Fdd's overnight brief

May 13, 2022

In The News


The front line between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces has skirted this village in Donbas since the conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014. The line moved by just a few hundred yards after Russia launched its all-out invasion on Feb. 24, a sign that Moscow is struggling to reach even its most modest war aims in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia on Thursday warned that Finland’s potential membership in NATO was a threat and said that it was prepared to “balance the situation,” characterizing any steps it takes in response as a necessary reaction forced on it by the alliance’s continued expansion. – New York Times 

The U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday passed a resolution by a strong majority, setting up an investigation into allegations of rights abuses by Russian troops in parts of Ukraine formerly under their control. – Reuters 

Russian forces in eastern Ukraine are pushing on to make a breakthrough in order to encircle Ukrainian forces in the area, a UK defense intelligence update noted Friday morning as the Russian invasion of Ukraine stretches into its 78th day. – Reuters 

Russia’s state-owned gas supplier has said it will cut shipments to Europe through a major pipeline, sending prices surging and reinforcing President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to use energy as a weapon against the EU. – Financial Times 

David Ignatius writes: Even as the war continues in Ukraine, I hope President Biden will keep repeating the message: “The Russian people are not our enemy.” The United States must continue to illuminate an eventual path of return. Someday, an exhausted, traumatized Russia will come in from the cold. – Washington Post  

Fareed Zakaria writes: The dollar maintains its crucial role in the international system because the United States has the world’s largest economy. It also has the most liquid debt markets, its currency floats freely, and, crucially, it is regarded as a country based on the rule of law and not one prone to arbitrary and unilateral actions. That last criterion is not one that Washington has lived up to in recent years. Biden should make sure that, in fighting this battle against Russia, he does not erode America’s unique financial superpower. – Washington Post 

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan write: By funding and supporting Russian media, educational, and research projects based in Europe, European governments could help bring liberal ideas and independent reporting about Russia to Russians themselves and help counter the propaganda of the Putin regime. Over time, they could also help give rise to a new narrative about Russia and what the future of the country might be. If Western governments fail to support this sudden wave of exiles, however, they will squander what could be one of their most effective forms of soft power against Russian autocracy. – Foreign Affairs 

Max Bergmann writes: The war in Ukraine could move in Russia’s direction or a possible negotiated settlement may present a path for Moscow to get out from under sanctions. China or other autocratic states in the Middle East or elsewhere may come to Russia’s aid. Russia will also inevitably find new and creative ways to make its influence felt and hit back at the West. Additionally, Russia will expect the impact of sanctions and export controls to fade over time without a concerted effort to monitor, update, and maintain sanctions. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


France summoned a senior Iranian diplomat on Thursday after two of its citizens were detained in Tehran in what Paris said was a baseless arrest, an incident likely to complicate ties between the countries as wider talks on reviving a nuclear deal stall. – Reuters 

Qatar’s emir and the European Union on Thursday said they are working to push forward stalled negotiations aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran as an EU envoy held a second day of meetings with Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri in the Iranian capital. – Agence France-Presse  

There is little chance of the United States agreeing to remove Iran’s elite security force from its list of foreign terrorist organisations any time soon, a French diplomatic source said on Thursday, casting a further pall over nuclear negotiations. – Reuters 

The European Union’s Iran nuclear talks coordinator Enrique Mora was detained for a short time at Frankfurt airport by German police on his way to Brussels on Friday, he said on Twitter. – Reuters 

Iran’s supreme leader urged his country and Qatar to substantially strengthen economic and political ties following a visit to Tehran by the ruler of the Gulf Arab monarchy. “The current level of economic relations between the two countries is too low and it must be several times what it is,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement on his website. Political ties should also be developed, he said, as “there’s room for a further exchange of views.” – Bloomberg 

High Representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, said that, “Negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran were stalled, but have recently been restarted, which means there is a possibility of reaching a final agreement [in the near future].” – Arutz Sheva 

As a court verdict looms in Sweden in a case that has implicated high-ranking members of Iran’s clerical regime in war crimes, Tehran appears to be targeting Swedish citizens in Iran as payback. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

New information has emerged in what appears to be a continued public relations war over an Iran Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps official who was nabbed and interrogated by the Mossad, with broad implications for US-Iran diplomacy. Iran International TV in Persian provided significant additional details on Thursday about Mansour Rasouli’s connections with the IRGC. – Jerusalem Post 

Editorial: The resolution is nonbinding, but it’s a warning to the White House that a bad deal is a loser politically as well as strategically. If Iran won’t allow verification of its prior commitments, it can’t be trusted on any deal. – Wall Street Journal 


The Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers on Thursday said the increasing restrictions imposed by the Taliban on the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan were isolating the country. – Reuters 

The U.N. Security Council held emergency closed consultations Thursday on the Taliban’s latest crackdown on Afghan women as it considered a presidential statement that would express deep concern at the new ban by Afghanistan’s rulers on women leaving home “without necessity” and wearing head-to-toe clothing when they do go out in public. – Associated Press 

The Taliban shutdown of girls’ education shows the hardline Islamists’ are not listening to the Afghan people and poses a major hurdle to international recognition of the new regime, a top European Union official said Thursday. – Agence France-Presse 

The Afghan National Resistance Front, after fierce fighting that “achieved some initial success” but failed to liberate districts in Northeast Afghanistan, will wheel on the Taliban in a long fight with unconventional tactics. – New York Sun  

Editorial: The Taliban’s reversion to repressive type presents a challenge for the United States and other democratic countries, which — laudably — decried this latest broken promise. The U.N. Security Council took up the matter Thursday at the request of Norway, but at a closed session. The Biden administration has conditioned diplomatic recognition and economic aid on Taliban respect for human rights. Though a difficult line to draw, given the Afghan people’s desperate humanitarian needs, the United States has been right to draw it; this country and its allies cannot bankroll a regime that so blatantly subjugates women. – Washington Post 


Kurdish militants fired rockets and mortar shells from Syria in an attack on a military border post in southeast Turkey on Thursday, wounding four Turkish soldiers and a civilian, the Turkish Defence Ministry said. – Reuters 

Turkey’s large Syrian refugee population has become a political football as an economic crisis overshadows next year’s presidential election and parties spar over sending them back to their war-torn homeland. – Agence France-Presse 

Turkey’s top appeals court convicted a key opposition figure on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the state, fueling political tensions ahead of elections scheduled for next year. The court sentenced Canan Kaftancioglu, the top Istanbul official for the main opposition party, CHP, to nearly five years in prison. The party summoned all lawmakers for an emergency meeting at its Istanbul headquarters. – Bloomberg 


The Palestinian Authority on Thursday rejected an Israeli request to examine the bullet that killed an Al Jazeera reporter during an Israeli raid in the West Bank a day earlier, as Israel said it is investigating an incident in which Israeli fire could have been responsible for her death. – Wall Street Journal  

Israeli security forces have increased their alertness in and around Jerusalem today for the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. – Jerusalem Post 

A Palestinian man hurled a cinderblock at a car carrying Israeli civilians in the West Bank before being shot by IDF troops Friday morning, according to the military. – Times of Israel 

The military’s investigation into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has been narrowed to focus on one particular exchange of gunfire between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen on Wednesday in Jenin, according to a report Thursday. – Times of Israel 

Israeli forces continued raiding towns and villages across PA-controlled territory in Judea and Samaria Friday morning, arresting at least two suspects and clashing with rioters in Bruqin and Jenin. – Arutz Sheva 

David Horovitz writes: This was an authentic Israeli narrative — not spin or PR. Delivered, obviously, in Hebrew, and doubtless too forthright anyway for international consumption. But resonant, at least, with the watching Israeli public. Who also, not incidentally, need to understand what’s being done in their name and for their defense. – Times of Israel 

Ben-Dror Yemini writes: For as the U.S. fought terrorism and Jihad, from the Islamic State to Al-Qaeda, Israel is justified in its struggle against Palestinian terror and Jihad. And this is a fundamental truth that Israel has failed to communicate. – Ynet 

Chuck Freilich writes: For all of the above reasons, Israel has very good reasons for not wanting to anger the Russian bear. Nevertheless, the entire world is gearing up to help Ukraine, the United States is leading an unprecedented international alliance, and Israel must be able to do more. Some have suggested defensive weapons or at least defensive cyber capabilities. – The National Interest 

Middle East & North Africa

Yemen’s government has agreed to allow Houthi-issued passport holders to travel outside Yemen, three officials said on Thursday, removing a major obstacle that had stalled resumption of commercial flights from the capital Sanaa under a truce deal. – Reuters 

A U.S. move to allow some foreign investment in parts of northern Syria that are outside government control is part of the Biden administration’s strategy to ensure the defeat of Islamic State by promoting economic stabilization, senior administration officials said on Thursday. – Reuters  

The new U.S. general overseeing American forces in the Middle East said allies were concerned about long-term U.S. commitment to the region, as he wrapped up a visit to the United Arab Emirates on Friday. – Reuters 

Iraqis could face the death penalty or life imprisonment for promoting normalization with Israel according to a bill being discussed in parliament, The New Arab reports. The Iraqi Council of Representatives on Wednesday held the first reading of the draft law banning normalization of ties with the Jewish state. – Algemeiner 

Despite a 1995 U.S.-Jordan extradition treaty, Al-Tamimi has been provided safe haven in Jordan since 2011. In 2017, after the FBI added her to its Most Wanted list, Jordan’s supreme court ruled that she cannot be extradited to the U.S. because the treaty was not ratified by the Jordanian parliament and that effectively there is no treaty. Her husband, another Palestinian terrorist, was deported to Qatar in October 2020. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Editorial: Nevertheless, we should not give up hope. Lebanon is an important country, and our friends in the Gulf care about what happens in Beirut. We should work closely with the US and partners in the region to make sure Lebanon remains stable, regardless of the outcome of the election. – Jerusalem Post 

Nickolay Mladenov, Zohar Palti, and Ebtesam al-Ketbi, Karim Haggag write: Yet regional cooperation should be leveraged to deal with conflicts, underscoring rather than sidelining the Israeli-Palestinian question. Israel is not the problem, Israel’s occupation is. Israeli leaders wanted Arab leaders to reach out for decades, but now that they have, stagnation persists in the Palestinian conflict. Egypt supports the Abraham Accords in the hope that expanding Arab-Israeli cooperation can push the peace process forward; this is why it recently hosted Israel and the UAE at Sharm al-Sheikh and attended the Negev Summit. – Washington Institute 

Jon B. Alterman writes: Global indifference to Russia’s actions in Ukraine represents a victory for Chinese diplomacy, which argues countries need not choose between close ties to the United States and its superpower competitors. U.S. thinking that three-quarters of a century of global leadership will give it an edge in a confrontation with China is likely mistaken, if Middle Eastern attitudes toward Ukraine are any indication. Firepower and economic strength will still matter in the fight, but even some of our closest friends are likely to stay above the fray. – Defense One 

Banafsheh Keynoush writes: It remains to be seen whether Iran can provide the capital needed to develop Dorra/Arash and find a way of cooperating with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. At the policy level, Iran is calling for one contract every week or two to develop shared fields with its Arab neighbors and promising to deliver contracts to Iranian private developers and investors if its neighbors refuse to cooperate. – Middle East Institute  

Robert Mason writes: The best bet, however, would be to build on ongoing Saudi–Iranian diplomacy aimed at ending the Yemen war and building a more sustainable regional security mechanism. The future of the relationship and the neoliberal international order lies as much in the Iranian nuclear agreement and its return to the international oil market as it does in other points of U.S.–Saudi contention. The political deadlock can be broken, but U.S.-Saudi relations look set to be far more transactional and cautious than they have been previously. – The National Interest  

Korean Peninsula

North Korea launched three ballistic missiles off its east coast on Thursday, officials in Seoul and Tokyo said, after it imposed a nationwide lockdown prompted by its first reported local case of Covid-19. – Wall Street Journal   

North Korea appears ready for its seventh nuclear test, South Korea’s presidential office said on Friday, the Yonhap news agency reported. – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden is considering a trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone when he visits Asia later this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday. – Reuters 

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his South Korean counterpart condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches in a phone call on Thursday, the White House said. – Reuters 

The United States has no current plans to share vaccines with North Korea, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said on Thursday, after Pyongyang reported its first COVID-19 outbreak. – Reuters 


China’s immigration authority is still providing services for necessary trips outside the country, it said on Friday, denying rumours that passport issuances were halted and that residency cards for living in foreign countries were being invalidated. – Reuters 

Hong Kong police said on Thursday they had filed complaints to the city’s main professional legal bodies over a national security case involving a fund that had assisted pro-democracy protesters to pay for legal services. – Reuters 

A Chinese surveillance ship has been tracking Australia’s western coastline for the past week, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Friday. The ship has been close to military and intelligence installations and traveled south of Exmouth along Western Australia’s coast, he said at a press conference in Perth. The nation’s defense department said separately that it respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation in international waters. – Bloomberg 

Russian setbacks in Ukraine have begun to prompt more explicit warnings in China about Moscow’s value as a diplomatic partner, in a sign of growing unease over President Xi Jinping’s strategic embrace of Vladimir Putin. – Bloomberg 

The US State Department outlined plans to boost pressure on China over what it called “horrific abuses” of Uyghur and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region, an issue that is becoming one of the biggest points of tension between the world’s two biggest economies. – Bloomberg 

South Asia

Sri Lanka’s president appointed an opposition politician as prime minister in an effort to appease protesters, as monthslong demonstrations over an economic crisis turned deadly this week. – Wall Street Journal 

Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif faces a crucial few weeks when he must end fuel subsidies and convince the International Monetary Fund he’s doing enough to win a bailout, while ousted premier Imran Khan threatens new protests amid soaring inflation. – Bloomberg 

One person was killed and at least 13 others injured — four of them critically — by an explosion that ripped through a busy market in the Pakistani port city of Karachi late on May 12. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Pakistan has handed over two top commanders of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to the Afghan Taliban, which has been mediating peace talks between the sides, as part of efforts to revive negotiations with the militant group, sources told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Sadanand Dhume writes: In living rooms in Colombo, it’s not uncommon to hear Sri Lankans lament that their country could have been like Singapore—prosperous and well-run. Thanks to hubris and mismanagement, it looks increasingly like Venezuela. – Wall Street Journal 


European Council President Charles Michel who is visiting Japan’s Hiroshima, the first city to suffer an atomic bombing, on Friday said global security was under threat from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s recent missile test. – Reuters 

Indonesia has impounded at least 81,000 litres of cooking oil bound for East Timor, the trade ministry said, as the Southeast Asian country seeks to enforce a ban on exports of crude palm oil and its derivatives including cooking oil. – Reuters 

The Biden administration hopes a first-ever Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit hosted in Washington this week will demonstrate U.S. commitment to a region where it is vying with Beijing for influence, but the region’s leaders faced questions, and at least one awkward moment, over human rights and democracy. – Reuters 

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday that a joint EU-Japan statement that mentioned a territorial dispute between China and Japan was an attempt to smear China and interfere in its internal affairs. – Reuters 


President Volodymyr Zelensky has become the face of Ukraine’s resistance against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invading forces, with impassioned speeches such as an address to the United Nations Security Council in which he accused Russian forces of committing war crimes. – Wall Street Journal 

Ukrainian and Western officials say that Russia is reportedly withdrawing forces from around Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, where it has been losing territory, and will likely redirect troops to the southeast, where Moscow’s troops are having greater success. – New York Times 

One of the biggest donors to Britain’s Conservative Party is suspected of secretly funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party from a Russian account, according to a bank alert filed to Britain’s national law enforcement agency. – New York Times 

The European Commission said on Thursday it would work with EU governments to help Ukraine export millions of tonnes of grain stuck in the country because the Russian navy is blocking Ukrainian ports. – Reuters 

The Swiss government on Thursday reported 6.3 billion Swiss francs ($6.33 billion) worth of Russian assets frozen under sanctions to punish Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, a drop from early April as around 3.4 billion francs in provisionally blocked assets were released. – Reuters 

Ukraine said it had damaged a Russian navy logistics ship near Snake Island, a small but strategic outpost in the Black Sea, while relatives of Ukrainian soldiers holed up in Mariupol’s besieged steelworks pleaded for them to be saved. – Reuters 

Some European Union nations are saying it may be time to consider delaying a push to ban Russian oil so they can proceed with the rest of a proposed sanctions package if the bloc can’t persuade Hungary to back the embargo. – Bloomberg 

The steady friendship between Hungary and Poland, who for years gave each other cover as they defied the European Union over the rule of law, has frozen over since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Bloomberg 

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said the Brexit settlement in Northern Ireland is causing economic and political harm and called on the European Union to be flexible, comments likely to be seen as an attempt to publicly align himself with Boris Johnson after reports of a rift. – Bloomberg 

The websites of Italy’s parliament, military and National Health Institute faced disruptions on Thursday by a pro-Russian hacking group previously implicated in a similar cyberattack on the Romanian government. – The Record 

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, is pushing member states to boost the amount of Ukrainian military aid the bloc will finance by 500 million euros ($522 million) to 2 billion euros, according to people familiar with the discussions. – Bloomberg 

The U.S. and its allies are trying to fast-track Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership in what would be a remarkable diplomatic and security defeat for Russia as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. – The Hill 

Amid Russia’s threats to Western nations in its war with Ukraine, a bipartisan delegation of senators will travel to Spain for the NATO summit in June, according to a Thursday statement. – The Hill 

Ukrainian forces last month proclaimed they had sunk the Moskva missile cruiser, Russia’s flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, scoring a large symbolic and strategic victory for Ukraine against Russia’s larger military. While the Kremlin has denied a missile sank the cruiser, its military has faced determined opposition from Ukrainian forces who have at times used unexpectedly advanced weaponry. – Newsweek  

Russian news agencies have cited purported Lithuanian plans to withdraw Vilnius’s ambassador to Moscow and shut down its consulate in St. Petersburg next month over Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Ukrainian counteroffensives around Kharkiv City are pushing back Russian positions northeast of the city toward the international border and will likely continue to force the Russians to reinforce those positions at the cost of reinforcing Russian offensive operations elsewhere. – Institute for the Study of War 

Noah Rothman writes: To the visible consternation of a vocal minority, Americans across the political spectrum are deeply invested in Ukraine’s fight against Russia. It’s hard to see what political advantage the detractors are seeking in their efforts to popularize apathy toward the atrocities we’re all witnessing in Europe. In fact, their position is so ploddingly unpersuasive and wildly out of step with the country that we can only conclude their hostility toward Ukraine’s cause is entirely sincere. – Commentary Magazine 


Protais Mpiranya, one of the last remaining fugitives sought over the 1994 Rwandan genocide, has been confirmed dead and the case against him has been closed, the prosecutor of the successor court to the UN Rwanda tribunal said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Nigerian police say two suspects have been arrested in connection with the killing of a Christian student accused of blaspheming against Islam. The young woman was attacked by Muslim students at her college in the city of Sokoto, who killed her and set her body alight. – BBC 

Hannah Rae Armstrong writes: International actors tend to underestimate how interlinked the Sahel and North Africa are; an envoy could help to streamline and coordinate different forms of U.S. aid at a time of regional upheaval and as states seek to diversify their foreign partnerships. This would help to ensure that U.S. policies in the Sahel do not inadvertently inflame tensions in North Africa, and vice versa. – Foreign Policy 

The Americas

Canada will deploy a general and six staff officers to a new NATO unit in Latvia that will help plan, coordinate and integrate regional military activities, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The community of Fuerabamba in the Andean region of Peru was resettled eight years ago to make way for a giant Chinese-owned copper mine, in a $1.2 billion scheme billed as a model solution to protests dogging the South American nation’s mining sector. – Reuters 

A Venezuela-owned tanker in March sailed to a remote spot in the Indian Ocean and met an Iran-flagged vessel, took on a cargo of Iranian condensate and sailed home, according to monitoring services and shipping documents. – Reuters 

A group of 18 progressive House Democrats sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to lift all sanctions against Venezuela that “exacerbate the humanitarian situation” in the country. – The Hill 


The U.S. on Thursday signed the Second Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention, a multilateral treaty aimed to protect citizens from cybercrime and hold cybercriminals accountable. – The Hill 

White House Cyber Director Chris Inglis said on Friday he expects Russia’s use of disruptive cyber attacks to continue so long as there is war in Ukraine. – Bloomberg 

An analysis of a well-known Iranian hacking operation that’s previously blurred the line between espionage and extortion suggests that the group is engaging in more purely financial attacks, including against targets in the U.S., Europe and Australia. – CyberScoop 

Editorial: Crypto currencies have passionate supporters, and the best may find a permanent place in the financial marketplace. But more than a few will wash out in this liquidity purge. As we learned in 2008, problems on Wall Street can quickly spread to Main Street. The challenge for regulators is to protect the financial system from damage that won’t end with crypto. They’d better be preparing for the next casualties. – Wall Street Journal 

Max Smeets writes: In trying to keep up with the fast pace of developments in cyber conflict, much expert commentary has focused on whether cyber effect operations can produce strategic advantages or be influenced by norms. Yet, we first need to address a more fundamental question: When are states actually able to conduct operations in the first place? While the proliferation of military cyber commands suggests major change is afoot in cyber warfare, making these organizations work remains much harder and more expensive than it appears. – War on the Rocks 


The US is pushing to use new technology to help secure the Middle East’s important waterways, including the Red Sea. US Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, a part of the US Fifth Fleet, gave a briefing this week about the drive for new technology.  – Jerusalem Post 

A decade ago, the major launch pads at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Kennedy Space Center in Florida were flying just three or four missions annually. Now, after a record 31 launches in 2021, they are expecting to host 67 this year, or almost one every five days. – Defense News 

Representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, hosted by the US Deputy Secretary of Defense, Dr. William A. LaPlante in Washington, led an annual meeting in the fields of logistics, research, and military cooperation this week. – Arutz Sheva 

Britain and the United States have agreed to collaborate on future commercial spaceflight missions, boosting opportunities for firms from both countries to operate from spaceports in either, the British government said on Friday. – Reuters