Fdd's overnight brief

June 25, 2021

In The News


Indirect U.S. negotiations with Iran over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal cannot go on “indefinitely”without success, a senior State Department official said following the completion in Vienna of a sixth round of talks. – Washington Post

Washington may need to rethink its approach to Iran if the serious differences between the two countries on resuming compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal cannot be resolved “in the foreseeable future”, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Canada said on Thursday it had found no evidence that Iran’s downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane last year had been premeditated, and condemned what it called the incompetence and recklessness of those responsible. – Reuters 

Iran criticised as “highly politicised” on Friday a report by a special Canadian forensic team that accused the country of incompetence and recklessness over the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane last year. – Reuters 

President Joe Biden’s expected revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement will enable Iranian oil barrels to reach the global market when prices are at their highest level in two years due to demand recovery from the pandemic. – Washington Examiner

Iranian sources said on Wednesday that a facility in Karaj was targeted by a quadcopter-style drone. Iran says it shot down the drone. The alleged target was a complex run by Tehran’s Atomic Energy Organization. The Jerusalem Post reported that the sabotage caused major damage. The New York Times also reported that the attack targeted production of centrifuges. – Jerusalem Post

Some major events have happened in the last week of the nuclear standoff between Iran, the US and the world powers, which give some additional insights into what to expect next. – Jerusalem Post

It would be foolish for the Biden administration to return to the Iran nuclear deal when it can see the Islamic Republic was able to unwind from the nuclear limitations in a mere matter of months, former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has told The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for the first time on Thursday publicly presented the shift on Iran policy from the previous government, saying that Israel will work closely with its allies on countering Tehran’s nuclear program, while maintaining a credible military threat. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian officials told the New York Times on Wednesday that the attack on a facility belonging to Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency was carried out by a small quadcopter drone. […]While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, the centrifuge factory, known as the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company, or TESA, was on a list of targets that Israel presented to the Trump administration early last year, according to officials. – Arutz Sheva

Amotz Asa-El writes: Israel should initiate and also preempt, but only tactically; derail whatever it is the mullahs are plotting about us, bomb their Syrian outposts, sting their nuclear operation, but avoid the grand attack. That attack should come not from without, but from within, and not from the air, but from below, and it should be waged not by foreigners, but by the great Persian people whom the ayatollahs have so thoroughly disempowered, dispossessed and dishonored, and now so justly fear. – Jerusalem Post


Israel said on Thursday it would ease restrictions on trade and fisheries in the Gaza Strip that had been tightened during 11 days of fighting with the Palestinian enclave’s Hamas rulers last month. – Reuters 

Honduras officially moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on Thursday in the presence of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and visiting Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández. – Times of Israel

The United Nations on Thursday accused Israel of flagrantly violating international law by expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying settlements are illegal and urging the country’s new government to halt their enlargement immediately. – Associated Press

The truce between Israel and Hamas remains very shaky, the United Nations’ senior Middle East envoy told the Security Council days after the Palestinians warned that Gaza violence could be renewed. – Jerusalem Post

The US added its voice to calls for an investigation into the death of a prominent critic of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who died in Palestinian Authority custody Thursday, as an autopsy showed that his death was not from natural causes. – Associated Press

The Palestinian Authority (PA) “foreign affairs ministry” on Thursday strongly condemned the relocation of the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem, calling it a “blatant violation of international law and clear UN decisions regarding the holy city and its legal and political status.” – Arutz Sheva

The Biden administration is walking back the United States’ historic recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights region along Israel’s northern border, a significant blow to the Jewish state and one of the Trump administration’s signature foreign policy decisions. – Washington Free Beacon

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appears to hint at Israel’s role in a recent attack on an Iranian nuclear site, during a speech at a graduation ceremony for Israeli Air Force pilots. – Times of Israel

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: The attack at Karaj may also have been a message to Raisi that he should not get overconfident. […]Bennett will still need to prove himself in a variety of ways on the international stage – and no doubt he will have a learning curve on some issues as compared to Netanyahu. But, if this attack was carried out by Israel, Bennett just showed that he is willing and able to act boldly. – Jerusalem Post

Yaakov Katz writes: The critical question no one yet has an answer to is how long the Biden administration will be willing to take all of this into consideration in their desire to advance a new vision for the Middle East. In other words, at what point will their desire to keep Bibi in the opposition give way to other regional aspirations? – Jerusalem Post

Dr. Nimrod Green writes: Netanyahu played a key role in reaching the agreements and signing them, but his conduct in the ensuing months made it increasingly difficult to realize their tremendous potential. Netanyahu was hardly the sole architect of the normalization though. […]Trump and Netanyahu certainly did their part, but the move was far bigger than them. – Middle East Institute 


The United States on Thursday called on the international community, especially regional countries, to fulfill their pledges to increase funding for humanitarian assistance to Yemen and warned that aid programs could otherwise be forced to close. – Reuters 

Clashes between brigades of the main southern separatist movement in Yemen killed two fighters and wounded 15 people, including civilians, in the port city of Aden, security sources said on Thursday. – Reuters

A U.N. official said on Thursday as many as 300 migrants may have died in a recent capsizing of a boat off Yemen’s coast. United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator David Gressly gave no details but appeared to be referring to an incident in which bodies washed up at Ras al-Arah on Yemen’s Red Sea coast this month after a migrant boat sank offshore. – Reuters

Gulf States

Bahrain is ready to work on Qatar’s ambition to gain control of its own airspace, a government spokesperson said, in a sign of a rapprochement between the two estranged states. – Reuters

Oman’s foreign minister told his Israeli counterpart he hopes Israel’s new government will take concrete steps towards creating an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, Omani state media said on Thursday. – Reuters

Ayat Mudhafar Noori writes: In Iraq’s male-oriented society, it is critical that women receive the political agency necessary to improve their situations. […]While real barriers will certainly continue to exist, even in the case that these reforms are enacted, it is critical to initiate momentum in this process. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad resigned on Thursday, opening the door for President  Abdelmadjid Tebboune to name a new cabinet, state TV said. – Reuters 

Cyprus wants the European Union’s border agency Frontex to step in and prevent the flow of migrant arrivals from Turkey that authorities say have stretched the eastern Mediterranean island nation’s asylum system to its limits. – Associated Press

As the U.S. prepares to exit Afghanistan’s sprawling Bagram base after 20 years of war, NATO partner Turkey is willing to take the lead securing another airstrip — Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International, 65 kilometers (40 miles) to the south. – Bloomberg 

Tukey’s opposition leader told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to not get involved with the withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO troops from Afghanistan, and to instead let the U.S. “pick up the pieces.” – Newsweek


The Biden administration banned the import of solar panels and other goods made with materials produced by a Chinese company that it accused of using forced laborers from China’s Xinjiang region, a move likely to complicate the U.S. push toward clean energy. – Washington Post

Holding umbrellas to shield themselves against a summer rain, supporters steadily streamed into the area around the dated green-and-white complex that houses the Apple Daily newsroom. – Washington Post

China’s sweeping ban on cryptocurrency mining has paralysed an industry that accounts for over half of global bitcoin production, as miners dump machines in despair or seek refuge in places such as Texas or Kazakhstan. – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday called the closure of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily tabloid a “sad day for media freedom” and said it signaled “intensifying repression” by China, while vowing to maintain support for the people of the Chinese-ruled territory. – Reuters 

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China remains deeply committed to United Nations peacekeeping efforts, where more than 2,400 Chinese troops and police are serving — a contribution that underscores China’s increasing prominence in the world body. – Associated Press

Nato’s most senior military officer has highlighted the “shocking” speed of China’s military modernisation and warned of its growing diplomatic presence overseas, as the alliance prepares to take a more assertive stance towards Beijing. – Financial Times

Pentagon employee under investigation for penning op-eds in a Communist Party newspaper has written an open letter to Joe Biden warning against “entangling America in a major war with China” over Taiwan. – Newsweek

China’s growth “cannot be stopped by anyone,” a Chinese official declared on Thursday as he warned the United States against any further contact with Taiwan. – Newsweek

Editorial: Dr. Bloom says it “seems likely the sequences were deleted to obscure their existence.” […]It has steadfastly denied that any kind of laboratory accident contributed to the pandemic and repeatedly suggested that the origins are outside its borders. Dr. Bloom’s discovery just adds to the pile of questions about whether China is hiding something. It is time to launch a serious, sustained investigation. – Washington Post

Editorial: China is a rapidly expanding global economy with major expertise in many fields and China is hungry for Israel’s technology. Much of this can lead to positive relations with Beijing that won’t come under the focus of the US. But there are other fields, such as aerospace or defense companies or strategic ports, that will be of importance, and Israel’s leadership needs to keep an eye on those issues and not naively blunder into the US-China struggle. – Jerusalem Post

Jon Sindreu writes: Ultimately, the best way to fight China may be to imitate it. Western firms and policy makers could opt to give each others’ governments space to invest in their own research and supply chains. If Airbus’ rise and the pointless trade battle that followed proves anything, it is that this often leads to a better market for consumers. – Wall Street Journal

Josh Rogin writes: The issue won’t go away. Now that Americans are aware of these atrocities, they won’t want to be complicit in them by buying the resulting cotton or solar panels. But that’s just the beginning. There’s more work to be done. We are going to need more sanctions, not fewer, to be able to honestly say we attempted to stop a genocide. – Washington Post


The Biden administration plans to deliver three million doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine next week to Afghanistan, which is battling its deadliest wave of the pandemic amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation. – Wall Street Journal

Just a few miles north of the Afghan capital, a sleepy village of apple and grape orchards sprang to attention this week. Old rifles were brought out from closets and several hundred men gathered excitedly on the main street, hoisting their battered weapons and raising war whoops for the news cameras. – Washington Post

President Joe Biden vowed on Thursday that Afghans who helped the U.S. military “are not going to be left behind” as his administration stepped up planning to evacuate thousands of Afghan interpreters while their applications for U.S. entry are processed. – Associated Press

In recent days, the Taliban have made quick gains in Afghanistan’s north, overrunning multiple districts, some of them reportedly with hardly a fight, even as the U.S. and NATO press forward with their final withdrawal from Afghanistan. – Associated Press

Roughly 650 U.S. troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main American military force completes its withdrawal, which is set to be largely done in the next two weeks, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Thursday. – Associated Press

In recent days, the U.S. has completed more than half the troop withdrawal, and the Taliban have seized dozens of Afghan districts amid warnings that the government in Kabul could fall in a matter of months once the U.S. leaves. Military leaders also are warning that terrorist groups such as al-Qaida could regroup in Afghanistan within two years. – Politico

U.S. President Joe Biden meets Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his former political foe, Abdullah Abdullah, on Friday to discuss Washington’s support for Afghanistan as the last U.S. troops pack up after 20 years of war and government forces struggle to repel Taliban advances. – Reuters

Editorial: A Pentagon spokesman said this week that the pace of the retreat could change but that all U.S. forces would be gone by September. By completing the withdrawal that Donald Trump started, Mr. Biden shares responsibility for the bloody consequences. – Wall Street Journal


South Asia

Assailants ambushed security forces patrolling a remote district in southwestern Pakistan, killing five of them before fleeing the scene, the military said Friday. – Associated Press

Indian police have arrested four suspects in a January bombing outside the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, Israeli news site N12 reported Thursday. The bomb, which was relatively small, caused minor damage and no injuries. Both Indian and Israeli authorities almost immediately concluded it was a terrorist attack. – Algemeiner

The U.S. Navy carried out a high-tempo exercise this week in the Indian Ocean involving the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group along with the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force. – USNI News

A top lobby group that is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes India’s proposed new e-commerce rules are a cause for concern and will lead to a stringent operating environment for companies, according to an email reviewed by Reuters. – Reuters


A Chilean woman living in Australia and accused of multiple kidnappings during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet must be extradited to face the charges in her home country, an Australian federal judge ruled Thursday. – Washington Post

China on Friday approved the promotion of Hong Kong’s security secretary John Lee to chief secretary, while police chief Chris Tang will take Lee’s position in what critics say will further tighten Beijing’s security squeeze on the global financial hub. – Reuters 

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the security of Taiwan was directly linked with that of Japan, as tensions around the island build up and its defenses are increasingly overshadowed by China’s military might. – Bloomberg 

North Korea has been hit by sharp swings in currency and food prices as economic pressures stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic and international sanctions create new risks for Kim Jong Un. – Financial Times

Henry Olsen writes: China’s reneging on the promises it made to Hong Kongers that they could keep their democratic freedoms is only one of the obvious examples of the Communist Party’s perfidy — a perfidy that is financed by American dollars. Hong Kong’s freedom is being snuffed out. It is against our values and our interests to remain a bystander. – Washington Post

Wallace C. Gregson writes: North Korea may have few of the sovereign state attributes generally considered necessary for stability.  Yet North Korea’s continued stable existence and its growing threat to neighbors in the region and beyond continue to grow. […]What we think we know of North Korea indicates no likelihood of change.  But we were wrong about the Soviet Union in the 90s. – The National Interest


Western powers have imposed sanctions. Neighboring countries have implored the military to restore democracy. More than 200 human rights groups have called for an arms embargo. And last week, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a blunt rebuke aimed at isolating the generals. The diplomatic pressure has done little to change the situation in Myanmar. – New York Times

Myanmar security forces seized a large cache of weapons on a truck bound for Mandalay this week, after arresting insurgents following a firefight in the country’s second-biggest city, state media reported on Friday. – Reuters 

The United States said the international community should be “concerned” about arms sales to the military junta in Myanmar without mentioning any suppliers by name. – Washington Examiner 

Charles Crabtree writes: Given this resistance from Hlaing, Japan should assume a bridging role to the military junta and use its special relationship with Tatmadaw officials to draw Hlaing to a U.N.-led peace initiative. […]This option would not heavily strain Japan-Myanmar relations, and potentially might end the brutal attacks on the civil disobedience movement. – The Hill


Russia is prepared to target intruding warships if they fail to heed warnings, a senior Russian diplomat declared Thursday after a Black Sea incident in which a British destroyer sailed near Crimea in an area that Russia claims as its territorial waters. – Associated Press

Russia on Friday accused Britain and the United States of trying to incite conflict in the Black Sea and said it would defend its borders by all possible means, including with its military, RIA cited Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. – Reuters

Editorial: Yet Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, was unmoved. He claimed that the U.N. corridor was being used “for the benefit of terrorists holed up in Idlib” and that shipments from Assad-controlled territory were “the only legitimate way of delivering humanitarian assistance.” If Russia sticks to that position through the next two weeks, Mr. Biden will have his answer about Mr. Putin. – Washington Post

Phill Kline writes: It’s not enough simply to tell Putin that there are certain lines he should not cross. It’s also necessary to outline the consequences he will face if he crosses those lines and be prepared to follow through on those consequences if necessary. […]Time and again, Putin has sat patiently and listened while world leaders harangue him over his latest transgression, then proceeded to get his way anyhow through pure power politics. – Washington Examiner


European leaders rebuffed a proposal from Germany and France to hold formal talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, following President Biden’s summit with him last week. – Wall Street Journal 

When the British destroyer H.M.S. Defender sailed near the coast of Crimea on Wednesday, it was supposed to be quietly demonstrating that the waters legally belonged to Ukraine despite Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula seven years ago, which has never been recognized internationally. To Russia, however, which claims those waters as part of its territory, the ship’s course was an intolerable provocation. – New York Times

European Union leaders clashed with Hungary’s prime minister during a heated summit Thursday over new legislation in his country that will ban showing content about LGBT issues to children, a measure that has been widely criticized across the region and has angered human rights groups. – Associated Press

Belarus has moved opposition blogger Roman Protasevich, who was arrested in May after the grounding of a Ryanair plane in Minsk, from a detention facility to house arrest, the BBC Russian service reported on Friday. – Reuters 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Thursday that Hungary should not be part of the EU because of its new law banning LGBT content in schools. – Agence France-Presse

The European Union on Thursday imposed sanctions on key sectors of the Belarus economy, ratcheting up pressure on the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko after the forced landing of an airliner. – Agence France-Presse

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday defended the route taken by a Royal Navy destroyer through Black Sea waters claimed by Russia after it purportedly came under warning fire. – Agence France-Presse

Russian-imposed authorities in Ukraine’s Crimea have arrested a man on charges of spying for Kyiv, the second person detained for alleged espionage on the peninsula since April. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called new Polish legislation that would bar Holocaust restitution claims in the country “immoral” and suggested it would damage Polish-Israeli ties. – Times of Israel


A massacre in northeast Burkina Faso in which more than 130 people were killed this month was carried out mostly by children between the ages of 12 and 14, the United Nations and the government said. – Reuters

Only combatants, not civilians, were struck in an air strike this week in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the country’s military spokesman said on Thursday. – Reuters  

An Italian appeals court on Thursday overturned jail sentences handed down to Nigerian Emeka Obi and Italian Gianluca Di Nardo for their part in a graft case involving Eni (ENI.MI) and Shell (RDSa.L) in Nigeria. – Reuters

United States

President Joe Biden has set out on an ambitious mission to rebuild the United States both in image and infrastructure, a goal he’s pegged not only to the country’s own needs but one tied to a fierce race with China for 21st-century global leadership. – Newsweek

The United States and Germany launched a new initiative Thursday to stem an alarming rise in antisemitism and Holocaust denial around the world. – Associated Press

Amid a recent rise in antisemitic incidents on college campuses across the United States, a joint guide from a leading US Jewish organization and two college campus safety groups gives universities new advice in the fight against hate crimes. – Algemeiner

A bipartisan group of 55 House members has introduced the Hamas International Financing Prevention Act that seeks “to impose financial sanctions on foreign persons, agencies, and governments that assist Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or their affiliates.” – Jerusalem Post

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to take up a bipartisan measure to repeal the 2002 and 1991 war authorizations for Iraq in mid-July, the panel’s chairman confirmed Thursday. – Defense News


Britain’s competition regulator on Friday opened a formal investigation into Amazon (AMZN.O) and Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) over concerns the tech giants have not done enough to combat fake reviews on their sites. – Reuters 

The House Judiciary Committee advanced its most aggressive proposal for restraining Silicon Valley’s behemoths Thursday, voting for a bill that would make it easier to break up companies like Facebook and Google. – Politico 

The National Security Agency has released a brand-new tool to help cyber warriors understand, communicate, and choose defensive measures to stop cyberattacks. – Breaking Defense


Since the Obama administration, the Army has been developing technology for long-range strikes, an effort that has been anything but an “improper budget grab,” Thomas Karako of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said during an Association of the U.S. Army discussion on the service’s role in the Pacific. – USNI News

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten has signed four new Strategic Directives’ that set top-level, joint requirements for All Domain Operations. It’s a first step in implementing the new Joint Warfighting Concept (JWC) defining how the US will fight future wars. – Breaking Defense

Kris Osborn writes: A close look at the Air Force budget seems to indicate that, despite the false criticisms, strange hesitation, and debate surrounding the F-35, the service is accelerating its transition from a largely 4th-generation force of fighters to 5th and eventually 6th-generation aircraft. […]All of these maneuvers seem to illustrate a larger fleet configuration transformation wherein the Air Force is trying to migrate its fighter force more fully toward the F-35, despite the odd and unfounded criticisms of the aircraft and continued disagreements related to F-35 costs. – The National Interest  

Long War

Morocco and the United Nations on Thursday inaugurated a U.N. office for counter-terrorism and training in Africa, that’s seeing increasing extremist violence. – Associated Press

Northeast Nigeria’s conflict with Islamist insurgencies had killed nearly 350,000 people as of the end of 2020, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said on Thursday. – Reuters

Islamic State’s affiliates in Africa are set for major expansion after a series of significant victories, new alliances and shifts in strategy reinforced their position across much of the continent. – The Guardian

Orwa Ajjoub writes: While HTS’s periodic crackdowns on al-Qaeda and ISIS in Idlib could be perceived as signs of goodwill to the international community, these actions largely serve to consolidate its rule by eliminating its sworn enemies and quashing local dissident voices, making it no different from other authoritarian regimes in that regard. – Middle East Institute