Fdd's overnight brief

January 3, 2022

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


In a bizarre tweet on the first of the month the former Foreign Minister of Iran Javad Zarif decided to memorialize former IRGC Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani by slamming former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former US President Donald Trump. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran is concerned that if a new agreement is reached in Vienna, the next US administration might leave it just like the Trump administration did the Obama-era Iran Deal. – Jerusalem Post  

Talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers will restart on Monday, according to Russia’s envoy. – Bloomberg  

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) killed six “armed bandits” in the country’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, the IRGC said in a statement on January 1. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Bobby Ghosh writes: The current rulers in Tehran can’t claim any substantive achievements ahead of their counterparts in Beijing, but they do share the same paranoia about foreign influence. […]For the Raisi administration, however, an e-commerce slowdown may be an acceptable tradeoff for tighter control of cyberspace. With discontent growing among ordinary Iranians — witness the recent protests over water scarcity and teachers’ wages — the regime will want to build its walls high, thick and quick. – Bloomberg  

Farhad Rezaei writes: In summation, Iran’s economy faces too many pressures to allow it to rebuild a costly and seemingly purposeless nuclear program. Severe economic woes, the cost of a weapons program, growing social unrest and the evaporation of nuclear legitimacy are significant roadblocks for the regime if it wishes to direct sufficient funds to rebuild a destroyed nuclear weapons program within a reasonable period of time. – Jerusalem Post  

Eli Lake writes: That’s why Biden, like the Iranian regime, should also mark the anniversary of Soleimani’s death. He should make clear that the U.S. is willing to use force against a regime that remains undeterred by sanctions alone. – Bloomberg  

Jake Wallis Simons writes: Traditionally, the Americans tend to let their negotiators and envoys run until they fall, then replace them. There is a palpable feeling in diplomatic circles that the clock is ticking for Mr Malley. If his head were to roll soon, the negotiations would be thrown into temporary disarray, and the ensuing delay would benefit Iran. But this creative destruction may allow a more serious player to lead the American delegation. – The Spectator 

Alan Goldsmith writes: Iran continues to frequently violate basic freedoms — of speech, the press, religion, assembly — as well as the very right to live. […]In particular, human rights often take a back seat to other foreign policy priorities, and we have yet to see what the Biden administration is willing to sacrifice to save the Iran nuclear deal or make a new one. Iran has said that it will not resume compliance with the deal until all sanctions on the regime are unilaterally lifted. While Washington and Brussels won’t agree to that, they could hesitate to expand human rights sanctions out of fear of scuttling an agreement with Tehran. – The Hill 


Four months after the last American troops left Afghanistan, the U.S. is assessing the lessons to be learned. Among those, some officials and watchdog groups say, is the reliance on battlefield contractors and how that adds to the costs of waging war. – Wall Street Journal 

Four months after an Islamic State suicide bomber killed scores of people, including 13 American service members, outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, U.S. and foreign intelligence officials have pieced together a profile of the assailant. – New York Times 

Even as they appeal to the world to release frozen humanitarian aid funds and bank accounts, Taliban officials are taking new actions to restrict women’s freedoms and dismantle democratic institutions — defying the top two international concerns that have kept most foreign aid at bay as a cold winter looms for millions of destitute Afghans. – Washington Post 

Many of Afghanistan’s growing number of destitute people are making desperate decisions such as these as their nation spirals into a vortex of poverty. – Associated Press 

Canada will take in female Afghan judges and their families who have been living in limbo, primarily in Greece, since their evacuation from Afghanistan in the fall, a spokesperson for the immigration minister said Friday. – Reuters 

Amy Kazmin writes: After the Taliban’s lightning capture of Kabul on August 15, members of the erstwhile US-backed Afghan government, foreign nationals, and Afghans associated with the effort to build democracy in Afghanistan were desperate to flee, fearing retribution from the Islamist militia. – Financial Times 


The Islamist militants attacked the radio station for years, because it played music, because it hired women, because its liberal values posed a challenge to Syria’s zealous men with guns. – Washington Post 

Five Syrian soldiers were killed and 20 injured in a rocket attack by Islamic State militants on a military transport bus on Sunday in the east of the country at approximately 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT), Syrian state media said on Monday. – Reuters  

Russian warplanes have bombed a pumping station that provides water to rebel-controlled Idlib city in northwestern Syria, potentially depriving hundreds of thousands of people in the overcrowded city of water, according to witnesses and a monitoring group. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 



Turkey’s annual inflation jumped far more than expected to 36.08% year-on-year in December, the highest since September 2002, data showed on Monday reflecting a plummet in value of the lira late last year. – Reuters  

Turkey’s lira tumbled 5% on Monday after suffering in 2021 its worst year since President Tayyip Erdogan came to power nearly two decades ago, with concern persisting over surging inflation and unorthodox monetary policy. – Reuters  

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have vowed to boost ties, both sides said. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 


The Israeli military struck at least two sites inside the Gaza Strip late Saturday, a limited attack that reportedly caused no injuries but raised concerns that a period of relative quiet following last May’s deadly war between Israel and the Hamas militant group is growing shaky. – Washington Post 

Israel’s Jerusalem Post newspaper said on Monday its website had been hacked, in what it said was an apparent threat to the country. – Reuters 

A hand grenade was thrown towards the Sderot house of a senior Defense Ministry official on Saturday night, N12 reported. No injuries were reported in the incident. – Jerusalem Post  

The Defense Ministry has signed an agreement with the US government to acquire 12 Lockheed Martin CH-53K helicopters and two additional Boeing KC-46 refueling aircraft. – Jerusalem Post  

Hamas co-founder Hassan Yousef will be charged in the coming days in an Israeli military court for incitement to terror and supporting a terror group, Israel Police said in a statement on Sunday. – Times of Israel 

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh formally appointed Palestinian intelligence commander Ziad Hab al-Reeh to the post of Interior Minister on Sunday. – Times of Israel   

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh says that if Israel does not come to a prisoner accord with the terror group, it will kidnap more Israelis. – Times of Israel 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid talked up Israel’s military capabilities amid talks between world powers and Iran on restoring the 2015 accord curbing Tehran’s nuclear program. – Times of Israel 


Two armed drones were on Monday as they approached an Iraqi military base hosting U.S. forces near Baghdad’s international airport, Iraqi security sources said, adding that nobody was hurt in the incident. – Reuters  

Thousands of supporters of an Iraqi alliance of armed groups Saturday marked the upcoming second anniversary of a US drone strike that killed a revered Iranian commander and his Iraqi lieutenant. – Agence France-Presse  

Sarit Zehavi writes: In conclusion, no matter what the US administration chooses to do, withdraw or stay, it is important that the psychological and practical messages to the leaders of extremist ideologies in the Middle East, from Kabul to Tehran, are that the US will not allow extremism to harm its allies, that America will not abandon them and will fight for American interests in the region. – Jerusalem Post 


Oil rose as Libyan supply tightened ahead of an OPEC+ meeting on Tuesday to discuss production policy for February. – Bloomberg  

Efforts to win power in Libya by Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of the country’s late ousted dictator Moammar Qaddafi, won’t succeed, according to the man who’s been at the center of Kremlin-backed efforts to support him. – Bloomberg  

Algeria’s national oil company Sonatrach is preparing to resume suspended oil projects in Libya, the state news agency APS reported on Monday. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

The head of Lebanon’s largest Christian party said on Sunday that a 15-year-old alliance with the country’s powerful Shiite group Hezbollah was no longer working and must evolve. – Associated Press 

Egyptian officials Sunday pushed for Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip to rein in hostilities and adhere to a cease-fire in place since the war in May. – Associated Press 

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls most of northern Yemen hijacked a United Arab Emirates-flagged cargo vessel carrying hospital equipment off the western Yemeni port of Hodeidah, the Saudi-led coalition said on Monday. – Reuters 

Israeli defense company Elbit Systems announced that its subsidiary in the United Arab Emirates was awarded a contract to supply airborne defense systems for the UAE Air Force tanker aircraft. – Jerusalem Post  

Anna Ahronheim writes: The Defense Ministry has also expanded its Northern Shield (Magen Hatzafon) program to fortify homes in 21 border communities, and likely to be evacuated should any war break out. It’s like a game of cat and mouse along Israel’s northern border, and while senior military officers have said that they prefer to act as the cat, the mouse can at the end of the day, get away. – Jerusalem Post  

Zvi Bar’el writes: The process dividing the region into blocs, pro-Western (American) and anti-Western (Russian), is falling apart. It seems their place will be taken by small local coalitions and alliances based on local interests, which may be more effective in solving some of the violent conflicts. – Haaretz 

Korean Peninsula

Kim Jong-un has begun his second decade as North Korea’s leader with a vow to alleviate the country’s chronic food shortages, state media reported on Saturday — a problem that he inherited from his late father 10 years ago and has yet to fix. – New York Times  

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to pursue high-tech weapons to counter what he called military instability on the Korean Peninsula, but largely ignored the U.S. and South Korea in a year-end speech. – Wall Street Journal  

The man who crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea is believed to be a previous defector from the North to South Korea. – Washington Post  

South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed on Monday to use his last months in office to press for a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea, despite public silence from Pyongyang over his attempts for a declaration of peace between the two sides. – Reuters  


Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping oversaw an ambitious joint military exercise in China this summer, which along with reported collaborations in aviation, undersea and hypersonic-weapons technology point to a solidifying defense alignment, according to military analysts. – Wall Street Journal  

China joins U.S. allies including Japan and Australia in a new Asia-Pacific trade agreement that launches Saturday—with the U.S. watching from the sidelines. – Wall Street Journal  

China is turning a major part of its internal Internet-data surveillance network outward, mining Western social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to equip its government agencies, military and police with information on foreign targets, according to a Washington Post review of hundreds of Chinese bidding documents, contracts and company filings. – Washington Post 

To hunt people, security forces use advanced investigation software, public records and databases to find all their personal information and international social media presence. The operations sometimes target those living beyond China’s borders. – New York Times 

A Hong Kong online news site said Sunday that it will cease operations in light of deteriorating press freedoms, days after police raided and arrested seven people for sedition at a separate pro-democracy news outlet. – Associated Press 

Lawmakers in Hong Kong’s new “patriots only” legislature swore oaths of allegiance on Monday as it sat for the first time following a new selection process that barred the city’s traditional democracy opposition. – Agence France-Presse  

The Beijing Winter Olympics begin one month on Tuesday with diplomatic boycotts, the coronavirus and the fate of Peng Shuai all hanging heavy over the Games. – Agence France-Presse 

Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of maintaining a “strategic focus” in his 2022 New Year address and of being mindful of “potential risks” in the Communist Party’s long-term vision to turn China into a global power. – Reuters 

China’s anti-graft agency on Friday accused U.S. retail giant Walmart Inc (WMT.N) and its Sam’s Club chain of “stupidity and shorted-sightedness” after Chinese news outlets reported Sam’s Club had removed Xinjiang-sourced products from stores. – Reuters 

Huawei has been caught in the crossfire of a US-China trade and technology rivalry after the administration of former president Donald Trump moved to cripple the company over concerns it could pose a cybersecurity and espionage threat. – Agence France-Presse 

China’s increasingly dominant role as a lender to poor countries has deterred many of them from seeking debt relief for fear of losing access to future Chinese funds, according to the head of the Paris Club group of wealthy creditor nations. – Financial Times 

Chinese Communist Party officials have unveiled an “action plan for cooperation” with Latin American countries that amounts to a “comprehensive” plan to influence the region and threaten U.S. interests, following a new summit with the nearest neighbors of the United States. – Washington Examiner 

Editorial: No comparable leverage exists with regard to China, which apparently believes it can violate its past commitments to protect liberty in Hong Kong with impunity, even as it prepares to stage the Winter Olympics in February. The crushing of press freedom in Hong Kong joins anti-Uyghur genocide on the list of reasons it was right for President Biden to stage a diplomatic boycott of the Games — and why the struggle for human rights in China will need more such solidarity in the years ahead. – Washington Post 

Editorial: Last year, Beijing did the same thing to Apple Daily, conducting multiple raids and arresting several of its top editors, including founder Jimmy Lai, who has been in jail for a year this week. That forced the outlet to close. […]While the Chinese Communist Party nails the coffin shut on dissent, its message is clear: It won’t tolerate truth or freedom in Hong Kong. – New York Post 

South Asia

Pakistani security forces raided two militant hideouts in a former Taliban stronghold near Afghanistan, triggering shootings that killed four soldiers and two insurgents, the military said Friday. – Associated Press  

South Asian archrivals India and Pakistan exchanged lists of each other’s citizens held in prison Saturday through their respective diplomats in Islamabad and New Delhi. – Associated Press  

A roadside bomb exploded outside a college in southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing four people and wounding at least 15, mostly passers-by, police and a rescue official said. – Associated Press 

Diana Bolsinger writes: Before looking at the specific case of the United States and Pakistan, it is important to first better understand intelligence-sharing pacts — and specifically secret intelligence pacts. This includes how these clandestine deals can allow foreign leaders to influence U.S. policymakers, how they often give U.S. intelligence partners significant and disproportionate bargaining leverage, and the dangers of making such agreements in secret. – Texas National Security Review 


It was the kind of exercise the U.S. or Japan would typically tackle by itself. On this December morning, the two countries’ soldiers were in a camouflaged tent together, practicing using the planes of one and the missile launchers of another to attack an imaginary ship of an unnamed country that might have been China. – Wall Street Journal  

Taiwan’s president on Saturday urged China to curb its “military adventurism”, with tensions between the two sides at their highest level in years. – Agence France-Presse  

Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade urged China’s Guangxi region to reopen its border gates with the Southeast Asian country and extend customs clearance hours to ease supply-chain snarls amid zero-Covid-19 policies, VnExpress news website reported. – Bloomberg  

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said “skillful steering” of diplomacy will be needed in 2022 and he plans to step up efforts to engage other countries to resolve global challenges. – Bloomberg  

Sungmin Cho writes: What would South Korea do if China attacked Taiwan? Many people in Washington, Taipei, and Tokyo are wondering. South Korea’s position remains much more ambivalent than Japan’s. Seoul is understandably more worried about the possibility of retaliation from China, akin to Beijing’s fury over the basing of a U.S. defensive missile system in South Korea several years ago. Seoul also has a unique concern that Beijing would turn even more non-cooperative in the future process of Korean unification, if it ever occurs, as a result of South Korean involvement in a war over Taiwan. – War on the Rocks 


President Biden said Friday that he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call that there would be “a heavy price to pay” if Russia invades Ukraine again. – Washington Post  

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, warned on Friday that the Kremlin perceives the United States and its allies as stoking the war in eastern Ukraine, a shift in tone from Moscow just hours after another Russian official had said the Kremlin was satisfied with a phone call between the leaders of the two countries. – New York Times   

President Biden assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday that the United States “will respond decisively” if Russia invades the Eastern European nation, according to the White House. – Washington Post  

A new report in the Russian press has said that Russia and China cooperated very well in 2021. […]The report was carried in Russia’s Tass News. “In that telegram he expressed great satisfaction with the development of Chinese-Russian relations,” the report says. – Jerusalem Post  

Despite increasing tensions with Russia, the Biden administration supports extending the operations of the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Joe Lieberman writes: Messrs. Putin and Khamenei preside over two hollow economies. They have overseen the degradation of two nations with proud histories and rich cultures. They act like bullies because, they—like most bullies—are insecure, and they both have reasons to be. The U.S. and its allies must bring these realistic views of Russia and Iran to the negotiations so we aren’t intimidated into dangerous compromises merely to reach an agreement. – Wall Street Journal 

Niall Ferguson writes: The Not-So-Great Northern War that seems about to break out will be asymmetrical in more ways than one. Russian forces seem likely to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses. The West will meet kinetic action with financial penalties. But the cost of these penalties will be higher to the Europeans than to the Americans, without being high enough for Russia to deter Putin. It is hard, in short, to see how circumstances could be more propitious for Tsar Vladimir’s boldest stroke. A few more weeks of diplomatic jaw-jaw will not change that. – Bloomberg 


The European Union has drawn up plans to classify some nuclear power and natural gas plants as green investments that can help Europe cut planet-warming emissions, a landmark proposal that, if approved, could set off a resurgence of nuclear energy on the continent in the coming decades. – New York Times   

Now the United States and the European Union, which Bosnia aspires to join, are desperate to stop the new crisis from escalating into conflict, or creating the sort of political instability that Russia could exploit. Russia, which wants to prevent Bosnia from joining the bloc or NATO, is already siding with Mr. Dodik. – New York Times  

New post-Brexit custom rules for goods arriving from the European Union to Britain are taking effect on Saturday, and a leading food industry body has warned that the new border controls could lead to food shortages. – Associated Press 

Germany has pulled the plug on three of its last six nuclear power stations as it moves towards completing its withdrawal from nuclear power as it turns its focus to renewables. – Reuters 

Russia’s sabre-rattling in Ukraine has reignited a debate in Finland about whether the Nordic country should join Nato, defying Moscow’s demands that the military alliance limit its expansion in Europe. – Financial Times 

Kosovo has ordered the expulsion of a Russian diplomat and member of the United Nations mission in the Balkan country on national security grounds. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 


Sudan’s prime minister, who was ousted in a military coup but reinstated over a month ago, resigned on Sunday, in the latest upheaval to disrupt the country’s shaky transition to democracy from dictatorship. – New York Times  

It has been a month since Uganda began air and artillery strikes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and then sent in its troops, in an operation targeting a rebel group it accuses of carrying out a string of deadly attacks in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. – New York Times  

The United States has urged Sudanese leaders to ensure civilian rule and end violence against protesters after Abdalla Hamdok resigned as prime minister, throwing a transition towards elections deeper into uncertainty. – Reuters  

Mali’s military junta wants to extend its rule for five more years, putting off the next presidential election until 2026 despite a deadline of next month set by West African regional mediators. – Associated Press 

The World Food Program has suspended its operations across Sudan’s province of North Darfur following recent attacks on its warehouses, a decision expected to affect about 2 million local people. – Associated Press 

Six people have been killed and homes torched in a grisly attack Monday by suspected Al-Shabaab militants in a Kenyan coastal region bordering Somalia, police and government officials said. – Agence France-Presse 

The Americas

A former Colombian military member implicated in last year’s assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moise will be deported from Jamaica to his home country on Jan. 3, Jamaica’s attorney general said on Saturday. – Reuters 

Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House nearly a year ago seemed to herald a historic shift toward less U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons and possibly a shrinking of their numbers. Even an American “no first use” pledge — a promise to never again be the first to use a nuclear weapon — seemed possible. – Associated Press 

Editorial: The year now ending should have been one of the easiest ever for a U.S. president. It was a time of international peace and economic recovery. The southern border was secure. With three vaccines in hand, all President Joe Biden had to do was sit back and follow former President Donald Trump’s vaccination program, end the mask mandates, and let the economy bounce back from a government lockdown-created recession. – Washington Examiner  

Aki Peritz writes: Democracies must protect not only their security but also the civil liberties of their people. And while the Anglo-American intelligence alliance remains rock-solid, the Pakistani-American one has badly foundered. But decades from now, historians will look back on this era’s checkered legacy and highlight OVERT as a model. The menace of transnational terrorism will likely stay with us, and so we should hope that both friendly and adversarial nations will continue to work together to keep their populations safe without losing sight of their values. – Politico 


In the days before Christmas, U.S. officials in Boston unveiled insider trading charges against a Russian tech tycoon they had been pursuing for months. – Bloomberg 

Andy Kessler writes: “Imposed costs” likely means the U.S. now is going on the offensive and making it harder for attackers to operate. Will this extend to the battlefield as well? Are the U.S. armed forces and especially social-media companies ready for cyberattacks on soldiers and to be on a war footing? I hope so. War ain’t tiddlywinks, or hockey. – Wall Street Journal  

Joseph S. Nye, Jr. writes: The Biden administration is wrestling with the fact that the domain of cyberspace has created important new opportunities and vulnerabilities in world politics. Reorganizing and reengineering at home must be at the heart of the resulting strategy, but it also needs a strong international component based on deterrence and diplomacy. [..]. Such a strategy must also include developing norms with the long-term goal of protecting the old glasshouse of American democracy from the new stones of the Internet age. – Foreign Affairs


Canon-cocking artillery Marines in California will kick off the first of two years of experimentation with the Corps’ ship-sinking missile in 2022. – Defense News  

While the Marine Corps beat the Navy to having a deployment-ready F35C Joint Strike Fighter Squadron, the long-term future for the Corps’ F-35 fleet is in question. – Defense News   

The service’s new Deloitte-designed platform for educational benefits, Army Ignited, was rushed out before it was ready due to contract issues, leaving thousands of soldiers with the burden of pursuing exceptions to policy to continue their education. Some troops continue to report issues with the new platform, as well. – Military Times   

As the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot nears, arguments abound over how the Defense Department responded to the attack, and whether there was a delay in activating the National Guard to secure the area. – Military Times   

The Pentagon has repeatedly claimed to do everything in their power to avoid civilian casualties when conducting drone strikes, but problems continue to occur despite their best efforts. – Washington Examiner  

Ruth Pollard writes: All this illustrates the size of the logistical challenges facing the Biden administration and its plans for an “over-the-horizon” strategy in Afghanistan. The policy depends on other countries agreeing to house U.S. bases to enable Washington to continue its counterterrorism efforts, including the use of armed drones. But without regulation and oversight, the only certainty here is that the technology will continue to advance everywhere. There will be more civilian casualties — and no one will be held accountable. – Bloomberg   

Daniel K. Lim writes: In an era of peer competition with technologically sophisticated adversaries such as Russia and China, the Department of Defense can no longer assume it can maintain its competitive advantage without taking some gambles and leveraging of every means at its disposal, including smoothing the way for high-risk, high-reward startups. U.S. adversaries certainly do not balk at risk, so the Defense Department should be willing to accept some more risk, too. – War on the Rocks