Fdd's overnight brief

June 3, 2021

In The News


Iran is investigating a fire that sank one of its largest navy ships early Wednesday in the Gulf of Oman, according to Iranian state media, the latest blow to the country’s vital infrastructure and military assets. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union envoy coordinating talks on reviving the Iran nuclear deal said on Wednesday he believed a deal would be struck at the next round of talks starting next week, but other senior diplomats said “the most difficult decisions lie ahead.” – Reuters

World powers adjourned talks in Vienna with plans to return next week, as differences between Iran and the U.S. over how to revive a landmark nuclear deal continue to delay the Islamic Republic’s return to oil markets. – Bloomberg

A massive fire at an oil refinery near Iran’s capital burned into a second day Thursday as firefighters struggled to extinguish the flames. – Associated Press

Iran and the Central African Republic are in arrears on paying their dues to the United Nations’ operating budget and will lose their voting rights in the 193-member General Assembly, the U.N. chief said in a letter circulated Wednesday. – Associated Press

With the Iranian presidential elections looming, very little progress has been made so far in the fifth round of indirect talks in Vienna between the U.S. and Iran, two sources briefed on the talks tell me. – Axios

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that a breakthrough in talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal before he leaves office in August require a “will” beyond his power. – Arutz Sheva

The likely return of Iranian oil is setting up what promises to be an aggressive battle to supply a corner of the coveted Asian market. – Bloomberg

Ben Cahill writes: A potential revival of the Iran nuclear deal could lift the sanctions that have crippled the country’s oil exports since 2018. […]But if a deal is reached in the next month, Iran could raise its oil exports in the second half of the year and into 2022. Iran’s return to the market could spoil the party for Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) states hoping to reap the benefits of an improving demand environment, but for now the producers’ club seems unconcerned. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Arash Saleh writes: The Iranian regime has shown that its capacity for reform is almost zero and there is no chance that the conflict among elites inside Iran can bring any meaningful change. […]The only viable and reliable force that could bring a real change to Iran is the existing resistance among the national minorities including Kurds, the Baloch, and Arabs. These groups are in contradiction with the system in an inherent and quintessential way. They also have the strongest incentive to confront the system more than anyone else since it is their land that is at stake and then their group and individual liberties – a cause for which they usually pay the highest price. – Jerusalem Post


Syria’s presidential election last week was “neither free nor fair,” as a joint statement from the United States, the UK, France, Germany, and Italy said the day of the vote. – Business Insider

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was reelected for a fourth term securing 95% of the vote and thus lengthening the Assad family’s control of the Syrian presidency.[1] Unsurprisingly, official Russia heartily congratulated the victor. The Assads have been traditional Soviet-Russian allies and it was to secure the Assad regime that Russia militarily intervened in the Syrian civil war. The invitation of the Assad regime legitimizes Russia’s military presence in Syria, a presence that has leveraged Russian power. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Oula A. Alrifai and Aaron Y. Zelin write: Since the onset of the revolutionary ferment in Syria in 2011, the United States has made a number of missteps. […]It might be late, but Washington needs to defend its position in Syria and reclaim its credibility with the Syrian people, or it will suffer even greater consequences than those that have already been wrought by a conflict that has proven time and again that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria. – Washington Institute


President Tayyip Erdogan has warned Iraq that Turkey will “clean up” a refugee camp which it says provides a safe haven for Kurdish militants, threatening to take its long military campaign deeper inside Iraqi territory. – Reuters

Turkey and the U.S. agreed to work together to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid to northern Syria, after Russia signaled it could veto an extension of United Nations supplies sent across the Turkish border. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Manbij may be the first new attempt by Ankara to reduce SDF influence. It is a small, symbolic example. It may also be simply that the SDF is facing other threats in Manbij based on the impossible economic situation. The fact that Ankara’s media is heralding the US envoy visit to discuss Syria and that it is publishing stories about Syrian opposition to the SDF role, indicates Ankara is watching closely and seeking to benefit. – Jerusalem Post


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rivals agreed to form a coalition government that would dislodge the country’s longest-serving leader, a major political shake-up as the nation seeks to protect a fragile truce with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. – Wall Street Journal

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has seen a surge in cryptocurrency donations since the start of the armed conflict with Israel last month, a senior official with the group said, exploiting a trend in online fundraising that has enabled it to circumvent international sanctions to fund its military operations. – Wall Street Journal

Israel’s longest serving prime minister — Benjamin Netanyahu — has been swept from office after two years of political turmoil. Opposition groups on Wednesday agreed on a new government — with potentially far-reaching implications for Israel and all of the Middle East. Whether the coalition will be ratified, and what it has planned for Israel’s future, remains to be seen. – PBS

Palestinian factions on Wednesday declared Matthias Schmale, director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip, persona non grata and said he will not be allowed to return to the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave. – Jerusalem Post

Defense Minister Benny Gantz was to fly to Washington on Wednesday night for less than a day of intense strategic talks with senior American Pentagon and State Department officials about arms purchases and threats from Iran, Gaza and Lebanon. – Jerusalem Post

President Biden congratulated Israel’s new president on his election on Wednesday amid the potential ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. – The Hill

Israeli security forces early Wednesday arrested a senior Hamas member, Sheikh Jamal Tawil, in Ramallah over his alleged work on behalf of the terror group, the Israel Defense Forces said. – Times of Israel

In a press conference from the roof of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the Israeli government plans to seek significant additional funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system and announced a new bipartisan proposal to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions. – Jewish Insider

A bipartisan group of 55 members of the US House of Representatives wrote to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday in support of more American funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which intercepted hundreds of rockets during the country’s conflict with the Hamas militant group. – Algemeiner

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz on Thursday to discuss both restocking the Iron Dome and security issues posed by Iran. – Fox News

David J. Michaels writes: To call Israel – with its Arab justices, parliamentarians, diplomats, academics and business leaders – an apartheid state is to not know the meaning of apartheid. It also is to not know substantial Israeli attempts at peace with the Palestinians. […]On the hard Left no less than the hard Right, words matter and truth matters. The fight against racism is too important to be tarnished by ignorance, politics and bigotry. – Jerusalem Post


Farhad Alaaldin writes: It is not unlikely that demonstrations will return in force to threaten the political system and remove the ruling class. Moreover, the country’s governance failures—discussed in a separate article—demonstrate the ways in which corruption and a proliferation of arms have further destabilized Iraq. – Washington Institute

Farhad Alaaldin writes: While implementing these solutions would require a difficult and radical departure from Iraq’s current governance structures, it is not possible for Iraq to continue on its current path. […]Iraq’s ruling parties and their leaders must know that they bear full responsibility for state collapse. When that happens, angry groups of people, the afflicted, will not have mercy on them, and the torrent will sweep everyone away. At present, the only way to save the country is to adopt serious reforms before it is too late. – Washington Institute

Farhad Alaaldin writes: This reflects the absence of social justice and showcases the deterioration in the level of education in schools and universities, as well as the underdevelopment of the health sector, the failure to solve the problems of the displaced and return them to their homes, and the delay in reconstructing areas liberated from ISIS. All these aspects represent factors of the failure corroding the state, and each contributes to accelerating the process of collapse. – Washington Institute

Azhar Al-Rubaie writes: Even so, the protest and subsequent arrest of Muslih have encouraged many Iraqis to renew their support for the federal government as it combats corruption and lawlessness and brings criminals to justice. Protestors and the government alike seem aligned in their efforts to strengthen the state and improve its control over those who seek to undermine the country’s security and stability. – Washington Institute


Lebanon is “in the heart of great danger”, and needs friendly countries to save it, the caretaker prime minister, Hassan Diab, said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Lebanon’s most senior Christian cleric on Wednesday bemoaned the inability of the country’s senior politicians to agree a government as the country sinks further into financial collapse. – Reuters

A U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said Wednesday that it is facing a severe funding crisis and will not be able to operate beyond July without immediate assistance. – Associated Press

Lebanon’s president and prime minister-designate traded barbs Wednesday, accusing one another of obstruction, negligence and insolence in a war or words that has for months obstructed the formation of a new government as the country sinks deeper into economic and financial crisis. – Associated Press

Arabian Peninsula

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday and emphasized U.S. commitment to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory and people, the Pentagon said. – Reuters

The newly forged ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates help improve the ties both countries have with India, the country’s Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor told the Global Investment Forum in Dubai, sponsored by The Jerusalem Post and the Khaleej Times, on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

In a one-on-one interview with Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief at the Jerusalem Post-Khaleej Times Global Investment Forum in Dubai, Dr. Raphael Nagel, founder and chairman of the Abrahamic Business Circle, described how the Abraham Accords have forged a path to peace and prosperity between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, and discussed the numerous investment possibilities between Israel and the Gulf states. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s ties with the United Arab Emirates would remain strong if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to be replaced by Yamina head Naftali Bennett or any other leader, Israel’s Ambassador to the Emirates Eitan Na’eh told the Global Investment Forum. – Jerusalem Post

In a May 27, 2021 article titled “Netanyahu, I Have a Proposal for You, “Prof. Safouq Al-Shammari, a Saudi journalist, physician and researcher, urges Israel to adopt a new policy that will rein in Hamas and change the rules of the game, both to Israel’s benefit and to the benefit of the Arab countries. Specifically, he recommends that Israel respond to the launching of Hamas missiles by attacking Iranian assets in neighboring countries. This, he says, will stop the needless fighting instigated by Iran and protect the lives of civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Jordanian prosecutors on Wednesday referred the case of a former top confidant of King Abdullah and a minor royal to the state security court over accusations of conspiring to destabilise the country, state media said on Wednesday. – Reuters

In a panel discussion at the Global Investment Forum in Dubai, sponsored by The Jerusalem Post and the Khaleej Times, a group of experts from Morocco discussed the country’s unique advantages as a platform for investment in Africa. – Jerusalem Post

Osama Al Sharif writes: In the view of one critic Jordan found itself stuck in a political no man’s land during the latest crisis and as a result it must rebuild its regional alliances to boost its geopolitical value. At a time when old foes are beginning to reconcile — Egypt and Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Egypt and Qatar and Turkey and Saudi Arabia — it is imperative that Jordan realizes that the region is changing and that Amman must adopt a new approach by talking to parties like Turkey and Iran to preserve its national security, especially when it comes to maintaining its role in East Jerusalem. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

Leaders of South Korea’s largest conglomerates urged President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday to pardon Jay Y. Lee, the jailed vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, to maintain the country’s edge in the chip industry. – Reuters

South Korea asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to pressure Japan to remove a reference to South Korea-controlled islands as Japanese territory on the Tokyo Games website, an official with Seoul’s Olympic Committee said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Of all of North Korea’s conventional military capabilities, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Navy’s fleet of submarines stands out as one of the most threatening. Like other elements of the KPA’s military capabilities, its submarines are largely outdated and would not match up well against their South Korean counterparts. – 1945


The Chinese Communist party is poised to extinguish the last public event on Beijing-controlled territory commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre — a goal that has eluded it for more than three decades. – Financial Times

President Joe Biden plans to amend a U.S. ban on investments in companies linked to China’s military this week, after the Trump-era policy was challenged in court and left investors confused about the extent of its reach to subsidiary firms, people familiar with the matter said. – Bloomberg

Adam Taylor writes: Moreover, it was not rude tweets that brought China’s international standing into disrepute. It is Xi’s actual policies of repression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, or the systematic embrace of secrecy and paranoia that may make finding the cause of the coronavirus impossible, that disrupt its relations abroad. Keeping a tighter leash on the wolf warriors may not spell better international relations for China. And unless there are significant policy changes elsewhere, their howling seems likely to continue. – Washington Post

Daniel Blumenthal and Linda Zhang write: Researchers tied to Chinese talents programs and military–civil fusion enterprises need particular attention from U.S. counterintelligence and other officials. The USICA must be used to finally address the full extent of the CCP’s massive foreign-technology-acquisition programs, enabling the sanctioning of China’s worst IP thieves, expanding intelligence and law-enforcement tools to punish offenders, and strengthening controls against all CCP organizations and businesses operating in the U.S. to steal technology. – National Review


The fight between Afghan government troops and the Taliban is entering a more brutal phase as a reduction in airstrikes against the militants by withdrawing U.S. troops has largely forced combat to shift to ground engagements, many on the edges of densely populated urban areas after some recent Taliban advances. – Washington Post

Taiwan called on China on Thursday to return power to the people and embark upon real political reform rather than avoid facing up to the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing. – Reuters

A U.S. State Department official called on Wednesday for the immediate release of two American journalists who were arrested by Myanmar’s military junta. – Associated Press

Indonesia’s foreign minister on Wednesday urged the Association of Southeast Asia Nations to immediately appoint a special envoy on Myanmar in response to its military coup, and reiterated a call for the safety of civilians as the ruling junta cracks down on opposition. – Associated Press

Malaysian police said Thursday they have detained a French conspiracy theorist who is wanted back home on charges of organizing the kidnapping of a girl. – Associated Press

Azerbaijan’s defence ministry on Wednesday said around 40 Armenian military personnel had crossed into Azeri territory on Tuesday evening and were forced to retreat, allegations denied by the Armenian side. – Reuters

A two-decades old defence pact between the Philippines and the United States has been revamped and its new terms submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for his consideration, Manila’s ambassador to Washington told Reuters. – Reuters


Flights between Russia and Germany were briefly suspended on Tuesday after Russia declined to renew Lufthansa’s permit to fly to Moscow on time, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Berlin. – Reuters

Russia now plans to extradite the 21-year-old back to Belarus to face criminal charges for taking part in “mass unrest”. The Moscow City Court approved his handover last Thursday despite his lawyer arguing he could be mistreated and had sought asylum. – Reuters

The Russian parliament’s upper house voted Wednesday to withdraw from an international treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities following the U.S. exit from the treaty. – Associated Press

Ahead of a U.S.-Russia summit next month, one Republican lawmaker is proposing a higher bar for any new limits on America’s ballistic missile arsenal that the two sides might want to set. – Associated Press

Ukraine’s president said Wednesday that Russia has maintained a massive military presence near his country’s borders. – Associated Press

Joe Biden will rebuke Vladimir Putin over the cyber attack on JBS, the world’s biggest meat processor, when the two presidents meet later this month, and the US does not rule out retaliating against the perpetrator it suspects is a Russian criminal gang, the White House said on Wednesday. – Financial Times


Brussels is hoping the arrival of Joe Biden in the UK next week will put pressure on UK prime minister Boris Johnson to agree a plan with the EU to douse post-Brexit tensions in Northern Ireland. – Financial Times

Britain and Australia held another round of talks to progress a free trade deal, the British envoy said on Thursday, as both countries seek to strike an agreement in mid-June. – Reuters

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on three Bulgarians and 64 companies linked to them over alleged corruption, including an oligarch accused of planning to create a conduit for Russian political leaders to influence the Bulgarian government. – Reuters

Denmark’s prime minister on Wednesday said she did not believe Denmark needed to restore its relationships with its allies, including France and Germany, following a media report that the United States spied on European leaders through Danish information cables. – Reuters

Three senators visiting on Wednesday pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to ramp up efforts to combat corruption and reform the country’s Soviet-era security service while he described his hopes for President Joe Biden’s summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. – Washington Examiner

Germany’s Rheinmetall has delivered a new slate of 25 Boxer vehicles to Australia under the country’s multibillion-dollar army modernization program, the company announced on June 2. – Defense News

After an unknown gunman shot at a synagogue in central Ukraine in early May, the leaders of the local Jewish community kept the incident under wraps for nearly a month in an attempt to avoid a panic. – Haaretz

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency on Wednesday beefed up its stance on the use of Belarusian airspace, calling on member countries’ authorities to formally bar their airlines from flying over the country. – Associated Press

Denmark has solid relationships with its allies, including France and Germany, that do not need to be restored, its prime minister said after reports that the country allegedly had helped the United States spy on European leaders more than seven years ago. – Associated Press


Descendants of victims of massacres committed by German colonisers — recently recognised as a genocide — have scoffed at the agreement between the Namibian government and the southern African country’s former rulers. – Agence France-Presse

A top Sudanese military official said the government will review an agreement with Russia to establish a navy base in the African country. – Associated Press

Twitter has removed a post by Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari that threatened a violent crackdown on unrest in the country’s south-east, referencing the civil war of the late 1960s that left more than 1m people dead in the region. – Financial Times

Latin America

Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei criticized the country’s best-known graft prosecutor for what he said was a left-wing politicization of the fight against corruption, a view at odds with strong U.S. backing for his work. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mexico’s foreign minister on Wednesday discussed cooperation on migration and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines ahead of a visit to Mexico by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, the Mexican government said. – Reuters

Eddy Acevedo writes: Colombians have been resilient and extremely generous, but they need to know that they are not alone. Violent unrest and instability in Colombia undermine long-term U.S. interests in its region. We must help Colombia now or else risk jeopardizing the progress we have made over the last two decades in partnering with one of our strongest allies. – Washington Examiner

The Americas

Newly released emails from White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci prove that he knew the Wuhan Institute of Virology was carrying out dangerous gain of function research, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) charged Wednesday night. – New York Post

Toronto Mayor John Tory on Wednesday released a statement amid the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the city. – Arutz Sheva 

James Freeman writes: Also, billions of non-credentialed people all over the world deserve an explanation from Dr. Fauci. Whether or not he disclosed what he knew to Donald Trump in 2020, the allegedly publicity-shy government official needs to share everything he knows about the U.S. taxpayer money that went into Wuhan and the global horror that came out of it. – Wall Street Journal


The perpetrators of a ransomware attack that shut down some operations at the world’s largest meat processor this week was a Russian-based cybercriminal group known for its attacks on prominent American companies, the F.B.I. said Wednesday. – New York Times

Revelations of cyberattacks on transportation systems in New York and Massachusetts heightened concerns about the threat to U.S. businesses and essential services Wednesday, after hackers held hostage the world’s largest meat processor this week. – Wall Street Journal

A rash of cybercrimes against companies and critical infrastructure requires a muscular response from the U.S. government, even as companies themselves must take steps to combat attacks, executives and cyber officials say. – Wall Street Journal


The U.S. Air Force’s $4.2 billion wish list for fiscal 2022 includes about $1.4 billion to buy 12 more F-15EX fighters from Boeing, helping to narrow a projected gap as the service divests its aging F-15C/D fleet. – Defense News

The U.S. Marine Corps’ strategy to overhaul itself by 2030 for a high-end fight in the Pacific is based on a divest-to-invest model: The service will get rid of legacy equipment and units that aren’t useful in the fight it expects in the future, and in return the money that’s freed up will pay for developing the new, sophisticated technology it will need. – Defense News

The US Air Force (USAF) is strengthening its Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) fleet, with a further six aircraft to be procured over the coming five years. – Janes

The US military killed at least 23 civilians in 2020, according to a new report from the Department of Defense, a steep decline from previous years as offensive operations were significantly reduced during the pandemic. Another 10 civilians were likely injured, the department said. – Business Insider

Long War

Gunmen abducted 136 students from an Islamic school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger on Sunday, a state official said on Wednesday, lower than the estimate of 200 previously offered by the federal government. – Reuters

At the sprawling al-Hol camp, children pass their days roaming the dirt roads, playing with mock swords and black banners in imitation of Islamic State group militants. Few can read or write. For some, the only education is from mothers giving them IS propaganda. – Associated Press

The Al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, has released an excerpt from a new video titled “We Will Reach You With Terror.” The video shows the military preparations of the organization’s terrorists for a future round of confrontation with Israel. Among other things, activists are seen in offensive tunnels and rocket launchers carried on vans are shown. Each launcher carries six 116 mm rockets. – Arutz Sheva