Fdd's overnight brief

July 27, 2021

In The News


France’s foreign ministry said on Monday that Iran was endangering the chance of concluding an accord with world powers over reviving its 2015 nuclear deal if it did not return to the negotiating table soon. – Reuters 

Iran said on Tuesday its security forces had arrested a network of agents working for Israel and had seized a cache of weapons it said were planned for use during recent unrest sparked by water shortages in the Islamic Republic, state media reported. – Reuters 

Iran is taking advantage of the lull in nuclear talks with the US to get dangerously close to a nuclear weapon, and there must be a deadline to return to negotiations, Israeli officials have warned their American counterparts. – Jerusalem Post 

Protests in Iran are entering their third week, with widespread arrests of protesters and deadly use of force. – Jerusalem Post 

Classified documents, allegedly from Iran, reveal secret research into how a cyber attack could be used to sink a cargo ship or blow up a fuel pump at a petrol station. – Sky News 

Alberto M. Fernandez writes: But appeasing dictatorships in Havana and Tehran that are so clearly despised by their own people, empowering these tyrants’ hold on power, is something that no rhetorical fig leaf can disguise. It was in October 2020 that candidate Biden himself, unbidden, marked the second anniversary of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by loftily proclaiming that “America’s commitment to democratic values and human rights will be a priority” in his administration.[16] This commitment seems to only apply so far to our allies, but not to our enemies, who both seek to destroy us and brutalize their subject peoples at the same time. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Lazar Berman writes: After months of expectations that a breakthrough in the Vienna talks on Iran’s nuclear program was only a matter of time, the chances of success are now looking increasingly remote. […]The hardliners, including the Revolutionary Guards and their allies, blame Rouhani and Zarif for failing to defend Iranian interests and red lines, and for not adhering to the December 2020 law on accelerating Iran’s nuclear program. Ultimately, however, the decision lies with Khamenei and Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. – Times of Israel 

Emily Schrader writes: The IOC has no excuse. It is well known and documented – by both international human rights organizations as well as refugee athletes who have fled Iran for their lives – that the state of Iran violates every principle the Olympic Games represent. Iran has no place in the Olympics and the IOC cannot continue to allow these egregious violations of human rights to occur right in front of their faces. The IOC must ban Iran from the Olympic Games. – Jerusalem Post 


General Vadim Kulit, deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, told the Russian news agency TASS that two Israeli fighter jets were intercepted while attacking targets near Damascus early Sunday. – Ynet 

Russia and China have expressed support for Syria at a time when U.S. President Joe Biden is overseeing policy shifts in Afghanistan and Iraq, two other countries where U.S. troops are deployed. – Newsweek 

Andrew J. Tabler writes: The Biden administration should appoint a special envoy for Syria charged with developing what the Trump team never did—a coherent political strategy, supported by the U.S. intelligence community, to isolate Assad and his regime’s facilitators and limit the malign influence of Iran and Russia. Without such a strategy, it will be impossible to achieve a viable diplomatic settlement to the Syrian war. Washington will continue to struggle with threats emanating from Syria for years to come, and Syrians will lose another generation to the conflict. – Foreign Affairs 


A second judo athlete has dropped out of the Olympics before facing Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the 73-kilogram division. Olympic officials say Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool didn’t show up to face Butbul in their round of 32 bout Monday despite weighing in for the bout earlier. – Fox News 

The Islamic Jihad terrorist organization has threatened that it intends to escalate the situation on the Gaza border. – Arutz Sheva 

Hamas is reportedly using Sunday’s incendiary balloon attacks on southern Israel as a signal to both Israel and Egypt that if Qatari funds do not begin to flow into the Gaza Strip, it will move forward with further acts of escalation. – Algemeiner 

Advisors to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett are expected to visit Washington in order to lay the groundwork for a meeting between Bennett and US President Joe Biden, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed on Monday. – Jerusalem Post 

Haviv Rettig Gur writes: Lapid sought last week to turn the classical Zionist conception of antisemitism away from its call to change the Jews and toward the recognition that the Jew is in a deep sense irrelevant to antisemitism, merely the ideologized object around which antisemitism organizes itself — its target, not its cause. […]The debate among Israelis over the past week was loud and shallow. And that’s no accident. Israelis, one American Jewish writer quipped about the dustup, Haviv “really don’t understand antisemitism.” – Times of Israel 

Amos Harel writes: But in reality, only time will tell to what extent Russia’s unhappiness is limiting Israel’s actions in Syria. If there is now a prolonged lull in such attacks, it might stem from Russia’s recent statements. – Haaretz 

Audrey Tang and Joseph Wu write: Taiwan looks forward to working with the Israeli government to identify potential areas of collaboration. We are eager to share our experiences and lessons learned, particularly in terms of combating advanced persistent threats, while benefiting from Israel’s world-renowned expertise in innovation, technology and cross-sectoral cooperation. – Jerusalem Post 

Neville Teller writes: Official accounts of the presidential conversation report the leaders agreeing on the importance of ties between Israel and Turkey, and the great potential for cooperation in many fields, in particular energy, tourism and technology. […]Is this the renewal of a beautiful Turco-Israeli friendship, or an astute move by Erdogan to further his political ambitions? It could be both. To reap the potential benefits and sidestep the potential hazards, Israel will need to proceed with caution. – Jerusalem Post 


President Biden said the U.S. combat mission in Iraq would conclude by the end of 2021, but the U.S. military would continue to work with Iraqi forces in their fight against the Islamic State militant group. – Wall Street Journal 

An Iraqi paramilitary group said on Monday one of its ammunition depots came under drone attack near the southern city of Najaf. – Reuters 

Zvi Bar’el writes: With the U.S. administration in no rush to formulate its policy on the Iraqi and Syrian front, and while Washington thinks that Bafel, Lahur and Qubad are names of heroes in bandit stories, Joe Biden may discover that he has been hoodwinked. – Haaretz 


Billionaire former prime minister Najib Mikati secured enough votes on Monday to become Lebanon’s next prime minister designate, tasked with forming a government that many hope will halt the country’s precipitous slide into economic and financial collapse. – Washington Post  

 Lebanese citizens expressed outrage in recent days after pictures and video from the lavish weddings of the daughters of two Hezbollah-affiliated politicians were leaked on social media, showing the politicians celebrating in style while most of Lebanon is suffering the effects of a worsening economic crisis. – Jerusalem Post

Matthew Levitt writes: Today, Hezbollah’s regional adventurism is most pronounced in its expeditionary forces deployed in Syria and elsewhere in the region, but no less important are the group’s advanced training regimen for other Shi’a militias aligned with Iran, its expansive illicit financing activities across the region, and its procurement, intelligence, cyber, and disinformation activities. Together, these underscore the scale and scope of the group’s all-in approach to transforming from one of several Lebanese militias into a regional player acting at Iran’s behest. – Middle East Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

A political crisis in Tunisia moved into its second day Monday after President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended parliament, in the most serious test of the country’s institutions since its transition to democracy a decade ago. – Washington Post 

Separated by metal barriers set up by police, hundreds of people gathered outside Tunisia’s parliament building under a burning sun on Monday to pelt their political rivals with stones, bottles and eggs. – Reuters 

Tom Barrack pleaded not guilty to charges that he illegally lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and lied to investigators about it. – Bloomberg 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid expressed solidarity with Cyprus on Monday as Turkey consolidated its presence in the northern part of the Eastern Mediterranean island. – Jerusalem Post 

Josh Rogin writes: There is still time for the United States and other Western governments to convince Saied that pressing forward with an authoritarian power grab will not turn out well for him. The United States has significant leverage at its disposal — above all, economic aid, including a recently signed $500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation compact. – Washington Post 

Mohamed Chtatou writes: Nonetheless, while critics may regard this violence as a mark against the Abraham Accords and their signatories, this latest fighting between Palestinians and Israelis has brought the importance of a sustainable two-state solution into the limelight, and participants in the accords, like Morocco, stand poised to make meaningful contributions towards that end. – Washington Institute 

Sam Fouad writes: Instead of bombing our way into minimal gains—and mostly losses—for decades, the United States should instead remove all American soldiers from the Middle East and invest in policies that help the people of the region root out corruption, gain jobs and clean the land, air and water. Such policies would not only help individual people, but it would help the Earth. This would also result in better environmental conditions for Americans in the United States, and for future generations to come. – Newsweek 


In the barren desert 1,200 miles west of Beijing, the Chinese government is digging a new field of what appears to be 110 silos for launching nuclear missiles. It is the second such field discovered by analysts studying commercial satellite images in recent weeks. – New York Times 

As it seeks to manage an increasingly testy relationship, the Biden administration has mapped out a strategy of confronting China on points of dispute, while leaving the door open for cooperation against global threats. – New York Times 

China’s yet-to-be-announced new ambassador to the United States Qin Gang headed to Washington on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the matter, amid worsening relations between the world’s two largest economies. – Reuters 

With no indication of a U.S.-China leaders’ summit in the works, nor any outcomes announced from high-level diplomatic talks on Monday, relations between Beijing and Washington appear to be at a standstill as both sides insist the other must make concessions for ties to improve. – Reuters 

A senior U.S. diplomat called on China to rise above their differences and work with the United States on difficult global issues such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic as a responsible global power. – Associated Press 

The first person to be tried under Hong Kong’s sweeping national security law faces life in prison after being found guilty on Tuesday of inciting secession and terrorism in a landmark court ruling that is likely to have profound implications for the city’s legal system. – CNN 

Robert E. Lighthizer writes: The state planners in China are surely concerned about the research and technology sections of the Senate bill, but they must be positively gleeful that it would effectively drop the existing Section 301 tariffs and eliminate much of the threat of future tariffs altogether. It’s now up to the House of Representatives and President Biden to save us from this folly. […] After the bill’s passage in the Senate, President Biden praised it. But unless the House succeeds in reshaping it, he should veto this legislation and send it back to Congress for another try. – New York Times 


The Biden administration has asked Congress for $1 billion to bring Afghans who helped American forces during the two-decade war in their country to the U.S., and there is bipartisan support to provide the money, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg 

Americans are evenly divided on whether the war in Afghanistan was a mistake, as the U.S.’s troop withdrawal from the region nears completion. – The Hill 

Russia is stepping into the security vacuum created by the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, with President Vladimir Putin looking to re-exert influence in central Asia and prevent Islamist extremism from spilling over the borders. – Financial Times 

Editorial: The U.S. has resumed bombing in Afghanistan, a tacit admission that the Taliban are advancing faster than the Biden Administration anticipated. The U.S. military warned the White House this would happen, and the outlook is grim if President Biden doesn’t change course on his total withdrawal. – Wall Street Journal 

Gideon Rachman writes: The resurgence of the Taliban is also likely to cause a new refugee crisis, as millions of Afghans seek to leave the country. European governments now fear that 500,000 or more Afghans may arrive at the borders of the EU within months. Biden may believe that drawing a line under the Afghan war will allow the US to concentrate on more urgent problems. Sadly, he may just have created a new Afghan crisis that will come back to haunt him. – Financial Times 

South Asia

India is proud of its pluralistic traditions and happy to discuss the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit beginning on Tuesday, foreign ministry sources said after Washington said he planned to raise New Delhi’s human rights record. – Reuters 

The ruling party of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has won a majority of seats in Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s regional assembly, the head of the election commission announced on Monday. – Reuters 

At least seven people, including six police officers, were killed and more than 70 hurt on Monday in clashes between two Indian states, a senior politician said, as a weeks-long territorial dispute in the country’s northeast turned deadly. – Reuters 

Pakistan on Monday reopened a major southwestern border crossing with Afghanistan that is currently under Taliban control on the Afghan side, Pakistani customs officials said, allowing over 100 trucks carrying goods to cross into Afghanistan. – Reuters 

Alyssa Ayres writes: Critics of the Indian government’s rights record might dismiss these suggestions as empty talk. But more bilateral talk about democracy is precisely what India and the United States need. Each country derives much of its soft power from its status as a leading democracy. An honest reciprocal discussion that puts democratic values squarely on the agenda would be to the benefit of both. U.S. and Indian officials often talk of belonging to the world’s oldest and largest democracies. – Foreign Affairs 


North Korea reopened direct communication lines with South Korea, raising the prospect that the Kim Jong Un regime could be ready for engagement after a protracted period of diplomatic silence. – Wall Street Journal 

A three-month constitutional crisis that had convulsed the Pacific Island nation of Samoa ended on Monday as its long-serving leader finally conceded an election defeat, making way for the first female prime minister in the country’s 56-year history. – New York Times 

One of the Hong Kong democracy activists who was returned from a Chinese jail after being captured at sea last year was ordered detention in a training centre for under-20-year-olds on Monday for attempted arson and possessing dangerous objects. – Reuters  

Vice President Kamala Harris could travel to Vietnam and Singapore in August, even as details of such a trip are not final yet, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday. – Reuters 

Three Hong Kong judges are expected to deliver a verdict on Tuesday in the trial of the first person charged under the national security law, a landmark case with implications on how the legislation reshapes the city’s common law traditions. – Reuters  

The Czech Republic is donating 30,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan, the island’s president said on Tuesday, praising the central European country for taking a step that could irritate China. – Reuters  

China’s overhaul of Hong Kong’s political institutions has crushed the pro-democracy movement and fueled warnings of an end to the city’s status as an international financial hub. Yet more than a year after the crackdown began, signs of an investor exodus are hard to find. – Bloomberg 

Myanmar’s military annulled the results of last year’s general election that was won in a landslide by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, saying it had misused its administrative power. – Bloomberg 

Russia’s prime minister on Monday visited Pacific islands claimed by Japan, a move that brought a protest from Tokyo, and said the government is considering setting up a special economic zone there. – Associated Press 

Seth Cropsey writes: Xi Jinping’s July 1 speech, and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso’s clear statement of Japan’s support for Taiwan on July 5, is an example of such dialogue. It presents the U.S. with a clear opportunity — particularly given other allied actions in the Indo-Pacific — to solidify American and NATO links with Taiwan. – The Hill 

Thomas Kellogg and Kaylee Morrison write: Still, the Biden administration needs to both signal its support for human rights activists in Hong Kong and protect the interests of U.S. businesses operating there. The July 16 advisory is an important step in the right direction for the Biden administration’s Hong Kong policy and its broader China policy. Sadly, it seems clear that more such efforts will be needed. – Foreign Policy 


Russia’s military doesn’t stand down for the Olympics. On Tuesday, Moscow was set to begin military exercises on an island near Japan that it seized in 1945 and Tokyo still claims. – Wall Street Journal 

A Russian court on Monday sentenced a Siberian shaman critical of President Vladimir Putin to enforced treatment in a psychiatric hospital for assaulting a member of Russia’s National Guard, his lawyer said. – Reuters 

Russian authorities blocked access to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s website on Monday in the run-up to a parliamentary election, their latest attempt to sideline his allies cast by the Kremlin as U.S.-backed trouble-makers. – Reuters 

 Russia is working on a new “Doomsday” plane, a military aircraft that can serve as a flying command and control center in a disaster like nuclear-armed conflict, according to Russian state media. – Business Insider 


President Joe Biden must hammer Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s regime with economic sanctions to sow dissension within his “cliques and cronies” regime, according to opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya, who identified the crisis as a test of the new president’s pledge to confront authoritarianism. – Washington Examiner 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz was scheduled to depart on Wednesday for a brief visit to France, where he will meet with his French counterpart to discuss a range of issues, including the controversial Israeli cyber firm NSO Group, whose software may have been used to target French President Emmanuel Macron. – Times of Israel 

US Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism, Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Kathy Manning (D-NC), and Peter Meijer (R-MI) on Monday introduced a resolution urging the European Union (EU) to fully designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. – Arutz Sheva  

Editorial: One can hardly blame the EU for a sense of irritation at the latest British effort to relitigate the Northern Ireland protocol of its Brexit deal. This is a mess created entirely by the prime minister. He advocated Brexit without any consideration for its consequences in the province, careless of the point that it was the common membership of the EU that made the Good Friday Agreement possible. He then scuppered a Brexit deal that would have maintained the integrity of the UK. – Financial Times 

Giulio Meotti writes: Yep, sharia law… In England, not Kabul, there are hundreds of perfectly legal courts regulating Islamic law in British communities. The British are not ready, but very ready, to “work” with the Taliban. A shopkeeper from an area of London where the British Taliban impose their unofficial Sharia law told The Times: “If we keep it up, England will be more like Afghanistan.” After the surrender to the Taliban, Europe itself must avoid becoming a new Kandahar. – Arutz Sheva 

 Stefano Graziosi writes: The United States can’t disengage in the effort to keep Europe whole, free, prosperous and secure in the face of Chinese pressure. President Joe Biden should continue to put Greece under pressure on the 5G issue that is attached to China. The United States should lead public-private sector investment efforts in offering better economic alternatives. American support for the Three Seas Initiative is just one example of what Washington could achieve if it took seriously both the challenge and opportunity of investing in Europe. – The National Interest 


A court in Tanzania has charged the leader of the main opposition party with terrorism-related crimes, police said on Monday, following his arrest while preparing for a meeting to discuss proposals for a new constitution. – Reuters 

Residents of Ethiopia’s Amhara region said on Monday some young men were responding to a weekend call to arms by their president, as Amhara’s government denied that forces from neighbouring Tigray had advanced further into the region. – Reuters 

Five U.N. peacekeepers were injured in an attack using an improvised explosive device in Mali’s restive north Monday, the United Nations said. – Associated Press 

The Americas

Scores of Cubans who participated in recent mass protests have received sentences of up to one year in prison or house arrest in summary trials without due process, civil rights activists and relatives of detainees say. – Wall Street Journal 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that he thinks U.S. President Joe Biden must make a decision about the embargo against Cuba amid the biggest unrest in the Caribbean nation in decades. – Reuters 

An opposition-led alliance won a vote on Monday to lead Peru’s Congress, a setback for socialist President-elect Pedro Castillo on the eve of his inauguration and a sign of challenges ahead to his plans to reform the constitution and hike mining taxes. – Reuters 

Cuba’s embassy in Paris was attacked by gasoline bombs, according to Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who blamed U.S. government for “continuous campaigns against our country that encourage these behaviors and for calls for violence.” – The Hill 

Michael Stott writes: Like Banquo’s ghost in Macbeth, Latin America has made an unwelcome appearance before Joe Biden’s administration at an inopportune moment. Crises this month in Cuba and Haiti, unpredictable populist presidents, environmental destruction and a migration crisis in Central America are competing for the attention of a US president who would prefer to spend his political capital at home. – Financial Times 


A counterterrorism organization formed by some of the biggest U.S. tech companies including Facebook (FB.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) is significantly expanding the types of extremist content shared between firms in a key database, aiming to crack down on material from white supremacists and far-right militias, the group told Reuters. – Reuters 

Senators crafting the annual defense policy bill proposed a raft of provisions to bolster oversight of the Defense Department’s information warfare enterprise including cyber, electromagnetic spectrum operations and information operations. – C4ISRNET 

Andreyka Natalegawa and Kyra Jasper write: But the role that U.S. social media platforms have played in the crackdown on activists in the region, whether by coercion or complicity, points to the need for focused attention and action from Washington. It is imperative that the U.S. government and social media companies work together in establishing and adhering to a set of principles that protect openness and basic freedoms. Failing to do so will complicate the Biden administration’s stated aims of centering human rights in foreign policy. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


It has come to be seen as virtually axiomatic in defense circles that the U.S. Army will serve as a bill payer for air and naval modernization, with even the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff predicting a “bloodletting.” At the same time, the Army believes it must prepare for three challenges, each with distinct implications for the future force: blunting Russian aggression along NATO’s eastern frontier, defeating China in a war in the western Pacific and hedging against everything else. – Defense News  

The Senate confirmed former Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall to be the 26th Air Force secretary in a voice vote Monday, after defense officials assuaged the concerns of multiple lawmakers who were blocking the nominee’s path forward. – Defense News  

The US Army has selected five teams to proceed onward to the next phase of the revamped Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) programme, where they will spend the next 15 months working on concept designs.- Janes 

Long War

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she has agreed to a request from Turkish authorities to accept the return of a New Zealand citizen accused of having links to the Islamic State, and her two young children. – Reuters 

 Jordan has thwarted an attempt by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists to kill IDF soldiers near the border with Israel, the Jordanian newspaper Al-Rai revealed on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post  

Botswana sent military troops to Mozambique on Monday, becoming the first country of the 16-nation Southern African Development Community to dispatch soldiers to help battle an Islamic extremist insurgency in northern Cabo Delgado province. – Associated Press 

Saskia M. van Genugten writes: This decades-long experience of fighting terrorism in the broader Middle East has shaped Western militaries and the lives of many individuals. Knowing what we know now, it is unlikely that Western allies would sign up again to a large-scale engagement in the region. The missions will remain alive in the stories being told among the troops. But in capitals and in the political arena, the focus on missions in the Middle East will fade. So even though terrorism might remain the most imminent threat to Western societies for a while, their militaries will have to shift their attention and ambitions. – Middle East Institute