Fdd's overnight brief

February 9, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is taking a leading role in aid delivery to government-held parts of northern Syria hit by the earthquakes, underscoring the politicization of international assistance to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. – Wall Street Journal

Following revelations that Iranian-made drones used by Russia in Ukraine contained parts manufactured in the U.S., a bipartisan group of more than 60 lawmakers is urging the Biden administration to “develop a coordinated, whole-of-government approach” to cracking down on Iran’s supply chains. – Jewish Insider

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps on Wednesday displayed an apparent ballistic missile with the words “Death to Israel” emblazoned in Hebrew down the side, at an exhibition in the central city of Isfahan. – Times of Israel 

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen spoke yesterday with his Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts about the importance of the EU designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, and stopping Iran’s nuclear program, the Foreign Ministry says. – Times of Israel  

President Joe Biden didn’t reference Iran once in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, prompting outcry from analysts who warned that the Iranian regime is too great a threat not to mention. – Fox News

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards raped two women in an attack covered up by state prosecutors, according to an internal judicial document seen by the Guardian. – The Guardian   

A prominent Iranian human rights lawyer has told CNN that while a brutal state crackdown has succeeded in quieting the demonstrations that gripped the country for months, many Iranians still want regime change. – CNN

Russia & Ukraine

Ukrainian artillery fire mangled the platoon of Russian soldiers advancing on this besieged city. Guided by a live video feed from an aerial drone, the guns cut down the first group of 20, a reconnaissance officer recalled. Then a further group of 20 were knocked out, followed by 10 more. – Wall Street Journal

Valentyn Lymarenko and his infantry unit have already been seasoned by a year of combat, but they are grunting through exercises in this snowy trench to prepare for the next phase of fighting: a much-anticipated Russian offensive. – Washington Post 

In his second trip abroad since the Russian invasion of his country almost a year ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday urged Britain to deliver warplanes to ensure a victory that would “change the world.” Washington Post 

Dutch prosecutors said Wednesday that it was likely that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a decision to supply long-range antiaircraft missiles systems to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine before they shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew members. – Washington Post 

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that demands from the United States to resume inspections under the New START nuclear arms control treaty were “cynical” given Washington’s support for Ukraine. – Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday it was clear almost a year on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that Moscow would not win and assured the war-torn country its future was in the EU. – Agence France-Presse

Group of Seven member states are discussing whether to sanction companies in China, Iran and North Korea they believe are providing Russia with parts and technology that have military purposes, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg 

The United Arab Emirates has approved a licence for Russia’s MTS Bank, a move that risks exacerbating concerns among western nations over the emergence of the Gulf state as a potential financial haven for Moscow. – Financial Times 

A new information-stealing malware named Graphiron is being used against a wide range of targets in Ukraine, according to new research. – The Record

Russia’s expectation that it would occupy Kyiv and overthrow the Ukrainian government during the first few weeks of the invasion last February may have caused the Kremlin initially to forgo cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, according to the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service. – The Record


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government has sought to restore the country’s frayed ties with Poland, including the resumption of high school educational trips to concentration camps in the country. – Jerusalem Post 

Over 50 leading economists at US universities penned an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday warning the premier that his government’s efforts to significantly weaken Israel’s judiciary would be “detrimental” to prospects for economic growth. – Times of Israel

The International Court of Justice on Wednesday announced the timeline for the start of its probe into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, indicating that the process harshly opposed by Israel is moving forward apace. – Times of Israel 

As their party continues to combat antisemitism within its ranks, a group of Labour Party lawmakers embarked on a five-day visit to Israel this week to reaffirm the left-wing opposition party’s traditional support for the Jewish state. – Times of Israel 

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman has promised to get tough on Islamist antisemitism in the country after a report found the government’s counter-radicalization strategy was a failure and had left British Jews vulnerable to supporters of terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. – Arutz Sheva 

A Hamas delegation led by the Palestinian terror organization’s chief, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo on Wednesday evening for talks with Egypt and other Palestinian factions on the recent escalation of violence with Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. – Jerusalem Post

Ben-Dror Yemini writes: Netanyahu, on his part, promised that there would be changes made to Levine’s proposed plan and that there will be no damage to Israel’s democracy.  But we are still in a fog. It is unclear what changes Netanyahu was referring to and much of the public does not believe his promises. Until now, Israel’s democracy has been stronger than politics. But for that to remain the case, the protests must continue. In the meantime, the debate itself is part of the democratic process but it is heating up.  The coming weeks will prove critical.  To be continued. – Ynet

Salem Al Ketbi writes: It seems clear that the US is seeking strong communication with their Israeli ally to avoid a new crisis in the Middle East. Washington cannot stand idly by when Israel’s security is put at risk, regardless of the level of understanding between the two governments. Despite whatever disagreements there may be with the current Israeli government, Washington’s strategic commitment to Israel remains unswerving. – Jerusalem Post 

Nadav Tamir writes: Due to its aggressive statements and the revolution it is promoting, the Netanyahu government has lost what credit it had with the US administration. The US will no longer let policies slide that it overlooked under previous governments. Israel no longer needs to approve construction in the strategically sensitive E1 area of the West Bank to earn a stinging US rebuke. The bar will be much lower as the government accelerates like a driverless train toward a head-on collision with the Biden White House. – Jerusalem Post


When the Biden administration seized $7 billion of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves two years ago, it set aside half for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, and deposited the rest in a Swiss-based fund that it said would benefit the Afghan people. – Wall Street Journal

Islamic State militants have threatened to target Chinese, Indian, and Iranian embassies in Afghanistan in an effort to isolate the Taliban from a handful of countries it counts as diplomatic allies. – Bloomberg

The Taliban imposed fresh restrictions on people carrying foreign currency out of Afghanistan via a rare directive from the prime minister’s office after a report that millions of dollars were being smuggled in each day from Pakistan, shoring up its battered economy. – Bloomberg


The U.S.’s longstanding refusal to engage with Syria’s government, along with limited access to areas hit by catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, has raised fears that Syrian victims could be denied lifesaving aid. – Wall Street Journal

President Bashar al-Assad is seeking political advantage from an earthquake that has devastated large parts of Syria and Turkey, pressing for foreign aid to be delivered through his territory as he aims to chip away at his international isolation, analysts say. – Reuters

Syria has, for the first time, asked for assistance from the European Union, two days after a devastating earthquake killed more than 11,000 people there and in neighbouring Turkey, the European Commission said on Wednesday. – Reuters


The death toll in Turkey and Syria from powerful earthquakes surged Wednesday to more than 15,400 people as rescue teams’ hopes diminished and bad weather left survivors stranded in freezing temperatures. – Wall Street Journal

Criticism of Turkey’s earthquake response mounted on Wednesday, with the political opposition and people in the disaster zone accusing the government of a tardy and inadequate relief effort. – Reuters

Access to Twitter in Turkey has been restored, the Netblocks internet observatory said on Thursday, following talks between the company and Turkish authorities about content posted after a major earthquake this week. – Reuters

A large Israel Defense Forces aid delegation landed in southeastern Turkey on Wednesday afternoon to establish a field hospital to treat victims of the devastating earthquake that has killed thousands of people, the military said. – Times of Israel

Gulf States

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s widow has asked the U.S. government and United Nations to intervene and help her recover her husband’s electronic devices from the Turkish government so she can take legal action before the statute of limitations runs out later this year, according to letters, papers and other details about her efforts shared with NBC News. – NBC

Will Wischeler writes: These three countries, together with the United States, should together issue a joint “Vision 2040 for Integrated Gulf Security,” laying out an ambitious path ahead toward a fully interdependent system of air and missile defenses and far greater multilateral cooperation within the established maritime security structures. With such a joint vision guiding the way, there will be no more questions about America’s withdrawal and Gulf hedging, and U.S. and partner vital interests will be increasingly secure—on a much more sustainable basis. – The National Interest

John Hannah & Joel Rayburn write: Constantly worried about Iraq’s stability, U.S. officials generally looked the other way rather than risk throwing Iraq into crisis by limiting access to its enormous dollar reserves. But the price has been high. Iraq is today one of the world’s most corrupt countries, its people impoverished. And tens of billions of dollars have flowed to Iran, financing the malign behaviors of one of America’s most dangerous adversaries. […]As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. This time when Allaq comes calling, Washington should hold the line until it knows for certain the IRGC’s Iraqi lifeline has been cut for good. – Washington Examiner

Middle East & North Africa

A former Libyan intelligence operative pleaded not guilty Wednesday to assembling the explosives used in the 1988 bombing of an American jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people in one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history. – Washington Post 

In an article in the Emirati daily Al-Arab, Lebanese columnist Khairallah Khairallah discusses the deep crisis Lebanon is experiencing and states that 2022 was one of the hardest years in its history. The Arabs, he adds, regard Lebanon as a failed state and an Iranian base hostile to all the countries in the region. The world likewise ascribes no importance to Lebanon, says Khairallah, seeing it as a country that is effectively ruled by Hizbullah. He states that Lebanon’s tragedy will only end when Iran’s Rule of the Jurisprudent regime ceases to exist and the region undergoes a profound transformation. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Eric Feely writes: Although the Middle East has been an important part of presidential State of the Union addresses in the past, America’s latest political turmoil at home and ongoing shift toward great power competition abroad have seemingly relegated regional issues to other forums. Most recently, President Biden’s February 7 speech did not mention Middle East issues at all apart from indirect references to oil prices (see below) and one passing mention of terrorism. The following is a selection of statements on key regional issues by Presidents Obama, Trump, and Biden. – Washington Institute

North Korea staged a widely anticipated military parade to mark an army anniversary on Wednesday night, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, with a display expected to include the reclusive country’s latest weapons. – Reuters

Nuclear-armed North Korea showcased its missile production muscle during a nighttime parade, state media reported on Thursday, displaying more intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) than ever before and hinting at a new solid-fuel weapon. – Reuters

North Korea has just revealed a large enough number of missiles to conceivably overwhelm the United States’ defense against them, blowing a hole in decades of denuclearization and homeland security policies. – Politico


China has operated a fleet of high-altitude balloons, like the one shot down by the Air Force, to carry out surveillance on five continents, the Biden administration said, as it tries to bring international attention to the scope of Beijing’s program. – Wall Street Journal

American intelligence agencies have assessed that China’s spy balloon program is part of a global surveillance effort that is designed to collect information on the military capabilities of countries around the world, according to three American officials. – New York Times 

The United States, Britain and Australia carried out joint air drills on Wednesday over the Nevada desert and beyond as part of an effort to simulate high-end combat operations against Chinese fighter aircraft and air defenses. – Reuters

The Chinese balloon shot down off the South Carolina coast was part of a large surveillance program that China has been conducting for “several years,” the Pentagon said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

The Chinese balloon that traversed the United States before being shot down last weekend captivated public attention and drew sharp denunciations as a brazen spying effort. – Associated Press

Near the banks of Montana’s Musselshell River, cattle rancher Michael Miller saw a large, white orb above the town of Harlowton last week, a day before U.S. officials revealed they were tracking a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the state. The balloon caused a stir in the 900-person town surrounded by cattle ranches, wind farms and scattered nuclear missile silos behind chain link fences.- Associated Press

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Wednesday that she still hoped to visit China but offered no details on plans or timing. – Reuters

The Australian government will examine surveillance technology used in offices of the defence department, Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Thursday, amid reports that Chinese-made cameras installed there posed a security risk. – Reuters

Four previous Chinese spy balloon flights over the United States passed over sites that would be of interest to Beijing, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, without elaborating on whether they passed over military bases. – Reuters

U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday the United States has shared information it has obtained about China’s spy balloon with dozens of countries around the world. – Reuters

China declined a request for a phone call between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe after Washington brought down a Chinese spy balloon, a Pentagon spokesperson said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The “news broadcasters” appear stunningly real, but they are AI-generated deepfakes in first-of-their-kind propaganda videos that a research report published Tuesday attributed to Chinese state-aligned actors. – Agence France-Presse

The Biden administration is working on declassifying U.S. intelligence that includes details of China’s flying surveillance balloons above dozens of other countries around the world, according to three administration officials. – NBC

The U.S. military failed to detect at least three Chinese spy balloon flights over the United States in recent years but that does not represent an intelligence failure, the Pentagon said Wednesday. – NBC

President Joe Biden has warned that the US will protect itself if China threatens its sovereignty as he used a joint address to Congress to deliver a defiant message to Beijing and defend his economic record in the White House. – Financial Times 

On December 22, 2022, a video was posted to the Chinese Haokan video platform in which an unnamed Chinese academic presented as an associate professor of transportation engineering and a special researcher at Huaqiao University said that China has been developing high-altitude blimp-based reconnaissance and surveillance systems for “a long time.” He said that the 30,000-meter flight ceiling of unmanned reconnaissance airships protects them from modern air defense systems, that they can serve as a highly effective “eye in the sky,” and that they can be particularly useful in detecting stealth aircraft, which are most easily detected from above. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Editorial: The Administration may fear a public airing of the spy balloon fleet could inflame Beijing and preclude a calmer relationship. But the opposite may be true. The real worry should be that the incident blows over without consequences and China’s war hawks conclude that such provocations are manageable risks. The Biden crowd is no doubt eager to move on from the balloon affair, but the stakes are larger than their own embarrassment. Let’s show the world the truth about how China thinks it can act with impunity. – Wall Street Journal

Rebecca Grant writes: Biden has kept the same national security team in place so he must think they are doing a great job. I can’t agree. Apparently, China would not pick up the phone when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tried to call after the spy balloon shoot-down. That is dangerous, given that the U.S. has spent years trying to cultivate military dialogue with China to keep lines of communication open in case of a crisis. By the way, China now has more land-based nuclear missiles than the U.S. United States Strategic Command just notified Congress of that frightening fact. – Fox News

Ronald A. Marks writes: The fact is these balloons and attached instruments weigh tons. They are also toxic little suckers, filled with all kinds of chemicals to keep them from freezing, steer them around, etc. And when things fall from 90,000 feet, it’s not like a cartoon splat. You get a debris field, sometimes for miles. Objects augur into the ground. Houses and people can get hit. That takes a long time to re-assemble. Think Pan Am 103 at Lockerbie, Scotland. So, popping the balloon over the ocean was likely the best solution possible. Sadly, the experience of the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion showed that an ocean recovery allows you to contain the site better and collect the debris with less damage. – The Hill

Jeremy Hurewitz writes: In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Biden must make clear that we are in a new era of U.S.-China relations. Going forward we can no longer give up long-term U.S. security interests for the sake of quarterly profits or naïve assumptions of China liberalizing as it develops. The president must make clear that China will not be allowed to violate U.S. sovereignty in airspace or cyberspace without a U.S. response to such actions. – The Hill

Heino Klinck writes: If realized, this CCP strategic objective will come at the expense of liberal democratic ideals, not to mention the legitimate national security interests of most countries in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. The United States should prioritize collaboration and cooperation with its allies, partners, and like-minded countries worldwide to thwart China’s aggression in all domains. The Biden Administration has made some progress in this regard recently. However, before the U.S. secretary of state unintentionally assumes the role of an ardent suitor willing to engage China on its terms, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure a “floor” in the relationship is actually built on solid ground and not the illusion of possible Chinese cooperation. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Scott Kennedy writes: Just as there will certainly be another pandemic and growing tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in the future, there will also be other trials and tribulations akin to this balloon incident. The United States needs to be prepared to handle all kinds of challenges and taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. That requires an ability to simultaneously spotlight Chinese misdeeds and sit across from them at the negotiating table. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

South Asia

Pakistan’s navy said on Wednesday it will host 50 countries for regular maritime exercises that are held every two years involving ships, aircraft and special operation forces from Feb. 10-14. – Reuters

Pakistan is optimistic its nearing an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to resume a $6.5 billion bailout package, a funding that will alleviate distress in a nation facing severe shortage and soaring inflation. – Bloomberg

Simon Henderson writes: With former prime minister Imran Khan actively trying to undermine the present government of Shehbaz Sharif — whose brother Nawaz was overthrown in Musharraf’s initial 1999 coup — it can be difficult to work out Pakistan’s imminent future. […]One hope may be that Saudi Arabia will write an even larger check than currently half-promised.  At best that would be a temporary solution. Musharraf’s life story encapsulates Pakistan’s struggle to relate to the U.S. and stop the nation from spiraling downward. – The Hill


Japan may opt for milder restrictions on chip production machinery sales in China than those implemented by the United States even though they agree on export curbs, an influential Japanese ruling party lawmaker told Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters

American forces and their allies in Asia are ready for battle after years of joint combat exercises, a United States general said Wednesday, adding that Russia’s setbacks in Ukraine should serve as a warning to potential Asian aggressors like China and North Korea. – Associated Press

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. are expected to sign key agreements to boost their defense ties Thursday as Asia sees tensions around China’s growing influence. – Associated Press   

Once-secret ammunition bunkers and barracks lay abandoned, empty and overrun by weeds — vestiges of American firepower in what used to be the United States’ largest overseas naval base at Subic Bay in the northern Philippines. – Associated Press

Indonesian security forces searched Wednesday for a pilot from New Zealand who was taken hostage by separatist rebels in restive Papua province. – Associated Press  

Myanmar’s military-led government, working with Russia’s state atomic energy company, has inaugurated a nuclear power information center as a step toward developing atomic power to fill energy shortages in the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation. – Associated Press 

Sixteen pro-democracy figures are on trial in Hong Kong, in the largest prosecution to date under a national security law that critics say has all but eliminated dissent in the Chinese territory. – NBC


President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made a surprise visit to Britain on Wednesday morning, welcomed with a hug at Stansted Airport by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who announced plans to expand British military support for Ukraine to include training its pilots in NATO fighter jets. – New York Times

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a UNESCO peace prize Wednesday for her decision to welcome more than 1.2 million migrants to Germany despite resistance at home and among European partners. – Associated Press  

A new row has erupted between France, Germany and Spain over nuclear energy, with Paris furious about a lack of support from Berlin and Madrid for its efforts to have nuclear-derived hydrogen labelled as ‘green’ in EU legislation, sources said. – Reuters

Poland summoned the Belarusian charge d’affaires on Wednesday, a foreign ministry spokesman said, after a journalist of Polish origin was sentenced to eight years in prison in what Warsaw says was a politically motivated verdict. – Reuters

The Swedish domestic security agency warned Wednesday that the threat of attacks in the Scandinavian country has increased in the weeks since a far-right activist burned a Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. – Associated Press 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to attend an EU summit in Brussels Thursday as the guest of honour where he will press allies to deliver fighter jets “as soon as possible” in the war against Russia. – Agence France-Presse 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has committed to training Ukrainian combat jet pilots, according to a statement made ahead of a Feb. 8 visit to London by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. – Defense News 

The president of SpaceX said today that the Ukraine military’s use of the Starlink broadband system for tactical communications has moved beyond the scope of company’s intention in providing the service. – Defense News

Therese Raphael writes: That wasn’t to call this the war to end all wars. Evil is part of the human condition, he acknowledged and other wars would happen. But, he told lawmakers, “it is in the power of our words and deeds to ensure that the light side of human nature prevails.” In pure national interest terms, a Ukrainian victory would put the UK in a position to benefit economically from increased trade and a role in reconstruction. And it would substantially improve the UK’s international standing. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: Yet when Donald Trump came along, many European politicians were shocked. It shouldn’t be surprising that they are now shocked Zelensky doesn’t trust them as much as he trusts the U.K. Humility is not a popular word in Brussels and Strasbourg. – Washington Examiner

Ivanna Kuz and Julian Wieczorkiewicz write: European policymakers should explore Ukraine’s untapped storage potential. When Russia’s war of aggression ends, Ukraine has the capacity to become a leading European gas hub, and tapping into its UGS potential should be a priority during the country’s post-war reconstruction. Europe would mitigate its own supply issues, further reducing the need for Russian gas, while investing in the reconstruction and modernization of Ukraine. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Eight people were killed and 28 wounded when protesters in east Congo’s North-Kivu province blocked and then set upon a convoy of United Nations peacekeepers on Tuesday, resulting in clashes, the provincial government said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Eritrea has punished the family members of thousands of alleged draft evaders during a conscription drive intended to bolster its military campaign in neighbouring Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. – Reuters

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has suspended its operations in an area of northwest Burkina Faso where armed assailants killed two of its employees on Wednesday, the medical charity said in a statement. – Reuters

An urgent fight is underway in Somalia against one of the world’s biggest terror threats, as U.S. forces train Somali troops in combat to target al-Shabab, the Al Qaeda subsidiary responsible for deadly attacks across Africa. NBC News’ Courtney Kube has exclusive access with U.S. forces. – NBC 

Michael Rubin writes: What should most concern American policymakers, however, is the possibility that the Wagner Group is not working alone. Too often, U.S. analysts pigeonhole the Wagner Group problem and the China threat. But what if the contracts Wagner seeks from corrupt leaders are meant as proxies for Chinese interests? The U.S. reacts with panic when China seeks to upgrade ports and build possible navy bases on the Atlantic Ocean, but what if Wagner-tied businesses won those contracts and simply upgraded ports to Chinese specifications? If this is not yet a concern in Washington, it is only because diplomats are not escaping embassy compounds or capital cities because it is certainly a concern among those seeking a better future in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast. – Washington Examiner

Latin America

Paraguay’s president, Mario Abdo, will visit Taiwan next week as the island seeks to shore up ties with one of its oldest allies ahead of an election in April that could see the Latin American country ditch Taipei in favour of Beijing. – Reuters

France’s foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday in a visit resetting relations following a feud between the two countries’ presidents in 2019. – Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Wednesday on two members of the international criminal gang MS-13, accusing them of involvement in drug trafficking and murder in Central America and the United States. – Reuters

European bishops on Wednesday demanded the immediate release of Nicaraguan clergy detained in the government’s crackdown on the Catholic Church, saying they have been falsely accused and are being subjected to unjust persecution. – Associated Press 

The attorneys general for 21 states sent a letter to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday to ask the administration to declare Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. – The Hill

Eduardo Porter writes: But there’s more. In the end, Brazil and the US share an imperative: Lula must do what he can to ensure that Bolsonaro fades into insignificance. Biden must do the same with Donald Trump. If they succeed, they will have sent a powerful message to a hemisphere in which democracy is only barely hanging in there: that democracy can, indeed, recover and endure. – Bloomberg

United States

A Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist has alleged that the United States government was behind the destruction of three of the four Nord Stream pipelines last September, describing the planning and execution of the pipelines’ sabotage in vivid detail. – Arutz Sheva

David Fickling writes: If the US and Europe want to catch up with Asia on reactor deployment, they’d do well to learn that lesson. The real enemy of atomic power is not wind and solar, but volatile markets that lack a carbon price and expect generators to be built by the private sector. SMRs promise a form of nuclear energy that can mesh with the regulatory and financial setup of existing grids. Like so many other revolutionary approaches to fission power, that promise is likely to prove illusory. To maintain this vital source of zero-carbon energy, Western governments need to face up to that, and commit to the harder challenges of making conventional nuclear power work. – Bloomberg

August Pfluger writes: This inaction not only presents a significant threat to the homeland, but most importantly, plays into the Chinese Communist Party’s narrative that Biden, and by extension our nation, is nothing more than a paper tiger. The president’s weakness signals to the rest of the world that our borders — whether airspace, land, or cyberspace — are fully open, and we will not take action to defend ourselves. For the sake of our country, Biden needs to reassert American strength on the world stage. He should draw on the rich legacy of American dominance in airpower and find the political will to stand up for this country and secure all of our borders. – Fox News

Noah Rothman writes: From Biden’s new plan to ensure that “all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects” are made in America (which will only compound the cost of federal construction and the billion of dollars in delayed repairs to civilian agencies), to the misleading claim that his administration oversaw the creation of 12 million new jobs (to which the White House is married, fact-checks notwithstanding), Republicans have every reason to be irked. Indeed, in some parts of the speech, provoking Republicans seemed to be the desired effect. Republican lawmakers should have enough self-control to avoid taking Biden’s bait. But the president’s “unity agenda” is just that—bait. – Commentary Magazine


The new head of Army Futures Command has shifted the organization’s focus from delivering a modernized force by 2030 to designing the Army of 2040, he said Feb. 8 at an Association of the U.S. Army breakfast. – Defense News

The U.S. Navy is considering how best to equip ships and sailors to take advantage of fleetwide connectivity that Project Overmatch will provide. At the heart of this is the Integrated Combat System, a single hardware-agnostic software suite that all ships can pull from to conduct missions alone or in a group. – Defense News  

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to reimagine how the U.S. military fights, including across the electromagnetic spectrum, and is looking to Ukraine for clues. – Defense News

US Navy (USN) officials say they are now gaining understanding of the operational flexibility of their littoral combat ship (LCS) fleet, even as the service plans to cut LCS anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions, decommission several of the ships, and address testing needs recently identified by the Pentagon Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). – Janes