Fdd's overnight brief

July 17, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Rather than stopping drinking, the ban over time has led to a flourishing and  dangerous bootleg market. In the past three months, a wave of alcohol poisonings has spread across Iranian towns big and small, with an average of about 10 cases per day of hospitalizations and deaths, according to official tallies in local news reports. […]To many Iranians, the deaths are an example of how the Islamic Republic’s religious rules oppress ordinary citizens and meddle in their personal lives. – New York Times

The U.S. is beefing up its use of fighter jets around the strategic Strait of Hormuz to protect ships from Iranian seizures, a senior defense official said Friday, adding that the U.S. is increasingly concerned about the growing ties between Iran, Russia and Syria across the Middle East. – Associated Press

Iran’s police said it has formally restored street patrols in a fresh crackdown on women who violate the country’s strict dress laws. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Pakistan praised Qasem Soleimani during the visit and both officers praised the importance of Islam in their relations. The remarks by Pakistan clearly illustrate how they tend to be anti-western and prefer relations with countries like Iran. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The EFP is a system that has the stamp of the Iranian octopus on it, an octopus that is now saying it wants to try to do to Jenin and the northern West Bank what has been done in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – a tentacle of Iran. – Jerusalem Post

Salem Alketbi writes: From Israel’s perspective, the consolidation and validation of its capacity to safeguard its security and stability serve as crucial assurances in deterring Iran from persisting with uranium enrichment. This provides Israel with the flexibility to retain a margin of maneuverability in addressing the Iranian nuclear threat through non-traditional methods, including cyberattacks and other unconventional means. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Russia is poised to end its cooperation at the United Nations in key humanitarian areas as the Kremlin faces a difficult fight in Ukraine and is eager to shore up support at home amid recent domestic instability, Western officials said. – Wall Street Journal

In a painstakingly slow process that has come to define the speed of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, small groups of sappers on the front lines are crawling across minefields — sometimes literally on their stomachs — to detonate Russia’s defenses and clear a path for troops to advance. – Washington Post

A career military man, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny long ago confronted three questions: Am I ready to die? Am I ready to kill? Am I willing to send people to die and kill? Now, Ukraine’s top commander in a war with a Russian force larger and better-equipped than his own is asking himself a new question: How can I reduce the loss of life? He starts each morning by learning how many soldiers were killed or wounded following his orders the day before. Sometimes he stumbles across a contact in his cellphone who is dead. He refuses to delete them. – Washington Post

Ukraine appeared to have attacked the Kerch Strait Bridge linking the occupied Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia early Monday, forcing its closure. – New York Times

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that Russian forces were throwing “everything they can” at Kyiv’s troops fighting to retake land in the south and east, again emphasizing the grueling nature of a counteroffensive that is moving more slowly than some allies had hoped and later stressing the importance of their continued support. – New York Times

U.S. officials and military analysts warn that American-made cluster munitions probably will not immediately help Ukraine in its flagging counteroffensive against Russian defenses as hundreds of thousands of the weapons arrived in the country from U.S. military depots in Europe, according to Pentagon officials. – New York Times

Three weeks after a brief mutiny in Russia by the Wagner mercenary group, President Vladimir V. Putin said its troops could keep fighting, but without their controversial leader, while the government of Belarus said some Wagner fighters were there, training its forces. – New York Times

President Vladimir Putin said Russia would use cluster bombs if they’re used against his troops, while denying – despite evidence – that Kremlin forces have already used the controversial munitions in Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The GOP isolationists rail against “forever wars,” but the real recipe for extended war is giving Ukraine only enough weapons to fight to a draw rather than to drive Russia out. That’s been President Biden’s strategy. Former Vice President Mike Pence had it right in our pages this week: The fastest route to peace is a Ukrainian victory. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: The Nemtsov murder preceded the latest Ukraine calamities, but it reflected the underlying decay of Mr. Putin’s rule. If a more just Russian government ever takes power, it should properly honor Nemtsov’s memory by discovering the truth about who ordered his assassination. – Washington Post

Douglas MacKinnon writes: As Americans, we should be free to debate the level of U.S. involvement in Ukraine in a civil and productive manner. That acknowledged, I suspect most Americans on either side of that debate would be in total agreement that the intelligence service of Ukraine should not be dictating what Americans are allowed or not allowed to say on social media. – The Hill


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was discharged from the hospital on Sunday in what medical officials described as “excellent condition,” after an overnight stay involving a series of tests and being fitted with an implanted heart monitor. – New York Times

At least 180 senior fighter pilots, elite commandos and cyber-intelligence specialists in the Israeli military reserve have informed their commanders that they will no longer report for volunteer duty if the government proceeds with a plan to limit judicial influence by the end of the month. – New York Times

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the ejection on Sunday of an activist from his Likud party who mocked the Holocaust while heckling anti-government protesters, in remarks that suggested ethnic tensions beneath a constitutional crisis. – Reuters

Four groups of companies have made bids in Israel’s latest tender for offshore hydrocarbon exploration, the Energy Ministry said on Sunday. – Reuters

Cyprus police investigations support claims by Israel’s Mossad spy service that an Iranian-backed hit squad planned to kill Israelis and other Jews in the east Mediterranean island nation, an official said Friday. – Associated Press

A Palestinian gunman opened fire on a car in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, wounding three Israelis, including two girls, Israeli authorities said. The suspect fled the scene of the shooting, but he was later captured. – Associated Press

Tens of thousands of protesters packed the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night, marking the 28th straight week of demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary. Protest leaders promised further “days of disruption” lie ahead. – Associated Press

The Israel Defense Forces have started using artificial intelligence to select targets for air strikes and organize wartime logistics as tensions escalate in the occupied territories and with arch-rival Iran. – Bloomberg

The chairwoman of the House Progressive Caucus issued an apology after backlash arose over her comments accusing Israel of discrimination. – Washington Examiner

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Italy Antonio Tajani on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

A group of 800 former Shin Bet agents on Sunday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to shelve the judicial overhaul, warning the legislation poses “a clear and immediate danger” to Israel’s security. – Times of Israel

A Palestinian man was detained in the West Bank settlement of Asael on Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces said, noting that he was unarmed. – Times of Israel

An extensive study of social media chatter on the Twitter platform over a period of several years found that Israel is accused of violating human rights more than any other country in the world. – Times of Israel

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with a number of African officials in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Sunday, where the Israeli minister was on an official trip to attend a biannual coordination meeting of the African Union. – Times of Israel

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant reportedly held an emergency meeting Sunday with Israel Defense Forces’ chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and other top officers to discuss the possible fallout if military reservists — particularly pilots — stop showing up for volunteer duty in protest of the government’s judicial overhaul. – Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog during a meeting last week over the government’s strained ties with the Biden administration, according to a report Sunday. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Those Democrats publicly declaring their intention to skip Herzog’s speech are sending a clear message: They are boycotting the State of Israel. Not the Israeli government, not its actions or policies – the entire country. It is part of an ugly cancel culture targeting the Jewish state, a form of congressional BDS. Happily, the overwhelming majority of Congress – which remains strongly supportive of the US-Israel alliance – will be in attendance. – Jerusalem Post

Yair Golan writes: Hence, the operation in Jenin should be seen for what it is; the product of a highly competent military and intelligence community, capable of mapping out and dealing with security threats, but no substitute for real and needed strategy on the future of the West Bank. – Times of Israel


IDF Northern Command chief Ori Gordin told mayors of towns near the Lebanese border that the military believes the chances of an immediate conflict with the Hezbollah terror group are low, a local council said Sunday. – Times of Israel

Hezbollah activists climbed an Israeli military tower on the border and stole surveillance equipment, new footage from a Wednesday flareup along the frontier showed. – Times of Israel

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Probably the most accurate reading of the current situation is that neither Nasrallah nor the IDF have decided how far they will go or when to risk a bigger conflict. That is a combustible mix for the coming months. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The overall context now reveals how Hezbollah has been ratcheting up the tensions slowly, applying more pressure over time, and testing the limits to which its behavior can stretch. It continues to up the ante, including with the tents, the demands about Ghajar, and now border incidents including damage to the fence, the firing of the anti-tank missile,  and the enabling of rocket fire. – Jerusalem Post

Assaf Orion writes: Consider a U.S. veto of this summer’s UNIFIL renewal mandate unless changes are made. Although some might argue that this would increase Lebanon’s instability, it would in fact constitute a first step toward stability, signaling to Lebanon that UNIFIL represents not a cash cow to be taken for granted, but a serious commitment to a security regime that must regain some traction against Hezbollah. – Washington Institute


Pakistan’s army said on Friday it was seriously concerned that militants had found safe havens in neighbouring Afghanistan and threatened to take an “effective response” two days after 12 of its soldiers died in two attacks. – Reuters

Qara likes his job as a water quality technician at the Western Virginia Water Authority, but it’s just not the same as his old job: flying missions for the Afghan Air Force against the Taliban. His real name is not being used for fear of reprisals from the Taliban. – Associated Press

Shima runs a sewing course for several dozen women that is funded by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), one of the largest aid groups operating in the country. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


Syrians who fled President Bashar al-Assad’s rule fear he may soon be able to choke off badly needed aid as Damascus acts to establish sway over U.N. assistance into the rebel-held northwest, the last major bastion of the Syrian opposition. – Reuters

The United Nations agency responsible for overseeing humanitarian aid has described conditions placed by the Syrian government on aid deliveries from Turkey to northwest Syria as “unacceptable.” – Associated Press

Iraq’s prime minister held talks Sunday with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus during the first trip of its kind to the war-torn country since the 12-year conflict began. – Associated Press

Iran and Russia are working in concert to force the U.S. military out of Syria, a senior defense official told reporters on Friday. – Washington Examiner

Daniel DePetris writes: While there’s always a possibility of the Security Council reconvening in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the situation, such a scenario looks remote at the moment, in which case, Assad (and, by extension, Russia) scores a big win. The losers are the four million Syrians stuck in the rebel-held northwestern enclave. – Washington Examiner

Samer al-Ahmed and Mohammed Hassan write: Wagner has played a significant role in safeguarding Russian interests in Syria and supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime in its efforts to solidify control over various regions of the country. In return, Wagner secured investment contracts and substantial financial commitments from the Assad regime, particularly in the oil and gas sectors. The future of these investments and contracts, as well as the question of who will succeed Wagner in Syria, remains uncertain. – Middle East Institute


For a decade, Iraq has procured Iranian natural gas in an arrangement that powered millions of Iraqi homes but pushed Baghdad into billions of dollars in debt to Tehran because U.S. sanctions restricted payments for the fuel. – Wall Street Journal

They have been largely silenced by being tried, convicted and sentenced to time in Iraq’s overcrowded prison system because of new Interior Ministry rules against “indecent” or “immoral”  content on social media. This crackdown on social media is relatively new, but is of a piece with a broader campaign to silence, sideline or co-opt those who publicly question or criticize the government. – New York Times

The demolition on Friday of a 300-year-old minaret of a mosque in Iraq’s southern city of Basra to make way for road expansion has enraged locals, religious and cultural authorities who condemned it as a further erosion of Iraq’s cultural heritage. – Reuters

Four months after the abduction of Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov in Iraq, new details emerged Sunday on the circumstances of her disappearance. – Times of Israel

Rachel Sharansky Danziger writes: Liza is not the same kind of freedom fighter as our parents were, but she has made a similar gamble. With her university’s support and that of several human rights groups, she took risks in pursuit of knowledge and information, trying to do what she felt was right. Will the liberal world stand up for her, as it did for her parents, and fight for her release? As I look at Liza’s face in the newsreels today — and in our childhood photos — I hope that the answer is yes. – New York Times

Fawzi al-Zubaidi writes: Above all, the Sudani government must learn from the grave mistakes of the Kadhimi government and the Abu Ragheef Committee. Moving forward, the Iraqi government must approach anti-corruption measures with the utmost care, entrusting them to the constitutional institutions that already exist to address these issues and enhancing their capacities to do so. The Sudani government must avoid assigning advisors to roles that fall outside their professional expertise, because in the end, it is the prime minister alone who will be held responsible for any violations committed. – Washington Institute


The United Nations on Sunday awaited a response from Russia on renewing a deal that allows Ukraine to export its grain amid a wartime blockade, a necessity in helping keep global food prices stable. The Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, is a rare example of fruitful negotiations between Ukraine and Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion. – New York Times

Kosovo has bought a batch of Turkish-made Bayraktar drones, its leader said on Sunday, at a time when it faces unrest in the north where ethnic Serbs refuse to recognise Pristina authorities. – Reuters

Turkey’s Parliament will let its foreign affairs committee carry out work during the summer recess that started Saturday, allowing the country to speed up its ratification process of Sweden’s membership in NATO. – Bloomberg

National security adviser Jake Sullivan offered his prediction on how Russia will handle the Black Sea initiative as it is set to expire Monday. – Washington Examiner

Rob Rosenberg writes: Regardless of whether the grain deal is extended, its possible collapse — and the severe consequences this could have for global food security — should serve as a wake-up call. The global food supply chains upon which much of the world relies are highly vulnerable to disruption. While investments across the food systems are needed to improve long-term, global food security, attainable actions to improve the supply chains can at least help ensure that access to affordable, staple foods is shielded from the effects of whatever disruptions lay ahead. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Given these uncertainties, Erdoğan may yet ensure that his parliament does not ratify NATO’s offer. It would not be the first time the parliament has reneged on a Turkish commitment. In early 2003, just prior to the invasion of Iraq, the Turkish parliament shocked the Bush administration by demanding $10 billion as the price for letting the Fourth Infantry Division transit Turkish territory to attack Iraq. The administration refused to pay, and the Division was denied transit rights. Failure to meet at least some of Erdoğan’s demands could well result in a parliamentary reprise of 2003. Yogi Berra once observed that it “ain’t over till it’s over.” With regard to Swedish entry to NATO, and indeed that of Ukraine, truer words were never spoken. – The Hill


IDF soldiers used warning shots and crowd dispersal measures to distance at least twenty Lebanese citizens who crossed around 80 meters into Israeli territory in the isolated Mount Dov enclave on Saturday morning. – Jerusalem Post

A group of Lebanese, including a parliamentarian, crossed the border into Israeli sovereign territory on Saturday morning, before being chased back to Lebanon by the Israel Defense Forces who fired warning shots. – Times of Israel

Adnan Nasser writes: The probability of Sadek seeing a day in prison is low. She can legally appeal the court’s sentencing and avoid this debacle altogether. Nevertheless, this latest round by the Lebanese judiciary hurts the once proud free-thinking atmosphere that Lebanon was respected for—no matter how any political actor would like to spin it. – The National Interest

Arabian Peninsula

India has signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates that will allow it to settle trade in rupees instead of dollars, boosting India’s efforts to cut transaction costs by eliminating dollar conversions. – Reuters

Kuwait plans to establish a new sovereign fund to develop its local economy, spearhead mega projects, and attract funds from foreign investors and the private sector, according to a government plan seen by Reuters on Sunday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it remains committed to securing oil supplies for Japan and will continue cooperating with Tokyo on clean hydrogen, ammonia and recycled carbon fuels. – Reuters

Gerald F. Hyman writes: Arabia and its Gulf neighbors should be reassured that—notwithstanding U.S. legitimate concerns about China and the Indo-Pacific—the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and MBS matter a lot, and the U.S. will act accordingly. – The National Interest


Libya’s sovereign wealth fund has filed a criminal complaint against Prince Laurent of Belgium, accusing him of fraud and extortion linked to his bid to reclaim funds from a failed reforestation project, lawyers said on Friday. – Reuters

Security authorities in the Libyan capital of Tripoli released a former minister Saturday less than a week after his detention which had prompted his tribesmen to shut down crucial oil fields, a tribal elder said. – Associated Press

Libyan border guards have rescued dozens of migrants they said had been left in the desert by Tunisian authorities without water, food or shelter. – Agence France-Presse

Middle East & North Africa

The Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers have been unable to pay salaries for 50,000 public sector workers, with officials in part blaming a delay in a monthly payroll grant from Qatar, a crucial aid donor to the impoverished Palestinian enclave. – Reuters

Tunisia and the European Union signed a partnership to strengthen cooperation on migration policy that could become a blueprint for curbing deadly migrant journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. – Bloomberg

Oil-rich gulf monarchies are leveraging their wealth to deepen ties with China amid anxiety about the future of their longstanding security partnership with the US. – Bloomberg

An important development is taking place in the Red Sea as the tanker Nautica has left port in Djibouti to make the crossing to Yemen so one million barrels of oil from the Safer supertanker can be transferred. – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority is seeking to revive an initiative for the formation of a national unity government consisting of several factions, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Palestinian officials in Ramallah said over the weekend. – Jerusalem Post

A study published by the World Bank on Friday reveals that over half of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza show symptoms of depression. – Times of Israel

Bobby Ghosh writes: But the promise that a strong Turkish-Egyptian partnership once held such now seems lost to the realm of could-have-beens. Ankara and Cairo could have balanced the clout of the petrostates in the Arab world; they could have drawn other regional actors — Iraq and Libya come immediately to mind — into an economic bloc; they could have helped each other become more competitive against the world powers in Africa; indeed, they could have been bigger players in the geopolitics of the global south. Alas, it will be a long time, if ever, before the two countries make up for the 10 years lost to the bloody-mindedness of their leaders. – Bloomberg

David A. Super writes: The Egyptian people deserve better. They have earned better. We should stop propping up Sisi. We should make all aid condi­tional on the freeing of dissidents, the restoration of a free press, and genuinely open elections in which secular democrats may run. The Egyptian people may still set an example for the world, if we let them. – The Hill

John Hannah and Morgan Viña write: There’s still a real chance that Congress could force Biden’s hand on the special envoy position. After Shapiro’s appointment, Senate staff told us that there is bipartisan support in the Senate for legislation like the bill passed by the House. That would have the unfortunate consequence of reinforcing the narrative that Biden’s support for the Abraham Accords has been halfhearted at best and that he’s had to be dragged into taking the necessary measures to seize today’s historic opportunity for Middle East peacemaking. Ambassador Shapiro is the right man for the job. Now Biden needs to ensure that the job is one that he’s set up for maximum success. – The Hill

Eric R. Mandel writes: With China all-in on the Middle East, it is incumbent on America to remain engaged in the region or risk losing influence in one of the most important geostrategic theaters. America’s allies in the Far East are watching to see how America’s old allies in the Middle East are being treated as an indication of what the future holds for them. It would be unrealistic for the US to demand complete compliance from its allies to distance themselves from China while, at the same time, America is pivoting from the Middle East. The best way for America to confront the Chinese in the region is to remain engaged and present and convince the region’s nations that America is not a paper tiger. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

Megyn Kelly introduced a guest on a February episode of her podcast with an unusual caveat: “People have been coming for” Yeonmi Park, she said, by accusing the North Korean defector turned American conservative activist of telling false stories about her home country. – Washington Post

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday the Biden administration remains concerned that North Korea will move forward with another intercontinental ballistic missile test. – Reuters

The U.S., South Korea and Japan held a joint naval missile defence exercise on Sunday to counter North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile threats, the South’s navy said, days after the North launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). – Reuters

North Korea’s firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) this week violates multiple U.N. resolutions and threatens peace and stability in the region, the United States, South Korea, and Japan said on Friday in a joint statement condemning the launch. – Reuters

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Park Jin on Friday called on China to play a “constructive role” in curbing North Korea’s threats, after Pyongyang launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) this week. – Reuters

North Korea’s U.N. ambassador defended his country’s recent long-range missile launch in a rare appearance at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday where he also accused the United States of driving the situation in northeast Asia “to the brink of nuclear war.” – Associated Press

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol promised a “comprehensive package” for Ukraine following his meeting Saturday with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to Yonhap News Agency. – Bloomberg

North Korea’s newest long-range missile increases the chances it could deliver a strike to the US mainland, giving Kim Jong Un more leverage in his dealings with the Biden administration. – Bloomberg

The Russian government is investigating whether a missile test-fired by North Korea on Wednesday ended up in its territorial waters in the Sea of Japan. – The Hill


For nearly a year, talks between the planet’s two biggest polluters, China and the United States, have been suspended as the impacts of global warming have only grown more intense in the form of deadly heat, drought, floods and wildfires. – New York Times

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will push to include in upcoming defense policy legislation a bipartisan amendment to sanction China over its alleged role in producing the synthetic opioid fentanyl, he said on Sunday. – Reuters

China on Friday criticized a German government call for reducing dependency on Chinese products and decreasing other potentially unstable factors in bilateral relations, calling it a form of protectionism. – Associated Press

President Xi Jinping has resisted crossing Washington’s red lines over arming Russia’s war machine in Ukraine. But that hasn’t stopped China edging closer to Moscow’s military in another way: direct engagement. – Bloomberg

Hong Kong has condemned a US Senate Committee for passing a bill that could shut down the city’s three economic and trade offices in America if the financial hub isn’t deemed significantly autonomous from Beijing. – Bloomberg

Cirrus Aircraft Ltd. is proud of its history in the US heartland: the private plane maker’s website includes details such as the company’s 1984 launch in a Wisconsin barn, the opening of a Minnesota R&D center and a North Dakota factory. But there’s something missing from the company’s All-American timeline: Cirrus’s ownership by a sanctioned Chinese military manufacturer. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The key is for Kerry to be clear-sighted. If he can’t be clear-sighted, President Joe Biden must be. As Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) memorably observed in January, belief in Xi’s goodwill on climate cooperation is tantamount to believing that Jimmy Hoffa died of natural causes. – Washington Examiner

Kevin Stitt writes: Beijing’s domination of critical minerals gives it the power to disrupt our daily lives and threaten our national security. Rather than drag our feet as China progresses, let’s work together to make a change. – Wall Street Journal

Dan Wang writes: We need to spend less time making ever more marginal refinements to restricting an emerging technology. Rather, we should take a more holistic view of a long-term contest with a peer competitor. That means broadening the strategic focus to a wider range of sectors and following through on plans to build unglamorous technologies, too. – New York Times

South Asia

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday launched the construction of a 1,200-megawatt Chinese-designed nuclear energy project, which will be built at a cost of $3.5 billion as part of the government efforts to generate more clean energy in the Islamic nation. – Associated Press

On the heels of a trip to Beijing, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is back in India for the third time in nine months, this time to meet finance ministers from the Group of 20 nations about global economic challenges like the increased threat of debt defaults facing low-income countries. – Associated Press

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi approached the country’s top court to challenge the refusal to suspend his defamation conviction, which may bar him from contesting elections next year. – Bloomberg

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to boost cooperation with France in defense, nuclear energy and space as part of a 25-year plan to deepen ties as the South Asian nation presents itself as a bulwark against China. – Bloomberg


American and Japanese military officials have been working on a plan for a conflict over Taiwan for more than a year, but the talks have yet to resolve a central question: Would Japan join the fight? Washington has nudged Tokyo to consider roles for the Japanese military such as hunting for Chinese submarines around Taiwan, said people familiar with the discussions, without getting any commitment. – Wall Street Journal

As Beijing takes increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea and off the coast of Taiwan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Southeast Asian counterparts in Indonesia on Friday to warn them against “coercion,” a stand-in for China. – Washington Post

Taiwan Vice President William Lai will visit the United States next month, the government said on Monday, making what are officially stop overs on his way to and from Paraguay but will give him the opportunity to meet U.S. officials. – Reuters

Australia has raised China’s plan to take a policing role in the Pacific Islands nation of Solomon Islands in talks with Beijing’s top diplomat Wang Yi, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Friday. – Reuters

Taiwan’s first domestically developed weather satellite shows its determination to develop its space industry, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday, lauding the programme as a step to take the island to the stars. – Reuters

A Chinese military-run hospital ship has arrived in Kiribati for the first time, as China vies with the United States for influence in the Pacific region. – Reuters

Southeast Asian foreign ministers renewed their alarm over — and condemnation of — air strikes, artillery shelling, and other acts of deadly violence in Myanmar, but struggled Friday to overcome differences on how to address the prolonged civil strife. – Associated Press

The highest-ranking U.S. military officer on Friday encouraged Japan’s commitment to doubling its defense spending over the next five years, calling Tokyo’s controversial push for a stronger military crucial to confront rising threats from North Korea and China. – Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met China’s top diplomat to discuss thorny issues as part of efforts to nurture talks on the sidelines of regional diplomatic meetings in Indonesia, whose president called on rival powers Friday to avoid turning the region into a “competition arena.” – Associated Press

Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) both said in interviews on Sunday that they think NATO expansion into Asia is inevitable and touted the strength of the alliance. – The Hill

Editorial: The White House is by all accounts afraid of debating Mr. Trump on the benefits of trade. That leaves the U.S. on the sidelines as the rest of the world negotiates new trade deals, including the European Union with Indonesia and India. This also leaves the U.S. the odd economic man out in the Indo-Pacific even as U.S. companies urgently need supply-chain alternatives to China. The costs of Mr. Biden’s trade abdication are growing by the month. – Wall Street Journal


Last week’s NATO summit revealed a major realignment within the U.S.-led trans-Atlantic alliance. European nations, once seen as less steadfast in their support for Kyiv and more vulnerable to Russian pressure, are determined to help Ukraine win an unambiguous victory. At the same time, the Biden administration, which orchestrated a unified Western response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion last year, is increasingly cautious—constrained by domestic politics and a fear of direct confrontation with Moscow. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. and allies across Europe and the Asia-Pacific are holding together in confronting what they see as an increasingly entwined challenge from Russia and China, with a bout of diplomacy this past week showing the resilience as well as the limits of allied unity. – Wall Street Journal

The Belarusian Defense Ministry released video of Wagner Group mercenaries training the country’s conscripts on Friday, the first official confirmation that the group is present on its territory following its dramatic but brief mutiny against Russia last month. – Washington Post

The embassies of 38 countries and more than 10 other cultural institutions urged Hungary’s government on Friday to retract laws seen as limiting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. – Associated Press

The man who said he would burn the Torah and the Bible outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm gave up his plan and instead held a one-person demonstration on Saturday against the burning of holy books, the media reported. – Associated Press

Editorial: Freedom of expression is a sacred principle in every democracy, but it must be balanced against the massive disturbance to public peace and the tremendous harm to religious sensibilities caused by sacred book burnings. Swedish authorities have erred repeatedly in recent weeks in approving these public acts of hate. We hope they take Alush’s words of caution to heart. – Jerusalem Post

Joshua C. Huminski writes: Here, both the White House and 10 Downing Street are taking smart steps to strengthen the relationship and move beyond simple talking points and cliches about the “special relationship.” – The Hill

Nir Levitan writes: Sweden and Finland’s official NATO membership will mark a significant shift in the regional security landscape. It will enable NATO to bolster its presence in the Arctic and Nordic regions while Sweden and Finland benefit from enhanced defense coordination and interoperability. Despite not yet being formal members, the Scandinavian countries have already strengthened their ties to NATO, reinforcing their commitment to regional security. – Jerusalem Post


President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is pushing ahead with plans to attend a summit in South Africa next month, even as the host nation grapples with diplomatic and legal fallout of his expected presence, South Africa’s deputy president said on Friday. – New York Times

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa promised economic prosperity and an end to corruption as he launched his party’s campaign on Sunday for national elections set for Aug. 23. – Reuters

Zambia is expected to reach a debt restructuring deal with its international bondholders by the time the International Monetary Fund undergoes a second review of its rescue loan programme with the country later this year, an IMF official said on Friday. – Reuters

Sudanese human rights organisations had evidence the Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had detained more than 5,000 people in the capital and were keeping them in inhumane conditions, the group told Reuters on Friday. – Reuters

Sudanese representatives have arrived in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah to resume talks with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Sudanese government sources told Reuters on Saturday, after three months of fighting between the army and RSF. – Reuters

At least four civilians were killed and four others injured in a drone attack by the Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that targeted a hospital in the city of Omdurman, the Health Ministry said on Saturday. – Reuters

Sudan’s warring factions fought heavy clashes in parts of the city of Bahri on Friday, residents said, a day after both sides welcomed a new mediation effort that seeks to end a three-month war. – Reuters

Independent vote tallies from Sierra Leone’s June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections “raise questions about the integrity of the official results,” according to the US. – Bloomberg

The Americas

Over 50 leaders from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean will hold their first summit in eight years on Monday, adding momentum to an EU push for new political and economic allies prompted by the Ukraine war and suspicion of China. – Reuters

The U.N. Security Council asked the secretary-general on Friday to come up with options to help combat Haiti’s armed gangs, including a possible U.N. peacekeeping force and a non-U.N. multinational force. – Associated Press

A leading human rights group in Haiti warned about an upsurge in killings and kidnappings as the U.N. Security Council met Friday to discuss the country’s worsening violence. – Associated Press

Latin America

Paraguay “would love” to do more trade with China, but Taiwan offers the best bet for moving the largely agricultural economy up the value chain, the country’s president-elect Santiago Pena said on Saturday on a visit to Taipei. – Reuters

A Kenyan court on Friday sentenced a former top Venezuelan diplomat to 20 years in jail over the 2012 murder of the Latin American nation’s acting ambassador at her home in an upmarket Nairobi neighbourhood. – Reuters

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel promised on Friday his country would take part “very constructively” in a European Union summit next week with Latin America and the Caribbean, just days after the EU’s parliament called for sanctions against him. – Reuters

Leaders from the European Union and Latin America are gathering for a major summit of long-lost relatives starting on Monday. Whether it will be a joyful meeting of long-lost friends remains to be seen. – Associated Press

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: When he’s not abusing his power, he’s blatantly insulting her. He calls her a puppet of the elite. During a press conference last week he made an attempt to dismiss Ms. Gálvez’s candidacy by likening her to an ambulatory tamale vendor, singing the jingle that all Mexicans know from the street. It’s doubtful that condescension toward a woman who climbed the economic ladder through sheer determination is a winning strategy. While the president demeans hard work, Ms. Gálvez is talking to the nation about its aspirations, freedom and respect for institutions. Those are themes many Mexicans may want to hear more about. – Wall Street Journal

North America

The polls predicted a re-election victory, maybe even a landslide. But a couple of weeks before the vote, Kenny Chiu, a member of Canada’s Parliament and a critic of China’s human rights record, was panicking. Something had flipped among the ethnic Chinese voters in his British Columbia district. – New York Times

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed the “American right-wing” for Canadian Muslims’ opposition to gender ideology and LGBTQ curriculum in K-12 education.  – Fox News

April Liu writes: Alarmingly, Trudeau’s government shows no signs of relenting. It has even gone as far as ceasing to buy ads on Facebook, instead of pursuing cooperation or seeking middle ground or compromise. Trudeau must urgently reconsider his approach. Instead of banishing big tech, he must aim for a balanced regulatory framework that respects the principles of a free and open internet while fostering an environment conducive to economic growth, innovation, and the preservation of Canadian democracy. – The Hill

United States

Since his indictment last month on charges of withholding classified documents, former president Donald Trump has publicly called special counsel Jack Smith “deranged” and a “psycho” and said he “looks like a crackhead.” – Washington Post

Special counsel Jack Smith has sent a letter to a Trump Organization employee indicating that the worker could be indicted in connection with allegedly trying to obstruct the investigation into Donald Trump’s possession of classified documents after leaving office, a person with knowledge of the matter said. – Washington Post

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy blamed “pervasive” censorship for the Jan. 6 riot. – Washington Examiner

The man who photographed himself on Jan. 6 with a photo from Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office was sentenced to four years in prison on Friday. – Washington Examiner

Several former White House officials have appeared before a Washington grand jury as special counsel Jack Smith’s team probes whether former President Trump knew he lost the 2020 election. – The Hill

Aaron Blake writes: But what it does spell out is that someone who might have been in line for a position of real power in American government was essentially being wrapped up in what the indictment casts as a foreign influence operation — this time connected not to Russia, but to China. – Washington Post

Fareed Zakaria writes: As we look around the world, we see that the single biggest risk to the international order may lie not in the killing fields of Ukraine or across the Taiwan Strait, but rather on the campaign trail in the United States. – Washington Post


A federal appeals court temporarily blocked a July 4 ruling that limited the U.S. government’s communications with social-media companies about their online content. – Wall Street Journal

China has released highly anticipated regulations to ensure that the artificial-intelligence technology powering chatbots like ChatGPT will abide by the socialist ideology governing most aspects of daily life. – Washington Post

The White House’s acting national cyber director was informed in recent weeks she would not be considered to serve in a permanent role because of personal debt issues that would make her difficult to confirm, a source with knowledge of the matter said. – Reuters

Andy Kessler writes: It’s the same with new technology. Stasis equals death. Alexa battles Siri. Facebook Reels drafts TikTok. OpenAI brought out its generative AI tool ChatGPT before it was ready for prime time because Google was close to launching Bard. Meta’s LLaMA is behind but gaining. A high-stakes race for sentient computing and artificial general intelligence is on. I’m skeptical we’ll fully get there, but we’ll all enjoy and benefit from the many cage matches along the way. – Wall Street Journal

Joshua A. Tucker writes: Ironically, however, the decision of how to deploy these tools, as well as what to report,  will likely be just as politically charged as the content they are designed to identify.  Moreover, as the cost of such tools grows, it may provide yet another barrier to new entrants in the social media space, which is still another way that AI and social media are likely to interact in the future. – The Hill


Congress’s decades-long streak of bipartisan support for its annual defense policy and spending plan collapsed Friday, after House Republicans rammed through the most conservative National Defense Authorization Act in decades — restricting military personnel’s access to reproductive care and diversity protections, and imperiling lawmakers’ mandate to set major national security priorities. – Washington Post

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Sunday that women in the military should take leave if they are looking to get an abortion and are stationed where it is banned, following passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the House. – The Hill

Roger Wicker writes: There is precedent for such a bold investment. Men, women and industries answered the call at the outset of World War II to produce weapons and materiel. During the Cold War, the U.S. rapidly built a nuclear Navy that was second to none. To fulfill the promise and benefit of the Aukus agreement, we need such clarity of purpose once again. – Wall Street Journal

Wilson Beaver writes: The defense budget deserves the same scrutiny as any other government agency. In fiscal year 2024, defense hawks and fiscal hawks must find common purpose by focusing on improving the existing defense budget. Together, we can move money away from inefficiency and waste and toward increased capability and lethality. – The Hill

Long War

The British man who tried to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami over 20 years ago spoke publicly last month for the first time, testifying under oath in federal court. His arms and legs were shackled as he told jurors why he thought his bomb failed to ignite and what regrets he has now. – Washington Post

Four high-value prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have tested positive for the coronavirus, including one man who was moved to the base hospital for closer observation, according to people familiar with operations at the U.S. base in Cuba. – New York Times

Poland’s Internal Security Agency said Friday it arrested an 18-year-old Polish citizen planning a suicide attack, on a government office, using an explosive belt. – Associated Press

A left-wing charity that became unable to accept credit card donations following Washington Examiner reports on its Palestinian terrorism ties is now fundraising through a major payment processor, records show. – Washington Examiner

A Tunisian national who was accused of plotting a terrorist attack against Americans in Europe in 2001 with Osama bin Laden was found not guilty by a Washington, D.C., jury. – Washington Examiner