Fdd's overnight brief

July 26, 2022

In The News

Russia & Ukraine

Russian strikes continued in Ukraine as the Kremlin called on Kyiv to resume shipments of grain despite a Russian missile attack over the weekend that risked derailing a key deal aimed at easing a blockade on Ukraine’s ports. – Wall Street Journal

Russia said it would further reduce natural-gas supplies to Europe this week, lobbing another volley in its economic war with the West and raising new questions about Europe’s ability to avoid shutting down factories and leaving homes cold this winter. – Wall Street Journal

Russia is using more than a dozen so-called filtration centers in eastern Ukraine and western Russia to detain and deport thousands of Ukrainians, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence assessment. – New York Times

Russia’s top diplomat said Moscow’s overarching goal in Ukraine is to free its people from its “unacceptable regime,” expressing the Kremlin’s war aims in some of the bluntest terms yet as its forces pummel the country with artillery barrages and airstrikes. – Associated Press 

The appeal of Ukraine’s first war crimes conviction was adjourned on Monday, as prosecutors keep pushing to hold Russia legally accountable for atrocities even as fighting rages in the south and east of the country. – Associated Press 

The Russian authorities on Monday briefly detained a 72-year-old liberal politician who recently returned to Moscow from abroad, the latest move in a relentless crackdown on dissent amid Moscow’s military action in Ukraine. – Associated Press 

More than anyone in recent history, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has turned the words “regime change” into a slur against America. Now, after acknowledging that regime change is Moscow’s top goal in Ukraine, he may have to change his tune. – New York Sun

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee accused the Russian military of “basically” committing genocide in various Ukrainian towns. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), who returned from a trip to Kyiv this weekend where he and other members met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said on MSNBC on Monday, “When the Russians take over, they kill civilians. They just basically commit genocide in the towns.” – Washington Examiner

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s team dismissed Russian claims that Western sanctions have exacerbated the global food crisis as Moscow hopes to convert the controversy into a political advantage in the developing world. – Washington Examiner

Although top US Air Force officials have suggested that sending A-10 Warthogs to Ukraine to support the country in its fight against Russia is a possibility, a Ukrainian defense adviser said recently that the decades-old ground-attack aircraft are too “slow” and “vulnerable to the enemy’s air defenses.” – Business Insider

Russian police detained Leonid Gozman, an opposition politician, on Monday, his lawyer said, after a criminal case was opened over his alleged failure to inform the authorities swiftly enough about his citizenship of Israel. – Reuters

Editorial: They should also engage in more vigorous diplomacy with developing countries that have been notably more sympathetic to the Kremlin’s version of what is happening in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked conflict continues to threaten starvation for millions. If that fate comes to pass, Moscow should not be allowed to wriggle out of the consequences. – Financial Times 

Alexander Baunov writes: Lithuania was a reliable transit hub for all goods entering the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad; now it is trying to limit the transit by interpreting EU sanctions as strictly as possible. Even sympathetic China has more leverage to buy Russian oil and gas with huge discounts. By changing the world order, Russia has discovered that it wasn’t only a victim but a part of it—and even a beneficiary. – Wall Street Journal

Peter Pomerantsev writes: The deal the two countries agreed on for Ukraine to resume grain exports is a welcome development, but it demonstrated the frailty of the world’s dependence on Russia’s good will, especially after Russian missile strikes hit the southern port of Odesa a day after the agreement was struck. Residual dependency is to always be vulnerable to Russia’s cycle of humiliation and aggression. “We want you to be with us,” the Russian soldier told Valentyna. But we know what “with us” really means. – New York Times

Jim Jones writes: The terrorist designation would further tighten economic restrictions on Russia, prohibit a broad range of dual-use exports and require the U.S. to take economic action against countries continuing to do business with Russia. More than anything, it would be a well-deserved recognition of the pariah status that Putin has earned for himself and his country. After all, he is the leading terrorist of the 21st century. – The Hill

Douglas London writes: Ukraine’s counterintelligence challenges are nothing new and pose risks that what the U.S. provides can fall into the hands of our adversaries, compromise capabilities, or at a minimum, focus Russia’s attention to targets against which we’re collecting. But there’s evident impact from U.S. support for Ukraine’s successful prosecution of key Russian targets identified via good intelligence. In the end, like the considerations associated with the increasingly sophisticated arms the U.S. is providing, intelligence decisions are a risk versus gain calculus done with open eyes. – The Hill

Harlan Ullman writes: Second, the U.S. must assert leadership abroad. Biden needs a summit with Putin and one with Xi. As Biden accepted the backlash for meeting with Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, he must do the same with Putin. The subject is how to reverse the adversarial and hostile relations that help no one. Ending tariffs with China and working out a new security relationship with Russia in Europe to include ending the Ukraine war are vital. – The Hill

Tom Rogan writes: This is not to say that negotiation with Russia is impossible or even undesirable. Again, the Cold War proved that the opposite is true. But negotiations with Putin’s Russia require a key ingredient that this proposal lacks: The provision of credible strength alongside the offer of compromise. If Russia wants ground-based U.S. nuclear weapons removed from Europe, it must verifiably do the same. – Washington Examiner

Nic Robertson writes: Guterres was right to be hopeful; the future effectiveness of the UN Security Council rides on his ability to keep Russia from escalating its war of choice. But if he was apprehensive at the signing table on Friday, nothing he has seen so far will assuage his fears. Not least Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday embellishing the deal, claiming Russian vessels would help escort the cargo ships. A statement, like the missile strike, willfully aimed at goading Ukraine. – CNN


Iran will keep the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s cameras turned off until a 2015 nuclear deal is restored, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Monday, state media reported. – Reuters

Iran’s Guidance Ministry has told advertising agencies that under the government’s tightening of the so-called hijab and chastity law, women are now prohibited from appearing in advertisements. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Iran intends to put another satellite into space, with the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) aiming to take a role in the project, Iranian media have reported. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran’s clerical regime last week sentenced Mahboobeh Ramezani to 100 lashes for her reported peaceful protest as part of the “Mothers of Justice” campaign against the murder of her son by the Islamic Republic and her opposition to the mandatory hijab. – Jerusalem Post

Iran is on the brink of being able to produce nuclear weapons, and military action at that stage will no longer be effective, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in an article published Monday in Time. – Haaretz

Walter Russell Mead writes: Mr. Biden has repeatedly said that allowing Iran to build nuclear weapons is not an option. If his administration fails to hold that line, the consequences for American power in the Middle East and globally would be profound and perhaps irreversible. If America attacks Iranian nuclear facilities and finds itself stuck in yet another Middle Eastern quagmire, the effects at home and abroad will also be dire. China and Russia would take advantage of America’s Middle East preoccupation to make trouble elsewhere, and U.S. public opinion would be further polarized. – Wall Street Journal

Masih Alinejad writes: Last week, when security forces stormed the houses of the activist group Mothers for Justice, they warned members of the group to stop using Instagram to speak up about the killing of their children. That tells you everything you need to know about Instagram’s importance as a means for creating open discussion in Iran. Social media gives ordinary people a chance to push back against the lies of authoritarian regimes such as Iran’s. Social media companies should not be doing the work of authoritarian governments. They should be helping to spread the truth. – Washington Post 

Eric R. Mandel writes: The question is whether if the Israeli intelligence and security consensus believes the time has come to pre-emptively strike Iran’s facilities, can an interim government pull the trigger? Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will verbally attack Prime Minister Yair Lapid no matter what, rather than form a unity government to deal with the repercussions of the Iranian and proxy response to an Israeli strike. Things could come to a head in 2023. – Jerusalem Post


The first of some 300 Afghan refugees arrived in Rome on Monday along a new humanitarian corridor organized by the Italian government, charities and international organizations, Italy’s Foreign Ministry announced. – Associated Press

U.S. and Taliban officials have exchanged proposals for the release of billions of dollars from Afghan central bank reserves held abroad into a trust fund, three sources familiar with the talks said, giving a hint of progress in efforts to ease Afghanistan’s economic crisis. – Reuters

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, Afghan children and teenagers have increasingly become the victims of starvation, child marriage, organ trafficking, and natural disasters. Growing evidence also indicates the Taliban are sexually exploiting young boys or using them as child soldiers. – Washington Examiner


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday there is no reason for high-level talks with Ankara’s estranged rival Egypt not to take place, as its efforts to mend ties with Cairo remain stagnant. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that an attack on a mountain resort in Iraq’s northern province of Dohuk last week that killed nine people was carried out by “terrorists” and was aimed at harming Turkey-Iraq ties. – Reuters

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey expects Kyiv and Moscow to keep to their responsibilities under a deal they signed regarding the export of Ukrainian grains. – Reuters

Turkey has not released a man wanted by Haiti over his alleged involvement in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, his lawyer said on Monday, despite a court rejecting his extradition and ruling he should be freed three weeks ago. – Reuters

Baraa Sabri writes: Turkey’s potential attack on northeastern Syria has been long in the making and is hardly an unexpected turn of events, as an article on the topic by the author from years prior shows. If Washington stays silent and fails to act to prevent this attack, it cannot claim surprise at the outcomes. Without significant involvement in the issue, Turkey will see the U.S. response as the green light to go ahead. – Washington Institute


The Israeli government is pushing back against moves by Moscow to outlaw the private agency that helps Russian Jews immigrate to Israel, ramping up tensions that have worsened between the two countries since the invasion of Ukraine in February. – Washington Post

Hundreds of Palestinian lawyers held a rare street protest Monday against what they described as the Palestinian Authority’s “rule by decree,” condemning PA President Mahmoud Abbas for governing without a parliament. – Agence France-Presse 

All of Israel is within the range of Hezbollah’s missiles, Lebanese Hezbollah terror leader Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview published Monday night. – Jerusalem Post 

US President Joe Biden’s recent visit to the region was a “big zero” and did not achieve anything for the Palestinians, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is reported to have told his confidants in Ramallah. – Jerusalem Post 

Israeli troops entered a West Bank town Monday evening to demolish the homes of two Palestinians accused of carrying out a deadly shooting attack in the settlement of Ariel in April, the military said. – Times of Israel 

A Palestinian man armed with a makeshift firearm was detained in the West Bank’s Etzion settlement bloc (Gush Etzion) on Monday afternoon, after starting a fire with a Molotov cocktail, the military said. – Times of Israel 

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has issued a travel warning to Israelis, warning them not to travel to Ukraine, including to Uman and the surrounding areas. – Arutz Sheva 

Editorial: Russia should not be bludgeoning Israel by taking action against the Jewish Agency. But Israel should likewise not be issuing ultimatums to Russia. Rather this issue – which is an important Israeli and Jewish one – needs to be dealt with quietly, in direct contact between leaders of both countries. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisians voted Monday in a referendum on a new constitution that would greatly expand the powers of a president who, over the past year, has pushed aside the other branches of government to rule alone. – New York Times

Libya is mired in a constitutional and political stalemate that has sparked increasing clashes, a dire economic situation and demonstrations across the country by frustrated citizens, a senior U.N. official said Monday. – Associated Press 

Algeria’s foreign minister on Monday decried Syria’s decadelong suspension from the Arab League during a visit to Damascus, indicating support for the war-torn country’s return to the organization under President Bashar Assad. – Associated Press 

A bloc of four Arab countries with 122 million people, all of which are also peace partners of Israel, have joined together as part of a unique and large new partnership. – Jerusalem Post

Several rockets were fired at the Khor Mor gas field near Chamchamal in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region overnight on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Paul Salem writes: The U.S. still has a great advantage vis-à-vis other great powers in the Middle East and a large number of capable and increasingly integrated partners. It should build on this advantage — which might not last forever — and build out relations and cooperation with partners in ways that strengthen and lengthen this U.S.-Middle East partnership. – Middle East Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: If Saied triumphs in his quest for the new constitution, this will likely be praised in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but critiqued by Ankara and Doha. This is because the struggle for influence in Tunisia is not just about Tunisia but also about the wider region. This is unfortunate because it probably means that the legitimate indigenous bursting forth of protest that led to the Arab Spring in Tunisia could be waning. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

South Korea is pouring resources into its strategy of deterring any North Korean nuclear attack by preparing for preemptive strikes if necessary, a strategy some experts say may exacerbate their arms race and risks miscalculation during a conflict. – Reuters

U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters based in South Korea are holding live-fire drills with rockets and guns for the first time since 2019, as the allies step up military exercises amid tension with North Korea. – Reuters

Donald Kirk writes: A nice sentiment indeed — except these people have no idea they’re being misled into saying exactly what Kim Jong-un wants to hear. Meanwhile the North is building ever more missiles and nukes for the express purpose of destroying the South Korean democracy that gives these protesters the right to demonstrate freely on North Korea’s behalf. – New York Sun


China’s latest launch of a huge rocket is, once again, raising alarm that the debris will crash into the Earth’s surface in an uncertain location and at great speed. – Washington Post 

The Biden administration has grown increasingly anxious this summer about China’s statements and actions regarding Taiwan, with some officials fearing that Chinese leaders might try to move against the self-governing island over the next year and a half — perhaps by trying to cut off access to all or part of the Taiwan Strait, through which U.S. naval ships regularly pass. – New York Times 

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday that it is still his expectation that he will speak with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, this week. – Reuters

China’s finance and investment spending in Belt and Road countries fell slightly in the first half compared to a year earlier, with no new coal projects and investments in Russia, Egypt and Sri Lanka falling to zero, new research showed. – Reuters

Sri Lanka has asked China to help with trade, investment and tourism to help it grow sustainably, Colombo’s envoy to Beijing said on Monday as it negotiates for an emergency $4 billion package to help it emerge from an economic meltdown. – Reuters

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss pledged to crack down on Chinese-owned companies such as social-media giant TikTok Inc. as she traded blows with Rishi Sunak in their first head-to-head debate of the race to succeed Boris Johnson as UK prime minister. – Bloomberg

Kant Lassman and Iain Murray write: What we have to do is impose real penalties when they cheat and create a sphere of influence that offers both information and incentives for China to move our way. The China Question is the biggest foreign policy problem facing us. If we get the answer wrong, the results could be tragic not just for Chinese people but for Americans. – The Hill

Paul Heer writes: Such an approach will inevitably be very difficult and will involve risks and costs. But any alternative approach—especially one that focuses exclusively on competition, confrontation, and condemnation—would probably entail even greater risks and costs and offer little chance of success in reversing the downward spiral in U.S.-China relations. – The National Interest


The U.S. is sending a high-profile diplomatic delegation to visit the Solomon Islands next week led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and including Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy. – Associated Press 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the state funeral of Japanese former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Kremlin said on Monday. – Reuters

Chinese investment and trade — and possibly an invitation to the Group of 20 summit in Bali this fall — are on the table in talks Tuesday between visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. – Associated Press 

Sri Lanka will restrict fuel imports for the next 12 months because of a severe shortage of foreign exchange, its energy minister said on Monday, as the island nation’s new government seeks to find a way out of a crippling economic crisis. – Reuters

Taiwan’s capital staged air raid drills Monday and its military mobilized for routine defense exercises, coinciding with concerns over a forceful Chinese response to a possible visit to the island by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. – Associated Press 

Myanmar’s Southeast Asian neighbours issued a stinging rebuke on Tuesday of the ruling military’s execution of four political activists, calling it “highly reprehensible” and destructive to regional efforts to de-escalate the crisis. – Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday held separate calls with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, offering U.S. support for what he called a “historic opportunity” to achieve peace in the region. – The Hill

Michael Rubin writes: Beijing’s bluster aside, China has no right to Taiwan. Even Mao told hagiographer Edgar Snow that Taiwan was as distinct from China as Korea was. If China threatens Taiwan over Pelosi’s visit, the proper response is to deploy a carrier strike group to the region. Folding to Chinese bullying will only encourage more outrageous demands and further damage the international order. – Washington Examiner

Kamran Bokhari writes: In the short-term, land-locked Uzbekistan could establish trade routes that traverse the more secure parts of Afghanistan through Pakistan to reach the Indian Ocean and beyond, as well as through India and Bangladesh to Southeast Asia. Uzbekistan will need help from its allies and partners in the West to do this. The Tashkent Conference has the potential to not only help Uzbekistan manage Afghanistan but enhance security and stability across Central & South Asia. – The National Interest


Russian energy giant Gazprom on Monday said it would halve the natural gas flowing through its main pipeline to Germany, keeping European countries in a state of uncertainty as they scramble to build up energy supplies for winter. – Washington Post 

Moldova is “very worried” about a potential Russian invasion as Russian forces prepare to step up attacks in Ukraine’s east and south, close to the border with the small nation of 2.5 million. – Washington Post 

Greece will seek to be exempted from a European Union proposal for countries to cut their gas use by 15% from next month until March, a government spokesperson said on Monday. – Reuters

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban denounced the idea of “race-mixing” in European countries, eliciting backlash from several world leaders who have called his comments dangerous. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: Mr. Scholz’s initial response to the Ukraine invasion was exactly correct. He said in February that Europe is under threat and Germany must rearm to help its allies and deter Vladimir Putin. But it’s hard to separate that declared resolve from his timidity on military aid to Ukraine. Allies and the Kremlin are watching Berlin’s actions closely, and it would help Mr. Scholz’s credibility if the next batch of Cheetahs move less like turtles. – Wall Street Journal


French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a three-nation tour of Africa Monday. The four-day visit to Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau is the French leader’s first diplomatic trip outside of Europe since winning re-election, showing how Africa is high on the list of priorities for the former colonial power. – Associated Press

The M23 rebel group killed at least 29 civilians over the last month since it took control of parts of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Human Rights Watch. – Bloomberg

South Africa submitted a request for extradition from the United Arab Emirates of the Gupta brothers, who are wanted for allegedly masterminding the looting of billions of dollars from state entities on Monday. – Bloomberg

Hundreds of protesters attacked a United Nations peacekeeping force’s warehouse and looted offices on Monday in Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, demanding that the mission leave for failing to protect the population. – Reuters

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Lavrov wrote an article while traveling to Africa in which he says that Russia supports Africa “in its struggle to escape the eternal colonial yoke.” Moscow claims that sanctions have exacerbated “negative trends and dynamics” in the international market for basic necessities. […]The trip illustrates how Russia is able to use the Ukraine war to its benefit, blame the West for the food shortage caused by the war, and then leverage the war to get sanctions reduction and a closer alliance with Turkey. – Jerusalem Post

Latin America

The International Monetary Fund said Monday that Argentine officials reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to its $44 billion program with the fund, attempting to shore up confidence after the economy fell deeper into crisis. – Bloomberg

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei visited Ukraine on Monday and expressed his solidarity with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Giammattei met with Zelenskyy in the capital, Kyiv, becoming the first Latin American president to make the trip. – Associated Press 

U.S. President Joe Biden’s defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, is expected to call on militaries to respect democracy at an Americas-wide defense gathering this week in Brazil, a senior U.S. defense official said. – Reuters

Brazilian presidential election frontrunner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva favors reopening talks on a stalled European Union trade deal with South American trade bloc Mercosur to add provisions on environmental protection, human rights and technology, a senior foreign policy adviser said. – Reuters


The White House announced on Monday that it was hiring a former Google executive to join the Office of the National Cyber Director where she will focus on improving and developing the nation’s cyber ecosystem. – The Hill

Italian authorities are investigating the theft of roughly 78 gigabytes of data stolen from Italy’s tax agency, l’Agenzia delle Entrate, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Monday. – CyberScoop

A Russia-based ransomware command and control network has been found to have a foothold in at least one U.S. network, according to researchers from attack surface management firm Censys. – The Record


Lockheed Martin Corp.’s next mega-contract for several hundred F-35 jets will be worth about $30 billion, according to a defense official familiar with the negotiations, but the total number of fighters purchased has been affected by inflation and Covid-related delays. – Bloomberg

The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles and related equipment to Japan for an estimated cost of $293 million, the Pentagon said on Monday. – Reuters

The Defense Department is looking at alternative locations for the largest military exercise in Africa amid Senate pressure to bump Morocco from its position as an annual host for the drills. – Defense News

President Joe Biden and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks met virtually on Monday with the chief executive of Lockheed Martin and other companies to advance a bill to boost semiconductor production in the United States. – Defense News

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) pulled into Singapore last week for its first port visit to the nation in three years, the Navy announced. The carrier, which is forward-deployed in the region and based in Yokosuka, Japan, pulled into Singapore on Friday with one of its escorts, cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54), according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release. – USNI News

Long War

Two decades after his arrest, the suspected organizer of a deadly 2000 al-Qaida attack on a U.S. Navy warship faced the possibility of further delays of his Guantanamo trial after his defense lawyer on Monday pressed to be allowed to leave the case over an alleged conflict of interest. – Associated Press

On Sunday night, the IDF, Israel Security Agency (Shabak), and Israel Border Police forces conducted counterterrorism activities in a number of locations in Judea and Samaria, including in the towns of Anata, Dura and Deir Abu Masha’al. – Arutz Sheva 

Yossi Yehoshua writes: The IDF engaged the militants in Nablus between 1:20 and 5:00am, resulting in the death of two terrorists. Palestinian health officials said 16 others were wounded, and one of them severely. The operation’s overt objective was to seize weapons and arrest terror suspects, but its covert one was to make terrorists feel unsafe even in their safe space.  – Ynet

Colin P. Clarke and Tore Refslund Hamming write: After 9/11, the U.S. was unwilling to accept nearly any risk in terms of transnational terrorist groups. But following two decades of spilling blood and treasure while chasing terrorists to every corner of the globe, war-weariness has set in and the focus has shifted from violent non-state actors to near-peer competition with nation-states and great powers. This development will offer welcome respite to jihadist groups in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa that are working to reestablish their organizational and operational capabilities and take advantage of a far less aggressive global counterterrorism campaign against jihadist groups. – The Hill