Fdd's overnight brief

May 18, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The men survived the night. But the executions, for which authorities have not publicly provided a date, are thought to be imminent. The three are not alone: In response to the protests, Tehran has wielded the threat of capital punishment to crack down on and deter dissent, local and international rights groups say, amid a spate of executions in 2023 — at least 209 in just five months, according to the United Nations. – Washington Post

Skincare company Murad has agreed to pay about $3.3 million to settle allegations that for almost eight years it conspired to export goods and services to Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions on the country. – Wall Street Journal 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday oversaw, via video-link, the signing of a deal to finance and build an Iranian railway line as part of an embryonic international North–South Transport Corridor. – Reuters 

Russia’s second-largest bank VTB (VTBR.MM) has opened a representative office in Iran, an Iranian official said on Wednesday, as Moscow and Tehran, both restrained by Western sanctions, seek to improve trade and transaction capabilities. – Reuters 

Iran’s oil minister Javad Owji said that the oil market is on the right track after decisions made by OPEC+, the semi-official Iranian news agency Tasnim reported on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The alleged cell was organized by Rufulla Akhundzadah and his son Almursal Akhundzadah, who Azerbaijani authorities accuse of working with Iran’s security services. The cell aimed to establish a state under Sharia law “by forcefully changing the constitutional structure of the Republic of Azerbaijan by causing armed riots on the territory of the country and organizing assassinations on the lives of well-known and official persons,” according to the announcement. – Jerusalem Post

The US recently proposed to Israel that Washington and Jerusalem engage in “joint military planning” vis-a-vis Iran, according to a report Wednesday citing US and Israeli officials. – Times of Israel

Dennis Ross, who served as a senior advisor to three US presidents and took part in the Middle East peace process for decades, gave an interview to Israel Hayom, in which he attacked the current administration’s policy on Iran. “Iran doesn’t fear us the way they need to fear us.” – Arutz Sheva

U.S. policy toward Iran seems to be largely stagnant, senators said as they emerged from a classified briefing on Iran on Tuesday — including on the long-stalled nuclear talks with Tehran. – Jewish Insider  

At least 17 shipments by eight different tankers have delivered more than 16 million barrels of Iranian oil to Syria over the past six months, according to publicly available data. The “ghost tankers” have docked at Syria’s Baniyas port south of Latakia violating U.S. sanctions imposed on both the Iranian petroleum industry and on Bashar Assad’s government. – Haaretz 

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) released performance specifications for the Shahed-136 one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) when it displayed one publicly for the first time in an exhibition in Qom from 13 May. – Janes

Johanna Moore, Ashka Jhaveri, and Amin Soltani write: Iranian-backed Iraqi militias threatened to attack US forces in Iraq, likely elevating the risk of an attack on US or Coalition forces. The militias do not always follow through with their threats to attack US forces, however. Iran is establishing a military base in southern Damascus, likely accelerating efforts to secure its long-term presence in Syria ahead of Arab-Syrian normalization. – Institute for the Study of War

Russia & Ukraine

The White House has made periodic calls to the Kremlin to demand the release of American detainees Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, according to Russia’s foreign minister, a measure of the high-level diplomacy taking place over the two men whom the State Department has designated wrongfully detained. – Wall Street Journal

Call it the offensive before the offensive. Strike by pinpoint strike, Ukraine is taking aim at ammunition stores and caches of other supplies that Moscow’s forces need to fight, seeking to weaken them ahead of a broader ground campaign to push back the Russian invaders. – Wall Street Journal

Russia launched a salvo of missiles at Ukraine’s southern city of Odessa on Wednesday night, the latest in a string of missile assaults across the country this week. – Wall Street Journal

A meeting in Kyiv between Ukraine’s foreign minister and a Chinese envoy brought no sign of a breakthrough for Beijing’s most-concrete effort yet to insert itself into diplomacy aimed at ending the war. – Wall Street Journal    

They have gone to Russia to play professional basketball, ice hockey and volleyball—even as Griner remained in prison, the State Department told U.S. citizens “do not travel” there and the Biden administration contacted sports bodies asking them to convey additional warnings about the risk of being arbitrarily held in Russia. – Wall Street Journal 

Ukrainian officials on Wednesday rejected Russia’s claims that it had destroyed one of Kyiv’s treasured, Western-donated Patriot air defense systems while a U.S. official said that one of the systems was damaged but still operational. – Washington Post

As wartime Russia experiences a surge in treason cases, the arrests for high treason of three Russian academics who work on hypersonic missile technology on the same faculty in Siberia have drawn a rare, public outcry from Russia’s scientific community. – Washington Post

A fresh push by Britain and the Netherlands to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter planes has exposed the latest fault line among Western allies who have wrangled repeatedly over sending powerful weapons of war, once again pitting a reluctant United States against some of its closest European partners. – New York Times

Moscow’s troops still hold most of Bakhmut itself, Ukraine’s recent gains around the city are not large, and there is no guarantee that they will last. But for the first time in months, Ukrainian soldiers are on the offensive and the momentum in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war appears to have shifted their way — at least for now. – New York Times

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused tremendous direct damage, killing tens of thousands of people and forcing millions of Ukrainians from their homes. But the war has also  claimed another casualty: the normal experiences of teenagers like those in Sloviansk who live near combat zones, hanging out in ravaged cities where rockets fly in regularly. – New York Times

It was not clear which air defense system Kyiv used to shoot down the missiles, but last week the U.S. military confirmed that Ukraine had shot down a Kinzhal missile using the U.S.-produced Patriot system. – Reuters 

Fear and suspicion stalk the streets of Kherson, a southern port that was occupied by Russian troops for over eight months before they were driven out by Ukrainian forces in November. The city is now the focus of relentless Russian bombardment. – Reuters 

Rail traffic has been suspended between Simferopol, capital of the Crimean peninsula, and the city of Sevastopol, after a freight train carrying grain derailed, the region’s Russian-installed leader said on Thursday. – Reuters

Russia fired 30 cruise missiles against different parts of Ukraine early Thursday in the latest nighttime test of Ukrainian air defenses, which shot down 29 of them, officials said. – Associated Press

Belarus, one of Russia’s closest allies, has partially restored controls on its border with its neighbor, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik said Wednesday. – Associated Press

A U.S. Navy commander said Wednesday there is “no significant change” in the conduct of Russian aircraft and warships toward Western naval and air assets in the eastern Mediterranean as Moscow’s war in Ukraine grinds on. – Associated Press

Ukraine’s allies fear military support for its battle against Russia is nearing a peak, with senior European officials increasingly concerned about the flow of aid next year as the US enters a divisive presidential campaign. – Financial Times

A United States citizen killed by Russian artillery fire in the besieged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has been identified as a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who was training volunteers. – Washington Examiner 

Ukraine plans to massively scale up its diplomatic presence in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as it works with Western allies to blunt Russia’s political clout and economic ties across the world. – Foreign Policy 

Editorial: That’s a sensible ordering of priorities. It need not preclude concrete steps now to draw Ukraine more closely into the West’s security embrace. Without real deterrence, a future of repeated Russian invasions looks all too likely. – Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes: The least the United States and Europe can do is recognize the courage Ukrainians have shown by giving them the increased support they are begging for. This is crucial not only for saving innocent people already living under Putin’s cruel rule but also for those he seeks to subjugate next. – Washington Post

Anna Nemtsova writes: None of this, of course, guarantees that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will be a success. For the time being, though, Kyiv has every right to congratulate itself on the effectiveness of its psychological war against Putin’s regime. – Washington Post

Daniel Turner writes: President Joe Biden has repeatedly pledged to make sure the “Ukrainian people are in the strongest possible position to defend their nation.” […]Unfortunately, his commitment is being overrun by his administration’s reckless green agenda. The G-7’s wobbling on LNG may generate glowing reviews from the dark money environmental lobby, but it will only play into the hands of Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the expense of American consumers and energy workers. – Washington Examiner 

Grace Mappes, Kateryna Stepanenko, Nicole Wolkov, Layne Philipson, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Russian and Ukrainian officials acknowledged continued limited Ukrainian counterattacks near Bakhmut on May 17. […]The Russian State Duma adopted amendments to the martial law on May 16 that authorize the forced and controlled movement of citizens from territories under the martial law to the territories without martial law. Russian ultranationalists are speculating about the fate of Belarus’ independence in case of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s severe illness or death. – Institute for the Study of War 

Kseniya Kirillova writes: So far, the Kremlin has been able to combine the incompatible – the simultaneous participation and non-participation of ordinary people in the war. However, sooner or later, these two opposite forms of behavior will come into conflict, and the outcome of this clash is currently unpredictable. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


The ruling Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday called on Palestinians to confront a flag-waving parade planned by Jewish nationalists through the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City. – Associated Press

A Jordanian lawmaker has been indicted on charges that he illegally smuggled scores of rifles and handguns into the occupied West Bank through an Israeli-controlled crossing, his lawyer said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is making an economic development trip to Israel. Kemp spokesperson Garrison Douglas confirmed the trip Wednesday. Douglas said Kemp will be meeting with Israeli companies that do business in the state, as well as with government officials. – Associated Press

A Hamas-affiliated list on Tuesday won the election for the student council at An-Najah University in Nablus in what is seen by Palestinians as a major blow to the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. – Jerusalem Post

United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman reaffirmed the “United States’ ironclad support” for Israel’s security and commitment to continued cooperation during a meeting with Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Ronen Levy in Washington, DC on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Israel and Greece continued to elevate their military relations on Wednesday with Jerusalem delivering two critical M-346 advanced training aircraft at a special event involving top Greek security officials, IDF Air Force chief Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar, top Israeli Defense Ministry officials and officials from Elbit Systems. – Jerusalem Post

Deborah Lipstadt, the US State Department’s top envoy combating antisemitism, condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday for likening Israel to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief. – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Douglas Bloomfield writes: There will be more Shield and Arrow-type operations, each a bit longer and more lethal until there is new leadership that does not see peaceful coexistence as an existential threat. Until then, you can dust off that old Vietnam-era poster with the slogan, “War is not healthy for children and other living things” and add: “except for politicians’ poll numbers and arms makers’ order books.” – Jerusalem Post

Shai Feldman writes: In this context, the delight of experts at Israel’s military performance during the recent Operation Shield and Arrow is perfectly understandable. But these accomplishments were largely tactical or, at most, operational. […] Once again, yesterday’s “zero” became a “hero” overnight. Yet such mood swings cannot provide the stable ground required for much-needed solid strategic thought. – Haaretz 


President Bashar al-Assad of Syria plans to attend a gathering of Arab leaders on Friday for the first time since he violently suppressed an anti-government uprising that morphed into a civil war, torturing and using chemical weapons on his own people. – New York Times

Arab foreign ministers Wednesday in Saudi Arabia welcomed back Syria to the Arab League and called for a cease-fire in conflict-hit Sudan ahead of the organization’s annual summit taking place in the kingdom. – Associated Press

Editorial: The US and Europe must remain united in enforcing sanctions on the regime, while using their leverage with Arab partners to curb the drift towards full normalisation. Millions of Syrians are suffering horribly in the war-devastated country, its economy in collapse. There are no simple solutions to easing their plight as long as Assad is in power. But freely rewarding the regime that is responsible for the catastrophe is not the answer. – Financial Times


Two days had passed since Turkey’s landmark election and Gokce Sari, a 24-year-old supporter of the opposition, was still processing defeat, with her candidate badly trailing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the first round of voting. – Washington Post

Turkey on Wednesday said it had summoned the German ambassador in Ankara after claiming that two of its reporters had been detained in Frankfurt. – Agence France-Presse

Turkey’s main opposition party said on Wednesday it had filed complaints over suspected irregularities at thousands of ballot boxes in Sunday’s landmark elections, in which President Tayyip Erdogan performed better than expected. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

An Emirati-Turkish man sentenced by the United Arab Emirates in absentia in 2013 to 15 years imprisonment has been sent to the UAE after being detained in Jordan, UAE state media said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Tunisian president Kais Saied pledged on Wednesday to guarantee the safety of Jewish citizens and their temples, after meeting the country’s chief rabbi in the wake of a deadly attack at a synagogue. – Reuters 

The U.N. envoy for Yemen expressed “cautious optimism” Wednesday that the country’s warring parties will return to U.N.-led negotiations to end their deadly eight-year conflict. – Associated Press

The White House wants to make a diplomatic push for a Saudi-Israeli peace deal in the next six to seven months before the presidential election campaign consumes President Joe Biden’s agenda, two US officials with knowledge of the issue told Axios’ Barak Ravid on Wednesday. – Arutz Sheva

The Sultan of Oman Haitham bin Tarik is scheduled to begin a two-day official visit to Egypt on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Nadia Marzouki writes: So here we are, with no freedom, no water and not enough food. The economy is close to collapse, and unemployment is endemic. Rather than confront the crises afflicting the country, Mr. Saied prefers to rant about loyalty and conspiracy. For Tunisia, it is nothing less than a tragedy. – New York Times


Microsoft said Wednesday it was working to fix an issue that had prevented users of Skype, its internet-telephone and messaging service, from calling numbers in China. – Wall Street Journal

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is kicking off a summit on Thursday that the country is heralding as a historic milestone, rolling out the red carpet for five Central Asian countries that are critical to China’s regional ambitions. – New York Times

China on Wednesday slapped one of the country’s best-known comedy companies with a 14.7 million yuan ($2.13 million) penalty, accusing it of “harming society” after a military joke made by one of its comedians drew strong public criticism. – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he would speak with China’s President Xi Jinping, but did not say when. – Reuters 

Foreign embassies in Beijing were asked by the Chinese government to avoid displaying what it calls propaganda in an apparent response to shows of support for Ukraine. – Associated Press

A dozen poor countries are facing economic instability and even collapse under the weight of hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign loans, much of them from the world’s biggest and most unforgiving government lender, China. – Associated Press

Peter Coy writes: For the Chinese, “the bottom line is to avoid an American-style capitalism,” Jin said, coming back to the metaphor of an olive-shaped income distribution. Essentially, she said, “China wants to be a bigger and smarter Germany. More managed capitalism.” – New York Times

Joseph Bosco writes: For Xi to soften, he would have to moderate one of the basic tenets of the Communist Party’s program. […]It will be far safer for the world if the U.S.-China confrontation were waged as information warfare rather than the kinetic kind, especially when the West has the most powerful weapon of all: the truth. – The Hill

DJ Nordquist writes: China has, in short, clearly met the conditions for graduation from its status as a developing country. This is even more evident given China’s claim to have eradicated domestic poverty. In the interest of freeing up resources for countries actually in need, China should no longer be allowed to avail itself of World Bank loans. Given China’s economic success, do continued loans to the PRC fit the bank’s mission? – The Hill 

Rep. French Hill writes: With our allies, we must ensure that those doubts extend well beyond military capabilities and include Xi’s own regime’s certain collapse in the face of a domestic depression if he were to, in any way, change the status quo with Taiwan. Together, we can send the right message of economic deterrence to accompany Taiwan’s growing military might. – The Hill   

Michael Mazza writes: China is challenging those basic purposes as it sets ravenous eyes on its neighbors, denies freedom to its 1.4 billion people, aids autocrats and undermines democratic institutions abroad, and embraces economic policies that impoverish Americans. To confront that challenge, the United States should embrace a comprehensive approach, such as that outlined here, to waging strategic competition. If America fails to do so, it will find itself living in a world no longer of its own making—a world far more hostile to American security, American prosperity, and the American way of life. – American Enterprise Institute 

Emil Avdaliani writes: But the direction of travel is clear. Seen from the world beyond Europe, the world is changing and that is only underlined by the focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China now finds the way clear for a push into Central Asia, to become its dominant power and to set its primary strategic direction. It will not have to fire a shot in the process. Vladimir Putin has already done the hard work on Beijing’s behalf. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

South Asia

The State Department said Wednesday it will allow a bipartisan pair of U.S. lawmakers to review an internal dissent memo written by American staffers at its embassy in Afghanistan just before the Taliban overran the country in 2021. – Wall Street Journal 

A U.K.-based rights group on Thursday launched an interactive map documenting rampant human rights abuses and violence against civilians since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan nearly two years ago. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s government has said it will try in military courts suspects accused of attacking army installations in countrywide protests in the wake of the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan last week. – Reuters 

India has stepped up security in the Jammu and Kashmir region because of an increase in militant attacks in the run-up to a G20 meeting on tourism in the Himalayan territory, officials said on Wednesday. – Reuters 


President Biden will seek to maintain unity among allies in supporting Ukraine and countering China’s economic clout at a summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, as the threat of default in the U.S. complicates that message and prompts him to curtail his international travel. – Wall Street Journal 

The battlefield in a Taiwanese presidential election that could transform U.S. tensions with China is starting to take shape, as the island’s main opposition party nominated a former policeman with broad appeal but nebulous views on Beijing. – Wall Street Journal 

That message will be amplified Friday when President Biden and other world leaders gather here for the Group of Seven nations summit, which Japan is hosting with the goal of advancing Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s oft-stated dream of “a world without nuclear weapons.” The world, however, is moving rapidly in the opposite direction. – Washington Post

Pacific island leaders will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a high-level U.S. delegation in Papua New Guinea on Monday, Fijian officials said, without U.S. President Joe Biden who cancelled his attendance at the talks. – Reuters 

When the Philippine military chief addressed a small contingent of navy officers on a remote island in Palawan province near the disputed Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, he reminded them their mission was to “ensure there is peace”. – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden will arrange another summit of Pacific island leaders this year after the disappointment caused by his cancellation of a visit to Papua New Guinea due to the domestic debt ceiling crisis, his national security adviser said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he welcomed and expected more investment from global chipmakers in Japan, which is striving to revive its chip sector, after meeting top executives on Thursday before a Group of Seven summit. – Reuters 

China’s ambassador to Australia urged Canberra on Thursday to step up its rescue efforts to help locate the 39 missing crew members on board a Chinese shipping boat that capsized in the Indian Ocean early this week. – Reuters 

Myanmar’s military has imported at least $1 billion in arms and other material since it staged a coup in February 2021, a UN expert said on Wednesday in a new report that calls out Russia and China for aiding the junta’s deadly campaign to crush its opposition. – Reuters 

Japan is set to receive injured Ukrainian soldiers at a Tokyo hospital run by its military, a senior member of Japan’s ruling coalition said on Thursday, Tokyo’s latest support measure following Russia’s invasion. – Reuters 

Security is tight at every G7 summit, but this year’s host Japan has more to prove than most, after an attack last month on the prime minister and the 2022 assassination of ex-premier Shinzo Abe. – Agence France-Presse

The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense (MND) has announced the procurement of 18 additional M142 High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARSs) from the US. – Janes

Jennifer Lind writes: Even South Korea, where historical resentment of Japan persists, is pursuing its closest security cooperation with Japan in decades, propelled by the perception of shared threats from China and North Korea. The balance of power in Asia is shifting toward China. This is not a far-off threat that Japan can avoid. This is Japan’s fight. – New York Times

Thomas Spoehr and Maiya Clark write: Arguments that U.S. support to Ukraine contains no potential risk to efforts to deter China understate the problem. Similarly, proposals to stop aid to Ukraine to prioritize support to Taiwan ignore the danger from an unchecked Russia on the United States and the NATO alliance. Neither is correct. Potential conflict between these two key security interests is looming, and the United States should act now to manage this tension or risk strategic failure. – Heritage Foundation 


The Czech government on Wednesday cancelled Soviet-era decrees that granted the Russian embassy free use of land in Prague and other cities, a further step in a more than two-year diplomatic spat with Moscow worsened by the war in Ukraine. – Reuters 

A former commander of Russia’s Wagner group who sought asylum in Norway after crossing the Russian-Norwegian border in January said on Wednesday he wanted to return to Russia even though he believed this could pose a risk to his life. – Reuters 

Hungary will block the next tranche of European Union military support for Ukraine and any new sanctions package against Russia unless Kyiv removes Hungarian bank OTP (OTPB.BU) from its list of war sponsors, its foreign minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to sign a historic “Hiroshima Accord” on Thursday when he meets with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ahead of a G7 meeting, to step up defence cooperation with Japan, according to a statement from the UK government. – Reuters

Finland and Denmark’s bank accounts in Russia have been frozen, prompting their embassies to make payments in cash, officials from both countries said on Wednesday. – Reuters  

NATO will step back to the future at its Vilnius summit in July, with leaders set to approve thousands of pages of secret military plans that will detail for the first time since the Cold War how the alliance would respond to a Russian attack. – Reuters 

The Commission for Defense, Public Order and National Security in Romania’s Chamber of Deputies, the parliament’s lower chamber, has approved the National Defence Ministry’s request to allow the purchase of 54 used M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks from the United States. – Defense News


The State Department on Wednesday said it was scrambling to account for dead and missing embassy personnel in Nigeria a day after an attack on a U.S. convoy killed at least four people. – Wall Street Journal 

The International Monetary Fund’s executive board on Wednesday approved a $3 billion, three-year loan program for Ghana, allowing for an immediate disbursement of about $600 million and a potential path out of the West African country’s worst economic crisis in a generation. – Reuters 

The United Nations said on Wednesday more than half Sudan’s population now needed aid and protection, as civilians sought shelter from air strikes and sporadic clashes between rival military factions in the Khartoum area. – Reuters 

Fleeing the village to escape from attackers, crossing a desert border, building a shelter from straw and rags, waiting for food aid: these are familiar hardships for Halime Adam Moussa, who has fled Sudan for Chad with her family for a second time. – Reuters

The United Nations humanitarian response plan is seeking $2.56 billion to help people affected by the crisis in Sudan, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday, while the U.N. refugee agency is also seeking more funding to assist those forced to flee. – Reuters

Rebels from Ethiopia’s Oromiya region accused the government on Wednesday of launching a military offensive against them after a first round of peace talks ended earlier this month without a deal. – Reuters  

French forces tried to use a journalist’s visit to northern Mali to track a jihadist leader but failed to prevent the reporter from being kidnapped by the militants, French media reported Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

Sudan’s brutal war has pitted the traditional urban elite that has long monopolised wealth and power in the capital Khartoum against forces from the marginalised rural periphery, analysts say. – Agence France-Presse

Bobby Ghosh writes: Ramaphosa’s peacemaker pose is the more pharisaical because he has shown little interest in that role in conflicts much closer to home. He can only hope Zelenskiy is too polite to question his credentials or to point out that South Africa has not played a significant part in resolving wars on its continent, such as the recent civil war in Ethiopia or Sudan’s ongoing war of generals. – Bloomberg 

Latin America

As Jean Baptiste and more than a dozen others in his neighborhood saw it, he said, the time had come to take matters into their own hands. Armed with machetes, they work in shifts, patrolling Turgeau and defending the Port-au-Prince neighborhood from gang members. He estimates neighborhood vigilantes have killed 27 in the past two weeks. – Washington Post

A busload of about 50 migrants were kidnapped by a gang in northern Mexico in the latest of a series of mass abductions, though nine were later found, Mexico’s president and police said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernández made it official Tuesday that she will not be running for president again, putting the brakes on an effort by members of her party to push her to become a candidate in October elections. – Associated Press

Russian and Cuban officials and business leaders on Wednesday announced new perks to entice Russian investors into the Cuban market, the latest sign of fast-growing economic ties between the two long-time political allies. – Reuters 

Michael Stott writes: For now, investors seem happy to continue betting on the region’s entrepreneurs, albeit on a smaller scale. Álvarez-Demalde says that Riverwood’s portfolio companies had their highest growth ever last year. Szekasy said Kaszek had “no problem” raising almost $1bn earlier this year to put into start-ups. Latin America’s tech sector may not be as feverishly exuberant as in the boom of 2021 but it has yet to suffer a heavy cold. – Financial Times

United States

Nearly seven months before federal authorities charged an airman with unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information, members of his unit saw him take notes from classified information, access classified information not related to his job and repeatedly told him to stop, according to memos submitted as part of prosecutors’ latest court filings. – Wall Street Journal 

Instead, Biden’s decision to return home after the Group of Seven meetings in Japan — canceling the Papua New Guinea and Australian legs of his trip — to deal with the U.S. debt crisis sent a starkly different signal: That American dysfunction at home continues to disrupt its agenda abroad. – Washington Post

President Joe Biden and top U.S. congressional Republican Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday underscored their determination to reach a deal soon to raise the federal government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling and avoid an economically catastrophic default. – Reuters 

The Air National Guardsman charged with the most serious leak of secret military information in a decade says he should be released on bail, arguing he’s no Edward Snowden. – Bloomberg


Montana’s governor signed the country’s first bill that outright bans TikTok, paving the way for a legal fight that could determine the fate of a nationwide prohibition that is under consideration in Washington. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s embrace of artificial intelligence for warfare has touched off alarm bells everywhere from Silicon Valley to the Pentagon. – Bloomberg 

Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. is set to be handed a record European Union privacy fine eclipsing a €746 million ($809 million) penalty doled out to Amazon.com Inc.. – Bloomberg 

With both clients and large portions of his development team there, he desperately needed to get Zoom up and running again in China. To make that happen, Zoom rolled over for Chinese officials and promised to comply with Beijing’s demands to suppress speech on the platform, according to court documents. – CyberScoop

The House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday easily advanced legislation to ensure the federal government and critical infrastructure can tap open-source software securely. – The Record

The flags of Ukraine, the Republic of Ireland, Iceland and Japan were hoisted in Tallinn, Estonia, on Tuesday as the four nations officially joined NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE). – The Record

Cybersecurity researchers managed to infiltrate the Qilin ransomware group, gaining an inside look at how the gang functions and how it rewards affiliates for attacks. – The Record


Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon, plans to leave his position this summer. – Washington Examiner 

The U.S. Department of Defense asked Congress to authorize the transfer of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia as part of the trilateral AUKUS agreement with the U.K. – Defense News

The Pentagon’s chief technology office kicked off a weeklong experimentation campaign to demonstrate technologies that can be quickly fielded to military users. – Defense News

A bill introduced this month by a pair of congressmen would create an office inside the U.S. Department of Defense to align and accelerate the delivery of autonomous technologies for military use. – Defense News

Researchers will use NASA satellite data in their search for possible connections between War on Terror veterans’ illnesses and their locations during deployment. – Military.com