Fdd's overnight brief

November 10, 2021

In The News


A Vietnamese oil tanker earlier seized by Iran was free in open water Wednesday, ending the latest maritime confrontation involving Tehran amid stalled negotiations over its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. – Associated Press 

France’s foreign minister told his Iranian counterpart on Tuesday that when talks with world powers on reviving a nuclear accord resume at the end of November, they must continue where they left off in June. – Reuters 

China’s imports of Iranian oil have held above half a million barrels per day on average for the last three months, traders and ship-tracking firms said, as buyers judge that getting crude at cheap prices outweighs any risks from busting U.S. sanctions. – Reuters 

Israeli officials are developing an unprecedented array of plans to “deal with Iran and the military nuclear threat,” according to political and defense leaders, as international nuclear talks remain stalled and threats from Iranian proxy forces simmer in key theaters. – Washington Examiner 

“New revelations have been uncovered about the Iran-based Lyceum cyberattack group targeting Israel, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia and other African countries. The two firms – Accenture, which has a branch in Israel, and US-based Prevailion – released research that traced cyberattacks between this July and October.” – The Jerusalem Post 


India on Wednesday hosted senior security officials from Russia, Iran and five Central Asian countries to discuss the situation in neighboring Afghanistan following the fall of the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban takeover of the country. – Associated Press 

Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed foreign affairs chief begins a visit to Pakistan on Wednesday to discuss trade and other ties as the Taliban seek global recognition and the unfreezing of assets to prevent an economic crisis. – Reuters 

U.S.-trained Afghan pilots and other personnel boarded a U.S.-brokered flight out of Tajikistan on Tuesday, ending a nearly three-month detention ordeal that began when they escaped there in their aircraft during the Taliban takeover, Afghan sources said. – Reuters 

The United Nations has paid nearly $8 million in salaries to some 23,500 health workers across Afghanistan over the past month, bypassing the Taliban-run health ministry in a test case to inject much needed liquidity into a dire Afghan economy. – Reuters 

Rina Amiri writes: The hard work of diplomacy toward an inclusive and rights-based political settlement remains the only viable path out of a perilous situation for Afghanistan and the region. If Afghanistan descends into a civil war, it will widen the space for extremism, destabilize an already volatile neighborhood, and unleash a devastating humanitarian crisis that will once again arrive at Western shores. – Foreign Affairs 


The Biden administration abstained — but did not reject — a General Assembly Resolution affirming the right of return for Palestinian refugees to sovereign Israel. […]The resolutions were voted in advance of a donor pledging conference for UNRWA scheduled to take place in Belgium on November 16. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan on Monday met with 25 counterparts from African countries in an effort to strengthen ties with the continent and to uphold the Jewish state’s status as an observer in the African Union amid growing opposition. – Algemeiner 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with two US Congressional delegations at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening. […] Prime Minister Bennett thanked the members of Congress for supporting the decision to fund the Iron Dome aerial defense system. – Arutz Sheva 

Middle East & North Africa

A U.S. judge is putting a lawsuit against a Libyan warlord on hold until after an election in which he is expected to run for president of the North African nation, saying the plaintiffs acted inappropriately and appear to be using a Virginia federal court to influence an election on the other side of the world. – Washington Post 

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates met with Syria’s once widely shunned president in Damascus on Tuesday, sending the clearest signal yet that the Arab world is willing to re-engage with strongman Bashar Assad. – Associated Press  

The United States on Tuesday criticized the top diplomat of ally the United Arab Emirates for meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, denouncing efforts to rehabilitate a “brutal dictator.” […]“We are concerned by reports of this meeting and the signal that it sends,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. – Agence France Presse 

In an article titled “The School of the Greatest Treason” in the Saudi daily Al-Watan, journalist Khalid Al-‘Owijan condemns the global silence in the face of the terrorist Iran-backed militias that are deployed throughout the Middle East, such as Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Shi’ite militias in Iraq, Hamas in Gaza and the Houthis in Yemen, militias that betray their countries and destabilize them and the region as a whole. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Karen Elliott House writes: Another international issue with domestic implications is the growing tension between the U.S. and China. Saudi officials worry about getting stuck between the two big powers. China is now Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner because of Beijing’s thirst for Saudi oil. The kingdom buys weapons from China. The growing animosity over Taiwan and global trade unnerve Riyadh. The U.S habit of imposing sanctions on opponents and expecting allies to join is something Saudi Arabia seems determined to resist. – Wall Street Journal 

Michael Knights writes: Watching Iraq nose-dive under Abdalmahdi and begin to recover under Kadhimi has driven home to me the importance of the identity and character of Iraq’s prime minister. […]Whether Kadhimi becomes prime minister again or not, the militia’s efforts to tempt and torment him, and to drive him off his course, suggest he has done something right in these last two years, and that his example of staying the course against the militias should be emulated by future premiers, and supported by Iraq’s friends. – Washington Institute 

Renad Mansour writes: Some Iraqis look at the protest parties with hope for incremental reform, but the resilient and unaccountable political system will strive to ensure the continuation of the status quo. If they see no improvement in their lives in four years, disillusioned Iraqis will not likely return to the parties they hoped would usher in better times. – Foreign Affairs 

Joseph Sarkis writes: Repeated crises in Lebanon, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have highlighted the need for resilience in the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). […] Finally, it is important to proactively communicate with international partners like the United States, which are standing by the LAF and providing continuous security assistance. They need to know where the LAF stands on a variety of fronts. If it accepts the challenge of reforming itself as a defense institution with more effective, transparent, and accountable governance, it has to communicate more frequently and be transparent about its financial planning. – Middle East Institute 

Andrew England writes: As American motorists face soaring fuel prices, Saudi Arabia once more finds itself the focus of Joe Biden’s frustration. […]As the president’s frustration highlights, despite the US markedly reducing its dependence on Gulf crude over the past decade and a creeping disengagement from the Middle East, it’s not immune from global market forces. And Saudi Arabia is the key player. – Financial Times 

Nicole Robinson writes: The United States must be realistic about what it can achieve. Sanctions relief and humanitarian assistance are unlikely to change the behavior of the Assad regime, but the U.S. can at least influence Arab partners and European allies to limit their diplomatic engagement. Syria’s agonizing crisis is a complex problem that lacks a clear solution, but allowing the Assad regime to reclaim its legitimacy without accounting for its war crimes and human rights violations would only make matters worse. The U.S. should not ignore the situation and should be clear-eyed about its approach to advance U.S. priorities. – Heritage Foundation 

Yossi Yehoshua writes: When it comes to Israel the objectives are clear: Push Iran out of Syria and prevent arms shipments to its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon. […] “In reality, he has no issue with Israel trying to push the Iranians out of Syria, despite the fact his soldiers are still operating the air defenses counteracting the alleged Israeli attacks. ” – Ynet 


The use of a United States Navy aircraft to fly U.S. lawmakers to Taiwan for a routine trip has drawn a barrage of accusations and a fresh display of military might from China over what it dubbed a “sneaky” visit. –Washington Post 

China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that a visit to Taiwan by a U.S. congressional delegation violates the One China policy, and that the United States must immediately stop all forms of official interaction with Taiwan. – Reuters 

The United States will continue a Trump-era ban on U.S. investments in Chinese companies that Washington says are owned or controlled by the Chinese military, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

China is ready to properly manage differences with the United States, President Xi Jinping has said, ahead of a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden. – Reuters 

China conducted combat readiness drills on Tuesday as a U.S. congressional delegation arrived in Taiwan, the latest incident of saber-rattling from Beijing over the island. – The Hill 

China is making a lot of progress quickly on its newest aircraft carrier and could be ready to launch it in the not-too-distant future, experts said in an analysis of recent satellite images. – Business Insider 

David Ignatius writes: Napoleon is said to have advised his commanders: Never interrupt your adversary when he is making a mistake. Some American experts on China would offer a similar admonition as they watch President Xi Jinping’s heavy-handed regulation of China’s tech sector. […] What makes Xi’s reform campaign dangerous for the Chinese economy is that he’s imposing change with the iron fist of a police state. – Washington Post 

Jonathan E. Hillman writes: China’s push to become the world’s dominant provider of digital infrastructure comes with significant risks for developing countries. Yet security warnings will not win this competition. […]The U.S. government faces its own coordination challenges, and although there is a growing consensus among U.S. allies and partners about the need to compete with China’s leadership in digital infrastructure, it will take time to get each country’s relevant agencies to work in concert. – Foreign Affairs 

Matthew P. Funaiole , Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Brian Hart write: As past CSIS analysis has demonstrated, the dual-use nature of Chinese shipyards should raise significant red flags. The foreign capital flowing into Jiangnan and the dozens of other shipyards that dot China’s coast may both directly and indirectly help buoy the ongoing modernization of the PLAN. Foreign companies would do well to consider whether their vessels should be built alongside Chinese warships—including the Type 003. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Taiwan, which lost its U.N. seat to China in 1971 and has been blocked by Beijing from participating in U.N.-affiliated bodies because of the dispute over its political status, cannot sign on to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). – Washington Post

An American journalist jailed in Myanmar for more than five months has been served with two new criminal charges, including one that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, his lawyer said. Denny Fenster is already being tried on three other charges that could give him as many as 11 years in prison if convicted. – Associated Press 

Australia’s deal to acquire submarines powered by U.S. nuclear technology was aimed at protecting the United States from Chinese nuclear attack and had changed Australia-Sino relations, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating said on Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s team hopes Japan will proceed with plans to increase defense spending as U.S. officials attempt to assemble a coalition that could deter a military conflict with China. – Washington Examiner 

A delegation comprising members of the Senate and House of Representatives landed in Taiwan on Tuesday evening local time for the start of a low-profile diplomatic visit. – News Week 

James M. Dorsey writes: This fault line shifts the epicenter of religious ultra-conservatism in the Muslim world from the Arab to the non-Arab Middle East, and expands it into South Asia. The Taliban victory in Afghanistan — cemented by the US withdrawal, and coupled with multiple steps by the government of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan  — is a case in point. Concern that Afghanistan could emerge as a hub for cross-border and trans-national political violence and drive militancy and bloodshed in Pakistan — coupled with a surge in attacks in Kashmir in recent weeks — compounds South Asia’s positioning. – Algemeiner 

Michael Rubin writes: If Washington’s goal was to scale back Armenia’s ties to Russia and Iran, then the best way forward would be to pressure Turkey and Azerbaijan to lift their double blockade of Armenia in order to reduce Armenian dependence upon Russia and Iran. […]If Turks hope to enjoy unhampered trade with Central Asia all the way to the Chinese border, then Armenians in Artsakh should enjoy the same unhampered trade through Turkey all the way to France or the United Kingdom. – The National Interest 


Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, sentenced in Russia to nine years after being convicted for a drunken 2019 incident he said he did not remember, has declared a hunger strike to protest violations of his rights in prison, according to his family and lawyers. – Washington Post 

Russia showed tentative signs of boosting natural-gas deliveries to relieve Europe’s energy crunch, as Moscow keeps a firm grip on the continent’s fuel supplies. – Wall Street Journal 

The Kremlin on Wednesday blamed the European Union for a migrant crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland, saying it was failing to uphold its own humanitarian values and trying to “strangle” Belarus with plans to close part of the border. – Reuters 


France’s foreign and armed forces ministers will stress their governments concern over the Kremlin’s activities in West Africa when they meet their Russian counterparts in Paris on Friday. – Reuters 

The prison hospital treating Georgia’s hunger-striking former president Mikheil Saakashvili lacks proper medical equipment and fellow inmates there have threatened and abused him, a Georgian human rights official said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Ireland is preparing for a possible trade war between the EU and U.K., its deputy prime minister said, amid rising tensions between the two sides. – Bloomberg 

Romania’s foreign minister said Tuesday he asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in person to consider boosting the U.S. troop presence on the Black Sea to address flaring tensions with Russia. – Defense News 

Spain has no interest in the American F-35 fighter jet and is solely committed to the Future Combat Air System that it is pursuing with France and Germany, a defense spokeswoman told Reuters. […]Rejection of the F-35 comes after speculation on social media the country was actively looking into a purchase, based on a separate report in the London-based Janes defense publication last week. – Defense News 

Martin Wolf writes: So, what happens if core parts of the deals between the UK and the EU collapsed? The economic effects would certainly be damaging. But far worse would be the breakdown of trust among leading democracies and eternal neighbours at a time of enormous challenges for such countries. These are risks nobody sane would dare to run. This dangerous “game” must stop. We have to move on. – Financial Times 


Fighting between the army and a group of armed men in eastern Congo forced some 11,000 people to flee across the border into Uganda in the last few days, the United Nations said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Ethiopian authorities have detained more than 70 drivers working with the United Nations, an internal U.N. email seen by Reuters on Wednesday said, amid reports of widespread arrests of ethnic Tigrayans. – Reuters 

The African Union’s envoy for the Horn of Africa warned Monday that there is a short “window of opportunity” and little time to reverse the crisis in northern Ethiopia which has drastically deteriorated in recent weeks amid an escalating offensive by Tigray forces against the government. – Associated Press 

The Americas

Chile’s lower house voted early Tuesday to impeach President Sebastián Piñera over allegations of corruption raised in the Pandora Papers investigation — the latest political fallout from the media reports on the offshore financial system. – The Washington Post 

Nicaragua, following a presidential election called fraudulent by the U.S., is now widely seen to have become Latin America’s third dictatorship and part of a broader trend of democratic backsliding across the region, say U.S. officials and political analysts. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.S. government pledged Tuesday to strengthen Haiti’s National Police as the country struggles with a spike in gang-related violence and a severe shortage of fuel that has deepened an economic crisis. – Associated Press 

U.S. President Joe Biden is planning to host an in-person meeting with the leaders of Mexico and Canada on Nov. 18, the first of its kind in more than five years, a source in Ottawa said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Hal Brands writes: Brazil, as always, will be a regional bellwether. If its fractured opposition can close ranks to defeat Bolsonaro and reinforce representative government, Latin America’s democratic forces will receive a boost. If the country’s political slide continues, the beneficiaries will be illiberal actors throughout the region. Whatever happens in Brazil won’t stay there. – Bloomberg