Fdd's overnight brief

October 18, 2022

In The News


The European Union imposed the bloc’s broadest sanctions package against Iran in almost a decade over authorities’ crackdown on protesters, the latest sign of a chill in the relationship between European capitals and Tehran. – Wall Street Journal

The Iranian-made drones that Russia sent on Monday to divebomb Ukraine’s capital delivered the most emphatic proof yet that Tehran has become a rare, increasingly close ally to the Kremlin, offering both weapons and international support that Russia sorely lacks. – New York Times

Security forces with heavy weapons roam the streets of Sanandaj, Kurdistan’s provincial capital, in armored vehicles. They fire into the homes of terrified residents, who are living under a near-total communication blackout. – Washington Post

Iran’s foreign minister reacted on Monday to European Union sanctions levied on Tehran, calling them “superfluous” and “an unconstructive act out of miscalculation.” – Reuters

An Iranian female competitive climber left South Korea on Tuesday after competing at an event in which she climbed without her nation’s mandatory headscarf covering, authorities said. – Associated Press

The United States agrees with British and French assessments that Iran supplying drones to Russia would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six powers, U.S. State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said on Monday. – Reuters

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday he currently did not expect progress in negotiations over reviving a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. – Reuters

Russia’s apparent use of Iranian weapons to bombard Kyiv has endangered Western diplomats who returned to the capital after Russia’s initial failure to take the city, reinforcing Ukraine’s call for European sanctions on the regime in Tehran. – Washington Examiner

The Biden administration says that Iranian denials that it has supplied military equipment to Russia are lies, following deadly Russian strikes in Kyiv on Monday that Ukrainian officials said came from Iranian drones. – The Hill

A teenage dissident trailed behind a group of smugglers in the borderlands of western Iran. For three days, Rezan trekked a rocky mountain range and walked through minefields along a winding path forged by seasoned smugglers to circumnavigate the country’s heavily armed Revolutionary Guards. It was a trip too dangerous for respite of much more than a few stolen moments at a time. CNN

Rob Malley, the Biden administration Iran envoy, said on Monday that reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic “is not even on the agenda” and “not the focus, because there is no movement.” – Jerusalem Post

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) may have traveled to Russian-held territories in Ukraine in order to help train Russian troops, Fox News reported Sunday, citing a report by the Institute for the Study of War (IFSW), published last week. – Arutz Sheva

Benny Avni writes: Yet, reimposing UN-mandated global sanctions — and burying the JCPOA once and for all — would certainly hurt Iran, as well as Russia. In reviving Mr. Trump’s policy, Mr. Biden could deal a blow to an alliance that threatens Europe and could soon do so to America as well. – New York Sun

Masih Alinejad writes: With women leading the way, Iran’s transformation from theocracy to a democracy will be remarkable. It will not happen overnight. But in their bravery, the Iranian people have voiced one central request to Western governments: Don’t save the Islamic Republic. In 2009, the Obama administration opted to deal with to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, rather than support the pro-democracy Green Movement. The Biden administration should not repeat that mistake. Now, more than ever, it is time for advocates of freedom to think seriously about a world after the Islamic Republic. – Foreign Affairs

Nikolay Kozhanov writes: So far, the intensity of the protests suggests that Tehran will not be able to simply suppress them. Even if they can be temporarily quelled, sooner or later the Iranian political system will have to make changes. Moreover, the breadth and depth of the discontent in Iranian society means the political system will not be able to get away with minor reforms in the economic or political sphere. To have any chance of regaining trust, the changes will have to be deep and wide-ranging, affecting all aspects of life in Iran. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

A Russian SU-34 aircraft Monday crashed into a nine-storey residential building in a town on the coast of the Sea of Azov, near Ukraine, sending up a fireball that engulfed a building and left at least 13 people dead, according to Russian officials. – Washington Post

This week, Russia struck deep into Ukraine and hit the capital, Kyiv, with kamikaze drones. These small and noisy airborne devices are designed to strike at a distance. They are nimble enough to avoid many air-defense systems. – Washington Post

Russia launched a fresh wave of Iranian-made drones to attack central Kyiv in the early hours of Monday, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow presses a campaign targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure before the onset of winter. – Wall Street Journal

Eight months into the war in Ukraine, and eight rounds of frantic negotiations later, Europe’s sanctions against Russia run hundreds of pages long and have in many places cut to the bone. – New York Times

Ukrainian technicians working to ensure the safe operation of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant have been told by occupation authorities that they have until Thursday to choose sides in the escalating struggle for control of the reactor complex. – Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon and SpaceX have held discussions about funding for the company’s Starlink internet service in Ukraine, a senior military official said Monday, but Elon Musk indicated that SpaceX is no longer seeking that support. – Wall Street Journal

Air strikes cut power and water supplies in a repeatedly bombed Ukrainian city and pounded energy and infrastructure facilities elsewhere in the country on Tuesday, part of an apparent quickening effort by Russia to drive Ukrainians into the cold and dark as winter bites. – Associated Press

They are precise, small in size, able to effectively penetrate air defenses when fired in groups and above all, they’re cheap. In Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, killer drones have cemented their reputation as a potent, cost-effective weapon that can seek out and destroy targets while simultaneously spreading the kind of terror that can fray the resolve of soldiers and civilians alike. – Associated Press

The United States will hold Russia accountable for “war crimes”, the White House said on Monday, hours after Russia attacked Ukrainian cities with drones during morning rush hour, killing at least four people in an apartment building in Kyiv. – Reuters

Russia has not yet notified the United States about exercises of its nuclear forces that Washington expects Moscow to carry out soon, a senior U.S. military official said on Monday. – Reuters

Ukraine and Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region agreed to a prisoner swap on Monday that resulted in the release of more than 200 people who had been detained by the opposing force. – Washington Examiner

A Russian journalist who protested the Ukraine war during a live broadcast has reportedly escaped from house arrest and fled the country, according to her lawyer. – Newsweek

Editorial: Mr. Putin has been brutal toward Ukraine, and it takes nothing away from that outrage to note that he is also brutal toward his own people. This month two Russian nationals, according to news reports, sought asylum in the U.S. by piloting “a small boat” to an Alaskan island about 50 miles from their homeland. The open ocean isn’t without risk, but frightening options are all that many Russians have left. Time may be on Ukraine’s side, not Mr. Putin’s. – Wall Street Journal

Gideon Rachman writes: Ukraine must have its future as a viable state assured — with access to the sea, control of its own airspace and reliable security guarantees that are not dependent on Russian good faith. The status of Crimea will be the most difficult issue in any negotiation. But finding creative solutions to intractable problems is what high-level diplomacy is all about. We need to see more of it. – Financial Times

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This means the best way to defend against drones is to have the right detection systems to warn about their approach; warn residents in the targeted areas, and then be able to use command and control and other systems to find the best; and if possible most efficient and cost-effective interceptor; along the route of the drone. – Jerusalem Post


Australia on Tuesday reversed the previous government’s recognition of west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said the issue should be resolved as part of peace talks between Israel and Palestine. – Reuters

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Australia’s ambassador for a reprimand after Canberra reversed its recognition of western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Israel will “destroy” relations with Russia if it sells weapons to Ukraine, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Jerusalem has reportedly been closely monitoring Russia’s deadly launch of Iranian-made suicide drones at the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, fearing that similar weapons will be directed at Israel in future wars on its northern border. – Times of Israel

The Foreign Ministry moved to distance Israel from a minister’s call to supply Ukraine with military aid to counter the Russian invasion, after the former president of Russia warned the move would “destroy all” ties between Jerusalem and Moscow. – Times of Israel

President Isaac Herzog will meet with his American counterpart Joe Biden at the White House next week as part of a visit to Washington, both offices announced on Monday. – Times of Israel

Israel’s security establishment is closely monitoring the Russian attack in Ukraine using Iranian-made drones, Kan 11 reported. Israel and the United States are among the only Western countries that have already acquired operational experience in dealing with Iranian drones, when these weapons were used to carry out attacks in Israel and against American targets in the Middle East. – Arutz Sheva

Arabian Peninsula

The United Arab Emirates on Monday summoned the acting head of the mission at the EU delegation to the UAE, asking for explanation of what it said were racist comments made by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell last week. – Reuters

Argentina on Monday called on Qatar to arrest the visiting Iranian vice president over his alleged responsibility for the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center (AMIA). – Agence France-Presse

A Saudi prince related to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s seemingly took aim at President Biden and the U.S., warning leaders not to threaten Saudi Arabia. – Fox News

Josh Rogin writes: The very least the State Department can do now is give Almadi the “wrongfully detained” status he clearly deserves. Until that happens, officials’ assertions they are doing everything possible will continue to ring hollow to Almadi’s family — and the Saudi government will continue to persecute American citizens with impunity. – Washington Post

Middle East & North Africa

The United Nations will push for a nationwide cease-fire in Syria even after bursts of fighting in the last rebel-held region have punctured a two-year truce there, killing hundreds, a U.N. envoy said Monday. – Associated Press

The war in Ukraine and rising demand for natural gas around the world helped speed up a US-mediated maritime border deal between Lebanon and Israel, a prominent Lebanese legislator allied with the Hezbollah terror group said Monday. The agreement is expected to help bring stability to the eastern Mediterranean. – Times of Israel

Susan Hattis Rolef writes: Perhaps it was Bennett who hit the nail on its head when he said: “The agreement is neither a historic diplomatic victory nor a terrible surrender. It is a solution made necessary by circumstances occurring in problematic timing.” Unfortunately, no one listens to Bennett anymore. – Jerusalem Post

Dennis Ross writes: The US-brokered agreement establishing the maritime boundary between Israel and Lebanon is such an achievement. Having been an American mediator in the Middle East, I know why it is so difficult to produce understandings or agreements between warring parties. Lebanon and Israel remain in a state of war, but this agreement now reduces the risk of conflict and creates a mutual stake in both countries being able to extract natural gas. – The Hill

Megan Ferrando writes: Even before the start of the crisis in 2019, it was already necessary to address Lebanon’s unsustainable and dysfunctional water governance system — both in terms of service provision and natural resource management. While Lebanon’s water availability and quality are strained in the short run by its financial and governance crises, the problems will only increase exponentially in the long run as climate change and unsustainable water management practices persist. The compounding of governance crises with increased manifestations of climate change has only made these matters more urgent. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

Japan will impose additional sanctions against North Korea by freezing assets of groups involved in the development of missiles, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular briefing on Tuesday. – Reuters

As if the world weren’t messy enough, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is back to his usual antics with a flurry of recent missile tests, prompting various responses from the United States, South Korea, and Japan. Adding a new twist to a familiar story, North Korea flew bombers and fighter jets close to South Korean airspace, forcing Seoul to scramble its own aircraft. – Foreign Policy

Bruce Klingner writes: Pyongyang continues to reject all allied requests for negotiations on denuclearization, arms control, tension reduction, or confidence-building measures. As such, South Korea, Japan, and the United States must take appropriate measures to protect their national security by augmenting and improving their deterrence and defense capabilities. – Heritage Foundation


Military research groups at the leading edge of China’s hypersonics and missile programs — many on a U.S. export blacklist — are purchasing a range of specialized American technology, including products developed by firms that have received millions of dollars in grants and contracts from the Pentagon, a Washington Post investigation has found. – Washington Post

Western suppliers have started cutting ties to some Chinese chipmakers in response to new U.S. export controls, in another sign of the partial technology divorce the Biden administration is mandating to stymie China’s military development. – Washington Post

Xi Jinping laid out ambitious plans two years ago to expand China’s wealth and double the size of the nation’s economy by 2035. The target would require China’s economy to grow an average of nearly 5% annually over 15 years, according to estimates by officials involved in policy-making. Many economists inside and outside of China now believe 5% won’t be achievable, not just for this year, but also for the longer term. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese leader Xi Jinping emphasized the need to increase China’s self-sufficiency in technology and supply chains during a Communist Party meeting, as the country faces a growing economic and technological rivalry with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

China has recruited as many as 30 retired British military pilots, including some who flew sophisticated fighter jets, to train pilots in the People’s Liberation Army, according to Britain’s Defense Ministry. A senior official said the ministry worried that the practice could threaten British national security. – New York Times

China is increasingly becoming a “tough competitor” for the European Union as it seeks to gain influence in the world, including Africa, Asia and Latin America, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said. – Bloomberg

China has abruptly delayed the publication of key economic data, one day before its scheduled release, as the ruling Communist Party gathers at a major political meeting against the backdrop of a faltering economy. – CNN

Harry J. Kazianis writes: From here, things will only get worse. While the US military battles about pronouns, China’s only goal is ensuring it can wipe out our forces if war comes. Beijing is investing billions of dollars more in armed forces, building game-changer technology related to artificial intelligence, blockchain, cyberweapons and much more. Until the Biden administration can truly get serious about the threat China poses, our own military’s capabilities will degrade more and more. – New York Post

Steven Jiang writes: But the tools at their disposal were no match to the high-tech ones in the hands of China’s current ruler. Xi seems confident that his “walls” – among other things – will help him realize his oft-cited ultimate goal: the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Whether or not he succeeds, the world will feel the impact for years to come. – CNN

South Asia

Two migrant labourers were killed when militants hurled a grenade at their home in Indian Kashmir’s Shopian district, local police said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The Taliban captured, bound and shot to death 27 men in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley last month during an offensive against resistance fighters in the area, according to a report published Tuesday, refuting the group’s earlier claims that the men were killed in battle. – Associated Press

The United States said Monday that it had confidence in Pakistan’s ability to control its nuclear arsenal after President Joe Biden expressed alarm, leading Islamabad to summon the US ambassador. – Agence France-Presse

Dialing in from Tokyo, where Qasim Wafayezada has taken refuge from the Taliban, the former acting minister of information of Afghanistan is urging the United States and the international community to hold the Taliban to the full terms of the Doha peace agreement. – New York Sun

Rana Ayyub writes: As the world remains silent in the face of increasing injustice in India, I am reminded of an old Egyptian proverb: “Oh Pharaoh, who turned you into a tyrant?” “No one stopped me,” he replied. – Washington Post


China has made a decision to seize Taiwan on a “much faster timeline” than previously thought, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, shortly after China’s leader reiterated his intent to take the island by force if necessary. – Bloomberg

President Xi Jinping proclaimed on Sunday that Taiwan’s status should be “settled by Chinese people.” Yet he faces a tricky balancing act managing public opinion among China’s 1.4 billion people on an issue that looks set to dominate his third term. – Bloomberg

Japan and Australia are expected to sign a new security agreement during a visit by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Perth on Saturday, strengthening ties between the long-time partners amid rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific region. – Bloomberg

Authorities in Malaysia reportedly freed a Palestinian man who had allegedly been captured late last month by local operatives of the Mossad and was being interrogated in Kuala Lumpur for his alleged affiliation with the Hamas terror group and its armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. – Times of Israel

In a six-month period from April to September, Japanese fighters scrambled 446 times to intercept threatening aircraft from China and Russia, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Many of the aircraft intercepted belonged to the air wing embarked on the People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning (16). – USNI News

The Senate’s annual defense authorization bill will now include $10 billion in military aid for Taiwan — more than double the initial amount proposed — even as it scales back language intended to help address the $14 billion backlog of arms sales the Asian nation already made from the U.S. – Defense News

Raja Mohan writes: For Asia, there is bad news and good news from the National Security Strategy released by the Biden administration last week. First, the bad: Washington’s decision to double down on superpower competition with China will dash the hopes of some in the region that the Trump administration’s confrontational course was a flash in the pan. But there is good news, too: Washington’s continued commitment to the Indo-Pacific despite a major war in Europe will be welcomed by Asian allies and partners. – Foreign Affairs


German investigators have determined that the series of explosions along key undersea gas pipelines from Russia to Europe were likely caused by sabotage, according to officials familiar with the probe, adding weight to similar preliminary findings by Swedish officials. – Wall Street Journal

Germany has started a new programme to admit Afghans deemed most at risk following last year’s Taliban takeover in Kabul, the interior and foreign ministries said on Monday. – Reuters

British police said Monday they were investigating the assault of a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester who was beaten up on the grounds of the Chinese consulate in the city of Manchester. – Associated Press

In September, the US lifted its longstanding arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus, allowing the island country to purchase or receive US arms beginning in October. – Business Insider

Cyprus launched an EU-funded project on Friday to link the eastern Mediterranean island to the European electricity grid via an undersea power cable billed as the world’s longest and deepest. – Times of Israel


Government soldiers seized control of a key city in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray on Monday after days of airstrikes and an artillery barrage, according to a diplomat who spoke to witnesses, accelerating an exodus of civilians amid some of the most intense fighting since a five-month cease-fire was shattered in August. – Washington Post

Three United Nations peacekeepers were killed and three others seriously injured when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in northern Mali on Monday, a U.N. spokesperson said. – Reuters

Sudan’s military and a group of political opponents are close to a deal that aims to resolve the crisis caused by last year’s coup by restoring a civilian prime minister and guaranteeing the army some independence, according to people familiar with the secret US-brokered discussions. – Bloomberg

The European Union is considering providing financial support to Rwandan troops fighting an armed Islamic State-linked force in Mozambique’s gas-rich northeastern region. – Bloomberg

Within hours of Burkina Faso’s second coup this year, the head of Russia’s shadowy mercenary outfit Wagner Group was among the first to congratulate the new junta leader in West Africa. – Associated Press

UN chief Antonio Guterres warned Monday that the situation in Ethiopia was “spiralling out of control” as fighting raged in the north of the country and the government vowed to seize control of airports and other sites in Tigray. – Agence France-Presse

Observers of troubled West Africa have long fretted that jihadists who have rampaged across the Sahel are eyeing a southward push to the Gulf of Guinea. – Agence France-Presse

Brian Gottstein writes: If we’re going to stop the expansion of Chinese communism and the harm it bodes for America, civil society must step in where government is failing to act. The very future of our country depends on it. – Washington Examiner

North America

The United States and Mexico said on Monday they will seek support from the United Nations for a security mission to restore order in Haiti amid a worsening humanitarian crisis, but did not identify who would lead the mission. – Reuters

Canada is imposing sanctions on 34 individuals and one entity that it says are complicit in dissemination of Russian disinformation and propaganda, the Canadian foreign ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

Donald Trump’s recent comments that American Jews have offered insufficient praise of his policies toward Israel were “insulting” and “anti-Semitic”, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday. – Reuters

James Jay Carafano writes: While the president is in charge of foreign policy, it’s Congress that controls the nation’s purse strings. Here’s hoping the next Congres will be able to rise above political gamesmanship and work together to provide the kind of budget and oversight needed to assure that America’s foreign policy and defense apparatus is working as needed to safeguard our nation’s security, prosperity, and freedom. – Heritage Foundation


Chinese government hackers are scanning U.S. political party domains ahead of next month’s midterm elections, looking for vulnerable systems as a potential precursor to hacking operations, and the FBI is making a big push to alert potential victims to batten down the hatches. – Washington Post

Chief information officers say cybersecurity once again will be their top investment priority in 2023, a sign of how companies are racing to manage the business risk posed by escalating threats. – Wall Street Journal

The EU’s financial services chief has urged US politicians to draw up sweeping new rules to govern the crypto industry, warning digital assets could pose a threat to financial stability if left to grow unchecked. – Financial Times

New research examining pro-Kremlin edits made to the English-language page for the Russo-Ukrainian war has shed light on how Wikipedia can be manipulated for information warfare. – The Record

National Cyber Director Chris Inglis is expected to release the Biden administration’s first comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy in the coming days, a document that many expect will meet industry pushback as it could expand the government’s role in protecting the nation’s digital infrastructure. – CyberScoop

Jennifer Shore writes: The federal government is about to receive an influx of new cyber-incident data. To capitalize on this resource, agencies should invest in analysis, sharing, and public release of the data and synthesize it with all other available data about cyber security. If the government succeeds, it will develop the most comprehensive picture the United States has ever had regarding cyber security and cyber threats. A clearer view of this landscape, in turn, is a key step in improving cyber policy and reducing cyber attacks against U.S. infrastructure. – War on the Rocks


Bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate would grant the Pentagon wartime procurement powers, allowing it to buy high-priority munitions using multi-year contracts to help Ukraine fight Russia and to refill U.S. stockpiles. – Defense News

Xtend will develop multi-payload drones for the Pentagon’s irregular warfare office under an $8.9 million deal, the Israeli company announced. – Defense News

The U.S. government may require commercial planes and ships conducting military lift operations to carry technology that lets them navigate and communicate even when an adversary is trying to jam their systems, according to the head of U.S. Transportation Command. – Defense News

Editorial: Some will call all this alarmist and ask why the Pentagon can’t do better on an $800 billion budget. The latter is a fair question and the answer requires procurement and other changes. But the U.S. will also have to spend more on defense if it wants to protect its interests and the homeland. The U.S. is spending about 3% of GDP now compared to 5%-6% in the 1980s. The Heritage report is a warning that you can’t deter war, much less win one, on the cheap. – Wall Street Journal

John Ferrari writes: Very little in war is more problematic than running out of bullets. Our arsenal of democracy cannot produce what is needed if we suppress the demand signal and cut the funding. Ordering industry to produce more now, without giving much warning ahead of time, is not working today — and certainly will not work if we’re in a war. Fortunately, the solutions aren’t rocket science and DOD can fix this in its 2024 budget submission, which is only a few months from being sent to Congress. – The Hill

Alice Hunt Friend writes: The civil-military relationship cannot fix our political processes, but it can recognize the profound effects those processes have on the relationship and acknowledge that the party most responsible for them is civilian. The signers of the September letter said the most they could, given what knowledge we have about what it takes to maintain the civil-military relationship. But we need to know more, especially about how politics — about how civilians — factor into defense policymaking. – War on the Rocks