Fdd's overnight brief

February 3, 2022

In The News


The Biden administration expects a restored nuclear deal would leave Iran capable of amassing enough nuclear fuel for a bomb in significantly less than a year, a shorter time frame than the one that underpinned the 2015 agreement, U.S. officials familiar with the matter said. – Wall Street Journal 

Negotiations to revive the nuclear deal with Iran are “in the final stretch,” the United States said this week. The Biden administration has urged Tehran to roll back its recent nuclear advances and make “tough political decisions” that would allow both countries to return to the 2015 pact. – Washington Post  

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian discussed the Yemen crisis with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in a phone conversation on Wednesday, the state news agency IRNA reported. – Reuters 

Technology to hide a ship’s location previously available only to the world’s militaries is spreading fast through the global maritime industry as governments from Iran to Venezuela — and the rogue shipping companies they depend on to move their petroleum products — look for stealthier ways to circumvent U.S. sanctions. – Associated Press  

Iran’s judiciary said Wednesday that the country’s intelligence units have arrested the No. 2 leader of a little-known militant Iranian opposition group based in California. – Associated Press  

President Joe Biden is in danger of allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons under the cover of the lengthy diplomatic process, according to a senior Senate Democrat. – Washington Examiner 

A “highly confidential” state document leaked to RFE/RL’s Radio Farda warns that discontent is rising in Iran, with society in a “state of explosion.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

While President Joe Biden works to address the crisis over Russia menacing Ukraine, there is another critical one looming, with a senior State Department official telling reporters the “end game” is just weeks away. – ABC News 

Nikki Haley writes: The right response to Iran’s aggression is strength and resolve — exactly the opposite of what Biden is doing. Instead of giving Iran relief, he should be taking stronger action, issuing stronger sanctions while enforcing existing ones, and making clear that the pressure will only ramp up until Iran changes its behavior. It says a lot that Iran thinks it can get away with so much, including sanctioning me. It’s time for the Biden administration to show Iran that it can’t, starting with enforcing the law and stopping Iran’s oil shipments. Anything less is an insult to the public and a gift to an enemy who wants to destroy us. – Washington Examiner 

Jonathan Bernstein writes: That said, candidates do talk about foreign affairs during campaigns, whether or not voters pay attention. If the U.S. does re-enter the nuclear deal, Republicans will criticize Biden for that. If it doesn’t, they’ll blame him as Iran grows closer to testing a nuclear weapon. And campaign promises can be very important, whether they change election outcomes or not. – Bloomberg 

Ahmed Charai writes: Hamas and Hezbollah present somewhat more intricate challenges. Both have long been designated terrorist entities and are sanctioned as such. But, as the Trump administration’s rapid deployment of a functionally unilateral sanctions regime against Iran demonstrated, a great deal depends on the vigor and extent with which secondary sanctions are applied. Should the Biden administration prioritize closing off the financial lungs through which these entities breathe — in Turkey, Qatar, Latin America and elsewhere — Tehran would suddenly find its most dependable regional assets cash-starved and desperate for relief.  – The Hill 

Jordan Steckler writes: Buoyed by Washington’s desire to extricate itself from the region and secure a nuclear deal at any cost, Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are riding high. If the US is to prevent Iran from going nuclear, and from realizing Soleimani’s lifelong ambitions of spreading Iran’s revolutionary ideology and evicting the US from the region, it must recommit to increasing the pressure on Tehran. The US must make clear that the Iranian regime will pay a price for its regional destabilization. – Algemeiner  


Since the United States withdrew troops and the Taliban seized power, Afghanistan has plunged into an economic crisis that has pushed millions already living hand-to-mouth over the edge. […]Now with no immediate respite in sight, hundreds of thousands of people have fled to neighboring countries. – New York Times  

Taliban fighters will no longer be allowed to carry their weapons in amusement parks in Afghanistan, the group’s spokesman said on Wednesday, in what appeared to be another effort by the country’s new rulers to soften their image. – Reuters 

International banks can transfer money to Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes, and aid groups are allowed to pay teachers and healthcare workers at state-run institutions without fear of breaching sanctions on the Taliban, the United States said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Two Afghan journalists who disappeared this week have been released, their employer said on Wednesday, after the United Nations called on the Taliban to provide information on their whereabouts. – Reuters 

Some public universities opened in Afghanistan on Wednesday for the first time since the Taliban seized power in August, with a trickle of women attending classes that officials said would be segregated by sex. – Agence France-Presse  


Turkish forces have “neutralised” 43 Kurdish militants in northern Syria in retaliation for a bombing in the town of al Bab that killed nine people, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog will visit Turkey in mid-March, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, as Ankara looks to improve strained bilateral relations between the two countries. – Reuters 

Turkey will not respect the Council of Europe if it does not respect Turkish courts, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, when asked about a decision to refer the case against philanthropist Osman Kavala back to a top court. – Reuters 

Historic rivals Turkey and Armenia on Wednesday resumed their first commercial flights in two years as part of cautious efforts to warm their frozen ties. – Agence France-Presse  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Kyiv on Thursday in a bid to set the stage for a three-way summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin aimed at avoiding war in Ukraine. – Agence France-Presse  

Turkey said it won’t back down from planned arms deals with Ukraine, including the possible sale of additional armed drones that’s drawn a rebuke from Russia. – Bloomberg 

Asli Aydintasbas writes: This should be a lesson to Turkey and others in Europe: You can deal with Russia and trade with Russia, but if you become dependent on Russia, your options in the great power game will be limited. Erdogan will do all he can to support Ukraine diplomatically and step up Turkey’s NATO engagement. But if war becomes inevitable, Turkey will be careful not to cross Putin’s red lines. – Washington Post  


Israel is taking part in a huge U.S.-led naval exercise in the Middle East, for the first time publicly joining Saudi Arabia and Oman, two counties it has no diplomatic relations with despite its normalisation of ties with some Gulf states. – Reuters 

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz began a visit to Bahrain on Wednesday amid heightened tensions in the Gulf after missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement. – Reuters 

Israel’s attorney general has upheld the Shin Bet security agency’s use of mobile-phone tracking technology to monitor and threaten Palestinian protesters at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site last year. – Associated Press 

Israel’s ties with the US may be harmed by the advancement of plans for a new yeshiva and settlement on the Evyatar hilltop, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s office has hinted. – Jerusalem Post  

Visiting Israel for the first time to kick off talks for an expanded free trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and Israel, it was clear that Trevelyan saw great potential for the business ties between the two countries. She started her three-day visit with meetings with her Israeli counterpart Orna Barbivay and Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen. – Jerusalem Post  

Amnesty International’s report which claims Israel is an apartheid state is “propaganda attempting to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel,” Louisiana senator Dr. Bill Cassidy said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Ukraine has asked Israel for assistance with air and cyber defenses amid fears of a Russian invasion, the Eastern European country’s foreign minister said Wednesday. – Times of Israel  

Yossi Yehoshua writes: Making the most of a lull in inclement weather, Israel chose to inform Moscow of its intentions only shortly before striking as required in the cooperation agreements between the countries. The strike itself could be considered a message to Moscow on Israel’s part that the campaign against Iran on Syrian soil will carry on. […]For Tehran, Sunday’s strike is a sign that despite Washington’s weakness against them — even after attacking U.S. targets in Syria and Iraq — Israel is different. […]As far as Israel is concerned, it has no intention to make any policy changes. – Ynet 

Doron Ella and Oded Eran write: While Israel wishes to continue having healthy economic relations with China, it realizes that these are becoming closely attached to the great-power rivalry between the US and a rising China. A further deterioration in the US-China confrontation, and the possibility that it may turn into Cold War 2.0, presents Israel with a severe dilemma with a potential heavy price tag tied to any course of action it decides to follow. – Jerusalem Post  

Simon Henderson writes: Consequently, Gantz’s visit could spur protests among elements of the Shia community and even some Sunnis who oppose links with Israel. Although high-profile displays will probably be deterred by the often heavy hand of local security forces, the U.S. embassy website has long warned the several thousand American service personnel living in Bahrain about potential Shia hostility. For instance, the site includes a map of the island showing red-marked areas where U.S. government employees cannot go, and additional yellow areas where they cannot go at night. – Washington Institute 

Arabian Peninsula

The United Arab Emirates said late on Wednesday it intercepted three drones that entered its airspace over unpopulated areas earlier in the day, in the latest attack on the Gulf commercial and tourism hub in the past few weeks.. – Reuters  

Israeli defense officials visited the United Arab Emirates last week to discuss possible defense and intelligence assistance following recent Houthi attacks targeting the Gulf country, two Israeli officials tell me. – AXIOS 

The United Arab Emirates late Tuesday welcomed the prime minister of Somalia’s public apology for a Somali operation in 2018 that resulted in the seizure of Emirati aircraft and $9.6 million in cash, wrecking relations between the nations. – Associated Press 

Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, has ruled out the prospect of his country normalizing relations with Israel. – Arutz Sheva 

Alberto M. Fernandez writes: The repeated attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE coming from the Houthis in Yemen are certainly connected to the war in Yemen and the fact that Iran’s proxies in that country are facing tougher opposition on the ground. But the attacks are also an attempt at sabotaging governance and ideological models which stray from the disastrous policy decisions of the past and which promise to be successful, inspiring others elsewhere that a better, different future is possible. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

U.S. special operations forces carried out a combat operation to kill or capture a high-level terrorist in northwest Syria along the Turkish border, in a mission that included Apache gunships, airstrikes and drones, according to U.S. officials and accounts on social media. – Wall Street Journal 

President Kais Saied says he will remake Tunisian politics in 2022 with a new constitution and parliament after seizing executive power last year in a move his foes call a coup – but the threat of national bankruptcy may upend his plans. – Reuters 

As fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine leave the West hunting for alternative natural-gas shipments, an energy-rich country on Europe’s doorstep seems an obvious port of call. Algeria, a major gas supplier to Italy and Spain and the biggest source of European Union imports after Russia and Norway, could be able to provide at least some of the relief the U.S. and others are seeking. – Bloomberg 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that Israel recently offered aid to the Lebanese army as the country reels under a crushing economic and political crisis. – Ynet 

Korean Peninsula

A new North Korean state media documentary made a rare mention of the country’s “food crisis,” a glimpse into the realities on the ground amid mounting reports of pressures caused by the country’s prolonged covid border lockdown. – Washington Post  

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife attended a Lunar New Year’s Day concert in Pyongyang where he received thunderous cheers from audience members and artists who praised him for heralding a “new era” of national power, state media reported. – Associated Press  

Sungmin Cho and Oriana Skylar Mastro write: Finally, these three states must prepare for simultaneous provocations in East Asia, including concurrent conflicts in Taiwan and on the Korean Peninsula. In consultation with one another, the United States and its allies must demonstrate a strong willingness to cooperate and take strategic risks. They should hold more trilateral defense minister meetings, more thoroughly review various contingency scenarios, and discuss how to enhance their combined capabilities. – Foreign Affairs 

Jongsuk Jeong writes: Beyond this, the shared democratic values that unite Seoul and Washington will prevent South Korea from ever choosing China over the United States. Thus, if South Korean progressives continue their military buildup, a strong South Korea is ultimately in America’s interests. The past five years of South Korea “balancing” between China and the United States has only led to its international isolation. A better approach would be to pursue “peace through strength” not alone but together with the United States. – War on the Rocks 


An extensive buildup of barriers along China’s 3,000-mile southern border is under way, according to public documents, official statements and interviews with residents, ostensibly to battle Covid-19 but with likely long-lasting ramifications on trade and travel. – Wall Street Journal 

When Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping hold a summit alongside the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, on display will be a flourishing partnership that is already complicating U.S. foreign policy and influence around the world. – Wall Street Journal 

Chinese President Xi Jinping will host 21 world leaders at the Winter Olympics, and a majority of them preside over non-democratic regimes. – Bloomberg 

In the months leading up to the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which open on Friday, companies have been keeping their heads down when asked about the persecution of more than 1mn Uyghur Muslims, which the Biden administration has called “genocide.” – Financial Times  

At the December 20, 2021 “Symposium on the International Situation and China’s Foreign Relations,” Cui Tiankai, former Chinese deputy foreign minister and former ambassador to the U.S. and to Japan, delivered a special speech on the topic “Some Thoughts on Sino-U.S. Relations.” […]In his speech, Cui stressed that the purpose of China’s “fight” against the U.S. is “to safeguard the people’s interests” and “the overall strategy of national rejuvenation.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Josh Rogin writes: In 2022, the Olympics is being held in a country credibly accused of perpetrating an ongoing genocide. Any athletes protesting those abuses, even if only by staying away from the Opening Ceremonies, are standing up for human rights everywhere. They deserve our admiration, protection and support. – Washington Post 

Adam Taylor writes: The calls for a boycott got louder and louder. In Western capitals, foreign policy hawks and human rights advocates joined to push a boycott of the Olympic Games in Beijing. U.S. lawmakers cited links in an alleged genocide and abuses against a minority as moral justification for staying away. I am not writing about the Beijing Winter Olympics, due to start later this week. I am referring instead to the international calls for a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics, also held in the Chinese capital. – Washington Post  

Desmond Lachman writes: The prospect of a simultaneous slowdown in the U.S. and Chinese economies casts a dark cloud over the economic outlook for the rest of the world economy in general and the emerging market economies in particular. Economic policymakers in those countries would ignore the impending world economic slowdown at their peril. – The Hill 

Michael Schuman writes: As matters stand, though, the Winter Games could be an unfortunate pivot point. In 2008, the Olympics foreshadowed China’s rise as a global leader and the great possibilities that could bring; 2022 suggests that a more powerful China will have a more conflicted relationship with the world. With the events closed to visiting spectators, the Chinese will stand alone, reveling in their own perceived greatness; the outside world will participate entirely on Chinese terms. Just the way Beijing likes it. – The Atlantic  

South Asia

Indian officials have held heated discussions with Google, Twitter and Facebook for not proactively removing what they described as fake news on their platforms, sources told Reuters, the government’s latest altercation with Big Tech. – Reuters 

The International Monetary Fund has approved a $1 billion loan as part of a bailout package to Pakistan, following reforms to rein in state spending, increase tax collection and make the central bank more independent, the IMF and the country’s finance minister said. – Associated Press 

Pakistan’s military has repelled nighttime assaults on two army bases in the southwestern Balochistan Province that killed four soldiers and 15 insurgents, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said on February 3. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Bryce Loidolt writes: The U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan presents one viable approach, although it is one that neither quickly nor comprehensively degraded al-Qaeda. Relying heavily on lethal targeting to contain future terrorist threats will likely achieve similarly real, but imperfect, results. U.S. policymakers would do well not just to understand these limitations, but to also consider the broader range of complementary counter-terrorism instruments they have at their disposal. – Texas National Security Review 


Cambodia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that a non-political representative from Myanmar had been invited to attend a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers later this month rather than the country’s military-appointed foreign minister. – Reuters 

Joe Biden plans several stops during a visit to Asia this spring, which will be his first to the region as president and include a summit with three key regional allies in Japan, a senior administration official told Reuters. – Reuters 

The U.N. Security Council called Wednesday for an immediate cessation of violence throughout Myanmar as the country’s military coup entered a second year, and it reaffirmed support for the country’s democratic transition and democratic institutions. – Associated Press 

Taiwan’s government is seeking to use a push to restructure global supply chains away from China to build more substantive ties with fellow democracies and counter Beijing’s attempts to isolate it internationally. – Financial Times  


Russia is again trying to move the focus of the Ukraine crisis to a disputed peace accord for the country’s east, as the United States signaled its encouragement for the agreements as a way to de-escalate tensions. – Washington Post  

President Biden is directing the Pentagon to deploy more than 3,000 American troops to bolster the defense of European allies in the first major movement of U.S. forces in Russia’s military standoff with Ukraine, U.S. officials said. – Wall Street Journal 

The gap between Russia and the West over the future of Ukraine and security in Europe was laid bare as details of two bluntly worded responses delivered to Moscow last week were made public, showing the U.S. and NATO rejected the Kremlin’s demands and instead blamed the tension on Russian President Vladimir Putin. – Wall Street Journal 

Even as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia claims the United States is trying to goad Russia into war with Ukraine, new satellite imagery shows no sign of a slowdown in Moscow’s military buildup. – New York Times  

Russia said it was destructive for President Joe Biden to move additional troops to Europe and station more along NATO’s eastern flank as the tension over Ukraine continues. – Bloomberg 

Editorial: For many years, Mr. Putin’s authoritarianism was a softer variant than that of the Soviet Union, leaving room for some independent news media. But the past year has brought harsher crackdowns, including the effort to force closure of Memorial, Russia’s prestigious repository of Soviet persecutions. Now the government is trying to airbrush away specific reports that embarrass Mr. Putin and his pals. The erasures won’t eliminate the evidence entirely, however. The YouTube video of Mr. Putin’s palace remains available and has been viewed more than 121 million times. – Washington Post  

David E. Sanger writes: Democracies are usually terrible at information warfare, and American officials insist there is a difference between what they are doing and the dark arts that Mr. Putin made famous. […]Russia often makes up its narratives, and its officials have no problem with lying outright, as they did when Mr. Putin created a pretext to annex Crimea in 2014, sent operatives to use nerve agents against Russian opposition leader Alexei A. Navalny and a former Russian spy in Britain, and launched series of cyberattacks on the United States. – New York Times  

Michael S. Bernstam writes: The Russian leaders may not realize the destructive power of Central Bank sanctions. The task of diplomacy is to convey to them this 21st Century economic reality. There is no risk in making a threat. If the Russians respond by unloading their holdings and shipping cash home, they cannot do much. […]Even if it is uncertain whether or when the Central Bank sanctions will be executed, their threat alone is a credible deterrent because their potential outcome is so powerful. This raises the stakes much higher for Russia than for the West and should prevent war. – The Hill 

Oleksandr Danylyuk writes: The reason for this failure is the lack of understanding of Russia, ignoring its expansive intentions and deceptive methods. Even now, as the West tries to avert Russian aggression from Ukraine, Moscow keeps talking about the Minsk agreements. There’s a reason for that. If the West fails to recognize the danger, the Minsk agreements will pave the way for Ukraine’s partition — which would turn Ukraine into the smaller, weaker nation that Putin actually wants. – Politico 


Brushing aside charges of greenwashing, the European Union will press ahead with a controversial proposal to label certain nuclear energy and natural-gas investments as sustainable over the coming years despite strong opposition from some of the bloc’s member states, environmental groups and investors. – Wall Street Journal 

American and Ukrainian officials continue to differ over how immediate a threat Russian forces arrayed around Ukraine could pose, even as Western military supplies flow into the embattled country. – Wall Street Journal 

In the war of words between the Western alliance and Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government have been conspicuously outspoken. – Washington Post  

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Russian President Vladimir Putin that any incursion into Ukraine would be a tragic miscalculation during a call on Wednesday, Johnson’s office said in a statement. – Reuters 

Britain’s Royal Air Force said Wednesday that it scrambled fighter jets in response to four Russian military aircraft approaching the United Kingdom. – Associated Press 

All prior agreements reached under the framework of the European Union-led Kosovo-Serbia dialogue must be implemented, U.S. special envoy Gabriel Escobar said on February 2 at the end of a visit to Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

In a proposal to ease tensions over a Russian military build-up in Ukraine, NATO and U.S. negotiators offered Moscow the opportunity to inspect two ballistic missile defense sites to prove the alliance has no offensive missiles. – USNI News 

Joe Biden has tried to ensure that the US and its partners remain united in responding to the threat to Ukraine from Russia’s military build-up, but one source of discord has come from an unlikely source: Ukraine’s own leader. – Financial Times  

Northern Ireland ordered a halt to checks on goods coming into the region’s ports, risking further turmoil in Brexit negotiations. Post-Brexit checks brought in since the end of 2020 were to cease at midnight on Wednesday, according to an order from Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots. – Bloomberg 

At a news conference for foreign media, Kuleba called on the EU and its member countries to finalize the sanctions package and make it public — so that Russian President Vladimir Putin understands the West is not bluffing about how it would respond to a military attack on Ukraine. – Politico 

Editorial: The idea that Mr. Putin can somehow be coaxed into helping the West contain China is a fantasy. He would pocket concessions on Ukraine and continue to threaten American interests in Europe while working with China to undermine U.S. interests around the world. After swallowing Ukraine, Russia would also be that much more powerful and closer to NATO’s eastern front. Supporters of Mr. Biden’s retreat from Afghanistan adopted the mantra “good strategy, bad execution” when chaos followed. In reality, abandoning a modest commitment was bad strategy and an awful precedent that has encouraged bad actors like Mr. Putin. Doing the same in Europe would be even greater folly. – Wall Street Journal 

Ivan Krastev writes: Europeans are right to believe that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not inevitable — and may even be correct that it’s not the most likely scenario. But we cannot deceive ourselves that we can skip the resilience test. “If you invite a bear to dance, it’s not you who decides when the dance is over,” the Russian proverb goes. “It’s the bear.” – New York Times  

Tom Rogan writes: Avoiding the Baltic states, Biden’s latest troop deployments evince a similar hesitation. And not, as many in the media would apparently call it, a signal of resolve. […]On the surface, these deployments evince a U.S. commitment to allies under threat from Putin. Still, these deployments evince hesitation far more than they do strength. […]So what is Biden doing, exactly? The answer: the very least he can do to keep allies off his back. Putin will see right through it. Biden, I fear, is not proving true his inaugural pledge to be a “strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.” – Washington Examiner 

Tara D. Sonenshine writes: My bet is on the French saving our bacon. France is the Switzerland of this war. Behind the scenes, they have been getting the Russians and the Ukrainians together, keeping the U.S. and Europe in the loop and at the table using President Emmanuel Macron’s muscle to coax and cajole Putin and the warring parties to give peace a chance. […]Traditionally, it would be America leading the diplomacy. But we are bogged down at home with COVID-19, inflation and a deep and paralyzing political divide. – The Hill 

Aya-Nay Haddad writes: The Western Balkans, specifically North Macedonia, is a region of great interest in global politics and stability, yet the United States in recent years has not been a major player there. With a presumed shift in US foreign policy under the Biden administration, the US would do well to become more involved in the region, lest other global powers such as China and Russia move in to fill the vacuum. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


At least 60 people were killed in a militia attack early on Wednesday at a displaced persons’ camp in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the head of a local humanitarian group and a camp resident. – Reuters 

At least six people were killed in a failed attempt to overthrow Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, state radio said on Wednesday, as residents of the capital cautiously returned to daily life. – Reuters 

Such accounts have led human rights groups to warn that Burundi’s government has shown little if any improvement under President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who took office after the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza in 2020 with talk of reforms after years of deadly political crackdowns. – Associated Press 

Jared Thompson, Catrina Doxsee, and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. write: As the situation in Mali rapidly evolves, it remains important for the United States, France, and ECOWAS to maintain open communication with the Malian government while also holding it accountable. […]As the international community seeks to establish accountability and put Mali’s democratic transition back on track, it must balance its efforts against the junta’s demonstrated willingness to double down, a trajectory that may lead it to align even more closely with Russia and the Wagner Group. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

United States

Intense directed energy from an external source could have caused some cases of the debilitating so-called “Havana syndrome” among US diplomats, US intelligence said Wednesday, supporting the possibility of deliberate attacks. – Agence France-Presse  

The White House forcefully criticized a GOP senator on Wednesday for language it said parroted Russian talking points, as fault lines between President Biden and his staunchest GOP critics deepened on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. – The Hill 

Editorial: As much as cheap capital, businesses need regulatory certainty and skilled workers. Yet the Biden Administration is mounting a regulatory assault on business, while progressives dumb down math and science with a woke curriculum. […]Congress could counter China by granting trade promotion authority to negotiate new trade deals. Donald Trump’s biggest strategic blunder vis-a-vis China was pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but new trade authority isn’t in the bill. – Wall Street Journal 

Dan Altman and Kathleen E. Powers write: In the end, setting redlines is neither wisdom nor folly. Given the lack of appealing alternatives, Washington will inevitably need to use this tactic to bargain with and deter adversaries. But it need not do so under false assumptions. […]Nor are the strongest redlines—or those that are trumpeted with brash language and swagger—the most effective. […]To be effective, redlines should be carefully calibrated to convey U.S. demands, provide necessary assurances, and avoid provoking their targets. Whether the United States is dealing with China, Iran, or Russia, striking the right balance will be the key to success. – Foreign Affairs 


Facebook parent Meta’s quarterly earnings report on Wednesday revealed a startling statistic: For the first time ever, the company’s growth is stagnating around the world. – Washington Post  

The FBI has confirmed purchasing NSO Group’s powerful spyware tool Pegasus, whose chronic abuse to surveil journalists, dissidents and human rights activists has long been established. It suggested its motivation was to “stay abreast of emerging technologies and tradecraft.” – Associated Press 

An Austrian court has ordered Facebook to remove content defaming a former lawmaker and post a banner on its home page announcing the decision, a court spokesman said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse  


The U.S. admiral leading the Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier strike group wouldn’t speculate on Wednesday about what comes next after exercises in the Adriatic Sea end in the coming days. Navy rules prohibit talking about future operations. – Reuters 

The Missile Defense Agency’s plan to field an interceptor against incoming hypersonic weapons has hit a funding snag, the agency’s director said Wednesday. – Defense News 

If a war against a major adversary breaks out, it’s going to require the military to resupply troops at a pace it hasn’t seen in a long time, Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, head of U.S. Transportation Command, said on Wednesday. – Defense News  

Lawmakers want to speed up Pentagon budgeting, but they’re going to take their time fixing it. – Defense News  

The Pentagon’s research and engineering chief is crafting a new strategy for investment in 14 critical technology areas, writing in a new memo that “creative application” of emerging concepts is key to maintaining an edge over adversaries. – Defense News  

The Pentagon’s chief information officer will also serve as the head of a new organization overseeing the Defense Department’s various digital and artificial intelligence efforts, the department announced Feb. 2. – Defense News  

The Navy is committed to buying two Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers per year in tandem with developing its new DDG(X) program, the top surface warfare requirements officer said Wednesday. – USNI News  

The U.S. Navy has begun a major exercise in the Middle East that both brings in 60 regional navies to rehearse operating together and introduces unmanned vehicles and artificial intelligence to test their contributions at sea. – Military Times