Fdd's overnight brief

May 9, 2023

In The News


Iran has indicted two more actresses for violating the country’s dress code for women, the latest in a series of similar indictments against celebrities in the Islamic Republic, local media reported Monday. – Agence France-Presse

Iran said Monday that it is possible to salvage an agreement on reviving its nuclear deal if Western parties, particularly the US, put an end to repeated delays. – Agence France-Presse

A five-percent fall in Iran’s stock market index in two days has led to a ban on trading that includes 90 percent of all shares on Monday. – Iran International 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has recently signed a new reconciliation deal with Saudi Arabia, while at the same time, the Arab states have invited Syria to return to the Arab League. This could mean that Iran could try to exploit the situation in Gaza to create tensions and threats to Israel from Syria. Iran has done this in the past. Over the Passover holiday Iran likely coordinated with Hamas to fire rockets from Lebanon with Hezbollah’s permission, and then to have rockets fired by Liwa al-Quds from Syria. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: “Hezbollah has moved from the defensive phase to the offensive phase in the equation of the conflict with Israel, and the practical example of the new equation of Lebanese resistance can be seen in the drone operations of this party against naval positions.”  Iran believes that Hezbollah now deters Israel. It also has been watching Israeli reactions to the Iranian efforts to return the Syrian regime to the Arab League. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Ukraine said Monday that it shot down more than two dozen drones above Kyiv overnight, as Russia intensifies strikes that seek to degrade its rival’s air defenses ahead of an expected offensive by Kyiv. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union is considering sanctioning eight Chinese companies over Russia’s war in Ukraine, diplomats said, with the bloc looking to target firms they believe have provided Moscow electronic items, including semiconductors, that can be used for military purposes. – Wall Street Journal

People living in Russian-occupied areas of southern Ukraine described in recent days an atmosphere of confusion, defiance and scarcity, as the occupation authorities ordered tens of thousands of civilians to evacuate in the face of a looming Ukrainian offensive. – New York Times

The war in Ukraine has prompted officials across Russia to scale back annual celebrations of Victory Day, the country’s most important national holiday, with more than 20 cities forgoing military parades and organizers calling off a popular nationwide march to honor veterans. – New York Times

These small craft proliferated on the battlefield last fall, long before Russia said on Wednesday that two explosions over the Kremlin were a drone strike. Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for the incident, and if attack drones did, in fact, fly over the Kremlin walls, it is unclear what type they were, what kind of range they had, or who was responsible. – New York Times

Britain, which has prided itself on being ahead of its Western allies in introducing new weapons systems to Ukraine, now appears poised to send Kyiv the long-range missiles the Biden administration has long denied it. – Washington Post

Russian authorities controlling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine are preparing to evacuate about 3,100 staff from areas in and around the facility, the head of Ukraine’s nuclear operator said Monday. – Washington Post

Russia launched a new attack on Ukraine on Tuesday as Russia celebrated the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, with Ukraine’s air defences destroying 23 of 25 missiles fired, chiefly at the capital Kyiv, officials said. – Reuters

Security concerns cast a shadow on celebrations across Russia of the World War II Victory Day holiday, as authorities canceled or scaled back plans for parades and other events on a day that President Vladimir Putin has made a centerpiece of his patriotic push. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: The ability of Russian forces to withstand Ukraine’s counteroffensive is as yet unclear. Still, the notion that Russian forces hold immediate offensive potential up the Dnieper River toward Zaporizhzhia is utterly absurd. That Russian officials and propagandists suggest as much shows that they’re resorting to fiction to keep themselves calm. – Washington Examiner 

Tom Rogan writes: And it is Russia, not Ukraine, that is waging war to establish a new imperium. The Nazis did the same when they sought to turn the Soviet Union into a farm-factory territory and enslave its people. Ukraine may or may not attempt to target Russian interests come Tuesday. But the Soviet victory over the Nazis in 1945 has very little in common with the situation Russia faces in Ukraine in 2023. – Washington Examiner

Michael Allen writes: With a Republican House, a closely divided Senate and a spirited presidential campaign in the offing, the GOP will have a significant say on Ukraine policy. Republicans should proceed carefully. Their decisions will be taken as a signal of whether the U.S. will maintain leadership in the world or turn away from its historical responsibilities and focus inward. Success in Europe would reverberate throughout Asia and signal that the U.S. can lead a much broader contest with China. – The Hill

Leonid Bershidsky writes: What, then, could Putin say to Russia and the world on Victory Day 2023 — in reality, a day to contemplate defeat? The answer is that his words no longer matter. Winning even a short-lived, localized victory requires action, and the Ukrainian counteroffensive soon will show what, if anything, Putin’s Russia still is capable of in this department. – Bloomberg


Three Palestinian militant commanders were killed Tuesday in targeted Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip that left a total of at least 12 dead and 20 injured, including civilians, said Israeli military and Palestinian health officials. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union canceled a diplomatic reception in Tel Aviv to protest the Israeli government’s decision to send a far-right cabinet minister to address the event. – Bloomberg

Hamas may be planning to “stage a coup” against the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, a Palestinian official in Ramallah warned on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Opposition and coalition lawmakers expressed their backing of the military operation launched Tuesday in the Gaza Strip with the targeted killings of three senior members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. – Times of Israel

The Israeli government has been on the fence about supporting Ukraine with weapons, but defense companies here are eager to pounce on sales opportunities in Europe to restock inventories depleted by donations to Kyiv. – Defense News

Risa Brooks and Avishay Ben Sasson-Gordis writes: The tumult offers a window into the turbulence that militaries elsewhere may face when democracy is in retreat. There should be no conflict between serving civilian leaders and protecting liberal democratic norms—but this requires leaders who subscribe to the same principles. Things get complicated when a government takes aim at its own institutions and values, eroding them from within. Military personnel may be left with a choice none of them should have to face: submit to civilian authority or safeguard the integrity of the democracy they are meant to serve. – Foreign Affairs

Michael Rubin writes: No matter how clever Israeli leaders may believe themselves, they cannot have it both ways in the new Cold War between United States and China. Nor should Jerusalem believe that they can demand respect for Israel’s own security needs and interests if it so willingly throws other countries’ needs under the bus. – 19FortyFive


Jordan carried out rare air strikes on southern Syria on Monday, hitting a Iran-linked drugs factory and killing a smuggler allegedly behind big hauls across the two countries’ border, local and intelligence sources said. – Reuters

Syrian factions have given mixed reactions to an Arab League decision to lift the suspension on Syria’s membership after more than a decade of isolation, underscoring the deep rifts cut into the country by years of bloodshed. – Reuters

The United States on Monday criticized the Arab League decision to readmit Syria, saying that President Bashar Assad does not deserve normalization after his country’s brutal civil war. – Agence France-Presse

Bobby Ghosh writes: While Assad will be more than happy to take any money the Arabs have to offer, in return they will not get much purchase on his policies. The League should know from the example of other places where Tehran wields malign influence — Lebanon, for a start — that money doesn’t buy leverage. If they won’t learn from the error of their ways, the Biden administration should provide some object lessons by increasing vigilance against any sanctions-busting and penalizing those who try. – Bloomberg


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused the opposition on Monday of provoking disorder and siding with terrorists, without providing evidence, in a fiery speech days before close and increasingly fractious elections. – Reuters

Turkey’s main opposition leader has accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government of covering up the true state of the economy and the country’s finances, capping his campaign with a jolting message before a closely contested vote later this week. – Bloomberg

Murat Kubilay writes: As outlined above, there are a wide range of possible outcomes for Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections, each of which will have a different impact on the economy and prospects for reform. How much will change after the May elections remains unclear, but what we do know is that Turkey’s economic status quo cannot be sustained. The economy will be at the top of the agenda for the new government for at least another year, until local elections are held in 2024. – Middle East Institute

Alan Makovsky writes: A CHP-İYİ government would include some neutralist elements, and it would likely be loath to compromise on issues related to Azerbaijan, the Aegean, the Cyprus problem, and perhaps the Eastern Mediterranean coastal shelf. But its ideological predilections and economic demands will almost inevitably veer it in a less provocative and more pro-Western direction than Erdoğan has pursued, especially in recent years. The Nation Alliance’s success or failure in implementing its foreign policy, however, would likely depend both on its ability to command respect through economic success on the home front and its adeptness at maneuvering through the many obstacles that potentially await it on all fronts. –  Middle East Institute 

Berk Esen writes: By contrast, cohabitation under the CHP leader could turn the soft-spoken Kılıçdaroğlu, who already leads a very diverse coalition, into a lame duck president. Faced with a strong parliamentary opposition headed by the People’s Alliance and massive problems on the home front, Kılıçdaroğlu would be forced to negotiate deals with Turkish and Kurdish nationalists to implement his legislative agenda. This unmanageable scenario would raise the likelihood of an early election. Either way, the outcome of the May 2023 general elections will shape Turkey’s political trajectory for the foreseeable future. – Middle East Institute

Seren Selvin Korkmaz writes: The upcoming election is crucial for the future of Turkey. Kılıçdaroğlu is committed to working toward a more inclusive and democratic country, whereas President Erdoğan is focused on retaining power and maintaining the status quo by provoking fear of change among his base. It remains to be seen who will win the elections, but it is evident that the choice voters make will have far-reaching consequences for Turkey’s future. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

As the U.S. tries to stop the illegal flow of dollars into Iran, local money traders next door in Iraq are finding new ways to get hold of greenbacks as the local supply dries up: They are flying to nearby countries with stacks of bank cards to withdraw hard cash. – Wall Street Journal

After US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s meetings on Sunday with the Saudi crown prince in Saudi Arabia, senior US officials who participated in the meetings flew to Jerusalem to brief Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. – Times of Israel

Michael Rubin writes: They can make hostage release their brand and demonstrate that the religion of the hostages is immaterial to the humanitarian motivation of their involvement. At the same time, Qatari involvement can give Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev a face-saving way to do the right thing. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Integrated air defense may have a long way to go but regional integration is part of this story. Israel’s work with Central Command is important and there are implications for the air and maritime security realms. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

Japanese and South Korean defence authorities are set to agree early next month to link their radars via a U.S. system to share real-time information on North Korea’s ballistic missiles, a person with knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Russia “will prevail” in its fight against what he described as “imperialists,” state news agency KCNA said on Tuesday, in remarks seen to be aimed at Ukraine and its Western supporters, such as the United States. – Reuters

U.N. Security Council negotiations on a U.S. push for the 15-member body to condemn North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches appear to have stalled after diplomats said China and Russia had stopped engaging. – Reuters


China signaled through state-run media that its national security agencies are engaged in a nationwide investigation into whether the due-diligence industry that has grown up to serve Western businesses in the country has been used for foreign espionage. – Wall Street Journal

China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, met with the American ambassador to China in Beijing on Monday in a possible hint at a thaw in relations between the two powers after months of growing tension. – New York Times

Battery makers from China are rapidly expanding in Europe, responding to a growing market for electric vehicles while bucking an overall contraction in Chinese investment on the continent. – New York Times

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was a very positive step, the European Union ambassador to China said on Tuesday, while urging greater efforts to achieve peace. – Reuters

China and Britain should focus on cooperation and promote the “correct” direction of bilateral relations, Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday. – Reuters

Boats belonging to a Chinese maritime militia approached an area where navies of India and ASEAN countries were taking part in drills in the South China Sea, two Indian sources said on Monday. – Reuters

Tong Zhao writes: This challenge cannot be resolved by relying solely on military countermeasures. The international community needs a coherent strategy to dispel misperceptions and convince the Chinese public and leadership of the benefits and feasibility of open-minded, good-faith discussions on the Taiwan issue. Although challenging, this is what it will take to prevent an increasingly likely war—with catastrophic consequences for all. – Foreign Affairs

South Asia

As Sri Lanka’s creditor nations prepare for their first meeting on Tuesday to co-ordinate restructuring of the Indian Ocean nation’s debt, the focus is turning to whether China will attend. – Reuters

China and Pakistan on Monday urged donors to bridge gaps in humanitarian funding for Afghanistan, saying aid should be delinked from “political considerations”. – Reuters

Israel’s foreign minister on Tuesday said he will cut short his visit to India after receiving a “security update” on his arrival in New Delhi. – Reuters

Pakistan’s army criticized former premier Imran Khan for accusing one of their senior officials of orchestrating assassination attempts against him and challenged the ex-cricket star to address the matter in court. – Bloomberg


Alarm over Myanmar’s still-unfolding deadly civil strife, including an armed attack on an aid convoy, and China’s aggressive actions in the disputed South China Sea are expected to be put under the spotlight this week when Southeast Asian leaders meet in Indonesia. – Associated Press

A cross-party delegation of Australian lawmakers said on Tuesday they had met U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy urging her to help drop the pending extradition case against WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange and allow him to return to Australia. – Reuters

Thailand’s billionaire former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday he would return home in July after 17 years in self-imposed exile, just days ahead of an election his party is expected to win. – Reuters

The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations must condemn any threat to use nuclear weapons and vow “decisive action” against such a move when they hold a summit next week in the city of Hiroshima, Ukraine’s envoy to Japan said. – Reuters

The New Zealand Defence Force will get an additional NZ$748 million ($472.14 million) over four years, as the government tries to stop the loss of military personnel and ensure the country’s military can operate alongside allies and partners. – Reuters

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said on Monday he was calling a snap presidential election on July 9 to give himself a new mandate to help deal with “sharp and complex processes” going on in the world. – Reuters

The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan are to meet next week in Brussels, the European Union said on Monday, the latest attempt to secure a durable peace accord and resolve longstanding differences over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. – Reuters

Luis Simón and Zack Cooper write: To get the mix right, leaders in the United States, Europe, and the Indo-Pacific should collectively reflect on how best to prioritize across these two regions in terms of time, capabilities, and policy areas. This is no easy task, but the time to have these debates is now, before like-minded countries are confronted by a more serious risk of simultaneous two-front contingencies. – War on the Rocks


Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he will lay out the need to defend Ukraine in the war with Russia on Tuesday when he meets Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been critical of arming the Ukrainians. – Reuters

Britain’s Minister for Investment Dominic Johnson said he held a series of meetings with government officials and executives in Hong Kong this week, the first official visit from a senior British official to the city in five years. – Reuters

Thousands marched in silence on Monday in Serbia in a major outpouring of grief and anger against the populist government and how it reacted after two mass shootings last week that left 17 people dead and 21 wounded, many of them children. – Associated Press

A 21-year-old German man was found guilty on Monday of attempting to form a neo-Nazi terrorist group inspired by the US-based Atomwaffen Division and planning attacks with guns and explosives. – Agence France-Presse

U.S. forces could gain access to a number of military bases near Russian borders if ongoing negotiations with Finland on a Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) prove successful. – Defense News

Editorial: Mr. Lukashenko is Vladimir Putin’s closest ally and facilitated the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A mere two days after Mr. Protasevich’s arrest—and amid reports that he had been beaten in jail—the White House announced a one-on-one meeting between President Biden and Mr. Putin. The Protasevich hijacking unfolded as Mr. Putin was sizing up Western resolve as he considered his move against Ukraine. Nine months later, Russian tanks rolled across the border, including from Belarus. – Wall Street Journal


Sudanese are pinning their hopes on talks in Saudi Arabia between envoys of warring factions to end bloodshed that has killed hundreds and triggered a mass exodus, but there is no sign lasting relief will come anytime soon. – Reuters

The presidential bid of a popular Senegalese opposition politician was thrown into doubt on Monday after a court of appeal handed him a heavier suspended sentence in a libel case, triggering a small protest in Dakar that riot police quelled with tear gas. – Reuters

Gunmen abducted 40 people from a church in a remote village in northern Nigeria, a local Christian group said on Monday, in the latest attack against worshippers. – Reuters

A Nigerian court on Monday began its hearing on separate suits filed by the opposition to challenge the incumbent party’s victory in the country’s presidential election. – Associated Press

Six crew members of a Liberian-flagged tanker held hostage for more than a month by pirates in West Africa have been freed, the Danish shipping company that owns the vessel said Monday. – Associated Press

The Americas

Canada on Monday expelled a Chinese diplomat after cabinet members learned that he allegedly ordered authorities in Hong Kong to monitor and possibly intimidate the relatives of a Conservative lawmaker critical of Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority. – Wall Street Journal

Mexico’s Supreme Court on Monday struck down part of an electoral overhaul championed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that curbs the power of the country’s elections authority, which the leftist leader has repeatedly attacked. – Reuters

Canada wants to work more closely with allies including Australia, United States and the UK in areas of advanced technologies, Defense Minister Anita Anand said on Monday, when asked if the country wanted to join the AUKUS defense alliance. – Reuters


The Securities and Exchange Commission has been waging a campaign to regulate cryptocurrencies since 2017, arguing it has the authority to oversee many digital coins and the platforms that trade them. – Wall Street Journal

Vietnam is preparing to make it mandatory for social media users of both local and foreign platforms to verify their identity in a bid to rein in online scams, state media reported on Monday. – Reuters

Hackers based in Iran are exploiting a recently-discovered vulnerability affecting a popular printing management software, according to new research. – The Record