Fdd's overnight brief

November 12, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Tehran denies it has ever sought to develop nuclear weapons and says it is prepared for war in defense of its atomic programme. Iranian hardliners believe that a tough approach, spearheaded by their strongly anti-Western Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, can force Washington to accept Tehran’s “maximalist demands”, the officials and analysts said. – Reuters  

Iran is demanding the U.S. guarantee that it won’t again quit the 2015 nuclear deal as the two countries prepare to resume indirect negotiations over reviving the embattled accord, its deputy foreign minister said. “This is one of the issues that wasn’t resolved in the last rounds,” said Ali Bagheri Kani, who will lead Iran’s negotiating team in discussions slated to recommence in Vienna on Nov. 29 after a four-month break. – Bloomberg 

A top Iranian diplomat said that a 400 million pound ($535 million) debt owed by the U.K. over a decades-old military contract will hopefully be settled “soon,” and that the two countries’ were trying to work out how the payment can be made. – Bloomberg 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman imprisoned by Tehran since 2016, is set to remain in detention after negotiations between UK and Iranian officials failed to agree the terms of her release. – Financial Times  

Ambassador Dennis Ross, distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Malley traveling to these countries ahead of the resumption of Vienna talks shows that he wants “to share our views and how we will approach these discussions, and also to show he wants to hear from those in the region their assessments and views of Iran’s likely tactics.” – Jerusalem Post 

A tribunal in London has begun hearing evidence from witnesses, activists and others over Tehran’s role in a crackdown on anti-establishment protests in Iran in November 2019 that is believed to have left at least 300 dead. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

On November 8, 2021, Channel 1 (Iran) aired a report about a military drill dubbed “Zulfiqar 1400 [2021]” that was carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran Army. The report showcased the Tareq submarine and its torpedo capabilities, and it showed the Qadir and Nasr anti-ship missiles being launched by Iranian vessels. The report also said that the Arash “suicide drone” has become operational. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Yigal Carmon and M. Reiter write: This explains why the Iranians, despite sharing a border with Iraq, prefer to use Iraqi militias as proxies for operations against American forces, rather than attacking directly. This also explains why Iran repeatedly makes empty shows of force and false claims about confronting American ships in the Persian Gulf – such as the recent fabricated claim that the IRGC had clashed in battle with the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and “humiliated” it after the latter tried to “steal” Iranian oil from a tanker bearing a Vietnamese flag. The truth is that there was no such clash with the U.S. Navy with regard to that oil tanker. – Middle East Media Research Institute 


Hundreds of Afghans have been forced to leave safe houses in Afghanistan after the volunteer group trying to help them evacuate failed to negotiate their passage out of the country and ran out of money to support them, the group said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal  

The U.S. joined rivals China and Russia to call on the Taliban to cut ties with terrorist groups and stop them from operating in Afghanistan after a recent spate of attacks that have been linked mostly to the Islamic State. – Bloomberg 

Pakistan’s top court in a surprise move on Wednesday questioned the prime minister over his peace talks with a prominent militant group behind a 2014 assault on an army-run school that killed nearly 150 people, mostly children. – Associated Press 

Thousands of Afghan refugees are fleeing the Taliban into neighboring Iran every day and the trend could eventually become a crisis for Europe, a top aid official said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Max Boot writes: But none of those failures should detract from the heroism and dedication of the ordinary Americans who served on the front lines. On numerous visits to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2017, I often came away uncertain whether we were winning but certain that the U.S. troops I met were a credit to their country. They were, in fact, the best of us. The same was true of the diplomats, aid workers, intelligence officers and other unsung heroes who served alongside the men and women in uniform. – Washington Post  

Amina J. Mohammed and Lana Zaki Nusseibeh write: Since the withdrawal of Western forces, Afghans have taken to social media to share tragic stories of closed schools, ostracized female students and severe punishments for girls who demand their right to education. The world cannot stand by in the face of the Taliban’s escalating attacks on girls’ education, especially restrictions clothed in the false garb of religious compliance. – Wall Street Journal  

Jeff M. Smith writes: With limited access to Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the Biden administration should begin preparing for the worst — for the possibility that globally ambitious terrorist groups find either direct support or a more permissive environment to operate by an Afghan government heavily influenced by the Haqqani Network. It should lead international efforts to pressure the new Taliban-Haqqani government to abandon support for global terrorist groups, and it should seek to re-establish counter-terrorism capabilities in the country and broader region. – War on the Rocks  


A visit by the United Arab Emirates’ top diplomat this week may have turned a page for Syria’s embattled autocratic president, enabling more Arab countries to re-engage with Bashar Assad. – Associated Press 

A major rift has opened between Syrian President Bashar Assad and the head of Iran’s terrorist army in Syria, Arabic-language media reported Wednesday. […]The Quds Force has helped prop up Assad’s regime since a revolt against the dictator in 2011 led to an ongoing civil war. – Algemiener 

An unidentified drone carried out strikes on Iranian-backed militias near the Syrian-Iraqi border in the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to an opposition-linked war monitor. – Times of Israel  

Amos Harel writes: The fact that some of the most recent attacks were carried out relatively close to Russian forces, near Homs and especially near Tartus, may indicate preliminary Israeli consideration for the safety of Russian soldiers. And although Israel is apparently overstating the great desire of Syrian President Bashir Assad’s regime to be released from the Iranian embrace, it is doubtful whether the attacks are of much concern to the government in Damascus. – Haaretz  


Turkey agreed with the European Union that it would monitor flights headed to Belarus in an effort to prevent them from being used to ferry migrants toward the Polish border, an EU official said Thursday. – Bloomberg 

Negotiations between Turkish and South Korean companies to power Turkey’s first indigenous tank are shifting from plans for co-production in the European country to an off-the-shelf contract, Turkish procurement and industry sources told Defense News. – Defense News  

Turkey’s currency is slumping to record lows against the US dollar, deepening the poverty felt by households across the country and eroding popular support for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government. – The Guardian  

Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan said on Friday Turkey was working with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to get out of a grey list for failing to head off money laundering and terrorist financing, its inclusion in which could hurt foreign investment. – Reuters  


A senior Palestinian official said Thursday that the phones of three high-ranking Palestinian diplomats had been hacked by military-grade spyware made by the private Israeli firm NSO Group. – New York Times 

Hacking software sold by the NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, has been used to spy on journalists, opposition groups and rights activists. There have been so many accusations of abuse that the Biden administration slapped sanctions on the company last week. But the company’s biggest backer, the government of Israel, considers the software a crucial element of its foreign policy and is lobbying Washington to remove the company from the blacklist, two senior Israeli officials said Monday. – New York Times  

Two Israelis arrested this week in Turkey were reportedly picked up after taking a photo of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s home. The couple, in their 40s from central Israel, traveled to Turkey to celebrate a birthday. They didn’t return to Israel on Tuesday as planned, alarming family members who couldn’t contact them, Channel 12 news reported Thursday. – Times of Israel  

The embattled Israeli spyware firm NSO Group has reportedly reached out directly to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, asking for his support in fighting a recent decision by the Biden administration to blacklist the company over alleged involvement in malicious activities throughout the globe. – Times of Israel 

Israeli security forces thwarted a gun-running attempt along the Israeli-Jordanian border, seizing some 15 weapons and making one arrest in the process, the military said Thursday. – Times of Israel 

Zev Chafets writes: The prime minister is counting on a dose of realism in Washington to save the day. Biden faces a long list of international challenges, including the Chinese military build-up, the Russian threat to invade Ukraine, tense nuclear negotiations with Iran, the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and a tumultuous Mexican border. Bennett is betting that Biden will not want to add a contentious dispute with Israel over Jerusalem to his to-do list. – Bloomberg 


The initial attack claimed by Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group and the reprisal it provoked underscores how fragile Iraq’s peace remains in some areas four years after the militants’ caliphate was ousted and highlights their enduring potential to stir sectarian violence. – Washington Post  

The weekend’s triple-drone attack on the home of Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the prime minister of Iraq, does take the breath away. Assassinations of top politicians are not uncommon in Iraq or the Middle East. Even so, the response to this attempted murder — Kadhimi was not badly hurt though several of his bodyguards were — could make or break a failing state. – Financial Times 

Winthrop Rodgers writes: In the Kurdistan Region, localized and uncoordinated protests motivated by poor public services constitute a coherent political phenomenon that speaks to serious governance problems. Thinking strategically, this unrest demands practical action, such as the KRG actually addressing protesters’ demands in substantive ways and engaging with citizens to center their concerns on the political agenda. In their current form, the protests have limited impact because of inaction on the part of the authorities, lack of coordination or leadership, and ineffective opposition parties. – Middle East Institute  

James Phillips writes: Those threats—to Iraqis as well as to the 2,500 U.S. troops supporting the Iraqi government—will only get worse unless Iran is forced to pay a heavy price for its meddling in Iraq. Unfortunately, the Biden administration, fixated on reviving nuclear talks with Iran, is likely to turn a blind eye to Iran’s shadow war against Kadhimi’s government, just as it has played down the continuing attacks by Iran-backed Iraqi militias against American troops. This complacent response will only embolden Iran and lead it to launch more proxy attacks in Iraq and elsewhere. – The Daily Signal 


Lebanese government officials have no sense of urgency and are not taking responsibility for an economic crisis that has “brutally impoverished” the population, an independent United Nations envoy told Reuters in an interview. – Reuters  

Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday the Saudi-led war in Yemen was a “resounding failure” and could only be resolved via a ceasefire, lifting of a Saudi blockade and political negotiations. – Reuters 

Joseph Sarkis writes: The LAF should become more efficient, and its leadership should encourage resilience in order to thrive in a volatile environment and capitalize on emerging opportunities. The LAF’s leadership should strive for cost productivity while preserving security and stability, maintaining the respect and support of Lebanese citizens, and ensuring mutual trust with international partners providing support. – Middle East Institute  

Sam Heller writes: The Biden administration aims to prevent Lebanon from devolving further into a failed state and adding to regional instability. Lebanon’s energy needs are related directly to the country’s all-consuming fiscal crisis. The country’s inefficient and corrupt energy sector has been a massive drain on public finances for years. – War on the Rocks  


Egypt will host the COP27 United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2022, the country’s environment ministry said on Thursday. The North African country will hold the conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, it added. – Reuters  

On the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Sanaa Al-Sa’id, an Egyptian media figure and journalist, published an article about an interview she did with him in 1994. Al-Sa’id was visiting Israel at the time as part of delegation headed by then Egyptian foreign minister ‘Amr Moussa. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Editorial: No doubt the United States has what a State Department spokesman described as a “multifaceted” relationship with Egypt, and needs its cooperation on regional issues from the Gaza Strip to Sudan — where military officers have just pulled off a coup, reportedly after consulting with Mr. Sissi. It would be strategically unwise to ignore that reality. Nevertheless, Egypt’s dependence on the United States for military aid and other support gives Washington the power and the right and the duty to demand that Mr. Sissi respect his people’s basic rights. – Washington Post 

Gulf States

Yemeni security employees of the U.S. government have been detained in Sanaa, where the compound that housed the American Embassy was breached by Iran-backed Houthi forces who took over of much of Yemen in 2014, according to the State Department. – Washington Post  

Saudi Arabia’s highest court has overturned the conviction of a Saudi man who was sentenced to death after a lower court found him guilty of robbing a jewelry store and killing a police officer when he was 14 years old, rights groups tracking the case said on Thursday. – New York Times  

Guns supplied by Iran to its Houthi allies in Yemen are being smuggled across the Gulf of Aden to Somalia, according to a Geneva-based think tank, where al Qaeda-linked al Shabab insurgents are battling a weak and divided government. – Reuters 

Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al Saud on Thursday said that his country has not attempted to block any climate measures amid speculation that it is working behind the scenes to sabotage negotiations. – The Hill  

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  

Jason Pack writes: The cultural fusion and tolerance at the Dubai tournament was in no way novel, but merely represented the formal codification of broader historical trends, just as covert governmental, person-to-person, and business dealings had occurred between Israel and its Gulf neighbors prior to the Abraham Accords. That said, humans are always afraid of what others might think, and some Levantine players made comments to me along the lines of: “Don’t mention in your article that there are Israelis at this event. – Middle East Institute  

Middle East & North Africa

Vice President Kamala Harris and other world leaders are gathering in Paris on Friday to make a diplomatic push in support of coming elections in Libya that could make or break the peace process in a country that has been torn apart by war for a decade. – Wall Street Journal  

The United States began its first joint naval drill with Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain on Wednesday. The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) said in a statement that the drill will “enhance interoperability between participating forces’ maritime interdiction teams.” – The Hill  

Forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar said Thursday 300 foreign mercenaries fighting on their side would leave the country, at the request of France, which will host a conference on Libya. – Agence France-Presse 

US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo will travel to the Middle East on Friday, a Treasury spokesperson told Reuters, where he will seek to build partnerships on ransomware and cybersecurity as hackers wreak havoc among some of America’s more vital industries. – Reuters 

Zine Labidine Ghebouli writes: The recent clashes between Algeria and Morocco are an expression of an old rivalry that can no longer be disregarded. The regional instability created by these tensions may become permanent. After years of the status quo, a cold war has erupted and, unless addressed by the international community and both countries, it could lead to a military confrontation. So far, Algiers is only mobilizing its diplomatic corps because military escalation would be costly and politically unpopular. But that should not be read as a sign of Algiers’ incapacity or unconditional acceptance of the status quo, since that could change quickly as a result of military aggression in the region. – Middle East Institute  

Korean Peninsula

A coal shortage that led to an energy crisis in China is rippling beyond its borders, threatening to disrupt supply chains and farming in countries that rely on its exports of a chemical used in fertilizer and diesel exhaust systems. India and South Korea are experiencing shortages of urea, which is produced using coal, since China placed new restrictions on exports. – Wall Street Journal  

South Korea’s main opposition presidential candidate said Friday he will strengthen military cooperation with the United States and Japan if elected to better cope with North Korea’s nuclear threat and would strive to make the North a leading foreign policy priority for the U.S. – Associated Press 

South Korea has rejected refugee status for ethnic Chinese people who have been “stateless” since they fled North Korea years ago, two of the applicants and an activists’ group said Wednesday. – Associated Press  

Senior U.S. and South Korean diplomats discussed how to restart stalled talks with North Korea on Thursday, days after the North conducted artillery firing drills in its latest weapons tests. – Associated Press

It was once an exclusive five-star resort floating directly over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Today, it sits dilapidated in a North Korean port, a 20-minute drive from the Demilitarized Zone, the restricted area that separates the two Koreas. For the world’s first floating hotel, that’s the last stop in a bizarre 10,000-mile journey that began over 30 years ago with glamorous helicopter rides and fine dining, but ended with a tragedy. – CNN  

Jong Eun Lee writes: Nonetheless, it is in the strategic interests of South Korea’s neighbors to observe which foreign policy direction the next Korea’s president would likely take for the next five years. While foreign policies of regional neighbors (China, Russia, Japan, and North Korea) have largely been stable due to continuity in their governments, South Korea’s foreign policy has the potential to readjust its strategic direction, depending on the outcome of the presidential election. – The National Interest  


President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping plan to hold a virtual summit on Monday, people familiar with the matter said, as the two leading world economies pledge to work together on climate change but differences remain over Taiwan and other fronts. – Wall Street Journal  

A high-level meeting of China’s Communist Party on Thursday declared President Xi Jinping’s undisputed rule of “decisive significance” for the nation, affirming Xi’s iron grip as he prepares for a near-inevitable third term that would extend his rule until at least 2027. – Washington Post 

Chinese regulators, wary of financial risks spreading as a result of their crackdown on property lending, are considering easing the rules to let struggling developers sell off assets to avoid defaults and hits to the broader economy. – Wall Street Journal  

The family of Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who was jailed for public disorder after she filmed the suffering of residents under lockdown in Wuhan, have asked for her release on medical grounds after a hunger strike has left her in dangerously poor health. – Washington Post  

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Thursday against letting tensions in the Asia-Pacific region cause a relapse into a Cold War mentality. – Associated Press 

New York-based Human Rights Watch on Friday criticised corporations sponsoring the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics for ignoring what it says are China’s crimes against humanity in its far western region of Xinjiang. – Reuters  

Fiona S. Cunningham and M. Taylor Fravel write: China’s expanding arsenal will pose challenges to the U.S. nuclear posture, forcing the U.S. to plan to deter both Russia’s and now China’s large and sophisticated arsenal. How this new nuclear environment affects U.S. nuclear modernization plans and future strategic arms control with Russia will depend on whether planners decide the U.S. could face major conflicts with both rivals at once or in quick succession. And how U.S. allies view the credibility of its extended nuclear deterrence guarantees will also be a factor. – Washington Post  

Derek Scissors writes: A frequent response from China bulls is that the economy is just naturally slowing because it’s so large. But the PRC is slowing more quickly than it should, due primarily to its own choices. It would take shocking policy shifts to avoid near-stagnation. Still, there is room for a bit of optimism. Because official reporting is just catching up to reality, there is no crisis. Moreover, there is little prospect of the dramatic economic crisis some observers seem fixated on. – American Enterprise Institute  

Michael Rubin writes: While China’s leaders have built their infrastructure of genocide, they have found no better ally than Kerry. Behind the scenes, Kerry has lobbied against restrictions on goods from China manufactured by slave labor. For Kerry, such humanitarian concerns are worth sacrificing upon the altar of climate negotiations, never mind the science and models Kerry cites have a poor track record of accuracy. – Washington Examiner  

Mathew Choi writes: The agreement was a sort of climate truce between the two superpowers as countries enter the final quarter of negotiations, but it skimped on some of the biggest points of contention between the two countries, such as climate finance and their Nationally Determined Contributions. China, along with several other emerging economies, is pushing for revised language in the draft COP agreement concerning when countries would issue new emissions goals, and seeking additional climate finance from the developed world to help ferry them through an energy transition and adapt to climate change. – Politico 

Ryan Fedasiuk writes: But in a potential conflict, the PLA itself would also likely struggle to ensure the integrity of data used to train its own AI systems — to say nothing of the inherent fragility of AI-based computer vision and object recognition systems. None of the 350 unclassified Chinese military contracts in our study focus on building resilient networks or secure datasets. – Breaking Defense 

Rebeccah Heinrichs writes: If Americans want to decide for themselves how they want to live and not buckle to terms acceptable to the Zhongnanhai, we must take Xi’s rise and his mission deadly seriously. We surely have our own domestic challenges, but Xi fully intends to exploit them. It’s imperative to understand his potent capabilities as he consolidates yet more power. – New York Post 

Shuli Ren writes: Beijing would probably be very happy to have fewer real estate behemoths, and in particular to shrink Chinese banks’ exposure to the volatile sector. But what’s the impression that sends to the world? The next time China seeks funding to build up other capital-intensive businesses — think chip manufacturing, or electric vehicle parts — will global investors dare to venture in? All companies risk failure, and China’s property sector badly overreached. But that isn’t a reason for Beijing to pressure companies out of existence, leaving investors holding the bag. – Bloomberg 

South Asia

A Myanmar court on Friday convicted American journalist Danny Fenster of three charges, including immigration violations, and sentenced him to prison for 11 years — the harshest possible sentences for those crimes under the law. – Washington Post 

Pakistan on Thursday hosted talks with special envoys from the United States, Russia and China on the path forward for Afghanistan, where a deepening humanitarian crisis has forced many Afghans to migrate to neighboring countries since the Taliban takeover in August. – Associated Press 

Cambodia on Thursday dismissed as “politically motivated” sanctions imposed by the United States on two senior defense officials over allegations of graft, accompanied by a broader warning of systemic corruption in the Southeast Asian nation. – Associated Press 

At least seven people were killed in Bangladesh election violence as voters selected village council representatives Thursday in elections expected to further consolidate the governing party’s power amid concerns about the state of the country’s democracy. – Associated Press 

China has become India’s biggest security threat and the tens of thousands of troops and weaponry that New Delhi rushed to secure its disputed Himalayan border last year will not be able to return to base for a long time, Defense Chief General Bipin Rawat said. – Bloomberg  

A Cambodian court on Friday ordered the early release of five activists, including a prominent labor leader who has been a longtime critic of the government. The Phnom Penh Court of Appeals said it ordered the release later in the day of Rong Chhun and four others, but gave no immediate details about its decision. – Associated Press  

Just weeks after Israel and India agreed to identify new areas in defense cooperation, the two countries signed an agreement to develop bilateral technology such as drones, artificial intelligence and more. – Jerusalem Post 


European nations had long kept Taiwan at arm’s length, wary of provoking Beijing, which opposes contact with the island it claims as its territory. But an unusual flurry of diplomatic activity suggests a subtle shift may be underway in Europe, driven in part by the region’s growing frustration over China’s aggressive posture. – New York Times 

The outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was due to start a three-day surprise visit to Taiwan on Friday as the self-ruled island, which is also claimed by China, worries that the next president of the Central American nation may break off relations and switch to diplomatic ties with Beijing. – Associated Press 

A Thai court ruled on Wednesday that three anti-government activists who had called for reform of the country’s powerful monarchy had violated the constitution by making what it called a veiled attempt to overthrow the institution. – Reuters 

 A Hong Kong activist was sentenced to jail under the national security law for chanting political slogans, in a decision that legal experts warned could lead to more prosecutions and greater restrictions on free speech in the Asian financial hub. – Financial Times 

 Michael Rubin writes: The biggest item undermining Azerbaijan’s ultimate claims to sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh, however, might be that despite acting in their names, Azeris tracing their roots to the region seem less doctrinaire than the dictator who has for decades used the Karabakh issue to distract from his own economic mismanagement. – 19fortyfive  

John Lee writes: It is not as if Australia is crazy brave and fighting the good fight against the inevitability of Chinese dominance. Along with others, we have agency in determining what the future looks like, whether Beijing can be deterred and smaller states retain their independence of action. – The Australian  

Wendy Cutler and Kurt Tong write: Hosting APEC will allow Washington, along with others, to help shape the economic agenda for the region by prioritizing and advancing initiatives on climate change, inclusive growth and innovation. Moreover, it can help build support at home for continued economic engagement with the fastest-growing region of the world, through detailed interactions with senior Asian officials and stakeholders throughout the host year. – The Hill  

Tom Rogan writes: The U.S. should leverage the shared values that bind Western powers to conduct more multinational high-level visits, trade agreements, and associated diplomatic endeavors with Taiwan. Beijing is deeply concerned by Taipei’s international partnerships. If it believes that an invasion of Taiwan might lead to an irreparable break in trade and diplomatic relations with the West, it will be less willing to risk that venture. – Washington Examiner  


Russia deployed strategic bombers to Belarus’s airspace on Wednesday, amid escalating tensions between Belarus and Poland over a surge of migrants at their shared border and the positioning of several thousand Polish troops on the European Union’s eastern flank. – Wall Street Journal 

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday that Russia’s intentions behind its latest military buildup along Ukraine’s eastern border were unclear, but that Moscow would be making a “serious mistake” by committing new aggression against its embattled neighbor.- New York Times 

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador said Thursday that Moscow will never invade Ukraine unless it is first provoked by its neighbor or someone else, then cited what he called many threats from Ukraine and provocative actions by U.S. warships in the Black Sea. – Associated Press  

Josh Rogin writes: The long-term U.S. strategy should be to bolster European energy security by increasing U.S. natural gas exports there, while working with Europe to transition to a post-fossil fuel economy. But meanwhile, allowing Putin to amass even more control over Europe’s fate is counterproductive and dangerous. The good news is there’s still time to stop it. – Washington Post 

George Barros and Kateryna Stepanenko write: The Kremlin undermined a key guarantor of the Balkan peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, weakening dampeners on renewed conflict and empowering Russia’s Serbian allies. The Kremlin politically weakened the Office of the High Representative (OHR), a key US and EU-backed international institution devoted to maintaining the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. – Institute for the Study of War  


The escalating standoff over the migrants bivouacked in Belarus and blocked from entering Poland and Lithuania spilled into the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, as the council’s Western members accused Belarus of concocting the crisis and Russia dismissed their move as cynical politics. –  New York Times 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko opened another potential front against Europe on Thursday, threatening to choke off gas supplies amid a deepening crisis that has brought migrants surging to E.U. borders and Western leaders planning to retaliate with more sanctions. – Washington Post 

Dubbed “Europe’s last dictator,” Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, the mercurial leader at the center of the border conflict with Poland and Lithuania that is roiling Europe, has a long history of defying the West. In a region buffeted by decades of authoritarianism, he has proved one of the most brutally tenacious leaders in the former Soviet Union, a one-man state, abetted by a powerful and menacing security apparatus and by the Kremlin, his sometime ally. – New York Times  

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been given permission to marry his partner inside the British top-security prison where he is being held as he fights an extradition request from the U.S. government. – Washington Post  

The U.S. is raising the alarm with European Union allies that Russia may be weighing a potential invasion of Ukraine as tensions flare between Moscow and the bloc over migrants and energy supplies. – Bloomberg 

Editorial: The sanctions should come hard and swift. The United States ought to press Iraq and other nations in the Middle East to cut off flights to Minsk. Poland and Lithuania should allow humanitarian relief as needed for the unfortunate victims huddled along the border fence, but these countries must remain steadfast against Mr. Lukashenko’s thuggery. His departure from office and free and fair elections are the only hope for a new start in Belarus. – Washington Post 

 Tadeusz Giczan writes: More than six months have already passed since Lukashenka turned Belarus into an illegal migration hub. Tens of thousands of people have been made pawns in this heartless policy, and an unknown number (but at least a dozen) have died trying to cross the Belarus-EU border. Will the EU continue to apply a wait-and-see approach, leavened with the occasional sanction? Or will it gets serious and use the multiple peaceful but painful instruments at its disposal to put a stop to this? – Center for European Policy Analysis  

Colin Wall, Rachel Ellehuus and Seth G. Jones write: This report examines the evolution of European military capabilities over the next decade. It asks two main questions. What military capabilities might European allies and partners of the United States possess by 2030? And what types of military missions will these states be able (and unable) to effectively perform by 2030? – Center for Strategic and International Studies  


Sudan’s army chief appointed himself as the head of a new ruling body on Thursday, entrenching a recent military coup and dealing a major blow to Western-led efforts to steer Sudan back to a democratic path. – New York Times 

Mozambique’s former finance minister will be extradited to the United States to face corruption charges, a South African court ruled Wednesday, in a bribery scandal that prosecutors say defrauded American investors and Mozambique. – New York Times 

Next week Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make his first trip to Africa as the United States’s top diplomat. Blinken will visit Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal between Nov. 15 and Nov. 20, the State Department said in a statement. – The Hill  

American and British citizens have been swept up in Ethiopia’s mass detentions of ethnic Tigrayans under a new state of emergency in the country’s escalating war, The Associated Press has found. – Associated Press 

Ethiopian authorities have arrested and detained some 70 aid-delivering truck drivers contracted to the United Nations and other groups in the past week, the U.N. said Wednesday, beginning when the government declared a state of emergency amid the country’s escalating war and growing famine. – Associated Press 

Awol Allo writes: Few could have expected things would come to this, not least Mr. Abiy himself. When the prime minister ordered the military attacks against Tigray in early November last year, he said that the campaign would be a brief surgical operation with “clear, limited and achievable objectives.” Mr. Abiy and his supporters calculated that Tigray, regarded as the final obstacle to the prime minister’s unilateral move to reconstruct the identity and character of the Ethiopian state, could be subdued in a matter of weeks. It was a calamitous error. – New York Times 

Cameron Hudson writes: As the situation deteriorates, and the vast human and economic implications begin to take shape for the region, Ethiopia’s neighbors have only just begun to respond. Forced by the possible fall of one of Africa’s most important cities and the continent’s diplomatic capital, after months of callously treating the devastating conflict as Ethiopia’s “internal affair,” Kenya, Uganda and the African Union itself are finally calling for a ceasefire and political talks. – The Hill  

James Stavridis writes: Sending troops to East Africa may not play well in U.S. domestic politics. But three decades ago, the world stood by and watched a brutal civil war unfold in the small African nation of Rwanda. That was shameful. Ethiopia is far larger and more geopolitically important than Rwanda, and Africa is now the fastest-growing continent — it may flourish, or it could collapse into political chaos, starvation and terrorism. As the U.S. and its allies forge a strategy to engage the continent as whole, helping end Ethiopia’s misery now makes a lot of sense. – Bloomberg 

Alex de Waal writes: At the same time, by building a unified international diplomatic front to back the African Union’s principled opposition to an unconstitutional change of government and support the demands of the Sudanese people for civilian rule, the United States can bring Burhan back to the table. Without such engagement, however, Sudan risks losing all of the progress it has made. As well as the future of Sudan, the credibility of the U.S. commitment to democracy is at stake. – Foreign Affairs 

The Americas

Fresh from their assault on the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, former President Donald J. Trump and his allies are exporting their strategy to Latin America’s largest democracy, working to support Mr. Bolsonaro’s bid for re-election next year — and helping sow doubt in the electoral process in the event that he loses. – New York Times  

A Venezuelan judge has granted a rare appeal to six U.S. oil executives who were jailed for alleged corruption. A court document shared with The Associated Press by a person familiar with the case showed that a judge scheduled an appeal hearing in the case to take place Tuesday in front of a three-judge panel. – The Hill  

The U.S. government is asking its citizens in Haiti to return home as the country grapples with increasing turmoil, including a situation in which U.S. citizens have been held hostage for several weeks. – Washington Examiner  

Robert J. Bunker writes: Racks of bomblets could be attached to such drones, as well as the inclusion of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and rockets, which would provide the cartels with standoff anti-helicopter and anti-vehicular capabilities against Mexican federal forces. While this may sound speculative and alarmist, such air-to-air and air-to-ground drone-based weaponry is becoming more common in former Soviet Union territories and other regions (using Chinese and Turkish system exports) where combat drones have been evolving, and their use spreading, for many years now. – War on the Rocks 


A French identity-verification security services company that contracts for federal and state governments has broken national security regulations and compromised the personal data of millions of Americans, according to a lawsuit filed by a company whistleblower. – Washington Examiner  

Still in the nascent stages, the Pentagon is working on ways to help bolster cybersecurity for allies and partners and wants to increase its engagement with industry for solutions, according to Mieke Eoyang, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy. – Defense News  

Iranian hackers have searched cybercriminal websites for sensitive data stolen from American and foreign organizations that could be useful in future efforts to hack those organizations, the FBI said in an advisory sent to US companies obtained by CNN. – CNN  

Dustin Carmack and Michael Ellis write: In short, although the Administration should continue to make use of diplomacy, sanctions, and law enforcement actions to reduce the threat of cyberattacks, these efforts are not sufficient. Similarly, efforts to improve the cybersecurity of U.S. critical infrastructure are likely to fall short in the face of attacks sponsored by nation-states. – Heritage Foundation  


Pentagon officials are keenly aware of the dangers posed by China‘s cutting-edge weapons and its rapidly expanding military prowess across a host of domains. – Washington Times  

Glenn Cross writes: However, the recent chemical weapons use in assassinations and the use of chemical weapons in Syria — followed by a tepid international response — likely has incentivized the future use and development of biological weapons agents. Biological weapons have a role in the “Shadow War” — which is far more insidious, far more difficult to detect, and far harder to defend against. It likely cannot be deterred using our current approaches and attribution is fraught with challenges, both technical and political. – War on the Rocks  

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: A congressionally appointed bipartisan commission traditionally evaluates new defense strategies and their associated risks, force-sizing constructs, posture recommendations, operational concepts, and assumptions. But that work only launches with a mandate from Congress via the defense policy bill. Right now, unfortunately, the timelines are not matching up. – American Enterprise Institute  

Rebecca Hersman and Eric Brewer write: This report presents eight scenarios—four focused on Russia and four focused on China—that invite potential escalation risks and demonstrate how the tools and tactics of influence operations could be employed to challenge detection, response, and crisis management. It explores a range of potential escalatory pathways and destabilizing consequences if adversary influence operations engage strategic interests and targets in high-risk scenarios and identifies key takeaways and recommendations for policymakers to better identify and defend against adversary influence operations. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Long War

A Taliban provincial spokesman says a bomb exploded in a mosque during Friday prayers, wounding 15 people in eastern Afghanistan, where Islamic State group militants have been waging a campaign of violence. – Associated Press 

The Department of Homeland Security issued a terror threat bulletin Wednesday, warning that al Qaeda- and ISIS-linked terrorists are ramping up online activity to try to inspire attacks on the U.S. homeland, after the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan. – CBS News 

A Palestinian prisoner ended a 113-day hunger strike on Thursday after Israel agreed not to extend his detention without trial beyond February 2022, Palestinian officials said. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad described the ending of Qawasmi’s fast as a “victory” over his captors, according to a statement on their website. – Reuters  

Pakistan removed Islamist leader Saad Rizvi from its terrorism watchlist on Thursday, paving the way for his release from detention under a deal to end weeks of deadly protests by his followers over an alleged blasphemy. – Reuters 

When Patricio Galvez heard that his daughter had died in Syria, he couldn’t pause to grieve — because he needed to rescue his grandchildren. […]Thousands of ISIS members from around the world converged in Raqqa, where the soccer stadium was turned into a torture center where ISIS beheaded its enemies. – New York Post