Fdd's overnight brief

June 3, 2022

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Russian forces are attempting to seize Severodonetsk, one of the largest Ukrainian-controlled cities in the east. If Russia takes the city, it would occupy nearly all of Luhansk, a major part of the Donbas region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow’s combat power is at “maximum” strength in its push to capture the area. – Washington Post 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is digging in for a long war of attrition over Ukraine and will be relentless in trying to use economic weapons, such as a blockade of Ukrainian grain exports, to whittle away Western support for Kyiv, according to members of Russia’s economic elite. – Washington Post 

The U.S. government leveled sanctions against a yacht management company and its owners, describing them as part of a corrupt system that allows Russian elites and President Vladimir V. Putin to enrich themselves, the Treasury Department announced on Thursday.- New York Times 

As the war in Ukraine approaches its 100th day, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that Russian forces now control one-fifth of the country, a blunt acknowledgment of the slow but substantial gains that Moscow has made in recent weeks. – New York Times 

The administration in the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine plans to take over state assets, including strategic firms, land and natural resources, the RIA news agency quoted the administration as saying on Thursday. – Reuters  

The United States has issued a fresh round of Russia-related sanctions targeting 17 individuals, including Sergei Roldugin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a U.S. Department of Treasury said in a notice on its website Thursday. – Reuters 

Editorial: We get that Biden has to make tricky decisions: The risk of escalation is real, even if smaller than the Russians want everyone to think. But the fact remains that US delay and dithering cost Ukraine not only brutal-to-retake territory but blood, as Ukrainian citizens and soldiers pay the price with their lives. Vladimir Putin has yet to blink. America’s president can’t, either. – New York Post 

Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Michael Kofman write: Russian power, it’s worth remembering, has gone through fitful cycles of stagnation, decline and resurgence; it would be wise to avoid triumphalism and complacency. Mr. Putin made a mistake but not necessarily a fatal one. – New York Times 

Anna Borshchevskaya and Garrett I. Campbell write: Again, reflagging ships coupled with a limited demining effort would be difficult. But it is a better option given other alternatives. Western leaders may not realize just how dire the economic crisis will be if left unchecked, and a humanitarian option is better than a military escalation with NATO. Russian military deliberate targeting and theft of Ukraine’s natural resources and merchant ships, as well as weaponization of food show there are no limit to Moscow’s moral depravity. – The Hill 

Michael Kofman and Rob Lee write: However, contemporary debates on force structure and military strategy would benefit greatly by looking at the choices the Russian military made and how they ended up in this position. There’s much to be said about the primacy of political assumptions, which is one of the most decisive factors in how the Russian armed forces were initially thrown into this war, but equally, it is structural choices that have limited its military’s ability to adjust and sustain combat operations. – War on the Rocks 


Iran reported the death of another colonel of the elite Quds force of its Revolutionary Guards on Friday, the second in two weeks from the unit which oversees Iran’s military operations abroad. – Associated Press  

The United States confirmed Thursday it would join Europeans in backing a resolution urging Iran to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog, despite warnings from Tehran that the move could scuttle diplomacy. – Agence France-Presse 

Scores of Iranian filmmakers and artists who penned an open letter in support of anti-government protesters have been threatened by authorities, with some rescinding their signatures. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The Writers’ Association of Iran and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have expressed concern over the arrest of poet and journalist Arash Ghaleh-Golab during a protest over the recent collapse of a building in the Iranian port city of Abadan that left at least 39 people dead. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Prospects for reaching a nuclear deal with Iran “are tenuous at best,” said Rob Malley, the Biden administration’s special representative to Iran. When he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Malley also implied that delisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list was off the table. – Jerusalem Post 

Government-run surveillance cameras around Iran’s capital reportedly were “disrupted” Thursday, while an exile group claimed it hacked into over 5,000 cameras around Tehran ahead of commemoration events honoring the founder of the Islamic Republic. – Associated Press 

Simon Henderson writes: For Washington, the challenge involves balancing concerns of allies on whether Iran is best dealt with by diplomacy or military action, or anonymous acts of sabotage. But in simple terms, Iran may have already reached the nuclear status that some fear. – Washington Institute 


For some Afghans who were evacuated as their country fell to the Taliban last summer, the journey to the United States has stalled, and perhaps ended, at a sun-baked cluster of tents and temporary housing on an American base in the Balkans. – Associated Press 

The German parliament will set up a commission of inquiry into last year’s evacuation mission from Afghanistan and a fact-finding commission on Berlin’s two-decade involvement there, lawmakers said Thursday. – Associated Press 

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers are maintaining close ties with al-Qaida as they consolidate control over the country, and their main military threat is coming from the Islamic State extremist group and guerrilla-style attacks by former Afghan government security personnel, U.N. experts said in a new report. – Associated Press 

Indian foreign ministry officials visited Kabul for talks with the Taliban and international organizations involved in the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement Thursday. – Associated Press 

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have begun a campaign to eradicate poppy cultivation, aiming to wipe out the country’s massive production of opium and heroin, even as farmers fear their livelihoods will be ruined at a time of growing poverty. – Associated Press 


In a move destined to fuel a surge in pronunciation tutorials, the United Nations confirmed on Thursday that it had accepted a request on the part of Turkey to change its official name. Now, it is Türkiye. – Washington Post 

In northern Syria, residents are bracing for a new fight. With the world’s attention focused on the war in Ukraine, Turkey’s leader says he’s planning a major military operation to push back Syrian Kurdish fighters and create a long sought-after buffer zone in the border area. – Associated Press 

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Thursday a new offensive threatened by Turkey in northern Syria would create a humanitarian crisis and undermine its campaign against the Islamic State group. – Reuters


Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians in the occupied West Bank during what the army described as violent confrontations on Thursday. They are among four Palestinians who have been killed in the last two days at a time of heightened Mideast tensions. – Associated Press  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It is also relevant because of Jerusalem’s focus on “third circle” threats, meaning those from Iran. While Israel has managed the campaign between the wars, striking Iranian shipments in Syria using aircraft, it’s clear that the Jewish state needs more capabilities to confront Iran’s expansion across the region in case of a conflict. – Jerusalem Post

Arabian Peninsula

Three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said on Thursday they had filed a lawsuit at a Paris court against three top French arms’ producers for alleged war crimes complicity in Yemen after selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. – Reuters 

Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the United States Embassy’s acting charge d’affaires over tweets the embassy published that “support homosexuality”, the ministry said in a statement. – Reuters 

The Houthi rebel government in Yemen on Wednesday passed a law banning any process of normalization with Israel and criminalizing any contact with the Jewish state or its citizens, the Israel Hayom daily reported. – Algemeiner 

Middle East & North Africa

Saudi Arabia took steps Thursday to boost oil production and extend a truce with Iran-backed forces in Yemen, two significant moves that help pave the way for President Biden to visit the kingdom later this month as the two countries try to reset their strained relationship. – Wall Street Journal 

Militants attacked a civilian bus in eastern Syria on Thursday, killing three people and wounding 21, Syrian state TV reported. The TV said the bus was attacked near a village in a desert area of the province of Deir el-Zour, which borders Iraq. It did not say whether the bus was attacked with machinegun fire, a missile or a roadside bomb. – Associated Press 

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday wrapped up a major military exercise in Cyprus, simulating a military ground offensive deep inside Lebanon in a potential war against the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group. – Times of Israel 

Israel is set to agree to new security arrangements allowing Egypt to transfer control of two islands in the Straits of Tiran to Saudi Arabia, US President Joe Biden is expected to announce on his trip to the region at the end of the month. – Jerusalem Post 

Korean Peninsula

President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea said Friday the United States is “preparing for all contingencies” in close coordination with its South Korean and Japanese allies as it monitors North Korean arrangements for a possible nuclear test explosion that outside officials say could be imminent. – Associated Press 

North Korea, which is under sanctions for developing nuclear weapons in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, has taken over as head of a U.N. body aimed at striking disarmament deals amid scorn from critics. – Reuters 

North Korea says its leader, Kim Jong Un, sent a letter congratulating Queen Elizabeth II as Britain began a four-day celebration marking her 70 years on the throne. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said on its website Thursday that Kim sent a letter congratulating the queen and the British people. It didn’t provide further details. – Associated Press 


China is poised to launch its newest, most advanced aircraft carrier, in a major step that will enable its navy to expand its military operations on the high seas. New satellite imagery reviewed by The Wall Street Journal shows that after several years of work in the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, China’s third carrier, known as a Type 003, may be afloat in coming weeks or even days, analysts said. The Type 003 is China’s third aircraft carrier, and its largest and most advanced. It uses new electromagnetic catapult technology akin to what the U.S. and French carriers have to launch aircraft, analysts said. – Wall Street Journal 

Russian officials have raised increasingly frustrated requests for greater support during discussions with Beijing in recent weeks, calling on China to live up to its affirmation of a “no limits” partnership made weeks before the war in Ukraine began. But China’s leadership wants to expand assistance for Russia without running afoul of Western sanctions and has set limits on what it will do, according to Chinese and U.S. officials. – Washington Post 

China’s Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Xiaolong said on Friday that he and New Zealand’s foreign minister had discussed how the two countries could steer bilateral relations to benefit both sides. – Reuters 

China “firmly” opposes a new trade initiative between Taiwan and the United States, the Commerce Ministry said on Thursday, a plan the government in Taipei says is a recognition of the key position the island plays in global supply chains. – Reuters 

The Australian partner of a journalist who has been detained in China for nearly two years said Thursday she is being denied the chance to speak with her family and consular staff, and her health is declining due to a poor prison diet. – Associated Press 

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: China’s great economic weakness is the lack of a political mechanism to bless or forgive policy shifts. For many years, a silly line of media commentary held the West should aspire to be “China for a day” in order to emulate an autocrat’s capacity to Get Things Done. Mr. Xi and his Communist Party will never admit it, but they’d now be a lot better off if they could be “America for a day” and allow an election to vent public frustration with their rule—while giving them the credibility they need to change course. – Wall Street Journal  

Dimon Liu writes: More likely, China’s leader will try to impress the elders with some foreign policy successes. That may mean more summits, especially with the Europeans, better to convince the elders that he is skilled at handling foreigners, a prerequisite for the top job. (The last one, in April, went very badly indeed; Europeans were unimpressed by China’s support for Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine.) The rapid seizure of one or more of Taiwan’s outlying islands, while the world has its focus on Ukraine, is more likely. This would mark a statement of future intent for a full-scale invasion when Xi gets his third term. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

South Asia

Militant attacks targeting Hindu civilians in Indian-controlled Kashmir have set off massive protests, posing a fresh challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government three years after it revoked the region’s statehood and autonomy. – Washington Post 

A Hindu bank manager and a labourer were shot and killed in Kashmir on Thursday, police said, as a wave of targeted killings drove more Hindu families to flee India’s only Muslim-majority federal territory. – Reuters 

The Pakistani Taliban said Thursday they have indefinitely extended a cease-fire with the government in Islamabad, following two days of talks with a delegation of Pakistani tribal elders that were hosted by the Afghan Taliban. – Associated Press 


The foreign ministers of Australia and China were both making their final stops Friday on what has become an island-hopping diplomatic duel in the South Pacific. – Associated Press 

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister warned the Opposition not to “play politics” with the visit of China’s foreign minister amid an election campaign, noting China is a major trade partner and the biggest buyer of the Pacific nation’s gas exports. – Reuters 

The U.S. State Department has updated its fact sheet on Taiwan again, to reinstate a line about not supporting formal independence for the Chinese-claimed, democratically-governed island. – Reuters 

The state minister of the de-facto Artsakh Republic stated that Russian peacekeepers should remain in the Nagorno-Karabakh region indefinitely in an interview with RIA Novosti on Friday, following weeks of skirmishes along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. – Jerusalem Post 

An article published May 16, 2022 in the Taiwanese media outlet Nownews.com, titled “Countermeasures! The Way to Victory in the Han Kuang Exercise,” discussed the 38th annual Han Kuang drill held by the Taiwanese military May 16-20. The Han Kuang live-fire component is scheduled for July 25-29. The article stated that during the drills, a Chinese carrier group led by the Liaoning carrier was also training, off the eastern coast of Taiwan, “revealing its intention to seize the berthing area where Taiwan preserves its naval power.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

An article published May 17, 2022 by the Chinese media outlet Global Times stated that the Taiwanese Air Force had learned from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict about the importance of mobile radar. The article, titled “Learning From The Ukrainian Army To Defeat The Strong? The Taiwan Army Is Trying To Find A ‘Magic Trick’ Against The PLA,” added that the Taiwanese military’s experience based on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is diametrically opposed to the direction in which the Taiwanese military has been developing in recent years. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Charles Edel writes: The ongoing developments in the Pacific should underscore the critical importance for the United States of engaging the many oft-neglected countries of the Pacific Islands. They should also serve as an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of U.S. and allied policy toward this vital region, and encourage Washington to be more creative, more proactive, and more committed to the Pacific. – Foreign Affairs 

Ted R. Bromund writes: The U.K. will never be an Indo-Pacific power on the level of the U.S., but it is rapidly building on its naval presence in Singapore and its garrison in Brunei and is likely to become a power on the level of Australia: a valuable ally with significant capabilities and serious interests in the region. That outcome would be very much in the interests of the U.S. as it begins to stare down China, and it is an outcome the U.S. should support and encourage. – Heritage Foundation 


Ukraine may face a long war of attrition with Russia, and Kyiv’s allies need to find a way to make their support “sustainable” over the long term, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday. – Washington Post 

The European Union has approved a sixth sanctions package against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including a phased-in oil embargo, diplomats said on Thursday, with the measures set to take force on Friday. – Wall Street Journal  

The bombing in eastern Ukraine is becoming more intense and, with no water or electricity, 100 people or so heeded the mayor’s call on Thursday to evacuate the city of Sloviansk which sits in Russia’s crosshairs. – Agence France-Presse 

German prosecutors said Thursday that they have closed an investigation of people suspected of founding a far-right group calling itself the National Socialist Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Deutschland. – Associated Press 

James Sweet writes: Government officials have yet to lay out what benefits we receive from alerting the public about our actions in Ukraine, but we know that American intelligence is crucial to the Ukrainian military’s defense. U.S. agencies should continue their intelligence operations covertly and without issuing public statements. Both the U.S. and the defenders of Ukraine deserve an intelligence community that is focused less on headlines and more on making headway in the war. – Washington Examiner 

Dalibor Rohac writes: Yet by taming the excesses to which such ideas have led in the past, Poland may provide a glimpse into the future of right-wing politics after the populist-driven realignments across the Western world. And whatever one thinks of particulars of PiS’s policies, the picture of Warsaw today is not one of an unmitigated disaster, quite the contrary. – The Spectator 

Oxana Schmies writes: The German Zeitenwende was proclaimed exactly for this purpose, to counter this challenge with a radical reorientation of foreign policy and greatly increased defense spending. The common purpose of European security can only be achieved through unified action by independent democracies. It would be a good outcome for everyone if Olaf Scholz’s regular references to close cooperation with transatlantic partners and an understanding of common interests, were translated into urgent governmental action. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Claudia Palazzo writes: It is clear that Italian institutions have grown more aware of what was once perceived as a remote Russian malign influence campaign, and are acting accordingly. But Italian citizens still seem curiously open to Russian propaganda. Providing an effective national response will be a long-term project, and this effort has only just begun. – Center for European Policy Analysis  

Bence Nemeth writes: If policymakers want to strengthen European defense through more bi- and minilateral collaborations, they should build off these five factors. This starts with appreciating how the potential NATO memberships of Finland and Sweden would create new opportunities for small scale collaboration. Policymakers should also look to their current minilateral efforts with an awareness that these provide the best source of potential partners for new efforts, while also choosing new partners with an eye toward the potential for future cooperation they bring. – War on the Rocks 


With many of the world’s poorest countries facing alarming levels of hunger and starvation, the leader of the African Union is set to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin on Friday and urge him to lift Russia’s blockade on urgently needed cereals and fertilizer from Ukraine. – New York Times 

Once a key ally of Ethiopia’s federal government in its deadly war in the country’s northern Tigray region, the neighboring Amhara region is now experiencing government-led mass arrests and disappearances of activists, journalists and other perceived critics. – Associated Press 

Agnès Callamard and Kenneth Roth write: The United States, the European Union, and regional powers should also call for credible independent investigations into the abuses in Western Tigray. The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, and the Commission of Inquiry established by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights should make it a priority to document human rights abuses in Western Tigray and press for credible justice and redress for serious crimes. – Foreign Affairs 

The Americas

President Biden, in a rare prime-time address Thursday, called on Congress to take immediate action on gun control, seeking to transform emotion and anger into change as the nation reeled from a spate of horrific mass shootings from New York to Texas to Oklahoma. – Washington Post 

As Congress once more struggles through acrimonious and so far fruitless negotiations over gun reforms in the wake of a mass shooting, Americans may find themselves looking north in befuddlement. Canada’s government has begun moving to ban handgun sales and buy back military-style rifles — dramatic changes in a country with one of the world’s highest gun ownership rates outside of the United States, expected to pass easily and with little fuss. – New York Times 

Peru’s congress gave President Pedro Castillo the go-ahead on Thursday to attend this month’s Summit of Americas, adding another South American president to a meeting that the United States is hosting but that has seen uncertainty over attendance. – Reuters 

The U.S. government announced sanctions Thursday against six people in Mexico, including a police official, for aiding the Jalisco drug cartel. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, says the police official gave information to Mexico’s most violent and powerful gang. – Associated Press 

Adam Taylor writes: The United States has long served as a place of refuge for those fleeing repressive governments. But as authoritarianism creeps across the world and social media grants dissidents a border-crossing megaphone, exiled activists are facing increasingly aggressive blowback from the countries they fled. – Washington Post 

Michael Shifter and Bruno Binetti write: Nobody expects U.S. policy toward Latin America to change overnight. Even modest improvements will require difficult and often politically contentious choices, such as loosening sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela, which could raise the ire of those countries’ diasporas in Florida. But unless the United States faces its credibility problem head-on, its relationship with Latin America will continue to deteriorate. – Foreign Affairs 


An order by Indian regulators requiring Internet companies to store their users’ real names and track their usage history has alarmed digital privacy advocates and virtual private network providers, which have begun to pull out of the country in protest. – Washington Post 

China’s proposed cybersecurity rules for financial firms could pose risks to operations of western companies by making their data vulnerable to hacking, among other things, a leading lobby group has said in a letter seen by Reuters. – Reuters 

Microsoft detected and took down an Iran-linked Lebanese hacking group that targeted more than 20 Israeli organizations and one intergovernmental organization, the tech conglomerate announced Thursday. – Jerusalem Post  

A trio of U.S. government agencies on Wednesday issued an advisory with technical details related to the Karakurt data extortion gang, warning that the group has “employed a variety of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), creating significant challenges for defense and mitigation.” – CyberScoop 

Hackers likely affiliated with the notorious Russian cybercrime group Evil Corp are using off-the-shelf ransomware to evade U.S. sanctions, researchers at security firm Mandiant have found. – CyberScoop 


The U.S. Air Force’s process for selecting U.S. Space Command’s headquarters had “significant shortfalls,” according to a government watchdog. – Defense News 

A top-level office the Pentagon says will speed the adoption of artificial intelligence and data analytics across the defense ecosystem achieved full operating capability, right on schedule. – Defense News 

From American soldiers on the ground to F-35 pilots in the air to naval sonar operators, the Israeli firm Elbit wants its varied defense products in American servicemembers’ hands. Through the firm’s American arm, Elbit Systems of America, Elbit is in the midst of an expansion into the US market, according to subsidiary president and CEO Raanan Horowitz, hailing a new facility, new US government contracts and planned acquisitions. – Breaking Defense 

Elaine McCusker and John G. Ferrari write: Procurement of current weapon systems accounts for 53 percent of total unfunded priorities, illustrating the trade-offs resulting from the Defense Department’s continued emphasis on future systems at the expense of spending on current requirements. Shortfalls in infrastructure and readiness also persist, while unfunded needs in the Pacific and cyber indicate a potential mismatch between strategy and resourcing. – American Enterprise Institute