Fdd's overnight brief

July 13, 2021

In The News


An Iranian oil executive removed from U.S. financial blacklists last month because he had resigned from Iran’s national oil company now holds senior positions with two Iranian energy firms linked to the Iranian government, according to company officials and regulatory filings. – Wall Street Journal 

A fire caused by an exploding oxygen canister killed at least 58 people in a hospital treating Covid-19 patients in southern Iraq late Monday in the second lethal blaze in a coronavirus facility in the country in less than three months, according to Iraqi officials. – Wall Street Journal  

The United States will not impose a deadline on a seventh round of talks with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, but only Tehran can determine when talks will resume, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday. – Reuters 

The European Union gave almost $18 million in humanitarian aid to Iran as negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal and lift U.S. sanctions remain on hold. – Bloomberg 

A number of vulnerabilities, including a failure to implement proper security policies and a lack of timely updates, are putting Iranian networks at risk of cyberattacks, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on Monday, after a string of recent cyberattacks targeted transportation in Iran. – Jerusalem Post 


The Israeli Air Force launched a first-of-its-kind international drone exercise on Monday, hosting pilots from five other countries, the military said. – Times of Israel  

Relations with Jordan are important to Israeli security, and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu destroyed them, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday in the Knesset. – Jerusalem Post  

President Isaac Herzog spoke on the phone with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday. – Ynet  

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid addressed his 26 European counterparts during a speech to the EU Foreign Affairs Council, the first Israeli cabinet member to do so since Tzipi Livni in 2008. – Ynet  

An Israeli Bedouin man handed over information to Iranian intelligence officials recently, Israel security authorities revealed Monday afternoon. – Arutz Sheva  

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories this week. – Bloomberg 

Emily Schrader writes: Anti-normalization is also the very foundation of the largely failed but noisy BDS movement. The reality is that anti-normalization and BDS efforts result in the perpetuation of misunderstandings between Israelis and Palestinians – in other words, they intensify the conflict and push peace further away. […] The fundamental problem with anti-normalization is that if we cannot come together to resolve problems – and if both sides are giving the “silent treatment” – neither side achieves anything. – Jerusalem Post  


The European Union said on Monday it wanted to agree by the end of July the legal framework for a sanctions regime targeting Lebanese leaders, but cautioned that the measure would not be immediately implemented. – Reuters 

A Hezbollah-owned television channel released new footage of the militant group’s 2006 abduction of two IDF soldiers, 15 years to the day after the attack that sparked Israel’s Second Lebanon War. – Algemeiner   

As Lebanon’s economy tanks, foreign envoys are resorting to increasingly undiplomatic language to make clear their exasperation with politicians who demand bailout cash without delivering basic reforms in return. – Agence France-Presse  

Tom Rogan writes: Lebanese Hezbollah and its allies are driving the Lebanese state toward complete failure. The meltdown has been a long time coming, but it was exacerbated by the July 2020 Beirut port explosion. Encapsulating the government’s endemic mismanagement, corruption, and lack of interest in serving its people, that explosion offers a metaphor for the coming political explosion. The ingredients for the crisis are clear. – Washington Examiner 

Middle East & North Africa

A Jordanian court convicted Monday two men for sedition over an alleged plot to replace King Abdullah II with former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, following a public rift between the two royals that shook the image of the critical U.S. ally as an island of stability in the Middle East. – Wall Street Journal  

Egypt’s parliament on Monday approved legal amendments expanding the government’s ability to sack civil servants with suspected links to terrorist groups without prior disciplinary action, parliamentary sources said. – Reuters 

Two members from opposite sides of the political spectrum called on President Biden Monday to clarify the specific threats that led to airstrikes conducted against targets in Iraq and Syria last month. – The Hill 

Editorial: The Saudi ruler has done nothing to deserve this: He continues to arrest, torture and imprison peaceful critics of his rule. […]The Saudi’s success in wearing down the administration, and similar progress by the Sissi regime in Egypt, sends a message to the world’s most brutal autocrats: Mr. Biden may talk up human rights and the importance of shunning those who crudely violate them. But, in the end, you’ll still get your White House meeting. – Washington Post 

Lazar Berman writes: The change of government in Israel paradoxically makes it easier for the Saudis to normalize with Israel, while simultaneously making Riyadh pump the brakes. The regime feels it has more legitimacy to cooperate with leaders who did not lead the May military campaign against Hamas in Gaza. – Times of Israel  

Michael Rubin writes: The Biden administration said they wanted to put diplomacy first. Part of diplomacy is not throwing allies under the bus Trump-style. Silence at the White House, however, suggests Biden’s team is too distracted to prevent a concerted effort by Turkey and Tehran to smother Iraqi Kurdistan’s most liberal region and take out one of America’s top regional allies. – 19FortyFive 

Ezgi Yazici writes: The Russo-Turkish relationship has become a defining driver of conflict in a vast region from North Africa to Central Asia. Turkey and Russia’s shared objective to make the current international system more multipolar leads them to cooperate in many areas, but differences in desired outcomes have led to more frequent confrontations in Syria and the Caucasus. […]The United States and its allies must find the right avenues of cooperation with Turkey to counter Russian influence and limit the risk of rapid cross-theater escalation between the Kremlin and Ankara. – Institute for the Study of War 

Michael Rubin writes: Turkey continues to throw out the red carpet for those who amplify its narrative and offers golden parachutes for diplomats who amplify Turkish interests. Conversely, it restricts access to academics and policy analysts who do not tow its party line. Such enticement, however, is not only intellectually dishonest but also makes for buffoonish policy prescriptions, the notion that Turkey today can be a bulwark against Russia and Iran chief among them. – The National Interest 


China’s military said it chased a U.S. warship out of a disputed area of the South China Sea on Monday after Washington warned an attack on the Philippines might activate a mutual defense treaty. – Associated Press 

The U.S. State Department cited the Chinese government’s crackdown on ethnic Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region as one of six places in the world that are witnessing or are at risk of atrocities and crimes against humanity, as the U.S. explores new ways to try to prevent such violence. – Bloomberg  

Raymond Zhong writes: For much of the past decade, if you wanted to see where smartphone technology was making China look most different from the rest of the world, you would have peered into people’s wallets. Or rather, the apps that had replaced them. […]China’s brisk recent economic growth has most likely made officials more comfortable with reining in fintech, even at the expense of some innovation and consumer spending and borrowing. – New York Times  


A Taliban rampage across Afghanistan is stoking fears that extremists could overrun the capital, Kabul, and force the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy. But inside the building, American diplomats emerging from a monthlong coronavirus lockdown are returning to business as usual. – New York Times 

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan stepped down from the post Monday, marking a symbolic end to the American role in the war as Afghan security forces position themselves to defend critical cities across the country against a Taliban onslaught. – Wall Street Journal  

Taliban fighters have surrounded the city of Ghazni in central Afghanistan, taking over civilians’ homes to fight security forces, officials said on Monday, the latest urban centre under threat from the insurgents. – Reuters 

The Taliban do not want to battle government forces inside Afghanistan’s cities, a senior insurgent leader said Tuesday, as the militants also warned Turkey against extending its troop presence. – Agence France-Presse  

Afghanistan’s warlords are taking up arms again to battle the Taliban as the Islamist insurgents capture swaths of territory in the final stages of the US withdrawal. – Financial Times  

The victims were members of an Afghan Special Forces unit: their executioners, the Taliban. The summary killings took place on June 16 in the town of Dawlat Abad in Faryab province, close to Afghanistan’s border with Turkmenistan. – CNN

Edward Lucas writes: Twenty years later, the picture has changed. As the Taliban advances, the U.S. and its allies face the greatest humiliation since the fall of Saigon. The full bill is yet to come due. But it is already clear that while our adversaries, chiefly China, have bolstered their resources and prestige, we have squandered ours. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Bilal Y. Saab writes: So, Mr. President, if you wish to effectively pursue the objectives you laid out yourself in your April 14 speech, please keep the American military advisers in Afghanistan. It’s a low-cost approach that can prevent the worst and keep us from having to go back in with a heavier footprint. – Middle East Institute 


Nepal’s highest court on Monday stripped the prime minister of his duties and reinstated the Parliament that he had dissolved twice in recent months, opening a new chapter in the messy political conflict that has stagnated governance in the midst of a severe Covid crisis. – New York Times  

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s office on Monday described as “nonsense” a suggestion by a former foreign minister that Beijing may have helped to determine the outcome of a 2016 election that swept the mercurial leader to power. – Reuters 

Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing four additional criminal charges, filed in a court in the country’s second biggest city Mandalay, her lawyer said on Monday. – Reuters 

Growing military tensions around Taiwan as well as economic and technological rivalry between China and the United States threaten peace and stability in East Asia as the regional power balance shifts in Beijing’s favour, Japan said in its annual defence white paper. – Reuters 

Japan believes rising tension surrounding Taiwan requires its attention “with a sense of crisis” as China intensifies military activities in the area and the United States steps up support for the self-governing island. – Associated Press 

Hong Kong police have arrested five more people on suspicion they were planning bomb attacks, adding that more arrests could be made as the investigation continues. – Reuters  

Myanmar’s junta authorities have slapped more corruption charges on Aung San Suu Kyi, her lawyer said Tuesday, adding to an eclectic charge sheet that could see the Nobel laureate jailed for more than a decade. – Agence France-Presse  

The Biden administration will this week warn US companies of the increasing risks of operating in Hong Kong as China asserts greater control over the financial hub. – Financial Times  

William Sposato writes: Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso is 80 years old, and in his 42 years in politics he’s often stumbled into trouble. But when he last week blurted out support for Japan coming to Taiwan’s aid in the case of a Chinese invasion, it may have been less of a gaffe than a deliberate signal—one with enough plausible deniability for the Japanese government to get away with it. – Foreign Policy 


Bulgaria faced prolonged political instability on Monday after a national election appeared to result in a razor-thin victory for the anti-establishment There Is Such a People (ITN) and no clear prospect of forming a government emerged. – Reuters 

Lithuania’s foreign minister and the EU’s top diplomat accused Belarus on Monday of using illegal migrants as a political weapon to put pressure on the European Union because of the bloc’s sanctions on Minsk. – Reuters

European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to launch a global infrastructure plan linking Europe to the world, its latest step after deals with India and Japan and a similar pledge by the Group of Seven richest democracies. – Reuters  

Finland will temporarily halt deportations to Afghanistan because of potential instability there following the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops, its immigration service said on Monday. – Reuters  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that she doubts the dispute between her country and the United States over a nearly completed gas pipeline from Russia will be fully resolved at a meeting with President Joe Biden this week. – Reuters  

Hundreds of people protested in Georgia on Monday for a second day in a row, demanding the government of the ex-Soviet nation resign over the death of a journalist who was attacked and beaten by anti-LGBT protesters. – Associated Press 

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed hope on Monday that climate change talks could act as a springboard to help reduce escalating tensions between the two rivals nations. – Associated Press 

Kurt Volker writes: At their Three Seas Summit in Bulgaria on July 8-9, leaders of the 12 member states of the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) gathered to advance their own prosperity and security by investing in critical infrastructure projects that will link them more efficiently with each other, Western Europe, and the global economy. […] Given the strong support from the highest levels of the Biden Administration, U.S. implementation of its support for the Three Seas Initiative needs to be better. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

The Americas

Two of the politicians competing for power in Haiti after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse are close to an agreement that they hope will stabilize the embattled Caribbean nation and lead to fresh elections, one of the politicians involved said. – Wall Street Journal 

In sharply warning Cuba’s leaders Monday against repressing a wave of anti-government protesters, President Biden signaled a more muscular approach toward a communist regime that he had previously pledged to engage, taking a step toward shifting a Democratic message that some in the party feel has been politically costly. – Washington Post 

U.S. officials sent to Haiti by President Joe Biden’s administration in the wake of the assassination of its president met with three politicians who have all staked claims to lead Haiti’s government, the White House said on Monday. – Reuters 

Venezuelan prosecutors on Monday said they had charged opposition politician Freddy Guevara with terrorism and treason, among other allegations, after the country’s intelligence service arrested him from his car on a Caracas highway. – Reuters 

Cuban police are out in force on the country’s streets as the president is accusing Cuban Americans of using social media to spur a rare outpouring of weekend protests over high prices and food shortages. – Associated Press 

The Biden administration on Monday announced visa restrictions on 100 members of Nicaragua’s political and judicial elite in a wide-ranging measure meant to crack down on government corruption and human rights abuses. – The Hill 

The United States said Monday it was helping investigate Haitian president Jovenel Moise’s assassination and did not rule out sending troops at Haiti’s request. – Agence France-Presse 

Editorial: President Biden was correct on Monday to issue a restrained statement repeating support for the Cuban people and their desire for freedom. He should consider actions to ease the humanitarian crisis, such as reversing Trump-era restrictions on remittances. Above all, Cubans should know that the outside world is watching with admiration as they attempt to shape their own destiny. – Washington Post 

Max Fisher writes: Past interventions in Haiti suggest that another could indeed forestall further descent into chaos. But those occupations lasted years, did little to address (and may have worsened) the underlying causes of that chaos, and left the United States responsible for what came after. Still, after decades of involvement there, the United States is seen as a guarantor of Haiti’s fate, also much as in Afghanistan. – New York Times  

Abraham Jimenez Enoa writes: Cubans have moved on from complaining in whispers inside their own houses and nodding in disapproval in the streets to taking real action. The protests have shaken up the regime. I don’t think things will be the same in Cuba anymore: The game has changed, and a new set of rules could change our future. – Washington Post 

Walter Russell Mead writes: Many observers expected the regime to disintegrate in the 1990s when the Soviet collapse left the island politically isolated and cut off from the subsidies that had kept its struggling economy afloat. Widespread food and energy shortages marked what Castro called the “special period,” but a mix of ruthless repression and shrewd opportunism kept the Communist Party in power. […] Unless events on the island spin rapidly out of control, however, Washington is more likely to hold its nose and accommodate the Cuban status quo than to press hard for political change. – Wall Street Journal 

Elise Labotte writes: What’s needed is not nation building but state building—enhancing the ability of state institutions to govern and manage their own politics. Ultimately, to escape the cycle of despair, Haiti must learn to do for itself what the world has so far, and not very well, tried to do for it. – Foreign Policy 

Andrei Iancu and David J. Kappos write: If we are going to win the race for AI and other technologies critical to our national security, we must use every available tool to expand America’s innovation engine. This means pulling America’s IP levers to optimize technology and economic competitiveness. The United States should implement NSCAI’s IP recommendations. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


House appropriators hope to slash funding for the U.S. Air Force’s leading hypersonic missile effort in fiscal 2022, citing increased risk as the program moves from flight testing into production. – Defense News   

The Air Force has approved the Boeing KC-46 tanker to move into limited operations with its centerline drogue system, allowing the aircraft to be tasked for everyday refueling missions that meet certain criteria. – Defense News  

House and Senate lawmakers have been pushing to boost the Missile Defense Agency’s fiscal 2022 budget, and they continue to advocate for increased missile defense in the Indo-Pacific theater. But House appropriators plan to cut funding to enhance missile defense in Guam. – Defense News  

House appropriators ripped a proposal to decommission four littoral combat ships contained in President Joe Biden’s Pentagon budget request for next year as “a misuse of taxpayer funds.” – Defense News  

It’s no secret that the U.S. Army wants to be able to target threats using imagery satellites, and now the service has a trio of bread loaf-sized CubeSats on-orbit to help test that capability. – C4ISRNET 

In a first for the Air Force’s new information warfare entity, the service inked patent license agreements with the private sector for code it developed in house to detect software vulnerabilities. – C4ISRNET  

The Navy’s surface warfare community is weighed with a culture that values administrative chores over training to fight, ship commanders that are micromanaged and an aversion to risk, according to a new survey overseen by a retired Navy admiral and Marine general at the behest of a group of Republican lawmakers. – USNI News