Fdd's overnight brief

November 2, 2021

In The News


Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has tested positive for COVID-19, the foreign ministry’s spokesman said. – Reuters 

Iran repeated Monday its insistence its nuclear programme was peaceful, two days after the US, Britain, France and Germany expressed their “grave” concern on the sidelines of a G20 meeting. Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters in Tehran that Western positions were “incompatible with reality and will not bring constructive results”. – Agence France-Presse 

Bennett and French President Emmanuel Macron held a one-on-one meeting, where they discussed challenges in the Middle East, Iran’s advanced enrichment of uranium in recent months, foremost. – Jerusalem Post 

Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar writes: Iranian officials claim that they are willing to discuss other issues of mutual concern provided the United States agrees to engage on one issue at a time, but they do not foresee any willingness by Washington to accept an agreement that could strengthen the Islamic Republic. Tehran’s strategy is to resist American influence at every turn and respond to coercion with coercion. Even as it prepares to resume negotiations over the nuclear deal, it is setting the stage for all eventualities—including conflict with the United States. – Foreign Affairs 

Eric Lob writes: For Raisi, the stakes of his proposal for Iran’s political and socioeconomic stability and future are exceedingly high. […]Already a contributing factor to the protests and riots that have occurred since 2017, any real and perceived failures and unmet expectations surrounding the government’s rural development plans and policies risk reigniting a mass uprising and state repression. And yet, without systemic reform and improved governance, it is difficult to fathom how such suboptimal and tragic outcomes could be avoided. – Middle East Institute 


Of all the history the Taliban has with other Afghan groups, none is more tortured than the one with the country’s Hazara minority. When they first rose to power in the mid-1990s, the hard-line Sunni militants massacred, kidnapped and uprooted thousands of Shiite Hazaras, declaring them infidels. […]How the Taliban treats Hazaras in its new regime will serve as an essential barometer to gauge the militants’ claim that they have changed and deserve international recognition and financial support. – Washington Post 

John R. Bolton writes: The Biden administration deserves credit for surprising candor, although Kahl’s testimony echoed the warnings that President Biden received before proceeding to withdraw, as Trump and President Barack Obama were similarly warned. Now, however, these troubling assessments are publicly buttressed by Biden’s own political appointee. […]Biden’s long-standing over-the-horizon theory that we can mount successful counterterrorism operations from far distant platforms, with essentially no in-country presence, will now be tested. Unfortunately, this conjecture is likely to be merely a second rhetorical Maginot Line. – Washington Post 

Richard Weitz writes: In the near term, China’s most significant interests in Afghanistan are primarily related to security. Above all, Beijing is concerned with how adverse developments in Afghanistan could promote instability in the neighboring countries of Central Asia, Pakistan, and China itself, especially its western province of Xinjiang. For the next few years, these security objectives, rather than any illusive and relatively modest economic gains from investment and trade, will primarily determine China’s future economic engagement with the Taliban government. – Middle East Institute 


Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron that the alleged misuse of spyware developed by an Israeli company, including against Macron, would be handled “discreetly”, an Israeli official said on Monday. – Reuters 

The six Palestinian civil society organizations that Defense Minister Benny Gantz declared to be terrorist organizations can still legally operate in the West Bank, where they are registered and are active. For an organization to be declared a “disallowed association” in the West Bank, the commander of the IDF’s Central Command must issue an order, but the office said that no such order was issued. – Haaretz 

The Civil Administration is set to advance plans for 1,303 Palestinian homes in Area C of the West Bank on Monday morning, but only 170 are likely to be approved. […]It marks the first advancement of Palestinian housing projects since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took office in May and is part of a series of gestures his government has made to the Palestinians. But of the projected number only 170 homes in Khirbet Abdallah Younas near Jenin, or 13%, are expected to receive final approval. –The Jerusalem Post 

Bryan Leib writes: Opponents of the Abraham Accords on the far left are at odds with the administration, as well as with a growing coalition of Arabs, Israelis, Iranians and Americans eager for a peaceful and prosperous Middle East. The time is now for all parties to embrace the Abraham Accords instead of pouring cold water on them. – Wall Street Journal 

Middle East & North Africa

At least 10 civilians were killed and 25 wounded when two ballistic missiles from Yemen’s Houthi rebels stuck a religious educational facility in the central province of Marib, officials said Monday. – Associated Press 

To address evolving regional threats and streamline its command and control of special operations activities in the Middle East, Special Operations Command Central restructured its Special Operations Joint Task Force leading the fight against jihadi groups. – Military Times 

Egypt is poised to expand the national security powers of the president and military with legislation that will strengthen the hand of the country’s authoritarian government, just as it had appeared to relax its grip last week with the lifting of a longstanding state of emergency. – New York Times 

“Lebanon invites Saudi Arabia to engage in dialogue to solve all outstanding problems and not just the latest spat, so that the same crisis is not repeated every time,” Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, told AFP. – Agence France Presse  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was skipping the COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow, citing a dispute over security arrangements. – Bloomberg 

OPEC+ headed for a clash with the U.S. as more members rejected President Joe Biden’s call for the group to raise oil production faster and help reduce gasoline prices. – Bloomberg 

Israeli defense technology company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems will participate in the 2021 Dubai Air Show on November 14th-18th, marking the company’s first large-scale presence in a global defense exposition in the United Arab Emirates. […]Their appearance at the event will also emphasize the regional partnership between Israel and the UAE, further reinforced by Rafael’s joint venture with G42, a leading artificial intelligence and cloud computing company based in Abu Dhabi. – The Jerusalem Post 

Sarah El Deeb writes: Punitive measures from Saudi Arabia, once an important ally that poured millions of dollars into Lebanon, could cause more economic pain. […]It all portends more internal divisions in a government already paralyzed over the investigation into last year’s massive Beirut port explosion that killed more than 200 people. Hezbollah has demanded the chief investigating judge’s removal. A recent burst of street violence, the worst in years, raised the specter of social tensions ahead of crucial parliamentary elections in March that are expected to be a test for Hezbollah and its allies. – Associated Press 

Omar Al-Nidawi writes: If the cooperation among various Tishreen elements lasts, it could position the movement’s future candidates to realize more of their electoral potential. This election may have set the stage for something big in four years. That ruling parties like the Sadrists won large shares of seats in Iraq’s latest parliamentary elections is not news. It has happened before, again and again. But the fact that, even with a record low voter turnout, a genuinely homegrown opposition movement has managed to win seats — that is a first, and that is news. – Middle East Institute 

Korean Peninsula

China and Russia are pushing the U.N. Security Council to ease sanctions on North Korea by reviving a 2019 attempt to remove a ban on Pyongyang’s exports of statues, seafood and textiles and expanding it to include lifting a refined petroleum imports cap. – Reuters 

A U.S. judge on Monday refused to block South Korea from seeking the extradition of a man wanted on embezzlement charges related to a 2014 ferry sinking that killed 304 people. – Reuters 

South Korean officials want Pope Francis to visit North Korea, as the outgoing president pushes for a diplomatic breakthrough with the nuclear-armed neighbor. – Washington Examiner 


Chinese officials can’t blame the United States for their failures to prosecute an aggressive policy to reduce emissions, according to one of President Joe Biden’s top aides. “It’s on them,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday, as the U.S. delegation prepared for the launch of an international climate conference in Glasgow. – Washington Examiner 

Editorial: LinkedIn might not inspire the same fury and fervor as Facebook, Twitter, or even Google — yet the Microsoft-owned professional networking platform’s departure from the Chinese market represents as significant a moment as almost any for the global Internet. […]Microsoft was correct to withdraw LinkedIn from the vast Chinese market if the only other option was to capitulate. Doing otherwise would have meant being complicit in Chinese repression, as well as encouraging authoritarian leaders elsewhere to test the bounds of their bullying abilities and see what they can get away with. – Washington Post 

Editorial: The best way to prevent a shooting war over Taiwan is to convince China that the costs of such a conflict would be prohibitively high. That will require equipping U.S. forces with new long-range anti-ship missiles, surface and undersea drones, and resilient battlefield networks. The U.S. should also deepen coordination with allies such as Japan and Australia over crisis scenarios, while ensuring Taiwan has the weaponry and training necessary to hold out until help can arrive. – Bloomberg 

Harlan Ullman writes: In times of domestic crisis, leaders often search for external enemies to divert the nation’s attention. But until harder evidence becomes determinant, this “Sputnik moment” is no reason to make China an enemy — yet. – The Hill 

Michael Beckley and Hal Brands write: Yet they require an intellectual shift—a realization that the United States and its allies need to rapidly shut China’s windows of military opportunity, which means preparing for a war that could well start in 2025 rather than in 2035. And that, in turn, requires a degree of political will and urgency that has so far been lacking. China’s historical warning signs are already flashing red. Indeed, taking the long view of why and under which circumstances China fights is the key to understanding just how short time has become for America and the other countries in Beijing’s path. – The Atlantic 


One afternoon in late August, while manning a military checkpoint in a central Myanmar city, Sgt. Htet Aung noticed an unusual post near the top of his Facebook feed: an audio interview with an army defector urging others to desert. He clicked. The clip was part of an activist campaign to lure soldiers away from Myanmar’s armed forces. Defector support groups have had some success winning over disillusioned youths such as Mr. Htet Aung, 23, who says he fled his base three weeks later and joined a rebellion against the country’s military junta. – Wall Street Journal 

The leader of Japan’s main opposition party will step down from his post after his group suffered a stinging setback in a national election Sunday. – Bloomberg 

Amid political challenges, the people of Myanmar must be self-reliant as the nation will be progressive and stable only through cooperation, according to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing. – Bloomberg 

An American woman who was recently released from prison after serving part of a 10-year sentence for her role in the murder of her mother will be deported and return home on Tuesday, an immigration official in Bali said. – Reuters 

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Tuesday it will boost training of its reserve forces next year, including doubling down combat and shooting exercises, as China increased military activities near the island Beijing has not ruled out taking by force. – Reuters 

Taiwan will seek support for its bid to join a trans-Pacific trade pact when it attends a meeting of economic leaders of the Asia-Pacific group APEC next week, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The U.S. is condemning the jailing of a teenager in Cambodia who was convicted in connection to messages he shared on social media that were critical of ruling party officials. – The Hill 

The Biden administration said Monday it welcomes a private mission to Myanmar by former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson as a possible way to help speed humanitarian access to the country. – Associated Press 

Kamran Bokhari writes: Uzbekistan isn’t the only prospective ally in the region, but it is one Washington hasn’t engaged enough. Now it can help augment American humanitarian, diplomatic and security efforts to address the uncertainty that has arisen from the U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban’s rise to power. – Wall Street Journal 

Brahma Chellaney writes: If the U.S. were to put up with a Chinese conquest of Taiwan, it would make the same fatal mistake as the participants of the 1938 Munich Conference who, yielding to Adolf Hitler, transferred the predominantly German-speaking Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Germany. That concession paved the way for World War II. Taiwan’s fall would significantly advance China’s hegemonic ambitions in Asia, including by triggering the unraveling of U.S.-led alliances there. And China would emerge as a pressing military threat to the U.S. itself. – The Hill 

Chris King writes: Biden’s two statements amount to a partial abandonment of Washington’s “strategic ambiguity” concerning Taiwan. But they have left unclear how the U.S. would “defend” the island if China invades it. The tripartite China-U.S.-Taiwan game will certainly be fierce. This process has effectively begun, and will be difficult to reverse. The U.S. has no choice but to go all out and do what it can to rein in Xi Jinping’s ambitions. – Middle East Media Research Institute 


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday emphasized the need to strengthen the country’s air defenses amid NATO’s military activities near Russia’s borders. Speaking during a meeting with military officials and arms makers in the southern Russian city of Sochi, Putin specificially noted the deployment of NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense components in Eastern Europe and increasingly frequent missions by NATO ships near Russian waters in the Baltic and Black Seas. – Associated Press 

Russia approved a long-term government climate strategy on Monday targeting carbon neutrality by 2060 and rejected U.S. allegations it was not doing enough on climate change as the COP26 conference began. – Reuters 

Russia’s foreign minister accused Ukrainian leaders on Monday of trying to drag Moscow into the conflict in eastern Ukraine, following an escalation in fighting between government forces and rebels in the breakaway region. – Reuters 

Ukraine’s defence ministry on Monday denied a media report of a Russian military buildup near its border, saying it had not observed an increase in forces or weaponry. – Reuters 

U.S officials are closely monitoring Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine, which has sparked concern about Moscow’s intentions after months of escalating tensions between the two countries. – Foreign Policy 

Russia plans to gradually increase spending on its nuclear weapons capabilities over the next three years, according to the draft of the national budget currently under debate in parliament. – Defense News 

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: Most hazardous of all to Russia’s pandemic response, though, has been the Kremlin’s toxic nationalist propaganda. […]All of this leaves Russia caught in a catch-22 of its own making: Unable to bring in Western vaccines, unable to impose mandates at a national level, unwilling to provide the data required for its vaccine to be approved in the European Union, unable to rebuild popular trust. Not unlike China, Russia must hope that the pandemic ebbs before more challenging political decisions are required. – Bloomberg 

Dr. Vladislav L. Inozemtsev writes: Today, Russia and the West speak different languages, pursue different goals, and are driven by different beliefs. To reconcile with Russia, the Kremlin pretends that the West should not only make several important concessions to Putin (like lifting sanctions or terminating its support to Ukraine) but rather change its own modus operandi to the degree that it will lose its own political and social identity. Hence, both “fully” and “partially” sovereign Western nations will never find their ways to become friends once again with this “real sovereign” Russia. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Alex Fishman writes: At the same time Israel allegedly attacked an Iranian weapons storage facility near Damascus on Saturday, Russian fighter jets struck Syrian opposition militants near the city of Aleppo. […]It’s no coincidence that Putin met with Bennett last weekend. Moscow realized that in order to bolster the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — and ensure their continued hold on the region — they need to begin bringing Syria out of its diplomatic isolation and ramp up the rehabilitation efforts. – Ynet 


Raucous demonstrations against high energy bills in Spain. Demands for social protection in Greece as coal mines close. Fresh protests in French rural areas and small towns over spiking petrol prices. As world leaders gather for a United Nations conference in Glasgow to tackle the threat of climate change, attention is pivoting to one of the biggest risks involved in decarbonizing the planet: ensuring that the costs of the green transition don’t set off a populist backlash. – New York Times 

France’s president Emmanuel Macron backed away from his imminent threat to punish the U.K. for restricting the post-Brexit access of French fishing boats in British waters, saying he would give negotiations more time. – Bloomberg 

Australian media on Tuesday published messages between French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as Canberra seeks to push back against allegations it lied to Paris about a multibillion-dollar submarine contract. – Reuters 

Britain said on Tuesday that France had freed a British scallop dredger that was seized last week in French waters near Le Havre, and welcomed Paris’s decision to step back from a row over fishing. – Reuters 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attacked the credibility of French President Emmanuel Macron as a newspaper quoted a text message that suggested France anticipated “bad news” about a now-scuttled submarine deal. – Associated Press 

As they resolved their fight over steel and aluminum tariffs this weekend, the U.S. and European Union also announced a first-of-its kind initiative to promote low carbon trade of those two key commodities. – Washington Examiner 

President Biden knew that the French government would be blindsided by the nuclear submarine pact between the US, the UK and Australia — despite his insistence to the contrary during a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron last week, a new report suggests. – New York Post 

Editorial: Mr. Biden’s trade policy has been a disappointment, especially given his criticism as a candidate of Mr. Trump’s tariffs. But at least he’s struck this metals truce with Europe, which he needs in a united front against China on trade. With global supply chains stretched and prices rising rapidly in the U.S. and Europe, this is one trade spat that needed to end. – Wall Street Journal 

Rokhaya Diallo writes: If the word “woke” echoes a political reality in the United States and was meant to underline the necessity of expressing awareness toward racial and, more broadly, social inequalities, it has no precise meaning in the French context. […]Questioning the balance of powers and demanding the republic meet its promises is the least so-called wokes can do — and they should be celebrated for keeping their eyes open when it comes to injustices. – Washington Post 

Paul Roderick Gregory writes: A new government has yet to be formed in Germany, but it seems clear that the social-democratic SPD will be the senior partner in any coalition. Over the years, the SPD, with its Ostpoltik, has been steadfast in support of “business as usual” with Russia. We would imagine that the new government will figure a way to cave to Putin for the sake of secure energy supply. In effect, the prime promoter of European unity is telling its partners that it is everyone for themselves when it comes to energy. – The Hill 

Gideon Rachman writes: Sniping and rivalry between Britain and France is becoming a serious international problem. The G7 summit in June took place against the backdrop of another Franco-British dispute — on that occasion about Northern Ireland. […]The western alliance cannot afford that. The poison between the UK and France is liable to spread and infect Nato, the G7 and international negotiations on everything from climate change to trade. – Financial Times 


The findings of the only human rights investigation allowed in Ethiopia’s blockaded Tigray region will be released Wednesday, a year after war began there. But people with knowledge of the probe say it has been limited by authorities who recently expelled a U.N. staffer helping to lead it. – Associated Press 

China needs to give U.S. or European-style market access to Africa as the next step in fostering a strong economic relationship, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said. – Bloomberg 

Protesters in eastern Sudan said they’d lift their weekslong blockade of the country’s main port for one month in a deal with the army, a week after a coup in the North African nation. – Bloomberg 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged citizens across the country to join the fight against rebellious Tigray forces, after the fall of two strategic towns in the northeast of the country. – Bloomberg 

Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigrayan forces have joined up with an Oromo force also fighting the central government, a spokesperson for the Tigrayan forces said on Monday, and said they were considering marching on the capital. – Reuters 

A U.N. official discussed mediation options and possible “way forward” for Sudan with its ousted prime minister on Sunday, a day after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand an end to military rule. – Reuters 

Britain said on Monday that it had requested that the U.N. Human Rights Council convene an emergency session on Sudan following last week’s military coup. – Reuters 

An Israeli delegation reportedly visited Sudan in recent days, meeting with military leaders involved in the recent coup in order to gain a better impression of the volatile situation in the north African country and how it might impact efforts to finalize an agreement to normalize diplomatic ties. […]The delegation, which likely included representatives from the Mossad spy agency, met with Abdel Rahim Hamdan Dagalo, a prominent general in the Rapid Support Forces, a Sudanese paramilitary force that took part in the coup carried out last month – The Times Of Israel 


United States

President Biden and other world leaders on Monday promised major commitments to slow climate change, but deep uncertainty remained about whether two weeks of international talks here can yield breakthroughs significant enough to avoid a catastrophic rise in global warming. – Washington Post 

President Joe Biden said the U.S. is ready to be a leader again in the fight against climate change, addressing a United Nations conference in Glasgow, Scotland, despite offering no new plans to step up his country’s ambitions and continued discord at home over his proposal to spend hundreds of billions advancing clean energy. – Bloomberg 

A U.S. judge in Florida on Monday dismissed money laundering counts against Alex Saab, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, but he remains accused of one count of conspiracy to launder money, a court filing showed. – Reuters 


Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc. have become embroiled in a pioneering market study by the U.K.’s antitrust agency that will examine their dominance and effective duopoly in mobile systems. The probe will likely have wider implications beyond the two tech giants. It could shape a new regulatory regime that will determine whether companies hold “strategic market status,” a category being introduced to help the watchdog rein in a handful of powerful firms. – Bloomberg 

A possible cyber attack against the healthcare system in the Canadian province of Newfoundland has disrupted services and forced the cancellation of some appointments, health authorities said on Monday. – Reuters 

Facebook (FB.O) said on Monday that last month it removed a troll farm with more than 1,000 Facebook and Instagram accounts which it was said was run by the Nicaraguan government and the country’s ruling party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front. – Reuters 

The Department of Defense chief information officer this summer decided to sunset the Joint Regional Security Stacks, initially established to shrink the cyberattack surface by consolidating countless classified entry points around the world to 25 sites, a spokesperson from the Defense Information Systems Agency confirmed. – C4ISRNET 

Parmy Olson writes: An age-old principle is now set to be a cornerstone for regulating social media. The U.K. could pioneer this effort in the same way the EU pioneered wider privacy standards with its GDPR law. Let’s hope it is not a missed opportunity. – Bloomberg 



U.S. President Joe Biden said there’s only a “fifty-fifty” chance that the U.S. Congress and Senate would approve a Turkish request to buy American-made F-16 warplanes, but pledged to do “his best” to ensure that the sale goes through, Turkey’s president said on Monday. – Associated Press 

Investigators have determined USS Connecticut (SSN-22) hit an uncharted seamount that grounded the nuclear attack submarine on the underwater feature in the South China Sea Navy, USNI News has learned. – USNI News 

Boeing has delivered the first of four KC-46A tankers to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, marking the program’s first delivery to a customer outside the United States. – Defense News 

Long War

An Ohio man pleaded guilty Friday to one count of attempting to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations. The man hoped to join and train with the Islamic State and its affiliate ISIS-K, according to the Department of Justice . – Washington Examiner 

Uganda’s police have arrested 48 suspects in connection with last month’s deadly bombings blamed on an Islamist group linked to Islamic State, police said on Monday. – Reuters 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asked that Australia designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, in a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow on Monday. […]Bennett also asked Morrison to call for a strong condemnation of Iran at the upcoming International Atomic Energy Agency’s upcoming board of governors meeting, set for later this month. – The Jerusalem Post