Fdd's overnight brief

January 30, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Israel carried out a drone strike targeting a defense compound in Iran, as the U.S. and Israel look for new ways to contain Tehran’s nuclear and military ambitions, according to U.S. officials and people familiar with the operation. – Wall Street Journal

Three alleged members of an Eastern European crime syndicate have been charged with what officials described as an Iran-backed plot to kill a journalist living in Brooklyn, the Justice Department said, citing the case as the latest example of the Islamic Republic’s efforts to silence its critics. – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s Defense Ministry said that it had thwarted an attack Saturday on one of its munition centers in the central city of Isfahan by shooting down three drones. – New York Times

Azerbaijan will evacuate embassy staff and family members from Iran on Sunday, the foreign ministry said, two days after a gunman shot dead a security guard and wounded two other people in an attack Baku branded an “act of terrorism”. – Reuters

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 struck northwest Iran near the border with Turkey on Saturday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 300, state media reported. – Reuters

Families and friends of a growing number of Europeans imprisoned in Iran gathered in Paris on Saturday to call for their release. – Associated Press

The Senate reintroduced a bipartisan resolution in support of anti-regime protests in Iran just a day after the House of Representatives passed a concurrent resolution. – Washington Examiner

The EU is exploring legal options to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation, in a big policy shift that would risk ending any hopes of restoring an international agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from developing the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon. – Financial Times

Rights groups warned that several young people, including teenagers who’ve been jailed by Iran for their involvement in anti-government protests, are at risk of being executed, and have been tortured. – Bloomberg

Despite Iranian claims, the drone attack on Iran at Isfahan was a tremendous success, according to a mix of Western intelligence sources and foreign sources, The Jerusalem Post initially reported on Sunday morning. – Jerusalem Post

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said all options are on the table to prevent the emergence of a nuclear Iran as he prepared to fly from Cairo to Jerusalem, just after Israel allegedly attacked a munitions depot in the Iranian city of Isfahan. – Jerusalem Post

Benny Avni writes: The hijab-based revolution and Iran’s arming of Russia in its Ukraine war have put off even some of the most appeasement-prone decision-makers in Europe and America. Yet, as Ms. Alinejad says, much more must be done to expose and isolate the IRGC and the entire Iranian regime. – New York Sun

Tom Rogan writes: The Washington Examiner was the first to report last April on efforts by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to assassinate John Bolton. These assassination plots are straining U.S. government protective resources to near breaking point. I outlined these strains in a recent piece on the Diplomatic Security Service, which continues to protect former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Iran tsar Brian Hook. These plots can legitimately be described as prospective acts of war against the U.S. The time for a policy response that begins and ends with a few indictments is over. – Washington Examiner

Eric R. Mandel writes: Sanctions work only if they are strong, fully enforced, and given enough time to work. Our Middle East adversaries know Americans have a short attention span — their strategy is to wait us out. We must move our timeline to a Middle Eastern one, to get the most benefit from sanctions. – The Hill

David Saranga writes: And now back to Iran. Government change in Tehran is inevitable. Which is why Israel’s digital diplomats are preparing Iranian public opinion for the day when the still-unrealized “Cyrus Accords” will be signed bringing peace between Israel and Iran. None of us know when that will happen. But in the meantime, our digital diplomats will continue to serve as unexpected voices for the Iranian people. – New York Post 

Ari Cicurel and Blaise Misztal write: As the contrast between attacks on American troops by Iran and on Iran by Israel have revealed, Tehran’s aggression will continue without consistent and forceful U.S. military action. Unnecessary restraint has not altered Iran’s calculus. It is time for the Biden administration to step up the pressure on the regime by striking back. – Newsweek

Ron Ben-Yishai writes: A hypersonic weapon, even without a nuclear warhead, would give Iran the status of a world military power, allowing it to impose its will thousands of miles away from its borders. In any case, the unusual attack was apparently intended to signal to Iran — whether it was a hypersonic weapon or not, Israel is monitoring its every move and won’t stand idly by. – Ynet

Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Zachary Coles, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Iranian officials have not blamed any specific actor for the drone attack at the time of this writing. They may avoid explicitly blaming Israel or any other actor until they have decided how they will respond. Iranian leaders could order proxy attacks on US positions in Iraq and Syria or into Israel in the coming weeks in retaliation. This attack will also likely further increase Iranian concerns over the alleged presence of Israeli intelligence services in Azerbaijan and Iraqi Kurdistan. – Institute for the Study of War

Emil Avdaliani writes: A north-south alignment might thus be forming between Russia, Armenia, and Iran; three countries with similar interests that they see challenged by the east-west formation involving Turkey and Azerbaijan (and with loose Georgia involvement.) We are still far from seeing official alliances, but geopolitical divisions are now more crystallized than they were 48 hours ago. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Andrew Ghalili and Shay Khatiri write: The end of the Islamic Republic remains implausible in the next few months. But for the first time its survival in the long-term is even more difficult to imagine because Iranians are operationalizing dissent beyond sporadic and disorganized mass demonstrations. Their revolution is finally maturing out of adolescence. – 19FortyFive

Russia & Ukraine

This peaceful Nordic city’s courthouse is a front line in the fight against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Here, prosecutors are putting teeth in Western sanctions on Russia, one case at a time. – Wall Street Journal

Russia’s invasion forces tightened the noose around this beleaguered city in eastern Ukraine, while Kyiv urged the West to provide longer-range firepower to counter Russia’s missile barrages. – Wall Street Journal

In a sprawling factory complex surrounded by derelict buildings, hundreds of technicians are working around the clock on one of the biggest challenges of Ukraine’s war: repairing artillery and heavy armor and returning it to the front line. – Wall Street Journal

Russian forces have advanced deeper into Bakhmut in recent days, according to Ukrainian soldiers there, moving house by house and threatening Ukraine’s hold on the eastern city, which Russia has made its main immediate target. – Wall Street Journal

Former British prime minister Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin personally threatened him with a missile attack in the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Washington Post

The 25 Russians convicted so far of war crimes in Ukrainian courts include a soldier who forced two Ukrainians at gunpoint to hand over laptops and money, four who beat and tortured Ukrainian soldiers, and two who admitted shelling residential buildings in the first weeks of the war. – Washington Post

Russia’s deputy foreign minister said in an interview published on Monday that it was “quite possible” the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States would end after 2026. – Reuters

Negotiations on creating a safety zone around Ukraine’s Russia-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant are tough, and Kyiv appears to be just stalling for time, RIA Novosti cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Monday. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin held talks on Friday with top security officials about the status of Russia’s efforts to legally expand the outer boundaries of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. – Reuters

Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin reacted sarcastically on Friday to new U.S. sanctions against his Wagner private military group, and the Kremlin said Washington had been smearing Wagner without reason for years. – Reuters

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov will hold a meeting with Lynne Tracy, the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, early next week, the RIA news agency reported on Saturday. – Reuters

Ukraine’s military said on Sunday its forces repelled an attack in the area of Blahodatne in the eastern part of the Donetsk region, while Russia’s Wagner private military group said it took control of the village. – Reuters

Ukraine said on Friday it would take its pilots about half a year to train for combat in Western fighter jets such as U.S. F-16s, as Kyiv steps up its campaign to secure fourth-generation warplanes in the wake of Russia’s invasion last February. – Reuters

More than 450 children have been killed in the war, and more than 900 have been physically injured, according to the Office of the Prosecutor General as gathered by the Children of War government project, which noted that it’s “impossible” to calculate the exact number due to active hostilities and Russian-occupied territory. The Russian military has also forcibly taken hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children from their families and deported them to Russia. – Washington Examiner

Russia’s defense industry has “almost doubled” its prewar ammunition production rates, according to a senior NATO member defense official who estimated that Ukrainian forces could face as many as 10,000 incoming rounds per day. – Washington Examiner

Poland plans to give Ukraine dozens of modernized Soviet-era tanks alongside a squadron of German-made Leopards in a bid to hasten the arrival of armor that could prove crucial in a coming clash with Russia. – Washington Examiner

The tanks the United States will be providing to Ukraine will not arrive for “many months,” according to a Biden administration official. – Washington Examiner

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis said the West sending tanks to Ukraine to provide additional aid in its war with Russia “creates real problems” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. – The Hill

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed that his country needs long-range missiles to help combat Russian missile attacks following a blast in the Donetsk region on Saturday that killed three people. – The Hill

Russia’s defence ministry on Saturday accused the Ukrainian army of striking a hospital in the eastern Lugansk region, leaving 14 dead and injuring 24 others. – Agence France-Presse

Russian policymakers are debating whether to declassify more data as the Kremlin’s drive for secrecy leaves even seasoned observers struggling to make sense of the country’s economy. – Financial Times

Ukrainian tank crews have arrived in Britain to begin training for their continued fight against Russia, the British Defense Ministry said on January 29, just days after Britain and other NATO countries pledged more than 130 tanks to Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Belarus’s armed forces could face widespread desertion from conscripts should the country’s strongman leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, order an invasion of Ukraine, a former senior law enforcement official said. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A contingent of military officials is quietly pushing the Pentagon to approve sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian missile and drone attacks, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions. – Politico

Editorial: The argument that a dictator’s aggression cannot be rewarded has met a receptive public response in Europe, whose 20th century wars left a residual trauma. Leaders on the continent, as in the United States, should hammer home the point that Ukraine has been victimized for wanting nothing more than to be fully Western — free to say, think, vote and join alliances as they please. – Washington Post

Editorial: The attack on Meduza underscores yet again the extent of Mr. Putin’s drive toward totalitarianism — control over all aspects of society. He has criminalized freedom of speech, assembly and religion inside of Russia, and is trying to destroy Ukraine as a democracy. Meduza’s survival is vital to keep shining a light on Russia when freedom is at risk. – Washington Post

Editorial: For the moment, peace remains a distant prospect. The months ahead will be long and bloody. Supplying Western battle tanks at least gives Ukraine a fighting chance. – Bloomberg

Bernard-Henri Lévy writes: Bringing Ukraine into NATO is as much in our own strategic interest as it is our moral duty. Accelerating the process to make up for time lost since 2008 is, for all parties, a matter of security as much as dignity. The sooner it happens, the sooner peace will return, a real peace that can be achieved only through the total capitulation of Mr. Putin, his regime and his army. – Wall Street Journal

Alena Popova writes: The Russian military machine and economy continue to operate on Western chips, and the Kremlin has no alternative options. The lack of chips could have been one of the important factors in stopping the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but this did not happen. Russia continues to receive chips from Western countries and installs them in its drones and cruise missiles, which are then used to bombard Ukraine. The war in Ukraine will one day end, but it looks like it won’t be because Russia has run out of technology to supply its army. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: The administration certainly should be credited for its willingness to commit over $110 billion to support Ukraine. And it eventually did send Ukraine many increasingly powerful weapons systems. Nevertheless, it is high time the administration ceased to drag its feet regarding the Abrams tanks. In the face of an impending Russian offensive, too little, too late is simply not good enough. – The Hill

Daniel F. Runde writes: A safe and prosperous Ukraine benefits the EU and the whole democratic world. If given the chance, Ukraine will follow the same path as Spain or Poland. Within a generation of EU membership, Ukraine will be a prosperous member of the EU and a card-carrying member of the Western alliance. – The Hill

Frederick W. Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Angela Howard, Mason Clark, Kateryna Stepanenko, and George Barros write: Delays in the provision to Ukraine of Western long-range fires systems, advanced air defense systems, and tanks have limited Ukraine’s ability to take advantage of opportunities for larger counter-offensive operations presented by flaws and failures in Russian military operations. Western discussions of supposed “stalemate” conditions and the difficulty or impossibility of Ukraine regaining significant portions of the territory Russia seized in 2022 insufficiently account for how Western delays in providing necessary military equipment have exacerbated those problems. – Institute for the Study of War

Wes Culp writes: Regional elections in September this year could offer some indication of what March 2024’s choreographed contest might look like. However, the main factor to watch for remains the status of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and whether its failures are no longer possible to ignore. – American Enterprise Institute

Michael Rubin writes: When Ukraine defeats Russia, it will mark the end of a bloody chapter but not the end of the story. It will cost Ukraine billions of dollars to rebuild its infrastructure. Much of these funds will come from the donor community, while some certainly should come from Russian reparations. Still, Ukrainians will need to pay a great deal out-of-pocket, so any industrial foundation will be valuable. Building and upgrading Ukraine’s own defense industry could be an important component not only against the backdrop of the current war, but also into a post-war future. – 19FortyFive

Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov write: Some members of the State Duma, including a vice-speaker, Boris Chernyshov, had voiced the idea “of resurrecting mobilization-type design bureaus” as early as October. “We together — scientists, government, military — must return the good old Soviet traditions. Scientists will be called upon to solve not only military but also state problems,” Chernyshov said. Putin’s Russia, never deterred by comparisons to the country’s bloody Soviet past, gives every indication that it will rummage still deeper into Stalin’s repressive toolkit. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Joel Hickman writes: Whether the Leopard 2 tank does prove decisive on the battlefield obviously remains to be seen. Overall numbers are critical here, as is the time it takes to deploy these vehicles with fully trained crews. An awful lot of training and complex logistics need to happen before then, and time is running out before Russia launches a major new offensive. But whatever the tactical outcome of the Leopard 2 deployment, it has already led to a profound shift at the strategic level of European security; Germany has finally stepped up as a serious and credible military partner, and long may that continue. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Michael McFaul writes: The best way to commemorate February 24, the anniversary of Putin’s invasion, is to make clear that this is the West’s strategy. This requires a rollout—coordinated by dozens of countries on the same day—of more and better weapons, tougher sanctions, new economic assistance, greater public diplomacy efforts, and a credible commitment to postwar reconstruction. This is also the best way to avoid being in the same place when February 24, 2024, rolls around. – Foreign Affairs

Frank Costigliola writes: If alive today, Kennan would note the danger of cornering the Russians to the point where they might lash out. He would also gesture toward the United States’ multiple problems at home and wonder how this exposed presence in Eastern Europe accorded with the long-term foreign and domestic interests of the American people. – Foreign Affairs


A 13-year-old Palestinian shot and injured two people in Jerusalem, Israeli police said, in what authorities described as another act of terrorism in the city a day after a Palestinian gunman killed seven outside a synagogue. – Wall Street Journal

At least seven people were killed and three were injured Friday night when a Palestinian gunman opened fire outside a Jerusalem synagogue, in what authorities said was an act of terrorism. – Wall Street Journal

When Secretary of State Antony Blinken lands in Israel this week, he will step into a hotbed of violence and political strife, signs of the chronic challenges that have kept the Middle East among America’s most urgent global concerns despite the Biden administration’s attempt to re-engineer its foreign policy. – Washington Post

Pope Francis on Sunday called on Israel and the Palestinians to engage in dialogue in pursuit of peace, deploring the recent violence in the region. – Reuters

The United States is deeply concerned about recent violence in Israel and the West Bank and believes there is an urgent need for all parties to de-escalate in the region, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Friday. – Reuters

The Israeli military said on Saturday it was boosting forces in the occupied West Bank, a day after a Palestinian gunman shot seven people dead near a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem. – Reuters

Israel on Sunday prepared to demolish the east Jerusalem family home of a Palestinian man who killed seven people near a synagogue, as part of measures to punish the relatives of attackers. – Agence France-Presse

The European Union on Saturday denounced this week’s attacks in Jerusalem and urged Israel to only use lethal force as a last resort. – Agence France-Presse

The Palestinian Authority said on Saturday that it will proceed with its decision to end security coordination with Israel, regardless of demands by the US and European Union to reverse the move. – Jerusalem Post

Abbas briefed the CIA director on the “dangerous developments and the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people,” the PA’s official news agency Wafa reported. – Jerusalem Post

Herb Keinon writes: Some may see signals of US displeasure over certain government moves that are sure to come up during Blinken’s visit as a sign of tension between Jerusalem and Washington. But Netanyahu, who is in the uncomfortable position of being the Left flank of his own government, may want to use that displeasure to get his coalition partners to walk back some of what he feels may be extreme and counterproductive demands. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It’s possible for commentators to write about the Jenin clashes and also about the attack in Jerusalem and see each as its own incident, and each civilian death as a tragedy. When commentators try to churn this into one process it not only wreaks of “all lives matter” excuses but also is not helpful either for peace or for humanizing the victims on both sides. – Jerusalem Post

Avi Issacharoff writes: The Muslim holiday will coincide with Jewish Passover and security forces expect riots to break out on Temple Mount. There are enough arsonists on the Israeli and Palestinian sides to ensure violence. And no one can predict where that violence would lead. – Ynet


The Taliban-run Ministry of Higher Education ordered private universities in Afghanistan not to allow female students to sit university entrance exams next month, underscoring its policy to restrict women from tertiary education. – Reuters

Thousands of Afghans held protests on Friday to express anger after a far-right politician publicly set fire to the Koran in Sweden last week. – Reuters

In the months he was held in detention in Texas during his legal fight to remain in the U.S., Afghan soldier Abdul Wasi Safi thought he would eventually be returned to his home country and meet a likely death at the hands of the Taliban because of his work with the U.S. military. – Associated Press

At least 166 people have died in a wave of bitterly cold weather sweeping Afghanistan, an official said Saturday, as extreme conditions heaped misery on the poverty-stricken nation. – Agence France-Presse

Mark R. Whittington writes: The cost of an information war on the Taliban would be insignificant. The potential for eventual overthrow of the theocratic, oppressive regimeand the restoration of American moral authority lost because of the withdrawal from Afghanistan is beyond evaluation. – The Hill


An international chemical-weapons watchdog on Friday blamed the Syrian air force for a 2018 chlorine attack that killed at least 43 people, adding more evidence of war crimes committed by the government of President Bashar Al Assad during the country’s decade long civil war. – Wall Street Journal

Drones attacked a convoy of trucks in eastern Syria Sunday night shortly after it crossed into the country from Iraq, Syrian opposition activists and a pro-government radio station said. There was no immediate word on casualties. – Associated Press

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday said two armed Syrians who approached the Israeli border in the southern Golan Heights the previous day — one of whom was shot dead by troops — were not combatants. – Times of Israel


Facing a difficult election in just a few months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has unleashed a wave of public spending — to help the millions in his country reeling from economic hardship, and to ensure their votes go his way. – Washington Post

The U.S. embassy in Turkey warned Americans on Monday of possible attacks against churches, synagogues, and diplomatic missions in Istanbul, marking its second such notice in four days, following Koran-burning incidents in Europe. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan signalled on Sunday that Ankara may agree to Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden, amid growing tensions with Stockholm. – Reuters

Turkey has summoned Denmark’s ambassador to Ankara over a planned protest in the Danish capital on Friday that is expected to include the burning of a copy of the Koran, the Danish foreign ministry said on Friday. – Reuters

Turkey warned its citizens on Saturday against “possible Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist attacks” in the United States and Europe after its Western allies cautioned their citizens in Turkey about possible terror attacks. – Reuters

Sweden’s foreign ministry on Saturday warned Swedes in Turkey to avoid crowds and demonstrations following protests there over the burning of the Koran by a far-right politician in Stockholm last week. – Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department’s top sanctions official on a trip to Turkey and the Middle East next week will warn countries and businesses that they could lose access to G7 markets if they do business with entities subject to U.S. curbs as Washington cracks down on Russian attempts to evade sanctions imposed over its war in Ukraine. – Reuters

Daniel DePetris writes: Whether Turkey should continue to be a part of the NATO alliance is a different question, and reasonable people will disagree on the answer. But when one takes the practicalities into account, the question is moot. The fact is Turkey is a part of NATO and will remain so, even if a growing segment of commentators in Washington and European capitals wish otherwise. – Washington Examiner


Joseph Steib writes: But none of those contextual factors render logical the Bush administration’s decision to center the response to terrorism on Iraq, a nation that had not attacked the United States, lacked the capacity to do so, and was not supporting al-Qaeda. Leffler’s history lets these leaders off the hook by taking them at their word and depicting the Iraq War as a “tragedy” rather than an unforced blunder. In reality, it required not just fear, power, and hubris to take the United States into Iraq, but ideology and delusion as well. – War on the Rocks

Erik Yavorsky writes: Militia Spotlight assesses that Kaabi’s visit signals a new intensification of this trend, whereby Moscow now feels free to court specific muqawama leaders who have no government role, who are fully outside the official PMF chain of command, and who have been designated as terrorists and human rights abusers by the U.S. government. Unlike under former prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Moscow will now face no diplomatic repercussions from Baghdad for openly engaging with Iraqi militias under what Asaib Ahl al-Haq calls Sudani’s “muqawama government.” – Washington Institute

David Schenker writes: Although it is still too early to write Sudani off as an Iranian lackey, he is on a familiar trajectory for Iraqi governments: namely, doing the minimum necessary to prevent deterioration with Washington while satisfying the voracious demands of his Iran-backed partners. He will no doubt have great difficulty fighting corruption and improving the economy so long as he kowtows to diktats from Iran and its local allies. Yet this is exactly what he appears to be doing at the moment, if only to forestall early elections that could bring back his vanquished rival Muqtada al-Sadr. – Washington Institute


TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) is keen to start work on Lebanon’s offshore Block 9 “as soon as possible”, with assessments to begin early next month and well-drilling to launch in the third quarter of 2023, its CEO Patrick Pouyanne said on Sunday. – Reuters

Some 40 Lebanese lawmakers on Friday became the latest group to back the judge investigating the catastrophic 2020 Beirut port blast and call for the country’s top prosecutor to be held accountable for steps taken against the judge and his probe. – Reuters

Lebanon’s top Christian cleric called on Sunday for the judge struggling to investigate the Beirut port explosion to be able to pursue his work and get help from any outside authority to pinpoint those responsible for the devastating blast. – Reuters

Lebanon, two international oil giants and state-owned oil and gas company Qatar Energy signed an agreement Sunday that the Qatari firm will join a consortium that will search for gas in the Mediterranean Sea off Lebanon’s coast. – Associated Press


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Egypt on Sunday at the start of a three-day visit to the Middle East as violence flares between Israelis and Palestinians, and with Iran and Ukraine high on the agenda. – Reuters

Egypt cleared a backlog of foreign goods that had been stuck at its ports for months due to a shortage of US dollars, the prime minister said, signaling some of the pressure on the country’s currency may be easing. – Bloomberg

Gautam Adani reached out to more countries in the Middle East and Central Asia to expand the boundaries of his mining-to-infrastructure conglomerate as Asia’s richest man faces intense public scrutiny following a scathing report by US short seller Hindenburg Research. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Egypt looks like it is returning to be a key partner of the US and as it plays a role in Israel’s ties with the Gulf; these will potentially add up to more stability in the region. Egypt’s ties with Saudi Arabia and its role in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya are also important. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

The Philippine government said Saturday it will take steps to assess and prevent abuses including rape and maltreatment of Filipino workers in Kuwait, after a housemaid was killed and dumped in a desert in the oil-rich emirate. – Associated Press

Over two dozen U.S. representatives on Friday called on top U.S. climate envoy John Kerry to urge the United Arab Emirates to withdraw its appointment of the head of its state oil company as president of the COP28 climate summit it will host this year. – Reuters

Martin Oliner writes: Only if the Israeli and American governments and the leaders of the international community stop coddling Qatar, can the Abraham Accords move forward again in a serious manner. Standing up to Qatar will create an atmosphere that would enable more Arab and Muslim countries to gain legitimacy for normalizing relations with Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Talal Mohammad writes: Rather than provoking it to collapse, Saudi Arabia would instead prefer to slowly defang Iran without ever engaging in direct military confrontation. As Tehran faces global pushback for its response to the ongoing protest movement, accusations of collaborating with Russia in Ukraine, and the unsettled nuclear deal, Riyadh’s approach seems to be working. Mohammad bin Salman wants Iran to be weak enough that it is forced to make concessions on its nuclear program and regional influence—but a totally destabilized Tehran would do the kingdom more harm than good. – Foreign Policy

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisia announced that a mere 11% of the electorate had voted on Sunday in parliamentary runoffs, with critics of President Kais Saied saying the empty polling stations were evidence of public disdain for his agenda and seizure of powers. – Reuters

A human rights watchdog called on Morocco on Friday not to extradite a Shi’ite Muslim to his homeland of Saudi Arabia, citing fears he could face torture and an unfair trial there. – Reuters

Tunisian activist Chaimaa Issa is due to face a military court on Friday on charges of insulting a president whom she accuses of trashing the democracy built from a 2011 revolution in which she took full part. – Reuters

Italian energy company Eni and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) signed an $8 billion gas production deal on Saturday aimed at boosting energy supplies to Europe despite the insecurity and political chaos in the North African country. – Reuters

Italy’s prime minister held talks in Libya on Saturday with officials from the country’s west-based government focusing on energy and migration, top issues for Italy and the European Union. – Associated Press

The meeting, and contrasting messaging, come at a time of heightened tension between the two countries, which have maintained a cool and shaky peace for more than 30 years. While the two neighbors cooperate closely in the fields of security, water and energy, disagreements between Israel and Jordan – and between Netanyahu and Abdullah in particular – have dominated the diplomatic and political arenas for years. – Jewish Insider

Korean Peninsula

North Korea on Sunday criticized for a second day a U.S. decision to send tanks to Ukraine, calling it an “unethical crime” aimed at perpetuating an unstable international situation. – Reuters

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged South Korea on Monday to increase military support to Ukraine, citing other countries that have changed their policy of not providing weapons to countries in conflict after Russia’s invasion. – Reuters

Russia’s hunt for weapons to fire at Ukraine could provide a lifeline for North Korea, where even a relatively modest arms deal would help lift the country’s cash-starved and stagnant economy into growth. – Bloomberg

Russia’s embassy in North Korea says the country has eased stringent epidemic controls in capital Pyongyang that were placed during the past five days to slow the spread of respiratory illnesses. – Associated Press


China’s top nuclear-weapons research institute has bought sophisticated U.S. computer chips at least a dozen times in the past two and a half years, circumventing decades-old American export restrictions meant to curb such sales. – Wall Street Journal

Days after a four-star general in the Air Force predicted the United States could be at war with China in two years, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Sunday he agreed with that assessment. – Washington Post

China has resumed the issuance of ordinary visas for Japanese citizens travelling to the country, the Chinese embassy in Japan said on Sunday, in a move that could ease a diplomatic row. – Reuters

Over a few hours under grey skies, dozens of combat planes and helicopters roar on and off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Nimitz, in a demonstration of U.S. military power in some of the world’s most hotly contested waters. – Reuters

A four-star Air Force general sent a memo to the officers he commands informing them of his belief, and the preparations expected for a U.S. war with China by 2025. – Washington Examiner

China’s reopening to the world after three years of President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy has arrived, spurring hopes of a broad economic revival. – Financial Times

Editorial: These reforms are important and long overdue. China would love nothing more than to destroy the U.S. from the inside out. And, as Biden’s scandal proves, the close financial partnerships our institutions enter into with Chinese companies gives the Chinese Communist Party the opportunity to do just that. – Washington Examiner

Kenneth C. Brill writes: Let’s hope, therefore, that voters and the U.S. business and national security communities raise their voices in an effort to deter radical Republicans from pursuing their threat of a debt ceiling default gift to China. – The Hill

South Asia

A small office in a suburb of Mumbai helps explain how Russian crude continues to flow. The address is home to an Indian shipping company that didn’t manage a single ship until 2022. It took control of two dozen tankers after the Russian military invasion of Ukraine and has put them to work shuttling Russian crude along newly established trade routes to the Mediterranean, Turkey and India, vessel-ownership and tracking data show. – Wall Street Journal

An explosion ripped through a mosque in the police compound in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, bringing down the roof and killing at least 18, according to the hospital. – Washington Post

India has asked Pakistan to change a decades-old water-sharing agreement by barring third parties from intervening in disputes, an Indian government source said, a suggestion likely to rile Islamabad. – Reuters

The Pakistani rupee’s two-day decline slowed on Friday on news that an IMF team was visiting Islamabad next week to discuss unlocking a suspended bailout package, though the currency still closed at a record low against the U.S. dollar. – Reuters

Sri Lanka’s president suspended Parliament until Feb. 8, when he said he would announced a new set of long-term policies to address a range of issues including an unprecedented economic crisis that has engulfed the Indian Ocean nation for months. – Associated Press

Nepal’s Supreme Court on Friday removed the country’s deputy prime minister from office and from his parliamentary seat for violating citizenship laws. – Associated Press


Russia said on Sunday it will not hold annual talks with Japan on renewing a pact that allows Japanese fishermen to operate near disputed islands, saying Japan has taken anti-Russian measures. – Reuters

Australia’s defence and foreign ministers on Sunday said they aimed to deepen security ties with France and Britain during visits to Europe this week, flagging the Indo-Pacific as a key area of focus. – Reuters

A Japanese construction firm was granted an exemption by the U.S. government to make payments to a Myanmar military-owned company despite sanctions aimed at cutting off the Myanmar junta that seized power in a coup from sources of revenue, a Japanese official said on Friday. – Reuters

Myanmar’s ruling junta on Friday announced tough requirements for parties to contest an election this year, including a huge increase in their membership, a move that could sideline the military’s opponents and cement its grip on politics. – Reuters

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has hurt the Mongolian economy, its prime minister has said, claiming financial damage including the loss of airline revenues and difficulty in importing necessary supplies from Russia. – Financial Times

Editorial: Such yawning gaps in U.S. preparedness make a decision by Beijing to invade or blockade the democratic island more likely. Preventing a war for Taiwan requires showing Beijing that the U.S. has the means and the will to fight and repel an invasion. Whatever his rhetorical flourishes, Gen. Minihan seems to understand this, and what Americans should really worry about is that some of his political and military superiors don’t. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Without an extension of the safe-haven order, Hong Kongers would have had to seek another form of immigration protection to remain in the U.S. But it would have been difficult for many former pro-democracy protesters to gather sufficient evidence to bolster an asylum claim. […]Congress can help by providing a permanent refuge for Hong Kongers who are already in the U.S. America is enriched by those who know what it’s like to risk everything for freedom and the rule of law. – Wall Street Journal

Janusz Bugajski writes: Russia’s control over Nagorno-Karabakh and its intent to dominate the government in Armenia could push the wider South Caucasus region into a conflict that embroils Turkey, NATO, Russia and Iran. To prevent further destabilization, Washington and its NATO allies and EU partners must mobilize international support to replace Russian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh with an international peacekeeping mission and help forge a durable peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan based on the territorial integrity of both states. – The Hill


A former general defeated a billionaire former prime minister on Saturday in the Czech Republic’s presidential election — seen by some as a contest between constitutional democracy and populism, with Russia’s war in Ukraine in the background. – Washington Post

European Union ambassadors on Friday discussed extending sanctions to Russian ally Belarus to crack down on the circumvention of sanctions on Russia by companies routing banned products through its neighbour. – Reuters

The United States and European Union on Friday announced an agreement to speed up and enhance the use of artificial intelligence to improve agriculture, healthcare, emergency response, climate forecasting and the electric grid. – Reuters

Hungary will veto any European Union sanctions against Russia affecting nuclear energy, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday. – Reuters

The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland reiterated in separate interviews published Saturday that the process for the two Nordic nations to join NATO is continuing despite Turkey’s president saying Sweden shouldn’t expect his country to approve its membership. – Associated Press

Italy’s premier said in a statement Saturday that Italian diplomatic property had been the target of vandalism in Germany and Spain. – Associated Press

A counterterrorism intelligence unit on Friday questioned a suspect accused of killing a Catholic church officer with a machete and wounding four more people, including a priest, in the southern city of Algeciras, Spain’s national police agency said. – Associated Press

Veronika Hornyák writes: And yet, there is a very long way to go. Accordingly, the next few years will be decisive in deciding how the EU defines itself in terms of security, especially if the war in Ukraine becomes a protracted conflict amounting to a direct threat at its doorstep. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Edward Lucas writes: The wider lesson is that given a strong candidate and a strong campaign — something signally absent in previous presidential contests — a mainstream political campaign can beat even an unscrupulous and well-connected populist opponent. That lesson will not be lost in other countries. […]But history shows that the Czechs, too, can play an outsize role in international politics. Under the steely, soft-spoken Pavel, those times may be returning. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The U.S. is trying to persuade Mozambique, an African country long friendly to Moscow, to use its new seat on the United Nations Security Council to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned South African officials about the consequences of violating U.S. sanctions, as the Biden administration tries to balance its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a broader effort to deepen ties with African governments. – Wall Street Journal

A senior U.S. official said on Saturday that Eritrean troops are still in Ethiopia although they have moved back the border, contradicting Ethiopian authorities who say the Eritreans have already left. – Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Thursday on a tour of Africa to shore up support for Russia, focusing on the “dynamics of the war in Ukraine”, Eritrea’s information minister said. – Reuters

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday he hoped South Africa would use its good relations with Russia to convince it end the conflict in Ukraine. – Reuters

A Russian research vessel which has been prospecting for oil and natural gas in the Antarctic docked in South Africa on Saturday following protests by green campaigners who say its operations in the region violate a treaty banning mineral exploration. – Reuters

The first U.S. Cabinet member to visit Somalia since 2015 urged the world’s distracted donors Sunday to give immediate help to a country facing deadly famine, which she calls “the ultimate failure of the international community.” – Associated Press

Fighting intensified around a town in eastern Congo Thursday as a rebel group seeking to expand the territory it controls increased pressure on government troops defending it, forcing hundreds of civilians to flee their homes. – Associated Press

France will withdraw its military from Burkina Faso within a month following a request from the West African country’s governing junta. The removal is the latest sign of the former colonial power’s collapsing influence in the region — a development that Russia has eagerly exploited. – Bloomberg

Latin America

With global demand for oil surging and many countries trying to increase production, Colombia is rolling back its petroleum industry. The country’s new president, Gustavo Petro, says oil is poisoning the earth and warns that climate change could lead to the extinction of the human race. His government has suspended fracking operations, and he says there is no need for new oil exploration. – Wall Street Journal

Venezuela should release arbitrarily detained individuals and end torture, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said on Saturday at the end of a trip to the country. – Reuters

Venezuela’s former chief justice Maikel Moreno has been indicted on money laundering charges related to bribe payments he allegedly received in exchange for influencing court decisions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern District of Florida said. – Reuters

The new president of Venezuela’s opposition legislature is confident the United States will back the body by continuing to protect foreign assets like oil refiner Citgo Petroleum from creditors, she said on Friday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined with counterparts from across the Americas on Friday seeking to advance efforts to forge a regional economic partnership, building on a framework President Joe Biden announced at a Los Angeles summit in June. – Reuters

By undermining Paraguay’s ruling party, Washington is contributing to a likely election loss for Latin America’s last non-leftist government — and to the deepening of Communist China’s presence in the hemisphere. – New York Sun

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Bolivia has declared President Boluarte illegitimate. Colombian President Gustavo Petro, a former terrorist, wants international intervention in Peru’s domestic affairs. Chile’s President Gabriel Boric, an arrogant ideologue whose economy has lost $50 billion in investment since the 2019 leftwing pandemonium that he championed, is heaping criticism on the Peruvian democracy. You connect the dots. – Wall Street Journal

United States

Notebooks used by President Joe Biden during his time as vice president were among the items taken by the FBI during a search of one of his Delaware homes last week, according to a person familiar with the investigation. – Washington Examiner

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday said he takes “full responsibility” for classified documents ending up at his home in Indiana and pledged to cooperate with any investigation into how it happened. – The Hill

The Department of Justice is working to brief lawmakers on potential risks to national security after the discovery of classified documents at the homes of both former President Donald Trump and President Biden, a department official told senators in a letter Saturday. – CBS News

Editorial: But the public’s interest in the nature of these documents is high and warranted. The Biden administration should change course now and make copies available to the elected representatives of the people as soon as possible. – Washington Examiner

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: Seven years have given us the perspective to see something if we are willing to see it: The FBI’s intervention in the Hillary Clinton case launched the agency on a new role as continuous actor in our presidential politics, with no end in sight unless society makes a deliberate effort to return our securocrats to their proper sphere. – Wall Street Journal


As lawmakers push to ban or restrict Chinese-owned TikTok, one of the many hurdles they face is a pair of measures passed by Congress decades ago to let films, books and music flow freely between the U.S. and hostile foreign countries. – Wall Street Journal

House Republicans are set to hand libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) the gavel for the subcommittee responsible for antitrust, a snub to one of Republicans’ most vocal Big Tech critics and a sign the conference will try to steer clear of major clashes with Silicon Valley. – Washington Examiner

The infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed in November 2021 included a provision requiring the Federal Communications Commission to prevent discrimination in access to broadband internet based on race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin. – Washington Examiner

OpenAI’s ChatGPT conversational artificial intelligence tool is capable of doing many things, with users demonstrating how it can write essays for students and cover letters for job seekers. Cybersecurity researchers have now shown it can also be used to write malware. – Washington Examiner

Ukrainian officials are breaking new ground — and possibly reshaping the future of cyberwarfare — as they seek to convince the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague to investigate whether certain Russian cyberattacks could constitute war crimes. – The Hill

Cyber security company Secureworks Counter Threat has reported on efforts by a group affiliated to the Islamic Republic aiming to disrupt relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. – Iran International

One of the Russian military’s most prolific hacking units deployed yet another destructive malware attack against Ukrainian targets this week, researchers with cybersecurity firm ESET said Friday. – ​​CyberScoop

The Russian cyber-espionage group known as Gamaredon may have been behind a phishing attack on Latvia’s Ministry of Defense last week, the ministry told The Record on Friday. – The Record

David Albert writes: But presidents can overrule ITC decisions, and Apple will urge Joe Biden to do so. If he does and hands Apple a victory, it will tell inventors everywhere not to bother creating truly disruptive technologies—even ones that can save lives. IP-intensive industries account for 44% of U.S. employment and 41% of gross domestic product. If Apple wins, the repercussions throughout this ecosystem will be seismic. The president said days ago that “small businesses are the engines of our economy and the hearts of our communities.” This case gives him an opportunity to show he means it. – Wall Street Journal

Otto Lanzavecchia writes: ChatGPT throws down a gauntlet to regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. It will not wait for them to devise effective rules to encourage its positive potential while limiting its risks. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The first West Point graduate to represent the academy in Congress has a slate of issues he wants to tackle but is starting off with a warning to Republicans: Stop criticizing the military. – Washington Examiner

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services committee, said U.S. military readiness is a “huge problem” as global tensions heighten and the war in Ukraine rages on. – The Hill

Questions are mounting as to how long the United States can continue to supply Ukraine from its own weapons stockpiles without hindering its own security. – The Hill

Mack Defense, Navistar Defense, Oshkosh Defense and an American Rheinmetall and GM Defense team will build prototypes for a Common Tactical Truck after the U.S. Army awarded them deals worth a cumulative $24.3 million. – Defense News

Leon E. Panetta and Shelly Stoneman write: Failure to address practices that perpetuate discriminatory and unsafe working environments, as well as policies that create tradeoffs between women’s career prospects and their health care and child care options, will continue to frustrate efforts to recruit the best and the brightest of women, in all their diversity, to serve this country. The fight continues. – The Hill

Long War

A judge on Saturday adjourned legal proceedings against a serving soldier in the British army who is accused of terrorism and explosives-related offences and remanded the 21-year-old in custody, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said. – Reuters

Mali’s foreign minister defended the military government’s cooperation with Russia on Friday and rejected three options proposed by the U.N. chief to reconfigure the U.N. peacekeeping force in the west African country where Al-Qaida and Islamic State extremist groups are driving insecurity. – Associated Press

US forces extensively rehearsed a secret raid to take out a senior Islamic State financial operative this week, using a specially-built recreation of the rugged target area, US officials said. – Business Insider

Anthony J. Tokarz writes: Jihadist insurgency in West Africa seems like both an intractable long-term threat and a present danger. Still, the United States ought to help France formulate alternative approaches to the problem to avoid repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result. One of the key consequences of the Viking siege of Paris was the Franks’ acknowledgment of the strategic importance of Paris. Perhaps the present crisis will at least alert the United States and its allies to the strategic importance of Burkina Faso, the linchpin of security in the Sahel and West Africa. – The National Interest