Fdd's overnight brief

January 6, 2023

In The News


Iran on Thursday shut down a decades-old French research institute in response to cartoons published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that mocked the country’s ruling clerics. – Associated Press 

Fifteen Iranian women incarcerated in the Kachoui prison near Tehran have gone on a hunger strike to protest the conditions of their imprisonment and the lack of medical attention at the facility. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran has detained a prominent chef and Instagram influencer, known for his videos promoting Persian cooking, in its crackdown on nationwide protests, human rights groups and supporters said on Thursday. – Agence France-Presse 

Ghasem Fathollahi, a member of the Revolutionary Guards who was killed outside his home in Tehran on Tuesday, was assassinated by the IRGC Intelligence Organization, Iran International reported on Thursday. – Arutz Sheva

The Minister of Defense stressed that the Iranian nuclear threat is Israel’s top security priority, and the two discussed the directions of action of the defense establishment and the continuation of preparations against this threat. – Arutz Sheva  

Henry Rome writes: Finally, Washington should encourage the European Union and Britain to impose new sanctions on Iranian entities involved in the drone program—especially those already sanctioned under weapons of mass destruction authorities, since those sanctions are set to be lifted in October under UN Security Council Resolution 2231. […]European governments have already imposed similarly layered sanctions and should do so again. Washington should also urge the EU and Britain to add the IRGC to their lists of terrorist organizations, as London is reportedly considering. – Washington Institute

Zachary Coles, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Johanna Moore, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Regime officials and entities are endorsing an expansive, collective-punishment model to implement mandatory veiling laws as anti-regime demonstrations enter their fourth consecutive month. The Iranian regime is likely escalating against Prominent Sunni Cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid in an attempt to quell ongoing demonstrations throughout Sistan and Baluchistan Province. – Institute for the Study of War

Robbie Gramer and Amy Mackinnon write: Regardless, the newfound friendship between Russia and Iran appears to be here to stay—at least as long as Russia remains focused on its war in Ukraine. “I think we are reaching a qualitatively different level in the Russia-Iranian relationship compared to what we have seen in previous years,” Notte said. “The question is: Will there be a breaking point?” – Foreign Policy 

Geoffrey Aronson writes: The new nuclear era now emerging in Washington and Tehran (if not necessarily Israel) repudiates two concepts at the heart of the moribund JCPOA. Ambiguity rather than clarity, intentions rather than capabilities, are at the heart of an era of strategic stability now tentatively on offer by Washington and Tehran. Yet unlike the blossoming of Washington’s relations with Israel that followed their nuclear understandings in the late 1960s, relations between Iran and Washington in the wake of this emerging nuclear rapprochement are set to remain in the deep freeze. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

These are among the select but slowly growing list of Americans living under a strange penalty, that has proved a source of pride, bafflement, and in some cases, consternation: Russian sanctions. Some 1,271 U.S. citizens have made Moscow’s “Stop List,” posted online by Russia’s Foreign Ministry. – Washington Post

The United States and Germany joined France on Thursday in saying they will send armored combat vehicles to Ukraine, expanding their assistance with new weapons systems that Kyiv has said it needs to help its forces recapture territory locked behind Russian lines. – Washington Post

Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed his invading troops in Ukraine to observe a 36-hour unilateral cease-fire across the entire front to accommodate Orthodox Christmas celebrations, beginning at noon Friday and running through Saturday. – Washington Post

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey spoke to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday and called for a cease-fire in Ukraine, a statement from the Turkish leader’s office said. – New York Times

The head of Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group said that a first group of prisoners whom it recruited to fight in Ukraine have completed their service and been pardoned, state media reported on Thursday. Human rights groups said the move highlights the Kremlin’s extralegal use of prisoners to replenish its decimated military. – New York Times

The prolonged and bloody battle for Bakhmut has destroyed more than half of the city in eastern Ukraine, a local official said on Thursday. – New York Times

The United Nations announced Thursday it is disbanding a fact-finding mission requested by Russia and Ukraine to investigate the killings at a prison in eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists that the warring nations accuse each other of carrying out. – Associated Press      

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rejected out of hand on Thursday a Russian order for a truce over Orthodox Christmas, saying it was a trick to halt the progress of Ukraine’s forces in the eastern Donbas region and bring in more of their own. – Reuters

The United States is of the view that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is the founder of Russia’s most powerful mercenary group, is interested in taking control of salt and gypsum from mines near the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut, a White House official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call on Thursday for a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine is “hypocritical” and the only route to restore peace is for Russia to withdraw its troops from the country, European Council President Charles Michel said. – Reuters

A nuclear power plant that figured in an earlier phase of the Ukraine war may soon become a flashpoint once more as the battle for control of the site heats up. The chances of triggering a nuclear emergency are heightened by the failure of the International Atomic Energy Agency to establish a security perimeter around the six reactors of the Zaporizhzhya plant in southern Ukraine. – New York Sun 

Russia’s envoy to the United States has warned that Washington was only stoking further conflict between Moscow and Kyiv by sending additional military equipment to Ukraine and dismissing the Kremlin’s recent holiday ceasefire directive. – Newsweek 

As Putin threatens to strike Ukraine with tactical nuclear weapons and Biden warns that this risks escalation to nuclear Armageddon, many observers have wondered aloud whether the septuagenarian or the octogenarian or both have lost touch with reality. – TIME 

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev threatened the United States of America with hypersonic cruise missiles and compared the American government’s policies to that of Nazis in a Thursday Telegram post in response to a US embassy appeal to Russian citizens for peace. – Jerusalem Post 

Ivan Krastev writes: We know how economic interdependence and the proliferation of nuclear weapons have changed the nature of modern war. What we are still blind to is how the upcoming cluster of elections could also change the nature of the war in Ukraine, particularly in a moment of global hyper-polarisation. – Financial Times 

Tom Rogan writes: Kirill knows what time it is in Moscow and is always quick to lend religious cover to the boss. Considering Putin’s February invasion of Ukraine, for example, the patriarch has repeatedly suggested that the war is justified for reasons including the need to rid homosexuality from Ukraine. Kirill’s war propaganda has seen him earn sanctions from the United Kingdom and other nations. He was only able to avoid European Union sanctions over the conflict due to the intervention of Putin’s EU pet, Viktor Orban. Put simply, this isn’t a ceasefire, it’s a military ploy. Ukraine should treat it as such and maintain offensive pressure. – Washington Examiner

Jonathan Sweet and Mark Toth write: For now, Putin’s only escape from his war of words is to take Russia down a path to total conventional war. That means, essentially, escalate the ground war to de-escalate his words and Pollyannaish propaganda. The Kremlin appears to have started that process by announcing a 1.5 million-man army and 50 percent increase in Russia’s defense purchasing in 2023. Will it work? Likely not. So far, the Russian military has been unable to back up any of Putin’s words on the battlefield. – The Hill

Ilan Berman writes: This sort of goodwill has real world consequences, as it did last spring, when the U.N. considered a resolution to suspend Russia from the body’s Human Rights Council and just a handful of Africa’s 54 countries voted in favor. It also provides a painful reminder that, while the persuasive power of Russian propaganda may be declining in the West, there are other parts of the world where it is still far from a spent force. – Newsweek 

Raphael S. Cohen writes: Still, the Ukraine war offers a potential model of how the United States could deal two conflicts as once, especially if one of those conflicts is against one of America’s secondary adversaries — the Russias, Irans, and North Koreas of the world.  Even if the United States is tied up with one conflict in one theater, then at the very least, the United States can offer its allies and partners the military wherewithal to win if they choose to fight. In this sense, the United States might not look at its support of Ukraine as a one-off response but rather as a potential model for future defense strategy — and as a way to hedge against the simultaneity problem. – War on the Rocks

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Anne-Marie Slaughter et al. write: Even as the Russia-Ukraine war grinds on, as Ukrainians push Russians out of territory they have occupied, and as governments begin to imagine what a postwar peace might look like, it is not too soon to look further down the road. It is time to end the specter of thermonuclear holocaust once and for all. – Foreign Policy


Ben Gvir’s tone-setting tour of the ancient religious compound, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, was one of his first actions in office, and the first such visit in years by a top Israeli official. – Washington Post

Israel’s sharp tilt to what is likely to be the most hard right government in its history puts its new Arab allies in the awkward position of having to deal with ultra-nationalists while trying to do more than just pay lip service to the Palestinian cause. – Reuters

U.N. Security Council members voiced concern on Thursday and stressed the need to maintain a status quo at the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, days after Israel’s new far-right security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir briefly visited the site. – Reuters

The Biden administration holds Israel responsible for maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and any steps that undermine it are unacceptable, United States Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post 

An average of 84% of Arabs opposes diplomatic recognition of Israel by their countries, according to results from the soon-to-be-released 2022 Arab Opinion Index (AOI). – Jerusalem Post 

The Biden administration said it is opposed to Israel’s plans to legalize the Homesh yeshiva and to rebuild the northern Samaria hilltop settlement that the IDF destroyed during the 2005 Disengagement – Jerusalem Post 

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations lashed the Palestinians for what he described as “poison and lies” at an emergency Security Council session on National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s recent visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. – Times of Israel 

Editorial: Countries involved in supporting peace need to address realities on the ground, not just make due with statements or unrealistic ideas. Israel and the Palestinian Authority need the commitment of the international community, but they also need the global community to recognize the changes that have taken place over the last decades. – Jerusalem Post 

Quin Hillyer writes: A truth-telling U.S. administration dedicated to fairness would insist that every human being has a right to peacefully visit the location and would try to persuade Muslims that everybody, especially including descendants of the Jews who worshipped there first, should be allowed to pray there, too. Kowtowing to Islamic demands merely encourages Islamist violence. The Biden administration, not Netanyahu’s, is the one acting unacceptably. – Washington Examiner

Tovah Lazaroff writes: Netanyahu now appears to be willing to go head-to-head with the world, thereby testing whether a country the size of Israel can truly assert such independence without damaging its alliances. – Jerusalem Post 

David M. Weinberg writes: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government should strike swiftly while the iron is hot. What doesn’t get done in the next 6-12 months will get bogged down in internecine squabbling or be impeded by cumulative foreign pressures. – Jerusalem Post 

Tehilla Shwartz-Altshuler writes: Israel’s cybersecurity is a ticking time bomb; no one knows when or how it will explode or which institutions will be affected. But it is clear that this will happen at some stage and that the damage will be severe and scary. – Jerusalem Post 

Amos Harel writes: But the subtext of the appointment was not missed by the ranking figures in the security realm. The new director-general remains close to Netanyahu, having served as his military secretary at the start of the last decade. So we’re getting a double message here. First, it signals Netanyahu’s direct connection with what is happening in the Defense Ministry; second, and more importantly, it sends an implicit signal, subtle but clear, to the incoming chief of staff, Herzl Halevi. – Haaretz


Afghanistan’s Taliban-led administration is to sign a contract with a Chinese company to extract oil from the Amu Darya basin in the country’s north, the acting mining minister said on Thursday. – Reuters

The UN’s lead humanitarian coordinator has said UN-supplied aid cannot continue if the Taliban does not lift its ban on women working for humanitarian aid agencies in Afghanistan. – The Guardian 

President Biden’s hasty surrender of Afghanistan and the swift Taliban takeover have placed Washington in an awkward position: Can America deliver humanitarian aid to a needy, impoverished country without lining the pockets of a terrorist organization’s bigwigs and furthering their cruel hold on power? – New York Sun


Syria’s economy has hit its lowest point since the start of its civil war nearly 12 years ago, with spiraling inflation, a currency plunge and severe fuel shortages in both government-run and rebel-held areas. – Associated Press

Several weeks ago a wave of protests and demonstrations broke out in Syria, especially in the Al-Suwayda and Daraa governorates in the south, which are officially under the rule of the regime but where the regime’s security control is weak. The protests include expressions of opposition to the regime and its head, President Bashar Al-Assad, and slogans reminiscent of the first stages of the Syrian uprising in 2011, such as “the people want to topple the regime,” “long live Syria and down with Bashar Al-Assad,” and “Syria belongs to us, not to the Assad family.”  There were also calls to expel Iran and Hizbullah from Syria. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It remains unclear if the attack Iran bragged about on Thursday is actually an escalation beyond what was known on Wednesday. Overall, Iranian media appear to be hinting at more attacks to come and that Iran has the capability to fire numerous rockets at US forces. It is boasting about the attack this week in this context. – Jerusalem Post


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he may meet Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as part of a new peace process, after their defence ministers met last week for the highest-level talks between the two foes since the Syrian war began in 2011. – Reuters

Turkey’s highest court on Thursday ordered a temporary freeze on the funds of the country’s pro-Kurdish party as it mulls whether to disband it over accusations of links to Kurdish militants. – Associated Press 

The crew of a Greek coast guard patrol boat fired warning shots early Thursday to deter a Turkish coast guard vessel that was trying to ram them in the eastern Aegean Sea, authorities in Athens said, as tensions between the two neighbors remain high. – Associated Press

Middle East & North Africa

The Biden administration has dropped threats to retaliate against Saudi Arabia for an oil-production cut last year and is moving to step up security coordination to counter Iran in 2023, U.S. and Saudi officials said, three months after ties hit a historic low point. – Wall Street Journal

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said Thursday that the north African country is the target of calculated media attacks and legal harassment aimed at undermining ties with the European Union, weeks after Belgian authorities implicated Morocco in a major corruption scandal. – Associated Press 

Lebanon’s military tribunal on Thursday charged seven suspects in last month’s attack that killed an Irish peacekeeper when a group of armed local residents ambushed his convoy and opened fire, officials said. – Associated Press 

Just a few years ago, Oman was expected to be next in line after Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to sign onto the Abraham Accords normalization agreements with Israel. On Friday, the country’s parliament voted to criminalize any relations or interactions with “the Zionist entity.” – Jewish Telegraphic Agency 

Zvi Bar’el writes: So it’s understandable that parliament members fear Egypt will be forced to sell national assets, including perhaps some of its control of the Suez Canal. If this happens it won’t be the first time Egypt s forced to cover its debts with the canal’s help. In 1875, six years after its inauguration, the Khedive Ismail Pasha sold Britain 44 percent of Egypt’s shares in the waterway in exchange for a loan of 4 million pounds sterling. This painful memory has not faded. – Haaretz

Korean Peninsula

Rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula and Pyongyang’s spree of weapons tests are fueling a debate in South Korea over the deployment and development of nuclear weapons as a deterrent. – Wall Street Journal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s disclosure of his daughter in recent public events was likely an attempt to show his people that one of his children would one day inherit his power in what would be the country’s third hereditary power transfer, South Korea’s spy service told lawmakers Thursday. – Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has purged a former foreign minister who played an instrumental role in his summits with former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018-19, South Korean lawmakers said on Thursday, citing intelligence officials. – Reuters


Beijing struck back at the World Health Organization’s suggestion that China is underrepresenting the severity of its current Covid-19 outbreak, calling on the United Nations agency to take a “science-based” approach. – Wall Street Journal

As COVID-19 rips through China, other countries and the World Health Organization are calling on its government to share more comprehensive data on the outbreak. Some even say many of the numbers it’s reporting are meaningless. – Associated Press

Hong Kong will start to reopen its border with mainland China on Sunday and allow tens of thousands of people to cross from each side every day without quarantine, the city’s leader said. – Associated Press 

The Chinese government, which does not have formal diplomatic ties with the Vatican, has not commented on Benedict’s death and did not appear to be sending anyone to Thursday’s service. – Associated Press 

A U.S. warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Thursday, part of what the U.S. military calls routine activity but which has riled China. – Reuters

China is vulnerable to international restrictions on its ability to import vital supplies “once the international situation changes,” a senior official fears. – Washington Examiner

China is pursuing a new military construct known as Multi-Domain Precision Warfare to align its forces from cyber to space, an effort U.S. officials say is fueled by a need to counter the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control initiative. – C4ISRNET

Bradley A. Thayer writes: Third, as Richard warned, “the ship is sinking” and this is “a near-term problem,” so the Biden administration must be determined to arrest the imbalance immediately — and urgently — with a robust conventional and nuclear posture to “save the ship” and tighten and broaden U.S. alliances in the Indo-Pacific. Biden should invite the principal Indo-Pacific leaders and congressional leadership to a summit to discuss the China threat and how to address it, so that positive buoyancy is restored to both the U.S. position and international stability in the Indo-Pacific. – The Hill

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: Taiwan can’t win or even deter China alone. To convince Beijing war is simply too costly, it needs allies and partners, and for the United States to focus less on performative moves and more on preparation. But the final lesson from Ukraine is not to attempt to second-guess an enemy by treating it as an actor weighing up rational costs and benefits. It was clear from the start that a Russian invasion would be disastrous — and Putin did it anyway. Xi is at the start of a third term that will almost certainly lean more heavily on nationalism. – Bloomberg

South Asia

A new program to seed private defense startups is starting to yield results in India’s quest to produce more weapons domestically, particularly when it comes to the smaller, high-tech products that armed forces see as essential to the future of warfare. Both Ukraine and Russia have deployed swarms of drones for remote surveillance and strikes, capabilities that India is eager to bolster along its borders where its forces face off with troops from rivals Pakistan and China. – Wall Street Journal

Sri Lanka will restart negotiations on trade pacts with India, China and Thailand after a four-hear hiatus, an official said on Thursday, as the crisis-hit country races to seal deals to help it rebuild its economy. – Reuters

The foreign ministers of G20 countries will meet in India’s Delhi in March this year, news agency ANI said in a tweet on Thursday, citing sources. – Reuters

Sadanand Dhume writes: India’s middle class owes what purchasing power it has to the country’s previous trade liberalization and deregulation. In their paper, Messrs. Chatterjee and Subramanian point out that exports drove much of India’s high growth after the advent of economic reforms in 1991. Abandoning the country’s orientation toward exports, Messrs. Chatterjee and Subramanian say, is “akin to killing the goose that lays golden eggs.” Mr. Modi is right to talk up India. That’s his job. But Indian policy makers shouldn’t drink their own Kool-Aid. For now at least, India needs access to global markets a lot more than most global firms need access to India. – Wall Street Journal

Satoru Nagao writes: Based on the aforementioned points, although India will not join military operations to defend Taiwan, it is vital to create the international conditions that would make a Chinese invasion more difficult. That is why the U.S., Australia and Japan should cooperate with India to support Taiwan. – Diamond Online


Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki is set to visit Singapore and Vietnam to meet high government officials from Jan. 10-13, the Ministry of Finance said on Friday. – Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been invited to visit Ukraine, the government’s top spokesperson said on Friday. – Reuters

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will sign a reciprocal access agreement for military officers with British counterpart Rishi Sunak next week, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Friday. – Reuters

The foreign and defence ministers of Japan and the United States will hold talks on aspects of security and co-operation in Washington on Wednesday, the Asian nation’s foreign ministry said. – Reuters

An Australian court granted conditional bail on Friday to a woman arrested on charges of entering and remaining in areas of Syria held by the militant group Islamic State. – Reuters

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Thursday he had told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that his administration intends to pursue an independent foreign policy. – Reuters

China and the Philippines have agreed to set up a direct communications channel between their foreign ministries on the South China Sea to handle disputes peacefully, they said on Thursday. – Reuters

Japan and the United States are finalising a memorandum of understanding on cyber security, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported on Thursday – Reuters

Taiwan is courting investors to help it establish its own satellite communications provider, inspired by the role Elon Musk’s Starlink has played in the war in Ukraine, as Taipei ramps up efforts to fortify itself against a potential assault from China. – Financial Times 

A russian military defeat in Ukraine would deter a Chinese attack on Taiwan, former NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday as he urged Western leaders not to repeat the mistakes that emboldened President Vladimir Putin. – Newsweek 

Japan wants the Group of Seven advanced economies to take a coordinated approach this year aimed at preventing the “economic coercion” that China has applied to some of its trading partners. – Bloomberg

Hoping to boost his country’s economic prospects and deepen its energy links with China, Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhammedov arrived in Beijing on January 5 for a two-day state visit. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Blake Herzinger writes: Washington’s greatest hope in advancing its policy objectives in Southeast Asia, and in the wider Indo-Pacific, lies in its ability to engage as a reliable economic partner and stable security partner. Expecting or coaxing Southeast Asian states to join explicitly anti-China initiatives, resisting free trade agreements, or remaining outside accelerating economic arrangements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership will not produce desired policy outcomes for Washington. – Foreign Policy


When France wanted to send Leclerc tanks to bolster the defenses of NATO ally Romania in September, fellow alliance member Germany opposed trucking them across its highways. The problem wasn’t peace protesters or political opposition. It was the heavy French tank-transporters. – Wall Street Journal

Alexander McDonough writes: Although it may have been preferable to ease European trade concerns, China has so far dodged every American and European effort to curtail its dominion over these technologies. The only possible solution is industrial policy, encouraging allies and trade partners to do the same. This may be our last best hope to diversify our supply chains and address climate change. Let’s not torpedo that opportunity with a misguided trade war. – Center for European Policy Analysis

David Kirichenko writes: NAFO took the world by surprise in 2022 and bamboozled pundits worldwide by showing how effective decentralized communities can be. With the power of the internet, there is virtually no limit on how far NAFO can go. But the right mechanisms must be implemented to help steer the community in the right direction. Who will step forward to begin the work? – Center for European Policy Analysis

Rüdiger Lüdeking writes: Efforts to strengthen and expand rules-based regulatory frameworks should be continued vigorously at both global and regional levels. Cooperation among the P5 states (the United States, China, Russia, France, and Great Britain), which are privileged by the UN system, must also be promoted in the interest of containing their rivalry. These five nuclear-weapon states, recognized under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), have common non-proliferation interests. In the short term, for example, it will be important to preserve the NPT regime despite the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament and to revive the nuclear agreement with Iran, from which the United States unilaterally withdrew in 2018. – The National Interest

James Jay Carafano and Dan Negrea write: Germany has charted the right path with its Zeitenwende policies. It must stay the course and deserves America’s support in this task. Germany has an opportunity to be a leader in Europe and NATO for the good of its people and its allies. Will it seize this moment? – The National Interest


The European Commission on Thursday banned imports of seafood caught in Cameroon’s waters, or caught by ships flagged there, and it labeled the West African country as “non-cooperating” in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. – Associated Press

Chadian security forces have foiled an attempt by a group of army officers to destabilize the country and undermine constitutional order, the government said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters

United Nations intelligence analysts have spotted suspected movements by M23 rebels in parts of eastern Congo from which they were meant to have withdrawn and signs the armed group has seized ground in other areas, internal U.N. documents showed on Thursday. – Reuters

A year that began with no end in sight for one of the world’s deadliest conflicts finished on a note of cautious optimism in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray after a November ceasefire agreement. – Reuters

France continues to back its envoy in Burkina Faso despite a request by the Burkinabe government to replace him amid growing anti-French sentiment likely fuelled by Russian mercenaries, Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Thursday. – Reuters

The chief executive of one of Europe’s biggest oil and gas companies has said the EU should look to Africa rather than the US as it seeks to replace Russian energy imports. – Financial Times

The Americas

A host of top cabinet officials from the United States and Canada will take part in a North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City next week, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Thursday. – Reuters

The State Department on Thursday said that inconclusive elections for Speaker of the House are likely to compound concerns on Capitol Hill over the ability of lawmakers to carry out their duties related to national security and foreign policy. – The Hill

Editorial: If the final ruling goes against the U.S., the Administration will have to resolve the matter with its partners or face possible retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports in agriculture, manufacturing and services. Big Labor and the steel lobby would be happy but most Americans would be harmed. The worst result would be a deal that gives in to Mexican energy nationalism in exchange for protecting U.S. and Canadian special interests. How the leaders resolve their trade disputes next week will matter as much to prosperity in the Americas as migration does. – Wall Street Journal

Sebastian Mallaby writes: This is an opportunity that the Biden administration must seize. By leveraging bipartisan support for a tough-on-China policy, and by tapping into the silent majority’s support for trade, Biden can lay out an international economic vision that is strategically and politically viable. […]If the president can pull this off, he will have achieved a remarkable trifecta: containing Russia, checking China and fashioning a fresh approach to global economic engagement. Each feat will reinforce the other two. It will be quite a legacy. – Washington Post

Erin Baggott Carter, Brett L. Carter, and Larry Diamond write: Washington must rejoin the battle for global soft power, in a manner that reflects American values. It must transmit the truth, and in ways that engage and persuade global audiences. The goal must be not only to counter disinformation persuasively with the truth but to promote democratic values, ideas, and movements. – Foreign Affairs

Latin America

The Mexican military on Thursday captured Ovidio Guzmán, the son of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and allegedly one of the country’s top fentanyl traffickers, days before President Biden was expected to visit Mexico and press for action against criminal groups that have deluged the United States with the deadly opioid. – Washington Post

Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó, once recognized by more than 60 countries as his country’s rightful president, was stripped of his position on Thursday when the opposition dissolved a U.S.-backed parallel government that had failed to oust strongman Nicolás Maduro. – Wall Street Journal

Peru’s Defense Minister Jorge Chavez on Thursday accused foreigners of stirring up protests with a view to encouraging separatism in the country’s south, as tensions simmer after former President Pedro Castillo was ousted last month. – Reuters

Venezuela’s opposition national assembly on Thursday appointed three exiled lawmakers to direct it and create a commission to control foreign assets, including oil refiner Citgo Petroleum. – Reuters

Paraguay would cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and open relations with China if the opposition wins the election in April, its presidential candidate Efrain Alegre told Reuters, hoping to boost soy and beef exports that are its main economic engines. – Reuters

Venezuela’s oil exports last year declined due to infrastructure outages, U.S. sanctions and rising competition in its key Asia market despite assistance from ally Iran, according to shipping data and documents. – Reuters

Editorial: So much for moving to the political center after losing the House majority. On immigration as on energy, his policies have done real-world harm, but he won’t change because he doesn’t he want to anger the left. And on immigration the left is as culpable as the restrictionist right in refusing compromise because it wants to exploit the issue in campaigns. Why does Mr. Biden want a second term if he doesn’t want to lead? – Wall Street Journal


WhatsApp, the popular messaging app owned by Meta, has introduced a feature to help users bypass attempts to disrupt access to its services, as repressive governments around the world increasingly use internet controls to clamp down on dissent. […]The company specifically mentioned Iran, which launched a brutal security crackdown — and disrupted residents’ access to WhatsApp and fellow Meta platform Instagram — after anti-government protests broke out in September. – Washington Post 

Owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, TikTok has become a political punching bag for US conservatives who allege that the app downloaded by millions of US young people can be circumvented for spying or propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). – Agence France-Presse 

Two men arrested in Poland in April have now been charged with spying for the Russian military intelligence service (GRU), the Warsaw prosecutor’s office announced Wednesday. – The Record

A cybercriminal group continues to target banks and financial institutions in Francophone countries across Africa, with attacks spreading since the outfit was first observed in 2018.  – The Record

Cybersecurity company Bitdefender has released a decryptor for the MegaCortex ransomware, which was used in attacks globally before police raids hindered its operations. – The Record

Losses of cryptocurrency assets due to hacks rose to $3.7 billion last year, a 58 percent increase over the $2.3 billion that cybercriminals stole from investors and exchanges in 2021, according to a report released Thursday by Immunefi, a web3 security testing platform. – CyberScoop


The American and Israeli air forces on Thursday wrapped up a drill simulating joint flights and target strikes. – Algemeiner 

Following a trio of live-fire tests that wrapped up last year, the Marine Corps recently approved the next stage of development for a mobile air defense capability based in part on Israel’s famed Iron Dome system, a program official told Breaking Defense. – Breaking Defense

Two key US lawmakers sent a warning shot to President Joe Biden over concerns that the AUKUS trilateral security agreement could imperil America’s submarine fleet, according to a letter obtained by Breaking Defense. – Breaking Defense

USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93) made the first Taiwan Strait transit of 2023, the Navy announced Thursday. – USNI News

Amid congressional pressure, the Pentagon says its next annual report detailing the shortfalls and progress of the Pentagon’s weapons programs will be made public in full. – Defense News

Mackenzie Eaglen and Rep. Jodey Arrington write: The United States cannot afford to be complacent in projecting strength and power, nor can the nation afford to have anything but the most capable and ready bomber fleet — a blend of old and new for the foreseeable future. We cannot retire B-1s before the next generation B-21 bomber comes fully online. – Defense News

Long War

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Thursday it was taking joint action with Turkey against a network it said played a key role in money management, transfer and distribution for the Islamic State militant group operating in Iraq and Syria. – Reuters

Pakistani security forces claim to have killed 11 Islamic militants in an operation in the restive South Waziristan tribal district that borders Afghanistan. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing, said in a statement late on January 5 that an intelligence-based operation was carried out in the Wana region of South Waziristan. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

On January 1, 2023, jihadi terrorists barged into the home of a Hindu family in the village of Upper Dangri in the district of Rajouri in Jammu & Kashmir, killing four people. The terrorists “first confirmed the identity [religion] of the victims, through their Aadhaar cards” – a national identity card. Twelve hours after the initial attack, the militants followed set off an IED in the same village, killing a child and wounding several other members of a Hindu family. In recent years, the jihadi terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir have mainly targeted non-Muslims, especially laborers who come from other states to work in Kashmir. These recent attacks have drawn attention, especially as India assumed on December 1, 2022, the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC). – Middle East Media Research Institute