Fdd's overnight brief

June 14, 2023

In The News


In his first visit to Latin America, Iran’s hardline president met Tuesday with his Nicaraguan counterpart and railed against a theme both leaders have in common: U.S. sanctions. – Associated Press

The US is determined to reach an informal deal to stop Iran from advancing toward a nuclear breakout, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) clashed with local residents of Kurdish areas of western Iran on Tuesday, according to opposition-affiliated organizations. – Jerusalem Post

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani visited the UAE in the spirit of promoting cooperation and political consultations, to “review regional issues with authorities,” according to Iranian pro-government media. – Jerusalem Post

Micah Halpern writes: Fifteen tankers in the last two years have been seized by Iran. Other tankers have been subject to Iranian strikes. […]And Iran is waiting for the perfect time to attack – not surgical attacks, but annoying attacks. Enough to irritate the United States without causing an international incident. All the while Iran is also building their nuclear capabilities. That is Iran’s modus vivendi. That is why we are right to be fearful and why Israel is right to be fearful – and why Israel is right to be prepared. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It is less clear what Iran’s leader will do in Cuba or Nicaragua, however, the same issues of trade and influence peddling are important to focus on. Iran may also be seeking to expand its sphere of influence to include Brazil or other countries. Considering how important this region is to the US and also Israel, any new initiative by Iran is an important and concerning trend. – Jerusalem Post

Claudia Tenney writes: With Iran barreling toward enough enriched uranium for a bomb, we are already short on time. Sitting on our hands and waiting until Iran reaches 90% enrichment is a dangerous and counterproductive delay tactic that benefits one party: the Islamic Republic of Iran. There should be no delay, which is why our E3 allies should act now to initiate snapback. – Jerusalem Post

Omer Carmi writes: His June 11 remarks seemingly followed suit, maintaining the ambiguity of past speeches regarding nuclear negotiations while exhibiting the same balance between flexibility and principles—that is, allowing room for an agreement to be struck, but ensuring that his audience understands its limited scope. – Washington Institute 

Russia & Ukraine

The House of Representatives voted 422-0 to approve a bipartisan resolution calling on Russia to immediately free jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. The congressional resolution demands that Moscow release Gershkovich immediately and that it provide him unfettered access to U.S. consular officials during his imprisonment. – Wall Street Journal 

The Ukrainian 68th Jaeger Brigade spent the past year defending trenches in the country’s east against Russian onslaughts. Last week, they went on the attack. On Saturday, three platoons from the 68th took the village of Blahodatne from a larger Russian infantry force after a methodical firefight. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency warned the Ukrainian government not to attack the Nord Stream gas pipelines last summer after it obtained detailed information about a Ukrainian plot to destroy a main energy connection between Russia and Europe, officials familiar with the exchange said. – Wall Street Journal 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had been able to fight off Ukraine’s counteroffensive so far but acknowledged losing a significant number of tanks and missing key equipment such as drones as fighting in southern and eastern Ukraine heats up. – Wall Street Journal 

As Ukraine launches its long-awaited counteroffensive against entrenched Russian occupiers, both Kyiv and its backers are hoping for a rapid retaking of strategically significant territory. Anything less will present the United States and its allies with uncomfortable questions they are not yet prepared to answer. – Washington Post

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pushing for tougher sanctions on missile components following an attack on his hometown of Kryvyi Rih that killed 12 people and injured more than 30. Local officials declared Wednesday a day of mourning. – Washington Post 

The leader of the United Nations atomic watchdog said Tuesday that he would cross the front lines in Ukraine’s war against Russia to investigate conditions at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, where the destruction of a nearby dam has compromised a key source of water to cool its reactors. – New York Times

Russian air forces and artillery weapons struck back against advancing Ukrainian troops on Tuesday, hammering them in the area of several southern villages that the Ukrainian Army had retaken over the past week in the opening phase of Kyiv’s counteroffensive. – New York Times 

The issue of how to define Ukraine’s future in the alliance has overtaken a second question, how to come up long-term security assurances for Ukraine. Mr. Biden’s aides are telling members of Congress they want to move to something akin to what they call “the Israel model,” which has a 10-year-long security commitment with the United States. – New York Times 

Russian missiles struck civilian buildings in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa and eastern Donetsk region overnight, killing at least six people, Ukraine’s military and local officials said early on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Russia has not acknowledged any Ukrainian gains, and President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that for now he saw no need for a new mobilisation of fighting men to confront the Ukrainian counteroffensive launched last week. – Reuters 

Russia’s Defence Ministry released video footage on Tuesday of what it said were German-made Leopard tanks and U.S.-made Bradley Fighting Vehicles captured by Russian forces in a fierce battle with Ukrainian troops. – Reuters 

A “transparent and objective” international investigation in the blasts at the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines is needed, a high-ranking Russian diplomat to the United States said early on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The head of Russia’s powerful mercenary Wagner Group said on Tuesday he was “not sure” if his men would continue to fight in Ukraine amid a bitter standoff with the Defence Ministry after capturing the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. – Reuters

A top Russian officer has been killed in a Ukrainian missile strike during Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russian forces, a Russian-backed official in Ukraine said on Tuesday, offering his condolences. – Reuters 

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday there were no longer any “moral limits” to stop Moscow from destroying its enemies’ undersea communication cables given what he said was Western complicity in the Nord Stream pipeline blasts. – Reuters 

Russia’s occupying forces were preparing for Ukrainian forces to attack in the Kherson region before the breach of a major dam “disrupted” Ukraine’s plans, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Because the flooding happened, the offensive didn’t take place,” Putin told a Kremlin audience, per state-run TASS. – Washington Examiner 

At least 11 people were killed in an overnight Russian missile strike on the central Ukrainian town of Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, regional officials announced Tuesday. – The Hill 

The Biden administration is rushing more armored vehicles to Ukraine as the country’s forces suffer some early losses in the early thrusts of its counteroffensive against Russia. The $325 million drawdown of U.S. military stocks announced Tuesday will also pump artillery shells and air defense missiles into the fight, in addition to sending 15 Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine after a similar number was lost recently in heavy fighting. – Politico 

Tom Rogan writes: The problem for Russia is that Ukraine’s will to resist is matched confidently to its capacity to resist. Russia cannot pummel Ukraine into submission because the Ukrainian people are willing to absorb the civilian losses Russia is imposing upon them. And as much as Putin likes to dangle the threat, the use of Russian nuclear weapons in Ukraine offers little better prospect for a Russian victory. […]Put another way, Russia can keep killing civilians, but its killing of civilians isn’t going to help it win this war. – Washington Examiner 

Gideon Rose writes: In Ukraine, the United States is not unilaterally imposing its will on other countries but leading a broad coalition to restore international order. It is not committing war crimes but preventing them. It is not acting as the world’s policeman or as a global bully but as the arsenal of democracy. And it has been doing all this effectively and efficiently, without firing a gun or losing a single soldier. The effort to date has been a model of how to blend hard and soft power in a single strategy. Now it’s time to finish the job. – Foreign Affairs 

Michael Peck writes: What Ukraine can’t afford is to waste its Western armor to merely recapture a few villages. It needs to master its new Western equipment. And that means an expensive learning curve. A few destroyed Bradleys can be expected from a first battle. Let’s see how Ukraine does in the next one. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Maxim Samorukov writes: Given the current state of ever-increasing tensions, it is worth pondering the question of who in Russia is more likely to press the nuclear button: a lonely autocrat obsessed with historical grandeur, or a group of gray apparatchiks bogged down in their internal squabbles? The wrong answer may cost us the planet. – Foreign Policy


On Thursday, Israeli soldiers razed the family home of Eslam Froukh, a Palestinian man charged with carrying out a pair of deadly Jerusalem bus stop bombings last year. Soon after the explosions rang out in this normally quiet neighborhood of downtown Ramallah, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. – Washington Post

A raid by Israeli security forces into the northern West Bank set off a gunfight with militants that killed a young Palestinian man on Tuesday, Palestinian health officials said. Elsewhere in the occupied territory, Israeli medics said that an assailant opened fire, wounding at least four people. – Associated Press

Israel exported a record $12.556 billion in defence products last year, with new Arab partners under the U.S.-sponsored 2020 Abraham Accords accounting for almost a quarter of the business, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Israel’s Military Advocate General said on Tuesday that soldiers who left a Palestinian-American man outside overnight after detaining him and who was later found dead will not be criminally prosecuted but will face disciplinary measures. – Reuters

The IDF on Tuesday presented the results of its probe into the June 3 terror attack in which three IDF soldiers who were guarding the border were killed by a rogue Egyptian policeman. – Jerusalem Post

​​Israel and the United States are at odds over its pledges to suspend settlement building announcements in Aqaba last February as the IDF prepares to advance plans for over 4,000 new settler homes. – Jerusalem Post

Top brass in the Israeli defense establishment, particularly in the IDF Intelligence Corps and the Mossad espionage agency, are concerned that secret documents seized from former U.S. President Donald Trump include material whose exposure has damaged Israel’s security. – Haaretz

The incident on the Egyptian border, in which an Egyptian policeman killed three Israeli soldiers, has led, as expected, to a wide-ranging series of disciplinary measures. On Monday, Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi summarized the results of an investigation into the affair that was completed in a very quick nine days. – Haaretz

The Lions’ Den terrorist organization on Tuesday ordered the terrorists operating within the group to prepare for the possibility of a military confrontation with Israel in northern Samaria. – Arutz Sheva

A senior official of the Biden administration attacked Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli on Wednesday, saying that he “does not understand the American Jewish Diaspora.” – Haaretz 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: There is no apparent answer to dealing with such patterns that connect with two of the strongest human emotions: boredom and apathy. Top all of this off with the fact that the next attacker may use a different trick and it is not at all clear that the IDF will be more ready then. – Jerusalem Post


The 22 soldiers who were injured in a helicopter accident in northeastern Syria on Sunday were part of the Army’s highly secretive Delta Force commando unit, which has previously carried out kill-or-capture raids against Islamic State militants in that part of the country, three senior military officials said on Tuesday. – New York Times

Airstrikes attributed to Israel over Syria’s capital early Wednesday critically wounded one soldier, Syrian state media reported. – Associated Press

The Jordanian army said on Tuesday it had downed a drone carrying drugs from Syria into its northern frontier region, and it said Jordan would not allow the border area to become a front line in an Iran-linked drug war. – Reuters

Arabian Peninsula

Bahrain, which cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016 a day after Saudi Arabia did so because of attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, is likely to resume them “sometime soon,” the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East said on Tuesday. – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron will host Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Paris on Friday, on his second visit to the country in about a year. – Bloomberg 

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to create the new diplomatic position of an ambassador for the Abraham Accords to help advance Israel’s normalization with its Arab neighbors, particularly with Saudi Arabia. – Jerusalem Post

The Saudi embassy in Washington reiterated that the kingdom will not normalize ties with Israel until a Palestinian state is established, amid intensified US efforts to broker a peace agreement between Jerusalem and Riyadh. – Times of Israel

Middle East & North Africa

The number of deaths recorded in 2022 on migration routes inside and from the Middle East and North Africa region was the highest since 2017, according to newly released data from a United Nations agency. – Washington Post

Facing a ruinous economic crisis, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recently decided it was time to hold talks with what was left of Egypt’s political opposition, giving its members a seat at the table after nearly a decade of repression, prison and exile. But to an authoritarian leader like Mr. el-Sisi, reconciliation only goes so far. – New York Times

A British court has ordered a London-based company that delivered the ammonium nitrate that exploded in 2020 at Beirut’s port to pay compensation to some families of the hundreds of victims, Beirut’s Bar Association said Tuesday. – Associated Press

Lebanon slid deeper into crisis on Wednesday when Hezbollah and its allies thwarted a bid by their rivals to elect a top IMF official as president, sharpening sectarian tensions and underlining the dim hopes for reviving the crumbling state. – Reuters

President Abbas’s four-day visit to the Chinese capital is described as a Palestinian attempt to revive a moribund, American-led peace process. Mr. Abbas is also trying to boost his sagging domestic support while distracting attention from his administration’s mismanagement of the economy and an increasing loss of relevance in the region, where the Palestinian cause was once a unifying rallying cry. – New York Sun

Amnesty International on Tuesday said that both Israel and the Islamic Jihad terrorist group should be investigated for “war crimes” over the recent round of violence between the sides, i24NEWS reported. – Arutz Sheva

Nashat Shawamreh writes: Nevertheless, the Negev Summit may reinvigorate the public aspect of Arab-Israeli dialogue. As each participant in the forum tries to advance their own strategic and security interests, Morocco’s role as host and its focal points during the conference will shine a spotlight on what Rabat hopes to achieve through the Negev Forum. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

U.S. lawmakers warned on Tuesday that China could be preparing to forcibly repatriate refugees who fled North Korea and urged the United Nations to use its influence with Beijing to prevent this. – Reuters 

North Korean hackers stole more than $100 million worth of digital currency in a recent heist affecting users of the Atomic Wallet service, cryptocurrency analytics firm Elliptic said Tuesday. – Reuters

Russia has resumed sending oil to sanctions-hit North Korea for the first time since 2020, deepening cooperation between the two nations that the US claims also includes sending arms from Pyongyang to help the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. – Bloomberg


As China builds its diplomatic role in the Middle East, its companies are also now racing to expand in a region that is more open to U.S. competitors than it has been in years. – Wall Street Journal

China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call on Wednesday that the U.S. should stop interfering in the country’s affairs, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry. – Reuters 

Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group Ltd (0500.HK) on Tuesday denied allegations it provided training to Chinese military pilots using Western and NATO personnel, adding it was unaware of any reason for its inclusion in an export control list. – Reuters 

China began military exercises in the East China sea to the north of Taiwan on Tuesday, including live-fire exercises from warships, as the U.S and its allies conduct their drills in the Western Pacific. – Reuters 

Assuming Secretary of State Blinken goes to Beijing this weekend as planned, he will have much more to talk about with his Communist Chinese hosts than originally anticipated. The news that China is setting up a facility in Cuba for spying on America may not be at the top of his agenda but will be hard to overlook as the secretary appeals to Chinese leaders to back down from confrontation. – New York Sun

Odd Arne Westad writes: Many in the West assume that the aggressive style of Beijing’s diplomats comes from a need to show off China’s newfound strength and purpose as well as the superiority of Xi’s leadership. But it remains unclear how important extreme nationalism is to this style, and therefore whether it will necessarily be a lasting element in Chinese decision-making. – Foreign Affairs 

Ben Dubow writes:  China’s primary target audience isn’t the general populace, who hold little sway in political or economic affairs. Its focus is autocratic leaders. And for them, a global order in which all popular opposition can be chalked up to an omnipotent CIA may be all too appealing. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


New Zealand is negotiating a new type of partnership with NATO, which will likely cover areas of common interest including the international rules based order, climate change and cyber security, the country’s foreign minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to Washington, the Biden administration is pushing New Delhi to cut through its own red tape and advance a deal for dozens of U.S.-made armed drones, two people familiar with the matter said. India has long expressed interest in buying large armed drones from the United States. – Reuters 

​​President Joe Biden is dispatching White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to Tokyo this week for talks with his counterparts from Japan, Philippines and South Korea. – Associated Press

South Korea and Japan’s deepening defence co-operation is triggering alarm in China, as the US seeks to rally its east Asian allies amid increasing regional tensions. – Financial Times

Pakistan has enough problems — including escalating attacks by Taliban insurgents and a spiraling economic crisis — without the added headache of a new Cold War between China and the U.S. In an interview with POLITICO, Pakistan’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar insisted Islamabad had no appetite to pick a side in the growing global rivalry between Washington and Beijing. – Politico 

Patrick M. Cronin writes: Despite Pentagon preparation for a mass civilian evacuation from Taiwan, an all-out military invasion of the island democracy is not Beijing’s preferred approach. But a protracted Taiwan crisis that could escalate with little notice makes planning for a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) a prudent precaution. […]The twin moves of evacuation planning and promoting the Navy’s premier warfighter to help train and equip tomorrow’s maritime force suggests the Biden administration is preparing for the worst but planning to remain the best.- Hudson Institute 


The front-runner to be the next chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will face opposition from Poland, European officials said, underscoring a rift among the alliance’s member states over its future 18 months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal 

A Dutch intelligence agency tipped off the CIA about an alleged Ukrainian plan in June 2022 to blow up the Nord Stream pipeline, Dutch national broadcaster NOS reported on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government is set to unveil Germany’s first National Security Strategy on Wednesday which aims to provide an overview of the country’s foreign policy and ensure a cohesive cross-ministry approach to security. – Reuters 

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu met the head of the upper house of the Czech parliament on Tuesday as part of a European trip that has angered China. Wu, on a second trip to the central European NATO and European Union member country after a 2021 visit, met Milos Vystrcil, who has been at the forefront of Czech efforts to build closer relationship with Taiwan and visited the island in 2020. – Reuters 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko declared Tuesday that his country had already received some of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons and warned that he wouldn’t hesitate to order their use if Belarus faced an act of aggression. – Associated Press

Edward P. Joseph writes: Blinken should close his tour in Brussels, with Borrell and the EU’s special representative to the region, Miroslav Lajcak. Blinken should remind these diplomats that the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo bears the EU’s name. Brussels can no longer hide behind the line that it is merely a facilitator. […]In this way, Blinken will turn the United States and EU away from confusion and crisis, sending a signal to Moscow of principled determination to consolidate the Balkans into the West, alongside Ukraine. – Foreign Policy 


Eritrea has rejoined a regional East African bloc it left 16 years ago, its information minister said, in the country’s latest move to rebuild ties with its neighbours. The Asmara government quit the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa (IGAD) in 2007 to protest Ethiopian troops’ entry into Somalia to force out its Islamist rulers. – Reuters 

Shooting their way through truces, Sudan’s warring factions have shown the limited leverage the United States, Saudi Arabia and other foreign powers have in ending a two-month conflict that is driving the nation deeper into disaster. – Reuters 

African leaders are “working to bring pressure” on Russia’s Vladimir Putin and others to end the war in Ukraine that has caused a cost of living crisis on much of their continent, according to the president of Sierra Leone. – Financial Times

North America

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating allegations China tried to intimidate a federal legislator, one of more than 100 inquiries into foreign meddling, the RCMP commander said on Tuesday. Canada has accused China of trying to interfere in its affairs through various schemes, including illegal police stations and the targeting of lawmakers. Beijing has strongly denied all such allegations. – Reuters 

An immigrant from Iraq pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Portland, Oregon, to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State group by producing and distributing propaganda and recruiting materials online. – Associated Press

James Stavridis writes: The US needs to gather all relevant information about the Chinese facility, using its own extensive intelligence network focused on Cuba, and to harden the many juicy military targets in Florida. A growing Chinese presence in Cuba and elsewhere shows that the days of the US demanding its opponents simply depart the waters of the Caribbean are over.  – Bloomberg


France on Tuesday said it had uncovered a major Russian disinformation campaign, with false news items hostile to Ukraine made to look like they were published by prominent French news media. The campaign also appears to have targeted Israeli and Jewish media. – Agence France-Presse

Lawmakers and U.S. intelligence officials clashed at a Senate Judiciary hearing Tuesday over how to reform a controversial surveillance program set to sunset at the end of this year, setting the stage for a difficult legislative battle to renew or potentially reform the law. – CyberScoop

When researchers at the cybersecurity firm Sygnia responded earlier this year to a compromised email account at an unnamed company, they stumbled upon a sprawling campaign of business email compromise involving dozens of organizations whose infrastructure the attackers utilized in going after additional victims. – CyberScoop


Sen. James E. Risch, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, is halting a $735 million U.S. arms sale to Hungary as punishment for the country’s refusal to approve NATO membership for Sweden, a rare move aimed at pressuring Budapest into greenlighting the military alliance’s expansion ahead of a major summit next month. – Washington Post

President Biden met with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday afternoon as a host of challenges confront the allied group, reiterating America’s commitment to protect NATO countries that neighbor Russia at a time when Moscow’s aggression is on stark display in Ukraine. – Washington Post

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said Ukraine is making progress in its counteroffensive against Russian invaders and predicted NATO leaders will increase military assistance to Kyiv when they meet next month. – Reuters 

A House panel on Tuesday advanced legislation that would codify into law the ability of U.S. special operations units to arm irregular forces for warfare in volatile regions, portrayed by proponents as a tool for deterring competitors like Russia and China. But those activities can’t resume in Ukraine just yet. – Defense News

The Pentagon wants its regional combatant commands around the world involved more in the sales of U.S. weapons to other countries, U.S. Defense Department officials said. – Defense One

Seth Cropsey writes: History is an uninterrupted repetition of peace followed by war. Deterring another major war, one fought over dominance in Eurasia, ought to be American statesmen’s first goal. This can’t be accomplished without naval supremacy. A strong chief of naval operations is essential to the maritime defense that the U.S. requires by virtue of its geography, strategy and interest in international order. Let’s hope that Adm. Paparo makes the changes that American security needs. – Wall Street Journal

Ulrich Kühn and Heather Williams write: Once nuclear peer competitors find it in their interests, a return to more formal arms control agreements should be on the agenda. Until then, arms control that focuses on behavior might be the most promising way to manage competition and to avoid global instability and, ultimately, nuclear use. […]But it would be better than a future in which proliferation proceeds in the absence of any shared guardrails for handling the most dangerous weapons in the world.- Foreign Affairs