Fdd's overnight brief

June 8, 2021

In The News


The United States, which has for two months been holding indirect talks with Iran on the future of a tattered 2015 nuclear deal, said Monday it was not even sure if Tehran really wanted to come back into compliance. – Agence France-Presse

Iran has failed to answer questions about the discovery of uranium particles at former undeclared sites in the country, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Monday, calling on Tehran to provide information “without further delay.” – Associated Press

Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, a Shiite cleric who as Iran’s ambassador to Syria helped found the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and lost his right hand to a book bombing reportedly carried out by Israel, died Monday of the coronavirus. He was 74. – Associated Press

Iran’s talks with world powers over reviving their nuclear accord are entering a “decisive phase,” the agency monitoring Tehran’s atomic sites said, warning that failure to reach an agreement could have perilous consequences for its work. – Bloomberg

Iranian state actors are intensifying their disinformation campaign on social media to spread discord and anti-Semitic tropes inside the U.S., two U.S. intelligence officials say. – Time

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The larger question for Iran and its allies in Iraq and Lebanon is whether it thinks the timing is right to push yet another crisis. […]Considering the rapprochement between Riyadh and Doha, the transfer of Qatari money to calm the situation in Gaza may be seen as a step in the direction of Cairo and Riyadh rather than against them. Iran may want destabilization and to sing the praises of Hamas and launder statements from Gaza to assert its willingness to challenge Israel, but it will have to calculate carefully how to do that. – Jerusalem Post


U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will meet to discuss Syria, Afghanistan and other regional issues next week and will also look at the “significant differences” between Washington and Ankara, the U.S. national security advisor said on Monday. – Reuters

Turkey’s chief prosecutor on Monday submitted an expanded indictment seeking to shut the leading pro-Kurdish political party, risking a new human-rights clash with the U.S. a week before the countries’ presidents meet. – Bloomberg

The Turkish Navy has completed the “largest-ever” iteration of exercise Denizkurdu, involving 132 surface vessels, 10 submarines, 43 winged aircraft, 28 helicopters and 14 drones. – Defense News

Ruan Gingeras writes: Given Erdoğan’s stranglehold over the state, no institution, be it the judiciary, the police, or the parliament, appears both willing and able to pursue justice. For the most part, the press can only watch and report what Peker says next. As a result, we are unlikely to ever know just how true Peker’s allegations actually are. For many listeners, Peker’s accusations confirm what they already suspect is the truth, no matter how little evidence he offers. – War on the Rocks

Walter Russell Mead writes: If Washington expects Turkey to behave like the Netherlands, Norway or Spain, the relationship will frustrate both parties. But if the White House can start to think about Turkey the way it thinks about partners like Vietnam and India, policy makers will be able both to appreciate Ankara’s real geopolitical value and to manage more deftly the tensions that will inevitably appear. – Wall Street Journal


Israeli lawmakers will convene by June 14 to cast their vote of confidence in a new coalition government, the Knesset’s speaker said Monday, but he didn’t set a date for the vote as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempts to scuttle a political arrangement that would unseat him. – Wall Street Journal

Israeli far right groups scrapped a planned march through Jerusalem’s Old City after police refused to authorise it amid fears it would rekindle strife that led to 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants last month. – Reuters

The Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, is continuing its policy of glorifying terrorists and extending material support to their families. On June 6, 2021, Laila Ghanam, governor of the Ramallah and Al-Bireh district, met with the parents of Muhannad Al-Halabi, an operative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) who fatally stabbed two Israeli civilians in Jerusalem’s Old City on October 3, 2015, and was shot to death by the Israeli security forces during the attack. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Jordanian Hizb ut-Tahrir activist Dr. Mohammad Malkawi said that the Jordanian army is capable of liberating Palestine and evicting the people who came to that land from Europe, Russia, Romania, and America. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Israel was elected for the first time on Monday to serve as a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). – Times of Israel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that the United States is committed to replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. – Arutz Sheva

Scenes of dozens of Egyptian bulldozers, cranes and trucks entering the Gaza Strip last Friday have left some Palestinians wondering whether Egypt is planning to return to the coastal enclave it ruled between 1948 and 1967. The Egyptian decision to send building equipment and engineers to the Gaza Strip came within the context of Cairo’s pledge to contribute to reconstruction efforts there after the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Israel should make clear to Hamas, their Qatari patrons, and the international community that Jerusalem is only going to allow money to flow into Gaza if the IDF soldiers’ bodies and the civilians are freed. Hamas has up until now succeeded in separating the two issues, Israel needs to stop that charade. […]Despite all its bravado, Hamas wants to see Gaza rebuilt after the current campaign. That gives Israel leverage that it must use. – Jerusalem Post

Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi writes: Hamas and the Palestinian leadership have hijacked the minds of 2 million Palestinians to sell their political and terrorist agendas. We want the Palestinian people to enjoy what we enjoy, to have what we have and create a better future for a new generation. But we have to do this together, with all the stakeholders in the region, from NGOs to schools, religious leaders and governments. We cannot do this alone. – Newsweek


The Lebanese Navy expects to receive seven offshore patrol vessels, including four with help from France and three Protector-class OPVs that are part of U.S. military aid. – Defense News

The IDF detained two men on Monday afternoon who crossed the Lebanese border into Israel late Sunday night. – Jerusalem Post

What Gaza experienced in the last round of fighting was just “the tip of the iceberg,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday night during a ceremony to officially recognize Israel’s 18-year occupation of Southern Lebanon as an official military campaign. “Lebanon needs to know that what Gaza experienced a few weeks ago is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said, adding that Israel would always be ready to fight to protect its citizens. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

A leading candidate to become Libya’s first elected president vowed to pursue a fairer deal for the country’s east to permanently end a decade of conflict. – Bloomberg

Amid a Moroccan social media campaign calling for the expulsion of Israeli Ambassador to Morocco David Govrin, the Israeli Foreign Ministry rebuffed claims that he has been denied access to a residence in the country. – Algemeiner

But the recent events on its border with Spain will likely shatter a certain idea that EU bureaucrats and government officials had about the union’s partnership with their southern neighbor. Morocco has often been seen as a force for good in a troubled region, a mildly authoritarian monarchy with humane intentions. But its campaign to gain recognition of its sovereignty over the Western Sahara is eroding that view. – Middle East Institute

Shlomo Roiter Jesner writes: The monarchy acted as a symbol of unity, bolstered by the popularity of King Idris and the Senussi family. It could do so again today. William H. Lewis, a specialist on the region, argued that ‘Idris’ political primacy was inevitable due to his acceptability among most Libyan political factions and competing groups as a compromise candidate, a political figure without any special axes to grind. – The National Interest

Korean Peninsula

The U.N. atomic watchdog has seen indications in North Korea of possible reprocessing work to separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel that could be used in nuclear weapons, the head of the agency said on Monday. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convened a meeting of senior officials of the Workers’ Party to evaluate and improve the economy in the second half of the year, state media KCNA reported on Tuesday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday the Biden administration is determined to appoint an envoy responsible for monitoring the human rights situation in North Korea, but that he was not able to offer a timeline for this. – Reuters


Faced with an urgent competitive threat from China, the Senate is poised to pass the most expansive industrial policy legislation in U.S. history, blowing past partisan divisions over government support for private industry to embrace a nearly quarter-trillion-dollar investment in building up America’s manufacturing and technological edge. – New York Times

Donald Trump’s trade war with China left American farmers dependent on government handouts to survive. But China is now at the heart of a reversal in farmers’ fortunes, as booming exports and soaring food prices fuel a recovery in the US agricultural economy. – Financial Times

China is hosting foreign ministers from 10 Southeast Asian nations this week amid heightened competition between Beijing and Washington for influence in the region. – Associated Press

Chinese lawmakers are making progress on legislation to retaliate for foreign sanctions amid the country’s growing rivalry with the U.S. – Bloomberg

Chinese President Xi Jinping focused on minority issues during a visit to a western province neighboring Xinjiang and Tibet — regions where foreign governments and others say Beijing commits human-rights abuses against ethnic groups. – Bloomberg

Mike Pompeo and Lewis Libby write: The CCP has benefited enormously from access to an orderly world. Having thrown that world into disorder through its misconduct, China could have tried to right matters by embracing full disclosure and an international investigation into what went wrong. […]The leading democracies may choose to swallow their losses to avoid confrontation. Biden may resolve to be tougher next time. But history shows that next time is often too late. – Washington Post

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: There is no simple way to introduce the challenge that China’s strategic presence and growing military capabilities pose in competing with the United States. China’s capability to compete at given levels has generally increased radically since 1990 in virtually every civil and military area, and China has set broad goals for achieving strategic parity and superiority, although such goals are vague – and neither China nor the United States has published anything like a credible unclassified net assessment of current and future capabilities or how broad statements about strategic goals would actually be implemented. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


The Taliban are encircling Afghan police and army positions and encroaching on government-held territory, positioning themselves for large-scale offensives against major population centers while waiting for the last American troops to depart Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal

At least 150 Afghan troops have been killed or injured in the last 24 hours in a surge of attacks by Taliban militants as foreign forces withdraw, senior government officials said on Monday. – Reuters

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than half done, and U.S. officials say that while it could be completed by July 4, the final exit of equipment and troops more likely will be later in the summer. – Associated Press

Taliban officials do not appear to want to negotiate a peace deal with the U.S.-backed central government, according to a senior American general, raising questions about the security of Western officials and their interpreters as they withdraw NATO forces. – Washington Examiner

The Taliban on Monday called on Afghans who worked as interpreters or in other jobs for U.S.-led forces to show “remorse” for their actions but said they were not in danger now that American troops are leaving the country. – NBC News


Court proceedings in the first criminal cases involving deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi are set to finish late next month, her lawyer said on Monday, citing a decision by the presiding judge. – Reuters

The Myanmar junta’s foreign minister had defended its plan for restoring democracy, state media reported on Tuesday, after a meeting at which Southeast Asian counterparts pressed the army to implement a regional agreement meant to end turmoil. – Reuters

Andrew Nachemson writes: If ASEAN leaders intend to play a constructive role in resolving the Myanmar crisis, they should recognize the Tatmadaw for what it is: a brutally violent occupying force with no political legitimacy that shows no reluctance to destroy the country in order to rule over the rubble. – Foreign Policy


The Biden administration is launching trade and investment talks with Taiwan, advancing U.S. ties with Taipei and likely adding to frictions with the island’s nemesis, Beijing. – Wall Street Journal

Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives won election as the next president of the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, and pledged to push for equal access to coronavirus vaccines, a stronger and greener economic recovery, and stepped up efforts to tackle climate change. – Associated Press

China on Tuesday pledged further assistance to Southeast Asian nations in battling the COVID-19 pandemic as it seeks to boost influence with the region where chief geopolitical rival the U.S. is also looking to strengthen ties. – Associated Press

Hong Kong will continue to invite foreign judges to its courts and the city’s legal system remains “hard as a rock”, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday amid international concern about the impact of a sweeping national security law. – Reuters


Ahead of a parliamentary vote later this year, the Kremlin has been fine-tuning its strategy to pressure platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and TikTok to remove antigovernment content, classifying a growing number of posts as illegal and issuing a flurry of takedown requests. – Wall Street Journal

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been returned to the original correctional facility where he had been serving out a sentence after he recovered from a hunger strike at a hospital in a different prison, the TASS news agency reported on Monday. – Reuters

The head of Russia’s space agency on Monday suggested Moscow would withdraw from the International Space Station in 2025 unless Washington lifted sanctions on the space sector that were hampering Russian satellite launches. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a bill to withdraw from an international treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities, following the U.S. exit from the pact. – Associated Press

The U.S. military has rejected Russian claims that joint Black Sea drills to be launched later this month by the U.S., Ukraine and other partnered countries would serve as a cover for a secret weapons transfer to Ukraine as it continues to struggle with a years-long conflict on its eastern border with Russia. – Newsweek

Nine Canadian officials were permanently barred from entering Russia in retaliation for Canada’s earlier sanctions on Russian officials. The sanctions on Canadian officials include Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti and the country’s police commissioner Brenda Lucki. Canada’s prior restrictions on Russian officials were over their alleged involvement in Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment. – Newsweek

Tom Rogan writes: This summit was always going to be more useful to Putin than to Biden. But if the president fails to hold a press conference, his showing in Geneva will be a true embarrassment. – Washington Examiner


Hungary appeared to backtrack on plans to build a Chinese university in the capital Budapest after thousands took to the streets at the weekend accusing the government of cosying up to Beijing, provoking an angry Chinese response. – Reuters

Russia must change its behaviour if it wants better relations with the European Union, a senior EU official said on Monday. – Reuters

The European Union’s patience towards Britain over Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland is wearing thin and the bloc will consider its options should Britain continue its “confrontational path”, an EU official said on Monday. – Reuters

Joe Biden invited his opposite number in Ukraine to visit the White House this summer — part of efforts to reassure the eastern European country before the U.S. president meets Vladimir Putin in Geneva next week. – Bloomberg

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany a “fait accompli” and said the U.S. is now working with Germany to limit how dependent Europe’s energy system will be on Russia after it is finished. – Bloomberg

Henrik Larson writes: NATO (and the European Union) members should continue to support Georgia and Ukraine politically, financially, and, to a limited extent, militarily. However, they must also leverage the implementation of defense, rule of law, and economic reform that the countries have formally committed to but which remain long overdue. NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia remains a distant aspiration. In the meantime, Ukraine and Georgia, with NATO’s help, need to focus on improving the resilience of their defense forces. – War on the Rocks


Nigeria’s telecom companies had officially blocked Twitter, and the attorney general vowed to prosecute those who found a way to use it, but Editi Effiong kept posting. – Washington Post

The United States stepped up pressure for a peaceful resolution to Cameroon’s conflict between state forces and English-speaking rebels on Monday, imposing visa restrictions on individuals believed to be undermining efforts to end the crisis. – Reuters

Tribal clashes erupted over the weekend between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s western Darfur region, killing at least 36 people, the state-run news agency reported. – Associated Press

Mali coup leader Col. Assimi Goita was sworn in Monday as president of a transitional government, solidifying his grip on power in the West African nation after carrying out his second coup in nine months. – Associated Press

The U.N. Security Council on Monday strongly condemned violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Central African Republic and warned that attacks on United Nations peacekeepers there may constitute war crimes. – Associated Press

The Americas

Peru’s leftist presidential candidate Pedro Castillo widened his razor-thin lead on Monday after a divisive runoff election against right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori, who alleged fraud without providing proof. – Wall Street Journal

Vice President Harris arrived at her first summit here with the promise of millions of dollars in American aid and investment, pledges she said would give Guatemalans “hope that help was on the way” and dissuade potential migrants from trying to cross into the United States. – Washington Post

A man accused of mowing down five members of the same family with a black pickup truck in an Ontario city on Sunday, killing four and seriously injuring a 9-year-old boy, targeted them because they were Muslim, police said Monday, in what the city’s mayor branded an act of “mass murder.” – Washington Post


The FBI hatched a bold plan to introduce its own encrypted messaging app into the black market in a covert attempt to ensnare members of crime syndicates who use end-to-end encryption to evade law-enforcement officials. – Washington Post

The Biden administration is responding to the growing threat of ransomware attacks with a vigor and seriousness unparalleled in the government’s decades-long battle against hacking. – Washington Post

The Justice Department said on Monday that it had seized much of the ransom that a major U.S. pipeline operator had paid last month to a Russian hacking collective, turning the tables on the hackers by reaching into a digital wallet to snatch back millions of dollars in cryptocurrency. – New York Times


An unmanned aircraft has refueled a Navy fighter jet in midair for the first time, the service said Monday. The Boeing-made MQ-25 Stingray drone briefly connected to the Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet via hose and transferred fuel to the fighter while flying over the Midwest on Friday, according to a Navy statement. – The Hill

The U.S. Air Force has wrapped up the first phase of its Golden Horde demonstration effort, putting the service one step closer to developing swarming smart weapons that behave semi-autonomously and use algorithms to seek high-priority targets. – Defense News 

Despite a slashed electronic warfare procurement proposal, the U.S. Army still plans hefty investment in research and development to build out a battlefield architecture with the ultimate goal to link with national electronic and cyber tactical systems. – C4ISRNET

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: Almost weekly there is a new letter calling for impossible defense cuts that may make for good headlines but are actually poor policy borne on the backs of those in uniform. […]It is fair to ask the Department of Defense to find efficiencies in an over-$700 billion budget. However, suggesting the Pentagon could accommodate a 10 percent reduction to its budget is political theater—not realistic or responsible policymaking. – The National Interest