Fdd's overnight brief

January 10, 2022

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran on Saturday imposed sanctions on dozens more Americans, many of them from the U.S. military, over the 2020 killing of General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike. – Reuters 

Pieced together from reports issued by Iran , Canada , family members and the UN, this is the story of PS752’s demise, and the gaps, inconsistencies and mysteries that surround Tehran’s own account of it. Many of the loved ones believe the plane was shot down not by accident as Iran maintains but intentionally; even the most charitable outside analysis points to numerous holes in the official narrative. National Post 

Thousands of rocket launchers, machine guns, sniper rifles and other weapons seized in the Arabian Sea by the U.S. Navy in recent months likely originated from a single port in Iran, according to a confidential United Nations report that provides some of the most detailed evidence that Tehran is exporting arms to Yemen and elsewhere. – Wall Street Journal  

Iran on Saturday imposed sanctions on dozens more Americans, many of them from the U.S. military, over the 2020 killing of General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike. – Reuters  

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will visit China by the end of the week to discuss the 25-year cooperation agreement signed by the two countries, the spokesman of the foreign ministry told a news conference in Tehran on Monday. – Reuters  

Iran displayed three ballistic missiles at an outdoor prayer esplanade in central Tehran on Friday as talks in Vienna aimed at reviving Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers flounder. – Associated Press  

Iran said on Friday it was prepared to hold bilateral talks with concerned countries over a Ukrainian airliner downed by its forces in 2020, ignoring a joint statement on reparations made by Canada and other states whose citizens were killed. – Reuters   

The Taliban-led government in Afghanistan sent its foreign minister to Iran on January 8 to discuss Afghan refugees and a growing economic crisis. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty    

The spokesman for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said Saturday that Iran’s recent show of force in military drills was acting as a deterrent for Israel’s “empty threats” against Tehran. – Times of Israel  

Iran is sending its foreign minister to Oman, an issue that has raised eyebrows in Iran and the Gulf. – Jerusalem Post  

Iran denied a report that it had reached a two-year interim agreement with world powers on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post   

The White House on Sunday threatened Iran with “severe consequences” in the wake of recent escalations on the second anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force. – The Washington Times  

Finally on Jan. 11 Iran confessed that the plane had indeed been knocked from the sky by its own air defence forces. Dozens of the passengers they killed were at least joint Iranian citizens. Tehran insisted the missile firing had been a horrible mistake by low-level troops, a claim it has stuck to despite widespread skepticism. – National Post 

Ukraine is sharpening its accusation that Iran played a sinister role in the 2020 shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane over Tehran as the world marks the second anniversary of the tragedy. – Voice of America 

Iran’s imposition of “sanctions” on dozens of Americans amounts to an assassination threat against members of former President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a senior U.S. official who threatened “severe consequences” for any harm done to them. – Washington Examiner 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The context of the extensive Iranian diplomatic activity is that Iran has a lot on its agenda. It wants to increase ties with Russia and China, which it sees as rising powers that will replace the US. At the same time, it wants to repair ties with Saudi Arabia and work with the UAE and Turkey. It is also eyeing the Vienna talks and trips to Oman, to secure its finances, as well as looking to secure its borders by expanding influence into Iraq and Afghanistan. – Jerusalem Post   

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has not received any real condemnation for any of these attacks. It is treated as if it is normal for a country to kill crews on commercial tankers or fire missiles at other countries, with no repercussions. The extraordinary thing is that Iran’s actions are no longer unique. They are part of a wider system now in the region that Iran has exported to the above-mentioned four countries. – Jerusalem Post 

Salem Alketbi writes: On the other hand, the development of a common understanding or strategy between Israel and the US in dealing with the Iranian nuclear challenge is in Tehran’s interest. It provides a strong brake that will limit any Israeli attempt to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. This could encourage Iranian negotiators to push even harder in Vienna for the maximum possible US concessions. – Jerusalem Post  

Lyes Mauni Jalali writes: As it relates to Iran, a forward-looking foreign policy would see Iran as a Eurasian country, not a Middle Eastern one. China understands that Iran is a major regional power located at the crossroads of the Middle East and Central Asia—an area that is important to its BRI. The United States should avoid paralysis by analysis. The strategic context makes clear that time is of the essence, and if social tensions ratchet up once again, without prospects of a breakthrough with the West, Iran might just snuggle up to the dragon. – The National Interest 


The Taliban have arrested a Kabul university professor who gained national fame for berating a senior official on live television, a sign of the intensifying crackdown on critics of Afghanistan’s new regime. – Wall Street Journal  

When the Taliban took over Kabul in August and many Afghans were clamoring to flee, Russian political influencer and self-styled action man Maksim Shugalei swept in. He was on a mission to promote the Kremlin’s interests. Oh, and also to undercut the United States wherever possible. – Washington Post 

The Taliban appealed on Friday for emergency humanitarian aid without “political bias”, saying recent snow and flooding had worsened the plight of the Afghan people. – Agence France-Presse 

The nongovernmental organizations made up of veterans who have spent months working tirelessly to get vulnerable people out of Afghanistan are continuing their efforts in 2022 — even as people and resources are drying up. – Washington Examiner 

The growth of the Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, and al Qaeda in the months since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could result in both groups having the capacity to launch international attacks in a matter of months, officials said. – Washington Examiner 


A Palestinian delegation visiting Damascus on Sunday delivered a letter from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Syrian President Bashar Assad. – Jerusalem Post 

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Nicoson, the paratrooper who was accused of leading a patrol into an unnecessary gunfight in Syria before ordering troops to delete videos of the incident, was acquitted of all charges Friday evening after a court-martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. – Military Times 


Greece should refrain from testing Turkey’s patience with provocations, including with a threat to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean, Turkey’s defense minister warned on Saturday. – Associated Press 

Turkey’s unemployment rate stood at 11.2% in November, unchanged from a month earlier, while a seasonally adjusted measure of labour underutilisation fell 0.7 percentage points to 22.1%, data showed on Monday. – Reuters 

Zvi Bar’el writes: But Erdogan won’t be able to control the public’s reaction if it becomes clear that his economic plan is only worsening poverty. Of course, Turkey isn’t similar to other countries in the region where the people have taken to the streets over economic issues – and have even overthrown governments. But when a wave of protests begins, it’s hard to know where it will end. – Haaretz 


The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has accused radical Israeli groups of threatening the presence of Christians in the holy city, in remarks that Israeli officials rejected as baseless. – Reuters 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Saturday urged French President Emmanuel Macron to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear program. – Jerusalem Post  

Settlers threatened to bring down the government over Homesh as they held a protest with hundreds of activists outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post 

Dozens of gunmen on Friday night took to the streets of two refugee camps in the West Bank to protest against the Palestinian Authority following the violent arrest of the son of Zakari Zubeidi, a popular Fatah gunman held in Israeli prison. – Jerusalem Post   

A Palestinian suspect who allegedly collaborated with Israel’s Mossad spy agency in the 2018 assassination of Hamas operative Fadi Mohammed al-Batsh in Malaysia was arrested, the Gaza-ruling terror group’s Interior Ministry claimed on Sunday. – Algemeiner 


Iraq’s new parliament elected Sunni lawmaker Mohammed al-Halbousi as speaker on Sunday, marking an important step towards establishing a new government three months after a national election. – Reuters  

Iraq’s new parliament reelected its speaker for a second term Sunday, the first step toward forming a new government after a general election whose results have been contested by powerful Iran-backed factions. In a reflection of tensions, the meeting was marked by disarray, with the eldest member of Parliament who was leading the session being evacuated to the hospital apparently due to the stress. – Associated Press 

Crispin Smith and Hamdi Malik write: On January 7, 2022, Saraya Ababil (the “Ababil Companies” or “SA”) claimed responsibility for two drone attacks and one rocket attack on U.S. positions in Baghdad airport. […]It is likely that Saraya Ababil is linked to AAH. This conclusion is based on links between SA’s media channel and AAH content, and the lack of interest which KH channels showed in the SA attack claim (by comparison, the QJ claim was well publicized by KH channels). – Washington Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Egyptian authorities have freed Egyptian-Palestinian rights activist Ramy Shaath from more than 900 days of detention after forcing him to renounce his Egyptian nationality, his family said in a statement on Saturday. – Reuters

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived Sunday in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh for a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. – Times of Israel 

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen believes the use by Houthi forces of two ports as military bases would turn them into legitimate military targets, coalition spokesman Brigadier General Turki al-Malki said on Saturday. – Reuters 

Lebanon was hit by a nationwide blackout on Saturday night after protesters stormed a substation near the town of Aramoun, the Électricité du Liban (EDL) company announced. – Jerusalem Post 

Editorial: If they cannot reach detente — and provide their people with hope of decent lives — it is easy to see how Sunni radicals will exploit their failure. They will fan already prevalent perceptions that the US and Israel are sponsoring an alliance of what they see as heretical Shia and apostate Sunni strongmen, who have completed a return to dictatorial dominance after burying the hopes of the 2011 Arab uprisings. This is rich soil for a virulent jihadist comeback. – Financial Times 

Michael Starr writes: Given the credible threat and risk to Israeli shipping in the Red Sea, Israel should invest in minesweeping equipment and personnel, and consider training Israeli maritime security to fend off explosive boat attacks. Given that this is also a challenge for the Saudi coalition, it could be one they overcome together. – Jerusalem Post  

Amos Harel writes: Hezbollah, for its part, relies partly on combat doctrine and methods which the Radwan Unit learned when it fought shoulder to shoulder with Russian and Iranian instructors in the civil war in Syria. In that conflict, both sides also used drones to drop explosive devices and hand grenades from the air. Similar attempts were undertaken lately by Hamas against the IDF on the Gaza Strip border. Still, the main mission is intelligence gathering. – Haaretz 

Galip Dalay and Tarik Yousef write: To avoid a reversal in the ongoing de-escalation, international players should actively support regional actors through multilateral frameworks that solidify and make sustainable the benefits of cooperation over conflict. Initiatives like the Baghdad Conference for Co-operation and Partnership, held in August 2021 and with significant participation by regional leaders, should not be a one-off event.  – The National Interest 

Neville Teller writes: In a highly volatile situation, with parts of the agreement already coming unstuck, a statement on the election commission’s website indicates that the planned elections are being postponed way beyond January 24, 2022, the first date proposed. The committee is saying it has still to adopt a series of judicial and legal measures “before proceeding to the publication of the definitive list of candidates and the start of their electoral campaign.” – Jerusalem Post 

Korean Peninsula

South Korea dismissed North Korea’s claim to have recently launched a hypersonic missile as an exaggeration on Friday, saying it was a normal ballistic missile that could be intercepted. – Associated Press 

North Korea said on Thursday that it successfully launched a hypersonic missile earlier this week, marking the second such test since September. […]Nevertheless, experts have signaled skepticism over the maturity of Pyongyang’s hypersonic program. – The National Interest 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: If Pyongyang just successfully launched a hypersonic missile for the second time, it could be an immediate reason for the US and possibly Israel to worry about the technology ever finding its way to Iran. […] Kim’s latest missile test raises many questions without providing any clear answers. But whatever those answers, none of them are good news for the US or Israel. – Jerusalem Post  


China has much to lose should violence in Kazakhstan grind on or dissolve into civil war. For now, though, Beijing is largely sitting on the sidelines as Moscow, an ideological ally with which it shares many goals in Central Asia, handles the trickier task of suppressing dissent in their oil-rich neighbor. – Wall Street Journal  

China has spent billions of dollars in recent years trying to catch up to the world’s most advanced semiconductor makers. Two foundry projects, led in part by a little-known entrepreneur then in his 30s, help show why China has yet to succeed. – Wall Street Journal  

China has appointed a former paramilitary chief, Peng Jingtang, as the new commander of the People Liberation Army’s (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong, state broadcaster CCTV reported late on Sunday citing the PLA’s spokesman. – Reuters  

Lily Kuo writes: The boycott does not include athletes and is unlikely to derail the Games. Still, it is embarrassing for Beijing, which feted Western leaders like President George W. Bush at the 2008 Summer Olympics. The boycott also underlines growing unease felt by governments, as well as companies and public figures, in drawing too close to China. – Washington Post 

Christine McDaniel writes: Three trends are emerging for the new year. First, countries are increasingly flouting the longstanding international trade regime. Second, trade professional services are being unleashed by the pandemic’s remote-work revolution. Third, multinational corporations are walking an increasingly unsteady tightrope with China. – The Hill 

South Asia

Dubai ports giant DP World is set to build an inland port in Jammu and Kashmir as part of plans by the emirate to invest in the Indian territory, the head of the region said on Thursday. – Reuters   

Pakistani counterterrorism police killed six militants from the Islamic State group in an overnight raid at a hideout in the southwestern city of Quetta. – Associated Press 

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists asked Indian authorities to immediately release a journalist in disputed Kashmir, days after police arrested him for uploading a video clip of a protest against Indian rule. – Associated Press 

Authorities in northwest Pakistan say an officer from one of the country’s military forces has committed suicide after shooting dead at least three other Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan, although conflicting witness reports have surfaced from the site. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 


Myanmar’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty of three charges, the most recent verdict in a number of criminal cases brought against her by the country’s military junta that overthrew her government in a coup last year. – Wall Street Journal  

Russia sent fresh reinforcements into Kazakhstan on Sunday, deploying troops to help authorities reassert control in the country’s biggest cities following days of sometimes violent protests against its leadership. – Wall Street Journal  

With smoke choking the streets below him, a Taiwanese soldier took cover behind a second-story window and trained his assault rifle on a quartet of troops shuffling silently past an advertisement for red-bean shaved ice. – Wall Street Journal  

Kazakhstan government officials said Sunday that government buildings and institutions in all regions were back under state control after days of violence and bloodshed amid sweeping anti-government protests. – Washington Post  

Kazakhstan has detained a former top security official on suspicion of treason, authorities said Saturday, while the Central Asian country settled into an uneasy calm after days of violent clashes between protesters and security forces. – Washington Post  

Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa asked China to help restructure debt repayments as part of efforts to help the South Asian country weather a worsening financial crisis, his office said in a statement on Sunday. – Reuters  

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen did not seek to meet former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit to the country this week and will take “different approaches” to the crisis there, Cambodia’s foreign minister said on Saturday. – Reuters  

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Washington was seeking answers from Kazakhstan officials on why they needed to call in Russian-led security forces to resolve domestic unrest, and he denounced the government’s shoot-to-kill order. – Reuters 

Australia has agreed to a $3.5 billion deal with the U.S. to acquire more than 120 tanks and other armored vehicles to upgrade its military fleet, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. – The Hill 

Claire Parker and Mary Ilyushina write: Kazakhstan has traditionally balanced ties among Russia, China and the West. For Russia, the operation provided an opportunity to expand its influence in Kazakhstan and the region, Haring added. The operation also has strengthened Russia’s hand going into talks with the United States on Ukraine, she said. – Washington Post 

Joyu Wang writes: The string of recalls in Taiwan has led some political scientists to draw parallels with California, where an effort to remove incumbent Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom last year likewise prompted discussion about whether there is such a thing as too much direct democracy. – Wall Street Journal  

Max Fisher writes: Kazakhstan’s explosion into unrest this week presents a stark warning to the strongman autocrats of the world: Leaving office is perilous. […]Autocrats like Mr. Nazarbayev who stand alone at the top, as opposed to those who rule on behalf of a larger party apparatus as in Cuba or Vietnam, face a tricky challenge. They must strike a balance between all of their country’s internal factions, ruling elites, security services and military brass, guaranteeing each enough power and spoils to keep them bought in, but without letting any grow powerful enough to challenge them. – New York Times 

Gordon G. Chang writes: No one doubts Xi Jinping’s willingness to resist, but the Kazakh protests present a challenge he may not be able to handle. After all, the unrest could spread across the 1,060-mile China-Kazakh border into the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where ethnic Kazakhs live. […]Despite the rhetoric, it is not clear that Kazakh leaders are as brutal as the Chinese ones. Beijing is hoping they are, and Xi Jinping must be watching nervously. – The Hill 

Paul Roderick Gregory writes: Russian troops serving as “peacekeepers” in Kazakhstan can open up a new relationship between Russia and Kazakhstan. Not only will Russian troops be a presence in Kazakhstan — as in Belarus, Russian cadres will find their way into Kazakhstan’s media, business, and public affairs. If Russia gains political control over Kazakh energy, its share of world oil reserves increases by 40 percent, creating a behemoth equal to Kuwait. Kazakhstan accounts for 40 percent of world uranium production, a rather valuable asset for Russia’s treasure chest. – The Hill 

Carolyn Kissane writes: What’s happening across Kazakstan matters, not just for Central Asia’s regional stability but also for Europe and the United States. U.S. interest in the region waned in the early 2000s, however, the area is geostrategically important. Broader instability across the Central Asian states poses significant threats and high-risks, especially given the region’s proximity to Russia and China, as well as an already highly destabilized Afghanistan, which itself is a humanitarian and political disaster. – The Hill 

Stacie L. Pettyjohn writes: The situation in the Indo-Pacific is not hopeless and war is not inevitable, but the United States needs to take steps to enhance deterrence in the next five years before China believes that it can successfully invade Taiwan, while making long-term investments in future technologies that enable it to maintain its military-technological edge. – War on the Rocks 


As the Biden administration and U.S. allies begin contentious talks with Moscow this week, Western officials are eyeing significant financial punishments and targeted technology sanctions if Russia sends troops across the Ukrainian border, while likely avoiding the broadest energy and bank sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal  

The flood of Russian troops into Kazakhstan to help shore up the embattled government sends a clear signal to both the West and other former Soviet republics: Russian President Vladimir Putin will brook no threat to what he views as Russia’s inviolable sphere of influence. – Wall Street Journal 

When officials from Russia and the United States sit down in Geneva on Monday for high-profile discussions with another war in Europe on the line, hovering over the talks will be an American diplomat who will not even be in the room. – New York Times 

Russia said on Sunday it would not make concessions under U.S. pressure and warned that this week’s talks on the Ukraine crisis might end early, while Washington said no breakthroughs were expected and progress depended on de-escalation from Moscow. – Reuters  

With the fate of Ukraine and potentially broader post-Cold War European stability at stake, the United States and Russia are holding critical strategic talks that could shape the future of not only their relationship but the relationship between the U.S. and its NATO allies. Prospects are bleak. – Associated Press 

Even as Russian President Vladimir Putin masses troops near the Ukraine border and threatens action unless his demands from the West are met, there’s a potential positive glimmer emerging via the country’s state media. – Bloomberg  

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia rose on Saturday as the Kremlin delivered a strong rebuke to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who a day prior said, “it’s sometimes very difficult to get” Russians to leave “once [they] are in your house.” – The Hill 

Russian President Vladimir Putin might authorize a false flag operation against Ukraine to create a pretext for a military conflict, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. – Washington Examiner 

Editorial: Mr. Putin should be made to understand that invading Ukraine isn’t worth the price, above all for Russia, raising rivalry with the United States to dangerous levels, excluding Russia for good from European security forums, alienating much of the world and bringing untold misery down on the Russian economy. – New York Times 

Editorial: What the United States cannot do is allow Mr. Putin to win concessions at the point of a gun. In the — all-too-likely — event that he is not bargaining in good faith, and does invade Ukraine, President Biden will have to help that country defend itself, rally NATO and ensure that Russia pays a heavy price. – Washington Post 

Adam O’ Neal writes: For one thing, the Russian government today seems no more open about its decision making than its Soviet predecessor. […]Today Mr. Putin seeks an agreement that would limit the size and activities of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, effectively restoring Russian dominion over much of Central and Eastern Europe—a nonstarter for Washington and the alliance’s leadership. – Wall Street Journal  

Isabelle Khurshudyan writes: Arkady Dubnov, a Central Asia expert, says the former Soviet Union is undergoing “a midlife crisis.” With the passage of time, those former member countries have fostered stronger national identities with wide-ranging aims, some of which clash with Russia’s identity and aims. – Washington Post 

Robyn Dixon writes: Russia’s massing of troops and equipment near Ukraine twice over the past year has raised U.S. intelligence fears of an invasion, confronting President Biden with his most pressing security crisis. – Washington Post 

John Bolton writes: NATO must urgently develop a strategy for the non-NATO former Soviet states. It is insufficient to say we have no treaty obligation to defend them, which ignores strategic reality. Russia’s imperiling of their security will inevitably affect NATO. It is no surprise neutral Finland has unequivocally reaffirmed its sovereign right to decide on NATO membership, and Sweden is increasingly called on to do the same. – Wall Street Journal  

Anton Troianovski and David E. Sanger write: Privately, American officials have little hope that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would be satisfied with agreements that restore the status quo of a few years ago. And their concern is that the Russians will emerge from the Geneva talks, and others this week in Brussels and Vienna, declaring that diplomacy has failed — and that Mr. Putin will attempt to seize more of Eastern Ukraine, or carry out cyber or other attacks to cripple the government in Kyiv. – New York Times 

Dan Bilefsky writes: An unpredictable Russian president amassing thousands of troops on the border of a neighboring country, Ukraine. The threat of invasion. A possible bloody conflagration between East and West. […]Europe has important trade ties with Russia, and would stand to lose far more than the U.S. from sanctions imposed after a Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is also dependent on Russian gas supplies, a weakness that Mr. Putin has exploited in past disputes. – New York Times 

David E. Sanger writes: The worry among officials is that Russia is going through the motions of this week’s diplomacy only to declare that its concerns have not been addressed — and that Mr. Putin will attempt to seize more of Eastern Ukraine, or carry out cyber or other attacks to cripple the government in Kyiv. – New York Times 

Tom Rogan writes: When former President Donald Trump attempted to shake down Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Senate Democrats rightly reacted with outrage. Trump, they credibly explained, was putting his personal political interests before the nation’s strategic interest. […]Let’s not hear any more about how Democrats are tough on Putin. It’s clear that the vast majority, at least in Congress, are not. Indeed, one might even say they are indirectly colluding with Putin’s energy strategy. – Washington Examiner 

Herman Pirchner Jr. Writes: Furthermore, Western threats to further destabilize Russia’s already-limping economy must be taken seriously in Moscow. The effect these economic measures will have is more significant than generally understood. Collectively, Russia’s super rich are central to Putin’s hold on power. These oligarchs already find it difficult to spend their hard-stolen money or run legal ventures in Western countries, where most have their second and third palatial homes. They are not happy now, and will be even less so if their preferred European lifestyles are further curtailed. – Newsweek 


NATO foreign ministers met virtually on Friday to prepare their responses to Russia’s ongoing military buildup near Ukraine amid general skepticism about Moscow’s willingness to de-escalate and negotiate in earnest. – New York Times 

Bosnian Serbs held public celebrations to mark their autonomous Serb Republic’s national holiday with armed police forces parade on Sunday, defying a top court’s ban of the commemoration and U.S. sanctions slapped this week on their leader Milorad Dodik. – Reuters  

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Friday expressed strong U.S. support for Lithuania and the European Union in the face of “economic coercion” from China during a call with EU Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, USTR said in a statement. – Reuters  

The United Kingdom is ready to take unilateral action that would suspend customs checks on goods moving to Northern Ireland, foreign minister Liz Truss said ahead of talks with the European Union. – Reuters  

On the frontlines of eastern Ukraine where Kyiv’s army has been fighting a prolonged war with pro-Kremlin separatists, Ukrainian soldiers are doubtful that upcoming Russia-US talks will bring forward change. – Agence France-Presse 

Concern among some big European nations about economic fallout raises the risk of a split with the U.S. on how strongly to hit Russia with fresh sanctions if it invades Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg  

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday said the military alliance will not stop its expansion across Europe, denying demands from Russia amid the ongoing security saga with Ukraine.  – The Hill 

Next week may see one of the most significant and defining moments in relations between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union. – BBC  

President Joe Biden is “not weighing cuts” to the American troop presence in Europe, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s team. – Washington Examiner  

Editorial: No one wants a Russian invasion, but worse than a new war in Ukraine would be to let Mr. Putin intimidate NATO into a retreat from Eastern Europe in order to avoid an invasion in the short term. Mr. Putin would pocket that concession, use it to shore up his standing at home, and wait for the next opening to look for more. Would the Baltic states be next? An invasion of Ukraine would be a tragedy for that country, but letting Mr. Putin dictate Western security terms would be worse for everyone. – Wall Street Journal   

Stefano Graziosi and James Jay Carafano write: For the West, there is only one right answer: strong support for Ukraine, immediately revitalizing and expanding NATO’s defensive capacity, and rapidly building up European energy security. Putin fears and respects strength. He exploits weakness. Europe must cease its dithering and give him what he fears, not what he wants. – The National Interest 


Ethiopia’s government said Friday it would release several prominent political prisoners, including members of the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front, as a step toward peacefully resolving the country’s civil war, now in its fifteenth month. – New York Times 

A second protester in Sudan has died after being hit in the head with a tear gas canister in anti-military rule protests, medics said on Monday. – Reuters  

A leading Sudanese protest group on Sunday rejected a United Nations initiative to hold talks with the military aimed at restoring the country’s democratic transition following an October coup. At least one demonstrator, meanwhile, was killed when security forces violently broke up anti-coup protests in the capital, activists said. – Associated Press 

Nigeria said Sunday that gunmen killed at least 200 people and displaced thousands more in multiple raids in the northwest over the last week, dealing a heavy blow to authorities struggling to restore order. – Agence France-Presse 

Mali’s military regime on Monday strongly condemned West African sanctions including border closures and a trade embargo over delays to a return to civilian rule, saying regional leaders were allowing themselves to be “exploited” by foreign powers. – Agence France-Presse 

Tigrayan rebels claimed Saturday that dozens of people had been killed in a drone strike on a camp for civilians displaced by the brutal war in northern Ethiopia. – Agence France-Presse 

Thirteen civilians have been killed in separate attacks in northern Burkina Faso, a region battling a six-year-old jihadist insurgency, local sources said on Friday. – Agence France-Presse 

The Biden administration is not pushing for countries in Africa to choose between a relationship with the U.S. or China, the State Department said on Thursday in response to reports that Beijing was appointing its own special envoy for the imperiled region of the Horn of Africa. – The Hill  

Michael Rubin writes: Perhaps the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria misled Blinken, or the secretary of state believes fostering cooperation trumps human rights. Either way, Foggy Bottom’s strategy has failed. Rather than increase U.S. leverage or foster respect for human rights and religious freedom, Blinken’s actions have convinced Buhari that he can act with impunity. In effect, Blinken signaled open season on southeastern Nigeria’s Christians. – Washington Examiner 

The Americas

Security forces in the Dominican Republic arrested a former Drug Enforcement Administration informant and convicted drug trafficker who is a key suspect in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, senior Dominican and Haitian officials said Saturday. – Wall Street Journal  

A Venezuelan opposition candidate on Sunday won an election for governor of Barinas state, the birth place of the late former leader Hugo Chavez, bringing an end to 22 years of Socialist party rule there. – Reuters  

Colombia’s leftist rebel National Liberation Army (ELN) on Saturday claimed responsibility for an attack in the country’s third-largest city, Cali, that injured more than a dozen police officers. – Reuters    

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Impoverished, underdeveloped El Salvador signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract in March with the Washington law firm Arnold & Porter. […]The trouble is that while the former American diplomat has been breaking a sweat for the cause on the D.C. lunch and cocktail circuit, Mr. Bukele has been courting China and playing footsie with transnational criminal organizations. – Wall Street Journal 

Eric Farnsworth writes: Latin America is in trouble, and the region needs help. Democracy itself is at risk unless it can deliver improving results to meet the needs of a majority of people across the region. China is betting it can’t, and is ready with an alternative. People are questioning everything, including political systems, values, and alliances. Unless the United States is newly prepared to contend for the Americas, strategic interests are at risk. Recognition of the strategic importance of the hemisphere would be the first step. Beijing gets it. Does Washington? – The National Interest 


The federal government on Friday warned the public about the risks of commercial surveillance tools that have been used to spy on journalists and political dissidents by infecting their phones with malware. – New York Times  

Intel Corp. removed references to the Chinese region of Xinjiang from an open letter it sent suppliers last month, after the contents of the note sparked a social-media uproar in China and led the U.S. semiconductor company to apologize to the Chinese public. – Wall Street Journal 

India’s competition watchdog on Friday ordered an investigation into Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) following allegations from news publishers, saying its initial view was that the tech giant had broken some antitrust laws. – Reuters 


The U.S. Space Force has yet to launch all of the GPS III satellites at its disposal, but work on new, more powerful versions is already underway. New GPS III Follow-on satellites — or GPS IIIF for short — will continue to improve the constellation’s accuracy and protection against jamming. – Defense News  

The U.S. left two decades of combat in Afghanistan with a last-minute evacuation as the Taliban returned to power in August. Cue the air war’s next phase. – Defense News  

February will be a critical month not only for next year’s defense spending plans, but also for the current fiscal year budget as well. – Defense News 

 The Army hasn’t yet decided which of two competitors will build the Army and Marine Corps replacement for the M4, M16 and M249 yet, but on Friday, they announced who’ll be making the advanced optic to go on top of the Next Generation Squad Weapon. – Military Times