Fdd's overnight brief

February 7, 2023

In The News


The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, is refusing to give up on efforts to rescue the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, even as Tehran cracks down on protesters at home and helps Russia in its war against Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Benjamin Briere, a French national held in Iran, has gone on hunger strike for the second time since his incarceration in May 2020, his sister and his lawyer said Monday. – Agence France-Presse

Azerbaijan and Iran — majority Shiite Muslim countries that share strong ethnic and linguistic ties and centuries of history — saw the worst escalation in their tense relations in January when the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran came under an armed attack. That followed Iran’s military buildup on its border with Azerbaijan in a dispute between the neighbors over Israel. The brewing conflict has ramifications for the larger Caucasus region, which is important to Russia and Turkey and crisscrossed by pipelines shipping oil and natural gas to the West. – Bloomberg

Several Iranian lawyers, human rights activists, imprisoned protesters, and former political prisoners have dismissed an amnesty decree issued by Iran’s supreme leader for tens of thousands of protesters as propaganda and lies. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

As winter approached, Iran was relishing the prospect of falling temperatures that could put Europe in a deep freeze and allow Tehran to bask in the wealth of its formidable natural-gas reserves. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that “diplomatic dynamism” exists through different channels in the talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal and remove anti-Iran sanctions. – Arutz Sheva

The strengthening of ties between Israel and Azerbaijan continues to irk Iran, resulting in accusations against the Jewish community in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. – Arutz Sheva

James M. Dorsey writes: Nevertheless, the likelihood of a return to power of a Pahlavi may be even more remote than the most recent wave of anti-government protests toppling the Islamic regime. Even so, the thought that a popular revolt, the nightmare of Gulf autocrats, would topple the regime they view as the greatest external threat to their security and restore a monarchy, seems ironic at the very least. – Algemeiner

John Caves, John Krzyzaniak, and Valerie Lincy write: Inaction over the past several months has not served the E3 well either in regard to Iran’s nuclear program or the broader nonproliferation picture. If the nuclear problem is intractable for now, then it is time for Europe to set the JCPOA aside and act where it can. – Iran Watch

Nicholas Carl, Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, Johanna Moore, Grace Mappes, and Frederick W. Kagan write: The pragmatic hardliners may have succeeded in conveying to Khamenei the urgency with which the regime must address popular grievances but may have failed to convince him to take any meaningful action to address protester demands. Khamenei is likely continuing to misdiagnose the core issues driving the protests. He has indicated in recent months that he defines the unrest as a sociocultural and religious issue and seems to believe that the solution is trying to further ideologize the population. – Institute for the Study of War

Norbert Röttgen writes: What the EU is so far doing in support of the brave women and men in Iran is not enough! It is the absolute face-saving minimum. The bitter truth is, despite all the verbal assurances, that the EU is waiting to see how the revolution will play out and only then will it dare to pick sides. – European Council on Foreign Relations

Russia & Ukraine

Ukraine warned that Russia was completing preparations for a major new offensive this month as Kyiv signaled a reshuffle in its military leadership amid a corruption scandal that has rocked the Defense Ministry. – Wall Street Journal

In the latest indication of expanded state secrecy in wartime Russia, President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed legislation that will exempt Russian lawmakers from a previous requirement that they disclose details of their income, expenses and property – Washington Post

The 25 Russians convicted so far of war crimes in Ukrainian courts include a soldier who forced two Ukrainians at gunpoint to hand over laptops and money, four who beat and tortured Ukrainian soldiers, and two who admitted shelling residential buildings in the first weeks of the war. – Washington Post

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to discuss Washington’s future support for Ukraine when she travels to a major European security conference in Germany next week, as Russia’s invasion nears the one-year mark. – Reuters

Russia was pouring reinforcements into eastern Ukraine ahead of a possible new offensive, said a Ukrainian governor, but British intelligence said on Tuesday it was unlikely that Russia would have enough forces to significantly affect the war within weeks. – Reuters

The construction of protective structures for key facilities at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeast Ukraine is nearing completion, Russia’s state TASS news agency reported on Tuesday, citing an adviser to the head of Russia’s nuclear plants operator. – Reuters

Ukraine sowed confusion on Monday about whether its defence minister would be replaced, creating doubts about the leadership of its war effort just as it braces for an expected Russian offensive. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been invited to take part in a summit of European Union leaders, the EU said on Monday, amid reports he could be in Brussels as soon as this week. – Reuters

The West’s latest wave of sanctions on Russian energy exports seeks to hit Moscow harder than its previous moves over the Ukraine war. An EU-wide ban on Russia oil products — like diesel, gasoline and jet fuel — came into effect Sunday alongside a Group of Seven (G7) price cap on the same items. – Agence France-Presse

Ukraine’s acquisition of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets is just a matter of time, one of President Joe Biden’s top Senate allies surmised during a conversation with a top White House official despite the president’s public refusal. – Washington Examiner

United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Monday that the Russia-Ukraine conflict could eventually lead the world toward a “wider war.” – The Hill

Most Americans continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to fight off Russian forces and reclaim its territory, but many Republicans think Washington is providing too much assistance to Kyiv as the anniversary of Moscow’s invasion nears, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. – New York Post

Regional elections will be held in parts of Ukraine that were illegally annexed and are partially under the control of Russian forces. These will coincide with elections scheduled across the border in Russia. – Newsweek

A drone of unidentified origin exploded less than 100 miles outside of Moscow, according to a Russian official. – Newsweek

Russia will look to “swarm” Ukraine’s air defenses as the country reportedly receives a new batch of Iranian-made Shahed drones, according to a Ukrainian military intelligence official. – Newsweek

A United States warship, a Destroyer named USS Nitze, was seen to be operating in the Black Sea. This is the closest a US warship has been to Russia since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. – Jerusalem Post

Christopher Caldwell writes: It is a classic interstate war over territory and power, occurring at a border between empires. In this confrontation Mr. Putin and his Russia have fewer good options for backing down than American policymakers seem to realize, and more incentives to follow the United States all the way up the ladder of escalation. – New York Times

David Warsh writes: That diagnosis was issued 75 years ago. The circumstances were clearly different in the immediate aftermath of World War II than they are today. Kennan may have underestimated the Ukrainian will to independence even then. It has clearly increased logarithmically since the USSR disbanded itself. – New York Sun

Alexander J. Motyl writes: Back in 2014-2015, genocide wasn’t yet on Putin’s mind. He hoped to be able to defeat Ukraine on the cheap. Hence the “special military operation” launched on Feb. 24, 2022, and the expectation that Ukrainians would greet the Russian army with bread, salt and song. When that strategy failed — as anyone following Ukraine’s war with Russia could have told him it would — Putin decided that the only way to deal with the pesky Ukrainians, once and for all, was extermination. And, once again, NATO was irrelevant. – The Hill

Rebekah Koffler writes: The Wall Street Journal recently called out the U.S. armaments industry for its unpreparedness for a China conflict. Washington’s erratic actions during the highly-consequential Russia-Ukraine conflict, have exposed an absence of planning and strategy within the Biden administration. And that is reckless. – Fox News

Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, George Barros, Layne Philipson, Nicole Wolkov, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Select Russian nationalist voices continued to express skepticism towards Russia’s ability to launch a successful offensive past late February. […]Kremlin-appointed Russian and occupation officials continue to implement social benefit schemes that target children and teenagers in occupied areas of Ukraine to consolidate social control and integration of these territories into Russia. – Institute for the Study of War

Walter Clemens writes: To let Russia win anything by its unprovoked war and abundant war crimes would make a mockery of law and morality, and would undermine US interests in both the short- and long-term. Russia’s leaders must be brought to justice and the country compelled to pay reparations — probably close to $2 trillion for the destruction of life, property, and the environment. Purgation before resurrection — as in Germany and Japan after their crimes were recognized and expiated. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Kateryna Panasiuk and Mykyta Vorobiov write: But the work must begin now, and it must involve Western experts. At best, this will allow it to select the best post-war reconstruction strategies, avoid the mistakes made in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and create its own unique Western-style economic system. Once it makes progress, it will be time to reward the people who have sacrificed so much for their country, and the Western countries who stuck with us when it mattered. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Lawrence J. Haas writes: The results could be a “clash of goals” between Kyiv and Washington, something about which Ukrainian officials expressed serious concern. Sooner rather than later, therefore, Ukraine and the United States need to agree about what they’re seeking on the battlefield, and what they envision beyond it. – American Foreign Policy Council


Israeli forces killed a 17-year-old Palestinian on Tuesday during a raid in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said, and the army described him as a gunman who had fired on troops. – Reuters

A car bomb that was reportedly intended to be used in a terror attack exploded in Jenin before it could fulfill its purpose on Monday evening, according to Israeli media. – Jerusalem Post

A survivor of a bus suicide bombing, the relatives of an American murdered by a terrorist in Israel, and a Texas congressman have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its funding of the Palestinian Authority. – Arutz Sheva

Anthony Grant writes: While Israel and America are not always in lockstep, it is unlikely that Jerusalem’s envoy to Kyiv will stray far from what could be emerging sentiments in the upper echelons of diplomatic power both in and near the White House. Restoring all of Ukraine’s territorial integrity is part of the 10-point peace plan Mr. Zelensky floated at the G20 parley in November. The most robust all-around support for each of its points will likely come from Poland and the Baltic states before it does from anywhere else. – New York Sun


Saudi diplomats have left Afghanistan for “training” and will return, the Taliban administration said on Monday, though three sources familiar with the matter said security concerns had contributed to their departure. – Reuters

Taliban bureaucrats lamented their new positions in the government in a series of exclusive interviews with the Afghanistan Analysts Network. The interviews provided a comical window into the lives of former mujaheddin fighters. – Washington Examiner

Millions of dollars are being smuggled into Afghanistan from Pakistan every day, providing some support for the squeezed economy after the US and Europe denied the Taliban regime access to billions in foreign reserves. For Islamabad, the outflows are exacerbating a rapidly developing economic crisis. – Bloomberg

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 paved the way for China to move in and deepen its influence in the country and the wider region. While much of the international community has shunned the Taliban for its archaic policies, particularly toward women, China has little to say on the bleak human rights record of the Taliban. – Fox News

House Republicans are warning Twitter CEO Elon Musk of terror organizations finding loopholes to amplify propaganda on the social media site. Reps. Pat Fallon, Keith Self and Ronny Jackson, all of Texas, and James Moylan of Guam, sent a letter to Mr. Musk demanding answers on how Twitter can prevent the misuse of its site by bad actors and how its verification process vets users’ identities. – Washington Times

Fed up with the traffic, afraid of street crime and hooked on Twitter, Taliban fighters who left their villages and rode into Kabul after decades of war are struggling with the daily grind of city life. In an in-depth study speaking to Taliban members who swapped war in the mountains for desk jobs, the Afghanistan Analysts Network found that many Mujahideen were finding it difficult to adapt in the capital. – The Telegraph

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza writes: As China gets deeply involved in an economically fragile Afghanistan, it is bound to face enormous security challenges that will limit its ambitions. China’s extractive economic model—neglecting the development of infrastructure, governance, and transportation networks—is destined to fail. As the region becomes increasingly radicalized, there will almost certainly be a ripple effect on China’s Uyghur population. ISIS-K’s growing presence in Afghanistan could make China’s interests in the region more vulnerable to attack. Nevertheless, the emerging competition among regional powers invites a new “Great Game” in Afghanistan. – The National Interest


Time is running out to save hundreds of families still trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings after this week’s devastating earthquake, the head of the Syrian opposition-run civil defence service said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Israel said on Monday that it had received a Syrian request for assistance with earthquake relief for the Arab state and that it was prepared to oblige, in what would be rare cooperation between the enemy neighbours. – Reuters

A senior member of Syria’s political opposition said on Monday that Turkey had given assurances it would withdraw forces from northern Syria once a final political settlement is reached. – Reuters

A top U.N. humanitarian official said damage to roads, fuel shortages and harsh winter weather in Syria were hampering the agency’s response to an earthquake on Monday that killed more than 1,200 in the country and left millions in need of aid. – Reuters

As friends and foes of the United States pledged humanitarian efforts to help Damascus contend with a devastating earthquake that rocked Syria and neighboring Turkey, the U.S. has asserted that it would not engage with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. – Newsweek

With Syrians stranded outside in the cold in northwest Syria, countries are scrambling to send aid, some of which will be flowing through Damascus to Syrian regime-controlled areas such as Aleppo and Latakia. Allies of the Syrian regime have stepped forward to provide aid. – Jerusalem Post


The only crossing between Syria and Turkey that is approved by the United Nations for transporting international aid into Syria has been unusable since the earthquake struck, according to aid groups in the region, complicating an already fraught process. – New York Times

The World Health Organization (WHO) expects a significant jump in the death toll following a major earthquake and its aftershocks in southern Turkey and northwestern Syria that reduced many buildings to rubble. – Reuters

More than 10 search and rescue teams from the EU have been mobilised in the wake of the major earthquake that has hit Turkey, a spokesperson for the European Commission told reporters on Monday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Turkish counterpart to “pick up the phone and let us know” what the United States can do to help after a huge earthquake hit the country on Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters. – Reuters

A large fire burned and a plume of black smoke drifted high into the air on Monday above Turkey’s southern Iskenderun port, in the Mediterranean Sea-side province of Hatay, according to Reuters witnesses and footage. – Reuters

Turkey’s Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, which is currently under construction, was not damaged by a major earthquake that struck central Turkey and northwest Syria on Monday, said an official from the Russian company building the plant. – Reuters

A massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday halted operations at Turkey’s major oil export hub in Ceyhan and stopped key crude oil flows from Iraq and Azerbaijan, officials said. – Reuters

Russian rescue workers will fly to Syria and Turkey after a huge earthquake killed about 1,700 people and injured thousands more, the Kremlin said on Monday. – Reuters

The United States has deployed a team of disaster response specialists after an earthquake killed more than 2,700 people in Turkey and northwest Syria, USAID Administrator Samantha Power said on Monday. – Reuters

President Biden on Monday said he’s “deeply saddened” by the destruction and loss of life in Turkey and Syria, where a massive earthquake has killed more than 2,300 people. – The Hill

The Turkish government declined Elon Musk’s proposal to send a satellite broadband service to the country after the strongest earthquake to hit the country in decades. – Bloomberg

President Isaac Herzog spoke today with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the Republic of Türkiye (Turkey) and asked to give him and the whole Turkish people encouragement following the disaster of the terrible earthquake that struck Türkiye and the region overnight. – Arutz Sheva

Benny Avni writes: Domestic criticism of the president’s past handling of natural crises, and even more so of measures to mitigate earthquake devastation, is bound to grow. Yet as an election nears, and with a little help from friends and foes, the Turkish strongman could work to overcome his shortcomings — and not let a natural disaster go to waste. – New York Sun

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This kind of technology can be networked into layers of data to determine where hospital beds might be available. It can also be used to track systems, such as water and electricity. Turkey is an advanced country and has the means, technology and experience from past earthquakes to recognize many of the challenges it faces. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The massive earthquakes on Monday will hold ramifications for the rest of the Middle East. Some will result in aid flowing to the affected regions, while others may hold important consequences for relations between countries in the region. – Jerusalem Post


Iraq will discuss with Washington this week how to pay dues owed to Russian oil companies despite sanctions, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said on Monday. – Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iraqi counterpart on Monday discussed unpaid bills owed to Russian oil companies because of US sanctions over the Ukraine conflict. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein told a Baghdad news conference that he would discuss the issue during a visit to Washington on Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

Former President Donald Trump’s last Pentagon chief, Christopher Miller, believes no one in the military has been held accountable for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan .Miller, who served multiple deployments in both wars, writes in his new book, Soldier Secretary: Warnings from the Battlefield & the Pentagon about America’s Most Dangerous Enemies , which was released on Tuesday, that Trump’s only guidance from him when he took the position in November 2020 was to “bring the troops home. – Washington Examiner

Arabian Peninsula

Petronet LNG (PLNG.NS), India’s top gas importer, will seek up to 1 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) in additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies when it renews its long-term deal with Qatar, the company’s chief executive said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia has attracted more than $9 billion in investments in future technologies, including by U.S. giants Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Oracle Corp (ORCL.N), which are building cloud regions in the kingdom, a government minister said on Monday. – Reuters

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is considering recruiting the legendary soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo, to promote the possibility of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, according to a Sunday evening report from KAN News. – Jerusalem Post

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) established the Conciliation Commission, an ad hoc body to resolve a diplomatic crisis between Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. In January, Qatar and the UAE concluded their conciliation proceedings, the UN reported on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Laura Kasinof writes: “When it comes to leverage, I will say that the Houthis are still looking for ways through which they can negotiate with the international community to achieve certain goals and needs, and they believe the Americans are key in this issue,” Shuja al-Deen said. “But at the end of the day, the detainees are Yemeni, and the Americans will not use all of their power to pressure for Yemeni citizens, even if they had worked for the embassy.” – Foreign Policy

Korean Peninsula

With North Korea threatening to strike the South with nuclear weapons and no sign of a return to denuclearization talks, South Koreans are increasingly debating whether they can still trust the United States to protect them in case of war on the peninsula. – Washington Post

North Korea stole more cryptocurrency assets in 2022 than in any other year and targeted the networks of foreign aerospace and defense companies, according to a currently confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to expand military drills and beef up the country’s war readiness posture, state media reported on Tuesday, as Pyongyang prepares to mark a military anniversary. – Reuters

Leading members of North Korea’s ruling party will meet this month to discuss the “urgent” task of improving the country’s agricultural sector, as international experts say food insecurity has worsened amid sanctions and COVID-19 lockdowns. – Reuters

South Korea’s central bank said it renewed on Monday a currency swap agreement with its Australian counterpart, valued at 9.6 trillion won or A$12 billion, for five years until early 2028. – Reuters

The UN secretary-general has warned the world could be facing further conflict – as North Korea steps up its preparedness. As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches, Antonio Guterres said he fears the world is “sleepwalking into a wider war” with its “eyes wide open”. – Sky News


President Joe Biden on Monday defended the decision to wait until a Chinese balloon crossed the United States before shooting it down, and the White House said valuable intelligence was being culled from the device. – Agence France-Presse

Admiral James Stavridis said China may have sent a suspected spy balloon to the United States to signal displeasure over three issues with U.S. policy in the Indo-Pacific region. – Newsweek

There’s no indication China will attempt to take Taiwan imminently, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday, responding to an Air Force general’s leaked assessment that an attempt could be made in the next two years. – Defense News

US President Joe Biden said on Monday that relations between Washington and Beijing were not weakened by the United States’ downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the weekend. – Arutz Sheva

Editorial: These columns are among many voices warning that the American homeland is vulnerable to attack—from balloons to hypersonic weapons to cyber intrusions on the electric grid or water supply. Americans are now tuning in to this fact, and Congress and the Administration can use the moment to better protect 330 million civilians on U.S. soil. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: It is notable that the US has used the word “postponed” in relation to the secretary of state’s visit. The dust from this latest incident must settle, but the Blinken trip should then be rescheduled. The US-China relationship is of too much consequence for the world to allow it to be blown up by the popping of a high-tech hot air balloon over the Atlantic. – Financial Times

Gerard Baker writes: But as Xi Jinping contemplates his own domestic political position, estimates any window of opportunity he may see over Taiwan, calculates the U.S. willingness to deter and respond, is China’s leader upping the ante like his Cold War forebears? Is he, like Eisenhower in 1960, driven to take risks by fear of growing technological disadvantage? Or is he, like Khrushchev in 1962, under pressure at home to seize the initiative while he still can? We probably don’t have 15 years to find out. – Wall Street Journal

David Pierson writes: In all cases, the inability to peer into China’s thinking — which has been exacerbated by a widening mistrust between Washington and Beijing — has only added to the sense of volatility in the relationship. “What the balloon incident totally reinforces is the complete lack of transparency into Chinese decision-making,” Mr. Thompson said. – New York Times

Tom Rogan writes: Top line: The U.S. reaction to this flight might be deeply detrimental to Beijing’s diplomacy. Nevertheless, centered on its expectation of near-term conflict, China had a number of ominous motives for last week’s excursion. – Washington Examiner

Anthony Grant writes: While the timing of the poll and the Chinese spy balloon incident were coincidental, the administration’s halfhearted approach to the violation of American airspace — at least initially — underscores the frustration more Americans are feeling with respect to the job performance of the octogenarian commander-in-chief. Mr. Biden’s growing roster of opponents was quick to pounce. – New York Sun

Harlan Ullman writes: American strategy vis-a-vis China and Russia remains a mix of contradictions and dilemmas and paradoxes. One commonsensical conclusion would call for a major policy review. That did not work in Afghanistan. And the “surge” that succeeded at least for a time in Iraq is not applicable to Ukraine. But perhaps the time has come for a major review for China and Ukraine. – The Hill

Mark Kennedy and Sadek Wahba write: A confident America must step forward with allied nations to diminish coercive behavior with nuanced economic statecraft, and expand mutually beneficial trade and strategic investments to overcome the many challenges we face today. We must cooperate whenever possible with everyone — including China — but compete vigorously when we must. – The Hill

Michael Mazza writes: The political posturing on both sides of the aisle in recent days was to be expected and is likely to continue. But there is an opportunity here to get valuable work done as well — to better prepare the country for its burgeoning rivalry with the People’s Republic of China. Republicans and Democrats should come together to ensure this moment doesn’t end in a pointless burst of hot air. – New York Post

Liam Denning writes: With the Arctic warming at a faster rate than the rest of the planet, impacting both local communities and the wider world, cooperation on research there is required more than ever — just as it is fragmenting faster than at any time in the past three decades. In geopolitical terms, the Arctic is becoming an extension of existing theaters of confrontation, especially the Pacific, and losing its status as a place to be preserved. China’s balloon exemplifies and exacerbates this profound problem. – Bloomberg

Hal Brands writes: And, as shown by recent research on the limitations of the US defense industrial base, all the military access agreements in the world won’t make much difference if the Pentagon runs out of ammunition a few days into a war with China — and can’t quickly reload. But Washington is at least making strides in key areas of the US-China rivalry. Now more, please, and faster. – Bloomberg

Paul Mauro writes: America handled the Fu-Go program well — there was no panic, and casualties were limited. With the Pentagon apparently aware of the balloon drifting toward America’s western shores for a week now, our handling of this one appears less competent.  One thing is clear, however: there can be no news blackout. This isn’t 1945.  We’re all aware of this thing, and we all deserve answers. Because the stakes and temperatures are high — and unlike the balloon, only rising. – Fox News

Michael Rubin writes: That Trump failed to stop balloons does not exculpate Biden. That Biden failed, until forced, does not exculpate Trump. It is time leaders of both parties refocus the federal government on its core mission to secure America from coast to coast and from the ground up. So many other debates on social issues should be secondary, at least at the national level. – 19FortyFive

Jonathan Fulton and Jonathan Panikoff write: The knock against the United States is that it makes strident demands not to work with China without offering reasonable alternatives. Fair or not, to have any chance of diminishing the relationship between MENA states and China, viable, alternative markets are the key and US allies can provide them. – The National Interest

South Asia

India’s opposition political parties stepped up calls for an investigation into allegations of stock-price manipulation and fraud against the country’s Adani Group, disrupting Parliament and staging protests to put pressure on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. – Wall Street Journal

India is preparing to relaunch its INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier after a major refit, a critical step toward fulfilling its plan to deploy two carrier battle groups as it seeks to strengthen its regional maritime power to counter China’s increasing assertiveness. – Associated Press

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the unblocking of Wikipedia in the country Monday after a panel of ministers called the restriction over sacrilegious content an “unsuitable measure.” – Bloomberg

Israel’s leading aerospace and defense company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will sign several Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) and joint venture agreements during Aero India 2023 – India’s largest defense exhibition –as it deepens its ties with the local defense sector. – Jerusalem Post


Sixteen pro-democracy figures went on trial Monday in a landmark case in Hong Kong’s crackdown on political dissent, drawing global scrutiny as the city’s government launches a marketing blitz to restore the financial hub’s allure to global business and tourists. – Wall Street Journal

Almost half of companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taiwan are revising or plan to revise their business continuity plans amid tensions with China, while a growing number reported being impacted by those strains. – Reuters

Australia and New Zealand talked up their relationships with China at a joint prime ministerial news conference on Tuesday in the latest sign of strengthening ties with their biggest trading partner. – Reuters

The Philippine Coast Guard has stepped up its presence in the disputed South China Sea by deploying additional vessels and conducting more sorties and overflights to protect maritime territory and the country’s fishermen, its chief said on Monday. – Reuters

Taiwan will speed up development of drones for military use taking into account the lessons of the war in Ukraine and the threat posed by China, the island’s defence ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A group of Swiss lawmakers met with Taiwan’s president and said Monday their government wants to deepen political relations, adding to shows of support by foreign politicians for the self-ruled island democracy in the face of Chinese intimidation. – Associated Press

The Philippines on Tuesday deported two Japanese nationals suspected of involvement in a series of violent robberies in their home country, a day before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. makes his first visit to Tokyo since taking office. – Bloomberg

One of the highest profile anti-China leaders in the Solomon Islands was ousted in a no-confidence motion on Tuesday in the latest blow to critics of the Pacific nation’s increasingly close relationship with Beijing. – Bloomberg

New Zealand’s new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he won’t back away from criticizing China where necessary, as the new leader works to balance economic and diplomatic relations with his largest trading partner. – Bloomberg

Gina Apostol writes: Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania has urged her colleagues to sign the Philippine Human Rights Act, which would suspend security assistance to the Philippines “until violence against dissidents ceases and accountability against the perpetrators commences.” Ms. Wild and a bipartisan group of legislators also are calling for sanctions against Philippine human rights violators. Until then, the long dance between Washington and Manila continues, to the recurring horror of the Filipino people. – New York Times

Dustin Walker writes: Will China invade Taiwan and, if so, when? If the answer to that question is to be no, policymakers and military leaders must be honest with the American people. The near-term threat posed by China is real, it will change over time, and remain with us for years to come. Inaction will make it worse. But action now can ensure that deterrence holds, and peace prevails. – Breaking Defense


Britain must set out a new strategy to boost military production and overhaul wasteful procurement to better support Ukraine and signal to Russia that “things will get worse”, opposition Labour’s defence policy chief will say on Tuesday. – Reuters

Kosovo’s prime minister Albin Kurti said on Monday he accepted a proposed European Union plan aimed at normalising relations with Serbia despite concerns over Western demands to give more rights to local Serbs that have so far hindered a peace deal. – Reuters

Switzerland is close to breaking with centuries of tradition as a neutral state, as a pro-Ukraine shift in the public and political mood puts pressure on the government to end a ban on exports of Swiss weapons to war zones. – Reuters

The European Union has made progress in its talks with the UK on the trading arrangements of Northern Ireland but difficulties remain, European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said on Monday. – Reuters

At a central square in Serbia’s capital of Belgrade, dozens of Russians gathered recently to denounce President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, holding up photos of political prisoners from their homeland. – Associated Press

Oil-rich Norway is looking to donate 75 billion kroner ($7.3 billion) to Kyiv as part of a five-year support package that would make the Scandinavian country one of the world’s biggest donors to war-torn Ukraine, the Norwegian government said Monday. – Associated Press

European investigators have shut down an encrypted communication service that was used as a secure channel for organized crime, particularly in the drug trade, and arrested 48 people, German authorities said Monday. – Associated Press

The European Union’s legislature was preparing plans Monday to host Volodymyr Zelenskyy should the Ukraine president decide to come to Brussels to attend an EU summit later this week. – Associated Press

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Monday urged the European Union to “reindustrialize” to end its reliance on energy, microchips and food from outside the bloc and to learn the lessons of shortages provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine. – Associated Press

Days before German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany would ship 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron surprised allies by declaring that France would contribute 18 Caesar cannons and 40 AMX10 armored vehicles, and teased that he was still considering whether to send the embattled country a squadron of more powerful Leclerc tanks. – Bloomberg

Latvia’s security services are probing whether sanctioned Russian billionaire Petr Aven should be stripped of his Latvian citizenship under a law adopted in response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. – Bloomberg

President Joe Biden is expected to travel to Poland this month to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to three people familiar with the planning. – NBC News

Stuart Lau writes: Tom Tugendhat, U.K. security minister and a longtime skeptic of Beijing, called for concern over other forms of Chinese threats. “Worried about being spied on from the sky? Look at what some apps are collecting on your phone and consider your cyber security. Some risks are much closer to home,” he tweeted.  EU foreign policy in 2023 may be defined by which of these expires first: European indecision over China, or America’s appetite for providing Europe’s defense. – Politico

Perparim Isufi writes: There is clearly common ground between the two; Serbia can expend diplomatic capital blocking Kosovo but the ultimate benefits are hard to discern. It’s unlikely, for example, that Serbia will enter the EU before its small neighbor. Meanwhile, the talks grind on. And perhaps there will be no progress until a fast-developing crisis (these crop up with very little warning) focuses the West’s efforts on other seemingly bigger global issues. Until then, Kosovo’s application envelope risks gathering dust on a shelf in Brussels. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Tomasz Wróblewski and Darren Spinck write: Today, most Western countries aiding Ukraine do so through border crossings in Poland or Romania, but most activities are carried out independently by each individual country. NATO and the European Union are, of course, engaged in providing support to Ukraine, but even they do not undertake broad-based coordination. By using the TSI to coordinate not only logistics but to partner on Ukraine’s transformation into a prosperous Western democracy, CEE can build a broad architecture resistant to further CCP infiltration in the region. – The National Interest


Congo’s government on Monday blamed M23 rebels for an attack on a helicopter that killed a United Nations peacekeeper, as hundreds in the eastern city of Goma demonstrated over spiralling insecurity in the region. – Reuters

At least 34 people were killed in clashes between soldiers and anti-government fighters in a disputed town in Somalia’s northern breakaway region of Somaliland on Monday, doctors and officials said. – Reuters

At least 15 Nigerian Muslim pilgrims on their way to Senegal were killed when gunmen in Burkina Faso attacked the buses transporting them, Nigeria’s presidency said on Monday. – Reuters

Armed assailants killed at least 22 civilians and three police officers during an attack in northern Burkina Faso on Saturday, the interim government said on Monday. – Reuters

A wealthy Nigerian politician and his family plotted to bring a street trader from Nigeria to Britain and pay him a few thousand pounds to donate his kidney for a transplant for his ill daughter, a British prosecutor told a London court on Monday. – Reuters

A confidential U.N. report into alleged missteps by senior World Health Organization staffers in the way they handled a sexual misconduct case during an Ebola outbreak in Congo found their response didn’t violate the agency’s policies because of what some officials described as a “loophole” in how the WHO defines victims of such behavior. – Associated Press

David Pilling and Andres Schipani write: Still, Russia’s victories on the continent may already have reached their high watermark. Analysts says Russian tactics work best in states with very weak institutions: in Mali, where the state is somewhat more robust, Wagner has not persuaded authorities to hand over gold and other mining concessions, they say. Even in CAR, last month rebels killed several Wagner mercenaries during skirmishes near the Sudanese border, according to diplomats in the country. – Financial Times

Thomas J. Duesterberg and Rafael Marques de Morais write: Has Angola fallen back into some pan-African stance of non-alignment? Or have US-Angolan relations hit a roadblock? After all, Joe Biden did not give João Lourenço an audience at the US-Africa summit, and Secretary Yellen did not honor him with a personal visit this year. In the absence of clear and straightforward positions by Angola, foreign policy analysts are beginning to question whether, just as he zigzags on other national policies, President Lourenço cannot decisively choose which policy on the table is best for his country and his people. – Hudson Institute

Latin America

Venezuela’s governing and opposition parties are making progress toward the creation of a $3.2 billion U.N.-administrated fund that would aim to use the country’s frozen assets for humanitarian purposes, the top lawmaker from the country’s ruling party said on Monday. – Reuters

Private companies have committed to invest $4.2 billion in northern Central America as part of an effort by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to reduce migration by targeting economic development, the White House said on Monday. – Reuters

China apologized to Costa Rica for a balloon that flew over its territory, the Central American country’s government said on Monday, after a separate suspected Chinese spy balloon traveling over the United States sparked a major political and diplomatic spat. – Reuters

Chinese authorities have confirmed that an “unmanned aircraft” flying over Latin America originated in China, even as Beijing stepped up its protests against the U.S. military’s decision to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that traversed the United States last week. – Washington Post

United States

The top U.S. general responsible for protecting North American skies said Monday that past incursions by Chinese balloons went undetected by the Pentagon, exposing what he characterized as a worrisome deficiency that must be addressed. – Washington Post

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Monday called for a probe into why former President Trump was apparently not informed of previous Chinese surveillance balloons that Biden officials are saying crossed over the U.S. at least three times during the previous administration. – The Hill

Lawmakers are planning to probe the Biden administration for what they are calling a failure to protect national security as a Chinese spy balloon flew over the U.S. for several days before it was shot down Saturday. – The Hill

William McGurn writes: It may actually suit Joe Biden to have the discovery of classified documents at his office, home and garage become a debate about Karine Jean-Pierre’s incompetence. Certainly better than a debate over his. – Wall Street Journal


U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday he was not sure if Washington would ban Chinese-owned short video app TikTok. – Reuters

Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, chair and vice chair of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote to Facebook parent Meta Platforms (META.O) on Monday about documents that show it knew developers in China and Russia had access to user data that could be used for espionage. – Reuters

Tech industry group Chamber of Progress is urging President Biden to lay out a plan to support recovery and job growth in the tech sector after widespread layoffs during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. – The Hill

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is facing renewed pressure from advocacy groups to prioritize antitrust bills targeting tech giants this Congress. – The Hill

House Republicans are gearing up to grill former Twitter employees at a Wednesday hearing, escalating their accusations that social media companies are censoring content with an anti-conservative bias. – The Hill

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) unveiled Monday a statewide plan to ban TikTok from state government-issued devices and networks, following a December order to crack down on the use of the popular social media app. – The Hill

US investors were involved in at least 37% of all investment transactions in China’s artificial intelligence, or AI, sector between 2015 and 2021, according to a new report. – New York Post

Google parent Alphabet is planning to launch a chatbot service and more artificial intelligence for its search engine as well as developers, making a riposte to Microsoft in a rivalry to lead a new wave of technology. – New York Post

Editorial: Losing cases is embarrassing, but Ms. Khan may not care since her goal is to create regulatory uncertainty that discourages businesses from attempting acquisitions and mergers. Filing unworthy lawsuits to harass legal business decisions is not what the antitrust laws were passed to accomplish. – Wall Street Journal

Zachary Faria writes: Not only would the app remain under the control of CCP supporters who are required by law to share all data with the party, but while politicians and national security officials work out that deal, the app functions as a connection for the Chinese Communist Party to the devices of 80 million Americans. Such a deal solves nothing, but it keeps politicians such as Booker from having to make tough decisions to confront China’s brazen national security threats. – Washington Examiner

Mohammed Soliman writes: The U.S. and Chinese tech decoupling has ushered in an era of perpetual cyberwar and of a growing digital divide that exacerbates the challenges of finding a digitally capable workforce. Yet in all of this, MENA states are pursuing policies designed to build up the region’s digital and tech sovereignty. The most notable challenge for Middle Eastern and North African states will be navigating between the U.S. and its global rivals in such a way so that the repercussions of this great power competition do not hinder the region’s digital transformation efforts. – Middle East Institute


The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin Corp. have reduced the laundry list of deficiencies on the contractor’s F-35 with the fighter jet, the world’s costliest weapons program, due for a key combat simulation by mid-year. – Bloomberg

The European Council has approved a signature-ready agreement with the U.S. Defense Department that is meant to facilitate defense cooperation, though the area of joint capability development is explicitly outside the pact’s scope. – Defense News

Lockheed Martin delivered the future USS Marinette (LCS-25) to the Navy at Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard, in Marinette, Wisc., the service announced in a Friday news release. Marinette is the Navy’s 13th Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship to deliver. The ship is the second to be named after the Wisconsin city – the first a former tugboat (YTB-7910). – USNI News

The three services that fly the V-22 Osprey last week grounded some of their fleets due to ongoing issues with the tilt-rotor aircraft’s hard clutch. In a memo, the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps established a flight hour maximum for the aircraft’s input quill assembly that will halt operations for some V-22s, the Marine Corps announced in a news release on Saturday evening. – USNI News

A U.S. amphibious warship, explosive and ordnance divers and underwater robots are off the coast of South Carolina surveying about a square mile off the Atlantic Ocean for the remains of a high-altitude Chinese spy balloon a U.S. fighter shot down on Saturday, defense officials told reporters on Monday. – USNI News

J. Brian Atwood writes: The Defense budget shouldn’t be a welfare program. It has a vitally important security function and should be supported. Support, however, also comes in the form of effective and informed oversight. In the past few decades, Congress has dropped that ball and our security has suffered. – The Hill

Jack Kraemer and Patty-Jane Geller write: If the Pentagon doesn’t abandon its pursuit of partisan policies and return its emphasis solely to improving warfighting capabilities, the U.S. military may find itself weakened in an increasingly volatile international security environment. – The Daily Signal

Brent D. Sadler writes: Centering the global maritime competitive arm of the NDS on the numbered fleets makes sense from an operational standpoint: Numbered fleets are organized for sustained maritime operations. However, achieving the full benefit of this requires reorganizing the numbered fleets according to narrow strategic objectives bounded by commonsense geography of the maritime. – Heritage Foundation

Long War

Hope of employment more than religious belief is driving people to join fast-growing extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) based on interviews with hundreds of former fighters. – Reuters

Melania Trump in October 2019 sat in and watched the U.S. raid that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a compound in Syria, according to a new memoir set for release this week. – The Hill

The inability of states to provide basic services and create jobs across much of Africa, ranging from the Sahel zone in the west to Somalia in the east and Mozambique in the south has made the continent the global epicenter of extremist violence, the United Nations Development Programme said. – Bloomberg

At least 20 prisoners on Monday escaped a prison in northwest Syria which holds mostly Islamic State (ISIS) group members, taking advantage of the earthquake that hit the country, AFP reported. – Arutz Sheva