Fdd's overnight brief

November 30, 2021

In The News


Iran made many demands as it resumed talks Monday with the U.S. and other world powers aimed at salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal, doubling down on its position before negotiations first started in the spring and raising doubts over an early breakthrough. – Wall Street Journal 

Iran struck a hard line Tuesday after just one day of restarted talks in Vienna over its tattered nuclear deal, suggesting everything discussed in previous rounds of diplomacy could be renegotiated. – Associated Press 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sent a sharp message to the international community to be tough on Iran as nuclear negotiations resumed in Vienna on Monday. – Jerusalem Post 

The water crisis has been exacerbated by Iran’s economic crisis. Heavily sanctioned by the US after the nuclear deal collapsed, Tehran struggles to fund longer-term development plans. It also lacks access to western technologies and needs tens of billions of dollars to reform its traditional irrigation system and seek out less water-intensive crops. – Financial Times 

Bobby Ghosh writes: Iran is already well on its way to becoming a nuclear threshold state — like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, but infinitely more threatening to regional stability and world peace. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned the “breakout time” Tehran will need to make a nuclear weapon will soon be reduced to a matter of weeks. The regime continues to play peekaboo with inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, allowing just enough access to its known nuclear facilities to evade censure and more diplomatic pressure. – Bloomberg 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: If Raisi is exactly like Ahmadinejad, then he may not cut a deal and instead may eventually help the world powers rally together against him – and even get a UN Security Council referral by the IAEA. But if he is a smarter version – as it seems – all the demands now are simply bluster for cutting a better deal (for Iran) sometime in 2022 (assuming he is not actually planning to try to break out to a nuclear weapon). – Jerusalem Post 

Yochanan Visser writes: Israeli experts now think that Iran has increased its drone attacks on American-and-Israel-related targets in the Persian Gulf to increase pressure on the international community ahead of a new round of talks on the nuclear weapons program of the Islamic Republic that began in Vienna today, November 29th. – Arutz Sheva 

Zvi Bar’el writes: Given all this, the working assumption ought to be that Iran wants an agreement and even wants it quickly. The practical question is whether the Western powers are willing to accept that they aren’t the only ones seeking an agreement they view as better; so is Iran. – Haaretz 

Tom Rogan writes: Israel has an extraordinary intelligence network inside Iran, including fixed physical and digital hacking tools, sources across the Iranian government and security forces, and other capabilities. But to effectively destroy Iran’s nuclear program, Israel would need active U.S. military support. To degrade Iran’s nuclear program effectively for a period of years, Israel would need the GBU-57 massive ordnance penetrator bomb, or the GBU-72 bunker buster. – Washington Examiner 


More than 100 former members of the Afghan security forces in four provinces have been killed or disappeared by the Taliban in the first two and a half months of the militants’ rule, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. – New York Times 

The World Bank is finalizing a proposal to deliver up to $500 million from a frozen Afghanistan aid fund to humanitarian agencies, people familiar with the plans told Reuters, but it leaves out tens of thousands of public sector workers and remains complicated by U.S. sanctions. – Reuters 

A roadside bomb blast in the Afghan capital of Kabul caused at least five casualties, television station Ariana News said on Tuesday. The target of the attack appeared to have been an open-backed vehicle like a Toyota Hilux, it added, but there were no further details and no official confirmation of the figures. – Reuters 

Teresa Casale writes: The letter from the U.S. Congress applying pressure on the Biden administration is a welcome example of the importance of women’s substantive leadership, i.e., women using their leadership platforms to support other women. But much more needs to be done. Supporting the women’s parliament in exile is one such move.  – The Hill 


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he plans to pay a return visit to the United Arab Emirates in February as the two countries move to put years of tense relations behind them. – Associated Press 

Turkey is planning a rapprochement with Israel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post 

Turkey is ready to act as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia, President Tayyip Erdogan was cited as saying by broadcaster NTV on Monday, despite having angered Moscow by selling armed drones to Kyiv earlier this year. – Reuters 

Turkish authorities have arrested a prominent member of an opposition party over accusations that he engaged in “political and military espionage,” Turkey’s state-run news agency reported. – Associated Press  

Turkey’s largest defense company has signed a deal with two Ukrainian businesses to share upgrade work for Ukrainian-made Mi-8 helicopters.  Defense News 

Editorial: The good news is that Turkey’s currency mess doesn’t seem to be spreading across borders. Emerging-market contagion has diminished in recent years as investors grow less inclined to punish all developing economies for the policy sins of a few. The unknown is how long Turkish banks and companies can weather the new storm and how much more damage the economy can or will withstand. Turkey’s mess is nonetheless instructive for other emerging-market nations, and even for the still developing nation that is the United States. Monetary-policy independence and credibility, once lost, are hard to regain. – Wall Street Journal 

Hany Ghoraba writes: Turkey’s ailing economy and the freefall of the Turkish lira, which recently reached an all-time low against the US dollar — worth about two-thirds less than it did just three years ago — are not good news for Erdogan, who is expected to seek reelection in 2023. […]This sort of rhetoric is inspiring to ultra-nationalist groups such as TGB and the Gray Wolves, who are influenced by Erdogan’s speech fostering anti-Western sentiment, and willing to take matters into their own hands. – Algemeiner 


The international community must recognize Palestinian statehood, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said as he urged the international community to save the peace process and prevent a one-state reality. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel on Monday protested the United Nations marking the 74th anniversary of the historic vote on the partition plan, which called for a Jewish state alongside an Arab one in the British Mandate of Palestine, by holding a Palestinian solidarity event. – Times of Israel 

As diplomats return to Vienna this week to resume negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, Israel faces a strategic dilemma: Ramp up the rhetoric that, in the past, has put it at odds with its closest allies; or find a quieter, more polite, way to work within the renewed diplomatic push and perhaps achieve a more acceptable outcome than the deal negotiated with Iran in 2015. – Jewish Insider 

Israeli Aerospace Industries received $22 million this year in a deal with Morocco, Haaretz has learned. This comes amid foreign reports that Israel would sell Harop loitering munitions, known as kamikaze drones, to Morocco. IAI replied that it cannot comment on sales in Africa. – Haaretz 

Nimrod Goren writes: The Mediterranean presents Israel with a wide array of diplomatic tasks, reflecting a geographic arena full of foreign policy opportunities. The Day of the Mediterranean is a good time to acknowledge them. Under its new government, Israel’s foreign service, with its growing influence and improved budget, is in a better position to realize these opportunities than it was in the past. It should prioritize these tasks and carry out the necessary structural adjustments that will enable more effective Israeli diplomacy in the Mediterranean space, which transcends traditional boundaries between Europe and the Arab world. – Jerusalem Post 

Zalman Shoval writes: But the question is for how long and on what conditions, given the motley composition of the coalition, which by its own admission does not have a unified approach to many of the major issues challenging Israel: first and foremost, the threat from Iran against the background of a not clearly defined US policy, by and large ignoring the acute threat from a hegemonic and nuclearizing Iran, apparently seeking an unconditional renewal of the defective 2015 JCPOA. – Jerusalem Post 

Arabian Peninsula

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Tuesday it launched air raids on “legitimate” Houthi military targets in the capital Sanaa including a “secret” site belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, state TV reported. – Reuters 

Ahead of today’s renewal of the nuclear talks between Iran and the superpowers in Vienna, articles in the Saudi press had expressed concern over the policy of appeasement taken by the West, and especially the U.S., towards Iran. This concern in Saudi Arabia has been evident since President Joe Biden won the presidential election in November 2020, with the fear that he would seek to revive the Obama administration’s policy and rejoin the JCPOA nuclear agreement from which President Trump withdrew in 2018. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Russia and Saudi Arabia signalled on Monday there was no need for OPEC+ to race to adjust oil output policy this week, as crude prices rebounded from last week’s slide with the worst fears about the impact of the Omicron variant on demand easing. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered an investigation into a 2019 U.S. strike in Syria that killed dozens of people, including women and children, but that wasn’t publicly acknowledged by the military until this year, the Defense Department said Monday. – Wall Street Journal 

An Egyptian court on Monday convicted a prominent human rights advocate and lawyer of spreading false news and insulting a government authority, adding another name to a growing list of activists, journalists and dissidents whom the state has aggressively targeted and sought to silence for years. – New York Times 

Several prominent Kuwaiti opposition figures have returned home from a decade of self-exile after getting amnesty from the ruling emir, a long-awaited move celebrated Tuesday that’s aimed at ending the political paralysis that has burned a hole in public finances. – Associated Press 

Lebanon’s president Monday discussed his country’s economic meltdown and an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between Beirut and Persian Gulf nations with the Emir of Qatar. The emir promised to help the small country ease its problems. – Associated Press 

Zev Chafets writes: The Trump administration bequeathed its successor plenty of messes to clean up. But in the Middle East, Biden received a legacy of a different sort — the Abraham Accords. These were four brokered peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco, Bahrain and Sudan. […]The Biden administration has wisely pressed on with the objectives of the accords. They demonstrate that warm relations and strategic cooperation between Israel and Arab countries are both attainable and desirable. Most importantly, the accords offer a template for what peace in the wider Middle East might eventually come to look like. – Bloomberg 

Michael Rubin writes: Problems in both Iraqi Kurdistan and Somalia predate the current administration, but this is no excuse for inaction. If “diplomacy is back” and “the adults in charge,” as Biden officials and their cheerleaders like to say, it is time for President Joe Biden, CIA Director William Burns, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to get their partners under control. U.S. assistance should never be an entitlement, and partnerships should be with states and systems rather than individual politicians. – Washington Examiner 


A Pentagon review of military resources world-wide plans to make improvements to airfields in Guam and Australia to counter China but contains no major reshuffling of forces as the U.S. moves to take on Beijing while deterring Russia and fighting terrorism in the Middle East and Africa. – Wall Street Journal 

Beijing seems to be relying on a two-pronged approach of maintaining the silence and waiting for the world to move on. The approach suggests that the country’s sprawling propaganda apparatus has limited options for shifting the narrative without drawing more attention to the uncomfortable allegations Beijing hopes would just disappear. – New York Times 

Security officials in one of China’s largest provinces have commissioned a surveillance system they say they want to use to track journalists and international students among other “suspicious people”, documents reviewed by Reuters showed. – Reuters 

A top official said on Monday that Taiwan has the capability to respond to China’s military, which has recently ramped up missions near the self-governing island nation that Beijing claims as part of its territory. – The Hill 

Editorial: Hong Kongers risk harsh penalties if they protest in public. The police have announced plans to put some 10,000 officers on patrol on election day. Boycotts and blank ballots are one of the last ways for Hong Kongers to express their political views. The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute surveyed residents this month and found only 52% planned to vote next month. No wonder the Communist Party fears another embarrassment. – Wall Street Journal 

Matt Pottinger and David Feith write: The competition for global influence in the 21st century will require protecting and harnessing this data to achieve commercial, technological and military advantages. So far, China is winning, and the West is barely even engaged. – New York Times  

Henry Tugendhat writes: Ultimately, U.S. policy on Africa is down, but it is certainly not out. Rather than trying to compete on fields where China is better established, it can play to its own strengths. Even though it is mostly virtual, this year’s FOCAC will be another important milestone for China-Africa relations. It is an invitation to the United States to consider what its own route for cooperation might look like in the years to come. – Foreign Policy 

Chris King writes: The next step for Xi is to find the best moment to use force against Taiwan. Xi can no longer tolerate the CCP’s continued inability to unify the country, resulting in a loss of “face” that leaves the CCP’s legitimacy at risk. If Beijing’s soft hand does not work, it will look for opportunities to play the hard hand and interpret the anti-secession law on its own, giving the green light to attack Taiwan. – Middle East Media Research Institute 


A judge in Myanmar on Tuesday delayed the announcement of a highly anticipated verdict against the country’s ousted civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is facing a series of rulings that could keep her locked up for the rest of her life. – New York Times 

Japan’s main opposition party picked Kenta Izumi to be its new leader, as it bids to rebuild support after losing a general election to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling coalition. – Bloomberg 

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday reaffirmed the importance of U.S.-Japan cooperation on a range of common priorities in the Indo-Pacific and globally in her first telephone talks with Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki. – Reuters 

Mihir Sharma writes: After all, any pragmatic argument for a democracy summit centers on demonstrating to wavering democracies the benefits of keeping Beijing at arm’s length; and, in the process, reminding China’s leaders that their political system is still not the one to which most countries aspire. So countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — flawed democracies that are being wooed by the People’s Republic with money and flattery — are precisely the countries you want in the room. These are two crucial swing nations in the geopolitical competition to determine the course of this century, and the Biden administration has decided to tell them they don’t matter. – Bloomberg 

Patrick M. Cronin and Yoo Jin Bae write: South Korea need not align further with the United States against China but rather for fair international rules. The real choice facing both countries is whether to allow the prevailing order to be unilaterally altered to suit Beijing’s preferences, or to take additional measures to promote rules congruent with democratic interests and values. This is why improved relations among South Korea, Japan, and the United States, are in the mutual interest of all three countries. – National Interest


NATO foreign ministers are meeting here Tuesday to calibrate a response to Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine, seeking to deter the Kremlin from any potential assault while making clear the limits of its support. – Wall Street Journal  

The White House is reviewing options to deter a feared Russian invasion of Ukraine, including providing more military aid to Kyiv and threatening sanctions, to dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin from escalating the simmering conflict into a full-blown transatlantic crisis. – Washington Post 

Belarus on Monday announced joint military drills with close ally Russia on its southern border with Ukraine and accused the NATO military alliance of building up offensive capabilities near its borders. – Reuters 

A Moscow court fined Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL.O) Google 3 million roubles ($40,400) on Monday for not deleting content that it deemed illegal, part of a wider dispute between Russia and the U.S. tech giant. – Reuters 

Russia will continue slowing down the speed of Twitter (TWTR.N) on mobile devices until all content deemed illegal is deleted, state communications regulator Roskomnadzor told Reuters, as Moscow continues to make demands of Big Tech. – Reuters 

The Russian military claimed to have successfully tested another hypersonic missile test as militaries worldwide race to develop and perfect the sophisticated weaponry. The frigate of the Northern Fleet Admiral Gorshkov fired the Zircon missile in the White Sea and hit a naval target more than 400 kilometers away, the defense ministry said in a statement on Monday. – Washington Examiner 

The Ukrainian government is on high alert this week following intelligence reports revealed Friday by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy indicating a Russia-backed coup attempt is imminent. – U.S. News & World Report 

In an interview with Nikolay Nelyubin of “47news”, Alexei Levinson, a professor at the Higher School of Economics, and head of sociocultural research at the Levada Center was asked how Russians respond to the constant drumbeat of military tension. Russians are frequently informed by the official media of terrorist plots in Syria, the belligerence of the fascist Ukrainian regime, and the creeping NATO buildup along Russia’s border. – Middle East Media Research Institute     


Her historic initial appointment as Sweden’s first female prime minister lasted a matter of hours. Now, just a few days later, Magdalena Andersson is back and hopes to hold the job for a decade — if she can conquer the obstacles of minority government and an election due to be held in less than a year’s time. – Washington Post 

President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, appointed the country’s new prime minister on Sunday while sitting inside a transparent cube. – New York Times 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that there’s little chance the military organization would ever introduce a system for expelling anyone among its ranks, as tensions quietly simmer between a number of the 30 member countries. – Associated Press 

Latvia needs a permanent U.S. military presence to deter Russia and wants to boost its defences with U.S. Patriot missiles, Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said on Monday as NATO’s chief visited allied troops in the Baltic country. – Reuters 

France is prepared to talk to Britain about migration if it is ready for serious discussions, interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Monday, as he urged the UK to “limit” its economic attractiveness to migrants. – Reuters 

A U.S. Navy destroyer is currently operating in the Black Sea after a port stop in Bulgaria, as tensions between the U.S. and Russia simmer. – USNI News 

Alberto M. Fernandez writes: In May 2021, in the wake of a diplomatic crisis between the European Union and Belarus, dictator Alexander Lukashenko warned that he would flood the EU with drugs and migrants in response to new sanctions. […]The weaponization of migration flows began in an era before climate change. So far, the combination of tools available to governments – enforcement, acceptance, diplomacy, bribery – have held, barely. But there will indeed be a reckoning in coming years, for which current policies, procedures and partisan politics are not fully prepared. – Middle East Media Research Institute     


Suspected militants killed four soldiers in Burkina Faso’s northern Loroum province on Sunday, the army said, in the latest of a wave of attacks. – Reuters 

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera decried travel bans imposed on African countries over a concerning new strain of COVID-19 as “Afrophobia.” – Business Insider 

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has agreed to a joint operation with Uganda’s army against Islamist rebels accused of suicide bombings in Kampala this month, two diplomatic sources said. – Reuters 

The Americas

Barbados ditched Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state, forging a new republic on Tuesday with its first-ever president and severing its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived at the Caribbean island. – Reuters 

The U.S. Senate blocked the National Defense Authorization Act on Monday amid objections from Republicans and some liberal Democrats, although lawmakers will keep working on the massive annual defense policy bill, which has become law for 60 straight years. – Reuters 

Thomas J. Duesterberg writes: The best approach to reinvigorate the WTO is to strengthen regional trade pacts. The revised North American agreement should admit the U.K. and other allies as members. Japan, Australia and Singapore have expertly led resuscitation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. dropped out in 2017. The new agreement, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, represents the will of its members in East and Southeast Asia and Australia to avoid dominance under a rival group established by China, called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. – Wall Street Journal 

Josh Rogin writes: Conventional thinking about how to deter an enemy from attacking on the ground, by sea or in the air doesn’t really apply to space. New doctrines and norms for space need to be established, mostly by diplomats. That work will take years. Meanwhile, the arms race in space is heating up, and the United States risks losing it if it doesn’t recognize this reality. – Washington Post 

Latin America

Leftist candidate Xiomara Castro claimed victory in the Honduran presidential election as votes continued to be counted Monday. With just over half of the ballots in the Sunday election tallied, the Free Party candidate, who identifies as a democratic socialist, held a 20-point lead over Nasry Asfura, her main rival. The National Electoral Council had not yet declared a winner. – Washington Post 

As votes were being tallied in a hotly contested governor’s race, Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Monday stepped in to abruptly prohibit opposition candidate Freddy Superlano from holding office, leading to accusations that the election was being stolen. – Wall Street Journal 

The top Latin America official at the National Security Council met with Colombian Americans in Miami on Monday to stem criticism over leaked news that the U.S. would remove a former Marxist rebel group from the list of foreign terrorist organizations. – NBC News 

Ryan C. Berg and Margarita R. Seminario write: In other words, U.S. security assistance can help Ecuador to fight transnational crime and simultaneously deepen its democratic principles. A renewed U.S. ally in Latin America is requesting greater resources and attention. It is time to act swiftly, think realistically, and tap into innovative measures that enhance typical U.S. bilateral security assistance. – The Hill 


Facebook Inc (FB.O) will show it has no interest in making the online world safe if it quits Australia over laws holding it liable for defamation on its platform, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday. – Reuters 

The chief of Britain’s foreign spy service warned on Tuesday that the West’s adversaries such as China and Russia were racing to master artificial intelligence in a way which could revolutionise geopolitics over the next decade. – Reuters 

Olivia Enos writes: While the United States cannot alter Russia and China’s shared motives, it must lead in combatting digital authoritarianism. These efforts should be characterized by a positive vision focused on building digital partnerships with other democracies and “swing states,” codifying data privacy protections in the United States, and equipping American companies to counter the malign influence of Sino-Russian digital authoritarianism. – Heritage Foundation 


Pentagon officials announced the results of a nearly yearlong review of the country’s military presence abroad on Monday, but the recommendation included few changes in the positioning of American troops. – New York Times 

Raytheon Technologies has completed the acquisition of space electronics provider SEAKR Engineering, the company announced Nov. 29. – Defense News  

Rep. Seth Moulton writes: I fervently share the president’s goal of eliminating nuclear weapons entirely, but eliminating these weapons requires leverage we should not give up unilaterally, especially to nations that do not share our principled goals. And while we pursue arms reductions, we must also remain responsible to our own and our allies’ national security interests. For the sake of our national security, I urge President Biden against declaring a “no first use” or “sole purpose” doctrine in the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review. – The Hill