Fdd's overnight brief

July 13, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran’s president on a rare visit to Africa on Wednesday sharply criticized Western nations’ support for homosexuality as one of the “dirtiest” episodes of human history. – Associated Press

Iran is not currently taking the crucial steps required to develop a nuclear weapon, according to a US government report published last month. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence published the information in a document made public last month entitled Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Capability and Terrorism Monitoring Act of 2022. – Jerusalem Post

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Wednesday said Iran was responsible for a foiled plot to attack the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan. “Tehran stands behind the attempt,” Cohen said in a statement during an official visit to Serbia. – Times of Israel

Iran is looking to Africa for trade exports and new deals, part of its wider strategy to form closer economic ties with China and strategic ties with Russia. As part of this, Iran is also joining groups like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS, with the goal of expanding Iran’s opportunities and shifting it away from Western economies. – Jerusalem Post

The US State Department’s failure to provide information on US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley’s suspension is “unacceptable,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian-backed militias are continuing to reinforce their positions in Deir ez Zor Province, possibly to bolster defensive positions against a rumored International Coalition attack. – Institute for the Study of War

Salem Alketbi writes: The bottom line is that Iran has managed to re-emerge into the realm of diplomatic reconciliation and attain a substantial portion of its objectives, even at the diplomatic and procedural levels. However, these Iranian policies are expected to face challenges, including in their approach to contentious matters such as Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

The negotiations about Ukraine’s glidepath toward NATO membership had come down to the wire, and Biden administration officials believed they had finally found a compromise: a vow to ease Kyiv’s membership process, once the wartime situation allows it. – Washington Post

The head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service said a recent telephone conversation he had with CIA director William Burns was focused on the war in Ukraine, giving a sharply different account of the conversation than U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the Wagner Group has handed over thousands of tons of weapons, ammunition and military equipment to the Russian army, in the latest sign that Moscow is still working to break up the mercenaries’ influence following their dramatic and short-lived mutiny last month. – Washington Post

One top commander has disappeared since a mutiny. Another was killed in an airstrike in Ukraine. Another accused his leadership of treachery after being fired. And a fourth former commander was gunned down while out on a jog in what may have been an organized hit. – New York Times

President Biden concluded a meeting of NATO allies on Wednesday in Vilnius, Lithuania, with an address to that country, and the world, comparing the battle to expel Russia from Ukraine with the Cold War struggle for freedom in Europe, and promising “we will not waver” no matter how long the war continues. – New York Times

Germany found traces of subsea explosives in samples taken from a yacht that it suspects “may have been used to transport the explosives” to blow up the Nord Stream gas pipelines, it told the U.N. Security Council in a letter with Sweden and Denmark. – Reuters 

The latest NATO summit showed that the Western alliance was returning to “Cold War schemes,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, adding that the Kremlin was ready to respond to threats by using “all means.” – Reuters 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he extend a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of grain from Ukraine in return for connecting a subsidiary of Russia’s agricultural bank to the SWIFT international payment system, sources told Reuters. – Reuters 

President Joe Biden accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having a “craven lust for land and power” at the end of a NATO summit on Wednesday where Ukraine won new security assurances from the U.S. and its allies for its defence against Moscow. – Reuters 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Russia had changed its stance on the release of former commanders of Ukraine’s garrison in Mariupol after an initial negative statement on the issue. – Reuters 

Russia plans to display NATO equipment it has destroyed in Ukraine outside the embassies of Western countries that supplied it, parliamentary speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

President Biden’s high-profile diplomatic trip to the NATO summit in Europe has exposed some cracks in the U.S.’s relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said a lack of urgency to include his country in the alliance would only allow Russia to “continue its terror.” – The Hill 

David C. Gompert writes: An alternative path would be for the two governments to allow a quasi-official conversation to proceed. Retired senior officers and officials could be chosen and agreed to by both sides to review procedures for ensuring firm control of nuclear weapons despite political change in both countries. One way or another, Washington needs a plan to build confidence that control of Russian nuclear weapons is never in doubt. – Wall Street Journal 

Mike Pence writes: Securing victory in Ukraine and restoring American greatness on the world stage will require a decisive reversal by America’s leaders. But America’s history has proven indisputably that we have the mettle to rise to the moment and stand strong against our nation’s most fearsome foes. – Wall Street Journal 

Christian Caryl writes: To audiences in Europe and the United States, such reactions might come across as overwrought, given all the military and financial support the West has provided for Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion. But NATO’s decision has come at a moment when Ukrainian fighters are pressing ahead with strengthened efforts to retake land — and enduring heavy casualties in the process. Ukrainians had hoped their sacrifices would be recognized in a more tangible way. – Washington Post

Nicholas Kristof writes: We’re right to celebrate a successful NATO summit. But especially if Ukraine struggles to recover large swaths of territory in this counteroffensive, there’ll be feckless grumbling in Western capitals about the price we’re paying and the favors we’re doing Ukraine. Anyone tempted to think that way should listen to the Baltic leaders, because they’ve learned the hard way how best to manage unruly bears. – New York Times

Oleksii Goncharenko writes: The Russian invasion has not only ravaged our country and our people through fear and flame, it has also damaged our ability to conduct democracy and debate. This war is stealing the people’s voice and their ability to participate in democracy by scattering, imprisoning, and murdering them. […]There must now be a sustained effort to secure our democracy in the present to ensure we have it in the future. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Olga Lautman writes: All this comes on the heels of the continuing mystery surrounding the four-star General Sergey Surovikin, deputy commander of Russia’s invasion forces, who has not been seen since Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed June 23-24 mutiny. […]All of which fits well with Russia’s reputation for secrecy and mystery but also suggests its once well-oiled propaganda machine and reputedly fearsome internal security is faltering. As Russia continues to experience military failures in Ukraine, there will be more deaths, arrests, and disappearances. How many can be traced to the Ukrainians and how many are “own goal” killings, is open to debate. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas briefly visited the occupied West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp Wednesday in the wake of a devastating Israeli offensive last week, marking his first visit to the camp since 2005. – Associated Press

Ukrainian President Vlodomir Zelensky said Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been invited to Ukraine but, unlike other world leaders, did not take up the offer. – Times of Israel

Jewish extremist violence in the West Bank helped fuel the Biden administration’s anger at Israel over its judicial reform because it fears the overhaul will prevent the legal system from holding the attackers accountable, Efrat Council head Oded Revivi said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Multiple ex-senior IDF officials, Settlements Minister Orit Struck, and a variety of Knesset members from different parties gave support at the Knesset on Wednesday to a new strategy for a more aggressive approach to ending the terror emanating from Gaza. – Jerusalem Post

The European Union (EU) Parliament on Wednesday passed two resolutions calling for a temporary suspension of the $220 million of aid it awards the Palestinian Authority (PA), citing its continued inclusion of antisemitic and violent themes in school curricula. – Algemeiner

The ISA uncovered and arrested a terrorist cell that carried out several shooting attacks in the Samaria region. During the arrest, weapons used in the attacks were also seized. – Arutz Sheva

Shin Bet security agency chief Ronen Bar urged Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich not to stop funding used to encourage Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to study at Israeli institutes of higher education. – Haaretz 

Editorial: The 45th president noted that not long ago, if a politician uttered “one bad word about Israel, you were virtually out of politics. Today if you say one good word about Israel, you’re out of politics.” None of the pro-Israel Americans that well up around Mr. Trump get featured in the Times. Then again, too,  they indicate that Jews who support Mr. Biden turning his back on Israel’s democratically elected prime minister may not be a majority after all. – New York Sun

Omer Dostri writes: Simultaneously, in the longer term, the IDF should develop comprehensive plans for an extensive military operation in Jenin. This operation would involve deploying significantly larger ground and air forces to penetrate deep into the refugee camp, targeting a substantial number of terrorists and the leadership of these terrorist organizations, which represent the enemy’s center of gravity. – Jerusalem Post


Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack Israel if it tries to remove a tent set up by his group on the unofficial border with Lebanon, as tensions along the often-restive frontier spiked Wednesday. – Associated Press

There were two separate attempts on Wednesday to damage the border fence between Israel and Lebanon, from the Lebanese side, with the more serious of the two, involving explosives, confirmed as coming from Hezbollah. The IDF prevented both. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: As such, the assessment in Lebanon among Hezbollah may be that 20-plus years of changes are bringing diminishing returns to Israel: Too much technology means that soldiers may rely on things like drones to scan border areas and not know the area as well from the field; and too much concern for defenses means that the home front doesn’t want to see any casualties and isn’t ready for a long conflict. […]These assessments may be wrong, but if Israel’s enemies believe these elements are coming together, they may conclude that the time is coming to confront Israel. On the other hand, they may see this as an opportunity for some breathing space to emerge from the shadows and perform antics. – Jerusalem Post

Amos Harel writes: In practice, there are two violations of the Blue Line, one on Hezbollah’s part at Har Dov and another on Israel’s part at Ghajar (a move to which there was no reaction from Hezbollah or from Lebanon in real time last year). The Lebanese effort is two-pronged: military (Hezbollah and Palestinian organizations, in the erection of the tents and the anti-tank fire) along with diplomatic. Israel will have difficulty not reacting to it and leaving the tent in place over time, however small and marginal the issue might appear. – Haaretz 


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Wednesday tempered the expectation that his expression of support this week for Sweden joining NATO meant that he would swiftly push the approval through the Turkish parliament. – New York Times 

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted a veto this week on Sweden joining NATO, Russian hard-liners, stung by a flurry of recent Turkish gestures of support for Ukraine, demanded that Turkey be designated an “unfriendly” country. – Washington Post

Erdoğan’s dexterous political manoeuvre was greeted with relief across the alliance and marked the latest in a series of decisions that have “de-escalated” tensions between Ankara and the west. “We’re entering a new era of Turkey-western relations,” said Murat Yeşiltaş, director of foreign policy studies at Seta, a Turkish think-tank with close links to Erdoğan and his government. – Financial Times

Greece and Turkey agreed on Wednesday to resume talks and confidence-building measures as they hailed a new “positive climate” in ties after more than a year of tensions between the historic foes. – Reuters 


A deputy to Lebanon’s departing central bank governor Riad Salameh has called on the government to urgently name his successor and enact reforms, or risk further destabilising the volatile currency and worsening the country’s calamitous economic crisis. – Financial Times

The situation on the Israeli-Lebanese border is extremely sensitive, a spokeswoman for the UN peacekeeping mission located there said Wednesday. She urged all sides to halt any actions that could lead to an escalation. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, recently launched talks with foreign ministers from countries currently serving on the United Nations Security Council in order to begin a process for setting the country’s land border with Israel, mimicing the methed used to solve the maritime border issue. Lebanese television channel MTV reported on the move on Tuesday. – Ynet

Middle East & North Africa

Morocco is reviewing its current fisheries partnership with the EU in a way that takes into account its own fishing strategy and biological factors, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The German government agreed Wednesday to soften its position on arms exports to Saudi Arabia while continuing to block deliveries of Eurofighter jets — a decision that risks upsetting the U.K. which is involved in producing the fighter plane. – Politico

Bobby Rechnitz writes: Israel is a proud independent nation that values its friends and understands their challenges. This must be reciprocated. Israel is already cooperating in significant ways with its new friends in the region, on water and agricultural challenges, on hi-tech and the exchange of knowledge, on solar energy and its storage, and on defense, intelligence, and security. However, partnerships are a two-way street. The Jewish state should not be taken for granted. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday, vowing the country wouldn’t halt its nuclear-weapon advances until the U.S. and South Korea “admit their shameful defeat.” – Wall Street Journal 

South Korea’s president, Yoon Suk-yeol, may be the happiest camper at this week’s NATO talkfest after American congressmen greeted him with a rendition of his favorite song, “American Pie,” following his arrival at the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. – New York Sun

Robert A. Manning writes: Americans tend to think that all problems have solutions. But after nearly 30 years of failed diplomacy with North Korea, there are arguably some problems that can only be managed, not solved. And even if well-managed, North Korea may have a strategic surprise in store for everyone. – The Hill  


U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and senior officials at the State Department were victims of a newly discovered Chinese hacking campaign, American officials said Wednesday, a targeted spying effort in the spring that coincided with a Biden administration push to soothe rising tensions with Beijing. – Wall Street Journal 

Efforts to ease tensions between the United States and China through a series of diplomatic visits to Beijing could be undermined as the White House presses ahead with plans to impose new restrictions on American investments in Chinese companies involved in quantum computing, artificial intelligence and semiconductors. – New York Times

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Thursday as officials gather in Indonesia for ASEAN meetings, the State Department said in announcing the latest in series of interactions between the rival superpowers. – Reuters 

China’s ambassador to the United States held a rare meeting at the Pentagon on Wednesday with the top U.S. defense official for Asia, the Pentagon said, in talks that followed U.S. criticism of Chinese reluctance to engage in military communications. – Reuters 

The House Foreign Affairs chairman said Wednesday he subpoenaed the State Department for classified documents that could indicate whether the U.S. deviated from its plans for sanctioning China after a Chinese surveillance balloon traversed sensitive military sites across North America. – Associated Press

Michael Cunningham writes: Until this is possible, however, Beijing is content to keep watching Russia and Ukraine slug it out. As long as the war doesn’t escalate to the point of directly threatening critical Chinese interests or destabilizing Russia’s regime, the CCP has every reason to believe that it will be the war’s greatest beneficiary, regardless of how much damage the Russian military sustains or who ultimately wins. – Fox News 

Aura Sabadus writes: China is not only delaying the expansion of its Russian imports but, unless something changes, deliveries are set to taper off from the second half of 2030. In fact, China’s decision to lock in US LNG supplies despite the ongoing geopolitical rivalry with Washington belies its (correct) assessment of the fact that the US gas business is driven by commercial considerations.  Chrupalla and Russia’s European cheerleaders could draw meaningful conclusions from China’s understanding of the fundamentals. But there are few populist points to be scored from an acknowledgment of global realities. – Center for European Policy Analysis

South Asia

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to France on Thursday to deepen ties with New Delhi’s oldest strategic partner in the West, with a slew of high-profile defence deals expected and a new joint plan to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific. – Reuters 

Talks for a free-trade agreement between Britain and India are at a critical stage, and the Indian commerce minister’s visit to London this week has helped to overcome obstacles, the Indian government said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Pakistan won final approval to borrow $3 billion from the International Monetary Fund, unlocking long-awaited lending that will help ease the nation’s dire need for cash and rescue its economy. – Bloomberg 

Five militants attacked a security post in southwest Pakistan in the early hours Wednesday, triggering an intense shootout that left nine soldiers, five attackers and a female passerby dead, officials and the military said. – Associated Press


Defense Minister Yoav Gallant flew off to Azerbaijan on Wednesday night in the shadow of a recent Iran-inspired attempted terror attack on Israel’s embassy there and with the Islamic Republic closer than ever to a nuclear weapon. – Jerusalem Post

Indonesia, working on behalf of southeast Asian nations, has little to show so far for its intense behind-the-scenes efforts to bridge gaps between factions in Myanmar’s conflict, diplomatic sources say. – Reuters 

Indonesian authorities said Wednesday they seized an Iranian tanker and arrested its crew members for illegally transferring oil to another vessel in the country’s exclusive economic zone. – Associated Press

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are pushing ahead with talks on a third version of a free trade agreement at an ASEAN summit in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, China’s top diplomat Wang Yi said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Southeast Asian countries struggling for unity on how to achieve peace in Myanmar were expected on Thursday to release a statement on their deliberations at a conference this week, with little sign of progress on their conflict-ridden neighbour. – Reuters 

Nearly two dozen People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft flew over the median line in the Taiwan Strait or into the island’s air defense identification zone on Wednesday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said. – USNI News


Turkey’s agreement this week to allow Sweden to become a NATO member, in apparent exchange for President Biden’s willingness to push forward Ankara’s long-stalled purchase of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, may not be the end of the issue. There is another NATO member in the eastern Mediterranean that also wants to buy sopisticated American aircraft, and U.S. lawmakers from both parties say that one deal should not go forward without the other. – Washington Post

A man burned pages of NATO’s bylaws on Wednesday to protest Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, changing gears after planning to burn a religious text. – New York Times

Spain will send 700 troops to Slovakia and add 250 military personnel in Romania as part of efforts to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday during a NATO summit in Vilnius. – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday closes out a week focused on rallying NATO unity behind Ukraine with a day-long visit to new member and Russian neighbor Finland, after knocking Russian President Vladimir Putin over his “craven lust for land and power.” – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden will host Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the White House on July 27, and the two leaders will discuss issues including the Ukraine war and transatlantic cooperation regarding China, the White House said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

James Stavridis writes: Adding Sweden and Finland is a very positive step for NATO for many reasons — geography, military capability, advanced technology, European unity. But it also signals much more capability to operate in the Arctic. The alliance should think carefully and act swiftly to capitalize on this northern windfall while Russia’s attention is elsewhere. – Bloomberg 


A raging conflict in Sudan has driven more than 3 million people from their homes, including over 700,000 who fled to neighboring countries, the U.N. said Wednesday. The United Kingdom announced sanctions on the warring factions, amid growing concerns the country is sliding into a “full-scale civil war.” – Associated Press

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday discussed the Sudanese crisis, bilateral relations and Ethiopia’s giant dam on the Blue Nile, the Egyptian presidency said. – Reuters 

Britain on Wednesday imposed sanctions on businesses it said were linked to Sudanese military groups behind the ongoing conflict in the north African country. – Reuters 

Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, was extradited to the United States from South Africa on Wednesday to face charges for his alleged role in a $2 billion debt scandal, the South African justice ministry said. – Reuters 

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday said it was concerned about reports in Ghana that hundreds of citizens seeking refuge from an insurgency in neighbouring Burkina Faso were being deported. – Reuters 

A West African regional bloc is preparing a plan to address the gap that will be left by the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers from Mali and the presence of foreign private armies in the region. – Bloomberg 

Talal Mohammad writes: The conflict in Sudan is an opportunity for both Saudi Arabia and the UAE to expand their regional presence—and control. For Riyadh, a total victory for the Sudanese military would reinforce its stature as a leader in Arab and Islamic worlds. For the UAE, any RSF gains create leverage to weaken Riyadh’s grip over the Middle East—which would be a win for Abu Dhabi. – Foreign Policy

United States

Democratic and Republican senators renewed an effort to block any U.S. president from leaving NATO on Wednesday, as leaders of the alliance attended an eventful summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. – Reuters

The Biden administration’s pick to lead counterintelligence efforts said the US faces “unprecedented” threats from China, Russia and other foreign actors as well as from for-profit hackers. – Bloomberg

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said on Wednesday that she has no plans to attend Israeli president’s Isaac Herzog upcoming joint address to Congress, citing the ongoing tensions between Israeli government and Palestine. – The Hill 

A group of 14 Republican senators threatened on Tuesday to block US President Joe Biden’s nominations over what it characterized as the administration’s “antisemitic” decision to cease funding scientific research at Israeli institutions beyond the Green Line — a longstanding policy that was only annulled by the previous administration. – Times of Israel

Former US president Donald Trump took a shot at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being quick to congratulate Joe Biden on winning the White House, while appearing to claim that the US president “doesn’t like” Jewish supporters of Israel. – Times of Israel

Lawrence J. Haas writes: Freedom House reports that Beijing is growing “increasingly repressive,” while the Human Rights Measurement Initiative ranks China as the world’s worst country “for safety from the state and the right to assembly.” […]Against this backdrop, the three steps listed above would constitute a coherent approach to the challenges that an emerging China-Russia-Iran axis is presenting, boosting America’s credibility with its allies and adversaries alike. – American Foreign Policy Council


The Biden administration should act swiftly to nominate a new National Cyber Director before the end of July or risk delaying the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy, according to a joint letter that cybersecurity groups sent the White House on Wednesday. – CyberScoop

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned on Wednesday of a vulnerability affecting industrial technology from Rockwell Automation that is being exploited by government hackers. – The Record

During this week’s NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, allies agreed to a number of new cybersecurity pledges. The substance of these commitments has not been detailed — the documents themselves are classified — but here’s what we do know. – The Record


NATO had some significant successes at its summit that ended Wednesday as it worked hard to project unity in support of Ukraine’s bloody defense against Russia’s invasion. – New York Times

President Joe Biden nominated Lt. Gen. James Mingus to become the Army’s next vice chief of staff, according to a notice in the Congressional Record. – Defense News

The U.S. Department of Defense’s ability to fend off attacks on the electromagnetic spectrum has atrophied over decades, leaving troops vulnerable on the high-tech battlefields of tomorrow, according to President Joe Biden’s pick to be the nation’s highest-ranking military officer. – Defense News

The Navy’s second-in-command is set to take over the day-to-day operations of the sea service when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday retires next month, USNI News has learned. – USNI News

Editorial: NATO needs members that keep their commitments, and the nations of the G-7 have an obligation to lead the way. If Canada doesn’t want to play that role, then the G-7 should consider a replacement. Poland, which now spends 3.9% of GDP on defense, would be a candidate. – Wall Street Journal