Fdd's overnight brief

June 15, 2023

In The News


The Biden administration has quietly restarted talks with Iran in a bid to win the release of American prisoners held by Tehran and curb the country’s growing nuclear program, people close to the discussions said. – Wall Street Journal

Deputy foreign ministers from Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iran will meet in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, on June 21, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency said on Wednesday. – Reuters

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. President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Nicaragua is his second stop, after Venezuela. He is also scheduled to visit Cuba, Iran’s other ally in the region. – Associated Press

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) says two of its members have died in separate incidents in Iranian Kurdistan amid clashes in the region. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran’s President arrived in Cuba overnight, according to Trabajadores, a Cuban pro-government newspaper. He was met at the airport by Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Riasi is on a five-day trip to South American countries. – Jerusalem Post

Gabriel Noronha writes: Congress should demand answers from the Biden Administration why visas were granted to leaders of the Central Bank of Iran, a sanctioned entity with an immense track record of providing funding to terror groups, and whether U.S. policy has changed or is set to change regarding the conversion of Iranian-held SDRs into U.S. dollars. – JINSA

Russia & Ukraine

Japan is in talks to provide artillery shells to the U.S. to bolster stocks for Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia—a pivot for a country that has long curbed exports of lethal weapons. – Wall Street Journal

The war in Ukraine has fueled Russia’s worst labor crunch in decades after hundreds of thousands of workers fled the country or were sent to the front lines, weakening the foundations of an economy weighed down by sanctions and international isolation. – Wall Street Journal

Because of the war, the giant Zaporizhstal has effectively shrunk. Roughly 10,000 people worked at the plant before the invasion. Last year, a thousand left to become soldiers. Another thousand, mostly women or men with families, moved away. Zaporizhstal has not operated at more than 70 percent capacity since the war began. Currently, just two of four furnaces are working, so production is even lower. – Washington Post

The road into the newly liberated Ukrainian village of Storozheve is lined with the corpses of Russian soldiers and burnt-out armoured vehicles. The grisly scenes bear witness to the ferocity of fighting as Ukrainian troops recaptured Storozheve and several other villages in the past few days as part of a counteroffensive in southern and eastern Ukraine. – Reuters

The lower house of Russia’s parliament said on Wednesday it had voted to give its initial backing to legislation that will allow the Defence Ministry to sign contracts with suspected or convicted criminals to fight in Ukraine. – Reuters

More than 20 Ukrainian soldiers who were taken prisoner during fighting in Ukraine went on trial in southern Russia on Wednesday. – Associated Press

A court in Russia on Wednesday convicted an associate of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny on extremism charges and sentenced her to 7 1/2 years in prison, the latest step in a yearslong crackdown by the Kremlin on opposition activists. – Associated Press

Vinkovskyi is blind, and can’t see the scale of damage caused by debris from one of many Russian-fired drones on the Ukrainian capital last month. But he knows that 80 people, including 54 with a disability who used to work there manufacturing circuit breakers, sockets and hangers, are now out of work. – Associated Press

Russia is to adopt powers to seize assets of “naughty” western companies and will make it harder for them to exit the country, as Vladimir Putin seeks ways to retaliate against US and European sanctions. – Financial Times

Since the Kakhovka dam burst on June 6, the floods have cut off any chance Ukraine’s troops might have had of crossing the Dnipro River in support of their counteroffensive. Yet that benefit to the Kremlin may not last. – Bloomberg

Russia is ramping up a lobbying campaign to avoid new financial restrictions against money-laundering that may plunge its economy deeper into isolation over the war in Ukraine. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Air Force deployed fighter aircraft to the Middle East in a show of force toward Russia. The F-22 Raptors deployed from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, from the 94th Fighter Squadron, and the maneuver was “part of a multifaceted show of U.S. support and capability in the wake of increasingly unsafe and unprofessional behavior by Russian aircraft in the region,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement on Wednesday. – Washington Examiner

The US wants to supply more Stryker armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) in the latest assistance package to Ukraine. The package will provide Ukraine with USD325 million worth of equipment from US stocks, the Pentagon announced on 13 June. The 15 Bradleys and 10 Strykers will help support Ukrainian offensive operations as vehicles are damaged, said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh. – JANES

Editorial: Nonetheless, in a report last fall, the U.S. Agency for International Development warned that powerful interests and a lack of public accountability still plagued Ukraine’s government and that the cost of state construction contracts was inflated, partly by kickbacks for officials who wield approval power. Such signs of ongoing corruption are lethal to Ukraine’s ambitions to join the E.U. and become thoroughly Western. To lay the groundwork for the massive international aid and investment it needs, Kyiv has to show its allies that reforms are gaining momentum and irreversible. – Washington Post 

Stephen Blank writes: Russia’s war against the West is intrinsic to the Putin regime’s survival and brings about its darkest impulses. We must learn from the French proverb “a la guerre comme a la guerre,” — “at war as at war.” It is time for the U.S. to take its gloves off and make the Russian regime feel the heat. – The Hill

David A. Super writes: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brings together the very worst of the last century. It is up to us whether it becomes a harbinger of renewed depravity in this century or a cautionary tale for today’s despots. – The Hill

Federico Borsari writes: Hasty speculation based on fragmentary evidence fuels disinformation and creates a distorted picture of the situation among the general public. In turn, this may negatively impact the policy debate in Western capitals, with implications for long-term military support to Kyiv. It’s therefore paramount for Ukraine’s partners and allies to eschew instantaneous judgments about the ongoing operation, wait patiently, and maintain military support until the objectives are achieved. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Ann Marie Dailey writes: We should not expect an official statement or communique from the June 15-16 meeting. There likely will not be any major news about Swedish accession to NATO or security guarantees for Ukraine. It’s nonetheless a vital opportunity for secretaries and ministers of defense to assess progress toward the lofty goals identified in Madrid last year, in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Oleksandr Shulga writes: Split public consciousness forms the foundation for implementing nearly any decision by the Russian regime. Under such circumstances, logical justification is almost unnecessary. The direct consequence of split consciousness is the triumph of post-truth, the devaluation of alternative opinions, and the erosion of moral reference points. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Raphael S. Cohen and Gian Gentile write: Had the West acted more decisively and strategically, Ukraine would not only be in a better shape to undertake the counteroffensive it recently launched in southern and eastern Ukraine, but also be better-positioned for a more durable postwar settlement. Thankfully, Ukrainian bravery and Russian missteps mean that the war remains winnable for Kyiv. The United States just needs the will and strategy to embrace that victory. – Foreign Policy

Tom Malinowski writes: Of course, there is still fighting to be done before Ukraine can fully join the alliance. All of NATO’s members will have to be convinced. And Ukraine will have to ensure it is politically and militarily ready. But that is all the more reason to start the formal process now. A democratic Ukraine joining the West is a big part of how this war ends. And Ukrainians should know what they must do to make it happen. – Foreign Policy

A. Wess Mitchell writes: Underlying all of this is the need to use the current window wisely: to prepare for and thereby hopefully avoid a catastrophic war with China. That Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine much sooner than Chinese President Xi Jinping was ready to move against Taiwan represents the greatest strategic opportunity for the West in decades. Just imagine if the two despots’ timetables had been aligned. The United States should exploit the opportunity it has been presented by Putin’s barbaric folly to the fullest, for as long as it goes on. That was a sound strategy at the start of the war, and it remains a sound strategy today. – Foreign Policy


An effort to resolve a dispute over the future of Israel’s judiciary, an issue that has divided the country for months, suffered a major blow Wednesday after a dramatic showdown in Parliament over a committee that picks the nation’s judges. – New York Times

China is willing to play a positive role to help the Palestinians achieve internal reconciliation and promote peace talks with Israel, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Palestinian counterpart in Beijing on Wednesday. – Reuters

The Israeli state-owned defence contractor behind the Iron Dome and David’s Sling air shields announced on Wednesday the development of a new system to counter hypersonic missiles, a week after Iran said it had produced its first such weapon. – Reuters

Israeli gunfire killed a Palestinian man Thursday in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials said, the latest death in a spike of violence that has rocked the region. – Associated Press

The Israeli military admitted Wednesday that it had shot and killed a Palestinian toddler in the occupied West Bank by mistake earlier this month — a rare acknowledgement of wrongdoing. – Associated Press

The United States on Wednesday said it was seeking more information about the closure of an Israeli military investigation into the death of a 78-year-old Palestinian-American who was detained, gagged and left unconscious shortly before being pronounced dead. – Associated Press

The IDF demolished the home of Osama Tawil in the West Bank town of Nablus on Wednesday night, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. Tawil is one of the terrorists who murdered IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Ido Baruch last October. – Jerusalem Post

Divergent views arise as Jewish student leaders express concerns over Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Amichai Chikli, while the European Jewish Association (EJA) defends Israeli politics and advocates for European Jewry, sending a strong statement: “European Jewry should not interfere with Israeli politics.” – Jerusalem Post

Tom Rogan writes: The basic point here is that Amnesty isn’t interested in covering this conflict seriously. We learn as much with the report’s partisan conclusion. We’re told that the “root cause of this unspeakable violence is Israel’s system of apartheid.” Actually, it’s the PIJ’s desire to push Israelis into the Mediterranean Sea. – Washington Examiner

Itamar Yakir writes: The reform proposal and the resulting protests brought to light — and to a large extent also created — conflicts on religious and ethnic grounds. […]The findings reveal that the intensity of the conflict on religious grounds is more intense than anything we have seen in many years. This conflict – and specifically in the context of considerable convergence between the religious axis and the ideological-political axis – has the potential to destroy any possibility of stabilizing social relationships. A conscientious leadership must take this potential threat into account. – Times of Israel


The powerful Hezbollah group and its allies thwarted a bid by their rivals to elect a top IMF official as Lebanon’s president on Wednesday, sharpening sectarian tensions and further dimming prospects for preventing a collapse of the state. – Reuters

The chief of Lebanese Hezbollah’s Executive Council Hashim Safiuddin gave an interview to Iran’s Tasnim news, a pro-Iran regime outlet. In the interview, he sketched out Hezbollah’s general assessment of the situation in the region. The interview comes as Iranian media broadcasted a meeting between Iran’s Supreme Leader and members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Taken together this can be seen as Iran utilizing its proxies and considering its next moves. – Jerusalem Post

The Telegram channel of the terrorist organization “The Forces of the Galilee”, which is inspired by Hezbollah, published a recorded interview with Abu Elfida, who was presented as the leader of the organization. – Arutz Sheva


In 2001, Taliban founder Mohammad Omar declared the Buddhas false gods and announced plans to destroy them. Ignoring pleas from around the world, Taliban fighters detonated explosives and fired antiaircraft guns to smash the immense sixth-century reliefs to pieces. […]With the group now back in power, Bamian holds new symbolic and economic importance to the cash-strapped region: Officials see the Buddha remnants as a potentially lucrative source of revenue and are working to draw tourism around the site. They suggest their efforts are not only a gesture to archaeologists, but also reflect a regime that’s more pragmatic now than when it first ruled from 1996 to 2001. – Washington Post

Australia’s most decorated war veteran, found by a civil court to have played a part in the murder of four Afghans while serving in Afghanistan, said he was devastated by what he called an “incorrect” judgement and he would not apologise for his actions. – Reuters

Zhwandoon TV is one of the few independent media outlets still operating under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The private Pashto-language station has been forced to comply with severe restrictions imposed on the media, including a ban on broadcasting music and foreign entertainment programs as well as orders for female TV presenters to cover their faces. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Afghans fleeing the Taliban are being kidnapped and tortured by gangs as they try to cross the border between Iran and Turkey on their way to Europe, a BBC investigation has found. The gangs then send videos of the abuse to the families of migrants being held hostage, demanding a ransom for their release. – BBC


The European Union hosts an international conference on Thursday to collect money for Syria where an earthquake earlier this year aggravated the already dire plight of people who have been caught in war since 2011. – Reuters

Turkey’s military “neutralised” 53 Kurdish militants in northern Syria, using ground artillery and drones in retaliatory strikes following an attack on a police post on the Turkish side of the border at the weekend, the defence ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Ellen Ioanes writes: With Arab countries taking a pragmatic approach and the rest of the world essentially turning its back, the chance of accountability and lasting peace for Syria’s people is as good as nonexistent. While some Syrians are hoping for a move—any move—to help stabilize the cratered economy and bring a peaceful resolution to the war, many see normalization as a betrayal unlikely to yield results. – Foreign Policy


Sweden should not expect a green light from Ankara on its NATO membership bid at the Western alliance’s summit next month unless it prevents anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Wednesday. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his newly appointed Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek will take unspecified steps swiftly with the central bank, but that it was a mistake to suggest Erdogan had changed his own views on interest rates. – Reuters

Russia’s No. 2 lender VTB (VTBR.MM) on Thursday said it would increase the number of countries to which retail clients can send money to 25 from 11, with India and Turkey the key, new destinations. – Reuters


Egypt’s president sounded a warning about the impact of rising prices stemming from currency devaluations, saying the nation of 105 million won’t be able to tolerate too many more hikes. […]Egypt’s economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic and then by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Amos Harel writes: In the case of the border incident, the chief of staff did indeed take drastic measures. On average, a brigade commander is dismissed only once every decade or two. But eventually the IDF will need to deal seriously with what is happening in the units lower down the command chain. – Haaretz

Amir Avivi writes: Time has also come to acknowledge that despite our best efforts and tremendous assistance to the Egyptian military in its counter-terrorism efforts in Sinai, Egypt still isn’t behaving like the partner in peace we are worthy of. Not along the border, not in educating its population, and not in the way it allows the uninterrupted flow of weapons from Sinai to terrorists in the Gaza Strip through the tunnel highways under Rafah. The Israeli government should demand action from Egypt and a solution must be implemented before the next attack along the border, be it by an Egyptian policeman or a Jihadi terrorist. – Jerusalem Post 

Dr. Khairy Omar writes: As the Brotherhood’s ideological, social, organizational, and economic crises overlap, the movement is shifting into isolated enclaves with limited audiences. This will make it difficult for the group to attract a wider following and to remain politically relevant. – Washington Institute

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, will visit Tehran on Saturday, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said on Thursday. – Reuters

Salem Alketbi writes: In my observation, in the current stage, under the leadership of the crown prince, Saudi diplomacy with its activity, maturity, and ability to maneuver and deal with complex issues demonstrates the capability to build consensus. This applies to both its international alliances and its approach in ensuring the fulfillment of the interests of all regional parties. To provide the necessary strategic environment for security and stability and the construction of a new Middle East free from conflicts and tensions, it is essential for the other regional parties to recognize that the rules of the regional and international game have changed.- Jerusalem Post

Faris Almaari writes: Finally, enhancing the kingdom’s domestic CBRN defense capabilities would make cooperation and interoperability with its U.S. security partners easier and more effective. Expanding cooperation with other foreign partners would also be useful. Toward this end, the kingdom could offer to host an EU CBRN Centre of Excellence, since only two such offices have been established in the region so far (in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates). – Washington Institute

Gulf States

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is in talks with Egypt about potentially investing in seven historic hotels there, in what could be a landmark deal between the two countries that restored diplomatic ties in 2021 after a long-running dispute. – Reuters

Kuwait reached an agreement worth $367 million with Turkish drone giant Baykar to purchase its increasingly sought-after TB2 combat drones, the Kuwaiti army said. – Associated Press

Michael Rubin writes: Some are content to stand on their record, but those who failed too often seek to redeem themselves by casting aspersions upon their successors, if not directly than by proxy. It is a deeply unpatriotic and counterproductive tactic that is bad for Iraq as few outside the country will differentiate between administrations or individuals. – 19FortyFive

Korean Peninsula

North Korean hackers have set up a fake website that looks almost identical to the popular South Korean web portal Naver, marking a more sophisticated attempt to target users in the South, Seoul’s spy agency said. – Reuters

South Korea sued North Korea on Wednesday for $35 million in compensation for a liaison office that North Korea blew up in 2020, in a case highlighting the breakdown of ties between the neighbours as the North presses on with its weapons programmes. – Reuters

South Korea is pressing to restore a summit with the leaders of China and Japan despite a diplomatic rift that’s led some parliament members of President Yoon Suk Yeol’s party to call for the expulsion of Beijing’s envoy. – Bloomberg


China’s foreign minister put the onus on the U.S. to improve ties between the two global powers in a phone call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, ahead of the top U.S. diplomat’s much-anticipated visit to Beijing. – Wall Street Journal

A senior employee of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) said on Thursday he was advised to flee the country after resigning from the bank in protest over what he alleged was Chinese Communist Party influence. – Reuters

Senior Chinese officials are soliciting advice from business leaders and economists on how to revitalize the economy in a flurry of meetings attendees have characterized as unusually urgent in their tone. – Bloomberg

Various versions of the pro-democracy protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong” were unavailable on Apple’s iTunes Store, Spotify, KKBOX, Facebook and Instagram’s Reels on Wednesday after the government sought an injunction banning the song outright. – Reuters

A self-exiled Chinese businessman awaiting trial in a $1 billion fraud case will remain behind bars after an appeals court on Wednesday rejected his request to override a lower court’s finding that he might flee or harm the community if he were to be freed. – Associated Press

Chinese Premier Li Qiang met with visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday in a drive by Beijing to elevate relations and increase its overall presence in the Middle East. – Associated Press

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates says he is in Beijing, joining a series of foreign business figures who have visited China as the ruling Communist Party tries to revive investor interest in the country. – Associated Press

Rep. Mike Gallagher writes: Together, we must move heaven and earth to put hard power in Mr. Xi’s path when it comes to Taiwan. […]Instead of zombie engagers, we need to be like Solzhenitsyn’s wall: firm, self-assured and resolute in the face of communist China’s growing threat. – Wall Street Journal

Conor M. Savoy writes: Ultimately, the United States will need to adopt a comprehensive strategy to succeed in creating greater supply chain resilience. Economic and strategic tensions with China will likely remain the norm for the coming decade, and the United States will need to continue to reduce its reliance on China’s manufacturing to be successful in this contest. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Howard W. French writes: China and the United States will inevitably compete more and more with each other across all domains and in almost every imaginable geography as the power differential between the two countries narrows. Of each side, this will require making less noise about the supposedly exceptional behavior of the other as the convergence of their efforts grows with each passing year. And the way to make that possible is to keep expanding the list of commonly agreed-upon rules. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

Throngs of supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan have been arrested. Media columnists considered sympathetic to him have been intimidated. Key allies have resigned from his party, saying they had been threatened with criminal charges and arrests. – New York Times

The US and India are likely to agree to jointly manufacture fighter jet engines in the South Asian nation when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Washington next week, a sign of closer military cooperation between the two countries in the face of China’s growing assertiveness. – Bloomberg

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s recently presented budget, a blow for the cash-strapped country which has only two weeks left until its bailout programme expires. – Reuters

India’s government has denied reports of a leak of highly sensitive personal data that experts say could be one of the country’s worst digital security breaches. – Financial Times

Indian authorities are struggling to quell an ethnic conflict in the north-eastern state of Manipur that has killed more than 100 people and displaced more than 50,000, according to activists, as analysts warned that the unrest could destabilise the already volatile border region. – Financial Times

Mihir Sharma writes: Rather than dismissing reports of data leaks as “mischievous” or as evidence that “many interests in the world want to undermine” our digital public infrastructure, we should treat them as a spur to improvement. Only then might India begin to take its rightful place at the forefront of the world’s digital transformation. – Bloomberg

Jeff M. Smith writes: The U.S. should not create a rift with India over a war that New Delhi does not support and is unable to stop. Better to focus on the priority—the Indo–Pacific. – Heritage Foundation


The Pacific island nation of Palau has asked the United States to step up patrols of its waters after several recent incursions by Chinese vessels into its exclusive economic zone, President Surangel Whipps Jr. told Reuters in an interview. – Reuters

Australia said on Thursday it would introduce legislation to parliament to cancel Russia’s lease to build a new embassy in the national capital of Canberra, citing national security. – Reuters

China’s Yadea Group Holdings (1585.HK), one of the world’s biggest electric two-wheeled vehicle makers, plans to invest about $1 billion in a battery factory in the Philippines, the country’s investment promotions agency chief said on Thursday. […]The Philippines, a regional laggard in attracting foreign direct investment, is trying to entice electric vehicle manufacturers and export-oriented industries through tax perks and faster processing of permits. – Reuters

Recent fierce fighting between Myanmar’s army and resistance fighters has killed at least 26 civilians, including six children, in an area east of the capital, according to reports Wednesday by a resident, a rights group and a medical assistance group. – Associated Press

The Kuomintang, the political party that ruled China and then Taiwan for much of the 20th Century, is at risk of losing its position as the island’s main opposition as a relative newcomer cements its position as the second most popular force in domestic politics, a new poll shows. – Bloomberg

New Zealand and Fiji have signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to strengthen defence ties. The agreement is seen as a response to rising tension in the South Pacific. – JANES

The U.S., Japan, Canada and France exercised with two U.S. carriers and a Japanese big deck in the Philippine Sea last week as part of the Indo-Pacific Command’s Large Scale Global Exercise (LSGE) 2023, Japan and the U.S. announced. – USNI News

Joseph Bosco writes: When Sullivan and others comfort themselves with the notion that “there is nothing inevitable about some kind of conflict or cold war between the U.S. and China,” they ignore the reality that we are already in a cold war with China (and its strategic partner, Russia) — and have been for quite some time. As for the likelihood of conflict, unless Washington clearly and firmly declares that further Chinese aggression will make it inevitable, it almost certainly will be. – The Hill

Trisha Curtis and Lewis Libby write: There are many sound reasons for Xi to avoid a war over Taiwan. But as China’s energy resilience strengthens, so does the temptation to start one. The first arrows, at least, may not pierce this Achilles’ heel. – National Review


Germany’s long-delayed first national security strategy was released Wednesday describing Russia as the biggest threat to security in Europe but providing few concrete steps — or new funding — to deal with the emerging defense challenges. – Washington Post

German lawmakers released advance payments of up to 560 million euros on Wednesday ahead of a planned purchase of the Israel-built Arrow-3 missile defence system for almost 4 billion euros ($4.30 billion) in total, a member of the budget committee told Reuters. – Reuters

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is considering a visit to China next month, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tries to repair relations with Beijing. – Bloomberg

Three Kosovo police officers were detained by Serbian forces on Wednesday but officials from Kosovo and Serbia gave different locations for the arrest, accusing each other of crossing the border illegally. The detentions were the latest in a series of developments that have raised tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, sparking fears of renewed violence between the former wartime foes. – Reuters

The Kosovar leader who normalized ties with Israel and opened up Pristina’s embassy in Jerusalem said on Wednesday that his country seeks a “strategic partnership” with Israel. – Times of Israel


Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the Black Sea grain deal with African leaders on June 17, Interfax reported on Wednesday. – Reuters

Fighting rocked several cities in western Sudan on Wednesday in an expansion of the country’s almost two-month-old war as a regional governor was killed after publicly blaming the deaths of civilians on the country’s paramilitary force. – Reuters

South African mobile operator MTN Group (MTNJ.J) said on Wednesday that its Cameroon operations were threatened by the seizure of its bank accounts in the country as part of a dispute in which it plays no part. […]South Africa’s foreign ministry on Tuesday urged company executives to continue pursuing all legal avenues available. “Unfortunately, these latest developments will challenge the extent and appetite for investments into Cameroon,” it said. – Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels allegedly executed scores of villagers and militia members between November and April and buried their bodies in mass graves, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday, accusing Rwanda of backing the group. – Reuters

The conflict in Sudan has displaced more than 2 million people, the United Nations said on Wednesday, as a U.N. official warned that escalating attacks in Darfur city could amount to “crimes against humanity.” – Associated Press

Europe has set an ambitious target of producing 10mn tonnes of renewable-based hydrogen by 2030, and importing the same amount — and, as so many times before, it is looking to Africa to supply the resources it needs. – Financial Times

Elodie Toto writes: Demonstrations in support of Sonko are taking place across the country and will likely last until we know whether Sonko is ineligible for the election, or until Sall renounces his intention to run for a third term. In the meantime, the country’s political structure is becoming less stable. The anger is palpable. All it would take is a spark for this powder keg to ignite and provide an opportunity for terrorists. – Foreign Policy

Latin America

One of Guatemala’s most high-profile journalists was convicted on Wednesday of money laundering and sentenced to up to six years in prison, in a trial denounced by human rights and free speech advocates as another sign of the deteriorating rule of law. – New York Times

The Clooney Foundation for Justice has accused Venezuelan security forces of crimes against humanity against government opponents since 2014 in a lawsuit filed in Argentina on Wednesday. – Reuters

Maria Elvira Salazar and Ken Pope write: As Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., chairman of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party suggests, it’s time to take long overdue actions against the CCP, such as “ending Huawei export licenses, restricting outbound investment in crucial sectors in the PRC, closing the de minimis loop, enhancing research security, and preventing CCP land purchases near military bases.” The administration should take up Congress’ call for action. Let’s hope it’s not too late. – Fox News

North America

Canada is freezing ties with the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) while it probes allegations it is dominated by the Chinese Communist Party, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Just outside the sleepy Cuban village of Bejucal, a winding track, rutted with potholes and losing ground to the jungle, ends at a barbed wire fence. A sign warns: “KEEP OUT, MILITARY ZONE.” What lies beyond remains largely a mystery, though the U.S. government has long suspected that China runs an intelligence gathering operation in this village that once hid Soviet nuclear warheads. – Reuters

Police in a seaside community on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula said Wednesday that two Americans have been found dead in their hotel room. – Associated Press

United States

Republicans in the House and Senate are focusing squarely on the FBI, demanding that the agency make public key documents said to contain whistleblower allegations that President Biden received a $5 million bribe from a “foreign interest” during his time as vice president. This comes as GOP lawmakers accuse the FBI of having, and withholding, more information in its possession than was previously known. – New York Sun

The Biden administration has signaled its intent to rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in order to potentially counter China’s influence over the group, reversing a major Trump-era policy decision. […]Former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from UNESCO, with U.S. envoy Chris Hegadorn citing an anti-Israel bias within the organization and opaque bureaucracy. – Fox News

In the glass-lined corner of a skyscraper just off Market Street, Joe White is trying to pull off one of the newest and trickiest diplomatic jobs in America: the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Silicon Valley. – Politico


Lawmakers in Europe signed off Wednesday on the world’s first set of comprehensive rules for artificial intelligence, clearing a key hurdle as authorities across the globe race to rein in AI. – Associated Press

Short video app TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, said on Thursday it would invest billions of dollars in Southeast Asia over the next few years, as it doubles down on the region amid intensifying global scrutiny over its data security. – Reuters

Estonian authorities are investigating the theft of cryptocurrency from users of the country’s Atomic Wallet service, a police spokesperson said Wednesday. More than $100 million in digital assets were stolen from thousands of users of cryptocurrency service Atomic Wallet by a gang of allegedly North Korean hackers known as “Lazarus,” cryptocurrency analytics firm Elliptic said Tuesday. – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron called Wednesday for boosting the development of artificial intelligence in Europe while putting in place “smart” regulations that don’t impede tech companies’ growth. – Associated Press

European Union regulators hit Google with fresh antitrust charges Wednesday, saying the only way to satisfy competition concerns about its lucrative digital ad business is by selling off parts of the tech giant’s main moneymaker. – Associated Press

A wave of cyberattacks hitting Ukrainian government agencies and information-technology vendors has been traced back to hackers associated with Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, an official with Microsoft said in a blog post. – Defense News

The Federal Communications Commission will launch its first-ever privacy and data protection task force to crack down on SIM swapping and address broader data privacy concerns, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced on Wednesday. – Cyberscoop


House lawmakers want the the U.S. Department of Defense to explore new flight range options for testing long-distance hypersonic systems. A lack of test ranges and other infrastructure is a significant limiting factor in the U.S. Department of Defense’s development of hypersonic systems, which can fly and maneuver at speeds of Mach 5 or higher. Officials want to fly these aircraft and weapons at a more regular cadence but the aircraft and ranges it relies on are in high-demand, limiting major programs to a few flights per year. – Defense News

The US Air Force’s next-generation nuclear missile will reach the fleet in mid-2030, months later than originally planned, as staffing shortfalls, supply chain issues and software challenges persist. – Defense News

Lawmakers would curb the U.S. Army secretary’s travel until the service shows a thorough analysis of alternatives to pursuing a Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, according to a draft of the fiscal 2024 policy bill released this week by the House Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces. – Defense News

Long War

The US military is set to launch a formal investigation into a drone strike in Syria in early May, six weeks after the operation and following reports it killed a civilian rather than a senior al-Qaeda leader as first claimed, three defense officials familiar with the matter told CNN. – CNN

A US soldier pleaded guilty to attempting to advise the Islamic State on how to ambush and kill American soldiers, the US Justice Department announced on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Jessica Moody writes: In this particularly fraught context, drones present yet another military solution to a problem that is unlikely to be resolved solely with upgraded weaponry. While their advanced technologies may help win some battles, they seem more likely to sabotage Sahel states’ efforts in the long run. To effect real change, leaders should opt for a less flashy approach: expanding access to infrastructure, jobs, and education and improving governance and rule of law in their countries. West African states that hope drones will be a shortcut to a better future may find themselves with buyer’s remorse. – Foreign Policy