having pilots familiar with Western fighters would be beneficial if the NATO nations begin supplying aircraft. – Breaking Defense 

The Dnieper River continues to be a battleground in the Russo-Ukraine as Russia attempts to use small boats to keep its presence on islands, according to a U.K. intelligence released this week. – USNI

Nicholas Mulder writes: The economic strengthening of Ukraine will require very large investments in infrastructure, industry and agriculture. It also demands massive assistance in the realms of education, health care, social services and the creation of competent institutions. – New York Times 

Sam Fleming writes: But Ukraine has proven its ability to make the political weather in the past year, not least in pushing for draconian Russia sanctions and more advanced western weapons. It is now building up notable momentum on the accession file as well. – Financial Times 

Janusz Bugajski writes: Once again, as during critical occasions in the 20th century, Washington has taken the lead role in forging sufficient consensus to ensure Ukraine’s defense and protect Europe’s security. Without America’s political leadership, military provisions, and economic capabilities, the fractures in Europe’s responses to Russia’s aggression would have deepened, and calls for peace deals and Ukrainian concessions would have escalated. – Washington Examiner

Reid Smith writes: However, the White House must weigh these dreams and demands against American interests. While they may partially align, they do not perfectly overlap. A significant escalation in the war—such as a strike against command-and-control targets within Russia delivered by American-built fighters—would risk the sort of general conflict all had hoped to avoid. President Biden should proceed with caution to ensure his next address to the country and our Congress does not break with his desire to avoid World War III. – The Hill  

Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, George Barros, Nicole Wolkov, and Frederick W. Kagan write: The Kremlin continues to pursue measures to gradually prepare Russia’s defense industrial base for a protracted war in Ukraine. […]Russian sources claimed that the Russian military integrated a Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) volunteer formation into the Russian Armed Forces. Russian sources claimed that Russian authorities detained a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group attempting to assassinate Russian occupation officials. – Institute for the Study of War 

Elina Beketova writes: In the city of Tokmak, the Russian forces were forcibly evicting civilians from their homes in order to accommodate local collaborators, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported. The people taking over the properties were “local collaborators who support the Russian occupation authorities and work as part of the enemy’s so-called ‘law enforcement agencies’ in the city,” the general staff said. “The householders are ordered to leave their homes and move out onto the street.” – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Leon Hadar writes: The challenge facing the United States and its allies is mostly geostrategic. Its interest lies in ending the war in Ukraine without allowing Russia to defeat its partner, Ukraine. There needs to be a debate on how the United States could and should achieve that goal. But if it does, expect most nations of the “South” to applaud. As before, interests rule the day. – The National Interest 


Israeli security forces killed a Palestinian who allegedly tried to stab a soldier in the West Bank on Thursday, authorities said, the latest violence in a period of heightened tensions in the occupied territory. – Associated Press 

Germany’s ambassador to Israel on Thursday said he was disappointed with Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distal Atbaryan’s claim that protesters against the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul are acting unwittingly under Iranian or German funding. – Haaretz 

Police operating on Wednesday night in the Negev have arrested a father and son from the Rahat area who were found to be in illegal possession of two “Carlo” type firearms, magazines, and ammunition. – Arutz Sheva

The Palestinian Authority (PA) foreign affairs bureau on Thursday welcomed the decision of the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, to suspend all institutional relations with Israel, including the cancellation of the twinning agreement with the city of Tel Aviv. – Arutz Sheva

The IDF arrested two wanted terrorists in operations throughout Judea and Samaria, including the village of Ad-Dhahiriya last night. – Arutz Sheva

Former Canadian justice minister and attorney general Irwin Cotler says the adoption of the package of radical legal and judicial reforms proposed by the government would all but annul Israel’s system of checks and balances on government power and turn the country into a “flawed democracy.” – Times of Israel

Naveh Dromi writes: Those calling the reform a coup, don’t respect Israeli democracy and don’t care about it. The struggles between left and right before the foundation of the state were too many to list. But in recent times, since Levin presented his reform, protest leaders (including the current president of the Supreme Court) are behaving as if they’ve gone to war. – Ynet


Aid began trickling into northwest Syria on Thursday, four days after deadly earthquakes battered an area that has been politically isolated by war, and left millions of displaced people and other Syrians living under continued hostilities without assistance. – Wall Street Journal

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday pushed for more aid access to northwestern Syria from Turkey, seeking an expanded mandate from the UN Security Council to allow UN help to be delivered through more than one border crossing after a devastating earthquake struck the region earlier this week. – Reuters 

Britain is committing additional funding – at least 3 million pounds ($3.65 million) – to support search and rescue operations and emergency relief in Syria after earthquakes in the region, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters 

In an article titled “Syria and the Ongoing Disaster” in the London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, French-Lebanese academic and journalist Gilbert Achcar notes that the number of Syrian victims in the recent earthquake is especially large, and this is because Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad destroyed the country in the civil war that has been ongoing since 2012, leaving it unable to cope with a disaster like an earthquake. The Syrian civil war, he adds, was a greater disaster than the Palestinian Nakba, because the number of people who were killed in it and in the oppression that accompanied it is ten times greater. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Ahmed Charai writes: The U.S.-led international community must immediately mobilize men, money, and materiel to support rescue and humanitarian efforts in northern Syria. The United States must also put pressure on the Assad government to allow humanitarian aid to flow freely to all areas affected by the earthquake, without political restrictions. In order to regain the confidence of the Arab world, the United States has to prove by actions that the United States says what it means and means what it says. – The National Interest


The United Nations humanitarian chief said early Friday that he was on his way to visit parts of Turkey and Syria stricken by a powerful earthquake earlier this week, hours after the death toll climbed past 20,000. – New York Times 

Greece sent thousands of tents, beds and blankets on Thursday to help the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by deadly earthquakes in Turkey, in an act of solidarity with a neighbour that is a NATO ally but also a historic foe. – Reuters 

Ukrainian rescue experts, more used to emergencies in a war zone at home, have brought their skills to the devastation caused from a massive earthquake in Turkey to search flattened buildings for survivors, erect tents and offer first aid. – Reuters 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing mounting criticism from earthquake survivors and opposition parties over the country’s poor construction record and what they say has been an inadequate response to one of its worst natural disasters. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: Turkish citizens should have the right to criticize their government on Twitter about all matters of public import, let alone amid a catastrophe such as this earthquake. If Musk is bowing to Erdogan, he has made a big mistake. – Washington Examiner  

Middle East & North Africa

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate relaunched a bipartisan effort Thursday to repeal two decades-old authorizations for the use of military force in Iraq, the latest in an effort by Congress to reassert its constitutional power over declarations of war. – Wall Street Journal

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sought on Thursday to play down a rare media spat with Saudi Arabia, which recently signalled greater conditionality over financial backing to allies such as Egypt. – Reuters 

The United States said on Thursday it will provide $85 million in urgent humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria after a massive earthquake that killed more than 20,000 people. – Reuters

Egypt has stepped up mediation between Israel and the Palestinians in a bid to tamp down violence in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank and to prevent its spread to the Gaza Strip ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, officials said. – Reuters  

Tunisian President Kais Saied has decided to strengthen diplomatic ties with Syria, the presidency said on Thursday, the clearest sign yet of Tunisia’s intention to fully restore relations days after a deadly earthquake that has devastated large parts of Syria. – Reuters 

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi thanked countries that had come to Egypt’s aid with economic support and warned against attempts to stoke regional strife. – Bloomberg

Tribal leaders identified the three — killed in late January near Yemen’s central city of Marib — as suspected members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, long considered one of the extremist group’s most dangerous branches. – Associated Press 

Nashat Shawamreh writes: In essence, Morocco and Algeria’s current efforts to outdo each other in the sphere of energy exports is yet another manifestation of the two countries’ larger tug-of-war. Luckily for Europe, this reality provides some significant solutions to the problem of energy scarcity as Europe seeks to end its reliance on Russian gas. – Washington Institute 

Khaled Dawoud writes: The government hopes that investments by friendly oil-rich Gulf states, in particular the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, combined with the return of “hot money,” a rise in tourism revenue, Suez Canal income, oil and natural gas sales, and remittances of expatriate Egyptians, would satisfy its most immediate needs in the coming year. Yet this is like walking a tight rope. Ultimately, even the IMF and many observers do not exclude possible social and political backlash if living expenses for the majority of Egyptians continue to skyrocket. – Middle East Institute  

Ronan P. Mainprize writes: Analogizing between conflicts is never a straightforward exercise. […]The Iran-Iraq War is by no means the only comparison that can be made to the current war in Ukraine, but it does offer clear tactical and strategic insights and raises important questions about planning, support, and operations. Such insights could help policymakers decide how to continue to respond to the crisis and help them avoid costly mistakes. History has a lot to teach — if only you ask the right questions. – War on the Rocks 


Humble beginnings for Chinese high-altitude ballooning have given way to a modern program of towering, lighter-than-air data-vacuums that are now rattling the U.S. military establishment. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. commerce with China is on the rise, despite escalating national-security tensions over matters such as last week’s downing of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon. – Wall Street Journal

Growing concerns about China’s military and economic ambitions have lawmakers and the White House weighing yet another effort to restrict Beijing’s access to advanced technologies that could be used in war. – New York Times 

Long before an unmanned Chinese airship floating over the United States grabbed the world’s attention, Taiwan may have glimpsed Beijing’s ambitions to turn balloons — seemingly so old-fashioned and ponderous — into elusive tools of 21st-century military power. – New York Times 

Compared with the unease from Chinese fighter jets racing over the Taiwan Strait or naval standoffs in the South China Sea, the giant Chinese balloon floating over the United States last week looked to many in Asia like a puffy trifle. – New York Times 

President Joe Biden, under fire from some lawmakers, said on Thursday he did not view a Chinese spy balloon that transited the United States before it was shot down in the Atlantic Ocean to have been a major security breach. – Reuters 

China has always required its firms to strictly abide by domestic laws and regulations, a commerce ministry spokesperson said on Thursday, when asked if China had exported navigation equipment, jamming technology and fighter-jet parts to Russia. – Reuters 

Washington must commit more diplomatic and security resources to the Indo-Pacific to push back against China as Beijing seeks to create a regional sphere of influence and become the world’s most influential power, U.S. Senate Democrats said on Thursday. – Reuters 

An alleged Chinese spy balloon that traversed the US had western-made components with English-language writing on them, members of Congress were told on Capitol Hill Thursday, people familiar with the matter said. – Bloomberg

Beijing lashed out at President Joe Biden for saying Chinese leader Xi Jinping faces “enormous problems,” underscoring the renewed tensions between the two nations since the US downing of a balloon in its airspace. – Bloomberg

China’s state-owned oil majors have stepped up Russian imports in a sign that Beijing is ready to give the go-ahead for more purchases of the country’s crude, according to industry consultants Energy Aspects. – Bloomberg

British officials are prepared to meet with the governor of China’s western region of Xinjiang, but the government said that any talks during a potential visit to the UK would be used to raise the issue of human rights violations against the Uyghurs. – Bloomberg

China on Friday dismissed a U.S. House of Representatives resolution condemning China over a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down above U.S. waters as “purely political manipulation and hyping up.” – Associated Press 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the Chinese spy balloon that drifted across the United States last week demonstrates behavior that threatens members of the Western alliance. – The Hill  

President Biden said he doesn’t ​think relations with China will be negatively affected by his having to shoot down a Chinese balloon that spied on the US mainland last week — in an interview that immediately drew a sharp rebuke from China. – New York Post 

A senior Pentagon official on Thursday tried to justify the military’s decision not to shoot down a Chinese balloon as soon as it entered Alaskan airspace by highlighting the dangers doing so would have posed to the recovery and examination of its surveillance equipment. – Defense News 

Editorial: Meanwhile, the White House should strive to tune out the DC frenzy. Biden’s efforts to strengthen alliances, invest in US infrastructure and innovation, insulate supply chains, and limit China’s access to critical dual-use technologies are making progress. Where the US could do better is in improving trade links with China’s neighbors — and strengthening communications with China itself. – Bloomberg

Marc A. Thiessen writes: Biden provided no answers Tuesday night. Instead, his administration has peddled excuse after excuse to play down the significance of the incursion. First, it questioned the value of the intelligence the spy ship could glean. Well, if spy balloons have no intelligence value, why has Beijing developed a whole fleet of them? […]Biden did not address any of those concerns Tuesday night. He didn’t even try. But at least he’s laser-focused on protecting us from resort fees. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: Kahl is a politician first and a strategist second. He showed this when, barely a week before the Biden administration authorized Abrams tanks for Ukraine, Kahl misleadingly suggested that the Abrams was too complicated for Ukrainian forces to use. But his overconfidence on China isn’t just alarming, it’s damning.[…]Put simply, if Kahl’s sentiment is shared across the Biden administration, Taiwan and the U.S. have a big problem. – Washington Examiner  

Michael P. Ferguson writes: Beijing is playing the game by relying on western mirror imaging to keep their dubious narratives afloat and pacify the world into apathy. An awareness campaign focused on military-civil fusion’s role in supporting China’s political objectives could let some air out of its red balloons and give Washington a stronger hand in this infinite game. – The Hill  

Miles Yu writes: The charade that began this week in Hong Kong is aimed at eradicating any hope of future democracy there by making an example of the activists who had hoped to fight for freedom. May their plight serve as its own example for any who would put stock in the promises of Beijing. – New York Post

South Asia

In a startling echo of the chaotic scenes that followed the Taliban takeover 18 months ago, several thousand Afghans rushed toward the airport in the capital late Wednesday after rumors spread that planes were taking volunteers to Turkey to help with earthquake relief. – Washington Post

The International Monetary Fund delayed a $6 billion bailout for cash-strapped Pakistan over its failure to meet the terms of a previous deal, officials said Friday, as the country struggled with a worsening economic crisis and a deadly wave of violence. – Associated Press 

Akhil Ramesh writes: Considering these developments, along with President Biden’s comments in his State of the Union address that “winning the competition with China should unite all of us. We face serious challenges across the world,” and New Delhi’s decision to not dial back relations with Beijing make the two natural partners in not just maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, but also orienting the fourth industrial revolution based on democratic values. – The Hill  


Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim pledged to “do whatever is required” to facilitate a peaceful solution to a long-simmering insurgency in southern Thailand, during an official visit to Bangkok on Thursday. – Reuters 

China said it is willing to forge closer ties with Taiwan’s main opposition party, underscoring recent efforts by Beijing to adjust its tough approach to the democratically run island. – Bloomberg

Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who represents much of the Silicon Valley, said he plans trips to both China and Taiwan this year in an effort to stabilize the US-Chinese trade relationship and strengthen ties to the Taiwanese semiconductor industry. – Bloomberg     

Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping wants to subjugate Taiwan this decade, according to a senior Pentagon official who expressed confidence that the United States can deter an invasion. – Washington Examiner

Japan has indicated it will give up its “obsolete” attack and observation helicopters in favor of unmanned systems, according to its defense buildup plans. – Defense News 

Shivshankar Menon writes: But many smaller states are more vulnerable than ever. And overall systemic risk is higher than it has been for many decades. That heightened risk is less about the prospect of a direct great-power conflict: as the first year of the war in Ukraine and the aftermath of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August have shown, the United States and other great powers are capable of avoiding direct conflict among themselves.[…]Amid a prolonged war and continued great-power rivalry, the coming year is unlikely to see more than incremental progress in addressing the urgent issues that preoccupy much of the developing world. – Foreign Affairs

Katrin Fraser Katz, Christopher Johnstone, and Victor Cha write: Allied concerns about U.S. credibility will never disappear entirely. But they can and should be managed to avoid the erosion of alliances. New levels of doubt among U.S. allies call for Washington to devise new ways to restore the credibility of extended deterrence—both to reduce Japan’s and South Korea’s sense of vulnerability and to ensure that U.S. alliances in Asia remain a force for stability long into the future. – Foreign Affairs 


For months, Germany withstood international pressure to allow neighbors to supply Ukraine with German-made tanks. Yet since Berlin finally yielded last month, only one country in Europe has agreed to dispatch a sizeable contingent. – Wall Street Journal

A man suspected of helping leak Western intelligence on the war in Ukraine to Russian agents was detained by U.S. authorities and questioned there before being flown to Germany where he was arrested last month, according to German and U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal 

Finnish parliamentary groups are expected to discuss on Friday when to ratify NATO’s founding treaties, in a move that could lead the country to proceed with membership ahead of neighbouring Sweden, amid growing support among the Finnish public to go it alone. – Reuters 

Germany and Oman are in advanced talks to sign a long-term deal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) lasting at least 10 years as Berlin continues its search for alternatives to Russian fuel supplies, three sources familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

Poland will close a key border crossing with Belarus until further notice, the Polish interior minister said on Thursday, as relations between Warsaw and Minsk sink to new lows. – Reuters 

France will continue efforts to strengthen ties with Algeria despite Algiers accusing Paris on Wednesday of orchestrating the escape of an activist it wants to arrest, a French foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday. – Reuters 

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna spoke about several issues, including Iran, with her U.S. counterpart Anthony Blinken during which they reiterated their “full support” to Ukraine, France’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday. – Reuters 

German authorities searched the premises of three companies early Thursday as part of an ongoing probe into the possible violation of European Union sanctions against Russia, prosecutors said in a statement. – Reuters 

Hungary plans to cooperate with Croatia to increase the capacity of the Adriatic pipeline that brings non-Russian crude to Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff told a briefing on Thursday. – Reuters 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has asked European leaders to deliver the Leopard 2 tanks, which will be needed to send two battalions to Ukraine by the end of March. – Bloomberg

Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s late-night dinner at the Élysée Palace with the leaders of France and Germany has sparked a fresh falling out between Rome and Paris, with Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni calling the hastily organised soirée “inappropriate”. – Financial Times 

Ukraine’s wartime leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy has now been bestowed with France’s highest medal of honor. But there’s a problem: Russian President Vladimir Putin has the same medal. – Associated Press 

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Friday that even if Ukraine’s European allies decide to send Kyiv fighter jets they could not be sent in “the coming weeks”. – Agence France-Presse

The European Union and the US need to work together to ensure the allies have a steady supply of critical manufacturing inputs, according to the EU’s ambassador to the US, Stavros Lambrinidis. – Bloomberg

The European Union should consider requiring banks to report details on the value of frozen Russian central bank assets if it wants to use sanctioned funds to help pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction, according to the bloc’s lawyers. – Bloomberg

The UK government paid £2.3 billion to the European Union to settle a long-standing fraud case relating to imports of Chinese textiles and footwear, saying the payment was necessary to fulfill its international obligations. – Bloomberg

Ireland’s deputy prime minister this week explicitly ruled out developing antisubmarine warfare capabilities, despite facing fierce criticism over maritime weaknesses, an inability to independently protect undersea cables or prevent Russian naval exercises in Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters. – Breaking Defense 

Elisabeth Braw writes: Of the OECD’s member states, 17, including Germany, Australia and most of Northern Europe, enjoy the trust of more than half of their population. Governments would do well to recognise the link between a trustworthy government and citizens’ will to defend. They should offer people opportunities to help keep their country safe. When a crisis occurs, they will find that this investment pays enormous dividends. Indeed, it can even help prevent a crisis in the first place. – Financial Times


Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Thursday sidestepped questions about whether his country’s troops remain in neighbouring Ethiopia’s Tigray region three months after the signing of a peace agreement that called for their withdrawal. – Reuters 

Russia’s foreign minister met with Sudan’s military rulers Thursday, state media in Sudan reported, the final stop on Sergey Lavrov’s tour of Africa. – Associated Press

Andres Schipani, David Pilling, and Aanu Adeoye write: But for Diabaté, French meddling proved a failure. “The only country that truly fights against terrorists in the world today is Russia,” he said. Rebuking critics of Mali’s new direction, he added: “I want western countries to stop harassing us about Wagner. They should stop disrespecting Africans.” – Financial Times

The Americas

More than 200 political prisoners, many of whom had been held in harsh conditions since their arrest about two years ago, landed in the U.S. on Thursday after Nicaragua released them, and the U.S. agreed to take them in, U.S. and Nicaraguan officials said. – Wall Street Journal

Joe Biden hosts his counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the White House Friday in a show of support for Brazilian democracy, shaken last month by a right-wing insurrection akin to the invasion of the US Capitol in 2021. – Bloomberg

Mark Toth and Jonathan Sweet write: If this is a test for the ages (and it is), then we must rise to it — not just our armed forces or allies but collectively as a nation and as a people, as well. Whether Biden wanted to admit it or not, this existential inflection point in the form of a dystopian WWIII is upon us. He should have sounded that warning, but did not. WWIII was never going to be about nuclear weapons, regardless of whether they are used or not. It was — and is — solely about whether democracy can survive in the face of tyranny. That choice is now upon us. – The Hill  


When FBI agents last year infiltrated the networks of Hive, a notorious ransomware group that had demanded hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments from some 1,500 companies, hospital networks and other targets, they made an uncomfortable discovery. – Wall Street Journal

Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) has restored former U.S. President Donald Trump’s access to Facebook and Instagram, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone confirmed on Thursday, following a two-year suspension after the deadly Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6, 2021. – Reuters 

Defense Department employees are downloading mobile applications to their work telephones that pose “operational and cybersecurity risks,” the department’s inspector general said in a report that stemmed from concern about the Chinese-owned video service TikTok and other messaging apps. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday announced a joint U.S.-U.K. effort to sanction Russian cybercriminals as the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears and Treasury tightens its efforts to financially punish violators of existing sanctions. – Associated Press

Ukrainian refugees abroad have become the target of a new campaign aimed at stealing their personal data. Government officials in Poland, Lithuania, and the UK have warned of fake letters circulating on social media asking hosts of Ukrainian refugees to share personal information about their guests. In some cases, the letters have circulated on paper or via email, too. – The Record 

North Korea is deploying ransomware in the health care sector to supplement cyber ops against the U.S. and South Korean governments, according to a joint alert released Thursday from multiple U.S. and South Korean agencies. – Cyberscoop


U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance planes, which helped track the balloon on a weeklong trek across North America, are capable of flying at altitudes around 70,000 feet and beyond that are unreachable by other known U.S. Air Force aircraft. – Wall Street Journal

Chip Roy and Victoria Coates write: Fiscal hawks and China hawks aren’t enemies. We both want a safe and prosperous America. We should work together to get our budget in order because we understand what may be required to deter, and if necessary fight, China. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. had the resources to mount an unprecedented war effort that defeated our enemies and unleashed the first American century. We did it once, and we shouldn’t spend so much that our children and grandchildren cannot do it again. – Wall Street Journal 

Kori Schake writes: Trying to cut costs by urging reforms in the Defense Department and armed forces will not produce significant savings and only distract from the urgency of addressing what really matters: improving the military’s ability to fight and win wars, increasing stockpiles of essential weapons, and aiding allies in upgrading their armed forces. In its next two years, the Biden administration should find what was lacking in its first two, a seriousness of purpose that matches the ambitions of the White House’s strategy. – Foreign Affairs 

Elaine McCusker and Emily Coletta write: To this end, it is not necessary for Congress to wait for the President’s Budget in March. Our representatives on Capitol Hill have an opportunity to lead this year by reaching a budget agreement now that will allow enactment of regular appropriations bills, most importantly for defense, before the start of the fiscal year on October 1, 2023. – American Enterprise Institute 

Long War

The threat posed by Islamic State extremists remains high and has increased in and around conflict zones, and the group’s expansion is “particularly worrying” in Africa’s center, south and Sahel regions, the U.N. counter-terrorism chief said Thursday. – Associated Press 

In a joint operation conducted by the ISA (Shabak) and the Israel Police (Southern District) during December, 2022, police arrested brothers Adam and Muhammad Abu Taha, Israeli citizens and residents of Tel Sheva in the Negev, along with Majdi Amarna, a Palestinian-Arab and a resident of the village of Yabad, near Jenin, on suspicion of involvement in a large-scale trafficking of rifle bullets and other military equipment. – Arutz Sheva

Neville Teller writes: In short, world opinion has never faced up to the uncomfortable truth that in order to achieve a genuine two-state solution, the Hamas organization must first be disempowered. That is clearly not a task that Washington is minded to undertake. – Jerusalem Post

Tricia English and Beverly Wolfer-Nerenberg write: Even under the best of circumstances, bringing successful cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act is very difficult and companies that find themselves in court hire the best lawyers money can buy. But even more than a decade since we’ve lost beloved members of our families to terrorism, all we ask for is what Congress gave us in the first place—the opportunity to keep up the fight. – Newsweek

Emily Estelle Perez writes: Until the US government adopts an approach that recognizes the role that community security plays in sustaining and spreading the Salafi-jihadi threat, there will be a continual need to prune Salafi-jihadi groups using military and intelligence tools and intermittent costly interventions. Meanwhile, instability that benefits other malign criminal and state actors will remain and spread. Policymakers need to reframe cultivating security as analogous to cultivating public health—as a service provided to civilians that benefits Americans and Africans alike and helps maintain the world order that undergirds US freedom, safety, and prosperity. – American Enterprise Institute