Fdd's overnight brief

February 6, 2023

In The News


Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei granted amnesty and reduced prison sentences on Sunday to a “significant number” of protesters arrested in antigovernment demonstrations, Iranian state media said, highlighting the regime’s shifting tactics after a lethal crackdown that has recently quieted street demonstrations in many parts of the country. – Wall Street Journal

Moscow and Tehran are moving ahead with plans to build a new factory in Russia that could make at least 6,000 Iranian-designed drones for the war in Ukraine, the latest sign of deepening cooperation between the two nations, said officials from a country aligned with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

Shervin Hajipour, 25, won in a new special merit category recognizing a song for social change for his hit “Baraye.” The song has become the anthem of protests that have swept through Iran in recent months, evoking grief, anger, hope and a yearning for change. – New York Times

But the mass detentions have taken a heavy physical and psychological toll on the people cycling through prison, and have scared some of them and their families into silence, according to interviews with seven Iranians recently let out of jail, five local and international rights groups, as well as Iranian doctors and lawyers in direct contact with people arrested after supporting the protests. – Washington Post

The U.S. is considering new sanctions on Chinese surveillance companies over sales to Iran’s security forces, officials familiar with the deliberations said, as Iranian authorities increasingly rely on the technology to crack down on protests. – Wall Street Journal

A U.N. watchdog report shows Iran is being inconsistent in meeting its nuclear obligations, the United States, Britain, France and Germany said in a joint statement on Friday. – Reuters

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on the board of directors of Iranian drone maker Paravar Pars, the U.S. Treasury Department said, adding Iranian drones were being used by Russia to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. – Reuters

An opinion survey involving 158,000 people in Iran showed that more than 80 percent of respondents reject the Islamic Republic and prefer a democratic government. – Iran International 

James Rogan writes: Tighten and enforce the oil sanctions. Create a climate of certainty in U.S. oil policy. These two straightforward actions will be effective in hitting Iran where it hurts, its state treasury. It’s either that or keep letting Iran move toward the nuclear weapons threshold. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The overall message of the regime is that it has won this round. It is giving amnesty because it is winning, at least in its own view. This does not come from a position of weakness or admitting the regime is wrong. This is happening after many months of crackdown where the regime now is no longer afraid and does not think the protests will increase. Clearly, this is why the regime is also willing to risk new sanctions this week and continue its close alliance with Russia. It believes the protests are largely over. – Jerusalem Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It’s unclear if Moscow’s support for Iran or any factories in Russia could increase the range and capabilities of Iran’s drones. If Moscow can increase the range and capabilities, then it’s plausible Iran could learn from this experience and use them against countries in the Middle East, a potential blowback from the war against Ukraine. – Jerusalem Post 

Zalman Shoval writes: For Israel and its regional partners, a return to the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action means raising the level of the nuclear threat, even if postponed by a few years. Removing or even lessening the sanctions would result in pumping billions of dollars into the accounts of the ayatollahs, allowing the regime in Tehran to continue suppressing local protests, increase terrorist activity, and advance its hegemonic aspirations. – Jerusalem Post 

Sheila Nazarian writes: We must not ignore Iran’s genocidal intent against America and our allies abroad. Iran’s oppression of its own people also mandates our support and assistance. Today, young people face imprisonment and, worse, death if they dare to go against the Ayatollah and his cronies. Our country owes the Iranian people its full support as they stand against the terror-sponsoring regime. It’s not just a matter of saving the country. It’s a matter of saving the world. – Algemeiner

Russia & Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s political party said on Sunday that it would move to replace Ukraine’s defense minister, as fierce fighting raged in the east amid what Ukrainian officials say is the beginning of a new Russian offensive. – New York Times

The United States is stepping up efforts to persuade partner nations that have not joined Western sanctions on Russia to crack down on commercial activities in their countries that could be helping Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine, U.S. officials said. – New York Times

Moscow is deploying thousands of soldiers to southeastern Ukraine as it renews an assault on a strategically important town that Ukrainian forces have used to harass shipments on a critical Russian supply line that runs from the eastern Donbas region to Crimea. – New York Times

The latest American weapons package for Ukraine, unveiled on Friday, includes the longest range weapons yet to push back Russian troops and strike logistical targets well behind enemy lines. But they come with a hitch: They will be deployed on the battlefield too late to be used against a broad assault by Moscow that seemingly has begun to unfurl in eastern Ukraine. – New York Times

Last fall, tensions in Washington reached a crescendo as Moscow made persistent nuclear threats and U.S. intelligence reported discussions among Russian military leaders about the use of such weapons. – New York Times

Russian forces are putting pressure on Ukraine along a growing portion of the front line, with attacks coming in the Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions in recent weeks, in addition to the fierce fighting around Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. – Wall Street Journal

The EU was quick to hit Russia with sanctions after Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine — but it took time and an escalation of measures before Moscow started to feel any real damage. – Politico 

A former Israeli prime minister who served briefly as a mediator at the start of Russia’s war with Ukraine says he drew a promise from the Russian president not to kill his Ukrainian counterpart. – Associated Press

Germany’s prosecutor general said Sunday that his office had collected “hundreds” of pieces of evidence showing war crimes by Russian forces in Ukraine, calling for an international effort to bring leaders to justice. – Agence France-Presse 

The heavy casualties and massive ammunition consumption seen during the war in Ukraine has top NATO commanders worried. – Business Insider 

Thomas L. Friedman writes: There are also many voices on the left, though, who are legitimately asking: Is it really worth risking World War III to drive Russia all the way out of Eastern Ukraine? Haven’t we hurt Putin so badly by now that he won’t be trying something like Ukraine again soon? Time for a dirty deal? – New York Times

Ross Douthat writes: All this is easier said than done, especially given the moral asymmetry in the war, where any settlement short of Russian surrender will necessarily concede something to a wicked aggressor. But if the next phase of war suggests that such a compromise is required for peace, better to seek it sooner than after many more seasons of suffering and death. – New York Times

Brooke Sample writes: Ukraine’s economy has been devastated by war, undermining its long-term stability. “Military support for Ukraine has rightly been viewed as an investment in the West’s security as well,” the editors write. “But wars aren’t won on the battlefield alone.” Whether Russia can be brought to the table to negotiate what an end to the war would look like is a wide-open question, but Ukraine’s isn’t the only economy that is in danger of complete collapse. It’s something Putin would do well to remember. – Bloomberg 

Kristin Ven Bruusgaard writes: But Russian nuclear use in Ukraine or beyond would cause horrible devastation. It would lead Western and Russian decision-makers alike into uncharted territory. It would produce extremely difficult choices for the United States about a range of issues, including the right level of political and military denunciation and punishment, for example. It will also challenge NATO to formulate a suitable response. In short, the situation would require calibrated statecraft from leaders everywhere to de-escalate from what would be the most dangerous moment in modern history. – Foreign Affairs


The remains of Or Haim, an illegal settlement outpost, lie strewn across a windswept hilltop in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Two dozen Israeli settlers erected a few flimsy huts there one night last month, and by morning, the Israeli Army had demolished them. – New York Times

Israeli forces said they killed five Palestinian militants during an operation targeting Hamas members in the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho, the second such deadly raid in little over a week as violence escalates in the occupied West Bank. – Wall Street Journal 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called on Friday for the “illogic of escalation” to stop between Israelis and Palestinians, alluding to violent incidents last month in Jenin and Neveh Ya’acov. – Jerusalem Post

Leading US financial institute JPMorgan has warned of a growing risk of investing in Israel due to the new government’s far-reaching plans for overhauling the judicial system. – Times of Israel

Israeli troops arrested a senior member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in a northern West Bank early on Sunday, Palestinian media reports said. – Times of Israel

The military said it had launched an investigation after troops “unnecessarily” triggered incoming rocket sirens in the southern city of Sderot and other nearby towns on Sunday evening, after heavy machine-gun fire was detected from the Gaza Strip. – Times of Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced the establishment of a new border town near the Gaza frontier. – Arutz Sheva 

Benny Avni writes: In his conversation with Mr. Macron, Mr. Netanyahu reportedly said a compromise will soon be found to end the impasse over the legislation. If so, that would be unpleasant news to his political allies at home. Yet, it would be a classic move by a man who has long been guided by the story about the rabbi and the goat. – New York Sun  

Adam Fisher writes: Politicians can ignore the warnings from the entrepreneurs themselves, but the future of Israeli hi-tech hangs in the balance. Those of us working at the level of the individual decision-maker can already feel the otherwise imperceptible change in temperature. It will only be with hindsight that the cracks will become visible and the cumulative impact makes headlines. Or we can stop, reflect and reconsider. – Jerusalem Post 

Michael Segal writes: Such a plan to solve the judicial crisis seizes the moral high ground by creating a system that is not only just but simple and stable. Adopting it would be an impressive display of Israel’s resilience by solving a problem that for over 70 years has been festering and today is creating an atmosphere of chaos. – Jerusalem Post  

Geoffrey Aronson writes: In the absence of such a “diplomatic horizon” based on the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, inventive diplomats have come up with a series of quick fixes in an effort to maintain the fiction of diplomatic progress and U.S. engagement. At best, these efforts treat the less desirable symptoms of continuing occupation—notably Palestinian opposition to Israel’s territorial fait accompli—rather than confronting the cause, at the heart of which is Israel’s long-practiced effort to create “facts on the ground.” – The National Interest


An envoy for Qatar’s foreign affairs minister visited the Afghan capital on Sunday and met with the Taliban administration’s acting foreign minister, according to an Afghan foreign ministry statement. – Reuters

Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities have “beaten and detained” an academic who voiced outrage on live television against their ban on women’s university education, his aide said Friday. – Agence France-Presse 

Amy Marden and Timothy “Tito” Torres write: The Global War on Terrorism generation — every single American who came of age during this 20-year war — has been shaped by bloody realities when our nation fails to give a voice to disillusioned, disenfranchised and segregated populations. We should not repeat this failure at home. – The Hill


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one year ago unleashed global economic turmoil. In Turkey, it has proved an unexpected windfall for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish leader has managed to make himself indispensable to all sides of the conflict, a position that is reaping economic rewards that have helped ease the Turkish state’s financial troubles. The turnaround has bolstered his position ahead of a national election that could cement his position as Turkey’s most powerful ruler in nearly a century. – Wall Street Journal

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Western missions would “pay” for issuing security warnings and temporarily closing consulates in Turkey last week, while police said there was no serious threat to foreigners after detaining 15 Islamic State suspects on Sunday. – Reuters

Israel Foreign Minister Eli Cohen instructed his office to lead a rapid aid program for Turkey following an earthquake that killed scores of people in Turkey and Syria and trapped hundreds more. – Bloomberg

Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) warned of “serious consequences” for Turkey if it continues to obstruct Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in an interview with Jewish Insider at his Capitol Hill office late last week. – Jewish Insider


Iraqi activists protested Sunday to demand a law against domestic violence, days after a YouTuber was strangled by her father in a killing that sparked outrage in the conservative country. – Agence France-Presse

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Baghdad on Sunday to discuss boosting bilateral relations and energy cooperation, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Since then, it has deconflicted with Israel in Syria and also held talks with Iran and Turkey. Russia’s goal is to get Turkey back to normalization with the Syrian regime. Then, its goal is to get the US out of Syria. And then, its goal is to work with Iran to eject the US from Iraq. It is in that context, that the Lavrov visit to Iraq should be understood. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Most wealthy Gulf Arab nations followed Saudi Arabia’s lead in recent years and ostracized crisis-hit Lebanon because of the growing influence of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah. The exception was Qatar. – Associated Press

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee is seeking to convince oil giant Saudi Aramco and its units to consider a secondary listing in the Asian financial hub as he embarks on his first official visit to the Middle East, according to the South China Morning Post. – Bloomberg

Arab social networks are in turmoil after the visit of the Omani blogger Asmaa Al-Shehhi to Israel. The blogger, who lives in the United Arab Emirates, posted videos on her Instagram account when she arrived at Ben Gurion Airport. – Jerusalem Post 

Egypt has invited leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to Cairo for talks on easing tensions between the Palestinians and Israel, and achieving Palestinian unity. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The key issue though is how Russia can abandon the Syrian rebels and hand over their areas to the regime without creating problems at home where millions of Syrians reside in Turkey. With elections in Turkey, the ruling party may not want chaos in Syria. Nevertheless, Turkey-Russia ties are very important and Ankara would like to find a way to meet with Damascus without angering the Syrian rebels too much. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has scheduled a major political conference to discuss the “urgent task” of improving its agricultural sector, a possible sign of worsening food insecurity as the country’s economic isolation deepens amid a defiant nuclear weapons push. – Associated Press

A South Korean manufacturer, SNT Dynamics, said this week it will supply transmissions for the engines that will power the Altay, Turkey’s first indigenous tank. – Defense News

South Korea’s military said on Monday it had tracked a North Korean balloon over its territory, but determined it did not pose a threat. – Reuters


Navy divers were searching for debris from the Chinese spy balloon that a U.S. fighter jet shot down off the coast of South Carolina, defense officials said on Sunday, as the fallout from the dramatic confrontation between the world’s two great powers showed no signs of easing. – New York Times

After years of fits and starts, the trial involving the 47 pro-democracy lawmakers, academics and activists began on Monday at a courthouse in Hong Kong amid tight security. Large police vehicles lined the roads nearby as a line of more than 100 people snaked around the courthouse in the early morning, waiting to enter. Because there were so many defendants, the court broadcast the proceedings into several other rooms. – New York Times 

Beijing criticized the U.S. move to shoot down a suspected surveillance balloon from China, though the initial response suggested it prefers to let the heat seep out of the controversy surrounding the inflatable craft. – Wall Street Journal

China’s vice foreign minister lodged strong criticism of the U.S. decision to shoot down a suspected surveillance balloon over the weekend, calling it an indiscriminate use of force that would further damage U.S.-China relations. – Wall Street Journal

China previously sent high-altitude surveillance balloons over the U.S. that went undetected until after leaving American airspace, Biden administration officials said, as the military salvaged debris Sunday from the downed balloon in a bid to learn more about the Chinese operation. – Wall Street Journal

President Joe Biden’s decision to shoot down a Chinese surveillance balloon on Saturday is a blow to a U.S.-China relationship that has been spiraling downward for years. But it is not necessarily a death blow. – Politico

Oil consumption in China, the world’s biggest importer, is rising strongly following the ending of coronavirus lockdowns, according to OPEC member Kuwait. – Bloomberg 

Far more serious, the Chinese are operating hundreds of broadband internet satellites — not only for communication purposes, but also for spying on what we’re doing to defend ourselves. – New York Sun 

Editorial: There is no such immunity in a world of hostile state actors and rapidly advancing military technology. The Biden Administration should be helping Americans understand that reality rather than patting itself on the back with mission-accomplished briefings. – Wall Street Journal

Minxin Pei writes: China could also earn goodwill by unilaterally announcing actions that it may have planned to undertake following the Blinken visit. Cracking down on the export of precursor chemicals for producing fentanyl, which is causing a wave of deadly overdoses in the US, would give the Biden administration more room to maneuver in its relations with Beijing. – Bloomberg 

Lawrence Kudlow writes: The U.S has the capacity to just capture the balloon and bring it down, but it’s not doing that either. Not for the first time, the Biden administration is paralyzed in its response to dictator-led enemies.[…]So, you tell me: We can’t even knock out a lousy spy balloon? Do we look weak on the world stage? Do we have a serious China policy? – New York Sun 

Dean Karayanis writes: In 1957, the USSR’s Sputnik satellite loomed overhead, warning Americans that ensuring freedom meant joining the space race. Now, the Red Balloon demonstrates the threat posed by another communist hegemony, and cements the Space Force as an essential part of our national defense. – New York Sun 

James Jay Carafano writes: Biden’s approach is not sustainable. The Administration risks trailing Americans and some critical allies in addressing China’s destabilizing and threatening actions. I have more confidence in the Hekawi tribe. – 19FortyFive

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The Biden administration can boast that it has scored a victory over the balloon. According to The Drive news site, the balloon was shot down by an F-22 Raptor, and it was the first known “kill” by this advanced aircraft.[…]Ultimately, even though China was able to lead some US commentators into a state of hysteria not seen since the age of Sputnik, the US may come out on top in this exchange. – Jerusalem Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The China spy balloon controversy appears to continue to get hot air from the way it has been turned into a political football. This has ramifications for many other issues, whether it is US-Saudi ties or even US-Israel ties. When foreign policy is a political football it is harder for countries to make their case and harder for wisdom to prevail. – Jerusalem Post 

James Andrew Lewis writes: China should learn from this that it needs to scale back spying as the United States is on edge. For the Americans, what’s troubling about this incident is the tendency to overreact. […]Chinese balloons are a distraction. The very real risk of Chinese technical espionage is not explained by improbable scenarios, and worrying about balloons does not change the Chinese espionage advantage. Chinese spying is aggressive, and the United States needs a tougher response, but worrying about balloons is the equivalent of looking under the bed every night for Chinese spies. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

South Asia

Pervez Musharraf, the onetime military ruler of a nuclear-armed Pakistan who promised critical support for Washington’s campaign against Al Qaeda after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but faced growing resistance at home in a land seething with anti-Western passions, died on Sunday in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He was 79. – New York Times

Islamabad will ask the secretive supreme leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban to rein in militants in Pakistan after a suicide bombing killed scores of police in a mosque, officials said Saturday. – Agence France-Presse 

Michael Rubin writes: Biden and Congress admirably answered the call to Ukraine in need, but thousands of lives might have been saved and even conflict averted had the United States helped Ukraine deter invasion in the first place. China may not seek to wipe India off the map, as Russia is attempting against Ukraine; Iraq sought to do to Kuwait; and Iran hopes to do to Israel. However, China nonetheless seeks a land grab greater in area than Israel and Kuwait combined. If Biden truly is the leader of the free world and if the Quad is to mean anything, it is time to augment India’s ability to defend itself against imminent Chinese aggression. – 19FortyFive


Australia trade minister Don Farrell said on Monday he had agreed to an in-person meeting with Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao in Beijing in the near future, in the latest sign that relations between the two countries are thawing. – Reuters

Washington has suggested deploying medium-range missiles in Japan as part of a plan to bolster defences against China along the East and South China Seas, the Sankei newspaper reported on Saturday citing unidentified people involved with U.S.-Japan relations. – Reuters

A senior leader of the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan’s main opposition party, will visit China this week and meet its top Taiwan policy-maker, the party said on Monday, amid continued military and political tensions between the two sides. – Reuters

Traders are using Turkey, Kazakhstan and Armenia to evade European Union sanctions on Russia in a tactic that breaches these countries’ compliance with the bloc’s embargo, Latvia’s prime minister said on Friday. – Reuters

Asia is facing a nuclear menace that has nothing to do with North Korea. If that appears unlikely, think about the divisions and outright hostilities among three nuclear powers with common borders. – New York Sun 

Ray Weichieh Wang writes: Overall, it is certain that Australia-China relations are much more stable than a year ago. This trend will likely be sustained in the first half of 2023 as both sides continue to engage and seek to address controversial issues. However, many existing disputes over security, human rights, and ideological issues remain unaddressed. To that end, it will not be surprising if these disagreements challenge Australia-China ties in the future. – The National Interest


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the greatest challenge to European security since the end of the Cold War, but the Europeans have missed the opportunity to step up their own defense, diplomats and experts say. Instead, the war has reinforced Europe’s military dependence on the United States. – New York Times

Germany has agreed to allow the export of its Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine, a government spokesman said on Friday, creating an opportunity for increased tank transfers to Ukraine as battles intensify in the country’s east. – New York Times

With relations worsening between the two superpowers, EU leaders seem likely to come under intensifying pressure from the White House to pick sides and join forces against China, just as they were hoping for a thaw in tricky relations with Beijing. – Politico 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russian President Vladimir Putin has never threatened him or Germany, following claims by Boris Johnson that Putin threatened the former U.K. prime minister with a missile strike. – Politico 

Europe is closer to alignment with Israel when it comes to combating Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his government on Sunday morning after he returned from a meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron. – Jerusalem Post 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that Europe “identifies more with the Israeli position” on the Iranian nuclear issue, in an assessment shared following his recent meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. – Times of Israel   

Therese Raphael writes: War has a way of reordering priorities. Vladimir Putin has made it clear he sees Russian forces in Ukraine confronting NATO; nobody can say where that will lead. It has at least led to a redrafting of Britain’s 2021 Integrated Review of defense and foreign policy, which envisaged an “Indo-Pacific tilt.” The new version is to be published shortly. That’s a start, but it doesn’t take a US general to note that the strategic vision is only as credible as the forces behind it. – Bloomberg

Andreas Kluth writes: If, on the other hand, Erdogan holds on to office and keeps breathing fire, Finland should go ahead on its own — with Sweden’s blessing — and become a NATO member. At the same time, Sweden, which already has deep logistical ties with NATO and bilateral accords with the US and other Western powers, should keep integrating into the alliance as though it were a member, with a view to formalizing its accession as soon as possible. What matters is that Putin is left in no doubt that an attack on either Sweden or Finland, or any NATO country, will be answered by the whole league. In short, Putin needs to know that he would lose. – Bloomberg


The Malian interim government on Sunday said the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission’s human rights division had 48 hours to leave the country as he had been declared persona non grata. – Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will pay a two-day visit to Mali this week, the Malian foreign ministry said on Sunday, describing the visit as a reflection of a shared wish to strengthen defence and security ties. – Reuters

East African leaders were in Burundi on Saturday for a regional summit to discuss the raging conflict in eastern DR Congo. – Agence France-Presse 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday held his first face-to-face meeting with Tigrayan leaders since a peace deal was agreed last year, officials and state media said. – Agence France-Presse 

Palestinian terror organization Hamas released a statement on Friday afternoon condemning Sudan’s normalization plans with Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Latin America

A day before a U.S. military jet shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the country’s Atlantic Coast on Saturday, Colombia’s military confirmed a sighting of an airborne object similar to a balloon flying over its territory. – Reuters

The Canadian government said on Sunday it deployed a military aircraft over Haiti to address what it called a “dire security situation” and to support efforts to disrupt the activities of Haitian gangs. – Reuters

State firms from Iran and Venezuela will start in the coming weeks a 100-day revamp of the South American nation’s largest refining complex to restore its crude distillation capacity, four sources close to the plan said. – Reuters

Venezuela condemned what it called an “attack by the United States against an unmanned civilian aircraft of Chinese origin,” taking a clear side in the growing international dispute after a similar balloon was reported over Latin America. – Bloomberg 

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Investors are important to Brazil, whether foreign or domestic. But they’re not likely to bet on a country that is making utopian socialism its highest priority. Mr. Biden also might have trouble making that case to Lula. – Wall Street Journal

United States

The classified report to Congress last month discussed at least two incidents of a rival power conducting aerial surveillance with what appeared to be unknown cutting-edge technology, according to U.S. officials. While the report did not attribute the incidents to any country, two American officials familiar with the research said the surveillance probably was conducted by China. – New York Times

Republicans savaged Joe Biden on Sunday over his handling of a suspected Chinese spy balloon, while Democrats defended the president’s decision to shoot it down after it floated across the United States for days. – Agence France-Presse 

All U.S. senators will receive a classified briefing about China on Feb. 15, following the Biden administration’s decision to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon off the Carolinas on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday. – Politico 


Nate Fick, the country’s top cyber diplomat, said on Sunday that his personal Twitter account was hacked. “My account has been hacked. Perils of the job,” Fick wrote on Twitter. – The Hill

Italy’s National Cybersecurity Agency (ACN) warned on Sunday of a large-scale campaign to spread ransomware on thousands of computer servers across Europe and North America. – Politico 

After the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo launched a cartoon contest to mock Iran’s ruling cleric, a state-backed Iranian cyber unit struck back with a hack-and-leak campaign that was designed to provoke fear with the claimed pilfering of a big subscriber database, Microsoft security researchers say. – Associated Press

The Republican chairmen of two U.S. House committees want more information from the Department of Energy about reported Russian hacking activity against three national laboratories last year. – The Record


The 387-foot-long warships tied up at the Jacksonville Navy base were acclaimed as some of the most modern in the United States fleet: nimble, superfast vessels designed to operate in coastal waters and hunt down enemy submarines, destroy anti-ship mines and repel attacks from small boats, like those often operated by Iran. – New York Times

The downing of China’s alleged spy balloon marked the first time the F-22 Raptor fighter jet brought down an airborne target since it debuted in combat in Syria and Iraq almost a decade ago, defense analysts said. – Bloomberg 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: As tensions rise with China and Russia, this may be changing. The F-22 is an interesting legacy of the Cold War. It is still dominating the skies – in essence, showcasing its air-superiority role, in part because the US has had no recent competitors. – Jerusalem Post 

Long War

But it wasn’t until American officials started digging deeper into the background of another Islamic State branch, the one in Afghanistan that had carried out the deadly bombing at Kabul’s international airport in August 2021, that analysts fully realized Mr. al-Sudani oversaw a sprawling ISIS financial and logistical network across Africa, Europe and Afghanistan. – New York Times

Turkish police have arrested 15 people for alleged links to the extremist Islamic State group, the country’s official news agency said late Saturday, following days of security warnings by Western consulates. – Associated Press

Pakistani troops on Friday raided a militant hideout in a former stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban militant group, in the country’s northwest and near the border with Afghanistan, the military said. The raid triggered a shootout that killed that killed two militants. – Associated Press