Fdd's overnight brief

May 12, 2022

In The News


The United States is sending billions of dollars in military equipment to Ukraine, including heavy artillery, drones and antitank missiles. Administration officials have publicly enumerated those contributions, practically down to the number of bullets. But they are far more cautious when describing another decisive contribution to Ukraine’s battlefield success: intelligence about the Russian military. – Washington Post 

U.S.-led sanctions are forcing Russia to use computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in some military equipment, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday. – Washington Post 

Ukraine’s prosecutor general said Wednesday that the country would try a 21-year-old Russian soldier who is in custody, adding that he would be the first Russian service member to stand trial there on a war crimes charge in the 11-week conflict. – Washington Post 

Russian authorities are forcing Ukrainians who seek safety to submit to strip searches and interrogations, placing some refugees in guarded camps, stripping them of their vital documents and in some cases forcing them to remain in Russia, according to displaced Ukrainians, volunteers helping refugees, and Ukrainian and Western officials. – Washington Post 

The West united against Russia’s war on Ukraine more swiftly and solidly than almost anyone had expected. But as the war settles into a prolonged conflict, one that could rumble on for months or even years, it is testing the resolve of Western countries, with European and American officials questioning whether the rising economic toll will erode their solidarity over time. – New York Times 

Ukraine offered to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the safe evacuation of the badly injured fighters trapped inside a steel mill in the ruined city of Mariupol, as Kyiv began preparing for its first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier. – Associated Press 

The United States does not believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to militarily take on the NATO alliance, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday, as Moscow struggles to achieve its goals in Ukraine three months into its invasion. – Reuters 

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday said Russia’s use of hypersonic missiles in Ukraine has not had “significant or game-changing effects” in the war. – The Hill 

In a blog post titled “Redeployment” the popular blogger Anatoly Nesmiyan aka El-Murid takes note of reports that Russia is redeploying some of its forces in Syria to Ukraine to participate in the fighting. According to Nesmiyan, the reports if corroborated prove that Russia has lost many officers in its “non-war” in Ukraine. This compounds the effect of the reforms of former defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who sought to reform the army after Russia’s lackluster performance in the war with Georgia in 2008. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The Russian ruble has turned into the world’s best-performing currency this year, as its onshore rate is up more than 11% against the US dollar so far in 2022. – Business Insider 

James McAuley writes: From the beginning, the abuse of history — the history of the Holocaust in particular — has been at the heart of Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has attempted to justify the invasion as a means of “denazifying” Ukraine — though its democratically elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish and had several family members who were murdered in the Holocaust — and Russia’s rhetoric has descended into outright antisemitism. – Washington Post

Riva Levinson writes: With these ties that bind, it’s no wonder that nearly a third of African countries abstained on the March 2 vote condemning the invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly. And no surprise that in the middle of the offensive in Ukraine, Russia and Cameroon signed a military agreement on April 12 for the exchange of information and training of troops. – The Hill

Spencer Faragasso writes: The procurement pathways or networks acquiring these components could not be identified from the available information. Surprisingly, Russia appears to have decided not to source its domestic industries, perhaps because these industries do not exist or cannot produce reliable parts, such as the Japanese camera lens or U.S. microchips. – Institute for Science and International Security 


Shortly before the European Union envoy met Iran’s nuclear negotiator in Tehran on Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to salvage Iran’s atomic deal with world powers, the country’s Intelligence Ministry announced that authorities have detained two Europeans. – Associated Press 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards artillery fire hit an area north of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil on Wednesday, targeting what Iranian state television described as terrorist bases. – Reuters 

Vida Mehrannia is trying to save her husband’s life. Iran is scheduled to put him to death within nine days — by May 21. To Iran, the 50-year-old Ahmad Reza Jalali is a spy for Israel. To his colleagues, he is a respected physician specialized in disaster medicine, a most demanding field. To Mehrannia, he is a beloved husband. – Associated Press 

With reports that Iran has demanded that the Biden administration drop the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—a regime-controlled terrorist entity—from the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) as a final condition to re-entering the 2015 nuclear deal, Iranian American activists of various faiths have expressed concern for their community’s safety if U.S. negotiators give in to the regime’s demands. – Jewish News Syndicate  

Neville Teller writes: Should force be required to stop an Iranian bomb, Israel would have to act and almost certainly act alone. That is how the long-standing Israel-Iran proxy war could assume a terrible reality. – Jerusalem Post 

Maria Zuppello writes: By using Venezuela as an entry point to Latin America, Iran will continue to be a thorn in the side of the United States. A new US policy framework toward Latin America along with new or modified financial measures should be a priority to fight Iran’s criminal ambitions. – Algemeiner 

Yoram Ettinger writes: Suspending sanctions imposed on Iran’s Ayatollahs, would enable the latter to substantially bolster their support of the anti-US Latin American governments and terrorist groups, intensifying a clear and present threat to the homeland and national security of the US. – Arutz Sheva 

Frank Sobchak writes: Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon would not be the end; it would be just the beginning. Any thinking about how the world could live with it should include the almost certain impact of further proliferation in an unstable region that is rife with systems of government that could change violently overnight. We must consider such future nightmares while we debate what must be done now with Iran. – The Hill 

Simon Henderson writes: Whether Tehran regards Doha’s ties with Washington as a useful lever in the nuclear negotiations remains to be seen. In January, Emir Tamim met with President Biden in the White House, and photos of that encounter will no doubt be juxtaposed with images of this week’s visit with Iranian leaders. At the very least, the emir’s trip is a reminder that Qatar sees Iran as a country to be handled rather than confronted. – Washington Institute 


Many women in the Afghan capital are delaying a return to fully covering their faces in public in defiance of orders from Islamist Taliban rulers, others are staying at home and some have been wearing COVID-19 face masks anyway. – Reuters 

Terrorist organizations within Afghanistan’s borders are still roughly a year or more away from having the capability to launch attacks against Western countries, though intelligence officials remain concerned about the possibility. – Washington Examiner 

The ultraradical Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) group is trying to undermine the Taliban’s hard-line rule by launching attacks on neighboring countries from Afghanistan, analysts say. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 


The Biden administration has asked congressional leaders to approve the sale of advanced weapons and other equipment for Turkey’s fleet of F-16 jet fighters, U.S. officials said, setting up a showdown with lawmakers over a proposal to sell more of the aircraft to Ankara as it seeks to recalibrate ties with Washington. – Wall Street Journal 

A luxury yacht linked to a Russian oligarch is heading in the direction of Turkey after it was reportedly investigated by the US over accusations of arms trafficking and money laundering. – Business Insider 

Turkish authorities have raised the pressure on the country’s banks to limit corporate clients’ purchases of foreign currency in an effort to halt a renewed slide of the lira. – Financial Times 


A Palestinian-American reporter for the Al Jazeera news network was shot and killed early Wednesday during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, prompting calls for an independent investigation and jolting Israeli politics at a crucial moment for the fragile coalition government. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that Israel was capable of conducting a thorough investigation into the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent Palestinian-American Al Jazeera reporter shot dead during an Israeli raid. – Reuters 

The Palestinian Authority confirmed Thursday that it won’t allow Israel to examine the bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, even though it is one of the steps needed to determine culpability in her death. – Jerusalem Post 

The Biden administration is pressing Israel and the Palestinian Authority to engage in a joint investigation into the death of Palestinian American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh as soon as possible, according to three sources briefed on the issue. – Axios 

Security forces operated in a number of areas throughout the West Bank to arrest wanted persons suspected of terrorist activity, including in the villages of Adama, Kabatiya and the city of Hebron, arresting seven on Wednesday night. – Jerusalem Post 

Israeli security forces thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapon production materials from the Sinai Peninsula through the Mediterranean Sea to the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip several weeks ago, the military said Wednesday. – Times of Israel 

The communications of about 1,200 IDF soldiers were examined and 10 officials were questioned after information about Israeli strikes on Iranian ships was leaked to The Wall Street Journal last year. – Jerusalem Post 

An attempted stabbing attack was thwarted near the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon, after a terrorist who attempted to stab a police officer was shot. – Jerusalem Post 

Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso this week became the first sitting president of his country to visit Israel and he and his large delegation were welcomed by President Isaac Herzog at the President’s Residence. – Jerusalem Post 

Security forces arrested two more Palestinians for allegedly aiding the two suspects accused of a deadly terror attack in the central city of Elad last week, the military said Thursday. – Times of Israel 

Israel intends to relay the findings of a full military investigation into the death of reporter Shireen Abu Akleh at the Jenin refugee camp to Qatar, which owns the Al Jazeera media outlet for which the journalist worked. – Haaretz 

New legislation that would prohibit local UK governments from boycotting Israel was announced on Tuesday in the Queen’s Speech, an annual address highlighting the government’s upcoming priorities. – Alegemeiner 

Euphoria washed over Ramallah when Joe Biden was elected president of the United States in November 2020. […]Fast forward a year and a half and those high hopes have been dashed, with four Palestinian officials telling The Times of Israel that they no longer have faith the US can deliver on its promises, let alone launch bolder initiatives aimed at resolving the conflict. – Times of Israel 

Editorial: Abu Akleh’s death is terrible. But it is sadly being cynically used to blame Israel, something that will incite others to carry out even more terror attacks against the Jewish State. – Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

Lebanon’s government and its central bank have committed human rights violations by impoverishing people through the “callous destruction” of the country’s economy, an independent United Nations report said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Cybersecurity researchers with Malwarebytes said they discovered a malicious email targeting a government official at Jordan’s foreign ministry, and it appeared to originate from a prolific threat group allegedly based in Iran. – The Record 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This is not an easy task. Lebanon is hijacked by Hezbollah and Iraq is hijacked by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias. Washington will have an uphill struggle there, but this matters to Israel because Iran threatens it from Iraq. The US must also pay attention to what is happening at its Tanf garrison in Syria near the Jordanian border. – Jerusalem Post 

Korean Peninsula

The United States called out China and Russia on Wednesday for opposing further United Nations action on North Korea, warning that the Security Council “cannot stay silent any longer” as Pyongyang prepares for a seventh nuclear test. – Reuters 

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s plans to offer economic aid in return for denuclearisation could face an early challenge amid signs of an imminent North Korean nuclear test – and such proposals have been rebuffed before, analysts say. – Reuters 

Japan and South Korea are among the countries set to join the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a US-led regional grouping President Joe Biden is expected to unveil later this month, the Sankei newspaper reported. – Bloomberg 


National security police arrested Hong Kong’s outspoken retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Wednesday as part of a probe into a relief fund for people involved in prodemocracy protests, a move that could jeopardize a controversial rapprochement between Beijing and the Vatican. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s censors blocked rare public criticism of its zero-Covid strategy by the World Health Organization from social media Wednesday, as officials in Shanghai insisted there would be no change to policies that have locked tens of millions of people in their homes for weeks. – Wall Street Journal 

For years, President Xi Jinping has sidelined China’s second most powerful political figure, Premier Li Keqiang. Now, Mr. Li is re-emerging as a force in his own right, a potential counterbalance atop the Chinese government that hasn’t been seen for nearly a decade. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday the Chinese government opposes an effort in Congress to ramp up U.S. semiconductor manufacturing because it will give the United States more of a competitive punch. – Reuters 

Editorial: Hikvision, in short, is at the cutting edge of the new totalitarianism. Its heft around the world also means there are few levers the U.S. government can pull to diminish its impact meaningfully. […]They are right that, without a limiting principle to distinguish Hikvision from the vast array of other Chinese firms somehow complicit in human rights abuses, the move could accelerate a broad-scale technological decoupling for which this country isn’t prepared. But drawing up such a principle according to the particular threat Hikvision poses shouldn’t be too difficult a task. – Washington Post 

Editorial: Why did the Chinese party move against Cardinal Zen? They are scared of religion. Even communists understand how their own lack of legitimacy derives from their godlessness. We’d like to think that Cardinal Zen, Jimmy Lai, and friends will take comfort from the words of President Washington, who warned that “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” – New York Sun 

Mark Simon writes: We who desire democracy for Hong Kong are often asked if we will stand for others, as one day the regime might come for us. In Hong Kong, thousands who have answered that question face arrest and jail. Cardinal Zen has never flinched from standing up for others. Now it is up to the rest of us to stand up for him. – Washington Post 

Matthew Brooker writes: There’s a sense of being suspended between two netherworlds: the Hong Kong that has disappeared; and the land of my birth, a country that I no longer know in any meaningful way after so long away. The UK is still more of an idea than a reality to me, apprehended through endless Rightmove searches, school application emails and the occasional Zoom call. I wait for the day when I will have solid ground under my feet once again. – Bloomberg  

Gordon G. Chang writes: The U.S. is bound by World Trade Organization obligations so the effect of permanent normal trade relations withdrawal would be limited, but the powerfully symbolic move would almost certainly accelerate decoupling. – The Hill 

James Crabtree writes: As the backwash from the Ukraine crisis has shown, both China and the United States are stuck in a relationship with each other that lacks any semblance of trust, where communication channels are closed and opportunities to cooperate are rare. This dynamic is only likely to deteriorate in the future. Simmering hostilities might remain on hold as the Biden administration focuses on Ukraine and until both China’s all-important National Party Congress and the United States’ midterm elections are out of the way later this year. – Foreign Policy 

South Asia

The authorities sent bulldozers to the small city in central India within 24 hours of clashes between Hindus and Muslims that turned into a mob-fueled rampage. The Hindus said stones had been thrown from the direction of the mosque, where Muslims were breaking the Ramadan fast. The Muslims said the Hindu procession had moved toward them with provocative chants. – New York Times 

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Wednesday he would appoint a new prime minister and cabinet this week, after his elder brother and former premier Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned following deadly violence in the country. – Reuters 

His beloved villa has been daubed in graffiti by protesters, and a museum dedicated to his father ransacked. Now former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is in hiding in a heavily fortified military base, protected by the armed forces. – Reuters 

Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp (1810.HK) faces legal headaches in India as a federal financial crime-fighting agency and tax authorities investigate its business practices. – Reuters 

Hamid Mir writes: On May 9, Sharif gave a speech accusing Khan of undermining democracy by spewing “poison” against state institutions: “If this is not stopped through the law and the Constitution, then God forbid this country will become a hideous reflection of Syria and Libya where cities present scenes of graveyards today.” The political climate in Pakistan could not be more tense. Let us hope that the forces of democracy can find a way out of the current crisis. – Washington Post 


President Joe Biden is hosting leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as his administration makes an extended effort to demonstrate that the United States hasn’t lost focus on the Pacific even while dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Associated Press 

European Union leaders said on Thursday that the EU wants to become a bigger actor in Asia, which they termed a “theatre of tensions”, as they warned of an increasingly assertive China. – Reuters 

The United States is seeking early engagement with the newly elected administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the Philippines, although historical considerations mean there will probably be some initial challenges, the chief U.S. policy maker for Asia said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

A Chinese ambassador says China’s engagement with South Pacific island countries poses no threat to Australia, responding to fears that Beijing will establish a military foothold in the Solomon Islands. – Associated Press 

Southeast Asian nations are increasingly disappointed with the US over a lack of progress on trade issues, undermining President Joe Biden’s efforts to strengthen ties with the region’s leaders at a summit this week in Washington. – Bloomberg 

Chinese officials are racing to strike a maritime economic agreement with the Solomon Islands following the signing of a security pact that Western officials suspect will give the communist regime’s navy a foothold in the Pacific islands. – Washington Examiner 


Finland’s president and prime minister on Thursday said they supported the country applying for NATO membership, making it all but certain that the Nordic nation will join the alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal 

Ukraine reduced flows of Russian natural gas through its territory to Europe, sending prices higher amid the continent’s still-precarious reliance on Russian fossil fuels. – Wall Street Journal 

While local and U.S. officials have warned that Poland could be a future target of Russian aggression, the capital doesn’t appear to be on a war footing. Rather, worries about a military conflict are expressed in quiet murmurs among Poles who are privately planning for future hostilities. The shelter revival demonstrates that fears over a potential Russian chemical or conventional attack on Poland are real, but there are a range of views when it comes to war planning. – Wall Street Journal 

In the weeks since, Bulgaria, a country that Moscow long counted as its most ardent and reliable friend in Europe, has joined fellow members of the European Union in imposing ever tougher economic sanctions on Russia, offered to repair broken military helicopters and tanks for Ukraine, and expelled yet more Russian diplomats. – New York Times 

Britain pledged to come to the aid of Sweden and Finland, including with military support, if the two Nordic nations came under attack under security deals Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed Wednesday with his Swedish counterpart in Stockholm and the Finnish president in Helsinki. – Associated Press 

The European Commission is preparing new rules that would make it easier for EU governments to confiscate assets of oligarchs and other wealthy individuals hit by sanctions because of their ties with the Kremlin, according to officials and documents. – Reuters 

Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O) said on Wednesday it has withdrawn a request for policy guidance from its Oversight Board about the content moderation of posts related to Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine. – Reuters 

Ukrainian forces are keeping up a counterattack to the north of the second largest city of Kharkiv and recapturing several towns and villages toward the Russian border, Britain said on Thursday. – Reuters 

NATO allies expect Finland and Sweden to apply to join the alliance in the coming days and will grant membership quickly, five diplomats and officials said, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forces a radical rethink of European security. – Reuters 

The United Nations Secretary-General struck an ominous tone Wednesday when asked about his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the potential for a peace deal with Ukraine. – Fox News 

Jillian Kay Melchior writes: Prospects of a negotiated rescue for the soldiers are slim. The Ukrainian fighters’ stand in Mariupol has pinned down Russian troops and prevented them from joining other battles in southern and eastern Ukraine, so there’s a strategic reason for them to remain. Meanwhile, Mr. Putin wants to give the Russian public a flashy military victory in Mariupol and therefore is likely loath to show any mercy to the soldiers there. – Wall Street Journal 

Alexander Stubb writes: Security is not a zero-sum game. I hope that the Russian regime will one day understand this, too. This will allow us to re-establish good relations with Russia. In the meantime, we will help to maximise security in Europe by joining Nato. It is not against anyone, but for us. All of us. – Financial Times 

Anthony B. Kim writes: It is certainly in the best interest of the United States and its allies to direct much-needed humanitarian assistance to Ukraine through faith-based and other civil society networks as much as possible. – Heritage Foundation 


The Islamic State’s regional affiliates in Africa are carrying out lethal attacks at a tempo far surpassing that of the parent organization that once ruled large swaths of Iraq and Syria, Morocco’s chief diplomat said Wednesday at a meeting of the global alliance battling the militant group. – Washington Post 

Eight soldiers were killed and 13 wounded in an attack in northern Togo on Wednesday, the government said, marking potentially the first deadly raid on its territory by Islamist militants who have killed thousands in neighbouring countries. – Reuters 

Five Egyptian soldiers were killed by militants on Wednesday in northern Sinai, the second deadly strike against security forces on the peninsula in less than a week, and the military said it had carried out air strikes in response. – Reuters 

The German government backed a change to two of the country’s military deployments in West Africa, moving hundreds of soldiers from Mali to neighboring Niger and shifting its emphasis in Mali from a European to a United Nations mission. – Associated Press 

Latin America

The murder of a Paraguayan prosecutor known for fighting organized crime was likely the victim of “transnational” criminals working across borders, the head of Colombia’s police said Wednesday, as both countries pledged to probe the high-profile hit. – Reuters 

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said on Wednesday “protectionism” in some European sectors was the biggest challenge for a free trade agreement between the Southern Common Market, also known as Mercosur, and the European Union. – Reuters 

The former national police chief of Honduras made an initial appearance in a New York courtroom Wednesday after his extradition to the United States to face criminal drug trafficking charges, a day after the former president of the Central America country pleaded not guilty to related criminal charges. – Associated Press 

Venezuelan oil production is set to get a boost from record inflows of Iranian crude used to improve the quality of the Latin American nation’s supplies. – Bloomberg  

The Americas

In a potential embarrassment for his administration, a growing number of hemispheric leaders have said they will not attend an Americas summit, to be hosted by President Biden next month in Los Angeles, if the meeting excludes Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. – Washington Post 

Mike Leven and Julie Platt write: Signing the Jewish Future Pledge demonstrates not just fealty to the past, but faith in the future and a determination that Jewish life will be not just liberated from fear and vulnerability, but zestful, compelling, relevant, and dynamic for many years to come – and perhaps most importantly: secure. – Jerusalem Post 

Javier Blas writes: Rather than NOPEC bills, Washington should try diplomacy, starting with improving its relationships in the Middle East with oil-producing countries. But OPEC itself should pay attention to the noises coming from inside the Beltway. The longer oil trades above $100 a barrel, the higher the risk of unintended consequences. – Bloomberg 


Cybersecurity authorities in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand released a joint advisory Wednesday warning that they “expect malicious cyber actors — including state-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) groups — to step up their targeting” of managed service providers, and urged a renewed focus on cyber hygiene. – CyberScoop 

One of Russia’s largest video streaming websites was rendered inoperable for three days after it was the target of a cyberattack. – NBC 

Costa Rica has declared a state of emergency after ransomware hackers crippled computer networks across multiple government agencies, including the Finance Ministry. – NBC 

The U.S., Canada and European powers this week blamed Russia for a February cyberattack that disrupted internet service for tens of thousands of people in the critical moments that preceded the latest invasion of Ukraine. – Defense News 

David Gelernter writes: If Silicon Valley doesn’t take the lead, some other country’s tech industry will step into the limelight and lead the march forward. It could be China. Most likely it will be Taiwan or Israel. But it could also be South Korea, Singapore or Japan. Right now, Mr. Musk has the ball. We’re all waiting to see what happens next, hoping it will be worthy of him—and of us. – Wall Street Journal 


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has acknowledged that there’s a “problem” in terms of how Navy sailors are housed aboard ships in need of repair, such as the USS George Washington. – The Hill 

The Pentagon’s Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office has wrapped up a demonstration of high-power microwave technology capable of taking out multiple drone threats at once. – Defense News 

U.S. Army officials facing supply chain snags as they seek to restock Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank weapons sent to Ukraine may get a reprieve. – Defense News