Fdd's overnight brief

May 27, 2022

In The News


The American general slated to become NATO’s next supreme allied commander warned Thursday that Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports could enable terrorist networks in other parts of the world and may require U.S. military intervention to ensure global markets don’t become destabilized. – Washington Post 

The World Health Assembly on Thursday voted in favor of a resolution that condemned Russian attacks on the health-care system in Ukraine before rejecting a parallel proposal presented by Moscow that Kyiv’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva had called a “subterfuge” that presented a “twisted alternative reality” of the conflict. – Washington Post 

While it may be able to find new purveyors for some Western-made goods and components in friendly countries such as China and India, Russia is increasingly determined to make its own — returning to policies of import substitution that yielded a vast, if globally uncompetitive, industrial complex before the fall of the Berlin Wall. – Washington Post 

Russian forces made fresh gains in fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region Friday, engaging in street battles in the city of Severodonetsk, as Moscow brought to bear its advantage in firepower on outgunned Ukrainian defenders. – Wall Street Journal 

Moscow pressed the West on Thursday to lift sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis that has been worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products while under attack. – Associated Press 

Russia’s separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine claimed full control of the important battlefield town of Lyman on Friday, and Ukraine appeared to concede it, as Moscow presses its biggest advance for weeks. – Reuters 

Western allies are considering whether to allow Russian oligarchs to buy their way out of sanctions and using the money to rebuild Ukraine, according to government officials familiar with the matter. – Associated Press  

Russian visitors to beach resorts in Seychelles have jumped three-fold in the first four months of the year undeterred by the island nation’s opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. – Bloomberg 

Editorial: Perhaps Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail, and the military situation will eventually reach such an impasse that a negotiated settlement becomes inevitable. For now, though, the best way for Ukraine’s friends to help is to accelerate shipments of vital weaponry — and stop negotiating with themselves. – Washington Post 

David Ignatius writes: The Biden administration’s organization of this coalition to support Ukraine may look simple in retrospect. But it was a complicated coordination of diplomatic, military and intelligence resources that pulled together dozens of nations at what may prove to be a hinge point in modern history. Putin thought he could roll through Biden and the West to an easy victory in Kyiv. The Russian leader made a catastrophic mistake in overvaluing his own strength and underestimating the resolve of Biden and his team. – Washington Post 

Maxim Starchak writes: Thus, in the coming years, Russia will not be able to make a significant military response to the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. Those military reinforcements that do occur in the Baltic region will be predictable and limited. Threats of a military response, as in many other cases, are aimed at an internal audience to demonstrate Russian power. From NATO’s point of view, Russia will be unlikely to produce any surprises. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Gregory C Allen writes: Finally, Russia’s human soldiers in Ukraine have suffered heavy losses and reportedly deserted in large numbers. Faced with such frustrations, there’s little reason to doubt Russian president Vladimir Putin would use lethal autonomous weapons if he thought it would provide a military edge. The United States and its allies need to start thinking about how to ensure that he does not. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

John Reid writes:  On Feb. 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin broadcast a nationally televised address announcing his attack on Ukraine. He justified the invasion as necessary “to protect people who have been abused by the genocide of the Kyiv regime for eight years.” It was the culmination of an almost decade-long Russian argument utilizing the supposed humanitarian plight of ethnic minorities in Ukraine, namely ethnic-speaking Russians, to justify military aggression. – War on the Rocks 

Karolina Hird, Mason Clark, and George Barros write: Russian forces are likely reinforcing their grouping north of Kharkiv City to prevent further advances of the Ukrainian counteroffensive toward the Russian border. Russan forces may commit elements of the 1st Tank Army to Northern Kharkiv in the near future. – Institute for the Study of War 


Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard is building a massive new support ship near the strategic Strait of Hormuz as it tries to expand its naval presence in waters vital to international energy supplies and beyond, satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press show. – Associated Press 

Canada’s exhibition against Iran at Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 5 was canceled on Thursday following criticism by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Canada Soccer Association issued a short statement announcing the cancellation but did not include an explanation. – Associated Press 

Iran’s foreign minister sat before an audience of Western business executives and policymakers at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, fielding questions about why Iran has yet to condemn Russia for its invasion in Ukraine and why efforts to revive its nuclear deal have stalled. – Associated Press 

Iran’s foreign minister said US President Joe Biden has to end his predecessor’s “maximum pressure” strategy against Tehran and guarantee it economic relief from sanctions if he wants to restore the 2015 nuclear deal. – Bloomberg 

The Zionist control of United States policy has prevented the revival of the nuclear deal, Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Thursday, and warned other options were on the table.[…] He blamed Israel for over-dramatizing the US decision, leaked to Politico this week, to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on its Foreign Terror Organizations list. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel fears that Iran could seek to attack Israelis abroad to avenge a senior Iranian military commander who was assassinated in Tehran and is set to issue recommendations against travel to some destinations that border the Islamic Republic, Channel 12 News reported Thursday. – Times of Israel 

An Iranian engineer was killed and another employee was injured on Wednesday evening in an accident at a research center belonging to Iran’s Defense Ministry in Parchin on Wednesday evening, the Iranian Defense Ministry announced. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran’s clerical establishment is promoting a new religious song as part of what critics say is an attempt to indoctrinate children. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 

Senior Obama administration officials engaged in a secret meeting with Iran in 2018 as part of an effort to undermine the Trump administration’s diplomatic push to isolate the hardline regime, according to an internal State Department document. – Free Beacon 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Regardless of why the US leaked Israel’s alleged role, and regardless of the extent to which Iran may respond directly against Israeli or Jewish interests, Iran will remain on the defensive. Any time in recent months that Iran upped the ante by using drones or cyber warfare, Israel has allegedly counter-attacked with much greater force and consequences. – Jerusalem Post 


The United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan on Thursday expressed concern over the deterioration of rights in the country and called on the ruling Taliban to reverse new restrictions on women. – Associated Press 

The Taliban ordered all women to cover their faces when in public earlier this month, urging women not to leave their homes altogether if possible. The militant group said punishments, including arrest or even jail time, would be imposed not on women but their male family members instead. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

A group of women have staged a protest in Kabul against the continued closure of schools for girls above the sixth grade as a senior UN official has warned the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s rights are aimed at making women “invisible.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 


Greece has told the head of the United Nations that Turkey is directly challenging its sovereignty over islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, and pursuing a hostile and “revisionist” policy that is destabilizing the region. – Associated Press 

Turkey warned Greece against exceeding limits on military forces allowed on Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, as the US urged the NATO allies to step back from a recent escalation in tensions. – Bloomberg 

ISIS’s alleged new leader, Abu al-Hassan al-Qurayshi, has been captured in a recent raid in Istanbul on Thursday, Turkish news outlet Odatv reported. – Jerusalem Post 


The Palestinian Authority on Thursday said an investigation concluded that an Israeli soldier deliberately shot and killed a Palestinian-American Al Jazeera reporter covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank this month, a finding Israel’s defense minister immediately denied. – Wall Street Journal 

The Islamist Hamas group that runs the Gaza Strip is looking to impose new red lines in Jerusalem, epicentre of the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, even if that risks provoking another war. – Reuters 

The US requested that Israel allow Berlin to supply Ukraine with Israeli-developed anti-tank missiles. US and Israeli officials told Axios on Wednesday that Israel turned that request down. – Jerusalem Post 

The US will not carry out its own investigation into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, an American citizen, a Biden administration official told The Times of Israel on Thursday. – Times of Israel 

Israeli troops detained two Palestinians attempting to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip early Friday morning, the military said. – Times of Israel 

Israeli officials were infuriated Thursday by a leak to The New York Times about the assassination of a senior member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, with a powerful Knesset committee warning that such leaks could damage US-Israeli cooperation. – Times of Israel 

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield and 83 Democratic lawmakers from both houses of Congress expressed alarm on Thursday over Israeli plans to evict roughly 1,300 Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank in order to make way for a military training zone. – Times of Israel 

Yonah Jeremy Bob  writes: In fact, the volume of data the Mossad seized from Iran was so extensive – and in Farsi – that Israel simply did not get these latest revealed documents translated until a much later date. As a result, this might not even be the last we hear of the nuclear archive raid data of 2018. – Jerusalem Post 


Lebanon’s intelligence chief said Thursday that he met with Biden administration officials this week to discuss ways he could help secure the release of six Americans who are being held prisoner or are missing in Syria, including Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who contributed to The Washington Post. – Washington Post 

The Lebanese pound hits a new low against the US dollar on the black market today after a sharp drop that coincided with May 15 parliamentary elections. – Agence France-Presse 

Israeli cities could be bombarded with 1,500 rockets a day, and the death toll could quickly reach into the hundreds should war with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon break out, according to a military assessment shared Thursday. – Times of Israel 

Middle East & North Africa

The United States on Thursday urged Yemen’s Houthi rebels to release all U.S. Embassy local staffers that they had detained, following the death of one of them after seven months in captivity. – Associated Press  

Iraqi lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill criminalizing normalization of ties and any relations, including business ties, with Israel. The legislation says that violation of the law is punishable with the death sentence or life imprisonment. – Associated Press 

At least five civilians were killed Thursday in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden when a man dropped a hand grenade in a crowded fish market, security officials said. – Associated Press 

The White House is working toward a deal between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel that could act as a stepping stone to normalizing ties between Tel Aviv and Riyadh and lay the groundwork for a presidential visit, according to a report. – Washington Examiner  

Trade between the Emirates and Israel exceeded $2.5 billion in less than two years, of which more than $1bn was recorded in the first quarter of this year, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade said in Davos. – The National News 


Korean Peninsula

Seoul said this week that North Korea may be preparing for its seventh nuclear test, and was unusually specific about the evidence: It had detected repeated tests of a device used to trigger a nuclear detonation. On Wednesday, Kim Tae-hyo, deputy national security adviser to South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, said intelligence suggested the test could come as early as next week. – Wall Street Journal 

China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution sponsored by the United States on Thursday that would have imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea for its spate of intercontinental ballistic missile launches that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons. – Associated Press 

A decision by China and Russia to veto new United Nations sanctions on North Korea pushed by the United States shattered any veneer of global cooperation, straining efforts to pressure Pyongyang as it prepares to conduct a new nuclear test. – Reuters 


China’s premier said in an emergency meeting Wednesday that the Chinese economy faces “grim challenges,” in an unusually stark warning that comes as coronavirus controls have paralyzed parts of the world’s second-largest economy. – Washington Post 

China’s foreign minister began a Pacific tour Thursday to push a sweeping multilateral security deal that has deepened concerns over the country’s growing assertiveness in the region and left Australia scrambling to repair relations with island neighbors. – Washington Post  

U.S. will bolster domestic investment and strengthen collaboration with foreign partners, advancing a vision of an inclusive, transparent international order that stands in contrast to China’s approach, the country’s top diplomat said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal  

Incoming Hong Kong leader John Lee will travel to Beijing on Saturday to accept a letter that officially approves his appointment as the city’s next chief executive. – Agence France-Presse 

Violent clashes, mounting infections and vacant factory floors: the turmoil that’s engulfed tens of thousands of workers at an Apple Inc. supplier in Shanghai is a troubling symptom of China’s extreme efforts to keep factories humming during its worst Covid outbreak since 2020. – Bloomberg 

South Asia

Police in disputed Kashmir arrested at least 10 people during overnight raids following an anti-India protest that erupted as an Indian court sentenced a prominent Kashmiri pro-independence leader to life in prison, officials said Thursday. – Associated Press 

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called off a protest in the capital at the last moment, saying he would give the current government six days to set a date for elections. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Josh Rogin writes: Those still not convinced must answer this question: What exactly is the better alternative? If Washington isn’t happy that the Pakistani military has the bulk of power and influence, engaging civilian leaders is a way to balance that out. If the United States doesn’t want Pakistan to go from being a U.S. ally to a Chinese client state, Zardari’s offer of a reset must be embraced, not ignored. – Washington Post 


The United States on Friday won the latest round of a legal battle to seize a $325-million Russian-owned superyacht in Fiji, with the case now appearing headed for the Pacific nation’s top court. – Associated Press 

Fiji will join the U.S. in a wide-ranging economic initiative, making it the first Pacific Island country to do so as competition heats up between Beijing and Washington for influence in the Asia-Pacific. – Bloomberg 

The US and Taiwan are planning to announce negotiations to deepen economic ties, people familiar with the matter said, in a fresh challenge to Beijing, which has cautioned Washington on its relationship with the island. – Bloomberg 

Oriana Skylar Mastro writes: Twenty years ago, China’s poorly trained army and largely obsolete naval and air forces had no chance. But that was then. Many will applaud Mr. Biden for standing up for democratic Taiwan in the face of Chinese threats. But he could be putting the island in greater danger, and the United States may not be able to come to the rescue. – New York Times 


As Russian forces push reinforcements to the front lines, Ukrainians could face a “very difficult month ahead,” a presidential adviser there warned. Ukrainian troops have been outpaced by Russia after the Kremlin withdrew forces from the Kyiv region last month to focus on the country’s east, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, said Wednesday. – Washington Post 

Stuck in their trenches, the Ukrainian volunteers lived off a potato per day as Russian forces pounded them with artillery and Grad rockets on a key eastern front line. Outnumbered, untrained and clutching only light weapons, the men prayed for the barrage to end — and for their own tanks to stop targeting the Russians. – Washington Post 

Diplomatic observers believe the failure of the United Nations, with its mandate to keep the global peace, to do more to halt the fighting in Ukraine is rooted in rules embedded at the body’s founding. Decades ago, global powers emerging victorious from World War II endowed the Security Council with the power to issue binding decisions while also granting its five permanent members — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and the Soviet Union, succeeded by the Russian Federation in 1991 — the power to block such moves. – Washington Post 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed suggestions that his country should cede territory to Russia in return for peace, comparing them to attempts to appease Nazi Germany, as Russia stepped up its attacks in Ukraine’s east. – Wall Street Journal 

Europe is hitting roadblocks as it tries to find alternatives to Russian gas in the Middle East and North Africa, as talks with big producers like Qatar, Algeria and Libya have become complicated. The issues that have snarled negotiations range from the pricing of Qatari gas to stability in Libya and the politics of Western Sahara, a disputed North African territory. The challenges mark another indication that Europe will struggle to fully replace energy from Russia, which supplies 38% of the continent’s natural gas. – Wall Street Journal 

Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday ordered the creation of a new military command for the south of country, bordering Ukraine. – Reuters  

The Spanish government will tighten judicial control over the country’s intelligence agency, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Thursday, weeks after the agency admitted it had spied on several pro-independence supporters in the region of Catalonia with judicial authorization. – Associated Press 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “turning point” for the world on Thursday, accusing Russian Vladimir Putin of trying to upend the system of international cooperation. – The Hill 

Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis write: The NATO accession of Finland and Sweden is an important decision that will bolster transatlantic security by adding two members to NATO who have the political will to contribute and the capabilities to back up their commitments. Their accession will better secure the Arctic, Baltic Sea, and Nordic regions—and make future conflict there less likely. There are myriad reasons why Finnish and Swedish NATO membership will advance U.S. national interests. Their bids deserve U.S. support. – Heritage Foundation 


Congo’s army defended a major military camp in the country’s east on Thursday after days of fighting with M23 rebels making advances in the region. – Associated Press 

The U.N. Security Council voted by a narrow margin Thursday to extend an arms embargo on South Sudan and a travel ban and financial sanctions for targeted individuals for a year. – Associated Press 

Armed assailants have killed about 50 people in a part of eastern Burkina Faso ravaged by Islamist violence, the region’s governor said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Somalia’s al Qaeda franchise has gotten “bigger, stronger, and bolder” since the small U.S. military footprint of 750 troops was ordered out of the country by then-U.S. President Donald Trump in late 2020, the Pentagon’s top military official for Africa said on Wednesday. – Foreign Policy 

Latin America

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei could still attend the Summit of the Americas next month, his foreign minister said Thursday, barely a week after the leader said he would not be going to the U.S.-hosted gathering in Los Angeles. – Reuters 

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Two unnamed senior Biden administration officials told reporters this month that the U.S. intends to ease sanctions that prohibit American companies from engaging with the Venezuelan oil industry. The Trump administration established those sanctions in 2019 and tightened them in 2020 as part of an effort to pressure the military dictatorship in Caracas to release political prisoners and hold free and fair elections. – Wall Street Journal 

Mike Gonzalez and Mateo Haydar write: The Biden administration last week rewarded the two dictatorial regimes in Latin America most rabidly opposed to American values, Cuba and Venezuela, and punished one of the last regional governments that espouses support for the United States, Guatemala. The last part came as no surprise to the two of us. As we both heard from the president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, at his presidential palace late last month, the Biden administration has been trying to destabilize his elected government for months. Still, the dramatic moves in Latin America this week were unexpected. – Heritage Foundation 


Elon Musk faces a lawsuit accusing him of pushing down Twitter’s stock price in order to either give himself an escape hatch from his $44 billion buyout bid, or room to negotiate a discount. – Agence France-Presse 

A Persian-language content moderator for Instagram and a former content moderator have said Iranian intelligence officials offered them money to remove Instagram accounts of journalists and activists. – BBC 

The Senate confirmed a pair of key cybersecurity nominees on Thursday, including a new deputy for U.S. Cyber Command. Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh was approved by voice vote to be the next No. 2 at the military’s elite digital warfighting organization. – The Record 


The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of CH-47F Chinook helicopters and related equipment to Egypt for an estimated cost of $2.6 billion, the Pentagon said on Thursday. – Reuters 

A leader of the Department of Defense’s artificial intelligence efforts said discussions about the technology are less focused on futuristic death machines and more about upgrading the department and helping maintain the U.S. competitive edge. – Defense News 

Navy SEALs have a lot of cool toys, but most of the wet ones either need replacing or need some serious upgrades to haul them into the 21st century. That was the overriding message from a panel of sailors and civilians who oversee all things maritime for Special Operations Command at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference held here by the National Defense Industrial Association. – Defense News 

A lead senator on the Armed Services Committee is introducing legislation to strengthen emissions reduction targets at the world’s largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels: the Defense Department. – Defense News 

President Joe Biden’s nominee for Supreme Allied Commander Europe said today NATO members will need to increasingly share the burden of supplying military capabilities to defend the continent as the US shifts its defense resources toward the Indo-Pacific. – Breaking Defense