Fdd's overnight brief

January 5, 2022

In The News


Nuclear deal talks with Iran in Vienna have shown modest progress and the United States hopes to build on that this week, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday amid efforts to revive a 2015 agreement. – Reuters 

The Islamic Republic is seeking to improve its missile and drone capability to tap into the latest technology from Russia and China and learn how to get around the latest air-defense systems, according to Iranian military analysts who were cited in a long article published by Iran’s Tasnim News Agency. – Jerusalem Post 

A church leader in Iran was among nine Christians released from Iranian prison within the last week. The release is pending a review of their sentences. – Jerusalem Post 

The US hopes to build on the progress that was made in the Vienna talks during this week’s indirect negotiations, Ned Price, the State Department Spokesperson, said on Tuesday. The talks resumed on January 3rd, and they are currently ongoing. – Jerusalem Post 

Time is running out for Iran to return to compliance with its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a phone call with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: It will probably only be when Raisi is convinced that the US and EU are on the verge of confrontation that we will know whether all along he wanted a deal and was just holding out for as many concessions as possible – or whether the eight rounds of talks were all to play for time in order to get closer to the nuclear threshold. – Jerusalem Post 

Salem AlKetbi writes: Here, in my view, the possibility of a US military escalation against Iran becomes increasingly unlikely. Washington may even be inclined to prevent the Israeli ally from launching a military operation against Iran’s nuclear facilities because of the complex circumstances that prevent Tel Aviv from receiving US military support in the event of a renewed attack by Iran and its military arms stationed in Israel’s neighboring countries. – Arutz Sheva 


Turkey’s lira tumbled again overnight over rising inflation fears, with markets showing little faith in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s promises that the worst of the country’s economic turmoil is over. – CNBC 

Nineteen people from China’s Uyghur Muslim ethnic group filed a criminal complaint with a Turkish prosecutor on Tuesday against Chinese officials, accusing them of committing genocide, torture, rape and crimes against humanity. – Reuters  

Soner Cagaptay writes: As a close observer of Erdogan’s career, I have become a firm believer in term limits. […]But his pursuit of unchecked power in recent years has taken him, and Turkey, in a far more dangerous direction. And if an effective strategy for getting him to leave the scene is not put into play now, he may well wind up being remembered as the Turkish leader who “pulled a Trump,” claiming that the election was stolen and throwing his country and its citizens into chaos. – Foreign Affairs 


A Palestinian prisoner on Tuesday ended a hunger strike that lasted nearly five months after Israel agreed not to extend his detention, his family and Palestinian officials said, although Israeli officials did not confirm a deal had been made. – Reuters 

In his speech at a December 30 Fatah rally at the central Manara Square in Ramallah, movement deputy chairman Mahmoud Al-‘Aaloul stressed that the Palestinian people would not stop its struggle and its “resistance to the occupation” until it achieves freedom and independence,[4] and that Fatah believes in “all types” of resistance.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Another round of the fateful war of words between the Mossad and Israeli military intelligence continued this week with ministers leaking their classified contrary views on the Iran nuclear negotiations to Walla between Tuesday and Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

A return to the JCPOA – otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal – is better for Israel than a situation where no agreement is reached, Military Intelligence chief Aharon Haliva said at a meeting of the security cabinet on Sunday, according to Walla. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran will not be able to destroy Israel, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in response to his Iranian counterpart on Twitter on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post 

The Palestinian Authority will refuse to meet key US demands for reforms unless Washington follows through on its own commitments to fully restore ties with Ramallah, PA officials have told The Times of Israel. – Times of Israel 

The leading candidates to normalize ties with Israel next are the Muslim-majority island nations of The Comoros and Maldives, according to diplomatic sources. – Times of Israel 

Israel is prepared to permit Palestinian-American dual nationals to transit its territory as part of an emerging U.S. visa waiver deal for its citizens, a top Israeli official said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Avi Benayahu writes: At the same time, it’s likely that the strategic and special ties Israel has had with each American administration will remain strong and close. This depends on powerful Jewish American representatives retaining their positions in the US Congress, the media, research institutes and universities, courts and financial institutions, and on Christian evangelists continuing to love us. In addition, both sides need to continue working in tandem, carrying out joint research studies, maintaining close ties and sharing common values and language. – Jerusalem Post 


A Katyusha rocket hit an Iraqi military base hosting U.S. forces near Baghdad’s international airport on Wednesday, Iraqi security and military sources said. – Reuters 

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived a lawsuit against AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L), Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and other companies over allegations their contracts with Iraq’s health ministry helped fund terrorism that killed Americans during the war in Iraq. – Reuters 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: While the recent attacks in Iraq are not a game changer, and the drones are not very large, they pose a continued threat and show that Iran can attack at the time and place of its choosing. Tehran often hides behind local militias to get plausible deniability. It is engaged in nuclear talks in Vienna, and it prefers the appearance that local “resistance” forces are attacking the US. – Jerusalem Post 


Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Wednesday he will convene the Cabinet within days for the first time in nearly three months, potentially ending a standoff that has paralysed the government during a financial crisis. – Reuters 

Israeli forces on Tuesday downed a drone that Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group flew over the border, the military said. – Times of Israel 

Lebanon’s currency hit a new low on Tuesday, sinking to 30,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market, as an economic meltdown continued with no solution in sight. – Associated Press 

Arabian Peninsula

The United Nations Security Council got five new members on Tuesday, as Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates formally took up the posts they won in an election in June. – Associated Press 

The Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes on targets in Yemen’s capital Sana’a in response to drone attacks launched by the Yemeni Iran-aligned Houthi movement earlier this week, Saudi state TV said early on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah (Houthis) announced on 3 January that it had seized an Emirati military cargo ship in Yemen’s territorial waters off the Red Sea province of Al-Hudaydah. – Janes 

Middle East & North Africa

The U.S. led-coalition in Syria struck several launch sites for short-range rockets believed to be intended for attacks on an installation used by U.S. troops in eastern Syria, officials said Tuesday. – Associated Press 

Some 300 foreign mercenaries have left eastern Libya, France’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday, hailing the start of a phased withdrawal of thousands of foreign forces that have fought on both sides of the conflict in the North African country. – Reuters  

Tomer Barak writes: In summary, if this process goes ahead successfully, it could pave the path for additional Middle Eastern multilateral agreements in the sectors of energy, infrastructure, climate, health, and other issues. It is of great importance that policy makers around the Middle East and in the US be creative and enterprising, while displaying goodwill and adequate resources to shape and implement needed regional integration and cooperation, which will benefit countries struggling with common challenges ranging from Iran to the climate crisis. – Jerusalem Post 

Korean Peninsula

North Korea launched what appeared to be a ballistic missile Wednesday, authorities in Seoul and Tokyo said, just days after outgoing South Korean President President Moon Jae-in vowed to make a final push for peace with the Kim regime. – Washington Post 

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in is pressing ahead with his quest to declare an end to the Korean war despite months of fruitless diplomacy that have exposed divisions between Seoul and Washington. – Financial Times 

A senior South Korean diplomat will hold talks in Vienna this week with Iran and world powers over how to resolve the issue of frozen Iranian assets held in the Asian country, the South Korean foreign ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters 


A human-rights group has called on the International Olympic Committee to explain what steps it has taken to ensure that official apparel for next month’s Beijing Winter Games were made without forced labor, saying previous, private attempts to engage the organization weren’t taken seriously. – Wall Street Journal 

Electric carmaker Tesla drew criticism from activists after opening a showroom in Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, where Chinese officials have conducted a crackdown on Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority group. – Washington Post 

China Tuesday said it will continue to “modernise” its nuclear arsenal and called on the United States and Russia to reduce their stockpiles a day after global powers pledged to prevent such weapons spreading. – Agence France-Presse 

China’s cyberspace regulator said Wednesday that developers launching apps that have the ability to influence public opinion should undergo a security review. – CNBC 

Editorial: RCEP fills this made-in-the-U.S.A. vacuum. It does so on terms that, while not exactly dictated by Beijing, certainly suit China better than the TPP would have. The Biden administration is correctly pursuing a tougher policy against Beijing’s regional aggression, and seeking to rally other Asian countries to its cause. That will be much harder to do on the basis of unilateral economic disarmament. – Washington Post 


Japan and Australia plan to sign a treaty on Thursday that will allow their militaries to work more closely together, in the latest example of U.S. allies strengthening ties to counter the rising threat from China. – Wall Street Journal 

In an unprecedented challenge to Kazakhstan’s authoritarian regime, protesters angry over rising fuel prices have seized several government buildings across multiple cities, and some appear to be on fire. – Washington Post 

Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Wednesday in a drill simulating a war scenario, showing its combat readiness amid heightened military tensions with China, which claims the island as its own. – Reuters 

Japan’s foreign and defence ministers will hold talks with their U.S. counterparts in a “two-plus-two” format on Friday to discuss security issues, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

A new proposal by the United States could see the state of Hawaii “adopt” Taiwan and help train the island’s forces through a partnership with the National Guard, according to a report out of Taipei this week. – Newsweek 

Since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban jihadi organization) seized power in Kabul on August 15, 2021, the regional situation in the wider South Asian region has altered rapidly. There are fears that the Taliban’s rise could engender a “regional re-Talibanization” across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, and other regions of South Asia, leading to inter-religious conflicts and further attacks on minorities in these countries. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth Cropsey writes: Roughly concurrent offensive operations in two hemispheres would overstress American and allied resources. Taiwan must become capable of defending itself. But more broadly, the U.S. must begin thinking about its strategic challenges globally, not in regional segments. This is a contest for Eurasia—and thus for the world. – Wall Street Journal 

Jeffrey W. Hornung writes: It is true that the United States enjoys one advantage that China lacks: capable allies. Japan is no exception. But for the United States to enjoy the benefits that come from such a capable ally like Japan — be it base access, rear-area support, or front-line combat support — the alliance could benefit from greater clarity to be cultivated during peacetime. […]In the chance they have not, as the world begins 2022 and the U.S.-Japanese alliance turns its attention to summitry, 2+2 visits, and revisions of strategic documents, alliance managers have a host of practical conversations they could engage in to make a better and stronger alliance in the new year. – War on the Rocks 


In a display of unity, the Biden administration and its European allies are beginning a series of meetings aimed at showing Russia that an invasion of Ukraine would be met with a forceful response. – Associated Press 

Joseph Bosco writes: NATO should not repeat the mistake of the World Trade Organization, which delayed Taiwan’s admission in the early 2000s in order to allow China to catch up. […]NATO should require Russia to demonstrate its good-faith intentions before it is allowed in, first, by withdrawing from Georgia, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Putin will take umbrage, but he has well-earned the world’s suspicion and distrust. As the Chinese like to say, “He who tied the knot must untie it.” – The Hill

Tony Barber writes: What lessons do these arrangements hold for Ukraine? Not many, unfortunately. In Putin’s eyes, Ukraine is simply not a legitimate state in the way that Sweden and Finland are. Arguably, the challenge for Biden is not to bring Ukraine into Nato — an objective which, in any case, many Nato allies are lukewarm about — but how to make Putin accept Ukraine’s inalienable right to national independence. – Financial Times 

Adam M. Smith writes: Although each of these strategies is not without risk of incurring Russian blowback, there is one option that the West could implement that would have less risk: Washington and its allies could publicly articulate the specific sanctions and restrictions that they are planning to promulgate prior to their being rolled out, with an equally public recitation of what Russia must do to avoid such consequences. […]Yet if they forecasted the measures in advance and gave the Kremlin a clear alternative path, they could avoid escalation—and war—altogether. – Foreign Affairs 

Andras Toth-Czifra writes: Despite Putin’s audacity, it would be a mistake to turn down the talks that he has demanded. Discussions between the US and Russia, or between NATO and Russia (scheduled from January 10-12) do not amount to appeasement, as long as they prevent war, and as long as there are things about which to have a substantive conversation. […]Discussions also provide opportunities for NATO or Ukraine to bring up grievances, draw red lines and spell out, in clear terms, what response would be automatically triggered by Russian aggression. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who is travelling to Washington to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, said she would reaffirm the importance of dialogue with Russia to prevent conflict over Ukraine. – Reuters 

Lithuania’s decision to allow Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its own name was a mistake, the country’s president said on Tuesday, as he rebuked the country’s government for a move that sparked a diplomatic spat with China. – Financial Times 

David J. Kramer and John E. Herbst write: Ahead of the various negotiations the administration has agreed to with Russia, it should start the new year with the announcement of the nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine. The Senate, in turn, should act quickly on that nominee so that the United States is properly represented in Kyiv and returns the U.S.-Ukraine relationship to a sense of normalcy. Further delays will harm U.S. national security interests and damage U.S.-Ukraine relations even more. – Washington Post 

Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Goldgeier write: As a result, security in Europe today is more precarious than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Russia, the United States, NATO, and other states in Europe must rebuild the foundations of European security around the core principles established back then. […]But as the Cold War demonstrated, even the fiercest adversaries can find ways to prevent the nightmare scenario of great-power war returning to Europe. – Foreign Affairs 

Pierre Morcos writes: While Paris may not see perfectly eye-to-eye with Washington, it does not want to see strategic divergence get in the way of working together in the face of a shared challenge. France sees value in cooperating with Washington on a wide range of issues ranging from maritime security to human rights to environmental protection. […]It will also be key for Washington and Paris to relaunch vital forms of practical cooperation in the defense domain, such as intelligence sharing, joint exercises, and contingency planning. – War on the Rocks 

Tom McTague writes: None of this means that EU membership was a threat to British national unity. No other country in the European Union—apart from Spain—is at risk of breaking up. It is also crucial to point out that Northern Ireland will not experience the consequences of Brexit in the same way as the rest of the U.K., having been forced to accept permanently different rules than mainland Britain to ensure that there is no land border with the Republic of Ireland. – The Atlantic


Sudanese forces fired tear gas Tuesday at anti-coup protesters demanding civilian rule days after the prime minister resigned, as the US and EU warned the military against naming their own successor. – Agence France-Presse 

A South African corruption inquiry pointed to systemic graft during former President Jacob Zuma’s tenure in the first part of its report published on Tuesday, after more than three years of investigations involving more than 300 witnesses. – Reuters 

The United States, Norway, Britain and the EU warned Sudan’s military on Tuesday that they would not support a new prime minister unless a broad range of civilians are involved, threatening to withhold economic aid. – Reuters 

Officials in Ethiopia have arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared thousands of ethnic Tigrayans who recently were deported from Saudi Arabia, a new Human Rights Watch report says as the country’s deadly Tigray conflict continues. – Associated Press 

Iran’s influence on the African continent is not new. The Islamic Republic is known for spreading its extremist ideology, whether via terror proxies or financing mosques and cultural centers, in certain African states. But its appearance in a new conflict, in a country with which Israel has particularly warm relations – including providing arms and military assistance in the past – as well as a place where an already vulnerable Jewish community resides, has placed Israel in a sensitive and curious position. – Jewish Insider 

The Americas

A former Colombian soldier who Haitian authorities said was involved in the July assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has become the first suspect in the case to be arrested by U.S. officials and brought before an American court. – Wall Street Journal 

A Canadian court has ordered Iran to pay $84 million — 107 million in Canadian dollars — plus interest to the families of six people who died when a passenger plane was shot down near Tehran in 2020. – Washington Post 

Mr. Maduro’s grip on power has since tightened. Efforts to restore democracy have stalled. And the political alliance headed by Juan Guaidó —whom Washington supports as Venezuela’s legitimate president—is fraying amid disputes over how much power he should wield and alleged mismanagement of the state-owned companies the opposition controls. – Wall Street Journal 

In the final weeks of 2021, Chile and Honduras voted decisively for leftist presidents to replace leaders on the right, extending a significant, multiyear shift across Latin America. – New York Times 

The US government on Tuesday said it had won its fight with Ottawa over restrictions in the Canadian dairy market, claiming victory in the first-ever dispute under the revamped North American free trade pact. – Agence France-Presse 

United States

At least seven historically Black colleges and universities received bomb threats Tuesday, school officials said, triggering abrupt evacuations of students and employees. – Washington Post

As the Senate returns to session, one major issue on top of the agenda for the pro-Israel community is the emergency funding for Iron Dome. – Jerusalem Post 

Joe Biden returned to Washington this week with a snowstorm paralysing the US capital, a fitting backdrop for a president who starts the new year battling multiple crises from a surge in coronavirus infections to a stalled economic agenda and rising tensions with Russia. – Financial Times 

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to testify in Congress next week on the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan ― but the hearing is set to happen out of public view. – Defense News 


Hackers targeted a Tuesday virtual news conference held by lawyers and family members of victims of the Iranian military’s downing of a passenger jet two years ago. – The Canadian Press 

Google has acquired another Israeli company, threat detection firm Siemplify, for a reported $500 million, nine years after its $1 billion purchase of navigation app Waze. The purchase will mark Google’s fourth acquisition of an Israeli company and its first in the cybersecurity industry outside the US – Times of Israel 

Bill Echikson and David Klotsonis write: Europe, on the other hand, needs to slow down and avoid making its quest for “trustworthiness” into a choke on innovation. Otherwise, it risks seeing the most innovative software development flee to the continent and move to North America or to Asia. It must revise its overly broad definition of “risky” AI and limit the requirements for compliance to truly risky operations.  A deal is possible. The US needs partners. Europe needs to avoid overregulation. Both sides must acknowledge that if democracies fight over AI, the ultimate winner risks being China. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


The US has been the pioneer in the use of large killer drones for its global war on terror. Today, much of the conversation about warfare is dominated by extremely sophisticated weapons such as hypersonic, lasers or missile defences that push at the boundaries of the possible. – Financial Times 

China has achieved a military buildup in the South China Sea, stole billions of dollars worth of American intellectual property and is launching ongoing cyberattacks, while Russia interfered in U.S. elections, used masked “little green men” in Ukraine, and actively promotes mis- and disinformation. – Defense News 

The US Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) named its first chief technology officer, the Army announced today. – Breaking Defense 

Maiya Clark writes: The NDS is a relatively small function of the DOD, but it has the potential to address some of the concerns surrounding defense supply chains; thus, the stockpile has a role to play in the new era of great-power competition. […]Congress should use its oversight and budgetary authorities to ensure that the stockpile will meet the needs of the nation’s defense industrial base. – Heritage Foundation 

Long War

Indonesian prosecutors on Wednesday demanded a life sentence for a top terror suspect who eluded capture for 18 years and accused him of masterminding a series of deadly attacks in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. – Associated Press 

French prosecutors said on Tuesday they had opened a terrorism investigation into an explosion that went off under a French vehicle involved in the Dakar rally in Saudi Arabia. – Reuters 

A Swedish woman has been charged with war crimes for helping enlist her 12-year-old son to fight as a child soldier in Syria, where he was killed in the civil war, prosecutors said on Tuesday. – Reuters