Fdd's overnight brief

May 15, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Alarmed by Iran’s progress in enriching uranium at close to weapons-grade levels, European countries are pressing the Biden administration to revive a diplomatic track with Tehran that they hope would help avoid a possible nuclear crisis. – Wall Street Journal

Two French citizens detained by Iran were released on Friday on humanitarian grounds and made their way back to France, according to French and Iranian authorities. – New York Times

Iran arrested leaders of a strike at a key gas facility and accused them of being supported by “foreign networks,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. – Bloomberg

Visibility into Iran’s nuclear program dimmed last year after the Persian Gulf nation removed cameras and surveillance equipment, raising international concern about the ability to carry out checks. – Bloomberg

The U.S. military is working with allies to send more ships and aircraft to the Middle East as Iran escalates its seizures of merchant tankers, the National Security Council announced Friday. – Politico

Iran is seeking to increase threats to the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman by adding cruise missiles to its ships, pro-regime media has claimed. According to reports on Tasnim News, Iran’s R.-Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri said the domestic cruise missile ‘Qadr-474’ – with a range of 2,000 km. – had been added to ships. The original article also praised the IRGC for its involvement in seizing an oil tanker and putting UAVs and other missiles on its boats. – Jerusalem Post

Iran has spent most of its national sovereign wealth fund in the past decade or so amid sanctions, the chairman of the national inspectorate said Sunday. – Iran International

James Stavridis writes: While it’s always important to let diplomacy play out a bit further, simply allowing Iran to seize commercial shipping operating legally as bargaining chips to avoid sanctions won’t be tolerated. The sooner the US and its allies communicate that directly and clearly to Tehran, the better. Or else we may be back in the convoy business again in the Middle East. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: For Iran, the next step will be to try to focus on PIJ rebuilding its arsenal and expertise in rocketry and keeping the possibility of a threat open to Israel via the PIJ proxy forces in Gaza and the West Bank. Since Iran largely sees PIJ as expendable or attrition-able units, it doesn’t mind a bit of attrition in Gaza. In this scenario, Iran may believe it has achieved success in the last week. It has once again tested Israel. Its proxy remains largely intact, with the exception of a few lost commanders and minus 1,200 rockets. – Jerusalem Post

Amos Harel writes: Boot quotes the veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller, who says the United States has only three basic interests in the Middle East – war against terrorism, ensuring international access to the supply of oil and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons – and it is still getting along well with the first two missions. Israel is unlikely to find solace in that analysis. The regional players are upset not only by Iran’s progress; they are also apprehensive about the possible development of a regional nuclear arms race, if Tehran crosses the red line and manufactures a bomb. – Haaretz

Russia & Ukraine

A group of former Soviet republics has emerged as a major transshipment hub for U.S. and European computer chips, lasers and other products with civilian and military uses headed for Russia, according to Western officials and data compiled by The Wall Street Journal. – Wall Street Journal

Russian forces launched a wave of drones and missiles at Ukraine over the weekend, while a Ukrainian counterattack continued on the outskirts of Bakhmut, killing a Russian commander and his deputy. – Wall Street Journal

Ukraine’s president vowed to reclaim his entire country while on his first visit to Germany since Russia attacked Ukraine last year, a trip that signaled that the tense relations between Kyiv and its biggest military and financial backer in Europe are thawing. – Wall Street Journal

In late January, with his mercenary forces dying by the thousands in a fight for the ruined city of Bakhmut, Wagner Group owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin made Ukraine an extraordinary offer. Prigozhin said that if Ukraine’s commanders withdrew their soldiers from the area around Bakhmut, he would give Kyiv information on Russian troop positions, which Ukraine could use to attack them. – Washington Post

NATO nations are locked in negotiations to determine next steps in Ukraine’s path toward joining the Western alliance, as member states scramble to bridge divisions over how quickly Kyiv should be brought under the transatlantic security shield at a time of acute hostility with Russia. – Washington Post

Rocket launchers, precision-guided missiles and billions of dollars’ worth of other advanced American weapons have given Ukraine a fighting chance against Russia ahead of a counteroffensive. But if even a few of the arms wind up on the black market instead of the battlefield, a Ukrainian lawmaker gloomily predicted, “we’re done.” – New York Times

The European armed forces treaty from which Moscow is to withdraw is contrary to Russia’s security interests, Russia’s envoy in charge of the withdrawal said in remarks published early on Monday. – Reuters

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations plan to tighten sanctions on Russia at their summit in Japan this week, with steps aimed at energy and exports aiding Moscow’s war effort, said officials with direct knowledge of the discussions. – Reuters

U.S. fighter jets intercepted six Russian aircraft operating in international airspace near Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said on Sunday. – Reuters

The head of Russia’s federal crime agency on Saturday suggested that key sectors of the economy should be returned to state ownership to support Moscow’s war in Ukraine. – Reuters

As the Eurovision song contest was underway in Britain late on Saturday, Russian missiles hit the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil, which is home to the electro-pop duo Tvorchi, this year’s contestants from Ukraine. – Reuters

U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi plans to present an agreement with Russia and Ukraine on protecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to the U.N. Security Council this month, indicating a deal is close, four diplomats have told Reuters. – Reuters

Editorial: Russia’s economy, though it has proved surprisingly resilient, is smaller than Canada’s or Italy’s; it cannot indefinitely absorb such an income loss — let alone even lower revenue if the West continues to reduce the cap, as it should. The Ukrainian military has stopped Russia’s advance on the battlefield. By enlarging the field of battle to sap Russia’s economy, the West might hasten a reckoning for Mr. Putin and the circles around him sooner rather than later. – Washington Post

Hal Brands writes: The course of the current war was not predetermined, either. A smarter attack plan by Putin, a less tenacious Ukrainian defense, or a more diffident American stance might easily have produced a Russian victory that would have reordered Eastern Europe and reverberated around the world. Ukraine, or large chunks of it, might have been incorporated into a “union state” with Russia and Belarus; the global axis of autocracies led by Moscow and Beijing would be riding high. Even now, the outcome is far from certain. Choices made in Moscow, Kyiv, Washington and Beijing will determine when and how the conflict ends, and whether it bolsters or batters an international order that has been under growing strain. – Bloomberg

Andreas Kluth writes: The European Union is indeed a peace project, but one that was forged in the purgatory of war and must be defended against its enemies now and in the future. Two cheers in retrospect to Charlemagne. And three cheers to Zelenskiy and the Ukrainians for showing the rest of us the way. – Bloomberg

Abbie Tingstad and Stephanie Pezard write: Yet Norway’s turn at the rotating chairmanship of the council might be fortuitous, as no other Arctic nation has such an extensive and daily experience of managing Arctic-related issues with Russia, due to shared geography and history. Under these difficult circumstances, Norway can communicate its priorities and facilitate dialogue about what model Arctic Council activities will take moving forward. With a willingness to adapt, and a clear eye on seeking to benefit those in the Arctic that are most in need of regional cooperation, the Arctic Council may not only survive this crisis but could come out stronger than before. – The Hill


Israel and Gaza-based militant group Islamic Jihad agreed to a cease-fire late Saturday, to end five days of intense fighting that had raised fears of a wider conflict. – Wall Street Journal

Since Israel’s foundation in 1948, universal military conscription has been a central pillar of national defense—and national identity. Young men and women have served side by side in what has been a major rite of passage for generations of Israelis. That may be about to change. – Wall Street Journal

Gaza militants fired a rocket at southern Israel on Sunday, a day after an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire ended five days of cross-border fighting, and Palestinian militant groups said the launch had been a “technical error”. – Reuters

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad has 6,000 rockets in its arsenal and Islamist Hamas has four times that, Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said on Saturday. – Reuters

Palestinian militants said they remained committed to a truce with Israel despite an exchange of fire that marred hours of quiet achieved by a cease-fire agreement Saturday night. – Bloomberg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised security forces for what he called a perfect job in Operation Shield and Arrow on Sunday, in a cabinet meeting hours after a ceasefire took effect. – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority on Sunday called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant against National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir for allegedly supporting the targeted killing of Palestinians in the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post

A Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes in a northern West Bank refugee camp early Monday, as the military made preparations for the demolition of the home of the son of a Palestinian terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting attack earlier this year, killing two Israeli brothers. – Times of Israel

Israel announced Sunday that a Palestinian laborer from Gaza who was killed in a rocket attack while working in southern Israel on Saturday will be recognized by the state as a victim of terror. – Times of Israel

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Missions Minister Orit Strock of the far-right Religious Zionism party separately called Thursday for Israel’s eventual reconquering of the Gaza Strip as a solution to repeated clashes with Palestinian terror groups in the territory. – Times of Israel

King Charles has signaled his desire to visit Israel, the British daily newspaper Daily Mail reported on Saturday night. – Ynet

Editorial: Instead of focusing its attention on international debates on Gaza and resolutions condemning Israel, what the UN should be doing is formulating and investing in a long-term plan to rehabilitate Gaza and disarm the terrorist groups there. […]Under the rule of Hamas, which wrested control from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 following Israel’s Disengagement in 2005, the Gaza Strip – often described as one of the most impoverished and densely populated areas in the world – represents a clear and difficult challenge for the UN. – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Yet, overall it is likely that even if Hamas will surprise the IDF in some ways in any future round, the IDF’s combined attack, defense, and intelligence power will still likely overwhelm it enough to force a similar ceasefire like the one Islamic Jihad was eventually requesting from Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Lahav Harkov writes: The divisions exposed in Israel in the past few months are real, but they are not what Iran seems to think they are. The Islamic state’s strategists are, apparently, unaccustomed to free speech in a democracy and to a society that loves to protest as much as Israelis do, and mistook it for real weakness. The attempt at a multi-front war will have to wait, and Israel’s defense establishment has been preparing for it. – Jerusalem Post

Avi Davidi writes: Even if its execution was comically poor, the attempt to silence life-saving rocket alert systems could mark a shift in the lengths Tehran is willing to go to pursue its goals against Israel. Whether a sign of desperation or vicious overconfidence, Iran’s abandonment of red lines so far adhered to by both sides, combined with its utilization of diffuse proxy arms, could mark the opening of a dangerous new phase for Israel. – Times of Israel

David Horovitz writes: Sooner or later, however, Hamas will deem the moment right to directly confront Israel again. Its desire to eliminate the State of Israel is its raison d’etre. And leaving that murderous organization without an answer to Israel’s military capabilities, however outstanding, constitutes a far, far tougher challenge than that posed by Islamic Jihad. – Times of Israel


House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) requested transcribed interviews with five officials regarding the Afghanistan withdrawal. – Washington Examiner

Border Patrol agents arrested an Afghan national on the FBI’s terror watchlist after he crossed into the U.S. illegally Wednesday in California, multiple sources at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told Fox News. – Fox News

Iran is implementing modern new payment systems to make it easier for its citizens to use public transportation and get their subsidized daily bread. But Afghans living in the country say they are being left behind due to immigration policies that restrict their access to bank cards. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


An Iranian-backed militia in northern Iraq was behind the drone attack that killed a U.S. military contractor in northeast Syria on March 23 and wounded more than two dozen American civilian and military personnel, according to U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal

The Syrian government has agreed to extend by another three months the use of two border crossings with Turkey into the rebel-held northwest that were opened for aid delivery after a deadly earthquake in February, Syrian and U.N. officials said Saturday. – Associated Press

Kareem, who two years ago fled the chaos caused by the civil war in his home country, Syria, has found himself once more in the middle of a battle zone – this time in Sudan. – BBC


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was prepared for a runoff contest, even as he told his supporters he was confident of an outright win in the nation’s closest election in decades. – Washington Post

Parties to the Black Sea grain pact are nearing a deal to extend it after talks between Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and United Nations officials, Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said. – Reuters

Jillian Kay Melchior writes: Turkey’s far right, far left, nationalists and Islamists have all united with the goal of taking down Mr. Erdoğan and the AKP. But if they prevail, herding Istanbul’s famous cats may be easier than governing with such a diverse coalition. To address concerns, the opposition has published a “memorandum of understanding on common policies” on everything from the economy to migration and foreign policy. Yet working together will be harder in practice than in theory. If Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu wins the election, he’ll have to resist the temptation to wield the vast presidential powers Mr. Erdoğan has amassed. – Wall Street Journal

Benny Avni writes: As a new global cold war is heating up, America needs a pro-Western, democratic Turkey with a healthy economy, which is why many in Washington quietly hope Mr. Erdogan loses Sunday and, just as crucial, that he concedes his loss. – New York Sun

Michael Rubin writes: Simply put, it seems the fix is in. There appears to be enough cheating to throw the election. While common sense and rule-of-law trumped efforts to invalidate elections in the United States and Brazil, Turkey is different because of paramilitaries like SADAT, as well as police who answer only to Erdogan and who will follow his orders blindly, no matter how illegal. If opposition voters pour into the streets to celebrate Erdogan’s defeat, groups like SADAT will shoot at them, just as they did in the supposed 2016 coup. Erdogan is no democrat. He considers elections valid only if he wins, and will do everything necessary to remain in power if he loses. The only question now is what the Turkish people will do. – 19FortyFive

Magnus Norell and Kurdo Baksi write: The only thing to be said for certain, therefore, is that the Turkish elections will concern and affect many more people than just the Turkish voters. Meanwhile, the combination of domestic criticism of Erdoğan’s mishandling of the earthquake—and the corruption highlighted in the aftermath—along with heightened unease of the open-ended military missions abroad make for a volatile mix that will probably persist regardless of who wins the election. – Washington Institute


One of the dominant Kurdish parties in northern Iraq on Sunday ended a more than half-year boycott of regional government cabinet meetings with its main coalition partner, easing tensions between factions that fought a civil war in the 1990s. – Reuters

Iraq does not expect OPEC+ to make further cuts to oil output at its next meeting in June, its oil minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani said, in the first indication from an OPEC minister about a potential decision as oil prices slide. – Reuters

Iran has summoned Iraq’s ambassador to protest the presence of Iranian opposition groups at an official ceremony in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, media reported on May 14. Quoting the Foreign Ministry, the ISNA news agency said that during the May 13 meeting Tehran expressed its “strong objection” to the invitation of members of “separatist groups” to the ceremony, “contrary to the recent security agreement between the Islamic republic and Iraq.” Iran uses the words “separatist groups” to describe Kurdish factions opposed to the Iranian government, and considers them to be “terrorist” organizations. – Agence France-Presse

An Iranian company is the biggest beneficiary of a power plant poised to supply a Shell-backed gas project in Iraq, showing the pervasive presence of Tehran’s business interests in its neighbour and putting the UK group at odds with the west’s shifting geopolitical priorities in the Middle East. – Financial Times

Michael Rubin writes: In the aftermath of elections, the US should engage the government and opposition separately, rather than force them together. Kurdistan will neither be stable nor reach its potential until there is democracy. Leaf should know better. Making the same mistake twice is bad. Making it two dozen times is inexcusable. – American Enterprise Institute


The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group has denounced as “baseless lies” reports that one of Syria’s most well-known drug dealers, who was killed earlier this week in an airstrike near the Jordanian border, was linked to the Iran-backed group. – Associated Press

A massive new US embassy complex in Lebanon is causing controversy for its sheer size and opulence in a country where nearly 80% of the population is under the poverty line. – CNN

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday weighed in on the tensions between Israel and the Islamic Jihad, i24NEWS reported. – Arutz Sheva

Aaron Lerner writes: Yes. Weapons destined for Hezbollah may be destroyed if they are in Syria. But the moment they cross the border into Lebanon it is target bank time. You’ve no doubt read about the GPS upgrade kits which turn rockets into guided missiles, those which we have destroyed in Syria. However, when the very same kits land in Beirut Airport we do nothing. People die mysteriously in Lebanon, that is true. But there’s no open source coverage of mysterious explosions or other activities in Lebanon which would indicate that the Jewish State is doing anything substantial to prevent the ongoing upgrade of many tens of thousands of rockets into guided missiles. – Arutz Sheva


Egypt and Iran are continuing to move towards better relations as talks in Baghdad have continued since the announcement that Saudi Arabia and Iran reconciled. – Jerusalem Post

Egypt has reportedly offered a revised ceasefire deal to both Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza on Friday, according to Hebrew media reports. – Jerusalem Post

The US continues to find itself frustrated in attempts to get countries on board with its policy on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Most of these challenges are in the global south or areas like Asia and North Africa. The US especially has trouble with countries that historically have ties to the Soviet Union. Egypt is a special case. It is a partner of the US and receives US military assistance. – Jerusalem Post

Israel, the United States, and the United Nations thanked Egypt for its role in mediating a delicate ceasefire with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza on Saturday night, bringing five days of intense fighting between the two sides to a cautious end. – Times of Israel

Arabian Peninsula

Lebanon’s foreign minister spoke Saturday with his counterpart in the United Arab Emirates following the death of a Lebanese citizen while in custody in the oil-rich Gulf nation, the foreign ministry said in a statement. – Associated Press

A spokesman for the State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken with Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. – Arutz Sheva

Israeli judoka Inbar Lanir on Friday won a gold medal at the World Judo Championships being held in Doha, Qatar. – Arutz Sheva

The U.S. special envoy for Yemen said on Thursday that Iran’s shipments of weapons and drugs to proxy forces in Yemen have continued despite the China-brokered agreement to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. – Jewish Insider

Thomas Juneau writes: That is why instead of peace, a Houthi-Saudi deal is more likely to lead to the further institutionalization of Houthi power and the entrenchment of a fragmented and conflicted Yemen. This is a tragedy for the Yemeni people, since one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises will struggle to be resolved. Instability will also reverberate beyond the country’s borders. The Houthis pose a long-term threat to navigation in the Red Sea, and their partnership with Iran will allow them to maintain pressure on Riyadh. Their missiles and drones will keep the ability to strike both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and perhaps Israel eventually. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will maintain a haven in the country. The conundrum for the United States and its allies, however, is that they have at most limited leverage on the unfolding catastrophe. – War on the Rocks

Saudi Arabia

Khartoum residents described fierce battles on Saturday with fighters roving the streets and little sign Sudan’s warring sides were respecting an agreement to protect civilians ahead of ceasefire talks due to resume in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. – Reuters

After the completion of the Abraham Accords, which normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan in 2020, there was a growing expectation among U.S. officials and Mideast experts that Saudi Arabia would follow suit. […]As a result of Biden giving Saudi Arabia the cold shoulder, the kingdom has shifted its weight toward Iran’s regime by reestablishing diplomatic relations with Tehran, veteran Mideast experts argue. – Fox News

Ruth Wasserman Lande writes: Yet, while Saudi Arabia itself has recently signed a rapprochement agreement with its arch-enemy, Iran, seemingly putting an end to the dreams of many to broaden the Abraham Accords, it is possible that it is Riyadh that is quietly maneuvering international role players to play a part in a brilliant and unexpected game. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

For the first time, the United Nations will officially commemorate the flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from what is now Israel on the 75th anniversary of their exodus — an action stemming from the U.N.’s partition of British-ruled Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. – Associated Press

Aviel Haddad, who was killed in an attack near a synagogue in Tunisia Tuesday alongside his cousin Ben Haddad, was laid to rest on Friday in Israel. – Ynet

Zvi Bar’el writes: But this separation that Israel is trying to achieve requires ongoing cultivation. This doesn’t just mean preserving the understandings with Hamas through Egyptian mediation, it means a significant easing of the Gaza blockade so that Hamas’ civilian and economic assets in the Strip can develop – and continue to influence Hamas’ choice of its conflicts with Israel. – Haaretz

Nathan P. Olsen writes: The United States has consistently enjoyed the benefits of advantages in access, basing, and overflight; air superiority; high-tech arms and FMS; and intelligence. But these will not remain advantages forever unless America does what is necessary to preserve them. China and Russia are looking to advance their military engagement and influence in the Middle East and to counter or undermine these traditional U.S. strengths. The current era of great power competition therefore underscores the need for decisive, thoughtful U.S. steps to preserve these traditional advantages. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

Japanese and South Korean officials held hourslong talks into early Saturday and agreed on a visit later this month by South Korean experts to the Fukushima nuclear plant before it begins the controversial release of treated but radioactive water into the sea. The safety of the water is a major sticking point as the two sides work to improve long-strained ties. – Associated Press

The leaders of Japan, the US and South Korea plan to hold a trilateral meeting in Hiroshima this week on the sidelines the Group of Seven nations summit to try to strengthen coordination and to respond to common challenges, according to a South Korean official. – Bloomberg

He’s one of many Asian Americans born or raised in the United States, whose parents immigrated to the US decades ago, leaving behind a poor postwar South Korea in pursuit of the American Dream – only to see the next generation make the reverse journey back. – CNN


An unexpected burst of diplomacy between the U.S. and China this week points to a growing desire in both capitals to begin stabilizing relations after months of free fall. – Wall Street Journal

China’s central bank kept its key policy rates unchanged Monday as the nation’s banks started to lower deposit rates amid narrowing interest margins. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. and its allies are poised to increase pressure on China at this week’s Group of Seven summit in Japan, with an expected joint statement rejecting use of economic retaliation against nations over policy disputes and other disagreements, according to people familiar with the situation. – Wall Street Journal

To revive its sluggish economy, China set out this year to woo foreign investors and stabilize its ties with the West. But these goals are colliding with what China’s leader, Xi Jinping, considers the paramount priority: bolstering national security in a world he sees as full of threats. – New York Times

A court in southern China has sentenced one of the country’s most unyielding human rights activists to eight years in prison for essays he wrote and a website he created, in the ruling Communist Party’s latest warning blow against political dissent. – New York Times

China’s Premier Li Qiang told visiting Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Monday their countries should “deepen mutually beneficial win-win cooperation and continuously enrich their strategic partnership” at a meeting in Beijing. – Reuters

China on Friday condemned a U.S. congressional report that called for sanctions against 29 Hong Kong judges involved in the city’s national security cases, given their role in “weakening” the rule of law. – Reuters

China has sentenced a 78-year-old American passport holder to life in prison on spying charges, as the world’s No. 2 economy prioritizes eliminating national security risks. – Bloomberg

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she hasn’t yet spoken with her opposite number in China, Vice Premier He Lifeng, as Biden administration officials work to re-engage and ease strains with the world’s second-largest economy. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Among other options, Congress could also authorize the President to cut tariffs on foreign exports from allies subject to Chinese economic coercion. Expanding free-trade agreements with friendly countries is another potent tool. This would reduce China’s market leverage over the U.S., while offering more U.S. market access to allies and partners. The U.S. missed a major opportunity on this score when Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. China wants to use this void to draw countries into its economic orbit with trade deals of its own. But it’s not too late for the U.S. to pursue a broad free-trade pact that would reinforce the rules for global trade. – Wall Street Journal

David Ignatius writes: Biden’s opening to China has been motivated by one simple idea: The United States doesn’t want to start a new Cold War. Biden took too long to implement this insight, bowing to the new conventional wisdom in Washington that the more strident the confrontation with China, the better. But he seems to have found his voice. A few green sprouts don’t guarantee blossoms in spring, let alone a ripe summer. But based on Chinese and American accounts, what happened last week in Vienna was the beginning of a process of regular, direct engagement that will benefit both sides.  – Washington Post

John Marks writes: After more than a year of war, new approaches are clearly called for. The world is definitely running out of space and recuperative capacity to allow for wasteful conflict. There are practical and ethical imperatives for peace in Ukraine — and for the U.S. and China to do their utmost to achieve it. – The Hill

Daniel J. Samet writes: Contrary to what Kissinger averred, China’s reentry into the international scene was not bound to occur. He, more than anyone, should remember the elemental truth of history that nothing is inevitable. Better to reflect on real consequences instead of imagined ones. It’s unreasonable to expect such a supremely confident man to become humble as he begins his 11th decade of life. Dare we expect him to acknowledge the opening to China for what it was: a long-term strategic catastrophe? – Washington Examiner

South Asia

A year of political instability that led up to the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan this week has crippled Pakistan’s economy, plunged millions into poverty and left the country at the edge of default. – Wall Street Journal

Pakistan’s high court granted bail Friday to charismatic opposition leader Imran Khan and released him from custody in a ruling that could offer a breathing spell after days of widespread tension and protests by his supporters. – Washington Post

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party on Saturday lost its only state government in India’s relatively prosperous south, results from elections in Karnataka showed, in a boost to the otherwise struggling opposition ahead of general elections next year. – New York Times

Representatives from 25 Indian Ocean nations discussed regional economic growth, cooperation and security at the Indian Ocean Conference in Bangladesh on Friday as the Indo-Pacific grows in importance amid changes in the world order. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s prime minister said Saturday that authorities would go after those involved in violent protests following the detention of his predecessor, Imran Khan, including prosecution in anti-terrorism courts. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, has been granted bail by the Islamabad High Court, days after his dramatic arrest over corruption charges set off a deadly outpouring of anger against the country’s military. – CNN


Thailand’s pro-democracy parties emerged as the biggest winners in nationwide elections held on Sunday—a repudiation of the pro-military establishment that has kept a grip on power since a coup in 2014. – Wall Street Journal

Tokyo’s Pride Parade is about to begin, and Rahm Emanuel, the American ambassador to Japan who’s supposed to be kicking off the march, is buried somewhere inside the crowd. […]If there’s one word that describes Emanuel’s approach to his new diplomatic incarnation, it’s dynamic. And that dynamism will be on full display this weekend, when the Group of Seven summit takes place in Hiroshima and Emanuel will no doubt be everywhere. – Washington Post

More than two years after a military junta seized control of Myanmar in a coup, an internal conflict is escalating into ever more savage territory, leaving a trail of decapitations and dismembered bodies that rights groups say could constitute war crimes. – Washington Post

The Philippines has placed navigational buoys within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to assert sovereignty over the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea, a coast guard spokesperson said on Sunday. – Reuters

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi expressed concern Saturday about Russian and Chinese military cooperation in Asia and said the security situation in Europe could not be separated from that in the Indo-Pacific region since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. – Associated Press

Australian Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell held meetings and visited businesses in Beijing on Friday, in a sign of progress in restoring a nearly decade-long rift in relations with China. – Associated Press

Soldiers from Myanmar’s military government raided a village in the country’s central region, killing 19 villagers including four children and burning their bodies, independent media and a resident said Friday. – Associated Press

Jason Willick writes: Washington and Taipei share a vital interest in Taiwan’s independence, but the two governments are still seeking a strategy that can deter a rising China without provoking a military assault. We will need more boundary-pushing thinking like Moulton’s. But that won’t be possible so long as the polite foreign-policy world understands geopolitics as a liberal humanitarian mission. The United States needs a clear vision of its own interests in the Taiwan Strait in order to successfully defend them. – Washington Post


Greece’s economy nearly broke the euro last decade. Now it is one of the fastest-growing in Europe’s common-currency zone. Nobody frets about Grexit any more in Greece’s once-again bustling capital city. In streets that were previously blighted by closed storefronts, locals complain about rising rents and the spread of Airbnb apartments. – Wall Street Journal

Germany on Saturday sent the strongest signal yet of its commitment to backing Ukraine in its battle against Russian occupiers, promising more tanks, armored vehicles and substantial air defense systems in its largest weapons package for Kyiv. – New York Times

The Serbian authorities have collected thousands of weapons in a sweeping campaign to reduce the number of firearms in the hands of civilians in the week after two mass shootings stunned the country, officials said Friday. – New York Times

Norway’s prime minister said on Friday he had expressed concerns about human rights in parts of China during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Oslo. – Reuters

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has not been seen in public since Tuesday, did not appear on Sunday at a ceremony in the capital, Minsk, triggering speculation that the veteran leader is seriously ill. – Reuters

France pledged additional military aid for Ukraine on Sunday, including light tanks, armored vehicles, training for soldiers and other assistance as the Ukrainians gear up for a counteroffensive against Russian forces, following surprise talks in Paris between the Ukrainian and French presidents. – Associated Press

The European Union offered closer political and investment ties to some 20 countries from across the Indo-Pacific region, as the bloc seeks more influence despite ever-growing Chinese and US ambitions. – Bloomberg

The UK and Switzerland are kicking off negotiations for a new free trade agreement to boost the exchange of services between the two countries post-Brexit. – Bloomberg

The European Union must unite around a stronger stance toward China as it tries to cope with Beijing’s rising power, several of the bloc’s foreign ministers said. – Bloomberg

The European Union’s top envoys sought to project a united front on relations with China, reaching an initial consensus on a common blueprint for future ties although they still need to work out how to smooth out remaining differences. – Bloomberg

The US and European Union will pledge to step up coordination on security measures like export restrictions, the screening of outbound technologies and foreign investment controls to fight back against economic coercion from countries such as China. – Bloomberg

Dov S. Zakheim writes: It is even more puzzling that the White House apparently feels that with Britain transferring long range missiles to Ukraine there is less pressure for America to do so. On the contrary. Washington should move swiftly to buttress the British effort and provide ATACMS as well. And while it is at it, it should permit, indeed encourage, its NATO allies to transfer F-16s to Kyiv, even if it sadly remains too timorous to do so as well. – The Hill


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday the country’s non-aligned position did not favour Russia over other states and reiterated its call for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine. – Reuters

Shelling and air strikes pounded parts of Sudan’s capital on Sunday with little sign that warring military factions were ready to back down in a month-long conflict that has killed hundreds despite ceasefire talks in Saudi Arabia. – Reuters

Some 200,000 people have fled from Sudan to neighbouring countries since violence erupted last month, a spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday, including many malnourished children arriving in Chad. – Reuters

A senior U.N. official said on Friday that talks on a ceasefire for Sudan would resume in the next day or two and described a change in the warring sides’ stance which could make them more inclined to respect any future deal. – Reuters

French nuclear group Orano has evacuated 18 expatriate workers from a uranium mining site in Arlit, northern Niger, to the capital Niamey on Friday, following a security threat, a spokesperson for the company said in statement to Reuters. – Reuters

An attack by suspected Islamic extremists on a village in the west of Burkina Faso killed 33 civilians, the provincial governor’s office said. – Associated Press

Over recent years, Sudan’s military and a separate armed force accumulated power, each suspicious of the other, even as they worked together against the country’s pro-democracy movement. Officers inside both forces say it was a long-building recipe for disaster. – Associated Press

The U.N. envoy for Sudan on Friday welcomed a deal between the country’s warring generals promising safe passage to civilians fleeing the conflict and protection for humanitarian operations in the East African nation. – Associated Press

Malian forces backed by foreign military personnel are believed to have killed at least 500 people over several days in a village last year, the U.N. said Friday, significantly raising the death toll from what already has been called the worst single atrocity in Mali’s decade-long fight against extremist groups. – Associated Press

South Africa and the US sought to make amends after the US ambassador was summoned in protest over his accusation that the country had provided weapons to Russia. – Bloomberg

South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said his country resolved a row with the US over allegations that Pretoria supplied weapons to Russia and it’s unlikely to face any repercussions.  – Bloomberg

Sudan’s army and a rival paramilitary group signed an agreement to protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, but an end to their month-long conflict remains elusive. – Bloomberg

Ghana clinched financing assurances from a bilateral creditors group that China and France are co-chairing, paving the way for the International Monetary Fund’s board to approve a $3 billion bailout. – Bloomberg

Kelsey Zorzi writes: The administration may well be interested in helping Buhari to see the attractiveness of stepping into the spotlight to pardon Sharif-Aminu, as it has been positioning itself as a key supporter of African development and human rights issues since the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December 2022. During the summit, President Buhari himself spoke at the U.S. Institute of Peace, signaling a basis for collaboration between the two governments. Thus, in urging Buhari to pardon Sharif-Aminu, the U.S. can, in a single move, advance its priorities and help to appease its critics. – The Hill

Mohammed Ahmed Gain writes: The Sahel continues to be a land of competition, and the insecurity the region faces is only a pretext for competing powers to extend their influence. From arms sales to aid diplomacy, all avenues are being pursued. While the Élysée lacks a clear vision on how to refashion its presence in the Sahel, Moscow is powering ahead with an approach to Africa marked by geopolitical rivalry, not partnership. – Middle East Institute

Latin America

U.S. Rep. George Santos reached an agreement Thursday with Brazilian authorities to settle criminal charges that he committed fraud when he was 19 years old. – Wall Street Journal

Honduras will soon begin talks toward a trade deal with China, the Central American country’s top diplomat said on Friday, marking the latest step toward stronger bilateral ties between the two nations after Honduras broke off relations with Taiwan. – Reuters

Mexico’s foreign minister on Friday slammed a bill approved a day earlier by U.S. Republican lawmakers that would tighten immigration policy and restart work on a southwestern border wall, accusing backers of peddling racism against Mexicans. – Reuters

The chief suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American student Natalee Holloway is poised to face charges linked to the young woman’s vanishing for the first time after the government of Peru authorized his extradition to the United States. – Associated Press

President Joe Biden wants to share the burden of an increase in migration with other nations along the path to the US. But the response in Latin America has been clear: This is a problem that requires US policies and dollars to fix. – Bloomberg

Venezuela plans to issue a license next month to Italy’s Eni SpA and Spain’s Repsol SA to export natural gas, said Pedro Tellechea, the nation’s oil minister and head of state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA. – Bloomberg

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Meantime the Biden administration continues to legitimize the criminal government. Cuba is on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. But earlier this year, under the guise of the U.S. International Port Security Program, the administration scheduled a tour of Wilmington, N.C., port facilities for Cuba’s Interior, Transportation and Foreign Relations ministries […]With the freest, strongest country in the world cowed by Havana mobsters, and media forever making excuses for the repression, the long-suffering Cubans still face an uphill climb. – Wall Street Journal

United States

As the United States stares down the barrel of a deadline to raise the national debt ceiling, past and current Pentagon leaders are sounding the alarm on how such an event could be deeply damaging to the country and those who keep it safe. – The Hill

Lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to expedite the nomination of a new national cyber director because the delay could slow the implementation of the national cybersecurity strategy. – The Hill

Editorial: The scale of this apparent corruption is already large enough, but it could be even larger given that the records involved in these revelations come from just four banks. This is a serious problem that law enforcement, the media, and the Biden administration itself need to start taking seriously. Biden needs to address Comer’s evidence head-on and explain whatever he can. If he refuses, then the media should hold him accountable and hound him with questions until he does. – Washington Examiner

Will Marshall writes: Let’s remember that the original incarnation of America First failed miserably. Retreating into isolation didn’t prevent fascist dictators from plunging Europe into war, or Japan from conquering much of East Asia. Today’s version won’t fare any better, because it views America’s global network of prosperous, technologically advanced and democratic allies, across the Atlantic and Pacific, as a burden rather than a priceless strategic asset. Going it alone doesn’t make America stronger. It’s time to throw America First back on history’s scrap heap, where it belongs. – The Hill

Jonathan Turley writes: The media simply fails to see the story. Of course, it can always look to the president for enlightenment. Just before his son received a massive transfer of money from one of the most corrupt figures in Romania, Biden explained to that country why corruption must remain everyone’s focus. “Corruption is a cancer, a cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy,” he said. “Corruption is just another form of tyranny.” It is just a shame that no one wants to cover it. – The Hill


Calls to ban TikTok in the U.S. are growing louder. Government leaders are trying to keep the popular China-owned social video platform away from schools, public workers, even entire states, on the grounds that users’ data could wind up in the wrong hands. – Wall Street Journal

Twitter announced late Friday it was restricting access to some content in Turkey on the eve of the country’s national elections. – Wall Street Journal

This new form of login is like a digital lock and key. Each website has a keyhole that only your passkey—an encrypted bit of software code that lives in a password manager—can unlock. If the key fits the lock, you’re in. – Wall Street Journal

Brazil’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered an investigation into executives at social messaging service Telegram and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google who are in charge of a campaign criticizing a proposed internet regulation bill. – Reuters

The personal information of 237,000 current and former federal government employees has been exposed in a data breach at the U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT), sources briefed on the matter said on Friday. – Reuters

The U.S. cryptocurrency enforcement tsar has said that the country was stepping up scrutiny of crypto exchanges to target illicit behavior on the platforms, the Financial Times reported on Monday. – Reuters

Computer engineers and tech-inclined political scientists have warned for years that cheap, powerful artificial intelligence tools would soon allow anyone to create fake images, video and audio that was realistic enough to fool voters and perhaps sway an election. – Associated Press

The Philadelphia Inquirer experienced the most significant disruption to its operations in 27 years due to what the newspaper calls a cyberattack. – Associated Press

A former executive for TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has claimed that the Chinese government “maintained” access to the company’s U.S. data. – The Hill

Parmy Olson writes: Ordering tech firms to delete large swathes of data seems drastic, but Europe’s enforcement of its General Data Protection Regulation regime has been relatively weak so far. In the never-ending ping-pong game between EU regulators and Big Tech, that would have delivered a rare smash. – Bloomberg


U.S. Special Operations forces are not required to vet for past human rights violations by the foreign troops they arm and train as surrogates, newly disclosed documents show. – New York Times

The GOP backlash to a former Navy digital ambassador who performs as a drag queen highlights a growing focus for Republican lawmakers overseeing the military. – The Hill

The U.S. Army training base Fort Benning was renamed Fort Moore on Thursday, as part of a larger effort by the military to remove associations with the Confederacy. – The Hill

Long War

The leader of an insurgent group that rules much of northwest Syria rose to notoriety over the past decade by claiming deadly bombings, threatening revenge against Western “crusader” forces and dispatching Islamist religious police to crack down on women deemed to be immodestly dressed. – Associated Press

The Islamic State’s Khorasan Province, also known as ISIS-K, has rapidly become the new boogeyman in the Middle East — specifically in Afghanistan, where the overall ISIS apparatus has spread its influence. – Military.com

Michael Starr writes: Therein lies the problem with the debate about targeted killings: Despite discussion of premeditation and accuracy, the term is more of a nebulous pejorative used to cast aspersion on a military action rather than carefully explore and weigh the facts of the individual incident. It has become a label for if one approves of a military strike against a terrorist or not. It is a label that applies to some states, like Israel, and rarely questioned when used by others. – Jerusalem Post