Fdd's overnight brief

February 9, 2022

In The News


Iran unveiled a new missile with a range of 1,450 kilometers on Wednesday, semi-official news agency Tasnim said. The missile was unveiled during a visit by top Iranian military leaders to a Revolutionary Guards missile bases, Tasnim added. – Reuters 

A group of 33 Republican senators led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are arguing that any new nuclear deal with Iran requires Senate approval, warning President Biden that they will do everything in their power to block one if he moves forward without them. – FOX News 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Joe Biden and Donald Trump of damaging the reputation of the United States in rare direct criticism of U.S. presidents, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Talks to revive a deal with Iran on its contested nuclear programme resumed on Tuesday in Vienna after officials signalled an agreement was “in sight”. – Agence France-Presse 

U.S. and Iranian officials have resumed their uncertain and climactic “indirect talks” in Vienna, with Western allies eager for a deal that would halt the regime’s burgeoning nuclear program while American lawmakers worry that President Joe Biden will agree to a “bad deal.” No one is quite sure what will happen next. – Washington Examiner 

The officer nominated to lead U.S. Central Command wants to use artificial intelligence to counter Iran, which he called the “No. 1 destabilizing factor” in the region. – Defense One 

At least one Republican lawmaker was left with “more questions than answers” on Tuesday after Biden’s Iran envoy Robert Malley provided his first classified briefing on Capitol Hill. – The Washington Free Beacon 

Video posted to an Instagram account which claims to be the official account of the “Edalat Ali” hacker group showed footage allegedly from a control room in Iran’s Ghezel Hesar Prison. – Jerusalem Post

Barry Rosen writes: I was one of the American hostages held by Iran for 444 days after the U.S. Embassy was overtaken by Iranian militants in 1979. I was beaten, tortured, forced to endure mock executions, starved and used as a political pawn. The experience left me with deep scars, but gave me a platform to advocate policies that put people over politics. – Washington Post 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: But how hard will the IAEA press Iran on these issues or on access to future undeclared sites which the Mossad and others may expose once the nuclear deal is restored? The answer is that it is likely they will not press them at all and that certainly with the threat of IAEA condemnation and a referral to the UN Security Council – threats which the Islamic Republic has taken seriously, the option would be off the table. – Jerusalem Post


Senior White House and State Department officials failed to grasp the Taliban’s steady advance on Afghanistan’s capital and resisted efforts by U.S. military leaders to prepare the evacuation of embassy personnel and Afghan allies weeks before Kabul’s fall, placing American troops ordered to carry out the withdrawal in greater danger, according to sworn testimony from multiple commanders involved in the operation. – Washington Post 

Faced with disappearances, beatings and intimidation, Afghanistan’s women’s rights activists go quiet on the streets. […]Even as the Taliban tries to persuade the world to recognize and financially support its government, it has embarked on a violent crackdown on dissent. In recent weeks, Taliban fighters have targeted women’s rights activists, especially those protesting the Taliban’s denial of their basic rights. – Washington Post 

President Biden’s nominee to command U.S. troops across the Middle East said on Tuesday that he sees Iran’s regional influence and weapons programs as “vexing,” and that he believes America has a “moral obligation” to evacuate more Afghans who helped the United States during its longest war. – Washington Post 

The U.N. human rights office called on Tuesday for the release of four women activists and their relatives in Afghanistan who were detained or abducted last month after protests over women’s rights since the Taliban seized control. – Reuters 

Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware write: The strike earlier this week was an important victory for the Biden administration, who’s national security record was blighted by the Afghanistan withdrawal, Houthi dominance in Yemen and escalating tensions with Russia. But, it does not vindicate the decision to depart Afghanistan, nor does it prove the promise of “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism. – The Hill


The Israeli military said it attacked missile batteries in Syria on Wednesday after an anti-aircraft missile was fired towards Israel during what Syrian state television reported was an earlier strike around Damascus. – Reuters 

Syrian air defences on Wednesday shot down a number of “Israeli aggression’s missiles” around Damascus, the capital, state TV said. – Reuters 


Shopkeepers, city councils and a religious community group spoke out over surging energy bills in Turkey on Tuesday, while doctors held a one-day strike over working conditions as a wave of inflation-fuelled discontent spread across the country. – Reuters 

Turkey will not turn its back on its commitment to a Palestinian state in order to broker closer ties with Israel, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, ahead of an expected visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog next month. – Reuters 

Sixteen people went on trial in Istanbul on Tuesday, charged with “political and military” espionage on behalf of Israel, Turkish media reports said. – Associated Press 


Israel is rushing to prop up the Palestinian Authority, promising loans, allowing infrastructure upgrades and holding high-level talks with West Bank leaders for the first time in years, in a bid to stem the growing influence of Hamas and keep a lid on violent unrest. – Wall Street Journal 

Israeli forces killed three Palestinian gunmen travelling in a car in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, Israel’s domestic security service said. – Reuters 

Naftali Bennett takes less combative approach to nuclear talks as Jewish state assesses Tehran’s advances – Financial Times 

A Sudanese envoy was in Israel on Wednesday in order to promote ties between the two countries, a source with close knowledge of the visit said. – Reuters 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel was working with the United States and other regional allies to combat growing threats at sea, during a visit to two Israeli Navy bases on Tuesday. – Times of Israel 

Eugene Kontorovich writes: Apartheid is not merely a term of opprobrium, it is a crime created by and defined in international treaties. As a legal matter, while Ramallah’s treatment of Jews is discriminatory and violates human rights, it is impossible to say it formally qualifies as apartheid. The standard for apartheid has been set so high by the international community, that thus far only South Africa has been deemed a clear case. But by the standards implicit in Amnesty’s report, the Palestinian government is guilty. – Wall Street Journal 

Hananya Naftali writes: Calling Israel an apartheid state is not criticism. It’s a blunt lie. Amnesty International is not the first to label Israel an apartheid state, and probably not the last one. It has become fashionable to hate the Jewish state under the category of “mere criticism” while siding with the real oppressors of the Palestinians – their very own leaders. – Jerusalem Post 


The Saudi-led coalition has deployed newly formed units near Yemen’s Marib where battles have abated, according to military and government sources, as the warring sides hold their positions in the fight for energy-rich areas that has led to the war’s biggest escalation in years. – Reuters 

In January 2022, for the first time in years, the Iran-backed Shi’ite Ansar Allah militia in Yemen – the Houthis – carried out a series of three missile and drone strikes against the UAE, beginning January 17. The attacks came in the wake of the Saudi coalition’s victories against the Houthis, particularly those of the coalition-member UAE-backed Giants Brigades, earlier that month, that led to bitter defeats for the Houthis in the Shabwa and Marib regions in Yemen. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Gulf States

The next leader of Islamic State is likely to be from a close circle of battle-hardened Iraqi jihadists who emerged in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion, two Iraqi security officials and three independent analysts said. – Reuters 

Tuesday morning was the designated expiration dates for the flights from Israel to the United Arab Emirates. Although Israel decided to postpone this halt, officials express warnings that if tensions continue to rise, a potential crisis with the Arab state is on the horizon. – Ynet 

The Arab Gulf states appear to be following a common template in responding to the global transition toward an energy system in which renewables play an increasingly central role. They are publicizing renewable energy targets, decarbonizing upstream and downstream oil and gas operations, commissioning renewable energy projects, and improving energy efficiency, among other strategies. – Middle East Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

As Libya’s political institutions pushed ahead with plans to again extend a transitional period and delay any elections, Libyans across the country were filled with weariness, cynicism and anger. – Reuters 

The U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale to Jordan of guided multiple launch rocket systems and related equipment for an estimated cost of $70 million, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Tunisia’s main Western donors voiced “deep concern” on Tuesday at the president’s move to dissolve a body tasked with ensuring judicial independence after he seized wide powers last year in a move critics call a coup, as the foreign minister sought to allay fears. – Reuters 

The Army general tapped to take over as top U.S. commander in the Middle East warned senators Tuesday that if Russian invades Ukraine, as many fear, it could create broader instability in the Middle East, including Syria. But he was clear that Iran remains the key threat to U.S. and allies in the region. – Associated Press 

The head of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group on Tuesday described as “dictates” a recent Kuwaiti list of proposals aimed at repairing Lebanon’s ties with Gulf Arab nations, strained largely over what the say is Hezbollah’s growing influence. – Reuters 

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah wrote-off Israeli threats against the movement’s precision missile program during an interview with the Al-Alam channel on Tuesday evening, saying that Israel would need a full war to eliminate the missile program. – Jerusalem Post 

Carol Silber writes: With international tensions at urgent levels amid shifting global tides, leaders in the Middle East are clearly treating the Olympics as another stage for staking out their positions and balancing historic partnerships with their current economic and security interests. As with the light rail project in Israel, Washington must continue balancing two of its own primary objectives in the region: warning traditional partners about advancing ties with Beijing while sustaining a reputation as a trustworthy ally. – Washington Institute 

Korean Peninsula

North Korea boasted on Tuesday that it is one of only a handful of countries in the world to field nuclear weapons and advanced missiles and the only one standing up to the United States by “shaking the world” with missile tests. – Reuters 

The 2022 Winter Olympics are underway in Beijing, China, and ninety-one nations are taking part in the games. But North Korea, an ally of Beijing that even borders China, isn’t represented in Beijing. Why hasn’t North Korea fielded a team at the current Olympics? – The National Interest 

Yoon Suk-yeol writes: South Korea, like other countries, is being buffeted by a whirlwind of change that has been heightened by the pandemic. The country’s future will be shaped by climate change, rapid scientific and technological advances, and shifting power relations in the international system. In this time of extreme uncertainty, the passive, conventional leadership to which South Koreans have become accustomed cannot guide the country into the future. South Korea can become a vibrant, innovative, and attractive country, but only if its government exercises creative thinking and makes clear choices. – Foreign Affairs 


China’s commerce ministry on Tuesday hit out at a U.S. decision to include some Chinese entities on a “unverified list”, saying Washington should correct its “wrongdoings”. – Reuters 

China has demanded the United States revoke a possible arms agreement with Taiwan in support of its Patriot missile systems—a deal Washington believes will improve the island’s security and help maintain political stability. – Newsweek 

Editorial: The battle lines are being drawn for a new cold war. Pieces are being put into place. Biden needs to stop thinking small with country-by-country agreements and embrace a coherent vision for how the U.S. will confront and contain China. So far, Biden is failing at this task. – Washington Examiner 

Carice Witte and Dale Aluf write: As the British Empire declined, it left space for the US to gradually establish itself as the dominant force in the Middle East. While the character of the international arena today is admittedly vastly different, history certainly seems to resonate with notable impact on the local players, as China reshapes the Middle East regional architecture. – Jerusalem Post 

Joseph Bosco writes: The Xi-Putin statement said: “Russia and China [are] world powers with rich cultural and historical heritage.” True, but, in both cases, the leaders betray the values and aspirations of their people. That is a fatal vulnerability the West needs to exploit as effectively and peacefully as it did in the first Cold War, by placing itself clearly on the side of the people against their oppressive and dangerous regimes. The alternative — passivity and accommodation — leads inevitably to the periodic war-threatening crises China and Russia are creating now. – The Hill 

Brad Wenstrup and Raja Krishnamoorthi write: Just this week, The New York Times reported that “Chinese authorities have detained activists in their homes and sent others to jail” as Beijing prepares to kick off the Winter Olympics. So, as the PRC hosts these games, remember that what you see televised is well-choreographed propaganda. Behind the theatrics is an authoritarian state focused on remaking the world in its image — by any means necessary. – The Hill 

Hugo Gurdon writes: My pessimistic assessment is that when a really decisive test comes, for example by China invading Taiwan, America will blink first and then be overtaken as the world’s preeminent power by its most populous nation. China will also have the bigger economy within about a decade. – Washington Examiner 


Social media posts by a Pakistan distributor for Hyundai Motor Co. have triggered calls to boycott the company and prompted India’s government to summon South Korea’s ambassador to express its displeasure. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Fiji on Saturday to reassure Pacific island leaders that Washington and its allies are committed to providing security and COVID vaccines, as China steps up its aid and influence in the region. – Reuters 

Australia is not looking at renaming Taiwan’s de facto embassy in the country and remains committed to its one-China policy, foreign minister Marise Payne said on Wednesday, amid strain in diplomatic ties with Beijing. – Reuters 

The Biden administration has approved a potential $100 million contract for Taiwan to bolster the independent island’s missile defense systems, a move that has already drawn China’s ire. – The Hill 

Tom Rogan writes: Still, such a threat consideration does not yet exist. And the trend lines are not in Taiwan’s favor. If this democracy is to survive and earn U.S. support in defense of its righteous existence, it must rapidly and dramatically improve its readiness to fight and win. The United States can and should do more to help, but Taiwan must sound readiness general quarters. – Washington Examiner 

Hal Brands writes: Washington does not need to revisit its “one China” policy. But it could, as Dan Blumenthal writes, expand military-to-military ties, foster greater political and diplomatic interactions, and create crisis communications procedures that can keep U.S. and Taiwanese leaders in contact should chaos erupt. The Ukraine crisis could still turn into a catastrophe. A silver lining could be the lessons it reveals for how America can prevent an even greater disaster in Taiwan. – Bloomberg


The Ukraine crisis is here to stay. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is increasingly staking his legacy on reversing Ukraine’s pro-Western shift. Even if he does not order an invasion this winter, he is making clear that he will keep the pressure on, backed by the threat of force, for as long as it takes to get his way. – New York Times 

Russian troops are poised near Ukraine’s borders and U.S. officials warn that an invasion could come any day. But an information war between Moscow and the West has been under way for months. – Wall Street Journal 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will have to pay the price if he were to “weaponize” gas supplies to Europe as Russia-Ukraine tensions rise, says energy expert Dan Yergin. – CNBC 

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin told him that Moscow would not further escalate the Ukraine crisis. Macron also said it would take time to find a diplomatic solution to the rising tensions, which represent the biggest security crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War. – Associated Press 

French officials said Vladimir Putin had moved towards de-escalating the Ukraine crisis by promising not to undertake any new “military initiatives” and agreeing to withdraw thousands of Russian troops from Belarus after the completion of planned exercises. – Financial Times 

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: With his recent expostulations, Mr. Putin’s real aim may be a settlement legalizing Crimea as Russian territory and helping uncomplicate his international situation. But the idea is unlikely to fly with Ukrainian politicians for democratic reasons; the U.S. seems unlikely to press for it. Mr. Putin is right: He made himself a hostage to fortune when he seized Crimea. He made his situation worse and not better by triggering NATO to rally round Ukraine without making Ukraine a NATO member. – Wall Street Journal 

Andrei Kolesnikov writes: Whether or not this reality will have any effect on the Kremlin’s thinking is far from certain. Putin may well calculate that the benefits of reasserting Russian power outweigh any political costs. But if he does, he may not only push Ukrainians further away from Russia; he may also push Russians further away from the Kremlin. – Foreign Affairs 

Ben Dubow writes: With Putin’s popularity now on the rise, and the largest opposition party firmly at his back, Kremlin aggression in Donbas is rallying at least some of the discontented around the Russian flag. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


With Russian military forces gathering on three sides of Ukraine last month, advisers to President Volodymyr Zelensky urged a low-key response. His top national security adviser, in a cellphone call, counseled him with two words: “Olympian calm.” – Wall Street Journal 

Top Russian military commanders flew into neighboring Belarus on Wednesday for a massive military exercise amid Western alarm that it could provide cover for a multipronged invasion of Ukraine. – Washington Post 

The former U.S. Army officer who oversaw Ukraine policy in the Trump White House criticized the Biden administration for doing “too little, too late” to deter a Russian invasion of that country and predicted it will be “catastrophic” for the United States and its European allies. – Yahoo News 

U.S. President Joe Biden plans to engage with French President Emmanuel Macron soon, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The U.S. Senate confirmed on Tuesday President Joe Biden’s nominee for ambassador to Germany, Amy Gutmann, filling the high-profile post six months after her nomination. – Reuters 

Marc A. Thiessen writes: That’s why we should care what happens in Ukraine. Standing by and allowing Russia to invade without cost or consequence would project weakness. And when our adversaries believe we are weak, they are more likely to test our resolve — and more likely to miscalculate. And that could have consequences far beyond Kyiv. – Washington Post 

William A. Galston writes: In other words: Forget about democracy and individual rights beyond our borders. Let Russia do what it wants in Eastern Europe. Treat China, the world’s first total surveillance state, as a “civilizational equal.” […]Now, as we face the choice between engagement and retreat for the third time in 100 years, we should ignore the voices counseling a foreign policy of moral relativism and stand firmly against the new axis of autocracy that threatens freedom and democracy everywhere. – Wall Street Journal 

Anna Sauerbrey writes: In the context of the past, it’s a bold statement. But these nuances are not as easy to grasp as boots on the ground. On Monday, Mr. Scholz, addressing Mr. Biden by his first name, sought to bolster the trans-Atlantic alliance. “We are absolutely united,” he said. There’s no reason, really, to doubt it. But it may still take some convincing. – New York Times 

Andreas Kluth writes: As long as you’re talking, you’re not shooting one another, a former German foreign minister once said. That may have been naive — history shows that both can be done at once. But for now, diplomacy is the only thing we have. Thank heavens all the major powers — including Germany — are fully invested in that effort. – Bloomberg


The United States on Tuesday barred current or former Somali officials and others accused of undermining the democratic process in Somalia from traveling to the United States as Washington pushes for quick and credible elections in the Horn of Africa country. – Reuters 

Mali has accused France’s military of deliberately dividing the West African country and of committing espionage during its fight against Islamist militants, in the latest verbal volley that has seen relations spiral in recent weeks. – Reuters 

At least 30 Islamist militants were killed and dozens of vehicles and weapons destroyed during joint operations between the French-led Takuba task force and Malian soldiers last week, the French Army Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Kristen A. Harkness writes: Coups have a nasty track record of prompting more coups. Transitional governments in Africa are still struggling with entrenched military privileges — and insurgent and extremist violence continues to proliferate. The Central African Republic and Ethiopia — two countries that appeared en route to democracy — now face major rebel offensives. […]These types of rumblings may foreshadow more coups. It’s possible that Africa’s coup epidemic is only beginning. – Washington Post 

The Americas

A second U.S.-Canada land crossing was disrupted by protesters from the self-described “Freedom Convoy” demonstrating against coronavirus restrictions including vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers, further paralyzing crucial trade routes connecting the United States and its northern neighbor. – Washington Post 

Brazil on Tuesday defended its decision to allow British military planes flying to the Falklands Islands to stop at Brazilian airports, landings that annoyed Argentina. – Reuters 

Russia has promised that military equipment given to Venezuela will not be used to attack Colombia, destabilize Latin America or end up in the hands of illegal armed groups, Colombia’s Foreign Minister and Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez said. – Reuters 

Peru’s Justice Minister Anibal Torres took over as the nation’s fourth prime minister in just over six months, as President Pedro Castillo tries to restore stability after weeks of political turmoil. – Bloomberg 

Deborah Lipstadt appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday for her confirmation hearing, six months after the Biden administration nominated her to serve as special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. – Haaretz


The European Central Bank is preparing banks for a possible Russian-sponsored cyber attack as tensions with Ukraine mount, two people with knowledge of the matter said, as the region braces for the financial fallout of any conflict. – Reuters 

John Sherman writes: The Department of Defense relies on the entrepreneurial companies and innovative, hard-working employees of the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) to create cutting-edge capabilities for our warfighters. – Business Insider 

Matthias Machnig writes: Significant cybersecurity risks could result. Carelessly installed browser extensions or plugins do more than just redirect to fraudulent or otherwise problematic content. The installation itself can be used to inject malware or enable other technical manipulations. The discovery of the Russian bot network a few weeks ago shows that these scenarios are realistic. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Lennart Maschmeyer and Nadiya Kostyuk write: Exaggerated fears of hypothetical cyber strikes — either used as substitutes or complements to military operations — distract from the clear and observable threat of invasion and, in doing so, may trigger misallocation of valuable resources needed to respond to it. Perpetuating such fears also risks playing into Russia’s hands by exaggerating its cyber capabilities and distracting from the need to prioritize efforts to counter its military threat. – War on the Rocks 


Federal agencies would be financed for another month under bipartisan legislation approved by the House on Tuesday, the latest emblem of Congress’ persistent inability to finish its budget work on time. […]The bill also includes a measure that would keep the all-important Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program on track. – Associated Press 

Going beyond previous unmanned helicopters that featured “advanced autopilots” or “the beginning of autonomy,” a new DARPA experiment showed off a pilotless Black Hawk rigged to carry out an entire mission based on a commander’s goals. – Defense One 

The Marine Corps needs both the new Light Amphibious Warship and larger amphibious ships to achieve the future missions outlined in its new vision of expeditionary warfare, the Marine Corps Commandant said today. – USNI News 

The US Air Force could buy the first two aircraft to replace the E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control fleet as early as fiscal 2023, the service announced today. The service is now seeking information from industry about whether companies can deliver “at least two production representative prototype aircraft, including ground support and training systems, within five years starting in FY23,” when a contract is expected to be awarded, an Air Force solicitation states. – Breaking Defense 

Thomas Spoehr writes: The Army has the reputation of accepting any task and endeavoring to accomplish it with whatever means are provided. That is admirable, but the same attribute may lead it to understate the impact that current funding levels have on its ability to accomplish its missions. Congress owes the nation a full accounting of the readiness of its Army. – Heritage Foundation  

Maj. Alex Biegalski writes: The Air Force needs to act fast to counter Chinese capabilities but still provide critical and cost-effective air support for counter extremist operations. The teaming-capable light fighter is the key to doing both. The light fighter will free up resources and training burdens for fifth-generation fighters while also building trust and confidence with autonomous loyal wingman aircraft. – War on the Rocks