Fdd's overnight brief

November 4, 2021

In The News


International talks on the future of Iran’s nuclear program will resume on Nov. 29 in Vienna after a five-month hiatus, the Iranian government and other participants confirmed Wednesday. – Washington Post

American and Iranian officials both said Wednesday that Iran had seized an oil tanker in the Sea of Oman last month after an encounter with the U.S. Navy, but the two sides gave widely differing accounts of whose tanker it was and what, exactly, had happened. – New York Times 

Parazideh’s suicide in the city of Yasuj shocked many in Iran, and not just because he was the son of Golmohammad Parazideh, a prominent provincial hero of the country’s 1980-88 war with Iraq that left hundreds of thousands dead. It put a spotlight on the rising public fury and frustration as Iran’s economy sinks, unemployment soars and the price of food skyrockets. – Associated Press 

Tehran’s continued pursuit of nuclear-weapons development jeopardizes the revival of the 2015 Iran deal, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told The Jerusalem Post in advance of his talk with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid on the matter on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Gen. Gholamali Rashid, commander of the Khatam Al-Anbiya Central Headquarters in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), recently revealed that Qods Corps commander ‘Ali Soleimani said, three months before his assassination, that Iran has six armies outside its borders: Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Palestine, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Iraq, Ansar Allah (i.e., the Houthis) in Yemen and the army of the Syrian regime, all of which have created deterrence in the service of Iran. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

“I don’t believe that the Iranians only have peaceful intentions with their nuclear program,” said David Lega, a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament. Lega was responding to recent protestations of the Iranian regime that it has only “civilian purposes” in mind with its progress toward nuclear capability. – Arutz Sheva 

US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley will lead US participation in the next round of Iran nuclear talks, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday, shortly after an Iranian diplomat announced the long-delayed negotiations will restart November 29 in Vienna. – CNN 

The IMF in a recent report showed that Iran’s foreign currency reserves increased from a low of $12.4 billion in 2020 to a projected $31.4 billion for 2021. – Iran International 

The personal representative office of Iran’s supreme leader in London was given more than £100,000 by the British government as part of its coronavirus furlough scheme, annual accounts show. – The Times 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The tensions now between Iran, the US and Israel mean that one of these incidents could spiral out of control. Tehran wants to test US resolve. It is unclear how America will respond to the recent incident. It could become just another story of Iran grabbing a ship, like the story of the Gulf Sky, a ship that disappeared in 2020 and then reappeared in Iran – or it could become something much worse. – Jerusalem Post 

Salem AlKetbi writes: Iran’s new negotiating strategy is based on firmness, indifference to sanctions against Tehran, and a desire to buy as much time as possible before agreeing to a deal, so that President Biden’s position weakens and Iran’s position strengthens under the blow of accelerated uranium enrichment. – Arutz Sheva 

Farzin Nadimi writes: Iran has a variety of means at its disposal, especially through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval forces, including thousands of sea mines, shore batteries, heavily armed speedboats, and midget submarines, and the Iranians make no secret of their desire to be recognized as the dominant military power in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. – Middle East Institute 



A U.S. drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 civilians as the Afghanistan war came to its chaotic end was not the result of criminal negligence among military personnel who conducted the operation, senior defense officials said Wednesday, and no punishment has been recommended following a classified investigation into the incident. – Washington Post  

Aref Mohammad’s war against the Islamic State ended earlier this fall when his unit of Taliban fighters was ambushed by the terrorist group in eastern Afghanistan. A bullet shattered his femur, leaving him disabled and barely able to walk, never mind fight. But for the Taliban movement he served under, now the government of Afghanistan, the war against the Islamic State was just beginning. – New York Times 

The State Department believes as many as 14,000 U.S. legal permanent residents remain in Afghanistan, Foreign Policy has learned, as the agency faces increasing scrutiny from Congress about the status of U.S. citizens and green card holders that are still stranded in the Taliban-controlled country. – Foreign Policy 


An alleged Israeli airstrike targeted a site in the Zakya area, southwest of Damascus, on Tuesday night, causing material damage, according to the Syrian state news agency SANA. Opposition-affiliated media reported that the airstrikes targeted sites belonging to Iranian militias. – Jerusalem Post 

Brian Gran writes: ENOC can use its moral authority to advocate for the rights and well-being of their children living in Al-Hol and Al-Roj camps and members can monitor the well-being of children living in the camps and assure their rights are enforced. The network can also be used to prevent these children from radicalization while bolstering their dignity and membership in their home societies. – The Hill 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Turkey knows the SNA are reticent to sacrifice more lives in Syria. Turkey doesn’t want to be seen selling out Syrians. However it also needs a crisis to distract from economic failure at home. It also wants to send a message to Biden that it is Turkey that controls the keys to stability in Syria. In short it could be saying to Washington: Give us F-16s or we will cause you trouble in Syria. Then it tells Moscow: We want to humiliate the US-backed SDF, let us conduct some operations to do that and we will give you a win in Idlib. – Jerusalem Post 


Turkey denied claims that it moved its Russian missiles to a NATO base that serves as a depot for U.S. nuclear weapons, days after the Biden administration renewed its demand for Ankara to get rid of the air defense system. – Bloomberg 

Turkish authorities detained 17 people on Wednesday for putting a hood over the head of a visiting U.S. Navy civilian employee in a protest against United States policy in the Middle East, the Istanbul governor’s office said. – Reuters 

Turkey may renew a natural gas deal with Russia with an increased amount from the beginning of 2022, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Thursday. – Reuters 


Israel’s Parliament narrowly approved a state budget on Thursday, the country’s first in more than three years, removing an imminent threat to the survival of the government and potentially paving the way to some political stability after a chaotic stretch of four elections within two years. – New York Times 

The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed Thomas R. Nides to serve as the next Ambassador to Israel. He was confirmed by a voice vote. He previously served as deputy secretary of state for management and resources under Hillary Clinton from 2011 to 2013. – Jerusalem Post 

The Biden administration has asked Israel to press Sudanese military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah-Burhan to restore the civilian government toppled in a recent coup, according to a report Wednesday. – Times of Israel 

Elie Podeh and Haim Koren write: And what about the agreement between Israel and Sudan? […]The signing agreement planned for next month in Washington will be postponed. Nonetheless, given the military’s support of the agreement with Israel to begin with, the coup is unlikely to affect change. Any government that is formed in Sudan will have to confront economic difficulties, a challenge invariably linked to continued US aid and, indirectly, to continued ties with Israel. Sudan is at a crossroads. Hopefully it will take the most straightforward road. – Jerusalem Post 

Arabian Peninsula

Iran and Saudi Arabia are watching closely as a key battle in Marib in Yemen reaches another potential turning point. More than two dozen people were reported killed this week by a Houthi rebel missile attack that struck a mosque and school. The Houthi rebels are backed by Iran. Iran has helped provide them support in missile and drone technology. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel rejected Wednesday the deal with the United Arab Emirates to ship large quantities of oil through a pipeline running from the southern city of Eilat to Ashkelon, days after a legal spat erupted between the pipeline’s operator and Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg. – Haaretz 

U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking will travel to the Middle East on Thursday for talks with the Yemeni government and civil society representatives, regional government officials, and other international partners, the State Department said. – Reuters 

Saudi Arabia

The FBI concluded this year it has not identified any Saudi officials responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks or who knowingly conspired to help the hijackers carry out their operation. – Washington Examiner 

OPEC+ is heading for a politically consequential showdown with President Joe Biden, as Saudi Arabia and its allies must choose whether to heed American demands for more oil. – Bloomberg 

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Britain called on Wednesday for the restoration of Sudan’s civilian-led government in the latest show of international pressure to reverse a military coup. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

A Jordanian prince who was put under house arrest by his half-brother, King Abdullah II, in the spring is still not free, his mother alleged, drawing new attention to a scandal that exposed the typically guarded royal family to rare public scrutiny. – Associated Press 

Algeria has accused arch-rival Morocco of killing three Algerians on a desert highway, as tensions escalate between the neighbours over the contested Western Sahara. – Agence France-Presse 

Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel is expected to visit Israel later this month, to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and, likely, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, journalist Barak Ravid reported. – Arutz Sheva 

Israel and Jordan’s economy ministers met in Jordan on Wednesday, the first meeting of its kind in more than a decade and another sign of warming relations between the neighboring countries in recent months. – Associated Press 

Patrik Kurath writes: Current political developments from inside Libya, complete with political clashes and the postponement of planned parliamentary elections, suggest that stability is not within reach in the near future. In the meantime, for direct, indirect, and broader geopolitical reasons, Israel should continue to follow developments in Libya closely. – Algemeiner 


Korean Peninsula

North Korea has the capacity to make more base ingredients for nuclear bombs than previously believed, according to new research, suggesting the Kim Jong Un regime possesses the potential to accelerate the earliest stages of production. – Wall Street Journal 

Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google said on Thursday it plans to allow third-party payment systems in South Korea to comply with a new law, marking the first time the U.S. tech giant has amended its payment policy for a specific country. – Reuters 

China and Russia are urging the U.N. Security Council to end a host of sanctions against North Korea including a ban on exports of seafood and textiles, a cap on imports of refined petroleum products and a prohibition on its citizens working overseas and sending home their earnings. – Associated Press 



A rare public accusation of sexual assault aimed at a retired senior Chinese official has rocketed around China’s internet and turned a spotlight on perceived abuses by powerful political figures. – Wall Street Journal 

Winning a prospective conflict with China could hinge on being able to destroy the communist regime’s crucial space and cyberspace assets before they take down American systems, a top military official acknowledged. – Washington Examiner 

This week’s global climate talks in Scotland and the recent G-20 summit in Rome aren’t the only international meetings that China’s leader has not attended in person. Xi Jinping hasn’t left China in nearly 22 months, since January 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first exploded. – Associated Press 

Over five days abroad at two global summits, President Joe Biden showed a new willingness to openly confront China over climate change and its lack of leadership on the global stage. – Associated Press 

China plans to quadruple its nuclear stockpile by 2030, according to a Pentagon assessment that points to a shift in Chinese policy with big implications for the balance of military power. – Financial Times 

Beijing has hit back at US criticism of Xi Jinping’s absence from the COP26 climate summit and said that the Chinese president was not allowed to join the main stage by video link. – Financial Times  


Japan’s trade minister has asked the United States to abolish extra tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Japan, making the request in a meeting with Washington’s trade representative, Kyodo News reported. – Reuters 

The European Parliament’s first official delegation to Taiwan said on Thursday the diplomatically isolated island is not alone and called for bolder actions to strengthen EU-Taiwan ties as Taipei faces rising pressure from Beijing. – Reuters 

A seemingly innocuous government recommendation for Chinese people to store necessities for an emergency quickly sparked scattered instances of panic-buying and online speculation: Is China going to war with Taiwan? – Associated Press 

A court in Myanmar on Wednesday rejected the bail application of Danny Fenster, an American journalist jailed for the past five months, and added a new charge against him, his lawyer said. – Associated Press 

The United States military “absolutely” has the ability to defend Taiwan from an attack by China if called on to do so, US Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse 

Bruce Klingner writes: Whether Mr. Kishida can deliver is uncertain. He faces political, budgetary and diplomatic hurdles, and Tokyo’s decision-making process can be slow. But minimizing LDP losses in this weekend’s election was an impressive feat. As Mr. Kishida gets working on the project, he has expressed an interest in a summit with President Biden. Washington should try to make it happen. A summit would give the U.S. a powerful public forum to affirm its support for Japan, an essential partner in checking the looming threat of China. – Wall Street Journal 

Arif Rafiq writes: Originally conceived as three consecutive five-year phases, CPEC is now in an indefinite stage. […]While CPEC may never develop into a bilateral Sino-Pak economic corridor, it can still be leveraged as a platform to advance Pakistan’s broader economic objectives — increasing foreign direct investment, expanding productivity and improving resilience in agriculture, and increasing and diversifying Pakistan’s exports. – Middle East Institute 


A study of weapons and ammunition used in the war in Ukraine shows that Russia has been systematically fanning the conflict with arms shipments, according to a new report funded by the European Union and the German government. – New York Times 

Leonid Bershidsky writes: Moderate conservatives, too, might be somewhat shocked by the ways and customs of Putin’s Russia, were they to encounter them in real life. They might find their free speech muzzled in ways that the “liberal media” and Silicon Valley would find unthinkable.  And if the more literary-minded of them read Berdyayev on conservatism for reference and like the emphasis he put on creativity and the rejection of violence as a means of achieving progress, they should beware: Putin’s adoption of the philosophy has always been rather selective, and not in their favor. – Bloomberg 

Daniel Kochis and Johnathan Little write: Unfortunately, the Arctic hasn’t been enough of a factor for U.S. investments and strategic thinking. Physical changes in the region and Russia’s investments in its own Arctic area should be a warning sign that the U.S. needs to awaken from its slumber. The U.S. should invest in the infrastructure necessary to meet future security challenges and improve the lives of those living in the region. America cannot afford to fall behind in the Arctic. – Heritage Foundation 


Britain has shown a “constructive” spirit in its talks with France over post-Brexit fishing licences, French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Belarus declared the Poland-based Belsat news channel an “extremist” organisation on Wednesday, meaning its employees and viewers can face up to seven years in prison. – Reuters 

Ireland’s prime minister on Wednesday warned Britain of far-reaching implications for its relations with the European Union if it takes the “reckless” step of seeking to suspend parts of the Northern Irish protocol in its Brexit divorce deal. – Reuters 

The Arab League has urged Britain to apologize for the “Palestinians’ suffering over more than a century” due to the Balfour Declaration, and to recognize “Palestine”, Xinhua reports. – Arutz Sheva 



A joint investigation released on Wednesday by the United Nations’ main rights body and Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission found that all sides in the year-long civil war had “committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” – Washington Post 

Urgent new efforts to calm Ethiopia’s escalating war are unfolding Thursday as a U.S. special envoy visits and the president of neighboring Kenya calls for an immediate cease-fire while the country marks a year of conflict. – Associated Press 

The U.S. embassy in Ethiopia has authorised the voluntary departure of non-emergency government staff and family members because of armed conflict, it said on its website, as rebel forces in the north make advances. – Reuters 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged on Wednesday to bury his government’s enemies “with our blood” as he marked the start of the war in the Tigray region one year ago. – Reuters 

Bobby Ghosh writes: Abiy has thus far been impervious to economic penalties. […]But the cost of the civil war has escalated since then, so the suspension of duty-free access to the U.S. will certainly be felt. The timing, as the rebels advance toward the capital, may amplify the impact. But the Biden administration should now prepare sterner measures, including acting on the threat of sanctions. The U.S. should also coordinate with the EU to impose tougher economic punishment if Abiy doesn’t start negotiations. – Bloomberg 

Areig Elhag writes: The reality is that Al-Burhan has clearly failed to obtain popular support with regard to his political ambitions, and it is not in his interest to prolong a situation that may turn Sudan into an arena for civil war. […]Despite the will of the street, it is unlikely that the military will give up this power and subject its institution to a civilian component without guarantees.  In fact, the military will continue to exert its hegemony unless Sudan transforms into a stable democracy based on a strong economy. – Washington Institute 


The Americas

The International Criminal Court on Wednesday announced the opening of a formal probe into claims that President Nicolás Maduro’s security forces participated in the torture and extrajudicial killings of political opponents, years after the international community began looking into alleged rights abuses in the socialist police state. – Washington Post  

U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday approved legislation calling for more sanctions and other punitive measures to ratchet up pressure on Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega just days before an election there that Washington has denounced as a sham. – Reuters 

 Steven Lubet writes: The Palestinian people have suffered greatly under Israeli occupation, and their advocates in the U.S. can easily find legitimate material to support their cause. It is disheartening, though perhaps inevitable, that so many have stooped to the disreputable tactics of boycotting Jews or leveling pernicious charges of malign behavior. That is anti-Semitism, plain and simple. – The Hill 


The Biden administration on Wednesday placed Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group on an export prohibition list that will restrict the firm from obtaining some types of technology from the U.S. – Wall Street Journal 

The Biden administration on Wednesday issued a sweeping new order mandating that nearly all federal agencies patch hundreds of cybersecurity vulnerabilities that are considered major risks for damaging intrusions into government computer systems. – Wall Street Journal 

A major overseas ransomware group shut down last month after a pair of operations by U.S. Cyber Command and a foreign government targeting the criminals’ servers left its leaders too frightened of identification and arrest to stay in business, according to several U.S. officials familiar with the matter. – Washington Post 

White House National Cyber Director Chris Inglis testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday that there had been a “decrease” in the number of cyberattacks against U.S. companies traced back to Russia, but stressed that the reason was not clear. – The Hill 


The Marine Corps released a new plan Wednesday that says it must overhaul how it recruits and retains Marines, suggesting for the first time in decades that threats posed by China and other adversaries require personnel changes that could require some shrinking of the service to accommodate a new emphasis on keeping trained personnel. – Washington Post 

The U.S. Army has awarded a Boeing and General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems team a contract to develop a 300-kilowatt solid-state laser weapon, according to an Oct. 25 Boeing announcement. – Defense News 

The National Reconnaissance Office is turning to industry for more satellite imagery, issuing a Nov. 3 request for proposals that could see contracts awarded in early 2022. – Defense News 

The more China pursues its ambitions in the Indo-Pacific, the more the United States, Japan, India and Australia will do to push back against Beijing’s bullying, a panel of regional security experts said Tuesday. – USNI News 


Long War

France has reacted angrily to the return of a French aid worker who spent some four years as an al-Qaeda hostage to Mali, with Paris condemning her move as a “form of irresponsibility.” – Washington Post 

An anti-terrorism raid in Tunisia uncovered a tunnel being dug in the vicinity of the French ambassador’s residence from a house frequented by a known extremist, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

The European Union will train around 2,000 Mozambican naval and special forces to help fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency that’s left more than 3,400 people dead and halted Africa’s biggest private investment yet. – Bloomberg 

U.S. law enforcement and security agencies believe domestic extremists, notably white supremacists, pose a violent threat in the United States similar to that of Islamic State militants, top U.S. security officials told Congress on Wednesday. – Reuters