Fdd's overnight brief

February 14, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Britain says it has for the first time presented evidence that Iran is supplying advanced weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, after finding images of tests conducted at the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran on the hard drive of an unmanned aircraft seized by the Royal Navy. – Associated Press 

An Iranian operation to surveil an Australian citizen was disrupted by security agencies, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said, in what she warned was part of a rising tide of foreign interference efforts. – Bloomberg

Organizers at the annual Munich Security Conference have not invited the Iranian government to this year’s event, citing “the current political situation” in the country. – Bloomberg

An Iranian police officer has been reprimanded after he did not enforce the country’s dress code requiring women to cover their hair, local media reported Monday. – Times of Israel

Jonathan Lord and Andrea Kendall-Taylor write: Last year, the Biden administration debuted a National Security Strategy that seeks to marshal the resources of the United States, with those of its partners and allies, to defend the rules-based order. Iran and Russia are prime offenders that have sought to bully their way to greater power and influence through the brutalization of their neighbors. […]Sending Iran’s weapons to Ukraine advances the mission in ways both tangible and symbolic. Washington should move without delay. – Washington Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: So, while it wants to be treated like an equal, it may turn out that both China and Russia see Iran as a junior partner. Iran has been exporting drones to Russia, but Russia may not be providing Iran with what it wants in return. These are the issues that will be on the forefront of the Iranian delegations’ minds when they visit this week. – Jerusalem Post 

Suzan Quitaz writes: Molavi Abdolhamid’s statements are a serious challenge for the leaders of the Islamic republic, as he is considered as an important “moderate” voice in Iran not only by Sunnis. As the uprising continues, his messages have become stronger and less appeasing to the central government. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Farzin Nadimi writes: Yet even without more modern aircraft or a larger fleet, Iran’s expensive new underground air bases could give it some degree of aerial first-strike capability against U.S. naval assets in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, and Arabian Sea, perhaps including efforts to close the Strait of Hormuz to shipping and naval traffic. Building such bases could also spur other countries in the region to add hardened underground facilities to their existing air bases or construct new bases with this capability. – Washington Institute

Russia & Ukraine

Russia claimed further advances along the front line in Ukraine, as Western intelligence said the Kremlin’s forces have strengthened defensive positions in the country’s southern Zaporizhzhia region in recent weeks. – Wall Street Journal

As Russian troops stormed into Ukraine last February, sending millions of Ukrainians fleeing for their lives, thousands of Russians also raced to pack their bags and leave home, fearing the Kremlin would shut the borders and impose martial law. – Washington Post 

Ukraine’s military on Monday barred aid workers and civilians from entering Bakhmut, saying it was too perilous as Russian forces tightened their grip, in what could be a prelude to a Ukrainian withdrawal and the biggest tactical gain for the deeply troubled Russian invasion since July. – New York Times 

His private army is pushing hard to give Russia a battlefield win in Ukraine, but mounting evidence suggests the Kremlin has moved to curb what it sees as the excessive political clout of Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group. – Reuters

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Monday that Ukraine is using up ammunition far faster than its allies can provide it and putting pressure on Western defense industries, just as Russia ramps up its military offensive. – Associated Press 

Kyiv conceded Monday that fighting with Russian forces north of Bakhmut was “difficult”, a signal that Ukrainian troops are coming under mounting pressure in the longest-running battle of Moscow’s invasion. – Agence France-Presse

China’s top diplomat will visit Russia this month, according to its Foreign Ministry, in the first visit to the country from a Chinese official in that role since Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. – CNN

Western capitals will lay out additional pledges of ammunition and air defence equipment for Ukraine at a meeting on Tuesday to bolster Kyiv’s forces, officials told the Financial Times, in a gathering of allies that coincides with a planned large-scale offensive by Moscow. – Financial Times 

Ukraine has urged its European allies to avoid “negative messaging” about its prospects of joining the EU as some of the bloc’s diplomats warn of unrealistic expectations about the speed of the country’s accession process. – Financial Times 

Russia is facing a crucial decision that could determine the fate of President Vladimir Putin as the Ukraine war approaches its one-year mark. – Newsweek 

The U.S. military is recruiting “jihadist militants” to carry out terrorist attacks in Russia and the CIS countries, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) has claimed. – Newsweek 

Russian President Vladimir Putin faces a “central dilemma” as his military bolsters its defenses in southern Ukraine ahead of the war’s one-year mark, according to British intelligence. – Newsweek

Ed Cox writes: Gen. McCaffrey is right. If President Biden is serious about the future of a sovereign Ukraine and the defeat of Russia’s territorial ambitions, it’s time to act boldly and decisively. It’s not too late for the U.S. and its Western partners to send Ukraine “everything that can fly.” – Wall Street Journal

Andreas Kluth writes: “The Chinese treated their soldiers as bullets, not as humans,” that South Korean veteran recalled. We could say the same today about Putin. As the massive offensives of spring draw nigh, let the whole world — even and especially including Russians — be clear about whom the Ukrainians are fighting and the Russians are serving: a man to whom human life means nothing. – Bloomberg

Gideon Rachman writes: To Kirshner’s critique, I would add that Mearsheimer’s theories, while presented as an unblinking description of harsh global realities, often seem to stand reality on its head. The argument that the US bears responsibility for the war in Ukraine ignores a principle fundamental to both morality and law — that the responsibility for a murder, or a murderous invasion, lies with the person who pulls the trigger or gives the command. – Financial Times  

Alexander J. Motyl writes: To make things worse, the Russian Federation’s non-Russian nations may be on the verge of asserting themselves as sovereign actors and accelerating its collapse. The irony would be too sweet: In attacking Ukraine, Putin could wind up dismantling Russia, thereby demonstrating that unintended consequences can be deadly. – The Hill


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s right-wing government advanced legislation Monday that would overhaul the country’s top court, drawing tens of thousands of Israelis to protest the proposal in front of the Parliament, or Knesset, as workers across the country went on a general strike. – Wall Street Journal

Tens of thousands of Israelis went on strike Monday, protesting outside the Knesset in what they say is a final push to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from weakening the country’s judicial system. – Washington Post 

Israel was not surprised by U.S. opposition to its decision to retroactively authorize nine Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank, a senior Israeli official said on Monday. – Reuters

The United States opposes Israel’s retroactive authorization of Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, adding that he was “deeply troubled” by the move that came less than two weeks after he raised U.S. opposition to such moves on a trip to the region. – Reuters

Israeli lawmakers traded insults on Monday over government plans to overhaul the judiciary while tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside parliament, as the president warned the country was on the brink of “constitutional collapse”. – Reuters

An Israeli policeman was killed Monday in a stabbing attack carried out by a Palestinian boy in annexed east Jerusalem, police said, triggering a raid on a refugee camp amid a spike in violence. – Agence France-Presse

A flood of international condemnations began pouring in on Monday after Israel announced that its cabinet had approved moving toward legalizing nine wildcat outposts deep in the West Bank, in response to a series of terror attacks in Jerusalem. – Times of Israel 

The White House condemned on Monday the alleged killing of a Palestinian Arab in self-defense by an Israeli resident of Judea and Samaria over the weekend, calling for the claim to be investigated. – Arutz Sheva

IDF, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and Israel Border Police apprehended early Monday morning the terrorists suspected of the shooting attack in which the late Staff Sergeant Ido Baruch was murdered. – Arutz Sheva

Benny Avni writes: While some Americans may question Mr. Biden’s commitment to “building consensus” at home, Israelis were divided. On the left, many saw his statement as an ally attempting to help save Israel’s democracy. For the right, the appeal to outside interference in an internal Israeli debate was akin to Bar-Kamtza’s turning to Rome following a dispute among the Jews. – New York Sun


Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has agreed to the opening of two additional border crossings from Turkey into opposition-held territory in northwest Syria to allow the United Nations to deliver humanitarian relief to millions of earthquake victims, U.N. and Syrian officials said on Monday. – New York Times 

The head of a Syrian opposition-run rescue group on Tuesday denounced a U.N. decision to give Syrian President Bashar al Assad authorisation over aid deliveries through border crossings with Turkey, saying it gave him “free political gain”. – Reuters 

Tara D. Sonenshine writes: Going forward, the best thing the international community can do is negotiate additional crossing points for aid to reach Syria before it is too late. A single crossing – choked by complex geopolitics that dehumanize the inconceivable suffering of many thousands of victims – is criminally insufficient to meet the dire need of Syrians at this critical moment. At the same time, we must donate to the brave groups racing against the clock and bitter cold to ensure that they have the money and resources they need to save lives. – The Hill


Turkish authorities widened a crackdown on those allegedly involved in shoddy construction practices and looting in cities across southern Turkey devastated by last week’s earthquakes, making dozens of new arrests as hopes faded of finding many more survivors in collapsed buildings. – Wall Street Journal

Howard Eissenstat writes:The rescue phase of operations is now coming to close; the possibility of further survivors is becoming increasingly dim. Nonetheless, the challenges facing the Turkish government and its people remain immense, with hundreds of thousands homeless, hungry, and cold and with perhaps tens of thousands still to be recovered and buried. In this first week since the earthquake, the Turkish government has put a priority on public relations, sometimes at the expense of its own citizens’ lives. It has prioritized “narrative” over effective policy, and focused on stifling dissent. This has been its pattern after the 2013 Gezi Protests and the 2016 attempted coup. But those were more purely political crises. To address the current crisis effectively, the Turkish government will have to place policy above politics — and its record for doing so, thus far, has been very weak indeed. – Middle East Institute

M. Murat Kubilay writes: A new IMF loan is not expected and any international relief will only cover the basic needs of people in the region affected by the quakes. Financial assistance from international development banks is necessary; however, their contribution will be limited due to the government’s poor relations with the West and will be gradual and allocated in tranches. The challenges facing Turkey’s economy are myriad and regardless of how the upcoming elections turn out, the road ahead seems likely to be rocky. –  Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The devastating earthquake to hit Turkey and Syria has fanned resentment among some Turks towards the millions of Syrian refugees in the country who are being blamed anecdotally by some for looting amid the destruction and chaos. – Reuters

Turkey will not allow a new influx of refugees from Syria after last week’s devastating earthquake, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday. Reuters

Western and regional powers have warned that they will reconsider “all ties” with Lebanon if parliament fails to elect a president amid a worsening financial crisis, the prime minister’s office said Monday. – Agence France-Presse

U.S. military officials have detected high-altitude balloons across the Middle East on multiple occasions over the last year, according to a senior Air Force general. – Washington Examiner

Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today during a rare visit to Turkey. – Haaretz

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The visit by the Egyptian leader is important and forms part of wider regional movements that underpin the Gulf’s importance. For the UAE the meetings this week continued to underpin the UAE’s support for strategic partnerships and also cooperation. When it comes to Egypt, this is a key partnership that relates to the wider Arab world. […]The spokesman for the presidency, Counselor Ahmed Fahmy, said the meeting “emphasized the special characteristics of the firm Egyptian-UAE relations, which reflects on the ongoing coordination between the two brotherly countries. […]The talks also touched on ways to cultivate closer bilateral relations and strengthen cooperation across an array of fields.”. – Jerusalem Post 

Bilal Wahab writes: The dispute calls for someone mediating between KRG and Baghdad. However, the US has not played a mediating role since 2008, while the KRG and Baghdad reverted blame game instead of conflict resolution. Although neither side is asking Washington to mediate, the US Department of Energy commissioned a special report about the promise of Kurdish gas to help rationalize such negotiations. On the flip side, oil markets could quickly lose the 400,000 barrels of oil that the KRG currently exports if the crisis is not handled wisely. – Emirates Policy Center 

Hany Ghoraba writes: Nasrallah’s emphatic statements that Lebanon has been abandoned by its neighbors and allies, while diverting attention to other countries’ problems, are failing to deliver the reactions Nasrallah desired. That is due to his track record of prioritizing his terrorist group’s needs over that of Lebanon’s. His statements are brimming with denial and ignore the core problems that Hezbollah continues to bring on the Lebanese state and citizens. But a delusional Nasrallah still uses phrases indicating that he sees his role as part of a divine commandment.[…]If that were true, Nasrallah wouldn’t have to work so hard to blame peacemaking countries while Iran and Hezbollah continue investing in war. – Algemeiner 

Mohamed Eljarh writes: The United States may not have the commitment or the will to help resolve Libya’s protracted conflict. With Libya as fragmented and divided as it is today, the United States is likely to maintain a pragmatic approach aimed at containing and managing the conflict. To do so, it believes that it must prioritize the three aforementioned issues to secure its immediate interests in Libya. Burn’s recent visit emphasizes that Washington will likely continue to engage transactionally with key interlocutors such as the LNA’s Khalifa Haftar and the GNU’s Abdulhamid Dbeibeh to address American national security and policy concerns, even if it means empowering actors who have held Libya and its people hostage to their own narrow political interests and ambitions. – Washington Institute


The White House on Monday said that the three flying objects shot down over U.S. and Canadian airspace since Friday appear to be less sophisticated than the Chinese balloon found earlier this month but that they were targeted when they were found in a widening detection effort and it was determined their altitude could pose a threat to air traffic. – Washington Post 

China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said the United States has sent at least 10 unsanctioned balloons into Chinese airspace since last year, as the two countries feud over a Chinese airship discovered and shot down by the U.S. military this month. The United States denied the allegation. – Washington Post 

China’s recovery after years of Covid-19 lockdowns will likely look a lot different from previous ones. And for many parts of the world, economists warn, it could be less potent than governments and businesses hope. – Wall Street Journal

Biden administration officials defended on Monday their decisions to shoot down unidentified flying objects over North America this weekend and disputed new claims by Beijing that the U.S. violated Chinese airspace with high-altitude balloons. – Wall Street Journal

Tensions between the United States and China escalated on Monday as the two nations traded fiery accusations over spying programs, in the aftermath of the U.S. downing of a Chinese spy balloon and three unidentified flying objects a week later over North America. – New York Times 

While many in the world see the Chinese spy balloon as a sign of Beijing’s growing aggressiveness, China has sought to cast the controversy as a symptom of the United States’ irrevocable decline. – New York Times  

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 

The White House on Monday denied Beijing’s accusation that the United States has been sending balloons over China to conduct surveillance, as tensions about espionage rise between the two superpowers. – Agence France-Presse 

The United States said on Monday it still did not know the origin or purpose of three aerial objects that its military shot down over the weekend, as Washington and Beijing traded accusations about high-altitude balloons. – Reuters

The U.S. military said on Monday it had recovered critical electronics from the suspected Chinese spy balloon downed by a U.S. fighter jet off South Carolina’s coast on Feb. 4, including key sensors presumably used for intelligence gathering. – Reuters

Just as the United States appears poised to adopt restrictions on outbound investment to China and is increasing forced labor sanctions on western China’s Xinjiang province, a new Chinese initiative could undercut those measures and divide the U.S. from European allies. – The Hill

China’s foreign ministry says the US has flown balloons into its airspace more than 10 times in the past year.It comes after the US on 4 February shot down a suspected spy balloon over its airspace – which China said was one of its weather balloons gone astray. – CNN

As the world’s security elite gathers in Munich this week, they’ll be connecting their mobile phones to Chinese telecoms equipment surrounding the venue. Heads of state, security chiefs, spooks and intelligence officials head to Germany on Friday for their blue-riband annual gathering, the Munich Security Conference. – Politico

There are no U.S. surveillance aircraft in Chinese airspace, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Monday, declining to specify when pressed by reporters on whether such aircraft operate in Chinese-claimed areas. – Reuters

Recent incidents regarding balloons shot down by the United States, which suspects they are surveillance balloons from China, form part of a pattern which highlights the need for NATO to be vigilant, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. – Reuters

House Select Committee on China Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) is contemplating having his panel undergo “wargaming” scenarios of how an invasion of Taiwan would play out. – Washington Examiner

The governor of the Xinjiang region in China has canceled his controversial trip to Paris and Brussels, three people with knowledge of his plan told POLITICO. – Politico

In a column titled “China on the Eve of a Major Battle” Timofei Bordachev, the program director of the Valdai Discussion Club think tank, claimed that the clash between China and the U.S. was now inevitable. What was taking place was merely maneuvering as both sides sought positions of maximum advantage. According to Bordachev, there is no chance for reconciliation between the sides, and the balloon incident highlighted Chinese determination to take on the Americans. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

William J. Broad writes: The silence of balloon experts might explain why no owner of a shot-down object, with the exception of China, is known to have come forward publicly to discuss the incidents or to complain. Not all balloons are used for strict scientific or commercial purposes. A bizarre event happened, Mr. Fetkowitz said, when a customer used one of his company’s balloons to loft a device that played aloud the Pink Floyd album “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Mr. Fetkowitz said a different balloon carried a child’s Thomas the Tank Engine toy to stratospheric heights. “We do vet our customers,” he added. “We’ve turned away people. We don’t want to do business with a guy who wants to send up a gun.” – New York Times 

Scott M. Moore writes: More than anything, the history of the Fu-Go balloons shows that when tensions are as high as they are between the U.S. and China, countries must use people-to-people ties to better ground their rocky relationship — or risk subjecting the world to far greater turbulence. – Politico

Harlan Ullman writes: Other political questions, such as why Blinken postponed his trip, need answers. It would have been appropriate for Biden or Blinken to confront Xi over whether he was aware of these flights and authorized them. All the circumstances surrounding the four events may never be fully known or disclosed. But for each, a comprehensive investigation is essential. And that investigation should begin immediately and be completed as soon as possible, meaning weeks not months or years. The reasons are clear although potentially volatile. From all appearances, the White House and other government agencies seemed unprepared for this first event, though better for the other three. – The Hill

Jeff Moon writes: The United Nations human rights conventions the Americans prodded China into signing resulted in no lasting changes in Chinese human rights practices. But parallel discussions of commercial issues resulted in U.S. agreement to admit China into the World Trade Organization in 2001. So, the Europeans are now where the United States was 25 years ago in the tug-of-war with China over the intersection between business interests and human rights. Caveat emptor. – The Hill

Noah Rothman writes: We don’t know enough about any of the post-February 4 objects to render a judgment about the threat they pose or who, precisely, is doing the threatening. But the West’s reaction to that balloon is instructive. America’s defense posture shifted almost overnight toward enhanced scrutiny of its airspace. Pivoting from the paralytic reaction to the balloon that started it all, the U.S. apparently has no compunction about neutralizing unknown objects before they’ve had the chance to execute their missions, whatever they may be. These events take place against the backdrop of a genuine, sober, and bipartisan assumption among U.S. lawmakers that China’s rise presents a potentially existential threat to the American-led geopolitical order. – Commentary Magazine

Paul Heer writes: This turn of events is especially disturbing because nothing is more urgent and vital to salvaging U.S.-China relations than dialogue aimed at mutual understanding and developing the principles for managing the relationship that Biden and Xi talked about in November. This would be best achieved through some attempt at strategic empathy on both sides, but the rapid escalation of the balloon incident raises serious questions about whether the two sides are still capable of understanding and acknowledging each other’s perspectives, and whether their domestic politics would allow room for that to happen. In the meantime, another crisis could escalate quickly, given the volatility of the environment. Washington and Beijing need to find a way to defuse that possibility. – The National Interest

Rana Foroohar writes: The problem with this economic codependency, says Roach, is that it is inherently reactive. “The slightest disturbance becomes amplified, risking retaliation and a progressive unravelling. China’s balloon triggers a diplomatic response from Blinken that is strikingly reminiscent of cold war 1.0 actions in 1960, when the USSR shot down our U-2 spy plane. That, of course, ushered in the most dangerous phrase of the first cold war, culminating in the Cuban Missile crisis,” he says. “There is no trust in a conflicted codependency, making it hard to put the pieces of a once healthy relationship back together. That leaves the conflicted codependency hyper-vulnerable to flashpoints.” With House of Representatives speaker Kevin McCarthy heading to Taiwan soon, one might wonder if that island nation will be the next Cuba.- Financial Times 

South Asia

Indian tax authorities raided the BBC and seized its journalists’ phones in a stunning — and apparently retaliatory — move Tuesday against the British broadcaster weeks after it aired a polarizing documentary examining Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise. – Washington Post

U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet will lead a delegation to Pakistan this week as Washington and Islamabad seek to repair ties strained under former Prime Minister Imran Khan. – Reuters

Cash-strapped Pakistan will impose new taxes of 170 billion rupees this month in a bid for massive bailout, officials and analysts said Monday, even as they warned the new taxes could accelerate the country’s spiraling inflation. – Associated Press 

Erin Mello writes: This robust U.S.-Indian defense relationship rooted in anti-submarine warfare-focused maritime cooperation will be critical as China continues its far-seas expansion into the Indian Ocean. With this in mind, the United States should support India’s role as a security provider in the region. – War on the Rocks


China’s use of a laser aimed at a Philippine Coast Guard ship in the South China Sea drew a sharp response from the United States on Monday. The action, which the Philippines said temporarily blinded the crew, was “provocative and unsafe,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. – Washington Post 

Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia on Sunday ordered the shutdown of the Voice of Democracy, one of the country’s last independent news outlets, intensifying a long-running crackdown on the news media and political opposition as he consolidates his grip on power. – New York Times 

A Taiwan military intelligence officer said the armed forces had not seen any surveillance balloons from China near the island that were similar to the one shot down over the United States. – Reuters

Concerned Vietnam-based exporters are seeking to ensure they comply with a U.S. ban on imported products using raw materials from China’s Xinjiang as lucrative trade in goods like garments and solar panels comes under closer scrutiny in Washington. – Reuters

The United States renewed a warning that it would defend its treaty ally if Filipino forces come under attack in the disputed South China Sea, after a Chinese coast guard ship allegedly hit a Philippine patrol vessel with military-grade laser that briefly blinded some of its crew. – Associated Press

The United States consul general no longer needs to secure China’s approval before meeting officials in the semi-autonomous Chinese city of Hong Kong, after a rule put in place during heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing was relaxed. – Associated Press

Debt-stricken Sri Lanka is fast-tracking efforts to seal a stalled trade pact with Thailand in order to boost trade and tourism, and improve the foreign currency shortage that has led to its worst economic crisis, a government minister said on Tuesday. – Associated Press   

Myanmar’s military government plans to allow people who are “loyal to the nation,” including government employees and retired military personnel, to carry licensed firearms, but they must comply with orders from local authorities to participate in security and law enforcement actions, the military and media reports said. – Associated Press 

India called on China to be willing to take losses on loans to struggling economies, and asked the world’s biggest bilateral creditor to developing countries to avoid taking positions that would block relief for nations such as Zambia and Sri Lanka.  Bloomberg

The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and India will host an inaugural meeting to deal with global debt issues Friday, bringing together creditors including China with borrowing countries to try to hash out solutions for nations with unsustainable debt levels. Bloomberg

Concerned Vietnam-based exporters are seeking to ensure they comply with a U.S. ban on imported products using raw materials from China’s Xinjiang as lucrative trade in goods like garments and solar panels comes under closer scrutiny in Washington. – Reuters

Taiwan has not spotted any surveillance balloons from China in its vicinity, the island’s defence ministry said on Tuesday, as a dispute between China and the United States over spy balloons triggers worries about rising military tensions. – Reuters

Japan plans to bulk-order Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States by March next year as it begins a rapid military build-up, Minister of Defense Yasukazu Hamada said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The United States on Monday called on the Cambodian government to reverse course after it revoked the media license of one of the country’s last independent news outlets. – The Hill

A recent agreement between Indonesia and Vietnam over maritime boundaries in the South China Sea will likely smooth over the occasionally tense relationship between the two South East Asian nations. – Defense News 

Editorial: Sanctions imposed on Myanmar in the wake of the 2021 coup have made little impact on its rulers, who have decades of experience in circumventing restrictions and scant fear of international opprobrium. The risk now is that the regime will use elections planned for this summer to falsely claim legitimacy and convince regional governments to dial back pressure on the armed forces. – Bloomberg

Tsuneo Watanabe writes: Building on the three new strategic documents, the U.S. and Japanese governments announced plans to enhance Japan-U.S. defense cooperation at the 2+2 meeting between their foreign and defense ministers on January 11, 2023, which were endorsed by Prime Minister Kishida and President Biden during their meeting at the White House on January 13. Japan’s decisions on defense strategy will be irreversible based on a realistic change in the public’s perception of the security environment and will also be an important step toward deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The European Union issued strict regulations for what qualifies as renewable hydrogen under its clean-energy transition plan, shaping how companies are expected to deploy billions of euros of investments in hydrogen factories in the coming years. – Wall Street Journal

Russia planned to topple Moldova’s pro-Western government by fomenting violence through foreign actors and internal criminal groups, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu said Monday. The attempted plot would have placed the Eastern European nation at the disposal of the Kremlin for use in its invasion of Ukraine, and prevented Moldova’s integration into the European Union, she said. – Washington Post 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hopes that Western backers will provide modern fighter jets — what he calls “wings for freedom” — have been met with discouragement, if not outright rejection, from Ukraine’s leading weapons suppliers. – Washington Post 

When in December Serbia put forces on highest combat alert in response to increasing violence in Kosovo between police and minority Serb protesters, a shareholder in Pristina’s newest shopping mall began getting calls from unnerved investors. – Reuters

Russia will seek to gather more intelligence about Norway’s oil and gas infrastructure as part of efforts to put pressure on European energy supplies, the Nordic country’s police security agency (PST) said in its annual threat assessment on Monday. – 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

Russia rejected on Tuesday an accusation by Moldova’s president that Moscow is plotting to destabilise the former Soviet republic. – Reuters

Meticulously crafted over decades as a major revenue stream for the Kremlin, Moscow’s gas trade with Europe is unlikely to recover from the ravages of military conflict. – Reuters

Two Dutch F-35 fighters intercepted a formation of three Russian military aircraft near Poland and escorted them out, the Netherlands’ defence ministry said in a statement late on Monday. – Reuters

The Prime Minister said that “national security matters” prevented him from commenting in more detail, but insisted that the UK was in “constant touch” with allies. US fighter jets shot down an “unidentified object” over Lake Huron on Sunday – the fourth object to enter US or Canadian airspace in just over a week. – Bloomberg

Norway’s domestic intelligence service warned that Chinese investment in businesses and properties in the High North may form part of the Communist nation’s espionage and influence efforts focused on the Arctic region. Bloomberg

Although relations between Ankara and Athens have been increasingly antagonistic, last week’s cataclysm dialed them back, if only temporarily. It also underscores how the ultimate foe can sometimes be the ground underneath one’s feet — as well as Greece’s own vulnerability should it be hit by a devastating earthquake. – New York Sun

NATO plans to launch a new effort this week to streamline the process of gathering, disseminating, and distributing the reams of data collected in space for use by the alliance command structure. – Defense News

Editorial: This destabilization campaign claimed a political casualty Friday as Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita resigned, citing the “many crises caused by Russian aggression.” Ms. Sandu has nominated her pro-Western security adviser, Dorin Recean, to replace Ms. Gavrilita, and he will likely be confirmed this week. The unease in Moldova underscores the stakes in Ukraine. A victorious Kremlin has other conquests in mind. – Wall Street Journal

Stefano Graziosi and James Jay Carafano write: Additionally, the United States can bring in foreign direct investment, mostly from the private sector, that can speed “friend-shoring.” This will help the region decrease its dependence on China and Russia while helping grow economies in Europe. Finally, the United States can bring diplomatic heft, sorting through the myriad of thorny relationship challenges in the region. Of course, the EU and NATO will always have a role to play in southern Europe. But a bilateral effort from Washington and Rome can be the catalyst for greater stability and prosperity throughout the Greater Mediterranean. – The National Interest


As Wagner fighters play a central role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Russian mercenary group is quietly expanding its alliances in Africa, say European officials, penetrating new mineral-rich areas, exploiting the exit of Western powers and creating alliances with local fighters. – Wall Street Journal

A move by Uganda’s government to close the United Nations’ local human rights office has drawn strong criticism from opposition leaders and activists, who say it highlights the country’s worsening record on civil liberties. – Reuters

James Barnett writes: Even in the event of a tight or contested race, the political heavyweights may decide that violence is not in their immediate interest, as when then-President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to Buhari in 2015, declaring, “Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian,” amid calls from his base and certain political backers to contest the results. Influential figures within the political establishment and broader society could also unite to effectively discourage a candidate from employing violence in challenging any result, which is how the 2011 crisis was eventually resolved. – New Lines Magazine

Latin America

Argentine officials have blamed organized “mafias” for promoting birth tourism to the South American country by Russian mothers-to-be amid a boom in numbers traveling there since the invasion of Ukraine looking to get their children citizenship. – Reuters

Colombia’s government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group resumed peace talks in Mexico City on Monday after a temporary halt caused by a misunderstanding over a mooted ceasefire. – Reuters

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols on Monday put fresh pressure on Nicaragua to release an anti-government bishop condemned last week to a 26-year prison sentence. – Reuters

Jose Ignacio Hernández writes: Second, sanctions should remain in place, subject to genuine advances in the negotiations. For that purpose, it is necessary to have a clear schedule of specific advances that could be rewarded with sanctions relief, focusing on the Venezuelan people. To create credible incentives, there should be a clear signal that, without those steps, sanctions will not be reviewed. Consequently, measures that reduce the pressure without genuine concessions should be avoided. These are essential and urgent tasks; time is not on the side of Venezuelan democracy. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

North America

Biden administration officials defended on Monday their decisions to shoot down unidentified flying objects over North America this weekend and disputed new claims by Beijing that the U.S. violated Chinese airspace with high-altitude balloons. – Wall Street Journal

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that the four aerial objects shot down in recent days, including one over Yukon territory on Saturday, are connected in some way, without elaborating. – Reuters

The U.S. Congress will take a bipartisan look at unidentified aerial objects that have made their way into U.S. and Canadian airspace, and why they were not found sooner, the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate said on Monday. – Reuters

United States

Former Trump White House national security adviser John Bolton will be briefed Wednesday by Biden administration officials about Chinese surveillance balloon incursions that happened during the Trump administration, his spokesperson confirmed to The Hill on Monday. – The Hill

Editorial: It’s hard to see how the internet as we know it would function without the core liability protection of Section 230, and any GOP attempt to create a Fairness Doctrine to monitor speech on the web would be a grave mistake. But lawmakers could mandate more transparency about how moderation policies are enforced. They could set rules to stop government officials from secretly jawboning platforms into censorship. They could also clarify how a law from the AOL era applies to an AI age that was unimaginable in 1996. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: But it is inexcusable that Biden has not given the public an explanation. As commander in chief, his responsibilities do not begin and end with ordering the military to shoot flying objects down. He is our civilian leader and must give answers and, where possible, assurances to the citizens he serves. If there are no good answers, Biden should say so and commit to working to find them. This may be politically uncomfortable. But the president should tell us what he knows and how he intends to find out more. His present approach stokes conjecture and fear. – Washington Examiner

Walter Russell Mead writes: In Tokyo and Canberra, officials are eager to tell visitors about the deepening relationship between two countries no longer divided by World War II memories. Japanese-Australian cooperation is particularly important in Southeast Asia, where both have deep economic ties and intimate knowledge of the political and cultural forces shaping those countries’ attitudes toward the U.S. and China. The Australians I met weren’t happy about their country’s new prominence in world affairs. But they recognize that nostalgia for the good old days is a distraction. Australia is preparing to do its part as tensions rise. Let us hope America follows suit. – Wall Street Journal

Adrian Wooldridge writes: Gung-ho globalization is no more. The US and China are on the brink of declaring Cold War II, the World Trade Organization is in an advanced state of decrepitude and Joe Biden devoted the most striking parts of last week’s State of the Union Address to lamenting America’s habit of “exporting jobs.” But what comes next? – Bloomberg

Bob Hall writes: The U.S. desperately needs new innovations in technology to mitigate the threats and damage of EMP attacks on the grid and new policies to address the known vulnerabilities. The longer we wait, the higher the likelihood that more lives would be impacted by an EMP attack. – Washington Examiner


Amid a baffling series of incidents in which the U.S. has shot down three unidentified flying objects, the White House said Monday it would create a team expected to study airborne objects and the potential security and safety risks they pose. – Wall Street Journal

American military and civilian agencies have flown balloons over the U.S. for a growing range of national-security applications, scientific research, intelligence collection and commercial uses, according to industry experts, former officials and government documents. – Wall Street Journal

The system of radars, sensors and other intelligence tools overseen by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or Norad, didn’t detect the suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down off South Carolina on Feb. 4, but it has been busy ever since. – Wall Street Journal

The Naval Postgraduate School and wireless specialist Qualcomm Technologies inked a cooperative research agreement to explore 5G, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, some of the U.S. Defense Department’s most pressing priorities. – Defense News 

Physical presence by allied navies and coast guards is increasingly important as Russia builds up its military presence and China’s expands its intentions beyond commerce in the waters of the High North, senior maritime officers from three countries and a National Security Council official agreed last week. – USNI News

Long War

U.N. experts say the predominant view among member nations is that the leadership of al-Qaida has passed to Sayf al-’Adl, who was responsible for Osama bin Laden’s security and trained some of the hijackers involved in the 9/11 attack on the U.S. – Associated Press

The February 10, 2023 vehicular terror attack in Jerusalem, in which three Israeli civilians were killed and four were wounded, sparked gleeful responses from many Palestinians. An especially callous response was an antimesitic cartoon published by Gazan cartoonist Bahaa Yasin, who is known for his connections to Hamas. Yasin’s cartoons have been published in Hamas’ mouthpiece Al-Risalah, and his brother, Rashad Yasin, was an operative in Hamas’ military wing and was killed in the 2014 round of fighting between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Michael Rubin writes: As Turkey releases Islamic State detainees against the backdrop of the earthquake and as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demands the United States and others stop funding Syrian Kurds who maintain other prisons for Islamic State fighters, the risk of terrorism will grow. It is time the United States embraces and respects not only the money Taiwan contributes, but also its spirit. It is time to stand up for Taiwan at Interpol, even making U.S. involvement with the agency contingent on Taiwan’s participation. Like pandemics, terrorism and international crime know no borders. It is time to stop allowing Communist China’s temper tantrums and filibustering to gut international organization and impede cooperation. – Washington Examiner