Fdd's overnight brief

November 10, 2022

In The News


Hundreds of doctors gathered outside Iran’s Medical Council in Tehran on Oct. 26 to take a stand — protesting the presence of security forces in hospitals and the arrest and intimidation of their colleagues during two months of nationwide unrest. – Washington Post

Russia and Iran’s security chiefs pledged Wednesday to deepen the military cooperation between the two countries, further cementing ties that have seen Tehran supply drones to bolster Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Protests in Iran raged on streets into Thursday with demonstrators remembering a bloody crackdown in the country’s southeast, even as the nation’s intelligence minister and army chief renewed threats against local dissent and the broader world. – Associated Press

The head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday said Iran did not offer anything new during a recent meeting in Vienna about its nuclear program, but added that talks would continue in the coming weeks. – Reuters

Iran has built a hypersonic ballistic missile, the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace commander as saying, in remarks likely to heighten concerns about Iranian missile capabilities. – Reuters

Iranian armed forces have arrested an employee of an opposition television broadcaster, Iran International, while the individual was fleeing the country, its semi-official Fars news agency said on Thursday. – Reuters

Iran’s Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib claimed that the UK was leading “propaganda” efforts and feeding the ongoing protests sweeping Iran since the killing of Mahsa Amini by Iranian “morality police,” in statements on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Iran’s Army Ground Forces Commander said on Wednesday that “rioters” would have no place in the Islamic Republic if the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered a tougher crackdown on nationwide protests, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. – Reuters

The full purpose of the underground complex remains unknown. Based on official Iranian accounts, the new tunnel complex is intended to house a new, large centrifuge assembly facility to replace the Iranian Centrifuge Assembly Center (ICAC) destroyed in an attack in July 2020. If this plant has the same size as the destroyed facility, it will be able to assemble about 8,000 IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuges per year. – Institute for Science and International Security

On Friday, November 4, 2022, Abdollah Haji Sadeghi, who is Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative in the IRGC, delivered a sermon at the Shahcheragh Shrine in Shiraz, which was the site of a shooting attack that claimed the lives of at least 15 Iranians last month. He said that Iran will not rest until Israel and America are destroyed and until the “flag of truth and justice is raised all over the world”. Sadeghi’s sermon was aired on Fars TV (Iran). – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Michael Doran and Can Kasapoğlu writes: The protests on the streets of Iran demonstrate the weakness and vulnerability of the regime, yet it continues to run circles around the U.S. Washington has forgotten the most elementary lessons of classic deterrence. – Wall Street Journal

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran is becoming a global drone power and if Iran also sends missiles to Russia this would be another escalation. Additionally, any report of cash inflows from Russia to Iran could aid Iran in supplying its nexus of proxies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. – Jerusalem Post

Henry Rome writes: Finally, Washington will need to deter the Iranians from retaliating militarily against any substantial increase in U.S. pressure, as they did in summer 2019. Potential deterrent steps include strengthening U.S. defensive deployments in the region as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Such efforts could have the added benefit of giving Washington another platform for encouraging the Abraham Accords countries and Saudi Arabia to cooperate on information sharing and defending against mutual threats. – Washington Institute

Russia & Ukraine

Russia announced a withdrawal of its troops from the southern city of Kherson and surrounding areas, the only regional capital that Moscow had seized since its invasion in February. – Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia next week, an Indonesian minister said Thursday. Russia will be represented at the summit instead by its foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who walked out of G-20 foreign ministers meeting in July following criticism of Russia. – Washington Post

Most country pavilions at the U.N. Climate Conference, known as COP27, are decorated with colorful representations of climate goals — Brazil’s is filled with flashing lights, Niger’s has a Bedouin seating area. – Washington Post

The Biden administration won’t give Ukraine advanced drones despite pleas from Kyiv and a bipartisan group of members of Congress, a reflection of the limit of the kinds of weaponry Washington is willing to provide for Ukraine’s defense. – Wall Street Journal

Throughout the war with Russia, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has complained about the reluctance of the United States to provide the powerful and accurate weapons his country needed. Until recently, he had not had to worry that the flow might be reduced or even cut off. – New York Times

American and European officials say serious peace talks between Ukraine and Russia are unlikely in the near future, even as the Biden administration tries to fend off growing questions from some members of Congress about the U.S. government’s open-ended investment in the war. – New York Times

Many of the Russian cheerleaders of the invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday cast the defense minister’s order to withdraw from Kherson City as a monumental defeat — Moscow’s most devastating, according to one of them, since the fall of the Soviet Union. – New York Times

They feared it might come for weeks, but still, when a Russian commander announced on Wednesday that Russian troops would be pulled from the strategically important city of Kherson, Ukraine, Russian hawkish military bloggers and commentators responded with despair, anguish and denial. – New York Times

The Kremlin’s top security adviser arrived in Tehran late Tuesday amid growing signs that advanced Iranian weapons are being used on Ukrainian battlefields. – New York Times

Wherever Brittney Griner was on Wednesday, one thing was clear: The American basketball star imprisoned by Russia was not heading back home, despite a concerted U.S. campaign to win her freedom. – New York Times

America’s top general estimated on Wednesday that Russia’s military had seen more than 100,000 of its soldiers killed and wounded in Ukraine, and added Kyiv’s armed forces “probably” suffered a similar level of casualties in the war. – Reuters

Some U.S. and Western officials increasingly believe that neither side can achieve all of their goals in the Ukraine war and are eyeing the expected winter slowdown in fighting as an opportunity for diplomacy to begin between Russia and Ukraine, say officials familiar with the matter. – NBC 

The Kremlin has been icing out Russian politicians who have criticized the course of the war in Ukraine in recent days, blocking state media from quoting them even as Russian losses stack up, according to Russian news outlet Verstka. – The Daily Beast

America would unleash the full force of its response if Russia carried out its “horrific” threats of a nuclear strike against its enemies, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations warned Tuesday. – NBC

Orysia Lutsevych writes: If Mr. Putin is allowed to prevail and sell this war as a victory to his people, it will reinforce Russia’s aggressive posture, embolden the use of force by other autocrats, strengthen current shock waves across global food and energy markets, and set in motion rapid militarization. Ukraine will continue to sacrifice a great deal to avoid this outcome. That is why the West must help Ukraine win. – New York Times

Tom Rogan writes: Nor will the Republican consensus that China now poses the preeminent threat to U.S. national security mean some kind of GOP push for detente with Putin. Instead, concerns over China will likely inform moves to increase military and security-related investments. Even if new military capabilities are rightly prioritized for the Pacific, at the margin, increased U.S. military power will translate to increased U.S. deterrent power against Russia. – Washington Examiner


The US will fight any Israeli attempts to annex parts of the West Bank, US Ambassador Tom Nides warned as the Religious Zionist Party has demanded steps in that direction in coalition talks. – Jerusalem Post

The United States plans to see what Israel’s far-right politicians say “and how they act” before taking a position on its incoming government, the U.S. ambassador said. – Reuters

Avinoam Bar-Yosef writes: An Israeli Jew on his way to the polls usually puts his existential interests at the forefront and rejects the arrogance and insult of some at the center towards the periphery, which harms the main achievement of modern Zionism: the kibbutz galuyot (ingathering of exiles) and the founding of a homeland for the Jewish people in the land of their forefathers. This shouldn’t harm American Jews. – Jerusalem Post

David Horovitz writes: As then-president Reuven Rivlin noted in 2018, “protecting the rights of the minority does not merely balance the right of the majority to rule and decide. In the absence of protection for the rights of the minority, the determining majority is nothing more than a tyrant.” – Times of Israel

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Tehran’s supreme leader also put out statements last week about Iran’s embrace of this new order. China’s reelection of its powerful leader is also part of the agenda of the new authoritarians. Turkey’s attempt to blackmail NATO and make Sweden and Finland accept Ankara’s demands is another threat to the world’s democracies. All this is interlinked. Because it is interlinked, the three recent elections are also interlinked and have more of a say in global affairs than may have been the case in the past. – Jerusalem Post


Israel carried out airstrikes in eastern Syria targeting a convoy of vehicles suspected of smuggling Iranian weapons after it crossed the border from Iraq, people familiar with the attack said Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal

Lebanon wants direct talks to demarcate its maritime border with Syria so it can begin offshore gas exploration, weeks after reaching a similar agreement with Israel, its top negotiator told AFP. – Agence France-Presse

James Jeffrey writes: The relative success of this strategy has only become more evident in the past four years, as the cease-fires have held and several attempts by Arab states to reduce Assad’s isolation have garnered no real response from Damascus. More importantly, in an era of increasing geostrategic competition, including with Russia and Iran, the United States must avoid giving away unnecessary strategic victories. The Syrian freeze might not be pretty, but it is likely what limited victory will look like going forward in Syria and perhaps elsewhere. – Foreign Affairs

Saudi Arabia

Iran’s intelligence minister told its regional rival Saudi Arabia on Wednesday that there is no guarantee of Tehran continuing its “strategic patience,” according to semi-official Fars news agency. – Reuters

Saudi authorities released an American woman they held in custody since Monday in relation to a long-running custody dispute involving her daughter and ex-husband. – Fox News

In reaction to recent scenes widely shared on social media showing thousands of young Saudi citizens celebrating the once-banned Halloween holiday in the capital city of Riyadh, Muslim clerics as well as Western Islamists harshly condemned the Saudis for taking part in a “paganist” holiday in the birthplace of Islam and accused the Saudi government of reinstating polytheism and apostasy in the Arabian Peninsula and of altering Muslims’ identity. […]Some Saudi commentators responded that the outrage was exaggerated. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The United States announced Wednesday that it will give $80.5 million in aid for food assistance and solar-powered water pumping stations in the crisis-battered country of Lebanon. – Associated Press

Lebanon faces an indefinite government crisis that further complicates the path out of its financial meltdown, adding to risks of instability as hardship deepens and state institutions teeter on the brink of collapse. – Reuters

In the two rounds of 2022 public opinion polling commissioned by the Washington Institute and conducted by a regional commercial survey firm across seven countries—Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—popular support for relations with the United States remained relatively stable while the importance of relations with other world powers such as Russia and China increased. – Washington Institute

Yörük Işık writes: If Russia won’t respond to diplomacy, then it is time for NATO to put a meaningful defensive naval presence into the Black Sea to protect merchant traffic going to and from Ukrainian ports […]. By keeping Ukraine’s ports open, the Euro-Atlantic community would address the larger question: maintaining freedom of navigation in the Black Sea, which has implications for all other littoral states, including NATO members as well as strategic partner countries like Georgia. But it would also go a long way toward easing the systemic pressures on global commodities markets that have so greatly harmed countries in the Middle East and across the Global South over the past year. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea continued its torrid pace of weapons testing on Wednesday, launching a short-range ballistic missile off the country’s east coast after vowing to take overwhelming measures in response to recent U.S.-South Korea military exercises. – Wall Street Journal

President Joe Biden will meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol during an upcoming trip to Asia to discuss how to stem North Korea’s nuclear program, a White House official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Journalist organizations say South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol attacked press freedoms when his office banned one TV broadcaster’s crew from the press pool traveling on his presidential plane this week for allegedly biased reporting. – Associated Press


Authorities moved fast when a daring lone demonstrator disguised as a construction worker draped two white banners over a busy Beijing overpass in October, their message calling for the ouster of Chinese leader Xi Jinping just days before he would secure a historic third term. – Washington Post

President Biden said he plans to discuss how the U.S. and China can avoid conflict when he meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping during his coming Asia trip, but won’t make concessions on critical issues. – Wall Street Journal

Tom Rogan writes: In short, a Republican House will not stop tensions with China from rising — it might even cause them to rise a bit faster. – Washington Examiner

Kori Schake and Joe Tavares write: Thus far, the Biden administration has not shown great interest in pursuing trade deals, believing they are detrimental to US workers. […]In critical technologies in particular, the United States and its allies must develop their own sources rather than rely on China, and prevent US and allied companies from inadvertently benefiting China’s efforts in these areas. This would ensure that the United States and other nations can receive critical technologies and other goods without having to buy them from China. – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The fact that Russia has sought out Iranian drones shows countries are hungry for the technology. The fact China isn’t exporting to Russia also shows the sensitivities involved. Recent wars such as the one between Armenia and Azerbaijan show what drones can deliver on the battlefield. China’s new drones may hint at where air warfare is going. – Jerusalem Post


Canada will soon announce a new Indo-Pacific strategy to challenge China on human rights issues while cooperating with the world’s second-biggest economy on climate change and other shared goals, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Japan and the United States began a major joint military exercise Thursday in southern Japan as the allies aim to step up readiness in the face of China’s increasing assertiveness and North Korea’s intensifying missile launches. – Associated Press

Taiwan and the United States concluded two days of “productive” trade talks in New York on Wednesday, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said. – Reuters

Afghan women were stopped from entering amusement parks in Kabul on Wednesday after the Taliban’s morality ministry said there would be restrictions on women being able to access public parks. – Reuters

US-China tensions have America’s closest allies in Asia strengthening their militaries. But in a boost to President Joe Biden’s diplomatic efforts, that trend is extending to some Southeast Asian nations which have recently kept the US at arm’s length. – Bloomberg

Uzbekistan is lobbying the EU to lift sanctions on Alisher Usmanov and his sister as the Uzbek-Russian billionaire struggles to disentangle himself from the fallout of Moscow’s war in Ukraine. – Financial Times

Philippine troops have clashed with Muslim guerrillas in a southern village, leaving at least three soldiers and four rebels dead and sparking fears that an escalation could threaten a 2014 peace pact that has considerably eased years of heavy fighting. – Associated Press

Ukraine signed a peace accord Thursday with Southeast Asian nations, a largely symbolic act that comes as Kyiv seeks to shore up international support in isolating Russia. – Associated Press

Hal Brands writes: Australian officials told me they worry that it will be difficult to generate tons of new military capabilities in the next half-decade, so one way to strengthen deterrence is to make as clear as possible that Beijing will face a powerful democratic coalition if it attacks Taiwan. After all, it seems likely that Australia, like Washington and Tokyo, would find it hard to avoid such a fight. One critical question, in Canberra and elsewhere, is how explicitly to make this known in advance. Next up in this series: India. – Bloomberg

Akhil Ramesh writes: If the U.S. were to court allies through the “Chip 4” alliance — a proposed supply chain agreement between the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Taiwan —  or even on a bilateral basis with the Netherlands for its containment efforts of China, it would need to stand by example and course correct its own corporations. – The Hill


Hungary’s parliament will discuss the ratification of Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO during its autumn session after a series of EU-related bills have been passed, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Britain and France will hold a summit in the first quarter of 2023 aimed at reinforcing their military and defence cooperation, French President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

After years of public rows and even a brief naval stand-off in the Channel, Britain and France are looking to reset their relations under new UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. – Agence France-Presse

Marija Golubeva writes: Enabling the Baltics to acquire their own high-end defense systems and helping them with the financing would be the ultimate guarantee that no aggression is ever likely to take place. That is something the US can do now – and it may have an inestimable impact on peace in Europe. An analog of the Ukraine Security Partnership Act from the US for the Baltics could do just that. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The latest round of peace talks between Ethiopia’s government and representatives of the country’s Tigray region has been extended as military commanders work out details on disarmament of Tigray forces after two years of conflict. – Associated Press

Kenya’s parliament has approved the deployment of nearly 1,000 troops for a new regional force in eastern Congo amid questions about the $37 million cost for the first six months of the mission. – Associated Press

The leaders of Chad’s main opposition groups said on Wednesday that they had been forced into hiding over fears for their safety, following a deadly crackdown on anti-junta demonstrations. – Agence France-Presse

The Americas

A rough transcript of a 2004 interview George W. Bush and Dick Cheney gave to a government commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks provides a glimpse of the former president’s and vice president’s views of the seminal event that defined their eight years in the White House. – Wall Street Journal

But the results on Tuesday opened up another possibility: President DeSantis. What would that mean for the world? In some ways, that may seem more palatable to many than Trump or another Trumpian alternative. But DeSantis would also be the United States’ first Florida-born president — and if the Democrats give up the Sunshine State to the Republicans, the wider impact on U.S. foreign policy could be significant. – Washington Post

China and El Salvador will begin free trade talks, the Chinese ambassador to the country and Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said during an event in El Salvador on Wednesday. – Reuters

The Canadian military has ordered 39 additional light-armored vehicles from General Dynamics for $165 million as it aims to replace equipment it donated to Ukraine earlier this year, according to a spokesman with the National Defence Department. – Defense News


One of the surprises of the Russia-Ukraine war has been that Ukraine’s cyber security has, so far, proved as resilient as its military. Kyiv’s cyber tactics — including switching data to the cloud, partnerships with western companies, and using Elon Musk’s mobile Starlink terminals to connect to the internet via satellite — have proved highly effective. – Financial Times

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson (R) said on Wednesday that his office is unable to confirm the actors behind a cyberattack that disrupted state election websites on Tuesday, as more evidence is needed to attribute it to any specific group. – The Hill

Jan Kallberg writes: Humanitarian cyber operations can support the prosecution of crimes against humanity, generate high-quality evidence and deliver justice to perpetrators. Cyber counter-attacks would be inevitable, but would also expose the truth that authoritarian regimes seek to protect the abusers they empower.There is an opportunity here for humanity. – Center for European Policy Analysis


A US Navy nuclear engineer and his wife were sentenced to long prison terms on Wednesday for plotting to sell submarine secrets to a foreign country. – Agence France-Presse

Amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8), the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, left Naval Base San Diego on Wednesday for a deployment to the Indo-Pacific region, USNI News has learned. – USNI News

The Pentagon is standing up a new command devoted to helping Ukraine win its war against Russia. It will oversee not only the billions of dollars in aid that the country has received, but the ongoing U.S. training mission with Ukrainian troops, according to the announcement Friday. – Defense News