Fdd's overnight brief

July 29, 2021

In The News


Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday called the U.S. “stubborn” in stalled nuclear talks in Vienna for discussing Tehran’s missiles and regional influence, likely signaling more trouble ahead for the negotiations. – Associated Press 

With the new Iranian government about to take office, US officials are stressing that Iran will not win more concessions by attempting to renegotiate the understandings reached in Vienna, Barak Ravid of Axios reported on Wednesday. – Arutz Sheva 

The United States on Wednesday condemned the Iranian regime’s crackdown on protesters demonstrating following the water shortage in the country. – Arutz Sheva 

Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom believes the Biden administration will allow Iran to gain the technology and operational abilities to manufacture a nuclear bomb within a short time. – Arutz Sheva 

The Americans applauded the Iranian national anthem. The Iranians applauded the U.S. anthem. There were a few handshakes before, plenty more handshakes after, and words of sportsmanship between the sides throughout the game. For two hours, it was basketball diplomacy. – Associated Press 

Republican senators called on the White House to block senior Iranian officials, including incoming hardline president Ebrahim Raisi, from entering the United States to attend the United Nations’ annual general assembly later this year. – The Washington Free Beacon 

An Iranian human rights organization has said that it has established the identity of 540 victims who have been killed or abducted abroad by Iran’s security forces in the past four decades. – Iran International 

Editorial: As state security forces in Iran continue to violently suppress peaceful protests that erupted in Khuzestan province and have since spread to other areas of the country, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) calls on the U.S. and European countries to condemn the government’s lethal use of force against the protesters, and to demand that the Iranian authorities allow peaceful protest, release those detained, lift the siege of many neighborhoods that has been erected by security forces, and restore the internet so that information regarding the state’s actions can be shared both within and outside the country. – Center for Human Rights in Iran 

Blaise Misztal and Jonathan Ruhe write: Beyond publicly endorsing and supporting Israel’s freedom of action to continue defending itself, the Biden administration should make clear that the United States also has viable alternatives to diplomacy for preventing a nuclear Iran. Washington cannot “put Iran’s nuclear program in a box” without first putting Tehran in a box. That means calling its bluff and refusing to give in to its nuclear brinkmanship. – Foreign Policy 

Ben-Dror Yemini writes: The Islamic Republic is becoming weaker domestically, but stronger externally. The issue for Israel is that threats are not only coming from Iran, but from all around the Middle East – in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, which are all in a state of crisis. We must also ever forget that Israel is entirely on its own in this battle. The fact that Iran and its proxies have only grown stronger shows that Israeli policy over the past decade has failed to achieve its objectives. Now with a new government, it is time for Israel to change course. – Ynet 


Turkish authorities have intercepted a boat carrying more than 200 Afghan migrants in the Aegean sea heading for Europe, Turkey’s coastguard and the International Organization for Migration said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Turkey is offering to protect Kabul’s strategic airport after US forces leave in what experts view as a high-risk bid to improve Ankara’s strained ties with Washington. – Agence France-Presse 

Nimrod Goren writes: On the Turkish issue, the time is ripe to make use of that force and to put an improvement of ties to a real test. After all, repairing frayed relations has become the initial trademark of the new Israeli government’s foreign policy – with Jordan, with the US Democrats, with the European Union and even with the Palestinian Authority. – Jerusalem Post 


Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with his French counterpart on Wednesday as Israel ramped up its investigation of a spyware firm accused of facilitating surveillance against human rights activists, dissidents, as well as world leaders, including France’s Emmanuel Macron. – Washington Post 

The Israeli military said it has launched an investigation into the deadly shooting of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who residents say was killed by army fire as he traveled in a car with his father in the southern West Bank. – Associated Press 

Three-quarters of the members of the Israeli parliament on Wednesday called on Ben & Jerry’s to reverse its decision to stop selling ice cream in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem. – Associated Press 

Palestinian terrorist factions are threatening to escalate tensions and may even shoot rockets if Israel does not allow for the passage of Qatari money and for the full opening of border crossings, reported the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hamas. – Jerusalem Post 

Georgian Ambassador Lasha Zhvania moved to Malha in Jerusalem, which was once a Georgian village, he said on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post 

The Palestinians are not satisfied with the new government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett because it hasn’t made any serious changes in the Israeli policy towards settlements, PLO official Ashraf al-Ajrami said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

The Israeli government is considering rejoining the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), from which it withdrew in 2019, the Axios news site reported Wednesday. – Times of Israel 

US officials have raised concerns with Israeli defense representatives over the controversial Israeli cyber firm NSO Group, whose software has reportedly been used by governments around the world to track political dissidents and journalists, the Axios news site reported Wednesday. – Times of Israel 

Ministers from the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority met Wednesday for the first time in years, Walla reported. – Algemeiner 


At least two rockets hit Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone early on Thursday but caused no casualties, Iraqi security sources said. One senior Iraqi security official said the rockets were launched from a mainly Shi’ite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad and initial investigations indicate the rockets were targeting the US embassy, but fell short. – Reuters 

An Iraqi army helicopter crashed during a combat operation in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing all five crew members, the Iraqi military said in a statement. – Reuters 

World Bank President David Malpass met on Tuesday with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Washington, and emphasized the importance of banking sector reforms and moves to accelerate private sector investment, the bank said in a statement. – Reuters 

Crispin Smith and Hamdi Malik write: Of course, in eastern Syria the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has greater freedom of movement than it does in Iraq, and appears to have committed itself to maintaining a presence at the Imam Ali Camp on the Syrian side of the Iraq-Syrian border, just across the Euphrates from many of the targeted U.S. positions. Increasing pressure on the U.S. presence in Syria either through its Iraqi militia proxies – or using its proxies as a facade for IRGC Qods Force activity – might well serve the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategic interests at this time. – Washington Institute 


Hezbollah could spark a regional war unless the United Nations Security Council empowers its peacekeeper mission to fully monitor the terror group’s movements so its activity can be constrained, Israel Ambassador to the UN said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said on Wednesday that he hoped to form a government shortly after securing the approval of President Michel Aoun for most of his nominees. – Reuters 

For decades, Lebanon has been lauded for its resilience. Since the civil war, there have been assassinations, car bombs, Israeli jets and Hizbollah. The Lebanese people continued to hope for change and reform through it all. And yet, something has shifted in the past year. After the blast, frustrated Lebanese on social media began mocking their famed adaptability as “reذلience”. The two Arabic letters are pronounced “zil” in Lebanese dialect; “zil” means humiliation. – Financial Times 

Hanin Ghaddar writes: Accordingly, if the EU has decided to sanction Lebanese leaders, it needs to implement these sanctions as soon as possible. At the very least, such action would make clear to Mikati the risk of avoiding reforms. In parallel, Washington should continue using the Global Magnitsky Act to sanction additional corrupt leaders as a message of support to the Lebanese people. – Washington Institute 

Arabian Peninsula

The top diplomat of the United States on Thursday began a visit to Kuwait, where he held talks with high-ranking officials in the Gulf Arab sheikhdom that has long been a staunch U.S. ally in a turbulent region. – Associated Press 

Top U.S. lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden to personally advocate for the release of two children of a former top Saudi official who are being detained by authorities in Riyadh, yet another sign that ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia continue to be fraught with concerns over crackdowns on human rights and political opposition to the throne. – Foreign Policy 

Mohammed Soliman writes: The rise of the Indo-Abrahamic bloc in West Asia could provide Washington with a geostrategic solution to the pressing challenge of the U.S. presence in the region and how to do more with less, while connecting the bloc with the new U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy and shoring up an Asian order. – Middle East Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

The U.S. Treasury Department levied sanctions against five senior Syrian security officials and eight prisons accused of committing human-rights abuses, the start of what the Biden administration says will be its campaign to hold the Assad regime accountable for war crimes. – Wall Street Journal 

In the 10 years since its popular uprising set off the Arab Spring, Tunisia has often been praised as the one success story to emerge from that era of turbulence. It rejected extremism and open warfare, it averted a counterrevolution, and its civic leaders even won a Nobel Peace Prize for consensus building. Yet for all the praise, Tunisia, a small North African country of 11 million, never fixed the serious economic problems that led to the uprising in the first place. – New York Times 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will be traveling to Morocco for an official visit on August 11-12, the Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel Wednesday. The trip will be the first for an Israeli foreign minister. Lapid will officially open up the Israeli diplomatic mission in the country. – Times of Israel 

The US position on disputed Western Sahara remains unchanged under President Joe Biden’s administration, a senior State Department official said in Morocco on Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse 

Tunisian prosecutors have opened investigations into alleged foreign campaign funding and anonymous donations to Islamist movement Ennahdha and two other political parties, according to local media. – Associated Press 

Editorial: The same must not be allowed to happen in Tunisia. The answer to its problems is not a reversion to one-man rule, but dialogue leading to a rebooted democracy. The international community should be more robust in urging respect for the constitution and democratic institutions — and calling on President Saied to refrain from using his new powers to browbeat parliamentarians into accepting a more autocratic system. […]Tunisia has led the way on democracy in the Arab world more than once. There is still time for it to do so again. – Financial Times 

Lauren Morganbesser writes: Thus, although the democratic upheaval in Tunisia appears to be an explosion of domestic frustrations, the responses from abroad can help illuminate important trends in the region, and help us understand the shifting alliances, dynamics and priorities of different countries. – Jerusalem Post 

Korean Peninsula

North and South Korea have exchanged messages in communication channels dormant for more than a year and agreed to improve ties — positive steps that still leave any resumption of stalled negotiations to rid the North of its nuclear weapons a long way off. – Associated Press 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un paid tribute to China’s war dead at a Pyongyang memorial and vowed to maintain firm ties with Beijing, state media reported Thursday, as he seeks to bolster relations with his country’s main ally amid deepening hardships linked to the pandemic. – Associated Press 

Vincent Brooks and Ho Young Leem writes: There are many obstacles that will likely frustrate or even prevent progress in this direction. China will not cede its near monopoly over the North Korean economy easily and will likely try to disrupt U.S.-South Korean diplomatic initiatives. […]Saving North Korea may preserve for an intolerable time the current structures of the ruling party, the more than one-million-strong Korean Peoples’ Armed Forces, and the state’s deplorable trampling of human rights. This risk may limit the number of countries that are willing to participate in helping a potentially unrepentant North Korea recover. – Foreign Affairs 

Ramon Pacheco Pardo writes: The ball, thus, is in Pyongyang’s court. If Kim is really ready for diplomacy, as per North Korea’s announcement on Tuesday, Moon will respond. If he doesn’t, South Korea may turn away from negotiations for years to come. – The Hill 


China’s foreign minister urged the Taliban to distance itself from terrorist groups and take steps to establish peace in Afghanistan, in a meeting with the group on Chinese soil that signaled Beijing is stepping in diplomatically as the U.S. withdraws from the country. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s new envoy to the U.S. struck a conciliatory note upon his arrival in Washington on Wednesday, pledging to repair the increasingly testy relationship between the two world powers days after Chinese Foreign Ministry officials greeted a visiting senior State Department official with a chilly lecture on diplomacy. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s securities regulator has sought to ease concerns among international investors and banks after tough new restrictions on private education companies sent shockwaves through markets. Regulators in Beijing held a call with executives from global investors, Wall Street banks and Chinese financial groups on Wednesday night, according to three people familiar with the matter.  – Financial Times 

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday that it was unlikely he would go to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and said there were great sensitivities around the situation in Xinjiang. – Reuters 


Dozens of former military commanders are calling on the U.K. government to relocate more of the Afghans who worked with British troops over the last 20 years, arguing that they are likely to be murdered by the Taliban as foreign forces pull out. – Associated Press 

The United States said on Wednesday it was deeply troubled by reports of escalating attacks on civilians as the Taliban sweep across Afghanistan and Washington pulls out its last remaining troops and ends its longest war. – Reuters 

Civilian casualties and Taliban attacks in Afghanistan are mounting as the U.S. withdrawal nears completion and the Afghan military continues its collapse, according to a new quarterly report from a U.S. government watchdog that describes a country ravaged by Covid-19 and violence. – NBC 

Hamid Mir writes: The Afghan Taliban is playing on the differences among major stakeholders in the region. […]Suspicion and mistrust remain the biggest obstacles to peace in Afghanistan. For its part, the Afghan Taliban should also take credible action to allay the concerns about its double game that have emerged after the recent interview of its proxy on CNN. – Washington Post 

South Asia

Top diplomats from the U.S. and India said the two countries were committed to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan, while acknowledging the Taliban have made new territorial gains, sparking fears in New Delhi about an increase in terrorism. – Wall Street Journal 

A gunman opened fire on a car carrying two engineers in the southern port city of Karachi, the latest attack on Chinese nationals in close ally Pakistan. – Wall Street Journal 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave India’s democracy his stamp of approval following a recent scandal involving the alleged surveillance of journalists, threading a needle between President Joe Biden’s pledge to champion human rights and a long-term goal to secure India’s assistance in countering threats from China. – Washington Examiner 

Michael K. Nagata and Joseph Votel write: We have long heard U.S. policy and operational practitioners cite phrases such as “never underestimate the Pakistanis’ ability to disappoint us.” […]As we end our Afghan campaign, now is the time to move beyond our neuralgias and carefully weigh the strategic costs of whether trying to somehow partner with Pakistan is more, or less, than the cost of failing to do so. We believe, in the long run, it is likely to be less costly. – Middle East Institute 


China’s government is planning to introduce new laws in Hong Kong and Macau that could bar foreign entities and individuals in the cities from complying with sanctions against China, according to people familiar with the discussions. – Wall Street Journal 

Armenia said on Wednesday that three of its soldiers had been killed in an exchange of gunfire with Azerbaijan and both sides later accepted a Russian ceasefire proposal to try to calm tensions. – Reuters 

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sought on Thursday to nudge forward security ties with Vietnam that have been slowly deepening as both countries watch China’s activities in the South China Sea with growing alarm. – Reuters 

Rights group Liberty Shared has asked United States customs authorities to investigate the Malaysian operations of American tyre maker Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (GT.O) over accusations of abusive labour practices, the group told Reuters. – Reuters 

Michael Schuman writes: Yet an even darker message emerges from Australia’s example: China may have failed to change Australia, but Australia hasn’t changed China, either. This holds out the terrifying prospect of a new world order marked by almost constant conflict—if not military, then at least economic, diplomatic, and ideological. That is, unless both sides can find another way. – The Atlantic 


Senior US and Russian officials held talks on Wednesday in an attempt to turn constructive rhetoric between their two presidents into tangible progress on thorny issues of arms control and efforts to prevent a new global weapons race. – Financial Times 

Moscow’s struggle to supply Crimea’s 2.4m residents with fresh water has become a flashpoint in an undeclared war, seven years after Russian troops seized Crimea from Ukraine. An even longer conflict between Kyiv and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 14,000 lives. – Financial Times 

Russia said on Wednesday it was beefing up the combat capabilities of its military base in Tajikistan and training local soldiers, as Moscow warned that Islamic State militants were moving into neighbouring Afghanistan. – Reuters 


German prosecutors charged a Syrian doctor living in Germany with crimes against humanity on Wednesday, alleging he tortured people in military hospitals in Syria after they were detained for participating in anti-government demonstrations. – Washington Post 

The leader of Belarus’ embattled opposition hopes the United States and Europe will impose new sanctions on money-making government enterprises that will lead to the collapse of President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime and a peaceful transition that pro-democracy supporters are preparing for because “it can happen very fast.” – Associated Press 

US President Joe Biden met Wednesday with Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at the White House, in a strong show of support for pro-democracy protesters who say she won last year’s election. – Agence France-Presse 

The United States is ramping up pressure on Poland in hopes of stopping legislation that would prevent families from receiving restitution for property seized during the Holocaust and communist era. – Associated Press 

Cuba’s embassy in Paris said on Tuesday it had been attacked overnight with petrol bombs that caused some damage but no injuries to its staff, in an incident that prompted French authorities to beef up security around the building. – Reuters 


The U.N. logistics chief said Tuesday that closing down the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping operation in Sudan’s western Darfur region is proceeding on schedule, though with some hiccups. – Associated Press 

The Biden administration plans to tap the African diaspora in the United States to bolster trade with Africa, a U.S. official said on Wednesday, in a push to work with people who understand “social nuances” on the continent. – Reuters 

The United States is deeply concerned about reported attacks against Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday, calling for the intimidation and attacks to stop. – Reuters 

The Americas

Frustrated by raging violence, the Mexican government is seeking to overhaul the Merida Initiative, a $3 billion U.S. aid program that’s been the centerpiece of security cooperation between the two nations for more than a decade — but has failed to reduce bloodshed. – Washington Post 

A group of 27 House Republicans and 12 Senate Republicans introduced a new bill on Tuesday to withhold US contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). – Jerusalem Post 

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke out against anti-Semitism after officials said that a swastika had been found carved into the wall of a U.S. State Department elevator. – Reuters 

David Webb writes: The White House was lit up with red, white and blue for the U.S. Olympic team, but there was another display of red, white and blue recently at the White House. The red, white and blue of Cuban and American flags demanding freedom from communism. […]As is the case with communism, resources are depleted. Those on the top live well while others starve. Don’t buy the left’s lies about Cuba’s situation being caused by the embargo. If communism was an effective economic system, then an embargo by the United States would not have the effect being publicly assigned to it. – The Hill 


A day after President Biden warned that cyberattacks could lead to a “real shooting war,” he signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at preventing hackings on America’s critical infrastructure. – New York Times 

A popular and expected goal for Israeli companies is to penetrate markets outside their local country. As governments and organizations around the world come to terms with rising ransomware threats from foreign adversaries, Israeli cybersecurity companies are hoping to secure a top client: the US government. – CTech 

James A. Lewis writes: But the politics of the 1960s or even 2012 no longer apply. Many companies would now welcome balanced government action in cybersecurity. […]A first step would be to pass proposed legislation that would require notification of major cyber incidents. It would be useful to strengthen the CISA by providing it with more resources. Congress can then begin the process of consultation and drafting necessary to provide the needed authorities to require better cybersecurity, not just suggest it. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


House lawmakers want answers from the Army on its plan to outfit combat vehicles with protection systems capable of countering unmanned aircraft systems, according to the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee’s markup of the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill, released July 28. – Defense News 

A House panel on Wednesday advanced a proposal to authorize the Navy to make a block buy of amphibious ships for one more year, meant to save taxpayer dollars, proponents say. – Defense News 

A U.S. House panel approved a proposal July 28 to require the Department of Defense to evaluate its strategy and operations in the information environment. – C4ISRNET 

The U.S. Navy no longer has concrete plans to increase the number of littoral combat ships deploying to the Indo-Pacific region on a rotational basis, the chief of naval operations has confirmed. – Defense News 

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin has said the United States is pursuing an “integrated deterrence” strategy in the Asia-Pacific region that will rely on stronger defence co-operation and enhanced co-ordination with allies and partners to better meet a range of regional challenges, including “the spectre of coercion from rising powers”. – Janes 

A U.S. guided-missile destroyer moved through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, marking the seventh transit of the waters this year by an American warship. – USNI News 

Long War

A 28-year-old Moroccan man appeared in a court in the Greek city of Thessaloniki on Wednesday for a preliminary hearing after being arrested on suspicion of being a member of the Islamic State group. – Associated Press 

A German woman who traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State group and whose husband bought a Yazidi woman as a slave has been charged with membership in a terror group and being an accessory to a crime against humanity, German prosecutors said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the use of 1,495 members of the military to help neighbour Mozambique fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency, parliament said on Wednesday. – Reuters