Fdd's overnight brief

July 31, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iranian authorities are again cracking down on women breaking the country’s strict dress code as they try to reassert control after last year’s momentous protests that were rooted in demands for more freedoms in the Islamic Republic. – Wall Street Journal

Normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel would harm regional peace and stability, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday. – Reuters

Iran will pursue its rights over the Durra/Arash field if other parties shun cooperation, the country’s Oil Minister Javad Owji said on Sunday, according to the Oil Ministry’s SHANA news agency. – Reuters

Iranian authorities have banned the editor-in-chief of reformist daily Etemad “from any press activity for a year” over coverage of last year’s nationwide protests, the newspaper reported on Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

A sum of $7 billion in revenue from the sale of petrochemical and oil products is being withheld from the Islamic Republic of Iran between two South Korean banks, Iranian state-run Mehr News Agency reported on Saturday. – Jerusalem Post

Iran’s top naval officer Admiral Shahram Irani, the commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s naval forces, arrived in Russia on Saturday to participate in a parade that marks the anniversary of the creation of the Russian navy, Iranian regime media said. – Jerusalem Post

72-year-old Virginia resident Behrouz Mokhtari was sentenced to 41 months in prison earlier this week for attempting to violate the United States sanctions against Iran, according to the US Department of Justice. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian actress Shohreh Ghamar was arrested after writing that she was praying for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s health in an Instagram story, Iranian media reported on Friday. – Jerusalem Post

The Shin Bet security agency said Sunday it had uncovered an Iranian phishing campaign against Israeli civilians in recent months, mostly targeting state employees and researchers, in a bid to obtain intelligence on state policy. – Times of Israel

An official in charge of promoting Islamic values has been suspended from his position in Iran after a tape was circulating apparently showing him having sex with another man. – Times of Israel

Benny Avni writes: Mr. Malley was no junior bureaucrat. He was driving America’s Iran policy, answering directly to the secretary of state. That man, Secretary Blinken, needs to soon brief Congress in an open session, as so far details have come mostly from sources whose top goal is promoting the interests of an adversarial regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran. – New York Sun

Henry Rome and Louis Dugit-Gros write: Given the destabilizing Iranian policies mentioned above, there are plenty of reasons for European governments to conclude that lifting sanctions in less than three months is not a viable option. But with UN snapback also off the table, they will need to find a middle ground. – Washington Institute

Russia & Ukraine

Russian authorities said they downed three drones targeting Moscow early Sunday, in an attack that Russian state media said injured one person and forced the temporary closure of one of the capital city’s main airports. – Wall Street Journal

Former president Donald Trump called on congressional Republicans to withhold military support for Ukraine until the Biden administration cooperates with their investigations into the president and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings. – Washington Post

When four Russian cruise missiles ripped apart a grain storage facility in this southern village last week, shock waves shattered the windows of adjacent homes, sending broken glass everywhere. – Washington Post

For 10 days, Ukrainian marines fought street by street and house by house to recapture the southeastern village of Staromaiorske, navigating artillery fire, airstrikes and hundreds of Russian troops. – New York Times

Russian propaganda is spreading into the world’s video games. In Minecraft, the immersive game owned by Microsoft, Russian players re-enacted the battle for Soledar, a city in Ukraine that Russian forces captured in January, posting a video of the game on their country’s most popular social media network, VKontakte. – New York Times

Russia’s embassy in Moldova has announced it will temporarily stop providing appointments for consular matters in what Moldovan officials say is a situation linked to the order by the country’s authorities to reduce staff. – Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that he expects Russia to resume its attacks on Ukraine’s energy system once cold weather returns later this year, and vowed to do everything possible to protect the power grid. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday appeared to downplay not attending an economic summit in Johannesburg next month amid a controversy over an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court, saying he doesn’t think his presence there is “more important than my presence here, in Russia.” – Associated Press

Ukraine has moved its official Christmas holiday to December 25 in a break with the Russian Orthodox Church which celebrates it on January 7, according to legislation passed on Friday. – Agence France-Presse

A Russian soldier was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on charges of planning to bomb a naval vessel on behalf of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the FSB announced on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Andreas Kluth writes: The person who should have been disqualified, if she hadn’t already been defeated, was Smirnova, for making a spectacle out of the conviction and integrity of her opponent. This week “we realized that the country that terrorizes our country, our people, our families, also terrorizes sports,” Kharlan later said. “I didn’t want to shake this athlete’s hand, and I acted with my heart.” In my book, that’s its own kind of victory. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: In February 2018, Russia used its Wagner Group mercenary force to conduct an ill-judged attack on a U.S. military position in Syria. The result was then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s order to “annihilate” the Wagner force with airstrikes, causing dozens of fatalities. For the Biden administration, then, a financial response here should be a no-brainer. – Washington Examiner

Maksym Skrypchenko writes: Hardline elements within the military and security services already feel betrayed by Putin’s management of the war. Transforming Girkin into a persecuted political prisoner could make him a potent rallying point for this opposition. Putin may find that his heavy-handed efforts to keep a lid on dissent have the unintended effect of galvanizing threats to his power. – The Hill

Michael Rubin writes: Certainly, the rules-based order is under strain, but its demise is not inevitable. As Russia pursues its war of conquest and China sabre-rattles, it is crucial to update deterrence for the 21st century. Making not only Moscow but also Beijing vulnerable to their victims’ retaliation is key. – 19FortyFive


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition scored a major victory this week when it passed the first part of a package of legislation aimed at remaking the country’s judiciary. Now, it is ready for more. – Wall Street Journal

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday he received a letter from the Israeli prime minister offering to help with a probe into the 2014 disappearance of 43 students, after requests from Mexico to extradite a former top official. – Reuters

Tens of thousands of flag-waving Israelis renewed their protests nationwide after sundown on Saturday, capping a week of turmoil in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed through a highly contested law that limited some Supreme Court power. – Reuters

The leader of Israel’s parliamentary opposition on Sunday demanded that the government freeze its judicial overhaul for 18 months if it wants to resume negotiations on a consensus formula for the changes. – Reuters

Israel’s economy may face ratings downgrades, falling foreign investment and a weaker tech sector if turmoil arising from the government’s contentious judicial reforms continues, investors and analysts warn. – Reuters

A top Israeli lawmaker said on Sunday that any forging of relations with Saudi Arabia did not appear imminent, citing what he described as sticking points in negotiations currently being held between Riyadh and U.S. mediators. – Reuters

Israel will build a 100 billion shekel ($27 billion) rail expansion that will connect its outlying areas to metropolitan Tel Aviv and, in the future, could provide overland links to Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. – Reuters

A key party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government will not agree to any concessions to the Palestinians as part of a deal on normalising relations with Saudi Arabia, one of its cabinet ministers said on Monday. – Reuters

The IDF, the Shin Bet, and border police made arrests in Jenin overnight between Sunday and Monday, for the first time since a massive Jenin operation in early July. – Jerusalem Post

Israel this week submitted a formal opinion to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, stating that it has no authority to conduct its probe into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a Thursday report. – Times of Israel

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Friday warned his Swedish counterpart Tobias Billström that a planned burning of a Torah book outside of Israel’s embassy in Stockholm will harm relations between the two countries. – Times of Israel

The Military Intelligence Directorate reportedly sent four letters to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning of the security consequences of his coalition’s judicial overhaul plans, the latest arriving days before the Knesset approved the first piece of controversial legislation earlier this week. – Times of Israel

David Harsanyi writes: The Israeli right is also about power. I’m not naive. Yet right now, the reforms they support are far better aligned with the norms of a functioning “democracy” than the ones in place. That’s something a person reading headlines in the American press might not know. – New York Sun

Connor Pfeiffer writes: As the Wall Street Journal editorial board rightly pointed out , “Israel’s judicial debate is far down the list of urgent problems in the Middle East.” Applying that closer to home, Americans would be better off if President Joe Biden and his team focused far more attention on what is happening in Mexico. – Washington Examiner

Robert Satloff writes: But I believe the president erred by elevating Israel’s domestic crisis into a political issue between our two countries. His stance risks setting in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy about the erosion of U.S.-Israel ties that may be more consequential in convincing Israel’s enemies that the Jewish state is weak and vulnerable than the mass walk-out of reservists. There are times when it is right and appropriate for one friend to intervene publicly in another’s internal politics. And then there are times when it is wisest to keep one’s advice private and criticism discreet, maintaining a public silence. This time, silence would have been the wiser course. – The Hill

Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher, and Orni Petruschka write: Israel is by now on the threshold of dictatorship. Yet we are optimistic, because the massive resistance movement that has arisen in Israel, with hundreds of grass-roots organizations working together and more being created by the day, shows that President Herzog was actually right. It shows that after years of indifference and fence-sitting, the liberal-democratic camp understands that it needs to fight for its freedom and the future of Israel as a liberal democracy, in a determined manner and for the longer term. But we cannot do it alone. – The Hill

Jason Isaacson writes: While advancing the cause of equal treatment for all US passport holders, it will also lift a burden some of America’s best friends have borne for too long, bolster family bonds, strengthen understanding between peoples, expand economic opportunities, and encourage new educational, technological, cultural, interreligious, and civil society partnerships. Thirty-five years after the first United States allies, the United Kingdom and Japan, were admitted to the Visa Waiver Program, it is time for Washington to add another worthy applicant, the State of Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Tal Schneider writes: Compared to all of them, Netanyahu’s rule seems the most capricious and unstable, buffeted by the huge demonstrations against his government’s overhaul on one side, and the coalition’s most hardline ministers holding him by the throat on the other. But while the odds are not in favor of normalization with Saudi Arabia, there is still a chance we may be surprised. – Times of Israel


The leader of Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah said Saturday that if governments of Muslim-majority nations do not act against countries that allow the desecration of the Quran, Muslims should “punish” those who facilitate attacks on Islam’s holy book. – Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security assessment Sunday with Israel’s top defense brass to discuss courses of action proposed by the military, his office said, as tensions with Hezbollah rise on Israel’s border with Lebanon. – Times of Israel

The head of the Hezbollah terror group warned Saturday that it would respond to any “stupid act” by Israel amid spiking tensions along the border. – Times of Israel

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Therefore the Hezbollah provocations come at a time when tensions can grow because there are no real players in Lebanon, and there are no authorities. The UN appears unwilling to step in and fulfill its full mandate and Lebanon continues to see how much it can push the envelope on the border. The clashes in the Ein al-Hilweh camp in Lebanon, in which Palestinians were targeted, also show that Lebanon is on the brink of worse violence. Hezbollah will want to exploit for its benefit and Iran. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In short, Nasrallah threatened Israel and European countries, made homophobic comments and sent armed men onto the streets to hijack a Shi’ite religious event, all as part of Hezbollah’s overall octopus-like stranglehold on Lebanon. – Jerusalem Post


In Afghanistan, the Taliban cut mobile phone services in key cities holding commemorations for fear of militants targeting Shiites, whom Sunni extremists consider heretics. Security forces in neighboring Pakistan as well stood on high alert as the commemorations there have seen attacks in the past. – Associated Press

United States officials will hold rare direct talks with representatives of the Afghan Taliban in Doha to discuss economic issues, security, and women’s rights, the U.S. State Department said. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Afghans who were promised a home in the United States after their country fell to the Taliban say they have waited so long for the US to process their applications that they are now being sent back to the enemy they fled. – CNN


The U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday called on Russia to abide by the laws of the sky and cease “irresponsible behaviour” when asked about Russian attacks on U.S. drones in Syria. – Reuters

Islamic State on Friday claimed responsibility for an attack on the Sayeda Zeinab shrine south of the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed several people and wounded others, the group said in a statement on its Telegram channel. – Reuters

An impasse at the United Nations over a border crossing with Syria’s last rebel-held enclave is putting 4.1 million Syrian there in danger, the president of the International Rescue Committee warned this week. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: However, from Russia’s perspective, the drones may be a way to interdict or deter Russian operations in Idlib against groups like HTS. This means that Russia would likely prefer the prying eyes of US drones be removed. The overall evidence is that incidents between the US and Russia in Syria are increasing. – Jerusalem Post

Tal Be’eri writes: Iran is attempting to seize command of the Syrian army. The takeover was achieved in part by the assimilation of Shiite militias into the Syrian army. According to our assessment, the “al-Imam Hussein Brigade” militia (or at least some of its subunits), also known by its operatives as the “Lions of the Fourth Division” or “Maher al-Assad’s Men,” was integrated as an organic force within the 4th Division, and the militia operatives actually became division soldiers. The 4th Division has evolved into an Iranian proxy, reporting directly to the Quds Force, which conducts direct offensive operations against Israel and American soldiers in Syria. Maher al-Assad (brother of President Bashar al-Assad) commands the 4th Division. – Arutz Sheva


Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Sunday urged Sweden to take concrete steps to prevent burnings of the Koran, a Turkish foreign ministry source said. – Reuters

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Saturday urged Denmark to take urgent action to prevent burnings of the Koran, a Turkish foreign ministry source said. – Reuters

A Turkish drone strike on Friday killed four suspected Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants and injured one in Iraq’s northern province of Sulaimaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan’s counterterrorism service said. – Reuters


The first vice governor of Lebanon’s central bank Wassim Mansouri will announce on Monday that he is taking over as interim head once longtime chief Riad Salameh’s tenure ends, three sources familiar with his thinking told Reuters. – Reuters

Once feted as a financial wizard, Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh leaves the post he has held for 30 years on Monday, his legacy stained by the devastating collapse of Lebanon’s banking sector and corruption charges at home and abroad. – Reuters

Lebanon’s central bank faces leadership uncertainty from Monday when the governor steps down with no appointed successor, risking new dysfunction in a state already hollowed out by years of political paralysis and financial collapse. – Reuters

Fighting raged Sunday in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon, killing at least five people and wounding seven, Palestinian officials said. – Associated Press

Wanted: A central bank governor to help reset a financial system that collapsed under decades of corruption and mismanagement, in a country whose currency is almost worthless and where the banking sector — once a bedrock of stability — faces losses nearly three times the size of the economy. The successful candidate must be able to navigate a complex political maze and has traditionally been a Maronite Christian. Complicating things further, the Shiite militia Hezbollah, designated as a terrorist organization by the US, could hold the deciding vote in the recruitment process. – Bloomberg


Nine senior Senate Democrats and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders urged the Biden administration Friday to withhold part of the United States’ annual military aid to Egypt for a third consecutive year, calling it important to keep up the pressure on President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on human rights abuses. – Associated Press

A shooting Sunday at a heavily fortified security facility in the restive part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula killed at least four police, including a senior officer, two security and health officials said. – Associated Press

The Arab Monetary Fund is extending a $616 million loan to Egypt to help improve the efficiency of the cash-strapped North African nation’s financial and banking sectors. – Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is set to host peace talks among Western countries, Ukraine and key developing countries, including India and Brazil, early next month, as Europe and Washington intensify efforts to consolidate international support for Ukraine’s peace demands. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden’s envoys are pushing ahead with their effort to realign Middle East politics by brokering the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel despite significant concessions demanded by the Saudi monarchy. – New York Times

Editorial: Meanwhile, in the latest reminder of President Biden’s failure to keep his campaign promise to treat Saudi Arabia as a “pariah,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan visited the country on Thursday to meet with the crown prince. Fortunately, members of Congress are pushing back harder against Saudi influence. – Washington Post

Editorial: While Israel’s decision makers would need to seriously weigh the implications of any potential concessions, if normalization with Saudi Arabia means putting the controversial judicial reform on the back burner due to political and diplomatic constraints, that may be a price well worth paying. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

Qatar will provide Ukraine with $100 million in humanitarian aid to support health, education and demining, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Friday. – Reuters

Tensions between Gulf states and Israel are rising three years after historic peace deals, slowing down hoped-for investments and setting back US efforts to further integrate the region by including main power Saudi Arabia. – Bloomberg

Bahrain informed Israel on Thursday that it was postponing plans to host Foreign Minister Eli Cohen next week, hours after far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir paid a visit to the flashpoint Temple Mount, sparking condemnations from much of the Arab world. – Times of Israel

Emily Milliken and Mary Beth Long write: The Biden administration needs to realize that in order to achieve their goal of reducing involvement in the Middle East, they must first shore up support among the region’s heavyweights. And in order to do so, America must do more than just protect vital international waterways and actually extend meaningful protections to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. – The Hill

Middle East & North Africa

King Mohammed VI said on Saturday Morocco hopes for a return to normality and open borders with Algeria amid severed diplomatic ties. – Reuters

The Dominican Republic has recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, Rabat’s foreign ministry said on Saturday, as a slowly growing number of nations back the North African nation’s claim. – Reuters

While soaring temperatures across the Middle East are causing discomfort for many, Gaza electrical appliance repairman Mustafa Abdou is enjoying a boom in business amid surging demand for electric fans. – Reuters

Several thousand people briefly took to the streets across the Gaza Strip on Sunday to protest chronic power outages and difficult living conditions, providing a rare public show of discontent with the territory’s Hamas government. Hamas security forces quickly dispersed the gatherings. – Associated Press

Palestinian factions met Sunday in Egypt to discuss reconciliation efforts as violence in the occupied West Bank surged between Israel and Palestinian militants. The main groups, Hamas and Fatah, have been split since 2007 and repeated reconciliation attempts having failed, so expectations for the one-day meeting were low. – Associated Press

The military on Sunday cleared for publication that security forces had foiled an unusual weapons smuggling attempt into Israel from Jordan last week. – Times of Israel

In parallel with the judicial overhaul that has been making headlines in Israel over the past months, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a move of his own on Wednesday, by scrapping a 2022 decision that would have restricted the independence of the Palestinian judiciary. – Times of Israel

Jonathan Spyer writes: This would make sense. Kataib Hezbollah, in addition to being a coalition partner in Iraq, is a component in a structure seeking the absorption of the Iraqi state by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The ability of Kataib Hezbollah to carry out murders and abductions on Iraqi soil without consequence is testimony to just how far that ambition has advanced and, indeed, to who really runs Iraq. – Jerusalem Post

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman writes: Algerian oppositionists may note from the Israeli non-violent democracy protests the importance of creating a “big tent” to encompass a cross-section of society on both the elite and popular levels, including its historically alienated and increasingly militant Kabyle Amazigh minority. Conversely, the determination of Algeria’s authoritarian regime to survive at whatever cost serves as a reminder to Israel’s Democracy Movement—and democracy advocates everywhere—that successful challenges to authoritarians and would-be authoritarians are long-haul operations requiring determination, courage, and staying power, with no guarantee of success. Palestinians are undoubtedly watching the Israeli democracy protests closely, and its lessons, as well as the lessons of Algeria, may have value for them as well. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

Flanked by Russia’s defense minister and a Chinese Politburo member, Kim Jong Un smiled as North Korean missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland rumbled through the streets of downtown Pyongyang. – Wall Street Journal

President Joe Biden will host the leaders of Japan and South Korea next month for a summit at Camp David, the White House announced Friday. – Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Chinese diplomats in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Armistice Day of the Korean War. – Fox News

Ukrainian artillery crews have been firing rockets made in North Korea against Russian positions, turning Pyongyang’s munitions against the invasion forces of its ally President Vladimir Putin. – Financial Times

High-level analysts here are warning of the rising danger of nuclear war with North Korea while advocating for legislation pursued by Democrats in Congress that would declare the Korean War is over — whether Pyongyang agrees or not. – New York Sun


Signs of deflation are becoming more prevalent across China, heaping extra pressure on Beijing to reignite growth or risk falling into an economic trap it could find hard to escape. – Wall Street Journal

On patrol in the Bering Sea last fall, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball spotted seven Chinese and Russian vessels steaming through the frigid waters in a double line near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. – Wall Street Journal

A judge rejected a government bid to ban the dissemination online of a popular pro-democracy song, dealing a blow to Hong Kong’s efforts to extend a national-security crackdown to online platforms such as Google. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration is hunting for malicious computer code it believes China has hidden deep inside the networks controlling power grids, communications systems and water supplies that feed military bases in the United States and around the world, according to American military, intelligence and national security officials. – New York Times

German counterintelligence warned public officials and policymakers that China has been increasing its spying activity in the country in a fresh sign of national security concerns over relations with the Asian superpower. – Bloomberg

President Joe Biden is planning to sign an executive order to limit critical US technology investments in China by mid-August, according to people familiar with the internal deliberations. – Bloomberg

A senior Italian minister sent the strongest on-record signal yet that Italy will rescind a controversial investment pact with China. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The U.S. says Hong Kong can still send a delegation to APEC’s San Francisco meeting if those representatives haven’t been sanctioned. The message to Mr. Lee is that he can’t have it both ways by championing Hong Kong as a global business center even as he builds his police state. And the message to the world is that when the U.S. imposes sanctions, it means something. – Wall Street Journal

South Asia

A bombing of a gathering of a political party killed at least 40 people Sunday, officials said, as Pakistan faces a renewed wave of terrorism ahead of elections due this year. – Wall Street Journal

It’s been business as usual lately for Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India: red carpet trips abroad, ribbon-cuttings and political rallies at home. But he has almost entirely avoided addressing the ethnic violence that has been raging in the northeastern state of Manipur for months now. More than 150 people have been killed and more than 60,000 displaced, as mobs from the majority ethnic Meitei community have burned down villages of the minority Kuki and other tribes, leaving a trail of death and destruction. – New York Times

India and Britain could sign a free trade agreement (FTA) this year as both countries have reached consensus on the broad contours of the proposed deal aiming to boost economic growth and jobs, a top Indian trade ministry official said. – Reuters

Sri Lanka on Saturday invited Japan to resume investment in projects including power, roads and ports as the Japanese foreign minister wrapped up the first high-level visit to the crisis-hit country in nearly four years. – Reuters

U.S. chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD.O) said on Friday it will invest around $400 million in India over the next five years and will build its largest design center in the tech hub of Bengaluru. – Reuters

Pakistan’s finance minister on Thursday said China has rolled over a $2.4 billion loan for the cash-strapped Islamic nation for two years, a move aimed at helping the country overcome one of its worst economic crises. – Associated Press

Police in Bangladesh’s capital on Saturday clashed with supporters of the country’s main opposition party, which said scores of its activists were injured during anti-government protests in parts of the city. – Associated Press

A group of Indian opposition lawmakers on Saturday visited a remote northeastern state where deadly ethnic clashes have killed at least 130 people, in a bid to pressure the government to take action against the violence which began in May. – Associated Press

French President Emmanuel Macron held discussions with his Sri Lankan counterpart Saturday on an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region in the first-ever visit by a French leader to the Indian Ocean island nation. – Associated Press


Balls of flame exploded in front of two residential buildings, one leaning precariously against the other, on the outskirts of this city overlooking the Taiwan Strait. Columns of firefighters rushed to the smoldering wreckage to extinguish the fire and start a frantic search for survivors. – Wall Street Journal

An Australian army helicopter ditched into the waters off Australia’s northeast coast during a nighttime training mission, leaving four crew members missing and prompting military officials to pause a broader, large-scale multinational defense exercise on Saturday. Ditching refers to a difficult emergency landing on water. – Washington Post

Australia will accelerate efforts to make missiles for the United States as well as expand military cooperation and training under a plan announced on Saturday by Australian and American officials. The announcement came as the two countries paused a joint military exercise to search for the four-person crew of an Australian army helicopter that crashed overnight. – New York Times

China is the “greatest strategic challenge.” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a “serious violation of international law.” North Korea is an “imminent threat.” And Japan needs to “fundamentally” strengthen its military and work more closely with countries like South Korea to preserve regional stability. – New York Times

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday Vietnam’s leader wants to meet him for talks at the September G20 summit in New Delhi to discuss elevating U.S.-Vietnam relations. – Reuters

Malaysia may not go through with a plan to take legal action against Facebook parent Meta Platforms (META.O) following “positive” engagement with the firm on tackling harmful content on the social media platform, communications minister Fahmi Fadzil said in an interview on Friday. – Reuters

Armenia’s authorities on Friday called on the country’s international allies to put pressure on Azerbaijan after accusing it of carrying out a three-day blockade of humanitarian aid to Nagorno-Karabakh. – Associated Press

Communist China, in a big step of force projection for its new blue water navy, is completing on Cambodia’s coast a pier capable of berthing one of China’s three new aircraft carriers. – New York Sun

An Israeli-made reconnaissance satellite blasted into space Sunday from India and initial tests showed that it was performing flawlessly. – Times of Israel

Editorial: But in Myanmar, once a nascent democracy now ruled by a ruthless military junta, the options are doubly hard. A lively independent digital news media is struggling and deserves support. Although Facebook has been criticized for allowing hate speech to be posted against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar, its continued presence also empowers people who want to resist the generals. The internet can be a force for democracy. – Washington Post


The United States Embassy in Dublin has issued a security alert warning U.S. visitors to practice extra precaution in the streets following a group assault last week of a 57-year-old man from Buffalo. – Washington Post

The United States and Europe have wrestled for months with the question of how to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction from the war. As Russia pounds cities, factories and infrastructure in Ukraine, the estimated costs have swelled to $500 billion, with some experts citing numbers as high as $1 trillion. – New York Times

At least two public desecrations of the Quran in Sweden in recent weeks have provoked riots, caused a diplomatic crisis and placed a country that was long regarded as peaceful and tolerant under an awkward international spotlight. – New York Times

UK authorities said on Friday they were investigating defence ministry emails that were mistakenly sent to the wrong recipient, after reports that messages intended for U.S. military intelligence ended up with Russian ally Mali. – Reuters

Kosovo’s government on Friday suspended the license of the country’s biggest private television broadcaster over a registration error, alarming journalists who accused the ruling party of an open war against free media. – Reuters

Italy made an “improvised and atrocious” decision when it joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) four years ago as it did little to boost exports, Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said in an interview published on Sunday. – Reuters

The European Union is ready to strengthen cooperation with the Philippines on maritime security, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday, as she stressed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. – Reuters

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned Monday that Europe would not tolerate aggression in Ukraine or the Indo-Pacific, as she renewed in a speech the EU’s recognition of a 2016 arbitration decision that invalidated China’s expansive claims in the disputed South China Sea. – Associated Press

Denmark will investigate if it can find legal grounds to block public burnings of the Koran as the Nordic country tries to defuse escalating tensions with Muslim nations. – Bloomberg

Afroditi Xydi and Georgios Laskaris write: In addition to promoting equality between men and women, the administration should expand adoption rights and enable the integration of immigrants into society. The Hellenic diaspora of at least three million people can also be part of the solution. Simplifying citizenship processes, repatriating talent, and attracting students with Greek ancestors would kickstart population expansion. Mr. Mitsotakis says he is a reformer, and his record shows he is effective. With the world watching as Greece tries to reclaim investment-grade status, Mr. Mitsotakis should embark on sweeping reform to reposition the country for the 21st century. – Wall Street Journal

J.P. Carroll writes: However, the U.N. would be well served in perhaps embracing unconventionality in these strange, post-pandemic times we are living in when so many things in our world have rapidly changed. There is no doubt that Stoltenberg would be a formidable U.N. secretary general and should he seek it, his candidacy merits serious consideration. Otherwise, at a minimum, the man has undoubtedly earned — and should receive — a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, or even, the Nobel Peace Prize itself. Thank you, Mr. Stoltenberg, and by extension, thank you, to the Norwegian people. – The Hill


West African leaders said that they would consider a military intervention to oust coup plotters in Niger and restore democratic rule in a vast Saharan country that they worry could become Russia’s newest security partner in the region. – Wall Street Journal

The head of Niger’s presidential guard declared himself the leader of a new junta Friday after deposing a president who had been a key ally to the U.S. in the fight against extremism in Africa. – Wall Street Journal

The United States is poised to cut off assistance to Niger if its democratically elected leader is not restored to office, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday, warning that the military ouster of its president, Mohamed Bazoum, could have painful ramifications for Nigerien citizens. – Washington Post

The chair of the African Union, Azali Assoumani, said on Friday that proposals by Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide grain to Africa were not sufficient, and that a ceasefire in Ukraine was needed. – Reuters

Sudanese paramilitary leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, called for the replacement of army leadership on Friday in his first on-camera appearance since fighting broke out. – Reuters

In early May, a loud explosion rocked Shambat, a neighborhood to the north of Sudan’s capital of Khartoum. Locals rushed to douse the flames devouring a makeshift dwelling that they say was ignited in an air strike. – Reuters

Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Deby has volunteered to speak to the military leaders in Niger and report back to Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the chairman of West African regional bloc ECOWAS, two Nigerian presidency sources said on Sunday. – Reuters

The Sudanese civil aviation authority extended the closure of Sudan’s airspace until Aug. 15, except for humanitarian aid and evacuation flights, Khartoum International Airport said in a statement early on Monday. – Reuters

Thousands of people backing the coup in Niger marched through the streets of the capital denouncing France, the country’s former colonial power, waving Russian flags, and setting a door at the French Embassy ablaze on Sunday before the army broke up the crowd. – Associated Press

The Central African Republic went to the polls Sunday in a highly anticipated vote on a new constitution that would remove presidential term limits. – Associated Press

Days after General Abdourahamane Tiani declared himself Niger’s new leader, a picture is emerging of the little-known presidential guard commander who overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum last week. – Bloomberg

As Vladimir Putin was welcoming African heads of state to a summit in St. Petersburg, renegade warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin stole the limelight in the president’s home city, schmoozing with visiting officials and lauding a military coup in Niger. – Bloomberg

The governor of Adamawa state in northeastern Nigeria has declared a 24-hour curfew after youths looted a government warehouse where food is stored. – Bloomberg

Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was charged on Saturday with making statements that fueled deadly protests following his conviction on a separate matter. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Gen. Tchiani and his associates need to realize that Mr. Blinken is not making an empty threat, and the United States needs to make good on its word. Cutting off assistance, especially humanitarian aid, can be a difficult decision, since ordinary people will suffer most. But the United States should stand up for its principle that democratic leaders cannot be ousted by force. There can be no business as usual with Niger until Mr. Bazoum is returned to full control. – Washington Post

The Americas

Colombian authorities said they arrested the eldest son of President Gustavo Petro early Saturday as part of a widening probe into allegations that he took money from drug traffickers during last year’s presidential campaign. – Wall Street Journal

An American woman and her child were allegedly kidnapped near Haiti’s capital city on Thursday, according to the nonprofit organization she works for. – Washington Post

Brazilian justice officials said Thursday they can’t approve a U.S. request to extradite an alleged Russian spy because they have already been processing Moscow’s own request for the man. – Washington Post

The Biden administration will allow some migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela who are already in Mexico to apply to enter the United States as refugees, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund said on Friday it has reached a staff-level agreement with Argentina to unlock about $7.5 billion and complete the fifth and sixth reviews of the struggling country’s $44 billion loan program. – Reuters

Kenya is ready to lead a multinational force into Haiti, which is experiencing a surge in violence between police and gangs, its foreign minister said on Saturday. – Reuters

A federal judge in Miami on Friday criticized prosecutors for an apparent attempt to undercut a court order and take control of a oceanside condo belonging to a former Republican congressman ahead of a high-profile trial connected to a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government. – Associated Press

Argentina is asking a Caracas-based development bank for a $1 billion bridge loan to help it cover debt owed to the International Monetary Fund until its board approves the refinancing of a record $44 billion program, unlocking additional cash disbursements. – Bloomberg

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Bond investors are celebrating the government intervention that set off a rally in Pemex debt. But by explicitly shifting the fiscal burden of a company that operates like a government bureaucracy onto the Mexican federal budget, AMLO has made Mexicans poorer. – Wall Street Journal

United States

These are all pieces of presidential theater. But in each instance, the actor is Hunter Biden, not his father, Joe, though the president is close at hand. Taken together, they capture how closely and squarely in the spotlight President Biden has kept his scandal-plagued son. – Wall Street Journal

Special counsel Jack Smith issued a new indictment against former President Donald Trump Thursday alleging that he ordered aides to delete surveillance footage from the Mar-a-Lago club so it couldn’t be turned over to a grand jury. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Democrats have reason to say that if everyone in Washington who violates FARA were prosecuted for it, half the lobbyists would be out of business. But this would be a more persuasive argument if they had made it when Robert Mueller was busy using it against their political enemies. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Yet Mr. Trump still expects the GOP will save him from his own recklessness by nominating him for the White House a third time. He wants Republican voters, as he does Messrs. Nauta and De Oliveira, to take the fall with him. Good luck if they do. The best revenge for Mr. Trump’s supporters would be to nominate a Republican who can beat Mr. Biden. That’s the way to restore apolitical justice. – Wall Street Journal


Facebook removed content related to Covid-19 in response to pressure from the Biden administration, including posts claiming the virus was man-made, according to internal company communications viewed by The Wall Street Journal. – Wall Street Journal

A collective cry is breaking out as authors, artists and internet publishers realize that the generative-AI phenomenon sweeping the globe is built partly on the back of their work. – Wall Street Journal

Preventing artificial intelligence chatbots from creating harmful content may be more difficult than initially believed, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University which reveals new methods to bypass safety protocols. – The Hill

A slate of research papers published Thursday suggest that the algorithms that drive Facebook and Instagram are not entirely to blame for those platform’s political polarization, as some previously believed. – The Hill

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted a rule this week that will require publicly traded companies to report significant cyber incidents that are “material” to investors. – The Hill

Editorial: Researchers haven’t yet seen, for instance, the consequences of disfavoring posts that cause outrage; they haven’t seen the outcomes produced by “bridging systems,” algorithms that boost posts that appeal to diverse audiences. They have more to learn about the impact of third-party fact-checks, community notes on Twitter (now X) and other interventions designed to fight misinformation. And they haven’t seen what occurs when a site gives users themselves more control over what they see — as Meta plans to do with its microblogging app, Threads. – Wall Street Journal

Andy Kessler writes: Among Microsoft, Google and late-entry players Apple and Amazon, there is more than $8 trillion in market capitalization for the class-action wolves to chase. AI is a sitting duck. AI is the future and will drive the economy’s next leg of productivity and wealth creation, but the rush to market with tools neither ready for prime time nor strictly legal will slow rollout. What a shame. These companies should protect their Achilles by fixing AI’s legal vulnerabilities pronto. – Wall Street Journal

Joe Lonsdale writes: Recent leaks from Meta show that executives there worried that if they didn’t censor accurate information that the Biden administration didn’t like, the company could face severe consequences. Given this scandal, is another organ of government censorship advisable? We don’t need more politically correct nonsense, more censorship mandated by the swamp. A Digital Consumer Protection Commission wouldn’t help and Congress should reject this proposal. – Wall Street Journal

Philip Hamburger and Jenin Younes write: More generally, the nation needs to come to terms with the reality and scale of the assault on free speech. Our government has established a vast system of censorship. By keeping it largely secret, it has been able to exert unconstitutional control over medical, scientific and political speech, suppressing debate over questions of great public importance. This is a shocking constitutional violation. All of us, not only the courts, need to recognize what is at stake. – Wall Street Journal

Rob Portman and Sam Mulopulos write: For the past few years, and under presidents of two different parties, Congress has passed a number of bipartisan AI-related laws. There is no easy red versus blue partisan breakdown when it comes to something as new and transformative as AI. This is an American challenge. The more Congress can continue to work collaboratively and build consensus around quality AI policy proposals, the easier it will be to tackle the ever more complex challenges posed by this technology. The evolution of AI and its applications will not wait for policymakers. Congress needs to do its part in developing sensible guidelines now. – The Hill


When U.S. ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey was huddled in Khartoum while dodging bullets and airstrikes, there was one question that he hadn’t expected: How much did the embassy staff’s cats and dogs weigh? – Wall Street Journal

President Biden on Friday is poised to sign a new executive order that will clear the way for major changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice for the first time in decades, taking authority away from commanders in cases of sexual assault, rape and murder to make the chain of command independent. – The Hill

The Pentagon is investigating what it has called a “critical compromise” of communications across 17 Air Force facilities by one of its engineers, according to a search warrant obtained by Forbes. The document also details evidence of a possible breach of FBI communications by the same employee, who worked at the Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee. – Forbes

Editorial: “If the Administration is serious about making Aukus a success,” Sen. Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor on Thursday, “it should work with Congress this fall to make urgent supplemental investments in meeting military requirements in the Indo-Pacific.” Expanding the U.S. attack submarine fleet would be a national achievement that would make the oceans and the U.S. homeland safer. – Wall Street Journal

Chandler Cole and Johanna Crisman write: So, to say that the footnote 4 exception allows for diversity only insofar as it lends itself to sending people to die is a mischaracterization of the role military officers play. Officership bestows decision-making power over the lives of young Americans, a heavy burden which, we would argue, is certainly a “distinct interest” much greater than an interest in diverse classrooms. Setting aside the question of whether affirmative action is the right method to yield that diversity, the military warrants more latitude and discretion than its civilian counterparts because of its unique mission: to develop leaders of character who will lead our service members in peacetime and in war. – The Hill