Fdd's overnight brief

January 11, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran has sentenced a Belgian aid worker to a lengthy prison term and 74 lashes after convicting him of espionage in a closed-door trial, state media reported Tuesday. – Associated Press

France’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it had not ruled out the idea that the European Union designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, a day after Germany said the move would be politically important and make sense. – Reuters

Iran’s hanging of protesters — and display of their lifeless bodies suspended from cranes — seems to have instilled enough fear to keep people off the streets after months of anti-government unrest. – Reuters

German exports to Iran rose last year, according to data seen by Reuters, despite Western condemnation of Tehran’s months-long crackdown against protests. – Reuters

The U.N. human rights chief said that the death penalty was being weaponised by Iran’s government to strike fear into the population and stamp out dissent, saying the executions amounted to “state sanctioned killing”. – Reuters

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Monday told reporters that Iran may be “contributing to widespread war crimes” in Ukraine, a shift in rhetoric which experts say could signal an attempt by the Biden administration to hold the regime accountable for how Russia uses Iran’s weapons. – Algemeiner 

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry announced on Tuesday that it has detained 13 members of a network connected to the Israeli Mossad. – Arutz Sheva 

Although the Iran nuclear deal will be among the topics he discusses when he meets Prime Minister Netanyahu during a future trip to Israel, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that for the time being, efforts to revive the deal (opposed by Israel) had been “set aside” in favor of other pressing matters. – Arutz Sheva

In the days before and after January 3, 2023, the third anniversary of the assassination of Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force commander General Qassem Soleimani, hashtags used by radical Sunni organizations in Pakistan calling Soleimanih an “international terrorist,” “killer Qassem Soleimani,” and “the killer of the Ummah” and marking January 3 as “Salvation Day” for Muslims, were trending. Some of the tweets reflect hostility toward the West and Jews. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Nicholas Carl, Zachary Coles, and Dana Alexandar Gray write: Regime officials may see an opportunity to again enforce the hijab requirement as protest turnout has decreased in recent weeks and security personnel have likely regained some bandwidth. Iranian authorities may be particularly eager to resume widespread adherence to the mandatory hijab law to promote to the public the impression that the unrest has receded. – Institute for the Study of War

Salem Alketbi writes: Gantz and others believe it is necessary to take into account the realities and changes that have occurred at the international level in the aftermath of the Ukraine war, where Iran has gained significant strategic advantages through cooperation with Russia and the use of drones, which provide Tehran with an important diplomatic umbrella, at least in the UN Security Council. – Jerusalem Post 

Russia & Ukraine

Russia ended 2022 with a deficit of 3.3 trillion rubles, or $47.3 billion, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov announced Tuesday — one of the worst financial years in the country’s history, as Russia’s economy bore the brunt of the high costs of its war in Ukraine and the pain of Western economic sanctions. – Washington Post 

Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly pardoned dozens of convicts even before they were sent to fight in the war in Ukraine, a member of Russia’s Human Rights Council said — indicating that there were legal flaws in recruitment strategy that promised jailed criminals that their sentences would be set aside only after they had completed military service. – Washington Post 

The Pentagon is planning to bring Ukrainian troops to the United States for training on the Patriot missile defense system, U.S. officials said Tuesday, signaling the Biden administration’s latest test of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threshold for Western intervention in the conflict. – Washington Post 

The founder of a Russian mercenary force leading Moscow’s assault on the town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine claimed late on Tuesday that his troops had seized control of the town, which Ukrainian defense officials denied. – New York Times

Britain is weighing whether to send a small number of tanks to Ukraine, a move that would reverse the West’s nearly yearlong resistance to deploying some of its mightiest firepower against Russia. – New York Times

NATO and the European Union, in their first joint declaration on security cooperation since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, underscored on Tuesday the continuing importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship, playing down calls from Paris for more European military independence. – New York Times

Russian forces are escalating their onslaught against Ukrainian positions around the wrecked city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian officials said, bringing new levels of death and devastation in the grinding, monthslong battle for control of eastern Ukraine that is part of Moscow’s wider war. – Associated Press

Officials at a vocational school in an eastern Ukraine city dismissed claims by Russia that hundreds of Ukrainian troops were killed in a missile strike there, saying Monday that a rocket merely blew out windows and damaged classrooms. – Associated Press

President Vladimir Putin’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu told top generals on Tuesday that Russia will continue to develop its nuclear inventory, as part of a promise to build a stronger military. – Business Insider

Sergei Markov, a former Kremlin adviser and political commentator, bluntly stated in a recent interview that “Russia has already taken several steps towards its defeat.” – Newsweek 

Pro-Russia politician Viktor Medvedchuk was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. – Newsweek 

A top Ukrainian diplomat who once led peace talks with Moscow has warned Kyiv’s foreign partners not to count on rational dialogue with President Vladimir Putin, as the Russian leader is “unreasonable” and increasingly isolated from reality. – Newsweek 

Aformer NATO military leader warned that Russia is besting Ukraine for air superiority, though he did not foresee this edge benefiting it much in the long term. – Newsweek 

Vladimir Putin’s reported appointment of a previously prominent Russian commander in Ukraine is part of a complex political game, Newsweek has been told, as the Russian leader attempts to maintain control over hawkish Kremlin factions. – Newsweek 

Vladimir Putin’s reported appointment of “inferior” Colonel-General Alexander Lapin could herald further issues for Moscow’s war efforts in Ukraine, experts have suggested to Newsweek. – Newsweek 

Authorities in the Russian-occupied Donbas region of Ukraine are reportedly compiling lists of children to join the war when they come of age. According to the Ukrainian National Resistance Center, officials in Russia’s so-called “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts have started putting together lists of schoolchildren who can be conscripted into the Russian army, starting with those who will come of age this year. – Newsweek 

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has announced his country is considering to supply an undisclosed number of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to support its neighbor’s combat against the Russian invasion. However, the transfer must be part of a larger effort by a group of allies, he said. – Defense News

A Syrian Civil War Chechen jihadist organization leader was confirmed as fighting in Ukraine against Russian forces in footage published by Ukrainian military intelligence on Saturday. – Jerusalem Post 

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made a surprise visit to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv near the Russian border on Tuesday, promising more weapons as well as “concrete offers” to help Ukraine join the European Union. – Reuters

Casey Michel writes: The west must, then, be ready for what comes next, including a possible Soviet-style disintegration. The historian Michael Khodarkovsky wrote in 2016: “We should not be taken by surprise if one day Russia itself implodes, as the [USSR] did.” All empires eventually splinter apart. Thinking Putin’s — and Russia’s — will be any different is just another failure of imagination. – Financial Times

Catarina de Albuquerque writes:  Any suggestion, though, that there is an easy answer would be naïve. As horrors continue to unfold in Ukraine, talk of political condemnations or public information campaigns seems so inadequate in the circumstances. While these tools offer us a blueprint, will they save the lives of people who are suffering at this very moment? Tragically, no. Nor will they instantaneously uphold the human rights of water and sanitation in today’s conflicts. But they will bring us closer to making that ideal a reality. – Newsweek


Senior Israel Defense Forces officers, headed by the chief of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, have begun to prepare for the eviction of hundreds of Palestinians from the area of Masafer Yatta in the southern Hebron Hills, so it can be turned into a regular training ground for the army. – Haaretz 

Yohanan Plesner writes: David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding leader, famously stood for the principle of mamlakhtiyut, an untranslatable term that connotes the placement of the national interest above the needs and interests of the individual or sector. Over the next few months, our democracy will be tested. As Israel emerges from the worst political crisis in its history, it needs principled leadership that exhibits what John F. Kennedy famously called “profiles in courage.” Its new leader can rise to the occasion by rejecting sectoral demands, defending the national interest and protecting our precious democracy. – Wall Street Journal

David Makovsky writes: Israelis tend to focus on what top-level U.S. officials emphasize (or omit), but they would be mistaken to assume that the United States is indifferent to their societal issues just because the White House may not address them directly. Divisive domestic policies could have corrosive effects on sentiment toward Israel in Congress and other parts of American society, accentuating the need for Israeli leaders to prioritize domestic goals that best fit their foreign policy priorities with Washington. – Washington Institute

James M. Dorsey writes: “Holocaust education is an imperative for humanity, and too many countries, for too long, continue to downplay the Shoah for political reasons. I commend the UAE for this step and expect others to follow suit soon,” said Deborah E. Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. Ms. Lipstadt was using the Hebrew word for Holocaust.. – Times of Israel


Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group on Tuesday condemned the cartoons published recently by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that mocked Iran’s ruling clerics and urged France to punish the publication. Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah of Israel’s “red lines” on the buildup of militant forces or weapons to its north, as the Israel Defense Forces prepared to hold an artillery drill on a contested hill on the border with Lebanon and Syria. – Times of Israel 

The Lebanese army detained over the weekend a main suspect in the recent killing of an Irish U.N. peacekeeper in a move coordinated with Hezbollah terror group, two security sources and a Hezbollah spokesperson said. – Ynet


The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Monday to keep a key border crossing from Turkey to Syria’s rebel-held northwest open for critical aid deliveries for another six months. Syria’s ally Russia — in a surprise move — supported the resolution. – Associated Press

Iran has pursued the establishment of a comprehensive aerial defense network in Syria by sending equipment and personnel to the war-ravaged Arab nation in a project Israel has sought to thwart through repeated airstrikes, an intelligence source from a nation allied with the United States told Newsweek. – Newsweek  

Mona Yacoubian writes: As Russia pivots its attention and resources to Ukraine, Syria’s complex chessboard could be upended with significant implications for U.S. national security interests and regional stability.  In anticipation of these changes, Washington should elevate Syria from its current low standing among U.S. national security priorities. Specifically, the United States should launch a new review of Syria strategy in light the conflict’s shifting dynamics. The United States should also enhance its diplomatic and security engagement, appointing a Special Presidential Envoy for Syria who can engage on the many challenges emerging from the conflict’s changing landscape. – War on the Rocks

Middle East & North Africa

A Libyan court on Monday suspended an energy exploration deal that the Tripoli government signed last year with Turkey, a judiciary source said, pausing an agreement that angered other Mediterranean powers and inflamed Libya’s own internal crisis. – Reuters

Egypt committed to a flexible currency, a greater role for the private sector and a range of monetary and fiscal reforms when it agreed to a $3 billion financial support package with the International Monetary Fund, according to an IMF staff report released on Tuesday. – Reuters

The U.S. Navy seized over 2,100 assault rifles from a ship in the Gulf of Oman it believes came from Iran and were bound for Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, a Navy spokesman said Tuesday. It was the latest capture of weapons allegedly heading to the Arab world’s poorest country. – Associated Press

James Rogan writes: Egypt controls the Suez Canal, a vital transit point for the global economy. Political stability in Egypt is critical to stability in the Middle East and Africa. Political stability in Egypt is critical in the war against Islamic terrorism. Political stability in Egypt serves as a buffer against the political violence endemic to the countries that neighbor it, including Libya, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In short, Egypt gets away with its utter failure to reform because it knows the world needs its stability. – Washington Examiner

Stephen Blank writes: It should be held accountable for its policies by both Europe and the U.S. More importantly, such Western actions should provide an impetus for the West to pay more attention to and invest more resources in Africa. Doing so would checkmate Russian strategy and strengthen Western interests and African resilience. – The Hill

Akhil Ramesh writes: Nevertheless, in a fractured world, China’s message of unification may find more takers than the “us vs them” and “democracy vs autocracy” binary approach of the U.S. Time will tell if Beijing’s recent overtures to the region will consequently act as bridges between historical rivals or if it will be shooting itself in the foot in that ambitious attempt. In 2023, if the U.S. keeps up pressure on its allies without offering a strong economic value proposition, outside of the silo of the beltway, the U.S. will be the one to look like the belligerent power and not China.  – The Hill

Colby Connelly writes: Sooner or later, the war in Ukraine will end. Yet Europe will still have a strong need for additional gas supplies, as it is highly unlikely that imports from Russia will resume in the foreseeable future, if ever. While the rush to secure new supply has seen considerable progress in the space of just one year, the diplomatic and commercial work that will result in steady LNG cargoes heading to Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean will not be completed in 2023. Progress will remain vulnerable to unforeseen events and exogenous shocks that impact regional states, but in many ways these factors represent business as usual for a region that is no stranger to volatility. Still, a more integrated, gas producing “East Med” region finally looks to be on the horizon. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s spike in missile tests, growing nuclear ambitions and other provocative acts pose a “serious threat” that could lead to a dangerous miscalculation and spark a wider conflict, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday. – Associated Press

South Korea and the United States will hold tabletop exercises next month involving the American extended deterrence effort as the allies move to better counter the North’s nuclear threats, South Korea’s defence minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Erik Mobrand writes: The Yoon government might have signaled that vulnerability to the United States through a more nuanced Asia or Indo-Pacific policy. Instead, the announced policy gives the impression it was all about the United States and not about Asia. Further evidence for that impression is that responsibility for drafting the Korean Indo-Pacific Strategy was housed in the foreign ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau. A statement of commitment to the United States over China may carry only superficial meaning—South Korean commitment has been constant. What the United States may need more is a partner who shares its own difficulties rather than gliding over them. Security in Asia has become more complex, as economic and geopolitical affairs intertwine. – The National Interest


China renewed its threats Wednesday to attack Taiwan and warned that foreign politicians who interact with the self-governing island are “playing with fire.” A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the country was recommitted in the new year to “safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “smashing plots for Taiwan independence” on the self-governing democracy that separated from mainland China in 1949. – Associated Press

House Republicans moved Tuesday to swiftly establish the marquee investigations of their new majority, voting to create panels focused on China and what they assert is rampant abuse of power in the federal government. – Associated Press

Former President Donald Trump, whose policies on China hardened in his final year in office despite the inking of a historic trade agreement with Beijing, has had extensive commercial interests in the world’s most populous nation going back years, his tax records have revealed. – Newsweek 

China said the rising number of warplanes it sends toward Taiwan were due to the island’s “military collusion” with the US, shedding light on its motives for the threatening activity. – Bloomberg

Japan lodged a protest to China over the suspension of visas for Japanese citizens and asked that it overturn the action, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Chinese state media defended on Wednesday the retaliatory measures against South Korea and Japan over their COVID-19 travel curbs as “reasonable”, while Chinese tourists decried Seoul’s “insulting” treatment on social media. – Reuters

China’s recent decision to suspend the issue of short-term visas in South Korea was “deeply regrettable”, the South’s Foreign Minister Park Jin said on Wednesday. – Reuters

South Asia

Canada has imposed sanctions on four Sri Lankan state officials over human rights violations during armed conflict in Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009, the Canadian foreign ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Sri Lanka’s government said Tuesday it was cutting down expenses in the latest austerity drive to help it recover from its worst economic crisis. Government spokesman and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardena said each ministry’s annual budget will be cut 5%. He said that the government was “trying its best to curtail other expenses too.” – Associated Press

India will buy portable air defense missiles to deploy along the borders with China as militarization in the region gathers speed and hostilities between the two countries enter a third year. – Bloomberg


Japan, already Washington’s most important ally in the Indo-Pacific, is deepening its strategic partnership with the United States in an effort to counter China — a development that will be showcased this week with a shake-up of U.S. Marine Corps units in Okinawa and a White House embrace of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. – Washington Post 

The Supreme Court in the Philippines on Tuesday declared the country’s 2005 energy exploration agreement with Chinese and Vietnamese firms was illegal, ruling the constitution does not allow foreign entities to exploit natural resources. – Reuters

More than 100 arms-control, environmental and other activist groups have urged the Biden administration to formally apologize to the Marshall Islands for the impact of massive nuclear testing there in the 1940s and ’50s and to provide fair compensation. – Reuters

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida agreed at a meeting on Tuesday to strengthen ties in a range of spheres including the economy, trade and defence, the leaders said. – Reuters

The prime minister of Armenia said Tuesday that his country has refused to host military drills planned by a Russia-dominated security pact, an announcement that reflected the Armenian government’s growing tensions with Moscow. – Associated Press


Belgium’s prime minister has accused the US of an “aggressive” campaign to lure European companies to the other side of the Atlantic with the promise of support under its new green subsidy act. – Financial Times

As NATO continues to adjust to the new geo-strategic reality in Europe in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a next step is for the alliance to work out plans for responding to aggression that will help better align member military postures to implement them, according to former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and retired US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters. – Breaking Defense 

Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli writes: And Laura El-Katiri, a visiting fellow at the European Council for Foreign Relations, points out: “Without strong European engagement, north African countries are likely to rely on other, dominant suppliers in clean energy value chains, particularly China.” Such a scenario that would deal a significant blow to the EU and to the Italian nationalist government’s quest to regain a leading role in the Mediterranean. – Financial Times

Elisabeth Braw writes: For Sweden, and all Western countries, this unfortunate series of events is also a reminder of the turbulent years now awaiting the West. With the world splitting into two blocs, one led by the West and one by China, Western countries will need to woo and nurture geopolitical partners that may be far more infuriating than Turkey. It will be a time-consuming and frustrating exercise. But as should be clear to all by now, history has not ended, nor has the non-Western world decided to imitate every facet of liberal democratic existence. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Tigray forces, who fought a two-year war against Ethiopia’s federal government, began handing over heavy weaponry to the national army as part of an African Union-led peace process on Tuesday. – Reuters

A French minister said on Tuesday her government would not stop supporting Burkina Faso in its fight against Islamist militants and wished to remain involved despite growing anti-French sentiment and diplomatic tensions. – Reuters

The regional force fighting militant Islamists in Mozambique is carrying out an investigation after a video surfaced online showing people wearing what appear to be South African army uniforms setting ablaze corpses. Two soldiers are captured throwing a body on to the side of a bonfire of burning rubbish including furniture. – BBC

Michael Rubin writes: To do nothing, however, would condemn Eritreans to suffer and provide an opening for Russia, China, or other reactionary states to expand and cement their Red Sea foothold. It is time to get serious about the Eritrea problem. The decisions made by Biden’s team today will have an outsized impact on democracy, economics, and security in Eritrea and the broader Horn of Africa and Red Sea regions. – The National Interest

Mark Sobel writes: Modest IMF gold sales to help Sub-Saharan African nations and LICs could strongly bolster the IMF’s global role and benefit not only these countries, but also U.S. national interests. On the heels of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the United States should lead an international effort to sell modest amounts of IMF gold for LICs. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Americas

President Biden defended his approach to the border as he wrapped up two days of meetings on migration and the North American economy with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. – Wall Street Journal

Canada is working with allies including the United States to prepare for “options” if the situation in Haiti deteriorates, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, adding any definitive solution must come from the Haitian people. – Reuters

The United States, Mexico and Canada on Tuesday vowed to tighten economic ties, producing more goods regionally and boosting semiconductor output, even as integration is hampered by an ongoing dispute over Mexico’s nationalist energy policies. – Reuters

Arturo McFields Yescas writes: If the protests on Jan. 6 in Washington and Jan. 8 in Brasilia demonstrated anything, it is that democracy is a work in progress. The size of the country or the longevity of the institutions do not make a difference. Leadership, hate speech and political revenge divide people and erode the rule of law. Brazil has managed to overcome this test, which is undoubtedly the first, but not the last. – The Hill

Latin America

Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group could hold an emergency meeting in Caracas as early as this week, the head of the government negotiating team said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A lawyer for Juan Orlando Hernandez, the former Honduran president who is facing U.S. drugs and weapons charges, on Tuesday accused the Central American country’s current government of setting up obstacles to his defense. – Reuters

Editorial: In fact, Mr. Bolsonaro controlled neither the Congress nor the Supreme Court during his four-year term, and his agenda often stalled owing to democratic checks on his power. He was known to complain about the high court’s decisions. But surely the Texan can think of countries closer to home where the President and Congress have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. – Wall Street Journal

William Neuman writes: Finally, the U.S. needs to support the opposition without trying to pick winners, as it did by backing the Guaidó-López faction. This will demand patience from U.S. policy makers who would have to stand back as the opposition tries to redefine itself—which is sure to be a messy process. – The Atlantic

North America

The U.S. and Canada said Tuesday they have reached a partial resolution over a yearslong border-security dispute that has disrupted plans for business travelers and others who frequently cross the border. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. President Joe Biden will be in Canada in March in his first visit to one of the United State’s top trading partners since taking office almost two years ago. – Reuters

Marc A. Thiessen writes: The vast majority of Republicans support Reaganite policies of increasing defense spending and standing with Ukraine. Will McCarthy win one for the Gipper, or capitulate to a small band of know-nothing isolationists? Reagan is watching. – Washington Post


Hackers have disrupted access to the websites of Denmark’s central bank and seven private banks in the country this week, according to the central bank and an IT firm that serves the industry. – Reuters

In October, investigative journalists at Bellingcat identified a secretive group of Russian military engineers responsible for programming the flight paths of high-precision cruise missiles. Their attacks on Ukraine’s critical and civilian infrastructure had left millions of Ukrainians without electricity and heating and caused hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries. – The Record

Wikipedia’s operator has denied claims the Saudi government infiltrated its team in the Middle East. Two international human rights groups said Saudi officials had altered or deleted content on the website. The claims came after Wikimedia carried out its own investigation and suspended 16 users for “conflict of interest” editing in the Middle East. The Wikimedia Foundation which hosts Wikipedia said no evidence of Saudi infiltration was found. – BBC

Long War

The succession of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was believed to have been killed in a U.S. raid last year, remains unclear, a U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Steven Stalinsky writes: For all its faults, Twitter has managed in recent years to keep ISIS, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups off its platform. But jihadists still want to tweet and won’t stop trying to sneak back onto Twitter. As Elon Musk restores many accounts that had been shut down, he should make sure he doesn’t give back access to jihadists who would kill and maim innocent people the in name of militant fundamentalist Islam. – Wall Street Journal

Christine Abizaid writes: The group’s expansion in Mozambique increasingly threatens Western-led energy projects there, while signs of ISIS influence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, and elsewhere in the region demonstrate its growing appeal across the continent. […]Finally, in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda’s South Asia affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), is the weakest group in the organization’s global network. Al-Qaeda remains intent on striking U.S. interests and inspiring its followers to do so but currently lacks a capability to direct attacks against the United States from Afghanistan. […]Separately, Iran-backed militants in Iraq and Syria target U.S. forces with unmanned aircraft systems and indirect fire attacks as they try to compel their withdrawal from the region. – Washington Institute