Fdd's overnight brief

January 31, 2022

In The News


French President Emmanuel Macron called for the “immediate release” of a French-Iranian researcher imprisoned in Iran, officials said Sunday. – Associated Press 

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on January 30 that government mismanagement has contributed to Iran’s economic woes, an acknowledgement of problems more frequently blamed on U.S. and other international sanctions. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

French President Emmanuel Macron has told his Iranian counterpart that the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran can be revived, but ongoing negotiations must speed up and Iran must return to its full obligations under the accord. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The latest round of talks to save the Iran nuclear deal have neared a final stage, diplomats said, after weeks of intense diplomacy in Vienna. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

“The Maximum Pressure campaign has led to the US’s abject failure. These are the words of the US Department of State. Their spokesman stated that the maximum pressure campaign against Iran has led to the US’s abject failure,” Ayatollah Khamenei said during the meeting. – Islamic Republic News Agency 

Experts believe a network of fake websites offering former spies and soldiers in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon espionage work for Israel is a counterintelligence effort run by Iran-linked operatives, according to a report this week. – Times of Israel 

Iran is enlisting militiamen in part of eastern Syria, looking to cement its influence in an area with a key border crossing for moving weapons to allied groups, according to a report Friday. – Times of Israel 

Bob Feferman writes: When the West decides to take the words “Never Again” as seriously as Israelis do, then there will be hope that Iran’s leaders will be held accountable to a higher standard. Not only will the world then refuse to tolerate their threats to genocide against the Jewish state, but it will become unacceptable for Iran to develop the means to commit genocide through their support for terrorists and pursuit of nuclear weapons. – Algemeiner


President Joe Biden on Sunday called for the release of U.S. Navy veteran Mark Frerichs, who was taken hostage in Afghanistan nearly two years ago. – Associated Press 

A U.N. report seen by Reuters says the Taliban and its allies are believed to have killed scores of former Afghan officials, security force members and people who worked with the international military contingent since the U.S.-led pullout. – Reuters 

Afghanistan’s public universities, closed since the Taliban seized power in August, will reopen in February, the Taliban acting higher education minister said on Sunday, without specifying whether female students would be able to return. – Reuters 

The United Nations has received “credible allegations” that more than 100 former members of the Afghan government, its security forces and those who worked with international troops have been killed since the Taliban took over the country Aug. 15, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says. – Associated Press 

Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August, information has trickled in about tensions building between the ethnic Uzbek, Turkmen, and Tajik communities in parts of northern Afghanistan and the mainly Pashtun Taliban fighters who have moved to the area in recent months. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


Islamic State has been slowly preparing for a comeback in the Syrian and Iraqi territory that it lost nearly three years ago. – Wall Street Journal 

The Islamic State, which once controlled territory the size of Britain that spanned the Syria-Iraq border, is not as powerful as it once was, but experts say it could be biding its time until conditions in the unstable countries where it thrives provide it with new chances to expand. – New York Times 

Syrian air defenses confronted Israeli missiles targeting an area near the capital, Damascus, downing some of them, Syria’s state news agency reported Monday. – Associated Press 

With a spectacular jail break in Syria and a deadly attack on an army barracks in Iraq, the Islamic State group was back in the headlines the past week, a reminder of a war that formally ended three years ago but continues to be fought mostly away from view. – Associated Press 

Nour Al-Ahmad writes: On Thursday, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced that Islamic State militants still held a section of Ghweiran prison in northeast Syria, despite a previous announcement on Wednesday that the SDF had regained control of the facility. For the eighth day in a row, despite the initial announcement of victory over these factions, the residents of the southern neighborhoods of the city of Hasakah are still suffering, due to the continuing siege, the shortage of basic necessities and the ongoing sounds of clashes in the background. – Washington Institute


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan replaced the head of the state statistics agency weeks after it reported record inflation, which added to anger in the country over its economic woes, and appointed another member of the ruling party as justice minister. – Wall Street Journal 

President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday threatened Turkish media with reprisals if they disseminated content that damaged the country’s core values, in a move that might be a prelude to further censorship in the sector. – Reuters 

Israeli officials are seeing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent proposition of a meeting in Ankara with his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog as a “testing ground” for a future improvement of ties with Turkey, according to a report Sunday. – Times of Israel 

Nimrod Goren writes: President Herzog looks as though he has accepted President Erdogan’s invitation to Ankara. Ahead of his visit, he would do well to inform the Turkish President that he is saving a seat on his flight back for a new Turkish ambassador whom he would be honored to host. The time has come to turn the page in Israel-Turkey relations. And as was the case 30 years ago, a president from the Herzog family could help make it happen. – Ynet 


Israel’s president, making his first visit on Sunday to the United Arab Emirates, said his country supports the Gulf state’s security needs and wants more countries in the region to join its new detente with the Arab world. – Reuters 

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has failed to uphold promises made to purge its curriculum of antisemitic and violent themes, a report by an Israeli education watchdog charged on Thursday. – Algemeiner 

Palestinian sources have said that President Mahmoud Abbas requested the release of security prisoners belonging to the Fatah party, who are held by Israel, Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a meeting last August. – Ynet 

U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein met with Energy Minister Karine Elharrar on Sunday as part of U.S. efforts to demarcate a maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. – Haaretz 

Palestinians have launched a new social media campaign in protest of Hamas’s rule of the Gaza Strip, holding the Islamist movement responsible for poverty, unemployment and harsh economic and humanitarian conditions. – Jerusalem Post 

Hamas security forces were scouring the Gaza Strip over the weekend in search of a man who escaped from a maximum-security prison, Palestinian media reported Sunday. – Times of Israel 

Two Israeli women accused of assisting an Iranian espionage operation have been released to house arrest, Hebrew media reported Friday. – Times of Israel 

Jan Grabowski writes: The assault on the value of Jewish survivor testimony and the legal attack on our knowledge of the past are signs that the memory of the Holocaust is under threat not only by the deaths of survivors, but also by the willful choices of the present generation. The more time distances us from the event, the more heated the exchanges become, and the more forceful the attacks on the memory of the Shoah. – New York Times 

Mark R. Whittington writes: High tech will be the basis of Israel’s relationships with other countries, especially Gulf Nations such as the UAE, whose interests are also defined by a drive to create a commercial technology sector. Indeed, Israel’s relationship with the other countries that comprise the Abraham Accords, the Trump-era agreement that made peace between Israel and a number of Arab Gulf states, will be defined by a paraphrase of an old slogan from the 60s: Make money, not war. That is altogether a beautiful thing. – The Hill 


Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group said on Sunday it saw no reason to delay May’s parliamentary elections, days after politics was turned on its head by Saad al-Hariri’s withdrawal from public life. – Reuters 

A decision by Lebanon’s leading Sunni Muslim politician to step back from politics and boycott a parliamentary election in May must not be used as an excuse to call for a delay, the Maronite Christian patriarch said on Sunday. – Reuters 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Saturday he saw no reason for a delay to parliamentary elections in May after three-times former prime minister Saad al-Hariri announced he was boycotting the vote and stepping away from politics. – Reuters 

The United States plans to reroute $67 million of military assistance for Lebanon’s armed forces to support members of the military as the country grapples with financial meltdown. – Reuters 

Lebanon’s foreign minister said Saturday that his country will not disarm the Iran-funded Hezbollah terror group, one of 10 confidence-building measures requested from Beirut by Persian Gulf nations. – Times of Israel 

Lebanese security forces have uncovered more than 15 alleged Israeli spy networks, according to a report Monday by the Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper. – Times of Israel 

Salem AlKetbi writes: Hezbollah will never be part of the solution to the Lebanese dilemma.It is the root of its chronic crisis. A driving force behind the corruption, chaos and destruction that have ravaged this Arab country. […]Therefore, the solution must start with disarming the militia that is responsible for this historically and geopolitically odd situation for Lebanon. – Arutz Sheva 

Edward Gabriel writes: The Lebanese people deserve to live in a sovereign, independent state that is not threatened by internal militias, terrorists or neighboring countries, and the U.S. cannot afford to have Lebanon become a failed state. The elections must happen in a fair and transparent manner. Support for the LAF and ISF must increase. Reforms must begin. The potential erosion of Lebanon’s integrity as a state would be a tragic loss of a longtime U.S. friend and could further undermine American credibility in the region. – The Hill


Yemen’s Houthi group said on Monday it had fired a number of ballistic missiles at Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, and had also fired several drones at Dubai, the regional business hub. – Reuters 

Nearly 1,500 children recruited by Yemen’s Houthi rebels died in fighting in 2020, and hundreds more the following year, the UN says. – BBC 

Maysaa Shuja al-Deen writes: In addition to assessing and monitoring the humanitarian aid operation in Yemen, western leaders must put pressure on the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, to receive more Yemeni migrants and apply preferential policies toward Yemeni workers. Furthermore, these belligerent parties must make major contributions to reconstruction in the semi-stable areas of the country. – Foreign Policy

Gulf States

The United Arab Emirates military said Monday it intercepted a ballistic missile fired at Abu Dhabi by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, just hours after Israel’s president began a historic visit to the Persian Gulf country. – Wall Street Journal 

President Joe Biden is hosting the ruling leader of Qatar at the White House on Monday as he looks for the gas-rich nation to step up once again to help the West as it faces the prospect of a European energy crunch if Russia further invades Ukraine. – Associated Press 

Iraqi airstrikes killed nine suspected Islamic State fighters, including four Lebanese, in retaliation for an IS attack on Iraqi army barracks earlier this month, officials said Sunday. – Associated Press 

Kuwait said on Sunday that Gulf Arab states will study Lebanon’s response to their terms for thawing relations, which have suffered over Iran-backed Hezbollah’s growing power in Beirut and the region. – Reuters 

Kuwait suspended flights to Iraq for a week starting Sunday citing security fears after a rocket attack targeted Baghdad international airport. Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, announced an attacker had been apprehended. – Associated Press 

Saudi Arabia received approval from Israel to use NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware following a $55 million deal signed in 2017 between former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the New York Times magazine reported on Friday. – Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

Citing human rights concerns, the United States will not give Egypt $130 million in annual security assistance, officials said on Friday, even as the Biden administration continues to approve billions of dollars in military sales to the Middle Eastern ally. – New York Times 

Oil rose on Monday as a supply shortage and political tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East put prices on track for their biggest monthly gain in almost a year. – Reuters 

An Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced to death 10 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group found guilty of violence against security officers in 2015, a judicial source said. – Agence France-Presse 

Korean Peninsula

North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile Sunday, raising the magnitude of its weapons tests to a level the Kim Jong Un regime hadn’t approached in years. – Wall Street Journal 

North Korea’s six missile tests in January match its output from all of last year. In the past, escalating provocations have won Pyongyang diplomatic attention. – Wall Street Journal 

The United States is concerned North Korea’s escalating missile tests could be precursors to resumed tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday, while urging Pyongyang to join direct talks with no preconditions. – Reuters 

If North Korea’s test of its longest-range missile in five years wasn’t worrying enough, the state’s official media released images showing the Earth it said were taken in space from a rocket designed to deliver a nuclear warhead. – Bloomberg  

North Korea has nabbed a spot at the nuclear weapons table – and will be chairing it soon. The United Nations’ Conference on Disarmament will turn the reigns over to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for four weeks in 2022 – listing them as an upcoming rotational chair for the forum. – FOX News 

Editorial: Irony died at the United Nations a long time ago, but now North Korea is dancing on its grave. See the recent news that Pyongyang—which conducted its seventh missile test of the year on Sunday—will soon chair the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. […]The U.S. should boycott the Conference on Disarmament while North Korea is at the helm, as it did in the past when Iran, Syria and Venezuela had their turns. All responsible nations would do the same. – Wall Street Journal 

Stephen Silver writes: The North Korean regime has hinted recently that it will end its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which have both been in place since 2017. […]This was in retaliation for such “hostile” actions as military exercises between the United States. and South Korea. That same Yonhap report also suggested that North Korea may soon hold a military parade, although it’s not clear how the timing of that would work. – The National Interest


Foreign news organizations in China are operating at drastically reduced staffing levels, while the foreign journalists still in the country face intimidation, harassment and threats of legal action there, a Beijing-based journalist group said. – Wall Street Journal 

The Chinese economy started the year on an uncertain footing, as Covid-19 flare-ups disrupted factory activity and consumer spending, according to a trio of manufacturing and service sector surveys released Sunday. – Wall Street Journal 

Hong Kong’s leader has left open for more than five months a seat on the panel that selects the city’s judges, three lawyers familiar with the situation said. – Reuters 

A coalition of Christians and Catholics on Monday called on Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to drop charges against media tycoon Jimmy Lai and other political activists jailed or in custody under a China-imposed national security law. – Reuters 

The United States is paying athletes to “create disturbances” during the Beijing Winter Olympics, Chinese state media reported Saturday. – Agence France-Presse 

Hong Kong’s oldest university covered up one of the last public tributes to the deadly 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on Saturday, as Beijing continues to muzzle dissent in the financial hub. – Agence France-Presse 

Beijing is closely following Russia’s military buildup along its border with Ukraine, viewing it as a litmus test for political unity in the West and using the mounting tensions as an opportunity to strengthen its ties with Moscow, analysts say. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Editorial: The only language China understands here is comparable economic force. If Beijing won’t stop punishing Lithuania, EU trade retaliation will send a stronger message than a legal filing at the WTO. Killing the EU-China investment deal, agreed to in principle more than a year ago but still not ratified, would get Beijing’s attention. – Wall Street Journal 

Huji Turdi writes: There are ways for athletes to show they care about what is happening to Uyghurs without necessarily risking their safety. […]So, please stand up for the oppressed, the downtrodden and the voiceless in China. Do it for us, for yourselves and for humanity. – Washington Post 

Joseph Votel, Robert Spalding III, and Ramon Marks write: The challenge for the preservation of democratic values and freedoms is profound. The CCP could use an array of demagogic Lil Miquela’s to influence and manipulate public opinion on the internet, undermining democratic values and legitimacy. The ultimate test for the West will turn out to be information war—not conventional or even cyberwar. That kind of contest cannot be fought with fighter aircraft, combat ships, and infantry. Democracy could be compromised without a shot fired. – The National Interest 

Robert Keatley writes: Even so, Hong Kong’s financial center will stay in business as long as it serves Beijing’s interests. Mainland companies rely on its banks and stock exchange to raise cash by selling shares and floating bonds, and its wealthy citizens find it useful for funneling personal funds overseas—sometimes for multimillion-dollar homes in southern California or elsewhere. Hong Kong still has a convertible currency linked to the U.S. dollar, and its commercial law courts remain more predictable than those of the mainland despite being weakened by party mandates. – The National Interest 

South Asia

Technically, there is no war anymore in Nagaland, but the peace does not feel certain, either. What the remote northeastern Indian state has is a lot of soldiers, keeping a heavy hand and provoking a rising anger among residents who say change is long overdue. – New York Times 

Indian opposition parties said on Monday they will move parliamentary motions accusing the government of providing misleading information around the use of technology from Israeli spyware firm NSO Group. – Reuters 

At first, about six months ago, the question was whether the spyware was used by the Narendra Modi government to trace and track the dissenters. Now, after the New York Times investigation, the first question to be answered is whether Modi’s ministers lied to the Parliament. And, the government’s silence on the New York Times charge that it bought Pegasus spyware is eerie. – Business Insider  


Nationwide protests that erupted Jan. 2 over a fuel price hike quickly turned violent — fomented, many eyewitnesses and rights advocates say, by provocateurs — and were met by a vigorous security crackdown. For weeks, little was known about the tactics used to subdue the protesters — labeled “terrorists” by the government — other than a “shoot to kill” order from the Kazakh president on Jan. 7. – New York Times 

A court in army-ruled Myanmar will start an election fraud trial of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 14, a source familiar with the proceedings said on Monday, after she was accused of influencing the 2020 vote to win a second term in office. – Reuters 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to Australia in February to meet counterparts from Japan, India and Australia to discuss Indo-Pacific coordination, the Australian government said on Monday. – Reuters 

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen thanked democratic nations for their support of the island in her Lunar New Year message on Sunday and pledged to “stride out” into the world, sounding a defiant note in the face of unrelenting Chinese pressure. – Reuters 

Taiwan Vice President William Lai wrapped up his visit to the United States and Honduras with a virtual meeting with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a further show of support from Washington for the Chinese-claimed island. – Reuters 

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will meet next month to discuss humanitarian aid for Myanmar, the current chair of the grouping, Cambodia, said on Saturday. – Reuters 

Bombers set off at least 13 blasts in a town in southern Thailand overnight, and police killed two suspected insurgents in a separate raid after a 20-hour siege in a nearby province, authorities said on Saturday. – Reuters 

The Chinese ambassador to Washington has warned that the US and China could end up at war over Taiwan, in stark comments illustrating the rising tensions between the powers over the fate of the island. – Financial Times 

Michael J. Green and Evan S. Medeiros write: Fortunately for Biden, prioritizing the Indo-Pacific has bipartisan backing. […]At a time when the United States’ domestic politics are in turmoil, U.S. allies and partners in the region would see this bipartisan support as uniquely reassuring, which could prompt them to assume more risk in their initiatives with Washington. That may be essential to Asia’s future. If the United States is going to stay consistently involved in the region, its policies will need to have deep bipartisan and transnational support. It cannot afford to pause its engagement. – Foreign Affairs 

Matthew P. Goodman and William Reinsch write: An effectively structured and managed Indo-Pacific economic framework could advance U.S. interests in a critical region and convince partners there that the United States is reliably and durably committed to regional economic affairs. Indeed, success in this endeavor is imperative, or the United States will fall further behind in the race to set the world’s economic rules and norms. – The Hill 

Alan Tidwell writes: Taken together, these five steps would make significant advances in U.S. engagement and involvement in the Pacific Islands. By creating a strategy predicated on durable engagement, the United States would position itself in the region with a rationale inclusive of strategic competition but also stretching to areas of non-traditional security concerns. – War on the Rocks 


The United Nations Security Council will use a meeting Monday to seek a diplomatic exit to the situation on the Ukrainian border and to request an explanation from Russia about its buildup of troops there, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said. – Wall Street Journal 

Bipartisan legislation aimed at striking the Russian economy if President Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine is nearing completion in the U.S. Senate, key senators said Sunday. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia said it would relocate naval exercises scheduled to take place off Ireland’s southern coast beginning Feb. 3 following an outcry from local fishermen, who had pledged to protest the exercises and launched a diplomatic campaign to convince Russia to change course. – Washington Post 

As Russia continues to mass forces on its border with Ukraine, top Russian and U.S. diplomats are likely to meet this week in an effort to defuse the crisis. – Washington Post 

In remarks published by the Russian news media in the last year, these powerful men — largely born in the 1950s Soviet Union, as Mr. Putin was — have staked out even more reactionary positions than their president has, a sign of the harder-line turn that the Kremlin is taking as it escalates its fight with perceived enemies at home and abroad. – New York Times 

Russia has deployed tanks and artillery, fighter jets and helicopters, advanced rocket systems and troops by the thousands all across Belarus, augmenting a fighting force that already envelopes Ukraine like a horseshoe on three sides. Russia says the troops have deployed for military exercises scheduled to commence next month, but the buildup in Belarus could presage an attack from a new vector, one in proximity to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. – New York Times 

Some analysts worry less about whether Russia can blunt the pain of American sanctions than whether they might cause Mr. Putin to escalate his showdown with the West. – New York Times 

Ukraine has become the focus of geopolitical attention in recent weeks as a Russian troop buildup along its eastern border and a list of demands from the Kremlin have prompted threats of sanctions by the West and military deployment by NATO allies. Most recently, the U.S. has formally responded to the Kremlin’s security demands, as attempts to defuse the crisis diplomatically continue. – Wall Street Journal 

Tensions over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine have put international investors on edge. But some are holding on to Russian debt, betting that a diplomatic solution to the crisis could spark a rally. – Wall Street Journal 

Vessels of Russia’s Northern Fleet have completed anti-submarine drills in the Norwegian Sea, the Russian defence ministry said on Monday, part of a broader naval exercise amid a stand-off with the United States and NATO. – Reuters 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his administration to consider an apparent new system to ban “toxic” internet content, although details were not released. – Reuters 

Editorial: But NATO can also respond with its own hybrid warfare. Releasing intelligence about Mr. Putin’s personal wealth accumulation is one place to start. Unlike Russian propaganda, news about the Putin regime’s corruption has the advantage of being true. – Wall Street Journal 

Carl Bildt writes: But we must recognize that the crisis will not be over in a week, or even a month or two. Putin has made his calculations, and it will be difficult for him to retreat. The West must be prepared for the worst. Only thus can we prevail. – Washington Post 

Max Fisher writes: There is also a risk for the United States: being pulled deeper into a part of the world it had hoped to de-emphasize so it might focus instead on Asia. Shorter-term, a divided Europe would seem to risk exactly what Moscow has long sought to avoid: more American power in Europe’s east, and greater European unity, however grudging, against Russia. – New York Times 

Leon Aron writes: Finally, among the most portentous outcomes of Putin’s exercise in blackmail is an in vivo test of NATO: of its cohesion, its ability to forge timely and effective response, and of its solidarity with the struggling democracies in Russia’s shadow. Much to his delight, Putin has found the alliance wanting in every item on this job description. So, in the next instance of brinkmanship, which he surely will engineer before 2024 for another rally around the flag, he is almost certain to go further. – The Hill


An unexploded long-range Russian rocket, brought here from the war-torn Donetsk region to the south, sticks out from the ground opposite the government headquarters of Ukraine’s second-largest city. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. officials tried to persuade Europe for years to buy American natural gas as a bulwark against Russia, with the Trump administration dubbing it “molecules of freedom.” But most countries stuck with the cheaper Russian supplies, with some expressing environmental concern about the fruits of U.S. fracking. – Wall Street Journal 

Italian lawmakers re-elected President Sergio Mattarella as head of state, ending a week of quarreling over other possible candidates that threatened to undermine the stability of the government. – Wall Street Journal 

Ukraine’s leader implored his fellow citizens to ignore the rumors of an impending catastrophe with his trademark combination of frankness and emotion, amid warnings from Washington officials that Russia could attack at any moment. – Washington Post 

The British government ordered its armed forces to prepare to deploy across Europe as a result of the Ukraine crisis on Saturday, as Ukrainian authorities reported a renewal of cyberattacks and Russia agreed to move a planned naval exercise off Ireland’s coast following an outcry by local fishermen. – Washington Post 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday criticized Western nations, including the United States, for their handling of Russia’s military buildup at his border, taking aim at his most important security partners as his own military braced for a potential attack. – Washington Post 

British lawmakers will be asked to consider legislation this week that would let ministers impose a wider range of sanctions against Russia should it move against Ukraine, the British foreign secretary said Sunday. – New York Times 

NATO has no plans to deploy combat troops to non-NATO member Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday. – Reuters 

Europe needs to diversify its energy supplies, the head of NATO said on Sunday, as Britain warned it was “highly likely” that Russia, the continent’s biggest natural gas supplier, was looking to invade Ukraine. – Reuters 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Monday announce a ‘Brexit Freedoms Bill’ to make it easier to remove or amend European Union regulations that were copied into the country’s law before it left the bloc. – Reuters 

Spain has urged Nato not to neglect its southern flank even as the military alliance responds to the Ukraine crisis by deploying forces in central Europe and the Black Sea. – Financial Times 

Editorial: The main problem, though, is China’s position and its bullying of two much smaller and weaker nations. Whatever else happens, Lithuania should not reverse its opening to Taiwan, which the United States, correctly, supported. Far better for Lithuania, and for its allies on both sides of the Atlantic, to err on the side of democratic solidarity. – Washington Post 

Jillian Kay Melchoir writes: Discipline matters as Ukraine faces an adversary looking for a plausible excuse to launch an attack. Ukrainians also worry that Mr. Putin will try to destabilize their country. Chaos, panic and violence could provide an opening for him to promote one of his puppets here as a “peacemaker,” who would then invite Russian intervention to restore stability. So it’s important to guard against Russian infiltration of these civilian defense and resistance groups. – Wall Street Journal 

William Kourtney and Khrystyna Holynska write: Ukraine has traveled far. Over time, discouraging Russian imperial coercion may depend in large part on whether Ukraine overcomes poverty and stifling corruption and becomes a resilient democracy. Accelerating reforms might be the country’s best long-term defense. A stronger Ukraine could demonstrate that geographical or ethnic proximity does not consign it to an unhappy fate. – The Hill 

Wesley Culp writes: Lukashenko’s assertion Friday that Belarus would fight alongside Russia if either country was attacked demonstrates how thoroughly the country has aligned itself with Russia. Ukraine and countries on NATO’s eastern flank such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia can no longer be as sure as they could in the past that Minsk would not act as a foil for Russian aggression. – The Hill 

Adam Kovacevich writes: A historical precedent holds that neither US nor EU laws should discriminate against the other’s companies. The DMA threatens basic obligations central to the World Trade Organization’s established Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. The EU must not be allowed to single out America’s largest employers. It is a slippery slope. These guidelines protect US companies from EU governance and other countries from undue regulation from the US. – Center for European Policy Analysis  

Pierre Morcos and Colin Wall write: These tensions are amplified by the global outlook of European navies that are increasingly overstretched as they try to strike a difficult balance between the European theater and distant regions like the Indo-Pacific. The shift toward high-end platforms is also challenged by the need to address persisting low-end challenges, such as piracy and illegal trafficking. These low-intensity, forward-presence missions tend to hinder the warfighting readiness of European navies. – War on the Rocks 

Brennan Deveraux writes: Consequently, while reversing NATO expansion is a non-starter for many in the West, a potential arms agreement concerning the formerly banned missiles is not only a realistic goal, but it is something that all parties have expressed a willingness to work towards. In this context, if successful negotiations occur, missiles will be the likely focal point. Consequently, the United States may have to concede the tactical and operational benefits that theater-support missiles could provide in Europe for the potential strategic victory of defusing the tensions on the Ukraine border. – War on the Rocks 

Liana Fix and Steven Keil write: If anything, Russia’s first intervention in 2014 demonstrated how Putin’s behavior can catalyze a significant shift in German policy and the perception of Russia. Germany under the leadership of Angela Merkel broke with its old “Ostpolitik” paradigm and shepherded Europe toward a common sanctions policy toward Russia. It did this in lockstep with the United States. Furthermore, it became a lead nation for NATO’s battlegroup in Lithuania. This gives reason for optimism that Germany will come along. – The National Interest 


Burkina Faso’s military leader has called on the world to back the country in its fight against Islamist militants. But by seizing power this week, the young junta chief could make it harder for the nation to secure continued military support from the West to smother the worsening conflict. – Wall Street Journal 

In the past 18 months, in similar scenes, military leaders have toppled the governments of Mali, Chad, Guinea, Sudan and now, Burkina Faso. West African leaders on Friday called an emergency summit on the situation in Burkina Faso, where the new military leader, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, told the nation in his first public address on Thursday night that he would return the country to constitutional order “when the conditions are right.” – New York Times 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has traveled to the United Arab Emirates on a state visit amid his country’s ongoing war against Tigray rebels. – Associated Press 

About 50 people were sentenced to death, many in absentia, in Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday in connection with the murders of U.N. experts Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp in 2017, a defence lawyer in the case said. – Reuters 

The deputy head of Sudan’s military-led Sovereign Council said on Saturday a U.N. envoy should be working as a “facilitator and not a mediator”, signalling an apparent tougher line towards international efforts to resolve a political crisis. – Reuters 

West Africa’s main regional bloc on Friday suspended Burkina Faso from its governing bodies over this week’s military coup but stopped short of imposing any sanctions, its member states said in a statement. – Reuters 

The Americas

A retired Venezuelan army general says U.S. officials at the highest levels of the CIA and other federal agencies were aware of his efforts to oust Nicolás Maduro — a role he says should immediately debunk criminal charges that he worked alongside the socialist leader to flood the U.S. with cocaine. – Associated Press 

Canada will temporarily withdraw non-essential Canadian employees and remaining dependents from its embassy in Ukraine, the foreign ministry said on Sunday, amid an international standoff over Russian troops massed on the country’s borders. – Reuters 

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: It provided Venezuela an excuse to militarize the border, bringing in Chinese-made combat planes and Russian-made reconnaissance drones. Framing Venezuela as an opponent of the illegal armed groups, Mr. Maduro and Russia now run a disinformation campaign to establish moral equivalency between the Colombian democracy and the Venezuelan dictatorship. – Wall Street Journal 

Michael Taube writes: If Canada really stands with Ukraine, waving flimsy paper signs isn’t enough. In this important moment in history, Trudeau needs to find something he’s always lacked as a world leader: a backbone. – Washington Post 


The yearlong investigation, by Ronen Bergman and Mark Mazzetti, also reports that the F.B.I. bought and tested NSO software for years with plans to use it for domestic surveillance until the agency finally decided last year not to deploy the tools. – New York Times  

The CEO and co-founder of NSO Group pushed back Saturday on criticism of his embattled cyber tech firm amid mounting allegations its Pegasus spyware program has been misused in Israel and across the globe. – Times of Israel 

Klon Kitchen writes: Beijing has not been secretive about its desire to have and to use all data within its reach. For years, the Chinese government has enacted laws that ensure it has unfettered digital access and every Chinese company has been put on notice that anything less than full compliance with these government mandates will result in massive fines, executive imprisonment, and even being shut down completely. The only thing surprising here is that anyone believed the CCP would not want to strictly control the Winter Olympics and to seize the opportunity of hoovering up the deluge of data that will be created by the games. – The Kitchen Sync 


Key components of the U.S. Army’s modernized tactical network approach received poor marks from the Pentagon’s weapon tester in its annual report, alleging the service must overcome several challenges to demonstrate operational effectiveness, suitability and survivability. – Defense News 

The Pentagon should refocus cybersecurity efforts on human defenders instead of primarily relying on new technologies to protect networks, the department’s weapon tester asserted in its annual report. – Defense News 

The Pentagon’s independent weapons tester has eliminated data about the performance of more than 20 weapon programs from the public version of its 2021 report, including major acquisition efforts like the Marine Corps’ CH-53K King Stallion and the Navy’s Ford-class carrier. – Breaking Defense  

Matthew R. Costlow writes: Mr. Biden helped usher through many nuclear arms-control treaties during his time in the Senate. It may cut against his political instincts, but the president’s duty now is to chart a path for U.S. nuclear expansion, and build the weapons—offensive and defensive—necessary to deter China and Russia before it is too late. – Wall Street Journal 

Fred Fleitz writes: For the above reasons, Biden’s national security staff will probably resist missile defense spending. Instead, the staff will remain susceptible and fall to pressure from liberal arms control groups who hope to curtail missile defense programs. – The National Interest 

Long War

The F.B.I. has arrested an American woman who federal prosecutors said had risen through the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria to become a battalion commander, training women and children to use assault rifles and suicide belts, the Justice Department disclosed on Saturday. – New York Times 

Nearly 60 “terrorists” were killed in Burkina Faso by local forces alongside French troops on the eve of the January 24 coup in the poor Sahel country, France’s military said on Sunday. – Agence France-Presse 

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the end of its mopping-up campaign inside the prison “after ending the last pockets in which IS terrorists were present”, it said in a statement. – Agence France-Presse