Fdd's overnight brief

June 22, 2021

In The News


Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi said Monday that he opposes talks on limiting Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its support for regional proxy forces. – Washington Post

There are currently no plans for U.S. President Joe Biden to meet with Iran’s newly elected leader, according to the White House, which downplayed Ebrahim Raisi’s influence. – Reuters

A hardline victory in Iran’s presidential election has tilted the domestic balance of power towards the country’s anti-Western clergy and away from officials chosen by popular vote, a shift Tehran may one day seek to make permanent, six analysts who follow the Islamic Republic’s politics say. – Reuters

Biden administration officials are insisting that the election of a hard-liner as Iran’s president won’t affect prospects for reviving the faltering 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. But there are already signs that their goal of locking in a deal just got tougher. – Associated Press

Editorial: President Biden ought to use the election of Mr. Raisi, an acolyte of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as an opening to maintain sanctions until Iran agrees to a deal that truly restricts its weapons program and terrorist support. Instead he seems bent on repeating the 2015 blunder.Wall Street Journal

Bret Stephens writes: But if long experience in the Middle East has taught us anything, it’s that the region doesn’t easily leave the rest of the world alone. A less-restricted Iran means more regional mayhem. It means Arab states more likely to acquire nuclear capabilities of their own. It means a nervous Israel, more willing to take its chances. Whatever else happens in Vienna, Raisi’s presidency means that the 42-year crisis with Iran is about to get worse. – New York Times

Michael Rubin writes: If diplomats are truly interested in free-and-fair elections, they should deny the supreme leader the legitimacy he so desperately seeks for his revolutionary regime. They should cease pretending the regime’s manufactured elections represent the will of the vast majority of Iranians and cease accepting any statistic not verified by independent observers. Election fraud is not new in the Islamic Republic. It is inherent in the system. It is time to stop pretending otherwise. – 19FortyFive

Borghan Nezami Narajabad writes: With a Raisi win, the U.S. faces pressure to lift the sanctions against him in the interest of facilitating a resumption of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. That would be a devastating political development empowering the Islamic Republic in its pursuit of regional hegemony. The repeal of Raisi’s designation would also be personally painful for many Iranian Americans like me. I hold him responsible for the death of thousands of political dissidents, including my uncle. – NBC News


The United States will seek to extradite a Turkish businessman from Austria so he can appear before a U.S. judge in Utah, where he is facing charges of conspiring to commit money laundering and wire fraud, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday. – Reuters

Turkey’s top court agreed Monday to hear the government’s case for outlawing the leading pro-Kurdish political party, a move that would weaken a significant foe of the increasingly vulnerable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. – Bloomberg

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Turkey and the United States are entering a “new era” in ties, after the NATO allies’ relationship deteriorated in recent years over an array of issues. – Associated Press

Stefan Simanowitz writes: As the Task Force meets in Paris, it must do more than acknowledge that Turkey has exploited FATF standards. It must act to reverse their new law. Blatant disregard for the FATF process and for international human rights law cannot be accepted. If the Task Force fails to make this clear, there is a danger that it would allow the continuation of dangerous precedents that will be eyed keenly by would-be authoritarian governments around the world. – Newsweek


Israel’s top diplomat will travel to the United Arab Emirates next week in the first official visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf state since the two countries established diplomatic relations last year. – Reuters

Palestinians and Jewish settlers hurled stones, chairs and fireworks at each other overnight in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood where settler groups are trying to evict several Palestinian families, officials said Tuesday. – Associated Press

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi warned American officials against rejoining the Iranian nuclear deal while in Washington to discuss the threat posed by Tehran’s nuclear program. – Jerusalem Post

The new government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett passed a hurdle on Monday when it defeated the opposition’s first motions of no-confidence by votes of 60-49 and 59-50. – Jerusalem Post

Israel has informed Hamas that the Palestinian Authority should be responsible for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and the delivery of Qatari cash grants. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas plans to escalate tensions with Israel unless it allows Qatar to transfer $30 million to the Gaza Strip to help pay salaries, KAN News reported on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics charged Monday that he misled the public when he accused Israel’s new government of surrendering to American demands to not surprise the Biden administration on steps Israel takes to prevent the nuclearization of Iran. – Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hopes to go back to a “no surprises, no daylight” relationship with Washington, despite disagreements on the likely US return to the Iran nuclear deal. – Jerusalem Post

The recent Hamas-Israel conflict brought into focus the years-long close relationship between Hamas and Iran. During the operation, Hamas leaders were in constant contact with Iranian officials, and each side fulsomely praised the other. Both stressed Iran’s contribution to the development of Hamas’ military capabilities. As part of its achievements in the conflict, Hamas sought also to revive its relations with the Syrian regime, that had been disrupted with the outbreak of the civil war there in 2011 following the organization’s alignment with the Syrian opposition and criticism of the regime’s violent repression of the protests. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Hillel Frisch writes: Israel’s relatively short history is full of evidence that concessions to implacable enemies lead to violence and increased costs in terms of human life and property, while holding firm leads to calm. […]Israel is now governed by representatives of this elite. The question is whether new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister-designate Yair Lapid will be guided by the veracity of the costs of making concessions and the benefits of holding firm, or will impose the inevitable costs of believing that concessions are the answer in a violence-prone Middle East. – Algemeiner

Boris Zilberman writes: Plans are being devised in Geneva to appease the Iranian regime and unclog economic pipelines for unscrupulous European businesses. […]The Abraham Accords created peace, and the promise of prosperity and cooperation between Arab states and the Jewish state. The Accords might also be the backbone of a united regional approach to Iran – but only if its members are allowed a seat at the table. – Haaretz


The United States is in talks with some of the key actors in Libya over the withdrawal of foreign forces ahead of elections planned for December, Washington’s top Libya envoy said on Monday. – Reuters

The EU has warned that anyone judged to be delaying elections in Libya beyond the planned date of 24 December will be at risk of sanctions, ahead of an important meeting of foreign ministers intended to tighten the screw on those obstructing either elections or the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. – The Guardian

Ben Fishman and Anas El Gomati write: Berlin II presents a much-needed opportunity to push forward on two of Libya’s most-pressing questions: how to proceed with elections, and how to reduce the presence of foreign forces. […]The sooner Secretary Blinken begins these hard conversations with the UN and his bilateral counterparts, the sooner Libya will see meaningful withdrawals, the arrival of ceasefire monitors, and timely elections. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

A public rift between Jordan’s King Abdullah II and his younger half-brother entered a new stage, as two of the prince’s alleged co-conspirators appeared in court for the first time to face charges of sedition over their involvement in a purported plot to replace the monarch. – Wall Street Journal

Britain’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is helping to take on the “lion’s share” of operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq, U.K. naval commanders said. It has also piqued the interest of Russian warplanes, who try to keep tabs on its cutting-edge F-35 jet in a “cat-and-mouse” game with British and U.S. pilots. – Associated Press

Demonstrators blocked a highway connecting Lebanon and Syria on Monday with burned tires and metal bars, protesting a decision by Lebanese authorities aimed at curbing smuggling into Syria, Lebanon’s official news agency reported. – Associated Press

Syrian government forces and insurgent groups exchanged shell fire in northwestern Syria on Monday that killed at least 10 people, the vast majority of them in rebel-held areas, state media and opposition activists said. – Associated Press

Yemen’s warring parties are thrashing out terms for a peace deal that would extricate Saudi Arabia from a costly war and help alleviate a devastating humanitarian crisis, two sources close to the talks and a Houthi official said. – Reuters

Iraqi militants linked to entrenched political parties have killed and kidnapped scores of political activists, analysts say, creating a climate of fear before parliamentary elections in October. – Financial Times

Nisreen Al-Zaraee and Karam Shaar write: It is important to emphasise that HTS control over NW Syria’s economy is still a work in progress and is not restricted to certain sectors or areas; it is an extensive network of partners and associates controlling most aspects of trade and economic activity in Idlib and western Aleppo. The extent to which this network will continue to evolve is governed by political and military developments in NW Syria, particularly Turkey’s tolerance of the group and its activities. – Middle East Institute


The Wuhan lab has drawn global scrutiny because of its research on bat coronaviruses in the city where the pandemic began. […]A review of the lab’s public records and internal guidelines reveals the existence of unspecified classified projects and discussion of the lab’s responsibilities under China’s state secrets law. – Washington Post

The top United Nations human rights official said on Monday she hoped to agree on terms for a visit this year to China, including its Xinjiang region, to look into reports of serious violations against Muslim Uyghurs. – Reuters

When it comes to the intensifying rivalry between the United States and China, the sky is by no means the limit. As the two countries jockey for economic, technological, geopolitical and even ideological superiority on Earth, space has become a natural extension — and crucial frontier — in their great power competition. – CNN

China’s central bank warned several of its largest state-owned banks and Jack Ma’s Alipay to “investigate and identify” bank accounts facilitating cryptocurrency trading and block all corresponding transactions, in Beijing’s latest move against Bitcoin. – Financial Times

Rumors that China’s top counterintelligence official had defected to the United States last February reached fever pitch over the weekend, propelled largely by unfounded reports in anticommunist and pro-Trump circles that Dong had brought with him evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic had originated in a leak from a virology lab in Wuhan, not from an animal source. – The Daily Beast

Robert Barnett writes: China’s resort to hardball diplomacy with Bhutan is thus not primarily about territorial acquisition. […]These actions represent the use by China of tactical provocation, an approach to statecraft that sees conflictual acts as productive ways to push opponents to overreact or to reveal their hands. It is a tool that China appears likely to use increasingly to promote its interests. It is an approach to diplomacy that the international community might not welcome, but one that it might need increasingly to study and address. – Washington Post

Gideon Rachman writes: In the case of China, American “permission” has now been withdrawn. The US is restricting Chinese access to certain advanced technologies and is organising its allies to push back against Beijing. In this new geopolitical environment, Xi really does need to find a new “China model” — distinct from the east Asian model — if the rise of China is to continue uninterrupted. – Financial Times


As U.S. and NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan, and talks falter between the Taliban and the American-backed government, ethnic groups across the country have formed militias or say they plan to arm themselves. The rush to raise fighters and weapons evokes the mujahedeen wars of the early 1990s, when rival militias killed thousands of civilians and left sections of Kabul in ruins. – New York Times

Taliban fighters took control of a key district in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province Monday and encircled the provincial capital, police said, as the insurgent group added to its recent battlefield victories while peace talks have stalemated. – Associated Press

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is in the Indian Ocean as it heads to the Middle East to help provide support for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. – USNI News

Frazad Ramezani Bonesh and Zahra Darbandsari write: The future of Turkey’s role in Afghanistan depends on a number of internal variables, most importantly the structure of Kabul’s government. […]Although some welcome Turkey’s greater presence and role in the country, and the increase of Turkey’s economic and mediator role in Afghanistan, there is a wider opposition to Turkey’s military presence. It can be assumed that Turkey will play a greater economic, diplomatic and political role in Afghanistan in the future, but this role may never go beyond military aspirations. – Newsweek

Richard Olson writes: The current regional situation resembles the classic game theory heuristic, the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Each individual state, including the United States, is tempted to look after its own security interests by backing a particular Afghan faction. Yet everyone would be better off by seeking a cooperative solution. There is little time left to recognize this dynamic and act on it. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Neville Teller writes: In disengaging from Afghanistan, the Western alliance is tacitly acknowledging that its involvement and its efforts have failed. […]Yet the extreme Islamist Taliban are currently occupying a large area of the country and, heavily armed, seem poised to defeat the government and take control of the nation. The 3,500 American lives and the $2.26 trillion expenditure seem an inordinately heavy price to have paid for so little gain. – Jerusalem Post

Emil Avdaliani writes: China has close, near-strategic ties with Russia, Pakistan, and Iran, and might create a quartet to deal with the issue. It might seek more fundamental cooperation with the Taliban, but, as argued above, only within the framework of economic and security patterns benefiting the quartet and China in particular. – Algemeiner

Lynne O’Donnell writes: As Afghanistan’s armed forces cede and regain ground in the searing summer offensive against the Taliban, they are losing a propaganda war that is affecting the morale of a fearful population waiting for reassurance that the insurgents won’t overrun their country. – Foreign Policy


North Korea said on Tuesday that the United States would face a great “disappointment” if it expected a quick resumption of  talks about its nuclear weapons program, offering a blow to a Biden administration envoy who had proposed a new round of negotiations. – Washington Post

The publisher of the popular pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper said it may cease publishing after authorities froze its assets and charged senior executives including its top editor under the national-security law. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union on Monday imposed a third round of sanctions on Myanmar officials and state companies over the military coup on Feb. 1 that overthrew elected leader Aung Suu Kyi and sent the country tumbling into chaos. – Reuters

Myanmar security forces backed by armoured vehicles clashed on Tuesday with a newly formed militia group in the second-biggest city of Mandalay, according to social media posts from the group and media reports. – Reuters

Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal upheld on Tuesday a court decision to deny a trial by jury to the first person charged under a new national security law, a landmark decision that marks a departure from the global financial hub’s common law tradition. – Reuters

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam hit back on Tuesday against criticism of authorities’ actions against pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily as attempts to “beautify” acts that endangered national security. – Reuters

Lawyers for Myanmar’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said Monday she told them some of the testimony against her was wrong in her trial on criminal charges that could send her to prison and end her political career. – Associated Press

The U.N.’s top human rights body opened its latest session on Monday and was immediately embroiled in a debate over the representation of Myanmar, where a military takeover toppled the civilian government in February. – Associated Press

Imran Khan writes: The interests of Pakistan and the United States in Afghanistan are the same.  […]I believe that promoting economic connectivity and regional trade is the key to lasting peace and security in Afghanistan. Further military action is futile. If we share this responsibility, Afghanistan, once synonymous with the “Great Game” and regional rivalries, could instead emerge as a model of regional cooperation. – Washington Post

Matthew Brooker writes: All this is bound to inflict collateral damage on Hong Kong’s status as a financial center, which depends crucially on the free flow of information, as Mark Simon, a top adviser to Lai, pointed out to Bloomberg News. While much of Apple Daily’s content is celebrity gossip, it also boasts aggressive, investigative business coverage that has a following in the financial community. – Bloomberg


The Kremlin said on Monday it did not expect the United States to stop trying to “contain” Russia after a summit of their leaders, and that it was important for the two powers to be pragmatic amid talk of new U.S. sanctions. – Reuters

A Russian man who worked at a German university has been arrested on suspicion of espionage for allegedly passing information to Russian intelligence, German prosecutors said Monday. – Associated Press

Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, and Myanmar’s junta leader committed to further strengthening security and other ties between the two countries at a Moscow meeting on Monday. – Reuters

The tracking data of two NATO warships was faked off the coast of a Russian controlled naval base in the Black Sea while the actual ships were moored 180 miles away, USNI News has learned. – USNI News

Katrina Manson writes: Despite potential for the temperature to rise, few experts expect a fundamental shift. […]On his European tour, the US president tried to do just that: he spoke about Russia’s need to be seen as an international player. He said Moscow risked being squeezed by China. But convincing Putin of it may be the hardest task of all. – Financial Times


The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada announced new sanctions on Belarusian officials on Monday, four weeks after the country’s strongman leader forced down a commercial airliner and arrested a dissident journalist who was a passenger onboard. – Washington Post

After winning elections by railing against widely disliked elites, right-wing populists on Europe’s formerly communist eastern flank, it turns out, are themselves not much liked. That is due in large part to unpopular coronavirus lockdowns, and, like other leaders no matter their political complexion, their stumbling responses to the health crisis. But they are also under pressure from growing fatigue with their divisive tactics. – New York Times

Swedish centre-left Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament on Monday, leaving him to decide whether to call a snap election or resign to hand the speaker the job of finding a new government. – Reuters

The U.K. formally started negotiations to join an 11-nation trans-Pacific trading bloc, part of its bid to diversify its commerce post-Brexit. – Bloomberg

William Reinsch writes: Last week was Europe week, and between the G7 meeting and the U.S.-EU Summit, the United States and the European Union managed to roll out four agreements: on digital and corporate taxation, the Boeing-Airbus dispute, steel and aluminum tariffs, and a new Trade and Technology Council. This was a balanced outcome—the first and last were instigated by the European Union and the second and third by the United States. I am optimistic about the first one, not so much about the others. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The U.N. rights chief said on Monday she was “deeply disturbed” by reports of continued violations including executions in Ethiopia’s Tigray region,and added that a long-awaited joint investigation should be ready by August. – Reuters

A suicide bomber in a car attacked a French reconnaissance mission in central Mali on Monday, wounding six of the soldiers and four residents, the French army said. – Reuters

Hassan John writes: Ignoring this genocide could hurt the West in a big way. While the Biden administration seeks to wean the United States from fossil fuels, civil war in Nigeria could lead to sharply higher prices at the pump while the U.S. is still a long way from having reliable alternatives. […]Like Sudan, Nigeria is dangerously at the brink of breakup, and this new conflict between Christians and radical Islamists could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. – Newsweek

The Americas

While many of the thousands of demonstrations that have roiled Colombia over the last two months have been peaceful, security forces have responded to some with force. The government ombudsman reported 548 human rights violations through June 7, and 20 deaths. Now protesters and human rights advocates say they’re seeing the revival of another familiar tactic from Colombia’s long civil conflict: disappearances. – Washington Post

Nicaragua police announced late Monday they had placed former first lady María Fernanda Flores Lanzas, wife of ex-President Arnoldo Aleman, under house arrest for alleged crimes against the state. – Associated Press

Mexico and Argentina are recalling their ambassadors to Nicaragua to discuss the “concerning” situation there after the government broadened its crackdown against opposition figures, according to a joint statement on Monday. – Reuters

A U.S. Senate committee’s vote on the repeal of the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that allowed the war in Iraq was delayed for at least a day, as five Republicans on Monday requested a public hearing and classified briefing. – Reuters

A judge in Lima rejected a request from prosecutors to send Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori to jail for violation of bail conditions. – Bloomberg

Nicaraguan police arrested journalist and presidential hopeful Miguel Mora on terrorism charges in a broadening crackdown on government opposition ahead of a November election. – Bloomberg

U.S.-Based Palestinian professor Mohamed Rabie said that the Jews, mostly the Zionists, control American media and bribe politicians on both sides. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Sada Al-Balad TV (Egypt) on May 27, 2021. Professor Rabie said this why “they take all that money from Congress, and they turned the American people ignorant.” He explained that American people are ignorant and uneducated and added that only 100-150 universities produce “good graduates.” – Middle East Media Research Institute


“It is the position of the U.S. government that we strongly discourage the payment of ransoms,” Eric Goldstein, a top cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security, told a congressional hearing last week. – Associated Press

Germany’s antitrust watchdog has launched a probe into whether Apple has established market dominance through its “digital ecosystem”, making it the fourth US tech giant the agency has targeted this year. – Financial Times

Maria Koomen writes: This is a subject too important to leave to any one country. The U.S. and EU should now unite to tackle shared criminal problems and agree common solutions. This should extend beyond ad hoc alliances for criminal investigations, like the Trojan Shield sting, to broader issues through a multi stakeholder deliberation process. Such an initiative would allow multi-disciplinary, cross-sectoral groups to challenge the constricted framing to which encryption technology is being relegated. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The Pentagon’s No. 2 official has ordered 11 missile interceptors transferred from research and development for possible deployment on Navy ships in the Pacific or European regions after a test in November indicated they could stop an intercontinental ballistic missile. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Navy conducted the first of three in-water blasts near first-in-class aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford, kicking off the full-ship shock trials process on a nuclear-powered flattop for the first time in 34 years. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is planning to field its first mobile medium-range missile battery no later than September 2023 with three more batteries to follow, according to FY22 budget justification documents. – Defense News

Tom Rogan writes: The most sensible way for the Navy to address this challenge would be to move away from aircraft carriers entirely. The saved resources would be far better invested in a scaled-up array of undersea, unmanned, and more mobile assets. The alternative is a growing risk, far greater than commonly assumed, that we might one day soon see a far less enjoyable video of the Ford. This time, a video of its flight deck aflame, 6,000 Americans in great peril, and wartime defeat a real possibility. – Washington Examiner