Fdd's overnight brief

February 16, 2023

In The News


The Biden administration is holding indirect discussions with Iran on a possible prisoner exchange in a bid to secure the release of American citizens imprisoned in Iran, with Qatar and the United Kingdom playing an intermediary role in the talks, according to four sources familiar with the matter. – NBC News

The US, Gulf country allies and Israel are using AI (artificial intelligence) to predict where future Iranian drone attacks will emanate from, a top US general said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran have been escalating recently. The locus of the current tensions is Tabriz, a city located in northern Iran. The city and all its surrounding area is populated by close to 25 million ethnic Azeris, who wish to break away from Iranian rule and create a separate state of South Azerbaijan. – Arutz Sheva

As Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Chinese President Xi Jinping huddle in Beijing, senators from both parties raised concerns about the deepening ties between the Islamic Republic and China. – Jewish Insider

Iran International has obtained information that the Islamic Republic is suffering from heavy financial losses because a huge amount of its money is blocked in Iraq. – Iran International

The European Union plans to sanction several Iranian companies for supplying armed drones to Russia, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday. – Politico

Jason Rezaian writes: Whether Khandan is ultimately forced to report to prison, as is being demanded, I have no doubt this couple will continue their noble resistance. None of the repressive measures, standard fare for the paranoid and petty Islamic republic, have deterred them for one very simple reason: They know they are right. – Washington Post

Benny Avni writes: Even as cracks show between Beijing and Tehran, their alliance is real. To confront it, America would do best to tighten sanctions, punish those who violate them, and convince European allies to end their pursuit of amicable diplomacy with the Islamic Republic. – New York Sun

Salem Alketbi writes: Netanyahu’s government is motivated and some of its members are determined to launch a direct military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, especially after receiving strong US support in the recent joint exercise, the largest of its kind between the two countries. – Jerusalem Post

Ilan I. Berman writes: Iran, for its part, seems content with this arrangement, at least for the moment. Against the backdrop of persistent domestic protests and widespread dissatisfaction with its more-than-four decades of misrule, the Iranian regime is eager for the added stability that closer ties to the Kremlin have the potential to provide. Over the longer term, however, Iran’s ayatollahs are liable to find that the political and strategic costs of this alignment are steep indeed. – The Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, Nicole Wolkov, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Protest coordinators have likely strengthened their organizational capabilities and internal infrastructure ahead of calls for anti-regime demonstrations on February 16.- Institute for the Study of War 

Russia & Ukraine

At least six Russian balloons floated over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Wednesday, triggering air raid sirens before most of them were shot down, Ukrainian officials said, prompting speculation about their purpose and when they were first deployed. – New York Times

The Russian military has lost at least half of its tanks since it invaded Ukraine, according to a report by a London-based think tank released on Wednesday, a potential constraint as fighting intensifies again and Moscow struggles to expand its offensive operations. – New York Times

Nearly a year into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the man behind the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary outfit fighting on the front lines, has claimed to have founded the Internet Research Agency as well. – Washington Post

NATO countries and Western allies on Wednesday announced more weapons and ammunition for Ukraine, moving to boost Kyiv’s military capabilities as Russia escalated attacks in the east. – Washington Post

A Russian military victory in Ukraine will embolden Beijing and lead to war between the United States and China over Taiwan, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the exiled Russian tycoon and vocal critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime, warned in an interview ahead of remarks that he will deliver to global leaders at a major security and defense conference in Germany this weekend. – Washington Post

As Moscow steps up its offensive in eastern Ukraine, weeks of failed attacks on a Ukrainian stronghold have left two Russian brigades in tatters, raised questions about Russia’s military tactics and renewed doubts about its ability to maintain sustained, large-scale ground assaults. – New York Times

The medics say that the Feb. 2 strike, the aftermath of which was witnessed by a team from The Wall Street Journal, was an example of a brutal tactic known as a “double tap,” where a location that has already been struck is hit again when first responders arrive. – Wall Street Journal

The U.K. said Russia has deployed nearly its entire army in Ukraine, increasing pressure along the front line in the east of the country but falling short of a breakthrough. – Wall Street Journal

Russia launched missile strikes across Ukraine on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, after Western allies pledged to ramp up military aid to the Ukrainian armed forces to support a planned counter-offensive. – Reuters

Marking one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, the UN General Assembly will vote next week on a draft resolution stressing “the need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace” in line with the founding United Nations Charter. – Reuters

Night after night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivers rousing video addresses, rallying his troops in their fight against the Russian invaders and trying to keep the world’s attention focused on his nation’s plight. – Reuters

Vladimir Putin casts the war in Ukraine as a watershed when Russia finally stood up to the West – but some within the elite fear he has committed his country to a long and fruitless drain on lives and resources. – Reuters

Several Russian strategic bombers and fighter jets were intercepted by North American air defense forces as they flew over international airspace near Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) said, in routine incidents unrelated to tensions over the war in Ukraine. – Reuters

The United States should try to prove it was not behind the destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines that connected Russia to Western Europe, the Russian embassy to the United States said on Thursday. – Reuters

Six Russian balloons were spotted over Kyiv and most were shot down after being engaged by air defenses, the Ukrainian capital’s military administration said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Representatives of the 27 European Union countries meet in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss a new batch of sanctions against Russia, which the head of the bloc’s executive said could cost 11 billion euros ($11.8 bln) in lost trade. – Reuters

NATO countries are ramping up production of artillery munitions as Ukraine is burning through shells much faster than the West can make them, the alliance said on Wednesday amid pledges to deliver at least 48 Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv. – Reuters

Ukraine’s state arms producer said on Wednesday it had launched joint production of artillery shells with a central European country in NATO, and that it plans to develop and produce other arms and military hardware with allies. – Reuters

Ukraine appealed on Wednesday to the United Nations and Turkey to press Russia to immediately stop hindering Ukrainian grain shipments that supply millions of people and not to use the food as a weapon. – Reuters

On an average day in Ukraine, the opposing armies lob as many as 30,000 shells at one another. That’s more than 200,000 a week, almost 1 million a month—without including the bullets, land mines, hand grenades and other munitions being deployed as Vladimir Putin’s invasion enters its second year. – Bloomberg

Booming trade flows with Russia’s neighbors may be a sign that sanctions imposed in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine are being avoided, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. – Bloomberg

Russia continues to access foreign chips and technology through intermediaries like Iran, a senior US official responsible for regulating exports said. – Bloomberg

Russia’s Northern Fleet is on the move, being deployed while armed with tactical nuclear weaponry for the first time since the Cold War, according to a Norwegian intelligence report. – Jerusalem Post

A Ukrainian attempt to retake Crimea would be a red line for Vladimir Putin that could lead to a wider Russian response, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Zoom call with a group of experts Wednesday. – Politico

Krista Viksnins writes: Measures like the oil price cap on Russian exports have had a significant effect, underlining the need for allies to play the long game and continue with coordinated and sustained pressure on Russia. Economic measures have a corrosive effect, weakening elements in the Russian supply chain and — hopefully — causing an ultimate collapse. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Israeli forces demolished the home on Thursday of a Palestinian behind a deadly shooting in the occupied West Bank, as tensions surge in the region over the Israeli government’s policies and continued bloodshed. – Associated Press

Israel’s parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a law to strip Arabs convicted in nationalistic attacks of their Israeli citizenship or residency and deport them if they have accepted stipends from the Palestinian Authority. – Associated Press

Israel’s foreign minister arrived in Kyiv on Thursday, the first public visit to Ukraine’s capital by a senior Israeli official since Russia’s invasion last year. – Associated Press

The United Nations Security Council is considering a draft resolution, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, that would demand Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory.” – Reuters

“The city of Barcelona did something that is a big mistake and that doesn’t represent the whole of Spain and it does not represent Madrid,” Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Community of Madrid told The Jerusalem Post during a 48-hour visit this week. – Jerusalem Post

Sen. Chris Murphy, the chair of the subcommittee dedicated to the Middle East, on Wednesday warned that Israel’s move to legalize West Bank outposts and dramatically expand settlement construction is a harbinger of new policies under Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition that will further turn Israel into a wedge issue in Washington. – Haaretz

Sol Stern writes: For the past quarter century, leaders of the Palestinian Authority have been insistent that their people were innocent victims of a historically unprecedented crime in 1948, a crime that is frequently mentioned in the same breath as the Holocaust. Their account is an example of the phenomenon called the “big lie.” Indeed, it is perhaps the most persistent big lie of the past 75 years. But attention must be paid, since this putatively solemn act of national remembrance will likely be used to launch violent demonstrations against the Jewish state. – Commentary Magazine


But these days, there’s another kind of buzzing in the neighborhood: the Taliban moving in and making it their own. Like their American-supplied rifles and Humvees and military fatigues, the Green Zone is becoming the latest vestige of the Western war effort that the Taliban have repurposed as they build up their own military and government. – New York Times

A rare public show of division within the ranks of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban emerged in recent days when Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, a powerful government figure, gave a speech seen as implicit criticism of the movement’s reclusive supreme leader. – Associated Press

Lynne O’Donnell writes: But the diplomatic departures may also be an attempt to curb Akhundzada’s ideological excesses, which are strangling the country. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Pakistan could also be responding to U.S. pressure; Washington just started cracking down on continued Taliban excesses, including visa restrictions and pointed words for international agencies that comply with the Taliban’s misogynist rules. – Foreign Policy


A powerful earthquake last week catapulted Syria’s authoritarian president, Bashar al-Assad, into the global spotlight, creating an opportunity for him to inch further back onto the international stage through disaster diplomacy. – New York Times

U.S. forces shot down an Iranian-made drone flying over a base housing American troops in northeastern Syria, the U.S. military said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Aid deliveries to areas outside regime control have been heavily politicised since the war, particularly by Assad and his ally Russia on the UN Security Council. Together, they have gradually restricted aid flows. – Financial Times

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Securing the airspace against these threats is an increasing issue; the US learned this in Iraq and Syria. The Iranian drone threat is now well known, as are its smuggling networks and nefarious methods used to try to export the technology around the region and to Russia. – Jerusalem Post


Soaring U.S. tensions with China, fears of a new Russian offensive against Ukraine and a stalemate with Turkey over NATO expansion will top Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s agenda as he heads to Europe this week. Blinken will leave Washington on Thursday for nearly a week of meetings in Germany, Turkey and Greece, the State Department said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Turkish police said they have arrested 78 people accused of creating fear and panic by “sharing provocative posts” about last week’s earthquake on social media, adding 20 of them were being held in pre-trial detention. – Reuters

Turkey has the right to decide how it wants to ratify Finland and Sweden’s NATO memberships, the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, even as he urged Ankara to give the green light to both Nordic countries. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Ibrahim Jalal writes: The government is likely to be the weakest negotiating actor given its fragmentation and the multiplicity of sub-actors, interests, and agendas; this issue would only be exacerbated if the Houthis secured a Saudi-Houthi deal based on a Saudi-Iranian understanding. […]Given this calculus, there are a few potential scenarios should Saudi Arabia and the Houthis reach an Iranian-endorsed agreement, but it is only by addressing power imbalances that a road to sustainable peace can be found in Yemen. – Middle East Institute

Eli Lake writes: In 2023, Iraq still has much work to do. And yet  its current condition represents a historic achievement that has not been recognized. Iraq has continued to have successive elections, its economy has grown, and Iraqis have managed to save their country twice from fanatic terror armies seeking to rebuild a lost caliphate. To evaluate the war that rid Iraq of a sadistic crime family, one must imagine what Iraq would have resembled had Saddam or his sons remained in power. In that light, the plagues of corruption, ethnic militias, and Iranian influence look like a bargain. – Commentary Magazine

Frzand Sherko writes: The U.S. government still has time to rebuild an advantageous, strategic alliance with Iraq, and the current economic tension could actually be an opportunity to do so. Although the U.S. Department of Treasury must follow through on tackling the laundering of U.S. dollars, the White House can still embrace the Iraqi Prime Minister. If Washington can win the prime minister’s confidence, they can use the ‘carrot and stick’ approach to terminate the obstacles created by the Coordination Framework bloc, enhancing the anti-corruption efforts of Sudani and preventing Iraq from steering its political partnerships in an irreversible direction. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea says leader Kim Jong Un attended groundbreaking ceremonies for new housing and farming projects, which are part of his push for domestic achievements as the country’s economic isolation deepens amid his defiant pursuit of nuclear arms. – Associated Press

South Korea on Wednesday said that it’s still premature to determine whether the recently unveiled daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is being groomed as her father’s successor. – Associated Press

South Korea released its latest defense white paper on Thursday, describing North Korea as its “enemy” for the first time in six years and reporting an increase in Pyongyang’s stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium. – Reuters

Bruce Klingner writes: If not handled well by both sides, the nuclear dispute risks causing tension in the alliance at a time when the two countries, along with other allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region, need to be working closely together to address the growing North Korean and Chinese threats. – 19FortyFive


The evolution of Washington’s understanding of the Chinese military’s original goals and new details that reveal misreadings of the U.S. reaction by Chinese officials in private meetings reflect how difficult it is for the United States and China to discern each other’s intentions — a gap that American officials fear could lead to greater mistrust in an already fraught relationship or even to armed conflict. – New York Times

Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, kicks off a weeklong visit to Europe and Russia with a difficult task: Repair fraying relations in the region at a time of heightened tension with the U.S., growing European wariness toward Beijing and concern over China’s partnership with Russia. – Wall Street Journal

Tensions over the U.S. military’s downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon are set to culminate this weekend in Munich, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi are scheduled to attend a security conference. – Wall Street Journal

China’s ceremonial parliament has accused American lawmakers of trampling on the sovereignty of other nations after the U.S. passed a measure condemning a suspected Chinese spy balloon’s intrusion into U.S. airspace. – Associated Press

Diplomatic friction festered between the United States and China on Wednesday as Beijing charged that U.S. high altitude balloons flew over its Xinjiang and Tibet regions and said it would take measures against U.S. entities that undermine Chinese sovereignty. – Reuters

The United States will work to maintain lines of communication with China despite a rift over an alleged surveillance balloon, a top US diplomat said Wednesday. The United States and China have “never stopped communicating and trying to understand each other” despite the cancellation this month of a visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said his deputy, Wendy Sherman. – Agence France-Presse

U.S. officials believe a Chinese balloon that was shot down after crossing the continental United States originally had a trajectory that would have taken it over Guam and Hawaii but was blown off course by prevailing winds, a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Weather balloons, civilian drones and other non-military aerial gadgets are all possible explanations for the mysterious objects the U.S. military has shot out of the sky in the past week, say scientists and atmospheric experts. – Reuters

The Senate’s China hawks feel newly emboldened to go after Beijing after the country’s balloon incursion, looking into dozens of anti-China trade and foreign policy provisions that lawmakers were forced to ditch last term to get a bipartisan microchips bill passed into law. But they’re facing a classic problem: Anything that could pass the Democrat-controlled Senate likely won’t fly in the House. – Politico 

Patty-Jane Geller writes: The Pentagon revealed this month that China now has more intercontinental ballistic missile launchers than the U.S. This is the latest evidence that China is well on its way to nuclear parity with—if not superiority over—the U.S. […] This state of affairs may have been tolerable before China embarked on its dramatic buildup, but today it represents perilous risk for the U.S. Strengthening U.S. forces might not be simple or cheap, and getting it right likely will require a long-term funding commitment. But the investment and effort are more than necessary given that nuclear war is at stake. – Wall Street Journal

Daniel Henninger writes: Inside that self-imposed constraint, the Biden national-security team is doing a decent job off its back foot. But the balloon/UFO invasion proves the U.S. security dike is breaking. We aren’t being attacked by an unknown unknown from outer space. We’re under pressure from the known knowns of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Americans will have to learn to live with the Biden silence because help can’t arrive for two years. – Wall Street Journal 

Spencer Bokat-Lindell writes: However the balloon affair blows over, it has highlighted how strained U.S.-China relations have become and how easily another dispute could curdle into conflict. “As we see with balloons — who predicted a balloon mini-crisis? — the possible permutations are endless,” Chris Buckely, who covers China for The Times, said this week. – New York Times

David Ropeik writes: Balloon Freakout will probably pop soon presuming that the wreckage of the three devices proves innocuous. But it is providing a great opportunity to recognize that risk perception itself is fraught with risk. – New York Times

Sen. Deb Fischer writes: As the president said on Tuesday, “It’s never a good bet to bet against America.” That’s what he’ll be doing if he fails to invest in our nuclear deterrence. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, our nation has sidelined our nuclear enterprise — the very bedrock of our national security. As China builds up its arsenal, we in the U.S. should heed the motto of President Reagan: “peace through strength.” – Fox News

Rebekah Koffler writes: It is high time for President Biden and his security team to face reality. China is a much bigger threat than they care to admit. Instead of shooting down the aerial reconnaissance vehicles one by one, the Pentagon and the administration must develop a serious and comprehensive strategy on how to deal with America’s top strategic opponent. – Fox News

Brian J. Morra, David A. Deptula, and Jeffrey “Skunk” Baxter write: The potential that the U.S. might lose a war with China grows as our military advantage erodes. Congress can help with hearings and appropriate action on what is learned from them. The Biden administration also should take steps to improve communication with Beijing to reduce the risk of miscalculation. There is no time to waste. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: The bottom line is that the balloons have delivered a death blow to China’s foreign policy credibility. For nations the world over, the reliability of Beijing’s word and the true nature of its agenda now merit harsher scrutiny. – Washington Examiner

Benji Backer writes: It’s a shame that the Super Bowl allowed Temu to air not just one, but multiple spots during the most-watched television program of the year. The CCP’s influence on American life is not something we should take lightly. For human life and our environment alike, CCP influence is one of the most dangerous forces on the planet. We must fight back. – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: Most relevant to Americans, all of this is about far more than simply advancing the CCP’s interests. Xi’s ultimate ambition is to replace the U.S.-led democratic international order with a Beijing-led feudal mercantile international order. That is to say, an order in which individual freedom, rule-of-law rooted trade, and political sovereignty are subordinated to CCP whims. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

China expressed support for Sri Lanka ahead of a meeting Friday of government lenders to poor economies but did not say if it would help reduce a multibillion-dollar debt that has plunged the Indian Ocean nation into financial and political turmoil. – Associated Press

Sri Lanka and India will sign a pact to link their power grids and start negotiations on an upgraded trade agreement within two months, a Sri Lankan diplomat said on Wednesday, as the island nation seeks a way out of its worst economic crisis in decades. – Reuters 

India will raise seven new battalions of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in the next few years, a minister said on Wednesday, amid tensions with neighbour China that led to deadly border clashes in 2020 and scuffles late last year. – Reuters

Just hours after Indian tax authorities searched the BBC’s offices on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held phone calls with Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron touting record orders of 470 planes by Air India Ltd. – Bloomberg


The United States hopes China will not use any visits by U.S. lawmakers to Taiwan as an excuse for military action, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday, adding that all countries should warn Beijing against conflict over the island. – Reuters

The Philippines and the United States will this year carry out their biggest joint military drills since 2015, Manila’s army chief said on Wednesday, against a backdrop of growing tensions with China in the South China Sea. – Reuters

Australian and Chinese officials will meet in the coming days to discuss a relaxation of trade restrictions after Commerce Minister Wang Wentao signaled that relations are set to improve further. – Bloomberg

Japanese defense officials are “reviewing the rules for the use of weapons” in light of alleged violations of Japan’s airspace by China’s spy balloon program, according to reports. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. is consulting with its “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing partners and additional allies to share and sharpen information-warfare techniques in the Indo-Pacific. – Defense News

David Boling writes: The message from Japan to China is clear: I am not the skinny kid anymore — I am muscling up to fight back. And you may be bigger than I am, but I have more friends than you do. That’s good news for Japan and the world. But bad news for the bullies. – The Hill

Emil Avdaliani writes: Nevertheless, a trend is undeniable. A multipolar era has begun in the South Caucasus where growing competition from other actors limits Russia’s old claim to be the dominant power in the region. When the EU unveiled details of its new mission to Armenia, the Kremlin was reduced to blustering that the bloc was stirring up geopolitical confrontation in the region. It was a far cry from the old days. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The leader of Scotland’s government and the head of its pro-independence Scottish National Party said on Wednesday she would resign, an unexpected move that follows a recent slump in support and controversy over an initiative to expand transgender rights. – Wall Street Journal

British police are vulnerable to spying by Beijing due to their dependence on Chinese-made technology, according to the UK surveillance commissioner. – Financial Times

This year, however, any diplomatic overtures between Russia and the US are out of the question. As the anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine fast approaches, no Russian officials have been invited[…] Iranian officials were also disinvited, a response to the brutal suppression of protests by women in Iranian cities. – Financial Times

Hundreds of hardline Serb nationalists and pro-Russia activists rallied in downtown Belgrade, threatening riots if Serbia accepts a Western-backed plan aimed at mending ties with Kosovo, its former mainly Albanian southern province. – Reuters

There’s more bad news for Vladimir Putin. Europe is on course to get through winter with its vital gas storage facilities more than half full, according to a new European Commission assessment seen by POLITICO. – Politico

The governor of Xinjiang, where about 1mn Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been under detention, has cancelled his visits to London and Brussels, following an outcry from politicians and activists. – Financial Times

China’s top diplomat called on France to boost cooperation on tech issues and trade in the face of “adverse currents,” a sign of the Asian nation’s efforts to counter a US-led effort to curb its chip ambitions. – Bloomberg

Henry Foy writes: The answer, according to most officials, is large, long-term contracts with defence manufacturers, initially for the war effort but with pledges from European governments to keep buying even when peace comes to Ukraine. Such conversations will dominate Munich, too. – Financial Times

The Americas

Paraguay and Taiwan are united by destiny, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo said on Thursday during a visit to the island ahead of an election in April that could see the Latin American country ditch Taipei for Beijing. – Reuters

China and Mexico have stonewalled “information-sharing” and other “basic” steps to counteract the fentanyl crisis in the United States, according to federal officials. – Washington Examiner

Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, announced her presidential campaign on Tuesday with robust connections to many prominent Jewish and pro-Israel leaders and activists, whose potential support could lend a crucial boost as she steps up to run against former President Donald Trump in a Republican field that is likely to grow in the coming months. – Jewish Insider


The Biden administration’s forthcoming national cybersecurity strategy is widely expected to call on utility operators to invest more on cybersecurity protections to guard against malicious hackers who are increasingly targeting critical infrastructure. – CyberScoop

The City of Oakland has declared a state of emergency one week after a ransomware attack hampered local government operations. – The Record

More than 500 European organizations have become fresh targets for the ESXiArgs ransomware, according to data collected by a security research firm. – The Record

Eric Noonan writes: It might be tempting to compare this hostility to the Cold War, but Soviet Russia didn’t have the kind of reach, manufacturing capacity, or economic power that China has now. China is pervasive in its ability to produce goods and services that Americans want and need, from apps like TikTok to semiconductors and cellular communication equipment. China can weaponize and distribute its data collection efforts in ways that can be devastating to America. – The Hill


The Pentagon is reviewing its weapons stockpiles and may need to boost military spending after seeing how quickly ammunition has been used during the war in Ukraine, the most senior US officer said. – Financial Times

The downing of a Chinese spy balloon over U.S. airspace has forced a rapid recalibration in how the military monitors, tracks and responds to threats from above. The Defense Department said that after the Chinese spy balloon flew over much of the U.S. earlier this month before being shot down, the military began paying closer attention to lower-altitude flying objects. – The Hill

The U.S. Army has nearly finished swapping out a leaky part in CH-47 Chinook helicopter engines that led to a number of engine fires, according to the Army Aviation and Missile Command Aviation Branch maintenance officer. – Defense News

The Air Force is speeding up its hunt for a faulty component on hundreds of KC-135 Stratotankers that, if it failed in flight, could cause an aircraft’s tail to fall off. – Defense News

The US military successfully let artificial intelligence pilot a fighter jet and even battle simulated enemy aircraft during a recent series of flight tests. The incident marked a significant step for the Defense Department in developing advanced AI capabilities. – Business Insider

Russia ’s invasion of Ukraine has spurred U.S. allies across NATO to consider major increases in defense spending obligations, trans-Atlantic officials announced Wednesday. – Washington Examiner

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: Separating defense dollars into capital and operating budgets, shifting mandatory spending in defense from discretionary and into mandatory spending accounts and taking non-defense investments off the Pentagon’s books (or stopping certain activities altogether) will go a long way towards ensuring that the military receives what it genuinely needs to execute its central mission to defend the nation. – The Hill

Long War

Seif al-Adel, a former Egyptian special forces officer who is a high-ranking member of al Qaeda with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, is now the “uncontested” leader of the militant group, according to a new U.N. report on the organization. – Reuters

An ISIS official who was involved in planning prison breaks of extremists in Syria was killed during a raid by U.S. and coalition forces last week, CENTCOM announced on Wednesday. – Fox News

Devorah Margolin writes: The indefinite detention of IS-affiliated individuals—some of whom have been held for over four years—raises a number of humanitarian and security concerns. With support from the UN and international partners, the United States has emphasized the need to prioritize repatriation in order to holistically address the IS threat. Countering the group’s financial and military capabilities without addressing these detainees would be a mistake. […]Relatedly, the international community should assess how these issues might be affected by the February 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria. – Washington Institute