Fdd's overnight brief

July 21, 2023

In The News


Dozens of rights experts and NGOs have asked the UN rights chief to intervene urgently to prevent the execution of an Iranian boxing champion sentenced to death over his role in 2019 protests. – Agence France-Presse

Iran would retaliate against any oil company unloading Iranian oil from a seized tanker, a senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ navy said on Thursday, amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington. – Reuters

The US is sending additional warships and thousands of Marines to the Middle East to increase security in the wake of Iranian attempts to seize commercial ships there. – Associated Press

Iran’s offer to host a maritime event in October has been rejected after a proposal led by the U.S. to rescind the bid was approved in a vote at the UN shipping agency’s Council, an agency spokesperson said on Thursday. – Reuters

Iran said the oil cargo of an Iranian-flagged supertanker seized by Indonesia last week does not belong to Tehran, Iranian state media reported on Friday. – Reuters

The return of the so-called morality police to the streets of major Iranian cities has brought back fear and stress for women who choose to ignore the requirement that they wear the hair-covering hijab. But it has also been met with resistance by men and women alike, while lawmakers have questioned the effectiveness of the hard-line approach to enforcing compliance. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iranian retirees have renewed protests in several major cities across the country, reiterating calls for more social and economic freedoms, as well as regular adjustments to their pensions in line with inflation as the cost of living soars amid international sanctions. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The European Union adopted new sanctions against Iran over its military support to Russia and Syria, the bloc said in a statement. – Bloomberg

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: The US will consider all of this a success if there are no new attacks on American troops in the region and if, come the IAEA conference in September, October and November, the agency reports that Iran has in fact frozen its nuclear progress. In the meantime, the EU will pray that before the October expiration date, at which point it and the Islamic Republic could escalate their conflict over ballistic missiles, a broader return to the 2015 nuclear deal and resolution of disputes will have transpired. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Clearly the regime is seeking to double down over the next months to crack down on dissent. This may be in preparation for an end to certain sanctions in October regarding military imports and exports. Iran may believe tensions are rising and it wants to crack down domestically before it faces a crisis elsewhere. – Jerusalem Post

Ruth Wasserman Lande writes: It is clear that the Iranian zeal for exporting its influence and impact on the region is being cleverly and patiently executed on multiple levels and in multiple arenas. This should be an absolute red flag for all countries in the region, including the Abraham Accords’ countries, and of course, the US and Europe, who seek regional stability for the sake of commerce, technological development, and trade. – Jerusalem Post

Jamsheed K. Choksy and Carol E. B. Choksy writes: In the absence of such proof, the Gulf Arab nations and their other Middle Eastern counterparts should continue to lean on the United States. But the United States must reciprocate. By tangibly shoring up its security commitments in the Middle East and consistently objecting to Iran’s threats in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Washington can reinforce its military, diplomatic, and economic engagements with its Sunni Muslim allies to reassure them that the United States has not abandoned them. – Foreign Affairs

Russia & Ukraine

Ukraine has begun firing U.S.-provided cluster munitions against Russian forces in southeastern Ukraine in a push to break up well-fortified Russian positions that have slowed Ukraine’s summer offensive, according to Ukrainian officials familiar with the matter. – Washington Post

Warnings by both Russia and Ukraine to strike cargo ships in the Black Sea are escalating a dispute over grain shipments and threatening to broaden the war to the strategic waterway. – Wall Street Journal

As Ukrainian forces press a slow and costly counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory in the south and east of the country, Moscow’s troops in one corner of northeastern Ukraine are pushing back in an effort to divert Kyiv’s army. – Wall Street Journal

Russia on Thursday stepped up its aerial assaults on Ukrainian ports critical to the world’s food supply, as the White House warned that the Kremlin has mined sea routes and might be setting the stage for attacks on commercial transport ships. – New York Times

At least three people were killed and a Chinese consular building was damaged on Thursday in a third successive night of air strikes on southern Ukrainian port cities, Ukrainian officials said. – Reuters

By pulling out of a landmark deal that allowed Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea, Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking a gamble that could badly damage Moscow’s relations with many of its partners that have stayed neutral or even been supportive of the Kremlin’s invasion of its neighbor. – Associated Press

Russia on Thursday imposed Soviet-style restrictions on British diplomats, requiring them to give at least five working days’ notice of any plans to travel beyond a 120-km (75-mile) radius, due to what it described as London’s “hostile actions”. – Reuters

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned on Thursday Russian attacks on Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and warned the “destruction of civilian infrastructure may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.” – Reuters

The United States on Thursday imposed Russia-related sanctions against nearly 120 people and entities aimed at blocking Moscow’s access to electronics and other goods that aid its war against Ukraine, the Treasury and State departments announced. – Reuters

Russia is not preparing to attack civilian ships in the Black Sea despite assertions by the United States, Russia’s ambassador to Washington said on Thursday, in comments posted by his embassy. – Reuters

Moscow has still not let the U.N. nuclear watchdog inspect the reactor rooftops at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the watchdog said on Thursday, two weeks after it first requested what it said was “essential” access. – Reuters

Editorial: The bill for this indecision is coming due, and the tragedy is more Ukrainian casualties and a more fraught counteroffensive. The dithering also erodes political support at home, as more Americans start to wonder what the U.S. is accomplishing. Mr. Biden can still decide that a long, ugly quagmire isn’t what the U.S. wants in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Tara D. Sonenshine writes: And there is the question of bread, with Russia pulling out of the United Nations deal that had allowed Ukraine to keep shipping grain to the world. For the people of Ukraine, and those who have become refugees around the world, this is no summer of celebration. For those of us who observe foreign policy, we will not stop focusing on the war, writing stories about Ukraine as often as the media will run them. We will not look away until Ukraine is free and whole. It is the least we can do. – The Hill

Seth Cropsey writes: Third, the U.S. should consider whether, and in what manner, the Turks might have an interest in solving the Russian problem in Syria. Russia’s presence in Syria has restrained Turkish and Israeli action for years and has given Russia leverage against the U.S. Through proxies, Turkey could increase the pressure on Russian deployments in Syria, particularly on Russian air defenses that are so problematic for Israel.  Removing this one impediment would open possibilities for American regional engagement and cement Turkey’s pivot back to the West. Russia’s formal abandonment of the Black Sea grain agreement is a tool to be turned against Putin while he is vulnerable. Biden should seize it while he can. – The Hill

Javier Blas writes: If wheat prices don’t surge, Washington and Brussels will either have to accept the Russian blockade, offer concessions to Moscow, or pay Eastern European nations large subsidies to accept Ukrainian wheat. None of those is a good option, but Kyiv is going to need help. The collapse of the grain corridor, alongside the overland route to its Eastern European neighbors, will cost Ukraine dearly. More is at stake than just the cost of breakfast. – Bloomberg


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Turkey on July 28 to hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, both leaders’ offices said late Thursday Netanyahu will be received a few days after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is expected on July 25, the Turkish presidency said. – Agence France-Presse

Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man near a shrine in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian health officials said, in the latest bloodshed in a cycle of violence that has gripped the region. – Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said efforts to reach consensus on a judicial overhaul bill were ongoing ahead of its expected approval by parliament next week after the law sparked protests and outrage at home and abroad. – Reuters

The Israeli military may arrest reservists who have pledged not to report for duty as part of protests at the government’s judicial overhaul plans, Army Radio reported on Thursday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded a crackdown. – Reuters

Palestinian security forces on Thursday arrested Sheikh Mustafa Abu Arra, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, in yet another sign of mounting tensions between the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza-based Islamist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s enemies are mistaken to think that US-Israel tensions mean the alliance between the countries is weakened, President Isaac Herzog said on Thursday, reflecting on his visit to the White House this week. – Jerusalem Post

Hundreds of Jewish pilgrims who arrived early Thursday morning in Nablus to worship at Joseph’s Tomb came under attack. The worshipers came to the compound in about 40 buses under Israel Defense Forces security, and during the prayer service disturbances developed in the area that included shooting at the forces, throwing explosive devices, and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. – Ynet

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Likud’s Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar on Thursday posted on their social media pages a staged video showing Israeli ground troops in Lebanon asking for air support in the middle of battle – and the pilots in response ask them whether or not they support the coalition’s judicial reform. When the soldier does not respond, an explosion is seen on the ground, and a dying soldier then says: “My brothers, from right and left, don’t play politics in the army.” – Ynet

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, fresh from his address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, spoke to Jewish-American leaders in New York on Thursday night about concerns in the Biden administration over the fate of the government’s hugely divisive and unpopular judicial overhaul. – Haaretz

Leading U.S. senators from both parties introduced on Thursday legislation that would designate a special envoy and dedicate tens of millions of dollars to Israel’s regional normalization attempts. It could be the most significant legislation tied to Israel’s ongoing normalization efforts with other Middle Eastern countries. – Haaretz

Editorial: Leah Goldin rose to warm applause, a poignant moment that underscored Herzog’s message of hope. As he put it at the end of his address, “Israel’s first 75 years were rooted in an ancient dream. Let us base our next 75 years on hope – our shared hope – that we can heal our fractured world, as the closest of allies and friends.” – Jerusalem Post

Mark Regev writes: To help mitigate concerns about his Beijing visit, Netanyahu could consider adding an additional stop to his itinerary. Perhaps he could choose for the final leg of his trip one of the region’s staunch American allies. I can think of more than one pro-Western Asian capital where the Prime Minister would be a welcome guest. – Jerusalem Post

Lazar Berman writes: Ever the dogged optimist, Herzog will put his head down and keep pushing the sides to come to some agreement on judicial reform. And he has stayed upbeat on the future of US-Israel ties. But it may take more than positive cheer and symbolic meetings to change a reality that is growing more problematic with every passing week. – Times of Israel

Alvite Ningthoujam writes: Robust educational, cultural, and academic exchanges could also help boost mutual understanding of each other’s peoples, histories, and traditions. Further, regular strategic dialogues and consultations could prove beneficial. It is equally important that person-to-person connections be strengthened between the two sides. Israel and the aforementioned African countries possess the goodwill to make their ties as strong and comprehensive as they were in the past. – Algemeiner

Bassam Tawil writes: The next time Palestinians complain about minors being killed or injured while carrying out terror attacks against Israelis, it would be worthwhile recalling the scenes of children in the summer camps of the Gaza Strip, where the process to transform them into combatants begins. It is time for the international community, and above all human rights organizations, to hold Palestinian leaders accountable for the child abuse inherent in training their children to become “martyrs,” in the Jihad to kill Jews, and in trying to destroy the region’s only democratic nation. – Jewish News Syndicate


Hezbollah-affiliated cleric Sheikh Sadiq al-Nabulsi stated that a war with Israel could “deliver” Lebanon from its ongoing political and economic crisis in an interview with the Lebanese Al-Jadeed TV earlier this month, according to a translation published by MEMRI. – Jerusalem Post

Pro-Iranian media Al-Mayadeen says that people in a village near the border with the Golan and Mount Hermon have begun building a new road with a bulldozer. This comes after weeks of provocations in the border areas, including Hezbollah setting up a tent months ago in the disputed Mount Dov area, attacks on the border fence near Ghajar, the firing of a missile and Lebanese politicians coming to the border area. – Jerusalem Post

A Lebanese television station affiliated with the Hezbollah terror group aired video on Thursday, showing the visit to the Israel-Lebanon border earlier this week, of IDF chief Herzi Halevi surrounded troops. Al-Manar said the Israeli commander visited an area of the border across from the village of Hula situated just two kilometers (just over a mile) inside Lebanon. – Ynet


Iraq expelled the Swedish ambassador on Thursday, hours after crowds of angry Iraqis stormed the Swedish Embassy in central Baghdad, scaling its walls and setting it on fire in protest against the expected public desecration of a Quran in Stockholm. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration condemned the embassy torching, but it may be out of its depth when it comes to the new tensions. Some Iraqis believe the Islamic Republic of Iran is driving events in Sweden and Iraq, stoking  a clash between champions of free speech and devout Muslims. – New York Sun

Less than a year after declaring he had left Iraqi politics, the unpredictable Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has reminded his rivals of the influence he still wields after his supporters stormed and torched the Swedish embassy in Baghdad. – Reuters

New fighter jets might not be on their way to Iraq, despite some recent rumblings sparked by local Pakistani news reports, but experts told Breaking Defense that Baghdad is looking to bolster its defense capabilities, focusing instead on land and border security. – Breaking Defense

Middle East & North Africa

Algeria on Thursday denounced Israel’s backing of Morocco’s “claimed sovereignty” over the disputed Western Sahara region as a “flagrant violation” of international law. – Agence France-Presse

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it will give Tunisia a $400 million as a soft loan and a 100 million as a grant to help it fix its ailing public finances, pledging more financial support in coming weeks. – Reuters

China will invest $36 billion in Algeria across sectors including manufacturing, new technology, knowledge economy, transport, and agriculture, Ennahar Online quoted Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune as saying on Thursday. – Reuters

A Russian military aircraft was exposed to “the guidance systems” of F-16 fighter jets of the U.S.-led coalition during a routine patrol over Syria’s southern border, Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov was quoted as telling TASS news agency on Thursday. – Reuters

Ahmad Sharawi and Essa Nahari write: Under President Biden, the most frequent foreign visits have come from Europe, with 12 leaders from that region invited to Washington since 2021. In the same period, 10 leaders from Asia have visited and 5 from Africa. – Washington Institute

Ahmed Nagi writes: Finally, negotiations should not be limited to armed entities that have gained legitimacy through battle. The talks should also comprise political and social groups, including those that represent women and young people. In the long term, the country must do more than forge temporary deals between groups. It can achieve a sustainable peace if the local conflicts that started this civil war are no longer obscured by a regional proxy war. – Foreign Affairs

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has not yet responded to the mystery surrounding a United States Army private’s  decision to flee across the inter-Korean border on Tuesday, and it may not ​comment on the case for days, or even months. – New York Times

A pink phone. A New York mission. Swedish diplomats. A North-South Korean hotline. The United States and reclusive North Korea have no diplomatic ties — but they still have ways to contact each other. – Associated Press

The United States on Thursday voiced mounting concern over Army Private Travis King, who dashed into North Korea two days ago, saying Pyongyang had a history of mistreating captured Americans. U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, in her first public comments on the case, said Washington was fully mobilized in trying to contact Pyongyang, including through United Nations communications channels. – Reuters

North Korea said on Thursday deployment of U.S. aircraft carriers, bombers or missile submarines in South Korea could meet criteria for its use of nuclear weapons, state media KCNA reported, citing the country’s defence minister, Kang Sun Nam. – Reuters

When U.S. soldier Travis King sprinted across the border into North Korea from the South this week, he disappeared into a North Korea where lingering COVID-19 concerns and restrictions have made the already secretive country more isolated than ever. During the pandemic North Korea stopped all international travel and most trade, built a lengthy border wall, and even shot some would-be unauthorised border crossers early in the outbreak. – Reuters

When a U.S. ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) surfaced for a rare visit to South Korea this week it was a blunt reminder that Washington always has nuclear-tipped missiles deployed within close striking distance of North Korea, analysts said. Having nuclear weapons out of sight in the seas off the Korean Peninsula was a potentially stronger deterrent to the North, according to some analysts, than installing them in South Korea, as Washington had done from 1958 to 1991. – Reuters

Victor Cha writes: The only silver lining from this apparent defection is that the North Koreans may eventually be compelled to have contact with the administration, which it has thus far been unwilling to do. The irony is that in the past, the United States insisted that the dialogue should be focused solely on securing the release of the detained American. Now, the Biden administration, which has been seeking to re-establish dialogue about the weapons programs, may use the opportunity to send a high-level official to talk about more than the individual’s release. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Beijing’s warm embrace of Henry Kissinger this week sent a pointed signal to the Biden administration: Stop trying to contain us. On Thursday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping welcomed Richard Nixon’s secretary of state to Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, lavishing gratitude on the 100-year-old for his role in normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China half a century ago. – Wall Street Journal

Taiwan detected 22 Chinese military aircraft around the island nation on Thursday, its defence ministry said. – Reuters

Days before a conference of foreign ministers this month, China told host Indonesia it was switching its representative due to “unexpected circumstances”, prompting a scramble in Jakarta to resize the traditional gift of a shirt for attendees. – Reuters

Ukraine’s deputy economy minister held talks with China’s vice commerce minister in Beijing on Thursday in the first high-level visit by a Ukraine government official to the country, which has a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, since 2019. – Reuters

China and the United States agreed to maintain close communications after climate envoys from both countries met in Beijing, China’s environment ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed an amendment to an annual defense bill on Thursday that would ban exports to China of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. – Reuters

A top Pentagon official broadly backed congressional efforts to restrict land purchases by foreign adversaries, including China, on Thursday. Assistant Secretary of Defense Ely Ratner told the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party that he “absolutely support[s] efforts to prevent adversarial ownership of sensitive land industries and sectors, and biotechnology is one we’re taking a careful look at,” though he hasn’t reviewed the committee’s proposed legislation closely. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: He has a point that his Administration’s actions were sometimes tougher than his, uh, diplomatic rhetoric. President Trump sent Javelin missiles to Ukraine, after President Obama had declined. Still, there’s no reason for Mr. Trump to talk this way. Recognizing that an adversary is dangerous because he’s smart is one thing. But Hollywood doesn’t let the audience forget who’s a villain and who’s a leading man. – Wall Street Journal

David Ignatius writes: As thousands of satellites maneuver in this newly contested domain, there’s an obvious need to establish norms and standards of conduct. I asked Uzo-Okoro from the White House whether there had been any discussion with China about such rules of the road. “Not particularly,” she said. That has to change. Otherwise, the United States could find itself surrendering its once-formidable lead on the final frontier. – Washington Post

Yun Sun writes: In the interim, however, the United States will have to understand that China has a higher tolerance for risk. Some lines of communication remain open. Xie Feng, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, had an unusual meeting with U.S. defense officials at the Pentagon in July. In advance of Biden’s meeting with Xi in November, China might see the resumption of military-to-military talks as one way to pave the way for a smooth summit. None of this engagement, however, fundamentally changes China’s goal, which is to limit U.S. military activities in the Chinese periphery. Until the United States backs away from the region, Beijing will keep pushing the envelope. – Foreign Affairs

South Asia

The tremendous promise of lithium, however, could frustrate Western efforts to squeeze the Taliban into changing its extremist ways. And with the United States absent from Afghanistan, it is Chinese companies that are now aggressively positioning themselves to reap a windfall from lithium here — and, in doing so, further tighten China’s grasp on much of the global supply chain for EV minerals. – Washington Post

India and Sri Lanka will conduct feasibility studies on petroleum line, land bridge connectivity between the countries, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, after holding talks with the Sri Lankan president in New Delhi. – Reuters

Sadanand Dhume writes: India-Russia ties survived the end of the Cold War because it made sense for both countries, but flailing in Ukraine and drawing ever closer to Beijing has made Moscow a much less attractive partner for New Delhi. As Mr. Jacob wrote, “When Indians think of their strategic partnerships, Russia is referred to in the past tense and the United States in the future.” – Wall Street Journal


China and Russia have begun their joint naval and air drills in the Sea of Japan, Chinese state media CCTV reported on Thursday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Tonga, New Zealand and Australia next week to discuss regional security and cooperation and attend the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the State Department said on Thursday. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with the leaders of Japan and South Korea in August in the United States, South Korea’s presidential office said on Thursday. – Reuters

The European Union on Thursday imposed a seventh round of sanctions on Myanmar in response to what it said was the escalation of violence and human rights violations since the 2021 military coup that overthrew elected leader Aung Suu Kyi. – Reuters

The United States and Vietnam on Thursday said they had agreed to hold regular, senior staff-level talks on macroeconomic policies and efforts to maintain financial stability, and would also explore a possible technical assistance partnership. – Reuters

The United States sees Vietnam as a key partner in expanding green energy sources and building more resilient supply chains, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a speech to be delivered in the country’s capital of Hanoi on Friday. – Reuters

The Senate intends to provide Taiwan with grants to purchase more U.S. military equipment, but the chamber’s bill sets up a showdown with Republican House appropriators who want even more money for the nation while slashing the overall foreign aid budget. – Defense News

In a clear sign of just how vital the Pacific Islands are now perceived to be by the US military, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin plans to become the first US defense secretary to visit the island state of Papua New Guinea during his eighth visit to the Indo-Pacific. – Breaking Defense


The Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that mercenaries from the Wagner group were training troops on the border with Poland, a statement that was likely to increase tensions in an area where fears of conflict are already high. – New York Times

The British government said Thursday that the European Union made a “regrettable choice of words” when it referred to the U.K.-run Falkland Islands as the Malvinas, the name preferred by Argentina. – Associated Press

The U.S. ambassador to North Macedonia defended a decision by her government to impose sanctions on a prominent local businessman, arguing Thursday that the action was taken to combat corruption and would ultimately help the Balkan country’s bid to join the European Union. – Associated Press

Poland’s security committee decided in a meeting on Wednesday to move military units to the country’s east due to the Wagner Group’s presence in Belarus, state-run news agency PAP quoted its secretary as saying on Friday. – Reuters

Editorial: If the Popular Party wins, it will be because it erected a big tent that can hold free-market centrists and some of the national-unity conservatives who drifted to the more conservative Vox party in previous elections. Mr. Feijoo may still need to form a coalition government with Vox, but with a strong plurality he could do so from a position of strength. It will be healthy development if a European center-right party can succeed with a strategy of conservative policies while still appealing to centrist voters. – Wall Street Journal

Lee Hockstader writes: The alliance gained more muscle in the Baltic region when Finland joined this spring and will be further bolstered by Sweden’s likely accession later this year. Nonetheless, Cavoli and his successors have their work cut out, and the urgency is clear. Without renewed resolve from Washington and major European capitals, the Kremlin is likely to regard NATO’s front-line states as tempting targets, and soft ones. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: It will be interesting to see how Chinese state media responds to these comments. I suspect Beijing will issue an angry public repudiation of them. Regardless, Bonne is a very experienced diplomat who is known to have Macron’s ear. As such, his words on Thursday will be welcomed in the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon. They suggest that America’s oldest ally might not be a total lost cause on China, after all. Washington Examiner

Stephen Blank writes: The failure to address these questions in Vilinus reveals that the self-satisfaction evinced by NATO during and after the summit is unjustified. The failure to grapple with these issues and offer Ukraine a clear path to NATO or commit to a decisive defeat of Russia will only encourage Putin in his delusions that Russia can somehow prevail and outlast the allied coalition. – The Hill


Britain on Thursday sanctioned 13 individuals and businesses in the Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan with links to Russia’s Wagner Group, including one it described as the “right hand man” of the group’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. – Reuters

At least nine people were killed and a dozen wounded when a bomb went off in a village in northeastern Congo, a local official said Thursday. – Associated Press

A BRICS currency will not be on the agenda of the bloc’s summit in South Africa next month, but Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will continue to switch away from the U.S. dollar, South Africa’s senior BRICS diplomat said on Thursday. – Reuters

The Americas

A former director of Venezuelan military intelligence pleaded not guilty on Thursday to U.S. drug trafficking charges, after a more than 10-year effort by the Department of Justice to bring him to U.S. soil. – Reuters

The total of Bolivia’s confirmed lithium resources has increased 2 million tons to 23 million tons, the Andean country’s president said Thursday. The new estimate further cements Bolivia’s position as the country with the world’s biggest known deposits of lithium, which is in high demand for use in batteries. – Associated Press

The U.S. Navy leveraged air and surface drones throughout its two-week UNITAS 2023 naval exercise near Latin America, the first major event since service leadership announced the region would host the sea service’s second unmanned operations hub. – Defense News

Armando Ibarra writes: Finally, the U.S. government must ​recognize the Cuban pro-democracy movement as legitimate representatives of the Cuban people and support a binding referendum, with preconditions and under international supervision, making way for a democratic transition in Cuba. The China-Cuba axis will bring real dangers to our doorstep and give China irreversible leverage over the hemisphere. This requires the U.S. to take action before it’s too late. – The Hill


Hackers linked to Beijing accessed the email account of the U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, in an attack that is believed to have compromised at least hundreds of thousands of individual U.S. government emails, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

A North Korean government-backed hacking group penetrated an American IT management company and used it as a springboard to target cryptocurrency companies, the firm and cybersecurity experts said on Thursday. – Reuters

Chinese hacking teams have been blamed by Western intelligence agencies and cybersecurity groups for digital intrusion campaigns across the world, targeting everything from government and military organisations to corporations and media groups. Cybersecurity firms believe many of those groups are backed by China’s government. – Reuters

Anonymous Sudan, an apparent pro-Russian hacktivist persona, claimed a one-hour distributed denial of service attack on OnlyFans Wednesday, the latest in a string of operations aimed at targets in the U.S. and Europe. – CyberScoop

Microsoft is attributing a cyberattack on customers of software development platform GitHub to a previously unknown hacking group based in North Korea. This week, GitHub’s Alexis Wales published an alert about a “a low-volume social engineering campaign” targeting the personal accounts of employees of technology firms. The hackers used “a combination of repository invitations and malicious npm package dependencies.” – The Record