Fdd's overnight brief

November 3, 2022

In The News


The family of four was watching television at home in central Tehran on Sunday night when a series of big explosions outside rattled their windows. The mother grabbed her two children and ducked under the dining table. – New York Times

The United States announced Wednesday it will seek to oust Iran from the U.N.’s premiere global body fighting for gender equality because of its violation of the rights of women and girls and its ongoing crackdown on demonstrators who took to the streets in September after the death of a 22-year-old woman taken into custody by the morality police. – Associated Press

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers “has no future and is not in line with reality”, a senior official in Germany’s Free Democrats (FDP), junior partner in the ruling coalition, told two online news outlets in an interview published on Wednesday. – Reuters

Videos on social media showing Iranian security forces severely beating protesters have gone viral as anger grows at a widening crackdown with arrests of prominent figures from rappers to economists and lawyers aimed at ending seven weeks of unrest. – Reuters

Iran denied on Wednesday it posed a threat to Saudi Arabia, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Riyadh had shared intelligence with the United States warning of an imminent attack from Iran on targets in the kingdom. – Reuters

An Iranian delegation will visit Vienna in the coming days to try to narrow differences with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said. – Reuters

Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi were detained in the initial phase of protests that erupted after Amini died following her arrest by Iran’s morality police. The movement now poses the biggest challenge to the authorities since the 1979 revolution. – Agence France-Presse

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that recent reports by US media of intelligence warning of imminent attacks by Iran against targets in the Middle East could turn into a “dangerous escalation” in the Persian Gulf, in a conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Nearly 20 House lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to support calling a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate Iran’s human rights abuses, including its crackdown on nationwide protests and broader violations of women’s rights. – Jewish Insider

David Ignatius writes: This movement, in the words of its anthem, a song called “Baraye,” seeks “a change in the minds of the fanatics.” That’s America’s cause, and the world’s, too. The protesters want a normal country. Maybe, just possibly, their time has come. – Washington Post

Rebekah Koffler writes:  Furthermore, both Russia and Iran are parties to President Biden and former President Obama’s Iran delusion nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. […] If signed, it will grant Iran sanctions relief, bringing hundreds of billions of dollars not only to Iran, but to Russia’s coffers as well,” as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently noted. All while helping Putin continue to fund his war on Ukraine and enabling Iran’s progress toward gaining nuclear weapons, which will inevitably be pointing at Washington and New York. – Fox News

Roya Hakakian writes: In 1979, the Iranian people were chanting in the streets “Death to America.” Today, they’re chanting “Death to the dictator” and demanding American-style liberty. With authoritarianism on the rise in the world, the success of these two nations could be a boon for the cause of democracy—if only Washington would see that and act upon it. – The Atlantic

Alex Vatanka and Jonathan Harounoff write: As Israel ratchets up its public diplomacy, the leadership in Tehran will be forced to respond. But it is hard to see what effective counter-arguments the Islamic Republic has left at its disposal that might put the brakes on this latest Israeli initiative and momentum. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

Ukrainian officials have signaled that an assault on Kherson city — the only regional capital that Russia has managed to capture since its invasion began Feb. 24 — could be imminent. President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians to “expect good news” from the region, and another top official recently said he expects to retake the city by the end of the year. – Washington Post

The North Korean government is covertly funneling artillery shells to aid Russia in its war in Ukraine using countries in the Middle East and North Africa to mask the weapons’ movement, although it was not yet clear whether those shipments were received, the White House said Wednesday. – Washington Post

As Russia punctuates its mounting losses in Ukraine with overt threats and private deliberations about the possible use of nuclear weapons and “dirty bombs,” Western leaders are being forced to grapple with whether Moscow is planning a dramatic escalation on the battlefield — a development that would leave the United States and NATO with a limited set of options to respond. – Washington Post

Russia on Wednesday rejoined an agreement allowing the shipment of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, one of the few areas of cooperation amid the war in Ukraine, easing uncertainty over the fate of a deal seen as crucial to preventing famine in other parts of the world. – New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia began ramping up his nuclear rhetoric this fall, raising the specter that he could use such a weapon in Ukraine. As Mr. Putin was making threats, senior Russian generals were discussing the circumstances when they might possibly use a tactical nuclear weapon. – New York Times

A top Kyiv official said that more than 400 fallout shelters were being readied in the capital and that similar measures were being taken elsewhere around the country to prepare for a possible nuclear attack from Russia. – New York Times

Elon Musk has given assurances to Ukraine that he will keep funding its access to a crucial satellite network providing Kyiv with battlefield and humanitarian communications in its war with Russia, a senior Ukrainian official said Wednesday. – Associated Press

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected Russia’s attempt to establish a commission to investigate its unfounded claims that Ukraine and the United States are carrying out “military biological” activities that violate the convention prohibiting the use of biological weapons. – Associated Press

Foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich democracies will discuss how best to coordinate further support for Ukraine when they meet on Thursday in Germany following recent Russian attacks on energy infrastructure that have caused widespread power cuts. – Reuters

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been disconnected from the power grid after Russian shelling damaged the remaining high voltage lines, leaving it with just diesel generators, Ukraine nuclear firm Energoatom said on Thursday. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said it would continue to carefully monitor developments on a deal freeing up grain exports from war-torn Ukraine after Moscow reversed course and said it would resume its participation. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy discussed sending grain to African countries after Russia said it would resume participation in the Ukraine grain deal. – Reuters

The United States will look at additional tools and authorities that may be used to counter North Korean military aid to Russia, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday. – Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Iranian counterpart on Wednesday that Western media had launched a campaign that could trigger escalation in the Gulf, his ministry said. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin has been weakened by his decision to invade Ukraine, but a change in power at the top in Russia is unlikely any time soon due to the autocratic nature of its political system, a Western official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The United States does not see any signs that Russia is making preparations to use nuclear weapons, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday, adding that he had no specific comment on a New York Times report about such Russian discussions. – Reuters

After weeks of apocalyptic atomic innuendo, Russia issued a bland statement Wednesday reaffirming its long-standing policies on the use of nuclear weapons — a possible sign that the Kremlin is trying to cool the escalatory rhetoric it used throughout October. – NBC

Compliments sometimes come from the strangest of quarters, and in stark contradiction to the Kremlin’s official line, the head of the stealthy Wagner group — essentially Russia’s private army — has heaped praise on Ukraine’s president, Volodymr Zelensky. – New York Sun

The U.S. is aiming to send Ukraine the “Vampire” counter-drone system by mid-2023, with a contract award expected within months, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday. – Defense News

Daniel Henninger writes: Russia, China and Iran are now in an informal alliance whose explicit goal is to replace the U.S. and its liberal values. Ukraine is now their central, active battlefield. Mr. Putin is bombarding Ukraine’s infrastructure and civilians with Iranian-made drones and ballistic missiles. Xi Jinping has committed China to a “no limits” partnership with Russia. Besides themselves, the Ukrainian people are sacrificing and dying to protect the West from these determined enemies. Once the U.S. presidential campaigns begin, we will find out soon enough which candidates recognize this reality. – Wall Street Journal  

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: The collective West can and must offer incentives for collaboration — not merely invectives and rhetoric on saving democracy that hardly resonate. For the emerging world, it’s crucial to separate neutrality and inaction, anti-Americanism and self-interest. Putin’s threats, from critical infrastructure to nuclear weapons, have increased in intensity as his options diminish. His tactics will only become more extreme. – Bloomberg

Jonah Goldberg writes: Putin’s political philosophy, like his understanding of history, is entirely self-serving and nothing more. He grabs random facts, half-truths, and whole lies off the shelf to serve his desire for power and glory. Indeed, he now says Russia is at war with Western “satanism” because the cupboard is bare of more plausible lies. What he doesn’t do is offer an actual alternative to Western values. He uses liberal labels to justify his brutal will to power. Maybe that’s because those values really are universal now. – The Dispatch 

Anna Pederson writes: Still, to ensure that sanctions didn’t inadvertently curb the flow of Russian oil to other countries, the Biden administration issued a license that exempts Russia’s energy sales from the thicket of U.S. restrictions. This exemption has allowed the Kremlin to continue to rake in billions from oil exports as its armies perpetrated untold atrocities in Ukraine. In December, that license will finally expire, and the United States and its allies will begin enforcing a price cap on Russia’s oil exports.” – Center for a New American Security


Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s once and likely future prime minister, was forced to wait on Wednesday after taking an almost insurmountable lead in Israel’s election, as officials delayed calling the election until all votes were counted. – New York Times

The results of Israel’s fifth election since 2019 may not be confirmed until Friday, but the vote already demonstrates profound political and social shifts in Israel. – New York Times

The apparent comeback of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the dramatic rise of his far-right and ultra-Orthodox allies in Israel’s general election this week have prompted little more than shrugs from many Palestinians. – Associated Press

The United States said Wednesday it hoped officials in the next Israeli government would respect “the values of an open, democratic society” including minority rights, in striking comments as Benjamin Netanyahu looked set to return to power with the support of far-right allies. – Agence France-Presse

For now, President Biden and other world leaders are being careful about publicly expressing criticism of the far-right Israeli government likely emerging from Tuesday’s vote. Will President Herzog be able to push back against fears about the direction of the country? – New York Sun

The IDF has lifted an almost-month-long closure on Nablus on Thursday morning, after close to ten days without a shooting attack by the Lions’ Den group. – Jerusalem Post

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that his country would maintain its recently refreshed relations with Israel no matter the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, even as former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he shared famously prickly relationship, looked set to return to power. – Times of Israel

Arab leaders on Wednesday vowed their “total support” for the Palestinian cause, as veteran Israeli hawk Benjamin Netanyahu inched closer to a return to power. – Times of Israel

Now that Benjamin Netanyahu is all but destined to return to power, buoyed by far-right extremists in an unprecedented manner, the Biden administration is now tasked with determining how to engage with such a government in general, and with extremists and assumed future minister Itamar Ben-Gvir in particular. – Haaretz

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that while he values input from the United States allies, he will not be dictated to when it comes to choosing his next coalition partners, adding that he will “not bow his head.” – Ynet

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said Wednesday, “the advance of far-right religious parties in Israeli elections… is testimony to the rise of extremism and racism in Israeli society and from which our people have suffered for years.” – Ynet

Editorial: It’s a moment to bear in mind that Mr. Netanyahu is still on trial on various charges of corruption. We tend to see this as a symptom of the American Disease, a penchant for fighting political battles with criminal prosecutions. The prosecution is the scandal. Yet we don’t gainsay the danger that the criminal case could still make Mr. Netanyahu vulnerable to political attack from the right and left. Which makes his triumph Tuesday that much more impressive. – New York Sun

Editorial: We must not give up our aspiration to turn Israel into a worthy, fair and decent place for all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender, as promised in the Declaration of Independence. It might take some time for this process to bear fruit, but if the left wants to survive, this is the only option; there are no magic solutions. – Haaretz

Ira Stoll writes: With Reagan, Thatcher, and Friedman all deceased and economic freedom recently in retreat in the United States and in the United Kingdom, Mr. Netanyahu’s Israel may yet emerge on the economic policy front as a “light unto the nations.” – New York Sun

Tamara Picache writes: Azerbaijan is crucial in Israel’s efforts to protect itself from Iranian efforts to annihilate the Jewish country. And in return, Israel indeed sells arms to Azerbaijan – as it does to Greece, India, and many other countries – to deter their common enemy, Iran. Just this week, Iran ran military exercises on its shared border with Azerbaijan and the main deterrent to an attack by the Iranians is the arms they buy from Israel. – Jerusalem Post


Leyla Ekren, a quiet but scrappy girl from rural Kansas, lost her childhood in Syria, where her mother dragged her after war broke out more than a decade ago. – New York Times

A decade of appalling civil war has left Syria fragmented and in ruins but one thing crosses every front line: a drug called captagon. The stimulant — once notorious for its association with Islamic State fighters — has spawned an illegal $10 billion industry that not only props up the pariah regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but many of his enemies. – Agence France-Presse

A remote US special-operations base in the Syrian desert is caught in a shadow war between military powers in the Middle East. Al-Tanf garrison, a US base typically housing between 100 and 200 US troops alongside coalition forces, has for years been a hub for operations against ISIS as well as Iran and its proxies. In August and September, the outpost was involved in a series of attacks, including a rocket attack by Iranian-backed militias that wounded three US troops. – Business Insider


Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday said that U.S. guarantees would protect a maritime border deal with Israel should Israel’s conservative former premier Benjamin Netanyahu win a majority in elections. – Reuters

A Lebanese citizen whose family is close with Hezbollah turned himself in and admitted to working with Israel, the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon has secured “American guarantees” that its maritime border deal with Israel cannot be easily scrapped should Benjamin Netanyahu return to the Israeli premiership, Beirut’s chief negotiator said Wednesday. – Arutz Sheva

Saudi Arabia

The United Arab Emirates sent its national security advisor on a secret mission to Saudi Arabia in September to convince OPEC’s de facto leader not to cut oil production quotas, sources told the Wall Street Journal.  – Business Insider

The Biden administration has warned it will “recalibrate” its ties with Saudi Arabia after the kingdom supported an OPEC+ decision to cut oil production despite US entreaties. But the reality is that the relationship has been changing for years. – Bloomberg

Eric R. Mandel writes: The best way to stabilize the region is for the US and the Saudis to find a way to manage the current disagreements without harming a relationship both need for their national interests. The best way to do that is to focus on the primary destabilizing factor of the region, the Iranian desire for a nuclear weapons umbrella to continue their hegemonic expansion. Iran desires not only Israel but also the Saudi oil fields and the holy sites of Mecca and Medina under Saudi control. Shiite Iran does not like Sunni Saudi Arabia in charge. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Pope Francis is bringing his message of dialogue with the Muslim world to the kingdom of Bahrain, where the Sunni-led government is hosting an interfaith conference on East-West coexistence even as it stands accused of discriminating against the country’s Shiite majority. – Associated Press

Editorial: The plight of political prisoners in Egypt, and the stain of despotism spreading around the globe, cannot be ignored as conference attendees gather on the shimmering beachfront of Sharm el-Sheikh and ponder how to assure a better future. – Washington Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Together, the Turkey ties and the Lebanese mezze of problems are tied to wider challenges in the region. Netanyahu, if and when he forms a government, will need to deal with two potentially interlinked crises both of which Iran, via Hezbollah, and Turkey or Hamas could cook up at any time. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea fired one long-range and two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, including a missile that triggered emergency warnings for Japanese citizens in northern prefectures to seek shelter, Seoul and Tokyo officials said. – Wall Street Journal  

North Korea unleashed its biggest barrage in years, firing nearly two dozen missiles, including one that flew south of its disputed maritime border and so close to a South Korean island that it triggered an air-raid warning. – Wall Street Journal  

This week’s record number of North Korean missile launches, which included an apparent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), underscored the nuclear-armed state’s efforts to rapidly advance its arsenal amid stalled denuclearisation talks. – Reuters 

South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman strongly condemned North Korea’s series of missile launches as “deplorable, immoral” during their phone call on Thursday, Seoul’s foreign ministry said. – Reuters

Alarms blared from cellphones, radios and public speakers and fishermen hurried back to shore in northern Japan on Thursday after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile above its eastern waters, adding to a recent barrage of provocative weapons demonstrations that officials say may culminate with a nuclear test in coming weeks. – Associated Press

Foster Klug writes: North Korea says it is responding to U.S.-South Korean military drills that it views as a rehearsal for an invasion.But Pyongyang is also well aware of what’s happening in the world — especially as it relates to its rivals. U.S. President Joe Biden is preparing to travel to Asia for a series of summits, and is facing crucial midterm elections this month. A lot is vying for Biden’s attention, but Pyongyang has also previously timed its weapons tests around American elections, presumably in the hopes of pushing itself higher on presidents’ foreign policy to-do lists. – Associated Press


Canada’s public broadcaster CBC says it is closing its China bureau after the Chinese government ignored requests to base a reporter in Beijing. CBC said its applications had been met “by months-long silence from Chinese officials.” – Associated Press

As Wall Street’s biggest bosses gathered on a panel at Hong Kong’s big financial comeback summit, one major topic was avoided: China’s growing risks. – Bloomberg

China is expanding an air base close to a key southern naval base with the addition of a second runway, widened taxiways and two vastly expanded aircraft parking areas, satellite photos show. – Defense News

A report commissioned by the congressionally mandated U.S.-China commission suggests Congress fund backchannel military diplomacy with Beijing, citing growing gaps in Washington’s knowledge of personnel matters and reform efforts in relation to the People’s Liberation Army. – Defense News


Japan’s government warned residents of Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures to seek shelter indoors after North Korea’s missile launch, according to J-Alert Emergency Broadcasting System issued on Thursday. – Reuters

Japan’s defence ministry is considering the deployment of hypersonic missiles by 2030 to boost deterrence by stepping up its counterattack capabilities, the Nikkei business daily reported on Thursday. – Reuters

China will continue to support Pakistan as it tries to stabilise its financial situation, state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying on Wednesday, during a visit by Pakistan’s prime minister to Beijing. – Reuters


Polish army engineers began building a razor-wire fence across the country’s 130-mile border with Russia, the latest country in Europe’s east to construct such a barrier, in what Poland’s government described as a bid to prevent Moscow from encouraging asylum seekers to cross overland into the European Union. – Wall Street Journal  

The United States cautioned Germany against allowing China to obtain a controlling stake in a Hamburg port terminal, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Wednesday, in a deal that has been seen as a gauge of how far Germany is willing to toughen its stance on its top trading partner. – Reuters

The British ambassador arrived at the Russian foreign ministry on Thursday morning, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, after she was summoned to discuss Moscow’s claims that Britain was involved in a Ukrainian drone strike on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. – Reuters

Switzerland has decided to adopt the European Union’s sanctions on delivering Iranian drones to Russia, the government said in a statement on Wednesday. However, the economic affairs and foreign affairs departments decided not to adopt EU sanctions imposed on Iran in connection with the current protests, it added. – Reuters

A Paris court on Wednesday sentenced a former Liberian rebel commander to life in jail for violence against civilians and complicity in crimes against humanity after France’s first trial linked to Liberia’s civil wars. – Agence France-Presse

Chancellor Olaf Scholz will be bringing Germany’s biggest brands to China this week to underscore close economic ties, but he’ll also have to navigate growing concerns about Europe’s broader dependence on Beijing. – Bloomberg 

Germany’s government expects that substituting Russian gas could cost the country some €46 billion ($45.4 billion), according to a report published by parliament. – Bloomberg

The war in Ukraine is creating an acute energy crisis in its smaller neighbor Moldova, exacerbated by the nation’s dependence on Russian gas and by Moscow’s antipathy toward its pro-Western government. – Bloomberg

Brooke Masters writes: US culture wars over everything from abortion to diverse hiring to vaccines are painful for outsiders to navigate, and the American labour market also remains tight, exacerbated by political gridlock over immigration policy. Some executives also fear growing partisan conflict over environmentally driven investing will cause problems for EU companies that must comply with Brussels-driven climate change mandates. The Russians have handed the US a chance to win substantial foreign direct investment into its industrial sector — unless politicians blow the opportunity. – Financial Times


Ethiopia’s government and rebels that have been fighting a two-year civil war in Africa’s second-most-populous nation said Wednesday they agreed to put down their arms, the first step toward ending a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. – Wall Street Journal  

Kenya’s President William Ruto on Wednesday officially deployed troops to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to join an East African regional force aiming to end decades of bloodshed. – Reuters 

Civilians attacked a United Nations peacekeeping convoy in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday evening, injuring two people, the U.N. mission said on Wednesday. The convoy was attacked when it stopped at an army checkpoint near an internally displaced persons site in Kanyarutshinya, 8 kilometres (5 miles) from the city of Goma. – Reuters 

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday said its troops had made a strategic withdrawal from the eastern military base of Rumangabo, ceding ground in the battle against the M23 rebel group. – Reuters 

Attackers suspected to be members of Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group have abducted two paramedics, plus a driver and a patient near Kenya’s border with Somalia, police said. The attackers ambushed an ambulance belonging to the regional county government of Mandera, north east of the country, as it transported the patient to a hospital in the county. – Reuters 

The Biden administration will remove Burkina Faso from the program under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which provides duty-free access to the US for thousands of goods from sub-Saharan nations, starting from Jan. 1, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in an emailed statement Wednesday. – Bloomberg

The Americas

A shake-up of Mexican trade officials has clouded prospects for a quick resolution of a dispute with the U.S. and Canada over what are seen as Mexico’s nationalist energy policies. – Wall Street Journal 

They arrived by the tens of thousands on Wednesday, angry and draped in Brazilian flags, massing outside military bases across the country. They were there, they said, to save Brazil’s democracy from a rigged election, and there was only one way to do so: The armed forces needed to take control of the government. – New York Times 

A bilateral agreement on nuclear energy between the United States and Mexico entered into force, the U.S. State Department said Wednesday, adding that it will enhance cooperation on energy security. – Reuters


U.S. Navy officials are worried the service in the 2030s may have just enough nuclear-armed submarines to meet operational requirements — but no extras in case one becomes unavailable. – Defense News

Amid strategic competition with China, the United States plans to augment its ability to operate submarines out of Guam, the commander of U.S. submarine forces in the Pacific said today. – USNI News

“Members of Congress and Pentagon officials are increasingly focused on developing emerging military technologies to enhance U.S. national security and keep pace with U.S. competitors. The U.S. military has long relied upon technological superiority to ensure its dominance in conflict and to underwrite U.S. national security. In recent years, however, technology has both rapidly evolved and rapidly proliferated—largely as a result of advances in the commercial sector.” – USNI News

Cynthia Cook writes: The 2022 NDS does call for DOD to “strengthen our industrial base to ensure that we produce and sustain the full range of capabilities needed to give U.S., allied, and partners forces a competitive advantage” which is a strong statement, although lacking in details. It offers one solution: “The Department will act urgently to better support advanced manufacturing processes (e.g., aircraft and ship building, preferred munition production) to increase our ability to reconstitute the Joint Force in a major conflict.” – Center for Strategic and  International Studies