Fdd's overnight brief

February 13, 2023

In The News


Thousands of opponents of Iran’s ruling authorities rallied for a second day in Paris on Sunday to pressure European Union states to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation in response to a crackdown in the country. – Reuters 

The German government has acknowledged an increase in spying by Iranian intelligence agents on exiled Iranians living in Germany since the start of mass protests last year, Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Saturday. – Reuters 

Eight Iranian exiled dissident figures discussed ways of uniting a fragmented opposition on Friday, amid pro-government events marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution inside the country. – Reuters 

Iran on Friday released hunger-striking jailed dissident Farhad Meysami, the Iranian judiciary said, a week after supporters had warned that he risked dying for protesting against the compulsory wearing of the hijab. – Reuters 

The Islamic Republic marked the 44th anniversary of the Iranian revolution on Saturday with state-organised rallies, as anti-government hackers briefly interrupted a televised speech by President Ebrahim Raisi. – Reuters

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will meet with his counterpart Xi Jinping during his three-day trip in China starting Tuesday, as the two U.S. rivals seek further cooperation. – Associated Press

Iran has relased an award-winning filmmaker more than six months after arresting him for criticizing the government, a pro-reform newspaper reported Monday. – Associated Press

Iran has used boats and a state-owned airline to smuggle new types of advanced long-range armed drones to Russia for use in its war on Ukraine, sources inside the Middle Eastern country have revealed. – The Guardian

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Mr. López-Dolz warned of “a dangerous convergence taking place in Peru between Iranian and Hezbollah cells, the governments of Cuba and Venezuela,” and various other groups including the Shining Path, “which jointly direct the so-called Fronts for the Defense of the Environment.”[…]Mr. López-Dolz’s full testimony is worth reading to gain a fuller understanding of the Cuban-Iranian threat in the region. And to see that there is no way to justify taking Havana off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia & Ukraine

The soldier knelt in the snow, aimed a rocket launcher and fired in the direction of Russian troops positioned about a mile away. He was set up at a Ukrainian firing position, and looked just like the other Ukrainian troops fighting south of the city of Bakhmut in one of the most brutal theaters of the war. – New York Times 

Russian paramilitary forces said they had captured a settlement on the outskirts of Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city that Moscow has been pushing to encircle in some of the most intense fighting seen since the beginning of the war a year ago. – Wall Street Journal

The United States has told its citizens to leave Russia immediately due to the war in Ukraine and the risk of arbitrary arrest or harassment by Russian law enforcement agencies. – Reuters

NATO is expected to ask its members to raise its ammunition stockpiles which have been badly depleted by the war in Ukraine, as allies try to put arms supplies to Kyiv and their own militaries on a sustainable footing after a year in crisis mode. – Reuters  

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov discussed “priorities”, including air defence and artillery, for upcoming meetings of Kyiv’s allies in Brussels, both sides said late on Saturday. – Reuters 

NATO should hold an emergency meeting to discuss recent findings about September explosions at the Nord Stream gas pipelines, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said late on Saturday. – Reuters

Russian forces over the weekend continued to shell Ukrainian cities amid a grinding push to seize more land in the east of the country, with Ukrainian officials saying that Moscow is having trouble launching its much-anticipated large-scale offensive there. – Associated Press

Russia said Friday it would cut oil production by 500,000 barrels a day in retaliation for Western sanctions on its crude and refined oil exports, which came into full force earlier this week. – Washington Examiner

Ukraine’s air defense systems are at work in several major cities as Russia launches new attacks, likely as part of the early stages of its spring offensive as the war in Ukraine approaches one full year. – Washington Examiner

Russia’s army in Ukraine has taken another hit, losing 1,140 personnel on Friday, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. – Washington Examiner

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are sparring over Kyiv’s repeated calls to ban Russian athletes from competing in the 2024 summer games as Moscow’s war on Kyiv continues. – The Hill 

Editorial: It might be the case that a country struggling for its survival is poorly positioned, and too distracted, to carry out systemic reforms. But Ukraine’s day of reckoning cannot be delayed indefinitely. Kyiv’s own aspirations depend on establishing the rule of law. It has work to do. – Washington Post

David A. Super writes: If we continue to prevaricate about giving the Ukrainians what they need, they will still withstand Russia’s offensive, still continue to wear down Russia’s already weakened military, and still reclaim their territory. But the war then could drag on another year at a huge cost to us, to Ukraine, to the many poorer countries whose economies have crumbled since the war disrupted food exports, and to the Russian people. – The Hill 

Jeffrey H. Fischer writes: If the U.S. and its allies wish to conclude this war with a limited loss of life, they should know the solution lies in the airspace of Ukraine. Western leaders will eventually come to this conclusion. Let’s hope this decision is a quick, bold and decisive one. – The Hill 

Brad Martin writes: The war in Ukraine has shown that familiar concepts of economic mobilization, as well as the thorough alignment of operations with the necessary resources, continue to be central to not simply planning but sustaining a war. The consequences for failing to fully consider these concepts drove Russia into a prolonged conflict, one for which it was already ill-prepared a year ago, and one with increasingly dire consequences for its future. – The Hill 

Serhiy Marchenko writes: Russia has been allowed to undermine the system from the inside for too long. The international order can only survive if the rules are followed. We have powerful mechanisms available to enforce these rules. The time has come to use them. – Financial Times

James Brooke writes: Behind this strategy are Russian generals desperate to provide President Putin with battlefield victories by the first  anniversary, on February 24, of Russia’s all-out attack on Ukraine. Russia also is racing to advance before Ukraine receives hundreds of promised Western tanks and fighting vehicles. Despite high death tolls, Russia’s advances this winter have been measured in villages and hundreds of yards. – New York Sun

Kateryna Stepanenko and Frederick W. Kagan write: Ukrainian officials continued to question the Russian military’s ability to launch large-scale strategic offensive operations in Ukraine.[…]Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) representative Vadym Skibitsky stated that Ukrainian officials believe that Russian officials will postpone a planned second wave of mobilization because of persisting problems associated with the first mobilization wave. Russian sources claimed that Russia may build a Black Sea Fleet base in occupied Mariupol. – Institute for the Study of War 

Michael Horowitz writes: As one high-ranking officer of a NATO country told me, in order to achieve an eventual victory through warfare or diplomacy, it’s critical that Ukraine be seen as “winning. In a conflict that is becoming a long war, the impression of progress (or not) will impact Western military aid, which in turn will impact Ukraine’s ability to pursue its goal of fully restoring sovereignty over all its territory. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Anthony Pfaff writes: Pursuing these measures is not likely to persuade Putin to negotiate. However, given the realities of this war, these measures vindicate the rights of Ukrainians even if the military capacity does not exist to fully restore them.[…]But either way, they should make Ukraine more secure while placing the United States and NATO in a better position to address either Russian collapse or continued provocation and aggression. – The National Interest

Peter Eltsov writes: It is difficult to imagine that the Kremlin can keep Russia in this state of national psychosis for a prolonged period of time, especially after Putin goes. The United States, the European Union, and NATO are currently strategizing how to enable Ukraine to end Russian aggression.[…]If Russia disintegrates along the borders of its national autonomous republics—Dagestan, Chechnya, Tatarstan, etc.—this could very well turn into a nuclear Armageddon. The United States, the European Union, and NATO need to have a long-term strategy to avoid this. – The National Interest 


An eight-year-old boy critically wounded in a car-ramming attack near East Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood on Friday succumbed to his wounds Saturday, bringing the toll of the attack to three, medical officials said. – Times of Israel

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Sunday asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay making changes to the judicial system and appealed for a compromise with opponents who say the plans threaten the country’s democracy. – Wall Street Journal 

Israel granted retroactive authorisation on Sunday to nine Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank and announced mass-construction of new homes within established settlements, moves likely to draw U.S. opposition. – Reuters 

Several explosions rocked the Gaza Strip early on Monday, according to a Reuters witness, as Israel’s military said it attacked an underground site used by the Palestinian enclave’s Hamas Islamists to manufacture rockets. – Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday promised a stronger Israeli response in dealing with a spate of Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, as pressure swelled within his right-wing government to employ more severe tactics. – Reuters  

A Jewish settler fatally shot a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, Palestinian officials said. – Reuters 

Israeli troops killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy during a raid on a flashpoint town in the occupied West Bank on Sunday that led to clashes with gunmen, medical officials and witnesses said. – Reuters 

Dozens of leaders and senior officials from Arab and Islamic countries warned on Sunday Israeli actions in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank could worsen regional turmoil, as violence surges between Israel and the Palestinians. – Associated Press

Armed clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Jenin on Sunday after Israeli forces arrested Jibril Zubeidi, the brother of Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the prisoners who escaped Gilboa Prison in 2021. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas said on Saturday that the Palestinians won’t be deterred by Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir’s threats to impose harsh security measures against the residents of east Jerusalem in response to Friday’s terror attack in the city’s Ramot neighborhood. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who arrived in Cairo on Saturday to attend a conference in support of Jerusalem, will call for the establishment of an Arab fund to provide financial aid to the Arab residents of the city, Palestinian officials said. – Jerusalem Post

A Palestinian man was killed by Israeli military fire in Nablus in the early hours of Monday, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. The Palestinian Health Ministry says the man who was killed is 21-year-old Amir Bastami and that this marks the 48th Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces this year. – Haaretz

Stephen M. Flatow writes: Supporters of the Palestinian cause know that the murder of children makes it harder for them to advance their goals. So, watch how they try to shift the conversation as fast as possible to any other subject. They do so to ensure no one has a chance to ponder what it would be like to have an entire state brimming with child-killers set up along Israel’s old nine-miles-wide borders. – Arutz Sheva


Across the Idlib region, the last major holdout of antigovernment groups from Syria’s civil war, doctors, rescue teams and relief workers say they have struggled to cope with what they described as an overwhelming catastrophe and an inability to get outside help quickly enough. – Wall Street Journal

But on a visit Sunday to Bab al-Hawa, the one open aid corridor on the Turkey-Syria border, Martin Griffiths, the U.N.’s emergency relief coordinator, admitted errors. “We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria,” Griffiths said in a tweet. – Washington Post

The United States on Sunday called for the United Nations Security Council to “vote immediately” to authorize the delivery of U.N. aid to rebel-held northwest Syria through more border crossings from Turkey after last week’s deadly earthquake. – Reuters 

The embattled president may see the disaster, which shattered much of northern Syria, as an opportunity to push for an easing of his country’s isolation — if not from the United States and the European Union, which have enforced sanctions for years over the long, brutal civil war, then from Arab nations. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In the Middle East, many countries want to normalize ties with Syria. The earthquake may give more of a green light for countries to aid Damascus and could lead to diplomatic changes on the ground. It is not clear how Turkey will manage these changes, or they may lead to a ceasefire. Temporary border openings and aid to Damascus are just a few of the things on the table. – Jerusalem Post


Aid is now rushing into Turkey since twin earthquakes devastated vast swaths of the country, but anger is growing in destroyed towns over a sputtering government response and allegedly shoddy construction that has led to dozens of arrests of contractors. – Wall Street Journal

Now as Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing his own earthquake test. Five days after twin quakes left more than 24,000 people dead, Turkey’s grief is turning into anger—much of it directed against Mr. Erdogan’s government, which has spent years consolidating control over Turkey’s institutions, including the country’s disaster-relief organizations. – Wall Street Journal

Business owners in a central district of Turkey’s Antakya city were emptying their shops on Sunday to prevent their merchandise from being stolen by looters in the wake of Monday’s devastating earthquakes. – Reuters 

A border gate between long-feuding Turkey and Armenia has been opened for the first time in 35 years to allow aid for victims of the devastating earthquakes in southern Turkey, state-owned Anadolu news agency and a diplomat said. – Reuters 

Loading of Azerbaijani oil at Turkey’s Ceyhan terminal resumed on Sunday, a spokeswoman for BP (BP.L) said. – Reuters

Two German aid organisations suspended rescue operations in quake-hit Turkey on Saturday, citing security problems and reports of clashes between groups of people and gunfire. – Reuters  

Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias visited the earthquake-stricken areas of Turkey Sunday, accompanied by his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu. The visit was part of a new round of so-called “earthquake diplomacy” between the two uneasy allies, whose relations have often been frosty, if not downright hostile. Something similar happened in 1999, three years after the two countries almost went to war over two uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea. – Associated Press

Legal activists have accused the Turkish government of destroying evidence by quickly demolishing a one-story state office that stored concrete samples and files related to collapsed buildings in the earthquake-stricken Hatay province. The government has denied the allegations. – Bloomberg

Multinational collaboration has been a key component of the response to Monday’s deadly earthquakes in Turkey, with CADENA general secretary Benjamin Laniado pointing out to The Jerusalem Post on Friday the importance of international cooperation in the face of the disaster. – Jerusalem Post

Hasim Tekines writes: If Erdoğan succeeds in bringing the MHP under his control once again, he will have full control of the bureaucracy, he will be the only champion of Turkish nationalism, and he will secure his family’s and fellow Islamists’ place in the future of Turkish politics. As such, AKP-MHP relations will be one of the critical issues to watch in the lead-up to and aftermath of the elections. – Washington Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Egyptian authorities are arresting social-media influencers whose content goes viral, even if that content is apolitical, as part of a crackdown on free speech by President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. – Wall Street Journal 

The head of the International Monetary Fund said on Sunday that public debt in some Middle East and North Africa (MENA) states is of “concern” and that governments need to build resilience through fiscal policies to protect against shocks in uncertain times. – Reuters 

Syrian President Bashar al Assad on Sunday met UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in the first such high-level visit by an Arab official since the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria, official media reported. – Reuters 

In the mid-20th century, Lebanon was one of the wealthiest and most prosperous countries in the Middle East. Its capital, Beirut, was once known as the Paris of the Middle East. It was the only state in the Middle East where Christianity was dominant, at one point making up over 60% of the population. Decades later, “the country is in free fall,” according to one expert. – Washington Examiner

The US State Department announced over the weekend that a senior government delegation will travel to Saudi Arabia to participate in the US-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Working Group meetings from Monday through Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

The leaders of the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas arrived in Cairo Wednesday for talks with the Egyptian government concerning “the Palestinian cause,” according to a statement from the group. The visit follows a similar delegation earlier in the week by the leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and comes amid an alarming spike in violence in Palestinian violence emanating from the West Bank. – Algemeiner

Simon Henderson writes: Why Bahrain allowed news of the meeting to emerge can only be guessed at. Local media is firmly influenced if not controlled by the government, so the leak was almost certainly deliberate. This suggests that Bahraini officials are proud of their relationship with Israel and not particularly concerned about the latest uptick in tensions in the West Bank. – Washington Institute 

Hamdi Malik, Amir al-Kaabi, Michael Knights, Crispin Smith write: The muqawama appear to be ramping up their control and censorship in the media space, in particular seeking to silence critics who bring to light evidence of Iranian and militia perversion of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches. This campaign includes accelerated use of lawfare against media programs and their presenters. – Washington Institute  

Burak Bilgehan Özpek writes: To do so would require putting serious thought into how to end Libya’s decade of political misery and sending skilled diplomats of its own who can engage with tribal leaders and build a Libyan consensus.[…] The very least the West could do is threaten no more shopping trips to London, no more holidays in the South of France, no more pizza in Rome unless you can provide a decent life for your own people. But they have not done this for a decade. Why would they start now? When the oil stops flowing again, and it will, they should not blame Aganin. They can blame only themselves. – The National Interest 

Korean Peninsula

South Korean startup Rebellions Inc launches an artificial intelligence (AI) chip on Monday, racing to win government contracts as Seoul seeks a place for local companies in the exploding AI industry. – Reuters

All eyes were on a 10-year-old girl gazing at fearsome missiles on parade at Pyongyang to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s armed forces. Not mentioned was that this week’s parade took place as North Koreans are enduring a time of excruciating hunger that may match the famine of the 1990s that killed up to 2 million people. – New York Sun

Kelsey Hartigan writes: The security environment has changed significantly since the United States and ROK signed the Mutual Defense Treaty 70 years ago. The steps announced last week to strengthen the alliance and ensure U.S. extended deterrence commitments keep pace with the realities of threats posed by North Korea and China are necessary, but not sufficient.[…]This is not just a U.S.-ROK challenge, and the sooner the administration realizes it is going to have to change the way it plans, consults, and operates with U.S. allies when it comes to nuclear weapons and escalation dynamics, the better. – Center for Strategic and  International Studies 


Americans weren’t the only ones surprised by the appearance of a Chinese balloon over Montana on Feb. 1. The same day, a quiet démarche by Washington to Beijing over what U.S. officials believed was a spying mission sparked questions in China’s corridors of power. – Wall Street Journal

As the U.S. military retrieves debris from a Chinese balloon destroyed this month over the Atlantic Ocean, new indications are emerging from Washington of how high-tech components might point to a new Beijing spying threat. – Wall Street Journal

Professor Wu’s announcement is part of a body of evidence revealing in new detail the scope of the Chinese government’s ambitions to use high-altitude airships to track earthbound activities, with an eye on both domestic and military needs. – New York Times

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi will attend the Munich Security Conference this month and plans to visit several countries including Russia, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday. – Reuters 

The United States has blacklisted six Chinese entities it said were linked to Beijing’s aerospace programs as part of its retaliation over an alleged Chinese spy balloon that traversed U.S. airspace. – Associated Press

Within hours of an Air Force F-22 downing a giant Chinese balloon that had crossed the United States, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reached out to his Chinese counterpart via a special crisis line, aiming for a quick general-to-general talk that could explain things and ease tensions. But Austin’s effort Saturday fell flat, when Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe declined to get on the line, the Pentagon says. – Associated Press

China is getting ready to take down an unidentified object flying over waters near the port city of Qingdao, which is home to a major naval base for the People’s Liberation Army, Chinese news outlet The Paper reported. – Bloomberg

The US military had never shot down an object in American airspace before taking out a Chinese balloon off South Carolina last week. Now it’s becoming a near-daily occurrence. – Bloomberg

Hong Kong’s government, which owns virtually all the land in the city, has inserted a national security clause into land sales. – Bloomberg

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

James Monroe, call your office — or, better yet, ring President Biden — for it looks like Communist China, intensifying a competition for control over the South Pole, is building in Antarctica a satellite base that could serve as a surveillance hub in the very hemisphere that the Monroe Doctrine was intended to protect. – New York Sun

Editorial: The CCP, however, has a proven record of undermining our national security. Congress should pass legislation, like that introduced by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), that would ban China, and only China, from buying any land in the U.S. China is not only our biggest national security threat, but as the balloon incident shows, it wishes to undermine America and take big risks in doing so. Congress must let China know that this must change. – Washington Examiner

David Axe writes: Why a major world power wouldn’t deploy a spy balloon is pretty obvious. What’s less obvious is another question. Why, in an era of drones and satellites, would a country as wealthy and powerful as China bother floating spy balloons over the United States? Chinese planners had to know it was only a matter of time before U.S. forces started shooting them down. – New York Times

David Ignatius writes: But the reality is that the new Cold War between China and the United States is deepening, with growing military competition in every domain — land, sea, air, space, and now, near space. Dr. Strangelove isn’t yet in control, but he waits in the wings. – Washington Post

Robert C. O’Brien writes: I am confident the American people will rally in the face of the CCP’s threat to our way of life.  Congress has the opportunity to lead on this issue — and I believe it will. – The Hill 

Rana Foroohar writes: China, for its part, needs to grapple with how and why it has lost the world’s trust. From lockdowns to political attacks on the private sector to surveillance capitalism, there’s a reason that Chinese consumers still keep so much cash under their mattresses. You don’t need a balloon to see that it is not America’s fault. – Financial Times

James Jay Carafano writes: And it is not just the China threat where Biden is playing fast and loose with our safety. Border security has become such a massive disaster that now Congress is considering impeaching the Secretary of Homeland Security.[…]But hope is not a strategy. Nor is it good enough for America. The world has only gotten more dangerous since 2001. It’s time for Biden to wise up and put national security before political calculations. – 19fortyfive

Mesut Özcan writes: However, the conditions and areas of competition in today’s world are not solely based on the security paradigm. The current global order’s institutions and actors closely interact with China. In other words, in today’s competitive environment, there is no bipolar structure. Many actors, including the United States and its allies, must interact with China in diverse fields. This situation complicates the scope and future of the anti-China campaign. – The National Interest 

South Asia

A powerful roadside bomb went off near a vehicle carrying Pakistani security forces in the country’s volatile southwest on Friday, killing two soldiers and wounding three, authorities said. – Associated Press

Russian supplied India with around $13 billion of arms during the past five years, and New Delhi has orders placed with Moscow for weapons and military equipment exceeding $10 billion, Russian state news agencies reported late on Sunday. – Reuters 

Editorial: India is a major power and a critical player as Russia and China work to change the balance of forces in the world. But in their necessary dealings with Mr. Modi, American and European leaders should remember that it is only as a democracy, with a free and vibrant press, that India can truly fulfill its global role. As Mr. Modi’s own party knows firsthand — the B.J.P. was suppressed and many of its leaders jailed in the dark days of emergency rule from 1975 to 1977 — when populist leaders invoke emergency laws to block dissent, democracy is in peril. – New York Times

James Rogan writes: On agriculture, the U.S. could assist Pakistan in improving irrigation systems in the Punjab, its rich agricultural region.[…]Still, when it comes to Pakistan’s current crisis, the U.S. can safely step back and let others take the lead. U.S. strategic interest in the Indian subcontinent lies with New Delhi, not Islamabad. – Washington Examiner


But with renewed diplomatic efforts to improve relations, families of the men drafted to support Japan’s war effort in what is known as the Chosei mine during its 1910-45 occupation of the Korean peninsula, see a last chance for closure. – Reuters 

The United States and Papua New Guinea have made “substantial progress” on the text of a defense cooperation agreement that lays the groundwork for closer military ties between the two nations, the U.S. Department of State said on Saturday. – Reuters

The United States said on Friday it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federated States of Micronesia, reflecting a shared understanding on future U.S. assistance to the Pacific island country that Washington is anxious to keep out of China’s orbit. – Reuters

The Philippines on Monday accused a Chinese coast guard ship of hitting a Philippine coast guard vessel with a military-grade laser and temporarily blinding some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea, calling it a “blatant” violation of Manila’s sovereign rights. – Associated Press

The United States Navy and Marine Corps are holding joint exercises in the South China Sea at a time of heightened tensions with Beijing over the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon. – Associated Press

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Friday issued a strong call for fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to take new measures to pressure the government of military-ruled Myanmar to end what he called “atrocities” against its own people. – Associated Press

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen received multiple assurances of Chinese economic and political support during a meeting Friday in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping. – Associated Press

Japan’s Defense Ministry said a Chinese navy survey ship was spotted entering the country’s territorial waters early Sunday near Yakushima, an island in the southern Kagoshima prefecture. – Bloomberg

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he’s open to a potential reciprocal military access agreement with Japan if it would protect the country’s fishermen and its maritime territory. – Bloomberg

A Chinese ship directed a military-grade laser light at a Philippine coast guard vessel in the disputed South China Sea, according to Manila’s coast guard, saying the incident clearly violates the Southeast Asian nation’s sovereign rights. – Bloomberg

The United States fired an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile into the Pacific Ocean as an implicit signal of nuclear readiness to North Korea and China. – Washington Examiner

Taiwan has observed dozens of Chinese military balloon flights in its airspace in recent years, far more than previously known, adding to concerns that Beijing could be preparing for an attack on the country. – Financial Times

Claude Barfield writes: The United States needs to be flexible in negotiations to conclude the IPEF — and reconsider its position on market access concessions. It is already behind on Asian geoeconomic priorities as China now leads the just completed 15-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and has applied to join the successor of the TPP, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. It’s past time for the United States to catch up. – East Asia Forum 


A Russian missile fired at Ukraine crossed over Moldova on Friday morning and came within 22 miles of the border of Romania, a NATO member, prompting the Romanians to scramble two fighter jets that were on an exercise under NATO command, the Romanian Defense Ministry said. – Washington Post

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would not seek a meeting with Volodymir Zelenskiy if he were still head of government, because he blames the Ukrainian President for the war with Russia, he said on Sunday. – Reuters  

Fifteen years after Kosovo declared independence, 50,000 minority Serbs in the north bordering Serbia refuse to recognise state institutions, get pay and benefits from Serbia’s budget and pay no taxes either to Pristina or Belgrade. – Reuters 

President Biden will travel to Poland on Feb. 20 to 22 to mark the one-year anniversary since Russia invaded Ukraine, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced on Friday. – The Hill 

The US government is exploring narrowly focused trade pacts on critical minerals with Japan and the UK, in addition to talks with the European Union, the latest salvo in its push to counter Chinese influence in key sectors, officials familiar with the matter said. – Bloomberg

France’s Defense Minister lashed out against the Marvel Studios movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever over its portrayal of French soldiers, underscoring the sensitivity regarding the country’s military presence in Africa. – Bloomberg

Austria has come under heavy criticism for granting visas that will allow sanctioned Russian lawmakers to attend a Vienna meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The issue highlights the delicate balancing act the European country has engaged in while trying to maintain its longstanding position of military neutrality during the war in Ukraine. – Associated Press

The Finnish president said in an interview published Saturday that he trusts that Finland and Sweden will be admitted into NATO by July, and hinted that he wants the United States to put pressure on Turkey to approve their membership bids. – Associated Press

Israeli Ambassador to Spain Rodica Radian-Gordon was attacked by several dozen pro-Palestinian activists during a lecture at a university in Madrid on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Elizabeth Stauffer writes: Public comments made by President Joe Biden and several other administration officials underscored the U.S.’s interest in putting an end to the Russian energy project long before the explosions occurred.[…]Despite these unequivocal denials, it’s clear the U.S. government had the motivation, the opportunity, and the means to carry out this operation. Perhaps Hersh’s theory should not be so easily dismissed. – Washington Examiner


Thirty-five years of war, erratic rains, hunger, extremist terrorism and political instability in Somalia have created a generation of refugees, many of them commuters who flee when they must and return home when they can. – Wall Street Journal 

At least 57 people have been confirmed dead in days of clashes between antigovernment fighters and Somaliland security forces in the disputed city of Las-Anod after local leaders said they wanted to rejoin the federal government of Somalia, a doctor reported Saturday. – Associated Press

Sudan’s ruling military concluded a review of an agreement with Russia to build a navy base on the Red Sea in the African country, two Sudanese officials said Saturday. They said the deal was awaiting the formation of a civilian government and a legislative body to be ratified before it takes effect. The officials said Moscow met Sudan’s most recent demands, including providing more weapons and equipment. – Associated Press

At least 10 Nigerien soldiers were killed in an ambush, and more than a dozen others were injured by armed assailants near the West African Sahel nation’s border with neighbouring Mali, Niger’s defence minister said in a statement on Saturday. – Reuters

Bobby Ghosh writes: If they do push him over the finishing line, Obi will need to find answers to a whole new set of questions about his ability to tackle multiple crises — rising violence, reduced oil production, spiking inflation and slowing growth. Even if Nigeria’s democracy comes through the election with flying colors, much sterner tests lie ahead. – Bloomberg

Alessandro Arduino writes: Moscow’s paramilitary groups are increasing their footprint in Africa.[…]Therefore, the presence of Wagner and similar groups is an early warning indicator that Russia is going to try and alter the political and regional status quo in the short term, months and not years, with any indirect means ranging from deception, active propaganda, and violent actions including political decapitation and supporting military’s coup. – The National Interest 

The Americas

A U.S. military jet shot down another unidentified airborne object, this time over Canada, on Saturday on orders of President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.S. shot down a fourth flying object Sunday afternoon at 20,000 feet above Lake Huron, the Pentagon said, underscoring heightened concerns over North American airspace after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was found traversing the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met at the White House on Friday and reflected on how their nations were tested in their respective battles to preserve democracy, with the U.S. president declaring that democracy ultimately “prevailed” over the far-right mobs that stormed their governments’ halls of power in an attempt to overturn election victories. – Associated Press

Editorial: The pity is that the Biden team appears to be slapping the word “classified” on details that might educate the public about the balloon. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson was right when he said recently that a fundamental U.S. advantage over its adversaries is that we are an “open society,” and Americans are right to want to know more about these back-to-back visitors to U.S. airspace. – Wall Street Journal 

JP Carroll writes: The U.S. and Brazil have much in common as democracies and the largest countries on their respective continents of a shared hemisphere. Both are home to huge marketplaces, and both have recently struggled with serious challenges to their democratic institutions. We have many opportunities that are best served together. – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: At the same time, the White House has been stung by Republican political criticism that it waited too long to down the balloon. Both President Joe Biden and the Pentagon would have wanted to bring this object down quickly so as to mitigate any sense of hesitation or weakness in face of a possible threat. Top line: There is now an inherently political element to air defense versus a sole security component. Expect more incidents such as this one. – Washington Examiner

Latin America

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel acknowledged Saturday that the island faces “tremendously difficult challenges,” as he arrived for a visit in Mexico. The Cuban leader blamed the problems on the “blows of nature” and U.S. economic sanctions. – Associated Press

The U.N.’s human rights chief on Friday urged the international community to consider deploying a specialized armed force to Haiti, warning that violent gangs are creating a “living nightmare” for thousands of people. – Associated Press

The pro-government demonstrators passed through the streets of the capital Managua waving flags of Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba and Ortega’s ruling party, and chanting pro-administration and anti-opposition slogans. –  Agence France-Presse

United States

The White House said it’s too early to characterize the two latest objects shot down by US fighter jets over North America after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they are believed to have been high-altitude balloons. – Bloomberg

The Federal Aviation Administration briefly closed some airspace over Lake Michigan on Sunday to allow for military activity. An FAA notice said US government agencies, including the Defense Department, “may take security action” against unmanned aircraft in the area that are deemed to pose a “credible safety or security threat.” – Bloomberg

Paul A. London writes: The U.S. in 2023 is facing foreign and domestic challenges greater than any it has faced since the Cuban Missile Crisis and World War II. Patriotism today is to invest enough in military and civilian modernization to convince the world that democracies can stand up to autocracies and win the future. Pretending that the country cannot afford to do so because of exaggerated fears of inflation and debt is to learn nothing from 20th century history. – The Hill 


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Sunday defended her use of the video-sharing app TikTok, owned by China-based company ByteDance, as a “communication tool” amid concerns about Beijing’s influence on the app. – The Hill 

Multiple warnings from several of the biggest cybersecurity agencies in the world over the last week have not motivated some organizations to patch a security issue being exploited as part of the ESXiArgs ransomware campaign. – The Record

Reddit, the popular discussion website with 50 million daily users, said hackers gained access to the company’s source code as well as limited contact information for hundreds of current and former employees.  – The Record


The U.S. military shot down an unidentified object flying above Michigan on Sunday, making it the fourth airborne object downed by American forces in just over a week. – Politico

A top US official said on Sunday that the stark increase in the military spotting and shooting down aerial objects in recent days may be due to enhancing radar systems. – The Hill 

The Biden administration is preparing to ask Congress for the largest Pentagon budget in history, according to the Defense Department’s chief financial officer, as partisan squabbling over the debt ceiling raises the specter of deep cuts to the military’s funding plans. – Politico

A growing number of Senate Republicans are saying that President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) should take defense spending cuts off the table in their negotiation over the debt ceiling. The Republicans are digging in their heels after receiving a classified briefing on a Chinese spy balloon that floated over sensitive military installations. – The Hill 

The Israel Defense Forces and US Central Command (CENTCOM) launched a joint drill Sunday focused on air defense, cyber security, intelligence and logistics, the Israeli military said.  – Times of Israel

Quin Hillyer writes: The Protecting Military Installations and Ranges Act would apply to any foreign person “connected to or subsidized by” China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea. The bill would set specific distances away from installations, bases, training areas, or airspace related thereto, closer than which the agents of those foreign adversaries could not own land. There’s more, but that’s the gist of it. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The big question for countries that rely on Western technology will be questions about whether these objects are also floating around other areas of the world, such as the Middle East or next to US allies in Asia. Partners of the US and US defense technology rely on it and Western defense tech in general, to be superior to adversaries’ technology. In essence, this means superior to Chinese and Russian threats. If there are unidentified objects flying around, then it means the West has not done enough to confront and detect these systems. – Jerusalem Post

Mike Coté writes: Competing against Russia, China, and Iran is extremely important, as is containing their revanchist imperial aims. We cannot present a credible deterrent in Eastern Europe, the Pacific, or the Middle East if we allow our rivals to do whatever they please in our own neck of the woods. If anything, a poor response here makes our longer-range deterrent seem far less credible. And that would be a disaster for the whole world, not just the Western Hemisphere. That security through deterrence starts closer to home; it is beyond time we recognized that reality and acted on it. – The National Interest 

Long War

At least 11 people, mostly civilians, were killed in a central Syria attack blamed on the Islamic State group, a war monitor said Sunday. The IS group “attacked about 75 people on Saturday while they were collecting truffles in the Palmyra area, in the eastern countryside of Homs,” said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group of unclear funding. – Agence France-Presse

The U.S. killed 12 al-Shabaab terrorist fighters with an airstrike in Somalia at the request of the country’s government, the U.S. announced Sunday. – FOX News

Javed Ali writes: A new strategy on counterterrorism must describe in broad strokes the ways in which the U.S. will design and implement an enduring framework against international terrorist threats like ISIS and al Qaeda in 2023 and beyond. By doing so, a new strategy should help Congress in its budgeting and resourcing decisions — and the military and national security enterprise in making the hard choices about shifting resources and capabilities. – The Hill