Fdd's overnight brief

January 3, 2023

In The News


Many members of the Iranian diaspora have experienced distress since the unprecedented protests began, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Iranian police custody in September. Police had detained Amini for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women. – Associated Press

Iran’s military tested new attack drones in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman and near the strategic Strait of Hormuz Saturday as part of its ongoing annual drill, state TV reported. – Associated Press

Iranian journalist Keyvan Samimi reportedly remains in prison despite a weekend report in reformist media suggesting he had been released from Semnan Prison, where he has been serving a two-year sentence for his presence at a protest rally in 2019. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Two Iranian teenagers face the death penalty after being sentenced to be hanged over involvement in protests that have rocked the Islamic republic for months, a rights group said Monday. – Agence France-Presse

Britain will officially declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which has arrested seven people with links to the United Kingdom over anti-government protests, as a terrorist group, the Telegraph reported on Monday, citing sources. – Reuters

Iran’s military launched a drone to warn off a reconnaissance plane trying to approach Iranian war games on the Gulf coast, the semi-official Fars news agency said on Saturday. – Reuters

Demonstrators shouted slogans denouncing Iran’s supreme leader in the restive southeast of the country on Friday, while a human rights group said at least 100 detained protesters were facing possible death sentences. – Reuters

Iran’s Supreme Court has accepted a protester’s appeal against his death sentence for allegedly damaging public property and sent his case back for review, the judiciary said on Saturday, as a rights group said more clashes had broken out in the west of the country. – Reuters

Iranian police briefly detained several unidentified top-tier football players in a raid on a party on New Year’s Eve where alcohol was served in violation of an Islamic ban, Iranian media reported. – Reuters

Iran’s top military commander said that Muslim youths the world over will never stop seeking revenge for the death of General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the United States in 2019, the state-controlled Press TV reported Sunday. – Times of Israel 

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Sunday that nearly 60 US officials have been blacklisted by Tehran for their involvement in the assassination of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in January of 2020, the Xinhua news agency reported. – Arutz Sheva 

Two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials hinted at division among Iran’s leadership as anti-government protests continued to sweep the country in the past week. – Jerusalem Post

Geneive Abdo writes: As more Iranians are executed, beaten or imprisoned, the U.S. government is failing again to respond effectively to an Iranian uprising which could change the regime’s post-revolutionary history — and too many in the Washington think-tank community are helping to keep the regime afloat, too. What Tehran understands from all of this is that Washington will do as it did before, in 1999 and again in 2010: Do nothing and wait it out. Thus, Tehran sees no retribution at the end of the tunnel and few risks in getting there. – The Hill 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran created the model of Eilat and the Sa’ar 6 near Jask in southern Iran. There is an Iranian naval base near this area. In November, Iran launched drones from Chabahar in southern Iran to target a commercial ship in the Gulf of Oman. Chabahara is around 340 km. east of Jask. The mock-up of Eilat and the Sa’ar 6 is some 20 km. from Jask, according to a geo-location carried out by OSINT analyst @Obretix. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Now people are laser-focused on tracing the drones and their components and on the IRGC and its front companies involved in the trade. As Iran’s regime enters 2023 it is finding that it can make fewer excuses for its behavior.Many countries are finally seeing that Iran’s actions are “boiling over” in terms of the regime’s preponderance of illegal acts that harm both Iranians at home and threaten countries and people abroad. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s real power comes from its proxies, such as Hezbollah and the Houthis. Its power is rooted in people – irregular forces and terrorist groups such as Hamas, which it backs. It has added drones to this power, and also missiles, while also enriching uranium. But none of this adds up to the kind of force it claims to put on display in these drills. – Jerusalem Post

Ariel Ben Solomon writes: The lessons of Kazakhstan and other examples of successful denuclearization are not “negotiation at any cost” but rather the requirement of sincere mutual cooperation. The regime in Iran lacks the desire, standing, and sincerity required to succeed in nuclear negotiations. – Jerusalem Post

Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Dana Alexander Gray, and Frederick W. Kagan writes: Protests have been occurring at a lower tempo since late November, which may be partly driving the debate among regime officials. The reduced protest activity has likely prompted intra-regime discussions about whether to continue the intense crackdown or begin relaxing the suppression. Iranian authorities have likely eased the suppression in at least some locations, possibly due to their eagerness to return to the pre-September 2022 status quo. – Institute for the Study of War

Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh write: The Iranian regime has ruled the country for nearly half a century. In that time, it has been remarkably resilient, defying public demands for greater human rights and modernization. As of now, the protests do not appear to be on the brink of bringing the government down, but revolutions are inherently unpredictable. For the sake of the Iranian public and U.S. security interests in the region, the Biden administration should do all it can to make sure the Iranians putting their lives on the line to foment change are successful in retaking their country. – Foreign Affairs

Russia & Ukraine

Dozens of Russian soldiers were killed in a massive missile strike early on New Year’s Day in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Moscow said, marking what could be one of the deadliest attacks on Russian forces since the start of the invasion. – Washington Post 

For at least one night, they thought, they would use the basement of the university building not as a bomb shelter but as a place to twirl and hop and stomp — to celebrate their Ukrainian heritage, to again relish being young. – Washington Post 

Hulking ships carrying Ukrainian wheat and other grains are backed up along the Bosporus here in Istanbul as they await inspections before moving on to ports around the world. – New York Times

The soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division train, eat and sleep on a drab, sprawling post in southeast Romania, a mere seven-minute rocket flight from where Russia has stockpiled munitions in Crimea. – New York Times

In one of their deadliest attacks yet on Russian forces, Ukrainians used American-made rockets to kill dozens — and perhaps hundreds — of Moscow’s troops in a New Year’s Day strike behind the lines, prompting outraged Russian war hawks to accuse their military of lethal incompetence. – New York Times

The history of most wars is written by the victor after the fact. But Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has created his own sequencing: a story line of the war against Russia in real time that is intended to rally his people, and the Western world. – New York Times

In the past month, the authorities have arrested or publicly identified as suspects more than 30 clergymen and nuns of the Ukrainian arm of the Russian Orthodox Church. To the Ukrainian security services, the Russian-aligned church, one of the country’s two major Orthodox churches, poses a uniquely subversive threat — a widely trusted institution that is not only an incubator of pro-Russia sentiment but is also infiltrated by priests, monks and nuns who have aided Russia in the war. – New York Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s New Year’s address to the nation usually is rather anodyne and backed with a soothing view of a snowy Kremlin. This year, with soldiers in the background, he lashed out at the West and Ukraine. – Associated Press

Russia is planning a protracted campaign of attacks with Iranian drones to “exhaust” Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday. – Reuters

A Ukrainian drone attack damaged an electricity facility in the southwest of Russia’s Bryansk region, bordering Ukraine, cutting power for several hours, the regional governor said on Monday. – Reuters

Russian nationalists and some lawmakers have demanded punishment for commanders they accused of ignoring dangers as anger grew over the killing of dozens of Russian soldiers in one of the Ukraine war’s deadliest strikes. – Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday that the road to peace talks on Ukraine would not be smooth and that China would continue to uphold its “objective and fair stance” on the issue. – Reuters

Out after only three months as commander of Russia’s Western Group is Sergei Kuzovlev; his replacement is the general who early on in the war led Moscow’s botched offensive on Kyiv, Yevgeny Nikiforov. This could play to Ukraine’s advantage, but it’s also one that underlines how Russia is in no mood for retreat.  – New York Sun 

Russian gas exports to countries outside a group of former Soviet republics plunged by 45.5 percent in 2022, figures from gas giant Gazprom showed on Monday. – Agence France-Presse

Chancellor Olaf Scholz is celebrating Germany’s progress in freeing itself from reliance on Russian gas, urging people to keep saving energy in the new year and vowing to keep up help for Ukraine. – Associated Press

Moscow said a Ukrainian air strike on army barracks in the Russian-occupied town of Makiivka killed 63 soldiers, in one of the bloodiest blows to the Kremlin’s ground forces since the start of the war. – Financial Times 

Tony Blair sought to encourage Vladimir Putin to adopt western values in the belief that the new Russian president was at heart a “Russian patriot” worthy of a seat at the international “top table”, according to newly released official files. – Financial Times

Scores of Russian missiles were fired at Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities on Thursday in what officials described as one of the largest daily barrages of a months-long campaign targeting the country’s energy infrastructure. – Financial Times

Colonel General Sergin Surovikin, “The Butcher of Syria”, is being replaced by Russian Lieutenant General Yevgeny Nikiforov in heading Russia’s Western Group of Forces in Ukraine. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: It is fair for Washington to agree privately with Kyiv on rules of engagement for weapons it provides. But the objective should be to push Russia back at least to pre-February 24 lines. Retaking southern regions would put Kyiv in striking range of Crimea, giving it a robust negotiating stance. Ukraine’s people were in 2022 an example to the world of fortitude and resilience. They deserve redoubled support in 2023. – Financial Times

Editorial: Most important for Biden, however, is to remember that Putin cannot be trusted — not at the negotiating table and not even if a peace “agreement” has been concluded; he shreds deals with abandon. And Russia is still clearly committed to its political goal of controlling Ukraine. 2023 will be a hard fight for the Ukrainians, as it was in 2022. Yet there are plenty of steps Biden can take to help them without triggering escalation. The real question is whether he and his team are resolute enough to stay the course. – New York Post 

David Pierson and Anton Troianovski write: And in a move on Friday that could signal Beijing’s growing focus on its relationship with Washington, China’s ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, was appointed the country’s new foreign minister. “A renewed demonstration of Sino-Russian solidarity may force Western countries to begrudgingly reassess their willingness to collectively pressure China to rein in its support for Russia,” Mr. Singleton said. – New York Times

Hal Brands writes: The war is also a reminder about how core features of geopolitics remain the same, even as so much in the world changes. Geography still matters. Land-hungry tyrants still seek to dominate their surroundings through conquest and murder. In every generation, optimists hope that the world has left these ugly truths behind. As Ukraine’s experience teaches us, we forget them at our peril. – Bloomberg

Donald Kirk writes: Now the table is turned. China looks like Russia’s big brother: sometimes helpful, sometimes not.  For Messrs. Xi and Putin,  the enemy of my enemy is my friend — as long as Russia pours in ever more natural gas, the major source of Russia’s income – New York Sun 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Countries such as Israel, faced with enemies who lob missiles at its civilian areas, have constructed complex, integrated air defenses. Even Israel has learned that these defenses have a limit, and that they are costly in the long run. Even if air defenses can stop Moscow’s campaign of spreading suffering, they won’t likely end the war. – Jerusalem Post

George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, Angela Howard, Grace Mappes, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Russia’s air and missile campaign against Ukraine is likely not generating the Kremlin’s desired information effects among Russia’s nationalists. […] The Russian MoD is likely attempting to deflect the blame for its poor operational security (OPSEC) onto Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) officials and mobilized personnel. – Institute for the Study of War

Eugene Chausovsky writes: If Moscow seriously escalated the conflict in the coming year—such as by following through on the hints and threats that it might use chemical or nuclear weapons—these countries would likely reconsider their level of economic and political cooperation with Russia. The lifelines on which the Russian economy depends are also constraining factors on what would likely be disastrous escalations. – Foreign Policy


When Hisham Abu Naise arrived at the morgue to bid farewell to his son Muhammad, hours after he had been killed by Israeli troops, he was in such a state of shock that he didn’t notice the black flag of Islamic Jihad draped over his body. – New York Times

Israeli forces killed two Palestinians during clashes near the West Bank city of Jenin early on Monday, Palestinian health officials said. – Wall Street Journal

Israel condemned and the Palestinians welcomed on Saturday a United Nations General Assembly vote asking the International Court of Justice to provide an opinion on legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is planning a trip to Israel this month after the formation of a new government topped by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a White House official said on Monday. – Reuters

The 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Friday asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to give an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. – Reuters

US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is planning a trip to Israel this month after the formation of the new government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a White House official told Reuters on Monday. – Arutz Sheva 

Israel’s new government “will not give in to threats from Hamas,” National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said as he arrived at Temple Mount on Tuesday morning for his planned pilgrimage to the Jerusalem holy site. – Jerusalem Post

Outgoing defense minister Benny Gantz wished the incoming minister, Likud’s Yoav Gallant, success in his role, at a handover ceremony at the military’s headquarters in Tel Aviv on Sunday, while cautioning him not to permit political interference in the army. – Times of Israel 

The Palestinian Authority called for an international boycott of Israel’s new government over its hardline, right-wing agenda, saying it poses “an existential threat to the Palestinian people.” – Times of Israel 

Editorial: This would be a good time for the Left and Right to set aside their differences and unite around the literal common ground and find a pragmatic path that ensures Israel’s basic rights without completely alienating the international arena. And Israel and all who truly value human rights must call out ongoing UN hypocrisy in obsessively singling out the Jewish state through distortions and lies. – Jerusalem Post

Herb Keinon writes: The change will happen in this hall, because back home, your governments are rapidly changing their attitudes toward Israel. And sooner or later, that’s going to change the way you vote on Israel at the UN.” Friday’s voting showed that, yes, while things in the UN are changing, that change is more gradual and less dramatic than Netanyahu envisioned at the time. – Jerusalem Post

Assaf Orion writes: It should promote economic relations with China subject to considerations of national security, on the one hand, and promoting the strategic dialogue with Washington on technology, as a route toward improving Israel’s technology security and strengthening relations with its indispensable ally, on the other hand. – Jerusalem Post


The Taliban administration will encourage self-sufficiency and wants international trade and investment, the acting commerce minister said, as Afghanistan faces isolation and suspension of some humanitarian operations over restrictions on women. – Reuters

Congress has failed so far to create a path to residency for Afghans who worked alongside U.S. soldiers in America’s longest war, pushing into limbo tens of thousands of refugees who fled Taliban control more than two years ago and now live in the United States. – Associated Press

The Afghan woman ran down the street towards her friend’s apartment as soon as she heard the news: the White House had publicly weighed in on her family’s case. Surely her child, who she says was abducted by a U.S. Marine more than a year ago, would now be returned, she thought. She was so excited that it was only after she’d arrived that she realized she wasn’t wearing any shoes. – Associated Press

A senior U.N. official in Afghanistan met on Sunday the deputy prime minister of the Taliban-led government to discuss a ban on women working for non-governmental groups that Afghan authorities have announced in a series of measures rolling back women’s rights. – Associated Press

The Taliban-led government in Afghanistan has accused Islamabad of endangering bilateral relations after Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah suggested last week that Kabul wasn’t doing enough to counter the activities of the militant Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The Taliban’s sweeping orders to restrict women’s rights have exacerbated divisions in the militant group to the point where rival factions are surrounding themselves with loyal troops, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Editorial: We published “Afghanistan and Vietnam” four months before Mr.  Biden surrendered in an effort to end our longest war. We understand that there’s plenty of blame to spread around, and the 20 years America put into the war is not nothing. The catastrophe, though, turned out to be more abject than anyone imagined. It’s humbling to read Mr. Massoud’s interview and his warning of what America may reap if it fails to confront the Taliban. – New York Sun 

Qamar-ul Huda writes: Afghanistan experts in Washington dismissed the Oslo meeting as a publicity stunt for the Taliban to gain international legitimacy and seek funds. However, skeptics ignore Norway’s ability to gain the trust necessary to operate its hospitals, clinics, private schools, NGOs, and specific vocational programs for girls throughout Afghanistan. Under the radar and without interference, Norwegian all-girls schools and educational NGOs have operated in northwestern and northeastern Afghanistan with Taliban support. – The National Interest 


Syria said Monday that Israel launched missile strikes on Damascus’s international airport, killing two military personnel and briefly shutting down the facility, the latest attack targeting a key Iran ally in the region. – Wall Street Journal 

The Syrian Foreign Ministry on Monday urged the United Nations to condemn the repeated Israeli missile strikes in Syria, the Xinhua news agency reported. In a statement, the ministry slammed the air strike attributed to Israel overnight Sunday which hit the Damascus International Airport and in which two Syrian soldiers were killed. – Arutz Sheva

Hundreds of Syrians in the rebel-held north protested on Friday against signs of a thaw between Ankara and Damascus, after their defence ministers met in Moscow for the first time since 2011. – Agence France-Presse

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The strike is an important symbol because it comes at the beginning of the new year and when Israel has a new government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel has for the last decade been waging a “war between the wars” (also known as MABAM) to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria. – Jerusalem Post


Even by the standards of Turkey’s and Greece’s frequently strained relations, it was a remarkable escalation. Speaking to youths in a Black Sea town, Turkey’s president directly threatened his country’s western neighbor: Unless the Greeks “stay calm,” he said, Turkey’s new ballistic missiles would hit their capital city. – Associated Press

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party is considering a “slight change” on the date of elections scheduled for mid-June, a senior party official said on Monday. – Reuters

Abdulsalam Khanjar writes: Turkey has recently changed its stance towards the Assad regime amid efforts to combat Kurdish groups in the eastern Euphrates. Moscow imposes a forced marriage between Turkey and Syria, although the US still rejects any kind of normalization with the Syrian regime. – Jerusalem Post


Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian security checkpoint in a city east of Cairo a day earlier in which two policemen and a civilian were killed, the group said on its telegram account. – Reuters

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Sunday urged Israel’s new hard-line government to refrain from “any measures” that could inflame regional tensions, in a phone call congratulating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his return to office. – Associated Press

Egyptian authorities announced the recovery of a heavy sarcophagus lid from the United States on Monday at a ceremony in Cairo. The sarcophagus, which at 500 kilograms (about 1,100 pounds) is one of the biggest, dates back to the Late Period of Ancient Egypt (747-332 BC), said Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities at Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. – CNN 

Arabian Peninsula

Dubai started the new year by suspending its 30 percent tax on alcohol, a move that could help the Gulf emirate attract more tourists and businesses amid growing regional competition. – New York Times

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Monday he planned to attend a summit in March with counterparts from Arab countries that have drawn closer to Israel following a U.S.-sponsored diplomatic drive in 2020. – Reuters

Steven W. Mosher writes: In truth, the Saudis may feel they have no choice. After all, their bitter sectarian enemies, the Iranian mullahs, will soon have nuclear weapons themselves. Despite the ongoing protests across Iran, Biden himself has admitted that his efforts to entice the mullahs in back into the 2015 nuclear deal are “dead.” – New York Post 

Middle East & North Africa

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his inauguration, the official Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Saturday. – Reuters

A vessel carrying at least 700 migrants was intercepted off the eastern coast of Libya, the coast guard said. It was one of the largest interceptions in recent months of migrants seeking a better life in Europe through the war-torn North African country. – Associated Press

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was rushed to intensive care after suffering a stroke, according to reports from Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The reports came after Nasrallah canceled a planned Friday speech, with the Lebanese terrorist organization announcing through its affiliated media he had fallen ill with influenza and was unable to speak well. – Jerusalem Post

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry on Friday blasted the new Israeli government, just a day after it was sworn in, over its plans to expand settlements in the West Bank and supposed “attempts to Judaize” Jerusalem. – Times of Israel 

Neville Teller writes: While Iran continues to supply weapons of ever-increasing sophistication, and the Houthis believe they have a chance of overthrowing the government and taking over all of Yemen, pleas to them to negotiate another ceasefire seem doomed to fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Yemen’s hopes of a peaceful future recede into the far distance. – Jerusalem Post

Dr. Salem AlKetbi writes: But it is inevitable for them to continue to cooperate with the regime of the mullahs. It is the evil neighbor they need. The lesser evil for Iraq is to try to contain or at least limit and mitigate Iranian interference in its internal affairs. The scenario appears very difficult and ultimately depends on the extent to which it is consistent with Iranian interests, goals, and plans. But Iraq’s interests require further attempts and efforts in this direction. – Arutz Sheva 

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile system and exponentially increase his nuclear arsenal, according to year-end comments published by state media on Sunday. – Wall Street Journal 

South Korea’s president said the country is discussing conducting joint exercises with the U.S. using nuclear assets, although President Biden played down the claim. Yoon Suk-yeol told a South Korean newspaper that the aim of the drills would be to practice the implementation of extended deterrence. South Korea doesn’t have its own nuclear weapons, but is protected under what is known as the U.S. nuclear umbrella. – Wall Street Journal 

North Korea has sacked Pak Jong Chon, the second most powerful military official after leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported. – Reuters

North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters in its latest weapons display on Saturday, a day after rival South Korea conducted a rocket launch related to its push to build a space-based surveillance to better monitor the North. – Associated Press

North Korea’s series of missile tests are grave provocations that hurt peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and beyond, South Korea’s military said, urging Pyongyang to stop them. – Reuters

North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launches do not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to Washington’s allies, the United States said. – Reuters

The US is in discussions with South Korea on ways to deter Kim Jong Un’s regime from using nuclear weapons, according to a spokesperson for the National Security Council. – Bloomberg

The United States is not discussing joint nuclear exercises with South Korea, President Joe Biden said on Monday, contradicting remarks by his South Korean counterpart as tensions flare with North Korea. – Reuters


China’s leader Xi Jinping offered a rare acknowledgment of the difficulties that three years of pandemic controls—which were abruptly lifted this month—have imposed on the Chinese population. He called for more determination and promised better times ahead. – Wall Street Journal

China’s top legislative body said Hong Kong’s leader has the power to override the courts to determine whether overseas lawyers can participate in national security cases, a ruling that will likely prevent dissident publisher Jimmy Lai from hiring a U.K. barrister in his coming trial. – Wall Street Journal  

China has appointed its ambassador to the U.S. as its new foreign minister, a promotion that bucks precedent and signals a continuation of the aggressive “Wolf Warrior” style of diplomacy that has rankled many Western countries. – Wall Street Journal 

A U.S. military plane involved in a confrontation with Chinese aircraft in disputed southern waters last week had violated international law and put the safety of Chinese pilots at risk, a defence ministry spokesman said. – Reuters

China’s top lawmaking body has given Hong Kong leader John Lee the power to bar foreign lawyers from national security cases, removing the decision from the city’s courts, in a move likely to further fuel concerns over judicial independence. – Reuters

The United States is concerned by China’s alignment with Russia as Moscow continues its invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. State Department said on Friday after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a video meeting. – Reuters

Brazilian new president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Monday he had received a letter from Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressing a desire to increase cooperation between the two countries. – Reuters

China and the United States must pursue dialogue rather than confrontation and avoid the mistakes made during the Cold War, top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Sunday in his first public comments since his appointment as head of the ruling Communist Party’s foreign affairs office. – Reuters

New Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang offered effusive praise of Americans after stepping down as his nation’s top envoy to Washington, signaling that ties between the world’s biggest economies appear to be warming despite recent tensions over Taiwan. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The participation of foreign lawyers from common-law jurisdictions has always been a barometer of Hong Kong’s judicial independence. There are many capable lawyers in Hong Kong, but living there also makes them more vulnerable to pressure. How easy would it be for a local lawyer to find other clients if the government let it be known it thought him too aggressive in defending Mr. Lai or any of the other political prisoners in Hong Kong? – Wall Street Journal 

Harlan Ullman writes: Money is not the answer. Despite an $858 billion U.S. defense budget, how knowledgeable are U.S. senior political civilian and military officials on the strengths and weaknesses of China and Russia, their strategies, leaderships and overall competence to achieve strategic aims? Indeed, is it possible that China’s military prowess has been as exaggerated as Russia’s? – The Hill 

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: But there’s another lesson here too, this time for those outside China, those now indulging in schadenfreude or rushing to impose restrictions on Chinese travelers — barriers we know to be largely pointless and which mostly encourage discrimination. Yes, test for new variants. But take a moment to look back to 2020, 2021, even 2022, and consider some self-reflection. Then spend the energy on vaccination instead. – Bloomberg

That is why it is crucial for the US and the EU to be clear — to themselves and others — that their goal is not to prevent China from becoming richer. It is to prevent China’s growing wealth from being used to threaten its neighbours or intimidate its trading partners. That policy has the merit of being both defensible and feasible. – Financial Times

Christopher Vassallo writes: In a crisis, Beijing likely expects Washington to use the insurance weapon. In turn, American geoeconomic strategists must expect Beijing to muster its substantial domestic tanker fleet and rely almost entirely on non-G7 insurers. By taking these steps in advance of a potential Taiwan crisis, Beijing is already diluting the future impact of the insurance weapon. Beijing’s willingness to preemptively undertake these moves demonstrates its commitment to besting one of the West’s most novel sanctions tools. – The National Interest

South Asia

Pakistan and neighboring India exchanged lists of their nuclear facilities on Sunday as part of a 1988 pact that bars them from attacking each other’s nuclear installations, according to official statements from both sides. – Associated Press

An army operation in Pakistan’s northwest targeting militants triggered a firefight that left a soldier and four fighters dead, the army’s media wing said Sunday. The development comes weeks after Pakistani Taliban detainees overpowered their guards at a counter-terrorism center in the northwest, snatching police weapons, taking hostages and seizing control of the facility. – Associated Press

Two children were killed and five other civilians wounded in a blast in a village in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday, a day after assailants sprayed bullets toward a row of homes, leaving at least four dead, police said. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s political and military leadership on Monday vowed that no nation will be allowed to shelter militants who stage attacks against the country — an apparent reference to neighboring Afghanistan. – Associated Press

India’s top court said Monday that the government’s surprise decision in 2016 to demonetize high-value bills was legal and taken after consultation with India’s central bank. – Associated Press


Japan’s “anti-Russian course” makes peace treaty talks impossible, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said in comments published by the state TASS news agency on Tuesday. – Reuters

Japan said on Monday it scrambled jet fighters and dispatched aircraft and warships over the past two weeks to keep tabs on China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier and five warships that conducted naval manoeuvres and flight operations in the Pacific. – Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen thanked navy and army personnel on Friday for their service defending the island, after China sent a record-breaking number of warplanes and ships toward Taiwan this week. – Associated Press

Authorities in military-ruled Myanmar announced a suspension of the normal four-hour curfew to allow New Year’s celebrations in three biggest cities, but opponents of army rule urge people to stay away and claimed security forces might stage an attack and blame it on them. – Associated Press

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. flew to China on Tuesday for a three-day state visit, saying he looks forward to his meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping as they work to boost bilateral ties. – Associated Press

A low-key US military delegation arrived in Taiwan last month to assess its army, navy and air force and explore what the country’s armed services could gain from closer co-operation with Washington. – Financial Times 


In Poland and across Europe, energy and housing costs have soared, while some governments are poised to reduce funding as the war grinds forward. It has left humanitarian groups and volunteers grappling with the difficult question of how to sustain aid to Ukrainian refugees in the year ahead, with new hardships as winter sets in again. – Washington Post 

A Romanian court agreed late on Friday to extend the detention of Andrew Tate by 30 days, after the divisive internet personality was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, rape and forming an organised crime group. – Reuters

The president of the European Parliament has launched an urgent procedure to waive the immunity of two lawmakers following a request from Belgian judicial authorities investigating a major corruption scandal rocking EU politics. – Associated Press


A court in the increasingly isolated West African nation of Mali sentenced 46 soldiers from neighboring Ivory Coast to 20 years in jail on Friday, after the military junta that runs Mali accused them of being mercenaries. – New York Times

Three prominent opponents of Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Monday that they had received notices from prosecutors that they were under investigation, including one related to assaulting public security and insulting the president. – Reuters

The bodies of 28 men killed by gunfire have been found in the northwestern Burkina Faso town of Nouna, prosecutors said on Monday. – Reuters

At least 20 people have been killed in Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland in clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces over several days, according to a doctor at a public hospital. – Reuters

A court in Mali sentenced 46 soldiers from Ivory Coast to 20 years imprisonment on Friday for conspiring against the government, and three others to death in absentia. – Reuters

Burkina Faso’s military junta has expelled France’s ambassador, authorities said Monday, amid a surge in anti-French sentiment as the West African country moves to develop closer ties with Russia. – Associated Press

Editorial: Engaging in uncomfortable talks on the need for real democracy and offering to send the best technological help. Persuading the private sector to follow through with the needed investment for existing initiatives such as Power Africa and the growth and opportunity act. And building bridges to today’s African youth and middle class. Those can all be the pillars of a new American relationship with Africa. But it starts with a commitment to prosperity, durable democratic institutions and a mutual respect that acknowledges both sides have much to gain. – Washington Post 

The Americas

The U.S. National Park Service closed Dry Tortugas National Park off the Florida Keys for several days starting on Monday after 300 immigrants had arrived on the islands in recent days, overwhelming first responders. – Reuters

As the New Year approaches, thousands of members of the National Guard remain posted to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of two distinct missions intended to address record levels of migration there. – Military Times

An attack on a prison in the Mexican border town of Juarez left 19 dead and allowed a cartel kingpin to escape along with two dozen other prisoners, authorities said Monday. – Reuters

Latin America

In his first hours as Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva issued sweeping changes to tighten the country’s firearms laws and reverse looser rules imposed by his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, that prompted a million new gun registrations since 2019. – Wall Street Journal 

Seven people were killed Monday in northern Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez during a police operation to recapture prisoners who escaped after an attack at their facility, state authorities announced. Gunmen attacked the border city’s state prison on Sunday at dawn, leaving nearly 20 people dead and allowing the prisoners, which include a gang leader, to flee. – Agence France-Presse

Bolivia’s President Luis Arce said on Monday he hopes Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will help improve diplomatic relations and explain issues that generated controversy during former President Jair Bolsonaro’s mandate. – Reuters

Colombia’s government has agreed to a six-month ceasefire with the five largest armed groups operating in the country, President Gustavo Petro announced on New Year’s Eve. – Agence France-Presse

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he is willing to work towards normalizing relations with the United States, despite the continued sanctions crippling his country. – Agence France-Presse

Heriberto Araujo writes: In his speech at the United Nations climate conference in Egypt last month, Mr. Lula said, “Let’s prove once again that it is possible to generate wealth without provoking climate change.” If he succeeds, he will prove to the average breadwinner and agribusiness elites in the Amazon that prosperity and preservation are both possible. – New York Times


Cyberattacks have surged in recent years, with the health care system and other critical sectors increasingly coming under digital assault as the threat of malware like ransomware and foreign spyware continues to evolve. – The Hill

Poland’s security agency said on Friday that the country has been a “constant target” of pro-Russian hackers since the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine. The cyberattacks on Poland’s government services, private companies, media organizations and ordinary citizens have intensified over the past year, it said. The country’s strategic, energy, and military enterprises are particularly at risk, it added. – The Record

A ransomware group linked to a number of recent hacks said on Thursday that it was behind a cyberattack on the Iowa branch of the Public Broadcasting Service. – The Record

James Stavridis writes: Should we be worried about the war in Ukraine, a restive Chinese attitude toward Taiwan, and severe turbulence in the Middle East? Of course. But so often it is a sudden and unexpected series of events that truly disrupt the international system. Beware cyberattacks and pandemics lurking beneath the waves of an already choppy international sea. – Bloomberg


The head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expressed concern over China’s space program development, saying that the United States is locked in a new space race. – The Hill

A variety of factors may alter Army priorities in 2023, including the progress of the ongoing war inside Ukraine. Just how long should the service keep munition production lines ramped up to replace dwindling US stockpiles? How should service officials fold lessons learned from the ongoing war into new weapons programs? – Breaking Defense

The Army is planning two additional tests of its hypersonic missile before fielding it to the first unit at by late 2023. – Defense News

The Army is conducting a major operational test on its Extended Range Cannon Artillery to better understand how the longer gun tube can handle a heavy amount of firing. – Defense News

East Coast Marines will train with the amphibious combat vehicle for the first time in 2023. Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, is scheduled to get its first set of vehicles in spring 2023, Marine Corps Times previously reported. – Military Times

To retire the aging M113 armored troop carriers, the Army and BAE Systems are working to accelerate the new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle production. – Defense News

Editorial: This type of re-education was accelerated by President Biden’s 2021 executive order directing agencies to “increase the availability and use of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility training.” It’s a form of political indoctrination intended to impose woke values on the vast federal bureaucracy and U.S. military. – Wall Street Journal 

Jared Golden and Don Bacon write: Sixteen members of the For Country Caucus sit on the House Armed Services Committee, and that number may grow next year. This bipartisan group of military veterans will remain focused on productivity and common-sense legislating as part of a transparent process. We urge the Senate to do the same. We owe it to our troops, to their families, and to Americans around the globe who expect Congress to do its job and help keep our nation safe. – The Hill

Frank Hoffman writes: Grasping the larger strategic context and applying scarce resources in a disciplined manner is what separates good and bad strategy. Washington is often accused of responding to the crisis du jour rather than hewing to a disciplined strategy that matches ends with means. With respect to Asia, it is time to align words with action. As stated at the opening, misguided investments, in either theater, could lead to strategic defeat. – War on the Rocks

Long War

Assailants attacked a convoy of buses transporting oil workers on Friday in an area of eastern Syria where the terrorist group Islamic State has been active, killing at least 10 people, according to state media outlets and groups that monitor the ongoing conflict in the country. – New York Times

Islamic State on Monday claimed responsibility for an attack on Taliban forces in Kabul. The militant group said on Telegram that the attack on Sunday had killed 20 people and wounded 30. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: These differing interpretations, whether this attack represents a failure of ISIS or an attempt to make it relevant once again, are important because it remains to be seen if the group will carry out more attacks. – Jerusalem Post